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Title: Out of a Labyrinth
Author: Lynch, Lawrence L.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: "Then the vigilants post themselves as a wall of
defence about the building."--page 423.]


OUT OF A LABYRINTH.

by

LAWRENCE L. LYNCH,

(Of the Secret Service.)

Author of "Shadowed by Three," "Madeline Payne,"
"Dangerous Ground," "The Diamond Coterie,"
etc., etc.



Chicago:
Alex. T. Loyd & Co.
1885.


Copyright, 1885, by
ALEX. T. LOYD & CO.,
CHICAGO.

Copyright, 1882, by
DONNELLEY, LOYD & CO.



TABLE OF CONTENTS

   Chapter I.       A Bad Beginning.
   Chapter II.      The Enemy Makes a Move.
   Chapter III.     Scenting a Mystery.
   Chapter IV.      Chartering a Dummy.
   Chapter V.       En Route for Trafton.
   Chapter VI.      Jim Long.
   Chapter VII.     We Organize.
   Chapter VIII.    A Resurrection.
   Chapter IX.      Mob Law.
   Chapter X.       Two Fair Champions.
   Chapter XI.      A Cup of Tea.
   Chapter XII.     A Big Haul.
   Chapter XIII.    'Squire Brookhouse Makes a Call.
   Chapter XIV.     Mrs. Ballou's Pistol Practice.
   Chapter XV.      Preparations of War.
   Chapter XVI.     Fly Crooks in Trafton.
   Chapter XVII.    Southward to Clyde.
   Chapter XVIII.   A Sewing Machine Agent.
   Chapter XIX.     Haunted by a Face.
   Chapter XX.      Some Bits Of Personal History.
   Chapter XXI.     "Evolving a Theory."
   Chapter XXII.    Two Departures.
   Chapter XXIII.   A Shot in the Dark.
   Chapter XXIV.    Jim Long Shows His Hand.
   Chapter XXV.     In Which I Take Jim on Trust.
   Chapter XXVI.    The Trail of the Assassin.
   Chapter XXVII.   An Angry Heiress.
   Chapter XXVIII.  Jim Gives Bail.
   Chapter XXIX.    Vigilants.
   Chapter XXX.     A Chapter of Telegrams.
   Chapter XXXI.    Carnes Tells His Story.
   Chapter XXXII.   Amy Holmes Confesses.
   Chapter XXXIII.  Johnny La Porte is Brought to Book.
   Chapter XXXIV.   How Bethel was Warned.
   Chapter XXXV.    We Prepare For a "Party."
   Chapter XXXVI.   Something the Moon Failed to See.
   Chapter XXXVII.  Caught in the Act.
   Chapter XXXVIII. "The Counterfeiter's Daughter."
   Chapter XXXIX.   "Louise Barnard's Friendship."
   Chapter XL.      The Story Of Harvey James.
   Chapter XLI.     A Gathering of the Fragments.
   Chapter XLII.    In Conclusion.



OUT OF A LABYRINTH.



CHAPTER I.

A BAD BEGINNING.


It was a June day; breezy, yet somewhat too warm. The slow going old
passenger train on the slow going mail route, that shall be nameless in
these chronicles, seemed in less of a hurry than usual, and I, stretched
lazily across two seats, with my left arm in a sling, was beginning to
yield to the prevailing atmosphere of stupidity, when we rumbled up to a
village station, and took on board a single passenger.

I was returning from a fruitless mission; and had stepped on board the
eastward-bound train in anything but an enviable frame of mind; and no
wonder! I, who prided myself upon my skill in my profession; _I_, who
was counted by my chief the "best detective on the force, sir,"--had
started, less than a week before, for a little farming settlement in one
of the interior States, confident of my ability to unravel soon, and
easily, a knotty problem.

I had taken every precaution to conceal my identity, and believed myself
in a fair way to unveil the mystery that had brought grief and
consternation into the midst of those comfortable, easy-going farmers;
and I had been _spotted_ at the very outset! I had been first warned, in
a gentlemanly but anonymous fashion, to leave the neighborhood, and
then, because I did not avail myself of the very first opportunity to
decamp, had been shot from behind a hedge!

And this is how it happened:

Groveland, so called, doubtless, because of the total absence of
anything bearing closer resemblance to a grove than the thrifty orchards
scattered here and there, is a thriving township, not a town.

Its inhabitants reside in the midst of their own farms, and, save the
farm buildings, the low, rambling, sometimes picturesque farm houses, or
newer, more imposing, "improved" and often exquisitely ugly, white
painted dwellings; the blacksmith shop, operated by a thrifty farmer and
his hard-fisted sons; the post-office, kept in one corner of the "front
room" by a sour-visaged old farmer's wife; and the "deestrict"
school-house, then in a state of quiescence,--town institutions there
were none in Groveland.

The nearest village, and that an exceedingly small one, was five miles
west of Groveland's western boundary line; and the nearest railroad town
lay ten miles east of the eastern boundary.

So the Grovelanders were a community unto themselves, and were seldom
disturbed by a ripple from the outside world.

It was a well-to-do community. Most of its inhabitants had "squatted"
there when the land was cheap and uncultivated, and they were poor and
young.

Time, railroads, and the grand march of civilization had increased the
value of their acres; and their own industry had reared for them
pleasant homes, overflowing granaries, barns "good enough to live in,"
orchards, vineyards, all manner of comforts and blessings. Strong sons
and fair daughters had grown up around them; every man knew his
neighbor, and had known him for years. They shared in their neighborhood
joys and griefs, and made common cause at weddings, funerals,
threshings, huskings, cider makings, everything.

One would suppose it difficult to have a secret in Groveland, and yet a
mystery had come among them.

'Squire Ewing, 'squire by courtesy, lived in a fine new white house on a
fine farm in the very center of the township. His family consisted of
his wife, two daughters, the eldest, eighteen, the younger, fifteen, and
two sons, boys of twelve and ten.

The daughters of 'Squire Ewing were counted among the brightest and
prettiest in Groveland, and they were not lacking in accomplishments, as
accomplishments go in such communities. Much learning was not considered
a necessity among the Groveland young ladies, but they had been smitten
with the piano-playing mania, and every Winter the district school-house
was given over, for one night in the week, to the singing school.

The Misses Ewing were ranked among the best "musicians" of Groveland,
and they had also profited for a time by the instructions of the nearest
seminary, or young ladies' school.

One evening, just as the sun was setting, Ellen, or Nell Ewing, as she
was familiarly called, mounted her pony and cantered blithely away, to
pass the night with a girl friend.

It was nothing unusual for the daughters of one farmer to ride or drive
miles and pass the night or a longer time with the daughters of another,
and Nellie's destination was only four miles away.

The night passed and half of the ensuing day, but the eldest daughter of
Farmer Ewing did not return.

However, there was no cause for alarm in this, and 'Squire Ewing ate his
evening meal in peace, confident that his daughter would return before
the night had closed in. But a second night came and went, and still she
did not come.

Then the good farmer became impatient, and early on the morning of the
second day he dispatched his eldest son to hasten the return of the
tardy one.

But the boy came back alone, and in breathless agitation. Nellie had
not been seen by the Ballous since the night she left home. She had
complained of a headache, and had decided to return home again. She had
remained at Mrs. Ballou's only an hour; it was not yet dark when she
rode away.

Well, Nellie Ewing was never seen after that, and not a clue to her
hiding-place, or her fate, could be discovered.

Detectives were employed; every possible and impossible theory was
"evolved" and worked upon, but with no other result than failure.

Groveland was in a state of feverish excitement; conjectures the most
horrible and most absurd were afloat; nothing was talked of save the
mysterious disappearance of Nellie Ewing.

And so nearly three months passed. At the end of that time another
thunderbolt fell.

Mamie Rutger, the only daughter of a prosperous German farmer; wild
little Mamie, who rode the wickedest colts, climbed the tallest trees,
sang loudest in the singing-school, and laughed oftenest at the
merry-makings, also vanished. At first they thought it one of her jokes,
for she was given to practical joking; but she did not come back. No
trace of her could be found.

At twilight one June evening she was flitting about the door-yard,
sometimes singing gayly, sometimes bending over a rosebush, sometimes
snatching down handfuls of early cherries. After that she was seen no
more.

Then ensued another search, and a panic possessed that once quiet
community. The country was scoured. Every foot of road, every acre of
ground, every hedge or clump of trees, every stream, every deserted or
shut-up building for miles around was faithfully searched.

And then Farmer Rutger and 'Squire Ewing closeted themselves together,
took counsel of each other, and decided to call in the aid of a city
detective. They came together to our office and laid their case before
our chief.

"If any man can clear up this matter, it's Bathurst," said that bluff
old fellow.

And so I was called into the consultation.

It was a very long and very earnest one. Questions were asked that would
have done credit to the brightest lawyer. Every phase of the affair, or
the two affairs, was closely examined from different standpoints. Every
possibility weighed; copious notes taken.

Before the two men left us, I had in my mind's eye a tolerably fair map
of Groveland, and in my memory, safely stowed away, the names of many
Grovelanders, together with various minute, and seemingly irrelevant,
items concerning the families, and nearest friends and neighbors, of the
two bereaved fathers.

They fully perceived the necessity for perfect secrecy, and great
caution. And I felt assured that no word or sign from them would betray
my identity and actual business when, a few days later, I should appear
in Groveland.

It was a strange case; one of the sort that had a wonderful fascination
for me; one of the sort that once entered upon, absorbed me soul and
body, sleeping or waking, day and night, for I was an enthusiast in my
profession.

After waiting a few days I set out for the scene of the mystery. I did
not take the most direct route to reach my destination, but went by a
circuitous way to a small town west of the place, and so tramped into
it, coming, not from the city, but from the opposite direction.

My arrival was as unobtrusive as I could make it, and I carried my
wardrobe in a somewhat dusty bundle, swung across my shoulder by a
strap.

I had assumed the character of a Swede in search of employment, and my
accent and general _ensemble_ were perfect in their way.

Perseveringly I trudged from farm to farm, meeting sometimes with
kindness, and being as often very briefly dismissed, or ordered off for
a tramp. But no one was in need of a man until I arrived at the widow
Ballou's.

This good woman, who was a better farmer than some of her male
neighbors, and who evidently had an eye to the saving of dollars and
cents, listened quite indifferently to my little story while I told how
long I had looked for work, and how I had been willing to labor for very
small wages. But when I arrived at the point where I represented myself
as now willing to work for my board until I could do better, her eyes
brightened, she suddenly found my monotone more interesting, decided
that I "looked honest," and, herself, escorted me to the kitchen and
dealt me out a bountiful supper, for I had reached the Ballou farmhouse
at sundown.



CHAPTER II.

THE ENEMY MAKES A MOVE.


Three days passed, and of course during that time I heard much about the
two girls and their singular disappearance.

At night, after work was done, and supper disposed of, Mrs. Ballou would
send some one to the post-office. This duty had usually fallen to Miss
Grace Ballou, or been chosen by her, but since the night when Nellie
Ewing rode away from the door, never again to be seen, Mrs. Ballou had
vetoed the evening canters that Grace so much loved, and so the
post-office was attended to by Master Fred, the spoiled son and heir,
aged thirteen, or by the "hired man."

On the evening of the third day of my service, I saddled one of the farm
horses, and rode to the post-office to fetch the widow's mail, and great
was my surprise when the grim postmistress presented me with a letter
bearing my assumed name, Chris Ollern, and directed to the care of Mrs.
Ballou.

Stowing away the widow's papers and letters in a capacious coat pocket,
and my own letter in a smaller inner one, I rode thoughtfully homeward.

Who had written me? Not the men at the office; they were otherwise
instructed; besides, the letter was a local one, bearing only the
Groveland mark. Could it be that Farmer Rutger or 'Squire Ewing had
forgotten all my instructions, and been insane enough to write me?

I hurriedly put my horse in his stable, unburdened my pocket of the
widow's mail, and mounted to my room.

Locking my door and lighting a tallow candle--the widow objected to
kerosene in sleeping rooms,--I opened my letter.

It was brief, very, containing only these words:

     CHRIS OLLERN--As you call yourself, unless you wish to
     disappear as effectually as did Nellie Ewing and Mamie Rutger,
     you will abandon your present pursuit. A word to the wise is
     sufficient.

Here was an astonisher, and here was also a clue. I was betrayed, or
discovered. But the enemy had showed his hand. I had also made a
discovery.

There was an enemy then; there had been foul play; and that enemy was
still in the vicinity, as this letter proved.

It was a wily enemy too; the letter would betray nothing as regarded
identity. It was _printed_; the letters were smooth and even, but
perfectly characterless. It was a wily enemy, but not quite a wise one,
as the sending of such a letter proved.

I did not leave my room again that night, but sat for hours thinking.

The next morning as I came from the barn-yard with a pail of milk, I
encountered Miss Grace Ballou. She was feeding a brood of chickens, and
seemed inclined to talk with me.

"Did you ever see such fine chicks, Chris?" she asked; "and they are
only two weeks old."

I stopped, of course, to admire the chickens and express my admiration
in broken English.

Suddenly she moved nearer me, and said, in a lower tone:

"Chris, did you bring any letters for any one except mother, last
night?"

[Illustration: "Chris, did you bring any letters for any one, except
mother, last night?"--page 18.]

Promptly and unblushingly, yet somewhat surprised, I answered, "No."

Her eyes searched my face for a second, and then she said, falling back
a step:

"Well, don't say anything about my asking you, Chris. I--I expected a
letter."

That night I went to the post-office as usual, and the next morning Miss
Grace repeated her question:

"Did you bring no letters for _any one, positively_?"

"No, there were only papers that night."

The third night after the receipt of my mysterious warning, however,
there came a letter for Grace, which, a little to my surprise, was
promptly handed over by her mother. Whether this was the expected
missive or not it threw the young lady into unmistakable raptures.

Amy was coming! Amy Holmes; she would be at the station to-morrow, and
Grace must go in the carriage to meet her.

Everybody was pleased except Fred Ballou. Mrs. Ballou heartily expressed
her satisfaction, and announced that I should drive with Grace to "the
station;" and Ann, the "help," became quite animated.

But Fred scornfully declined his mother's proposition, that he should
ride to town with his sister and myself.

"Catch me," he sniffed, "for that stuck-up town girl; she was always
putting ideas into Grace's head; and--he hated girls anyway. And hoped
some one would just carry Amy Holmes off as they did Nellie Ewing."

Whereupon Grace turned, first pale, then scarlet, and lastly, flew at
her brother and boxed his ears soundly.

The next day we went as per programme to the town, ten miles distant,
where Miss Holmes would be. She had arrived before us, and was waiting.

She was a handsome, showy-looking girl, stylishly dressed, and very
self-possessed in manner; evidently a girl who knew something of town
life.

We found her beguiling the time of waiting by conversation with a
well-dressed, handsome young fellow, who was evidently a prime favorite
with both young ladies. He accompanied them while they went about making
certain purchases that Mrs. Ballou had charged her daughter not to
forget, and then he assisted them into the carriage, while I stowed away
their bundles, shook their hands at parting, and stood gazing after them
as the carriage rolled away, the very model of a young Don Juan, I
thought.

I had hoped to gain something from my ten-mile drive with the two young
ladies sitting behind me. I had learned that Miss Holmes was a friend of
the Ewings, and also of Mamie Rutger, and as she had not been in the
vicinity since these young ladies had vanished, what more natural than
that she should talk very freely of their mysterious fate, and might not
these girl friends know something, say something, that in my hands would
prove a clue?

But I was disappointed; during the long drive the names of Nellie Ewing
and Mamie Rutger never once passed their lips. Indeed, save for a few
commonplaces, these two young ladies, who might be supposed to have so
much to say to each other, never talked at all.

I had driven the steady old work horses in going for Miss Holmes, and so
when night came, a feeling of humanity prompted me to buckle the saddle
upon a young horse scarcely more than half broken, and set off upon his
back for the post-office.

It was a little later than usual, and by the time I had accomplished
the first half of my journey, stowed away the usual newspapers, and
remounted my horse, it was fully dark; and I rode slowly through the
gloom, thinking that Groveland was ambitious indeed to bring the mail
every day from a railway ten miles distant, and wondering what it would
be like to be the mail boy, and jog over that same monotonous twenty
miles of fetching and carrying every day.

I had now reached a high hedge that assured me that my homeward journey
was half accomplished, when, from an imaginary inland mail boy, I was
suddenly transformed into an actual, crippled John Gilpin. From out the
blackness of the hedge came a flash and a sharp report; my horse bounded
under me, my left arm dropped helpless, and then I was being borne over
the ground as if mounted upon a whirlwind!

[Illustration: "From out the blackness of the hedge came a flash and a
sharp report; my horse bounded under me, my left arm dropped
helpless."--page 23.]

It was useless to command, useless to strive with my single hand to curb
the frightened beast. It was a miracle that I did not lose my seat, for
at first I reeled, and feeling the flow of blood, feared a loss of
consciousness. But that swift rush through the dewy evening air revived
me, and rallied my scattered senses.

As we dashed on, I realized that my life had been attempted, and that
the would-be assassin, the abductor or destroyer of the two missing
girls, had been very near me; that but for the unruly beast I rode I
might perhaps have returned his little compliment; at least have found
some trace of him.

My horse kept his mad pace until he had reached his own barn-yard gate,
and then he stopped so suddenly as to very nearly unseat me.

I quickly decided upon my course of action, and now, dismounting and
merely leading my horse into the inclosure, I went straight to the
house. I knew where to find Mrs. Ballou at that hour, and was pretty
sure of finding her alone.

As I had anticipated, she was seated in her own room, where she
invariably read her evening papers in solitude. I entered without
ceremony, and much to her surprise.

But I was not mistaken in her; she uttered no loud exclamation, either
of anger at my intrusion, or of fright at sight of my bleeding arm. She
rose swiftly and came straight up to me.

Before she could ask a question, I motioned her to be silent, and closed
the door carefully. After which, without any of my foreign accent, I
said:

"Mrs. Ballou, a woman who can manage a great farm and coin money in the
cattle trade, can surely keep a secret. Will you bind up my arm while I
tell you mine?"

"What!" she exclaimed, starting slightly; "you are not a--"

"Not a Swede? No, madame," I replied; "I am a detective, and I have been
shot to-night by the hand that has struck at the happiness of 'Squire
Ewing and his neighbor."

The splendid woman comprehended the situation instantly.

"Sit there," she said, pointing to her own easy chair. "And don't talk
any more now. I shall cut away your sleeve."

"Can you?" I asked, deprecatingly.

"Can I?" contemptuously; "I bleed my cattle."

I smiled a little in spite of myself; then--

"Consider me a colt, a heifer, anything," I said, resignedly. "But I
feel as if I had been bled enough."

"I should think so," she replied, shortly. "Now be still; it's lucky
that you came to me."

I thought so too, but obedient to her command, I "kept still."

She cut away coat and shirt sleeves; she brought from the kitchen tepid
water and towels, and from her own especial closet, soft linen rags. She
bathed, she stanched, she bandaged; it proved to be only a flesh wound,
but a deep one.

"Now then," she commanded in her crisp way, when all was done, and I had
been refreshed with a very large glass of wine, "tell me about this."

"First," I said, "your colt stands shivering yet, no doubt, and all
dressed in saddle and bridle, loose in the stable-yard."

"Wait," she said, and hurried from the room.

In a few moments she came back.

"The colt is in his stable, and no harm done," she announced, sitting
down opposite me. "How do you feel?"

"A little weak, that is all. Now, I will tell you all about it."

In the fewest words possible, I told my story, and ended by saying:

"Mrs. Ballou, you, as a woman, will not be watched or suspected; may I
leave with you the task of telling 'Squire Ewing and Mr. Rutger what has
happened to me?"

"You may," with decision.

"And I must get away from here before others know how much or little I
am injured. Can your woman's wit help me? I want it given out that my
arm is broken. Do you comprehend me?"

"Perfectly. Then no one here must see you, and--you should have that
wound dressed by a good surgeon, I think. There is a train to the city
to-morrow at seven. I will get up in the morning at three o'clock, make
us a cup of coffee, harness the horses, and drive you to Sharon."

"_You?_" I exclaimed.

"Yes, I! Why not? It's the only way. And now, would you mind showing me
that letter?"

I took it from my pocket-book and put it in her hand. She read it
slowly, and then looked up.

"Why did you not heed this warning?" she asked.

[Illustration: "Why did you not heed this warning?" she asked.--page
28.]

"Because I wanted to find out what it meant."

"Well, you found out," sententiously. "Now, go to bed, but first let me
help you remove that coat."

"Mrs. Ballou, you are a woman in a thousand," I exclaimed, as I rose
to receive her assistance. "And I don't see how I can ever repay you.
You are your own reliance."

As I spoke, the coat fell from my shoulder and my hand touched the
weapon in my pistol pocket.

She saw it, too, and pointing to it, said:

"I have never owned a pistol, because I could not buy one without
letting Fred know it; he is always with me in town. If you think I have
earned it give me that."

"Gladly," I said, drawing out the small silver-mounted six-shooter; "it
is loaded, every barrel. Can you use it?"

"Yes; I know how to use firearms."

"Then when you do use it, if ever, think of me." I laughed.

"I will," she said, quite soberly.

And little either of us dreamed how effectively she would use it one
day.

The next morning, at half-past three, we drove out of the farm yard, _en
route_ for the railway station.

During our drive, we talked like two men, and when we parted at Sharon
we were very good friends. I dropped her work-hardened hand reluctantly,
and watched her drive away, thinking that she was the only really
sensible woman I had ever known, and feeling half inclined to fall in
love with her in spite of the fact that she was twenty-five years my
senior.



CHAPTER III.

SCENTING A MYSTERY.


That is how I chanced to be rolling city-ward on that phlegmatic,
oft-stopping, slow going, accomodation train, and that is why I was out
of temper, and out of tune.

My operation had been retarded. Instead of working swiftly on to a
successful issue, this must be a case of waiting, of wit against wit,
and I must report to my chief a balk in the very beginning.

Nevertheless, as I said in the outset, fifty miles of monotonous rumble,
together with the soothing influence of a good cigar, had blunted the
edge of my self-disgust; my arm was quite easy, only warning me now and
then that it was a crippled arm; I was beginning to feel phlegmatic and
comfortable.

I had formed a habit of not thinking about my work when the thinking
would be useless, and there was little room for effective thought in
this case. My future movements were a foregone conclusion. So I rested,
and fell almost asleep, and then it was that the single passenger of
whom I made mention, came on board.

I had not noticed the name of the station, but as I roused myself and
looked out, I saw that we were moving along the outskirts of a pretty
little town, and then I turned my eyes toward the new passenger.

He was coming down the aisle towards me, and was a plain, somewhat
heavy-featured man, with a small, bright, twinkling eye. Certainly it
was not a prepossessing countenance, but, just as certainly, it was an
honest one. He was dressed in some gray stuff, the usual "second best"
of a thriving farmer or mechanic, and might have been either.

By the time I had arrived at this stage in my observations, there was
rustle and stir behind me, and a man who had been lounging, silent,
moveless, and, as I had supposed, asleep, stretched forward a brown
fist, exclaiming:

"Hallo, old boy! Stop right here. Harding, how are ye?"

Of course the "old boy" stopped. There was the usual hand shaking, and
mutual exclamations of surprise and pleasure, not unmixed with
profanity. Evidently they had been sometime friends and neighbors, and
had not met before for years.

They talked very fast and, it seemed to me, unnecessarily loud; the one
asking, the other answering, questions concerning a certain village,
which, because it would not be wise to give its real name we will call
Trafton.

Evidently Trafton was the station we had just left, and where we took
on this voluble passenger. They talked of its inhabitants, its
improvements, its business; of births, and deaths, and marriages. It was
very uninteresting; I was beginning to feel bored, and was meditating a
change of seat, when the tone of the conversation changed somewhat, and,
before I could sufficiently overcome my laziness to move, I found myself
getting interested.

"No, Trafton ain't a prosperous town. For the few rich ones it's well
enough, but the poor--well, the only ones that prosper are those who
live without work."

"Oh! the rich?"

"No! the poor. 'Nuff said."

"Oh! I see; some of the old lot there yet; wood piles suffer?"

"_Wood piles!_"

"And hen roosts."

"_Hen roosts!_" in a still deeper tone of disgust.

"Clothes lines, too, of course."

"_Clothes lines!_" Evidently this was the last straw. "Thunder and
lightning, man, that's baby talk; there's more deviltry going on about
Trafton than you could scoop up in forty ordinary towns."

"No! you don't tell me. What's the mischief?"

"Well, it's easy enough to tell _what_ the mischief is, but _where_ it
is, is the poser; but there's a good many in Trafton that wouldn't
believe you if you told them there was no such thing as an organized
gang of marauders near the place."

"An organized gang!"

"Yes, sir."

"But, good Lord, that's pretty strong for Trafton. Do you believe it?"

"Rather," with Yankee dryness.

"Well, I'm blessed! Come, old man, tell us some of the particulars. What
makes you suspect blacklegs about that little town?"

"I've figured the thing down pretty close, and I've had reason to. The
thing has been going on for a number of years, and I've been a loser,
and ever since the beginning it has moved like clock-work. Five years
ago a horse thief had not been heard of in Trafton for Lord knows how
long, until one night Judge Barnes lost a valuable span, taken from his
stable, slick and clean, and never heard of afterwards. Since then, from
the town and country, say for twenty-five miles around, they have
averaged over twenty horses every year, and they are always the very
best; picked every time, no guess work."

The companion listener gave a long, shrill whistle, and I, supposed by
them to be asleep, became very wide awake and attentive.

"But," said the astonished man, "you found some of them?"

"No, sir; horses that leave Trafton between two days never come back
again."

"Good Lord!"

There was a moment's silence and then the Traftonite said:

"But that ain't all; we can beat the city itself for burglars."

[Illustration: "But that ain't all; we can beat the city itself for
burglars."--page 36.]

"Burglars, too!"

"Yes, _burglars_!" This the gentleman emphasized very freely. "And cute
ones; they never get caught, and they seldom miss a figure."

"How's that?"

"They always know where to strike. If a man goes away to be absent for a
night or two, they know it. If a man draws money from the bank, or sells
cattle, they know that. And if some of our farmers, who like to go home
drunk once in a while, travel the road alone, they are liable to be
relieved of a part of their load."

"And who do the folks suspect of doing the mischief?"

"They talk among themselves, and very carefully, about _having_
suspicions and _being_ on the watch; but very few dare breathe a name.
And after all, there is no clear reason for suspecting anyone."

"But _you_ suspect some one, or I miss my guess."

"Well, and so I do, but I ain't the man to lay myself liable to an
action for damages, so I say nothing, but _I'm watching_."

Little more was said on the subject that interested me, and presently
the Traftonite took leave of his friend, and quitted the train at a
station, not more than twenty miles east of Trafton; the other was going
to the city, like myself.

When quiet was restored in my vicinity, I settled myself for a fresh
cogitation, and now I gave no thought to the fate of Mamie Rutger and
'Squire Ewing's daughter. My mind was absorbed entirely with what I had
just heard.

The pretty, stupid-looking little town of Trafton had suddenly become to
me what the great Hippodrome is to small boys. I wanted to see it; I
wanted to explore it, and to find the mainspring that moved its mystery.

The words that had fallen from the lips of the Trafton man, had revealed
to my practiced ear a more comprehensive story than he had supposed
himself relating.

Systematic thieving and burglary for five years! Systematic, and always
successful. What a masterful rogue must be the founder of this system!
How secure he must be in his place, and his scheming, and what a foeman
to encounter. It would be something to thwart, to baffle, and bring to
justice a villain of such caliber.

After a while my thoughts turned back to Groveland. Certainly the
mystery there was quite as deep, and the solution of it of more vital
importance. But--Groveland was the mystery that I had touched and
handled; Trafton was the mystery unseen.

So my mind returned to the latter subject, and when, hours later, we
ran into the city, Groveland was still absent, and Trafton present, in
my thoughts.



CHAPTER IV.

CHARTERING A DUMMY.


By the time I reached the city my arm, which needed fresh bandages,
began to pain me, and I went straight to the office of a surgeon,
well-known to fame, and to the detective service. He had bound up many a
broken bone for our office, and we of the fraternity called him "Our
Samaritan." Some of the boys, and, let me confess it, myself among the
number, called him "Our old woman," as well, for, while he bandaged and
healed and prescribed, he waged continued warfare upon our profession,
or rather the dangers of it.

Of course, the country needed secret service men, and must have them,
but there was an especial reason why each one of us should not be a
detective. We were too young, or too old; we were too reckless, or we
were cut out for some other career. In short, every patient that came
under the hand of good Dr. Denham, became straightway an object of
interest to his kindly old heart; and--strange weakness in a man of his
cloth--he desired to keep us out of danger.

"So ho!" cried "our old woman," when I appeared before him with my
bandaged arm, "here _you_ are! I knew you'd be along soon. You've kept
out of my clutches a good while. Arm, eh? Glad of it! I'll cut it off;
I'll cut it off! That'll spoil _one_ detective."

I laughed. We always laughed at the talkative soul, and he expected it.

"Cut it off, then," I retorted, flinging myself down in a chair and
beginning to remove my sling. "I don't need a left arm to shoot the
fellow that gave me this, and I'm bound to do that, you know."

"So! Got shot again? Go on, go on, sir! I'll have the pleasure of
dissecting you yet. You'll come home dead some day, you scoundrel. Ah!
here we are. Um! flesh wound, rear of arm, under side; close, pretty
close, pret-ty close, sir!"

[Illustration: "So! Got shot again? Go on, go on, sir! I'll have the
pleasure of dissecting you yet."--page 43.]

All this was jerked out in short breaths, while he was undoing and
taking a first look at my arm. When the actual business of dressing
commenced, "our old woman" was always silent and very intent upon the
delicate task.

"Pity it wasn't a little worse," he sniffled, moving across the room and
opening a case of instruments. "You chaps get off too easy; you don't
come quite near enough to Death's door. There's Carnes, now; got a knife
through his shoulder, and fretting and fuming because he can't put
himself in a position to get another dig."

"Is Carnes in?"

"Yes. And was badly cut."

"Poor fellow! I'm sorry for that, but glad of the chance to see him;
he's been on a long cruise."

"Well, I'm not so sure about his going on another. Now then."

And the doctor applied himself to business, and I sat, wincing
sometimes, under his hand, but thinking through it all of Carnes.

He was the _comique_ of the force; a man who was either loved or hated
by all who knew him. No one could be simply indifferent to Carnes. He
was a well-educated man, although he habitually spoke with a brogue. But
I knew Carnes was not an Irishman; although he professed to have "hailed
from Erin," he could drop the accent at pleasure and assume any other
with perfect ease,--a feat rather difficult of accomplishment by a
genuine Irishman.

Nobody knew much about Carnes; he had no confidants, although he had his
favorites, one of whom I chanced to be.

He was older than myself by ten years, but when the mood seized him,
could be younger by twenty. He had been absent from the office for
nearly a year, and I mentally resolved that, after making my report and
attending to business, I would lose no time in seeing him.

Under the skilled hand of Dr. Denham my arm was soon dressed and made
comfortable. It would be well in a fortnight, the good doctor assured
me, and then as soon as I could, I withdrew from his presence and his
customary fire of raillery and questions, and stopping only to refresh
myself at a restaurant by the way, hastened on toward our office, where
I was soon closeted with my Chief.

As usual, he made no comments, asked no questions, when I dawned upon
him thus unexpectedly. He never made use of unnecessary words. He only
turned out one or two of the force who were lounging there, waiting his
pleasure to attend to less important business, saw that the doors were
closed and the outer office properly attended, and then seating himself
opposite me at the desk, said quietly:

"Now, Bathurst?"

I was well accustomed to this condensed way of doing things, and it
suited me. In a concise manner matching his own, I put him in possession
of the facts relating to the Groveland case, and then I made a
discovery. After relating how I had received the anonymous letter I
produced my pocket-book, where I supposed it to be, and found it
missing! It was useless to search; the letter was not in my pocket-book,
neither was it on my person.

"Well!" I said, when fully convinced that the letter was certainly not
in my possession, "here's another complication. I've been robbed and--I
know who did it!"

My companion made no comment, and I continued:

"The letter was of no vital importance; I will finish my story and then
you will know what has become of it."

I told the rest; of my ride upon Mrs. Ballou's colt, of the pistol
shot, my runaway steed, and my subsequent interview with Mrs. Ballou.
How she had dressed my wound, how the circumstances had compelled me to
confide in her, and how she had risen to the occasion, and driven me to
the station at half-past three in the morning, and I finished by saying:

"Now it looks to me as if Mrs. Ballou had stolen my letter, and if so,
one might take that fact and the one that Nellie Ewing was never seen
after leaving her house, and count it as strong circumstantial evidence;
but, that kind of evidence won't convince me that Mrs. Ballou is
implicated in the crime or the mystery. When I told her of the printed
letter, I saw her eyes gleam; and when she asked to see the document I
read anxiety in her face. I am sure she took the letter, and I think she
has a suspicion of some sort; but if she has the letter she will return
it."

My chief made no comment on all that I had told him; he picked up a
paper weight and laid it down again with great precision, then he put
all my story "on the shelf," as we were wont to express it, by asking
abruptly:

"What are you going to do next?"

The question did not surprise me. He was not in the habit of offering
much advice to such operatives as he trusted with delicate cases, for he
never trusted a man until he felt full confidence in his skill and
integrity. But when we desired to consult with him, he entered into the
study of the case with animation and zeal; and then, and then only, did
he do a full share of the talking.

"Going to send them a 'dummy,' if we can find one with the grit to face
the chances. They must suppose me entirely out of the business."

"Yes."

"I want an extraordinary dummy, too; a blusterer."

"Wait," interrupted my companion, beginning to smile, "I have got just
the animal. When do you want to see him?"

"As soon as possible; I want him in the field at once."

"Very good. This fellow came here yesterday, and he's the greatest
combination of fool and egotist I ever saw. Knows he was born for a
detective and is ready to face a colony of desperadoes; there is no
limit to his cheek and no end to his tongue. If you want a talkative
fool he'll do."

"Well," I replied, "that's what I want, but the man must not be quite
destitute of courage. I don't think that the party or parties will make
another attack upon a fresh man, and yet they may; and this dummy must
remain there quite alone until the rascals are convinced that he has no
confederates. There is a keen brain at the bottom of this Groveland
mischief. I mean to overreach it and all its confederates, for I believe
there must be confederates; and, sir, I don't believe those girls have
been murdered."

"No?"

"No. But I want our dummy to act on the supposition that they _have_
been. This will ease the vigilance of the guilty parties, and when they
are off their guard, our time will come. Where is Carnes?"

My companion was in full sympathy with my abrupt change of the subject,
and he answered, readily:

"At his old rooms. Carnes had a bad cut, but he is getting along
finely."

"Is he? The doctor gave me the idea that he was still in a doubtful
condition."

"Stuff," giving a short laugh, "some of his scarey talk; he told me that
Carnes would be about within two weeks. Carnes did some good work in the
West."

"He is a splendid fellow; I must see him to-night. But about our dummy:
when can you produce him?"

"Will to-morrow do? say ten o'clock."

"It must be later by an hour; the doctor takes me in hand at ten."

"Eleven, then. I will have him here, and you'll find him a jewel."

"Very good," I said, rising, and taking up my hat, "any message to send
to Carnes? I shall see him to-night."

"Look here," turning upon me suddenly, "you are not to go to Carnes for
any purpose but to _see_ him. You must not talk to him much, nor let him
talk; the doctor should have told you that. He is weak, and easily
excited. It's bad enough to have two of my best men crippled and off at
once; you must not retard his recovery. Carnes is as unruly as a
ten-year old, now."

I laughed; I could see just how this whimsical comrade of mine would
chafe under his temporary imprisonment.

"I won't upset the old fellow," I said, and took my leave.



CHAPTER V.

EN ROUTE FOR TRAFTON.


Over the minor events of my story I will not linger, for although they
cannot be omitted altogether, they are still so overshadowed by
startling and thrilling after events that they may, with propriety, be
narrated in brief.

I saw Carnes, and found that the Chief had not exaggerated, and that the
doctor had.

Carnes was getting well very fast, but was chafing like a caged bear, if
I may use so ancient an illustration.

We compared notes and sympathized with each other, and then we made some
plans. Of course we were off duty for the present, and could be our own
masters. Carnes had been operating in a western city, and I proposed to
him a change. I told him of the conversation I had overheard that
morning, and soon had him as much interested in Trafton as was myself.
Then I said:

"Now, old man, why not run down to that little paradise of freebooters
and see what we think of it?"

[Illustration: "Now, old man, why not run down to that little paradise
of freebooters and see what we think of it?"--page 50.]

"Begorra and that'll jist suit me case," cried Carnes, who was just then
in his Hibernian mood. "And it's go we will widen the wake."

But go "widen the wake" we did not.

We were forced to curb our impatience somewhat, for Carnes needed a
little more strength, and my arm must be free from Dr. Denham's sling.

We were to go as Summer strollers, and, in order to come more naturally
into contact with different classes of the Traftonites, I assumed the
_rôle_ of a well-to-do Gothamite with a taste for rural Summer sports,
and Carnes made a happy hit in choosing the character of half companion,
half servant; resolving himself into a _whole_ Irishman for the
occasion.

It was a fancy of his always to operate in disguise, so for this reason,
and because of his pallor, and the unusual length of his hair and beard,
he chose to take his holiday _en naturale_, and most unnatural he looked
to me, who had never seen him in ill-health.

As for me, I preferred on this occasion to adopt a light disguise.

In spite of the warning of our Chief, but not in defiance of it, I
talked Carnes into a fidget, and even worked myself into a state of
enthusiasm. Of course I made no mention of the Groveland case; we never
discussed our private operations with each other; at least, not until
they were finished and the _finale_ a foregone conclusion.

After bidding Carnes good-night, I sauntered leisurely homeward, if a
hotel may be called home, and the ring of a horse's hoofs on the
pavement brought to my mind my wild ride, Groveland, and Mrs. Ballou.

Why had she stolen that letter of warning? That she had I felt assured.
Did she give her true reason for wishing my revolver? Would she return
my letter? And would she, after all, keep the secret of my identity?

I did not flatter myself that I was the wonderful judge of human nature
some people think themselves, but I did believe myself able to judge
between honest and dishonest faces, and I had judged Mrs. Ballou as
honest.

So after a little I was able to answer my own questions. She _would_
return my letter. She _could_ keep a secret, and--she would make good
use, if any, of my weapon.

It was not long before my judgment of Mrs. Ballou, in one particular at
least, was verified.

On the morning after my interview with Carnes, I saw the man who was
destined to cover himself with glory in the capacity of "Dummy," and
here a word of explanation may be necessary.

Sometimes, not often, it becomes expedient, if not absolutely necessary,
for a detective to work under a double guard. It is not always enough
that others should not know him as a detective; it is required that they
should be doubly deluded by fancying themselves aware of _who is_, hence
the dummy.

But in this narrative I shall speak in brief of the dummy's operations.
Suffice it to say that he was just the man for the place; egotistical,
ignorant, talkative to a fault, and thoroughly imbued, as all dummies
should be, with the idea that he was "born for a detective."

Of course he was not aware of the part he was actually to play. He was
instructed as to the nature of the case, given such points as we thought
he would make best use of, and told in full just what risk he might run.

But our dummy was no coward. He inspected my wounded arm, expressed
himself more than ready to take any risk, promised to keep within the
bounds of safety after nightfall, and panted to be in the field.

Just one day before our departure for Trafton I received a letter from
Mrs. Ballou. Enclosed with it was my lost note of warning. Its contents
puzzled me not a little. It ran thus:

     DEAR SIR--I return you the letter I took from your pocket the
     morning you left us. You did not suspect me of burglary, did
     you? Of course you guessed the truth when you came to miss it.
     I thought it might help me to a clue, but was wrong. _I can not
     use it._

     If anything _new or strange_ occurs, it may be to your interest
     to inform _me_ first of all.

     The time may come when you can doubly repay the service I
     rendered you not long since. If so, remember me. I think I
     shall come to the city soon.

                    Respectfully, etc.,            M. A. BALLOU

     P. S.--_Please destroy._

From some women such a letter might have meant simply nothing. From
Mrs. Ballou it was fraught with meaning.

How coolly she waived the ceremony of apology! She wanted the
letter--she took it; a mere matter of course.

And as a matter of course, she returned it.

Thus much of the letter was straight-forward, and suited me well enough;
but----

"_I thought it might help me to a clue, but was wrong._ I CAN NOT USE
IT."

Over these words I pondered, and then I connected them with the
remainder of the letter. Mrs. Ballou was clever, but she was no
diplomatist. She had put a thread in my hands.

I made some marks in a little memorandum book, that would have been
called anything but intelligible to the average mortal, but that were
very plain language to my eye, and to none other. Next I put a certain
bit of information in the hands of my Chief; then I turned my face
toward Trafton.

To my readers the connection between the fate of the two missing girls,
and the mysterious doings at Trafton, may seem slight.

To my mind, as we set out that day for the scene of a new operation,
there seemed nothing to connect the two; I was simply, as I thought, for
the time being, laying down one thread to take up another.

A detective has not the gift of second sight, and without this gift how
was I to know that at Trafton I was to find my clue to the Groveland
mystery, and that that mystery was in its turn to shed a light upon the
dark doings of Trafton, and aid justice in her work of requital?

So it is. Out of threads, divers and far-fetched, Fate loves to weave
her wonderful webs.

And now, for a time, we leave Groveland with the shadow upon it. We
leave the shadow now; later it comes to us.

For the present we are _en route_ for Trafton.



CHAPTER VI.

JIM LONG.


"Trafton?" said Jim Long, more familiarly known as Long Jim, scratching
his head reflectively, "can't remember just how long I _did_ live in
Trafton; good sight longer'n I'll live in it any more, I calklate;
green, oh, dretful green, when I come here; in fact mem'ry hadn't
de-welluped; wasn't peart then like I am now. But I ain't got nothin' to
say agin' Trafton, _I_ ain't, tho' there _be_ some folks as has. Thar's
Kurnel Brookhouse, now, _he's_ bin scalped severial times; then
thar's--hello!"

Jim brought his rhetoric up standing, and lowered one leg hastily off
the fence, where he had been balancing like a Chinese juggler.

At the same moment a fine chestnut horse dashed around a curve of the
road, bearing a woman, who rode with a free rein, and sat as if born to
the saddle. She favored Jim with a friendly nod as she flew past, and
that worthy responded with a delighted grin and no other sign of
recognition.

When she had disappeared among the trees, and the horse's hoofs could
scarcely be heard on the hard dry road, Jim drew up his leg, resumed his
former balance, and went on as if nothing had happened.

"There was Kurnel Brookhouse and--"

"The mischief fly away wid old Brookhouse," broke in Carnes, giving the
fence a shake that nearly unseated our juggler. "Who's the purty girl as
bowed till yee's? That's the question on board now."

"Look here, Mr. Ireland," expostulated Jim, getting slowly off the fence
backward, and affecting great timidity in so doing, "ye shouldn't shake
a chap that way when he's practisin' jimnasti--what's its name? It's
awful unsafe."

[Illustration: "Look here, Mr. Ireland," expostulated Jim, "ye shouldn't
shake a chap that way."--page 59.]

And he assured himself that his two feet were actually on _terra firma_
before he relinquished his hold upon the top rail of the fence. Then
turning toward Carnes he asked, with a most insinuating smile:

"Wasn't you askin' something?"

"That's jist what I was, by the powers," cried Carnes, as if his fate
hung upon the answer. "Who is the leddy? be dacent, now."

We had been some two weeks in Trafton when this dialogue occurred, and
Jim Long was one of our first acquaintances. Carnes had picked him up
somewhere about town; and the two had grown quite friendly and intimate.

Long was a character in the eyes of Carnes, and was gradually
developing into a genius in mine. Jim was, to all outward appearances,
the personification of laziness, candor, good nature, and a species of
blundering waggishness; but as I grew to know him better, I learned to
respect the irony under his innocent looks and boorish speeches, and I
soon found that he possessed a faculty, and a fondness, for baffling and
annoying Carnes, that delighted me; for Carnes was, like most
indefatigible jokers, rather nonplussed at having the tables turned.

Jim never did anything for a livelihood that could be discovered, but he
called himself a "Hoss Fysician," and indeed it was said that he could
always be trusted with a horse, if he could be induced to look at one.
But he had his likes and dislikes, so he said, and he would obstinately
refuse to treat a horse toward which he had what he called "onfriendly
feelin's."

Jim could tell us all there was to tell concerning the town of Trafton.
It was only necessary to set him going; and no story lost anything of
spirit through being told by him.

He was an oracle on the subjects of fishing and hunting; indeed, he was
usually to be found in the companionship of gun or fishing rod.

Fortunately for us, Trafton had rare facilities for sports of the
aforementioned sort, and we gathered up many small items while, in the
society of Long Jim, we scrambled through copses, gun in hand, or
whipped the streams, and listened to the heterogenous mass of
information that flowed from his ready tongue.

But the spirit of gossip was not always present with Jim. Sometimes he
was in an argumentative mood, and then would ensue the most astounding
discussions between himself and Carnes. Sometimes he was full of
theology, and then his discourse would have enraptured Swing, and
out-Heroded Ingersoll, for his theology varied with his moods. Sometimes
he was given to moralizing, and then Carnes was in despair.

Jim lived alone in a little house, or more properly, "cabin," something
more than a mile from town. He had a small piece of ground which he
called his "farm," and all his slight amount of industry was expended on
this.

"Who is the leddy, I tell yee's?" roared Carnes, who, I may as well
state here, had introduced himself to the Traftonites as Barney Cooley.
"Bedad, a body would think she was your first shwateheart by the
dumbness av yee's!"

"And so she air," retorted Jim with much solemnity. "Don't _you_ go ter
presoomin', Mr. Ireland. That are Miss Manvers, as lives in the house
that's just a notch bigger'n Kurnel Brookhouse's; and her father was
Captain Manvers, as went down in the good ship _Amy Audrey_, and left
his darter that big house, and a bigger fortune dug out 'en a
treasure-ship on the coast uv--"

"Stop a bit, long legs," interposed Carnes, or Barney, as we had better
call him, "was it a threasure-ship yee's wur hatchin' when it tuck yee's
so long to shun out yer little sthory?"

"Well, then, Erin, tell your own stories, that's all. If yer wan't ter
kick over one uv the institooshuns uv Trafton, why, wade in."

But Carnes only shook his head, and lying at full length upon the ground
feigning great pain, groaned at intervals:

"Oh! h! h! threasure-ship!"

"But, Long," I interposed, "does this young lady, this Miss Manvers,
sanction the story of a treasure from the deep, or is it only a flying
rumor?"

"It's flyin' enough," retorted Jim, soberly. "It's in everybody's
mouth; that is, everybody as has an appetite for flyin' rumors. And I
never knew of the lady contradictin' it, nuther. The facks is jest
these, boss. There's Miss Manvers, and there's the big house, and the
blooded horses, an' all the other fine things that I couldn't begin to
interduce by their right names. They're facks, as anybody can see. There
seems to be plenty o' money backin' the big house an' other big fixins,
an' _I_ ain't agoin' to be oudacious enough ter say there ain't a big
treasure-ship backin' up the whole business. Now, I ain't never seen
'em, an' I ain't never seen anyone as has, not bein' much of a society
man; but folks _say_ as Miss Manvers has got the most wonderfullest
things dug out o' that ship; old coins, heaps of 'em; jewels an'
_aunteeks_, as they call 'em, that don't hardly ever see daylight. One
thing's certain: old Manvers come here most six years ago; he dressed,
looked, and talked like a sailor; he bought the big house, fitted it up,
an' left his daughter in it. Then he went away and got drowned. They say
he made his fortune at sea, and it's pretty sartin that he brought some
wonderful things home from the briny. Mebbe you had better go up to the
Hill, that's Miss Manvers' place, and interduce yourself, and ask for
the family history, Mr. 'Exile of Erin,'" concluded Jim, with a grin
intended to be sarcastic, as he seated himself on a half decayed stump,
and prepared to fill his pipe.

"Bedad, an' so I will, Long Jim," cried Barney, springing up with
alacrity. "An' thank ye kindly for mintionin' it. When will I find the
leddy at home, then?"

Partly to avert the tournament which I saw was about to break out afresh
between the two, and partly through interest in the fair owner of the
treasure-ship spoils, I interposed once more.

"Miss Manvers must be a fair target for fortune-hunters, Long; are there
any such in Trafton?"

"Wall, now, that's what _some_ folks says, tho' I ain't goin' ter lay
myself liable ter an action fer slander. There's _lovers_ enough; it
ain't easy tellin' jest what they _air_ after. There's young Mr.
Brookhouse; now, _his_ pa's rich enough; _he_ ain't no call to go fortin
huntin'. There's a lawyer from G----, too, and a young 'Piscopal parson;
then there's our new young doctor. I ain't hearn anyone say anythin'
about him; but _I've_ seen 'em together, and I makebold ter say that
he's anuther on 'em. Seen the young doctor, ain't ye?" turning to me
suddenly with the last question.

"Yes," I replied, carelessly; "he dines at the hotel."

"Just so, and keeps his own lodgin' house in that little smit on a
cottage across the creek on the Brookhouse farm road."

"Oh, does he?"

"Yes. Queer place for a doctor, some think, but bless you, it's as
central as any, when you come ter look. Trafton ain't got any _heart_,
like most towns; you can't tell where the middle of it is. It's as
crookid as--its reputation."

Not desiring to appear over anxious concerning the reputation of
Trafton, I continued my queries about the doctor.

"He's new to Trafton, I think you said?"

"Yes, bran new; _too_ new. We don't like new things, we don't; have to
learn 'em afore we like 'em. We don't like the new doctor like we
orter."

"_We_, Long? Don't you like Dr. Bethel?"

"Well, speakin' as an individual, I like him fust rate. _I_ wuz speakin'
as a good citizen, ye see; kind o' identifyin' myself with the common
pulse," with an oratorical flourish.

"Oh, I do see," I responded, laughingly.

"Yis, we see!" broke in Barney, who had bridled his tongue all too long
for his own comfort. "He's runnin' fur office, is Jim; he's afther
wantin' to be alderman."

"Ireland," retorted Long, in a tone of lofty admonition, "we're talkin'
sense, wot nobody expects ye to understand. Hold yer gab, won't yer?"

Thus admonished, Barney relapsed into silence, and Jim, who was now
fairly launched, resumed:

"Firstly," said he, "the doctor's a leetle too good lookin', don't you
think so?"

"Why, he is handsome, certainly, but it's in a massive way; he is not
effeminate enough to be _too_ handsome."

"That's it," replied Long, disparagingly; "he ain't our style. _Our_
style is curled locks, cunnin' little moustachys, little hands and feet,
and slim waists. Our style is more ruffles to the square fut of shirt
front, and more chains and rings than this interlopin' doctor wears."

"Our sthyle! Och, murther, hear him!" groaned Carnes, in a stage aside.

"His manners ain't our style, nuther," went on Long, lugubriously.
"_We_ always has a bow and a smile fur all, rich an poor alike,
exceptin' now and then a no count person what there's no need uv wastin'
politeness on. _He_ goes along head up, independenter nor Fouth o' July.
He don't make no distincshun between folks an' folks, like a man orter.
I've seen him bow jist the same bow to old Granny Sanders, as lives down
at the poor farm, and to Parson Radcliffe, our biggest preachin' gun.
Now, _that's_ no way fer a man ter do as wants ter live happy in
Trafton; it ain't _our_ way."

A mighty groan from Barney.

"He's got a practice, though," went on Jim, utterly ignoring the
apparent misery of his would-be tormentor. "Somehow he manages to cure
folks as some of our old doctors can't. I reckon a change o' physic's
good fer folks, same's a change o' diet--"

"Or a clane shirt," broke in Carnes, with an insinuating glance in the
direction of Jim's rather dingy linen.

"Eggsackly," retorted Long, turning back his cuffs with great care and
glancing menacingly at his enemy--"er a thrashin'."

"Gentlemen," I interposed, "let us have peace. And tell me, Jim, where
may we find your model Traftonite, your hero of the curls, moustaches,
dainty hands, and discriminating politeness? I have not seen him."

"Whar?" retorted Long, in an aggrieved tone, "look here, boss, you don't
think _I_ ever mean anythin' personal by my remarks? I'd sworn it were
all that way when you come ter notice. The average Traftonite's the
sleekest, pertiest chap on earth. We wuz born so."

Some more demonstrations in pantomime from Carnes, and silence fell
upon us. I knew from the way Long smoked at his pipe and glowered at
Carnes that nothing more in the way of information need be expected from
him. He had said enough, or too much, or something he had not intended
to say; he looked dissatisfied, and soon we separated, Long repairing to
his farm, and Carnes and I to our hotel, all in search of dinner.

"We won't have much trouble in finding the 'Average Traftonite,' old
man," I said, as we sauntered back to town.

No answer; Carnes was smoking a huge black pipe and gazing thoughtfully
on the ground.

"I wonder if any attempt has been made to rob Miss Manvers of those
treasure-ship jewels," I ventured next.

"Umph!"

"Or of her blooded horses. Carnes, what's your opinion of Long?"

Carnes took his pipe from his mouth and turned upon me two serious eyes.
When I saw the expression in them I knew he was ready to talk business.

"Honor bright?" he queried, without a trace of his Irish accent.

"Honor bright."

"Well," restoring his pipe and puffing out a black cloud, "he's an odd
fish!"

"Bad?"

"He's a fraud!"

"As how?"

"Cute, keen, has played the fool so long he sometimes believes himself
one. Did you notice any little discrepancies in his speech?

