from Saturday Evening Post
by Ellis Parker Butler
Well, I guess the nearest Ting ever came to having a lot of money was the time Mr. Murphy got it and Ting didn't. It was a thousand and five hundred dollars, and if Ting didn't get it Mamie Little ought to have had it; and if Mamie Little didn't get it I ought to have had it; but we didn't any of us get it, because Mr. Murphy got it.
Mamie Little was my girl; but maybe she didn't know it, because a feller don't say so right out, or any way. When he has a girl he just has her, and if anybody says she's his girl he fights until they say she isn't; but she is, just the same. Only, the time she ought to have had the thousand and five hundred dollars, if Ting oughtn't to have had it, she was mad at me. If she hadn't been mad at me she wouldn't have had the chance to ought to have the thousand and five hundred dollars. Nobody would ever have had it.
The reason Mamie Little was mad at me was because I had changed over and wasn't prohibition any more; and that made her mad at me, because she was prohibition because her father was prohibition and published in his newspaper that the saloons ought to be closed; and so they blew up his house with dynamite -- only it was gunpowder. But they called it dynamite. They called the men that blew up the house the dynamiters. They blew up two other houses, too, and that was why Mr. Murphy was in town. He was a detective. He came and worked in the sawmill, and nobody knew he was a detective until he got the money me or Ting or Mamie Little ought to have had.
The way I come to change over from prohibition to anti-prohibition was like this: Me and Ting and Eddie was sitting on the empty manure bin back of our barn, smoking corn-silk cigarettes, and that reminded us of the time we were up the river smoking driftwood grapevine cigarettes, when we saw Slim Finnegan steal the gunpowder, and we got to talking about it.
"Well, if anybody ever finds out Slim Finnegan stole it he won't stab me!" Ting said; "because he wouldn't think I told on him, because I ain't prohibition and I never was; and I guess Slim and everybody knows it."
So that made me and Eddie feel pretty scared, because everybody knew Slim Finnegan was a stabber. He'd just as soon stab you as not. I don't remember whether he ever had stabbed anybody; but I guess he had, because everybody said so. Anyway, he was always showing us the knife he stabbed fellers with when he wanted to stab them, and he said he'd stab any of us for two cents. The knife had a staghorn handle and a six-inch blade, with a curve in it and a spring in the back that, when you pressed it, snapped the blade open all ready to stab with.
Once, when he met me when I was alone, he grabbed me by the neck and backed me against a fence post, and pulled out the knife and opened it. I bellered and said: "Aw, lemme alone, Slim! I never done nothin' to you!" And he said he knew mighty well I hadn't and that I'd better not try to, because he was a stabber, and if I did anything he didn't like he'd cut my heart out and leave it sticking to the fence post with the knife in it, to show fellers not to monkey with Slim Finnegan. So I said I'd never, never do anything he didn't want me to, and please to let me go. So he said, well, he guessed he'd stab me, anyway, while he had me; and he put the point of his knife against my stomach and leaned up against me, so that all he had to do was lean a little harder against the handle of the knife and I'd be stabbed.
I thought I was going to be killed, sure. I held my breath, and my bones felt like water; and just then he laughed at me and bumped my head against the post three times and threw me down on the grass and went away.
That was before me and Ting and Eddie saw him set the lumberyard afire too. After we saw him set the lumberyard afire we were all more scared of him than ever; even Ting was scared of him, and said so. When we saw him set the lumberyard afire Slim was in our class at school; but he was twice as big as anybody in our room, because he only went to school when he wanted to and he didn't want to very often; and after the fire he quit going to school. I guess he went bumming for a while.
The first I knew about Slim Finnegan was when I was a little bit of a kid and not big enough to ride belly buster or knee gut on a sled or slide down the big hills. I had a high sled and rode on it sitting down, and rode from the sidewalk into the gutter, and things like that. So my father got me a new sled on my birthday, a clipper sled with half-round irons, and it was painted red and was named Dexter. I took it out on the hill where the big kids were sliding and tried to ride belly buster on it, which is lying flat on your stomach and steering with both feet, like knee gut is lying on one knee and steering with the other foot, but the runners on my sled were so slick that when I put the sled down it slid away before I could get onto it.
