« IndietroContinua »
THE NAMELESS MAN.
In the little village of -, on the extraordinary speed, to execute the coast, there is an inn, the comforts of stranger's behests. The landlord and which can only be appreciated by his lady, no less delighted with their those who have chanced to locate them- man's account, were equally in haste selves there; but, lest it should be sus. to satisfy the stranger's gratifying pected that the writer of this sketch is curiosity. As the latter was retiring only the landlord in disguise, wielding with his answer, the landlady ejacuhis grey goosequill to puff his man- lated with a thankful voice, “ Enquire and-horse convenience into notice, I the gentleman's name, Ben.” Meanshall not particularize further, and con- while the new comer had stationed sequently avoid any protracted descrip- himself at the window; and, with his tions of its excellencies. I was in the eyes
the waste of waters, on habit of resorting thither of an even
which here and there a vessel was to ing, during a temporary sojourn in the be seen careering on its course, as if village a few summers since, to smoke rejoicing in the peaceful zephyrs which my cigar, enjoy the genuine decoction were urging it onwards, he was abof malt and hops served out by the sorbed in meditation, which at first proprietor, and mingle in the general prevented his noticing the return of conversation of the parlour. I thus be- the attendant, till the reiterated sound came acquainted with the following cu- of the expressive monosyllables, — rious particulars:-One day a person of " There, sir, if you please,” accompagentlemanly exterior entered the house, nied by the bill of charges, roused covered with dust, and apparently him from his reverie. He received it fatigued by a long pedestrian journey. in his hitherto courteous manner, His dress, a suit of elegant and fa- glanced his eye over it, and saying, shionable make, consisted of a coat “ Very well, I agree to them,” he with gilt buttons, which the residuum motioned Ben to leave the room. Ben, of the road scarcely allowed to be dis however, true to his vocation, tarried tinguished as a blue one, black trousers, while he begged to know the gentleand white marcella waistcoat, in the man's name. To his amazement, the same condition, as were also his shirt stranger's countenance instantly lourand cravat. He carried over his shoul- ed, and his astonished ears were greetder a small travelling-bag, which he ed with a sharp and surly exclamation tossed carelessly, as he entered, upon of_"What the devil do you want with one of the parlour seats.
my name ? Begone!” Ben would have might have been between thirty and explained; but perceiving something forty ; but some furrows, which care of an ill-boding cast in the expression appeared to have wrought on his coun- of the stranger's looks, he hastily retenance, made this rather a matter of treated, in the first place, to inform his doubt. He ordered refreshments; and, master and mistress of the issue of his having satisfied his inward man, he de- errand, and then to confer with his sired to be shown to a private room, friends, ostler and boots, upon the in order to the refreshing of his out- phenomenon. Boniface received the ward one.
All this took place with tale with some degree of wonder out any thing extraordinary having and incredulity, as some tradesmanoccurred. He shortly after began to like conjectures entered his brains: make some observations to the waiter he, moreover, suspected that his man, concerning the beauty of the prospect by some ill behaviour, had affronted from the room in which they were; and the gentleman; perhaps all was not ultimately requested to be informed as as it should be. Strengthened in his to the charges for board and lodging, considerations by his spouse, he deteradding he might stay some days, per- mined to investigate the matter himhaps some weeks. All his remarks self; and for that purpose ascended were made in tones and manner of to the room, where the gentleman was kindly, though not undignified conde- found sitting at a table with a number scension, with which the waiter was so of papers before him, and apparently enchanted that he flew, with more than engrossed in deep reflection. At the
NO, CCXCIII. VOL. XLVII.
landlord's approach he raised his head, my convenience, I would leave your and gently bowed without rising. The house instantly — I haven't got a latter made an humble obeisance name!" hoped he was served to his satisfaction; “ Haven't got a name?” timidly rethat he was refreshed after his fatigues sponded Mr B. - dusty roads-warm weather-a little “ No!" said the other.