"Well, rather."

"Nobody else ever would, I'll be bound; not the 'Average Traftonite,' at
least. That man has not always been at odds with the English grammar,
mark me. What do you think, Bathurst?"

"I think," responded I, soberly, "that we shall find in him an ally or
an enemy."

We had been sauntering "across lots," over some of the Brookhouse acres,
and we now struck into a path leading down to the highway, that brought
us out just opposite the cottage occupied by Dr. Bethel.

As we approached, the doctor was leaning over the gate in conversation
with a gentleman seated in a light road wagon, whose face was turned
away from us.

As we came near he turned his head, favoring us with a careless glance,
and, as I saw his face, I recognized him as the handsome young gallant
who had attended the friend of Miss Grace Ballou, on the occasion of
that friend's visit to the Ballou farm, and who had bidden the ladies
such an impressive good-bye as I drove them away from the village
station.

Contrary to my first intention I approached the gate, and as I drew
near, the young man gathered up his reins and nodding to the doctor
drove away.

Dr. Bethel and myself had exchanged civilities at our hotel, and I
addressed him in a careless way as I paused at the gate.

"That's a fine stepping horse, doctor," nodding after the receding
turnout; "is it owned in the town?"

"Yes," replied the doctor; "that is young Brookhouse, or rather one of
them. There are two or three sons; they all drive fine stock."

I was passing in the town for a well-to-do city young man with sporting
propensities, and as the doctor swung open the gate and strode beside me
toward the hotel, Carnes trudging on in advance, the talk turned quite
naturally upon horses, and horse owners.

That night I wrote to Mrs. Ballou, stating that I had nothing of much
moment to impart, but desired that she would notify me several days in
advance of her proposed visit to the city, as I wished to meet her. This
letter I sent to our office to be forwarded to Groveland from thence.



CHAPTER VII.

WE ORGANIZE.


We had not been long in Trafton before our reputation as thoroughly good
fellows was well established, "each man after his kind."

Carnes entered with zest into the part he had undertaken. He was hail
fellow well met with every old bummer and corner loafer; he made himself
acquainted with all the gossippers and possessed of all the gossip of
the town.

After a little he began to grow somewhat unsteady in his habits, and
under the influence of too much liquor, would occasionally make remarks,
disparaging or otherwise as the occasion warranted, concerning me, and
so it came about that I was believed to be a young man of wealth, the
possessor of an irascible temper, but very generous; the victim of a
woman's falseness;--but here Carnes always assured people that he did
not know "the particulars," and that, if it came to my ears that he had
"mentioned" it, it would cost him his place, etc.

These scraps of private history were always brought forward by, or
drawn out of, him when he was supposed to be "the worse for liquor." In
his "sober" moments he was discreetness itself.

So adroitly did he play his part that, without knowing how it came
about, Trafton had accepted me at Carnes' standard, and I found my way
made smooth, and myself considered a desirable acquisition to Trafton
society.

I became acquainted with the lawyers, the ministers, the county
officials, for Trafton was the county seat. I was soon on a social
footing with the Brookhouses, father and son. I made my bow before the
fair owner of the treasure-ship jewels; and began to feel a genuine
interest in, and liking for, Dr. Bethel, who, according to Jim Long, was
_not_ Trafton style.

Thus fairly launched upon the Trafton tide, and having assured ourselves
that no one entertained a suspicion of our masquerade, we began to look
more diligently about us for fresh information concerning the
depredations that had made the town attractive to us.

Sitting together one night, after Carnes had spent the evening at an
especially objectionable saloon, and I had returned from a small social
gathering whither I had been piloted by one of my new acquaintances, we
began "taking account of stock," as Carnes quaintly put it.

"The question now arises," said Carnes, dropping his Hibernianisms, and
taking them up again as his enthusiasm waxed or waned. "The question is
this: What's in our hand? What do wee's know? What do wee's surmise, and
what have wee's got till find out?"

"Very comprehensively put, old fellow," I laughed, while I referred to
a previously mentioned note book. "First, then, what do we know?"

"Well," replied Carnes, tilting back his chair, "we know more than mony
a poor fellow has known when he set out to work up a knotty case. We
know we are in the field, bedad. We know that horses have been stolen,
houses broken open, robberies great and small committed _here_. We know
they have been well planned and systematic, engineered by a cute head."

Carnes stopped abruptly, and looked over as if he expected me to finish
the summing up.

"Yes," I replied, "we knew all that in the beginning; now for what we
have picked up. First, then, just run your eye over this memorandum; I
made it out to-day, and, like a love letter, it should be destroyed as
soon as read. Here you have, as near as I could get them, the names of
the farmers who have lost horses, harness, buggies, etc. Here is the
average distance of their respective residences from the town, and their
directions. Do you see the drift?"

Carnes rubbed the bridge of his nose; a favorite habit.

"No, be the powers," he ejaculated; "St. Patrick himself couldn't see
the sinse o' that."

"Very good. Now, here is a map of this county. On this map, one by one,
you must locate those farms."

"Bother the location," broke in Carnes, impatiently. "Serve it up in a
nutshell. What's the point?"

"The point, then, is this," drawing the map toward me. "The places where
these robberies have been committed, are all in certain directions.
Look; east, northeast, west, north; scarce one south, southeast, or
southwest. Hence, I conclude that these stolen horses are run into some
rendezvous that is not more than a five hours' ride from the scene of
the theft."

"The dickens ye do!" muttered Carnes, under his breath.

"Again," I resumed, perceiving that Carnes was becoming deeply
interested, and very alert, "the horses, etc., have been stolen from
points ten, twelve, twenty miles, from Trafton; the most distant, so far
as I have found out, is twenty-two miles."

"Ar-m-m-m?" from Carnes.

"Now, then, let us suppose the robbers to be living in this town. They
leave here at nine, ten, or later when the distance is short. They ride
fleet horses. At midnight, let us say, the robbery is committed. The
horses must be off the road, and safe from prying eyes, before morning,
and must remain _perdu_ until the search is over. What, then? The
question is, do the robbers turn them over to confederates, in order to
get safely back to the town under cover of the night; or, is the
hiding-place so near that no change is necessary?"

I paused for a comment, but Carnes sat mute.

"Now, then," I resumed, "I am supposing this lair of horse-thieves to
be _somewhere_ south, or nearly south, of the town, and not more than
thirty miles distant."

"Umph!"

"I suppose it to be south, or nearly south, for obvious reasons. Don't
you see what they are?"

"Niver mind; prache on."

"No horses have been taken from the south road, or from any of the roads
that intersect it from this. I infer that it is used as an avenue of
escape for the marauding bands. Consequently--"

"We must make the acquaintance of that north and south highway," broke
in Carnes.

"Just so; and we must begin a systematic search from this out."

"System's the word," said Carnes, jerking his chair close to the table,
upon which he planted his elbows. "Now, then, let's organize."

[Illustration: "System's the word," said Carnes, jerking his chair close
to the table, upon which he planted his elbows. "Now, then, let's
organize."--page 76.]

It was nearly daybreak before we knocked the ashes from our pipes,
preparatory to closing the consultation, and when we separated to
refresh ourselves with a few hours' sleep, we were so thoroughly
"organized" that had we not found another opportunity for private
consultation during our operations in Trafton, we could still have gone
on with the programme, as we had that night arranged it, without fear of
blunder or misunderstanding.

       *       *       *       *       *

"You came down upon me so sudden and solemn with your statistics and
all that, last night," said Carnes, the following morning, "that I
entirely forgot to treat you to a beautiful little Trafton vagary I was
saving for your benefit. They _do_ say that the new doctor is suspected
of being a _detective_!"

"What!" I said, in sincere amazement; "Carnes, that's one of Jim Long's
notions."

"Yis, but it isn't," retorted Carnes. "I haven't seen Jim Long this day.
D'ye mind the chap ye seen me in company with last evening early?"

"The loutish chap with red hair and a scarred cheek?"

"That's him; well, his name is Tom Briggs, and he's a very close-mouthed
fellow when he's sober; to-day he was drunk, and he told me in
confidence that _some_ folks looked upon Dr. Bethel as nothing more nor
less than a detective, on the lookout for a big haul and a big reward."

"What is this Briggs?"

"He's a sort of a roust-about for 'Squire Brookhouse, but the 'squire
don't appear to work him very hard."

"Carnes," I said, after a moment of silence between us, "hadn't you
better cultivate Briggs?"

"Like enough I had," he replied, nonchalantly. Then turning slowly
until he faced me squarely "If I were you, I would give a little
attention to _Dr. Bethel_."



CHAPTER VIII.

A RESURRECTION.


Two weeks passed, during which time Carnes and I worked slowly and
cautiously, but to some purpose.

Having arrived at the conclusion that here was the place to begin our
search for the robbers, we had still failed in finding in or about
Trafton a single man upon whom to fix suspicion.

After thoroughly analyzing Trafton society, high and low, I was obliged
to admit to Carnes, 'spite of the statement made by the worthy farmer on
board the railway train that "the folks as prospered best were those who
did the least work," that I found among the poor, the indolent and the
idle, no man capable of conducting or aiding in a prolonged series of
high-handed robberies.

The only people in Trafton about whom there seemed the shadow of
strangeness or mystery, were Dr. Bethel and Jim Long.

Dr. Bethel had lived in Trafton less than a year; he was building up a
fine practice; was dignified, independent, uncommunicative. He had no
intimates, and no one knew, or could learn, aught of his past history.
He was a regularly authorized physician, a graduate from a well-known
and reliable school. He was unmarried and seemed quite independent of
his practice as a means of support.

According to Jim Long, he was "not Trafton style," and if Tom Briggs was
to be believed, he was "suspected" of making one profession a cloak for
the practice of another.

Jim Long had been nearly five years in Trafton. He had bought his bit of
land, built thereon his shanty, announced himself as "Hoss Fysician,"
and had loafed or laughed, smoked or fished, hunted, worked and played,
as best pleased him; and no one in Trafton had looked upon him as worthy
of suspicion, until Carnes and I did him that honor.

Up to this time we had never once ventured to walk or drive over that
suspected south road. This was not an accident or an oversight, but a
part of our "programme."

We had lived and operated so quietly that Carnes began to complain of
the monotony of our daily lives, and to long, Micawber-like, for
something to turn up.

We had both fully recovered in health and vigor; and I was beginning to
fear that we might be compelled to report at the agency, and turn our
backs upon Trafton without having touched its mystery, when there broke
upon us the first ripple that was the harbinger of a swift, onrushing
tide of events, which, sweeping across the monotony of our days, caught
us and tossed us to and fro, leaving us no moment of rest until the
storm had passed, and the waves that rolled over Trafton had swept away
its scourge.

One August day I received a tiny perfumed note bidding me attend a
garden party, to be given by Miss Manvers one week from date. As I was
writing my note of acceptance, Carnes suggested that I, as a gentleman
of means, should honor this occasion by appearing in the latest and most
stunning of Summer suits; and I, knowing the effect of fine apparel upon
the ordinary society-loving villager, decided to profit by his
suggestions. So, having sealed and despatched my missive, I bent my
steps toward the telegraph office, intent upon sending an order to my
tailor by the quickest route.

The operator was a sociable young fellow, the son of one of the village
clergymen, and I sometimes dropped in upon him for a few moments' chat.

I numbered among my varied accomplishments, all of which had been
acquired for _use_ in my profession, the ability to read, by sound, the
telegraph instrument.

This knowledge, however, I kept to myself, on principle, and young
Harris was not aware that my ear was drinking in his messages, as we sat
smoking socially in his little operating compartment.

After sending my message, I produced my cigar case and, Harris
accepting a weed, I sat down beside him for a brief chat.

Presently the instrument called Trafton, and Harris turned to receive
the following message:

                                                 NEW ORLEANS, Aug. ----

    ARCH BROOKHOUSE--Hurry up the others or we are likely to have
    a balk.                                                       F. B.

Hastily scratching off these words Harris enclosed, sealed, and
addressed the message, and tossed it on the table.

The address was directly under my eye; and I said, glancing carelessly
at it:

"Arch,--is not that a rather juvenile name for such a long, lean,
solemn-visaged man as 'Squire Brookhouse?"

Harris laughed.

"That is for the son," he replied; "he is named for his father, and to
distinguish between them, the elder always signs himself _Archibald_,
the younger _Arch_."

"I see. Is Archibald Junior the eldest son?"

"No; he is the second. Fred is older by four years."

"Fred is the absent one?"

"Fred and Louis are both away now. Fred is in business in New Orleans, I
think."

"Ah! an enterprising rich man's son."

"Well, yes, enterprising and adventurous. Fred used to be a trifle wild.
He's engaged in some sort of theatrical enterprise, I take it."

Just then there came the sound of hurrying feet and voices mingling in
excited converse.

In another moment Mr. Harris, the elder, put his head in at the open
window.

"Charlie, telegraph to Mr. Beale at Swan Station; tell him to come home
instantly; his little daughter's grave has been robbed!"

Uttering a startled ejaculation, young Harris turned to his instrument,
and his father withdrew his head and came around to the office door.

"Good-morning," he said to me, seating himself upon a corner of the
office desk. "This is a shameful affair, sir; the worst that has
happened in Trafton, to my mind. Only yesterday I officiated at the
funeral of the little one; she was only seven years old, and looked like
a sleeping angel, and now--"

He paused and wiped the perspiration from his forehead.

"Mrs. Beale will be distracted," said Charlie Harris, turning toward us.
"It was her only girl."

"Beale is a mechanic, you see," said the elder, addressing me. "He is
working upon some new buildings at Swan Station."

"How was it discovered?" said his son.

"I hardly know; they sent for me to break the news to Mrs. Beale, and I
thought it best to send for Beale first. The town is working into a
terrible commotion over it."

Just here a number of excited Traftonites entered the outer room and
called out Mr. Harris.

A moment later I saw Carnes pass the window; he moved slowly, and did
not turn his head, but I knew at once that he wished to see me. I arose
quietly and went out. Passing through the group of men gathered about
Mr. Harris, I caught these words: "Cursed resurrectionist," and, "I knew
he was not the man for us."

Hurrying out I met Carnes at the corner of the building.

"Have you heard--" he began; but I interrupted him.

"Of the grave robbery? Yes."

"Well," said Carnes, laying a hand upon my arm, "they are organizing a
gang down at Porter's store. They are going to raid Dr. Bethel's cottage
and search for the body."

"They're a set of confounded fools!" I muttered. "Follow me, Carnes."

And I turned my steps in the direction of "Porter's store."



CHAPTER IX.

MOB LAW.


Lounging just outside the door at Porter's was Jim Long, hands in
pockets, eyes fixed on vacancy. He was smoking his favorite pipe, and
seemed quite oblivious to the stir and excitement going on within. When
he saw me approach, he lounged a few steps toward me, then getting
beyond the range of Porter's door and window.

"Give a dough-headed bumpkin a chance to make a fool of himself an'
he'll never go back on it," began Jim, as I approached. "Have ye come
ter assist in the body huntin'?"

"I will assist, most assuredly, if assistance is needed," I replied.

"Well, then, walk right along in. I guess _I'll_ go home."

"Don't be too hasty, Jim," I said, in a lower tone. "I want to see you
in about two minutes."

Jim gave a grunt of dissatisfaction, but seated himself, nevertheless,
on one of Porter's empty butter tubs, that stood just beside a window.

I passed in and added myself to the large group of men huddled close
together near the middle of the long store, and talking earnestly and
angrily, with excitement, fiercely, or foolishly, as the case might be.

The fire-brand had been dropped in among them, by whom they never could
have told, had they stopped once to consider; but they did not consider.
Someone had hinted at the possibility of finding the body of little
Effie Beale in the possession of the new doctor, and that was enough.
Guilty or innocent, Dr. Bethel must pay the penalty of his reticence,
his newness, and his independence. Not being numbered among the
acceptable institutions of Trafton, he need expect no quarter.

It seemed that the child had been under his care, and looking at the
matter from a cold-blooded, scientific standpoint, it appeared to me not
impossible that the doctor _had_ disinterred the body, and I soon
realized that should he be found guilty, or even be unable to prove his
innocence, it would go hard with Dr. Bethel.

Among those who cautioned the overheated ones, and urged prudence, and
calm judgment, was Arch Brookhouse; but, somehow, his words only served
to add fuel to the flame; while, chief among the turbulent ones, who
urged extreme measures, was Tom Briggs, and I noted that he was also
supported by three or four fellows of the same caliber, two of whom I
had never seen before.

Having satisfied myself that there was not much time to lose if I
wished to see fair play for Dr. Bethel, I turned away from the crowd,
unnoticed, and went out to where Jim waited.

"Jim," I said, touching him on the shoulder, "they mean to make it hot
for Bethel, and he will be one man against fifty--we must not allow
anything like that."

"Now ye're talkin'," said Jim, knocking the ashes from his pipe, and
rising slowly, "an' I'm with ye. What's yer idee?"

"We must not turn the mob against us, by seeming to co-operate," I
replied. "Do you move with the crowd, Jim; I'll be on the ground as soon
as you are."

"All right, boss," said Jim.

I turned back toward the telegraph office, that being midway between
"Porter's" and my hotel.

The men were still there talking excitedly. I looked in at the window
and beckoned to young Harris. He came to me, and I whispered:

"The men at Porter's mean mischief to Dr. Bethel; your father may be
able to calm them; he had better go down there."

"He will," replied Harris, in a whisper, "and so will I."

Carnes was lounging outside the office. I approached him, and said:

"Go along with the crowd, Carnes, and stand in with Briggs."

Carnes winked and nodded, and I went on toward the hotel.

On reaching my room, I took from their case a brace of five-shooters,
and put the weapons in my pockets. Then I went below and seated myself
on the hotel piazza.

In order to reach Dr. Bethel's house, the crowd must pass the hotel; so
I had only to wait.

I did not wait long, however. Soon they came down the street, quieter
than they had been at Porter's, but resolute to defy law and order, and
take justice into their own hands. As they hurried past the hotel in
groups of twos, threes, and sometimes half a dozen, I noted them man by
man. Jim Long was loping silently on by the side of an honest-faced
farmer; Carnes and Briggs were in the midst of a swaggering, loud
talking knot of loafers; the Harrises, father and son, followed in the
rear of the crowd and on the opposite side of the street.

As the last group passed, I went across the road and joined the younger
Harris, who was some paces in advance of his father, looking, as I did
so, up and down the street. Arch Brookhouse came cantering up on a fine
bay; he held in his hand the yellow envelope, which, doubtless, he had
just received from Harris.

"Charlie," he called, reining in his horse. "Stop a moment; you must
send a message for me."

We halted, Harris looking somewhat annoyed.

Brookhouse tore off half of the yellow envelope, and sitting on his
horse, wrote a few words, resting his scrap of paper on the horn of his
saddle.

"Sorry to trouble you, Charlie," he said, "but I want this to go at
once. Were you following the mob?"

"Yes," replied Charlie, "weren't you?"

"No," said Brookhouse, shortly, "I'm going home; I don't believe in mob
law."

So saying, he handed the paper to Harris, who, taking it with some
difficulty, having to lean far out because of a ditch between himself
and Brookhouse, lost his hold upon it, and a light puff of wind sent it
directly into my face.

I caught it quickly, and before Harris could recover his balance, I had
scanned its contents. It ran thus:

                                   No. ---- NEW ORLEANS.

     FRED BROOKHOUSE:--Next week L---- will be on hand.

                                                    A. B.

Harris took the scrap of paper and turned back toward the office. And I,
joining the elder Harris, walked on silently, watching young Brookhouse
as he galloped swiftly past the crowd; past the house of Dr. Bethel, and
on up the hill, toward the Brookhouse homestead. I wondered inwardly why
Frederick Brookhouse, if he were prominently connected with a Southern
theater, should receive his telegrams at a private address.

Dr. Bethel occupied two pleasant rooms of a small house owned by
'Squire Brookhouse. He had chosen these, so he afterwards informed me,
because he wished a quiet place for study, and this he could scarcely
hope to find either in the village hotel or the average private boarding
houses. He took his meals at the hotel, and shared the office of Dr.
Barnard, the eldest of the Trafton physicians, who was quite willing to
retire from the practice of his profession, and was liberal enough to
welcome a young and enterprising stranger.

Dr. Bethel was absent; this the mob soon ascertained, and some of them,
after paying a visit to the stable, reported that his horse was gone.

"Gone to visit some country patient, I dare say," said Mr. Harris, as we
heard this announcement.

"Gone ter be out of the way till he sees is he found out," yelled Tom
Briggs. "Let's go through the house, boys."

There was a brief consultation among the leaders of the raid, and then,
to my surprise and to Mr. Harris's disgust, they burst in the front door
and poured into the house, Carnes among the rest. Jim Long drew back as
they crowded in, and took up his position near the gate, and not far
from the place where we had halted.

Their search was rapid and fruitless; they were beginning to come out
and scatter about the grounds, when a horse came thundering up to the
gate, and Dr. Bethel flung himself from the saddle.

He had seen the raiding party while yet some rods away, and he turned a
perplexed and angry face upon us.

"I should like to know the meaning of this," he said, in quick, ringing
tones, at the same moment throwing open the little gate so forcibly as
to make those nearest it start and draw back. "Who has presumed to open
my door?"

Mr. Harris approached him and said, in a low tone:

"Bethel, restrain yourself. Little Effie Beale has been stolen from her
grave, and these men have turned out to search for the body."

"Stolen from her grave!" the doctor's hand fell to his side and the
anger died out of his eyes, and he seemed to comprehend the situation in
a moment. "And they accuse me--of course."

The last words were touched with a shade of irony. Then he strode in
among the searchers.

"My friends," he said, in a tone of lofty contempt, "so you have accused
me of grave robbing. Very well; go on with your search, and when it is
over, and you find that you have brought a false charge against me, go
home, with the assurance that every man of you shall be made to answer
for this uncalled-for outlawry."

The raiders who had gathered together to listen to this speech, fell
back just a little, in momentary consternation. He had put the matter
before them in a new light, and each man felt himself for the moment
responsible for his own acts. But the voice of Tom Briggs rallied them.

"He's bluffin' us!" cried this worthy. "He's tryin' to make us drop the
hunt. Boys, we're gittin' hot. Let's go for the barn and garden."

And he turned away, followed by the more reckless ones.

Without paying the slightest heed to them or their movements, Dr.
Bethel turned again to Mr. Harris and asked when the body was
disinterred.

While a part of the men, who had not followed Briggs, drew closer to our
group, and the rest whispered together, a little apart, Mr. Harris told
him all that was known concerning the affair.

As he listened a cynical half smile covered the doctor's face; he lifted
his head and seemed about to speak, then, closing his lips firmly, he
again bent his head and listened as at first.

"There's something strange about this resurrection," said he, when Mr.
Harris had finished. "Mr. Beale's little daughter was my patient. It was
a simple case of diphtheria. There were no unusual symptoms, nothing in
the case to rouse the curiosity of any physician. The Trafton doctors
_know_ this. Drs. Hess and Barnard counselled with me. Either the body
has been stolen by some one outside of Trafton, or--there is another
motive."

He spoke these last words slowly, as if still deliberating, and,
turning, took his horse by the bridle and led him stableward.

In another moment there came a shout from Briggs' party, their loud
voices mingling in angry denunciations.

With one impulse the irresolute ones, forgetting self, swarmed in the
direction whence the voices came.

We saw Dr. Bethel, who was just at the rear corner of the house, start,
stop, then suddenly let fall the bridle and stride after the hurrying
men, and at once, Mr. Harris, Jim Long and myself followed.

Just outside the stable stood Briggs, surrounded by his crew, talking
loudly, and holding up to the view of all, a bright new spade, and an
earth-stained pick ax. As we came nearer we could see that the spade too
had clots of moist black earth clinging to its surface.



CHAPTER X.

TWO FAIR CHAMPIONS.


"Look, all of ye," shouted Briggs. "So much fer his big words; them's
the things he did the job with."

[Illustration: "Look, all of ye," shouted Briggs. "So much fer his big
words; them's the things he did the job with."--page 97.]

The doctor stopped short at sight of these implements; stopped and stood
motionless so long that his attitude might well have been mistaken for
that of unmasked guilt. But his face told another story; blank amazement
was all it expressed for a moment, then a gleam of comprehension; next a
sneer of intensest scorn, and last, strong but suppressed anger. He
strode in among the men gathered about Tom Briggs.

"Where did you get those tools, fellow?" he demanded, sternly.

"From the place where ye hid 'em, I reckon," retorted Briggs.

"Answer me, sir," thundered the doctor. "_Where_ were they?"

"Oh, ye needn't try any airs on me; ye know well enough where we got
'em."

Dr. Bethel's hand shot out swiftly, and straight from the shoulder, and
Briggs went down like a log.

"Now, sir," turning to the man nearest Briggs, "where were these things
hidden?"

It chanced that this next man was Carnes, who answered quickly, and with
well feigned self-concern.

"In the sthable, yer honor, foreninst the windy, behind the shay."

I heard a suppressed laugh behind me, and looking over my shoulder saw
Charlie Harris.

"Things are getting interesting," he said, coming up beside me. "Will
there be a scrimmage, think you?"

I made him no answer, my attention being fixed upon Bethel, who was
entering the stable and dragging Carnes with him. When he had
ascertained the exact spot where the tools were found, he came out and
turned upon the raiders.

"Go on with your farce," he said, with a sarcastic curl of the lip. "I
am curious to see what you will find next."

Then turning upon Briggs, who had scrambled to his feet, and who
caressed a very red and swollen eye, while he began a tirade of abuse--

"Fellow, hold your tongue, if you don't want a worse hit. If you'll walk
into my house I'll give you a plaster for that eye--after I have cared
for your better."

And he turned toward his horse, whistling a musical call. The
well-trained animal came straight to its master and was led by him into
its accustomed place.

And now the search became more active. Those who at first had been held
in check by the doctor's manner were once more spurred to action by the
sight of those earth-stained tools, and the general verdict was that
"Bethel was bluffing, sure." When he emerged again from the stable, they
were scattering about the garden, looking in impossible places of
concealment, under everything, over everything, into everything.

Briggs, who seemed not at all inclined to accept the doctor's proffered
surgical aid, still grasping in his hand the pick, and followed by
Carnes, to whom he had resigned the spade, went prowling about the
garden.

Bethel, who appeared to have sufficient mental employment of some sort,
passed our group with a smile and the remark:

"I can't ask you in, gentlemen, until I have set my house in order.
Those vandals have made it a place of confusion."

He entered the house through a rear door, which had been thrown open by
the invaders, and a moment later, as I passed by a side window, I
glanced in and saw him, not engaged in "setting his house in order," but
sitting in a low, broad-backed chair, his elbows resting on his knees,
his hands loosely clasped, his head bent forward, his eyes "fixed on
vacancy," the whole attitude that of profound meditation.

The finding of the tools, the manner of Bethel, both puzzled me. I went
over to Jim Long, who had seated himself on the well platform, and
asked:

"How is this going to terminate, Jim?"

"Umph!" responded Jim, somewhat gruffly. "'Twon't be long a comin' to a
focus."

And he spoke truly. In a few moments we heard a shout from the rear of
the garden. Tom Briggs and his party had found a spot where the soil had
been newly turned. In another moment a dozen hands were digging
fiercely.

Just then, and unnoticed by the exploring ones, a new element of
excitement came upon the scene.

Mr. Beale, the father of the missing child, accompanied by two or three
friends, came in from the street. They paused a moment, in seeming
irresolution, then the father, seeing the work going on in the garden,
uttered a sharp exclamation, and started hastily toward the spot, where,
at that moment, half a dozen men were bending over the small excavation
they had made, and twice as many more were crowding close about them.

"They have found something," said Harris, the elder, and he hastily
followed Mr. Beale, leaving his son and myself standing together near
the rear door of the house, and Jim still sitting aloof, the only ones
now, save Dr. Bethel, who were not grouping closer and closer about the
diggers, in eager anxiety to see what had been unearthed.

In another moment, there came a tumult of exclamations, imprecations,
oaths; and above all the rest, a cry of mingled anguish and rage from
the lips of the bereaved and tortured father.

The crowd about the spot fell back, and the diggers arose, one of them
holding something up to the view of the rest. Instinctively, young
Harris and myself started toward them.

But Jim Long still sat stolidly smoking beside the well.

As we moved forward, I heard a sound from the house, and looked back.
Dr. Bethel had flung wide open the shutters of a rear window, and was
looking out upon the scene.

Approaching the group, we saw what had caused the father's cry, and the
growing excitement of the searchers. They had found a tiny pair of
shoes, and a little white dress; the shoes and dress in which little
Effie Beale had been buried.

And now the wildest excitement prevailed. Maddened with grief, rage, and
sickening horror, the father called upon them to find the body, and to
aid him in wreaking vengeance upon the man who had desecrated his
darling's grave.

It was as fire to flax. Those who have witnessed the workings of a mob,
know how swiftly, mysteriously, unreasonably, it kindles under certain
influences.

How many men, with different, often opposing interests, make the cause
of one their common cause, and forgetting personality, become a unit for
vengeance, a single, dreadful, unreasoning force!

The air resounded with threats, imprecations, exclamations, oaths.

Some of the better class of Traftonites had followed after the first
party, joining them by threes and fours. These made some effort to
obtain a hearing for themselves and Mr. Harris, but it was futile.

"Hang the rascally doctor!"

"String him up!"

"Run him out of town!"

"Hanging's too good!"

"Let's tar and feather him!"

"Bring him out; bring him out!"

"Give us a hold of him!"

"We ain't found the body yet," cried one of the most earnest searchers.
"Let's keep looking."

As some of the party turned toward the house I looked back to the open
window.

Dr. Bethel still stood in full view, but Jim Long had disappeared from
the pump platform.

The search now became fierce and eager, and while some started to go
once again through the house and cellar, a number of Briggs' cronies
began a furious onslaught upon a stack of hay, piled against the stable.

But those who approached the house met with an unlooked-for obstacle to
their search,--the rear door was closed and barred against them. Failing
in this quarter they hastened around to the front.

Here the door was open, just as they had left it, swinging on one
broken hinge; but the doctor's tall form and stalwart shoulders barred
the way.

"Gentlemen," he said, in low, resolute tones, "you can not enter my
house, at least at present. You have done sufficient damage to my
property already."

The men halted for a moment, and then the foremost of them began to
mount the steps.

"Stand back," said Bethel. "I shall protect my property. I will allow my
house to be inspected again by a committee, if you like, but I will
_not_ admit a mob."

"You'd better not try to stop us," said the leader of the party, "we are
too many for ye." And he mounted the upper step.

"Stand down, sir," again said Bethel. "Did I not say I should protect my
property?" and he suddenly presented in the face of the astonished
searcher a brace of silver-mounted pistols.

The foremost men drew hastily back, but they rallied again, and one of
them yelled out:

"Ye'd better not tackle _us_ single-handed; an' ye won't get anyone to
back ye _now_!"

"Jest allow me ter argy that pint with ye," said Jim Long, as he
suddenly appeared in the doorway beside Bethel. "I reckon _I'm_
somebody."

Jim held in his hand a handsome rifle, the doctor's property, and he ran
his eye critically along the barrel as he spoke.

"Here's five of us, an' we all say _ye can't come in_. Three of us can
_repeat_ the remark if it 'pears necessary."

Then turning his eye upon the last speaker of the party, he said,
affably:

"I ain't much with the little shooters, Simmons; but I can jest make a
rifle howl. Never saw me shoot, did ye? Now, jest stand still till I
shoot that grasshopper off ye'r hat brim."

Simmons, who stood in the midst of the group, and was taller than those
about him by half a head, began a rapid retrograde movement, and, as Jim
slowly raised his rifle to his shoulder, the group about the door-steps
melted away, leaving him in possession of the out-posts.

"That," said Jim, with a grin, as he lowered his rifle, "illyusterates
the sooperiority of mind over matter. Doctor, did ye know the darned
thing wasn't loaded?"

While Bethel still smiled at this bit of broad comedy, a sharp cry, and
then a sudden unnatural stillness, told of some new occurrence, and
followed by Jim we went back to the rear window and looked out.

They were crowding close about something, as yet half hidden in the
scattered hay; all silent, and, seemingly, awe-stricken. Thus for a
moment only, then a low murmur ran through the crowd, growing and
swelling into a yell of rage and fury.

Hidden in the doctor's hay they had found the body of Effie Beale!

It was still encoffined, but the little casket had been forced open,
and it was evident, from the position of the body, that the buried
clothing had been hurriedly torn from it.

It would be difficult to describe the scene which followed this last
discovery. While the father, and his more thoughtful friends, took
instant possession of the little coffin, the wrath of the raiders grew
hotter and higher; every voice and every hand was raised against Dr.
Bethel.

Tom Briggs, with his blackened eye, was fiercely active, and his two or
three allies clamored loudly for vengeance upon "the cursed
resurrectionist."

"Let's give him a lesson," yelled a burly fellow, who, having neither
wife, child, nor relative in Trafton was, according to a peculiar law
governing the average human nature, the loudest to clamor for summary
vengeance. "Let's set an example, an' teach grave robbers what to look
for when they come to Trafton!"

"If we don't settle with him nobody will," chimed in another fellow, who
doubtless had good reason for doubting the ability of Trafton justice to
deal with law-breakers.

Those who said little were none the less eager to demonstrate their
ability to deal with offenders when the opportunity afforded itself.
Over and again, in various ways, Trafton had been helplessly victimized,
and now, that at last they had traced an outrage to its source, Trafton
seized the opportunity to vindicate herself.

A few of the fiercest favored extreme measures, but the majority of the
mob seemed united in their choice of feathers and tar, as a means of
vengeance.

Seeing how the matter would terminate, I turned to Harris, the younger,
who had kept his position near me.

"Ask your father to follow us," I said, "and come with me. They are
about to attack the doctor."

We went quietly around and entered the house from the front. The doctor
and Jim were still at the open window, and in full view of the mob.

Bethel turned toward us a countenance locked in impenetrable
self-possession.

"They mean business," he said, nodding his head toward the garden. "Poor
fools."

Then he took his pistols from a chair by the window, putting one in each
pocket of his loose sack coat.

"Gentlemen," he said, addressing us, "pray don't bring upon yourselves
the enmity of these people by attempting to defend me. I assure you I am
in no danger, and can deal with them single-handed. Out of regard for
what they have left of my furniture, I will meet them, outside."

And he put one hand upon the window sill and leaped lightly out,
followed instantly by young Harris.

"Here's the inconvenience of being in charge of the artillery," growled
Jim Long, discontentedly. "I'll stay in the fort till the enemy opens
fire," and he drew the aforementioned rifle closer to him, as he
squatted upon the window ledge.

The clergyman and myself, without consultation or comment, made our exit
as we came, by the open front door, and arrived upon the scene just as
Bethel, with his two hands in his coat pockets, halted midway between
the house and rear garden to meet the mob that swarmed toward him,
yelling, hooting, hissing.

If the doctor had hoped to say anything in his own defense, or even to
make himself heard, he was speedily convinced of the futility of such an
undertaking. His voice was drowned by their clamor, and as many eager
hands were outstretched to seize him in their hard, unfriendly grasp,
the doctor lost faith in moral suasion and drew back a step, while he
suddenly presented, for their consideration, a brace of five-shooters.

The foremost men recoiled for a moment, and Mr. Harris seized the
opportunity. Advancing until he stood almost before Dr. Bethel, he began
a conciliatory speech, after the most approved manner.

But it came to an abrupt ending, the men rallied almost instantly, and,
drowning the clergyman's voice under a chorus of denunciations and
oaths, they once more pressed forward.

"Stand down, parson," cried Jim Long, now leaping from the window, rifle
in hand, and coming to the rescue. "Your medicine ain't the kind they're
hankerin' after."

[Illustration: "Stand down, parson," cried Jim Long, rifle in hand,
"Your medicine ain't the kind they're hankerin' after."--page 107.]

"You fall back, Tom Briggs," called Charlie Harris, peremptorily, "we
want fair play here," and he drew a pistol from his pocket and took his
stand beside Bethel.

At the same moment I drew my own weapons and fell into line.

"Gentlemen," I said, "let's give Dr. Bethel a hearing."

And now occurred what we had hardly anticipated. While some of the
foremost of the raiders drew back, others advanced, and we saw that
these comers to the front were armed like ourselves.

While we stood thus, for a moment, there was a breathless silence and
then Jim Long's deep voice made itself heard.

"Some of you fellers are giving yourselves away," he said, with a sneer.
"Now, jest look a here; ye mean bluff, we mean business. An' you chaps
as has been supplied with shooters by Tom Briggs and Simmons and
Saunders hed better drop the things an' quit."

A moment's silence, then a babel of voices, a clamor and rush.

There was the loud crack of a pistol, accompanied by a fierce oath,--a
cry of "stop," uttered in a clear female voice,--then another moment of
breathless silence.

Two women were standing in our midst, directly between the doctor and
his assailants, and Carnes still grasped the pistol hand of Tom Briggs,
while the smoke of the averted charge yet hovered above their heads.

One of the two ladies, who had so suddenly come to the rescue, was
Miss Adele Manvers. The other a tall, lithe, beautiful blonde, I had
never before seen.

"Friends, neighbors," said this fair stranger, in clear, sweet, but
imperious tones, "you have made a terrible mistake. Dr. Bethel was with
_my father_ from sunset last night until one hour ago. They were
together every moment, at the bedside of Mr. James Kelsey, on the
Willoughby road."

Evidently this fair young lady was an authority not to be questioned.
The crowd fell back in manifest consternation, even Tom Briggs' tongue
was silent.

Miss Manvers stood for a moment casting glances of open contempt upon
the crowd. Then, as the doctor's fair champion ceased speaking and,
seeing that her words had been effective, drew nearer to Mr. Harris,
flushing and paling as if suddenly abashed by her own daring, the
brilliant owner of the treasure-ship riches turned to Dr. Bethel.

"Doctor, you are _our_ prisoner," she said, smiling up at him. "Dr.
Barnard is half frantic since hearing of this affair, and he
commissioned us to bring you to him at once."

Miss Manvers had not as yet noted my presence among the doctor's
handful of allies. Wishing to give my eyes and ears full play, I drew
back, and, using Jim Long as a screen, kept near the group about the
doctor; but out of view. I had noted the sudden flash of his eyes, and
the lighting up of his face, when the fair unknown came among us. And
now I saw him clasp her hand between his two firm palms and look down
into her face, for just a moment, as I could have sworn he had never
looked at any other woman.

I saw her eyes meet his for an instant, then she seemed to have
withdrawn into herself, and the fearless champion was merged in the
modest but self-possessed woman.

I saw the haughty Adele Manvers moving about among the raiders,
bestowing a word here and there, and I saw Mr. Harris now making good
use of the opportunity these two fair women had made. I noted that Tom
Briggs and his loud-voiced associates were among the first to slink
away.

Dr. Bethel was reluctant to quit the field, but the advice of Mr.
Harris, the earnest entreaty of Miss Manvers, and, more than all the
rest, the one pleading look from the eyes of the lovely unknown,
prevailed.

"Long," he said, turning to Jim, "here are my keys; will you act as my
steward until--my place is restored to quiet?"

Jim nodded comprehensively.

"I'll clear the premises," he said, grimly. "Don't ye have any
uneasiness; I'll camp right down here."

"Bethel," said Charlie Harris, "for the sake of the ladies, you had
better go at once; those fellows in the rear there are trying to rally
their forces."

"Since my going will be a relief to my friends, I consent to retreat,"
said the besieged doctor, smiling down at the two ladies.

They had driven thither in a dashing little pony phæton, owned by Miss
Manvers; and as they moved toward it the heiress said:

"Doctor, you must drive Miss Barnard home; I intend to walk, and enjoy
the society of Mr. Harris."

Dr. Bethel and the blonde lady entered the little carriage, and, after a
few words addressed to Harris and Miss Manvers, drove away.

The heiress looked about the grounds for a moment, addressed a few
gracious words to Harris, the elder, smiled at Jim Long, and then moved
away, escorted by the delighted younger Harris.

"Wimmen air--wimmen," said Jim Long, sententiously, leaning upon the
rifle, which he still retained, and looking up the road after the
receding plumes of Miss Manvers' Gainsborough hat. "You can't never tell
where they're goin' ter appear next. It makes a feller feel sort a
ornary, though, ter have a couple o' gals sail in an' do more business
with a few slick words an' searchin' looks, then _he_ could do with a
first-class rifle ter back him. Makes him feel as tho' his inflouence
was weakening."

"Jim," I said, ignoring his whimsical complaint, "who was the fair
haired lady?"

"Doctor Barnard's only darter, Miss Louise."

"I never saw her before."

"'Spose not; she's been away nigh onto two months, visitin' her
father's folks. Old Barnard must a had one of his bad turns this
morning, so's he couldn't git out, or he'd never a sent his gal into
such a crowd on such an errand. Hullo, what's that Mick o' your'n
doin'?"

Glancing in the direction indicated by Jim, I saw that Carnes was
engaged in a fisticuff bout with Tom Briggs, and hastened to interpose;
not through solicitude for Carnes so much as because I wished to prevent
a serious rupture between the two.

[Illustration: "Glancing in the direction indicated by Jim, I saw that
Carnes was engaged in a fisticuff bout with Tom Briggs, and hastened to
interpose;"--page 114.]

"Barney," I said, severely, "you have been drinking too much, I am sure.
Stop this ruffianism at once."

"Is it ruffianism yer callin' it, ter defend yerself aginst the
murtherin' shnake; and ain't it all bekase I hild up his fist fer fear
the blundherin' divil ud shoot yees by mishtake! Och, then, didn't I
make the illigant rhyme though?"

"You have made yourself very offensive to me, sir, by the part you have
taken in this affair," I retorted, with additional sternness; "and so
long as you remain in my service you will please to remember that I
desire you to avoid the society of loafers and brawlers."

"Meanin' me, I suppose?" snarled Tom Briggs.

"Meaning you in _this_ instance," I retorted, turning away from the two,
with all the dignity I could muster for the occasion.

"Bedad, he's got his blood up," muttered Carnes, ruefully, as I
walked away. "Old Red Top, shake! Seein' as I'm to be afther howldin'
myself above yees in future, I won't mind yer airs jist now, an' if iver
I git twenty dollars ahead I'll discharge yon blood an' be me own bye."

Satisfied that this bit of by-play had had the desired effect, and being
sure that Carnes would not leave the premises so long as there remained
anything or any one likely to prove interesting, I turned my steps
townward, musing as I went.

I had made, or so I believed, three discoveries.

Dr. Carl Bethel was the victim of a deep laid plot, of which this affair
of the morning was but the beginning.

Dr. Carl Bethel was in love with the fair Miss Barnard.

And the brilliant owner of the treasure-ship jewels was in love with Dr.
Carl Bethel.

Whether Bethel was aware of the plot, or suspected his enemies; whether
he was really what he seemed, or only playing a part like myself;
whether to warn him and so risk bringing myself under suspicion, or to
let matters take their natural course and keep a sharp lookout
meantime;--were questions which I asked myself again and again, failing
to find a satisfactory answer.

On one thing I decided, however. Bethel was a self-reliant man. He was
keen and courageous, quite capable of being more than he seemed. He was
not a man to be satisfied with half truth. I must give him my fullest
confidence or not seek his.



CHAPTER XI.

A CUP OF TEA.


It was growing dusk before I saw Carnes again that day. I had remained
in my room since dinner, wishing to avoid as much as possible the gossip
and natural inquiry that would follow the denouement of the raid against
Dr. Bethel, lest some suspicious mind should think me too much
interested, considering the part I had taken in the affair.

Carnes came in softly, and wearing upon his face the peculiar knowing
grin that we at the office had named his "Fox smile." He held in his
hand a folded slip of paper, which he dropped upon my knee, and then
drew back, without uttering a comment, to watch my perusal of the same.

It was very brief, simply a penciled line from Dr. Barnard, asking me to
tea at seven o'clock. It was almost seven as I read.

"Where did you get this?" I asked, rising with sudden alacrity, and
beginning a hurried toilet. "Read it Carnes, if you haven't already; I
should have had it earlier."

Carnes took up the note, perused it, and tossed it on the bed, then,
seating himself astride a chair, he told his story, watching my
progressing toilet with seeming interest the while.

"After my tender parting with Briggs, I sherried over and made myself
agreeable to Jim Long, and as I was uncommon respectful and willin' to
be harangued, he sort o' took me as handy boy, an' let me stay an help
him tidy up Bethel's place. He cleared out the multitude, put the yard
into decent order, and then, while he undertook to rehang the doctor's
front door, I'm blest if he didn't set _me_ to pilin' up the hay stack.
Don't wear that beast of a choker, man, it makes you look like a
laughing hyena."

I discarded the condemned choker, swallowed the doubtful compliment, and
Carnes continued, lapsing suddenly into broad Irish:

"Prisintly he comes out to the shtack, as I was finishin' the pile,
tellin' me as he must have some new hinges to the doctor's door, an'
axin would I shtay an' kape house till he wint up fer the iron works. I
consinted."

"Yes!" eagerly.

"And I made good use of the opportunity. I wint over that place in a way
to break the heart of a jenteel crook, an' I'm satisfied."

"Of what, Carnes?"

"That there's no irregularity about the doctor. If there was a track as
big as a fly's foot wouldn't I have hit it? Yes, sir! There ain't no
trace of the detective-in-ambush about those premises, Tom Briggs to the
contrary notwithstanding. He's a regular articled medical college
graduate; there's plenty of correspondence to prove him Dr. Carl Bethel,
and nothing to prove him anything else."

"Quite likely," I replied, not yet wholly convinced; "Bethel is not the
man to commit himself; he'd be very sure not to leave a trace of his
'true inwardness' about the premises, if he _were_ on a still hunt. How
about the note, Carnes?"

"Oh, the note! Well, when Jim came back, about fifteen minutes ago, or
so, he gave me that, saying that he called at Dr. Barnard's to ask for
instructions from Bethel, and was handed that note to leave for you. Jim
says that he forgot to stop with the note; but I'm inclined to think
that he wanted to dispose of me and took this way to avoid hurting my
feelings."

"Well, I shall be late at Dr. Barnard's, owing to Jim's notions of
delicacy," I said, turning away from the mirror and hurriedly brushing
my hat. "However, I can explain the tardiness. By-by, Carnes; we will
talk this day's business over when I have returned."

Dr. Barnard's pleasant dwelling was scarce five minutes' walk from our
hotel; and I was soon making my bow in the presence of the doctor, his
wife and daughter, Miss Manvers, and Dr. Bethel.

As I look back upon that evening I remember Louise Barnard as at once
the loveliest, the simplest and most charmingly cultivated woman I have
ever met. Graceful without art, self-possessed without ostentation,
beautiful as a picture, without seeming to have sought by artifices of
the toilet to heighten the effect of her statuesque loveliness.

Adele Manvers was also beautiful; no, handsome is the more appropriate
word for her; but in face, form, coloring, dress, and manner, a more
decided contrast could not have been deliberately planned.

Miss Barnard was the lovely lady; Miss Manvers, the daintily clad, fair
woman of fashion.

Miss Barnard was tall, slender, dazzlingly beautiful, with soft fair
hair and the features of a Greek goddess. Miss Manvers was a trifle
below the medium height, a piquant brunette, plump, shapely, a trifle
haughty, and inclined to self-assertion.

Miss Barnard wore soft flowing draperies, and her hair as nature
intended it to be worn. Miss Manvers wore another woman's hair in
defiance of nature, and her dress was fashion's last conceit,--a
"symphony" in silks and ruffles and bewildering draperies.

Miss Barnard was dignified and somewhat reticent. Miss Manvers was
talkative and vivacious.

They had learned from Jim Long all that he could tell them concerning
the part I had taken in the affair of the morning. The elder physician
desired to express his approbation, the younger his gratitude. They had
sent for me that I might hear what they had to say on the subject of the
grave robbery, and to ask my opinion and advice as to future movements.

All this was communicated to me by the voluble old doctor, who was
sitting in an invalid's chair, being as yet but half recovered from his
neuralgic attack of the morning. We had met on several occasions, but I
had no previous knowledge of his family.

"There will be no further trouble about this matter," said Dr. Barnard,
as we sat in the cool, cosy parlor after our late tea. "Our people have
known me too long to doubt my word, and my simple statement of my
absolute knowledge concerning all of Bethel's movements will put out the
last spark of suspicion, so far as _he_ is concerned--but," bringing the
palm of his large hand down upon the arm of his chair with slow
emphasis, "it won't settle the question next in order. _Who are the
guilty ones?_"

"That I shall make it my business to find out," said Dr. Bethel,
seriously, "I confess that at first I was unreasonably angry, at the
thought of the suspicion cast upon me. On second thought it was but
natural. I am as yet a stranger among you, and Trafton evidently
believes it wise to 'consider every man a rogue until he is proved
honest.'"

"From what I have heard since coming here," I ventured, "I should say
Trafton has some reason for adopting this motto."

"So she has; so she has," broke in the old doctor. "And some one had a
reason for attempting to throw suspicion upon Bethel."

"Evidently," said Bethel. "I am puzzled to guess what that reason can
be, and I dispose of the theory that would naturally come up first,
namely, that it is a plot to destroy the public confidence in me, set on
foot by rival doctors, by saying, at the outset, that I don't believe
there is a medical man in or about Trafton capable of such a deed. I
have all confidence in my professional brethren."

"Why," interposed Miss Manvers, "the sentiment does you honor, Dr.
Bethel, but--I should think the other doctors your most natural enemies.
Who else could,"--she broke off abruptly with an appealing glance at
Louise Barnard.

"I think Dr. Bethel is right," said Miss Barnard, in her low, clear
contralto. "I cannot think either of our doctors capable of a deed so
shameful." Then turning to address me, she added, "You, as a stranger
among us, may see the matter in a more reasonable light. How does it
look to you?"

"Taking the doctor's innocence as a foregone conclusion," I replied, "it
looks as though he had an enemy in Trafton," here I turned my eyes full
upon the face of Bethel, "who wished to drive him out of the community
by making him unpopular in it."

Bethel's face wore the same expression of mystified candor, his eyes
met mine full and frankly, as he replied:

"Taking _that_ as a foregone conclusion, we arrive at the point of
starting, Who are the guilty ones? Who are my enemies? I have been
uniformly successful in my practice; I have had no differences,
disagreement, or disputes with any man in Trafton. Up to to-day I could
have sworn I had not an enemy in the town."

"And so could I," said Dr. Barnard. "It's a case for a wiser head than
mine."

"It's a case for the detectives," said Dr. Bethel, firmly. "If this
unknown foe thinks to drive me from Trafton, he must try other measures.
I intend to remain, and to solve this mystery."

A moment's silence followed this decided announcement.

The old doctor nodded his approval, his daughter looked hers.

Miss Manvers sat with eyes fixed upon a spot in the carpet, biting
nervously at her full red under lip, and tapping the floor with the toe
of her dainty boot.

I had no desire to take a prominent part in the discussion which
followed, and became as much as I could a mere observer, but, as after
events proved, I made very good use of my eyes that night.

Having exhausted the subject of the grave robbery without arriving at
any new conclusions, the social old doctor proposed a game of whist,
cards being his chief source of evening pastime. The game was made up,
Miss Manvers taking a seat opposite Dr. Barnard, and Dr. Bethel playing
with Mrs. Barnard.

After watching their game for a time, Miss Barnard and myself retired to
the piano. She sang several songs in a tender contralto, to a soft,
well-rendered accompaniment, and as I essayed my thanks and ventured to
praise her singing, she lifted her clear eyes to mine, saying, in an
undertone:

"Don't think me odd, or too curious--but--will you answer a
question--frankly?"

I promised, recklessly; and she ran her pretty fingers over the keys,
drowning our voices, for other ears, under the soft ripple of the notes,
while she questioned and I replied.

"As a stranger, and an unprejudiced person," she began, "how does this
shameful charge against Dr. Bethel appear to you? Judging him as men
judge men, do you think he _could_ be guilty of such a deed?"

"Judging him by my limited knowledge of human nature," I replied, "I
should say that Dr. Bethel is incapable of baseness in any form. In this
case, he is certainly innocent."

She looked thoughtfully down at the white, gliding fingers, and said:

"We have seen so much of Dr. Bethel since he came to Trafton, that he
seems quite like an old friend, and because of his being associated with
father, it makes his trouble almost a personal matter. I do hope it will
end without further complications."

She looked up in my face as if hoping that my judgment accorded with her
wish, but I made no reply, finding silence easier and pleasanter than
equivocation when dealing with a nature so frank and fearlessly
truthful.

The game of whist being at an end, Miss Manvers arose almost immediately
and declared it time to go. She had sent her phæton home, her house
being less than a quarter of a mile from Dr. Barnard's, and according to
the custom of informal Trafton, I promptly offered myself as escort, and
was promptly and smilingly accepted.

"What a day this has been," said Miss Manvers, as the doctor's iron gate
closed behind us. "Such a terrible charge to bring against Dr. Bethel.
Do you really think," and, spite her evident intention to make the
question sound common-place, I could detect the genuine anxiety in it,
"Do you really think that it will--injure his practice to the extent
of--driving him from Trafton?"

"You heard what he said, Miss Manvers."

"Oh, yes--but if I am rightly informed, Dr. Bethel is, in a measure at
least, dependent on his practice. Is not this so?"

"You are better advised than I, Miss Manvers; I know so little of Dr.
Bethel."

"And yet you were his warmest champion to-day."

"I assure you I felt quite cool," I laughed. "I should have done as much
for the merest stranger, under the same circumstances."

"Then you are not prejudiced in his favor?"

"I am not prejudiced at all. I like Bethel."

