COME EASY—GO EASY
ARCHIE P. McKISHNIE
COLONEL CALEB SMITH, Bridgetown’s leading colored light, arose from his sleepless couch and gazed through his bedroom window at the new-born dawn unfolding her crimson banners in the east.
The summer night had been a restless one for the Colonel; gentle slumber had refused to woo him from a depression that had suddenly settled like a black vulture on his very soul. Before his vision, cameolike in its clearness, stood out the serene and guileless face of a certain gentleman who, only a night or two before, at a cost of two hundred good dollars to him, had proven to the Colonel’s satisfaction—or dissatisfaction—or the disputed iact that a sucker is born every minute. In this case, Smith had been the sucker.
He had believed himself sufficiently astute to doublecross a lanky negro known far and near as Len Ballister, county constable and champion stave-cutter of the neighboring and rival town of Chatville East, and had had his comb well trimmed for his pains.
The Colonel had, in short, engaged Ballister in his detective capacity to locate certain wet goods that had been stolen from his cellar. Ballister had located the goods, and Smith had tried to wriggle out of paying the hundred dollar reward, only to find himself enmeshed in a web that might well have cost him his wealth and liberty. As it was, it had cost him a case of prime liquor and one hundred more than he had promised, to get out from under.
It was not so much the monetary loss that bothered the Colonel as the fact that he had been ousted in a game of wits by a man he had always considered his mental inferior. The Colonel had a reputation to maintain.
His townspeople looked upon him as the brainiest man in the county.
What would happen if the story of how Ballister had bested him at his own game leaked out was beyond his imagining.
Smith shivered in his pyjamas as he gazed toward the lighting dawn.
A slow, gnawing anger burned in his vitals, a biting resentment against the man who had out-generaled him; and there was no doubt in his mind that Ballister had him, no matter how he squirmed.
“It shore beats all how lucky some folks am, an’ onlucky udders,” he groaned, as he watched a plump robin pulling a fat worm from the turf of the lawn.
“Jes’ take dat Len now. Yestiday, dat orinery nigger put de jynx sign on eberybody by pullin’ down dat automobile what was raffled here, on a measely seben cent ticket. I spen’ sumfin’ over forty dollars in guesses —an’gets nuffin’'tall. Den him waylays me when I make to slip dat liquor hum wifout his knowledge, an’ hoí’s me up fer two hundred iron simoleons. If yo’ was ter shoot dat nigger outer a cannon he’d light on his feets in a gol’ mine, he would so."
THE robin, which after some effort had succeeded in pulling the worm from its tenacious grip in the sod, twisted its head sideways and chirruped up at the brooding colonel.
“Lor’ Harry! dat red-breast am shorely sayin’ ter me, plain as words could, ‘de early bird gadders in de worm,’ ” muwnured the fat Smith. “Humph! dat ain’t no indication ob luck-sign fer me. Reckon dere’s allars two in dat early-risin’ act. Jes’ as shore as I’d go prospectin’ on dat hunch, I’d fin’ out some udder feller was de bird an’ me de worm. Howsumeber, far be it frum me ter ignore a hunch-sign. I’s early riz, an’ early I’ll hie forth an’ kotch Sam Steevers hum. Dat short-change artist’ll mebbe help me git even wif Len. I’d give a heap ter be able ter pay dat near-constable back in his own coin.”
Musing thus darkly the colonel proceeded to dress.
“If so I could get de laff on dat lanky poker-faced
Ballister I’d live happy eber af’er. Shorely me’n Sam togedder orter be able ter fink up a way ter git him.”
CAMUEL STEEVERS, master trickster and confidence ^ man, was still wrapped in the fleecy robes of morpheus when Colonel Smith’s double knock on his door brought him from the land of sweet dreams with a yank.
He sat up in bed and, reaching under the pillow, pulled forth a long, rusty pistol of yawning calibre.
“Who’s dar?” he called.
“Me, Sam, me,” answered the Colonel. “Open up an’ lemme inside.”