So I was trying that when Slim Finnegan came up. I hadn't ever seen him before, but he acted nice and said the way I was trying to get onto the sled wasn't the right way and he would show me how. So he took my sled and ran away and belly busted onto it. He went down the hill like a flash. I watched him until I couldn't tell which was Slim and which was some other feller, away down the hill, and then I couldn't tell anyone from any other, and I waited for him to come back. One feller came up the hill, and then another and dozens came up, but Slim didn't come back with my sled; and after a while I began to blubber the way kids do, and a girl I didn't know took me by the arm and led me home, saying, "Don't cry, Georgie! Don't cry, Georgie!" all the way.
So the girl told my mother somebody had stolen my sled, and that was the first I knew it was stolen. When my father came home he asked me what the boy was like that took my sled and I told him, and he went out and after a long time he came back and he had my sled. It was all painted over with fresh drab paint except where my father had scraped the paint off to show that it was my sled. He said: "That drunken Finnegan's dirty son stole it!" So that was the first I knew of Slim Finnegan.
When I got old enough to play away from the house I mighty soon knew that Slim Finnegan was the feller that would sneak up on us little kids when we were playing marbles and grab up our marbles and steal them and, if we said anything, twist our arms behind us until we yelled. He was the one that would sit in the long grass out in the field when we played ball and, if the ball came near him, grab it up and put it in his pocket and laugh at us. He was the one that, if he came on us when we were fishing, would throw our worm can in the slough and take the fish we had caught, and then swear at us. He was a sneak and a thief and a tough, and his father was a tough and a drunkard; and it wasn't safe to send your washing to Mrs. Finnegan because sometimes she got drunk and didn't do it for a week, and sometimes it didn't all come back.
Well, Ting said that Slim Finnegan wouldn't stab him, because he was antiprohibition and Slim was too; so me and Eddie thought maybe we'd better turn antiprohibition, and we did; and Ting went and told Mamie Little, so she was mad at me after that. She was mad at me when Eddie's mother had his birthday party.
Well, one day that spring -- but pretty late -- me and Ting and Eddie went down to the levee and hired a skiff from Eldert for fifteen cents the first hour and ten cents an hour after that, like we always did; and we rowed across the Mississippi to the Illinois shore above the old ferry landing. I guess maybe we were after turtle eggs, but it was too early for them; so when we saw the shore was all mud Ting said:
"Let's row up to the head of the slough and row down the slough."
"What for?" I asked him.
"Oh, just for cod!" he says. So we did.
We rowed up to the place where the slough branches off from the river, and there was a good deal of water in the slough yet, so we rowed down the slough until we came almost to the ferry road, and then we thought we would stop and get some grapevine driftwood to smoke, and we did. We rowed to the shore of the slough and got out and found plenty of driftwood where it had lodged against the bushes and tree roots, and we lit up and smoked and sat a while just doing that.
Then Ting said: "Come on! Let's go over to that sand by the powder house and see if there are any turtle eggs there yet."
That was a good place for turtle eggs, because the sand was hotter there sooner than anywhere else. It was a sort of cleared place without many trees or bushes, all soft sand and not very far from the ferry road. So we walked along down the slough and pretty soon we came to a skiff pulled up on the shore. I was nearest, so I jumped into it; but Ting didn't. He said:
"Garsh! You'd better get out of that skiff. Some feller has just left that skiff there, because his footprints on the bow seat ain't dry yet. If he came back and seen us playing in his skiff he'd like as not give us good and plenty!"
And that was right, because when a feller rows over from town or anywhere he don't like kids to fool with his skiff; because if the skiff got away how could he get back to town? So if they catch you in their skiffs they bat you a good one. So I got out of the skiff and Ting went on ahead, and me and Eddie followed; and we come to the sandy place by the powder house.
