Artabanzanus/Chapter 14

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1425024Artabanzanus — Chapter XIVWilliam Moore Ferrar



Two or three days were now to elapse, and then the time would come, if the all-powerful Demon should be for once true to his word, when I should be breathing again the delicious air of my beloved mountains, and climbing to their tops beneath the sunny canopy of heaven. I had a vague hope, too, but only a vague one, that my kind friend Julius would also be able, by some master-stroke of policy, of which I thought his extraordinary talents and fearless energy made him fully capable, to accompany me in my aerial flight out of this black and horrible abyss. I regarded him as a wonderfully clever magician, who could call at will spirits from the vasty deep, and, what is more, make them obey his call. I attributed to his power the sudden and complete dissolution of the court of the mighty potentate in which I was about to become such a prominent actor. The lesson to be learned from that strange scene, which we should all seriously and gratefully lay to heart, is that we are not now living under an absolute monarch, who has either the power or the will to make himself a scourge and a terror to his subjects.

A thousand times I asked myself how the Doctor, who has become the hero of my story nearly to the exclusion of the Demon himself, gained his terrible power. We have seen that he had nearly as much as his master, whom he evidently hated and despised, and whom he seemed to fear but little. He was a younger man by far than many thousands whom I had seen and heard of in that city, and yet he appeared to be placed, in medical authority at least, above them all. To attain such a position he must have been endowed with the abilities of Æsculapius, Æetius, Galen, and their multitudinous successors. In addition to the constant pursuit of his studies and duties he had found time, in less than two hundred years, to construct, out of nothing that I could see or account for, a hall or grotto of vast proportions and astonishing magnificence, in which he produced effigies of his parents, and of his beautiful Helen and her companions, in the most marvellous similitude to the reality of life. In this I could only compare him to the author of the 'Arabian Knights,' or our own Sir Walter Scott. And yet, with all his strength and power, his character presented many eccentricities, if not absolute weaknesses. He could rebuke me severely for my deficiencies in wisdom, and yet fall down himself and worship the work of his own hands the image of Helen, the ever lovely and mysterious Helen. He could roll on the floor and cry like a child when her name was mentioned; and become mad with jealousy and rage at one moment because I had kissed her in a dream; and, lo! in the next, he would be shouting with wild laughter at the antics of a troop of musical buffoons. He could take me in the morning to witness a solemn tragedy, and in the evening dissipate the same in a cloud of smoke and with ringing laughter. He would argue the gravest matters with Artabanzanus himself, and then go out and crack jokes with the hoggish Obeltub, the driving fiend of the lightning balloon.

My reverie was suddenly interrupted by the subject of it rushing into the room, with much apparent excitement, a roll of papers in one hand, and a black staff with white letters upon it in the other.

'Fortune is favouring me, Ubertus,' he said in a subdued voice, as if fearful of being overheard; 'I have been summoned to attend a great council. The Demon, Old Arty, as I often style him, has called his Parliament together, to discuss and decide upon the greatest and most important question of the day, which is the building of a new city on the surface of your world, and the removal of all the inhabitants of this place up to it. He is full of the project, and I shall support it by all the means in my power. It may give me my long-wished-for opportunity. The site of his new city, will, I believe, be fixed on to-day. I understand he is in favour of one in the neighbourhood of your splendid Great Lake; but of this I am not quite sure. I must leave you to yourself to-day, my dear boy; you can command Florian and the band, or you can read these papers if you like. I do not know whether I am right or not, but I think you are anxious to learn more about Helen. They will gratify your curiosity, if they do not—and I hope they will not—grate harshly upon your literary taste.'

I thanked him for this renewed proof of his confidence, and ventured to ask what the black staff with white letters upon it was for.

'It is,' he replied, 'my staff of office; by it I am known to be one of the Demon King's ministers. When you are appointed his private secretary you will be presented with a similar staff. It will insure your respectful reception into the highest and most fashionable society, and procure for you advantages and honours without number. You will be a lucky fellow.'

'My dear Doctor,' I enquired earnestly, 'may I not go with you? I have an insatiable curiosity to see this great Parliament.'

