ORSIFER OF THE LAW
Lenix Ballister Becomes Town Constable
ARCHIE P. McKISHNIE
IN THE tardy November dawn the hoar frost glistened silvery-white on the Chatville East sidewalk; a cold-faced moon hanging low above the trees of the Chatville East river faded slowly into slate-hued chaos. Not a sound disturbed the frozen silence of the negro village, The roofs of the cottages gleamed white against the lowering skies, like a flock of sheep sleeping peacefully in sheltered valley.
Through a chink in the roof of Lenix Ballister’s old stable a probing beam of inquisitive morning sunlight stole, at length, to rest on a black face from which sleep had wiped all signs of worry and anxiety. Perhaps, Lenix Ballister, champion stave-cutter, and diplomat, lulled to happier scenes by the smell of old harness, horses, and timothy-hay, dreamed of his boyhood days and mercifully forgot for the time being that he had spent a wild and riotous night shooting crap with kindred spirits —and spirits not so kindred.
Even the tiny deer-mouse riding the billowy pile of hay on Lenix’s breast, which rose and fell like an ocean wave with his deep breathing, had been lured into relaxing diligence insofar as to doze and dream.
Lenix was “hidin’ up,” and, strange as it may seem, “hidin’ up” because he had, almost single handed, captured the Manhattan bank robbers whose cunning had deceived the brainiest of detectives, and in compensation for which he had received $1,000 reif only Jane Ann, his wife, had not smiled so commendingly upon him and told him that she was proud of him “clean through,” which, considering Jane Ann’s size and her tendency to discount his cleverness was an admission to fondly cherish, if only friends and acquaintances who craved to be friends with greatness, had not flocked about him like flies about a molasses-jar, and insisted upon making a hero of him, all might have been well. Lenix might have been sleeping in his own feather-bed now, instead of hiding away from his heavy-handed spouse in a hay-mow. Or if the glowing account of his capture of the Manhattan bank robbers which appeared in the Greater Chatville News, along with the cut of a low-browed, antiquated negro, supposed to be Lenix but which was really an old wood-cut from an Uncle Tom’s Cabin advertisement—an account which was a master eulogy on Ballister’s cleverness as a sleuth, and which referred to him as brave custodian of law and order —if only this account had been less glowing. But why ponder on the ifs of the case? When destiny takes a man in hand and insists upon making a hero of him, he simply must waken to a sense of his own greatness and importance. Lenix had awakened to his, had accepted the decree of fate modestly, as became a great man. He had waved compliments and honeyed words aside and kept his job as cutter at the stave mill just as though he had never received $1,000 reward from the Government.
But from time immemorial men have had to pay the price of greatness. It is next to impossible for a man to become a hero suddenly, as had Lenix, and not succumb to some temptation. It had been Lenix’s wont to wait until Jane Ann’s snores proclaimed her asleep and safe, then to softly creep from the house and with boon companions while away the night hours. The first tardy light of dawn would surprise a light still burning in the basement of Abe White’s pool-room, and several stealthy figures drifting towards their respective domiciles. One of these was always a tall, stooped negro whose number ten boots scruffed the gravel walk with rhythmical:
“I’se cornin’—I don’ care.
I’se cornin’—I don’ know where.”
In the dim morning light of his home, after building the breakfast fire and putting the kettle on to boil, Lenix would count his winnings, always a perfectly safe process
so long as Jane Ann’s snores still sounded from the bed-
“Two long—one short. Dat mean her sleep right soun’.” Lenix would count his money again. Six dollars and seven cents to the good. “All velvet,” he would inform Orinoco, the hound pup, who, sensing breakfast near at hand, would be watching the process solemnly. “Ebery cent easy coin, Orinoco. Come anudder night like las’, an’ I be gettin’ yo’ brass collar wif’ name on it, yes sah.”
There had been other nights, and Orinoco now sported a brass collar armored with sharp spikes and adorned with tag and nameplate. Jane Ann had' also received a presentation in the shape of a huge glass bowl filled with water, in the limpid depths of which arose a plaster of Paris castle, in ruins, through whose open doors a pair of gold fish swam lazily in and out. A stray alley cat, how-
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ever, had appropriated the fish unto itself, so that now only the jar remained.
Yes, there had been other nights, but none of them exactly like the last night. Gradually this stealing from home and losing his sleep—and sometimes his money had been beginning to pall on Lenix. He found himself dozing at his meals. He was falling off in his daily output, as cutter, at the stave-mill too. Boss Holdaway was becoming mean tempered and biting of tongue. Iiis own temper was growing short, too, and this alarmed him. Nobody knew quite as well as himself the value of a tranquil disposition. What would he be to-day, had he allowed petty things to hurt and annoy him, and his temper to get the better of him? Nobody; nobody at all. How had he won all that was his? By keeping cool and collected, that’s how.
Lenix had made up his mind that he would quit going out at nights. It didn’t pay, and besides Jane Ann was growing suspicious. He could see that with half an eye; that big woman who hated deceit as she hated dirt was growing downright suspicious of him. He realized now that he had made a mistake in making her too many little conscience-salving gifts; any married woman is likely to grow suspicious of a husband who seems too kind. And then, the summer was gone and the cold nights had come. A man likes to sit with his socked feet on the fender and smoke, on cold nights. Lenix wanted to sit by his and spit down the crack in the floor after Jane Ann had retired. He was a home man, he was, not a gambler.
So with this resolve firm in mind he had sought out Homer Hudson, the pugilist, and Abe White, the pool-room owner, and had told them that henceforth he was a home-bird; no more would wander far from his own fireside. They had pleaded with him, but to no avail. He had remained obdurate. “My wife, Jane Ann, she trests me, an’ de paper say dat I is strong fer law an’ order; an’ I’se gotter lib up to people’s belief in me,” Lenix had said. But Abe White had seated him on a chair and given him a good cigar, after which he had talked long and soothingly to him. It ended in Lenix promising to have one more real “out-an’-out-no-limit,” night with his cronies before settling down to the simple life.
He had had it, and to the best of his da¿ed recollection, as he stirred from sleep and sat up in the hay, it had been some time. He had trailed home through the inky darkness preceding dawn after having lost his path and strayed to the river. He had drunk from and laved his aching head in the chill water, and had struggled on, after finding his bearings, leaving his hat and overcoat behind. Wisdom had cautioned him to crawl up into the barn-loft and burrow deep in the timothy, and for hours he had slept a deep though dream-haunted sleep. So much he remembered.
LJ E PULLED himself forward to a crack in the wall and 1 gazed across toward his cottage. A big policeman was stalking up the path to his front door. Lenix, his aching head and parched throat forgotten, felt his spine quiver. What crime had he committed last night? he wondered. “Why fer dat orsifer, De Zeel, ahuntin’ fer me?” he murmured fearfully. Then the door opened, and Jane Ann appeared, black face stern and eyes rolling.
