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  Rudder Grange Frank R. Stockton

Our Tavern

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The next day was clear again, and we rambled in the woods until the sun was nearly down, and so were late about supper. We were just taking our seats at the table when we heard a footstep on the front porch. Instantly the same thought came into each of our minds.

"I do believe," said Euphemia, "that's somebody who has mistaken this for a tavern. I wonder whether it's a soldier or a farmer or a sailor; but you had better go and see."

I went to see, prompted to move quickly by the new-comer pounding his cane on the bare floor of the hall. I found him standing just inside of the front door. He was a small man, with long hair and beard, and dressed in a suit of clothes of a remarkable color,-- something of the hue of faded snuff. He had a big stick, and carried a large flat valise in one hand.

He bowed to me very politely.

"Can I stop here to-night?" he asked, taking off his hat, as my wife put her head out of the kitchen-door.

"Why,--no, sir," I said. "This is not a tavern."

"Not a tavern!" he exclaimed. "I don't understand that. You have a sign out."

"That is true," I said; "but that is only for fun, so to speak. We are here temporarily, and we put up that sign just to please ourselves."

"That is pretty poor fun for me," said the man. "I am very tired, and more hungry than tired. Couldn't you let me have a little supper at any rate?"

Euphemia glanced at me. I nodded.

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"You are welcome to some supper," she said, "Come in! We eat in the kitchen because it is more convenient, and because it is so much more cheerful than the dining-room. There is a pump out there, and here is a towel, if you would like to wash your hands."

As the man went out the back door I complimented my wife. She was really an admirable hostess.

The individual in faded snuff-color was certainly hungry, and he seemed to enjoy his supper. During the meal he gave us some account of himself. He was an artist and had traveled, mostly on foot it would appear, over a great part of the country. He had in his valise some very pretty little colored sketches of scenes in Mexico and California, which he showed us after supper. Why he carried these pictures--which were done on stiff paper--about with him I do not know. He said he did not care to sell them, as he might use them for studies for larger pictures some day. His valise, which he opened wide on the table, seemed to be filled with papers, drawings, and matters of that kind. I suppose he preferred to wear his clothes, instead of carrying them about in his valise.

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Rudder Grange
Frank R. Stockton

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