Read THE BEST MAN WINS! of Anderson Crow‚ Detective , free online book, by George Barr McCutcheon, on ReadCentral.com.

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.

“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 idée 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.

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.

“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’.”