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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Scene from “The County Fair”

By Charles Barnard (1838–1920)

[Born in Boston, Mass., 1838. Died, 1920. The County Fair. A picture of New England life. Written for Mr. Neil Burgees. First performed at the Walnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia, 8 October, 1888. From the manuscript, with the permission of Mr. Burgess, owner of the unpublished Play.]

Act II.—In Act I., Abigail Prue, a spinster of mature years (personated by Mr. Neil Burgess), has taken into her home “Taggs,” a city waif sent to her from a mission in New York. The child knew in the city a horse-jockey who had been in jail for horse-stealing, the young fellow being also brother to Sally, a girl who had been adopted by Miss Prue. The boy, released from jail, comes to the farm to find work, and meets Taggs. He fears to apply for work, as he has been in jail, when Taggs undertakes to recommend him to the good graces of her benefactress.

Having sent the boy, who goes by the name of “TIM THE TANNER,” to the barn, TAGGS calls MISS PRUE from the house. The SCENE is MISS PRUE’S front yard.

TAGGS.[Calling at the door of the house.]I say, Miss Abby! There’s a man here wants a job.

ABBY.[From within.]Send him to Joel.

TAGGS.It wouldn’t do any good, for the man has lost his recommend.

ABBY.[Entering from house, her hands covered with flour, as if busy in the kitchen.]Send him away. I can’t keep a man who has lost his character.

TAGGS.Oh! but, Miss Abby, he’s a friend of mine.

ABBY.Friend of yours? What kind of a man is he, Taggs?

TAGGS.Well, you know how good our minister is?

ABBY.Good! Why he’s one of the salt of the earth.

TAGGS.Well, our minister can’t touch him.

ABBY.Can’t touch him! Why, what’s the matter with him?

TAGGS.He’s so good.

ABBY.He must be a saint.

TAGGS.You don’t understand, Miss Abby. Why—he was the Right Bower of our Mission.

ABBY.[Mystified.]The Right Bower! The Right Bower! Seems to me I’ve heard of that before. Suppose that’s what you’d call it in New York City. Now we should call him a lay brother.

TAGGS.That’s it. He used to lay round the corners and preach to the gang. Why, Miss Abby, he used to give a Thanksgiving dinner to all the newsboys in New York.

ABBY.That’s a man after my own heart. I know I shall like him.[Doubtfully.]But, Taggs, isn’t it rather strange that a man who can make all that money on a farm in New York City should be looking for a job here? I’m afraid I could not afford—— How came he to come up here, anyway?

TAGGS.Well—you see—marm—the chaplin of the prison said——

ABBY.Prison. What prison?

TAGGS.Where he made tracks.

ABBY.Made tracks?

TAGGS.Where he gave tracks—to the prisoners. The chaplin said he ought to go into the country for his country’s good.

ABBY.Oh! I know I shall like him. What’s his name?

TAGGS.His name is Tim——

ABBY.[Vexed.]How often have I told you not to call nicknames?

TAGGS.His name is Timothy.

ABBY.Timothy what?[Calling to house.]Sally. Come here. There’s a gentleman here who wishes to see me, and I don’t want to see him alone.

TAGGS.He’s in the barn, Miss Abby. I’ll call him.[Runs up and calls off.]Come on, Tim. It’s all right.

ABBY.How you disgrace me, Taggs. People will think you haven’t any bringing-up whatever.[Aside.]How I wish I could get into the house and change my apron. It’s been turned twice already. I’m sure my back hair is coming down. What will the gentleman think?

[TIM, dressed in rags, enters, and stands behind ABBY, bowing to her.]
TAGGS.[Presenting TIM.]This is Miss Abby.

SALLY.[Correcting her.]Miss Abigail Prue, Taggs.

TAGGS.[To Abby, but with meaning to Tim.]This is Mister Timothy Tanner.

[TIM nods to her to show he has caught his new name.]
ABBY.I think, Taggs, you have said enough. Go into the kitchen and put that mince-meat on the back of the stove, and look at the rice-pudding in the oven.

