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Title: The Pie and the Pirate Author: Albert Lee * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 1600891h.html Language: English Date first posted: August 2016 Most recent update: August 2016 This eBook was produced by: Walter Moore Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg Australia Licence which may be viewed online.
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The broad windows of the spacious, old-fashioned, tile-floored kitchen were wide open to the gentle June breeze that blew in from the garden and got itself all tangled up in the somewhat disheveled locks of a very pretty young woman, apparently busily engaged in some sort of culinary operation. Over her dainty summer frock she wore a big apron; her sleeves were rolled to her elbows, and her arms were spattered with flour. Every minute or two she knelt before the stove, opened the oven door, glanced within, frowned, slammed the door back again, and then stamped her foot impatiently as she glanced quickly up at the clock. There was obviously some connection between the flight of time and her efforts at baking.
Between peeps into the oven she would rush to the kitchen door and gaze down the flower-bordered path as far as she could see—as far as the turn where it disappeared behind a great bush of bobbing hydrangeas. Satisfied with her inspection, she would rush back to the oven, and again look eagerly in upon her undertaking.
At length she seemed satisfied with the conditions observed, and protecting her hand with her apron, she reached into the stove and pulled out—a pie. It was a large, fat, bulging pie, a sort of mansard-roof pie; and from the speed with which she set it down upon the floor, it was unquestionably a very hot pie. She thrust the tips of her little pink fingers into her mouth, frowned once again, and then proceeded hastily to close all the drafts and the dampers.
Another swift glance down the path, and back she went to the pie. She picked it up, carried it over to the ice-box, and set it directly upon the ice. Then bang! went the door of the ice-box, there was a flutter of skirts, and bang! went the door of the kitchen, as this very pretty young woman rushed away and pattered rapidly up-stairs to her own room.
Almost immediately, however, she returned, and with unrelaxed vigilance made it her duty to scan the suspected path once more before proceeding about her business. In one hand she carried a bundle, consisting apparently of a number of small, heavy objects, done up in a handkerchief; in the other she held a bottle of liquid glue. These she placed upon the kitchen table and again sought the pie. It was not quite so cool as she would have liked to find it, but placing the pie upon the table, she took up a sharp knife and began slowly to remove the top crust. The next step in the odd procedure was to scrape out into a bowl all the luscious fruit that had been baked in the pie. Then she took this delicacy outside, and dumped it into the refuse-barrel without so much as the quiver of an eyelash. The bottom crust was then thrust into the oven, scraped slightly afterward, that it might be as dry as possible, and sprinkled with a bit of flour. A round piece of oiled paper, already prepared, was then laid upon it, and over this a neatly folded white handkerchief.
After one more furtive and breathless inspection of the path, the young woman untied her little bundle. There was a string of pearls; there were two large diamond brooches; other pieces of exquisite design, many of them unquestionably antique; fully ten rings set with brilliant stones in varied style; two gold chains, one set with diamonds; little pins, big pins.
With the greatest of care, our eccentric pastry-cook placed all these jewels carefully upon the bottom crust of the pie, winding and piling them in such a way that they fitted perfectly under the upper crust, when she finally adjusted that. She thereupon opened the pot of glue, and with a keen knife smeared the under edges of the crusts sufficiently to fasten these tightly together.
“When it dries,” she murmured with conviction, “it will certainly look like melted sugar.” Then she quickly set the pie in the bottom of the ice-box, and hid the glue pot in the closet.
In less than two minutes the gravel path crunched under approaching footsteps, and presently a rotund figure, topped with a dusky, smiling face, appeared slowly from behind the hydrangeas, carrying on one arm a basket full of parcels and waving greenery.
“Fo’ de Lawd’s sake, Miss Barbara,” exclaimed the old colored woman, “you ain’t been a-hangin’ round my kitchen all de time I been in de village a-doin’ yo’ errands!”
“No, indeed, ’Mandy,” laughed the girl. “I have not been hanging round your kitchen; I’ve been hustling round it. I’ve made a pie.”
“Ain’t I tole you a hunnerd times, chile, dose han’s o’ yours ain’t ’tended fo’ to make no pie? Can’t I make pies good enough fo’ you-all?”
“Indeed you can, ’Mandy,” replied the girl, smiling, and backing into the kitchen in advance of the panting old servant; “but I wanted to bake a pie myself to-day; and I knew you would make such a fuss about it that I waited until you had gone to market.”
“You mus’ a’ made a pretty quick pie,” commented ’Mandy, glancing about at the orderly condition of her kitchen.
“Well, it’s all done now, anyway,” proceeded Barbara, quickly, “and this afternoon I am going to take it down to old Mrs. Parsons.”
’Mandy laughed outright. “I ain’t sayin’ nothin’ ag’in’ yo’ pies, Miss Barbara,” she finally observed; “but pore ole Miss Parsons she can’t eat no pies, nohow.”
Barbara was tempted to add that the amiable old invalid certainly would not be able to eat that one; but she merely chuckled at the bottling up of her own secret, and slipped out into the sunshine, leaving ’Mandy to set about the preparation of the midday meal.
This process had been barely begun, a few pots and kettles had been placed upon the stove, and the old negress was about to sit down to peel potatoes, when she was startled by two boyish voices shouting in unison, “Hello, ’Mandy!”
Turning quickly in the direction of these sudden sounds, she saw Ted and Benny resting on the windowsill in the attitude of Raphael’s cherubs. Ted, fourteen, and Benny, his cousin, twelve, had a capacity for food, especially between meals, which was one of the old cook’s chief sources of worry and dismay.
“Well?” she began, non-committally, making a pretense of resuming her work.
The boys meanwhile were moving leisurely into the kitchen and casting their eyes about, seeking what they might devour.
“What you cooking for lunch?” asked Benny, as he peered at the stove.
“Now, you Benny,” cried ’Mandy, hastening toward him, “you git away from dat stove! And you, Teddy, you quit fumblin’ round dat basket! Ef you two boys don’t git out o’ here an’ let me do my cookin’,”—arming herself with a huge wooden spoon,—“I’ll tell yo’ uncle, and yo’ father”—this to Benny.
But at about this point in her harangue ’Mandy became aware that the boys were paying no attention whatever to the dire threats she was making, but were standing there spellbound, in the middle of the kitchen, gazing right past her into space. She ceased talking, and turned slowly about to discover what might be behind her.
Standing framed in the doorway was such a figure of a man as ’Mandy had never dreamed could exist outside of the stories they tell to frighten children. He was of medium height, with a great, broad-brimmed, black felt hat pulled down at one side. His long hair fell to his shoulders, and a fierce black mustache drooped over the corners of his mouth. He wore a short coat with brass buttons, and from the top of his broad belt protruded the handles of two wicked-looking pistols. His trousers ended just below the knee, where they were met by the tops of tall sea-boots which were folded back over the boots.