'What!—and leave these papers, and the history of my Helen here to take care of themselves?'

'I will keep them safely, sir, in my pocket, and read them another time.'

'Now or never!' he shouted, and snatching up the papers again, rushed out of the room just as he had rushed in. I was utterly confounded. 'Now he is offended in earnest,' I mused, almost stunned with the suddenness of the occurrence, 'and Heaven only knows what will become of me. Without his friendship and protection, I shall be lost.'

After sitting there in a state of the greatest misery for about an hour, Florian came in, and told me that his master was about to start, and if I wished to accompany him, I could do so: the carriage was ready. I started up with alacrity, and followed the messenger into the street. There I found the Doctor waiting for me, pacing up and down impatiently. He uttered no word of reproach or reproof, however, but told me calmly to take my seat. We drove out, as before, into the great abyss, by the light of the enormous shields, which looked, in consequence of their proximity, like gigantic moons shining through the smoke of a Tasmanian bush fire. Then we passed under the high arch which marked the entrance into the Department of Pleasure; and after driving through many brilliant streets, and amongst dense throngs of people, found ourselves at last in front of the Demon's palace.

A great crowd had assembled there, for the news had spread like wildfire that the King had called his Parliament together for the first time for many years. All kinds of rumours, for the better or the worse, hung suspended in the air. A regiment of gigantic negro guards was drawn up before the royal residence. The Doctor was loudly cheered, but instead of alighting at the palace as I expected, he drove on past it, saying, 'We are too early; let us drive on, and I will show you the Dark River, and the Bridge of Folly.'

We drove on accordingly through the streets until the houses became far apart from each other, and the lamps dwindled by degrees both in number and brightness. A plunging gallop of the horses brought us to a high, half-ruined bridge, which spanned a rushing torrent, whose waters were of a pitchy blackness. The deep caverns whence this horrible river issued were lit in the distance by a pale phosphorescent glow that reminded me strangely of St Elmo's fire. The scene was terrible, and though I only saw it for a few moments, I shall never lose the sight of it. The river flowed down under the bridge, causing alarming vibrations, and became a frightful whirlpool which dashed its waves against an island of the hardest rock, and this was as black as the waters themselves. Far below, among the subterranean mountains, echoed the hoarse roar of a tremendous waterfall, mingled with other far more fearful sounds.

'This is the Bridge of Folly,' said the Doctor; 'that island is the Island of Ignorance; the whirlpool is called Presumption, and the river itself is Infidelity.'

While we sat in our carriage on the centre of the bridge I was horrified to see an aged man advancing towards us from the opposite side. He was attended by a crowd of admiring followers, who, whenever he turned and spoke a few words to them, shouted and clapped their bands. He came up to the Doctor's carriage, saluted us gravely, and addressed my friend thus:

'Ho, ho, Doctor Julius! I am rejoiced to welcome thee again into the country of infinite light, love universal, and pleasure eternal. Freedom, freedom; hurrah for freedom! It was our cradle, and it shall be our grave. Do I talk about graves? We shall have no grave. Art thou come, thou jolly Doctor, with thy milk-and-water, ratsbane-looking friend up there to join our holy circle? "Freedom is our watchword, Liberty our banner. We have no master, and our eyes are bright; no deadly pall of future fear hangs over us, and our hearts are light. We can see, and judge, and put things together. We worship no Creator, for the good reason—there is not one to worship; we worship our noble selves; ha! ha! ho! ho! and we're jolly and happy, and careless and free. Are we not, my trusty followers and dearest friends? If I had a thousand wives and ten thousand children, I would have them all here about me now. Join us, Doctor; join us, Mr. Puddingface, or whatever your precious name may be.'

The followers set up a shout of approbation, but the Doctor drove his horses on to the end of the bridge, turned them round to go back to the Demon's palace, and as he passed the band of athiests spoke these few words:

'Professor Muddlebrain, if you can learn nothing yourself, attempt not to teach others. Your mind is a dark chamber where light cannot enter. You are a blind fool, and a leader of blind fools. Away with you; vanish from my sight!'

