Read SHADES OF THE GARDEN OF EDEN! of Anderson Crow‚ Detective , free online book, by George Barr McCutcheon, on ReadCentral.com.

It wasn’t often that Marshal Crow acknowledged that he was in a quandary.  When he did find himself in that rare state of mind, he invariably went to Harry Squires, the editor of the Banner, for counsel but never for advice.  He had in the course of a protracted career as preserver of the peace and dignity of Tinkletown, found himself confronted by seemingly unsolvable mysteries, but he always had succeeded in unravelling them, one way or another, to his own complete satisfaction.  Only the grossest impudence on the part of the present chronicler would permit the tiniest implication to creep into this or any other chapter of his remarkable history that might lead the reader to suspect that he did not solve them to the complete satisfaction of any one else.  So, quite obviously, the point is not one to be debated.

Now, as nearly every one knows, Tinkletown is a temperance place.  There is no saloon there, unless, of course, one chooses to be rather nasty about Brubaker’s Drugstore.  Away back in the Seventies, soon after the Civil War, in fact, an enterprising but misguided individual attempted to establish a bar-room at the corner of Main and Sickle Streets.  He opened the Sunlight Bar and for one whole day and night revelled in the conviction that he had found a silver mine.  The male population of Tinkletown, augmented by a swarm of would-be inebriates from all the farms within a radius of ten miles, flocked to the Sunlight Bar and proceeded to get gloriously and collectively drunk on the contents of the two kegs of lager beer that constituted an experimental stock in trade.

The next morning the women of Tinkletown started in to put the Sunlight Bar out of business.  They did not, as you may suspect, hurl stones at the place, neither did they feloniously enter and wreak destruction with axes, hatchets and hoe-handles.  Not a bit of it.  They were peaceful, law-abiding women, not sanguinary amazons.  What they did was perfectly simple.

It is possible, even probable, that they were the pioneer “pickets” of our benighted land.  At any rate, bright and early on the second day of the Sunlight Bar, the ladies of Tinkletown brought their knitting and their sewing down to the corner of Main and Sickle streets and sat themselves down in front of the shrinking “silver mine.”  They came with rocking-chairs, and camp-chairs, and milk-stools, and benches, too, and instead of chanting a doleful lay, they chattered in a blithe and merry fashion.  There was no going behind the fact, however, that these smiling, complacent women formed the Death Watch that was to witness the swift, inevitable finish of the Sunlight Bar.

They came in relays, and they stayed until the lights went out in the desolate house of cheer.  The next day they were on hand again, and the next, and still the next.  Fortunately for them, but most unluckily for the proprietor of the Sunlight Bar, the month was August:  they could freeze him out, but he couldn’t freeze them out.

Sheepish husbands and sons passed them by, usually on the opposite sidewalk, but not one of them had the hardihood to extend a helping hand to the expiring saloon.  At the end of a week, the Sunlight Bar drew its last breath.  It died of starvation.  The only mourner at its bier was the bewildered saloon-keeper, who engaged a dray to haul the remains to Boggs City, the County seat, and it was he who said, as far back as 1870, that he was in favour of taking the vote away from the men and giving it exclusively to the women.

Tinkletown, according to the sage observations of Uncle Dad Simms, was rarely affected by the unsettling problems of the present day.  This talk about “labour unrest” was ridiculous, he said.  If the remainder of the world was anything like Tinkletown, labour didn’t do much except rest.  It was getting so that if a workin’-man had very far to walk to “git” to his job, he had to step along purty lively if he wanted to arrive there in plenty of time to eat his lunch and start back home again.  And as for “this here prohibition question,” he didn’t take any stock in it at all.  Tinkletown had got along without liquor for more than a hundred years and he guessed it could get along for another century or two without much trouble, especially as it was only ten miles to Boggs City where you could get all you wanted to drink any day in the week.  Besides, he argued, loudly and most violently, being so deaf that he had to strain his own throat in order to hear himself, there wasn’t anybody in Tinkletown except Alf Reesling that ever wanted a drink, and even Alf wouldn’t take it when you offered it to him.

But in spite of Uncle Dad’s sage conclusions, it was this very prohibition question that was disturbing Anderson Crow.  He sauntered into the Banner office late one afternoon in May and planked himself down in a chair beside the editor’s desk.  There was a troubled look in his eyes, which gave way to vexation after he had made three or four fruitless efforts to divert the writer’s attention from the sheet of “copy paper” on which he was scribbling furiously.

“How do you spell beverage, Anderson?” inquired Mr. Squires abruptly.

“What kind of beverage?” demanded Mr. Crow.

