« PreviousContinue »
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.
6 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-tooThey 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 limb 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.