Constable Blott

Nothing further occurred to disturb the monotony of our journey until we neared its end, on the afternoon of the third day, when I was thrown into a fever of excitement by the strange actions of a man of savage aspect who overtook us as we were slowly making our way. Pistols protruded from his belt, and as he passed he slackened his pace, and thrusting his lean face into the stage, gazed about with such fierce assertiveness that I threw up my hands, expecting we should surely be called upon to halt; but after eying us attentively, and me most of all, he straightened up, and putting spurs to his horse, was soon lost in the distance. Before this, however, at every stop, no matter what the cause, I fell back in my seat, scarce able to breathe, thinking to hear the report of a pistol and an order to halt, so greatly had the adventure with Fox upset my nerves. Nothing of the kind occurring, my peace of mind returned at last, so that I was able to pursue the journey with some comfort, until, as I say, the savage little man with the beaked nose and fierce eyes stirred my blood afresh.
In this way our long ride came to an end on the third day, when we alighted, none the worse for our journey, in the little town of Quincy. Scarce looking to the right or left, we hurried to the river to take the boat which lay tied to the shore, with steam up. As I followed on, however, wide-eyed, I was thrown into a tremor of fright by the sight of the savage little man who had passed us on the road, who now stood as if awaiting our coming. With him there was another man of great stature, but harmless-looking, with flabby cheeks and bloated hands that seemed about to burst or drop to the ground, so limp and dangling did they appear. This man had on some badge of office, but loosely, and not as if it gave him honor or in any way added to his dignity. Between the two, the man of huge frame and the pigmy by his side, there was such contrast that for the moment I forgot my fears in staring open-mouthed. Surely nothing more remarkable was ever seen before. The weazened, parched-faced, pugnacious little man, frail of body, and with legs no bigger than mopsticks, and chest as flat as a pieplate, stood erect and eager-eyed, with the spring of a panther, though long past the prime and vigor of life; while the other, scarce thirty years of age, was shambling and heavy on his feet, and had about his sunken eyes and spongy features the marks of a man fast falling to decay. The first, any one could see, was filled to the ends of his nails with love of life, and so had studied how to prolong it; but his companion, not regarding such things, except as abstractions not needful for him to consider with his huge frame and stanch stomach, was broken and winded long before his time.
As I came up, eying them and wondering, the little man turned to his companion, and pointing to me called in a voice I could plainly hear:
“That is the lad we are after, Blott. Lay hold of him, and see that he doesn’t get away.”
Upon this the latter, winking heavily, as if to collect his wits, came forward, and laying his hand on my arm, said:
“Hold on, my lad, I want you.”
“What for?” I asked, staring at him.
“For company mebbe, and mebbe because I’ve a summons for you,” he answered, good-naturedly.
“A summons! What’s that?” I asked, confused, not understanding fully what he meant.
“It’s the beginnin’ of trouble for you, I’m afeered; but what’s the world comin’ to, Pickle. Don’t children learn nothin’ nowdays, not to know what a summons is?”
“Never mind that,” the savage little man exclaimed; “but tell him and march along.”
“Well, sonny, it’s an order to take you to court,” the other answered, placidly.
“To court!” I exclaimed, striving to free myself.
“To the justice’s office, innocent. Where else could it be?” he answered, taking a firmer hold of my jacket.
“Why? I’ve done nothing, for we have just got here,” I answered, still attempting to get away.
“Mebbe, but don’t ask me, for blister my nose if I know; but quit wrigglin’; you’re harder to hold than an eel.”
“Well, I’m not going to any justice’s office,” I answered, slipping out of my jacket and starting to run.
“Hello, my bird!” he cried, catching hold of me. “Now keep quiet, or I’ll put the come-alongs on you, an’ I’d hate to do that, you’re so young an’ fresh.”
“You are a bigger boy than he, Blott, and don’t know half as much,” the little man here interposed. “What are you about? Are you going to stand here all day wrangling with him?”
