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is a public room set apart at most inns for the accommodation of a class of wayfarers called travellers or riders; a kind of commercial knights-errant who are incessantly scouring the kingdom in gigs, on horseback, or by coach. They are the only successors, that I know of at the present day, to the knights-errant of yore. They lead the same kind of roving, adventurous life, only changing the lance for a whip, the buckler for a pattern-card, and the coat of mail for an upper Benjamin. Instead of vindicating the charms of peerless beauty, they rove about spreading the fame and standing of some substantial tradesman or manufacturer, and are ready at any time to bargain in his name; it being the fashion nowadays to trade instead of fight with one another. As the room of the Hostel, in the good old fighting times, would be hung round at night with the armour of wayworn warriors, such as coats of mail, falchions, and yawning helmets; so the traveller's room is garnished with the harnessing of their successors; with box-coats, whips of all kinds, spurs, gaiters, and oilclothcovered hats
I was in hopes of finding some of these worthies to talk with, but was disappointed, there were, indeed, two or three in the room, but I could make nothing of them. One was just finishing his breakfast, quarrelling with his bread and butter, and huffing the waiter; another buttoned on a pair of gaiters, with many execrations at “Boots” for not having cleaned his shoes well; a third sat drumming on the table with his fingers, and looking at the rain as it streamed down the window.glass; they all appeared infected by the weather, and disappeared, one after the other, without exchanging a word
I sauntered to the window, and stood gazing at the people picking their way to church, with petticoats hoisted mid-leg high, and dripping umbrellas. The bell ceased to toll, and the streets became silent. I then amused myself with watching the daughters of a tradesman opposite; who, being confined to the house, for fear of wetting their Sunday finery, played off their charms at the front windows to fascinate the chance tenants of the inn. They at length were summoned away by a vigilant vinegar-faced mother, and I had nothing further from without to amuse me.
What was I to do to pass away the long-lived day? I was sadly nervous and lonely; and everything about an inn seemed calculated to make a dull day ten times duller. Old newspapers smelling of beer and tobacco smoke, and which I had already read half-a-dozen times. Good-fornothing books, that were worse than the rainy weather. I bored myself to death with an old volume of the Lady's Magazine. I read all the commonplace names of ambitious travellers scrawled on the panes of glass; the eternal families of the Smiths, and the Browns, and the Jacksons, and the Johnsons, and all the other sons; and I deciphered several scraps of fatiguing inn-window poetry that I have met with in all parts of the world.
The day continued lowering and gloomy; the slovenly, ragged, spongy clouds drifted heavily along in the air; there was no variety even in the rain; it was one dull, continued, monotonous patter, patter, patter; excepting that now and then I was enlivened by the idea of a brisk shower, from the rattlings of the drops upon a passing umbrella. It was quite refreshing (if I may be allowed a hackneyed phrase of the day) when in the course of the morning a horn blew, and a stage-coach whirled through the street, with outside passengers stuck all over it, cowering under cotton umbrellas; and seethed together, and reeking with the steams of wet box-coats and upper Benjamins.
The sound brought out from their lurking-places a crew of vagabond boys and vagabond dogs, with the carrotyheaded hostler and the nondescript animal ycleped Boots, and all the other vagabond race that infest the purlieus of an inn; but the bustle was transient; the coach again whirled on its way; the boy, and dog, and hostler, and Boots, all slunk back again to their holes; and the street again became silent, and the rain continued to rain on. In fact there was no hope of its clearing up; the barometer pointed to rainy weather; mine hostess's tortoise-shell cat sat by the fire washing her face and rubbing her paws over her ears; and on referring to the almanac, I found a direful prediction from the top of the page to the bottom through the whole month, "expect--much-rain-aboutthis—time.”
