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THE WILD BEASTS' BANQUET.
F all the banquets on record or by comparison, depreciating? It shall
not on record, Reuben,—from go hard but, in reply, I will furnish those of the heroes in Homer down- you with worthy pendants for them all, wards,-commend me to the banquet and more, from among the company of the beasts at Exeter 'Change! The that grace our banquet. What royal Lord Mayor's feast is a fool to it; epicure, though he were descended and the coronation banquet itself from Heliogabalus himself, would dare (seeing that there was no Queen pre- to dine on a liege subject of England, sent at it) was but a half-crown ordi- and he a captain of grenadiers,-as nary in comparison !
did the cousin-german of the royal I disclaim all insidious or invidious tiger that is here ? And as for the allusions; but let me ask, what alder- champion, who had the courage to man of the whole corporation can ride into the hall on horseback in the preside in so portly a manner,
feed presence of his lawful sovereign,-1 cleanly, or consume so much at a fancy he would not have waited to meal, and this latter qualification I ride out again backwards, if his royal take to be the measure of merit in the master had insisted on his putting his matter of eating, and the point to head into a lion's mouth-as the man which the palm must be conceded,) - does 'here ! which of them all, I say, can in these And now, Reuben, since I can perparticulars pretend to compare with ceive, by the significant looks of all the alderman Elephant, who takes off a circle, that they are somewhat scandacart-load of carrots by way of dessert lized by these profane parallels of -washes them down with a washing- mine, and are moreover not prepared tub of water—and then wipes his properly to appreciate the merits of trunk on a truss of hay by way of a the feast that I would introduce them towel, and eats it afterwards ? And to—that good Aunt Silence would be as for the late banquet at Westminster horrified at seeing the great serpent Hall,-it would, to be sure, not be le- swallow a live chicken, though she algitimate to look upon that merely as lows the cat an extra cup of milk for an affair of eating ; but I should be every mouse he catches—that Rose glad to know how it can be compared, would be petrified at the roar of the even in other respects, with the one í lion, and Phæbe actually faint at the am about to describe to you? Which idea of the no-better-than cannibals of the peeresses, in the plenitude of (as she would call them) eating their her plumes, (borrowed from the os- meat so underdone—and that, as for trich upstairs) could compete in beau- Frank, he had rather be present at the ty with the panther, who sits down to petit souper of a pack of hounds than dinner in puris naturalibus? The a whole wilderness of wild beasts ;lords may boast of their furred robes, all this, I say, being evident, let you for each of which they are indebted and I go by ourselves : so on with to whole hecatombs of innocent little your wishing cap-that is to say, fanermines; but the leopard may laugh cy yourself here in the Middle Temat them all,- for his furred robe is ple with memand as the Temple clock furnished him by Nature herself, and is now striking half-past seven, we'll would put to shame the workmanship sally forth, and shall just reach the of all the robemakers-royal in Chris- place of our destination in time to ten m; and he can afford to wear it look about us before the elephant rings every day, because he gets a new one for his cloth to be laid for supper. from the same source every year,
Having received the awkward obeiwithout paying any thing for it. sance of the mock beef-eater at the
But do you twit me with the lions. bottom of the stairs, and followed the kings at arms, the champions, and the direction of the be-written walls, which royal epicures themselves, who graced tell us at every turn that “this is the and glorified the banquet that I am, way to the wild beasts,” we reach the
pay-place, and deposit our three and that here is another cogent reason sixpences, nothing loth, in the hands for the said repeal—“ for which, as in of a pretty demure-looking maiden duty bound, your petitioners will never who sits confined there like a bird in pray,” &c. a cage ; remarking, by the by, that
This room contains a great variety but for her pleasant looks, we should of other birds; among which are some somewhat object to the high price of beautiful Belearic cranes, with crests admission.