“Who’s me?” Sam asked, cocking the pistol.
“Brudder Ku Kluk,” Smith answered guardedly. “Owe fer all an' all fer eberybody.”
“One moment, brudder Ku Kluk.”
Steevers climbed out of bed and approached the door.
“Does yo’ flit silent as a ghost on message ob destruction, er am yo’r white wings folded as dove ob peace, brudder?” he enquired, with his lips to the key-hole and pistol at presentation.
“I come wif folded pinions, oh King Kluk, wif message dat concerns all good riders ob de night,” Smith responded.
“Crave yo’ entrance, brudder?”
“I does, oh King.”
Sam threw open the door.
“Approach den across de sacred portals ob Destiny, oh messenger.”
Once the Colonel was inside, the door closed with a bang.
Steevers pulling on his trousers turned searching eyes on his visitor. “Why come yo’ here in de guise ob silbery hawk at dis unholy hour ob de mawnin’, brudder? Speak
quick an’ speak plain. Wha’s on yo’r ches’?”
“I come, oh King of de dusky order of Kluxes, ter breave certain info’mation inter yo’r ear.”
“Am dat info’mation ob sech natur’ as ter beneficial all Ku Kluxes, brudder?”
“It shore am.”
“So much yo’ swears?”
“So much I swears on de sacred screed ob our order, oh King.”
FROM a peg on the wall Steevers took two long, ghostly garments, handed one to Smith and donned the other. His eyes gleamed through the eyeholes of "his mask. As he raised his long arms high he began to chant in sing-song voice:
“We are de swif’ riders ob de darkness, silbery-winged an’ silent. We go in quest ob what?”
To which Smith responded. “Retribution fer our wrongs, an’ whatsoeber we may chanst ter pick up along de way.”
“Are we one fer all?”
“We is one fer all.”
“An’ all fer eberybudy?”
“We is all fer eberybudy.”
“An’ brudder, does yo’ now swear dat what yo’ have ter pass on ter dis secret order means it am fer de benefit ob each an’ ebery member?” “I does.”
“An’ if yo’ swears false?”
“Den may all men turn ag’in me, an’ flay me; may I be forced ter spen’ de remainder ob my days in a ha’nted house on a desolate lan’ ten leagues frum human habitation.”
“Dat’s quite insufficient, brudder night-rider.”
The local king of dusky Ku Klux pulled off his shroud, and the Colonel, nothing loathe, promptly followed his example.
“Now shoot yo’ piece, Colonel,” Steevers invited. “What am dem benefits, an’ jes’ how does us set about ter garner ’em in?”
“Dat I’ll now perceed ter tell yc\” the Colonel replied. “Does yo’ happen ter know a feller named Len Ballister, Sam?”
Steevers side-stepped like a haltershy colt.
“Lor’ yes, an’ I too know a bull thistle when I sees it. If so yo’s figgerin’ on drainin’ honey frum dat bee Ballister, brudder, yo’ kin drain alone. I ain’t aimin’ any a-tall on gettin’ stung; no sah.”
“Nonsense,” scoffed Smith. “Ain’t no danger ob anybudy gettin’ stung. Dat Len’s got two hunderd ob my good money, an’ us am goin’ af’er it. I’s willin’ ter split it equal wif my brudder Ku Kluxes.”
“Now see yo’ here,” Sam laid a bony finger on the Colonel’s knee. “Yo’ can’t nowise divide what yo’ ain’t got, kin yo’? An’lemmetell yo’, Colonel, gettin’ sumfin’ fer nuffin’ frum dat partikler nigger ain’t de work I’a fondes’ ob, an’ dat’s God’s trufe.”
