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consent to remain despised and oppressed? is a
question I do not desire to answer.

At Ostend I took boat, and a few hours
brought me to London.


I PRESUME you are cognisant of the famous
receipt for dressing cucumber, or cowcumber,
as persons who are proud of their gentility
pronounce it: pare it thick, slice it thin; add
oil, pepper, vinegar and salt, and then throw
it out of the window. Now, what do you think
that dishful of ugly, brown-black, mis-shapen
balls in the restaurant's window is good for,
except to toss scornfully on the rubbish heap,
without any preliminary dressing at all
unless it were thought worth while to reserve
them as missiles composed of desiccated dirt
to cast at the head of the first perjured
witness or receiver of stolen goods whom
fate shall conduct to the pillory ? Do they
look like anything edible by the mouth of
humanity? Would you not pronounce them
as safe from attack by civilised jaws as the
calcined loaves and the cinderfied fruits dug
up from the housekeepers' rooms of
Pompeii ? Would you give a guinea a-pouud
for such repulsive-looking objects as those,
except on the hypothesis of their rightful
claim to a place in your own private museum
of horrors, where they might rank with
coprolites, fossilised spawn of gigantic
antediluvian toads, or corns extracted from
elephants' toes and laid to ripen in rotten
sawdust? But you may safely pay your
guinea a-pound for them, sometimes.
Because, like hops and other capricious
vegetables, their price will suddenly rise so high
as to allow you to make a satisfactory
transaction. Their price will also vary in the
other directionat the close of a productive
black-ball summerso as to render the
transaction unsatisfactory. Nevertheless, you
will have your stock of Truffles in hand, and
their possession ought to recompense you for
every other disappointment.

It is curious that the very name of things
so distasteful to many palates, and so
unsightly to most eyes, should be a sort of
watchword which epitomises the perfection
of good cheer and the acme of the culinary
art amongst a people who pride themselves
on excellence in that line. The phrases,
truflled turkey-hen and partridge with truffles,
are severally and separately sufficient to
indicate that a grand gastronomic treat is
impending. No one would combine the two
together; it would be overdoing the thing
gilding refined gold, painting the lily, and
adding perfume to the violet. Curious,
again, that truffles, I thinkI don't quite
exactly know, for truffles are altogether a
paradox, a mystery, a contradiction, an
enigmabut I am diffidently of opinion that
truffles derive their renown as a condiment
not so much from their flavour as from the
quality of their substance. It is not the
sense of taste alone which is peculiarly
gratified, but also that of feeling and of
pleasurable action and exercise of the organs
employed in mastication and deglutition. The
Arab couriers prevent their salivary glands
from falling asleep by perseveringly sucking
pellets of gum. As a schoolboy I have
chewed a lump of India-rubber for hours
together. I have witnessed the performance
of a similar operation, for a shorter period,
on a mouthful of nuts. I have seen toothless
elderlies derive innocent satisfaction from
the long-continued mumbling of a morsel of
gristle. Truffle-eating borders upon these
enjoyments, besides osculating or gently touching
upon sundry others. Young people are
rarely capable of appreciating truffles, nor
are working-people. It requires an education
to understand them properly. But
for those gifted with the true faculty
respectable old gentlemen, for instance, who
have no other thought or pleasure than
eating and drinkingtruffles are the
superlative of edible substances. They are
sought for with avidity; they are
devoured with the eyes before they reach the
mouth; their odour causes every nerve to
tremble; and the effect on the palate of the
ecstatic gourmand is a sensation of ineffable
voluptuousness. To virgin palates a slight
amount of apprehensive trepidation is
combined with the foretaste of anticipated
pleasure. On first receiving a piece of truffle
into your mouth, you are afraid it should
turn out nasty, and it proves tolerably nice;
you doubt whether you can chew it properly,
and your molars succeed beyond your
expectation. It coquettes with your palate, plays
with your tongue, and challenges your teeth
with pleasing provocation. When you have
got it safe, you don't know whether to treat
it as a bit of gutta-percha, a slice of crisp
carrot, a fleshy mushroom, or a solid Brazil
nut. It is the puzzle which pleasesthe
perplexity which proves so piquant. With a
slice of beef, a baked potato, the wing of a
fowl, or a spoonful of green peas on your
plate, you go on with your meal straightforwardly
enough; you chat your ordinary
chat and finish your bottle of ordinary wine
with every-day indifference. But with a
coal-black slice of the subterranean fungus
adorning the prongs of your fork, you
assume the right to make gallant speeches to
your fair neighbour opposite; you make
ready, present, and fire your wit, if you have
any, and find the best substitute you can if you
haven't; you put middle-aged Bordeaux
aside, and take to ancient Burgundy; in
short, there are truffles on the dinner-table.

More contrarieties. It would be a shame
and untrue to say, that women are greater
epicures than men; and yet l thinkI wouldn't
positively affirm it as a Christian gentleman
but I have a great idea that truffles have
been even more highly patronised by ladies