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7. My Pipe.

I DISCOVERED the other day—greatly to my delight—that in one respect I strikingly resemble the Poet Laureate. Alfred Tennyson is a tremendous smoker: so am I.

But what man is there fit for anything who is not a smoker? Ex fumo dare lucem is the rule for Genius—always excepting the fascinating but unfumigant Frank Fowler, who radiates the brilliancy without having previously blown the cloud.

Most moral, most intellectual, of agencies is Tobacco—soothing the ruffled spirit into Halcyon calm, stimulating the sluggish brain into Titanic vigour. How much of our Literature—especially of the manly and the metaphysical—do we owe to the Pipe! Many a noblest page in our noble English novels breathes forth its fragrance—delicious as the hawthorn's breath. Wrapt in its vapour, as in Delphic exhalations, the philosopher uttereth oracles!

I stumbled yesterday on an historian of Hispaniola, a Vox ex Insula, who, like our own Vox e Deserto, is wicked enough to abuse Tobacco—asserting that the West Indian Caciques were in the habit of smoking themselves stupid, and had then to be carried by their wives to bed.

The calumny bears its refutation on its face, and so ought its utterer to have borne his. The scoundrel should have been branded as a LIAR! Smoke one's self stupid, indeed! The very reason why the maligners of the “holy herb” are so stupid is because they don't smoke!

Farewell to Tobacco!” Nay, nay, dear Elia! Anacreon-like, thou hadst to sing its praise, even whilst striving to stammer an unavailing Vale to its fascinations. The last request of a dying man has been “one little whiff—one parting draw!” Man was born to smoke (recent phrenologists have proved it—there is a craniological development that craveth Cavendish): then, wherefore struggle against so sweet a destiny? 'Tis, of all, the duty easiest to convert into a delight—and before I write another word, I'll light my Pipe.




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Black but comely—swarthy and glossy as an æthiop belle! Ambrosial, my Hottentot Venus, as the perfume of the Greek Aphrodite's locks, is the aroma of the curls of thy most lustrous Negrohead. Puff—puff—puff—in curious convolutions ascend the fragrant fumes, evanishing like dreams. How exquisite a thrill—ecstatic as the shiver that followeth First Love's delirious first kiss—trembles along the nerves in waves of bliss! With such a theme, no wonder that I am poetical, and rhyme without premeditation. Io 'Baccy! Celestial Pipe, all hail!

Blow your cigars—or rather, don't blow them, I say. Pretenders to the art, mere boyish amateurs, smoke weeds—dallying with their Manilas, even as, puppy-like, they flirt with maidens. In neither case do they intend to link their fates—to share the chances and the changes of this mortal life—with those with whom they trifle. The true smoker, for better, for worse, weddeth his pipe, and never wearieth of her company; loving her all the better, indeed, when Time hath streaked her cheeks—once white as snow, spotless as Spring's first lilies! What departed wife leaveth a more disconsolate widower? No bride is oftener pressed to lips of faithful lord. That type most genuine of the genuine smoker, Herr Teufelsdröckh, in his high room in the Wahngasse, or in the Grünen Ganse coffee-house, of Weissnichtwo, would sit “whole days to think—and smoke tobacco.”

Some men, I know, are polypipists, and keep harems of meerschaums hookahs, chibouques, narguilès, Milo's cutties—no end of beauties foreign and domestic. I, am a strict monogamist. My wife is Dutch, a portly, dame, and hails from Gouda; where, as perchance, I need not tell my reader, the cows obese wear bed-tick petticoats. I fell in with her five years ago in Wapping. A Cape merchant, a kind friend of mine, “gave her away”—from a huge lot that he was about to ship for Cape Town. Since then, like Ulysses, I have seen the cities, and known the mind, of many men; but my. Penelope was ever with me. Over many a sea, in three out of the five quarters of the globe (as the Irish geography-books have it), have we travelled together. Let me summon up a few recollections of the places in which I have smoked the pipe that now I own.

Supinus in herba, in one of thy many rose-filled, strawberry-bearing gardens, dear old Colchester—town of the good oysters, bad pavements, and ugly women (but in that last clause the proverb lies—for lovely are thy daughters),—girt round with thine old wall of Roman brick, like veteran with tattered sash,—sprinkled with venerable ruin of castle, of priory, of abbey,—studded with churches new-spired or steepleless—still telling of the siege long, long ago!




