“Why! Why, Mr. Pepper!” he gasped. “Are you here? What do you want?”
“Am I here?” panted Kyan. “Ain’t I been here for the last twenty minutes waitin’ to get a chance at you? Ain’t I been chasin’ you from Dan to Beersheby all this dummed—excuse me—afternoon? Oh, my godfreys mighty!”
“Why, what’s the matter?”
“Matter? Matter enough! It’s all your fault. You got me into the mess, now you git me out of it.”
Usually, when Abishai addressed his clergyman, it was in a tone of humble respect far different from his present frantic assault. The Reverend John was astounded.
“What is the trouble, Mr. Pepper?” he demanded. “Behave yourself, man. What is it?”
“You—you made me do it,” gurgled Kyan. “Yes, sir, ’twas you put me up to it. When you was at our house t’other day, after Laviny locked me up, you told me the way to get square was to lock her up, too. And I done it! Yes, sir, I done it when she got back from meetin’ this noon. I run off and left her locked in. And—and”—he wailed, wringing his hands—“I—I ain’t dast to go home sence. WHAT’ll I do?”
IN WHICH MISS DANIELS DETERMINES TO FIND OUT
The hysterical Mr. Pepper doubtless expected his clergyman to be almost as much upset as he was by the news of his action. But John Ellery was provokingly calm. As a matter of fact he scarcely grasped the purport of the little man’s disjointed story. He had been wandering in dreamland, his head among the clouds, and the explosion of Keziah’s bomb disturbed, but did not clear the air.
“What will you do?” he repeated. “Why—er—I don’t know, I’m sure.”
Kyan was staggered.
“You don’t know?” he shouted. “You don’t? Then who does, for the land sakes? Didn’t you tell me to lock her up? Didn’t I do it ’cause you told me? Didn’t—didn’t—”
He seemed to be on the verge of apoplexy. Also he had raised his voice to a yell. The minister seized him by the arm and shook him into silence.
“Hush! hush!” he commanded. “Wait a minute. Let me understand this thing. Some one is locked up, you say. Who is it? Where—”
“Who is it? Ain’t I tellin’ you. It’s Laviny. She went into that spare room where I was t’other day and I slammed the spring lock to on her. Then I grabbed the key and run. That was afore three this afternoon; now it’s ’most night and I ain’t dast to go home. What’ll she say when I let her out? I got to let her out, ain’t I? She can’t starve to death in there, can she? And you told me to do it! You did! Oh—”
The apoplectic attack was once more imminent.
“Stop it, Mr. Pepper,” ordered Ellery. “I don’t remember telling you to lock your sister up, though—Why, yes, I may have said something or other, as a joke, but I didn’t expect you would seriously consider doing such a thing. Ha, ha! This is the most idiotic piece of business that I ever—”