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wonderful book in my native land. I wept when I thought of the millions that had not seen it–millions that were living poor, starved lives because they didn’t have a copy of Jarby’s Encyclopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art, and I gave myself to the cause.”

The minister handed the book back to Eliph’ Hewlitt, and cleared his throat.

“It seems to be all you claim for it,” he said; “but I fear the landlord of the Kilo House was right. We are not, many of us, ready for more books at present. If you return in a year or eight months—-“

Eliph’ Hewlitt smiled, and put his hand gently no the glossy black knee of the minister’s best trousers.

“True,” he said, “true! Kilo has books. Kilo knows the civilizing and Christianizing influence of books. But,” he exclaimed, ” think of the poor heathen! Think of the poor missionaries fighting to bring civilization to those dark-hued brothers! Shall it be said that every home in Kilo has a set of Sir Walter Scott, ten volumes with gilt edges, while the minds of the heathen dry up and rot for want of the vast treasures contained in Jarby’s Encyclopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art? Here in this book is the wisdom of the whole world, and will you selfishly withhold it form those who need it so badly? If I know Kilo, I think not. If what is said in Jefferson regarding the unselfishness and liberality of Kilo is true, I think not. I know what you will say. You will say, ‘Here, take this money we have collected this evening and give to the thirsting heathen as many volumes of Jarby’s Encyclopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art, as it will buy at five dollars a volume.'”

He glanced around the circle of faces.

“That is what you will say,” he said; “But Eliph’ Hewlitt will beg a chance to do his little for the noble work. He will, seeing the good cause, make the price four seventy-five per volume, and throw in one volume from for the Kilo Sunday School library, where one and all can have reference to its helpful and civilizing pages.”

In Eliph’ Hewlitt’s eyes glowed the fire of conquest that always shone in them when he was “talking book,” a glitter such as shines in the eyes of the enthusiast, and they fell upon Miss Sally Briggs, who had been drawn by his eloquence to the edge of the ring of ladies. As he paused, she recognized the moment as that when the victim is supposed to utter the words, “Well, I guess I’ll take a copy,” but she missed the direct appeal, and its absence confused her, and she was still wondering whether it was now time to say she would take a copy, or whether she had better wait for the formal appeal, when Mrs. Doc Weaver spoke for the Ladies’ Mission Circle.

When Eliph’ Hewlitt left the house, half an hour later with his order signed, Miss Sally had disappeared, and, although he peeked eagerly into both the side rooms as he passed through the hall, he could see nothing of her. He was disappointed.

When he returned to the hotel the landlord was asleep in the chair before the door. He arose with a yawn, rubbed his eyes, and led the way into the office where a dingy kerosene lamp was burning dimly. He stretched his arms as he looked at the clock that stood above the dusty pigeon holes back of the desk.

” ‘Leven o’clock!” he yawned. “I must have been asleep two hours. Guess you’ll want to get right up to bed, won’t you? I reckon you found out Kilo don’t want no books this trip, Sammy; an’ if you want to git an early start from town you’ll need all the sleep you can get.”

Eliph’ tossed his package on the desk carelessly.

“Why, yes, Jim, I wish you WOULD call me early,” he said. “I’ll be ready for bed in half an hour or so. I done a little business up yonder, and I want to mail my report to New York. But you needn’t hitch up my horse in the morning.”

“No?” asked the landlord sleepily.

“No,” said Eliph’, “and if any feller comes this way selling books in the next month or so, just tell him there ain’t no use for a raw hand to waste time in this town. Tell him Eliph’ Hewlitt has settled down to live here.”

CHAPTER VII

The Colonel

When Eliph’ Hewlitt stepped out of the hotel the next morning, after he had eaten his breakfast, and stood, with a wooden toothpick between his lips, looking up and down the street, he felt a sense of exultation. If he had been a victorious general, and Kilo a captured city of great importance, he would have had a similar feeling. Already he felt that, if he was not the captor of the town, he was one of its important citizens, and practically the husband of an attractive woman whose father owned sufficient property to be one of those who grumble about taxes.

To a man who had been a wanderer all his life it was pleasant to feel that he was soon to be kin to all the things he saw on Main Street, brother to the town- pump and cousin to the flag pole, and to consider that even the well-gnawed hitching rails were to be part of his future years. He nodded across the street to Billings, the grocer and general store man, as if he was an old acquaintance, and he watched Skinner, the butcher, sweeping the walk, with a pleasant smile, for he saw in him a future friend. He loved Kilo, and he was ready to like everything, from the post office to the creamery. His whole future seemed destined to be simple and pleasant, for he was resolved to do his best to make the town like him, and there seemed little opportunity for complications in a town that could all be seen at one glance.

Strangers think all small towns simple. The few stores are all plainly labeled, the streets run at right angles, and the houses are set well apart, like big letters in a primer. A small town looks like a story without a plot, like: “See the cat. Does the can see me? The cat sees the dog;” beside which a city is as unfathomable as a Henry James paragraph. To the stranger each man and woman he meets is a complete individual, each standing alone, like letters on an alphabet block, and not easily to be confused, one with the other. But these letters of the small town’s alphabet are often tangled into as long and complex words as those of the greatest city; it takes but twenty-six letters to spell all the passions. The letter A, that looked so distinctly separate, is soon found to be connected with C and T in Cat, and with W and R in War, as well as cross- connected with the C and W in Caw, and with T and R in Tar; while the houses that stood so seemingly alone are all connected and criss-crossed by lines of love and hate, of petty policy and revenge and pride, quite as are nations or people who live in labyrinths, or in a metropolis.

It was still too early in the morning for Eliph’ Hewlitt to call on Miss Sally, and there was no haste; the day was long. He even doubted whether it would be good policy to call on her in the morning; he might find her busy with household cares. Probably it would be best to wait for the afternoon, when she would be at leisure. This, he decided would be best. He would arrive in her presence at two o’clock, and four hours of conversation would carry them to the point of being well acquainted, as advised by Jarby’s Encyclopedia. The next day he could enter the second stage of the directions, and call with a book, present it; call after dinner with a box of candy, present it; call after supper, and propose a walk, visit the ice cream parlor, and on the way home offer his hand, and be accepted. The chapter on “Courtship–How to Win the Affections” advised against haste, and Eliph’ did not wish to be hasty. To a man of his spirit two days seemed rather long to devote to so simple a matter–a real waste of time–but he was willing to
take longer than necessary, in order to follow the directions in spirit, as well as in letter.

Eliph’ settled himself into one of the chairs before the hotel and opened his copy of Jarby’s Encyclopedia at the chapter on “Courtship–How to Win the Affections.” He was deep in it when the landlord strolled around from the livery stable and sank into a chair by his side.

“So you made up your mind to stay here, Sammy?” he asked. “I guess the town’ll be glad enough to have you. All this town needs to be a big place is inhabitants. What you ought to do now it to settle down for good, an’ get married. There’s some purty fine women in this town that ain’t picked up yet, but they won’t last long, they way they’re goin’. Somebody gets married every couple of months.”

Eliph’ looked up with a smile. Jim Wilkins did not know he had advised the very thing he meant to do.

“I’ve thought some about it,” said Eliph’, ” ‘most everybody’s getting married now-a-days.”

“It’s the popular thing ’round here,” said Jim. “Look across the street, yonder. See that feller just goin’ up to the lawyer’s office? He’s one that’s in the marry class, just now. That’s Colonel Guthrie. He lives out on the first farm beyond Main Street, and he’s goin’ to marry Sally Briggs, daughter of old Pap Briggs, that we was talkin’ to last night, here.”

Eliph’ Hewlitt stared at the Colonel, but he said nothing. He blamed himself; he had wasted his opportunity. This was what came of being slow! He should have completed his courtship at the picnic, or last night at the sale. Jim Wilkins interrupted the thought.

“Leastways,” he said, “HE’LL get her if Skinner don’t. It’s a close run between him an’ Skinner. Skinner ain’t so good lookin’ as the Colonel, but he’s better fixed. It’s Skinner owns our butcher-shop, an’ it’s Skinner is buildin’ our Opery House Block. Some say Skinner’ll get Pap Briggs’ money, an’ some says the Colonel will.”

“Are there any others?” asked Eliph’, looking down the street to where the raw brick of the opera house glowed in the sun.

“After Sally?” asked Jim Wilkins. “Well, there’s sev’ral would like to get her, I dare say. Sally Briggs is a pretty fine sort of woman, an’ Pap Briggs has quite considerable money, but the Colonel an’ Skinner has the inside track. No one else has a chance.”

Eliph’ stroked his whiskers softly and coughed gently behind his hand.

“Briggs, did you say the name was?” he asked. “Seems to me I met a lady at a picnic up Clarence way that had that name. You said the name was Sally Briggs?”

“That’s her,” said Wilkins. “Sally Ann Briggs. She’s been visitin’ up there in Clarence.”

Eliph’ nodded his head slowly.

“I seem to recollect her, since you mention it,” he said indifferently, and then he added, “She spoke as if she might buy a copy of Jarby’s Encyclopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art when I saw her at that picnic. I guess I’ll drop ’round and see if she’s ready to buy. If she’ goin’ to be married she ought to have a copy.”

CHAPTER VIII

The Medium-Sized Box

As Eliph’ walked briskly toward Miss Sally’s house the Colonel was having an interesting conversation with Attorney Toole, in the attorney’s office over the Kilo Savings Bank.

Attorney Toole had been a lawyer at Franklin, and he had come down to Kilo because he preferred a being a big toad in a small puddle, rather than a little toad in a middle-sized one. This was one of his reasons, but another was that he had complete and full faith in Richard Toole, and intended to be a political power in the land. He could not be much of anything in Franklin, for that town was hard and fast Democratic, and Toole was a Republican. The first step to political preferment is to be elected to something or other, it does not make much difference what, and to rise from that to greater things, but a Republican had no chance in Franklin; couldn’t even get an appointment as dog police or wharfmaster; couldn’t get elected to any office at all.

So Toole packed up his law books and moved to Kilo, where he was in a Republican town, a Republican county, and a Republican congressional district, in a Republican State that formed part of a Republican nation. He selected Kilo, after considering other good little Republican towns, because the Republicans of Kilo needed aid and assistance; they were out of office; kicked out.

Every so often the small town of the West turns the regular party out of office and puts in a Citizens’ ticket, just to show that the people still rule, and to let the greedy officeholders, some of whom get as much as one hundred dollars a year in salary, know that their offices are not life positions. When Attorney Toole descended on Kilo, the Citizens’ Party was “in,” and the Republicans were “out,” and the attorney saw an opportunity of making himself valuable to his party by working to put the party “in” again.

Never before had the Colonel climbed his stairs, and Toole smiled like an Irish sphinx when the Colonel entered his office. He smiled most of the time, not because he thought a smile becoming to his freckled face, but because he found things so eternally amusing. In law a man is considered innocent until he has been proved guilty; in Kilo Attorney Toole considered everything amusing until it had been proved serious, and he considered the Colonel and Skinner, and the whole Citizens’ Party they had been instrumental I organizing, as parts of the same joke. They would stand until he was ready to lazily push out his hand and topple them over. It was almost time to topple them, now, and he was glad to see the Colonel; he motioned him to a seat, and smiled.

The Colonel took his hat from his mat of coarse iron-gray hair, and laid it carefully on the floor. Out of his small sharp eyes ignorance and cunning peered, and the mass of beard that hid the greater part of his face could not hide the hard line of his mouth.

“I jest dropped up,” he explained, after he had acknowledged the attorney’s cheerful greeting with a gruff “mornin’,” “I jest dropped up, sort of friendly- like, thinkin’ you might have nothin’ to do, an’ might like to sit an’ chin a while. You don’t charge nothin’ for sittin’ an’ chinnin’ do ye?”

Toole said he did not.

“I didn’t figger you did,” said the Colonel. “If I’d thought you did I wouldn’t have dropped up, for I ain’t got no money to spend on lawyers. I’d sooner throw money away than spend it at law. But I figgered you was young at the law yet, and didn’t have much to do at it, and I sort of run across a case I thought might amuse you, like, when you ain’t got nothin’ to do. Folks don’t seem to have much faith in young lawyers, and you can’t blame ’em; old ones don’t know much. All any of ’em care for is to get people into trouble so they can charge ’em fees to get ’em out of it. So I thought mebby you’d like to hear of this case so you could kind of mull it over in your mind whilst you’re loafin’ up here.”

