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THE INN KITCHEN.
DURING a journey that I once made through the Netherlands, I had arrived one evening at the Pomme d'Or, the principal inn of a small Flemish village. It was after the hour of the table d'hote, so that I was obliged to make a solitary supper from the reliques of its ampler board. The weather was chilly; I was seated alone in one end of a great gloomy dining-room, and my repast being over, I had the prospect before me of a long dull evening, without any visible means of enlivening it. I summoned mine host, and requested something to read; he brought me the whole literary stock of his household, a Dutch family-bible, an almanack in the same language, and a number of old Paris newspapers. As I sat dozing over one of the latter, reading old news and stale criticisms, my ear was now and then struck with bursts of laughter which seemed to proceed from the kitchen. Every one that has travelled on the continent must know how favourite a resort the kitchen of a country inn is to the middle and inferior order of travellers; particularly in that equivocal kind of weather, when a fire becomes agreeable towards evening. I threw aside the newspaper, and explored my way to the kitchen, to take a peep at the group that appeared to be so merry. It was composed partly of travellers who had arrived some hours before in a diligence, and partly of the usual attendants and hangerson of inns. They were seated round a great burnished stove, that might have been mistaken for an altar, at which they were worshipping. It was covered with varivus kitchen vessels of resplendent brightness; among which steamed and hissed a huge copper tea-kettle. A large lamp threw a strong mass of light upon the group bringing out many odd features in strong relief. Its yellow rays partially illumined the spacious kitchen, dying duskily away into remote corners; except where they settled into mellow radiance on the broad side of a flitch of bacon, or were reflected back from well-scoured utensils, that gleamed from the midst of obscurity. A strapping Flemish lass, with long golden pendants in her ears, and a necklace with a golden heart suspended to it, was the presiding priestess of the temple.
Many of the company were furnished with pipes, and most of them with some kind of evening potation. I found their mirth was occasioned by anecdotes, which a little swarthy Frenchman, with a dry weazen face and large whiskers, was giving of his love adventures; at the end of each of which, there was one of those bursts of honest unceremonious laughter, in which a man indulges in that temple of true liberty, an inn.
As I had no better mode of getting through a tedious hlustering evening, I took my seat near the stove, and listened to a variety of travellers' tales, some very extravagant, and most very dull. All of them, however, have faded from my treacherous memory except one, which I will endeavour to relate. I fear, however, it derived its chief zest from the manner in which it was told, and the peculiar air and appearance of the narrator. He was a wrpulent old Swiss, who had the look of a veteran traveller. He was dressed in a tarnished green travelling jacket, with a broad belt round his waist, and a pair of overalls, with buttons from the hips to the ancles. He was of 'a full rubicund countenance, with a double chin. aquiline nose, and a pleasant twinkling eye. His hair was light, and curled from under an old green velvet travelling cap stuck on one side of his head. He was interrupted more than once by the arrival of guests, or the remarks of his auditors; and paused now and then to replenish his pipe; at which times he had generally a roguish leer, and a sly joke for the buxom kitchen maid.
I wish my reader could imagine the old fellow lolling in a huge arm-chair, one arm a-kimbo, the other holding a curiously twisted tobacco pipe, formed of genuine e'cume de mer, decorated with silver chain and silken tassel-his head cocked on one side, and a whimsical cut of the eye occasionally, as he related the following story.
THE SPECTRE BRIDEGROOM. On the summit of one of the heights of the Odenwald, a wild and romantic tract of Upper Germany, that lies not far from the confluence of the Main and the Rhine, there stood, many, many years since, the Castle of the Baron Von Landshort. It is now quite fallen to decay, and almost buried among beech trees and dark firs; above which, however, its old watch-tower may still be seen struggling, like the former possessor I have mentioned, to carry a high head and look down upon the neighbouring country.
The Baron was a dry branch of the great family of Katzenellenbogen, * and inherited the reliques of the property, and all the pride of his ancestors. Though the warlike disposition of his predecessors had much impaired the family possessions, yet the Baron still endeavoured to keep up some show of former state. The times were peaceable, and the German nobles, in general, had abandoned their inconvenient old castles, perched like eagles' nests among the mountains, and had built more convenient residences in the valleys; still the Baron remained proudly drawn up in his little fortress, cherishing with hereditary inveteracy, all the old family feuds ; so that he was on ill terms with some of his nearest neighbours, on account of disputes that had happened between their great great grandfathers
The Baron had but one child, a daughter: but nature, when she grants but one child, always compensates by making it a prodigy; and so it was with the daughter of the Baron. All the nurses, gossips, and country cousins, assured her father that she had not her equal for beauty in all Germany; and who should know better than they? She had, moreover, been brought up with great care under the superintendence of two maiden aunts, who had spent some years of their early life at one of the little German courts, and were skilled in all the branches of knowledge necessary to the education of a fine lady. Under their instructions, she became a miracle of accomplish
* i. e. Cat's-Elbow. The name of a family of thosc ports very powerful in former times. The appellation, we are told, was given in compliment to a peerless dame of the fainily,celebrated for a fine arm.