They obeyed him. They burst into shrieks of hideous laughter, and to my horror and astonishment leaped over the parapet of the bridge into the boiling gulf, following to the last man their hoary leader, and I could see them by the faint light dashed upon the rocks of the Island of Ignorance.

In the course of our drive my protector had said but little. Now, however, when he had dismissed his carriage, he spoke these words as we walked slowly up and down the courtyard of the palace:

'I ought to apologize, Ubertus, for my late abruptness, with which you have good reason to be offended. I have a hasty temper and an imperious will, by which I conquer nearly all things, but no one can say that I am a false and unprincipled deceiver. You have asked me to bring you here to see the Demon King's Parliament in session, and I have complied with your request, although for several weighty reasons I ought not to have done so. You are in danger here, and so am I; but we must not be cowards. The fall and disgrace of Astoragus will most likely draw upon you the vengeance of the Larrikin Guards' (here I shuddered in my inmost soul); 'your rejection of Princess Bellagranda's hand in marriage will certainly provoke the hatred of that powerful personage. If she should invite you to lunch with her to-day, you must follow the guidance of your own inclinations; I must not influence you. Perhaps I was wrong when I told you who she was when she lived on earth, and if she knew I had done so she might find means to sting me, as Astoragus stung you.'

'She shall never know it from me, sir; I will not lunch with her!' I broke in vehemently.

'Reflect for awhile in silence,' he replied; 'we are in good time, and need not enter yet.'

I did reflect. A beautiful woman seldom fails to conquer the weak heart of the strongest man even if he be also wise and conscientious. Bellagranda was beautiful, graceful, charming, witty, and winning. Whether she was acting a basely treacherous part at the instance of her 'dear papa,' or was really capable of loving me at first sight, I had no means of knowing. If she were indeed Clytemnestra, she was a murderess, but she might not be that infamous woman. Did she intend to entrap me and turn me into a dog for her own amusement, or did she consider me a fine-looking fellow whom she could love and make happy for ever? Who can tell? The current of our lives becomes divergent streams; our better angel alone, and not our own prudence, can tell us which to follow. My heart fluttered in my breast when her image presented itself before me. I was bewitched by the grandeur and loveliness of her outward person. A deadly influence was at work, and I trembled. The boundless ocean of eternity was within my view, on one side light, on the other darkness. What might not be the consequences should my resolution give way? Had I seen the 'Star of Victory,' and the virtuous wife or lover of my friend the Doctor in vain? 'Weak as water, weak as water,' I muttered to myself. 'Oh, poor Ubertus! pray now for the strength which conquers all weakness.'

The members of the Council now began to arrive. A number of chariots drawn by fiery horses dashed into the courtyard. The Doctor entered the palace, and I followed him into the large chamber in which I had first met my enemy Astoragus. My guide directed me to take a humble seat near one of the thrones; for, to my surprise, I saw two thrones, where on my first visit there was but one. He took a seat near me, explaining in a low voice that his proper seat was at the other side, opposite the Demon's throne, but he wished to be near me to point out by name the celebrated personages who were expected to take part in the forthcoming debate. The personages themselves need not be described. For the most part they were large, rough, shaggy-looking figures; I dare not call them men. It is needless to say that their appearance nearly drove me frantic with terror.

He told me many of their names, but I remember only few. There were seven Ministers of State; the Minister of Fires and Blazes was the chief, under the Premier; his name was Lord Flambo Combustius. The Minister of War rejoiced in the cognomen of the Hon. Kattyscalpa Bomblaza. He who had the charge of Foreign Affairs was by name Sir Dashmy Partigan. The Secretary for the Home Department was Lord Cashup Humbuggings. The Minister of Coal had an altogether unpronounceable name. Sir Bumptious Rocketflight had charge of the golden and leaden portfolios. The Doctor himself was the seventh. When the noise of their tumultuous entrance had subsided, the great clock of the palace boomed forth its awful single stroke. The Doctor ran across the House, and took his seat on the ministerial benches. A door opened, a band of fifes and drums struck up a saluting flourish, and the Demon King, surrounded by a number of his guards, advanced to the throne, and took his seat. All the members rose to receive him. But what commotion was that which now succeeded? What was the meaning of the buzz of admiration that rose up from the crowd? Good angels, protect me! Be still—be still, oh beating heart!—Bellagranda herself!

