CONTENTS CHAPTER I. ANDERSONCROW,DETECTIVE II. THEPURSUITBEGINS III. THECULPRITS IV. ANDERSONRECTIFIESANERROR V. THEBABEONTHEDOORSTEP VI. REFLECTIONANDDEDUCTION VII. THEMYSTERIOUSVISITOR VIII. SOMEYEARSGOBY IX. THEVILLAGEQUEEN X. ROSALIEHASPLANSOFHEROWN XI. ELSIEBANKS XII. THESPELLING-BEE XIII. ATINKLETOWNSENSATION XIV. ACASEOFMISTAKENIDENTITY XV. ROSALIEDISAPPEARS XVI. THEHAUNTEDHOUSE XVII. WICKERBONNER,HARVARD XVIII. THEMENINTHESLEIGH
XIX. WITHTHEKIDNAPERS XX. INTHECAVE XXI. THETRAP-DOOR XXII. JACK,THEGIANTKILLER XXIII. TINKLETOWN'SCONVULSION XXIV. THEFLIGHTOFTHEKIDNAPERS XXV. ASTHEHEARTGROWSOLDER XXVI. THELEFTVENTRICLE XXVII. THEGRINDERISIVE XXVIII. THEBLINDMAN'SEYES
CHAPTERI AndersonCrow,Detective Hewasimposing,eveninhispensiveness.Therewasnodenyingthefactthathe was an important personage in Tinkletown, and to the residents of Tinkletown that meant a great deal, for was not their village a perpetual monument to the AmericanRevolution?Eventhemostgeneralisingofhistorianswerecompelled todevoteatleastaparagraphtothebattleofTinkletown,whilesomeofthemore enlightenedgaveawholepageandapictureoftheconflictthatbroughtgloryto thesleepyinhabitantswhoseancestorswereenterprisingenoughtoannihilatea wholecompanyofBritishredcoats,onceonatime. Notwithstanding all this, a particularly disagreeable visitor from the city once remarked, in the presence of half a dozen descendants (after waiting twenty minutes at the post-office for a dime's worth of stamps), that Tinkletown was indeed a monument, but he could not understand why the dead had been left unburied.Therewasexcellentcauseforresentment,buttheyoungmanandhis stampswerefarawaybeforethefullforceoftheslanderpenetratedthebrainsof thelisteners. AndersonCrowwasasimposingandasruggedasthetallestshaftofmarblein the little cemetery on the edge of the town. No one questioned his power and authority,noonemisjudgedhisaltitude,andnooneoverlookedhisdignity.For twenty-eightyearshehadservedTinkletownandhimselfinthetriplecapacityof town marshal, fire chief and street commissioner. He had a system of government peculiarly his own; and no one possessed the heart or temerity to upsetit,nomatterwhatmayhavebeenthepoliticalinducements.Itwouldhave beenliketryingtoimprovethelawsofnaturetoputanewmaninhisplace.He had become a fixture that only dissolution could remove. Be it said, however, thatdissolutiondidnothaveitscommonandacceptedmeaningwhenappliedto Anderson Crow. For instance, in discoursing upon the obnoxious habits of the town's most dissolute rake—Alf Reesling—Anderson had more than once venturedtheopinionthat"hewascarryinghisdissolutionentirelytoofar." And had not Anderson Crow risen to more than local distinction? Had not his fame gone abroad throughout the land? Not only was he the Marshal of
Tinkletownatasalaryof$200ayear,buthewaspresidentoftheCountyHorsethief Detectives' Association and also a life-long delegate to the State ConventionoftheSonsoftheRevolution.Alongthatline,letitbeadded,every parent in Tinkletown bemoaned the birth of a daughter, because that simple circumstanceoforiginrobbedthesociety'srosterofanewname. AndersonCrow,attheageofforty-nine,hadaproudofficialrecordbehindhim andaguaranteedfutureahead.Doubtlessitwasofthisthathewasthinking,as he leaned pensively against the town hitching-rack and gingerly chewed the bladeofwire-grasswhichdangledevenbelowthechinwhiskersthathadbeen withhimfortwentyyears.Thefarawayexpressioninhiswatery-blueeyesgave evidencethathewasasgreatreminiscentlyashewaspersonally.Sosuccessful hadbeenhiscareerasalawpreserver,thatoflateyearsnoevil-doerhadhadthe courage to ply his