“Is it from her?” finally asked Ike Smith hoarsely, his lips trembling.
“From what her?”
“Thunder, no! It’s from my lawyers in Chicago.”
“Ain’t you—ain’t you heerd about it?” half groaned Ike, moving away as if he expected something calamitous.
“What the dickens are you fellers drivin’ at?” demanded Anderson. The remainder of his posse deserted the red-hot stove and drew near with the instinctive feeling that something dreadful had happened.
“Ro—Rosalie has been missin’ sence early last night. She was grabbed by some feller near Mrs. Luce’s, chucked into a big wagon an’ rushed out of town before Ros Crow could let out a yell. Clean stole her—look out! Ketch him, Joe!”
Anderson dropped limply into a hostler’s arms.
Things had happened in Tinkletown that night. Alf Reesling finally found some one who would listen to his story. He told the minister and the minister alarmed the town. To be brief, Alf admitted that ’Rast Little was at his house in the outskirts of the village, laid up with a broken arm and a bad cut in the top of his head.
“He came crawlin’ up to my place about six o’clock in the mornin’,” explained Alf, “an’ I took the poor cuss in. That’s what I wanted to tell Anderson, but the old rip wouldn’t listen to me. Seems as though ’Rast waited around the schoolhouse last night to git a crack at that feller from town. Miss Banks and her three friends set around the stove in the schoolhouse for about an hour after the crowd left, an’ ’Rast got so cold he liked to died out there in the woodshed.
“Purty soon they all come out, an’ ’Rast cut acrost the lot to git inside the house by the fire. He was so derned cold that he didn’t feel like crackin’ anybody. When they wasn’t lookin’ he sneaked inside. Jest as he was gittin’ ready to hug the stove he heard Miss Banks an’ one of the men comin’ back. He shinned up the ladder into the garret just in time. In they come an’ the feller lit a lamp. ’Rast could hear ’em talkin’. She said good-bye to the schoolhouse forever, an’ the feller kissed her a couple of times. ’Rast pretty nigh swore out loud at that. Then she said she’d leave a note in her desk fer the trustees, resignin’ her job, er whatever she called it. He heard her read the note to the man, an’ it said somethin’ about goin’ away unexpected to git married. ’Rast says ef Anderson had looked in the desk he’d have found the note.
“Then she packed up some books an’ her an’ the feller went out. ’Rast was paralysed. He heerd the sleigh-bells jingle an’ then he come to. He started down the ladder so quick that he missed his hold and went kerslam clear to the bottom. Doggone ef he didn’t light on his head, too. He don’t know how long he laid there, but finally he was resurrected enough