[Exit TAGGS reluctantly.]
ABBY.[Presenting Tim to Sally.]This is Miss Sally, Mr. Tanner.

SALLY.Glad to know you, sir.

ABBY.[To Tim.]Taggs has told me all about you, sir.

TIM.Yes, yes.[Aside.]I wonder what the devil she told her.

ABBY.Seems as tho’ we was ’most acquainted already.

TIM.Yes, yes.

ABBY.It was so good in you to take your friend’s advice in prison.

TIM.[Alarmed.]In prison?

ABBY.Yes. He advised you to go into the country, didn’t he?

TIM.Oh, yes’m, yes’m.[Aside.]Darn that girl.

ABBY.[Aside.]How impulsive he is! Don’t look much like a saint. But, then, looks don’t count for much.[Direct.]It was so good in you to go to the prison in the first place.

TIM.[Completely confused.]Was it?

ABBY.You know it was. Only your modesty makes you say that. It must have torn your heart-strings to have left your good work there.

TIM.[Not knowing what she means.]Yes’m. It was rather hard to get away.

ABBY.[With enthusiasm.]How I wish I could have been there with you! Our minister may say what he likes, but there’s no chance to do any good in the woods. How large did you say your class was?

TIM.My class?

SALLY.Your class. Oh! How nice! I’ve got five boys in my class. How many have you in yours?

TIM.[Still mystified.]My class?

ABBY.Yes. Your class. Taggs was saying you had a Bible-class in Sunday-school.

TIM.Oh, yes, yes. My class. Well, you see, marm, it was larger at times than at others.

ABBY.[After a moment’s reflection.]Mr. Tanner, that’s been just my experience. I’ve always noticed that just before Christmas or a picnic our Sunday-school was larger than ever. I feel I shall be justified——

[Turns and, picking up dinner-horn, blows a blast upon it.]
TIM.[Crossing to right in alarm. Aside.]I’m darned if she ain’t calling the police!

[Enter JOEL, Abby’s farm manager, at back.]
ABBY.Oh, Joel! Here I am blowing my lungs out. I thought you were in the south medder.

JOEL.No, Miss Abby, I was in the kitchen garden.

ABBY.[Presenting Tim.]This is Mr. Tanner, Joel.

JOEL.Glad to know you, sir.

ABBY.Mr. Tanner has come up into the country for his health. Any little arrangement that you can make with him will be all right.

JOEL.[Surprised at Tim’s appearance.]We haven’t much, Miss Abby, that a sick man can do.

TIM.Oh! I’m not sick. All I want is a change of air, and I can do as good a day’s work as the next man.

ABBY.Joel, don’t you think you’d better hitch up and get Mr. Tanner’s trunk?

TIM.My trunk?

ABBY.Yes; your trunk. I didn’t know but you might need it.

TIM.I didn’t bring any trunk, Miss Abby.

ABBY.[Surprised.]Didn’t bring any trunk!

TIM.No, marm; but I’ll send for it.

ABBY.[Satisfied at this, moves towards house. Suddenly calls him in a mysterious manner.]Mr. Tanner, I’d like to see you one moment in private.[Tim draws near, but greatly alarmed.]From what Taggs said, I’m not quite able to judge of your past life, for Taggs didn’t tell me quite enough.

TIM.[Aside.]Wasn’t her fault if she didn’t.

ABBY.What I hope to find out is——[Hesitates.]In fact—I think it is absolutely necessary I should know. It’s a rather delicate matter to speak of, tho’. Would you—do you— Do you prefer a feather bed or a mattress?

TIM.[Greatly relieved.]Either, marm. I’m used to ’most anything.[Aside.]If she’d given me the barn, I should have thought I was cutting it fat.

ABBY.[To Joel and Tanner.]You’ve just time to look round the farm before dinner.[To Sally.]Sally, go upstairs and air the bedclothes in the north attic.[To Joel.]Now, Joel, don’t keep me waiting when I blow the horn, because it’s picked-fish dinner to-day.

[Exit to house.]