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Rudder Grange Frank R. Stockton

Lord Edward and the Tree-man

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"Look-a-here," said the individual in the crotch, "you don't know how dreadful oneasy these limbs gits after you've been settin up here as long as I have. And I don't want to have nuthin to do with no constables. I'll tell you what I'll do if you'll chain up that dog, and let me go, I'll fix things so that you'll not be troubled no more by no tramps."

"How will you do that?" I asked.

"Oh, never you mind," said he. "I'll give you my word of honor I'll do it. There's a reg'lar understandin' among us fellers, you know."

I considered the matter. The word of honor of a fellow such as he was could not be worth much, but the merest chance of getting rid of tramps should not be neglected. I went in to talk to Euphemia about it, although I knew what she would say. I reasoned with myself as much as with her.

"If we put this one fellow in prison for a few weeks," I said, "the benefit is not very great. If we are freed from all tramps, for the season, the benefit is very great. Shall we try for the greatest good?"

"Certainly," said Euphemia; "and his legs must be dreadfully stiff."

So I went out, and after a struggle of some minutes, I chained Lord Edward to a post at a little distance from the apple-tree. When he was secure, the tramp descended nimbly from his perch, notwithstanding his stiff legs, and hurried out of the gate. He stopped to make no remarks over the fence. With a wild howl of disappointed ambition, Lord Edward threw himself after him. But the chain held.

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A lane of moderate length led from our house to the main road, and the next day, as we were riding home, I noticed, on the trunk of a large tree, which stood at the corner of the lane and road, a curious mark. I drew up to see what it was, but we could not make it out. It was a very rude device, cut deeply into the tree, and somewhat resembled a square, a circle, a triangle, and a cross, with some smaller marks beneath it. I felt sure that our tramp had cut it, and that it had some significance, which would be understood by the members of his fraternity.

And it must have had, for no tramps came near us all that summer. We were visited by a needy person now and then, but by no member of the regular army of tramps.

One afternoon, that fall, I walked home, and at the corner of the lane I saw a tramp looking up at the mark on the tree, which was still quite distinct.

"What does that mean?" I said, stepping up to him.

"How do I know?" said the man, "and what do you want to know fur?"

"Just out of curiosity," I said; "I have often noticed it. I think you can tell me what it means, and if you will do so, I'll give you a dollar."

"And keep mum about it?" said the man.

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Rudder Grange
Frank R. Stockton

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