Page:What will he do with it.djvu/195

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CHAPTER XVI.

In every civilized society there is found a race of men who retain the instincts of the aboriginal cannibal, and live upon their fellow-men as a natural food. These interesting but formidable bipeds, having caught their victim, invariably select one part of his body on which to fasten their relentless grinders. The part thus selected is peculiarly susceptible, Providence having made it alive to the least nibble; it is situated just above the hip-joint, it is protected by a tegument of exquisite fibre, vulgarly called "the Breeches pocket." The thoroughbred Anthropophagite usually begins with his own relations and friends; and so long as he confines his voracity to the domestic circle, the law interferes little, if at all, with his venerable propensities. But when he has exhausted all that allows itself to be edible in the bosom of private life, the man-eater falls loose on society, and takes to prowling—then "Sauve qui peut!" the laws rouse themselves, put on their spectacles, call for their wigs and gowns, and the Anthropophagite turned prowler is not always sure of his dinner. It is when he has arrived at this stage of development that the Man-eater becomes of importance, enters into the domain of history, and occupies the thoughts of Moralists.

On the same morning in which Waife thus went forth from the "Saracen's Head" in quest of the doctor, but at a later hour, a man, who, to judge by the elaborate smartness of his attire, and the jaunty assurance of his saunter, must have wandered from the gay purlieus of Regent Street, threaded his way along the silent and desolate thoroughfares that intersect the remotest districts of Bloomsbury. He stopped at the turn into a small street still more sequestered than those which led to it, and looked up to the angle on the wall whereon the name of the street should have been inscribed. But the wall had been lately whitewashed, and the whitewash had obliterated the expected epigraph. The man muttered an impatient execration; and, turning round as if to seek a passenger of whom to make inquiry, beheld on the opposite side of the way another man apparently engaged in the same research. Involuntarily each crossed over the road towards the other.

"Pray, sir," quoth the second wayfarer in that desert, "can you tell me if this is a street that is called a Place—Podden Place, Upper?"

"Sir," returned the sprucer wayfarer, "it is the question I would have asked of you."

"Strange!"

"Very strange indeed that more than one person can, in this busy age, employ himself in discovering a Podden Place! Not a soul to inquire of—not a shop that I see—not an orange stall!"