nefarious games in the community. The town drunkard, Alf Reesling,seldomappearedonthestreetsinhishabitualcondition,because,ashe dolefully remarked, he would deserve arrest and confinement for "criminal negligence,"iffornothingelse.Themarshal'sfameasadetectivehadlongsince escaped from the narrow confines of Tinkletown. He was well known at the countyseat,andonnolessthanthreeoccasionshadhisnamementionedinthe "bigcity"papersinconnectionwiththearrestofnotorioushorse-thieves. And now the whole town was trembling with a new excitement, due to the recognition accorded her triple official. On Monday morning he had ventured forth from his office in the long-deserted "calaboose," resplendent in a brandnewnickel-platedstar.Bynooneverybodyintownknewthathewasagenuine "detective,"amemberofthegreatorganisationknownastheNewYorkImperial Detective Association; and that fresh honour had come to Tinkletown through the agency of a post-revolution generation. The beauty of it all was that Andersonneverlostashredofhisserenityinexplaininghowtheassociationhad imploredhimtojoinitsforces,evengoingsofarastourgehimtocometoNew York City, where he could assist and advise in all of its large operations. And, moreover, he had been obliged to pay but ten dollars membership fee, besides buyingtheblazingstarforthepaltrysumofthreedollarsandaquarter. Everypasser-byonthisbrightspringmorningofferedarespectful"Howdy"to Anderson Crow, whose only recognition was a slow and imposing nod of the head. Once only was he driven to relinquish his pensive attitude, and that was whenanimpertinentblue-bottleflyundertooktorestforabriefspelluponthe nickel-platedstar.Neverwasblue-bottlemoreenergeticallyputtoflight.
But even as the Tinkletown Pooh-Bah posed in restful supremacy there were rushingdownuponhimaffairsoftheepoch-makingkind.Upintheclear,lazy skyathunderboltwaspreparingtohurlitselfintotheveryheartofTinkletown, andattheveryheadofAndersonCrow. Afterward it was recalled by observing citizens that just before noon—seven minutes to twelve, in fact—a small cloud no bigger than the proverbial hand crossed the sun hurriedly as if afraid to tarry. At that very instant a stranger droveuptothehitching-rack,bringinghissweat-coveredhorsetoastandstillso abruptlyinfrontofthemarshal'snosethatthatdignitary'shatfelloffbackward. "Whoa!"cameclearlyandunmistakablyfromthelipsofthestrangerwhoheld thereins.Halfadozenloafersonthepost-officestepswerepositivethathesaid nothingmore,afactthatwasafterwardworthremembering. "Here!"exclaimedAndersonCrowwrathfully."Doyouknowwhatyou'redoin', consarnyou?" "Ibegpardon,"everybodywithinhearingheardtheyoungmansay."Isthisthe cityofTinkletown?"Hesaid"city,"theycouldswear,everyman'ssonofthem. "Yes,itis,"answeredthemarshalseverely."Whatofit?" "That'sall.Ijustwantedtoknow.Where'sthestore?" "Whichstore?"quitecrossly.Thestrangerseemednonplussedatthis. "Haveyoumorethan—oh,tobesure.Ishouldsay,whereistheneareststore?" apologisedthestranger. "Well, this is a good one, I reckon," said Mr. Crow laconically, indicating the post-officeandgeneralstore. "WillyoubegoodenoughtoholdmyhorsewhileIruninthereforaminute?" calmlyaskedthenewarrivalintown,springinglightlyfromthemud-spattered buggy. Anderson Crow almost staggered beneath this indignity. The crowd gasped,andthenwaitedbreathlesslyforthewitheringprocess. "Why—why, dod-gast you, sir, what do you think I am—a hitchin'-post?" explodedonthelipsofthenewdetective.Hisfacewasflamingred. "You'llhavetoexcuseme,mygoodman,butIthoughtIsawahitching-rackasI drove up. Ah, here it is. How careless of me. But say, I won't be in the store
