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A PEDESTRIAN TOUR OF 1347 MILES THROUGH WALES AND ENGLAND; PERFORMED IN THE SUMMER OF 1833.1
BY PEDESTRES, AND SIR CLAVILENO WOODENPEG, KNIGHT, OF
At the sight of this, our hearts kindled with sympathy, and there arose another cry. “The candles, the candles !--the matches will all be out again soon! Make haste, make hastel reach me that candle, Gradus come, Hic-hæc-hoc-and you, you little fool, you, (to A-B-C,) make yourself useful, and don't blow away the tinder again !"
“ Here! here! here!” exclaimed the others; each presenting a candle.
There was a great deal of trouble in getting the wicks lighted, for they had been so thumbed and fingered, and so pinched and discomposed, that all their phlogiston had been affrighted out of them. But what will not time, patience, and perseverance do? Yet other five minutes were dissipated, ere the glowing wicks of the candles enkindled in our breasts the exhilarating blazes of success. Then did we indeed begin to feel full of the pleasurable hope of confidence; for the thermometers of our anticipation stood at a high degree.
A-B-C had been very busy in the contest between the match and his candle--but he had been unobserved during the moment of excitement. Now and then we assembled close round the entrance, and prepared for the strife.
“ What is the matter with A-B-C ?" said one of the party, looking back towards the spot where we had been striking the lights, but which was only a few yards distant. “ What is he about-is he cry
He was kneeling on the ground, with his candle (still burning) lying before him, and which he had dropped: he had placed one hand over his eyes, appearing to thrust his fingers against them with great force; and with the thumb and fore-finger of the other, he was pinching his nose to the utmost of his strength. His face was red, and the tears stood on his cheeks. “ He has got the brimstone up his nose,” said Gradus.
“ I thought he would get a whiff of it,” observed Hic-hæc-hoc, with an expression of unconcern. “ 'Twas a wonder he didn't burn the end of his nose off just now, he put it so close."
“Confound the little ass !” exclaimed Ille-ego ; “ I'm glad of it: I hope he has swallowed enough to satisfy him—he is always poking his officious fingers everywhere but where they should be: 'tis a just judgment against him for blowing all the tinder away!"
Continued from p. 184.
In a short space of time, by the united exertions of rubbing his eyes, and holding his breath, A-B-C had entirely recovered from the suffocating effects of the sulphureous fumes he had unwisely inhaled. Ille-ego, either to delight his bullying propensity over a junior (than which nothing is so sweet to a schoolboy where he dare do it) or else to annoy and tease him with threats, merely for the pleasure of doing so, now fixed on this youngest of our party, to be the first to enter the dungeon. A-B-C, however, young as he was, was not without spirit. He told Ille-ego boldly, he might go to h—11 if he would—he was not going to make him go in first: he reminded him that he had come to be the guide to all the others—that he had promised to do it-and now, (he added with a sneer,) he was going to "shirk off."
Ille-ego answered this with a laugh ; and it soon appeared that he had had no positive intention of enforcing his proposition—he had merely bullied him for amusement.
The archway was so little elevated above the ground, that hands and kneesor all fours—were not low enough to enable any of us to enter in that way: it was indispensable to attempt some other mode more hopeful, although less agreeable, in order to accomplish the purpose. The entrance was nearly circular—that is, it was of almost the same dimensions measured across either diameter; consequently reducing it to the equality of a large worm's hold in the earth : and we, as “ sinful worms," had to play our parts to the very letter. Ille-ego took the lead, placing himself opposite the opening, down flat on the ground, arms and legs being of little or no use. He, being the first, was to hold his candle between his teeth, like a taffy, or a lolly-pop : and then by dint of many a fierce thrust from ourselves behind him, and the virtue of a worm-like, or peristaltic motion on his part, he succeeded in passing his whole length entirely under the archway, and rising up inside on his legs.
He called out to us to follow. Long ago as it was, I never shall forget the tone of his voice. The low vaulted roof, and the cells and passages around him, gave it such a hollow and sepulchral sound as it issued faintly through the arch—although he appeared to exert all his power to make us hear—that I could have fancied some demon of the place had already snatched his body, and that it was his ghost, and not himself, that addressed us.
