She Was a Peach !
Who wrote “The Centre of Gravity“What the Gods Send" etc.
WITH complete dissatisfaction Mr. Arbuthnot Shoebottom eyed the gnawed bones that littered the little square of sawdust in which he squatted. There was also a sprinkling of peanut shells a few peach-stones and a bananaskin which a small boy had insisted on dropping into the cage.
Mr. Shoebottom’s eyes smouldered as he looked upon the long toe-nails of his two bare feet, upon his brown hairy shanks, upon the girdle of leopard-skin and the black matted hair of his chest and arms. In the little hand mirror, hanging directly in front of him, he could get a glimpse of a great shock of long coarse black hair that cascaded about his head, of two eyes gleaming through it, of a big brown nose protruding and a wide mouth that just now was grimly shut.
Mouth, nose, eyes—these were genuine Shoebottom property while the black matted hair grew amid the pores of Mr. Shoebottom’s skin and was accordingly genuine; the shanks—and the hair upon them—were likewise genuine, Mr. Shoebottom having used them for walking purposes' ever since he was fourteen months old. But the great shock of long coarse, black hair had once switched flies from the flanks of an old nag while the brown tint of all the human cuticle in sight had come out of a can of walnut stain!
For the small sum of ten cents, one dime, you could have mounted the plank platform, walked over to the square wooden box arrangement covered with red bunting, and through the meshes of the wire cage that projected above it you could have convinced yourself that Mr. Arbuthnot Shoebottom was from the jungles of the Phillipines and was wild! Only you wouldn’t have known that his name was Shoebottom nor would you actually have seen him “eat ’em alive!”
BUT it was not the knowledge that he was a humbug which bothered Mr. Shoebottom. Nor was his discontent born of the fear that his salary would not be forthcoming; “Old Boy Week" in Ontarioville was provings quite a windfall for most of the show people who had transferred their tents and paraphernalia at the close of the neighboring county fair. No. But it was the first time necessity had driven Mr. Shoebottom to link up with “a bunch of pikers!”
Just that—the whole caboodle from the animal circus gang right down to “Papita, Queen of the Gipsies,” who told fortunes and financed all the fake gambling games on the grounds. The way things were conducted jarret! upon Mr. Shoebottom’s delicate sense of the artistic; the crowd wasn’t given a run for its money. As for Nelles, his own Ik>ss.—he had as much business brains as a bug and there were fresh scratches on Mr. Shoebottom’s bare shoulder where the rummy had really punched him with the steel prongs fixed to the stock of the whip! The way the ‘Buried Alive!” show quit had put the finishing touch to Mr. Shoebottom’s con-
tempt for his present associates; instead of getting busy, Williams, the “barker,” had contented himself with trying to sell tickets by pointing to the banner that topped the tent, with, the result that the public didn’t seem to care whether the “Professor” stayed buried under six feet of earth without food or drink till Judgment Day.
When Mr. Shoebottom thought of the possibilities if that show was handled right— ! Decidedly
this atmosphere of dimes and dirty collars was no place for him!
Mr. Shoebottom might have kept right on till he had developed a bad case of the reveries if Nelles hadn’t mounted the “ballyhoo” out front and began to beat a brass gong. It was time for the first “spiel” of the afternoon and wandering sightseers were beginning to thicken to some semblance of a crowd. M r.
Shoebottom tossed away the end of his cigarette and listened to Nelles clumsily launching into his harangue.
“If this wiuld and savage crea-chure ever escaped,”
concluded the showman, “there would be no hope—no-o hope for any poor mortal who crossed his path! Ig-a-loo. the Wild Man of the Jungles, would tear ’em limb from limb, just as rep-re-sented in the picture before you!”
With his whip he slapped the canvas spread, lurid with paint. It was the signal for Mr. Shoebottom to leûp to the top of the cage, clinging to the heavy wire meshes and shaking the structure till it rocked.
“Down, sir! Down” thundered Nelles. drawing his revolver and running over to the cage with raised whip.
A sharp prod with the prongs in the stock of the whip warned Mr. Shoe-
bottom that he vfas clinging longer than usual. He dropped back out of sight with a snarl. He had been staring at a girl in a red tam-o’-shanter who* stood in the front row, holding timidly to the arm of a. big. young man. The latter was looking at her with a questioning grin.
“Gee. she’s a peach!” muttered Mr, Shoebottom.