"And so do I," replied the heiress, heartily, "and I like the spirit he
shows in this matter. Is not this--a--exhuming of a subject, a frequent
occurrence?"

"Undoubtedly."

"I mean--is it not often done by medical men?"

"By them, or persons employed by them. I suppose so."

She drew a little nearer, lifting an earnest face to meet my gaze.

"Candidly, now," she said, "as if I were not Miss Manvers, but a man to
be trusted. Do you think it impossible that Dr. Bethel has done this
thing? Viewed from a scientific and practical standpoint, does such a
deed appear to you to be the horrible thing _some_ seem to think it?"

[Illustration: "Candidly, now," she said, "as if I were not Miss
Manvers, but a man to be trusted. Do you think it impossible that Dr.
Bethel has done this thing?"--page 129.]

What spirit prompted my answer? I never knew just what impelled me, but
I looked down into the pretty, upturned face, looked straight into the
dark, liquid eyes, and answered:

"Candidly, Miss Manvers--as you are certainly as much to be trusted as
if you were a man--when I went to Bethel's defense, I went supposing
that, for the benefit of science and the possible good of his
fellow-beings, he _had_ exhumed the body."

She drew a short, quick breath.

"And you have changed your opinion?" she half asserted, half inquired.

I laid the fingers of my gloved left hand lightly upon hers, as it
rested on my arm, and bent lower toward the glowing brunette face as I
answered:

"I have not said so."

She dropped her eyes and mused for a moment, then--

"Do you think he will _actually_ call in a detective--to--to make his
innocence seem more probable?"

"I hope he will not," I replied, sincerely this time, but with a hidden
meaning.

"I don't think that Mr. Beale will desire further investigation. The
matter will die out, undoubtedly. Mr. Barnard is a man of powerful
influence in the community, and 'Squire Brookhouse will use _his_
influence in behalf of Dr. Bethel, I am sure." Then, looking up again,
quickly: "Do you not admire Miss Barnard?"

"Miss Barnard is 'a thing of beauty,'" I rejoined, sententiously; then,
with a downward glance that pointed my sentence, "I admire all lovely
women."

She laughed lightly, but said no more of Miss Barnard, or Dr. Bethel,
and we parted with some careless badinage, supplemented by her cordial
hope that I would prolong my stay in Trafton, and that she should see me
often at The Hill.

Going slowly homeward, through the August darkness, I mentally voted the
treasure-ship heiress a clever, agreeable, and charming young lady, and
spent some time in trying to decide whether her delightful cordiality
was a token that I had pleased, or only amused her. Such is the vanity
of man!

I found Carnes wide awake, smoking and waiting.

"Have ye done wid yer gallivantin'?" queried he, the instant I made my
appearance. "Now, thin, be shquare; which is the purtyest gurl?"

"How do you know there were two, sir?"

"Inshtinct," he retorted, shamelessly. "I knew by the peculiar feelin'
av the cords av me arums. I say, what a thunderin' lot o' snarly bushes
old Barnyard kapes about his windys!"

"What! you were up there?" I cried, in astonishment.

"Worrunt I," he retorted, complacently. "_An' I wasn't the only one!_"

"Carnes!"

"Och, take off yer mittens an' sit down," he said, grinning offensively
at my mighty efforts to draw off a pair of tight and moist kid gloves.
"Warn't I up there, an' I could ave told ye all about the purty gals
mysilf, an' what sort av blarney ye gave till em both, if it had not
been fer the murtherin' baste of a shnake as got inter the scrubbery
ahead av me."

I threw aside the damp gloves, and seated myself directly in front of
him.

"Now, talk business," I said, impatiently. "It's getting late, and
there's a good deal to be said."

Carnes reached out for the pipe which he had laid aside at my entrance,
lighted it with due deliberation, and then said, with no trace of his
former absurdity:

"I don't know what sent me strolling and smoking up toward Dr. Barnard's
place, but I did go. My pipe went out, and I stopped to light it,
stepping off the sidewalk just where the late lilacs hang over the fence
at the foot of the garden. While I stood there, entirely hidden by the
darkness and the shade, a man came walking stealthily down the middle of
the road. His very gait betrayed the sneak, and I followed him,
forgetting my pipe and keeping to the soft grass. He seemed to know just
where to go for, although he moved cautiously, there was no hesitation.
Well, he passed the gate, climbed the fence, sneaked up to the front of
the house, skulking between the trees and rose bushes directly
underneath the parlor window. I took the bearings as well as I could
from a distance, and I made up my mind that the fellow, if he heard
anything, could hardly catch the thread of the discourse, and I reckon I
was right in my conclusions for, after a good deal of prospecting
around, he sneaked away as he came, and I followed him back to Porter's
store."

[Illustration: "Well he passed the gate, climbed the fence, sneaked up
to the front of the house, skulking between the trees and rose bushes
directly underneath the parlor window."--page 132.]

"And you knew him?" I questioned, hastily.

"I used to know him," said Carnes, with a comical wink, "but recently
I've cut his acquaintance."

For a moment we stared at each other silently, then I asked, abruptly:

"Old man, do you think it worth our while to go into this resurrection
business?"

"What for?"

"To satisfy ourselves as regards Bethel's part in it."

"You needn't go into it on my account," replied Carnes, crossing his
legs and clasping his two hands behind his head; "I'm satisfied."

"As how?"

"He never did it."

"Ah! how do you reason the case?"

"First, he isn't a fool; second, if he had taken the body he would have
made use of it that night; it was fast decomposing, and before to-night
would be past pleasant handling. Then he, being called away, if he had
instructed others to disinter the body, would never have instructed them
to hide it on his own premises, much less to disrobe it for no purpose
whatever. Then, last and most conclusive, there's the pick and spade."

"And what of them?"

"This of them," unclasping his hands, setting his two feet squarely on
the floor, and bringing his palms down upon his knees. "You know old
Harding, the hardware dealer?"

I nodded. Old Harding was the elder brother of the Trafton farmer who
had excited my eagerness to see Trafton by discussing its peculiarities
on the railway train.

"Well," leaning toward me and dropping out his words in stiff staccato.
"After the crowd had left Jim Long and myself in possession of the
doctor's premises, old Harding came back. I saw that he wanted to talk
with Jim, and I went out into the yard. Presently the two went into the
barn, and I skulked around till I got directly behind the window where
those tools were found. And here's what I heard, stripped of old
Harding's profanity, and Jim's cranky comments. Last year Harding's
store was visited by burglars, and those identical tools were taken out
of it along with many other things. You observed that they were quite
new. Harding said he could swear to the tools. Now, if others had
exhumed the body _for_ the doctor, they would not have left their tools
in his stable and in so conspicuous a place. If the doctor exhumed it,
how did he obtain those tools? _They were stolen before he came to
Trafton._"

"Then here is another thing," I began, as Carnes paused. "A man of
Bethel's sense would not take such a step without a sufficient reason.
Now, Dr. Barnard, who certainly is authority in the matter, says
positively that there were no peculiar symptoms about the child's
sickness; that it was a _very_ ordinary case; therefore, Dr. Bethel, who
can buy all his skeletons without incurring disagreeable labor and risk,
could have had no motive for taking the body."

"Then you think----"

"I think this," I interrupted, being now warm with my subject. "Dr.
Bethel, who is certainly _not_ a detective, is suspected of being one,
or feared as one. And this is the way his enemies open the war upon him.
I think if we can find out who robbed that little girl's grave and
secreted the body so as to throw suspicion upon Bethel, we shall be in a
fair way to find out what we came here to learn, viz., what, and where,
and who, are the daring, long existing successful robbers that infest
Trafton. This is their first failure, and why?"

"It's easy to guess _why_," said Carnes, gravely. "The old head was out
of this business; for some reason it has been entrusted to underlings,
and bunglers."

"But won't old Harding give these rascals warning by claiming his stolen
property?" I asked, dubiously.

"Not he," replied Carnes. "Harding's too cute and too stingy for that.
He reasons that the thieves, having begun to display their booty, may
grow more reckless. He is one of the few who think that the body was not
placed in the hay by the doctor's hirelings; he intends to keep silent
for the present and look sharp for any more of his stolen merchandize."

"Then, Carnes, we have no bars to our present progress. To-morrow we get
down to actual business."

Again we sat late into the night discussing and re-arranging our
plans, only separating when we had mapped out a course which we, in our
egotistical blindness, felt assured was the true route toward success;
and seeking our slumbers as blissfully unconscious of what really was to
transpire as the veriest dullard in all Trafton.



CHAPTER XII.

A BIG HAUL.


When I awoke next morning, I was surprised to find my erratic
body-servant not in attendance.

Carnes, for convenience, and because of lack of modern hotel
accommodations, occupied a cot in my room, which was the largest in the
house, and sufficiently airy to serve for two. Usually, he was anything
but a model serving man in the matter of rising and attending to duty,
for, invariably, I was out of bed an hour before him, and had made my
toilet to the music of his nasal organ, long before he broke his morning
nap.

This morning, however, Carnes was not snoring peacefully on his cot
underneath the open north window, and I arose and made a hasty toilet,
feeling sure that something unusual had called him from his bed this
early.

Wondering much, I descended to the office, where an animated buzz warned
me that something new and startling was under discussion.

Usually at that hour this sanctum was untenanted, save for the youth
who served as a combination of porter and clerk, and perhaps a stray
boarder or two, but this morning a motley crowd filled the room. Not a
noisy, blustering crowd, but a gathering of startled, perplexed, angry
looking men, each seeming hopeful of hearing something, rather than
desirous of saying much.

Jim Long, the idle, every-where-present Jim, stood near the outer door,
looking as stolid and imperturbable as usual, and smoking, as a matter
of course.

I made my way to him at once.

"What is it, Long," I asked, in a low tone; "something new, or--"

"Nothin' _new_, by any means," interrupted Jim, sublimely indifferent to
the misfortune of his neighbors. "Nothin' new at all, Cap'n; the Trafton
Bandits have been at it again, that's all."

[Illustration: "Nothin' new at all, Cap'n; the Trafton Bandits have been
at it again that's all."--page 140.]

"Trafton Bandits! you mean--"

"Thieves! Robbers! Ku Klux! They've made another big haul."

"Last night?"

"Last night, Cap'n."

"Of what sort?"

Jim chuckled wickedly.

"The right sort to git money out of. Hopper's two-forty's, that was in
trainin' for the races. Meacham's matched sorrels. 'Squire Brookhouse's
bay Morgans."

"What! six blooded horses at one haul!"

"Eggszactly."

Jim's coolness was aggravating; I turned away from him, and mingled
with the group about the clerk's desk.

"Meacham'll suicide; he refused a fancy price for them sorrels not two
weeks ago."

"Wonder what old Brookhouse will do about it?"

"There'll be some tall rewards offered."

"Much good that'll do. We don't get back stolen horses so easy in this
county."

"It'll break Hopper up; he had bet his pile on the two-forty's, and bid
fair to win."

"One of 'em was goin' to trot against Arch Brookhouse's mare, Polly, an'
they had big bets up. Shouldn't wonder if Arch was glad to be let out so
easy. Polly never could outgo that gray four-year-old."

"Think not?"

"Brookhouse has telegraphed to his lawyers already, to send on a couple
of detectives."

"Bully for Brookhouse."

"Don't yell till yer out of the woods. Detectives ain't so much more'n
common folks. I don't go much on 'em myself. What we want is vigilants."

"Pooh! neither detectives nor vigilants can't cure Trafton."

These and like remarks greeted my ears in quick succession, and
furnished me mental occupation. I lingered for half an hour among the
eager, excited gossippers, and then betook myself to the dining-room and
partook of my morning meal in solitude. With my food for the body, I had
also food for thought.

Here, indeed, was work for the detective. I longed for the instant
presence of Carnes, that we might discuss the situation, and I felt no
little annoyance at the thought of the two detectives who might come in
upon us at the bidding of 'Squire Brookhouse.

Carnes was in the office when I again entered it, and giving him a sign
to follow me, I went up to my room. It was situated in a wing of the
building most remote from the office, and the hum of many voices did not
penetrate so far.

The stillness seemed more marked by contrast with the din I had just
left, as I sat waiting.

Presently Carnes came in, alert, quick of movement, and having merged
the talkative Irishman in the active, cautious detective.

"This looks like business;" he began, dragging a chair forward, and
seating himself close to me. "I chanced to wake up a little after
sunrise, and heard some men talking outside, near my window. They were
going through the lane, and I only caught the words: "Yes, sir; stolen
last night; six of them." Somehow the tone, quite as much as the words,
convinced me that something was wrong. I got up and hurried out,
thinking it hardly worth while to disturb you until I had learned more
of the fellow's meaning. Well, sir, it's a fact; six valuable pieces of
horseflesh have been taken from under our very noses."

"Have you got any particulars?"

"Well, yes, as much as is known, I think. Hopper, as you remember, lives
on the hill just at the edge of the town. His man sleeps in the little
office adjoining the stable. It seems the fellow, having no valuables to
lose, let the window swing open and slept near it. He was chloroformed,
and is under the doctor's care this morning. Meacham's stable is very
near the house, but no one was disturbed by the robbers; they threw his
dog a huge piece of meat that kept his jaws occupied. I heard Arch
Brookhouse talking with a lot of men; he says the Morgans were in a
loose box near the rear door of the stable, and that two men were
sleeping in the room above the front wing. He says they have telegraphed
to the city for detectives."

"Yes, I'm sorry for that, but it's to be expected."

"What shall we do about it?"

"As we are working for our own satisfaction and have little at stake, I
am in favor of keeping quiet until we see who they bring down. If it's
some of our own fellows, or _any one_ that we know to be skillful, we
can then turn in and help them, or retire from the field without making
ourselves known, as we think best. If the fellows are strangers--"

"Then we will try the merits of the case with them," broke in Carnes. "I
tell you, old man, I hate to quit the field now."

"So do I," I acknowledged. "We must manage to know when these new
experts arrive, and until we have found them out, can do little but keep
our eyes and ears open. It won't do to betray too much interest just
yet."

Carnes wheeled about in his chair and turned his eyes toward the street.

"I wish this thing had not happened just yet," he said, moodily. "Last
night our plans were laid so smoothly. I don't see how we can even
follow up this grave-robbing business, until these confounded detectives
have shown their hand."

"Carnes," I replied, solemnly, "do be a philosopher. If ever two
conceited detectives got themselves into a charming muddle, we're those
two, at present. If we don't come out of this escapade covered with
confusion, we shall have cause to be thankful."

My homily had its intended effect. Carnes wheeled upon me with scorn
upon his countenance.

"The mischief fly away wid yer croakin'," he cried. "An' it's lyin' ye
know ye are. Is it covered wid confusion ye'd be afther havin' us, bad
cess to ye? Av we quit this nest we'd be drappin' the natest job two
lads ever tackled. Ye can quit av ye like, but I'm shtayin', avan if the
ould boy himself comes down to look intil the bizness."

By "the ould boy," Carnes meant our Chief, and not, as might be
supposed, his Satanic majesty.

I smiled at the notion of our Chief in the midst of these Trafton
perplexities, and, letting Carnes' tirade remain unanswered, took from
my pocket the before mentioned note book and began a new mental
calculation.

"There goes the ould identical Mephistophiles I used to see in my fairy
book," broke out Carnes from his station by the window, where he had
stood for some moments silently contemplating whatever might present
itself to view in the street below. "Look at 'im now! Av I were an
artist, wouldn't I ax 'im to sit for 'Satan'."

I looked out and saw 'Squire Brookhouse passing on the opposite side of
the street, and looking closer, I decided that Carnes' comparison was
not inapt.

In the days of his youth 'Squire Brookhouse might have been a handsome
man, when his regular features were rounded and colored by twenty-two
Summers, or perhaps more; but he must have grown old while yet young,
for his cadaverous cheeks were the color of most ancient parchment; his
black eyes were set in hollow, dusky caverns; his mouth was sunken, the
thin lips being drawn and colorless. His upper lip was smooth shaven,
but the chin was decorated by a beard, long but thin, and of a peculiar
lifeless black. His eyebrows were long and drooped above the cavernous
eyes. His hair was straight and thin, matching the beard in color, and
he wore it so long that it touched the collar of his coat, the ends
fluttering dismally in the least gust of wind. He was tall, and angular
to emaciation, with narrow, stooping shoulders, and the slow, gliding
gait of an Indian. He was uniformly solemn, it would be a mistake to say
dignified; preternaturally silent, going and coming like a shadow among
his loquacious neighbors; always intent upon his own business and
showing not the least interest in anything that did not in some way
concern himself. Living plainly, dressing shabbily, hoarding his riches,
grinding his tenants, superintending the business of his large
stock-farm, he held himself aloof from society, and had never been seen
within the walls of a church.

And yet this silent, unsocial man was a power in Trafton; his word of
commendation was eagerly sought for; his frown was a thing to be
dreaded; his displeasure to be feared. Whom he would be elected to
office, and whom he would not, came somehow to be disapproved by all
Trafton.

"He has certainly an uncommon _ensemble_," I said, looking out over
Carnes' shoulder, "not a handsome man, to be sure, but one toward whom
you would turn in a crowd to take the second look at. I wonder where Jim
Long would place him in the scale of Trafton weights and measures?"

"Not under the head of the model Traftonite," replied Carnes, still
gazing after the receding figure. "He's guiltless of the small hands and
feet, perfumed locks and 'more frill to the square yard of shirt front'
required by Jim for the making of his model. By-the-by, what the 'Squire
lacks is amply made up by the son. When Jim pictured the model
Traftonite, I think he must have had Arch Brookhouse in his eye."

"I think so, too; a nature such as Jim's would be naturally antagonistic
to any form of dandyism. Young Brookhouse is a fastidious dresser, and,
I should say, a thoroughly good fellow."

"As good fellows go," said Carnes, sententiously. "But dropping the
dandy, tell me what are we going to do with Jim Long?"

"It's a question I've been asking myself," responded I, turning away
from the window, "Jim is not an easy conundrum to solve."

"About as easy as a Chinese puzzle," grumbled Carnes, discontentedly.
"Nevertheless, I tell you, old man, before we get much further on our
way we've got to take his measure."

"I quite agree with you, and the moment the way seems clear, we must do
something more."

"What's that?"

"We must explore that south road, every foot of it, for twenty miles at
least."



CHAPTER XIII.

'SQUIRE BROOKHOUSE MAKES A CALL.


The first train due from the city, by which, supposing 'Squire
Brookhouse's message to be promptly received, and his commission
promptly executed, it would be possible for the looked-for detectives to
arrive, would be due at midnight. It was a fast, through express, and
arriving so late, when the busy village gossips were, or should be,
peacefully sleeping, it seemed to us quite probable that they would come
openly by that train.

Of course we expected them to assume disguise, or to have some plausible
business in the town, quite foreign to their real errand thither; but,
equally, of course we expected to be able to penetrate any disguise that
might be assumed by parties known to us, or to see beneath any business
subterfuge adopted by strangers.

Until midnight then we had only to wait, and employ our time profitably,
if we could, which seemed hardly probable.

I remained in my room for the remainder of the morning, and Carnes went
out among the gossipers, in search of any scrap that he might seize upon
and manipulate into a thing of meaning.

At the dinner table I met Dr. Bethel. He was his usual calm, courteous
self, seeming in no wise ruffled or discomposed by the events of the
previous day.

We chatted together over our dinner, and together left the table. In the
hall the doctor turned to face me, saying:

"If you have nothing better to occupy your time, come down to my house
with me. I shall enjoy your company."

I could scarcely have found a way of passing the afternoon more to my
taste, just then, and I accepted his invitation promptly.

Outside the doctor's dwelling, quiet and order reigned, thanks to Jim
Long's officious friendliness, but within was still the confusion of
yesterday; Jim, seemingly, having exhausted himself in the hanging of
the doctor's front door.

Bethel looked about the disordered rooms, and laughed the laugh of the
philosopher.

"After all, a man can not be thoroughly angry at the doings of a mob,"
he said, stooping to gather up some scattered papers. "It's like
scattering shot; the charge loses its force; there is no center to turn
upon. I was in a rage yesterday, but it was rather with the author of
the mischief credited to me, than these fanatical would-be avengers, and
then--after due reflection--it was quite natural that these village
simpletons should suspect me, was it not?"

"Candidly, yes," I replied; "and that only proves the cunning of the
enemy who planned this business for your injury."

Bethel, who was stooping to restore a chair to its proper position,
lifted his head to favor me with one sharp glance. Then he brought the
chair up with a jerk; and, taking another with the unoccupied hand,
said:

"This is hardly a picture of comfort. Fortunately, there is a condensed
lawn and excellent shade outside. Let's smoke a cigar under the trees,
and discuss this matter comfortably."

In another moment we were sitting cosily, _vis-â-vis_, on the tiny grass
plot, styled by the doctor a "condensed lawn," with a huge clump of
lilacs at our backs, and the quivering leaves of a young maple above our
heads.

The doctor produced some excellent cigars, which we lighted, and smoked
for a time in silence. Then he said:

"I scarcely flatter myself that I have seen the end of this business. I
quite expected the raid of yesterday to be followed by a formal
accusation and a warrant to-day, in which case--"

"In which case," I interrupted, "I will be responsible for your future
good behavior, and go your bail."

"Thank you," he said, quite seriously. "I appreciate your championship,
but confess it surprises me. Why have you voted me guiltless, in
opposition to the expressed opinions of two-thirds of Trafton?"

"Perhaps," I replied, "it is because I am not a Traftonite, and am
therefore without prejudice. To be perfectly frank, I _did_ suppose you
to be implicated in the business when I came here yesterday; when I
witnessed your surprise, and heard your denial, I wavered; when I saw
the buried clothing, I doubted; when the body was discovered, I was
convinced that a less clever head and more bungling hand than yours, had
planned and executed the resurrection; it was a blunder which I could
not credit you with making. If I had a doubt, Barnard's testimony would
have laid it."

"Thank you," said Bethel, with real warmth. "But----I might have had
confederates."

"No. Doctor Barnard's statement as to the manner of the child's death
deprives you of a motive for the deed; then the too-easily found tools,
and the stripped-off clothing could hardly be work of your planning or
ordering. Depend upon it, when Trafton has done a little calm thinking,
it will see this matter as I see it."

"Possibly," with a shade of skepticism in his voice. "At least, when I
have unearthed these plotters against me, they will see the matter as it
is, and that day I intend to bring to pass."

The fire was nearly extinct on the tip of his cigar, he replaced it in
his mouth and seemingly only intent upon rekindling the spark; this
done, he smoked in silence a moment and then said:

"As to the author of the mischief, or his motive, I am utterly at a
loss. I have given up trying to think out the mystery. I shall call in
the help of the best detective I can find, and see what he makes of the
matter."

Gracious heavens! here was another lion coming down upon myself and my
luckless partner! Trafton was about to be inundated with detectives. My
brain worked hard and fast. Something must be done, and that speedily,
or Carnes and I must retreat mutely, ingloriously.

While I smoked in a seemingly careless reverie, I was weighing the
_pros_ and _cons_ of a somewhat uncertain venture. Should I let this
third detective come and risk a collision, or should I make a clean
breast of it, avow my identity, explain the motive of my sojourn in
Trafton, and ask Bethel to trust his case to Carnes and myself? Almost
resolved upon this latter course, I began to feel my way.

"A good detective ought to sift the matter, I should think," I said. "I
suppose you have your man in view?"

"Candidly, no," he replied, with a dubious shake of the head. "I'm
afraid I am not well posted as regards the police, never expecting to
have much use for the gentry. I must go to the city and hunt up the
right man."

I drew a breath of relief.

"That will consume some valuable time," I said, musingly.

"Yes, a day to go; another, perhaps, before I find my man. I shall go
in person, because I fancy that I shall be able to give something like a
correct guess as to the man's ability, if I can have a square look at
his face."

I blew a cloud of smoke before my own face to conceal a smile.

"You are a physiognomist, then?"

"Not a radical one; but I believe there is much to be learned by the
careful study of the human countenance."

"Give me a test of your ability," I said, jestingly, and drawing my
chair nearer to him. "Have I the material in me for a passable
detective?"

"My dear sir," he replied, gravely, "if I had not given you credit for
some shrewdness, I should hardly have made you, even in a slight degree,
my confidante; if you were a detective I think you might be expected to
succeed."

"Thanks, doctor; being what I am I can, perhaps, give you the key to
this mystery."

"You?"

"Yes, I," tossing away my cigar and now fully resolved to confide in the
doctor. "I think I have stumbled upon the clue you require. I will tell
you how."

There was a sharp click at the gate; I closed my lips hurriedly, and we
both turned to look.

'Squire Brookhouse, if possible a shade more solemn of countenance than
usual, was entering the doctor's door-yard.

My host arose instantly to receive, but did not advance to meet, his
latest guest.

'Squire Brookhouse accepted the chair proffered him, having first given
me a nod of recognition, and, while Bethel entered the house for another
chair, sat stiffly, letting his small, restless black eyes rove about,
taking in his surroundings with quick, furtive glances, and I fancied
that he felt a trifle annoyed at my presence.

"You seem quite serene here, in spite of yesterday's fracas," he said to
me, in what he no doubt intended for the ordinary affable conversational
tone.

He possessed a naturally harsh, rasping voice, not loud, but, none the
less, not pleasant to the ear, and this, coupled with his staccato
manner of jerking out the beginnings of his sentences, and biting off
the ends of them, would have given, even to gentle words, the sound of
severity.

While I replied, I was inwardly wondering what had called out this
unusual visit, for I saw at once, by the look on Bethel's face, that it
was unusual, and, just then, a trifle unwelcome.

We were not left long in the dark. Scarcely had the doctor rejoined us
and been seated before the 'squire gave us an insight into the nature of
his business.

"I am sorry our people gave you so much trouble yesterday, doctor," he
began, in his stiff staccato. "Their conduct was as discreditable to the
town as it was uncomplimentary to you."

"One should always take into consideration the character of the
elements that assails him," replied Bethel, coolly. "I was comforted to
know that my assailants of yesterday were notably of the _canaille_ of
the town; the majority, of the rough, vulgar excitables, who, while not
being, or meaning to be, absolutely vicious, are, because of their
inherent ignorance, easily played upon and easily led, especially toward
mischief. The leaders most certainly were not of the _lower_ classes,
but of the _lowest_. On the whole, I have experienced no serious
discomfort, 'Squire Brookhouse, nor do I anticipate any lasting injury
to my practice by this attempt to shake the public faith in me."

This reply surprised me somewhat, and I saw that the 'squire was, for
the moment, nonplussed. He sat quite silent, biting his thin under lip,
and with his restless eyes seemed trying to pierce to the doctor's
innermost thought.

The silence became to me almost oppressive before he said, shifting his
position so as to bring me more prominently within his range of vision:

"I hope you are right; I suppose you are. Arch displeased me very much
by not coming to your aid; he might, perhaps, have had some influence
upon a portion of the mob. I regret to learn that one or two of my men
were among them. I believe Arch tried to argue against the movement
before they came down upon you; he came home thoroughly disgusted and
angry. For myself, I was too much indisposed to venture out yesterday."

He drew himself a trifle more erect; this long speech seeming to be
something well off his mind.

"I was well supported, I assure you," replied Bethel, courteously. "But
I appreciate your interest in my welfare. Your influence in Trafton is
considerable, I know."

"Hardly that; hardly that, sir. However, such as it is, it is yours, if
you need it. My call was merely to ask if you anticipated any further
trouble, or if I could serve you in any way, in case you desired to make
an investigation."

Bethel hesitated a moment, seemingly at a loss for a reply.

In that moment, while the 'squire's sharp eyes were fixed upon him, I
lifted my hand, removed my cigar from my mouth with a careless gesture,
and, catching the doctor's eye, laid a finger on my lip. In another
instant I was puffing away at my weed, and the keen, quick eyes of
'Squire Brookhouse were boring me clean through.

"Thank you," said Bethel, after this pause, and without again glancing
at me. "You are very good."

"We seem to be especially honored by rogues of various sorts," went on
the 'squire. "Of course you have heard of last night's work, and of my
loss."

The doctor bowed his head.

"This thing is becoming intolerable," went on the usually silent man,
"and I intend to make a stanch fight. If it's in the power of the
detectives, I mean to have my horses back."

"You will bestow a blessing upon the community if you succeed in
capturing the thieves," said Bethel.

Then the 'squire turned toward me, saying:

"We are a victimized community, sir. I suppose you have found that out?"

[Illustration: "We are a victimized community, sir. I suppose you have
found that out?"--page 161.]

"Judging from the events of yesterday and last night, I should think
so," I replied, with an air of indifferent interest. "From the
conversation I heard at the hotel to-day, I infer that this thieving
business is no new thing."

"No new thing, sir."

I had no desire to participate in the conversation, so made no further
comment, and the 'squire turned again to Bethel.

"I suppose you intend to investigate this matter?"

Bethel looked up to the maple, and down at the grass.

"I have scarcely decided," he replied, slowly. "I have hardly had time
to consider."

"Ah! I supposed, from what I heard in the town, that you had made a
decided stand."

"So far as this, I have," replied Bethel, gravely. "I am determined not
to let these underminers succeed in their purpose."

"Then you have fathomed their purpose?"

"I suppose it is to drive me from Trafton?"

"You intend to remain?"

"Most assuredly. I shall reside and practice in Trafton so long as I
have one patient left who has faith in me."

"That would be an unprofitable game--financially."

"I think not, in the end."

Again the 'squire seemed at a loss for words.

I hugged myself with delight. The dialogue pleased me.

"I like your spirit," he said, at length. "I should also like to see
this matter cleared up." He rose slowly, pulling his hat low down over
his cavernous eyes. "I have sent for detectives," he said, slightly
lowering his tone. "Of course I wish their identity and whereabouts to
remain a secret among us. If you desire to investigate and wish any
information or advice from them, or if I can aid you _in any way_, don't
hesitate to let me know."

Dr. Bethel thanked him warmly, assuring him that if he had need of a
friend he would not forget his very generously proffered service, and,
with his solemn face almost funereal in its expression, 'Squire
Brookhouse bowed to me, and, this time escorted by Bethel, walked slowly
toward the gate.

A carriage came swiftly down the road from the direction of the village.
It halted just as they had reached the gate.

I saw a pale face look out, and then 'Squire Brookhouse approached and
listened to something said by this pale-faced occupant. Meantime Bethel,
without waiting for further words with 'Squire Brookhouse, came back to
his seat under the trees.

In a moment the carriage moved on, going rapidly as before, and the
'squire came back through the little gate and approached the doctor,
wearing now upon his face a look of unmistakable sourness.

"Doctor," he said, in his sharpest staccato, "my youngest scapegrace has
met with an accident, and is going home with a crippled leg. I don't
know how bad the injury is, but you had better come at once; he seems in
great distress."

The doctor turned to me with a hesitating movement which I readily
understood. He was loth to leave our interrupted conversation unfinished
for an indefinite time.

I arose at once.

"Don't let my presence interfere with your duties," I said. "You and I
can finish our smoke to-morrow, doctor."

He shot me a glance which assured me that he comprehended my meaning.

Five minutes later, Dr. Bethel and 'Squire Brookhouse were going up the
hill toward the house of the latter, while I, still smoking, sauntered
in the opposite direction, lazily, as beseemed an idle man.

I felt very well satisfied just then, and was rather glad that my
disclosure to the doctor had been interrupted. A new thought had lodged
in my brain, and I wished to consult Carnes.

Just at sunset, while I sat on the piazza of the hotel, making a
pretence of reading the _Trafton Weekly News_, I saw Charlie Harris, the
operator, coming down the street with a yellow envelope in his hand.

He came up the steps of the hotel, straight to me, and I noted a
mischievous smile on his face as he proffered the envelope, saying:

"I am glad to find you so easily. I should have felt it my duty to
ransack the town in order to deliver that."

I opened the telegram in silence, and read these words:

     The widow B. is in town and anxious to see you. T. C.

Then I looked up into the face of young Harris, and smiled in my turn.

"Harris," I said, "this is a very welcome piece of news, and I am much
obliged to you."

"I knew you would be," laughed the jolly fellow. "I love to serve the
ladies. And what shall I say in return?"

"Nothing, Harris," I responded. "I shall go by the first train; the
widow here referred to, is a particular friend of mine."

Harris elevated his eyebrows.

"In dead earnest, aren't you? Tell me--I'll never, never give you away,
is she pretty?"

"Pretty!" I retorted; "Harris, I've a mind to knock you down, for
applying such a weak word to _her_. She's _magnificent_."

"Whew," he exclaimed, "It's a bad case, then. When shall we see you
again in Trafton?"

"That depends upon the lady. I'll never leave the city while she desires
me to stay."

After a little more banter of this sort, Harris returned to his duties,
and I went up-stairs, well pleased with the manner in which he had
interpreted my Chief's telegram, and wondering not a little what had
brought the widow Ballou to the city.

Carnes and I had another long talk that night, while waiting the time
for the arrival of the city express.

I told him that I was called to the city in the interest of the case I
had abandoned after getting my wound, and that unless my continued
presence there was absolutely indispensable, I would return in three
days, at the farthest.

I gave him a detailed account of my visit to Bethel, with its attendant
circumstances.

"Bethel will hardly make a decided move in the matter for a day or two,
I think," I said, after we had discussed the propriety of taking the
doctor into our counsel. "I will write him a note which you shall
deliver, and the rest must wait."

I wrote as follows:

     DR. CARL BETHEL,

     _Dear Sir_--Am just in receipt of a telegram which calls me to
     the city. I go by the early train, as there is a lady in the
     case. Shall return in a few days, I trust, and then hope to
     finish our interrupted conversation. I _think_ your success
     will be more probable and speedy if you delay all action for
     the present.

     This is in confidence.

                                      Yours fraternally, etc., etc.

"There," I said, folding the note, "That is making the truth tell a
falsehood." And I smiled as I pictured the "lady in the case," likely to
be conjured up by the imaginations of Harris and Dr. Bethel, and
contrasted her charms with the sharp features, work-hardened hands, and
matter-of-fact head, of Mrs. Ballou.

Just ten minutes before twelve o'clock Carnes and myself dropped
noiselessly out of our chamber window, leaving a dangling rope to
facilitate our return, and took our way to the depot to watch for the
expected experts.

Ten minutes later the great fiery eye of the iron horse shone upon us
from a distance, disappeared behind a curve, reappeared again, and came
beaming down to the little platform.

The train halted for just an instant, then swept on its way.

But no passengers were left upon the platform; our errand had been
fruitless; the detectives were still among the things to be looked for.

The next morning, before daybreak, I was _en route_ for the city.



CHAPTER XIV.

MRS. BALLOU'S PISTOL PRACTICE.


Half an hour after my arrival in the city, I was seated in the private
office of our Chief, with Mrs. Ballou opposite me.

I had telegraphed from a way station, so that no time might be lost. I
found the Chief and the lady awaiting me; and, at the first, he had
signified his wish that I should listen to her story, and then give him
my version of it.

"She seems ill at ease with me," he said, "and frankly told me that she
preferred to make her statement to you. Go ahead, Bathurst; above all we
must retain her confidence."

Mrs. Ballou looked careworn, and seemed more nervous than I had supposed
it in her nature to be.

She looked relieved at sight of me, and, as soon as we were alone,
plunged at once into her story, as if anxious to get it over, and hear
what I might have to say.

This is what she told me in her own plain, concise, and very sensible
language, interrupted now and then by my brief questions, and her
occasional moments of silence, while I transferred something to my
note-book.

"I presume you have wanted to know what I did with that letter I took,"
she began, smiling a little, probably in recollection of her adroit
theft. "I will tell you why I took it. When you first showed it to me,
the printed letters had a sort of familiar look, but I could not think
where I had seen them. During the night it seemed to come to me, and I
got up and went into the parlor." Here she hesitated for a moment, and
then went on hurriedly: "Grace--my girl, you know--has a large autograph
album; she brought it home when she came from the seminary, and
everybody she meets that can scratch with a pen, must write in it. I
found this precious album, and in it I found--this."

She took from her pocket-book a folded paper and put it in my hand. It
was a leaf torn from an album, and it contained a sentimental couplet,
_printed_ in large, bold letters.

I looked at the bit of paper, and then muttering an excuse, went
hurriedly to the outer office. In a moment I was back; holding in my
hand the printed letter of warning, which I had confided to the care of
my Chief.

I sat down opposite Mrs. Ballou with the two documents before me, and
scrutinized them carefully.

They were the same. The letter of warning was penciled, and bore
evidence of having been hastily done; the album lines were in ink
carefully executed and elaborately finished, but the lettering was the
same. Making allowances for the shading, the flourishes, and the extra
precision of the one, and looking simply at the formation of the
letters, the height, width, curves, and spacing of both, and the
resemblance was too strong to pass for a mere coincidence.

I studied the two papers thoughtfully for a few moments, then looked at
Mrs. Ballou.

"You should have told me of this at once," I began; but she threw up her
hand impatiently.

"Wait," she said, with almost her ordinary brusqueness, seeming to lose
her nervousness as she became absorbed in the task of convincing me that
she thoroughly understood _herself_. "There was no time to compare the
writing that night. I had not decided what to do, and I was not sure
then that they were the same. I left the album, just as I found it, and
went out and harnessed the horses. While I was helping you with your
coat, I managed to get the letter."

"You were certainly very adroit," I said. "Even now I can recall no
suspicious movements of yours."

"I made none," she retorted. "I saw where you put the letter, and it was
easy to get it while helping you."

She paused a moment, then went on:

"When I went home, after driving you to the station, everybody was
asleep. I knew they would be; I always have to wake them all, from Fred
to the hired girl. I waked them as usual that morning, told them that I
had discharged you for impertinence, and for abusing the horses, and
that settled the matter. In the afternoon the girls went over to
Morton's; it's only a mile across the fields, and a clear path. I made
up my mind that I'd have them safe back again before dark, and I know
where I could get a good man to take your place; he was high-priced, but
I knew he was to be trusted, and I had made up my mind to keep a close
eye on the girls, and to send some one with them wherever they went.
After they were gone, I took the album to my room, locked Fred out, and
compared the letter with the album verse. I thought the writing was the
same."

She hesitated a moment, brushed her handkerchief across her lips, and
then went on.

"I didn't know what to do, nor what to think--my first thought was to
send for you, then I became frightened. I did not know what you might
trace out, with this clue, and I did not know how it might affect my
daughter. Grace is lively, fond of all kinds of gayety, especially of
dancing. She is always surrounded with beaux, always has half a dozen
intimate girl friends on hand, and is constantly on the go. There are so
many young people about Groveland that picnics, neighborhood dances,
croquet parties, buggy rides, etc., are plenty; and then, Grace often
has visitors from Amora."

"Where is Amora?" I interrupted.

"It is about twenty-five miles from Groveland. Grace went to school at
Amora."

I made an entry in my note-book, and then asked:

"Is there a seminary in Amora?"

"Yes."

"How long since your daughter left Amora, Mrs. Ballou?"

"She was there during the Winter term."

"Yes. Did Nellie Ewing ever attend school at Amora?"

"Yes."

"When?"

Mrs. Ballou moved uneasily.

"Nellie and Grace were room-mates last Winter," she replied.

"And Mamie Rutger? Was she there, too?"

"She began the Winter term, but was expelled."

"Expelled! For what?"

"For sauciness and disobedience. Mamie was a spoiled child, and not fond
of study."

I wrote rapidly in my note-book, and mentally anathematized myself, and
my employers in the Ewing-Rutger case. Why had I not learned before that
Nellie Ewing and Mamie Rutger were together at Amora? Why had their two
fathers neglected to give me so important a piece of information?

Evidently they had not thought of this fact in connection with the
disappearance of the two girls, or the fact that Mamie was expelled from
the school may have kept Farmer Rutger silent.

I closed my note-book and asked:

"Did any other young people from Groveland attend the Amora school? Try
and be accurate, Mrs. Ballou."

"Not last Winter," she replied; "at least, no other girls. Johnny La
Porte was there."

"Who is Johnny La Porte?"

"His father is one of our wealthiest farmers. Johnny is an only son. He
is a good-looking boy, and a great favorite among the young people."

"Do you know his age?"

"Not precisely; he is not more than twenty or twenty-one."

"Where is Johnny La Porte at present?"

"At home, on his father's farm."

"Now, Mrs. Ballou, tell me who is Miss Amy Holmes?"

She started and flushed.

"Another school friend," she replied, in a tone which said plainly, "the
bottom is reached at last."

Evidently she expected some comment, but I only said:

"One more, Mrs. Ballou, why have you held back this bit of paper until
now?"

"I am coming to that," she retorted, "when you have done with your
questions."

"I have finished. Proceed now."

Once more she began:

"I was worried and anxious about the papers, but, on second thought, I
determined to know something more before I saw or wrote you. I did not
think it best to ask Grace any questions; she is an odd child, and very
quick to suspect anything unusual, and it would be an unusual thing for
me to seem interested in the autographs. It was two days before I found
out who wrote the lines in the album. I complained of headache that day,
and Grace took my share of the work herself. Amy was in the parlor
reading a novel. I went in and talked with her a while, then I began to
turn over the leaves of the album. When I came to the printed lines, I
praised their smoothness, and then I carelessly asked Amy if she knew
what the initials A. B. stood for. She looked up at me quickly, glanced
at the album, hesitated a moment as if thinking, and then said: 'Oh,
that's Professor Bartlett's printing, I think, his first name is _Asa_.
He is an admirable penman.'

"I don't think Amy remembered the lines, or she would not have said
that. I don't think Professor Bartlett would begin an album verse: 'I
drink to the eyes of my schoolmate, Grace.' I knew that Amy had told a
falsehood, and I watched her. She took the first opportunity, when she
thought I did not see her, to whisper something to Grace. I saw that
Grace looked annoyed, but Amy laughed, and the two seemed to agree upon
something.

"I thought I would come to the city the next day, but in the morning my
boy was very sick; he was sick for more than two weeks, and I had no
time to think of anything else. Amy helped Grace, and was so kind and
useful that I almost forgave her for telling me a fib. I had sent your
letter back during Fred's illness, and, when he began to mend, I thought
the matter over and over. I knew it would be useless to question Grace,
and I did not know what harm or scandal I might bring upon my own
daughter by bringing the matter to your notice. I tried to convince
myself that the similarity of the printing was accidental, and, as I had
not the letter to compare with the album, it was easier to believe so. I
concluded to wait, but became very watchful.

"One night Fred brought in the mail; there was a letter for Amy; she
opened it and began to read, then she uttered a quick word, and looked
much pleased. I saw an anxious look on my girl's face and caught a
glance that passed between them. By-and-by they both went up-stairs, and
in a few minutes I followed, and listened at the door of their room.

"Amy was reading her letter to Grace. I could tell that by the hum of
her voice, but I could not catch a word, until Grace exclaimed, sharply,
'What! the 17th?' 'Yes, the 17th, hush,' Amy answered, and then went on
with her reading. I could not catch a single word more, so I went back
down-stairs. It was then about the ninth of the month, and I thought it
might be as well to keep my eyes open on the 17th, though it might have
meant last month, or any other month, for all I could guess. After that
Amy seemed in better spirits than usual, and Grace was gay and nervous
by turns. On the 17th the girls stayed in their room, as usual--that was
four days ago."

She paused a moment, during which my eyes never left her face; she
sighed heavily, and resumed:

"I felt fidgety all day, as if something was going to happen. I expected
to see the girls preparing for company, or to go somewhere, but they did
no such thing. When evening came, they went to their room earlier than
usual, but I sat up later than I often do. It was almost eleven o'clock
when I went up-stairs, and then I could not sleep. I stopped and
listened again at the door of the girls' room, but could hear nothing.
They might both have been asleep.

"It was very warm, and I threw open my shutters, and sat down by the
window, thinking that I was not sleepy, and, of course, I fell asleep.
All at once something awoke me. I started and listened; in a moment I
heard it again; it was the snort of a horse. There was no moon, and the
shrubbery and trees made the front yard, from the gate to the house,
very dark. As I heard no wheels nor hoofs, of course I knew that the
horse was standing still, and the sound came from the front. I sat quite
still and listened hard. By-and-by I heard something else. This time it
was a faint rustling among the bushes below--it was not enough to have
aroused even a light sleeper, but I was wide awake, and all ears.
'Somebody is creeping through my rose bushes,' I said to myself, then
tip-toed to my bureau, got out the pistol you gave me, and slipped out,
and down-stairs, as still as a mouse.

"The girls slept in a room over the parlor, and their windows faced west
and south; mine faced north and west, so you see I had no view, from my
bed-room, of the south windows of their room. The croquet ground was on
the south side of the house, and there was a bit of vacant lawn in front
of the parlor, also. The windows below were all closed and so I could
not hear the rustling any more.

"I sat down by one of the parlor windows and peeped out. Presently I saw
something come out from among the bushes; it was a man; and he came into
the open space _carrying a ladder_. Then I knew what the rustling meant.
He had taken the ladder from the big harvest-apple tree in front, where
the girls had put it that afternoon, and was bringing it toward the
house.

"The man stopped opposite the south windows of the girls' room, and
began to raise the ladder. Then I knew what to do. I slipped the pistol
into my pocket, went out through the dining-room, unbolted the back door
as quietly as I could, crept softly to the south corner of the house,
and peeped around. The ladder was already up, and somebody was climbing
out of the window, while the man steadied the ladder. It was one of the
girls, but I could not tell which, so I waited. When she stood upon the
ground not ten feet away from me, I knew by her height that it was
Grace, and Amy had started down before Grace was off the ladder. Just
then the man stepped back, so that I had a fair chance at him. I took
aim as well as I could, and fired.

[Illustration: "Just then the man stepped back, so that I had a fair
chance at him. I took aim as well as I could, and fired."--page 177.]

"The man yelled. Grace screamed and tumbled over on the grass, just as I
expected her to. Amy Holmes jumped from the ladder, ran to the man, and
said, "quick! come!" I fired again, and Grace raised herself suddenly
with such a moan that I thought in my haste I had hit her.

"I threw down the pistol, ran and picked her up as if she were a baby,
and took her around to the back door. By the time I found out that she
was not hurt, and had got back to the ladder, the man and Amy were gone,
and I heard a buggy going down the road at a furious rate."

She paused and sighed deeply, looked at me for a moment, and then, as I
made no effort to break the silence, she resumed:

"It's not a pleasant story for a mother to tell concerning her own
daughter, but when I think of Nellie Ewing I know that it might
accidentally have been worse.

"I commanded Grace to tell me the whole truth. She cried, and declared
that she was under oath not to tell. After a little she grew calmer, and
then told me that she meant no harm. Amy had a lover who was not a
favorite with her guardian, who lives somewhere South. Amy was about to
run away and be married, and Grace was to accompany her as a witness.
They both expected to be safely back before daylight. Of course I did
not believe this, and I told her so. Her actions after that made me wish
that I had not disputed her story. I have used every argument, and I am
convinced that nothing more can be got out of Grace. She is terribly
frightened and nervous, but she is stubborn as death. Whatever the truth
is, she is afraid to tell it."

"And Miss Holmes; what more of her?"

"Nothing more; she went away in the buggy with the others."

"The others?"

"Yes; I am sure there were two, for I found the place where the buggy
stood waiting. It was not at the gate, but further south. There was a
ditch between the wheel marks and the fence, and nothing to tie to. Some
one must have been holding the horses."

"And this is all you know about the business?"

"Yes, everything."

"Where is your daughter now?"

"At home, under lock and key, with a trusty hired man to stand guard
over her and the house until I get back, and with Freddy and the hired
girl for company."

"Does she know why you came to the city?"

"Not she. I told her I was coming to make arrangements for putting
her to school at a convent, and I intend to do it, too."

Making no comment on this bit of maternal discipline, I again had
recourse to my note-book.

"You are fixed in your desire not to have your daughter further
interviewed?" I asked, presently.

"I am," she replied. "I don't think it would do any good, and she is not
fit to endure any more excitement. I expect to find her sick in bed when
I get home."

"Do you think your shot injured the man?"

"I _know_ it did," emphatically. "I aimed at his legs, intending to hit
them, and I did it. He never gave such a screech as that from sheer
fright; there was _pain_ in it. Amy must have helped him to the
carriage."

"Is this escapade known among your neighbors?"

"No. I hushed it up at home, giving my girl and hired man a different
story to believe. I could not get away by the morning train from Sharon,
and so started the next evening. I left them all at home with Grace, and
drove alone to Sharon, leaving my horse at the stable there."

"You certainly acted very wisely, although I regret the delay. Miss
Holmes and her two cavaliers have now nearly four days the start of us.
Did you notice the size of the man at the ladder?"

"Yes; he was not a large man, if anything a trifle below the medium
height."

"You think, then, that Miss Holmes made a willful effort to deceive
you, when she told you that the album verse was written by Professor
Bartlett? By-the-by, _is_ there a Professor Asa Bartlett at Amora?"

"Yes, he is the Principal. If you could see him, you would never accuse
him of having written a silly verse like that. I am sure Amy meant to
deceive me, and I am sure that she posted Grace about it, in case I
should ask her."

"But you did not ask her?"

"No. One does not care to make one's own child tell an unnecessary lie.
Grace would have stood by Amy, no doubt."

It was growing late in the afternoon. There was much to do, much to
think over, and no time to lose. I was not yet prepared to give Mrs.
Ballou the benefit of my opinion, as regarded her daughter's escapade,
so I arranged for a meeting in the evening, promising to have my plans
decided upon and ready to lay before her at that time.

She wished, if possible, to return home on the following day, and I told
her that I thought it not only possible, but advisable that she should
do so.

Then I called a carriage, saw her safely ensconced therein, _en route_
for her hotel, and returned to my Chief.

I had now two interests. I much desired to arrive at the bottom of the
Groveland mystery, and thought, with the information now in hand, that
this was quite possible; and I also desired to remain at my post among
the Traftonites. I at once decided upon my course. I would tell my Chief
Mrs. Ballou's story, and then I would give him a brief history of our
sojourn in Trafton and its motive. After that, we would decide how to
act.

There was no pause for rest or food, or thought, until I had given my
Chief a history of Mrs. Ballou's vigil and excellent pistol exploit, and
followed this up by the story of my Trafton experience.

His first comment, after he had listened for an hour most attentively,
brought from my lips a sigh of relief; it was just what I longed to
hear.

"Well, you need have no fear so far as this office is concerned.
'Squire Brookhouse has not called for its services."



CHAPTER XV.

PREPARATIONS OF WAR.


"Bathurst," my Chief said, settling back in his chair, and eyeing me
with great good humor, "I don't see but that you are getting on
swimmingly, and I don't feel inclined to dictate much. Your Groveland
affair is looking up. You may have as many men as you need to look after
that business. As for Trafton, I think you and Carnes have made good use
of your holiday. I think you have struck something rich, and that you
had better remain there, and work it up; or, if you prefer to go to
Groveland yourself, return there as soon as possible."

"I am glad to hear you talk as I think," I replied. "I believe that
Trafton is ripe for an explosion, and I confess that, just at present, I
am more interested in Trafton than in Groveland, besides----. In my
report from Groveland, you may remember that I mentioned going to the
station to fetch Miss Amy Holmes?"

"Yes."

"And that this young lady was accompanied on that day by a handsome
young gentleman?"

"Yes."

"Well, I have since made the acquaintance of this young man."

"Ah!"

"At first I thought it only a coincidence, and dismissed the matter from
my mind. Since I have heard Mrs. Ballou's story, a queer thought has
entered my head."

"Explain."

"This young gallant, whom I first saw in the company of the runaway Miss
Holmes, is Mr. Arch, or Archibald Brookhouse, of Trafton."

"I see," thoughtfully.

"And the initials following that album verse are A. B."

"A. B.! Archibald Brookhouse! There _may_ be something in it, but should
you feel justified in suspecting this young man as the possible author
of _your_ anonymous letter?"

"If he is the writer of the album lines, yes."

"What do you propose to do?"

"First," said I, "we must call in the dummy."

"Yes."

"Then I want a good man to go to Groveland in search of information. I
want him to find out all that he can concerning the character of this
Johnny La Porte, who attended school at Amora, and was a fellow-student
with Nellie Ewing, Mamie Rutger, and Grace Ballou."

"Good."

"Then he must learn if any of the Groveland youths have become _lame_
since last Sunday, and if any of these same gentry was missing, or
absent from home, during the night of the 17th, for, of course, Miss Amy
Holmes being on his hands, the driver of the carriage which Mrs. Ballou
routed that night must have been absent sometime, _if_ he belonged in
the community. He surely had to dispose of Miss Holmes in some way."

"Do you think it probable that some Groveland Lothario was mixed up in
this elopement business?"

"I think it not improbable. The first search was made, seemingly, upon
the supposition that all Groveland was above suspicion, and that search
failed. I intend to hold all Groveland Lotharios upon my list of
suspected criminals until they are individually and collectively proven
innocent."

"Quite right."

"On second thought we had better let the dummy remain until we have put
a new man in the field; by this time he must know something about the
people he is among. Who can you send to Groveland?"

"Wyman, I think."

"Capital; Wyman is good at this sort of thing. He had better present
himself in person to our dummy, hear all that he can tell, and then
deliver your letter of recall, and see him safely on his way to the city
before he has time to open his mouth for the benefit of any one else."

"Very good; Wyman is at your disposal."

I drew toward me a large portfolio containing State and county maps. It
lay at all times upon the office table, convenient for reference.

While I was tracing the eccentric course of a certain railroad, I could
feel my Chief's eyes searching my countenance.

"Bathurst," he said, after some moments of silence, and leaning toward
me as he spoke, "I believe you have a theory, or a suspicion, that is
not entirely based upon Mrs. Ballou's revelation."