Voluminous is the list of hobgoblin and ghost stories that are circulated, respecting the airy, unearthly, and supernatural tenants of this dismal cave; and, notwithstanding I had until now, been all anxiety to push forward, a sudden thrill of fear passed over me, and blasted, in an instant, my hardy resolution. The spectral tone of Ille-ego's words seemed to act like an electric shock, and I was no longer solicitous to be the second adventurer: therefore, under the garb of politeness (a quality, forsooth, so homogeneous with the person of a schoolboy!) I considerably receded, and allowed all the others to take precedence. This they were not long in doing: for they had assistance within, to pull them by the ears, as well as help without, to push them by the heels.
In procrastinating my trial until the last, one great impediment contended to make my progress not only slow, but grievously toilsome and fatiguing. Having, after the precedent of my precursors, (precrawlers) prostrated my corpus on the mother earth immediately in front of the aperture, with my head as far in as I could put it, I tried to advance. But what a farce, oh, ye gods! My arms were useless —my hands were useless—my feet were useless. I could not rise on my hands and knees, because I was not strong enough in the back to burst up the arch: and I now discovered that I woefully wanted some one outside to afford me a friendly fulcrum for my feet. But I had politely let them all go before : and I was not yet far enough in (for the wall was very thick) to enable them to bestow on me an assisting pull. I was like Gulliver, crammed into the Brobdingnagian marrowbone.
How does a worm manage to proceed when he finds himself pent up in such close and confined circumstances as these in which I here lay? What does he do to get forward ? I think I am very much like a worm just now: and in truth, I never in my existence so much desired to possess the attributes and vermiculocity of the genus vermes as I sincerely do at this moment. Of no arms, no legs, and no feet, can all the tribes boast? yet have I all these—and yet (speaking with superlative humility) how far superior are they to me! Would I were a worm at this instant, that I might crawl into the hole!
I became impatient-I made several pis-aller efforts—1 swam with my legs—I elongated myself, (thinking on similitudes,) and then suddenly contracted; acting by a species of vermiculation, or vermicular motion—and finally and happily, by dint of wriggling, sidling, grunting, groaning, throeing, kicking and sprawling, (all unpoetic words,) I succeeded so far as to bring my head and shoulders within the internal surface of the wall. And then, but pr’ythee allow me to take breath.
“But I'm afraid," was the end of a sentence which the now-a-days Pedestres heard Hic-hæc-hoc say in a low tone of voice, in answer to some proposition of his companions within.
"Poo, nonsense!" exclaimed Ille-ego, assuming the air of nonchalance : “if there are any, I dare say they are quite harmless. Go down that passage, and perhaps you may discover something."
“ Will you go with me?" inquired the first speaker: “for I dare not go alone. How do I know but they may attack me, and poison me to death? Will you go before?”.
“ I thought I heard something creeping over the stones,” continued Hic-hæc-hoc, in the greatest trepidation.
“No-no-it can't be," rejoined Ille-ego, himself quivering like the tongue of a serpent. “ It can't be, I'm sure—but let us go a little
“A part of the roof of this passage,” observed Gradus, as the two terrified ones approached, “has fallen in, and we cannot pass that way. If we were to take the trouble to clear out the stones—but it would employ too much time for our candles—or, if we were to try some other passage
“I don't advise you,” said Hic-hæc-hoc, with a faltering voice,
and a pale face, though the dimness of the lights tended to conceal this from much observation—“I don't advise you to go far in that passage--for I think I don't think-perhaps you know for supposing it were dangerous, you know
Supposing you are a great fool,” rejoined Gradus, in the same tone of voice. What are you in such a funk about ? have you been down the passage ? come, let us go.”
“ I have been partly down, but it was very difficult to find the way, and I was afraid to go alone, for fear of the serpents."
As soon as Pedestres heard that the place was infested with serpents, his heart began to beat at a rapid rate, and the diastole and systole became short and quick. He bethought him of retreating forthwith, fancying in his fear he heard the very serpents close to his proboscis, which was resting on the ground, and which, in his situation, he had no means of raising.
