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''What you hear, says the farmer, 'is a synopsis of to-day's news in the New York, Chicago, St. Louis and San Francisco papers. It is wired in to our Rural News Bureau and served hot to subscribers. On this table you see the principal dailies and weeklies of the country. Also a special service of advance sheets of the monthly magazines.

'I picks up one sheet and sees that it's headed: 'Special Advance Proofs. In July, 1909, the Century will say'—and so forth.

'The farmer rings up somebody—his manager, I reckon—and tells him to let that herd of 15 Jerseys go at $600 a head; and to sow the 900-acre field in wheat; and to have 200 extra cans ready at the station for the milk trolley car. Then he passes the Henry Clays and sets out a bottle of green chartreuse, and goes over and looks at the ticker tape.

''Consolidated Gas up two points, says he. 'Oh, very well.

''Ever monkey with copper? I asks.

''Stand back! says he, raising his hand, 'or I'll call the dog. I told you not to waste your time.

'After a while he says: 'Bunk, if you don't mind my telling you, your company begins to cloy slightly. I've got to write an article on the Chimera of Communism for a magazine, and attend a meeting of the Race Track Association this afternoon. Of course you understand by now that you can't get my proxy for your Remedy, whatever it may be.

'Well, sir, all I could think of to do was to go out and get in the buggy. The horse turned round and took me back to the hotel. I hitched him and went in to see Andy. In his room I told him about this farmer, word for word; and I sat picking at the table cover like one bereft of sagaciousness.

''I don't understand it, says I, humming a sad and foolish little song to cover my humiliation.

'Andy walks up and down the room for a long time, biting the left end of his mustache as he does when in the act of thinking.

''Jeff, says he, finally, 'I believe your story of this expurgated rustic; but I am not convinced. It looks incredulous to me that he could have inoculated himself against all the preordained systems of bucolic bunco. Now, you never regarded me as a man of special religious proclivities, did you, Jeff? says Andy.

''Well, says I, 'No. But, says I, not to wound his feelings, 'I have also observed many church members whose said proclivities were not so outwardly developed that they would show on a white handkerchief if you rubbed 'em with it.

''I have always been a deep student of nature from creation down, says Andy, 'and I believe in an ultimatum design of Providence. Farmers was made for a purpose; and that was to furnish a livelihood to men like me and you. Else why was we given brains? It is my belief that the manna that the Israelites lived on for forty years in the wilderness was only a figurative word for farmers; and they kept up the practice to this day. And now, says Andy, 'I am going to test my theory 'Once a farmer, always a come-on,' in spite of the veneering and the orifices that a spurious civilization has brought to him.

''You'll fail, same as I did, says I. 'This one's shook off the shackles of the sheep-fold. He's entrenched behind the advantages of electricity, education, literature and intelligence.

''I'll try, said Andy. 'There are certain Laws of Nature that Free Rural Delivery can't overcome.

'Andy fumbles around awhile in the closet and comes out dressed in a suit with brown and yellow checks as big as your hand. His vest is red with blue dots, and he wears a high silk hat. I noticed he'd soaked his sandy mustache in a kind of blue ink.

''Great Barnums? says I. 'You're a ringer for a circus thimblerig man.

''Right, says Andy. 'Is the buggy outside? Wait here till I come back. I won't be long.

'Two hours afterwards Andy steps into the room and lays a wad of money on the table.

''Eight hundred and sixty dollars, said he. 'Let me tell you. He was in. He looked me over and began to guy me. I didn't say a word, but got out the walnut shells and began to roll the little ball on the table. I whistled a tune or two, and then I started up the old formula.

''Step up lively, gentlemen, says I, 'and watch the little ball. It costs you nothing to look. There you see it, and there you don't. Guess where the little joker is. The quickness of the hand deceives the eye.

''I steals a look at the farmer man. I see the sweat coming out on his forehead. He goes over and closes the front door and watches me some more. Directly he says: 'I'll bet you twenty I can pick the shell the ball's under now.'

''After that, goes on Andy, 'there is nothing new to relate. He only had $860 cash in the house. When I left he followed me to the gate. There was tears in his eyes when he shook hands.

' 'Bunk,' says he, 'thank you for the only real pleasure I've had in years. It brings up happy old days when I was only a farmer and not an agriculturalist. God bless you.' '

Here Jeff Peters ceased, and I inferred that his story was done.

'Then you think' — I began.

'Yes,' said Jeff. 'Something like that. You let the farmers go ahead and amuse themselves with politics. Farming's a lonesome life; and they've been against the shell game before.'

Вы читаете Modern Rural Sports
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