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The Works of Edgar Allan Poe Raven Edition Volume 4
THE SYSTEM OF DOCTOR TARR AND PROFESSOR FETHER
Upon the whole, I could not help thinking that there was much of the bizarre about every thing I saw -- but then the world is made up of all kinds of persons, with all modes of thought, and all sorts of conventional customs. I had travelled, too, so much, as to be quite an adept at the nil admirari; so I took my seat very coolly at the right hand of my host, and, having an excellent appetite, did justice to the good cheer set before me.
The conversation, in the meantime, was spirited and general. The ladies, as usual, talked a great deal. I soon found that nearly all the company were well educated; and my host was a world of good-humored anecdote in himself. He seemed quite willing to speak of his position as superintendent of a Maison de Sante; and, indeed, the topic of lunacy was, much to my surprise, a favorite one with all present. A great many amusing stories were told, having reference to the whims of the patients.
"We had a fellow here once," said a fat little gentleman, who sat at my right, -- "a fellow that fancied himself a tea-pot; and by the way, is it not especially singular how often this particular crotchet has entered the brain of the lunatic? There is scarcely an insane asylum in France which cannot supply a human tea-pot. Our gentleman was a Britannia -- ware tea-pot, and was careful to polish himself every morning with buckskin and whiting."
"And then," said a tall man just opposite, "we had here, not long ago, a person who had taken it into his head that he was a donkey -- which allegorically speaking, you will say, was quite true. He was a troublesome patient; and we had much ado to keep him within bounds. For a long time he would eat nothing but thistles; but of this idea we soon cured him by insisting upon his eating nothing else. Then he was perpetually kicking out his heels-so-so-"
"Mr. De Kock! I will thank you to behave yourself!" here interrupted an old lady, who sat next to the speaker. "Please keep your feet to yourself! You have spoiled my brocade! Is it necessary, pray, to illustrate a remark in so practical a style? Our friend here can surely comprehend you without all this. Upon my word, you are nearly as great a donkey as the poor unfortunate imagined himself. Your acting is very natural, as I live."
"Mille pardons! Ma'm'selle!" replied Monsieur De Kock, thus addressed -- "a thousand pardons! I had no intention of offending. Ma'm'selle Laplace -- Monsieur De Kock will do himself the honor of taking wine with you."
Here Monsieur De Kock bowed low, kissed his hand with much ceremony, and took wine with Ma'm'selle Laplace.
"Allow me, mon ami," now said Monsieur Maillard, addressing myself, "allow me to send you a morsel of this veal a la St. Menhoult -- you will find it particularly fine."
At this instant three sturdy waiters had just succeeded in depositing safely upon the table an enormous dish, or trencher, containing what I supposed to be the "monstrum horrendum, informe, ingens, cui lumen ademptum." A closer scrutiny assured me, however, that it was only a small calf roasted whole, and set upon its knees, with an apple in its mouth, as is the English fashion of dressing a hare.
"Thank you, no," I replied; "to say the truth, I am not particularly partial to veal a la St. -- what is it? -- for I do not find that it altogether agrees with me. I will change my plate, however, and try some of the rabbit."
There were several side-dishes on the table, containing what appeared to be the ordinary French rabbit -- a very delicious morceau, which I can recommend.
"Pierre," cried the host, "change this gentleman's plate, and give him a side-piece of this rabbit au-chat."
"This what?" said I.
"This rabbit au-chat."
"Why, thank you -- upon second thoughts, no. I will just help myself to some of the ham."
There is no knowing what one eats, thought I to myself, at the tables of these people of the province. I will have none of their rabbit au-chat -- and, for the matter of that, none of their cat-au-rabbit either.
"And then," said a cadaverous looking personage, near the foot of the table, taking up the thread of the conversation where it had been broken off, -- "and then, among other oddities, we had a patient, once upon a time, who very pertinaciously maintained himself to be a Cordova cheese, and went about, with a knife in his hand, soliciting his friends to try a small slice from the middle of his leg."