As this is a history of a city I must not stay around any part too long. So, as it was almost “a small morning hour,” Nina Adams, a widow, was sitting up; for Virginia, a High School girl, was still out; and, around two-thirty, was brought back in a fast car; two youths actually dumping an unconscious form on Nina’s front porch, and dashing madly away. But Nina Adams saw it; and, calling for aid in carrying Virginia indoors, put in a frantic call for old Doc Wilkins, an old, long-ago school pal, who found Nina frantic from not knowing Virginia’s condition, nor why that pair of youths shot madly away without calling anybody. But it only took Doctor Wilkins an instant to find out what was wrong; and Nina, noting his tight lips and growing scowl was in an agony of doubt.

“What is it, Tom? Quick!! I’m almost crazy! !”

Dr. Wilkins, standing by Virginia’s couch, said, slowly:-

“It’s nothing to worry about, Nina. Virginia will pull through all right, by morning.”

But that didn’t satisfy Nina Adams, not for an instant, and Dr. Wilkins, knowing that ironclad spirit of school days which would stand for no obstructions in its path, saw that a “blow-up” was coming; but, through a kindly thought for this woman’s comfort, did not say what his diagnosis was, until Nina, now actually livid with worry, said:—

“Tom Wilkins! Doctor Wilkins, if you wish, — I claim a natural right to know why my child is unconscious! And you, a physician, cannot, by law, withhold such information.”

But Wilkins, trying to find a way out of a most unhappy condition of affairs, said:-

“Now, Nina, you know I wouldn’t hold anything from you if Virginia was critically ill, but that is not so. If you’ll only wait until morning you’ll find that I am right.”

But this only built obstruction upon obstruction to Nina’s strong will, until Dr. Wilkins, noticing coming total prostration, had to say:-

“Nina, Virginia is drunk; horribly drunk.”

“Drunk!!” Widow Adams had to grab wildly at a chair, sinking into it; at first as limp as a rag, but instantly springing up, blood surging to a throbbing brow. “Drunk! Drunk!! My baby drunk!! Tom, I thank you for trying to ward off this shock; but I’ll say right now, with my hand on high, that I am going to start a rumpus about this atrocity that will rock Branton Hills to its foundations! Who got this young school-girl drunk? I know that Virginia wouldn’t drink that stuff willingly. How could it occur? I pay through taxation for a patrolman in this district; in fact in all districts of this city. What is a patrolman for, if not to watch for just such abominations as this, pray ?”

Dr. Wilkins didn’t say, though probably thinking of a rumor that had run around town for a month or two. At this point Virginia, partly conscious was murmuring:

“Oh, Norman! Oh! I’m so sick!!” Don’t!! I can’t drink it!

This brought forth all of Nina Adams’ fury instantly.

Aha! Aha! Norman! So that’s it! That’s Norman Antor, that low-down, good-for-nothing night-owl ! Son of our big Councilman Antor. So!! It’s ‘Norman! I can’t drink it’!

Tom Wilkins, this thing is going to court !!”

* * * *

About noon of that day, our good doctor, walking sadly along, ran across Mayor Gadsby, in front of City Hall; and did His Honor “burn” at such an abomination?

“What? High School boys forcing young girls to drink? And right in our glorious Branton Hills? Oh, but, Doc! This can’t pass without a trial!”

“That’s all right, John; but a thorn sticks out, right in plain sight.”

“Thorn? Thorn? What kind of a thorn ?” and our Mayor was flushing hard, as no kind of wild thoughts would point to any kind of thorns.

“That thorn,” said Wilkins, “is young Norman Antor; son of—’

“Not of Councilman Antor?”

“I am sorry to say that it is so,” and Wilkins told of Virginia’s half-conscious murmurings. “And Nina wants to know why, with a patrolman in all parts of town, it isn’t known that all this drinking is going on. I didn’t say what I thought, but you know that a patrolman don’t go into dancing pavilions and night clubs until conditions sanction it.”

“Who is supplying this liquor ?”

“Councilman Antor; but without knowing it.