morethanasecond,anditdoesn'tseemworthwhiletotietheoldcrow-bait.If you'lljustwatchhim—orher—foraminuteI'llbegreatlyobliged,and—" "Watchyourownhorse,"roaredthemarshalthunderously. "Don't get huffy," cried the young man cheerily. "It will be worth a quarter to you." "DoyouknowwhoIam?"demandedAndersonCrow,purpletotherootsofhis goatee. "Yes,sir;Iknowperfectlywell,butIrefusetogiveitaway.Here,takethebit, old chap, and hold Dobbin for about a minute and half," went on the stranger ruthlessly;andbeforeAndersonCrowknewwhathadhappenedhewasactually holdingthepantingnagbythebit.Theyoungmanwentupthestepsthreeata time, almost upsetting Uncle Gideon Luce, who had not been so spry as the othersinclearingthewayforhim.Thecrowdhadampletimeinwhichtostudy theface,apparelandmannerofthisenergeticyoungman. Thathewasfromthecity,good-lookingandwelldressed,therewasnodoubt. He was tall and his face was beardless; that much could be seen at a glance. Somehow, he seemed to be laughing all the time—a fact that was afterward recalledwithsomesurpriseandnolittlehorror.Atthetime,theloungersthought his smile was a merry one, but afterward they stoutly maintained there was downright villainy in the leer. His coat was very dusty, proving that he had drivenfarandswiftly.Threeorfouroftheloungersfollowedhimintothestore. He was standing before the counter over which Mr. Lamson served his sodawater. In one hand he held an envelope and in the other his straw hat. George Ray,moreobservantthantherest,tooknoteofthefactthatitwaswiththehat thathewasfanninghimselfvigorously. "Aplainvanilla—pleaserushitalong,"commandedthestranger.Mr.Lamson,if possible slower than the town itself, actually showed unmistakable signs of acceleration.Tossingoffthesoda,thestrangerdriedhislipswithablue-hemmed whitehandkerchief."Isthisthepost-office?"heasked. "Yep,"saidMr.Lamson,whowastoopenurioustowastewords. "Anythinghereforme?"demandedthenewcomer. "I'llsee,"saidthepostmaster,andfromforceofhabitbeganlookingthroughthe pile of letters without asking the man's name. Mr. Lamson knew everybody in
thecounty. "Nothinghere,"takingoffhisspectaclesconclusively. "I didn't think there was," said the other complacently. "Give me a bottle of witchhazel,apackageofinvisiblehair-pinsandaboxofparlormatches.Quick; I'minahurry!" "Didyousayhat-pins?" "No,sir;Isaidhair-pins." "Wehaven'tanythatain'tvisible.Howwouldsafety-pinsdo?" "Nevermind;givemethebottleandthematches,"saidtheother,glancingata veryhandsomegoldwatch."Istheoldmanstillholdingmyhorse?"hecalledto a citizen near the door. Seven necks stretched simultaneously to accommodate him,andsevenvoicesansweredintheaffirmative.Thestrangercalmlyopened theboxofmatches,filledhissilvermatch-safe,andthenthrewtheboxbackon the counter, an unheard-of piece of profligacy in those parts. "Needn't mind wrappingupthebottle,"hesaid. "Don'tyoucareforthesematches?"askedMr.Lamsoninmildsurprise. "I'lldonatethemtothechurch,"saidtheother,tossingacoinuponthecounter and dashing from the store. The crowd ebbed along behind him. "Gentle as a lamb,isn'the?"hecalled toAndersonCrow,whostillclutchedthebit."Much obliged,sir;I'lldoasmuchforyousomeday.Ifyou'reeverinNewYork,hunt me up and I'll see that you have a good time. What road do I take to Crow's Cliff?" "Turntoyourlefthere,"saidAndersonCrowbeforehethought.Thenhecalled himselfafoolforbeingsoobligingtothefellow. "Howfarisitfromhere?" "Mile and a half," again answered Mr. Crow helplessly. This time he almost sworeunderhisbreath. "Buthecan'tgetthere,"volunteeredoneofthebystanders. "Whycan'the?"demandedthemarshal. "BridgeoverTurnipCreekiswashedout.Didyouforgetthat?"
