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Title: Anderson Crow, Detective
Author: McCutcheon, George Barr, 1866-1928
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Anderson Crow, Detective" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                               ANDERSON CROW

                                 DETECTIVE

                          BY GEORGE BARR McCUTCHEON

      Author of "Brewster's Millions," "Truxton King," "Sherry," etc.

                              _ILLUSTRATED BY_

                            _JOHN T. McCUTCHEON_


NEW YORK
DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY
1920

COPYRIGHT, 1918, 1919, 1920
BY DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY, INC.

VAIL-BALLOU COMPANY
BINGHAMTON AND NEW YORK



[Illustration: _Three seconds later the two youngsters had the ear of
Anderson Crow_]



CONTENTS


A NIGHT TO BE REMEMBERED

"YOU ARE INVITED TO BE PRESENT"

THE PERFECT END OF A DAY

THE BEST MAN WINS

VICIOUS LUCIUS

THE VEILED LADY AND THE SHADOW

THE ASTONISHING ACTS OF ANNA

NO QUESTIONS ANSWERED

SHADES OF THE GARDEN OF EDEN!

JAKE MILLER HANGS HIMSELF



ILLUSTRATIONS


Three seconds later the two youngsters had the ear of Anderson Crow

"Wha--what was that you said?" gasped her husband, flopping back in the
seat

Then, a hundred feet ahead, his lights fell upon the dauntless,
abandoned flivver

Words failed Mr. Crow

The Rev. Mr. Maltby, pastor of the Congregational Church, happened to be
passing the town hall

Several heartbroken gentlemen threatened to shoot themselves

"The celebrated Anderson Crow?" asked the man with the glasses

The Marshal started off in the direction of the "shanty"

"I--I surrender! I give in!" he yelled

Something terrible must have happened or Marshal Crow wouldn't be
summoned in any such imperative manner as this

In the centre of this group was the new candidate for town marshal

Harry Squires stepped to the front of the platform

When they appeared on the street together

He altered his course, and as she passed him, the flat of the spade
landed with impelling force

Eight or ten people were congregated in front of the Fry house

The veiled lady made her daily excursions in the big high-powered car

Yanking open the screen-door, he plunged headlong into the softly
lighted veranda

He was surrounded by conquerors

Over him stood two men with pistols levelled at the white, terrified
face

"Hold on, Mort!" called out Mr. Crow. "Don't monkey with that trunk"

His wife was now standing guard over it on the porch of the Grand View
Hotel

These smiling, complacent women formed the Death Watch that was to
witness the swift, inevitable finish of the Sunlight Bar

At the trial he was shamelessly complimentary about Mrs. Nixon's pie

"I am going to reveal to you the true facts in the case of our late
lamented friend, Jake Miller"



ANDERSON CROW, DETECTIVE



A NIGHT TO BE REMEMBERED


Two events of great importance took place in Tinkletown on the night of
May 6, 1918. The first, occurring at half-past ten o'clock, was of
sufficient consequence to rouse the entire population out of
bed--thereby creating a situation, almost unique, which allowed every
one in town to participate in all the thrills of the second. When the
history of Tinkletown is written,--and it is said to be well under way
at the hands of that estimable authoress, Miss Sue Becker, some fifty
years a resident of the town and the great-granddaughter of one of its
founders,--when this history is written, the night of May 6, 1918, will
assert itself with something of the same insistence that causes the
world to refresh its memory occasionally by looking into the
encyclopedia to determine the exact date of the Fall of the Bastile. The
fire-bell atop the town hall heralded the first event, and two small
boys gave notice of the second.

Smock's grain-elevator, on the outskirts of the town, was in flames, and
with a high wind blowing from the west, the Congregational and Baptist
churches, the high school, Pratt's photograph gallery and the two
motion-picture houses were threatened with destruction. As Anderson
Crow, now deputy marshal of the town, declared the instant he arrived at
the scene of the conflagration, nothing but the most heroic and
indefatigable efforts on the part of the volunteer fire-department could
save the town--only he put it in this way: "We'll have another Chicago
fire here, sure as you're born, unless it rains or the wind changes
mighty all-fired sudden; so we got to fight hard, boys."

Mr. Crow, also deputy superintendent of the fire-department, was late in
getting to the engine-house back of the town hall--so late that the
hand-engine and hose-reel, manned by volunteers who had waited as long
as advisable, were belabouring the fire with water some time before he
reached the engine-house. This irritated Mr. Crow considerably. He was
out of breath when he got to the elevator, or some one would have heard
from him. Another cause of annoyance was the fact that his rubber coat
and helmet went with the hose-reel and were by this time adorning the
person of an energetic fire-fighter who had no official right to them.
After a diligent search Mr. Crow located his regalia and commanded the
wearer, one Patrick Murphy, to hand 'em over at once. What Patrick
Murphy, a recent arrival at Tinkletown, said in response to this demand
was lost in the roar of the flames; so Anderson put his hand to his ear
and shouted:

"What say?"

Patrick repeated his remark with great vigour, and Mr. Crow, apparently
catching no more than the final word in the sentence, moved hastily
away, but not before agreeing with Mr. Murphy that it _was_ as hot as
the place he mentioned.

Ed Higgins, the feed-store man, was in charge of the fire-fighters, who
were industriously throwing a single stream of water from the
fire-cistern into the vast and towering conflagration. It was like
tossing a pint of water into the Atlantic Ocean.

"Got her under control?" roared Anderson, bristling up to Ed.

"Sure!" shouted Ed. "She's workin' beautiful. Just look at that stream.
You--"

"I mean the fire," bellowed Anderson.

"Oh, I thought you meant the engine. I don't think we'll get the fire
under contral till the derned warehouse is burned down. Gee whiz, Chief,
where you been? We waited as long as we could for you, and then--"

"Don't blame me," was Anderson's answer. "I'd ha' been the first man at
the engine-house if I hadn't waited nigh onto half an hour trying to get
the chief of the fire-department out of bed and dressed. I argued--"

"What's the matter with you? Ain't you chief of the fire-department? Are
you crazy or what?"

"Ain't you got any brains, Ed Higgins? My wife's been chief ever since
she was elected marshal last month, an' you know it. That's what we get
fer lettin' the women vote an' have a hand in the affairs of the nation.
She just wouldn't get up--so I had to come off without her. Where's my
trumpet? We got to get this fire under control, or the whole town will
go. Gosh, if it'd only rain! Looked a little like rain this evenin'--an'
this wind may be bringin' up a storm or--"

"Here's your trumpet, Mr. Crow," screeched a small boy, bursting through
the crowd.

Half of the inhabitants of Tinkletown stood outside of the rim of heat
and watched the fire, while the other half, in all stages of deshabille,
remained in their front yards training the garden hose on the roofs and
sides of their houses and yelling to every speeding passer-by to
telephone to the commissioner of water-works to turn on more pressure.
Among his other offices, Mr. Crow was commissioner of water-works,
having held over in that office because the board of selectmen forgot to
appoint any one else in his place after the last election. And while a
great many citizens carried the complaint of the garden-hose handlers to
the commissioner, it is doubtful if he heard them above the combined
sound of his own voice and the roar of the flames.

Possessed of his trumpet, the redoubtable Mr. Crow took his stand beside
the old hand-pumping "fire-engine" and gave orders right and left in a
valiant but thoroughly cracked voice.

"Now, we'll git her out," panted Alf Reesling, the town drunkard,
speaking to Father Maloney, the Catholic priest, who was taking a turn
with him at the pumping apparatus. "Ed.'s all right, but it takes
Anderson to handle a fire as she ought to be handled."

Father Maloney, perspiring copiously and breathing with great
difficulty, grunted without conviction.

"Leetle more elbow-grease there, men!" shouted Anderson, directing his
command to the futile pumpers. "We got to get water up to that
second-story winder. More steam, boys--more steam!"

"Aw, what's the use?" growled Bill Jackson, letting go of the pump to
wipe his dripping forehead. "We couldn't put her out with Niagary Falls
in flood-time."

"Bring your hose over here, men--lively, now!" called out the leader.
"Every second counts. Lively! Git out o' the way, Purt Throcker! Consarn
you fool boys! Can't you keep back where you belong? Right over here,
men! That's the ticket! Now, shoot her into that winder. Hey! One of you
boys bust in that winder glass with a rock. All of you! See if you c'n
hit her!"

A fusillade of stones left the hands of a score of small boys and
clattered against the walls of the doomed warehouse, some of them coming
as near as ten feet to the objective, two of them being so wide of the
mark that simultaneous ejaculations of surprise and pain issued from the
lips of Miss Spratt and Professor Smith, both of the high school.

The heat was intense, blistering. Reluctantly the crowd, awed and
fascinated by the greatest blaze it had ever seen,--not even excepting
the burning of Eliphalet Loop's straw-ricks in 1897,--edged farther and
farther away, pursued by the relentless heat-waves. The fire-fighters
withdrew in good order, obeying the instinct of self-preservation
somewhat in advance of the command of their superior, who, indeed, had
anticipated such a man[oe]uvre by taking a position from which he could
_lead_ the retreat. By the time the fire was at its height, "lighting
the way clear to heaven," according to Miss Sue Becker, who had to
borrow Marshal Crow's pencil and a piece of paper from Mort Fryback so
that she could jot down the beautiful thought before it perished in the
"turmoil of frightfulness!"

"More elbow-grease, men!" roared Anderson, "She'll get ahead of us if we
let up for a second! Pump! Pump!"

And pump they did, notwithstanding the fact that the stream of water
from the nozzle in the hands of Ed Higgins and Petey Cicotte was now
falling short of the building by some twenty or thirty feet.

"Serves old man Smock right!" declared Anderson in wrath, addressing the
town clerk and two selectmen who by virtue of office retained
advantageous positions in the front rank of spectators "If he'd done as
I told him an' paid fer havin' water-mains extended as fer out as his
warehouse, we could have saved it fer him. It looks to me now as if
she's bound to go. Where's Harry?"

Harry Squires, the reporter for The _Banner_, notebook in hand, came up
at that instant.

"Looks pretty serious, doesn't it, Chief?" he remarked.

"The fire-company deserves all the credit, Harry," said Anderson
magnanimously. "I want you to put it in the paper, just that way, as
comin' from me. If it hadn't been for the loyal, heroic efforts of the
finest fire-department Tinkletown has ever had, the--Hey! Pull that hose
back here, you derned fools! Do you want to get it scorched an' ruined
so's it won't be fit fer anything agin? Fetch that engine over here
across the road too! Do you hear me?" Turning again to the reporter, he
resumed: "Yes sir, if it hadn't been fer them boys, there wouldn't have
been a blessed thing saved, Harry."

Harry Squires squinted narrowly. "I can't say that anything _has_ been
saved, Chief. Just mention something, please."

Anderson looked at him in amazement. "Why, ain't you got any eyes?
Hain't they saved the engine and every foot of hose the town owns?"

"They could have saved that much by staying at home in bed," said Mr.
Squires dryly. "I've just seen Mr. Smock. He says there were fifty
thousand bushels of wheat in the bins, waiting for cars to take it down
to New York. Every bushel of it was going abroad for the Allies. Does
that put any sort of an idea into your nut, Anderson?"

"What?"

"Into your bean, I should say. Or, in other words, hair-pasture."

"He means head, Mr. Crow," explained Miss Sue Becker.

"Well, why don't he say head--that's what I'd like to know."

"Do you deduce anything from the fact that the grain was to go to the
Allies, Anderson?" inquired Harry.

The harassed marshal scratched his head, but said: "Absolutely!"

"Well, what do you deduce, Mr. Hawkshaw?"

"I deduce, you derned jay, that old man Smock won't be able to deliver
it. Move back, will you? You're right in my way, an'--"

"I suppose you know that the Germans are still fighting the Allies,
don't you? Fighting 'em here as well as over in France? Now does _that_
help you any?"

Mr. Crow's jaw fell--but only for a second. He tightened it up almost
immediately and with commendable dignity.

"My sakes alive, Harry Squires, you don't suppose I'm tellin' my real
suspicions to any newspaper reporter, do you? How do I know you ain't a
spy? Still, dog-gone you, if it will set your mind at rest, I'll say
this much: I have positive proof that Smock's warehouse was set on fire
by agents of the German gover'ment. That's one of the reasons I was a
little late in gettin' to the fire. Now, don't try to pump me any more,
'cause I can't tell you anything that would jeopardize the interests of
justice. Hey! Where in thunder are you fellers goin' with that hose an'
engine?"

The firemen were on a dead run.

"We're goin' a couple of hundred yards down the road, so's we won't be
killed when that front wall caves in," shouted Ed Higgins, without
pausing. "Better come along, Anderson. She's beginning to bulge
something awful."

Anderson Crow arose to the occasion.

"Lively now!" he barked through the trumpet. "Get that hose and engine
back to a safe place! Can't you see the wall's about ready to fall?
Everybody fall back! Women and children first! Women first, remember!"

Down the road fled the crowd, looking over its collective shoulders, so
to speak--followed by the venerable fire apparatus and the still more
venerable commander-in-chief.

Harry Squires, in his two-column account of the fire in the _Banner_,
dilated upon the fact that the women failed to retain the advantage so
gallantly extended by the men. For the matter of about ten or fifteen
yards they _were_ first; after which, being handicapped by petticoats,
they fell ingloriously behind. Some of the older ones--maliciously, he
feared--impeded the progress of their protectors by neglecting to get
out of the way in time, with the result that at least two men were
severely bruised by falling over them--the case of Uncle Dad Simms being
a particularly sad one. He collided head-on with the portly Mrs. Loop,
and failing to budge her, suffered the temporary loss of a full set of
teeth and nearly twenty minutes of consciousness. Mr. Squires went on to
say that the only thing that saved Mr. Simms from being run over and
killed by the fire-engine was the fact that the latter was about a block
and a half ahead of him when the accident occurred.

Sparks soared high and far on the smoke-laden wind, scurrying townward
across the barren quarry-lands. The vast canopy was red with the glow of
flying embers and fire-lit clouds. Below, in the dusty road, swarmed the
long procession of citizens. Grim, stark hemlocks gleamed in the weird,
uncanny light that turned the green of their foliage and the black of
their trunks into the colour of the rose on the side facing the fire,
but left them dark and forbidding on the other. The telegraph-poles
beyond the burning warehouse lining the railroad spur that ventured down
from the main line some miles away and terminated at Smock's, loomed up
like lofty gibbets in the ghastly light. Three quarters of a mile from
the scene of the conflagration lay the homes of the people who lived on
the rim of Tinkletown, and there also were the two churches and the
motion-picture houses.

"We got to save them picture-houses," panted Anderson, and then in hasty
apology,--"and the churches, too."

"You got to save my studio first," bawled Elmer K. Pratt, the
photographer, trying to keep pace with him in the congested line.

"Halt!" commanded the chief, not because tactics called for such an
action but because he was beginning to feel that he couldn't keep up
with the engine.

The cavalcade eased down to a walk and finally came to a halt. Every eye
was riveted on the burning structure which now stood out alone in all
its grandeur beyond the quarries and gravel-pits. Every one waited in
breathless suspense for the collapse of the towering walls.

A shrill, boyish voice broke out above the subdued, awe-struck chatter
of the crowd.

"Where's Mr. Crow? Mr. Crow! Where are you?"

"Sh!" hissed Alf Reesling, glowering upon the excited boy, who had just
come up at full speed from the direction of the town. "Don't you make so
much noise! The walls are going to cave in, an'--"

"Where's Mr. Crow?" panted the boy, a lad of twelve. His eyes appeared
starting from his head. A second boy joined him, and he was trembling so
violently that he could not speak at all. All he could do was to point
at the lank figure of the old town marshal, some distance back in the
crowd.

Three seconds later the two youngsters had the ear of Anderson Crow, and
between them they poured it full of news of the most extraordinary
character. The crowd, forgetting the imminent crash of the warehouse
wall, pressed eagerly forward.

"Wait a second--wait a second!" roared Anderson. "One at a time now.
Don't both of you talk at oncet. You, Bud--you tell it. You keep still,
Roswell Hatch. Take your time, Bud!"

"Lemme tell it, Mr. Crow," begged Roswell. "I knowed it first. It ain't
fair for Bud to--"

"But I got here first," protested Bud, and there might have been
something more sanguinary than mere words if Marshal Crow had not
interfered.

"None o' that, now! What's the matter, Bud?"

"Somethin' turrible has happened, Mr. Crow--somethin' awfully turrible,"
wheezed the boy.

"If you derned little scalawags have run all the way from town to tell
me that Smock's warehouse is on fire, you'd--"

"Oh, gee, that ain't nothin'!" gulped Bud. "Wait till you hear what I
know."

"I can't wait all night. I got to save Mr. Pratt's studio, an'--"

"Well, you know them two tramps you put in the lock-up yesterday
afternoon?" cried Bud.

"Desperit characters, both of 'em. I figgered they was up to some
devilment an--"

"Well, they ain't in any more; they're out. Ros an' me seen the whole
business. We wuz--"

"Geminy crickets! What's this? A jail-break? Out of the way, everybody!
Two desperit villains are loose in town, an--"

"Hold on, Mr. Crow," cried the other lad, seizing his opportunity.
"There's more'n two. Three or four more fellers from the outside come up
an' busted in the door an' _let_ 'em out. Then they all run down the
street to where the new bank is. Me an' Bud seen some of 'em climb into
one of the winders of the bank, an' nen we struck out to find you, Mr.
Crow. We thought maybe you'd like to know what--"

The rest of Roswell's narrative was lost in the hullabaloo of command
and action. The fickle populace turned its back on the burning warehouse
and swept down the lane in quest of new excitement. The tottering wall
came down with a crash, but its fall was unwitnessed except by those
infirm old ladies and gentlemen who had lagged so far behind in the
first rush for safety that they were still in ignorance of the latest
calamity. It was a pity, wrote Miss Sue Becker in her diary, that the
gods crowded so much into a single night when there were "three hundred
and sixty-four more perfectly good nights available."

The story of the two boys proved not only to be true, but also woefully
lacking in exaggeration. The jail-delivery and the looting of the First
National Bank of Tinkletown turned out to be but two in a long and
fairly complete list of disasters.

Investigation revealed an astonishing thoroughness and impartiality on
the part of the bandits. The safe in Brubaker's drugstore was missing,
with something like nineteen dollars in cash; Lamson's store had been
entered, and the cash-register rifled; Fryback's hardware-store,
Higgins' feed-store and Rush Applegate's tailor-shop were visited, and,
as Harry Squires said in the _Banner_, "contents noted." Two brand-new
"shoes" and a couple of inner tubes were missing from Gillespie's
Universal Garage, and Ed Higgins' dog was slain in cold blood by the
"remorseless ravagers."

       *       *       *       *       *

Nobody went to sleep that night. Everybody joined in the search for the
robbers. Citizens hurried home after the first alarm and did their part
by looking under every bed in their houses, after which the more
venturesome visited garrets, cellars and woodsheds.

Anderson Crow, after organizing a large posse and commandeering several
automobiles, suddenly remembered that he had left his silver watch and a
wallet containing eleven dollars under his pillow. He drove home as
rapidly as possible in John Blosser's 1903 Pope-Toledo and was
considerably aggravated to find his wife sound asleep. He awoke her with
some rudeness.

"Wake up, Eva! Consarn it, don't you know the town's full of highwaymen?
It'd be just like you to sleep here like a log and let 'em come in an'
nip my watch an' purse right out o' your own bed. I wouldn't 'a' been a
bit surprised to find 'em gone--an' you chloryformed and gagged. I--"

"Burglars, did you say?" cried his wife, sitting up in bed and staring
at him in alarm.

"Dozens of 'em," he declared, pocketing his watch and wallet. "Get up
and help me search the house. Where's my revolver?"

"Oh, Lordy, Anderson! Your--your revolver? You're not going to shoot it
off, are you?"

"I certainly am--if the derned thing's loaded. Where's it at?"

She sank back with a sigh of relief. "Thank heavens, I just remembered
that Milt Cupples borrowed it last winter to--"

"Borrowed my revolver?" roared Anderson. "Why--"

"To loan to a friend of his'n who was going down to New York on
business."

"An' he never brought it back?"

"He never did."

Anderson's opinion of Milt Cupples was smothered in a violent chorus of
automobile horns. Mrs. Crow promptly covered her head with the
bed-clothes and let out a muffled shriek.

"It's only the posse," he shouted, pulling the covers from her face.
"Don't be scairt, Evy. Where's your courage? Remember who you are.
Rememb--"

"I'm only a poor, weak woman--"

"I know that," he agreed, "but that ain't all. You are marshal o'
Tinkletown, an' if you're goin' to cover up your head every time a horn
toots, you'll--"

"Oh, go on away and leave me alone, Anderson," she cried. "I don't want
to be marshal. I never did. I resign now--do you hear me? I resign this
instant. I was a fool to let the women elect me--and the women were
worse fools for voting for me. That's what comes of letting women vote.
We had a good, well-trained marshal--because that's what you are,
Anderson. And--"

The door flew open. Alf Reesling burst into the room, followed by both
of Anderson Crow's daughters.

"Come on, Anderson!" shouted Alf, gasping with excitement. "Good even',
Mrs. Crow. Howdy do? Hurry up, Ander--"

"We tried to keep him out, Ma," broke in Caroline Crow, glaring at Alf.
"We told him you were in bed, but he--"

"Well, gosh a'mighty," cried Alf in exasperation, "we can't wait all
night. We got track o' them fellers, but if we got to set around out
here till mornin' just because your ma's in bed, I--I--well, that's all
I got to say." He turned to Anderson for support, and catching the look
in his eye, bawled: "No, I ain't been drinkin', Anderson Crow! I'm as
sober as a--"

"Get out of my bedroom this minute, Alf Reesling," cried Mrs. Crow.
"I'll tell your wife how you're behavin' if you--"

"Go ahead an' tell her," snorted Alf, goaded beyond endurance. "She
ain't had a good laugh since the time Anderson had his pocket picked up
at Boggs City, fair-week. Go ahead an'--"

"Come on, Alf--lively now," broke in Mr. Crow hastily. "We got to be on
the jump. Gosh, listen to them dogs! Never heard so much barkin' in all
my life."

Out of the house rushed the two men. Anderson immediately began issuing
orders.

"Ed Higgins, you take a squad o' men and go back to the fire. We got our
hands full tonight. Now, all you fellers as has got pistols an' shotguns
go home an' get 'em at oncet. Come back here as quick as you can
an'--what say, Harry?"

He turned to the reporter.

"I said the first thing to do is to shoot about thirty or forty of these
infernal dogs."

"We can't afford to waste ca'tridges, Harry Squires," said Anderson
severely. "We got to tackle a desperate gang 'fore we're through."

"Where is your daughter Caroline, Mr. Crow?" inquired the reporter
irrelevantly.

"She's in the house tryin' to quiet her ma. A drunk man bust into her
room a little while ago an'--"

"Well, tell her to get on the job at once. She's chief telephone
operator down at the exchange, and she ought to be there now sending out
warnings to every town within twenty miles of--"

"Carrie! Car-ree!" shouted Anderson, racing up the path. "How many times
have I got to tell you to 'tend to that telephonin'? Go down to the
office this minute an' call up Boggs City an'--"

"I'm not the _night_ operator," snapped Caroline, appearing in the
window. "What's the matter with Jane Swiggers and Lucy Cummings? They're
supposed to be on duty all night."

"Don't sass back! Do as I tell you. Telephone every town in the county
to be on the lookout fer an automobile with two tires and a couple of
inner tubes--"

"Two _new_ tires, Caroline," amended Harry Squires.

"And carrying a tin safe with George W. Brubaker's name on it in red
letters. Say that a complete description of the robbers will follow. Is
your ma still in bed?"

"Yes, she is."

"Well, you tell her I'll be home soon as I capture them desperadoes." He
was moving toward the front gate. Caroline's paraphrase pursued him and
left a sting:

"What is home without a father!"

Followed now a lengthy and at times acrimonious argument as to the
further operations of the marshal's posse.

"We're losing valuable time," protested Harry Squires at the end of a
half-hour's fertile discussion. _Fertile_ is here employed instead of
_futile_, for never was there a more extensive crop of ideas raised by
human agency.

"We can't do anything till we find out which way the derned rascals
went, can we?" said Mr. Crow bitingly. "We got to find somebody that
seen 'em start off in that automobile. We--"

"Stuff and nonsense!" cried Harry. "We've got to split up into parties
and follow every road out of Tinkletown."

"How in thunder do you expect me to lead five or six different posses?"
demanded Anderson.

"Yes, an' what in thunder would we do if we caught up with 'em
unexpected-like if we didn't have Anderson with us?" said Alf Reesling,
loyal to the core. "In the first place, we wouldn't have any legal right
to capture 'em, and in the second place we couldn't do it anyhow."

By this time there were a dozen shotguns on the scene, to say nothing of
a most impressive collection of antiquated revolvers, "Flobert" rifles,
Civil War muskets and baseball bats.

"I move we move," was the laconic but excellent speech of Mr. Henry
Plumb. He already had his forefinger on the trigger of his
"single-barrel."

"Second the motion," cried out Ed Higgins loudly.

"I thought I told you to go an' 'tend to that fire, Ed Higgins," said
Anderson, in some surprise.

An extremely noisy dog-fight put an end to the discussion for the time
being, and it was too late to renew it after Situate Jones' mongrel Pete
had finished with Otto Schultz's dachshund Bismarck. So vociferous was
the chorus put up by the other dogs that no one noticed the approach of
an automobile, coming down the Boggs City pike. The car passed at full
speed. Three dogs failed to get out of the way in time, and as a result,
the list of casualties was increased to four, including Ed Higgins'
previously mentioned black and tan.

The speeding car, a big one loaded with men, was a hundred yards away
and going like the wind before the startled group regained its senses.

"There they go!" yelled Harry Squires.

"Exceedin' the speed limit, dog-gone 'em!" roared Anderson. "They ought
to be locked up fer ten days an' fined--"

"Come on, men!" shouted Harry. "After 'em! That's the gang! They've been
headed off at Boggs City--or something like that."

"Did anybody ketch the number of that car?" shouted Anderson. "I c'n
trace 'em by their license number if--"

The rest of the speech was lost in the rush to enter the waiting
automobiles, and the shouting that ensued. Then followed a period of
frantic cranking, after which came the hasty backing and turning of
cars, the tooting of horns and the panic of gears.

Loaded to the "gunnels," the half-dozen machines finally got under way,
and off they went into the night, chortling with an excitement all their
own.

A lone figure remained standing in front of Anderson Crow's gate--a
tall, lank figure without coat or hat, one suspender supporting a pair
of blue trousers, the other hanging limp and useless. He wore a red
undershirt and carried in his left hand the trumpet of a fire-fighting
chieftain.

"Well, I'll be dog-goned!" issued from his lips as the last of the cars
rattled away. Then he started off bravely on foot in the wake of the
noisy cavalcade. "Now, all of 'em are breakin' the speed laws; an' it's
goin' to cost 'em somethin', consarn 'em, when I yank 'em up 'fore
Justice Robb tomorrow, sure as my name's Anderson Crow."

Presently he heard a car approaching from behind. It was very dark in
the outskirts of the town, and the lonely highway that reached down into
the valley was a thing of the imagination rather than of the vision.
Profiting by the catastrophes that attended the passing of the big
touring-car Anderson hastily leaped to the side of the road. A couple of
small headlights veered around a curve in the road and came down the
slight grade, followed naturally and somewhat haltingly by an automobile
whose timorous brakes were half set. There was a single occupant.

Anderson levelled his trumpet at the driver and shouted:

"Halt!"

"Oh-h!" came in a shrill, agitated voice from the car, but the machine
gave no sign of halting.

"Hey! Halt, I say!"

"I--I don't know how!" moaned the voice. "How do you stop it?"

"Good gracious sakes alive! Is--is it _you_, Eva?"

"Oh, Anderson! Thank goodness! I thought you was a highwayman. Oh,
dear--oh, dear! Ain't there any way to stop this thing?"

"Shut off the power, an' it'll stop when you start up the grade."

Anderson was trotting along behind, tugging at one of the mud-guards.

"How do you shut it off?"

"The same way you turned it on."

"Goodness, what a fool way to do things!"

The little car came to a stop on the rise of the grade, and Anderson
side-stepped just in time to avoid being bumped into as it started back
again, released.

"It's Deacon Rank's car," explained Mrs. Crow in response to a series of
bewildered, rapid-fire questions from her husband. "He offered to sell
it to me for fifty dollars, and I've been learnin' how to run it for two
whole days--out in Peters' Mill lane."

"How does it happen I never knowed anything about this, Eva?" demanded
he, regaining in some measure his tone of authority.

"I wanted to surprise you."

"Well, by gosh, you have!"

"Deacon Rank's been giving me lessons every afternoon. I know how to
start it and steer it, goin' slow-like--but of course I've got a lot to
learn."

"Well, you just turn that car around an' skedaddle for home, Eva Crow,"
was his command. "What business have you got runnin' around the country
like this in the dead o' night, all alone--"

"Ain't I the Marshal of Tinkletown?" she broke in crossly. "What right
have all you men to be going off without me in this--"

"The only official thing you've done, madam, since you got to be
marshal, was to resign while you was in bed not more'n an hour ago. I
accepted your resignation, so now you go home as quick as that blamed
old rattletrap will take you."

"Besides, I saw the ornery fools go off an' leave you behind, Anderson,
and that made me mad. I run over to Deacon Rank's and got the car. Now,
you hop right in, and I'll take you wherever you want to go. Get in, I
say. I hereby officially withdraw my resignation. I'm still marshal of
this town, and if you don't do as I tell you, I'll discharge you as
deputy."

So Anderson got up beside her and pulled desperately at his
chin-whiskers, no doubt to assist the words that were struggling to
escape from his compressed lips.

After considerable back-firing, the decrepit machine began to climb the
grade. Presently Mr. Crow found his voice.

"Didn't I tell you to turn around, Eva?"

"Don't talk to me when I'm driving," said she, gripping the wheel
tightly with the fingers of death.

"You turn the car around immediately, woman. I'm your husband, an' I
order you to do as I tell ye!"

"I'll turn it around when I get good and ready," said she in a strained
voice. "Can't you see there ain't room enough to turn around in this
road?"

"Well, it don't get any wider."

"Besides, I don't know how to turn it around," she confessed.

"Why, you just back her, same as anybody else does, an' then reverse
her, an'--"

"You old goose, how can I back her when she keeps on going for'ard?"

Anderson was silent for a moment.

"Well, if I may be so bold as to ask, madam, where are you going?" he
asked, with deep sarcasm in his voice.

"You leave it to me, Anderson Crow. I know what I am doing."

They went on for about a quarter of a mile before she spoke again.

"There's only one way to turn around, and I'm taking it. How far is it
to Fisher's lane?"

"You can't turn her around in Fisher's lane, Eva. It's all a good-sized
dog c'n do to turn around in that road."

"I asked you how far is it?"

"'Bout a mile an' a half."

"I ain't going to turn around in Fisher's lane, Anderson. I'm going to
foller it straight to the Britton toll-road, and then I'm going to turn
into that and head for Tinkletown. That's how I'm going to turn this
plagued car around."

"Well, of all the--why, geminently, Eva, it's--it's nigh onto nine mile.
You shorely can't be such a fool as to--"

"I'm going to turn this car around if it takes twenty miles," she said
firmly.

There was another long, intense silence.

"I wonder if the boys have got that fire out yet?" mumbled Anderson.
"Course, there ain't no use worryin' about them robbers. They got away.
If I'd been along with that posse, we'd 'a' had 'em sure by this time,
but--oh, well, there ain't no use cryin' over spilt milk."

In due time they came to Fisher's lane. Mrs. Crow made a very sharp but
triumphant turn, and the second leg of the course was before them. Half
an hour later the valiant machine sneaked out of the narrow byway into
the Britton pike and pointed its nose homeward.

"Let her out a little, Eva," said Anderson, taking a long breath. "It's
four mile to town, an'--"

"Oh, goodness!" squeaked the driver, giving the wheel a perilous twist.
"Look! There comes a car behind us. Help! They'll run into us!
They'll--"

"Pull off to the side of the road--no, this side! Gosh! Hurry up, Eva.
They're comin' like greased lightnin'! Look out! Not too fer over!
There's a ditch alongside--"

The remainder of the sentence was lost in the wild shriek of a siren,
shriek after shriek succeeding each other as a big car, with
far-reaching acetylene lamps, roared down upon them. Like a mighty
whirlwind it swept by them, careening perilously on the sloping edge of
the road. Suddenly the grinding of brakes assailed the ears of the
thanksgiving Crows, and to their astonishment the big machine came to a
standstill a hundred yards or more down the road. Mrs. Crow promptly
"put on" the accelerator, and but for a vehement warning from her
husband would have gone full tilt into the rear end of the mighty
stranger. She managed to stop the little car when its faithful nose was
not more than two yards from the little red light ahead.

"Hey, Ford!" called out a man who had arisen in the tonneau of the big
car and was looking back at them.

"Hey, yourself!" responded Anderson.

"Is this the road to Albany?"

"No, it ain't."

"We've lost our way. Where does this road take us?"

"Into the city of Tinkletown."

Three or four voices in the car were guilty of saying things in the
presence of a lady.

"Well, where in hell are we?" demanded the spokesman.

"You ain't in hell yet, but you will be pretty soon if you keep up that
reckless driving, lemme tell you that."

"Where do we get the Albany road?" called out another voice from the
car.

"The quickest way is to go into Tinkletown an' take the first turn to
the left after--"

"But we don't want to go to Tinkletown, you damned old hayseed. We--"

"Shut up, Joe!" cried one of the men. "He's excited, Mister. His wife's
sick, and we're trying to get him home before she--before she croaks."

"Oh, I'm so sorry," cried Mrs. Crow before Anderson could speak. She
also kicked him violently on the ankle-bone. "The quickest way to get to
the Albany road," she went on, "is by cuttin' through back of Cole's
sawmill an' crossin' the river at Goose's Ferry. That's about seven
miles from here. Take the first lane to your left, half a mile further
on."

"Much obliged, ma'am."

"You're entirely welcome," said she, this time poking her elbow into
Anderson's ribs. He grunted.

"Is the road pretty good all the way?"

"It's a good dirt road."

"We're in a great hurry, ma'am. Is it safe to hit it up a little on the
dirt-road? His wife specially wanted to see him before she died."

"Perfectly safe, as long as you keep _in_ it."

"Nightie!" called the spokesman, and the big car leaped forward as if
suddenly unchained.

"Well, of all the--" began Anderson wrathfully.

"Get out and crank this car, Anderson," she broke in excitedly.

"You know as well as I do that that dirt road ends at Heffner's farm. It
don't go nowheres near the river. What ails you, Eva Crow? That poor
feller's wife--"

"Crank, I tell you!"

He got out and cranked the car, grumbling all the while. As he got back
in the seat beside her, he exploded:

"An' what's more, there's that soldiers' camp at Green Ridge. They won't
be allowed to go through it without a pass. There must be a thousand men
there. They're marchin' to some'eres in America, the feller told me this
mornin' when he come in at Jackson's to get some smokin' terbaccer. Camp
at Green Ridge fer two days, he says, an' then--Hey! Don't drive so
blamed reckless, Eva! Can't you get her under control? Put on your
brakes, woman! She'll--"

"Hush up, Anderson. You let me alone."

The little old car was sailing along at a speed that caused every joint
to rattle with joy unconfined. To Anderson's amazement, and to a certain
extent consternation, Mrs. Crow swung into the dirt-road over which the
big car was now whizzing a mile or so ahead.

"Here! Where you going?" barked Anderson, arising from the seat.

"There's going to be hell to pay before you know it, Anderson Crow,"
said she, her voice high and squeaky.

"Wha-what was that you said?" gasped her husband, flopping back in the
seat. He couldn't believe his ears.

[Illustration: _"Wha--what was that you said?" gasped her husband,
flopping back in the seat_]

"I learned that from my predecessor in office," she replied somewhat
guiltily. "I've heard you say it a million times."

"But I ain't no woman. I--"

"Set still! Do you want to fall out and break your neck?"

And Anderson sat still, dazed and helpless in the direful presence of a
woman who, to his utter horror, had gone violently insane. He began
silently but urgently to pray that the gasoline would give out, when he
would find himself in a position to reason with her, gently or forcibly
as the situation demanded. He broke into a profuse and chilly
perspiration. His wife crazy! His wife of forty years! His old comrade!

He was aroused from these horrifying, sickening reflections by a hoarse
but imperative word coming from nowhere out of the darkness of the road
ahead.

"Halt!"

Mrs. Crow put on the brakes.

"Who goes there?"

"Friends!" faltered Mrs. Crow.

"The marshal of Tinkletown," added Anderson, vastly relieved by her
singularly intelligent answer.

"Advance and give the countersign!"

"All right. What is it?" inquired Mrs. Crow.

A couple of non-commissioned officers joined the sentry at this moment.
They were but half dressed.

"What the devil's the meaning of all this?" exclaimed one of them,
planting himself beside the car and flashing a light in Mrs. Crow's
face. "Don't you hayseeds know any better than to bust into a military
camp--"

His companion interrupted him. "Keep your shirt on, Bill. Didn't I hear
the man say he was the marshal of Tinkletown?"

"No, sir, you didn't! I said _we_ are the marshal of Tinkletown. I--"

"All right, all right. Do you happen to be chasin' a gang of
joy-riders?"

"We do--we are!" cried Mrs. Crow.

"They zipped through this camp like a rifle-shot about ten minutes ago.
They've raised a lovely row. Officer of the day bawlin' everybody out,
and--Here, hold on!"

"We've just got to catch them men," pleaded Mrs. Crow.

"One of 'em's got a sick wife," added Anderson, "an' we've got to tell
him he's on the wrong road."

"Well, you just sit right where you are," spoke the top sergeant.
"They'll be back this way in a few minutes. This road ends about a mile
above here, and they'll have to come back. The sentries say they went
through here so fast they couldn't see anything but wind."

"Are you going to stop them?" cried Mrs. Crow eagerly.

"We sure are," said the other non-com. "See that bunch of men forming
over there? Well, they've got real guns and real bullets, and they're
mad, Mrs. Marshal. You can't blame 'em."

Off at one side of the road a little distance away a company of soldiers
was lining up. The sharp command of an officer rang out.

"Thank goodness!" cried Mrs. Crow.

"Look here, Eva," said Anderson nervously. "I guess you'd better pull
off to one side of the road, just in case them soldiers don't stop 'em.
We're right smack in their way, an' gosh only knows where we'd land if
they smashed into us. It'd take a week to find us, we'd be so scattered
about."

"Don't be uneasy," said the top sergeant. "They'll stop, all right, all
right."

"Let me whisper something to you, Mr. Officer," said Mrs. Crow. "It's
very important."

He obligingly held up an ear, and she leaned down and spoke rapidly,
earnestly into it.

"You don't say so!" he cried out. "Excuse _me_!" And off he dashed,
calling out to his companion to follow.

A minute later the most extraordinary activity affected the group of
soldiers over the way. Commands were now issued in lowered tones, and
men marched rapidly away, dividing into squads.

"What did you say to that feller?" demanded Anderson.

"I told him who those men are, Anderson Crow."

"You couldn't. They're perfect strangers. If they wasn't, how'd they
happen to miss the road?"

"They are the very men I'm looking for," said she. "They're the
robbers,--and the men who set fire to Smock's warehouse, I'll bet
you--and everything else!"

"Jumpin' Jehoshaphat!"

An officer rushed up.

"Turn that flivver around in the middle of the road and jump out quick.
That will stop them. Let 'em smash it up if necessary. It isn't worth
more than ten dollars."

While a half-dozen men were dragging the car into position as a
barricade, Mrs. Crow exclaimed to her husband:

"That old skinflint! He said it was cheap at fifty dollars. Thank
goodness, I--"

But Anderson was hustling her out of the car. In the distance the
headlights of the bandits' car burst into view as it swung around a bend
in the road.

Soldiers everywhere! They seemed to have sprung out of the ground. On
came the big car, thundering into the trap. Bugle-calls sounded; a
couple of guns blazed into the air as the car flew past the outposts,
lights flared suddenly in the path of bewildered occupants, and loud
imperative commands rang out on the air.

Into the gantlet of guns the big car rushed. The man at the wheel bent
low and took the reckless chance of getting through.

Then, a hundred feet ahead, his lights fell upon the dauntless abandoned
flivver. He jerked frantically at the brakes.

[Illustration: _Then, a hundred feet ahead, his lights fell upon the
dauntless, abandoned flivver_]

"Halt!" shouted Anderson Crow from the top of the roadside bank.
"Surrender in the name of the Law!"

He spoke just in time.

Crash! They halted!

Deacon Rank's little car died a glorious, spectacular death. (Harry
Squires, in his account, placed it all alone in the list of
"unidentified dead.")

Three minutes after the collision, brawny soldiers were bending over the
stretched-out figures of five unconscious men.

Mr. and Mrs. Crow stood on the edge of the group, awe-struck and silent.

"They're coming around, all right," said some one at Anderson's elbow.
"He was slowing down when they struck. But there's no hope for the poor
old flivver."

Anderson found his voice--a quavering, uncertain voice--and exclaimed:

"Stand aside, men! I am the marshal of Tinkletown, an' them scoundrels
are my prisoners."

His progress was barred by a couple of soldiers. An officer approached.

"Easy, Mr. Marshal--easy, now. This is our affair, you know. I guess
you'd better come with me to the colonel. Don't be alarmed. They shan't
escape."

"They're mighty desperit characters--" began Anderson.

"Step this way, please," said the other shortly.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was four o'clock in the morning when Mr. and Mrs. Crow were deposited
at their front door by the colonel's automobile. The robbers, under
heavy guard, remained in the camp, pending action on the part of the
civic authorities. They were very much alive and kicking when Anderson
left them, after a pompous harangue on the futility of crime in that
neck of the woods.

"Yes, sir, Colonel," he said, turning to the camp commander, "a crook
ain't got any more chance than a snowball in--you know--when he tries to
pull the wool over my eyes. I've been ketchin' thieves and bandits an'
the Lord knows what-all for forty years er more, an' so forth. I want to
thank you, sir, an' your brave soldier boys--an' the United States
Government also--fer the assistance you have given me tonight. I doubt
very much whether I could 'a' took 'em single-handed--handicapped as I
was by havin' a woman along. An' when you git over to France with these
brave troops of yours, I c'n tell you one thing: the Kaiser'll know it,
you bet! Never mind about the old car. It's seen its best days. An' it
ain't mine, anyhow. I'll be out here bright and early tomorrow morning
with my posse, an' we'll take them fellers off'm your hands. If you'll
excuse me now, I guess I'll be movin' along to'ards home. I've still got
a fire to put out, an' a lot of other things to do besides. I've got to
let the bank know I have recovered their money an' left it in good
hands, an' I've got to send a posse out to see if they c'n locate George
Brubaker's safe along the road anywheres. An' what's more, I've got to
repair the jail, and officially notify Deacon Rank he's had an accident
to his car."

Mrs. Crow had little to say until she was snugly in bed. Her husband was
getting into his official garments.

"I think you're foolish to go out again, Anderson," she said. "It's not
daylight yet. There won't be anybody around, this time of day, to listen
to how you captured those robbers,--and--"

"Don't you believe it," said he. "I bet you fifty cents you are the only
person in Tinkletown that's in bed at this minute. They're all _afraid_
to go to bed, Eva, an' you can't blame 'em. Nobody knows I've got them
desperadoes bound hand and foot and guarded by a whole regiment of U. S.
troops, specially deputized for the occasion."



"YOU ARE INVITED TO BE PRESENT"


Anderson Crow sat on the porch of the post-office, ruminating over the
epidemic that had assailed Tinkletown with singular virulence, and, in a
sense, enthusiasm. Not that there was anything sinister or loathsome
about the plague. Far from it, he reflected, because it had broken out
so soon after his bitter comments on the prolonged absence of the
slightest symptom, or indication that a case was even remotely probable.
And here he was, holding in his hand four fresh and unmistakable signs
that the contagion was spreading. In short, he had just received and
opened four envelopes addressed to Mr. and Mrs. A. Crow, and each
contained an invitation to a wedding.

Alf Reesling, commonly known as the town drunkard, sat on the top step,
whittling.

"No law against gittin' married, is there, constable?" he inquired.

"I don't know much about this new eugenric law," mused Mr. Crow,
gingerly pulling at his whiskers. "So fer as I know, it ain't been
violated up here."

"What's the harm, anyway? You was sayin' yourself only the other day
that it's a crime the way the young fellers in this town _never_ git
married. Just set around the parlour stoves all winter holdin' hands,
and on the front steps all summer----"

"Like as not the gosh-derned cowards heard what I said and got up spunk
enough to tackle matrimony," interrupted the venerable town marshal.
"June seems to be a good month fer weddin's everywhere else in the world
except right here in Tinkletown. The last one we had was in December,
and that was two years ago. Annie Bliss and Joe Hodges. Now we're goin'
to have 'em so thick and fast there won't be an unmarried man in the
place, first thing you know. Up to date, me and Mrs. Crow have had
seventeen printed invitations, and I don't know how many by word o'
mouth. Fellers that never even done any courtin', so fer as I know, are
gittin' married to girls that ain't had a beau since the Methodist
revival in nineteen-ten. They all got religion then, male and female,
and there's nothin' like religion to make people think they ought to
have somebody to share their repentance with."

"George Hoover's been goin' with Bessie Slayback ever sence McKinley
beat Bryan in 'ninety-six. Swore he'd never git married till we had
another democratic president. We've had one fer more'n four years and
now he says he never dreamed there'd be another one, so he didn't think
it was worth while to save up enough to git married on. You don't happen
to have a bid there fer his weddin', have you, Anderson? That would be
too much to expect, I guess."

"How old do you make out Bessie is, Alf?" asked Mr. Crow, shuffling the
envelopes until he found the one he wanted. He removed the card, printed
neatly by the _Tinkletown Banner_ Press, and squinted at it through his
spectacles.

"Forty-nine," said Alf, promptly. "Twenty-sixth of last January."

"Well, poor old George'll have to do his settin' in Sofer's store after
the third o' June," said the other, chuckling. "She has threw him over,
as my daughter would say."

"What's that?"

"Yep. Bessie's goin' to be married next Sunday to Charlie Smith."

"Fer the Lord's sake!" gasped Alf. "How c'n that be? Charlie's got a
wife an' three grown children."

"'Tain't old Charlie. It's young Charlie," said Anderson, looking hard
at the invitation. "'Charles Elias Smith, Junior,' it says."

Alf was speechless. He merely stared while the town marshal made mental
calculations.

"She's twenty-six years older'n he is, Alf."

"There must be some mistake," muttered Alf.

"Not if you're sure she's forty-nine," said Anderson. "Subtract
twenty-three from forty-nine and you have twenty-six, with nothin' to
carry. Besides, old Charlie's middle name is Bill."

"Well, I'll be dog-goned," said Alf, in a weak voice.

"And here's another'n'," said Anderson, passing a card to his companion.

Alf read: "'The son and daughter of Mrs. Ellen Euphemia Ricketts request
the pleasure of your company at the marriage of their mother to Mr.
Pietro Emanuel Cocotte, on June 1, 1917, at twelve o'clock noon at the
family residence, No. 17 Lincoln Street, Tinkletown, New York.' Well,
I'll be--" Alf interrupted himself to repeat one of the names. "Who is
this Pietro Emanuel Cocotte? I never heard of--"

"Petey Sickety," said Anderson.