“I come after Len, Ma’am,” so much Lenix heard and heeded. He waited for no more. Promptly he dived into his hole in the hay and covered himself up, his fevered imagination conjuring up all sorts of crimes which he just might have committed during his recent jamboree.
By and by he fell asleep again. When he awoke it was mid-afternoon and he was very thirsty and very hungry. He wondered what time of day it was getting to be. He crawled from his warm nest and felt for his watch. He had no watch; it was gone. Fearfully one hand went down into his trousers pocket. There should be thirty-two dollars and nineteen cents in that pocket because he had put it there the night before. No, it must have been in the other pocket he had put it. More fearfully Lenix felt in that other pocket. He had no thirty-two dollars and nineteen cents; it too had disappeared. So too, he realized, had his signet ring and his cameo tie-pin.
Weakly he sank back on the hay and nursed his throbbing head in his hands.
“I reckon dat Homer an’ Abe done frame me up,” he groaned. “I jes’ moughta knowed dem crooked niggers would try ter job me fer winnin’ mos’ ob dere coin. I knows what dey do; put ‘Fade away’in dat two percent, an’ ring in trick dice on me. All right, us’ll see. I’se gotter fink—an’ fink hard—howl’segoin’ terget back at dem sharks fer arollin’ me, but lormitty, how I’se goin’ ter fink wif a doped brain, I dunno.”
Lenix groaned a deeper groan and rocked to and fro on the hay. “Here I is wif policeman af’er me to ’rest me fer sumfin I dunno I did, an’ dem two jail-birds what play me fer a fish go scot free an’ flash my roll an’ jewelry. Took eberfing I had. Good fing dey didn’t know I had a gol’ eye toof, dey’d of pried dat out too. I’se jes’ gotter lay back easy, close my eyes an’ do some plannin’.”
But he didn’t. Instead he crept softly to the crack between the boards and glanced down in his yard again. Voices had fallen on his ears, voices low-pitched and solemn. Boss Holdaway stood before his door, a dripping hat in his hand, an overcoat over his arm. Len’s eyes bulged out. “Dat my hat an’ overcoat. How come—?”
He bit off the whispered exclamation, and bent his ear the better to catch what the mill-boss was saying to Jane Ann, who, arms akimbo, and head, bound in red bandana, raised defiantly, stood planted in the door-way. Behind Holdaway ranged half a dozen other negroes, hands from the mill, each black face mirroring the solemnity the occasion demanded.
“Mis’ Ballister, it done look as dough sumfin happen ter Len.” Holdaway’s voice was deeply sympathetic, almost tender. “We all pick up dis coat ’long de ribber, an’ de hat was afloatin’ on it. Seems like pore Len done tumble in an’ got drowned.”
A THRILL of exultation electrified the tense form of the -¿V listening Len. “Now den,” he whispered, “watch dat big wumman break right down an’ cry like a chile; den I creep down outin hayr an’ in whar I belongs, an’ get plenty vituals an’ a smoke—won’t be no jawin’ ner scoldin’, her’ll be so glad to fin’ me alibe—”,
He ceased his ruminations suddenly. Jane Ann had snatched hat and coat from Holdaway, but instead of carrying those garments, that so bespoke the owner’s personality, to her lips, she flung them back over her shoulder into the house, thereby nearly smothering the hound pup, who with ears cocked, had taken up his position close behind
“Drownded, eh?” she grated between clenched teeth. “No sech good luck!
Aint ’nuff water in de Thames ter drown dat reptile. Dat nigger done get new duds an’ frow old away.
Don’ I know him? He’s gone ter turkey-raffle an’ dance, mos’ like.”
Holdaway shook his head sorrowfully. “It looks bad, Mis’ Ballister, sure does,” he said. “Us all hab dragged de ribber, but de current would likely carry de body ’way down. Wanted ter make sure befo’ passin' de bad news ’long ter yo’. Might I ast what time yo’ saw Len las’, Mis’ Ballister?”
“He lef’ de house early las’ ebenin, Mister Holdaway, wif thirty-two dollars an’ nineteen cents house money in his pocket. Hasn’t been back since. A policeman come alookin’ fer him dis mawnin’; reckon he’s got inter trouble 'long of Homer Hudson an’ dat gang lie’s been asportin’ wif. Hope he has, an’ is put inter jail fer life, I does so! Aint been no holdin’ dat nigger since he help ’rest dem bank thieves an’ get dat reward; him wif his signet ring an’ cameo tie-pin—Oh lordy! Jes’yo’
wait till I gets dese grippers on dat wuthless nigger, won’t I paw him ober?”
Holdaway scuffled his feet uneasily. “Mis’ Ballister,” he said gravely, “dat hat an’ coat didn’t walk ter de ribber by dere own selbes, nohow. Somebody done took ’em dere. Who did, if pore Len didn’? Supposin’—as yo’ say—he did buy new coat an’ hat, whyfer he take ole ones ’cross to de ribber? Now den, Mis’ Ballister, please ter listen close. Us all agrees wif yo’ dat Len is too good a swimmer to let a lil’ ribber like ourn down him, but supposin’ he was murdered an’ throwed in; what deni”
Jane Ann took a quick step forward. “If yo’ all means to ’sinuate dat I pollute de ribber by—,”she commenced, but Holdaway backed away and held up a pacifying hand.
“Us don’ fink yo’ all had no knowledge whatsoebber ob Len’s disappearance,” he said, earnestly, “none whatsoebber. What us do fink is dat mebbe Homer Hudson an’ Abe White might shed some light on dis mystery, dough. Jim, dar,” pointing to a long, knock-kneed negro, cringing in the extreme edge of the crowd, “he done see dem free togedder late las’ night; an’ Bill, hayr,” pushing a short, heavy-set negro forward, “he done hayr Homer Hudson make a certain de-claration of mighty significance. Tell Mis’ Ballister what yo’ hayr Homer threaten he do, Jim.” “I done hayr Homer declar to Gawd he’d pare’ Len’s flesh offin his bones an’ feed em to de carp in de ribber, fer winnin’ all his money at crap,” spoke up Bill, in a heavy bass voice.
“An’ he said dat same to who?” urged Holdaway, his eyes on Jane Ann’s face.
“Said it ter Abe White, in my hearin’, Boss.”
“An’ dat Abe, he made answer howso, Jim?”
“Abe done answer back like dis hayr. ‘Homer,’ Abe say, T got better way ob gettin’ dat nigger, Len, den dat. Come ’cross ter pool-room, an’ us’ll talk it ober'.”
“An’ howcome dem niggers talk so free befo’ yo’ all?” demanded Jane Ann.
“I was hid, Mis’ Ballister. Dem plottin’ niggers was on bridge an’ I was under it cotchin’ shiners fer bass-bait. Dey didn’ know I was dere, nohow.”
