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Title: Phoebe Daring - A Story for Young Folk
Author: Baum, L. Frank (Lyman Frank)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Phoebe Daring - A Story for Young Folk" ***

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The Daring Twins Series

Phoebe Daring



[Illustration: “Shame on you all!” she cried, glaring around with
righteous indignation. “How dare you attack one who is more unfortunate
than yourselves!”]



  Phoebe Daring
  A Story for Young Folk

  By
  L. Frank Baum

  Author of “The Daring Twins,” The Oz Books, “The Sea
  Fairies” and Other Tales

  [Illustration]

  Illustrated by Joseph Pierre Nuyttens

  The Reilly & Britton Co.
  Chicago



  Copyright, 1912
  by
  The Reilly & Britton Co.

  PHOEBE DARING



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                       PAGE

      I HOW TOBY CLARK LOST HIS JOB                9

     II HOW MRS. RITCHIE DEMANDED HER PROPERTY    20

    III HOW THE DARINGS PLANNED                   33

     IV HOW PHOEBE BECAME WORRIED                 44

      V HOW PHOEBE INTERVIEWED THE LAWYER         57

     VI HOW TOBY CAME TO GRIEF                    70

    VII HOW TOBY FOUND A FRIEND                   83

   VIII HOW PHOEBE CONSPIRED                      93

     IX HOW PHOEBE PLAYED DETECTIVE              109

      X HOW THE MARCHING CLUB WAS ORGANIZED      122

     XI HOW THE CLUB RECEIVED A DONATION         135

    XII HOW THE GOVERNOR ARRIVED                 147

   XIII HOW TOBY SAW THE GREAT MAN               160

    XIV HOW THE CONSTABLE ARGUED HIS CASE        169

     XV HOW THE BAND PLAYED                      179

    XVI HOW MRS. RITCHIE CHIDED HER LAWYER       189

   XVII HOW PHOEBE SURPRISED A SECRET            196

  XVIII HOW MR. SPAYTHE CONFESSED                208

    XIX HOW TOBY CLARK FACED RUIN                220

     XX HOW PHOEBE DEFENDED THE HELPLESS         229

    XXI HOW PHOEBE TELEGRAPHED THE GOVERNOR      236

   XXII HOW SAM PARSONS EXPLAINED                246

  XXIII HOW A WRONG LOOKED RIGHT                 256

   XXIV HOW THE MYSTERY CLEARED                  266

    XXV HOW TOBY WON HIS HERITAGE                280

   XXVI HOW PHOEBE’S CONSPIRACY TRIUMPHED        291



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


  “Shame on you all!” she cried, glaring around
  with righteous indignation. “How dare you
  attack one who is more unfortunate than
  yourselves!”                        _Frontispiece_

  “Then,” said Phoebe, “we must organize a
  conspiracy, we three, and help Toby without
  his ever suspecting it.”                 _Page_ 68

  Lawyer Kellogg came up, triumphantly waving
  his hand, in which was clasped an oblong
  packet. “We’ve got it!” he cried, his round
  fat face well depicting his joy.        _Page_ 224

  “I’m not going to undertake that trial for
  nothing, Mrs. Ritchie. If you want Toby
  Clark imprisoned for stealing your box
  you’ve got to pay handsomely for it.”   _Page_ 282



Phoebe Daring

CHAPTER I

HOW TOBY CLARK LOST HIS JOB


“It’s a shame!” cried Becky Daring, indignantly shaking her scraggly
red locks for emphasis.

“So say we all of us,” observed her brother Don in matter-of-fact
tones. “But that won’t help it, Beck.”

“Wasn’t it all Judge Ferguson’s fault?” asked little Sue, listening
with round, solemn eyes.

“Why, the poor old judge couldn’t help dying, you know,” said Don,
judicially. “And he hadn’t an idea his candle would flicker out so
soon. Old Mr. Ferguson liked Toby Clark and I’m sure, if he’d thought
his own end was so near, he’d have fixed it so his clerk wouldn’t be
left out in the cold.”

“And now Toby hasn’t any job, or any money, or any friends,” remarked
Sue, sighing deeply.

“Yes, he has!” declared Becky. “He has me for a friend, for one, and
all the village to back me up. But friends ain’t bread-an’-butter
and I guess a poor cripple out of work is as bad off as if he hadn’t
a friend in the world. That’s why I say it’s a shame Judge Ferguson
didn’t leave him any money. It’s worse than a common shame--it’s just a
_howling_ shame!”

“Dear me,” said Phoebe, entering the room with a smiling glance at her
younger sisters and brother, “what’s wrong now? What’s a howling shame,
Becky?”

“The way Judge Ferguson treated Toby Clark.”

Phoebe’s smile vanished. She went to the window and stood looking out
for a moment. Then she turned and seated herself among the group.

“You’ve heard the news, then?” she asked.

“Yes. Doris Randolph told us the Fergusons read the will this morning,
and Toby wasn’t mentioned in it,” replied Don.

“That is not strange,” said Phoebe, thoughtfully. “Toby Clark was not a
relative of the Fergusons, you know; he was just a clerk in the judge’s
law office.”

“But he’s a cripple,” retorted Becky, “and he was made a cripple by
saving Judge Ferguson’s life.”

“That is true,” admitted Phoebe. “Judge Ferguson went into
grandfather’s vault, where he suspected all the Daring money had
been hidden by old Elaine, our crazy housekeeper, and while he was
in there, in company with Toby and the constable, old Elaine tried
to shut the heavy door and lock them all up. Had she succeeded they
would soon have suffocated; but Toby stopped the door from closing,
with his foot, which was badly crushed, and so by his quick wit and
bravery saved three lives--including his own. The judge was grateful to
him, of course, and had he lived Toby would have remained in his law
office until in time he became a partner. That his friend and patron
suddenly died and so deprived Toby of further employment, was due to
the accident of circumstances. I do not think anyone can be blamed.”

They were silent a moment and then Sue asked: “What’s going to become
of Toby now, Phoebe?”

“I don’t know. He hasn’t any father or mother; they both died years
ago, long before Judge Ferguson took the boy to work for him. The
Clarks owned a little cabin down by the river--a poor place it is--and
there Toby has lived and cooked his own meals while he studied law in
the judge’s office. He lives there yet, and since the judge died, a
week ago, he has done nothing but mourn for his friend and benefactor.
But Toby will find some other work to do, I’m sure, as soon as he
applies for it, for everyone in the village likes him.”

“Can’t we do something?” asked Becky earnestly. “We owe Toby a lot,
too, for he helped the judge to save grandfather’s fortune for us.”

“We will do all we can,” replied Phoebe, positively, “but we can’t
offer Toby charity, you understand. He is very proud and it would hurt
him dreadfully to think we were offering him alms. I’ll ask the Little
Mother about it and see what she thinks.”

That ended the conversation, for the time, and the younger Darings
all ran out into the crisp October air while Phoebe went about her
household duties with a thoughtful face. She and her twin, Phil, were
the real heads of the Daring family, although the orphans had a “Little
Mother” in Cousin Judith Eliot, a sweet-faced, gentle young woman who
had come to live with them and see that they were not allowed to run
wild. But Phil was now in college, paving the way for mighty deeds in
the future, and Phoebe knew her twin would be deeply grieved over the
sudden death of their father’s old friend, Judge Ferguson. The judge
had also been their guardian and, with Cousin Judith, a trustee of the
Daring estate--a competence inherited from their grandfather, Jonas
Eliot, who had been one of the big men of the county. The fine old
colonial mansion in which the Darings lived was also an inheritance
from Grandpa Eliot, and although it was not so showy as some of the
modern residences of Riverdale--the handsome Randolph house across the
way, for instance--it possessed a dignity and beauty that compelled
respect.

The loss of their guardian did not worry the young Darings so much as
the loss of their friend, for the shrewd old lawyer had been very kind
to them, skillfully advising them in every affair, big or little, that
might in any way affect their interests. Mr. Ferguson--called “Judge”
merely by courtesy, for he had always been a practicing lawyer--had
doubtless been the most highly esteemed member of the community. For
a score of years he had been the confidential adviser of many of the
wealthiest families in that part of the state, counseling with them
not only in business but in family affairs. In his dingy offices,
which were located over the post office in Riverdale, many important
transactions and transfers of property had been consummated, and the
tall wooden cupboard in the lawyer’s private room contained numerous
metal boxes marked with the names of important clients and containing
documents of considerable value. Yet, in spite of his large and varied
practice, Mr. Ferguson attended to all his clients personally and only
a young boy, Toby Clark, had been employed as a clerk during the past
few years.

At first Toby swept out the office and ran errands. Then he developed
an eagerness to study law, and the judge, finding the young fellow
bright and capable, assisted his ambition by promoting Toby to copying
deeds and law papers and laying out for him a course of practical
study. In many ways Toby proved of value to his employer and Mr.
Ferguson grew very fond of the boy, especially after that adventure
when Toby Clark heroically sacrificed his foot to prevent them both
from being hermetically sealed up in old Mr. Eliot’s mausoleum, where
they would soon have perished from lack of air.

Knowing ones declared that so strong was the affection between the
old lawyer and his youthful clerk that Toby would surely inherit the
fine law business some day. But no one realized then that the grizzled
old lawyer’s days were numbered. He had been so rugged and strong in
appearance that it was a shock to the entire community when he was
suddenly stricken by an insidious heart disease and expired without
a word to even the members of his own family. Many grieved at Judge
Ferguson’s death, but none more sincerely than his office boy and daily
companion, Toby Clark. He had no thought, at the time, of his own
ruined prospects, remembering only that his one staunch friend had been
taken from him.

Except that the lawyer’s friendship had distinguished him, Toby was a
nobody in Riverdale. The Clarks, who were not natives of the town but
had strayed into it years before, had been not only poor and lowly
but lacking in refinement. They had not even been considered “good
citizens,” for the man was surly and unsociable and the woman untidy.
With such parents it was wonderful that the boy developed any ability
whatever, and in his early days the barefooted, ragged urchin was
regarded by the villagers with strong disapproval. Then his mother
passed away and a year or so later his father, and the boy was left to
buffet the world alone. It was now that he evinced intelligence and
force of character. Although still considered a queer and unaccountable
little fellow, his willingness to do any odd job to turn an honest
penny won the respect of the people and many gave him a day’s
employment just to help him along. That was how the waif came under
Judge Ferguson’s notice and the old lawyer, a shrewd judge of humanity,
recognized the latent force and cleverness in the boy’s nature and took
him under his wing.

Toby wasn’t very prepossessing in appearance. At nineteen years of
age he was so small in size that he seemed scarcely fifteen. His hair
was unruly and of a dull tow color, his face freckled and red and his
nose inclined to turn up at the point. He was awkward and shuffling
in manner and extremely silent and shy of speech, seldom venturing
any remark not absolutely necessary. The eyes redeemed the boy in
many ways. They were not large nor beautiful, but they were so bright
and twinkled in such a merry, honest fashion that they won him many
friends. He had a whimsical but engaging expression of countenance,
and although a bad conversationalist he was a good listener and so
alert that nothing seemed to escape his quick, keen glance or his big
freckled ears.

“If Toby said all he knows,” once remarked Will Chandler, the
postmaster and village president, “he’d jabber night an’ day. It’s
lucky for us his tongue don’t work easy.”

The only thing Toby inherited from his shiftless parents was a shanty
down by the river bank, on property that no one had any use for, and
its contents, consisting of a few pieces of cheap, much-used furniture.
His father, who had won the reputation of being too lazy to work,
often fished in the river, partly because it was “a lazy man’s job”
and partly to secure food which he had no money to purchase. The
villagers said he built his shanty on the waste ground bordering the
stream--at a point south of the town--for two reasons, one, because he
was unsociable and avoided his fellows, the other, because it saved
him a walk to the river when he wanted to fish. The house seemed good
enough for Toby’s present purposes, for he never complained of it; but
after entering Mr. Ferguson’s office the boy grew neater in appearance
and always wore decent clothes and clean linen. Living simply, he could
afford such things, even on the small weekly wage he earned.

The boy was ambitious. He realized perfectly that he was now a nobody,
but he determined to become a somebody. It was hard to advance much in
a small town like Riverdale, where everyone knew his antecedents and
remembered his parents as little better than the mud on the river bank.
The villagers generally liked Toby and were willing to extend a helping
hand to him; but he was odd--there was no doubt of that--and as he
belonged directly to nobody he was wholly irresponsible.

It is a mystery how the waif managed to subsist before Judge Ferguson
took charge of him; but he got an odd job now and then and never begged
nor whined, although he must have been hungry more than once.

With his admission to the law office Toby’s fortunes changed. The
representative of a popular attorney was entitled to respect and Toby
assumed a new dignity, a new importance and a new and greater ambition
than before. He read in the law books during every leisure moment and
found his mind easily grasped the dry details of jurisprudence. The
boy attended court whenever he was able to and listened with absorbed
interest to every debate and exposition of the law. Not infrequently,
during the last few months, he had been able to call Mr. Ferguson’s
attention to some point of law which the learned and experienced
attorney had overlooked. Toby seemed to live in every case his employer
conducted and in his quiet way he noted the management of the many
estates held in trust by the old judge and the care with which every
separate interest was guarded. The boy could tell the contents of
nearly every one of the precious metal boxes arranged on the shelves
of the oak cupboard, for often the lawyer would hand him the bunch of
slender steel keys and tell him to get a paper from such or such a box.

This trusteeship was the largest part of Mr. Ferguson’s business, for
not many legal differences came to court or were tried in so small and
placid a district. There were other prominent lawyers in neighboring
towns and a rival in Riverdale--one Abner Kellogg, a fat and pompous
little man who had signally failed to win the confidence Judge Ferguson
inspired but was so aggressive and meddlesome that he managed to make a
living.



CHAPTER II

HOW MRS. RITCHIE DEMANDED HER PROPERTY


Toby Clark was inexpressibly shocked when one morning he learned that
his dear friend and patron had been found dead in his bed. At once the
lame boy hobbled over to the Ferguson home, a comfortable house at the
far end of Riverdale, to find Mrs. Ferguson prostrated with grief, and
Janet, the only daughter, weeping miserably and rejecting all attempts
to comfort her. So he crept back to town, mounted the stairs to the
homely law offices over the post office and sat down to try to realize
that the kindly face he loved would never brighten its dingy gray walls
again.

All the morning and till past noon Toby sat in the silent place,
where every object reflected the personality of his departed master,
bemoaning his loss and living over in memory the happy days that were
past. Early in the afternoon steps sounded on the stairs. A key turned
in the outer door and Will Chandler, the postmaster, entered the
office, accompanied by a stranger.

Toby knew that Chandler, who owned the building, usually kept Judge
Ferguson’s office key. Whenever the old judge, who was absent-minded
at times, changed his trousers at home he would forget to change the
contents of the pockets. So, to avoid being obliged to return home for
his key on such occasions, he was accustomed to leave it in Chandler’s
keeping, where it might be conveniently found when needed. Of late
years the judge had seldom required the key to the outer door, for Toby
Clark was always on hand and had the offices swept, dusted and aired
long before his master arrived. Mr. Chandler was a reliable man and as
fully trusted by Mr. Ferguson as was Toby.

“Oh, you’re here, eh?” exclaimed the postmaster, in surprise, as his
eyes fell upon the boy.

Toby nodded his reply, staring vacantly.

“The Fergusons have been inquiring for you,” continued Chandler. “I
believe Janet wants you at the house.”

Toby slowly rose and balanced himself on his crutch. Then he cast a
hesitating glance at the stranger.

“You’ll lock up, sir, when you go away?” he asked.

“Of course,” replied Will Chandler. “I only came to show this
gentleman, Mr. Holbrook, the offices. He’s a lawyer and has been in
town for several days, trying to find a suitable place to locate. As
poor Ferguson will not need these rooms hereafter I shall rent them to
Mr. Holbrook--if they suit him.”

The stranger stepped forward. He was a young man, not more than
twenty-five years of age, handsome and prepossessing in appearance.
He had a dark moustache and dark, expressive eyes, and his face was
cheery and pleasant to look at. In the matter of dress Mr. Holbrook was
something of a dandy, but neat and immaculate as was his apparel there
was little cause to criticise the young man’s taste.

“The rooms need brightening a bit,” he said, glancing around him, “but
the fact that Judge Ferguson has occupied them for so long renders them
invaluable to a young lawyer just starting in business. The ‘good will’
is worth a lot to me, as successor to so prominent an attorney. If you
will accept the same rent the judge paid you, Mr. Chandler, we will
call it a bargain.”

The postmaster nodded.

“It’s a fair rental,” said he; but Toby waited to hear no more. The
daughter of his old master wanted him and he hastened to obey her
summons, leaving Chandler and Mr. Holbrook in the office.

Janet was pacing up and down the sitting room, red-eyed and extremely
nervous. In an easy-chair sat an elderly woman in black, stony-faced
and calm, whom Toby at once recognized as Mrs. Ritchie, who owned a
large plantation between Riverdale and Bayport. She was one of Judge
Ferguson’s oldest clients and the lawyer had for years attended to all
of the eccentric old creature’s business affairs.

“This woman,” said Janet, her voice trembling with indignation, “has
come to annoy us about some papers.”

Mrs. Ritchie turned her stolid glare upon the clerk.

“You’re Toby Clark,” she said. “I know you. You’re the judge’s office
boy. I want all the papers and funds belonging to me, and I want ’em
now. They’re in the office, somewhere, in a tin box painted blue,
with my name on the end of it. The Fergusons are responsible for my
property, I know, but some of those papers are precious. The money
could be replaced, but not the documents, and that’s why I want ’em
now. Understand? Now!”

Toby was puzzled.

“I remember the blue box marked ‘Ritchie,’ ma’am,” said he, “but I
don’t know what’s in it.”

“All my money’s in it--hard cash,” she retorted, “and all my valuable
papers besides. I could trust the judge with ’em better than I could
trust myself; but I won’t trust anyone else. Now he’s gone I must take
charge of the stuff myself. I want that box.”

“Well,” said Toby reflectively, “the box is yours, of course, and
you’re entitled to it. But I’m not sure we have the right to remove
anything from the judge’s office until an inventory has been made
and the will probated. I suppose an administrator or trustee will be
appointed who will deliver your box to you.”

“Shucks!” cried Mrs. Ritchie scornfully; “you’re a fool, Toby Clark.
You can’t tie up my personal property that way.”

“The law, madam--”

“Drat the law! The property’s mine, and I want it now.”

Toby looked helplessly at Janet.

“That’s the way she’s been annoying me all the afternoon,” declared
the girl, stifling a sob. “Can’t you get rid of her, Toby? Give her
anything she wants; only make her go.”

“I’ll go when I get my property,” said Mrs. Ritchie, obstinately
settling herself in the chair.

Toby thought about it.

“I might ask Lawyer Kellogg’s advice,” he said. “He wasn’t Judge
Ferguson’s friend, but he knows the law and could tell us what to do.”

“Kellogg! That fat pig of a pettifogger?” cried the old woman, sniffing
disdainfully. “I wouldn’t believe him on oath.”

“Never mind the law; give her the box, Toby,” implored Janet.

But Toby had a high respect for the law.

“Do you know Mr. Holbrook?” he asked.

“No,” said Janet.

“Who’s Holbrook?” inquired Mrs. Ritchie. “Never heard of him.”

“He is a young lawyer who has just come to Riverdale to practice. I
think Will Chandler has rented him our offices,” explained the boy.

“Is he decent?” asked the old woman.

“I--I think so, ma’am. I’ve never seen him but once, a half hour ago.
But I’m sure he is competent to advise us.”

“Go get him,” commanded Mrs. Ritchie.

“It will be better for you to come with me,” replied Toby, anxious to
relieve Janet of the woman’s disturbing presence. “We will go to the
hotel, and I’ll leave you there while I hunt up Mr. Holbrook. He may be
stopping at the hotel, you know.”

The woman rose deliberately from her chair.

“It’s getting late,” she said. “I want to get my property and drive
home before dark. Come along, boy.”

“Thank you, Toby,” whispered Janet, gratefully, as the two passed out
of the room.

Mrs. Ritchie’s horse was hitched to a post in front of the house. They
climbed into the rickety buggy and she drove into town and to the
rambling old clapboard hotel, which was located on the main street. It
was beginning to grow dusk by this time.

On the hotel porch stood the man they were seeking. Mr. Holbrook was
smoking a cigarette and, with hands thrust deep in his pockets, was
gazing vacantly down the street. Turning his attention to the arrivals
the young lawyer seemed to recognize Toby. When the boy and the woman
approached him he threw away his cigarette and bowed in deference to
Mrs. Ritchie’s sex.

“I am Judge Ferguson’s clerk, sir,” began Toby.

“Yes; I know.”

“And this is Mrs. Ritchie, who employed the judge as her confidential
business agent.”

“I am glad to know you, madam. Step into the hotel parlor, please.
There we may converse with more comfort.”

When they had entered the parlor Toby explained the situation. Mrs.
Ritchie wanted her box of private papers and Toby was not sure he had
the right to give them up without legal authority.

“That is correct,” observed Mr. Holbrook. “You must have an order from
the Probate Court to dispose of any property left by Judge Ferguson.”

“It’s _my_ property!” snapped the woman.

“Very true, madam. We regret that you should be so annoyed. But you can
readily understand that your interests are being safeguarded by the
law. If anyone, without authority, could deliver your box to you, he
might also deliver it to others, in which case you would suffer serious
loss. There will be no difficulty, however, in securing the proper
order from the court; but that will require a few days’ time.”

“There’s money in that box,” said Mrs. Ritchie. “I don’t trust those
swindling banks, so the judge kept all my ready money for me. In that
box are thousands of dollars in cold cash, an’ some government bonds
as good as cash. I need some money to-day. Can’t this boy let me into
the office so I can take what I want out of the box? I’ve got a key, if
Toby Clark will open the cupboard for me. I drove to town to-day for
money to pay off my hands with, and found the judge died las’ night,
without letting me know. A pretty pickle I’ll be in, if the law’s to
keep me from my rightful property!”

“You have no right to touch your box, Mrs. Ritchie. The boy has no
right to allow you in Mr. Ferguson’s offices.”

“Never mind that; no one will know, if we keep our mouths shut.”

Mr. Holbrook smiled but shook his head.

“I am sorry you should be so distressed,” he said gently, “but the
inconvenience is but temporary, I assure you. If you employ me to get
the order from the court I will see that there is no unnecessary delay.”

“Humph!” said the woman, looking at him shrewdly. “Will it cost
anything?”

“Merely my expenses to the city, a slight fee and the court charges.”

“Merely a job to rob me, eh? You want me to pay good money to get hold
of my own property?”

“If you are in a hurry for it. Otherwise, by allowing the law to take
its course, the property will be returned to you without charge.”

She considered this statement, eyeing the young man suspiciously the
while.

“I’ll think it over,” was her final verdict. “To-morrow I’ll drive into
town again. Don’t you blab about what I’ve told you is in that box,
Holbrook. If you’re goin’ to settle in this town you’ll have to learn
to keep your mouth shut, or you’ll get run out in short order. Judge
Ferguson never blabbed and you’ll do well to follow his example. Come,
Toby; I’m goin’ home.”

“By the way,” remarked Mr. Holbrook, addressing the boy in meaning
tones, “you’d better keep out of Mr. Ferguson’s offices until after an
inventory is made by the proper authorities. If you have a key, as I
suspect--for I saw you in the office--get rid of it at once; for, if
anything is missing, you might be held responsible.”

Toby saw the value of this advice.

“I’ll give my key to Mr. Spaythe, at the bank, for safe keeping,” he
said.

“That’s right,” returned the young man, nodding approval.

“Mr. Spaythe was the judge’s best friend and I think he’ll be the
executor, under the terms of the will,” continued Toby, thoughtfully.

“In any event, get rid of the key,” counseled Mr. Holbrook.

“I will, sir.”

When they were standing alone by Mrs. Ritchie’s buggy the woman asked
in a low voice:

“So you’ve got the key, have you?”

“Yes,” said Toby.

“Then we’ll go to the office and get my box, law or no law. I’ll make
it worth your while, Toby Clark, and no one will ever know.”

The boy shook his head, casting a whimsical smile at the unscrupulous
old woman.

“No bribery and corruption for me, ma’am, thank you. I’m somewhat
inclined to be honest, in my humble way. But I couldn’t do it, anyhow,
Mrs. Ritchie, because Judge Ferguson always kept the key to the
cupboard himself, on the same ring that he kept the keys to all the
boxes.”

“Where are his keys, then?”

“At his house, I suppose.”

“Tcha! That impudent girl of his has them, an’ there’s no use asking
her to give ’em up.”

“Not the slightest use, Mrs. Ritchie.”

“Well, I’m going home.”

She got into the buggy and drove away. Toby stood motionless a moment,
thoughtfully leaning on his crutch as he considered what to do.
Spaythe’s Bank was closed, of course, but the boy had an uneasy feeling
that he ought not to keep the key to the office in his possession
overnight. So he walked slowly to Mr. Spaythe’s house and asked to see
the banker, who fortunately was at home.

“I’d like you to take the key to the office, sir, and keep it until
it’s wanted,” he explained.

“Very well,” answered the banker, who knew Toby as the trusted clerk of
his old friend Judge Ferguson.

“There’s another key,” remarked Toby. “It belonged to the judge, but
he always left it in Will Chandler’s care.”

“I have that key also,” said Mr. Spaythe. “Mr. Chandler sent it to
me early this afternoon, by the young lawyer who has rented the
offices--Holbrook, I think his name is.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, Mr. Spaythe.”

“I looked in at the offices a while ago and found them in good order,”
continued the banker. Then he looked at Toby as if wondering if he had
better say more, but evidently decided not to. Toby marked the man’s
hesitation and waited.

“Good night, my boy.”

“Good night, Mr. Spaythe.”

Toby hobbled slowly to his lonely shanty on the river bank, prepared
his simple supper, for he had forgotten to eat during this eventful
day, and afterward went to bed. Every moment he grieved over the loss
of his friend. Until after the funeral the boy, seemingly forgotten by
all, kept to his isolated shanty except for a daily pilgrimage to the
Ferguson house to ask Janet if there was anything he could do.

The day following the funeral the judge’s will was read and it was
found that he had left his modest fortune to his wife, in trust for his
only child, Janet. There were no bequests to anyone. Mr. Spaythe was
named sole executor.

Toby was present during the reading of the will, but he was not
surprised that he was not mentioned in it. The boy had never
entertained a thought that his former master would leave him money. The
judge had paid him his wages and been kind to him; that was enough. Now
that the sad strain was over and the man he had known and loved was
laid to rest, Toby Clark returned thoughtfully to his poor home to face
a new era in his life.

The prime necessity, under the new conditions, was employment.



CHAPTER III

HOW THE DARINGS PLANNED


Phoebe Daring, who was fond of Toby Clark--as were, indeed, all of
the Darings--did not forget her promise to ask the Little Mother what
could be done for the boy. This “Little Mother” was Cousin Judith
Eliot, scarcely more than a girl herself, who had come to live with
the orphaned Darings and endeavor to train her wild and rather wayward
charges in the ways they should go. The youngsters all adored Cousin
Judith, yet she had no easy task, being a conscientious young woman and
feeling deeply her grave responsibilities. Judith was an artist and
had been studying miniature painting abroad when summoned to Riverdale
by the sudden death of Mr. Daring. She painted some, still, in the
seclusion of her pretty room, but was never too busy to attend to the
children or to listen when they wished to consult her or to bewail
their woes and tribulations.

Phoebe was no bother, for she was old enough and sufficiently mature
not only to care for herself but to assist in the management of the
younger ones. Phil, a frank, resourceful young fellow, was away at
college and working hard. Becky was perhaps the most unruly of the
lot; a tender-hearted, lovable child, but inclined to recklessness,
willfulness and tomboy traits. It was hard to keep Becky “toein’ de
chalk-line,” as old Aunt Hyacinth tersely put it, for restraint was a
thing the girl abhorred. She fought constantly with Donald, the next
younger, who always had a chip on his shoulder and defied everyone but
Cousin Judith, while the clashes between Becky and little Sue--“who’s
dat obst’nit she wouldn’t breave ef yo’ tol’ her she had to” (Aunt
Hyacinth again)--were persistent and fearful. Before Judith came, the
three younger Darings had grown careless, slangy and rude, and in spite
of all admonitions they still lapsed at times into the old bad ways.

Judith loved them all. She knew their faults were due to dominant,
aggressive natures inherited from their father, a splendid man who had
been admired and respected by all who knew him, and that the lack of
a mother’s guiding hand had caused them to run wild for a while. But
finer natures, more tender and trustful hearts, sweeter dispositions or
better intentions could not be found in a multitude of similar children
and their errors were never so serious that they could not be forgiven
when penitence followed the fault, as it usually did.

A few days after the conversation recorded at the beginning of this
story Phoebe went to Judith’s room, where the Little Mother sat working
on a miniature of Sue--the beauty of the family--and said:

“I’d like to do something for Toby Clark. We’re all dreadfully sorry
for him.”

“What has happened to Toby?” asked Judith.

“Mr. Ferguson’s death has thrown him out of employment and it will be
hard for him to find another place,” explained Phoebe. “His bad foot
bars him from ordinary work, you know, and jobs are always scarce in
Riverdale. Besides, Toby wants to become a lawyer, and if he cannot
continue his study of the law he’ll lose all the advantages he gained
through the judge’s help and sympathy. Our dear old friend’s passing
was a loss to us all, but to no one more than to Toby Clark.”

“Has he any money saved up?” asked Judith thoughtfully.

“Not much, I fear. His wages were always small, you know, and--he had
to live.”

“Won’t the Fergusons do anything for him?”

“They’re eager to,” replied Phoebe, “but Toby won’t accept money. He
almost cried, Janet told me, when Mrs. Ferguson offered to assist him.
He’s a terribly proud boy, Cousin Judith, and that’s going to make it
hard for us to help him. If he thought for a moment we were offering
him charity, he’d feel humiliated and indignant. Toby’s the kind of boy
that would starve without letting his friends know he was hungry.”

“He won’t starve, dear,” asserted Judith, smiling. “There’s a good deal
of courage in Toby’s character. If he can’t do one thing to earn an
honest living, he’ll do another. This morning I bought fish of him.”

“Fish!”

“Yes; he says he has turned fisherman until something better offers.
I’m sure that Riverdale people will buy all the fish he can catch, for
they’re good fish--we shall have some for dinner--and his prices are
reasonable.”

“Oh, dear; I’m so sorry,” wailed Phoebe, really distressed. “The idea
of that poor boy--a cripple--being obliged to carry fish around to the
houses; and when he has the making of a fine lawyer in him, too!”

“Toby’s foot doesn’t bother him much,” observed Judith, dabbing at her
palette. “He limps, to be sure, and needs the crutch; but his foot
doesn’t hurt him, however much he uses it. Yet I think I admire his
manly courage the more because the boy is capable of better things
than fishing. I asked him, this morning, why he didn’t apply to Lawyer
Kellogg for a position; but he said the judge never liked Kellogg and
so Toby considered it disloyal to his friend’s memory to have any
connection with the man. The chances are that he escaped a snub, for
Mr. Kellogg detests everyone who loved Judge Ferguson.”

Phoebe nodded, absently.

“Mr. Kellogg will have the law business of Riverdale all to himself,
now,” she said.

“I doubt it,” replied Judith. “Toby tells me a young man named
Holbrook, a perfect stranger to Riverdale, has come here to practice
law, and that he has rented Mr. Ferguson’s old offices.”

“Oh!” exclaimed Phoebe, surprised. “Then perhaps Mr. Holbrook will take
Toby for his clerk. That would be fine!”

“I thought of that, too, and mentioned it to Toby,” answered Cousin
Judith; “but Mr. Holbrook said he didn’t need a clerk and refused
Toby’s application.”

“Then he doesn’t know how bright and intelligent Toby is. Why should
he, being a stranger? If some one would go to him and tell him how
valuable the boy would be to him, after his experience with Mr.
Ferguson, I’m sure the new lawyer would find a place for him.”

Judith worked a while reflectively.

“That might be the best way to help Toby,” she said. “But who is to
go to Mr. Holbrook? It’s a rather delicate thing to propose, you see,
and yet the argument you have advanced is a just one. A young lawyer,
beginning business and unknown to our people, would find a clever,
capable young fellow--who is well liked in the community--of real value
to him. It seems to me that Janet Ferguson would be the best person
to undertake the mission, for she has an excuse in pleading for her
father’s former assistant.”

“I’ll see Janet about it,” declared Phoebe, promptly, and she was so
enthusiastic over the idea and so positive of success that she went at
once to the Ferguson house to interview Janet.

This girl was about Phoebe’s own age and the two had been good friends
from the time they were mere tots. Janet was rather more sedate and
serious-minded than Phoebe Daring, and had graduated with much higher
honors at the high school, but their natures were congenial and they
had always been much together.

“It’s an excellent idea,” said Janet, when the matter was explained to
her. “I will be glad to call on Mr. Holbrook in regard to the matter,
if you will go with me, Phoebe.”

“Any time you say, Janet.”

“I think we ought to wait a few days. Mr. Spaythe is trustee of
father’s estate, you know, and he has arranged to sell the office
furniture to Mr. Holbrook. To-morrow all the papers and securities
which father held in trust for his clients will be returned to their
proper owners, and on the day after Mr. Holbrook will move into the
offices for the first time. He is staying at the hotel, right now, and
it seems to me best to wait until he is in his offices and established
in business, for this is strictly a business matter.”

“Of course; strictly business,” said Phoebe. “Perhaps you are right,
Janet, but we mustn’t wait too long, for then Mr. Holbrook might employ
some other clerk and Toby would be out of it. Let’s go to him day after
to-morrow, as soon as he has possession of the office.”

“Very well.”

“At ten o’clock, say,” continued Phoebe. “There’s nothing like being
prompt in such things. You stop at the house for me at nine-thirty,
Janet, and we’ll go down town together.”

The arrangement being successfully concluded, Phoebe went home with a
light heart. At suppertime Donald came tearing into the house, tossed
his cap in a corner and with scarcely enough breath to speak announced:

“There’s a big row down at Spaythe’s Bank!”

“What’s up, Don?” asked Becky, for the family was assembled around the
table.

“There’s a blue box missing from Judge Ferguson’s cupboard, and it
belonged to that old cat, Mrs. Ritchie. She’s been nagging Mr. Spaythe
for days to give it up to her, but for some reason he wouldn’t. This
afternoon, when Spaythe cleaned out the old cupboard and took all
the boxes over to his bank, Mrs. Ritchie was hot on his trail and
discovered her blue box was not among the others. It’s really missing,
and they can’t find hide nor hair of it. I heard Mr. Spaythe tell the
old cat he did not know where it is or what’s become of it, and she was
just furious and swore she’d have the banker arrested for burglary. It
was the jolliest scrap you could imagine and there’ll be a royal rumpus
that’ll do your hearts good before this thing is settled, I can promise
you!”

The news astonished them all, for sensations of any sort were rare in
Riverdale.

“What do you suppose has become of the box?” asked Phoebe.

“Give it up,” said Don, delighted to find himself so important.

“Perhaps Mr. Ferguson kept it somewhere else; in the bank vault, or at
his house,” suggested Judith.

“Nope. Spaythe has looked everywhere,” declared Don. “Old Ritchie says
she had a lot of money in that box, and bonds an’ s’curities to no end.
She’s rich as mud, you know, but hates to lose a penny.”

“Dear me,” exclaimed Phoebe; “can’t she hold the Fergusons
responsible?” appealing to Cousin Judith.

“I’m not sure of that,” replied the Little Mother, seriously, for here
was a matter that might cause their lately bereaved friends an added
misfortune. “If the box contained so much of value it would ruin the
Fergusons to replace it. The question to be determined is when the box
disappeared. If it was there when Mr. Spaythe took possession of the
office, I think he will be personally responsible.”

“I don’t know anything about that,” said Don. “I was on my way home
when I heard Mrs. Ritchie screeching like a lunatic that her box was
stolen. I joined the crowd and we all followed to the bank, Mr. Spaythe
in his automobile with the load of boxes and Ritchie running along
beside the car jawing him like a crazy woman. She called him a thief
and a robber at ev’ry step, but he paid no attention. Eric Spaythe
had just closed the bank when we got there, but he helped his father
carry in the truck, and Mrs. Ritchie watched every box that went in
and yelled: ‘That ain’t it! That ain’t it!’ while the crowd laughed
an’ hooted. Then Mr. Spaythe tried to explain and quiet her, but she
wouldn’t listen to reason. So Eric and his father both went into the
bank and locked the woman out when she wanted to follow them. It was
lots of fun, about that time. I thought she’d smash in the glass
with her umbrella; but while she was screaming an’ threatening the
Spaythes, Lawyer Kellogg happened to come along and he drew her aside.
He whispered to her a minute an’ then they both got into her buggy
an’ drove away. That broke up the circus, but ev’ryone says there’ll
be something doing before this thing is settled, unless that lost box
turns up.”

