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to this piece of innocence. But what I say is this; here we are now within the precincts of the Golden Goose, our business is to be merry, and I hold it my duty, as a conscientious and upright landlord, to see that all goes on smoothly under my root. Let us, my worthy guests, make this youngster atone for that unsavoury speech of his about-what was it ?— profligate scamps? We will keep him here to do as we do, and, I warrant ye, we'll soon wash his sanctity out of him.'
A wild brutal burst of laughter followed this harangue of the landlord's, and the poor lad, in spite of all his remonstrances and entreaties, was forced to seat himself at the table with the rest of the party, and, as a matter of course, to pledge them all round in bumpers.
The wine was not slow in taking effect. By degrees the sober, serious demeanour of the stranger youth wore off: he became gayer and gayer, till at last he entered warmly into the spirit of all that was going forward, and his laugh might have been heard above all the others.
'Mine host is a jolly dog!' cried he. 'He was in the right of it,—the devil take all sanctity, say I-Ho! there! more wine'-and he dashed down on the table a handful of gold coin.
'Ei der tausend!'-' Gold !'-' real sterling gold!' every exclamation that the utmost astonishment could call forth, burst from each one as he glared upon the shining metal; but, before they could recover from their stupor, the greedy clutch of the landlord had secured every piece, and it was already locked up in his strong box. He speedily appeared with a fresh supply of wine.
And now began the wildest orgies that can be conceived. The music struck up with mad vigour; some danced to it with frantic gestures, others sang or shouted, each his own scrap of a chorus ; two or three were nearly convulsed with idiot-like laughter, while their neighbours were vying one with another in giving utterance to the most horrible blasphemies. One object, however, seemed common to all; viz. that of making each his own voice rise above the rest. In the mean time the cunning host was feeding the flame by cheering them on. He and the stranger seemed to be those of the party on whom the wine had had least effect, but the latter was evidently enjoying the scene beyond measure.
At last there was a pause-perhaps they were all exhausted.
The silence was broken by old Kunze, the Collector of the Revenue, who, reeling up to the youth, and embracing him with affectionate fervour, stammered out, Brother mine, they 're all-drunk-ev-e-ry soul of 'emcept us two-thou suck-kest it in like a fis-fish; and art as sober-'sa judge.-Canst tea-teach me-the tr-tri-trick-eh ?' The stranger replied by singing as follows:
'In riot and pleasures
No puling half measures!
But fill the deep bowl to the brim! ha! ha!
Then up to the chin
Let us boldly plunge in
He will drown in delight, that can't swim! ha! ha!'
'Brother mine!' cried old Kunze, hugging him again, 'Brother minepeak the tr-truth-and-dont-t-tell a lie-hast got more gold,—eh ?'
Pulling out another handful of gold, the youth dashed it down on the table, and sang:
'Gold, gold is the essence of life and of love,
And wine is the spirit to make us enjoy it.
Then fill-here's a toast!
To the lovely Gold coast!
To gold, with its sweets and its bitters!
But with pure or alloyed
May we never be cloyed,
For on earth, 'tis not all gold that glitters!'
There was an expression thrown into the last words of the song, which, if it was not sarcastic, sounded uncommonly like it, and perhaps if the listeners had not well drunk they might have observed a most meaning smile playing on the countenance of the singer as he gave that peculiar emphasis to the toast he proposed. They, however, had eyes only for the gold.
'Ho! there!' bawled the individual who seemed to be leader of the revels: bring the dice.-Wilt make a cast, comrade?'
They played, but the run of luck seemed to be against the stranger, and although the dice had the appearance of being fair, he was soon cleaned out effectually. The sum he lost was very large, and the whole of it was in gold specie. Fortune evidently favoured the landlord, who came in for the lion's share of the spoil.
And now the old Revenue Collector bethought him of a project, Brother mine! the devil's in the dice,' said he to the youth; if thou hast more gold-shalt be my son-in-law-what sayst? my Chri-Christel's a tempting br-bride.'
Such an arrangement, however, did not altogether meet the views of our host: such rare pickings were too good to be lost; the alliance must be prevented.