A powder house is a little square shack about as big as a closet, covered with sheet iron and painted red for danger. This was the only one on the Illinois side, but there were two more on the Iowa side, up the river from town a good ways; and the reason they were so far from town was because the wholesale grocers sold powder, but the city didn't allow them to keep any inside the city limits. When they sold some they sent over to get it. The powder houses were painted with big letters to say Danger! and that nobody must shoot at them or build a fire near them, or they might explode. So that was why this one was in the middle of the sandy place -- sand can't burn like grass does. So we come through the bushes to where we could see the powder house and we all stopped short right there, for there was Slim Finnegan coming out of the powder house with a bag over his shoulder, with what anybody could tell was an iron powder keg in it.
As soon as we saw him he saw us and we dodged back into the bushes and ran. We ran pretty far, and then we stopped and listened and didn't hear anything; so we hid down behind a log and waited. We knew that if Slim Finnegan found us he'd stab us or something. Anyway, we thought he would. Me and Eddie did. I guess Ting did too. After we had waited what seemed like a couple of hours -- but I guess it was about half a minute -- Ting put his head up above the log and looked, and didn't see anything. Then he got up and went round the log and started to go back to the powder house. Eddie didn't say anything, because he was too scared, but I yelled "Ting! Ting!" in a whisper, because I wanted him to come back; but he just turned and motioned us to be still, and he went on. He walked as careful as he could. Pretty soon he came back and dropped down behind the log again.
"It's Slim Finnegan,all right," he said -- only he said "orl right," like he always does; "and he's stealing a keg of powder" -- only he said it sort of like "kerg of powder."
"What'd you see, Ting?" I whispered.
"I seen him shift the bag from one shoulder to the other," Ting said, "and I could see the ridges on the keg, all right! If we wanted to we could tell the police and they'd put him in jail."
"Aw, don't, Ting!" I said. "If you do that he'll wait until he gets out and then he'll stab all of us. Aw, don't tell the police, Ting!"
"Maybe I will and maybe I won't," Ting said. "I ain't made up my mind yet what I'll do. I ain't afraid of his old stabbin' knife, I tell you that! He can't scare me! There ain't any Slim Finnegan that ever lived could scare me. If he pulled his old frog stabber on me I'd --"
He stopped short and I saw him put out one hand and grab the log, and his face looked like a dead man's, and then I looked up from the callus I was fixing on my foot and I saw Slim Finnegan too. He was standing right in front of us with a pistol in his hand and the pistol was pointed right at us. He had a mean-looking face, sort of foxy and sort of sneery, and now it had a sort of grin on it, and it was ugly. It was the kind of grin he had when he twisted a little kid's arm and made him scream. He was just like he always was, sort of muddy-haired and yellow-faced and slouchy in the shoulders, and tobacco juice in the corners of his mouth. He looked just the way he always looked when he was going to have some fun hurting somebody.
I felt pretty sick. I felt hot in the stomach, as if a bullet had already made a hot hole there. I sort of twitched in different places as each place got to thinking it was the place the bullet was going to hit. I don't know what Eddie did; I had all I wanted to do without thinking of anybody else. All of a sudden Slim opened his dirty mouth and swore at us the worst anybody ever heard.
"Get up out of there, you" -- something -- "rats!" he said in the meanest voice he had. "Get up!"
So we got up.
"You get along there, now!" he ordered, swearing some more; and he waved us where to go.
We didn't say a word, not even Ting. We just went; and instead of thinking I felt the bullet coming into my stomach I thought I felt it coming into the joints of my back. I put my hand behind me to sort of help stop it if it came. That way he sent us through the brush to the sandy place. He walked us toward the powder house, and then, all at once, he shouted at us to throw down our grapevine cigarettes. He asked us if we wanted to blow him to hell. So we threw them down.
Then he came up to me and hit me on the side of the head and knocked me down in the sand, and threw Eddie on top of me, and slapped Ting so he staggered; but Ting didn't fall. He swore back at Slim, and Slim slapped him again and knocked him down. For a million dollars I wouldn't have sworn back at a stabber that had a pistol; but that's how Ting is. Anyway, he was the only one of us that could swear good enough to make it worthwhile swearing back.