on their heads in the form of crowns; As we are to see the whole of this two extremely curious eagles of a deextraordinary exhibition, we will com- scription not to be found in books of ply with the pretty money-taker's de- natural history; and some birds that sire, and 66
please to walk up stairs you will remember to have heard of first”-reserving the great banquet- at school, Reuben. « Rara avis in ting-room for the bonne bouche. The terris, migroque simillima Cygno." first room we enter is long and low, Night, however, is not the time to see and lighted (or rather not lighted) by this part of the show; so we will just one dismal lamp; and its inhabitants glance at a few of the other objects in are chiefly birds. We will therefore this room, and then pay our respects not give much time to it; for of all to Bob, and the great boa constrictor, caged creatures, one would suppose in the next. Here is the bison, a relathat the bird is the least able to bear its tive of whom, under the feigned name lot patiently—and of all birds, an of the bonassus, lately enlivened every eagle-of which there are several dead waly in the metropolis and its enhere. Not that we come here to la- virons, and the whole fraternity of ment over the condition of the objects whom we consequently abhor almost we meet with h;-and for
my own as much as we do 6 Warren's Blackpart, I doubt whether any of them ing” for the same reason.
Next door were ever better off than they are at neighbour to the above is a pretty anipresent. At all events, we will leave mal that they dignify with the name of our friend P to institute a compa- a wild horse; but which you,
Reuben, rative inquiry of this kind, and to con- would desire nothing better than to coct an eloquent and pathetic paper on mount, on an open common, without the subject, for the New Monthly saddle or bridle ; and I'd back you to Magazine, in which he will doubtless keep on him at least as well as Mazepdetermine the exact effects producible pa did by the aid of all his cords. It on the animal mind by a transfer of has the head and neck of a zebra, but the body to which it is appended, in other respects
66 would make a from “native forests, boundless de- clever hackney for any timid elderly serts, and trackless skies,” to a wood- gentleman in want of such a horse." en cage three feet square. In the The only other animals we will stay mean time, we will proceed to our to notice in this room are two beautiexamination,-admitting, however, by ful little creatures of the antelope tribe, the
way, that there is something bor- with spiral horns, and eyes like Madering on the melancholy in the ap- homet's houris ; and another of the pearance of an eagle under the condi- same species, called the lama, used in tion in which we find hiin here—that, the Peruvian mines. as some one has compared a poet un But hark! the clock strikes eight, der certain circumstances (i forget and the elephant hears and replies to what) to sick eagle gazing at the it; so that we shall but just have time sky," so we can scarcely refrain from to take a look at the next room, and returning the compliment, and com- then repair to the more noisy attracparing the great eagle that sits moping tions of the banquet below. This room here, to a poet confined in the King's contains a vast variety of the smaller Bench, without either pens, ink, or species of foreign birds, and few paper! This comparison, however, small animals such as monkies, &c. will be applicable only when the pre- But what we have come to see is shut sent Insolvent Act is repealed; so up in that great deal press, the front of
which lets down with hinges, and which affects the spectator in the most leaves the whole interior, with its con- extraordinary manner, is the tongue; tents, exposed to the view and even which, at the approach or touch of any the touch of the spectators—for it is person, it puts out of its mouth (withnot found necessary to interpose any out appearing to open the latter) and safeguard before this most terrificmoves about with a quick flickering looking of all the animal tribe. And motion, accompanied by a low hissing it is lucky that this is the case; for
noise. The part that it puts out of the Bob, who has the care of this animal, mouth is about an inch and a half has made such good use of the buona- long, and divided into two about half mano's he has received in the course way down from the extremity--each of the day, that he is not in the best portion being about the thickness of a condition to protect us in case of dan- small quill. Bob (whose word, by ger. But Bob has too strong a sense the by, I would not take for so much of natural justice to forego what has, as Hamlet offered to take the Ghosts) time out of mind, been “his custom told me, the last time I saw this creaalways of an afternoon,"—merely to ture, that it had the day before eaten accommodate the idle habits of other three live fowls, “ feathers and all,” people. If you visit him and his and ten pounds of beef. Though I don't charge at a proper hour, you'll find know why I should suspect him of exhim in the proper condition to do the aggeration in this, when he adds that honours of the visit; and this is all it never eats more than once in a fortthat can in reason be required of him. night, and sometimes not for months But I believe I need not have made