One look at this apparition was enough for ’Mandy. She emitted a sort of guttural sound which might have been an invocation, and made a dive for the nearest door. It is quite probable that she meant to rush into the house for safety; but in her panic she chose the cellar door, and, as this slammed behind her, the boys and the intruder heard a large, fat body bump-ety-bump down a long flight of wooden steps and finally crash into a barrel, which, from the resulting sounds, had evidently been filled with empty bottles. After that, there was not a sound.
The boys were not quite so dismayed as ’Mandy, and they presently noticed that, in spite of his fierce make-up, the stranger bore a not unkindly countenance. This impression was strengthened when he took off his hat and remarked in quiet, serious tones:
“I am afraid I have alarmed the cook.”
“I guess you’ve killed her,” ventured Benny.
“They say it’s bad luck to kill a nigger,” continued the stranger.
Ted, who had been closely scanning their visitor, and who had noted the peculiarities of his costume, now gathered himself together sufficiently to ask:
“Are you a pirate?”
“Yes, young gentlemen,” he replied gaily, replacing his hat; “I am a pirate. I—”
“Where is your pirate ship?”
“Not far away,” the man explained, waving one arm toward the outer world; “safely anchored to a fence some little distance back. I thought you might be in need of soap—”
“Soap!” exclaimed both the boys at once, involuntarily looking at their hands, which showed the marks of a morning’s unrestricted leisure.
“Not you, young gentlemen,” quickly interposed the pirate, noticing that he had broached a tender subject; “not you. I meant the household. I thought you might require soap for the floor, for the pots and pans, for general housework.”
“Oh,” said Benny; and then in a low tone to Ted: “Do you suppose he’s a real pirate?”
“He certainly looks like one. Let’s sneak.”
But Benny was of sterner heart. “Are you a real pirate?” he asked.
“I am that,” the man answered; “a r-r-real pirate, and I’ve sailed the Spanish main—” The boys retreated slightly toward the rear of the kitchen.
“But have no fear,” he continued pleasantly; “I am not a fierce or a bloodthirsty pirate. In fact, my ways are so mild that they call me ‘Gentle Jim.’” With a sigh, Gentle Jim sat down upon a neighboring chair.
“What’s the name of your ship?” began Ted, considerably reassured.
“Ah, my ship,” he repeated, “she is the Saucy Sally, and a right good ship she is.”
“Long, black, with rakish masts?” asked Benny, in a sort of stage whisper.
“No,” stammered Gentle Jim, thoughtfully—“no; not quite that. She is smaller. She is only a schooner—a one-horse-power schooner—”
“But there isn’t any river hereabouts,” objected Ted, somewhat suspiciously.
“Ah, that’s it,” admitted the pirate, rising from his chair; “that’s just it. No raging sea or shallow stream may balk the Saucy Sally of her prey. Perhaps you would like to see her.”
“Indeed we would,” came from the boys in one breath.
“Then it will give me great pleasure to lead you to where she is anchored. But first,”—and the pirate assumed a most pained and apologetic expression,—“if I may so intrude, I omitted to breakfast this morning; and it being now nearly noon—”
“That’s right,” interrupted Benny, addressing himself to Ted; “it is nearly noon, and we’re hungry, too. Let’s look about and see if we can’t find something and we’ll all go down to the pirate ship and eat.”
An examination of the market-basket displayed nothing but uncooked vegetables and well-soldered tins. The next likely spot, naturally, was the ice-box. Ted squatted in front of it and pulled the door open. The first thing his eye rested upon was Barbara’s pie. He seized upon it and held it up to view with a shout of delight.
“Hooray!” cried Benny, “that’s enough for three!”
“Sure,” assented Gentle Jim. “Let us go.”
“How far do we have to go?”
“Well, the Saucy Sally is anchored about a quarter of a mile down the road?”
“A schooner on the road?”
“I ought perhaps to have explained,” began the pirate, with some hesitancy, “that the Saucy Sally is not exactly a sailing schooner. She is a ‘prairie schooner’—a sort of wagon, you know, with a big top—”
“Oh!” groaned Benny, casting a look of reproach toward Gentle Jim.
After a moment of reflection, Ted said:
“I’m thinking it wouldn’t just do for us to carve this pie quite so near the house. You drive your wagon down the road about a mile till you come to the stile; you’ll know the place by the four big chestnut-trees on each side of the road. That’s a good place to eat pie. Benny and I will cut across lots and get there about the same time you do. And, here, you can carry the pie.”
Gentle Jim seized the dish greedily, winked at the boys, and set forth rapidly down the path whence he had come.
Benny was the first to go to the cellar door.
“Hello there, ’Mandy!” he cried gaily, peering down into the semidarkness.
“Lord o’ massy, chile! is dat you?” came hoarsely from below. “Is dat bogie-man gone?”
“Ah, go ’long with you, ’Mandy,” put in Ted; “he’s only a pirate; and—yes, he’s gone. How many bottles did you break?”
“Lord a’mighty, boy! how do I know? I ain’t moved hair nor hide sence I come down here, I was dat skeered.”
“That’s all right; but you’d better come up now. If you don’t watch out, perhaps the pirate will crawl in through the coal-hole and chase you up.”
Presently she came plodding up the steps and peered cautiously into the kitchen, apparently none the worse for her adventure.
“You sho he’s gone?” she inquired apprehensively, as she made a faint attempt to dust some of the grime off her apron.
“We are going too, now,” added Ted, cheerfully, “so as not to be in your way.”
And with the expression of this magnanimous sentiment the boys started for the door.
But here Fate still held one more delay in store for them in the form of Barbara, who suddenly appeared from the garden, her arms laden with flowers. Upon seeing the boys, she immediately assumed the elder-sister expression of firmness and severity, and, looking at them fixedly, began her reproaches:
“You two boys in the kitchen again? How many times must you be told—”
But that was as far as she got. When Barbara’s eyes finally rested upon ’Mandy’s tousled figure, covered with dust and streaks from head to foot, her cap dangling over one ear, her apron half-way round on one side, she gave a gasp, and sank overcome into the nearest chair.
“Don’ you look at me, Miss Ba’bra! jes don’ you look at me!” began ’Mandy.
“For goodness’ sake, what has happened? Have the boys—”
“Oh, no, God bless ’em!” broke in the old cook. “Ef de boys hadn’t been here, Miss Ba’bra, we might all be daid by now. Dere was a man come here,” she continued, growing more and more excited as she told of the apparition.
“Come, come, ’Mandy,” interrupted Barbara, stamping her foot impatiently, “what is all this nonsense? What does this mean?”
