Read A NIGHT TO BE REMEMBERED of Anderson Crow‚ Detective , free online book, by George Barr McCutcheon, on ReadCentral.com.

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.

“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.

“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.”