Well, Slim had left the door of the powder house open and when he had us all knocked down he came over and kicked at us, and I was the one he kicked. He swore all the time, a steady stream, and it was the thoroughest swearing I ever heard. It sounded like business. Then he jerked Ting up and slung him toward the powder house and slung him inside, and then he took me and Eddie and slung us the same way. He slung us all into the powder house.
"I'll teach you to go blattin' about me when you see me!" he said. "Dirty little rats! I'll learn you a lesson! You'll never come your sneakin' spyin' on me again! You'll have enough when I get through with you this time. You want to know what I'm goin' to do with you?"
Well, we did sort of want to know, but we didn't say so.
"I'm goin' to lock you in there," he said; "and I'm goin' to leave you in there to starve, like the dirty sneaks you are. I'll teach you to go tellin' lies about me! You'd go and say I stole that can of powder, wouldn't you? Well, I didn't steal it -- see? I bought it. I bought it and they sent me over to get it. It's none of your business, anyway. You sneakin' rats!"
Eddie started to cry. Slim told him to shut up, and he did. He scowled at us.
"No, by" -- something -- he said, swearing; "starving is too good for tattle-tellin' rats like you. Somebody might come and let you out. I know what I'm goin' to do to you. I'm goin' to lock you in and then I'm goin' to set a fire and blow you to a million pieces. I'll blow you up, like the sneakin' rats you are!"
I can't make it sound the way it sounded to us, because I can't swear the way he did. He swore, to show he meant it, and then he slammed the iron-covered door and we heard the iron bar scrape as he put it across the door, and we heard the padlock click into the staple. We were in the dark, darker dark than I was ever in before. Eddie began to cry sort of funny, like a sick animal with a voice that was too weak to cry very good. All I can remember was that I put out my hands and felt Ting and hung onto his coat with both hands.
I hung on and held my breath and waited for the explosion to come. We heard Slim cracking sticks across his knee; we could hear the sticks snap. Then we heard him piling the sticks against the outside of the powder house, and pretty soon we heard scratch! scratch! -- like a match on a box. It was the hardest waiting for anything I ever did. Waiting to be blown up is always like that, I guess.
The place where he was piling the sticks was one of the front corners of the powder house, and there wasn't so very much powder in the house, and what there was was in different piles, for the different kinds and sizes of kegs. All of a sudden Ting pushed my hands off him and stooped down and began feeling on the floor in the corner where the fire was going to be. There were four or five little kegs of powder in that corner and Ting began picking them up and putting them on one of the other piles that was not so near the corner. I guess nobody but Ting would have thought of doing that; but when he started I started, too, and we moved the powder as fast as we could. Then the door opened.
Slim had taken off the padlock and the iron bar so quietly we hadn't heard him, and when he opened the door he caught us shifting the kegs.
"Come out of there!" he said. "Now you know what I'll do to you if you go telling about me. If I ever hear you have mentioned my name, or if you ever say it to each other, I'll get you and bring you over here and finish this job right!"
Well, we guessed he'd do it.
"I'd have done it now," he said, "only I don't want to blow up powder that don't belong to me. And here's the keg I had," he said, throwing one into the powder house. "Now, you get! And if you ever say a word you'll know what'll happen to you. Get!"
We ran. We ran like scared deer, and all I wanted to do was to get as far away as I could. We ran a long way up the slough and then Ting stopped, and I stopped because he stopped, but Eddie kept on running.
"Come on!" I said to Ting. "What you stopping for?"
"Hide in there," he said, pointing to some bushes. "I'll come back."
He crouched Indian fashion and went toward the slough and out of sight. It was quite a while before he came back.
"Garsh, he's a liar!" he said when he came back. "That keg of powder he stole wasn't the one he put back. He's got that one in his skiff yet. It was another one he put back."
"Ting, you ain't goin' to tell on him, are you?" I asked.
"You bet I ain't! "he said. "I just wanted to know. You bet I ain't going to tell; if I did he'd stab us in a minute."
Well, I guess we waited round an hour before we went home, and then we were mighty glad there was any of us left to go home, because we had all thought we were going to be blown into such little pieces nobody would ever find any of us again.