Jane Ann back-stepped into the doorway. “I reckon dem two niggers, Homer an’ Abe, aint enuf ter do fer Len,” she declared. “Dey all might fink so, but dey would fin’ out dat wuthless nigger would fool ’em bad in de end.” Holdaway frowned. “Len was smart, all right,” he said gently, “an’ yo're right, Mis’ Ballister, nobuddy could fool him bad while he was alibe. Dat’s how come, mebbe, dem niggers hab ter kill him firs’.”
JANE ANN laughed scornfully. _ “Hush up on dat kill stuff, man, I bet yo’ anyfing dat Len’s de libest nigger yo’ eber see, right now. Don’ yo’ all go wastin’ no sympafy on him, nohow. Why, if dat nigger knowed yo’ boys leabe yo’r work to grapple in ribber fer him—he wouldn’t
cut a single stave fer a week, he’d be dat proud an’ sot up. Now, yo’ men go ’long ’bout yore business an’ leabe me to tend ter Len when he arribes back hum here.”
“All right,” said Holdaway, “but afore us goes, Mis’ Ballister, le’me tell yo’ sumfin’ else. Dat Homer an’ Abe are sportin’ Len’s gol’ ring, an’ tie-pin, an’ watch. Dey’s been a hidin’ up all mawnin’ in de pool-room. Two of my boys done see em dar wearin’ Len’s jewelry.”
Jane Ann’s mouth fell open, and her eyes rolled fearfully. “So yo’ see, Mis’ Ballister, dat’s what make us so certain sure dat Len’s been murdered, an’ his body made way wif. What us all fink bes’ if yo’s willin’, is ter hab Homer an’ Abe ’rested wifout loss ob time?”
Jane Ann found her voice. “I’se willin’ an’ more den willin’,” she cried, “but yo’ niggers lis’n ter me a minute. I knows dat Len better’ll any ob yo’ all, an’ I claim he’ll come snoopin’ hum hayr some time soon af’er night-fall. Us’ll wait till den, an’ if he don’ come, us’ll hab Homer an’ Abe ’rested an’ cast in jail. How’s dat?”
Holdaway bowed. “Dat’s all quite unsatisfactory ter me, Mis’ Ballister, if de udders am willin’,” he agreed.
“Dat’s quite disagreeable ter us all,” spoke up the man, Bill.
“Den,” said Holdaway, “us’ll wait til' nine o’clock ter night. Come Len don’ turn up by dat time, we lay charge ob murder ’gainst Homer an’ Abe. Come ’long men, an’ ’member ebery one ob yo’ keep still tongue in his head.”
Up in the stable loft, where the late afternoon shadows were already commencing to gather, there was a whirring sound like a frightened partridge springing to wing, as a dark streak catapulted backward, and the long sweetsmelling timothy settled over the deep burrow in the hay. Lenix had gone to cover again.
'T'HE same vagrant sunbeams that had inquisitively 1 sought out Lenix Ballister’s sleeping face, in the barnloft, had sped straight across to Abe White’s pool-room to caress the face of a big yellow negro, who dozed with feet braced against the wall back of the stove. This was Homer Hudson, pugilist and all-round sport of Chatville East. His white derby hat was pushed high above the wrinkles in the back of his closely-cropped head. His thick lips were half-parted in a smile of happiness; between them a gold tooth gleamed an echo of the joy in his soul. An empty sardine tin lay at his feet, and the fin of a sardine still adhered to one oily cheek. One big black hand, on the little finger of which gleamed a heavy signet ring, gripped the chair-arm. The other was deep in a pocket of his light, tight-fitting trousers, gripping tightly a little roll of bank-notes.
A little apart from him sat Abe White, feet on the round of his tilted chair, sharp knees raised like the rear sight on a rifle, drowsy eyes looking through them, now and again, towards the door in hopes of early customers. One of Abe’s hands also gripped à little roll of bank-notes deep in his trousers pocket, the long fingers of its mate fumbled a gaudy brass chain spread across his vest from pocket to pocket. Occasionally those fingers slipped lower to pluck from the pocket a great, gold-filled watch, originally purchased by one Lenix Ballister, for the princely sum of fourteen dollars. Abe’s hatchet face bore the tranquil expression of one who is satisfied with the world, an expression that deepened into smiling happiness whenever his dropping chin sank sufficiently far in drowsiness to touch the huge cameo tiepin that stood up from a green tie like a lone poppy on a grassy hill-side.
Outside the late November snow-clouds were striving to force the faint flush of dawn back beyond the horizon of birth. A chill wind swept through the lone pine, in front of the poolroom, with soughing wail and whistled weirdly through a knot-hole in the garret wall; but inside all was peace and quiet, warmth and contentment. Homer, the taste of sardines and star beer still in his mouth and newly accumulated wealth in his fingers, slept beside the crackling fire. Abe White was also huddled in the arms of Morpheus, his shrill snores derisively echoing the whistle of the searching wind as though in mockery.
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Continued from Page 15
Abe had been first to succumb to overpowering drowsiness. His initial snores had roused Homer from his semi-torpor to cast a glance across at his fellow lambfleecer, and having ascertained that White was in a position to offer no further remonstrance to a suggestion which he had urgently pressed for more than an hour, without success, Homer had acted on his own initiative and had bolted the door and drawn the blinds down close.
“Now us kin sleep an’ sleep unmolested by dem cheap pool-sharks,” he had murmured, as he tilted his chair anew and pulled the white derby low down over his
TTOMER was jerked back to conscious-
-*■ ness by a talon-like clutch on his bulging shoulder. His chair and feet came down on the floor with two thumps which sounded like the reports of a doublebarrelled fowling-piece. Abe was standing before him, his newly acquired watch in his fingers.
“Horner, fer lub oh Gawd! look yo’ what time it is.”
Homer rubbed his eyes and picked up his hat from the floor.
“Go yo’ ’way off, nigger, an’ let me doze in peace,” he said crossly.
“But Homer, look yo’ how come dat door locked, an’ dem blinds drawed close? It high noon, an’ my shop been shet all mawnin’.”
Homer yawned, and his protruding tongue chancing to come in touch with the still-adhering sardine fin on his cheek, he licked it off and chewed meditatively.
“I wanter meal an’ a smoke. Go yo’ an’ fetch couple seegars an’ dat udder can sardines, Abe,” he requested.
White sighed and put the watch back into his vest-pocket. Homer glowered darkly. “Might jes’ be dat yo’ want li’l persuadin’ from toe ob dis hayr num’er nine ob mine,” he growled, irritated at the other’s hesitation. “Now yo’ git, an’ fotch dem fish an’ smokes.”
“Jes’ wait a minute, Homer, till I sees who’s at de door,” whispered Abe, as a loud thump sounded on the panels.
“If dat’s Len, don’ yo’ let him in,” warned Homer, preparing to follow. “Dat coon’ll be sore as a new opened bile, an’ us all hab ter step pretty sure an’ soft er’ he’s goin’ ter trip us up.”
Abe opened the door. Two young negroes, stave-cutters from the mill, stood outside.
“Hello Jim, Benny, what yo’ all want?” asked Abe, holding the door partly open.