"Ofcoursenot,"promptlyrepliedMr.Crow,whohadforgottenit;"But,dangit, hec'nswim,can'the?" "Yousaythebridgeisgone?"askedthestranger,visiblyexcited. "Yes,andthecrick'stoohightoford,too." "Well,howinthunderamItogettoCrow'sCliff?" "There's another bridge four miles upstream. It's still there," said George Ray. AndersonCrowhadscornfullywashedhishandsoftheaffair. "Confoundtheluck!Ihaven'ttimetodrivethatfar.Ihavetobethereathalf-past twelve.I'mlatenow!Istherenowaytogetacrossthismiserablecreek?"Hewas inthebuggynow,whipinhand,andhiseyesworeananxiousexpression.Some ofthemenvowedlaterthathepositivelylookedfrightened. "There'safoot-loghighanddry,andyoucanwalkacross,butyoucan'tgetthe horseandbuggyover,"saidoneofthemen. "Well, that's just what I'll have to do. Say, Mr. Officer, suppose you drive me downtothecreekandthenbringthehorsebackheretoaliverystable.I'llpay youwellforit.ImustgettoCrow'sCliffinfifteenminutes." "I'mnoerrant-boy!"criedAndersonCrowsowrathfullythattwoorthreeboys snickered. "You'readarnedoldcrank,that'swhatyouare!"exclaimedthestrangerangrily. Everybodygasped,andMr.Crowstaggeredbackagainstthehitching-rail. "Seehere,youngman,noneo'that!"hesputtered."Youcan'ttalkthatwaytoan officerofthelaw.I'll—" "Youwon'tdoanything,doyouhearthat?ButifyouknewwhoIamyou'dbe doing something blamed quick." A dozen men heard him say it, and they remembereditwordforword. "You go scratch yourself!" retorted Anderson Crow scornfully. That was supposedtobeaterriblechallenge,butthestrangertooknonoticeofit. "What am I to do with this horse and buggy?" he growled, half to himself. "I bought the darned thing outright up in Boggs City, just because the liveryman didn'tknowmeandwouldn'tletmearig.NowIsupposeI'llhavetotaketheold
plugdowntothecreekanddrownhiminordertogetridofhim." Nobodyremonstrated.Helookedabitdangerouswithhisbroadshouldersand squarejaw. "What will you give me for the outfit, horse, buggy, harness and all? I'll sell cheapifsomeonemakesaquickoffer."Thebystanderslookedatoneanother blankly, and at last the concentrated gaze fell upon the Pooh-Bah of the town. Thecaseseemedtobeonethatcalledforhisattention;truly,itdidnotlooklike publicproperty,thisastoundingproposition. "Whatyousodernedanxioustosellfor?"demandedAndersonCrow,listening fromadistancetoseeifhecoulddetectablemishinthehorse'sbreathinggear. Ataglance,thebuggylookedsafeenough. "I'm anxious to sell for cash," replied the stranger; and Anderson was floored. The boy who snickered this time had cause to regret it, for Mr. Crow arrested himhalfanhourlaterforcarryingabean-shooter."Ipaidahundreddollarsfor the outfit in Boggs City," went on the stranger nervously. "Some one make an offer—andquick!I'minarush!" "I'llgivefivedollars!"saidoneoftheonlookerswithanapologeticlaugh.This was the match that started fire in the thrifty noddles of Tinkletown's best citizens.Beforetheyknewittheywerebiddingagainsteachotherwiththetrue "horse-swapping"instinct,andtheoffershadreached$21.25whenthestranger unceremoniouslyclosedthesalebycryingout,"Sold!"Thereisnotellinghow highthebidsmighthavegoneifhecouldhavewaitedhalfanhourorso.Uncle GideonLuceafterwardsaidthathecouldhavehadtwenty-fourdollars"justas well as not." They were bidding up a quarter at a time, and no one seemed willingtodropout.ThesuccessfulbidderwasAndersonCrow. "Youcanpaymeaswedrivealong.Jumpin!"criedthestranger,lookingathis watchwithconsiderableagitation."AllIaskisthatyoudrivemetothefoot-log thatcrossesthecreek."
