Part 4 out of 6
"Mr. Baines," he said, "I want you should meet my friend Mr. Bowman.
Mr. Bowman's a broker. Been buyin' some stocks off'n him--or calculate
to. I knowed you done consid'able investing so I took the liberty."
Scattergood looked drowsily at the young man. "Set," he said. "Set and
have a cigar."
The young Mr. Bowman accepted the cigar, but, after a glance at it,
thrust it into his mouth unlighted. The conversation began with national
politics, swung to crops, and veered finally to the subject of
investments. Mr. Bowman, backed in his statements by Mr. Bangs, spoke to
Scattergood of a certain mine whose stock could be had for a song, but
whose riches in mineral, about to be reached by a certain shaft or drift
or tunnel, were fabulous. Scattergood was interested. An appointment was
made for further discussion.
The appointment was kept that evening, in the same lobby, and Mr.
Bowman, while finding more than ordinary difficulty in convincing this
fat country merchant, did eventually succeed in bringing him to a point
"Looks good," said Scattergood. "Calc'late a feller could make a
killin'. I'm a-goin' into it hair, hide, and hoofs. Figger me f'r not
less 'n five thousand dollars' wuth of it. Ought to make me fifty
thousand if it makes a cent."
"You're conservative, Mr. Baines, conservative."
"Always calculated to be, Mr. Bowman." He looked up as a middle-aged man
with a drooping mustache approached. "Howdy, John? Still workin' f'r the
express company, be you?"
"Calc'late to, Mr. Baines. Got charge of the local office. 'Tain't all
pleasure, neither. In a sight of trouble this minnit."
"I want to know," said Scattergood. "Stand to lose my job," said John,
sadly. "Dunno where I'll find me another."
"What you been doin', eh? What got you in bad?"
"One of them dummed gold shipments from the state bank. Hadn't ought to
speak about it, 'cause the comp'ny's bein' awful secret. Hain't lettin'
it out." He glanced apprehensively at Mr. Bowman.
"Needn't to be afraid of Mr. Bowman, John. What's the story?"
"Bank shippin' bullion. Three chunks of it. Wuth fifty-odd thousand
dollars. I know, 'cause that's the comp'ny's liability wrote in black
and white.... Been stole," he said, after a brief pause.
"Out of my office, this mornin'. Not a trace. Jest up and disappeared.
Detectives and all can't run on to no clue. Might as well 'a' melted and
run through a crack. Jest gone, and that's all anybody kin find."
"Mighty sorry to hear it, John. Hope you wasn't keerless, and don't
figger you was. Guess you won't be blamed when the facts comes out."
"If they ever do," said John. "G' night, Mr. Baines. I'm mighty oneasy
in my mind."
Scattergood turned the subject back at once to mining stocks.
"You set me down for five thousand dollars. Don't let nobody else have
it. Got jest that sum comin' due tomorrer. You and me'll drive over to
git it, and you fetch them stock certificates along. Got 'em in that
little satchel you're always carryin'?"
"No," smiled Mr. Bowman. "That's my purse. I take no chances on robbers,
like your express agent spoke of. I don't mind telling you that I have
fifteen thousand dollars in that bag--and I intend to keep it there."
"Do tell!" exclaimed Scattergood. "Wa-al, you know your business. Now,
then, if you want to drive over six mile with me to-morrer, well git us
that money and I'll take the stock."
"Good," said Mr. Bowman. "An early start. Can I take a train from there?
I'll be through here, I think."
"To be sure," said Scattergood. "Mighty funny thing about that gold, now
wa'n't it? Three bars. Wuth fifty thousand! Mighty slick work--to spirit
it off and nobody never find a trace."
"The criminal classes," said Mr. Bowman, "have produced some remarkable
intellects. Good night, Mr. Baines."
"See you early in the mornin'," replied Scattergood.
After a breakfast which Mr. Bowman watched Scattergood dispose of with
admiration and astonishment, the pair entered the old buggy and started
across the hills. In addition to his small bag Mr. Bowman brought a
large suitcase containing his apparel, so it was apparent he was leaving
the county seat for good. The morning came off hot and humid.
Scattergood kept his eyes open for a spring, but it was not until they
had driven some miles that an opportunity to find water appeared.
"Calculate we kin git a drink there," said Scattergood, pointing to a
little shanty in a clearing by the roadside. He stopped his horse, and
they alighted and knocked. There was no reply. Scattergood pushed open
the door and then stepped back suddenly, for within were three
individuals of disreputable appearance, and one of them regarded
Scattergood over the leveled barrels of a shotgun.
"Come right in and set," invited this individual, and Scattergood,
followed by Mr. Bowman, entered. On a table of pine wood, unconcealed,
lay three enormous bars of gold.
"Um!..." said Scattergood, faintly, and leaned against the wall. "You
would come rammin' in," said the gentleman with the shotgun. "Now I
calc'late you got to stay."
Scattergood grinned amiably. "Vallyble loaves of bread you got there,"
"Gold," said the man, succinctly.
"Hain't no mines around here, be there?"
"We hain't sayin'. But that there gold come from a mine, all
"Calc'late you been robbin' a train or somethin'," said Scattergood,
mildly. "Now don't git het up. 'Tain't none of my business. Doin'
robbin' for a reg'lar livin'?" he asked, innocently.
"Hain't never done none before--" began one of the men, but his
companion directed him to "shut up and stay shut."
"No harm talkin' 's I kin see. We got these fellers here and here they
stay till we git clean off. Kind of like to tell somebody the joke."
"I'm doggone int'rested," said Scattergood.
The rough individual with the gun laughed loudly. "May's well tell you,"
he said, raucously. "Me and the boys was in town yestiddy, calc'latin'
to ship some ferns by express. Went into the office. Agent wa'n't there.
Safe was. Open. Ya-as, wide open. We seen three gold chunks inside, and
nobody around watchin'. Looked full better 'n ferns, so we jest took a
notion to carry 'em out to the wagin and drive off.... Now we got it,
I'm dummed if I know what to do with it. Hear tell it's wuth fifty
Mr. Bowman spoke. "You'll find it mighty hard to dispose of."
"Don't need to worry you."
"Suppose you could sell it for a fair price, cash, and get away with the
"That's our aim."
"Mr. Baines," said Bowman, "there's money in this if you aren't too
"Hain't p'tic'lar a-tall. How you mean?"
"What would you say to buying this gold--at a reasonable price? I can
dispose of it--through channels I am acquainted with. You can put in the
money we were going for, and I'll put in some more. Ought to show a
"Might nigh double my money, maybe, eh? Figger that? Gimme twict as much
to buy stock with."
"What will you men take to walk away and leave that gold?"
"Fiddlesticks. I'll give you ten--and you're clear of the whole mess."
There was a wrangle. For half an hour the dicker went on, and finally a
price of fifteen thousand dollars was agreed upon. Mr. Bowman was to pay
over the money, and Scattergood was to contribute his five thousand
dollars as soon as they got it. For one third of the profits.
The money was paid over; the three robbers disappeared with alacrity,
leaving Scattergood and Bowman with the stolen gold.
"We can take it along in the buggy, covered with ferns," said Bowman.
"Nobody'll suspect _you_."
"Be safe as a church," said Scattergood, boldly. "Lug her out."
So they carried the gold to the buggy, covered it snugly with ferns, and
drove toward the next town, Scattergood talking excitedly of profits and
of how much mining stock he could purchase with the money received, and
of ample wealth from the transaction. Mr. Bowman smiled with the faint,
quiet smile of one whose soul is at peace. Just before they got to town
Scattergood suggested that they stop to make sure the gold was
They drove into the woods a few rods and uncovered the treasure.
Scattergood gloated over it.
"I've heard tell you kin cut real gold like cheese," he said, and opened
his jackknife. With it he hacked off a shaving and held it up to the
"Is all gold this here way?" he asked. "Don't look to me to be the same
color all the way through. Looks like silver or suthin' inside."
Mr. Bowman snatched the shaving, scrutinized it, and uttered language in
a loud voice. He snatched Scattergood's knife and tested all three
"Lead!" he said, savagely. "Nothing but lead! We've been swindled!"
"You mean it hain't gold a-tall?"
"It's lead, I tell you."
"I vum!... Them fellers stole lead! And they got off with all your
money. Gosh! I'm glad I didn't have none along." His eyes were mirthless
and his face vacuous. "Beats all. Never heard tell of nothin' sim'lar."
They got into the buggy and drove silently into town. Mr. Bowman tried
to recover his spirits, but they were at low ebb. He did manage to hint
that Scattergood should stand his share of the loss, but in his heart he
knew that to be vain. Still, he could get that five thousand dollars for
the mining stock. It would be five thousand dollars.
"Anyhow," he said, "you're fortunate. You still can buy the stock and
make your pile."
"This here deal," said Scattergood, "has kind of made me figger. 'Tain't
safe to buy gold chunks till you _know_ they're gold. Likewise 'tain't
safe to buy mine stock till you know there's a mine. Calc'late I'll do a
mite of investigatin' 'fore I pungle over that five thousand.... Where
kin I leave you, Mr. Bowman? I'm calc'latin' to drive home from here.
Maybe I'll see you later. But I got to investigate."
Mr. Bowman made himself unpleasant for a brief time, but Scattergood was
vacuously stubborn. Presently he drove away, leaving Mr. Bowman on the
veranda of the hotel, scowling and uttering words of strength and
meaning. Mr. Bowman was very unhappy.