"The sprinklin'-cart driver?"

"The same," said the marshal, his lips tightening. He had once tried to
arrest the young man for "disturbing the peace," and had been obliged to
call upon the crowd for help.

"Why, good gosh, he don't earn more'n ten dollars a week and he sends
half of that back to Sweden," said Alf.

"Europe," corrected Anderson, patiently. He had put up with a good deal
of ignorance on the part of Alf during a long and watchful
acquaintanceship.

"Anyhow," said the town drunkard, arising in some haste, "I guess I'll
be gittin' home. Maybe I ain't too late." He was moving off with
considerable celerity.

"Too late for what?" called out Anderson.

"That measley, good-fer-nothin' Gates boy dropped in to see my girl
Queenie last night. First time he's ever done it, but, by criminy, the
way they're speedin' things up around here lately there's no tellin'
what c'n happen in twenty-four hours."

"Hold on a minute, Alf. I'll walk along with you. Now, see here,
Alf,"--Mr. Crow laid a kindly, encouraging hand on the other's shoulder
as they ambled down the main street of the village--"no matter what
happens, you mustn't let it git the best of you. Keep straight, old
feller. Don't touch a drop o'--"

Mr. Reesling stopped short in the middle of the sidewalk. "Dog-gone it,
Anderson--leggo of my arm. Do you want everybody to think you're takin'
me to jail, or home to my poor wife, or somethin' like that? It'll be
all over town in fifteen minutes if you--"

"'Tain't my fault if you've got a reputation, Alf," retorted the town
marshal sorrowfully.

"Well, it ain't my fault either," declared Alf. "Look at me. I ain't had
a drink in twenty-three years, and what good does it do me? Every time a
stranger comes to town people point at me an' say, 'There goes the town
drunkard.' Oh, I've heerd 'em. I ain't deef. An' besides, ain't they
always preachin' at me an' about me at the Methodist an' Congregational
churches? Ain't they always tellin' the young boys that they got to be
careful er they'll be like Alf Reesling? An' what's it all come from?
Comes from the three times I got drunk back in the fall of
'ninety-three when my cousin was here from Albany fer a visit. I _had_
to entertain him, didn't I? An' there wasn't any other way to do it in
this jerk-water town, was there? An' ever since then the windbags in
this town have been prayin' fer me an' pityin' my poor wife. That's what
a feller gits fer livin' in a--"

"Now, now!" admonished Anderson soothingly. "Don't git excited, Alf. You
deserve a lot o' credit. Ain't many men, I tell you, could break off
sudden like that, an'--"

"Oh, you go to grass!" exclaimed Alf hotly.

Anderson inspected him closely. "Lemme smell your breath, Alf Reesling,"
he commanded.

"What's the use?" growled Alf. "Wouldn't last fer twenty-three years,
would it?"

"Well, you talk mighty queer," said the marshal, unconvinced. He
couldn't imagine such a thing as a strictly sober man telling him to go
to grass. He was the most important man in Tinkletown.

Further discussion was prevented by the approach of Mr. Crow's daughter,
Susie, accompanied by a tall, pink-faced young man in a resplendent
checked suit and a dazzling red necktie. They came from Brubaker's
popular drugstore and ice-cream "parlour," two doors below.

"Hello, Pop," said Susie gaily, as the couple sauntered past their
half-halting seniors.

"H'are you, Mr. Crow?" was the young man's greeting, uttered with the
convulsive earnestness of sudden embarrassment. "Fine day, ain't it?"

Mr. Crow said that it was, and then both he and Alf stopped short in
their tracks and gazed intently at the backs of the young people. Even
as they stared, a fiery redness enveloped the ears of Susie's companion.
A few steps farther on he turned his head and looked back. Something
that may be described as sheepish defiance marked that swift,
involuntary glance.

Mr. Reesling broke the silence. There was a worried, sympathetic note in
his voice.

"Got on his Sunday clothes, Anderson, and this is only Wednesday. Beats
the Dutch, don't it?"

"I wonder--" began Mr. Crow, and then closed his lips so tightly and so
abruptly that his sparse chin whiskers stuck out almost horizontally.

He started off briskly in the wake of the young people. Alf, forgetting
his own apprehensions in the face of this visible manifestation,
shuffled along a few paces behind.

Miss Crow and her companion turned the corner below and were lost to
view.

"By gosh," said Alf, suddenly increasing his speed until he came abreast
of the other; "you better hurry, Anderson. Justice Robb's in his office.
I seen his feet in the winder a little while ago."

"They surely can't be thinkin' of--" Mr. Crow did not complete the
sentence.

"Why not?" demanded Alf. "Everybody else is. And it would be just like
that Schultz boy to do it without an invitation. Ever since this war's
been goin' on them Schultzes have been blowin' about always bein'
prepared fer anything. German efficiency's what they're always throwin'
up to people. I bet he's been over to the county seat an' got a license
to--"

Anderson interrupted him with a snort. He put his hand on his right hip
pocket, where something bulged ominously, and quickened his pace.

"I been watchin' these Schultzes fer nearly a year," said he, "an' the
whole caboodle of 'em are spies."

They turned the corner. Susie and her companion were on the point of
disappearing in a doorway fifty yards down Sickle Street.

Anderson slowed up. He removed his broad felt hat with the gold cord
around it, and mopped his forehead.

"That's the tin-type gallery," he said, a little out of breath.

"Worse an' more of it," said Alf. "That's the surest sign I know of. It
never fails. Mollie an' me had our'n taken the day before we was married
an'--an'--why, it's almost the same as a certificat', Anderson."

"Now, you move on, Alf," commanded the marshal. "How many times I got to
tell you not to loiter aroun' the streets? Move on, I say."

"Aw, now, Anderson--"

"I'll have to run you in, Alf. The ord'nance is very p'ticular, an' that
notice stuck up on the telephone pole over there means you more'n
anybody else. No loiterin'."

"If you need any evidence ag'in that Schultz boy, just call on me," said
Alf generously. "I seen him commit an atrocity last week."

"What was it?"

"He give that little Griggs girl a lift in his butcher wagon," said Alf
darkly.

Anderson scowled. "The sooner we run these cussed Germans out o' town
the better off we'll be."

Alf ambled off, casting many glances over his shoulder, and the marshal
crossed the street and entered Hawkins's Undertaking and Embalming
establishment, from a window of which he had a fair view of the
"studio."

Presently Susie and young Schultz emerged, giggling and snickering over
the pink objects they held in their hands. They sauntered slowly,
shoulder to shoulder, in the direction of Main Street.

Mr. Hawkins was in the middle of one of his funniest stories when
Anderson got up and walked out hurriedly. The undertaker had a
reputation as a wit. He was the life of the community. He radiated
optimism, even when most depressingly employed. And here he was telling
Anderson Crow a brand-new story he had heard at a funeral over in
Kirkville, when up jumps his listener and "lights out" without so much
as a word. Mr. Hawkins went to the door and looked out, expecting to see
a fight or a runaway horse or a German airplane. All he saw was the
marshal not two doors away, peering intently into a show-window, while
from across the street two young people regarded him with visible
amusement. For a long time thereafter the undertaker sat in his office
and stared moodily at the row of caskets lining the opposite wall. Could
it be possible that he was losing his grip?

Miss Crow and Mr. Otto Schultz resumed their stroll after a few moments,
and the marshal, following their movements in the reflecting
show-window, waited until they were safely around the corner. Then he
retraced his steps quickly, passed the undertaker's place, and turned
into the alley beyond. Three minutes later, he entered Main Street a
block above Sickle Street, and was leaning carelessly against the Indian
tobacco sign in front of Jackson's cigar store, when his daughter and
her companion bore down upon his left flank.

Mr. Alf Reesling was a few paces behind them.

As they came within earshot, young Schultz was saying in a suspiciously
earnest manner:

"You better come in and have anodder sody, Susie."

Just then their gaze fell upon Mr. Crow.

"Goodness!" exclaimed Susie, startled.

"By cheminy!" fell from Otto's wide-open mouth. He blinked a couple of
times. "Is--is that you?" he inquired, incredulously.

"You mean _me_?" asked Anderson, with considerable asperity.

"Sure," said Otto, halting.

"Can't you see it's me?" demanded Mr. Crow.

"But you ain'd here," said the perplexed young man, getting pinker all
the time. "You're aroundt in Sickle Street."

"Alf!" called out Anderson. "Look here a minute. Is this me?" He spoke
with biting sarcasm.

Mr. Reesling regarded him with some anxiety.

"You better go home, Anderson," he said. "This sun is a derned sight
hotter'n you think."

"Didn't we see you a minute ago around in Sickle Street, Pop?" inquired
Susie. "Looking in that hair-dresser's window?"

"Maybe you did and maybe you didn't," replied Mr. Crow, shrewdly. Then,
with thinly veiled significance: "I'm purty busy lookin' into a good
many things nowadays." He favoured Otto with a penetrating glance. "Ever
sence the U. S. A. declared war on Germany, Mr. Otto Schultz."

"How aboudt that sody, Miss Susie?" said Otto, in a pained sort of
voice.

"You'd better be saving your money, Otto," she advised, with such
firmness that her father looked at her sharply.

"Oh, spiffles!" said Otto, getting still redder.

Mr. Crow was all ears. Alf Reesling burned his fingers on a match he
held too long in the hot, still air some six or eight inches from the
bowl of his pipe.

"Well, getting married is no joke," said Susie, shaking her pretty head
solemnly.

Otto took a deep breath. "You bet you it ain'd," he said, with feeling.
That seemed to give him courage. He took off his straw hat, and, as he
ran his finger around the moist "sweat-band," he blurted out: "I don't
mind if you tell your fadder, Susie. Go and tell him."

"Tell him yourself," said Susie.

"As I was saying a few minutes ago," said Otto ingenuously, "the only
obchection I had to your tellin' your fadder was that I didn't want
everybody in town to know it before I could get home and tell my mother
yet."

"Don't go away, Alf," said Mr. Crow, darkly. "I'll need you as a
witness. I hereby subpoena you as a witness to what's goin' to happen in
less'n no time. Now, Mr. Otto Schultz, spit it out."

Otto disgorged these cyclonic words:

"I'm going to get married, Mr. Crow, that's all."

Mr. Crow was equally explicit and quite as brief.

"Only over my dead body," he shouted, and then turned upon Susie. "You
go home, Susan Crow! Skedaddle! Get a move on, I say. I'll nip this
blamed German plot right in the beginning. Do you hear me, Susan--"

Susan stared at him. "Hear you?" she cried. "They can hear you up in
the graveyard. What on earth's got into you, Pop? What--"

"You'll see what's got into me, purty derned quick," said Anderson, and
pointed his long, trembling forefinger at the amazed Mr. Schultz, who
had dropped his hat and was stooping over to retrieve it without taking
his eyes from the menacing face of the speaker.

It had rolled in the direction of Mr. Alf Reesling. That gentleman
obligingly stopped it with his foot. After removing his foot, he
undertook to return the hat without stooping at all, the result being
that it sped past Otto and landed in the middle of the street some
twenty feet away.

"So you think you c'n git married without my consent, do you?" demanded
Anderson, witheringly. "You think you c'n sneak around behind my back
an'--"

"I ain'd sneakin' aroundt behind anybody's back," broke in Otto,
straightening up. "I don't know what you are talking aboud, Mr.
Crow,--and needer do you," he added gratuitously. "What for do I haf to
get your consent to get married for? I get myself's consent and my
girl's consent and my fadder's consent--Say!" His voice rose. "Don't you
think I am of age yet?"

"If you talk loud like that, I'll run you in fer disturbin' the peace,
young feller," warned Anderson, observing that a few of Tinkletown's
citizens were slowly but surely surrendering squatter's rights to
chairs and soap-boxes on the shady side of the block. "Just you keep a
civil tongue in--"

"You ain'd answered my question yet," insisted Otto, with increased
vigour.

"Here's your hat, Otto," said Alf Reesling in a conciliatory voice. He
was brushing the article with the sleeve of his coat. "A horse must'a'
stepped on it or somethin'. I never see--"

"Ain'd I of age, Mr. Crow?" bellowed Otto. "Didn't I vote for you at the
last--"

"That ain't the question," interrupted Anderson sharply. "The question
is, is the girl of age?" He favoured his sixteen-year-old daughter with
a fiery glance.

Otto Schultz's broad, flat face became strangely pinched. There was
something positively apoplectic in the hue that spread over it.

"Oh, Pop!" shrieked Susie, a peal of laughter bursting from her lips.
Instantly, however, her two hands were pressed to her mouth, stifling
the outburst.

Otto gave her a hurt, surprised--and unmistakably horrified--look. Then
a silly grin struggled into existence.

"Maybe she don'd tell the truth aboud her age yet, Mr. Crow," he said
huskily. "Women always lie aboud their ages. Maybe she lie aboud hers."

Anderson flared. "Don't you dare say my daughter lies about her age--or
anything else," he roared.

"Whose daughter?" gasped Otto.

"Mine!"

"But she ain'd your daughter."

"_What!_ Well, of all the--"

Words failed Mr. Crow. He looked helplessly, appealingly at Alf
Reesling, as if for support.

[Illustration: _Words failed Mr. Crow_]

Mr. Reesling rose to the occasion.

"Do you mean to insinuate, Otto Schultz, that--" he began as he started
to remove his coat.

By this time Susie felt it was safe to trust herself to speech. She
removed her hands from her mouth and cried out:

"He isn't talking about me, Pop," she gasped. "It's Gertie Bumbelburg."

"Sure," said Otto hastily.

Mr. Crow still being speechless, Alf suspended his belligerent
preparations, and cocking one eye calculatingly, settled the matter of
Miss Bumbelburg's age with exasperating accuracy.

"Gertie's a little past forty-two," he announced. "Born in March, 1875,
just back o' where Sid Martin's feed-store used to be."

The marshal had recovered his composure.

"That's sufficient," he said, accepting Alf s testimony with a profound
air of dignity. "There ain't no law against anybody marryin' a woman old
enough to be his mother."

"Everybody in town give Gertie up long ago," added Alf, amiably. "Only
goes to show that while there's life there's hope. I'd 'a' swore she
was on the shelf fer good. How'd you happen to pick her, Otto?"

"She's all right," growled Otto uncomfortably. Then he added, with
considerable acerbity: "I'm goin' to tell her you said she was
forty-two, Alf Reesling."

"Well, ain't she?" demanded Alf, bristling.

"No, she ain'd," replied Otto. "She's twendy-nine."

"Come, come," put in Anderson sternly. "None o' this now! Move on, Alf!
No scrappin' on the public thoroughfares o' Tinkletown. You're gettin'
more and more rambunctious every day, Alf."

"He ought to be ashamed of himself, speakin' by a lady when he knows
he's in such a condition," said Otto, turning from the unfortunate Alf
to Miss Crow. "Ain'd that so, Susie?"

"Don't answer, Susie," said Mr. Crow, quickly. "This is no time to side
in with Germany."

"I'm as good an American as you are already," cried Otto, goaded beyond
endurance.

Mr. Crow smiled tolerantly. "Git out! Let's hear you say 'vinegar'."

"Winegar," said Otto triumphantly. "I can say it as good as you can
yet."

Anderson nudged Mr. Reesling, and chuckled.

"That's the way to spot 'em," he said significantly.

"There's a better way than that," said Alf.

"How's that?"

Alf whispered in the marshal's ear.

Anderson shook his head. "But where are you goin' to get the weenywurst,
Alf?"

"Come on, Otto," said Susie, impatiently. "I have an engagement."

They moved off rapidly, passing the ice-cream parlour without
hesitating.

"D'you hear that?" said Alf, after a moment. "She said she was engaged."

That night Anderson Crow, town marshal, superintendent of streets, chief
of the fire department, post-commander of the G. A. R., truant officer,
dog-catcher, member of the American Horse-thief Detective Association,
member of the Universal Detective Bureau, chairman of Tinkletown
Battlefield Society, etc., lay awake until nearly nine o'clock, seeking
a solution to the astonishing problem that confronted Tinkletown and its
environs.

       *       *       *       *       *

Late reports, received by telephone just before retiring, ran the number
of prospective marriages up to twenty-eight. His daughters, Susie and
Caroline--the latter the eldest of a family of six and secretly
approaching the age of thirty-two--confided to him that they had had
eleven and three proposals respectively. A singular feature of the craze
was the unanimity of impulse affecting men between the ages of twenty
and thirty, and the utter absence of concentration on the part of the
applicants. It was of record that some of them proposed to as many as
five or six young women before being finally accepted. Rashness appeared
to be the watchword. The matrimonial stampede swept caution and
consequences into a general heap, and delivered a community of the
backwardness that threatened to become a menace to posterity.

As Anderson Crow lay in his bed, he tried to enumerate on his fingers
the young men who remained unpledged. Starting with his thumb he got as
far as the third finger of his left hand and then, being sleepy and the
effort a trying one, he lost track of those already counted and had to
begin all over again, with the maddening result that he could go no
further than the second finger. One of the eligibles had slipped his
mind completely. The whole situation was harrowing.

"Fer instance," he ruminated aloud, oblivious of the fact that his wife
was sound asleep, "what is a feller like Newt Blossom goin' to keep a
wife on, I'd like to know. He c'n hardly keep himself in chewin'
tobaccer as it is, an' as fer the other necessities of life he wouldn't
have any of 'em if his mother wasn't such a dern' fool about him. The
idee of him tryin' to get our Susie to marry him--an' Carrie too, fer
that matter--w'y, I git in a cold sweat every time I think of it."

He shook his wife vigorously.

"Say, Ma," he said, yawning, "I just thought o' somethin' I want you to
remember in the mornin'. Wake up."

"All right," she mumbled, sleepily. "What is it?"

But Mr. Crow was now fast asleep himself.

       *       *       *       *       *

Early the next morning he entered the kitchen, where he found Caroline
helping her mother with the breakfast.

Mrs. Crow paused in the act of paring slices from a side of bacon. She
eyed her husband inimically.

"See here, Anderson, you just got to put a stop to all this
foolishness."

"Don't bother me. Can't you see I'm thinkin'?" said he.

"Well, it's time you did somethin' more than think. That Smathers boy
was here about ten minutes ago, red as a beet, askin' fer Susie. Carrie
told him she wasn't up yet, and what do you think the little
whipper-snapper said?"

Anderson blinked, and shook his head.

"He said, 'Well, I guess you'll do, Caroline. Would you mind steppin'
outside fer a couple of minutes? I got somethin' I want to say to you in
private.'"

Caroline sat down and laughed unrestrainedly.

"Well, by geminy crickets!" gasped Anderson, aghast. Then he added
anxiously: "You--you didn't go an' do anything foolish, did you,
Carrie?"

"Not unless you'd call throwing a pail of cold water on him foolish,"
said Carrie, wiping her eyes.

"Somethin's got to be done, Anderson," said his wife, compressing her
lips.

Susie came in at that juncture. She was the apple of Anderson's eye--the
prettiest girl in town. Mr. Crow hurried to the kitchen door.

"Go back upstairs," he ordered, casting a swift, uneasy glance around
the back yard.

"What's the matter, Pop?"

Mr. Crow did not respond. His keen, roving eye had descried a motionless
figure at the mouth of the alley.

Caroline explained.

"Can you beat it?" cried Susie, inelegantly, but with a very proper
scorn. "I told him yesterday he ought to be ashamed of himself, trying
to coax Fanny Burns away from Ed Foster."

"Ed Foster?" exclaimed Mr. Crow sharply, turning from the doorway. "Why,
he's not goin' to be married till after the war, an' that's a long ways
off. Ed's around in his uniform an' says the National Guard's likely to
be called 'most any day now. He--"

"That's one of the arguments Joe Smathers put up to Fanny," said his
youngest daughter. "He said maybe the war would last five years, and he
thought she was a fool to wait that long. What's more, he said, if Ed
ever does get to France he's likely to be killed--or fatally
wounded--and then where would she be?"

Anderson suddenly lifted his right leg and slapped it with great force.

"By the great Jehoshaphat!" he shouted. "I've got it! I've solved the
whole derned mystery. Come to me like a flash. Of all the low-down,
cowardly--"

Mrs. Crow interrupted him. "Do you mean to say, Anderson Crow, that you
never suspected what's got into all these gay Lotharios?"

He was instantly on his guard. "What are you talkin' about, Ma?" he
demanded querulously. "You surely can't mean to insinuate that I--"

"What is this mystery you've just been solvin'?" she asked relentlessly.

He met this with a calm intolerance.

"Nothin' much. Just simply got to the bottom of a German plot to stuff
the young men of America so full of weddin' cake they won't be able to
git into the trenches, that's all."

"My goodness!" exclaimed Mrs. Crow, who, as a dutiful wife, never failed
to be impressed by her husband's belated discoveries.

"Eggin' our boys into gittin' married, so's they can't be drafted," went
on Anderson, expanding with his new-found idea. "It's a general
pro-German plot--world-wide, as the sayin' is. Now, I'll tell you
somethin' else. Shut the door, Susie. Like as not some spy's listenin'
outside this very minute. They know I'm onto 'em." He lowered his
voice. "You'd be surprised if I was to tell you that the whole derned
plot originated right here in Tinkletown, wouldn't you? Well, that's
exactly what I'm goin' to tell you. Started right here and spread from
one end of the land to the other. Sort of headquarters here. I don't
know as there is any more prominent or influential Germans in the whole
United States than Adolph Schultz, the butcher on Main Street, and
Heiney Wimpelmeyer, the tanyard man, and Ben Olson, the contractor,
and--"

"Ben Olson is a Swede," interrupted Carrie.

"He _claims_ to be a Swede," said her father severely. "Don't try to
tell me anything, Carrie. I guess I know what I'm talkin' about." He
paused to mentally repair the break in his chain of thought.
"Um--ah--what _wuz_ I talkin' about?"

"About the Swedes," said Carrie, snickering.

"Breakfast's ready, Pa," said Mrs. Crow. "Call the boys, Susie."

"How are you going to stop it, Pop?" inquired Susie, after they were all
seated.

"Never you mind," said he. "I've got the thing all worked out. I'll stop
it, all right."

"You can't keep people from gittin' married, Anderson, if they're set on
doin' it," said his wife.

"You bet if I was old enough I wouldn't be gittin' married," said
fourteen-year-old Hiram, in a somewhat ambiguous burst of patriotism.

Immediately after breakfast Mr. Crow set out for the town hall. He was
deep in thought. His whiskers were elevated to an almost unprecedented
level, so tightly was his jaw set. He had made up his mind to preserve
the honour of Tinkletown. Meeting Alf Reesling in front of the post
office, he unburdened himself in a flood of indignation that left the
town drunkard soberer than he had been in years, despite his vaunted
abstemiousness.

"But you can't slap all the Germans in jail, Anderson," protested Alf.
"In the first place, it ain't legal, and in the second place--in the
second place--" He paused and scratched his head, evidently to some
purpose, for suddenly his face cleared. "In the second place, the jail
ain't big enough."

"That ain't my fault," said the marshal grimly. "We've got to nip this
thing in the bud if we have to--"

"What proof have you got that the Germans are back of all this? Got to
have proof, you know."

"Gosh a'mighty, Alf, ain't you got any sense at all? What are all these
fellers gittin' married for if there ain't somethin' behind it? They
ain't--"

"They're gittin' married because every blamed one of 'em is a slacker,"
said Alf forcibly.

"A what?"

"Slacker. They don't want to fight, that's what it means."

Anderson pondered. He tugged at his whiskers.

"They don't want to fight _who_?" he demanded abruptly.

"W'y--w'y--nobody," said Alf.

"They don't want to fight the _Germans_," said Mr. Crow triumphantly.
"That ought to settle the matter, Alf. What better proof do you want
than that? That shows the Germans are back of the whole infernal plot.
They are corruptin' our young men. Eggin' 'em into gittin' married
so's--"

"Well," said Alf, "there's only one way to put a stop to that. You got
to appeal to the women and girls of this here town. You simply got to
talk to 'em like a Dutch uncle, Anderson. These boys of our'n have just
got to remain single fer the duration of the war."

"That puts an idee in my head," said Anderson. "S'posin' I put up an
official notice from Washin'ton that all marriages contracted before the
draft are fer the duration of the war only. How's that?"

"Thunderation! No! That's just what the boys would like better'n
anything."

"But it ain't what the _girls_ would like, it is?"

Mr. Reesling was silent for a long time, letting the idea crystallize,
so to speak.

"Supposin' they hear about it in Washin'ton," said he doubtfully, but
still dazzled by the thought.

"President Wilson don't know this town's on the map," said Anderson, a
most surprising admission for him. "An' even if he does hear about it,
he'll back me up, you c'n bet your boots on that--even if I am a
Republican. Come on, Alf; let's step around to the _Banner_ printin'
office."

Shortly before noon a hastily printed poster, still damp and smelling of
ink, appeared on the bulletin-board in front of the town hall. A few
minutes later a similar decoration marred the façade of the Fairbanks
scales in front of Higgins's Feed Store, and still another loomed up on
the telephone pole in front of the post office.

With the help of the editor, who was above all things an enterprising
citizen and a patriot, the "official notice" was drafted, doctored and
approved in the dingy composing-room of the _Tinkletown Banner_. The
lone compositor, with a bucket of paste, sallied forth and, under the
critical eye of the town marshal, "stuck up" the poster in places where
no one could help seeing it.

The notice read:

                       OFFICIAL!!!

                 War Proclamation No. 7!!!

        The Undersigned by Virtue of the Authority
          vested in him by his fellowmen hereby
                         gives
                      DUE NOTICE
         to the citizens of Tinkletown that the
            President of These United States
                          and
               Congress in solemn conclave
       have uttered the following decree, to become
          effective immediately upon publication
                        thereof:

    All marriages entered into by Male Citizens of the United
    States of America between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-one
    on and after this date, the 21st of May, 1917, shall be in
    force for the duration of the War only. This measure is taken
    at this time for the purpose of making things as easy as
    possible for our young heroes, who, in the grave hour of battle,
    must not be worried with thoughts of the future.

    Men so marrying shall have precedence over all others in the
                     SELECTIVE DRAFT
            for the National Army Immediately to
                        be Called.
          Such men shall be the first called to the
                         Colours.
                     TEMPORARY WIDOWS
          of any and all such Soldiers shall not be
                        entitled to
                         PENSIONS
    in the Event of the Death of said Provisional Husbands,
    and shall revert upon notice thereof, to the State of
    Single-blessedness from which they were
                         LURED!!!
                       By order of
                      ANDERSON CROW,
                         Marshal.

As the first of these desolating posters was put in place, the Rev. Mr.
Maltby, pastor of the Congregational Church, happened to be passing the
town hall. He halted and, in astonishment, read the notice.

[Illustration: _The Rev. Mr. Maltby, pastor of the Congregational
Church, happened to be passing the town hall_]

"My dear man," said he to Mr. Crow, "this cannot be true."

"Does seem a little high-handed, don't it?" said Anderson guiltily.

"Can it be possible that the President has issued such a
revolutionary--"

"Listen a minute, Mr. Maltby," said the marshal, taking him by the arm
and furtively glancing over his own shoulder. "It ain't true--not a
derned word of it. Now, wait a minute. Don't fly off the--Mornin',
Father Maloney, mornin' to you."

The sunny-faced Catholic priest had joined them. He adjusted his
spectacles and peered at the notice.

"Well, well, bless my soul!" he exclaimed, staring blankly at the
Congregationalist. "What's all this I see?"

"Come inside," said Anderson hastily. "Alf, if you happen to see Mr.
Downs, the Methodist preacher, and Justice Robb, bring 'em here right
away, will you?"

"Shall I go ahead and paste any more of these, Anderson?" inquired the
compositor, shifting his quid.

"Certainly," said the marshal.

Later on the marshal left the town hall, followed by several smiling
gentlemen of the cloth, Justice Robb, and the editor of the _Banner_.

"Bless your heart, Marshal Crow," said Father Maloney, "we're with ye to
a man. It's a glorious lie ye're telling, and ye've got the church solid
behind ye."

"Naturally _we_ shall not be obliged to falsify," said the Rev. Mr.
Maltby, still a bit shaken. "We can simply say that the matter is news
to us. Eh, brothers?"

"Sure," said Father Maloney. "We can do that much for the good of the
country. Indeed, if I'm closely pressed I may go as far as to say that I
caught a glimpse of the official despatch from Washington. This is no
time to deny the President, gentlemen, no matter who issues his
proclamation." He added the last with a whimsical smile and a wink that
rather shocked his Methodist brother. "Especially when the whole matter
is vouched for by our respected town marshal, who, to my certain
knowledge, possesses the veracity of a George Washington. Have you ever
been caught chopping down a cherry tree, Mr. Marshal?"

"No, _sir_," said Anderson promptly.

Father Maloney beamed. "There ye are!" he exclaimed heartily. "I told ye
so. The epitome of veracity. There isn't another man of his age in
America who would have answered no to that question, with no one in a
position to contradict him."

The editor had his notebook. "Gentlemen, would you object to being
interviewed on this important message from Washington? Giving your views
on the situation and anything else--"

"You may say for me, Harry, that I warmly indorse the President of the
United States in any act which he may deem wise and expedient," said
Rev. Mr. Maltby, rising nobly to the occasion. Father Maloney and Rev.
Mr. Downs promptly acquiesced.

"And also that I am prepared to issue marriage certificates for the
duration of the war to all females so desirin' 'em," said Justice of the
Peace Robb. "It ain't cuttin' me out of any fees," he went on,
addressing the marshal. "Fer as I c'n make out, they all want to git
married fer nothin'."

"I will be very careful how I word your remarks, gentlemen," said Editor
Squires, putting up his notebook. "Now, I'll start out and interview a
few of the prospective brides. It ought to make good reading."

Long before nightfall the sleepy village of Tinkletown was in a state of
agitation unsurpassed by anything within the memory of the oldest
inhabitant.... Along about supper time one could have heard animated
arguments rising above the clear stillness of the air, penetrating even
to the heaven which was called upon to witness the unswerving fidelity
of two opposing sexes. There was a distinct difference, however, in the
duration of this professed fidelity. Masculine voices pleaded for the
immediate justification of undying constancy, while those of a feminine
quality preferred a prolongation of the exquisite agony of suspense. In
short, the brides-elect were obdurate. They insisted on waiting, even to
the end of time, for the realization of their fondest, dearest hopes.
Several heartbroken gentlemen, preferring anything to procrastination,
threatened to shoot themselves.

[Illustration: _Several heartbroken gentlemen threatened to shoot
themselves_]

"What's the sense of doing that?" argued one middle-aged widow of a
practical turn of mind. "You can save funeral expenses by letting the
Germans do it for you."

The next day the merchants of Tinkletown--notably the Five and Ten Cent
Store and Fisher's Queensware Store--did a thriving business. From one
end of the town to the other came people returning presents that
fortunately had not been delivered, and others asking to have their
accounts credited with presents already received.

Of the twenty-odd weddings announced for the week ending June 3, 1917,
only one took place.

Mr. Otto Schultz was married on Saturday to Miss Bumbelburg. He was the
only candidate in town who was worth suing for breach of promise. Miss
Bumbelburg, having waited many years for her chance, was not to be
frightened by a Presidential proclamation. The duration of the war meant
nothing to her. She had unlimited faith in the Kaiser. When the war was
over he would come over to the United States and revoke all the silly
old laws. And she was so positive about it that, after a rather heated
interview in the home of Mr. Schultz, senior, that gentleman admitted it
would be cheaper for her to come and live with them after the wedding
than to present her with the thousand dollars she demanded in case Otto
preferred war to peace.

Mr. Crow, on the 5th of June, strode proudly, efficiently, up and down
Main Street, always stopping at the registration booth to slap former
fiancés on the back and encourage them with such remarks as this:

"That's right, son. If you've _got_ to fight, fight for your country."

To Mr. Alf Reesling he confided:

"I tell you what, Alf, when this here Kaiser comes up ag'inst me he
strikes a snag. He couldn't 'a' started his plot in a worse place than
here in Tinkletown. Gosh, with all you hear about German efficiency,
you'd 'a' thought he'd 'a' knowed better, wouldn't you?"



THE PERFECT END OF A DAY

ANDERSON CROW GETS ONE ON THE KAISER


A long, low-lying bank of almost inky-black clouds hung over a blood-red
horizon. The sun of a warm, drowsy September day was going to bed beyond
the scallop of hills.

Suddenly the red in the sky, as if fanned by an angry wind, blazed into
a rigid flame; catching the base of the coal-black cloud it turned its
edges into fire; and as the flame burnt itself out, the rich yellow of
gold came to glorify the triumphant cloud. The nether edge seemed to dip
into a lake, the shores of which were molten gold and upon whose surface
craft of ever-changing colours lay moored for the coming night.

Anderson Crow, Marshal of Tinkletown, leaned upon his front-yard fence
and listened to the rhapsodic comments of Miss Sue Becker on the passing
panorama. Miss Becker, who had contributed several poems to the columns
of the Tinkletown _Banner_, and more than once had exhibited encouraging
letters from the editors of _McClure's_, _Scribner's_, _Harper's_, and
other magazines, was always worth listening to, for, as every one knows,
she was the first, and, so far as revealed, the only literary genius
ever created within the precincts of Tinkletown.

"You'll have to write a piece about it, Sue," said Anderson, shifting
his spare frame slightly.

"No mortal pen, Mr. Crow, could do justice to the grandeur, the
overpowering splendour of that vista," said she.

Anderson took another look at the sunset,--a more or less stealthy one,
it must be confessed, out of the corner of his eye. Sunsets were not
much in his line.

"It's a great vister," he acknowledged. "I don't know as I can think of
a word that will rhyme with it, though."

"There is such a thing as blank verse, Mr. Crow," said Miss Becker,
smiling in a most superior way.

Mr. Crow was thinking. "Blister wouldn't be bad," he announced.
"Something about the vister causin' a blister. I don't know as you are
aware of the fact, Sue, but I wrote consider'ble poetry when I was a
young feller. Mrs. Crow's got 'em all tied up in a pink ribbon. It's a
mighty funny thing that she won't even show 'em to anybody."

"Oh, but they are sacred," said Miss Becker feelingly, as she looked
over the rims of her spectacles at a spot in the sky some forty-five
degrees above the steeple of the Congregational Church down the street.

"I don't know as I meant 'em to be sacred at the time," said he; "but
there wasn't anything in 'em that was unfittin' for a young lady to
read."

"You don't understand. What could be more sacred than the outpourings
of love? What more--"

"'Course it was a good many years ago," Mr. Crow was quick to explain.

"Love's young dream," chided Miss Becker coyly.

Mr. Crow twisted his sparse grey beard with unusual tenderness. "Beats
all, don't it, Sue, what a poet'll do when he's tryin' to raise a
moustache?"

"I am sure I don't know," said Miss Becker stiffly.

"Speakin' about sunsets," said he hastily, after a quick glance at her
shaded upper lip, "how's your pa? I heard he had a sinkin' spell
yestiday."

"He's better." A moment later, with fine scorn: "His sun hasn't set yet,
Mr. Crow."

"Beats all how he hangs on, don't it? Eighty-seven last birthday, an'
spry as a man o' fifty up to--" He broke off to devote his attention to
a couple of strangers farther down the tree-lined street: two men who
approached slowly on the plank sidewalk, pausing every now and then to
peer inquiringly at the front doors of houses along the way.

Miss Sue Becker, whose back was toward the strangers, allowed her poetic
mind to resume its interest in the sunset.

"Golden cloudlets float upon a coral--What did you say, Mr. Crow?"

"Ever see 'em before, Sue?"

"Hundreds of times. They remind me of the daintiest, fleeciest puffs
of--"

"I'm talkin' about those men comin' up the street," said the old town
marshal sharply.

Miss Becker abandoned the transient sunset for something more durable.
Forty-odd summers had passed over her head.

For one professedly indifferent to the opposite sex, Miss Becker went
far toward dislocating her neck when Anderson Crow mentioned the
approach of a couple of strange men.

"I've never seen either of them before, Mr. Crow," she said, a little
jump in her voice.

"That settles it," said Anderson, putting on his spectacles.

"Settles what?"

"Proves they ain't been in Tinkletown more'n twenty minutes," he
replied, much too promptly to suit Miss Becker, who favoured him with a
look he wouldn't have forgotten in a long time if he had had eyes in the
back of his head. "They must be lookin' for some one," he went on,
squinting narrowly. "Good-bye, Sue. See you tomorrer, I suppose."

"I'm not going yet, Mr. Crow," she said, moving a little closer to the
fence. "You don't suppose I'm going to let those men pursue me all the
way home, do you?"

"They don't look like kidnappers," he said. "Besides, it ain't dark
enough yet."

"Just what do you mean by that, Anderson Crow?" she snapped.

"What do I mean by what?" he inquired in some surprise.

"By what you just said."

"I mean you're perfectly safe as long as it's daylight," he retorted.
"What else could I mean?"

The two strangers were quite near by this time--near enough, in fact, to
cause Miss Becker to lower her voice as she said:

"They're awfully nice looking gentlemen, ain't they?"

Evidently Mr. Crow's explanation had satisfied her, for she was smiling
with considerable vivacity as she made the remark. Up to that instant
she had neglected her back hair. Now she gracefully, lingeringly
fingered it to see if it was properly in place. In doing so, she managed
to drop her parasol.

To her chagrin, Marshal Crow took that occasion to behave in a most
incredible manner. It is quite probable that he forgot himself. In any
case, he picked up the parasol and returned it to her, snatching it, in
fact, almost from beneath the foot of the nearest stranger.

"Oh, thank you--thank you kindly, Mr. Crow," she giggled, and proceeded
to let it slip out of her fingers again. "Oh, how stupid! How perfectly
clumsy--"

"Did I hear you addressed as Mr. Crow?" inquired the foremost of the two
strangers, halting abruptly. He was a tall, florid man of forty or
thereabouts, with a deep and not unpleasant voice. His companion was
also tall but very gaunt and sallow. He wore huge round spectacles,
hooked over his ears. Both were well dressed, one in grey flannel, the
other in blue serge.

"You did," said the town marshal, straightening up. "You dropped your
umbrell' ag'in, Sue," he added. "Yes, sir, my name's Crow."

Miss Becker waited a few seconds and then picked up the parasol.

"The celebrated Anderson Crow?" asked the man with the glasses, opening
his eyes a little wider.

[Illustration: _"The celebrated Anderson Crow?" asked the man with the
glasses_]

Mr. Crow suddenly remembered that he was in his shirt-sleeves. His faded
blue sack-coat--"undress," he called it--hung limp and neglected on the
gate-post.

"More or less," he admitted, wishing to goodness he had on his best pair
of "galluses" instead of the ones he was wearing.

"Marshal of Tinkletown, I believe?" said the florid stranger, raising
his eyebrows slightly.

"Excuse me," said Anderson, conscious of a certain disparaging note in
the speaker's voice, which he quite naturally laid to the "galluses."
Without turning his back toward them he retrieved his coat from the
gate-post, remembering in time that those "plaguey" suspenders had
played him false that day and Alf Reesling had volunteered to "tie a
knot in 'em," somewhere in the back. "I could fine myself five dollars
fer goin' without my uniform," said he, as he slipped an arm into one
sleeve. "It's one of my hide-boundest rules," and his other arm went
in--not without a slight twinge, for he had been experiencing a touch of
rheumatism in that shoulder. "Yes, sir, I'm the Marshal o' Tinkletown,"
he added, indicating the bright nickel star that gleamed resplendent
among an assortment of glittering and impressive dangling emblems.

The man with the spectacles peered intently at the collection on Mr.
Crow's breast.

"You appear to be almost everything else as well, Mr. Crow," said he,
respectfully.

"Well, I guess I'll have to be going," put in Miss Becker at this
juncture. "Give my love to the girls, Mr. Crow."

She moved off up the board-walk, her back as stiff as a ramrod. Any one
with half an eye could see that she was resolved not to drop the parasol
again. No savage warrior on battle bent ever gripped his club with
greater determination.

"So long," was all that Marshal Crow could spare the time to say. "Yes
sir," he went on, making a fine show of stifling a yawn, "yes, sir, I've
had a few triflin' honours in my day. You gentlemen lookin' fer any one
in partic'lar?"

"Not now," said the florid one. "We've found him."

The spectacled man had his nose quite close to Mr. Crow's badges. He
read them off, in the voice and manner of one tremendously impressed.
"Grand Army of the Republic. Sons of the American Revolution. Sons of
Veterans. Tinkletown Battlefield Association. New York Imperial
Detective Association. Bramble County Horse-Thief Detective Association.
Chief of Fire Department. And what, may I ask, is the little round
button at the top?"

The marshal was astonished. "Don't you know what that is?"

"It doesn't appear to have any lettering--"

"It don't have to have any. That's an American Red Cross button."

"So it is,--so it is," cried the other hastily. "How stupid of me."

"And this one on the other lapel is a Liberty Loan button,--one hundred
dollars is what it represents, if anybody should ast you."

"I recognized it at once, sir. I have one of my own." He raised his hand
to his own lapel. "Why, hang it all, I forgot to remove it from my other
coat this morning."

"Well," said Anderson drily, "there 'pears to be some advantage in
havin' only one coat."

"Mr. Marshal," cut in the larger man brusquely, "we came to see you in
regard to a matter of great importance--and, I may add, privacy. Having
heard of your reputation for cleverness and infallibility--"

"As everybody in the land has heard," put in the other.

"--we desire your co-operation in an undertaking of considerable
magnitude. Quite frankly, I do not see how we can succeed without your
valuable assistance. You--"

"Hold on! If you're tryin' to get me to subscribe to a set of books,
so's my name at the head of the list will drag other suckers into--"

"Not at all, sir--not at all. We are not book-agents, Mr. Marshal."

"Well, what are ye?"

"Metallurgists," said the florid one.

"I see, I see," said Anderson, who didn't see at all. "You started off
just like a book-agent, er a lightnin'-rod salesman."

"My name is Bacon,--George Washington Bacon,--and my friend bears an
even nobler monicker, if that be possible. He is Abraham Lincoln
Bonaparte--a direct descendant of both of those illustrious gentlemen."

"You don't say! I didn't know Lincoln was any connection of
Bonaparte's."

"It isn't generally known," the descendant informed him, with becoming
modesty.

"Well, I'm seventy-three years old an' I never heard--"

"Seventy-three!" gasped Mr. Bonaparte, incredulously. "I don't believe
it. You can't be more than fifty, Mr. Crow."

"Do you suppose I fought in the Union Army before I was born?" demanded
Mr. Crow. "Where'd I get this G. A. R. badge, lemme ast you? An' you
don't think the citizens of this here town would elect a ten-year-old
boy to the responsible position of town marshal, do you? Why, gosh snap
it, I been Marshal o' Tinkletown fer forty years--skippin' two years
back in the nineties when I retired in favour of Ed Higgins, owin' to a
misunderstandin' concernin' my health--an'--"

"It is incredible, sir. You are the youngest-looking man for your years
I've ever seen. But we are digressing. Proceed, Mr. Bacon. Pardon the
interruption."

Marshal Crow had drawn himself up to his full height,--a good six
feet,--and, expanding under the influence of a just pride, his chest
came perilously near to dislodging a couple of brass buttons. His keen
little grey eyes snapped brightly in their deep sockets; his sparse chin
whiskers, responding to the occasion, bristled noticeably. Employing his
thumb and forefinger, he first gave his beard a short caress, after
which he drew it safely out of line and expectorated thinly between his
teeth with such astounding accuracy that both of the strangers stared.
His objective was a narrow slit in the tree-box across the sidewalk.

"I couldn't do that in a thousand years," said Mr. Bacon, deeply
impressed.

"You could do it in half that time if you lived in Tinkletown," was
Anderson's cryptic return. "You ought to see Ed Higgins. He's our
champeen. His specialty is knot-holes. Ed c'n hit--"

"Are you interested in metallurgy, Mr. Crow?" broke in Mr. Bacon, a
little rudely.

Anderson pondered a few seconds, squinting at the tree-tops. The two
strangers waited his reply with evident concern.

"Sometimes I am, an' sometimes I ain't," said he at last, very
seriously. He even went so far as to shake his head slowly, as if to
emphasize the fact that he had made a life-long study of the subject and
had not been able to arrive at a definite conclusion.

"Good!" exclaimed Mr. Bonaparte. "That proves, Mr. Crow, that you are a
man of very great discernment, very great discernment indeed."

Mr. Crow brightened perceptibly. "I have to know a little of everything
in my line of work, Mr. Lincoln."

Mr. Bonaparte made no attempt to correct him. As a matter of fact, for a
moment or two he was in some doubt himself; it was only after indulging
in a hasty bit of mental jugglery that he decided his friend couldn't
possibly have introduced him as Bonaparte Abraham Lincoln, or Abraham
Bonaparte Lincoln. He wished, however, that he had paid a little closer
attention when Mr. George Washington Bacon arranged his names for him.

"We should like to have a few minutes' private conversation with you,
Mr. Marshal," said Bacon, lowering his voice.

"Fire away, gents."

"I--ahem!--I said private, Mr. Crow."

"Well, if it's anything you don't want the birds to hear, I guess we'd
better go up to the house. If you don't mind that woodpecker up yander
an' them two sparrers out there in the road, I guess this is about as
private a place as you'll find in Tinkletown."

"Haven't you--an office, Mr. Crow?" demanded Mr. Bacon.

"Yes, but it ain't private. Whenever I've got anything private to 'tend
to--er even _think_ about--I allus go out in the middle of the street.
Shoot ahead; nobody'll hear you."

"It will take some little time," explained Mr. Bonaparte, anxiously.
"Have you had your dinner?"

Anderson looked at him keenly. "What's that got to do with it?"

"Mr. Bonaparte means supper," explained Mr. Bacon. "He is a bit excited,
Mr. Crow."

"He _must_ be," agreed Anderson, glancing at his watch. "Half-past six.
Go ahead. We won't be interrupted now till it's time to go to bed."

The two strangers in Tinkletown drew still closer--so close, indeed,
that the town marshal, having had his pocket picked once or twice at the
County Fair, fell back a little from the fence.

"You must be careful to show no sign of surprise, Mr. Crow," said Bacon.
"What I am about to say to you may startle you, but you--"

Anderson reassured him with a gesture.

"Perceed," he said.

Whereupon the spokesman, Mr. Bacon, did a tale unfold that caused the
town marshal to lie awake nearly all night and to pop out of bed the
next morning fully an hour earlier than usual. For the time being,
however, he succeeded so admirably in simulating indifference that the
men themselves were not only surprised but a trifle disturbed. He wasn't
conducting himself at all as they had expected. At the conclusion of
this serious fifteen minutes' recital,--rendered into paragraphs by
Anderson's frequent interruptions,--the eager Mr. Bonaparte exclaimed:

"Well, Mr. Crow, doesn't it completely bowl you over?"

"What's that? Bowl me over? I should say not! Why, I knowed fer I can't
tell you how long that there's gold up yander in my piece of timberland
on Crow's Mountain. Knowed it ever since I was a boy."

His hearers blinked rapidly for a few seconds.

"Really?" murmured Mr. Bacon.

