storm; the door closed after her. I heard her voice in high, windy clamour, for a moment or two. Then it gradually subsided, like a gust of wind in a garret ; then there was a laugh; then I heard nothing more.

After a little while my landlady came out with an odd smile in her face, adjusting her cap which was a little on one side. As she went down stairs, I heard the landlord ask her what was the matter; she said, "Nothing at all, only the girl's a fool."—I was more than ever perplexed what to make of this unaccountable personage, who could put a good-natured chambermaid in a passion, and send away a termagant landlady He could not be so old, nor cross, nor ugly,

in smiles.


I had to go to work at his picture again, and to paint him entirely different. I now set him down for one of those stout gentlemen that are frequently met with swaggering about the doors of country inns. Moist, merry fellows, in Belcher handkerchiefs, whose bulk is a little assisted by malt liquors. Men who have seen the world, and been sworn at Highgate; who are used to tavern life; up to all the tricks of tapsters, and knowing in the ways of sinful publicans. Free-livers on a small scale; who are prodigal within the compass of a guinea; who call all the waiters by name, touzle the maids, gossip with the landlady at the bar, and prose over a pint of port, or a glass of negus, after dinner.

The morning wore away in forming of these and similar surmises. As fast as I wove one system of belief, some movement of the unknown would completely overturn it, and throw all my thoughts again into confusion. Such are the solitary operations of a feverish mind. I was, as I have said, extremely and the continual meditation on the concerns nervous; of this invisible personage began to have its effect; I was getting a fit of the fidgets. Dinner-time came. I hoped the Stout Gentleman might dine in the travellers'room, and that I might at length get a view of his but no-he had dinner served in his own person; room. What could be the meaning of this solitude

and mystery! He could not be a radical; there was something too aristocratical in thus keeping himself apart from the rest of the world, and condemning himself to his own dull company throughout a rainy day. And then, too, he lived too well for a discontented politician. He seemed to expatiate on a variety of dishes, and to sit over his wine like a jolly friend of good living. Indeed my doubts on this head were soon at an end; for he could not have finished his first bottle before I could faintly hear him humming a tune; and on listening, I found it to be "God save the King." 'Twas plain, then, he was no radical, but a faithful subject; one that grew loyal over his bottle, and was ready to stand by king and constitution, when he could stand by nothing else. But who could he be! My conjectures began to run wild. Was he not some personage of distinction travelling incog.? "God knows!" said I, at my wit's end; "it may be one of the royal family, for aught I know, for they are all stout gentle

men !"

The weather continued rainy. The mysterious unknown kept his room, and, as far as I could judge, his chair, for I did not hear him move. In the meantime, as the day advanced, the travellers'-room began to be frequented. Some, who had just arrived, came in buttoned up in box-coats;-others came home who had been dispersed about the town. Some took their dinners, and some their tea. Had I been in a different mood, I should have found entertainment in studying this peculiar class of men. There were two especially, who were regular wags of the road, and up to all the standing jokes of travellers. They had a thousand sly things to say to the waiting-maid, whom they called Louisa, and Ethelinda, and a dozen other fine names, changing the name every time, and chuckling amazingly at their own waggery. My mind, however, had become completely engrossed by the Stout Gentleman. He had kept my fancy in chase during a long day, and it was not now to be diverted from the scent.

The evening gradually wore away. The travellers

read the papers two or three times over. Some drew around the fire and told long stories about their horses, about their adventures, their overturns, and breakingsdown. They discussed the credits of different merchants and different inns; and the two wags told several chcice anecdotes of pretty chambermaids, and kind landladies. All this passed as they were quietly taking what they called their night-caps, that is to say, strong glasses of brandy-and-water and sugar, or some other mixture of the kind; after which they one after another rang for Boots and the chambermaid, and walked off to bed in old shoes cut down into marvellously uncomfortable slippers.

