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'Go on!' urged Wurldlie Mammon, clutching more firmly hold of the leader, who wavered, turning to the right—then to the left, in a vain endeavour to escape the brightness; but whichever
way he turned its rays pursued him. · Don't go back! I see nothing,' cried Mammon, in violent tones.
'I cannot bear that light!' cried the Arch-Spoiler; and not all the entreaties of Wurldlie Mammon could urge him forward. Shading his eyes with his hands, Mammon fell from his grasp. Descending with the rapidity of lightning in pursuit of him, the four found themselves in the only spot which the brightness had failed to penetrate. I followed. In the impenetrable gloom I overheard, above the hootings and execrations of the mob, and the crackling of the flames as they leaped up, licking the victims whom they embraced afresh :
Hail, Arch-Spoiler's Vortex, hail once more! Farewell, ye shattered hopes—hopes raised by me--and quenched in DEATH! —
' —'All,' he continued, in stifled accents, 'yea-all-all lie atTHE VORTEX DOOR !—my Shame-my Ruin-my-CURSE !
And I—the Spectre—trembled as I heard another voice proclaim, 'Oh, mystery of mysteries! A Vortex within a Christian city—that city the Capital of a—Most Christian Countree
—a Countree whose Archbishops, whose Bishops, and whose Priests are—the Successors of_" the fishermen of Galilee !" !
As the Vortex closed in upon them, I again listened : Hurkuleze continued derisively, "A Christian land indeed! Ye “ fishermen of Galilee !”—ay, Thou—whose “yoke is easy”whose“ burden is light,” when shall the Vortex-yoke be riven asunder— its intolerable paralysing “ burden” be shattered and rooted out from the land ? Welcome any “retreat” from such a Christian land !
-O! it is excellent
To use it like a giant.'-SHAKESPEARE. Since the great Bobberie Action for libel, The Age had, apparently, mended its ways-a little. O, it was difficult-the up-hill path was so steep and slippery! For instance, it had
! removed its City staff to its new and commodious premises in
the Queen's own street, away from City Clatter, City influence -City manners !
Now, the people of the Old Countree were very justly proud of this 'fourth estate of the realm.'
Go where you might, in the days I'm talking about, even to the uttermost parts of your little Earth, the first question in every Old Countree-an's mind, on rising in the morning, was -after breakfast, of course—could he see the latest files of The Age ? If he could not, he felt uneasy in his mind until he could. And when he had, he studied it, and talked about what it said very much more than he did about—well, say his Bible—or indeed any other book, pamphlet, or work, that was ever written—that is, the average Old Countree-an.“ Of course, there were some unpatriotic, bilious, out-of-date people (but they were not of very much account) who said all sorts of queer things about The Age, and what it did, and what it wouldn't do—just to suit their fancy. One of the 'queer' things which The Age did, in the far-off days of which I am speaking-and
I this was under the new régime, in its new and commodious premises in the Queen's own street—was to decline to insert the following letter, which Charles Markham handed to its new City Editor the day of the appearance of the one from the firm of which John Fleasum was a member, relating to the same subject. Here it is :
· THE “BACKAWAY LOANS."
To the Editor of The Age. "Sir,--As in your issue of to-day there appears a letter from the firm who introduced the “Backaway Loans” upon the Undone market, with a view to exculpate themselves upon the score of ignorance of the real indebtedness of “Backaway" at the time of their introduction, I may say that I waited upon that firm long before the first loan was allotted, and pointed out to them that instead of the real indebtedness of “ Backaway" being, as stated in their prospectus, “about two hundred thousand pounds," it really was, at that time, according to DUDLEY BAXTER'S work on National Expenditure, 5,000,0001. I need scarcely say that they entirely ignored my authority, and declined to make any inquiry, although strongly urged by me to do so, before proceeding to allotment.--I am, &c.
Whether this backwardness on the part of its conductors arose from the fact of their having, under the former management, advocated the “Backaway" undertaking, or whether Charles Markham was suffering from some bilious complaint when he thought it an act of common honesty that the adage Audi alteram partem should have been observed by these conductors, it is impossible for one so little versed in such matters as the Spectre, at this distance of time, to determine. All, however, agreed in this—that when the time bad come, or very nearlyfor a thing to happen-or come off'—why, The Age advocated it, but seldom before; and that when it did advocate a cause it did so in such a way and with such undoubted talent, weight, and ponderous manner, that left very little to be done to turn the scale.
• What does The Age say ?' asked every body-everywhere. And supposing The Age took a strong view upon any point, this was, in the far-off days of which I am now speaking, a certain indication that such point was under serious consideration in highly influential quarters.