“Step right up, ladies and gentlemen. Only a dime. Better take off that red hat, lady,” Nelles cautioned. “He’s awfully fond o’ bright colors—might try to snatch it, y’understand.”
The two stool-pigeons who were paid $1.25 per day for leading the “ruah" for tickets at the end of every “spiel" were already at the cage, pointing into it with delight and wonder. When the girl peeped cautiously over the edge, clutching the lapel of her escort’s coat. Mr. Shoebottom aras grimacing into the little mirror and twisting it about in his hands.
“Some class all right!” murmured Mr. Shoebottom under hi9 breath“A queer for fair! Clean, strong guy she’s with, too; looks like an easy mark, but Lord help the markers if he found out!” He eaught sight of the gold band on the third finger of her left hand.
“Married!” grunted Mr. Shoebottom to himself. He threw the little mirror into the sawdust and, grabbing the chair, with which he was fastened, pulled at it till the great muscles on his shoulders bulged to thrilling proportions.
“Oh Joe, look—the poor thing! I just think it's a shame’ to abuse a poor wild creatore like that! Look at those •cratches!” Her cheeks flushed with excitement. “The man said he liked bright colors and I'm going to give him my tarn."
She stuffed it through the cage a9 she spoke and the “poor thing” reached for it with a gibber of delight. He caught a glimpse of her eyes, swimming with tears of7 pity, before her husband pulled her hastily away.
“Gee, she’s a peach!” muttered Mr Shoebottom wistfully.
AND then right on top of that there was a shuffle of feet and three faces grinned down into the cage. One belonged to Nelles; one to Williams, erstwhile “barker" for the defunct “Buried Alive” show; ore to “Professor” Smith himself. The three fices were promptlywithdrawn.
“What d’yuh know bout that!” gasped Nelles.
“Quick!” growled Williams. * Pipe the gink’s phiz so yuhll know ’m. That’s the yap we got a string onFi’ thousand cold an’ you’re in on it. Nel. See yuh later an’ put yuh wise. Some pickin’s. believe muh!”
Mr. Shoebottom listened, his jaw sagging. He leaped to the top of the cage and shook it wrathfully. He saw the girl and the big young man wending their way towards the animal circus. Williams
and the “Professor” were descending the steps out front and Nelles was beginning his “spiel” once more.
ONTARIOVILLE usually put out the cat and crawled between the covers not later than ten o’clock. After that hour it did not take the showgrounds long to become deserted; by midnight the flaring gasoline torches had gone outtent-flaps were dropped and guy-ropes tightened, only the litter of paper bags remaining as souvenirs of the departed crowd. Here and there dull dots of lantern light glowed through the canvas of the smaller living tents at the rear and oresently most of these faded out. Only a heavy-eyed watchman or two prowled about half-heartedly, frequently yawning.
The hour was propitious for little games of poker—and the hatching of mischief. There were no playing-cards or chips spread on top of the pine box around which the three men sat in “Professor” Smith’s tent; the space was occupied by a couple of whisky bottles, a siphon of soda, glasses and a box of twenty-five cent cigars.
Even so. For it must be said that, when the eminent Or.tarioville barrister. Mr. J. Cronyn Fenr.el. city father and petty grafter, set out to do a thing he did :t with a fine appreciation of the psychological importance of frills. The grandest residence in the “South End.” the fattest bank account, the strongest political puli —these are things compatible with twenty-five-cent cigars; besides, Mr. Fennel had long ago discovered that cats’-paws work better when well buttered.
The chestnuts the eminent gentleman was after just row belonged rightfully to Joseph Crawford, a your.g farmer from the neighboring county, whose mother owned a very desirable factory site in Or.tarioville—a piece of property against which Fenr.el held a mortgage for $5,000. failing due within a week. Ir. view of the fact that J. Cronyn Fennel had drummed up a chance to sell the property for a good round sum to the Dolüver-Grant Manufacturing Company, of Boston, it was unfortunate that Joseph Crawford had beer carefully saving up his money to lift the mortgage as a present to the old lady when it fell due on her birthday. Fenr.el had been too much surprised at this unexpected news to think clearly until with equal unexpectedness he had “run across an old political henchman in the tru stworthy person of “Bat” Smith— otherwise Professor Smith—-
Under the stimulation of this meeting and a few drinks it was easy to see that if Joseph Crawford was parted from his five thousand dollars there would be nothing to prevent the foreclosure of the mortgage and the consummation of the deal with the Boston people.
