There was a crash of wheels and a great commotion. Several women screamed, and a number of men rushed into the ring. When Sandy got there, the greater crowd was not around the sorrel’s driver, who lay in a heap against the railing with a broken leg and a bruised head; it was around Ricks Wilson in angry protest and indignation.
The most vehement of them all was Judge Hollis,—the big, easy-going judge,—whose passion, once roused, was a thing to be reckoned with.
“It was a dastardly piece of cowardice,” he cried. “You all saw what he did! Call the sheriff, there! I intend to prosecute him to the full extent of the law.”
Ricks, with snapping eyes and snarling mouth, glanced anxiously around at the angry faces. He was looking for Carter Nelson, but Carter had discreetly departed. It was Sandy whom he spied, and instantly called: “Kilday, you’ll see me through this mess? You know it wasn’t none of my fault.”
Sandy pushed his way to the judge’s side. He had never hated the sight of Ricks so much as at that moment.
“It’s Ricks Wilson,” he whispered to the judge—“the boy I used to peddle with. Don’t be sending him to jail, sir. I’ll—I’ll go his bail if you’ll be letting him go.”
“Indeed you won’t!” thundered the judge. “You to take money you’ve saved for your education to help this scoundrel, this rascal, this half murderer!”
The crowd shouted its approval as it opened for the sheriff. Ricks was not the kind to make it easy for his captors, and a lively skirmish ensued.
As he was led away he turned to the crowd back of him and shook his fist in the judge’s face.
“You done this,” he cried. “I’ll git even with you, if I go to hell fer it!”
The judge laughed contemptuously, but Sandy watched Ricks depart with troubled eyes. He knew that he meant what he said.
A COUNCIL OF WAR
While the frivolous-minded of Clayton were bent upon the festivities of fair week, it must not be imagined that the grave and thoughtful contingent, which acts as ballast in every community, was idle.
Mr. Moseley was a self-constituted leader in a crusade against dancing. At his earnest suggestion, every minister in town agreed to preach upon the subject at prayer-meeting the Wednesday evening of the hop.
They held a preliminary meeting before services in the study of the Hard-Shell Baptist Church. Mr. Moseley occupied the chair, a Jove of righteousness dispensing thunderbolts of indignation to his satellites. A fringe of scant hair retreated respectfully from the unadorned dome which crowned his personal edifice. His manner was most serious and his every utterance freighted with importance.
Beside him sat his rival in municipal authority, the Methodist preacher. He had a short upper lip and a square lower jaw, and a way of glaring out of his convex glasses that gave a comical imitation of a bullfrog in debate. This was the first occasion in the history of the town when he and Mr. Moseley had met in friendly concord. For the last few days the united war upon a common enemy had knitted their souls in a bond of brotherly affection.