Homer was looking frowningly over Abe’s shoulder. “Dem boys look plum’ ghost-han’ted wif scariness,” was his thought, as his eyes fell on the drawn faces and rolling eyes of the pair.
He reached over Abe’s shoulder and pulled the door wide open. “Come’long in hayr an’ don’ freeze us all ter deff,” he commanded, and the lads edged inside.
“Abe, shet dat door. Now den, young fellers, what’s matter?” Homer demanded, “sumboddy daid, er sumfin?” he asked, flashing his gold tooth in a smile of assur-
Tlie boys made no answer. They simply gazed with staring eyes at the big chain across Abe White’s vest, the cameo tie-pin in his tie and from those to the heavy signet ring on Homer’s finger.
Homer, resenting such unwarranted scrutiny, reached forward and laid a heavy paw on the taller of the two.
“What all yo’ want?” he asked, frowning darkly.
“Boss Holdaway done send us ober hayr,” said the lad, finding his voice with an effort. “Len Ballister’s drownded, an’ us am passin’ long de news.”
Homer’s beefy form seemed to shrink. His mouth fell open. He leaned against one of the green-lined tables and shook like a needle on the wind-whipped pine outside.
Abe edged close to him, and dug a sharp thumb into his ribs.
“Homer, cherk up,” he whispered, warningly. “Yore mug look like a tan boot dat’s been lef out in de dew. Don’ let dese hayr boys suspicion nuffin’. Who say Len’s been drownded?” he asked, turning to the boys.
“Eberybody say so,” came the answer. “His hat an’ coat was foun’ in ribber. Boss an’ gang frum mill are probin’ ribber fer him now.”
The boys turned to leave.
"Whar yo’ all goin’ now?” Homer asked, his voice shaking.
“Us goin’ back to tell Boss Holdaway dat yo’ an’ Abe’s not drownded too.”
“Howso?” asked Abe and Homer in a breath.
“All mawnin’men from mill hab been won’erin where yo’ all are at,” said the boy. “Dis place shet up tight an’ blinds drawed —an’ nobuddy at Homer’s place.”
“But den, howcome dem fool men fink me an’ Abe drown jes’ kase dat Len happen ter?’! Homer wanted to know.
“Kase yo’ two was seen wif him late las’ night, so dey say,” came the answer.
Homer’s fear-ridden soul leaped to his rolling eyes, eyes that turned imploringly on Abe’s shifty black ones.
“Yo’ boys run ’long an’ tell Boss dat me an’ Homer was ober ter Bridgetown ter 1 rooster-fight las’ night, an’ jest got back,” said Abe. “Tell him dat last we saw ob Len was here befo’ we leabe. He follered us ober hayr wantin’ ter sell his watch, ring an’ tie-pin, an’ we couldn’t get rid ob him till we bought ’em. Dat’s all we knows.”
HE pushed the boys outside and closed and bolted the door. Then he wiped his face on his sleeve and sat down on a stool.
“Homer, it looks mighty bad.”
Homer leaped forward and stood menacingly above the dejected Abe.
“I done tole yo’,” he shouted, “I done warn yo’, Abe White, dat yo’ all was agoin’ too fur in puttin’ dope in dat beer. Now den, jes’ see what it all come ter.”
“But Homer, how us goin’ ter use loaded crap-dice if dat Len got all his wits ’bout him; howso? What harm in usin’ li’l dope ter get back no more’n he took from us? Answer up dat question.”
“Len didn’ use no loaded dice when he took what he took from us,” wailed Homer. “Dat Len allars played square—an’ oh Gawdie! fink ob us dopin’ him an’ sendin’ him inter ribber. I’se goin’ to say goodbye ter life an’ jump in too, I is.”
“Homer, don’ yo’ be a fool. Lis’n,” urged Abe, consolingly. “Dere aint no evidence ’gainst us, nohow. I got frien’s in Bridgetown an’ kin prove alibi. If Len got drownded, he got drownded, an’ dat’s all dere is ter it. Us aint in no wise guilty ob anyfing as I see it. Wasn’ we his bes’ frien’s? Who all’s goin’ ter suspicion his bes’ frien’s? Nobody dare ter. Now den, get yore nerve back, Homer, an’ come ’long out fer walk. Us gotter do some plannin’.”
Homer hung back. “I aint wantin’ ter meet up wif dat Len, nohow,” he groaned. “Dat nigger am smarter daid den eber yo’ er me is alibe, Abe—an’ yo’ knows it; daid er alibe, he’s goin’ ter get even wif us sooner or later, yo’ mark my words.’’
Abe smiled a crooked smile. “Pshaw, Homer, dat Len wasn’t sech a won’er.
Lots ob niggers heap smarter den him, only yo’ habent knowed it. Didn’ I all plan ter fix him right, an’ didn’ I all do it?”
“Looks like it, suttingly does,” groaned Homer. “If dopin’ a man an’ sendin’ him out sleep-walkin’ inter de cold water ter drown is fixin’—yo’ all’s a great li’l fixer, Misto White.”
Abe’s pointed chin protruded, and he swung about on his friend with flashing
“Ÿo’ hab as much ter do wif sendin’ him out inter ribber as I had, don’ ferget dat fact, Misto Hudson. An’ yo’ might jes’ as well re-member dis too. I’se got de brains ter pilot y o’ an’ me free ob any lockup, er gallows, an’ if yo’ wants a tow yo’ better hush up on any more ob dem ’sinuations. If yo’ don', I’se goin’ ter cut de tow-rope an’ scoot fer open water
Homer looked at him dazedly. “Den what’ll happen ter me?” he asked faintly.
“Yo’? Why I reckon dey’ll gadder yo’ in an’ ast explanations. I won’t be bodder’n none ’bout yo’.”
“Abe,” said Homer miserably, “us hab gotter stick dost togedder. Yo’se a heap smarter man den eber dat wuthless Len could hope ter be. I didn’ mean ter voice no mean ’sinuations, Abe; none ’tall. An’ Abe, my frien’ an’ brudder, I’se sure willin’ ter do anyfing yo’ say. I’se plumb panicky, Abe, no use denyin’ dat any, but I’se plumb willin’ ter let yo’ do de plannin’, an’ do all de fightin’ dere’s ter be done, myse’f.”
White, who was wiggling into his overcoat, looked only partially appeased. “Dat’s all right, Homer, but come I tell yo’ what ter do, yo’se likely ter wanter argufy, jes’ like yo’ allars does.”
“No I isn’t,” cried Homer, quickly. “I do jes what yo’ say an’ ast no questions.”
From the inside pocket of his overcoat Abe extracted two cheroots, and passed one over to Homer.
“Well den,” he said thoughtfully, “seein’s yo’re willin’ ter dat, I fink mebbe it might be good idea fer jes’ one ob us ter pose as habin’ bought Len’s jewelry. Looks less ’spicious, didn’t yo’ fink?”
Homer flashed him a suspicious look.
“Yo’ all means I’se ter gib yo’ dis signet ring?” he asked ominously.
