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Miss Mehetabel’s Son
by [?]

Though the ten miles’ ride from K—— had been depressing, especially the last five miles, on account of the cold autumnal rain that had set in, I felt a pang of regret on hearing the rickety open wagon turn round in the road and roll off in the darkness. There were no lights visible anywhere, and only for the big, shapeless mass of something in front of me, which the driver had said was the hotel, I should have fancied that I had been set down by the roadside. I was wet to the skin and in no amiable humor; and not being able to find bell-pull or knocker, or even a door, I belabored the side of the house with my heavy walking-stick. In a minute or two I saw a light flickering somewhere aloft, then I heard the sound of a window opening, followed by an exclamation of disgust as a blast of wind extinguished the candle which had given me an instantaneous picture en silhouette of a man leaning out of a casement.

“I say, what do you want, down there?” inquired an unprepossessing voice.

“I want to come in; I want a supper, and a bed, and numberless things.”

“This is n’t no time of night to go rousing honest folks out of their sleep. Who are you, anyway?”

The question, superficially considered, was a very simple one, and I, of all people in the world, ought to have been able to answer it off-hand; but it staggered me. Strangely enough, there came drifting across my memory the lettering on the back of a metaphysical work which I had seen years before on a shelf in the Astor Library. Owing to an unpremeditatedly funny collocation of title and author, the lettering read as follows: “Who am I? Jones.” Evidently it had puzzled Jones to know who he was, or he would n’t have written a book about it, and come to so lame and impotent a conclusion. It certainly puzzled me at that instant to define my identity. “Thirty years ago,” I reflected, “I was nothing; fifty years hence I shall be nothing again, humanly speaking. In the mean time, who am I, sure-enough?” It had never before occurred to me what an indefinite article I was. I wish it had not occurred to me then. Standing there in the rain and darkness, I wrestled vainly with the problem, and was constrained to fall back upon a Yankee expedient.

“Isn’t this a hotel?” I asked finally,

“Well, it is a sort of hotel,” said the voice, doubtfully. My hesitation and prevarication had apparently not inspired my interlocutor with confidence in me.

“Then let me in. I have just driven over from K—— in this infernal rain. I am wet through and through.”

“But what do you want here, at the Corners? What’s your business? People don’t come here, leastways in the middle of the night.”

“It is n’t in the middle of the night,” I returned, incensed. “I come on business connected with the new road. I ‘m the superintendent of the works.”


“And if you don’t open the door at once, I’ll raise the whole neighborhood–and then go to the other hotel.”

When I said that, I supposed Greenton was a village with a population of at least three or four thousand and was wondering vaguely at the absence of lights and other signs of human habitation. Surely, I thought, all the people cannot be abed and asleep at half past ten o’clock: perhaps I am in the business section of the town, among the shops.

“You jest wait,” said the voice above.

This request was not devoid of a certain accent of menace, and I braced myself for a sortie on the part of the besieged, if he had any such hostile intent. Presently a door opened at the very place where I least expected a door, at the farther end of the building, in fact, and a man in his shirtsleeves, shielding a candle with his left hand, appeared on the threshold. I passed quickly into the house, with Mr. Tobias Sewell (for this was Mr. Sewell) at my heels, and found myself in a long, low-studded bar-room.