The information conveyed was not entirely lucid, but sufficiently so
to disturb the whole Daring family. They were not at all interested in
Mrs. Ritchie, but the Fergusons were such old and close friends that
there was a general impression that the lost box might cost them all
the judge had left and practically ruin them.

“We know,” said Phoebe, in talking it over later, “that the judge was
honest. Mrs. Ritchie knew that, too, or she wouldn’t have put her
valuables in his keeping.”

“But it seems very unbusinesslike, on his part, to keep her valuables
in an old wooden cupboard,” declared Judith. “Judge Ferguson was quite
old-fashioned about such matters and evidently had no fear of either
fires or burglars.”

“They never bothered him, neither,” Don reminded her. “That old
cupboard’s been stuffed full of valuable papers and tin boxes for
years, an’ not a soul ever touched ’em.”

“Oak doors, strong boxes and good locks,” said Phoebe; “that accounts
for their past safety. Those cupboard doors are as strong as a good
many safes, and as far as burglars are concerned, they manage to
break in anywhere if they get the chance. I don’t believe anyone but
a professional burglar could steal Mrs. Ritchie’s box, and no burglar
would take hers and leave all the others. Still, if it wasn’t stolen,
where is it? That’s the question.”

“It’s more than a question, Phoebe,” replied Don; “it’s a mystery.”



CHAPTER IV

HOW PHOEBE BECAME WORRIED


Reflecting on the astonishing information Don had conveyed, Phoebe went
to her room and sat down at a small table near the window to which was
fastened a telegraph instrument, the wire leading outside through a
hole bored in the lower part of the sash.

A telegraph instrument is indeed a queer thing to be found in a young
girl’s room, yet its existence is simple enough when explained.
Riverdale was an out-of-the-way town, quite as unenterprising as many
Southern towns of its class. Its inhabitants followed slowly and
reluctantly in the wake of progress. They had used electric lights
since only the year before, getting the current from Canton, ten miles
away, where there was more enterprise and consequently more business.
Canton also supplied telephone service to Bayport and Riverdale, but
the cost of construction and installation was considered so high that
as yet Riverdale had but three connections: one at the post office, a
public toll station; one at Spaythe’s bank and one at the newspaper
office. The citizens thought these three provided for all needs and
so they did not encourage the Canton telephone company to establish a
local exchange for the residences of their village.

Some were annoyed by this lack of public interest in so convenient a
utility as the telephone. The Randolphs would have liked one in their
house, and so would the Darings, the Camerons, the Fergusons and a
few others; but these were obliged to wait until there was sufficient
demand to warrant the establishment of an exchange.

The telegraph operator of the village was a young fellow who had been
a schoolmate of both Phil and Phoebe Daring, although he was some
few years their elder. Dave Hunter had gone to St. Louis to study
telegraphy and afterward served as an assistant in several cities until
he finally managed to secure the position of operator in his home town.

The Hunters were nice people, but of humble means, and Dave was really
the breadwinner for his widowed mother and his sister Lucy, a bright
and pretty girl of Phoebe’s age. Encouraged by her brother’s success,
Lucy determined to become a telegraph operator herself, as many girls
are now doing; but to avoid the expense of going to a school of
telegraphy Dave agreed to teach her during his leisure hours. In order
to do this he stretched a wire from his office to his home, two blocks
away, and placed instruments at either end so that Lucy could practice
by telegraphing to her brother and receiving messages in reply.

She was getting along famously when Phoebe Daring and Nathalie Cameron
called on her one day and were delighted by her ability to telegraph to
her brother.

“Why, it’s as good as a telephone, and much more fun,” declared Phoebe,
and Nathalie asked:

“Why couldn’t we have telegraphs in our own houses, and get Dave to
teach us how to use them? Then we could talk to one another whenever we
pleased--rain or shine.”

The idea appealed to Phoebe. Lucy telegraphed the suggestion to her
brother and he readily agreed to teach the girls if they provided
instruments and stretched wires between the various houses. That
would be quite an expense, he warned them, and they would have to get
permission from the village board to run the wires through the streets.

Nothing daunted, they immediately set to work to accomplish their novel
purpose. Marion Randolph, the eldest of the Randolph children, was home
from college at this time and entered heartily into the scheme. They
were joined by Janet Ferguson, and the four girls, representing the
best families in the village, had no trouble in getting permission to
put up the wires, especially when they had the judge to argue their
case for them.

Dave, seeing he could turn an honest penny, undertook to put up the
wires, for there was not enough business at the Riverdale telegraph
office to demand his entire time and Lucy was now competent to take his
place when he was away. He connected the houses of the Darings, the
Randolphs, the Camerons and the Fergusons, and then he connected them
with his own home. For, as Lucy was the original telegraph girl, it
would never do to leave her out of the fun, although she could not be
asked to share the expense.

Lucy seemed a little embarrassed because Dave accepted money for his
work and for teaching the four girls how to operate. “You see,” she
said one day when they were all assembled in her room, “Dave has lately
developed a money-making disposition. You mustn’t breathe it, girls,
but I’ve an idea he’s in love!”

“Oh, Lucy! In love?”

“He’s been very sweet on Hazel Chandler, the postmaster’s daughter,
of late, and I sometimes think they’ve had an understanding and will
be married, some day--when they have enough money. Poor Hazel hasn’t
anything, you know, for there are so many in the Chandler family
that the postmaster’s salary and all they can make out of the little
stationery store in the post office is used up in living.”

“It’s used up mostly by Mrs. Chandler’s social stunts,” declared
Nathalie. “She’s proud of being the leader of Riverdale society, and a
D. A. R., and several other things. But doesn’t Hazel get anything for
tending the shop and handing out the mail when her father is away?”

“Not a cent. She’s lucky to get her board. And when she’s not in the
shop her mother expects her to do housework. Poor thing! It would be
a relief to her to marry and have a home of her own. I hope Dave’ll
manage it, and I’d love to have Hazel for a sister,” said Lucy. “Mind
you, girls, this is a secret; I’m not even positive I’m right in my
suspicions; but I wanted to explain why Dave took the money.”

“He was perfectly right in doing so, under any circumstances,” declared
Phoebe, and the others agreed with her.

Phoebe and Marion learned telegraphy very quickly, developing
surprising aptitude; Nathalie Cameron was not far behind them, but
Janet Ferguson, a remarkably bright girl in her studies, found the art
quite difficult to master and made so many blunders that she added
materially to the delight they all found in telegraphing to one another
on all possible occasions. When Marion went back to college the other
four continued to amuse themselves by gossiping daily over the wire;
but gradually, as the novelty of the thing wore away, they became less
eager to use their lately acquired powers and so, at the period of this
story, the click of an instrument was seldom heard except when there
was some question to ask or some real news to communicate. By concerted
arrangement they were all alert to a “call” between six and seven in
the evening and from eight to nine in the mornings, but their trained
ears now recognized the click-click! if they were anywhere within
hearing of it.

Cousin Judith was much amused and interested in this odd diversion
of Phoebe’s, and she recognized the educational value of the
accomplishment the girl had acquired and generously applauded her
success. Indeed, Phoebe was admitted the most skillful operator of them
all. But aside from the amusement and instruction it furnished, the
little telegraph circuit was of no practical value and could in no way
be compared with the utility of the telephone.

On this evening, after hearing the exciting news of the loss of Mrs.
Ritchie’s box, Phoebe went to her room with the idea of telegraphing
to Janet and asking about the matter. But as she sat down before the
instrument she remembered that the Ferguson household was a sad and
anxious one just now and it was scarcely fitting to telegraph to her
friend in regard to so personal and important an affair. She decided
to run over in the morning for a quiet talk with Janet and meantime to
call the other girls and ask them for further news. She got Lucy Hunter
first, who said that Dave had come home full of the gossip caused by
the missing box, but some one had come for him and he had suddenly gone
away without telling the last half of his story.

Then Phoebe, after a long delay, got Nathalie Cameron on the wire and
Nathalie had a lot to tell her. Mr. Cameron was a retired manufacturer
who was considered quite wealthy. Several years ago he had discovered
Riverdale and brought his family there to live, that he might “round
out his life,” as he said, amid quiet and peaceful scenes. He was a
director in Spaythe’s bank, as had been Judge Ferguson. Mr. Cameron
also owned a large plantation that adjoined the property of Mrs.
Ritchie, on the Bayport road. Nathalie told Phoebe that the Cameron
box, containing many valuable papers but no money, had also been in the
judge’s cupboard, but Mr. Spaythe had reported it safe and untampered
with. Nor had any box other than Mrs. Ritchie’s been taken. So far as
they knew, the Ritchie box was the only one in Mr. Ferguson’s care
that contained money, and it seemed as if the thief, whoever he might
be, was aware of this and so refrained from disturbing any of the
others. This theory, reported Nathalie, was sure to limit the number of
suspects to a possible few and her father was positive that the burglar
would soon be caught. Mr. Cameron had been at the bank and witnessed
Mrs. Ritchie’s display of anger and indignation when her box could not
be found. He had thought Mr. Spaythe rather too cold and unsympathetic,
but the banker’s nature was reserved and unemotional.

“Father says the woman was as good as a vaudeville,” continued
Nathalie, clicking out the words, “but not quite so circumspect--so you
can imagine the scene! She is said to be rich and prosperous, but was
furious over her loss and threatened Mr. Spaythe with so many horrible
penalties, unless he restored her property, that he had to take refuge
inside the bank and lock the door on her.”

This was merely such gossip as Phoebe had heard from Don, but it was
interesting to have the details from another viewpoint.

To understand the excitement caused by the disappearance of Mrs.
Ritchie’s box it is only necessary to remember that Riverdale is a
sleepy old town where anything out of the ordinary seldom happens.
In a big city such an occurrence would be a mere detail of the day’s
doings and the newspapers would not accord it sufficient importance to
mention it in a paragraph; but in Riverdale, where a humdrum, droning
life prevailed, the mysterious incident roused the entire community to
a state of wonder and speculation. The theft, or loss, or whatever it
was, became indeed the “talk of the town.”

The principals in the scandal, moreover, were important people, or as
important as any that Riverdale possessed. Mrs. Ritchie owned one of
the largest plantations--or “farms”--in the neighborhood, left her long
ago by her deceased husband; Mr. Spaythe was the local banker; Judge
Ferguson had been known and highly respected far and wide. Therefore
the weekly newspaper in the town was sure to print several columns of
comment on the affair, provided the tipsy old compositor employed by
the editor could set so much type before the paper went to press.

The following morning Phoebe walked over to see Janet and found that
the Fergusons were face to face with a new and serious trouble. It was
true that the Ritchie box had vanished and no one could imagine where
it had gone to.

“Papa was very orderly, in his way,” said Janet, “and he had a book in
which he kept a complete list of all papers and securities in his care
and a record of whatever he delivered to the owners. Mrs. Ritchie’s
account shows he had received money, bonds and mortgages from her,
amounting in value to several thousand dollars, and these were kept in
a heavy tin box painted blue, with the name ‘Ritchie’ upon it in white
letters. With many similar boxes it was kept in the oak cupboard at the
office, and my father always carried the keys himself. We gave these
keys to Mr. Spaythe because we knew he was father’s executor, and he
found all the boxes, with their contents undisturbed, except that of
Mrs. Ritchie. It is very strange,” she added, with a sigh.

“Perhaps the judge removed it from the cupboard just before his--his
attack,” said Phoebe. “Have you searched the house?”

“Everywhere. And it is not among father’s papers at the bank. One of
the most curious things about the affair,” continued Janet, “is that
Mrs. Ritchie came to the house the very day after father’s death to
demand her box, and she was so insistent that I had to send for Toby
Clark to take her away. No one else bothered us at all; only this
woman whose property was even then missing.”

“Are you sure she didn’t go to the office and get the box?” asked
Phoebe, suddenly suspicious of this queer circumstance.

“Why, she hadn’t the keys; nor had Toby. Mr. Spaythe found the cupboard
properly locked. On the bunch of small keys which father carried is one
labelled ‘Ritchie,’ and it proved there was a complicated lock on the
box which could not have been picked.”

“That’s nothing,” returned Phoebe. “Whoever took the box could break it
open at leisure. It was merely tin; a can-opener would do the job.”

“Yes; I’m sure that was why the entire box was taken away. It was the
only one that contained money to tempt a thief. Mrs. Ritchie, for
some reason, never trusted banks. She has some very peculiar ideas,
you know. Whenever she needed money she came to father and got it out
of the box, giving him a receipt for it and taking a receipt when
she deposited money. The record book shows that she had about three
thousand dollars in currency in her box when it--disappeared; and there
were government bonds for several thousands more, besides notes and
mortgages and other securities.”

“Can she hold you responsible for this property?” inquired Phoebe.

“Mr. Spaythe says that she can, but he is confident she will not
attempt to collect it from us. He was here this morning and had a
long talk with mother. He assured her the box will surely be found in
time, and told her not to worry. We are liable to suffer our greatest
annoyance from Mrs. Ritchie, who won’t be patient and wait for an
investigation. The woman is very nervous and excitable and seems to
think we are trying to defraud her.”

“I--I don’t suppose there is anything I can do?” said Phoebe helplessly.

“No, dear; nothing at all. Mr. Spaythe says not to pay any attention to
Mrs. Ritchie and has asked us not to talk about the affair until the
mystery is solved. If anyone asks questions we must refer them to Mr.
Spaythe. So you mustn’t repeat what I’ve told you, Phoebe.”

“I won’t. Don says Mrs. Ritchie went away with Lawyer Kellogg last
night.”

“I suppose Mr. Kellogg would like to take her case and make us all the
trouble he can,” replied Janet bitterly.

“Why doesn’t Mr. Spaythe see Mr. Holbrook?” asked Phoebe.

“I don’t know. Perhaps he has seen him. Anyhow, I’m sure Mr. Spaythe
will do everything in his power to find the box. He was one of father’s
best friends and we know him to be an honorable man and very capable in
all ways. We feel that we may trust Mr. Spaythe.”

Phoebe did not reply to this. She was wondering if anyone could be
trusted in such a peculiar complication.



CHAPTER V

HOW PHOEBE INTERVIEWED THE LAWYER


Phoebe Daring returned home more mystified than ever in regard to the
missing box. The girl was by nature logical and inquiring and aside
from the interest she felt in the Fergusons the mystery appealed to her
curiosity and aroused in her a disposition to investigate it on her own
account. That day, however, there was no development in the affair.
Mrs. Ritchie kept out of sight and aside from the gossip indulged in
by the villagers concerning the discreditable scene at the bank the
night before, the excitement incident to the loss of the precious
blue box seemed to have subsided. Don and Becky reported that all the
school children were talking about the lost box and that many absurd
statements were made concerning its disappearance.

“I had to punch one of the fellows for saying that Judge Ferguson spent
Mrs. Ritchie’s money and then committed suicide,” announced Don. “He
took it back, afterward, and said that Kellogg robbed the judge for
revenge. There may be some truth in that, for Kellogg paid his board
bill the other day. Another kid said he dreamed it was Will Chandler,
the postmaster, who cut a hole through the ceiling of the post office
and so got into the judge’s cupboard. Nearly everybody in town is
accused by somebody, they say, and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that
I stole the box myself.”

“I don’t believe there _was_ any box,” muttered Becky. “Ol’ Mam
Ritchie’s half crazy, an’ I guess she just imagined it.”

“Wake up, Beck,” said Don; “you’re dreaming.”

“That proves I’ve a brain,” retorted his sister. “No one can dream who
hasn’t a brain; which is the reason, my poor Don, you never dream.”

“He snores, though,” declared Sue.

“I don’t!” cried Don indignantly.

“You snore like a pig; I’ve heard you.”

“Never!”

“I’ll leave it to Becky,” said Sue.

“If she sides with you, I’ll pinch her till she’s black-an’-blue,”
promised Don angrily.

“I dare you,” said Becky, bristling at the threat.

“Now--now!” warned Phoebe; “there’ll be a fight in a minute, and some
one will be sorry. Cool off, my dears, and don’t get excited over
nothing. Have you got your lessons for to-morrow?”

At nine thirty next morning Janet Ferguson stopped at the house, as she
had promised to do, and Phoebe put on her things and joined her friend
on the way to town, to interview Mr. Holbrook.

“Any news?” asked Phoebe.

Janet shook her head.

“We haven’t heard from Mr. Spaythe since I saw you. Mother’s dreadfully
nervous over the thing, which followed so soon after father’s death. I
hope Mrs. Ritchie’s box will be found, for it would relieve us both of
much anxiety.”

“I hope so, too,” replied Phoebe.

When they arrived at the well-known stairway leading to the offices
which Judge Ferguson had occupied for so many years, Janet was rather
shocked to find a showy new sign suspended above the entrance. It bore
the words: “JOHN HOLBROOK, Attorney at Law,” and another but smaller
tin sign was tacked to the door at the head of the stairs.

Phoebe knocked and a voice bade them enter. Mr. Holbrook was seated at
a table with several law books spread open before him. But he sat in
an easy attitude, smoking his cigarette, and both the girls decided
the array of legal lore was intended to impress any clients who might
chance to stray into the office.

“I am Miss Ferguson,” said Janet in stiff and formal tones. He bowed
and tossed his cigarette through the open window, looking at Janet
rather curiously and then turning to Phoebe. “Miss Daring, sir.”

He bowed again, very courteously, as he placed chairs for them.
Somehow, they felt relieved by his polite manner. Neither had
expected to find so young a man or one so handsome and well dressed
and it occurred to Phoebe to wonder why Mr. Holbrook had selected
this out-of-the-way corner, where he was wholly unknown, in which to
practice law. Riverdale was normally an exceedingly quiet town and
possessed few attractions for strangers.

Janet began the conversation.

“We have come to see you in regard to Toby Clark,” she said. “He was
in my father’s employ for several years, first as office boy and then
as clerk, and Judge Ferguson thought very highly of him and trusted
him fully. Toby injured his foot a year ago and limps badly, but that
doesn’t interfere much with his activity, and so we thought--we hoped--”

She hesitated, here, because Mr. Holbrook was looking at her with an
amused smile. But Phoebe helped her out.

“Toby is without employment, just now,” she explained, “and we believe
it will be to your advantage to secure him as an assistant.”

“The young man has already applied to me,” said the lawyer. “I was
obliged to decline his application.”

“I know,” said Phoebe; “but perhaps you did not realize his value. Toby
is very popular in Riverdale and knows every one of Judge Ferguson’s
former clients personally.”

“I do not need a clerk,” returned Mr. Holbrook, rather shortly.

“But you are a stranger here and you will pardon my saying that it is
evident you wish to secure business, or you would not have opened a law
office. Also you are anxious to succeed to Judge Ferguson’s practice,
or you would not so promptly have rented the office he had occupied.
Nothing will help you to succeed more than to employ Toby Clark, who
was the judge’s old clerk and knew a good deal about his law business.
Toby is as much a part of the outfit of this office as the furniture,”
she added with a smile.

“I thank you for your consideration of my interests,” said Mr. Holbrook.

Phoebe flushed.

“I admit that we are more interested, for the moment, in Toby Clark,”
she replied. “Like everyone else in Riverdale who knows the boy, we
are fond of him, and so we want him to have the opportunity to continue
his studies of the law. He is very poor, you know, and cannot afford to
go to college just yet; so nothing would assist him more than for you
to employ him, just as Judge Ferguson did.”

Mr. Holbrook drummed with his fingers on the table, in an absent way.
He was evidently puzzled how to answer this fair pleader. Then he
suddenly straightened up, sat back in his chair and faced the two girls
frankly.

“I am, as you state, an entire stranger here,” said he, “and for that
reason I must tell you something of myself or you will not understand
my refusal to employ Toby Clark. I--”

“Excuse me,” said Janet, rising; “we did not intend to force your
confidence, sir. We thought that perhaps, when you were informed of the
value of my father’s clerk, you might be glad to employ him, and we
would like to have you do so; but having presented the case to the best
of our ability we can only leave you to decide as you think best.”

“Sit down, please, Miss Ferguson,” he replied earnestly. “It is indeed
to my advantage to make friends in Riverdale, rather than enemies, and
as I am unable to employ Toby Clark you are likely to become annoyed by
my refusal, unless you fully understand my reasons. Therefore I beg
you will allow me to explain.”

Janet glanced at Phoebe, who had remained seated. Her friend nodded,
so Janet sat down again. The truth was that Miss Daring was curious to
hear Mr. Holbrook’s explanation.

“I’ve had my own way to make in the world,” began the young man, in a
hesitating, uncertain tone, but gathering confidence as he proceeded.
“There was no one to put me through college, so I worked my way--doing
all sorts of disagreeable jobs to pay expenses. After I got my degree
and was admitted to the bar I was without a dollar with which to begin
the practice of law. Yet I had to make a start, somehow or other, and
it occurred to me that a small town would be leas expensive to begin
in than a city. During the past summer I worked hard. I don’t mind
telling you that I tended a soda-fountain in St. Louis and remained
on duty twelve hours a day. I earned an excellent salary, however,
and by the first of October believed I had saved enough money to
start me in business. Seeking a small and desirable town, I arrived
in Riverdale and liked the place. While hesitating whether or not to
make it my permanent location, Judge Ferguson died, and that decided
me. I imagined I might find a good opening here by trying to fill his
place. I rented these offices and paid a month’s rent in advance. I
purchased this furniture and the law library from Mr. Spaythe, the
executor, and partly paid for it in cash. My board at the hotel is paid
for up to Saturday night, and I had some letterheads and cards printed
and my signs painted. All this indicates me prosperous, but the cold
fact, young ladies, is that I have at this moment exactly one dollar
and fifteen cents in my pocket, and no idea where the next dollar is
coming from. Absurd, isn’t it? And amusing, too, if we consider it
philosophically. I’m putting up a good front, for a pauper, and I’m
not at all dismayed, because I believe myself a good lawyer. I’ve an
idea that something will occur to furnish me with a paying client in
time to save the day. But you can readily understand that under such
circumstances I cannot employ a clerk, even at a minimum salary. I
must be my own office-boy and errand-boy until my living expenses are
assured and I can see the week’s wage ahead for my assistant. And now,
Miss Ferguson and Miss Daring, you have the bare facts in the case and
I hope you will be able to forgive me for refusing your request.”

The girls had listened in some amazement, yet there was little in Mr.
Holbrook’s ingenuous statement to cause surprise. Such a condition was
easily understood and quite plausible in this aggressive age. But the
story affected the two girls differently. Janet developed an admiration
for the bold, masterful way in which this impecunious young fellow had
established himself. Such a combination of audacity and courage could
scarcely fail to lead him to success.

Phoebe, on the other hand, thought she detected a false note running
through the smooth recital. It seemed to her that Mr. Holbrook had
either invented the entire story on the spur of the moment or was
holding something back--perhaps both--for reasons of his own. She
did not doubt the main point of the story, that he was absolutely
penniless and dependent upon the uncertainties of his law business for
a living; but she felt sure he had not confided to them his actual
history, or any important details of his past life. She reflected
that this young fellow wore expensive clothes and that every detail
of his apparel, from the patent-leather shoes to the white silk tie
with its jeweled stick-pin, denoted extravagance rather than cautious
economy, such as he had claimed he had practiced. A silk-lined overcoat
hung upon a peg and beside it was a hat of better quality than the
young men of Riverdale wore. A taste for expensive clothes might be a
weakness with the lawyer, and while Phoebe hesitated to condemn him
for the endeavor to present a prosperous appearance she could not
help thinking he would have saved a good deal more money as soda-water
clerk had he been content with more modest attire. Imagine dapper Mr.
Holbrook a soda-water clerk! Phoebe was almost sure that was one of the
inventions. Yet she, as well as Janet, admitted the frank and winning
personality of the young lawyer and felt she knew and appreciated him
better since listening to his story.

“Of course,” continued Holbrook, a little anxiously, “this confidence
places me at a disadvantage in your eyes. If Riverdale knows me as you
do I shall be ruined.”

“We shall respect your confidence, sir,” said Janet, less stiffly than
before, “and we now fully understand why you cannot, at present, employ
Toby Clark. Perhaps, by and by--”

“If I succeed, I shall give Toby the first job in my office,” he
promised earnestly.

“Thank you, sir. Come, Phoebe.”

But Phoebe again refused to stir. She was pondering something in her
mind and presently gave it expression.

“Toby Clark,” said she, “injured his foot while endeavoring to serve
the family fortunes of the Darings, so we are really under serious
obligations to the boy. But he is so proud and shy, Mr. Holbrook, that
were we to offer him assistance at this crisis in his affairs, he
would be hurt and humiliated. And he would refuse to accept any help
that savored of charity.”

Mr. Holbrook nodded, smiling at her.

“I understand that disposition, Miss Daring,” said he, “for I have
similar qualities of independence myself.”

“Yet something must be done for Toby,” she continued, “or else the
boy will lose all the advantages of his former association with Judge
Ferguson and perhaps starve or freeze when the cold weather comes on.
From your explanation, sir, and the promise you have just made to Miss
Ferguson, I understand your sole reason for not employing Toby is the
lack of money with which to pay his wages. Is that correct?”

“Entirely so, Miss Daring. I appreciate the advantages of having this
young fellow with me, since he is so well acquainted hereabouts and is
somewhat posted in Mr. Ferguson’s business affairs; but--”

“Then,” said Phoebe, “we must organize a conspiracy, we three, and
help Toby without his ever suspecting it. We Darings are not wealthy,
Mr. Holbrook, but we have more means than we absolutely require and
it will be a great pleasure to us to pay Toby Clark’s salary as your
clerk until you become prosperous enough to pay it yourself. Judge
Ferguson was not over-liberal in the matter of wages and gave Toby but
five dollars a week in money; but he also gave him a wealth of kindly
sympathy and much assistance in the study of law. I want you to hire
Toby at the same wages--five dollars a week--and try to assist him at
odd times as the judge did. No one but we three shall ever know how
the wages are supplied, and especially must the secret be guarded from
Toby. What do you say to this proposition, Mr. Holbrook?”

Janet was filled with admiration of this clever idea and looked
appealingly at the young man. Mr. Holbrook flushed slightly, then
frowned and began drumming on the table with his fingers again.
Presently he looked up and asked:

“Will this arrangement be a source of satisfaction to you young ladies?”

“It will give us great pleasure,” declared Phoebe.

“And it will be splendid for Toby,” added Janet.

“Do you also realize that it is an assistance to me--that it will add
to the false evidences of my prosperity?” inquired the young man.

“Oh, I was not considering you at all,” said Phoebe quickly, fearing
he might refuse. “I was only thinking of Toby; but if you find any
advantage in the arrangement I hope it will repay you for your kindness
to our friend--and to ourselves.”

[Illustration: “Then,” said Phoebe, “we must organize a conspiracy, we
three, and help Toby without his ever suspecting it.”]

Mr. Holbrook smiled. Then he nodded cheerfully and replied:

“It would be very ungracious of me to say no, under such quaint
conditions, and therefore we will consider the matter as settled, Miss
Daring.”

“I will send you a check for twenty dollars, which will be four weeks’
wages for Toby, in advance,” she said. “And each month I will send you
twenty more, until you notify me you are able to assume the obligation
yourself.”

He shook his head, still smiling.

“Send me five dollars each week,” said he. “Otherwise, in my present
circumstances, I might be tempted to spend Toby’s wages on myself.”

“Very well, if you prefer it so.” Then, half turning toward the door,
she added: “I thank you, Mr. Holbrook. Your coöperation in this little
conspiracy of mine has relieved me of a great anxiety; indeed, it will
give pleasure to all who know Toby Clark and are interested in his
welfare. I shall not forget that we owe you this kindness.”

He bowed rather gravely in acknowledgment of this pretty speech and
then they heard hasty steps mounting the stairs and the door opened
abruptly to admit Mr. Spaythe.



CHAPTER VI

HOW TOBY CAME TO GRIEF


The banker of Riverdale was perhaps the most important personage in
the community, not even excepting Will Chandler. A man of considerable
wealth and sterling character, Mr. Spaythe was greatly respected by
high and low and was deemed reliable in any emergency. In character he
was somewhat stern and unyielding and his sense of justice and honor
was so strong that he was uncharitably bitter and harsh toward any
delinquent in such matters. As an old friend of the late Judge Ferguson
he had accepted the responsibilities of administering his estate and
was engaged in fulfilling his duties with businesslike celerity and
exactness when the unpleasant incident of Mrs. Ritchie’s missing box
came up to annoy him. Mr. Ferguson’s affairs were in perfect order; Mr.
Spaythe knew that the box had disappeared since his demise; but the
affair required rigid investigation and the banker had undertaken to
solve the mystery in his own way, without confiding in or consulting
anybody.

Mr. Spaythe was usually so deliberate and unexcitable in demeanor that
his sudden entrance and agitated manner made both the girls, who knew
him well, gasp in astonishment. He seemed to be startled to find them
in young Mr. Holbrook’s office and his red face took on a deeper glow
as he stared first at one and then at the other.

“We were just going,” said Phoebe, understanding that Mr. Spaythe had
come to see the lawyer, and then both the girls bowed and turned toward
the door.

“One moment, please,” said the banker earnestly, as he held out an arm
with a restraining gesture. “A most extraordinary thing has happened,
in which you will doubtless be interested. Mrs. Ritchie has just had
Toby Clark arrested for stealing her box!”

Phoebe sank into a chair, weak and trembling, and as she did so her
eyes swept Mr. Holbrook’s face and noticed that it flushed scarlet. But
the wave of color quickly receded and he turned a look of grave inquiry
upon Mr. Spaythe.

“How absurd!” exclaimed Janet indignantly.

“Yes, it is absurd,” agreed the banker, in a nervous manner, “but it is
quite serious, as well. I am sure Toby is innocent, but Mrs. Ritchie
has employed Abner Kellogg as her counselor and Kellogg would delight
in sending Toby to prison--if he can manage to do so.”

“That box must be found!” cried Phoebe.

Mr. Spaythe frowned.

“It _has_ been found,” he rejoined bitterly.

“Where?”

“In a rubbish-heap at the back of Toby Clark’s shanty, down by the
river. It is Mrs. Ritchie’s box, beyond doubt; I have seen it; the
cover had been wrenched off and--it was empty.”

The two girls stared at one another in speechless amazement. Mr.
Holbrook stood by his table, watching them curiously, but he did not
seem to share their astonishment. Mr. Spaythe sat down in a chair and
wiped his forehead with a handkerchief.

“Who arrested Toby?” asked Janet.

“Parsons, the constable. The warrant was issued by Powell, a justice of
the peace, on a sworn statement made by Mrs. Ritchie and Abner Kellogg.”

“And Sam Parsons--Toby’s friend--has put him in jail?”

“Yes; he was obliged to do that, you know.”

Phoebe was gradually recovering her composure.

“He can be bailed out, I suppose,” she suggested.

Mr. Spaythe turned to the lawyer.

“That is what I have come to see you about, Mr. Holbrook,” he said.
“Since this remarkable development in the matter of the missing box,
I shall be obliged to employ counsel. I would like to engage you to
defend Toby Clark.”

The young man bowed.

“I am fortunate, sir, to have so important a case brought to me so
early in my career,” he replied. “I will do my best for your protegè, I
assure you.”

“Toby Clark is no protegè of mine,” declared the banker sternly. “But,”
he added, more mildly, “he was Judge Ferguson’s protegè and I believe
the boy incapable of this alleged theft. Therefore I propose he shall
be properly defended. I will be personally responsible for your fee,
Mr. Holbrook.”

“That is quite satisfactory to me, sir.”

“But about the bail,” cried Janet impatiently. “We cannot allow Toby to
remain in that dreadful jail!”

“The county seat is at Bayport,” observed the lawyer. “We have no judge
here who is authorized to accept bail for an accused criminal. Toby
Clark must be taken to Bayport for a preliminary hearing, at which
I will appear in his behalf, instruct him to plead not guilty and
then demand his release on bail. If you will drive over with me, Mr.
Spaythe, I’ve no doubt the bail can be easily arranged.”

“When will his case be tried?” asked the banker.

“The next term of court is the first week in December. The trial will
of course be at Bayport.”

“What a long time to wait!” exclaimed Janet.

“Never mind; it will give us time to discover the real criminal,” said
Phoebe decidedly. “In that event Toby’s case will never be tried.”

Mr. Spaythe nodded. Then he shifted uneasily in his chair a moment and
asked:

“Ought we to employ a detective, Mr. Holbrook?”

“Of course!” said Phoebe. “That is the first thing to be done.”

“Pardon me, Miss Daring,” returned the lawyer seriously, “I think that
should be reserved as our final resource. Riverdale is so small a
place that the movements of every inhabitant may easily be traced. I
believe I possess some small talent in the detective way myself--a good
criminal lawyer ought to be a good detective, it is said--so if Clark
is really innocent it ought not to be difficult to discover the real
criminal.”

“I don’t like that ‘if,’ Mr. Holbrook,” said Phoebe resentfully.

The young man flushed again. It seemed to be one of his characteristics
to change color, on occasion, and he was aware of this failing and
evidently annoyed by it. At Phoebe’s remark he bit his lip and
hesitated a moment. Then he replied with dignity:

“The ‘if’ was not intended to condemn your friend, Miss Daring. Even
the law holds him innocent until he is proved guilty. But you must
remember that Toby Clark is a perfect stranger to me and perhaps you
will admit that circumstantial evidence is at present against him. The
box was found on his premises, it seems, and he had the keys to this
office at the time of Judge Ferguson’s death. Even before there was a
rumor that anything was missing from the place I urged the boy to get
rid of the key--merely as a matter of ordinary precaution.”

“I know that is true,” said Mr. Spaythe. “When Toby brought the key to
me he said you had advised him to do so.”

“Still,” continued the lawyer reflectively, “the circumstantial
evidence, while it might influence a jury, can have no effect upon
those who know the boy’s character and believe in his honesty. The
thing for me to do, if I undertake this case, is first to discover who
knew of Mrs. Ritchie’s box--”

“Why, everybody, nearly, knew of it,” said Phoebe. “She’s a queer old
creature and, having used the judge for a banker, was constantly coming
to him to deposit money or to get it from her box. I’ve no doubt she
imagined it was a secret, but Mrs. Ritchie’s box was a matter of public
gossip.”

“The next thing,” continued Mr. Holbrook quietly, “is to discover who
were Toby Clark’s enemies.”

“I don’t believe he had one in Riverdale,” asserted Phoebe.

“The real criminal placed the rifled box on Toby Clark’s premises,
where if found it would implicate him in the theft. No one but an
enemy would have done that,” declared the young man, but he spoke
argumentatively and there was not an earnest ring to his words. “Then,”
he resumed, “we must watch and see what citizen has suddenly acquired
money. There are no professional burglars in Riverdale, I imagine, so
the thief will be unable to resist the temptation to use some of the
stolen money. Really, Mr. Spaythe, the case is so simple that I am
positive we shall have no need of a detective. Indeed, a detective in
town would be quickly recognized and his very presence would defeat us
by putting the criminal on guard. Let us proceed quietly to ferret out
the mystery ourselves. I already feel reasonably certain of success
and, when I have interviewed Toby Clark, which I shall do at once, he
will perhaps be able to furnish us with a clew.”

This logical reasoning appealed to Mr. Spaythe and silenced even
Phoebe’s objections. The girls left the office filled with horror of
the cowardly charge brought against the poor boy they had so earnestly
sought to aid.

On their way home Janet said:

“Of course this will prevent Mr. Holbrook from carrying out his
agreement, for until Toby’s innocence is proved we cannot expect anyone
to give him employment.”

“Why not?” asked Phoebe, who was trembling with nervous excitement.
“Do you suppose anyone in Riverdale would doubt Toby’s honesty, just
because that miserable Abner Kellogg and old Mrs. Ritchie accuse him? I
think it would be a clever thing for Mr. Holbrook to take him into his
office at once. It would make the lawyer lots of friends.”

“Perhaps that is true,” answered Janet doubtfully; “but Mr. Holbrook
can’t be expected to believe in Toby as implicitly as we do. He may
think it would injure his reputation to employ one accused of stealing.
If he did, we could not blame him.”

Phoebe made no reply. Parting from Janet at the gate she ran into
the house and straight to Cousin Judith’s room, where she first had a
crying spell and then related the startling incidents of the morning.

The Little Mother was greatly shocked and quite as indignant as Phoebe
had been. But she tried to comfort the girl by assuring her that Toby
would be proved innocent.

“I think Mr. Spaythe was fortunate in securing Mr. Holbrook to defend
Toby,” she added. “As this is his first case, it will be an opportunity
for him to make a fine reputation in Riverdale by winning it, and as he
seems a young man of ability and judgment we may depend on his doing
his utmost and in the end clearing Toby triumphantly.”

That didn’t seem to reassure Phoebe.