There was only one man left; a short-legged, longbodied, plethoric fellow, with a very large sandy head. He sat by himself, with a glass of port wine negus, and a. spoon; sipping and stirring, and meditating and sipping, until nothing was left but the spoon. He gradually fell asleep bolt upright in his chair, with the empty glass standing before him; and the candle seemed to fall asleep too, for the wick grew long, and black, and cabbaged at the end, and dimmed the little light that remained in the chamber. The gloom that now prevailed was contagious. Around hung the shapeless, and almost spectral, box-coats of departed travellers, long since buried in deep sleep. I only heard the ticking of the clock, with the deep-drawn breathings of the sleeping toper, and the drippings of the rain, drop-drop-drop, from the eaves of the house. The church-bells chimed midnight. All at once the Stout Gentleman began to walk over head, pacing slowly backwards and forwards. There was something extremely awful in all this, especially to one in my state of nerves.-These ghastly great coats, these guttural breathings, and the creaking footsteps of this mysterious being. His steps grew fainter and fainter, and at length died away. I could bear it no longer. I was wound up to the desperation of a hero of romance. "Be he who or what he may," said I to myself, "I'll have a sight of him!" I seized a chamber-candle, and

hurried up to No. 13. The door stood ajar. I hesitated I entered: the room was deserted. There stood a large broad bottomed elbow-chair at a table, on which was an empty tumbler, and a Times, newspaper, and the room smelt powerfully strong of Stilton cheese.


The mysterious stranger had evidently but just retired. I turned off, sorely disappointed, to my room, which had been changed to the front of the house. I went along the corridor, I saw a large pair of boots, with dirty, waxed tops, standing at the door of a bedchamber. They doubtless belonged to the unknown; but it would not do to disturb so redoubtable a personage in his den; he might discharge a pistol or something worse at my head. I went to bed, therefore, and lay awake half the night in a terribly nervous state; and even when I fell asleep, I was still haunted in my dreams by the idea of the Stout Gentleman and his waxed-top boots.

I slept rather late the next morning, and was awakened by some stir and bustle in the house, which I could not at first comprehend; until getting more awake, I found there was a mail-coach starting from the door. Suddenly there was a cry from below, "The gentleman has forgot his umbrella! look for the gentleman's umbrella in No. 13." I heard an immediate scampering of a chambermaid along the passage, and a shrill reply as she ran, "Here it is! here's the gentleman's umbrella!"

The mysterious stranger then was on the point of setting off. This was the only chance I should ever have of knowing him. I sprang out of bed, scrambled to the window, snatched aside the curtains, and just caught a glimpse of the rear of a person getting in at the coach door. The skirts of a brown coat parted behind, and gave me a full view of the broad disk of a pair of drab breeches. The door closed-" all right!" was the word-the coach whirled off:-and that was all I ever saw of the Stout Gentleman!



[Augustus Frederick Ernest Langbein, a very popular German author, was born at Nadeberg, near Dresden, in 1759. He studied the law at Leipsic, and in 1795 became an Advocate at Dresden, and Clerk of the Archives (1796). From a love of poetry he gave up his practice and his appointments, and proceeded to Dresden to continue his literary career, dying at the latter place in 1835.]

See nought appears

"WHERE are we now?
But cattle on the hill;

I told you oft to shun the left,

But you would have your will.
You've brought us here;-now save us both
From rock, and pit, and rill."

"Hic hæret aqua,' honoured sir,
Trust now no more to me;
But mark! I tremble not, although
We thieves and wolves may see.
Says Horace Purus sceleris
Non eget Mauri jaculis.'

Latin were

"O that
you your
In Styx, and I-in bed.
Is this a time to laugh and jest
With my distress and dread?
But see! low in the valley gleams
A light; O let us seek its beams!"

"Cur non, mi Domine,' for there
A mortal must abide;

In such a place the cloven feet
And tail would ne'er reside.
On, quickly on! for now I think

How sweet their potent ale will drink,"

« VorigeDoorgaan »