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THE SECRETS OF THE GAS.

THE Gas has its secrets, and I happen
to know them. The Gas has a voice, and
I can hear ita voice beyond the rushing
whistle in the pipe, and the dull buzzing flare
in the burner. It speaks, actively, to men
and women of what is, and of what is done
and suffered by night and by day; and
though it often crieth like Wisdom in the
streets and no man regardeth it, there are,
and shall be some to listen to its experiences,
hearken to its counsels, and profit by its
lessons.

I know the secrets of the gas, but not all
of them. Some secrets it has, which are
hidden by land, and stream, and seaby
accident, position, and authorityeven from my
sight, but not from my ken. The gas has
its secrets in palaces, on whose trebly piled
carpets my plebeian feet can never tread. It
may be burning now, to the heavy blow and
great discouragement of bearded and sheep-
skinned purveyors of tallow and lamp oil
burning in an Ural gilt candelabrum, chastely
decorated with double eagles, in the denthe
private cabinet, I meanof some grim bear
or autocrat, who lies not amidst bones and
blood, far away with the weeds and shells at
the bottom of the Inner Sea, but lies amidst
protocols and diplomatic notesunlighted
fusees to the shells of destruction. That gas
may be shining on minims and breves of Te
Deums, fresh scored and annotated in
appropriate red inkto be sung by all orthodox
believers, when the heretical fleets of the
West shall have followed the Moslem three-
deckers to their grave in Sinope Bay. That
gas may be flickering nowwho knows?— in
the lambent eyes of some tyrant as he peers
greedily over the map of Europe, and settles
in his own mind  where in England this Off
shall eat his first candle, or where in France
that Owsky shall apply the knout. Permeating
in pipes beneath the well-drilled feet of
thousands of orthodox serfs, this same gas may
be glimmering in the lamps of the  Nevskoi
Prospekt, and twinkling in the bureau of the
Director of Secret Police as he prepares
pass-tickets for Siberia, or cancels them for
bribes of greasy rouble notes; it may be
glowering at the Moscow railway station, as
thousands of human hundred-weight of great-
coated food for powder, leave by late or early
trains for the frontier; it may be illumining
the scared and haggard face of the incendiary
when, on the map he is scanning, the
names of the countries he lusts to seize, turn
to letters of blood and dust, and tell him,
(as the handwriting told Belshazzar) that
the Medes and Persians are at his gate, and
that his kingdom is given to another. I say,
this gas, with the glowing charcoal in the
stove, and the ceremonial wax candles on the
malachite mantelpiece, may be the only
spectator of the rage in his eyes, and the
despair in his heart, and the madness in
his brain. Though, perhaps, he burns no
gas in his private cabinet after all, and
adheres to the same orthodox tallow fat
and train oil, by the light of which, Peter
plied his adze, Catherine plundered Poland,
Paul was strangled, and Alexander was
poisoned!

The gas may have its secrets unknown to
me (now that English engineering has been
favoured with the high privilege of
illumining the Eternal City), in the strong
casemates of the Castle of St. Angelo. Yes,
may derive deeper shadows from it; and it
may light up tawny parchments with heavy
seals, which attest that the Holy Office is yet
a little more than a name. There is gas in
Venice; every tourist has had his passport
examined by its light; and who shall say that
the gas has not its secrets in the Palace of the
Doges; that it burns not in gloomy corridor,
and on stone winding staircase, lighting some
imperial gaoler in his tour of inspection;
or that by its unpitying light some wretched
prisoner who has dared to violate the
imperio-regal Lombardo-Venetian edicts by
thinking, or speaking, or writing, in the
manner of one who walks on two legs instead
of four, is not brought forth to have some
state secret (which he knows nothing of)
extorted from him by the imperial and royal
stick. Royal Neapolitan generosity may yet
permit some streaks of prison gas to
penetrate into the Sicilian dens where gentlemen
are chained to felons, to show them the
brightness of their fetters, and the filthiness
of the floor, and the shadow of the sentry's
bayonet through the heavy bars outside.
Mighty secrets, dread secrets, dead secrets,
may the gas have, abroad and at home.

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