“I think Mr. Holbrook has both ability and judgment,” she agreed.
“He impressed me as being a very clever young man--too clever to be
altogether trusted.”

“Oh, Phoebe!”

“He looks honest, and talks honest,” the girl went on, “but there’s
something about him--his manner or his smile; I don’t know what--that
makes me think he is not sincere.”

Judith looked at her thoughtfully.

“Nevertheless,” she rejoined, “it is to his interest to free his
client, and from what you say he already believes that he can do so.”

“I didn’t like several things he said,” remarked Phoebe. “Once he said
‘if’ Toby was innocent--just as if there could be any doubt about
it!--and he wouldn’t allow Mr. Spaythe to send to the city for a
detective.”

“He may be wise in that,” affirmed Judith. “Doubtless he prefers to
wait and see what the next few days develop. If he is able to solve
the mystery himself it will be best to keep a detective out of it. The
detective would be a stranger, you know, and at their best detectives
are not infallible.”

Phoebe sighed.

“What a cruel thing for Mrs. Ritchie to do!” she said. “And just when
Janet and I had settled Toby’s affairs so nicely and obtained for him
just the position he would have liked best.”

The Little Mother smiled.

“Was I wrong to promise that we would pay Toby’s wages?” asked Phoebe
quickly.

“No, dear; I would have agreed to your plan very willingly. But it
was placing Mr. Holbrook in a rather delicate position, after his
confession to you of his poverty, don’t you think?”

“Perhaps so,” said the girl. “But he took it very nicely. He seems
gentlemanly and kind, Cousin Judith. I can’t say why I don’t wholly
trust him. Janet thinks he acted splendidly and I imagine she is quite
interested in her father’s successor. I don’t dislike him, myself, you
know; only, until I’ve seen more of him, I can’t exactly trust him.”

“We cannot expect to find one able to fill Judge Ferguson’s place,”
observed Judith regretfully.

There was great excitement among the young Darings when they came
rushing home from school. The news of Toby’s arrest had spread like
wildfire throughout the village and the inhabitants of Riverdale were
at first generally indignant and inclined to think that Toby Clark was
being unjustly persecuted. When the details were learned, however, and
it was known that Mrs. Ritchie’s blue box, battered and empty, had been
found just back of Toby’s shanty, there were some who began to believe
in the boy’s guilt, while others stoutly defended him.

The following morning, at the request of Lawyer Kellogg, an officer
was sent over from Bayport who, in conjunction with Sam Parsons, the
Riverdale constable, made a thorough search of Toby Clark’s tumble-down
house. It was so poor a place that the door was not even locked. There
were but two rooms; that at the front, where Toby cooked and slept, and
a little den at the back, which contained only a few bits of broken,
cast-off furniture and some boxes and barrels. In this back room,
concealed beneath a pile of old newspapers, the officers found a bundle
of mortgages and other documents, the property of Mrs. Ritchie and
which were of no value to anyone but their owner. The money and bonds,
however, could not be found.

Armed with this fresh evidence against the prisoner the officers of the
law went to the jail and urged the boy to confess.

“Tell the truth,” said Jardyce, the Bayport policeman, “and the chances
are you’ll get a light sentence. It is foolish to continue to deny your
guilt.”

Toby, quite broken and despondent, for he felt deeply the disgrace of
his accusation and arrest, stared at the officer in wonder.

“Are you sure you found those papers in my room?” he asked.

“There is no doubt of it.”

“Then some one else put them there. Who do you suppose it could be,
Sam?” inquired Toby, addressing Parsons, the constable, who had always
been his friend.

“Can’t imagine,” was the gruff reply; then, noting Toby’s appealing
look, he turned to the Bayport man and added: “There’s something
crooked about this thing, Jardyce. I know, as well as I know anything,
that Toby Clark had nothing to do with stealing that box.”

“In spite of the evidence?”

“Bother the evidence! You know, an’ I know, that lots of evidence is
cooked up.”

“Yes, that’s true. I will say this,” continued the policeman,
thoughtfully, “that after a long experience with crooks of all sorts,
this boy don’t impress me as being guilty. But the evidence is mighty
strong against him, you’ll admit, and the chances are a jury will
convict him without argument. Too bad, if he’s innocent; but many an
innocent man is serving time because he couldn’t explain away the
circumstantial evidence against him.”



CHAPTER VII

HOW TOBY FOUND A FRIEND


The discovery of the incriminating papers cost Toby the confidence of
many of his fellow townsmen. Popular opinion had been about evenly
divided, before that, but it was hard to argue innocence in the face of
such adverse evidence. Yet, even while conceding the boy’s guilt, the
Riverdale people were regretful and grieved rather than condemnatory.

“Ye see, it’s this way,” said Tom Rathbun the grocer to a crowd that
had gathered in his store; “Toby’s a nice little chap an’ has tried
to be honest. But he comes of bad stock; his father owed me seven
dollars when he died an’ his mother were addicted to drink, as you’ll
all remember. ’Tain’t to be wondered at that with such parents Toby
inherited some desprit bad failin’s, an’ when the jedge died, an’ the
boy’s fat job was killed, he jes’ natcherly yielded to the temptation
to take Mrs. Ritchie’s box, knowin’ it were full o’ money. Seems like
if the jedge had lived Toby’d ’a’ kep’ himself honest, an’ growed up to
be a decent man; but when he lost his best friend he backslid an’ got
caught at it.”

Rathbun’s expression voiced the sentiment of the majority, although a
few staunch friends refused to admit the evidence against Toby Clark.
Perhaps the boy’s most bitter condemnation came from Dave Hunter,
the young telegraph operator, who seemed certain of Toby’s guilt and
proclaimed his conviction everywhere and on every occasion.

Lawyer Kellogg was jubilant over his success in “landing his bird at
the first shot,” as he proudly stated, and swaggered more pompously
than ever. Mrs. Ritchie, however did not congratulate him. The woman
seemed terribly nervous over the missing contents of her box and rated
her lawyer for not recovering them. One important paper, especially,
had disappeared, she claimed, and she laid more stress on Kellogg’s
finding that than on finding her money and bonds, although she was
notoriously careful of her money.

“Drat the mortgages an’ deeds!” she cried angrily; “no one could turn
’em into money if they tried; it’s the negotiable stuff I want. An’
you’ve got to get it, Abner Kellogg. The boy ain’t had a chance to
spend the money, or sell the bonds, an’ there’s no reason you can’t
make him give ’em up. Whatever else you do, though, you’ve got to find
that other paper. I want it, an’ I’m goin’ to have it! We’ve got the
thief, all right, so why don’t you get back my property?”

“I can’t, just yet,” protested Kellogg. “The money is not on Toby’s
person and he won’t tell where he’s hid it. But be calm, Mrs. Ritchie;
be calm and trust to me. When the case comes to trial I know a way
to make Clark confess, and I’ll get every cent of your money and the
missing paper, I promise you.”

“I don’t trust you,” declared the old woman. “I think you’re as big a
villain as Toby Clark. I hired you ’cause you agreed to catch the thief
and get my property back or you wouldn’t charge a cent. I made you sign
that agreement in black an’ white.”

“Quite true, Mrs. Ritchie; but give me time. I’ve got the thief, and
I’ve recovered part of your property! Give me time and I’ll get the
money and the bonds. The boy can’t spend anything while he’s in jail
and sooner or later he’ll confess where he’s hid the stuff.”

“If you hadn’t caught the thief,” rejoined Mrs. Ritchie, savagely, “I
could have held the Fergusons responsible. Now they’re out of it and
if you don’t get the money from Toby it’s gone for good. I want that
paper, too.”

“Don’t worry; I’ll get it all; give me time,” repeated the lawyer.

Mr. Holbrook, on the other side of the case, was proceeding very
leisurely. Orders had been received to have the prisoner brought to
Bayport for a preliminary examination, and soon after Sam Parsons had
left the jail with his charge, taking him in a buggy over to the county
seat, the young lawyer and Mr. Spaythe started for the same place in
the banker’s automobile with Eric Spaythe, the banker’s only son,
acting as driver.

“This latest discovery looks very black for our client,” remarked
Holbrook, as they sped over the smooth country road.

“Do you refer to the finding of those papers?” asked Mr. Spaythe.

“Of course, sir. It’s rather damning evidence.”

“I cannot see that it is any worse than the finding of the box,”
asserted the banker.

“It fastens the accusation more firmly,” Holbrook stated. “With us it
can have no effect, but others will be likely to condemn our client on
the strength of such conclusive proof.”

“I do not care what others think,” said Mr. Spaythe.

“No; I was referring solely to the jury that will try him. These jurors
will be drawn from the entire county, and some will not be intimately
acquainted with Toby Clark or have any confidence in his record for
probity.”

“Whoever placed the box in Toby’s yard placed the papers in his room,”
asserted Eric, speaking for the first time. “The place was never
locked, and as the real thief wanted to get rid of such dangerous
property there was no better place in all Riverdale to hide it in than
Toby’s shanty.”

“I shall use that argument in my defense,” remarked the young lawyer in
a careless tone that annoyed Eric.

“I trust this case will never come to trial,” resumed Mr. Spaythe after
a pause. “What steps are you taking to discover the criminal?”

“My first idea was to prove an alibi for Clark, but that I am unable
to do. He was twice seen entering Judge Ferguson’s office, the day
following his death. I myself found him there when I went to look at
the rooms with Chandler the postmaster. When the boy left the place the
second time he carried under his arm a parcel large enough to contain
Mrs. Ritchie’s box. Finding that Kellogg had unearthed this fact and
would use it in evidence, I went to see Toby about it. He tells me it
was a package containing his personal books and possessions, which he
was removing from the office. I believe this statement, for he had the
package in plain sight when he carried the key to you, at your house.”

“I remember,” said Mr. Spaythe.

“But several others saw and noticed the package, and I understand that
all of these will be subpœnaed as witnesses at the trial.”

“But about the guilty one--the person who actually took the box from
the office--have you any suspicion as to his identity?”

Mr. Holbrook was lighting a cigarette and took time to answer.

“Not as yet, sir. But I shall begin a thorough investigation in the
near future and try to secure a clew to guide me to success.”

“We ought to have had a detective,” grumbled Eric, but Mr. Holbrook
ignored the remark.

At this moment they swung around a bend and overtook the buggy in which
the constable and Toby Clark were seated. They seemed to be chatting
together in a friendly manner and as the automobile passed them Eric
cried out:

“Cheer up, Toby! There’s nothing to worry about.”

Toby nodded. He did not look like a thief. His eyes were still
twinkling as of old and his cheeks were fresh and rosy. He had no
smile for his friend’s greeting, for the accusation against him was
very serious, but neither did he wear a hang-dog expression nor seem
confused.

“I want you to work earnestly on this case,” said Mr. Spaythe, when
they had passed beyond hearing. “Toby Clark must be cleared of the
unjust charge, and the only way to do it is to discover who is actually
guilty. I depend upon you, Mr. Holbrook, to do that, and without any
waste of time.”

Holbrook colored red and waited a moment before he replied.

“I realize,” said he, with deliberation, “that my reputation as a
lawyer depends upon my success in this, my first case in Riverdale.
Unless Toby Clark is actually guilty, and is proved so without
question, I shall lose the confidence of the community by not fastening
the guilt on the real criminal. Therefore you may rest assured that I
shall do everything in my power to vindicate my client. I cannot now
confide to you the various processes I intend to employ, for that would
be unwise; but I am conversant with the latest scientific methods of
criminal detection, having made them a study for years, and I do not
think they will fail me in the present case. If they do, I must stand
the consequences, which will not be less severe for me than for my
client.”

Eric gave a scornful grunt, the speech was so evidently conciliatory
and noncommittal, but Mr. Spaythe forbore any comment.

The preliminary hearing was brief. The judge knew Mr. Spaythe and gave
him a seat beside his desk. He had heard of Mr. Holbrook, the new
Riverdale lawyer, but now met him for the first time.

Lawyer Kellogg, fat and pig-eyed, presented his evidence against the
prisoner with an air of triumph that was distinctly aggravating to the
defense. The judge listened carefully, noting each point made on his
memoranda. Then Mr. Holbrook, speaking for the prisoner, pleaded “not
guilty” and asked that a reasonable amount of bail be fixed until the
case came to trial. The judge frowned and considered.

“The offense, if proved, is serious,” said he, “and the missing money
and bonds alone amount to many thousands of dollars in value. The
evidence is so strong and the accused so young and irresponsible, that
I hesitate to fix bail in this case and prefer to remand the prisoner
to the county jail to await his trial.”

Kellogg grinned and rubbed his hands together gleefully. But Mr.
Spaythe, in his quiet way, leaned over the desk and said:

“I hope, Judge, you will reconsider that decision. This boy is very
dear to many in Riverdale, where he is thoroughly respected. I myself
have a strong personal interest in his welfare and believe that in
spite of the evidence just presented to you he will be proved innocent.
To allow him to languish in jail for two months or more, only to
discover that he has been falsely accused, would be a grave injustice.
Therefore I am prepared to furnish his bail in whatever sum you demand.”

“Ah,” said the judge, “that alters the case. Five thousand dollars.”

Mr. Spaythe signed the bond and then turned to Toby.

“You are to ride back with us,” he said, “for I want you to come to my
house and make it your home until this cloud has been removed from your
good name--as it surely will be, in time.”

Toby’s eyes filled with tears.

“You are very kind, Mr. Spaythe,” he replied brokenly, “but until I can
prove my innocence to the world I have no right to go to your house.
I’ll go--home--and work this thing out. But I thank you, sir; I thank
you with all my heart!”

“Look here, Toby,” said Eric sharply, “you’re going to do just what the
governor says, if we have to lug you home by force. Don’t be a fool;
it’s a step in your redemption. Don’t you see how it will help, to have
father stand up for you before all the world!”

Toby looked helplessly around the group and appealed to his lawyer.

“What do you advise, sir?” he asked.

“That you do as you suggest and, declining Mr. Spaythe’s kind
invitation, go directly to your own home,” answered Mr. Holbrook.

“All right,” said Toby, a humorous twinkle in his bright eyes; “I’ll
accept your hospitality, Mr. Spaythe, and hope I won’t be too much
trouble to you.”

“Bravo!” cried Eric, and danced a little jig over Holbrook’s
discomfiture.



CHAPTER VIII

HOW PHOEBE CONSPIRED


Whatever happens, the sun rises and sets and the old world continues
to whirl on its axis. Toby Clark’s arrest was a huge sensation in
Riverdale for a day, and then it lost its novelty. Now and then, during
the days that followed the boy’s arraignment, the people gossiped
concerning the outcome of the case, but since nothing new developed to
bolster public interest Toby’s dilemma soon became an old story.

Young Mr. Holbrook had acquired a certain distinction through being
employed by Mr. Spaythe for the defense. The banker’s judgment was so
reliable that the former clients of Judge Ferguson began to consult
Holbrook rather than Kellogg and while he was not as yet entrusted with
much important business the new lawyer found his practice steadily
growing.

But Mr. Spaythe was not entirely satisfied with his attorney, although
he did not express his dissatisfaction in words. Every few days he
would go to Mr. Holbrook’s office and say: “Well?”

“The case is progressing finely,” was the invariable reply.

“What have you discovered?”

“Nothing definite as yet, sir; but I am getting at the facts and will
report to you as soon as I can furnish absolute proofs.”

That did not content Mr. Spaythe, but it silenced him and he went away.

Toby remained quietly at the banker’s house, reading his few law books
diligently and leaving his defense to his friends, as he had been urged
to do. The Darings invited him to their home on many occasions, and so
did Janet Ferguson; but the boy refused to go, saying that until his
innocence was fully established he preferred to remain in retirement.
It was a comfort to them all that the Spaythes were caring for Toby.
The Darings, from little Sue up to Phoebe, were loud in their praise
of the banker, who had never before been known to extend such kindly
consideration to anyone. Mrs. Spaythe had died years before, when Eric
was a baby, and a prim old lady, a distant relative, kept house for the
father and son, who were both engaged at the bank during the day and
seldom passed an evening at home. So Toby practically had the house to
himself.

One evening Eric Spaythe called on Phoebe and they had a long talk
about Toby Clark’s affairs.

“Hasn’t Mr. Holbrook done anything yet?” asked Phoebe impatiently.

“No; and I’ve an idea he doesn’t intend to do anything,” replied Eric.

“What makes you think that?”

“The way he acts. He’s letting things drag terribly. I don’t understand
Holbrook, and that’s a fact. The time for prompt action was right after
the robbery,” declared Eric. “Then everything was fresh and the trails
were clear. It wouldn’t have been any trick at all to catch the thief
then; but nearly a month has gone by and not a clew uncovered. We’re as
far from the truth as ever.”

“Mr. Holbrook can hardly afford to make a failure of the case,” said
Phoebe, using the well-worn argument doubtfully.

“It appeared to me that way, at first, especially as he seemed so
cocksure of himself,” returned young Spaythe. “But he once made a
remark to father that I’ve not forgotten. He said his reputation would
be injured _unless Toby Clark’s guilt was proved_ or--he found the
guilty party. I don’t like that alternative, Phoebe. Do you know, I’ve
an idea that Holbrook believes Toby is guilty?”

“I’ve had that idea from the first,” declared Phoebe with eagerness. “I
was in his office when your father came to him with the news of Toby’s
arrest, and I watched Mr. Holbrook carefully. Even at that time I could
see he doubted Toby’s innocence, or else--or else--”

“Or else what, Phoebe?”

“Or else he knows who took the box and is willing to have Toby accused.”

Eric stared at her wonderingly.

“That’s a good deal to accuse the fellow of,” he said. “I think our
first guess is right, and in that event Toby is in a bad way. If
Holbrook believes him guilty he won’t make any honest effort to find
out who took the box. He’ll just let Kellogg prove his case. Then
Holbrook will say he did the best he could but that no one could clear
a guilty person. Most people will accept that sort of a statement and
Holbrook may be depending upon it to save himself. That’s why he’s
putting us off and taking things easy.”

“But they can’t prove Toby guilty!” protested Phoebe, who knowing in
her heart the boy was innocent, had clung to the belief as her best
anchorage.

“I’m not sure of that,” said Eric, gravely shaking his head. “It’s
pretty strong evidence, Phoebe, and I don’t believe it’s safe to let
the case go to trial just as it stands.”

“Then what can we do?” she asked helplessly.

Eric laughed.

“You know how to put a poser,” said he. “I’ve wondered many times what
could be done, but for my part I can’t do anything. I’m tied down to
the bank so closely that I haven’t a minute to devote to Toby, much as
I long to help him. One or two evenings I’ve stayed at home and talked
with Toby, but he’s as much bewildered by the thing as we are. The fact
is, something’s got to be discovered. We can talk till we’re blind, but
unless we know more than we do now it won’t amount to anything. Here’s
the situation: Toby didn’t take Mrs. Ritchie’s box, but who did?”

“Ah, that’s the question!” said Phoebe.

“Yes, that’s the question--that and nothing else--and unless we can
find an answer to it poor Toby is likely to suffer for another’s crime.”

This conversation rendered the girl very unhappy. She had previously
been content to leave Toby’s salvation to the direction of Mr. Spaythe
and Mr. Holbrook and she had not been especially uneasy over the
outcome of the affair. But Eric had destroyed her confidence in the
lawyer, and Mr. Spaythe was so silent and reserved that it appeared he
was not taking any active part in Toby’s defense. In fact, nothing was
being done to save Toby, and Phoebe told Cousin Judith that she was
getting very anxious about the poor boy’s fate.

“That is not strange, dear, for I have been anxious from the very
beginning,” confessed Judith. “I believe that for some reason there
is a conspiracy afoot to destroy Toby Clark, and that it is likely to
succeed.”

“Then,” retorted Phoebe, with one of her sudden decisions, “we must
organize a counter-conspiracy to save him. We’ve been idle long enough,
Cousin Judith--too long, I fear--and it’s time for us to act.”

“To whom do you refer when you say ‘us’!” asked the Little Mother,
smiling at the girl’s earnestness.

“To you and to myself, of course.”

“I fear I am not a good conspirator, Phoebe; though you, I admit, seem
qualified to be one. But what may two weak, inexperienced girls do,
where a powerful banker and a clever lawyer fail?”

“We can do lots,” asserted Phoebe. “I can’t say just what, until I’ve
thought it over; but oughtn’t the right to triumph, Cousin Judith!”

“It ought to, Phoebe, but I fear the right is sometimes smothered in
false evidence.”

“It mustn’t be this time,” declared the girl. “We must try to save
Toby. You think it over carefully, Cousin, and so will I, and perhaps
one or the other of us will evolve an idea.”

Judith agreed to this, but added:

“I’ll not be an active conspirator, dear, but the conspirator’s
assistant. I’ll help all I can, but I fear my talent for penetrating
mysteries is not so well developed as your own.”

Phoebe went to her own room and sat down at her desk to think. She
realized that she could not expect much energetic assistance from
Cousin Judith and that whatever was accomplished she must undertake
single-handed.

“I wish Phil was here,” she reflected, referring to her twin brother;
“he’d know just how to tackle this problem.”

As a matter of fact Phoebe was far more resourceful than Phil, who had
always come to his sister for advice in every difficulty. But she did
not realize this.

“I wonder why Mr. Holbrook refused to have a detective?” she mused.
“Was he so sure of his own ability to unravel the mystery, or--was he
afraid?”

She jumped up and paced the room in sudden agitation. Then she
controlled herself and sat down again.

“This won’t do!” she exclaimed, taking herself to task. “Unless I can
consider everything calmly I shall deceive myself and start along the
wrong road.” She took a pencil and sheet of paper and continued,
talking to herself in an argumentative way: “Let’s marshal the facts.
First, Mrs. Ritchie’s box is stolen. That’s a hard fact; you can’t
get around it. In that box was a lot of money, some bonds as good
as cash and other papers only valuable to their owner. The box was
stolen for the money and bonds; fact number two. Whoever stole it from
Judge Ferguson’s cupboard either had a key or picked the lock; anyhow
the cupboard was found locked and the box gone. Yet no one but Judge
Ferguson was supposed to have the key. Whoever it was that wanted the
money, he or she had no key to the box itself and couldn’t pick the
lock; so he or she had to carry away the box. That’s the third fact.

“Now, then, having got the box safely away, the thief broke it open,
took the money and bonds, and then wondered what to do with the rest of
the junk. He must get rid of all telltale evidence, somehow or other,
so he took the box to the river, perhaps thinking to drown it. Perhaps
he saw Toby’s shanty and decided to put the blame on him; that would
throw the police on a false track. That was clever. Fact number--No!
that isn’t really a fact; it’s just a surmise. No, if Toby is innocent
it _must_ be a fact. I’ll call it so--Fact number four.”

She jotted it down.

“Now let’s see where we are at,” she continued. “Thief has the money
safe; police on a false track arrest Toby. Well, that’s as far as I
can go on that line. Now, the important question is, who is the thief?
First we must consider who knew about the box and that it contained
money. Toby knew, of course, and Judge Ferguson. But who else? Mrs.
Ritchie, but--Never mind; I’ll put her on the list. Janet knew; she
couldn’t steal it but I’ll add her to the list. If I’m going to find
out anything I must be thorough. I think Mr. Spaythe knew. I must ask
him. Meantime, here he goes on the list. I wonder if Mr. Holbrook knew
about the money? Not at first, but--Yes, I remember Janet told me that
Toby took Mrs. Ritchie away, when she came to the house, and they went
to ask Mr. Holbrook if it was lawful to give her the box. Of course the
woman blabbed what was in it, and so--Mr. Holbrook knew. The theft was
committed on the day or the night following the judge’s death, so that
lets Mr. Holbrook into the game. Down he goes on the list. Who else?
There’s Will Chandler, the postmaster; but perhaps he didn’t know. He
owns the building and kept the judge’s key to the office. Will Chandler
_might_ have known there was money in the Ritchie box, so I’ll put the
dear old boy under suspicion. Who else?”

She reflected long and deeply, but could not think of another person
likely to know the location of the box and that it contained money. She
considered Lawyer Kellogg, but knew that he and Judge Ferguson had been
open enemies and that Kellogg had not been consulted by Mrs. Ritchie
until after the loss of the box was a matter of public knowledge. So
she reviewed her list: Mrs. Ritchie; Janet Ferguson; Mr. Spaythe; Mr.
Holbrook; Will Chandler.

“Why, it’s nonsense!” she gasped in astonishment. “They’re every one
impossible. I--I must start another line of discovery.”

But, try as she would, she could not get away from that list of obvious
innocents.

“Unless some one knew the box was there, and that it contained
money--enough to make it worth stealing--he couldn’t possibly have
stolen it,” she told herself. “The list is all right, as far as it
goes; but--is it complete?”

After more thought she put on her things and walked to Mr. Spaythe’s
residence. Of course Toby was there, for he seldom if ever went out,
and she promptly interviewed him.

“Who knew that Mrs. Ritchie’s box was in the cupboard, and that there
was a good deal of money in it?” she demanded.

“What’s up, Phoebe?” he asked.

“I’m trying to sift this thing on my own account, and in secret, Toby,”
she replied. “I want you to help me--just as if I were Sherlock Holmes
or Monsieur Lecoq. Don’t ask questions; just answer them. Who knew?”

“I knew,” said Toby, with a grin.

“But I’m going to leave you out of it,” she replied. “This is an
investigation to prove your innocence, so I don’t want any evidence
against you.”

“You can’t do it, Phoebe,” said the boy. “Don’t bother about me; I’m
not worth it. Let Holbrook do as he pleases.”

“What do you mean by that?” she demanded.

“He isn’t very anxious to clear me,” said Toby, looking at her with
a queer expression. “I don’t know why; I only know that if I were a
lawyer and had such a case I’d stir things up and find out the truth.”

“I think you would,” replied the girl. “It’s because Mr. Holbrook is so
inactive that I’ve determined to take up the investigation myself.”

“It’s nice of you, Phoebe; but, say--a girl can’t do much. There’s
something queer about the whole affair. I know something of law and
also I ought to be able to guess who took the box; but it’s entirely
beyond me. I can’t investigate it myself, and so--”

“And so I’m going to do it for you,” she said. “My being a girl is no
handicap at all, Toby. What we all want is the truth, and if I can
discover that, you will be saved. Now, then, who knew about the box?”

“Mr. Spaythe,” said the boy.

“Why should he know?”

“He was the closest friend Judge Ferguson had. They were together a
good deal and the judge used to tell all his affairs to his friend.
I once heard him say, jokingly, that he was a rival banker, for Mrs.
Ritchie deposited all her money with him. Mr. Spaythe asked where he
kept it, and when the judge told him he said it was foolish to trust to
oak doors and a tin box when the bank vault was fire and burglar proof.”

“Very well; who else knew?” asked Phoebe.

“Will Chandler, and Griggs the carpenter.”

“Oh!” cried Phoebe, scenting a clew at last. “Griggs knew, did he? Tell
me how that happened.”

“The cupboard doors stuck, a few months ago, and wouldn’t shut
properly. So the judge called up Will Chandler, who was his landlord,
and asked him to fix the doors. Will looked at them and said the
building must have settled a little, to make the doors bind that way,
and the best plan would be to plane off the tops of them. So he got
Griggs the carpenter and they took the doors off the hinges and planed
them. While Griggs was working and Chandler helping him, in came Mrs.
Ritchie and wanted fifty dollars. The judge took down her box and put
it on the table and took out the money. I noticed both the men were
surprised to see the box half full of bank bills and gold, for they
couldn’t help seeing it; but they said nothing and when I mentioned it
to the judge, afterward, he said they were both honest as the day is
long, and he could trust them.”

“Do _you_ think they are honest, Toby--both of ’em?”

“Yes.”

“Well, who else knew?”

Toby considered.

“Mr. Holbrook, of course. The night I took Mrs. Ritchie to see him she
said there was currency to the amount of several thousand dollars in
the box, besides a lot of bonds.”

“Was that before the box was stolen?” asked Phoebe.

“I don’t know. I haven’t seen the inside of the cupboard since a few
days before Judge Ferguson died. I can’t tell when the box was stolen.”

“But the loss wasn’t discovered until after Mr. Holbrook had talked
with Mrs. Ritchie?”

“No. I think Mr. Spaythe discovered that the box was missing some days
afterward.”

“Tell me who else knew.”

“I can’t. Mrs. Ritchie might have told some one, of course; but she’s
usually too shrewd to do that. Judge Ferguson didn’t talk about his
business.”

Phoebe referred to her list. The interview with Toby had netted just
one addition--Griggs the carpenter.

“There was Mrs. Miller, the woman who used to wash the office windows,”
said Toby reflectively.

“But she’s deaf and dumb,” returned Phoebe.

“She isn’t blind, though. She’s washed the windows and cleaned the
offices every Saturday for years, and Saturday was Mrs. Ritchie’s usual
day for driving to town. I can’t remember that Mrs. Miller has ever
seen the box opened, but she might have done so.”

Phoebe added Mrs. Miller’s name to the list.

“The next thing I want to know is who visited Judge Ferguson’s office
the day after he died,” she said.

“I can’t help you much in that,” said Toby. “I went there in the
morning, because I didn’t know where else to go; but no one came
in--except Will Chandler and Mr. Holbrook.”

“Oh; they were there, then. And why?”

“They came together, because Mr. Holbrook wanted to see the offices. He
rented them that very day, I understand. Will told me that Janet wanted
me, so I went away and left them there. Will had the key, you know.”

“This is news,” said Phoebe, drawing a long breath.

Toby smiled. “You’re not suspecting them, I hope?” he said.

“I’m not suspecting anybody, as yet. All I want at present are the
facts in the case. I suppose no one else had a key to the office?”

“No. That very day Mr. Holbrook advised Will to give his key to Mr.
Spaythe, and he advised me to get rid of my key, also. Will sent his
key to the bank by Mr. Holbrook, who was going that way, but I went
back and got my books and traps out of the office before I brought the
key here to this house and gave it to Mr. Spaythe.”

“Was it a very complicated lock?”

“The one on the office door? No. It was a common lock and that on the
cupboard wasn’t much better. But the boxes all had better locks, that
couldn’t be easily picked.”

“All right. I’m going now, Toby, but I may be back for more
information. Keep your courage; I’m sure we shall get at the truth in
time.”

But the boy, looking after her, shook his head and sighed.

“She’ll never suspect the truth,” he muttered. “No one will ever
suspect, except those who know; and those who know will never tell.”



CHAPTER IX

HOW PHOEBE PLAYED DETECTIVE


On her way home Phoebe Daring stopped at the post office and talked
with Will Chandler. He was a middle-aged man, slow and deliberate in
thought and action, yet a veritable potentate in local politics and all
affairs of a public character in Riverdale. There had been Chandlers
in the town ever since it had been established, and before it had been
named Riverdale it had been called Chandler’s Crossing, the original
Chandler having been a ferryman on the river. This Will Chandler,
the sole representative of a long and prominent line, was a steady,
straightforward fellow and greatly respected by everyone. It was said
that he was too honest ever to become rich, and to eke out a living for
a large family he kept a little stock of stationery for sale in the
post office. This was located in the front part of the room, and his
daughter, a white-faced, silent girl, waited on customers and gave out
the mail when her father was absent.

The postmaster was on his stool behind the wicket when Phoebe
approached him.

“Who do you think could have taken Mrs. Ritchie’s box?” asked the girl.

“I don’t know,” said Chandler. “If I did, I’d help Toby out of his
trouble.”

“I didn’t ask who took the box,” said Phoebe; “but who _could_ have
taken it.”

The postmaster slowly revolved this in his mind.

“Possible burglar?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“Sam Parsons, the constable.”

“How is that?”

“I went upstairs about noon and found Sam peeking through the keyhole
into the judge’s office. He mumbled some and went away. That night,
just before I went home to supper, I walked upstairs again, just to see
if everything was all right. I hadn’t any key, that time, but Parsons
was standing with his back to the door, silent like, as if he was
thinking.”

“Rather curious, isn’t it?” asked Phoebe, quite astonished by this
report.

“Can’t say,” replied Chandler. “I’d trust Sam with all I’ve got--even
with the United States mail. He’s the squarest man that ever walked.”

“I think so, too,” she agreed. “What other possible burglar do you know
of?”

Chandler pondered.

“I might have done it,” said he; “but I guess I didn’t. Toby might have
done it; but I guess he didn’t. Holbrook might have done it; but I
guess--”

“Had Mr. Holbrook any chance to take the box?” she asked quickly.

“A chance, but a rather slim one. I took him up to see the office and
while we were there Hazel called me for something. So I left him sizing
up the furniture and law books, to see if they were worth buying, and
came down to the office. When I got back Holbrook was sitting down,
looking through the books. That was the only chance he had, as far as
I know, and I’ll swear he didn’t have the box when I locked up and we
went away.”

“You didn’t see Mrs. Miller around that day?”

“No.”

“Nor Griggs the carpenter?”

“Haw-haw! Phoebe; that’s funny. Griggs? Griggs steal the box? Why, the
old idiot won’t take the money he earns, unless you force it on him. If
there’s a soul in this world that don’t care a snap for money, it’s old
Griggs.”

“Thank you, Mr. Chandler. Please don’t tell anyone I’ve been
questioning you.”

He looked at her steadily.

“I suppose you’re Toby’s friend, because he once helped your people
out of a scrape, as everybody knows--that time the Darings came near
losing their money. I wish, Phoebe Daring, you could find out who took
that box. I’ve been just miserable over Toby’s arrest; but I’m so busy
here, just now, I can’t lift a finger to help him.”

The girl walked thoughtfully home, wondering if she had really
accomplished anything. Sitting down at her desk she made the following
memoranda, writing it neatly and carefully:

  “THOSE WHO KNEW OF THE BOX.

  “1.--Janet Ferguson.--Being the judge’s daughter and likely to
  suffer more than anyone else by the theft of the box, which
  the Ferguson estate was responsible for, and being a sweet and
  honest girl and incapable of stealing even a pin, Janet is beyond
  suspicion.

  “2.--Mrs. Ritchie.--She knew better than anyone else the value of
  the box. A hard, shrewd old woman, very selfish and mean. It is
  said she half starves the workmen on her farm and makes her hired
  girl pay for the dishes she breaks. Her husband left her a good
  deal of money, and she has made more, so she is quite rich. Never
  spends anything.

  “_Question_: Did Mrs. Ritchie steal her own box?

  “_Answer_: She might be capable of doing it and then throwing
  the blame on Toby. Her eagerness to have the box given up to
  her as soon as she heard of the judge’s death looks suspicious.
  On the other hand she couldn’t pick a lock to save her neck, and
  it’s easy to trace her every movement from the time she drove
  into town until she went home again. She afterward went to Mr.
  Spaythe and bothered him until he decided to give her the box a
  day earlier than he planned to give the other boxes up to their
  owners. But when they went to the office and opened the cupboard,
  the box was gone. She nearly had a fit and called Mr. Spaythe a
  thief to his face. Don’t think she is clever enough to assume all
  that. She afterward went to Lawyer Kellogg, whom she hates, and
  employed him to help her find the thief. If she had stolen the
  box herself she wouldn’t have done that. She’d have kept quiet
  and obliged the Fergusons to make good any loss she claimed.
  Considering all this, I don’t believe that Mrs. Ritchie stole her
  own box.

  “3.--Mr. Spaythe.--A rich man who likes to make more money. Gets
  all the interest he can and doesn’t spend much. Pays his son Eric
  a mighty small salary; people say it’s because he’s so stingy.
  He was Judge Ferguson’s best friend. Stern and severe to most
  people. His own son fears him.

  “_Question_: Did Mr. Spaythe steal Mrs. Ritchie’s box?

  “_Answer_: He had the keys and could have done so. We’re not
  sure the box was taken the day after the judge’s death; it might
  have been several days later. It is astonishing that Mr. Spaythe
  at once defended Toby; was much excited over his arrest; put
  himself out to go to Bayport to give five thousand dollars bail,
  and then took Toby into his own home. Mr. Spaythe isn’t usually
  charitable or considerate of others; he has known Toby Clark for
  years and has never taken any interest in him till now. Why has
  he changed so suddenly? Is it because he himself stole the box
  but doesn’t want an innocent boy to suffer for it? No answer just
  now. Better watch Mr. Spaythe. He’s the biggest man around here
  and considered very honorable. Always keeps his word religiously.
  Is trusted with everyone’s money. Can I suspect such a man? Yes.
  Somebody stole that box. I’ll put Mr. Spaythe under suspicion.

  “4.--Will Chandler.--A prominent citizen, postmaster for a good
  many years and generally liked. Under bonds to the post-office
  department, so he has to be honest. No Chandler has ever done
  anything wrong.

  “_Question_: Did Will Chandler steal the box?