together. It is perfectly harmless and this apology for him. I've heard it quiet-never attempting to move out whispered in your village, Reuben, of the case or cupboard in which it that the Vicar's steed knows as well, lies; and the only indication it ever if not better, when his reverend bur- gives of the kind and degree of power then is tipsy, than the said burthen that it possesses is when you place does itself; and I rather think it is your hand between the side of its box the same with Bob and the Boa. You and any part of it that happens to be see he has by this time let down the lying there-in which case it presses side of the serpent's house, and taken against your hand, and if you were not off the blankets which covered him; prepared to slip it away immediately, and there the monster lies, black, would crush it. But we are spendtwisted, and self-involved, like one of ing more of our time here than we inyour late writing-master's flourishes. tended, cr can afford; so taking leave I question whether any one ever look- of Bob and his charge, without waiting ed at this extraordinary creature for for his “true and particular account” the first time, without feeling a cold of its “ life, character, and behaviour," shudder creep through every part. we will at once descend to the great It is a sort of object that (for what room which we came principally to reason I know not) we never form an adequate conception of beforehand. This room does really contain a The one before us is fourteen feet magnificent collection of objects long, and is entirely covered with a such a one as was probably never bebrilliant coating of black, picked out fore collected together in modern with a sort of whitish yellow; the times. The whole of the hither end is whole varnished like the face of a pic- occupied by the huge bulk of the eleture. The head and neck are much phant, which reaches from side to smaller, and of lighter colour, than the side, and from the floor to the ceiling, rest of the body—the largest part of and is divided from the rest of the which is perhaps a foot and a half in room by solid beams of wood banded circumference ;-and the tail dimin- with iron, which cross each other in ishes in size almost to a point. But the form of a grating. At the opposite perhaps the most striking part of this side is the great lion, gazing around him singular creature, and the sight of with the air of an imprisoned empe
ror, and swinging his tail about “as a lighted safety-lamp, is a still stronger gentleman swishes his cane." All example of the presence of danger along the right-hand side of the room and safety together, or rather of the are dens containing seven or eight actual contact of them ; for there is other lions, male and female, of differ- actually nothing intervening between ent ages and species, besides tigers, the light of the lamp and the matter leopards, panthers, hyenas, porcu- which it is to act upon-nothing but pines, &c. And on the left side is a a stratum of that matter itself, which fine Arabian camel. They are all at is not sufficiently heated to permit this time on the qui vive ; but there is the communication of the flame. But an air of doubt and uncertainty about in both these instances, though the them all, as they have not yet heard danger is there, we do not see it, and the signal (or a blow on the gong), therefore do not feel it-we only, or which immediately precedes their chiefly feel the safety. But here, the feeding. At length that signal is giv- danger is visible to our eyes —it rings en, outside the room, and unexpected- and rattles in our -it actually ly by the visitors; and then the scene
our whole frames ; for the which instantly takes place has in it roarings and rampings of the beasts a most extraordinary mixture of the shake the very building in which we terrific and the agreeable. A huge stand. And yet here we stand, as if discordant roar bursts from almost it were a mere performance that we every den at the same moment; and were witnessing-an imitation, and the inhabitants of each rush against not the real thing. But that it is the the bars, rampant, and with their eyes real thing, is the secret of the pleaflashing fire, and seem on the point of sure, or whatever else it is to be calltearing their
way into the open space ed, that we derive from it. In fact, it is where the spectators are standing. sought after on the same principle And yet in the midst of all, we feel that we go to see a public execution ; that pleasantest of all securities, which and if I might venture to say so much exists in the presence of, and almost in the presence of ladies, I would add in contact with, danger and death. that the measure of the satisfaction to We are here surrounded, and as it be derived from exhibitions of this na
