“Glory be on high!” he shouted. “It’s Joe Louden come back! We never knew how we missed ye till ye’d gone! Place fer ye! Can I find it? There ain’t a imp o’ perdition in town, includin’ myself, that wouldn’t kill me if I couldn’t! Ye’ll have old Maggie’s room, my own aunt’s; ye remember how she used to dance! Ha, ha! She’s been burnin’ below these four years! And we’ll have the celebration of yer return this night. There’ll be many of ’em will come when they hear ye’re back in Canaan! Praise God, we’ll all hope ye’re goin’ to stay a while!”
If any echo of doubt concerning his undesirable conspicuousness sounded faintly in Joe’s mind, it was silenced eftsoons. Canaan had not forgotten him—far from it!—so far that it began pointing him out to strangers on the street the very day of his return. His course of action, likewise that of his friends, permitted him little obscurity, and when the rumors of his finally obtaining lodging at Beaver Beach, and of the celebration of his installation there, were presently confirmed, he stood in the lime-light indeed, as a Mephistopheles upsprung through the trap-door.
The welcoming festivities had not been so discreetly conducted as to accord with the general policy of Beaver Beach. An unfortunate incident caused the arrest of one of the celebrators and the ambulancing to the hospital of another on the homeward way, the ensuing proceedings in court bringing to the whole affair a publicity devoutly unsought for. Mr. Happy Fear (such was the habitual name of the imprisoned gentleman) had to bear a great amount of harsh criticism for injuring a companion within the city limits after daylight, and for failing to observe that three policemen were not too distant from the scene of operations to engage therein.
“Happy, if ye had it in mind to harm him,” said the red-bearded man to Mr. Fear, upon the latter’s return to society, “why didn’t ye do it out here at the Beach?”
“Because,” returned the indiscreet, “he didn’t say what he was goin’ to say till we got in town.”
Extraordinary probing on the part of the prosecutor had developed at the trial that the obnoxious speech had referred to the guest of the evening. The assaulted party, one “Nashville” Cory, was not of Canaan, but a bit of drift-wood haply touching shore for the moment at Beaver Beach; and— strange is this world—he had been introduced to the coterie of Mike’s Place by Happy Fear himself, who had enjoyed a brief acquaintance with him on a day when both had chanced to travel incognito by the same freight. Naturally, Happy had felt responsible for the proper behavior of his protege —was, in fact, bound to enforce it; additionally, Happy had once been saved from a term of imprisonment (at a time when it would have been more than ordinarily inconvenient) by help and advice from Joe, and he