+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

omnibus (did the feline Marquis of that
name furnish them with this sobriquet?)
had osier sides, was drawn by eight horses,
and held twenty courtiers, with inconvenience.
Of one of those hot Paris days, courtiers
went pretty nigh to being set down
thoroughly grilled: or else, if it came on to
rain, quite steeped as it were in a soup.
These poor valets of the Versailles valets, as
wit Duclos styled them, had a weary life of
it after all! But there is the vehicle with
questionable name still open to hima light,
rapid conveyance, made like a gig, which will
take him down for one shilling. It will hold
four: and he who sits in front is pleasantly
styled the Monkey, and the one behind the
Rabbit! Rabbit and monkey, though doing
it economically enough, ran awful risk as to
the turn the weather might take. But being
set down privily at the entrance of the town,
both rabbit and monkey are undistinguishable
from my Lord Duke who has come in
his own Berline. Then, they may be seen in
some corner, carefully dusting their shoes
and buckles, arranging their bag-wigs, and
setting their swords on straight. Then, being
all trim, they may strut through the long
long galleries and hang about the Royal
antechambers with the rest of them. Heaven
knows, this was wretched twopenny-
halfpenny sort of nobility: a mean Brummagem
going to Court! These same rabbits and
monkeys may, for all we know, have hired
their suits from the theatrea thing done
before now, nearer to home. Was not this so
much open preaching of rottenness? Did
not this, in its own small way, fall within
Mr. Carlyle's noble speech concerning the
certain doom of all shams? Was there ever
such diseased finery as this mumming and
going to Court in gigs? And surely, as funny
Mr. Titmarsh put it long since, A Court
Directory is in all conscience bad enough;
but what shall be said to a sham Court

After all, our poor rabbit or monkey must
have had a weary, heart-sick time of it. His
wages were hardly earnedalmost as hardly
as those of the poor serf down in the provinces
property of a noble marquis. The game
was scarcely worth the price of the light.
That day of his at the palace must have been
one of pain and anxiety, as he hung about
the anteroom of the awful bull's-eye, listening
to the dull chant of the strapping Swiss,
always to the one tune:

"Pass on, gentlemen! Pass on! Stand
back, gentlemen, stand back! You can't enter,
my lord! Pass on, gentlemen, pass on!"

All eyes watch with devouring interest
that handle of the door on which his fingers
restwatch ever turn of it. Who shall he
next give entrance toto the mysterious
Œil de Bœuf? Irreverent name enough for
the sacred apartment majesty condescends to
sit inodd enough truly so to style a royal
room, after a little round window or bull's-
eye looking out into the court. The vails of
this all-powerful Swiss giant amount to
nearly five hundred golden louis in the year.
His palm was not to be crossed with so mean
a metal as silver. And so our poor rabbit
or monkey lets the day go by, with his eyes
eternally on the bulky Swiss, hoping against all
hope, that some vain chance may turn up of his
being sent for, or of his long assiduity being
noted. The door opens not for him. Then
he thinks it is time to look for a dinner,
which can be had after a fashion quite in
keeping with that omnibus jaunt down. For
his majesty's cooks dispose of, cheaply, all
dishes, scraps, and meats, broken as well as
unbroken, that have come down from his
majesty's table. And right gladly does our
rabbit steal round to the proper place and
purchase half a fowl, or a stray paté, and make
what cheer he can upon them. More of that
rotten inside, forcing itself out in a thousand
ways. To match fitly with which, it may be
here incidentally mentioned, that at dinner
parties certain dishes were mere delusions
and snares: being no more than happy efforts
of the mimetic. Thus, were presented tempting
roasted pheasantsmarvels of imitation
into which unthinking provincials boldly
plunged their knives. Sham piessham
fruitsin their own little way belonging to
that false family. It was noted, too, how
at this day the taste for this silent falsehood
had crept into all matters of furniture and
decoration; rooms abounding in sham
marbles, sham woodsin short, everything that
could be shammed. It has been before
mentioned how our ladies of quality hung their
watches to chains of base metal, known to
them as pinchbeck; and how my lord
marquis would have no hesitation in offering you
a pinch from his lying snuff-box, all gold
and jewelled as it would seemin reality
only brass and paste. The false meats and
jewellery and sham metals all went up
together in a cloud when the eruption took
place. But to come back to our rabbit.

Late in the evening: he is in the
antechamber again, with his wistful eyes fixed
upon the Switzer. The hour of true
expectancy is now at hand. Who shall be
sent for to sup with that awful divinity, the
well-loved, the desired, or whatever fantastic
name they had for him? Question to be
resolved with aching heart and bated breath.
There were known, certain greyheaded
monkeys and rabbits who had waited night after
night with the same baseless longing, for
good five-and-forty years, waiting for the
tall Swiss to come forth with his list in hand,
and hear him read out the eight or ten happy
names called to sup, with the glorious sun-
god. For five-and-forty years had he been
turning silently away after that sure setting
to rest of his day's hopes, going home in the
mean gig once more, to be brought out again
next morning as monkey or rabbit. A
terrible bondage!