THE CONSTABLE GO TO THE CIRCUS

Ezekiel Price, justice of the peace, generally known as Squire Price,
was just rising from his supper table when the one maid of all work,
Bridget, entered and said: “Mr. Price, old Tarbox is at the door and
wishes to see you.”

“Old Tarbox!” repeated the squire in a tone of reproof. “Really, you
should speak more respectfully of Mr. Nathan Tarbox.”

“Everybody calls him old Tarbox,” said Bridget, “and he’s the meanest
man in town.”

“Let that pass,” said the justice, using a pet phrase. “Tell him to
come in.”

Mr. Tarbox immediately afterwards was ushered into the room.

“Good evening, Mr. Tarbox,” said the squire, in a dignified tone.

“Good evenin’, squire.”

“All well at home, I trust, Mr. Tarbox.”

“Oh yes,” answered Tarbox, impatient to come to business. “I’ve come on
law business.”

“Indeed!”

“I want justice!” continued the farmer, slapping the table energetically,
to the imminent hazard of a cup and saucer standing beside.

“If I can be of any service to you in my—ahem! judicial capacity, I of
course should consider it my duty to help you.”

“I want a warrant for the arrest of a brute.”

“Ahem! my powers do not extend to the arrest of brutes. They are
limited to human beings.”

“You know what I mean—a brute on two legs, and mighty long ones, too.”

“I cannot say I apprehend your meaning, Mr. Tarbox. Whom do you wish to
arrest, let me ask?”

“The Norwegian giant.”

“The Norwegian giant!” repeated the squire in astonishment.

“Yes; the giant they’ve got at the show.”

“What has he been doing?”

“What hasn’t he been doing?” shouted Tarbox. “He came into my lot this
afternoon, seized me by the collar, nearly shook me to pieces, and
kicked my dog Bruiser to death.”

Squire Price listened in undisguised amazement.

“Really,” he said, “this was a high-handed outrage. Was he drunk?”

“No; he can’t get off on no such plea as that. He was as sober as you
or I.”

“Did he assign any reason for his extraordinary attack?”

“He was meddling in affairs that he had nothing to do with.”

“What affairs?”

This was rather an embarrassing question to answer.

“The fact is, I caught Jimmy Graham and his brother cutting across my
lot—a clear case of trespass—and I was about to give Jimmy a lesson
when that brute interfered—”

“What sort of a lesson were you going to give him?” asked the squire,
shrewdly.

“Why, you see I had tied the boy to a tree, and was going to touch
him gently with a horsewhip, when in jumped this overgrown bully and
attacked me.”

“Ahem! I begin to see. I hear that the Graham boys’ mother was taken
sick this afternoon, and the boys were probably going for the doctor.”

“So they said, but they had no right to go across my lot.”

“It strikes me, Mr. Tarbox, they were excusable under the
circumstances.”

“No, they were not; I have forbidden ’em time and again from goin’
across my field.”

“There’s a path, isn’t there?”

“Yes, but it’s my path.”

“Did the boy attract the giant’s attention by screaming?”

“Yes.”

“Well, Mr. Tarbox, to be frank with you, I think it was very natural
for him to interfere in defence of a boy about to receive brutal
treatment.”

“I hope you ain’t goin’ to take the side of lawbreakin’, squire?”

“You say he seized you by the collar and shook you up, Mr. Tarbox?”

“Yes; he made the teeth chatter in my head till I thought they would
drop out.”

“And he frightened you, did he?”

“Yes; I thought he was goin’ to take my life,” said Mr. Tarbox,
desiring to make the assault seem as aggravated as possible.

A mild smile played over the placid face of the squire, who was
evidently not impressed as he should have been by the recital of Mr.
Tarbox’s wrongs.

“And then you called Bruiser, did you, Mr. Tarbox?”

“Yes.”

“What did you expect Bruiser to do?”