“Why, nothing, Bob,” put in Ted, “except that ’Mandy got scared to death and jumped down the cellar steps. He was only a pirate—”
“And he did not have his pistols in his hands,” cried Benny; “they were in his belt.”
By this time Barbara had assumed an even more than-elder-sister expression of severity. ’Mandy was about to continue her explanations, but Barbara held up her hand.
“Hush, every one of you!” she commanded. “Now, if you are not all crazy, I want to know what has happened. And I want you to talk one at a time. Now, Ted, what is this foolishness about a pirate?”
“It’s no foolishness, Bob,” replied the boy, earnestly. “He said he was a pirate. But he didn’t mean any harm. He said to call him Gentle Jim, and he said he only wanted to ask if we needed any soap—”
“A peddler, probably,” remarked Barbara, curtly, a light beginning to dawn upon her troubled senses.
“No; he was just a pirate. And he said he was hungry, and—and—”
Here the explanation became difficult, and Ted’s voice stammered off into an unintelligible muttering. Benny meanwhile had slid around to a safe position near the door.
“And what?” asked Barbara, impatiently.
“Well, he was hungry, you know, and he had not had any breakfast, and he really wanted something to eat; and so I looked around to find something for him, and I went to the ice-box, and—”
“And—” repeated Barbara, eagerly, leaning forward in her chair.
“And I just gave him a little something out of the ice-box,” concluded Ted, with as much calmness as he could muster.
“What did you give him?” asked Barbara, slowly, while cold chills seemed to travel up and down her spine.
“Oh,” drawled Ted, “I just gave him a pie that happened to be in the ice-box—”
With an inarticulate cry, Barbara leaped from her chair, rushed to the ice-box, pulled open the door, and finding her worst dread confirmed, put her hands up to her face, and burst into tears.
“My pie!” she gasped. “You gave him my pie! How could you!”
“Where is he? Where is he? Where is my pie?” she cried again and again.
“Why, confound it, Bob, I did not know it was your pie; I would not have given it away if I had known it was your pie. I thought it was just an ordinary pie. How should I know it was your pie?”
“Yes, how should he know, Bob?” ventured Benny, from the doorway. “There was nothing to show it was your pie. We did not taste it.”
But Barbara, on her knees in front of the ice-box, merely rocked to and fro and sobbed.
“Exactly,” continued Ted, with unconscious cruelty; “there was nothing to show it was your pie. Your name was not signed to it.”
“Enough, you little wretch!” cried Barbara. “We must all get it back. Go, both of you, as fast as you can!” She snapped out her sentences between sobs. “Go and get that pie, or don’t ever come back to this house. Now hurry!” She waved them frantically out into the sunlight.
Then she turned to ’Mandy. “You run out to the stable and tell Henry to saddle Nip at once.”
The pirate, with his pie in his hands, and a gleam of joy in his eyes, walked blithely away from the big house, down the road toward the shady spot where he had left the Saucy Sally.
He was not, of course, as the boys believed, a real pirate, but, as Barbara had surmised, a peddler. His eccentric costume was part of his stock in trade, his means of livelihood being the sale of “Pirate Soap.”
The Saucy Sally was, as Gentle Jim had truthfully said, “a sort of wagon.” It was built upon the lines of the prairie schooners of the Forty-niners, only much smaller, being about the size of an ordinary express cart. In large letters, on both sides of its canvas covering, was painted, “PIRATE SOAP.” Along the back board was neatly printed SAUCY SALLY and from a little stick overhead floated a small black flag blazoned with a skull and crossbones. The horse which had drawn this strange vehicle through many miles of rural district was a lean, flea-bitten roan.
Gentle Jim lost no time in setting forth in the direction appointed by the boys. The spot was easily recognizable, for nowhere along the road were there eight such big trees as the chestnuts which stood sentinel at the stile.
The pirate drew up by the roadside, and set about making himself comfortable for the consumption of the pie. He took off his hat and his belt, which he tossed carelessly into the wagon, thus betraying the fact that the fierce-looking pistols were merely pieces of turned wood riveted to the belt, and as harmless. He then drew out an empty soap-box from his load, and, after considerable rummaging under the seat, produced a nicked plate and a knife.
Seating himself upon the inverted soap-box, Gentle Jim proceeded to whet the knife vigorously upon one flapping boot. Moistening his lips, he placed the great, yellow, bulging pie firmly upon his knees, and, with one melodramatic sweep of his blade through the air, picked the central spot of the crust, resting the point of his knife directly upon it. His eyes were fairly bulging with anticipation, and the incision was just about to be made, when he heard boyish voices halloing in the field beyond. Rising quickly, he saw Ted and Benny scampering toward him through the daisies. His spirits fell. He had half-unconsciously hoped that they might not come. He slipped the pie deftly under the soapbox, and resumed his seat. Then he picked up the plate and set about polishing it vigorously.
“Hello!” cried the pirate, looking up genially as the boys approached.
“Is that the Saucy Sally?” was Benny’s immediate query, as he stood panting before the canvas-topped wagon.
“That’s the very craft,” replied Gentle Jim.
“Barbara was quite right when she said he was only a peddler,” observed Ted, scornfully. And then, after a pause, to Gentle Jim: “How about the pie?”
The pirate held the empty plate aloft.
“You were a long time getting here,” he said.
“We were held up, or we should have been here as soon as you were.”
“I told you, you know,” continued Gentle Jim, “that I had not had any breakfast. I could not wait for you all day.”
“Then the pie is all gone?” cried Ted. “Gee! Benny, but we’ll get it good from Barbara when we get home!”
Benny made no reply, but pondered sadly over the outcome of their adventure.
“She made an awful fuss about one pie,” Ted remarked in an undertone.
“It’s up to you,” replied Benny, sullenly.
“You would have eaten your share of it, wouldn’t you?” retorted Ted; then turning to the pirate, who still retained his seat on the soap-box, he asked, apparently chiefly for the sake of making conversation:
“What kind of a pie was it?”
“A good pie.”
“But what kind?”
“Oh,” murmured Gentle Jim with some hesitation. “What kind of a pie? Why, it was a—a—mince pie.”
“Humph!” grunted Ted. “Well, I guess I like mince pie as well as any. That horse of yours is not such a much.”
“He’s a good deal to me,” returned Gentle Jim.
“What’s his name?”
“That’s a queer name for a horse.”
“It’s a good name for him. He’s the Saucy Sally’s one-horse power, isn’t he? That’s why I call him Engine.”
“Where do you go from here?” presently continued Ted, feeling perhaps that he ought to get as much information as he could, in case Barbara should put him to another inquisition.