"You are right," I replied, "and it is a suspicion of so strange a sort
that I almost hesitate to give it utterance, and yet I think it worthy
of attention. I want to shadow this cavalier, Arch Brookhouse."

"Yes."

"I find by this map that the town of Amora is situated twenty-five miles
from Groveland, and thirty miles from Trafton. Sharon, the nearest
railroad communication with Groveland, is thirty miles from Amora, so
that the distance from Trafton to Sharon is sixty miles, and the
seminary town is midway between."

My Chief made a sign which meant "I comprehend; go on."

"Now, it is possible that accident or business brought Mr. Arch
Brookhouse to Sharon, and that his meeting with Miss Holmes was quite
accidental, and his attendance upon Miss Holmes and Grace Ballou merely
a chance bit of gallantry. But when you consider that he seemed equally
well known to both young ladies, that Sharon is a small town, and a dull
one, and that Miss Holmes came from Amora that morning, is it not just
as probable that Mr. Brookhouse traveled from Trafton to Amora for the
purpose of escorting Miss Holmes to Sharon? Now, young men of our day
are not much given to acts of courtesy extending over sixty miles of
railroad; therefore, if Arch Brookhouse visited Sharon for the sole
purpose of meeting these two young ladies, and basking in their society
for a brief half hour, it is fair to presume that he is more than
ordinarily interested in one of them."

"You are right, Bathurst; at least it would seem so."

"Now let me tell you all that I know concerning the Brookhouses."

Once more I gave a minute description of my first meeting with Arch
Brookhouse, and of the second, when I recognized him at Trafton. Then I
told him of my interview with the telegraph operator, of the telegram
sent by Fred Brookhouse from New Orleans, and of the reply sent by Arch,
and last I told him how Louis Brookhouse had come home, accompanied by
another young man, _on the day after the attempted flight of Grace
Ballou_, and how Dr. Bethel had been called upon to attend him, he
having met with an accident.

My Chief stroked his chin thoughtfully.

"I see," he said, slowly, "you have some nice points of circumstantial
evidence against these young gentlemen. How do you propose to use them?"

"First, I must know what motive took Arch Brookhouse to Sharon, and find
out if either of the Brookhouse brothers have been students at Amora. I
want therefore to send a second man to Amora."

"Very good."

"If I find that either, or both, of the younger brothers have been
fellow-students with Grace Ballou, and the missing girls, then I shall
wish to extend my search."

"To New Orleans?"

"To New Orleans."

"Is there anything more?"

"Yes; one thing. If Carnes goes to New Orleans I shall want a telegraph
operator in Trafton."

"Then you wish to remain in Trafton?"

"Yes, and this takes me back to the other matter. I quite expected that
a man like 'Squire Brookhouse would have called upon you for help. If he
has employed men from either of the other offices, we can easily find
out who they are."

"Easily."

"I shall wish to inform myself on this point, and if possible, return to
Trafton to-morrow night. I am to see Mrs. Ballou again to-night; now I
think I will have some supper."

I arose, but stood, for a moment, waiting for any word of command or
suggestion my Chief might have to offer.

He sat for many seconds, seemingly oblivious of my presence. Then he
looked up.

"I shall make no suggestions," he said, waving his hand as if to dismiss
both the subject and myself. "I will instruct Wyman and Earle at once.
When you come in after seeing Mrs. Ballou, you will find them at your
disposal, and give yourself no trouble about those other detectives. I
will attend to that."

I thanked him and withdrew. This curt sentence from the lips of my Chief
was worth more to me than volumes of praise from any other source, for
it convinced me that he not only trusted me, but that he approved my
course and could see none better.

I saw Mrs. Ballou again that evening, and put to her some questions that
not only amazed her, but seemed to her most irrelevant, but while she
answered without fully comprehending my meaning or purpose, some of her
replies were, to me, most satisfactory.

After I had heard all that she could tell me concerning Mr. Johnny La
Porte, I gave her a minute description of Arch Brookhouse, and ended by
asking if she had ever seen any one who answered to that description.

I was puzzled, but scarcely surprised, at her answer, which came slowly
and after considerable reflection.

Yes, she had seen such a young man; I had described him exactly. She
had seen him twice. He came to her house in company with Ed. Dwight.
Dwight was an agent for various sewing machines; he was a jolly,
good-natured fellow, very much liked by all the young Grovelanders; he
had traveled the Groveland route for two years, perhaps three. He was
quite at home at Mrs. Ballou's, and, in fact, anywhere where he had made
one or two visits. The young man I had described had been over the
Groveland route twice with Ed. Dwight, each time stopping for dinner at
Mrs. Ballou's. His name, she believed, was _Brooks_, and he had talked
of setting up as an agent on his own responsibility.

Did she know Mr. Dwight's place of residence?

He lived on the C. & L. road, somewhere between Sharon and Amora. Mrs.
Ballou could not recall the name of the town.

I did not need that she should; a sewing machine agent whose name I
knew, and who lived somewhere between Amora and Sharon, would not be
difficult to find.

"How did Mr. Dwight travel?"

"In a very nice covered wagon, and with a splendid team."

"How long since Mr. Brooks and Mr. Dwight paid a visit to Groveland?"

Mrs. Ballou thought it was fully six months since their last visit.

"That would be nearly two months before Mamie Rutger and Nellie Ewing
disappeared?"

"Yes."

"Have you seen Dwight since?"

"Oh, yes; he comes at stated times, as usual."

It was growing late, and I was more than satisfied with my interview
with Mrs. Ballou. I advised her to keep Grace for the present under her
own eye and, promising that she should see or hear from me soon, took my
leave.

Mrs. Ballou had announced her intention to return by the morning train.

We could not be traveling companions, as I was not to leave the city
until afternoon.

Reaching my room I sat into the small hours looking over my notes,
jotting down new ones, smoking and thinking.

The next morning I saw Wyman and Earle, gave them full instructions, and
arranged to receive their reports at the earliest possible moment, by
express, at Trafton.

At noon I was in possession of all that could be learned concerning the
identity of the detectives employed by 'Squire Brookhouse. No officer of
any of the regular forces had been employed. Mr. Brookhouse had probably
obtained the services of private detectives.

Private detectives, of more or less ability, are numerous in the city,
and I was personally known to but few of these independent experts. Most
of those could be satisfactorily accounted for, and I turned my face
toward Trafton, feeling that there was little danger of being "spotted"
by a too knowing brother officer.



CHAPTER XVI.

FLY CROOKS IN TRAFTON.


My train, which left the city early in the afternoon, would arrive in
Trafton at midnight. Foreseeing a long and, in my then state of mind,
tedious ride, I had armed myself with a well-filled cigar case, and
several copies of the latest editions of the city papers, and we had not
been long on the wing before I turned my steps toward the smoking car,
biting off the end of a weed as I went.

A group of four, evidently countrymen, were just beginning a game of
cards. I took a seat opposite them and idly watched their progress,
while I enjoyed my cigar.

Presently a gentleman from the front, seemingly attracted by their
hilarity, arose and sauntered down the aisle, taking up his station
behind the players, and quietly overlooking the game.

He did not glance at me, as he passed, but, from my lounging position,
I could watch his face and study it at my leisure. At the first glance
it struck me as being familiar; I had seen the man before, but where?
Slowly, as I looked, the familiarity resolved itself into identity, and
then I watched him with growing interest, and some wonder.

Seven months ago, while working upon a criminal case, I had made the
acquaintance of this gentleman at a thieves' tavern, down in the slums.
I was, of course, safely disguised at the time, and in an assumed
character; hence I had no fear of being recognized now.

"Dimber[A] Joe" had been doing Government service, in consequence of his
connection with a garroting escapade, and had but just been released
from "durance vile." His hair was then somewhat shorter than was
becoming; his face was unshaven, and his general appearance that of a
seedy, hard-up rascal. The person before me wore his hair a little
longer than the ordinary cut; his face was clean shaven, his linen
immaculate, and his dress a well-made business suit, such as a merchant
or banker abroad might wear. But it was Dimber Joe.

[A] Handsome.

Evidently fortune had dropped a few, at least, of her favors at Dimber
Joe's feet, but it was quite safe to conjecture that some one was so
much the worse off for his present prosperity.

What new mischief was on foot? for it was hardly likely that Dimber Joe,
late the associate of river thieves, was now undertaking an honest
journey.

I resolved to watch him closely while our way was the same, and to give
my Chief an account of our meeting, together with a description of Joe's
"get up," at the first opportunity.

Accordingly, I remained in the smoking car during the entire journey,
but no suspicious or peculiar movement, on the part of Dimber Joe,
rewarded my vigilance, until the brakeman called Trafton, and we pulled
into that station.

Then Dimber Joe arose, stretched himself, flung a linen duster across
his arm, and, swinging in his hand a small valise, quitted the car,
stepped down upon the shadowy platform just ahead of me; and, while I
was looking about for Carnes, vanished in the darkness.

[Illustration: "Then Dimber Joe arose, stretched himself, flung a linen
duster across his arm, and, swinging in his hand a small valise, quitted
the car."--page 196.]

"Well, Carnes," I said, when we were once more alone in our room at the
hotel, "what has happened? Have you seen anything that looks like a
detective?"

"Niver a wan," he replied. "I've kept an open eye on every train from
both ways, but the only arrival in this city, worth making mintion of,
has been--who d'ye think?"

"Myself, I suppose."

"No, sir! Not a bit of it. It's a cove that means no good to Trafton,
you may depend. It's Blake Simpson, and he's rooming in this very
house."

"Blake Simpson! are you _sure_?"

"Av coorse I'm sure! Did ye ever know me to miss a face? I never saw
the fellow before he came here, but I've made the acquaintance of his
phiz in the rogue's gallery. He came yesterday; he wears good togs, and
is playing the gentleman; you know he is not half a bad looking fellow,
and his manner is above suspicion. He is figuring as a patent-right man,
but he'll figure as something else before we see the last of him in
Trafton, depend upon it."

Blake Simpson was known, at least by name, to every man on the force. He
was a mixture of burglar, street robber, and panel-worker; and was a
most dangerous character.

"Carnes," I said, slowly, "I am afraid some new misfortune menaces
Trafton, if, as you say, Blake Simpson is already here, for Dimber Joe
came down on the train to-night, and is in Trafton."

Carnes uttered a long, low whistle.

"Blake and Dimber Joe!" he said. "A fine pair, sure enough; and in what
shape does the Dimber come?"

"He comes well-dressed, and looking like a respectable member of
society."

"Well," with a prodigious yawn, "we got here first, and we will try and
sleep with one eye open while they stay in Trafton. What did you learn
about the Brookhouse investigation, Bathurst?"

I told him the result of our search among the city detectives, and
finished by saying:

"Probably the new debutants will be strangers, and will not interfere
with our movements. I wish I knew whether Bethel will eventually decide
to employ a detective. I don't think he is the man to let such a matter
drop."

"He won't take it up for the present, I fancy. Dr. Barnard is
dangerously ill; was taken yesterday, very suddenly. They depend
entirely upon Bethel; he is in constant attendance. I heard Porter say
that the old gentleman's case was a desperate one, and that a change for
the worse might be expected at any moment."

I was sorry to hear such news of the jovial old doctor. His was a life
worth something to the community; but I was not sorry to learn that an
immediate interview with Dr. Bethel could be staved off, without
exciting wonder or suspicion in his mind; for, since my visit to the
city, I had reconsidered my intention to confide in the doctor, and
resolved to keep my own counsel, at least for the present.

Previous to my visit to the city, we had decided that it was time to
explore the south road, and also that it was desirable to "get the
measure" of Jim Long at the earliest opportunity.

We settled upon the best method by which to accomplish the former, and
undertake the latter, object. And then Carnes, who had been very alert
and active during my absence, and who was now very sleepy, flung himself
upon his bed to pass the few hours that remained of darkness in slumber.

I had not yet opened up to him the subject of the Groveland operations,
thinking it as well to defer the telling until I had received reports
from Wyman and Earle.

We had now upon our hands a superabundance of raw material from which
to work out some star cases. But, just now, the Groveland affair seemed
crowding itself to the front, while the Trafton scourges, and the
villainous grave-robbers, seemed to grow more and more mysterious,
intangible, and past finding out.

The presence of Blake Simpson and Dimber Joe gave me some uneasiness;
but, guessing that their stay in Trafton would be short, I resolved not
to bring myself into prominence by notifying the authorities of the
presence of two such dangerous characters, but rather to trust them to
Carnes' watchfulness while I passed a day, or more if need be, in
exploring the south road.

As I settled my head upon my pillow after a long meditation, I
remembered that to-morrow would be Sunday, and that Tuesday was the day
fixed for Miss Manvers' garden party.



CHAPTER XVII.

SOUTHWARD TO CLYDE.


Early on the following morning I visited Trafton's best livery stable,
and procuring a good team and light buggy, drove straight to Jim Long's
cabin, intending to solicit his companionship on my ride. But the cabin
was deserted; there was no sign of Jim about the premises; and, after
waiting impatiently for a few moments, and uttering one or two
resounding halloos, I resumed my journey alone.

I had manufactured a pretext for this journey, which was to be confided
to Jim by way of setting at rest any wonder or doubt that my maneuvers
might otherwise give rise to, and I had intended to seize this
opportunity for sounding him, in order the better to judge whether it
would be prudent to take him into our confidence, in a less or greater
degree, as the occasion might warrant.

Such an ally as Jim would be invaluable, I knew; but, spite of the fact
that we had been much in his society, and that we both considered
ourselves, and were considered by others, very good judges of human
nature, neither Carnes nor myself could say truly that we understood Jim
Long.

His words were a mass of absurd contradictions, betraying no trait of
his individuality, save his eccentricity; and his face was, at all
times, as unreadable as the sphinx. When you turned from his
contradictory words to read his meaning in his looks, you felt as if
turning from the gambols of Puck to peer into a vacuum.

Regretting the loss of Jim's society, as well as the opportunity it
might _possibly_ have afforded, I urged my horses swiftly over the
smooth sun-baked road, noting the aspect of the country as we flew on.

Straight and level it stretched before me, with field, orchard, and
meadow on either hand; a cultivated prairie. There were well-grown
orchards, and small artificial groves, rows of tall poplars, clumps of
low-growing trees, planted as wind breaks, hedges high and branching,
low and closely trimmed. But no natural timber, no belts of grove, no
thick undergrowth; nothing that might afford shelter for skulking
outlaws, or stolen quadrupeds.

The houses were plentiful, and not far apart. There were the pretentious
new dwellings of the well-to-do farmers, and the humbler abodes of the
unsuccessful land tiller, and the renter. There were stacks, and barns,
and granaries, all honest in their fresh paint or their weather-beaten
dilapidation; no haven for thieves or booty here.

So for ten miles; then there was a stretch of rolling prairie, but still
no timber, and as thickly settled as before.

Fifteen miles from Trafton I crossed a high bridge that spanned a creek
almost broad enough and deep enough to be called a river. On either side
was a fringe of hazel brush and a narrow strip of timber, so much
thinned by the wood cutter that great gaps were visible among the trees,
up and down, as far as the eye could see.

I watered my horses here, and drawing forth a powerful field glass,
which I had made occasional use of along the route, surveyed the
country. Nothing near or remote seemed worthy of investigation.

Driving beneath some friendly green branches, I allowed my horses to
rest, and graze upon the tender foliage, while I consulted a little
pocket map of the country.

I had been driving directly south, and the C. & L. railroad ran from
Trafton a little to the southwest. At a distance of eighteen miles from
that town the railroad curved to the south and ran parallel with the
highway I was now traveling, but at a distance of eight miles. Ten miles
further south and I would come upon the little inland village of Clyde,
and running due west from Clyde was a wagon road straight to the
railroad town of Amora.

I had started early and driven fast; consulting my watch I found that it
was only half-past ten.

I had intended to push my investigation at least twenty-five miles
south, and although I was already convinced that no midnight raiders
would be likely to choose as an avenue of escape a highway so thickly
dotted with houses, many of them inconveniently near the road, and so
insufficient in the matter of hills and valleys, forest and sheltering
underbrush. I decided to go on to Clyde, hoping, if I failed in one
direction, to increase my knowledge in another.

I put away map and field glass, lit a fresh cigar, turned my horses once
more into the high road and pursued my journey.

It was a repetition of the first ten miles; broad fields and rich
meadows, browsing cattle and honest-eyed sheep; thickly scattered farm
buildings, all upright and honest of aspect; the whole broad face of the
country seemed laughing my investigations to scorn.

When I found myself within sight of Clyde I stopped my team, having
first assured myself that no spectator was in sight and selected from
the roadside a small, round pebble. Looking warily about me a second
time, I inserted it between the hoof and shoe of the most docile of the
two horses.

It was an action that would have brought me into disfavor with the great
Bergh, but in the little game I was about to play, the assistance which
a lame horse could render seemed necessary.

I promised the martyr a splendid rub down and an extra feed as a
compensation, and we moved on slowly toward our destination, the near
horse limping painfully, and his comrade evidently much amazed, and not
a little disgusted, at this sudden change of gait.

The little village of Clyde was taking its noontide nap when I drove
down its principal street, and I felt like a wolf in Arcadia; all was so
peaceful, so clean, so prim and so silent.

A solitary man emerging from a side street roused me to action. I drove
forward and checked my horses directly before him.

Could I find a livery stable in the town? And was there such a thing as
a hotel?

Yes, there was a sort of a stable, at least anybody could get a feed at
Larkins' barn, and he kept two or three horses for hire. As for a hotel,
there it was straight ahead of me; that biggish house with the new
blinds on it.

Being directed to Larkins', I thanked my informant, and was soon making
my wants known to Larkins himself.

Thinking it quite probable that the hired team which I drove might be
known to some denizen of Clyde, I at once announced myself as from
Trafton; adding, that I had driven out toward Clyde on business, and,
being told that I could reach Baysville by a short cut through or near
Clyde, I had driven on, but one of my horses having suddenly become
lame, I had decided to rest at Clyde, and then return to Trafton. I had
been told that Baysville was not more than seven miles from Clyde.

It is scarcely necessary to state that I had really no intention of
visiting Baysville, and that my map had informed me as to its precise
location.

The truth was that I had dropped for the moment the Trafton case, and
had visited Clyde in the interest of Groveland, thinking it not unlikely
that this little hamlet, being so near Amora, might be within the area
traversed by Mr. Ed. Dwight, the sewing machine agent.

He was said to live somewhere between Amora and Sharon, perhaps here I
could learn the precise location of his abiding place.

Leaving my tired horses to the care of Larkins, I next bent my steps
towards the commodious dwelling which did duty as hotel. There was no
office, but the sitting-room, with its homely rag carpet, gaudy
lithographs, old fashioned rocker, and straight-backed "cane seats," was
clean and cool. There was a small organ in one corner, a sewing machine
in another, and an old fashioned bureau in a third.

A little girl, of fourteen years or less, entered the room timidly,
followed by two younger children. She took from the bureau a folded
cloth, snowy and smooth, and left the room quietly, but the younger
ones, less timid, and perhaps more curious, remained.

Perching themselves uncomfortably upon the extreme edges of two chairs,
near together but remote from me, they blinked and stared perseveringly,
until I broke the silence and set them at their ease by commencing a
lively conversation.

The organ was first discussed, then the sewing machine furnished a
fresh topic. After a time my dinner was served: but, during the
half-hour of waiting, while my hostess concocted yellow soda biscuit,
and fried monstrous slices of ham, I had gathered, from my seemingly
careless chatter with the children, some valuable information. While I
ate my dinner, I had leisure to consider what I had heard.

My hostess had not purchased her sewing machine of Ed. Dwight, but he
had been there to repair it; besides, he always stopped there when
making his regular journeys through Clyde. They all liked Dwight, the
children had declared; he could play the organ, and he sang such funny
songs. He could dance, too, "like anything." He lived at _Amora_, but he
had told their mother, when he had paid his last visit, that he intended
to sell out his route soon, and go away. He was going into another
business.

If Mr. Dwight lived at Amora, then Mrs. Ballou had misunderstood or been
misinformed. She was the reverse of stupid, and not likely to err in
understanding. If she had been misinformed, had it not been for some
purpose?

The machine agent had talked of abandoning his present business, and
leaving the country shortly.

If this was true, then it would be well to know where he was going, and
what his new occupation was to be.

Before I had finished doing justice to my country dinner, I had decided
how to act.

Returning to Larkins' stable I found that he had discovered the cause
of my horse's lameness, and listened to his rather patronizing discourse
upon the subject of "halts and sprains," with due meekness, as well as a
profound consciousness that he had mentally set me down as a city
blockhead, shockingly ignorant of "horse lore," and wholly unfit to draw
the ribbons over a decent beast.

He had been assisted to this conclusion by a neighboring Clydeite, who,
much to my annoyance, had sauntered in, and, recognizing not only the
team, but myself, had volunteered the information that:

"Them was Dykeman's bays," and that I was "a rich city fellow that was
stayin' at Trafton;" he had "seen me at the hotel the last time he
hauled over market stuff."

Having ascertained my position in the mind of Mr. Larkins, I consulted
him as to the propriety of driving the bays over to Amora and back that
afternoon.

Larkins eyed me inquisitively.

"I s'pose then you'll want to get back to Trafton to-night?" he queried.

Yes, I wanted to get back as soon as possible, but if Larkins thought
it imprudent to drive so far with the team, I would take fresh horses,
if he had them to place at my disposal. And then, having learned from
experience that ungratified curiosity, especially the curiosity of the
country bumpkin with a taste for gossip, is often the detective's worst
enemy, I explained that I had learned that the distance to Baysville was
greater than I had supposed, and I had decided to drive over to Amora to
make a call upon an acquaintance who was in business there.

Mr. Larkins manifested a desire to know the name of my Amora
acquaintance, and was promptly enlightened.

I wanted to call on Mr. Ed. Dwight, of sewing machine fame.

And now I was the helpless victim in the hands of the ruthless and
inquisitive Larkins.

He knew Ed. Dwight "like a book." Ed. always "put up" with him, and he
was a "right good fellow, any way you could fix it." In short, Larkins
was ready and willing to act as my pilot to Amora; he had "got a flyin'
span of roans," and would drive me over to Amora in "less than no time";
he "didn't mind seeing Ed. himself," etc., etc.

There was no help for it. Larkins evidently did not intend to trust his
roans to my unskilled hands, so I accepted the situation, and was soon
bowling over the road to Amora, _téte-â-téte_ with the veriest
interrogation point in human guise that it was ever my lot to meet.

Larkins did not converse; he simply asked questions. His interest in
myself, my social and financial standing, my occupation, my business or
pleasure in Trafton, my past and my future, was something surprising
considering the length, or more properly the _brevity_ of our
acquaintance.

Even my (supposed) relatives, near and remote, came in for a share of
his generous consideration.

To have given unsatisfactory answers would have been to provoke outside
investigation.

A detective's first care should be to clear up all doubt or uncertainty
concerning himself. Let an inquisitive person think that he knows a
little more of your private history than do his neighbors, and you
disarm him; he has now no incentive to inquiry. He may ventilate his
knowledge very freely, but by so doing he simply plays into your hands.

If the scraps of family history, which I dealt out to Larkins during
that drive, astonished and edified that worthy, they would have
astonished and edified my most intimate friend none the less.

By the time we had reached our destination, I was bursting with
merriment, and he, with newly acquired knowledge.

I had made no attempt to extract information concerning Ed. Dwight, on
the route. I hoped soon to interview that gentleman in _propriæ
personæ_, and any knowledge not to be gained from the interview I could
"sound" for on the return drive.



CHAPTER XVIII.

A SEWING MACHINE AGENT.


On arriving within sight of Amora, I had reason to congratulate myself
that I had brought Larkins along as convoy.

Amora was by no means a city, but it was large enough to make a search
after Mr. Dwight a proceeding possibly lengthy, and perhaps difficult.

Larkins knew all about it. We drove past the Seminary, quite a large and
imposing structure, surrounded by neat and tastefully laid out grounds,
through a cheery-looking business street, and across a bridge, over a
hill, and thence down a street which, while it was clean, well built,
and thrifty of aspect, was evidently not the abode of Amora's _la beau
monde_.

In another moment Larkins was pulling in his reins before a large,
unpainted dwelling, in front of which stood a pole embellished with the
legend, "Boarding House."

Several inquiring faces could be seen through the open windows, and the
squeak of an untuneful violin smote our ears, as we approached the door.

Larkins, who seemed very much at home, threw open the street door; we
turned to the right, and were almost instantly standing in a large,
shabbily-furnished parlor.

Two of the aforementioned faces, carried on the shoulders of two
blowzy-looking young women, were vanishing through a rear door, through
which the tones of the violin sounded louder and shriller than before.
Three occupants still remained in the room, and to one of these,
evidently the "landlady," Larkins addressed himself.

"Good evening, Mrs. Cole. We want to see Ed. I hear his fiddle, so I
s'pose he can be seen?"

Proffering us two hard, uninviting chairs, Mrs. Cole vanished, and,
through the half-closed door, we could hear her voice, evidently
announcing our presence, but the violin and "Lannigan's Ball" went on to
the end. Like another musical genius known to fame, Mr. Dwight evidently
considered "music before all else."

With the last note of the violin came the single syllable, "Eh?" in a
voice not unpleasant, but unnecessarily loud.

Mrs. Cole repeated her former sentence; there was the sound of some one
rising, quick steps crossed the floor and, as the door swung inward to
admit Mr. Dwight, I advanced quickly and with extended hand.

When he halted before me, however, I stepped back in feigned surprise
and confusion.

[Illustration: "When he halted before me, however, I stepped back in
feigned surprise and confusion."--page 213.]

But Dwight was equal to the occasion. Before I could drop or withdraw
my hand, he seized it in his own large palm, and shook it heartily, the
most jovial of smiles lighting his face meanwhile.

"You've got the advantage of me, just now," he said, in the same loud,
cheery tone we had heard from the kitchen, "but I'm glad to see you, all
the same. Larkins! hallo, Larkins, how are you," and, dropping my hand
as suddenly as he had grasped it, Dwight turned to salute Larkins.

When their greeting was over, I stammered forth my explanation.

I had made a mistake. Mr. DeWhyte must pardon it. Hearing at Clyde that
a Mr. DeWhyte was living in Amora, and that he was engaged in the sale
of sewing machines, I had supposed it to be none other than an old
school friend of that name, who, when last I heard of him, was general
agent for a city machine manufactory. It was a mistake which I trusted
Mr. DeWhyte would pardon. I then presented my card and retired within
myself.

But the genial Dwight was once more "happy to know me." Shifting his
violin, which he had brought into the room, from underneath his left
elbow, he rested it upon his knee, and launched into a series of
questions concerning my suppositious friend, which resulted in the
discovery that their names, though similar, were not the same, and that
the existence of a Mr. Edward DeWhyte and of Ed. Dwight, both following
the same occupation, was not after all a very remarkable coincidence,
although one liable to cause mistakes like the one just made by me.

After this we were more at our ease. I proffered my cigar case, and both
Larkins and Dwight accepted weeds, Dwight remarking, as he arose to take
some matches from a card-board match safe under the chimney, that,
"smoking was permitted in the parlor," adding, as he struck a match on
the sole of his boot, that he "believed in comfort, and would not board
where they were too high-toned to allow smoking."

Conversation now became general; rather Larkins, Dwight, and the two
hitherto silent "boarders" talked, and I listened, venturing only an
occasional remark, and studying my "subject" with secret interest.

"When are you comin' our way again, Dwight?" asked Larkins, as, after an
hour's chat, we rose to take our leave.

"I don't know, Lark.; I don't know," said Dwight, inserting his hands in
his pockets and jingling some loose coin or keys as he replied. "I don't
think I'll make many more trips."

"Sho! Ye ain't goin' to take a new route, I hope?"

"N-no; I think I'll try a new deal. I've got a little down on the S. M.
biz., and talk of taking up my old trade."

"What! the show business?"

"Yes; I've got a pretty good chance for salary, and guess I'll go down
south and do a little of the heel and toe business this Winter,"
rattling his heels by way of emphasis.

This fragment of conversation was a mine which I worked faithfully
during our Clydeward drive, manifesting an interest in Mr. Ed. Dwight
which quite met with the approval of Larkins, and which he was very
ready to build up and gratify.

I remained in Clyde that night, and before retiring to rest in the tiny
room assigned me in the "hotel," I made the following entry in my
note-book:

     Ed. Dwight, sewing machine agent, living at Amora, is taller
     than the medium, but slender, and of light weight, being narrow
     of chest, with slim and slightly bowed legs, and long arms that
     are continually in motion; large, nervous hands; small head,
     with close-cropped curly black hair; fine regular features,
     that would be handsome but for the unhealthy, sallow
     complexion, and the look of dissipation about the eyes; said
     eyes very black, restless and bold of expression; mouth
     sensual, and shaded by a small, black mustache; teeth, white
     and rather prominent.

     He is full of life and animation; an inveterate joker, his
     "chaff" being his principal conversational stock in trade. He
     is loud of speech, somewhat coarse in manner, rakish in dress,
     and possesses wonderful self-confidence. He is considered a
     dangerous fellow among the country girls, and gets credit for
     making many conquests. Is fickle in his fancies, and, like the
     sailor, seems to have a sweetheart in every port.

     He is a singer of comic songs, a scraper upon the violin, and a
     some time song and dance man.

     Has sold sewing machines for nearly three years in Amora and
     vicinity, and is now preparing to return to the stage and to go
     South.

Early the next morning I bade Larkins a friendly farewell, and turned my
face toward Trafton.

Nothing noteworthy had occurred during my absence. Blake and Dimber Joe
had observed Sunday in the most decorous fashion, attending divine
worship, but not together, and remained in and about the hotel all the
rest of the day and evening, treating each other as entire strangers,
and, so far as Carnes could discover, never once exchanging word or
glance.

One thing Carnes had noted as peculiar: Jim Long had haunted the hotel
all day, manifesting a lively interest in our city birds, watching them
furtively, entering into conversation with one or the other as
opportunity offered, and contriving, while seeming to lounge as
carelessly as usual, to keep within sight of them almost constantly
during the day and evening.

Dr. Barnard was still in a critical condition; Carnes had not seen
Bethel since Saturday.

"And what elephant's tracks did ye's find till the south av us?"
queried Carnes, after he had given me the foregoing information. "Any
'nish' lairs, quiet fences, or cosy jungles, eh?"

Whereupon I gave him a full description of the journey over the south
road, reserving only the portion of my yesterday's experience that
concerned, for the present, only Mr. Ed. Dwight and myself.

"So there's nothing to get out of that," said Carnes, after listening to
my recital with a serious countenance. "What do you think _now_, old
man? If they don't run their booty over that road, where the mischief
_do_ they take it?"

"That we must find out," I replied. "And in order to do that we must
investigate in a new direction."

"How?"

"Think a moment. We decided at the first that these systematic thieves
had, _must have_, a rendezvous within half a night's ride from Trafton."

"Yes; an' I stick to that theory."

"So do I. All these robberies have been committed at distances never
more than twenty-five miles from Trafton; often less, but _never more_."

"Just so."

"Within a radius of twenty-five miles around Trafton, east, north, and
west, and at all intermediate points, it has not been safe to own a good
horse. There is but one break in this unsafe circle and that is to the
south. Now, that south road, one day, or _two_ days, after a robbery,
would be anything but safe for a midnight traveler, who rode a swift
going horse or drove with a light buggy. Carnes, get your map and study
out my new theory thereon."

Carnes produced his map and spread it out upon his knee, and I followed
his example with my own.

"Now, observe," I began, "the south road runs straight and smooth for
twenty miles, intersected regularly by the mile sections."

"Yes."

"Until a little north of Clyde, two miles, I believe they call it, a
more curving irregular road runs southeast. Now, follow that road."

"I'm after it."

"It continues southeast for nearly ten miles, then the road forks."

"Yes."

"One fork, running directly south, takes you straight to some coal beds
at Norristown--"

"Aye, aye!"

"The other runs beyond the county line and it is not on our maps; it
takes an easterly course for nearly twenty miles, terminating at the
river."

"Ah! I begin to see!"

"From Trafton to the river, then, is a little more than forty miles.
You cross the river and are in another State. Up and down the river, for
many miles, you have heavy timber; not far inland you find several
competing railroads. Now, my belief is, that after the excitement
following these robberies has had time to die out, the horses are
hurried over this fifty miles of country, and across the river, and kept
in the timber until it is quite safe to ship them to a distant market."

"But meantime, before they are taken to the river, where are they
ambushed, then?"

"Under our very noses; here in Trafton!"

Carnes stared at me in consternation.

"Old man," he said, at last, drawing a long, deep breath, "you are
either insane--or inspired."

"I believe I have caught an inspiration. But time will test my idea,
'whether it be from the gods or no.' These outlaws have proven
themselves cunning, and fertile of brain. Who would think of overhauling
Trafton for these stolen horses? The very boldness of the proceeding
insures its safety."

"I should think so. And how do you propose to carry out your search?"

"We must begin at once, trusting to our wits for ways and means. In some
way we must see or know the contents of every barn, stable, granary,
store-house, outbuilding, and abandoned dwelling, in and about Trafton.
No man's property, be he what he may, must be held exempt."

"Do you think, then, that the stolen horses, the last haul of course,
are still in Trafton?"

"It is not quite a week since the horses were taken; the 'nine days'
wonder' is still alive. If my theory is correct, they are still in
Trafton!"



CHAPTER XIX.

HAUNTED BY A FACE.


It was the day of Miss Manvers' garden party, and a brighter or more
auspicious one could not have dropped from the hand of the Maker of
days.

Never did the earth seem fairer, and seldom did the sun shine upon a
lovelier scene than that presented to my gaze as I turned aside from the
dusty highway, and paced slowly up the avenue leading to the Hill House.

Even now the picture and the scenes and incidents of the day, rise
before my mental vision, a graceful, sunlit, yet fateful panorama.

I see the heiress, as she glides across the lawn to greet me, her
brunette cheeks glowing, her lips wreathed in smiles. She wears a
costume that is a marvel of diaphanous creamy material, lighted up here
and there with dashes of vivid crimson. Crimson roses adorn the loops
and rippling waves of her glossy hair, and nestle in the rich lace at
her throat. And, as I clasp her little hand, and utter the commonplaces
of greeting, I note that the eye is even more brilliant than usual, the
cheek and lip tinged with the vivid hue left by excitement, and,
underneath the gay badinage and vivacious hospitality, a suppressed
something:--anxiety, expectation, displeasure, disappointment; which, I
can not guess. I only see that something has ruffled my fair hostess,
and given to her thoughts, even on this bright day, an under current
that is the reverse of pleasant.

The grounds are beautiful and commodious, tastefully arranged and
decorated for the occasion, and the _élite_ of Trafton is there; all,
save Louise Barnard and Dr. Bethel.

"Have you heard from Dr. Barnard since noon?" queries my hostess, as we
cross the lawn to join a group gathered about an archery target. "I have
almost regretted giving this party. It seems unfeeling to be enjoying
ourselves here, and poor Louise bowed down with grief and anxiety beside
a father who is, perhaps, dying."

"Not dying, I hope."

"Oh, we all shall hope until hope is denied us. I suppose his chance for
life is one in a thousand. I am so sorry, and we shall miss Louise and
Dr. Bethel so much."

"Bethel is in close attendance?"

"Yes, Dr. Barnard has all confidence in him; and then--you know the
nature of his relation with the family?"

"His relation; that of family physician, I suppose?"

Miss Manvers draws back her creamy skirts as we brush past a thorny rose
tree.

"That of family physician; yes, and prospective son-in-law."

"Ah! I suspected an attachment there."

"It appears they have been privately engaged for some time, with the
consent of the Barnards, of course. It has only just been publicly
announced; rather it will be; I had it from Mrs. Barnard this morning.
Dr. Barnard desires that it should be made known. He believes himself
dying, and wishes Trafton to know that he sanctions the marriage."

Her voice has an undertone of constraint which accords with her manner,
and I, remembering the scene of a week before, comprehend and pity. In
announcing her friend's betrothal she proclaims the death of her own
hope.

I do not resume the subject, and soon we are in the midst of a gay
group, chattering with a bevy of fair girls, and receiving from one or
two Trafton gallants, glances of envious disfavor, which I, desiring to
mortify vanity, attributed to my new Summer suit rather than to my own
personal self.

Arch Brookhouse is the next arrival, and almost the last. He comes in
among us perfumed and smiling, and is received with marked favor. My new
costume has now a rival, for Arch is as correct a gentleman of fashion
as ever existed outside of a tailor's window.

He is in wonderful spirits, too, adding zest to the merriment of the gay
group of which he soon becomes the center.

After a time bows and quivers come more prominently into use. Archery
is having its first season in Trafton. Some of the young ladies have yet
to be initiated into the use of the bow, and presently I find myself
instructing the pretty sixteen-year-old sister of my friend, Charlie
Harris.

She manages her bow gracefully, but with a weak hand; her aim is far
from accurate, and I find ample occupation in following the erratic
movements of her arrows.

Brookhouse and Miss Manvers are both experts with the bow. They send a
few arrows flying home to the very center of the target, and then
withdraw from the sport, and finally saunter away together, the hand of
the lady resting confidingly upon her escort's arm.

"Arn't they a pretty couple?" exclaims my little pupil, twanging her
bow-string as she turns to look after them. "I do wonder if they are
engaged."

"So do I," I answer, with much fervor.

She favors me with a quick roguish glance, and laughs blithely.

"I don't know," turning back to her momentarily forgotten pastime. "Mr.
Brookhouse has been very attentive, and for a long time we all thought
him the favored one, until Dr. Bethel came, and since _you_ appeared in
Trafton. Ah! I'm afraid Adele is a bit of a flirt."

And astute Miss sixteen shoots me another mischievous glance, and poises
her arrow with all the _nonchalance_ of a veteran.

Again I glance in the direction taken by my hostess and her cavalier,
but they have disappeared among the plentiful shrubbery.

I turn back to my roguish little pupil, now provokingly intent upon her
archery practice.

Once more the arrow is fixed; she takes aim with much deliberation, and
puts forth all her strength to the bending of the bow. Twang! whizz! the
arrow speeds fast and far--and foul. It finds lodgment in a thicket of
roses, that go clambering over a graceful trellis, full ten feet to the
right of the target.

There is a shout of merriment. Mademoiselle throws down the bow with a
little gesture of despair, and I hasten toward the trellis intent upon
recapturing the missent arrow.

As I am about to thrust my hand in among the roses, I am startled by a
voice from the opposite side; startled because the voice is that of my
hostess, thrilling with intensest anger, and very near me.

"It has gone far enough! It has gone _too_ far. It must stop now, or--"

[Illustration: "It has gone far enough! It has gone _too_ far. It must
stop now, or--" page 227.]

"Or you will make a confounded fool of yourself."

The voice is that of Arch Brookhouse, disagreeably contemptuous,
provokingly calm.

"No matter. What will it make of you?"

The words begin wrathful and sibilant, and end with a hiss. Can that be
the voice of my hostess?

Making a pretense of search I press my face closer to the trellis and
peer through.

I see Adele Manvers, her face livid with passion, her eyes ablaze, her
lips twitching convulsively. There is no undercurrent of feeling now.
Rage, defiance, desperation, are stamped upon her every feature.

Opposite her stands Arch Brookhouse, his attitude that of careless
indifference, an insolent smile upon his countenance.

"If I were you, I would drop that nonsense," he says, coolly. "You might
make an inning with this new city sprig, perhaps. He looks like an easy
fish to catch; more money than brains, I should say."

"I think his brains will compare favorably with yours; he is nothing to
me--"

Brookhouse suddenly shifts his position.

"Don't you see the arrow?" calls a voice behind me, and so near that I
know Miss Harris is coming to assist my search.

I catch up the arrow and turn to meet her.

No rustle of the leaves has betrayed my presence; the sound of our
voices, and their nearness, is drowned by the general hilarity.

We return to our archery, and the two behind the screen finish their
strange interview. How, I am unable to guess from their faces, when,
after a time, they are once more among us, Brookhouse as unruffled as
ever, Miss Manvers flushed, nervous, and feverishly gay.

Throughout the remainder of the _fête_, the face of my hostess is
continually before me; not as her guests see it, fair, smiling, and
serene, but pallid, passionate, vengeful, as I saw it from behind the
rose thicket. And I am haunted by the thought that somewhere, sometime,
I have seen just such a face; just such dusky, gleaming, angry eyes;
just such a scornful, quivering mouth; just such drawn and desperate
features.

Now and then I find time to chuckle over the words, uncomplimentary in
intent, but quite satisfactory to me--"a city sprig with more money than
brains."

So this is the ultimatum of Mr. Brookhouse? Some day, perhaps, he may
cherish another opinion, at least so far as the money is concerned.

Then, while the gayety goes on, I think of Groveland and its mystery; of
the anonymous warning, the album verse, the initials A. B. Again I take
my wild John Gilpin ride, with one arm limp and bleeding.

"Ah," I say to myself, thinking wrathfully of his taunting words and
insolent bearing, which my hostess had seemed powerless to resent, "Ah,
my gentleman, if I _should_ trace that unlucky bullet to you, then shall
Miss Manvers rejoice at your downfall!"

What was the occasion of their quarrel? What was the meaning of their
strange words?

Again and again I ask myself the question as I go home through the
August darkness, having first seen pretty Nettie Harris safely inside
her father's cottage gate.

But I find no satisfactory answer to my questions. I might have
dismissed the matter from my thoughts as only a lover's quarrel, save
for the last words uttered by Brookhouse. But lovers are not apt to
advise their sweethearts to "make an inning" with another fellow. If
jealousy existed, it was assuredly all on the side of the lady.

Having watched them narrowly after their interview behind the rose
trellis, I am inclined to think it was not a lover's quarrel; and if not
that, what _was_ it?

I give up the riddle at last, but I can not dismiss the scene from my
mental vision, still less can I banish the remembrance of the white,
angry face, and the tormenting fancy that I have not seen it to-day for
the first time.

I am perplexed and annoyed.

I stop at the office desk to light a cigar and exchange a word with
"mine host." Dimber Joe is writing ostentatiously at a small table, and
Blake Simpson is smoking on the piazza.

The sight of the two rogues, so inert and mysterious, gives me an added
twinge of annoyance. I cut short my converse with the landlord and go up
to my room.

Carnes is sitting before a small table, upon which his two elbows are
planted; his fingers are twisted in his thick hair, and his head is bent
so low over an open book that his nose seems quite ready to plow up the
page.

Coming closer, I see that he is glowering over a pictured face in his
treasured "rogues' gallery."

"If you want to study Blake Simpson's cranium," I say, testily, "why
don't you take the living subject? He's down-stairs at this moment."

"I've been studying the original till my head got dizzy," replies
Carnes, pushing back the book and tilting back in his chair. "The fact
is, the fellow conducts himself so confoundedly like a decent mortal,
that I have to appeal to the gallery occasionally to convince myself
that it _is_ Blake himself, and not his twin brother."

I laugh at this characteristic whim, and, drawing the book toward me,
carelessly glance from page to page.

Carnes prides himself upon his "gallery." He has a large and motley
collection of rogues of all denominations: thieves, murderers, burglars,
counterfeiters, swindlers, fly crooks of every sort, and of both sexes.

"They've been here four days now," Carnes goes on, plaintively, "and
nothing has happened yet. It's enough to make a man lose faith in 'Bene
Coves.' I wonder--"

"Ah!" The exclamation falls sharply from my lips, the "gallery" almost
falls from my hands.

[Illustration: "Ah!" The exclamation falls sharply from my lips, the
"gallery" almost falls from my hands.--page 233.]

Carnes leaves his speech unfinished and gazes anxiously at me, while I
sit long and silently studying a pictured face.

By-and-by I close the book and replace it upon the table.

One vexed question is answered; I know now why the white, angry face of
Adele Manvers has haunted me as a shadow from the past.

I arise and pace the floor restlessly; like Theseus, I have grasped the
clue that shall lead me from the maze.

After a time, Carnes goes out to inform himself as to the movements of
Blake and Dimber Joe.

Midnight comes, but no Carnes.

The house is hushed in sleep. I lock the door, extinguish my light, and,
lowering myself noiselessly from the window to the ground, turn my steps
toward the scene of the afternoon revel.

In the darkness and silence I reach my destination, and scaling a
high paling, stand once more in the grounds of The Hill.



CHAPTER XX.

SOME BITS OF PERSONAL HISTORY.


While Miss Manvers was bidding farewell to the latest of her guests, and
the "average Traftonite" was making his first voyage into dreamland, Dr.
Barnard closed his eyes upon Trafton forever, and slept that long,
sound, last, best sleep that comes once to all of us, and I, as well as
numerous other restless sleepers, was awakened in the early morning by
the sound of the tolling bell.

It was sad news to many, for Dr. Barnard was an old and well-beloved
citizen.

It afforded a new subject for gossip to many more, who now learned for
the first time that Louise Barnard was affianced to Dr. Carl Bethel, and
that Dr. Barnard, with almost his latest breath, had proclaimed his
entire faith in the young man's honor, by formally sanctioning his
engagement with Louise.

I had not seen Bethel since my return from the city, until we met that
day, and exchanged a few words across the dinner table.

He looked worn and weary, and seemed to have forgotten his own
annoyances and interests in the absorption of his regret for the loss of
his old friend and associate, and sympathy with the sorrow of his
beloved.

I had spent the entire morning in writing a long letter to my Chief,
giving a detailed account of my acquaintance with Miss Manvers, and a
description of the lady, her style of living, and, above all, more
graphic than all, my experience of the previous day, up to the moment
when I closed the "rogues' gallery" and opened my eyes to a new and
startling possibility.

This document I addressed to a city post-office box, and, having sealed
it carefully, registered and dispatched it through the Trafton
post-office.

In the afternoon I received an express package from Baysville. It was a
_book_, so the agent said. Innocent enough, no doubt, nevertheless I did
not open it until I had closed and locked my door upon all intruders.

It _was_ a book. A cheap volume of trashy poems, but the middle leaves
were cut away, and in their place I found a bulky letter.

It was Earle's report from Amora.

It was very statistical, very long, and dry because of its minuteness of
detail, and the constant recurrence of dates and figures. But it was
most interesting to me.

Arch Brookhouse and his brother, Louis, had both been students at Amora.

Grace Ballou and Nellie Ewing had been fellow-students with them one
year ago. Last term, however, Arch had not been a student, but Louis
Brookhouse, Grace Ballou, Nellie Ewing, Mamie Rutger, Amy Holmes, and
Johnny La Porte, had all been in attendance.

For the last three named this was their first term.

Mamie Rutger had been expelled for misconduct, during the last half of
the term.

Johnny La Porte and Louis Brookhouse had been "chums" and were,
accordingly, pretty wild.

Very little could be learned concerning Amy Holmes, previous to her
coming to Amora. She was said to be an orphan, and came from the South.
Nothing more definite could be learned concerning her abiding place. She
was lively, dashing and stylish, not particularly fond of study; in fact
was considered one of the "loudest" girls in the school. Her escapades
had been numerous and she had, on more than one occasion, narrowly
escaped expulsion. She was particularly intimate with Nellie Ewing,
Mamie Rutger, and Grace Ballou; and had been seen, on several occasions,
in the company of Arch Brookhouse, who was very often at Amora.

Concerning Ed. Dwight, Earle could say very little.

Dwight had left town with his team early on Monday morning, and had not
yet returned. Earle had managed, however, to obtain lodgings at Dwight's
boarding-house, and had made the acquaintance of one of the "girls," who
had contributed the information that Arch Brookhouse had several times
dined there with Dwight.

This is an abbreviated account of what Earle's report contained.
Accompanying said report was an autograph obtained from Professor Asa
Bartlett, and it bore not the slightest resemblance to the printed album
lines.

Considering the time consumed in the investigation, Earle had done
remarkably well. He had done well, too, in going to Baysville to send
the letter.

How many threads were now in my hands, and yet how powerless I was for
the time!

Only yesterday I had made, or so I believed, two most important
discoveries, and yet I could turn them to no account for the present.

Upon the first, it would be unwise to act until further information had
been forwarded me by my Chief.

As for the second, there was nothing to do but watch. I could not take
the initiative step. Action depended solely upon others, and as to the
identity of these others I scarce could give a guess.

Louis Brookhouse had not been seen outside his home since his arrival,
in a crippled condition, the day after Grace Ballou's escapade. I must
see Louis Brookhouse. I must know the nature of that "injury" which Dr.
Bethel had been called upon to attend.

For the first, I must bide my time until the youth was sufficiently
recovered to appear in public. For the second, I must rely on Bethel,
and, until the last sorrowful tribute of respect and affection had been
paid the dead, I could scarcely hope for an interview with him.

A crisis must come soon, but it was not in our power to hasten it.

So long as Dimber Joe and Blake Simpson continued inert and seemingly
aimless, so long as the days brought no new event and the nights brought
neither discovery on our part nor movement on the part of the
horse-thieves, Carnes and I had only to wait and watch--watch--watch.

Our days, to the onlooker, must have seemed only idle indeed, but still
they were busy days.

Carnes roamed about the town, inspecting the barns and buildings
closely, when he could venture a near approach without arousing
suspicion or objection; at a distance, when intrusion would be unsafe or
unwelcome.

Dr. Barnard was buried on Thursday, and on the afternoon of that day, as
I was returning from the funeral in fact, I received a report from
Wyman.

Stripped of its details, and reduced to bare facts, it amounted to this:

The "dummy" had proven of actual service. Wyman had found him with very
little trouble, and in just the right place. He was domiciled with the
La Porte family, and had been since the first week of his advent among
the Grovelanders, and Wyman was indebted to him for much of the
information contained in his report.

Acting according to our instructions, or, rather, as we had expected
and desired, overacting them, the "dummy" had soon contrived to let the
Grovelanders know that he was a detective, sent out from the city to
occupy the premises and keep his eyes open. He talked freely of the
missing girls, always frankly avowing that it was his opinion, as well
as the opinion of his superiors, that the two girls had been murdered.
Indeed, he darkly hinted that certain facts corroborative of this theory
had been discovered, and then he lapsed into vagueness and silence. When
questioned as to his system or intentions regarding the investigation he
became profoundly mysterious, oracular, and unsatisfactory.

The result was all that we could have wished. The less intelligent among
his critics looked upon him as a fountain of wisdom and cunning and
skill. The more acute and observant fathomed his shallowness, but
immediately set it down as a bit of clever acting, and, joining with
their less penetrating neighbors, voted our "dummy" "wise as a serpent"
underneath his "harmless as a dove" exterior, and looked confidently
forward to something startling when he should finally arouse to action.

To which class of critics Johnny La Porte belonged, Wyman had been
unable to discover, for during his stay in Groveland he had not seen
young La Porte.

Whatever his opinion may have been, the young man had been among the
first to seek our "dummy's" acquaintance, which he had cultivated so
persistently that within less than a fortnight the two had become most
friendly, and apparently appreciative of each other's society, and the
"dummy" had found an abiding place underneath the hospitable roof of La
Porte _pere_.

Johnny La Porte was a spoiled son. He seemed to have had his own way
always, and it had not been a way to wisdom. He was not dissipated; had
none of the larger and more masculine vices, but he was idle, a shirk at
school and at home. He had no business tact, and seemed as little
inclined to make of himself a decent farmer as he was incapable of
becoming a good financier, merchant, or mechanic.

He was short of stature, and girlishly pretty, having small oval
features, languid black eyes, black curly hair, and a rich complexion of
olive and red.

He drove a fine span of blacks before a jaunty light carriage, and was
seldom seen with his turnout except when accompanied by some one of the
many pretty girls about Groveland.

In fact, he was that most obnoxious creature, a male flirt. He had roved
from one bright Groveland flower to another, ever since his graduation
from jackets to tail coats. During the previous Autumn and Winter, he
had been very devoted to Nellie Ewing; but, since their return from
school, in the Spring, his attentions had not been quite so marked,
although Nellie had several times been seen behind the blacks and in
company with the fickle Johnny.

In short, after reading all that Wyman could say of him, I summed
Johnny La Porte up, and catalogued him as follows:

Vain, weak, idle, handsome, fickle, selfish, good-natured when not
interfered with, over fond of pleasure, easily influenced, and a
spendthrift.

What might or might not be expected of such a character?

He was, as Mrs. Ballou had said, popular among the young people,
especially the young ladies; and where do you find a young man that
drives a fine turnout, carries a well-filled purse, dances a little,
sings a fair tenor and plays his own accompaniment, is handsome, and
always ready for a frolic, who is _not_ popular with the ladies?

Wyman had not seen La Porte, and for this reason:

On the evening of the 17th, young La Porte had driven away from home
with his black horses, telling our "dummy," in confidence, that he was
"going to take a pretty girl out riding."

La Porte and the "dummy" "roomed together," in true country fashion;
and, at midnight, or later, the "dummy" could not be precise as to the
lateness of the hour, he returned. Entering the room with evident
caution, he nevertheless awoke the "dummy," who, turning lazily on his
pillow, saw La Porte taking from a drawer something white, which our
"dummy" supposed to be a handful of handkerchiefs, and from a shelf a
bottle of brandy.

[Illustration: "Entering the room with evident caution, he nevertheless
awoke the "dummy," who, turning lazily on his pillow, saw La Porte
taking from a drawer something white,"--page 244.]

On seeing the open eyes of our "dummy," La Porte had explained as
follows:

One of his horses went lame a bit, and he intended to give him a
little treatment. The "dummy" must not disturb himself, as the hired man
was on hand to render all the necessary help.

Then, as he was leaving the room, La Porte had added:

"By-the-by, if the horse comes out all right, and I am gone when you
turn out in the morning, tell the old man that I am off for Baysville to
see about the club excursion."