“Any kind, just so it’s intoxicating.  Never mind, I’ll take a chance and spell it the easiest way.  That’s the way the dictionary spells it, so I guess it’s all right.  Well, sir, what’s on your mind? besides your hat, I mean.  You look worried.”

“I am worried.  Have you any idée as to the size of the apple crop in this neighbourhood last summer and fall, Harry?”

“Not the least.”

“Well, sir, it was the biggest we’ve had since 1902, ’specially the fall pickin.”

“What’s the idea?  Do you want me to put something in the Banner about Bramble County’s bumper crop of pippins?”

“No.  I just want to ask you if there’s anything in this new prohibition amendment against apple cider?”

“Not that I’m aware of.”

“Well, do you know it’s impossible to buy a good eatin’ or cookin’ apple in this town today, Harry Squires?”

“You don’t say so!  In spite of the big crop last fall?”

“You could buy all you wanted last week, by the bushel or peck or barrel, finest, juiciest apples you ever laid your eyes on.”

“Well, I don’t like apples anyway, so it doesn’t mean much in my life.”

Anderson was silent for a moment or two, contemplating his foot with singular intentness.

“Was you ever drunk on hard cider?” he inquired at last, transferring his gaze to the rapidly moving hand that held the pencil.

The reporter jabbed a period, or “full stop,” as they call it in a certain form of literature, in the middle of a sentence, and looked up with sudden interest.

“Yes,” he said, with considerable force.  “I’ll never forget it.  You can get tighter on hard cider than anything else I know of.”

“Well, there you are,” exclaimed the Marshal, banging his gnarled fist on the arm of the chair.  “And as far as I c’n make out, there ain’t no law ag’inst cider stayin’ in the barrel long enough to get good and hard, an’ what’s more, there ain’t no law ag’ainst sellin’ cider, hard or sweet, is there?”

“I get your point, Anderson.  And I also get your deductions concerning the mysterious disappearance of all the apples in Tinkletown.  Apparently we are to have a shortage of dried apples this year, with an overflow of hard cider instead.  By George, it’s interesting, to say the least.  Looks as though an apple orchard is likely to prove more valuable than a gold mine, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, sir!  ’Specially if you’ve got trees that bear in the fall.  Fall apples make the best cider.  They ain’t so mushy.  And as fer the feller that owns a cider-press, why, dog-gone it, he ought to be as rich as Crowsis.”

“I seem to recall that you have a cider-press on your farm on Crow’s Mountain, and a whacking good orchard, too.  Are you thinking of resigning as Marshal of Tinkletown?”

“What say?”

“I see you’re not,” went on Harry.  “Of course you understand you can’t very well manufacture hard cider and sell it and still retain your untarnished reputation as a defender of the law.”

“I’m not figurín’ on makin’ hard cider,” said Anderson, with some irritation.  “You don’t make hard cider, Harry.  It makes itself.  All you do is to rack the apple juice off into a barrel, or something, with a little yeast added, and then leave it to do the work.  It ferments an’ then, if you want to, you rack it off again an’ bottle it an’ well, gee whiz, how tight you c’n get on it if you ain’t got sense enough to let it alone.  But I ain’t thinkin’ about what I’m goin’ to do, ’cause I ain’t to do anything but make applebutter out of my orchard, an’ maybe a little cider-vinegar fer home consumption.  What’s worryin’ me is what to do about all these other people around here.  If they all take to makin’ cider this fall, or even sooner, an’ if they bottle or cask it proper, we’ll have enough hard cider in this township to give the whole state of New York the delirium trimmins.”

“I don’t see that you can do anything, Anderson,” said Squires, leaning back in his chair and puffing at his pipe.  “You can’t keep people from making cider, you know.  And you can’t keep ’em from drinking it.  Besides, who’s going to take the trouble to ascertain whether it contains one-half of one percent alcohol?  What interests me more than anything else is the possibility of this township becoming ‘wet’ in spite of itself, an’ to my certain knowledge, it has been up to now the barrenest desert on God’s green earth.”

“People are so all-fired contrary,” Anderson complained.  “For the last fifty years the citizens of this town and its suburbs have been so dead set ag’inst liquor that if a man went up to Boggs City an’ got a little tipsy he had to run all the way home so’s he’d be out of breath when he got there.  Nobody ever kept a bottle of whiskey in his house, ’cause nobody wanted it an’ it would only be in the way.  But now look at ’em!  The minute the Government says they can’t have it, they begin movin’ things around in their cellars so’s to make room fer the barrels they’re going to put in.  An’ any day you want to drive out in the country you c’n see farmers an’ hired men treatin’ the apple-trees as if they was the tenderest plants a-growin’.  I heard this mornin’ that Henry Wimpelmeyer is to put in a cider-press at his tanyard, an’ old man Smock’s turnin’ his grist mill into an apple-mill.  An’ everybody is hoardin’ apples, Harry.  It beats the Dutch.”