  “_Answer_: Not likely. He could have done so, but the same chance
  has existed for a long time, as far as Chandler is concerned,
  for the judge trusted him with his key. This key always hung on
  a peg just inside the post-office window, where the judge could
  reach it from the outside without bothering Chandler; but very
  few people knew that and either Will or his daughter Hazel always
  had the key in plain sight. Chandler had learned that there was
  money in Mrs. Ritchie’s box. He may have been suddenly tempted.
  Better put him under suspicion.

  “5.--John Holbrook.--Absolutely unknown here. No record of his
  past. Is a lawyer and has a certificate to practice in this
  state. Dresses extravagantly, lives at the hotel and claims to be
  too poor to hire a clerk.

  “_Question_: Did he steal Mrs. Ritchie’s box?

  “_Answer_: This man, having little or no money, was audacious
  enough to open a law office here--‘on his nerve,’ Don would say.
  Boldness is therefore a trait in his character. He suddenly
  learned, from the woman herself, that there was considerable
  money in her box. He told Toby not to give it up, which was quite
  right and good advice. But he had all that night to work in. Had
  been in the office--left alone there--and if he was observing
  had noticed that the locks of the door and of the cupboard were
  not hard to pick. Says he knows a lot about criminal practices
  and so he might have taken a wax impression of the keyholes and
  made keys to fit them. I’ve read of such things being done.
  Holbrook might have hidden the box in Toby’s rubbish heap and put
  the papers in his room without knowing who lived in the shanty.
  Was evidently disturbed by the news of Toby’s arrest. Took his
  case, but hasn’t done a single thing to clear up the mystery.
  Didn’t want a detective to come here. Why? Easy to guess, if Mr.
  Holbrook is guilty. All his acts are strongly suspicious. Keep a
  sharp eye on him.

  “6.--Joe Griggs, the carpenter.--Harmless old man, who doesn’t
  care for money. Handy with tools and could pick a lock, but
  wouldn’t have any desire to do so. Likes Toby and wouldn’t have
  any object in hurting him; careless about money; is always poor
  and contented. Joe Griggs could have stolen that box but I’ll bet
  anything he didn’t.

  “7.--Mrs. Miller.--A woman who bears a doubtful character. Is
  deaf and dumb, but quick-witted. Her husband a drunkard and she
  supports the family by washing and cleaning. May have known there
  was money in Mrs. Ritchie’s box and wouldn’t be above stealing
  it. But how could she? It would be like her to hide the box and
  papers on Toby’s premises, to divert suspicion from herself. None
  can tell what an unscrupulous woman like Mrs. Miller might not
  do, if she set about it. Suspicious.

  “8.--Sam Parsons.--Constable. That means the sole policeman and
  officer of the law in Riverdale. Not very well educated but quite
  intelligent and a terror to evil-doers. Sam is very kind hearted;
  is married and has a happy wife and three children. Great friend
  of Judge Ferguson and Toby Clark. Plays chess nearly every Monday
  night with Will Chandler. Everybody likes Sam except the hoodlums.

  “_Question_: Did Sam Parsons steal Mrs. Ritchie’s box?

  “_Answer_: Seems as if one might as well suspect the law itself,
  or the judge and the court and the Constitution of the United
  States. But somebody stole that box and Sam Parsons was twice
  seen in a compromising position. It was underhanded to peek
  through the keyhole of the office door; and what was he doing,
  standing with his back to it, when it was locked and no one
  inside? This is the strongest clew I have found in the case, and
  the hardest to follow. Either Sam did it, or he knows something
  about the theft of the box; but in either case he has kept mum.
  Why did he arrest Toby and put him in jail, never saying a word
  in protest or defense, if he knew who really took the box? Sam
  is fond of Toby and from the first said he was innocent. But
  he has never hinted that he knows the guilty party. There’s a
  possibility that Sam stole the box himself. I take it that a
  constable is human, like other folks. Therefore I’ll watch Sam
  Parsons.”

Phoebe now reread what she had written and nodded approval. It occurred
to her that her reasoning was very logical and entirely without
personal bias.

“I’ve made a beginning, at least,” she murmured. “I’ve narrowed down
the possible thieves to just five people: Mr. Spaythe, Will Chandler,
Mr. Holbrook, Mrs. Miller and Sam Parsons. I am positive that one of
these five is guilty, but without more evidence I can’t even guess
which it is. I believe I’ll go and report progress to the Little
Mother, my fellow conspirator.”

Judith greeted the girl with her usual affectionate smile.

“Well, Miss Conspirator,” she said playfully, “what news?”

“I’ve accomplished something, I believe,” returned Phoebe with an air
of satisfaction. “Here are my present conclusions, all written out.”

Before she read the paper, however, she related to Judith her visit to
Toby Clark and to Will Chandler. Then, slowly and deliberately, she
began to read.

Judith listened in some surprise, for she was astonished by the girl’s
shrewdness in analyzing human character. Phoebe had struggled to
be perfectly unprejudiced and impersonal in jotting down her items,
but more than once the Little Mother had to repress a smile at some
inconsistent hypothesis. Yet there was cleverness and a degree of logic
in the entire summary.

“You see,” concluded the girl, folding the paper carefully for future
reference, “we must seek the criminal among these five persons.”

“Why, dear?”

“Because, being aware of Judge Ferguson’s life and habits and of about
all that goes on in this village, I find them the only ones who knew of
the box, were able to get hold of it, or might for some reason or other
be tempted to steal it. Don’t you agree with me, Cousin Judith?”

“Not entirely, Phoebe. I do not think any stretch of the imagination
could connect Mr. Spaythe with the crime, or even Will Chandler. From
their very natures, their antecedents and standing in Riverdale, such a
connection is impossible.”

“Improbable, I admit, Cousin; but nothing is impossible.”

“On the other hand,” continued Judith, “you have a strong argument in
favor of suspecting Mr. Holbrook. I myself have thought of him as the
possible perpetrator of the crime, but have been almost ashamed to
harbor such a thought. I have never seen the man, you know; but I wish
we knew something of his past history.”

“How about Mrs. Miller?”

“I agree with you that she might be capable of the theft, but do not
see how she could accomplish it.”

“And Sam Parsons?”

“There, I think, you have unearthed a real clew, but not one leading
to Sam’s identity with the thief. The constable is absolutely honest;
but he is a clever fellow, for all he seems so slow and easy, and he is
the nearest approach to a detective we have in town. My idea is that
Sam was suspicious that some one intended to rob the judge’s office,
and was hanging around to prevent it or to discover the thief. We may
conclude that he failed to do either, for had he known who took the box
he would have denounced and arrested him. It may be that Sam has some
hint of the truth and is lying in wait for the burglar. Why don’t you
have a talk with him, Phoebe, and try to discover how much he knows?”

“I think I shall,” said the girl, musing over this suggestion.

“And bear in mind the fact that the box might have been taken by some
person you have not yet thought of in this connection. You’ve made
progress, my dear--extraordinary progress--but, after all, you may be
far from the truth in your deductions.”



CHAPTER X

HOW THE MARCHING CLUB WAS ORGANIZED


“Something’s got to be done,” said Don Daring, with emphasis, as he
addressed a circle of eager listeners.

The children had assembled on the upper floor of the Randolph barn, a
big, roomy place intended for the storage of hay, when it was built,
but now a bare room because the automobile, which had replaced the
carriage horses, did not eat hay. The Randolphs lived directly across
the road from the Darings, in a handsome, modern structure of brick
and stone that had cost a lot of money to build. This family was
reputed the wealthiest in Riverdale, for Mr. Randolph was a clever
financier who spent most of his time in far-away Boston, where his
business interests were, and only came South to see his family on rare
occasions and for brief visits. Mrs. Randolph was a semi-invalid whose
health obliged her to live in a warmer clime than that of Boston. She
was rather selfish and worldly-minded, although professing to be much
interested in foreign missions, and it was said she occupied most of
her time in writing articles for religious papers and magazines. There
were three Randolph children: Marion, about Phoebe’s age, who attended
a college near Washington and was only home for vacations; Doris, a
demure little girl of an age to associate with Becky, and Allerton, a
boy a trifle younger than Don.

Allerton, whose mother indulged his every whim, rather than be annoyed
by his pleading, had just received from the city an amateur printing
press and outfit and had set it up in the barn. Don and Becky had been
invited to come over and see the first “job” of printing executed,
but interest in the new and expensive plaything was divided by the
news of Toby Clark’s misfortunes. They were all four earnest friends
and admirers of Toby and having canvassed the subject in all its
phases, with growing indignation and excitement, Don wound up with the
statement:

“Something’s got to be done!”

“What?” asked Becky curiously.

“Something to show we believe in Toby an’ know he’s innocent.”

“That don’t answer my question,” insisted his sister. “Something don’t
mean anything, unless you say what the something is.”

“He means,” announced Doris, in her prim way, “that we must undertake
to do something, to be decided later, that will show to the world that
we believe in the honesty of Toby Clark.”

“That’s it!” cried Don approvingly; “an’ Beck ought to know it without
so much argument.”

“All right; I’m game,” said Becky, complacently. “You can count on me
in anything that’ll help Toby.”

“I’m afraid we four can’t do much,” remarked Allerton. “The law has
Toby in its clutches and I suppose it will hang him.”

“Hang nothing!” retorted Don, scornfully. “They don’t hang folks for
stealing, Al; it’s only for murder.”

“But Toby didn’t steal Mrs. Ritchie’s box,” suggested Doris.

“No; of course not. But he’s been arrested for it and is in jail, and
nobody seems to be doing anything to help him. That’s why I think we
ought to do something. If I was in his fix I’d like my friends to fight
for me.”

“Tell us what to do, then, and we’ll do it,” said Becky. “We’ll all
join hands, eyes right an’ chins up, an’ march on to victory!”

“Eh?” said Don, staring at her thoughtfully; “that isn’t a bad idea,
Becky.”

“What idea?”

“The marching. When there’s an election the men all get together and
form a company and parade the streets with banners and a band--and
their man gets elected.”

“It is a way to win popular favor,” said Doris. “The marching and
bands and fireworks arouse excitement.”

“Well, that’s what we ought to do,” declared Don. “Those fool people in
the town are all shaking their heads like billygoats and saying Toby
must be guilty, just ’cause they found the empty box in his back yard.
Anyone could put the box there; it’s no proof Toby did it. Let’s get up
a Toby Clark Marching Club, to defend Toby and bring folks to the right
way of thinking. That’ll help him more than anything else.”

“It would make ’em laugh,” said Beck, “to see two boys and two girls
marching with a banner and a band. And where in thunder will you get
that band, Don?”

“You shut up. We’ll enlist every kid in town in our marching club.
It’ll be no end of fun--besides helping Toby.”

“That sounds good,” said Allerton. “I’ll be the captain.”

“I’m captain myself,” retorted Don. “It’s my idea.”

“It was Becky’s.”

“Nothing of the sort. What she said gave me the idea; and it’s a good
one.”

“If you’re going to hog everything, you can get up your own marching
club, and I’ll stay out of it,” said Allerton sullenly.

Don had a hot reply on his tongue’s end, but hesitated. He really
wanted to help Toby Clark.

“Tell you what we’ll do, Al,” he said generously; “we’ll get up the
club together and then let all the members vote which one of us shall
be captain. Then the other can be first lieutenant.”

“All right,” agreed Al.

“Why don’t you both be generals?” asked Becky. “Then it would leave
some offices for us girls.”

“Why, we can’t be expected to march in a parade, Becky,” said Doris
chidingly. “It wouldn’t be ladylike.”

“I’m no lady, an’ I’m goin’ to march,” replied Becky, with decision.
“This isn’t politics; it’s a boom for Toby Clark, the Unjustly Accused,
and I’m in the game first, last an’ all the time.”

“That’s the proper spirit,” said Don.

“Tell you what,” remarked Allerton; “we’ll print a lot of cards,
inviting all the boys and girls in Riverdale to join the Toby Clark
Marching Club, and we’ll distribute them at school and call the first
meeting in our barn on Saturday forenoon.”

“Great idea, Al! Let’s print the cards right away,” cried Don with
enthusiasm.

They first wrote the announcement on a piece of paper, Becky doing the
writing in her scrawly hand and Doris correcting the spelling, which
was something startling as Becky employed it. Then they set the type,
the girls eagerly helping to do that, and after locking it up in the
chase they ran off the first impression. It was somewhat blurred, there
being too much ink on the roller, but Becky proudly read it aloud, as
follows:

  TAKE NOTICE!

  You are respectfully invited to become a Member of

  THE TOBY CLARK MARCHING CLUB!

  Organized for the Defense of our Unjustly Accused Fellow Citizen,
  Toby Clark! And to Bring About his Release from Jail and to Clear
  his Good Name from the Taint of Cowardly Slander! There will be

  UNIFORMS! BANDS! RED FIRE! and BANNERS!

  All in Favor of this will Meet at Randolph’s Barn (upstairs) on
  Saturday Morning at 9 o’clock Sharp.

  ALL BOYS AND GIRLS WELCOME TO JOIN!

            Don Daring,
            Al Randolph,
            Doris Randolph,
            Becky Daring,
                Organizing Committee.

  (Al Randolph, Printer)

“The composition doesn’t seem to be quite clear,” observed Doris, when
the applause had subsided. “It reads as if all in favor of the red fire
and banners were invited to join.”

“Well, so they are,” maintained Don. “The red fire an’ banners mean the
Marching Club, ’cause they’re a part of it.”

“Better leave the band out,” advised Becky. “It’s a swindle, and we
want this thing on the square.”

“There’s going to be a band--if we have to blow on combs covered with
paper,” retorted her brother. “But this is going to be an awful big
thing, girls, and we may hire the Riverdale Cornet Band.”

“That’d cost twenty dollars.”

“If they’re friends of Toby Clark they’ll play for nothing. Don’t
borrow trouble. Buckle to, and make the thing a success.”

They printed off a hundred cards and laid them upon a board to dry
overnight. Next morning Allerton brought them to the Darings and each
of the Organizing Committee took twenty-five to distribute at school.
The boys and girls of Riverdale read the announcement and became
excited over the novelty of the undertaking. Therefore the Randolph
barn was crowded on Saturday morning at 9 o’clock, when Allerton called
the meeting to order--a necessary call--and announced that Donald
Daring would explain the object of the proposed organization.

Don had carefully prepared his speech in advance and had even committed
it to memory. Right after breakfast he had recited it to Becky without
a skip, and his usually critical sister had declared it was “simply
grand.” But Don had an attack of what is called “stage fright” and as
he faced the throng of eager listeners promptly forgot the beginning
of his address--and nearly all the rest of it. But he knew what he
wanted to talk about and after stammering through the first sentence,
progressed very well, his earnestness inspiring him to oratory.

“Friends and fellow citizens,” he began; “you all know what a measly
shame the arrestin’ of Toby Clark was, which he’s innocent as I am
or as any of you are. You know Toby, and he’s a good fellow, and
no sneak-thief, and you can bet your oatmeal on that ev’ry time!
(Applause.) Toby’s always been a friend an’ stood by us, so now’s the
time for us to stand by him. The truth is, somebody’s tryin’ to make a
goat of Toby, and hopes to put him in jail so he’ll escape himself.”

A Voice: “So who’ll escape? Which one of ’em, Don?”

“So the thief that stole the box will escape, of course. That’s why
the thief put the empty box in Toby’s yard, an’ stuffed the papers
in his shanty. He hoped Toby would be arrested an’ proved guilty, so
he--the fellow that stole the box--wouldn’t be suspected.”

Another Voice: “Who stole the box, if Toby didn’t?”

“We don’t know who stole it. I wish we did. But we’re sure it wasn’t
Toby and so we’re going to stick up for him and force Sam Parsons an’
the law-bugs over at Bayport to set him free. That’s what this Club’s
going to be organized for,” here Don suddenly remembered part of his
speech: “to mold public opinion into the right channels and champion
the cause of our down-trodden comrade.”

“Hooray!” yelled Becky, and great applause followed.

“I heard Lawyer Holbrook was stickin’ up for Toby,” said a boy.

“Holbrook’s a stick, but he ain’t stickin’ up much,” replied Don. “He
isn’t posted on things, ’cause he’s just come to town and don’t know
the run of things. If Toby’s goin’ to be saved, this Marching Club,
organized for his benefit, is goin’ to save him, and it’ll be stacks of
fun besides. We’ll parade all through the town, with flags an’ banners
flying, an’ we’ll have a banquet, an’ perhaps a brass band, an’ so
help to set Toby Clark free.”

“What’ll we eat at the banquet?” asked a solemn-eyed girl.

“Food, of course,” answered Becky. “You’d better join an’ get a square
meal, for once in your life, Susan Doozen.”

“I guess our grocery bill is as big as yours is!” cried the girl
angrily.

“It’s bigger,” replied Becky composedly, “for we pay ours.”

“Here, cut that out!” commanded the speaker. “We’re not here to
squabble, but to fight for Toby Clark, and we’re going to put up the
biggest fight Riverdale has ever seen. The Toby Clark Marching Club
will become famous, an’ go down in the annals of history as a--as--as--”

“As a Marching Club,” said Allerton, helping him out.

“With a record we’ll all be proud of,” added Don. “I can tell you
kids one thing, and that is that every boy an’ girl who don’t belong
to our marching club will be looked down on as nobodies, an’ they’ll
deserve it. This is goin’ to be the biggest thing that ever happened
in Riverdale and when Toby Clark is free and cleared of this wicked
slander I’m going to petition Congress to give every one of us a gold
medal. Now, then, the register is on that box beside the chairman, who
is Al Randolph. You’ll form in line and all walk up and sign it. It’s a
pledge to become a member of this Marching Club and to allow no one to
say Toby Clark is guilty without denying it. Also to obey the rules of
the Club and mind its officers.”

“Who’s them?” asked a small boy.

“We’re going to elect the officers after you’ve all signed,” replied
Don.

It was evident that the arguments advanced had been effective. Every
boy and girl present signed the roll. When Doris had counted the
names she announced that the Toby Clark Marching Club now numbered
sixty-seven members.

“We’ll make it an even hundred in a few days,” declared Don exultantly.
“And now we’ll have the election of officers. All in favor of me for
captain say ‘aye.’”

“Hold on!” cried Al, jumping up. “That isn’t fair. You promised they
should vote whether you or I should be captain.”

“That’s all right,” said Don. “If they don’t elect me they can vote for
you.”

“Can’t anyone else be it?” asked a big boy anxiously.

“No,” replied Don. “It was my idea, and Al printed the invitations on
his press. One of us has got to be captain and the other lieutenant.
But there’ll be lots of other officers.”

“Listen to me,” said Becky. “I know how to run an election. I’ll give
each one a piece of paper, and each one must write ‘Al’ or ‘Don’ on
it, whichever they want for captain. Then Doris and I will collect the
papers and count ’em, and whoever has the most will be elected.”

There being no objection to this plan it was carried out. When the
papers were counted Al had twenty-six votes and Don forty-one.

“Are you sure you counted right?” asked Al in a disappointed tone.

“Count ’em yourself, if you want to,” replied Becky.

“Friends and fellow citizens,” said Don, bowing to the members of the
Marching Club, “I thank you for this evidence of your good judgment.
I’m now the captain and I’ll drill you like a regiment of soldiers,
only better. Al is first lieutenant, and I appoint Becky secretary and
Doris the treasurer.”

“When do we get the gold medals?” asked a girl.

Don glared at her.

“The gold medals don’t come till after Toby is cleared. Then I said I’d
ask Congress for ’em.”

“Who’s Congress?” inquired the girl.

There was a laugh, at this, and then Don said they’d elect two
standard-bearers, to carry the banners, and four corporals. He didn’t
much care who filled these offices, and so allowed the members to
vote for whom they pleased. By the time the election was over Doris
and Becky brought up two great trays of cakes, while their brothers
provided a pail of lemonade, with which the entire club was served by
having recourse to constant dilutions.

Providing these refreshments had been thought by the organizers to be
good policy and calculated to arouse enthusiasm in the Marching Club;
and so it did. After being served they all trooped out upon the lawn,
where Don and Al matched the children into pairs and arranged the order
in which they should parade. The boys and girls wanted to march through
the town at once, but their captain told them they were not ready for
a parade yet. They must be drilled, and the banners must be made and
painted. Each member was instructed to get a white sash and wear it
whenever the club met.

They drilled until noon, growing more and more animated and
enthusiastic, and then separated to meet again after supper on the
grounds of the Daring residence.



CHAPTER XI

HOW THE CLUB RECEIVED A DONATION


“What were all those children doing at the Randolphs?” inquired Cousin
Judith, as Becky and Don came in to dinner, flushed and triumphant.

“That was the Toby Clark Marching Club,” announced Don, proudly. “I’m
elected captain of it.”

Judith seemed puzzled.

“Tell me about it,” she said. “What’s the idea?”

Becky at once began an excited explanation and Don broke in to
assist her, so that by listening carefully to the broken sentences
the Little Mother managed to get a fair idea of the object of the
organization.

“You don’t mind, do you?” Becky inquired anxiously.

“No, indeed. The Marching Club may not do Toby Clark much good, but it
certainly will do him no harm. As you say, there will be lots of fun in
parading in defense of one so unjustly accused.”

“Becky and I are going to spend all our week’s allowance on ribbon,”
said Don, “and we will make it into badges and Al will print them this
afternoon in gold letters. He got some gold powder with his printing
outfit.”

“Can’t I belong?” asked Sue, who had not been present at the meeting.

“Of course,” said Becky. “Every able-bodied kid in town is welcome to
join, and I’ll bet a cookie they’ll all come in. It’s the swellest
thing in Riverdale, just now, and not to belong to the Toby Clark
Marching Club is to be just a nobody.”

“I think I would like to contribute the ribbon for the badges,” said
Cousin Judith. “How much will you need?”

“Oh, thank you!” they all cried gleefully, and Becky added that they
wanted enough white ribbon to make a hundred badges.

“White’s going to be our color,” said the girl, “’cause it’s the emblem
of innocence, and we’ll stick to Toby’s innocence till the cows come
home. We’re all to wear white sashes, and I wish we could get white
caps to match; but I don’t suppose we can.”

“I’ll see if I can make a white cap,” remarked Phoebe, who was quite
delighted with the idea of the Marching Club. “If I find I can do it,
I’ll make one for every member.”

This encouragement delighted Becky and Don and after dinner Judith and
Phoebe went down town and purchased the ribbon for the badges and white
cotton cloth for the caps. Phoebe found it was not very difficult to
make a round cap, which consisted merely of a band and a crown, and the
first one she stitched up on the machine was pronounced a success. It
was becoming to boys and girls alike and Becky thought Al could print
“T. C. M. C.” on the front of each cap, very easily.

It took Allerton, assisted by Don, all the afternoon to print the
badges, but they looked very pretty with their gold letters and Doris
fringed the end of each one to make it look more like a badge. Becky,
meantime, was assisting Phoebe with the caps, and so was Cousin Judith.
They managed to make thirty before evening, when the club was to meet,
and Don was told to promise each member a cap as soon as the rest could
be made.

Nearly eighty children gathered on the lawn after supper and the new
additions all signed the roll of the club and became members. Doris and
Becky pinned a badge upon each one and told them to wear it wherever
they might go, as a mark of distinction. The thirty caps were also
distributed and some had already provided and brought with them their
white sashes. These preparations filled the youngsters with joy and
made them very proud of belonging to the new organization. Don got
them in line and marched them around the grounds awhile, but the
evenings were short at this time of the year and the children were soon
dismissed with instructions to assemble on Monday after school and to
bring as many new members as could be induced to join.

The badges were worn even to church the next day and aroused much
curiosity; but not a boy nor girl would tell what “T. C. M. C.” meant,
as they had pledged themselves to keep the club and its object a deep
secret until they were ready to parade.

Perhaps it was not wholly a desire to help Toby Clark that animated
these children, although after they were enrolled in the Marching Club
they one and all warmly defended him if his innocence was questioned.
What most attracted them was the club itself, with its glamour of
badges, sashes, caps, “refreshments” at meetings, its drills and
parades and the promises of brass bands and gold medals.

Doris, a conscientious little girl, took Don Daring to task for making
those rash promises, but the boy protested that they would get a band,
somehow or other, and as for the medals he had only said he would ask
“Congress” for them and he meant to keep his word. If “Congress”
refused to present the medals it wouldn’t be his fault, anyhow.

They drilled every afternoon during the following week. Phoebe finished
the caps and supplied sashes to those children who were unable to get
them at home. Becky wheedled Aunt Hyacinth, the black mammy who had
been with the Darings all their lives, into making a hundred cookies
one day and a hundred fried cakes the next, and with these the girls
served lemonade to the Club. Wednesday afternoon Doris again supplied
the refreshments and on Thursday Cousin Judith furnished ice cream for
the whole assemblage. Janet Ferguson, whose interest had been aroused
by the unique idea of the Toby Clark Marching Club, provided the
refreshments for Friday, and Saturday was to be the day of the first
great parade.

But before this the Marching Club received its greatest surprise,
resulting in its greatest impetus. On Thursday Doris Randolph came
running over to the Daring place breathless with excitement and waving
a letter as she met Becky and Don.

“Oh, dear!” she gasped; “what do you suppose has happened?”

“The North Star has gone south,” answered Becky, laughing.

“No; it’s something great--wonderful,” said Doris. “Just listen to this
letter; the postman brought it a minute ago.”

She opened the letter with fluttering fingers and read as follows:

  “Miss Doris Randolph,
    Treasurer of the Toby Clark Marching Club:

  “We beg to inform you that one of our customers, who wishes to
  remain unknown, has placed to your credit in Spaythe’s Bank the
  sum of Fifty Dollars, to be used for the promotion of the Club as
  its officers deem best. Very respectfully,
                           Spaythe’s Bank,
                   by Eric Spaythe, Cashier.”

“Well, for goodness sake!” exclaimed Becky. “Fifty dollars! Who do you
s’pose sent it, Doris?”

“I don’t know any more than the letter tells us; but what in the world
will we do with all that money?”

“I know,” said Don, so astonished that he had been speechless until
now; “we’ll hire the Riverdale Cornet Band for Saturday.”

“Good idea,” said Becky. “Let’s go see Ed Collins, the leader of the
band, right away.”

“But--wait!” cried Doris; “don’t let us do anything rash. We’d better
wait until the Club meets this afternoon and let them all vote on it.”

“Nonsense,” said Don. “Don’t the letter say the money’s to be used as
the officers think best? Well, we’re the officers. Where’s Al?”

“I think he is studying his lessons just at present,” said Al’s sister.

“Never mind; we’re the majority; so let’s vote to hire the band,”
proposed Don.

“Better let Allerton into this,” said Becky cautiously. “He’s mighty
sensitive and there’s no use having war in our own camp. As for the
others, they’re all dummies; but it won’t take more than a jiffy to
hunt Al up and get his vote on the proposition.”

“We must all start for school very soon,” said Doris; “and, if you will
wait for us, Allerton and I will join you. Then, on our way, we can
talk it over and decide what is best to be done.”

This being a sensible suggestion, it was adopted and Doris ran across
to her home while Becky flew upstairs to tell Phoebe and the Little
Mother the wonderful news.

“It is certainly strange,” commented Phoebe thoughtfully. “I wonder who
could have sent this money?”

“Never mind who sent it,” cried Becky; “we’ve got it, and we’ll hire
the band, and the whole town will go crazy over the Marching Club on
Saturday!”

Then off she ran to talk it over with Don again, and Cousin Judith said
to Phoebe:

“There may be a clew for you in this donation, my Lady Conspirator.”

“That occurred to me at once,” replied the girl seriously. “No one
would donate fifty dollars to the Marching Club unless greatly
interested in the fate of poor Toby. And who so likely to be interested
in saving him as the one who really took Mrs. Ritchie’s box?”

“In that case, the thief has a conscience and does not wish an innocent
person to suffer for his own fault,” commented Judith. “Therefore,
thinking the Marching Club may assist Toby’s case, the guilty one has
donated fifty dollars to the cause.”

“Perhaps a part of the stolen money,” suggested Phoebe.

“Very likely. The letter says he wishes to conceal his identity, but--”

“The Spaythes must know who it is!” exclaimed Phoebe.

“Of course.”

“I’m going to see Eric right away. He wrote the letter, Cousin Judith,
and Eric knows if anyone does.”

“But will he tell you?”

“He is very much interested in Toby and greatly worried over the way
his case drags. Eric told me the other day he would do anything to save
Toby.”

“Then I advise you to see him.”

Phoebe glanced out of the window. Becky and Don and the two Randolph
children were just starting for school, eagerly canvassing the joyful
news as they went. So Phoebe put on her things and quietly followed
them, wending her way to Spaythe’s bank.

This was a neat brick building, quite the most imposing bit of
architecture in town. At this early hour the doors had just been opened
and no customer had as yet appeared. Eric was back of the cashier’s
desk and greeted the girl with a cheery “good morning.”

“Who gave fifty dollars to the Marching Club, Eric?” she asked.

“Some unknown person, Miss Daring,” he replied with a smile.

“Not unknown to the bank, however,” she said meaningly. “You see, it’s
this way,” Phoebe added, as the young man shook his head positively,
“whoever gave that money knows something, Eric, and we must find out
who it is. Perhaps--”

“Perhaps it’s the thief himself,” returned Eric. “It struck me at
the time as a curious proceeding, in view of the circumstances,” he
continued; “but the truth is, I’m as much in the dark as you are.”

“How _can_ you be?” she protested.

“Yesterday afternoon the governor came in from his private office
and told me to write the letter to Doris Randolph. I worded it just
as I was instructed, but when I asked who was the donor my father
merely frowned and said he must respect the person’s wish to remain
unidentified.”

“Then Mr. Spaythe knows?”

“Undoubtedly. You may question him, if you like; he’s in his private
office now. But I’m sure you won’t learn anything.”

Phoebe sighed. She believed Eric was right in this assertion. Mr.
Spaythe was a man who guarded all confidences with the utmost loyalty.
He would be likely to resent any attempt to penetrate this secret,
Phoebe well knew, and she abandoned any thought of appealing to the
banker.

“The governor is Toby’s friend, you know,” remarked Eric, as he noted
her disappointed expression. “If he has discovered anything, through
this donation, you may be sure he will take advantage of it when the
proper time comes.”

That thought cheered Phoebe somewhat on her way home. But just as she
reached the house another thought intruded itself and she sat down on
the porch bench to think it out.

Mr. Spaythe, although considered far above any breath of suspicion,
actually headed her list of suspects. In other words, the banker was
one of those who knew of the box and that it contained money, and he
might have had the opportunity to steal it. She rapidly ran over in her
mind the arguments she had used for and against the probability of Mr.
Spaythe’s having taken the box, and shook her head doubtfully. There
was much that was suspicious in the banker’s actions. His astonishing
defense of Toby Clark, whom before the arrest he had scarcely noticed,
could not be easily explained.

“The thief--the one we’re after--was a clever person,” mused Phoebe.
“I doubt if he would be reckless enough to go to Mr. Spaythe and ask
him to give that fifty dollars to the Marching Club and to keep his
name secret. Mr. Spaythe would know at once that such a person was the
guilty one. No; it wasn’t the criminal. Some one honestly interested
in Toby’s welfare gave that money, or else--or else it was Mr. Spaythe
himself!”

She tried to consider this last possibility. Mr. Spaythe was not a
charitable man; he seldom or never espoused any cause through pure
philanthropy. There was something beneath this sudden interest in Toby
Clark, a poor and friendless boy, and that something was not mere
kindliness, Phoebe felt sure. He might be politic enough to assist a
wealthy and powerful man in trouble, but not one who, like Toby, could
make him no return. What, then, had impelled the banker to pursue this
generous course toward the accused boy?

Phoebe went in to talk it over with Cousin Judith, but found the house
in a commotion. Old Aunt Hyacinth was sweeping the parlor vigorously,
although this was not sweeping day. Judith, in cap and apron, was
dusting and rearranging the furniture, and Phoebe looked at the
extraordinary scene in amazement.



CHAPTER XII

HOW THE GOVERNOR ARRIVED


“Oh; is it you?” asked Judith busily. “Come and help us, dear, for we
must have the place in apple-pie order by four o’clock, and there’s a
lot to be done.”

“Dear me; what’s the excitement about?” asked Phoebe.

“I’ve just had a telegram from Cousin John, the Governor, and he’ll be
here at four o’clock,” answered Judith.

“Really?”

“Honest for true, Phoebe. Isn’t it fine?”

Phoebe sat down with a bewildered expression. All the Darings well
knew of Judith’s famous cousin, the governor of the state, whom they
always called the “Great Man” in discussing him; but until now none
of them had ever seen him. He was not their cousin, although he bore
that relation to Cousin Judith Eliot, whose mother had been the sister
of his mother. There was no doubt of his being a very great man, for
he had not only been twice elected governor of the state but people
declared he might some day become president of the United States, so
able and clean had been his administration of affairs. The very idea
of their entertaining so celebrated a personage made Phoebe gasp. She
looked at Cousin Judith with big eyes, trying to conceive the situation.

“I’ve often invited him to come and see us,” continued Judith, her
voice full of glad anticipation as she worked, “but he is such a busy
man he could never find time. At last, however, he has remembered me,
and his telegram says he has been North on state affairs and finds he
can spare me a few hours to-day on his return; so he’ll be here at four
o’clock, stay all night and take the morning train on to the capitol.”

“All night!” cried Phoebe.

“Yes; I’m so pleased, Phoebe. You’re sure to like Cousin John and I
know the other children will adore him. It’s his custom to dine at
night, you know; so we’ll just have a lunch this noon and our dinner at
suppertime, as they do up North. The youngsters won’t mind, for once,
although it may give them indigestion.”

Phoebe took off her hat and began to help Judith “rid up” the house.
The rooms were always so neatly kept that the girl could not see now
they might be improved, but Judith had the old-fashioned housekeeper’s
instinct in regard to cleanliness and knew just what touches the place
needed to render it sweet and fresh.

Awe fell upon the younger Darings when they came in from school and
heard the news. Don, who had been chattering noisily of the Riverdale
Cornet Band, which had been hired for Saturday, fell silent and grave,
for the governor’s coming was an event that overshadowed all else.
Becky, serious for just a moment, suddenly began laughing.

“The Great Man will scorn Riverdale, and especially the Darings,”
she predicted. “We’ll look like a set of gawks to him and I warn you
now, Little Mother, that if he pokes fun at me I’ll make faces. It’s
straight goods that a governor has no business here, and if he comes
he’ll have to shed his city airs and be human.”

Judith laughed at this.

“Don’t think of him as a governor, dear,” she said. “Just think of him
as my Cousin John, who used to be very nice to me when I was wee girl
and has never been any different since I grew up. I’m sure he is giving
us these few hours to rest his weary brain and bones, and hide from the
politicians. Not a soul in Riverdale will know the governor is here,
unless he is seen and recognized.”

“Is he ashamed of us, then?” inquired little Sue.

“Why should he be?”

“Because we’re not great, like he is.”

“But we _are_, Sue,” declared Phoebe. “The Darings are as great, in
their way, as the governor himself. We are honest and respectable, and
the votes of just such families as ours placed Judith’s cousin in the
governor’s chair and made him our leader and lawgiver.”

“But he’s got a head on him,” remarked Don emphatically.

“We all have heads,” answered Phoebe; “only our brains don’t lead us to
delve in politics or seek public offices.”

“Mine do,” asserted her brother. “I’m goin’ to be awful great, myself,
some day. If the Little Mother’s cousin can be governor, there’s no
reason I shouldn’t become a--a----”

“A policeman,” said Becky, helping him finish the sentence. “But you’ll
have to grow up first, Don.”

This conversation did not seem to annoy Cousin Judith in the least. On
the contrary she was amused by the excitement the coming of the Great
Man caused in their little circle.

“I wonder if the Randolphs would lend us their automobile to bring him
from the station,” mused Phoebe, at luncheon.

“How absurd!” said Judith. “Cousin John has two feet, just like other
men, and he’ll be glad to use them.”

“Will the band turn out?” asked Don.

“No. You mustn’t tell anyone of this visit, for the Riverdale people
would rush to see their governor and that would spoil his quiet visit
with us. Keep very quiet about it until after he has gone--all of you.”

“What’ll we do about the Marching Club, Don?” asked Becky. “They were
to meet on our grounds after school, but now that the Great Man is
coming--”

“You need not alter your plans at all,” said Judith. “I want you to do
just as you are accustomed to do. Be yourselves, my dears, and treat
Cousin John as if he were one of the family, which he really is. You
mustn’t let his coming disturb you in any way, for that would embarrass
and grieve him. He has no family of his own and it will delight him to
be received here as a relative and a friend, rather than as a great
statesman.”

It was hard work for the children to keep the secret to themselves when
at school that afternoon; but they did. It was only little Sue who
confided to a friend the fact that “the biggest man in the whole world,
’cept the kings an’ princes of fairy tales, was coming to visit them;”
but this indefinite information was received with stolid indifference
and quickly forgotten.