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And on thy river, bound for a picnic in the little Dart, freighted with a cargo of the unproverbial fair ones of whom I spake (all matrons now, I fear),—dropping down beneath the whispering wood of Wivenhoe, where first the Colne begins to put on swaggering, sea-going airs,—past Wivenhoe itself, with its grave old church, multiplicity of bow-windowed public-houses, oyster-pits, and amphibious population,—and the Abydos of that Sestos, Fingrinhoe, with its conical-roofed chapel towering over the fishy-fragrant hamlet like a huge Chinaman's chapeau;—past the black coalbrigs that seem to eye the tiny sprat-boats with disdain, as mere river-sailors, cockney-craft,—between the embankments of monotonous “sea-wall,” on which stand bullocks of morosest aspect, that look as if they would like to toss us for enjoying ourselves, whilst they are fattening there for beef,—past the anchored guard-boat,—past the rolling buoy, reeling—naughty buoy!—as if it were drunk,—with many a musical scream from lips so rosy beneath the wind's fresh kiss, that one gets jealous of the wind,—out into the German Ocean, heaving in emerald set in seething foam!

In railway-carriage, on the sly, to the indignation of the guard, who puts his breeze-blowzed face and coaldust-powdered whiskers in through the window at every station, fruitlessly re-enunciating his very correct impression that “some gen'l'man 'as a-bin a-smokin';”—between dripping cuttings, stern with outcropping rock,—along rampart-like embankments,—over heron-legged viaducts,—through mile-long tunnels, in which even the light that steals down the dismal shafts blanches as though in fear of the surrounding gloom, and shrinks from spreading; wherein the whistle shrieks, like a lost spirit, in reverberated anguish; a million mammoth drayhorses seem trotting, rough-shod, on the iron road; and, ever and anon, the train appears to be rushing backwards, terror-stricken by its own infernal clamour;—out into the sunny air again, beneath the arch over which peer specimens of “Young Rusticity,” half-stifled by the cloud of damp and sulphury vapour the engine puffs into their throats and nostrils;—crash, bang, through the bridges, whose blurred lines of mortar and dancing masonry make the head dizzy and the stomach sick;—racing the telegraph-wires that gallop along like greyhounds, and take the white posts with a flying leap;—past haymakers, or harvesters, or hop-pickers, in fields and meadows that seem running round; staring boors, perched, with drawn-up knees, on mossy gates; and startled cattle, contorting their tails most absurdly in their clumsy flight;—an hour ago far away in the country, disturbing for a moment the solitary silence of orchard-buried villages (their white-washed, honeysuckled cottages clustering around the


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old, gray, ivied churches like children nestling in their grandame's skirts,—security in all their happy faces),—now hurrying over suburban gardens, whose dreary, smoke-dried, shrubs and melancholy cabbages, the puffing engine appears to taunt with a monotonous “Veg-e-tate, veg-e-tate, if-you-can, if-you-can!”—next catching glimpses of attic toilettes and bed-room breakfasts as the train shoots along the parapetted arches, through a chaos of sooty roofs and tottering chimney-stacks, pigeon-traps, scarlet runners, brewers' boards resplendent in blue and gold, factory chimneys belching forth their coils caliginous, and warehouses built, like Babel, up to heaven. Whe-e-e-e-e-e-ew! Whe-e-e-e-e-e-ew! Tickets have been taken by bumptious, moustached gentlemen in uniform, who seem to fancy themselves, in some vague manner, “in the Guards,”—so grandly condescending, so intensely military, is their demeanour,—bells ring,—telegraphs extend their arms, like tragedians, at our approach, dropping them languidly when we have passed,—green-coated officials wave flags insanely, or gravely shoulder the staves like muskets, and raise their right hands to their foreheads in soldier-like salute,—green-jacketed ditto porter at those mysterious “switches,” the function of which appears to be the knocking of each passenger's knees and head against those of his vis-à-vis,—“breaks” are screwed down, occasioning throughout the frame of second and third-class passengers, that peculiar sensation commonly called “pins and needles,”—the light dims suddenly as the rumbling train rolls under the iron-arched-and-girded roof of the long, wide Terminus,—a wave of porters, policemen, pickpockets, and waiting friends, dashes itself with a running ripple along the carriages,—yonder the omnibuses and cabs loom like dissolving views through the raw, yellow fog,—the carriage-doors fly open,—a buzzing mob clusters around the luggage-vans like flies round sugar-casks,—we are in London!