“It’s up to you to frustrate their nefarious schemes, Mr. Hawkshaw.  The fair name of the Commonwealth must be preserved.  I use the word advisedly.  It sounds a great deal better than ‘pickled.’  Now, do you want me to begin a campaign in the Banner against the indiscriminate and mendacious hardening of apple-cider, or am I to leave the situation entirely in your hands?”

Marshal Crow arose.  The fire of determination was in his ancient eye.

“You leave it to me,” said he, and strode majestically from the room.

Encountering Deacon Rank in front of the Banner office, he chanced this somewhat offensive remark: 

“Say, Deacon, what’s this I hear about you?”

The deacon looked distinctly uneasy.

“You can always hear a lot of things about me that aren’t true,” he said.

“I ain’t so sure about that,” said Anderson, eyeing him narrowly.  “Hold on!  What’s your hurry?”

“I I got to step in here and pay my subscription to the Banner,” said the deacon.

“Well, that’s something nobody’ll believe when they hear about it,” said Anderson.  “It’ll be mighty hard fer the proprieter of the Banner to believe it after all these years.”

“Times have been so dog-goned hard fer the last couple of years, I ain’t really been able to ”

“Too bad about you,” broke in Anderson scornfully.

“Everything costs so much in these days,” protested the deacon.  “I ain’t had a new suit of clothes fer seven or eight years.  Can’t afford ’em.  My wife was sayin’ only last night she needed a new hat, somethin’ she can wear all the year round, but goodness knows this ain’t no time to be thinkin’ of hats.  She ”

“She ain’t had a new hat fer ten years,” interrupted Anderson.  “No wonder the pore woman’s ashamed to go to church.”

“What’s that?  Who says she’s ashamed to go to church?  Anybody that says my wife’s ashamed to go to church is a is a well, he tells a story, that’s all.”

“Well, why don’t she go to church?”

“’Tain’t because she’s ashamed of her hat, let me tell you that, Anderson Crow.  It’s a fine hat an’ it’s just as good as new.  She’s tryin’ to save it, that’s what she’s tryin’ to do.  She knows it’s got to last her five or six years more, an’ how in tarnation can she make it last that long if she wears it all the time?  Use a little common sense, can’t you?  Besides, I’ll thank you not to stick your nose in my family affairs any ”

“What’s that you got in your pocket?” demanded Anderson, indicating the bulging sides of the deacon’s overcoat.

“None of your business!”

“Now, don’t you get hot.  I ask you again, civil as possible, what you got in your pocket?”

“I’m a respectable, tax-paying, church-going citizen of this here town, and I won’t put up with any of your cussed insinuations,” snapped the deacon.  “You act as if I’d stole something.  You ”

“I ain’t accusin’ you of stealin’ anything.  I’m only accusin’ you of havin’ something in your pocket.  No harm in that, is there?”

The deacon hesitated for a minute.  Then he made a determined effort to temporize.

“And what’s more,” he said, “my wife’s hat’s comin’ back into style before long, anyhow.  It’s just as I keep on tellin’ her.  The styles kinder go in circles, an’ if she waits long enough they’ll get back to the kind she’s wearin’, and then she’ll be the first woman in Tinkletown to have the very up-to-datest style in hats, ’way ahead of anybody else, and it will be as good as new, too, you bet, after the way she’s been savin’ it.”

“Now I know why you got your pockets stuffed full of things, eggs, maybe, or hick’ry nuts, or whatever it is you got in ’em.  It’s because you’re tryin’ to save a piece of wrappin’ paper or a bag, or the wear and tear on a basket.  No wonder you got so much money you don’t know how to spend it.”

“And as for me gettin’ a new suit of clothes,” pursued the deacon, doggedly, “if times don’t get better the chances are I’ll have to be buried in the suit I got on this minute.  I never knowed times to be so hard ”

The marshal interrupted him.  “You go in an’ pay up what you owe fer the Banner an’ I’ll wait here till you come out.”

Deacon Rank appeared to reflect.  “Come to think of it, I guess I’ll stop in on my way back from the post office.  Ten or fifteen minutes ”

He stopped short, a fixed intent look in his sharp little eyes.  His gaze was directed past Anderson’s head at some object down the street.  Then, quite abruptly and without even the ceremony of a hasty “good-bye,” he bolted into the Banner office, slamming the door in the marshal’s face.

