The campaign against liquor selling
in Polktown really had been opened on that Monday
morning when Janice and Frank Bowman conferred together
near the scene of the young engineer’s activities
for the railroad.
The determination of two wide-awake
young people to do something was the beginning
Not only was the time ripe, but popular
feeling was already stirred in the matter. The
thoughtful people of Polktown were becoming dissatisfied
with the experiment. Those who had considered
it of small moment in the beginning were learning
differently. If Polktown was to be “boomed”
through such disgraceful means as the sale of intoxicants
at the only hotel, these people with suddenly awakened
consciences would rather see the town lie fallow for
a while longer.
The gossip regarding Hopewell Drugg’s
supposed fall from sobriety was both untrue and unkind.
That the open bar at Lem Parraday’s was a real
and imminent peril to Polktown, however, was a fact
now undisputed by the better citizens.
Janice had sounded Elder Concannon
on that very Monday when she had brought him home
from the Trimmins place. The old gentleman, although
conservative to a fault where money was concerned his
money, or anybody’s agreed that one
or two men should not be allowed to benefit at the
moral expense of their fellow townsmen.
That the liquor selling was causing
a festering sore in the community of Polktown could
not be gainsaid. Sim Howell and two other boys
in their early teens had somehow obtained liquor,
and had been picked up in a frightful condition on
the public street by Constable Poley Cantor.
The boys were made very ill by the
quantity of liquor they had drunk, and although they
denied that they had bought the stuff at the hotel,
it was soon learned that the supply of spirits the
boys had got hold of, came from Lem Parraday’s
One of the town topers had purchased
the half-gallon bottle and had hid it in a barn, fearing
to take it home. The boys had found it and dared
each other to taste the stuff.
“It’s purty bad stuff
’at Lem sells, I allow,” observed Walky
Dexter. “No wonder it settled them boys.
It’s got a ‘kick’ to it wuss’n
Josephus had that time the swarm of bees lit on him.”
The town was ablaze with the story
of the boys’ escapade on Wednesday afternoon
when Janice came back from Middletown. She stopped
at Hopewell Drugg’s store, which was a rendezvous
for the male gossips of the town, and Walky was holding
forth upon the subject uppermost in the public mind:
“Them consarned lettle skeezicks I’d
ha’ trounced the hull on ’em if they’d
“How would you have felt, Mr.
Dexter, if they really were yours?” asked Janice,
who had been talking to ’Rill and Nelson Haley.
“Suppose Sim Howell were your boy? How
would you feel to know that, at his age, he had been
Walky. “I reckon I wouldn’t git
pigeon-breasted with pride over it nossir!”
“Then don’t make fun,”
admonished the girl, severely. “It is an
awful, awful thing that the boys of Polktown
can even get hold of such stuff to make them so ill.”
“That is right, Miss Janice,”
Hopewell said, busy with a customer. “What
else, Mrs. Massey?”
“That’s all to-day, Hopewell.
I hate to give you so big a bill, but that’s
all I’ve got,” said the druggist’s
wife, as she handed the store-keeper a twenty-dollar
“He, he!” chuckled Walky,
“Guess Massey wants all the change in town in
his own till, heh?”
“That is all right, Mrs. Massey,”
said Hopewell, in his gentle way. “I can
change it. Have to give you a gold piece there.”
“What’s going to be done
about this liquor selling, anyway?” demanded
Nelson Haley, in a much more serious mood, it would
seem, than usual. “I think Janice has the
right of it although I did not think so
at first. ‘Live and let live,’ is
a good motto; but it is foolish to let a mad dog live
in a community. Lem Parraday’s bar is certainly
doing a lot of harm to innocent people.”
Janice clapped her hands softly, and
her eyes shone. The school teacher went on with
“Polktown is really being vastly
injured by the liquor selling. To think of those
boys becoming intoxicated one of them of my school, too
The young man halted suddenly in this
speech. In his earnestness he had forgotten
that it was his school no longer.
“It is a disgraceful state of
affairs,” ’Rill hastened to say, kindly
covering Nelson’s momentary confusion.
But Janice beamed at the young man.