“That was kind of you,” said Toole.

“I always like to do a good turn when I can,” said the Colonel, “when it don’t cost nothin’. An’ this case I was tellin’ you about is a mighty good one for a young lawyer to study over. Soon as I heard of it I says to myself ‘I’ll tell this case to Attorney Toole, an’ he’ll be grateful to hear of it.'”

The country client usually begins in some such way as this, anxious to get all the advice he can without having to pay for it, and Toole merely smiled.

“Mebby you know,” said the Colonel, “that there was a feller took board of Sally Briggs a while back; feller by the name of William Rossiter, that come through here peddlin’ lightnin’ rods and pain killer and land knows what all. Well, he was a rascal. He took board off of Sally Briggs four weeks, and then he cleared out, and she nor no one else has seen hide nor hair of him since, and he never paid her one cent. All he ever let on was to leave this letter stickin’ on the pin cushion in his bedroom.”

The Colonel dug the letter out of his vest pocket, and Toole read it. It was short:

Dear Miss Briggs: I’m off. Good-by. Business in Kilo is no good. Sorry I can’t square up, but I leave you the box in my room in part payment. W. R.

“Prosecution’s exhibit No. 1,” said the attorney.

“Jest what I was tellin’ Miss Sally,” said the Colonel. “I says to her to keep that paper, and it might come handy. Mebby you heard that me and Miss Sally was what you might call keepin’ company?”

“That’s interesting,” said Toole. “Been keeping it long?”

“Quite some consid’able time,” said the Colonel. “Long enough, land knows, and we’d a-been done with it by this time and married, if that Skinner hadn’t come crowdin’ in where he wasn’t wanted. What right has a man like him to come pushin’ in like that? His wife ain’t been dead twelve months yet. It ain’t decent of him, is it?”

“Do you want a legal opinion?” asked Toole, reaching for a large law book that lay on the table.

“No, I don’t!” cried the Colonel in alarm; “I don’t want to run up no charges. I don’t care whether it’s legal or not, it ain’t friendly, after him and me has worked together buildin’ up this Citizens’ Party, and all. What does he mean, sendin’ Miss Sally porterhouses, when she only orders flank steak, like he was wrappin’ up love and affection into every steak? He’s got mighty proud since he set out to build that there Kilo Opery House of his. He’s a fool to spend money on an opery house in this town. He’s a beefy, puffy old money bag, he is. He needn’t tell ME he expects to get even on what he spent on that Opery House Block out of what he’ll make on it; he just built it to make a show, so some dumb idiot like Sally Briggs would think he amounted to more than others, and marry him.”

The Colonel brought down his hand with a bang on the attorney’s table.

“What kind of an idiot did you call Miss Briggs?” asked Toole pleasantly.

“I didn’t call her no kind!” declared the Colonel. “All I say is, I’ve been married once already, and I know how women are. And I know Skinner. He’s lookin’ for to pay for that opery house with Pap Brigg’s money that he’ll git if he marries Sally. But he won’t git it! I’m a-goin’ to—-” He was going to say he was going to get it, but he caught himself in time, and substituted “I’m a- goin’ to see to that.”

“I see,” said Toole, “and you want to retain me as your attorney in case you have to sue for breach of promise?”

The Colonel scowled.

“I don’t want to retain, and I don’t want to sue, and I don’t want no fees to pay. You get that clear in your mind. If I did, I’d go to a lawyer that had some experience. I jest dropped up—-“

“Well, any time you wish, you can just drop down again, Colonel,” said Toole, but not ill-naturedly.

“Now, don’t git that way,” said the Colonel. “I jest dropped up to do you a favor, and you git mad about it! I don’t call that friendly. If you was to do me a favor I wouldn’t git mad.”

“Go ahead with the favor, then,” said Toole, leaning back in his chair and putting his feet on his table.

“Miss Sally,” said the Colonel, “she told me all about this feller Rossiter, an’ what he said, an’ what she said, an’ how he come to go to her house for board, an’ how he skipped off, an’ she showed me the note he left on the pin cushion, an’ then she come down to business. ‘Colonel,’ she says, ‘have I a right to take an’ keep that box? Have I a right to open it? Is it mine by law? If I open it can he come back an’ sue me, or anything?’

“‘Can he?’ says I. ‘That’s the question. Can he?’

“‘It’s a large box,’ says Miss Sally.

“‘A large box, hey?’ says I. ‘Of course if it was a small box, Miss Sally–but it
is a large box! How large?’

“‘Quite large,’ she says. ‘About medium large. Not too large. Besides anything very large it would be small, but beside anything very small it would be large.’

“I nodded my head to her, to let her see I knew what she was tryin’ to say. ‘Medium large,’ I says, ‘yes, I know just about how big you mean, but what I’d like to know is, is it heavy?’

“‘Medium,’ she says, ‘just medium heavy.’

“Well, there she was! A medium heavy, medium-sized box. If it had been a little bit of a light-weight box I’d ‘a’ told her to open it and keep it, for there couldn’t have been much in it; and if it had been a big heavy box I’d have told her she’d better leave it alone; for there wouldn’t be any tellin’ whether she had any right to open a box like that one might have turned out to be. I didn’t know how the law stood on that kind of a box. But it was medium-sized, and I didn’t know WHAT to say.

“‘Miss Sally,’ I says, ‘I’d like to help you out on this. Any time I can give you any advice on anything, I’m glad to, but I don’t know what to say about a box that is medium size and medium heavy. You’d ought to get the law on that subject before you touch that box. Don’t you touch that box. Don’t you open it unless there’s a law officer standin’ by to see you do it.’

“She seen that was good advice,” continued the Colonel, “and I sat there right in her parlor and thought it over. ‘Miss Sally,’ I says, after I had thought all I could about it, ‘I believe Attorney Toole would tell you what to do about that box. There ain’t nothin’ a lawyer needs more than to be popular, and there ain’t no way to git popular quicker than by doin’ little favors, an’ he ought to be glad to do a favor for you, for you’re almost an orphan. Your ma’s dead, an’ Pap Briggs ain’t overly strong, an’ you’re liable to be an orphan almost any minute. I can tell by the looks of Attorney Toole,’ I says, ‘that he’s got a good heart, and if you say the word I’ll ask him what he says to do about that box.’ She seemed sort of put out at what I’d said about orphans, but I seen she was willing to have me ask you about that box, and I seen it would be doin’ you a favor, too, to tell you about it, so you could sort of exercise your mind on it, so I jest dropped up—-“

“Colonel,” said Toole, “this is a very serious case.” He put his hand over his mouth to hide the smile he could not prevent from coming to his lips.

“You don’t mean to tell me!” exclaimed the Colonel. “I was afraid there might be somethin’ wrong about it somewheres. But I ain’t goin’ to go to no expense about it. It ain’t my box—-“

“I would not take a case like this for money,” said the attorney, turning suddenly and facing the Colonel with a seriousness that frightened that cautious soul. “I would not take a case involving a medium-sized, medium-heavy box; a box left for board by a man from parts unknown, now departed to parts unknown; a box that may contain stolen property; I would not take such a case for money, Colonel. But I’ll undertake it for friendship. For friendship only. You ARE my friend, aren’t you, Colonel?”

“Surely! Surely!” exclaimed the Colonel eagerly.

“A medium-sized box,” said Toole, turning his head to hide his smile, “should be opened only in the presence of an attorney-at-law. That is legal advice and worth five dollars, but I charge you nothing for it, you being my friend. Consider it a gift from me to you.”

“I’m much obliged,” said the Colonel gruffly.

“And now,” said the attorney briskly, “for the MODUS OPERANDI, as we lawyers say. Has the client, the lady in the case, a hatchet?”

The Colonel thought.

“I ain’t right sure,” he said at length, after he had searched his brain; “seems like she ought to have, but I’ve got one, an’ I’ll loan it to her.”

“Good!” exclaimed Toole briskly. “That is better yet. A medium-sized box left by a transient in payment of default of a board bill should always be opened, if possible, with a hatchet not the property of the plaintiff. Chitty says that. It was so ruled in the case of MUGGINS vs. MUGGINS.”

He took from his desk a bulky volume, and ran over the pages rapidly.

“Box,” he said, “small box-medium box. Here it is. Humph!”

The Colonel leaned over the book, but the attorney closed it quickly.

“Bring an ax,” he said. “A hatchet would do, but an ax is more legal. Hatchets for small boxes, axes for medium boxes. There is a later case than MUGGINS vs. MUGGINS.”

“I’ll fetch the ax,” agreed the Colonel.

“Can you be at the house in half an hour?” asked the attorney.

The Colonel could.

“You’re right sure there ain’t goin’ to be no charges to this?” he asked anxiously, and when the attorney had once more assured him there would be none, he picked his hat from the floor and shuffled into the hall and down the stairs.

CHAPTER IX

The Witness

When Eliph’ Hewlitt reached the Briggs house, he did not hesitate, but walked right up to the front door and rang the bell. A minute later he saw the red silk that obstructed the pane of beveled glass in the upper part of the door drawn ever so slightly to one side and then quickly replaced. He caught the glisten of an eye, as the red silk was held aside, but the door did not open. Miss Sally, after the brief glance, tiptoed back through the hall. She did not want to meet the book agent.

Eliph’ waited a respectable minute and then rang the bell again, although he had little belief that this would bring Miss Sally to the door. It is good form to ring the bell of the front door several times, before going to the back door, for it may be that the lady of the house is dressing, or is hastily taking the folded paper “curlers” out of her front hair, or slipping on her “other skirt” before admitting the visitor. Few indeed are the front doors in Iowa that open promptly to a knock or a ring. Primping time must be allowed, ad if this, followed by a second ring or knock, does not open the door, nothing but business permits the visitor to go to the back door. Having waited, Eliph’ went to the back door. It closed almost as he reached it, and it would not open to his most vigorous knocking.

To know a person is in a house, and not to be able to reach that person, is annoying, and Eliph’ had often had this happen to him. The usual course was to go away and return again; returning a third or fourth time, or until the door at last opened; but Eliph’ was not merely trying to sell a copy of Jarby’s Encyclopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art this time. He had no time to waste in the usual manner. If he could not get into one house to sell a book, he could enter another house and sell a book, but when a man is after a certain heart he does not care to go to another house and take another heart. Some men do it, but they are usually sorry afterwards. Eliph’ walked to the front of the house again, and looked at the front door.

He felt there should be some way to get into the house and have five minutes’ conversation with Miss Sally. If this Colonel and this Skinner had already had months or years of opportunity for pressing their suits, there was not time to be lost, and the sooner he began the sooner he would win. But none of his ordinary methods of entering unwilling houses would serve his purpose this time. It would not do to begin by making Miss Sally unfriendly. So Eliph’ tucked his book more snugly under his left arm and looked at the house. He walked to the gate and looked up at the roof; walked across the street and viewed the house in perspective; but nothing useful came of it, so he crossed the street again and tried ringing the doorbell once more. He rang it sharply and waited. Then he knocked and waited. He was willing to wait until the door opened, and he leaned against the porch railing and waited, ringing the doorbell insinuatingly, or commandingly, or coaxingly, from time to time.

Meanwhile, the attorney waited until the half hour he had assigned was up, and then walked toward Miss Briggs’ house with briskly business-like steps.

“Now, some folks,” he said to himself, as he walked, “wouldn’t get any fun at all out of a case like this, but I do. That’s the way to keep young. It’s why I don’t grow stale in this town. It is a small puddle for a toad of my size, but I hop around and keep things stirred up.”

As he neared the house, he saw the Colonel approaching from the opposite direction, and he waved his hand to him, and the Colonel hurried to meet him. They turned into the yard together, and saw Eliph’ Hewlitt resting easily against the porch railing.

“Nobody’s at home?” asked the attorney.

“Yes,” said Eliph’. “Somebody’s home, but they don’t answer the bell.

“Book agent?” said the attorney. “Well, you can’t blame them, much. Gems of literature aren’t always wanted.”

The Colonel scowled. He felt a personal interest in Pap Briggs’ money, and he resented any attempt to part the old man from any of it. He suffered almost as deeply at tax time as Pap himself did, and he considered the money Sally had to pay in installments on Sir Walter Scott as practically thrown away, and that she might as well have taken it out of his own pocket. He knocked on the lower step of the porch, with the side of his ax, angrily.