Supposing that Mr. Smith and a couple of trusty friends had an option on some vacant property that Fennel owned; that Mr. Smith had a nephew who was private secretary to Mn Dolliver, of Boston, and had received inside information that the Dolliver-Grant Company was going to locate its factory on the aforesaid Fennel property—supposing these things, would it not be possible to form a little syndicate to buy the Fennel property and hold up the factory people for a stiff sum? Wouldn’t it be a splendid opportunity for a local man with some ready money to make a quick turn-over? It was easy to see that such a frame-up would divert suspicion from J. Cronyn Fennel. And this was the scheme, hatched in the wily Fennel brain that the three of them arôund the pine box—Smith, Williams and Nelles—were discussing.
“ TP HE slick part of the thing,” en* thused Williams. who undertook to explain the deal to Nelles, “is that Punkin-Seed hands over his ft’ thousand to a gazabo he’s acquainted with down is Fennel’s office. He puts up the cein inin his crow, an’—”
“In his wha—at?"
“In escrow, you poor boob!” seowleO Professor Bat Smith, helping himself t# his fifth drink.
kn.owed it was somethin’ like thatIt’s law lingo. Nel., meanin’ sort o’ stakeholder. y’understand.”
“I’m having some cards prinked for vou. Nelles,” nodded the Professor. “You’ll meet Crawford Monday night and as manager of the Boston firm, all you got to do is to say you’ve decided to buy from us and are ready to hard over a check to our syndicate on the spot. That •-eleases Crawford’s coin an’—we flit.” “We’re goin’ after this here sucker riijht.” added Williams. "He was doin' the whole works here to-day. Him an' his girl had their fortunes told over in Papita’s tent an’ yuh know *bout how ready these yaps is to believe in that kind o’ thing. Papita told ’em they was due to run up against a bunch o’ luck within twenty-four hours—said it looked like a real-estate deal to her. She advised ’em strong. I promised Pap a hundred if she done it right.”
"Crawf;rd's hangin' out with the old woman at 351 Oxford St.." supplemcnte~ the Professor with the air of a man who pr~de~ himself on detail. "We got prop er!v rtroduced an' laid our lines thi$ aft~~rnoon. He" keer frn it an' hi~ morev'li be po~ted in the mnrning'." He yawned.
Y e r y cautiously Mr. Arbuthnot S’noe(»ottom backed out beneath the bottom of the tent. The disused coffin-box. in which the Professor had been buried alive for such a short and unprofitable time', was between Mr. Shoebottom and the group near the tent-pole; it had afforded splendid concealment while he listened to the confab and now it completely protected his noiseless retreat.
For, although he was more or less of a humbug, Mr. Shoebottom didn’t belong among “pikers” like these. He knew his duty. Anyway, she was a “TX’OCA.”
DUT his plans f or s t o pping the villainy that was afoot were completely upset next day. He was in his cage, waiting for the opening of the afternoon ses6 i o n, when Ne les mounted the staging, accompanied by McNulty, one of the animal circus men. With sudden misgiving Mr. Shoebottom noted that Nelles has donned a brand new suit of clothes which might readily have been worn by the manager of a concern like the Dolliver Grant Manufacturing Company, of Boston. “Coin’ to look over the town with some friends this af, Shoebottom,” he announced as the pair reached the cage. “Mac here will be ready to do the spiel in a few minutes an’ you help him all you can. Here’s your salary to date an’ there’s an extra ‘V’ in it fer yuh if yuh , do real good this p.x. Looks like pickin’? to-day.”
“Seems.there was a reporter took my spiel yesterday down in shorthand.” gTinned Nelles amiably. “Son-of-a-,gun made quite a yarn of it—’bout you bein’ some dangerous if yuh ever got loose an so on. Good business, eh? You’re doin’ well, Ig. Eat ’em up! Horrify ’em! S’long.”
Nelles and McNulty had no sooner withdrawn than Mr. Shoebottom began to do some rapid thinking and it may be recorded at once that the Shoebottom thinker at full speed could travel fast. The fact of the matter was that he had
been figuring he had until Monday to perfect his plans, as yet but half formed. Apparently the three conspirators had found the plum so ripe they had decited to pluck it and partake of the fruit without waiting over the week-end and running unnecessary chances.
