WHEN Aunt Gertrude Duxbury charged indignantly into the Town Hall at half-past ten that morning, after fighting her way through the downtown uproar, she found her favorite nephew trying to quell a small riot. His office, crowded with wild-eyed citizens, was a bedlam. Everyone was talking at once. The telephone was ringing continually. Every little while George shouted hoarsely: "If you folks will just listen to me a minute—” whereupon everyone yelled louder than ever.
Aunt Gertrude was not the woman to stand for this sort of nonsense. She simply waded into the turmoil and said, "Shoo!" She waved her arms as if chasing chickens out of a garden. "Get out, all of you!” she stormed. “Quick! Shoo! Scat!”
Such was the dominant personality of the woman that she shooed them in thirty seconds. They trod on each other's toes in the scramble to get out. Al Blossom almost got his fingers nipped when she slammed the door.
"A fine state of affairs!" panted Aunt Gertrude, as George fell limply into his chair and cut loose with a groan that came all the way up from his toes. "Fine state of affairs indeed.”
Brrrrrring! said the telephone. Someone pounded on the office door and demanded justice.
"A plot! A deliberate, dastardly plot to discredit this town on the most important day of its history,” declared Aunt Gertrude grimly. "What is Mr. Scattlebee going to say if he comes here and finds all this commotion? What is Mr. Yanniff going to say? Georgie, do you realize what that lummox of a constable has been doing?"
"I’ve been hearing about it,” George admitted, mopping his brow. “Scattering summonses around town like so much confetti, isn't he?”
"While you sit here in your office, gossiping!” sniffed his aunt, with withering scorn. "For heaven's sake get up out of that chair and do something.”
"I'm waiting for Flannelfoot. I sent Mr. Kotsopolous down street to get him a few minutes ago, but he hasn’t shown up yet.”
“Waiting for him!" shrieked Aunt Gertrude. “Go out after him. Fire him. Sack him.”
Brrrrrring! went the telephone again. George answered it.
“Yes?” he said. “Oh, yes... Ah, you’ve heard about it already?... Well, not right now... If you’ll call me back in about an hour I may have a statement... I’m sorry. I can’t say any more at present.”
He put down the phone and sighed.
"That was one of the city newspapers,” he told his aunt. “Their lead correspondent sent in a story saying I gave orders to pinch everybody in town. They want to know how come?”
“And you didn’t tell them?” thundered Aunt Gertrude. “You didn't tell them you weren’t to blame? You didn’t tell them that a despicable lummox is going around serving summonses on everyone in town on the most ridiculous excuses, defying your authority, making this community a laughingstock?”
"Now, aunty,” said George in a reasonable voice, “maybe this can be fixed up. I’m going to have a talk with Flannelfoot. It’s probably just a slight misunderstanding.”
“Did I hear you correctly? Did you say it was probably just a slight misunderstanding?"
"Well, yes. That was the expression. After all, the man may have had good reason for what he has done. There are two sides to every question—”
“Stop gibbering, Georgie. If you are too spineless to deal with that reprobate, then thank heaven I’m here. Slight misunderstanding! You’re going to discharge the lummox, Georgie, and there is going to be no slight misunderstanding about that!"
There were sounds of argument and scuffling in the outer office. They heard a familiar voice bleating: “Gentlemen, gentlemen—if you please—”
And then the door opened. Percy Niblett, hatless, coatless and with his spectacles awry, popped in like a cork. After him came Penny. She smiled sweetly on various citizens assembled outside, many of whom were expressing passionate anxiety to bop the mayor one in the eye, and said: “Sorry, folks. This seems to be the mayor’s busy day.” She closed the door behind her.
“Having fun, George?”
"Not much. Are you?”
“Lots. Lots of fun, George.”
“Your ideas of fun ” returned George with a pardonable trace of bitterness, “are very original.”
"Aren’t they!” exclaimed Penny, and sat down on a corner of the desk. "Thank you, George. And now don’t you think you’d better introduce me to your aunt. Properly, that is. Of course, I met her yesterday, but after all—”
"She’s Flannelfoot’s daughter,” blurted Percy Niblett helpfully.