“You git out of this here yard!” he ordered. “I don’t want no book agents a- hangin’ around here, an’ I won’t have it. You clean out of here!”

Eliph’ coughed lightly behind his hand, but the words of reproof that he intended to launch softly at the Colonel were never spoken.

“Well, this IS lucky!” cried the attorney, holding out his hand to Eliph’. “Colonel, this is the best luck we could have had. Here we need a witness, and here we have him right on the spot! I was going to stop and get Skinner on the way down, and then I thought maybe, from what you said, you and Skinner were not very friendly, so I didn’t, and now I’m glad I didn’t. We find a witness right here on the porch, just as if he had been ordered to be here. I call that a good omen.”

The Colonel was not pleased, and he showed it, but he really had nothing that he could urge against this book agent, so he said nothing. The attorney rang the bell, and Miss Sally, having peeped out to see the meaning of so many men on her porch, recognized the Colonel and the attorney, and opened the door. The attorney stood back to let Eliph’ enter, and then followed him in. The three men stood in the little hallway, hats in hand, while Toole explained why they had come, and Miss Sally led the way to the second-floor room where the box stood.

It was an impressive scene as the four gathered around the box.

“Knock off the lid!” said the attorney firmly. The Colonel raised his ax and struck. The board splintered but remained firm. “Legally,” said the attorney, “you may strike three blows.”

At the third blow a portion of the lid fell clattering to the floor, and the three men and Miss Sally peered anxiously into the box. From it the Colonel tenderly lifted a nickel-plated cylinder, as tall as a man’s knee and as large around as a leg of mutton. It had a convex top, and on one side a dial. From near the base a long rubber tube extended.

The Colonel handled the thing gently. He held it in his hands as an old bachelor might handle his newborn nephew, and Miss Sally looked anxiously into his face, appealing for enlightenment. The Colonel studied the thing carefully, and then looked into the box again, and back at the glittering object in his hands. There were three more exactly like it in the box.

“What is it?” asked Miss Sally nervously. It looked explosive.

The gingerly manner in which the Colonel handled the dangerous-looking thing aroused her suspicions. She backed away from it. Eliph’ Hewlitt opened his lips to speak, but the attorney motioned him to be still.

“Don’t you know what it is?” Miss Sally asked, appealing to the Colonel.

“Yes,” said the Colonel, but he still looked at the glistening affair with doubt. “Oh, yes! But I can’t see what that there young feller was doin’ with four of ’em. I can’t see what he was doin’ with ’em anyhow. Mebby,” he said, “he was agent for ’em.”

“He was agent for ‘most everything I ever heard tell of a man bein’ agent for,” said Miss Sally, “but I wish you’d tell me what they are.”

“Well, ma’m,” said the Colonel, “this is fire-extinguishers; patent chemical fire-extinguishers. I know because I recall seein’ some once when I was down to Jefferson. They had ’em in a theater there. They put out fires with ’em.”

“Well!” exclaimed Miss Sally. “How do you ever suppose anybody would put out a fire with a thing like that?”

The Colonel turned the affair over and over.

“I didn’t study that up,” he admitted, “but I guess if I take time I can find out how the thing works. They squirt out of this here tube somehow.”

He turned up the end of the tube and squinted into it. Again Eliph’ Hewlitt was about to speak, but the attorney caught his eye and winked, and the little book agent held his tongue.

“Well, land’s sakes!” exclaimed Miss Sally, “What am I goin’ to do with four fire-extinguishers, I’d like to know?” She asked the question as if the Colonel had got her into this thing of the ownership of the fire-extinguishers, and she looked to him to take the responsibility. He was quite willing to accept it.

“I’ve got to think that over,” he said. “A feller can’t decide right off hand what to do with four fire-extinguishers. It looks to me as if they was worth a lot more than the young feller owed you, Miss Sally. They ain’t no doubt about Miss Sally havin’ a right to ’em, is there, Mister Toole?”

“Not a bit of doubt!” exclaimed Toole cheerfully. “She has every right in the world. You’ve got a witness that they came out of that box, and she can sell, give, donate, assign, or bequeath them, for better or for worse.”

“Then that’s all right,” said the Colonel, “an’ I guess that’s all we need you for.”

“Except to settle the witness fees with this gentleman,” said Toole, turning to Eliph’, who was still eager to say a word or two. “But mebby, if I have a word or two with him, I can fix it up without making any expense for you.”

He drew Eliph’ to one side.

“What’s the cost of that book you’re selling?” he asked. “Well, I’ll take one. I don’t take one for a bribe, but because I can see you’re not the sort of man that would sell a book that wasn’t worth the money. I want that book. And just you keep still about those fire-extinguishers. Between you and me, those are first-class nickel-plated lung-testers, and not fire-extinguishers. But that doesn’t matter. There’s just about as heavy a call for fire-extinguishers in Kilo as there is for lung-testers. Can you keep still about it?”

“I can,” said Eliph’ Hewlitt, “and you’ll never regret having bought a copy of Jarby’s Encyclopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art. It is a book that should be in every man’s hand, and in every home. If you owned a copy now, you would know is value to man, woman, or child. I was going to try to sell one to Miss Briggs when you came, and if you could help me to—-“

The attorney smiled. This was the sort of game he enjoyed. “Don’t tell about the lung-testers,” he whispered, and turned to Miss Sally. “Miss Briggs,” he said, “will you let this gentleman have a few minutes of your time? I want him to show you a book he has. It is a book that should be in every home. If you will give him a few minutes.”

He did not wait for Miss Sally to answer, but turned to the scowling Colonel.

“Colonel,” he said, “I want you to walk down to the office with me. I shouldn’t wonder if you could sell those fire-extinguishers right here in Kilo.”

The four descended the stairs together, and the Colonel would willingly have lingered, but the attorney took him by the arm and jovially steered him out of the door. Miss Sally, too, would gladly have had the Colonel remain, to protect her from the book agent, and to say “no” when the appeal to buy was reached, but Eliph’ retreated into the darkness of the parlor, and took a seat in the corner of the room, and Miss Sally, unable now to escape him, seated herself as far from him as she could.

CHAPTER X

The Boss Grafter

Eliph’ Hewlitt was resolved that into this interview no words regarding Jarby’s Encyclopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art should enter. With two such favored rivals in the field, and with such difficulty in getting into the house as he had experienced, he meant to get well acquainted in a hurry. Miss Sally sat stiffly in her chair, steeling herself to refuse the request to buy a copy of the book. Her usually attractive face was stern, as she looked at Eliph’ Hewlitt, and she watched him suspiciously as he slowly combed his whiskers with his fingers, as if she feared this was some part of the operation by which he was charming her into a hypnotic state in which she would sign for a book without knowing why. She nerved herself to ward off whatever insinuating words he should first say, and Eliph’, as he studied her face, sought words that would advance him at one bound deep into the state of being well acquainted. It was a trying moment for both.

Then, so suddenly that Miss Sally almost jumped from her chair, Eliph’ coughed behind his hand, and spoke.

“It seems like it would be as hot to-day as it was yesterday, if it don’t shower before night,” he said, and smiled pleasantly as he said it.

Miss Sally was taken off her guard, and before she was aware she had answered, quite as politely as she would have answered the minister himself.

“It’s awful hot,” she said. “I guess Kilo’s the hottest place on earth in summer.”

“Not the hottest,” answered Eliph’, leaning forward eagerly. “You wouldn’t say that if you had a copy of Jarby’s Encyclopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art, and studied it up the way I do. Page 442 gives all the hottest places on earth, with the record highest temperature of each, together with all the coldest places, where there is the greatest rainfall, and a chronological table of all the great famines, floods, storms, hot and cold spells the earth has ever known, from the time of Adam to the present day, with pictures of the Johnstown flood, and diagrams of Noah’s Ark. This, with the chapter on the Physical Geography of Land and Sea, telling of tides, typhoons, trade winds, tornadoes, et cetery, explains why and how weather happens. All this and ten thousand other subjects, all indexed from A to Z in one book—-“

He paused suddenly, appalled to think that he was already far from his resolve not to mention Jarby’s Encyclopedia, and, as his voice still hung on the last word he had spoken, the doorbell rang, and Miss Sally jumped up, happy for any interruption. She merely turned her head to say:

“I guess I don’t want one to-day,” and then Eliph’ heard her open the door, and greet the newcomers as she welcomed them into the hall. They were Mrs. Tarbro- Smith and Susan, and, as Miss Sally hurried them up the stairs to remove their dusty hats, she leaned back and called to Eliph’:

“You can get right out the door,” she said, “it ain’t shut. I guess I won’t have no more time to spend listenin’ to you to-day.”

For half an hour Eliph’ waited, listening to the chatter of voices, and then he quietly stole from the house and stepped gently out of the yard. There was no sense in waiting longer, and he knew it.

Mrs. Tarbro-Smith, receiving a letter from the editor of MURRAY’S MAGAZINE, had learned at length that Clarence was not typical Iowa, and she had transferred her field of study to Kilo on his recommendation. She meant to spend the rest of the season there, and hoped Miss Sally would take her to board. She found that Miss Sally would be glad, indeed, to have her company, and Mrs. Smith did not think it necessary to mention that she was looking for local color and types. She was pleased when she heard that Eliph’ Hewlitt, who had so interested her, was “working” Kilo.

As Eliph’ Hewlitt walked toward the hotel he felt that another opportunity had been lost–thrown away–by his inability to avoid Jarby’s Encyclopedia as a topic, and for one moment he came as near giving up Miss Sally as he ever came to giving up anything. In that moment he saw the simplicity of his courtship, as he had imagined it would be, resolve itself into a tangled affair, as all these new individualities entered into it. Instead of being a mere matter between himself and Miss Sally, it was involving men and women, one after the other. It seemed to become a fight between himself, a singer stranger in Kilo, and an endless chain of interested citizens. Already there was Pap Briggs, who hated book agents; the Colonel and Skinner, who hoped to win Miss Sally; Mrs. Smith, who would serve as a defense against Eliph’s attacks; and, as he walked down the street, he seemed to see in every man, woman, and child, a possible ally of either the Colonel or Skinner. But he tucked his sample copy of Jarby’s under his arm more securely, and braced up his courage. He even whistled as he approached the hotel, but, when he glanced up at the attorney’s office and saw Toole and the Colonel with their head together, he stopped whistling. If Toole was going to take either side, Eliph’ would have liked to claim him. Toole was a smart man.

Toole and the Colonel left Miss Sally’s with the attorney well pleased, and his enigmatic smile rested on his face as he led the Colonel to his office. He handed him a chair, and made him take a cigar, and then turned and faced him.

“Now,” he said, “what are you going to do with those what-do-you-call-’ems?”

“Them fire-extinguishers?” said the Colonel, licking the cigar around and around before lighting it. “Well, I ain’t had much time to think that over yet. A feller can’t decide on a thing like that all at once. It ain’t likely no one in Kilo would buy a fire-extinguisher like them, all nickel-plated, if they had their senses about ’em. ‘Twouldn’t be natural. I might raffle ’em off, only nobody’d be likely to buy chances on a fire-extinguisher. I might take ’em down to Jefferson, but I don’t see as that would do much good, nobody’d be likely to buy fire-extinguishers off of me down there.”

“No,” said the attorney, turning to his table and looking over some papers, with an appearance of interest, “No, I guess not. I don’t see that you can do much of anything with them, unless you use them for ornaments. It seems a pity that Miss Briggs didn’t go to Skinner for advice about that box, instead of you, doesn’t it?”

The Colonel stopped with a lighted match half way to his cigar.

“What do you mean?” he asked, red in the face. “Do you mean that puffy old beef- cutter’s got more sense than what I have, young man?”

“Oh, no,” said the attorney, carelessly. “Not at all. I was just thinking that if Skinner HAD opened that box, and HAD found fire-extinguishers in it, it would have been a fine chance for him to say to Miss Briggs, ‘Madam, I am building in this town an opera house, known as Skinner’s Opera House. The safety of the people of Kilo demands fire-extinguishers in Skinner’s Opera House. I will take those four nickel-plated appliances and install them in my opera house, and allow you ten dollars apiece for them, cash or meat.’ But, of course,” continued the attorney innocently, “you can’t do that; you haven’t built an opera house.”

The Colonel’s little eyes peered at the attorney, and they were filled with cunning. Across his hard mouth a smile crept and broadened until he had to lay his hand across it, it was so indecently wide and exultant.