looked upon, by death under its ture is, the degree of healthful strength most frightful form; and yet we hold of nerve in the deriver of it. If the our life as securely as if we were seat- habits of modern life had not wasted ed by our own hearths. I know of away the nerves of our nobility and no other situation of the kind that can gentry to mere gossamers, and thus be compared with this. In other rendered nervousness an indispensacases, if we would feel the sense of ble qualification for a fine lady,danger we must encounter danger; changing “disease for a commodity,” we cannot feel it without fearing it; -we should have combats of gladiabut here we can enjoy all the stimulus tors and athletæ, and battles of wild of the one, without suffering the de- beasts, as they had in days of old ; basing and counteracting effects of and the ladies would distribute the the other. To have experienced a prizes at them! But the looks of storm at sea, or been present in a some of the said ladies warn me that I great battle, and escaped from them, am treading on tender ground ! so I are fine things doubtless ; but who return to my descriptions. who would risk the danger for the The gong sounds—the beasts (losafter pleasure ? The situation near- ing all sense of courtly decorum) seem est to the one before us is that of sail- ready to burst from their dens—and a ing on a calm ocean, and feeling that man with an iron hand, who acts as there is nothing between us and the carver to the royal banquet, apportions fathomless abyss below, but a deal out the different meats on the sideplank. Or perhaps the standing in a board, and proceeds to deliver them coal-mine in the midst of the fire in the order of precedence which the damp, and holding in one's hand a guests seem naturally to claim :-the
great lion being served first, then the time that the banquet lasted ; as much lioness, (for royalty supersedes polite- as to indicate, to whomsoever it ness among beasts as well as men); might concern, that she knew better and then the inferior guests,-from what became her birth and station the younger
branches of the blood than to eat in the presence of obseryroyal, through the nobility of leopards, ers. I confess there seemed to me a tigers, panthers, &c. down to the mon- little affectation in this—a little overkeys that chatter and make mops and niceness; especially as a royal cousin mows all the while, like the little of hers,--a queen-duchess, who is said dwarfs and fools of the old courts. to partake in some of her propensiThe guests not being troubled with ties, and who at present reigns by didelicate appetites and squeamish sto- vine right, as she used to do in her machs, the cates served up on the oc- native woods by quite as good a title, casion are, as you may suppose, not namely, divine might,--does not a composed of all the delicacies of deem it beneath her dignity to dine the season." On the contrary, the in the presence of her admiring subfirst course consists of bare bones, jects. the thigh, leg, and knuckle bones of an The only other personage whose ox-which are thrown into the dens conduct I shall notice on this occathrough a small opening at the bottom sion, is the elephant ; and it offers a in front. And when they have had singular contrast to that of the rest of time to discuss these sufficiently, and the guests. Amidst all the stir, hubto whet their appetite upon them bub, and turmoil that I have described instead of satisfying it, they receive the above, he remains grave, silent, and meat which had been previously cut off. self-possessed---his lithe proboscis
I shall only notice, in particular, the weaving fantastic wreaths in the air behaviour of the chief guests on this outside the bars of his den, as we occasion, lest my account of the feast flourish with
ur finger when should last longer than the feast thoughtlessly thoughtful, and his huge itself. Nero, the great lion, who, un- bulk rising through the half-darkness til the sound of the gong, and the re- behind, like a deeper shadow in the ceipt of his ration, had maintained a midst of shade. And when he of the becoming majesty of deportment, im- iron hand comes to wait upon him in mediately descended from the centre his turn, he still maintains the same of his gravity, and roared, growled, philosophic gravity, and does every and flew about his den, exactly like a thing that he is bid with the air of one wild beast !-urged to this unseemly who is not afraid to disobey, but who behaviour (I confess) by the irritating is willing to serve since circumstances conduct of the man with the iron have made servitude his lot. There is hand—who approached him to a dis- in fact something extremely interesting respectful nearness, and pretended to in the behaviour of this extraordinary be about to take away his plate before animal,—who seems to posess a ten he had done with it. The consort horse power, only that he may exerroyal (who is a beast of extraordinary cise it with the gentleness and docility personal charms, and of the most gen- of a
a well-conditioned child. He tle manners, conducted herself in a obeys his keepers in the minutest parvery different, and perhaps a no less ticulars, and without the slightest hesicharacteristic style. When the bare tation or doubt, though his orders are bones were given to her, she took one issued without any change of tone or of them (a long thigh bone of an ox) manner from that in which he is alinto her mouth, without touching it most at the same moment addressing with her fingers as all the rest did - the spectators, or answering their and proceeded to march deliberately question. Indeed, the elephant's natround her den with it; and this she ural sagacity seems to have enabled continued to do after she had been him to reach that happiest consummaserved with the second course, of tion at which even the human mind meat, and indeed, during the whole can arrive--namely, the faculty of