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|Rudder Grange||Frank R. Stockton|
|Page 2 of 9||
After sitting for about half an hour after supper, he rose, with an uncertain sort of smile, and said he supposed he must be moving on,--asking, at the same time, how far it was to the tavern over the ridge.
"Just wait one moment, if you please," said Euphemia. And she beckoned me out of the room.
"Don't you think," said she, "that we could keep him all night? There's no moon, and it would be a fearful dark walk, I know, to the other side of the mountain. There is a room upstairs that I can fix for him in ten minutes, and I know he's honest."
"How do you know it?" I asked.
"Well, because he wears such curious-colored clothes. No criminal would ever wear such clothes. He could never pass unnoticed anywhere; and being probably the only person in the world who dressed that way, he could always be detected."
"You are doubtless correct," I replied. "Let us keep him."
When we told the good man that he could stay all night, he was extremely obliged to us, and went to bed quite early. After we had fastened the house and had gone to our room, my wife said to me,
"Where is your pistol?"
I produced it.
"Well," said she, "I think you ought to have it where you can get at it."
"Why so?" I asked. "You generally want me to keep it out of sight and reach."
"Yes; but when there is a strange man in the house we ought to take extra precautions."
"But this man you say is honest," I replied. "If he committed a crime he could not escape,--his appearance is so peculiar."
"But that wouldn't do us any good, if we were both murdered," said Euphemia, pulling a chair up to my side of the bed, and laying the pistol carefully thereon, with the muzzle toward the bed.
We were not murdered, and we had a very pleasant breakfast with the artist, who told us more anecdotes of his life in Mexico and other places. When, after breakfast, he shut up his valise, preparatory to starting away, we felt really sorry. When he was ready to go, he asked for his bill.
"Oh! There is no bill," I exclaimed. "We have no idea of charging you anything. We don't really keep a hotel, as I told you."
"If I had known that," said he, looking very grave, "I would not have stayed. There is no reason why you should give me food and lodgings, and I would not, and did not, ask it. I am able to pay for such things, and I wish to do so."
We argued with him for some time, speaking of the habits of country people and so on, but he would not be convinced. He had asked for accommodation expecting to pay for it, and would not be content until he had done so.
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Frank R. Stockton
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