“Skinner is no fool,” continued the attorney. “As soon as he hears that Miss Briggs has those four things he will probably rush right up to her house and offer to buy them. It would be a great feather in his cap with her, if he could get the credit of having thought of it. I shouldn’t wonder if he had heard of what was in that box by this time. It seems a pity, doesn’t it, that he should get all the credit after you have done all the work?”

The Colonel looked at the noncommittal face of the attorney, and smiled again. This was a sort of cunning he could appreciate, and he leaned over and gave Toole a sly poke in the ribs, to show him that he understood. Toole looked at him with a blank face, and at this the Colonel slapped his knee, and uttered a mirthful noise that was like the sound of a man choking. He clapped his greasy hat on his mat of hair and went out, pausing at the door to look back and grin at the attorney once more.

Mr. Skinner was trimming a roast. He had just cut off a piece of suet, which he held in his plump read hand as he listened to the Colonel’s proposition to sell him four nickel-plated fire-extinguishers at ten dollars each. Perhaps the Colonel spoke to impetuously; to commandingly. Skinner held the lump of suet offensively near the Colonel’s nose as he answered.

“Fire-extinguishers!” he laughed. “Me buy fire-extinguishers? I wouldn’t give THAT for them.”

He shook the suet before the Colonel’s eyes.

“No, sir!” he sneered. “I wouldn’t give THAT for them. And I throw that away!”

“Skinner,” said the Colonel, growing dangerously red in the face, “don’t you shake no meat in MY face like that! Don’t you dare do it! I won’t have no butcher shake meat in MY face. You low-down beef-killer. That’s all you are, a beef-killer.”

“Mebby,” admitted the butcher indifferently. “Mebby I am, but I don’t buy no fire-extinguishers. And I don’t take much stock in agents for them, neither. No. Nor in gold bricks. Nor green good. No.”

The Colonel raised his fist and brought it down on the butcher’s counter so hard that the meat scales danced, and the indicator jerked nervously across the face of the dial, weighing a half pound of anger. The butcher leaned back against the shopping block, and gently caressed the handle of his cleaver. He pointed to the door with his other hand.

“Git out!” he said, and the Colonel scowled but went.

On his way home the Colonel bethought himself of a good excuse to stop at Miss Sally’s. He had left his ax there, and he went to the back door, this not being a formal call. Miss Sally came to the door when he knocked, and brought him the ax, and he took the opportunity to say a bad word for Skinner, and he was astounded to find that she sympathized with Skinner on his refusal to buy the fire-extinguishers.

“I don’t wonder at it,” she said, “seeing he has put so much money on that opery house already. He’s done a lot for this town that nobody else would ever have thought of doin’. Mr Skinner’s a very public-spirited citizen, and to think he made it all out of sellin’ meat! It must be a good business. I guess you’ll have to excuse me now, Colonel Guthrie, I’ve got visitors down from Clarence.”

The Colonel’s steps dragged as he walked home. Never had Miss Sally said so many good words for his rival. She had almost rebuffed his good offices in the attempt to sell the fire-extinguishers, and had praised Skinner to his face.

Early the next morning he “dropped up” into the office of Attorney Toole, and as that young man lay back in his chair, with his feet on his desk, he told him the whole story. The attorney smiled. This was the kind of split in the ranks of the Citizens’ Party that he had hoped to promote.

“After that, Colonel,” he said, when the Colonel had told him that Skinner had ordered him out of the shop, “you ought to MAKE him buy them.”

“I wisht I could, dog take him!” cried the Colonel. “I’d like to make him eat ’em.”

“Colonel,” said Toole, “I see you are, as always, guided by a spirit of conservative kindness. You hesitate to force that butcher to do what he does not want to do. The feeling does you honor, but is it business? You hesitate even when you see how easily your could force him to do what he is in duty bound to do to protect the lives of our trustful citizens. I admire your gentleness, but I deplore your unbusinesslike moderation. You lack public spirit.”

The Colonel grinned savagely. He felt that the attorney was teasing him, but he could not quite tell how.

“You,” said Toole easily, “knowing that our town council can, and should, pass an ordinance compelling all owners of opera houses to install nickel-plated fire-extinguishers–to install four of them in each opera house in Kilo–for the protection of our people, hesitate to ask them to pass such an ordinance. You hesitate because you do not wish to appear malevolent toward a rival. Now, don’t you?”

“Me be kind to that fat, pig-stealing, sausage-grinding—-” snorted the Colonel, but the attorney stopped him with a lifted hand.

“Just what I said,” exclaimed the attorney. “You are too kind; too considerate; too regardful of his feelings. But would he be so kind and considerate and regardful of your feelings, if he was in your place?”

He lowered his feet and his voice, and placed his hand on the Colonel’s knee.

“No!” he whispered hoarsely. “No!” he cried loudly and defiantly. “No! He would not! He would use the influence you have with the city council and the mayor to have an ordinance passed making YOU put fire-extinguishers in YOUR opera house, and compel YOU to buy them of HIM. But you will not use your huge influence with Mayor Stitz and the city council. You hesitate.”

Toole shook his head sadly; he almost wept out the last word, he seemed so heartbroken to see the Colonel hesitate.

“Why hesitate?” he asked. “If I were not a stranger in town, as I may say, I should beg you not to hesitate. I should beg you to act. I should beg you to think of the lives of poor, helpless women and children. I should beg you, for humanity’s sake, to go to the honorable mayor and city council, and appeal to them to pass an ordinance compelling this Skinner to buy nickel-plated fire- extinguishers. To compel him, Colonel! But I have nothing to say.”

He shuffled the legal-looking papers that littered his desk. The Colonel’s eyes had narrowed to fine points of hate-instilled cunning as the attorney proceeded.

“What have we come to,” asked the attorney sadly, “when the leading citizens of a town like Kilo neglect their duty? Are there no true citizens left to show the mayor and city council their plain duty?”

When the Colonel had the thing put to him in this light he did not hesitate. He knew Stitz, the mayor, and he knew that Stitz had full control of the city council. What Stitz told it to do the city council did, and the Colonel believed he had a right to dictate what Stitz should tell it, for he had suggested the name of Stitz as candidate for mayor, and, with Skinner, had helped elect him. He went at once to the mayor, and laid the case before him.

Mayor Johann Stitz was an honest, upright shoemaker, and owned his own building. It had once been a street car in Franklin, and when the horse cars were superseded by electric cars, Stitz had bought this car at auction, and had paid ten dollars to have it hauled to Kilo. It had not been a very good car when it left the shops before it made its first trip, and the ten years of running off the track and being boosted on again had not improved it much. It was in pretty bad shape when Stitz picked it up for eighteen dollars, and it had deteriorated greatly since it had been doing duty as a cobbler’s shop, but Stitz liked it. The tiny car stove that stood midway of one of the seats was all he needed in cold weather, and the seats along the sides were a continuous spread of cobblers’ seats. He could cobble all the way up one side of the car and all the way back the other, and when he had customers waiting he always had a seat to give them. He and the whole city council could hold a caucus in the car, and all have seats, and in the evenings he could take a stool out on his front or back porch and smoke a pipe in peace. His car stood side by side with the round topped wagon of the traveling photographer, who had not traveled since his felloes gave out on that very lot six years before.

The city officers of the Citizens’ Party, being of an independent part, were so independent that they were worried and chafed by their independence. No one but a man in office knows the real blessedness of having the set beliefs and an traditions of a regular party to fall back upon. The independence of the independents made their work more difficult; it compelled them to decide things for themselves, and then everybody complained of what they did. No independent is ever satisfied with what another independent does, and they lost even the satisfaction of knowing that they were pleasing their own part, which a properly service Democrat or Republican is rather apt to be sure of. In this state of things the six councilmen had thrown their burdens of decision to Stitz. They cast the whole burden on him, saying, “Ask Stitz. He’s mayor. What he says, we’ll do.” And Stitz never would say.

As the Colonel entered the mayor’s shoe shop Stitz was reading a magazine, which he laid beside him on the car seat while he listened to the Colonel. A pile of similar magazines lay beside him on the seat. They were the missionary offerings of Doc Weaver, who was interested in whatever was latest in religion, government or popular science. They were magazines telling of the municipal corruption of “New York, The Vile,” “Philadelphia, Defiled but Happy,” “Chicago, the Base,” and “St. Louis, the Decayed.” Doc Weaver had given them to Mayor Stitz to show him the evil of graft, and to keep his administration clean and pure.

When the Colonel had laid before the mayor his request for an ordinance compelling all opera house owners in Kilo to install and maintain four nickel- plated fire-extinguishers in each opera house, the mayor beamed on him through his iron-rimmed spectacles.

“Ho! Ho-o!” he exclaimed, “it is to make Mister Skinner buy some fire- extinguishers, yes? So shall my city council pass an ordinance, yes? Um!”

He smiled broadly at the Colonel, and then nodded.

“For how much you graft me?” he asked blandly.

“What?” asked the Colonel.

“Graft me,” repeated Mayor Stitz. “I say for how much you will graft me when I shall pass one such ordinance my council through?”

“What’s that?” asked the Colonel, puzzled.

“For how much you will make me one graft?” Mayor Stitz repeated slowly. “Graft! Graft! Understand him not?”

The Colonel shook his head.

“What is it?” he asked.

“Graft! Graft! Graft!” exclaimed the mayor with annoyance. “Don’t you know him? When I make you one ordinance to pass, so, then you make me one graft, so! Like I read me in this book. Me to you, one ordinance; you to me one graft. So!”

A look of dismay came over the face of the Colonel, as he frowned at the smooth, honest face of the mayor, from which beamed eyes of childish honesty and frankness.

“Here in this book,” said the mayor slowly and distinctly, like one explaining some simple thing to a child, “I read me of this graft business. It is to me this graft comes. So it is by all big cities. Man would have one ordinance. Goot! In every town is such one boss grafter. To the boss grafter gives the ordinance-wanting man a graft. So! Then for the ordinance-wanting man does the boss grafter get one ordinance made like is wanted. Yes! So, it is; no graft, no ordinance! Some graft, some ordinance! I read him in this book Doc Weaver gives me as a lesson to go by. It is a goot way. I like me that graft business.”

A glimmer of the meaning entered the Colonel’s mind, but he could hardly connect the idea of graft with the honest Johann Stitz. As a fact, to Mayor Stitz the idea of unlawful gain did not come. Graft was a way out of the difficulty of having to decide things. It was a system authorized by the lawmakers of great cities, and a system that could operate in Kilo. Whenever Stitz and his council passed an ordinance someone complained, and upbraided him; he saw now why this was; they had not used the approved system. But the Colonel still frowned.

“Well, what–how much do you want?” he asked.

Mayor Stitz turned up his innocent face and smiled blandly again.

“That makes not!” he exclaimed. “In the books it says much money, but is not yet Kilo so gross as New York. We go easy yet a while. It is what you want to graft me. One bushel apples–one bushel potatoes–that YOU must say.”

The Colonel moved closer to the mayor. He thought of Miss Sally, and of Skinner.

“I will make you a present of a bushel of apples,” he said.

The mayor laid down his magazine and arose. As the Colonel watched him with surprise, he removed his leathern apron. The Colonel folded his hand into a fist, but on the pleasant face of Mayor Stitz there was no sign of anger; no sign of righteous indignation; only a bland look of satisfaction.

“Well,” inquired the Colonel impatiently, “will ye put the ordinance through, or won’t ye?”

The mayor looked at him with surprise in every feature. Clearly this Colonel did not understand the first rudiments of graft.

“First I must go by Mr. Skinner,” said Stitz simply. “Mebby he grafts me more NOT to pass such an ordinance.”

“Look here, Stitz,” said the Colonel in alarm. “You ain’t goin’ to do that, are ye?”

“Vell,” said the mayor, “still must I do it! So always does the boss grafter. Which side grafts him the most, so he does. It is always so, never different. To the most grafter, so goes he. I read it in this books. When the boss grafter does not so, what use is the grafts? How then does he know which he shall do for, the ordinance-wanting man, or the ordinance-not-wanting man?”

The Colonel tried to argue with him, but the mayor was obdurate. He would not budge from the highest principles of graft, and, as the Colonel had gone too far now to recede with honor, he secured the best terms he could. The most he could obtain was a promise that the mayor would not mention any names, nor so much as hint that graft had been promised. He uneasily awaited the mayor’s return.

