by Edgar Allan Poe
I NEVER knew anyone so keenly alive to a prank as the king was. He seemed to live only for pranking. To tell a good tale of the prank kind, and to tell it well, was the wisest road to his good side. Thus it happened that his seven trustmen were all known for their bring-abouts as pranksters. They all took after the king, too, in being big, chubby, fattybreely men, as well as unapeable pranksters. Whether folk grow fat by pranking, or whether there is something in fat itself which foreleans to a prank, I have never been quite able to settle; but wis it is that a lean prankster is a seldom thing.
About the [refinements], or, as he called them, the 'ghost' of wit, the king recked himself pretty little. He had a sunder bewondering for breadth in a prank, and would often put up with length, for the sake of it. Over-[niceties] wearied him. He would have forechosen Rabelais' 'Gargantua' to the 'Zadig' of Voltaire: and, upon the whole, earthy pranks fit his tang far better than spoken ones.
At the time of my fortelling, working pranksters had not altogether gone out of trend at kinghall. Many of the great greatlandish 'mights' still keep their 'suckers,' who wore mot, with caps and bells, and who were awaited to be always ready with sharp witty words, at a blinktime's heed, in bethinking of the crumbs that fell from the kingly board.
Our king, as a [matter] of setting, kept his 'sucker.' The truth is, he needed something in the way of wanwit -- if only to against-even the heavy wisdom of the seven wise men who were his trustmen -- not to name himself.
His sucker, or skilled prankster, was not only a sucker, however. His worth was threefolded in the eyes of the king, by the truth of his being also a dwarf and a cripple. Dwarves were as everyday at kinghall, in those days, as suckers; and many kings would have found it hard to get through their days (days are rather longer at kinghall than elsewhere) without both a prankster to laugh with, and a dwarf to laugh at. But, as I have already underlooked, your pranksters, in ninety-nine times out of a hundred, are fat, ringy, and unwieldy -- so that it was no small wellspring of self-[gratulation] with our king that, in Hop-Frog (this was the sucker's name), he had a threefold hoard in one lede.
I believe the name 'Hop-Frog' was not that given to the dwarf by his godelders at christening, but it was bestowed upon him, by overall leave of the many trustmen, owing to his unableness to walk as other men do. In truth, Hop-Frog could only get along by a kind of short gait -- something between a leap and a wriggle -- a bewaying that gave unstintable fun, and wisly soothing, to the king, for (notwithstanding the lump of his belly and a built-in swelling of the head) the king, by his whole kinghall, was deemed a foremost lede.
But although Hop-Frog, through the misshaping of his legs, could beway only with great ache and hardness along a road or floor, the great brawn might which lund seemed to have bestowed upon his arms, by way of meed for shortcoming in the lower limbs, inabled him to do many deeds of wonderful deftness, where trees or ropes were at hand, or any thing else to climb. At such deeds he wisly much looked more like an aquern, or a small ape, than a frog.
I am not able to say, with wis, from what land Hop-Frog fromthlily came. It was from some wild landship, however, that no lede ever heard of -- a great farness from the kinghall of our king. Hop-Frog, and a young girl mighty little less dwarfish than himself (although of flawless [proportions], and a wonderful tumber), had been [forcibly] taken each from their homes in nearby great shires, and sent as gifts to the king, by one of his ever-winning herethanes.
Under these happenings, it is not to be wondered at that a near friendly warmth arose between the two little heftlings. Indeed, they soon became sworn friends. Hop-Frog, who, although he made a great deal of geck, was by no [means] well-liked, had it not in his might to give Trippetta much kindness; but she, owing to her est and weird comeliness (although a dwarf), was bewondered and petted by all; so she had much sway; and never forsaid to note it, whenever she could, for the welfare of Hop-Frog.
On some great rike sele -- I forgot what -- the king settled to have a meshtumb, and whenever a meshtumb or any thing of that kind, happened at our kinghall, then the skills, both of Hop-Frog and Trippetta were wis to be called into play. Hop-Frog, in sunder, was so findlesome in the way of getting up lookingstocks, [suggesting] new playfolk, and fettling outfits, for meshtumbs, that nothing could be done, it seems, without his help.