Phoebe went with Judith to the station to meet the four o’clock train,
at her cousin’s earnest request, and her heart beat wildly as the train
drew in. The girl had pictured to herself a big, stalwart gentleman,
stern-visaged and grim, wearing a Prince Albert coat and a tall silk
hat, the center of a crowd of admiring observers. She was looking for
this important personage among the passengers who alighted from the
cars when Judith’s voice said in her ear:

“Shake hands with Cousin John, Phoebe.”

She started and blushed and then glanced shyly into the kind and
humorous eyes that gleamed from beneath the brim of a soft felt hat.
The Great Man was not great in stature; on the contrary his eyes were
about on a level with Phoebe’s own and she saw that his form was thin
and somewhat stooping. His coat was dusty from travel, his tie somewhat
carelessly arranged and his shoes were sadly in need of shining.
Otherwise there was an air of easy goodfellowship about Cousin John
that made Phoebe forget in a moment that he was the governor of a great
state and the idol of his people.

“Bless me, what a big girl!” he cried, looking at Phoebe admiringly.
“I thought all your adopted children were infants, Judy, and fully
expected to find you wielding half a dozen nursing bottles.”

“No, indeed,” laughed the Little Mother; “the Darings are all
stalwarts, I assure you; an army of able-bodied boys and girls almost
ready to vote for you, Cousin John.”

“Oh-ho! Suffragettes, eh?” he retorted, looking at Phoebe mischievously.

“Not yet,” she said, returning his smile. “The women of Riverdale
haven’t organized the army militant, I’m glad to say; for I’ve an idea
I would never join it.”

“You’re wrong,” he said quickly. “The women of the world will dominate
politics, some day, and you mustn’t be too old-fashioned in your
notions to join the procession of progress. But I mustn’t talk shop
to-day. What’s that tree, Judith; a live oak or a hickory? What a
quaint old town, and how cosy and delightful it seems! Some day, little
Cousin, I’m going to disappear from the world and rusticate in just
such a happy, forgotten paradise as Riverdale.”

They were walking up the street, now, heading directly for the Daring
residence. The governor carried a small traveling bag and a light
overcoat. Those who saw him looked at him curiously, wondering what
guest was visiting the Darings; but not one of the gaping villagers
suspected that this was their governor.

Arriving at the house the Great Man tossed his bag and coat in the
hall and drew a hickory rocker to a shady spot on the lawn. Asking
permission to smoke a cigar--his one bad habit, he claimed--he braced
his feet against a tree, leaned back in his chair and began to gossip
comfortably with Judith, who sat beside him, of their childhood days
and all the queer things that had happened to them both since. When
Phoebe wanted to run away and leave the cousins together they made her
stay; so she got a bit of embroidery and sat on the grass sewing and
listening.

The children came home from school, awkwardly greeted the Great Man,
in whom they were distinctly disappointed because he did not look the
part, and then rushed away to follow their own devices. By and by
Cousin John glanced through the trees and was astonished to observe in
the distance an army of boys and girls engaged in drilling, their white
caps and sashes and their badges giving them an impressive appearance.

“What’s all that?” asked the Governor curiously.

“That,” replied Judith with a laugh, “is the Toby Clark Marching Club.”

“Toby Clark--Toby Clark,” he said musingly. “A local celebrity, Judith?”

“Yes; a lame boy who has been arrested for stealing. These children
resent the unjust accusation and have organized the Marching Club
to express their indignation and their unfaltering loyalty to their
friend.”

“Good!” he cried; and then, after a moment, he added: “Unjust
accusation, Judy?”

“Absolutely unjust,” she replied.

He took down his feet and sat up straight in his chair.

“Tell me about it,” he said.

“Phoebe can do that better than I,” was the answer. “She is one of Toby
Clark’s staunchest defenders.”

“Now, then, Phoebe, fire away.”

She told the story, quietly and convincingly, beginning with Judge
Ferguson’s sudden death and relating Mrs. Ritchie’s demand for her box,
its disappearance and the finding of evidence on the premises of Toby
Clark, who had been promptly arrested and held for trial on the charge
of stealing. She told of Mr. Spaythe’s unaccountable defense of Toby,
employing a lawyer, furnishing his bail, and then giving him an asylum
in his own house, and concluded with the donation of fifty dollars
by an unknown person-through Spaythe’s bank--for the benefit of the
Marching Club.

The governor listened without interruption or comment to the end,
but it was evident he was interested. When Phoebe had finished he
rose to his feet and walked over to where the boys and girls were
drilling, where he stood watching Don explain the maneuvers and direct
the exercises. The Great Man noted every child’s face and marked
its expression. Then he strode among them and facing the astonished
assemblage held up his hand.

“How many of you believe Toby Clark is innocent?” he asked.

The yell they gave was decidedly unanimous.

“How many of you would be willing to take his chance of going free?”
continued the governor in an earnest tone.

There was hesitation, this time.

“I would!” cried Don. Then he turned to the others. “All of you who
would be willing to take Toby Clark’s chance of going free, step over
here beside me.”

Allerton and Becky, inspired by loyalty to the cause, moved over at
once. The others stood silent.

“It is this way, sir,” said Doris, who had no idea who the strange man
was, but was impressed by his voice, nevertheless, for it was a voice
accustomed to command respectful attention: “We all know that Toby is
innocent, but we are not at all sure he will go free.”

“Why not?”

“Because the law is so unjust, at times,” replied the little maid, “and
a very bad man who is a lawyer is trying to prove that Toby is guilty.”

“It looks like he was, the way they’ve figured it out,” added Becky;
“only of course he can’t be.”

“Sometimes,” said the governor, as if to himself, “the innocent is made
to suffer for the guilty. Now, it seems to me the question is this:
If Toby Clark is innocent, who, then, is guilty? Find the guilty one
and Toby goes free. Otherwise--the law may be perverted and justice
miscarry.”

They looked very sober at this, and Don blurted out:

“We’re not detectives, sir, and we don’t know who is guilty. Hasn’t
the state any way of protecting its people? Isn’t there anyone whose
business it is to see that justice don’t miscarry? Our business is
just to stand by Toby Clark, ’cause we know he’s innocent, and we mean
to show ev’rybody in Riverdale that we believe Toby Clark couldn’t do
anything mean if he tried. He’s good stuff, all through, even if he is
a poor boy, and whatever happens we’ll stand by him to the last.”

The governor nodded his approval.

“That’s right,” he said. “Stand by your friends. There’s no better
motto than that. I wish you success.”

Then he turned and walked away.

“Where is Toby Clark now?” he asked when he had rejoined Phoebe and
Judith.

“He is at Mr. Spaythe’s house. He doesn’t go out much, for this
dreadful charge against him makes him ashamed to face people,” replied
Phoebe.

“I want to see him,” said the governor. “Will you take me to him after
dinner?”

“Gladly!” cried Phoebe, sudden hope springing up in her breast, for the
governor was a power in the land.

He said nothing more on the subject until after dinner. Phoebe almost
feared he had forgotten about Toby Clark, for during the afternoon he
chatted with Cousin Judith and during dinner he joked with Becky and
Don and even with Sue, the demure and big-eyed. Cousin John won the
entire family without effort, and even Aunt Hyacinth, hopping about
in the kitchen, told the tea-kettle that “dis yer guv’ner ain’t no
diff’rence f’m a plain, ever’day man. He jus’ natcherly takes to de
whole kit an’ caboodle, seein’ he’s cousin to Miss Judy an’ not stuck
up ner refrigerated a bit--no more ’n dem blessed child’ns is.”

But after dinner he walked into the hall and picked his hat from the
rack, which Phoebe decided was a signal that he was ready to go to
Toby Clark. So she threw on a jacket and joined him, for the evenings
were getting cool of late, and together they strolled through the back
streets, avoiding the business part of the town, and so reached Mr.
Spaythe’s house.



CHAPTER XIII

HOW TOBY SAW THE GREAT MAN


Mr. Spaythe himself opened the door and took a step backward in
astonishment.

“Why, Governor--is it really you?” he stammered.

“Yes. Good evening, Spaythe. I’ve called to see Toby Clark.”

Mr. Spaythe led the way to the library, thoroughly amazed at the
suddenly apparition of the state’s chief executive.

“I’ll call Toby,” he said briefly.

“Do not tell him who I am, please,” cautioned the governor. “I am
simply Judith Eliot’s cousin, and am at present visiting her.”

“I understand, sir.”

Toby came stumping in on his crutch, with a smile for his friend Phoebe
and a frank handshake for Miss Eliot’s cousin.

“I am a stranger here but have become interested in this unfortunate
accusation against you,” began Cousin John, in his easy, conversational
way. “No; don’t go away, Mr. Spaythe; there’s nothing private about
this interview. I merely want Toby Clark to tell me his story and
explain why they charge him with taking and rifling Mrs. Ritchie’s box.”

“The story is easy, sir, but the explanation is difficult,” replied
Toby, and then he told in his own way the manner in which the
circumstantial evidence against him had been found. The boy’s story did
not differ materially from Phoebe’s, except that he added a few details
that she had neglected to mention.

“I can scarcely blame them for their suspicions,” Toby concluded.
“Being poor, they decided I longed for money and would not object to
taking that which belonged to some one else. As I knew the contents
of the box and had access to Judge Ferguson’s office, the conclusion
is natural that I helped myself to Mrs. Ritchie’s money and bonds and
afterward tried to hide the useless but incriminating papers and the
box.”

“Who discovered the box, and afterward the papers?” asked the Governor.

“Our constable here, Sam Parsons. He is one of my best friends. But
they sent a policeman over from Bayport to help him.”

“How did Parsons happen to search your premises for such evidence?”

Mr. Spaythe started to answer this question, but checked himself and
remained silent. It was Toby who replied:

“After I was arrested, on a warrant sworn out by Mrs. Ritchie, her
lawyer, a man named Kellogg, urged Parsons to search my house and yard.
He did so, and found the box. Afterward Kellogg insisted on another
search, and the papers were found.”

The governor looked grave.

“It is strong evidence,” said he, “and of the sort that convicts. Who
stole the box, Mr. Spaythe?”

The banker started at the abrupt question.

“I--I haven’t an idea, sir.”

“Nor you, Toby?”

“No, sir. I’ve racked my brain many times in the attempt to guess; but
I can’t suspect anyone, with justice.”

“Well, I am sorry for your misfortune, young man. You seem to be in a
serious dilemma. It’s a peculiar case, to say the least of it, and I
can only say I hope you’ll come out on top and with colors flying. All
ready, Phoebe?”

As they walked back to the house the girl felt sorely disappointed over
the result of the interview, from which she had hoped so much. The
governor talked on all sorts of subjects except that of Toby Clark and
she replied as cheerfully as she could. Not until they were in sight
of the Daring house did he refer to the visit, and then it was to say
absently:

“Kellogg--Kellogg. What’s the lawyer’s other name?”

“Abner, sir.”

“Fine fellow?”

“I don’t like him,” said Phoebe.

“Ah! Judith tells me you’re investigating this case yourself; posing as
a sort of female detective.”

“Oh, no!” she protested. “Cousin Judith and I--merely in a laughing
way and yet earnest in our desire to help Toby--organized a private
conspiracy to probe the mystery in our own way and try to discover
its solution. I suppose, sir, we are very foolish to think we can
accomplish anything, but--”

“But you may succeed, nevertheless. I believe in girls. When they’re
sincere and determined they can accomplish wonders. By the way, keep an
eye on Abner Kellogg.”

“The lawyer?” she asked in surprise.

“Yes. Ask yourself this question: Why did Abner Kellogg direct the
constable to search Toby Clark’s premises? And now let us talk of
something else, for here is Judith waiting for us.”

The governor had a jolly, restful evening. He played dominoes with
Becky, who was allowed to sit up on this important occasion, and
afterward, when the youngsters were in bed, lay back in an easy chair
and smoked a cigar while Phoebe played some simple old-fashioned
melodies on the piano which warmed his heart. Cousin John really
enjoyed his visit to Riverdale and honestly regretted it must be so
brief.

“I’m coming again, some time,” he promised, as he prepared to walk to
the station after breakfast. “These few hours with you have rested me
wonderfully and enabled me to forget for the moment the thousand and
one worries and cares incident to my office. It is no sinecure being a
public servant, I assure you. The people insist that I earn my salary.”

Phoebe and Judith walked down to the train with him and the secret
must have leaked out in some way for, early as it was, a throng of
villagers had assembled on the platform. The governor frowned slightly,
but then smiled and bowed in answer to the ringing cheer that greeted
his appearance. As he waited for the train to pull in he whispered
to Phoebe: “If you get snagged over that Toby Clark affair, send me
a telegram. The boy is innocent. I’ve seen and studied him, and I’ll
vouch for his honesty. But on his trail is a clever enemy, and you’ll
have to look sharp to circumvent him.”

Then he kissed Judith, jumped on the platform of the car and waved his
hat to the cheering crowd as the train carried him away.

“We’ve gained an added prestige through the governor’s visit--if it’s
worth anything to us,” laughed Judith, on the way home.

“Isn’t he splendid?” cried Phoebe, enthusiastically. “He wasn’t a bit
stilted or self-important, as such a great man has the right to be, but
acted just like an old friend.”

“Exactly what Cousin John is,” replied the Little Mother. “The great
are always human, Phoebe; sometimes the more human they are the greater
they become. And they grow to judge fame and public adulation at its
proper value and are not deceived nor unduly elated at popular acclaim.
When the next governor takes his seat the present governor will be
speedily forgotten. Cousin John realizes that, and--”

“But he’s to be president, some day; everybody says so!” exclaimed
Phoebe protestingly.

“They’ll forget that, too,” returned Judith, with a smile. “I wouldn’t
care to have Cousin John become president; he is tired from long
service, and deserves a rest.”

“It’s a great honor,” sighed Phoebe.

“It’s a compliment, certainly,” said Judith. “Yet the highest honor a
politician can win is to be known as a faithful friend to the people,
and that honor is already awarded to Cousin John.”

Phoebe went about her duties thoughtfully. The interest shown in
Toby Clark’s fate by the governor had the effect of encouraging and
discouraging her at one and the same time. She considered especially
his advice with regard to Lawyer Kellogg, but could not understand why
he attached so much importance to Kellogg’s direction that Toby’s house
and yard be searched. It had seemed natural to her that the lawyer, who
had disliked Toby because the boy served his rival, Judge Ferguson,
had promptly suspected him of taking the box and, in Mrs. Ritchie’s
interests, had directed the search which was the simple outcome of
Toby’s arrest.

Sam Parsons would have some idea about Mr. Kellogg’s part in the
affair. She had intended to see Sam and question him ever since Cousin
Judith advised such a course, and now she decided to lose no more time
in doing so. She had known the constable all her life and regarded him
as a trusty friend; therefore the girl had no hesitation in going that
evening to his humble home, which was only two short blocks from the
Daring house.

“Sam’ll be in in a minute,” reported Mrs. Parsons, whose hand was too
wet to shake, for she had left her dish-washing to open the door. “Come
inside, Miss Phoebe, an’ set down.”

She left the girl alone in the sitting room and went back to her
kitchen, and Phoebe sat down and waited. It was already more than “a
minute” and she realized she might have to wait a considerable time for
Sam, whose movements were uncertain.

She glanced around the room. In one corner the constable had his
desk, littered with all sorts of documents, while the pigeon-holes
contained a variety of rubbish. Underneath, on the floor and directly
in the corner, was a heap of newspapers and illustrated periodicals,
irregularly piled. Phoebe stooped and reaching underneath the desk
drew out one or two papers to read while she waited. Then she gave a
suppressed cry of astonishment, for even by the dim light of the one
kerosene lamp she saw that she had uncovered a tin box painted blue,
which had been hidden by the papers. Kneeling down she lifted the box
and quickly examined it. On one end was painted the name “Ritchie” in
white letters and the lock was in perfect condition, so that she could
not lift the cover.

Fearful of being surprised, she hastily replaced the box and laid the
papers over it, as before; then, rising to her feet, she resumed her
chair and became aware that Sam Parsons was standing just inside the
door, regarding her thoughtfully.



CHAPTER XIV

HOW THE CONSTABLE ARGUED HIS CASE


Phoebe turned first white and then red, consumed with shame at being
caught prying into the affairs of others. But the constable merely
nodded and sat down in a rocker, which thereafter he kept moving in a
regular, deliberate manner.

“Evenin’, Phoebe. Lookin’ at the Ritchie box?”

“That can’t be the Ritchie box, Sam,” she replied.

“Why not?”

“The box--the other box--the one they found in Toby’s rubbish-heap--was
bent and battered out of shape, and the lock smashed. I saw it myself.”

“M--m. O’ course. So did I. And here’s another Ritchie box in good
shape. You’ve seen that, too.”

“I--I was going to read one of the papers, while I waited, and
I--I--uncovered the box by accident.”

“It’s all right, little girl. No harm done. But can you tell me which
is the real Ritchie box--this or the other?”

“Is one an imitation, Sam?”

“Must be. Judge Ferguson only kept one Ritchie box in his cupboard.
Them boxes are kept in stock at the hardware store, an’ the judge
bought ’em when he needed ’em. They’re heavy sheet tin, over a steel
frame, an’ the locks are the best there is made. The boxes are all
black, when they’re new, but for some reason--p’raps so’s to tell it
easy--the judge had ’em painted different colors, with the names on
’em. The Ritchie box was blue. I s’pose, Phoebe, it wouldn’t be much of
a trick to buy a box, an’ paint it blue, an’ put ‘Ritchie’ on the end
of it; would it?”

He spoke lightly, but there was an anxiety underlying the lightness
that did not escape Phoebe’s notice.

“Which is the real Ritchie box, Sam?” she asked breathlessly.

“I don’t know, Phoebe.”

“Where did you get this one?”

“I--can’t--tell--you. That’s my private business, an’ I’ll ask you not
to mention to a soul on earth that you’ve seen it.”

She looked at him with a puzzled expression. Then she asked:

“Sam, does Lawyer Kellogg buy those boxes at the hardware store?”

“So they tell me,” he replied, shifting uneasily in his chair.
“Kellogg’s got a few clients, you know, and he keeps his papers in a
good deal the same way as the judge did--only he’s got a big safe to
put the boxes in.”

“I suppose no one else in Riverdale ever buys such boxes?” she
continued.

“I don’t know. Might, if they had any use for ’em,” he replied.

She sat silent for a time.

“Sam, are they going to convict Toby of this crime?” she presently
asked.

He hesitated.

“Looks like it, Phoebe. Looks confounded like it, to me, and I’ve had a
good deal of experience in such things.”

“Won’t you save him, Sam?”

“Who? Me? How can I?”

“I thought you were Toby’s friend.”

“So I am. I’d give a year o’ my life to save Toby from prison, if
I could; but--it’s out o’ the question, girl; I can’t!” he said
emphatically.

“You can!”

“What do you mean, Phoebe Daring?”

“Sam Parsons, you know who stole Mrs. Ritchie’s box.”

He looked at her steadily and not a muscle of his face changed
expression.

“Think so?”

“I know it. And, unless you save Toby of your own accord, I’ll make you
go on the witness stand and confess the whole truth.”

“How can you do that--if I don’t know?” he asked slowly.

“You _do_ know. I’ll tell the judge at the trial how you were caught
twice in the hall before Judge Ferguson’s door--once looking through
the keyhole; I’ll tell how I found a blue Ritchie box hidden in your
home, and how you found another in Toby’s rubbish heap; and the judge
will make you explain things.”

The constable gave a low whistle; then he laughed, but not merrily;
next he rubbed his chin in a puzzled and thoughtful way while he
studied the young girl’s face.

“Phoebe,” said he, “I used to tote you on my back when you were a wee
baby. Your mother called me in to see you walk alone, for the first
time in your life--it was jus’ two steps, an’ then you tumbled. You
used to ride ’round the country with me in my buggy, when I had to
serve papers, and we’ve been chums an’ good friends ever since.”

“That’s true, Sam.”

“Am I a decent fellow, Phoebe? Am I as honest as most men, and as good
a friend as many?”

“I--I think so. I could always trust you, Sam. And so could my father,
and Judge Ferguson.”

“If that’s the case, why do you think I’d let my friend Toby Clark
serve a term in prison for a felony he didn’t commit, when I could save
him by tellin’ what I know?”

“I can’t understand it, Sam. It’s so unlike you. Tell me why.”

He sighed at her insistence. Then he said doggedly.

“Our secret, Phoebe? You’ll keep mum?”

“Unless by telling I can save Toby.”

He reflected, his face very grave.

“No; you couldn’t save Toby by telling, for no power on earth can make
Sam Parsons speak when he’s determined to keep his mouth shut. It’s for
you I’m goin’ to speak now, an’ for no one else. I’d like to explain to
you, Phoebe, because we’re old friends, an’ we’re both fond of Toby.
It’ll be a sort of relief to me, too. But no judge could make me tell
this.”

“Then I’ll promise.”

He rocked to and fro a while before he began.

“It worries me, Phoebe, to think that you--a mere child--have found
out what I don’t want found out. If my secret is so loosely guarded,
it may not be a secret for long, and I can’t let others know all that
I know. The truth is, Phoebe, that I don’t know for certain sure who
took the box, not seein’ it taken with my own eyes; but I’ve a strong
suspicion, based on facts, as to who took it. In other words, I’ve made
up my mind, firmly, as to the thief, and for that reason I don’t want
any detective work done--any pryin’ into the secret--by you or anyone
else; for I mean to let Toby Clark take the punishment and serve his
term in prison for it.”

“And Toby innocent!”

“And Toby as innocent as you or I.”

“But that’s a dreadful thing to do, Sam!”

“It is, Phoebe; it’s dreadful; but not so dreadful as telling the
truth. I’m only a plain man, my child, without education or what you
call ‘gloss’; I’m just a village constable, an’ likely to be that same
until I die. But I’ve got a heart, Phoebe, an’ I can feel for others.
That’s the only religion I know; to do to others as I’d like ’em to do
to me. So I figure it out this way: To bring the--the--person--who took
Mrs. Ritchie’s box to justice, to tell the whole world who the criminal
is, would bring grief an’ humiliation to some of the kindest and
truest hearts in all Riverdale. It would bow them with shame and ruin
their lives--not one, mind you, but several lives. It wouldn’t reform
the--the one--who did it, for the--the person--wouldn’t do such a thing
again; never! It was a case of sudden temptation and--a sudden fall.
Prison would wreck that life beyond redemption, as well as the lives of
the relations and--and friends, such as I’ve mentioned.

“On the other hand, evidence points to Toby Clark, and unless the
real--person--who took the box is discovered, Toby will be convicted on
that evidence. That’s the horror of the thing, Phoebe; but horror is
sure to follow crime, and a crime has been committed that some one must
suffer the penalty for. Who is Toby Clark? A poor boy without a single
relative in the world to be shamed by his fate. Friends, yes; a plenty;
you and I among ’em; but no friend so close that the prison taint
would cling to ’em; _not even a sweetheart has Toby_. So it’s Hobson’s
choice, seems to me. I’m dead sorry for the lad; but it’s better--far
better--an’ more Christianlike to let him suffer this fate alone, than
to condemn many others to suffering--people who have done no wrong, no
more ’n Toby has. He’s just one, an’ a boy; the others are--sev’ral,
and I consider it best to let Toby redeem ’em. That’s all, Phoebe. Now
you understand me, and I know you’ll stand by me and say I’m right.”

The girl had followed these arguments in wonder and perplexity. She
felt that Sam Parsons might be right, in a way, but rebelled against
the necessity of letting the innocent suffer.

“I know Toby,” she said softly; “but the others I don’t know.”

“Yes; you do,” he contended. “You know ’em, but you don’t know who they
are. What diff’rence does that make?”

“Who took the box, Sam?”

“I’ll never tell.”

“My friends and relations are all responsible for me, in a way, and
I am responsible to them,” said Phoebe reflectively. “One thing that
would keep me from willfully doing wrong is the knowledge that I would
grieve others--those near and dear to me.”

“To be sure!” replied Sam, rubbing his hands together; “you’re arguin’
on my side now, Phoebe. S’pose in a moment of weakness you yielded
to temptation? We’re all so blamed human that we can’t be sure of
ourselves. S’pose you had a hankerin’ for that money of Mrs. Ritchie’s,
an’ s’pose on a sudden you got a chance to take it--an’ took it before
you thought? Well; there you are. Prison for you; shame and humiliation
for all that are dear to you. Eh? Toby Clark? Well, it’s too bad, but
it won’t hurt Toby so very much. He couldn’t expect much in life,
anyhow, with his poverty, his bad foot, an’ the only man that could
push him ahead dead an’ gone. But what’s one ruined career as compared
to--say--half a dozen? Toby’ll take his sentence easy, ’cause he’s
strong in his innocence. The others would be heartbroken. It’s far
better to let Toby do the penance, seems to me.”

Phoebe could not answer him just then. She was too bewildered. The girl
understood perfectly Sam’s position and realized that in opposing it
she expressed less charity and kindliness than the constable.

“I’m going to think about it,” she said to him. “I’m so surprised and
confused right now by what you’ve told me that my senses have gone
glimmering. But it strikes me, Sam, that we ought to find a way to save
Toby without implicating the guilty one at all.”

He shook his head negatively.

“That would be fine, but it can’t be done,” he replied. “We’ve got
to produce the thief to get Toby out of the mess, for otherwise the
evidence will convict him.”

“Can’t we destroy the evidence--upset it--prove it false?” inquired the
girl.

“Not with safety to--the other party. But do as you say; go home an’
think it over. The more you think the more you’ll feel I’m right, an’
that your best course is to lie low an’ let Toby take his medicine.
The life in prison ain’t so bad; plenty to eat, a clean bed and work to
occupy his time.”

“But afterward? If he lives to come out he will be despised and avoided
by everyone. No one cares to employ a jail-bird.”

“I’ve thought of that, Phoebe. Here in Riverdale Toby couldn’t hold his
head up. But it’s a big world and there are places where his past would
never be discovered. I’ll look after the lad, if I’m alive when he gets
free, and try to help him begin a new life; but, anyhow, he must face
this ordeal and make the best of it.”

Phoebe went home discouraged and rebellious. She kept telling herself
that Sam Parsons was right, all the time resenting the fact that the
common, uneducated man looked at this unfortunate affair in a broader,
more philanthropic light than she could, and was resolved to do his
duty as his simple mind conceived it. The girl’s heart, stifle it as
she would, cried out against the injustice of the plan of sacrifice.
Sam knew all the parties concerned, and could therefore judge more
impartially than she; but even that argument did not content her.



CHAPTER XV

HOW THE BAND PLAYED


Ed Collins, the leader of the Riverdale Cornet Band, was much amused
when the four children--two Darings and two Randolphs--came to him in
breathless excitement and wanted to hire his band to parade with the
Marching Club on Saturday afternoon. Ed kept a tailor shop and was a
good-natured, easy-going fellow who was fond of children and liked to
humor them, but this proposition seemed so absurd that he answered with
a smile:

“Bands cost money. The boys won’t tramp the streets for nothing, you
know.”

“We’ll pay,” said Don, offended that he was not taken seriously. “I
said we wanted to _hire_ your band. Their business is to play for
money, isn’t it?”

“Sometimes,” said Ed; “and sometimes they play for fun.”

“This’ll be fun,” suggested Becky.

“Not for the band, I guess. You’d want us to play every minute,” said
the tailor.

“Of course; that’s what bands are for. When they don’t play, nobody
pays any attention to them,” declared the girl.

“They have to get their breaths, once in awhile,” suggested Ed.

“Let ’em do it when they’re not parading, then. You can’t expect us to
pay ’em to breathe,” said Becky.

“We have money,” said Doris, with dignity, thinking it time to
interfere. “What is your lowest price?”

The leader looked at her in surprise.

“You’re in earnest?” he demanded.

“Of course!” they cried in a chorus.

“How many men do you want?”

“All you’ve got,” said Don; “and they must wear their new uniforms.”

“We’ve twelve men, altogether, and when we’re hired for an afternoon we
get three dollars apiece.”

“That is thirty-six dollars,” replied Doris. “Very well; do you wish
the money now?”

The tailor was amazed.

“What’s it all about, anyhow?” he inquired.

“We’ve organized the Toby Clark Marching Club--over a hundred boys
and girls--the best lot in the village,” explained Don. “We want to
show everybody in Riverdale that we don’t believe--not for a single
minute--that Toby ever stole Mrs. Ritchie’s box, and we’re going to
carry signs an’ banners an’ march through the streets with the band
playing.”

Collins stared a minute, and then he laughed.

“That’s great!” he exclaimed. “I’m with you in this deal, for it’s a
shame the way they’re treating Toby. Perhaps I can get the boys to play
for two dollars apiece, on this occasion.”

“We’ve got fifty dollars,” announced Doris, the treasurer. “It was
given us by some one anxious to befriend Toby Clark and we’re to spend
it just as we please.”

“Oh. Do you want fifty dollars’ worth of music, then?” asked the
tailor, with an eye to business.

“No,” said Don; “that is, not all at once. If your twelve men will
play for twenty-four dollars, we could hire them twice. If this first
parade’s a success, I want to take all the Club and the band over to
Bayport, and make a parade there.”

“Dear me!” said Becky, to whom this idea was new; “how’ll we ever get
such a mob over to Bayport?”

“It can’t be done,” declared Allerton.

“Yes, it can,” persisted Don. “If we wake up the folks in Riverdale
we must wake ’em up in Bayport. That’s the county seat and the trial
will be held there, so it’s a good point to show the Bayporters what we
think of Toby Clark.”

“How’ll you get us there--walking?” asked Becky.

“We’ll hire carryalls, an’ rigs of all sorts,” said Don.

“We can’t hire much if we spend all our money on bands,” Allerton
replied.

“We’ll get more money. P’raps the Unknown will fork over another wad
for the good of the cause.”

“Tell you what I’ll do,” said Collins, catching some of the children’s
enthusiasm, “I’ll play for nothing, myself, and perhaps some of the
other men will. Those that insist on money will get two dollars apiece.”

Becky took her badge from her pocket and pinned it on the tailor’s coat.

“You’re the right stuff, Ed,” she remarked. “But don’t show your badge
to anyone until Saturday; and don’t blab about the parade, either. We
want to surprise folks.”

The band appeared in force at one o’clock on Saturday afternoon,
meeting the Marching Club on the Daring grounds, as had been arranged.
The musicians wore their best uniforms and looked very impressive
with their glittering horns and their drums. Ed whispered to Don and
Allerton that seven of the twelve had agreed to donate their services,
so the total cost of the band would be but ten dollars.

This was good news, indeed. The youthful officers quickly formed their
ranks, for every boy and girl was excited over the important event and
very proud to be a member of the Marching Club.

Judith and Phoebe came out to see the parade start and they thought
these bright and eager young folks could not fail to impress their
belief in Toby Clark’s innocence on all who witnessed this day’s
demonstration.

The children had “chipped in” whatever money they could command to pay
the village sign painter for lettering in big black letters on white
cloth three huge banners, which had been framed and were to be carried
in the parade. The first, which the butcher’s big boy carried just in
front of the band, read:

  “THE TOBY CLARK MARCHING CLUB.”

The second, which was borne in the center of the procession, said:

  “WE KNOW THAT TOBY CLARK IS INNOCENT.”

The third sign, carried in the rear ranks, was as follows:

  “JOIN US IN DEMANDING JUSTICE FOR TOBY.
  YOU MIGHT BE FALSELY ACCUSED YOURSELF
  SOME DAY.”

This last was so big that it required two to carry it, and four
guy-ropes, gayly decorated with colored ribbons, were held by four of
the girls to give it more steadiness. In addition to these, two big
American flags were carried in the line.

Don took his place at the head of the First Division, just behind the
band. Allerton commanded the Second Division. Doris and Becky walked
at either side, armed with bundles of handbills which Allerton had
printed, urging the public to defend Toby Clark in every possible way,
because he was helpless to defend himself.

Then the band struck up a spirited march tune and started down the
street with the Marching Club following in splendid order and keeping
fairly good step with the music. The white sashes and caps gave the
children an impressive appearance and their earnest faces were very
good to behold.

To most of the Riverdale people the parade was a real surprise and all
were astonished by the numbers and soldierly bearing of the youthful
participants. Many a cheer greeted them in the down-town districts,
where numerous farmers and their families, who had come to Riverdale
for their Saturday shopping, helped to swell the crowd of spectators.

“They ought to told us ’bout this,” said Tom Rathbun the grocer to the
group standing outside his store. “We’d ’a’ decorated the town, to
give the kids a send-off. I’ve got a sneakin’ notion, myself, as Toby
is guilty, but that don’t cut no ice if it amuses the kids to think as
he’s innercent.”

“Pah!” returned Griggs the carpenter, with scornful emphasis, “I’m
’shamed o’ you, Tom Rathbun. Can you look in the faces o’ them
children, who all know Toby better’n we grown-ups, an’ then say the
boy’s guilty?”

“They ain’t got no sense; they’re jest kids,” retorted the grocer.

“Sense? They’re full o’ sense, ’cause they ain’t prejudiced an’
stubborn, like us old ones,” claimed the carpenter. “Children has
intuitions; they’ve a way of tellin’ the true from the false in a
second, without any argyment. You might fool one youngster, p’raps,
but when you see a whole crowd like this declarin’ the innercence of
one who they knows through an’ through, you can bet your bottom dollar
they’re right!”

A good many thought and argued as old Griggs did; those who had
formerly condemned Toby became thoughtful and began to reconsider
their judgment; even the most rabid believers in the boy’s guilt were
silent in the face of this impressive demonstration and forbore any
remarks that might irritate the youthful champions.

The one exception was Dave Hunter, who had developed so strong an
antipathy toward Toby that nothing seemed to mollify it. The telegraph
office was at the railway station and as Dave stood outside with
Wakefield, the station agent, watching the parade pass, he said
sneeringly:

“The little fools! What good can they do? We’re not the judge and jury,
and if we were we wouldn’t be influenced by a lot of crazy little
beggars marching.”

“You’re ’way off, Dave,” replied Wakefield. “Nothing influences one
more than the pleading of children. We can’t tell yet who the jury will
be, but if any of them happen to see this parade to-day you can gamble
that the opinion of these marchers will have a lot of weight with them.”

“There’s nothing sound in their opinion; it’s mere sentiment,” growled
Dave.

“Sentiment? Well, that counts for a good deal in this world,” observed
Wakefield, an older and more experienced man. “These children are dear
to a lot of folks, who will side with them first and last; not through
cold reason, but through sentiment.”

Indeed, almost every parent in Riverdale had a boy or girl in the
parade and was proud to own it. Parents usually stand by their children
when they evince generosity and loyalty and it is certain that the
effect of this great parade helped the cause of Toby Clark more than
its organizers suspected.

Don and Becky Daring and the Randolphs believed firmly in Toby’s
innocence, but were animated as much by the novelty and excitement of
promoting the Marching Club as by the belief that they could assist
their friend by its means. Yet the fun of the undertaking did not lead
them to forget the original cause and when the parade reached Mr.
Spaythe’s house it halted and gave three rousing cheers for Toby Clark,
afterward standing at attention while the band played through an entire
tune. The crowd that had assembled called loudly for Toby, but the
poor boy was hidden behind the curtains of a window, trying to see his
loyal army through the blinding tears that streamed from his eyes. Toby
couldn’t have spoken a word had he appeared, there was such a hard lump
in his throat; but he kept repeating to himself, over and over again:

“It’s worth it all! It’s worth anything that can happen to know I am so
loved and respected by all the boys and girls. I don’t care, now. Let
’em do their worst. I’m happy!”

After more cheers the procession moved on and as the sound of the
music died away in the distance, Toby Clark, in the seclusion of his
room, fell on his knees and earnestly thanked God for giving him such
friends.



CHAPTER XVI

HOW MRS. RITCHIE CHIDED HER LAWYER


The parade was the one topic of conversation in the village. The editor
of the _Riverdale News_, Mr. Fellows, interviewed Don and Allerton, got
the name of every member of the Marching Club and published the list
incident to a two-column article in his paper, in which he sided with
the children and strongly espoused the cause of Toby Clark. Mr. Fellows
always liked to side with popular opinion and he shrewdly guessed
that the children voiced the sentiment of the majority of Riverdale
citizens. The editor rendered Sam Parsons very uneasy by concluding
his article with a demand that the guilty person be discovered, so as
to free Toby from any further suspicion, and he stated that if Mr.
Holbrook, the lawyer defending Toby, and the village officers--meaning
of course the constable--were unable to find the real criminal
and bring him to justice, then outside aid should be summoned and
detectives brought from the city.

In this demand poor Mr. Fellows found he had gone a step too far.
Mr. Spaythe, angry and resentful, called on him and requested him not
to publish any more such foolish ideas. Sam Parsons called on him
and politely but firmly requested him to mind his own business. Mr.
Holbrook called on him and sarcastically asked if he preferred to
undertake the case, with its responsibilities, rather than trust to the
judgment of a competent attorney. The bewildered editor tore up the
article he had written for the next edition and resolved to keep silent
thereafter, as a matter of policy.