CHAPTERII ThePursuitBegins FifteenminuteslaterAndersonCrowwasparadingproudlyaboutthetown.He hadtakenthestrangertothecreekandhadseenhimscurryacrossthelogtothe oppositeside,suppliedwithdirectionsthatwouldleadhimtothenearestroute throughtheswampsandtimberlandtoCrow'sCliff.ThestrangerhadAnderson's moneyinhispocket;butAndersonhadaveryrespectablesortofdrivingoutfit toshowforit.Hiswifekeptdinnerforhimuntiltwoo'clock,andthensentthe youngest Crow out to tell her father that he'd have to go hungry until suppertime. ItisnowonderthatAndersonfailedtoreachhomeintimeforthemiddaymeal. He started home properly enough, but what progress could he make when everybodyintownstoppedhimtoinquireabouttheremarkabledealandtohave a look at the purchase. Without a single dissenting voice, Tinkletown said Andersonhadverymuchthe"bestofthebargain."GeorgeRaymeantallright when he said, "A fool for luck," but he was obliged to explain thoroughly the witticismbeforetheproudMr.Crowcouldconsiderhimselfappeased. ItwasnotuntilhepulledupinfrontoftheWeeklyBannerestablishmenttotell the reporter "the news" that his equanimity received its first jar. He was quite proudofthedeal,and,moreover,heenjoyedseeinghisnameinthepaper.Inthe meantimealmosteverybodyinTinkletownwasdiscussingtheawfulprofligacy of the stranger. It had not occurred to anybody to wonder why he had been in suchahurrytoreachCrow'sCliff,awild,desolatespotdowntheriver. "Thehossaloneisworthfiftydollarseasy,"volunteeredMr.Crowtriumphantly. Thedetective'sbadgeonhisinflatedchestseemedtosparklewithglee. "Say, Anderson, isn't it a little queer that he should sell out so cheap?" asked HarrySquires,thelocalreporterandpressfeeder. "What'sthat?"demandedAndersonCrowsharply. "Doyouthinkit'sreallytruethatheboughtthenagupatBoggsCity?"askedthe sceptic.Mr.Crowwallowedhisquidoftobaccohelplesslyforaminuteortwo.
Hecouldfeelhimselfturningpale. "Hesaidso;ain'tthatenough?"hemanagedtobluster. "Itseemstohavebeen,"repliedHarry,whohadgonetonightschoolinAlbany fortwoyears. "Well,whatinthunderareyoutalkingaboutthen?"exclaimedAndersonCrow, whippingup. "I'llbetthreedollarsit'sastolenoutfit!" "YougotoHalifax!"shoutedAnderson,buthisheartwascold.Somethingtold himthatHarrySquireswasright.Hedrovehomeinastateofdireuncertainty anddistress.Somehow,hisenthusiasmwasgone. "Dangit!"hesaid,withoutreason,ashewasunhitchingthehorseinthebarnlot. "Hey, Mr. Crow!" cried ashrillvoicefromthestreet.Helookedup andsawa smallboycomingontherun. "What'sup,Toby?"askedMr.Crow,alla-tremble.Heknew! "They just got a telephone from Boggs City," panted the boy, "down to the Banner office. Harry Squires says for you to hurry down—buggy and all. It's beenstole." "Good Lord!" gasped Anderson. His badge danced before his eyes and then seemedtoshrivel. QuiteacrowdhadcollectedattheBanneroffice.Therewasasuddenhushwhen themarshaldroveup.Eventhehorsefelttheintensityofthemoment.Heshied atadogandthenkickedoverthedashboard,upsettingAndersonCrow'smeagre dignityandalmostdoingthesametothevehicle. "You're a fine detective!" jeered Harry Squires; and poor old Anderson hated himeverafterward. "Whathaveyouheerd?"demandedthemarshal. "There'sbeenaterriblemurderatBoggsCity,that'sall.Thechiefofpolicejust telephoned to us that a farmer named Grover was found dead in a ditch just outsideoftown—shotthrough the head,hispockets rifled. Itisknownthathe started to town to deposit four hundred dollars hog-money in the bank. The
