“First rate, thanks; how’s yourself? Readin’ the reward notice? Lemme tell you something. There’s goin’ to be somethin’ happen tarnation soon that will astonish them fellers ef—” but here Anderson pulled up with a jerk, realising that he was on the point of betraying a great secret. Afraid to trust himself in continued conversation, he abruptly said: “Good afternoon,” and started off down the street, his ears tingling.
“Queer old chap, isn’t he?” observed Jackie, and immediately forgot him as they strolled onward.
That evening Tinkletown swarmed with strangers. The weather was fine, and scores of the summer dwellers in the hills across the river came over to see the performance, as the advance agent had predicted. Bluff Top Hotel sent a large delegation of people seeking the variety of life. There were automobiles, traps, victorias, hay-racks, and “sundowns” standing all along the street in the vicinity of Hapgood’s Grove. It was to be, in the expansive language of the press agent, “a cultured audience made up of the elite of the community.”
Late in the afternoon, a paralysing thought struck in upon the marshal’s brain. It occurred to him that this band of robbers might also be engaged to carry off Rosalie Gray. After all, it might be the great dominant reason for their descent upon the community. Covered with a perspiration that was not caused by heat, he accosted Wicker Bonner, the minute that gentleman arrived in town. Rosalie went, of course, to the Crow home for a short visit with the family.
“Say, Wick, I want you to do me a favour,” said Anderson eagerly, taking the young man aside. “I cain’t tell you all about it, ’cause I’m bound by a deathless oath. But, listen, I’m afraid somethin’s goin’ to happen to-night. There’s a lot o’ strangers here, an’ I’m nervous about Rosalie. Somebody might try to steal her in the excitement. Now I want you to take good keer of her. Don’t let ‘er out o’ your sight, an’ don’t let anybody git ’er away from you. I’ll keep my eye on her, too. Promise me.”
“Certainly, Mr. Crow. I’ll look out for her. That’s what I hope to do all the rest of—’
“Somethin’s liable to happen,” Mr. Crow broke in, and then quietly slipped away.
Bonner laughed easily at the old man’s fears and set them down as a part of his whimsical nature. Later, he saw the old man near the entrance as the party passed inside the inclosure. The Bonner party occupied prominent seats in front, reserved by the marshal. There were ten in the group, a half-dozen young Boston people completing the house party.
The side walls of a pavilion inclosed the most beautiful section of the grove. In one end were the seats, rapidly filling with people. At the opposite end, upon Mother Earth’s green carpet, was the stage, lighted dimly by means of subdued spot lights and a few auxiliary stars on high. There was no scenery save that provided by Nature herself. An orchestra of violins broke through the constant hum of eager voices.