Now about the dynamiters: After I had marched in the prohibition parade because Mamie Little's father was a prohibition man -- there was prohibition in Iowa, all over, and for a while Riverbank didn't have any saloons because it was against the law. So Slim Finnegan's father got a shanty boat and started a saloon on it across the river, where there wasn't prohibition; and Slim helped tend bar, and then other bum-boats started, and pretty soon I guess folks got tired of that and the saloons started up again in Riverbank, so people could get drunk without having to hire a skiff and go across the river.
So three or four or five men made up their minds they would stop the saloons again, and they started in to do it. Mamie Little's father was one of them, because he printed the newspaper that wanted the saloons closed; so one night three of the men's houses were blown up with gunpowder, but the fuse went out on the other keg, so it didn't blow up its house. But three of them were blown up. That was about three months after me and Ting and Eddie saw Slim Finnegan steal the keg of powder; and right away we thought of that and that Slim Finnegan was one of the men that blew up the houses.
Gee! We was scared! All we could think of was that now Slim Finnegan would come round and stab us, so we wouldn't tell on him. One whole afternoon we hid in the old box stall in my barn and didn't dare talk above a whisper; and we had my target rifle, because if Slim came we were going to sell our lives dearly.
But that was afterward. We went to see the blown-up houses first -- right after breakfast the morning after the night they were blown up -- and they were all pretty bad. Everybody said it was a miracle nobody was killed, and how Mamie Little and her folks walked across the bare rafters and got out, and everything like that. So then the mayor offered five hundred dollars reward and the governor offered a thousand dollars more; and there was a big meeting downtown one night and everybody gave money to hire detectives to catch the dynamiters.
There were lots of detectives came to Riverbank; I guess maybe there were a thousand. Everybody said it would be just a little while before the dynamiters were all caught and sent to prison; but pretty soon everybody began saying the detectives were no good, and that Mr. Murphy, who was the one the committee had hired, was just pretending it was worth while to detect, and that he would never get the dynamiters, and that all he was staying in Riverbank for was to get the money the committee paid him every week. All he found out, I guess, was that the dynamite was gunpowder and that some of it was stole from the powder house across the river and some from the powder houses up the river. But me and Ting and Eddie knew who stole it. That's why we were scared.
And you bet we were mighty scared! We made a fort in the hayloft of my barn, with loopholes to shoot my target rifle through, so we could flee to it if Slim Finnegan came round, and pop him from behind the fort before he could stab us. Ting got us to do that. He was going to show us how to fix the barn stairs with each step on a hinge so when we pulled a rope the steps would drop and make a slide, so that whenever Slim tried to come up the steps he would get just part way and then slide down again; but when we tried to pry the treads of the steps loose the nails were rusted and the treads split; so we thought we'd better not.
We got up a signal word -- only it was Ting thought of it -- so that when any of us saw Slim we could say it, and we'd know we had to run for shelter to our fort. The word was Vamoose! But it was too long, so Ting shortened it. He made it Vam.!
We did everything we could to get ready not to be stabbed. We made daggers out of some kitchen knives I got in my kitchen, and Ting showed us how to do it while me and Eddie turned the grindstone. We sharpened them on both edges and made points on them and tied string round the handles in loops, so we could hang them on our suspender buttons and let them hang down inside our pants. Ting showed me how to carry my target rifle stuck down one pants leg, too, so it wouldn't be visible. It made me walk stiff-legged, like I was lame, but Ting said that was a good thing-it would throw Slim Finnegan off his guard. Ting showed us how to stand back to back when Slim Finnegan attacked us, so we would have a dagger in each direction and he couldn't stab us in the backs.
Whenever we could we got together and Ting told us new ways to keep from being stabbed, because he said he knew a feller in Derlingport -- where he had visited once -- who was fixed just like we were, with a big feller after him; and Ting remembered other things he had done. He didn't remember them all at once, but every day he remembered a new one. When he remembered them we did them. One of them was to rub our knee joints with sewing-machine oil, so they would be limber and we could run like a deer when Slim Finnegan took after us. Before he got through Ting remembered a lot of things like that. We did them.