Aunt Gertrude said: “Ah!”
"I found her up at Doc Wheelby’s. She was typing out more summonses.”
"Ah-ha!” cried Aunt Gertrude.
Niblett choked a little. "I got one,” he said. “For playing solitaire in the Town Hall. Solitaire, mind you! And my wife—” Niblett’s voice rose to a wail, "my wife is going to get one for playing tennis in shorts!”
“Oh-ho!” said Aunt Gertrude, and looked from Penny to George. It was a well-remembered look. It took George right back to the time she had missed the apple pie from the cupboard and found the pie plate under his bed. “Oh-ho!”
On the occasion of the great apple pie mystery she had also said "Oh-ho!” with precisely the same inflection. George wriggled.
AT ABOUT this time a large pink man in a small blue coupé drove across the Four Comers, pulled up in front of the post office and regarded the unwonted activity in downtown Wakeville with mild surprise.
He lit a cigarette, tossed the empty packet out onto the sidewalk and said to the nearest passer-by: “Busy little town this. What’s going on?”
The passer-by, who happened to be Homer Gillespie, astounded the stranger mightily by whooping, “Hey, Flannelfoot!” and barging into a group of citizens who surrounded the town constable, a few yards away.
At the same time a man named O. B. Satchell came loping up, clamoring, “He drove across the Four Corners without blowing his horn three times. That’s what I got my summons for and, by jing, he's got one coming to him too. Hey, Flannelfoot!”
There was a good deal of excitement. Homer Gillespie brought Flannelfoot over, pointed accusingly at the empty cigarette packet and yipped, “Come on now, Flannelfoot. Do your duty. If it’s against the law for me to throw empties on the sidewalk, it's against the law for him.”
“That’s what I say,” declared O. B. Satchell. “Ain't one law for the rich and another for the poor. Go after him, Flannelfoot.”
The large pink stranger became a good deal pinker when he learned that he had shattered two local by-laws and that he would have to appear in court. He threatened to pop Homer Gillespie on the nose. Flannelfoot asked for his driver’s license, which happened to be in his other suit at the time. O. B. Satchell screamed for the stranger’s instant arrest. Rattled and wrathful, the pink man promised to kick O. B. Satchell in the teeth. Mr. Satchell requested bystanders to hold his coat. The pink stranger took a swing at Homer Gillespie, but missed. The crowd cheered. Flannelfoot said, “Now, now! None of that!” and intervened just in time to be smacked upon the right eye.
A five-year record is a precious thing. But a punch in the eye is not to be condoned when the punchee is a constable. Flannelfoot subdued the pink stranger after a brief struggle and escorted him to the small brick lockup behind the fire hall.
“Five years!” panted Flannelfoot bitterly. “Five years I went without ever havin’ to arrest anybody. And now a smart-aleck from out of town has to come along and bust my record.”
The large pink man rattled the bars of his cell, screamed for a lawyer, made the welkin ring with his howls of anguish. It was, he complained, a devil of a way to welcome a stranger who had merely stopped to ask the way to the Town Hall.
Penny, meanwhile, was feeling sorry for George. He seemed to have aged a good deal in twenty-four hours. She wondered if she had been quite fair to him. Percy Niblett had told her all about Wakeville's reaction to the blizzard of summonses. George looked like one who had suffered much. And then, watching him wriggle and quail under Aunt Gertrude’s celebrated stare, she said:
“You sent for me, George? Want me to tell Pop to lay off?”
“Ha!” interrupted Aunt Gertrude explosively before George could answer. “I’m beginning to see through this.”
“Simple as pie,” Penny said. “Just give me the word, George, and Pop will cease firing. Of course, he'll want your promise that his job is safe and that he can handle it in his own way, without going around persecuting his neighbors. In other words, George, we want a return to the status quo.”
“Blackmail!” snorted Aunt Gertrude. “Absolute, shameless, out-and-out blackmail. We won’t stand for it.”
“We won’t stand for it. I’m very sorry. Miss Foster ”
“Call me Penny. Everybody calls me Penny. It's short for Penelope, you know. George used to have some very sweet names for me, but we had a bit of a quarrel yesterday and I don’t know what he’s calling me just now.”
