For an instant there was a glint in the old man’s eyes which hinted that the word would be given. But the impulse was merely the first reckless one of retaliation. Assault on law, even as represented by such an unworthy executive as he knew Niles to be, would make too wicked a story for slander to handle. Slander would be busy enough as it was.
He pushed the eager Sylvester to one side.
“Let me see your warrant, Niles,” he requested. The officer passed it over, with a touch of sudden humility in his demeanor. “I’m only doing my duty as it’s laid out by the statutes,” he muttered. He quailed under the old man’s eyes. He did not like the sound of the mumbling at the windows nor relish the looks of the men who had just come flocking into the yard at the heels of Sylvester.
“’Twas sworn out and passed to me,” stated the sheriff.
“Sworn out on complaint of Tom Willy.” He looked above the document and saw in the doorway the man who had cried information regarding the liquor in the cellar. “Tom Willy, the cheapest drunkard we’ve got in the town, taking sneaking revenge because he has been shut off from privileges here that decent men haven’t abused! But I tell you, gentlemen, even Tom Willy isn’t as cheap as the men who have sneaked behind him and prodded him on to do this. There’s some one behind him, for Tom Willy hasn’t got brains enough nor sprawl enough to do this all by himself.”
He gave the warrant back to the sheriff. He had recovered his self-possession. He was again their Duke of Fort Canibas, who could retire with dignity even from such a position as this. “Go ahead and train with your crowd, Sheriff Niles,” he drawled, sarcastically—“Tom Willy, and whoever they are behind him that are too ashamed to show themselves!”
He started for the door, Luke Presson at his heels. Aunt Charette, not exactly understanding, realized that the protecting aegis was departing.
“But I have pay!” she wailed. “You have de power, M’sieu’ Thornton! They take my properties!”
He patted the shiny silk of the old woman’s shoulder as he passed her.
“Keep your sitting, Aunt Charette,” he advised, “and let them take it. It will be a good investment for you—leave it to me.”
He lighted a fresh cigar out-of-doors.
“Luke,” he declared quietly between puffs, “this is developing into quite a caucus day—take all trimmings. I’m glad you are here to look on!”
A CAUCUS, AS IT WAS PLANNED
The town house of Fort Canibas needed no guide-board that day. All roads led to it. Thelismer Thornton walked down the main street, his following at his heels. His hands were behind his back, and he sauntered along like one who was at peace with the world. His face was serene once more. He seemed to have recovered all the genial good-nature that men associated with Thelismer Thornton. The chairman trotted on short legs at his side, looking up at him sourly. Thornton smiled down at him.