Wondering vaguely what species of lameness it was that must be treated
with brandy and bandaged with linen handkerchiefs, the "dummy" fell
asleep, and finding the young man absent on the following morning,
delivered his message as directed.

It was received without comment, as such excursions were of frequent
occurrence, and as no one presumed to question the movements of the
spoiled young pleasure seeker.

He did not return on the next day, but the morning of the 19th brought
him home, not, however, as he went, but in company with a sewing-machine
agent whom he called Ed., and whose full name was Edward S. Dwight.

La Porte stated that his horse was lame again, and that he had left his
team at Amora, and returned with Dwight in the machine wagon.

During that day La Porte accompanied Dwight on his rounds among the
farmers, and early the following morning the two returned together to
Amora.

That was a week ago. The following Sunday, La Porte and Dwight had
again visited Groveland, this time with La Porte's own turnout. During
the day they had made several calls upon young ladies, and this time our
"dummy," being cordially invited, accompanied them on their rounds.

On Monday morning, as before, they returned to Amora, and since then had
not reappeared in Groveland.

Wyman, according to instructions, had visited Mrs. Ballou. She had
nothing new to communicate, but she gave into his hands a small package,
which Wyman had inclosed with his report.

It contained three photographs; one of Miss Amy Holmes, one of Johnny La
Porte, and a third of the same gentleman and Mr. Ed. Dwight, a rather
rakish-looking duo.

I read and re-read Wyman's long, complete descriptive report. I studied
the photographed faces again and again, and that evening, before the
sunset had fairly faded from the west, I told Carnes the whole story,
and placed before him the printed letter and the autographs, photographs
and reports.



CHAPTER XXI.

"EVOLVING A THEORY."


"And you want me to go to New Orleans?" says Carnes, as he rises slowly,
and stretches himself up to his fullest height, following up his words
with an immense yawn. "What for, now?"

He has listened so attentively, so silently, with such moveless,
intelligent eagerness, that I forgive him the yawn, and treat myself to
a long breath of restfulness and relief, at being at last unburdened of
this great secret, and he crosses the room and drops into his favorite
attitude beside the window that overlooks the fast darkening street.

"I hardly know just what I expect you to unearth in New Orleans," I
answer, after a pause of some moments. "But I have a notion that the
links we have failed to find here may be in hiding down there."

Carnes plunges his hands deep down into his pockets. I know, from the
intentness of his face, and the unwinking fixedness of the eyes that
stare yet see nothing beyond the panorama conjured by his own
imagination, that he is studying diligently at the Groveland problem;
and I sit silently, waiting his first movement, that I feel sure will be
speedily followed by something in the way of an opinion.

"It's a queer muddle," he says at last, coming back to his chair and
dropping into his former attitude of interested attention. "It's a queer
muddle; and, it seems to me, you have got hold of the wrong end of the
business."

"How the wrong end?"

"Why, you have your supposed principals and accessories, and, perhaps,
the outline of a plot; but where is your _motive_?"

"Where, indeed! I have not even found a theory that suits me, although I
have pondered over various suppositions. You are good at this sort of
analysis, Carnes. Can't you help me to some sort of a theory that won't
break of its own weight?"

Carnes bit his under lip and pondered.

"How far have you got?" he asked, presently.

"I will tell you how I have reasoned thus far. Experience and
statistics have proved that, of all the missing people, male and female,
whose dead bodies are never found, or whose deaths are never
satisfactorily proven, more than three-fourths have eventually turned up
alive, or it is found they _have_ lived many years after they were
numbered among the missing. In the majority of cases, say four to one,
where missing persons, supposed to have been dead, are proved to be
alive, it is also proved that they have 'disappeared' of their own free
will. In the list of missing young girls, the police records show that
two-thirds of those supposed to have been murdered or abducted, have
eloped or forsaken their friends of their own free will. Let us keep in
mind these statistics and begin with Nellie Ewing. Was she murdered? Was
she forcibly abducted? Did she run away?"

"Umph! If _she_ were a man I might venture an opinion," broke in Carnes.

"Let us see. She left her house at sunset, riding a brown pony, and
intent, or seeming so, upon visiting her friend, Grace Ballou."

"Grace Ballou--oh!" Carnes lifts his head, then drops it again, quickly.

I note the gesture and the ejaculation, and smile as I proceed.

"She had announced her intention of spending the night with her friend
Grace, but instead of so doing, she is suddenly afflicted with a
headache, and, at dusk, or perhaps even later, she sets out, on her
brown pony, for home, a distance of about four miles."

"Um--ah!" from Carnes.

"She is not seen after that. Neither is the brown pony. Was she
murdered? If so, no trace of her body, no clue to her murderer, no
motive for the deed, has been discovered. And the horse; if she was
murdered, was the horse slaughtered also? And were they both buried in
one grave? She was riding alone, after nightfall, over a country road.
She might have been assailed by tramps or stragglers of some sort, but
the first investigation proved that nothing in the form of tramp, or
stranger of any sort, had been seen about Groveland, neither on that day
nor for many days previous. And again, a tramp who might have killed her
to secure the horse, would hardly have tarried to conceal the body so
effectually that the most thorough search could not bring it to light.
Nor would he have carried it with him beyond the reach of search. Was
she murdered for revenge, or from motives of jealousy? Then, in all
probability, the brown horse would have been found wandering somewhere
at large."

"It won't do," mutters Carnes, half to himself, and with a slow wag of
the head; "it won't do."

"That's what I said to myself, after reviewing the pros and cons of the
'murder theory.' Now, was Nellie Ewing abducted? She _may_ have been,
but, again, there's the missing horse. If a tramp or a horse-thief would
take the horse, and leave the girl, a desperate lover would just as
surely take the girl and leave the horse. Again, an avaricious lover
_might_, with some difficulty, secure both horse and rider, but he could
hardly travel far with an unwilling girl and a stolen horse, without
becoming uncomfortably conspicuous. Did the young lady elope? If so,
then it is my belief that she and her horse parted company very soon
after she left the widow Ballou's. And here ends my theorizing. How, and
why, and whither, the horse was spirited away, I can not guess."

"If the thing had occurred in Trafton," says Carnes, thoughtfully, "one
might account for the horse."

"True; but as it did not occur within the limit of the Trafton
operations, I naturally concluded that, if the young lady really did
abscond, her lover must have had a confederate who took charge of the
horse. But, at first, this seemed to me improbable."

"Why improbable?"

"Because I did not view the matter, as you do now, in the light of after
discoveries and developments."

"Then you think now that Miss Ewing eloped?"

"I think she was not murdered; and the elopement theory is much more
plausible, more reasonable, all things considered, than that of
abduction. First of all, there are the movements of the girl herself.
Supposing her quartered for the night with her friend Grace, 'Squire
Ewing felt no uneasiness at her absence, even when it was prolonged into
the second day. Might she not have considered all this when she planned
her flight? When she was actually missed, she had two days the start of
her inquiring friends."

"True."

"Then, not long after, Mamie Rutger, a friend and schoolmate of the
missing Nellie, also disappears. While it is yet daylight, or at least
hardly dark, she vanishes from her father's very door-step, and is seen
no more. Now, let me call your attention to some facts. Farmer Rutger's
house stands on a bit of rising ground; the road runs east and west. To
the east of the house is a thick grove of young trees planted as a
wind-break for the cattle. This belt of trees begins at the front of the
house and extends northward, the house being on the north side of the
highway, past the barns, cow stables, and sheep pens. So while a person
in the front portion of the house, on the porch or in the door-yard, can
obtain a clear view of the road to the west, those farther back, in the
kitchen, the stables, or the milking sheds, are shut off from a view of
the road by the wind-break on the one hand, by a high orchard hedge on
the other, and by the house and thick door-yard shrubbery in front. For
over an hour, on the night of her disappearance, Mamie Rutger was the
only person within view of this highway. The hired girl was in the
kitchen washing up the supper things. Mrs. Rutger, who, by-the-by, is
Miss Mamie's step-mother, was skimming milk in the cellar, and Mr.
Rutger, with the two hired men, were watering and feeding the stock and
milking the cows. When the work for the night was done and the lamps
were lighted, if they thought of Mamie at all it was as sitting alone on
the front piazza, or perched in her chamber window up-stairs, enjoying
the quiet of the evening. It was only when their early bed-time came
that the girl's absence, and more than that, her unusual silence, was
noted, and that a search proved her missing. Was _she_ murdered? That
theory in this case is so unreasonable that I discard it at once."

Carnes nodded his head approvingly.

"Was she abducted? Possibly; but to my mind, it is not probable. Mamie
Rutger was a gypsyish lassie, pretty as a May blossom, skittish as a
colt, hard to govern and prone to adventurous escapades. Her father was
kind and her step-mother meant to be so, but the latter perpetually
frowned down the girl's innocent hilarity, and curbed her gayety, when
she could, with a stern hand. They sent her to school to tame her, and
the faculty, after bearing with her, and forgiving her many mischievous
pranks because of her youth, at last sent her home in disgrace,
expelled. If this girl, wearied of a humdrum farmhouse existence and
thirsting for a broader glimpse of the gay outer world, had planned an
elopement or runaway escapade, she could have chosen no better time.
While all the others are busy at their evening task, she, from the
front, watches for a swift horse and a covered buggy, which comes from
the west. Sure that no eyes are looking, she awaits it at the gate,
springs in, with a backward glance, and when she is missed, is miles
away."

"Yes, I see," comments Carnes, dryly; "it's a pity your second sight
couldn't keep 'em in view till ye see where they land."

I curb my imagination. That useful quality is deficient in the cranium
of my comrade; he can neither follow nor sympathize.

"Well, here is the condensed truth for you," I reply, amiably: "for
this much we have ocular and oral testimony: Four young ladies attend
school at Amora; all are pretty, under the age of discretion, and, with
perhaps one exception, little versed in the ways of the world and its
wickedness. During their sojourn at school, where they are not under
constant discipline owing to the fact that they all board outside of the
Seminary, and all together, they are much in the society of four young
men, two of whom are students of the Seminary. This quartette of youths
are more or less good looking, and all of them notably 'gay and
festive,' after the manner of the stereotyped young man of the period."

"Right you are now," ejaculated Carnes.

"Just how these gentlemen divided their affections or attentions," I
continue, "it is difficult to say, in regard to all. We know that Mr.
Johnny La Porte was the chosen cavalier of Miss Ewing, and that Arch
Brookhouse and Amy Holmes were frequently seen in each other's society.
We are told that the eight young people formed frequent pleasure
parties; riding, picnicking, passing social evenings together.

"They leave school; their jolly companionship is over. By-and-by,
Nellie Ewing disappears; a little later, Mamie Rutger is also missing;
after a little time the other two young ladies are caught in the act of
escaping from home, by the means of a ladder placed at their chamber
window by an unknown man, while a second, it is supposed, awaits their
coming with horses and vehicle. This much for the ladies of this
octette. Now, upon inquiring after the whereabouts of the gentlemen, we
find that upon the night of this last named escapade, Johnny La Porte,
with his buggy and horses, was absent from home from sunset until after
midnight. That he returned when all the household was asleep, and
securing some clean handkerchiefs and a flask of brandy, ostensibly to
doctor a sick horse, he again goes, and returns after an absence of two
days, accompanied by another member of the octette, Mr. Ed. Dwight."

"That's a point," assented Carnes.

"Now, we have previously learned," I resume, "that said Dwight is about
to abandon his old trade and quit the country. We also remember that
Mrs. Ballou shot at, and believes she hit, the man who was assisting her
daughter and guest to escape from the house. Very good. During the time
that Johnny La Porte is absent from his home, Mr. Louis Brookhouse is
brought home to Trafton, in a covered buggy, by some unknown friend,
with a crippled limb!"

"I see; that's a clincher," muttered Carnes.

"This much for three of the gay Lotharios," I continue. "Now for Arch
Brookhouse. In Grace Ballou's autograph album is a couplet, very neatly
printed and signed A. B. It bears date one year back, and one year ago
Grace Ballou and Arch Brookhouse were both students at Amora. Not long
since I received an interesting letter of warning, and I believe it was
written by the same hand that indited the lines beginning 'I drink to
the eyes of my schoolmate, Grace.'"

Carnes opened his lips, but I hurried on.

"I have noted one other thing, which, if you like, you may call
coincidence of latitude. The eldest of the Brookhouse brothers is a
resident of New Orleans. At about the time of Nellie Ewing's
disappearance, Louis Brookhouse went to New Orleans, returning less than
two weeks ago. Amy Holmes is vaguely described as being 'somewhere
South,' and Ed. Dwight meditates a Southern journey soon."

"It looks like a league," says Carnes, scratching his head, and
wrinkling his brows in perplexity. "Are they going to form a colony of
some new sort? What's your notion?"

"My notion is that we had better not waste our time trying to guess out
a motive. Consider the language of the telegram sent by Fred Brookhouse
to his brother, and the reply to it, and then reflect upon the possible
meaning of both. The New Orleans brother says:

     Hurry up the others, or we are likely to have a balk.

"Arch answers:

     Next week L---- will be on hand.

"Hurry up the others! What others? Why are they likely to have a
'balk?' Are the two missing girls _there_, in charge of Fred Brookhouse,
and are they becoming restive at the non-appearance of the others? If
they had succeeded in escaping, would Grace Ballou and Amy Holmes have
gone to New Orleans in company with Louis Brookhouse?"

"By Saint Patrick, I begin to see!" cried Carnes.

"The telegram sent by Arch," I resume, "implies that Louis was already
here, or near here. Yet he made his first appearance at his father's
house two days later. Is Ed. Dwight going to New Orleans to embrace the
'heel and toe business,' under the patronage of Fred Brookhouse, who, it
is said, is connected with a theater? Is Johnny La Porte in hiding at
Amora? or has he already 'gone to join the circus?'"

Carnes springs suddenly to his feet.

"By the powers, old man, I see how it looks to you;" he cries, "an'
ye've got the thing by the right end at last. I'll go to New Orleans;
only say when. But," here his face lengthens a little, "ye must get
Wyman, or some one else, here in my place. I wish we had got that horse
rendezvous hunted down."

"As to that," I respond, "give yourself no uneasiness; I believe that I
have found the right place, and to-night I mean to confirm my
suspicion."

Carnes stares astonished.

"How did you manage it?" he asks, "and when?"

"Two days ago, and by accident. You will be surprised, Carnes. It is a
barn."

"It is?"

"A lead-colored barn, finished in brown."

"_What?_"

"It is large, and nearly square," I hasten to say, enjoying his marked
amazement. "A large stack of hay is pitched against the rear end,
running the length of it. It has a cupola and a flagstaff."

Carnes simply stares.

"I will send for Wyman if I need his help. What I am studying upon now
is a sufficient pretext for sending you away suddenly."

"I'll furnish that," Carnes says, with a droll roll of his eye.
"To-morrow I'll get drunk--beastly drunk. You shall inquire after me
about the hotel and at Porter's. By-and-by I will come into the office
too drunk to be endurable. You must be there to reprimand me. I grow
insolent; you discharge me. I go away somewhere and sleep off the
effects of my spree. You pay me my wages in the presence of the clerk,
and at midnight I board the train _en route_ for the Sunny South. You
shall hear from me----"

"By telegraph," I interrupt. "We shall have a new night operator here
within the week. I arranged for that when I was in the city, and wrote
the old man, yesterday, to send him on at once."

"All right; that's a good move," approved Carnes.

"And now," I said, rising hastily, and consulting my watch, "I must go.
To-night, or perhaps in the 'small hours,' we will talk over matters
again, and I will explain myself further. For the present, good-by; I am
expected to-night at the Hill; I shall pass the evening in the society
of Miss Manvers."



CHAPTER XXII.

TWO DEPARTURES.


On the ensuing morning, Carnes and I enacted the "quarrel scene," as
planned by him the previous night.

A more aggravated case of drunkenness than that presented by Carnes, a
little before noon, could not well be imagined. He was a marvel of
reeling stupidity, offensive hiccoughs, and maudlin insolence.

Quite a number of people were lounging about the office when Carnes
staggered in, thus giving me my cue to commence. Among the rest were
Dimber Joe and Blake Simpson. Our scene went off with considerable
_eclat_; and, having paid Carnes at the office desk, with a magnificent
disregard for expense, I turned to leave the room, looking back over my
shoulder, to say with my grandest air:

"If you think yourself sufficiently sober, you may come up-stairs and
pack your things. The sooner you, and all that belongs to you, are out
of my sight, the better I shall be pleased."

[Illustration: "If you think yourself sufficiently sober, you may come
up-stairs and pack your things."--page 262.]

I had been in my room less than half an hour, when I heard Carnes come
stumbling noisily through the passage.

When he was fairly within the room, he straightened himself suddenly,
and uttered a sound midway between a laugh and a chuckle.

"Old man," he said, coming slowly toward me, "I don't think I'll take
the down train."

"Why not?"

"Because," winking absurdly, and then staring up at the ceiling while he
finished his sentence, "the snakes are beginning to crawl. Blake Simpson
has just paid his bill, and ordered his baggage to be sent to the 4:30
train."

"Ah! And you will take the same train?"

"Exactly; I'm curious to see where he is going, and to find out why. We
must not remain together long, old man. Do you go down-stairs and tell
them that I am sleeping off my booze up here. I shan't be very sober by
4:30, but I'll manage to navigate to the depot."

I went down to the office, after a few more words with Carnes.

Simpson and Dimber Joe had both disappeared. Two or three men were
smoking outside, and a man by the window was falling asleep over a
newspaper three days old. Mine host, in person, was lounging over the
desk. He was idle, and inclined to be talkative.

"You weren't trying to give Barney a scare, I suppose?" he said, as I
approached the desk. "Do you really mean to let him go?"

"I certainly do," I replied, as I lounged upon the desk.

Then, coming nearer mine host, and increasing the distance between
myself and the old man by the window; "I have been tolerably patient
with the fellow. He has his good points, but he has tired me out.
Patience has ceased to be a virtue. I can do very well without him now.
He never was much of a valet. But I thought him quite necessary as a
companion on my fishing, hunting, and pedestrian excursions. However, I
have become pretty well acquainted with places and people, and I find
there are plenty of guides and companions to be picked up. I can do very
well without Barney, especially as of late he is drunk oftener than he
is sober."

Mine host smiled fraternally. It was not my custom to be so
communicative. Always, in my character of the wealthy aristocrat, I had
maintained, for the benefit of those about me, an almost haughty
reserve, only unbending when, because of my supposed financial
importance, I "was made much of" in the social circles of the Trafton
_élite_. To-day, however, I had an object to gain, and I did not bestow
my condescending confidence without the expectation of "value received."

"You'll have no trouble about finding company," said mine host, with a
benign smile. "As you say, Barney has been a good many times off. He
hasn't kept the best of company. He's been too much with that Briggs."

"Yes," I assented, carelessly; "I have repeatedly warned him to let the
fellow alone. Has he no occupation?"

"Briggs? he's a sort of extra hand for 'Squire Brookhouse; but, he
plays more than he works," trifling with the leaves of his register, and
then casting his eye slowly down the page before him. "Here's an odd
thing, you might say," laughing, as he lifted his eye from the book,
"I'm losing my most boisterous boarder and my quietest one at the same
time."

"Indeed; who else is going?"

My entertainer cast a quick glance towards the occupant of the window,
and lowered his voice as he replied:

"The gentleman in gray."

"In gray?" absently. "Oh! to be sure, a--a patent-right agent, is he
not?"

Another glance toward the window, then lowering his voice an additional
half tone, and favoring me with a knowing wink, he said:

"Have you heard anything concerning him?"

"Concerning the gentleman in gray?"

My entertainer nodded.

"Assuredly not," said I, affecting languid surprise. "Nothing wrong
about the gentleman, I hope?"

"Nothing wrong, oh, no," leaning over the desk, and speaking slowly.
"They say he is a _detective_."

"A detective!" This time my surprise was not entirely feigned. "Oh--is
not that a sensationalism?"

"Well," said my host, reflectively, "I might think so if I had heard it
from any of the ordinary loungers;--the fact is, I had no right to
mention the matter. I don't think it is guessed at by many."

He was beginning to retire within himself. I felt that I must not lose
my ground, and became at once more interested, more affable.

"Oh, I assure you, Mr. Holtz, I am quite interested. Do you really think
the man a detective? Pray, rely on my discretion."

There were two hard, unpainted chairs behind the office desk, and some
boxes containing cheap cigars, upon a shelf against the wall. I
insinuated myself into one of the chairs, and presently, Mr. Holtz was
seated near me in the other, smoking one of his own cigars, at my
expense, while I, with a similar weed between my lips, drew from him, as
best I could, all that he had heard and thought concerning Mr. Blake
Simpson, the gentleman in gray.

It was not much when all told, but Mr. Holtz consumed a full hour in
telling it.

Jim Long had been so frequently at the hotel since the advent of Blake
and Dimber Joe, that mine host had remarked upon the circumstance, and,
only two days ago, had rallied Jim upon his growing social propensities.

Whereupon, Jim had taken him aside, "quite privately and mysteriously,"
and confided to him the fact that he, Jim, had very good reason for
believing Blake and Dimber, or, as my informer put it, "The gent in gray
and the other stranger," to be detectives, who were secretly working in
the interest of 'Squire Brookhouse.

What these very good reasons were, Jim had declined to state. But he
had conjured Mr. Holtz to keep silent about the matter, as to bring the
"detectives" into notice would be to impair their chances of ultimate
success.

Mr. Holtz had promised to keep the secret, and he had kept it--two days.
He should never think of mentioning the matter to any of his neighbors,
he assured me fervently, as they, for the most part, being already much
excited over the recent thefts, could hardly be expected to keep a
discreet silence; but I, "being a stranger, and a different person
altogether," might, in Mr. Holtz's opinion, be safely trusted.

I assured Mr. Holtz that he might rely upon me as he would upon himself,
and he seemed quite satisfied with this rather equivocal statement.

Having heard all that mine host could tell, I remained in further
conversation with him long enough to avoid any appearance of abruptness,
and then, offering the stereotyped excuse, "letters to write," I took a
second cigar, pressed another upon my companion, and nodding to him with
friendly familiarity, sauntered away to meditate in solitude upon what I
had just learned.

And so, if Mr. Holtz had not exaggerated, and Jim Long was not mistaken,
Blake Simpson and Dimber Joe, two notorious prison birds, were
vegetating in Trafton in the character of detectives!

What a satire on my profession! And yet, absurd and improbable as it
seemed, it was not impossible. Indeed, did not this theory account for
their seemingly aimless sojourn here?

Jim Long was not the man to perpetrate a causeless jest. Neither was he
one to form a hasty conclusion, or to make an assertion without a
motive.

Whether his statement were true or false, what had been his reason for
confiding it to Mr. Holtz? It was not because of any especial friendship
for, or attachment to, that gentleman. Jim had no intimates, and had he
chosen such, Mr. Holtz, gossipping, idle, stingy, and shallow of brain,
would scarcely have been the man.

Why, then, had he confided in the man?

Did he wish the report to circulate, and himself remain unknown as its
author? Was there some individual whose ears he wished it to reach
through the talkative landlord?

I paused in my reflections, half startled by a sudden thought.

Had this shrewd, incomprehensible Yankee guessed my secret? And was Mr.
Holtz's story intended for _me_?

I arose to my feet, having formed a sudden resolution.

I _would_ know the truth concerning Jim Long. I _would_ prove him my
friend or my enemy, and the story told by Mr. Holtz should be my weapon
of attack.

As for Blake and Dimber, if they _were_ figuring as dummy detectives,
who had instigated their masquerade?

Again I started, confronted by a strange new thought.

'Squire Brookhouse had telegraphed to an agent to employ for him two
detectives. My Chief had been unable to discover what officers had been
employed. Carnes and myself, although we had kept a faithful lookout,
had been able to discover no traces of a detective in Trafton. Indeed,
except for ourselves and the two crooks, there were no strangers in the
village, nor had there been since the robbery.

If Blake and Dimber were playing at detectives, why was it? Had the
agent employed by 'Squire Brookhouse played him a trick, or had he been
himself duped?

'Squire Brookhouse had telegraphed to his _lawyer_, it was said. A
lawyer could have no motive for duping a wealthy client, nor would he be
likely to be imposed upon or approached by such men as Blake and Dimber.

Had 'Squire Brookhouse procured the services of these men? And if so,
why?

Carnes was endeavoring to sustain his _rôle_ by taking a much needed nap
upon his cot, but I now roused him with eager haste, and regaled his
sleepy ears with the story I had just listened to below stairs.

At first he seemed only to see the absurdity of the idea, and he buried
his face in the pillow, to stifle the merriment which rose to his lips
at the thought of the protection such detectives would be likely to
afford the innocent Traftonites.

Then he became wide awake and sufficiently serious, and we hastily
discussed the possibilities of the case.

There was not much to be done in the way of investigation just then;
Carnes would follow after Blake so long as it seemed necessary, or until
he could inform me how to guard against any evil the crook might be
intent upon.

Meantime I must redouble my vigilance, and let no movement of Dimber's
escape my notice.

To this end I abandoned, for the present, my hastily formed resolution,
to go at once in search of Jim Long, and bring about a better
understanding between us. That errand, being of less importance than the
surveillance of the rascal Dimber, could be left to a more convenient
season, or so I reasoned in my pitiful blindness.

Where was my professional wisdom then? Where the unerring foresight, the
fine instinct, that should have warned me of danger ahead?

Had these been in action, one man might have been saved a shameful
stigma, and another, from the verge of the grave.



CHAPTER XXIII.

A SHOT IN THE DARK.


That afternoon dragged itself slowly away.

I left Carnes in our room, and went below to note the movements of the
two crooks.

They were both upon the piazza; Blake smoking a well-colored meerschaum
and seemingly half asleep, and the Dimber, with his well-polished boot
heels elevated to the piazza railing, reading from a brown volume, with
a countenance expressive of absorbed interest.

I seated myself where I could observe both without seeming to do so, and
tilting my hat over my nose, dropped into a lounging attitude. I suppose
that I looked the personification of careless indolence. I know that I
felt perplexed, annoyed, uncomfortable.

Perplexed, because of the many mysteries that surrounded me. Annoyed,
because while I longed to be actively at work upon the solution of these
mysteries, I could only sit like a sleepy idiot, and furtively watch two
rascals engaged in killing time, the one with a pipe, the other with a
French novel. Uncomfortable, because the day was sultry, and the piazza
chairs were hard, and constructed with little regard for the ease of the
forms that would occupy them.

But there comes an end to all things, or so it is said. At last there
came an end to my loitering on the warm piazza.

At the proper time Carnes came lumbering down-stairs seeming not yet
sobered, but fully equipped for his journey. He took an affectionate
leave of the landlord, receiving some excellent advice in return. And,
after favoring me with a farewell speech, half maudlin, half
impertinent, wholly absurd, and intended for the benefit of the
lookers-on, who certainly enjoyed the scene, he departed noisily, and,
as Barney Cooley, was seen no more in Trafton.

A few moments later, "the gentleman in gray" also took his leave,
bestowing a polite nod upon one or two of the more social ones, but
without so much as glancing toward Dimber Joe or myself. He walked
sedately away, followed by the hotel factotum, who carried his natty
traveling bag.

Still Dimber read on at his seemingly endless novel, and still I lounged
about the porch, sometimes smoking, sometimes feigning sleep.

At last came supper time. I hailed it as a pleasant respite, and
followed Dimber Joe to the dining room with considerable alacrity.

Dr. Bethel came in soon, looking grave and weary. We saluted each
other, but Bethel seemed little inclined to talk, and I was glad not to
be engaged in a conversation which might detain me at the table after
Joe had left it.

Bethel, I knew, was much at the house of the Barnards. The shock caused
by the loss of her husband, together with the fatigue occasioned by his
illness, had prostrated Mrs. Barnard, who, it was said, was threatened
with a fever, and Bethel was in constant attendance.

As yet there had been no opportunity for the renewal of the
conversation, concerning the grave robbery, which had been interrupted
more than a week since by Mr. Brookhouse, and afterwards effectually cut
off by my flying visit to the city.

When the Dimber left the table I followed him almost immediately, only
to again find him poring over that absorbing novel, and seemingly
oblivious to all else.

Sundown came, and then twilight. As darkness gathered, Dimber Joe laid
down his book with evident reluctance and carefully lighted a cigar.

Would he sit thus all the evening? I was chafing inwardly. Would the man
do _nothing_ to break this monotony?

Presently a merry whistle broke upon the stillness, and quick steps came
down the street.

It was Charlie Harris and, as on a former occasion, he held a telegram
in his hand.

"For you," he said, having peered hard at me through the gloom. "It came
half an hour ago, but I could not get down until now."

I took the envelope from his hand and slowly arose.

"I don't suppose you will want my help to read it," he said, with an odd
laugh, as I turned toward the lighted office to peruse my message.

I gave him a quick glance, and then said:

"Come in, Harris, there may be an answer wanted."

He followed me to the office desk, and I was conscious that he was
watching my face as I perused its contents.

This is what I read by the office lamp.

    4--. H, c, n, c, e, o, g, k, i, m, b--s, i, a--.

A cipher message. I turned, half smiling, to meet the eye of Harris and
kept my own eyes upon his face while I said:

"I'm obliged to you, Harris, your writing is capital, and very easily
read. No answer is required."

The shrewd twinkle of his eye assured me that he comprehended my meaning
as well as my words.

I offered him a cigar, and lighted another for myself. Then we went out
upon the piazza together.

We had been in the office less than four minutes, but in that time
Dimber Joe had disappeared, French novel and all. Much annoyed I peered
up and down the street.

To the left was the town proper, the stores, the depot, and other
business places. To the right were dwellings and churches; a hill, the
summit and sides adorned with the best residences of the village; then a
hollow, where nestled Dr. Bethel's small cottage; and farther on, and
back from the highway, Jim Long's cabin. Beyond these another hill,
crowned by the capacious dwelling of the Brookhouse family.

Which way had Dimber gone?

It was early in the evening, too early to set out on an expedition
requiring stealth. Then I remembered that Joe had not left the hotel
since dinner; probably he had gone to the post office.

Harris was returning in that direction. I ran down the steps and
strolled townward in his company.

"It's deuced hot," said Harris, with characteristic emphasis, as he
lifted his hat to wipe a perspiring brow. "My office is the warmest hole
in town after the breeze goes down, and I've got to stay there until
midnight."

"Extra business?" I inquired.

"Not exactly; we are going to have a night operator."

"Ah!" The darkness hid the smile on my face. "That will relieve you a
little?"

"Yes, a little; but I'm blessed if I understand it. Business is
unusually light just now. I needed an assistant more in the Fall and
Winter."

"Indeed," I said, aloud. Then to myself, "But Carnes and I did not need
one so much."

Our agency had done some splendid work for the telegraph company whose
wires ran through Trafton; and I knew, before requesting a new operator
in the town, that they stood ready to oblige my Chief to any extent
compatible with their own business. And my Chief had been expeditious
indeed.

"Then you look for your night operator by the down express?" I
questioned, carelessly.

"Yes; they wired me that he would come to-night. I hope he'll be an
obliging fellow, who won't mind taking a day turn now and then."

"I hope so," I replied, "for your sake, Harris."

We had reached the post-office, and bidding him good night, I entered.

A few tardy Traftonites were there, asking for and receiving their mail,
but Dimber Joe was not among them.

I went slowly back to Porter's store, glancing in at various windows as
I passed, but saw not the missing man.

How had he eluded me? Where should I look for him?

Returning to the hotel, I sat down in the seat lately occupied by the
vanished crook, and pondered.

Was Dimber about to strike? Had he strolled out thus early to
reconnoiter his territory? If so, he would return anon to equip himself
for the work; he could not well carry a burglar's kit in the light suit
he wore.

Suddenly I arose and hurried up the stairs, resolved upon a bold
measure.

Hastily unlocking my trunk, I removed a tray, and from a skillfully
concealed compartment, took a pair of nippers, some skeleton keys, and a
small tin case, shaped like the candle it contained. Next, I removed my
hat, coat, and boots; and, in another moment, was standing before the
door of the room occupied by Dimber Joe. I knocked lightly and the
silence within convinced me that the room was unoccupied.

The Trafton House was not plentifully supplied with bolts, as I knew;
and my nippers assured me that there was no key in the lock.

Thus emboldened, I fitted one of the skeleton keys, and was soon within
the room, making a hasty survey of Dimber Joe's effects.

[Illustration: "Thus assured, I fitted one of the skeleton keys."--page
279.]

Aided again by my skeleton keys, I hurriedly opened and searched the two
valises. They were as honest as they looked.

The first contained a liberal supply of polished linen, a water-proof
coat and traveling-cap, together with other articles of clothing, and
two or three novels. The second held the clerical black suit worn by
Dimber on the evening of his arrival in Trafton; a brace of linen
dusters, a few articles of the toilet, and a small six-shooter.

There was nothing else; no concealed jimmy, no "tools" of any
description.

It might have been the outfit of a country parson, but for the novels
and the revolver. This latter was loaded, and, without any actual motive
for so doing, I extracted the cartridges and put them in my pocket.

In another moment I was back in my own room, baffled, disappointed, and
puzzled more than before.

Sitting there alone, I drew from my pocket the lately received telegram,
and surveyed it once more.

    4--. H, c, n, c, e, o, g, k, i, m, b--s, i, a--.

Well might Harris have been puzzled. Arrant nonsense it must have seemed
to him, but to me it was simplicity itself. The dispatch was from
Carnes, and it said:

"He is coming back."

Simplicity itself, as the reader will see, by comparing the letters and
the words.

"He is coming back." This being interpreted, meant, "Blake Simpson is
now returning to Trafton."

Was I growing imbecile?

Blake Simpson had departed in the daylight, doubtless taking the "tools
of his trade" with him, hence the innocent appearance of his partner's
room, for partners, I felt assured, they were.

He was returning under cover of the darkness; Dimber had gone out to
meet him, and before morning, Trafton would be supplied with a fresh
sensation.

How was I to act? How discover their point of attack?

It yet lacked more than two hours of midnight. Trafton had not yet gone
to sleep.

Blake was coming back, but how?

My telegram came from a village fifteen miles distant. Blake then
must have left the train at that point, and Carnes had followed him. He
had followed him until assured that he was actually returning to
Trafton, and then he had sent the message.

Blake might return in two ways. He might hire a conveyance and drive
back to Trafton, or he might walk back as far as the next station, a
distance of five miles, and there wait for the night express.

It seemed hardly probable that he would care to court notice by
presenting himself at an inn or livery stable. He would be more apt to
walk away from the village, assume some light disguise, and return by
the train. It would be a child's trick for him to drop from the moving
train as it entered the town, and disappear unnoticed in the darkness.

Carnes might return by that train, also, but we had agreed that, unless
he was fully convinced that Blake meant serious mischief, and that I
would need his assistance, he was to continue on his journey, as it
seemed important that he should be in New Orleans as soon as possible.

After some consideration, I decided that I would attach myself to
Dimber, should he return, as it seemed likely that he would, it being so
early. And if he failed to appear, I would lie in wait for the night
express, and endeavor to spot Blake, should he come that way.

Having thus decided, I resumed my hat, coat and boots, extinguished my
light, locked my door and went down-stairs.

The office lamp was burning its brightest, and there underneath it,
tilted back in the only arm-chair the room could boast, sat Dimber Joe;
his hat hung on a rack beside the door, a fresh cigar was stuck between
his lips, and he was reading again that brown-covered French novel!

I began to feel like a man in a nightmare. Could that indolent-looking
novel reader be meditating a crime, and only waiting for time to bring
the hour?

I went out upon the piazza and fanned myself with my hat. I felt
discomposed, and almost nervous. At that moment I wished devoutly that I
could see Carnes.

By-and-by my absurd self-distrust passed away, and I began to feel once
more equal to the occasion.

Dimber's room was not, like mine, at the end of the building. It was a
"front room," and its two windows opened directly over the porch upon
which I stood.

I had the side door of the office in full view. He could not leave the
house unseen by me.

Mr. Holtz came out to talk with me. I complained of a headache and
declared my intention to remain outside until it should have passed
away. We conversed for half an hour, and then, as the hands of the
office clock pointed to half-past ten he left me to make his nightly
round through kitchen, pantries, and dining-room, locking and barring
the side door of the office before going. And still Dimber Joe read on,
to all appearances oblivious of time and all things else.

A wooden bench, hard and narrow, ran along the wall just under the
office window, affording a seat for loungers when the office should be
overfull, and the chairs all occupied. Upon this I stretched myself, and
feigned sleep, for a time that seemed interminable.

Eleven o'clock; eleven loud metalic strokes from the office time keeper.

Dimber Joe lowered the leg that had been elevated, elevated the leg that
had been lowered, turned a page of his novel and read on. The man's
coolness was tantalizing. I longed to forget my identity as a detective,
and his as a criminal, and to spring through the window, strike the book
from his hand, and challenge him to mortal combat, with dirks at close
quarters, or pistols at ten paces.

Half-past eleven. Dimber Joe stretched his limbs, closed his book,
yawned and arose. Whistling softly, as if not to disturb my repose, he
took a small lamp from a shelf behind the office desk, lighted it
leisurely and went up-stairs.

As he entered the room above, a ray of light, from his window gleamed
out across the road. It rested there for, perhaps, five minutes and then
disappeared.

Had Dimber Joe closed his novel to retire like an honest man?

Ten more long minutes of quiet and silence, and then the stillness was
broken by a long, shrill shriek, sounding half a mile distant. It was
the night express nearing Trafton station.

As this sound died upon the air, another greeted my ears; the sound of
swift feet running heedlessly, hurriedly; coming directly toward me from
the southward.

As I rose from my lounging place and stepped to the end of the piazza
the runner came abreast of me, and the light streaming through the
office window revealed to me Jim Long, hatless, coatless, almost
breathless.

The lamp light fell upon me also, and even as he ran he recognized me.

Halting suddenly, he turned back with a quick ejaculation, which I did
not understand.

"Long, what has happened?"

The answer came between short, sharp breaths.

"Carl Bethel has been shot down at his own door! For God's sake go to
him! He is there alone. I must find a doctor."

[Illustration: "Carl Bethel has been shot down at his own door! For
God's sake go to him! He is there alone. I must find a doctor."--page
286.]

In another instant he was running townward at full speed, and I was
flying at an equal pace through the dark and silent street toward Dr.
Bethel's cottage.



CHAPTER XXIV.

JIM LONG SHOWS HIS HAND.


As I ran through the silent, dusky street, keeping to the road in
preference to risking myself, at that pace, over some most uncertain
"sidewalks," for pavements were unknown in Trafton, my thoughts were
keeping pace with my heels.

First they dwelt upon the fact that Jim Long, in making his brief, hasty
exhortation to me, had forgotten, or chosen to ignore, his nasal twang
and rustic dialect, and that his earnestness and agitation had betrayed
a more than ordinary interest in Carl Bethel, and a much more than
ordinary dismay at the calamity which had befallen him.

Carl Bethel had been shot down at his own door!

How came it that Jim Long was near the scene and ready for the rescue,
at eleven o'clock at night? Who had committed the deed? And why?

Some thoughts come to us like inspirations. Suddenly there flashed upon
my mind a possible man and a probable motive.

Blake Simpson was coming back. Contrary to my expectations, he had
probably entered Trafton on foot, having made the journey by means of
some sort of conveyance which was now, perhaps, carrying him away from
the scene of his crime.

This would explain the singular apathy of Dimber Joe. He had walked out
earlier in the evening to ascertain that the way was clear and the game
within reach, or, in other words, at home and alone. Then perhaps he had
made these facts known to his confederate, and after that, his part in
the plot being accomplished, he had returned to the hotel, where he had
kept himself conspicuously in sight until after the deed was done. Here
was a theory for the murder ready to hand, and a motive was not wanting.

Only a week since, some party or parties had committed a shameful
outrage, and the attempt had been made to fasten the crime upon Carl
Bethel. Fortunately the counter evidence had been sufficient to clear
him in the eyes of impartial judges. The doctor's courage and popularity
had carried him safely through the danger. His enemies had done him
little hurt, and had not succeeded in driving him from Trafton.
Obviously he was in somebody's way, and the first attempt having failed,
they had made a second and more desperate one.

Here my mental diagnosis of the case came to an end. I had reached the
gate of the doctor's cottage.

All was silent as I opened the door and entered the sitting-room. A
shaded lamp burned softly on the center-table, and beside it stood the
doctor's easy-chair and footrest. An open book lay upon the table, as if
lately laid down by the occupant of the chair, who had put a half-filled
pipe between the pages, to mark the place where he had stopped reading
when interrupted by--what?

Thus much I observed at a glance, and then turned toward the inner room
where, upon the bed, lay Carl Bethel.

Was he living or dead?

Taking the lamp from the table I carried it to the bedside, and bent to
look at the still form lying thereon. The loose coat of white linen, and
also the vest, had been drawn back from the right shoulder; both were
blood-stained, and the entire shirt front was saturated with blood.

I put the lamp upon a stand beside the bed, and examined closer. The
hands were not yet cold with the chill of death, the breath came feebly
from between the parted lips.

What should I do?

As I glanced about the room while asking myself this helpless question,
there came a step upon the gravel outside, quick, light, firm. Then the
door opened, and Louise Barnard stood before me.

Shall I ever forget that woful face, white as the face of death, rigid
with the calmness of despair? Shall I ever banish from my memory those
great dark eyes, too full of anguish for tears? It was another mental
picture of Louise Barnard never to be forgotten.

"Carl, Carl!"

She was on her knees at the bedside clasping the limp hand between her
own, bowing her white face until it rested upon his.

"Carl, Carl! speak to me!"

[Illustration: "Carl, Carl! speak to me!"--page 292.]

But there was no word of tenderness in answer to her pitiful appeal, no
returning pressure from the still hand, and she buried her head in the
pillows, uttering a low moan of despair.

In the presence of one weaker than myself, my own helplessness forsook
me. I approached the girl who knelt there believing her lover dead, and
touched her shoulder lightly.

"Miss Barnard, we have no time now for grief. He is not dead."

She was on her feet in an instant.

"Not dead! Then he must not die!"

A red flush mounted to her cheek, a new light leaped to her eye. She
waited to ask or give no explanation, but turned once more and laid her
hand upon the blood-ensanguined garments.

"Ah, we must waste no more time. Can you cut away this clothing?"

I nodded and she sprang from the room. I heard a clicking of steel and
the sound of opening drawers, then she was back with a pair of sharp
scissors in her hand.

"Use these," she said, taking command as a matter of course, and
flitting out again, leaving me to do my work, and as I worked, I
marveled at and admired her wonderful presence of mind--her splendid
self-control.

In a moment I knew, by the crack of a parlor match and a responsive
flash of steady light, that she had found a lamp and lighted it.

There were the sounds of another search, and then she was back again
with restoratives and some pieces of linen.

Glancing down at the bed she uttered a sharp exclamation, and all the
blood fled out of her face. I had just laid bare a ghastly wound in the
right shoulder, and dangerously near the lung.

It was with a mighty effort that she regained her self-control. Then she
put down the things she held, and said, quite gently:

"Please chafe his hands and temples, and afterward try the restoratives.
There is a fluid heater out there. I must have warm water before--"

"Long has gone for a doctor," I interrupted, thinking her possibly
ignorant of this fact.

"I know; we must have everything ready for him."

She went out and I began my work of restoration.

After some time passed in the outer room, she came back to the bedside
and assisted me in my task.

After a little, a faint sigh and a feeble fluttering of the eyelids
assured us that we were not thus active in vain. The girl caught her
breath, and while she renewed her efforts at restoration I saw that she
was fast losing her self-control.

And now we heard low voices and hurrying footsteps.

It was the doctor at last.

Excepting Bethel, Dr. Hess was the youngest practitioner in Trafton. He
was a bachelor, and slept at his office, a fact which Jim took into
account in calling for him, instead of waking up old Dr. Baumbach, who
lived at the extreme north of the village.

Dr. Hess looked very grave, and Jim exceedingly anxious, as the two bent
together over the patient.

After a brief examination, Dr. Hess said:

"I must get at Bethel's instruments. I know he keeps them here, so did
not stop to fetch mine."

"They are all ready."

He turned in surprise. Miss Barnard had drawn back at his entrance, and
he was now, for the first time, aware of her presence.

"I knew what was required," she said, in answer to his look of surprise.
"They are ready for you."

The doctor moved toward the outer room.

"I must have some tepid water," he said.

"That, too, is ready. I shall assist you, Dr. Hess."

"You!"

"Yes, I. I know something about the instruments. I have helped my father
more than once."

"But--"

"There need be no objection. I am better qualified than either of these
gentlemen."

He looked at me, still hesitating.

"I think you can trust the lady," I said; "she has proved her
capability."

"Very well, Miss Barnard," said the doctor, more graciously; "it may try
your nerves;" and, taking up some instruments, he turned toward the
inner room.

"I shall be equal to it," she replied, as, gathering up some lint, and
going across the room for a part of the water, fast heating over the
fluid lamp, she followed him.

"Doctor, can't _we_ do something?" asked Jim Long.

"Nothing at present."

How still it was! Jim Long stood near the center of the room, panting
heavily, and looking down at a dark stain in the carpet,--a splash of
human blood that marked the place where Bethel had fallen under the fire
of the assassin. His face was flushed, and its expression fiercely
gloomy. His hands were clenched nervously, his eye riveted to that spot
upon the carpet, his lips moved from time to time, as if framing
anathemas against the would-be destroyer.

After a time, I ventured, in a low tone:

"Long, you are breathing like a spent racer. Sit down. You may need your
breath before long."

He turned, silently opened the outer door, making scarcely a sound, and
went out into the night.

That was a long half hour which I passed, sitting beside the little
table with that splash of blood directly before my eyes, hearing no
sound save an occasional rustle from the inner room, and now and then a
low word spoken by Dr. Hess.

To think to the purpose seemed impossible, in that stillness where life
and death stood face to face. I could only wait; anxiously, impatiently,
fearing the worst.

At last it was over; and Jim, who evidently, though out of sight, had
not been out of hearing, came in to listen to the verdict of Dr. Hess.

"It was a dangerous wound," he said, "and the patient was in a critical
condition. He might recover, with good nursing, but the chances were
much against him."

A spasm of pain crossed Louise Barnard's face, and I saw her clench her
small hand in a fierce effort to maintain her self-control. Then she
said, quite calmly:

"In his present condition, will he not require the constant attention of
a surgeon?"

Dr. Hess bowed his head.

"Hemorrhage is likely to occur," he said. "He _might_ need surgical aid
at a moment's notice."

"Then, Dr. Hess, would you object to our calling for counsel--for an
assistant?"

He elevated his eyebrows, more in surprise at the pronoun, I thought,
than at the suggestion, or request.

"I think it might be well to have Dr. Baumbach in to-morrow," he
replied.

"I was not thinking of Dr. Baumbach," she said. "I wish to send to New
York for a doctor who is a relative of Mr. Bethel's. I know--it is what
he would wish."

Dr. Hess glanced from her face to mine and remained silent.

"When my father was sick," she went on, now looking appealingly from the
doctor's face to mine, and then over my shoulder at Jim, who had
remained near the door, "Dr. Bethel said that if he had any doubts as to
his case, he should telegraph at once for Dr. Denham, and he added that
he knew of no surgeon more skillful."

Still no answer from Dr. Hess.

Jim Long came forward with a touch of his old impatience and accustomed
quaintness in his words and manner.

"_I'm_ in favor of the city doctor," he said, looking, not at Dr. Hess,
but straight into my face. "And I'm entitled to a voice in the matter.
The patient's mine by right of discovery."

Miss Barnard gave him a quick glance of gratitude, and I rallied from
the surprise occasioned by the mention of "our old woman," to say:

"I think you said that this gentleman is a _relative_ of Dr. Bethel's;
if so, he should be sent for by all means."

"He is Dr. Bethel's uncle," said Miss Barnard.

"Then," I repeated, with decision, "as a relative he should be sent for
at once."

"Most certainly," acquiesced Dr. Hess, who now saw the matter in, to
him, a more favorable light. "Send for him; the sooner the better."

"Oh," breathed the anxious girl, "I wish it could be done at once."

"It can," I said, taking my hat from the table as I spoke. "Fortunately
there is a new night operator at the station; he came to-night, or was
expected. If he is there, we shall save time, if not, we must get Harris
up."

"Oh, thank you."

Dr. Hess went to take a look at his patient, and came back, saying:

"I will remain here until morning, I think."

"And I will come back as soon as possible," I responded, turning to go.

Jim Long caught up his hat from the floor, where he had flung it on
entering.

"I reckon I had better go along with you," he said, suddenly assuming
his habitual drawl; "you may have to rout Harris up, and I know right
where to find him."

I was anxious to go, for a reason of my own, and I was not sorry to have
Jim's company. "Now, if ever," I thought, "is the time to fathom 'the
true inwardness' of this strange man."

We waited for no more words, but set out at once, walking briskly
through the night that seemed doubly dark, doubly silent and mysterious,
at the witch's hour of one o'clock.

We had walked half the distance to the station; in perfect silence, and
I was studying the best way to approach Jim and overcome his reticence,
when suddenly he opened his lips, to give me a glimpse of his "true
inwardness," that nearly took me, figuratively, off my feet.

"Men are only men, after all," he began, sententiously, "and
_detectives_ are only common men sharpened up a bit. I wonder, now, how
you are going to get the address of this Dr. Denham?"

I started so violently, that he must have perceived it, dark though it
was.

What a blunder! I had walked away from the cottage forgetting to ask for
Dr. Denham's address.

Uttering an exclamation of impatience, I turned sharply about.

"What are you going to do?" he asked.

"I'm going back after the address, of course."

"I wouldn't do that; time's precious. Do you go ahead and send the
message. I'll run back and ask after the address."

"Long," I said, sharply, "what do you mean?"

"I mean this," he replied, his tone changing suddenly. "I mean that
it's time for you and I to understand each other!"



CHAPTER XXV.

IN WHICH I TAKE JIM ON TRUST.


"It is time for you and I to understand each other. Don't stop there
looking moon-struck! Go ahead, and don't waste time. I'll run back and
ask for the address. Miss Barnard, if she scented a secret, might be
trusted with it. But, Dr. Hess--his brain has not kept pace with the
steps of the universe."

With these remarkable words, Jim Long lowered his head, compressed his
elbows after the fashion of a professional prize-runner, and was off
like a flying shadow, while I stood staring after him through the
darkness, divided betwixt wonder at his strange words and manner, and
disgust at my own stupidity.

What did he mean? Had he actually discovered my identity? And, if so,
how?

While waiting for a solution to these riddles, it would be well to
profit by Jim's advice. So I turned my face toward the village, and
hurried forward.

As I approached the station, a bright light from the operator's window
assured me that I should not find the office empty, and coming
stealthily toward it, I peered in, to see, seated in the most commodious
office chair, Gerald Brown, of our agency, the expected "night
operator."

On a lounge opposite the window, lay Charlie Harris asleep.

I tapped softly on the open casement, and keeping myself in the shadow
whispered:

"Come outside, Gerry, and don't wake Harris."

The night-operator, who knew the nature of the services required of him
in Trafton, and who doubtless had been expecting a visit, arose quietly
and came out on the platform with the stealthy tread of a bushman.

After a cordial hand-clasp, and a very few words of mutual inquiry, I
told Brown what had happened at the doctor's cottage, and of my
suspicions regarding Blake Simpson; and, then, using a leaf from my
note-book, and writing by the light from the window, I wrote two
messages, to be sent before Harris should awake.

The first was as follows:

    DOCTOR CHARLES DENHAM,

                     No. 300 ---- street, N. Y.

    Carl Bethel is in extreme danger; requires your professional
    services. Come at once.

                                                        BATHURST.

The second was addressed to our office, and was much longer. It ran
thus:

    CAPT. B., A----, N. Y.

    Murder was attempted last night; Bethel the victim. See that
    Denham comes by the first train to attend to him. Give him some
    hints before starting. Look out for B. S. If he returns to the
    city in the morning, keep him shadowed. Will write particulars.

                                                        BATHURST.

"There," I said, as I passed them to Brown, "send them as soon as you
can, Gerry. The doctor will hardly receive his before morning, but the
other will be delivered at once, and then they can hurry up the "old
woman." As for Blake, he will probably take the morning train, if he
returns to the city, so they have ample time to prepare for him. Did you
see Carnes on the express?"

"Yes; but only had a moment's speech with him. He told me to tell you
that Blake left the train at Ireton, and that he went straight to a sort
of feed stable, kept by a man named Briggs--"

"Briggs!" I exclaimed, involuntarily.

"Yes, that was the name. At this stable he was furnished with a good
team and light buggy, and he drove straight south."

"Ah! he did. But my time is not at my disposal just now, Gerry; I have a
companion somewhere on the road. I suppose you got the bearings of this
Trafton business at the Agency?"

"Yes; I think I am pretty well posted. I have read all your reports."

"So much the better. Gerry, you had better take up your quarters at the
Trafton House. I am stopping there. It will be convenient, for more than
one reason."

Gerry agreed with me in this, and, as at that moment we heard footsteps
approaching, which I rightly guessed to be those of Jim Long, we
separated at once, and I went forward to meet Jim.

Before, I had deemed it necessary to press the siege, and lead Jim to
talk by beginning the attack in a voluble manner. Now, I was equally
intent upon holding my own forces in reserve, and letting him open the
engagement, which, after a few moments' silence, he did.

A few rods away from the depot stood a church, with broad, high steps
leading up from the street, and a deep, old-fashioned portico.

