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The Best Man Wins!
by [?]


For sixteen consecutive years Anderson Crow had been the Marshal of Tinkletown. A hiatus of two years separated this period of service from another which, according to persons of apparently infallible memory, ran through an unbroken stretch of twenty-two years. Uncle Gid Luce stoutly maintained–and with some authority–that anybody who said twenty-two years was either mistaken or lying. He knew for a positive fact that it was only twenty-one for the simple reason that at the beginning of the Crow dynasty a full year elapsed before Anderson could be convinced that he actually had been victorious at the polls over his venerable predecessor, ex-marshal Bunker, who had served uninterruptedly for something like thirty years before him.

It took the wisest men in town nearly a year to persuade the incredulous Mr. Bunker that he had been defeated, and also to prove to Mr. Crow that he had been elected. Neither one of ’em would believe it.

It was the consensus of opinion, however, that Anderson Crow had served, all told, thirty-eight years, the aforesaid hiatus being the result of a decision on his part to permanently abandon public life in order to carry on his work as a private detective. Mr. Ed. Higgins held the office for two years and then retired, claiming that there wasn’t any sense in Tinkletown having two marshals and only paying for one. And, as the salary and perquisites were too meagre to warrant a division, and the duties of office barely sufficient to keep one man awake, he arrived at the only conclusion possible: it was only fair that he should split even with Anderson.

After thinking it over for some time, he decided that about the best way to solve the problem was for him to take the pay and allow Anderson to do the work,–an arrangement that was eminently satisfactory to the entire population of Tinkletown.

Elections were held biennially. Every two years, in the spring, as provided by statute, the voters of Tinkletown–unless otherwise engaged–ambled up to the polling place in the rear of Hawkins’s Undertaking Emporium and voted not only for Anderson Crow, but for a town clerk, a justice of the peace, and three selectmen. No one ever thought of voting for any one except Mr. Crow. Once, and only once, was there an opposition candidate for the office of Town Marshal. It is on record that he did not receive a solitary vote.

Republicans and Democrats voted for Anderson with persistent fidelity, and while there were notable contests for the other offices at nearly every election, no one bothered himself about the marshal-ship.

The regular election was drawing near. Marshal Crow was mildly concerned,–not about himself, but on account of the tremendous battle that was to be waged for the office of town clerk. Henry Wimpelmeyer, the proprietor of the tanyard, had come out for the office, and was spending money freely. The incumbent, Ezra Pounder, had had a good deal of sickness in his family during the winter, and was in no position to be bountiful.

Moreover, Ezra was further handicapped by the fact that nearly every voter in Tinkletown owed money to Henry Wimpelmeyer. Inasmuch as it was just the other way round with Ezra, it may be seen that his adversary possessed a sickening advantage. Mr. Wimpelmeyer could afford to slap every one on the back and jingle his pocketful of change in the most reckless fashion. He did not have to dodge any one on the street, not he.

Anderson Crow was a strong Pounder man. He was worried. Henry Wimpelmeyer had openly stated that if he were elected he would be pleased to show his gratitude to his friends by cancelling every obligation due him!

He was planning to run on what was to be called the People’s ticket. Ezra was an Anderson Crow republican. Tinkletown itself was largely republican. The democrats never had a chance to hold office except when there was a democratic president at Washington. Then one of them got the post-office, and almost immediately began to show signs of turning republican so that he could be reasonably certain of reappointment at the end of his four years.