“Is this Mr. Crow?” he asked, with considerable deference.
“It is, sir.”
“They tell me you take lodgers.”
“My name is Gregory, Andrew Gregory, and I am here to canvass the neighbourhood in the interest of the Human Life Insurance Company of Penobscot. If you need references, I can procure them from New York or Boston.”
The stranger was a tall, lean-faced man of forty or forty-five, well dressed, with a brusque yet pleasant manner of speech. His moustache and beard were black and quite heavy. Mr. Crow eyed him quietly for a moment.
“I don’t reckon I’ll ask fer references. Our rates are six dollars a week, board an’ room. Childern bother you?”
“Not at all. Have you any?”
“Some, more or less. They’re mostly grown.”
“I will take board and room for two weeks, at least,” said Mr. Gregory, who seemed to be a man of action.
For almost a week the insurance agent plied his vocation assiduously but fruitlessly. The farmers and the citizens of Tinkletown were slow to take up insurance. They would talk crops and politics with the obliging Mr. Gregory, but that was all. And yet, his suavity won for him many admirers. There were not a few who promised to give him their insurance if they concluded to “take any out.” Only one man in town was willing to be insured, and he was too old to be comforting. Mr. Calligan was reputed to be one hundred and three years of age; and he wanted the twenty-year endowment plan. Gregory popularised himself at the Crow home by paying for his room in advance. Moreover, he was an affable chap with a fund of good stories straight from Broadway. At the post-office and in Lamson’s store he was soon established as a mighty favourite. Even the women who came to make purchases in the evening,—a hitherto unknown custom,—lingered outside the circle on the porch, revelling in the second edition of the “Arabian Nights.”
“Our friend, the detective here,” he said, one night at the close of the first week, “tells me that we are to have a show in town next week. I haven’t seen any posters.”
“Mark Riley’s been goin’ to put up them bills sence day ’fore yesterday,” said Anderson Crow, with exasperation in his voice, “an he ain’t done it yet. The agent fer the troupe left ’em here an’ hired Mark, but he’s so thunderation slow that he won’t paste ’em up ’til after the show’s been an’ gone. I’ll give him a talkin’ to to-morrer.”
“What-fer show is it?” asked Jim Borum.
“Somethin’ like a circus on’y ’tain’t one,” said Anderson. “They don’t pertend to have animals.”
“Don’t carry a menagerie, I see,” remarked Gregory.
“’Pears that way,” said Anderson, slowly analysing the word.
“I understand it is a stage performance under a tent,” volunteered the postmaster.