But the party within, probably ashamed of their own pusillanimity, were moving into the passage whence had arisen their former misgivings. There had been three candles burning prodigally since they had entered; and their fat had suffered so much from the violence of various pinchings, the heat of the hands in which they had been held without candlesticks, and the effects of the draughts of air that swept around them, that the apprehensions were, if they all were allowed to burn at once, they must inevitably soon be exhausted. Pedestres' candle was comfortably at rest in his pocket: and he, as he was, had not the most remote power of extricating it.
“ Bound more than a madman is.”
Ille-ego therefore issued orders that all the candles must be extinguished, saving one only: although, at the same time, he said he was very well aware that it was not imprudent not to keep a second, lest the other should be accidentally put out by any unforeseen accident. Every one, however, declared there was no apprehension of that; they must be careful; and there appeared no reason why any misfortune should occur.
On quenching two of the lights-leaving but one-the gloom was fearful and almost tangible.
The flitting ghosts seemed to flock thicker than ever : and Pedestres again thought of backing out.
“ I suppose this is the passage," observed Ille-ego rather gravely, and holding the candle above his head that his eyes should not be dazzled by the rays;
“ I suppose this is the passage in which the heaps of bones lie and perhaps the treasures." « What bones and what treasures ?" said Gradus hastily.
Why, the bones and treasures that people talk so much about." “ Are there any treasures in the dungeon now then ?" putting a forcible emphasis on the word “now.”
“ So they say," answered Ille-ego.
“ I wish we could find them,” rejoined Gradus. “What a lot of glorious guttle we would have down at school !"
" I should like to know," said Hic-hæc-hoc, “if this is the way that goes all under the town to the Cross Keys in Gold Street? But I should be afraid of going so far underground, for fear I should never come up again, or be able
to find my way back." “ Confound it all!” exclaimed Ille-ego, “I meant to have brought a piece of chalk with me to mark the walls : for we shall never be able to return by the passages we pass through if we don't note them in some manner. Oh! I say, Gradus, have you got your kite-string in your pocket? We might let that drop behind us as we go: it will show us our way back as well as anything."
“ No,” said Gradus, “I left it behind on purpose: I thought there could be no need of kite-string in a dungeon.”
“ I don't know whether it would have been long enough though,” observed the other, “even if it were here."
“O) yes,” returned Gradus, “ there are nearly four hundred yards : I wound them all off this morning upon the stick we cut yesterday down by Nine-holes.”
" I've got some string,” exclaimed A-B-C, at the same time pulling something like a boot-lace out of his pocket.“ Will this do ?" said he, holding it up.
“ Get out, you little fool!" rejoined Ille-ego, angrily; “what a young ass you must be to think a bit of whip-cord, about a foot long, will do !”
“ What's it for?” inquired the youthful butt of the elder bullies.
“ What the deuce is it to you ?" returned his senior. “ Be off wi' you !” he added, thrusting him away very ungraciously.
“ Will you go a little way on ?" said Hic-hæc-hoc to Gradus ; " for I scarcely know whether we shall be able to get over the stones that lie on the ground. I don't know the place at all,” he continued, retreating with the hope that the other would not perceive his want of courage.
Gradus was perhaps the boldest amongst us-(Pedestres will say nothing of his stoutness, who durst not put more than head and shoulders within the wall)—but Gradus himself entertained no disposition to advance a-head. The party, however, pressed forward with a snail's pace at intervals, merely taking a step or two, and then suddenly stopping, either to listen or attempt to look around them. Even the guide himself-the superior in years—the superior in experience and knowledge of the subterranean labyrinth—he, our guide, was not free from the tremblings of a disturbed imagination. Willingly would he have concealed his feelings to his inmost self: and his timid and susceptible crew would as willingly have been ignorant of those sensations, which he found it impossible to conceal. They all looked up to him for information as to their procedure—for courage and confidence—and moreover, for protection. A farcical guide forsooth, he! a farcical emboldener ! a farcical protector ! yet he was to be the help through all our dangers !
“ What an old villain that Oliver Cromwell was!" said the subject of our observations. « What a cursed old villain he must have been to have driven people into such a place as this to starve, or to die of