moneyismissing,andsoarehishorseandbuggy.Ayoungfellowwasseenin the neighbourhood early this morning—a stranger. The chief's description corresponds with the man who sold that rig to you. The murderer is known to havedriveninthisdirection.Peoplesawhimgoingalmostatagallop." It is not necessary to say that Tinkletown thoroughly turned inside out with excitement. The whole population was soon at the post-office, and everybody wastryingtosupplyAndersonCrowwithwits.Hehadlosthisown. "We'vegottocatchthatfellow,"finallyresolvedthemarshal.Therewasadead silence. "He'sgotapistol,"venturedsomeone. "Howdoyouknow?"demandedMr.Crowkeenly."Didy'seeit?" "Hecouldn'tha'killedthatfeller'thoutagun." "That's afact," agreedAndersonCrow."Well,we'vegot togethim,anyhow.I callforvolunteers!Whowilljoinmeinthesearch?"criedthemarshalbravely. "IhatetogotoCrow'sCliffafterhim,"saidGeorgeRay."It'salonesomeplace, andasdarkasnight'mongthemtreesandrocks." "It'sourdutytocatchhim.He'sacriminal,andbesides,he'skilledaman,"said Crowseverely. "And he has twenty-one dollars of your money," added Harry Squires. "I'll go withyou,Anderson.I'vegotarevolver." "Lookoutthere!"roaredAndersonCrow."Theblamedthingmightgooff!"he addedasthereporterdrewashinysix-shooterfromhispocket. The example set by one brave man had its influence on the crowd. A score or more volunteered, despite the objections of their wives, and it was not long beforeAndersonCrowwasleadinghismotleybandofsleuthsdownthelaneto thefoot-logoverwhichthedesperadohadgoneanhourbefore. It was at the beginning of the man-hunt that various citizens recalled certain actions and certain characteristics of the stranger which had made them suspicious from the start. His prodigal disposition of the box of matches impressed most of them as reckless dare-devilism; his haste, anxiety, and a single instance of mild profanity told others of his viciousness. One man was
sure he had seen the stranger's watch chain in farmer Grover's possession; and another saw something black on his thumb, which he now remembered was a powderstain. "Inoticedallthemthings,"averredAndersonCrow,supremeoncemore. "Butwhatinthunderdidhewantwiththosehair-pins?"inquiredGeorgeRay. "Nevermind,"saidAndersonmysteriously."You'llfindoutsoonenough." "DoyouknowAnderson?"someoneasked. "OfcourseIdo,"respondedthemarshalloftily. "Well,whatweretheyfor,then?" "I'mnotgivin'anyclewsaway.YoujustwaitawhileandseeifI'mnotright." And they were satisfied that the detective knew all about it. After crossing the foot-logthepartywasdividedastowhichdirectionitshouldtake.Themarshal saidthemanhadruntothesoutheast,butforsomeinexplicablereasonquitea numberofthepursuerswantedtohuntforhiminthenorthwest.Finallyitwas decidedtoseparateintopossesoften,alltoconvergeatCrow'sCliffassoonas possible. There were enough double-barrelled shotguns in the party to have conqueredapiratecrew. At the end of an hour Anderson Crow and his delegation came to the narrow pathwhichledtothesummitofCrow'sCliff.Theywereverybravebythistime. Asmallboywastellingthemhehadseenthefugitiveaboutdinner-time"right whereyoufellersarestandin'now." "Didhehaveanybloodonhim?"demandedAndersonCrow. "No,sir;not'lessitwasunderhisclothes." "Didhesayanythin'toyou?" "Heastmewherethispathwentto." "Seethat,gentlemen!"criedAnderson."IknewIwasright.Hewanted—" "Well,wheredidhego?"demandedHarrySquires. "I said it went to the top of the clift. An' then he said, 'How do you git to the
river?'Itolehimtogodownthissidepathherean''roundthebottomofthehill." "Didn'thegoupthecliff?"demandedthemarshal. "No,sir." "Well,whatinthunderdidheaskmewherethecliffwasifhe—" "So he went to the river, eh?" interrupted Squires. "Come on, men; he went downthroughthisbrushandbottomland." "Hegotlost,Iguess,"volunteeredtheboy. "What!" "'Cause he yelled at me after he'd gone in a-ways an' ast—an' ast—" The boy pausedirresolutely. "Askedwhat?" "Heastmewhereinh——thepathwas." "Byginger,that'shim,rightoutan'out!"exclaimedMr.Crowexcitedly. "'Nenhesaidhe'dgivemeaquarterifI'dshowhimtheway;soI—" "Didhegiveyouthequarter?"questionedoneofthemen. "Yep. He'd a roll of bills as big as my leg." Everybody gasped and thought of Grover'shog-money. "Youwenttotheriverwithhim?"interrogatedthereporter. "Iwentasfurastheclearin',an'thenhetolemetostop.Hesaidhecouldfind thewayfromthere.Afterthatherunupthebankasifsomeonewasafterhim. Therewasaboatwaitin'ferhimundertheclift." "Didhegetintoit?"criedSquires. "He tole me not to look or he'd break my neck," said the boy. The posse nervouslyfingereditsarsenal. "Butyoudidlook?" "Yep.Iseen'emplain."