“Nobody’s astin’ yo’ ter do it alone,” Smith flared. “No, but sumbudy’s astin’ me ter use my Klux Klan ter do it, which me bein’ leader mounts ter same fing. Now lis’en, yo’. Dis Klan am not disinclinationed ter go out af’er a wife-beater er any udder wrong-doer what is a menace ter de community; but when it comes ter doin’ a hoi’ up ac’—”
“Nobudy’s wantin’ no hol’-up ac’, fool,” Smith cut in. “Nuffin’ like dat a-tall. What I suggests am simply dat we pull de fangs ob a certain member of dis community who has made his boast dat no Ku Kluxes will eber operate here.”
“What yo’ mean by dat?” he demanded.
“Here. Read dat printed bill which I fin’ tacked to a tree on my way here, an’ draw yo’re own seclusions.” Smith drew a sheet of paper from a pocket and handed it to the other.
Steevers’ pop eyes perused what was there printed:—
Inasmuch as it is known that an organizer of the Ku Klux Klan is eddevering to gain a foothold in this kuminity for that onlawful order and inasmuch as said Order is considered a direct menus to law and order. Know All People, that whosoever is found joining or in any way assisting said order of Ku Kluxes same will be arrested forthwith and fined and imprisoned.
By order of The Police.
(Signed) Lennox Ballister,
Steevers’ staring orbs strayed from the printed sheet to fasten on Smith’s fat face.
“Whar yo’ say yo’ foun’ dis warnin’?” he asked with chattering teeth.
“Foun’ it tacked to a tree ’long de road. Bosh! It don’ signify nuffin’, nohow.”
“Oh, it don’, eh? Well lemme tell yo’ sumfin’, man. It jes’ signifies dis much. Right here is whar de local body ob secret Kluxes lose deir monarch. I ain’t goin’ ter serbe as no king to anybody dat Len Ballister am opposed against. Why, yo’ fool, don’ yo’ know dat coon well ennuf to realize dat he’s got a drag-net all sot fer us, waitin’ fer us ter make jes’ one move?” v “He cayn’t do nuffin’,” scoffed the Colonel. “Not a fing. We’s too strong a body fer one man ter buck, Sam.”
“But him’s got all de law behin’ him,” Sam shrilled, “an’ me an’ de law ain’t on speakin’ terms, eben. No, sah, I’s froo wif de Ku Klux Klan fer all time. Right now I packs my bag an’ turns my face frum dis town. Lor’, if I was a bird, yo’ suttingly would be hearin’ de song ob frantic wings dis instant. Wha’s de time?” Smith consulted a big gold watch.
“Fo’ minutes ob seben. Look here, Sam, yo’ ain’t goin’ off an’ leabe us in a lurch, shorely?”
Steevers looked wildly up from cramming his belongings into a battered satchel.
“I wisht ter Gawd I knowed,” he shivered. “All I kin say is I’s goin’ ter try hard. Dere ain’t no way ob tellin’ if I gets clear ob dat net.
“Las’ night a black cat cross my path, an’ night befo’ I meet up wif a hunch back. If I kin jump dem hurdles, I’s mighty lucky. Howsumeber, here’s whar I try.” “Look yo’ here, Sam.”
CMITH waddled across to the frightened king of the ^ order and laid a hand on his shoulder.
“Dere ain’t no use in bein’ scared. Law cayn’t tech us less it fin’s us Ku Kluxin’, kin it? Well den, rally yo’r reasonin’ powers, man. Rally ’em! S’pose we sidetrack de Ku Klux scheme fer de time bein’, an’ get our heads togedder an’ hatch some udder plan ter get dat interferin’ Len whar us wants him?”
Steevers stood with a pair of striped pyjamas suspended above the yawning mouth of the valise.
“Meanin’ which? ” he asked with a slight tinge of interest.
“Meanin’ dis. Dat Len don’t know yo’, do he?”
Sam frowned. “Only by reputation, Colonel. Neber met him face ter face an’ neber aimed ter, after all I’ve heared about dat nigger.”
“Well den, what’s ter pervent yo’ frum sorter casually meet in’ up wif Len, an’ workin’ yo’r specialty onter him? Neber was a better chanst. His wife’s off frum hum, an’ de stave-mill’s shet down on account ob damaged steam-boxes. He’ll be settin’ under a tree in his ya’d, countin’ my money.
