38 THE STAGE COACH
attack this stout repast, while others sat smoking and gossiping over their ale on two high-backed oaken seats beside the fire. Trim housemaids were hurrying backwards* and forwards under the directions of a fresh, bustling landlady; but still seizing an occasional moment to exchange a flippant word, and have a rallying laugh, with the group round the fire. The scene completely realised Poor Robin's humble idea of the comforts of mid-winter.
Now trees their leafy hats do bare, To reverence Winter's silver hair ; A handsome hostess, merry host, A pot of ale now and a toast, Tobacco and a good coal fire, Are things this season doth require.*
I had not been long at the inn when a post-chaise drove up to the door. A young gentleman stepped out, and by the light of the lamps I caught a glimpse of a countenance which I thought I knew. I moved forward to get a nearer view,
* Poor Robin's Almanack, 1684.