'Strike up there!' he shouted out to the musicians; 'blow away! strain your lungs till the very chimneys dance on the housetop! my honoured guests will have another dance; so saying, he himself led out one of the serving maids, and began spinning round the room with her.
'Wilt not dance?' croaked old Kunze, who saw the stranger standing alone, and looking on at the dancers. Have a turn with thy-bride-eh? I'll straight fet-ch-my Chr-istel--and my tiresome-old rib-too.— They must-all dance. Ev-ever-y-body-must dance-t'day.Rum-ti-id-ity-round we go!'--so he began capering round the room, till one leg interfering with the other, he rolled over, and was soon snoring under the table like a watch-dog in the sunshine.
They kept it up thus till daybreak, when all those who had not joined the old taxgatherer under the table, reeled off to their dwellings, where their first care was to lock up carefully (as the host had done) the winnings of the night before, and then they betook themselves to bed just at the hour when all sober, well-regulated folks were getting up to begin the ordinary business of the day.
The stranger and the landlord alone remained, neither apparently much the worse for the debauch. 'Well, fair sir,' quoth the latter, 'how like you your treatment? You will do well now to lie down a little to rest yourself; and, if you've any more of those same gold
pieces, we'll have a jolly bout of it to-night, ay, and again to-morrow too!'
His guest had now established himself very comfortably in a great arm-chair behind the stove. After a yawn or two he replied, 'Give yourself no trouble about the reckoning, my fine fellow, I'll take care of that; here,' continued he, stretching out one of his legs, 'just pull off my boots, will you?'
In a moment the officious host had hold of the boot; he pulled and hauled, and hauled and pulled again with all his might; the boot seemed glued to the foot. Now it gives a little-another tug-it's coming-tug -tug-now then.
'Donner and blitzen!' roared the student-no, not the student, but a gigantic black-charcoalman who was now sitting in the arm-chair.
Accursed hell-hound! what the devil are you a-going to do with my leg?' for the boot had come off, and the leg with it: the horror-stricken landlord was standing aghast with the lin in his hand.
'God be merciful to me!' he contrived to stammer out at length, ''tis Rubezahl!'
'Rubezahl!' thundered the Herr der Berge, for it was indeed he. 'Rogue! thief! tatterdemalion that thou art, I'll Rubezahl thee!' (be it remembered he was very touchy about that name) 'I owe thee a heavy reckoning, and now I'm going to pay thee!'
With these words he jumped up on his one leg, and snatching its fellow, boot and all, out of the quaking landlord's hands, he belaboured the poor devil with it till he was nearly beaten to a jelly, and then, by way of finale, threw it at his head with such terrible correctness of aim that it knocked all his front teeth out. This done, the Spirit hopped off on his one leg, and was out of sight in an instant.
The drunken guests under the table, had been awakened in the mean time by the piercing outcries of their host. Quiet as mice, though sweating at every pore with apprehension, they lay there, each one hugging himself, amidst his terror, on the assurance of having his ducats snug in his pocket, without getting a drubbing for it. The coast was no sooner clear, than there was a general move of the hand to the pocket to feel the darling coin.
A horrible yell burst from every mouth at the same instant. Maddened and howling with pain, they all rushed, helter-skelter, down to the goosepond in the village-plunged in-there was a hissing and steaming of the water-the vapour cleared away-they were not to be seen.
At this juncture a fire broke out in the inn, as well as in all the other houses in the place, whose inmates had won any of Rubezahl's gold pieces. Short-sighted wretches! the metal they prized so much was nothing now but so much red-hot coal! A violent storm of wind from the mountains augmented the impetuosity of the flames to such a degree, that, in less than an hour, nothing remained of Goosebach but three cottages and a heap of smoking ruins.
The neighbouring villages did not fail to take warning from the fate of Goosebach; and, from that time to this, there have been no such heathenish doings in the public-houses either on Sunday or any other day in the week. The travelling student is now courteously and hospitably received everywhere in the Riesengebirge; for which he has no one to thank but honest Rubezahl, the Herr der Berge.