If I thought her beautiful when I saw her first, she seemed now to be absolutely enchanting. She did not come carried by her women, but, lo! seated on the back of a magnificent lion. She looked like an innocent young virgin in whom there could be no guile. She had arrayed herself in an azure-coloured robe, adorned with buttons and spangles in gold and silver, thus showing her superior taste by discarding lead. On her head she wore a crown of gold, on which were fixed, in imitation of Urania, eight twinkling stars that sent forth a dazzling light. Descending gracefully from the back of her leonine charger, assisted by a number of elegant pages, she seated herself on the second throne at the Demon's right hand; but as she did so I saw, with a delightful sensation which I cannot describe, her glorious eyes riveted upon my face—an ugly face, too, compared with some it has been my privilege to see. It was in vain that I tried to divest myself of the idea that this splendid ire, whoever she was, loved me for my personal or mental attractions. I called myself an ass, an inflated fool, a manifest and veritable idiot, full of vanity and self-deception. Surely, if she loved me for myself alone, she would never think of turning me into a loathsome animal. Could I reciprocate her love, and fly with her into bowers of bliss and pleasure, which mortal tongue never told, nor imagination conceived? That was the question.

The business of the day now commenced. The Demon opened the session by a long speech from the throne, of which I can only give a very brief and imperfect report It was a matter of great rejoicing to his heart, he said, and to the heart of his amiable daughter, whom he had thought proper to admit to a share in the government of his extensive dominions, to see such a solemn and dignified assembly of lords and princes of his world-wide empire. He was pleased beyond measure to be able to announce that, owing to the exertions of his present constitutional advisers, a universal peace had been proclaimed which he fondly hoped would last for many centuries. As far as he was personally concerned he hated war, but there were many—far too many—discontented and sanguinary spirits in his kingdom who detested peace. Hence the unexpected and bitterly-to-be-regretted complications which had only lately been unravelled on the terrible field of carnage. This bloody climax had been, however, greatly alleviated by the spiritual exertions of his right trusty and beloved Premier, the Director General of Hospitals, whose report would be laid before them, and whose wonderful genius and talents had been successful in restoring the wounded to sound health, and the killed, of whom there were about two hundred thousand, to renewed life. He had the pleasure of assuring his faithful Lords and Commons in Parliament assembled, that he had received highly satisfactory despatches from all parts of his empire, which was annexing fresh worlds, and constantly growing in dignity, and in the respect of all classes of beings, human and otherwise. It was his intention to lay before them, through his responsible advisers and other experienced members of this honourable house' several very important measures, which, if they met with its approval, and became law, would conduce in no small degree to the extension of the boundaries, and increase of the power, of the empire. The most important of these he would take the liberty of alluding to, although it might be somewhat unconstitutional. He would explain, for their satisfaction, that in doing so he had no wish or intention to influence their weighty deliberations, or interfere with their highly-valued freedom of debate. Many years ago, in his numerous journeys to and fro, on business of importance, from his present subterranean city up to the surface of the world, which was inhabited and dominated by the human race, among whom he had very many, he might say millions, of warm admirers and staunch adherents, it struck him very forcibly that it would be a very great improvement, and an enormous stride in the right direction, if a large city were built on the outside of the world—a city of their own building—capable of containing all the inhabitants of this which they possessed below ground, and many millions more. In all his wanderings hither and thither, and in his aerial flights in his lightning balloon, this idea had grown to something like maturity, and he had of late years even gone so far as to select a suitable site, by anticipation, for this new city. He had—and he said it modestly—with his proverbially superior and taste, selected one in a strange and far-off island, called affectionately by its inhabitants Tasmania. It is in their Lake country, as they call it, and they are particularly proud of it, and he thought a better or finer site could not be chosen in the whole world. The grandest of the lakes, which is called the Great Lake, is one hundred miles in circumference, and has all around it abundance of room for a splendid metropolis. There was an inexhaustible supply of the sweetest water in the universe. There were rivers flowing in different directions; forests for their fires; rocky hills and mountains for their fortified castles, open fields for, if necessary, their battles, to which purpose he hoped they would never be devoted; and sheep and cattle all round them to which they could help themselves when they pleased. Added to all these advantages would be the pleasures of society, and closer and more intimate relations with the people of the island, of the plains below the lakes, and of the distant cities near the sea. A very sweet and refreshing intercourse might be established by means of a mountain railway from north to south, for which the inhabitants would gladly pay. Iron and metal roads would no doubt be cheerfully constructed; and multitudes of delighted visitors would fly in crowded carriages from one city to another. He believed there was a glorious future in store for the Great Lake of Tasmania. Other important measures would be laid before them for their consideration, particularly one to effect the Federation of the World; one for the reconstruction and better organization of the Larrikin Guards; one for establishing a close season of one hundred years for fleas, rats, rabbits, vindictive official tyrants, rogues, fools, snakes, and all other vermin, most useful assistants to them in their moral government of mankind: he trusted that these and many more desirable Acts of this honourable house would become law; and he would now thank them from the bottom of his heart for their devotion to his person, and for their warm and generous support in all seasons of trial and difficulty.