All yo’ gotter do, Sam, is happen in on him an’ hypnotize him same’s yo’ve done ter many udders.
How’s dat scheme strike yo’?”
Steevers stood frowningly contemplative.
“No,” he decided. “De outside work am callin’ me strong, an’ I’s on my way.”
“Sam, fer de lub ob heaben, lis’en,” the Colonel pleaded. “I’ll give yo’ half ob dat two hundred if yo’ get it away frum Len.”
Sam shook his head.
“I’d shore like ter ’blige yo’, Colonel, but I’m finkin’ dere’s lots ob hundreds easier ter connec’ wif den dat ©ne ud prove. I own up to yo’ I’s jubious ob dat coon, Ballister.”
“I’ll gib yo’ all ob it, den.”
“Yo’ means if so I kin loose-charge dat money frum Ballister, I gets de hull?” he asked.
“ ’Tain’t de money I wants so much as de satisfaction ob showin’ him up a sucker, Sam.”
Steevers closed the satchel.
“All right, den, I’ll get dat Len an’ get him right. Yo’ needn’ worry. An’ when dat nigger fin’s out what’s been done ter him yo’ll be able ter hear him wail clean here.”
Smith rubbed his fat hands together gleefully.
“Now yo’s talkin’, kid. I make only one stipulation, Sam. Af’er yo’ get dat money frum Len, I wants yo’ ter take him down ter Mooney’s boathouse on de ribber. I’ll be dar. I shore wants ter gloat a lil on his uncomforture. Yo’ needn’ worry ’tall, kase I’ll hab a railway
ticket all bought fer yo’, an’ yo’r satchel. Yolkin beat it an’ I’ll look af’er Ballister.”
Steevers looked anxious.
“How fur am dat boathouse frum de station?” he wanted to know.
“Jes’ a sho’t distance,” the Colonel reassured. “Dar’s a express flyer due ’long ’bout ’leben.”
Sam nodded. “I reckon I kin make dat schedule,” he observed. “I’s considered sumfin’ ob a speedy worker.”
DLISSFULLY unconscious of the plot that had been hatched against him, at precisely six-thirty o’clock in the morning a tall, lanky negro emerged from his cabin and walked uncertainly to a blue pump standing with upraised handle as though evoking a blessing on the dewy peacefulness surrounding it.
Lennox Ballister, county constable and champion stave-cutter, had not risen with the dawn because he could not sleep. Excitement occasioned by his winning an automobile in a raffle the day before, the earning of a two hundred dollar reward from one, Colonel Smith, for locating certain stolen cases of wet-goods belonging to that gentleman, and a prolonged session with his cronies, Abe White and Homer Hudson, in cementing, over sundry bottles, a friendship that had through misunderstanding been frayed to a single thread—even the fact that he possessed two hundred dollars in cash money which he did not know what to do with, had not been sufficient to shoo the goddess Morpheus from him. Len had risen because he was fully satisfied with the holiday he had indulged in and was going to resume work at the mill.
“Oh lordy!” Len groaned, as he reached for the pump-handle, “my head’s big as a barrel, an’ I aches like a hull worl’ful ob pain. Don’ seem no use ter pump dis tub full ob water, I’ll neber be able ter get dis head in no lil tub, nohow.”
Len grasped the blue handle, then stood with eyes glued to the street.
A small colored boy on a bicycle had stopped at the garden gate.
“Dat’s Willie Jakeway,” Len commented, “tedder at de mill. Won’er what dire message dat limb ob de debil’s cornin’ on? Likely de boss sent him ter fin’ out if I’s yit hum.”
“Mawnin’, Willie,” Len smiled as the boy approached. “What yo’ doin’ out so early?”
“I corned over ter tell yo’ Be mill won’t be runnin’ terday, Misto Ballister,” the boy replied. “Dere’s two busted steam-boilers what have ter be fixed.”