“Well, I’ll be dog-goned!” burst from the lips of the astonished Mr. Crow.  “I never knowed him to change his mind so quick as that in all my life, or so often.  What the dickens ”

Indignation succeeded wonder at this instant, cutting off his audible reflections.  Snapping his jaws together, he laid a resolute hand on the doorknob.  Just as he turned it and was on the point of stamping in after the deacon, his eye fell upon an approaching figure the figure of a woman.  If it had not been for the hat she was wearing, he would have failed to recognize her at once.  But there was no mistaking the hat.

“Hi!” called out the wearer of the too familiar object.  Marshal Crow let go of the door knob and stared at the lady in sheer stupefaction.

Mrs. Rank’s well-preserved hat was perched rakishly at a perilous angle over one ear.  A subsequent shifting to an even more precarious position over the other ear, as the result of a swift, inaccurate sweep of the lady’s hand, created an instant impression that it was attached to her drab, disordered hair by means of a new-fangled but absolutely dependable magnet.  Never before had Marshal Crow seen that ancient hat so much as the fraction of an inch out of “plumb” with the bridge of Mrs. Rank’s undeviating nose.

She approached airily.  Her forlorn little person was erect, even soldierly.  Indeed, if anything, she was a shade too erect at times.  At such times she appeared to be in some danger of completely forgetting her equilibrium.  She stepped high, as the saying is, and without her usual precision.  In a word, the meek and retiring wife of Deacon Rank was hilariously drunk!

Pedestrians, far and near, stopped stockstill in their tracks to gaze open-mouthed at the jaunty drudge; storekeepers peered wide-eyed and incredulous from windows and doors.  If you suddenly had asked any one of them when the world was coming to an end, he would have replied without the slightest hesitation.

She bore down upon the petrified Mr. Crow.

“Is zat you, An’erson?” she inquired, coming to an uncertain stop at the foot of the steps.  Where oh, where! was the subdued, timorous voice of Sister Rank?  Whose oh, whose! were the shrill and fearless tones that issued forth from the lips of the deacon’s wife?

“For the Lord’s sake, Lucy, wha what ails you?” gasped the horrified marshal.

“Nothing ails me, An’erson.  Nev’ fel’ better’n all my lipe life.  Where’s my hush hushban’?”

She brandished her right hand, and clutched in her fingers an implement that caused Anderson’s eyes to almost start from his head.

“What’s that you got in your hand?” he cried out.

“Thish?  Thass a hashet.  Don’t you know whass a hashet is?”

“I I know it’s a hatchet.  Lucy, but, fer heaven’s sake, what are you goin’ to do with it?”

“I’m going to cut th’ deacon’s head off wiz it,” she replied blandly.

“What!”

“Yes, shir; thass what I’m goin’ cut off.  Right smack off, An’erson, and you can’t stop me, unnerstan’, An’erson.  I been wannin’ cuttiz ‘ead off f’r twenny-fi’ year.  I ”

“Hey!  Stop wavin’ that thing around like that, Lucy Rank!”

“You needen be ’fraid, An’erson.  I woulden hurt you fer whole United States.  Where’s my hussam, An’erson?”

Marshal Crow looked hopelessly at the well-scattered witnesses who were taking in the scene from a respectful distance.  Obviously it was his duty to do something.  Not that he really felt that the deacon’s head should not be cut off by his long-suffering wife, but that it was hardly the proper thing for her to do it in public.  Virtually every man in Tinkletown had declared, at one time or another, that Mrs. Rank ought to slit the old skinflint’s throat, or poison him, or set fire to him, or something of the sort, but, even though he agreed with them, the fact still remained that Marshal Crow considered it his duty to protect the deacon in this amazing crisis.

“Gimme that hatchet, Lucy Rank,” he commanded, with authority.  “You ain’t yourself, an’ you know it.  You gimme that hatchet an’ then lemme take you home an’ put you to bed.  You’ll be all right in the mornin’, an ”

“Didden my hussam go in the Blammer ossif minute ago?” she demanded, fixing a baleful glare upon the closed door.

“See here, Lucy, you been drinkin’.  You’re full as a goat.  You gimme that ”

“An’erson Crow, are you tryin’ inshult me?” she demanded, drawing herself up.  “Wha’ you mean sayin’ I’m dunk, drump?  You know I never touched dropper anything.  I’m the bes’ frien’ your wife’s got innis town an’ she who’s ‘at lookin’ out zat winner?  Zat my hussam?”

Before the marshal could interfere, she blazed away at one of the windows in the Banner office.  There was a crash of glass.  She was now empty-handed but the startled guardian of the peace was slow to realize it.  He was still trying to convince himself that it was the gentle, long-suffering Mrs. Rank who stood before him.