“Oh, Nelson! I am delighted to hear you
speak so. We are going to hold a temperance meeting Mr. Middler and I
have talked it over. And I have obtained Elder Concannons promise to be
one of those on the platform. Polktown must be waked up
“What! Again? Haw! haw! haw! burst out
Walky. Jefers-pelters, Janice Day! Youve abeout give Polktown
insomnia already! I shd say our eyes was purty well opened
“Yours are not, old fellow,”
said Nelson, good-naturedly, but with marked earnestness,
too. “You’re patronizing the barroom
side of the hotel altogether more than is good for
you, and if you don’t know it yourself, Walky,
I feel myself enough your friend to tell you so.”
returned the expressman, reddening a little, yet man
enough to accept personal criticism when he was so
prone to criticizing other people. “What
leetle I drink ain’t never goin’ ter hurt
“Nor anybody else?” asked
Janice, softly, for she liked Walky and was sorry
to see him go wrong. “How about your example,
“Shucks! Don’t talk
ter me abeout ‘example.’ That’s
allus the excuse of the weak-headed. If
my example was goin’ ter hurt the boys, ev’ry
one o’ them would wanter be th’ town expressman!
Haw! haw! haw! I ain’t never seen none
o’ them tumblin’ over each other fer
th’ chance’t ter cut me out on my job.
An’ ’cause I chaw terbaccer, is ev’ry
white-headed kid in town goin’ ter take up chawin’
as a habit?
“Jefers-pelters! I ‘low
if I had a boy o’ m’ own mebbe I’d
be a lettle keerful how I used either licker, or terbaccer.
But I hain’t. I got only one child, an’
she’s a female. I reckon I ain’t
gotter worry about little Matildy bein’ inflooenced
either by her daddy’s chawin’, or his
takin’ a snifter of licker on a cold day I
“Unanswerable logic, Walky,”
said Nelson, with some scorn. “I’ve
used the same myself. And it serves all right
if one is utterly selfish. I thought that
out after Janice, here, opened my eyes.”
“You show me how my takin’
a drink ’casionally hurts anybody or anything
else, an’, jefers-pelters! I’ll stop
it mighty quick!” exclaimed the expressman,
with some heat.
“I shall hold you to that, Walky,”
said Janice, quickly, interfering before there should
be any further sharp discussion.
“And,” muttered Nelson,
“she’s as good as got you, Walky she
At the moment the door opened with
a bang, and Mr. Massey plunged in. He was without
a hat and wore the linen apron he always put on when
he was compounding prescriptions in the back room
of his shop. In his excitement his gray hair
was ruffled up more like a cockatoo’s topknot
than usual, and his eyes seemed fairly to spark.
“Hopewell Drugg!” he exclaimed,
spying the storekeeper. “Was my wife just
Walky Dexter. “Hopewell hasn’t been
sellin’ her Paris green for buckwheat flour,
has he? That would kinder be in your line, wouldn’t
But the druggist paid the town humorist
no attention. He hurried to the counter and
leaned across it, asking his question for a second
“Why, yes, she was here, Mr.
Massey,” said Hopewell, puzzled.
“She changed a bill with you, didn’t she?”
“Jefers-pelters! was it counterfeit?”
put in Walky, drawing nearer.
“A twenty dollar bill yes, sir,”
said the storekeeper.
“Did you give her a gold piece a
ten dollar gold piece in the change?”
shot in Massey, his voice shaking.
“Is this it?” and the
druggist slapped a gold coin down on the counter between
Hopewell picked up the coin, turned
it over in his hand, holding it close to his near-sighted
eyes. Nothing could ever hurry Hopewell Drugg
“Why yes,” he said again.
“I guess so.”
“But look at the date, man!”
shouted Massey. “Don’t you see the
date on it?”
Amazed, Drugg repeated the date aloud,
reading it carefully from the coin. “Why,
yes, that’s the date, sir,” said the storekeeper.
“Don’t ye know that’s
one of the rarest issues of ten dollar coins in existence?
Somethin’ happened to the die: they only
issued a few,” Massey stammered. “Where’d
you git it, Hopewell?”
“Why why Is
it valuable?” asked Hopewell. “A
rare coin, you say?”
“Rare!” shouted Massey.
“Yes, I tell ye! It’s rare.
There ain’t but a few in existence. Mr.
Hobart told me when he brought them coins over here
that night. And he pointed one of them out to
me in that collection. Where did you get this
one, Hopewell where’d you get it,
And on completing the demand he turned
sharply and stared with his blinking, red eyes directly
at Nelson Haley.