Here Jim came to an abrupt halt, for we had turned our steps southward,
and said, with more of courtesy in his voice than might have been
expected, considering his recent abruptness:

"Let us go up there, and sit under the porch. It's safer than to talk
while walking, and I fancy you would like me to explain myself."

I followed him in silence up the steps, and sat down beside him on the
portico.

"I wonder," began Jim, lowering his voice to insure himself against
possible eavesdroppers, "I wonder why you have not asked me, before this
time, how it happened that I was the first to discover Bethel's
condition, or, at any rate, the first to give the alarm."

"There has scarcely been time," I replied, guardedly. "Besides I, being
so nearly a stranger, thought that a question to be more properly asked
by Miss Barnard or the doctor."

"You are modest," said Jim, with a short laugh. "Probably it will not
occur to Miss Barnard to ask that question, until her mind is more at
ease concerning Bethel's condition. As for Dr. Hess, he had asked it
before he took off his nightcap."

"And did you answer it," asked I, maliciously, "in the same good English
you are addressing to me?"

"I hope not," he replied, laughing again. "I told him the truth,
however, in a very few words, and now I will tell it to you. Last
night--I suppose it is morning now by the clock--I spent the evening in
the village, principally about the Trafton House. I presume you are
wondering how it came that you did not see me there, for I happen to
know that you spent the entire evening in the office or on the porch.
Well, the fact is, I was there on a little private business, and did not
make myself very conspicuous for that reason. It was late when I came
home, and, on looking about the cabin, I discovered that my gun was
missing. My door, for various reasons, I always leave unlocked _when
absent_, so I did not waste any time in wondering how the thief got in.
I missed nothing else, and, after a little, I went outside to smoke, and
think the matter over. I had not been out many minutes before I heard
the report of a gun,--_my_ gun, I could have sworn. It sounded in the
direction of Bethel's cottage, and I was not many minutes in getting
there. I found the door open, and Bethel lying across the threshold,
wounded, as you have seen. He was almost unconscious then, but as I bent
above him he whispered one word, 'Louise.' I could not leave him lying
there in the doorway, so I lifted him and carried him to the bed, and
then, seeing that it was a shoulder wound, and that he still breathed, I
rushed off, stopping to tell Louise Barnard that her lover was wounded
and, maybe, dying, and then on again until I saw you, the very man whose
help I wanted."

"And why my help rather than that of another?"

"Because, next to that of a physician, the presence of a _detective_
seemed most necessary."

"Long," I said, turning upon him sharply, "this is the second time you
have referred to me as 'a detective.' Will you be good enough to
explain?"

"I have spoken of you as a detective," he replied, gravely, "because I
believe you to be one, and have so believed since the day you came to
Trafton. To explain in full would be to occupy more time than you or I
can well spare to story telling. I have watched you since you first came
to this place, curiously at first, then earnestly, then anxiously. I
believe you are here to ferret out the authors of the many robberies
that have happened in and about Trafton. If this is so, then there is no
one more anxious to help you, or who could have a stronger motive for so
doing, than Jim Long."

He paused for a moment, but I remained silent, and he began anew.

"I think you are interested in Bethel and his misfortunes. I think you
know him for the victim of those who believe him to be what you really
are."

"You think there are those who fear Bethel because they believe him to
be a detective? Is that your meaning?"

"That is my meaning."

"Long," I said, seriously, "you tell me that your gun was stolen last
night; that you recognized the sound of the report coming from the
direction of Bethel's house."

He moved closer to me and laid a hand on my shoulder.

"It was my gun that shot Bethel," he said, solemnly. "To-morrow that gun
will be found and _I_ shall be accused of the crime. If the devils had
possessed my knowledge, it would have been you, instead of Carl Bethel,
lying somewhere now, dying or dead. I say these things to you to-night
because, if my gun is found, as I anticipate, and I am accused of the
shooting, I may not be able to serve Carl Bethel, and he is not yet out
of danger. If he lives he will still be a target for his enemies."

He spoke with suppressed emotion, and my own feelings were stirred as I
replied:

"Long, you have been a mystery to me from the first, and I do not read
your riddle even now, but I believe you are a man to be trusted. Give me
your hand, and depend upon it you shall not rest long under a false
accusation. Carl Bethel, living, shall not want a friend; Carl Bethel,
dead, shall have an avenger. As for you, and myself--"

"We shall understand each other better," he broke in, "when the time
comes for me to tell you my own story in my own way."

"Then," I said, "let us go back to Bethel. I want to take a look about
the premises by the first streak of daylight."

"Ah!" ejaculated Jim, "that is what I wanted to hear you say."



CHAPTER XXVI.

THE TRAIL OF THE ASSASSIN.


During the night there was little change in Bethel's condition, and in
the gray of dawn Miss Barnard went reluctantly home, having been assured
by the doctor that the patient was in no immediate danger, and, by Jim
and myself, converted to the belief that he might be safely trusted for
a short time to our care.

A little later, with the first clear light of the dawn, I left Jim on
guard at the bedside, and went to take a survey of the premises.

I was not long in convincing myself that there was little to be
discovered outside, and returning to the house seated myself in Bethel's
easy-chair.

"Long," I called softly,--somehow since last night I could not bring
myself to use the familiar "Jim," as of old.

He came from the inner room looking a mute inquiry.

"Long, you had ought to know something about your own gun; was that
wound of Bethel's made at long or short range?"

He looked surprised at first, then a gleam of intelligence leaped to his
eyes.

"What do you mean by short range?" he asked.

"Suppose Bethel to have stood on the steps outside, was the gun fired
from behind that evergreen just beyond, and close to the gravel walk, or
from some other point equally distant?"

He opened the door and glanced out at the tree, seeming to measure the
distance with his eye.

"It was further away," he said, after a moment's reflection. "If the
scoundrel had stood as you suggest, the muzzle of the gun would have
been almost at Bethel's breast. The powder would have scorched his
clothing and his flesh."

"Do you think it may have been fired from the gate, or a few feet beyond
it?"

"Judging by the appearance of the wound, I should say it must have been
from a little beyond the gate."

"I think so too," I said. "I think some one drove to the gate last
night with a light buggy, and two small horses. He or they drove quite
close to the fence and stopped the horses, so that they were hidden from
the view of any one who was nearer the house. The buggy was directly
before the gate and so close that it could not have been opened, as it
swings outward. The horses were not tied, but they were doubtless well
trained animals. A man jumped out of the buggy, and, standing beside it,
on the side farthest from the gate, of course, leveled your gun across
the vehicle and called aloud for the doctor. Bethel was alone, sitting
in this chair by this table. His feet were on this footstool," touching
each article as I named it. "He was smoking this pipe, and reading this
book. The window was open, and the blinds only half closed. The man, who
probably drove close to the fence for that purpose, could see him quite
distinctly, and from his attitude and occupation knew him to be alone.

"When Bethel heard the call, he put down the book and pipe with cool
deliberation, pushed back the footstool and opened the door, coming from
the light to the darkness. At that moment he could see nothing, and
leaving the door open he stepped outside, standing clearly outlined in
the light from within. _Then_ the assassin fired."

[Illustration: "When Bethel heard the call, he put down the book and
pipe with cool deliberation, pushed back the footstool and opened the
door,"--page 312.]

Jim Long came toward me, his eyes earnestly searching my face.

"In Heaven's name, what foundation have you for such a theory," he
asked, slowly.

"Excellent foundation," I replied. "Let us demonstrate my theory."

Long glanced at his charge in the inner room, and then said, "go on."

"Suppose me to be Bethel," I said, leaning back in the big chair. "That
window is now just as it was last night, I take it?"

"Just the same."

"Well, if you choose to go outside and walk beside the fence, you will
be able to decide whether I could be seen as I have stated."

He hesitated a moment, and then said:

"Wait; I'll try it;" and opened the door.

"Long," I whispered, as he passed out, "keep _this side_ of the fence."

"Yes."

He was back in a moment.

"I can see you plainly," he said.

"And, of course, with a light within and darkness outside you could see
me still more plainly."

"I suppose so," he assented.

"Now for the second test. I hear my name called, I lay aside my book and
meerschaum, push back my footrest, and go to the door. I can see nothing
as I open it," I was suiting the action to the word, "so I fling it wide
open, and step outside. Now, Long, that spot of blood tells me just
about the location of Bethel's head when you discovered him. Will you
point out the spot where his feet rested?"

Long considered a moment and then laid two fingers on the step.

"There, as nearly as I can remember," he said.

I planted my own feet on the spot indicated by him.

"Now, please go to the gate. Go outside of it. There are some bits of
paper scattered about; do not step where you see any of these."

He obeyed my directions, striding over and around the marked places.

"Now," I called, retaining my position on the door-step, "step about
four feet from the gate, and from that distance how must you stand to
take aim at me, on this spot?"

He shifted his position a trifle, went through the motion of taking aim,
looking down at his feet, then dropped his arms, and said:

"I can't do it; to aim at you there, I would have to stand just where
you have left some bits of paper. In any other position the bushes
obstruct the sight."

I came down to the gate and swung it open.

"Just what I wanted to establish. Now for the next test," I said. "Mark
me, Long; do you see those bits of paper along the fence? Go and look at
the ground, where they lie, and you will see the faint impression of a
wheel. Just before the gate where the vehicle stood for a moment, the
print is deeper, and more easily noticed. I said that the gun was fired
across the buggy; you have convinced yourself that aim could be taken
from only one position, at this distance. The man must stand where those
bits of paper are scattered. Now, look;" I bent down and gathered up the
fragments of paper; "look close. Here is a fine, free imprint from the
heel of a heavy boot. As there is but one, and that so marked, it is
reasonable to suppose that the assassin rested one foot upon the buggy
wheel, thus throwing his weight upon this heel."

Long bent to examine the print and then lifted his head to ejaculate:

"It is wonderful!"

"It is simplicity itself," I replied; "the a, b, c of the detective's
alphabet. I said there were two horses; look, here is where one of them
scraped the fence with his teeth, and here the other has snatched a
mouthful of leaves from the doctor's young shade tree. Here, too, are
some faint, imperfect hoof-prints, but they are enough to tell us, from
their position, that there were two horses, and from their size, that
the animals were pretty small."

Long examined the different marks with eager attention, and then stood
gazing fixedly at me, while I gathered up my bits of paper.

"I shall not try to preserve these as evidence in the case," I said. "I
think we shall do very well without them. They were marked for your
benefit, solely. Are you convinced?"

"Convinced! Yes, convinced and satisfied that you are the man for this
business."

We returned to the house, each intent on his own thoughts.

The sun was rising in a cloudless sky. It would not be long before
curious visitors would be thronging the cottage. After a time I went to
the door of the room where Jim had resumed his watch.

"Long," I asked, in a low tone, "do you know any person in Ireton?"

He shook his head.

"Do you know whether this fellow Tom Briggs has any relatives about
Trafton?"

He pondered a moment.

"Yes," he said, finally. "He has a brother somewhere in the
neighborhood. I don't know just where. He comes to Trafton
occasionally."

"What is he like?"

"He is not unlike Tom, but goes rather better dressed."

"Do you know his occupation?"

"A sort of horse-trading character, I think."

I considered for a time, and then resumed my catechism.

"Among the farmers whose horses have been stolen, do you know one who is
thoroughly shrewd, cautious and reliable?"

"I think so," after a moment's reflection. "I think Mr. Warren is such a
man."

"Where can he be found?"

"He lives five miles northwest of Trafton."

"If you wished to organize a small band of regulators, say six or eight,
where could you find the right men, and how soon?"

"I should look for them among the farmers. I think they could be
organized, _for the right purpose_, in half a day's ride about the
country."

As my lips parted to launch another question, the outer door opened
slowly and almost noiselessly, and Louise Barnard brushed past me and
hurried to the bedside.

"Miss Barnard--"

"Don't lecture me, please," she said, hurriedly. "Mamma is better and
could spare me, and I _could_ not sleep. I have taken a cordial, and
some food. You must let me stay on guard until Dr. Denham arrives. I
will resign my post to him."

"Which means that you will not trust to us. You are a 'willful woman,'
Miss Barnard, and your word is our law, of course. There is actually
nothing to do here just now but to sit at the bedside and watch our
patient. And so, if you _will_ occupy that post, Long and myself will
take a look at things out of doors."

She took her seat by the bedside, and, beckoning Jim to follow me, I
went out, and, turning to see that he was close behind me, walked to the
rear of the house.

Here we seated ourselves upon the well platform, where Jim had once
before stationed himself to watch the proceedings of the raiding party,
and for a full half-hour remained in earnest consultation.

At the end of that time, Jim Long saddled and bridled the doctor's
horse, led him softly from the yard, mounted, and rode swiftly away to
the northwest.



CHAPTER XXVII.

AN ANGRY HEIRESS.


Very soon after Jim's departure, the first visitors arrived at the
cottage, and most welcome ones they were.

Miss Barnard, who seemed capable of wise thought in the midst of her
grief and anxiety, had dispatched her own servant with a message to Mr.
Harris, and, early as was the hour, that good man had hastened to the
cottage, with his wife at his side. Their presence was comforting to
Miss Barnard and myself. Mr. Harris was the right man to assume
responsibilities, which I, for various reasons, had no desire to take
upon myself, and Mrs. Harris was the very companion and assistant needed
by the anxious girl. They were soon in possession of all the facts, as
we knew them, concerning the previous night, and its calamity.

I say, as we knew them; Miss Barnard had heard nothing concerning the
part Jim's gun was believed to have played in the sad affair, and I did
not think it necessary to enlighten either her or Mr. Harris on that
subject, at that time.

Leaving Bethel in such good hands, I went back to the hotel. But before
I could breakfast or rest, I was called upon to repeat again and again
all that I could or would tell concerning this new calamity that had
befallen Dr. Bethel, for the news of the night was there before me.

As I re-entered the office, after quitting the breakfast table, I found
a considerable crowd assembled, and was again called upon to rehearse my
story.

"It looks sorter queerish to me," commented a hook-nosed old Traftonite,
who had listened very intently to my words. "It's sorter _queerish_! Why
warn't folks told of this sooner? Why warn't the alarm given, so'at
citizens could agone and seen for theirselves how things was?"

I recognized the speaker as one who had been boisterously and
vindictively active on the day of the raid upon Bethel's cottage, and I
fixed my eye upon his face with a look which he seemed to comprehend, as
I retorted:

"Dr. Bethel has received one visit from a delegation of 'citizens who
were desirous to see for theirselves how things was,' and if he suffered
no harm from it, it was not owing to the tender mercies of the
'citizens' aforesaid. The attendance of a mob last night would not have
benefited Bethel. What he needed was a doctor and good nursing. These he
had and will have," and I turned upon my heel to leave the room.

"I should say," spoke up another voice, "that there was a detective
needed around there, too."

"Nothing shall be lacking that is needed," I retorted, over my
shoulder, and then ascended the stairs, wishing heartily, as I entered
my room, that Trafton and a large majority of its inhabitants were
safely buried under an Alpine avalanche.

Two hours later I awoke, and being in a more amiable mood, felt less
inclined to consign all Trafton to annihilation.

Going below I found the office comparatively quiet, and Dimber Joe and
the new operator socially conversing on the porch.

Gerald's presence was a relief to me. I felt sure that he would keep a
sharp eye upon the movements of Dimber, and, being anxious about the
situation of Bethel I returned to the cottage.

Dr. Hess stood in the doorway, in conversation with Mr. Harris.

"How is the patient?" asked I, approaching them.

"Much the same," replied the doctor. "But there will be a change soon."

"Has he spoken?"

"No; he will hardly do that yet, and should not be allowed to talk even
if he could. When the change comes there will be fever, and perhaps
delirium."

I passed them and entered the sick-room.

Mrs. Harris sat by the bed. Louise Barnard was not there.

"We have sent Louise home," Mrs. Harris whispered, seeing me glance
about inquiringly. "The doctor told her that if she insisted upon
remaining she would soon be sick herself, and unable to help us at all.
That frightened her a little. The poor child is really worn out, with
her father's sickness and death, her mother's poor health, and now
this," nodding toward the bed.

"Have you had any visitors?"

"Oh, yes. But we knew that the house must be kept quiet, and Mr. Harris
has received the most of them out in the yard. Dr. Hess says it will be
best to admit none but personal friends."

"Dr. Hess is very sensible."

Going back to join the two gentlemen, I saw that Dr. Hess was hastening
toward the gate with considerable alacrity, and that a pony phæton had
just halted there.

Swinging the gate wide open, the doctor assisted the occupant to alight.

It was Miss Manvers.

There was an anxious look upon her face, and in her eyes a shadow of
what I had once discovered there, when, myself unseen, I had witnessed
her interview with Arch Brookhouse on the day of the garden party. She
was pale, and exceedingly nervous.

She said very little. Indeed her strongest effort to preserve her
self-control seemed almost a failure, and was very evident to each of
us. She listened with set lips to the doctor's description and opinion
of the case, and then entered the inner room, and stood looking down at
the figure lying there, so stalwart, yet so helpless. For a moment her
features were convulsed, and her hands clenched each other fiercely. Her
form was shaken with emotion so strong as to almost overmaster her. It
was a splendid picture of fierce passion held in check by an iron will.

She came out presently, and approached me.

"You were one of the first to know this, I am told," she said, in a low,
constrained tone. "Please tell me about it."

I told her how I was called to the rescue by Jim, and gave a brief
outline of after events.

"And has all been done that can be?" she asked, after a moment of
silence.

"Not quite all, Miss Manvers. We have yet to find this would-be murderer
and bring him to justice." I spoke with my eyes fixed on her face.

She started, flushed, and a new excited eagerness leaped to her eyes.

"Will you do that? _Can_ you?"

"It shall be done," I replied, still watching her face.

She gave a little fluttering sigh, drew her veil across her arm, and
turned to go.

"If I can be of service, in any way," she began, hesitatingly.

"We shall not hesitate to ask for your services," I interrupted,
walking beside her to the door, and from thence to the gate, a little to
the annoyance of Dr. Hess, I fancied.

As I assisted her to her seat in the phæton, and put the reins in her
hands, I saw Arch Brookhouse galloping rapidly from the direction of
town. And, just as she had turned her ponies homeward, and I paused at
the gate to nod a final good-bye, he reined his horse up sharply beside
her vehicle.

"How is the doctor, Adele?" he asked, in a tone evidently meant for my
ears.

"Don't speak to me," she replied, vehemently, and utterly regardless of
my proximity. "Don't speak to me. I wish it were _you_ in his place."

She snatched up her whip, as though her first instinct was to draw the
lash across his face, but she struck the ponies instead, and they flew
up the hill at a reckless gait.

As Brookhouse turned in the saddle to look after the flying phæton, I
saw a dark frown cross his face.

But the next instant his brow cleared, and he turned again to bestow on
me a look of sharp scrutiny.

Springing from his horse, and throwing the bridle across his arm, he
approached the gate.

"Did you hear her?" he exclaimed. "That is what I get for being an
amiable fellow. My friend is not amiable to-day."

"Evidently not," I responded, carelessly. "Lovers' quarrels are fierce
affairs, but very fleeting."

He smiled and shrugged his shoulders.

"I have been so unfortunate as to offend her," he said. "By to-morrow
she will have forgotten the circumstances."

"Will she, indeed?" thought I. "We shall see, my friend."

But I made no audible comment, and he dismissed the subject to ask the
stereotyped questions, "How was Dr. Bethel? Could he be of any service?
How did it happen?"

While I was answering these questions with the best grace I could
muster, there came the patter of horse's hoofs, and Jim Long rode up to
the side gate, dismounted with a careless swing, nodded to me, and,
opening the gate, led the doctor's horse stableward.

The look of surprise on my companion's face was instantly followed by a
malicious smile, which, in its turn, was banished to give place to a
more proper expression.

"Long has been giving the doctor's horse some exercise," he said, half
inquiringly.

"I believe he has been executing some commission for Miss Barnard," I
fabricated, unblushingly. "Long has been very useful here."

"Indeed," carelessly; then glancing at his watch, "nearly noon, I see."

He turned, vaulted into his saddle, and touched his hat. "Good-morning.
In case of necessity, command me;" and with a second application of his
finger-tip to the brim of his hat, he shook the reins and cantered away.

As soon as he was out of sight I went straight to the stable where Jim
was bountifully feeding the tired horse.

"Well, Long?"

"It's all right, captain. I've had a hard ride, but it's _done_."

"And the men?"

"Will be at the cabin to-night."



CHAPTER XXVIII.

JIM GIVES BAIL.


Upon Jim's reappearance in the cottage, Mrs. Harris installed him as
nurse, and, herself, set about improvising a kitchen in the rear room.

Mr. Harris had been despatched to town for sundry articles, and, at
noon, we were served with a plentiful lunch, of which we partook in
rather primitive fashion.

Not long after, while Jim and I were conversing out under the trees, and
Mr. Harris was discoursing to two Trafton ladies who had called to
proffer service and sympathy, I saw Gerald Brown coming toward the
cottage, and guessing that his real business was with me, whatever
pretext he might present, I advanced to the gate and met him there.

He carried in his hand a telegraph envelope, which he proffered me
ostentatiously over the gate.

I opened it and read:

                                        N. Y., etc., etc.

    Will come to-night.

                                                  DENHAM.

Underneath this was written:

    _They are wild in town; are about to arrest Jim Long for the
    shooting of Bethel._

Two pair of eyes, at least, were looking out from the cottage door and
window.

I turned the message over, and resting it upon the gate post, wrote the
following:

    _Don't lose sight of Dimber; telegraph to the Agency to ask if Blake
    has arrived. Tell them not to let him get out of reach. We may want
    him at any moment._

While I was writing this Gerry shifted his position, so that his face
could not be seen by the observers in the house, and said:

"Dimber is in it. He claims to have seen Long with his gun near Bethel's
house last night. The gun has been found."

"Of course," I returned. "We will put a muzzle on friend Dimber very
shortly."

I refolded the message and returned it to Gerry, who touched his hat and
turned back toward the village.

Going to the door of the cottage, I informed Mr. Harris and the ladies
that the new operator had just brought the news we so much wished for,
viz.: the coming of Bethel's uncle from New York by that night's
express. Then, sauntering back to my old place under the trees, I
communicated to Jim the purport of the postscript written by Gerry.

He listened attentively, but with no sign of discomposure visible upon
his countenance.

"I've had time to think the matter over," he said, after a moment's
silence, "and I think I shall pull through, but," with a waggish twinkle
in his eye, "I am puzzled to know why that young man going up the hill
should take so much interest in me, or was it Harris?"

"It was not Harris," returning his look with interest. "That young man
going up the hill is Gerald Brown, of New York. He's the new night
operator, and he will not fail to do his _duty_, in the office and out
of it."

"Ah!" ejaculated Jim, turning his eyes once more toward the receding
form of Gerry.

I let my own gaze follow his and there, just coming into sight on the
brow of the hill, was a party of men.

It consisted of the constable, supported by several able-bodied
citizens, and followed, of course, by a promiscuous rabble.

Jim gave vent to a low chuckle.

"See the idiots," he said, "coming like mountain bandits. No doubt they
look for fierce resistance. Don't let them think you are too much
interested in the case."

"I won't," I said, briefly, for the men were hurrying down the hill. "It
would not be politic, but I'll have you out of their clutches, Long,
without a scratch, sure and soon."

I turned toward the house as I finished the sentence, and Jim arose and
went toward the gate; not the man of easy movements and courteous speech
who had been my companion for the past twenty-four hours, not Long, the
gentleman, but "Long Jim," the loafer, awkward, slouching, uncouth of
manner and speech.

As the crowd made a somewhat noisy approach, Jim leaned over the gate
and motioned them to silence.

"Gentlemen," he said, seriously, "ye can't be any too still about this
place, an' ye'd a' showed better gumption if ye hadn't paid yer respects
in a squad, as if ye was comin' to a hangin'. Somehow ye seem mighty
fond o' waitin' on Dr. Bethel in a gang."

Acting upon a hint from me, Mr. Harris now went out, and in milder
words, but with much the same meaning, exhorted the visitors to quiet.

And then, casting a quick glance behind him, and a somewhat apprehensive
one toward Jim, the constable read his warrant. The two men inside the
gate listened with astonished faces. Indeed, Jim's assumption of
amazement, viewed in the light of my knowledge concerning its
genuineness, was ludicrous beyond description.

Mr. Harris began an earnest expostulation, and turned to beckon me to
his assistance, but Jim checked him by a gesture.

"We can't have any disputing here," he said, sharply. "Don't argy,
parson; tain't wuth while."

Then he opened the gate and stepped suddenly out among them.

"I'll go with ye," he said, "for the sake of peace. But," glaring about
him fiercely, "if it wan't fer makin' a disturbance, again the doctor's
orders, I'd take ye one at a time and thrash a little sense into ye.
Come along, Mr. Constable; I'm goin' to 'pear' afore Jestice Summers,
an' I'm goin' to walk right to the head o' this mob o' your'n, an' don't
ye try to come none o' yer jailer dodges over me. Ye kin all walk
behind, an' welcome, but the first man as undertakes to lay a finger on
me, or step along-side--somethin'll happen to him."

And Jim thrust his hands deep down in his pockets, walked coolly through
the group, which divided to let him pass, and strode off up the hill.

"Goodness!" ejaculated the valorous officer of the law, "is--is there a
man here that's got a pistol?"

[Illustration: "Goodness!" ejaculated the valorous officer of the law,
"is--is there a man here that's got a pistol?"--page 332.]

No reply from his supporters.

I put my hand behind me and produced a small revolver.

"Take this," I said, proffering the weapon over the gate. "You had
better humor his whim, but if he attempts to escape, you know how to
stop him."

He seized the protecting weapon, nodded his thanks, and hastened after
his prisoner, followed by the entire body guard.

"My dear sir," said Mr. Harris, gravely, "I was sorry to see you do
that. You surely don't think Long guilty?"

I turned toward him, no longer trying to conceal my amusement.

"He is as innocent as you or I," I replied, "and the pistol is not
loaded. One may as well retain the good will of the magnates of the law,
Mr. Harris."

He smiled in his turn, and, wishing to avoid a discussion, in which I
must of necessity play a very hypocritical part, I turned back and
entered the cottage to explain the situation to the ladies.

During that long, still afternoon, visitors came and went. Louise
Barnard, a little refreshed and very anxious returned and resumed her
post at the bedside. She was shocked and indignant at the news of Jim
Long's arrest; and she breathed a sigh of relief and gratification upon
being told of the expected coming Dr. Denham. Late in the afternoon, Dr.
Hess made a second visit, and when he returned to town Mr. Harris
accompanied him, the two driving back in the doctor's gig.

It was very quiet. Mrs. Harris dozed in the easy-chair; Louise sat mute
and statue-like by the bedside of her lover, and I, oppressed by the
stillness, was leaning over the open window sill, wondering how it was
faring with Jim Long, when the gate gave the faintest creak, and I
lifted my eyes to see the object of my mental inquiry coming toward me.

Uttering an exclamation which roused good Mrs. Harris and caused the
watcher in the inner room to turn her head, I hastened to meet him.

"Long," I exclaimed, "what lucky fate has brought you back?"

He glanced from me to the doorway, where Mrs. Harris was now standing,
with an expectant look on her benevolent countenance, and replied,
laconically:

"Bail."

"Good! I was thinking of that."

"Jim," broke in Mrs. Harris, eagerly, "who did it? We'll all bless his
kindness."

He advanced to the door, planted his right foot upon the lower step,
rested his elbow on his knee, pushed his hat off his forehead, and
grinned benignly on us both.

"Then I'm the feller that'll walk off with the blessin'," he said, with
a chuckle. "I went my own bail to the tune of five thousand dollars!"

Mrs. Harris gave a gasp of surprise. I seated myself on the corner of
the step farthest from Jim, and, seeing that he was about to volunteer a
further explanation, remained silent.

At the same moment I observed what was unnoticed by the other two; Miss
Barnard had left her post and was standing behind Mrs. Harris.

"Ye see," continued Jim, giving me a sidelong glance, and then fixing
his eyes upon the hem of Mrs. Harris's apron, "Ye see, I had ter appear
afore Jestice Summers. Now, the Jestice," with another sidelong glance,
and an almost imperceptible gesture, "is a man an' a brother. I ain't
agoin' ter say anythin' agin' him. I s'pose he had to do his duty. There
was some in that office that wanted ter see me put where I couldn't be
so sassy, but I didn't mind them. The minit I got in my oar, I jest
talked right straight at the Jestice, an' I told him in short order that
ef I was sure of bein' treated on the square, I'd jest waive an
examination. An' then I kind o' sighed, an' appealed to their feelin's,
tellin' them that I hadn't no friends nor relations, but that may be, ef
they gave me half a show, an' didn't set my bail too high, may be some
one would go my security, an' give me a chance ter try ter clear myself.
Wal! ef you could a looked around that office, ye'd a thought my chance
o' gittin security was slim. The Jestice called the time on me, an'
allowed 'twould be fair ter give me bail. An' then 'Squire Brookhouse,
an' one or two more, piped in with objections, until the Jestice put the
bail up ter five thousand. Of course that wilted me right down.
Everybody grinned or giggled, an' nobody didn't offer any more
objections, an' the bizness was finished up. Then, when they had got ter
a place where there was no backin' out, I jest unbuttoned my coat an'
vest, whipped off a belt I'd got fixed handy for the 'casion, an'
counted five thousand dollars right down under their noses!"

Here he paused to lift his eyes to the face of Mrs. Harris, and to see,
for the first time, his third auditor, who now came forward to grasp his
hand, and utter rejoicings at his present liberty, and indignant
disapproval of the parties who had brought against him a charge which
she unhesitatingly pronounced absurd and without reasonable foundation.

Next Jim's hand came into the cordial grasp of good Mrs. Harris, who was
more voluble than Louise Barnard, and none the less sincere.

When, after a time, Jim and I found ourselves _téte-â-téte_ for a
moment, I said:

"Long, I look on it as a fortunate thing that you were taken before
Justice Summers."

"Well," said Jim, dryly, "all things considered, so do I."



CHAPTER XXIX.

VIGILANTS.


The long day is ended at last; the sun has set in a bank of dim clouds.
There is no moon as yet, and that orb, which is due above the horizon in
exactly eight minutes, by an authentic almanac, will scarcely appear at
her best to-night, for the leaden clouds that swallowed up the sun have
spread themselves across all the sky, leaving scarce a rent through
which the moon may peep at the world.

The darkness is sufficient to cover my journey, and the hour is yet
early--too early for birds of the night to begin to prowl, one might
think; yet, as I approach Jim Long's cabin, I encounter a sentinel,
dimly outlined but upright before me, barring the way.

"Hold on, my--"

"Jim."

"Oh! it's you, Cap'n; all right. Come along; we're waitin'."

I follow him into his own cabin, and stand beside the door, which some
one has closed as we enter, while Jim strikes a light. Then I see that
the cabin is occupied by half a dozen men.

[Illustration: "I follow him into his own cabin, and stand beside the
door, which some one has closed as we enter, while Jim strikes a
light."--page 339.]

"Pardner," says Jim, setting down the candle, and indicating the
various individuals, by a gesture, as he names them, "this 'er's Mr.
Warren, the captain o' the Trafton vigilants."

I turn upon Jim a look of surprise, but he goes placidly on.

"This is young Mr. Warren."

I return the nod of a bright-looking young farmer.

"This is Mr. Booth, Mr. Benner, and Mr. Jaeger."

The three men who stand together near the window bow gravely.

"And this," finishes Jim, "is Mr. Harding."

As Mr. Harding moves forward out of the shadow, I recognize him. It is
the man whose recital of the misfortunes of Trafton, overheard by me on
the day of my departure from Groveland, had induced me to come to the
thief-ridden village.

"I have met Mr. Harding before," I say, as I proffer my hand to him.

"I don't remember," with a look of abashed surprise.

"Perhaps not, Mr. Harding; nevertheless, if it had not been for you I
should, probably, never have visited Trafton."

The look of surprise broadens into amazement. But it is not the time for
explanations. I turn back to Mr. Warren.

"Am I to understand that you have a vigilance committee already
organized here?"

"We have an organized party, sir." Here Jim interposes.

"Ye see, I happen ter belong ter the vigilants. An' when ye asked me ter
name a reliable man, why, I jest thought I'd bring you an' Mr. Warren
together an' 'twould simplify matters. 'Twant my business to explain
jest then."

"Charlie," says Mr. Warren, addressing the young man near the door, "go
outside and see that no one comes within seeing or hearing distance. We
want Long here."

The young vigilant mounts guard and I turn again to Mr. Warren.

"Mr. Long has explained the nature of my business?"

"Yes, you may be sure it was a surprise to me."

"How many men have you?"

"Fifteen in all."

"And you have all failed to find a clue to the identity of the
horse-thieves?"

"Yes, sir, we have failed. We have organized in secret and worked in
secret. We hoped and expected to sift this matter to the bottom, and we
have failed utterly. But Jim tells me that you have succeeded where we
have failed."

"Not quite that. Listen, gentlemen. I know where to put my hands, now,
to-night, upon the six horses that were stolen one week ago. If it were
merely a question of the recovery of these, I should not need your aid.
It might be worth something to me if I recovered the horses, but it will
be worth much more to us, and to all Trafton, if we capture the thieves,
and they cannot be taken to-night, perhaps not for many nights. We are
surrounded with spies; the man we might least suspect, may be the very
one to betray us. Our only safe course is to work in harmony, and, for
the present, at least, trust none outside of this room. I have trusted
this organization to Jim Long, believing in his discretion. He assures
me that I can rely upon every man of you."

Mr. Warren bares his head, and comes forward.

"We have all been losers at the hands of these rascally thieves," he
says, earnestly. "And we all want to see the town free from them. We are
not poor men; the vigilants are all farmers who have something at stake.
Show us how to clean out these horse-thieves, and if you want reliable
men, they will be on hand. If you want money, that can be had in
plenty."

"All we want, is here; half a dozen men with ordinary courage and
shrewdness, and a little patience. The moon is now at its full; before a
new moon rises, we will have broken up the gang of Trafton outlaws!"

"And why," asks Mr. Warren, eagerly, "must our time be regulated by the
moon?"

"Because," I say, significantly, "horse-thieves are seldom abroad on
moonlight nights."

An hour passes; an hour during which Mr. Warren, Mr. Harding, and
myself, talk much, and the others listen attentively, making, now and
then, a brief comment, or uttering an approving ejaculation. All except
Jim. He has forced young Warren to join the conference within, and has
stood on picket-duty outside, to all appearances, the least interested
of any gathered there for counsel.

It is ten o'clock when we separate; the vigilants going their way
silently, and one at a time, and Jim and myself returning to the cottage
together.

"Ye couldn't have found six better men," says Jim, who has chosen to
sustain his _rôle_ of illiterate rustic throughout the evening. "Ye can
trust 'em."

"I have given them no unnecessary information, Long. Not half so much as
you have scented out for yourself. They know enough to enable them to do
what will be required of them and nothing more."

"Then," with a dry laugh, "they know more than I do."

"If they know that you are actually capable of drawing the reins over
the 'nine parts of speech,'" I retort, "they did not learn it from me."

"Then," with another chuckling laugh, "I fancy they don't know it."

       *       *       *       *       *

Dr. Denham came at midnight, and Miss Barnard greeted him with a smile
that ended in a sob.

Evidently "our old woman" had been enlightened concerning her, for he
took her in his arms and kissed her with grave tenderness, before going
to the bedside of his patient.

He took absolute command of the cottage, and no one, not even Louise,
ventured to oppose him or raise the voice of argument. He took all
responsibility out of my hands, and dismissed me with his usual formula.

"Go about your business, you young rascal. I might have known you'd be
at some new deviltry shortly. Go about your business, and by the time I
get Bethel on his feet, you'll have me another patient, I'll be bound."

But Jim found favor in the eyes of "our old woman," who straightway
elected him general assistant, and he soon discovered that to be
assistant to Dr. Denham was no sinecure. Indeed, a more abject bond
slave than Jim, during that first week of Bethel's illness, could not
well be imagined.

"Our old woman's" scepter extended, too, over poor Louise. He was as
tender as possible, allowing her to assist him when she could, and
permitting her to watch by the bedside four or five hours each day. But
beyond that she could not trespass. There must be no exhausting effort,
no more night vigils.

Louise rebelled at first; tried coaxing, then pouting, then submitted to
the power that would wield the scepter.

The good doctor brought from the city a package sent me by my Chief,
which he put into my hands at the first opportunity.

It contained papers, old and yellow; some copied memoranda, and two
photographs. When I had examined all these, I breathed a sigh of
relieved surprise.

Another link was added to my chain of evidence, another thread to the
web I was weaving.

Without that packet I had cherished a suspicion. With it, I grasped a
certainty.



CHAPTER XXX.

A CHAPTER OF TELEGRAMS.


The following week was to me one of busy idleness. Now at the cottage,
where Bethel, pain-racked and delirious, buffeted between life and
death. Now closeted for a half-hour with the new night operator. Keeping
an eye upon Dimber Joe, who continued his lounging and novel reading,
and who was, to all appearances, the idlest and most care-free man in
Trafton.

I saw less of Jim Long than pleased me, for, when he was not bound to
the chariot wheel of "our old woman," he contrived somehow to elude me,
or to avoid all _téte-â-tétes_. I scarcely saw him except in the
presence of a third party.

Mr. Warren, or one or two other members of the party who had met me at
Jim Long's cabin, were constantly to be seen about Trafton. During the
day they were carelessly conspicuous; during the night their
carelessness gave place to caution; but they were none the less present,
as would have been proven by an emergency.

The new telegraph operator was a host in himself. He was social,
talkative, and something of a lounger. He found it easy to touch the
pulse of Trafton gossip, and knew what they thought at Porter's
concerning Bethel's calamity, Long's arrest and subsequent release under
bail, etc., without seeming to have made an effort in search of
information.

The two questions now agitating the minds of the Trafton gossips were:
"Who shot Dr. Bethel, if Jim Long did not?" and "Where did Jim Long, who
had always been considered but one remove from a pauper, get the money
to pay so heavy a bail?"

The theories in regard to these two questions were as various as the
persons who advocated them, and were as astounding and absurd as the
most diligent sensation-hunter could have desired.

Jim's gun had been found in a field less than half a mile from Bethel's
cottage, by some workmen who had been sent by 'Squire Brookhouse to
repair one of his farm fences, and I learned, with peculiar interest,
that _Tom Briggs_ was one of these workmen.

Upon hearing that the gun had been found, Dimber Joe had made his
statement. He had seen Jim Long, between the hours of nine and ten
P. M., going in the direction of the cottage, with a gun upon his
shoulder.

Of course, when making this assertion, he had no idea of the use to
which it would be put; and equally, of course, he much regretted that he
had mentioned the fact when he found himself likely to be used as a
witness against Long, whom he declared to be an inoffensive fellow, so
far as he had known him, and toward whom he could have no ill-will.

In due time, sooner, in fact, than I had dared hope, there came a
message from Carnes.

It came through the hands of young Harris. Carnes, having sent it early
in the day, and knowing into whose hands it would probably fall, had
used our cipher alphabet:

    4. F d, t, t, o w n--u h e--n a x----, --, --. C----.

This is the cipher which, using the figure at the head as the key, will
easily be interpreted:

    Found. What next?                    CARNES.

Found! That meant much. It meant that the end of the Groveland mystery
was near at hand!

But there was much to learn before we could decide and reply to the
query, "What next?"

While Harris was absent for a few moments, during the afternoon, the
night operator sent the following to Carnes:

    Where found? In what condition? What do you advise?

Before midnight, this answer came:

     In a fourth-rate theater. One well, the other sick. Their
     friends had better come for them at once. Can you get your
     hands on Johnny La Porte?

To this I promptly replied:

     Telegraph particulars to the Agency. We can get La Porte, but
     must not alarm the others too soon. State what you want with
     him. Wyman will come to you, if needed.

This message dispatched, I dictated another to my Chief.

     Let Wyman act with Carnes. Can not quit this case at present.
     Carnes will wire you particulars.

This being sent, I went back to my hotel and waited.

The next day the night operator offered to relieve Harris, an offer
which was gladly accepted.

A little before noon the following message came:

     Instructions received. Wyman, Ewing, Rutger, and La Porte start
     for New Orleans to-morrow. Do you need any help?

I heaved a sigh of relief and gratification, and sped back the answer,
"_No._"



CHAPTER XXXI.

CARNES TELLS HIS STORY.


The time came when Carnes told me the story of his New Orleans search.
As he related it to me then, let him relate it now:--

Arrived in New Orleans without trouble or delay, at three o'clock in the
afternoon. Registered at the "Hotel Honore," a small house near the
levees; giving my name as George Adams, sugar dealer, from St. Louis.

Then began a hunt among the theaters, and, before seven o'clock I had
found the place I wanted,--"The Little Adelphi," owned and managed by
"Storms & Brookhouse." It is a small theater, but new and neatly fitted
up, has a bar attached, and beer tables on the floor of the auditorium.
I made no effort to see Brookhouse, but went back to the "Honore," after
learning that money would open the door of the green room to any patron
of the theater.

After supper I refreshed my memory by a look at the pictures of the
missing young ladies, including that of Miss Amy Holmes, and then I set
out for the little Adelphi.

There was never an easier bit of work than this New Orleans business.
The curtain went up on a "Minstrel first part," and there, sitting next
to one of the "end men," was Mamie Rutger!

Her curly hair was stuck full of roses. She wore a very short pink satin
dress, and her little feet were conspicuous in white kid slippers. If
Miss Mamie was forcibly abducted, she has wasted no time in grieving
over it. If she has been in any manner deceived or deluded, she bears it
wonderfully well. She sang her ballad with evident enjoyment, and her
voice rang out in the choruses, clear and sweet. Her lips were wreathed
in smiles, her cheeks glowed, and her eyes sparkled. Occasionally she
turned her head to whisper to the blacked-up scamp who sat at her right
hand. Altogether she deported herself with the confidence of an old
_habitué_ of the stage. Evidently she had made herself popular with the
Little Adelphi audiences, and certainly she enjoyed her popularity.

After the first part, I watched the stage impatiently, it being too
early to venture into the green-room.

Mamie Rutger did not re-appear, but, after an hour, occupied
principally by "burnt cork artists," Miss Lotta Le Clair, "the song and
dance Queen," came tripping from the wings; and Miss Lotta Le Clair, in
a blue velvet coat and yellow satin nether garments, was none other than
Amy Holmes! She danced very well, and sang very ill; and I fancied that
she had tasted too often of the cheap wine dealt out behind the bar.
Very soon after her exit I made my way to the green-room, piloted by the
head waiter. I had, of course, gotten myself up for the occasion, and I
looked like a cross between a last year's fashionplate and a Bowery
blackleg.

It is always easy to make a variety actress talk, and those at the
Little Adelphi proved no exception. Two or three bottles of wine opened
the way to some knowledge.

By chatting promiscuously with several of the Adelphi belles, I learned
that Amy Holmes and Mamie Rutger, who, by the way, was "Rose
Deschappelles" on the bills, lived together. That Amy, who was not known
at the theater by that name, was "a hard one," and "old in the
business;" while "Rose" was a soft little prig who "wore her lover's
picture in a locket," and was "as true to him as steel." The girls all
united in voting Amy disagreeable, in spite of her superior wisdom; and
Mamie, "a real nice, jolly little thing," spite of her verdancy.

The fair Amy was then approached, and my real work began. I ordered, in
her honor, an extra brand of wine. I flattered her, I talked freely of
my wealth, and displayed my money recklessly. I became half intoxicated
in her society, and, through it all, bemoaned the fact that I could not
offer, for her quaffing, the sparkling champagne that was the only
fitting drink for such a goddess.

The Adelphi champagne _was_ detestable stuff, and Miss Amy was
_connoisseur_ enough to know it. She frankly confessed her fondness for
good champagne, and could tell me just where it was to be found.

The rest came as a matter of course. I proposed to give her a champagne
banquet; she accepted, and the programme was speedily arranged.

At eleven o'clock the next day, she would meet me at a convenient little
restaurant near the theater. I must come with a carriage. We would have
a drive, and, just outside the city, would come upon Louis Meniu's
Summer _café_. There we would find fine luscious fruits, rare wines,
everything choice and dainty.

Miss Amy, who seemed to possess all the luxurious tastes of a native
creole, arranged the programme, and we parted at the green-room door,
mutually satisfied, she anticipating a gala day, and I seeing before me
the disagreeable necessity of spoiling her frolic and depriving the
Little Adelphi, for a time at least, of one of its fairest attractions.

The course which I had resolved to pursue was not the one most to my
taste; but it was the simplest, shortest, and would accord best with the
instructions given me, viz., that no arrests must be made, nor anything
done to arouse the suspicions of Fred Brookhouse, and cause him to give
the alarm to his confederates in the North.

I had purposely held aloof from Mamie Rutger, feeling convinced that it
were best not to approach _her_ until a definite course of action had
been decided upon. Nor was I entirely certain that my scheme would
succeed. If Amy Holmes should prove a shade wiser, shrewder, and more
courageous, and a trifle less selfish and avaricious than I had judged
her to be, my plans might fail and, in that case, the girl might work me
much mischief.

I weighed the possibilities thoughtfully, and resolved to risk the
chances.

Accordingly, on the morning after my visit to the Little Adelphi, I sent
my first telegram, and made arrangements for putting my scheme into
execution.

The beginning of the programme was carried out, as planned by the young
lady.

We drove to the _café_, kept by Louis Meniu, and tested his champagne,
after which I began to execute my plans.

"Louis Meniu might be all very well," I said, "but there was no man in
New Orleans, so I had often been told by Northern travelers, who could
serve such a dinner as did the _chef_ at the P---- Hotel. Should we
drive to this house and there eat the best dinner to be served in the
city?"

The prospect of dining at a swell hotel pleased the young lady. She gave
instant consent to the plan, and we turned back to the city and the
P---- Hotel.

Here we were soon installed in a handsome private parlor, and, after I
had paused a few moments in the office, to register, "Geo. Adams and
sister, St. Louis, Mo.," I closed the door upon servants and intruders,
and the engagement commenced.

Having first locked the door and put the key in my pocket, I approached
Miss Amy, who stood before a mirror, carelessly arranging a yellow rose
in her black frisettes. Dropping my swaggering, half-maudlin,
wholly-admiring tone and manner, I said, quietly:

"Now, Miss Amy Holmes, if you will sit down opposite me, we will talk
things over."

She started violently, and turned toward me with a stare of surprise, in
which, however, I could observe no fear. The name had caused her
astonishment. I had been careful to address her by her stage name, or
rather the one she chose to use at the theater. I hardly suppose her
real name to be Holmes,--probably it is Smith or Jones instead.

She let the hand holding the rose drop at her side, but did not loosen
her grasp of the flower.

"Look here," she exclaimed, sharply. "Where did you pick up that name?
and what kind of a game are you giving me, anyhow?"

After the surprise occasioned by the utterance of her discarded name, my
altered tone and manner had next impressed her.

"I got that name where I got several others, Miss Amy, and the game I am
playing is one that is bound to win."

She sat down upon the nearest chair, and stared mutely.

"How would you like to go back to Amora, Miss Holmes? Or to Groveland
and the widow Ballou's?"

She sprang up with her eyes flashing, and made a sudden dash for the
door. Of course it resisted her effort to open it.

"Open that door," she said, turning upon me a look of angry defiance.
"You are either a fool or a meddler. Open the door!"

[Illustration: "Open that door," she said, turning upon me a look of
angry defiance.--page 358.]

I laid one hand somewhat heavily upon her shoulder, and led her back to
the seat she had just vacated.

"Possibly I may be both fool and meddler," I replied, in a tone so stern
that it seemed to arrest her attention, and impress her with the fact
that I was neither trifling nor to be trifled with. "But I am something
else, and I know more of you, my young lady, and of your past career,
than you would care to have me know. Perhaps you may never have heard of
Michael Carnes, the detective, but there are others who have made his
acquaintance."

Now, all this was random firing, but I acted on the knowledge that
nine-tenths of the women who are professional adventuresses have, in
their past, something either criminal or disgraceful to conceal, and on
the possibility that Miss Amy Holmes might not belong to the exceptional
few.

The shot told. I saw it in the sudden blanching of her cheek, in the
startled look that met mine for just an instant. If there were nothing
else to conceal, I think she would have defied me and flouted at my
efforts to extract information on the subject of the Groveland mystery.

But I had touched at a more vulnerable point. If I could now convince
her that I knew her past career, the rest would be easy.

It was a delicate undertaking. I might say too much, or too little, but
I must press the advantage I had gained. Her attention was secured. Her
curiosity was aroused. There was a shade of anxiety on her face.

Drawing a chair opposite her, and seating myself therein, I fixed my
eyes upon her face, and addressed her in a tone half stern, half
confidential:

"You are a plucky girl," I began, "and I admire you for that; and when I
tell you that I have followed you, or tracked you, from the North,
through Amora, through Groveland, down to the Little Adelphi, you will
perhaps conjecture that I do not intend to be balked or evaded, even by
so smart a little lady as you have proved yourself. I bear you no
personal ill-will, and I much dislike to persecute a woman even when she
has been guilty of"----

I paused; she made a restless movement, and a look of pain flitted
across her face.

"Perhaps we may be able to avoid details," I said, slowly. "I will let
you decide that."

"How?" with a gasp of relief or surprise, I could hardly guess which.

"Listen. Some time ago two girls disappeared from a little northern
community, and I was one of the detectives employed to find them. I need
not go into details, since you know so much about the case. In the
course of the investigation, we inquired pretty closely into the
character of the company kept by those two young ladies, and learned
that a Miss Amy Holmes had been a schoolmate of the missing girls.
Afterward, this same Amy Holmes and a Miss Grace Ballou made an attempt
to escape from the Ballou farm house. The scheme was in part frustrated,
but Amy Holmes escaped. Mrs. Ballou furnished us with a photo of Miss
Amy Holmes, and when I saw it _I knew it_!"

"Ah!"

This time it was an interjection of unmistakable terror. It gave me my
cue.

"I knew it for the picture of a young woman who had--committed--a crime;
a young woman who would be well received at police headquarters, and I
said to myself I will _now_ find this young person who calls herself Amy
Holmes."

A look of sullen resolution was settling upon her face. She sat before
me with her eyes fixed upon the carpet and her lips tightly closed.

"I have found her," I continued, mercilessly. "And now--shall I take you
back with me, a prisoner, and hand you over to the officers of the law,
or will you answer truthfully such questions as I shall put to you, and
go away from this house a free woman?"

She was so absorbed by her own terror, or so overshadowed by some ghost
of the past, that she seemed to take no note of my interest in the
Groveland business, except as it had been an incidental aid in hunting
her down.

"Do you think I would trust you?" she said, with a last effort at
defiance. "You want to make me testify against myself."

"You mistake, or you do not understand. I am at present working in the
interest of the Groveland case. My discovery of you was an accident, and
my knowledge concerning you I am using as a means toward the elucidation
of the mystery surrounding the movements of Mamie Rutger and Nellie
Ewing. Mamie Rutger I saw last night at the Little Adelphi. Nellie Ewing
is no doubt within reach. I might find them both without your
assistance. It would only require a little more time and a little more
trouble; but time just now is precious. I have other business which
demands my attention at the North. Therefore, I say, tell me all that
you know concerning these two girls--_all_, mind. If you omit one
necessary detail, if you fabricate in one particular, I shall know it.
Answer all my questions truthfully. I shall only ask such as concern
your knowledge or connection with this Groveland affair. If you do this,
you have nothing to fear from me. If you refuse--you are my _prisoner_.
You comprehend me?"

She eyed me skeptically.

"How do I know that you will let me go, after all?" she said.

"You have my promise, and I am a man of my word. You are a woman, and I
don't want to arrest you. If you were a man, I should not offer you a
chance for escape. Do as I wish and you are free, and if you need
assistance you shall have it. You must choose at once; time presses."

She hesitated a moment, and then said:

"I may as well tell you about the girls, as you seem to know so much,
and--I can't be arrested for that."

"Very well! Tell your story, then, truly and without omissions."



CHAPTER XXXII.

AMY HOLMES CONFESSES.


"You say that you have seen Mamie Rutger at the theater," began the
unwilling narrator, rather ungraciously, "and so I should think you
wouldn't need to be told why she ran away from home. She wanted to go on
the stage, and so did Nellie Ewing. Every country girl in christendom
wants to be an actress, and if she has a pretty face and a decent voice
she feels sure that she can succeed. The girls had both been told that
they were pretty, and they could both sing, so they ran away to come out
at the Little Adelphi.

"Mamie took to the business like a duck to water. Nellie got sick and
blue and whimsical, and has not appeared at the theater for several
weeks. They live at 349 B---- place."

I made a careful note of the address, and then said:

"Well, proceed."

"Proceed! what more do you want to know? I have told you why they ran
away and where to find them."

This was too much. My wrath must have manifested itself in face and
voice, for she winced under my gaze and made no further attempt to
baffle or evade me.

"I want to know who devised the villainous plot to allure two innocent
country girls away from home and friends! Who set you on as decoy and
temptress, and what reward did you receive? There are men or scoundrels
connected with this affair; who are they; and what means have they used
to bring about such a misfortune to the girls and their friends? Tell
the _whole_ truth, and remember what I have said. If you evade, omit,
equivocate, _I shall know it_!"

"Will you give me time?" she faltered.

"Not ten minutes. Do you want time to telegraph to Arch Brookhouse? It
will be useless; he is in the hands of the detectives, and no message
can reach him."

"What has Arch done?" she cried, excitedly. "He is not the one to be
blamed."

"He has done enough to put him out of the way of mischief. You have seen
the last of Arch Brookhouse."

