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Best American Humorous Short Stories

The Buller-Podington Compact
BY FRANK RICHARD STOCKTON (1834-1902)
[From Scribner's Magazine, August, 1897. Republished in Afield and Afloat, by Frank
Richard Stockton; copyright, 1900, by Charles Scribner's Sons. Reprinted by permission
of the publishers.]
"I tell you, William," said Thomas Buller to his friend Mr. Podington, "I am truly sorry
about it, but I cannot arrange for it this year. Now, as to my invitation--that is very
different."
"Of course it is different," was the reply, "but I am obliged to say, as I said before, that I
really cannot accept it."
Remarks similar to these had been made by Thomas Buller and William Podington at
least once a year for some five years. They were old friends; they had been schoolboys
together and had been associated in business since they were young men. They had now
reached a vigorous middle age; they were each married, and each had a house in the
country in which he resided for a part of the year. They were warmly attached to each
other, and each was the best friend which the other had in this world. But during all these
years neither of them had visited the other in his country home.
The reason for this avoidance of each other at their respective rural residences may be
briefly stated. Mr. Buller's country house was situated by the sea, and he was very fond of
the water. He had a good cat-boat, which he sailed himself with much judgment and skill,
and it was his greatest pleasure to take his friends and visitors upon little excursions on
the bay. But Mr. Podington was desperately afraid of the water, and he was particularly
afraid of any craft sailed by an amateur. If his friend Buller would have employed a
professional mariner, of years and experience, to steer and manage his boat, Podington
might have been willing to take an occasional sail; but as Buller always insisted upon
sailing his own boat, and took it ill if any of his visitors doubted his ability to do so
properly, Podington did not wish to wound the self-love of his friend, and he did not wish
to be drowned. Consequently he could not bring himself to consent to go to Buller's
house by the sea.
To receive his good friend Buller at his own house in the beautiful upland region in
which he lived would have been a great joy to Mr. Podington; but Buller could not be
induced to visit him. Podington was very fond of horses and always drove himself, while
Buller was more afraid of horses than he was of elephants or lions. To one or more horses
driven by a coachman of years and experience he did not always object, but to a horse
driven by Podington, who had much experience and knowledge regarding mercantile
affairs, but was merely an amateur horseman, he most decidedly and strongly objected.
He did not wish to hurt his friend's feelings by refusing to go out to drive with him, but
 
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