The weather is very warm, sir, said I.
Very, said the stranger, laconically, looking at me for the first time.
Would you like to see the newspaper? said I, taking up one which lay upon the window seat.
I never read newspapers, said the stranger, nor, indeed, - Whatever it might be that he had intended to say he left unfinished. Suddenly he walked to the mantelpiece at the farther end of the room, before which he placed himself with his back towards me. There he remained motionless for some time; at length, raising his hand, he touched the corner of the mantelpiece with his finger, advanced towards the chair which he had left, and again seated himself.
Have you come far? said he, suddenly looking towards me, and speaking in a frank and open manner, which denoted a wish to enter into conversation. You do not seem to be of this place.
I come from some distance, said I; indeed, I am walking for exercise, which I find as necessary to the mind as the body. I believe that by exercise people would escape much mental misery.
Scarcely had I uttered these words when the stranger laid his hand, with seeming carelessness, upon the table, near one of the glasses; after a moment or two he touched the glass with his finger as if inadvertently, then, glancing furtively at me, he withdrew his hand and looked towards the window.
Are you from these parts? said I at last, with apparent carelessness.
From this vicinity, replied the stranger. You think, then, that it is as easy to walk off the bad humours of the mind as of the body?
I, at least, am walking in that hope, said I.
I wish you may be successful, said the stranger; and here he touched one of the forks which lay on the table near him.
Here the door, which was slightly ajar, was suddenly pushed open with some fracas, and in came the stout landlord, supporting with some difficulty an immense dish, in which was a mighty round mass of smoking meat garnished all round with vegetables; so high was the mass that it probably obstructed his view, for it was not until he had placed it upon the table that he appeared to observe the stranger; he almost started, and quite out of breath exclaimed, God bless me, your honour; is your honour the acquaintance that the young gentleman was expecting?
Is the young gentleman expecting an acquaintance? said the stranger.
There is nothing like putting a good face upon these matters, thought I to myself; and, getting up, I bowed to the unknown. Sir, said I, when I told Jenny that she might lay the table- cloth for two, so that in the event of any acquaintance dropping in he might find a knife and fork ready for him, I was merely jocular, being an entire stranger in these parts, and expecting no one. Fortune, however, it would seem, has been unexpectedly kind to me; I flatter myself, sir, that since you have been in this room I have had the honour of making your acquaintance; and in the strength of that hope I humbly entreat you to honour me with your company to dinner, provided you have not already dined.
The stranger laughed outright.
Sir, I continued, the round of beef is a noble one, and seems exceedingly well boiled, and the landlord was just right when he said I should have such a dinner as is not seen every day. A round of beef, at any rate such a round of beef as this, is seldom seen smoking upon the table in these degenerate times. Allow me, sir, said I, observing that the stranger was about to speak, allow me another remark. I think I