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HOME > Classical Novels > The Worst Boy in Town > CHAPTER VIII. FUGITIVES FROM JUSTICE.
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CHAPTER VIII. FUGITIVES FROM JUSTICE.
On the next morning there was a marked scarcity of boys in places where, at ordinary times, boys most did congregate. The scamps who had scrambled about the edge of sacrilege on the preceding night, kept themselves carefully secluded from the general gaze, while other mischievous boys, having learned by sad experience that suspicion, like lightning, is much given to striking at objects that do not merit any such attention, devoted themselves industriously to home affairs, or went upon solitary journeys into the suburbs.

And these precautionary measures proved to be not without sense, for at a tolerably early hour the Post Office, which was also the office of the most popular of the two local justices of the peace, was approached by a strong delegation from the outraged Society of German Methodists. First came the renowned Vater Offenstein, supported by the Reverend Schnabel Mauterbach, pastor of the church. Vater Offenstein had not been able to keep his hair and clothing wet during the hot August night, but the water thrown from the syringe had not been very clean, so there were great stains upon the cotton shirt which its wearer would swear had been put on clean on the day of the service. The pastor bore the soiled and still damp copy of the Holy Book. Then came old Nokkerman, his hair carefully combed and soaped down, so that the justice might plainly see the bald spot which had been used as a target. Beside old Nokkerman walked Shantz the butcher, with his coat off, so that he might display the great red spot where the putty-ball had struck him. After them walked Petrus von Schlenker, to offer an affidavit that he had prayed during the service, though anyone who knew the gifts of the tongue of Petrus would have accepted a mere statement on that point as conclusive. Beside Petrus waddled Nuderkopf Trinkelspiel, jealously guarding in an empty paint can the bent pin which had caused him to disturb the meeting; he also bore, in their normal position, the well-patched trowsers through which the point of the pin had found its way.

Then came the sexton of the church, carrying under one arm the bench which Vater Offenstein had hurled at Satan's representative; in another hand he carried the broken glass and sash wrapped in two thicknesses of newspaper, and in his pocket was a match-box containing the papers and such other fragments as could be collected of the offending torpedoes. A number of witnesses followed, so that the postmaster-justice's little office was completely filled. Then the pastor announced that the party had called to make and substantiate a complaint, and various statements were volunteered before the justice could impress the assemblage with the necessity for administering oaths. Vater Offenstein, immediately upon being sworn, opened his coat, displayed his soiled shirt, and impressively held the Good Book aloft, opened at its stained, wet pages. Shantz the butcher delivered his own sworn statement with his face to the wall, the impressiveness of the proceeding being somewhat abated by his completely covering with his immense forefinger the red spot on the back of his neck; old Nokkerman bent nearly double so as to display his baldness as he talked; Petrus von Schlenker talked volubly to no purpose until cut short by the justice, and Nuderkopf Trinkelspiel, trying at the same time to hold aloft the torturing pin, look the justice impressively in the eye, and yet display the seat of offending beneath his upraised coat-tail, presented a figure which utterly destroyed judicial gravity. Then the sexton laid upon the table the little bench which Vater Offenstein had cast from the pulpit, and carefully unrolled the broken glass and sash, and brought up from the depth of his pocket the little but positive proof in the shape of fragments of torpedoes. Then the constable brought in lazy George Crayton, who had spent the night in the town jail, and who looked as pallid and guilty as if he had to answer for the crime of murdering a whole family.

George did not waive an examination; on the contrary, he had such a passion for confession that he included, in his list of accomplices, the name of every boy in town against whom he had any grudge whatever, and it was not until after the examination that it occurred to him that he personally had done nothing whatever to disturb the meeting. Then George's father gave bonds that his son should keep the peace, after which he led the youth home to the pain which follows discipline. Shantz the butcher turned up his shirt collar, the pastor and Vater Offenstein departed with the sacred Book, the sexton carried the pulpit bench back to its legitimate position. Old Nokkerman tried to scratch his head, but discovered, as his fingers slid impotently over the soaped locks, that the ends of justice are sometimes attained only through extra annoyance to the offended; Petrus von Schlenker, who had been slowly realizing that he had sustained no personal grievance, made the best of his time by engaging the justice on local politics; Nuderkopf Trinkelspiel carefully secured the offending pin, and the constable went in search of the yet unapprehended offenders.

Meanwhile, the innocent half of the Pinkshaw twins, who had been listening outside the window, had heard the list of the offenders pronounced by the justice as he wrote the warrant, and discovered to his horror that his own name was included therein, the informer having been uncertain as to which Pinkshaw twin was present. An inborn sense of equity suggested to him the application of the principle of an alibi, but later he realized that to be innocent yet suspected, would justify him in escaping the hated French class, and yet save him from the ordinary penalty of truancy. Away he sped to notify the whole list, and within half an hour nearly all the boys whose names were upon the warrant were informed of their legal status, while the constable, who fully realized how much work was before him, had barely finished strengthening himself at Gripp's rum-shop.

The first man notified was Jack, and as that youth had an utter abhorrence of loneliness he suggested to the Pinkshaw twin that he should name the Dead House blackberry patch as a safe place of rendezvous, inasmuch as nobody would be likely to go there, the blackberry season being over, there being no contagious disease raging in town, and the house being off the road to any where. He also suggested that the boys should bring with them whatever provisions they could lay hands upon. Then Jack, with his heart in his stockings, and his eyes feeling ready to overflow, made haste to collect a hatchet, a box of matches, his fishing tackle and whatever else he could think of, in his haste, as likely to mitigate the privations of exile. Great as his haste was, he found time to hide in the corncrib for a moment or two, kneel devoutly, and inform the Lord that he hadn't meant to do anything wrong, and that he hoped when next there was a scrape impending, the Lord would send an angel to forcibly drive Jack from the scene of action. More mature sinners, as they smile pityingly at this style of repentance, would do well to examine their own business consciences, and restrain their smiles until they ascertain whether they have not themselves indulged in many a similar ex post facto operation.

Arrived at the Dead House blackberry patch, Jack found quite an assortment of solemn-faced boys under the shady side of the high board fence. All of the guilty parties were there, except Sam Mugley, the saddler shop apprentice, whose employer had agreed to surrender the boy when necessary; there were also present many boys who preferred to flee the evils which they knew—to wit, French paradigms—than endure those they knew not of. Several boys immedi............
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