“I owe you a thousand dollars,” said Anderson to Bonner as they drew up in front of the marshal’s home. All Tinkletown was there to see how Mrs. Crow and the family would act when Rosalie was restored to them. The yard was full of gaping villagers, and there was a diffident cheer when Mrs. Crow rushed forth and fairly dragged Rosalie from the sleigh. “Blootch” Peabody gallantly interposed and undertook to hand the girl forth with the grace of a Chesterfield. But Mrs. Crow had her way.
“I’ll take it out in board and lodging,” grinned Wicker Bonner to Anderson as two strong men lifted him from the sleigh.
“Where’s Bud?” demanded Anderson after the others had entered the house.
“He stayed down to the ‘calaboose’ to guard the prisoners,” said “Blootch.” “Nobody could find the key to the door and nobody else would stay. They ain’t locked in, but Bud’s got two revolvers, and he says they can only escape over his dead body.”
Anderson Crow was himself once more. He was twenty years younger than when he went to bed the night before. His joy and pride had reached the bursting point—dignity alone prevented the catastrophe.
“What do you expect to do with the gang, Mr. Crow?” asked Bonner, reclining with amiable ease in the marshal’s Morris chair. He was feeling very comfortable, despite “Doc” Smith’s stitches; and he could not help acknowledging, with more or less of a glow in his heart, that it was nice to play hero to such a heroine.
“Well, I’ll protect ’em, of course. Nobody c’n lynch ’em while I’m marshal of this town,” Anderson said, forgetful of the fact that he had not been near the jail, where Master Bud still had full charge of affairs, keyless but determined. “I’ll have to turn them over to the county sheriff to-day er to-morrow, I reckon. This derned old calaboose of ourn ain’t any too safe. That’s a mighty desperit gang we’ve captured. I cain’t remember havin’ took sech a mob before.”
“Has it occurred to you, Mr. Crow, that we have captured only the hirelings? Their employer, whoever he or she may be, is at large and probably laughing at us. Isn’t there some way in which we can follow the case up and land the leader?”
“‘y Gosh, you’re right,” said Anderson. “I thought of that this mornin’, but it clean skipped my mind since then. There’s where the mistake was made, Mr. Bonner. It’s probably too late now. You’d oughter thought about the leader. Seems to me—”
“Why, Daddy Crow,” cried Rosalie, a warm flush in her cheeks once more, “hasn’t Mr. Bonner done his part? Hasn’t he taken them single-handed and hasn’t he saved me from worse than death?”
“I ain’t castin’ any insinyations at him, Rosalie,” retorted Anderson, very sternly for him. “How can you talk like that?”
“I’m not offended, Miss Gray,” laughed Bonner. “We all make mistakes. It has just occurred to me, however, that Mr. Crow may still be able to find out who the leader is. The prisoners can be pumped, I dare say.”