I didn’t stop to reply, but grabbing my coat rushed away to formulate some plan to get Bunch out of hock.
JOHN HENRY’S COUNTRY COP.
Ahead of me, plodding along the pike under the moonlight, were Bunch and his cadaverous captor, the former bowed in sorrow or anger, probably both, and the latter with head erect, haughty as a Roman conqueror.
Bunch’s make-up was a troubled dream. Over a pair of hand-me-down trousers, eight sizes too large for him, he wore a three-dollar ulster. On his head was an automobile cap, and his face was covered with a bunch of eelgrass three feet deep. He was surely all the money.
As I drew near I could hear Mr. Diggs expatiating on crime in general and housebreaking in particular, and I fancied I could also hear Bunch boiling and seething within.
[Illustration: Aunt Martha—a Short, Stout Bundle of Good Nature.]
“Mr. Buggular,” Diggs was saying, “I don’t know just what your home trainin’ was as a child, but they’s a screw loose somewhere or you’d a’never been brought to this here harrowful perdickyment, nohow. I s’pose you jest started in nat’rally to be a heenyus maleyfactor early in life, huh? You needn’t to answer if you’re afeared it’ll incrimigate you, but I s’pose you took to it when a boy, pickin’ pockets or suthin’ like that, huh?”
“Oh, cut it out, you old goat, and don’t bother me!” snapped Bunch, just as I joined them.
“A dangerous maleyfactor,” said Diggs to me, as he tightened his grip on Bunch’s arm; “but they ain’t no call for you to assist the course of justice, because if the dern critter starts to run I’ll pump him chuck full of lead. He’s been a’tellin’ me he started on the downward path to predition as a child-stealer.”
“I told you nothing, you old tadpole,” shrieked Bunch, unable to contain himself longer.
“Very well,” said Harmony, soothingly, “they ain’t no call for you to say nothin’ more that’ll incrimigate you before the bar of Justice. Steady, now, or I’ll tap you with this here cane!”
“Brace up, good old sport; I’ll get you out of this in a jiffy,” I whispered to Bunch at the first opportunity, and he gave me a cold-storage look that chased the chills all over me.
Presently we arrived at the little brick structure which Jiggersville proudly called its calaboose, and after much fumbling of keys, Mr. Diggs opened the jackpot and we all stayed.
The yap policeman was for taking Bunch right back to the donjon cell in the rear, but with a $5 bill I secured a stay of proceedings.
My forehead was damp with perspiration so I took off my hat and laid it on the bench in the little court room where Bunch sat moodily and with bowed head.
Then I coaxed the rural Vidocq over in the corner and gave him a game of talk that I thought would warm his heart, but he listened in dumbness and couldn’t see “no sense in believing the maleyfactor was anythin’ more’n a derned cuss, nohow!”