Cautiously “Ig-a-loo. the Wild Man of The Jungles.” raised himself till he could sweep a hurHed glance over the grounds. A hig blue automobile was standing at the far end of the Midway and Nelles was walking briskly towards it. There was no mistaking the two waiting occupants; the Professor was in the driver’s seat and Williams was lounging in the tonneau, smoking a cigar and laughing. There was an insolent cock-sureness in the fellow’s attitude that made Mr. Shoebottom grit his teeth.
Mr. Shoebottom merely nodded as he stowed his salary inside the tight-fitting trunks beneath the leopard-skin girdle.
I_I E dropped back onto his feet, his * * mind made up. Unless something were done at once to prevent the appoint-
ment with Crawford the deal would be consummated* and the young farmer would not wake up till Monday to the fact that he had been buncoed. By that time the precious trio would be far away. There was no time to send a messenger with a note t o Crawford, even a trustworthy messenger. Mr. Shoebottom had a plan that promised better than that.
He chuckled at the daring of it aa he reached quickly in behind the loose board at the bottom o f his cage and grabbed up two articles. The red ta m-o’shanter for a mascot he thrust inside his jrirdle; an unopened can from his supply of walnut stain followed guit.
Seizing the huge combina tion of blud geon and toma hawk, aupposed to be hia native weapon in. .tbe day3 when be ran wild in hip jungles, M r. S ho e b o t -torn pulled away a .econd loose board and slipped through the oponing. He crawled quick ly along under the plank platform till he could peer out over the grounds in haety survey.
Then gathering his hairy brown leg* beneath him and drawing-in a big breath, he suddenly sprang oatinto the glare of the afternoon sun. With a genuine bloodcurdling yell he brandished his terrible club around his head and sped like the wind, heading as the crow flies, straight across the lot. 0
F'V INNER was over, the dishes washed and Ontarioville just sallying forth fqr another afternoon of .it in white dre ses and ribbons, crash hats and postprandial cigars. Quite xt crowd had already foregathered in the neighborhood of the “Tented City.” The newspaper review of the “goings-on” had caught the Old Boy carnival spirit with clever fidelity; the half serious description of Continued on pape 106. Ig-a-loo. the ferocious wild man from the jungles of the Phillipines, was the star passage. If you were an initiated skeptic you got one long hearty laugh out of it; if you were uninitiated you got a genuine thrill. Ordinarily Ontarioville led the simple and peaceful life not conducive to initiation in such matters. Result: new fascination in the lurid canvas depicting Ig-a-loo tearing ’em “limb from limb.”
She Was a Peach!
Continued from page 37.
Horrify ’em? It was an important part of Mr. Shoebottom’s plan 90 to do. The group in front of the Wild Man show saw him first. Fat women, thin women, contraltos, sopranos and mezzos joined in one piercing shriek of terror that froze every bit of animation on the grounds except the merry-go-round. Every eye switched to a single focus. Every idle boot stuck in its tracks
Except in the vicinity of the Wild Man show. In that particular neighborhood everybody who wasn’t lying prone in a dead faint was animated with frantic zeal and shoeleather was certainly earning its living. At the one fell yell with which Mr. Shoebottom had declared war he shot three women, so to speak, who lay huddled on the grass while the rest of the enemy fled in all directions.
For a9 enemies he must regard all mankind for the next little while; nobody knew better than Mr. Shoebottom that his undertaking was studded at every turn with possibilities much more dangerous than the spikes of his warclub. Nevertheless his second yell was not only blood-curdling; it was so aggressive that nobody who heard it could doubt' for a moment but that he meant business, brisk business. That second ; whoop was meant to reach the farthest ear on the grounds and with satisfaction.Mr. Shoebottom noted from the tail of his eye that the three occupants of the blue automobile were standing on the ! seats, craning their necks.
He was cutting across for the opposite side of the grounds in such a manner that there was no danger of the automobile intercepting him. The course lay clear before him. It was as if he were the stern of a great ocean liner with the prow cleaving passage a long way ahead ’ of him and rolling back two widening waves of humanity in a smother of flying lingerie.
He was dimly aware of accidents at sea—of an old lady taking a bath in a tub of pink lemonade; of a jabbering Italian picking up spilled peanuts like a monkey, of a dressing-tent bowled over, exposing a performer in a state of underwear and profanity. But always Mr. Shoebottom kept an eye on the blue automobile and as he noted the three men jump out suddenly and start after him at top speed he unloosened another whoop.
