“I am ashamed to confess it, Mary, but—”
“It’s no matter, Edward, I was thinking the same question myself.”
“I hope so. State it.”
“You were thinking, if a body could only guess out what the remark was that Goodson made to the stranger.”
“It’s perfectly true. I feel guilty and ashamed. And you?”
“I’m past it. Let us make a pallet here; we’ve got to stand watch till the bank vault opens in the morning and admits the sack. . . Oh dear, oh dear—if we hadn’t made the mistake!”
The pallet was made, and Mary said:
“The open sesame—what could it have been? I do wonder what that remark could have been. But come; we will get to bed now.”
By this time the Coxes too had completed their spat and their reconciliation, and were turning in—to think, to think, and toss, and fret, and worry over what the remark could possibly have been which Goodson made to the stranded derelict; that golden remark; that remark worth forty thousand dollars, cash.
The reason that the village telegraph-office was open later than usual that night was this: The foreman of Cox’s paper was the local representative of the Associated Press. One might say its honorary representative, for it wasn’t four times a year that he could furnish thirty words that would be accepted. But this time it was different. His despatch stating what he had caught got an instant answer:
“Send the whole thing—all the details—twelve hundred words.”
A colossal order! The foreman filled the bill; and he was the proudest man in the State. By breakfast-time the next morning the name of Hadleyburg the Incorruptible was on every lip in America, from Montreal to the Gulf, from the glaciers of Alaska to the orange-groves of Florida; and millions and millions of people were discussing the stranger and his money-sack, and wondering if the right man would be found, and hoping some more news about the matter would come soon—right away.
Hadleyburg village woke up world-celebrated—astonished—happy—vain. Vain beyond imagination. Its nineteen principal citizens and their wives went about shaking hands with each other, and beaming, and smiling, and congratulating, and saying this thing adds a new word to the dictionary—Hadleyburg, synonym for incorruptible—destined to live in dictionaries for ever! And the minor and unimportant citizens and their wives went around acting in much the same way. Everybody ran to the bank to see the gold-sack; and before noon grieved and envious crowds began to flock in from Brixton and all neighbouring towns; and that afternoon and next day reporters began to arrive from everywhere to verify the sack and its history and write the whole thing up anew, and make