I was dreadfully hipped. The hours seemed as if they would never creep by. The very ticking of the clock became irksome. At length the stillness of the house was interrupted by the ringing of a bell. Shortly after I heard the voice of a waiter at the bar, “ The Stout Gentleman in No. 13 wants his breakfast. Tea and bread and butter, with ham and eggs; the eggs not to be too much done.” In such a situation as mine every incident is of import
Here was a subject of speculation presented to my mind, and ample exercise for my imagination. I am prone to paint pictures to myself, and on this occasion I had some material to work upon. Had the guest upstairs been mentioned as Mr. Smith, or Mr. Brown, or Jackson, or Mr. Johnson, or merely as the gentleman in No. 13, it would have been a perfect blank to me.
I should have thought nothing of it. But “the Stout Gentleman !”—the very name had something in it of the picturesque. It at once gave the size, it embodied the personage to my mind's eye, and my fancy did the rest. “He was stout, or, as some term it, lusty; in all probability therefore he was advanced in life; some people expanding as they grow old. By his breakfasting rather late, and in his own room, he must be a man accustomed to live at his ease, and above the necessity of early rising ; no doubt a round, rosy, lusty old gentleman."
There was another violent ringing; the Stout Gentleman was impatient for his breakfast. He was evidently a man of importance, “well-to-do in the world,” accustomed to be promptly waited upon, of a keen appetite, and a little cross when hungry. "Perhaps," thought I, "he may be some London alderman; or who knows but he may be a member of Parliament?”
The breakfast was sent up, and there was a short interval of silence; he was doubtless making the tea. Presently there was a violent ringing, and before it could be answered, another ringing, still more violent. “ Bless me! what a choleric old gentleman!” The waiter came down in a huff. The butter was rancid, the eggs were overdone, the ham was too salt. The Stout Gentleman was evidently nice in his eating. One of those who eat and growl and keep the waiter on the trot, and live in a state militant with the household.
The hostess got into a fume. I should observe that she was a brisk, coquettish woman; a little of a shrew, and something of a slammerkin, but very pretty withal; with a nincompoop for a husband, as shrews are apt to have. She rated the servants roundly for their negligence in sending up so bad a breakfast ; but said not a word against the Stout Gentleman; by which I clearly perceived he must be a man of consequence; entitled to make a noise and to give trouble at a country inn. Other eggs and ham and bread and butter were sent. They appeared to be more graciously received ; at last there was no further complaint, and I had not made many turns about the traveller's room when there was another ringing. Shortly afterwards there was a stir, and an inquest about the house. “The Stout Gentleman wanted the Times or the Chronicle newspaper.” I set him down, therefore, for a whig; or rather, from his being so absolute and lordly where he had a chance, I suspected him of being a radical. Hunt, I had heard, was a large man. “Who knows,” thought I, “but it is Hunt himself ? "
My curiosity began to be awakened. I inquired of the waiter who was this Stout Gentleman that was making all this stir, but I could get no information. Nobody seemed to know his name. The landlords of bustling inns seldom trouble their heads about the names of their transient guests. The colour of a coat, the shape or size of the person, is enough to suggest a travelling name. It is either the tall gentleman, or the short gentleman; or the gentleman in black, or the gentleman in snuff colour; or, as in the present instance, the Stout Gentleman; a designation of the kind once hit on answers every purpose, and saves all further inquiry.
Rain-rain-rain ! pitiless, ceaseless rain! no such thing as putting a foot out of doors, and no occupation or amusement within. By-and-by I heard some one walking overhead. It was in the Stout Gentleman's room. He evidently was a large man by the heaviness of his tread; and an old man from his wearing such creaking soles. “He is doubtless,” thought I, “some rich old square-toes, of regular habits, and is now taking exercise after breakfast.”
I now read all the advertisements of coaches and hotels that were stuck about the mantelpiece. The Lady's Magazine had become an abomination to me; it was as tedious as the day itself. I wandered out, not knowing what to do, and ascended again to my room. I had not been there long when there was a squall from a neighbouring bed-room. A door opened and slammed violently; a chambermaid that I had remarked for a ruddy, goodhumoured face, went downstairs in a violent flurry. The Stout Gentleman had been rude to her.
This sent a whole host of my deductions to the deuce in a moment. This unknown personage could not be an old gentleman; for old gentlemenare not apt to be so obstreperous