Well, after a while I guess we sort of forgot about Slim Finnegan, because he didn't come round to stab us. Maybe it was because Ting couldn't remember any more of the things the feller in Derlingport had done, and maybe it was because school began again. We sort of turned the fort in my hayloft into a dressing room for a circus. Ting was ringmaster. So then Eddie's birthday started to come and his mother thought she'd have a party for him, because they had a new parlor carpet and had had the dining room papered. So she had it.
At first Eddie said he wasn't going to his party, because there would be girls there and they would want to play kissing games; but Ting said, Aw! he wasn't afraid to kiss all the girls there were in the world! and that if Eddie would go to the party he would go too. So I said if Eddie and Ting would go I would go. I said, Aw! I bet I wasn't afraid to kiss all the girls in the world, either! Only I bet I wouldn't kiss Mamie Little if she asked me a million times, because she was mad at me. So we went to Eddie's party.
It was a pretty good party. Right at first it wasn't much because the girls sat on one side of the room and tried to keep their white dresses from getting wrinkled, and the boys sat on the other side. It wouldn't have been any fun at all, that first part, only Ting had brought some beans in his pocket and we had some fun shooting them at the girls with our thumbs. Every once in a while Eddie's mother would come in from the kitchen and clap her hands and say:
"Come, now! We must all have a good time! All you boys and girls think of a game and play it. Eddie" -- only she called him Harold -- "I'm surprised you don't start a game!"
So then Eddie wished he hadn't come to his party. So after a while Eddie's mother said to the cook:
"Well, Maggie, we'd better give them the refreshments now, instead of later; they won't liven up until they are fed."
We went into the dining room and all sat round the big table, and we began to have a good time. Us kids would get up and sneak round and steal a girl's cake or something, and she would holler and be mad; and then we started in to pull their hair-bows, and maybe their hair a little, and they would slap at us and scold and giggle. They pretended they didn't like it; but they did. So pretty soon some of them got up and chased us round the table, and after the ice cream it turned out we were playing tag; and Eddie's mother said:
"Heaven save the furniture! But, anyway, I'm glad they've waked up!"
Well, I didn't pull Mamie Little's hair, or anything. I guess I wanted to, but I sort of didn't dare. All she did was to make a face at me once across the table, and when I threw a little piece of cake at her she brushed it off her dress and said:
"I consider that very rude!"
So then we went into the parlor again and got to playing kissing games -- Copenhagen and post office, and games like that. So then we played pillow.
I guess the girls like it because there isn't so much game and there is more kissing, and I guess the boys don't care because by the time you get to playing pillow they're used to it. You take a sofa pillow and drop it in front of the girl you want to kiss and drop on your knees, and she drops on her knees and then she kisses you. Then she takes the pillow and drops it in front of the fellow she wants to kiss next, and he kneels on it and she kisses him. So I guess Kate White dropped the pillow in front of me and kissed me; and then I took the pillow and looked round the row of chairs.
I saw Mamie Little, and she looked as if she was trying to look as if she didn't want me to drop the pillow in front of her, but really did want me to. I didn't know what to do. I guess maybe I wanted her to kiss me, but I was sort of scared to let her try it. I got sort of hot. So all of a sudden I dropped the pillow right in front of her and plumped down on my knees. Everybody laughed and clapped their hands, like they always did when they thought the ones that ought to choose each other were doing it.
Mamie Little didn't plump down on her knees. She raised her chin in the air and said:
"No; thank you!"
I guess I got hotter than I ever was in my life. I was burning hot. I guess I was pretty mad. I got up and held the pillow by one corner.
"All right for you!" I said; and all I thought of was to make her sorry for making me silly like that. "I know something you'd like to know and that your father would like to know; and now I won't ever tell it. I'm glad he dynamited your old house -- I am!"