“If it was you, Pickle, I’d show you how spry I could be,” Blott answered, eying the other.
Seeing no way of escape, I called at the top of my voice to Uncle Job, who had stopped a few feet away, and stood beside Mr. Lincoln, watching the loading of the boat. Hearing my cry and seeing the officer, they turned and hurried back.
“What have you got your hand on that lad for, officer?” Uncle Job asked, as he came up.
“‘Cause I’m attached to him,” he answered, winking stupidly at Mr. Lincoln.
“What do you mean! Let go of him, I say!” Uncle Job demanded, advancing with a determined air.
“Yes, when I’ve delivered him to the justice, as the summons says, an’ not before; so don’t git red in the face or meddle,” the constable answered, facing Uncle Job and straightening up.
1“The summons! What summons? There is some mistake, man! No one has issued a summons for him, for we haven’t been here five minutes.”
“You’ve another guess, my friend. I only know what I know, an’ as the fee is small I’m not ‘tending night-school to increase my learnin’. So stand back an’ don’t interfere,” the constable answered, good-naturedly, but as one in the right.
“What reason is there for issuing the summons? Surely you must know that?” Uncle Job asked, bewildered.
“I don’t know what he’s done, nor why; but mebbe Pickle there can tell you. He knows everything,” Blott answered, nodding toward the little man in gray, who now stepped forward and spoke up with great show of authority.
“The lad is a runaway, and is to be taken back to his home; and the justice’s summons is to secure that and nothing more.”
“No justice has any authority to meddle with him,” exclaimed Uncle Job, angrily. “Moreover, what interest have you in the matter?”
“As to the right of the justice to meddle, that is a matter for him to determine, having possession of the boy. For myself, sir, I am a lawyer, and come here at the instance of my client to regain possession of her ward.”
“Oh, rot!” Uncle Job exclaimed, in great wrath. “No one has a right to make any such claim. But come, officer, we are losing time, and nothing will come of standing here wrangling. Take us to the justice, so that the matter can be explained and the lad released.”
“Fall in, then, for the justice’s order is to bring the lad straight to him. Come now, young man, no more slippin’ out of your clothes, but be good”; and with this admonition he turned about and led the way toward the town, the others following.
As we went forward, Mr. Lincoln, who had looked on without remark, unable, it was apparent, to comprehend the reason of my arrest, asked Uncle Job the meaning of it all. Upon this the latter explained how it was, giving him such account of his dispute with Aunt Jane as he thought necessary, but more particularly how she, an austere maiden lady of fifty, and of questionable gentleness of heart, sought to become my guardian whether or no. This strangely enough, he thought, for she had never been friendly to my mother, and, indeed, was thought not to have been well inclined toward my father at the last. Nor had she my love or respect, for that matter. For these reasons, Uncle Job went on, he had opposed her wishes, and was determined to do so to the end. To all this Mr. Lincoln made no reply, and when Uncle Job had finished, continued on in silence, as if summing up the case, pro and con, as a judge might do on the bench.
The town of Quincy at the time of which I speak was one of many small places that had sprung up on the banks of the Mississippi about the time of the Black Hawk war. Most of these exist to-day as attractive cities, but others not so wisely located have long since been abandoned, many of them being lost even to memory. New and unkempt, the houses of the little city were scattered here and there, as if placed by blind men or spilled off a tray in some unaccountable way. Such, however, is the beginning of all cities, their dignity coming later, with pride and prosperity, as in the case of men. Most of the stores and warehouses of the town, and there were not many, were grouped about the public square near the center of the village, and in front of one of these, built of rough boards and roofed with like material, our little party presently came to a halt. Above the door of this structure there was a flaring sign recounting the goods sold within and the great bargains that awaited the fortunate buyer. Below this, one more modest told that it was also the office of the justice of the peace, and this not strangely, for it was common then, as it is now in the country, thus to merge the duties of tradesman and magistrate. NORFLOXACIN LACTATE
When we entered, the justice was busy tying up a package, as were all his clerks, and this as if that were the chief end and aim of trade in Quincy, as it was in fact, and properly enough. Observing us, he motioned for the officer to go on to the office in the rear, where he occupied himself at intervals of the day hearing such cases as were brought before him.
