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Some Roundabout Papers William Makepeace Thackeray

On Some Carp At Sans Souci

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To me there is something very touching in the notion of that little pinch of comfort doled out to granny, and gratefully inhaled by her in the darkness. Don't you remember what traditions there used to be of chests of plate, bulses of diamonds, laces of inestimable value, sent out of the country privately by the old Queen, to enrich certain relatives in M-ckl-nb-rg Str-l-tz? Not all the treasure went. Non omnis moritur. A poor old palsied thing at midnight is made happy sometimes as she lifts her shaking old hand to her nose. Gliding noiselessly among the beds where lie the poor creatures huddled in their cheerless dormitory, I fancy an old ghost with a snuff-box that does not creak. "There, Goody, take of my rappee. You will not sneeze, and I shall not say 'God bless you.' But you will think kindly of old Queen Charlotte, won't you? Ah! I had a many troubles, a many troubles. I was a prisoner almost so much as you are. I had to eat boiled mutton every day: entre nous, I abominated it. But I never complained. I swallowed it. I made the best of a hard life. We have all our burdens to bear. But hark! I hear the cock-crow, and snuff the morning air." And with this the royal ghost vanishes up the chimney -- if there be a chimney in that dismal harem, where poor old Twoshoes and her companions pass their nights -- their dreary nights, their restless nights, their cold long nights, shared in what glum companionship, illumined by what a feeble taper!

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"Did I understand you, my good Twoshoes, to say that your mother was seven-and-twenty years old when you were born, and that she married your esteemed father when she herself was twenty-five? 1745, then, was the date of your dear mother's birth. I daresay her father was absent in the Low Countries, with his Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland, under whom he had the honour of carrying a halberd at the famous engagement of Fontenoy -- or if not there, he may have been at Preston Pans, under General Sir John Cope, when the wild Highlanders broke through all the laws of discipline and the English lines; and, being on the spot, did he see the famous ghost which didn't appear to Colonel Gardner of the Dragoons? My good creature, is it possible you don't remember that Doctor Swift, Sir Robert Walpole (my Lord Orford, as you justly say), old Sarah Marlborough, and little Mr Pope, of Twitnam, died in the year of your birth? What a wretched memory you have! What? haven't they a library, and the commonest books of reference at the old convent of Saint Lazarus, where you dwell?"

"Convent of Saint Lazarus, Prince William, Dr Swift, Atossa, and Mr Pope, of Twitnam! What is the gentleman talking about?" says old goody, with a "Ho! ho!" and a laugh like a old parrot -- you know they live to be as old as Methuselah, parrots do, and a parrot of a hundred is comparatively young (ho! ho! ho!). Yes, and likewise carps live to an immense old age. Some which Frederick the Great fed at Sans Souci are there now, with great humps of blue mould on their old backs; and they could tell all sorts of queer stories, if they chose to speak -- but they are very silent, carps are -- of their nature peu communicatives. Oh! what has been thy long life, old goody, but a dole of bread and water and a perch on a cage; a dreary swim round and round a Lethe of a pond? What are Rossbach or Jena to those mouldy ones, and do they know it is a grandchild of England who brings bread to feed them?

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Some Roundabout Papers
William Makepeace Thackeray

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