"Do you mean to say there actually _is_ gold--" began Mr. Bonaparte, but
he got no farther. Whether accidentally or otherwise, Mr. Bacon's foot
came sharply into contact with the speaker's shin, and the question
terminated in a pained look of surprise, directed with some intensity
and a great deal of fortitude at nothing in particular.

"Well, you _are_ a wonder, Mr. Crow," said Mr. Bacon hastily. "I am
immensely relieved that you _do_ know of its existence. It simplifies
matters tremendously. It has been there all the time and you've never
known just how to go about getting it out of the ground--isn't that the
case, Mr. Crow?"

"Exactly," said Mr. Crow.

Mr. Bacon shot a significant look at Mr. Bonaparte, and that worthy put
his hand suddenly to his mouth.

"Well, that's what we're here for, Mr. Crow--to get that gold out of the
earth. If our estimates are correct--or, I should say, if our
investigations establish the fact that it is a real vein and not merely
a little pocket, there ought to be a million dollars in that piece of
land of yours. Now, let me see. Just how much land do you own up there,
Mr. Crow?"

"I own derned near all of it," said the marshal promptly. "'Bout
seventy-five acres, I should say."

"Nothing but timberland, I assume--judging from what we have been able
to observe."

"All timber. Never been cleared, 'cept purty well down the slope."

"And it is about five miles as the crow flies from Tinkletown, eh?"

"I ginerally say as the wild goose flies," said Mr. Crow, somewhat
curtly.

"Well, you have heard the proposition I bring from my employers in New
York City. Think it over tonight, Mr. Crow. Then, we will meet tomorrow
morning at your office to complete our plans. I shall be prepared to
hand you a draft for two hundred dollars to bind the bargain. What time
do you reach your office?"

"Ginerally some'eres between six and a quarter-past."

"My God!" muttered Mr. Bonaparte.

"We will be there at six-fifteen," said Mr. Bacon firmly. "Good evening,
Mr. Crow."

Far in the night, Mrs. Crow peevishly mumbled to her bedfellow: "What
ails you, Anderson Crow? Go to sleep!"

"Never mind, never mind. I can't tell you, so don't pester me. All I ast
of you is to wake me at five if I happen to oversleep."

"Well, of all the--do you suppose I'm goin' to lay awake here all night
waitin' for five o'clock to----"

"How in thunder do you expect me to go to sleep, Eva, if you keep
jabberin' away to me all night long like this? Ding it all to gosh, here
it is after one o'clock an' you still talkin'. Don't do it, I say.
Don't ast another question till five o'clock, an' then all you got to do
it to ast me if I'm awake."

"Umph!" said Mrs. Crow.

       *       *       *       *       *

Messrs. Bacon and Bonaparte were an hour and forty minutes late.

It was nearly eight o'clock when the two gentlemen came hurrying around
the corner into Sickle street, piloted by Alf Reesling, the town
drunkard.

A long, important-looking cigar propitiated Mr. Crow, and after Mr.
Reesling and other citizens had been given to understand that the
strangers were figuring on buying all the timber on Crow's Mountain, the
three principals set forth in Anderson's buckboard.

In due time they arrived at the top of the "Mountain." Now Crow's
Mountain was no mountain at all. It was a thickly wooded hill that had
achieved eminence by happening to be a scant fifty feet higher than the
knolls surrounding it. From the low-lying pastures and grain-fields to
the top of the outstanding pine that reared its blasted storm-stripped
tip far above its fellows, the elevation was not more than three hundred
feet. Nevertheless, it was the loftiest hill in all that region and
capped Anderson Crow's agricultural possessions.

Just before the Boggs City National Bank at the county seat closed that
afternoon Mr. Crow appeared at the receiving-teller's window. He
deposited two hundred dollars in currency. Mr. Bacon had decided that a
draft on New York might excite undue curiosity.

"If people were to get wise to what we are really after up here on this
mountain, Mr. Crow," said he, "it would play hob with everything. If it
gets out that we are after gold--why, the price of land would be so high
we couldn't--"

"Lot of these hayseeds been wantin' to sell fer years, the derned
rubes," broke in Anderson, pityingly.

"Well, you get me, don't you? Keep our eyes open and our mouths closed,
and we will be millionaires inside of a year--or two, at the outside."

"Mum's the word, as the feller said," agreed Mr. Crow.

"And of course you see the advisability of having our articles of
incorporation filed secretly in New Jersey. This contract we have signed
will be ratified by our employers in New York, and the regular articles
drawn up at once. Wait till you see the names of the men who are behind
this enterprise. The first meeting of the board of directors will bring
together a dozen of the greatest--"

"Where will the meetin' be held?" broke in Anderson, somewhat anxiously.

"New York City, of course. It wouldn't surprise me in the least to see
you elected President of the Corporation, Mr. Crow."

"Oh, gosh-a-mighty! I--I can't accept the honour, Mr. Bacon. It's too
much of a responsibility. Besides, I don't see how I'm goin' to be able
to get away from Tinkletown this fall to attend the meetin'. The County
Fair opens next week at Boggs City, an' the second week in October
there's to be a Baptist revival--"

"You can send in your proxy, Mr. Crow," explained Mr. Bacon. "It will be
all the same to us, you know."

"Well, I guess I better," said Anderson thoughtfully.

A fortnight went by. Crow's Mountain had become the scene of sharp but
stealthy activity. Anderson went about the streets of Tinkletown as if
in a daze. Acting upon the stern, almost offensive, advice of his new
partners, he did not go near the "Mountain" after the first couple of
days. They made it very plain to him that _everything_ depended on his
shrewdness in staying away from the "Mountain" altogether.

The Tinkletown _Banner_, in reporting the vast transaction, incorporated
an interview with Mr. G. W. Bacon, who announced that the syndicate he
represented had in mind a project to erect a huge summer hotel on top of
the "most beautiful mountain east of the Rockies," in the event that
satisfactory terms could be arranged with Mr. Crow. As a matter of fact,
explained Mr. Bacon, he had been instructed to make certain preliminary
investigations in regard to construction, and so forth--such as
ascertaining how far down they would have to go to bed-rock, and all
that sort of thing.

Practically all of the syndicate's preparatory work on Crow's Mountain
was done under cover of night. Motor-trucks that were said to have been
driven all the way from Pittsburgh--on account of the dreadful
congestion on the railroads--delivered machinery, tools, drills, rods,
bolts, rivets and thin jangling strips of structural steel.

Marshal Crow, assuming an importance he did not feel, strutted about
Tinkletown.

       *       *       *       *       *

His abstraction had a good deal to do with the accident to old Mrs.
Twiggers. He was dreamily cogitating at the time she was run down by
Schultz's butcher-wagon, and as the catastrophe took place almost under
his nose, more than one citizen called him names he wouldn't forget. The
old lady had her spectacles smashed and lost a dozen eggs in the
confusion. Moreover, Ed Higgins's hen-roost was robbed; and three tramps
spent as much as half a day on Main Street before Anderson took any
notice of them. Ordinarily, he was death on tramps. Crime, as Mr. Harry
Squires put it in a caustic editorial in the _Banner_, was rampant in
Tinkletown. It was getting so rampant, he complained, that it wasn't
safe to cross the street--especially while eggs were retailing at
forty-two cents a dozen.

It remained for Alf Reesling, the town drunkard, to bring order out of
chaos. Not that he seized the opportunity to go on a spree while
Anderson was moon-gazing,--not at all. Alf loathed intoxicating liquors.
He did not drink himself, and he had a horror of any one who did. He had
been drunk just three times in his life, but as he had managed to crowd
the three exhibitions into the space of one week--some twenty years
before--Tinkletown elected him forthwith for life to the office of town
sot.

Now, Alf had a grievance. He finally got the ear of Marshal Crow and let
loose in a way that startled the old man out of his daze.

"Here you been watchin' me, an' trailin' me, an' lecturin' me for twenty
years, dern ye,--an' pleadin' with me to keep sober fer the sake of
Tinkletown's fair name, an' you let this feller Bonyparte git full an'
keep people awake half the night. He's been drunk more times in the last
three weeks than I ever was in all my life. He--"

"What's that? Did you say drunk?" demanded Anderson, blinking. "Who told
you he was drunk?"

"_He_ did," said Alf. "He don't make any bones about it. He tells
everybody when he is drunk. He's proud of it."

"An' I suppose everybody believes him," said Anderson scathingly. "The
people of this here town will believe _any_ thing if--"

"Las' night that pardner of his'n an' two other fellers from up the hill
had to take him up to his room an' lock him in. He was tryin' to sing
the Star Spangled Banner in _Dutch_. Gosh, it was awful! He orter be
arrested, same as anybody else, Anderson Crow. You got me under
suspicion every minute o' the time--night _and_ day--"

"That'll do, that'll do, now Alf. No more back talk out o' you,"
exclaimed Anderson menacingly. "You might as well _be_ drunk as to _act_
drunk. Don't you know any better'n--"

"Are you goin' to arrest this Bonyparte feller?"

Anderson eyed him sternly for a moment. "I got half a notion to run you
in, Alf Reesling, fer interferin' with an officer."

"How'm I interferin'?"

"You're preventin' me from arrestin' a violater of the law, dern you.
Can't you see I'm on my way over to Justice Robb's to swear out a
warrant against Abraham Lincoln Bonaparte for bein' intoxicated? What do
you mean by stoppin' me an'--"

"I'll go along, Andy," broke in Alf, suddenly affable. "I'll swear to it
if you--"

"'Tain't necessary," announced Anderson loftily. "I c'n attend to my own
business, if you can't. Nobody c'n sing the Star Spangled Banner in
Dutch without havin' a charge of intoxication filed ag'in him, lemme
tell you that. Git out o' my way, Alf."

Mr. Crow's pride had been touched. The shaft of criticism had gone home.
He would arrest Mr. Abraham Lincoln Bonaparte, no matter what came of
it. He did not like Mr. Bonaparte anyway. It was Mr. Bonaparte who had
ordered him off Crow's Mountain--his own mountain, mind you--and told
him not to come puttering around there any more.

On second thoughts, he accepted the nominal town sot's offer to make
affidavit against a real offender, but declined his company and
assistance in effecting the arrest. Down in the old Marshal's heart
lurked the fear that his new partners would put up such strenuous
objections to the arrest that he would have to give way to them. It was
this misgiving that caused him to make the trip to Crow's Mountain
instead of confronting his man that evening at the hotel or in the
street, in the presence of an audience.

Arriving at the cross-roads half a mile from the foot of Crow's
Mountain, he encountered two men tinkering with the engine of a big
automobile. They stopped him and inquired if there was a garage nearby.
While he was directing them to Pete Olsen's in town, he espied two more
men reposing in the shade of a tree farther up the lane.

As he drove on, leaving them behind, he found himself possessed of the
notion that the two men were strangely nervous and impatient. He
decided, after he had gone a half mile farther that they had, as a
matter-of-fact, acted in a very suspicious manner,--just as automobile
thieves might be expected to act in the presence of an officer of the
law. He made up his mind that if they were still there when he returned
with his prisoner, he would yank 'em up for investigation.

He went through the motions of hitching old Hip and Jim to a sapling
near the top of the "Mountain." They went to sleep almost instantly.

In the little clearing off to the left, a couple of hundred yards away,
Marshal Crow observed several men at work constructing a "shanty."
Closer at hand, almost lost to view among the pines, rose the thin,
open-work steel tower from which the "drill" was to be operated.
Standing out among the tree-tops were the long cross-bars of steel, and
from them ran the "guy" wires to the ground below. Mr. Crow had never
seen a "drill" before, but he had been told by Mr. Bacon that this was
the newest thing on the market.

The Marshal started off in the direction of the "shanty" and suddenly a
most astonishing thing happened. Mr. Crow disappeared from view as if by
magic!

[Illustration: _The Marshal started off in the direction of the
"shanty"_]

In order to give the drill as wide a berth as possible, he had deployed
widely to the left of the path, making his way somewhat tortuously
through a rough lot of underbrush. Without the slightest warning, the
earth gave way beneath him and down he shot, clawing frantically at the
edges of a well-camouflaged hole in the ground, taking with him a vast
amount of twigs, branches and a net-work of sapling poles.

Not only did he drop a good twelve feet, but he landed squarely upon
the stooping person of Mr. Bacon, who emitted a startling sound that
began as a yell and ended as a grunt. He then crumpled up and spread
himself out flat, with Mr. Crow draped awkwardly across his prostrate
form. For the time being, Mr. Bacon was as still as the grave. He was
out.

Anderson scrambled to his feet, pawing the air with his hands, his eyes
tightly shut. He was yelling for help.

Now, it was this yelling for help that deceived the astonished Mr.
Bonaparte. He jumped at once to the conclusion that the Marshal was
calling for assistance from the _outside_.

So he threw up his hands!

"I--surrender! I give in!" he yelled. "Keep them off! Don't let them get
at me!"

[Illustration: _"I--I surrender! I give in!" he yelled_]

Anderson opened his eyes and stared.

He found himself in a small, squat room lighted by a lantern which stood
upon a crudely made table in the corner beyond Bonaparte. There was a
board floor well littered with soil and shavings. In another corner
stood a singular looking contraption, not unlike a dynamo.

Marshal Crow bethought himself of his mission. Although the breath had
been jarred out of his body, he managed to say,--explosively:

"I--I got a warrant for your arrest. Come along now! Don't resist. Don't
make a fuss. Come along peaceably. I--"

"I'll come, Mr. Crow. I was dragged into this thing against my will.
_Gott in Himmel! Gott!--_"

"Never mind what you got," exclaimed Anderson sharply. "You come along
with me or you'll get something worse'n that."

"Is--is he dead!" groaned Bonaparte, his eyes almost starting from his
head.

Anderson backed away from the sprawling, motionless figure on the floor.

"I--I--gosh, I hope not. I--I was as much surprised as anybody. Say, you
see if he's breathin'. We got to git him out o' this place right away
an' send for a doctor. The good Lord knows I didn't intend to light on
him like that. It was an accident, I swear it was. You know just how it
happened, an'--you'll stand by me, won't you, if--"

Just then a loud voice came from above.

"Hey, down there!" A second's pause. Then: "We've got you dead to
rights, so no monkey business. Come up out o' that, or we'll pump enough
lead down there to--"

"Don't shoot,--don't shoot!" yelled Mr. Bonaparte shrilly. "Tell your
men not to fire, Mr. Crow!"

"Tell--tell _who_?" cried Anderson blankly. Suddenly he sprang to his
companion's side; seizing him by the arm, he whispered hoarsely: "By
gosh, I thought there was somethin' queer about that gang. Have you got
any of the gold here? I recollect that feller's voice, plain as day.
They're after the gold. They've heard about--"

"Are you coming up?" roared the voice from the outer world.

"Who are you?" called back Anderson stoutly.

"Oh, I guess you'll recognize United States marshals when you see 'em.
Come on, now."

Abraham Lincoln Bonaparte faced Marshal Crow, the truth dawning upon him
like a flash.

"You damned old rube!" he snarled, and forthwith planted his fist under
Anderson's chin-whiskers, with such surprising force that the old man
once more landed heavily on the prostrate form of the unfortunate Bacon.

"O-oh, gosh!" groaned Anderson, and as his eyes rolled upward he saw a
million stars chasing each other around the ceiling.

"I'll get _that_ much satisfaction out of it anyhow," he heard some one
say, from a very great distance.

Sometime afterward he was dimly aware of a jumble of excited voices
about him. Some one was shouting in his ear. He opened his eyes and
everything looked green before them. In time he recognized pine trees,
very lofty pine trees that slowly but surely shrank in size as he gazed
wonderingly at them.

There were a lot of strange men surrounding him. Out of the mass, he
finally selected a face that grew upon him. It was the face of Alf
Reesling.

"By jinks, Anderson, you done it _this_ time," Alf cried excitedly. "I
told 'em you was on your way up here to arrest these fellers, an' by
jinks, I knowed you'd get 'em."

"Le--lemme set down, please," mumbled Anderson, and the two men who
supported him lowered him gently to the ground, with his back against a
tree trunk. "Come here, Alf," he called out feebly.

Alf shuffled forward.

"Who are these men?" whispered Anderson.

"Detectives--reg'lar detectives," replied Alf. "United States
detectives--what do you call 'em?"

"Scotland Yard men," replied Anderson, who had done a good deal of
reading in his time.

"I started out after you on my wheel, Andy, thinkin' maybe you'd have
trouble. Down the road I met up with these fellers in a big automobile.
They stopped me an' said I couldn't go up the hill. Just then up comes
another car full of men. They all seemed to be acquainted. I told 'em I
was a deputy marshal an' was goin' up the hill to help you arrest a
feller named Bonyparte. Well, by jinks, you oughter heard 'em! They
cussed, and said the derned ole fool would spile everything. Then, 'fore
you could say Joe, they piled into one o' the cars an' sailed up the
hill. I didn't get up here till after they'd hauled you an' your
prisoners out o' that hole, but I give 'em the laugh just the same. You
captured the two ringleaders. By gosh, I'm glad you're alive, Andy. I
bet the Kaiser'll hate you fer this."

"The--the what?"

"Ole Kaiser Bill. Say, you was down there quite a little spell, an' they
won't let me go down. What does a wireless plant look like, Anderson?"

       *       *       *       *       *

That evening Marshal Crow sat on the porch in front of Lamson's store,
smoking a fine cigar, presented to him by Harry Squires, reporter for
the _Banner_. He had a large audience. Indeed, he was obliged to raise
his voice considerably in order to reach the outer rim.

He had been called a hero, a fearless officer, and a lot of other
pleasant things, by the astonished United States marshals, and he had
been given to understand that he would hear from Washington before long.
Mr. Bacon (Kurt von Poppenblitz) and Mr. Bonaparte (Conrad Bloom) had
also called him something, but he didn't mind. His erstwhile partners,
with their four or five henchmen, were now well on their way to limbo,
and Mr. Crow was regaling his hearers with the story. During the first
recital (this being either the ninth or tenth), Alf Reesling had been
obliged to prompt him--a circumstance readily explainable when one stops
to consider the effect of the murderous blow Mr. Crow had received.

"'Course," said Anderson, "they _did_ fool me at first. But I wasn't
long gittin' onto 'em. I used to sneak up there and investigate ever'
now an' ag'in. Finally I got onto the fact that they was German spies--I
got positive proof of it. I can't tell you just what it is, 'cause it's
government business. Then I finds out they got a wireless plant all in
order, an' ready to relay messages to the coast o' Maine, from some'eres
out west. So today, I goes over to Justice Robb's and gits a warrant for
intoxication. That was to make it legal fer me to bust into their shanty
if necessary. Course, the drunk charge was only a blind, as I told the
U. S. marshal. I went right straight to that underground den o' their'n,
an' afore they knowed what was up, I leaped down on 'em. Fust thing I
done was to put the big and dangerous one horse de combat. He was the
one I was worried about. I knocked him flat an' then went after t'other
one. He let on like he was surrenderin'. He fooled me, I admit--'cause I
don't know anything 'bout wireless machinery. All of a sudden he give me
a wireless shock--out o' nowhere, you might say--an' well, by cracky, I
thought it was all over. 'Course, I realize now it was foolish o' me to
try to go up there an' take them two desperadoes single-handed, but
I--What's that, Bud?"

"Mrs. Crow sent me to tell you if you didn't come home to supper this
minute, you wouldn't git any," called out a boy from the outskirts of
the crowd.

"That's the second wireless shock you've had today, Anderson," said
Harry Squires, drily, and slowly closed one eye.



THE BEST MAN WINS!

ANDERSON CROW MEETS HIS WATERLOO AND HIS MARNE


For sixteen consecutive years Anderson Crow had been the Marshal of
Tinkletown. A hiatus of two years separated this period of service from
another which, according to persons of apparently infallible memory, ran
through an unbroken stretch of twenty-two years. Uncle Gid Luce stoutly
maintained--and with some authority--that anybody who said twenty-two
years was either mistaken or lying. He knew for a positive fact that it
was only twenty-one for the simple reason that at the beginning of the
Crow dynasty a full year elapsed before Anderson could be convinced that
he actually had been victorious at the polls over his venerable
predecessor, ex-marshal Bunker, who had served uninterruptedly for
something like thirty years before him.

It took the wisest men in town nearly a year to persuade the incredulous
Mr. Bunker that he had been defeated, and also to prove to Mr. Crow that
he had been elected. Neither one of 'em would believe it.

It was the consensus of opinion, however, that Anderson Crow had
served, all told, thirty-eight years, the aforesaid hiatus being the
result of a decision on his part to permanently abandon public life in
order to carry on his work as a private detective. Mr. Ed. Higgins held
the office for two years and then retired, claiming that there wasn't
any sense in Tinkletown having _two_ marshals and only paying for one.
And, as the salary and perquisites were too meagre to warrant a
division, and the duties of office barely sufficient to keep _one_ man
awake, he arrived at the only conclusion possible: it was only fair that
he should split even with Anderson.

After thinking it over for some time, he decided that about the best way
to solve the problem was for him to take the pay and allow Anderson to
do the work,--an arrangement that was eminently satisfactory to the
entire population of Tinkletown.

Elections were held biennially. Every two years, in the spring, as
provided by statute, the voters of Tinkletown--unless otherwise
engaged--ambled up to the polling place in the rear of Hawkins's
Undertaking Emporium and voted not only for Anderson Crow, but for a
town clerk, a justice of the peace, and three selectmen. No one ever
thought of voting for any one except Mr. Crow. Once, and only once, was
there an opposition candidate for the office of Town Marshal. It is on
record that he did not receive a solitary vote.

Republicans and Democrats voted for Anderson with persistent fidelity,
and while there were notable contests for the other offices at nearly
every election, no one bothered himself about the marshal-ship.

The regular election was drawing near. Marshal Crow was mildly
concerned,--not about himself, but on account of the tremendous battle
that was to be waged for the office of town clerk. Henry Wimpelmeyer,
the proprietor of the tanyard, had come out for the office, and was
spending money freely. The incumbent, Ezra Pounder, had had a good deal
of sickness in his family during the winter, and was in no position to
be bountiful.

Moreover, Ezra was further handicapped by the fact that nearly every
voter in Tinkletown owed money to Henry Wimpelmeyer. Inasmuch as it was
just the other way round with Ezra, it may be seen that his adversary
possessed a sickening advantage. Mr. Wimpelmeyer could afford to slap
every one on the back and jingle his pocketful of change in the most
reckless fashion. He did not have to dodge any one on the street, not
he.

Anderson Crow was a strong Pounder man. He was worried. Henry
Wimpelmeyer had openly stated that if he were elected he would be
pleased to show his gratitude to his friends by cancelling every
obligation due him!

He was planning to run on what was to be called the People's ticket.
Ezra was an Anderson Crow republican. Tinkletown itself was largely
republican. The democrats never had a chance to hold office except when
there was a democratic president at Washington. Then one of them got the
post-office, and almost immediately began to show signs of turning
republican so that he could be reasonably certain of reappointment at
the end of his four years.

Anderson Crow lay awake nights trying to evolve a plan by which Henry
Wimpelmeyer's astonishing methods could be overcome. That frank and
unchallenged promise to cancel all debts was absolutely certain to
defeat Ezra. So far as the marshal knew, no one owed Henry more than
five dollars--in most cases it was even less--but when you sat down and
figured up just how much Henry would ever realize in hard cash on these
accounts, even if he waited a hundred years, it was easy to see that the
election wasn't going to cost him a dollar.

For example, Alf Reesling had owed him a dollar and thirty-five cents
for nearly seven years. Alf admitted that the obligation worried him a
great deal, and it was pretty nearly certain that he would jump at the
chance to be relieved. Other items: Henry Plumb, two dollars and a
quarter; Harvey Shortfork, ninety cents; Ben Pickett, a
dollar-seventy-five; Rush Applegate, three-twenty; Lum Gillespie,
one-fifteen,--and so on, including Ezra Pounder himself, who owed the
staggering sum of eleven dollars and eighty-two cents. There was, after
all, some consolation in the thought that Ezra would be benefited to
that extent by his own defeat.

Naturally, Mr. Crow gave no thought to his own candidacy. No one was
running against him, and apparently no one ever would. Therefore, Mr.
Crow was in a position to devote his apprehensions exclusively to the
rest of the ticket, and to Ezra Pounder in particular.

He could think of but one way to forestall Mr. Wimpelmeyer, and that was
by digging down into his own pocket and paying in cash every single cent
that the electorate of Tinkletown owed "the dad-burned Shylark!" He even
went so far as to ascertain--almost to a dollar--just how much it would
take to save the honour of Tinkletown, finding, after an investigation,
that $276.82 would square up everything, and leave Henry high and dry
with nothing but the German vote to depend upon. There were exactly
twenty-two eligible voters in town with German names, and seven of them
professed to be Swiss the instant the United States went into the war.

Mr. Crow was making profound calculation on the back of an envelope when
Alf Reesling, the town drunkard, came scuttling excitedly around the
corner from the _Banner_ office.

"Gee whiz!" gasped Alf, "I been lookin' all over fer you, Anderson."

"Say, can't you see I'm busy? Now, I got to begin all over ag'in. Move
on, now--"

"Have you heard the latest?" gulped Alf, grabbing him by the arm.

"What ails you, Alf? Wait a minute! No, by gosh, it's more like onions.
For a second I thought you'd--"

"I'm as sober as ever," interrupted Alf hotly.

"That's what you been sayin' fer twenty years," said Anderson.

"Well, ain't I?"

"I don't know what you do when I'm not watchin' you."

"Well, all I got to say is I never felt more like takin' a drink. An'
you'll feel like it, too, when you hear the latest. Maybe you'll drop
dead er somethin'. Serve you right, too, by jiminy, the way you keep
insinyating about--"

"Go on an' tell me. Don't talk all day. Just _tell_ me. That's all
you're called on to do."

"Well," sputtered Alf. "Some one's come out ag'in you fer marshal. I
seen the item they're printin' over at the _Banner_ office. Seen the
name an' everything."

Anderson blinked two or three times, reached for his whiskers and missed
them, and then roared:

"You must be crazy, Alf! By thunder, I hate to do it, but I'll have to
put you in a safe--"

"You just wait an' see if I'm--"

"--safe place where you can't harm nobody. You oughtn't to be runnin'
round at large like this. Here! Leggo my arm! What the dickens are you
tryin' to--"

"Come on! I'll _show_ you!" exclaimed Alf. "I'll take you right around
to the _Banner_ office an'--say, didn't you know the People's Party
nominated a full ticket las' night over at Odd Fellers' Hall?"

Anderson submitted himself to be led--or rather dragged--around the
corner into Sickle Street.

Several business men aroused from mid-morning lassitude allowed their
chairs to come down with a thump upon divers mercantile porches, and
fell in behind the two principal citizens of Tinkletown. Something
terrible must have happened or Marshal Crow wouldn't be summoned in any
such imperative manner as this.

[Illustration: _Something terrible must have happened or Marshal Crow
wouldn't be summoned in any such imperative manner as this_]

"What's up, Anderson?" called out Mort Fryback, the hardware dealer,
wavering on one leg while he reached frantically behind him for his
crutch. Mort was always looking for excitement. He hadn't had any to
speak of since the day he created the greatest furor the town had
experienced in years by losing one of his legs under an extremely heavy
kitchen stove.

"Is there a fire?" shouted Mr. Brubaker, the druggist, half a block
away.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Jones, proprietor of the _Banner_ Job Printing office, obligingly
produced the "galley-proof" of the account of the People's Convention,
prepared by his "city editor," Harry Squires, for the ensuing issue of
the weekly. Mr. Squires himself emerged from the press-room, and
sarcastically offered his condolences to Anderson Crow.

"Well, here's a pretty howdy-do, Anderson," he said, elevating his
eye-shade to a position that established a green halo over a perfectly
pink pate.

"Howdy-do," responded Anderson, with unaccustomed politeness. He was
staring hard at the dirty strip of paper which he held to the light.

"Didn't I _tell_ you?" exclaimed Alf Reesling triumphantly. "There she
is, right before your eyes."

Mr. Reesling employed the proper gender in making this assertion. "She"
was right before the eyes of every one who cared to look. Anderson
slowly read off the "ticket." His voice cracked deplorably as he
pronounced the last of the six names that smote him where he had never
been smitten before.

Clerk--Henry Wimpelmeyer

Justice of the Peace--William Kiser

Selectman, First District--Otto Schultz

Selectman, Second District--Conrad Blank

Selectman, Third District--Christopher Columbus Callahan

Marshal--Minnie Stitzenberg.

A long silence followed the last syllable in Minnie's name, broken at
last by Marshal Crow, who turned upon Harry Squires and demanded:

"What do you mean, Harry Squires, by belittlin' a woman's name in your
paper like this? She c'n sue for libel. You got no right to make fun of
a respectable, hard-workin' woman, even though she did make a derned
fool of herself gittin' up that pertition to have me removed from
office."

"Well, that's what she's still trying to do," said Harry.

"What say?"

"I say she's still trying to remove you from office. She's going to get
your hide, Anderson, for arresting her when she tried to make that
Suffrage speech in front of the town hall last fall."

"I had a right to arrest her. She was obstructin' the public
thoroughfare."

"That's all right, but she said she had as much right to block the
street as you had. You made speeches all over the place."

"Yes, but I made 'em in good American English, an' she spoke half the
time in German. How in thunder was I to know what she was sayin'? She
might 'a' been sayin' somethin' ag'in the United States Government, fer
all I knew."

"Well, anyhow, she's going to get your scalp for it, if it's in woman's
power to do it."

"I'm ag'in any female citizen of this here town that subscribes to a
German paper printed in New York City an' refuses to read the _Banner_,"
declared Anderson loudly--and with all the astuteness of the experienced
politician. "An' what's more," pursued Anderson scornfully, "I'm ag'in
that whole ticket. There's only one American on it, an' he was a
Democrat up to las' Sunday. Besides, it's ag'in the law to nominate
Minnie Stitzenberg."

"Why?" demanded Harry Squires.

"Ain't she a woman?"

"Certainly she is."

"Well, ain't _that_ ag'in the law? A woman ain't got no right to run for
nothin'," said Anderson. "She ain't--"

"She ain't, eh? Didn't you walk up to the polls last fall and vote to
give her the right?" demanded Harry. "Didn't every dog-goned man in this
town except Bill Wynkoop vote for suffrage? Well, then, what are you
kicking about? She's got as much right to run for marshal as you have,
old Sport, and if what she says is true, every blessed woman in
Tinkletown is going to vote for her."

Marshal Crow sat down, a queer, dazed look in his eyes.

"By gosh, I--I never thought they'd act like this," he murmured.

Every man in the group was asking the same question in the back of his
startled brain: "Has _my_ wife gone an' got mixed up in this scheme of
Minnie's without sayin' anything to me?" Visions of feminine supremacy
filled the mental eye of a suddenly perturbed constituency. The
realization flashed through every mind that if the women of Tinkletown
stuck solidly together, there wasn't the ghost of a chance for the sex
that had been in the saddle since the world began. An unwitting, or
perhaps a designing, Providence had populated Tinkletown with at least
twenty more women than men!

       *       *       *       *       *

Alf Reesling was the first to speak. He addressed the complacent Mr.
Squires:

"I know one woman that ain't goin' to vote for Minnie Stitzenberg," said
he, somewhat fiercely.

"What are you going to do?" inquired Harry mildly. "Kill her?"

"Nothin' as triflin' as that," said Alf. "I'm goin' to tell my wife if
she votes for Minnie I'll pack up and leave her."

"Minnie's sure of _one_ vote, all right," was Harry's comment.

Fully ten minutes were required to convince the marshal that Minnie
Stitzenberg was a bona fide candidate.

Anderson finally arose, drew himself to his full height, lifted his
chin, and faced the group with something truly martial in his eye.

"Feller citizens," he began solemnly, "the time has come for us men to
stand together. We got to pertect our rights. We got to let the women
know that they can't come between us. For the last million years we have
been supportin' an' pertectin' and puttin' up with all sorts of women,
an' we got to give 'em to understand that this is no time for them to
git it into their heads they can support and pertect us. Everybody,
includin' the women, knows there's a great war goin' on over in Europe.
Us men are fightin' that war. We're bleedin' an' dyin' an' bein'
captured by the orneriest villains outside o' hell--as the feller says.
I'm not sayin' the women ain't doin' their part, mind you. They're doin'
noble, an' you couldn't git me to say a thing ag'in women _as_ women.
They're a derned sight better'n we are. That's jest the point. We got to
_keep_ 'em better'n we are, an' what's more to the point, we don't want
'em to find out they're better'n we are. Just as soon as they git to be
as overbearin' an' as incontrollable as we are, then there's goin' to be
thunder to pay. I'm willin' to work, an' fight, an' die fer my wife an'
my daughters, but I'm derned if I like the idee of them workin' an'
fightin' ag'in _me_. I'm willin' the women should vote. But they
oughtn't to run out an' vote ag'in the men the first chance they git.
When this war's over an' there ain't no able-bodied men left to run
things, then you bet the women will be derned glad we fixed things so's
_they_ won't never have to worry about goin' to war with the
ding-blasted ravishers over in Germany. If the time ever comes--an' it
may, if they keep killin' us off over there--when the women have to run
this here government, they'll find it's a man-sized job, an' that we
took care of it mighty well up to the time we got all shot to pieces
preservin' humanity, an' civilization, an' all the women an' children
the Germans didn't git a chance to butcher because we wouldn't let 'em.
Now, I'm ready any time to knuckle under to a man that's better'n I am.
But I'm dog-goned if I'm willin' to admit that Minnie Stitzenberg's that
man! Yes, sir, gentlemen, we men have got to stand together!"

"'Sh!" hissed Mort Fryback, jerking his head in the direction of Main
Street. With one accord the men on the porch turned to look.

Miss Minnie Stitzenberg had come into view on the opposite side of the
street, and was striding manfully in their direction. The Higgins dog
trotted proudly, confidently, a few feet ahead of her. She waved a
friendly hand and called out, in a genial but ludicrous effort to mimic
the lordly Mr. Crow:

"Move on there, now. Don't loiter."

A little later, the agitated town marshal, flanked by the town drunkard
and the one-legged Mr. Fryback, viewed with no little dismay a group of
women congregated in front of Parr's drygoods store. In the centre of
this group was the new candidate for town marshal. Alf Reesling stopped
short and said something under his breath. His wife was one of Miss
Stitzenberg's most attentive listeners.

[Illustration: _In the centre of this group was the new candidate for
town marshal_]

Marshal Crow was not disheartened. He knew that Minnie Stitzenberg could
not defeat him at the polls. The thing that rankled was the fact that a
woman had been selected to run against him. It was an offence to his
dignity. The leaders of the People's Party made it quite plain that they
did not consider him of sufficient importance to justify anything so
dignified as masculine opposition!

On the day of the Republican Convention, which was to be held in the
town hall in the evening, Anderson went in despair and humility to Harry
Squires, the reporter.

"Harry," he said, "I been thinkin' it over. I can't run ag'in a woman.
It goes ag'in the grain. If I beat her, I'd never be able to look
anybody in the face, an' if she beats me--why, by gosh, I couldn't even
look myself in the face. So I'm goin' to decline the nomination
tonight."

He was rather pathetic, and Harry Squires was touched. He had a great
fondness for the old marshal, notwithstanding his habit of poking fun at
him and ridiculing him in the _Banner_. He laid his hand on the old
man's arm and there was genuine warmth in his voice as he spoke to him.

"Anderson, we can't allow you to withdraw. It would be the vilest thing
the people of this town could do if they turned you out of office after
all these years of faithful service. We--"

"Can't be helped, Harry," said Anderson firmly. "I won't run ag'in a
woman, so that's the end of it."

Harry looked cautiously around, and then, leaning a little closer, said:

"I know something that would put Minnie in the soup, clean over her
head. All I've got to do is to tell what I know about--"

"Hold on, Harry," broke in the marshal sternly. "Is it somethin' ag'in
her character?"

"It's something that would prevent every man, woman and child in
Tinkletown from voting for her," said Harry.

"Somethin' scand'lous?" demanded Anderson, perking up instantly.

"Decidedly. A word from me and--"

"Wait a second. Is--is there a man in the case?"

"A _man_?" cried Harry. "Bless your soul, Anderson, there are fifty men
in it."

Anderson fell back a step or two. For a moment or two he was speechless.

"Sakes alive! _Fifty?_ For goodness' sake, Harry, are you sure?"

"Not exactly. It may be sixty," amended Harry. "We could easily find out
just how many--"

"Never mind! Never mind!" cried Anderson, recovering himself. "If it's
as bad as all that, we just got to keep still about it. I wouldn't allow
you to throw mud at her if she's been carryin' on with only _one_ man,
but if there's fifty or--But, gosh a' mighty, Harry, it ain't possible.
A woman as homely as Minnie--why, dog-gone it, a woman as homely as she
is simply couldn't be bad no matter how much she wanted to. It ain't
human nature. She--"

"Hold your horses, Anderson," broke in Harry, after a perplexed stare.
"I guess you're jumping at conclusions. I didn't say--"

"There ain't going to be no scandal in this campaign. If Minnie
Stitzenberg--German or no German--has been--"

"It isn't the kind of scandal you think it is," protested Harry. "What
I'm trying to tell you is that it was Minnie Stitzenberg who got that
guy up here from New York two years ago to sell stock in the Salt Water
Gold Company, and stung fifty or sixty of our wisest citizens to the
extent of thirty dollars apiece. I happen to know that Minnie got five
dollars for every sucker that was landed. That guy was her cousin and
she gave him a list of the easiest marks in town. If I remember
correctly, you were one of them, Anderson. She got something like two
hundred dollars for giving him the proper steer, and that's what I meant
when I said there were fifty or sixty men in the case."

"Well, I'll be ding-blasted!"

"And do you know what she did with her ill-gotten gains?"

Anderson could only shake his head.

"She went up to Boggs City and took singing lessons. Now you know the
worst."

The marshal found his voice. "An' it went on for nearly six months,
too--people had to keep their windows shut so's they couldn't hear her
yellin' as if somebody was tryin' to murder her. An' when I went to her
an' respectfully requested her to quit disturbin' the peace, she--do you
know what she said to me?"

"I've got a sneaking idea."

"Well, you're wrong. She said I was a finicky old jackass." The memory
of it brought an apoplectic red to his face.

"And being a gentleman, you couldn't deny it," said Harry soberly.

"What's that?"

"I mean, you couldn't call her a liar. What did you say?"

"I looked her right in the eyes an' I said I'd been neutral up to that
minute, but from then on I'd be derned if I'd try any longer. By gosh, I
guess she knowed what I meant all right."

"Well, as I was saying, all you've got to do is to tell the voters of
this town that she helped put up that job on them, and--"

Anderson held up his hand and shook his head resolutely.

"Nope! I'm through. I'm not goin' to run. I mean to withdraw my name
tonight."

Considering the matter closed, he sauntered to the middle of the street
where he held up his hand and stopped a lame and venerable Ford
driven--or as Mr. Squires was in the habit of saying, urged--by Deacon
Rank.

"What's your speedo-_meter_ say, Deacon?" inquired the marshal blandly.

"It don't say anything," snapped the deacon.

Anderson saw fit to indulge in sarcasm. "Well, by gum, I'd 'a' swore
your old machine was movin'. Is it possible my eyes deceived me?"

"Course it was movin'--movin' strictly accordin' to law, too. Six miles
an hour. What you holdin' me up for?"

"So's I could get in and take a little joy ride with you," said Mr. Crow
affably. "Drop me at the post office, will you?" He stepped up beside
the deacon and calmly seated himself.

The deacon grumbled. "'Tain't more'n a hundred yards to the post
office," he said. "Stoppin' me like this an'--an' makin' me get out and
crank the car besides. An' I'm in a hurry, too. Couldn't you--"

"Well, I ain't in no hurry. If I was, don't you suppose I'd 'a' walked?"

That evening the town hall was filled with discouraged, apprehensive
Republicans. A half-dozen newly enfranchised women occupied front seats.
Ed. Higgins confided to those nearest him that he felt as though he was
in church, and Alf Reesling loudly advised the convention to be
careful, as there were ladies present.

Mr. Hud Lamson, as usual, was the chairman of the "Convention." No one
else ever had a chance to be chairman for the reason that Hud did not
insist upon having the honour thrust upon him. He simply _took_ it.

Following the usual resolutions condemning the Democratic Party to
perdition and at the same time eulogizing the Democratic Administration
at Washington, Mr. Ezra Pounder was nominated by acclamation for the
responsible post of town clerk. In swift succession, Ed. Higgins, Abner
Pickerell and Situate M. Jones were chosen for selectmen. Justice Robb
was unanimously chosen to succeed himself.

Then ensued a strange, significant silence--a silence fraught with
exceeding gravity and the portentous suggestion of something devastating
about to overtake the assemblage. Some one in the back of the hall
cleared his throat, and instantly, with one accord, every eye was turned
in his direction. It was as if he were clearing the way for action.

Harry Squires, the perennial secretary of all conventions held by all
parties in Tinkletown, by virtue of his skill with the pencil, arose
from his seat--and stepped to the front of the platform.

[Illustration: _Harry Squires stepped to the front of the platform_]

"Order!" called out Marshal Crow, in his most authoritative voice,
sweeping the convention with an accusing eye.

"Mr. Chairman, fellow Republicans and voters of the opposite sex," began
Harry, in a distinctly lugubrious tone, "we have now come to the most
critical moment in the history of Tinkletown. It is with ineffable
sorrow and dismay that I stand before you this evening, the bearer of
sad tidings. On the other hand, I expect to derive great joy in
offsetting this sad news later on in my humble speech. I am now,
gentlemen--and ladies--speaking of our most noted and most cherished
citizen, Mr. Anderson Crow, known to you all, I believe, without
exception. I--"

At this juncture, up jumped Alf Reesling and shouted:

"Three cheers for Anderson Crow!"

And three cheers were given with a vim. Uncle Dad Simms, a patriot of
long-standing but of exceedingly short memory, took the convention by
storm by crying out in a cracked but penetrating voice:

"Three cheers for the President of the United States! I don't keer if he
is a Democrat! Come on, now, men! Three cheers for President Cleveland!"

A roar of laughter went up and Uncle Dad, being quite deaf, followed it
with two squeaky cheers, all by himself, and then looked about in
triumph. Alf Reesling proposed three cheers for President Wilson, and
again the welkin rang. Having established a success as a promoter of
enthusiasm, Alf mounted a chair and roared:

"Now, let's give three cheers for General Pershing an' the boys over in
France, includin' the four noble young men from Tinkletown who are with
him in the trenches, killin' the botches! Now, hip--hip--"

And once more the air shivered under the impact of vocal enthusiasm.

Mr. Squires held up his hands and checked what might have become a habit
by thanking the convention for the timely and admirable interruption,
explaining that the digression had given him an opportunity to regain
command of his emotions.

"It is, however, with pain that I am authorized to announce, not only to
the glorious Republican Party, but to the City of Tinkletown, that--Hold
on, Alf! We can get along without three cheers for Tinkletown! To
announce that the name of Anderson Crow is hereby withdrawn from the
consideration of this convention for the--er--the nomination for Town
Marshal. Mr. Crow positively declines to make the race. It is not
necessary for me to dilate upon the manifold virtues and accomplishments
of our distinguished marshal. His fame extends to the uttermost corners
of the earth. For nearly half a century he has kept this town jogging
along in a straight and narrow path, and I for one--and I feel that I
voice the sentiment of every citizen here and elsewhere--I for one do
not resent the frequent reproaches and occasional arrests he has heaped
upon me in the discharge of his duty. It was all for the good of the
community, and I am proud to say that I have been arrested by Marshal
Crow more times than I have fingers and toes. And, I am further proud to
add, that on not a single occasion did Marshal Crow hesitate to admit
that he was mistaken. Gentlemen, it takes a pretty big man to admit that
he is mistaken. But, if you will read the next issue of the _Banner_,
you will see that I can write about him much more eloquently than I can
speak. He has positively decided not to be a candidate for re-election.
While we are thereby plunged into grief of the darkest hue, I am here to
tell you that our grief is mitigated by the most gorgeous ray of light
that ever beamed upon the human race. It is my pleasure, gentlemen of
the Republican Party--and ladies of the same sect--to present for
your--"

Alf Reesling's voice was heard in plaintive protest. He spoke to his
elbow neighbour, but in a tone audible to every one, far and near.

"I'll be dog-goned if I'll stand for that. It's an insult to every man
here to say they are of the same sex. We give 'em the vote and, by gosh,
they claim our sex. I--"

"Order!" commanded Marshal Crow.

The orator resumed. "It is my privilege to present for your
consideration the name of one of our most illustrious citizens for the
honourable office of Town Marshal. A name that is a household word,
second only to that of the present incumbent. Circumstances over which
we have no control--although we did have it up to a short time ago--make
it possible for me to present to you a name that will go down in history
as one of the grandest since the bonny days of good Queen Bess.
Gentlemen--and at the same time, ladies--I have the honour to put in
nomination for Town Marshal our distinguished fellow voter, Mrs.
Anderson Crow!"

A silence even more potential than the one preceding Mr. Squire's
peroration ensued. It was broken this time by Uncle Dad Simms, who
proceeded to further glorify his deafness by squeaking:

"And he'll be elected, too, you bet your boots. We don't want no
gosh-blamed woman fer--eh? What say, Alf?" And Alf, making a cup of his
hands, repeated with great vigour an inch or so from Uncle Dad's ear the
timely remark that had caused the ancient to hesitate. It is not
necessary to quote Alf, but Uncle Dad's rejoinder is important.

"Well, _Jee_-hosaphat!" he gasped.

"Is there a second to the nomination?" inquired the chairman.

Marshal Crow arose. "I second the nomination," he said, taking a sudden
tug at his whiskers. "Before we take a ballot, Mr. Chairman, I want to
say right here an' now that Mrs. Crow will have my full an' undivided
support, just as she has always had. I have allus maintained that a
woman's place is in the home. Therefore, when it comes time fer Mrs.
Crow to assume the responsibilities of this here office, I am goin' to
see to it that she _stays_ home an' tends to her household duties. I am
goin' to be deputy marshal durin' her term of office, without pay,
ladies an' gentlemen, an' I am goin' to lift every bit o' the work off'n
her shoulders. I believe in equal sufferin'. If she'll do the woman's
share o' the work, I'll do the man's, an' nothin' could be fairer than
that. Between us we'll give the city o' Tinkletown the best
administration the office of marshal has ever had. My wife ain't here
tonight to accept the honour you are goin' to heap on her, but I think I
can safely promise she'll consent to make the race. She may kick like a
bay steer at first, but when she sees it's her _duty_ to run, you bet
she'll do it! It's a case of woman ag'in woman, feller Republicans, an'
man ag'in man. All I got to say is that the best woman's bound to win. I
almost forgot to say that if the voters o' Tinkletown don't jump at the
chance to git a marshal an' a experienced deputy for the price o' one
salary, it's because there's more derned fools in the town than I
thought there was."

Mr. Ed Higgins sprang to his feet.

"I move, Mr. Chairman, that we make the nomination unanimous without a
dissenting vote," he cried out. "We got a chance to get the best deputy
marshal in the United States of America without it costin' us a red
cent, an' besides that, we get the best cook in all Tinkletown for
marshal. If there's anybody here, male or female, who c'n deny that Mrs.
Crow is the best cook alive I'd like to hear him say so. I've eat a
hundred meals in her house an' I know what I'm talkin' about. I defy
anybody--"

"I call for a vote!" cried out one of the women, bridling a little. "And
I want to say to you, Ed Higgins, that while I think Mrs. Crow will make
the best marshal we've ever had, I wouldn't go so far as to say she's
the best cook in Tinkletown. You haven't been invited to eat in _every_
house in this town, don't forget that."

