[Illustration: Uncle Peter—the Original Trust Tamer.]
“Give me the count,” I sighed; ’I’m down and out.”
“Have you no plan at all?” inquired Bunch.
“Plan, nothing,” I said; “every time I try to think of a plan my brain gets bashful and hides. There’s nothing in my noddle now but a headache.”
“Well,” said Bunch, “I’ll throw a wire at my sister and tell her not to move out to Jiggersville until day after to-morrow. In the mean time we’ll have to get a crowbar and pry your family circle loose from my premises. Nothing doing in the ghost business, eh?”
“Nothing,” I answered, mournfully; “I couldn’t coax a shiver.”
“A fire wouldn’t do, would it?” Bunch suggested, thoughtfully.
“It wouldn’t do for you, unless you are aces with the insurance Indians,” I answered.
“We-o-o-u-w!” yelled Bunch, “I have it—burglars!”
“Burglars!” I repeated, mechanically.
“Sure! it’s a pipe!” Bunch went on with enthusiasm. “You will play Spike Hennessy and I’ll be Gumshoe Charlie. We’ll disguise ourselves with whiskers and break into the house about 2 o’clock in the morning. We’ll arouse the sleeping inmates, shoot our bullet-holders in the ceiling once or twice and hand them enough excitement to make them gallop back to town on the first train. Do you follow me, eh, what?”
“Not me, Bunch,” I shook my head sadly. “Nix on the burgle for yours truly. I must take the next train back to the woods. Otherwise wee wifey may suspect something and begin to pass me out the zero language. But I like the burglar idea. Couldn’t you do it as a monologue?”
“What! all by my lonesome?” cried Bunch. “Say! John, doesn’t that sound like making me work a trifle too hard to get my own goods back ?”
I sighed and looked as helpless as a nut under the hammer.
Bunch laughed again. “Oh, very well,” he said, “I see I’m the only life-saver on duty so I’ll do a single specialty and pull you out of the pickle bottle.”
I grasped my rescuer’s hand and shook it warmly in silence.
“Leave a front window open,” Bunch directed, “and somewhere around two o’clock I’ll squeeze through.”
“I’ll have it worked up good and proper,” I said, eagerly. “I’ll throw out dark hints all the evening and have the bunch ready to quiver when the crash comes. As soon as I hear your signal I’ll rush bravely down stairs and you shoot the ceiling. I’ll give you a struggle and chase you outside. Then I’ll run you down behind the barn. There, free from observation, you can shoot a couple of holes in my coat so that I can produce evidence of a fierce fight, and then you to the tall timber. I’ll crawl breathlessly back to my palpitating household, and, displaying my wounded coat, declare everything off. I’ll refuse to live any longer in a house where murder and sudden death occupy the spare room. It looks to me like a cinchalorum, Bunch, a regular cinchalorum!”