“I’m very sorry, Miss Foster, but this whole situation smacks of blackmail and, as I said before, we won’t stand for it. Georgie!”
“We won’t stand for it, I said. You are going to dismiss that constable at once.” Aunt Gertrude folded her arms and glared defiantly at Penny. “There, my fine young lady, is your answer.”
"Just what,” enquired Penny with interest, “will happen to George if he doesn't fire Pop?”
“I’ll wash my hands of him.” Aunt Gertrude replied, breathing like a heavyweight at the end of ten brisk rounds. “Do you hear that, Georgie? I came here to help you. But if you are so—so utterly—so utterly—”
“Spineless,” Penny contributed.
“So utterly spineless that you can’t even control a small-town constable, if you are such a weak—”
“—such a weak jellyfish that you haven’t even a mind of your own, well then, Georgie, my efforts have been in vain. Are you going to stand for this, Georgie? The man insulted me the other day. You did not reprimand him. I was disappointed in you then, Georgie. But now—now, what has he done? He has ridiculed your authority, made your community a laughingstock, and this girl has not only encouraged him—”
“Encouraged him!” exclaimed Penny. “I thought it all up myself.”
“She not only encourages him, but now she has the effrontery to come here and bargain with you. He’ll stop making a fool of you if you’ll let him keep his job. Bah! Give her your answer, Georgie.”
Penny regarded George with sympathy.
“Darling,” she said. “Are you ever on the spot! But it had to come sooner or later. It's going to take backbone, George. Plenty of backbone. What’s the answer?”
George took a deep breath.
“The answer,” he said, “is no.”
“Ah!” cried Aunt Gertrude. “I knew I could depend on you, Georgie!”
“Attaboy, lamb!” said Penny. “I’ll tell Pop to call off the campaign right away.”
George got out of his chair and stood with his back to the wall. Penny thought she had never seen him look so noble. “Wait a minute, George,” she said. "No, what?”
George thrust out his chin.
“I am not going to fire Flannelfoot,” he announced firmly and distinctly.
THE statement was followed by a deep, solemn hush—a silence in which the ticking of George’s watch sounded like a rivetting machine in full blast. A mouse scurrying above the ceiling at the moment gave an effect like a bull moose galloping over a bridge.
“Georgie,” managed his aunt at last, in a strangled whisper. "Do you realize what you’re saying?”
George did. He was in for it now. His chin jutted out a little farther.
"And what’s more,” he plowed on recklessly, “I’m going to run this town my own way from now on. I don’t give a hang about modernizing Wakeville. We don’t need a new Town Hall. We don’t need a new constable. And if your friend Mr. Yanniff comes around wanting to build a glue factory. I’ll chase him into the next county. The same goes for Cousin Shadbolt, even if he does make more dynamite than anyone else. Wakeville, Awake!—my neck! I don’t like the look of Wakeville awake. It’s a blamed sight better town when it’s half asleep.”
“George Claybourne,” began his aunt tensely, “of all the ungrateful—”
“I know you’ve been trying to help, aunty. But in many ways you’ve been a blasted nuisance since the morning you hit town. From now on I'm going to be mayor, and if I make a hash of it I’ll at least have the satisfaction of knowing I did it myself.”
“And this is my reward? After all I’ve done? After all—”
"Aunty,” said George, “I don’t like to speak harshly to a near relative, but I wish you would go climb a tree."
It was, obviously, the first time Aunt Gertrude had ever been requested to go climb a tree. Seldom at a loss for words, for once she found herself beyond her conversational depth. Her only reply was a gurgle.
“Darling!” said Penny reverently. “You’re wonderful. I always knew you had backbone. But I never thought—”
“Backbone!” George shrugged. “I have yards of it.”
“Honestly, lamb, I never thought you had backbone enough for what you’ve just done. Oh, I’m so glad, George.”
“What’s all this chatter about backbone?” George demanded a trifle testily. “You’d think I was a jellyfish or something. When it comes to backbone, I’ll challenge any dinosaur in any museum.”