But before the pirate could make a reply all three were attracted by the noise of hoofs coming up the road; and as they looked in that direction they saw Barbara galloping toward them, followed at an equal speed by a big, bearded man in a buggy, whom the boys immediately recognized as Mr. Beecroft, the local hackman and village constable.
Barbara rode directly up to Ted, reined in sharply, and, leaning forward, whispered:
“Have you got the pie?”
“He’s eaten it,” answered Ted, sullenly.
“Rubbish!” exclaimed Barbara. Then turning back to where Mr. Beecroft had stopped and was now clambering out of his buggy, she merely nodded, and awaited developments.
Mr. Beecroft was a large man with bushy eyebrows and a bushy beard. He looked the part of a pirate even more than Gentle Jim. He also took his responsibilities as an officer of the law very seriously, having so few occasions to assume them. Apparently there had been an understanding between him and Barbara, for he wasted no words on Gentle Jim.
“Here, you,” he cried, “the judge wants to see you at his office.”
“But—” began the pirate, rising slowly, much bewildered, from his soap-box.
“But nothing!” roared Mr. Beecroft. “Get into my buggy there and explain to the judge.”
Gentle Jim was completely overcome by this sudden turn of affairs. He naturally did not associate the galloping lady and the bearded constable with the two boys and the pie. He could not in any way make out what it was all about; and as soon as he tried to inquire, or to make explanations himself, the fierce Mr. Beecroft made threatening gestures and bellowed at him in a manner that defied resistance. Therefore, at length, Gentle Jim moved toward the buggy and asked meekly:
“How about my horse and wagon?”
“Those boys’ll bring ’em along,” growled the constable. “You boys jump in there and follow me.” Meanwhile the pie rested undisturbed by the roadside beneath the inverted soap-box.
Some fifteen or twenty minutes after Mr. Beecroft with his prisoner, followed by the others concerned, had departed from the stile, a young man turned into the road from a lane some hundred yards above the chestnuts and walked leisurely toward the scene of recent excitement. He certainly did not belong to those parts. No one could have doubted for a minute that he came fresh from the city. He wore smart flannels and a modish straw hat, and in one hand he carried a satchel, on which might plainly be seen the initials “T. B.” He walked along slowly, as one who is in no particular haste; and yet from the manner in which he constantly looked on this side and on that, it might have been assumed that he was either looking for some one, or that he did not himself care to be seen by anybody. When he reached the shaded grove of chestnuts, he glanced about it in familiar recognition, and his eyes, falling upon the soap-box, he strolled over to it and sat down, tossing the satchel upon the grass beside him. With a sigh of relief he pulled out his watch and murmured, “Half-past one.”
Then he took from his inner pocket a letter, closely written on several sheets of paper, which he affectionately unfolded and proceeded to read. He had probably read this same letter a dozen times that morning, and doubtless knew it entirely by heart; nevertheless, from beginning to end he now took in its contents again:
DEAR TOM: I had another long siege with Uncle George last night, and I am at last fully convinced, as you have been for some time, that it is useless to argue any further. They will not see that your affairs and mine have no connection with this miserable litigation that is going on. They persist in the contention that because your father chooses to get into a fight with my father’s estate, I must have nothing to do with you. Well, that Capulet and Montague attitude may have been all very well in the fourteenth century, but it does not pass in the twentieth. So I surrender to your logic, and am ready to take the bull by the horns at once. Both Uncle George and Aunt Jane have some suspicion of my determination, I fear, because Uncle George announced to me last night that I am never to see you again, never to write to you, and that, to make things certain, I am not to go to the city or to visit any of my friends for months to come, “until I get over it.” Well, it’s a pretty dull pastime here for me, you may be sure. It’s all very well for Ted, who is at school eight months of the year, and who loves the lonely old spot when he gets here; but I am ready to fly, and I am writing you now, as I promised I would as soon as I could make up my mind to take the step. After we are married, we can talk to Uncle George and Aunt Jane from a decided point of vantage.
Now, here is my plan: You are to come here Saturday. Take the eight o’clock train from the city, and that will land you in the village shortly after noon. This train does not make a very good connection at the junction, but it is the only one that will bring you here in time. Be very careful not to let any one in the village see you, and dodge any passers on the road. I will meet you at the stile at two o’clock. That will give us plenty of time to get to the village for the afternoon train to the city, and I can go directly to Molly’s. We will telegraph her. We can be married Sunday or Monday, for, even after my absence is noticed Saturday evening, Uncle George can’t get out of here, because there are no Sunday trains.
Bring with you a satchel of some kind, empty, as I shall want to carry away a few small things with me, and I cannot leave the house with a satchel, of course, without arousing suspicion. My method of escape is perfectly simple. Saturday morning I shall prepare some little dainty, which I shall announce I am going to take down to old Mrs. Parsons, who lives in the hollow, and who has been ill so long. I do this every now and then. I will leave the house on my “errand of mercy” immediately after luncheon, and will meet you at the stile at two o’clock. Be very careful not to let any one see you, or know of your presence in this neighborhood. . . .
With another deep sigh of satisfaction the young man looked once more carefully up and down the deserted road, folded the letter, and replaced it in his pocket.
He filed his pipe and smoked it. He walked about aimlessly, and the minutes dragged on leaden wings. Two o’clock came and went; but girls, he argued, even when about to elope, are rarely on time. Our adventurer, as was evident from the letter, had started from the city on an eight o’clock train. In his haste he had taken only a cup of coffee and a roll for his breakfast. At the village he had not dared to expose himself for the sake of a bite of luncheon. And now it was after two o’clock, and hunger made calls within him.
The sun had moved westward, so that its rays now fell hotly across the soap-box where he had lately been sitting. Tired of tramping up and down he turned again to the box, and picked it up to place it in a more suitable spot under the shade of one of the chestnuts. As he did so, the round, fat face of the pie was disclosed to him, and manna never appeared as a more grateful sight to the children of Israel. He picked up the dish and looked at it curiously. It certainly was a real pie. But how did it come under this soap-box?
Yet, after all, the young man was not of an over-inquisitive disposition, and he was hungry; and here was a succulent pie. He left the soap-box where it lay, and carried the pie across the road to a grassy bank whence he would obtain a more extensive view down the road.
He ensconced himself comfortably in the grassy shade, drew his pocket-knife from his pocket, and opened the largest blade. Placing the sharp point directly in the center of the crust, just as the pirate had done, he was about to make the decisive incision, when his attention was attracted by the sound of approaching wheels.
Looking sharply down the road, he saw, to his consternation, a buggy coming rapidly, followed by another wagon, which appeared to have a white canopy-top, and still behind this, in a great cloud of dust, a horseman.