“Den dey won’t be needin’ me terday?”
Len felt a glow of thankfulness surge through him.
“Albright, Willie. Yo’ kin tell de boss yo’ foun’ me all ready ter go ter work. An’ Willie, here’s a quarter fer yo’ ter spen’.”
Len took a piece of money from his pocket and handed it to the pleased lad.
EN watched the boy J mount the bicycle and ride away. Then he laughed until the tears blinded his
“Oh my, oh my!” he groaned, “what would Janeann say if so she knowed I’d buried her pore sister? Lor’ sakes! I gotter be mighty keerful. Gotter fink up sumfin ter tell de boys at de mill.”
Len, having refreshed himself at the pump, went back into the house.
Lifting a loose board in the floor, he brought out a tin tobacco box and opened it.
“Good ol’ money,” he chuckled, addressing the four yellow-backed fifty-
“T’anks, Misto Ballister,” he grinned. “I hopes yo’ enj’yed de funeral. I understan’ dat’s why yo’ wasn’t workin’ Saturday. Dey said yo’ was attendin’ funeral ob a relation.” “Wha’s dat? Oh, de funeral! Why, Willie, it was suttingly a gran’ funeral, ’twas so. Sixty-fo’ autos all draped in black, an’ a brass ban’ what played backwards. Yessir, it was a gran’ funeral. Must been nigh a thousan’ people dere.”
Continued on page 69
I Come Easy—Go Easy
Continued, from page 15
dollar bills that gleamed up at him. “Colonel Smiff’s yestiday, an’ Constable Ballister’s terday. Now, lil fifties, question am, what goin’ ter be did wif yo’ so’s Janeann can’t eber know yo’s mine.”
At thought of Janeann, Len’s glance travelled guiltily to the sideboard. There still unopened, lay a letter from his wife.
Still regaining a grip on the money, he approached the sideboard much as a small boy might approach the woodshed in response to his father’s stern command.
He did not desire to read that letter. Something told him that what it contained might cause him discomfiture. Nevertheless, it was incumbent upon him to open and read it.
He picked up the letter, brought a box of paper and envelopes from the bedroom, and seated himself at the table. He would be compelled to answer the letter, of course.
Orinocco, the hound, came out from behind the woodbox and watched his master as he opened the envelope and read:
My sister Lucy is better but still verry sick I don’t know when I will be able to leve her bedside so you send me as much money as you have at once and no shinagginin or youll be sorie and see that the dog does not tear up the tomatoes and be sure and keep the garden well howed and wattered and send me that money right off as I left all I had and my nice heed bag on the train if you do not I’ll bust you wide open when I get back your loving wife Janeann.
LEN put the letter back in its envelope ' and fishing a short pencil from his pocket wrote a reply, in his abstraction forgetting to prefix the letter:
“The rose is red,
The vilet’s blue;
I have no cash To give to you.”
Having folded and enveloped his message, he sat back and fairly shook with wicked glee.
“Gollies! won’t her tear de earf when her gets dis pome? Serves Janeann well right. Dat story ’bout losin’ her money on train is so old it’s moth et. Bet her’s tol’ me dat same tale ob woe sebenty times, if onst. Here’s whar I gets back at her. To-night I’ll write her anudder letter—a real one, an’ mebbe I’ll sen’ her a few dollars. Dat’ll keep her frum leabin’ fer hum.”
Len’s eyes fell on the fifty dollar bills. “I’ll jes’ put dese in one ob dem envelopes an’ carry it down ter bank as soon as it’s open.”
This he proceeded to do, then rising went in quest of pen and ink.
Returning, he addressed Janeann’s letter, stamped it, and pocketing the envelope containing the money, went out to post the letter.