His Majesty then saluted the assembly, who all bowed profoundly to the ground, and marched away, the fifes and drums again striking up a flourish. I watched Bellagranda most anxiously, expecting to see her rise and follow the Demon, but she did not move.

The Thunderer, as the Speaker of that Parliament was called, now took his seat at one end of the hall. The clerks arranged their papers at the head of a long table, the members flung themselves on their couches in easy, careless attitudes, and the sergeant-at-arms marched up and down with a drawn sword about seven feet long, in one hand, and an enormous revolver, loaded, as I understood, with thunder and lightning, in the other.

The address to the throne, in reply to His Majesty's gracious speech, was moved by the Hon. Member for the thriving suburb of Muddyhole, and seconded by the Hon. Member for the equally thriving district of Briarbank.

The Hon. the Premier caught the Thunderer's eye, and rose to speak to the question. He was received with loud cheers. He would merely say a few words before the resolution was carried. They had all listened with profound attention and respect to His Majesty's eloquent and luminous speech, which, he had no doubt, had given them all exquisite satisfaction. He was a man of few words, and would say but little. The man of few words was the best man, according to Shakespeare : he had no intention of praising himself. The hon. members, the mover and seconder of the address, had done their duty well. He cordially approved of the royal speech. The project of building a new city round the Great Lake of Tasmania met with his entire approbation. He had a guest and friend staying with him who could tell them a great deal about that delightful island, and its enchanting scenery. (Confound him, could he not let me alone!) He requested the Hon. House to allow him to introduce his friend, Mr. Oliver Ubertus, and (here, as I saw all their cat-like eyes directed to me, I thought it advisable to stand up and make a respectful obeisance, which the House was pleased to return, cheering and clapping its hands) he, the Hon. Premier, had pleasure in assuring his hon. friends and colleagues that Mr. Ubertus had it in his power to give them some valuable information, when the Bill for building the new Pandapolis should be laid on the table. Amongst other wonderful things he could tell them that not very far from the Great Lake the coaches went along without horses, the vapour of boiling water making the wheels go round. (Loud laughter and ironical cheers.)

