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A VISION OF HORNS.
My thoughts had been engaged last evening in solving the problem, why in all times and places the horn has been agreed upon as the symbol, or honourable badge, of married men. Moses' horn, the horn of Ammon, of Amalthea, and a cornucopia of legends besides, came to my recollection, but afforded no satisfactory solution, or ratherinvolved the question in deeper obscurity. Tired with the fruitless chase of inexplicant analogies, I fell asleep, and dreamed in this fashion.
Methought certain scales or films fell from my eyes, which had hitherto hindered these little tokens from being visible. I was somewhere in the Cornhill, (as it might be termed,) of some Utopia. Busy citizens jostled each other, as they may do in our streets, with care, (the care of making a penny,) written upon their foreheads; and something else, which is rather imagined, than distinctly imaged, upon the brows of my own friends and fellow-townsmen.
In my first surprise I supposed myself gotten into some forest-Arden, to be sure, or Sherwood; but the dresses and deportment, all civic, forbade me to continue in that delusion. Then a
scriptural thought crossed me, (especially as there were nearly as many Jews as Christians among them,) whether it might not be the children of Israel going up to besiege Jericho. I was undeceived of both errors by the sight of many faces which were familiar to me. I found myself strangely, (as it will happen in dreams,) at one and the same time in an unknown country, with known companions. I met old friends, not with new faces, but with their old faces oddly adorned in front, with each man a certain corneous excrescence. Dick Mitis, the little cheesemonger in St. ****'s Passage, was the first that saluted * me, with his hat off-you know Dick's way to a customer-and, I not being aware of him, he thrust a strange beam into my left eye, which pained and grieved me exceedingly; but, instead of apology, he only grinned and fleered in my face, as much as to say “it is the custom of the country,” and passed on.
I had scarce time to send a civil message to his lady, whom I have always admired as a pattern of a wife,--and do indeed take Dick and her to be a model of conjugal agreement and harmony, --when I felt an ugly smart in my neck, as if something had gored it behind, and turning round, it was my old friend and neighbour, Dulcet, the confectioner, who, meaning to be pleasant, had thrust his protuberance right into my nape, and seemed proud of his power of offending.
Now I was assailed right and left, till in my own defence I was obliged to walk sideling and wary, and look about me, as you guard your eyes
in London streets; for the horns thickened, and came at me like the ends of umbrellas poking in one's face..
I soon found that these towns-folk were the civillest, best-mannered people in the world, and that if they had offended at all, it was entirely owing to their blindness. They do not know what dangerous weapons they protrude in front, and will stick their best friends in the eye with provoking complacency. Yet the best of it is, they can see the beams on their neighbours' foreheads, if they are as small as motes, but their own beams they can in nowise discern.
There was little Mitis, that I told you I just encountered he has simply, (I speak of him at home in his own shop,) the smoothest forehead in his own conceithe will stand you a quarter of an hour together contemplating the serenity of it in the glass, before he begins to shave himself in a morning—yet you saw what a desperate gash he gave me.
Desiring to be better informed of the ways of this extraordinary people, I applied myself to a fellow of some assurance, who,(it appeared,) acted as a sort of interpreter to strangers-he was dressed in a military uniform, and strongly resembled Colonel
of the guards;-and “pray, sir,” said I, “ have all the inhabitants of your city these troublesome excrescences? I beg pardon, I see you have none. You perhaps are single.” “Truly, sir," he replied with a smile, “ for the most part we have, but not all alike. There are some, like Dick, that sport but one tu
mescence. Their ladies have been tolerably faithfulhave confined themselves to a single aberration or so-these we call Unicorns. Dick, you must know, is my Unicorn. [He spoke this with an air of invincible assurance.] Then we have Bicorns, Tricorns, and so on up to Millecorns. [Here methought I crossed and blessed myself in my dream.] Some again we have—there goes one--you see how happy the rogue looks—how he walks smiling, and perking up his face, as if he thought himself the only man. He is not married yet, but on Monday next he leads to the altar the accomplished widow Dacres, relict of our late sheriff.” .
“I see, sir,” said I, "and observe that he is happily free from the national goitre, (let me call it,) which distinguishes most of your country. men.”
« Look a little more narrowly,” said my conductor.
I put on my spectacles, and observing the man a little more diligently, above his forehead I could mark a thousand little twinkling shadows dancing the hornpipe, little hornlets, and rudiments of horn, of a soft and pappy consistence, (for I handled some of them,) but which, like coral out of water, my guide informed me, would infallibly stiffen and grow rigid within a week ortwo from the expiration of his bachelorhood.
Then I saw some horns strangely growing out behind, and my interpreter explained these to be married men, whose wives had conducted themselves with infinite propriety since the period of
their marriage, but were thought to have antedated their good men's titles, by certain liberties they had indulged themselves in, prior to the ceremony. This kind of gentry wore their horns backwards, as has been said, in the fashion of the old pig-tails; and as there was nothing obtrusive or ostentatious in them, nobody took any notice of it.
Some had pretty little budding antlers, like the first essays of a young faun. These, he told me, had wives, whose affairs were in a hopeful way, but not quite brought to a conclusion.
Others had nothing to show, only by certain red angry marks and swellings in their foreheads, which itched the more they kept rubbing and chafing them; it was to be hoped that something was brewing.
I took notice that every one jeered at the rest, only none took notice of the sea-captains; yet these were as well provided with their tokens as the best among them. This kind of people, it seems, taking their wives upon so contingent tenures, their lot was considered as nothing but natural,-so they wore their marks without impeachment, as they might carry their cockades, and nobody respected them a whit the less for it.
I observed, that the more sprouts grew out of a man's head, the less weight they seemed to * carry with them; whereas, a single token would now and then appear to give the wearer some uneasiness. This shows that use is a great thing.
Some had their adornings gilt, which needs no explanation; while others, like musicians, went