SAM STEEVERS, crouched in the shelter of Len’s cabin window, peeking through the friendly jasmine vines, had seen Len place the four fifty dollars bills in the envelope. Almost he had been constrained to step through the window and rap the owner of the money on the head with his billy. It was a simpler and surer method than the other he had in mind of securing the two hundred dollars. But it was part of the plan that at the last Len should know who had outwitted him. Colonel Smith had made this a stipulation, and Sam, watching Len leave the room, regretted that this was so.
“Dat nigger’s got dem fo’ fifties in dat envelope,” he soliloquized, “an’ if only I kin get hold ob dat—I’s all hunky.” He slunk away through the bushes to the road, and met Len returning from the mail box.
Steevers was niftily dressed in a sage green, tight-fitting suit and carried a gold-headed cane. Across a shoulder was slung a pair of field-glasses. He seemed tó be in very much of a hurry. He all but collided with Len on the walk and murmured a quick apology.
“ ’Scuse me, sah. I’s in sech a peck
ob trouble dat I’s got blin’ staggers. I’s lookin’ fer a man what means free t’ousan’ good dollars ter me if I fin’ him —an’ he don’ seem anywheres.”
“Dearie me, is dat so?”
Len took brief inventory of the man before him, from tortoise-rimmed spectacles to patent leather boots.
“What kind of a lookin’ man was dis yo’re huntin’?” he asked.
“His name’s Tommy Barton,” the stranger answered. “Handsome, well sot-up chap, looks not onlike yo’self, sah. Indeed I finked when fust I lamped yo’, yo’ was him.”
“No. I ain’t him,” Len said. “My name’s Ballister. But I knows de man whereof yo’ speaks. Yo’ means ‘Turf King’ Barton, I presume.”
“Shore,” cried the other. “You know him?”
“Not ’cept but slightly. But I knows de gen’leman ter see him, an’ I haven’ seen him nowhere in dis town recent.” “Oh lordie,” groaned the stranger. “Don’t dat beat de Dutch! King Barton was ter meet up wif me at de station dis mawnin’. Him’s in a pool dat us fo’med, an’ now us will lose thousands ob good dollars jes’ kase dat nigger ain’t on han’.” Len looked interested.
“Step up ter de house an’ habe a drink ob lime-juice,” he invited. “Yo’ shore look flabbergasted.”
SEATED on the vine-covered porch with glasses before them, Len lent an attentive ear while the stranger unburdened his heart to him.
“Dat hawse, Arabesque, am due ter win de King’s Plate at de Woodville races dis day,” he groaned. “Dat dope’s troo as de bible, Misto Ballister. Well, a few ob us who am in de know bet our money an’ shirt buttons on dat hawse, but us am jes’ two hundred an’ nine dollars short ob de wanted sum. Barton done promised he’d meet me here wif dat coin, an’ now he’s as missin’ as a coon in a graveya’d. Lor’, kin yo’ beat it1 Here am me, ’bliged ter see two fousand dollars go by de boa’d—dat’s my share ob de winnin’s—jes’ kaze I’s two hundred an’ nine palty dollars sho’t.” He buried his face in his hands and rocked to and fro.
“Lis’en here,” Len said. “S’posin’ I was ter sort of advance dat 'mount ter
He hesitated and the other raised his harrassed eyes.
“Yo’ means dat yo’d take King Barton’s place an’ put up de two-nine?” he asked, hope in his eyes.
“I mought be constrained ter put up de two,” Len said slowly, “but not de nine; ain’t got de nine.”
Steevers looked thoughtful. He seemed to be deciding something in his mind.
“I’s almos’ persuaded ter let yo’ in on de money,” he spoke at length. “I suttingly is.”
“What yo’ figgerin’ dat Asabestis hawse ter pay?” Len wanted to know.
“Dat Arabesque’ll pay fo’ty ter one, hard down,” Steevers declared. “Dat means yo’ll draw two thousand’ollars fo’ yo’r share. Want to come in?”