“Pervidin’ I’m ter do de talkin’ an’ explainin’, yes. Er,” he added quickly, as Homer clenched his fists and took in a long breath, “pervidin’ yo’ care ter do all de ’splainin’, I gib yo’ dis hayr watch an’ tie-pin. I aint carin’ eder way it goes— only it’s goin’ ter take brains ter steer clear ob de breakers ahead ob us two.”
HOMER drew off the ring and laid it on the table. Abe picked it up and after finding it too large for any one of his talon-like fingers, slipped it into his vest pocket. “Now ’bout de money,” he said gently. “Seems ter me dat de one who carries Len’s jewelry should carry his money, too. You see,” as Homer threw down the fawn-colored, pearl-buttoned coat he had lifted from a peg in the wall— “yo’ see, Homer, dat Len was so crafty, he jes’ might hab had dem bills markedsame as he marked dem he put in Manhattan bank an’ caught de robbers wif.”
“I look all dem notes ober close, un’er light, an’ dere’s narry mark on any ob ’em,” said Homer doggedly.
“All right den, jes as yo’ like. But I’se tellin’ yo’ dis, Homer. Might Len not took de number ob dose bank-notes? Did dat occur ter yore fertilizer min’, any?”
Homer, his thick lips mumbling, crammed a shaking hand into a trousers pocket, bringing forth a neat roll of bills which he cast on the table.
“I don’ want no set-in wif marked money, no-how,” he shivered. “Yo’ take dem bills, Abe, an’ keep ’em. Af’er fings done clear up, I’se goin’ ter ast fer my jewelry an’ money back—jes’ yo’ ’member dat.”
“Dat’s all right Homer. I se willin fer yo’ all ter ast fer ’em back,” agreed Abe, with alacrity. “Now us had best get goin’. Come ’long.”
“Lead on den,” Homer shoved his white derby low down on his head, turned the velvet collar of his coat up about his ears and followed the pool-room proprietor out into the cold, cheerless day.
TWILIGHT had given place to sullen winter darkness, with a west wind piling low-scudding clouds, that spit snow vindictively, low above the earth, when Lenix crept from his burrow of refuge and toed his way softly down the loft-ladder.
It had certainly been a long, hungry, lonely and harrowing day for him. Twice during his forced seclusion had Jane Ann ascended to the loft and “forked” bay for the sorrel driving mare, below, so close to his burrow that he bad expected to feel the fork-tines pierce his vitals at any moment. Luck alone had saved him from being speared, he reasoned. “If luck do dat much fer dis hayr chile, mebbe she do more still,” ruminated Lenix, as his feet found the floor, and he groped towards the streak of light, beneath the door.
“Won’er if Jane Ann done lock dat stable door. Jes’ like her contrariness ter do it, sure am. No,” as his hand felt the latch, “dat door aint locked, nohow, t’ank goodness. Now, ef Jane Ann happen ter be out at neighbors atellin’ of her woes, I sneak in an’ grab a bite of sumfin ter shoo off dis emptiness in my stomach.”
Gently he opened the door and protruding his head, glanced houseward. Then he drew in his head and softly closed the door. “Dat wummin is settin’, still an’ silent, waitin’ fer me,” he muttered. “Talk ’bout yore obstinate people, dat wummin is so contrarious her won’t sleep on right side fer fear she gib her liber a chance to keep healthy, dat’s so! If I’se drownded, she’s glad; if I trail ’long home, like she says I will, she’s heap gladder, coz den she bus’ me wide open wif rollin’-
He shivered, and paced up and down in the darkness, hands deep in his pockets. “Le’s see,” he soliloquized, “how do fings stack up, anyhow? I’se s’posed ter be dead, an’ dat nigger, Homer, who I get outer jail mo’ times den I kin count, an’ dat crooked-faced, crooked-souled Abe White, deys bofe goin’ ter be ’rested fer murderin’ me. So fur so good; but den, if deys ’rested, bow ’bout my money an’ jewelry? Dey’ll be held in cou’t, as evidence, an’ dat mean I don’ see ’em ag’in fer long time, mebbe nebber. ’Sides,
I caynt stay dead jes’ ter get dem crooks hanged. Now what I’se gwine ter do, I dunno. Ef I look in home I get pasted sure, an’ ef I go down ter ChaUi'le West resturan’, whar my credit’s good fer a meal —policeman see me an’ run me in fer sumfin’ I don’ know I did. Gollies! but I’se sure in predicament, but I’se dat hungry I could browse on snowballs—so I’se simply got ter do sumfin, an’ do it quick.” He felt about a stall until he found an old horse-blanket. Ripping a piece from it, he knotted all four corners, and pulled it over his head to serve as a cap, then opening the door again, very quietly, he stepped outside. The night had shut in black and windy; the fine snow stung his face and shrapnelled in chilly pellets down his neck, as he crept across the Jot and climbed the rickety picket fence to the street. He had swung one long leg ovir, and was preparing to lift its fellow whc a heavy hand fell on his arm, and a voice he recognized as belonging to Policeman ! DeZeel, called him by name.
Len froze to the fence like a chicken ! that has been caught in a blizzard. Wild dread shot his heart up into his throat; cold fear kicked his soul to the lowest depths. With the officer’s assistance he managed to climb down from the fence.
“Wel|,” spoke DeZeel, gruffly. “J knew you’d be along sooner or later, so I’ve been waitin’ fer you, Len. ’ "
“Heered yo’all was lookin’ fo’ me, so was jes’ cornin’ to gib myss'f up,’ said Len, hopelessly.
The big policeman chuckled. “That’s good^ of you, Len. I suppose you know they’ve been draggin’ the river for you,
Len’s surprise seemed gen-
“Thought you were drownded, I guess. Where you been, and what you been up to, anyway?”
“I refuse ter talk,” said Len, growing crafty. “I’se willin’ ter go lamb-like, but I don’ bleat none, Misto Orsifer.” DeZeel laughed and slapped Lên’s shoulder. “Why, you old idiot, I didn’t come lookin’ for you to pinch you,” he cried, “I was sent to give you a piece of good news. You’ve heen made Chatville East constable, Len.”
Lenix shook his head dazedly. “I jes’ don’t un’erstan’.”
DeZeel took a metal badge from his pocket and pinned it on Lenix’s vest. Then he lit a match and held it close to the badge. Lenix’s staring eyes caught the glitter of the metal and spelled out the magic word “C-o-n-s-t-a-b-l-e.”
“Now see here,” said the officer, growing suddenly serious. “We simply had to have a colored constable -down here. It , takes a coon to catch a coon, see? There’s been a lot of gamblin’ and other shady j things happenin’ down in this burg, and it’s got to be stopped. I reckon you got the job because ypu did good work in bringin’ in them bank-robbers. You get ten dollars a month, and half the fines.”
Lenix shuffled his feet and scratched his head under the horse-blanket. “Dat sounds reasonable fair,” he observed, “but how ’bout uniform?”