He opened his satchel quickly, thrust the pie into it, vaulted over the fence behind him, and scurried along in the opposite direction from the approaching conveyances. But the satchel was heavy; and at once he realized that, as he was bound to return to the place, he might as well leave his impediment there. Without a second thought he tossed it, pie and all, under a bush, and fled to the sheltering safety of the shaded lane out of which he had originally come.
The office of Mr. Penwyck, justice of the peace, was located in that gentleman’s home in the outskirts of the village. He had, no doubt, already been made aware of the business on hand, for he evidenced no surprise when Mr. Beecroft ushered the pirate into his presence, followed grimly by Barbara and very reluctantly by the boys. That is, he displayed no particular astonishment until, with studied calm, he looked up leisurely from the papers on his desk and discovered the pirate.
Mr. Penwyck cocked one eye at him over his gold spectacles, then carefully removed his glasses, rubbed them with a voluminous silk handkerchief, restored them to his nose, and for several moments gazed fixedly at Gentle Jim.
“What is the charge against the prisoner?” he finally inquired with deliberation; but even before Mr. Beecroft could reply, the justice continued: “Is it of giving a theatrical performance without a license?”
“No, Judge,” answered the constable; “there ain’t no definite charge against the prisoner yet. I apprehended the man at the request of Miss Salisbury. She’s the complainant. She’ll make the charge, sir.”
Mr. Penwyck looked up inquiringly at Barbara.
“I don’t know exactly how to put it, Mr. Penwyck,” she began slowly.
“What is the charge, please?” repeated the judge.
“I want my pie back,” said Barbara with prompt decision.
Mr. Penwyck’s brow wrinkled, and he looked up to Mr. Beecroft for a possible elucidation.
“It seems this man took a pie off Miss Salisbury,” explained the constable.
“I did nothing of the kind, Judge!” indignantly exclaimed the pirate.
“Silence!” shouted Mr. Beecroft. “You’ll get a chance to talk when the judge speaks to you.”
“Miss Salisbury,” began Mr. Penwyck, with much deliberation, and apparently ignoring the interruption, “if you will be so kind as to tell me in your own way the circumstances which have led to the arrest of this prisoner, the court will no doubt be able to advise you as to the proper charge to bring against him.”
Barbara, then, told her story of putting the pie in the ice-box (with an important omission). She felt sure, she added, that the pirate had not eaten the pie; and all she wanted was her pie back.
Mr. Penwyck’s frown had been growing deeper and deeper as Barbara progressed with her narrative. When at last she ceased speaking, the judge coughed slightly, and leaning forward on both elbows, began:
“Miss Salisbury, if I understand you correctly, you baked a pie?”
“You placed this pie in the refrigerator,” continued the judge, “and from this refrigerator it was taken by your brother?”
Barbara nodded again.
“And your brother gave the pie to the prisoner?”
“He says he did,” replied Barbara, looking over her shoulder at Ted.
“Young man,” inquired Mr. Penwyck, “did you give the pie to this prisoner of your own free will, or did he take it from you?”
“I gave it to him, sir—your Honor—Judge,” stammered Ted, with his eyes on the floor.
“Then, Miss Salisbury,” continued Mr. Penwyck, after a painful pause, “I cannot see how the court can entertain any charge of larceny against this prisoner in the matter of this particular pie. Did he take anything else?”
“No, Mr.—your Honor,” answered Barbara, feverishly, “but that pie was not an ordinary pie. It is worth more to me than any other pie in the world. I don’t want the man punished. I only want my pie back.”
“If you please, your Honor,” began the pirate, eagerly; but Mr. Beecroft’s iron hand was on him again, and a stern look from Mr. Penwyck once more thwarted the cause of truth. The magistrate turned to Barbara.
“I understand perfectly,” he declared gallantly, “that the pie you made this morning should be worth more to you, Miss Salisbury, than any other pie in the world. No doubt it was a paragon among pies. But in the eyes of the law, Miss Salisbury, all pies are equal. Might I ask what kind of a pie this was?”
“An apple pie,” promptly replied Barbara, with a fleeting recollection of the steaming plateful she had so recklessly cast into the refuse barrel.
“He said it was a mince pie,” blurted out Benny.
“Did he?” inquired Barbara, turning to her young cousin. “You see, Mr. Penwyck, I know the man has not eaten the pie. It was apple, and he said it was mince. He has the pie concealed somewhere, and all I want is my pie back.”
“Perhaps,” observed the judge, cautiously, “the prisoner is unable to distinguish among pies?”
“Oh, I didn’t eat it,” exclaimed the pirate, recklessly defying Mr. Beecroft. “If you want—”
Mr. Penwyck tapped on his desk for silence, and, facing him, asked the pirate to state the facts as they were known to him.
“What’s the use of going over all that?” he inquired. “If this constable had not been in such a hurry, you could have had the pie long ago. I didn’t know the lady wanted the pie. Nobody asked me for a pie. I haven’t eaten it. I didn’t have time. It’s up there on the road now, under a box. I was sitting on it when this man grabbed me.”
“I knew he had not eaten it,” broke in Barbara, triumphantly. “I knew he could not have,—” suddenly recollecting herself,—“although it is one of the best pies I ever made. All I want is my pie back.”
“And you say the pie was under a box up the road when you were arrested?” inquired Mr. Penwyck, incredulously, of Gentle Jim.
“It was there,” replied the pirate, with joyful resentment; “whether it’s there now or not, I don’t know.” Barbara turned a trifle pale.
“Can’t we go and see?” she asked eagerly of Mr. Penwyck. “Of course if it’s there it’s all right. I believe what the man says, Mr.—Judge; and I know he has not eaten the pie. I feel sure he is sincere in that statement.”
It was soon determined that Mr. Beecroft, still retaining Gentle Jim in custody, should return with Barbara and the boys to the place where the pirate asserted he had left the pie—under a box. Mr. Penwyck decided to adjourn the proceedings until such time as the constable could verify the defense offered, and report his findings to the court.
In due time the caravan hove in sight of the chestnut-trees, and as the party came close enough for them all to see the soap-box resting undisturbed in the bright sunshine by the roadside, Barbara made a spurt in advance of the two wagons and leaped to the ground as the buggy containing Mr. Beecroft and the pirate drew up alongside. She lost no time in lifting the box from its place; but, alas! there was nothing beneath it but the bare dust of the highway. A lump came up to her throat, and she might have cried if there had not been four pairs of male eyes fastened upon her. Instead, she looked eagerly into the inside of the box, as if half expecting that the pie might have become fixed to the top, and then threw the thing impatiently aside.
Barbara was sorely perplexed. She pondered deeply, and at length called Mr. Beecroft aside. She confided to the constable the suspicions she entertained, and he wagged his head wisely.
“Now, Mr. Beecroft,” she continued, “I want that pie. I am absolutely sure that man could not have eaten it.”