Scattergood drove as rapidly as his horse could travel, arriving at
Coldriver just after the supper hour. He went directly to his store,
which had been left in charge of Mr. Spackles. Three men were waiting
there for him. They handed him a leather bag and he satisfied himself
that it contained fifteen thousand dollars.
"Much 'bleeged, boys," he said. "Do as much f'r you, some day. G'-by."
"Mr. Spackles," he said, "kin you fetch Grandmother Penny over
"Calculate I kin," said Mr. Spackles, and he proved himself able to keep
"Grandmother Penny," said Scattergood, when she arrived, "you and Mr.
Spackles up and made a investment. I been a-lookin' after that
investment f'r you--and f'r these other dum fools in town. Best I could
do f'r them others was to git their money back--every cent of it. But I
took keer to do a mite more f'r you and Mr. Spackles. I got your five
hunderd f'r you--and then I seen a way to git ten thousand more. Here
she be. Count it.... I don't guess there's any way this here money could
be put to better use."
"F'r us? Ten thousand--"
"I'll handle it f'r you. Give you int'rest of six hunderd a year. You
kin marry like you planned, and if your childern objects you kin tell
'em to go to blazes.... You'll want a place to live. Wa-al, I got twenty
acre back of town and a leetle house and furniture. Took it on a deal.
You kin move in and work it on shares. Ought to be able to live blamed
Grandmother Penny was crying.
"You done all this f'r us, f'r James and me! There hain't no reason f'r
it. 'Tain't believable.... There hain't no way to say thankee."
"I hain't wantin' you to say thankee, Grandmother Penny. Jest mog along
and marry this old coot, and git what joy you kin out of livin'."
Mr. Spackles was inquisitive in addition to being grateful.
"What I want to know," he demanded, "is how you managed it?"
"Oh," said Scattergood, "jest made use of the sayin' about curin' with
the hair of the dog that bit you. Figgered a swindler wouldn't never
suspect nobody of swindlin' him with one of his own tricks. This here
Mr. Baxter, or Mr. Bowman, or whatever his name is, used to make a
livin' sellin' gold bricks. When I found that there fact out I jest
calc'lated he was ripe to do a mite of gold-brick buyin' himself....
Which he done."
"Scattergood," said Grandmother Penny, "I'm a-goin' to kiss you."
Scattergood presented his cheek, and Grandmother Penny threw her arms
around his neck and pressed her lips to his weather-beaten face. He
smiled, but as if he were smiling at somebody not present. When they had
gone their way to find marriage license and parson he went out on to his
piazza and looked up at the moonlit sky.
"Grandma Baines," he said, after a moment, "if you kin see down from
where you be, I hope you hain't missin' that I done this f'r you. I was
pertendin' all the time that you was Grandmother Penny...."
HE DIPS IN HIS SPOON
Scattergood Baines sat on the piazza of his hardware store and twiddled
his bare toes reflectively. He was not thinking of to-day nor of
to-morrow, but of days a score of years distant and of plans not to come
to maturity for twenty years. That was Scattergood's way. From his
history, as it is to be gathered from the ancient gossips of Coldriver,
one is forced to the conclusion that few of his acts were performed with
reference to the immediate time. If he set on foot some scheme, one
learns to study it and to endeavor to see to what outcome it may lead
ten years after its inception. He looked always to the future, and more
than once one may see where he has forgone immediate profit in order to
derive that profit a hundredfold a generation later.
So, as Scattergood twiddled his reflective toes, he looked far ahead
into the future of Coldriver Valley; he saw that valley as his own,
developed as few mountain valleys are ever developed. Its stage line,
already his property, was replaced by a railroad. The waters of its
river and tributaries were dammed to give a cheap and constant power
which should be connected in some way to this electricity of which he
heard so much and about which he always desired to hear more. He saw
factories springing up. In short, he saw his valley as the center of the
state's commercial life, and himself as the center of the valley.
Scattergood was well aware that there always will exist those who will
clog the road of progress and attempt to stem any tide arising for the
public good--unless they can see for themselves an individual benefit.
He knew that it is not uncommon for those whose business is the common
good--such individuals as legislators and governors and judges--to
assume some such attitude, and he knew that it was regarded as expensive
to win their favor. He did not grow especially angry at this condition,
but accepted it as a condition and studied to see what he could do about
it--for he knew he must do something about it.
He must take it into consideration, because one does not build railroads
without legislative sanction, nor does one dam streams nor carry out
wide commercial programs. The consent of the _people_ must be had, and
the people had handed over their consent in trust to their elected
representatives. Scattergood saw at once that it was preferable to be
one from whom governors and legislators and judges asked favors and
looked to for guidance, than to be one to come a suppliant before those
personages, and as soon as he saw that clearly he reached his
"Calculate," said he, to the shoes which he held in his hand, "that I
got to git up and stir around in politics some."
From that moment Scattergood scrutinized the bowl of politics to
discover when and where he could dip in his spoon.
The opportunity to dip, it soon became apparent, would be at the time of
the fall town meetings, for there was a fight on in the state and its
preliminary rumblings were already making themselves audible. Hitherto
the state had been held securely by certain political gentlemen, who in
turn had been held securely by a certain other and greater political
gentleman--Lafe Siggins. Other non-political gentlemen who represented
_money_ and _business_ had seen, as Scattergood did, the necessity for
becoming political, and had chosen their moment to endeavor to take the
state away from Messrs. Siggins & Co. and to hold it thereafter for
their own benefit and behoof. They were, therefore, laying their plans
to win the legislature by winning the town meetings of the fall, and to
win they had decided to make their fight upon the total prohibition of
liquor in the state. It was not that they cared ethically whether drinks
of a spirituous nature were dispensed or not, but it was the best
available issue. If it did not work out to their satisfaction they could
reverse themselves when they came into power.
So they made an issue of prohibition, and planned astutely to go to the
town meetings on that platform, for a majority of the towns voted local
option with regularity. The new powers would first sweep the town
meetings for local option, and in the wave of enthusiasm put into office
at the same time legislators chosen by themselves.
Scattergood saw the trend of affairs early and gave them his earnest
consideration. That his ancient ill wishers, Messrs. Crane & Keith, were
identified with the new and rising power may not have been the least of
the considerations which determined him to dip in his spoon on the side
of Siggins and the old order. But there was one obstacle. Scattergood
desired local option, for he was now the employer of many men, both in
the woods and in other enterprises, and he knew well that labor and hard
liquor are disturbing bedfellows.... He considered and reached the
conclusion that for this one time, perhaps, he could both have his cake
and eat it.
He could have his cake and still eat it only by the results of an
election which should not be a victory for the new powers nor for the
old, but for another minor power differing from each. In other words,
Scattergood saw the wisdom of defeating both the contenders locally, and
then of throwing in with Siggins as to the fight for state control....
But of this determination he notified not a soul. Judging from his
actions, it may be safely said that he was at some pains to conceal the
fact that he was interested in politics in any manner or degree
But Scattergood was a chatty body, and Coldriver would have been
surprised if he did not talk politics, as did all its other male
inhabitants. It came about that more politics than hardware was
discussed on Scattergood's piazza, but to the casual listener it seemed
only purposeless discussion. But Scattergood was a master of purposeless
discussion. His methods were his own and worthy of notice.
Marvin Towne and Old Man Bogle sauntered past and paused to mention the
"Goin' to be lots of politics this year," said Scattergood. "Jest got in
a line of gardenin' tools, Bogle."
"Town's goin' to be het up for certain," said Mr. Bogle, waggling his
ancient head. "Calc'late to have all the tools I need."
"Who's figgerin' on runnin' for legislature, Marvin?"
"Guess Will Pratt's puttin' up Pazzy Cox ag'in." Pratt was postmaster
and local party leader.
"Anybody calc'latin' to run ag'in' him, Marvin? Any opposition
"Goin' to be a fight, Scattergood. Big doin's in the state. Tryin' to
upset Lafe Siggins. Uh-huh! Wuth watchin', says I."
"I hear tell the lawless elements is puttin' up Jim Allen on a whisky
platform," said Old Man Bogle, acidly.
"Them all the candidates, Bogle? Hain't no others?"
"Coldriver's got to take whatever candidates them outsiders chooses, eh?
Coldriver hain't got no say who'll represent her in the legislature?"
"Don't 'pear so. All done by party machinery, Scattergood. We got
nothin' to do but pick between parties."
"Looks so.... Looks that way," said Scattergood. "Too bad there hain't
one more party that hain't controlled so folks could git a chance....
What's this here Prohibition party I been hearin' some of in other
"'S fur's I know it's all right, only it hain't got no votes, and votes
is necessary in politics."
"Licker enters into this here campaign, don't it?"
"Backbone of it."
"Seems like these Prohibition fellers ought to take a hand. Any of 'em
"Don't seem like I ever heard speak of one."
"Could be, couldn't there? 'Tain't impossible?"
"S'pose one could be got up--if anybody was int'rested."
"Need a strong candidate, wouldn't they? Have to have a man to head it
up that would command respect?"
"Wouldn't git fur with it. Parties too well organized."
"Um!... Lemme show you a new hand seeder I jest got in. Labor savin'.
Calc'late it's a bargain."
"Don't hold with them newfangled notions, Scattergood."
"S'prised at you, Marvin. Folks expects progress of you. Look up to you,
kind of. Take their idees from you."
"I dunno," said Marvin, visibly pleased, but deprecatory.