“Man, do a swaller want ter fly? Cou’se I’ll come in. An’ many fanks.” Steevers rose and shot his cuffs. “Dat’s a load off my min’, Misto Ballister,” he sighed. “Dat good money what I shore finked I’d miss am befo’ my vision onst ag’in. Kin yo’ lemme
habe de two hunderd now, an’ I’ll kotch dat out train an’ get it up.”
“One moment,” Len said. “Yo’ll s’cuse me, but me’n’ yo’ am bofe strangers ter one anudder. What guarantee hav I got dat yo’ won’t keep right on goin’ wif my money?”
“Why,” smiled the other, “I’ll gib yo’ a receipt fo’ de money, ob cou’se.” “Dat’s quite disagreeable ter me,” Len nodded. “Should hab sumfin’ ter show fer my outlay.”
ON A piece of paper he produced from a pocket, Steevers wrote the receipt and handed it to Len, who in return, passed over the white envelope with, “Yo’ll fin’ two hundred in dat.”
“I know,” commented Steevers, taken off his guard.
“I was about ter say datI know me’n' yo’ll bofe be in clover dis night, Misto Ballister. Yo’ shore am lucky ter meet up wif me dis mawnin’.”
“Shore am,” agreed Len. “When do I get dat two thousan’?”
“I’ll be down on de ten train ternight wif dat money,” Steevers promised. “Lor’!” glancing at his watch, “I jes’ got half an hour ter kotch de train fer de city.”
“I dribe yo’ ober in my new cyar,” Len said. “Sot right whar yo’ are an’ hab anudder drink ob lime-juice while I gets it out de ba’n.”
Steevers’ fingers pressed the envelope beneath his coat caressingly.
“I’ll go ’long,” he suggested. “Us kin start frum dar.
“Would yo’ min’ goin’ by de ribber road?” he asked as they sped away. “Come ter fink, I promised ter look in on a frien’ ob mine at the Mooney boathouse. Know what dat am?”
Len guided the car down a hill and swung into the river road.
“Dar yo’ is,” he said, as they drew up before a dilapidated building on the bank of the sluggish stream.
“Jes’ step in, Misto Ballister,” invited Steevers. “I wants ter introduce yo’ ter my frien’.”
LEN climbed out of the car and J followed the natty Steevers inside. He stared and rubbed his eyes at sight of a smiling fat man who sat on a fish-box tranquilly smoking a big cigar.
“Howde, Constable,” Colonel Smith greeted.
“Mawnin’, Colonel,” Len responded. His eyes sought the grinning Steevers, but before he could voice what was in his thoughts, Smith spoke again.
“Len, it’s a long road dat blows nobudy no good. Udder day yo’ short-changed me outer two hunderd. Terday, froo my deber agent here, I does de same ter yo.’ I hope. Sam,” he addressed Steevers, “yo’ succeeded in relievin’ our brainy frien’ ob dat amount ob long green?”
“I shore did,” Sam chuckled. He pulled the envelope from his pocket. “It’s right here, Colonel.”
His nervous fingers ripped the envelope open.
Then he swore softly and stood with eyes pop and mouth half open.
“Lor’ Gawd!” he choked. “Dat coon am no human; him’s a debil full ob guile an’ black magic. Look yo’ here.”
From the envelope Steevers had plucked a many folded sheet of paper.
Smith’s fat fingers grasped it. He opened the sheet and his staring eyes read what was there penned:
“De rose is red De vi’let’s blue,
I have no cash To give ter you.”
He gasped like a dying fish and turned imploring eyes on Steevers. But that gentleman had no sympathy for anybody but his own dazed self. He snatched up a satchel which stood near the door and promptly bolted.
The Colonel turned his gaze on Len and then, pulling a handkerchief from his pocket, he wiped his beaded brow.
“Ballister,” he almost wailed, “is there anyfing on Gawd’s green erf yo’ don’ know how ter do?”
Len scratched his head.
“I reckon dere is, Colonel,” he said sadly. “I cayn’t nowise tap de King’s mail an’ get hol’ ob a letter I > done mailed a suttin pusson dis mawnin’.”