Page images
PDF
EPUB

AN UNDERTAKER.

1

Is an illwiller to the Human Race. He is by Profession an Enemy to his Species, and can no more look kindly at his Fel. lows than the Sheriff's Officer; for why, his Profit begins with an arrest for the Debt of Nature. As the Bailiff looks on a failing Man, so doth he, and with the same Hope, namely, to take the Body.

Hence hath he little Sympathy with his Kind, small Pity for the Poor, and least of all for the widow and the orphans, whom he regards Planter like, but as so many Blacks on his Estate. If he have any Community of Feeling, it is with the Sexton, who has likewise a Per Centage on the Bills of Mortality, and never sees a Picture of Health but he longs to ingrave it. Both have the same quick Ear for a Churchyard Cough, and both the same Relish for the same Music, to wit, the Toll of Saint Sepulchre. Moreover both go constantly in black-howbeit 'tis no Mourning Suit but a Livery-for he grieves no more for the Defunct than the Bird of the same Plumage, that is the Under. taker to a dead Horse.

As a Neighbor he is to be shunned. To live opposite to him is to fall under the Evil Eye. Like the Witch that forespeaks other Cattle, he would rot you as soon as look at you, if it could be done at a Glance ; but that Magic being out of Date, he contents himself with choosing the very Spot on the House Front that shall serve for a Hatchment. Thenceforward he watches your going out and your coming in: your rising up and your lying down, and all your Domestic Imports of Drink and Victual, so that the veriest She Gossip in the Parish is not more familiar with your Modes and Means of Living, nor knows

so certainly whether the Visitor, that calls daily in his Chariot, is a mere Friend or a Physician. Also he knows your Age to a Year, and your Height to an Inch, for he hath measured you with his Eye for a Coffin, and your Ponderosity to a Pound, for he hath an Interest in the Dead Weight, and hath so far inquired into your Fortune as to guess with what Equipage you shall travel on your last Journey. For, in professional Curiosity, he is truly a Pall Pry. Wherefore to dwell near him is as melancholy as to live in view of a Churchyard ; to be within Sound of his Hammering is to hear the Knocking at Death's Door.

To be friends with an Undertaker is as impossible as to be the Crony of a Crocodile. He is by Trade a Hypocrite, and deals of Necessity in Mental Reservations and Equivoques. Thus he drinks to your good Health, but hopes, secretly, it will not endure. He is glad to find you so hearty-as to be Apoplectic; and rejoices to see you so stout-with a short Neck. He bids you beware of your old Gout-and recommends a Quack Doctor. He laments the malignant Fever so prevalent—and wishes you may get it. He compliments your Complexionwhen it is Blue or Yellow : admires your upright Carriage,and hopes it will break down. Wishes you good Day, but means everlasting Night; and commends his Respects to your Father and Mother—but hopes you do not honor them. In short, his good Wishes are treacherous; his Inquiries are suspicious ; and his Civilities are dangerous; as when he proffereth the Use of his Coach-or to see you

Home. For the rest, he is still at odds with Humanity ; at constant issue with its Naturalists, and its Philanthropists, its Sages, its Counsellors, and its Legislators. For example, he praises the Weather-with the Wind at East; and rejoices in a wet Spring and Fall, for Death and he reap with one Sickle, and have a good or a bad Harvest in common. He objects not to Bones in Bread (being as it were his own Diet), nor to ill Drugs in Beer, nor to Sugar of Lead or arsenical Finings in Wine, nor to ardent Spirits, nor to interment in Churches. Neither doth he discountenance the Sitting on Infants ; nor the Swallowing of Plum Stones ; nor of cold Ices at Hot balls,—nor the drinking of Embrocations, nay he hath been known to contend

that the wrong Dose was the right one. He approves, contra the Physicians, of a damp Bed, and wet Feet,—of a hot Head and cold Extremities, and lends his own Countenance to the Natural Small Pox, rather than encourage Vaccination—which he calls flying in the Face of Providence. Add to these, a free Trade in Poisons, whereby the Oxalic Crystals may currently become Proxy for the Epsom ones; and the corrosive Sublimate as common as Salt in Porridge. To the same End he would give unto every Cockney a Privilege to shoot, within ten miles round London, without a Taxed License, and would never concur in a Fine or Deodand for Fast Driving, except the Vehicle were a Hearse. Thus, whatever the popular Cry, he runs counter: a Heretic in Opinion, and a Hypocrite in Practice, as when he pretends to be sorrowful at a Funeral ; or, what is worse, affects to pity the ill-paid Poor, and yet helpeth to screw them down.

To conclude, he is a Personage of ill presage to the House of Life: a Raven on the Chimney Potma Dead-watch in the Wainscot,-a Winding Sheet in the Candle. To meet with him is ominous. His looks are sinister ; his Dress is lugubrious ; his Speech is prophetic ; and his Touch is mortal. Neverthe. . less he hath one Merit, and in this our World, and in these our Times, it is a main one ; namely, that whatever he Undertakes he Performs.

MISS KILMANSEGG AND HER PRECIOUS LEG.

A GOLDEN LEGEND.

“ What is here?
Gold ! yellow, glittering, precious gold?"

Timon of Athens.

HER PEDIGREE.

To trace the Kilmansegg pedigree,
To the very root of the family tree,

Were a task as rash as ridiculous :
Through antediluvian mists as thick
As London fog such a line to pick
Were enough, in truth, to puzzle Old Nick,

Not to iname Sir Harris Nicholas.

It wouldn't require much verbal strain
To trace the Kill-man, perchance, to Cain;

But waving all such digressions,
Suffice it, according to family lore,
A Patriarch Kilmansegg lived of yore,

Who was famed for his great possessions.

Tradition said he feather'd his nest
Through an Agricultural Interest

In the Golden Age of Farming ;
When golden eggs were laid by the geese,
And Colchian sheep wore a golden fleece,
And golden pippins the sterling kind
Of Hesperus--now so hard to find

Made Horticulture quite charming !

A Lord of Land, on his own estate,
He lived at a very lively rate,

But his income would bear carousing ;
Such acres he had of pasture and heath,
With herbage so rich from the ore beneath,
The very ewe's and lambkin's teeth

Were turn'd into gold by browsing.

He

gave, without

any

extra thrift, A flock of sheep for a birthday gift

To each son of his loins, or daughter: And his debts-if debts he had-at will He liquidated by giving each bill

A dip in Pactolian water.

'Twas said that even his pigs of lead, By crossing with some by Midas bred,

Made a perfect mine of his piggery. And as for cattle, one yearling bull Was worth all Smithfield-market full

Of the Golden Bulls of Pope Gregory.

The high-bred horses within his stud,
Like human creatures of birth and blood,

Had their Golden Cups and flagons :
And as for the common husbandry nags,
Their noses were tied in money-bags,

When they stopp'd with the carts and wagons.

Moreover, he had a Golden Ass,
Sometimes at stall, and sometimes at grass,

That was worth his own weight in money-
And a golden hive, on a Golden Bank,
Where golden bees, by alchemical prank,
Gather'd gold instead of honey.

[ocr errors]

Gold! and gold! and gold without end !
He had gold to lay by, and gold to spend,
Gold to give, and gold to lend,

« PreviousContinue »