Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/155

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PROF. BOYNTON REREADS HISTORY

121

“That ‘first-citizen’ stuff? Oh, I’m not trying to hurt your feelings. I’m trying to find out. What do you do in Brookins—I don’t mean the United States; I mean right here in West Brookins—to keep them all so certain about you? Vote once in a while?”

“I always vote.”

“I know you do—for President. Vote in the last town election?”

“I don’t remember——"

"I remember all right—even if I wasn’t here. You meant to and you thought you would and you didn’t know anything about either of the candidates, and it looked like rain, and you sat right here and let ’em elect anybody they good and pleased; and now you'll get tried for murder by those same good and pleased parties.”

Boynton laughed. It was an effort to do it, for he was angry, but he made the effort.

“It’s a beautiful peroration, Charlie. It’s a pity it’s wasted. Even an ex-professor knows that town officials don’t try for murder.”

‘‘Any idea who binds you over to the superior court? Oh, I don’t say a police judge could help it on the evidence, but I do say he won’t break his heart over it—not with one of the little high-and-mighties from West Brookins. If you think the cheapest skate there is likes being elected and run by the scum of a town—— Know any of the police judges?”

"I’ve never had occasion to.”

“Or the town marshal? Or the coroner, for that matter? Then you don’t know the kind of men you're up against. If you want my advice——”

“I seem to be getting it.”

“You're going to get it. You won’t take it, but you’re going to get it, all right. If I were where you are, I’d do one of two things: either I’d get a theory about that killing and I’d work it for all it was worth, or else I’d get out. No- body’d look very far for you.”

“You mean—go into hiding?”

“It don’t matter what you call it. Go on a visit if you want to. Just get out of the way for a while till there’s time to look around. And do it now while you’ve the chance to do it.”