All His Honor could say was to gasp:—

“How do you know that, Doc ?” and Wilkins told of four calls for him in four days, to young girls, similarly drunk.

“And my first call was to young Mary— Antor’s tiny Grammar School kid, who was as drunk as Virginia; but, on coming out of it, told of robbing Antor’s pantry, in which liquor was always on hand for his political pals, you know; that poor kid taking it to various affairs and giving it to boys; and winning ‘popularity’ that way.”

“So,” said Gadsby, “Councilman Antor’s boy and girl, brought up in a family with liquor always handy. now, with ignorant, childish braggadocio, bring Councilman Antor into this mix—up! I’m sorry for Antor; but his pantry is in for an official visit.

It wasn’t so long from this day that Court got around to this rumpus. To say that that big room was full, would put it mildly Although, according to an old saying, “a cat is only as big as its skin,” that room’s walls almost burst, as groups of church organizations and law abiding inhabitants almost fought for admission; until standing room was nothing but a suffocating jam. As Gadsby and Doc Wilkins sat watching that sight, Gadsby said:— “It’s an outpouring of rightful wrath by a proud city’s population; who, having put out good, hard work in bringing it to its high standing as a community, today, will not stand for anything that will put a blot on its municipal flag, which is, right now, proudly flying on City Hall.”

As Wilkins was about to say so, a rising murmur was rolling in from out back, for Norman Antor was coming in, in custody of a big patrolman, and with four youths, all looking, not only anxious, but plainly showing humiliation at such an abomination against trusting young girlhood. Scowls and angry rumblings told that high official, way up in back of that mahogany railing, that but a spark would start a riot. So, in a calm, almost uncanny way, this first trial of its kind in Branton Hills got along to a court official calling, loudly:— “Virginia Adams!

If you think that you know what a totally still room is, by no kink of your imagination could you possibly know such an awful, frightful hush as struck that crowd dumb, as Virginia, a tall, dark, willowy, stylish girl quickly took that chair, from which Truth, in all its purity, is customarily brought out, But Virginia was not a bit shaky nor anxious, nor doubtful of an ability to go through with this ugly task.

Gadsby and Doc Wilkins sat watching Nina; Gadsby with profound sympathy, but Wilkins with an old school-pal’s intuition, watching for a blowup. But Nina didn’t blow up, that is, not visibly: but that famous rigid will was boiling, full tilt; boiling up to a point for landing, “tooth and claw” on our pompous Councilman’s son, if things didn’t turn out satisfactorily.

Virginia didn’t occupy that stand long; it was only a half-sobbing account of a night at a dancing pavilion; and with a sob or two from a woman or girl in that vast crowd. All Virginia said was:— “Norman Antor said I was a cry-baby if I wouldn’t drink with him. But I said, ‘All right; I am a cry-baby! And I always will turn ‘crybaby’ if anybody insists that I drink that stuff.” (Just a short lull, a valiant fight for control, and)—

“But I had to drink!! Norman was tipping my chair back and John Allison was forcing that glass into my mouth! I got so sick I couldn’t stand up, and didn’t know a thing until I found I was on a couch in my own parlor.”

A court official said, kindly:—

“That will do, Miss Adams.”

During this, Nina was glaring at Norman; but Virginia’s bringing Allison into it, also, was too much. But Wilkins, watching narrowly, said, snappingly:-

“Nina! This is a court room.”

Now this trial was too long to go into, word for word; so I’ll say that not only Norman Antor and Allison, but also our big, pompous Councilman Antor, according to our popular slang, “got in bad”; and Branton Hills’ dancing and night spots got word to prohibit liquor or shut up shop. Young Mary Antor was shown that liquor, in dancing pavilions or in a family pantry was not good for young girls; and soon this most disgusting affair was a part of Branton Hills’ history. And what vast variations a city’s history contains! What valorous acts by far-thinking officials! What dark daubs of filth by avaricious crooks! What an array of past Mayors; what financial ups and downs; what growth in population. But, as I am this particular city’s historian, with strict orthography controlling it, this history will not rank, in volubility, with any by an author who can sow, broadcast, all handy, common words which continuously try to jump into it!



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Books with no spinal columns.