“Was it as bad as that, Miss?” the constable asked, before he realized the indelicacy of his question.
“No, Mr. Beecroft,” replied Barbara, with dignity; “but I know he did not eat it.”
Mr. Beecroft bowed to her superior knowledge.
“That pie is somewhere,” asserted Barbara, confidently.
The constable involuntarily glanced toward the pirate.
“It is either in that man’s wagon or near here,” she continued. “I want that pie so much that I will pay one hundred dollars for its return to me.”
“One hundred dollars for a pie!” cried Mr. Beecroft.
“I mean that, precisely,” said Barbara. “Now you take that man back to the village and search him, search his wagon, open all his boxes and bundles, and if you bring me the pie, I will pay you one hundred dollars.”
“Gosh! I’ll do it!” exclaimed Mr. Beecroft.
“If you do not find the pie, and if I do not find it near here after a thorough search, then I shall be convinced that this man told the truth about leaving it under the box, and we may as well conclude that some one else has picked it up.”
Mr. Beecroft was so eager to get Gentle Jim to some place where he could go through his clothes and knock the tops off all his soap-boxes that he hardly waited for Barbara to finish speaking.
“I’ll fix him, Miss,” he said confidently.
“Now, don’t be rough, Mr. Beecroft,” pleaded Barbara; and addressing the pirate, whom she also thought it would be wise to inform about the reward, she added, “I have offered one hundred dollars for the return of my pie. If you bring it back to me, I will pay you that much money.”
“So help me, Miss,” cried Gentle Jim, almost in tears, “I don’t know any more where that pie is than you do. May I be struck deaf, dumb, blind, and bow-legged, Miss, if that ain’t heaven’s truth!”
But Mr. Beecroft only frowned and made a noise like a sawmill, and without further parley informed Gentle Jim that he might drive the buggy back to the village while he himself would undertake to follow, conducting the soap-wagon.
“You boys must be hungry,” Barbara observed, glancing at her wrist watch, and noting that it was nearly three o’clock.
“It’s long past lunch-time, I guess,” ventured Benny, meekly.
“Yes, it is. Now you cut home as fast as you can. I will ride round by the road. Tell ’Mandy to have a cup of tea for me, and see that you waste no time on the way.”
Ted and Benny needed no such admonition. They were over the fence and half-way through the next field before Barbara had turned to pick up Nip’s bridle. At that particular moment she wanted to get rid of them. She did not care then whether they ever got home or not.
As soon as the boys were out of sight, she set about making a thorough search of the bushes along both sides of the road. It was not long before she discovered the satchel marked T. B. She picked it up with a little cry of joy; for as soon as she caught sight of the initials, she knew that Tom had kept to her commands. He had been there, and he had brought the satchel. He had probably waited until he had become discouraged, and then, leaving his satchel behind, he had perhaps set forth in search of her. Perhaps he had gone on to the house. If so, she had better get there, too.
With these thoughts crowding through her much troubled little head, Barbara turned back to the horse, carrying the satchel with her. There was evidently something in it, for she could feel it sliding and bumping around as she walked. It was probably a book which he had taken to read on the train; but not for the world would she have opened Tom’s bag to find out.
Mounting Nip, Barbara set off homeward at a gallop, clinging tightly to the satchel, a clumsy thing to carry, while the thing inside of it rattled and bumped about. As she neared home, it occurred to her that it would be ingenuous at least for her to trot up to the front of the house carrying Tom’s satchel, especially as it had the misfortune to bear the letters “T. B.” so conspicuously blazoned on its side. She therefore decided to ride around through the back garden to the stables, and to leave the satchel in the tool-house in passing. This was a little old shanty in an out-of-the-way corner, and it was seldom entered by any one besides the gardener, and he certainly would not molest the bag. Arriving there, she dismounted, ran down the path to the tool-house, opened the rickety door, placed the satchel on a shelf in the rear, and in less than five minutes she was pulling off her gloves in the dining-room, and calling loudly upon ’Mandy for a cup of tea.
When Tom took to ignominious flight at the sight of the approaching wagons, he kept going until he reached a safe and secluded spot in the lane at a considerable distance from the stile. From where he rested he could see indistinctly through the foliage the eight tall chestnuts and the new-comers moving about beneath them. He concluded that the gathering was a picnic-party,—the hour and the place supported this assumption,—and he heaped maledictions upon the heads of the picnickers, who had chosen this day and this particular spot for their entertainment.
It was obvious that Barbara, coming across the fields, would not risk waiting for him near the merrymakers. It was plain, too, that he could not expose himself to their gaze in an endeavor to intercept Barbara as she approached. Barbara, of course, would wait, concealed as he was, until they left. Meanwhile, why should not he go down the lane to the first farm-house and beg a glass of milk?
He set off briskly, and secured not only a glass of milk, but a large piece of bread and butter besides. When he reached his post of observation again, he had been absent just half an hour; but in that time the picknickers had disappeared. He hastened back to the stile, confident that he would find Barbara there. But he was once more doomed to disappointment.
He soon decided to go right on up to the house and reconnoiter. By the round-about way which he cautiously adopted, it took him about three-quarters of an hour to walk from the stile to a turn in the back road near the Salisbury barn. When he had assured himself that there was no one about, he climbed the fence and sat on the top rail, wondering in a melancholy fashion what he should do next. It was after five o’clock now, and there was no possibility of catching that last train out of the village. And Barbara had said there were no Sunday trains. Also, she had said he must not show himself. Well, he could sleep in a tree over Sunday, and starve or eat berries.
But, as help usually comes from unexpected and unlikely sources, so did it come to Tom in his hour of stress. He had become so immersed in thought that he was rudely startled by the appearance, around the corner of the barn, of Ted and Benny in hot pursuit of a cat, which slid through the fence like a gray streak not two yards from where Tom sat. Not more disconcerted than Tom, and much more amazed, were Ted and Benny. They stood in their tracks and glared at him. Tom, however, was quick-witted enough to enjoin silence and to motion them toward him.
“Hello, Mr. Baker!” began Benny.
“What are you doing here!” inquired Ted, without ceremony.
“Never you mind,” replied Tom, grimly; “I have no time to waste on explanations. Is Barbara in the house?”
“She was half an hour ago.”
“I’ll give you a dollar apiece if you’ll go and tell her I’m here.”
They were almost off before Tom could recall them.
“Here,” he said—“here are the two dollars,” and he passed out a bill to each of them. “I pay you in advance because I don’t want you to come back to collect. Understand?”
“Oh, yes, we understand,” they shouted, and were immediately off up the winding path, and out of sight.
It required rather less time than usual for Barbara to travel from the house to the barn, which stood at some distance beyond the flower gardens and the vegetable garden, and down the slope back of the stables.
