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Rudder Grange Frank R. Stockton

Our Tavern

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"He's an awful ugly man, that he is," said Mrs. Carson, "an' he'd better 'a' stayed at Lowry's, fur he had to wait a good sight longer, after all, as it turned out. But he's dreadful mad at you, an' says he'll bring ye farmers, an' soldiers, and sailors, an' mechanics, if that's what ye want. I 'spect he'll do his best to git a load of them particular people an' drop 'em at yer door. I'd take down that sign, ef I was you. Not that me an' Danny minds, fur we're glad to git a stage to feed, an' ef you've any single man that wants lodgin' we've fixed up a room and kin keep him overnight."

Notwithstanding this warning, Euphemia and I decided not to take in our sign. We were not to be frightened by a stage-driver. The next day our own driver passed us on the road as he was going down.

"So ye're pertickler about the people ye take in, are ye?" said he, smiling. "That's all right, but ye made Bill awful mad."

It was quite late on a Monday afternoon that Bill stopped at our house again. He did not call out this time. He simply drew up, and a man with a big black valise clambered down from the top of the stage. Then Bill shouted to me as I walked down to the gate, looking rather angry I suppose:

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"I was agoin' to git ye a whole stage-load, to stay all night, but that one'll do ye, I reckon. Ha, ha!" And off he went, probably fearing that I would throw his passenger up on the top of the stage again.

The new-comer entered the gate. He was a dark man, with black hair and black whiskers and mustache, and black eyes. He wore clothes that had been black, but which were now toned down by a good deal of dust, and, as I have said, he carried a black valise.

"Why did you stop here?" said I, rather inhospitably. "Don't you know that we do not accommodate--"

"Yes, I know," he said, walking up on the piazza and setting down his valise, "that you only take soldiers, sailors, farmers, and mechanics at this house. I have been told all about it, and if I had not thoroughly understood the matter I should not have thought of such a thing as stopping here. If you will sit down for a few moments I will explain." Saying this, he took a seat on a bench by the door, but Euphemia and I continued to stand.

"I am," he continued, "a soldier, a sailor, a farmer, and a mechanic. Do not doubt my word; I will prove it to you in two minutes. When but seventeen years of age, circumstances compelled me to take charge of a farm in New Hampshire, and I kept up that farm until I was twenty-five. During this time I built several barns, wagon-houses, and edifices of the sort on my place, and, becoming expert in this branch of mechanical art, I was much sought after by the neighboring farmers, who employed me to do similar work for them. In time I found this new business so profitable that I gave up farming altogether. But certain unfortunate speculations threw me on my back, and finally, having gone from bad to worse, I found myself in Boston, where, in sheer desperation, I went on board a coasting vessel as landsman. I remained on this vessel for nearly a year, but it did not suit me. I was often sick, and did not like the work. I left the vessel at one of the Southern ports, and it was not long after she sailed that, finding myself utterly without means, I enlisted as a soldier. I remained in the army for some years, and was finally honorably discharged. So you see that what I said was true. I belong to each and all of these businesses and professions. And now that I have satisfied you on this point, let me show you a book for which I have the agency in this country." He stooped down, opened his valise, and took out a good-sized volume. "This book," said he, "is the 'Flora and Fauna of Carthage County;' it is written by one of the first scientific men of the country, and gives you a description, with an authentic wood-cut, of each of the plants and animals of the county--indigenous or naturalized. Owing to peculiar advantages enjoyed by our firm, we are enabled to put this book at the very low price of three dollars and seventy-five cents. It is sold by subscription only, and should be on the center-table in every parlor in this county. If you will glance over this book, sir, you will find it as interesting as a novel, and as useful as an encyclopaedia--"

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Rudder Grange
Frank R. Stockton

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