“Constables don’t wear uniforms,” the officer informed him, gruffly.
“How ’bout a club an’ automatic pistol, den?”
“Don’t need ’em. All you got to do s show your badge.” •
“But look yo’ hayr, Orsifer DeZeel, ’sposin’ dere happen ter be a cross-eyed coon what won’t see straight, an’ he happen ter hab razor. What good dis badge goin’ ter be den?”
The policeman considered. _ “Of course you’re allowed to carry a gun if you want to,” he said finally. “Do you happen to have one?”
“No, dat’s fer why I ast yo’ all if I’se supplied one.”
“No; you’ll have to buy your own. I’ve got a little ‘gat’ here I’ll sell you, cheap,” he added, going into his hip pocket and bringing forth a short, bigcalibred revolver of antiquated pattern.
Len took it from him and handled it lovingly.
“Kayn’t nowise gib yo’ de eight till Satt’y night, Brudder DeZeel,” said Len. “Dat pay night at mill.”
“Well, that’ll do. If you fail to pay, I’ll have it kept out of your first month's salary as constable.”
“Oh, I’ll pay all right, no fear,” Len promised, pocketing the revolver. “Now den, I’se gotter go. I’se goin’ ter make a raid ter night.”
“What!” DeZeel turned in his tracks. “But you can’t do that, Len, you’re not sworn in yet.”
“But dis raid won’t wait. You’ll hab ter fix it so I kin make some ’rests ter night.”
DeZeel laughed. “Nothing doing, Len.
I can’t give you no authority to make an arrest. You’ll have to wait until you come down to the police court in the morning and get sworn in regular.”
“Dat’s too bad, it is so. I aimed ter lope along on scent, an’ get my quarry hard in a corner, an’ gib tongue ter night. But I guess I’ll hab ter wait.”
The policeman laughed. “You’ll have ! to wait all right. And see here, don’t you go flashing that badge I gave you. It really don’t belong to you till to-morrow ; i and be careful of that gun. It’s not loaded \ but the very sight of it might kill a nigger. Here’s another pointer,” he added, seriously, “don’t you ever be tempted to accept bribes or hush coin. It’s a mighty serious offence to take another man’s money for that purpose, remember.”
“Aint goin’ ter take no udder man’s j money, nohow,” Len assured him. “Take | only what’s my own. Dat’s me.”
“All right, see that you don’t. Now I must be trudgin’. Good luck, Mister Constable.”
ONE minute and ten seconds later Len opened the door of his own domicile and with shoulders squared and chest expanded, walked in on Jane Ann, who was j dozing beside the table with a potato; masher on her knees.
“So yo’ all come back, has yo’?” she j commenced, gripping the missile and rising slowly from her chair.
Lenix threw back his coat and pointed to his badge of office. “Yo’ all get me sumfin ter eat, an’ get it quick, wummin,” he said. “I’se an orsifer ob de law an’ aint got no time fer quibblin’. I’se got heap work ter do befo’ nine o’clock dis
Jane Ann recoiled, sank back into her seat, and gasped. “What yo’ all mean?” she managed to ask. “How come yo’s a orsifer, Len?”
“Käse I got de head an’ nose for trackin’ crim’nils, Jane Ann,” returned Lenix, in : softer tones. “Greater Chatville hab ter ¡ hab constable in Chatville East, an gib me de job. I’se awful hungry, Jane ¡ Ann,” he pleaded, “been huntin’ trainrobbers all day long an get shot at twice. No chance ter eat, nohow.”
Jane Ann had risen, and, with eyes aglow and lips parted in a smile, was hustling about the stove. In ten minutes, exactly, Len sat down to the table and prepared to do justice to the ham and eggs and warmed over biscuits. Then, by way of afterthought, he carried his plate and chair to the opposite side of the table, which faced the window. From his pocket he took the deadly-looking revolver and placed it beside his plate.
“Jane Ann, jes’ yo’ keep yore ears open fer sof’ footfalls outside,” he admonished. “Might be some ob dat gang what try ter drown me in ribber be sneakin’ up ter shoot me from win’er.”
“Len, yo’ all mean tersay dat’s how come yer coat and hat ter be foun’ near de ribber?”
“Quite so. Dem train-robbers did dere best ter fro’ me in, but I got away. Dey run ter Bridgetown, an’ I chased ’em right up ter train. Dey jump off an’ double back hayr, an’ I kept mighty close ter dere heels. Dey’s hidin’ in, but to-morrer I get ’em shore, mebbe ternight.”
Jane Ann sat speechless, torn between fear of the outlaws and admiration fer
“Yo’ reckon dey’s frien’s ob dem udder robbers yo’ pinched, Len?” she asked fearfully.
“Nuffin surer, else why dey shoot at me from cover?” Lenix answered.
“An yo’s a real orsifer, Len. Oh Gollies! aint dat splendid. How much yo’ll earn on dat job, Len?”
“Sixty dollars a mont’—but I only get ten down.”
“My! aint dat jes’ splendid. Now us kin hab new buggy fer de sorrel dribin’ mare, can’t us, Len?”
“Sure, an’ Victrolia what play banjopieces, Jane Ann.”
“An’ I kin get—le’s see, how much yo’’ say dat job giv yo’ all, Len?”
“Sixty dollars—but I only gets ten down.”
“Well, I do de-clare, but brains do count fer sumfin af’er all,” sighed the happy Jane
Lenix pushed back his chair. “Get me my hat an’ obercoat, Jane Ann, I’se got work ter do.”
He took his coat, crammed on his hat and picking up the revolver walked to the
“Len, where are yore watch an’ signetring an’ yore tie-pin?” Jane Ann had followed him, and stood close beside him as he fumbled with the latch.
“Jane Ann, I’se gwine af’er dem lings now. I was scared de robbers would try an’ fleece me ob dem, so I leave my ring, watch an’ tie-pin wif Abe an' Homer. Yo’ set right hayr, an’ I be back inside an’ hour er so wif dat jewelry.”
ONCE outside, Lenix lost no time in directing his shuffling footsteps towards Abe White’s pool-room. It was in utter darkness. He stood still for a moment to ponder on this, then with a nod turned in the opposite direction. Just in the outskirts of the village, he heard voices approaching, and ducked behind a shrub until they passed.
“Dat Boss Holdaway an’ his men on way to my place. Come I aint been home, deys goin’ ter hab Homer an’ Abe ’rested fer murder. But Jane Ann her’ll tell dem niggers all, an’ dey’ll feel mighty cheap about draggin’ dat ribber. Dat Boss Holdaway is goin’ ter be meaner’n ebber af’er dis.”
As he left the street for the main road, he met another negro. It was Bill Thomas, the local insurance agent. “Oh, Len,” Bill accosted him, “glad I met up wif yo’ all. I’se got a sickness and accident policy hayr fer Boss Holdaway. Yo’ take em an’ gib ’em ter him to-morrer, will yo?”