She rushed down the little path, cleverly dodged Tom’s embrace, placing her finger to her lips, and warning him against the possibility of boys in the bushes.
“Oh, no,” said Tom; “I have paid them to stay away.” And he promptly took his toll, as every man who has the right to should.
“You ought not to have come,” she said reproachfully; but her eyes belied her.
“You ought to have come—to the stile,” insisted the young man.
“I did go, Tom,” she answered; “but, oh, dear, I have had such a dreadful time to-day! Everything has gone wrong, and I don’t know what we shall do. I’ve lost everything I own.”
Tom looked very much puzzled, because he could not see how that affected their particular enterprise. But he only patted her hand gently as they leaned side by side in silence on the fence, and waited for Barbara to explain.
She made up her mind then and there that she would tell him the whole stupid truth, and started in with the story of her pie. She told in detail of how she had made it.
She described the coming of the pirate, and did not spare her brother for his impish generosity. Then she told how she had raced to the village and had secured the assistance of Mr. Beecroft; how they overtook the pirate on the road; how the constable haled the man before Mr. Justice Penwyck; and how, there, after much palaver, Gentle Jim had asserted that he had left the pie under an empty box at the stile.
Tom had been listening attentively, his eyes fixed lovingly on poor Barbara’s troubled face, a great light gradually dawning upon his own mind as she stumbled along in her narrative. When she reached the point of the pirate’s assertion, he simply seized the fence with both hands and leaning backward, laughed so heartily that Barbara grew justifiably vexed.
“I see nothing funny about this, Tom,” she continued gravely. “When you consider that the pie contained several thousand dollars’ worth of jewels,—all the jewelry I own in the world,—and that this lay under a box in the public road, for any tramp to find, I fail to discover any cause for mirth.”
“But the pirate man was telling the truth,” sputtered Tom; and—it is well that the boys were not peeping through the bushes.
“I believed he was at that time,” gasped Barbara, as soon as she could recover her breath; “but what makes you think so? We went right back, but there was no pie.”
“Because,” proceeded Tom very deliberately and seriously—“because the Queen of Hearts she made a pie, and filled it full of jewels. The Knave of Hearts he took the pie; but I can’t think of anything that rhymes with jewels, so we will just say that he put it under a box. Then the King of Hearts came along, having an appointment to meet the Queen of Hearts; and, being by nature inquisitive, he rubbered under the box and found the pie.”
“You found the pie, Tom!” cried Barbara, putting both hands on his shoulders, and looking him eagerly in the eyes.
“I found the pie,” grinned Tom, proudly; and then suddenly remembering the sequel, he groaned, “Oh, my Lord!”
“What’s the matter?” gasped Barbara, with a presentiment of evil. “What did you do with it?”
“The picnickers got it,” said Tom.
“You see, dear, I was about to cut the blamed pie when I saw some wagons coming. So I put the pie into my satchel,—you know you asked me to bring along an empty satchel—and I ran away, chucking the satchel under a bush—”
“With the pie in it?” cried Barbara.
“With the pie in it.”
“Then I’m the picnicker,” she laughed, clapping her hands, and actually jumping for joy. “I found the bag, and brought it back here with me, and there was something bobbing around inside—”
“The pie,” interrupted Tom. “Didn’t you open the bag?”
“Of course not,” returned Barbara, with dignity; “it was your bag, wasn’t it?” Then after a pause, she added “But I put it away safely in the tool-house, and now let’s go over and get it, and all this dreadful mess will be cleared up. Come on!”
She seized him by the hand, and they ran along together, back of the barn, along the fence, through the flower garden, around a little clump of cedars, until they came within sight of their goal. Breathlessly they rushed on, Tom now in the lead, to the little old shanty. He seized the hasp, pulled open the door with an elaborate sweep, and ushered Barbara into the dark and musty little shanty.
She put her hands confidently up to the shelf. The bag was not there.
During the summer months, old Ephraim Johnson, who claimed some distant relationship to ’Mandy, worked three days in the week on the Salisbury place. His particular task was to weed the garden; not that his assistance was really needed, but rather that old Ephraim needed the assistance. He came late and went home early; and he smoked a very long pipeful in the stable at noontime.
It was customary for ’Mandy, on the days that old Ephraim came to work, to place surreptitiously for him in the tool-house a little bundle made up from the plentiful larder of the big house. Sometimes she gave him cold meat, sometimes tea, or coffee, or sugar. When old Ephraim was ready to go home, he always felt confident of finding a little package of “victuals” stowed on the shelf in the tool-house, where he stopped to put away his hoe.
On this particular day old Ephraim visited the tool-house as usual, and noticed, in addition to the paper bundle, an old satchel on the shelf. He cherished no such scruple as that which had prolonged Barbara’s ignorance of the satchel’s contents, and promptly took down the receptacle and opened it. He greeted the sight of the pie with a loud guffaw.
“Well, now, ef ’Mandy ain’t de cutest ole thing,” he mumbled. “She ’lowed as she’d jes s’prise me ’cause it’s Sat’day night, and make me a pie.” Old Ephraim chuckled over his good fortune.
It was apparent to him that the old, discarded satchel was to be thrown away, and that ’Mandy had placed the pie in it as a little extra delicacy for Sunday. Dropping his parcel of “victuals” into it, along with the pie, he hobbled off down the path, and passed out of the back gate into the road.
Old Ephraim plodded along with a light heart, puffing at his corncob, and pausing occasionally to rest in the shade. It was on one of these sedentary occasions when he had come within half a mile of the village, that he noticed the approach of a peculiar, white-topped wagon, driven slowly up the incline by a man of strange and unusual appearance.
The horse paused for breath as the wagon came abreast of old Ephraim; and the pirate, who looked sad and weary, nodded a perfunctory “good evening” to the old negro reclining on the grassy bank.
“You shore do look like de real thing,” observed old Ephraim, rising and coming closer, that he might secure a better view of the outfit. “What you got in de wagon?”
“Soap,” answered the pirate, listlessly. “What you got in the bag?”
“What’s that to you?” promptly returned Ephraim.
“Nothing,” admitted Gentle Jim. “I only thought it might be something to eat.”
The old negro chuckled. “Well, it shore is somep’n to eat,” he said; “but I ain’t no rest’rant.”
“I haven’t had anything to eat all day,” explained the pirate. “I’ll trade you some soap for a bite of almost anything. Don’t you want some soap?” he inquired.
“You ain’t eat nothin’ all day?” repeated the kindly old negro. “Lemme see what I got heah,” he continued slowly; “I dunno ’zackly what I got heah myse’f.” He chuckled.