"All in favour of making the nomination of Mrs. Crow unanimous signify
by holding up their hands," said the chairman.

Every hand went up. Then a rousing cheer was given for the "next Marshal
of Tinkletown," followed by the customary mumbling of "The Star Spangled
Banner."

Three full days were devoted by Anderson and the leaders of the
Republican Party to the task of inducing Mrs. Crow to make the race
against Minnie Stitzenberg. At first she refused point-blank. She
didn't intend to neglect her household duties for all the offices in
Tinkletown!

"But, consarn it, Eva!" Anderson protested for the hundredth time,
"nobody's askin' you to neglect your household duties. Ain't I agreein'
to handle the job for you?"

"Well, I posi-_tive_-ly refuse to wear a star--or carry a pistol."

"You don't have to. I'll wear the star."

"And if you think I'll traipse the streets of Tinkletown from morning
till night, you're very much--"

"That ain't any respectable woman's job," said her husband stiffly.
"You're not expected to do it as long as you got a deputy."

"And as for snooping around putting my nose into other people's
business,--why--"

"Now, don't let that worry you, Eva. That's part o' my job."

"Who's going to tend jail when there's anybody locked up in it?"

"I am, o' course."

"And who's going to be street commissioner, truant officer, chief of the
fire depart--"

"You are, Eva,--but I'm going to look after _everything_, mind you. All
you got to do is to see that I git somethin' to eat whenever I need it,
an' a bed to sleep in at night, an' I'll--"

"A bed to sleep in, you ninny!" she cried. "You're going to sleep in
the same bed you've been sleeping in for forty years. What are you
talking about? Ain't you going to sleep with me if I appoint you deputy
marshal?"

"Certainly," Anderson made haste to assure her. "Unofficially, o'
course," he went on, with profound regard for the ethics involved.

"Well, I'll think it over," she said wearily. "Don't bother me now, you
two; can't you see I'm making apple butter?"

"I hope you will consent to run, Mrs. Crow," put in the wily Mr.
Squires, "if only for the sake of showing Minnie Stitzenberg that it
won't do her any good to be saying things about--well, about anybody in
particular." He concluded very lamely.

"Has that woman been saying things about me?" demanded Mrs. Crow.

"I ought to have sense enough to keep my mouth shut," said Harry,
scowling darkly. Catching the astonished look on Anderson's face, he
hastily suggested that they "beat it."

Out in the front yard Anderson halted him. "Has Minnie been saying
anything about my wife, Harry Squires?"

Harry first looked over his shoulder and then winked. "Not that I know
of," he said, chuckling. "But I guess it's safe to go ahead and print
the ticket with Mrs. Crow's name on it."

Never in all its sedentary existence had Tinkletown experienced a
livelier campaign.

"If you vote for Minnie Stitzenberg, I'll never speak to you again," was
the common argument of the Crowites, and "Don't you ever try to look me
in the face again if you vote for that old Mrs. Crow," was the slogan of
the opposition.

Mrs. Crow conducted her own campaign.

Anderson discovered to his great dismay that his meals were not only
irregular in the matter of time, but frequently did not materialize at
all. His wife and daughters neglected him completely. On three separate
occasions after waiting until nearly eight o'clock for his supper, he
strolled disconsolately over to the equally abandoned home of Alf
Reesling.

"I'm a mighty poor cook," confessed Alf on the first occasion, a hungry,
harassed look in his eyes. "But anything's better'n starvin', ain't it?"

"It shore is," said Anderson with feeling.

"I ain't seen a petticoat around my house since half-past nine this
mornin'," lamented Alf, upsetting a pan of milk while trying to get a
plate of cold ham out of the icebox. "It's terrible."

"Lemme take your knife, Alf. I'll peel the pertatoes--if you'll tell me
where they are."

"I don't know where anything is," said Alf, leaning dejectedly against
the kitchen sink.

"Well," said Anderson, "let's look."

"If the election was a week further off, I'd give up an' go to drinkin'
again," said Alf on another occasion. "I'd sooner drink myself to death
than starve. Starvation is a terrible end, Anderson. Worse than hangin',
they say."

"Only four days more," sighed Anderson, clipping off a hunk of bologna.
"My wife says if I'll hold out till after election, she won't never
leave the kitchen ag'in long as she lives."

"That's what mine says. Sherman was only half right. War may be hell for
men, but, by gosh, women are hell for war. An' that's what it is--war,
Anderson, war to the hilt. Every woman in town's got her knife out an',
my God, how they're slashin' each other! There won't be a whole woman
left."

"Well, I'd be satisfied with half a one," mused Anderson, a faraway look
in his eyes.

The day before the election, Mrs. Crow played her trump card. She had
treasured an open boast made years before by the disappointed old maid
who now opposed her. Minnie, before attaining years of discretion and
still smarting under the failures of youth, had spitefully announced
that she was a spinster from choice. With great scorn she had stated,
while sitting on Mrs. Crow's porch, that she would die an old maid a
hundred times over sooner than marry any one in Tinkletown. And, she
added, the best proof that she meant what she said was the fact that
nearly every man in town had asked her to marry him before he asked any
one else!

The news spread like wildfire the instant Mrs. Crow released it. Mrs.
Crow's veracity was not a thing to be questioned.

When the returns were all in, Mrs. Crow was found to have received 573
votes (women included), out of a total of 601 cast. Miss Stitzenberg
held the German vote solid, including seven from her own sex who could
afford to disregard the slander because they had been safely married in
Germany long before coming to Tinkletown.

       *       *       *       *       *

The day after the new marshal's induction into office Anderson appeared
with his star glittering so brightly that it dazzled the eye. His shoes
were polished, his clothes brushed and--shocking to relate--his trousers
creased. In all his career as marshal he had never gone to such extremes
as this. He was, however, not in a happy frame of mind. His customary
aplomb was missing.

"Well, of all the--" began Alf Reesling. Then, before Anderson could put
in a word of warning, he shouted to the group in front of Lamson's
store: "Hey! Look at the dude!"

Anderson, very red in the face, declined a seat on a soap box.

"If I'd knowed she was goin' to act like this, I'd a voted ag'in her
myself," he said rather wanly. "She started in bossin' me the very
minute she got my place as marshal. She's laid down the law to me, an',
by crickety, she says if I'm goin' to be her deputy I've got to look
like this every day. Look at them shoes! And these pants! No, I can't
set down. I don't dare risk sp'ilin' the creases my daughter Susie put
in 'em 'fore I was up this mornin'."



VICIOUS LUCIUS


Lucius Fry lived up back of the Power-house on the outskirts of
Tinkletown. He had a wife, two children and a horse and buggy. For a
great many years he had led a quiet, peaceful, even suppressed
existence. Being a rather smallish, bony sort of man, with a large
Adam's apple and bow legs, he was an object of considerable scorn not
only to his acquaintances but to his wife and children, and after a
fashion, to his horse.

The latter paid absolutely no attention to him when he said "Get-ap," or
when he applied the "gad"; she neither obeyed the command nor resented
the chastisement. She jogged along in her own sweet way quite as if he
were nowhere in the vicinity. His wife abused him, and his children
ignored him. No one, it would appear, had the slightest use or respect
for Lucius Fry.

He was, by profession, a well-digger. The installation of a water-works
system in Tinkletown had made him a well-digger in name only. For a
matter of five or six years, barring the last six months, he had been in
the employ of his wife. She took in washing, and it was his job to
collect and deliver the "wash" three times a week. In return for this he
received board and lodging and an occasional visit to the
moving-picture theatre. One of his daughters clerked in the
five-and-ten-cent store, and the other, aged twelve, was errand girl to
Miss Angie Nixon, the fashionable dressmaker.

Lucius had married very much above him, so to speak. That is to say, his
wife was something like nine or ten inches the taller of the two. When
they appeared on the street together,--which was seldom,--you could see
him only if you chanced to be on _that_ side of her. Mrs. Fry was nearly
six feet tall and very wide, but Lucius was not much over five feet two.
He had a receding chin that tried to secrete itself behind a scant,
dun-colored crop of whiskers, cultivated by him with two purposes in
view; first, to provide shelter for his shrinking chin, and second, to
avoid the arduous and unnecessary task of shaving.

[Illustration: _When they appeared on the street together_]

Roughly speaking, Lucius was a shiftless creature. It had long been the
consensus of opinion--freely expressed throughout Tinkletown--that he
did not amount to a tinker's dam.

However that may be, some six or seven months prior to the incidents
about to be related, Mr. Fry himself wrought a tremendous and
unbelievable change in the foregoing opinion. Almost in the wink of an
eyelash he passed through a process of transmogrification that not only
bewildered him but caused the entire community to sit up and take notice
of him.

It all came about in the oddest sort of way. For a number of years
Lucius had been in the habit of currying the old grey mare on Saturday
mornings. Away back in his mind lurked an hereditary respect for the
Sabbath. He wanted old Peggy to be as clean as possible on
Sunday--observing the same principle, no doubt, that induces a great
many people to take a bath on Saturday night. Moreover, he changed the
bedding in her stall on Saturdays, employing a pitchfork and a spade.

For a number of years Peggy had put up with these attentions, responding
amiably to his directions--such as "Get over, dern ye," or "Whoa, back,"
"Stan' still, can't ye?" and so on.

One never-to-be-forgotten Saturday morning in the spring of the year,
Peggy happened to be peevish. The cause of her peevishness was a swarm
of intensely active flies. Mr. Fry was accustomed to an occasional swish
of her tail across his face. He even welcomed it, for the flies bothered
him almost as much as they did Peggy. On mornings when he felt unusually
tired, he was rather grateful to Peggy for including him in the sweep of
her tail.

But on this particular morning the exasperated nag planted one of her
hoofs on Mr. Fry's toes while he was engaged in brushing out the kinks
in her mane.

Mrs. Fry happened to be in the stable at the time, seeing if the hens
had mislaid anything in the hay. She was astonished by the roar of a
mighty oath, followed almost instantly by a thunderous thump on the
barrel-like anatomy of the family horse. A second or two later Peggy's
head came in for a resounding whack, and the stream of profanity
increased to a torrent.

Springing to her feet, the surprised lady cast a startled glance over
the manger into the stall. Her husband had old Peggy backed up against
the partition and was preparing to deliver a third blow with the spade
when she called out to him: "Stop it, you little fool!"

Mr. Fry's attention was diverted. Peggy was spared the impending blow.
Instead, the outraged hostler charged around the partition, through a
narrow passage and into the presence of his wife. He hobbled painfully.
Inarticulate sounds issued from his compressed lips. He gripped the
spade-handle so tightly that cords stood out on his rather formidable
forearms.

Mrs. Fry got as far as "You ugly little--" and then, as he bore down
upon her, turned to flee. He altered his course, and as she passed him
on the way to the open door, the flat of the spade landed with impelling
force upon the broadest part of her person. The sound was not so hollow
as that which resulted from the wallop on Peggy's ribs, but its echo was
a great deal more far-reaching. Indeed, Mrs. Fry's howl could have been
heard a quarter of a mile away. She passed through the door into the
barnyard on the wing, as it were.

[Illustration: _He altered his course, and as she passed him, the flat
of his spade landed with impelling force_]

Lucius blindly took another swing at her with the spade as she made her
exit. Missing her by several feet, he spun completely around several
times with the momentum; then, not to be deprived of the full measure of
triumph, he hurled the implement after her retreating figure. Rage
improved the accuracy as well as the force of his effort. The spade
caught Mrs. Fry below the waistline and for nearly a month thereafter
she was in the habit of repairing with female visitors to an upstairs
bedroom where she proudly revealed to them the extensive welt produced
by her husband's belated return to power.

Not completely satisfied, however, he set out in pursuit of her,
principally on one foot, but with a swiftness that surprised both of
them. Overtaking her near the barnyard gate, he pulled up suddenly,
realizing the peril of being too precipitate. He was rushing into
disaster. She was likely to turn and snatch the offensive away from him.
But just as he was on the point of turning to run the other way, she
flopped down on her knees and began begging him for God's sake to spare
her! Her eyes were tightly closed, and her arms were raised to shield
her face.

Seizing this fine opportunity, he edged around in front of her, took the
most careful, deliberate aim, and forthwith planted his fist solidly
upon her unprotected nose.

He had always wanted to do it, but never before had the opportunity
presented itself. He couldn't remember when he had caught her with her
eyes closed before. She invariably stayed awake longer than he did at
night, telling him the same thing she had told him the night before, and
in the morning she kicked him out of bed before his eyes were open. Now
here was the golden, long-desired chance. It might never occur again. So
he swung with all his might and main.

Mrs. Fry involuntarily arose from her knees, balanced on her heels for a
second or two and then sat down some distance away with the same heels
in the air.

Then and there Lucius Fry ceased to be a person of no consequence.

Two or three neighbours, bent on rescuing Mrs. Fry, got no nearer than
the barn-lot fence. Lucius, still hopping around on one foot, gathered
up a stick of stove-wood in each hand, and let fly at them with such
determination and precision that they decided to let him go ahead and
murder her.

When Mrs. Fry's daughters hurried into the house a short time afterward,
they found their mother dressing and bandaging Mr. Fry's foot and
chokingly inquiring if she was hurting him. Between sentences she
applied a wet towel to a prodigious, unrecognizable object that had once
been her nose.

Juliet, the elder, planted herself in front of her father and
passionately inquired if it was true that he had dared to strike her
mother.

Lucius, with rare forethought, had provided himself with a stick of
stove-wood before entering the house. He now held it in his right hand.
He was not going to take any chances on his wife's treachery. He was
ready for the slightest sign of an uprising. Without answering his
daughter's question, he took a firm grip on the stick and started to
arise from his chair, upsetting the pail of water that his wife had been
using. Mrs. Fry screeched.

"Don't hit her! Don't kill her, Lucius! For God's----"

"Shut up!" snarled Lucius. "I'm goin' to belt the life out of her if she
comes around here disturbin' the peace. I'm peaceable now, Stella--we've
got perfect peace now, ain't we? But if she tries to--Well, you'll see
what'll happen, young lady. Go an' get a mop and clean up that water.
D'ye hear me? Beat it!"

"For the Lord's sake, Juliet, do what he tells you," begged Mrs. Fry.

"An' do it _quick_," said Mr. Fry.

Having so suddenly--and unintentionally--gained the upper hand in his
household, he was determined if possible to retain it. Temporarily at
least he had his wife scared almost to death and so submissive that he
couldn't think of half enough indignities to heap upon her, no matter
how hard he tried; and his disdainful daughters spoke in hushed voices,
and got up every morning to start the kitchen fire, and carried in the
wood, and waited on him first at meals, and allowed him to read _The
Banner_ before any one else claimed it, and fed the chickens, and
behaved as daughters ought to behave. It was too good to be true. But as
long as it really appeared to be true, he couldn't afford to relax for
an instant; he went about with a perpetual scowl and swore from morning
till night.

Every other week he went out to the stable, and after closing the doors,
proceeded to belabour an old saddle with a pitchfork handle. The sounds
reaching the back porch of the house caused Mrs. Fry to cover her ears
and moan: "Poor old Peggy! O-oh! My gracious! He'll--he'll kill her!"

Occasionally he threw a stove-lid or a hatchet or something else at his
wife, but his aim was singularly bad, for try as he would, he did not
appear to come closer than five or six feet to her with any of the
missiles. Once in a while he displayed the most appalling desire to
destroy everything in sight. On such occasions he smashed chairs, broke
up the crockery or tramped all over the garments that Mrs. Fry had just
hung out to dry. By mistake, he once picked up a hot stove-lid, and then
he swore in earnest. His dutiful wife wrapped his hand up in soda and
called the stove-lid a "nasty old thing!"

In a very short time everybody in Tinkletown was talking about Lucius
Fry. Some one, lying with a little more enterprise than the rest,
started the report that he had gone to Boggs City, the county seat, and
had thrashed a bartender who refused to sell him a drink. This report
grew until Lucius was credited with having polished off a whole bar-room
full of men without so much as sustaining a scratch himself.

When Lucius appeared on Main Street, men who had never noticed him
before went out of their way to be polite and friendly. Women who pitied
Mrs. Fry looked at him with interest and called him, under their breath,
a "big ugly brute." Children stopped playing and ran when they saw
Lucius Fry approaching.

Harry Squires, editor of _The Banner_, in reporting one of Mr. Fry's
most violent eruptions, alluded to him as "vicious Lucius." The name
clung to the little man. It was some time before the general public
could utter it with confidence. Haste was not conducive to accuracy.
Rash assuredness frequently turned Mr. Fry into "Vooshious Lishius" or
"Lishius Vooshious" or even "V'looshious Ooshious."

Mrs. Fry, in course of time, grew to be very proud of her master, the
despot of Power-house Gully. She revealed her pride every time she fell
in with acquaintances on the way to church. In reply to an oft-repeated
question as to why Mr. Fry did not go to church with her any longer, she
invariably gave the supercilious reply that nowadays when she requested
her husband to go to church, he told her to go to hell instead--and that
was the kind of a man she respected, she said, not one of your
weak-kneed, henpecked cowards who go to church because they are more
afraid of their wives than they are of the devil. And while the
mountainous Mrs. Fry was no longer able to thrash her five-foot-two
husband, she still inspired fear among churchgoers of both sexes and all
ages. She frequently asserted that she could lick any man in Tinkletown
except her husband--and moreover, if any officer of the law ever
attempted to arrest Lucius for what he did to her, she'd beat his head
off--that's what she'd do.

The marshal of Tinkletown, Anderson Crow, on three separate occasions
organized a posse to go out to Power-house Gully to arrest Lucius on the
complaint of neighbours who said they couldn't stand hearing his wife's
howls any longer. On each of these occasions, the marshal got as far as
the Fry front gate, backed by eight or ten of the huskiest men in town.
There they were intercepted by Mrs. Fry, who told them that Lucius was
upstairs peaceably reloading his double-barreled shotgun, or oiling up
his trusty old horse-pistol, as the case may have been, and she didn't
believe he would like to be disturbed.

"Is he ca'am an' quiet, Stella?" Marshal Crow would ask.

"As quiet as a lamb," Mrs. Fry would reply.

"Then I guess we'd better leave him alone," the Marshal would say,
adding: "But if he ever goes on the rampage again, just you send for me,
Stella, an' I'll come as quick as I can."

And the wife of Vicious Lucius would say: "Don't forget to bring the
undertaker with you when you come, Anderson. You won't need a doctor."

At times Lucius would feel his courage slipping. At such times he would
go out to the barn and jostle old Peggy around in the stall, hoping
against hope, but without the desired result. She simply _wouldn't_ step
on his foot.

One bitter cold night just before Christmas, a group of Tinkletown's
foremost citizens sat around the big sheet-iron stove in Lamson's store.
Outside, the wind was blowing a gale; it howled and shrieked around the
corners of the building, banged forgotten window-shutters, slammed
suspended signboards with relentless fury, and afforded unlimited food
for reflection, reminiscence and prophecy. It was long past Mr. Lamson's
customary hour for closing the store, but with rare tact the loungers
permitted him to do most of the talking. It was nice and warm in the
vicinity of the stove, and there were tubs of dried apples and prunes
and a sack of hazel nuts within easy reach.

"I'll never forget the Christmas I spent out in Nebraska," Mr. Lamson
was saying. He was probably the most travelled man in town. Every time
he told a story, he went a little farther West. (Harry Squires
disconcerted him on one occasion by asking in his most ironic manner if
he didn't think it would be a good idea to settle in California when he
got there, and Mr. Lamson, after thinking it over, stopped his
subscription to _The Banner_.) "Yes sir; that was a terrible winter. I
don't know as I ever told you about it, but we had to drive twenty-six
miles in sleighs to get a tree on Christmas Eve. I mean a Christmas
tree. The thermometer registered twenty-six below zero and--"

He was interrupted by the opening of the door. An icy draft swept down
the length of the store.

"Shut that door!" roared out Marshal Crow.

But the door remained open. Whereupon every one craned his neck to see
who was responsible. There was no one in sight.

"That's funny," said Newt Spratt. "I shut it tight when I came in awhile
ago."

"Well, go and shut it again," ordered Mr. Crow. "Do you want us to
freeze our ears right here in sight o' Jim Lamson's stove?"

Newt got up and kicked the door shut, saw that it was latched, and
returned to his place near the stove. Marshal Crow, during his absence,
had bettered his position. He had exchanged a seat on a box of soap for
the cane-bottom chair Newt had been occupying.

"As I was sayin'," resumed Mr. Lamson, "the thermometer registered--"

Again the door flew open, banging against a barrel of sugar. With one
accord the assembled group arose and peered at the open door.

"Well, now, that _is_ funny," said Newt. "I latched her sure that time."

"Acts like ghosts," said Elmer K. Pratt, the photographer.

"If I was a drinking man," said Alf Reesling, the town drunkard, "I'd
think I had 'em."

Marshal Crow stalked to the door, pulling his coat-collar up about his
throat as he encountered the furious blast of the wind.

At the top of the steps leading up to the porch stood a small figure
wrapped in a shawl. The light from within shone full upon the figure. It
was that of a young girl, and she was looking intently up the street.

"Well, of all the--Say, don't you know it's after nine o'clock?"
exclaimed the old Marshal. "What's a young girl like you doin' out this
time o' night?"

"Is--is that you, Mr. Crow?" quaked the girl without turning her head.

"It is. What's that got to do with it?"

"I--You don't see him anywheres up the street, do you?"

"Come inside if you want to talk to me. I ain't goin' to stand here in
this door an' freeze to death. Come in here, I say."

"I dassent. Maybe he follered me."

"Maybe who follered you?"

"Him."

By this time several other customers had joined the Marshal.

"Why, it's Lucius Fry's girl Elfaretta," said Elmer K. Pratt. "What's
the matter, Elfie?"

"You're sure he ain't follerin' me? Look hard," said the girl.

They all looked hard.

"I don't see anybody, Elfie," said Anderson Crow.

"It's a little early for Santa Claus," said Harry Squires, turning back
to the stove, his eye on the only rocking-chair in the place. "Come
inside and tell us all about it."

The girl entered the store, and some one closed the door. She was
shivering, and not altogether from the cold. Her glance darted hither
and thither, as if in quest of a more enduring protection than that
exemplified by the man-power surrounding her.

"Roll that barrel of sugar over against the door," she ordered quickly.
"I wouldn't have him catch me here for anything."

"You needn't be skeered," said the Marshal. "Ain't we here? Let's see:
there's one, two--eight of us. I guess--"

"He'd clean this bunch up as easy as rolling off a log," said Elfaretta,
edging toward the fire, but all the while casting uneasy apprehensive
glances over her shoulder.

Newt Spratt and Situate M. Jones jointly took it upon themselves to roll
the barrel of sugar up against the door.

"Are you referring to your estimable dad?" inquired Mr. Squires from the
rocking-chair.

"Yes, I am," said Elfaretta somewhat defiantly.

"Is he a little more vicious than usual tonight?" asked the reporter.

"He never was worse," said the girl. "He's just simply awful. I had to
come out to see if I couldn't get Mr. Crow to come up to the house
an'--an' settle him. He seen me just as I was going out the door, and
took after me. Out by the front gate he slipped on the ice and set down
like a ton of bricks. Oh, I never heard such cussing. You got to come up
to the house right away, Mr. Crow. He's just terrible. He--"

"Hold on a minute," interrupted the Marshal. "Go slow, now, an' answer
my questions. Is he--"

"He's throwing things around something awful. Ma's in the pantry with
the door locked, and Juliet's hiding up in the--"

"I know all that," broke in Mr. Crow sharply. "You needn't tell me about
that. What I want to know is, is he or is he not in his own house, under
his own roof?"

"He is, unless he's still setting out there in the front yard--or
follerin' after me," she concluded with a terrified look at the
barricaded door. "Do you think that barrel's heavy enough to stop him?"

"Well, if he's inside his own house, I can't touch him without a
warrant. You'll have to go an' swear out a search-warrant for him,
Elfarettie. It's against the law for me to arrest--"

"But ain't it against the law for him to be trying to murder Ma and
Juliet and me?"

"There ain't no use arguing about it. I can't go an' get him without a
warrant."

"You won't have to go in," said she confidently. "All you got to do is
to let him know you're outside--anywheres--looking for him, and he'll
come out; and he'll come without a warrant--you can bet your life on
that, Mr. Crow. He says he's getting awful sick of having nothing to
lick but women. He--"

"Did he say that?" demanded Marshal Crow, frowning and pulling at his
whiskers.

"He put in some extra words, but I can't say 'em," said Elfaretta.

"I've a notion to--to--" began the Marshal in a somewhat bellicose
manner, and then sadly shook his head. "No, it wouldn't be legal. I'm an
officer of the law. But let me tell you one thing, Elfaretta Fry, if I
_wasn't_ an officer of the law, I'd take your dad by the back of the
neck and shake him till his shoes flew off."

"We're getting away from the main issue," broke in Mr. Squires, the
gadfly. "The point is, Anderson, are you going to let Vicious Lucius
beat his family to death, or are you going up to the Gully and arrest
him?"

The Marshal looked at Harry reproachfully. "You know I ain't empowered
by law to enter a man's house without a warrant, Harry Squires."

"But the girl says you won't have to. She says her father will be only
too glad to step outside."

"How do I know she's telling the truth about all this rumpus? She ain't
under oath, is she? Well, there's got to be an affidavit, properly sworn
to, before I do anything. It's the law, an' you know it. She may be
lyin' like all get-out."

The girl flared up. "I'm going to tell Pa you called me a liar. He'll
bust your jaw if--"

"I didn't _call_ you a liar," snapped Anderson. "I only said _maybe_
you're lyin'. I leave it to anybody here if I said you was a liar; an'
besides, your pa ain't man enough to bust my jaw anyhow. You go home an'
tell him I said--"

"Let's get the facts about this present embroglio, Anderson, before we
make arrangements for another," put in Mr. Squires.

"I've no objection to that," said Anderson, a note of relief in his
voice. "She can't swear out a warrant till tomorrow morning anyhow, so
there's no particular hurry."

"But he's killin' Ma tonight!" burst in the girl.

"Keep cool now, my girl; don't get excited," cautioned the Marshal.
"What was he plannin' to kill her with? A gun?"

"No, sir. He had a hammer in one hand and a flatiron in the other, the
last I saw of him."

"Well, go on--tell us all about it."

"It was awful sudden. We were all setting around the kitchen stove, and
Pa was cracking hickory-nuts, just as nice and peaceful as anything. He
was joking with Ma and telling her he couldn't help it if the women up
our way were going plumb crazy over him--specially that Mrs. Banks,
whose husband works at the tanyard. Every time Pa goes out in the back
yard, she comes and leans on her fence and talks to him, making eyes and
grinning like a cat. She's worse than Mrs. Elam Crippen and Mrs.
Ducker--and Ma's been noticing it too. She's worried about Pa.

"Up to three months ago there wasn't a woman in town that'd look at him,
and now they can't seem to look at anybody else. Mrs. Banks came out in
her back yard yesterday and gave Pa a good pair of overshoes and a fur
cap that belonged to her husband. Pa didn't want to take 'em, but she
said she didn't care if Mr. Banks _did_ get mad; he wasn't much of a man
anyhow and she wouldn't take any back talk off'n him. Juliet heard Mrs.
Crippen say to Pa the other day that if he'd give her one of his
photographs, she'd be the happiest mortal alive. And Mrs. Ducker calls
to see Ma nearly every washday now, just when she's busiest, and so Pa
has to sit and entertain her.

"Yesterday a couple of women that Ma don't even know stopped out in
front of the house and giggled at everything Pa said, and one of 'em
said: 'Oh, you naughty man!' When Pa came into the house, Ma asked him
what he was saying to those strange women that made 'em call him a
naughty man, and Pa looked awful worried and wouldn't tell her. He said
it wasn't his fault if women acted like fools. He's all swelled-up, Pa
is. Wears his best clothes every day and has taken to smoking cigarettes
instead of a pipe when he's outside the house. Ma was counting up the
other day just to see how much the cigarettes cost her, and--But that
wasn't what I started to tell you. I--"

"I seen him walkin' down Cutler Street day before yesterday with a
woman," said Alf Reesling. "Fat sort of a woman with a pink hat on."

"That's Mrs. Banks. She--"

"Never mind about Mrs. Banks," interrupted the Marshal. "Confine
yourself to the evidence in this case, an' nothing else."

"Well, as I was saying, Pa was peaceful and quiet, cracking nuts on the
flatiron. He got hold of a tough hickor'-nut, and it wouldn't crack very
easy. So he had to hit it as hard as he could. Somehow he missed it, and
smack went the hammer right on his thumb. My goodness! You'd ought to
have heard him yell. He hopped up and began dancing around the kitchen,
sucking his thumb and trying to swear with his mouth full. Ma
says,--this is all she said,--Ma says: 'Did you hit your finger,
Lucius?' Pa let fly the hammer. It didn't miss her head a foot. Then he
fired the flatiron at her feet. Ma screamed and started to run to'ards
the back stairs. Pa knocked over the kitchen table trying to head her
off. She stumbled and fell down on her hands and knees. Then while he
was looking for something to beat her brains out with, she got up and
run into the pantry and locked the door.

"Juliet was squealing her head off. Pa picked up the hammer and started
to'ard her. Juliet made a break for the stairs, and Pa let go with the
hammer. He missed her, but he knocked a big hole in the ceiling. Then he
grabbed the tea-kettle off the stove and threw it at the cat. He got
some of the boiling water on his legs, I guess, because he grabbed 'em
in his hands and yelled like an Indian. He swore he'd kill everybody in
the house. So I beat it. He was hunting for the flatiron and the hammer,
and I was outside before he noticed me. I grabbed this old red
tablecloth as I went out and put it around me. When I saw a light in
your store, Mr. Lamson, I knowed Mr. Crow would be here, so up I came.
Now, what are you going to do about it, Mr. Crow?"

The Marshal pondered. "You say your Ma's safely locked in the pantry?"

"She was--unless he busted the door down."

"And Julie is up in the attic?"

"Yes, and she's probably dead by this time. There ain't any lock on the
attic door."

"Well, seems to me they're perfectly safe till morning. Julie could jump
out of the attic window if the worst come to the worst. The thing that's
worryin' me is you. Where are you going to sleep tonight, Elfie?"

"Right here in Mr. Lamson's rocking-chair," said the girl promptly.

"I'll take her up to my house," said Alf Reesling. "She can crawl in
with my daughter Queenie."

"That's out of the question," said Harry Squires, arising and looking
around for his overcoat. "We will need you, Alf. The Marshal is going to
organize a posse and go up to Power-house Gully and capture Vicious
Lucius dead or alive, before he's half an hour older."

"What's that?" demanded the Marshal, startled.

"You heard what I said. Get into your overcoats and goloshes, gentlemen.
The Marshal instructs me to say that we will be leaving here in five
minutes."

"Well, I'll be dog-goned!" oozed from Marshal Crow's lips. He was
staring quite hopelessly at Harry Squires.

"Isn't that a fact, Mr. Crow?" inquired Harry, fixing him with a most
disconcerting look.

Anderson indulged in a short fit of coughing. "Yes," he said, after
recovering himself, "it _is_ a fact, but I'd like to know how you got
onto it."

"I am a mental telegrapher, Mr. Crow," said the reporter, carefully
placing a hat upon Mr. Reesling's head. "There's your hat, Alf. Now be
sure and pick out a good coat."

       *       *       *       *       *

The Marshal's posse eventually resolved itself into a party of
two--Anderson Crow and Harry Squires. Elmer K. Pratt remembered that his
youngest child had the croup, and he couldn't leave her; Situate M.
Jones complained of a sudden and violent attack of lumbago; Newt Spratt
loudly demanded the flaxseed his wife had asked him to bring home so
that she could make a poultice for a terrible toothache she was enjoying
that evening; Alf Reesling refused to desert poor little Elfie; and two
other gentlemen succeeded in sneaking out the back way while the
Marshal's view was obstructed by the aforesaid slackers. Storekeeper
Lamson had a perfectly sound excuse. He was a pacifist. However, he was
willing to lend his revolver to the Marshal and a pair of brass "knucks"
to Harry Squires.

Approaching Power-house Gully, the two adventurers observed shadowy
forms moving about in the darkness at the foot of the slope. They
paused.

"Mostly women, I should say," remarked the Marshal.

"Probably hoping that Lucius is a widower by this time," said the
reporter.

"So's they c'n send flowers an' victuals to him all the time he's in
jail," said Anderson. "S'pose you go down an' talk to 'em, Harry, while
I sneak around the back way and reconnoitre."

"That's a good idea," said Harry. "I'll just rush in through the front
door, and he'll make a break to escape by the rear, so you'll be right
there to head him off."

"Come to think of it," said Anderson hastily, "maybe we'd better see if
he's out in the front yard first. Come on."

Eight or ten people were congregated in front of the Fry house,
conversing in a hushed, excited manner. The Marshal and his companion
bore down upon them. As the former had remarked, they were "mostly"
women. There was but one man in the group. He turned out to be no other
than Vicious Lucius himself.

[Illustration: _Eight or ten people were congregated in front of the Fry
house_]

"What's this I hear about you, Lucius Fry?" demanded Anderson Crow.

"Don't you dare arrest Mr. Fry, Anderson Crow," cried one of the ladies.
"He ain't done anything but give her what she deserves, and----"

"Can I speak to you private, Mr. Crow?" interrupted Vicious Lucius in a
hurried manner. He was wearing an overcoat that came down to his heels,
and a derby hat that rested rather firmly upon his ears.

Anderson stared at him in horror.

"Good gosh, Lucius, have you--have you had your hands cut off?" he
gasped, looking hard at the flapping coat-sleeves.

"Course I ain't," said Mr. Fry, lifting his arms on high, allowing the
sleeves to slip down a half a foot or more and revealing his hands.
"This ain't my coat. It's Jim Banks'. A little too big fer me--and the
hat too, I reckon."

"I just couldn't let him catch his death o' cold," explained the buxom
Mrs. Banks.

"He just simply won't go back into the house," said Mrs. Ducker. "And I
don't blame him, either. He's afraid he might throw her out of a window
and--and break her neck, didn't you say, Lucius?"

"No, I didn't. I said I was afraid I'd break the winder," said Lucius,
glaring at Mrs. Ducker from beneath the rim of Mr. Banks' hat.

"Where is your wife?" demanded Anderson.

"In there," said Lucius, pointing a drooping coat-sleeve in the general
direction of his domicile. "Come on over here by the lamp-post, Mr.
Crow. I got something important I want to say to you."

"You ain't going to give yourself up without a fight, are you, Lucius?"
cried Mrs. Banks in considerable agitation.

"You leave me alone," snarled Lucius in a manner so malevolent that Mrs.
Banks cried out delightedly:

"Oh, ain't he just grand? Did you hear the way he spoke to me, Emma
Ducker? Goodness, what would I give if I had a man that could talk to me
like--"

"You ought to heard what he said to me when I asked him to come over to
our house and--" began Mrs. Ducker somewhat acrimoniously.

"Oh, cut it out--cut it out!" rasped Lucius. "Beat it! Go home, all of
you! Gosh a'mighty, can't a feller lick his own wife without--Here!
Leggo my arm! What in thunder are you tryin' to do, Lou Banks?"

"I'm going to take you over to my house and put your feet in a hot
mustard bath, and--"

"No, you ain't! Leggo, I say! Fer the Lord's sake, Officer, chase 'em
away!"

"Move on, now--move on, all of you," commanded the Marshal, waving the
revolver in lieu of his well-known night-stick. "What you got to say to
me, Lucius?" he asked as the women fell back.

"Do you think they c'n hear?"

"Not unless you whisper loudern' that."

"Well, say, I want you to do me a favour. I want you to take me up to
the jail an' lock me in."

"You--you want to be locked in?"

"I don't care whether you put it that way er to lock all these fool
women out. It's all the same to me. I ain't had a minute's peace for
nearly two months. I--"

"Why don't you go in your own house an' stay there?" demanded Anderson.

"That don't seem to help any. They come to call on me so often you'd
think I was a preacher or a doctor. An' what's more, my wife's beginnin'
to get her dander up. I c'n see what's comin'. If she ever--gee, it will
be awful!"

"Then you hain't murdered her yet? I understood you had."

       *       *       *       *       *

Vicious Lucius looked over his shoulder and drew closer to the Marshal.

"This here strain is gittin' to be too much fer me, Mr. Crow. I can't
keep it up much longer. I'm breakin' down. I been thinkin' it over, an'
I can't see any way out of it except to go to jail fer a month er two."

"What's the charge?" inquired Marshal Crow.

"There won't be any. I'll do it fer nothing. It won't cost you a cent to
arrest me."

"That ain't what I mean. What I mean is what offence have you committed?
What law have you broke?"

"Well, it's purty hard to say."

"What charge will your wife make ag'inst you? Somebody has to make one,
you know."

"That's just it. She won't make any charge against me--positively not.
So I've got to do it myself. You've had a lot of experience. What fer
sort of a charge would you say I ought to bring?"

"Against yourself? It ain't regular, Lucius."

"How about insanity? Wouldn't that be a safe sort of complaint? I been
actin' mighty queer lately."

"I should say you had. Ain't you goin' to resist arrest?"

"No, I'm askin' fer it. If you don't want to be seen walkin' through the
streets with me, I'll go on ahead an' wait fer you at the jail."

"Well, this certainly beats all! I thought sure you'd put up an awful
fight, Lucius."

"I want to be locked up so's I won't commit murder," Lucius explained
eagerly.

"Good gracious! You come along with me, Lucius Fry. You got to be put
under lock an' key 'fore this night is over. I can't take no chances on
your murderin' that pore defenceless wife of your'n. You come--"

"I ain't thinkin' of murderin' my wife," protested Lucius, holding back.
"What I'm scared of is I'll murder one or two of these pesky women--that
Banks woman, fer instance. It's gittin' so I can't stick my nose outside
the door 'thout her droppin' everything an' runnin' out to gab with me.
I don't get a minute's privacy. If it ain't one, it's another. You'd
think I was Napoleon Boneparte, the way them women act. I don't know
what's come over 'em."

"Why, it's just 'cause they think you can lick any man in town. That's
the way with some women. The more brutal a man is to his own wife, the
more the other women seem to appreciate him. I must say, it takes a
purty good man to lick that wife of your'n--she's twice as big as you
are, and--"

"Why, gosh dern it, Mr. Crow, I couldn't lick Stella in a million
years," whispered Lucius fiercely.

"What's that? You--you say you can't lick your wife?"

"_I should say not!_" exclaimed Mr. Fry, raising his voice in
earnestness. Instantly he lowered it, standing on his tip-toes the
better to impart the following information to the amazed Marshal: "She
can lick me with both hands tied behind her back. Nobody knows it
better'n I do. I just got to keep throwin' things at her an' cussin' an'
smashin' furniture, an' all that, 'cause if she ever got an idea how
scared I am of her, she'd pick me up by the seat of my pants an'--Oh, I
tell you it's gettin' to be more'n I c'n stand, Mr. Crow. It's mighty
hard to keep on thinkin' you got to keep on bein' brave when you're
scared plumb to death all the time. Why, if Stella ever got onto the
fact that I--"

"But you keep on beatin' her just the same, don't you?"

"I never beat her unless her back's turned. First I throw somethin' at
her. That's the best way. But you never ought to throw anything unless
you got somethin' ready in the other hand. _An' hang onto that until
you're sure she's not goin' to run to'ards you 'stead of the other way._
If you're goin' to be a successful wife-beater, you got to use an awful
lot of common-sense." He looked over his shoulder. "Come on up the
street a little ways, Mr. Crow," he said nervously. "Them fool women are
edgin' nearer all the time. Next thing you know, they'll be tryin' to
sick me onto you, an'--an' I'd have to make good. They got all their
husbands scared of me, an' they keep tellin' me that I'm the grandest
little man in the world. You know Jim Banks? Well, he's twice as big as
I am. A week or two ago he came out on his back porch an' called me a
name. I started over to apologize to him, but he thought I was comin'
_after_ him, so he jumped back in the kitchen an' slammed the door. She
told me he wanted to send fer you, Mr. Crow. I--I wish he had."

"I understand you been makin' threats about what you'd do to me if I
ever tried to arrest you," said Anderson sternly. "Is that true?"

"No, it ain't. My wife's been makin' all the threats. She don't make any
bones about what _she'll_ do to you if you ever try to arrest me. She
says she'll bust your head fer you."

Marshal Crow straightened up and glared at the Fry habitation. There was
a light in the kitchen window.

"You wait here, Lucius Fry, an' don't move till I come back. I'm going
in there an' talk to that wife o' yourn."

"You better take a gang o' men with you. Remember, I'm givin' you fair
warnin'. She'll eat you alive."

"I'll take my friend Mr. Squires with me fer a witness--that's all. Is
she out in the kitchen?"

"I don't know. I ain't been in the house since the row. She locked the
door on me."

The Marshal strode away, leaving Vicious Lucius to the mercy of the
women. Harry Squires was nowhere in sight. Mr. Crow looked about in some
alarm. His speed noticeably decreased. Fumbling in his coat pocket, he
found his police whistle and proceeded to blow a shrill blast upon it. A
few moments passed, and then Harry came hurrying around the corner of
the house.

"Where have you been, dern you?"

"I've been in the house chatting with Mrs. Fry," said the reporter.

"Is she conscious? Is she able to talk?"

"She certainly is. Come on. She wants to see you."

Harry Squires grasped his arm and led him toward the kitchen door. Mrs.
Fry herself admitted them. She looked most formidable.

"Did my daughter Elfaretta ask you to come here and interfere with my
private affairs, Anderson Crow?" she demanded.

"I am not supposed to answer questions like that, Mrs. Fry," said
Anderson with dignity. "I am pleased to inform you, however, that I have
succeeded in arrestin' your husband, an' I intend to see to it that he
is locked up fer--"

"Oh, my goodness!" groaned the gigantic lady, dropping suddenly into a
chair and lowering her face into her apron.

The Marshal looked at her in astonishment.

"You have got to release Vicious Lucius at once," said Harry Squires
sternly. "We can't afford to wreck this poor little woman's life."

"Little--what's that you said?" stammered the Marshal, still gazing at
the ponderous bulk in the chair.

"You heard what I said--wreck this poor but proud lady's life. Speak up,
Mrs. Fry. Tell the good Marshal all about it."

Whereupon the woebegone Mrs. Fry lifted her head and her voice in
lamentation.

"I knew it couldn't last. I might 'a' knowed something would turn up to
spoil it. It was too much to expect. Oh, if you only wouldn't lock him
up, Mr. Crow! What will people say when they find out you was able to
arrest him single-handed, without a gang o' men to help you? Oh, oh,
oh!"

Mr. Squires interposed a suggestion just as she was on the verge of
sobs.

"I dare say we could stage a perfectly realistic struggle between Mr.
Fry and Mr. Crow. Mr. Fry could trip Mr. Crow up--all in play, you
know; and then I could rush in and grab Mr. Fry from behind while he was
letting on as though he was kicking Mr. Crow in the face. The spectators
would--"

"I won't be a party to any such monkey business!" exclaimed the Marshal
in some heat. "What do you take me for? If I arrest Lucius Fry, I'll
jest simply pick him up by the coat-collar and--"

"That's just it," cried Mrs. Fry. "He wouldn't fight back, and how would
I feel if you carried him off to jail as if he was a lunch-basket? And I
was beginning to feel so proud and happy. I was getting so I could look
those cats in the face, all because my husband was the best little
daredevil in the Gully. They used to pity me. Now they are so jealous of
me they don't know what to do. They'd give anything if they had a
husband like Lucius--little as he is. My, how they envy me, and how I
have been looking down on all of 'em the last six months! And here you
arrest him as easy as if he was a little girl, when I been telling
everybody there wasn't anybody living that could take my man to jail.
Oh, I--I wish I'd never been born!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Anderson Crow was puzzled. He pulled at his whiskers in the most
helpless way, and stared wide-eyed.

"But--but ain't you afraid to live with him?" he mumbled. "Ain't you
afraid he'll lick you to death sometime when he's in one of--"

"He couldn't lick me if I was chloroformed," blurted out Mrs. Fry,
arising suddenly. She bared a huge right arm. "See that? Well, that's as
big as his leg. Don't you ever get it in your head that I can't lick
Lucius Fry. That ain't the point. I can do it, but I wouldn't do it for
anything on earth. I want to be proud of him, and I want these other
women to feel sorry for me because I've got a _man_ for a husband, and
not a rabbit. Where is he, Mr. Crow?"

"He's out there waitin' fer me to take him to jail--that is, he _said_
he'd wait. Course, if you won't make any affidavit ag'inst him, I--I
guess there's no sense in me lockin' him up. I was doin' it as a--er--as
a sort of favour to him, anyhow. He seemed to be afraid he'd kill some
of them women that hang around him."

"I just thought he'd act that way. I won't make any charge against him.
I want him to stay just the way he is--a fine, upstanding brutal sort of
feller. You go out there an' tell him to come in here. I want to go down
on my knees again and forgive him."

The Marshal hesitated. He was between two fires. He couldn't very well
oblige _both_ of them. Lucius unquestionably was eager to go to jail for
reasons of his own, and Mrs. Fry was just as eager that he should
remain at large. The Marshal scratched his head.

"I feel kinder sorry fer him," he mused. "Like as not, one of them women
will git so foolish over him that her husband will take it into his head
to get a divorce, an'--" He paused in confusion.

"Go on--go on!" pleaded Mrs. Fry, her eyes sparkling.

"Well, from all Lucius says, he despises the whole lot of 'em. Still,
that ain't goin' to help _him_ any if Jim Banks er one of them other
idiots gits all het up an' jealous an' goes and sues fer a divorce,
namin' Lucius Fry as--"

Mrs. Fry slapped him violently on the back.

"That's just what I want!" she cried eagerly. "I'd be the proudest woman
in Tinkletown."

The Marshal stared. Harry Squires covered his mouth with his hand.

"Well, of all the gosh--"

       *       *       *       *       *

His ejaculation was cut short by the opening of the kitchen door. Lucius
stood outlined in the aperture. He was clapping his arms about his body,
and his teeth were chattering. The voluminous sleeves flapped like great
limp wings.

"Say," he whined, "I can't wait out there all night in this kinder
weather. If I got to go to jail, I want to do it right away. It's
cruelty to animals to leave me standin' out there with nothing on my
feet but carpet-slippers. Come on an'--"

"Come in to the fire an' get warm, Lucius dear," called out his wife, as
shrinking and as timid as a whipped child. "I forgive you. Julie!
Jul-ie! Come down here an' help me get some hot coffee an' something to
eat fer your Pa."

"I--I guess we'd better be goin', Harry," said Marshall Crow
uncomfortably. "I got to disperse that crowd o' women out there in the
street. Good night, Lucius. Night, Mrs. Fry. If you ever need me, all
yer got to do is just send word."

Lucius followed him to the door, and would have gone out into the night
with him if the Marshal had not deliberately pushed him back.