"But Fred is the man who set this thing going!"

"Very likely. And Arch and Louis Brookhouse were the brothers to help
him. What about Johnny La Porte and Ed. Dwight? You see I know too much.
There are two officers down-stairs. If you have not finished your story,
and told it to my satisfaction, before half-past four, I will call them
up and hand you over to them. It is _now_ ten minutes to four."

She favored me with a glance full of impotent hatred, sat quite silent
for a long moment, during which I sat before her with a careless glance
fixed on my watch.

Then she began:

"I worked at the Little Adelphi over a year ago. There was a hot rivalry
between us, the Gayety, and the 'Frolique.' Fred Brookhouse was managing
alone then; _Storms_--only came into partnership in the Spring.

"During the winter the Gayety brought out some new attractions,--I mean
new to the profession; no old names that had been billed and billed, but
young girls with fresh faces and pretty voices. They were new in the
business, and the 'old stagers,' especially the faded and cracked-voiced
ones, said that they would fail, they would hurt the business. But the
managers knew better. They knew that pretty, youthful faces were the
things most thought of in the varieties. And the 'freshness' of the new
performers was only another attraction to green-room visitors. Nobody
knew where these new girls came from, and nobody could find out; but
they _drew_, and the Little Adelphi lost customers, who went over to the
'Gayety.'

"Fred Brookhouse was angry, and he began to study how he should outdo
the 'Gayety,' and 'put out' the new attractions.

"At the carnival season, Arch and Louis Brookhouse came down; and we
got to be very good friends. Do you mean to use anything that I say to
make me trouble?" she broke off, abruptly.

"Not if you tell the entire truth and spare nobody."

"Then I will tell it just as it happened. Arch and Fred and I were
together one day after rehearsal. I was a favorite at the theater, and
Fred consulted me sometimes. Fred wanted some fresh attractions, and
wondered how they got the new girls at the 'Gayety.' And I told him that
I thought they might have been 'recruited.' He did not seem to
understand, and I explained that there were managers who paid a
commission to persons who would get them young, pretty, bright girls,
who could sing a little, for the first part, and for green-room talent.

"I told him that I knew of an old variety actress who went into the
country for a few weeks in the Summer, and picked up girls for the
variety business. They were sometimes poor girls who 'worked out,' and
were glad of a chance to earn an easier living, and sometimes daughters
of well-to-do people; girls who were romantic or ambitious,
stage-struck, and easily flattered.

"Fred asked me how I knew all this, and I told him that I was roped into
the business in just that way."

"Was that true?"

"Yes; it was true," a dark shade crossing her face. "But never mind me.
Fred asked me if I knew where to go to find three or four pretty girls.
He said he did not want '_biddies_;' they must be young and pretty; must
be fair singers, and have nice manners. He could get gawks in plenty. He
wanted lively young girls who would be interesting and attractive. Some
new idea seemed to strike Arch Brookhouse. He took Fred aside, and
by-and-by they called Louis, and the three talked a long time.

"The next day, Arch and Louis came to me. They knew where to find just
the girls that would suit Fred, but it would be some trouble to get
them. Then they told me all about the Groveland girls; Nellie and her
sister, Mamie, Grace Ballou and one or two others. Arch knew Nellie and
Grace. Louis seemed particularly interested in Mamie.

"Fred is a reckless fellow, and he would spend any amount to outdo the
'Gayety,' and he seemed infatuated with the new scheme for getting
talent. Besides, he knew that he could pay them what he liked; they
would not be clamoring for high salaries. He agreed to pay my expenses
North if I would get the girls for him.

"Arch and Louis went home, and we corresponded about the business.
Finally, Arch wrote that three of the girls would attend school at
Amora, the Spring term, and it was settled that I should attend also.

"I rather liked the prospect. Fred fitted me out in good style, and I
went.

"Of course I soon found how to manage the girls. Mamie Rutger was ripe
for anything new, and she did not like her step-mother. She was easy to
handle.

"Grace was vain and easily influenced. She thought she could run away
and create a sensation at home, and come back after a while to astonish
the natives with her success as an actress.

"Nellie Ewing was more difficult to manage, but I found out that she was
desperately in love with Johnny La Porte. Johnny had begun by being in
love with Nellie, but her silly devotion had tired him, and besides, he
is fickle by nature.

"I told Arch that if we got Nellie, it would have to be through La
Porte. Arch knew how to manage La Porte, who was vain, and prided
himself upon being a 'masher.' He thought to be mixed up in a
sensational love affair, would add to his fame as a dangerous fellow. He
sang a good tenor, and often sang duets with Nellie.

"Louis Brookhouse had a chum named Ed. Dwight; Ed. had been, or claimed
to have been, a song and dance man. _I_ don't think he was ever anything
more than an amateur, but he was perpetually dancing jigs, and singing
comic songs, and went crazy over a minstrel show.

"Louis used to take Grace out for an occasional drive, and one day he
introduced Ed. to Mamie.

"After a time, Arch and Louis thought they could better their original
plan. Arch is a shrewd fellow, with a strong will, and he could just
wind Johnny La Porte around his finger. Johnny took him for a model, for
Arch was a stylish fellow, who knew all the ropes, and had seen a deal
of the world; and Johnny, while he had been a sort of prince among the
Grovelanders, had never had a taste of town life.

"Arch managed Johnny, and _he_ managed Nellie Ewing."

She paused, and something in her face made me say, sternly:

"How did Johnny La Porte manage Nellie Ewing?" and then I glanced
ominously at my watch, which I still held in my hand.

She moved uneasily, and averted her eyes.

"Nellie was conscientious," she resumed, reluctantly. "She had all sorts
of scruples. But Johnny told her that he was to go South and study law
with his mother's cousin, who lived in New Orleans. He said that he
dared not marry until he had finished his studies, but if she would
marry him privately, and keep the marriage a secret, she could go South
and they would not be separated.

"She agreed to this, and the ceremony was performed. After it was over,
he told her that he had just discovered that he would be subject to
arrest under some new marriage law, and that they would be separated if
it became known.

"And then he persuaded her to come here before him and work at the
Little Adelphi; telling her that if her father found her there they
would not suspect him, and as soon as his studies were over he would
claim her openly."

Again she hesitated.

"And was this precious programme carried out?" I demanded.

"Yes. It was a long time before Nellie consented, but a little cool
treatment from Johnny brought her to terms. She got away very nicely. I
presume you know something about that."

"Never mind what I know. How did she get rid of her horse after leaving
Mrs. Ballou's house?"

"Not far from Mrs. Ballou's there is a small piece of timber. Johnny was
there with his team and he had a fellow with him who took charge of the
pony. Johnny drove Nellie ten miles towards Amora, driving at full
speed. There Ed. Dwight, with his machine wagon, waited, and Nellie was
taken by Ed. into Amora. On the way she put on some black clothes and a
big black veil. At Amora, Louis Brookhouse was waiting. They got there
just in time to catch the midnight express, and were almost at their
journey's end before Nellie was missed."

"Stop. You have said that Nellie Ewing has not been at the theater of
late; has been blue, and ill. What has caused all this?"

She colored hotly, and a frightened look crept into her eyes.

"You are not to hold me to blame?"

"Not if you answer me truly."

"One night I had come home from the theater with Nellie, and she began
crying because Johnny did not come as he had promised, and did not write
often enough. I was tired and cross, and I suppose I had taken too much
wine. I forgot myself, and told her that Johnny had hired a man to
personate a parson, and that she was not married at all. She broke down
entirely after that."

I sprang to my feet, for the moment forgetting that the creature before
me was a woman. I wanted to take her by the throat and fling her from
the window.

"Go on!" I almost shouted. "Go on; my patience is nearly exhausted. Is
Nellie Ewing seriously ill?"

"She is fretting and pining; she thinks she is dying, and she loves
Johnny La Porte as much as ever."

"And Mamie Rutger?"

"She was glad to run away. One evening when every body about the farm
was busy, she waited at the front gate for Ed. Dwight. People were used
to the sight of his covered wagon, and it was the last thing to suspect.
But Mamie Rutger went from her father's gate in that wagon, and she and
Dwight drove boldly to Sharon, and both took the midnight train as the
others did at Amora.

"Ed. only went a short distance with Mamie; he came back the next
morning. Mamie was plucky enough to come on alone."

"And then you and Grace Ballou tried to elope?"

"Yes."

"Well, I won't trouble you to tell you that story. I know all about it.
Now, listen to me. I have registered you here as my sister, and you are
going to stay here for one week a prisoner. You are to speak to no one,
write to no one. You will be constantly watched, and if you attempt to
disobey me you know the consequences. As soon as Mr. Rutger and 'Squire
Ewing arrive I will set you at liberty, and no one shall harm you; but
until then you must remain in your own room, and see no one except in my
presence."

"But you promised--"

"I shall keep my promise, but choose my own time."

"But the theater--"

"You can write them a note stating that you are going to leave the city
for a little recreation. You may send a similar note to Mamie and
Nellie."

"You are not treating me fairly."

"I am treating you better than you deserve. Did you deal fairly at
Amora and Groveland? If I were not morally sure that such crimes as
yours must be punished sooner or later, I should not dare set you free."



CHAPTER XXXIII.

JOHNNY LA PORTE IS BROUGHT TO BOOK.


That is how Miss Amy Holmes was brought to judgment. I had managed her
by stratagem, and extracted the truth from her under false pretenses.
The weapon that I brandished above her head was a reed of straws, but it
sufficed. My pretended knowledge of her past history had served my
purpose.

What her secret really was, and is, I neither know nor care. She is a
woman, and when a woman has stepped down from her pedestal the world is
all against her. The law may safely trust such sinners and their
punishment to Dame Nature, who never errs, and never forgives, and to
Time, who is the sternest of all avengers.

After hearing her story, I sent my second telegram to you, and then my
third; and after assuring myself that the girl had told the truth
concerning Nellie Ewing, I telegraphed to the office, giving the hints
which Wyman acted on.

I should not have liked Wyman's task of going to those two honest
farmers and telling them the truth concerning their daughters; but I
should not have been averse to the other work.

I can imagine Johnny La Porte, under the impression that he was
preparing for a day's lark, oiling his curly locks, scenting his pocket
handkerchief, and driving Wyman, in whom he thought he had found a boon
companion, to Sharon, actually flying into the arms of the avengers, at
the heels of his own roadsters. I should have driven over that ten miles
of country road, had I been in Wyman's place, bursting with glee,
growing fat on the stupidity of the sleek idiot at my side.

But Wyman is a modest fellow, and given to seeing only the severe side
of things, and he says there is no glory in trapping a fool. Possibly he
is right.

I should like to have seen Johnny La Porte when he was brought,
unexpectedly, before 'Squire Ewing and Farmer Rutger, to be charged with
his villainy, and offered one chance for his life. He had heard the
Grovelanders talk, and he knew that the despoilers of those two
Groveland homes had been dedicated to Judge Lynch.

Small wonder that he was terror-stricken before these two fathers, and
that under the lash of Wyman's eloquence he already felt the cord
tightening about his throat.

I don't wonder that he whined and grovelled and submitted, abjectly, to
their demands. But I do wonder that those two fathers could let him out
of their hands alive; and I experienced a thrill of ecstasy when I
learned that Wyman kicked him three times, with stout boots!

That must have been an unpleasant journey to New Orleans. The two
farmers, stern, silent, heavy of heart, and filled with anxiety. La
Porte, who was taken in hand by Wyman, writhing under the torments of
his own conscience and his own terror, and compelled to submit to his
guardian's frequent tirades of scorn and contempt, treated, for the
first time in his life, like the poltroon he was.

I found the two girls at the address given by Amy Holmes; and, more to
spare the two farmers the sight of her, than for her sake, I did not
compel her to repeat her story in their presence, but related it myself
instead.

It's not worth while to attempt a description of the meeting between the
two girls and their parents. Mamie was, at first, inclined to rebel; but
Nellie Ewing broke down completely, and begged to be taken home. She was
pale and emaciated, a sad and pitiful creature. Her father was overcome
with grief at sight of the change in her. He could not trust himself to
speak to her of Johnny La Porte; and so--what a Jack of all trades a
detective is--he called me from the room and delegated to me the
unpleasant task.

I did it as well as I could. I told her as gently as possible that
Johnny La Porte was in New Orleans, and asked if she wanted to see him.
She cried for joy, poor child, and begged me to send for him at once.
And then I told her why we had brought him; he was prepared to make what
reparation he could. Did she wish him to make her his wife? She
interrupted me with a joyful cry.

"Would he do that? Oh, then she could go home and die happy."

In that moment I made a mental vow that this dying girl, if she could be
made any happier by it, should have not only the name of the young
scoundrel she so foolishly loved, but his care and companionship as
well.

I assured her that he was ready to make her his lawful wife, but could
not tell her that he did it under compulsion.

After a long talk with 'Squire Ewing, during which I persuaded him to
think first of his daughter's needs, and to make such use of Johnny La
Porte as would best serve her, I went back to the hotel, where we had
left the young scamp in charge of Wyman, and a little later in the day
the ceremony was performed which made Johnny La Porte the husband of the
girl he had sought to ruin.

Not long after this I invited the young man to a _téte-â-téte_, and he
followed me somewhat ungraciously into a room adjoining that in which
his new wife lay.

"Sit down," I said, curtly, motioning him to a chair opposite the one in
which I seated myself. "Sit down. I want to give you a little advice
concerning your future conduct."

He threw back his head defiantly; evidently he believed that he was now
secure from further annoyance, and no longer within reach of law and
justice.

"I don't need your advice," he said, pettishly. "I have done all that
you, or any one else, can require of me."

"Mistaken youth, your conformity with my wishes is but now begun."

"You can't bully me, now," he retorted. "I have married the girl, and
that's enough."

"It is _not_ enough! it is not all that you will do."

"You are a liar."

I took him by the shoulders, and lifting him fairly off his feet shook
him as a terrier shakes a rat. Then I popped him down upon the chair he
had refused to occupy, and said:

"There, you impudent little dunce, if you want to call me any more
names, don't hesitate. Now, hear me; you will do _precisely_ what I bid
you, now, and hereafter, or you will exchange that smart plaid suit for
one adorned with horizontal stripes, and I'll have that curly pate of
yours as bare as a cocoanut."

[Illustration: "I took him by the shoulders, and lifting him fairly off
his feet shook him as a terrier shakes a rat."--page 379.]

"The law,"--he began.

"The _law_ may permit you to break the marriage vow you have just taken,
but _I_ will not."

"You?" incredulously.

"Yes, _I_," I retorted, firmly. "The law of this mighty country, made by
very wise men, and enacted by very great fools, is a wondrous vixen. You
have stolen 'Squire Ewing's daughter, and for that the law permits you
to go unhung. You have stolen 'Squire Ewing's horse, and for that, the
law will put you in the State's prison."

"His horse--I!--" the poor wretch gasped, helplessly.

"Exactly. The horse! and you! You see, the daughter has been found, but
the horse has _not_."

"But--I can prove--"

"You can prove nothing. I know all about the affair. _You_ carried
Nellie Ewing away in your own carriage. _You_ handed her pony over to an
accomplice. I have, at my finger's ends, testimony enough to condemn you
before any jury, and the only thing that can save you from the fate of a
common horse-thief, is--your own good behavior."

"What do you want?" he said, abjectly.

"I _want_ to see you hung as high as Haman. But that poor girl in the
next room wants something different, and I yield my wishes to hers. She
is so foolish as to value your miserable existence, and so I give you
this one chance. Go home with your wife, not to your home, but hers, and
remain there so long as she needs or wants you. Treat her with
tenderness, serve her like a slave, and try thus to atone for some of
your past villainy. Quit your old associates, be as decent and dutiful
as the evil within will let you. So long as I hear no complaint, so long
as your wife is made happy, you are safe. Commit one act of cruelty,
unkindness, or neglect, and your fate is sealed. And, remember this, if
you attempt to run away, I will bring you back, if I have to bring you
dead."

He whined, he blustered, he writhed like a cur under the lash. But he
was conquered. 'Squire Ewing behaved most judiciously. Poor Nellie was
foolishly happy. Mamie Rutger, too, became our ally, and, after a time,
La Porte, who loved his ease above all things, seemed resigned, or
resolved to make the best of the situation. I think, too, that he was,
in his way, fond of his poor little wife. Perhaps his conscience
troubled him, for when a physician was called in by the anxious father,
her case was pronounced serious, and the chances for her recovery less
than three in ten. The physician advised them to take her North at once,
and they hastened to obey his instructions.

Our next care was to quiet Fred Brookhouse, for the present, and punish
him, as much as might be, for the future.

Accordingly, Brookhouse was arrested, on a trumped-up charge, and locked
up in the city jail, and then Wyman and myself gave to the Chief of
police and the Mayor of the city, a detailed account of his scheme to
provide attractions for his theater, and took other measures to insure
for the Little Adelphi a closer surveillance than would be at all
comfortable or welcome to the enterprising manager.

Brookhouse was held in jail until we were out of the city, and far on
our way Northward, thus insuring us against the possibility of his
telegraphing the alarm to any one who might communicate it to Arch, or
Ed. Dwight, and then, there being no one to appear against him, at the
proper time, he was released.

Amy Holmes remained a prisoner at the hotel, conducting herself quite
properly during the time of her compulsory sojourn there; and on the day
of our departure I paid her a sum equivalent to the week's salary she
had lost, and bade her go her way, having first obtained her promise
that she would not communicate with any of her accomplices; a promise
which I took good care to convince her it would be safest to keep.

She was not permitted to see either Mamie or Nellie, and she had no
desire to see the other members of the homeward-bound party. And thus
ended our case in New Orleans.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

HOW BETHEL WAS WARNED.


While Carnes was solving the Groveland problem, in that far-away
Southern city, we, who were in Trafton, were living through a long, dull
week of waiting.

There were two dreary days of suspense, during which Carl Bethel and Dr.
Denham wrestled with the deadly fever fiend, the one unconsciously, the
other despairingly. But when the combat was over, the doctor stood at
his post triumphant, and "Death, the Terrible," went away from the
cottage without a victim.

Then I began to importune the good doctor.

"When would Bethel be able to talk? at least to answer questions? For it
was important that I should ask, and that he should answer _one_ at
least."

I received the reward I might have expected had I been wise. "Our old
woman" turned upon me with a tirade of whimsical wrath, that was a
mixture of sham and real, and literally turned me out of doors, banished
me three whole days from the sick room; and so great was his ascendancy
over Jim Long, that even he refused to listen to my plea for admittance,
and kept me at a distance, with grim good nature.

At last, however, the day came when "our old woman" signified his
willingness to allow me an interview, stipulating, however, that it must
be very brief and in his presence.

"Bethel is better," he said, eyeing me severely, "but he can't bear
excitement. If you think you _must_ interview him, I suppose you must,
but mind, _I_ think it's all bosh. Detectives are a miserable tribe
through and through. Is not that so, Long?"

And Jim, who was present on this occasion, solemnly agreed with him.

And so the day came when I sat by Bethel's bedside and held his weak,
nerveless hand in my own, while I looked regretfully at the pallid face,
and into the eyes darkened and made hollow by pain.

[Illustration: "And so the day came when I sat by Bethel's bedside and
held his weak, nerveless hand in my own."--page 386.]

The weak hand gave mine a friendly but feeble pressure. The pale lips
smiled with their old cordial friendliness, the eyes brightened, as he
said:

"Louise has told me how good you have been, you and Long."

"Stuff," interrupted Dr. Denham. "_He_ good, indeed; stuff! stuff! Now,
look here, young man, you can talk with my patient just five minutes,
then--out you go."

"Very well," I retorted, "then see that you don't monopolize four
minutes out of the five. Bethel, you may not be aware of it, but, that
cross old gentleman and myself are old acquaintances, and, I'll tell you
a secret, we, that is myself and some friends,--"

"A rascally lot," broke in the old doctor, "a _rascally_ lot!"

"We call him," I persisted, "our old woman!"

"Humph!" sniffed the old gentleman, "upstarts! 'old woman,' indeed!"

But it was evident that he was not displeased with his nickname in the
possessive case.

We had judged it best to withhold the facts concerning our recent
discoveries, especially those relating to his would-be assassin, from
Bethel, until he should be better able to bear excitement. And so, after
I had finished my tilt with the old doctor, and expressed my regret for
Bethel's calamity, and my joy at his prospective recovery, I said:

"I have been forbidden the house, Bethel, by your two dragons here, and
now, I am only permitted a few moments' talk with you. So I shall be
obliged to skip the details; you shall have them all soon, however. But
I will tell you something. We are having things investigated here, and,
for the benefit of a certain detective, I want you to answer me a
question. You possess some professional knowledge which may help to
solve a riddle."

"What is your question?" he whispers, with a touch of his natural
decisiveness.

"One night, nearly two weeks ago," I began, "you and I were about to
renew an interview, which had been interrupted, when the second
interruption came in the shape of a call, from 'Squire Brookhouse, who
asked you to accompany him home, and attend to his son, who, so he said,
had received some sort of injury."

"I remember."

"Was your patient Louis Brookhouse?"

"Yes."

"Did you dress a wound for him?"

He looked at me wonderingly and was silent.

"Bethel, I am tracing a crime; if your professional scruples will not
permit you to answer me, I must find out by other means what you can
easily tell me. But to resort to other measures will consume time that
is most valuable, and might arouse the suspicions of guilty parties. You
can tell me all that I wish to learn by answering my question with a
simple 'Yes,' or 'No.'"

While Bethel continued to gaze wonderingly, my recent antagonist came to
my assistance.

"You may as well answer him, boy," "our old woman" said. "If you don't,
some day he'll be accusing you of ingratitude. And then this is one of
the very _rare_ instances when the scamp may put his knowledge to good
use."

Bethel looked from the doctor's face to mine, and smiled faintly.

"I am overpowered by numbers," he said; "put your questions, then."

"Did you dress a wound for Louis Brookhouse?"

"Yes."

"A wound in the leg?"

"Yes, the right leg."

"Was it a bullet wound?"

"Yes."

"Did you extract the ball?"

"I did."

"Who has it?"

"I. Nobody seemed to notice it. I put it in my pocket."

"Brookhouse said that his wound was caused by an accident, I suppose?"

"Yes, an accidental discharge of his own pistol."

"Some one had tried to dress the wound, had they not?"

"Yes, it had been sponged and--"

"And bound with a fine cambric handkerchief," I interrupted.

"Yes," with a stare of surprise, "so it was."

"How old was the wound, when you saw it?"

"Twenty-four hours, at least."

"Was it serious?"

"No; only a flesh wound, but a deep one. He had ought to be out by this
time."

"Can you show me the bullet, sometime, if I wish to see it?"

"Yes."

My five minutes had already passed, but "our old woman" sat with a look
of puzzled interest on his face, and as Bethel was quite calm, though
none the less mystified, I took advantage of the situation, and hurried
on.

"Bethel, I want to ask you something concerning your own hurt, now. Will
it disturb or excite you to answer?"

"No; it might relieve me."

"This time I _will_ save you words. On the night when you received your
wound, you were sitting by your table, reading by the light of the
student's lamp, and smoking luxuriously; the door was shut, but the
front window was open."

"True!" with a look of deepening amazement.

"You heard the sound of wheels on the gravel outside, and then some one
called your name."

"Oh!" a new look creeping into his eyes.

"When you opened the door and looked out, could you catch a glimpse of
the man who shot at you?"

"No," slowly, as if thinking.

"Have you any reason for suspecting any one? Can you guess at a motive?"

"Wait;" he turned his head restlessly, seemingly in the effort to
remember something, and then looked toward Dr. Denham.

"In my desk," he said, slowly, "among some loose letters, is a yellow
envelope, bearing the Trafton post-mark. Will you find it?"

Dr. Denham went to the desk, and I sat silently waiting. Bethel was
evidently thinking.

"I received it," he said, after a moment of silence, disturbed only by
the rustling of papers, as the old doctor searched the desk, "I received
it two days after the search for little Effie Beale. I made up my mind
then that I would have a detective, whom I could rely upon, here in
Trafton. And then Dr. Barnard was taken ill. After that I waited--have
you found it?"

Dr. Denham stood beside me with a letter in his hand, which Bethel, by a
sign, bade him give to me.

"Do you wish me to read it?" I asked.

"Yes."

I glanced at the envelope and almost bounded from my seat. Then,
withdrawing the letter with nervous haste, I opened it.

     _Dr. Bethel. If that is your name, you are not welcome in
     Trafton. If you stay here three days longer, it will be_ AT
     YOUR OWN RISK.

                                          _No resurrectionists._

I flushed with excitement; I almost laughed with delight. I got up,
turned around, and sat down again. I wanted to dance, to shout, to
embrace the dear old doctor.

I held in my hand a _printed warning_, every letter the counterpart of
those used in the anonymous letter sent to "Chris Oleson" at Mrs.
Ballou's! It was a similar warning, written by the same hand. Was the
man who had given me that pistol wound really in Trafton? or--

I looked up; the patient on the bed, and the old doctor beside me, were
both gazing at my tell-tale countenance, and looking expectant and
eager.

"Doctor," I said, turning to "our old woman," "you remember the day I
came to you with my wounded arm?"

"Umph! Of course."

"Well, shortly before getting that wound I received just such a thing as
this," striking the letter with my forefinger, "a warning from the same
hand. And now I am going to find the man who shot _me_, who shot
_Bethel_, and who robbed the grave of little Effie Beale, here, in
Trafton, and _very soon_."

"What is it? I don't understand," began Bethel.

But the doctor interposed.

"This must be stopped. Bethel, you shan't hear explanations now, and you
_shall_ go to sleep. Bathurst, how dare you excite my patient! Get out."

"I will," I said, rising. "I must keep this letter, Bethel, and I will
tell you all about it soon; have patience."

Bethel turned his eyes toward the doctor, and said, eagerly:

"Why did you call him _Bathurst_?"

"Did I?" said the old man, testily. "It was a slip of the tongue."

The patient turned his head and looked from one to the other, eagerly.
Then he addressed me:

"If you will answer me one question, I promise not to ask another until
you are prepared to explain."

"Ask it," I replied.

"Are _you_ a detective?"

"Yes."

"Thank you," closing his eyes, as if weary. "I am quite content to
wait. Thank you."



CHAPTER XXXV.

WE PREPARE FOR A "PARTY."


My first movement, after having made the discovery chronicled in the
last chapter, was to go to the telegraph office and send the following
despatch:

     Arrest Blake Simpson instantly, on charge of attempted
     assassination. Don't allow him to communicate with any one.

This message was sent to the Agency, and then I turned my attention to
other matters, satisfied that Blake, at least, would be properly
attended to.

Early the following morning Gerry Brown presented himself at the door of
my room, to communicate to me something that instantly roused me to
action.

At midnight, or a little later, Mr. Arch Brookhouse had dropped in at
the telegraph office; he was in evening dress, and he managed to convey
to Gerry in a careless fashion the information that he, Arch, had been
enjoying himself at a small social gathering, and on starting for home
had bethought himself of a message to be sent to a friend. Then he had
dashed off the following:

     ED. DWIGHT, Amora, etc.

     Be ready for the party at The Corners to-morrow eve. Notify
     Lark. B.---- will join you at Amora. A. B.

"There," he had said, as he pushed the message toward the seemingly
sleepy operator, "I hope he will get that in time, as I send it in
behalf of a lady. Dwight's always in demand for parties."

Then, with a condescending smile as he drew on his right glove, "Know
anybody at Amora?"

"No," responded Gerry, with a yawn, "nor anywhere else on this blasted
line; wish they had sent me East."

"You must get acquainted," said the gracious young nabob. "I'll try and
get you an invitation to the next social party; should be happy to
introduce you."

And then, as Gerry was too sleepy to properly appreciate his
condescension, he had taken himself away.

"Gerry," I said, after pondering for some moments over the message he
had copied for my benefit, "I'm inclined to think that this means
business. You had better sleep short and sound this morning, and be on
hand at the office as early as twelve o'clock. I think you will be
relieved from this sort of duty soon, and as for Mr. Brookhouse, perhaps
you may be able to attend this 'party' in question, even without his
valuable patronage."

After this I went in search of Jim Long. I found him at Bethel's
cottage, and in open defiance of "our old woman," led him away where we
could converse without audience or interruption. Then I put the telegram
in his hand, telling him how it had been sent, much as Gerry had told
the same to me.

"What do you make of it?" asked Jim, as he slowly folded the slip of
paper and put it in my hand.

"Well, I may be amiss in my interpretation, but it seems to me that we
had better be awake to-night. The moon has waned; it will be very dark
at ten o'clock. I fancy that _we_ may be wise if we prepare for this
party. I don't know who B---- may stand for, but there is, at Clyde, a
man, who is a friend of Dwight's, and whose name is _Larkins_."

"Larkins! To be sure; the man is often in Trafton."

"Exactly. He appears like a good-natured rustic, but he is a good judge
of a horse. Do you know of a place in this vicinity called The Corners?"

"No."

"Well, you are probably aware that the south road forks, just two miles
north of Clyde, and that the road running east goes to the river, and
the coal beds. It would not be a long drive from Amora to these corners,
and Larkins is only two miles off from them. Both Dwight and Larkins own
good teams."

"Ah!" ejaculated Jim, in a tone which conveyed a world of meaning. "Ah,
yes!" Then after a moment's silence, and looking me squarely in the
face, "what do you want me to do?"

"Our movements must be regulated by theirs. We must see Warren and all
the others."

"All?"

"Yes, all. It will not be child's play. I think Mr. Warren is the man to
lead one party, for there must be two. I, myself, will manage the other.
As for you and Gerry--"

"Gerry?" inquiringly.

"Gerald Brown, our night operator. You will find him equal to most
emergencies, I think."

"And what are we to do?"

"Some special business which will depend on circumstances. We must
capture the gang outside of the town, if possible, and the farther away
the better."

"But--"

"Wait. There are others who must not take the alarm too soon."

"They will ride fleet horses; remember that."

"Long," I said, earnestly, "we won't let them escape us. If they ride,
we will pounce upon them at the very outset. But if my theory, which has
thus far proven itself correct, holds good to the end _they will not
ride_."



CHAPTER XXXVI.

SOMETHING THE MOON FAILED TO SEE.


It has come at last; that night, almost the last in August, which I and
others, with varying motives and interests, have so anxiously looked
forward to.

It has come, and the moon, so lately banished from the heavens, had she
been in a position to overlook the earth, would have witnessed some
sights unusual to Trafton at the hour of eleven P. M.

A little more than a mile from Trafton, at a point where the first mile
section crosses the south road, not far from the Brookhouse dwelling,
there is a little gathering of mounted men. They are seven in number;
all silent, all cautious, all stern of feature. They have drawn their
horses far into the gloom of the hedge that grows tall on either side,
all save one man, and he stands in the very center of the road, looking
intently north and skyward.

Farther away, midway between Trafton and Clyde, six other horsemen are
riding southward at an easy pace.

These, too, are very quiet, and a little light would reveal the earnest
faces of Messrs. Warren, Harding, Benner, Booth, Jaeger and Meacham; the
last mentioned being the owner of the recently stolen matched sorrels,
and the others being the most prominent and reliable of the Trafton
vigilants.

A close inspection would develop the fact that this moving band of men,
as well as the party whose present mission seems "only to stand and
wait," is well armed and strongly mounted.

The Hill, Miss Manvers' luxurious residence, stands, as its name
indicates, on an elevation of ground, at the extreme northern boundary
of Trafton.

It stands quite alone, this abode of the treasure-ship heiress, having
no neighbors on either hand for a distance of more than a quarter of a
mile.

The road leading up the hill from the heart of Trafton, is bordered on
either side by a row of shade trees, large and leafy. All about the
house the shrubbery is dense, and the avenue, leading up from the road,
and past the dwelling, to the barns and outhouses, is transformed, by
two thickly-set rows of poplars into a vault of inky blackness.

To-night, if the moon were abroad, she might note that the fine
roadster driven by Arch Brookhouse had stood all the evening at the
roadside gate at the foot of the dark avenue of poplars, and, by peeping
through the open windows, she would see that Arch Brookhouse himself
sits in the handsome parlor with the heiress, who is looking pale and
dissatisfied, and who speaks short and seldom, opposite him.

The lady moon might also note that the new telegraph operator is not at
his post, in the little office, at eleven o'clock P. M. But then, were
the fair orb of night actually out, and taking observations, these
singular phenomena might not occur.

At half-past ten, on "this night of nights," three shadows steal through
the darkness, moving northward toward the Hill.

At a point midway between the town proper and the mansion beyond, is a
junction of the roads; and here, at the four corners, the three shadows
pause and separate.

Two continue their silent march northward, and the third vanishes among
the sheltering, low-bending branches of a gnarled old tree that
overhangs the road, and marks the northwestern corner.

At twenty minutes to eleven Arch Brookhouse takes leave of the
treasure-ship heiress, and comes out into the darkness striding down the
avenue like a man accustomed to the road. He unties the waiting horse
which paws the ground impatiently, yet stands, obedient to his low
command, turns the head of the beast southward, seats himself in the
light buggy, lights a cigar, and then sits silently smoking, and
waiting,--for what?

The dull red spark at the end of his cigar shines through the dark; the
horse turns his head and chafes to be away, but the smoker sits there,
moveless and silent.

Presently there comes a sound, slight but distinct; the crackling of a
twig beneath a man's boot, and almost at the same instant the last light
disappears from the windows of the "Hill House."

One, two, three. Three dark forms approach, one after the other, each
pauses for an instant beside the light buggy, and seems to look up to
the dull red spark, which is all of Arch Brookhouse that is clearly
visible through the dark. Then they enter the gate and are swallowed up
in the blackness of the avenue.

And now, a fourth form moves stealthily down the avenue after the
others. It does not come from without the grounds, it starts out from
the shrubbery within, and it is unseen by Arch Brookhouse.

How still the night is! The man who follows after the three first comers
can almost hear his pulses throb, or so he fancies.

Presently the three men pause before the door of the barn, and one of
them takes from his pocket a key, with which he unlocks the door, and
they enter.

As soon as they are inside, a lantern is lighted, and the three men move
together toward the rear of the barn, the part against which is piled a
monstrous stack of hay.

Meanwhile the watcher outside glides close to the wall of the building,
listening here and there, as he, too, approaches the huge hay pile.

And now he does a queer thing. He begins to pull away handfuls of hay
from the bottom of the stack, where it is piled against the barn. He
works noiselessly, and very soon has made an opening, into which he
crawls. Evidently this mine has been worked before, for there is a long
tunnel through the hay, penetrating to the middle of the stack. Here the
watcher peeps through two small holes, newly drilled in the thick boards
of the barn. And then a smile of triumph rests upon his face.

[Illustration: "He works noiselessly, and very soon has made an opening,
into which he crawls."--page 404.]

He sees a compartment that, owing to the arrangement of the hay against
the rear wall, is in the very heart of the barn, shut from the gaze of
curious eyes. On either side is a division, which our spy knows to
contain a store of grain piled high, and acting as a complete
non-conductor of sound. In front is a small room hung about with
harness, and opening into a carriage room. The place is completely
hidden from the ordinary gaze, and only a very inquiring mind would have
fathomed its secret.

The spy, who is peering in from his vantage ground among the hay, _has_
fathomed the secret. And he now sees within six horses--two bay Morgans,
two roans, and two sorrels.

The three men are there, too, busily harnessing the six horses. They are
working rapidly and silently.

The watcher lingers just long enough to see that the harness looks
new and that it is of the sort generally used for draft horses, and then
he executes a retreat, more difficult than his entrance, inasmuch as he
can not turn in his hay tunnel, but must withdraw by a series of
retrograde movements more laborious than graceful.

A moment more, and from among the poplars and evergreens a light goes
shooting up, high and bright against the sky; a long, red ribbon of
fire, that says to those who can read the sign,

"The Trafton horse-thieves are about to move with their long-concealed
prey. Meacham's matched sorrels, Hopper's two-forty's, and the bay
Morgans stolen from 'Squire Brookhouse."

It was seen, this fiery rocket, by the little band waiting by the
roadside more than a mile away.

"There it is!" exclaims young Warren, who is the leader of this
party--"It is the red rocket. They _are_ going with the wagons; it's all
right, boys, we can't ride too fast now."

The seven men file silently out from the roadside and gallop away
southward.

At the four corners, not far from the house on the hill, where, a short
time before, a single individual had stationed himself, as a sentinel in
the darkness, this signal rocket was also seen, and the watcher uttered
an exclamation under his breath, and started out from underneath the
tree that had sheltered him.

He could never remember how it happened, but his next sensation was
that of being borne to the ground, clutched with a tiger-like grip,
crushed by a heavy weight.

And then a voice, a voice that he had not heard for years, hissed above
him,

"Lie still, Joe Blaikie! I've waited for this opportunity for eight long
years, and it won't be worth your while to trifle with Harvey James
_now_."

[Illustration: "Lie still, Joe Blaikie! I've waited for this opportunity
for eight long years, and it won't be worth your while to trifle with
Harvey James _now_."--page 408.]

And something cold and hard is pressed against the temple of the fallen
sentinel, who does not need the evidence of the accompanying ominous
click to convince him that it is a revolver in the hand of his deadliest
foe.

"You did not use to be a horse-thief, Joe," continues the voice, and the
speaker's words are emphasized by the pressure of a knee upon his chest,
and the weapon at his forehead. "They could not trust you to do the fine
business, it seems, and so you are picketed here to give the alarm if
anything stirs up or down the road. If it's all right, you are to remain
silent. If anything occurs to alarm you, you are to give the signal.
Now, listen; you are to get up and stand from under this tree. I shall
stand directly behind you with my revolver at your head, and I shall not
loosen my grip upon your collar. When your friends pass this way, _you
had better remain silent_, Joe Blaikie."

Arch Brookhouse, waiting at the avenue gate, has not seen the red
rocket. The tall poplars that overshadow him have shut the shooting
fiery ribbon from his vision; besides, he has been looking down the
hill. Neither has he seen the form that is creeping stealthily toward
him from behind the tree that guards the gate.

Those within the barn have not seen the rocket, of course; and presently
they come forth and harness the six horses to two huge wagons that stand
in readiness. Four horses to one wagon, two to the other. The wheels are
well oiled, and the wagons make no unnecessary rumbling as they go down
the dark poplar avenue.

At the gate the foremost wagon halts, just long enough to enable the
driver to catch the low-spoken word that tells him it is safe to
proceed.

"All right," Arch Brookhouse says, softly, and the two wagons pass out
and down the hill, straight through the village of Trafton.

At the foot of the hill, where the four roads cross, the drivers peer
through the darkness. Yes, their sentinel is there. The white
handkerchief which he holds in his hand, as a sign that all is safe,
gleams through the dark, and they drive on merrily, and if the sound of
their wheels wakens any sleeper in Trafton, what then? It is not unusual
to hear coal wagons passing on their way to the mines.

Should they meet a belated traveler, no matter. He may hear the rumble
of the wheels, and welcome, so long as the darkness prevents him from
seeing the horses that draw those innocent vehicles of traffic.

Meanwhile, his duty being done, Arch Brookhouse heaves a sigh of
relief, gathers up his reins, and chirrups to his horse.

But the animal does not obey him. Arch leans forward; is there something
standing by the horse's head? He gives an impatient word of command, and
then,--yes, there is some one there.

Arch utters a sharp exclamation, and his hand goes behind him, only to
be grasped by an enemy in the rear, who follows up his advantage by
seizing the other elbow and saying:

"Stop a moment, Mr. Brookhouse; you are my prisoner, sir. Gerry, the
handcuffs."

The man at the horse's head comes swiftly to my assistance, Arch
Brookhouse is drawn from his buggy, and his hands secured behind him by
fetters of steel. Not a captive to be proud of; his teeth chatter, he
shivers as with an ague.

"Wh--who are you?" he gasps. "Wh--what do you want?"

"I'm a city sprig," I answer, maliciously, "and I'm an easy fish to
catch. But not so easy as _you_, my gay Lothario. By-and-by you may
decide, if you will, whether I possess most money or brains; now I have
more important business on hand."

Just then comes a long, low whistle.

"Gerry," I say, "that is Long. Go down to him and see if he needs help."

Gerry is off in an instant, and then my prisoner rallies his cowardly
faculties, and begins to bluster.

"What does this assault mean? I demand an explanation, sir!"

"But I am not in the mood to give it," I retort. "You are my prisoner,
and likely to remain so, unless you are stolen from me by Judge Lynch,
which is not improbable."

"Then, y--you are an impostor!"

"You mistake; I am a detective. You shot at the wrong man when you
winged Bethel. You did better when you crippled widow Ballou's hired
man."

"What, are you?--" he starts violently, then checks his speech.

"I'm the man you shot, behind the hedge, Mr. Brookhouse, and I'll
trouble you to explain your conduct to-morrow."

My prisoner moves restlessly under my restraining hand, but I cock my
pistol, and he comprehending the unspoken warning, stands silent beside
his buggy.

Presently I hear footsteps, and then Gerry comes towards me, lighting
the way with a pocket lantern, which reveals to my gaze Dimber Joe,
handcuffed and crest-fallen, marching sedately over the ground at the
muzzle of a pistol held in the firm clutch of Jim Long, upon whose
countenance sits a look of grim, triumphant humor.

"Here," says Gerry, with aggravating ceremony, "is Mr. Long, with
sentinel number two, namely: Mr. Dimber Joe Blaikie, late of Sing Sing."

"And very soon to return there," adds Jim Long, emphatically. "What
shall we do with these fellows?"

"We must keep everything quiet to-night," I say, quickly. "If you and
Gerry think you won't go to sleep over the precious scamps you might
take them to the barn and let them pass the night where they have hidden
so many horses. We will take them there now, and bind them more
securely. Then one of you can look after them easily, while the other
stands guard outside. All must be done quietly, so that they may not
take the alarm in the house. If your prisoners attempt to make a noise,
gag them without scruple."

"But," gasps Brookhouse, "you can not; you have no power."

"No power," mocks Jim Long. "We'll see about that! It may be
unparliamentary, gentlemen, but you should not object to that. If you
give us any trouble, we will convince you that we have inherited a
little brief authority."

Ten minutes later we have carried out our programme. The two prisoners
are safely housed in the hidden asylum for stolen horses, with Jim Long
as guard within, and Gerry as sentinel without, and I, seated in the
light buggy from which I have unceremoniously dragged Arch Brookhouse,
am driving his impatient roadster southward, in the wake of the honest
coal wagons.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

CAUGHT IN THE ACT.


It is long past midnight. A preternatural stillness broods over the four
corners where the north and south road, two miles north from Clyde,
intersects the road running east and west, that bears westward toward
the coal beds and the river.

There are no houses within sight of these corners, and very few trees;
but the northeastern corner is bounded by what the farmers call a "brush
fence," an unsightly barricade of rails, interwoven with tall, ragged,
and brambly brush, the cuttings, probably, from some rank-growing hedge.

The section to the southwest is bordered by a prim hedge, thrifty and
green, evenly trimmed, and so low that a man could leap across it with
ease.

And now the silence is broken by the sound of wheels coming from the
direction of Clyde; swift running wheels that soon bring their burden to
the four corners, and then come to a sudden halt.

It is a light buggy, none other than that owned by Mr. Larkins, of
Clyde, drawn by his roans that "go in no time," and it contains three
men.

"There!" says the driver, who is Larkins himself, springing to the
ground, and thrusting his arm through the reins, "here we are, with
nothing to do but wait. We always do wait, you know."

"Yes, I know," assents a second individual, descending to the ground in
his turn. "We're always on time. Now, if a man only could smoke--but he
can't."

And Ed. Dwight shrugs his shoulders and burrows in his pockets, and
shuffles his feet, as only Ed. Dwight can.

"Might's well get out, Briggs," says Larkins, to the man who still sits
in the buggy.

"Might's well stay here, too," retorts that individual, gruffly. "I'm
comfortable."

Larkins sniffs, and pats the haunch of the off roan.

Dwight snaps a leaf from the hedge and chews it nervously.

The man in the buggy sits as still as a mummy.

Presently there comes again the sound of wheels. Not noisy wheels, that
would break in upon midnight slumbers, nor ghostly wheels, whose honesty
might be called in question, but well oiled, smooth running wheels, that
break but do not disturb the stillness.

These also approach the cross roads, and then stop.

The first are those of a coal wagon, drawn by four handsome horses; the
second, those of a vehicle of the same description, drawn by two fine
steeds.

Two men occupy the first wagon; one the next.

As the foremost wagon pauses, Larkins tosses his reins to the silent man
in the buggy, and advances, followed by Dwight.

"Anything wrong?" queries Larkins.

"Not if _you_ are all right," replies a harsh voice, a voice that has a
natural snarl in it.

"All right, Cap'n; give us your orders."

The two men in the wagon spring to the ground, and begin to unharness
the foremost horses. The other wagon comes closer.

"You and Briggs are to take in these two teams. Tom is to go on with the
Morgans. Dwight is to take us back to Trafton," says the rasping voice.

Dwight comes closer, and then exclaims:

"By George, Captain, it's _you_ in person."

"Yes, it's me," shortly. "Simpson failed to come, and I wanted to have a
few words with you and Larkins. Hark! _What's that?_"

Wheels again; swift rushing, rattling wheels. Six heads are turned
toward the north, whence they approach.

Suddenly there is a whistle, short and shrill.

Men are bounding over the low hedge to the left! Men are rising up from
the long grass by the roadside!

[Illustration: "Men are bounding over the low hedge to the left! Men are
rising up from the long grass by the roadside!"--417.]

Oaths, ejaculations, cracking of pistols, plunging of horses--

"The first man who attempts to run will be shot down!"

I hear these words, as I drive the Brookhouse roadster, foaming and
panting, into the midst of the melee.

In spite of the warning one man has made a dart for liberty, has turned
and rushed directly upon my horse.

In spite of the darkness his sharp eyes recognize the animal. What could
his son's horse bring save a warning or a rescue?

He regains his balance, which, owing to his sudden contact with the
horse, he had nearly lost, and springs toward me as my feet touch the
earth.

"Arch!"

Before he can realize the truth my hands are upon him. Before he can
recover from his momentary consternation other hands seize him from
behind.

The captain of the horse-thieves, the head and front and brains of the
band, is bound and helpless!

It is soon over; the horse-thieves fight well; strive hard to evade
capture; but the attack is so sudden, so unexpected, and they are
unprepared, although each man, as a matter of course, is heavily armed.

The vigilants have all the advantage, both of numbers and organization.
While certain ones give all their attention to the horses, the larger
number look to the prisoners.

Briggs, the silent man in the buggy, is captured before he knows what
has happened.

Tom Briggs, his cowardly brother, is speedily reduced to a whimpering
poltroon.

Ed. Dwight takes to his heels in spite of the warning of Captain
Warren, and is speedily winged with a charge of fine shot. It is not a
severe wound, but it has routed his courage, and he is brought back,
meek and pitiful enough, all the jauntiness crushed out of him.

Larkins, my jehu on a former occasion, makes a fierce fight; and Louis
Brookhouse, who still moves with a limp, resists doggedly.

Our vigilants have received a few bruises and scratches, but no wounds.

The struggle has been short, and the captives, once subdued, are silent
and sullen.

We bind them securely, and put them in the coal wagons which now, for
the first time, perhaps, are put to a legitimate use.

We do not care to burden ourselves with Larkins' roans, so they are
released from the buggy and sent galloping homeward.

The bay Morgans, which have been "stolen" for the sake of effect, are
again harnessed, as leaders of the four-in-hand. The vigilants bring out
their horses from behind the brush fence, and the procession starts
toward Trafton.

No one attempts to converse with the captives. No one deigns to answer a
question, except by a monosyllable.

'Squire Brookhouse is wise enough to see that he can gain nothing by an
attempt at bluster or bribery. He maintains a dogged silence, and the
others, with the exception of Dwight, who can not be still under any
circumstances, and Tom Briggs, who makes an occasional whimpering
attempt at self-justification, which is heeded by no one, all maintain a
dogged silence. And we move on at a leisurely pace, out of consideration
for the tired horses.

As we approach Trafton, the Summer sun is sending up his first streak of
red, to warn our side of the world of his nearness; and young Warren
reins his horse out from the orderly file of vigilants, who ride on
either side of the wagons.

He gallops forward, turns in his saddle to look back at us, waves his
hat above his head, and then speeds away toward the village.

I am surprised at this, but, as I look from one face to another, I see
that the vigilants, some of them, at least, understand the movement, and
so I ask no questions.

I am not left long in suspense as to the meaning of young Warren's
sudden leave-taking, for, as we approach to within a mile of Trafton,
our ears are greeted by the clang of bells, all the bells of Trafton,
ringing out a fiercely jubilant peal.

I turn to look at 'Squire Brookhouse. He has grown old in an instant;
his face looks ashen under the rosy daylight. The caverns of his eyes
are larger and deeper, and the orbs themselves gleam with a desperate
fire. His lifeless black locks flutter in the morning breeze. He looks
forlorn and desperate. Those clanging bells are telling him his doom.

Warren has done his work well. When we come over the hill into Trafton,
we know that the news is there before us, for a throng has gathered in
the street, although the hour is so early.

The bells have aroused the people. The news that the Trafton
horse-thieves are captured at last, in the very act of escaping with
their booty, has set the town wild.

Not long since these same horse-thieves have led Trafton on to assault,
to accuse, and to vilify an innocent man. Now, those who were foremost
at the raiding of Bethel's cottage, are loudest in denouncing those who
were then their leaders; and the cry goes up,

"Hand over the horse-thieves! Hand them out! Lynch law's good enough for
them!"

But we are fourteen in number. We have captured the prisoners, and we
mean to keep them.

Once more my pistols, this time fully loaded, are raised against a
Trafton mob, and the vigilants follow my example.

We guard our prisoners to the door of the jail, and then the vigilants
post themselves as a wall of defence about the building, while Captain
Warren sets about the easy task of raising a trusty relief guard to take
the places of his weary men.

[Illustration: "Then the vigilants post themselves as a wall of defence
about the building."--page 423.]

It is broad day now. The sun glows round and bright above the Eastern
horizon. I am very weary, but there is work yet to be done.

I leave Captain Warren at the door of the jail, and hasten toward the
Hill.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

"THE COUNTERFEITER'S DAUGHTER."


I am somewhat anxious about this coming bit of work, and a little
reluctant as well, but it must be done, and that promptly.

Just outside of the avenue gate I encounter a servant from the Hill
House, and accost him.

"Is Miss Manvers at home, and awake?"

"Yes, she is at home; she has been disturbed by the bells," and has sent
him to inquire into the cause of the commotion.

She does not know, then! I heave a sigh of relief and hurry on.

I cross the avenue, and follow the winding foot-path leading up to the
front entrance. I make no effort to see Jim or Gerry, at the barn; I
feel sure that they are equal to any emergency that may arise.

Miss Manvers is standing at an open drawing-room window; she sees my
approach and comes herself to admit me.

Then we look at each other.

She, I note, seems anxious and somewhat uneasy, and she sees at a
glance that I am not the jaunty, faultlessly-dressed young idler of past
days, but a dusty, dishevelled, travel-stained individual, wearing,
instead of the usual society smile, a serious and preoccupied look upon
my face.

"Miss Manvers," I say, at once, "you will pardon my abruptness, I trust;
I must talk with you alone for a few moments."

She favors me with a glance of keen inquiry, and a look of apprehension
crosses her face.

Then she turns with a gesture of careless indifference, and leads the
way to the drawing-room, where she again turns her face toward me.

"I have before me an unpleasant duty," I begin again; "I have to inform
you that Arch Brookhouse has been arrested."

A fierce light leaps to her eyes.

"_Is that all?_" she questions.

"The charge against him is a grave one," I say, letting her question
pass unanswered. "He is accused of attempted abduction."

"Abduction!" she exclaims.

"And attempted assassination."

"Assassination! ah, _who_?"

"Attempt first, upon myself, in June last. Second attempt, upon Dr. Carl
Bethel."

A wrathful look crosses her face.

"I wish they could hang him for it!" she says, vindictively. Then she
looks me straight in the eyes. "Did you come to tell me this because you
fancy that I care for Arch Brookhouse?" she questions.

"No."

"Why, then?"

"Because I am a detective, and it was my duty to come. There is more to
tell you. 'Squire Brookhouse and his gang were arrested last night in
the act of removing stolen horses from your barn."

Her face pales and she draws a long sighing breath, but she does not
falter nor evince any other sign of fear.

"So it has come," she says. "And now you are here to arrest me. I don't
think I shall mind it much."

"I have come to make terms with you, Miss Lowenstein, and it will be
your fault if they are hard terms. I know your past history, or, at
least--"

"At _least_, that I am a counterfeiter's daughter, and that I have
served a term as a convict," she finishes, sarcastically.

"I know that you are the daughter of Jake Lowenstein, forger and
counterfeiter. I know that you were arrested with him, as an accomplice;
that immunity was offered you if you would testify against your father,
the lawyers being sure that your evidence alone would easily convict
him. I know that you refused to turn State's evidence; that you scoffed
at the lawyers, and rather than raise your voice against your father,
let them send you to prison for two years."

"You know all this?" wonderingly. "How did you find me out here?"

"Before you were taken to prison, they took your picture for--"

I hesitate, but she does not.

"For the rogue's gallery," she says, impatiently. "Well! go on."

"You were fiercely angry, and the scorn on your face was transferred to
the picture."

"Quite likely."

"I had heard of your case, and your father's, of course. But I was not
personally concerned in it, and I never saw him. I had never seen you,
until I came to Trafton."

"I have changed since then," she breaks in, quickly.