Lenix took the policies, slipped them into his inside pocket, and moved on.
Twenty minutes later he stole softly up Homer Hudson’s path to his cottage. The blinds were tightly drawn, but a thin slit of light shone through between blinds and window-sill. Lenix guessed that Homer and Abe were together in that room. He stole quietly around to the back of the house, and, approaching the door opening into the room with cat-like tread, applied his eyes to its keyhole.
Homer and Abe sat at the table. A pile of poker chips were before each and they held cards in their hands. They were talking earnestly.
He saw Abe take a flash from his pocket, and heard him demand two dollars from Homer for same. He saw Homer pay it. He removed his eye, and fixed his ear to the keyhole.
Homer was speaking. “If dat Len’s drownded, he come aha’nting me sure. If he aint drownded, he’s boun’ ter pay us out fer dopin’ him, an’ usin’ loaded dice.”
“Fer hebben sake, Homer,” spoke up Abe, “don’ be a fool. Dat Len aint nocount eder way. Why dat nigger’s dat yaller he aint got sand enuff ter ast fer his pay-envelope. An’ he’s a piker at gamblin’ too. Lis’en yo’. I uster win, ebery week, from dat Len, free dollars, sometimes fo’, an’ allars wif dem loaded dice, an’ dat fool-nigger don’ eben tumble. I bet, in all, I take a hundred dollars from dat coon dat way. I sure hope he aint drownded, käse I does hate ter miss easy pickin’s.”
Homer snorted. “Dat’s all right, Abe, but I guess maybeso yo’se lyin’ some right now. Yo’ all nebber won hundred dollars from Len in all yore life.”
Abe placed his cards on the table and reached into an inside pocket. He extracted a thin, black wallet and from it drew forth two yellow-backed bills.
“So I'se lyin’, is I? Well den, look yo’ hayr, nigger, see dem two fifty dollar bills? Dem represent exactly what I win, wif loaded dice, from dat Len, offin on. What I take from him las’ night am extra.”
Homer sat hunched up, his thick lips mumbling.
“Well, yo’ all best put dat money safe away er he am goin’ ter get it back right sudden some day, if he aint daid in ribber,” he warned.
“Shoo, jes’ let him try dat on, an’ I show yo’ if he get it back.” "
DEHIND Abe the door opened very softly. Homer, about to push forward a red chip, sank back in his chair, his mouth sagging open and his eyes bulging out with sheer terror.
Something cold and business-like bored into the back of Abe’s neck, and he twisted his hatchet face upward to see Lenix, calm and serene, gazing down at him, the while he pressed the “bull-dog” revolver a little tighter against the seated gambler’s neck.
“Put up yore han’s, Abe—yo’ too Homer. Dat’s right. Now den, yo’ two gents stan’ up. Now, back up ag’inst dat
“What’s matter, Len?” gasped Abe, weakly, “whyfer yo’ all come on yore frien’s disaway?”
“Len, I’se yore good frien’—” commenced Homer, but Lenix swung the revolver so that its black mouth yawned fairly in his eyes.
“Gents, yo’se bofe pinched,” explained Lenix, in matter of fact tones.
“What right yo’ all gotter pinch anybuddy?” flared Abe, “yo aint no orsifer.”
“Oh, I aint, aint I? Well den, I guess I is too. I’se Chatville East Constable now, an' I aim ter clean up on yo’ crooked gam’lin’ sharks. Look yo’ bofe hayr. See dis badge? What it say? Constable, dat’s what it says, an’ dat’s what I is; an’ beliebe me, I’se a good one. Now den yo’ bofe come ’long wif me ter lock-up, an’ ’member dis, I’se got a bad-lookin’, badsoundin’, bad-bitin’ gun, right hayr, dat’s goin’ ter do yo’ bofe harm if yo’ so much as tries any side-steppin’.”
“Len,” asked Abe weakly, “is yo’ re’lly a orsifer now?”
“No, I’se jes’ playin’sech fer de fun ob de ¡ting. Yo’ll know it soon enuff ter suit yo’, Abe. Come ’long now, but firs’ off place all yore money an’ jewelry on de table; yo’too Homer. Dat’s right. Why, I do deciar, if dere aint my watch, an’ ring an’ my tie-pin too. Dear me, how.come yo’ all to hab dem, Abe?”
“I aimed ter turn em back to yo’, Len, jes’ as soon as I gotter chance,” Abe groaned.
“Dat mighty good ob yo’, Abe. I mus’ ob los’ dem trinklets sumhow. An’ yo’ didn’ happen ter fin’ small roll ob bills, •did yo ? Why so yo’ did? Well I do de-clare, I’se glad ter get dese fings back. It’s good ob yo’, Abe, an’ I’ll try an’ get yo’ a light fine er a month er two off yore time at pen’tentiary fer dis; kaynt promise so much fer Homer, dar.”
“Oh, oh!” groaned Homer.
“Now den, is dat all?” Lenix asked, as he gathered up money and jewelry. “Seems ter me, Abe, dere’s sumfin else. Didn’ I ober-hear yo’ say ter Homer dat y o’ all hab hun'red dollars, yo’ win from some pore sucker, in dat leather pocketbook inside yore ves’? Why so yo' did,”
as White went into his inner pocket and drew forth the thin wallet. “I jes’ take dis hayr too, Abe, an’ mebbe so I happen ter fin’ de poor fish yo’ win it from wit loaded dice. Now den, I guess dat’s all, boys, so us’ll jest journey ’long.”
“Len,” moaned Homer. “Yo’ all won’t hab us locked up, will yo’?”
“Aint got no choice, Homer,” Len answered.
“But yo’ got all yore money, an’ mine, an’ yore jewelry too,” cried Abe.
“Oh gib us anudder chance, Len, please gib us one more chance,” pleaded Homer.
“Gentlemen, cease dis talk ef yo’ please!” cried Len sternly. “Yo’ both hab had all chance yo’se goin’ ter get from me an’ de law.”
Homer’s heavy jaw sagged and Abe’s Adam’s apple rose and fell spasmodically. It was quite apparent to Constable Ballister that both labored under strongest excitement. The signs pleased him. He reviewed, in mind, the events of the night before and his right eye-lid twitched appreciatively as his nimble brain compiled still further tortures for his victims.
“Homer, de way sure look dark an’ gloomy fer yo’ all,” he said, at length. “Yo’se charged with keepin’ common gam’lin’ house, an’ dat’ll likely mean heaby fine an’ long term in prison.”
Abe’s sudden stiffening of the neck, as he scented forlorn hope, brought his Adam’s apple to a stop as he turned eagerly towards Lenix.
“Den I goes scot free, kas yo’ all kaynt prefer no charge ag’in me, Misto Constable,” he cried jubilantly.
“Oh is dat so, Abe? Mebbe den yo’ all knows more’n me an’ de law.”
“Yo’ kaynt make no charge,” repeated Abe sullenly. “Yo’ kaynt ’rest me.”