"You--you ain't goin' to desert me, are you?" whispered Lucius fiercely.

The Marshal leaned over and whispered to Lucius.

"If all the other men in this here town had as soft a snap as you've
got, Lucius Fry, they'd hate to die worse'n ever, because they'd know
they'd never git back into heaven ag'in."



THE VEILED LADY AND THE SHADOW


A veiled lady is not, in ordinary circumstances, an object of concern to
anybody. Circumstances, however, are sometimes so extraordinary that a
veiled lady becomes an object of concern to everybody. If the old-time
novelists are to be credited, an abundantly veiled lady is more than a
source of interest; she is the vital, central figure in a mystery that
continues from week to week, or month to month, as the case may be,
until the last chapter is reached and she turns out to be the person you
thought she was all the time.

Now, the village of Tinkletown is a slow-going, somnolent sort of place
in which veils are worn by old ladies who wish to enjoy a pleasant
snooze during the sermon without being caught in the act. That any one
should wear a veil with the same regularity and the same purpose that
she wears the dress which renders the remainder of her person invisible
is a circumstance calculated to excite the curiosity of even the most
indifferent observers in the village of Tinkletown.

So when the news travelled up and down Main Street, and off into the
side-streets, and far out beyond Three Oaks Cemetery to the new division
known as Oak Park, wherein reside four lonely pioneer families, that
the lady who rented Mrs. Nixon's house for the month of September was in
a "perpetual state of obscurity" (to quote Mr. Harry Squires, the
_Banner_ reporter), the residents of Tinkletown admitted that they
didn't know what to make of it.

The Nixon cottage was a quaint, old-fashioned place on the side of
Battle Hill, looking down upon the maples of Sickle Street. The grounds
were rather spacious, and the house stood well back from the street,
establishing an aloofness that had never been noticed before. A low
stone wall guarded the lawn and rose-garden, and there was an iron gate
at the bottom of the slope. The front porch was partly screened by
"Dutchman's Pipe" vines. With the advent of the tenant, smart Japanese
sun-curtains made their appearance, and from that day on no prying eye,
no matter how well-trained it may have been, could accomplish anything
like a satisfactory visit to the regions beyond.

Mrs. Nixon usually rented her house for the summer months. The summer of
1918 had proved an unprofitable season for her. It was war-time, and the
people who lived in the cities proved unduly reluctant to venture far
from their bases of supplies. Consequently Mrs. Nixon and her daughter
Angie remained in occupancy, more heartsick than ever over the horrors
of war. Just as they were about to give up hope, the unexpected
happened. Joseph P. Singer, the real-estate agent, offices in the
Lamson Block, appeared bright and early one morning to inquire if the
cottage could be had for the month of September and part of October.

"You may ask any price you like, Abbie," he said. "The letter I received
this morning was written on the paper of the Plaza Hotel in New York.
Anybody who can afford to put up at the Plaza, which is right on Central
Park,--and also on Fifth Avenue,--ain't going to haggle about prices.
The party wants a bathroom with hot and cold water and electric lights.
Well, you've got all these improvements, and--"

"I've got to have references," said Mrs. Nixon firmly.

"I guess if the Plaza is willing to rent a room to a party, there
oughtn't to be any question as to the respectability of the said party,"
said Mr. Singer. "They're mighty particular in them New York hotels."

"Well, you write and tell the party--"

"I am requested to telegraph, Abbie," said he. "The party wants to know
right away."

As the result of this conversation and a subsequent exchange of
telegrams, the "party" arrived in Tinkletown on the first day of
September. Mr. Singer's contentions were justified by the manner in
which the new tenant descended upon the village. She came in a
maroon-and-black limousine with a smart-looking chauffeur, a French
maid, a French poodle and what all of the up-to-date ladies in
Tinkletown unhesitatingly described as a French gown à la mode.

Miss Angie Nixon, who had never been nearer to Paris than Brattleboro,
Vermont, said to her customers that from what she had seen of the new
tenant's outfit, she was undoubtedly from the Tooleries. Miss Angie was
the leading dressmaker of Tinkletown. If she had said the lady was from
Somaliland, the statement would have gone unchallenged.

The same day, a man cook and a "hired girl" arrived from Boggs City,
having come up by rail from New York.

The tenant was a tall, slender lady. There could be no division of
opinion as to that. As to whether she was young, middle-aged or only
well-preserved, no one was in a position to asseverate. As a matter of
fact, observers would have been justified in wondering whether she was
black or white. She was never abroad without the thick, voluminous veil,
and her hands were never ungloved. Mrs. Nixon and Angie described her
voice as refined and elegant, and she spoke English as well as anybody,
not excepting Professor Rank of the high school.

By the end of her first week in the Nixon cottage, there wasn't a person
in Tinkletown, exclusive of small babies, who had not advanced a theory
concerning Mrs. Smith, the new tenant. On one point all agreed; she was
the most "stuck-up" person ever seen in Tinkletown.

She resolutely avoided all contact with her neighbours. On several
occasions, polite and cordial citizens had bowed and mumbled "Howdy-do"
to her as she passed in the automobile, but there is no record of a
single instance in which she paid the slightest heed to these
civilities. All of her marketing was done by the man cook, and while he
was able to speak English quite fluently when objecting to the quality,
the quantity and the price of everything, he was singularly unable to
carry on a conversation in that language when invited to do so by
friendly clerks or proprietors.

As for the French chauffeur, his knowledge of English appeared to be
limited to an explosive sort of profanity. Lum Gillespie declared on the
third day after Mrs. Smith's car first came to his garage for live
storage, that "that feller Francose" knew more English cuss-words than
all the Irishmen in the world.

The veiled lady did a good many surprising things. In the first place,
she had been in the Nixon cottage not more than an hour when she ordered
the telephone taken out--not merely discontinued, but taken out. She
gave no reason, and satisfied the telephone-company by making the local
manager a present of ten dollars. She kept all of the green
window-shutters open during the day, letting the sunshine into the rooms
to give the carpets the first surprise they had had in years, and at
night she sat out on the screened-in porch, with a reading-lamp, until
an hour when many of the residents of Tinkletown were looking out of
their windows to see what sort of a day it was going to be. She paid
cash for everything, and always with bright, crisp banknotes, "fresh
from the mint." She slept till noon. She went out every afternoon about
four, rain or shine, for long motor-rides in the country. The queerest
thing about her was that she never went near the "movies."

Nearly every afternoon, directly after luncheon--they called it dinner
in Tinkletown--she appeared in the back yard and put her extraordinarily
barbered dog through a raft of tricks. Passers-by always paused to watch
the performance. She had him walking first on his hind legs, then on his
front legs; then he was catching a tennis-ball which she tossed every
which way (just as a woman would, said Alf Reesling); and when he wasn't
catching the ball, he was turning somersaults, or waltzing to the tune
she whistled, or playing dead. The poodle's name was Snooks.

       *       *       *       *       *

The venerable town marshal, Anderson Crow, sat in front of Lamson's
store one hot evening about a week after the advent of the mystery. He
was the center of a thoughtful, speculative group of gentlemen
representing the first families of Tinkletown. Among those present were:
Alf Reesling, the town drunkard; Harry Squires, the reporter; Ed
Higgins, the feed-store man; Justice of the Peace Robb; Elmer K. Pratt,
the photographer; Situate M. Jones; and two or three others of less
note. The shades of night had just descended; some of the gentlemen had
already yawned three or four times.

"There ain't no law against wearin' a veil," said the Marshal, reaching
out just in time to pluck a nice red apple before Lamson's clerk could
make up his mind to do what he had come out of the store expressly to
do--that is, to carry inside for the night the bushel basket containing,
among other things, a plainly printed placard informing the public that
"No. 1 Winesaps" were "2 for 5c."

Crow inspected the apple critically for a moment, looking for a suitable
place to begin; then, with his mouth full, he went on: "The only thing I
got ag'inst her is that she's settin' a new style in Tinkletown. In the
last two-three days I've seen more'n one of our fair sex lookin' at
veils in the Five an' Ten Cent Store, and this afternoon I saw somebody
I was sure was Sue Becker walkin' up Maple Street with her head wrapped
up in something as green as grass. Couldn't see her face to save my
soul, but I recognized her feet. My daughter Caroline was fixin' herself
up before the lookin'-glass last night, seein' how she'd look in a veil,
she said. It won't be long before we won't any of us be able to
recognize our own wives an' daughters when we meet 'em on the street."

"My girl Queenie's got a new pink one," said Alf Reesling. "She made it
out of some sort of stuff she wore over her graduatin' dress three years
ago."

"Maybe she's got a bad complexion," ventured Mr. Jones.

"Who? My girl Queenie? Not on your--" began Alf, bristling.

"I mean the woman up at Mrs. Nixon's," explained Mr. Jones hastily.

Harry Squires had taken no part in the conversation up to this juncture.
He had been ruminating. His inevitable--you might almost say, his
indefatigable--pipe had gone out four or five times.

"Say, Anderson," he broke in abruptly, "has it ever occurred to you that
there might be something back of it that ought to be investigated?" The
flare of the match he was holding over the bowl of his pipe revealed an
eager twinkle in his eyes.

"There you go, talkin' foolishness again," said Anderson. "I guess there
ain't anything back of it 'cept a face, an' she's got a right to have a
face, ain't she?"

"I mean the _reason_ for wearing a veil that completely obscures her
face--_all the time_. They say she never takes it off, even in the
house."

"Who told you that?"

"Angie Nixon. She says she believes she sleeps in it."

"How does she deduce that?" demanded Anderson, idly fingering the badge
of the New York Detective Association, which for obvious reasons,--it
being a very hot night,--was attached to his suspenders.

"She deduced it through a keyhole," replied Mr. Squires. "Angie was up
at the cottage last night to get something she had left in an upstairs
hall closet. She just happened to stoop over to pick up something on the
floor right in front of Mrs. Smith's door. The strangest thing occurred.
She said it couldn't occur again in a thousand years, not even if she
tried to do it. Her left ear happened to stop not more than half an inch
from the keyhole. She just couldn't help hearing what Mrs. Smith said to
her maid. Angie says she said, plain as anything: 'You couldn't blame me
for sitting up all night, if you had to sleep in a thing like this.' She
didn't hear anything more, because she hates eavesdropping. Besides, she
thought she heard the maid walking toward the door. Now, what do you
make of that, Mr. Hawkshaw?"

"If you don't stop callin' me Hawkshaw, I'll--"

"I apologize. An acute case of lapsus lingua, Mr. Crow. But wasn't that
remark significant?"

"I am a friend of Mrs. Nixon's, an' I must decline to criticize her
beds," said Mr. Crow rather loftily. "I ain't ever slept in one of 'em,
but I'd do it any time before I'd set up all night."

"Granting that the bed was all right, then isn't it pretty clear that
she was referring to something else? The veil, for instance?"

"Sounds reasonable," said Newt Spratt, and then, after due
reflection,--"mighty reasonable."

"I'd hate to sleep in a veil," said Alf Reesling. "It's bad enough to
try to sleep with a mustard poultice on your jaw, like I did last winter
when I had that bad toothache. Doc Ellis says he never pulled a bigger
er a stubborner tooth in all his experience than--"

"I think you ought to investigate the Veiled Lady of Nixon Cottage,"
said Harry Squires, lowering his voice and glancing over his shoulder.
"You can't tell what she's up to, Anderson. It wouldn't surprise me if
she's a woman with a past. She may be using that veil as a disguise.
What's more, there may be a price on her head. The country is full of
these female spies, working tooth and nail for Germany. Suppose she
should turn out to be that society woman the New York papers say the
Secret Service men are chasing all over the country and can't find--the
Baroness von Slipernitz."

"What fer kind of a dog is that you got, Ed?" inquired Mr. Crow, calmly
ignoring the suggestion.

Mr. Higgins' new dog was enjoying a short nap in the middle of the
sidewalk, after an apparently fatiguing effort to dislodge something in
the neighbourhood of his left ear.

"Well," began Ed, eyeing the dog doubtfully, "all I know about him is
that he's a black dog. My wife has been sizin' him up for a day or two,
figgerin' on having him clipped here and there to see if he can't be
made to look as respectable as that dog of Mrs. Smith. Hetty Adams has
clipped that Newfoundland dog of hers. Changed him something terrible.
When I come across them on the street today, I declare I only recognized
half of him--an' I wouldn't have recognized that much if he hadn't
wagged it at me. It beats all what women will do to keep up with the
styles."

"I seen him today," said Mr. Spratt, "an' I never in all my life see a
dog that looked so mortified. I says to Hetty, says I: 'In the name o'
Heaven, Hetty,' says I, 'what you been doin' to Shep?' An' she says:
'I'd thank you, Newt Spratt, not to call my dog Shep. His name is
Edgar.' So I says to Shep: 'Come here, Edgar--that's a good dog.' An' he
never moved. Then I says: 'Hyah, Shep!' an' he almost jumped out of his
hide, he was so happy to find somebody that knowed who he was. '_Edgar_,
your granny!' says I to Hetty. 'What's the use of ruinin' a good dog by
calling him Edgar?' An' Hetty says: 'Come here, Edgar! Come here, I
say!' But Edgar, he never paid any attention to her. He just kep' on
tryin' to lick my hand, an' so she hit him a clip with her parysol an'
says: 'Edgar, must I speak to you again? Come here, I say! Behave like a
gentleman!' 'There ain't no dog livin' that's goin' to behave like a
gentleman if you call him names like that,' says I. 'It ain't human
nature,' says I. An' just to prove it to her, I turned an' says to Shep:
'Ain't that so, Shep, old sport?' An' what do you think that poor old
dog done? He got right up on his hind legs and tried to kiss me."

"No wonder she wants to call him Edgar," said Harry Squires. "That's
just the kind of thing an Edgar sort of dog would do."

"I was just going to say," said Mr. Crow, twisting his whiskers
reflectively, "that maybe she does it because she's had smallpox, or
been terribly scalded, or is cross-eyed, or something like that."

Mr. Squires inwardly rejoiced. He knew that the seed had been planted in
the Marshal's fertile brain, that it would thrive in the night and
sprout on the morrow. He saw delectable operations ahead; he was fond of
the old man, but nothing afforded him greater entertainment than the
futile but vainglorious efforts of Anderson Crow to achieve renown as a
detective.

The reporter was a constant thorn in the side of Crow, who both loved
and feared him. The _Banner_ seldom appeared without some sarcastic
advice to the Marshal of Tinkletown, but an adjoining column invariably
contained something of a complimentary character, the one so adroitly
offsetting the other that Mr. Crow never knew whether he was "afoot or
horseback," to quote him in his perplexity.

Harry Squires had worked on a New York morning paper in his early days.
His health failing him, he was compelled to abandon what might have
become a really brilliant career as a journalist. Lean, sick and
disheartened, he came to Bramble County to spend the winter with an old
aunt, who lived among the pine-covered hills above the village of
Tinkletown. That was twenty years ago. For nineteen years he had filled
the high-sounding post of city editor on the _Banner_. He always
maintained that the most excruciating thing he had ever written was the
line at the top of the first column of the so-called editorial page,
which said: "City Editor--Harry Sylvester Squires." Nothing, he claimed,
could be more provocative of hilarity than that.

In his capacity as city editor, he wrote advertisements, personals,
editorials, news-items, death-notices, locals and practically everything
else in the paper except the poetry sent in by Miss Sue Becker. He even
wrote the cable and telegraph matter, always ascribing it to a "Special
Correspondent of the _Banner_." In addition to all this, he "made-up"
the forms, corrected proof, wrote "heads," stood over the boy who ran
the press and stood over him when he wasn't running the press, took all
the blame and none of the credit for things that appeared in the paper,
and once a week accepted currency to the amount of fifteen dollars as an
honorarium.

Regarding himself as permanently buried in this out-of-the-way spot on
the earth's surface, he had the grim humour to write his own "obituary"
and publish it in the columns of the _Banner_. He began it by saying
that he was going to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the
truth about the "deceased." He had written hundreds of obituaries during
his career as city editor, he said, and not once before had he been at
liberty to tell the truth. In view of the fact that he had no relations
to stop their subscriptions to the paper, he felt that for once in his
life he could take advantage of an opportunity to write exactly as he
felt about the deceased.

He left out such phrases as "highly esteemed citizen," "nobility of
character," "loss to the community," "soul of integrity" and other stock
expressions. At the end he begged to inform his friends that flowers
might be deposited at the _Banner_ office or at his room in Mrs. Camp's
boarding-house, as he was buried in both places. Buttonhole bouquets
could be pinned upon him any day by simply stopping his customary
funeral procession about town. Such attentions should always be
accompanied by gentle words or exclamations of satisfaction, as for
example: "How natural you look!" or "You owed me ten dollars, but I
forgive you," or "It's a pity your friends allowed you to to be laid
away in a suit of clothes like that," or "I don't believe half the
things people said about you," or "It's a perfect shame you don't feel
like resting in peace," or "Did you leave anything worth mentioning?" He
also suggested that he would rest much easier in his grave if a slight
increase in salary attended the obsequies.

From this it may be gathered that Harry Squires was a man who made the
most out of a very ordinary situation.

       *       *       *       *       *

Marshal Crow's suggestion met with instant response. "On the other hand,
Anderson, the lady may be as beautiful as the fabulous houri and as
devilish as Delilah. I don't want to take any steps in the matter
without giving you your chance." He spoke darkly.

Mr. Crow pricked up his ears. "What do you mean by that?"

"As a newspaper man, I am determined to clear up the mystery of the
Veiled Lady. If you persist in sitting around twiddling your thumbs and
looking like a primeval goat, I shall send to New York and engage a
detective to work on the case exclusively for the _Banner_. The _Banner_
is enterprising. We intend to give our subscribers the news, no matter
what it costs. If you--"

The Marshal swallowed the bait, hook and all. He arose from his chair
and faced Mr. Squires. "I'll thank you, Harry Squires, to keep out of
this. I didn't mean to say a word about it to you or anybody else until
I had gone a little further with my investigations, but now I've got to
let the cat out of the bag. I've been working day and night on her case
ever since she came to town. Never mind, Newt--don't ask me. I'll
announce the result of my investigations at the proper time an' not a
minute sooner. Now I guess I'll be moseyin' along. It's gettin' purty
late, an' I've got a lot of work to do before midnight."

He started down the steps. Harry Squires leaned back in his chair and
scratched a match on the leg of his trousers. By the time he raised the
lighted match to the bowl of his pipe, the smile had left his lips.

       *       *       *       *       *

An uneventful week passed. The Veiled Lady made her daily excursions in
the big high-powered car, pursued her now well-known domestic habits,
retained her offensive aloofness, played games with the astounding
Snooks, suffered no ill effects whatsoever from the inimical glares of
the natives; and above all, she continued to set the fashions in
Tinkletown.

[Illustration: _The veiled lady made her daily excursions in the big
high-powered car_]

Mr. Crow stalked the streets early and late. He lurked behind the
corners of buildings; he peered sharply from the off-side of telephone
poles as the big limousine swept haughtily by. He patrolled the Nixon
neighbourhood by day and haunted it by night. On occasion he might have
been observed in the act of scrutinizing the tracks of the automobile
over recently sprinkled streets.

One evening, just after dusk,--after a sharp encounter with Harry
Squires, who bluntly accused him of loafing on the job,--he sauntered
past the Nixon cottage. His soul was full of bitterness. He was baffled.
Harry Squires was right; he had accomplished nothing--and what was
worse, he wasn't likely to accomplish anything. He sauntered back,
casting furtive glances into the spacious front-yard, and concluded to
ease his restless legs by leaning against a tree and crossing them in an
attitude of profound nonchalance. The tree happened to be almost
directly in front of the Nixon gate. Not to seem actually employed in
shadowing the house, he decided to pose with his back to the premises,
facing down the street, twisting his whiskers in a most pensive manner.

Suddenly a low, musical voice said:

"Good evening!"

Mr. Crow looked up into the thick foliage of the elm, then to the right
and left, and finally in the direction of the cottage, out of the corner
of his eye, after a sudden twist of the neck that caused him to wonder
whether he had sprained it.

The Veiled Lady was standing at the gate. In the gathering darkness her
figure seemed abnormally tall.

The Marshal hastily faced about and stared hard at the mystery.

"Evening," he said, somewhat uncertainly. Then he lifted his hat a
couple of inches from his head and replaced it at an entirely new angle,
pulling the rim down so far over the left eye that the right eye alone
was visible. This shift of the hat instantly transformed him into a
figure of speech; he became as "cunning as a fox." People in Tinkletown
had come to recognize this as an unfailing symptom of shrewdness on his
part. He always wore his hat like that when he was deep in the process
of "ferreting something out."

"Have I the honour of addressing Mr. Anderson Crow?" inquired the lady.

"You have," said he succinctly.

"Field Marshal Crow?"

"Ma'am?"

"Or is it Town Marshal? I am quite ignorant about titles."

"That's the name I go by, ma'am."

"Your name is very familiar to me. Are you in any way related to the
great detective?"

This was unexpected tribute. The only thing he could think up to say
was, "I'm him," and then, apologetically: "--unless some one's been
usin' my name without authority."

"Are you actually the great Anderson Crow? Do you know, I have always
thought of you as a fictitious character--like _Sherlock Holmes_. Are
you really _real_? Do I look upon you in the flesh?"

Mr. Crow was momentarily overwhelmed.

"Oh, I--I guess I'm not much different from other men, ma'am. I'm not
half as important as folks make me out to be."

"How nice and modest you are! That is the true sign of greatness, Mr.
Crow. I might have known that you would be simple."

"Simple?" murmured Anderson, to whom the word had but one meaning. He
thought of Willie Jones, the village idiot.

"'Simplicity, thou art a jewel,'" observed the Veiled Lady. "Will you
pardon a somewhat leading question, Mr. Crow?"

"Lead on," said he, still a trifle uncertain of himself.

"Who is that man standing against the tree beside you? Is he a friend of
yours?"

"Who is--is my what?"

"Your companion. Now he has moved over behind the tree."

Anderson shot a startled look over his shoulder.

"There ain't any man behind the tree. I'm all alone."

"Are you trying to make sport of me, Mr. Crow?"

"I should say not. I been standin' here fer some time, an' I guess I'd
know if anybody was--"

"Do you think I am blind?" demanded the lady quite sharply.

"Not if you c'n see a man behind this tree," said he, with conviction.
"You got the best eyesight of anybody I ever come across--that's all I
got to say."

"I see him very distinctly."

Anderson obligingly circled the tree.

"Do you see him now?" he inquired in an amused tone.

"Certainly. He walked around the tree just ahead of you."

"What the--" began Anderson angrily, but checked the words in time. "You
are mistaken. There ain't no one here, 'cept me."

"Is he one of your subordinates?" queried the woman, leaning forward in
the attitude of one peering intently.

"Must be a shadow you're seein', ma'am," he suggested, and suddenly was
conscious of the queer sensation that some one _was_ on the opposite
side of the tree.

"That's it!" she exclaimed eagerly. "A shadow! Aren't you detectives
always shadowing some one?"

"Yes, but we don't turn into shadows to do it, ma'am. We just--"

"There he is! Standing directly behind you. What object can you
possibly have, Mr. Crow, in lying to me about--"

"Lying?" gasped Anderson, after a swift, apprehensive glance over his
shoulder. "I'm tellin' you the gospel truth. Maybe that confounded
veil's botherin' your eyesight. Take it off, an' you'll see there ain't
no one--"

"Ah! What a remarkable leap! He must be possessed of wings."

Mr. Crow himself moved with such celerity that one might have described
the movement as a leap. He was within a yard of her when he next spoke;
his back was toward her, his eyes searching the darkness from which he
had sprung.

"Good Lord! You--you'd think there _was_ some one there by the way you
talk."

"He leaped from behind that tree to this one over here. It must be
thirty feet. How perfectly amazing!"

By this time the good Marshal was noticeably impressed. There was no
denying the fact that his voice shook.

"_Now_ who's lying?" he cried out.

She took no offence. Instead she pointed down the dark sidewalk. It
seemed to him that her arm was six feet long. He was fascinated by it.

"Now he is climbing up the tree--just like a squirrel. Look!"

Anderson felt the cold perspiration starting out all over his body.

"I--I swear I can't see anybody at all," the Marshal croaked weakly.

"Run over to that tree and look up, Mr. Crow," she whispered in great
agitation. "He is sitting on that big limb, looking at us--his eyes are
like little balls of fire. Send him away, please."

Haltingly the Marshal edged his way toward the tree. Coming to its base,
he peered upward. He saw nothing that resembled a human figure.

"Be careful!" called out the Veiled Lady. "He is about to swing down
upon your head. Hurry! There! Didn't you feel that?"

Anderson Crow made a flying leap for safety. He had the uncanny feeling
that his hair was slowly lifting the hat from his head.

"Feel--feel what?" he gasped.

"He swung down by his hands and kicked at you. I was sure his foot
struck your head. Ah! There he goes again. See him? He is climbing over
my wall--no, he is running along the top of it. Like the wind! And he--"

"Good heavens! Am I--am I goin' blind?" groaned Mr. Crow, his eyes
bulging.

"Now he has disappeared behind the rosebushes down in the corner of the
lot. He must be the same man I have seen--always about this time in the
evening. If he isn't one of your men, Mr. Crow, who in Heaven's name is
he?"

"You--you have seen him before?" murmured the Marshal, reaching up to
make sure that his hat was still in place.

"Four or five times. Last night he climbed up and stood beside that big
chimney up there--silhouetted against the sky. He looked very tall--much
taller than any ordinary man. The night before, he was out here on the
lawn, jumping from bush to bush, for all the world like a harlequin.
Once he actually leaped from the ground up to the roof of the porch, as
easily as you would spring--Where are you going, Mr. Crow?"

"I--I thought I saw him runnin' down the street just now," said Anderson
Crow, quickening his pace after a parting glance over his shoulder at
the tall lady in the gateway. "Maybe I can overtake him if I--if I--But
I guess I'd better hurry. He seems to be runnin' mighty fast."

He was twenty feet away when she called after him, a note of warning in
her voice:

"You are mistaken! He is following you--he is right at your heels, Mr.
Crow."

       *       *       *       *       *

This was quite enough for Anderson Crow. He broke into a run. As he
clattered past the lower end of the garden wall, a low, horrifying
chuckle fell upon his ears. It was not the laugh of a human being. He
afterwards described it as the chortle of a hyena--hoarse and wild and
full of ghoulish glee.

Alf Reesling's house was two blocks down the street. Mr. Reesling was
getting a bit of fresh air in his front yard. The picket gate was open,
probably to let in the air, and he was leaning upon one of the posts.
His attention was attracted by the sound of approaching footsteps.
Almost before he knew what had happened, they were receding. Anderson
swept past; his chin up, his legs working like piston-rods.

The astonished Alf recognized his friend and adviser.

"Hey!" he shouted.

It was a physical impossibility for Anderson to slacken his speed. At
the same time, it was equally impossible for him to increase it. Alf,
scenting excitement, set out at top speed behind him, shouting all the
time.

Pursued and pursuer held their relative positions until they rounded
into Main Street. Reaching the zone of light--and safety--produced by
show-windows and open doors, the Marshal put on the brakes and ventured
a glance over his shoulder. Alf, lacking the incentive that spurred
Anderson, lagged some distance behind. A second glance reassured the
Marshal. Alf was lumbering heavily past Brubaker's drugstore, fully
revealed.

Observing an empty chair on the sidewalk in front of Jackson's
cigar-store, Mr. Crow directed his slowing footsteps toward it. He
flopped down with an abruptness that almost dismembered it. He was
fanning himself with his hat when Alf came up.

Alf leaned against the wooden Indian that guarded the portals. Presently
he wheezed:

"Wha--what's--all--the--rumpus?"

Instead of replying, Mr. Crow pressed his hand to his heart and shook
his head.

"Take your time," advised Alf sympathetically; whereupon Anderson nodded
his head.

Sim Jackson ambled to the front door, and Mort Fryback hobbled across
the street from his hardware store. Lum Gillespie dropped the hose with
which he was sousing an automobile in front of his garage and approached
the group.

In less than three minutes all of the nighthawks of Main Street were
gathered about Anderson Crow, convinced that something unusual was in
the air despite his protests.

Suddenly the Marshal's manner changed. He swept the considerable group
with an appraising eye, and then in a tone of authority said:

"Now that I've got you all together, I hereby order you in my capacity
as an official of the State and county, to close up your stores an'
consider yourselves organized into a posse. You will close up immejately
an' report to me here, ready for active work."

       *       *       *       *       *

Shortly after ten o'clock a group of fifteen or eighteen men
moved silently away from Jackson's cigar-store, led by their
commander-in-chief. He was flanked on one side by Bill Kepsal, the
brawny blacksmith, and on the other by Sim Jackson, who happened to
possess a revolver.

After the posse had turned into the unrelieved shades of Maple Street,
Mr. Crow halted every few yards and said: "Sh!"

He had related a portion but not all of his experiences, winding up with
the statement that poor Mrs. Smith had been terribly frightened by the
mysterious prowler, and that it was their duty as citizens to put an end
to his activities if possible.

"Her description of him don't fit anybody livin' in this town," he had
said during the course of his narrative. "We ain't got anybody who c'n
jump thirty foot, or who c'n shin up a chimbly like a squirrel. You
never saw anybody as quick as he is, either. Supposin' you think you see
him standin' right beside you. Zip! Before you could blink an eye, he's
over there in front of Mort's store--just like that. Or up a tree!
Spryest cuss I ever laid eyes on. Made me think of a ghost."

"Ghost?" said Newt Spratt, pausing in the act of rolling up his sleeves.

"You say you saw him, Anderson?" inquired Alf Reesling.

"Course I did. Tall feller with--"

"And the lady saw him too?"

"She saw him first, I been tellin' you. She seemed to be able to see
quicker'n I could, 'cause she saw nearly every move he made. My
eyesight ain't as good as it used to be, an' besides, she could see
plainer from where she stood. Come on now--no time to waste. We got to
post ourselves all around the place an'--an' nab him if he shows himself
again. All you fellers have got to do is to obey orders."

       *       *       *       *       *

At the corner of Maple and Sickle streets, a few hundred feet from the
Nixon cottage, the cavalcade received a whispered order to halt. The
Marshal, enjoining the utmost stealth, instructed his men where to place
themselves about the grounds they were soon to invest from various
approaches. After stealing over the stone wall, they were to crawl
forward on hands and knees until each man found a hiding-place behind a
bush or flower-bed. There he was to wait and watch. The first glimpse of
the mysterious intruder was to be the signal for a shout of alarm;
whereupon the whole posse was to close in upon him without an instant's
delay.

In course of time, the posse successfully debouched upon the lawn and
occupied crouching positions behind various objects of nature. The
minutes slowly consolidated themselves into half an hour; they were
pretty well started on the way toward the three-quarter mark, and still
no sign of the sprightly stranger. Lights were gleaming behind the
yellow shades of the downstairs window in the cottage; through the
Japanese curtains enveloping the veranda a dull, restricted glow forced
its way out upon the bordering flower-beds.

Suddenly out of what had become an almost sepulchral silence, came the
sound of a woman's voice. The words she uttered were so startling that
the listeners felt the flesh on their bones creep.

"But wouldn't poisoning be the surer and quicker way? Slip a few drops
of prussic acid into his food, and death would be instantaneous."

Marshal Crow clutched Bill Kepsal's arm. "Did you hear that?" he
whispered. She had spoken in hushed, quavering tones.

Then came a man's voice from the porch above, low and suppressed.

"Why not wait till he is asleep and let me sneak up to him and put the
revolver to his head--"

"But--but suppose he should awake and--"

"He'll never open his eyes again, believe me. Poison isn't always sure
to work quickly or thoroughly. We don't want a struggle."

"You may be right. I--I leave it to you."

"Good! The sooner the better, then. If we do it at once, François and
Henry can bury him before morning. I think--"

"I cannot bear to talk about it. Creep in and see if he is asleep. Don't
make the slightest noise. He--he must never know!"

Stealthy footsteps, as of one tiptoeing, were heard by the listeners
below the porch. Then, a moment later, the sound of a woman sobbing.

The foregoing conversation was distinctly heard by at least half of
Marshal Crow's posse. Three of the watchers, crouching not far from
Anderson Crow and his two supporters, abruptly left their hiding-places
and started swiftly toward the front gate. The Marshal intercepted them.

"Where are you going?" he whispered, grabbing the foremost, who happened
to be Elmer K. Pratt, the photographer.

"I was sure I saw that feller you were telling about skipping down
toward the street," whispered Mr. Pratt, his voice shaking. "I'm going
after him. I--"

"Keep still! Stay where you are. Alf, you round up the boys--collect 'em
up here, quiet as possible. We got to prevent this terrible murder. You
heard what they were plottin' to do. Surround the house. Close every
avenue of escape. Three or four of us will bust in through the porch
an'--You stay with me, Sim, an' you too, Bill. Get your pistol ready,
Sim. When I give the word--foller me! Where's Alf? Is he surrounding the
house? Sh! Don't speak!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Shadowy figures began scuttling about the lawn, darting from bush to
bush, advancing upon the house.

"Now--get ready, Sim," whispered Anderson.

The words were hardly out of his mouth when a dull, smothered report,
as of one striking the side of a barrel, reached the ears of the
assembling forces. Then a sharp, agonized cry from the lady in the
veranda.

"Too late!" cried the Marshal, and dashed clumsily up the front steps,
followed by four or five of his henchmen.

Yanking open the screen-door, he plunged headlong into the softly
lighted veranda. Behind him came Sim Jackson, brandishing a revolver,
and Bill Kepsal, clutching the hammer he had brought from his forge.

[Illustration: _Yanking open the screen-door, he plunged headlong into
the softly lighted veranda_]

They stopped short. A woman in a filmy white gown, cut extremely low in
the neck, confronted them, an expression of alarm in her wide dark eyes.
She was very beautiful. They had never seen any one so beautiful, so
striking, or so startlingly dressed. She had just arisen from the
comfortable wicker chair beside the table, the surface of which was
littered with magazines, papers and documents in all sorts of disorder.

"What is the meaning of this intrusion?" she demanded, recovering her
composure after the first instant of alarm.

Mr. Crow found his voice. "Surrender peaceable," he said. "I've got you
completely surrounded. Won't do any good to resist. My men are
everywhere. Your partner will be shot down if he--"

"Why, you--you old goose!" cried out the lady, and forthwith burst into
a merry peal of laughter.

The Marshal stiffened.

"That kind of talk won't--" he began, and then broke off to roar: "Quit
your laughin'! You won't be gigglin' like that when you're settin' in
the 'lectric chair. Hustle inside there, men! Take her paramour, dead or
alive!"

"Oh, what a stupendous situation!" cried the beautiful lady, her eyes
dancing. "You really are a darling, Mr. Crow--a perfect, old dear.
You--"

"None o' that now--none o' that!" Mr. Crow warned, taking a step
backward. "Won't do you any good to talk sweet to me. I've got the goods
on you. A dozen witnesses have heard you plottin' to murder. Throw up
your hands! Up with 'em! Now, keep 'em up! _An' stop laughin'!_ You'll
soon find out you can't murder a man in cold blood, even if he is a
trespasser on your property. You can't go around killin'--Say, where is
Mrs. Smith? Where's the lady of the house?"

"I am the lady of the house, Mr. Crow," said the lady, performing a
graceful Delsartian movement with her long bare arms. Mr. Crow and his
companions stared upward at her arms as if fascinated. "I am Mrs.
Smith--Mrs. John Smith."

"I guess not," said Anderson sharply. "She wears a veil, asleep an'
awake. Hold on! Put your hands down! She's signalin' somebody, sure as
you're alive," he burst out, turning to the group of mouth-sagging,
eye-roving gentlemen who followed every graceful curve and twist of
those ivory arms. "What's the matter with you, Sim? Didn't I order you
to go in there an' grab that bloody assassin? What--"

"Not on your life! He's got a gun," exclaimed Sim Jackson. "S'pose I'm
goin' in there, an'--Oh, fer gosh sake!"

A man appeared in the door leading to the interior of the house.

"For the love o' Mike!" issued from the lips of the newcomer. "What in
thunder--what's all this?"

It was Harry Squires.

He gazed open-mouthed, first at the beautiful, convulsed lady, and then
at the huddled group of men.

"We are caught red-handed, Mr. Squires," said the beautiful lady. "Shall
we go to the electric chair hand in hand?"

A slow grin began to reach out from the corners of Harry's mouth as if
its intention was to connect with his ears.

"My God, Harry--you ain't mixed up in this murder?" bleated Anderson.

The old man's dismay was so genuine, his distress so pitiful, that the
heart of Harry Squires was touched. His face sobered at once. Stepping
forward, he held out his hand to the Marshal.

"Good old Anderson! It's all right. Buck up, old top! I'm sorry to say
that blood has been shed here tonight. Come with me; I'll show you the
corpse."

Mr. Crow was not to be caught napping. "Some of you fellers stay here
an' guard this woman. Don't let her get away."

       *       *       *       *       *

A few minutes later he stood beside Harry Squires in the cellar below
the kitchen. There was a smell of gunpowder on the close, still air.
They looked down upon the black, inanimate form of the French poodle.

"There, Mr. Hawkshaw," said Harry, "there lies all that is mortal of the
finest little gentleman that ever wore a collar. Take off your hat,
Sim--and you too, Bill--all of you. You are standing in the presence of
death. Behold in me the assassin. I am the slayer of yon grisly corpse.
Shackle me, Mr. Marshal. Lead me to the gallows. I am the guilty party."

Marshal Crow took off his hat with the rest--but he did it the better to
mop his forehead.

"Do you mean to tell me there ain't been any man slew in this house?" he
inquired slowly.

"Up to the hour of going to press," said the city editor of the
_Banner_, "no human remains have been unearthed."

"Then, where in thunder is the feller who's been foolin' around Mrs.
Smith's front yard, the--"

"Last I saw of him he was beating it down the street about two hours
ago, and you were giving him the run of his life. I don't believe the
rascal will ever dare come around here again. The chances are he's still
running."

The Marshal muttered something under his breath, and shot a pleading
look at Harry.

"Yes, sir," continued Harry solemnly, "I'll bet my head he'll never be
seen in these parts again."

"If he hadn't got such a start of me," said Anderson, regaining much of
his aplomb, "I'd 'a nabbed him, sure as you're alive. He could run like
a whitehead. I never seen such--"

"Shall we go upstairs, gentlemen, and relieve the pressure on Miss
Hildebrand? She is, I may say, the principal mourner, poor lady."

"Miss Who?"

"Gentlemen, the lady up there is no other than the celebrated actress,
Juliet Hildebrand. The Veiled Lady and she are one and the same. Before
we retire from this spot, let me explain that Mr. Snooks, the deceased,
was run over by her automobile an hour or so ago. His back was broken. I
merely put an end to his suffering. Now come--"

"Mister Snooks?" inquired Anderson quickly. "Well, that solves one of
the mysteries that's been botherin' me. An'--an' you say she's the big
actress whose picture we see in the papers every now an' again?"

"The same, Mr. Crow. She has done me the honour to accept a play that I
have been guilty of writing. She came up here to go over it with me
before putting it into rehearsal, and incidentally to enjoy a month's
vacation after a long and prosperous season in New York."

"Do you mean to say you've knowed all along who she was?" demanded
Anderson. "Been comin' up here to see her every night or so, I suppose."

"More or less."

"That settles it!" said the Marshal sternly. "You are under arrest, sir.
Have you got anybody to bail you out, er are you goin' to spend the
night in the lock-up?"

"What's the charge, Mr. Hawkshaw?" inquired Harry, amiably.

"Practisin' without a dicense."

"Practising what?" asked Harry.

"Jokes!" roared Anderson gleefully, and slapped him on the back.

       *       *       *       *       *

Again the Marshal slapped the culprit's back. "Yes, sir, the joke's on
me. I admit it. I'll set up the seegars for everybody here. Sim, send a
box of them 'Uncle Tom' specials round to my office first thing in the
mornin'. Yes, sir, Harry, my boy, you certainly caught me nappin' good
and plenty. Tain't often I git--"

"If you don't mind, Anderson," interrupted Elmer K. Pratt, "I'll take a
nickel's worth of chewin'-tobacco. My wife don't like me to smoke around
the house."

"Gentlemen," said Harry Squires, "there are a few bottles of beer in the
icebox, and the cook will make all the cheese and ham sandwiches we can
eat. I am sure Miss Hildebrand will be happy to have you partake of
her--"

"Hold on a minute, Harry," broke in the Marshal hastily. His face was a
study. The painfully created joviality came to a swift and uncomfortable
end, and in its place flashed a look of embarrassment. He simply
couldn't face the smiling Miss Hildebrand.

"If it's all the same to you," he went on, lowering his voice and
glancing furtively over his shoulder at the departing members of his
posse, "I guess I'll go out the back way." Seeing the surprised look-on
Harry's face, he floundered badly for a moment or two, and then
concluded with the perfectly good excuse that it was his duty to lead
Alf Reesling, the one-time town drunkard, away from temptation. In
support of this resolve, he called out to Alf: "Come here, Alf. None o'
that, now! You come along with me."

"I ain't goin' to touch anything but a ham sandwich," protested Alf with
considerable asperity.

"Never mind! You do what I tell you, or I'll run you in. Remember, you
got a wife an' daughter, an'--"

"Inasmuch as Alf has been on the water-wagon for twenty-seven years, Mr.
Marshal, I think you can trust him--" began Harry, but Anderson checked
him with a resolute gesture.

"Can't take any chances with him. He's got to come with me."

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Harry.

"An' besides," said Anderson, "a man in my position can't afford to be
seen associatin' with actresses--an' you know it, Harry Squires. Come
on, Alf!"



THE ASTONISHING ACTS OF ANNA


The case of Loop vs. Loop was docketed for the September term in the
Bramble County Circuit Court at Boggs City. When it became officially
known in Tinkletown, through the columns of the _Banner_, that Eliphalet
Loop had brought suit for divorce against his wife Anna, the town
experienced a convulsion that bore symptoms of continuing without
abatement until snow fell, and perhaps--depending on the evidence
introduced--throughout the entire winter. For Eliphalet, in accusing his
wife, was obliged to state in his bill that the identity and whereabouts
of "said co-respondent" were at present unknown to complainant. As Mrs.
Loop emphatically--some said spitefully--declined to satisfy the
curiosity of Mr. Loop, and the whole of Tinkletown as well, speculation
took such an impatient attitude toward her that Eliphalet, had he been
minded to do so, could have made use of any one of three hundred names
in a village boasting an adult male population of three hundred and
seventeen. Husbands who had been in the habit of loafing around the
village stores for a couple of hours after supper, winter and summer,
now felt constrained to remain later than usual for fear that
evil-minded persons outstaying them might question the statement that
they were going home; and many a wife who was seldom awake after nine
stayed up until the man of the house was safely inside, where she could
look at him with an intentness so strange that he began to develop a
ferocious hatred for Mrs. Loop.

The town marshal, Anderson Crow, encountering the lugubrious Eliphalet
in front of Dr. Brown's office early one morning several weeks after the
filing of the complaint, put this question to him:

"See here, Liff, why in thunder don't you make that wife o' yourn tell
who 'tis she's been carryin' on with?"

Mr. Loop was not offended. He was not even embarrassed.

"'Cause I ain't speakin' to her nowadays, that's why."

"But you got a right to speak to her, ain't you? She's livin' in the
same house with you, ain't she? An' it's _your_ house, ain't it? Stand
up to her. Show her you got a little spunk."

"I been livin' out in the barn, Anderson, on the advice of my lawyer. He
says as long as she won't git out, I've got to. Been sleepin' out there
for the last three weeks."

"I'd like to see any woman drive me out of a comfortable bed!"

"I don't a bit mind sleepin' in the barn," said Eliphalet in apology.
"It's kind of a relief to get away from them women. Hosses can't talk. I
don't know as I've ever slept as well as I have--"

"The point is," broke in Anderson firmly, "this wife of yourn is causin'
a great deal of misery in town, Liff. Somethin's got to be done about
it."

"I ain't askin' anybody to share my misery with me," said Mr. Loop with
some asperity.

"I bet I've heard fifty men's names mentioned in the last twenty-four
hours," said Anderson, compressing his lips. "'Tain't fair, Liff, an'
you know it."

"'Tain't my fault," said Mr. Loop stubbornly. "I won't ask her ag'in.
You wouldn't either, if you'd got a wallop over the head with a
stove-lid like I did when I asked her the first time." He removed his
weather-worn straw hat. "See that? Doc Brown had to take seven stitches
in it, an' he says if old Hawkins the undertaker had seen it first, I
wouldn't have had to send for a doctor at all. You ask her yourself, if
you're so blamed anxious to know. I seen her out in the back yard just
'fore I left. She was lookin' kinder sad and down in the mouth; so I sez
to her as gentle as I knowed how--an' as legally as possible, on the
advice of my lawyer: 'Good mornin', Mrs. Loop.' An' then when I seen her
lookin' around for somethin' to throw at me, I knowed it wasn't any use
tryin' to be polite, so I sez: 'Git out o' my sight, you old cow!' And
'fore you could say scat, she was out o' my sight. I didn't know it was
possible for me to be so spry at _my_ age. Just as she was gettin' out
o' my sight by me gettin' around the corner of the barn, I heard
somethin' go ker-slam ag'inst the side of the barn, but I don't know
what it was. Sounded like a milk-crock."

Anderson looked at him sorrowfully. "Well, you can't say I didn't warn
you, Liff."

"Warn me about what?"

"'Bout advertisin' fer a wife. I told you no good could come of it. An'
now I guess you'll agree that I was right."

"Oh, shucks! Anna was as good a woman as I ever had, Andy Crow, an' I
don't know as I ever had a better worker around the place. Fer two years
she--"

He choked up and began to sniffle.

"There ain't no denyin' the fact she lasted longer'n any of 'em," agreed
Anderson. "I don't just exactly remember how many funerals you've had,
Liff, but--say, just out o' curiosity, how many have you had? Me an'
Mrs. Crow had a dispute about it last evenin'."

"It's cost me a lot o' money, Anderson, a turrible lot o' money,"
groaned Eliphalet, "what with doctors' bills an' coffins; an'
nothin'--absolutely nothin'--to show fer it! No children, no--nothin'
but mother-in-laws an' tombstones. By gosh, why is it mother-in-laws
last so long? I've got five mother-in-laws livin' this minute, an' the
good Lord knows I never done anything to encourage 'em. I've lost four
wives an' not a single mother-in-law. It don't seem right--now, does
it, Anderson?"

"Well, if you'd married somebody nearer your own age, Liff, you might
stand some chance of out-livin' their mothers. But you been marryin'
women anywheres from fifty to sixty years younger'n you are. You must be
derned near eighty."

"If you git 'em too old, they're allus complainin' about doin' the work
around the house and garden, an' then you got to git a hired girl.
Specially the washin'!"

"Seems to me it'd be cheaper in the long run to work a hired girl to
death rather than a wife," said Anderson tartly.

"Most generally it is," agreed Mr. Loop. "But I sorter got into the
habit of marryin' hired girls, figgerin' they make the best kind of
wives. I give 'em a good home, plenty to eat an'--" His eyes roamed
aloft, as if searching for some other beneficence, and finally lighting
on Dr. Brown's door-plate, found something to clinch his argument. "An'
as fine a funeral as any woman could ask fer!" he concluded.

