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[Ill.u.s.tration: A WILY DETECTIVE ON THE WRONG SCENT.]
Upon inquiry, I learned that he was the Honorable Marshal of the town.
To note his manner one would have thought that he had corralled a Jesse James. I didn't worry much, however, because I knew I could out-run any wooden-legged man in Michigan.
I then went over to the telegraph office and introduced myself to its occupant as a brother operator. He invited me inside the office, and asked me to make myself at home.
A few moments later the ten-o'clock train arrived from the west, and immediately after its departure the operator said he would have to go down the track and attend to his switch-light, and requested me to remain there till he returned.
During his absence a gentleman came to the office window, and very excitedly inquired if I was the operator. I said:
"Don't I look like one? What can I do for you, sir?"
"Well, see here: Has there been a young fellow here this evening by the name of Johnston, sending messages to his wife, or to any one else?"
"Yes, sir, he was telling me about a patent-right trade he had made for a horse. Guess he told me all about it."
"Where is he now, I wonder?" was his next query.
"Come with me. I'll show you right where to find him."
I then led the way up street, and in the meantime questioned him as to his business. He said he wanted to serve a writ of replevin and take the horse. I then asked if he had papers that would do for Branch County. He said he didn't need Branch County papers, as Burr Oak was in St. Joseph County.
This was most depressing news to me; but I walked along till I came to a street running north, when I stopped, and pointing in that direction, said:
"Now you go to the very last house on the left-hand side of this street, and inquire for Johnston. If they say he isn't there, you force your way into the house. Don't leave till you get in; and there's no one here who wouldn't be only too glad to see that family come up with by a good sharp detective. Now don't fail to get in, for there you will find your man."
He thanked me several times, and after shaking hands with me, started on the run.
I then hurried to the hotel and ordered my horse, which the landlord refused to let me have, saying that notice had been served on him to keep it locked up.
I sat down to await the coming of the great detective.
[Ill.u.s.tration: THE WILY DETECTIVE'S RETURN TO THE HOTEL.]
He soon made his appearance, and more resembled a tramp than the polished official of a few moments before. It was plainly evident to me that he had made a desperate attempt to follow my instructions. One-half of the skirt of his Prince Albert coat was entirely missing; no hat, a piece torn from the seat of his pants, only half of his linen collar left to grace his neck, and a single linen cuff to decorate his two wrists; one sleeve of his coat in rags, one of his pant legs fringed out, the perspiration running off him like rain-water, and one eye closed. He came in panting and puffing and roaring like a lion.
"Find me a Justice of the Peace, at once! I'll arrest the whole gang!"
"Arrest what gang? Who are you alluding to?" asked the landlord.
"Why, that gang up north here. I'll arrest the whole mob, and shoot that dog if I get killed for it!"
"Well, I supposed you were looking for Johnston?"
"Well, so I am; but they have him down there stowed away, and a whole regiment of soldiers wouldn't be able to get in, unless that dog is put out of the way. And that pesky old woman looks more like the devil than a human being. I wouldn't venture back there alone for the whole north half of Michigan!"
"But isn't this the man you want?" pointing to me.
"The devil, no. What do I want of the telegraph operator? I want Johnston, but I'd give more for that ---- old woman's scalp and that dog's life than I would for a dozen Johnstons and all the horses in the state, and I----"
"But," interrupted the landlord, "this isn't the operator; this is Johnston,--or at least, he's the man who rode the horse here."
"The d.i.c.kens he is!" shrieked the officer. "This is the man who sent me up there, and--"
"Did you get in?" I asked, insinuatingly.
"Get in? I want you to understand this is no joke, sir!" said he, as he came towards me in a threatening manner. "And if you're Johnston you ought to have your heart cut out. Look at me, look at me, sir: Do you think there is anything funny about this?"
"Well, I thought I'd give you a little sharp detective work to do before capturing my horse, so you would have something wonderful to relate when you arrived home."
"Then you're the man I want, are you?"
"Yes, sir, I suppose I am; but really, my friend, I didn't suppose you were going to lose all your clothes, and get completely knocked out and so thoroughly demoralized. How did it all happen?"
"Oh, you're too ---- funny! It's none of your ---- business how it all happened. I'll get even with you. I'm sorry I haven't a warrant for your arrest, instead of a writ of replevin for a horse, ---- you!"
"See here; don't you ---- me, sir, or I'll finish you up right here, in less than one minute!"
He then quieted down, and after serving the writ, took possession of the horse, before leaving for Sturgis. However, he spent nearly an hour in mending his clothes, patching up his nose and face, and dressing the slight flesh-wounds on his hands and arms, after which he borrowed a hat, and as I supposed, returned to Sturgis with the horse.
I remained over night at the hotel, although I was completely stranded, and wondered what I should do to make a raise. I realized fully that I would be obliged to lose several days' valuable time were I to remain there to contest the ownership of the horse, as return day had been set six days ahead. Hence I considered it folly to lose so much time for the value of a horse.
The next morning I arose early, and after breakfast began to search for an opportunity to make a few dollars.
I happened into a drug store and entering into conversation with the proprietor found him a very agreeable gentleman and explained to him that I was a "little short," and inquired if he had any patent medicines, pills, or anything in that line that a good salesman could handle. He replied that the only thing he had was about a gallon of lemon extract which he had made himself from a recipe he had been foolish enough to pay ten dollars for, and had never yet sold ten cents'
worth of the stuff.
I asked to see it and on tasting it found an excellent article. I then asked if he would let me take the gla.s.s jar and a small graduate to measure it with, and he said: "Certainly."
With the flavoring extract and measure I started for a general canva.s.s, going from house to house and introducing "The finest grade of lemon extract, twenty-five cents per ounce or five ounces for one dollar."
Each purchaser must furnish her own bottle to hold it.
I returned at noon with seven dollars sixty cents, when I took the balance of the dope back to the druggist and asked how much I owed him.
"Well, I'll tell you, I'd like to sell the whole of it out to you. I'll take fifty cents and you own all the flavoring extract there is left, and I'll sell you the jar and graduate cheap if you want them."
"All right sir," handing over the fifty cents, "I'll return after dinner and try it again."
This little experience about convinced me that there was more money in that business than in patent rights.
As I was on my way to the hotel I met a man with a small flour-sifter for the sale of which he was acting as general agent in appointing sub-agents.
I asked his terms.
He said he required each new agent to buy four hundred sifters at twenty-five cents each, which he could retail for fifty cents. Unless a man could buy this number he could not have agency.
After dinner I started out again with the flavoring extract. At the third house I entered, an old gentleman asked if I could get him the agency for it. He said it wasn't necessary for him to do anything of the kind, as he owned a nice home and a small farm and had some money on interest, but he didn't like to spend his time in idleness. I told him that our house had no vacancies, but I could intercede in his behalf in making him an agent for a patent flour-sifter.