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Goin' to Market
When I was only fourteen an' Ed twelve, father used to get us up at five of a cold winter's mornin', and start us off for the city with a load of potatoes for market. By gravy! it was cold. Me an' Ed would stand around and shiver and knock our heels together, while father and Sime Snider loaded the bags of potatoes into the big bob-sleigh; and after a bowl of supawn and milk and a few hot pancakes, away we would start, with a dollar and twenty cents for expenses, — fifty cents for baiting the horses in the city, fifty cents for our dinners, ten cents for toll, and ten cents for Joe Babcock, who kept a tavern half way in.
It was our custom to stop at Joe's both goin' in or comin' out, to spell the horses and warm our fingers and toes, for I tell you by the time we got to his place we would be two pretty cold boys. Father instructed us to hand Joe the ten cents, as he felt the tavern keeper should be paid a little somethin' for the use of his shed an' furnishin' a warm fire.
Both me an' Ed felt kind of sheepish about handin' Joe the ten cents, for we felt it wasn't just customary, and as we considered that father was such a religious man, and consequently ignorant of the genial customs of men of the world, we decided to follow our own judgment and do the thing up proper by havin' a five-cent drink apiece over the bar like men, and thus show a generous patronage of the house.
The mornin' I am goin' to tell you about we stopped at Joe's goin' in, but didn't have our drink, decidin' that we would probably enjoy it better in the afternoon. So we went into the city, sold our load of potatoes in the public market, had our dinner and fed the horses all right, and were just about to start for home when Ed thought of a stick of gum he'd promised to bring home to Jane. I didn't have an extra cent; neither had he. So all we could do was to spend five of the ten cents we had saved with which to patronize Joe Babcock. Ed bought the gum and we borrowed no trouble, such being our natures at that time.
It was a beautiful afternoon — clear as a bell, and so cold that the snow cracked as the steel runners of the bob-sleigh passed over it. We boys didn't particularly mind the cold just then, as we'd had a good dinner and were not yet many miles out. The horses jogged along, me drivin' — I always drove — and Ed sittin' wrapped in the buffalo robe to his ears, dreamin' of something or other, when bump! we struck on the bright iron rails of the Grand Trunk. We were upon the Teterville Crossing.
It had always been our custom when nearing this crossing to turn our heads either side and watch for approachin' trains, for this was a particularly dangerous spot, several people havin' been killed there.
Well, when we struck the rails, Ed waked up with a start, and lookin' to the right, saw the Chicago express about a quarter of a mile off bearin' down upon us with a roar. Without a moment's consideration for the distance, he sprang to his feet, and liftin' both hands, waved them wildly at the engine, shoutin' at the top of his voice
"I say! I say!"
I nearly fell from the seat laughin,' for you know, we weren't more than a couple of seconds on the track. Ed looked mighty sheepish, and Jane rolled on the floor when I described to her Ed's frantic attempt at stoppin' the Chicago express by "I say! I say!"
Well, we finally came within sight of Joe's, and me an' Ed had to take into serious consideration the crisis that awaited us. Two drinks would cost ten cents, and we only had five.
"I tell you what we'll do, Ed," I proposed; " I don't care particularly about the drink, do you?"
"No," he replied.
"Well, one of us has got to take a drink, and only one, for we've just got five cents. So, supposin' you step up and take it?"
"I don't want it, George," he said. "You take it."
"Well, then," I went on, "if you feel sure you don't want the drink, I s'pose I'll have to take it; but you know, it'll look kind of mean for me to step up to the bar alone, so, s'posin' when I step up, you'll be sittin' by the stove, and I'll say, 'Ed, won't you have somethin'?' cordial like, you know, and you'll say, careless like, No, thank you; I guess not to-day.' That'll blind Joe's eyes, you see."
"All right," Ed said. "That'll suit me."
So, when we came to Joe's, we put the horses under the shed, covered 'em warmly and went into the hotel to warm our own stiffened joints. After I'd got nice and comfortable, I gave Ed a wink and marched up to the bar, behind which Joe was standin'.
"Pretty cold day, Joe," I said. "Guess I'll have a drink to warm up," and then turnin' to Ed, who sat dutifully by the stove, his feet on the damper, I said:
"Will you have a drink, Ed?"
"Well, George, seein' as it's you, I don't care if I do," Ed drawled out, and saunterin' up to the bar, poured out a drink unconcerned as you please, without ever lookin' at me.
Joe saw I was rattled, and said he:
"George, what you goin' to have?"
So, while I felt mean enough to sink through the floor, I told him I only had five cents, and was just workin' a bluff on Ed. Joe laughed till the tears rolled down his fat cheeks, and then declared that the drinks was on him, and wouldn't take a cent.
"Your father'll limber up one of these days, boys," he said, " but a little change in the pocket won't look so big to you then."