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Page 367

GREAT AMERICAN AUTHORS
MR. HIGGINBOTHAM'S CATASTROPHE

had made a mistake of one day in the date of the occurrence; so that our friend did not hesitate to introduce the story at every tavern and country store along the road. He found himself the first bearer of the intelligence, and was so pestered with questions that he could not avoid filling up the outline, till it became quite a respectable narrative. He met with one piece of evidence. Mr. Higginbotham was a trader; and a former clerk of his, to whom Dominicus related the facts, testified that the old gentleman was accustomed to return home through the orchard, about nightfall, with the money and valuable papers of the store in his pocket. The clerk manifested but little grief at Mr. Higginbotham's catastrophe, hinting that he was a crusty old fellow. His property would descend to a pretty niece who was now keeping school in Kimballton.

II. THE PEDDLER RETELLS THE STORY
What with telling the news and driving bargains, Dominicus was so much delayed on the road that he chose to put up at a tavern about five miles short of Parker's Falls. After supper he seated himself in the lobby, and went through the story of the murder, which had grown so fast: that it took him half an hour to tell. There were as many as twenty people in the room, nineteen of whom received it all for gospel. But the twentieth was an elderly farmer, who had arrived on horseback a short time before and was now seated in a corner. When the story was concluded, he rose up, brought his chair right in front of Dominicus, and stared him full in the face.
" Will you make affidavit," demanded he, "that old Squire Higginbotham of Kimballton was murdered in his orchard the night before last, and found hanging on his great pear tree yesterday morning?"

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