Lawyer Kellogg was also keeping very quiet, relying upon the evidence
he had on hand to convict the accused. He was greatly annoyed at times
by Mrs. Ritchie, who drove to town every few days--usually in the
evenings--and urged him to get back her money and the missing paper.
This the lawyer was unable to do, even when she offered him a thousand
dollars for the recovery of the paper alone.

“What was the paper?” he asked.

“That don’t concern you,” she retorted.

“It does, indeed, Mrs. Ritchie,” protested the man. “How can I find
a paper if I am totally ignorant of its character? Was it a deed, a
mortgage, or what?”

She looked at him uneasily.

“I wish I could trust you,” she muttered; “but you’re such a lyin’
scoundrel that I’ve no confidence in you.”

“I’m honest to my clients, at all times, and as honest as most men in
other ways,” he assured her. “I’ve often observed that those who can’t
trust their lawyers are not honest themselves.”

“Meaning me, sir?”

“Yes.”

“Well, you’re right. That paper might cause me trouble if it got into
the wrong hands,” she frankly stated. “Even Judge Ferguson never knew
what it was, for I kept it sealed up in a long yellow envelope just
marked ‘private’ on the outside. When the box was stolen the envelope
and all disappeared.”

“What was the paper?” he asked again.

“A--a will.”

“Oh! Mr. Ritchie’s will?”

“No. But it was a will, giving me power over property. If you run
across it, and see my name, don’t read the paper but bring it straight
to me and the thousand dollars is yours--with the understanding you
keep your mouth shut forever.”

He smiled at her complacently. Here was a streak of good luck that well
repaid the unscrupulous attorney for undertaking Mrs. Ritchie’s case
and submitting to all her abuse. She admitted she was not an honest
woman. She admitted the lost will would be damaging evidence against
her. Very well, she was now in his power and as she was a rich woman he
could extort money from her whenever he pleased, by simply resorting to
threats.

Mrs. Ritchie read the smile correctly and nodded with grim
comprehension.

“I’ve told you this for two reasons,” she said. “One is so you can
identify the paper if you find it, and bring it to me. The other reason
is because I can put you in jail if you try to blackmail me.”

“Oh; you can?”

“Easy. It was you that put that box in Toby Clark’s rubbish heap, so
the police could find it there. You got a box, painted it blue, to look
like mine, put my name on the end, and then smashed the lock, battered
the box all up an’ carried it to the rubbish heap.”

“Did I?”

“Yes. I found the blue and white paints in your office closet. I’ve
seen several such boxes in your possession when you opened your safe.
The lock of the box found in Toby’s yard won’t fit my key, for there
were two keys to my box and I carried one and Judge Ferguson the other.
Last of all, I was driving home one night when I saw you sneaking
along the dark road. I got out of my buggy an’ followed you, an’ I saw
you go into Toby’s yard an’ hide the box.”

“Why did you say nothing of this until now?”

“Because I’d like to see Toby go to prison. It’s a dead sure thing
he stole my box, for no one else would have taken just that yellow
envelope and hid the other papers where they might be found. So I mean
to make him do time for that trick, behind prison bars, and the sort of
evidence you fixed up will help send him there. But I want that paper
back, and I want the money, an’ you’ve got to get ’em for me, Abner
Kellogg. If you don’t, I’ll tell about the box. That act of yours was
conspiracy, accordin’ to law, and it’ll mean state’s prison for you.”

Mr. Kellogg, rather uneasy to find the tables turned on him so
cleverly, took time to rearrange his thoughts. Then he said:

“I didn’t hide your papers in the boy’s room. I received an anonymous
letter, telling me where to look for them. Did you write that letter?”

“Don’t be a fool. If I’d known, I’d have got the papers myself. I don’t
accuse you of hiding the papers, but I do know you manufactured that
box evidence.”

“Yes, for a purpose. If I had known the papers would be found I
wouldn’t have bothered about the box, for the papers are really the
strongest proof against young Clark. But I wonder why, when he hid the
other papers, he kept out the yellow envelope containing the will.”

“He wanted to keep that,” she said.

“Then you think he intended the other papers to be discovered?
Nonsense! You’re more clever than that, Mrs. Ritchie.”

She frowned.

“Well, what then, sir?” she asked.

“This case is more complicated than you dream of,” he replied. “I’ve a
notion that others besides Toby Clark are implicated. If you were not
so anxious for that paper, I’d say the safest plan we can follow is to
convict Toby, put him in prison, and then let the matter drop. What
harm will the loss of the paper do? No one would dare use it, for it
would proclaim him the accomplice of the thief. If it’s a will, a legal
document, it has been probated and recorded, so no one will question
your right to the property it conveys. Keep quiet about the loss and
you will be safe. It seems to me that the only danger is in stirring
things up.”

She thought this over.

“Find it if you can,” she said, rising to go, “but don’t mention
to a soul that it’s a will you’re looking for. Try and get Toby to
confess; that’s the best plan. Promise him a light sentence; promise
him anything you like if he’ll give up the yellow envelope, or tell
you where it is. When we’ve got our hands on it we can forget all our
promises.”

The lawyer nodded, with an admiring smile for his confederate.

“I’ll try,” he said, but with a doubtful accent.

“A thousand dollars for you if you succeed,” she repeated, and went
away.



CHAPTER XVII

HOW PHOEBE SURPRISED A SECRET


While Phoebe freely applauded the generous efforts of the children on
behalf of Toby Clark, she realized that it would require something more
than Marching Clubs to save the boy from prison.

According to Sam Parsons, Toby ought to go to prison, as a scapegoat
for others; but Phoebe could not reconcile herself to the decree of so
dreadful a fate for a helpless and innocent waif--just because he had
no near relatives to grieve over his sacrifice.

She had promised Sam not to tell his secret, unless by telling it she
could save Toby, yet after much earnest thought she decided to relate
an abstract case to Cousin Judith and ask her advice. So, outlining
just how much she dared say and still be true to her promise, she went
one afternoon to the Little Mother’s room, taking her sewing with her,
and while Judith painted, Phoebe led the conversation toward Toby Clark.

“I’m afraid,” she remarked, after pursuing the subject for a time,
“that we’re not helping Toby as energetically as we ought. No one
seems so much interested as we are, for neither Mr. Spaythe nor Lawyer
Holbrook appear to be doing anything to find the real criminal. If
things jog along this way, December will soon arrive and Toby will be
tried and convicted before we realize it.”

“True,” said Judith. “I can’t account for the seeming inactivity of Mr.
Holbrook and Mr. Spaythe; yet it may be all seeming, Phoebe. Have you
conceived any idea on the subject?”

“I’ve speculated about it, of course. Suppose, Cousin, these men should
not wish to discover the real criminal. Suppose they know who took
the box, but want to shield the guilty one from disgrace, and so are
willing to let Toby suffer?”

“Why, Phoebe, what a queer notion that is!”

“But it isn’t impossible, is it? Suppose one with many friends and
relatives--a prominent and respectable person, you know--in a moment
of weakness stole Mrs. Ritchie’s box. To save that person from the
consequences, false evidence against Toby was manufactured. We know it
is false evidence if Toby is innocent. Wouldn’t those in the secret
think it better to let a poor and friendless boy suffer the disgrace
and the prison sentence, rather than denounce one whose disgrace would
drag down many others?”

Judith looked at her with a startled expression.

“Really, my dear, you may possibly have stumbled upon the truth,” she
said slowly. “That is quite a reasonable hypothesis. How did you happen
to think of it?”

Phoebe flushed at the necessity of dissimulating.

“Some one is guilty,” she replied evasively, “and there seems to be a
conspiracy to defend the guilty one from discovery. But would it be
right and just for them to do that, Cousin Judith? Would it be honest
to let an innocent boy suffer for another’s crime?”

Judith reflected before answering.

“I think not,” she said. “Certainly not unless the innocent one
willingly and voluntarily undertook to shield the guilty. There have
been such instances of generous self-sacrifice, which all the world has
applauded; but to condemn the innocent without his knowledge or consent
seems to me as great a crime as the theft of the box--even a greater
crime.”

“That is exactly how it seems to me!” cried Phoebe eagerly. “If I knew
of such a thing, Cousin, and was able to foil the plot, would I be
justified in doing so?”

The Little Mother looked at the girl thoughtfully.

“I suppose, Phoebe, that you have discovered something that warrants
this suspicion, but are not ready to confide in me wholly at the
present time,” she said.

“I’m so sorry, Cousin Judith; but----”

“Never mind. I am not offended, Phoebe. I know your frank and true
nature and can trust you to do right, as you see the right. But move
cautiously in this matter, my dear. Study the arguments on both sides
of the question very carefully; then boldly follow the dictates of your
heart. Without knowing more than I do of the matter, I should consider
two courses of action open to you--if, indeed, you prove to be right in
your surmise. One is to let Toby himself decide.”

“Oh; but that would settle it at once!” exclaimed Phoebe. “Toby is
generous to a fault and, although he is proud, he keenly realizes his
humble position. To ask him to suffer that another might be saved would
be the same as thrusting him into prison. I know he wouldn’t refuse;
and you know it, too, Cousin Judith.”

“Yet under some conditions it might be best, even then,” asserted
Judith. “Best, I mean, from a politic point of view. But that would
depend largely on who the guilty person is. The other alternative is
to obtain proof against the real criminal, of a character sufficient
to clear Toby, and then let the punishment fall where it belongs,
regardless of consequences. That would be strict justice, for those who
err should alone pay the penalty.”

“How about the friends who would share the disgrace?”

“That should prevent one from committing a fault, but once the fault is
perpetrated it is no argument for mercy. Nor do I think that anyone is
really disgraced because a friend or relative does wrong. People never
condemn a woman because her husband is a drunkard; rather do they pity
her. Nor is a relative properly held responsible for one’s crime. It is
true that the taint of crime and prison attaches--unjustly--to one’s
children and frequently ruins their lives, for many believe in heredity
of disposition. Such belief is, in my opinion, erroneous.”

“Suppose the guilty one fell in a moment of weakness and is now
sincerely sorry?” suggested Phoebe.

“The more reason he should bravely bear whatever punishment the law
provides. Really, Phoebe, in the abstract I can see but one way to look
at this thing. There may be exceptional circumstances that would induce
us to sacrifice Toby Clark to avoid a greater evil; but such an act
would not be just; it could only claim policy as its excuse.”

Cousin Judith’s ideas coincided with those of Phoebe. The girl tried
to argue on the side of Sam Parsons, but could not convince herself
that he was right. Sam doubtless believed he was acting nobly and
generously, and he knew more than did Phoebe about the case, but she
resented injustice in any form and finally determined to sift the
affair to the bottom, if possible, and save Toby at any cost. Was not
his good name as precious to him as her own was to herself? What right
had anyone to destroy it, that some weak offender of the law might
escape?

Having once firmly decided her course of action, Phoebe resumed
her careful, painstaking methods of deduction, such as she had
formerly employed. In the light of her latest information many of her
conclusions must be modified. Mr. Spaythe was not the guilty one,
assuredly, for he had but one relation, his son Eric, and no close
friends since the death of Judge Ferguson. Mr. Holbrook was such an
utter stranger to Riverdale that Sam Parsons’ clemency could not
apply to him. Will Chandler was the next on the list; a man of large
family, a postmaster by the grace of the president of the United States
himself, one of the village council, a highly respected citizen, a
leading churchman and a warm personal friend of the constable. Both
Sam Parsons and Will Chandler were officers of the local lodge--an
argument that Phoebe did not appreciate the importance of. But it was
impossible to suspect Will Chandler. Had his nature been weak enough to
succumb to temptation, he might have robbed the post office at any time
during the past twenty years of sums far greater than that contained
in Mrs. Ritchie’s box. Mrs. Miller, the charwoman, was a person of so
little reputation that Sam would never think of shielding her had she
stolen the box.

There remained, then, of all Phoebe’s list of suspects, only Sam
Parsons himself. If he had stolen the box--which she had discovered
in his possession--the arguments he had advanced to induce her to
keep silent would be just such as might be expected from a shrewd but
uncultured man.

Yet Phoebe’s knowledge of character was sufficient to induce her
instantly to abandon any thought of connecting the constable with the
crime. It was absolutely impossible for Sam Parsons to be guilty of the
theft of money. She knew that intuitively. The man was an honest man,
if honest men exist.

Phoebe soon came to realize that she must seek the guilty party outside
the circle of probabilities she had formerly outlined. She knew, at
least by sight and reputation, practically every inhabitant of the
village. So she began to consider which one might have an object in
taking the money, which one was a member of a large and respectable
family, and which was weak enough in character to yield to sudden
temptation. Sam had hinted at an unexpected chance to rifle the box,
which chance had furnished the temptation resulting in the theft; but
Phoebe knew nothing of such a sudden opportunity and, after puzzling
her brain for several days over the problem, she decided to start out
and attempt to secure some additional information which, in view of her
recent discoveries, might guide her to the truth.

Many girls develop a native talent for unraveling mysteries and,
both in modern journalism and in secret service, women have proved
themselves more intelligent investigators than men. There was nothing
abnormal in Phoebe Daring’s desire to discover the truth underlying the
complex plot of which Toby Clark seemed the innocent victim. She was
sufficiently interested in the unfortunate boy to have a sincere desire
to assist him, and she furthermore felt under deep obligations to Toby
for his past services to her family, at a time when the Darings were
in much trouble. It was her bounden duty, she considered, to save him
if she could, for his interests seemed to be sadly neglected by those
who should have strained every effort in his behalf. So she constituted
herself his champion and the disappointments and rebuffs she met with
only made her the more determined to persevere. In a little town like
Riverdale she could go and come without comment and, as a matter of
fact, the young girl’s investigations were conducted very quietly and
secretly. No one but Cousin Judith was in her secret; even the children
had no idea that Phoebe was “playing detective” in Toby’s interest. She
might have to be a little more bold and aggressive than before, if she
was to succeed, but she felt that tact and a cool head would carry her
through any emergency and these qualities she believed she possessed.

It would be useless to deny the fascination inherent in the task
of solving a mystery such as this and although Phoebe Daring had
sufficient reasons for undertaking it she became so intensely
interested that the desire to succeed often overshadowed her primary
object to help Toby Clark.

For one thing, she was anxious to know why Mr. Holbrook had shown so
little interest in clearing his client of the accusation against him.
The young lawyer scarcely knew Toby Clark and could not be personally
inimical to his interests; so she determined to interview him again.

This time she induced Nathalie Cameron to accompany her. Nathalie was
one of Toby’s strongest sympathizers and without letting her suspect
her real purpose Phoebe frankly told her friend that she wanted to
bring Mr. Holbrook to book for not being more strenuous in the defense
of his client.

The girls found the lawyer in his office and he received them with his
usual polite deference.

“I’d like to know,” said Phoebe, “what your plans are for destroying
the evidence against Toby, at the coming trial.”

The young man smiled and then looked grave. He saw that the girl was
quite serious and, unwarranted as her interference might be, her
position in Riverdale was sufficiently important to render it impolitic
to deny her an answer.

“There is little we lawyers can do, in such a peculiar case as this,
in advance of the trial,” said he. “I have selected a number of
witnesses whom I shall call to testify to young Clark’s fine record
and his good standing in the community. But I count largely on the
cross-examinations of the witnesses for the prosecution, and I shall
appeal to the jury not to condemn a man on circumstantial evidence,
which is so often misleading.”

“Then you are unable to disprove the evidence?” asked Phoebe
indignantly.

“There is no way to do that, I fear. The incriminating box, for
instance, was found on Toby Clark’s premises.”

“Are you sure of that?” she inquired.

“We can’t deny it. The regular officers of the law discovered it, where
it was hidden. We can, and shall, deny that the accused placed it
there, and--”

“And also we shall deny that it was Mrs. Ritchie’s box,” she added.

He stared at her, not understanding.

“I will give you a hint, to assist you,” she continued. “Ask them to
prove it was Mrs. Ritchie’s box they found.”

“Why, it had her name painted on the end,” said Holbrook.

“I know that. I believe I could myself paint a name on a tin box, such
as the hardware store keeps in stock for Judge Ferguson and Mr. Kellogg
to use when they required them.”

“Kellogg?” he asked thoughtfully.

“Yes; he uses the same kind of boxes for valuable papers that Judge
Ferguson did. But none of the locks of those boxes are ever duplicated;
the keys are all different. At the trial, if you ask Mrs. Ritchie to
produce her key, which must match the key kept by Judge Ferguson and
now in the possession of Mr. Spaythe, you will find it will not fit
the lock of the box discovered in Toby Clark’s back yard.”

Mr. Holbrook leaped from his chair and paced up and down the room,
evidently excited.

“Good!” he cried. “Excellent, Miss Daring. That is exactly the kind
of information I have been seeking--something that will disprove the
evidence. But are you sure of your statement?”

“I have seen the genuine box,” said Phoebe quietly.

“Since it was stolen?”

“Yes.”

He sat down again and glanced into her face curiously.

“Yet you do not care to say where you have seen it?” he asked in a
hesitating voice.

“No, sir.”

Mr. Holbrook drew a long sigh, as of relief.

“You are quite right to keep the secret,” he asserted firmly. Then,
after a moment, he added in a low tone: “Has she told you everything,
then?”



CHAPTER XVIII

HOW MR. SPAYTHE CONFESSED


It was Phoebe’s turn to start and draw a long breath, but she managed
to stifle her surprise and retain her self-possession. In an instant
she knew that the young man, deceived by her reference to the box, had
inadvertently committed himself and she determined to take advantage of
his slip. Mr. Holbrook’s question was so astonishing that for a moment
it fairly bewildered her, yet the pause before she answered might well
be mistaken for a natural hesitation.

“Not everything,” she calmly replied. “But I had no idea you--knew--so
much--of the truth, Mr. Holbrook,” she continued, with a searching look
into his face.

“I admit that I have been in a quandary how to act,” he said
confidently, yet in an eager tone. “But it gives me great relief
to know that you, who are in the secret, can understand my motives
and sympathize with my dilemma. At the very outset of my career
in Riverdale I have a case thrust upon me that bids fair to ruin
my prestige in the town, for unless I can disprove the evidence
against young Clark, without implicating the real criminal, I shall
be considered an unsuccessful lawyer. You and I realize that I can’t
implicate the guilty person, for that would arouse the indignation
of all Riverdale; and unless I clear Clark, who has the sympathy of
all, I shall be generally condemned. Just see what an impression that
parade of the children made! I’ve puzzled over the matter continually,
striving to find a solution, but until you came with your hint about a
substituted box I was completely at a loss what to do. Can you tell me
anything more?”

“I should not have told you so much, sir,” she answered.

“I understand. We must be cautious what we say, we who know.”

“How did you discover that--she--took the box?” Phoebe asked, breathing
hard as she pronounced the word “she” but outwardly appearing calm.

The lawyer glanced at Nathalie, who had remained silent but amazed.

“Your friend knows?” he asked Phoebe.

“Not all,” she said. “Not--the name.”

“Oh. Well, I’ll avoid the name,” he continued, evidently eager to
explain. “I was sauntering along the deserted street late at night--it
was the night before the judge died, you remember--engaged in
considering whether I should settle in Riverdale and undertake the
practice of law, when two lawyers were already in the field, when my
attention was arrested by a flash of light from the upper windows of
the building opposite me--this building. It was not a strong light; not
an electric light; more like a match that flickered a moment and then
went out. I stood still, but was not particularly interested, when the
flash was repeated, shaded this time and not so bright. It occurred
to me there was something suspicious about that. The electric lights
at the street corners proved that the current was still on and if it
were Judge Ferguson, visiting his office so late, there was no reason
he should not turn on the incandescents. If not the judge, some one
else was in his office--some one who did not want too much light, which
might be noticed, but enough for a certain purpose.

“I waited and saw the third match struck, which flickered a moment,
like the others, and then went out. The doorway of the drug store,
just opposite here, was quite dark; so I withdrew into its recess and
watched the stairway of this building. Presently--she--came down,
glanced cautiously into the street, and finding it deserted began
walking hastily toward the east. She carried something under her arm,
hugged tightly but too large to be completely hidden. I slipped out
of the doorway and followed, keeping in the shadows. As she passed
under the light at the corner I saw that what she held was an oblong
box painted blue. I could even discover some white letters on the end
but was unable to read what they spelled. Being quite positive, by
this time, that there was something wrong in the stealthy actions of
the--person, I kept her in sight during her entire journey, until she
reached her home and let herself into the dark house with a latchkey.

“At that time I did not know who lived in the place; indeed, it was
not until the Ritchie box was reported missing that I cautiously
inquired and found out who it was I had caught pilfering. Toby’s arrest
followed, and the discovery of the evidence against him. Then, to my
regret, Mr. Spaythe engaged me to defend Clark and my worries and
troubles began, as you may easily guess, Miss Daring. I had no idea,
until now, that another box had been substituted; but if that was done,
then the evidence that was meant to convict my young client will do
much to prove a conspiracy against him and therefore his innocence.”

Phoebe had listened with intense interest to every word of Mr.
Holbrook’s explanation, which he made under the impression that she
knew the whole truth concerning the theft of the box. She regretted
that in order to lead him on to talk freely she had been obliged to
say that Nathalie did not know the name of the mysterious “she”; for
otherwise he might inadvertently have mentioned it, and she would have
been in possession of the entire truth.

But Phoebe had learned a great deal; more than she had ever dreamed of,
and she left the lawyer’s office greatly elated over her discovery.

Nathalie, completely bewildered by Mr. Holbrook’s admissions, as well
as by Phoebe’s reference to a duplicate box, began to ply her friend
with questions as soon as they were on the street; but Phoebe earnestly
begged her to wait patiently until she could tell her all.

“I’m as ignorant as you are, Nathalie, as to who the ‘she’ is whom
Mr. Holbrook saw take the box,” she declared. “He got an impression,
somehow, that I know more than I really do, and spoke so frankly on
that account that he let me into his secret--in part--unawares. I shall
now be obliged to ferret out the rest of the mystery, but with my
present knowledge to guide me that ought not to be very difficult.”

“Why should he have such a strong desire to shield her?” asked Nathalie
thoughtfully.

“I don’t know. She may be some very respectable woman.”

“Would a respectable woman steal?”

“Well she might yield to some extraordinary temptation to do so,”
replied Phoebe, thinking of Sam Parsons’ plea.

“And the box was stolen before Judge Ferguson died,” said Nathalie,
wonderingly.

“Yes; so it seems. The general impression has been that it was taken
afterward, as the result of his death. I wonder how this affair would
have turned out had the dear old judge lived. He was worth any ten
common lawyers and a dozen detectives.”

“So he was,” replied Nathalie. “Mr. Holbrook seems an honest and
gentlemanly fellow, but he never can fill Judge Ferguson’s place.”

Phoebe, after parting from her girl friend, reflected that her feelings
toward the young lawyer had changed under the light of to-day’s
discoveries. She could imagine his perplexity when called upon to
defend Toby, and could see how his desire to shield the guilty female
or his fear of denouncing her would account for his lack of activity
in the case. Doubtless Mr. Holbrook agreed with Sam Parsons--of whose
opinion he was wholly ignorant--that it was better to let Toby suffer
than to accuse the guilty one. These two men, Phoebe reflected, were
influenced alike by motives of gallantry or consideration for the
female sex; for, had not the guilty one been a woman--or perhaps a
young girl--neither man would have undertaken to shield him from the
consequences of his crime.

But Phoebe was inclined to condemn one of her own sex as frankly as
she would a man. She was even indignant that an honest boy was to be
sacrificed for a dishonest woman. She became more firmly resolved than
ever to prevent such a miscarriage of justice.

She was greatly pleased, however, with Mr. Holbrook’s assertion that
by proving the box found on Toby’s premises a fraud, the defense would
stand a good chance of winning the trial. If that evidence fell down,
all the rest might well be doubted, and for a time the girl seriously
considered the advisability of abandoning any further attempt to bring
the guilty party to justice, relying upon the lawyer to free his
client. But the thought then occurred to her that merely to save Toby
Clark from conviction would not be sufficient to restore to him his
good name. Some would still claim that justice had miscarried and the
suspicion would cling to him for all time. The only thing that could
reinstate the accused in the eyes of the world was to prove beyond
doubt that some one else had committed the crime.

Forced to reconstruct all her former theories, Phoebe abandoned her
“list of suspects” and wrote a new memorandum. It outlined the facts
now in her possession as follows:

“1--The guilty one was a woman or a girl, of respectable family.
2--Some one deliberately attempted to incriminate Toby Clark by placing
a fraudulent box in the boy’s rubbish heap. 3--Sam Parsons now had the
genuine box in his possession and wouldn’t tell how he got it. 4--The
theft was committed on the night before Judge Ferguson’s sudden death.
5--Both Sam and Mr. Holbrook knew the identity of the criminal but
would not disclose it; therefore information must be sought elsewhere.”

After taking a day or two to consider these points Phoebe suddenly
decided to see Mr. Spaythe and have a talk with him. The banker was
now freed of any suspicion that might attach to him and he was the one
person in Riverdale who had boldly defied public opinion and taken the
accused boy under his personal protection. Therefore she might talk
freely with Mr. Spaythe and his judgment ought to assist her materially.

She decided to go to the bank rather than to the Spaythe residence,
where Toby might be in the way, so late in the afternoon she waited
on the banker, who was in his private office. This was a room quite
separate from the bank proper, which it adjoined and with which it was
connected.

Mr. Spaythe admitted Phoebe at once and placed a chair for her with an
inquiring look but no word of question. The girl knew him well, for her
twin brother, Phil Daring, had once worked in Spaythe’s Bank and, in
common with many others in Riverdale, the Darings had cause to respect
the banker very highly.

“I am trying hard, Mr. Spaythe, to solve the mysterious disappearance
of Mrs. Ritchie’s box,” she began. “I am not posing as a detective,
exactly, but as an interested investigator. My object is to bring the
guilty one to justice and so clear Toby’s good name. It seems like a
very complicated affair and I’ve an idea you can assist me to untangle
it.”

Mr. Spaythe, leaning back in his chair with his eyes fixed full upon
the girl’s face, was silent for a time, evidently in deep thought. He
was thinking of the time when Phoebe had handled another difficult
matter in so delicate and intelligent a way that she had saved him a
vast deal of sorrow and humiliation. He was a reserved man, but Phoebe
Daring was the banker’s ideal of young womanhood. Finally he said
quietly:

“What do you wish to know?”

“Who stole the box, for one thing,” she said, smiling at him. “But in
default of that information I will welcome any detail bearing on the
theft.”

He considered this a moment, gravely.

“I stole the box, for one,” said he.

Phoebe gave a great start, staring wide-eyed.

“_You_, Mr. Spaythe!”

“Yes, Phoebe.”

“But--Oh, it’s impossible.”

“It is quite true, my dear. Some of the contents of the box are still
in my possession.”

She tried to think what this admission meant.

“But, Mr. Spaythe, I--I--don’t--understand!”

“Of course you don’t, my child; nor do I. Let me explain more fully.
On the afternoon following Judge Ferguson’s death I wanted to see Toby
Clark on a matter connected with the funeral, of which I had assumed
charge because I believed I was the judge’s closest friend. I did not
know where to find Toby, but thinking he might be in the office I
walked over there and entered, the door being unlocked. The place was
vacant. Seeing the door of the smaller room ajar I walked in and found
lying upon the table Mrs. Ritchie’s box. It was open and the lid was
thrown back. I saw it was empty except for a yellow envelope with the
end torn off and a legal document. This last attracted my attention at
once, because of the names written on it. I knew that Mrs. Ritchie
had been accustomed to keep many valuables in her box and had often
warned Judge Ferguson that it was not wise to make a safety deposit
vault of his law office; therefore the circumstance of finding the
practically empty box on his table made me fear something was amiss.
I tried the cupboard, but found it locked; so I wrapped the box in an
old newspaper and carried it away to this office, without mentioning
the fact to anyone. At my leisure I examined the paper found in the box
and deciding it was of great importance I put it away in the bank safe,
where it is still in my keeping. I may as well add that I believe this
is the missing paper which Mrs. Ritchie is so anxious to regain--and I
well understand her reasons for wanting it.”

His voice grew harsh as he said this and he paused, with a frown,
before resuming in a more gracious tone:

“Later in the day, on my visit to the Ferguson house, Janet handed me
her father’s keys. When I returned to the office I found the key that
fitted Mrs. Ritchie’s box and locked it, although there was nothing
then in it but the yellow envelope which once contained the paper I
had seized. Soon after I was called into the bank a moment and when I
returned, the box which had been lying on this table, had disappeared.”

“Stolen!” cried Phoebe in a hushed voice.

“Evidently. Stolen for the third time, I imagine. I did not see it
again until it was found hidden in Toby Clark’s rubbish heap.”

“Oh!” exclaimed the girl and then checked herself. She knew it was not
the same box, but a moment’s thought warned her not to mention that
fact just yet. Sam Parsons must have stolen the box from Mr. Spaythe’s
office and hid it in his own home. Did Sam believe Mr. Spaythe the
thief and was it the banker he was trying to protect? The bank was the
repository of all the money in the village; to arrest the banker for
theft would create a veritable panic and perhaps cause much suffering
and loss.



CHAPTER XIX

HOW TOBY CLARK FACED RUIN


While the girl was revolving these bewildering thoughts in her brain
there came a knock at the door of the private office and a boy from
the bank brought in an envelope and laid it upon the table before Mr.
Spaythe, retreating again immediately.

“Stop!” called the banker, after a glance at the envelope. “Who left
this letter?”

“I don’t know, sir; we’ve just found it in the mail box. Must have been
pushed in from outside, sir; but it wasn’t there at one o’clock, when I
took in the afternoon mail.”

“You may go,” said Mr. Spaythe briefly. Then he sat staring at the
envelope. “I’m almost afraid to open this, Phoebe,” he declared in a
low, uncertain voice. “Once before I received just such a missive and
it said: ‘Look among the newspapers in the back room of Toby Clark’s
house for the property stolen from Mrs. Ritchie.’ It was not signed and
the awkward writing was evidently disguised. I paid no attention to
that note but some one else must have received the same hint, for the
house was searched by the police and all the documents found except the
one I took myself.”

“But not the money or the bonds,” said Phoebe.

“No. Now, here is another anonymous letter, for I recognize the same
cramped writing. Shall we open it, Phoebe?”

“I think so, sir,” she replied, for she was curious.

He opened the envelope very carefully, using a paper-cutter. Then he
unfolded a sheet of common note paper and read the contents aloud:

“‘Between the mattress and the straw tick on Toby Clark’s bed in his
old house you will find the money and bonds he stole from Mrs. Ritchie
and hid there.’”

That was all. The banker lifted his eyebrows and smiled.

“Ah, they’re giving up the money now,” said he. “They realize there is
danger in keeping it.”

“Whom do you mean by ‘they’?” asked Phoebe.

“The original thieves.”

“Were there more than one?”

“I don’t know. There was one, at least, before me, and some one stole
the box from this office--with a purpose. How shall we treat this
suggestion, Phoebe?”

“Let us go and get the money at once, sir, and restore it to Mrs.
Ritchie.”

“She will demand an explanation.”

“Then we will show this letter.”

Mr. Spaythe reflected a moment.

“You are right,” he decided. “It will be best that the money is
restored by me, acting on behalf of Judge Ferguson’s estate, rather
than by some one else. The only thing I fear is that they will claim I
induced Toby to give it up.”

“Won’t they accept your word--and mine--and the letter, sir?”

“Perhaps. We will risk it. Will you come with me now? It’s growing
late.”

Phoebe rose with alacrity. Mr. Spaythe took his hat from a hook, locked
the door leading into the bank and, when they were outside, locked the
street door also.

“Since the disappearance of that box I am growing cautious,” he said.

The old Clerk shanty stood quite beyond the village at a bend in the
river, but even at that the distance was not so great that a fifteen
minute walk would not cover it. Mr. Spaythe and Phoebe walked briskly
along, both silent and preoccupied, and presently had left the village
and turned into a narrow but well trodden path that led across the
waste lands or “downs,” as they were called, to the shanty.

But before they reached it a group of men came rushing out of Toby’s
house, gesticulating and talking together in an excited manner. Among
them were Lawyer Kellogg and Sam Parsons, the constable.

Mr. Spaythe stopped short, an angry frown upon his face. Phoebe halted
beside him, feeling so disappointed she was near to crying. They waited
for the others to approach.

“Do--do you think they got a letter, too?” asked the girl.

“Of course; just as before; and they’ve lost no time in acting upon
it,” was the grim response.

Lawyer Kellogg came up, triumphantly waving his hand, in which was
clasped an oblong packet.

“We’ve got it!” he cried, his round fat face well depicting his joy.
“We’ve found the money and bonds where Clark hid ’em.”

“Clark?” replied Phoebe, coldly. “How dare you make such a statement?
Toby Clark had nothing to do with hiding that money, and you know it.”

“He’ll get his stripes for it, just the same,” declared the little
lawyer. “I’ve got plenty of witnesses, and the finding of this property
will settle Toby Clark’s case for good and all. There’s no power on
earth can save him now.”

The banker was staring fixedly at Sam Parsons, the only one of
Kellogg’s party who was not jubilant.

“Well?” he asked.

“The money was there, all right,” growled the constable; “but Toby
didn’t put it there.”

“Of course not,” said Phoebe; “no more than he put that blue box in the
rubbish heap.”

It was a chance shot but the little lawyer turned upon her with a
fierce gesture, his hands clenched, his eyes ablaze with anger and fear.

“What do you mean by that?” he demanded.

“Nothing at all, sir,” said Sam Parsons quickly, as he cast a warning
look at the girl. “Miss Daring is a friend of Toby Clark, that’s all,
and she’s annoyed over this new discovery.”

“You must excuse Miss Daring,” added the banker smoothly. “She is
naturally agitated. Come, my dear,” he added, tucking her arm beneath
his own, “let us return.”

They followed behind the others, who were mostly eager to get to the
village and spread the news, and Sam Parsons remained with them. Phoebe
was ready to bite her tongue with vexation for letting Mr. Kellogg
suspect she knew about the substituted blue box. She saw that she might
have destroyed all Toby’s chance of acquittal by putting the lawyer on
his guard. When they were alone she expected her companions to reproach
her for her indiscretion, but they both remained silent.

[Illustration: Lawyer Kellogg came up, triumphantly waving his hand, in
which was clasped an oblong packet. “We’ve got it!” he cried, his round
fat face well depicting his joy.]

“Kellogg came for me and I had to go,” explained Sam, as they reëntered
the village.

Mr. Spaythe merely nodded.

“It’s a hard blow for Toby,” added the constable, with a sign.

“It is merely a part of the conspiracy against him,” asserted Phoebe
indignantly.

“I know. But they can prove their charge, having now evidence enough
to satisfy a jury, and Toby can’t disprove anything. This thing spells
ruin to the boy, to my notion,” said the constable.

He left them at the bank and Phoebe again entered the office with Mr.
Spaythe.

“Will you let me take that anonymous letter, sir?” she asked.

“If you like,” said he; “but the writing is purposely disguised.”

“I know; but I’d like to study it, just the same.”

The banker handed her the letter. Then he said:

“Wait a moment and I’ll get you the other.”

He unlocked a drawer of his desk and found it, holding the two together
a moment for comparison.

“Just as I thought,” he said. “The same person wrote them both.”

“Was it a man or a woman?” inquired Phoebe.

“That I am unable to determine. Preserve these letters, for we may need
them as evidence.”

“I will, sir.”

She carried them home and placed them in her desk, for as it was nearly
suppertime she had no opportunity to examine them at present. That
evening she related to Cousin Judith the latest evidence found against
Toby Clark; “manufactured evidence” the girl called it, for she knew
Toby had never touched the contents of Mrs. Ritchie’s box. She also
told the Little Mother of Mr. Spaythe’s confession, laying stress on
his assertion that at least three different persons, including himself,
had stolen the box.

“But Mr. Spaythe did not really steal it, you know,” she added. “When
he found it open on the office table, and the cupboard locked, he
merely took the box away for safe keeping.”

“He took Mrs. Ritchie’s document, however, and is still holding it,
without her knowledge or consent,” returned Judith thoughtfully. “I
wonder why?”

“I am sure he had a good reason for that,” declared Phoebe. “The fact
that Mrs. Ritchie is making such a fuss over that one paper, and
that Mr. Spaythe is carefully guarding it, makes me think it is more
important than the money.”

“That is probably true,” said Judith; “yet I fear there is nothing in
that fact to save Toby. For, if Mr. Spaythe admits all the truth--so
far as he knows it--at the trial, it will not clear Toby of the
accusation that he first rifled the box of its contents.”

“No,” answered Phoebe, “and for that reason I must continue my search
for the criminal. I had hoped that we had information to upset the
entire evidence, until that dreadful development of to-day. It is the
strongest proof against Toby they have yet secured, and I see no hope
for the boy unless we can discover the guilty one.”

