A Comical Adventure

from, Diary of a Traveller

As a sort of proŽmium to the relation of the following adventure, I must preadmonish my readers, that I have always entertained a monstrous aversion to being roused from a comfortable sleep, by the appalling cry of "murder." Heaven defend us! the very thought of such matters, even in broad day-light, causes a queer sensation about one's throat and fifth rib: but at the solemn hour of midnight,—"just as the clock strikes twelve,"—when the winds are howling, and casements creaking, with all the other paraphernalia of a portentous night (vide 'Mysteries of Udolpho')—oh! it festers up the faculties, and acts as a scare-crow to the senses. Having premised thus much, and not in the least doubting that I have touched a sympathetic string in every bosom, I will forthwith proceed to relate my adventure.

Those who have travelled in the north of Scotland, may perchance recollect the road between Kincardine and Dingwall. On the right, stands a decently snug tenement, from which a swinging appendage announces to all peregrinators, that excellent entertainment is there provided for "man and beast." In those parts it was my fortune to be travelling, on a bleak November evening, with no remarkably near prospect of supper or bed, when my eyes were suddenly gladdened by the appearance of the afore-mentioned sign; and so, it appears, were those of my horse, for without receiving previous notice from me, he instinctively halted at the door. I alighted, and after a comfortable supper, found myself snugly deposited in bed, next floor but one to the sky, the other floors being pre-engaged. But scarcely had gentle sleep diffused its balm over my eyelids, when I was aroused by a horrible confusion of noises in an adjoining apartment, from which I was separated only by a slight partition. First, I heard sundry stampings, and divers violent exclamations; then I plainly distinguished halfstifled cries of murder, and, at last, the groans of one, as it were, in his last agony. I was on my feet in the twinkling of an eye, and the reader may imagine that there was no occasion to make use of my hands in doffing my night-cap; the first sound of the word "murder" caused that to deposit itself very quietly on my pillow. My first movement was towards the door, from which I as quickly retreated, on discovering a murderous-looking person through the half-opened door of the next apartment; not, however, before I had uttered a yell loud enough to rouse all the inmates of the house. I next made towards the window, but there saw nothing, save a fearful profundity, which, I was well aware, was terminated by a yard, paved with rough stones.'Twas agony.

My last resource was the chimney, in which I forthwith proceeded to enshell myself, taking good care to leave the space of a yard or two between me and the floor. Scarcely had I thus disposed of myself, when the landlord entered my apartment, followed by his wife and domestics; whose voice I no sooner distinguished, than I began very coolly to descend: but, unfortunately, this being my first attempt at chimney-sweeping, I made such an unsweeper-like descent, that the landlord and his train, thinking Old Nick was at hand, scampered off, myself following with all imaginable speed. Helter-skelter we rushed down the first flight of stairs; at the bottom of which, finding a door half open, with a night-capped head protruding, in order, no doubt, to discover the cause of such a disturbance, we all burglariously entered, knocking down in our tumultuous incourse, the lawful possessor. There at length the foremost of our party wheeled to the right about, and the landlady, discovering me, hastily asked me what was the matter. I explained, as well as I could, the cause of my alarm; to which explanation, turning up the whites of her eyes, she replied, half festily, half laughing, "Quwhy, Gude safe us, Sir,'twas nae mair than just Sanders Mac Grabbit, ane o' the play-folk, a skirlin the bit tregedy, as he's ganging to play in our barn like."—"Um!" re-answered I; and in less than five minutes my nasal organ was playing bass to my next door neighbour's treble.