The Walking Stick of Destiny


THE Baron was pacing his tapestried chamber two mortal hours ere sunrise. Ever and anon he would pause at the open casement, and gaze from its giddy height on the ground beneath. Then a stern smile would light up his gloomy brow, and muttering to himself in smothered accents, `'twill do' he would again resume his lonely march.

Uprose the glorious sun, and illumined the darkened world with the light of day: still was the haughty Baron pacing his chamber, albeit his step was hastier and more impatient than before, and more than once he stood motionless, listening anxiously and eagerly, then turned with a disappointed air upon his heel, while a darker shade passed over his brow. Suddenly the trumpet which hung at the castle gate gave forth a shrill blast: the Baron heard it, and savagely beating his breast with both his clenched fists, he murmured in bitter tone `the time draws nigh, I must nerve myself for action.' Then, throwing himself into an easy chair, he hastily drank off the contents of a large goblet of wine which stood on the table, and in vain attempted to assume an air of indifference. The door was suddenly thrown open and in a loud voice an attendant announced `Signor Blowski!'

`Be seated! Signor! you are early this morn, and Alonzo! ho! fetch a cup of wine for the Signor! spice it well, boy! ha! ha! ha!' and the Baron laughed loud and boisterously, but the laugh was forced and hollow, and died quickly away. Meanwhile the stranger, who had not uttered a syllable, carefully divested himself of his hat and gloves, and seated himself opposite to the Baron, then having quietly waited till the Baron's laughter had subsided, he commenced in a harsh grating tone, `The Baron Muggzwig greets you, and sends you this'; why did a sudden paleness overspread the Baron Slogdod's features? why did his fingers tremble, so that he could scarcely open the letter? for one moment he glanced at it, and then raising his head, `Taste the wine, Signor,' he said in strangely altered tone, `regale yourself, I pray,' handing him one of the goblets which had just been brought in.

The Signor received it with a smile, put his lips to it, and then quietly changing goblets with the Baron without his perceiving it, swallowed half the contents at a draught. At that moment Baron Slogdod looked up, watched him for a moment as he drank, and smiled the smile of a wolf.

For full ten minutes there was a dead silence through the apartment, and then the Baron closed the letter, and raised his face: their eyes met: the Signor had many a time faced a savage tiger at bay without flinching, but now he involuntarily turned away his eyes. Then did the Baron speak in calm and measured tone: `You know, I presume, the contents of this letter?' the Signor bowed, `and you await an answer?' `I do.' `This, then, is my answer,' shouted the Baron, rushing upon him, and in another moment he had precipitated him from the open window. He gazed after him for a few seconds as he fell, and then tearing up the letter which lay on the table into innumerable pieces, he scattered them to the wind.


`ONE! two! three!' The magician set down the bottle, and sank exhausted into a seat: `Nine weary hours,' he sighed, as he wiped his smoking brow, `nine weary hours have I been toiling, and only got to the eight- hundred and thirty-second ingredient! a-well! I verily believe Martin Wagner hath ordered three drops of everything on the face of this earth in his prescription. However there are only a hundred and sixty-eight ingredients more to put in--'twill soon be done--then comes the seething--and then--' He was checked in his soliloquy by a low timid rap outside: `'Tis Blowski's knock,' muttered the old man, as he slowly undid the bars and fastenings of the door, `I marvel what brings him here at this late hour. He is a bird of evil omen: I do mistrust his vulture face.--Why! how now, Signor?' he cried, starting back in surprise as his visitor entered, `where got you that black eye? and verily your face is bruised like any rainbow! who has insulted you? or rather,' he muttered in an undertone, `whom have you been insulting, for that were the more likely of the two.'

`Never mind my face, good father,' hastily answered Blowski, `I only tripped up, coming home last night in the dark, that's all, I do assure you. But I am now come on other business--I want advice--or rather I

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