“Nobody in particular. What’s going on up there? What’s the fuss?”
“Come up an’ find out.” Then Mr. Crow, observing that the man below was preparing to comply, turned and addressed his squad in low, earnest tones. “This feller will bear watchin’. He’s mixed up in this thing somehow. Else why is he wanderin’ around here close to the house? I’ll question him.”
“By gosh, he ain’t no ghost!” murmured Ed Higgins, eyeing the newcomer as he crawled up the bank. “Say, did y’ see me a minute ago? If you fellers had come on, I was goin’ right up to search that house from top to bottom. Was you all askeered to come?”
“Aw, you!” said Anderson Crow in deep scorn.
The next instant a stalwart young fellow stood before the marshal, who was eyeing him keenly, even imperiously. The newcomer’s good-looking, strong-featured face was lighted up by a smile of surpassing friendliness.
“It’s lonesome as thunder down here, isn’t it? Glad to see you, gentlemen. What’s up—a bicycle race?”
“No, sir; we got a little business up here, that’s all,” responded Anderson Crow diplomatically. “What air you doin’ here?”
“Skating. My name is Wicker Bonner, and I’m visiting my uncle, Congressman Bonner, across the river. You know him, I dare say. I’ve been hanging around here for a week’s hunting, and haven’t had an ounce of luck in all that time. It’s rotten! Aha, I see that you are an officer, sir—a detective, too. By George, can it be possible that you are searching for some one? If you are, let me in on it. I’m dying for excitement.”
The young man’s face was eager and his voice rang true. Besides, he was a tall, athletic chap, with brawny arms and a broad back. Altogether, he would make a splendid recruit, thought Anderson Crow. He was dressed in rough corduroy knickerbockers, the thick coat buttoned up close to his muffled neck. A woollen cap came down over his ears and a pair of skates dangled from his arm.
“Yes, sir; I’m a detective, and we are up here doin’ a little investigatin’. You are from Chicago, I see.”
“What makes you think so?”
“Can’t fool me. I c’n always tell. You said, ‘I’ve bean hangin’,’ instead of ‘I’ve ben hangin’.’ See? They say bean in Chicago. Ha! ha! You didn’t think I could deduce that, did you?”
“I’ll confess that I didn’t,” said Mr. Bonner with a dry smile. “I’m from Boston, however.”
“Sure,” interposed Isaac Porter; “that’s where the beans come from, Anderson.”
“Well, that’s neither here nor there,” said Mr. Crow, hastily changing the subject. “We’re wastin’ time.”
“Stayin’ here, you mean?” asked Ed Higgins, quite ready to start. Involuntarily the eyes of the posse turned toward the house among the willows. The stranger saw the concerted glance and made inquiry. Whereupon Mr. Crow, assisted by seven men and five small boys, told Mr. Wicker Bonner, late of Harvard, what had brought them from Tinkletown to the haunted house, and what they had seen upon their arrival. Young Bonner’s face glowed with the joy of excitement.