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The story of a small-town miller (perhaps based on Arthur's father) who gives up his trade to open a tavern, the novel's narrator is an infrequent visitor who over the course of several years traces the physical and moral decline of the proprietor, his family, and the town's citizenry due to alcohol.
Excerpt from Ten Nights in a Bar-Room: And What I Saw There
Ten years ago, business required me to pass a day in Cedarville. It was late in the afternoon when the stage set me down at the "Sickle and Sheaf," a new tavern, just opened by a new landlord, in a new house, built with the special end of providing "accommodations for man and beast." As I stepped from the dusty old vehicle in which I had been jolted along a rough road for some thirty miles, feeling tired and hungry, the good-natured face of Simon Slade, the landlord, beaming as it did with a hearty welcome, was really a pleasant sight to see, and the grasp of his hand was like that of a true friend.