“Oh. I’m sure you could, sweetheart. And now I’ll hurry out and tell Pop to stop serving summonses. Oh, George, you’re marvellous!”
Penny hurled herself upon the mayor with the apparent intention of strangling him. But he fended her off sternly.
“I’m wonderful, am I? Well, what’s so wonderful about me except that I’ve stopped being a dope? First of all Aunt Gertrude tries to tell me how to run this town. And then you chip in. Between the pair of you I haven’t been able to call my soul my own for the past week.”
“When I sat there listening to the pair of you squabbling, it made me ashamed of myself. It all boiled down to the fact that one or the other of you was going to make me jump through hoops. Well neither of you is going to do it. If I want your Pop to stop serving summonses. I’ll tell him to stop. And he’ll stop quick. And if I want him to serve more summonses. I’ll tell him to serve more. And he’ll serve ’em. You keep your nose out of it.”
“But George,” cried Penny in great distress. “I thought you wanted him to stop. I thought you were afraid it would ruin Mr. Scattlebee’s visit.”
“Mr. Scattlebee’s visit,” said George, with dignity, “is municipal business, and I’ll be obliged if you’ll keep your nose out of that too. I’ll handle Mr. Scattlebee. Aunt Gertrude seems to have been under the impression that I can’t persuade Mr. Scattlebee to build a roller skate factory here without her help. She is wrong. You seem to be under the same impression. You’re wrong too. There is only one thing I want for this town and that is Mr. Scattlebee’s roller skate factory. I mean to get it. Singlehanded. I’m going to the railway station now; I’m going to meet Mr. Scattlebee, and it won’t take him five minutes to realize he is talking to a mayor who is a mayor.”
George reached for his hat.
“Georgie Claybourne!” gritted Aunt Gertrude, getting her voice back. “Never to my dying day—”
“Please don’t call me Georgie! I’m mayor of this town, remember.”
“George Claybourne!” said Penny, very pink. “You’ll be sorry.”
But George merely gave a determined tug to his hat brim.
“It pains me to suggest this, Penny,” he said, “but will you be good enough to go climb a tree? Aunt Gertrude’s tree will do. You can give her a hist to get her started. You’ll be company for each other.”
George was feeling pretty good. He straightened his shoulders, slapped his hands together, said briskly, “And now for Mr. Scattlebee.”
The telephone went brrrrrrring! George swung around and snapped up the instrument. “Mayor Claybourne speaking,” he announced cheerfully. “Oh yes, Flannelfoot... What’s that? You’ve made an arrest?... Well, well, well. It’s a wonderful age we’re living in, isn’t it, Flannelfoot?... Disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, assaulting an officer and littering the sidewalk? Hanging will be too good for the fellow... In the lockup, eh?... Yes, I know, it’s too bad about your record, but after all you weren’t trying for the Nobel Peace Prize... What!”
With astounding abruptness George’s jovial tone changed to a screech of sheer anguish.
“Who?... No, Flannelfoot! Not Mr. Scattlebee?... Great suffering hoptoads, man, let him out! Let him out this very minute. I thought he was coming by train... You what?... You can’t let him out?... But you’ve got to let him out, Flannelfoot... You’ve lost the key?...” George was yelling at the top of his lungs. “Flannelfoot, just as sure as you’re a foot high, I’m going to have your scalp for this... I’m coming right over... And you get busy, Flannelfoot. You find that key and get Scattlebee out of there... Get him out, I say... I don’t care how you do it. Use dynamite if you have to, but get him out...”
Wailing, George slapped down the receiver. He streaked out of the office. “Makes one arrest in five years,” they heard him yelping as he bolted for the street door. “And it had to be Scattlebee! I’ll can that cop. I’ll fire him...”
AUNT GERTRUDE looked at Penny.
Penny looked at Aunt Gertrude.
The situation seemed to call for comment, preferably of a philosophic nature. Aunt Gertrude supplied it.
“Well,” she said grimly. “That’s that.”
“Poor George !” Penny sighed. “And he did count on getting that roller skate factory. I guess he won’t get it now.”
“Thanks to your father,” observed Aunt Gertrude tartly.
