“Aw, them ain’t pistols,” scoffed Bud, his mouth full of something. “They’re bologny sausages. I ain’t had nothin’ to eat sence last night and I’m hungry.”
“Well, it’s dark out here,” explained Anderson, suddenly shuffling into the jail. “I guess I’ll put them fellers through the sweat box.”
“The what?” demanded George Ray.
“The sweat-box—b-o-x, box. Cain’t you hear?”
“I thought you used a cell.”
“Thunderation, no! Nobody but country jakes call it a cell,” said Anderson in fine scorn.
The three prisoners scowled at him so fiercely and snarled so vindictively when they asked him if they were to be starved to death, that poor Anderson hurried home and commanded his wife to pack “a baskit of bread and butter an’ things fer the prisoners.” It was nine o’clock before he could make up his mind to venture back to the calaboose with his basket. He spent the intervening hours in telling Rosalie and Bonner about the shocking incident at the jail and in absorbing advice from the clear-headed young man from Boston.
“I’d like to go with you to see those fellows, Mr. Crow,” was Bonner’s rueful lament. “But the doctor says I must be quiet until this confounded thing heals a bit. Together, I think we could bluff the whole story out of those scoundrels.”
“Oh, never you fear,” said the marshal; “I’ll learn all there is to be learnt. You jest ask Alf Reesling what kind of a pumper I am.”
“Who is Alf Reesling?”
“Ain’t you heerd of him in Boston? Why, every temperance lecturer that comes here says he’s the biggest drunkard in the world. I supposed his reputation had got to Boston by this time. He’s been sober only once in twenty-five years.”
“Is it possible?”
“That was when his wife died. He said he felt so good it wasn’t necessary to get drunk. Well, I’ll tell you all about it when I come back. Don’t worry no more, Rosalie. I’ll find out who’s back of this business an’ then we’ll know all about you. It’s a long lane that has no turn.”
“Them prisoners must be mighty near starved to death by this time, Anderson,” warned Mrs. Crow.
“Doggone, that’s so!” he cried, and hustled out into the night.
The calaboose was almost totally dark—quite so, had it not been for the single lamp that burned in the office where the body of the old woman was lying. Two or three timid citizens stood afar off, in front of Thompson’s feed yard, looking with awe upon the dungeon keep. Anderson’s footsteps grew slower and more halting as they approached the entrance to the forbidding square of black. The snow creaked resoundingly under his heels and the chill wind nipped his muffless ears with a spitefulness that annoyed. In fact, he became so incensed, that he set his basket down and slapped his ears vigorously for some minutes before resuming his slow progress. He hated the thought of going in where the dead woman lay.