In “Coal-Hole,” or “Cider Cellars,” puffing away in self defence. In addition to the rich tobacco-reek, the air is redolent of brandy, rum, gin, potter, and the Cambrian coney Waiters, with fitful gleams of glass and pewter, flit spectral through the mist—dense almost as a washing-day's. Old men, with noses like masses of bruised mulberries and aspen hands—the hoary sinners!—middle-aged roués—fast young men—women in gaudy garments, who buy their blushes by the cake—here and there a wondering neophyte with country air and mother's kiss still fresh upon his cheek: these are the company—enjoying “Life,” as they are pleased to term it. Foul atmosphere and fouler entertainment—with what satisfaction must a “Cave of Harmony” habituè say VIXI!

In a London square, blending, in the soft summer air, the breath of


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Gouda with the fragrance of the lilacs. The moonlight silvers even grimy London house-fronts into beauty, and makes even grim knocker lion-heads look mild. On what myriads of tombstones, standing dim beside the graves like risen ghosts, that light pours down! The quarters peal out in the silence like the audible pulse of time! But Carlyle has written Night Thoughts in a Great City—and who shall attempt what he has touched? Read Sartor Resartus, book 1, chap. iii., my friend!

In the Champs Elysesé, blending the breath of Gouda with anything but that of lilacs—the odious odour of French cigars,—believed, not without reason, to be made of ditchwater congealed. But the lights twinkle through the trees upon a hundred merry shows, watched by many a hundred pair of merry eyes. Even the limonadière, toiling along with that remarkable machine of hers, looks pleased—perhaps, because her toil will soon be over. Even the sulky little sunburnt soldier in those baggy pantaloons of his, evidently blushing at the badness of their cut, relaxes into a smile. Clearly ring from the white-and-gold orchestras the voices of the singers—I wish, ma mignonne in muslin—excuse My Pipe—I could hear more frequently a silvery tinkle in that box of yours, wherein you collect the offerings of your not very liberal al fresco auditory! But see, that worthy bourgeois is regaling his wife, her sister, and himself, with what we should call a nobbler of brandy. Two bites at a cherry! Three nips from a nobbler! How strong their grog must be! What can you expect from a people who indulge in potations of such potency?

At sea; in the maintop, with a bottle of Bass, looking down upon the motley morning scene on deck: flirtations and card-playing on the poop,—here and there a pair of quiet chess-players, or a languid student hardly keeping up even the sham of reading; boys larking, idlers lounging, on the booms;—a fair-haired, fair-cheeked child sitting beside a sailor with a face of tan, watching the process of sail-making, and curiously examining the “palm,” with a manifest impression that it is a portion of his companion's skin—a little blacker than the rest; under the awning, at noon, where the seams sweat tar, and the flying-fish flash like silver shafts as they shoot through the sunlight-saturated air, and one envies the bread-winged albatross when it folds those spreading vans, and cools its downy bosom in the sapphire waters;—beside the wheel, at night, when wanderers muse mournfully of Home, and the galley-fire blazes out in the sudden darkness, and the white-crested waves astern rush after the flying vessel like wolves hounding Mazeppa, or the moon arises in beauty, and turns barque and sea, and sky, into a sweet, sad dream-scape.

Among the red-lichened rocks of Table Mountain, on the oak-shaded


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Wynberg road, under the vines at Constantia, in dusty Cape Town, dustier Melbourne, dustiest Sydney.

In the lonely bush, where the air is almost as fragrant as my Gouda's breath at dawn, where, during the day, the solitary flowers smile so patiently in the sultry heat; where, at eve, a far-off cloud above the tree-tops tells of the returning flock; and, at night, the camped-out traveller's fire winks sullenly as eye of drowsy lion.

In these places, and in many a place beside, have I smoked my darling—alas! alas! I shall never smoke her more! She hath fallen from my lips, and lies in fragments on the floor. Peace to her ashes! Fondly shall I embalm her memory, and place it in the choicest chamber of my heart; but it is not good for man to be alone—I must take unto myself another wife!

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