He was nearing the skirts of the showgrounds. A brave man swept his ladylove into the safety zone and yanking up a tent stake, leaped directly in the path of the on-coming terror. Mr. Shoebottom whirled hi9 war-club, opened his eyes till the whites showed and spurted for him with a wild yell of joy.
The brave man rocked uncertainly on the craven brink of cowardice—dropped the tent stake—spurned the earth and grandstand plays.
HK SWUNG into Main street with a battle-cry that fairly dripped with gory desire. The show ground crowd was behind him now. He took to the centre of the road, running free. Directly in front of him loomed an arch, built of cedars. Across the top of it stretched a banner, advising: “THE TOWN IS YOURS."
It certainly was. Mr. Shoebottom could see right down, the street as far as the post-office. The sidewalks were full of people, making for the showgrounds.— happy laughing people, wearing badges and gay ribbons and summer parasols. It was á gala vista—and it was all his! For swift as he was traveling, the news that this was not some unique kind of game was beating him by wireless. He could see the sudden wave of excitement rolling along a full block ahead and hear the Ç. Q. D. of it crackling on all sides. From the face of another cedar arch stared a second legend: ONTARIOVILLE IS WAKING UP." Mr. Shoebottom went under it at top speed. And ran straight into a brass bard. It was swinging in from a side street, i The tune was, “Oh You Beautiful Doll!” In less time than it takes to read about it the sawdust began to run out of the “Beautiful Doll” and poor dollie passed away in a series of horn wails and clarionet squeaks.
Mr. Shoebottom swerved to one side in an effort to pass and ran foul of the drum end of the outfit. To make the thing more interesting he swung his war-club and very neatly punctured the bass drum. The blow knocked the drummer over, so that he fell on hi9 stomach and. being buckled to his drum, rolled a physical-culture somersault, his drumstick flying from his hand and diving up the yawning spout of the bass horn. The man with the kettle-dfum struck savagely and bruised the atmosphere, receiving in exchange a punch on the no9e which landed him in the gutter, boiling over. On flew Ig-a-loo! “HOW ARE YOU. OLD BOY?” enquired a third streamer. “Pretty well thanks,” grinned Mr. Shoebottom.
Q Y this time quite a crowd was in pursuit. But this did not worry the grotesque object of it. He had tried professional long-distance running before the recent events which turned him into a Wild Man of the Jungle and as yet he had not been smoking enough to affect his wind. He increased his pace. If he could get through the town safely he felt confident of success.
But he wasn’t through yet. Directly ahead he suddenly became aware of a string of men in linen dusters and widebrimmed straw hats of the type Maud Muller’s father wore during the haying season. Thev carried a banner and were parading to the grounds. It was a delegation of Ontarioville Old Boys—the delegation from Chicago, fresh from their train. And they were of the Inititated and full of skepticism regarding “Wild Men.”
At once Mr. Shoebottom changed his tactics. He slackened his speed and approached them at the jog trot of a longdistance runner, waving his hand in greeting; for they had halted and while they were laughing good-humoredly at his “get-up," there was real danger of them playfully trying to stop him. “Clear the track, boys.” sang out Mr. 8hoebottom with a wide grin. “Calithumpian road race, you know. I’m ahead so far. For the love of Mike keep those mutts back, fellows!” He came almo A to a standstill as he pointed back at the rabble in the rear. “They’re queering this race an’ I don’t want it protested. Why don’t the fools give the other runners a chance!”
It was the right spirit, the sportsmanlike spirit, the Chicago spirit! With one accord the whole delegation charged at the crowd. Chuckling, Mr. Shoebottom jogged through their ranks. It was his opportunity. Up a side street he sped as fast as he could go. “We’re proud of you.” flapped a fourth banner. “Net yet. but soon,"panted Mr. Shoebottom.
OVER n hedge he went, across a lawn, ever n back fence into a back lana. A servant girt. balancing a pan of dirty water at the kitchen door, took one horrified look and promptly fell down the stept Mr. flhosbotto— was modest and be it said to Ur credit he did not look around. It was hie chance now to shake off pursuit for a breathing space. It du very necessary that he koe hiiweetf for a short time as there was work to be done —dirty work! Even as the snake in the gram sheds its akin in the spring of the year, eden so must Ig-arloo shift the increaring burden of his wildness.
He sprinted out into n back street and noted that off to the left it ended in n common. He swerved 'towards it. He had reached the outskirts at last and the thing was assuming the simplified form of spelling.