Suddenly, to his intense dismay, she threw her arms around his neck and began to weep and wail.

“I I love my hussam, I love my hussam, an’ I didden mean cuttiz ’ead off I didden I didden, An’erson.  My hussam’s dead.  My hussam’s head’s all off, an’ I love my hussam I love my hussam.”

The door flew open and Harry Squires strode forth.

“What the devil does this mean My God!  Mrs. Rank!  Wha what’s the matter with her, Anderson?”

The marshal gazed past him into the office.  His eyes were charged with apprehension.

“Where where’s the deacon’s head?” he gulped.

The editor did not hear him.  He had eyes and ears only for the mumbling creature who dangled limply from the marshal’s neck; her face was hidden but her hat was very much in evidence.  It was bobbing up and down on the back of her head.

“Let’s get her into the office,” he exclaimed.  “This is dreadful, Anderson, shocking!”

A moment later the door closed behind the trio, and a key was turned in the lock.  This was the signal for a general advance of all observers.  Headed by Mr. Hawkins, the undertaker, they swarmed up the steps and crowded about the windows.  The thoughtful Mr. Squires, however, conducted Mrs. Rank to the composing-room and the crowd was cheated.

Bill Smith, the printer, looked up from his case and pied half of the leading editorial.  He proved to be a printer of the old school.  After a soft, envious whistle he remarked: 

“My God, I’d give a month’s pay for one like that,” and any one who has ever come in contact with an old-time printer will know precisely what he meant.

“Oh, my poor b’loved hussam,” murmured Mrs. Rank.  “My poor b’loved hussam whass I have endured f’r twenty-fi’ years wiz aller Chrissen forcitude of where is my poor hussam?”

She swept the floor with a hazy, uncertain look.  Not observing anything that looked like a head, she turned a bleary, accusing eye upon Bill Smith, the printer, and there is no telling what she might have said to him if Harry Squires had not intervened.

“Sit down here, Mrs. Rank, do.  Your husband is all right.  He was here a few minutes ago, and which way did he go, Bill?”

“Out,” said Bill laconically, jerking his head in the direction of an open window at the rear.

“Didden didden I cuttiz ’ead off?” demanded Mrs. Rank.

“Not so’s you’d notice it,” said Bill.

“Well, ’en, whose ’ead did I c’off?”

“Nobody’s, my dear lady,” said Squires, soothingly.  “Everything’s all right, quite all right.  Please ”

“Where’s my hashet?  Gimme my hashet.  I insiss on my hashet.  I gotter cuttiz ’ead off.  Never ress in my grave till I cuttiz ’ead off.”

Presently they succeeded in quieting her.  She sat limply in an arm-chair, brought from the front office, and stared pathetically up into the faces of the three perspiring men.

“Can you beat it?” spoke Harry Squires to the beaddled marshal.

“Where do you suppose she got it?” muttered Anderson, helplessly.  “Maybe she had a toothache or something and took a little brandy ”

“Not a bit of it,” said Harry.  “She’s been hitting old man Rank’s stock of hard cider, that’s what she’s been doing.”

“Impossible!  He’s our leadin’ church-member.  He ain’t got any hard cider.  He’s dead-set ag’inst intoxicatin’ liquors.  I’ve heard him say it a hundred times.”

“Well, just ask her,” was Harry’s rejoinder.

Mr. Crow drew a stool up beside the unfortunate lady and sat down.

“What have you been drinking, Lucy?” he asked gently, patting her hand.

“You’re a liar,” said Mrs. Rank, quite distinctly.  This was an additional shock to Anderson.  The amazing potency of strong drink was here being exemplified as never before in the history of Time.  A sober Lucy Rank would no more have called any one a liar than she would have cursed her Maker.  Such an expression from the lips of the meek and down-trodden martyr was unbelievable, and the way she said it!  Not even Pat Murphy, the coal-wagon driver, with all his years of practice, could have said it with greater distinctness, not even Pat who possessed the masculine right to amplify the behest with expletives not supposed to be uttered except in the presence of his own sex.

“She’ll be swearing next,” said Bill Smith, after a short silence.  “I couldn’t stand that,” he went on, taking his coat from a peg in the wall.

Mr. Squires took the lady in hand.

