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Rudder Grange Frank R. Stockton

In which we take a Vacation and look for David Dutton

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Still, it was somewhat strange that a stage-driver, passing along the road every week-day,--one day one way, and the next the other way,--should not know a public-house like Dutton's.

"If I remember rightly," I said, "the stage used to stop there for the passengers to take supper."

"Well, then, it aint on this side o' the ridge," said the driver; "we stop for supper, about a quarter of a mile on the other side, at Pete Lowry's. Perhaps Dutton used to keep that place. Was it called the 'Ridge House'?"

I did not remember the name of the house, but I knew very well that it was not on the other side of the ridge.

"Then," said the driver, "I'm sure I don't know where it is. But I've only been on the road about a year, and your man may 'a' moved away afore I come. But there aint no tavern this side the ridge, arter ye leave Delhi, and, that's nowhere's nigh the ridge."

There were a couple of farmers who were sitting by the driver, and who had listened with considerable interest to this conversation. Presently, one of them turned around to me and said:

"Is it Dave Dutton ye're askin' about?"

"Yes," I replied, "that's his name."

"Well, I think he's dead," said he.

At this, I began to feel uneasy, and I could see that my wife shared my trouble.

Then the other farmer spoke up.

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"I don't believe he's dead, Hiram," said he to his companion "I heered of him this spring. He's got a sheep-farm on the other side o' the mountain, and he's a livin' there. That's what I heered, at any rate. But he don't live on this road any more," he continued, turning to us. "He used to keep tavern on this road, and the stages did used to stop fur supper--or else dinner, I don't jist ree-collect which. But he don't keep tavern on this road no more."

"Of course not," said his companion, "if he's a livin' over the mountain. But I b'lieve he's dead."

I asked the other farmer if he knew how long it had been since Dutton had left this part of the country.

"I don't know fur certain," he said, "but I know he was keeping tavern here two year' ago, this fall, fur I came along here, myself, and stopped there to git supper--or dinner, I don't jist ree-collect which."

It had been three years since our friend had boarded at Dutton's house. There was no doubt that the man was not living at his old place now. My wife and I now agreed that it was very foolish in us to come so far without making more particular inquiries. But we had had an idea that a man who had a place like Dutton's tavern would live there always.

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Rudder Grange
Frank R. Stockton

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