Stitz returned radiant. He was rubbing his hands and beaming.

“Fine!” he exclaimed. “Fine! I make me one boss grafter yet! Mister Skinner grafts me one roast beef and six pigs’ feet. He ain’t much liking those fire- extinguishers to have. How much more will you graft me now?”

The Colonel looked the mayor squarely in the eye.

“Stitz,” he said, “I ain’t goin’ to run no auction with that there Skinner. I come to you first, an’ I was the first to say I’d make you a present, an’ you ought to pass that ordinance anyhow. But to shut up this thing right here an’ now, I’ll do this: if you’ll say you’ll pas that ordinance like I want, so Skinner’ll have to buy them four nickel-plated fire-extinguishers that Miss Briggs owns, at twenty-five dollars each, I’ll give you four bushels of Benoni apples, two bushels of Early Rose potatoes, four bunches of celery, a peck of peas, and one spring chicken. And if you won’t” he added, raising his hand threateningly, “I’ll go to them six councilmen, an’ I’ll graft ’em one at a time, an’ THEN where ‘ll your boss grafter be? You can’t help yourself.”

“Say!” he exclaimed, “ain’t I a boss grafter? Apples, potatoes, celery, peas, and chickens! Five grafts for one ordinance! I do it!”

“An’ don’t you say nothing about it,” warned the Colonel.

The Colonel thought there would be no harm in making a little commission for himself on the deal. It was not as if he had done nothing to earn it. He would have to furnish the produce for the mayor’s “graft,” and he had secured the services of Toole free of fees, and he was doing Miss Sally a good turn into the bargain. If Skinner was compelled to buy the four fire-extinguishers at twenty- five dollars each Miss Sally could afford a commission of ten dollars each, and forty dollars were always forty dollars to the Colonel.

The mayor kept his promise. At the next meeting of the council the ordinance was proposed, and hurried to a third reading by suspension of the by-laws, and the next day Stitz signed it. There was some opposition at the council meeting, for Skinner was present, and wanted to talk, but the marshal was present, too, and at a word from Stitz, he helped Skinner down the stairs, but gently, as a marshal owing a considerable butcher’s bill should.

CHAPTER XI

The False Gods of Doc Weaver

When Eliph’ Hewlitt reached the hotel after his unfortunate visit of courtship, he stood a minute irresolute, and then the sign of the KILO TIMES, across the street, caught his eye. Here was a power he must not neglect; the power of the press. He knew well enough that the next issue of the KILO TIMES would chronicle his arrival in town; something like “E. Hewlitt is registered at the Kilo Hotel,” or “E. Hewlitt, representing a New York publishing house, is sojourning in our midst,” but he felt that his heart interest in Kilo demanded something more than this. He was willing to have all the friends he could muster for the fight he would have to make for Miss Sally’s affection, and he knew that the press was powerful in creating first impressions. He crossed the street and climbed the stair to the office of the KILO TIMES.

Every Thursday, except once a year, when Thomas Jefferson Jones went to the State Fair at Des Moines, the KILO TIMES appeared, printed on an old Washington hand-power press in the TIMES office four small pages, backed by four other pages that came already printed from a Chicago supply house, with the usual assortment of serial story, “Hints to Farmers,” column of jokes, sermon, and patent medicine advertisements. T. J.’s own side was made up of local advertisements, a column of editorial, a few bits of local news that he could scrape together, and several columns of “country correspondence.” T. J. himself was the entire force of the TIMES, except for a boy who came in every Thursday morning to work the hand-power of the press, who then washed up and delivered the papers about town. T. J. had built up the paper from a state of decay until it was one of the most prosperous country weeklies in Iowa, and he had done this against a handicap that would have discouraged most men–he was not married.

In Kilo subscriptions are frequently paid in turnips or cordwood, and the advertisers expect at least half of their bills to be taken out in trade, and the unmarried publisher is at a disadvantage. An unmarried publisher has little use for the trade half of the payment he received from the advertising milliner. No editor can appear in public wearing a gorgeously flowered hat of the type known as “buzzard,” and retain the respect of his subscribers. Neither can he receive as currency, in a year when the turnip crop is unusually plentiful, more than sixty or seventy bushels of turnips in one day without having to get rid of them at a severe discount. But, in spite of all this, T. J., by his energy and good humor, had made a success of the TIME, and his editorials advising the people not to patronize the Chicago mail-order houses, but to patronize their home merchants, were copied by his contemporaries all over the State. One of his editorials on the prospects of the year’s hog crop was quoted by the hog editor of a big Chicago daily, word for word. These are the real triumphs of country journalism, and all over the State his paper was referred to by his brother editors as “Our enterprising contemporary, the KILO TIMES,” and T. J. as “The brilliant young editor of the same.”

When Eliph’ Hewlitt entered the printing office T. J. was standing by his case setting up an item of news. He never wrote anything but editorials on paper; other matter he composed in type as he went along. It saved time. Now he laid his “stick” on the case and turned to Eliph’.

“My name is Hewlitt, Eliph’ Hewlitt,” said the book agent, “agent for Jarby’s Encyclopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art,’ published by Jarby & Goss, New York; price five dollars, neatly bound in cloth, one dollar down, and one dollar a month until paid.”

As the editor was about to speak, Eliph’ raised his hand.

“I don’t want to sell you one!” he exclaimed. “We are members of the same craft, and I never canvass publishers, except to offer them a chance to buy this book at a very liberal discount offered by our firm to the fellow members of the great craft, a discount of forty percent, bringing the cost of the book, complete in every respect and exactly like those sold regularly for five dollars, down to the phenomenally low cost of three dollars. At this price no publisher can afford to be without a copy, containing, as it does, all the matter usually found in the most complete and expensive encyclopedias, and much more, all condensed into one volume for ready reference. It saves times and money.”

T. J. shook his head, not unkindly, but positively, and was about to turn to his case again, but Eliph’ held out his hand.

“I merely mentioned it,” he said, with a smile. “I don’t want to sell you one. I supposed you would have learned from the landlord that I was in town and I only wanted to be sure that you got the item right for the next paper.”

T. J. turned to his galleys and read from the type:

“‘One of the visitors to our little burg this week is E. Hewlitt, of New York, who is stopping at the Kilo House.'”

Eliph’ stroked his whiskers and smiled.

“Yes,” he said. “Quite correct. H-e-w-l-i-t-t, I presume? A very good item, and well worded, but it might be more–more extensive.”

“We are rather crowded for space this week,” said T. J. “Two of our country correspondents missed the mails last week, and we have a double dose of it this week.”

“Certainly,” said Eliph’. “But I was thinking that this book ought to be mentioned. The advent of a book like Jarby’s Encyclopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art, containing, as it does, selections from the world’s best literature, hints and helps for each and every day in the year, recipes for the kitchen, the dying words of all the world’s great men, with their lives, et cetery, ought to be noticed. I was wondering if you would have space to run in a little card about that book.”

T. J. came forward and brushed a heap of exchanges from the only chair in the office, and motioned to it with his hand. Eliph’ laid his book on the editor’s desk, and picked up a copy of last week’s TIMES. He ran his eye over the columns, and stopped at the advertisement of Skinner, the butcher.

“I was thinking of something about twice the size of this,” he suggested.

T. J. smiled and mentioned his rate for the space. It was not much, and Eliph’ nodded.

“Every week, until forbid,” he said, “and I guess I’d better subscribe. I am going to live right her in Kilo right along now, and the man that don’t take his home paper never knows what is going on.”

T. J. was pleased. He was more pleased when Eliph’ pulled a long purse from his pocket, and paid for one insertion of the advertisement and for the subscription. The editor pulled a pad of paper toward himself, and wrote hastily, while Eliph’ briefly mentioned facts. When the next number of the TIMES appeared there was a well-displayed advertisement of Jarby’s Encyclopedia, with Eliph’ Hewlitt mentioned as agent, but more important to Eliph’ was the “local item” that stood at the very top of the local column.

“We are glad to announce that Kilo has secured as a citizen Eliph’ Hewlitt, a man whose work in behalf of good literature entitles him to the highest praise. Mr. Hewlitt, who intends to make his home with us permanently, is representative of the celebrated work, Jarby’s Encyclopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art, published by Jarby & Goss, Greater New York, and his travels in behalf of that work have taken him to all parts of the nation. To have a man of such extensive travel decide to make Kilo his home is an honor. Mr. Hewlitt says that in all his travels he never found a town more up-to-date and progressive for its size than our own little burg. We heartily welcome him to our midst.

“We have it on good authority that Mr. Hewlitt is a man of considerable means, amassed in carrying on his work as a disseminator of literature, and that he intends, in the near future, to purchase a home here. He will probably buy a lot, and erect a dwelling that will be a credit to him and to our little burg. At present he is stopping with Doctor Weaver, the leading physician of our little burg.

“We learn that our new citizen has followed a habit universally adopted by many authors, theatrical artists, and others gifted in various ways, and early adopted a NOM DE PLUME, choosing the name of Eliph’ Hewlitt because of its unassuming simplicity. His real name is Samuel Mills, and he is the son of the late W. P. Mills, of Franklin, gifted author of the deservedly famous poetical work, ‘The wages of Sin.’ Early in his career our new citizen found himself overshadowed by the fame of his father, and unwilling to succeed buy by and because of his own efforts, he chose a NOM DE PLUME, which he has ever since used. This truly American independence does him the greatest credit.

“Mr. Mills, or Eliph’ Hewlitt, as he prefers to be known, is an old schoolmate of James Wilkins, the prominent livery and hotel man of our little burg. Again we welcome him to our midst.”

This was headed, “Eliph’ Hewlitt Now a Citizen of Kilo!” and it was all the introduction the little book agent needed–except to Miss Sally. When se read it she turned pale. A book agent living in the very town was more than she could bear.

But there was another item of news that Eliph’ left with T. J. that went into the same issue of the TIMES. This stated that Mrs. Smith, of New York, and Miss Susan Bell were visiting Miss Sally Briggs, and T. J. had completed the slight information given him by Eliph’ by a call at Miss Sally’s. It was after Eliph’ had told T. J. that he meant to make his home in Kilo that the enterprising editor suggested Doc Weaver’s as a good boarding place, and the little book agent was glad enough to settle himself in a real home, for the Kilo Hotel was hardly more than an annex to the liver, feed and sale stable part of Jim Wilkins’ business, and any man with half an eye could see that it was not, as a home for men, to be compared to the comfort with the stable, as a home for horses. Jim would have been the last man in Kilo to expect a visitor to remain in the Kilo Hotel more than two days. Before the end of the day Eliph’ had arranged with Mrs. Doc Weaver for board and lodging, and had moved his big valise to the little back room on the second floor, from the low six-paned windows of which he could look out over the cornfield that environed Kilo on that side.

At supper he met Doc Weaver himself, and found him, as Kilo pronounced him, “a ready talker.” Eliph’ and Doc Weaver were sitting at the supper table, earnestly engaged in conversation, while the doctor’s wife cleared away the dishes, and Eliph’ was pouring out the knowledge he had absorbed from Jarby’s Encyclopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art. The doctor was having a mental feast. Behind his spectacles his eyes glowed, and in exact ratio, as the doctor’s spirits rose, the frown on his wife’s forehead deepened.

The doctor had few opportunities for discussing any subjects but the most ordinary. Neighborhood gossip, the weather, the price of corn, were the usual sources of conversation in Kilo, except when an election gave a political tinge to discussions, or when a revival turned all attention to religious matters; but the doctor’s mind scorned these limitation, and he found few persons from year’s end to year’s end to whom he could speak openly on his favorite themes.

To Kilo in general the doctor was something of a mystery. Ordinarily he was the most silent of men, but on occasion, as for instance when he could buttonhole an intelligent stranger, he dissolved into a torrent of words.

Doc Weaver held views. He believed there were other things besides the Republican party and the Methodist Church, and being liberal-minded, he believed all these other things in turn, and he had believed them enthusiastically. He could not help thinking that he was of a little finer clay than Skinner, or Wilkins, or Colonel Guthrie. Kilo considered the doctor one of her peculiar institutions; as Kilo took the ever-joking Toole seriously, so she took the ever serious doctor good-naturedly, but not too seriously. He was “jist Doc Weaver,” and Kilo reserved the right to laugh at him in private, and to brag about him to strangers, and they were apt to “joke” him about his beliefs. As he was sensitive and dreaded the rough raillery of his neighbors, he kept his enthusiasms to himself. He was like an overcharged bottle of soda water.