“If you will just be patient for a little while, Mrs. Rank, Bill will go out and find your husband and bring him here at once.  In the meantime, I will see that your hatchet is sharpened up, and put in first-class order for the sacrifice.  Go on, Bill.  Fetch the lady’s husband.”  He winked at the departing Bill.  “We’ve got to humour her,” he said in an aside to Anderson.  “These hard-cider jags are the worst in the world.  The saying is that a quart of hard cider would start a free-for-all fight in heaven.  Excuse me, Mrs. Rank, while I fix your nice new hat for you.  It isn’t on quite straight and it’s such a pretty hat, isn’t it?”

Mrs. Rank squinted at him for a moment in doubtful surprise, and then smiled.

“My hussam tol’ you to shay that,” said she, shaking her finger at him.

“Not at all, not at all!  I’ve always said it, haven’t I, Anderson?  Say yes, you old goat!” (He whispered the last, and the marshal responded nobly.) “Now, while we are waiting for Mr. Rank, perhaps you will tell us just why you want to cut his head off today.  What has the old villain been up to lately?”

She composed herself for the recital.  The two men looked down at her with pity in their eyes.

“He d’sherted me today, abon abonimably d’sherted me.  For’n Missionary S’ciety met safternoon at our house.  All ladies in S’ciety met our house.  Deac’n tol’ me be generous givvem all the r’fressmens they wanted.  He went down shellar an’ got some zat shider he p’up lash Marsh.  He said he wanted to shee whezzer it was any good.”  She paused, her brow wrinkled in thought.  “Lesh see where was I?”

“In the parlour?” supplied Anderson, helpfully.

She shook her head impatiently.  “I mean where was I talkin’ ’bout?  Oh, yesh, ’bout shider.  When Woman For’n Missinary S’ciety come I givvem shider, lots shider.  No harm in shider, An’erson, so don’ look like that.  Deacon shays baby could drink barrel shider an and sho on an’ sho forth.  Well, For’n Missinary S’ciety all havin’ splennid time, singin’ ‘n’ prayin’ ‘n’ sho on ‘n’ sho forth, an’ an’ sho on ‘n’ sho forth.  Then your wife, An’erson, she jumps up ‘n’ shays we gotter have shong-shervice, reg’ler shong shervice.  She ”

My wife?” exclaimed Anderson.  “Was Eva Crow there?”

“Shert’nly.  Never sho happy ‘n’ her life.  Couldn’t b’lieve my eyes ‘n’ ears.  And Sister Jones too, your bosh’s wife, Misser Squires.  Say, d’you ever know she could shing bass?  Well, she can, all right.  She c’n shing bass an’ tenor’n ev’thing else, she can.  She ”

“Where where are they now?” demanded Anderson, with a wild look at Harry.

“Who?  The Woman For’n Missionary S’ciety?”

“Yes.  For heaven’s sake, don’t tell me they’re loose on the street!”

“Not mush!  Promished me they wait till I capshered my hussam, deader ‘live, an’ bring ’im ’ome.  Didden I tell you my hussam desherted me?  He desherted all of us all of For’n Missinary S’ciety.  I gotter bring ’im back, deader ’live.  Wannim to lead in shong shervice.  My hussam’s got loudes’ voice in town.  Leads shingin’ in chursh ‘n’ prayer meetin’ ‘n’ ever ‘where else.  Loudes’ voice in town, thass what he is.  Prays loudes’ of anybody, too.  All ladies waitin’ up my house f’r loudes voice in town to lead ’em in shacred shong.  Muss have somebody with loud voice to lead ’em.  Lass I heard of ’em they was all shingin’ differen’ shongs.  Loudes’ voice lou’st voich lou ”

She slumbered.

The marshal and the editor looked at each other.

“Well, she’s safe for the time being,” said the latter, wiping his wet forehead.

“An’ so’s the deacon,” added Anderson.  “See here, Harry, I got to hustle up to the deacon’s house an’ see what c’n be done with them women.  My lordy!  The town will be disgraced if they get out on the street an’ why, like as not, they’ll start a parade or somethin’.  You stay here an’ watch her, an’ I’ll ”

“No, you don’t, my friend,” broke in Harry gruffly.  “You get her out of this office as quickly as you can.”

“Are you afraid to be left alone with that pore, helpless little woman?” demanded Anderson.  “I’ll take her hatchet away with me, if that’s what you’re afraid of.”

“If you’d been attending to your job as a good, competent official of this benighted town, the poor, helpless little woman wouldn’t be in the condition she’s in now.  You ”

“Hold on there!  What do you mean by that?”