Well, right away she got down on her knees, without the pillow on the floor, or anything. So I dropped down, too, and she let me kiss her on the cheek. It was the softest cheek I ever kissed! So then she got up and took the pillow and looked round the circle for a boy to drop it in front of; and Ting -- he was in the chair next to the one Mamie had been in -- said:
"Garsh! Now you done it!"
"Well," I said back, "I got a right to tell if I want to, haven't I?"
"No, you hain't," Ting said. "Slim Finnegan will stab the whole three of us if you tell."
"Well, let him stab!" I said.
That was the way I felt right then, because Mamie Little had put the pillow in front of Eddie, and when he went to kiss her she sort of drew back her head, so he hardly got a kiss at all; and she had let me kiss her good and solid. So I felt pretty good.
I felt as if she was my girl again. So then, after a while, when somebody kissed her again and she got the pillow, she came right to me with it and I did feel pretty good. It was a good kiss. I knew she was my girl again, all right!
When we boys were getting our hats Ting came up to me.
"If you tell her I'm going to lick you," he said.
"All right -- lick!" I said. "I ain't afraid of your licking. Lick all you want to! I told her I'd tell, and you nor nobody can't make me out a liar, Ting Schwartz!"
So Mamie Little waited for me at the
front door, and when I came out I knew she had waited so I could walk home with her, and I did.
"I'm glad we aren't mad any more," she said when we were walking along.
"Aw! I wasn't ever mad!" I said. "You was the one that was mad."
'Well, I'm not mad at you now," she sad. "Who was it blew up our house?"
"Oh, somebody!" I said.
She walked a little way and then she said:
"I think you kiss nicer than any of the boys at the party. Who was it blew up our house?"
"I'd rather kiss you than all the other girls put together. It was Slim Finnegan," I said.
"How do you know it was?" she asked.
"Because me and Ting and Eddie saw him steal the powder to do it with," I told her. "We was over in Illinois and we saw him steal it from a powder house that is over there."
So we talked about it some more, and when we got home to her house she told me to come up on the porch, and I did; and then she opened the door and called for her father, and he came to the door.
"Papa, this is Georgie," she said; "and he knows who blew up our house."
Well, he took me inside the house and asked me all about it and I told him, and Mamie Little sat in a chair and listened to me. When he had asked me everything he could think of he went to the door with me and said:
"George, you are a fine boy!"
"Yes, sir!" And then I said "Good-by, Mamie!"
And she said:
"Good-by, George!" And I went home.
That evening Mr. Murphy, the detective, came up to my house and Mr. Little came with him; and Mr. Murphy asked me all the questions Mr. Little had asked, and some more, and I told him all about Slim Finnegan. He asked where Ting and Eddie lived and how to get to their houses. So then Mr. Murphy said:
"If the boy is telling the truth this may be more important than we imagine. I have thought for some time that the reason Slim Finnegan skipped out was because he knew something about this affair."
So that was the reason Slim hadn't come round to stab us -- he wasn't in Riverbank. I guess it was a month more before they found him down in Oklahoma and fetched him back to Riverbank because me and Ting and Eddie had sworn he had stolen the keg of powder. Petty larceny was what it was called. That was what they arrested him for.
Well, come to find out, Slim Finnegan hadn't blown up anything, and it wasn't even his keg of powder that did it. He had stole the powder to load shotgun shells with to go hunting, and he showed Mr. Murphy the very powder keg, with some of the powder in it. So he wasn't a dynamiter after all. But his father was. So when Mr. Murphy said "I guess you know who did it, and if you don't tell who did it I'll send you to Anamosa to serve a term," Slim Finnegan told that his father had done it; and when they got his father, his father told who else had done it. So they got them.
So me and Eddie and Ting talked about who would get the one-thousand-five-hundred-dollars reward, and we decided that Ting would get it because he was the one that went back and saw that Slim Finnegan was really stealing a keg of powder; and that if Ting didn't get it I would, because I had told Mamie Little; and that if I didn't get it Mamie Little would, because if she hadn't been mad at me I wouldn't have told.
But none of us got it. Mr. Murphy got it. The only thing me and Ting and Eddie got was we didn't get stabbed. And I got Mamie Little back for my girl.