"Let's git back to the main question," said Anderson unfeelingly. He
didn't have much use for Eliphalet. "What fer sort of lookin' feller is
this man your wife's been carryin' on with?"

"Well," began Mr. Loop, squinting his bleary eyes reflectively, "I ain't
never seen him 'cept when he was runnin', an' it was after dark
besides. Twice I seen him jump out of one of our back winders when I got
home earlier'n usual from lodge-meetin'. First time I made out he was a
burglar an' hustled in to see if he had took anything. You see, I allus
keep my pocketbook in a burey drawer in our bedroom; an' natcherly, as
it was our bedroom winder he jumped out of, I--well, natcherly I'd be a
little uneasy, wouldn't I?"

"Specially if you thought your wife might 'a' been rendered insensible
by the robber," said Anderson.

"Natcherly," said Mr. Loop quickly. "Course, I thought of her first of
all. Well, after I went to the burey an' found the pocketbook all safe,
I asked Anna if she'd heard anybody tryin' to get in through the winder.
She looked kinder funny-like fer a second er two an' then said no, she
hadn't. I told her what I'd seen, and she said I must be drunk er
somethin', 'cause she'd been in the room all the time havin' a bite of
somethin' to eat 'fore goin' to bed. I never saw anybody that could eat
more'n that woman, Anderson. She's allus eatin'. Course I believed her
_that_ time, 'cause there was a plate o' cold ham an' some salt-risin'
biscuits an', oh, a lot of other victuals on the washstand, with only
one knife an' fork. Her mother was sound asleep in her room upstairs;
an' her sister Gertie,--who come to visit us six months ago an' is still
visitin' us an' eatin' more'n any two hired men you ever saw,--Gertie,
she was out in the kitchen readin' that Swede paper my wife takes. An'
she said she didn't hear anybody either, an' up and told Anna she'd be
afraid to live with a man that come home drunk every night in the week
like I did. She's the meanest woman I ever see, Anderson. She--"

"I don't want to hear about that side of your wife's relations,
Eliphalet Loop," interposed Anderson.

"Well," said Eliphalet patiently, "I kinder figered I might 'a' been
mistaken about seein' him that first time, but when the same thing
happened ag'in on the night I went over to set up with Jim Hooper's
corpse, why, I jest natcherly begin to think it was kinder funny. What
set me thinkin' harder'n ever was finding' a man's hat in my room,
hangin' on the back of a chair. Thinks I, that's mighty funny--specially
as the hat wasn't mine."

"What kind of a hat was it?" questioned Anderson, taking out his
notebook and pencil. "Describe it carefully, Liff."

"It was a grey fewdory," said Mr. Loop.

"The one you been wearin' to church lately?"

"Yes. I thought I might as well be wearin' it, long as nobody claimed
it," explained the ingenuous husband of Anna. "It was a couple of sizes
too big fer me, so I stuffed some paper inside the sweat-band. I allus
hate to have a hat comin' down on my ears, don't you? Kinder spreads 'em
out."

"Well, the first thing we've got to do, Liff, is to find some one with
a head two sizes bigger'n yours," said Anderson, giving his whiskers a
slow, speculative twist.

"That oughtn't to be hard to do," said Eliphalet without hesitation. "I
wear a five an' three-quarters. Most everybody I know wears a bigger hat
than I do."

"That makes it more difficult," admitted Anderson. "Was it bought in
Tinkletown or Boggs City?"

"It had a New York label stamped on the sweat-band."

"Bring it down to my office, Liff, so's I c'n examine it carefully. Now,
when did you next see this man?"

"'Bout two weeks after the second time--up in our cow-pasture. He was
settin' beside Anna on some rails back of the corn-crib, an' he had his
arm around her--or part way round, anyhow; she's a turrible thick woman.
Been fattenin' up somethin' awful in the last two years. I snook up an'
looked at 'em through the blackberry bushes, layin' flat so's they
couldn't see me."

"Was that all you did?"

"What else could I do?" demanded Mr. Loop in some surprise.

"Why, you could have tackled him right then an' there, couldn't you?"

"Didn't I tell you there was two of 'em?"

"Two men?"

"No. Him an' Anna. You don't suppose I could lick _both_ of 'em, do you?
I bet there ain't a man in town--'cept that blacksmith, Bill
Kepsal--that c'n lick Anna single-handed. Besides, I ain't half the man
I used to be. I'm purty nigh eighty, Anderson. If I'd been four or five
years younger, I'd ha' showed him, you bet."

"Umph!" was Mr. Crow's comment. "How long did they set there?"

"I can't just perzactly say. They was gone when I woke up!"

"When you what?"

"Woke up. It was gittin' purty late, long past my bedtime, an' I'd had a
hard day's work. I guess I muster fell asleep."

"Was Mrs. Loop up when you got back home?"

"Yes, she was up."

"What did you say to her?"

"I--I didn't git a chance to say anything," said Eliphalet mournfully.
"All three of 'em was eatin' breakfast, an' I got the most awful
tongue-lashin' you ever heard. 'Cused me of everything under the sun. I
couldn't eat a mouthful."

"Served you right," said Anderson sternly. "Well, did you ever see him
ag'in?"

"I ain't sayin' as it was the same feller," qualified Mr. Loop, "but
last night I seen a man streakin' through the potato-patch lickety-split
some'eres round nine o'clock. He was carryin' a bundle an' was all
stooped over. I yelled at him to stop er I'd fire. That seemed to make
him run a little faster, so I took after him, an' run smack into Anna
comin' round the corner of the hen-roost. Soon as I got my breath, I
asked her what in tarnation she was doin' out at that time o' night."

"Well, go on. What did she say?" demanded Anderson as Mr. Loop paused to
wipe his forehead.

"She--she insulted me," said Mr. Loop.

"How?" inquired Marshal Crow sceptically.

"She called me a skunk."

Mr. Crow was silent for some time, tugging at his whiskers. He stared
intently at the upper corner of Dr. Brown's cottage. His lip twitched
slightly. Presently, feeling that he could trust his voice, he asked:

"Why don't you offer a reward, Liff?"

"I thought of doin' that," said Mr. Loop, but a trifle half-heartedly.

"If you offer a big enough reward, I'll find out who the feller is,"
said Anderson. "Course, you understand it ain't my duty as marshal to
ferret out matrimonial mysteries. I'd have to tackle it in my capacity
as a private detective. An' you couldn't hardly expect me to do all this
extry work without bein' paid fer it."

Mr. Loop scratched his head. Then he scratched a small furrow in the
gravel roadway with the toe of one of his boots.

"Well, you see, I got to pay a lawyer right smart of a fee; an'
besides--"

Anderson interrupted him sternly. "You owe it to your feller-citizens to
clear up this mystery. You surely don't think it is fair to your
friends, do you, 'Liphalet Loop? Purty nigh every man in town is bein'
suspicioned, an'--"

"That ain't any business o' mine," snapped Eliphalet, showing some ire.
"If they feel as though the thing ought to be cleared up jest fer
_their_ sakes, why don't they git together an' offer a reward? I don't
see why I ought to pay out money to 'stablish the innocence of all the
men in Tinkletown. Let them do it if they feel that way about it. I got
no objection to the taxpayers of Tinkletown oppropriatin' a sum out of
the town treasury to prove they're innocent. Why don't you take it up
with the selectmen, Anderson. I'm satisfied to leave my complaint as it
is. I've been thinkin' it over, an' I believe I'd ruther git my divorce
without knowin' who's the cause of it. The way it is now, I'm on
friendly terms with every man in town, an' I'd like to stay that way. It
would be mighty onpleasant to meet one of your friends on the street an'
not be able to speak to him. Long as I _don't_ know, why--"

"Wait a minute, Liff Loop," broke in Anderson sternly. "Don't say
anything more. All I got to say is that it wasn't _you_ your wife
insulted when she called you a skunk. Good mornin', sir."

He turned and strode away, leaving the amazed Mr. Loop standing with his
mouth open. Some time later that same afternoon Eliphalet succeeded in
solving the problem that had been tantalizing him all day. "By gum," he
bleated, addressing the high heavens, "what a blamed old fool he is!
Anybody with any sense at all knows that you _can't_ insult a skunk."

       *       *       *       *       *

Briefly, Mr. Loop's fifth matrimonial experience had been, in the
strictest sense, a venture. After four discouraging failures in the
effort to obtain a durable wife from among the young women of Tinkletown
and vicinity, he had resolved to go farther afield for his fifth. So he
advertised through a New York matrimonial bureau for the sort of wife he
might reasonably depend upon to survive the rigours of climate, industry
and thrift. He made it quite plain that the lucky applicant would have
to be a robust creature, white, sound of lung and limb, not more than
thirty, and experienced in domestic economy. Nationality no object. Mr.
Loop's idea of the meaning of domestic economy was intensely literal.
Also she would have to pay her own railroad fare to Boggs City, no
matter whence she came, the same to be refunded in case she proved
acceptable. He described himself as a widower of means, young in spirit
though somewhat past middle age, of attractive personality and an
experienced husband.

The present Mrs. Loop was the result of this spirit of enterprise on his
part. She came from Hoboken, New Jersey, and her name was Anna Petersen
before it was altered to Loop. She more than fulfilled the requirements.
As Mr. Loop himself proclaimed, there wasn't "a robuster woman in
Bramble County;" she was exceedingly sound of lung, and equally sound of
limb. What pleased him more than anything else, she was a Swede. He had
always heard that the Swedish women were the most frugal, the most
industrious, and a shade more amenable to male authority than any
others.

Anna was a towering, rather overdeveloped female. She revealed such
astonishing propensities for work that she had been a bride but little
more than a week when Eliphalet decided that he could dispense with the
services of a hired man. A little later he discovered, much to his
surprise, that there really wasn't quite enough work about the house to
keep her occupied all the time, and so he allowed her to take over some
of the chores he had been in the habit of performing, such as feeding
the horses and pigs, and ultimately to chop and carry in the firewood,
wash the buckboard, milk the cows, and--in spare moments--to weed the
garden. He began to regard himself as the most fortunate man alive. Anna
appeared to thrive where her predecessors had withered and wasted away.
True, she ate considerably more than any of them, but he was willing to
put up with that, provided she didn't go so far to eat as much as _all_
of them. There were times, however, when he experienced a great deal of
uneasiness on that score.

The fly avoided his ointment for something like three months. Then it
came and settled and bade fair to remain and thrive upon the fat of his
land. Anna's mother came to live with them. He now realized that he had
been extremely shortsighted. He should have stipulated in his
advertisement that none except motherless young women need apply.

Mrs. Petersen was his fifth mother-in-law, and he dolefully found
himself contending with the paraphrase: like mother, like daughter. His
latest mother-in-law proved to be a voracious as well as a vociferous
eater. She fell little short of Anna in physical proportions, but his
wife assured him that it would be no time at all before she'd have her
as plump as a partridge! Mr. Loop undertook the experiment of a joke. He
asked her if _partridge_ was the Swede word for _hippopotamus_. After
that he kept his jokes to himself.

A year and a half went by. Then Miss Gertie Petersen came up from
Hoboken for a flying visit. She was a very tall and lean young woman.
Mr. Loop shuddered. The process of developing her into a partridge was
something horrible to contemplate. But Anna was not dismayed. She
insisted that the country air would do her sister a world of good. Mr.
Loop was a pained witness to the filling out of Gertrude, but something
told him that it wasn't the country air that was doing it. She weighed
in the neighbourhood of one hundred and fifty pounds when she flew in
for the visit. At the end of six months she strained the scales at two
hundred and twenty. There was a good deal of horse-sense in his
contention that if all this additional weight was country air, she'd
have to be pretty securely anchored or she'd float away like a balloon.

But he did not openly complain. He had acquired the wisdom of the
vanquished. He was surrounded by conquerors. Moreover, at
butchering-time, he had seen his wife pick up a squealing shoat with one
hand and slit its throat with the other in such a skilful and efficient
manner that gooseflesh crept out all over his body when he thought of
it.

[Illustration: _He was surrounded by conquerors_]

And during those long, solitary nights in the barn he thought of it so
constantly that everything else, including the encroachment of the
home-wrecker, slipped his mind completely. He never ceased wondering how
he screwed up the courage to institute proceedings against Anna,
notwithstanding the fact that the matter had been vicariously attended
to by his lawyer and a deputy from the county sheriff's office.

       *       *       *       *       *

Marshal Crow fell into a state of profound cogitation after leaving Mr.
Loop. The old man had put a new idea into his head. Late in the
afternoon he decided to call a meeting of citizens at the town hall for
that night. He drafted the assistance of such able idlers as Alf
Reesling, Newt Spratt, Rush Applegate, Henry Plumb and Situate M. Jones,
and ordered them to impress upon all male citizens of Tinkletown between
the ages of twenty-one and seventy-five the importance of attending this
meeting. Ebenezer January, the barber, and George Washington Smith, the
garbage-wagon driver, were the only two men in town whose presence was
not considered necessary. They, with their somewhat extensive families,
represented the total coloured population of Tinkletown.

When the impromptu gathering was called to order that night by Ezra
Pounder, the town clerk (acting in an unofficial capacity), there were
nearly two hundred and fifty men present, including Messrs. January and
Smith. Uncle Dad Simms, aged eighty-four, was present, occupying a front
seat. He confessed for the first time in his life that he was a little
"hard o' hearin'." This was a most gratifying triumph for his
fellow-citizens, who for a matter of twenty years had almost yelled
their lungs out advising him to get an ear-trumpet, only to have him
say: "What in thunder are you whisperin' about?"

The three clergymen of the town put in an appearance, and Elmer K.
Pratt, the photographer, brought his seven-months-old baby, explaining
that it was _his_ night to take care of her. He assured the gentlemen
present that they were at liberty to speak as freely and as loudly as
they pleased, so far as his daughter was concerned; if she got awake and
started to "yap," he'd spank the daylights out of her, and if that
didn't shut her up he'd take her home.

Anderson Crow, wearing all his decorations, occupied a chair between Mr.
Pounder and Harry Squires, the _Banner_ reporter. By actual count there
were seven badges ranging across his chest. Prominent among them were
the familiar emblems of the two detective associations to which he paid
annual dues. Besides these, one could have made out the star of the town
marshal, the shield of the fire chief, badges of the Grand Army of the
Republic, Sons of Veterans, Sons of the Revolution, and the Tinkletown
Battlefield Association.

Harry Squires, at the request of Mr. Crow, arose and stated the object
of the meeting.

"Gentlemen," he began, "the time has come for action. We have been
patient long enough. A small committee of citizens got together today,
and acting upon the suggestion of our distinguished Marshal, decided to
make a determined effort to restore peace and confidence into the home
of practically every gentleman in this community. It is a moral
certainty that all of us can't be the individual in Mr. Loop's woodpile,
but it is also more or less an immoral certainty that Mrs. Loop
obstinately refuses to vindicate an overwhelming majority of the
citizens of this town.

"The situation is intolerable. We are in a painful state of perplexity.
One of us, gentlemen, appears to be a _Lothario_. The question naturally
arises: which one of us is it? Nobody answers. As a matter of fact, up
to date, nobody has actually _denied_ the charge. Can it be a matter of
false pride with us? Ahem! However, not only does Mrs. Loop decline to
lift the shadow of doubt, but Mr. Loop has assumed a most determined and
uncharitable attitude toward his friends and neighbours. He positively
refuses to come to our rescue. We have put up with Mr. Loop for a great
many years, gentlemen, and what do we get for our pains? Nothing,
gentlemen, nothing except Mr. Loop's cheerful wink when he passes us on
the street. Our esteemed Marshal today proposed to Mr. Loop that he
offer a suitable reward for the apprehension of the man in the case. He
gave him the opportunity to do something for his friends and
acquaintances. What does Mr. Loop say to the proposition? He was more
than magnanimous. He as much as said that he couldn't bear the idea that
any one of his numerous friends was innocent.

"Now, while Mr. Loop may feel that he is being extremely generous, we
must feel otherwise. Gentlemen, we have arrived at the point where we
must take our reputations out of Eliphalet Loop's hands. We cannot
afford to let him trifle with them any longer. Mr. Loop refuses to
employ a detective. Therefore it is up to us to secure the services of
a competent, experienced sleuth who can and will establish our
innocence. It will cost us a little money, possibly fifty cents apiece;
but what is that compared to a fair name? I am confident that there
isn't a man here who wouldn't give as much as ten dollars, even if he
had to steal it, in order to protect his honour. Now, gentlemen, you
know what we are here for. The meeting is open for suggestions and
discussion."

He sat down, but almost instantly arose, his gaze fixed on an object in
the rear of the hall.

"I see that Mr. Loop has just come in. Perhaps he has some news for us.
Have you anything to say, Mr. Loop?"

Mr. Loop got up and cleared his throat.

"Nothin'," said he "except that I'm as willin' as anybody to subscribe
fifty cents."

Harry Squires suddenly put his hand over his mouth and turned to Marshal
Crow. The Marshal arose.

"This ain't no affair of yours, Liff Loop. Nobody invited you to be
present. You go on home, now. Go on! You've contributed all that's
necessary to this here meetin'. Next thing we know, you'll be
contributin' your mother-in-law too. Get out, I say. Open the door,
Jake, an' head him that way. Easy, now! I didn't say to _stand_ him on
his head. He might accidently squash that new fewdory hat he's wearin'."

After Mr. Loop's unceremonious departure, the Marshal resumed his seat
and fell to twisting his sparse whiskers.

"What is your opinion, Mr. Crow," inquired Harry Squires, "as to the
amount we would have to pay a good detective to tackle the job?"

Mr. Crow ran a calculating eye over the crowd. He did not at once reply.
Finally he spoke.

"Between a hundred and five an' a hundred an' seven dollars," he said.
"It might run as high as hundred and ten," he added, as two or three
belated citizens entered the hall.

"Can we get a goot man for dot amoundt?" inquired Henry Wimpelmeyer, the
tanyard man.

"Well, we can get one that c'n tell whether it's daylight or dark
without lightin' a lantern to find out," said Mr. Crow in a slightly
bellicose tone.

"I ain't so sure aboudt dot," said Henry, eying the Marshal skeptically.
He had had it in for Marshal Crow ever since that official compelled him
to hang an American flag in front of his tanyard.

Luckily Uncle Dad Simms, who had not heard a word of the foregoing
remarks, piped up.

"This ain't no time to be thinkin' of unnecessary improvements, what
with peace not signed yet, an' labor an' material so high. I don't see
that there's any call for a new roof, anyway. S'posin' it does leak a
little once in a while. We've all got umbrellas, I guess, an'--"

"Wake up, wake up!" bawled Alf Reesling, close to the old man's ear. "We
ain't talkin' about a roof. Loop! That's what we're talkin' about!"

"What say?" squealed Uncle Dad, putting his hand to his ear. "My hearin'
is a little bad lately."

"I said you was the derndest old nuisance in town; that's what I
said--an' I don't care whether you hear me or not," roared Alf in
exasperation.

"That's better," said Uncle Dad, nodding his head approvingly. "But I
wish you wouldn't chaw tobacker, Alf," he added rather plaintively.

"Order!" commanded Marshal Crow, pounding on the table with his cane.
"Now, feller-citizens, let us git down to business. Most of us have got
to be home before nine o'clock, or the dickens will be to pay. All those
in favour of employin' a detective to unearth this dark mystery raise
their right hands."

"Just a moment, please," called out the Reverend Mr. Maltby, of the
Congregationalist church. "I presume I am safe in saying that Father
Maloney, the Reverend Mr. Downs and myself are hardly to be regarded as
interested parties--"

He was interrupted by Father Maloney, who sprang to his feet and shouted
in his most jovial voice:

"Nonsense, my dear Maltby! I consider it a great honour to be considered
in the list of suspects. Nothing could give me more pleasure than the
feeling that my parishioners trusted me sufficiently to take me to their
hearts and say: 'He is one of us.' I should consider myself very badly
treated if they were to leave me out of the case. Come--join me. Let us
get all we can out of a most delicate situation. What do you say, friend
Downs?"

The Methodist minister, an elderly person, looked a trifle dashed for a
moment or two, and then heartily declared himself as with Father
Maloney. Whereupon Mr. Maltby said he guessed it would be all right,
provided Mr. Squires promised not to publish the names.

Harry Squires promptly announced that he intended to save labour and
space by stating briefly and concisely that if any of his feminine
readers cared to have a list of "those present," she could get it very
easily and alphabetically by consulting the telephone-book.

The outcome of the meeting may be recorded in a very few words, although
a great many were required in its achievement. Virtually everybody,
including the coloured gentry, had something to say on the subject, and
most of them said it without reservations. After Mr. Squires had
announced that any man who voted in the negative would automatically
convict himself, there wasn't a man present who failed to subscribe
fifty cents toward the civic honour fund. It was found, on computation,
that the total amount was one hundred nine dollars and fifty cents.
Marshal Crow at once increased his contribution to one dollar, declaring
it would be mortifying to offer a reward of less than one hundred and
ten dollars to any decent, self-respecting detective.

Messrs. January and Smith insisted on their rights as citizens to join
in the movement. Mr. January took the floor and vociferously harangued
the assemblage at some length on certain provisions of the Proclamation
of Emancipation, and Mr. Smith said that "this wasn't no time to draw
the colour-line."

Mr. Crow consented to undertake the baffling case, and it was "so
ordered."

"Have you got a clue?" whispered Alf Reesling as he started homeward in
the wake of the preoccupied sleuth.

"No, but I will have 'fore mornin'," replied Anderson.

And he never uttered truer words in all his life.

       *       *       *       *       *

Being a man of action, Mr. Crow began operations at once. He went home
and for nearly an hour worked over the list of subscribers to the fund,
aided by his wife and daughters. Among them they separated the wheat
from the chaff. At least twenty per cent. of the contributors were set
aside in a separate group and labelled "no good." Ten per cent. were
designated as "fairly good," and the remainder as "good." It must not be
assumed that the division had anything to do with the Loop mystery. Mr.
Crow was merely figuring out who would pay and who would not.

It was shortly after ten o'clock when he started, in a roundabout way,
for the home of Eliphalet Loop. The more direct route would have been
down the street from his own house to the Boggs City pike, first turn to
the left, fifty paces straight ahead, and he would have found himself at
Eliphalet's front gate--in all, a matter of half a mile. But he
preferred to descend upon the premises from an unexpected angle. So he
approached by a far, circuitous way and arrived at the gate after
traversing something like three miles of wood and pasture-land,
stealthily following the stake-and-rider fences in order to screen his
movements. He was well aware that Mr. Loop did not own a dog, on account
of the expense.

The house was dark. Mr. Crow leaned against the hitching-post and mopped
his brow. Then he blew his nose. It was his custom when he blew his
nose, to blow it with tremendous force. Having performed these highly
interesting feats he restored his handkerchief to his hip pocket. He
remembered quite clearly doing all these things. Afterwards he claimed
that he blew his nose as a signal. In any case, it _proved_ to be a
signal. A thinly pleated light appeared in one of the front windows of
the house, narrow little streaks one above the other, shining through
the window-slats.

The Marshal of Tinkletown stared. He craned his neck. A chill of
excitement swept over him. Was he about to witness the surreptitious
departure of the unwelcome guest? Had he arrived in the nick of time?
And what in the world was he to do if the fellow had a revolver?
Fascinated, he watched one of the blinds slowly swing outward. He held
his breath.

Suddenly it dawned on him that the visitor was still _expected_, and not
on the point of departing. In that case it behooved him to retire to a
less exposed spot, where he could observe the fellow without being
observed.

Stooping low, he stole across the road and wound his way through the
scraggly hedgerow and into the brambles beyond. Just as he was settling
himself down for his vigil, a most astonishing thing occurred.

A hand fell heavily upon his shoulder, and something cold punched him in
the back of the neck--and remained fixed in that spot.

"Don't move or I'll blow your brains out," whispered a voice in his ear.
The grip on his shoulder tightened.

"Who--who--" he started to gasp.

"Shut up!" hissed the voice of the invisible one. "I've got you dead to
rights. Get up! Put your hands up!"

"I--I got 'em up," gulped Mr. Crow, in a strangled voice. "Don't shoot,
Mister! I--I promise to let you go, I swear I will. It's--"

"By thunder!" fell from the lips of the captor. It was an exclamation of
surprise, even dismay.

"Take it away, if it's a revolver," pleaded Anderson. "I withdraw from
the case. You c'n go as fer as you like. Eliphalet--"

"Stand still. I can't take a chance with you. You may be trying to fool
me with this rube talk. Keep 'em up!"

Swiftly the stranger ran a hand over Mr. Crow's person.

"You _ought_ to have a gun," he said in a puzzled voice.

"I loaned it last winter to Milt Cupples, an' he--"

"Who the devil are you?"

"I'm the marshal of Tinkletown, an' my name is Crow--A. Crow. I made a
mistake, takin' up this case. Go on in and see Mrs. Loop if you feel
like it. I won't say a word to anybody--"

"Get down on your knees, Mr. Crow, here beside me, an'--"

"Oh, Lordy, Lordy! You shorely ain't going to shoot, Mister!"

"I don't want you to pray. I want you to keep still. Don't make a
sound--do you hear?"

"I've got a wife an' children--"

"Shut up! Look! She's put out the light. Keep your eyes skinned, old
man! He must be near. Don't make a sound. My partner's in that
rain-barrel at the corner of the house. If we can get him between us, he
won't have any more chance than a snowball in--Look! There he is,
sneaking across the yard! By golly, we've got him at last."

What happened in the next fifteen seconds was a revelation to the most
recent addition to the forces of the International Society of Sleuths.
He witnessed the quick, businesslike methods of two of the craftiest men
in the craftiest organization in the world--the United States Secret
Service.

Two words were spoken. They came, loud and imperative, from a point near
the house.

"Hands up!"

The skulking figure in the yard stopped short, but only for a fraction
of a second. Then he made a wild spring toward the front gate.

A shot rang out.

The man at Anderson's side leaped forward through the hedge. Mr. Crow
was dimly conscious of a mishap to his erstwhile captor. He heard him
curse as he went sprawling over a treacherous vine.

Mr. Crow did not waste a second's time. He leaped to his feet and
started pellmell for home. With rare sagacity he avoided the highway and
laid his course well inside the hedgerow. He knew where he could strike
an open stretch of meadowland, and he headed for it through the
brambles.

He heard shouts behind him, and the rush of feet. If he could only get
clear of the cussed bushes! That was his thought as he plunged along.

Down he went with a crash!

       *       *       *       *       *

As the marshal tried to rise, a huge object ploughed through the hedge
beside him, and the next instant he was knocked flat and breathless by
the impact of this hurtling body.

The next instant two swift, ruthless figures came plunging through the
hedge, and he found himself embroiled in a seething mix-up of panting,
struggling men.

Presently Crow sat up. The steady glare of a "dark-lantern" revealed a
picture he was never to forget.

A single figure in a kneeling position, hands on high, was crying:

"Don't shoot! Don't shoot!"

Over him stood two men with pistols levelled at the white, terrified
face.

[Illustration: _Over him stood two men with pistols levelled at the
white, terrified face_]

Anderson, to his dying day, was to remember those bulging eyes, the
flabby and unshaven face, the mouth that appeared to be grinning--but
never had he seen such an unnatural grin!

"Stand up!" commanded one of the men, and the victim struggled to his
feet. In less time than it takes to tell it, the fellow was searched and
hand-cuffed. "Run back there, Pyke, and see that the woman don't take a
crack at us with a shotgun. She'd do it in a minute." As his companion
darted back into the roadway, the speaker turned to his captive.
"Where's your gun?"

By this time Anderson Crow was on his feet. He was clutching something
in his hand. He looked at it in stark astonishment. It was an automatic
pistol. In raising himself from the ground his hand had fallen upon it.

"I don't know," said the captive sullenly. Then his gaze fell upon the
gaunt figure of Anderson Crow. A frightful scowl transfigured his face.
Mr. Crow involuntarily drew back a step and reversed the pistol in his
hand, so that its muzzle was pointing at the enemy instead of at
himself. Between imprecations the prisoner managed to convey the fact
that he realized for the first time that it was a human being and not a
log that had brought him to earth.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Crow found his voice and some of his wits at the same time.

"I'll learn you not to go rampagin' around these parts carryin'
concealed weapons, you good-fer-nothin' scamp! I've got your gun, blast
ye!" He turned triumphantly to the surprised secret-service man. "I took
it away from him soon as I had him down, an'--"

"Holy mackerel!" gasped the operative. "Did--did you head him off
and--and down him? You? Well, I'll be hanged!"

"I sorter knowed he'd strike about here, tryin' to make the woods up
yonder, so I hustled down here to head him off while you fellers--"

"Never mind now," broke in the other. "Tell it to me later. Come on,
both of you. We're not through yet." He urged the burly captive through
the hedge. Marshal Crow followed very close behind.

They found a terrified, excited group on the front porch--three sturdy
females in nightgowns, all with their hands up! Below, revealed by the
light streaming through the open door, stood a man covering them with a
revolver. Fifteen or twenty minutes later Mr. Crow dug the shivering
Eliphalet Loop out of the hay-mow and ordered him forthwith to join his
family in the kitchen, where he would hear something to his advantage.

The happiest man in Bramble County was Eliphalet Loop when he finally
grasped the truth. The prisoner turned out to be his wife's first
husband--he grasped that fact some little time before he realized that
_he_ wasn't even her second husband, owing to certain fundamental
principles in law--and a fugitive from justice. The man was an escaped
convict, the leader of a gang of counterfeiters, and he was serving a
term in one of the federal prisons when he succeeded in his break for
liberty. For many months the United States Secret Service operatives had
been combing the country for him, hot and cold on his trail, but always,
until now, finding themselves baffled by the crafty rogue, who,
according to the records, was one of the most dangerous, desperate
criminals alive. Finally they got track of his wife, who had lived for a
time in Hoboken, but it was only within the week that they succeeded in
locating her as the wife of Eliphalet Loop. The remainder of the story
is too simple to bother about.

"Of course, Mr. Loop," said one of the secret-service men, "you can
prosecute this woman for bigamy."

Mr. Loop shook his head. "Not much! I won't take no chance. She might
prove that she wasn't ever married to _this_ feller, an' then where
would I be? No, sirree! You take her along an' lock her up. She's a
dangerous character. An' say, don't make any mistake an' fergit to take
her mother an' sister, too."

       *       *       *       *       *

The next evening Mr. Crow sat on the porch in front of Lamson's store.
His fellow-townsmen were paying up more promptly than he had expected.
Practically three-fourths of the reward was in his coat pockets--all
silver, but as heavy as lead.

"Yes, sir," he was saying in a rather far-reaching voice, for the outer
rim of the crowd was some distance away, "as I said before several
times, I figgered he would do just what he did. I figgered that I'd have
to outfigger him. He is one of the slickest individuals I have ever had
anything to do with--an' one of the most desperit. I--er--where was I
at, Alf?... Oh, yes, I recollect. He was a powerful feller. Fer a second
or two I thought maybe he'd get the best of me, being so much younger
an' havin' a revolver besides. But I hung on like grim death, an'
finally--Thanks, Jim; I wasn't expectin' you to pay 'fore the end of the
month. Finally I got my favourite holt on him, an' down he went. All
this time I was tryin' to git his revolver away from him. Just as I got
it, the secret-service men came dashin' up an'--What say, Deacon? Well,
if the rest of the crowd ain't tired o' hearin' the story, I don't mind
tellin' it all over."

Harry Squires, perched on the railing, assured him that the crowd
wouldn't mind in the least.

"The real beauty of the story Anderson," he added dryly, "is that it has
so much of the spice of life in it."

"What's that?"

"I mean variety."



NO QUESTIONS ANSWERED


                             REWARD!!!

     $25.00 For the Apprehension or Capture of Person or Persons Who
     Successfully Stole the Fashionable Bulldog Belonging to Mrs. M.
     Fryback on or About Friday of Last Week!

     N. B.--Said dog occasionally answers to the name of Marmaduke, but
     mostly to Mike.

     An Additional Reward of Three Dollars Cash will be paid for the
     return of said dog, with or without said Criminals. No Questions
     asked.

     A. CROW, Marshal of Tinkletown.

The foregoing poster, fresh from the press of the _Banner_ printing
office, made itself conspicuous at no less than a dozen points in the
village of Tinkletown on a blustery February morning. Early visitors to
the post office in Lamson's store were the first to discover it, tacked
neatly on the bulletin board. Others saw it in front of the Town Hall,
while others, who rarely took the trouble to look at a telephone pole
before leaning against it, found themselves gazing with interest at the
notice that covered the customary admonition:

"Post No Bills."

Of course every one in Tinkletown knew, and had known for the matter of
a week or more, that Mort Fryback's bulldog was "lost, strayed or
stolen," but this was the first glaring intimation that Mort had also
lost his mind. In the first place, Mike--as he was familiarly known to
every inhabitant--wasn't worth more than a dollar and a half when he was
in his prime, and that, according to recollection, must have been at
least twelve or fifteen years prior to his unexplained disappearance. In
the second place, it was pretty generally understood that Mike--recently
Marmaduke--had surreptitiously taken a dose of prussic acid in a shed
back of Kepsal's blacksmith shop and was now enjoying a state of perfect
rejuvenation in the happy hunting ground.

Mr. Alf Reesling, the town drunkard, after having scanned four of the
notices on his way to the post office, informed a group of citizens in
front of Brubaker's drugstore that Anderson Crow would do almost
anything to get his name into print. Alf and the town marshal had had
one of their periodical "fallings out," and, for the moment at least,
the former was inclined to bitterness.

"To begin with," explained Alf, "there ain't a dog in this town that's
worth stealin', to say nothin' of three dollars. You can't tell me that
Mort Fryback would give three dollars to get that dog back, not even if
he was alive--which he ain't, if you c'n believe Bill Kepsal. No, sir;
it's just because Anderson wants to see his name in print, that's what
it is. I bet if you was to ask Mort if he has agreed to pay--how much is
it all told?--twenty-eight dollars--if he has agreed to pay all that
money for _nothin'_, he'd order you out of his store."

"Mrs. Fryback told my wife a couple of weeks ago that Marmaduke was a
prize bull, and she wouldn't take a hundred dollars for him," said Newt
Spratt. "Seems that she had somebody look up his pedigree, and he turns
out to be a stepson or something like that of a dog that won first prize
at a bench show--whatever that is--in New York City."

"Ever since that actress woman was here last fall,--that friend of Harry
Squires, I mean,--every derned dog in town has turned out to be related
some way or other to a thoroughbred animal in some other city," said
Alf. "Why, even that mangy shepherd dog of Deacon Rank's--accordin' to
Mrs. Rank--is a direct descendant of two of the finest Boston terriers
that ever came out of Boston. She told me so herself, but, of course, I
couldn't ask how he happened to look so much like a shepherd dog and so
little like his parents, 'cause there's no use makin' poor Mrs. Rank
any more miserable than she already is--she certainly don't get any fun
out of life, livin' with the deacon from one year's end to the other.
Yes, sir; just because that actress woman paraded around here for a
month or so last fall with a French poodle, is no reason, far as I can
see, why all the women in town should begin puttin' leashes on their
dogs and washin' 'em and trimmin' 'em and tying red ribbons around their
necks--yes, and around some of their tails, too. I'll never forget that
stub-tail dog of Angie Nixon's going around with a blue bow stickin'
straight up behind him, and lookin' as though he'd lost something and
got dizzy looking for it. And Mort's dog, Mike--poor old Mike,--why, he
got so he'd go down to Hawkins' undertakin' shop every time he could get
a minute off and bark till Lem would let him in, and then he'd lay down
in a corner and go to sleep, and Lem always swore the poor dog was as
mad as a hornet when he woke up and found he was still alive."

"What puzzles me is why Mort Fryback's offerin' this reward, and all
that, if he knows the dog is dead. It costs money to have bills like
this printed at the _Banner_ office." So spoke Elmer Pratt, the
photographer. "Wasn't he present at the obsequies?"

"No, he wasn't," said Alf. "He claims now that he don't know anything
about it, and, besides, Bill Kepsal says he'll beat the head off of
anybody that says Mike passed away on his premises--including Mort. So
naturally Mort denies it. He told me yesterday he would deny it even if
he had both of his legs; but what chance, says he, has a one-legged man
got with big Bill Kepsal?"

"Here comes Anderson now," said Mr. Spratt, his gaze fixed on an
approaching figure.

It was zero weather in northern New York State, and the ancient Marshal
of Tinkletown was garbed accordingly. The expansive collar of his
brass-buttoned ulster was turned up, completely obscuring the ear-flaps
and part of the coonskin cap he was wearing. An enormous pair of arctics
covered his feet; his grey and red mittens were of the homemade variety;
a muffler of the same material enveloped his gaunt neck, knotted loosely
under his chin in such a way as to leave his whiskers free not only to
the wind but to the vicissitudes of conversation as well. The emblem of
authority, a bright silver star, gleamed on the breast of his ulster.

He stopped when he reached the group huddled in front of the drugstore,
and glared accusingly at Alf Reesling.

"I thought I told you to keep off the streets," he said ominously.
"Didn't I tell you yesterday I'd run you in if I caught you drunk in the
streets again?"

"Yes, you did," replied Alf, in a justifiably bellicose manner; "but I
still stick to what I said to you at first when you said that to me."

"What was that?"

"I said you couldn't ketch me even if I was dead drunk and unconscious
in the gutter, that's what I said."

"For two cents, I'd show you," said Anderson.

"Well, go ahead. Just add two cents to what you claim I already owe you,
and go ahead with your runnin' me in. But before you do it, lemme warn
you I'll sue you for false arrest, and then where'll you be? I got five
witnesses right here that'll swear I ain't drunk now and haven't been in
twenty-three years."

"That shows just how drunk you are," said Anderson triumphantly. "Far as
I can see, there are only four men here."

"Don't you call yourself a man?"

"What say?"

"I mean I got five witnesses includin' you, that's what I mean. I'm
gettin' sick of you all the time tellin' me I been drinkin' again, when
you know I ain't touched a drop since 1896. Why, dog-gone you, Andy
Crow, if it wasn't for me an' the way you keep on talkin' about juggin'
me, you wouldn't have any excuse at all fer bein' town marshal. You--"

"That'll do now," interrupted Anderson severely. "You have said them
very words to me a thousand times, Alf Reesling, and--Who's that coming
out of the post office?"

The group gradually turned to look up the street. Tinkletown is a slow
place. Its inhabitants do everything with a deliberation that suggests
the profoundest ennui. For example, a gentleman of Tinkletown rarely
raised his hat on meeting a lady. He invariably started to do so, but as
the ladies of the place were in the habit of moving with more celerity
than the gentlemen, he failed on most occasions to complete the
undertaking. What's the sense of takin' your hat off to a woman, he
would argue, if she's already got past you? So far as anybody knew,
there wasn't a woman in town with an eye in the back of her head.

"Looks like a stranger," said Newt Spratt.

"It certainly does," agreed Anderson. "Yes, I'm right," he added an
instant later.

The object of interest was crossing the street in the direction of the
Grand View Hotel. The group watched him with mild interest. In front of
the two-story frame building that seemed to stagger, or at least to
shrink, under the weight of its own importance, the stranger--a
man--paused to glance at one of the placards heralding the misfortune
and at the same time the far from parsimonious regard of the lady who
had been despoiled of a fashionable bulldog. Having perused the
singularly comprehensive notice, he deliberately tore it down, folded it
with some care, and stuck it into his overcoat pocket. Then he entered
the Grand View Hotel.

"Well, I'll be ding-blasted!" exclaimed Marshal Crow.

Mr. Reesling's animosity gave way to civic pride. "By jingo, Anderson,"
he cried, "if you want any help arrestin' that scoundrel, call on me!
Comin' around here defacin' things like that--he ought to go to jail."

Elmer K. Pratt, the photographer, voiced a time-tried but fruitless
criticism. "If you'd paste 'em up instead of tackin' 'em up, people
couldn't take 'em down like that. I've told you--"

"If you got any complaints to make about me, Elmer, you'd better make
'em to the town board and not to Alf Reesling and Newt Spratt,"
interrupted Marshal Crow testily. "Besides I do paste 'em up when I run
out of tacks."

He started off toward the Grand View, his head erect, his whiskers
bristling with indignation.

"Shall we go with you, Anderson?" inquired Alf.

"'Tain't necessary," replied the Marshal, "but you might go over and
wait for me in front of the hotel."

"If you need any help, just holler," said Alf.

Entering the office of the Grand View Hotel, Marshal Crow looked around
for the despoiler. Save for the presence of the proprietress, Mrs.
Bloomer, relict of the founder of the hostelry, the room was quite
empty. Mrs. Bloomer, however, filled it rather snugly. She was a large
person, and she had a cold in the head which made her feel even larger.
She was now engaged in sweeping the floor.

"Mornin', Jennie," was Anderson's greeting. "Where's the feller that's
stoppin' here?"

Mrs. Bloomer had the sniffles. "He's gone up to his room," she said.
Then after another sniffle: "Why?"

"I want to see him."

"Well his room's at the head of the stairs, to your right."

Anderson twisted his whiskers in momentary perplexity.

"Might be better if you asked him to come down."

"Ask him yourself," she said. "I don't want to see him."

Marshal Crow made a mental reservation to yank Mrs. Bloomer up before
Justice Robb the next time she left the garbage can standing on the
sidewalk overnight.

He hesitated about going up to the guest's bedroom. It wasn't quite the
legal thing to do. The more he thought of it, the longer he hesitated.
In fact, while he was about it, he thought he would draw a chair up to
the big sheet-iron stove and sit down.

"Won't you take off your overcoat and goloshes?" inquired the landlady,
but in a far from hospitable manner.

"How long has this feller been here?" demanded Anderson, moving his left
foot a little, but not quite far enough to avoid the broom.

"Last night."

"Um-m! What's his name and where's he from?"

"Go and look at the register, and then you'll know as much as I do. It's
a public register. Nothing secret about it."

Anderson got up suddenly. "I guess I'll go look while you're sweepin'
around here."

The register on the little counter in the corner revealed the name of a
single arrival below the flowing Spencerian hand of Willie Spence, the
clerk, head waiter, porter and bell-boy of the Grand View Hotel. Willie,
because of his proficiency as a chirographer, always wrote the date line
in the register. He was strong on flourishes, but somewhat feeble in
spelling. Any one with half an eye could see that there was something
wrong with a date line that read: "Febury 25nd 1919." The lone guest's
name, written in a tight "running" hand with total disregard for the
elementary formation of letters, might have been almost anything that
occupied less than two inches of space. Even his place of residence was
a matter of doubt.

The Marshal put on his spectacles and studied the signature. As far as
he could make out, the man's name was something like "Winnumnn
Millmmmln." It was a name that baffled him. The longer he studied it,
the worse it became.

"Seems to me, Jennie, if I was runnin' this hotel, I'd have Willie
Spence register for the guests, and save 'em the trouble."

"Can't you make it out?"

"Course I can," he replied promptly. "It's as plain as day to me, but
I'll bet you a good cigar you can't make it out."

She fell into the trap. "All right, I take you up. It's Mr. & Mrs.
George F. Fox."

Mr. Crow stared at her for a second or two. Then he recovered himself.
"You're right," he said. "What kind of a cigar do you smoke, Jennie?"

As he had feared, she promptly named the highest-priced cigar she had in
stock, a three-for-a-quarter brand, and then coolly announced that if
he'd leave a dime on the show case, she'd get it.

"Got his wife with him, I see," remarked Anderson.

"Yep," said Mrs. Bloomer.

"What's his business?"

"I asked him last night," said she, pausing in her work to fix Anderson
with a rather penetrating look. "He said he was a trained elephant."

"A--a what?"

"A trained elephant."

"You don't say so!"

"And his wife is a snake-charmer," she added uneasily.

Anderson blinked rapidly. "Well, of all the--But what on earth's he
doing here in Tinkletown?"

"I didn't ask any more questions after that," said she, with a furtive
glance up the stairway. "I'd give a good deal to know what they've got
in them big black valises they brought with 'em. Three times as big as
regular valises, with brass trimmin's. I hope she aint got any reptiles
in 'em."

Marshal Crow took that instant to consult the office clock. "By ginger!"
he exclaimed, with some sprightliness. "I got to be movin' along. I'm
follerin' up a clue in that dog case."

Mrs. Bloomer's anxious gaze was bent on a dark corner back of the
stairway.

"I do hope, if she _has_ got any snakes in them valises, she won't let
'em get loose and go crawlin' all over the place. I----"

Mr. Crow sent a quick, searching look about the office as he strode
toward the door.

"Ain't you going up to his room?" inquired Mrs. Bloomer.

"Not just now," replied Anderson, and closed the door quickly behind
him.

Alf Reesling and his companions were waiting impatiently on the
sidewalk. They were actively disappointed when the Marshal emerged
empty-handed.

"Was he too much fer you?" was Alf's scathing inquiry.

"How many times have I got to tell you, Alf, that I'm able to deduce
these cases without your assistance? Now, this is a big case, and you
leave it to me to handle. When I get ready to act, you'll hear something
that will make your hair stand on end. Hold on, Newt! Don't ask any
questions. Don't----"

"I wasn't going to ask any questions," snapped Newt. "I was going to
tell you something."

"You was, eh? Well, what was you going to tell me?"

"Mort Fryback went by here a couple of minutes ago an' he says for you
to come into his store right away."

Anderson frowned. "I bet he's confessed."

"Who? Him? What's he got to confess?" demanded Alf.

"Never mind, never mind," said the Marshal quickly. "I'll step in and
see him now."

Leaving his "reserves" standing in front of the Grand View, Mr. Crow
hurried into Fryback's hardware store.

Mort was pacing--or, strictly speaking, stumping--back and forth behind
the cutlery counter. His brow was corrugated with anxiety. The instant
he saw the Marshal he uttered an exclamation that might have been
construed as either relief, dismay or wrath. It was, as a matter of
fact, inarticulate and therefore extremely difficult to classify.
Anderson, however, deduced it as dismay. Mr. Fryback came out from
behind the counter, stumped over to the stove, in which there was a
crackling fire and, after opening the isinglass door, squirted a
mouthful of tobacco juice upon the coals. Whereupon it became possible
for him to articulate.

"I been lookin' everywhere fer you," said he, somewhat breathlessly.
"Where you been?"

"'Tendin' to business," retorted Anderson. "What's the matter?"

Mr. Fryback took the precaution to ascertain that there were no
listeners in the store. "Somebody--some woman, you c'n bet on that--told
my wife last night that I poisoned old Mike."

"Well, you did, didn't you?"

"Of course I did. That is, I hired Charlie Brubaker to do it. But she
says I did it with my own hands, and--my gosh, Anderson, I never went
through such a night in my life as last night." He mopped his brow.
"You'd think I was a murderer. Course, I denied it. I swore he wasn't
dead, and that I'd increase the reward to a hundred dollars just to show
her. What I want you to do, right away, is to have a new set of bills
printed, offerin' a hundred dollars reward for that dog, instead of
three. It's the only chance I've got of ever being able to live in my
own house again."

The Marshal eyed him reflectively. "If you could get her to agree to let
you offer the reward for Mike, dead or alive--"

"She wants him alive, and no other way."

"Can't you buy her off?"

Mr. Fryback groaned. "I could--" he began dismally, and then fell to
chewing with great vigour.

"What would it cost?" inquired Anderson, feelingly.