The night chosen for the guild had come. A comely hall had been fitted up, under Trippetta's eye, with every kind of token which could maybily give wulder to a meshtumb. The whole kingfolk was in a rithing of brighthope. As for outfits and playfolk, it might well be beminded that everybody had come to a choice on such tips. Many had made up their minds (as to what playwork they should take) a week, or even a month, before; and, in truth, there was not a mote of unchoosing anywhere – other than in the [case] of the king and his seven trustmen. Why they swithered I never could tell, unless they did it by way of a prank. More likely, they found it hard, owing to being so fat, to make up their minds. At all happenings, time flew; and, as a last betake they sent for Trippetta and Hop-Frog.
When the two little friends [obeyed] the call of the king they found him sitting at his wine with the seven fellows of his redeship redemoot; but the king seemed to be in a mighty ill funniness. He knew that Hop-Frog was not fond of wine, for it thrilled the arm cripple almost to madness; and madness is no forvery feeling. But the king loved his earthy pranks, and took quemeness in [forcing] Hop-Frog to drink and (as the king called it) 'to be merry.'
"Come here, Hop-Frog," said he, as the prankster and his friend got in the room; "swallow this bumper to the health of your missing friends, [here Hop-Frog sighed,] and then let us have the welfare of your findle. We want playfolk -- playfolk, man -- something new -- out of the way. We are wearied with this everlasting sameness. Come, drink! the wine will brighten your wits."
Hop-Frog undertook, as everyday, to get up a prank in answer to these inroads from the king; but the work was too much. It happened to be the arm dwarf's birthday, and the behest to drink to his 'missing friends' [forced] the tears to his eyes. Many big, bitter drops fell into the cup as he took it, meekly, from the hand of the bullyleader.
"Ah! ha! ha!" roared the latter, as the dwarf charily drained the beaker. -- "See what a glass of good wine can do! Why, your eyes are shining already!"
Arm fellow! His big eyes gleamed, rather than shone; for the outworking of wine on his thrillable brain was not mightier than blinktimey. He put the beaker edgily on the board, and looked round upon the group with a half -- mad stare. They all seemed highly gladdened at the sigspeed of the king's 'prank.'
"And now to business," said the main trustman, a mighty fat man.
"Yes," said the King; "Come lend us your help. Playfolk, my good fellow; we stand in need of playfolk -- all of us -- ha! ha! ha!" and as this was earnestly meant for a prank, his laugh was uttered together by the seven.
Hop-Frog also laughed although weakly and somewhat emptily.
"Come, come," said the king, unthildily, "have you nothing to [suggest]?"
"I am undertaking to think of something new," answered the dwarf, withdrawally, for he was quite bewildered by the wine.
"Undertaking!" yelled the bullyleader, hestly; "what do you mean by that? Ah, I underget. You are Sulky, and want more wine. Here, drink this!" and he birled out another beaker full and agave it to the cripple, who [merely] gazed at it, gasping for breath.
"Drink, I say!" shouted the nicker, "or by the fiends-"
The dwarf swithered. The king grew redblue with anger. The trustmen smirked. Trippetta, wan as a dead body, went to the king's seat, and, falling on her knees before him, begged him to spare her friend.
The bullyleader looked at her, for some blinktimes, in wordy wonder at her gall. He seemed pretty at a loss what to do or say -- how most becomingly to outthrimp his unfair anger. At last, without uttering a worddeal, he shoved her hestly from him, and threw the inholds of the brimming cup in her leer.
The arm girl got up the best she could, and, not daring even to sigh, took her howstand again at the foot of the board.
There was a dead stillness for about half a shortlog, bewhile which the falling of a leaf, or of a feather, might have been heard. It was underbroken by a low, but harsh and drawn out grinding din which seemed to come at once from every winkle of the room.
"What -- what -- what are you making that din for?" [demanded] the king, turning wrathfully to the dwarf.
The latter seemed to have upturned, in great mete, from his drunkness, and looking fastenly but stilly into the bullyleader's leer , [merely] said:
"I -- I? How could it have been me?"
"The din seemed to come from without," underlooked one of the trustmen. "I believe it was the talkbird at the window, whetting his bill upon his cage-wires."
"True," answered the king, as if much soothened by the [suggestion]; "but, on the worthing of a knight, I could have sworn that it was the gritting of this tramp's teeth."
Hereupon the dwarf laughed (the king was too afasted a prankster to say against any one's laughing), and showed a set of big, strong, and mighty rank teeth. Moreover, he swore his forfit willingness to swallow as much wine as wished. The king was allayed; and having drained another bumper with no mighty standing out ill outworkings, Hop-Frog got into at once, and with soul, into the drafts for the meshtumb.