The store through which we now passed I thought pretentious in the extreme, and indeed it was such a one as to cause a country lad to open his eyes in wonder. On the left the shelves were packed with bottles filled with drugs, all with picturesque and highly colored labels, as if containing tempting delicacies or things of that nature. Farther on there was crockery, and this of every kind; yellow, however, over-shadowed all other colors. In the display of these wares perfect candor was observed, and this without reference to the use the article was put to; but trade is ever thus ingenuous, having no real modesty. For gain is a brazen hussy, and never loses opportunity to display her charms if trade may be fostered thereby. On the other side of the store shelves stuffed with dry goods reflected back the hues of bright calicoes and delaines, interspersed with worsted and highly colored scarfs. Stockings of a passionate hue also hung here and there invitingly from conspicuous places. On the counter gaudy jewelry was temptingly spread in cases covered with stout wire, as if much in need of such protection. Further back a receptacle was piled high with fat, obtrusive pies, for those who craved delicacies of that nature. Beyond this groceries and tobacco occupied the space. Nor was this all, for from the ceiling savory hams and succulent pieces of bacon hung, redolent of the smokehouse and temptingly, so that the very sight of them made one’s mouth water with desire. In the extreme rear a space was cleared, and here, facing the front, a chair and table served for the seat of justice. About these were other chairs, and empty boxes tipped on end, all arranged in the form of an amphitheater. Still back of these, packages of goods were piled, in which cheese and fish predominated, as was apparent from the odor that filled the place. At one side, to tempt the good-natured, a barrel of tobacco stood open, inviting all who would to fill their pipes without hindrance or pay.
Such was the court of justice into which we were ushered. As we stood patiently waiting the coming of the judge, Blott mopped his face and shifted nervously from one foot to the other, as if laboring under great excitement of some kind, but of what nature I could not tell, until at last, losing all control over himself, he let go my arm, and springing back, cried, in a voice of terror:
“Scat, you imps! scat!” at the same time kicking angrily at some object he saw before him. Seeing nothing, we all looked at him in surprise, which he, presently noticing, remarked in a shamed way: “I hate cats, and black ones more particular. They give me the shivers. Take ’em away; take ’em away, please, please, please!” he added, plaintively, waving his hand.
“I have always heard it said that it was a sign of good luck to have a black cat rub against you; but there are no cats here,” the little lawyer spoke up, after eying Blott curiously for a while.
“Mebbe your sight’s failin’ account age, for there’s three of ’em peerin’ from under them bags yonder,” Blott answered, looking furtively in the direction indicated.
“Three of them? Well, well, you have got it bad. What do you generally take for these attacks?” the lawyer answered, grimly, as if enjoying the other’s fright.
“What do I take? Can’t a man see cats without bein’ thought queer? Any one can see ’em,” he answered, turning to Uncle Job to confirm his statement.
“It is a clear case of jimjams,” the lawyer went on; “and if you will take my advice, you will sleep more and booze less, my friend.”
“Don’t git gay now, grandpa, nor expect a fee for your advice. A little liquor wouldn’t hurt you, or meat, either, if I’m any judge of its effect on skeletons,” Blott replied, Without taking his eyes off the hiding-place of his enemies.
“Here, take a pull at this,” the lawyer answered at length, handing him a flask filled with liquor. “The hair of the dog is good for the bite, they say; anyway, it will quiet your nerves till we get through with this trial, when I would advise you to go and drown yourself.”
To this Blott made no reply, but taking the flask, emptied it without stopping to breathe.
“It’s the drops that woman give me as has brought this on, an’ nothin’ else,” he exclaimed, as he wiped his mouth with the flat of his hand.
What more he would have said or done I do not know, for all further conversation was here cut short by the entrance of the magistrate.