“I wanted him to tear the giant to pieces. He was just makin’ for his
legs when the brute drew back his foot and kicked him to death.”

In his excitement Mr. Tarbox rose and paced the room.

Squire Price smiled again. It is to be feared he did not deplore, as he
should have done, the sad and untimely fate of the amiable bull-dog.

“Now, what do you want me to do, Mr. Tarbox?”

“I want a warrant for the arrest of this big scoundrel.”

“For killing Bruiser? That appears to have been in self-defence.”

“No; for assault and battery on me, Nathan Tarbox, a free-born American
citizen. It’s come to a pretty pass if I am to be attacked and nearly
killed by a foreign Norwegian, who has come over to America to take the
bread from our own citizens.”

“Well, I suppose I must give you what you desire, Mr. Tarbox, if you
insist upon it,” said the squire.

“Of course I insist upon it. I’m not goin’ to be trampled under foot by
a minion of a foreign power.”

“Do you happen to know the giant’s name?” asked the squire.

Mr. Tarbox scratched his head.

“I can’t say I rightly remember his name. I think it’s Enoch.”

“Enoch! Very likely. That’s a good Bible name. Just wait here a moment,
Mr. Tarbox, and I will make out an order of arrest.”

The squire left the room and returned in five minutes with a paper duly
drawn up, directing any constable or police officer to apprehend the
giant known as Enoch, and produce before him to answer to a charge of
assault and battery on Nathan Tarbox, a citizen of Crampton. There was
more legal phraseology, but this was the purport of it.

“Thank you, squire,” said Mr. Tarbox, in evident gratification, as he
deposited the valuable document which was to secure his revenge in the
right inside pocket of his coat.

“Who are you going to get to serve the warrant?” asked the squire.

“Sam Spriggins; he’s the nearest constable.”

“Very well,” said the squire, with a peculiar smile.

“I’m going to have him arrested just as the evening performance is to
commence,” said Mr. Tarbox, triumphantly; “that’ll trouble him, and
probably they’ll cut off his pay, but it’ll serve him right.”

After Mr. Tarbox left the squire had a quiet laugh, but as he did not
mention to any one what had aroused his mirth we are left to conjecture
what it was all about.

Nathan Tarbox proceeded at once to the house of Constable Spriggins, and
was lucky enough to find him at home. In fact, Mr. Spriggins was out in
his back yard, splitting some kindlings for use the next morning.

Sam Spriggins, who filled the high office of constable, was not a man
of imposing appearance, he was about five feet eight inches in height,
and had hair of a flaming red, and probably weighed about one hundred
and forty pounds. It was somehow suspected that Mr. Spriggins was not a
man of reckless bravery. He had never been employed to arrest desperate
criminals, and lawbreakers were not accustomed to quail before his
glance. In fact, Sam was more likely to be the one to quail. Why he had
been appointed constable was not very clear, but probably it came about
because no one else wanted the office.

“Good evening, Mr. Tarbox,” said the constable, desisting from his
employment.

“Good evenin’. I’ve got some work for you to do.”

“What is it?”

“I want you to make an arrest.”

“Who’s the party?” asked Sam, in a tone which betrayed some
apprehension.

“It’s the Norwegian giant at the circus.”

“Come now, Mr. Tarbox, you’re joking,” said Spriggins.

“Joking!” shouted Tarbox. “Do I look like joking? Why, this Enoch came
into my lot this afternoon and nearly killed me. It’s an outrageous
case of assault and battery, and here’s the warrant for his arrest duly
made out by Squire Price.”

“Is he very large?” faltered the poor constable.

“Very large! He’s eight or nine feet high,” said Tarbox.

“Couldn’t you call on some other constable?” pleaded Spriggins,
nervously. “You see, it’s very inconvenient for me to leave my work.”

“No; you’re the man, and it’s your legal duty to serve the warrant.
Besides, the other constable’s out of town.”

“When do you want the man arrested?” faltered Spriggins.