“But wasn’t George wonderful?” Penny’s eyes shone with love and pride. “He told me to go climb a tree.”
“He told me first,” the aunt reminded her stoutly.
“I couldn’t believe my ears.”
“I couldn’t believe mine.”
“But after all,” said Penny, “I must admit I had it coming to me.”
“You did. You did indeed.”
“And you certainly had it coming to you.”
Aunt Gertrude gulped. Pride isn’t easily swallowed. But she got it down. “I suppose so,” she agreed in a meek voice.
“Wasn’t he masterful?”
“He comes by it naturally,” explained Aunt Gertrude. “All the Duxburys are very masterful. George is a Duxbury on his mother’s side.”
“His eyes seem to flash fire when he gets mad.”
“The Duxbury in him,” said Aunt Gertrude. “My Uncle Hannibal had the same effect on people. They said he reminded them of the Prophet Jeremiah.”
“Was he a minister?”
“No. He was an auctioneer. A very commanding personality. George takes after him.”
The atmosphere was becoming distinctly chummy. Aunt Gertrude warmed to this girl who showed such an intelligent interest in the lives and times of the Duxburys.
“It will take more than a commanding personality to square things with Mr. Scattlebee,” said Penny. “I don’t think George can swing it alone. In fact, I think it’s the sort of situation that calls for a woman’s touch.”
“After what George told us” Aunt Gertrude shook her head doubtfully. It was clear that her faith in the woman’s touch had been shaken.
“He told us to climb a tree. But he didn’t tell us to stay up there. And Mr. Scattlebee could stay in jail for a month before Pop would ever remember that there’s a spare key to the jail. It’s on the shelf behind our kitchen clock.”
“Ah!” said the aunt.
“Come on!” said Penny. “Time’s a-wastin’.”
A big car was just pulling up in front of the Town Hall when they came out. A lanky young man scrambled from behind the wheel. A tubby little fellow with a camera crawled out the other side.
“Mayor’s office in here?” barked the lanky youth.
“The mayor isn’t in,” said Penny. “Maybe you’ll find him up at the cannery.”
“Where’s the cannery?”
“Eight blocks straight ahead, three blocks to your left.”
The two men piled back into the car. “Step on it, Slim,” said the man with the camera. “Those guys from the Sun will be out here any minute.” He bestowed an admiring wink upon Penny. “Thanks, babe. We’ll be seein’ ya.”
The car shot away.
"Newspapermen,” said Penny. “Wouldn’t Mr. Scattlebee be pleased if they got a picture of him peeking out from behind the bars!”
Mr. Scattlebee, at the moment, was about frantic. With the help of Flannelfoot and a crowbar George had managed to remove the padlock from the outer door of the Wakeville lockup. But Mr. Scattlebee’s cell presented a tougher problem. Penny and Aunt Gertrude found a livelv conference in progress.
“A fine way to treat visitors!” Mr. Scattlebee bawled. “You invite me to your town. And what happens? The minute I show my nose on your main street I’m set on by a bunch of thugs and thrown into the cooler. I’ll sue the municipality, Claybourne. You can’t do this to a man of my standing. I’ll sue for false arrest. I’ll sue for damage to my reputation. I’ll sue for—”
“If you’ll just listen to reason, Mr. Scattlebee,” begged the unhappy George. “Look, Flannelfoot, try working that crowbar under the hinges.”
“Can’t be done,” puffed Flannelfoot. “They won’t budge an inch.” He regarded the wrathful Scattlebee reproachfully. “If you’d only told me who you were, this wouldn’t have happened. I don’t go around arrestin’ folks for the fun of it. And you did poke me in the eye.”
"WHO POKED you in the eye, Pop?" enquired Penny from the doorway.
George and Scattlebee uttered simultaneous yelps of dismay.
“Good heavens!” whooped Scattlebee. “Shut that door. I don’t want everybody in town coming in here to look at me. What do you think this is. A zoo?”
And George said in a deadly voice, “I thought I told you women to mind your own business.”
“I know, Georgie.” Aunt Gertrude had never been more apologetic. “But we thought maybe we could help. You see—she has the key.”
