IT WAS a chilly November afternoon. I had just consummated an unusually hearty dinner, of which the dyspeptic truffe formed not the least important item, and was sitting alone in the dining-room, with my feet upon the fender, and at my elbow a small table which I had rolled up to the fire, and upon which were some apologies for dessert, with some miscellaneous bottles of wine, spirit, and liqueur.
In the morning I had been reading Glover’s “Leonidas,” Wilkies “Epigoniad,” Lamartine’s “Pilgrimage,” Barlow’s “Columbiad,” Tuckermann’s “Sicily,” and Griswold’s “Curiosities”; I am willing to confess, therefore, that I now felt a little stupid. I made effort to arouse myself by aid of frequent Lafitte, and, all failing, I betook myself to a stray newspaper in despair. Having carefully perused the column of “houses to let,” and the column of “dogs lost,” and then the two columns of “wives and apprentices runaway,” I attacked with great resolution the editorial matter, and, reading it from beginning to end without understanding a syllable, conceivedthe possibility of its being Chinese, and so re-read it from the end to the beginning, but with no more satisfactory result. I was aboutthrowing away, in disgust, – This folio of four pages, happy work Which not even poets criticise, -when I felt my attention somewhat aroused by the paragraph whichfollows:
“The avenues to death are numerous and strange. A London papermentions the decease of a person from a singular cause. He was playingat ‘puff the dart,’ which is played with a long needle inserted insome worsted, and blown at a target through a tin tube. He placedthe needle at the wrong end of the tube, and drawing his breathstrongly to puff the dart forward with force, drew the needle into histhroat. It entered the lungs, and in a few days killed him.”
Upon seeing this I fell into a great rage, without exactly knowingwhy. “This thing,” I exclaimed, “is a contemptible falsehood- a poorhoax- the lees of the invention of some pitiable penny-a-liner- ofsome wretched concoctor of accidents in Cocaigne. These fellows,knowing the extravagant gullibility of the age, set their wits to workin the imagination of improbable possibilities- of odd accidents, asthey term them; but to a reflecting intellect (like mine,” I added, inparenthesis, putting my forefinger unconsciously to the side of mynose), “to a contemplative understanding such as I myself possess,it seems evident at once that the marvelous increase of late inthese ‘odd accidents’ is by far the oddest accident of all. For my ownpart, I intend to believe nothing henceforward that has anything ofthe ‘singular’ about it. “Mein Gott, den, vat a vool you bees for dat!” replied one of themost remarkable voices I ever heard. At first I took it for a rumblingin my ears- such as man sometimes experiences when getting very drunk-but, upon second thought, I considered the sound as more nearlyresembling that which proceeds from an empty barrel beaten with a