66 Have rain acceptable—with other remarks of you got a name?--has your wife the same kind, which all acquainted got a name?-has your man got a with inps will readily conceive.
name?" all of them Mr B. (the landlord) ob- “ Yes, sir," answered Mr B,, meektained such polite replies, that he in- ly. ternally threatened vengeance against • Then why a'n't you satisfied with Ben for his supposed misconduct. your own names- --what do you want Mrs B., whom a certain well-known with mine?" feminine quality had impelled to as- This was decisive; the tone and cend likewise, at this instant made her manner in which these last words were appearance, and was received as her uttered, showing that the stranger was husband had been.
impatient of further discourse. Mr “Your good lady, I suppose?-_very B. and his wife therefore withdrew; comfortable, I dare say?"
both sympathetically and doggedly reThese common topics having been solving that no credit ought to be run over, Mr B. found the time was given to a man who had no name. B. come to ascertain if Ben's tale was entered in his day book the nameless correct, and cunningly prefaced the man so much, and was making out the question by observing-—“ Your hon- bill in all expedition, intending to our, this is about the post time-does dispatch Ben up stairs with it, and an your honour expect any letters, be- intimation that no credit was given ; cause Ben shall fetch them?”
when the bell sounded to a fresh par“ No!" was the only answer. ley. As Ben was not immediately at
“ Or if any parcels arrive, how shall hand, having, as I have before said, I distinguish them ?”
skulked off to discuss and surmise up “ None will arrive," said the un. on the matter with his friends in the known, manifesting symptoms of im- stable, Mr B. was obliged to re-ascend patience.
himself. The stranger, who was still Mr B., finding that his insinuations standing, received him to his surprise were useless, resolved with some har. with his first bland demeanour, and dihood, considering the risk, to plump mildly observed, " I suppose, sir, you upon the main point at once; so, assu- are fearful of my solvency-it is natuming his most obsequious air, he asked, ral. There is payment for this day's “ And by what name shall I attend board and lodging-give me a receipt upon your honour?”
--and see that you serve me well. The same astounding exclamation Mind, I am giving you credit now;" struck bis auricular nerves which had and, as he spoke these words, he pulled struck those of his servant before. out a seemingly well-filled purse from
“ What the devil do you want with one pocket, a memorandum-book from my name?" bawled the stranger in an a second, a portable inkhorn from a interrogative accent, starting at the third, and presented to Mr B. the masame time from the chair-a motion terials for furnishing him with the dewhich caused both Mr and Mrs B., sired receipt. B. felt some strange almost without their own knowledge, misgivings; but a reflection, something to progress, crab-like, nearer to the like that of Vespasian upon a certain door.
inodorous tax, crossing his mind, he Perceiving, however, that the name- thought he might as well have the less one did not move from the table, money. This business settled, the the former returned to the charge, stranger added, “ Send in your bill carefully observing that the stairs were every morning, and don't trouble me;" within available distance. “ Because, on which Mr B. returned to his wife your honour, it is convenient for to inform her of what had taken place, booking."
while Ben, who had resumed his duties “I haven't got a name
eIwon't have at the bar, listened to the particulars, a name!” interrupted the unknown, occasionally joining in the talk, and with increasing anger. “ If it suited all agreeing that it was very odd,
At this period I was engaged in an
and ale. A dull, unsteady eye was easy tour, with a view to recruit my strongly symptomatic of a mind dishealth, which had been impaired by eased ; nevertheless I followed his my exertions in a cause conducted by example, and after a few common oba law firm in London, of which I had servations, we commenced a more genlately been admitted a partner; and eral conversation. His remarks dis. the long vacation having commenced, played the most refined taste and senI was not much restricted as to time. sibility, as well as much varied knowOn my route, the agreeable situation ledge, and clearly evinced that he had of the village induced me to make a mingled in good society. I carefully lengthened stay in it, and I had been refrained from any expression which there several weeks previous to the arri- might be construed into a curiosity to val of the nameless man. As intimacy is learn who or what he was, and therenot difficult to form in a small place, fore said nothing concerning my own where each one knows the other. I pursuits, which might have appeared had become tolerably sociable with as an invitation to his confidence; for Mr B., who was a very reputable char. I have invariably found that the only acter in his way, and from him I ob- mode of becoming the confidant of an tained the account which I have ale eccentric is to humour his conceits. ready given: in what remains I am I thought I could perceive that he directly concerned myself.
