Pieces People Ask For/A Tough Customer

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Let me tell you a tale that was once told to me;
And although it was told me in prose at the time,
I will give it a metrical dressing, and see
If the story will lose any reason by rhyme.

There came to the store in a village, one day,
A long and lank stranger in homespun arrayed;
And "Good-mornin'," said he in a diffident way,
"I've jes' come up to town for a bit of a trade."

The proprietor nodded, and cheerily spoke,—
"Well, what can I do for you, neighbor, and how?"
"Wal, one of wife's knittin'-needles ez broke,
An' she wants me to git one—how much be they, now?"

"They're two cents apiece."—"Wal, say, mister, look here:
I've got a fresh egg, an' my wife sez to me,
'Swap the egg for the needle;' it seems a bit queer.
But the thing's about even—it's a big un, yer see."

Said the storekeeper presently, "Well, I don't mind."
He laid down the needle, and put the egg by—
When the countryman blurted out, "Ain't yer inclined
To treat a new customer? Fact is, I'm dry."

Though staggered a little, it must be confessed,
By the "customer" coming it rather too free,
Yet, smilingly granting the modest request,
The dealer responded, "Well, what shall it be?"

"Wal, a drop of Madairy I reckon 'ul pass;
I've been used ter thet, see, ever since I was born."
The storekeeper handed a bottle and glass,
And his customer poured out a generous horn.

For a moment he eyed the gratuitous dram
With the air of a man who must something resign;
Then blandly remarked, "Do you know that I am
Very partial to mixing an egg in my wine?"

"Oh, well, let us finish this matter, I beg :
You're very particular, though, I must say,"
The storekeeper muttered, and handed an egg—
The identical one he had taken in pay.

On the rim of the tumbler the man broke the shell—
"It's cert'inly handsome, the way yer treat folk:"
He opened it deftly, and plumply it fell
With a splash, and no wonder — it held double yolk!

The customer saw, and a long breath he drew:
"Look, mister, that egg has two yolks, I declare!
Instead of one needle, I've paid yer for two,
So hand me another, an' then we'll be square!"

William L. Keese, in Our Continent.