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Rudder Grange Frank R. Stockton

The Boarder's Visit

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Dinner was late; but our guests were later. We waited as long as the state of the provisions and our appetites would permit, and then we sat down to the table and began to eat slowly. But they did not come. We finished our meal, and they were still absent. We now became quite anxious, and I proposed to Euphemia that we should go and look for them.

We started out, and our steps naturally turned toward the river. An unpleasant thought began to crowd itself into my mind, and perhaps the same thing happened to Euphemia, for, without saying anything to each other, we both turned toward the path that led to the peninsula. We crossed the field, climbed the fence, and there, in front of the tent sat our old boarder splitting sticks with the camp-hatchet.

"Hurrah!" he cried, springing to his feet when he saw us. "How glad I am to see you back! When did you return? Isn't this splendid?"

"What?" I said, as we shook hands.

"Why this," he cried, pointing to the tent. "Don't you see? We're camping out."

"You are?" I exclaimed, looking around for his wife, while Euphemia stood motionless, actually unable to make a remark.

"Certainly we are. It's the rarest bit of luck. My wife and Adele will be here directly. They've gone to look for water-cresses. But I must tell you how I came to make this magnificent find. We started out for a walk this morning, and we happened to hit on this place, and here we saw this gorgeous tent with nobody near but a little tow-headed boy."

"Only a boy?" cried Euphemia.

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"Yes, a young shaver of about nine or ten. I asked him what he was doing here, and he told me that this tent belonged to a gentleman who had gone away, and that he was here to watch it until he came back. Then I asked him how long the owner would probably be away, and he said he supposed for a day or two. Then a splendid idea struck me. I offered the boy a dollar to let me take his place: I knew that any sensible man would rather have me in charge of his tent, than a young codger like that. The boy agreed as quick as lightning, and I paid him and sent him off. You see how little he was to be trusted! The owner of this tent will be under the greatest obligations to me. Just look at it!" he cried. "Beds, table, stove,--everything anybody could want. I've camped out lots of times, but never had such a tent as this. I intended coming up this afternoon after my valise, and to tell your girl where we are. But here is my wife and little Adele."

In the midst of the salutations and the mutual surprise, Euphemia cried:

"But you don't expect to camp out, now? You are coming back to our house?"

"You see," said the ex-boarder, "we should never have thought of doing anything so rude, had we supposed you would have returned so soon. But your girl gave us to understand that you would not be back for days, and so we felt free to go at any time; and I did not hesitate to make this arrangement. And now that I have really taken the responsibility of the tent and fixtures on myself, I don't think it would be right to go away and leave the place, especially as I don't know where to find that boy. The owner will be back in a day or two, and I would like to explain matters to him and give up the property in good order into his hands. And, to tell the truth, we both adore camping-out, and we may never have such a chance again. We can live here splendidly. I went out to forage this morning, and found an old fellow living near by who sold me a lot of provisions--even some coffee and sugar--and he's to bring us some milk. We're going to have supper in about an hour; won't you stay and take a camp-meal with us? It will be a novelty for you, at any rate."

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Rudder Grange
Frank R. Stockton

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