“How far is it from here?”
“Mile and a half,” again answered Mr. Crow helplessly. This time he almost swore under his breath.
“But he can’t get there,” volunteered one of the bystanders.
“Why can’t he?” demanded the marshal.
“Bridge over Turnip Creek is washed out. Did you forget that?”
“Of course not,” promptly replied Mr. Crow, who had forgotten it; “But, dang it, he c’n swim, can’t he?”
“You say the bridge is gone?” asked the stranger, visibly excited.
“Yes, and the crick’s too high to ford, too.”
“Well, how in thunder am I to get to Crow’s Cliff?”
“There’s another bridge four miles upstream. It’s still there,” said George Ray. Anderson Crow had scornfully washed his hands of the affair.
“Confound the luck! I haven’t time to drive that far. I have to be there at half-past twelve. I’m late now! Is there no way to get across this miserable creek?” He was in the buggy now, whip in hand, and his eyes wore an anxious expression. Some of the men vowed later that he positively looked frightened.
“There’s a foot-log high and dry, and you can walk across, but you can’t get the horse and buggy over,” said one of the men.
“Well, that’s just what I’ll have to do. Say, Mr. Officer, suppose you drive me down to the creek and then bring the horse back here to a livery stable. I’ll pay you well for it. I must get to Crow’s Cliff in fifteen minutes.”
“I’m no errant-boy!” cried Anderson Crow so wrathfully that two or three boys snickered.
“You’re a darned old crank, that’s what you are!” exclaimed the stranger angrily. Everybody gasped, and Mr. Crow staggered back against the hitching-rail.
“See here, young man, none o’ that!” he sputtered. “You can’t talk that way to an officer of the law. I’ll—”
“You won’t do anything, do you hear that? But if you knew who I am you’d be doing something blamed quick.” A dozen men heard him say it, and they remembered it word for word.
“You go scratch yourself!” retorted Anderson Crow scornfully. That was supposed to be a terrible challenge, but the stranger took no notice of it.
“What am I to do with this horse and buggy?” he growled, half to himself. “I bought the darned thing outright up in Boggs City, just because the liveryman didn’t know me and wouldn’t let me a rig. Now I suppose I’ll have to take the old plug down to the creek and drown him in order to get rid of him.”
Nobody remonstrated. He looked a bit dangerous with his broad shoulders and square jaw.
“What will you give me for the outfit, horse, buggy, harness and all? I’ll sell cheap if some one makes a quick offer.” The bystanders looked at one another blankly, and at last the concentrated gaze fell upon the Pooh-Bah of the town. The case seemed to be one that called for his attention; truly, it did not look like public property, this astounding proposition.