“I mean this, Mr. Shellback Holmes.  A dozen people in this town have been buying up apples and grinding them and making cider of them as fast as they could cask it ever since last January.  Making it right under your nose, and this is the first you’ve seen of it.  There’s enough hard cider in Tinkletown at this minute to pickle an army.  See those bottles over there under Bill’s stool?  Well, old Deacon Rank left ’em there because he was afraid he’d bust ’em when he made his exit through that window.  He told Bill Smith he could keep them, if he would assume his indebtedness to this office, two dollars and a quarter, and he also told Bill that he could guarantee that it was good stuff!  We’ve got visible proof of it here, and we also know how the damned old rascal went about testing the quality of his wares.  He has tried it out on the most highly respected ladies in town, that’s what he’s done, and why?  Because it was the cheapest way to do it.  He didn’t have to waste more than a quart on the whole bunch of ’em.  Sure fire stuff!  And there are barrels of it in this town, Mr. Shellback Holmes, waiting to be converted into song.  Now, the first thing you’ve got to do is to take this unfortunate result of prohibition home and put her to bed.”

Anderson sat down heavily.

“My sakes, Harry, I I why, this is turrible!  My wife drunk, an’ an’ Mrs. Jones, an’ Mrs. Nixon, an’ ”

“Yes, sir,” said Harry heartlessly; “they probably are lit up like the sunny side of the moon, and what’s more, my friend, if they do take it into their poor, beaddled heads to go out and paint the town, there won’t be any stopping ’em.  Hold on!  Didn’t you hear what I said about the case in hand?  You take her home, do you hear?”

“But how am I to get her home?  I I can’t carry her through the streets,” groaned the harassed marshal.

“Hire an automobile, or a delivery-wagon, or what say?”

“I was just sayin’ that maybe I could get Lem Hawkins to loan me his hearse.”

Mr. Squires put his hand over his mouth and looked away.  When he turned back to the unhappy official, his voice was gentler.

“You leave her to me, old fellow.  I’ll take care of her.  She can stay here till after dark and I’ll see that she gets home all right.”

“By gosh, Harry, you’re a real friend.  I I won’t ferget this, no, sir, never!”

“What are you going to do first?”

“I’m goin’ to get my wife out of that den of iniquity and take her home!” said Anderson resolutely.

“Whether she’s willing, or not?”

“Don’t you worry.  I got that all thought out.  If she won’t let me take her home, I’ll let on as if I’m full and then she’ll insist on takin’ me home.”

With that he was gone.

The crowd in front of the Banner office now numbered at least a hundred.  Mr. Crow stopped at the top of the steps and swiftly ran his eye over the excited throng.  He was thinking hard and quite rapidly for him.  All the while the crowd was shouting questions at him, he was deliberately counting noses.  Suddenly he held up his hand.  There was instant, expectant silence.

“All husbands who possess wives in the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society kindly step forward.  Make way there, you people, let ’em through.  This way, Newt, an’ you, Alf, come on, Elmer K., I said ‘wives,’ Mrs. Fry, not husbands.  All husbands please congregate in the alley back of the Banner office an’ wait fer instructions.  Don’t ask questions.  Just do as I tell you.  Hey, you kids!  Run over an’ tell Mort Fryback an’ Ed Higgins an’ Situate M. Jones I want ’em right away, an’ George Brubaker.  Tell him to lock up his store if he has to, but to come at once.  Now, you women keep back!  This is fer men only.”

In due time a troubled, anxious group of men sallied forth from the alley back of the Banner office, and, headed by Anderson Crow, marched resolutely down Sickle Street to Maple and advanced upon the house of Deacon Rank.

The song service was in full blast.  The men stopped at the bottom of the yard and listened with sinking hearts.

“That’s my wife,” said Elmer K. Pratt, the photographer, a bleak look in his eyes.  “She knows that tune by heart.”

“Which tune?” asked Mort Fryback, cocking his ear.

“Why, the one she’s singin’,” said Elmer.  “Now listen, it goes this way.”  He hummed a few bars of ‘The Rosary.’  “Don’t you get it?  There!  Why, you must be deef.  I can’t hear anything else.”

“The only one I can make out is ‘Tipperary.’  Is that the one she’s singin’?”

“Certainly not.  I said it goes this way.  That’s somebody else you hear, Mort.”

“Hear that?” cried Ed Higgins excitedly.  “That’s ’Sweet Alice, Ben Bolt!’ My wife’s favourite.  My Lord, Anderson, what’s to be done?”

“Keep still!” ordered Anderson.  “I’m tryin’ to see if I c’n make out my wife’s singin’!”

“Well, we got to do somethin’,” groaned Newt Spratt, whose wife was organist in the Pond Road Church.  “She’ll bust that piano all to smash if she keeps on like that.”

“Come on, gentlemen,” said Anderson, compressing his lips.  “Remember now, every man selects his own wife.  Every ”

“Wait a minute, Anderson,” pleaded George Brubacker.  “It’ll take more than me to manage my wife if she gets stubborn.”

