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but with a spirit of malicious revenge they laid their old heads together to prevent the approaching nuptials. The governante was particularly interested in preventing their consummation, as she well knew that when Cunegunda should be married, her occupation would be gone; and from some hints from the Baron, she grievously suspected she would be obliged to quit the premises where she had been so long located.
This pair of old malignants, as well as others, had observ. ed the idiosyncrasy of our hero ; and perceiving that he never laughed at any thing, even the Baron's drollest stories, they industriously spread the report that Tristan was bewitched, or some how or other under the influence of the evil one. Grubenhausen whispered his insinuations, in confidence, to Schwillenaehlen, the red-nosed butler, who hiccupped the story over his cups, to Ohtzenstieler, the ostler, who told it to Schnippenbritschen, the tailor, with the addition that 'Tristan was followed by a spirit in the shape of a black'dog ; Schnippenbritshen told the tale to Kettelpanschen, the fat landlord opposite the Baron's, where Tristan used to take his bitters every morning, and he retailed it, with various additions, to his customers. The old lady was also as successful in spreading the story, and soon nothing was talked of in the town of Stade but the grave stranger who was possessed by the devil and could'nt laugh.
When these reports reached the ears of the Baron, he was determined to put their truth to the test. He had observed the habitual melancholy cast of Tristan's features, and had taken it somewhat amiss, that he never laughed at his jokes ; but as he had frequently experienced the same thing from strangers, he set it down to bashfulness, or dullness of comprehension. The Baron held in mortal dread and abhorrence all dealers in gramarye, as well as those who were so unfortunate as to be practised upon. As soon, therefore, as he heard the report of witchcraft, he summoned Tristan before bim, and in the presence of Cunegunda, bluntly told him his suspicions; informed him of the stories that were in circulation; read him a long lecture on the danger of evil communications, and the deplorable condition of those possessed with demons i and finally concluded by telling Master Tristan that he must laugh like other folks, or he could be no son-in-law of his. Poor Tristan was astounded at this harangue. In vain he endeavored to expostulate with the Baron, on the unreasonableness of his demand; and tried to prove to him that it was undignified to express his satisfaction by twisting up the corners of his mouth, shewing his teeth, and making a strange
noise in his throat. In vain the fair Cunegunda, with an imploring look, deprecated her father's anger, and begged him to let her have a husband, even if he should not be able to speak. Her intreaties were in vain—and the Baron swore with a High Dutch oath, that if he could'nt laugh, he should'nt have bis daughter. She then turned to Tristan, and with a Jook of love and a rosy smile, that would have extorted one in return from Heraclitus himself, besought him to gratify her father by one small snigger. It was all in vain. Threats and intreaties were equally useless, and Tristan instead of growing pleasanter, became graver and graver every instant.
In order, however, that our unfortunate youth might not complain of the want of a subject, or an opportunity to display his risible powers, the Baron told him he would give him à fair trial the next day, when he meant to show him such droll sights, and tell such funny stories, that if he did not split his sides with laughter, the devil must have got in him indeed.
[What the expedients of the Baron were, and their effects upon Tristan, the patient reader of the Atlantic must wait another month to learn.]
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