"An automobile," replied Mr. Fryback, after opening and closing the
stove-door once more. "It would be cheaper, you see, to offer a hundred
dollars for Mike," he explained, ingenuously.

"It certainly would," agreed the Marshal, "seein' as you wouldn't have
to pay fer anything except the printin' of the notices. If you wanted to
show how much you think of your wife, and how anxious you are to please
her, you could go as high as a thousand dollars, Mort."

"Would you, reely, Anderson?"

"Sure. She could lord it over all these women--includin' my wife--who've
been sayin' Mike wasn't worth fifty cents and didn't have a pedigree any
longer than his tail. Why, if she wanted to go on lyin' about the value
of that old dog, she could tell people she had been offered a thousand
dollars for Marmyduke by a well-known dog collector in New York."

"That _might_ please her," reflected Mort. "Course, this thing has
already cost me quite a lot of money, outside the printin'. I've had to
give Bill Kepsal a receipt in full fer what he owes me, and that young
Brubaker's been in twice to price base-burner stoves. He says if he c'n
get a good one fer ten dollars he'll take it, and his heart seems to be
set on that seventy-dollar Regal over yonder. I'm in an awful fix,
Anderson."

"Well, you can't say I didn't advise you to let Mike die a natural
death."

"I wish to goodness I had," lamented Mort.

The door opened at that juncture, and in walked a man and a woman. The
former was carrying a square black "valise," inadequately described by
Mrs. Bloomer as twice the natural size. As a matter of fact, it was more
like a half-grown trunk, to quote no less an authority than the town
marshal.

The proprietor of the hardware store was, at a glance, qualified to pass
an opinion on the personal appearance of the two strangers. His
companion's attention, however, was devoted so earnestly to the big
black "valise," that he couldn't have told, for the life of him, whether
the customers were young or old, black or white. His fascinated gaze was
riveted upon the object the man deposited carefully on the floor near
the door.

"You are a locksmith, I perceive," remarked the strange man, addressing
Mort. "I'd like to have you see if you can open this box for me. We've
lost or mislaid the key."

"What fer sort of a lock is it?" asked Mort, approaching.

"Hold on, Mort!" called out Mr. Crow. "Don't monkey with that trunk."

[Illustration: _"Hold on, Mort!" called out Mr. Crow. "Don't monkey with
that trunk"_]

The two strangers turned on him.

"Well, who the deuce have we here?" said the man, with some acerbity.

"Oh, what a nice old policeman!" cried the lady, fixing the Marshal with
a pair of intensely blue eyes. Mr. Crow looked at her in amazement.
Could any one as pretty, as dainty and as refined-looking as she be
engaged in the awful business of charming snakes?

"Before we go any further, mister, I've got to know what's inside that
box," said Anderson firmly.

"What's the matter with you?" demanded the other. "There's nothing in it
that need excite the law, my good man."

"This is our town marshal, Anderson Crow," explained Mort Fryback.

"I might have known it," said the stranger. "I've heard a good deal
about Mr. Crow. Well, what's the answer?"

"That's what I want to know," snapped Anderson. "What is the answer?
What kind are they? And how many have you got?"

The stranger was on the point of exploding with indignation when his
fair companion intervened.

"Leave it to me, George dear. You always fly into such a temper. If
you'd only let me attend to the small things, while you look out for
the big ones, we'd get along so much better. Wouldn't we, Mr. Crow?"

She appealed to Mr. Crow so abruptly and so sweetly that he said he
guessed so before he could check himself.

"If you will stay here until we find a key that will fit, Mr. Crow, you
will see with your own eyes what will make them pop out of your head."

"Mort, you keep away from that box, I say!" commanded Anderson, now sure
of his ground. "Do you want to get bit?"

"Oh, dear me, they won't bite you!" cried the young lady. "I promise you
they are most amiable. I have been handling them for several weeks
and--"

Her husband interrupted her. He revealed symptoms of increasing
annoyance.

"See here, let's get busy and open this thing. They've got to be fed,
you know,--and it's all damned poppycock discussing the matter any
longer."

Marshal Crow held up his hand as if stopping traffic in Main Street.

"You are in the presence of the law, Mr. Wolf," he began. The young
woman giggled. He glared at her.

"My name is Fox," said the young man, curtly.

"That don't make any difference," retorted the Marshal. "Mine's Crow,
and I represent the law. You--"

"How delicious!" said Mrs. Fox. "So like that cunning poem of Guy
Wetmore Carryl's. You know it, of course, Mr. Crow?"

She declaimed:

    "'I blush to add that when the bird
      Took in the situation
    He said one brief, emphatic word,
      Unfit for publication.
    The fox was greatly startled, but
    He only sighed and answered "tut"'"

"Don't be silly, Bess," said her husband. "This is no time to recite
poetry."

"I don't see any sense in it, anyhow," said Marshal Crow.

Mr. Fryback emerged from behind the cutlery counter, whither he had
repaired in some haste when it became evident that Mrs. Fox was likely
to remain for some time. He was wiping his lips with the back of his
hand, and what very recently might have been mistaken for a prodigious
swelling in his cheek had strangely subsided.

"Why shouldn't I fit a key to that lock, Andy?" he demanded, rather
hotly. "What right have you got to interfere with my business?"

The Marshal's lips parted to utter a sharp retort, but the words failed
to issue. Young Mrs. Fox suddenly stooped over and peered intently at
several heretofore unnoticed holes at one end of the black box. These
holes, about an inch in diameter, formed a horizontal row. Much to Mr.
Crow's alarm, the young lady pulled off her glove and stuck a finger
into one of the little apertures and apparently wriggled it without fear
or trepidation. Almost instantly there was an ominous rustling inside
the box. Withdrawing her finger, she called out:

"Please look!"

The invitation was unnecessary. Mr. Crow was looking for all he was
worth.

"Good gracious, ma'am!" he gasped. "Don't stir 'em up like that. Next
thing they'll crawl out of them holes and--"

"Why, you poor old goose!" she said, but not disrespectfully. "They're
much too large to crawl through these holes. I wish I could catch hold
of one of their tails and--Look!" She held her finger close to the hole
and a long, thin black tongue darted through and began to writhe about
in a most malevolent manner.

"For gosh sake!" exclaimed the Marshal, retreating a couple of steps.
This sudden action on his part brought a venomous oath from Mr. Fryback,
and an instant apology as well.

"You'd cuss, too," explained the blasphemer to the lady, "if a clumsy
elephant, stepped on the only good foot you've got."

"If you think I'm the one that claims to be an elephant--" began
Anderson.

"Cootchy, cootchy, cootchy," cooed the lady, addressing the row of
holes. Whereupon the rustling in the interior of the devilish box
increased to a turmoil. The two citizens of Tinkletown stared wide-eyed
at the three little circles, and their eyes grew wider as they saw that
one of them was now completely stopped up by a dark, ugly object that
bore resemblance to nothing they had ever seen before--a wet, shiny
thing that was alive and quivering.

The unnatural Mrs. Fox promptly poked her finger through the hole and
rubbed the snout of what must have been a full-sized boa-constrictor.
Instantly to their horror, the black obstruction, went through a process
of splitting, and several deadly fangs were revealed. Once more the
wriggling black tongue darted out to caress the lady's unprotected
finger.

"Oh, you darling!" cried the lady. "Please, Mr. Locksmith, see if you
can't find a key that will fit the lock."

Marshal Crow dragged his friend toward the door.

"Did you see it?" he whispered hoarsely.

Before Mort could answer, the door flew open and in rushed Mrs. Bloomer,
bareheaded and in a great state of agitation.

"For heaven's sake, Anderson, hurry up and come with me," she cried.
"Bring a pistol--and, Mort, you get a couple of axes and a pitchfork or
two. My God, something awful is loose in one of them rooms upstairs!
The most terrible racket is going on in there. I--Oh, there you are!"
She caught sight of her lodgers. "Arrest them, Anderson! Lock them up at
once. They're dangerous people. They oughtn't to be running at large.
Oh, that awful thing! It sounds like it was twenty feet long, and it's
thrashing all over the room. Oh, my God! What a scare I've had! Oh, you
needn't look at me innocent like that, you two. You're in for it, or my
name ain't Jennie Bloomer. Call a posse, Anderson, and surround the
hotel. Thank Heaven, the door of that room is locked, but goodness knows
how soon it will be crawlin' through the transom."

At that instant she discovered that her skirt was almost touching the
big black box on the floor. Emitting a sharp squeal, she gave an
elephantine leap to the shelter of Anderson's arms, almost bowling him
over.

"God knows what she's got in that valise," she whimpered.

Mr. Fox put on an exceedingly bold front. Realizing that he was
cornered, he adopted a lightly boastful air.

"What we've got in this valise, as you call it, madam, is worth more
than your whole blamed hotel."

"Keep away from that valise," warned Anderson Crow, addressing Mr. Fox.
"Give me time to think. Somethin's got to be done, and right away. I
can't take any chances of these terrible things gettin' loose an'
drivin' our citizens out of town."

"The first thing you got to do, Anderson Crow," shouted Mrs. Bloomer,
"is to capture the reptile that's loose in my hotel. That's what you got
to do." She turned upon the pretty Mrs. Fox. "Snake charmer! That's a
nice business for a woman to be in. Don't come near me."

"I am not thinking of coming near you, you old rip!" said Mrs. Fox,
losing her temper in a very womanly fashion.

"None o' that, now--none o' that," warned the town marshal. "Keep a
civil tongue in your head, young woman."

"Why, you long-whiskered old--" began the lady, but her husband spared
the Marshal a whirlwind of revelations by taking her arm and leading her
to the rear of the store, where for some minutes they were in close and
earnest conference.

"The thing to do," said Mort Fryback, "is to take this box down to the
crick an' drop it in, all locked and everything. That will put an end to
the cussed things, better'n any other way I know."

A furious commotion took place inside the box, preventing further
discussion on the part of the retreating observers. It was as if a dozen
huge and powerful serpents were exerting every effort to escape.

The voice of Mrs. Fox, clear as a bell, assailed them from behind.

"They're hungry, poor things," she cried. "Perfectly ravenous."

"That settles it," said Marshal Crow. "We've got to git rid of 'em if we
have to set fire to your store, Mort. They're terrible when they haven't
been fed fer a long time. Swaller pigs an' sheep--_and_ children whole,
they say."

Mr. Fox approached. He was now very polite and ingratiating.

"Permit me," he observed, "to offer a solution. If you will give me a
bunch of keys, my friend, I will remove the case to my room and open
it--if possible. No harm will come to anybody, and in one hour or so, my
wife and I will be on our way. My automobile is in your local garage,
Mr. Hawk, and we can be ready to start as soon as we have fed and aired
the--er--shall we say contents?"

"You arrest him, Anderson," cried Mrs. Bloomer. "Hold him till I
estimate the damage that's been done to my property. He's got to pay fer
that before he can get out of this town."

"I guess you'd better step over to the calaboose with me, mister," said
Anderson firmly. "And you too, ma'am. This here lady prefers charges
against you, an' it's my duty to--"

"What is the charge, madam?" demanded Mr. Fox, lighting a cigarette.

"Never mind," said the Marshal; "we'll attend to that later."

Mr. Fryback put in a word at this point. "Yes, but who's going to take
charge of this here box? It can't stay here in my place. First thing you
know the derned things will gnaw a hole in the side and git out."

"If it is not too far, Mr. Officer, I should be happy to carry the box
over to the lock-up--unless, of course, some one else will volunteer. I
see quite a number of citizens looking in through the window. Doubtless
some of them might--"

"How long after a man's been on a bad spree is he likely to think he
sees snakes?" demanded Anderson, struck with an idea.

"The time varies," replied Mr. Fox, rather startled.

"Alf ain't been tight in a good many years," mused the Marshal. "I guess
it would be safe to let him carry 'em. Don't you think so, Mort?"

"Him and Newt Spratt," said Mort. "Newt's always braggin' about not
being afraid of anything."

"Well, perhaps it would be just as well not to tell 'em what's in this
here box," said Anderson. He turned to the pair of strangers. "Only they
ain't going to carry it to the calaboose. They're going to carry it to
the crick, an' throw it in."

The young woman uttered a cry of dismay, and her husband uttered
something distinctly out of place, for Mrs. Bloomer again told him he
ought to be ashamed of himself.

After a few whispered words in the ear of the distracted young woman,
Mr. Fox turned to the others.

"I'll tell you what we'll do, gentlemen," said he, and then added, with
a polite bow to the corpulent Mrs. Bloomer, "and ladies. Mrs. Fox and I
had planned giving a little exhibition at the hotel, but that now seems
to be out of the question. Kindly bear in mind that we are not visiting
your little city on pleasure bent. We are here strictly for business. As
a rule we do not make one-night stands. But we have been attracted to
your charming city almost against our will--although, I may add, it was
at the earnest invitation of one of your most important denizens--I
should say citizens. You will agree, I am sure, that it would hardly pay
us to visit a place like this unless we were reasonably assured of
something in the way of pecuniary benefits. You may not know it,
gentlemen, but we have had a bona-fide offer of one hundred dollars--and
that isn't to be sneezed at, is it? We--Please bear with me, Mr. Hawk. I
shall not detain you--"

"My name is Mr. Crow," snapped Anderson.

"Sorry," apologized Fox. "I fear I confused you with the celebrated
Hawkshaw, the detective."

Mr. Crow turned purple.

"That's what Harry Squires, the reporter on the _Banner_, calls him most
of the time," volunteered Mort Fryback. "That, an' Shellback Holmes."

"Such is fame," said Mr. Fox agreeably. "Well, to get right down to
cases, Mrs. Fox and I propose that you allow us to give our little
exhibition in the Town Hall,--if you have one--and--"

"Not much!" roared Anderson. "I've had enough of this talk. I'm going to
take action at once." He flung open the front door and addressed the
group in front of the store, now increased to nearly a score, including
several scattered women and children--and Ed Higgins' dog. "I call on
all you men to assist me in surrounding the Grand View Hotel. There is
dangerous work ahead, and I want only the bravest,--wait a second, Newt,
don't go away,--and most determined men in town to volunteer. Here,
Mort, you hand out some axes, an' pitchforks, an' crowbars, an'--"

"Oh, for heaven's sake, George," cried Mrs. Fox frantically, "don't let
them do it. Stop them!"

But the stranger motioned for her to be silent.

       *       *       *       *       *

Some time was spent in explaining the situation to the posse, and in
stationing a group of the hardiest men beneath certain windows of the
second floor back. During this arrangement of forces, three of the
bravest men in Tinkletown had to go to the post office for some very
important letters, and two more rushed over to see that they came back.

Anderson Crow marshalled a dozen or more able-bodied conscripts in Main
Street, preparatory to a frontal attack on the suite at the head of the
stairway. He had commandeered a double-barreled shotgun belonging to
Bill Kepsal, and with this he proposed to "shoot the daylights" out of
the serpent through the transom if it hadn't crawled under the bed where
he couldn't "get a bead on it."

In the meantime, Mr. Fox had carried the big black box out of Fryback's
store, and his wife was now standing guard over it on the porch of the
Grand View Hotel.

[Illustration: _His wife was now standing guard over it on the porch of
the Grand View Hotel_]

Marshal Crow was issuing commands right and left, and the squad,
augmented by a step-ladder from the hardware shop, was about to enter
the hotel, when Mrs. Fox uttered an excited little shriek, and then
these desolating words:

"Oh, George, I've found it! I've got the key. It was away down in my
muff."

Before any action could be taken to restrain the impetuous young woman,
she was inserting the key in the lock!

Those nearest her collided violently with those farther away, and in
less time than it takes to mention it, there was no one within a radius
of fifty feet--except a new arrival on the scene.

To the intense horror of Mort Fryback, his wife emerged from the Grand
View Hotel and entered the danger zone.

"Hey, Maude!" he bellowed. "Keep away from that! For the love of--" He
clapped his hand over his eyes. Mrs. Fryback had reached the side of
the eager Mrs. Fox just as that lady lifted the lid of the box.

Now, Mrs. Fryback was Mort's third wife; according to longevity
statistics, she was much too young to die. As a matter of fact, she was
little more than a bride. That probably accounts for the brand-new mink
coat and muff she was sporting. Moreover, it accounts for Mort's
surprising mendacity and even more amazing humility in relation to the
taking-off of Mike. No doubt in similar circumstances, he would have
told his second wife, who died when she was pretty well along in years,
that he'd show her who was boss in his home, and if she didn't like what
he did to Mike, she could lump it. But, alas, between a vacillating
young wife who has you under her thumb and a constant old one who has
been thoroughly squashed under yours for a great many years, there is a
world of difference.

Others who stared in horror at the picture on the porch, groaned audibly
as young Mrs. Fox looked up into the face of the unsuspecting victim and
smiled. Thus encouraged, young Mrs. Fryback, disdaining death, smiled in
return and stooped over to look into the depths of that unspeakable box.
Instead of starting back in alarm, she uttered a shrill little cry of
delight, and dropping to her knees plunged both hands into the nest of
wriggling horrors!

Lucius Fry, who had hastily set up the step-ladder, and was now
balancing himself somewhat precariously at the top of it, let out a
lugubrious howl.

"She's a goner!" he announced.

The two young women had their heads close together and were conversing.
Marshal Crow, armed with the double barreled shotgun, began a cautious
circuitous advance, his finger on the trigger.

He stopped short when about twenty feet from the women, and
spasmodically pulled the trigger. There is no telling what might have
happened if the gun had been loaded.

Mr. Fox had deliberately overturned the box and--out scampered three
sprightly Boston terrier puppies!

Ten minutes later all but one of Mort Fryback's farming utensils were
back in stock. The missing implement, a hatchet, was furtively on its
way to the barber-shop of one Ebenezer January, coloured.

Mr. and Mrs. Fryback, Marshal Crow and the amiable Foxes discussed the
"points" of the frolicsome puppies in the rear of the hardware store.

"I just adore this one, Mrs. Fox," said Mrs. Fryback, pointing to a
rugged little rascal who was patiently gnawing at Mr. Fryback's peg-leg.
"Do you really recommend him as the best of the lot, Mr. Fox?" she
inquired, turning her shining eyes upon the gentleman.

"Absolutely," said Mr. Fox. "Wouldn't you say so, Mr. Crow?"

"Ab-so-lutely," said Anderson.

"Then I'll take him," said Mort's wife, and Mort not only sighed but
wiped a fine coat of moisture from his brow. "One hundred dollars is the
very least you will take?"

"The very least, Mrs. Fryback. He is a thoroughbred, you know. My
kennels are famous, as you doubtless noted in my advertisement in _Town
and Country_--and I can personally guarantee every pup that comes out of
them. In your letter to me, Mrs. Fryback, you stated that only the best
I had on hand would be considered. The mother of these puppies has a
pedigree a yard long, and the father, as I mentioned before, is Stubbs
the Twelfth. Nothing more need be said. The mother, Bonnie Bridget, you
have just seen. Stubbs the Twelfth belongs to a millionaire in Albany.
Allow me to congratulate you, madam,"--extending his hand,--"on having
secured one of the finest dogs in America. And you also, Mr. Fryback, on
having a wife who is such a discriminating judge of thoroughbreds."

Mr. Fryback looked a trifle startled, but said nothing.

"If you ever come to our town, Mr. Crow, I hope you will look us up,"
broke in Mr. Fox. "Our place is about two miles out in the country. By
the way, has Mrs. Crow a good dog--I mean one that she can be proud
of?"

"She has a thoroughbred setter," said Marshal Crow, compressing his
lips.

"A hundred dollars is a lot of money fer a dog," murmured Mr. Fryback.
He met his wife's eye for a second and then added: "But, of course, my
wife has just lost one that was worth a thousand dollars, so--I guess it
ain't so much, after all."

"Marmaduke was a really wonderful dog, Mrs. Fox," vouchsafed Mort's
wife, assuming a sad and pensive expression.

"I am sure he must have been," said Mrs. Fox.

"One hundred dollars is very cheap, sir, for a thoroughbred Boston
terrier in these days," said Mr. Fox. "Isn't that so, Mr. Crow?"

"Cheap as dirt," said Anderson.

"Mortimer, will you please give Mr. Fox the money?" said Mrs. Fryback.
"And, by the way, Mr. Crow, I hope you take down all those reward
notices at once. I wouldn't know what to do with Marmaduke now, even if
some one did bring him back to me."

"I know what I'd order you to do with him," said Anderson, meeting
Mort's melancholy gaze at last.

"What, may I inquire?"

"I'd order you to bury him," said the town marshal, speaking in his
capacity as chairman of the Board of Health.

Mrs. Fryback looked at him steadily for a second or two, and then slowly
closed an eye.



SHADES OF THE GARDEN OF EDEN!


It wasn't often that Marshal Crow acknowledged that he was in a
quandary. When he _did_ find himself in that rare state of mind, he
invariably went to Harry Squires, the editor of the _Banner_, for
counsel--but never for advice. He had in the course of a protracted
career as preserver of the peace and dignity of Tinkletown, found
himself confronted by seemingly unsolvable mysteries, but he always had
succeeded in unravelling them, one way or another, to his own complete
satisfaction. Only the grossest impudence on the part of the present
chronicler would permit the tiniest implication to creep into this or
any other chapter of his remarkable history that might lead the reader
to suspect that he did not solve them to the complete satisfaction of
any one else. So, quite obviously, the point is not one to be debated.

Now, as nearly every one knows, Tinkletown is a temperance place. There
is no saloon there,--unless, of course, one chooses to be rather nasty
about Brubaker's Drugstore. Away back in the Seventies,--soon after the
Civil War, in fact,--an enterprising but misguided individual attempted
to establish a bar-room at the corner of Main and Sickle Streets. He
opened the Sunlight Bar and for one whole day and night revelled in the
conviction that he had found a silver mine. The male population of
Tinkletown, augmented by a swarm of would-be inebriates from all the
farms within a radius of ten miles, flocked to the Sunlight Bar and
proceeded to get gloriously and collectively drunk on the contents of
the two kegs of lager beer that constituted an experimental stock in
trade.

The next morning the women of Tinkletown started in to put the Sunlight
Bar out of business. They did not, as you may suspect, hurl stones at
the place, neither did they feloniously enter and wreak destruction with
axes, hatchets and hoe-handles. Not a bit of it. They were peaceful,
law-abiding women, not sanguinary amazons. What they did was perfectly
simple.

It is possible, even probable, that they were the pioneer "pickets" of
our benighted land. At any rate, bright and early on the second day of
the Sunlight Bar, the ladies of Tinkletown brought their knitting and
their sewing down to the corner of Main and Sickle streets and sat
themselves down in front of the shrinking "silver mine." They came with
rocking-chairs, and camp-chairs, and milk-stools, and benches, too, and
instead of chanting a doleful lay, they chattered in a blithe and merry
fashion. There was no going behind the fact, however, that these
smiling, complacent women formed the Death Watch that was to witness the
swift, inevitable finish of the Sunlight Bar.

[Illustration: _These smiling, complacent women formed the Death Watch
that was to witness the swift, inevitable finish of the Sunlight Bar_]

They came in relays, and they stayed until the lights went out in the
desolate house of cheer. The next day they were on hand again, and the
next, and still the next. Fortunately for them, but most unluckily for
the proprietor of the Sunlight Bar, the month was August: they could
freeze him out, but he couldn't freeze them out.

Sheepish husbands and sons passed them by, usually on the opposite
sidewalk, but not one of them had the hardihood to extend a helping hand
to the expiring saloon. At the end of a week, the Sunlight Bar drew its
last breath. It died of starvation. The only mourner at its bier was the
bewildered saloon-keeper, who engaged a dray to haul the remains to
Boggs City, the County seat, and it was he who said, as far back as
1870, that he was in favour of taking the vote away from the men and
giving it exclusively to the women.

Tinkletown, according to the sage observations of Uncle Dad Simms, was
rarely affected by the unsettling problems of the present day. This talk
about "labour unrest" was ridiculous, he said. If the remainder of the
world was anything like Tinkletown, labour didn't do much except rest.
It was getting so that if a workin'-man had very far to walk to "git" to
his job, he had to step along purty lively if he wanted to arrive there
in plenty of time to eat his lunch and start back home again. And as for
"this here prohibition question," he didn't take any stock in it at all.
Tinkletown had got along without liquor for more than a hundred years
and he guessed it could get along for another century or two without
much trouble, especially as it was only ten miles to Boggs City where
you could get all you wanted to drink any day in the week. Besides, he
argued, loudly and most violently, being so deaf that he had to strain
his own throat in order to hear himself, there wasn't anybody in
Tinkletown except Alf Reesling that ever wanted a drink, and even Alf
wouldn't take it when you offered it to him.

But in spite of Uncle Dad's sage conclusions, it was this very
prohibition question that was disturbing Anderson Crow. He sauntered
into the _Banner_ office late one afternoon in May and planked himself
down in a chair beside the editor's desk. There was a troubled look in
his eyes, which gave way to vexation after he had made three or four
fruitless efforts to divert the writer's attention from the sheet of
"copy paper" on which he was scribbling furiously.

"How do you spell beverage, Anderson?" inquired Mr. Squires abruptly.

"What kind of beverage?" demanded Mr. Crow.

"Any kind, just so it's intoxicating. Never mind, I'll take a chance and
spell it the easiest way. That's the way the dictionary spells it, so I
guess it's all right. Well, sir, what's on your mind?--besides your hat,
I mean. You look worried."

"I am worried. Have you any idee as to the size of the apple crop in
this neighbourhood last summer and fall, Harry?"

"Not the least."

"Well, sir, it was the biggest we've had since 1902, 'specially the fall
pickin."

"What's the idea? Do you want me to put something in the _Banner_ about
Bramble County's bumper crop of pippins?"

"No. I just want to ask you if there's anything in this new prohibition
amendment against apple cider?"

"Not that I'm aware of."

"Well, do you know it's impossible to buy a good eatin' or cookin' apple
in this town today, Harry Squires?"

"You don't say so! In spite of the big crop last fall?"

"You could buy all you wanted last week, by the bushel or peck or
barrel,--finest, juiciest apples you ever laid your eyes on."

"Well, I don't like apples anyway, so it doesn't mean much in my life."

Anderson was silent for a moment or two, contemplating his foot with
singular intentness.

"Was you ever drunk on hard cider?" he inquired at last,--transferring
his gaze to the rapidly moving hand that held the pencil.

The reporter jabbed a period,--or "full stop," as they call it in a
certain form of literature,--in the middle of a sentence, and looked up
with sudden interest.

"Yes," he said, with considerable force. "I'll never forget it. You can
get tighter on hard cider than anything else I know of."

"Well, there you are," exclaimed the Marshal, banging his gnarled fist
on the arm of the chair. "And as far as I c'n make out, there ain't no
law ag'inst cider stayin' in the barrel long enough to get good and
hard, an' what's more, there ain't no law ag'ainst sellin' cider, hard
or sweet, is there?"

"I get your point, Anderson. And I also get your deductions concerning
the mysterious disappearance of all the apples in Tinkletown. Apparently
we are to have a shortage of dried apples this year, with an overflow of
hard cider instead. By George, it's interesting, to say the least. Looks
as though an apple orchard is likely to prove more valuable than a gold
mine, doesn't it?"

"Yes, sir! 'Specially if you've got trees that bear in the fall. Fall
apples make the best cider. They ain't so mushy. And as fer the feller
that owns a cider-press, why, dog-gone it, he ought to be as rich as
Crowsis."

"I seem to recall that you have a cider-press on your farm on Crow's
Mountain,--and a whacking good orchard, too. Are you thinking of
resigning as Marshal of Tinkletown?"

"What say?"

"I see you're not," went on Harry. "Of course you understand you can't
very well manufacture hard cider and sell it and still retain your
untarnished reputation as a defender of the law."

"I'm not figurin' on makin' hard cider," said Anderson, with some
irritation. "You don't _make_ hard cider, Harry. It makes itself. All
you do is to rack the apple juice off into a barrel, or something, with
a little yeast added, and then leave it to do the work. It ferments an'
then, if you want to, you rack it off again an' bottle it an'--well, gee
whiz, how tight you c'n get on it if you ain't got sense enough to let
it alone. But I ain't thinkin' about what I'm goin' to do, 'cause I
ain't to do anything but make applebutter out of my orchard,--an' maybe
a little cider-vinegar fer home consumption. What's worryin' me is what
to do about all these other people around here. If they all take to
makin' cider this fall,--or even sooner,--an' if they bottle or cask it
proper,--we'll have enough hard cider in this township to give the whole
state of New York the delirium trimmins."

"I don't see that you can do anything, Anderson," said Squires, leaning
back in his chair and puffing at his pipe. "You can't keep people from
making cider, you know. And you can't keep 'em from drinking it.
Besides, who's going to take the trouble to ascertain whether it
contains one-half of one percent alcohol? What interests me more than
anything else is the possibility of this township becoming 'wet' in
spite of itself,--an' to my certain knowledge, it has been up to now the
barrenest desert on God's green earth."

"People are so all-fired contrary," Anderson complained. "For the last
fifty years the citizens of this town and its suburbs have been so dead
set ag'inst liquor that if a man went up to Boggs City an' got a little
tipsy he had to run all the way home so's he'd be out of breath when he
got there. Nobody ever kept a bottle of whiskey in his house, 'cause
nobody wanted it an' it would only be in the way. But now look at 'em!
The minute the Government says they can't have it, they begin movin'
things around in their cellars so's to make room fer the barrels they're
going to put in. An' any day you want to drive out in the country you
c'n see farmers an' hired men treatin' the apple-trees as if they was
the tenderest plants a-growin'. I heard this mornin' that Henry
Wimpelmeyer is to put in a cider-press at his tanyard, an' old man
Smock's turnin' his grist mill into an apple-mill. An' everybody is
hoardin' apples, Harry. It beats the Dutch."

"It's up to you to frustrate their nefarious schemes, Mr. Hawkshaw. The
fair name of the Commonwealth must be preserved. I use the word
advisedly. It sounds a great deal better than 'pickled.' Now, do you
want me to begin a campaign in the _Banner_ against the indiscriminate
and mendacious hardening of apple-cider, or am I to leave the situation
entirely in your hands?"

Marshal Crow arose. The fire of determination was in his ancient eye.

"You leave it to me," said he, and strode majestically from the room.

Encountering Deacon Rank in front of the _Banner_ office, he chanced
this somewhat offensive remark:

"Say, Deacon, what's this I hear about you?"

The deacon looked distinctly uneasy.

"You can always hear a lot of things about me that aren't true," he
said.

"I ain't so sure about that," said Anderson, eyeing him narrowly. "Hold
on! What's your hurry?"

"I--I got to step in here and pay my subscription to the _Banner_," said
the deacon.

"Well, that's something nobody'll believe when they hear about it," said
Anderson. "It'll be mighty hard fer the proprieter of the _Banner_ to
believe it after all these years."

"Times have been so dog-goned hard fer the last couple of years, I ain't
really been able to--"

"Too bad about you," broke in Anderson scornfully.

"Everything costs so much in these days," protested the deacon. "I ain't
had a new suit of clothes fer seven or eight years. Can't afford 'em. My
wife was sayin' only last night she needed a new hat,--somethin' she can
wear all the year round,--but goodness knows this ain't no time to be
thinkin' of hats. She--"

"She ain't had a new hat fer ten years," interrupted Anderson. "No
wonder the pore woman's ashamed to go to church."

"What's that? Who says she's ashamed to go to church? Anybody that says
my wife's ashamed to go to church is a--is a--well, he tells a story,
that's all."

"Well, why don't she go to church?"

"'Tain't because she's ashamed of her hat, let me tell you that,
Anderson Crow. It's a fine hat an' it's just as good as new. She's
tryin' to save it, that's what she's tryin' to do. She knows it's got to
last her five or six years more, an' how in tarnation can she make it
last that long if she wears it all the time? Use a little common sense,
can't you? Besides, I'll thank you not to stick your nose in my family
affairs any--"

"What's that you got in your pocket?" demanded Anderson, indicating the
bulging sides of the deacon's overcoat.

"None of your business!"

"Now, don't you get hot. I ask you again, civil as possible,--what you
got in your pocket?"

"I'm a respectable, tax-paying, church-going citizen of this here town,
and I won't put up with any of your cussed insinuations," snapped the
deacon. "You act as if I'd stole something. You--"

"I ain't accusin' you of stealin' anything. I'm only accusin' you of
havin' something in your pocket. No harm in that, is there?"

The deacon hesitated for a minute. Then he made a determined effort to
temporize.

"And what's more," he said, "my wife's hat's comin' back into style
before long, anyhow. It's just as I keep on tellin' her. The styles
kinder go in circles, an' if she waits long enough they'll get back to
the kind she's wearin', and then she'll be the first woman in Tinkletown
to have the very up-to-datest style in hats,--'way ahead of anybody
else,--and it will be as good as new, too, you bet, after the way she's
been savin' it."

"Now I know why you got your pockets stuffed full of things,--eggs,
maybe, or hick'ry nuts, or--whatever it is you got in 'em. It's because
you're tryin' to save a piece of wrappin' paper or a bag, or the wear
and tear on a basket. No wonder you got so much money you don't know how
to spend it."

"And as for me gettin' a new suit of clothes," pursued the deacon,
doggedly, "if times don't get better the chances are I'll have to be
buried in the suit I got on this minute. I never knowed times to be so
hard--"

The marshal interrupted him. "You go in an' pay up what you owe fer the
_Banner_ an' I'll wait here till you come out."

Deacon Rank appeared to reflect. "Come to think of it, I guess I'll stop
in on my way back from the post office. Ten or fifteen minutes--"

He stopped short, a fixed intent look in his sharp little eyes. His gaze
was directed past Anderson's head at some object down the street. Then,
quite abruptly and without even the ceremony of a hasty "good-bye," he
bolted into the _Banner_ office, slamming the door in the marshal's
face.

"Well, I'll be dog-goned!" burst from the lips of the astonished Mr.
Crow. "I never knowed him to change his mind so quick as that in all my
life,--or so often. What the dickens--"

Indignation succeeded wonder at this instant, cutting off his audible
reflections. Snapping his jaws together, he laid a resolute hand on the
doorknob. Just as he turned it and was on the point of stamping in after
the deacon, his eye fell upon an approaching figure--the figure of a
woman. If it had not been for the hat she was wearing, he would have
failed to recognize her at once. But there was no mistaking the hat.

"Hi!" called out the wearer of the too familiar object. Marshal Crow let
go of the door knob and stared at the lady in sheer stupefaction.

Mrs. Rank's well-preserved hat was perched rakishly at a perilous angle
over one ear. A subsequent shifting to an even more precarious position
over the other ear, as the result of a swift, inaccurate sweep of the
lady's hand, created an instant impression that it was attached to her
drab, disordered hair by means of a new-fangled but absolutely
dependable magnet. Never before had Marshal Crow seen that ancient hat
so much as the fraction of an inch out of "plumb" with the bridge of
Mrs. Rank's undeviating nose.

She approached airily. Her forlorn little person was erect, even
soldierly. Indeed, if anything, she was a shade too erect at times. At
such times she appeared to be in some danger of completely forgetting
her equilibrium. She stepped high, as the saying is, and without her
usual precision. In a word, the meek and retiring wife of Deacon Rank
was hilariously drunk!

Pedestrians, far and near, stopped stockstill in their tracks to gaze
open-mouthed at the jaunty drudge; storekeepers peered wide-eyed and
incredulous from windows and doors. If you suddenly had asked any one of
them when the world was coming to an end, he would have replied without
the slightest hesitation.

She bore down upon the petrified Mr. Crow.

"Is zat you, An'erson?" she inquired, coming to an uncertain stop at the
foot of the steps. Where--oh, where! was the subdued, timorous voice of
Sister Rank? Whose--oh, whose! were the shrill and fearless tones that
issued forth from the lips of the deacon's wife?

"For the Lord's sake, Lucy,--wha--what ails you?" gasped the horrified
marshal.

"Nothing ails me, An'erson. Nev' fel' better'n all my lipe--life.
Where's my hush--hushban'?"

She brandished her right hand, and clutched in her fingers an implement
that caused Anderson's eyes to almost start from his head.

"What's that you got in your hand?" he cried out.

"Thish? Thass a hashet. Don't you know whass a hashet is?"

"I--I know it's a hatchet. Lucy,--but, fer heaven's sake, what are you
goin' to do with it?"

"I'm going to cut th' deacon's head off wiz it," she replied blandly.

"What!"

"Yes, shir; thass what I'm goin' cut off. Right smack off,
An'erson,--and you can't stop me, unnerstan', An'erson. I been wannin'
cuttiz 'ead off f'r twenny-fi' year. I--"

"Hey! Stop wavin' that thing around like that, Lucy Rank!"

"You needen be 'fraid, An'erson. I woulden hurt you fer whole United
States. Where's my hussam, An'erson?"

Marshal Crow looked hopelessly at the well-scattered witnesses who were
taking in the scene from a respectful distance. Obviously it was his
duty to do something. Not that he really felt that the deacon's head
should not be cut off by his long-suffering wife, but that it was hardly
the proper thing for her to do it in public. Virtually every man in
Tinkletown had declared, at one time or another, that Mrs. Rank ought to
slit the old skinflint's throat, or poison him, or set fire to him, or
something of the sort, but, even though he agreed with them, the fact
still remained that Marshal Crow considered it his duty to protect the
deacon in this amazing crisis.

"Gimme that hatchet, Lucy Rank," he commanded, with authority. "You
ain't yourself, an' you know it. You gimme that hatchet an' then lemme
take you home an' put you to bed. You'll be all right in the mornin',
an--"

"Didden my hussam go in the Blammer ossif minute ago?" she demanded,
fixing a baleful glare upon the closed door.

"See here, Lucy, you been drinkin'. You're full as a goat. You gimme
that--"

"An'erson Crow, are you tryin' inshult me?" she demanded, drawing
herself up. "Wha' you mean sayin' I'm dunk,--drump? You know I never
touched dropper anything. I'm the bes' frien' your wife's got innis town
an' she--who's 'at lookin' out zat winner? Zat my hussam?"

Before the marshal could interfere, she blazed away at one of the
windows in the _Banner_ office. There was a crash of glass. She was now
empty-handed but the startled guardian of the peace was slow to realize
it. He was still trying to convince himself that it was the gentle,
long-suffering Mrs. Rank who stood before him.

Suddenly, to his intense dismay, she threw her arms around his neck and
began to weep--and wail.

"I--I--love my hussam,--I love my hussam,--an' I didden mean cuttiz 'ead
off--I didden--I didden, An'erson. My hussam's dead. My hussam's head's
all off,--an' I love my hussam--I love my hussam."

The door flew open and Harry Squires strode forth.

"What the devil does this mean--My God! Mrs. Rank! Wha--what's the
matter with her, Anderson?"

The marshal gazed past him into the office. His eyes were charged with
apprehension.

"Where--where's the deacon's head?" he gulped.

The editor did not hear him. He had eyes and ears only for the mumbling
creature who dangled limply from the marshal's neck; her face was hidden
but her hat was very much in evidence. It was bobbing up and down on the
back of her head.

"Let's get her into the office," he exclaimed. "This is dreadful,
Anderson,--shocking!"

A moment later the door closed behind the trio,--and a key was turned in
the lock. This was the signal for a general advance of all observers.
Headed by Mr. Hawkins, the undertaker, they swarmed up the steps and
crowded about the windows. The thoughtful Mr. Squires, however,
conducted Mrs. Rank to the composing-room and the crowd was cheated.

Bill Smith, the printer, looked up from his case and pied half of the
leading editorial. He proved to be a printer of the old school. After a
soft, envious whistle he remarked:

"My God, I'd give a month's pay for one like that," and any one who has
ever come in contact with an old-time printer will know precisely what
he meant.

"Oh, my poor b'loved hussam," murmured Mrs. Rank. "My poor b'loved
hussam whass I have endured f'r twenty-fi' years wiz aller Chrissen
forcitude of--where is my poor hussam?"

She swept the floor with a hazy, uncertain look. Not observing anything
that looked like a head, she turned a bleary, accusing eye upon Bill
Smith, the printer, and there is no telling what she might have said to
him if Harry Squires had not intervened.

"Sit down here, Mrs. Rank,--do. Your husband is all right. He was here a
few minutes ago, and--which way did he go, Bill?"

"Out," said Bill laconically, jerking his head in the direction of an
open window at the rear.

"Didden--didden I cuttiz 'ead off?" demanded Mrs. Rank.

"Not so's you'd notice it," said Bill.

"Well, 'en, whose 'ead did I c'off?"

"Nobody's, my dear lady," said Squires, soothingly. "Everything's all
right,--quite all right. Please--"

"Where's my hashet? Gimme my hashet. I insiss on my hashet. I gotter
cuttiz 'ead off. Never ress in my grave till I cuttiz 'ead off."

Presently they succeeded in quieting her. She sat limply in an
arm-chair, brought from the front office, and stared pathetically up
into the faces of the three perspiring men.

"Can you beat it?" spoke Harry Squires to the beaddled marshal.

"Where do you suppose she got it?" muttered Anderson, helplessly. "Maybe
she had a toothache or something and took a little brandy--"

"Not a bit of it," said Harry. "She's been hitting old man Rank's stock
of hard cider, that's what she's been doing."

"Impossible! He's our leadin' church-member. He ain't got any hard
cider. He's dead-set ag'inst intoxicatin' liquors. I've heard him say it
a hundred times."

"Well, just ask _her_," was Harry's rejoinder.

Mr. Crow drew a stool up beside the unfortunate lady and sat down.

"What have you been drinking, Lucy?" he asked gently, patting her hand.

"You're a liar," said Mrs. Rank, quite distinctly. This was an
additional shock to Anderson. The amazing potency of strong drink was
here being exemplified as never before in the history of Time. A sober
Lucy Rank would no more have called any one a liar than she would have
cursed her Maker. Such an expression from the lips of the meek and
down-trodden martyr was unbelievable,--and the way she said it! Not even
Pat Murphy, the coal-wagon driver, with all his years of practice, could
have said it with greater distinctness,--not even Pat who possessed the
masculine right to amplify the behest with expletives not supposed to be
uttered except in the presence of his own sex.

"She'll be swearing next," said Bill Smith, after a short silence. "I
couldn't stand _that_," he went on, taking his coat from a peg in the
wall.

Mr. Squires took the lady in hand.

"If you will just be patient for a little while, Mrs. Rank, Bill will go
out and find your husband and bring him here at once. In the meantime, I
will see that your hatchet is sharpened up, and put in first-class order
for the sacrifice. Go on, Bill. Fetch the lady's husband." He winked at
the departing Bill. "We've got to humour her," he said in an aside to
Anderson. "These hard-cider jags are the worst in the world. The saying
is that a quart of hard cider would start a free-for-all fight in
heaven. Excuse me, Mrs. Rank, while I fix your nice new hat for you. It
isn't on quite straight--and it's such a pretty hat, isn't it?"

Mrs. Rank squinted at him for a moment in doubtful surprise, and then
smiled.

"My hussam tol' you to shay that," said she, shaking her finger at him.

"Not at all,--not at all! I've always said it, haven't I, Anderson? Say
_yes_, you old goat!" (He whispered the last, and the marshal responded
nobly.) "Now, while we are waiting for Mr. Rank, perhaps you will tell
us just why you want to cut his head off today. What has the old villain
been up to lately?"

She composed herself for the recital. The two men looked down at her
with pity in their eyes.

"He d'sherted me today,--abon--abonimably d'sherted me. For'n Missionary
S'ciety met safternoon at our house. All ladies in S'ciety met our
house. Deac'n tol' me be generous--givvem all the r'fressmens they
wanted. He went down shellar an' got some zat shider he p'up lash Marsh.
He said he wanted to shee whezzer it was any good." She paused, her brow
wrinkled in thought. "Lesh see--where was I?"

"In the parlour?" supplied Anderson, helpfully.

She shook her head impatiently. "I mean where was I talkin' 'bout? Oh,
yesh,--'bout shider. When Woman For'n Missinary S'ciety come I givvem
shider,--lots shider. No harm in shider, An'erson,--so don' look like
that. Deacon shays baby could drink barrel shider an--and sho on an' sho
forth. Well, For'n Missinary S'ciety all havin' splennid time,--singin'
'n' prayin' 'n' sho on 'n' sho forth, an'--an' sho on 'n' sho forth.
Then your wife, An'erson, she jumps up 'n' shays we gotter have
shong-shervice,--reg'ler shong shervice. She--"

"_My_ wife?" exclaimed Anderson. "Was Eva Crow there?"

"Shert'nly. Never sho happy 'n' her life. Couldn't b'lieve my eyes 'n'
ears. And Sister Jones too,--your bosh's wife, Misser Squires. Say,
d'you ever know she could shing bass? Well, she can, all right. She c'n
shing bass an' tenor'n ev'thing else, she can. She--"

"Where--where are they now?" demanded Anderson, with a wild look at
Harry.

"Who? The Woman For'n Missionary S'ciety?"

"Yes. For heaven's sake, don't tell me they're loose on the street!"

"Not mush! Promished me they wait till I capshered my hussam, deader
'live, an' bring 'im 'ome. Didden I tell you my hussam desherted me? He
desherted all of us--all of For'n Missinary S'ciety. I gotter bring 'im
back, deader 'live. Wannim to lead in shong shervice. My hussam's got
loudes' voice in town. Leads shingin' in chursh 'n' prayer meetin' 'n'
ever 'where else. Loudes' voice in town, thass what he is. Prays loudes'
of anybody, too. All ladies waitin' up my house f'r loudes voice in town
to lead 'em in shacred shong. Muss have somebody with loud voice to lead
'em. Lass I heard of 'em they was all shingin' differen' shongs.
Loudes' voice--lou'st voich--lou--"

She slumbered.

The marshal and the editor looked at each other.

"Well, she's safe for the time being," said the latter, wiping his wet
forehead.

"An' so's the deacon," added Anderson. "See here, Harry, I got to hustle
up to the deacon's house an' see what c'n be done with them women. My
lordy! The town will be disgraced if they get out on the street
an'--why, like as not, they'll start a parade or somethin'. You stay
here an' watch her, an' I'll--"

"No, you don't, my friend," broke in Harry gruffly. "You get her out of
this office as quickly as you can."

"Are you afraid to be left alone with that pore, helpless little woman?"
demanded Anderson. "I'll take her hatchet away with me, if that's what
you're afraid of."

"If you'd been attending to your job as a good, competent official of
this benighted town, the poor, helpless little woman wouldn't be in the
condition she's in now. You--"

"Hold on there! What do you mean by that?"

"I mean this, Mr. Shellback Holmes. A dozen people in this town have
been buying up apples and grinding them and making cider of them as fast
as they could cask it ever since last January. Making it right under
your nose, and this is the first you've seen of it. There's enough hard
cider in Tinkletown at this minute to pickle an army. See those bottles
over there under Bill's stool? Well, old Deacon Rank left 'em there
because he was afraid he'd bust 'em when he made his exit through that
window. He told Bill Smith he could keep them, if he would assume his
indebtedness to this office,--two dollars and a quarter,--and he also
told Bill that he could guarantee that it was good stuff! We've got
visible proof of it here, and we also know how the damned old rascal
went about testing the quality of his wares. He has tried it out on the
most highly respected ladies in town, that's what he's done,--and why?
Because it was the _cheapest_ way to do it. He didn't have to waste more
than a quart on the whole bunch of 'em. Sure fire stuff! And there are
barrels of it in this town, Mr. Shellback Holmes, waiting to be
converted into song. Now, the first thing you've got to do is to take
this unfortunate result of prohibition home and put her to bed."

