George Barr McCutcheon, the author of this special Leonaur two-in-one edition of the Anderson Crow stories, is perhaps better known to many as the writer of ‘Brewster’s Millions,’ the farcical yarn of a hapless man’s attempts to send spend millions of dollars so that he might inherit millions more. McCutcheon was also well regarded for his ‘Graustark’ series of novels based in a fictional central European country and written in the spirit of ‘The Prisoner of Zenda.’ Anderson Crow, the central character in this book, can be compared—in his own way—to Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle’s famous hussar, Brigadier Gerard. In these stories, McCutcheon has created gentle investigative fiction combined with a touch of humour and the stories are as much a good natured insight into small town American life at the time of the First World War as they are stories of detection. The deputy marshal of rural Tinkletown is essentially a buffoon who has a high opinion himself and blithely overlooks the truth that the successful outcomes of his endeavours are the result of good fortune rather than good work on his part. The first part of this good value collection contains short stories featuring Crow and the folk of Tinkletown, following these is a complete novel about the kidnapping of Crow’s foundling daughter—a serious and personal case for the marshal as he sets out to recover his lost child. Plot twists, mayhem, killings and the strange doings in an allegedly haunted house all combine to foil the Crow’s endeavours. For collectors and fans alike, this Leonaur edition is an excellent opportunity to own and read these well loved tales.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
“It’s not my fault that we’re still here,” he growled in answer to her pathetic appeal. “I’ve heard you prayin’ for Daddy Crow to come and take you away. Well, it’s lucky for him that he don’t know where you are. We’d make mincemeat of that old jay in three minutes. Don’t do any more prayin’. Prayers are like dreams—you have ’em at night and wonder why the next day. Now, look ’ere, Miss Gray, we didn’t do this rotten job for the love of excitement. We’re just as anxious to get out of it as you are.”
“I only ask why I am held here and what is to become of me?” said Rosalie resignedly. She was standing across the table from where he sat smoking his great, black pipe. The other members of the gang were lounging about, surly and black-browed, chafing inwardly over the delay in getting away from the cave.
“I don’t know why you’ve been held here. I only know it’s d—— slow. I’d chuck the job, if there wasn’t so much dust in it for me.”
“But what is to become of me? I cannot endure this much longer. It is killing me. Look! I am black and blue from pinches. The old woman never misses an opportunity to hurt me.”
“She’s jealous of you because you’re purty, that’s all. Women are all alike, hang ’em! I wouldn’t be in this sort of work if it hadn’t been for a jealous wife.”
He puffed at his pipe moodily for a long time, evidently turning some problem over and over in his mind. At last, heaving a deep sigh, and prefacing his remarks with an oath, he let light in upon the mystery. “I’ll put you next to the job. Can’t give any names; it wouldn’t be square. You see, it’s this way: you ain’t wanted in this country. I don’t know why, but you ain’t.”
“Not wanted in this country?” she cried blankly. “I don’t stand in anyone’s way. My life and my love are for the peaceful home that you have taken me from. I don’t ask for anything else. Won’t you tell your employer as much for me? If I am released, I shall never interfere with the plans of—”
“’Tain’t that, I reckon. You must be mighty important to somebody, or all this trouble wouldn’t be gone through with. The funny part of it is that we ain’t to hurt you. You ain’t to be killed, you know. That’s the queer part of it, ain’t it?”
“I’ll admit it has an agreeable sound to me,” said Rosalie, with a shadow of a smile on her trembling lips. “It seems ghastly, though.”
“Well, anyhow, it’s part of somebody’s scheme to get you out of this country altogether. You are to be taken away on a ship, across the ocean, I think. Paris or London, mebby, and you are never to come back to the United States. Never, that’s what I’m told.”
Rosalie was speechless, stunned. Her eyes grew wide with the misery of doubt and horror, her lips moved as if forming the words which would not come. Before she could bring a sound from the contracted throat the raucous voice of old Maude broke in:
“What are you tellin’ her, Sam Welch? Can’t you keep your face closed?” she called, advancing upon him with a menacing look.
“Aw, it’s nothin’ to you,” he retorted, but an uncomfortable expression suddenly crept into his face. A loud, angry discussion ensued, the whole gang engaging. Three to one was the way it stood against the leader, who was forced to admit, secretly if not publicly, that he had no right to talk freely of the matter to the girl. In vain she pleaded and promised. Her tears were of no avail, once Sam had concluded to hold his tongue. Angry with himself for having to submit to the demands of the others, furious because she saw his surrender, Sam, without a word of warning, suddenly struck her on the side of the head with the flat of his broad hand, sending her reeling into the corner. Dazed, hurt and half stunned, she dropped to her knees, unable to stand. With a piteous look in her eyes she shrank back from another blow which seemed impending. Bill Briggs grasped his leader’s arm and drew him away, cursing and snarling.
Late in the afternoon, Bill was permitted to conduct her into the cabin above, for a few minutes in the air, and for a glimpse of the failing sunlight. She had scarcely taken her stand before the little window when she was hastily jerked away, but not before she thought she had perceived a crowd of men, huddling among the trees not far away. A scream for help started to her lips; but Bill’s heavy hand checked it effectually. His burly arm sent her scuttling toward the trapdoor; and a second later she was below, bruised from the fall and half fainting with disappointment and despair.
Brief as the glimpse had been, she was positive she recognised two faces in the crowd of men—Anderson Crow’s and Ed Higgins’s. It meant, if her eyes did not deceive her, that the searchers were near at hand, and that dear, old Daddy Crow was leading them. Her hopes flew upward and she could not subdue the triumphant glance that swept the startled crowd when Bill breathlessly broke the news.
Absolute quiet reigned in the cave after that. Maude cowed the prisoner into silence with the threat to cut out her tongue if she uttered a cry. Later, the tramp of feet could be heard on the floor of the cabin. There was a sound of voices, loud peals of laughter, and then the noise made by someone in the cellar that served as a blind at one end of the cabin. After that, dead silence. At nightfall, Sam stealthily ventured forth to reconnoitre. He came back with the report that the woods and swamps were clear and that the searchers, if such they were, had gone away.
“The house, since Davy’s grandma’s bones were stored away in that cellar for several moons, has always been thought to be haunted. The fools probably thought they saw a ghost—an’ they’re runnin’ yet.”
Then for the first time Rosalie realised that she was in the haunted cabin in the swamp, the most fearsome of all places in the world to Tinkletown, large and small. Not more than three miles from her own fireside! Not more than half an hour’s walk from Daddy Crow and others in the warmth of whose love she had lived so long!