“I want you to go right over to the show with me now.”

“Do—do you think he’ll be violent?” asked the constable.

“I can’t say,” answered Tarbox. “Anyhow, the law is on your side, and
I’ll go with you, and stand by you.”

Sam Spriggins never in his life so deeply regretted that he had
accepted the office of constable.

“I think I’ll go in and bid my wife good-by,” said the constable,
ruefully.

“What’s the need of that?” asked Tarbox, impatiently.

“We don’t know what may happen,” said Spriggins, solemnly. “I’m ready
to do my duty by the gover’ment; but it’s a risky business, arrestin’ a
giant.”

“Oh, well, be quick about it. I don’t believe Mrs. Spriggins will mind.”

This remark did not seem to encourage or soothe the constable, but he
made no remark. He went into the house, and Mrs. Spriggins followed him
when he came out.

“Nathan Tarbox,” she said, “you’re real mean to get my husband into
trouble.”

“How have I got him into trouble,” demanded Tarbox doggedly.

“You want to get him into a fight with a giant. He ain’t fit to wrestle
with any one, bein’ in poor health, least of all a giant.”

“Ain’t he a officer of the law? That’s what I want to know,” said
Tarbox.

“Why, yes.”

“Then let him do his duty. I’ve put a warrant into his hands, and
Squire Price and I expect him to execute it.”

“Suppose he’s killed?” suggested Mrs. Spriggins.

Her husband looked nervous at the possibility hinted at, but Tarbox was
inexorable.

“Then you can be proud of his dyin’ while doin’ his duty. Come,
constable, I’ve no time to waste. Come along!”

“You’re real mean!” ejaculated Mrs. Spriggins, tearfully.

Tarbox deigned no answer, but strode out of the yard, followed by the
reluctant constable.

Few words were said, but when they were half way to the circus grounds
a bright idea struck Spriggins.

“I say, Mr. Tarbox,” he said, eagerly, “can’t we compromise this thing?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“You might authorize me to say to the giant in a friendly kind of way
that your feelin’s are hurt, that it’s probably all a misunderstandin’,
and propose to make up.”

“Spriggins, are you a fool? Do you think I’m goin’ to compromise after
I’ve been shaken almost to pieces and my dog has been kicked to death?”

“He might agree to buy you a new dog, if it was properly set before
him.”

“A new dog wouldn’t make up for Bruiser. He scared all the children in
the neighborhood. I shan’t see his like again. What I want is—revenge!”

“Why don’t you lay for him then yourself, and not drag me into it?”

“Spriggins, I believe you’re a coward—you’re afraid of this Enoch.”

“Who wouldn’t be afraid of a man eight or nine feet high?”

“I ain’t afraid of him,” said Tarbox, stoutly. “I’ll stand by you;
we’ll face him together.”

Seeing that there was no disposition to yield on the part of his
client, if I may so designate Mr. Tarbox, the constable continued on
his way, grasping the warrant in uneasy fingers.

It was some distance to the circus grounds, but the way seemed all
too short for Constable Spriggins, who felt like a man approaching an
enemy’s battery.

At length they came in sight of the circus grounds. Around the big tent
were congregated a crowd of men and boys, and a stream of people was
already marching up to the box office to buy tickets, while hitched to
trees and posts were carriages and wagons of all descriptions which had
been employed to convey intending spectators from the town round about.
Nothing draws like a circus in the country, or perhaps we may add in
the city also.

“There’s goin’ to be a crowd,” remarked the constable.

“Yes; fools and their money are soon parted. I never went to a circus
in all my life. It’s all foolery.”

“I went once when I was a boy, and I liked it. I little thought under
what circumstances I should make my second visit,” said Spriggins,
ruefully.

“Circuses are wicked, in my opinion,” said Tarbox. “I’d close ’em all
up if I could; we’ll do what we can to stop this.”