"I cannot tell what was the guild of thought," underlooked he, pretty coolly, and as if he had never smacked wine in his life, "but just after your highness, had struck the girl and thrown the wine in her leer -- just after your highness had done this, and while the talkbird was making that odd din outside the window, there came into my mind an outstanding off-lead -- one of my own land frolics -- often indone among us, at our meshtumbs: but here it will be new altogether. Unluckly, however, it needs a group of eight folk and-"
"Here we are!" shouted the king, laughing at his keen onfind of the likehappening; "eight to a breaking -- I and my seven trustmen. Come! what is the off-lead?"
"We call it," answered the cripple, "the Eight Shackled Fireapes, and it truly is outstanding prank if well indone."
"We will indo it," edmarked the king, drawing himself up, and lowering his eyelids.
"The comeliness of the game," went on Hop-Frog, "lies in the fright it werthes among the women."
"Great!" roared together the king and his trustmen.
"I will begear you as fireapes," forfared the dwarf; "leave all that to me. The likeness shall be so striking, that the gang of meshtumbers will take you for true wights -- and wisly, they will be as much frightened as amazed."
"Oh, this is wonderful!" shouted out the king. "Hop-Frog! I will make a man of you."
"The shackles are for the sake of rising the muddling by their harsh clanking. You are meant to have gotten away, in bulk, from your keepers. Your highness cannot forseed the outworking brought forth, at a meshtumb, by eight shackled fireapes, thought to be true ones by most of the gang; and hurrying in with wild yells, among the crowd of quemely and prettily woned men and women. The witherstand is unapeable!"
"It must be," said the king: and the redebody arose hurriedly (as it was growing late), to put in deed the draft of Hop-Frog.
His way of begearing the gang as fireapes was pretty straightforward, but outworkingful enough for his sakes. The wights in frain had, at the time of my tale, mighty seldomly been seen in any bit of the folkhooded world; and as the apings made by the dwarf were enoughly wight-like and more than enoughly hidesome, their truthfulness to lund was thus thought to be made wis.
The king and his trustmen were first infolded in tight-fitting stockinet shirts and drawers. They were then soaked with tar. At this step of the forgoing, some one of the group [suggested] feathers; but the [suggestion] was at once overled by the dwarf, who soon withwon the eight, by eye forshowing, that the hair of such a wight as the fireape was much more uphitily fortreaded by flax. A thick coating of the latter was befitly limecoated upon the coating of tar. A long shackle was now beshapen. First, it was passed about the waist of the king, and tied, then about another of the gang, and also tied; then about all one after the other, in the same way. When this shackling layout was done, and the gang stood as far away from each other as maybesome, they made a ring; and to make all things seem lundish, Hop-Frog passed the lave of the shackle in two girthes, at right nooks, arood the ring, after the trend taken up, nowadays, by those who nab geckapes, or other big apes, in Borneo.
The great hall in which the meshtumb was to take stead, was a ringy room, pretty lofty, and onfanging the light of the sun only through a lone window at top. At night (the time of the day for which the flat was sunderly laid out) it was brightened mainly by a big sky-light, hanging on by a shackle from the middle of the sky-light, and lowered, or lifted up, by [means] of a against-evenness as everyday; but (in kilter not to look unsightly) this latter passed outside the [cupola] and over the roof.
The layouts of the room had been left to Trippetta's overseeing; but, in some tinymarks, it seems, she had been led by the cooler deeming of her friend the dwarf. At his [suggestion] it was that, on this happening, the sky-light was taken out. Its waxen drippings (which, in weather so warm, it was quite unmaybesome to forehalt) would have been earnestly detrimental to the rich outfits of the guests, who, owing to the crowded onstand of the hall, could not all be awaited to keep from out its middle; that is to say, from under the sky-light. More glim holders were set in many deals of the hall, out of the war, and a lighted handlight, giving out sweet smell, was put in the right hand of each of the siles that stood against the wall -- some fifty or sixty altogether.
The eight fireapes, taking Hop-Frog's warning, waited thildly until midnight (when the room was thoroughly filled with meshtumbers) before making their showing up. No sooner had the clock halted striking, however, than they hurried, or rather [rolled] in, all together -- for the hindering of their shackles werthed most of the group to fall, and all to stumble as they got in.
