Hours passed before Anderson was himself again and able to comprehend the details of the story which involved the disappearance of his ward. It slowly filtered through his mind as he sat stark-eyed and numb before the kitchen fire that this was the means her mysterious people had taken to remove her from his custody. The twenty years had expired, and they had come to claim their own. There was gloom in the home of Anderson Crow—gloom so dense that death would have seemed bright in comparison. Mrs. Crow was prostrated, Anderson in a state of mental and physical collapse, the children hysterical.
All Tinkletown stood close and ministered dumbly to the misery of the bereaved ones, but made no effort to follow or frustrate the abductors. The town seemed as helpless as the marshal, not willingly or wittingly, but because it had so long known him as leader that no one possessed the temerity to step into his place, even in an hour of emergency.
A dull state of paralysis fell upon the citizens, big and little. It was as if universal palsy had been ordained to pinch the limbs and brains of Tinkletown until the hour came for the rehabilitation of Anderson Crow himself. No one suggested a move in any direction—in fact, no one felt like moving at all. Everything stood stockstill while Anderson slowly pulled himself together; everything waited dumbly for its own comatose condition to be dispelled by the man who had been hit the hardest.
It was not until late in the afternoon that Blucher Peabody, the druggist, awoke from his lethargy and moved as though he intended to take the initiative. “Blootch” was Rosalie’s most persistent admirer. He had fallen heir to his father’s apothecary shop and notion store, and he was regarded as one of the best catches in town. He approached the half-frozen crowd that huddled near old Mrs. Luce’s front gate. In this crowd were some of the prominent men of the town, young and old; they left their places of business every half hour or so and wandered aimlessly to the now historic spot, as if drawn by a magnet. Just why they congregated there no one could explain and no one attempted to do so. Presumably it was because the whole town centred its mind on one of two places—the spot where Rosalie was seized or the home of Anderson Crow. When they were not at Mrs. Luce’s gate they were tramping through Anderson’s front yard and into his house.