He eren stopped for n moment to get his bearings. Not far away a creek wandered around, bragging to water-cress of ite ability to cleanse. A well-worn path ran straight across the common, an evident short-cut to town for residente of the South-End. His eye travelled along it like lightning. And like lightning he dropped into the long gram behind some shrubbery. For Ig-a-loo was on the hunt!
*”P HE man had just turned into the path 1 from a aide street. He came along with his head bent, jauntily switching at the grass with his cane. He was dressed in à silk plug hat and n long-tailed afternoon coat of the latest cut. On one lapel of it was a white flower; on the other fluttered a bright crimson Committee Badge. He wore a white vest with pearl buttons ; he wore pearl-gray trousers; he carried pearl-gray gloves in his hand.
“My meat!” growled Ig-a-loo hungrily. He waited till the worthy citizen reached* a spot whets a thick fringe of shrubbery skirted the path for some distance. It was a desirable spot, a safe spot, too near the centre of the common for escape.
Then arose Mr. Shoebottom with a hoarse yell He literally streamed down upon his victim, coarse black hair flowing backward with the wind of hie going. He was a terrible right.
80 was the other fellow. He swung at anchor. His long legs wobbled. He was acarad dumb. Completely unhinged with fright, his long, thin face turned a dirty greenish yellow as. when one voyages upon troubled waters. He resembled toothpaste is a collapsible tube.
His can shook as ha raised it in feeble rihaea but one sweep of the terrible war-
club sent it skyrocketing, With a thud Mr. Shoebottom’s two powerful hands came down upon the narrow bony shouldera Unceremoniously he yanked the gentleman off his feet and dragged him behind the buriles. “I’m a des-e-sperate man!” hissed Mr. Shoebottom tensely. “One peep out o’ yuh an’ I’ll br-r-rain yuh! Peel yourself!” To facilitate matters he tossed the plug hat and the gloves to the grass and pulled off the long-tailed afternoon coat of latest cut. “You get^me? I want your clo’es an’ I want ’em quicker’n blazes!”
I ' HE gentleman evidently had read A somewhere that it is always best to humor a madman. He undressed fastet than he ever got ready for bed in his life, mattering, imploring, begging for mercy in abject terror, once a hasty glance convinced him that there was no help in sight
“Here, you ! Get into those panties an’ fix this skin belt on top of ’em. Tighten it np; it’ll help you to run faster. Quick, you ossified kangaroo, or I’ll kuh-ill yuh ! Me regular diet’s the hearts o’ young children an’ I aint had nothin’ to eat for a weak ! If yuh go tryin’ to get away— !”
He glared menace at the cringing wretch, grabbed up the pile of clothes and retired to the creek which just here circled conveniently behind the bushes and was not more than a couple of yards away. Mr. Shoebottom performed his-ablutions with commendable haste and dressed himself ditto.
With everything on but the top hat and the coat, which wouldn’t fit, he eyed the grovelling scare-crow before him with supreme disgust
“Stow it you poor ninny! I ain’t goin’ to h.urt your measly hide. It’s only walnut stain. If I had a brush I could make a slicker job of it but 111 do the best I can for you. Stand »till!”
In another minute the can of walnut stain was empty and Mr. Shoebottom stepped back to criticize his art with no little satisfaction, wiping his fingers on the grass.
“You’re too puny for the part but you’ll do. Tigilinus,” he nodded. “Great Scott! he’s ba-ald!n
'T'HE victim was. He hadn’t a hair * between him and heaven. The toupé slid to the ground, revealing a dome that rose to a .blunt peak, white in the sunshine. When Mr. Shoebottom tried on the wig of long, coarse black hair that had pnce switched flies from the flanks of an old nag it was much too loose.
So he sat down, kicked off the patentleathers and yanked at the pearl-gray socks without hesitation. He forked rapidly; for if the growing rumpus over in the nearest street meant anything, there was occasion for haste.
• On went the boots again, tight as they were for him, and hurriedly knotting the socks together, he passed them over the wig and tied the ends tightly beneath the miserable and speechless wretch’s pointed chin. .
“Better take along the club, Ig. You may need it for defense,” grinned Mr. Shoebottom more genially. “Now—you may go, Caius Cassius.”
“You!—you!—!” sputtered the specimen with some show of returning consciousness.
“Never mind that!” snapped Mr. Shoebottom. “I slipped my revolver into this
pants’ pocket an’ I got you covered,” and^ he stuck one finger against the cloth to prove it. “Now git ! Beat it! Flee!—tor your life! In one nfinute I’ll pull the trigger-!”
