“What you so derned anxious to sell for?” demanded Anderson Crow, listening from a distance to see if he could detect a blemish in the horse’s breathing gear. At a glance, the buggy looked safe enough.
“I’m anxious to sell for cash,” replied the stranger; and Anderson was floored. The boy who snickered this time had cause to regret it, for Mr. Crow arrested him half an hour later for carrying a bean-shooter. “I paid a hundred dollars for the outfit in Boggs City,” went on the stranger nervously. “Some one make an offer—and quick! I’m in a rush!”
“I’ll give five dollars!” said one of the onlookers with an apologetic laugh. This was the match that started fire in the thrifty noddles of Tinkletown’s best citizens. Before they knew it they were bidding against each other with the true “horse-swapping” instinct, and the offers had reached $21.25 when the stranger unceremoniously closed the sale by crying out, “Sold!” There is no telling how high the bids might have gone if he could have waited half an hour or so. Uncle Gideon Luce afterward said that he could have had twenty-four dollars “just as well as not.” They were bidding up a quarter at a time, and no one seemed willing to drop out. The successful bidder was Anderson Crow.
“You can pay me as we drive along. Jump in!” cried the stranger, looking at his watch with considerable agitation. “All I ask is that you drive me to the foot-log that crosses the creek.”
The Pursuit Begins
Fifteen minutes later Anderson Crow was parading proudly about the town. He had taken the stranger to the creek and had seen him scurry across the log to the opposite side, supplied with directions that would lead him to the nearest route through the swamps and timberland to Crow’s Cliff. The stranger had Anderson’s money in his pocket; but Anderson had a very respectable sort of driving outfit to show for it. His wife kept dinner for him until two o’clock, and then sent the youngest Crow out to tell her father that he’d have to go hungry until supper-time.
It is no wonder that Anderson failed to reach home in time for the midday meal. He started home properly enough, but what progress could he make when everybody in town stopped him to inquire about the remarkable deal and to have a look at the purchase. Without a single dissenting voice, Tinkletown said Anderson had very much the “best of the bargain.” George Ray meant all right when he said, “A fool for luck,” but he was obliged to explain thoroughly the witticism before the proud Mr. Crow could consider himself appeased.
It was not until he pulled up in front of the Weekly Banner establishment to tell the reporter “the news” that his equanimity received its first jar. He was quite proud of the deal, and, moreover, he enjoyed seeing his name in the paper. In the meantime almost everybody in Tinkletown was discussing the awful profligacy of the stranger. It had not occurred to anybody to wonder why he had been in such a hurry to reach Crow’s Cliff, a wild, desolate spot down the river.