"Careful, cautious--but most gen'ally right, that's what I hear folks
say. Quite a bit of talk goin' around about you. Politics. Uh-huh! Heard
several say it was a pity Marvin Towne couldn't be got to go to the
legislature. Heard that, hain't you, Bogle?"
"Don't call it to mind, but maybe I have. Maybe I have. Anyhow, I
calc'late it's true."
"There you be, Marvin. Now it behooves a man that's looked up to for to
keep in the lead. Ought to look into that seeder, Marvin. Folks'll say:
'Marvin Towne's got him one of them seeders. Darn progressive farmer.
Gits him all the modern improvements.'"
"Suthin' in what you say, Scattergood. Calculate I might examine into
that tool one of these days."
"Hain't much choice between Pazzy Cox and Jim Allen, eh? Hain't neither
of 'em desirable lawmakers, eh? That what you was sayin'?"
"Them's my idees," said Marvin.
"Too bad we're forced to take one or t'other. Now if they was some way
for you to step in and run."
"Sh'u'd think you'd look over them Prohibitionists. Draw all the best
citizens after you. Set a example to the state.... Step back and look at
that there seeder, Marvin."
Marvin looked at the seeder judicially. "Calc'late to guarantee it,
"Put it in writin'," said Scattergood.
"Calc'late I'll have to have it. Considerin' everything, guess I'll take
"Knowed you would, Marvin. Sich men as you is to be depended on. Folks
"If I thought they was a call for me to go to the legislature--"
"Call?" said Scattergood. "Marvin, I'm tellin' you it's dum near a
"Huh!... Where could I git to find out about this here Prohibitionist
Presently Marvin Towne and Old Man Bogle went along. Scattergood gazed
after them speculatively, and as he gazed his hands went automatically
to his shoes, which he removed to give play to his reflective toes.
"Um!..." he grunted. "If nothin' more comes of it I made a profit of
three dollar forty on that seeder."
Pliny Pickett, stage driver, was a frequent caller at Scattergood's
store, first as an employee, but more importantly as a dependable
representative who could carry out an order without asking questions,
especially when no definite order had been given.
"Pliny," said Scattergood, "know Marvin Towne, don't you? Brought up
with him, wasn't you?"
"Know him like the palm of my hand."
"Um!... Strange he hain't never been talked up for the legislature,
Pliny. Strange there hain't talk about him on the stagecoach. Ever hear
"Could hear more, couldn't you? If you listened.... Set around the post
office, evenin's, don't you?"
"Discussin' topics? Ever discuss this Prohibition party?"
"I _could_," said Pliny.
"Seems like a shame folks here can't run the man they want for office.
Strike you that way?"
"Certain sure. Calc'late they want Marvin bad?"
"They _could_," said Scattergood. "G'-by, Pliny."
Ten days later a third party made its appearance in the politics of
Coldriver, and Marvin Towne was announced as its candidate for the
legislature. It seemed a spontaneous excrescence, but, nevertheless, it
caused a visit from that great man and citizen, Lafe Siggins, as well as
a call from Mr. Crane, of Crane & Keith. Both astute gentlemen viewed
the situation, and their alarm subsided. Indeed, both perceived where it
could be turned to advantage. A canvass of the situation showed them
that the new Prohibitionists, though they talked loud and long, were
made up mainly of the discontented and of a few men always ready to
join any novel movement, and promised at best to poll not to exceed
forty votes of Coldriver's registered three hundred and eighty. It
really simplified the situation to Lafe and to Crane, for it removed
from circulation forty doubtful votes and left the real battle to be
fought between the regulars. Wherefore Messrs. Siggins and Crane
departed from the village in satisfied mood.
Scattergood sat on his piazza as usual, the morning after the portentous
visit, and called a greeting to Wade Lumley, dry-goods merchant, as that
prominent citizen passed to his place of business.
"How's the geldin' this mornin', Wade?" he asked.
"Feelin' his oats. Got to take him out on the road this evenin'. Time to
begin shapin' him up for the county fair."
"Three-year-old, hain't he?"
"Best in the state."
"Always figgered that till I heard Ren Green talkin'. Ren calculates
he's got a three-year-old that'll make any other boss in these parts
look like it was built of pine."
Wade was eager in a moment. "Willin' to back them statements with money,
"Said somethin' about havin' a hunderd dollars that wasn't workin'
otherwise, seems as though," said Scattergood. "Jest half a mile from
Pettybone's house to the dam," he continued, with apparent irrelevance.
"And my geldin' kin travel that same road spryer 'n Green's hoss--for a
hunderd dollars," said Wade, eagerly.
"Dunno," said Scattergood. "Hoss races is uncertain. G'-by, Wade. See
A similar conversation with Ren Green during the day resulted in a
meeting between the horsemen, an argument, loud words, and a heated
offer to wager money, which was accepted with like heat.
"From Pettybone's to the dam--half a mile," shouted Wade.
"Suits me to a T," bellowed Ren; "and now you kin step across with me
and deposit that there hunderd dollars ag'in' mine with Briggs of the
So, terms and conditions having been arranged, the bets were made, and
the money locked in the hotel safe. News of the matter swept through
Coldriver, and for the evening politics were forgotten and excitement
ran high. Next day it arose to a higher pitch, for Town-marshal Pease
had forbidden the race to be run through the public streets of
Coldriver, viewing it as a menace to life, limb, and the public peace.
Scattergood had conversed sagely with Pease on the duties of a town
Marvin Towne had formed the habit of stopping to chat with Scattergood
daily, totally unconscious that to all intents and purposes he had been
ordered by Scattergood to make daily reports to him. He seemed depressed
as he leaned against a post of the piazza.
"Lookin' peaked, Marvin. Hain't all goin' well? Gittin' uneasy?"
"It's this dum hoss race," said Marvin. "Everybody's het up over it so's
nobody'll talk politics. How's a feller goin' to win votes if he can't
git nobody to talk to him, that's what I want to know? Seems like there
hain't nothin' in the world but Wade Lumley's geldin' and that hoss of
"Um!... Sort of distressing hain't it? Know Kent Pilkinton perty well,
"Holds public office, don't he?"
"Chairman of the Board of Selectmen's what he is."
"Good man fur't," said Scattergood, waggling his head. "Calculate to be
on good terms with him, Marvin? Perty good terms?"
"Good enough so's he kin ask me to loan him two thousand dollars he's
needin' a'mighty bad."
"Give it to him, Marvin?"
"Huh!" said Marvin, eloquently.
"If I was to indorse his note, think you could see your way clear?"
"See him ag'in, won't you? Perty soon?"
"What d'you calc'late to tell him?"
"What you said?"
"Didn't say nothin', did I? Jest asked a question. It was you _said_
something Marvin, wa'n't it? Said you'd lend on my indorsement."
"That what you want me to tell him?"
"Didn't say so, did I? Jest asked a question. G'-by, Marvin. Lemme know
what he says."
It was unnecessary for Marvin to report, for early next morning Kent
Pilkinton, owner of a hill farm on the out-skirts of a village--a farm
on which he succeeded in raising the most ample crop of whiskers in
Coldriver, and little else, came diffidently up to Scattergood as he sat
in front of his hardware store.
"Morning Kent," said Scattergood. "Come to look at mowin' machines, I
"Might _look_ at one," said Kent.
"Need one, don't you?"
"Need quite a mess of implements, don't you?"
"Could do with 'em if I had 'em.... 'Tain't what I come fur, though,
Scattergood. Been tryin' to borrow money off of my brother-in-law, but
he don't calclate to lend without I git an indorser, and seems like he
sets store by your name on a note."
"Does, eh? Any reason I should indorse for you? Know any reason?"
"Nary," said Kent, and started to move off.
"Hold your bosses. What you need the money for?"
"Pay off a thousand-dollar mortgage and another thousand to git the farm
in shape to run."
"Calculate you kin run it, then?"
"If I git the tools."
"I figger maybe you kin. Like to see you git ahead. Where d'you
calculate to buy them implements?"
"Off of you."
"I got 'em to sell. When you got to have the money?"
"Two weeks to-morrow."
This was the day after the town meeting.
"Come in and pick out your implements," said Scattergood.
"Meanin' you'll indorse?"
"Meanin' that--pervidin' nothin' unforeseen comes up between now and
Half a day was spent selecting tools and implements for the farm, and
though Pilkinton did not know it, it was Scattergood's selection that
was purchased. Scattergood knew what was necessary and what would be
economical, and that was what Pilkinton got, and nothing more. It netted
Scattergood a pleasant profit, and Kent got the full equivalent of his
"Preside at town meetin', don't you?"
"My duty," said Kent.
"Calc'late to _do_ your duty?"
"Always done so."
"Comin' to see you do it," said Scattergood. He paused. "Next mornin'
we'll fix up the note. G'-by, Kent." During the fourteen days that
followed Coldriver was happy; between politics and the forbidden horse
race, it had such food for conversation that even cribbage under the
barber shop languished, and one had to walk into the road to pass the
crowd at the post office of evenings. As to the horse race, it resembled
a boil. Daily it grew more painful. Like a boil, such a horse race as
this must burst some day, and it was reaching the acute stage. But
Town-marshal Pease was vigilant and spoke sternly of the majesty of the
As to the election, it grew even more dubious. Scattergood privately
took stock of the situation. Marvin Towne and the Prohibitionists might
count now on a vote or two more than fifty. Postmaster Pratt appeared
certain of better than a hundred, and so did the opposing party. One or
the other of them was certain to win as matters lay, and Marvin's case
seemed hopeless. Marvin conceived it so and was for withdrawing, but
Scattergood saw to it that he did not withdraw.