was pleased with my apparent uninFrom his manner of acting, it was quisitive temper, and augured favourevident that the stranger had not come ably of the result, as by this time I on a kind of Dando speculation; and had become really and sincerely desifurther consideration afforded me no rous of rendering him any assistance in ground for believing that he was a my power, and anxious to cultivate his debtor avoiding his creditors, or a friendship ; for he seemed worthy of rogue endeavouring to evade the hand my exertions to attain it. An acciof justice; because the least experien- dent brought this about sooner than I ced in villany must have been aware, had anticipated. The evening was that such remarkable conduct in re- far advanced before we thought of gard to his name, would certainly parting, and when we did, he gave me attract notice, and consequently de- a friendly shake of the hand, and an feat any intentions of that kind. In invitation to dine with him next day. short, I set him down as one of those The following morning, after breakeccentric beings who seem placed on fast, as I sat at my lodgings ruminaearth to show what extraordinary ting upon the strange fellowship into turns the human mind can take, and which we are occasionally thrown in who are perhaps not inaptly to be our progress through life, I was in. compared to those celestial orbs whose formed that my companion of the preerratic movements almost defy calcu- ceding night had been taken into cuslation. I have a fancy for eccentrics, tody. Startled at the news, I haswhom I have always found to be a tened to Mr B. to ascertain what disharmless class enough ; and as I flat- coveries had caused the arrest ; for I ter myself with the possession of a instantly concluded that there must peculiar facility in forming an ac- have been serious reasons for such a quaintance with them, I determined proceeding. From Mr B. I learned to exert my efforts for this purpose on that the constable of the village had the present occasion.
that morning called at his house, and The first night the stranger did not desired to see the man who would not show himself, and I could devise no give his name. Whereupon Ben was excuse for intruding on him. On dispatched to intimate to the stranger the second evening, however, he en- that he was wanted below. He came tered the parlour, where I was sitting down accordingly, in no very agreealone; and as it was the market-day able mood, muttering, as he descendat the town a few miles off, and we ed, “ Who the del can want me were thus not likely to be interrupted here?” This was soon learned by by a very full attendance, I set about the constable demanding his name ; a prosecuting my object alone. On ob. question to which the other answered serving me he bowed, which civility hastily, “ What's my name to you ?”. being returned by me, he took a seat 166 Very well-you won't give your at the same table, and ordered cigars name, won't you?" rejoined the man
in authority, drawing forth his staff of a few days, perhaps a few weeks, but office; “ You are my prisoner!” who refused to give any name;
- For what?" enquired the stran- therefore sagaciously inferred, by ger.
combining the words in the one case • For suspicion,” said the first. with the want of them in the other,
“ Stuff and nonsense!” said the that the stranger was at all events a nameless one, in an impatient tone of suspicious character, if not a dangerridicule ; “ Begone with you,”-and ous one, and hence deemed it essential was turning away, when the constable, to his reputation to exert his preroga. with all the dignity of a little mind, tive, more particularly after he had conscious of the possession of a por
been received in the doubtful manner tion of power, exclaimed, “ I charge which marked the nameless one's beyou all in the King's name to assist,” haviour on the announcement that one and completed the capture by collar- “ in authority under the King" deing the stranger, who, desisting from sired to speak with him. He added, any further resistance, consented to “ Your worship can tell whether I've be conducted to the nearest justice, the done my duty or not,” by way of a constable meanwhile making a pom- suggestion to the utterance of his worpous display of handcuffs, which, how- ship’s praise for Master Sutor’s diliever, only provoked a smile. Having gence. Mr W., puffed up with the received this intelligence, I directed consequence of a man who was sensimyself to the residence of the justice, ble that he had the power of officially a Mr W., a retired tradesman, whose bestowing or withholding praise, ancapacity was but ill adapted for the swered “ assuredly,”—an ambiguous station into which he had procured answer, which doubtless did not meet admission, under a system which pre- the cobbler's expectations; and then vails no longer, or at least not to the proceeded to interrogate the stranextent that it did. After a little dis- ger, who had listened with the most pute with some of the domestics, I was exemplary patience, by requiring to allowed to enter the room appropria- know “ What he had to say to the ted for examination, which the justice charge." • What charge?” asked entered at another door simultaneous. the maledictus, quietly ; a counterly with myself. As I stood purposely question which appeared rather to at some distance behind the stranger, nonplus his worship, for in fact no he did not observe me among the per- direct charge had yet been made. The sons present. Mr W. having taken man of the staff looked at the justice, his seat at the head of the table, and and the justice looked at the man of demanded, with much pomposity, the staff, both perceiving the difficulty, 56 Whom have we here, constable ?" but neither seeing any way of over. the cobbler (for a cobbler was this same coming it, until at length the former constable) enumerated the