To cut my story as short as possible, and confine it within reasonable dimensions, I shall omit many of the very remarkable speeches which I heard on that wonderful day (or night). The general tone of the House was decidedly in favour of the Bill now laid on the table—that for building the new city. I pass by the etiquette of Parliamentary practice, not being very well acquainted with it. The different speakers enlarged with extraordinary eloquence on the new pleasures and conveniences awaiting them in their grand residences in one of the most salubrious and beautiful countries in the world. They contrasted them with their gloomy, though dazzling, abodes in the underground region, of which they were all heartily sick and tired, and where they saw nothing but lamp, lamp, night and day. There they would have the glorious light of the sun, and almost an ocean of delicious water, and exquisite fish, fat beef, excellent mutton, and indescribable bacon, to say nothing of fowls and hog-puddings, for which they were all constantly and miserably dying. They would be near their dear relatives and friends in the flesh, with whom they could maintain eternal and delightful intercourse; and when those friends were obliged to resign their fleshly dwellings, they would be close at hand to conduct their emancipated ghosts into the fine palaces prepared for them on the shores of the Great Lake. 'And who,' shouted one impassioned orator—I think he was the member for a famous rotten borough called Lickdust—'and who, what monarch upon the aqueous and adamantine globe, be he or she whom he or she may, shall be so great, so rich, so magnificent, so exquisitely beautiful, and so enormously powerful as the Princess, the Queen, the Empress of that enchanting city, our lovely and voluptuous Bellagranda?'

This complimentary outburst was received with the wildest enthusiasm, and fairly brought down and brought up the House. Every member was instantly on his legs. Five hundred throats yelled, and roared, and cheered with delight: a thousand dusky paws waved frantically in the air. Five hundred tails flourished triumphantly round as many horned heads. The fair object of all this adulation, whatever her inward emotions might have been, took but little notice of it. She did not rise from her throne, but merely inclined her head slightly, and turning round, cast on me a stealthy look of triumph, as if she would say: 'What think you of this?'

When order was restored, several members gave notice that they intended to bring in the Bills which each one had in charge, and lay them on the table of this House. The titles, or objects of some of them I distinctly remember. Extraordinary as it may appear, they all had reference, more or less, to our own pretty island of Tasmania, and embraced many wild and chimerical schemes. To avoid prolixity, I shall only acquaint my readers with two of them. The first was for borrowing fifty millions of pounds sterling to enable men and women to burrow, like rabbits, under the earth, especially of Tasmania, and hide themselves from persecutors and slanderers whenever they pleased; and the other, less ambitious but more outrageous, to borrow at least one million for the purpose of introducing crocodiles into the Great Lake of Tasmania.

And now a most incredible and astonishing scene took place in this strangest of all Parliaments that I ever saw or heard of. A whisper—a horrid whisper—arose in the assembly during a lull after its late confusion. I heard with the utmost terror and anguish the name of Ubertus bandied about from lip to lip—at first, as I have said, in a low whisper, then in an increasing sound, like the rising of a distant flood, and at last in a tumultuous roar as when that flood bursts in an overwhelming torrent upon the inhabitants of a village, who realize the fact that it is too late for them to save themselves. 'Ubertus, Ubertus!' rose in a mighty whirlwind of voices; 'we will hear Ubertus!' I did not stir. The deafening clamour continued: 'Ubertus, we will hear Ubertus!' was shouted in all directions; and as I still turned a deaf ear, it was succeeded by shrieks, groans, serpent-like hisses, catcalls, and ferocious whistling. Matters were becoming most serious. It was in vain that the Thunderer rose up, and put on his hat, and threw his arms into the air, and rung his bell, and waved his tail over his head. In vain several of the more peaceably disposed members rushed, about and tried to stop the tumult. I would have fled from the chamber, but could not. 'Put him on the table,' now became the cry. 'Let our orders be obeyed: seize him—hold him—force him to speak; on the table—on the table!'

The grim sergeant-at-arms approached me, and laid down his glittering sword. His horrid breath was like a blast from a furnace on my cheek, as he seized me by my coat collar, pressed the muzzle of his revolver to my heart, and compelled me to walk to the table, upon which I was lifted bodily by powerful arms, and then left to myself. The cries of the members were now changed into volleys of cheers and 'Hear, hear,' and then the fearful tempest was entirely hushed.

I suddenly bethought me of Parliamentary etiquette, and 'caught the Thunderer's eye,' no very difficult feat, considering that every eye in the vast apartment, including Bellagranda's ravishing pair, was fixed upon me. My speech will hardly bear reporting by the public press. I spoke or rather blundered out my ideas—or my unintelligible jargon—in short convulsive gasps, which were as little likely to give pleasure to my hearers as they did to me. My 'hems' and 'haws' were most painful; my coughs, to gain time, horrible. I used my pocket-handkerchief with a shocking report that resounded through the room, and made many of the facetious members laugh aloud. The wonder is that I did not faint away, or die on the spot.