Opening the satchel, he started to undo ’Mandy’s paper parcel. But the pirate, who had meanwhile approached, caught sight of the pie, and recognized it by a round, brown lump on one side.
“Where did you get that pie?” he inquired nervously.
“Dey’s some questions,” drawled old Ephraim, with a frown of rebuke, “as ain’t asked ’tween gemmen. I just got dat pie, suh.”
The pirate pondered for a moment.
It was surely the same pie that had gotten him into so much trouble; and if the beautiful young lady wanted to pay one hundred dollars for it, she might just as well pay it to him as to the fearful Mr. Beecroft or to anybody else.
“That’s an awful nice-looking pie,” he began, trying not to show too much eagerness, as old Ephraim continued to have trouble with the knot of the string around the parcel. “It is a long time since I have eaten any pie. I’d give a good deal for that one right now.”
“Pie ain’t no breakfast food,” argued old Ephraim, discouragingly.
“How are you fixed for soap?” asked the pirate, ignoring the suggestion.
“Heh?” queried the negro.
“I’ll give you a whole box of soap for that pie. You have to buy soap, don’t you?”
“Yaas, suh; I buy a piece o’ soap every Sat’day night when I go to the store for my old woman.”
“To do the washing with,” suggested Gentle Jim.
The negro agreed.
“Very well,” continued the pirate, persuasively; “I’ll give you a whole box of soap, best soap on the market, sixteen bars to the box, for nothing, if you’ll give me that pie, I do just want pie.”
Old Ephraim scratched his head, and glanced up with a shade of suspicion in his eyes.
“No,” he said finally; “I got to take dat pie to my old woman.”
“Does she know there’s a pie coming to her?” asked Gentle Jim.
“No,” drawled old Ephraim; “I can’t ’zactly say she do.”
“Well, wouldn’t she rather have sixteen bars of soap than one pie?” argued the pirate. “She can make pies, you know, but she can’t make soap. Now, look here,” and he went around to the back of the wagon and pulled out a box of soap, lifted the top, which had already been knocked off by Mr. Beecroft, and displayed the even rows of gaily wrapped cakes to the disturbed gaze of the negro. Old Ephraim scratched his head again, and looked from the soap to the pie, and from the pie to the soap. He was really in great distress, for what the pirate had said was true. The old woman could make pies, but she could not make soap, and soap cost money.
“Is it good soap?” he inquired cautiously.
“Best in the world,” answered the pirate, confidently. “A whole box now, for nothing! Just because I want a pie. Is it a go?”
Old Ephraim went over to the box, handled the soap, unwrapped several cakes, smelled them, moistened one piece at the corner, and stirred a bit of lather. Being finally convinced and converted, he grinned broadly at the pirate.
“I guess the old woman won’t miss one pie she don’t know nuffin’ about,” he argued; “and I guess I can trade half them soaps at the store for plug terbacker.”
The pirate encouraged him in this belief.
“Well, heah’s the pie,” old Ephraim concluded, and that peripatetic piece of pastry passed once more into the possession of the pirate, who promptly placed it under the driving seat of the Saucy Sally.
He quickly nailed up the box of soap, helped old Ephraim tuck it away under one arm, and with deep satisfaction watched the darky hobble down the road.
Barbara very nearly melted into tears when, after a thorough search of the tool-house, it became certain that the satchel was no longer there. Her lips trembled and she uttered a little, helpless, weary groan, and Tom again asserted his rights, and proceeded to perform those offices of comfort which fall to the share of a strong man.
They walked slowly away, around the barn again, and back to their original meeting-place, where, side by side, they leaned solemnly on the top rail of the fence, and Tom tried heroically to figure out what the next best thing to do might be.
To them, in this crisis, came Gentle Jim. He burst upon them suddenly, for the back road was narrow and deep-shaded, and made a sharp turn just below the barn. The Saucy Sally was in full view before either Tom or Barbara could move.
“That’s the pirate man,” she said quickly, placing her hand on Tom’s arm.
By this time the Saucy Sally had heaved to, and the pirate was approaching, hat in hand.
“I am awfully sorry about this morning and Mr. Beecroft,” began Barbara, as Gentle Jim drew near.
“Don’t say a word, Miss,” replied the pirate, good-naturedly.
“Especially,” continued Barbara, before the pirate could add another word, “as I have since learned that what you said about putting the pie under the box was absolutely true.”
Gentle Jim looked a trifle embarrassed.
“Yes,” added Tom, pleasantly, “I found the pie under the box, and took it.”
Gentle Jim actually turned pale.
“You’ve got the pie?” he exclaimed.
“I found it,” answered Tom; “but, alas! I haven’t got it now.”
The pirate looked grieved, and turned back toward his wagon.
“No,” he said over his shoulder, “I couldn’t understand how you should have it; for I have it,” and he pulled the battered treasure from under the seat.
“That’s it!” shouted Tom, vaulting the fence. “I recognize it by the brown lump on the side.”
He tore the pie away from the pirate before the latter had time to resist, and handed it quickly over the fence to Barbara. Barbara thrust a finger through the crust, and with a little cry of “That’s it!” sank to the ground and began to cry, sobbing just as she had cried when she learned of its loss.
Tom was over the fence again in a second, and Gentle Jim was left an embarrassed spectator, twisting his hat, in the middle of the road. After a while he ventured:
“Is the pie still worth money to you, Miss?”
“Indeed it is,” replied Barbara, drying her eyes, and letting Tom lift her to her feet. “You shall have the money at once. But tell me how you got the pie.”
“Off an old darky,” he said, and recounted, with many flourishes, his meeting and bartering with Ephraim.
“The old rascal!” commented Barbara. And then to Tom: “I promised a hundred dollars for the return of the pie. You hold it while I go into the house and get the money.”
“Not on your life!” cried Tom, holding Barbara by the wrist. “I’ll pay him. And now that we have the pie, we will consider our own escape.”
“But we can’t get away now,” Barbara cried. “The last train left long ago. But wait!—” She had suddenly been struck with an idea. “The express stops at the junction at 8:15. It is nearly nine miles to the junction—”
“We’ll get that train,” interrupted Tom. “We can get off at Farmingdale, and you can go to your cousin’s for the night.” Then, turning to Gentle Jim: “Mr. Pirate,” he said in a businesslike way, “I will pay you twenty-five dollars if you will drive us to the junction in time to catch that 8:15 express. It is 6:20 now. If it kills the horse, I’ll pay for him, too.”
Things were certainly beginning to come the pirate’s way. He did not hesitate a moment. He turned his wagon and headed it toward the wide world of freedom. Tom and Barbara clambered to the seat beside him. Tom sitting in the middle, holding the pie tightly with both hands on his lap.
The pirate whipped up the old horse, and the Saucy Sally glided off into the deep sea of the great highway.
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