"True; you were a slender, pretty young girl then. You are a handsome
woman, now. Your features, however, are not much changed; yet probably,
if I had never seen you save when your face wore its usual serene smile,
I should never have found you out. But my comrade, who came to Trafton
with me--"

"As your servant," she interposes.

"As my servant; yes. He had your picture in his collection. On the day
of your lawn party, I chanced to see you behind a certain rose thicket,
in conversation with Arch Brookhouse. He was insolent; you, angry and
defiant. I caught the look on your face, and knew that I had seen it
before, somewhere. I went home puzzled, to find Carnes, better known to
you as Cooley, looking at a picture in his rogue's gallery. I took the
book and began turning its leaves, and there under my eye was your
picture. Then I knew that Miss Manvers, the heiress, was really Miss
Adele Lowenstein."

"You say that it will be my fault if you make hard terms with me. My
father is dead. I suppose you understand that?"

"Yes; I know that he is dead, but I do not know why you are here, giving
shelter to stolen property and abbetting horse-thieves. Frankly, Miss
Lowenstein, so far as your past is concerned, I consider you sinned
against as much as sinning. Your sacrifice in behalf of your father was,
in my eyes, a brave act, rather than a criminal one. I am disposed to be
ever your friend rather than your enemy. Will you tell me how you became
connected with this gang, and all the truth concerning your relations
with them, and trust me to aid you to the limit of my power?"

"You do not promise me my freedom if I give you this information," she
says, more in surprise than in anxiety.

"It is not in my power to do that and still do my duty as an officer;
but I promise you, upon my honor, that you shall have your freedom if it
can be brought about."

"I like the sound of that," says this odd, self-reliant young woman,
turning composedly, and seating herself near the open window. "If you
had vowed to give me my liberty at any cost I should not have believed
you. Sit down; I shall tell you a longer story than you will care to
listen to standing."

I seat myself in obedience to her word and gesture, and she begins
straightway:

"I was seventeen years old when my father was arrested for
counterfeiting, and I looked even younger.

"He had a number of confederates, but the assistant he most valued was
the man whom people call 'Squire Brookhouse. He was called simply Brooks
eight years ago.

"When my father was arrested, 'Squire Brookhouse, who was equally
guilty, contrived to escape. He was a prudent sharper, and both he and
father had accumulated considerable money.

"If you know that my father and myself were sentenced to prison, he for
twenty years, and I for two, you know, I suppose, how he escaped."

"I know that he did escape; just how we need not discuss at present."

"Yes; he escaped. Brookhouse used his money to bribe bolder men to do
the necessary dangerous work, for he, Brookhouse, needed my father's
assistance, and he escaped. I had yet six months to serve.

"Well, Brookhouse had recently been down into this country on a
plundering expedition. He was an avaricious man, always devising some
new scheme. He knew that without my father's assistance, he could hardly
run a long career at counterfeiting, and he knew that counterfeiting
would be dangerous business for my father to follow, in or near the
city, after his escape.

"They talked and schemed and prospected; and the result was that they
both came to Trafton, and invested a portion of their gains, the largest
portion of course, in two pieces of real estate; this and the Brookhouse
place.

"Before we had been here a year, my father grew venturesome. He went to
the city, and was recognized by an old policeman, who had known him too
well. They attempted to arrest him, but only captured his dead body. The
papers chronicled the fact that Jake Lowenstein, the counterfeiter, was
dead. And we, at Trafton, announced to the world that Captain Manvers,
late of the navy, had been drowned while making his farewell voyage.

"After that, I became Miss Manvers, the heiress, and the good
Traftonites were regaled with marvelous stories concerning a
treasure-ship dug out from the deep by my father, 'the sea captain.'

"Their main object in settling in Trafton, was to provide for themselves
homes that might afford them a haven should stormy times come. And,
also, to furnish them with a place where their coining and engraving
could be safely carried on.

"Then the 'Squire grew more enterprising. He wanted more schemes to
manage. And so he began to lay his plans for systematic horse-stealing.

"Little by little he matured his scheme, and one by one he introduced
into Trafton such men as would serve his purpose, for, if you inquire
into the matter, you will find that every one of his confederates has
come to this place since the first advent of 'Squire Brookhouse.

"The hidden place in our barn was prepared before my father was killed,
and after that--well, 'Squire Brookhouse knew that I could be a great
help to him, socially.

"I did not know what to do. This home was mine, I felt safe here; I had
grown up among counterfeiters and law-breakers, and I did not see how I
was to shake myself free from them--besides--"

Here a look of scornful self-contempt crosses her face.

"Besides, I was young, and up to that time had seen nothing of society
of my own age. Arch Brookhouse had lately come home from the South, and
I had fallen in love with his handsome face."

She lifts her eyes to mine, as if expecting to see her own self-scorn
reflected back in my face, but I continue to look gravely attentive, and
she goes on:

"So I stayed on, and let them use my property as a hiding-place for
their stolen horses. I kept servants of their selection, and never knew
aught of their plans. When I heard that a horse had been stolen, I felt
very certain that it was concealed on my premises, but I never
investigated.

"After a time I became as weary of Arch Brookhouse as he, probably, was
of me. Finally indifference became detestation. He only came to my house
on matters of business, and to keep up the appearance of friendliness
between the two families. Mrs. Brookhouse is a long-suffering,
broken-down woman, who never sees society.

"I do not intend to plead for mercy, and I do not want pity. I dare say
that nine-tenths of the other women in the world would have done as I
did, under the same circumstances. I have served two years in the
penitentiary; my face adorns the rogues' gallery. I might go out into
the world and try a new way of living, but I must always be an impostor.
Why not be an impostor in Trafton, as well as anywhere else? I have
always believed that, some day, I should be found out."



CHAPTER XXXIX.

"LOUISE BARNARD'S FRIENDSHIP."


When she has finished her story there is a long silence, then she says,
with a suddenness that would have been surprising in any other woman
than the one before me:

"You say you have arrested Arch Brookhouse for the shooting of Dr.
Bethel. Tell me, is it true that Dr. Bethel is out of danger?"

"He is still in a condition to need close attention and careful medical
aid; with these, we think, he will recover."

"I am very glad to know that," she says, earnestly.

"Miss Lowenstein, I have some reason for thinking that you know who is
implicated in that grave-robbing business."

"I do know," she answers, frankly, "but not from them. The Brookhouses,
father and sons, believed Dr. Bethel to be a detective, and to be
candid, so did I. You know 'the wicked flee when no man pursueth.' They
construed his reticence into mystery. They fancied that his clear,
searching eye was looking into all their secrets. I knew they were
plotting against him, but I had told Arch Brookhouse that they should
not harm him. When I went down to the cottage with Louise Barnard, I
felt sure that it was _their_ work, the grave-robbing.

"Tom Briggs was there, the fiercest of the rioters. Tom had worked about
my stable for a year or more, and I thought that I knew how to manage
him. I contrived to get a word with him. Did you observe it?"

"Yes, I observed it."

"I told him to come to The Hill that evening, and he came. Then I made
him tell me the whole story.

"Arch Brookhouse had planned the thing, and given it to Briggs to
execute. There were none of the regular members of the gang here to help
him at that work, so he went, under instructions, of course, to Simmons
and Saunders, two dissolute, worthless fellows, and told them that Dr.
Bethel had offered him thirty dollars to get the little girl's body, and
offered to share with them.

"Those three did the work. Briggs buried the clothing and hid the tools.
Then, when the raid began, Briggs told his two assistants that, in order
to avoid suspicion, they must join the hue and cry against Dr. Bethel,
and so, as you are aware, they did."

This information is valuable to me. I am anxious to be away, to meet
Simmons and Saunders. I open my lips to make a request, when she again
asks a sudden question.

"Will you tell me where and how you arrested the Brookhouse gang? I am
anxious to know."

"I will tell you, but first will you please answer one more question?"

She nods and I proceed.

"I have told you that Arch Brookhouse is charged with attempted
abduction; I might say Louis Brookhouse stands under the same charge. Do
you know anything about the matter?"

"I? No."

"Did you ever know Miss Amy Holmes?"

"Never," she replies, emphatically. "Whom did they attempt to abduct?"

"Three young girls; three innocent country girls."

"Good heavens!" she exclaims, her eyes flashing fiercely, "that is a
deed, compared with which horse-thieving is honorable!"

I give her a brief outline of the Groveland affair, or series of
affairs, so far as I am able, before having heard Carnes' story. And
then I tell her how the horse-thieves were hunted down.

"So," she says, wearily, "by this time I am known all over Trafton as
the accomplice of horse-thieves."

"Not so, Miss Lowenstein. The entire truth is known to Carnes and
Brown, the two detectives I have mentioned, to Jim Long, and to Mr.
Warren. The vigilants knew that the horses had been concealed near
Trafton, but, owing to the manner in which the arrests were made, they
do not know where. I suppose you are aware what it now becomes my duty
to do?"

"Assuredly," with constrained voice and manner. "You came here to arrest
me. I submit."

"Wait. From first to last it has been my desire to deal with you as
gently as possible. Now that I have heard your story, I am still more
inclined to stand your friend. The three men in Trafton who know your
complicity in this business, are acting under my advice. For the
present, you may remain here, if you will give me your promise not to
attempt an escape."

"I shall not try to escape; I would be foolish to do so, after learning
how skillfully you can hunt down criminals."

"Thanks for the compliment, and the promise implied. If you will give
your testimony against the gang, telling in court the story you have
told me, you shall not stand before these people without a champion."

"I don't like to do it. It seems cowardly."

"Why? Do you think they would spare you were the positions reversed?"

"No, certainly not; but--" turning her eyes toward the foliage without,
and speaking wistfully, "I wish I knew how another woman would view my
position. I never had the friendship of a woman who knew me as I am. I
wish I knew how such a woman as Louise Barnard would advise me."

[Illustration: "I wish I knew how such a woman as Louise Barnard would
advise me."--page 438.]

Scarcely knowing how to reply to this speech, I pass it by and hasten to
finish my own.

Will she remain in her own house until I see her again, which may not
be until to-morrow? And will she permit me to leave Gerry Brown here,
for form's sake?

Jim Long would hardly question my movements and motives, but Mr. Warren,
who is the fourth party in our confidence, might. So, for his
gratification, I will leave Gerry Brown at the Hill.

She consents readily enough, and I go out to fetch Gerry.

"Miss Lowenstein, this is my friend, Gerry Brown, who has passed the
night in your barn and in very bad company. Will you take pity on him
and give him some breakfast?" I say, as we appear before her.

She examines Gerry's handsome face attentively, and then says:

"If your late companions were bad, Mr. Brown, you will not find your
present company much better. You do look tired. I will give you some
breakfast, and then you can lock me up."

"I'll eat the breakfast with relish," replies Gerry, gallantly; "but as
for locking you up, excuse me. I've been told that you would feed me and
let me lie down somewhere to sleep; and I've been ordered to stay here
until to-morrow. It looks to me as if I were your prisoner, and such I
prefer to consider myself."

I leave them to settle the question of keeper and prisoner as best they
can, and go out to Jim.

He is smoking placidly, with Arch Brookhouse, in a fit of the sulks,
sitting on an overturned peck measure near by, and Dimber Joe asleep on
a bundle of hay in a corner.

We arouse Dimber and casting off the fetters from their feet, set them
marching toward the town jail, where their brethren in iniquity are
already housed.

Trafton is in a state of feverish excitement. As we approach the jail
with our prisoners the air is rent with jeers and hisses for them, and
"three cheers for the detective," presumably for me.

I might feel flattered and gratified at their friendly enthusiasm, but,
unfortunately for my pride, I have had an opportunity to learn how
easily Trafton is excited to admiration and to anger, so I bear my
honors meekly, and hide my blushing face, for a time, behind the walls
of the jail.

All the vigilants are heroes this morning, and proud and happy is the
citizen who can adorn his breakfast table with one of the band. The
hungry fellows, nothing loath, are borne away one by one in triumph, and
Jim and I, who cling together tenaciously, are wrangled over by Justice
Summers and Mr. Harris, and, finally, led off by the latter.

We are not bored with questions at the parsonage, but good, motherly
Mrs. Harris piles up our plates, and looks on, beaming with delight to
see her good things disappearing down our hungry throats.

We have scarcely finished our meal, when a quick, light step crosses
the hall, and Louise Barnard enters. She has heard the clanging bells
and witnessed the excitement, but, as yet, scarcely comprehends the
cause.

"Mamma is so anxious," she says, deprecatingly, to Mr. Harris, "that I
ran in to ask you about it, before going down to see Carl--Dr. Bethel."

While she is speaking, a new thought enters my head, and I say to myself
instantly, "here is a new test for Christianity," thinking the while of
that friendless girl at this moment a paroled prisoner.

"Miss Barnard," I say, hastily, "it will give me pleasure to tell you
all about this excitement, or the cause of it."

"If I understand aright, you are the cause, sir," she replies,
smilingly. "How horribly you have deceived us all!"

"But," interposes Mr. Harris, "this is asking too much, sir. You have
been vigorously at work all night, and now--"

"Never mind that," I interrupt. "Men in my profession are bred to these
things. I am in just the mood for story telling."

They seat themselves near me. Jim, a little less interested than the
rest, occupying a place in the background. Charlie Harris is away at his
office. I have just the audience I desire.

I begin by describing very briefly my hunt for the Trafton outlaws. I
relate, as rapidly as possible, the manner in which they were captured,
skipping details as much as I can, until I arrive at the point where I
turn from the Trafton jail to go to The Hill.

Then I describe my interview with the counterfeiter's daughter minutely,
word for word as nearly as I can. I dwell on her look, her tone, her
manner, I repeat her words: "I wish I knew how another woman would view
my position. I wish I knew how such a woman as Louise Barnard would
advise me." I omit nothing; I am trying to win a friend for Adele
Lowenstein, and I tell her story as well as I can.

When I have finished, there is profound silence for a full moment, and
then Jim Long says:

"I know something concerning this matter. And I am satisfied that the
girl has told no more and no less than the truth."

I take out a pocket-book containing papers, and select one from among
them.

"This," I say, as I open it, "is a letter from the Chief of our force.
He is a stern old criminal-hunter. I will read you what _he_ says in
regard to the girl we have known as Adele Manvers, the heiress. Here it
is."

And I read:

     In regard to Adele Lowenstein, I send you the papers and copied
     reports, as you request; but let me say to you, deal with her
     as mercifully as possible. There should be much good in a girl
     who would go to prison for two long years, rather than utter
     one word disloyal to her counterfeiter father. Those who knew
     her best, prior to that affair, consider her a victim rather
     than a sinner. Time may have hardened her nature, but, if there
     are any extenuating circumstances, consider how she became what
     she is, and temper justice with mercy.

"There," I say, as I fold away the letter, "that's a whole sermon,
coming from our usually unsympathetic Chief. Mr. Harris, I wish you
would preach another of the same sort to the Traftonites."

Still the silence continues. Mr. Harris looks serious and somewhat
uneasy. Mrs. Harris furtively wipes away a tear with the corner of her
apron. Louise Barnard sits moveless for a time, then rises, and draws
her light Summer scarf about her shoulders with a resolute gesture.

"I am going to see Adele," she says, turning toward the door.

Mr. Harris rises hastily. He is a model of theological conservatism.

"But, Louise,--ah, don't be hasty, I beg. Really, it is not wise."

"Yes, it is," she retorts. "It is wise, and it is right. I have eaten
her bread; I have called myself her friend; I shall not abandon her
now."

"Neither shall I!" cries Mrs. Harris, bounding up with sudden energy.
"I'll go with you, Louise."

"But, my dear," expostulates Mr. Harris, "if you really insist, I will
go first; then, perhaps--"

"No, you won't go first," retorts his better half. "You don't know what
that poor girl needs. You'd begin at once to administer death-bed
consolation. That will do for 'Squire Brookhouse, but not for a
friendless, unhappy girl. Take your foot off my dress, Mr. Harris; I'm
going for my bonnet!"

She conquers, of course, gets her bonnet, and ties it on energetically.

During the process, I turn to Jim.

"Long," I say, "we have yet one task to perform. Dr. Denham is on duty
at the cottage, and fretting and fuming, no doubt, to know the meaning
of all this storm in Trafton. Bethel, too, may be anxious--"

"Now, hear him!" interrupts our hostess, indignantly. "Just hear that
man! As if you were not both tired to death already. You two are to stay
right here; one in the parlor bed, and one in Charlie's room; and you're
to sleep until dinner, which I'll be sure to have late. Mr. Harris can
run down to the cottage and tell all the news. It will keep him from
going where he is not wanted."

Mr. Harris warmly seconds this plan. Jim and I are indeed weary, and
Mrs. Harris is an absolute monarch. So we submit, and I lay my tired
head on her fat pillows, feeling that everything is as it should be.



CHAPTER XL.

THE STORY OF HARVEY JAMES.


It is late in the afternoon when I awake, for Mrs. Harris has been
better than her word.

Jim is already up, and conversing with Mr. Harris on the all-absorbing
topic, of course.

After a bountiful and well-cooked dinner has received our attention, Jim
and I go together to the cottage.

Here we are put upon the witness stand by "our old woman," who takes
ample vengeance for having been kept so long in the dark concerning my
business in Trafton.

After he has berated us to his entire satisfaction, and after Bethel,
who, having heard a little, insists upon hearing more, has been
gratified by an account of the capture, given for the most part by Jim
Long, we go southward again and come to a halt in Jim's cottage. Here we
seat ourselves, and, at last, I hear the story of Jim Long, or the man
who has, for years, borne that name.

       *       *       *       *       *

"My name is Harvey James," he begins, slowly. "My father was a farmer,
and I was born upon a farm, and lived there until I became of age.

"Except two years passed at a college not far from my home, I had never
been a week away from my father's farm. But after my twenty-first
birthday, I paid a visit to the city.

"It was short and uneventful, but it unsettled me. I was never content
upon the home farm again.

"After my father died and the property came into my possession, I
resolved to be a farmer no longer, but to go and increase my fortune in
the city.

"My farm was large and valuable, and there was considerable money in the
bank. My mother clung to the farm; so, as the house was a large one, I
reserved for her use, and mine when I should choose to come home, a few
of the pleasantest rooms, and put a tenant into the remainder of the
house.

"I was engaged to be married to a dear girl, the daughter of our nearest
neighbor. She was pretty and ambitious. She heartily approved of my new
departure, but when I urged our immediate marriage, she put the matter
off, saying that she preferred to wait a year, as by that time I should
be a city gentleman; and until I should have become established in
business, I would have no time to devote to a rustic wife. If she had
married me then, my fate might have been different, God knows! But I
went to the city alone, and before the year had elapsed I was in a
prison cell!

"I took with me a considerable sum of money, and I commenced to enjoy
city life. I began with the theaters and billiards, and went on down the
grade. Before I had been in town a mouth I became acquainted with
Brooks, the name then used by 'Squire Brookhouse. He professed to be a
lawyer, and this profession, together with his superior age, won my
confidence, as, perhaps, a younger man could not have done. After a time
he made me acquainted with Joe Blaikie and Jake Lowenstein, both
brokers, so he said.

"I was an easy victim; I soon began to consult the 'brokers' as to the
best investment for a small capital.

"Of course they were ready to help me. I think I need not enter into
details; you know how such scoundrels work. We soon became almost
inseparable, and I thought myself in excellent company, and wrote
glowing letters to my mother and sweetheart, telling them of my fine new
friends and the promising prospect for a splendid investment, which was
to double my money speedily, and laying great stress upon the fact that
my prospective good fortune would be mainly brought about by my
'friends,' the lawyer and the brokers, who 'knew the ropes.'

"At last the day came when I drew a considerable sum of money from my
home bankers, to invest in city stock. The 'brokers' strongly advised me
to put in all I could command, even to the extent of mortgaging my farm,
but this I would not do. I adhered to my stern old father's principle,
'never borrow money to plant,' and I would not encumber my land; but I
drew every dollar of my ready capital for the venture.

"I had established myself in comfortable rooms at a hotel, which,
by-the-by, was recommended me by Brooks, as a place much frequented by
'solid men.' And soon the three blacklegs began dropping in upon me
evenings, sometimes together, sometimes separately. We would then amuse
ourselves with 'harmless' games of cards. After a little we began to bet
chips and coppers, to make the game more interesting.

"They worked me with great delicacy. No doubt they could have snared me
just as easily with half the trouble they took. I was fond of cards, and
it was not difficult to draw me into gambling. I had learned to drink
wine, too, and more than once they had left me half intoxicated after
one of our 'pleasant social games,' and had laughingly assured me, when,
after sobering up, I ventured a clumsy apology, that 'it was not worth
mentioning; such things would sometimes happen to gentlemen.'

"On the night of my downfall I had all my money about my person,
intending to make use of it early on the following morning. I expected
the three to make an evening in my room, but at about eight o'clock
Lowenstein came in alone and looking anxious.

"He said that he had just received a telegram from a client who had
entrusted him with the sale of a large block of buildings, and he must
go to see him that evening. It was a long distance, and he would be out
late. He had about him a quantity of gold, paid in to him after banking
hours, and he did not like to take it with him. He wanted to leave it in
my keeping, as he knew that I intended passing the evening in my rooms,
and as he was not afraid to trust me with so large a sum.

"I took the bait, and the money, three rouleaux of gold; and then, after
I had listened to his regrets at his inability to make one at our social
game that evening, I bowed him out and locked the door.

"As I opened my trunk and secreted the money in the very bottom,
underneath a pile of clothing and books, I was swelling with gratified
vanity, blind fool that I was, at the thought of the trust imparted to
me. Did it not signify the high value placed upon my shrewdness and
integrity by this discriminating man of business?

"Presently Brooks and Blaikie came, and we sat down to cards and wine.
Blaikie had brought with him some bottles of a choice brand, and it had
an unusual effect upon me.

"My recollections of that evening are very indistinct. I won some gold
pieces from Brooks, and jingled them triumphantly in my pockets, while
Blaikie refilled my glass. After that my remembrance is blurred and then
blank.

"I do not think that I drank as much wine as usual, for when I awoke it
was not from the sleep of intoxication. I was languid, and my head
ached, but my brain was not clouded. My memory served me well. I
remembered, first of all, my new business enterprise, and then recalled
the events of the previous evening, up to the time of my drinking a
second glass of wine.

"I was lying upon my bed, dressed, as I had been when I sat down to play
cards with Brooks and Blaikie. I strove to remember how I came there on
the bed, but could not; then I got up and looked about the room.

"Our card table stood there with the cards scattered over it. On the
floor was an empty wine-bottle--where was the other, for Blaikie had
brought two? On a side table sat _two_ wine-glasses, each containing a
few drops of wine, and a third which was _clean_, as if it had been
unused.

"Two chairs stood near the table, as if lately occupied by players.

"What did it mean?

"I stepped to the door and found that it had not been locked. Then I
thought of my money. It was gone, of course. But I still had in my
pockets the loose gold won at our first game, and the three rouleaux
left by Lowenstein were still in my trunk. I had also won from Brooks
two or three bank notes, and these also I had.

"You can easily guess the rest. The three sharpers had planned to
secure my money, and had succeeded; and to protect themselves, and get
me comfortably out of the way, they had laid the trap into which I fell.

"Blaikie appeared at the police station, and entered his complaint. He
had been invited to join in a social game of cards at my rooms. When he
arrived there, Brooks was there, seemingly on business, but he had
remained but a short time. Then we had played cards, and Blaikie had
lost some bank-notes. Next he won, and I had paid him in gold pieces. He
had then staked his diamond studs, as he had very little money about
him. These I had won, and next had permitted him to win a few more gold
pieces. Blaikie did not accuse me of cheating, oh, no; but he had just
found that I had won his diamonds and his honest money, and had paid him
in _counterfeit coin_.

"At that time, Blaikie had not become so prominent a rogue as he now is.
His story was credited, and, while I was yet frantically searching for
my lost money, the police swooped down upon me, and I was arrested for
having circulated counterfeit money. The scattered cards, the two
wine-glasses, the two chairs, all substantiated Blaikie's story.

"A search through my room brought to light Blaikie's diamonds, and some
plates for engraving counterfeit ten dollar bills, hidden in the same
receptacle. In my trunk were the three rouleaux of freshly-coined
counterfeit gold pieces, and in my pockets were some more loose
counterfeit coin, together with the bank-notes which Blaikie had
described to the Captain of police.

"It was a cunning plot, and it succeeded. I fought for my liberty as
only a desperate man will. I told my story. I accused Blaikie and his
associates of having robbed me. I proved, by my bankers, that a large
sum of money had actually come into my possession only the day before my
arrest. But the web held me. Brooks corroborated Blaikie's statements;
Lowenstein could not be found.

"I was tried, found guilty, and condemned for four years to State's
prison. A light sentence, the judge pronounced it, but those four years
put streaks of gray in my hair and changed me wonderfully, physically
and mentally.

"I had gone in a tall, straight young fellow, with beardless face and
fresh color; I came out a grave man, with stooping shoulders, sallow
skin, and hair streaked with gray.

"My mother had died during my imprisonment; my promised wife had married
another man. I sold my farm and went again to the city; this time with a
fixed purpose in my heart. I would find my enemies and revenge myself.

"I let my beard grow, I dropped all habits of correct speaking, I became
a slouching, shabbily-dressed loafer. I had no reason to fear
recognition,--the change in me was complete."

He paused, and seemed lost in gloomy meditations, then resumed:

"It was more than three months before I struck the trail of the gang,
and then one day I saw Brooks on the street, followed him, and tracked
him to Trafton. He had just purchased the 'Brookhouse farm' and I
learned for the first time that he had a wife and family. I found that
Lowenstein, too, had settled in Trafton, having been arrested, and
escaped during my long imprisonment; and I decided to remain also. I had
learned, during my farm life, something about farriery, and introduced
myself as a traveling horse doctor, with a fancy for 'settling' in a
good location. And so I became the Jim Long you have known.

"I knew that the presence of ''Squire Brookhouse' and 'Captain Manvers,
late of the navy,' boded no good to Trafton; I knew, too, that
Lowenstein was an escaped convict, and I might have given him up at
once; but that would have betrayed my identity, and Brooks might then
escape me. So I waited, but not long.

"One day 'Captain Manvers,' in his seaman's make-up, actually ventured
to visit the city. He had so changed his appearance that, but for my
interference, he might have been safe enough. But my time had come. I
sent a telegram to the chief of police, telling him that Jake Lowenstein
was coming to the city, describing his make-up, and giving the time and
train. I walked to the next station to send the message, waited to have
it verified, and walked back content.

"When Jake Lowenstein arrived in the city, he was followed, and in
attempting to resist the officers, he was killed.

"Since that time, I have tried, and tried vainly, to unravel the mystery
surrounding these robberies. Of course, I knew Brooks and his gang to be
the guilty parties, but I was only one man. I could not be everywhere at
once, and I could never gather sufficient evidence to insure their
conviction, because, like all the rest of Trafton, I never thought of
finding the stolen horses in the very midst of the town. I assisted in
organizing the vigilants, but we all watched the roads leading out from
the town, and were astounded at our constant failures.

"And now you know why I hailed your advent in Trafton. For four years I
have hoped for the coming of a detective. I would have employed one on
my own account, but I shrank from betraying my identity, as I must do in
order to secure confidence. In every stranger who came to Trafton I have
hoped to find a detective. At first I thought Bethel to be one, and I
was not slow in making his acquaintance. I watched him, I weighed his
words, and, finally, gave him up.

"When you came I made your acquaintance, as I did that of every
stranger who tarried long in Trafton. You were discreetness itself, and
the man you called Barney was a capital actor, and a rare good fellow
too. But I studied you as no other man did. When I answered your
careless questions I calculated your possible meaning. Do you remember a
conversation of ours when I gave my opinion of Dr. Bethel, and the
'average Traftonite'?"

"Yes; and also told us about Miss Manvers and the treasure-ship. Those
bits of gossip gave us some pointers."

"I meant that they should. And now you know why I preferred to hang on
the heels of Joe Blaikie rather than go with the vigilants."

"I understand. Has Blaikie been a member of the gang from the first?"

"I think not. Of course when I heard that Brooks intended to employ a
detective, I was on the alert. And when Joe Blaikie and that other
fellow, who was a stranger to me, came and established themselves at the
Trafton House, I understood the game. They were to personate detectives.
Brooks was too cunning to make their pretended occupations too
conspicuous; but he confided the secret to a few good citizens who might
have grown uneasy, and asked troublesome questions, if they had not been
thus confided in. I think that Blaikie and Brooks went their separate
ways, when the latter became a country gentleman. Blaikie is too
cowardly a cur ever to succeed as a horse-thief, and Brooks was the man
to recognize that fact. I think Blaikie was simply a tool for this
emergency."

"Very probable. When you told my landlord that Blaikie was a detective,
did you expect the news to reach me through him?"

"I did," with a quizzical glance at me; "and it reached you, I take it."

"Yes; it reached me. And now, Long--it seems most natural to call you
so--I will make no comments upon your story now. I think you are assured
of my friendship and sympathy. I can act better than I can talk. But be
sure of one thing, from henceforth you stand clear of all charges
against you. The man who shot Dr. Bethel is now in limbo, and he will
confess the whole plot on the witness stand; and, as for the old
trouble, Joe Blaikie shall tell the truth concerning that."

He lifts his head and looks at me steadfastly for a moment.

"When that is accomplished," he says, earnestly, "I shall feel myself
once more a man among men."



CHAPTER XLI.

A GATHERING OF THE FRAGMENTS.


There was a meeting of the vigilants that night and Gerry Brown, Mr.
Harris, Justice Summers and myself, were present with them.

I gave them the details of my investigation, and related the cause of
Doctor Bethel's troubles. When they understood that the outlaws had
looked upon Bethel as a detective, and their natural enemy, the
vigilants were ready to anticipate the rest of my story.

When everything concerning the male members of the clique had been
discussed, I entered a plea for Adele Lowenstein, and my audience was
not slow to respond.

Mr. Harris arose in his place, and gave a concise account of the visit
paid by his wife and Miss Barnard to the dethroned heiress, as he had
heard it described by Mrs. Harris.

Adele Lowenstein had been sincerely grateful for their kindness, and
had consented to act precisely as they should advise, let the result be
what it would. She would give her testimony against the horse-thieves,
and trust to the mercy of the Traftonites. Her story may as well be
completed here, for there is little more to tell.

She was not made a prisoner. Mrs. Harris and Louise Barnard were not the
women to do things by halves. They used all their influence in her
favor, and they had the vigilants and many of the best citizens to aid
them. They disarmed public opinion. They appealed to men high in power
and won their championship. They conducted their campaign wisely and
they carried the day.

There were found for Adele Lowenstein, the counterfeiter's daughter,
"extenuating circumstances:" what the jury could not do the governor
did, and she went out from the place, where justice had been tempered
with mercy, a free woman.

The Hill was sold, and Miss Lowenstein, who had avowed her intention of
retaking her father's name, sullied as it was, prepared to find a new
home in some far away city.

One day while the trial was pending, Gerry Brown came to me with fidgety
manner and serious countenance.

"Old man," he said, anxiously, "I've been thinking about Miss
Lowenstein."

"Stop it, Gerry. It's a dangerous occupation for a fellow of your age."

"My, age indeed! Two years, four months and seventeen days younger than
your ancient highness, I believe."

"A man may learn much in two years, four months, and seventeen days--,
Gerry. What about Miss Lowenstein?"

"I'm sorry for the girl."

"So am I."

"Don't be a bore, old man."

"Then come to the point, youngster."

"Youngster!" indignantly, "well, I'll put that to our private account.
About Miss Lowenstein, then: She is without friends, and is just the
sort of woman who needs occupation to keep her out of mischief and
contented. She's ladylike and clever, and she knows the world; don't you
think she would be a good hand on the force."

I paused to consider. I knew the kind of woman that we sometimes needed,
and it seemed to me that Adele Lowenstein would "be a good hand." I
knew, too, that our Chief was not entirely satisfied with one or two
women in his employ. So I stopped chaffing Gerry and said soberly:

"Gerry, it's a good idea. We'll consult the lady and if she would like
the occupation, I will write to our Chief."

Adele Lowenstein was eager to enter upon a career so much to her taste,
and our Chief was consulted. He manifested a desire to see the lady, and
she went to the city.

The interview was satisfactory to both. Adele Lowenstein became one of
our force, and a very valuable and efficient addition she proved.

I had assured Jim Long,--even yet I find it difficult to call him
Harvey James,--that his name should be freed from blot or suspicion. And
it was not so hard a task as he evidently thought it.

Blake Simpson, like most scamps of his class, was only too glad to do
anything that would lighten his own sentence, and when he found that the
Brookhouse faction had come to grief, and that his own part in their
plot had been traced home to him by "the detectives," he weakened at
once, and lost no time in turning State's evidence. He confessed that he
had come to Trafton, in company with Dimber Joe, to "play detective," at
the instigation, and under the pay of Brookhouse senior, who had visited
the city to procure their services. And that Arch Brookhouse had
afterward bribed him to make the assault upon Bethel, and planned the
mode of attack; sending him, Simpson, to Ireton, and giving him a note
to the elder Briggs, who furnished him with the little team and light
buggy, which took him back to Trafton, where the shooting was done
precisely as I had supposed after my investigation.

Dimber Joe made a somewhat stouter resistance, and I offered him two
alternatives.

He might confess the truth concerning the accusations under which
Harvey James had been tried and wrongfully imprisoned; in which case I
would not testify against him except so far as he had been connected
with the horse-thieves in the capacity of sham detective and spy. Or, he
might refuse to do Harvey James justice, in which case I would put
Brooks on the witness stand to exonerate James, and I myself would
lessen his chances for obtaining a light sentence, by showing him up to
the court as the villain he was; garroter, panel-worker, counterfeiter,
burglar, and general utility rascal.

Brooks or Brookhouse was certain of a long sentence, I assured Blaikie,
and he would benefit rather than injure his cause by exposing the plot
to ruin and fleece James. Would Mr. Blaikie choose, and choose quickly?

And Mr. Blaikie, after a brief consideration, chose to tell the truth,
and forever remove from Harvey James the brand of counterfeiter.

The testimony against the entire gang was clear and conclusive. The
elder Brookhouse, knowing this, made very little effort to defend
himself and his band, and so "The 'Squire" and Arch Brookhouse were
sentenced for long terms. Louis Brookhouse, the two Briggs, Ed. Dwight,
the festive, Larkins and the two city scamps, were sentenced for lesser
periods, but none escaped lightly.

Only one question, and that one of minor importance, yet lacked an
answer, and one day, before his trial, I visited Arch Brookhouse in his
cell, my chief purpose being to ask this question.

"There is one thing," I said, after a few words had passed between us,
"there is one thing that I should like you to tell me, merely as a
matter of self-gratification, as it is now of no special importance; and
that is, how did you discover my identity, when I went to Mrs. Ballou's
disguised as a Swede?"

He laughed harshly.

"You detectives do not always cover up your tracks," he said, with a
sneer. "I don't object to telling you what you seem so curious about.
'Squire Ewing and Mr. Rutger went to the city to employ you, and no
doubt you charged them to be secret as the grave concerning your plans.
Nevertheless, Mr. Rutger, who is a simple-minded confiding soul, told
the secret in great confidence to Farmer La Porte; and he repeated it,
again in great confidence in the bosom of his family."

"And in the presence of his son, Johnnie?"

"Just so. When we learned that a disguised detective was coming into the
community, and that he would appear within a certain time, we began to
look for him, and _you_ were the only stranger we discovered."

"And you wrote me that letter of warning?"

"Precisely."

"And undoubtedly _you_ are the fellow who shot at me?"

"I am happy to say that I am."

"And I am happy to know that I have deprived you of the pleasure of
handling firearms again for some time to come. Good morning, Mr.
Brookhouse."

That was my final interview with Arch Brookhouse, but I saw him once
more, for the last time, when I gave my testimony against him at the
famous trial of the Trafton horse-thieves.

When the whole truth concerning the _modus operandi_ of the
horse-thieves was made public at the trial, when the Traftonites learned
that for five years they had harbored stolen horses under the very
steeples of the town, and that those horses, when the heat of the chase
was over, were boldly driven away across the country and toward the
river before a lumbering coal cart, they were astounded at the boldness
of the scheme, and the hardihood of the men who had planned it.

But they no longer marveled at their own inability to fathom so cunning
a plot.



CHAPTER XLII.

IN CONCLUSION.


When Winter closed in, and the first snow mantled the farms of
Groveland, the poor girl whom Johnny La Porte had reluctantly made his
wife, closed her eyes upon this earthly panorama.

She never rallied after her return from the South. They said that she
died of consumption, but her friends knew, whatever medical name might
be applied to her disease at the end, that it began with a broken heart.

When it was over, and Nellie Ewing had no further need of his presence,
Johnny La Porte,--who, held to his duty by the stern and oftentimes
menacing eye of 'Squire Ewing, as well as by the fear which Carnes had
implanted in his heart, had been as faithful and as gentle to his poor
wife as it was in his worthless nature to be,--now found himself shunned
in the community where he had once been petted and flattered.

There was no forgiveness in the heart of 'Squire Ewing, and his door was
closed against his daughter's destroyer; for such the Grovelanders, in
spite of his tardy reparation, considered Johnny La Porte.

He attempted to resume his old life in Groveland; but 'Squire Ewing was
beloved in the community, and when _he_ turned his back upon Johnny La
Porte his neighbors followed his example.

Nowhere among those cordial Grovelanders was there a place or a welcome
for the man who had blighted the life of Nellie Ewing, and so he drifted
away from Groveland, to sink lower and lower in the scale of
manhood--dissolute, brainless, a cumberer of the ground.

Nellie Ewing's sad death had its effect upon thoughtless little Mamie
Rutger. She was shocked into sobriety, and her grief at the loss of her
friend brought with it shame for her own folly, and then repentance and
a sincere effort to be a more dutiful daughter and a better woman.

Mrs. Ballou put her threat into execution after mature deliberation. She
put her daughter Grace into a convent school, and then, to make
assurance doubly sure, she rented her fine farm, and took up her abode
near that of the good sisters who had charge of her daughter's mental
and spiritual welfare.

As for the Little Adelphi and Fred Brookhouse, they both lost prestige
after coming under the severe scrutiny of the police. One iniquitous
discovery concerning the theatre and its manager led to more; and before
another Spring visited the Sunny South, the Little Adelphi and Fred
Brookhouse had vanished together, the one transformed into an excellent
green grocers' establishment, and the other into a strolling disciple of
chance.

Amy Holmes clung to the Little Adelphi to the last; and, after its final
fall, she, too, wandered away from New Orleans, carrying with her, her
secret which had been so serviceable a weapon in the hands of Carnes,
but which he never knew.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is written in the book of Fate that I shall pay one more visit to
Trafton.

This time there is no gloom, no plotting; there are no wrongs to right.
The time is the fairest of the year, May time, and the occasion is a
joyous one.

Doctor Denham, funny, talkative, and lovable as ever; Carnes, bubbling
over with whimsical Hibernianisms; Gerry Brown, handsome and in high
spirits; and myself, quite as happy as are the rest; all step down upon
the platform at the Trafton depot, and one after another grasp the
outstretched hands of Harvey James, whom we all _will_ call Jim Long in
spite of ourselves, and then receive the hearty welcome of the Harris's,
senior and junior, and many other Traftonites.

We have come to witness the end of our Trafton drama, viz., the marriage
of Louise Barnard and Carl Bethel.

Bethel is as happy as mortals are ever permitted to be and as handsome
as a demigod. There are left no traces of his former suffering; the
wound inflicted by a hired assassin has healed, leaving him as strong as
of old, and only the scar upon his breast remains to tell the story of
the long days when his life hung by a thread.

Of the blow that was aimed at his honor, there remains not even a scar.
The plot of the grave robbers has recoiled upon their own heads. Dr.
Carl Bethel is to-day the leading physician, and the most popular man in
Trafton.

"I have waited for this event," says Harvey James, as we sit chatting
together an hour before the marriage. "I have waited to see them
married, and after this is over, I am going West."

"Not out of our reach, I hope!"

"No; I have still the surplus of the price of my farm; enough to buy me
a ranche and stock it finely. I mean to build a roomy cabin and fit it
up so as to accomodate guests. Then by-and-by, when you want another
Summer's vacation, you and Carnes shall come to my ranche. I have talked
over my plans with Bethel and his bride, and they have already accepted
my hospitality for next year's vacation. I anticipate some years of
genuine comfort yet, for I have long wanted to explore the West, and try
life as a ranchman, but I would not leave Trafton while Brooks continued
to flourish in it. Do you mean to accept my invitation, sir?"

"I do, indeed; and as for Carnes, you'll get him to come easier than you
can persuade him to leave."

"Nothing could suit me better."

Louise Barnard made a lovely bride, and there never was a merrier or
more harmonious wedding party.

During the evening, however, the fair bride approached Jim--or Harvey
James--and myself, as we stood a little aloof from the others. There was
the least bit of a frown upon her face, too, as she said:

"I can't help feeling cross with you, sir detective. Somebody must bear
the blame of not bringing Adele Lowenstein to my wedding. I wrote her
that I should take her presence as a sign that she fully believed in the
sincerity of my friendship, and that Trafton would thus be assured of my
entire faith in her, and yet, she declined."

I do not know what to say in reply. So I drop my eyes and mentally
anathematize my own stupidity.

"Do you know why she refused to come?" she persists.

While I still hesitate, Jim--I must say Jim--touches my arm.

"Your delicacy is commendable," he says in my ear. "But would it not be
better to tell Mrs. Bethel the truth, than to allow her to think the
woman she has befriended, ungrateful?"

I feel that he is wise and I am foolish; so I lift my eyes to her face
and say:

"Mrs. Bethel, Adele Lowenstein had one secret that you never guessed. If
you had seen her, as I saw her, at the bedside of your husband, on the
day after the attempt upon his life, _you_, of all women in the world,
would understand best why she is not at your wedding to-day."

She utters a startled exclamation, and her eyes turn involuntarily to
where Carl Bethel stands, tall and splendid, among his guests; then a
look of pitying tenderness comes into her face.

"Poor Adele!" she says softly, and turns slowly away.

"Adele Lowenstein is not the woman to forget easily," I say to my
companion. "But there," and I nod toward Gerry Brown, "is the man who
would willingly teach her the lesson."

"Then," says Jim, contentedly, "it is only a question of time. Gerry
Brown is bound to win."

THE END.



LAWRENCE L. LYNCH'S WORKS.


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A New Detective Story.

By LAWRENCE L. LYNCH,

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(_Ready Dec. 1st, 1884._)

[Illustration: "Don't pull, boys; I've got the drop on ye!" Page 58.]

DANGEROUS GROUND;

OR THE

RIVAL DETECTIVES.

The author's latest and greatest work; intensely interesting.
45 Elegant Illustrations.
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Madeline Payne

THE EXPERT'S DAUGHTER.

By LAWRENCE L. LYNCH

Author of "Shadowed by Three." "Out of a Labyrinth," etc., etc.

Illustrated with 45 Original Engravings.

PRICE, $1.50.

CONTENTS.--The Lovers' Meeting. The Serpent in Eden. A Sudden
Departure. What the Old Tree Revealed. Two Heartless Plotters. The Story
of a Mother's Wrongs and a Husband's Crimes. Turns her Back on the Old
Home, and Trusts the Future and Lucian Davlin. Nurse Hagar is "Out of
Sorts." Madeline Defies her Enemies. "_You are her Murderer!_" The
Railway Station at Night. A Disappointed Schemer Rejoiced. Madeline's
Flight. The Night Journey to New York. A Friendly Warning Unheeded.
"Take it; _in the Name of your Mother I ask it_!" Alone in the Great
City. A Shrewd Scheme. An Ever-Present Face. Olive Gerard's Warning. The
Cruel Awakening. The Bird in a Golden Cage. The Luxurious Apartments of
Lucian Davlin, the Man of Luck. A Dissatisfied Servant. The Man of Luck
Defied. A Well-Aimed Pistol Shot. "Little Demon, I will kill you before
I will lose you now!" Doctor Vaughn Summoned. A Charming Widow at
Bellair. "The Danger is Past!" Gone! "When Next we Meet, I Shall Have
Other Weapons!" Bonnie, Bewitching Claire. A Tell-tale Photograph.
"Cruel, Crafty, Treacherous." Madeline and Olive in Conference. "Kitty,
the Dancer, will Die!" The Story of an Old Crime Retold. "Percy! Percy!
Percy!" A Message from the Dead. "May God's Curse fall on all who Drove
her to her Doom!" Miss Arthur's French Maid. Cora Growing Weary of
Dissembling. Celine Leroque Overhears an Important Conversation. Mr.
Percy startled. Cora Shares this Feeling. Percy Turns the Tables. "And
yet you are on the Earth!" Celine Manages to Play the Spy to some
Purpose. Cora and Celine Measure Swords. Cora's Cunning Plot. "Celine
looked Cautiously about her." An Intercepted Telegram. Face to Face. A
Midnight Appointment. "I am Afraid for _you_; but give it up now?
never!" An Irate Spinster. Celine's Highly Probable Story. Gathering
Clues. A Hurried Visit. The Hand of Friendship Wields the Surgeon's
Knife. Claire Keith Placed Face to Face with Trouble. A Dual
Renunciation. An Astonishing Disclosure. "I am not Worthy of Him, and
_she_ is!" Struggling Against Fate. "Ah, how Dared I think to Become one
of you?" A Fiery Fair Champion. Hagar and Cora have a Meeting. Cora gets
a Glimmer of a False Light. "To be, to do, to Suffer." A Troubled
Spinster. An Aggravating French Maid. "Won't there be a Row in the
Castle!" Setting some Snares. Cora and Celine form an Alliance. A
Veritable Ghost Awakens Consternation in the Household. "If ever you
want to make him feel what it is to Suffer, Hagar will help you!" Doctor
Vaughn Visits Bellair. Not a Bad Day's Work. Henry Reveals his Master's
Secrets. Claire Turns Circe. A Mysterious Tenant. Celine Hurries Matters
a Trifle. The Curtain Rises on the Mimic Stage. Celine Discharged by the
Spinster, takes Service with Cora. The Sudden Illness. The Learned
"Doctor from Europe." "I am Sorry, very Sorry." The Plot Thickens. A
Midnight Conflagration. The Mysterious House in Flames, and its
Mysterious Tenant takes Refuge with Claire. The Story of a Wrecked Life.
"Well, it is a Strange Business, and a Difficult." Letters from the Seat
of War. Mr. Percy Shakes Himself. A Fair Invalid. "Two Handsomer
Scoundrels Never Stood at Bay!" A Silken Belt Worth a King's Ransom. A
Successful Burglary. Cross Purposes. A Slight Complication. A new
Detective on the Scene. Clarence Vaughn seeks to Cultivate him. Bidding
High for First-Class Detective Service. "Thou shalt not Serve two
Masters" set at naught. Mr. Lord's Letter. Premonitions of a Storm.
"The--fellow is Dead!" A Thunderbolt. "I have come back to my own!" A
Fair, but Strong, Hand. Cora Restive under Orders. "You--you are----?"
"Celine Leroque, Madam." A Madman. A Bogus Doctor Uncomfortable. "Don't
you try that, sir!" Lucian Davlin's "Points" are False Beacons. Cora's
Humiliation. An Arrival of Sharp-Eyed Well-Borers. Rather Strange Maid
Servants. The Cords are Tightening and the Victims Writhe. A Veritable
Sphynx. Sleeping with Eyes Open. A Savage Toothache. A Judicious Use of
Chloroform. A Bold Break for Freedom. An Omnipresent Well-Borer. "No
Nonsense, Mind; I'm not a Flat." "For God's sake, _what_ are you?" "A
Witch!" The Doctor's Wooing. Mrs. Ralston Overhears Something. A Fresh
Complication. "He is very Handsome; so are Tigers!" An Astounding
Revelation. Mrs. Ralston's Story. "No," gasped Olive, "I--I--." A
Movement in Force. Cora stirs up the Animals. A Wedding Indefinitely
Postponed for Cause. Nipped in the Bud. Ready for Action. "Be at the
Cottage to-night." A Plea for forgiveness. Sharpening the Sword of Fate.
The Weight of a Woman's Hand. "Officers, take him; he has been my
Prisoner long enough!" "Man, you have been a Dupe, a Fool!" Cora's
Confession. "The Pistol is Aimed at Madeline's Heart!" "It is a Death
Wound!" "The Goddess you Worship has Deserted you!" The Death-bed of a
Hypocrite. "And then comes Rest!" The World is Clothed in a New White
Garment.

    "God's greatness shines around our incompleteness,
    Round our restlessness His rest!"



THE GOLD HUNTERS' ADVENTURE

OR, WILD LIFE IN AUSTRALIA.

By WM. H. THOMES, author of "The Bushrangers," "The Gold Hunters in
Europe," "A Whaleman's Adventures," "Life in the East Indies,"
"Adventures on a Slaver," "Running the Blockade," etc., etc.

[Illustration: "Now for a rush.--Cut them to pieces!"]

A FASCINATING STORY OF ADVENTURE.



A SLAVER'S ADVENTURES

ON SEA AND LAND.

[Illustration: "We saw many species of wild animals." Page 39.]

By WM. H. THOMES,

Author of "THE GOLD HUNTERS' ADVENTURES IN AUSTRALIA," "THE
BUSHRANGERS," "RUNNING THE BLOCKADE," etc., etc.

ILLUSTRATED WITH FORTY ELEGANT ENGRAVINGS.

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A Whaleman's Adventures

_AT SEA, IN THE SANDWICH ISLANDS AND CALIFORNIA._

[Illustration]

By WM. H. THOMES,

Author of "THE GOLD HUNTERS' ADVENTURES IN AUSTRALIA," "THE
BUSHRANGERS," "RUNNING THE BLOCKADE," etc., etc.

Illustrated with Thirty-Six Fine Engravings.

SOLD ON ALL RAILWAY TRAINS AND BY ALL BOOKSELLERS.



       *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber's note:

Apparent printer's errors have been retained, unless stated below.

Punctuation, capitalization, accents and formatting markup have been
made consistent.

Page numbers cited in illustration captions refer to their discussion in
the text. Illustrations have been moved near their mention in the text.

Page 13, "tress" changed to "trees". (Mamie Rutger, the only daughter of
a prosperous German farmer; wild little Mamie, who rode the wickedest
colts, climbed the tallest trees, sang loudest in the singing-school,
and laughed oftenest at the merry-makings, also vanished.)

Page 32, "a a" changed to "a". (Instead of working swiftly on to a
successful issue, this must be a case of waiting, of wit against wit,
and I must report to my chief a balk in the very beginning.)

Page 65, "facts" changed to "facks" for consistency in dialect within
the paragraph. (They're facks, as anybody can see.)

Page 89, Missing "on" added. (Brookhouse tore off half of the yellow
envelope, and sitting on his horse, wrote a few words, resting his scrap
of paper on the horn of his saddle.)

Page 92, "then" changed to "them". (He had put the matter before them in
a new light, and each man felt himself for the moment responsible for
his own acts.)

Page 98, "bad" changed to "had". (Those who at first had been held in
check by the doctor's manner were once more spurred to action by the
sight of those earth-stained tools, and the general verdict was that
"Bethel was bluffing, sure.")

Page 139, "thus" changed to "this". (I arose and made a hasty toilet,
feeling sure that something unusual had called him from his bed this
early.)

Page 148, "he" changed to "be". (Whom he would be elected to office, and
whom he would not, came somehow to be disapproved by all Trafton.)

Page 157, "dis-displeased" changed to "displeased". (Arch displeased me
very much by not coming to your aid;)

Page 158, "in" changed to "is". (Your influence in Trafton is
considerable, I know.)

Page 199, "is is" changed to "is". ("I am afraid some new misfortune
menaces Trafton, if, as you say, Blake Simpson is already here, for
Dimber Joe came down on the train to-night, and is in Trafton.")

Page 203, "undividuality" changed to "individuality". (His words were a
mass of absurd contradictions, betraying no trait of his individuality,
save his eccentricity;)

Page 213, "he" changed to "be". (I hear his fiddle, so I s'pose he can
be seen?)

Page 214, "machime" changed to "machine". (I had supposed it to be none
other than an old school friend of that name, who, when last I heard of
him, was general agent for a city machine manufactory.)

Page 221, "began" changed to "begin". ("Ah! I begin to see!")

Page 266, "compainions" changed to "companions". (I find there are
plenty of guides and companions to be picked up.)

Page 276, Telegram edited to match one on Page 280, as it states it is
the same telegram.

Page 335, "statute" changed to "statue". (Louise sat mute and
statue-like by the bedside of her lover, and I, oppressed by the
stillness, was leaning over the open window sill, wondering how it was
faring with Jim Long, when the gate gave the faintest creak, and I
lifted my eyes to see the object of my mental inquiry coming toward me.)

Page 336, "and and" changed to "and". (He glanced from me to the
doorway, where Mrs. Harris was now standing, with an expectant look on
her benevolent countenance, and replied, laconically:)

Page 336, "unoticed" changed to "unnoticed". (At the same moment I
observed what was unnoticed by the other two; Miss Barnard had left her
post and was standing behind Mrs. Harris.)

Page 336, "imperceptable" changed to "imperceptible". ("Now, the
Jestice," with another sidelong glance, and an almost imperceptible
gesture, "is a man an' a brother.")

Page 344, "litttle" changed to "little". (All we want, is here; half a
dozen men with ordinary courage and shrewdness, and a little patience.)

Page 376, "ecstacy" changed to "ecstasy". (I experienced a thrill of
ecstasy when I learned that Wyman kicked him three times, with stout
boots!)

Page 403, "darks" changed to "dark". (Three dark forms approach, one
after the other,)





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