'Mr. Thunderer ("Hear, hear"). Mr. Thunderer, sir, I find myself in a very (hem) astonishing, and most painful position, one in—no, I mean of—which I am thoroughly and undesirably ashamed. I am on the horns—(disapprobation,—I beg pardon, a great many times—of a surmountable and incombustible dilemma. I feel like the noble New Ireland dog, who found himself—hem, her—surrounded by an immense concourse of b-b-baboons, and was so terrified that his tail he could not wag (laughter, "Hear hear," "No no!" "Turn him out!"). Sir, I humbly crave the pardon of this Honourable House: it is far, a great many miles, from my intention to insult, or to imitate—no, irritate, hem, learned and honourable members. I pity that man who, in this dignified and munificent House, cannot discriminate, or I mean assimilate, between what is noble and undisciplined, and what is entirely unworthy of profound imitation and utterly—demoniacal (sensation)—Mr. Thunderer, Sir, I am a very humble and a highly exalted—no, I mean a protracted, and complimentary, individual. I am, as you will be undoubtedly, bad enough—hem, ha—to perceive ("Hear, hear" and loud laughter) almost equivalent, or equidistant, to the great I. I. I. himself, whoever he may be. I'm sure I don't care a pinch of snuff (laughter). And now, sir, with regard to the greatest, and most important question in the whole solar system—yes, without which the outermost planets, Neptune and Uranus, could not circumvolate (roars of laughter)—I mean Home Rule, for dear old Ireland ("Hear, hear," and "Did you e'er have the luck to see Donnybrook Fair?" sung by an hon. member). I have the greatest, most incomprehensible, pleasure in assuring this Honourable House that it is a matter of the greatest possible importance, that I was—yes, sir, that I myself was born, and so was Paddy from Cork, and so was the Duke of Wellington: what am I saying?—was born in that supremely happy and totally insalubrious island—my blessings on it for ever (loud cheers)!

'"Uberlus is my name and Ireland is my nation— and Irish luck has been my game ever since my creation,"

(loud laughter)—by Irish luck, ladies and gentlemen ("Order, order!" "Chair, chair!"). Sir, Mr. Thunderer, I beg a thousand pardons—as I was saying when courteously interrupted, by Irish luck I mean, hem, a facility, or rather an unaccountable inaptitude for getting my head broken, or else getting into lions' mouths, which would instantly gnash their teeth and wag their cruel tails (loud roars of "Order, order! Knock him down!" etc.). I humbly implore the protection of the chair. I really mean no offence, no offence whatever. Home Rule is, I have no doubt, in high favour with this most Honourable House ("Hear, hear," and loud cheers). My own opinion is not worth two brass farthings, and I will not trouble them with it, notwithstanding it is this: Home Rule will be the rule of Old Scratch (tremendous uproar, loud cries of "Knock him on the head!" "Hang him up by the heels!" "Burn him alive!" etc. Sir, if perfect—hem—freedom of speech, and innocuous ventilation of innocent and highly-inflammatory opinion is not permitted in this Hon. House, I will forthwith amputate my walking-stick out of it, as quickly as I can (cheers, and "The sooner the better"). I will not condescend ("Oh, oh!") to give any reason for my much-to-be-pitied opinion. That other great question—the Federation of the whole world—I feel that I can safely leave it with great confidence in their multifarious hands (cheers and hisses). I am sorry, sir, to provoke anything like a spirit—hem—of hostility or impracticability ("Hear, hear"). The day will come when one Federal Government will rule the world—("Yes, our Government"). But how, let me ask, could that Honourable—hem—and most respectable House expect to rule the world when it was in the dark with respect to that mysterious power, which can make the wheels of coaches go round? Why it can move tremendous floating palaces, carrying hundreds of men and women over the oceans of the earth, against wind and tide, about twenty miles an hour. ("Oh, oh," and derisive laughter.) His Majesty the Emperor was pleased to refer in his gracious— hem—speech to his matured plan of building a new city round the Great Lake of Tasmania ("Hear, hear "). I am bold enough to say that it has my cordial and patriotic approval—no, I mean my perpetual disapproval (groans and hisses). Yes, sir, and this is my reason for entertaining this perhaps highly reprehensible opinion: the inhabitants of this city of Pandapolis could not live even at the Great Lake in perfect peace; there would be perpetual war: the Salvation Army would be constantly attacking them, and precious blood would flow on both sides. In addition to this' [I now roared, my blood being up] 'I must make the admission, which may be damaging to my reputation in this most respectable—hem—assembly, that I am, and always was from a baby (a stentorian voice, "The devil you were!") opposed to hypocrisy and devilment of all descriptions ("Oh, oh!"). I hate bunyips (uproar), I abominate demons (renewed uproar), I detest liars (hisses and cries of "Cut his tongue out!"). I move that the words be taken down ("Order, order"; "Kick the villain out!"). Sir, I protest against this horrible treatment of a guest and visitor from a superior world. (Great confusion, in which the Thunderer joined with his bell.) Hon. members had better go and play cards or billiards (cheers), or perhaps a game of football in the courtyard would refresh them. ("With you for our ball!" and loud cheers.) I defy you all; if your grand city shall ever be built round the Great Lake of my darling Tasmania, I hope to see the day when it will be buried ten miles deep in the Pacific Ocean!'