"Keep your votes together," he said. "Stiffen 'em." It was his first
direct order. "Fetch 'em to the meetin' and be sure of every one."
On town-meeting day Coldriver filled with rigs from the surrounding
township. Every rail and post was utilized for hitching, and
Town-marshal Pease, his star displayed, patrolled the town to avert
disorder. He patrolled until the meeting went into session, and then he
took his chair just under the platform, and, as was his duty, guarded
the sacredness of the ballot.
Scattergood was present, sitting in a corner under the overhang of the
balcony, watching, but discouraging conversation. If one had studied his
face during the early proceedings he would have read nothing except a
genial interest, which was the thing Coldriver expected to see on
Scattergood's face. Town questions were decided, matters of sidewalks,
of road building, of schools, and every instance Marvin Towne's
fifty-two voted as a unit, swinging from one side to the other as their
peculiar interest dictated. On all minor questions it was Marvin Towne's
Prohibitionists who decided, because they carried the volume of votes
necessary to control. But when it came to major affairs, such as the
election of officers, there would be a different story. Then they could
join with neither party, but must stand alone as a unit, far outvoted.
So the regulars disregarded them, or if they gave them any attention it
was jocular. Even Marvin viewed the day as lost, but Scattergood held
him to the mark with a word passed now and then. It came three o'clock
of the afternoon before nominations for the high office of legislator
were the order of proceeding. Jim Allen and Pazzy Cox were placed before
the meeting as candidates amid the stimulated applause of their
adherents. Marvin Towne's name was received with laughter and such jeers
as the New England breed of farmer and townsman has rendered his own,
and at which he is a genius surpassed by none.
Chairman Pilkinton arose, as befitted the moment.
"Feller townsmen, we will now proceed to cast our ballots for the office
of representative in the legislature. The polls is open, and overlooked
by Town-marshal Pease. The ballotin' will begin."
At that instant there was an uproar on the stairs. Pliny Pickett burst
into the room, his hat missing, his eyes gleaming with excitement.
"It's a-comin' off. They've stole a march. Hoss race!... Hoss race!...
Ren Green and Wade Lumley's got their bosses up to Deacon Pettybone's
and they're goin' to race to the dam. Everybody out. Hoss race!... Hoss
race!..." He turned and ran frantically down the stairs, and on his
heels followed the voters of Coldriver. But one or two remained; men too
rheumatic to chance rapid movement, or those whose positions compelled
them to consider as non-existent such a matter as a race between
But no sooner had the hall cleared than men began to return, in couples,
in squads, and to take their seats. Scattergood was standing up now,
counting. Fifty-two he counted, and remained standing.
"Polls is open, Mr. Chairman," says he.
"They was declared so, but--er--the voters has gone. I hain't clear how
"Do your duty, chairman, like you said. Town meetings don't calculate to
take account of hoss races, do they? Eh?... None of your affair, is it?"
Pilkinton looked at Scattergood, who smiled genially and said: "Duty's
duty, Pilkinton. If you was to fail in your duty as a public officer,
folks might git to think you wasn't the sort of citizen that could be
trusted. Might even affect sich things as credit and promissory notes."
Mr. Pilkinton no longer hesitated.
"The polls is open," he said.
The fifty-two, ballots ready in their hands, started for the box, but
Town-marshal Pease, awakened from his astonishment, lifted his voice.
"I got to stop that hoss race. Stop the votin' till I git back. That
hoss race has got to be stopped."
"Seems to me like votes was more important than hoss races," said
"The town marshal will stay right where he is, and guard the ballot
box," said the chairman.
The voters moved to the front, and as they deposited their ballots,
sounds from without, indicating excitement and delight, were carried
through the windows to their ears. The fifty-two voted and returned to
"If everybody present and desirin' to vote has done so," said
Scattergood, "I move you them polls be closed."
Mr. Pilkinton put the motion, and it was carried with enthusiasm.
"Tellers," suggested Scattergood.
As was the custom, the votes were counted immediately. The result stood,
Marvin Towne: fifty-three votes; Jim Allen, two votes; Pazzy Cox, four
"I declare Marvin Towne elected our representative to the legislature,"
said Chairman Pilkinton, weakly, and sat down, mopping his brow.
"That bein' the final business of this meetin'," said Scattergood, "I
move we adjourn."
The story swept the state. Twenty-four hours later Lafe Siggins visited
Coldriver and was driven to Scattergood Baines's hardware store.
Scattergood sat on the piazza, and as soon as the visitor was identified
the male inhabitants of the village began to gather.
"Kin we talk in private?" said Mr. Siggins.
"Hain't got no need for privacy. Folks is welcome to listen to all I got
Mr. Siggins frowned, but, being a politician and partially estimating
the quality of his man, he did not protest.
"You beat us clever," said he.
"Calculated to," said Scattergood.
"In politics for good?"
"Calculate to be."
"What you aim to do?"
"Kind of look after the politics in Coldriver."
"Be you fur me or ag'in' me?"
"I'm fur you till my mind changes."
"How about this here Prohibition party?"
"Don't figger it's necessary after this."
"Guess we kin agree," said Siggins. "You can figger the party
machinery's behind you. So fur's _we're_ concerned, _you're_ Coldriver."
"Calc'lated to be," said Scattergood.
"Some day," said Siggins, in not willing admiration, "you're goin' to
run the state."
"Calc'late to," said Scattergood, and thereby rather took Mr. Siggins's
breath. "Figger on makin' politics kind of a side issue to the hardware
business. Find it mighty stimilatin'. Politics took in moderation,
follerin' a meal of business, makes an all-fired tasty dessert....
G'-by, Siggins, g'-by."
HE ADMINISTERS SOOTHING SYRUP
"Calc'late both them young folks was guilty of an error of jedgment when
they up and married each other," said Will Pratt, postmaster of
Coldriver, in the judicial tone which he had affected since his
elevation to office.
"Mean Marthy Norton and Jed Lewis, Will? Referrin' to them especial?"
Scattergood peered after the young couple who had the moment before
passed his hardware store, not walking jovially in the enjoyment of each
other's presence as young married folks should walk, but sullenly and in
"They be the _i_-dentical ones," Will declared. "Naggin' and quarrelin'
and bickerin' from sunup to milkin' time. Used to do it private like,
but it's been gittin' so lately you can't pass the house without hearin'
'em referrin' to each other mighty sharp and searchin'."
"Um!... Difficulty appears to be what, Will? Got any idee where lies the
seat of the trouble?"
"They jest hain't habitually suited to one another," said Will.
"Whatever one of 'em is fur the tother's ag'in'. Looks like they go to
bed spiteful and wake up acr'monious. 'Tain't like as if Jed was the
breed of feller that beats his wife, or that Marthy was the kind that
looks out of the corner of her eye at drummers stoppin' to the hotel."
"Jest kind of irritate one another, eh?" said Scattergood, thoughtfully.
"Kind of git on each other's nerves, you might say. Um!... I call to
mind when they was married, five year ago. 'Twan't indicated them days.
Jed he couldn't set easy if Marthy wasn't nigh, and Marthy went around
lookin' as if she'd swallered a pin and it hurt if Jed was more 'n forty
rod off. If ever two young folks was all het up over each other, Jed and
Marthy was them young folks.... And 'twan't but five year ago...."
"End by separating" said the postmaster.
"There's the stage a-rattlin' in," Scattergood said, suddenly. "Better
git ready f'r distributin' the mail, Will. G'-by, Will; and, Will, if
'twas me I dunno but what I'd kind of keep my mouth shet about Marthy
and Jed. Outside gabblin' hain't calc'lated to help matters none. G'-by,
The postmaster recognized his dismissal; he knew that the manner which
had fallen upon Scattergood portended that something was on his mind and
that he wanted to be alone and think, so he withdrew hastily and plodded
across the dusty road to the office of which he was the executive head.
As for Scattergood, he pressed his double chin down upon his bulging
chest, closed his eyes, and gave himself up enthusiastically to looking
like a gigantic figure of discouragement. He waggled his head dubiously.
"Wonder if it kin be laid to my door," he said to himself. "I figgered
they was about made f'r each other, and I brung 'em together....
Somethin's got crossways. Um!... Take them young folks separate, and
you couldn't ask for nothin' better.... Don't understand it a mite....
Anyhow, things has turned out as they be, and what kin I do about it?"
His reinforced chair creaked under the shifting of his great weight as
he bent mechanically to remove his shoes. With his toes imprisoned in
leather, Scattergood's brain refused to function, a characteristic
which greatly chagrined his wife, Mandy--so much so that she had
considered sewing him up in his footwear, as certain mothers in the
community sewed their children in their underwear for the winter.
Scattergood had amassed a fortune that might be called handsome, but it
had not made him effete. His income had never warranted him in
purchasing a pair of socks, so now, upon the removal of his shoepacs,
his toes were fully at liberty to squirm and wriggle in the most
soul-satisfying manner. He sat thus, battling with his problem, until
Pliny Pickett, driver of the stage, and Scattergood's man, rattled up to
the store in his dust-whitened conveyance.
"Afternoon, Scattergood," he said, in a manner which he endeavored to
make as like his employer's as possible.
"Afternoon, Pliny. Successful trip, Pliny? Plenty of passengers? Eh? Any
news down the valley?"
