Twice Told Tales HTML version
Mr. Higginbotham's Catastrophe
A young fellow, a tobacco-pedler by trade, was on his way from Morristown, where he
had dealt largely with the deacon of the Shaker settlement, to the village of Parker's Falls,
on Salmon River. He had a neat little cart painted green, with a box of cigars depicted on
each side-panel, and an Indian chief holding a pipe and a golden tobacco-stalk on the
rear. The pedler drove a smart little mare and was a young man of excellent character,
keen at a bargain, but none the worse liked by the Yankees, who, as I have heard them
say, would rather be shaved with a sharp razor than a dull one. Especially was he beloved
by the pretty girls along the Connecticut, whose favor he used to court by presents of the
best smoking-tobacco in his stock, knowing well that the country-lasses of New England
are generally great performers on pipes. Moreover, as will be seen in the course of my
story, the pedler was inquisitive and something of a tattler, always itching to hear the
news and anxious to tell it again.
After an early breakfast at Morristown the tobacco-pedler—whose name was Dominicus
Pike—had travelled seven miles through a solitary piece of woods without speaking a
word to anybody but himself and his little gray mare. It being nearly seven o'clock, he
was as eager to hold a morning gossip as a city shopkeeper to read the morning paper. An
opportunity seemed at hand when, after lighting a cigar with a sun-glass, he looked up
and perceived a man coming over the brow of the hill at the foot of which the pedler had
stopped his green cart. Dominicus watched him as he descended, and noticed that he
carried a bundle over his shoulder on the end of a stick and travelled with a weary yet
determined pace. He did not look as if he had started in the freshness of the morning, but
had footed it all night, and meant to do the same all day.
"Good-morning, mister," said Dominicus, when within speaking-distance. "You go a
pretty good jog. What's the latest news at Parker's Falls?"
The man pulled the broad brim of a gray hat over his eyes, and answered, rather sullenly,
that he did not come from Parker's Falls, which, as being the limit of his own day's
journey, the pedler had naturally mentioned in his inquiry.
"Well, then," rejoined Dominicus Pike, "let's have the latest news where you did come
from. I'm not particular about Parker's Falls. Any place will answer."
Being thus importuned, the traveller—who was as ill-looking a fellow as one would
desire to meet in a solitary piece of woods—appeared to hesitate a little, as if he was
either searching his memory for news or weighing the expediency of telling it. At last,
mounting on the step of the cart, he whispered in the ear of Dominicus, though he might
have shouted aloud and no other mortal would have heard him.
"I do remember one little trifle of news," said he. "Old Mr. Higginbotham of Kimballton
was murdered in his orchard at eight o'clock last night by an Irishman and a nigger. They