Here there burst forth a perfect hurricane of rage and abuse. A crowd of members jumped up on the table, with the furious intention of annihilating me on the spot, but a terrific scream from Bellagranda arrested them in their fell purpose. That unhappy princess fainted away after she had screamed, and was borne from the hall by her terrified pages; her lion, which had sat on his hams quietly all the day by her throne, following her, growling and wagging his tail viciously. Some of the Ministers had rushed upon the table with the crowd, and stood before me foaming. One of them shook his great fist close to my face, and shouted: 'You audacious insulting blackguard, you shall die! I'll cut your throat from ear to ear myself. I'll squelch you—to dare to say a word against Home Rule, what my posterity above ground are panting for! I'll grind you to powder, trample you in the dust, and drag your carcase at the tail of my old coat through the holy mud of Ireland! I challenge you to fight me if you have the liver of a jackass—yaw, yaw!"

'Stand back, Partigan, I'm his friend!' roared the well-known voice of Doctor Julius. 'For shame, all against one; back, you sons of perdition, and leave him to me, He shall fight you, Sir Dashmy, never fear; or if he won't I will myself; we have been secret enemies long enough, let us be open ones now. Come, Ubertus, you have played the fool here to some purpose—'pon my soul, I begin to think you must be a brave fellow after all; but we are wasting time; who's your friend, Sir Dashmy Partigan?'

'The white-livered, hang-dog, cowardly rascal hasn't accepted my challenge!' roared the enraged Sir Dashmy.

'Say you'll fight him,' said the Doctor; 'never say die, or flinch now; I'll be your second. I'll see you through it. Who's your friend, Partigan?'

'My friend, sir,' replied the wrathful Secretary for Foreign Affairs, 'is the Hon. Kattyscalpa Bomblazo! but I've not heard your brave comrade accept my challenge yet. Hi fight you both. If you hide him down among the black rocks in the valley of the Dark River, by the eternal fumes of brimstone and phosphorus I'll find him out, and drag him from his hiding-place—yaw, yaw!'

'I'll speak for him,' bellowed the Doctor, now thoroughly enraged; 'you contemptible tiger-faced bully, he shall fight you!'

'I can speak for myself, Doctor,' I said at last; 'I will fight this gentleman, and think myself highly honoured by so doing.'

'Then we can go. Bomblazo, have your principal ready in the great quadrangle at the end of the third avenue at ten to-night.'

Bomblazo waved his tail gracefully, and bowed stiffly.

I followed my friend out of the palace, and into his carriage.

'Now,' said he with a laugh, as we drove off, 'now we shall have some glorious fun! Crackers and bombshells. Ubertus, you are a trump, and no mistake.'