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The Complicity Of Enoch Embody
by [?]


The afternoon train wound through the waving barley-fields of the Temecula Valley and shrieked its approach to the town of Muscatel. It was a mixed train, and half a dozen passengers alighted from the rear coach to stretch their legs while the freight was being unloaded.

Enoch Embody stood on the platform with the mail-bag in his hand, and listened to their time-worn pleasantries concerning the population of the city and the probable cause of the failure of the electric cars to connect with the train.

Enoch was an orthodox Friend. There was a hint of orthodoxy all over his thin, shaven countenance, except at the corners of his mouth, where it melted into the laxest liberality.

A swarthy young man, with a deep scar across his cheek, swung himself from the platform of the smoking-car, and came toward him.

“Is there a stopping-place in this burg?” he called out gayly.

“Thee’ll find a hotel up the street on thy right,” said Enoch.

The stranger looked at him curiously.

“By gum, you’re a Quaker,” he broke out, slapping Enoch’s thin, high shoulder. “I haven’t heard a ‘thee’ or a ‘thou’ since I was a kid. It’s good for earache. Wait till I get my grip.”

He darted into the little group of men and boys, who were listening with the grim appreciation of the rural American to the badinage of the conductor and the station agent, and emerged with a satchel and a roll of blankets.

“Now, uncle, I’m ready. Shall we take the elevated up to the city?” he asked, smiling with gay goodfellowship up into Enoch’s mild, austere face.

The old man threw the mail-bag across his shoulder.

“I’ll take thee as far as the store. Thee can see most of the city from there.”

The young fellow laughed noisily, and hooked his arm through his companion’s gaunt elbow. Enoch glanced down at the grimy, broken-nailed, disreputable hand on his arm, and a faint flush showed itself under the silvery stubble on his cheeks.

“By gum, this town’s a daisy,” said the stranger, sniffing the honey-laden breeze appreciatively and glancing out over the sea of wild flowers that waved and shimmered under the California sun; “nice quiet little place–eh?”

“Thee hears all the noise there is,” answered Enoch gravely.

The young fellow gave a yell of delight and bent over as if the shaft of Enoch’s wit had struck him in some vital part. Then he disengaged his arm and writhed in an agony of mirth.

“Holy Moses!” he gasped, “that’s good. Hit ‘im again, uncle.”

Enoch stood still and looked at him, a mild, contemptuous sympathy twinkling in his blue eyes.

“Is thee looking for a quiet place?” he asked.

The newcomer reduced his hilarity to an intermittent chuckle, and resumed his affectionate grasp on Enoch’s arm.

“That’s about the size of it, uncle. I’ve knocked around a good deal, and I’m suffering from religious prostration. I’m looking for a nice, quiet, healthy place to take a rest–to recooperate my morals, so to speak. Good climate, good water, good society. Everything they don’t have in–some places. What’s the city tax on first-class residence property close in?”

“I think thee’ll find it within thy means,” said Enoch dryly. “Has thee a family?”

“Well, you might say–yes,” rejoined the stranger, “that is, I’m married. My wife’s not very well. I want to build a seven by nine residence on a fashionable street and send for her. I’m going to draw up the plans and specifications and bid on the contract myself, and I think by rustling the foreman I can get everything but the telephone and the hot water in before she gets here. Relic of the ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay?” he asked, pointing to a vacant store building across the grass-grown street; “or bought up by the government, maybe, to keep out competition in the post-office business–hello, is this where you hang out?”

Enoch turned into the combined store and post-office, and the stranger stood on the platform, bestowing his tobacco-stained smile generously upon the bystanders.