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[J1] “An Eastern Apologue,” Spirit of the Times, April 5, 1842


By A. Brownson Smallcott.

            We select the following apologue from a small volume in the Arabic, entitled Kornham Hokem, which interpreted means Pate-Scratchings or Scratchings of the Pate, thus delicately insinuating that the short stories which this recovered manuscript contains, are all products of the fancy, being in fact, not only drawn from the author's own brain, but literally scratched from his pate.  The apologue, which smacks of transcendentalism, is styled


            Gloom was upon the brow of the Evil One.

            He cast his eyes of flame over the gloomy abyss.  The shrieks of ten thousand, thousand souls, the souls once encased in the clay of kings and emperors, arose in one wild howl of despair, the smoke of eternal doom blackened the sky of heated brass.  Despair walked abroad, and misery chaunted her song of howls and yells.

            The Evil One spoke, and from her darkest chasm, fell Tartarus sent forth her myriad fiends.  High they swarmed on their vampire wings, loud was their shouting, terrible their yells.

            He spoke—Dark Baalzebub spoke, and said:

            "Lo! Brothers of Darkness we want some new torture in these our dominions of darkness.  We want some new horror.  Something to strike accumulated terror in the souls of the Lost, we want.  Brothers, let all Pandemonium be ransacked.  Let the Torture of Tortures be found.  It is a decree!"

            Loud rose the subterranean thunder.  Lifting to his sable lips, a thundercloud in the way of a handkerchief, old Baalzebub applied it to his blackened nose, and like the sound of ten thousand thunders was its blowing.

            The fiends of darkness departed on their mission.  Tartarus was searched—Pandemonium ransacked for the Torture of Tortures.  Spirit after spirit came trooping by, each offering for the acceptance of their master, some new and hitherto unheard of torture.

            Deeper grew the gloom upon the brow of Baalzebub.

            "It is in vain," he cried, "the Torture of Tortures cannot be found.  Your search is bootless."

            And as he spoke, a vulgar fiend, named Snobbe, with legs inverted, and with hump on his back, drew near.  One hand grasped a knife.  The other held something concealed by a veil of coarsest leather.

            "The search is not bootless," shrieked the vulgar fiend.  "Look here old 'un.  See what I've got! Behold!"

            Back he threw the leather veil, and the light of the lower regions, all pale and ghastly, fell upon a pair of tight boots, which the vulgar fiend held in his hands.

            "It is the Torture of Tortures," shouted the Evil One.  "Let it be a decree!  Shout, ye fiends, shout.  All hail tight boots—the Torture of Tortures!  All hail."

            The fiends gave three cheers, the vulgar fiend Snobbe grinned, and the concave vault of darkness, gave back the shout.

            "All hail the torture of tortures!  All hail tight boots!  All hail!"

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[J2] “The Wickedest Thing Alive,” Spirit of the Times, April 9, 1842

The Wickedest Thing Alive.

(An Apologue from the Arabian MSS.)


            The Evil One held high festival in the regions of darkness and despair.

            Far swelled the shouts of revelry; loud was the clanking of the goblets of fire, and wild the laughter of the fiends.

            They encircled their master with songs of joy and triumph.  Raising his blackened form on high, and throwing aloft his giant arms.

            Beelzebub spoke—he said:

            "Brothers 'tis the anniversary of our fall from yonder heavens.  Be it celebrated with shouts and song.  Shout ye fiends, shout!  From every rock of fire, from every battlement of flame, send up the shout—Long live the power of Evil, and the Rule of Death!  Shout!"

            The shout arose, and the fiends grew merry in their joy.

            Beelzebub raised his goblet filled to the brim with molten flame.

            "Pledge me brothers!  Pledge me!  I feel the glory of conquest swelling my breast, and here before ye all I swear, to bestow this crown of fire, upon the fiend who shall produce before my throne, the most wicked thing in all created space or in unshapen chaos.  Brothers, search ye the earth, and ye brothers sweep the air, while ye my friends shall dive into the depths beneath the earth, and ye shall scale the stars that glimmer through eternal space!  Search, I say!  The crown of fire shall be his, who brings before my throne the most wicked, hideous, and depraved being or thing that lives!  It is a decree!"

            And then spreading their wings, the fiends arose, and sped them on their mission.

