Read THE PERFECT END OF A DAY of Anderson Crow‚ Detective , free online book, by George Barr McCutcheon, on ReadCentral.com.

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.

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!

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!”

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 olé 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?”

Olé 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.