For twenty-two years Mark Melcher had walked from his drugstore to his house at exactly 5 o'clock. Methodical Mark was. For twenty-two years he had been greeted respectfully along the way by men and women who had grown old with him. Dignified and kindly Mark was. "Wouldn't hurt a fly," as Bob Barstow, the sheriff, often said. Emily Holden was a mighty pretty girl of about 22. The schoolteacher, and a good one. She had come to Willowville early in September and by Christmas she was dead in love with Andrew Fellows. Old Man Fellows – he wasn't so very old, though – was the richest man in town and a head of school board. So, naturally, he saw a lot of Emily Holden, and after a spell she was gone over him – like some women get over a man. Well, Emily came into Mark Melcher's drugstore one day and got behind the prescription counter and began to talk on something awful. Mark listened to her story, and while she was telling it his eyes got to looking mighty ugly. "And you say Andrew Fellows is the man?" he demanded when she got through.
"Oh, I have been such a fool." Emily sobbed. "But I loved him so, and he promised to marry me. And now he threatens to tell something he says he knows about me, Mr. Melcher. Something he says is terrible. Oh, what shall I do, Mr. Melcher?" Mark put his arms around Emily Holden and held her close and cried. It was awful. Pretty soon he pulled himself together and went to the bank and cashed a fat check. Then he came back and gave Emily the money.
"You go," he said, "to this address"- he gave her the name of somebody in New York-"and tell the lady there all about it. Tell her Mark Melcher sent you. And don't you ever come back to Willowville, Emily." Emily insisted she wouldn't take the money, of course. But Mark just took her in his arms and kissed her mighty tenderly and made her do it. Then, when she was gone, he got behind his prescription counter again and waited. He had made up his mind to kill Old Man Fellows, to confess, and to let them hang him if they wanted to. Pretty soon Old Man Fellows came in to ask for some of the eyewash he usually bought. "Got a new kind, Andrew," Mark said slowly. "Smell nice too". He went behind the counter and got a half-ounce of prussic acid. The pure stuff, undiluted. Then he let Old Man Fellows take a little whiff of it. "Smells sort of like peach blossoms," said Old Man Fellows. "Kind of nice, isn't it?" "It's nice," said Mark, "and just as good for the eyes as it smells. I've only got this much, but I'll let you have it, same price as the other". Old Man Fellows smiled. Mark smiled too, for he knew that a single drop of pure prussic acid inside the eye would kill Old Man Fellows almost as quick as lightning. Old Man Fellows paid over his money and started to leave. It was 5 o'clock, so Mark went along with him. At his house Mark turned in and bade his friend good-bye.