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say any thing about the matter; but, my poor old enemy, in my secret mind I have movements of as tender charity toward you, you old scoundrel, as ever I had when we were boys together at school. You ruffian! do you fancy I forget that we were fond of each other? We are still. We share our toffy; go halves at the tuck-shop; do each other's exercises; prompt each other with the word in construing or repetition; and tell the most frightful fibs to prevent each other from being found out. We meet each other in public. Ware a fight! Get them into different parts of the room! Our friends hustle round us. Capulet and Montague are not more at odds than the houses of Roundabout and Wrightabout, let us say. It is, "My dear Mrs. Buffer, do kindly put yourself in the chair between those two men !" Or, "My dear Wrightabout, will you take that charming Lady Blancmange down to supper? She adores your poems; and gave five shillings for your autograph at the fancy fair." In like manner the peace-makers gather round Roundabout on his part; he is carried to a distant corner, and coaxed out of the way of the enemy with whom he is at feud.
When we meet in the rapiers, and we fall to. Tybalt owns that Mercutio has a rare wit, and Mercutio is sure that his adversary is a gallant gentleman. Look at the amphitheatre yonder. You do not suppose those gladiators who fought and perished, as hundreds of spectators in that grim Circus held thumbs down, and cried "Kill, kill!"—you do not suppose the combatants of necessity hated each other? No
square at Verona, out flash But in his private mind
more than the celebrated trained bands of literary sword-and-buckler men hate the adversaries whom they meet in the arena. They engage at the given signal; feint and parry; slash, poke, rip each other open, dismember limbs, and hew off noses; but in the way of business, and, I trust, with mutual private esteem. For instance, I salute the warriors of the Superfine Company with the honors due among warriors. Here's at you, Spartacus, my lad. A hit, I acknowledge. A palpable hit! Ha! how do you like that poke in the eye in return? When the trumpets sing truce, or the spectators are tired, we bow to the noble company, withdraw, and get a cool glass of wine in our rendezvous des braves gladiateurs.
By the way, I saw that amphitheatre of Verona under the strange light of a lurid eclipse some years ago, and I have been there in spirit for these twenty lines past, under a vast gusty awning, now with twenty thousand fellow-citizens looking on from the benches, now in the circus itself a grim gladiator with sword and net, or a meek martyr-was I?-brought out to be gobbled up by the lions? or a huge shaggy, tawny lion myself, on whom the dogs were going to be set? What a day of excitement I have had, to be sure! But I must get away from Verona, or who knows how much farther the Roundabout Pegasus may carry me?
We were saying, my Muse, before we dropped and perched on earth for a couple of sentences, that our unsaid words were in some limbo or other as real as those we have uttered; that the thoughts which have passed through our brains are as actual as any to
which our tongues and pens have given currency. For instance, besides what is here hinted at, I have thought ever so much more about Verona; about an early Christian church I saw there; about a great dish of rice we had at the inn; about the bugs there; about ever so many more details of that day's journey from Milan to Venice; about Lake Garda, which lay on the way from Milan, and so forth. I say what fine things we have thought of, haven't we, all of us? Ah! what a fine tragedy that was I thought of, and never wrote! On the day of the dinner of the Oystermongers' Company, what a noble speech I thought of in the cab, and broke down--I don't mean the cab, but the speech. Ah! if you could but read some of the unwritten Roundabout Papers, how you would be amused! Aha! my friend, I catch you saying, "Well, then, I wish this was unwritten, with all my heart." Very good. I owe you one. I do confess a hit, a palpable hit.
One day in the past month, as I was reclining on the bench of thought, with that ocean The Times newspaper spread before me, the ocean cast up on the shore at my feet two famous subjects for Roundabout Papers, and I picked up those waifs, and treasured them away until I could polish them and bring them to market. That scheme is not to be carried out. I can't write about those subjects. And though I can not write about them, I may surely tell what are the subjects I am going not to write about.
The first was that Northumberland Street encounter which all the papers have narrated. Have any novelists of our days a scene and catastrophe more
strange and terrible than that which occurs at noonday within a few yards of the greatest thoroughfare in Europe? At the theatres they have a new name for their melodramatic pieces, and call them "Sensation Dramas." What a sensation drama this is! What have people been flocking to see at the Adelphi Theatre for the last hundred and fifty nights? A woman pitched overboard out of a boat, and a certain Miles taking a tremendous "header," and bringing her to shore? Bagatelle! What is this compared to the real life drama, of which a midday representation takes place just opposite the Adelphi in Northumberland Street? The brave Dumas, the intrepid Ainsworth, the terrible Eugene Sue, the cold-shudderinspiring Woman in White, the astounding author of the Mysteries of the Court of London, never invented any thing more tremendous than this. It might have happened to you and me. We want to borrow a little money. We are directed to an agent. We pro
pose a pecuniary transaction at a short date. He goes into the next room, as we fancy, to get the bank-notes, and returns with "two very pretty, delicate little ivory-handled pistols," and blows a portion of our heads off. After this, what is the use of being squeamish about the probabilities and possibilities in the writing of fiction? Years ago I remember making merry over a play of Dumas, called Kean, in which the Coal-Hole Tavern was represented on the Thames, with a fleet of pirate-ships moored alongside. Pirate ships? Why not? What a cavern of terror was this in Northumberland Street, with its splendid furniture covered with dust, its empty bottles, in the midst of
which sits a grim "agent," amusing himself by firing pistols, aiming at the unconscious mantle-piece, or at the heads of his customers!
After this, what is not possible? It is possible Hungerford Market is mined, and will explode some day. Mind how you go in for a penny ice unawares. "Pray step this way," says a quiet person at the door. You enter into a back room- -a quiet room—rather a dark room. "Pray take your place in a chair." And she goes to fetch the penny ice. Malheureux! The chair sinks down with you-sinks, and sinks, and sinks a large wet flannel suddenly envelops your face and throttles you. Need we say more? After Northumberland Street, what is improbable? Surely there is no difficulty in crediting Bluebeard. I withdraw my last month's opinions about ogres. Ogres? Why not? I protest I have seldom contemplated any thing more terribly ludicrous than this "agent" in the dingy splendor of his den, surrounded by dusty ormolu and piles of empty bottles, firing pistols for his diversion at the mantle-piece until his clients come in! Is pistol practice so common in Northumberland Street that it passes without notice in the lodginghouses there?
We speak anon of good thoughts. About bad thoughts? Is there some Northumberland Street chamber in your heart and mine, friend, close to the every-day street of life, visited by daily friends, visited by people on business, in which affairs are transacted, jokes are uttered, wine is drunk; through which people come and go, wives and children pass, and in which murder sits unseen until the terrible moment