Eliph’ and the doctor were discussing Christian Science and faith cures generally, and when the doctor’s wife passed to and fro, catching a phrase now and then, a look of deep anxiety spread over her face, until, as she brushed the crumbs from the red tablecloth, her shoulders seemed to droop in dejection.

When she smoothed the cloth and set the lamp on the mat in the center the doctor glanced at his watch and arose. He buttoned his frock coat over his breast (it was the only frock coat in Kilo), and drew on his driving gloves, holding his hands on a level with his chin. It was a habit, an aristocratic touch, which, like his side-whiskers, detached him from the rest of Kilo. He had once worn a silk hat, but he soon abandoned it for gray felt; for even he saw that a silk hat emphasized his individuality too strongly for comfort. It was a tempting mark for snowballs in winter.

When the doctor had closed the door and stepped from the front porch, his wife sank into a chair.

“I do hope you won’t git mad at what I’m goin’ to say, Mister Hewlitt,” she said, “’cause I ain’t goin’ to say it for no such thing; but I couldn’t help hearin’ what you was sayin’ to Doc while I was reddin’ off the table. I wisht you wouldn’t let him git to talkin’ about new-fangled religions and sich. It ain’t for his good nor mine.”

Eliph’ nodded good-naturedly.

“Why, ma’m,” he exclaimed, “we were only discussing faith cures, and neither of us believes in them–wholly, that is. Of course everyone who has read the chapter
on “India, It’s Religions and Its History,’ in Jarby’s Encyclopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art, must to some extend admit the power of mind over matter. But if you’d rather not have me, I’ll not discuss it again. There are one thousand and one other interesting subjects treated of in this great book, any one of which will please the studious mind.”

“I’d rather you wouldn’t, if you don’t mind,” said the doctor’s wife simply.

Eliph’ Hewlitt pushed back his chair, and arose as he saw the lines of worry leave the face of his hostess. He turned to the side table and looked among the books that lay on it.

Mrs. Weaver sprang to her feet.

“Land’s sakes!” she cried. “I know what you’re lookin’ for. You’re lookin’ for that book of yourn, ain’t you? It’s right there behind them wax flowers on that what-not. I seen it layin’ around and I jist shoved it back there so Doc wouldn’t git at it.”

“Well, you sit down, ma’m,” said the book agent. “I can get it. But there was no need to be so particular. The doctor knows how to hand a book as well as the next man.”

The doctor’s wife drew her darning basket from the side table and turned its contents into her lap.

“‘Twasn’t that,” she said; “I’d never have thought of that, I guess. I hit it because I didn’t know if ’twas a proper book for Doc. It’s got a kind of a queer name.”

Eliph’ turned the book over in his hand. It was the first time anyone had suggested that the volume might be dangerous. He looked up and smiled.

“It would not harm the youngest child, ma’m,” he said, “unless it fell on it. I wouldn’t harm a baby.”

“Well, I guess you’ll think I’m awful foolish about Doc,” said Mrs. Weaver, “but I wasn’t goin’ to take no chances, and the name kind of riled. Me. And them pictures of ladies bending.”

“Physical Culture,” said Eliph’, “How to Develop the Body, How to Maintain Perfect Health, How to Keep Young and Beautiful. Page 542. Why, ma’m, that’s just a system of training for the body. It makes one more graceful, just like running and jumping makes a boy strong.”

The doctor’s wife heaved a sigh of relief.

“Well, I guess that won’t hurt Doc any if he does read it,” she laughed. “I thought it was some new-fangled religion or other, and I allus keep sich things out of Doc’s reach. Mebby you’ll think I’m crazy, but when you know Doc as well as I do, you’ll find out mortal quick he is to take up with new notions, and it would be jist like him to give up his sittin’ in church and go and be a Physical Culture, if there was any sich belief. I don’t mind much his bein’ a Socialist, or any of them politercal things, if he wants to,–and goodness knows he does,- -’cause they keep his mind busy; but since I got him to jine church I’m goin’ to keep him jined, Physical Culture or no Physical Culture. I seen them pictures, and they riled me right up, to think of Doc’s goin’ round wrapped up in them sheets, or whatever it is on them folks in the pictures. Mebby it’s all right for Physical Culturers, but I don’t ever hope to see Doc so.”

Eliph’ Hewlitt laughed a thin little laugh, and Mrs. Weaver smiled.

“Now, you do think I’m foolish, don’t you?” she inquired. “But I had sich a time with Doc ‘fore I married him that I’m scared half to death every time I hear a long word I ain’t right sure of. I was ‘most worried out of my wits last Summer when Miss Crawford was lecturin’ on Christian Science. It was jist about even whether Doc ‘ud git in line or not. He had an awful struggle, poor feller, ’cause he can’t bear to have nothin’ new to believe in com round and him not believe in it. Religions is to Doc jist like teethin’ is to babies; they got to teethe, and seem like Doc’s got to catch new religions. He ain’t never real happy when he ain’t got no queer fandango to poke his nose into. But he didn’t git Christian Scientisted.

“I says to him, ‘Doc, ain’t you an allopathy?’ And he says, ‘Yes, certainly.’ ‘Well,’ I says, ‘if you go and be a Christian Science you can’t be no allopathy, Doc. Christian Science and allopathy don’t mix,’ I says, ‘and you’d starve, that’s what you’d do. I leave it to you, Doc, if you quit big pills, how’d you ever git a livin’? There ain’t no big pills set down in the Christian Science book.’

“Well, he poked his eyes up at the ceiling, and says, ‘I might write, Loreny.’ ‘Yes,’ I says, ‘so you might. And what ‘d you write, Doc Weaver?’ I says. ‘Shakespeare?’ And Doc shet right up, and never said another word. It was a mean thing for me to say, but I was awful worried.”

“Shakespeare?” inquired Eliph’.

“Yes, that’s the word–Shakespeare,” said Mrs. Weaver. “It come purty nigh keeping me from marrying Doc. You see, Doc ain’t like common folks. Don’s got sich broad ideas of things. Lib’ral, he calls it, but I name it jist common foolish. He’s got to give every new-fangled scheme a show. I guess, off and on, Doc’s believed most every queer name in the dictionary, and some that ain’t been put in yet. I used to tell him they didn’t git them up fast enough to keep up with him. He’s got a wonderful mind, Doc has.

“I hain’t no notion how ever Doc got started believin’ things, but mebby he got in with a bad lot at the doctor school he went to. Doc told me hisself they cut up dead folks. Anyhow, he come back from Chicago a regular atheist; but that was before I knowed him. He lived up at Clarence, and he didn’t come to Kilo ’til about ten years after that, and he’d got pretty well along by then, and had got right handy at believin’ things.

“Well, when Doc come to Kilo pa had jist died an’ ma an’ me had to take in boarders to git along; so Doc come to our house to board. That’s how Doc an’ me got to know each other. I was about as old as Doc, and we wasn’t either of us very chickenish, but I thought Doc was the finest man I’d ever saw, an’ exceptin’ what I’m tellin’ you, I ain’t ever had cause to change my mind.

“I’d never sa so many books as Doc brought–more’n we’ve got now. I burned a lot when we got married–Tom Paine and Bob Ingersoll, and all I wasn’t sure was orthodoxy. Why, we had more books than we’ve got in the Kilo Sunday School Lib’ry. ‘Specially Shakespeare books, some Shakespeare writ hisself, an’ some that was writ about him. Doc was real took up with Shakespeare them days.

“‘Most all his spare time Doc put in readin’ them Shakespeare books, and sometime he’d git a new one. One day he come home mad. I ain’t seen Doc real mad but twice, but he was mad that day and no mistake. He’d got a new book, an’ he set down to read it as soon as he got in the house; but every couple of pages he’d slap it shut and walk up an’ down, growlin’ to hisself. Oh, but he was riled! That night I heard him stampin’ up an’ down his room, mad as a wet hen, and by and by I heard that book go rattlin’ out of the window and plunk down in the radish bed. So next morning I went out and got it, ’cause I liked Doc purty well by then, and it made me sorry to see sich a nice, quiet man carry on so.

“I couldn’t make head nor tail of the book, nor see why it riled Doc up so. It was jist another Shakespeare book, only this one said that it wasn’t Shakespeare, but some one else, that wrote the Shakespeare books. I thought Doc was real foolish to git so mad about it, but I had no idea how much Doc had took it to heart.

“Well, I do run on terribul when I git started, don’t I? An’ them supper dishes waitin’ to be washed! But I guess it won’t hurt them to stand a bit. You see, when Doc begun to take a likin’ for me, the poor feller started in to talk about what he believed in. Most fellers does. First he begun about greenbacks. He was the only Greenbacker in Kilo; but that was jist politercal stuff, and while I’m a good Republican, like pa was, I didn’t see that it would hurt if my husband did think other than what I did on that, so long as he wasn’t a saloon Democrat. That was when they was havin’ the prohibition fight in Ioway, you know. But when Doc begun lettin’ out hints that he didn’t think much of goin’ to church, I was real sorry.

“I was sorry because I couldn’t see my way clear to marry an outsider, bein’ a good Methodist myself; but I didn’t dream but that he was jist one of these lazy Christians that don’t attend church lest they’re dragged. There is plenty sich. I thought mebby I could bring him round all right once he was married; so I jist asked him right out if he would jine church.

“Well, you’d have thought I’d asked him to take poison! He didn’t flare up like some would, but jist sat down and explained how he couldn’t. I guess he must have explained, off an’ on, for three weeks before I got a good hang of his idea. Seems like he was believeing some Hindoo stuff jist then. I don’t know as you ever heart tell of it. It’s about souls. When a person dies his soul goes into another person, and so on, until kingdom come. R’inca’nation’s what they call it.”

“Yes,” said Eliph’ Hewlitt, “it is all given in “India, Its Religions and Its History,’ in Jarby’s Encyclopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art.”

“Jist so!” said Mrs. Weaver. “Well, I guess by the time Doc got done explainin’ I knew more about r’inca’nation than what your Encyclopedia of Compendium does, because night after night Doc would sit up and explain till I’d drop off asleep.

“But it wasn’t no use. So far as I could see, r’inca’nation was jist plain error and follerin’ after false gods, and I told Doc so. Anyhow, I knowed there wan’t nothin’ like it in the Methodist Church, an’ I jist up and let Doc know I wouldn’t marry anybody that believed such stuff. Doc reckoned to change my mind, but my argument was jist plain ‘I won’t!’ and that settled it. I believe a man and wife ought to belong to the same church,–‘thy God shall be my God’–and I wasn’t goin’ to give up what I’d been taught for any crazy notions Doc had got into his head. I told him so, plain.

“Then Doc took a poetry-writing spell, but he wasn’t no great hand at it. I told him in plain words he would be better off rollin’ allopathy pills. I used to git right put out with Doc sometimes, foolin’ away good time that way, sittin’ round by the hour spoilin’ good paper. I reckon he started close onto a thousand poems, but he didn’t git along very good. ‘Bout the their line he’d stop and tear up what he’d wrote. When I wasn’t mad I used to feel real sorry for Doc, he tried so hard; but feelin’ sorry for him didn’t help him none, and it was kind of ridiculous to see him.

“One day I asked Doc why he didn’t tell ma and the rest of Kilo what he believed in, and he said that Kilo folks couldn’t understand sich things, bein’ mostly born and bred in the Methodist Church, and not lib’ral like he was. I seen he was payin’ me a compliment, because he had told me, but I couldn’t swaller r’inca’nation, for all that. And so we didn’t seem to git no further.

“But one day Doc says, ‘Well, Loreny, WHY can’t you marry me? They ain’t no one can love you like I do, and you know I’ll make you a good husband, and I’ll go to church with you reg’lar if you say so.’

“‘Goin’ to church ain’t all, Doc Weaver,’ I says. ‘I jist won’t marry a man that believes sich trash as you do.’

“‘Well, tell me why not,’ he says.

“‘I’ll tell you, Doc Weaver,’ I says, ‘since you drive me to it. I’m willing enough to marry YOU, but I ain’t willing to marry some old heathen Chinee or goodness knows what!’

“‘Doc was took all aback. ‘Why, Loreny!’ he says, ‘Why, Loreny!’