“Oh yes I kin, an’ did. Yo’s a frequenter ob dis gam’lin’ place, dat’s one charge. Nudder charge is violation ob de Liquor Law, section sebenty-one ob Criminal code. Volum fo’.”
“Howso?” Abe’s voice was thin with
Lenix tapped his revolver on the table. “Yo’ ail carried liquor on yore person from yore pool-room ter dis hayr gam’lin’ jint ob Homer’s. Dat alone mean two hun’red an’ costs. Charge num’er free, yo’ done sell one bottle ter Homer, keeper ob said gam’lin’ j’int, fer two dollars, dat mean heaby sentence fer yo’.”
“Oh lordy, lordy!” gasped Homer, and Abe twisted about like a thing at bay. “How yo’ all goin’ ter prove dem charges?” he snarled.
“Don’ yo’ worry none how me’n law is goin’ ter prove it; us’ll prove it all hunky, Abe.”
“Len,” pleaded Homer. “Us am yore good frien’s. Let us off, Len, please Len, let us go free niggers an’ us make it up ter yo’ han’some. I’ll gib yo’ dis house an’ lot, Len, if yo’ let us free ob lock-up.”
Len was silent.
Abe shuffled his feet uneasily. “I’se willin’ ter gib yo’ half interest in my poolroom, come yo’ slip away an’ leab us, Len,” he said miserably.
Len took a notebook from his vest pocket and laboriously pencilled some lines on a blank leaf.
“Dat make still anudder charge ag’in yo’ prisoners,” he said sternly. “An’ me an’ law is boun’ ter note it down.”
“What yo’ mean, anudder charge?” asked Homer and Abe in a breath.
“Charge ob tryin’ ter bribe orsifer in execution ob his duty. Section Sebenteen —Criminal code, Volum five. Now den, men, come ’long quiet.”
Lenix pointed to the door. Homer immediately slouched towards it, cowed and subdued as ever a negro could be, but Abe held back.
“Befo’ I goes a step, yo’ got ter show me yore warrant fer my ’rest, Misto Constable,” he snarled. “Homer kin do as he
“I don’ go ter no lock-up wifout no warrant ter make me,” growled Homer, turning back. The pugilist’s shoulders were beginning to hunch and his big hands to open and shut, which Lenix, who knew that yellow man for the aggressive and rough-house artist he was, was quick to
Lenix was nonplussed, but he was too old a hand to show it. Stripped of his power as minion of the law, and he was in a bad way—a very bad way, and nobody knew it better than he. He had forgotten all about the necessity of having a warrant. Abe had him on the hip there, no doubt about it.
Suddenly he remembered theaccident and sickness policies the insurance agent had given him to hand to Boss Holdaway; at the same time he remembered, with infinite relief, that neither of the men before him could read or write a line.
“Prisoners,” he said, quietly, “don’ fink dat I would be so foolish as ter make raid, an’ gadder in wrong-deers, wifout warrants. Here dey is. Big one wif two seals fer yo’, Homer, kas yore case am de gravest; smaller one, wif shield and hearse on it, is yourn, Abe. When I adds de udder charges ag’in yo’, at policecou’t, yo’ all ’ll get bigger one."
He waved the policies under the noses of the pop-eyed twain, then spreading them out on the table read a few lines of what was supposed to be there, aloud.
“Now den, yo’ bofe all satisfied?” Lenix folded the policies and placed them back I in his pocket.
P'or answer Abe and Homer turned j meekly towards the door. “Dat’s right, i prisoners, go quiet,” advised Lenix,. i “don’ want nohow ter hab ter add anudder I charge ag’in yo’ ob resistin’ ’rest.”
Homer turned upon him such appealing i eyes that he was forced to look away, j “Len,” the pugilist’s voice was not much j more than a whisper. “Len, I aint hol’in’ no ill-feelin’s, only I sure wish yo’
I hadn’t ’rested me till af’er I’d had dat j prize fight wif dat Bridgetown nigger what challenge me.”
Lenix started. “Wait, Abe; hole up a minute, Homer. What nigger dat what challenge yo’, an’ when?”
“Jes’ ter day, I get dis letter from him. Tom Jinkens done read it ter me.” Homer took a blue envelope from his pocket and passed it over to Lenix.
Lenix read the letter carefully. It was from a negro pugilist named Hawkins, challenging the champion, Homer, to a no limit fight, place and date to be arranged by the champion’s manager, for a purse of one hundred dollars a side and half the gate receipts to the winner.
Slowly Lenix folded and replaced the letter in its envelope, firmly his jaw set as he passed the envelope back to Homer. “Dat’s de nigger pug what wop me a few in de face, time ob Bridgetown fair,” he said, as though to himself. “Kin yo’ lick dis hayr nigger, Homer?” he asked suddenly.
“Kin I? I make ter poun’ dat nigger so flat, come I eber gets a chance, dey’ll hab to roll him home like a cart-wheel,” cried Homer.
“Who all yo’ reckoned on makin’ yore manager fer dis hayr bout, Homer?”
“I done aim ter ast yo’ all ter act as my manager, Len,” said the other, eagerly. “Dat mean I gib dat nigger a heatin’ up an’ us make a tidy bit ob easy money.”
Len stood, tongueing his under-lip and pondering deeply. Slowly he slipped the revolver into his hip-pocket, slowly he unpinned his badge of authority and slipped it away with his revolver.
“Homer, Abe, jes’ draw up cha’rs to de table an’ le’s discuss de preliminaries ob de cornin’ battle,” he suggested.
A N HOUR later when Lenix rose to take D his leave of Homer and Abe, everything had been arranged. The challenger, Hawkins, was to receive a walloping, Abe White was to act as Homer’s manager and sundry bets laid by Lenix were to be collected and split three ways.
“An’ Len, yo’ all didn’ nowise come alookin’ fer incriminatin’ evidence ’gainst me ter night, did yo’?” Homer asked, as he followed Lenix to the door.
“No, not ’xactly, Homer,” Lenix admitted. “I come alookin’ fer certain articles an’ paper what I fink belong ter me, an’ which habin’ found ’em, I’se quite satisfied. Tomorrie, af’er Use been sworn in real constable, I couldn’t passed off no insurance policies as warrants an’ frowed fear ob Gawd inter yo’ an’ Abe, nohow; law won’t stan’ fer no monkeyin’ dat away. So, Homer, man, mend yorfe ways, käse if I ebber come a huntin’ ag’in it’ll be in daid earnes’.”
Left alone Homer looked at Abe and Abe looked at Homer. After long silence Abe spoke. “Come yo’ ebber hear me ag’in say dat Use a match fer dat Len, jes’ yo’ turn me half-way roun’ an’ kick me ober de moon.”
“Gollies, aint nobuddy quite so sma’t as dat Len,” sighed Homer, admiringly. “I knowed right well he’d git us, an’ git us right, Abe.”
“Right’s de word,” sighed Abe as he picked up his hat. “Dat nigger done get me a hun’red dollar’s wurf.”