Anderson sat down heavily.

"My sakes, Harry,--I--I--why, this is turrible! My wife drunk,
an'--an'--Mrs. Jones, an' Mrs. Nixon, an'--"

"Yes, sir," said Harry heartlessly; "they probably are lit up like the
sunny side of the moon, and what's more, my friend, if they _do_ take it
into their poor, beaddled heads to go out and paint the town, there
won't be any stopping 'em. Hold on! Didn't you hear what I said about
the case in hand? You take her home, do you hear?"

"But--how am I to get her home? I--I can't carry her through the
streets," groaned the harassed marshal.

"Hire an automobile, or a delivery-wagon, or--what say?"

"I was just sayin' that maybe I could get Lem Hawkins to loan me his
hearse."

Mr. Squires put his hand over his mouth and looked away. When he turned
back to the unhappy official, his voice was gentler.

"You leave her to me, old fellow. I'll take care of her. She can stay
here till after dark and I'll see that she gets home all right."

"By gosh, Harry, you're a real friend. I--I won't ferget this,--no, sir,
never!"

"What are you going to do first?"

"I'm goin' to get my wife out of that den of iniquity and take her
home!" said Anderson resolutely.

"Whether she's willing,--or not?"

"Don't you worry. I got that all thought out. If she won't let me take
her home, I'll let on as if I'm full and then she'll insist on takin' me
home."

With that he was gone.

The crowd in front of the _Banner_ office now numbered at least a
hundred. Mr. Crow stopped at the top of the steps and swiftly ran his
eye over the excited throng. He was thinking hard and quite
rapidly--for him. All the while the crowd was shouting questions at him,
he was deliberately counting noses. Suddenly he held up his hand. There
was instant, expectant silence.

"All husbands who possess wives in the Woman's Foreign Missionary
Society kindly step forward. Make way there, you people,--let 'em
through. This way, Newt,--an' you, Alf,--come on, Elmer K.,--I said
'wives,' Mrs. Fry, not husbands. All husbands please congregate in the
alley back of the _Banner_ office an' wait fer instructions. Don't ask
questions. Just do as I tell you. Hey, you kids! Run over an' tell Mort
Fryback an' Ed Higgins an' Situate M. Jones I want 'em right away,--an'
George Brubaker. Tell him to lock up his store if he has to, but to come
at once. Now, you women keep back! This is fer men only."

In due time a troubled, anxious group of men sallied forth from the
alley back of the _Banner_ office, and, headed by Anderson Crow, marched
resolutely down Sickle Street to Maple and advanced upon the house of
Deacon Rank.

The song service was in full blast. The men stopped at the bottom of the
yard and listened with sinking hearts.

"That's my wife," said Elmer K. Pratt, the photographer, a bleak look in
his eyes. "She knows that tune by heart."

"Which tune?" asked Mort Fryback, cocking his ear.

"Why, the one she's singin'," said Elmer. "Now listen,--it goes this
way." He hummed a few bars of 'The Rosary.' "Don't you get it? There!
Why, you must be deef. I can't hear anything else."

"The only one I can make out is 'Tipperary.' Is that the one she's
singin'?"

"Certainly not. I said it goes _this_ way. That's somebody else you
hear, Mort."

"Hear that?" cried Ed Higgins excitedly. "That's 'Sweet Alice, Ben
Bolt!' My wife's favourite. My Lord, Anderson, what's to be done?"

"Keep still!" ordered Anderson. "I'm tryin' to see if I c'n make out my
wife's singin'!"

"Well, we got to do somethin'," groaned Newt Spratt, whose wife was
organist in the Pond Road Church. "She'll bust that piano all to smash
if she keeps on like that."

"Come on, gentlemen," said Anderson, compressing his lips. "Remember
now, every man selects his own wife. Every--"

"Wait a minute, Anderson," pleaded George Brubacker. "It'll take more
than me to manage my wife if she gets stubborn."

"It ain't our fault if you married a woman twice as big as you are," was
the marshal's stern rejoinder. "Now, remember the plan. We're just
droppin' in to surprise 'em, to sort of join in the service. Don't fer
the land's sake, let 'em see we're uneasy about 'em. We got to use
diplomacy. Look pleasant, ever'body,--look happy. Now, then,--forward
march! Laugh, dern you, Alf!"

Once more they advanced, chatting volubly, and with faces supposed to be
wholly free from anxiety. The merest glance, however, would have
penetrated the mask of unconcern. Every man's eye belied his lips.

"I make a motion that we tar an' feather Deacon Rank," said Newt Spratt,
as the foremost neared the porch.

Anderson halted them abruptly.

"I want to warn you men right now, that I'm going to search all the
cellars in town tomorrow, so you might as well be prepared to empty all
your cider into Smock's Crick. You don't need to say you ain't got any
on hand. I've been investigatin' for several weeks, an' I want to tell
you right here an' now that I've got every cask an' every bottle of hard
cider in Tinkletown spotted. I know what's become of every derned apple
that was raised in this township last year."

Dead silence followed this heroic speech. Citizens looked at each other,
and Situate M. Jones might have been heard to mutter something about "an
all-seeing Providence."

Ed Higgins lamely explained that he had "put up a little for vinegar,"
but Anderson merely smiled.

The front door of the house flew open and several of the first ladies of
Tinkletown crowded into view. An invisible choir was singing the
Doxology.

"Hello, boys!" called out Mrs. Jones, cheerily. "Come right in! Where's
zat nice old deacon?"

"Been waiting for him for nawful long time," said Mrs. Pratt. "Couldn't
wait any louder,--I mean longer."

"You had it right the first time," said her husband.

"Just in time for Doxology," called out Mrs. Jones. "Then we're all
going down town to hol' open-air temp-rance meet-meeting."

       *       *       *       *       *

Late that evening, Marshal Crow mounted the steps leading to Dr. Brown's
office and rang the bell. He rang it five or six times without getting
any response. Then he opened the door and walked in. The doctor was out.
On a table inside the door lay the slate on which people left word for
him to come to their houses as soon as he returned. The Marshal put on
his glasses and took up the pencil to write. One side of the slate was
already filled with hurried scribbling. He squinted and with difficulty
made out that Dr. Brown was wanted immediately at the homes of Situate
M. Jones, Abbie Nixon, Newton Spratt, Mort Fryback, Professor Rank, Rev.
Maltby and Joseph P. Singer. He sighed and shook his head sadly. Then he
moistened a finger and erased the second name on the list, that of Mrs.
Abbie Nixon.

"Husbands first," he muttered in justification of his action in
substituting the following line:

"Come at once. A. Crow, Marshal of Tinkletown."

Compunction prevailed, however. He wrote the word "over" at the bottom
and, turning the slate over, cleared his conscience by jotting down Mrs.
Nixon's "call" at the top of the reverse side. Replacing it on the
table, he went away. Virtue was its own reward in this instance at
least, for the worthy marshal neglected to put the slate down as he had
found it. Mrs. Nixon's "call" alone was visible.

He set out to find Harry Squires. That urbane gentleman was smoking his
reportorial corn-cob in the rear of Lamson's store. Except for Lamson's
clerk, who had seized the rare opportunity to delve uninterruptedly into
the mysteries of the latest "Nick Carter," the store was empty. The
usual habitues were absent.

"Did you get her home?" inquired Anderson in a low, cautious tone.

"I did," said Harry.

"See anything of the deacon?"

"No; but Bill Smith did. Bill saw him down at the crick an hour or so
ago, knocking in the heads of three or four barrels. Do you know what
I've been thinking, Anderson? If somebody would only empty a barrel or
so of olive oil into Smock's Crick before morning, we'd have the
foundation for the largest supply of French dressing ever created in the
history of the world."

Mr. Crow looked scandalized. "Good gosh, Harry, ain't we had enough
scandal in this here town today without addin' anything French to it?"

       *       *       *       *       *

The only moral to be attached to this story lies in the brief statement
that Mrs. Crow's indisposition, slight in duration though it was, so
occupied Mr. Crow's attention that by the time he was ready to begin his
search the second night after the song service, there wasn't so much as
a pint of hard cider to be found in Tinkletown. This condition was due
in a large measure, no doubt, to the fact that Smock's Creek is an
unusually swift little stream. It might even be called turbulent.



"JAKE MILLER HANGS HIMSELF"


"Have you heard the latest news?" inquired Newt Spratt, speaking in a
hushed voice. He addressed Uncle Dad Simms, the town's oldest
inhabitant, whom he met face to face at the corner of Main and Sickle
streets one fine morning in May. Now any one in Tinkletown would tell
you that it was the sheerest folly to address Uncle Dad in a hushed
voice. Mr. Spratt knew this as well as he knew his own name, so it
should be easy to understand that the "news" was of a somewhat
awe-inspiring nature. Ordinarily Newt was a loud-mouthed, jovial soul;
you could hear him farther and usually longer than any other male
citizen in Tinkletown. But now, he spoke in a hushed voice.

Uncle Dad put his hand up to his left ear and said "Hey?" This seemed to
bring Mr. Spratt to his senses. He started violently, stared hard for a
moment at the octogenarian, and then strode off down Main street,
shaking his head as much as to say, "There must be something the matter
with me. Nobody ever speaks to him unless he _has_ to."

And Uncle Dad, after gazing for a long time at the retreating figure,
resumed his shuffling progress up Main street, pleasantly satisfied that
Newt had gone to the trouble to tell him it was a nice day.

Although it would not have occurred to Newt, in his dismal state of
mind, to look upon the day as a nice one, nevertheless it was. The sun
was shining brightly, (but without Newt's knowledge), and the air was
soft and balmy and laden with the perfume of spring. Birds were
twittering in the new green foliage of the trees, but Newt heard them
not; dogs frisked in the sunshine, wagging their tongues and tails, but
Newt saw them not; hens cackled, horses whinnied, children laughed, and
all the world was set to music, but Newt was not a happy man.

He was not a happy man for the simple reason that everybody else in town
had heard the "news" long before it reached him. For half-an-hour or
more he had been putting that same old question to every one he met;
indeed, he even went out of his way five or six blocks to ring the front
door bell at the home of William Grimes, night watchman at Smock's
Warehouse, rousing him from a sound sleep in order to impart the "news"
to him, only to have Bill call him a lot of hard names while making it
clear that he had heard it before going to bed for the day.

The more Newt thought of it, the more he realized that it was his duty
to go back and look up Uncle Dad Simms, even though it meant yelling his
head off when he found him; it was a moral certainty that the only
person in Tinkletown who _had_n't heard it was Uncle Dad,--and he would
take a lot of telling.

The _Weekly Banner_ would not be out till the following day; for at
least twenty hours Uncle Dad would remain in the densest ignorance of
the sensation that had turned Tinkletown completely upside down.
Somebody ought to tell him. Somebody ought to tell poor old Uncle Dad
Simms, that was all there was about it.

Moved by a sharp thrill of benevolence, Mr. Spratt retraced his steps,
an eager look in his eyes. He found the old man standing in the broad,
open door of Bill Kepsal's blacksmith shop. The blacksmith's assistant
was banging away with might and main at his anvil, and Uncle Dad wore a
pleased, satisfied smile on his thin old lips. He always said he loved
to stand there and listen to the faint, faraway music of the hammer on
the anvil, so different from the hammers and anvils they used to have
when he was a boy,--when they were so blamed noisy you couldn't hear
yourself think.

Newt took him by the arm and led him away. He was going to tell him the
"news," but he wasn't going to tell it to him there. The only place to
tell Uncle Dad anything was over in the Town Hall, provided it was
unoccupied, and thither he conducted the expectant old man. As they
mounted the steps leading to the Hall, Uncle Dad's pleased expression
developed into something distinctly audible--something resembling a
cackle of joy. Mr. Spratt favoured him with a sharp, apprehensive
glance.

"Are they goin' to hold the inquest as soon as all this?" shouted Uncle
Dad, putting his lips as close as possible to Newt's ear.

Newt stopped in his tracks.

"Have _you_ heard it?" he bellowed.

"What say?"

"I say, _have you heard it_?"

"Speak up! Speak up!" complained Uncle Dad. "You needn't be afraid of
_him_ hearin' you, Newt. He's been dead for six or eight hours."

"My God!" groaned Newt.

For the second time that morning he left Uncle Dad high and dry, and
started swiftly homeward. There was the possible, but remote chance that
his wife hadn't heard the news,--and if she had heard it, she'd hear
from him! He'd let her know what kind of a wife she was!

Never, within memory, had he failed to be the first person in Tinkletown
to hear the news, and here he was on this stupendous occasion, the last
of them all. And why? Because he had taken that one morning to perform a
peculiarly arduous and intensive bit of hard work up in the attic of his
wife's house. He had chosen the attic because Mrs. Spratt rather
vehemently had refused to let him use the parlour, or even the kitchen.
And all the time that he was up in the attic, working his head off
trying to teach his new fox terrier pup how to stand on its hind legs
and jump over a broom stick, this startling piece of news was sweeping
from one end of Tinkletown to the other.

Never, said Newt firmly, as he hurried homeward by the back
streets,--never would he do another day's work in his life, if this was
to be the result of honest toil. And what's more, he hadn't even
received a single word of praise from his wife when he descended from
the attic and triumphantly told her what he had accomplished,--he and
the pup between them--after three hours of solid, painstaking endeavour.

Mrs. Spratt had merely said: "If you could learn that pup how to split
firewood or milk a cow or repair the picket fence or something like
that, you might be worth your salt, Newt Spratt. As it is, you ain't."

As Newt turned gloomily into the alley leading up to his back gate, he
espied the Marshal of Tinkletown, Anderson Crow, leisurely approaching
from the opposite direction. Mr. Crow, on catching sight of Newt,
hastily removed something from his mouth and held it behind his back.
Perceiving that it was nobody but Newt Spratt, he restored the object to
his lips and began puffing away at it,--but not until he had sent a
furtive glance over his shoulder.

"What you doin' back here?" inquired Newt, somewhat offensively, as the
two drew closer together. "Lookin' fer clues?"

Anderson again removed the corn-cob pipe, spat accurately over the hand
with which he shielded his straggling chin whiskers, and remarked:

"Do _you_ see anything wrong with this here pipe, Newt?" he asked,
gazing rather pensively at the object.

"I don't _see_ anything wrong with it," said Newt. "Still, I think
you're mighty sensible not to smoke it any place except in an alley. Why
don't you get a new one? They only cost ten cents. If you got a new one
once in a while,--say once a year,--your wife wouldn't order you out of
the house every time you light it."

"She don't order me out of the house when I light it," retorted
Anderson. "'Cause why? 'Cause I never light it till I get two or three
blocks away from home."

The subject apparently being exhausted, the two alley-farers lapsed into
characteristic silence. Mr. Spratt leaned rather wearily against his own
back fence, while Mr. Crow accepted the support of a telephone pole.
Presently the former started to say something about the weather, but got
no farther than the first two or three words when an astounding
conjecture caused him to break off abruptly. He glanced at the old
marshal, swallowed hard a couple of times, and then hopefully ventured
the time-honoured question:

"Anything new, Anderson?"

The marshal responded with a slow, almost imperceptible shake of the
head. He was gazing reflectively at a couple of English sparrows perched
on one of the telephone wires some distance down the line.

Newt experienced a sudden, overwhelming joy. Caution, however, and a
certain fear that he might be mistaken, advised him to go slow. There
remained the possibility that Anderson might be capable of simulation.

"Where's the body?" he inquired, casually.

Marshal Crow's gaze deserted the sparrows and fixed itself on Newt's
ear.

"The what?"

His companion exhaled a tremendous breath of satisfaction. Life was
suddenly worth living. The Marshal of Tinkletown had not heard the
"news." The marshal, _himself_!

"Well, by Gosh!" exclaimed the revivified Mr. Spratt. "Where have you
been at?"

"That's my business," snapped Anderson.

"All I got to say is that you ought to be attendin' to it, if it's your
business," said Newt loftily. "You're the marshal of this here town,
ain't you? And everybody in town knows that Jake Miller is dead except
you. You're a fine marshal." There was withering scorn in Newt's voice.
He even manifested an inclination to walk off and leave the marshal
without further enlightenment.

Anderson made a valiant effort to conceal his astonishment. Assuming a
more or less indifferent air, he calmly remarked:

"I knowed Jake was a little under the weather, but I didn't think it was
serious? When did he die?"

"He didn't die," said Newt. "He hung himself."

"What's that?" gasped Anderson, his jaw sagging.

"Hung himself some time last night," went on Newt joyously. "From a
rafter in Ed Higgins's livery stable. With a clothesline. Kicked a
step-ladder out from under himself. Why, even Uncle Dad Simms has heard
about it. Ed found him when he went out to--wait a second! I'm goin'
your way. What's the rush? He's been dead six or eight hours. He can't
escape. He's down in Hawkins's undertaking place. Hey! You dropped your
pipe. Don't you want it any--"

"If you're goin' my way, you'll have to _run_," called out Marshal Crow
as he unlimbered his long legs and made for the mouth of the alley. He
was not running, but Newt, being an undersized individual, had no other
means of keeping up with him unless he obeyed the sardonic behest. For
ten or fifteen rods, Mr. Spratt jogged faithfully at the heels of the
leader, and then suddenly remembered that it was a long way to Hawkins's
Undertaking Emporium in Sickle street,--at least an eighth of a mile as
the crow flies,--and as he already had had a hard day's work, he slowed
down to a walk and then to a standstill. He concluded to wait till some
one came along in a wagon or an automobile. There wasn't any use wasting
his valuable breath in running. Much better to save it for future use.
In the meantime, by standing perfectly still, he could ruminate to his
heart's content.

Marshal Crow's long strides soon carried him to the corner of Maple
Street, where he made a sharp turn to the right, shooting a swift look
over his shoulder as he did so. His late companion was leaning against a
tree. Satisfied that he had completely thrown Mr. Spratt off the trail,
Anderson took a short cut through Justice of the Peace Robb's front and
back yards and eventually emerged into Main Street, where he slackened
his pace to a dignified saunter.

He caught sight of Alf Reesling, the reformed town drunkard, holding
conversation from the sidewalk with some one in a second story window of
Mrs. Judy O'Ryan's boarding house, half a block away.

"Hello!" shouted Alf, discovering the marshal. "Here he comes now. Where
you been all morning, Andy? I been huntin' everywhere for you. Something
horrible has happened. I just stopped to tell Judy about it."

The marshal stopped, and gazed upon Alf with mild interest. He nodded
carelessly to Mrs. O'Ryan in the upstairs window, and addressed the
following significant remark to Alf:

"I guess I've got Jake's motive purty well established, Alf. You needn't
ask me what I've unearthed, because I won't tell you. It's a nice day,
ain't it, Judy?"

Before Mrs. O'Ryan could affirm or deny this polite bit of information,
Alf cried out:

"You don't mean to say you _know_ about it?"

"The rain yesterday and day before has brought your lilacs out splendid,
Judy," said Anderson, ignoring him.

"I was up to your house before eight o'clock, and your wife said you'd
gone out in the country to practise your new Decoration Day speech,
Anderson. How in thunder did you find out about Jake?"

Marshal Crow turned upon the speaker with some severity. "See here, Alf,
are you tryin' to act like Newt Spratt?"

That was a deadly insult to Alf.

"What do you mean?" he demanded hotly.

"Nothin'--except that Newt had the same kind of an idee in his head that
you seem to have got into yours. Next time you see Newt you tell him I
been laughin' myself almost sick over the way I fooled him,--the blamed
iggoramus." Having planted a seed that was intended to bear the fruit of
justification, the venerable marshal decided that now was the time to
prepare himself against anything further in the shape of surprise. So he
linked arms with Alf and started off down the street.

"Now, see here, Alf," he began, somewhat sternly. "I won't stand for any
beatin' about the bush from you. You got to tell me the whole truth an'
nothin' but the truth, and if your story hangs together and agrees with
what I've already worked out,--I'll see that you get fair treatment
and--"

Alf stopped short. "What in sassafras are you talkin' about? What
story?"

"Begin at the beginnin' and tell me where you was last night, and _early
this morning_, and where and when you last saw Jake Miller."

The marshal's manner was decidedly accusative, although tempered by
sadness. Something in his voice betrayed a great and illy concealed
regret that this life-long friend had got himself so seriously entangled
in the Jacob Miller affair.

"Where was I last night and this morning?" repeated the astonished Alf.

"Percisely," said Anderson, tightening his grip on Alf's arm.

"In bed," said Alf succinctly.

"Come, now," warned the marshal; "none of that. I want the truth out of
you. When did you last see Jake Miller,--and what was he doing?"

"I saw him about half an hour ago, and he wasn't doin' anything."

"I mean, before he came to his untimely end."

"I don't know what you're drivin' at, but if it gives you any
satisfaction I c'n say that the last time I saw him alive was yesterday
afternoon about four o'clock. He was unloadin' some baled hay over at
Ed's feed-yard and--that's all."

"How was he actin'?"

"He was actin' like a man unloadin' hay."

"Did he appear to have anything on his mind? I mean anything more than
usual?"

"Couldn't say."

"Did he look pale or upset-like?"

"I kinder thought,--afterwards,--that he did look a _leetle_ pale. Sort
of as if he'd eat something that didn't agree with him."

"I see. Well, go on."

"Go on what?"

"Tellin' me. Where did you next see him?"

"Oh, there was a lot of people saw him after I did. Why don't you ask
them?"

"Answer my question."

"I didn't see him again until about half past seven this morning. He was
hangin' from a rafter in Ed's stable. My God, it was awful! I know I'll
dream about Jake for the next hundred years."

"Did he have a rope around his neck?"

"No, he didn't." Anderson started. This was an unexpected reply.

"Well,--er, what _did_ he have around his neck?"

"A halter strap."

"You--you're sure about that?"

"Positive."

"I see. So far your story jibes with the facts. Now, answer me this
question. When and where did you help Jake Miller write that note of
farewell?"

"What?" gasped Alf.

"You heard me."

"I didn't help him write any note."

"You didn't?"

"Nobody helped him write it."

"How do you know that, sir?"

"Do you mean to tell me that Jake left a farewell note?"

"I'm not sayin' whether he did or not. You don't mean to claim that he
didn't leave one, do you?"

"If he did, nobody that I know of has laid eyes on it."

Anderson smiled mysteriously. "Well, we'll drop that feature of the case
temporarily. You was quite a friend of Jake Miller's, wasn't you?"

"Off and on," said Alf. "Same as you was," he added, quickly.

"What reason did he ever give you for wantin' to take his own life?
Think carefully, now,--and nothing but the truth, mind you?"

"The only thing I ever heard him say that sounded suspicious was when he
told a crowd of us at Lamson's one night that if this here prohibition
went into effect he'd like to have some one telegraph his sister in
Buffalo, so's she could come on and claim his remains."

"But he wasn't a drinkin' man, Alf, and you know it."

"I know, but he always said he was lookin' forward to the day when he
could afford to get as drunk as he sometimes thought he'd like to be. He
was a droll sort of a cuss, Jake was. He claimed he'd been savin' up his
appetite and his money for nearly three years so's he could see which
would last the longest in a finish fight."

"Was you present when he was cut down?"

"I was."

"Aha! That's what I'm tryin' to get at. Who cut the rope?"

"It wasn't a rope,--it was a hitchin' strap. An' nobody cut it, come to
think of it. It was a perfectly good strap, so two or three of us held
Jake's body up so's Ed Higgins could untie it from the rafter."

"And then what?"

"Old man Hawkins and Doc Brown said he'd been dead five or six hours."

"I see. What did Doc say he died of?"

Alf stared at him in amazement. "He died of being hung to a rafter."

Marshal Crow cleared his throat, and was ominously silent for fifteen or
twenty paces. When he next spoke it was with the deepest gravity. There
was a dark significance in the look he fixed upon Alf.

"Is there any proof that Jake Miller wasn't dead long before he was
strung up to that rafter?"

"What's that?" gasped Alf, once more coming to a sudden stop.

"It's a matter I can't discuss with anybody at present," said Anderson,
curtly.

"Have--have you deduced something important, Anderson?" implored Alf,
eagerly. "Is there evidence of foul play?"

"That's my business," said Anderson. "Come on. Don't stand there with
your mouth open like that. He's still over at Hawkins's place, is he? I
been workin' on the quiet all by myself since early this morning, an' I
don't know just what's been happening around here for the last couple of
hours."

"He was there the last I heard of him," said Alf.

"Well, you've given a purty good account of yourself, Alf, an' unless
something turns up to change my present opinion, you are free to come
an' go as you please."

"See here, you blamed old hayseed, what do you mean by actin' as if I
had anything to do with Jake Mil--"

"You don't know what you're doing when you're drunk, Alf Reesling."

"But I ain't been drunk for twenty-five years, you blamed old--"

"That remains to be seen," interrupted Anderson sternly. "Now don't talk
any more. I want to think."

Having obtained certain desirable facts in connection with the
taking-off of Jacob Miller, Marshal Crow ventured boldly, confidently,
into the business section of the town. He was now in a position to
discuss the occurrence with equanimity,--in fact, with indifference.
Moreover, he could account for his physical absence from the centre of
the stage, so to speak, by reminding all would-be critics that he was
mentally on the job long before Ed Higgins made the gruesome discovery.
In other words, it served his purpose to "lie low" and observe from
well-calculated obscurity the progress of events.

Now, Tinkletown had not experienced the shock and thrill of suicide in a
great many years. Sundry citizens had met death in an accidental way,
and others had suddenly died of old age, but no one had intentionally
shuffled off since Jasper Wiggins succeeded in completing a hitherto
unsuccessful life by pulling the trigger of a single-barrelled shotgun
with his big toe, back in the fall of '83.

The horrendous act of Jacob Miller, therefore, created a sensation.

Tinkletown was agog with excitement and awe. Everybody was talking about
Jake. He was, by all odds, the most important man in town. Alive, he
had been perhaps the least important.

He was the sort of citizen you always think of last when trying to take
a mental census of the people you know by sight.

Once, and only once, had Jake seen his name in the columns of the
_Weekly Banner_, and he was so impressed that he cut the article out of
the paper and pasted it under the sweat-band of his best hat. It
happened to be the obituary notice of a farmer bearing the same name,
but that made no difference to Jake; he was vicariously honoured by
having his name in print,--and in rather large type at that.

And now he was to have at least half a page in the _Banner_, with his
name in huge black letters, double column, something like this:

    JAKE MILLER HANGS HIMSELF!!!

Column after column of Jake Miller and he not there to rejoice!

Jake Miller on the front page, crowding out the news from Paris and
Washington, displacing local Society "items," shoving the ordinary
"obituaries" out of their hallowed corners, confiscating space that
belonged to the Lady Maccabees and other lodges, supplanting
thoughtfully prepared matter in the editorial column,--why, the next
issue of the _Banner_ would be a Jake Miller number from beginning to
end. And Jake not there to enjoy it all!

Jake had been a more or less stationary inhabitant of Tinkletown for
about three years. He had taken up his residence there without really
having had the slightest intention or desire to do so. In fact, he would
have been safely out of the village in another ten minutes if Mrs. Abbie
Nixon hadn't missed the blackberry pie from the kitchen window sill,
where she had set it out to cool,--and even then he might have got away
if he had had a handkerchief or something with which to remove the
damning stains from his lips and chin. But, in his haste, he used the
back of his hand, and--well, Justice of the Peace Robb sent him to the
calaboose for thirty days,--and that's how Jake became a resident of
Tinkletown.

At the trial he was so shamelessly complimentary about Mrs. Nixon's pie
that the prosecuting witness came very near to perjuring herself in
order to show her appreciation. The dignity of the law was preserved
only by Jake's unshaken resolution to plead guilty to the charge of
feloniously eating one blackberry pie with never-to-be-forgotten relish.
Mrs. Nixon was so impressed by Jake's honesty that she made a practice
of sending a pie to him every baking-day during the period of his
incarceration. But when approached by two or three citizens with the
proposal that she join with them in providing the fellow with work as a
sort of community "handy-man," she refused to consider the matter at all
because most of her silver had come down from her grandmother and she
wouldn't part with it for anything in the world.

[Illustration: _At the trial he was shamelessly complimentary about Mrs.
Nixon's pie_]

For one who had never laid eyes on the village of Tinkletown up to the
day of his arrival, Jake Miller revealed the most astonishing sense of
civic pride. The first thing he did after being safely locked up was to
whitewash the interior of his residence. (The town board furnished a
rather thin mixture of slaked lime and water, borrowed a whitewash brush
from Ebenezer January, and got off with a total cost of about
eighty-five cents.) He also repaired several windows in the calaboose by
stuffing newspapers into the broken panes, remodeled the entire heating
system with a little stove polish, put two or three locks in order, and
once, on finding that it was possible to remove a grating from one of
the windows, crawled out of his place of confinement and mowed the grass
plot in front of the jail.

It was then that the people of Tinkletown began to take notice of him. A
few of the more enterprising citizens went so far as to consult Justice
Robb about extending Jake's sentence indefinitely, claiming that it
wasn't at all likely the town would ever see another prisoner who took
as much interest in keeping the jail in order as he.

And when he was finally released, he obtained a job with Ed Higgins at a
slight increase in wages over what he had been receiving while in
durance vile.

He was a middle-aged man with a large Adam's apple and a retreating
chin; his legs were so warped that a good ten inches of space separated
the knees. Whence he came and why he was content to abide in Tinkletown
were questions he always answered, but never in a satisfactory manner.
Even the hardiest citizens soon came to the conclusion that there wasn't
much use in asking questions that Jake could answer with a slow and
baffling wink. He became a fixture in Tinkletown, doing odd jobs for
nearly everybody in town, and still finding ample time to attend to his
duties at the feed yard. Whenever any one had a job to be done that he
particularly disliked doing himself, he always appealed to Jake, and
Jake did it.

When not otherwise employed, he slept in the box-stall once inhabited by
the prize stallion, Caleb the Second, now deceased, and you would have
been surprised to see what a tidy place he made of it by tacking up two
or three anatomical pictures from the _Police Gazette_, and putting in a
folding bed,--or, more strictly speaking, a bed that could be folded. It
consisted of three discarded horse blankets. Quite a snug little
bed-chamber, you would say, and, as Jake himself frequently remarked, a
very handy stall to have a nightmare in.

Twice a day, regularly, day in and day out, Jake inquired at the post
office for mail, and invariably Postmaster Lamson, without looking,
replied: "Nothing today, Jake."

A singular thing happened the afternoon before Jake hung himself. He
received a letter,--a rather fat one,--postmarked Sandusky, Ohio. Mr.
Lamson and the loafers at the store were still talking about the
extraordinary event when the former closed up for the night, a little
later than usual. And while they were talking about it, Jake was getting
ready to hang himself.

Marshal Crow headed straight for the _Banner_ office, Mr. Reesling
trailing a few steps behind like a dog at heel. Quite a crowd had
gathered in front of Hawkins's Undertaking Emporium across the street
from the newspaper office.

"Don't foller me in here," ordered the marshal, as Alf started to enter
the _Banner_ office with him. "This is private. Move on, now."

"But what'll I tell the gang over there if they ask me what you're doin'
about the case?" argued Alf.

"You tell 'em I'll soon have the mystery solved."

"What mystery? There ain't any mystery about it. He done it as publicly
as he could."

"Well, you just tell 'em I've got a clue, and I'm follerin' it up."

With that, he disappeared through the door, closing it with some
violence in Alf's face.

Harry Squires was putting the finishing touches to a long and graphic
account of the suicide. He looked up as Anderson sauntered into the back
office.

"I'm glad you came in, Marshal," he said. "I hated to finish this story
without mentioning you, one way or another. Now I can add right here at
the end: 'Our worthy Town Marshal, A. Crow, was also present.'"

Anderson sat down. He pulled at his sparse chin whiskers for a moment or
two, evidently trying to release something verbal. Failing in this, he
sank back in the chair and fixed Mr. Squires with a pathetic look.

"Where have you been?" demanded Harry.

"Oh,--rooting around," said Anderson.

"Well, I'll tell you something that no one else in this town knows,"
said the other, pitying his old friend. "Are you listening?"

Anderson shook his head drearily. "I'll never be able to live this down,
Harry."

"Brace up. All is not lost. Will you do exactly what I tell you to do?"

"I hope you ain't going to tell me to go down and jump in the
mill-race."

"Nothing of the sort. That wouldn't help matters. You could swim out.
Now, listen. I know why Jake hung himself; and I am the only one who
does know. The whole story is told here in this article I have just
written. We've been friends and foes for a great many years, Mr.
Hawkshaw, and I want to show my appreciation. I don't know how many
times you have saved my life. I sha'n't tell you in just what way you
have saved it; I can only say that I should have died long ago of sheer
ennui,--if you know what that is,--if it hadn't been for you, old
friend. You have been a life-saver, over and over again. And in spite of
the many times you have saved my life, I don't seem to have put on any
flesh. I remain as skinny as I was when I first met you. I ought to be
so fat that I'd have to waddle. But, that's neither here nor there. I'm
going to save _your_ life now, Sherlock. I'm going to fix it so that
when you _do_ die, the people of this burg will erect a monument to you
that will make the one in Trafalgar Square,--if you know where that
is,--look like a hitching post. Lend me your ear, Mr. Pinkerton. That's
right. Take off your hat. You can hear better.

"I am going to reveal to you the true facts in the case of our late
lamented friend, Jake Miller. I have in my possession the letter he
received yesterday afternoon. It is under lock and key, and no one else
has seen it. While everybody else was gazing at Jake and wondering how
long he'd been hanging there, I--with my nose for news,--went off in
search of that letter. I might have spared myself the trouble, for the
last thing Jake did before ending his life, was to put it in an envelope
and mail it to me. He also enclosed a short note in which he implored me
to do the right thing by him and put his name in the biggest type we
have on hand. That's just what I intend to do. Now, I'm going to turn
that letter over to you. Instead of me being the one to tell _you_
about it, you are going to be allowed to tell _me_ about it. See? That's
what you are here for now,--to show me this letter with all its
harrowing details. Later on, when the coroner comes over from Boggs
City, you can deliver it to him. Now listen!"

[Illustration: _"I am going to reveal to you the true facts in the case
of our late lamented friend, Jake Miller"_]


Ten minutes later, Marshal Crow strode solemnly out of the _Banner_
office, and debouched upon the crowd in front of Hawkins's. Several
erstwhile admirers snickered. He paid not the slightest attention to
them. Instead he inquired in a loud, authoritative voice if any one had
seen Alf Reesling.

"I'm standin' right in front of you," said Alf.

"I deputize you to act as guard during the day over the remains of
Orlando Camp. You are to see to it that no one trespasses within fifty
feet of it without an order from me,--or the Governor of New York. You
will--"

"What the devil are you talkin' about?" demanded Alf. "There ain't no
remains around here named Camp."

The marshal smiled, but there was more pity than mirth in the effort.

"All you got to do is to do what I deputize you to do," he said quietly.
"Is Bill Kepsal here?"

"Present," said the iron-armed blacksmith, with a series of winks that
almost sufficed to take in the whole assemblage.

"I deputize you, William Kepsal, and--" (he craned his neck
slightly)--"and you, Newton Spratt, out there on the edge of the crowd,
to act as guards durin' the night, until relieved by Deputy Reesling at
seven A. M. tomorrow mornin'. You will permit no one to approach or
remove the body of Moses Briscoe from its present place of confinement
until further orders. And now, feller citizens, I must request you one
and all to disperse and not to congregate again in this locality, under
penalty of the law. Disperse at once, move on, everybody."

The crowd didn't move an inch.

"He's gone plumb crazy," said Rush Applegate to Uncle Dad Simms, and he
made such a special effort that Uncle Dad heard him quite distinctly.

"He always _wuz_," agreed Uncle Dad. "What's he crazy about this time?"

"Come on home, Anderson," said Alf Reesling, gently. "Maybe if you took
a dose of--"

"Lemme talk to him," interrupted Elmer K. Pratt, the photographer. "I
had an uncle once that _died_ in an asylum, and I used to keep him quiet
before he got hopeless by lettin' on that he really _was_ George
Washington. Now, look here, Anderson,--"

Marshal Crow held up his hand. There was no sign of resentment in his
voice or manner as he addressed the grinning crowd.

"I don't blame you for thinkin' that man in there is Jake Miller. I
thought so myself until a couple o' days ago. That's when I first begin
to suspect that he was the very man he now turns out to be. Gentlemen,
if the individual that you knew as Jake Miller hadn't took his own life
last night, I would have had him behind the bars today, sure as all get
out. He wasn't no more Jake Miller than I am. Jake Miller was one of his
alibis. He had--"

"You mean aliases," interrupted Professor Rank, of the high school.

"Or nom de plumes," added Willie Spence, the chief clerk at the Grand
View Hotel, one of the most inveterate readers in town. To Willie the
name of any author was a nom de plume; it didn't make any difference
whether it was his real name or not.

"He had a lot of names besides Jake Miller," explained Anderson loftily.
"And he didn't have to go to high school to get 'em," he added as an
afterthought, favouring Professor Rank with a withering look. "Now,
disperse,--all of you. Go on now, Willie,--disperse. Everybody disperse
except Alf Reesling. You stay here an' keep watch till I come back."

With that, he took the easiest and most expeditious way of dispersing
the crowd by walking briskly off in the direction of Main Street. The
crowd followed,--or more strictly speaking, accompanied him. He was the
centre of a drove of eager inquirers. Having successfully dispersed the
crowd in front of Hawkins's Emporium, he stopped in front of the post
office and addressed it once more.

"All you got to do," he announced, taking a seat on the porch, "is to
wait till the _Banner_ comes out, and then you'll get all the news. I
just been in there to tell Harry Squires about my discoveries, and he is
workin' his head off now gettin' it all in shape for the subscribers to
the paper. And that reminds me. He asked me to do him a favour. He says
there are quite a number of cheap skates in this town that ain't regular
subscribers to the _Banner_. That's why Ebenezer January's barber shop
is so crowded on Thursday mornings that Ebenezer is threatenin' to stop
_his_ subscription. Ebenezer says there's so many customers in his place
waitin' to be next with the paper that he ain't hardly got room to hone
up his razors after Wednesday's work. I promised Harry I'd suggest that
you all go around and subscribe today, because he says he's engaged
Ebenezer to whitewash the press-room tomorrow and the barber shop won't
be open at all. He says it's an outrage that--"

He stopped short to glare in speechless amazement at a familiar figure
almost under his nose.

"I thought I told you to stand guard back there, Alf Reesling," he
roared.

"Aw, thunder, he can't run away," protested Alf. "An' nobody's goin' to
_steal_ him, so what's the sense--"

"I'll give you just fifteen minutes to get back there to Hawkins's,"
declared the marshal firmly. "If you're not back there by that time,
I'll arrest you for contempt."

"That suits me," said Alf promptly.

"Yes, sir," said Anderson, addressing the crowd, "I would have nabbed
him today if he hadn't gone an' hung himself like this. He must have got
onto the fact that I had him dead to rights. He knowed there wasn't any
escape for him,--no chance in the world. Wait a second! Don't all talk
at once,--and don't ask questions! An' say, Abner, it won't do you any
good to go round to the _Banner_ office, because I swore Harry Squires
to secrecy. So stay where you are. Harry won't tell you a thing, even if
your father-in-law is a regular subscriber. What time is it, Lum?"

On being informed by Lum Gillespie that it was later than he thought,
Marshal Crow looked at his own watch and arose in some haste.

"By ginger, I got to get busy. I still got to see if I can find that
letter Jake received yesterday afternoon. I wouldn't be surprised if the
contents of that letter had a good deal to do with his hurryin' up this
hangin' business. Like as not it was a warnin' from some confederate of
his'n, lettin' him know I was gettin' purty hot on his trail. It's
mighty hard to keep these things from leakin' out, 'specially when
you're workin' at long range as I've been fer some time. My
investigations have been carried on from one end of the country to the
other. I finally got 'em narrowed down to a place out west called
Sandusky, Ohio, an' I was just on the point of telegraphin' to the
police out there that I had their man when this thing happens."

He was assisted in his search for the letter by a volunteer organization
of about one hundred men and boys. The search was a most diligent one.
Much to the disgust of Ed Higgins, the floor of Jake's sleeping
apartment was yanked up by willing, excited citizens; the hay-mow was
ransacked from one end to the other; the grain bins were turned inside
out, and there was some talk of ripping off a section of the roof. At
half past twelve o'clock, the marshal went home to his midday meal,
leaving the work in charge of Lum Gillespie, the garage owner, whose
love for Mr. Higgins was governed entirely by the fact that the
liveryman's business interfered considerably with his own prosperity.

Secure in the seclusion of his own woodshed, Marshal Crow slyly withdrew
Jake's letter from an inside pocket and reread it with great care. Later
on, having fortified himself with a substantial dinner, he returned to
the hunt. Advising the toilers that he was going to do a little private
searching, based on a "deduction" that had come to him while he was at
home, he ambled off in the direction of Power House Gulley. Half an hour
later he reappeared and instructed the crowd to knock off work. He had
found the letter just where he figured he would find it!

"I don't see why in thunder you didn't figure it out at breakfast
instead of at dinner," growled Ed Higgins, moodily surveying the
wreckage. "I've a notion to sue you for damages. Look at that box-stall!
Look at that--"

"Never mind, Ed; I'll have Lum an' the rest of 'em put everything back
in order, jest as they found it. Now, you fellers get to work and put
things in shape around here. I'm goin' to take this letter over an' show
it to Harry Squires. It proves everything,--absolutely everything. See
here, Alf,--what in thunder are you doin' here? Why ain't you guardin'
them remains as I told you to do?"

"I _am_ guardin' 'em," said Alf. "I c'n guard 'em just as well from a
distance as I can close up, an' you know it. All I got to do is to walk
to the corner there an' I c'n see Hawkins's place as plain as anything.
I could see it from right here if it wasn't fer Lamson's store an' the
Grand View Hotel."

The marshal gave him a look of bitter scorn, and strode away. The crowd
straggled along behind. Anderson stopped at the _Banner_ office door
and, exposing the dirty envelope to the eager gaze of the crowd, advised
every one present to step in and take out a year's subscription to the
paper. Then he disappeared. The crowd surged forward, filling the outer
office with something like sardine compactness. The door to Mr.
Squires's private office, however, closed sharply behind Mr. Crow, and
for the next fifteen or twenty minutes the young lady bookkeeper was
busy taking subscriptions from the disappointed throng. She got
sixty-three new subscribers and definite promises from a large number of
citizens who were considerably in arrears.

"You'll see it all in your paper tomorrow morning," said Anderson,
coming out of the inner office at the end of half an hour's consultation
with the editor. "All I can say to you now is that I have captured one
of the most desperate criminals in the country. He has been wanted for
nearly three years for a diabolical crime. It makes my flesh creep to
think of him being loose among our women an' children all this time. Is
there any one here who ain't subscribed to the _Banner_?"

Tinkletown slept fitfully that night when it slept at all. The sole
citizen enjoying a peaceful night's rest was Jake Miller. A singular
circumstance connected with the broken rest of three-fourths of the
people of Tinkletown was the extraordinary unanimity with which Jake
became visible to them the instant they did drop off to sleep.

Bright and early the next morning, the _Banner_ appeared with its
gruesome story. Jake was in very large type, but not much larger, after
all, than Marshal Crow. The whilom Mr. Squires, revelling in generosity,
gave Anderson all the credit. He held forth at great length on the
achievements of the redoubtable marshal, winding up his account with a
recommendation that a movement be inaugurated at once looking to the
erection of a memorial statue to the famous "sleuth." The concluding
sentence of this bold panegyric was as follows: "Do not wait till he is
dead! Do it now!" And appended, in parentheses, the statement that the
_Banner_ would head the list of subscribers with a contribution of one
hundred dollars!

In the body of his article, Mr. Squires printed in full the contents of
the letter received by Jacob Miller on the afternoon before his
death,--the letter which had been recovered, after the most diligent and
acute search by Marshal Crow, at the bottom of an abandoned well in
Power House Gulley,--the letter which so completely vindicated the
theories and deductions of Tinkletown's most celebrated son.

Jake's letter was from his brother in Sandusky. It warned him that the
authorities had finally located him in Tinkletown and that officers were
even then on the way east to "pinch" him. They had run him down at last,
despite the various aliases under which he had sought to avoid
apprehension; brotherly love impelled him to advise Jake to "beat it" as
"quick as possible." Moreover, he went on to state that if they got him
he'd "swing" as sure as hell. Brotherly interest no doubt was also
responsible for the frank admission that the "family" had done all it
could for him, and that if he had had a grain of sense, or had listened
to his friends, he wouldn't have married her in the first place. And if
he hadn't married her, he wouldn't have been placed in a position where
he had to beat her brains out. Not that she didn't deserve to have her
brains knocked out, and all that, but "you can't go around doing that
sort of thing without getting into trouble about it."

In short, Jake--(by any other name he was just as guilty)--had slain his
wife, presumably in cold blood. At any rate, Mr. Squires, sustained by
the information received from Marshal Crow, (who had gone deeply into
the case), stated in cold type that it had been done in cold blood.

Apparently Jake had decided that he was tired of dodging the inevitable.
It was quite clear that he could not endure the thought of being "swung"
for his diabolical deed.

The account also stated that Marshal Crow had at once advised the
Western authorities by telegraph that he had their man, but regretted to
state the scoundrel had anticipated arrest in the manner now so well
known to the readers of the _Banner_, long recognized as the most
enterprising newspaper in that part of the State of New York.

A day or two later, after the inquest, an officer arrived from Sandusky.
He was a spectator at the funeral of Jake Miller, whom he readily
identified as the slayer of Mrs. Camp, and was afterwards a most
interested listener to the recital given on Lamson's porch by Marshal
Crow, who, described with considerable zest and surprising fidelity the
manifold difficulties he had experienced in "running the criminal to
earth,"--one of the most puzzling cases he had ever been called upon to
tackle.

The astonished officer walked over to the Grand View Hotel with Harry
Squires. From time to time he passed his hand over his brow in a
thoroughly puzzled manner.

"I don't mind telling you, Mr. Squires," he blurted out at last, "that
we hadn't the faintest idea that this fellow Camp was as desperate a
character as all this. We looked upon him as a rather harmless,
soft-headed guy,--but, my God, he turns out to be one of the slickest
all-round crooks in the United States. No wonder he managed to give us
the slip all these years. It only goes to show how even the best of us
can be fooled in a man."

"That's right," agreed Harry. "It certainly does show how you can be
fooled in a man."

"When I get back home and tell 'em at headquarters what a slick duck he
was, they'll throw a fit. Why, by Gosh, we all thought he was a nut,--a
plain nut."

"Far be it from me," said Harry, "to speak ill of either the living or
the dead."

"It's a wonder he didn't up and blow the head off this old Rube when he
found he was about to be cornered."

Harry took that moment to relight his pipe, and then abruptly said "Good
night" to the gentleman from Sandusky.

As he rejoined the group in front of Lamson's, Marshal Crow was saying:

"I'm mighty glad Harry Squires had sense enough not to say in the
_Banner_ that as soon as Jake Miller found out that the jig was up, he
took the law in his own hands, and lynched himself."

THE END





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