“‘I mean it,’ I says, ‘jist what I say. How can I tell who you are when you say yourself you ain’t nothing but some old spirit in a new body? Like as not you’re Herod, or an Indian, or a cannibal savage, and I’d like to see myself marryin’ sich,’ I says, ‘I’d look purty, wouldn’t I, settin’ in church alongside of a made-over Chinee?’

“Doc ain’t very pale, ever, but he got as red as a beet, and I see I’d hit him purty hard. Then he kind of stiffened up.

“‘Loreny,’ he says, ‘I’d have thought you’d have believed my spirit to be a little better than a heathen Chinee’s,’ he says, ‘though there’s much worse folks than what they are.’

“I seen he was put out, an’ I hadn’t meant to hurt his feelings, so I says, more gentle, ‘Well, Doc, if you ain’t that, what are you?’

“I s’pose, Mr. Hewlitt, you’ve noticed how sometimes something you find out will make clear to you a lot of things you couldn’t make head nor tail of before. That’s the way what Doc said did for me. There was that poetry writin’ of his, an’ the way that Shakespeare book made him mad, an’ how he read those Shakespeare books instead of his Mateery Medicky volumes.

“Well, I asked Doc, ‘If you ain’t a heathen Chinee or some sich, what are you?’ an’ when he answered you could have knocked me down with a wisp of hay. You’d never guess, no more than I did.

“‘Loreny,’ he says, solemn as a deacon, ‘I didn’t reckon never to tell nobody, an’ you mustn’t judge what I tell you too quick. I ain’t made up my mind sudden- like,’ he says, ‘but have studied myself and what I like and don’t like, for years, and I’ve jist been forced to it,’ he says. ‘There ain’t no doubt in my mind, Loreny,’ he says, an’ he let his voice go way down low, like he was ‘most afraid to say it hisself. ‘Loreny, I believe that Shakespeare’s spirit has transmigrated into me.’

“Well, sir, I was too taken aback to say a word. I thought Doc had gone crazy. But he hadn’t.

“When I kind of got my senses back I riled up right away. ‘Well,’ I says snappy, ‘I think when you was pickin’ out someone to be you might have picked out someone better. From all I’ve heard, Shakespeare wasn’t no better than he’d ought to have been. He don’t suit me no better than a Chinee would, and I hain’t no fancy to marry Mister Shakespeare. Maybe you think it’s fine doin’s to be Shakespeare, Doc Weaver, but I don’t, and I ain’t going to marry a man that’s like a two-headed cow, half one thing and half another, and not all of any. When you git your senses,’ I says, ‘ you can talk about marryin’ me’ and off I went, perky as a peacock. But I cried ‘most all night.

“Him an’ me kind of stood off from each other after that, and I made up my mind I’d die before I’d marry Doc so long as he was Shakespeare, and Doc had got the notion that he was Shakespeare so set in his mind it seemed likely he would.

“I hadn’t never took much stock in poetry readin’ since I got out of ‘Mother Goose,’ but I begun to read Shakespeare a little jist to see what kind of poetry Doc thought he had writ when he was Shakespeare. Well, I wouldn’t want to see sich books in the Sunday School Lib’ry, that’s all I’ve got to say. Some I couldn’t make sense out of, but there was one long poem about Venus and some young feller–well, I shouldn’t thing the gov’ment would allow sich things printed! I jist knowed Doc couldn’t ever have writ such stuff. There ain’t so much meanness in him. But I couldn’t see clear how to make Doc see it that way.

“I’d about given up hopes of ever curing Doc, when one day a feller come to town and give a lecture in the dance room over the grocery. He was one of these spiritualism fellers, and as soon as it was noised around that he was comin’, I knowed Doc would be the first man to go and the last to come away, and he was. Thinks I, ‘Let him go. If Doc jines in with spiritualists, it will be better’n what he believes in now, and if he begins changin’ religions, mebby I can keep him changin’, and change him into a churchgoer.” And so, jist to see what Doc was like to be, I coaxed ma to go, an’ I went, too. It wasn’t near so sinful as I expected.

“The feller’s name was Gilson, an’ he was as pale as a picked chicken, but real common lookin’, otherwise. He was a right-down good talker and seemed real earnest. He wasn’t the ghost-raisin’ kind of spiritualist, and them that went to see a show, come away dissap’inted, for all he did was to talk and take up a collection. He said he was a new beginner and used to be a Presbyterian minister. Doc stayed after it was over and had a talk with Gilson, and of course he got converted, like he always did. He told ma so.

“I hadn’t been havin’ much talk with Doc one way or another, but when ma told me he had jined the spiritualists I eased up a litt, and one day I made bold to say, ‘Well, Doc, I s’pose now you have give up that Shakespeare foolishness, ain’t you?’

“‘No, Loreny,’ he says, ‘I ain’t.’

“‘Land’s sakes!’ I says, ‘do you mean to say you can be two things at once in religion, as well as bein’ Shakespeare and Doc Weaver?’

“‘Yes, Loreny,’ he says. ‘The spirit has got to be somewheres between the times it has got a body,’ he says, ‘That stands to reason. It’s always puzzled me where I was between the time I died two or three hundred years ago and the time I entered this body,’ he says, ‘ and spiritualism makes it all clear. I was floatin’ in space.’

“That’s jist how fool-crazy Doc was them days. There he was believin’ with all his might that r’inca’nation business and that spirit business at the same time.

“I says, ‘Well, Doc, some day you’ll see how deep in error you are,’ and I didn’t say no more.

“Of course Doc wouldn’t let well-enough alone. There was a big spiritualist over to Peory, Illinoy, a reg’lar ghost-raisin’ feller, and what did Doc do but write over and git him to come to Kilo and give a séance. That is a meetin’ where they raise up ghosts. Doc wanted the feller to stop at our house, but I wouldn’t have it, so he had to put up at the hotel. Doc said it was a shame, but as soon as I seen the man I said it served him right, and that he was a fraud, but Doc swallered him right down, hide an’ hoof.

“They had the séance in the hotel parlor, and no charge, so me and ma went, thought we wasn’t jist sure it was right; but I says it wasn’t as if it was real–we knowed it was all foolishness; so ma and me trotted along. I found out afterward that Doc paid to have the feller come to Kilo. His name was Moller, an’ he was one of them long-haired greasy-lookin’ men.

“I must say it was real scary when they turned the lights down an’ Moller made tables jump around and fiddles play without anybody playin’ on them. There wasn’t many folks there, but ma held my hand, an’ I held ma’s, and Doc was right in front of us.

“Moller did a lot of tricks sich as I hear they always do, an’ then he said he’d bring up any spirits anyone would like to have come up. That was what Doc was waitin’ for, and he popped right up.

“‘I should like to talk to Bacon,’ he says.

“‘Bacon?’ says Moller. ‘There’s a good many Bacons in spirit-land. Which one do you want to speak to, brother?”

“‘The one that lived when Shakespeare did,’ says Doc. ‘The one that wrote the essays and sich. Sir Francis Bacon.’

“‘Ah, yes!’ says Moller. ‘I’ll see if he’s willin’ to say anyting to-night.’ And down he set into a chair. Well, you’d have died! In a bit his head and legs begun to jerk like he had St. Vitus dance, and then he straightened out, stiff as a broomstick. It was the silliest thing ever I seen. I felt real sorry for Doc, he was so dead earnest about it.

“In a minute Moller opened his jaw and begun to talk. It was all sort of jerky- like.

“‘I’m sailin’ through starry fields,’ he says, ‘explorin’ the wonders of the universe. Why am I called back to earth this way? Doth somebody want to question me about something?’

“Doc was all worked up. He held onto a chairback, an’ he was so shakin’ I could hear the loose chair rungs rattle.

“‘Is this Bacon?’ he says.

“‘It is,’ says Moller, his voice jerkin’ like a kitten taken with the fits.

“‘Well,’ says Doc, like his life was hangin’ on what Moller would say, ‘did you, or did you not, write Shakespeare’s plays?’

“‘I did not,’ Moller jerked out; ‘Shakespeare did.’

“You could hear Doc sigh all over the room, it was sich a relief to his mind. Doc was awful pleased. He was smilin’ all over his face, he was so pleased to have Bacon own up, an’ he turned to ma and me and says, ‘Ain’t it wonderful!’

“Then Moller come out of his fit an’ set still a while, like he had jist woke up from a long nap. Then he says he’s goin’ into another trance, an’ if any in the room wants to hold talk with any of their lost friends or kin, they should ask for them, an’ he jerked again, and jerked out stiff.

“That old back-slider, Pap Briggs, popped up, but Doc was ahead of him, ’cause Pap always has to regulate his store teeth before he can git his tongue goin’, and Doc says, ‘I desire to speak with Richard Burbage.’

“I guess Moller didn’t now any sich feller. Anyways he jist lay still an’ so Doc says, ‘Mebby there’s several Richard Burbages. I mean the one that owned a theater with Shakespeare.’ But Richard Burbage didn’t feed like talkin’ that evenin’. I reckon Moller didn’t know nothin’ about Richard Burbage, and was frightened that Doc would ask him something that he couldn’t answer. There ain’t nobody slicker than them fake fellers. It’s their business.

“But Doc was so worked up he would have swallered anything, and I guess Moller thought he had to make up to Doc for payin’ his expenses, so he says, smilin’, ‘I see, doctor, you are interested in literature, and I’ll try to get somebody in that line that’s willing to talk.’ So he jerked into another trance.

“Purty soon Moller says: ‘From the seventh circle I have come, drawn by the will of somebody that knows and loves me. It’s a long way. Billions of miles off is ny new home, where I spend eternity writin’ things that make what I writ on earth look like nothin’,’–or some sich nonsense. Doc looked back at me once, proud as sin, an’ then he swelled out his lungs, an’ run his hand over his whiskers, like you’ve seen him do. He was gittin’ wound up for a good talk.

“If I do say it myself, Doc’s a good talker, an’ I figgered he’d make Moller hustle. I see Doc was goin’ to spread hisself to do credit to Shakespeare. He hadn’t no doubt that one spirit would recognize another, so he says, like he was makin’ a speech, ‘You know who I am?’

“‘I do,’ says Moller.

“‘Then,’ says Doc, ‘since my spirit eyes are blinded by this mortal body, may I ask who you are?’ He didn’t hardly breathe. Then Moller jerked. ‘I am Shakespeare,’ he says, sudden-like.

“‘What’s that?’ says Doc, short and quick.

“‘Shakespeare,’ says Moller–‘William Shakespeare.’

“Poor Doc jist dropped into his chair, and run his hand over his forehead and his eyes, like he had bumped into the edge of a door in the dark. I ain’t never seen Doc real pale but once, and that was then. Then he turned round to ma an’ me, weak as a sick baby, an’ says, ‘Come, Loreny; this lyin’ place ain’t nowhere for you and me to be,’ and we went out.

“‘Well, Doc,’ I says, when we was outside, ‘seems to me like there is two of you,’ and that was all I says to him about it, then; but I guess he see what a fool he’d been, ’cause the next night he says, ‘Loreny, I wisht you’d git me a set of the articles of belief of our church. I’d like to look them over.’

“‘Well,’ I says, ‘who’ll I say wants them, Shakespeare or Doc Weaver?’

“‘You can say an old fool wants them,’ says Doc, ‘and you’ll hit it about right.’

“So Doc jined church, an’ he’s leadin’ the singin’ now; but you can see why I keep sich a lookout lest he gits started off on some new religion.”

Mrs. Weaver glanced at the clock.

“Mercy me!” she exclaimed. “Doc’ll be home before I git them supper dishes washed up. Now, you won’t feel hurt because I don’t want you to talk new religions to Doc, will you? You can see jist how I feel, and you wouldn’t want no husband yourself that was a philopeny, as you might say. I don’t believe I could git on real well with Doc if he had kept on bein’ Shakespeare. I’d always have felt like he was ’bout three hundred years older than me. But there’s jist one thing I dread more than anything else. If Doc should take up with the Mormon religion and start a harem, I believe I’d coax him to be Shakespeare again. It’s bad enough to have a double husband, but, land’s sakes, I’d rather that than be part of a wife.”