Penny was inspecting Flannelfoot’s eye. “It could have been worse,” she murmured. “Does it hurt, Pop?”
Flannelfoot said it didn’t hurt much. George was babbling, “You angel! I might have known you’d think of something. If you love me, sweet, unlock that cell and let him out.” He hugged her and cried reassuringly. “It’s all right now, Mr. Scattlebee. You’ll be out of here in a jiffy. Where’s that key, honey? Quick!”
Penny was in no hurry. She kissed Flannelfoot’s eye. Then she turned on George.
“But George, you don’t mean to tell me you’re going to let the brute go free! After hitting my Pop in the eye? Why, I should say not.” She regarded Scattlebee severely through the bars. “You ought to be ashamed of yourself. I hope the judge gives you twenty years.”
Mr. Scattlebee’s pink face turned three shades pinker. He uttered strange sounds. George howled:
“But darling, that’s Mr. Scattlebee. Don t you understand? He’s the man who is going to build the roller skate factory!”
“Yeah,” mumbled Flannelfoot. “I kinda made a mistake, honey. I pinched Mr. Scattlebee.”
Penny inspected the prisoner thoughtfully.
“Oh! Are you really going to build a roller skate factory here, Mr. Scattlebee?”
Mr. Scattlebee found voice. He was not, he said, going to build a roller skate factory in Wakeville. He hadn’t the faintest intention of building a roller skate factory in such a benighted town. Not for ten million dollars, he declared feverishly, would he build a roller skate factory in Wakeville. After being thrown in jail and treated like a pickpocket, did she think he was crazy enough to reward the town by building a roller skate factory? But he had every intention of suing Wakeville for damages. Mr. Scattlebee was a little hoarse by the time he began estimating the damages.
Penny turned to George.
“And you want to let him out?” she exclaimed. “He hasn’t any intention of building a roller skate factory. He just said so. He just wants to get out so he can sue the town. After hitting Pop in the eye. Why, it’s against the law to hit a policeman in the eye.”
“Good girl!” rejoiced Aunt Gertrude. “You tell ’em, Penny!”
Penny took the key from her purse. “Here you are, Pop,” she said. “It’s your key and this is none of my business, of course, but I’ll be darned if I’d let that man out. You did perfectly right in locking him up.”
Flannelfoot took the key. He scratched the back of his neck. He looked at Scattlebee. He looked at George. Tenderly, he felt his eye.
“You know, George,” he rumbled, “there’s a lot in what she says. Why am I bustin’ my neck trying to turn this fellow loose? We don’t owe him nothin’. He ain’t going to build any roller skate factory. And he did sock me in the eye.”
“Certainly,” declared Penny. “And when the reporters ask you why you locked Mr. Scattlebee in jail, you tell them, Pop. There’s a reporter from one of the city papers hunting all over town for you, George. He has a camera man with him too. That’s a big story. Pop’s first arrest in five years...”
“Wait a minute!” shrieked Mr. Scattlebee in wild alarm. “Now, wait a minute! Let’s talk this over. But don’t let any reporter in here. Lady, will you lock that outside door?”
“Now we’re getting somewhere,” beamed Aunt Gertrude, and closed the door of the lockup. “But we’ll have to hurry. There’s no padlock and that camera man looked to me like a man who’d stop at nothing for the sake of a good picture.”
Flannelfoot tapped the key reflectively against the bars of Mr. Scattlebee’s cell.
“I don’t want to be hard on anybody,” he said. “You know, George, that I ain’t the sort of cop who goes around making trouble for folks. If Mr. Scattlebee is sorry he socked me in the eye, and if he was just talking foolish when he said all those things about suing the town, and about not building the roller skate factory... ”
“You win!” yelped Scattlebee. “And don’t fool around with that key. You’re liable to lose it.”
DAVE MOONEY, the undertaker, was enjoying the shade of the awning in front of his furniture store next morning when Flannelfoot came by. Mr. Mooney was reading one of the city newspapers.
“Morning, Dave.” Flannelfoot eased his bulk into a wicker chair—Special, $1.75; reg. $2.25.