Ig-a-loo the Second was a swift sprinter. From the concealment of the bushes Mr. Shoebottom studied his action with admiration. The next moment the pursuing crowd reached the common and a great roar went up at sight of the flying figure. After it pelted the whole howling mob. Ig-a-loo the Second threw one agonized look over his shoulder — and took wing.
BREATHLESSLY Mr. Arbuthnot Shoebottom. watched till the chase swung out of sight and there was left nothing but A straggling tail of puffing fat parties, then he fell weakly over on his back, kicked up his heels and laughed till he ached. The very daring of his plan had proved the simplicity of its success. He had set the whole town by the ears and created a disturbance which was diverting Messrs. Nelles et aL very effectively.
But Mr. Shoebottom knew better than to stop rowing before his boat bumped shore and a very few minutes found him walking up Oxford St., looking for No. 356.
p'ORTUNE favored him. As he turned A in at the gate Crawford himself was just saying good-bye to his wife on the verendah steps, blithely on his way to the appointment down town. Before Mr. Shoebottom got half through with his story, however, the young farmer’s jaw was set and he looked like the saucer for a cup of trouble, dark-pattern, while aa for the “peach”—it was a caution how pretty she looked when she was mad. Mr. Shoebottom’s speech became slightly incoherent a; he watched her. Maybe the wasn’t a queen for fair!
“It was a tribute to his sincerity that neither Crawford nor his wife questioned the truth of his statements. He had a way with him, Mr. Shoebottom, and he convinced them without revealing the fact that he “ate ’em alive” for a living, thereby avoiding the necessity of returning the red tam-o’-shanter. That Mr. Shoebottom had every intention of keeping as a souvenir and a mascot Waving aside their expressions of gratitude, he made for the gate. Without undue haste, but without wasting precious time, Mr. Shoebottom hied him to the railroad track just south of the town and walked thereon for a few miles, carrying the long-tailed coat on his arm—-he had told the Crawfords several times that it was warm weather they were having— till he reached the Junction. There he boarded the first train that came along and bought a ticket from the conductor that took him as far a9 the first city np the line.
NCE there, he hunted up a pawnbroker and transfererd to a neat servicable business suit in exchange for the “glad rags." procuring also some silk hosiery; there was a gold watch, which he pawned for cash, and a roll of bills which didn’t need pawning. Uien Mr. Shoebottom treated himself to a good dinner and went to a moving-picture show. Later in the evening he boarded the International Express and read a newspaper till they were safely through the town of Ontarioville.
Later still, when he was finally satisfied that the commercial traveller who got on there and was sharing the smoking-compartment with him was really what he appeared to be, Mr. Shoebottom permitted himself to relax.
“How's business?" he venture^ with a smile, seeing that his iñs-a-vis seemed indiaeld to talk.
“Puak! You couldn’t sell ten-dollar billa for a dollar in that town back there —not this week, not in regular lines. Old Roy demonstration, you know."
“Oh. that so?”
“Aa* say, talk about cutting things loose ! I never laughed so much in all nay life as I did this afternoon." And the genial drummer slapped his thigh.
“How’s that?" enquired Mr. Shoebottom with mild interest.
“Why, the Wild Man belongin’ to the street-fair show outfit broke loose an’ ran all over the scenery an’ then some with half the town chasing him. Didn’t have any too much on in the way of clothes,
y’understand, an’ say, it was fanny!" He went off into a roar of laughter.
“That would be kind of funny, I should imagine,’’ grinned Mr. Shoebottom.
“The richest part of it was, though, that the 9on-of-a-gun got hold of one of the prominent citizens of the burg, backed him into a corner somewhere, swiped his clothes an’ painted him up to look like him. Mob didn’t tumble to it till they’d chased the wrong man clean down town. Somebody had got excited enough to ring in a fire-alarm an’ the hose was out. They turned it loose on what they thought was the Wild Man an’ the paint came off him in streaks. The water blew the wig off an’ Lordy! when they got through, there was that bald-headed sneak. Fennel.
swearing blue mur--’’
“Pardon me. Would you mind repeating that last part?” interrupted Mr. Shoebottom gently. “Who did you say it was?” “Fennel, the lawyer. Why, know him?” Mr. Shoebottom proffered his cigar case.
“Have a smoke,” he suggested affably. “Take two of ’em.”