+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

bar-rooms thereof, taking my evening cobbler,
julep, sling, or cocktail. Again, I listened to
my friend the Generalwhom I had known for
five minutes, in the course of which period
he had made me intimate for life with
two Majors, who again had made me intimate
for life with three Colonels, who again had
made me brother to twenty-two civilians
again, I say, I listened to my friend the
General, leisurely expounding the resources of
the establishment, as to gentlemen's morning-
room, sir; ladies' morning-room, sir; gentlemen's
evening-room, sir; ladies' evening-room,
sir; ladies' and gentlemen's evening
reuniting-room, sir; music-room, sir; reading
room, sir; over four-hundred sleeping-rooms,
sir; and the entire planned and finited within
twelve calendar months from the first clearing
off of the old incumbrances on the plot,
at a cost of five hundred thousand dollars, sir.
Again I found, as to my individual way of
thinking, that the greater, the more gorgeous,
and the more dollarous, the establishment
was, the less desirable it was.
Nevertheless, again I drank my cobbler, julep,
sling, or cocktail, in all good-will, to my
friend the General, and my friends the
Majors, Colonels, and civilians, all; full-well
knowing that whatever little motes my
beamy eyes may have descried in theirs, they
belong to a kind, generous, large-hearted, and
great people.

I had been going on lately, at a quick pace,
to keep my solitude out of my mind; but,
here I broke down for good, and gave up the
subject. What was I to do? What was to
become of me? Into what extremity was I
submissively to sink? Supposing that, like
Baron Trenck, I looked out for a mouse or
spider, and found one, and beguiled my
imprisonment by training it? Even that might
be dangerous with a view to the future. I
might be so far gone when the road did come
to be cut through the snow, that, on my way
forth, I might burst into tears, and beseech,
like the prisoner who was released in his old
age from the Bastille, to be taken back again
to the five windows, the ten curtains, and the
sinuous drapery.

A desperate idea came into my head.
Under any other circumstances I should have
rejected it; but, in the strait at which I was, I
held it fast. Could I so far overcome the inherent
bashfulness which withheld me from the
landlord's table and the company I might find
there, as to make acquaintance, under various
pretences, with some of the inmates of the
house, singlywith the object of getting from
each, either a whole autobiography, or a pas-
sage or experience in one, with which I could
cheat the tardy time: first of all by seeking
out, then by listening to, then by remember-
ing and writing down? Could I, I asked
myself, so far overcome my retiring nature as
to do this. I could. I would. I did.

The results of this conception I proceed to
give, in the exact order in which I attained
them. I began my plan of operations at
once, and, by slow approaches and after over-
coming many obstacles (all of my own
making, I believe), reached the story of:


I FIND an old man, fast asleep, in one of the
stalls of the stable. It is mid-day, and rather
a strange time for an ostler to devote to sleep.
Something curious, too, about the man's face.
A withered woe-begone face. The eyebrows
painfully contracted; the mouth fast set, and
drawn down at the corners; the hollow cheeks
sadly, and, as I cannot help fancying,
prematurely wrinkled; the scanty, grizzled hair,
telling weakly its own tale of some past sorrow
or suffering. How fast he draws his breath,
too, for a man asleep! He is talking in his

"Wake up!" I hear him say, in a quick
whisper through his fast-clenched teeth.
"Wake up there! Murder! Lord help
me! Lord help me, alone in this place!"

He stops, and sighs againmoves one lean
arm slowly, till it rests over his throat
shudders a little, and turns on his straw
the arm leaves his throatthe hand stretches
itself out, and clutches at the side towards
which he has turned, as if he fancies himself
to be grasping at the edge of something. Is
he waking? Nothere is the whisper again;
he is still talking in his sleep.

"Light grey eyes," he says now, " and
a droop in the left eyelid. Yes! yes!—
flaxen hair with a gold-yellow streak in" it
all right, motherfair, white arms with a
down on themlittle lady's hand, with a
reddish look under the finger-nailsand the
knifealways the cursed knifefirst on
one side, then on the other. Aha! you she-
devil, where's the knife? Never mind,
mothertoo late now. I've promised to
marry, and marry I must. Murder! wake
up there! for God's sake, wake up!"

At the last words his voice rises, and he
grows so restless on a sudden, that I draw
back quietly to the door. I see him shudder
on the strawhis withered face grows
distortedhe throws up both his hands with a
quick, hysterical gasp; they strike against
the bottom of the manger under which he
lies; the blow awakens him; I have just
time to slip through the door, before his eyes
are fairly open and his senses are his own

What I have seen and heard has so startled
and shocked me, that I feel my heart beating
fast, as I softly and quickly retrace my steps
across the inn-yard. The discomposure that
is going on within me, apparently shows itself
in my face; for, as I get back to the covered
way leading to the Inn stairs, the landlord,
who is just coming out of the house to ring
some bell in the yard, stops astonished, and
asks what is the matter with me? I tell him
what I have just seen.