"Done middlin' well. Hain't much news, 'ceptin' that young Widder Conroy
down to Tupper Falls died of somethin' the matter with her stummick and
folks is wonderin' what'll become of her baby."
"Baby? What kind of a baby did she calc'late to have?"
"A he one--nigh onto two year old. Neighbors is lookin' after him."
"Not that anybody knows of."
"Um!... Wasn't passin' Jed Lewis's house, was you?"
"Didn't figger to."
"Wasn't passin' Jed Lewis's, was you?" Scattergood repeated,
"Um!... If you was to, and if you seen Jed, what was you figgerin' on
sayin' to him?"
Pliny scratched his head and pondered.
"Calculate I'd mention the heat some, and maybe I might say suthin'
about national politics."
"Wouldn't mention me, would you, Pliny? Don't figger my name might come
"If it did, what 'u'd you say, eh? Hain't no reason for mentionin' that
I might want to talk to him, is there? Hain't said so, have I?"
"You hain't," said Pliny, at last enlightened as to Scattergood's desire
in the matter.
An hour later Jed Lewis sauntered past the store and stopped. "Pliny
Pickett says you want to see me, Scattergood."
"Said that, did he? Told you I said I wanted to see you?"
"Wa-al, maybe not exactly. Not in so many words. But he kind of hinted
around and pecked around till I figgered that was what the ol' coot was
"Um!... Didn't tell him nothin' of the kind, but as long's you're here
you might as well set. Hain't seen much of you lately. How's the
"Too much rain. Got her cocked twice and had to spread her ag'in to
"Hear any politics talked around, Jed?"
Jed was brief in his answers. He seemed depressed, and conducted himself
like a man who had something on his mind.
"Any fresh news from anywheres?"
"Hain't heard none."
"Hear about the Packinses down to Bailey?"
"Never heard tell of 'em." There was excellent reason for this, because
no such family as the Packinses existed in Bailey or anywhere else, to
"Goin' to separate," said Scattergood.
Jed looked up quickly, bit his lip, and looked down again.
"What fur?" he asked.
"Nobody kin figger out. Jest agreein' to disagree. Can't git along,
nohow. Always naggin' at each other and squabblin' and hectorin'....
Nice young folks, too. Used to set a heap of store by one another. Can't
figger how they come to disagree like they do!"
"Nobody kin figger it out," said Jed, with sudden vehemence. "All to
once you wake up and things is that way, and you dunno how they come to
be. It jest drifts along. Fust you know things has went all to smash."
"Um!... You talk like you knowed somethin' about it."
"Nobody knows more," said the young man, bitterly. He was suddenly
conscious that he wanted to talk about his domestic affairs; that he
wanted to loose the story of his troubles and dwell upon them in all
"Do tell," said Scattergood, with an inflection of astonishment.
"Marthy and me has about come to the partin' of our roads," said Jed.
"It's come gradual, without our noticin' it, but it's here at last.
Seems like we can't bear the sight of each other--when we git together.
And yit--sounds mighty funny, too--I calc'late to be as fond of Marthy
as ever I was. But the minute we git together we bicker and quarrel till
there hain't no pleasure into life at all."
"All Marthy's fault, hain't it? Kind of a mean disposition, hain't she?"
"No sich thing, Scattergood, and you know it dum well. There didn't use
to be a sweeter-dispositioned girl in the state than Marthy....
Somethin's jest went wrong. They's times when I git mad and it all
looks to be her fault, and then I ketch my own self startin' some
hectorin' meanness. 'Tain't all her fault, and 'tain't all my fault. The
whole sum and substance of it is that we can't git along with each other
"So you calc'late to separate?"
"Been talkin' it up some."
"Hain't neither of us willin'. We fix it up and agree to try over ag'in,
and then, fust thing we know, we're right into the middle of another
squabble. I want Marthy, and I guess Marthy wants me, but we want each
other like we was five year back and not like we be now."
"Been married five year, hain't you?"
"Five year last April."
"Um!... Wa-al, I hope nothin' comes of it, Jed. But if it has to it
will. Better live happy separate than unhappy together.... G'-by, Jed."
Scattergood did not discuss this problem with Mandy, his wife, as it was
his custom to discuss business problems. He did not mention the young
Lewises because the first rule of Mandy's life was "Mind your own
business," and it irritated her beyond measure to see Scattergood poking
his finger into every dish that offered. He did talk the matter over
with Deacon Pettybone, but got little enlightenment for his pains.
"Don't seem natteral," Scattergood said, "f'r young folks to git to
quarrelin' and bickerin' ontil life hain't endurable no longer. 'Tain't
natteral a-tall. Somethin' must be all-fired wrong somewheres."
"It's human nature to quarrel," said the deacon, gloomily. "Nothin'
onusual about it."
"Human nature," said Scattergood, "gits blamed f'r a heap of things that
ought to be laid at the door of human cussedness."
"Same thing," said the deacon. "If you're human you're cussed. Used to
be so in the Garden of Eden, and it'll keep on bein' so till Gabriel
blows his final trump."
"'Tain't no more natteral to bicker than 'tis to have dispepsy.
Quarrelin' and hectorin' hain't nothin' but a kind of dispepsy that
attacks families instid of stummicks. In both cases it means somethin'
"Can't cure a unhappy family with a dose of calomel," said the deacon,
"Hain't so sure. Bet that identical remedy' u'd fix up three out of ten.
But somethin' else is wrong with them young Lewises. A dose of somethin'
'u'd cure 'em, if only a feller could figger out what 'twas."
"Might try soothin' syrup," said the deacon, with an ironic grin.
"Sounds like it ought to git results.... Soothin' syrup--eh? Have to
tell the boys that one. Soothin' syrup. Perty good f'r an old man. Don't
call to mind makin' no joke like that f'r twenty year."
"Do it often, Deacon," said Scattergood, gravely. "You won't have to
take so much sody followin' meals to sweeten you up.... G'-by,
Deacon.... Soothin' syrup. Um!... I swanny...."
He looked across the square and saw that Pliny Pickett was delighting an
audience with apochryphal reminiscences, doubtless of a gallant and
spicy character. It is characteristic of Scattergood that he waited
until Pliny had reached his climax, shot it off, and was doubled up with
laughter at his own narration, before he lifted up his voice and
summoned the stage driver.
"Hey, Pliny! Step over here a minute."
"Comin'," said Pliny, with alacrity. Then in an aside to his audience:
"See that? Can't let an evenin' pass without a conference with me. Sets
a heap of store by my judgment."
"Sets more store by your laigs," said Old Man Bogle. "They kin run
Pliny hastened across the square, and in careful imitation of
Scattergood said, "Evening Scattergood."
"Evening Pliny. Flow of language good as usual to-night? Didn't meet
with no trouble sayin' what you had to say?"
"Not a mite, Scattergood."
"Come through Bailey to-day?"
"What's become of that What's-his-name baby you was a-tellin' about? The
one that lost his ma and was bein' cared for by neighbors?"
"Nothin' hain't become of him. Calc'late he'll be took to a
"Um! Likely-lookin' two-year-old, was he? Take note of any blemishes?"
"I hear tell by them that knows as how he was sound in wind and limb."
"Who's keepin' him, Pliny?"
"Mis' Patterson's sort of shuffled him in with her seven. Says she don't
notice no difference to speak of. Claims 'tain't possible f'r eight
childern to be no noisier 'n what seven be."
"Um!... G'-by, Pliny. Ever deal in facts over there to the post office?
Ever have occasion to mention facts?"
"Er--not _reg'lar_ facts, Scattergood. You needn't to worry about my
talkin' too free."
"Seems like a feller that talks as much as you do would _have_ to
mention a fact once in a while. G'-by, Pliny."
It was two or three days later that Postmaster Pratt alluded again to
Martha and Jed Lewis.
"They're gittin' wuss and wuss," he said, with some gratification.
"Last night they was a rumpus you could 'a' heard forty mile. Ended up
by him threatenin' to leave her, and by her tellin' him that if he
didn't she'd lock him out of the house. Looks to me like that family
fracas was about ripe to bust."
"Signs all p'int that way, Will. Too bad, hain't it? There's a reason
f'r it, I calculate. Ever look f'r the reason, Will? Ever think about it
"Hain't had no time. Post office keeps me thinkin' night and day."
"Well, I _have_. Figgered a heap."
"Any results, Scattergood?"
"What be they?"
Scattergood's eyes twinkled in the darkness. "I got it all figgered
out," he said, "that them young folks needs a dose of soothin' syrup."
"I want to know," said the postmaster, breathlessly and with
bewilderment. "Soothin' syrup! I swan to man!... Hain't been out in the
heat, have you, Scattergood?"
Scattergood made no reply to this question. He merely waggled his head
and said: "G'-by, Will. G'-by."
Next morning Scattergood walked past the Lewis place. He passed it three
times before he made up his mind whether to go in or not, but finally he
turned through the gate and walked around to the kitchen door. Inside he
saw Martha ridding up the kitchen, not with a morning song on her lips,
but wearing a sullen expression which sat ill on her fine New England
"Mornin', Marthy," he called.
She looked up and smiled suddenly. The change in her face was
"Mornin', Mr. Baines. Set right down on the porch. ... Let me fetch you
a hot cup of coffee. 'Twon't take but a minute to make."
"Can't stop," said Scattergood. "I was lookin' for Jed."