“By gosh,” said Mooney, “it looks as if you and George have gone and made the town famous. Have you been reading what the papers say about it?”
“I read some,” admitted Flannelfoot.
“This interview with George,” said Mooney. “It reads pretty good. ‘Of course,’ said Mayor Claybourne with a smile, ‘there was never any intention of prosecuting any of the citizens who unwittingly broke those old by-laws. Perhaps the campaign was a little sensational. But at least it revealed the fact that the municipal laws were in need of being overhauled and brought up to date.’ ” Mr. Mooney wagged his head sagely. “It took a lawyer like George to see that.”
“George is a smart boy,” grunted Flannelfoot.
“You’re darn tootin’ he is,” declared Mooney. “Yesterday I was just about ready to kill him. And you too. But look what he did. Why he’s gone and put Wakeville on the map. Every newspaper in the country talking about us. One of ’em even had a picture of Al Blossom reading his summons. Al is so tickled you’d think he’d been given a gold mine. And this fellow Scattlebee going to start work building a roller skate factory. That’s progress, by gosh!”
“Yep!” said Flannelfoot. “That’s progress. Mr. Scattlebee says you couldn't buy publicity like that for a million dollars.”
Mr. Mooney beamed.
“Just goes to show what a small town can do when it’s got a smart, hustling, go-ahead fellow like George Claybourne for mayor.”
Down the street came Waldo P. Johnson, puffing the final installment of his after-breakfast cigar. Waldo P. Johnson’s derby hat was tilted at a jaunty angle. He twirled his cane. And when he spied Flannelfoot he uttered a bleat of fiendish glee.
“Well, well, well!” yipped Waldo P. Johnson. He tossed aside the cigar butt, and skipped nimbly toward his victim. “If it isn't good old Flannelfoot! Just my luck that I was out of town yesterday. They tell me you went to work for a change. Turning the town inside out, hey? Getting your name in the papers, hah? By golly, Flannelfoot—”
Flannelfoot heaved himself out of the chair. He pointed a stubby finger at the cigar butt on the sidewalk.
“Pick that up!” he roared.
Waldo P. Johnson almost did a back handspring.
“What?” he squeaked.
“It’s against the law. If you’d been here yesterday, Waldo P. Johnson, you’d have got a summons. And if you don’t pick up that tobaccy you’ll get one anyway.”
Waldo P. Johnson was flabbergasted. “But—but look here, Flannelfoot—you can’t do this to me—”
“Can’t I? Pick up that cigar butt, Waldo P. Johnson, or I’ll run you in.”
Gingerly, Mr. Johnson picked it up. “Well, all right, if you’re going to get tough about it. Flannelfoot—”
“And my name ain’t Flannelfoot, to my friends. Maybe if you learn to behave yourself I’ll let you call me Flannelfoot. But for the time being, Waldo P. Johnson, you can call me Chief!”
“All right, Chief,” said the crestfallen Johnson in a meek voice. He scuttled off in search of an ash can.
“That’s tellin’ him,” approved Dave Mooney.
“There has gotta be respect for the law,” said Flannelfoot, with dignity. “How about a game of checkers, Dave?”
They were just getting out the checkerboard when Mayor George drove up. “Hi, Flannelfoot,” he sang out. “Have you seen Waldo P. Johnson around this morning?”
“Maybe.” Flannelfoot was cautious. “What do you want him for, George?”
“He told me to come around and talk business with him.” George got out of the car. “I had a chat with him last night. And do you know who he is?” said George briskly. “You wouldn’t guess in a hundred years.”
“I’ll bite,” said Dave Mooney. “Who is he?”
“Why, he’s the Waldo P. Johnson, president of the Johnson Map and Globe Company. The map business has been in such an uproar these past two years that he almost went nuts, so he came here to Wakeville for a rest. And he likes the town so much he’s figuring on moving his head office here. Darned nice little industry—why, what’s the matter, Flannelfoot?”
Flannelfoot croaked huskily, “I’ve got a phone call to make.”
In Mooney’s back room he called the house. And when Penny answered, he said: “I think maybe you’d better come downtown, honey. I’ve got an idea maybe George is going to need you again.”