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THE COFFIN-MAKERS OF EISENACH.
They who have known Eisenach for many years past, must remember a tall wooden pillar, standing near its entrance, on the road from Langensalza, bearing a carped and painted black 'scutcheon, surmounted by a baron's helmet and mantling, and charged with the effigy of a hideous red-haired dwarf, in a very an. cient German habit, employed in making a coffin, over which he was looking with malicious joy, holding up a nail, and pointing to a scroll above him, on which was inscribed the words,—“Only seven are wanting!” Below the shield could be traced, by good eyes, the name of Adeliche Stark; though his story, and the date of its events, were entirely obliterated : yet, as it was certain that every visitor to Eisenach used particularly to inquire about that strange armorial ensign, old Singpsalm, the Lutheran clerk, used generally to satisfy them by the following story ; which is the more curious, as it seems to contain an allusion to smoking, at the least two centuries before it became general in Europe.
“In the earlier days of Eisenach,” he would say (for every body knows that it is a town which existed even before the time of the great Friedrich Rothbart), “ there used to live in it an idle fellow name Adeliche Stark, commonly called, through the principality, der Landstreicher, or the Vagabond, because he was one of those individuals who, though they are continually padding the hoof after employment, always pray heartily that they may never find it. Frosche Stark, the father of this hero, was as industrious a woodman as ever lifted an axe in the Prince's forests-lands; but neither advice, nor example, his mother Trudchen's entreaties, nor his uncle Steibel's stick, could make him any thing else than Adeliche the Vagabond.
“ But it is not to be thought that idleness alone was the cause of his not taking to work ; no, truly, for he always asserted that it was simply his being too clever. There was not a man in all Thuringia who knew so many wild stories and songs as Adeliche ; and the consequence was, that he was so much in request at the Bier-shenckes, that he could at last do little else but wander from one to another, where his time and his legends where recompensed by black beer, straw, and po. tatoes. It is not wonderful that such a life should at last clothe him in a jerkin of rags, with a pair of netherstocks of the same silk, which procured him the new surname of “ the Ragged Story-teller;" whilst his constitution daily undermined, it was usual to say of him, when he was seen seated in his glory on the ale-house bench,—Ah! there's Stark the Landstreicher knocking another nail into his coffin!'
“ But so delighted was Master Adeliche with this kind of life, that there was no man more contented, and very few so merry. Having nothing of his own, all that was given him was gain; and whilst he was
telling his stories, if he could but get some generous traveller to bestow on him a flask of better wine, he not only made them happy, but became so himself in spite of his nakedness. However, to speak Heaven's honest truth, as a biographer should do, this love of “a jolly full bottle' was at once the spring and continuance of his ruin, since he ever liked a Kegel-platz, or Bowlingalley, better than a Church ; and Wenzel Malzmann, the publican, better than Lorenz Puchertext, the priest. Dame Trudchen had nothing to answer for concerning him, since her advice was equally unceasing and useless; and one of her principal arguments against his intemperance was grounded on the effect which it must have upon the health, and was expressed in the common proverb, 'Adeliche Stark, Adeliche Stark, you're knocking another nail into your coffin !'
“ It is said to have been in the beginning of winter, after a long conversation, concluded with this ancient saw, that Adeliche set off to Malzmann's, to decide upon a brewing which was that evening to be tried in full conclave. There were to be Claus Brommell, the charcoal-burner, and Karl Kranesnech, the tall goatherd, and little Velten Schwill, the swine-keeper, and I know not how many others, all good men and true, to pass the night with him ; for he had promised to regale them with some of his best stories ; and as he could command a truss in the stable, he was not expected back till the morning.
“I never heard whether it were by the strength of the getranke, or the astonishing nature of Adeliche's tales, but it is said that about midnight, his host and his companions were all fast asleep, some on the floor, and some on the bier-bank, remaining immoveable under the roughest means which he used to wake them. A loud voice was now beard without, calling on host, house, ostler, for shelter and provender ; and Adeliche, after again stoutly though vainly kicking and shaking his friends, resolving that Wenzel should not lose a customer for the want of a little exertion, took up the lanthorn and opened the door, where he saw a remarkably short and stout man leading an immense black horse, to which he bore somewhat of the proportion of a bear's whelp to an elephant. It was a strange-looking night abroad, for whilst the distant prospect lay beneath a most beautiful moonlight sky, the planet itself was veiled by a dark purple cloud which hung like a curtain half drawn up, immediately in front and over the house, the rays of golden light falling in streams from beneath it. Adeliche at first stared a little at the traveller, but as he spake in a blunt and good-humoured voice, he lighted him first to put up his horse, and then ushered him into the Bier-shencke. · How's this, mine host ?' said the stranger, looking at the slumbering peasants ; is your ale so potent, or do ye always slumber thus soundly? I trow that I called lustily at the door, and my horse stamped and shorted loud enough to have waked half Eisenach.'—' In good truth,