I felt sure he’d be tickled to a stand-still—not!
John Henrys happy home.
Early the next morning I broke camp and took the trail to town, determined never to come back alive unless Bunch agreed to sell the plantation to Uncle Peter.
The old gentleman had crowded his check for $20,000 into my trembling hands the night before with instructions to deposit it in my bank, and at my convenience I was to let him have the deed to the place.
Well, if Bunch should refuse to play ball I could send the check back to Uncle Peter, and a telegram to Clara J., telling her that I was back in the flat, laid up with a spavined fetlock or something.
Uncle Peter was out in the garden planting puree of split peas or some other spring vegetable when I started for the train, so all the Recording Angel had to put down against me was the new batch of Ochiltrees I told Clara J.
I soon located Bunch, and to my surprise found him more inclined to josh than to jolt.
[Illustration: Bunch Jefferson—All to the Good and Two to Carry.]
“Ah! my friend from the bush!” he exclaimed; “are you in town to buy imitation coal, or is it to get a derrick and hoist your home affairs away from my property? Why don’t you take a tumble, John, and let go?”
“Bunch,” I said, “believe me, this is the crudest game of freeze-out I ever sat in. My throat is sore from singing, ’Father, dear father, come home with me now!’ and every move I make nets me a new ornamentation on my neck. Why didn’t I tell the good wife that the ponies put the crimp in my pocketbook instead of crawling into this chasm of prevarication and trouble?”
“You can search me!” Bunch answered, thoughtfully.
“And that phony wire you sent me yesterday almost gave me a plexus,” I said bitterly. “Why did you frame up one of those when-we-were-twenty-one dispatches from the front? It sounded like a love song from Willie Hayface of Cohoes, after his first day on Broadway. Didn’t you know that my wife was liable to open that queer fellow and put me on the toasting fork?”
Bunch blinked his eyes solemnly, but when I told him all about the trouble his telegram had caused he simply rose up on his hind legs and laughed me to a sit down.
“Well,” he gasped after a long fit of cackling; “sister did intend going out to Jiggersville and the only way I could stop her was to suddenly discover that her health wasn’t any too good, so I chased her off to Virginia Hot Springs for a couple of weeks.”
After all, Bunch had his redeeming qualities.
“I sent you that wire before I took sister’s temperature,” Bunch explained, “and I quite forgot to send another which would put a copper on the queens.”
Once more he laughed uproariously and chortled between the outbursts, “Now—ha, ha, ha!—I’m even for—ha, ha, ha!—for that shoot the chute I did in your—ha, ha, ha—in your cellar—oh! ha, ha, ha, ha!”