The Rich Mans Tale


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Under pretense that my journey called me forthwith, I bade the dame good-by ; shook her cold hand; looked my last into her blue, resigned eye, and went out into the wet. But cheerless as it was, and damp, damp, damp—the heavy atmosphere charged with all sorts of incipiencies—I yet became conscious by the suddenness of the contrast, that the house air I had quitted was laden down with that peculiar deleterious quality, the height of which—insufferable to some visitants—will be found in a poorhouse ward.

This ill-ventilation in winter of the rooms of the poor—a thing, too, so stubbornly persisted in—is usually charged upon them as their disgraceful neglect of the most simple means to health. But the instinct of the poor is wiser than we think. The air which ventilates, likewise cools. And to any shiverer, ill-ventilated warmth is better than well-ventilated cold. Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.


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Is it not so? Well then, I do not include you, when I say, that if ever a rich man speaks prosperously to me of a Poor Man, I shall set it down as—I won't mention the word. IN the year , during the summer following my first taste of the "Poor Man's Pudding," a sea-voyage was recommended to me by my physician. The Battle of Waterloo having closed the long drama of Napoleon's wars, many strangers were visiting Europe.

I arrived in London at the time the victorious princes were there assembled enjoying the Arabian Nights' hospitalities of a grateful and gorgeous aristocracy, and the courtliest of gentlemen and kings—George the Prince Regent. I had declined all letters but one to my banker. I wandered about for the best reception an adventurous traveler can have—the reception I mean, which unsolicited chance and accident throw in his venturous way. But I omit all else to recount one hour's hap under the lead of a very friendly man, whose acquaintance I made in the open street of Cheapside.

He wore a uniform, and was some sort of a civic subordinate; I forget exactly what. He was off duty that day. His discourse was chiefly of the noble charities of London. He took me to two or three, and made admiring mention of many more. You remember the event of yesterday? The grand Guildhall Banquet to the princes. Who can forget it? The feast came first yesterday; and the charity after—to-day. How else would you have it, where princes are concerned? But I think we shall be quite in time—come ; here we are at King Street, and down there is Guildhall.

Will you go? Avoiding the main entrance of the hall, which was barred, he took me through some private way, and we found ourselves in a rear blind-walled place in the open air. I looked round amazed. The spot was grimy as a backyard in the Five Points. It was packed with a mass of lean, famished, ferocious creatures, struggling and fighting for some mysterious precedency, and all holding soiled blue tickets in their hands. Will you try it? I hope you have not on your drawing-room suit? What do you say?

It will be well worth your sight. So noble a charity does not often offer. The one following the annual banquet of Lord Mayor's day—fine a charity as that certainly is—is not to be mentioned with what will be seen to-day. Is it, ay? As he spoke, a basement door in the distance was thrown open, and the squalid mass made a rush for the dark vault beyond.

I nodded to my guide, and sideways we joined in with the rest. Ere long we found our retreat cut off by the yelping crowd behind, and I could not but congratulate myself on having a civic, as well as civil guide ; one, too, whose uniform made evident his authority. It was just the same as if I were pressed by a mob of cannibals on some pagan beach. The beings round me roared with famine. For in this mighty London misery but maddens. In the country it softens. As I gazed on the meagre, murderous pack, I thought of the blue eye of the gentle wife of poor Coulter.

Some sort of curved, glittering steel thing not a sword; I know not what it was , before worn in his belt, was now flourished overhead by my guide, menacing the creatures to forbear offering the stranger violence. As we drove, slow and wedge-like, into the gloomy vault, the howls of the mass reverberated. I seemed seething in the Pit with the Lost. On and on, through the dark and damp, and then up a stone stairway to a wide portal ; when, diffusing, the pestiferous mob poured in bright day between painted walls and beneath a painted dome.

I thought of the anarchic sack of Versailles. The walls swept to and fro, like the foliage of a forest with blazonings of conquerors' flags. Naught outside the hall was visible.

No windows were within four-and-twenty feet of the floor. Cut off from all other sights, I was hemmed in by one splendid spectacle—splendid, I mean, everywhere, but as the eye fell toward the floor. That was foul as a hovel's—as a kennel's ; the naked boards being strewed with the smaller and more wasteful fragments of the feast, while the two long parallel lines, up and down the hall, of now unrobed, shabby, dirty pine-tables were piled with less trampled wrecks.

The dyed banners were in keeping with the last night's kings : the floor suited the beggars of to-day. The banners looked upon the floor as from his balcony Dives upon Lazarus. A line of liveried men kept back with their staves the impatient jam of the mob, who, otherwise, might have instantaneously converted the Charity into a Pillage.

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Another body of gowned and gilded officials distributed the broken meats—the cold victuals and crumbs of kings. One after another the beggars held up their dirty blue tickets, and were served with the plundered wreck of a pheasant, or the rim of a pasty—like the detached crown of an old hat—the solids and meats stolen out. The Prince Regent might have dined off that. The two breasts were gouged ruthlessly out, exposing the bare bones, embellished with the untouched pinions and legs. But where is Napoleon's head in a charger? I should fancy that ought to have been the principal dish.

Sir, even Cossacks are charitable here in Guildhall. How he licks his chops over it, little thinking of or thanking the good, kind Cossack that left it him! It falls ; bless my soul! See, even Gog and Magog yonder, at the other end of the hall fairly laugh out their delight at the scene. But see— now I'd wager a guinea the Lord Mayor's lady dipped her golden spoon into yonder golden-hued jelly.

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Try it free for 30 days. Study This. Mark Mark 9 Mark Bible Gateway Recommends. View More. Or were they just not interested in spending time with such a dispicable man and this was a witty way to weasle out of it? In any case this tale is a great example of Hasidic wit! Happy Hai Ellul! Here's a great tip! Enter your email address to get our weekly email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life.

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A Rich Man and His Son

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