Best American Humorous Short Stories HTML version

Bargain Day At Tutt House
By George Randolph Chester (1869- )
[From McClure's Magazine, June, 1905; copyright, 1905, by the S.S. McClure Co.;
republished by the author's permission.]
Just as the stage rumbled over the rickety old bridge, creaking and groaning, the sun
came from behind the clouds that had frowned all the way, and the passengers cheered up
a bit. The two richly dressed matrons who had been so utterly and unnecessarily
oblivious to the presence of each other now suspended hostilities for the moment by
mutual and unspoken consent, and viewed with relief the little, golden-tinted valley and
the tree-clad road just beyond. The respective husbands of these two ladies exchanged a
mere glance, no more, of comfort. They, too, were relieved, though more by the
momentary truce than by anything else. They regretted very much to be compelled to
hate each other, for each had reckoned up his vis-à-vis as a rather proper sort of fellow,
probably a man of some achievement, used to good living and good company.
Extreme iciness was unavoidable between them, however. When one stranger has a
splendidly preserved blonde wife and the other a splendidly preserved brunette wife, both
of whom have won social prominence by years of hard fighting and aloofness, there
remains nothing for the two men but to follow the lead, especially when directly under
the eyes of the leaders.
The son of the blonde matron smiled cheerfully as the welcome light flooded the coach.
He was a nice-looking young man, of about twenty-two, one might judge, and he did his
smiling, though in a perfectly impersonal and correct sort of manner, at the pretty
daughter of the brunette matron. The pretty daughter also smiled, but her smile was
demurely directed at the trees outside, clad as they were in all the flaming glory of their
autumn tints, glistening with the recent rain and dripping with gems that sparkled and
flashed in the noonday sun as they fell.
It is marvelous how much one can see out of the corner of the eye, while seeming to view
mere scenery.
The driver looked down, as he drove safely off the bridge, and shook his head at the swirl
of water that rushed and eddied, dark and muddy, close up under the rotten planking; then
he cracked his whip, and the horses sturdily attacked the little hill.
Thick, overhanging trees on either side now dimmed the light again, and the two plump
matrons once more glared past the opposite shoulders, profoundly unaware of each other.