“The yarn begins one morning when I went down to the shore after clams. I’d noticed the signs then. They was stuck up right acrost the path: ‘No trespassing on these premises,’ and ’All persons are forbidden crossing this property, under penalty of the law.’ But land! I’d used that short-cut ever sence I’d been in Bayport—which was more’n a year—and old man Davidson and me was good friends, so I cal’lated the signs was intended for boys, and hove ahead without paying much attention to ’em. ’Course I knew that the old man— and, what was more important, the old lady—had gone abroad and that the son was expected down, but that didn’t come to me at the time, neither.
“I was heading for home about eight, with two big dreeners full of clams, and had just climbed the bluff and swung over the fence into the path, when somebody remarks: ‘Here, you!’ I jumped and turned round, and there, beating across the field in my direction, was an exhibit which, it turned out later, was ticketed with the name of Alpheus Vandergraff Parker Davidson—’Allie’ for short.
“And Allie was a good deal of an exhibit, in his way. His togs were cut to fit his spars, and he carried ’em well—no wrinkles at the peak or sag along the boom. His figurehead was more’n average regular, and his hair was combed real nice—the part in the middle of it looked like it had been laid out with a plumb-line. Also, he had on white shoes and glory hallelujah stockings. Altogether, he was alone with the price of admission, and what some folks, I s’pose, would have called a handsome enough young feller. But I didn’t like his eyes; they looked kind of tired, as if they’d seen ’bout all there was to see of some kinds of life. Twenty-four year old eyes hadn’t ought to look that way.
“But I wasn’t interested in eyes jest then. All I could look at was teeth. There they was, a lovely set of ’em, in the mouth of the ugliest specimen of a bow-legged bulldog that ever tried to hang itself at the end of a chain. Allie was holding t’other end of the chain with both hands, and they were full, at that. The dog stood up on his hind legs and pawed the air with his front ones, and his tongue hung out and dripped. You could see he was yearning, just dying, to taste of a middle-aged longshoreman by the name of Obed Nickerson. I stared at the dog, and he stared at me. I don’t know which of us was the most interested.
“‘Here, you!’ says Allie again. ’What are you crossing this field for?’
“I heard him, but I was too busy counting teeth to pay much attention. ‘You ought to feed that dog,’ I says, absent-minded like. ‘He’s hungry.’
“‘Humph!’ says he. ’Well, maybe he’ll be fed in a minute. Did you see those signs?’
“‘Yes,’ says I; ’I saw ’em. They’re real neat and pretty.’
“‘Pretty!’ He fairly choked, he was so mad. ’Why, you cheeky, long-legged jay,’ he says, ’I’ll— What are you crossing this field for?’