Scattergood was thoughtful. “Yes,” he said, “Abner would have laughed. That was like Abner.... Now I calc’late you and Mis’ Briggs better fix up and drive to town with me.... Don’t be afeard. Right’ll be done, and there hain’t no more sufferin’ fallin’ to your share, ... You been doin’ God’s rough work, Jed, and I don’t calc’late he figgers to have you punished f’r it....”
Next morning at ten by the clock the coroner with his jury held inquest over the body of Asa Levens, and over that body Jed Briggs and Lindy, his wife, told their story under oath to ears that credited the truth of their words because they knew the man of whom those words were spoken. The jury deliberated briefly. Its verdict was in these words:
“We find that Asa Levens came to his death by act of God, and that there are found no reasons for further investigation into this matter.”
And so it stands in the imperishable records of the township; legal authority recognized the right of Deity to utilize a human being for his rougher sort of work.
“I knew it was something like this,” Mary Ware said, clinging openly and unashamed to Abner Levens. “It’s why he couldn’t defend himself.”
Abner nodded. “My flesh and blood was guilty. Could I free myself by accusin’ the husband of this woman?... I calc’lated God meant to destroy us Levenses, root and branch.... It was his business, not mine.”
“I’ve took note,” said Scattergood, “that them that was most strict about mindin’ their own business was gen’ally most diligent about doin’ God’s—all unbeknownst to themselves.”
HE INVESTS IN SALVATION
From Scattergood Baines’s seat on the piazza of his hardware store he could look across the river and through a side window of the bank. Scattergood was availing himself of this privilege. As a member of the finance committee of the bank Scattergood was naturally interested in that enterprise, so important to the thrifty community, but his interest at the moment was not exactly official. He was regarding, speculatively, the back of young Ovid Nixon, the assistant cashier.
His concern for young Ovid was sartorial. It is true that a shiny alpaca office coat covered the excellent shoulders of the boy, but below that alpaca and under Scattergood’s line of vision were trousers—and carefully stretched over a hanger on a closet hook was a coat! There was also a waistcoat, recognized only by the name of vest in Coldriver, and that very morning Scattergood had seen the three, to say nothing of a certain shirt and a necktie of sorts, making brave young Ovid’s figure.
Ovid passed Scattergood’s store on the way to his work. Baines had regarded him with interest.
“Mornin’, Ovid” he said.
“Morning, Mr. Baines.”
“Calc’late to be wearin’ some new clothes, Ovid? Eh?”