• Vol. 02
  • Chapter 06
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As ever, suspicion submits to faint hope as the hot food is brought to the table. My guest looks at me eager for license, like a dog fearful that the offered dish is perhaps a cruel bait for the advent of some violent, unprovoked visitation. I pay the bringer his due with some small addition for the favoured recess and assure my guest the fare is freely given.

Whether compelled by joy or by studied artifice, the tears that accompany the eating are strangely affecting. A measure of that natural sincerity for which I am commonly regarded in more genteel company softens the smile I offer in return. All my guests stare like the anxious cur. All shed tears at table. They are so many while we are so few. Who would hazard a homely sort? The anguished occupy neither homes nor memories. For men of quality beggared by gaming or bad counsel, the pang of loss is never so great as the censure such declination invites. Destitution's ambition rises no higher than the cobbles it settles nightly to sleep on. Censure there falls only on the general condition. The man is left to dissipate outside the public discourse wheresoever he will. It is an agreeable arrangement.

I am mindful of the hour.

The plates are removed as clean as the cook could wish them and my guest accepts the offer of an ale house further east. I wait on my watch as I trail him through the obfuscating runs and alleys to my rendezvous. His legs dutifully buckle on arrival and I move close to stay his descent and preclude the inconvenience of trauma. I sit beside him as he labours through the throes and disclose nothing. I have practiced a speech praising sacrificial acts for the furtherment of what is known to us in the world but have never recited it: one does not dispirit the fatted calf with the sanguine truth of its preferment.



Few have the learning or diction of anatomy to articulate the compound's course once ingested, none the constitution or dispassionate sense to disdain its actions. I can see all it impedes and inflames in its passage within the hour. To patiently train in the hesitant steps of enlightenment requires a greater span than I could ever hope to enjoy. We must all use the time we have. Hang censure. Hang sanctity and the assizes. There is too much mystery in living to long endure hacking at swine or striking at rivals at the foot of the scaffold.

Veil the sight of the hard and feculent streets, good people of the town. Bar the doors, shutter the windows and voice your pity for the lot of lesser men swaddled in the warmth of your blazing hearths. Resolute friends are labouring to lengthen your days. They are feeding and fattening in your unseen and detestable quarters and they will cut and they will cut and they will cut.