The thrill among the meshtumbers was great, and filled the heart of the king with glee. As had been foreseen, there were not a few of the guests who took the fiendish-looking beings to be wights of some kind in warehood, if not wisly fireapes. Many of the women swooned with affright; and had not the king taken the forecare to outshut all weapons from the hall, his gang might soon have atoned their frolic in their blood. As it was, an overall hurry was made for the doors; but the king had kiltered them to be locked right away upon his ingang; and, at the dwarf's [suggestion], the keys had been settled with him.
While the uproar was at its height, and each meshtumber heedy only to his own soundness (for, in truth, there was much true freech from the thringmight of the thrilled crowd), the shackle by which the sky-light almost always hung, and which had been drawn up on its taking out, might have been seen pretty little by little to come down, until its hooked outermost side came within three feet of the floor.
Soon after this, the king and his seven friends having reeled about the hall in all wardings, found themselves, at length, in its middle, and, of wisly, in near withmeet with the shackle. While they were thus steaded, the dwarf, who had followed dinlessly at their heels, goading them to keep up the stirness, took hold of their own shackle at the meetstead of the two bits which rooded the ring girthly and at right nooks. Here, with the speed of thought, he inset the hook from which the sky-light had been wont to hang on; and, in a blinktime, by some unseen way, the sky-light shackle was drawn so far upward as to take the hook out of reach, and, as an unshunable aftermath, to drag the fireapes together in near link, and leer to leer.
The meshtumbers, by this time, had upturned, in some mete, from their sudden fear; and, beginning to take the whole [matter] as a well-drafted prank, set up a loud shout of laughter at the plight of the apes.
"Leave them to me!" now screamed Hop-Frog, his shrill steven making itself softly heard through all the din. "Leave them to me. I believe I know them. If I can only get a good look at them, I can soon tell who they are."
Here, scrambling over the heads of the crowd, he made it to get to the wall; when, grabbing a lighted handlight from one of the siles, he came back, as he went, to the middle of the room-leaping, with the nimbleness of an ape, upon the kings head, and thence clambered a few feet up the shackle; holding down the handlight to underseek the group of fireapes, and still screaming: "I shall soon find out who they are!"
And now, while the whole gathering (the apes inshut) were shaken with laughter, the prankster suddenly uttered a shrill whistle; when the shackle flew hestly up for about thirty feet -- dragging with it the aghast and struggling fireapes, and leaving them hung in mid-loft between the sky-light and the floor. Hop-Frog, clinging to the shackle as it rose, still kept his [relative] howstand in [respect] to the eight meshers, and still (as if nothing were the [matter]) kept on thrusting his handlight down toward them, as though undertaking to find out who they were.
So thoroughly amazed was the whole gathering at this upgoing, that a dead stillness, of about a shortlog's lenght, followed. It was broken by just such a low, harsh, grinding din, as had before latched the heed of the king and his trustmen when the former threw the wine in the leer of Trippetta. But, on the andward sele, there could be no frain as to whence the din came from. It came from the fang-like teeth of the dwarf, who ground them and gnashed them as he foamed at the mouth, and glared, with a sayness of mad anger, into the upturned leers of the king and his seven friends.
"Ah, ha!" said at length the angered prankster. "Ah, ha! I begin to see who these folks are now!" Here, [pretending] to underseek the king more nearly, he held the lighted handlight to the flaxen coat which bewrapped him, and which taking no time burst into a sheet of lively fire. In less than half a shortlog the whole eight fireapes were blazing hestly, amid the shrieks of the crowd who gazed at them from below, dread-stricken, and without the might to give them the slightest help.
At length the blazes, suddenly rising in wrath, [forced] the prankster to climb higher up the shackle, to be out of their reach; and, as he made this bewaying, the crowd again sank, for a short blinktime, into stillness. The dwarf grabbed his opening, and once more spoke:
"I now see clearly." he said, "what kind of folk these meshers are. They are a great king and his seven hidden-trustmen, -- a king who does not swither to strike a weirless girl and his seven trustmen who bolden him in the [outrage]. As for myself, I am only Hop-Frog, the prankster -- and this is my last prank."
Owing to the high burnableness of both the flax and the tar to which it stuck, the dwarf had barely made an end of his short speech before the work of betallyback was fullmade. The eight dead bodies swung in their shackles, a stenchy, blackened, hidesome, and [indistinguishable] bulk. The cripple hurled his handlight at them, clambered restly to the roomtop, and fordwindled through the sky-light.
It is beminded that Trippetta, standing on the roof of the hall, had been the helper of her friend in his fiery betallyback, and that, together, they made their getaway to their own land: for neither was seen again.
WinterWind 14:24, May 9, 2012 (UTC)