Suddenly he made up his mind that a confession from the men would be worthless unless he had ear witnesses to substantiate it in court. Without further deliberation, he retraced his steps hurriedly to Lamson’s store, where, after half an hour’s conversation on the topics of the day, he deputised the entire crowd to accompany him to the jail.
“Where’s Bud?” he demanded sharply.
“Home in bed, poor child,” said old Mr. Borton.
“Well, doggone his ornery hide, why ain’t he here to—” began Anderson, but checked himself in time to prevent the crowd from seeing that he expected Bud to act as leader in the expedition. “I wanted him to jot down notes,” he substituted. Editor Squires volunteered to act as secretary, prompter, interpreter, and everything else that his scoffing tongue could utter.
“Well, go ahead, then,” said Anderson, pushing him forward. Harry led the party down the dark street with more rapidity than seemed necessary; few in the crowd could keep pace with him. A majority fell hopelessly behind, in fact.
Straight into the office walked Harry, closely followed by Blootch and the marshal. Maude, looking like a monument of sheets, still occupied the centre of the floor. Without a word, the party filed past the gruesome, silent thing and into the jail corridor. It was as dark as Erebus in the barred section of the prison; a cold draft of air flew into the faces of the visitors.
“Come here, you fellers!” called Anderson bravely into the darkness; but there was no response from the prisoners.
For the very good reason that some hours earlier they had calmly removed a window from its moorings and by this time were much too far away to answer questions.
The Flight of the Kidnapers
Searching parties were organised and sent out to scour the country, late as it was. Swift riders gave the alarm along every roadway, and the station agent telegraphed the news into every section of the land. At Boggs City, the sheriff, berating Anderson Crow for a fool and Tinkletown for an open-air lunatic asylum, sent his deputies down to assist in the pursuit. The marshal himself undertook to lead each separate and distinct posse. He was so overwhelmed by the magnitude of his misfortune that it is no wonder his brain whirled widely enough to encompass the whole enterprise.
Be it said to the credit of Tinkletown, her citizens made every reasonable effort to recapture the men. The few hundred able-bodied men of the town rallied to the support of their marshal and the law, and there was not one who refused to turn out in the cold night air for a sweeping search of the woods and fields.
Rosalie, who had been awakened early in the evening by Mr. Crow’s noisy preparations for the pursuit, came downstairs, and instantly lost all desire to sleep. Bonner was lying on a couch in the “sitting-room,” which now served as a temporary bedchamber.