“Perhaps Mrs. Ritchie will refuse to prosecute Toby, now that she has
recovered all her property but one paper,” suggested Judith.

“That would be worse for Toby than to stand his trial,” answered
Phoebe, with conviction. “If he hopes again to hold up his head in the
world he must prove his innocence--not be allowed to go free with the
suspicion of his guilt constantly hanging over him.”

“Goodness me! what a staunch champion you are, Phoebe,” said Judith,
smiling. “You must have thought very deeply on this subject to have
mastered it so well.”

“It is a very interesting subject,” answered the girl, blushing at
the Little Mother’s praise. “I seem to love a mystery, Cousin, for
it spurs me to seek the solution. But I fear I’ve been neglecting my
household duties of late and throwing the burden on your shoulders,
Little Mother.”

“No, dear; I cannot see that you are at all lax in your duties; but, if
you were, I would consider it excusable under the circumstances. I hope
that in some manner you may light upon the truth and manage to solve
your complicated problem.”

But when Phoebe went to her room to think over the discoveries of that
eventful day, she was in a quandary how to act. The mystery seemed to
have deepened, rather than cleared, and nothing had transpired to give
her a clew of any sort.

Except the anonymous letters.



CHAPTER XX

HOW PHOEBE DEFENDED THE HELPLESS


For some time Phoebe had intended to make a study of the anonymous
letters which Mr. Spaythe had lent her, so one morning when she was not
likely to be disturbed she went to her room, took the letters from her
desk and sat down to examine them carefully.

The handwriting was purposely made to sprawl this way and that,
slanting first to the right and then to the left. The grammar was
good enough and the spelling correct except for one word. In the
second letter received by Mr. Spaythe the word “mattress” was spelled
“mattrass”; but that did not seem to her of any importance, for it was
a likely error. There was nothing to indicate that a woman rather than
a man had written the letters, but Phoebe had reasons for guessing
it was the former. In the first place, she now knew that a woman had
stolen the box. Mr. Holbrook had seen her take it from the office to
her home. She must have replaced it, the next day, empty save for one
paper inadvertently overlooked--the most precious paper of all to Mrs.
Ritchie. In her agitation she had forgotten to lock the office door
behind her, so that Mr. Spaythe was able to enter. The woman, Phoebe
argued, must have observed Mr. Spaythe taking away the box and, fearing
discovery through it, had stealthily followed him and as soon as he
had left his office crept in and taken it again. Then Sam Parsons had
discovered the box in her possession and made her give it up, after
exacting a confession and promising to shield her. Or else Sam had
himself taken the box from Mr. Spaythe’s office, thinking he would
thus protect the banker from suspicion. That part of the story was at
present too involved for her to determine the exact truth.

But returning to her argument that a woman, or at least a girl, had
written these letters, and also written duplicates of them for Mr.
Kellogg, Phoebe felt that so rash a proceeding might only be attributed
to one of her own sex. A man would have realized the danger they might
evoke and so have refrained from sending them.

What was the danger? she asked herself. The irregular penmanship was so
cleverly executed that there was nothing to guide one to a discovery
of the writer. She laid the two sheets of notepaper side by side.
They were of the same cheap quality that one may buy at any store. No
watermark. Nothing distinctive about the envelopes.

She went over the words letter by letter. Although written at different
periods the writing was equally well disguised. But the same person
wrote them, for the capital “T” that appeared in both, in the name
“Toby Clark,” had a peculiar curl at the beginning of it. This “T”
slanted one way in the first letter and the opposite way in the second,
but the little curl was in both.

Suddenly the girl realized that here was a clew to the writer. That
peculiarity in forming the letter “T” must be characteristic and the
same curl would doubtless be found in the normal writing.

With the idea that it might be some girl whom she intimately knew
Phoebe went through her desk and examined the capital T’s in every
scrap of correspondence it contained, but without finding any
indication of the telltale curl. It was late when she finished this
task and so she went to bed feeling that she had accomplished nothing
of value.

After this the days passed rapidly without any further developments.
Public opinion in Riverdale was again undergoing a change and although
the Marching Club paraded several times and once took the band to
Bayport--with money left from the mysterious donation--people viewed
the demonstrations with good-humored tolerance but were not impressed
as they had been at first. There was a general feeling that Toby
Clark’s case was hopeless and Phoebe was greatly annoyed by reports
that Tom Rathbun and Dave Hunter, with some others, had openly
denounced Toby as a thief, saying it was all nonsense to claim he was
innocent when he had been “caught with the goods.”

Young Hunter, Lucy’s brother and Phoebe’s instructor in telegraphy,
was the most bitter of these assailants and seemed to take pleasure
in sneering at Toby on every possible occasion. This surprised Phoebe
the more because she had always considered Dave a kindly, manly young
fellow, usually generous in his criticism of others. Something had
doubtless turned him against Toby Clark and aroused his enmity, for
Dave had condemned the boy out of hand almost from the moment of his
arrest.

One dismal, cloudy afternoon, when Phoebe had been down town and was
hastening home to supper, she turned up a side street and saw before
her a crowd of children who were jeering and hooting at the top of
their voices. These were not the children of good families, such as
were members of the Marching Club, but the ragged, neglected gamins
that are to be found on the streets of every Southern village; both
white and black; mischievous, irresponsible youngsters who delight in
annoying anyone and anything they dare attack, from a stray dog to a
country woman driving to market.

Phoebe well knew the tribe and, as she heard shouts of “Robber!”
“Thief!” “Jailbird!” ring out, at once suspected the truth. With rising
anger she ran toward the group and reaching the outskirts of the little
crowd she hurled the mockers right and left, whereby she came face to
face with Toby Clark. The boy, leaning on his crutch, was cowering with
bowed head before the jeers of his assailants.

“Shame on you all!” she cried, glaring around with righteous
indignation. “How dare you attack one who is more unfortunate than
yourselves--a poor, weak cripple, who needs friends more than you need
soap-and-water?”

They shrank away, sullen and resenting her interference, and those who
refused to run she threatened with her umbrella until they were driven
off and she was left alone with their victim.

“Come, Toby,” she then said, with assumed cheerfulness; “let’s go home.
You mustn’t mind those dreadful creatures; they’re ignorant of common
decency.”

“I--I’d no business to come out,” he replied in a sad voice. “But I’d
been in the house so long, and I wanted the air, and--”

“You’ve as much right on the streets as any other decent citizen,”
Phoebe said warmly.

“Not at present,” returned Toby. “Those children think I am a thief,
and so do many other people, and because I cannot prove that I am
honest they consider it right to revile me.” He was hobbling along at
her side as he spoke. “Isn’t it queer, Phoebe, that a mere suspicion
can blot out one’s reputation, won by years of right living, and force
one to defend himself and prove he is not a rascal?”

“It’s all wrong, Toby, and the law is greatly to blame for it, I think.
It’s an absurd idea that anyone can swear out a warrant for another
person’s arrest, charging him with any dreadful crime, just because
that person has a suspicion he is guilty, and makes complaint against
him. Any good, honest citizen may be thus disgraced and forced to prove
his innocence before he is free again; and even then the smirch clings
to him for a long time. It’s an unjust law and ought to be changed.
No one should ever be arrested without proof of his crime. The one
who makes the complaint should furnish such proof, and not oblige the
innocent person to defend himself.”

Toby looked up at her with an admiring smile.

“I’ve studied law some, you know,” he said, “and what you propose is
a revolution. It is more just than the present law, which ruins many
lives and furnishes no redress, but I fear it would permit many guilty
ones to escape.”

“You won’t pay any attention to what those children said?” she pleaded.

“Not more than I can help. They’ve heard others say I am a thief, so
we mustn’t blame them too severely. They don’t know any better--poor
little things.”

She left him at Mr. Spaythe’s house and proceeded toward home in a very
depressed mood. It was dreadful to know that Toby was subjected to such
insults whenever he showed himself on the streets, and yet this was
nothing to the humiliation and disgrace he must endure if they fastened
the theft upon him and condemned him to a prison sentence.



CHAPTER XXI

HOW PHOEBE TELEGRAPHED THE GOVERNOR


The day set for the trial was drawing so near that presently Phoebe
became greatly worried. Winter had suddenly set in and the weather was
so cold and disagreeable that she could not get out as frequently as
before. She saw Mr. Holbrook once or twice but found him despondent.

“They’ve got us practically between two millstones,” he said, “and
since we are unable to use our knowledge of the truth for defense, we
shall be obliged to take our chances of defeat. I’m sorry, but it can’t
be helped.”

Phoebe, however, thought it could. She asked herself how far she
was bound to respect the various confidences reposed in her, when
they meant the ruin of an innocent young life. She knew enough, she
believed, to save Toby if she were allowed to go upon the stand and
tell it all; but she felt that she was so inexperienced in legal
matters that if she acted on mere impulse she might make a failure.

Meantime she kept studying the anonymous letters and one day decided
to find out where the notepaper had been bought, if possible, as that
might put her in the way of determining who had bought it. So she went
to town and made her way to the post office.

Hazel Chandler waited upon her at the little stationery shop in
the office, and Phoebe thought the young girl looked pale and
worn. “They’re working her too hard again,” she reflected, and yet
Hazel’s duties were no more onerous than those which many shop-girls
voluntarily undertook. She also had the advantage of working for her
father and running the little store as she pleased, although she was
obliged to leave her counter for the post office whenever Will Chandler
was out, as was often the case. Besides being one of the village
council the postmaster was interested in several other things which
required his attention outside, so that Hazel as assistant postmaster
waited on most of those who came to the office for their mail.

There was no one but Phoebe in the place just now and she asked to look
at some notepaper.

“No, not the box sort, Hazel; just the common kind,” she added.

The girl laid several qualities before her and soon Phoebe recognized
the kind she was looking for. She bought a few sheets and Hazel began
to wrap them up.

“Have you heard much about--about Toby Clark’s case--lately?” the girl
asked in a hesitating way.

“No,” replied Phoebe.

“It’s pretty black against him, isn’t it?” continued Hazel anxiously.

“It looks black, just now,” admitted Phoebe.

“I--I’m sorry for Toby,” said Hazel, with a sigh. “We--we’re all--very
fond of him.”

Phoebe bristled with indignation.

“Your sweetheart, Dave Hunter, doesn’t seem very fond of him,” she
retorted. “He takes every opportunity to denounce Toby and blacken his
character.”

Hazel shrank back as if frightened by such vehemence. She bowed her
head over the parcel she was tying, but Phoebe could see that her pale
skin had flushed red.

“I--I’m not responsible for--for what Dave says, Phoebe,” she murmured
pleadingly; and then to the other girl’s astonishment she put both
hands before her face and began to cry, sobbing in a miserable way that
was pitiful to listen to.

At once Phoebe became penitent.

“Forgive me, Hazel,” she said. “I know you are not responsible for
Dave,” and then she took her parcel and went away, to give the girl a
chance to recover her composure.

“The poor thing is almost a nervous wreck,” she mused, “and Dave’s
bitterness toward Toby must have annoyed her more than I suspected.
She probably loves Dave devotedly and hates to have him behave so
ungenerously. I must ask Lucy when they are to be married. That would
relieve her of the confining work in the post office and enable her to
recover her health and strength.”

At the drug store opposite she found more of that identical notepaper,
and the stationery counter at Markham’s dry goods store had it also. It
was a grade so common that everyone kept it and therefore Phoebe was
forced to acknowledge that her quest had been a failure.

She was in the dumps next day, wondering if she had done all she
could for Toby, when suddenly she remembered the governor’s parting
injunction. “If you need me, send me a telegram,” he had said, and this
brainy, big-hearted man was just the one she needed in her present
emergency. At once she decided to telegraph Cousin John, for she
believed that his advice, coupled with her knowledge--which she would
frankly confide to him--might yet save the day for Toby Clark.

She would not say anything to Cousin Judith, at present, for if the
busy governor found himself obliged to ignore her summons she wanted no
one to be disappointed but herself.

Very carefully she worded the telegram, in order to present the case
as strongly as possible without committing the secrets she guarded in
advance of his coming. She wrote and rewrote it several times, until
finally she was satisfied with the following:

“Please come and help me save Toby Clark. I believe I know the truth,
but without your assistance Toby will be condemned on false evidence. A
woman stole Mrs. Ritchie’s box and there is a conspiracy to shield her
from discovery and wickedly sacrifice Toby in her stead. Will tell you
all when you arrive. Come quickly, if you can, for time is precious.”

She signed this “Phoebe Daring” and putting on her wraps, carried it
down to the station. Dave Hunter was in the little telegraph office, on
duty but not busy. He laid down a newspaper as Phoebe entered his room
and nodded rather ungraciously.

“Here’s a telegram, Dave, which I want you to send at once.”

“Day message, or night?” he inquired, taking it from her hand and
beginning to count the words.

“Oh, day, of course,” she replied.

Suddenly he paused, with his pencil poised above the telegram, and a
wave of red swept over his face and then receded, leaving it a chalky
white. He did not lift his eyes, for a time, but seemed to study the
telegram, reading it twice very slowly from beginning to end. Then he
pushed the paper toward Phoebe and said in a hard, arrogant voice:

“I can’t send that.”

“Why not?” she asked in astonishment.

“I--it’s libelous,” he returned, rising from his chair before the table
on which the telegraph instrument stood and facing the girl defiantly.

“It is not libelous!” she indignantly exclaimed.

“Well, I can’t send it; it’s against the rules of the office.”

Phoebe looked into his face searchingly and he half turned away. She
remembered now Dave’s rabid enmity toward Toby Clark and concluded that
he refused the telegram because he feared it would assist Toby’s case.
But she would not be balked by such a ridiculous pretext and as her
anger increased she grew more quiet and determined.

“You’re talking nonsense,” she said. “This is a public telegraph office
and you, as the operator, are obliged to accept and send any message
that is presented and paid for. It isn’t your place to decide whether
it is libelous or not, and I demand that you send this telegram at
once.”

“I won’t,” he said firmly. “I’m going out, Miss Daring, and must lock
up the office; so I’ll trouble you to go.”

She regarded the young fellow questioningly as he took his hat and
stepped to the door, waiting for her with his hand on the knob. Then
she slipped into his seat at the table and placed her hand on the
instrument.

“Here!” he called fiercely. “What are you doing, girl?”

“If you won’t telegraph the governor, I will!” she declared. “Stand
back, Dave Hunter, and don’t you dare to touch me or interfere. I’ll
save Toby Clark if I have to put you behind the bars in his place, and
perhaps there’s where you belong.”

As she spoke she was clicking the little instrument, calling the state
capitol. Dave himself had taught her how to do this. The operator now
stood motionless beside her, looking down at the courageous girl with
unmistakable terror in his eyes. Perhaps her threat awed him; perhaps
he had other reasons for not venturing to prevent her extraordinary
action.

The answer came in a moment. Fortunately the wire had been free and as
soon as she got her connection she began clicking out the message--as
dexterously as the regular operator himself might have done.

Dave listened, as motionless as if turned to stone. She demanded a
“repeat” and from the other end came the repetition of the message,
exactly as the girl had sent it. She answered: “O K,” rose from her
chair and calmly asked:

“What are the charges?”

The young man drew his hand across his eyes with a despairing gesture
and limply sank into the chair.

“Go away, please,” he replied.

Phoebe picked up the rate book and figured the cost of the telegram.
As she did so her eyes fell on a railway order which Dave Hunter had
written on a blank form and after staring at it a moment she stealthily
folded it and slipped it into her pocket. Then she laid the exact
change on the table and walked out of the office. As she closed the
door softly behind her she noticed that the operator had dropped
his head on his outstretched arms and seemed to have forgotten her
existence.

A sudden horror and aversion for the young man welled up within her,
but she felt elated and triumphant, as well. She had sent the message
in spite of all opposition and--she had made a discovery!

The writer of the anonymous letters was none other than Dave Hunter.

Phoebe could scarcely wait to get home before examining the order she
had taken from the telegraph office. Once within her own room she
eagerly spread it out before her and studied it with care. It was a
simple railway order addressed to the supply agent at St. Louis, and
said: “Twenty beds with mattrasses and pillows for laborers at Section
9 without delay.” It was signed by the Division Superintendent but was
in Dave’s handwriting and had doubtless been dictated to him to be
wired to the agent.

But within it lay the proof Phoebe had so long and vainly sought. Not
only was the word “mattress” misspelled as in the anonymous letter, but
the capital “T” in “Twenty” had the same preliminary curl to it that
she had observed in both letters, wherever “Toby” had appeared.

This discovery positively amazed the girl. She had never suspected
Dave, whom she now believed had hidden both the papers and the money in
Toby’s house, on different occasions, with the evident determination to
incriminate the boy. Then, by means of the anonymous letters, Dave had
told where the stolen property could be found.

But Dave had not stolen the box. A woman did that. She sighed as
she thought of Lucy, an ambitious girl, and of Mrs. Hunter, who was
prominent in all the social affairs of Riverdale and an earnest church
member. It was easy enough to understand now why Dave had denounced
Toby.

Cousin Judith knocked at her door.

“A telegram for you, Phoebe.”

She tore it open, while Judith watched her face curiously. It flushed
with joy.

“The governor will be here in the morning,” she said. “You don’t mind,
do you, Cousin Judith?”



CHAPTER XXII

HOW SAM PARSONS EXPLAINED


“You caught me just right, my dear,” said the governor, smiling
cheerily into the girl’s anxious face. “I had nothing of importance
on hand at this time, so I ran away from half a hundred unimportant
demands and--here I am.”

He came for breakfast and was as eager for Aunt Hyacinth’s peerless
flapjacks as any of the youngsters, laughing and chatting with the
entire family like a boy just out of school. But afterward he sat with
Phoebe and Judith in the cosy sitting room and listened gravely to
every detail of the young girl’s story.

Phoebe was very frank in her relation, concealing nothing that she had
discovered or that had been confided to her. “I am supposed to keep
some of these things secret,” she said; “but I believe this secrecy on
the part of Toby’s friends, and their failure to get together, is going
to send the boy to prison unless we take advantage of our knowledge and
accomplish something practical. Anyhow, I can see no harm in confiding
in you, Cousin John, even if no good comes of it.”

The governor nodded approval.

“That’s right, Phoebe,” he said encouragingly. “Dust all the shelves
and let the grime settle where it will.”

Before this man had been drawn into politics and became first a senator
and then twice governor of his state, he had been a lawyer of unusual
prominence. His keen intellect followed the girl’s recital with
comprehension and even “read between the lines.” During the story he
saw probabilities she had never guessed. But he said:

“You have shown admirable intelligence, Phoebe, and I see you have
quickly recognized the important points of your discoveries. With the
information you have given me I believe I can put my finger on the
identical woman who is responsible for Toby Clark’s tribulations.”

“Oh; can you, sir?” she exclaimed. “Then I must have been very stupid.”

He turned to Judith with his whimsical smile.

“You see, she won’t admit that a rival detective has any talent.”

“Yes, I will,” said Phoebe. “I didn’t mean it that way at all. But
I can see no ‘identical’ woman in the case, as yet. A mysterious
woman stole the box, and of course it is a member of Dave Hunter’s
family--his mother or sister--or perhaps his sweetheart, Hazel
Chandler. Which of the three do you mean, sir?”

“None of those,” replied the governor, musingly. “The woman whom I
think has been the cause of your friend Toby’s past misfortunes and
present danger is--Mrs. Ritchie.”

Both Judith and Phoebe stared at him in amazement.

“Did she steal her own box, then?” said Phoebe.

“No, indeed; but she accused Toby Clark with a purpose, and she intends
to get him a long prison sentence--also with a purpose.”

“What purpose, sir?”

“I don’t know. That is still dark. But we shall turn the light on it.
Perhaps Mr. Spaythe knows, by this time.”

“Mr. Spaythe?”

“To be sure,” replied Cousin John blandly. “Why do you suppose he
appropriated that paper of Mrs. Ritchie’s, to which he had no legal
right, unless it contained something that required investigation?”

“Oh; I never thought of that.”

“Mr. Spaythe knew that Mrs. Ritchie had no right to the paper, and was
not acting squarely in regard to it. So he put the paper in a safe
place until he could discover the truth. It doesn’t take much of a
detective to figure that out, Phoebe. It’s the science of deduction.
Let’s go a little further: The paper concerns Toby Clark. That explains
why this reserved banker took the boy to his own home, to safeguard his
person or his interests until the truth could be learned. It’s as plain
as a pikestaff, Miss Conspirator. You had all the pieces of the puzzle,
but could not fit them together.”

“But--the woman who stole the box?” asked Judith, eagerly.

“Bother the woman who stole the box! What do we care about her?”
retorted Cousin John. “It is true she stirred up this mess, but the
stew may prove a savory one for Toby Clark, in the end. In that case we
cannot be too thankful that the poor creature yielded to temptation.
She has gained no material benefit, for the stolen property is all
restored; but fate had used her to right a grievous wrong. Let us treat
her with grateful consideration.”

Phoebe drew a long breath, striving to reconcile the governor’s view
of this mysterious case with the prejudices she had so long encouraged
in her own mind. She could not yet see by what process he arrived at
the astonishing solution of the problem he now advanced, but the keen
lawyer was quite satisfied that he had “nailed the truth.” Judith was
fully as perplexed as Phoebe and after a pause she inquired:

“Will Mr. Spaythe’s discovery, then, clear Toby Clark of the charge
against him?”

“Eh? Perhaps not. I’ve no idea what the discovery is and we must have
more information on that subject. My idea is that Mrs. Ritchie will be
forced to withdraw her charge; but the case might be taken up by the
public prosecutor and young Clark condemned, unless we manage to get
the case out of court altogether.”

“Even then,” said Phoebe, “Toby’s good name will not be cleansed.
Many people will say he escaped paying the penalty of his crime, but
was really guilty. The evidence they have brought against him is very
strong.”

“Cleverly argued, Phoebe. I see your point. We must not be content with
whitewashing the young man; we must restore him to his friends as sweet
and clean as before. So, after all, we can’t quite ignore the woman
whose folly caused all the mischief; nor even your friend Dave Hunter,
who obtained possession of the contents of the box and tried to throw
the blame onto Toby in order to save one whom he loved.”

“That’s it, sir. I think that was Dave’s motive.”

“Well, the sooner we begin to burrow the sooner we shall unearth the
truth. I want to see Sam Parsons, first of all.”

“I will send Don for him,” proposed Judith.

“If you please, Cousin.”

It was Saturday and Don chanced to be within hailing distance. He
accepted the mission with joy and lost no time in running to the
constable’s house.

“Hurry up, Sam,” he said: “The governor’s at our place and wants to see
you.”

Sam sat down in his rocker.

“Now?” he inquired.

“Right away. He came this morning, you know. Perhaps he’s goin’ to
promote you; make you Chief of Police or Grand Marshal. The governor
can do anything, Sam.”

Sam shook his head. He rocked to and fro, thinking deeply and dreading
the governor with a cowardly sinking of the heart.

“Well, what are you going to do? Mutiny?” asked Don impatiently.

The constable sighed. Then he rose and picked up his hat, walking
slowly in the wake of his eager conductor to face the man he most
feared.

“Good morning, Parsons. I know you well,” said the governor. “You’re an
honest man and a good officer. Who took Mrs. Ritchie’s box from Judge
Ferguson’s office?”

“I--I----”

“Who stole the box?” more sternly.

“Sir, a--a----”

“Parsons!”

“Hazel Chandler, sir.”

“Thank you. I thought so. Now, then, sit down and tell me about it.”

Perspiration was oozing from the constable’s forehead. He wiped it away
and sat down, staring stupidly at the great man and wondering how he
had come to admit a fact that he had sworn to keep secret to his dying
day.

“There is nothing to tell, sir,” he said weakly.

“Begin at the beginning, stating why you spied in the hallway, outside
of Judge Ferguson’s door.”

“The night before, sir, I had seen--seen----”

“Hazel.”

“I had seen Hazel carrying the box home. She passed under a light and
I was in the shadow. It was Mrs. Ritchie’s blue box. The next day I
watched. She brought the box down to the post office with her, wrapped
in a cloak to make the bundle look round, and then covered with paper.
Everyone was excited over the judge’s death, that day. The girl watched
her chance and in the afternoon stole upstairs with the box, put it on
the office table and hurried away. I sneaked up afterward and looked
through the keyhole, but I found Hazel had forgotten to lock the door
behind her, although she had carried off the key. I went in and looked
at the box. It was unlocked and empty, except for a paper or two, which
I did not touch. I left it there and went into the post office; but
Will Chandler, Hazel’s father, said she had run over to the Ferguson
house on an errand.”

“By the way, Phoebe,” said Cousin John, “can you get Janet Ferguson for
me?”

“Yes; I can telegraph to her from my room.”

“Thank you.”

Phoebe ran up to telegraph Janet, asking her to come over at once to
see the governor. Meantime Sam Parsons resumed his story.

“You still watched the office?” asked Cousin John.

“Yes, sir. After Hazel returned, Will Chandler took the office key
to Holbrook and asked him to hand it to Mr. Spaythe, and not long
afterward the banker came over and went up to the office. Will had
caught me a couple of times in the hallway, so I didn’t dare stay
there any longer. I went up to our lodge room, over the drug store,
which is just opposite, and from the window there I could see into
the windows of Judge Ferguson’s offices. I saw Mr. Spaythe go in and
examine the box. He read a paper that was in it and then put the paper
in his pocket. Afterward he wrapped up the box and took it away to his
office. I was in deadly fear, sir, that Hazel’s theft of the box would
be discovered. I imagined Mr. Spaythe had taken it away to hold for
evidence; so I followed to his office.”

“Why did you fear Hazel’s discovery?” asked the governor. “Is it a
constable’s duty to shield a criminal?”

“I wasn’t a constable then, sir; I was just a man. Hazel has always
been a favorite of mine, from babyhood,” said Sam. “Her father, Will
Chandler, is my best friend. We play chess together and he belongs to
my lodge. But aside from that the Chandlers are rated the proudest
and most respectable family in Riverdale--bar none. Their ancestors
came over in the Mayflower, and then founded this village. Will is the
government’s trusted agent. If Hazel’s foolish act is discovered, the
disgrace will kill Mrs. Chandler, who is a very proud woman and in
delicate health, and there are six little brothers and sisters whose
lives will be ruined.”

“She should have thought of that,” said the governor.

“And Hazel herself is engaged to be married to Dave Hunter, one of the
finest young men in the village,” continued Sam. “I think if Dave knew
what she had done it would mar all his future life; and he has a sister
and mother depending on him. That was why I shielded her, sir; it was
better to let Toby Clark suffer alone than to overwhelm so many honest
folks with disgrace.”

“You took the box from Mr. Spaythe?” asked the governor, without
commenting upon the man’s excuses.

“Yes, sir. He left it on the office table and went into the bank, and
I went in and got it. I carried it home and hid it, to save Hazel, and
afterward I was astonished to find another box, just like it, in Toby
Clark’s back yard. I decided it was put there with a purpose--to prove
Toby was guilty--so I kept quiet about it.”

“Wasn’t that very irregular, Parsons?”

“Very, sir. I’ll lose my star, and perhaps I’ll be prosecuted. But I’m
glad I did it.”



CHAPTER XXIII

HOW A WRONG LOOKED RIGHT


Janet Ferguson came in a moment later, having promptly answered
Phoebe’s summons. After greeting her in his kindly way the governor
said:

“I’m puzzled about your father’s keys. What happened to them the day
following his death? Tell me, please?”

Janet tried to remember.

“Usually he left his office key at the post office, but carried the
bunch of small keys on his person,” she replied. “Father was very
absent-minded at times, and I think he was not feeling quite himself
the evening before--before his attack. For it seems he hung his key
ring, containing all the keys, on the peg inside the post office
window, instead of leaving just the office key. But the next morning
Hazel Chandler discovered the keys and brought them to me--all except
the office key, which was left hanging upon the peg. That key Mr.
Chandler afterward turned over to Mr. Spaythe, to whom Toby Clark also
gave his office key.”

“And the smaller keys--the ones that unlocked the cupboard and the
private boxes, such as Mrs. Ritchie’s?”

“When Hazel brought them to me I asked her to carry them to Mr.
Spaythe, and I understand she did so. She delivered them to him on her
way back to the post office.”

“Of course. It is all very clear and comprehensive now, Miss Ferguson.
I thank you. I am not making an official investigation of this case,
you understand. Phoebe and I have concocted a little conspiracy to
arrive at the truth and we are doing our best to clear up the mystery
of Mrs. Ritchie’s lost box--for personal reasons only.”

“I know that Phoebe has been anxious to save Toby Clark,” said Janet
earnestly; “and I am also anxious. Can I assist you in any way?”

“Not at present. If we need you again we will let you know.”

So Janet went away and the governor also dismissed Sam Parsons, telling
the constable he might continue to guard his secret until otherwise
instructed. Then Cousin John briskly rose and said to Phoebe:

“Let us go and call on Dave Hunter.”

The girl dreaded that interview, remembering her last defiant visit to
the telegraph operator; but she knew it could not be avoided. Already
she was amazed at the ease with which the governor fitted together
the pieces of her puzzle, and she was eager to see what link in the
evidence Dave could furnish.

They found the young fellow alone in his office. He recognized the
governor at a glance, for through the exchange of telegrams the
operator knew he was due to arrive in Riverdale that morning and
why he had come. At once Dave’s face hardened and his jaws locked
together with firm obstinacy. But the governor, noting these signs of
opposition, merely smiled.

“Hunter, my lad,” said he, “I’d like to dance at your wedding. I’m not
sure you’ll invite me, and I’m not sure I could come if invited; but
what I mean to assert is that I’d really like to help you celebrate
that important event. Eh?”

Dave seemed confused. He had no answer ready for this form of attack.

“There appear to be certain complications, however, which at present
stand in the way of your ambition,” continued the governor in an
amiable tone. “Hazel has a fine nature and a gentle heart, but her
character isn’t fully developed yet and, in a late emergency, she
allowed herself to be led astray. She knew there was a great deal of
money in Mrs. Ritchie’s box; her father had once seen it and talked
of it in the family circle; so when the judge carelessly left all his
keys in the post office, one evening, Hazel was tempted and didn’t
stop to consider consequences. She was sick and tired of the drudgery
she was enduring and knew she could not be married to you until you
had acquired more money; so she foolishly yielded to the temptation
and at night, when she locked up her store and the post office, she
visited Judge Ferguson’s office, unlocked the cupboard, took down Mrs.
Ritchie’s box and carried it home. In the seclusion of her room she
found the key to the box, opened it and dumped the contents on the
bed. The last thing to tumble out was a long yellow envelope marked
‘Private,’ and Hazel hastily tore this open, with the idea that it
contained money. Finding it to be merely a legal document, in which
she was not interested, she tossed it back into the box. Understand,
Hunter, I won’t vouch for the accuracy of every detail of this story;
but in the main you know it is correct.”

Dave’s eyes were fairly bulging from their sockets as he stared at the
governor and heard him lay bare a secret he thought had been faithfully
guarded.

“You--you’ve seen Hazel?” he stammered.

“No; not yet. But let me continue. That night, perhaps fearing
interruption, the girl had no chance to examine the contents of the
box, which she hid somewhere in her room. Next day she took the box
down town with her, wishing to get rid of it, and managed during the
afternoon to return it to Judge Ferguson’s office. But she had no time
to put it back in the cupboard, because she had left the post office
downstairs alone. So she simply placed it on the table and afterward
got rid of the keys as soon as possible.

“No one suspected her. Toby Clark was suspected, but not Hazel
Chandler. Yet Hazel was in a quandary. She had in her possession a
great deal of money, some valuable bonds, and a lot of useless papers
belonging to Mrs. Ritchie. Naturally she confided in her sweetheart,
not realizing even yet the seriousness of her offense, but rather
exulting in the fact that this money would hasten her wedding day. The
young man to whom she was engaged, however, listened to her story with
horror and despair. He realized the enormity of the girl’s crime and
knew that its discovery meant prison for her, a broken heart for him,
and ruined lives for them both.”

Dave’s stern features had gradually relaxed to an expression of abject
misery. At the vivid scene conjured up by his accuser he sobbed aloud
and dropped his face in his hands. But the governor quietly continued:

“The young man’s plight was indeed pitiful, but his poignant sorrow
blurred his reason and led him to a subterfuge so cruel and unmanly
that his error was scarcely less iniquitous than Hazel’s. To save the
girl he loved he endeavored to throw the burden of guilt on an innocent
person, a friendless boy and a cripple. He was not the first to accuse
Toby Clark, but Toby’s arrest gave him the idea. Forcing Hazel to give
to him the entire contents of the rifled box, he selected all the
papers that were of no value to anyone but the owner and hid then in
the back room of the shanty. Then, to make sure they would be found,
he wrote anonymous letters to two parties whom he thought would be
interested in the search, telling where the papers were hidden.”

The governor paused a moment.

“I am not sure,” said he, “why you retained the money and bonds,
Hunter. You may have had some vague idea of keeping them, at the time;
but afterward I am sure you thought better of it, for you gave up the
stolen money, again implicating Toby Clark.”

“I--I wanted to give it all up in the beginning,” groaned Dave, in
broken, pleading accents; “but I was bewildered, then--I’ve been
bewildered ever since, I think--and the thought came to me that if
Hazel should be arrested I would need money to defend her. I didn’t
much care what I did, if only I could manage to save Hazel. But--after
a time--I thought the danger had passed and no one would now connect
her with the theft; so I wanted to get rid of the money, which was a
horror to me. I thought the best way was to put it in Toby’s house, as
I did the papers.”

“I follow your argument,” said the governor. “Had you been more
experienced in crime you would have known that the greatest danger
of discovery lay in those anonymous letters. Such things are very
easily traced. Do you know that Phoebe Daring was able to connect you
with this crime by means of those very letters? As a matter of fact,
however, they did not lead to the discovery that Hazel Chandler took
Mrs. Ritchie’s box. Two different people saw her carry it home; yet I
suppose she has imagined she escaped observation.”

“She--she seemed quite sure of that, sir.”

“No doubt. The criminal is always blind. If the time ever comes when
everyone realizes that the law is more clever than the individual,
that justice is rampant and will not be denied and that punishment
follows an undiscovered crime as surely as if it were discovered, then
indeed humanity may shrink from committing lawless acts. The more
inexperienced and simple-minded the offender, the more certain he or
she is of outwitting all the rest of the world. As a consequence, our
prisons are crowded and our trial courts cost us millions of dollars
annually. It is so much more simple and safe to obey the laws of
humanity and of nations, that I wonder people do not prefer to walk
uprightly.”

Dave had no reply to this, although there is no doubt he frankly
admitted its truth. He now knew that the governor and Phoebe, and
doubtless others, were in possession of the secret he had guarded so
jealously, and in this crisis his thoughts were all of the girl he
loved and had sought to shield.

“Sir,” he said after a moment, “is there any way in which I can assume
all the punishment? Suppose that I confess that I stole Mrs. Ritchie’s
box; will you and Phoebe help me to carry out the deception and take
Toby Clark’s place?”

“Why, that is what you should have done in the beginning,” said Cousin
John. “Now it is too late for such vicarious atonement.”

Again Dave groaned.

“Mrs. Ritchie has all her property now,” he asserted. “Don’t you
suppose she could be induced to save Hazel?”

“No; I do not.”

“It--it’s going to wreck a lot of lives, sir--the publicity and
disgrace. The poor girl didn’t know what she was doing; indeed, sir,
that is the truth. She--she’s sorry enough now. We’ve both suffered
bitterly and--and been severely punished already. But I’ll take more
punishment; I’ll do anything, sir, to keep Hazel out of it and save her
and her people from infamy.”

“I can’t promise you anything, Hunter,” said the governor, evident
sympathy in his tone. “I’m sorry for you. You were drawn into this
thing merely because you are fond of the girl, and I admire you for
standing by your sweetheart, through thick and thin. The faults you
have committed, in striving to compel an innocent boy to suffer, are
far from admirable; yet you have not a strong nature and there are
many who might have acted just as you did. I will say this: if it can
be arranged to clear Toby Clark in the eyes of all the world without
condemning Hazel Chandler, I shall try to do so. Our first care will be
to save Toby; afterward I will do what I can for Hazel.”

Dave was grateful for this promise and seized the governor’s hand in
both his own to press it warmly.

“At present,” said Cousin John, “Phoebe and I alone are in possession
of all the facts I have related. The two persons who saw Hazel take
the box seem as anxious to shield her from public condemnation as you
are. So I think you may hope for the best.”

With this they left the telegraph office and walked up the street.

“Where next?” asked Phoebe curiously. She had, by this time, so supreme
a confidence in Cousin John’s ability to pick up scattered threads and
smooth out all tangles that in her heart she believed the truth had
now been laid bare in its entirety and thought nothing remained but to
confirm the facts already gathered.

