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She stood, and eyed him with a dreary eye,
There's by the work-house wall a woman dead.
THE ORIGIN OF ROAST PIG.
ANKIND, says a Chinese manuscript, which my friend was
obliging enough to read and explain to me, for the first seventy thousand ages ate their meat raw, clawing or biting it from the living animal, just as they do in Abyssinia to this day. This period is not obscurely hinted at by their great Confucius, in the second chapter of his “Mundane Mutations,” where he designates a kind of golden age by the term “ Chofang," literally the “ Cook's Holiday.” The manuscript goes on to say, that the art of roasting, or rather broiling, was accidentally discovered in the manner following.
The swineherd Hoti, having gone out into the woods one morning, as his manner was, to collect mast for his hogs, left his cottage in the care of his eldest son, Bobo, a great lubberly boy, who, being fond of playing with fire as youngsters of his age commonly are, let some sparks escape into a bundle of straw, which, kindling quickly, spread the conflagration over every part of their poor mansion, till it was reduced to ashes. Together with the cottage, what was of much more importance, a fine litter of pigs, no less than nine in number, perished.
Bobo was in the utmost consternation, not so much for the sake of the tenement, which his father and he could easily build up again with a few dry branches and the labor of an hour or two, as for the loss of the pigs. While he was thinking what he should say to his father, and wringing his hands over the smoking remnants of one of those untimely sufferers, an odor assailed his nostrils, unlike any scent which he had before experienced. What could it proceed from ? Not from the burned cottage. Much less did it resemble that of any known herb, weed, or flower. He knew not what to think.
He next stooped down to feel the pig, if there were any signs of life in it. He burned his fingers, and to cool them he applied them to his mouth. Some of the crumbs of the scorched skin had come away with his fingers, and for the first time in his life (in the world's life, indeed, for before him no man had known it) he tasted-crackling! Again he felt and fumbled at the pig. It did not burn him so much now, still he licked his fingers from a sort of habit. The truth at length broke into his slow understanding that it was the pig that smelled so, and the pig that tasted so delicious; and, surrendering himself up to the new-born pleasure, he fell to tearing up whole handfuls of the scorched skin with the flesh next it, and was cramming it down his throat in his beastly fashion, when his sire entered amid the smoking rafters, armed with retributory cudgel; and, finding how affairs stood, began to rain blows upon the young rogue's shoulders, which Bobo heeded not any more than if they had been flies. His father might lay on, but he could not beat him from his pig, till he had fairly made an end of it, when, becoming a little more sensible of his situation, something like the following dialogue ensued:
“You graceless whelp, what have you got there devouring? Is it not enough that you have burned down three houses, but you must be eating fire, and I know not what? What have you got there, I say?"
“O father, the pig, the pig! do come and taste how nice the burned pig eats.”
The ears of Hoti tingled with horror. He cursed his son, and he cursed himself that ever he should beget a son that should eat burned pig.
Bobo, whose scent was wonderfully sharpened since morning, soon raked out another pig; and, fairly rending it asunder, thrust the lesser half by main force into the fists of Hoti, still shouting out, “Eat, eat, eat the burned pig, father, only taste-0 Lord!” with such like barbarous ejaculations, cramming all the while as if he would choke.
Hoti trembled in every joint while he grasped the abominable thing, wavering whether he should not put his son to death for an unnatural monster, when the crackling scorching his fingers, as it had done his son's, and applying the same remedy to them, he in his turn tasted some of its flavor, which, make what sour mouths he would for pretence, proved not altogether displeasing to him. In conclusion, both father and son fairly sat down to the mess, and never left off till they had despatched all that remained of the litter.
Bobo was strictly enjoined not to let the secret escape, for the neighbors would certainly have stoned them for a couple of abominable wretches, who could think of improving upon the good meat which the Creator had sent them. Nevertheless, strange stories got about.
It was observed that Hoti's cottage was burned down more frequently than ever. Nothing but fires from this time forward. Some would break out in broad day, others in the nighttime. As often as there were pigs, so sure was the house of Hoti to be in a blaze; and Hoti himself, instead of chastising his son, seemed to grow more indulgent to him than ever.
At length they were watched, the terrible mystery discovered, and father and son summoned to take their trial at Pekin, then an inconsiderable assize town. Evidence was given, the obnoxious food itself produced in court, and verdict about to be pronounced, when the foreman of the jury begged that some of the burned pig, of which the culprits stood accused, might be handed into the box. He handled it, and they all handled it; and, burning their fingers, as Bobo and his father had done before them, and nature prompting to each of them the same remedy, against the face of all the facts, and the clearest charge which judge had ever given,--to the surprise of the whole court, townsfolk, strangers, reporters, and all present,—without leaving the box, or any manner of consultation whatever, they brought in a simultaneous verdict of “not guilty!”
The judge, who was a shrewd fellow, winked at the manifest iniquity of the decision; and, when the court was dismissed, went privately, and bought up all the pigs that could be had for love or money. In a few days his lordship's town-house was observed to be on fire. The thing took wing, and now there was nothing to be seen but fires in every direction. Fuel and pigs grew enormously dear all over the district. The insurance offices, one and all, shut up shop. People built slighter and slighter every day, until it was feared that the very science of architecture would in no long time be lost to the world. This custom of firing houses continued till, in process of time, says my manuscript, a sage arose, like our Locke, who made a discovery that the flesh of swine, or indeed of any other animal, might be cooked (burned, as they called it) without the necessity of consuming a whole house to dress it. Then first began the rude form of a gridiron. Roasting by the string or spit came in a century or two later, I forget in whose dynasty.
By such slow degrees, concludes the manuscript, do the most useful and seemingly the most obvious arts make their way among mankind.
ON THE BORDERS OF CANNOCK CHASE.
COTTAGER leaned whispering by her hives,
And entered one by one their waxen town.
[A mythic lady connected with the romances of King Arthur's court. Her story is told by Tennyson in the “Idyls of the King, and is associated with the romance of Sir Lancelot and Guinevere."]
EFORE the people crowned Prince Arthur king,
He found a crown of diamonds, nine in all.