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Miss Mehetabel’s Son
by [?]

There were two chairs drawn up before the hearth, on which a huge hemlock backlog was still smouldering, and on the un-painted deal counter contiguous stood two cloudy glasses with bits of lemon-peel in the bottom, hinting at recent libations. Against the discolored wall over the bar hung a yellowed handbill, in a warped frame, announcing that “the Next Annual N. H. Agricultural Fair” would take place on the 10th of September, 1841. There was no other furniture or decoration in this dismal apartment, except the cobwebs which festooned the ceiling, hanging down here and there like stalactites.

Mr. Sewell set the candlestick on the mantel-shelf, and threw some pine-knots on the fire, which immediately broke into a blaze, and showed him to be a lank, narrow-chested man, past sixty, with sparse, steel-gray hair, and small, deep-set eyes, perfectly round, like a fish’s, and of no particular color. His chief personal characteristics seemed to be too much feet and not enough teeth. His sharply cut, but rather simple face, as he turned it towards me, wore a look of interrogation. I replied to his mute inquiry by taking out my pocket-book and handing him my business-card, which he held up to the candle and perused with great deliberation.

“You ‘re a civil engineer, are you?” he said, displaying his gums, which gave his countenance an expression of almost infantile innocence. He made no further audible remark, but mumbled between his thin lips something which an imaginative person might have construed into “If you ‘re at civil engineer, I ‘ll be blessed if I would n’t like to see an uncivil one!”

Mr. Sewell’s growl, however, was worse than his bite–owing to his lack of teeth probably–for he very good-naturedly set himself to work preparing supper for me. After a slice of cold ham, and a warm punch, to which my chilled condition gave a grateful flavor, I went to bed in a distant chamber in a most amiable mood, feeling satisfied that Jones was a donkey to bother himself about his identity.

When I awoke, the sun was several hours high. My bed faced a window, and by raising myself on one elbow I could look out on what I expected would be the main street. To my astonishment I beheld a lonely country road winding up a sterile hill and disappearing over the ridge. In a cornfield at the right of the road was a small private graveyard, enclosed by a crumbling stonewall with a red gate. The only thing suggestive of life was this little corner lot occupied by death. I got out of bed and went to the other window. There I had an uninterrupted view of twelve miles of open landscape, with Mount Agamenticus in the purple distance. Not a house or a spire in sight. “Well,” I exclaimed, “Greenton does n’t appear to be a very closely packed metropolis!” That rival hotel with which I had threatened Mr. Sewell overnight was not a deadly weapon, looking at it by daylight. “By Jove!” I reflected, “maybe I ‘m in the wrong place.” But there, tacked against a panel of the bedroom door, was a faded time-table dated Greenton, August 1, 1839.

I smiled all the time I was dressing, and went smiling down stairs, where I found Mr. Sewell, assisted by one of the fair sex in the first bloom of her eightieth year, serving breakfast for me on a small table–in the bar-room!

“I overslept myself this morning,” I remarked apologetically, “and I see that I am putting you to some trouble. In future, if you will have me called, I will take my meals at the usual table de hote.”

“At the what?” said Mr. Sewell.

“I mean with the other boarders.”

Mr. Sewell paused in the act of lifting a chop from the fire, and, resting the point of his fork against the woodwork of the mantelpiece, grinned from ear to ear.