"Them?Wastheremorethanone?" "Therewasawomanintheskift." "Youdon'tsayso!"gaspedSquires. "Dangit,ain'thetellin'you!"Andersonejaculatedscornfully. Theboywashurriedoffattheheadoftheposse,whichbythistimehadbeen reinforced. He led the way through the dismal thickets, telling his story as he went. "She was mighty purty, too," he said. "The feller waved his hat when he seen her,an'shewavedback.Herundownan'jumpedintheboat,an''nen—'nen—" "Thenwhat?"explodedAndersonCrow. "Hekissedher!" "Thed——murderer!"roaredCrow. "Hegrabbeduptheoarsandrowed'crossan'downstream.An'heshuckhisfist atmewhenheseeI'dbeenwatchin',"saidtheyoungster,readytowhimpernow thatherealisedwhatadesperatecharacterhehadbeendealingwith. "Wheredidhelandontheotherside?"pursuedtheeagerreporter. "Down by them willer trees, 'bout half a mile down. There's the skift tied to a saplin'.Cain'tyouseeit?" Sureenough,the sternofasmallboatstuckoutintothedeep,broadriver,the bowbeinghiddenbythebushes. "Both of 'em hurried up the hill over yender, an' that's the last I seen of 'em," concludedthelad. AndersonCrowandhisman-huntersstaredhelplesslyatthebroad,swiftriver, andthenlookedateachotherindespair.Therewasnoboatinsightexceptthe murderer's,andtherewasnobridgewithintenmiles. Whiletheyweregrowlingabelateddetachmentofhunterscameuptotheriver bankgreatlyagitated. "A telephone message has just come to town sayin' there would be a thousand
dollars reward," announced one of the late arrivals; and instantly there was an imperativedemandforboats. "There'sanoldraftupstreama-ways,"saidtheboy,"butIdon'tknowhowmany itwillkerry.TheyuseittopolecornoverfromMr.Knoblock'sfarmtothembig summerplacesinthehillsupyender." "Isitsound?"demandedAndersonCrow. "Mustbeortheywouldn'tuseit,"saidSquiressarcastically."Whereisit,kid?" Theboyledthewayuptheriverbank,thewholecompanytrailingbehind. "Sh! Not too loud," cautioned Anderson Crow. Fifteen minutes later a wobbly craft put out to sea, manned by a picked crew of determined citizens of Tinkletown.Whentheywereinmidstreamaloudcrycamefromthebankthey hadleftbehind.Lookingback,AndersonCrowsawexcitedmendashingabout, mostofthempointingexcitedlyupintothehillsacrosstheriver.Afteradiligent searchtheeyesofthemenontheraftsawwhatitwasthathadcreatedsuchastir atthebaseofCrow'sCliff. "Thereheis!"criedAndersonCrowinawedtones.Therewasnomistakingthe identityofthecoatlessmanonthehillside.Adozenmenrecognisedhimasthe mantheywereafter.Puttinghishandstohismouth,AndersonCrowbellowedin tonesthatsavouredmoreoffrightthancommand: "Say!" Therewasnoresponse. "Willyousurrenderpeaceably?"calledthecaptainofthecraft. Therewasamomentofindecisiononthepartofthefugitive.Helookedathis companion,andsheshookherhead—theyallsawherdoit. Thenheshoutedbackhisreply.
CHAPTERIII TheCulprits "Shipahoy!"shoutedthecoatlessstrangerbetweenhispalms. "Surrenderorwe'llfillyoufulloflead!"calledAndersonCrow. "Who are you—pirates?" responded the fugitive with a laugh that chilled the marrowofthemenontheraft. "I'llshowyouwhoweare!"bellowedAndersonCrow."Sendherashore,boys, fast.Thedernedscampsha'n'tescapeus.Deaderalive,wemusthavehim." Astheypoledtowardthebankthewomangraspedthemanbythearm,dragging himbackamongthetrees.Itwasobservedbyallthatshewasgreatlyterrified. Moreover,shewasexceedinglyfairtolookupon—young,beautiful,andamost incongruouscompanionforthebloodyrascalwhohadherinhispower.Theraft bumpedagainstthereedybank,andAndersonCrowwasthefirstmanashore. "Comeon,boys;followme!Seethatyourgunsareallright!Straightupthehill now, an' spread out a bit so's we can surround him!" commanded he in a high treble. "'Butsupposin'hesurroundsus,"pantedacautiouspursuer,halfwayupthehill. "That's what we've got to guard against," retorted Anderson Crow. The posse bravelysweptuptoandacrossthegreensward;butthefoxwasgone:Therewas no sight or sound of him to be had. It is but just to say that fatigue was responsible for the deep breath that came from each member of the pursuing party. "Into the woods after him!" shouted Anderson Crow. "Hunt him down like a rat!" Inthemeantimeacoatlessyoungmanandamostenticingyoungwomanwere scamperingoffamongtheoaksandunderbrush,consumedbyexcitementandno smalldegreeofapprehension.
