“You’re right ag’in, Mr. Bonner. It’s funny how you c’n read my thoughts. I was jest goin’ down to the jail to put ’em through the sweat cell.”
“Sweat cell? You mean sweat box, Mr. Crow,” said Bonner, laughing in spite of himself.
“No, sir; it’s a cell. We couldn’t find a box big enough. I use the cell reserved fer women prisoners. Mebby some day the town board will put in a reg’lar box, but, so far, the cell has done all right. I’ll be back ‘bout supper-time, Eva. You take keer o’ Rosalie. Make her sleep a while an’ I guess you’d better dose her up a bit with quinine an’—”
“I guess I know what to give her, Anderson Crow,” resented his wife. “Go ‘long with you. You’d oughter been lookin’ after them kidnapers three hours ago. I bet Bud’s purty nigh wore out guardin’ them. He’s been there ever sence nine o’clock, an’ it’s half-past two now.”
“Roscoe’s helpin’ him,” muttered Anderson, abashed.
At that instant there came a rush of footsteps across the front porch and in burst Ed Higgins and “Blootch” Peabody, fairly gasping with excitement.
“Hurry up, Anderson—down to the jail,” sputtered the former; and then he was gone like the wind. “Blootch,” determined to miss nothing, whirled to follow, or pass him if possible. He had time to shout over his shoulder as he went forth without closing the door:
“The old woman has lynched herself!”
It would now be superfluous to remark, after all the convulsions Tinkletown had experienced inside of twenty-four hours, that the populace went completely to pieces in face of this last trying experiment of Fate. With one accord the village toppled over as if struck by a broadside and lay, figuratively speaking, writhing in its own gore. Stupefaction assailed the town. Then one by one the minds of the people scrambled up from the ashes, slowly but surely, only to wonder where lightning would strike next. Not since the days of the American Revolution had the town experienced such an incessant rush of incident. The Judgment Day itself, with Gabriel’s clarion blasts, could not be expected to surpass this productive hour in thrills.
It was true that old Maude had committed suicide in the calaboose. She had been placed on a cot in the office of the prison and Dr. Smith had been sent for, immediately after her arrival; but he was making a call in the country. Bud Long, supported by half a dozen boys armed with Revolutionary muskets, which would not go off unless carried, stood in front of the little jail with its wooden walls and iron bars, guarding the prisoners zealously. The calaboose was built to hold tramps and drunken men, but not for the purpose of housing desperadoes. Even as the heroic Bud watched with persevering faithfulness, his charges were planning to knock their prison to smithereens and at the proper moment escape to the woods and hills. They knew the grated door was unlocked, but they imagined the place to be completely surrounded by vengeful villagers, who would cut them down like rats if they ventured forth. Had they but known that Bud was alone, it is quite likely they would have sallied forth and relieved him of his guns, spanked him soundly and then ambled off unmolested to the country.