"Jed's gone," she replied, shortly, the sullen expression returning to
her face. "'He won't be back 'fore noon."
"Uh-huh!... Wa-al, I calc'late I kin keep on drawin' my breath till
then--if you kin. I call to mind the time when you was all-fired oneasy
if Jed got away from you for six hours in a stretch."
"Them times is gone," she said, shortly.
"Shucks!" said Scattergood.
"They be," she said, fiercely. "Hain't no use tryin' to hide it. Jed and
me is about through. Nothin' but fussin' and backbitin' and
maneuvering'. He don't care f'r me no more like he used to, and--"
"You don't set sich a heap of store by him," Scattergood interrupted.
Martha hesitated. "I do," she said, slowly. "But I can't put up with it
"Jed's fault--mostly," said Scattergood, as one speaks who utters an
"No more 'n mine," she said, with a sudden flash. "I dunno what's got
into us, Mr. Baines, but we no sooner git into the same room than it
commences. 'Tain't no-body's fault--it jest _is_."
"Um!... Kinder like to have things the way they used to be?"
"Oh, Mr. Baines!" Her eyes filled. "Them first two-three years! Jed was
the best man a woman ever had."
"Hain't drinkin', is he?"
"Never touches a drop."
"Jest his nasty temper," said Scattergood, casually.
"No sich thing.... It's jest happened so. We can't git on, and I'm
through tryin'. One of us is gain' to git out of this house. I've made
up my mind." She started untying her apron. "I'm a-goin' right now.
It'll be off'n my mind then, and I kin sort of git a fresh start. I'm
goin' right now and pack."
"Kind of hasty, hain't you?... Now, Marthy, as a special favor to me I
wish you'd stay, maybe two days more. I got a special reason. If you was
to go this mornin' it 'u'd upset my plans. After Sattidy you kin do as
you like, and maybe it's best you should part. But I do wisht you could
see your way to stayin' till Sattidy."
"I don't see why, Mr. Baines, but if it'll be any good to _you_, I'll
do it. But not a minute after Sattidy--now mind that!"
"Much 'bleeged, Marthy. G'-by, Marthy. G'-by."
On Friday Scattergood was invisible in Coldriver village, for he had
started away before dawn, driving his sway-backed horse over the
mountain roads to the southward. He notified nobody of his going, unless
it was Mandy, his wife, and even to her he did not make apparent his
Before noon he was in Bailey and stopping before the small white house
in which Mrs. Patterson managed by ingenuity to fit in a husband, a
mother-in-law, an aged father, seven children of her own, the Conroy
orphan, and a constantly changing number of cats. Nobody could have done
it but Mrs. Patterson. The house resembled one of those puzzle boxes
containing a number of curiously sawn pieces of wood, which, once
removed, can be returned and fitted into place again only by some one
who knows the secret.
Scattergood entered the house, remained upward of an hour, and then
reappeared, followed by Mrs. Patterson, seven children, an old man, and
an old woman--and in his arms was a baby whose lungs gave promise of a
"Do this much, does he?" Scattergood asked, uneasily.
"Not more 'n most," said Mrs. Patterson.
"Um!... If he lets on to be hungry, what's the best thing to feed him
up on? I got a bag of doughnuts and five-six sandriches and nigh on to
half a apple pie in the buggy."
"Feed him them," said Mrs. Patterson, "and you'll be like to hear some
real yellin'. What he's doin' now hain't nothin' but his objectin' to
you a-carryin' him like he was a horse blanket.... You wait right there
till I git a bottle of milk. And I'll fix you some sugar in a rag that
you kin put into his mouth if he acts uneasy. It'll quiet him right
"Much 'bleeged. Hain't had much experience with young uns. Might's well
start now. Bet me 'n this here one gits well acquainted 'fore we reach
"'Twouldn't s'prise me a mite," replied Mrs. Patterson, with something
that might have been a twinkle in her tired eyes. "I almost feel I
should go along with you."
"G'-by, Mrs. Patterson," said Scattergood, hastily, and he climbed into
his buggy clumsily, placing the baby on the seat beside him, and holding
it in place with his left arm. "G'-by."
The buggy rattled off. The baby hushed suddenly and began to look at the
"Kind of come to your senses, eh?" said Scattergood. "Now you and me's
goin' to git on fine if you jest keep your mouth shet. If you behave
yourself proper I dunno but what I kin find a stick of candy f'r you
when we git there."
Presently Scattergood looked down to find the baby asleep. He drove
slowly and cautiously, whispering what commands he felt were
indispensable to his horse. This delightful situation continued for
upward of two hours, and Scattergood said to himself that folks who
bothered about traveling with infants must be very easily worried.
"Jest as soon ride with this one clean to the Pacific coast," he said.
And then the baby awoke. It blinked and looked about it; it rubbed its
eyes; it stared severely up at Scattergood; it opened its mouth
tentatively, closed it again, and then--and then it uttered such an
ear-piercing, long-drawn shriek that the old horse jumped with fright.
"Hey, there!" said the startled Scattergood. "Hey! what's ailin' you
The baby closed his eyes, clenched his fists, kicked out with his legs,
and gave himself up whole-heartedly to the exercise of his voice.
"Quit that," said Scattergood. "Now listen here; that hain't no way to
behave. You won't git that candy--"
Louder and more piercing arose the baby's cries. Scattergood dropped the
reins, lifted the baby to his knee, and jounced it up and down
furiously, performing an act which he imagined to be singing, a thing he
had heard was interesting and soothing to babies. It did not even
attract this one's attention.
"Sufferin' heathen!" Scattergood said. "What in tunket was it that woman
said I sh'u'd do? Hain't they no way of shuttin' him off? Look-ee here,
young feller, you jest quit it.... B'jing! here's my watch. You kin
listen to it tick."
The baby tried the watch on his toothless gums, found it not to his
taste, and flung it from him with such vehemence that it would have
suffered permanent injury but for the size and strength of the silver
chain which attached it to Scattergood. The cries became more maddening.
Scattergood was not hungry, so it did not occur to him that the infant
might be thinking of food. He dandled it, he whistled, he sang, he
pointed out the interesting attributes of his horse, and promised to
direct attention to a rabbit or even a deer in a moment, but nothing
availed. Perspiration was pouring down Scattergood's face, and his
expression was that of a man who devoutly wishes he were far otherwise
than he is.
Half an hour of this seemed to Scattergood like the length of a sizable
day--and then he remembered the milk. Frantically he fished it out of
the basket and thrust it toward the young person, who did with it what
seemed right to him, and, with a gurgle of satisfaction, settled down to
business. Scattergood sighed, wiped his forehead, and revised his
opinion of folks who were worried at the prospect of travel with an
The rest of that drive was a nightmare to Scattergood. When the baby
yelled he was in torment. When the baby slept he was in torment lest he
wake it, so that it would commence again to cry. He sweat cold and he
sweat hot, and he wished wishes in his secret heart and blamed himself
for many things--chief of which was that he had not brought Mandy along
to bear the brunt of the adventure.
But at last, long after nightfall, with baby fast asleep, Scattergood
drove into Coldriver by deserted and circuitous roads. He stopped his
horse in a dark spot on the edge of the village, and, with the baby
cautiously held in his arms, he slunk through back ways and short cuts
to the house where Jed and Martha Lewis made their home. With meticulous
stealth he passed through the gate, laid the baby on the doorstep, rang
the bell long and determinedly, and then, with astonishing quiet and
agility, hid himself in the midst of a clump of lilacs.
The door opened, and a light shone through upon the squirming bundle
that lay upon the step. A tentative cry issued from the baby; a bass
exclamation issued from Jed Lewis. "My Gawd! Marthy, somebody's left a
Martha pushed past her husband and lifted the baby in her arms. She said
no word, but Scattergood could see her press it close, and, in the
light that came through the door, could see the expression of her face.
It satisfied him.
"What we goin' to do with the doggone thing?" Jed demanded.
Martha pushed past him into the house, and he followed, wordless,
closing the door after them.... Scattergood remained for some time, and
then slunk away....
Postmaster Pratt gave the news to Scattergood in the morning.
"Somebody went and left a baby on to Jed Lewis's stoop last night," he
declared. "Hain't nobody been able to identify it. Nary a mark nor a
sign on to it no place. ... Whatever possessed anybody to leave a baby
_there_ of all places?"
"I want to know!" exclaimed Scattergood. "Girl er boy?"
"Boy, I'm told."
"What's Jed say?"
"Hain't sayin' much. Jest sets and kind of hangs on to his head, and
every once in a while he gits up and looks at the baby and then goes
back to holdin' his head."
"How about Marthy?"
"Marthy," said Postmaster Pratt. "I can't make out about Marthy, but I
heard her a-singin' this mornin' 'fore breakfast. Fust time I heard her
sing for more 'n a year."
"Might 'a' been singin' to the baby," Scattergood suggested.
"Naw, it was while she was gittin' breakfast. Jest the time she and Jed
quarrels most powerful."
During the day all of Coldriver called to see the mysterious infant.
Nobody could give a clue to its identity, and it was decided unanimously
that it had been brought from a distance. As to the intentions of the
Lewises regarding its disposition, they were noncommittal. It was
universally accepted as fact, however, that the baby would be sent to
Thereupon Scattergood called upon the First Selectman.
"What's the town goin' to do about that baby?" he demanded.
"Taxpayers'll be wantin' to know. Seems like the town's liable f'r its
"Calculate we be.... Calculate we be. I been figgerin' on what steps to
"Better go across to Jed's and notify 'em," said Scattergood. "They'll
be expectin' you to take action prompt. I'll go 'long with you."