"They really seem to be in earnest about it, Jack," urged the young woman insistently,tooffsethissomewhatsarcasticcomments. "Howthedickensdoyousupposetheygotontome?"hegroaned."Ithoughtthe trackswerebeautifullycovered.Noonesuspected,I'msure." "Itoldyou,dear,howitwouldturnout,"shecriedinapanic-strickenvoice. "Good heavens, Marjory, don't turn against me! It all seemed so easy and so sure,dear.Therewasn'tabreathofsuspicion.Whatarewetodo?I'llstopand fightthewholebunchifyou'lljustletgomyarm." "No, you won't, Jack Barnes!" she exclaimed resolutely, her pretty blue eyes widewithalarm."Didn'tyouhearthemsaythey'dfillyoufulloflead?Theyhad gunsandeverything.Oh,dear!oh,dear!isn'tithorrid?" "The worst of it is they've cut us off from the river," he said miserably. "If I could have reached the boat ahead of them they never could have caught us. I coulddistancethatoldraftinamile." "I know you could, dear," she cried, looking with frantic admiration upon his broadshouldersandbrawnybarearms."Butitisoutofthequestionnow." "Nevermind,sweetheart;don'tletitfussyouso.Itwillturnoutallright,Iknow itwill." "Oh,Ican'trunanyfarther,"shegaspeddespairingly. "Poorlittlechap!Letmecarryyou?" "Youbigninny!" "We are at least three miles from your house, dear, and surrounded by deadly perils.Canyouclimbatree?" "Ican—butIwon't!"sherefusedflatly,hercheeksveryred. "ThenIfancywe'llhavetokeeponinthismanner.It'saconfoundedshame—the wholebusiness.JustasIthoughteverythingwasgoingsosmoothly,too.Itwas allarrangedtoaqueen'staste—nothingwasleftundone.Brackenwastomeetus athisuncle'sboathousedownthere,and—goodheavens,therewasashot!" The sharp crack of a rifle broke upon the still, balmy air, as they say in the "yellow-backs,"andthefugitiveslookedateachotherwithsuddenlyawakened
dread. "Thefools!"gratedtheman. "Whatdotheymean?"criedthebreathlessgirl,verywhiteintheface. "Theyaretryingtofrightenus,that'sall.Hangit!IfIonlyknewthelayofthe land.I'mcompletelylost,Marjory.Doyouknowpreciselywhereweare?" "Ourhomeisofftothenorthaboutthreemiles.WearealmostoppositeCrow's Cliff—thewildestpartofthecountry.Therearenohousesalongthispartofthe river.Allofthesummerhousesarefartheruporontheotherside.Itistoohilly here. There is a railroad off there about six miles. There isn't a boathouse or fisherman'shutnearerthantwomiles.Mr.Brackenkeepshisboatatthepoint— twomilessouth,atleast." "Yes;that'swhereweweretohavegone—byboat.Hangitall!Whydidweever leavetheboat?YoucanneverscramblethroughallthisbrushtoBracken'splace; it'sallIcando.Lookatmyarms!Theyarescratchedto—" "Oh,dear!It'sdreadful,Jack.Youpoorfellow,letme—" "Wehaven'ttime,dearest.Bythunder,Iwouldn'thavethoseRubesheadusoff nowforthewholecounty.Thejays!Howcouldtheyhavefoundusout?" "Someonemusthavetold." "ButnooneknewexcepttheBrackens,youandI.""I'llwagermyheadBracken issayinghardthingsforfairdowntheriverthere." "He—he—doesn'tswear,Jack,"shepanted.
"'Safeforaminuteortwoatleast,'hewhispered" "Why, you are ready to drop! Can't you go a step farther? Let's stop here and face'em.I'llbluff'emoutandwe'llgettoBracken'ssomeway.ButIwon'tgive upthegame!Notforamillion!" "Then we can't stop. You forget I go in for gymnasium work. I'm as strong as anything,onlyI'm—I'mabitnervous.Oh,Iknewsomethingwouldgowrong!" shewailed.Theywerenowstandingliketrappeddeerinalittlethicket,listening