            One searched the gibbet, and then brought to his master's throne the murderer, stained in a brother's blood; another came, and a smile was on his lips, for he had at his side the parricide reeking with the mother's blood who gave him birth.  ‘Twas in vain.

            "He, haw," laughed Beelzebub,—'tis in vain!  Ye are dull to-day my brothers!  These men committed crime in the sudden flush of passion!  They were not sinners from mere love of sin!  Away, and to your search!"

            The fiends again departed on their mission.

            A dark proud fiend, bowed low before his master's throne, and claimed the crown of fire.

            "The Crown of Fire!" is mine he cried. "Lo!  Master, I looked not on the gibbet for the most wicked thing that lives!  Well, I knew that the greater the criminal, the more certain the escape from punishment.  I searched not the prisons, I looked not under the axe of the guillotine!  Ah, no.  But diving down into the oceans depths, I dragged from its dunnest caverns, a pirate, dyed in the blood of a thousand victims.  He is the meanest, most accursed thing alive.  I claim the crown of fire!"

            Then raising the crown from off his brow blackened by the thunder-scar, Beelzebub, was about to place it upon the head of the fiend who stood before him with the pirate, when a wild yell, more terrible than the wildest choral song of Pandemonium broke upon his ear.  High it rose!  The roof of burning brass gave back the shout!  Deep it fell!  And ten thousand thousand souls, floating in the dark abyss returned the yell!

            On they came, a band of fiends, and with laugh and shout they followed a short, thick fiend, who grinned and chuckled as he pointed to his prize.

            "There stands the meanest thing alive!" he shrieked.  "Master, the crown is mine!  Where think you I got him?  In the prison?  No.  On the gibbet?  Not a bit of it.  In the ocean depths?  Ah, no.  Where did I secure him?  Listen, ye fiends, while I tell the story.  I flew to the wide and spacious city—a crowd lined the streets, a crowd of orphans beggared, a crowd of mothers with their babes starving at their breast!  And around a wide and lofty building, built of whitest marble, fast and thick like ants upon a molehill swarmed the multitude!  Sweet music broke upon the ear!  The music of orphans' groans, the music of widows' cries, the music of bankrupt merchants' curses—these all broke upon the air!  Sweet music!  I entered the building—the building of whitest marble!  From behind a desk, filled not with skulls or daggers, or aught that usually betokens death—but filled with books and papers, from behind the desk I dragged this cheerful-faced, this round paunched man.  He was the cause of all this misery.  I claim the crown of fire; I am the fiend of Gold; there stands my brother fiend of fraud—the—"

            "His name?" shouted the Evil One.

            "THE BANK DIRECTOR!" answered the fiend of gold.

            And then Pandemonium laughed and laughed again.

            "It is the meanest thing alive!" the devils shouted—"the most accursed wretch."

            "Shall I prove my claim to the crown of fire?" shouted the fiend of Gold.  "Here are my proofs!"

            As he spoke, a band of pale and ghastly suicides came moving from the Darkness, and their lifeless eyes they fixed upon the cheerful faced Bank Director.

            "These are thy works!" shouted the fiend of Gold.

            Then came a throng of Orphans.

            "These would have been a glory to their deity, and a blessing to their fellow beings, had it not been for thee!  Their means of life you despoiled them of; their bread you snatched from their mouths; their clothing you stripped from their backs.  They were forced to the ways of crime.  They are here, and you are the cause!  Are you not, dear brother Fraud; my Bank Director?"

            The Bank Director smiled pleasantly, and admitted that it was his work; but he added, "it was all done in the way of trade!"

            "Shall I bring another proof?" shrieked the Gold fiend.

            "Nay, brave brother, no more!" answered the Evil One.  "The Crown of Fire is thine!  Want makes the Murderer, Revenge, the Pirate, Passion, the Parricide, but love, love of Sin, for the mere love of Sin can alone form the Bank Director!  The Crown of Fire is thine, brave Gold Fiend—all hail thy brother, all hail the Bank Director!"

            Merry was the shout that rose from the crowd of fiends.  Merry was their laughter, wild their yells, but amid shout, and laugh, and yell, arose the words—

            "All hail the Bank Director!  He peoples our domains!  All hail, all hail the Bank Director!"