They walked down the street and rapped at the Lewises' door.
"Come on official business," said the First Selectman, pompously, to
Jed, "connected with that there foundlin'."
Martha came hastily into the room. "What you want?" she demanded, in a
"Come to tell you we would take that baby off'n your hands and send it
to a institution. Git it ready, and we'll take it to-morrer."
"Take that baby!... Did you hear him, Jed Lewis? Did you hear that man
say as how he was goin' to take away my baby?" She stumbled across the
room to Jed and clutched the lapels of his coat. Scattergood noticed
with some pleasure that Jed's arm went automatically about her waist.
"Make 'em git out, Jed. Tell 'em they can't take this baby.... You want
we should keep it, don't you, Jed?... We wanted one. You know how we
wanted one.... You're goin' to let us keep it, hain't you, Jed?"
Jed put Martha aside gently and walked over to a makeshift crib in the
corner, where the baby was asleep, where he stood for a moment looking
down at it with a curious expression. Then he turned suddenly, strode to
the door, opened it, and pointed. "Git!" he said to the First Selectman
"Jed ... Jed ... darlin'," Martha cried, and as Scattergood passed out
he saw from the corner of his eye that she was sobbing on her husband's
hickory shirt and that he was patting her back with awkward gentleness.
"Looked a mite like Jed wanted we should go," said Scattergood.
"I'll have the law on to him. He'll be showed that he can't stand up to
the First Selectman of this here town, I'll--"
"You'll go home and set down in the shade and cool off," said
Scattergood, merrily, "and while you're a-coolin' you might sort of
thank Gawd that there's sich things as human bein's with human feelin's,
and that there's sich things as babies ...that sometimes gits themselves
left on the right doorstep.... G'-by, Selectman. G'-by."
A week later Scattergood was passing the Lewis home early in the
evening. In the side yard was a hammock under the trees which had been
unoccupied this year past, but to-night it was occupied again. Martha
was there with the baby against her breast, and Jed was there, his arm
tightly about his wife, and one of the baby's hands lying on his
calloused palm.... As Scattergood watched he saw Jed bend clumsily and
kiss the tiny fingers ... and Martha turned a trifle and smiled up into
her husband's eyes.
Scattergood passed on, blinking, perhaps because dust had gotten in his
eyes. He stopped at the post office and spoke to Postmaster Pratt.
"Call to mind my speakin' of soothin' syrup and Jed Lewis and his wife?"
"Seems like I mind it, Scattergood."
"Jest walk past their house, Postmaster. Calc'late you'll see I figgered
clost to right.... Marthy's a-sittin' there with Jed in the hammick,
and they're a-holdin' on their lap the doggondest best soothin' syrup
f'r man and wife that any doctor c'u'd perscribe.... Calculate it's one
of them nature's remedies.... Go take a look, Postmaster.... G'-by."
HE HELPS WITH THE ROUGH WORK
Scattergood Baines, as he sat with shirt open at the throat, his huge
body sagged down in the chair that had been especially reinforced to
sustain his weight, seemed to passing Coldriver village to be drowsing.
Many people suspected Scattergood of drowsing when he was exceedingly
wide awake and observant of events. It was part of his stock in trade.
At this moment he was looking across the square toward the post office.
A large, broad-shouldered young man, with hair sun-bleached to a ruddy
yellow, had alighted from a buggy and entered the office. He was a fine,
bulky, upstanding farmer, built for enduring much hard labor in times of
peace and for performing feats of arms in time of war. He looked like a
fighter; he was a fighter--a willing fighter, and folks up and down the
valley stepped aside if it was noised about that Abner Levens had broken
loose. It was not that Abner delighted in the fruit of the vine nor the
essence of the maize; he was a teetotaler. But it did seem as if nature
had overdone the matter of providing him with the machinery for creating
energy and had overlooked the safety valve. Wherefore Abner, once or
twice a year, lost his temper.
Now, losing his temper was not for Abner a matter of uttering a couple
of oaths and of wrapping a hoe handle around a tree. He lost his temper
thoroughly and seemed unable to locate it again for days. He rampaged.
He roared up and down the valley, inviting one and all to step up and
be demolished, which the inhabitants were very reluctant to do, for
Abner worked upon his victims with thoroughness and enthusiasm.
When Abner was in his normal humor he was a jovial, noisily jovial young
man, who would dance with the girls until the cock tired of crowing; who
would give a day's work to a friend; who performed his civic and
religious duties punctiliously, if gayly; who was honest to the fraction
of a penny; and who would have been the most popular and admired youth
in the valley among the maidens of the valley had it not been for their
constant, uneasy fear that he might suddenly turn Berserk.
It was this young man whom Scattergood eyed thoughtfully, and, one might
say, apprehensively, for Scattergood liked the youth and feared the
germs of disaster that lay quiescent in his powerful body.
Pliny Pickett lounged past, stopped, eyed Scattergood, and seated
himself on the step.
"Abner Levens 's in town," he said.
"Seen him," answered Scattergood.
"Calc'late Asa'll be in?"
"Bein' 's it's Sattidy night, 'most likely he'll come."
"Hope Abner's feelin' friendly, then," said Pliny with an anticipatory
twinkle in his shrewd little gray eyes which gave direct contradiction
to his words. "If Abner hain't feelin' jest cheerful them boys'll be
wrastlin' all over town and pushin' down houses."
"They hain't never fit yet," said Scattergood.
"Nor won't if Asa has the say of it.... He's full as big as Abner, too.
Otherwise they don't resemble twins none."
"Hain't much brotherly feelin' betwixt 'em."
"I hain't clear as to the rights of the matter," said Pliny, "but they
hain't nothin' like a will dispute to make bad blood betwixt
relatives.... Asa got the best of _that_ argument, anyhow. Don't seem
fair, exactly, is my opinion, that Old Man Levens should up and
discriminate betwixt them boys like he did--givin' Asa a hog's share."
"Dunno's I'd worry sich a heap about that," said Scattergood, "if they
hadn't both got het up about the same gal. Looks to me like one or
tother of 'em took up with that gal jest to make mischief.... Seems like
Abner was settin' out with her fust."
"Some says both ways. I dunno," said Pliny, impartially. "Anyhow, Abner
he lets on public and constant that he's a-goin' to nail Asa's hide to
the barn door.... It's one good, healthy hate betwixt them boys."
"And trouble'll come of it.... Wonder which of 'em Mary Ware favors? If
she favors either of 'em, and trouble comes, it'll mix her in."
"Hope Abner gits him. Better for her, says I, to take up with a man like
Ab, that's a good feller fifty weeks out of the year, and goes on a tear
two weeks, than to be married to a cuss like Asa that jest goes along
sort of gloomy and _still_ and seekin'. I hain't never heard Asa laugh
with no real enjoyment into it yet. He grins and shows his teeth. He's
too dum quiet, and always acts like a feller that's afraid you'll find
out what he's got in mind."
"Um!..." said Scattergood.
"Mary's about the pertiest girl in Coldriver," said Pliny. "Dunno but
what she could handle Abner all right, too. Call to mind the firemen's
picnic last year when she went with Abner, and he busted loose on that
feller with the three shells and the leetle ball?"
"When the feller had robbed Half-wit Stenens of nigh on to twenty
dollars? I call to mind."
"Abner was jest on the p'int of separatin' that feller into chunks and
dispersin' the chunks over the county when Mary she steps up and puts
her hand en his arm, and says, 'Abner!' ... Jest like that she said it,
quiet and gentle, but firm. Abner he let loose of the feller and turned
to look at her, and in a minute all the fight went out of his face and
his eyes like somebody had drained it off. He kind of blushed and hung
his head, and walked away with her.... She didn't tongue-lash him,
neither, jest kept a-touchin' his arm so's he wouldn't forgit she was
"Um!..." said Scattergood. "Here comes Asa." He lifted himself from his
creaking chair and started across the bridge. "If it's a-comin' off," he
said to Pliny, "I want to git where I kin git a good view."
In the post office the twin brothers came face to face. Scattergood saw
Abner's thin lips twist in a provocative sneer. Abner halted suddenly,
at arm's length from his brother, and eyed him from head to foot, and
Asa returned an insolent stare.
"You sneakin' hound," said Abner, without heat, as was his way in the
beginning, always. "You're lower'n I thought, and I thought you was
low." Scattergood took in these words and pondered them. Did they mean
some new cause for enmity between the brothers? Suddenly Abner's eyes
began to kindle and to blaze. Asa crouched and his teeth showed in a
saturnine, crooked smile. No man could look upon him and accuse him of
being afraid of Abner or of avoiding the issue.
"I know what you've been up to, you slinkin' varmint ... I know where
you was Tuesday." Scattergood took possession of this sentence and
placed it in the safety-deposit box of his memory. Where had Asa been
Tuesday, he wondered, and what had Asa been doing there?
"I've put up with a heap from you, for you're my own flesh and blood. I
hain't never laid a hand on you, though I've threatened it often. But
now! by Gawd, I'm goin' to take you apart so's nobody kin put you
together ag'in ... you mis'able, cheatin', low-down, crawlin' snake."
With that he stepped back a pace and with his open palm struck Asa
across the mouth.
Asa licked his lips and continued to smile his crooked, saturnine smile.
"Hain't scarcely room in here," he said, softly.