“We will see Mr. Spaythe next,” the great man replied.



CHAPTER XXIV

HOW THE MYSTERY CLEARED


It was only a few minutes walk to the bank and Mr. Spaythe received
them in his private office, expressing little surprise at seeing the
governor again in Riverdale but welcoming him with frank cordiality.

When they were seated the banker looked at his visitors with polite
inquiry.

“I’m helping Phoebe get the facts in this Toby Clark case,” said the
governor, speaking easily and as to an equal, for he knew Mr. Spaythe’s
record and reputation. “In her confidences to me concerning the
peculiar circumstances surrounding this affair, which seems to have
worn a veil of mystery from the first, she has mentioned the paper you
found in the Ritchie box.”

The banker bowed but remained silent.

“There has been raised a great hue and cry for that paper, on the part
of Mrs. Ritchie and her attorney,” continued the speaker; “therefore we
may consider the document of prime importance to the old lady. When it
fell into your hands you hypothecated it and carefully locked it in
your safe; further evidence of its importance. Phoebe has concluded,
from your unconditional defense of the accused boy, that you believe
him innocent, in the first place, and also that the document referred
to is in some way connected with--Toby Clark.”

Mr. Spaythe smiled.

“It’s difficult to keep a secret from Phoebe,” he replied.

“For my own part,” the governor resumed, “I have figured from your
long silence regarding the paper that you have been investigating its
validity or for some reason have been seeking outside information
concerning it. I hope I am not in any way forcing your hand by asking
if my surmise is correct and if you have yet received the information
you desire.”

“Allow me to add that it is difficult to keep a secret from the
governor,” laughed Mr. Spaythe. “Really, sir, you and Phoebe have
guessed so much that you are entitled to know more, and fortunately my
first information of value concerning this paper reached me but a few
hours ago, in the morning’s mail.”

“Through my interest in my Cousin Judith I became acquainted with
Phoebe Daring,” said Cousin John. “Through my interest in Phoebe I
became acquainted with the sad plight of Toby Clark, and my interest
in humanity at large induced me to ‘play hookey’ from the business of
governing this exacting state, long enough to run down here and help
things to a climax. So, sir, as my time is limited, I----”

“It will afford me pleasure to confide in you with the utmost
frankness,” said the banker. “I would like you to know all that I know.”

“Thank you. I may say that we have finally run down the guilty party
and are now certain that Toby Clark’s case will never come to trial.”

“Indeed!” exclaimed Mr. Spaythe. “Then you have solved a very
perplexing mystery.”

“Have you had no hint of the truth?” inquired the governor.

“Not the slightest, although I have several times suspected my lawyer,
a man named Holbrook.”

“And a very well meaning young fellow,” added the governor. “I think,
from the information I have received, that Holbrook has conducted
himself in a manly way that is distinctly creditable. But may I ask
how you expected to save Toby Clark from prison without knowing who
committed the fault of which he stands accused, and in the face of a
mass of incriminating evidence against him?”

“Yes; I expected to save him through Mrs. Ritchie.”

“You can compel her to withdraw the charge?”

“Mrs. Ritchie is completely in my power. Would you mind telling me who
first took the box from the judge’s cupboard?”

“A weak and thoughtless girl--Hazel Chandler--who was tempted to steal
the money that she might sooner wed the young man to whom she was
engaged.”

“Dear me. Hazel Chandler! How unfortunate.”

“There is a general disposition, among those who know the facts,
to shield her,” suggested the governor. “The girl has already been
punished--through fear, personal remorse and the reproaches of her
fiancé. I can see no benefits to the public at large nor to the
interest of justice to be gained by casting this foolish girl into
prison. Her redemption, if redemption is still needed, may be better
accomplished in other ways.”

“I quite agree with you, sir; and I think that between us we may find
a way to restore Toby Clark’s reputation to its former purity without
drawing Hazel Chandler into the mire. When Mrs. Ritchie knows that her
treachery and embezzlements have been discovered, I think she can be
induced to sign a statement that her box was not stolen at all.”

“I see your point, Mr. Spaythe. And now please tell us about that
paper.”

The banker excused himself a moment and went into the counting room, in
the rear of which stood a large safe. From a drawer which he unlocked
he took a paper and with it returned to his private office.

“Although this document has been for years in Judge Ferguson’s
keeping,” began Mr. Spaythe, “its character and contents were unknown
to him, for before she placed it in her box Mrs. Ritchie enclosed it in
a heavy yellow envelope which she sealed and marked ‘private.’ The girl
who took the box tore open the envelope, perhaps thinking it contained
money, and so enabled me to make a discovery that otherwise might never
have come to light. The moment I saw this paper I became interested,
for it is a will, properly probated and attested, and on the outside it
is docketed: ‘Last Will and Testament of Alonzo Clark.’”

“Alonzo Clark?” echoed Phoebe; “why, who was he, sir?”

“The father of Toby Clark. I knew him very slightly during the years
preceding his death, when he lived at Riverdale. He once attempted to
borrow some money from the bank on some mining stock which I considered
worthless; so I refused him. He was a relative of Mrs. Ritchie.”

“I never knew that!” cried Phoebe, surprised.

“Nor I, until recently,” replied the banker. “This document which I now
hold bequeaths to Alonzo Clark’s only child, Toby Clark, all of his
interest in that mining stock, making Mrs. Ritchie the executor and
providing that in case the stock becomes valuable and pays dividends it
must not be sold or otherwise disposed of, but the proceeds shall be
devoted to the education of Toby and the balance reserved until he is
of age, when it is all to be turned over to him. During the minority
of Toby, Mrs. Ritchie is to properly educate and clothe him and she
is authorized to retain ten per cent of the income in payment for her
services as trustee.”

“You say the stock is worthless?” asked the governor.

“I thought it was, at the time Alonzo Clark brought it to me; but
when first I saw this paper I found that the will had been probated
and Mrs. Ritchie duly appointed executor and trustee under its terms.
That fact, and the woman’s eagerness to recover the paper, led me to
suspect that the stock had become valuable; so I retained the will and
began to investigate both the mine and the history of Alonzo Clark. As
I told you, the first important report of these investigations reached
me to-day. I will briefly relate to you their purport, rather than ask
you to wade through the verbose mass of evidence submitted.”

“That will be best, I think,” agreed the governor.

“Alonzo Clark was a mining engineer of education and ability, who was
employed by large corporations as an expert, to examine mines and
report upon their value. He successfully pursued this vocation for
several years and came to be regarded as a reliable judge of both
copper and gold mines. Then he met with a misfortune. While in a rough
mining camp in Arizona he fell in love with a plump, pretty girl--the
daughter of one of the superintendents--and married her. She became
Toby’s mother and proved far beneath her husband in both refinement and
intellect. At about the same time that he married, Clark conceived what
he thought a clever idea to make his fortune. Being sent to examine an
outlying mine that had never been developed, he found it to contain
the richest deposit of copper he had ever known of--so rich, in fact,
that it was destined to become one of the greatest copper mines in
America. A company of capitalists would purchase and develop this mine
if Clark reported on it favorably. He forwarded them some very ordinary
specimens of ore and said he believed the mine would pay a fair profit
if worked economically, but he predicted no big things of it. Then
he set to work to invest every dollar he had in the world in stock of
this very mine, and he was able to secure a large quantity because his
discouraging report had failed to inspire the promoters with any degree
of enthusiasm. Then the schemer became properly punished, for the men
who had formed the company got possession of another mine that promised
better, but in which Clark had no interest, and devoted their exclusive
attention to working that. Clark dared not argue the matter with them,
for he had declared the rich mine to be unimportant, so he was obliged
to wait until the company was ready to develop it, when he knew it
would speedily make him rich.

“This affair ruined the engineer’s life--that, and his wife’s dissolute
habits, for she became addicted to drink and her companionship was not
pleasant. Clark had beggared himself by his large purchase of stock
and his vain dreams of wealth speedily destroyed his usefulness in his
profession. In a few years he lost all ambition, became discredited in
mining circles and finally drifted here, perhaps being attracted to
Riverdale by the fact that a distant cousin--the only relative I have
been able to trace--lived near here in the person of Mrs. Ritchie, a
widow with a large and prosperous farm.

“It seems that Mrs. Ritchie, however, would do nothing to assist the
impoverished Clarks, who had brought their little son Toby with them.
She even doubted the man’s story about his rich mine, which he declared
would some day bring him a fortune. She is very shrewd in business
matters and knew that mining stock is dangerous to gamble on. Clark
did a little work in the village, but not much, for he was incapable
of steady manual labor. He fished a good deal in the river and won the
name of being lazy, surly and unsocial. As a matter of fact he was a
disappointed man and had fallen rapidly in the social scale. His wife
soon drank herself to death and a year or so afterward Clark contracted
pneumonia on the river and soon passed away, having previously made his
will and given it to Mrs. Ritchie for safe keeping.

“Toby was a much neglected boy, as you may imagine,” continued Mr.
Spaythe, after a brief pause. “Mrs. Ritchie ignored his very existence
and after his father’s death the little fellow continued to reside in
the shanty by the river--a ragged, barefooted urchin whom everyone
liked because he was so sunny natured and agreeable. He inherited his
father’s intellect but not his misanthropic ideas. Toby was not only
willing, but glad to work and earned a modest living by doing odd jobs
until, finally, Judge Ferguson noticed him and took charge of the boy.
I think, governor, I have now given you the entire Clark history.”

“But the mine?” said the governor, greatly interested in the story.

“By a queer whim of fate the mine was developed soon after Alonzo
Clark’s death and its enormous wealth became a seven days’ wonder.
I believe it is to-day reputed one of the best paying mines on this
continent, which proves that the engineer knew what he was doing when
he invested his all in its stock. Mrs. Ritchie evidently heard of the
great mine, for she had Clark’s will probated and applied for letters
of administration, which were granted her. For several years she has
been receiving dividends on the stock--which is worth a fortune to
Toby, by the way--and yet the woman has kept her secret and the money
to herself. Never a penny has been applied to Toby’s needs or to his
education.”

“Oh, how dreadful!” exclaimed Phoebe, who was really shocked at this
recital of Mrs. Ritchie’s perfidy.

“Her intention. I suppose,” said the banker, “was to continue to retain
these receipts for herself. Toby had no other relatives to interfere in
his behalf; he was too young at the time of his father’s death to know
anything about the mine, and I doubt if he knew--or yet knows--that
he is in any way related to Mrs. Ritchie. The deception might have
continued indefinitely had not the box been stolen and so, by a chain
of curious accidents, the will of Alonzo Clark discovered by those
interested in Toby.”

After the banker had concluded his relation all three were silent for a
time, pondering on the remarkable discovery. Then Phoebe said:

“I cannot understand, in view of the fact that Mrs. Ritchie was
deliberately robbing Toby, why she was so bitter against him, or why
she had him arrested and is even now trying to send him to prison.”

“That is a natural sequence, my dear,” replied the governor. “The woman
has been greatly worried over the loss of this document, which, falling
into certain hands--such as those of Mr. Spaythe--would perhaps lead to
the discovery of her perversion of trust funds, which is a very serious
crime. Perhaps she thinks that in some way Toby Clark has himself
gained possession of the will, but believes that if he is discredited
and put in prison he cannot appear against her. Without Mr. Spaythe’s
exhaustive researches no one in Riverdale would be likely to know that
the mine described in the elder Clark’s will had become valuable.
The will itself would mean little or nothing to Toby unless he had
opportunity to investigate his father’s bequest. There was a fair
chance of Mrs. Ritchie’s evading detection, even with the will missing;
but Toby in prison would be more safe to her interests than Toby at
liberty.”

“Toby mustn’t go to prison,” declared Phoebe, with energy.

“Certainly not,” replied Mr. Spaythe. “The boy must regain the position
in society to which he is fully entitled.”

“Can’t we do anything to Mrs. Ritchie?” she asked.

“We’ll try,” said the governor, looking at his watch. “Just now dinner
is waiting at the Daring mansion and I promised Judith I’d not forget
it. But this afternoon I’d like to drive over with you, Mr. Spaythe, to
see the woman.”

“I will be glad to accompany you,” replied the banker. “We close at one
o’clock on Saturday, you know; so at two, if you will be ready, I will
call for you with my motor car.”

“That will be quite satisfactory,” said the governor, rising. Then he
hesitated a moment. “May we take Phoebe with us?” he asked. “She has
been so interested in this affair and has already accomplished so much
in Toby’s behalf that I think she is entitled to be present at the
climax.”

“I think so, too,” answered Mr. Spaythe readily. “Do you care to go,
Phoebe?”

“Yes, if you please.”

Then she and Cousin John went home to dinner and the youngsters, who
suspected something important was under way, were able to drag no
information from their big sister beyond mysterious looks and sundry
shakes of the head, which of course aroused their curiosity to the
highest pitch.

“I think you might tell us, Phoebe,” pouted Sue, disconsolately. “I
always tell you _my_ secrets.”

Cousin John laughed.

“Listen, then,” said he. “We’ve discovered that Toby Clark is innocent
and that we can prove it; so he is no longer in danger of prison.
That’s more than Toby Clark knows yet. Furthermore, we have discovered
that Toby is not a mere nobody, as everyone has considered him, but the
owner of considerable valuable property. I say ‘we’ have discovered
this, but really it was Phoebe who solved the whole mystery. Now, if
you can keep this secret for a few days, until the newspaper prints the
complete story, I’ll take you into my confidence the next time I know a
secret.”

Don cheered and Becky clapped her hands in delight, while Sue cried
ecstatically: “Bully for Toby!” and was promptly repressed by Phoebe,
who was annoyed by such a wild demonstration in the presence of the
great man. But Cousin John seemed to enjoy the outburst.

Judith has listened gravely and seemed surprised.

“Is this indeed the truth?” she asked.

“Part of it,” replied the governor. “When Phoebe and I return from a
little trip this afternoon you shall have the entire story, with all
the details. You see, we’re rehearsing a little show of our own. The
play isn’t entirely finished yet, for the last act is on and we must
corner the villain before the final curtain falls.”

This contented them for the time, for they really believed they had
been taken into the great man’s confidence; but when Mr. Spaythe’s
automobile drew up at the door and Phoebe and the governor entered it,
they were followed by envious looks and much speculation among the
Darings as to their errand.

“I hope,” said Sue, anxiously, “the villain won’t hurt Phoebe.”

“Pshaw!” returned Don, with scorn, “villains never amount to anything;
they’re only put in a play to be knocked out in the last round.”



CHAPTER XXV

HOW TOBY WON HIS HERITAGE


Mrs. Ritchie was hoeing that afternoon in her vegetable garden, which
adjoined the spacious farmhouse where she resided. She was attired in a
faded calico dress and a weatherworn sunbonnet, and her heavy leather
shoes were rusty and clogged by constant contact with the soil.

There were several servants upon the plantation, and they were afforded
an excellent example of industry by their mistress, who “worked like
a hired man” herself and made everyone around her labor just as
energetically.

The arrival of Lawyer Kellogg on his bicycle, which he had ridden over
from Riverdale, did not interrupt Mrs. Ritchie’s task. She merely gave
her attorney an ungracious nod and said: “Well?”

“I’ve come over to see you about the trial,” he announced. “It begins
next Thursday, at Bayport, and I must know exactly what you want to do
about Toby Clark.”

“Give him a long sentence--the longer the better.”

“He is sure to get that if we prove him guilty.”

She looked at him suspiciously.

“Why do you say ‘if’?” she asked.

Kellogg smiled.

“Any trial is uncertain, Mrs. Ritchie,” said he. “Unexpected things are
liable to happen to change the probable verdict. I think we have enough
evidence against Toby to prove our case, but those terrible children
have greatly influenced popular opinion by means of their parades and
we can’t tell who the jury will be, or whether we can depend on them.”

“Can’t the jury be fixed?” asked the woman, after some thought.

“It would cost a lot of money, and it isn’t a safe thing to do,”
returned her lawyer, standing beside her as she hoed. “And that reminds
me to speak of my own expenses and fees.”

“Well, what about ’em?”

“You promised me a hundred dollars if I recovered the contents of your
box. I’ve returned to you all your money, bonds and papers; but you
haven’t paid me yet.”

“There’s a paper missing.”

“One. I do not suppose you intend to withhold my money on that
account.”

“Why not?”

“Because I should then sue you for it and the court would award me
damages.”

She gave a contemptuous snort.

“Do you want that matter of the box aired?” she asked.

“Do you want that will investigated--the paper which is missing?” he
retorted.

Mrs. Ritchie laughed.

“I’ll give you fifty dollars now, and fifty when you get that last
paper,” said she.

“You’ll give me a hundred now. The price of the paper was a thousand
dollars.”

“Have you got track of it yet?” she asked quickly.

“No. I’m not going to undertake that trial for nothing, Mrs. Ritchie.
There’ll be a lot of work and expense about it and, if you want Toby
Clark imprisoned for stealing your box, you’ve got to pay handsomely
for it.”

“How much?”

“I want a hundred dollars in advance and two hundred more if I win.”

“You’re a thief!” she snarled.

“No other lawyer would undertake the case at any price. It will make me
very unpopular to prosecute Toby Clark.”

“You’re not much of a favorite now,” said Mrs. Ritchie. “Very well, I’ll
give you a hundred dollars.”

[Illustration: “I’m not going to undertake that trial for nothing, Mrs.
Ritchie. If you want Toby Clark imprisoned for stealing your box you’ve
got to pay handsomely for it.”]

“I want two hundred to-day. A hundred for recovering your property and
a hundred in advance for the trial.”

She dropped her hoe and stared at him. Then she sighed.

“Come into the house. You’re a scoundrel, Abner Kellogg, and you ain’t
earned half the money; but I’ll be generous.”

“No; you’ll be sensible,” he said, following her up the path. “You’ve
got some secret that’s worth money to you, Mrs. Ritchie, and which you
don’t care to have discovered; and it’s connected with Toby Clark.”

“That’s a lie.”

She ushered him into the front room and left him there while she went
to get the money. When she returned she placed four fifty-dollar bills
in his hand.

“Oh; cash, is it?” he said in a pleased tone.

“I don’t trust banks; they’re tricky. That’s all the ready money I’ve
got in the house. The rest is in a new box with Miles Hubbard, over in
Bayport.”

“Why didn’t you put it in my care?” asked Kellogg.

“Because you’re a dishonest cur.”

He reddened a little.

“Then why don’t you employ Hubbard to prosecute Toby Clark?”

“He wouldn’t take the case.”

“I see. Well, I’ve raised my price, Mrs. Ritchie. I want a hundred more
in advance.”

“You can’t have it.”

“I think I can.”

“I won’t be bled, Abner Kellogg!”

“No; you prefer to bleed others.”

“You insolent pettifogger! What do you mean by that?”

“I mean that I want another hundred dollars--before I make a single
move in this case.”

While she sat glaring at him an automobile stopped in the road before
the house. The woman turned her head and through the window saw Phoebe
Daring, Mr. Spaythe and a stranger alight and enter the gate.

“Tell ’em I ain’t at home, Kellogg,” she exclaimed in a half frightened
voice.

“Better face the music,” said the lawyer, who had noted the arrivals.
“If there’s danger, as I suspect, face it boldly. You can’t save the
day by running away.”

“You stand by me, then, Kellogg. I’ll give you the other hundred when
they’re gone.”

He smiled grimly, but there was no time for reply. The bell rang and
Mrs. Ritchie went to the door.

“May we speak with you--on business--Mrs. Ritchie?” asked Mr. Spaythe.

“I’m busy with my lawyer. You’ll have to come again.”

“I’m glad your lawyer is here,” said the banker gravely. “I think you
will need his advice.”

“What about?”

“If you will permit us to enter, I will explain.”

“Who’s this other man?” she asked curtly.

“The governor of the state.”

Mrs. Ritchie fell back and they all entered the parlor.

“Good afternoon, your Excellency,” said Kellogg, with a low bow. The
governor did not know the man but he nodded to him.

“Well?” asked the woman in harsh, rasping tones.

“I have called to see you in regard to the Alonzo Clark will,” said Mr.
Spaythe.

She sank into a seat, but the cold, hard look never left her face. If
she was at all startled she retained her self-possession wonderfully.

“Who was Alonzo Clark?” she asked, as if to gain time.

“Toby Clark’s father; your second-cousin.”

“What about his will?”

“You are the administrator.”

“Well, that’s my business.”

“Not entirely,” remarked the governor, calmly. “Your letters of
administration require you to fulfill the terms of the will--or the
property will be taken out of your hands by the court. Also you are
personally responsible for any--shall we say ‘irregularities’?--you
have committed.”

“Well?”

“You have not fulfilled the terms of the will,” said Mr. Spaythe
sternly.

“Who says so?”

“The will itself.”

“Somebody stole it.”

“That does not matter. There is a copy on file in the probate’s office.
You have criminally disobeyed the injunctions of that will, Mrs.
Ritchie, and applied such moneys as you have received, to your own
personal use, instead of to the support and education of Toby Clark.”

“Toby Clark’s a thief, and he’ll go to prison for stealing my box,” she
snapped.

“We will not discuss Toby now,” said Mr. Spaythe. “Your own case
demands your first attention. The governor will tell you the legal
penalty for embezzling trust funds.”

“State’s prison,” said the governor.

“Shucks! Tell him he lies, Abner Kellogg,” cried the woman.

“The governor is entirely correct, madam,” answered the wily attorney.
“I trust, gentlemen,” he added, “you will acquit me of any complicity
in this affair. I am merely hired by Mrs. Ritchie to prosecute the case
of Toby Clark and know nothing of her past history or criminal acts.”

“Oh, you turn against me, do you?” she inquired angrily.

“I cannot defend you from so grave an offense, Mrs. Ritchie,” said
Kellogg. “These gentlemen would not accuse you without proof, and the
proof will send you to prison.”

She studied by turn the stern faces confronting her.

“What else have you got to say?” she asked. “If you wanted to send me
to prison you would have me arrested, without taking the trouble to
come here.”

“That is true,” returned Mr. Spaythe. “I will explain. By chance the
will of Alonzo Clark fell into my hands and on behalf of Toby Clark I
caused an investigation to be made. During the past seven years there
has been paid to you, as administrator of the estate of Toby Clark, a
minor, in dividends on stock, the total sum of forty-eight thousand,
four hundred and eighty dollars, up to the first of last month. You
were entitled to retain ten per cent of this, provided you had
performed your duties according to law; but since you have failed to do
this the entire amount must now be paid over to the new administrator
whom the court will appoint. And this payment must be made whether you
go to prison or not.”

Kellogg was amazed. He looked at Mrs. Ritchie with a glint of
admiration in his eyes. Forty-eight thousand, and she still grubbing
with a hoe! Phoebe was also amazed by the immensity of the sum. She had
not thought it would be nearly so large. She mentally figured that it
meant an income of about seven thousand a year, which would make Toby
quite independent.

Mrs. Ritchie did not deny Mr. Spaythe’s assertion. She knew it would be
useless.

“That will is my property,” she said sullenly. “I can have you arrested
for stealing it.”

“I will return the will,” said Mr. Spaythe. “It is no longer of use to
me--nor to you, madam. Unless you voluntarily resign your trusteeship
it will be taken from you, after a rigid investigation which will prove
you guilty of embezzlement.”

“Suppose I refuse to give up the money?” said she. “You don’t know
where it is, and you can’t find it. You can take this farm away from
me, if you like, but it’s only worth about fifteen thousand. If I go to
jail I can keep the cash I’ve put away--and have it to use when I get
free again.”

“I believe,” said the governor, “you might be able to do that, and so
defeat justice. But let us consider what it would mean. My experience
enables me to state that your term of imprisonment would be no less
than twenty years, and perhaps more. I doubt if, at your age, you would
live for twenty years in a prison--you who are so used to the open
air. So your stolen money would be of no benefit to you. On the other
hand, you might effect a compromise with us and so keep the matter out
of court. You have here sufficient property for all your needs and the
income from your plantation gives you more than a living. It occurs to
me, Mrs. Ritchie, that you will find it more comfortable to end your
days in freedom.”

She dropped her eyes in thought and stared at the carpet for a time.
Then she asked gruffly:

“What do you demand?”

“First,” replied Mr. Spaythe, “you must resign as administrator and
petition the probate court to appoint some one in your place. You
must furnish an exact statement of the money received and turn over
the entire amount to the new administrator, for the sole benefit of
Toby Clark. In addition to this, we demand that you sign a statement,
for publication, saying that your blue box was not stolen, but merely
mislaid, and that you have recovered the entire contents. You will add
that Toby Clark has been unjustly accused. I have prepared a statement
to this effect which is all ready for you to sign, and the governor
will witness it, so that it will never be questioned.”

“But somebody stole that box,” cried the woman, “and whoever it was
ought to suffer for it.”

“Somebody stole Toby Clark’s inheritance,” replied Mr. Spaythe. “I do
not think it necessary for one to suffer for either crime, if amends
are fully made and no lasting evil can result.”

Mrs. Ritchie frowned. She looked from one to another and saw no signs
of relenting in any face. Even Kellogg’s fat face wore a sneer as he
regarded her.

So she surrendered.

“I’ll sign the papers,” she said.



CHAPTER XXVI

HOW PHOEBE’S CONSPIRACY TRIUMPHED


As they rode homeward Phoebe said thoughtfully:

“Who will break the news to Toby?”

Mr. Spaythe and the governor exchanged glances.

“I think that must be your task, Phoebe,” said the latter. “No one has
done so much for Toby Clark as you, nor has anyone been so instrumental
in establishing his good fortune.”

“I--I don’t think I could do it!” exclaimed Phoebe. “Toby is so proud
and sensitive that he--he might make a fuss, and that would break me
all up.”

Said Mr. Spaythe, after a moment’s thought:

“I’ll make it easy for you, Phoebe. I’ll give a little dinner party at
my house, in Toby’s honor, on Wednesday evening and invite all those
friends who have stood by him during his time of need. Then you can
make a speech and announce the good news.”

“Just the thing,” commented the governor. “Wednesday. That will give
me time to accomplish something I have in mind.”

And so the matter was arranged.

Toby Clark had grown more restless as the day approached when he was
to be tried for stealing Mrs. Ritchie’s box. He knew of the recent
evidence against him--the finding of the money and bonds in his
house--and fully realized that his guilt would appear conclusive to a
jury. He was ashamed to go out of the house except for a brief walk
after dark and whenever he met Mr. Spaythe or Eric at mealtime he would
study their faces for some sign that would indicate hope. They seemed
cheerful enough and laughed and talked as if no tragedy was pending;
but both father and son refrained from mentioning Toby’s trial in any
way. The boy had not seen Phoebe since she had rescued him from the
hoodlums; Sam Parsons kept out of sight; Mr. Holbrook, who used to
visit him regularly, now remained absent, and so poor Toby imagined
himself deserted and neglected by all his friends.

Wednesday noon the banker said at luncheon:

“Toby, I’m giving a little dinner party to-night and I want you to be
present.”

“Oh, sir! I--I----”

“Not a word, Toby. I won’t listen to any excuses. You will find the
guests old friends and must be prepared to assist me and Eric to
entertain them.”

The boy was astonished. He had never known Mr. Spaythe to entertain
anyone before and this dinner party, given on the eve of Toby’s trial,
seemed to him a cruel mockery. But he could not refuse Mr. Spaythe’s
request, having been a guest in the banker’s house for so long and knew
he must face these people as bravely as he could. He wondered, vaguely,
who would come to the Spaythe dinner party, and toward evening grew
very uneasy and despondent.

The first arrival was Janet Ferguson, and the sight of his old
employer’s daughter did much to relieve his nervousness. Then came
Nathalie Cameron and Lucy Hunter and following them closely he heard
the eager voices of “the Daring tribe,” including Miss Eliot, Phoebe,
Becky and Don. These were first greeted by Mr. Spaythe and Eric and
then engaged Toby in conversation, surrounding him in a group--as if
he were the hero of the occasion, he reflected bitterly, instead of an
accused criminal in danger of a prison sentence!

From his seat in the long drawing-room Toby saw Mr. Holbrook arrive,
and then Sam Parsons and Will Chandler--surely a mixed assemblage. Mr.
Spaythe had refrained from inviting Hazel Chandler and Dave Hunter,
thinking the ordeal would be too severe for them. Finally came Doris
and Allerton Randolph and then Mr. Fellows, the editor, and with these
the list of guests seemed complete, for they were all straightway
ushered into the dining-room to partake of an elaborate feast.

Toby was in a daze. He could not understand it at all. On all sides
were bright and happy faces and no one seemed to remember that on the
morrow he was to be tried in open court as a thief.

With the dessert Mr. Spaythe looked up and said casually, but in a
voice loud enough for all to hear:

“I believe Phoebe Daring has a few remarks to make to us, and this
seems a good opportunity to hear her.”

Phoebe rose from her seat, rather red and embarrassed at first, as she
marked the sudden silence around the table and the earnest looks turned
upon her. But she resolved not to falter in the task she had undertaken.

“This is a joyful occasion,” she began, very solemnly--so solemnly
that Becky giggled. “We have met, at Mr. Spaythe’s kind invitation, to
extend congratulations to our friend Toby Clark.”

Don thought this a good time to yell “Bravo!” but the reproachful look
of his sister promptly “squelched” him. Toby stared at Phoebe in
wonder, but she refused to meet his pleading gaze.

“It is a joyful occasion,” she resumed, “because the absurd charge
trumped up against Toby has been withdrawn, as perhaps you all know.”
It was news to Toby, indeed! “Mrs. Ritchie has issued a signed
statement, which Mr. Fellows is going to print in the paper, saying
that she was mistaken about her box being stolen, as it was merely
mislaid. Her property has all been recovered and she is very sorry that
poor Toby was ever accused of a crime that neither he nor anyone else
ever committed.”

There was something of a sensation around the table, for few had known
of this statement until now. Toby was trying hard to comprehend his
good fortune. He could no longer see Phoebe because his eyes were full
of tears.

“Just before I came here this evening,” continued the girl, “I
received a telegram from our governor, dated from the state capital.
I will read it to you.” She unfolded a telegram and read in a clear,
deliberate voice: “‘Probate Judge Fordyce to-day appointed Duncan
Spaythe administrator of the estate of Toby Clark, and his guardian.
Congratulations to all concerned.’”

An intense silence followed. A secret was here disclosed that had been
unknown by any but Phoebe and the banker. Curious looks were cast upon
the girl and then upon Toby. The lame boy half rose from his chair,
pallid and shaking in every limb.

“I--I haven’t any estate,” he said. “It’s all a--a--cruel--joke! I----”

“Sit down, please,” said Phoebe. “I believe you were as ignorant as the
others--as we all have been until recently--concerning this estate,
which was bequeathed you by your father, Alonzo Clark. The preposterous
charge against you led us to a rigid investigation of the Clark family
history, and we--your friends--discovered that a certain mining
property once owned by your father and left to you by his will, had
become very valuable and for the past seven years has been paying you
big dividends. So in your case trouble has led to prosperity. As you
are not yet of age, it was necessary that an administrator and guardian
for you be appointed by the court. The governor kindly interested
himself in this matter, with the result that Mr. Spaythe is now your
guardian and the custodian of all the money belonging to you.”

Phoebe, quite breathless now, sat down. Mr. Spaythe rose from his chair
and was greeted with cheers.

“Around this table,” said he, “are gathered only loyal friends of Toby
Clark--those who have supported him and watched over his interests
during the past two months, the darkest period in his young life.
Especially do I wish to congratulate Phoebe Daring and the energetic
organizers and officers of the Toby Clark Marching Club for their
good work on behalf of our young friend, who has so unjustly suffered
because of a false accusation. But Toby’s troubles are over, now; for
all time, I hope. Once more his good name stands unsullied in the eyes
of the world. He has proved his mental caliber and courage by the manly
way in which he has faced the wicked charge brought against him. With
ample means, such as he now possesses, to back his highest ambitions, I
predict that Toby Clark will in time become a great man and a power in
our little community.”

The banker stood bowing until the thunderous applause that greeted his
speech subsided. Becky smashed a plate by pounding it upon the table
and no one reproved her. Then she pinched Don’s leg and his howl merely
increased the sounds of jubilation. When, at last, comparative quiet
reigned, Mr. Spaythe said:

“We will now hear from Toby Clark.”

Toby, still bewildered but trying to grasp the reality of the good
fortune that had befallen him, responded in a few broken words:

“You won’t hear much from me,” he said, “because my heart is too full
for anything but gratitude for the kind friends who have done so much
for me. I wasn’t worth all your interest in me and trouble on my
account, you know; but I’ll try to be more worthy in the future. I--I’m
very happy and--I--I thank you all!”

More wild applause, and then Don’s voice was heard asking:

“Say, who gave the Marching Club that fifty dollars?”

“I did,” replied Mr. Spaythe, “and it was the best fifty I ever
invested. But,” he added with a smile, “I’ve an idea of charging it to
the account of Toby Clark.”

Here Mr. Holbrook rose to his feet.

“Toby Clark once applied to me for a position in my office,” he said,
“and I was obliged to refuse him. But as my business is growing nicely
I would now like to have him for my clerk.”

“No,” said Toby, with something of his old-time whimsical humor,
“I must refuse the nomination, with thanks. I’m going to college.
Some day, though, I’ll be a lawyer, too, Mr. Holbrook, and then--who
knows?--we may go into partnership together.”



Azalea

_By_ ELIA W. PEATTIE

The first book of the “Blue Ridge” Series

Azalea is the heroine of a good, wholesome story that will appeal to
every mother as the sort of book she would like her daughter to read.
In the homy McBirneys of Mt. Tennyson, down in the Blue Ridge country,
and their hearty mountain neighbors, girl readers will find new friends
they will be glad to make old friends.

This book marks a distinct advance in the quality of books offered for
girls. No lack of action--no sacrifice of charm.

  _Four half-tone illustrations from drawings by Hazel Roberts.
  Attractive cover design, $1.00._

[Illustration: Azalea]

The second title in THE BLUE RIDGE SERIES will be published in 1913

  Publishers    The Reilly & Britton Co.    Chicago



_Exhilarating Books for Girls of Today_

The Flying Girl Series

  _By_ EDITH VAN DYNE
  _Author of “Aunt Jane’s Nieces” Series_

Capital up-to-the-minute stories for girls and young people, in which
the author is at her very best. Thrilling and full of adventure, but
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  [Illustration]


The Flying Girl and Her Chum

  This story takes Orissa and her friend Sybil through further
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_12mo. Bound in extra cloth with design stamping on cover and
fancy jacket. Printed on high grade paper. Illustrated in black
and white._

_Price 60 cents each. Postage 12 cents._

  Publishers    The Reilly & Britton Co.    Chicago



The Aunt Jane’s Nieces Series

  BOOKS FOR GIRLS
  _By_ EDITH VAN DYNE

SEVEN TITLES

  _Aunt Jane’s Nieces_
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       *       *       *       *       *

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_Illustrated 12mo. Uniform cloth binding, stamped in colors, with
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  Publishers    The Reilly & Britton Co.    Chicago



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[Illustration]

  =THE GIANT MOOSE.= The monarch of the big Northwest; a story
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_The topnotch of production in boys’ books. Remarkable covers and
four-color jackets. Illustrations and cover designs by Dan Sayre
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Price, 60 cents each

THE REILLY & BRITTON CO. PUBLISHERS, CHICAGO



The Boy Scouts of the Air Books

_By_ GORDON STUART

[Illustration]

Are stirring stories of adventure in which real boys, clean-cut and
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_Four titles, per volume, 60 cents_

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_Splendid Illustrations by Norman Hall_

  Publishers    The Reilly & Britton Co.    Chicago



[Illustration: The Famous AIRSHIP BOYS SERIES]

_By_ H. L. SAYLER

_SEVEN TITLES_

  1. THE AIRSHIP BOYS Or, The Quest of the Aztec Treasure

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  Publishers    The Reilly & Britton Co.    Chicago



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[Illustration]

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[Illustration]

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ANNABEL

_By_ SUSANNE METCALF

A girls’ book with a clever, quick-moving plot is unusual. ANNABEL
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[Illustration]

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Joseph Pierre Nuyttens. Price 60 cents_

  Publishers    The Reilly & Britton Co.    Chicago



Transcriber’s Note:

Punctuation has been standardised. Changes to the original publication
are as follows:

  Page 76
    spoke argumentively and there _changed to_
    spoke argumentatively and there

  Page 135
    Don broke in the assist her _changed to_
    Don broke in to assist her

  Page 185
    look in the faces o’ them childern _changed to_
    look in the faces o’ them children

  Page 269
    fiancè. I can see no _changed to_
    fiancé. I can see no

  Page 280
    and there were afforded an _changed to_
    and they were afforded an

  Fourth page of book catalogue
    designs by Dan Sayre Grosbeck _changed to_
    designs by Dan Sayre Groesbeck

  Seventh page of book catalogue
    Aero-Plane _changed to_
    Aeroplane





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