By this time they had got into the crowd at the entrance.

Instead of going up to the ticket office to purchase tickets they
passed on, and reached the doorway where stood a man to receive tickets.

“Where’s your tickets?” demanded he of Spriggins and his companion.

Mr. Spriggins turned to Tarbox expecting him to explain.

“We don’t need no tickets,” said he in an impressive manner. “This man
is an officer of the law.”

“No deadheads—no free list,” said the ticket-taker shortly. “Stand
aside!”

“You don’t understand me,” said Tarbox. “This is Constable Spriggins,
and he demands admission in the name of the United States and the
Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

“The United States don’t own this show, nor yet the State of
Massachusetts. Stand aside and let those who have tickets enter.”

“It’s no use,” said the constable, rather relieved. “They won’t let us
in.”

“This officer wants to make an arrest in your building,” said Tarbox,
trying again.

“Can’t help it! He can’t get in without a ticket.”

“You see how ’tis,” said Spriggins, cheerfully. “We can’t get in.”

“Force your way in!” said Tarbox, indignantly. “You’ve got the law on
your side.”

This the constable positively refused to do.

“Then buy a ticket and go in. The State will pay you back.”

“I’ve no call to do it, and I don’t believe I’d get my money back.”

“You refuse to do your duty, do you?”

“No I don’t. I’ve tried, and I can’t. You know how it is yourself.”

Mr. Tarbox was nonplussed. He didn’t like to give up his cherished
scheme of vengeance, yet how was he to carry it out?

“I’ll tell you what I’ll do,” he said; “I’ll buy you a ticket, and
trust to the State to pay me.”

“You can’t collect it of me,” said the constable, “even if the State
don’t pay you. You can buy me a ticket if you want to.”

But Tarbox was seized with a sudden suspicion. Spriggins might go
in and see the show at his expense, and leave his duty unperformed.
There was nothing to do but to go in with him, and that would involve
the purchase of two tickets, and the expenditure of an entire dollar,
which Tarbox, who was a close man, could not think of without mentally
groaning. Nevertheless, his soul thirsted for revenge, and it was clear
that revenge could not be had without expense.

“Spriggins,” he said, “I’ll buy two tickets, and we’ll go in together.”

The constable would have preferred to go in alone. He wanted to see the
show, and if he had been unaccompanied he could have done so without
any troublesome duties disturbing his enjoyment.

“Jest as you say,” he answered, a little nervously.

Mr. Tarbox joined the line, and gradually worked his way to the ticket
office.

“A couple of tickets,” he said, handing a dollar bill to the ticket
agent.

Two tickets were immediately passed to him, and he and the constable
entered the tent.

Opposed as he was to the circus, Tarbox could not forbear looking about
him with considerable curiosity. They were not yet in the main room,
but were in an outer lobby where were ranged the cages of animals. Mr.
Tarbox started as an African lion, whose cage he was passing, roared,
and he regarded with some apprehension the gratings of the cage.

“It’s rather resky,” he said. “Suppose the lions or tigers should break
out.”

The constable trembled at the suggestion, but still seemed interested
in looking about him.

“Come, Mr. Tarbox,” he said, “let’s go and look at the elephants.”

“Do you think I came here to see elephants?” he said, sternly.
“Constable, I call upon you to do your duty.”

“How can I?” asked the constable; “I don’t see the giant.”

One of the canvas men happened to be passing, and Mr. Tarbox, rightly
concluding that he was connected with the show, asked, “Where’s Enoch?”

“Enoch!” repeated the canvas man, staring; “I guess you’re off. I don’t
know any Enoch.”

“I mean the Norwegian giant.”

“Oh!” said the attendant, smiling. “You just follow round to the left,
and you’ll see him. He’s sittin’ next to the fat lady.”

“Constable,” said Mr. Tarbox, grasping his companion by the arm, “we
are on the scent. Come along, and we’ll see what the villain has to say
to the law.”

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