King Pest Essay

Submitted By RubiBala1
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Pages: 20

Poe, Edgar Allan, 1809-1849. King Pest
Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library

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King Pest


The gods do bear and will allow in kings
The things which they abhor in rascal routes.

-- Buckhurst's Tragedy of Ferrex and Porrex

About twelve o'clock, one night in the month of October, and during the chivalrous reign of the third Edward, two seamen belonging to the crew of the Free and Easy, a trading schooner plying between Sluys and the Thames, and then at anchor in that river, were much astonished to find themselves seated in the tap-room of an ale-house in the parish of St Andrews, London -- which ale-house bore for sign the portraiture of a 'Jolly Tar'. The room, although ill-contrived, smoke-blackened, low-pitched, and in every other respect agreeing with the general character of such places of the period -- was nevertheless, in the opinion of the grotesque groups scattered here and there within it, sufficiently well adapted to its purpose. Of these groups our two seamen formed, I think,the most interesting, if not the most conspicuous. The one who appeared to be the elder, and whom his companion


addressed by the characteristic appellation of 'Legs', was at the same time much the taller of the two. He might have measured six feet and a half, and an habitual stoop in the shoulders seemed to have been the necessary consequence of an altitude so enormous. Superfluities in height were, however, more than accounted for by deficiencies in other respects. He was exceedingly thin; and might, as his associates asserted, have answered, when drunk, for a pennant at the mast-head, or, when sober, have served for a jib-boom. But these jests, and others of a similar nature, had evidently produced, at no time, any effect upon the cachinnatory muscles of the tar. With high cheek-bones, a large hawk-nose, retreating chin, fallen under-jaw, and huge protruding white eyes, the expression of his countenance, although tinged with a species of dogged indifference to matters and things in general, was not the less utterly solemn and serious beyond all attempts at imitation or description. The younger seaman was, in all outward appearance, the converse of his companion. His stature could not have exceeded four feet. A pair of stumpy bow legs supported his squat, unwieldy figure, while his unusually short and thick arms, with no ordinary fists at their extremities, swung off dangling from his sides like the fins of a sea-turtle. Small eyes, of no particular colour, twinkled far back in his head. His nose remained buried in the mass of flesh which enveloped his round, full, and purple face; and his thick upper-lip rested upon the still thicker one beneath with an air of complacent self-satisfaction, much heightened by the owner's habit of licking them at intervals. He evidently regarded his tall shipmate with a feeling half-wondrous half-quizzical; and stared up occasionally in his face as the red setting sun stares up at the crags of Ben Nevis. Various and eventful, however, had been the peregrinations of the worthy couple in and about the different tap-houses of the neighbourhood during the earlier hours of the night. Funds, even the most ample, are not always everlasting; and it was with empty pockets our friends had ventured upon the present hostelrie. At the precise period, then, when this history properly commences, Legs, and his fellow, Hugh Tarpaulin, sat, each with both elbows resting upon the large oak table in the middle of the floor, and with a hand upon either cheek. They were eyeing, from behind a huge flagon of unpaid-for 'humming-stuff', the portentous words, 'No Chalk', which to their indignation


and astonishment were scored over the door-way by means of that very mineral whose presence they purported to deny. Not that the