CHAPTER XII

Getting Acquainted

Althought Eliph’ Hewlitt was not making much progress in his courtship he was far from idle in the succeeding weeks. He had taken many orders for Jarby’s great book in the county, before he arrived in Kilo, and as a shipment of the books arrived from New York he spent much of his time behind old Irontail making his deliveries and collecting the first payments, and some time in the immediate neighborhood making new sales. One of the copies he had to deliver was the one purchased by Mrs. Tarbro-Smith, but although he delivered it to her at Miss Sally’s, he did not have an opportunity to speak to Miss Sally, for she hid herself when he approached the door, and did not come down stairs again until he had left the house.

Mrs. Tarbro-Smith received the book with a lady-like enthusiasm, and immediately placed it upon Miss Sally’s center table, where its bright red cover added a touch of cheerfulness to the room, suggestive of the knowledge, literature, science and art the book was guaranteed to irradiate in any family. But Miss Sally never so much as looked inside its covers. She avoided it as if the thought the book itself might seize her and sell to her, against her will, one of its fellows. Mrs. Smith said openly that she wished she might see more of Eliph’ Hewlitt, and that she thought him a most remarkable book agent, particularly after she had heard of his selling the Missionary Society a wholesale lot of Jarby’s Encyclopedia, and after glancing through the book she admitted that it was really an excellent thing of its kind, but Miss Sally merely remarked that she didn’t like book agents, and that she hated this one more than most, he was so slick.

The energetic spirit of Mrs. Smith was sure to carry her into anything that partook of a social nature, and she had arrived in Kilo in the midst of the festival season, when out-door festivals of all varieties were following one after another almost weekly for the benefit of the church, which had a properly clinging and insatiable debt. In these festivals she took a prominent part, for the brought her in contact with the people of Kilo as nothing else could, and if she enjoyed the affairs, so did Susan. Susan bloomed wonderfully. She sprang at once from childhood to young womanhood, and Mrs. Smith was pleased to have her protégée appear so well and receive so much attention, for she felt that she had had the revision of her. She already saw in her the heroine of the novel she meant to write, with the plot beginning in Kilo and Clarence, and carried to New York and, perhaps, Europe.

The attorney and the editor were particularly nice to Susan, and attentive to Mrs. Smith at all the festivals, and it amused the New Yorker to find herself and her maid on and equal social plane. It is quite different in New York. But lady’s maids in New York are not all like Susan. Maids in New York do not spend their spare time studying Jarby’s Encyclopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art, and Susan did. Even Eliph’ Hewlitt could not have read the book more faithfully than Susan did, nor have believed in it more trustfully. Often when the editor or the attorney sought her at one of the festivals they would find her talking with Eliph’ Hewlitt, exchanging facts out of Jarby’s Encyclopedia.

For Eliph’ never missed a festival. He haunted them, standing in one spot until his eyes fell upon Miss Sally, when he would make straight for her with his dainty little steps, and she, catching sight of him–for she was always on the lookout–would move away, weaving around and between people until he lost sight of her, when he would stand still until he caught sight of her again. It was like a game. Sometimes he caught her, but before he could have a word with her she would make an excuse and hurry away, or turn him over to another. Usually she shielded herself by keeping either the Colonel or Skinner beside her, if they were present, and they usually were.

“Land’s sake!” she exclaimed to Mrs. Smith, one evening, as they were walking home after an ice-cream festival at Doc Weaver’s, “I wish somebody would tell that Mr. Hewlitt that I don’t want to buy no books. He pesters the life out of me. I can’t show myself nowhere but he comes up, all loaded to begin, and if I’d give him half a chance he’d have me buyin’ a book in no time. It don’t seem to make no difference where I am. I believe he’d try to sell books at a funeral.” Mrs. Smith laughed.

“I know he would!” she said. “He is delightful! Why don’t you do as I did, and buy a book, and then he will be satisfied, and leave you alone.”

“Well, I won’t!” declared Miss Sally. “I ain’t done nothin’ all my life but buy books an’ then fight pa to get money to pay installments on ’em, an’ I won’t buy no more! I declared to goodness when I bought them Sir Walter Scott books that I wouldn’t buy no more, an’ I won’t. If I buy this one off of this man, there’ll be another, an’ another, an’ so on ’til kingdom come, an’ one everlasting fight with pa for money.”

“Couldn’t you pay for it with the money you got for those fire-extinguishers?” asked Mrs. Smith.

“Pa borryed that to pay taxes with, long ago, an’ that’s the last I’ll ever see of the money,” said Miss Sally. “Pa ain’t the kind that pays back. He’s a good getter, an’ a good keeper, but he’s about the poorest giver I ever did see, if he is my own father. There ain’t nothin’ in the world else that would drive me to get married but just the trouble I have to get money out of pa for anything. I ain’t even got a black silk dress to my name, and there ain’t another lady in Kilo but’s got one. I guessed when we moved to town I would have the egg money same as on the farm, but since pa had his teeth out an’ got new ones he won’t eat nothin’ but eggs, an’ I don’t get any egg money. Pa eats so many eggs I’m ashamed to tell it. I wonder he don’t sprout feathers. I don’t believe so many eggs is good for a man. It don’t seem natural. That encyclopedia book don’t say anywhere that eatin’ too many eggs makes a man close fisted, does it?”

Mrs. Smith said she could remember nothing to that effect in the book, and for a minute they walked in silence. Suddenly she looked up and spoke.

“Miss Sally,” she exclaimed, ” I know what to do! I will make you a present of y encyclopedia. I will give it to you, and the next time you see Mr. Hewlitt you can tell him you have a copy, and then he will leave you alone!”

That was how it happened that at the next festival Miss Sally did not run when she saw Eliph’ Hewlitt approaching, but stood waiting for him. He stepped up to her with a smile that was half pleasure and half excuse.

“I don’t want to buy a book,” she said quickly. “I’ve got one. Mrs. Smith gave me the one she had. So you needn’t pester me any more.”

“I didn’t want to sell you a book,” said Eliph’ gently, “although I am glad to learn you have one. No person, whether man, woman or child, should be without a copy of this work, including, as it does, all the knowledge of the ages and all the world’s wisdom, from A to Z, condensed into one volume, for ready reference. It is a book that should be on every parlor table and—-“

“Well, I’ve got one,” said Miss Sally, “so it’s no use wasting talk on it. One’s all I want. Another one wouldn’t be no good but to clutter up the house.”

“Just so,” said Eliph’. “I don’t want to sell you another. To sell this book is the smallest part of my trouble. It is a book that sells itself. I only need to show it, to sell it. Wherever it falls open it attracts the attention with a gem of thought or a flower of knowledge, perhaps the language of gems, or the language of flowers, how to cure boils, how to preserve fruit, each page offers something of value to the mind. A copy of this book in the house is a friend in sickness or in health, a help in business and a companion in pleasure; to the agent it is a source of steady and continuous income. One copy sells another.”

“I said before that I don’t want another,” said Miss Sally shortly.

“Let us talk about something else,” said Eliph’ Hewlitt, coughing politely behind his hand. “I’ll be glad to, but I do not blame you for bringing up the subject of the work I am selling. I make it a rule never to talk book out of business hours, but I am not sensitive, as some book agents are. When Jarby’s Encyclopedia of Knowledge and Compendium of Literature, Science and Art is mentioned I am not offended; I am not ashamed of my business–I enjoy it. I could
talk of the merits of this unequaled work day and night without stopping and yet not do it full justice, but I don’t. When my work is done I stop talking book. I might, to enliven conversation, quote from the ‘Five Hundred Ennobling Thoughts from the World’s Greatest Authors, Including the Prose and Poetical Gems of All Ages,’ containing, as it does, the best thoughts of the greatest minds, suitable for polite and refined conversation, sixty-two solid pages of the, with vingetty portraits of the authors, and a short biographical sketch of each, including date and place of birth, date and place of death, if dead, et cetery. Or I might, to brighten a passing moment, propound one or more of the ‘Six Hundred Perplexing Puzzles,’ page 987, including charades, conundrums, quaint mathematical catches, et cetery, compiled to brighten the mind and puzzle the wits, suitable for young or old, for grave or gay. It is a book that meets every want of every day, is neatly and durably bound, and the price is only five dollars.”

Miss Sally turned as if to run away, but Eliph’ put out his hand and touched her arm lightly.

“But I don’t,” he said. “I don’t quote, and I don’t propound. I put the book aside and I forget. When my work is done I relax my mind. I enter into the pleasures I find most congenial, such as festivals, sociables, fairs, kermesses, picnics, parties, receptions, et cetery, rules and suggestions for conducting all of which are to be found in this book, which is recommended and esteemed by the leaders of society, both in the Four Hundred and out. Or I read a good book, a list of five hundred of which may be found on page 336, ‘The Reader’s Guide,’ giving advice in selecting fiction, history, philosophy, religious works, poetry, et cetery, the whole selected by eight of the most eminent professors of literature in our colleges and universities, both at home and abroad. Or I indulge in conversation, in which what better guide than is to be found on page 662, ‘The Polite Conversationalist,’ including gems of wit, apt quotations, how to gain and hold the attention, how to amuse, instruct and argue, et cetery? When it is remember that all this, and much more, can be had for only five dollars, neatly bound in cloth, one dollar down and one dollar a month until paid, what wonder is it that–that—-“

Suddenly one of the paper lanterns that hung from the wire above them burst into flame, and Eliph’ saw on Miss Sally’s face the look of fear with which she was regarding him, fear and fascination mingled. The smile faded from his lips, and his gentle blue eyes became troubled. He dropped the hand that had been lightly resting on her arm, and his dapper air of self-confidence wilted in abashment.

“Was I–was I talking book?” he asked weakly. “I was! Pardon me, Miss Briggs, pardon me, I didn’t know it. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to.”

For a moment Miss Sally studied his face, and she saw only a genuine contrition there, and a regret so deep that she was sorry for him. There could be no doubt of his sincerity.

“Well!” she exclaimed, with a breath of relief; “I do believe you didn’t know you was! I believe that book’s got so ground into you that you can’t help but talk it, like Benny Tenneker, who got so used to climbin’ trees an’ fallin’ out of ’em that he used to climb the bedposts an’ fall of of ’em in his sleep without wakin’ up. Mrs. Doc Weaver’s his aunt, an’ when he visited her he nearly got killed fallin’ out of bed when he was tryin’ to climb a bed post when there wasn’t not on the bed. He’d got so he could fall out of any high place an’ light safe, but he wasn’t used to fallin’ off of low ones. He was such a nice boy. All Martha Willing’s children were nice. Mebby you’ve met her. She lives out Clarence way.”

“Willin?” said Eliph’. “Yes, I sold her a–I mean to say, I met her.”

“Well, her husband’s dead, and her and her boys is runnin’ the farm,” said Miss Sally, “an’ doin’ right well, so I guess she ain’t afraid of book agents. She can afford to buy. I don’t know as I’m afraid of ’em either, or hate ’em as such, but I can’t afford. Pa don’t approve of books much, an’ he can’t see why he should pay out money for what he don’t approve of. Books an’ taxes he don’t care much for. That’s why I was so scared of you.”

“I didn’t want to sell you a–to sell you anything,” said Eliph’ meekly. “All I wanted was to get acquainted, to get well acquainted.”

“I guess that’s all right then,” said Miss Sally. “There ain’t anything more natural than that you should wish that, bein’ intendin’ to make your home here. I hope you like the place an’ make lot of acquaintances, but if I was you I’d try not to talk book any more than you have to. I don’t think it’ll help to make you popular, as I may say. That Sir Walter man sort of gave everybody an overdose of book, an’ folks feel kind of mad at book agents ever since. Like father Emmons, when he had one of his sick spells, an’ nothin’ would do but he was goin’ to die, so he got up before sun-up an’ drove to town to see Doc Weaver. He let Doc know he felt he was dyin’ an’ told him the symptoms, an’ all Doc says was, ‘All you want is salts. You stop at the drug store an’ get a pound of salts, an’ I’ll warrant you’ll be as well as ever.’ So when his daughter– she’s Mary Ann Klepper–went into the house after carryin’ lunch to the men in the field, there was her poor old father settin’ at the table with the big yeller bake-bowl in front of him, an’ him eatin’ away at what was in it with a big spoon. ‘Eatin’ bread an’ milk, father?’ she asks, an’ her pa looks up with tears in his eyes, an’ swallers down another spoonful. ‘No,’ he says, as cross as a bear, ‘I’m eatin’ a pound o’ salts Doc Weaver told me to git, but hang if I can eat another spoonful, an’ I ain’t above half done.’ So I guess Kilo folks kind of gag when they think of books.”