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The Last Will And Testament.–The House Of Weeping
by [?]

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‘Excepting always, and be it excepted, my present house in Dog-street: which house by virtue of this third clause is to descend and to pass in full property just as it now stands, to that one of my seven relatives above-mentioned, who shall, within the space of one half-hour (to be computed from the reciting of this clause), shed, to the memory of me his departed kinsman, sooner than the other six competitors, one, or, if possible, a couple of tears, in the presence of a respectable magistrate, who is to make a protocol thereof. Should, however, all remain dry, in that case, the house must lapse to the heir-general–whom I shall proceed to name.’

Here Mr Mayor closed the will: doubtless, he observed, the condition annexed to the bequest was an unusual one, but yet, in no respect contrary to law: to him that wept the first the court was bound to adjudge the house: and then placing his watch on the session table, the pointers of which indicated that it was now just half-past eleven, he calmly sat down–that he might duly witness in his official character of executor, assisted by the whole court of aldermen, who should be the first to produce the requisite tear or tears on behalf of the testator.

That since the terraqueous globe has moved or existed, there can ever have met a more lugubrious congress, or one more out of temper and enraged than this of Seven United Provinces, as it were, all dry and all confederated for the purpose of weeping,–I suppose no impartial judge will believe. At first some invaluable minutes were lost in pure confusion of mind, in astonishment, in peals of laughter: the congress found itself too suddenly translated into the condition of the dog to which, in the very moment of his keenest assault upon some object of his appetite, the fiend cried out–Halt! Whereupon, standing up as he was, on his hind legs, his teeth grinning, and snarling with the fury of desire, he halted and remained petrified:–from the graspings of hope, however distant, to the necessity of weeping for a wager, the congress found the transition too abrupt and harsh.

One thing was evident to all–that for a shower that was to come down at such a full gallop, for a baptism of the eyes to be performed at such a hunting pace, it was vain to think of any pure water of grief: no hydraulics could effect this: yet in twenty-six minutes (four unfortunately were already gone), in one way or other, perhaps, some business might be done.

‘Was there ever such a cursed act,’ said the merchant Neupeter, ‘such a price of buffoonery enjoined by any man of sense and discretion? For my part, I can’t understand what the d—-l it means.’ However, he understood this much, that a house was by possibility floating in his purse upon a tear: and that was enough to cause a violent irritation in his lachrymal glands.

Knoll, the fiscal, was screwing up, twisting, and distorting his features pretty much in the style of a poor artisan on Saturday night, whom some fellow-workman is barberously razoring and scraping by the light of a cobbler’s candle: furious was his wrath at this abuse and profanation of the title Last Will and Testament: and at one time, poor soul! he was near enough to tears–of vexation.

The wily bookseller, Pasvogel, without loss of time, sate down quietly to business: he ran through a cursory retrospect of all the works any ways moving or affecting that he had himself either published or sold on commission;–took a flying survey of the pathetic in general: and in this way of going to work, he had fair expectations that in the end he should brew something or other: as yet, however, he looked very much like a dog who is slowly licking off an emetic which the Parisian surgeon Demet has administered by smearing it on his nose: time–gentlemen, time was required for the operation.

Monsieur Flitte, from Alsace, fairly danced up and down the sessions chamber; with bursts of laughter he surveyed the rueful faces around him: he confessed that he was not the richest among them, but for the whole city of Strasburg, and Alsace to boot, he was not the man that could or would weep on such a merry occasion. He went on with his unseasonable laughter and indecent mirth, until Harprecht, the police inspector, looked at him very significantly, and said–that perhaps Monsieur flattered himself that he might by means of laughter squeeze or express the tears required from the well-known meibomian glands, the caruncula, etc., and might thus piratically provide himself with surreptitious rain;[1] but in that case, he must remind him that he would no more win the day with any such secretions than he could carry to account a course of sneezes or wilfully blowing his nose; a channel into which it was well known that very many tears, far more than were now wanted, flowed out of the eyes through the nasal duct; more indeed by a good deal than were ever known to flow downwards to the bottom of most pews at a funeral sermon. Monsieur Flitte of Alsace, however, protested that he was laughing out of pure fun, for his own amusement; and, upon his honour, with no ulterior views.