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- ROUNDABOUT PAPERS - 1/59 -
by William Makepeace Thackeray
On a Lazy Idle Boy
On Two Children in Black
On some late Great Victories
Thorns in the Cushion
On Screens in Dining-Rooms
On a Joke I once heard from the late Thomas Hood
Round about the Christmas Tree
On a Chalk-Mark on the Door
On being Found Out
On a Hundred Years Hence
On Two Roundabout Papers which I intended to Write
A Mississippi Bubble
On Letts's Diary
Notes of a Week's Holiday
Nil Nisi Bonum
On Half a Loaf--A Letter to Messrs. Broadway, Battery and Co., of New York, Bankers
The Notch on the Axe.--A Story a la Mode. Part I Part II Part III
On a Peal of Bells
On a Pear-Tree
On some Carp at Sans Souci
Autour de mon Chapeau
On Alexandrines--A Letter to some Country Cousins
On a Medal of George the Fourth
"Strange to say, on Club Paper"
The Last Sketch
ON A LAZY IDLE BOY.
I had occasion to pass a week in the autumn in the little old town of Coire or Chur, in the Grisons, where lies buried that very ancient British king, saint, and martyr, Lucius,* who founded the Church of St. Peter, on Cornhill. Few people note the church now-a- days, and fewer ever heard of the saint. In the cathedral at Chur, his statue appears surrounded by other sainted persons of his family. With tight red breeches, a Roman habit, a curly brown beard, and a neat little gilt crown and sceptre, he stands, a very comely and cheerful image: and, from what I may call his peculiar position with regard to Cornhill, I beheld this figure of St. Lucius with more interest than I should have bestowed upon personages who, hierarchically, are, I dare say, his superiors.
* Stow quotes the inscription, still extant, from the table fast chained in St. Peter's Church, Cornhill; and says, "he was after some chronicle buried at London, and after some chronicle buried at Glowcester"--but, oh! these incorrect chroniclers! when Alban Butler, in the "Lives of the Saints," v. xii., and Murray's "Handbook," and the Sacristan at Chur, all say Lucius was killed there, and I saw his tomb with my own eyes!
The pretty little city stands, so to speak, at the end of the world--of the world of to-day, the world of rapid motion, and rushing railways, and the commerce and intercourse of men. From the northern gate, the iron road stretches away to Zurich, to Basle, to Paris, to home. From the old southern barriers, before which a little river rushes, and around which stretch the crumbling battlements of the ancient town, the road bears the slow diligence or lagging vetturino by the shallow Rhine, through the awful gorges of the Via Mala, and presently over the Splugen to the shores of Como.
I have seldom seen a place more quaint, pretty, calm, and pastoral, than this remote little Chur. What need have the inhabitants for walls and ramparts, except to build summer-houses, to trail vines, and hang clothes to dry on them? No enemies approach the great mouldering gates: only at morn and even the cows come lowing past them, the village maidens chatter merrily round the fountains, and babble like the ever-voluble stream that flows under the old walls. The schoolboys, with book and satchel, in smart uniforms, march up to the gymnasium, and return thence at their stated time. There is one coffee-house in the town, and I see one old gentleman goes to it. There are shops with no customers seemingly, and the lazy tradesmen look out of their little windows at the single stranger sauntering by. There is a stall with baskets of queer little black grapes and apples, and a pretty brisk trade with half a dozen urchins standing round. But, beyond this, there is scarce any talk or movement in the street. There's nobody at the book-shop. "If you will have the goodness to come again in an hour," says the banker, with his mouthful of dinner at one o'clock, "you can have the money." There is nobody at the hotel, save the good landlady, the kind waiters, the brisk young cook who ministers to you. Nobody is in the Protestant church--(oh! strange sight, the two confessions are here at peace!)--nobody in the Catholic church: until the sacristan, from his snug abode in the cathedral close, espies the traveller eying the monsters and pillars before the old shark- toothed arch of his cathedral, and comes out (with a view to remuneration possibly) and opens the gate, and shows you the venerable church, and the queer old relics in the sacristy, and the ancient vestments (a black velvet cope, amongst other robes, as fresh as yesterday, and presented by that notorious "pervert," Henry of Navarre and France), and the statue of St. Lucius who built St. Peter's Church, on Cornhill.
What a quiet, kind, quaint, pleasant, pretty old town! Has it been asleep these hundreds and hundreds of years, and is the brisk young Prince of the Sidereal Realms in his screaming car drawn by his snorting steel elephant coming to waken it? Time was when there must have been life and bustle and commerce here. Those vast, venerable walls were not made to keep out cows, but men-at-arms, led by fierce captains, who prowled about the gates, and robbed the traders as they passed in and out with their bales, their goods, their pack-horses, and their wains. Is the place so dead that even the clergy of the different denominations can't quarrel? Why, seven or eight, or a dozen, or fifteen hundred years ago (they haven't the register at St. Peter's up to that remote period. I dare say it was burnt in the fire of London)--a dozen hundred years ago, when there was some life in the town, St. Lucius was stoned here on account of theological differences, after founding our church in Cornhill.
There was a sweet pretty river walk we used to take in the evening and mark the mountains round glooming with a deeper purple; the shades creeping up the golden walls; the river brawling, the cattle calling, the maids and chatter-boxes round the fountains babbling and bawling; and several times in the course of our sober walks we overtook a lazy slouching boy, or hobble-dehoy, with a rusty coat, and trousers not too long, and big feet trailing lazily one after the other, and large lazy hands dawdling from out the tight sleeves, and in the lazy hands a little book, which my lad held up to his face, and which I dare say so charmed and ravished him, that he was blind to the beautiful sights around him; unmindful, I would venture to lay any wager, of the lessons he had to learn for to-morrow; forgetful of mother, waiting supper, and father preparing a scolding;--absorbed utterly and entirely in his book.
What was it that so fascinated the young student, as he stood by the river shore? Not the Pons Asinorum. What book so delighted him, and blinded him to all the rest of the world, so that he did not care to see the apple-woman with her fruit, or (more tempting still to sons of Eve) the pretty girls with their apple cheeks, who laughed and prattled round the fountain! What was the book? Do you suppose it was Livy, or the Greek grammar? No; it was a NOVEL that you were reading, you lazy, not very clean, good-for-nothing, sensible boy! It was D'Artagnan locking up General Monk in a box, or almost succeeding in keeping Charles the First's head on. It was
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