Again too, when the Old Countree was supposed to be in danger, either from combined or single attacks of neighbouring or distant foes, a warning note sounded in the columns of The Age was sure to provoke comment in almost every other journal, and insure attention throughout the world. Indeed, if persisted in, its ardour had, at critical times of the Old Countree's history, been known to arouse the apathy of the most sluggish officials in the highest offices of State. Little wonder then that the people were as jealous of everything affecting its honour as they were of their own-many, very many, relying upon it exclusively for intelligence, guidance, and judgment. Nay, such were the confidence and regard indulged by the mass of the people in and towards this great journal, that the revelations which came out during the course of the Great Bobberie Action produced effects upon most men similar to the operation of drawing a great back double-tooth by an unskilful practitioner—the WRENCH to their nervous system being somewhat analogous.
The inhabitants of Undone and of the Old Countree round, therefore, were indeed rejoiced to see the change that had been wrought in the conduct of the Money Article of The Age. Not that they were by any means quite resigned or happy; for the old adage,
• Once bitten, twice shy,'
often recurred to their minds with painful vividness, and was difficult to be got rid of. Knowing ones said that perhaps it
was better not to try. Anyhow, it was of not much use trying for a long, very long time.
As to Todigrab, before he was forced to descend to his Vortex, he certainly had not mended his ways ! True, he would give twenty-five sovereigns to an importunate whitechokered parson asking for only a guinea, and was otherwise inclined to be liberal with other people's money. How the people could be prevailed upon to accept it, the Spectre could never understand; for had not those twenty-five pounds, and other similar gifts, been wrung from the Widow's slender mite ?— from the Orphan's precarious sustenance ?
Anyhow, on one point everybody's mind was now set at rest: Todigrab's remains would certainly not find a peaceful resting-place either beneath Undone's Venerable Old Abbey or in any conceivable National Walhalla, in company with the great and good interred there, with a monument erected by a grateful nation to the memory of—
TIIE GREAT BACK-SLUM-BEAUTIFIER !!
With coldness still returning :
Hath oftener left me mourning.'—WORDSWORTH, And now, Mr. Bull, allow me to thank you very sincerely for the trouble you have taken in reading my necessarily somewhat digressive narrative. I do thank you; and the Spectre is like you in one respect—when he says a thing he means it.
It is for you to judge of its merits or otherwise. If it possesses but one claim, however, to your acceptance and approval,--and I fearlesly and unhesitatingly submit to your verdict in this as in every other respect,—you will not be slow to detect it.
I am also eternally grateful, it is not permitted to Spectres to use endearing terms, or I might say more, - but I am and shall ever be grateful to that noble ancestor of yours for his kind permission to dedicate my work to him, and through him to you. I am constantly meeting him, for he and his boys of Vortex memory are devoted admirers of Birdie's, and he stands godfather to the prettiest little Birdie, sir, that ever you did see! I take this opportunity of publicly proclaiming my sentiments.
I only take up my pen this morning to record the undisguised pleasure I experienced while flitting through the garden which
had sprung up on the site of the once notorious Undone Vortex to find the centre avenue, wbich is so prettily lined with a double row of gigantic rose-trees, with fountains playing at either end, named after the Spectre's little darling pet of pets. Oh, I hope Ralph doesn't hear !—not that it much matters now, what with all those children climbing about, and me so lank; yet, she's Birdie still, and I have to take care, for he's a funny sort of fellow ! Well, sir, to find it called The Rose WALK, and further on BIRDIE'S AVENUE; and that, notwithstanding all the smoke of the city, the roses thrive and flourish as well there as they do in Spectre Land! And yet it's not strange, if you only knew how it all came about,—and some day, if I have time, and you have inclination, I'll tell you.
I pondered, and all at once thought : Well, here some hidden influence must be at work! else, how. could such things happen ? But while this appeared surpassingly strange, other things seemed stranger still ! There was first the extraordinary fact which all at once recurred to my mind, viz. that for so long a time the inhabitants of the city of Undone and of the Old Countree round had allowed such a fearfully horrible nuisance as the "Undone Vortex to exist !
I was fairly lost in wonder, and am now; for when I see the peace, the happiness, the serenity, the confidence, and the Love pervading all classes of the inhabitants, with trifling exceptions, and contrast it with the frightful disorders to which they then allowed — ay, you, sir, can scarcely credit it now ! calmly allowed themselves to be made, by a lot of designing, audacious, unscrupulous, and wanton men,-A PREY!—oh, I have no words to tell of the sense of utter bewilderment that seized and almost shattered my poor Spectral nerves at the bare remembrance of so astounding and prodigious a spectacle !
And a most extraordinary thing happened as I was flitting through Birdie's Avenue. The head-gardeners, as generations followed one another, had never succeeded in getting the grass to grow or plants to thrive in a certain part of the grounds, where in ages gone by the · Foreign Market used to stand. The man now in office was having it dug over afresh; but, as it had been excavated by his predecessors to a depth of nearly two miles, he had little hope of being able to trace out the cause or eradicate the evil. At the very moment, however, when he was engaged superintending the five hundredth attempt at unearthing the mischief, a navvy cried out from the bottom, in tones of utter desperation, that he could get no lower, as it was a mass of solid iron.