“It ain’t our fault if you married a woman twice as big as you are,” was the marshal’s stern rejoinder.  “Now, remember the plan.  We’re just droppin’ in to surprise ’em, to sort of join in the service.  Don’t fer the land’s sake, let ’em see we’re uneasy about ’em.  We got to use diplomacy.  Look pleasant, ever’body, look happy.  Now, then, forward march!  Laugh, dern you, Alf!”

Once more they advanced, chatting volubly, and with faces supposed to be wholly free from anxiety.  The merest glance, however, would have penetrated the mask of unconcern.  Every man’s eye belied his lips.

“I make a motion that we tar an’ feather Deacon Rank,” said Newt Spratt, as the foremost neared the porch.

Anderson halted them abruptly.

“I want to warn you men right now, that I’m going to search all the cellars in town tomorrow, so you might as well be prepared to empty all your cider into Smock’s Crick.  You don’t need to say you ain’t got any on hand.  I’ve been investigatin’ for several weeks, an’ I want to tell you right here an’ now that I’ve got every cask an’ every bottle of hard cider in Tinkletown spotted.  I know what’s become of every derned apple that was raised in this township last year.”

Dead silence followed this heroic speech.  Citizens looked at each other, and Situate M. Jones might have been heard to mutter something about “an all-seeing Providence.”

Ed Higgins lamely explained that he had “put up a little for vinegar,” but Anderson merely smiled.

The front door of the house flew open and several of the first ladies of Tinkletown crowded into view.  An invisible choir was singing the Doxology.

“Hello, boys!” called out Mrs. Jones, cheerily.  “Come right in!  Where’s zat nice old deacon?”

“Been waiting for him for nawful long time,” said Mrs. Pratt.  “Couldn’t wait any louder, I mean longer.”

“You had it right the first time,” said her husband.

“Just in time for Doxology,” called out Mrs. Jones.  “Then we’re all going down town to hol’ open-air temp-rance meet-meeting.”

Late that evening, Marshal Crow mounted the steps leading to Dr. Brown’s office and rang the bell.  He rang it five or six times without getting any response.  Then he opened the door and walked in.  The doctor was out.  On a table inside the door lay the slate on which people left word for him to come to their houses as soon as he returned.  The Marshal put on his glasses and took up the pencil to write.  One side of the slate was already filled with hurried scribbling.  He squinted and with difficulty made out that Dr. Brown was wanted immediately at the homes of Situate M. Jones, Abbie Nixon, Newton Spratt, Mort Fryback, Professor Rank, Rev. Maltby and Joseph P. Singer.  He sighed and shook his head sadly.  Then he moistened a finger and erased the second name on the list, that of Mrs. Abbie Nixon.

“Husbands first,” he muttered in justification of his action in substituting the following line: 

“Come at once.  A. Crow, Marshal of Tinkletown.”

Compunction prevailed, however.  He wrote the word “over” at the bottom and, turning the slate over, cleared his conscience by jotting down Mrs. Nixon’s “call” at the top of the reverse side.  Replacing it on the table, he went away.  Virtue was its own reward in this instance at least, for the worthy marshal neglected to put the slate down as he had found it.  Mrs. Nixon’s “call” alone was visible.

He set out to find Harry Squires.  That urbane gentleman was smoking his reportorial corn-cob in the rear of Lamson’s store.  Except for Lamson’s clerk, who had seized the rare opportunity to delve uninterruptedly into the mysteries of the latest “Nick Carter,” the store was empty.  The usual habitues were absent.

“Did you get her home?” inquired Anderson in a low, cautious tone.

“I did,” said Harry.

“See anything of the deacon?”

“No; but Bill Smith did.  Bill saw him down at the crick an hour or so ago, knocking in the heads of three or four barrels.  Do you know what I’ve been thinking, Anderson?  If somebody would only empty a barrel or so of olive oil into Smock’s Crick before morning, we’d have the foundation for the largest supply of French dressing ever created in the history of the world.”

Mr. Crow looked scandalized.  “Good gosh, Harry, ain’t we had enough scandal in this here town today without addin’ anything French to it?”

The only moral to be attached to this story lies in the brief statement that Mrs. Crow’s indisposition, slight in duration though it was, so occupied Mr. Crow’s attention that by the time he was ready to begin his search the second night after the song service, there wasn’t so much as a pint of hard cider to be found in Tinkletown.  This condition was due in a large measure, no doubt, to the fact that Smock’s Creek is an unusually swift little stream.  It might even be called turbulent.