"Git outside and take off your coat," said Abner, "for I'm goin' to fix
you so's nobody kin ever accuse flesh and blood of mine of doin' agin
what I've ketched you doin'."
"What's gnawin' you," said Asa, softly, "is that I got the best farm and
that I'm a-goin' to git your girl."
There was a stark pause. Abner stiffened, grew tense, as one becomes at
the moment of bursting into dynamic action, but he did not stir.
Scattergood was surprised, but he was more surprised by Abner's next
words. "I hain't goin' to half kill you on account of your lyin' to
father, nor on account of her--it's on account of _her_." The sentence
seemed without sense or meaning, but Scattergood placed it with his
other collected sentences; he did not perceive its meaning, but he did
perceive that the first 'her' and the second 'her' were pronounced so
that they became different words, like names, indicating, identifying,
different persons. That was Scattergood's notion.
Asa turned on his heel and walked into the square, removing his coat as
he went; Abner followed. They faced each other, crouching. Abner's face
depicting wrath, Asa's depicting hatred.... Before a blow was struck, a
girl, tall, slender, deep-bosomed, fit mate for a man of might, pushed
through the circle of spectators. Her face was pale and distressed, but
very lovely. Her brown eyes were dark with the emotion of the moment,
and a wisp of wavy brown hair lay unnoticed upon her broad forehead....
She walked to Abner's side and touched his arm.
"Abner!" she said, gently.
He turned his blazing eyes upon her. "Not this time" he said. "Go away,
Mary." Even in his rage he spoke to her in a voice of reverence.
"Abner!" she repeated.
He turned to his brother. "You get off this time," he said, evenly, "but
there will be another time.... Asa, I think I am going to kill you...."
Asa laughed mockingly, and Abner took a threatening step toward him, but
Mary touched his arm again. "Abner!" she said once more; and obediently
as some well-trained mastiff he followed her through the gaping ring,
she still touching his arm, and together they walked slowly up the road.
Two days later, about eight o'clock in the morning, Sheriff Ulysses
Watts bustled down the street wearing his official, rather than his
common, or meat-wagon, air. He paused, to speak excitedly to
Scattergood, who sat as usual on the piazza of his hardware store.
"They've jest found Asa Levens's body," he ejaculated. "A-layin' clost
to the road it was, with a bullet through the head. Clear case of
murder.... I'm gatherin' a posse to fetch in the murderer."
"Murderer's known, is he?" said Scattergood, leaning forward, and eying
"Abner, of course. Who else would 'a' done it? Hain't he been
a-threatenin' right along?"
"Anybody see him fire the shot, Sheriff? Any witnesses?"
"Nary witness. Nothin' but the body a-layin' where it fell."
"What was the manner of this shootin', Sheriff?"
"All I know's what I've told you."
"Gatherin' a posse, Ulysses? Who be you selectin'?"
"Various and sundry," said the sheriff.
"Any objection to deputizin' me?" said Scattergood. "Any notion I might
"Glad to have you, Scattergood.... Got to hustle. Most likely the
murderer's escapin' this minute."
"Um!..." said Scattergood. "Need any catridges or anythin' in the
hardware line, Sheriff? Figgerin' on goin' armed, hain't you?"
"Dunno but what the boys'll need somethin'. You keep open till I gather
"I carry the most reliable line of catridges in the state," said
Scattergood. "Prices low.... I'll be waitin', Sheriff."
In twenty minutes a dozen citizens of the vicinage gathered at
Scattergood's store, each armed with his favorite weapon, rifle or
double-barreled shotgun, and each wearing what he fancied to be the air
of a dangerous and resolute citizen.
"Calc'late he'll be desprit," said Jed Lewis. "He won't be took without
It was characteristic of Scattergood that he delayed the setting out of
the posse until, by his peculiar methods of salesmanship, he had pressed
upon various members lethal merchandise to a value of upward of twenty
dollars. This being done, they entered a big picnic wagon with parallel
seats and set out for the scene of the crime. Coroner Bogle demanded
that the body should be viewed officially before the man-hunt should
begin. Scattergood threw the weight of his opinion with the coroner.
The body was found lying beside a narrow path leading from the road
through a field to Asa Levens's farmhouse; it lay upon its face, with
arms outstretched, very still and very peaceful, with the morning sun
shining down upon it, and the robins singing from shadowing trees, and
insects buzzing and whirring cheerfully in the fields, and the fields
themselves peaceful and beautiful in their golden embellishments, ready
for the harvest. Scattergood looked about him at the trappings of the
day, and the thought came unbidden that it was a pleasant spot in which
to die ... perhaps more pleasant than the dead man deserved.
"Shot from behind." said the sheriff.
"By somebody a-layin' in wait," said Jed Lewis.
"It was murder--cold-blooded murder," said the sheriff.
Scattergood stepped forward as the coroner turned the face up to the
light of the sun.
"It was a death by violence," said Scattergood. "It may be murder....
Asa Levens wears, as he lies, the face of a man who troubled God...."
There was none in that little group to comprehend his meaning.
"There was no struggle," said the coroner.
"He never knowed he was shot," said Jed Lewis.
"Be you still a-goin' to arrest Abner Levens?" Scattergood asked.
"To be sure. He done it, didn't he? Who else would 'a' killed Asa?"
"Who else?" said Scattergood, solemnly.
They raised Asa Levens and carried him to his house. Having left him in
proper custody, the posse re-entered its picnic van and drove with no
small trepidation toward Abner Levens's farm, a mile away. Abner Levens
was perceived from a distance, hoeing in a field.
"He's goin' to face it out," said the sheriff; "or maybe he wasn't
expectin' Asa to be found yet."
The picnic van stopped beside the field and the armed posse scrambled
out, holding its weapons threateningly; but as Abner was armed with
nothing more lethal than a hoe there was some appearance of
embarrassment among them, and more than one man endeavored to make his
shooting iron invisible by dropping it in the long grass.
"Come on," said the sheriff, and in a body the posse advanced across the
field toward Abner, who leaned upon his hoe and waited for them. "Abner
Levens," said the sheriff, in a voice which was not of the steadiest, "I
arrest you for murder."
Abner looked at the sheriff; Abner looked from one to another of the
posse in silence. It seemed as if he were not going to speak, but at
last he did speak.
"Then Asa Levens is dead," he said.
It was not a question; it was a statement, made with conviction.
Scattergood Baines noted that Abner called his brother by name as if
desiring to avoid the matter of blood kindred; that he made no denial.
"You know it better than anybody," said the sheriff.
Abner looked past the sheriff, over the uneven fields, with their rock
fences, and beyond to the green slopes of the mountains as they upreared
distinct, majestic, imposing in their serene permanence against the
undimmed summer sky.
"Asa Levens is dead," said Abner, presently. "Now I know that God is not
infinite in everything.... His patience is not infinite."
"It's my duty to warn you that anythin' you say kin be used ag'in' you,"
said the sheriff. "Be you comin' along peaceable?"
"I'm comin' peaceable," said Abner. "If God's satisfied--I be."
Abner Levens was locked in the unreliable jail of Coldriver village, and
a watch placed over him. Those who saw him marveled at his demeanor;
Scattergood Baines marveled at it, for it was not the demeanor of a
man--even of an innocent man--accused of a crime for which the penalty
was death. Abner sat upon the hard bench and looked quietly, even
placidly, out at the brightness of day, as it was apparent beyond flimsy
iron bars, and his expression was the expression of _contentment_.
He had not demanded the benefit of legal guidance; he had neither
affirmed nor denied his guilt; indeed, he had uttered no word since the
door of the jail had closed behind him.
Mary Ware spoke to the young man through the window of the jail in full
view of all Coldriver.
"You didn't do it, Abner. I know you didn't do it," she said, so that
all might hear, "and if you still want me, Abner, like you said, I'll
stick by you through thick and thin."
"Thank ye, Mary," Abner replied. "Now I guess you better go away."
"What shall I do, Abner--to help you?"
"Nothing Mary. Looks like God's took aholt of matters. Better let him
finish 'em in his own way."
That was all; neither Mary Ware nor any other could get more out of him,
and it was said by many to be a confession of guilt.
"Realizes there hain't no use makin' a defense. Calc'lates on takin' his
medicine like a man," said Postmaster Pratt.... There were those in town
who voiced the wish that it had been some other than Abner who had
killed Asa Levens. "His gun's been shot recent," said the sheriff. It
was the final gram of evidence necessary to complete assurance of
Mary Ware was observed by many to walk directly from the jail window to
Scattergood Baines's hardware store, and there to stop and address
Scattergood, who sat barefooted, and therefore in deep thought, before
the door of his place of business.
"Mr. Baines," said Mary, "you've helped other folks. Will you help me?"
"Help you how, Mary? What kin I do for you?"
"Abner isn't guilty, Mr. Baines"
"Tell you so?... Abner tell you so?"
"Um!... 'F he was innocent, wouldn't he deny it, Mary?" He did not
permit her to reply, but asked another question. "What makes you say he
hain't guilty, Mary?"
"Because I know it," she replied, simply.
"How do you know it, Mary? It's mighty hard to _know_ anythin' on earth.
How d'you _know_?"
"Because I know," said Mary.
"'Twon't convince no jury."
Mary stood in silence for a moment, and then turned away, not tearful,
"Hold your hosses," said Scattergood. "Kin you think of anythin' that
might convince a _stranger_ that Abner is innocent?"
Mary considered. "Asa was shot," she said.