desired the latter to name his charge. which had led him to exercise the The constable reiterated his statement, authority of one of the mighty little concluding this time, very logically, conservators of the King's peace. His that no honest man would be ashamed statement was sufficiently verbose and of his name-ergo, the prisoner was a tautological, accompanied at frequent rogue--a mode of reasoning with intervals with a complacent chuckle which Mr W., to judge by his affir. of self-congratulation upon his acti- mative nods, was satisfied; and comvity and discernment in his jackstick mencing anew his interrogations, he capacity. His story, divested of the asked, “ What are you, sir?" putting extraneous verbiage with which he on one of his sternest looks, no doubt garnished it, was simply this. While thinking to awe the stranger. The sitting in his work-bin that morning, latter, however, nothing daunted, busily employed in making overalls Pulled up and buttoned his coat, with for the understandings, some of his the air of one thoroughly resolved not gossips brought him full confirmation to comply with any of these inquisi. of an account, whereof " he had only torial demands, and, as coolly as beby parcels heard" the day before, ow- fore replied, “ A man, sir." « Come, ing to his absence at the market-town, none of your jeers---do you know where s that a person had taken up his resi- you are, sir?” said Mr W., warming dence at the sign of the Bear, with the into anger. The other, most disresignificant remark that he might stop gardingly, only responded, “ Where
I have no business to be." On which ment's notice, he might as well rethe justice, becoming still warmer, pocket it; and, suiting the action to exclaimed in a loud voice, “ You are the word, he dropped the coin into an old hand
not your first exa- the purse, which he forthwith con. mination, I'll be bound. How do you signed to its breeches receptacle. live, sirrah ?" " Sometimes upon one While the justice was regarding his thing, and sometimes another, sir!" demeanour with a look of mingled said the stranger; and he even smiled, doubt and vexation, uncertain how to as the increasing wrath of the justice frame his next remark preparatory, a became more visible at these evasive fisherman, whom I immediately recog
“ Very well, sir, very well ; nised as a person with whom I had you can't expect to be discharged till had frequent conversations in my seawe know something about you : so, if coast rambles, ushered into you don't choose, why, I may as well the room, loudly averring that he had commit you at once-(then, checking something of confidence to communihimself,—for further examination. cate concerning the prisoner at the This covert threat did not at all shake bar,-i. e. the bottom of his worship’s the stranger's imperturbability; he table. Upon his information being continued to say nothing but when desired by the worthy worship of the spoken to, and then answered indin peace, the fisher, with the expanding rectly; till his worship excited the consequence of one whom circumexamined by demanding in an accent stances have raised from a long insig. of fury,“ What is your name, sirrah?” nificance into a moment of notoriety, At which the stranger burst out as and as though, like Simon, he had bebefore with, “ What the devil do you come one “ to catch men,” deposed want with my name ?" " Oh, oh!” that the “ culprit,” the day before, had exclaimed Mr W., exultingly,"you’re met him on the beach, and asked, in swearing, are you?" and, as if rejoicing a very particular manner, what vesthat he had found some means of vent- sels passed that coast. On hearing ing his wrath with effect, he added, this evidence, Mr W. gave several sa“ I fine you five shillings," quite for- gacious nods, the commencement of getting the futility of fining a person
which resembled the movements of a whom he had already condemned, in Chinese image in a grocer's shop, while his own mind, as one deserving of the conclusion was like the motion of much
punishment. The a knocker when plied by the experienstranger, meanwhile, appeared inter- ced hand of some fashionable Johnny; nally vexed at this slip of the tongue; then folding his arms he flung himself and, relapsing into his former coolness, back in his chair, as if thoroughly sadrew forth a purse well stocked with tisfied as to what course he ought to gold, and extracting guinea there. adopt with the puzzling nameless one. from, threw it carelessly on the table, “ So, sirrah, there is reason for susdeclaring that he had no change, and picion. Very well, many a man has should be much obliged if his worship been tried and hanged by a false name: would hand him sixteen shillings. we shall see if there is no means to This unconcern, together with the punish a rogue without one. Vessels, sight of the purse, at last began to indeed ! you must be content with a suggest some doubts to Mr W., if his coach this time. Make out the mitti. humming and hawing beany criterion, mus," addressing himself to a linenas to the exact propriety of pursuing draper's man, who acted as clerk. At the business any further.
these words, the stranger, losing all his pause of perplexity, with the usual self-possession, passionately roared out, obstinate reluctance of ignorant minds 66 For what?” in a voice of thunder, to acknowledge themselves in error, which sounded through the very walls. he announced his intention of re- « For-for-for,” said the other, manding the stranger till the London trying to hammer out a reply," for officers had been written to. At this suspicion.". point he was interrupted by the stran
o Of what ? cried the unknown ger's remarking, that as they did not again. This response seemed to astound seem disposed to give him his change, and upset the man of the peace ; till at and as he was neither bound to pay a last, recollecting himself, he observedguinea, or to have silver at a mo- « Now I think of it, clerk, I'll commit