Morgan Scott.

Ben Stone at Oakdale





At this point Lawyer Frances interrupted. Your Honor, I fail to see what this has to do with the case.

Your Honor, smiled Marsh, we are seeking to establish the motive for the sudden flight of Ben Stone from this town, and we hope to show beyond doubt that he did not run away because he had committed theft, but because he knew this pursuer of his brother had arrived and feared unreasonably, doubtless that it boded harm to the blind lad.

Ben was next called upon, and after a moment of faltering he told his story in a slow, distinct manner, making it straightforward and simple. And as he proceeded the unfavorable impression that had prevailed concerning him was gradually dispelled; for surely he did not speak like a desperate character or a thief; nor was Lawyer Frances, by his sternest and most accusing cross-questioning, able to confuse the lad or shake him in his statements. When at last Ben was permitted to sit down, not a few of the listeners in that room were looking at one another questioningly and doubtfully.

Spotty Davis came next. He trembled visibly as he rose, and his parted lips, revealing the space of the two missing teeth in his upper jaw, seemed to quiver. Glancing furtively from side to side, but never once looking straight toward Stone, he finally let his gaze rest upon the floor.

Young man, said Lawyer Marsh, you were at the football field when Stone appeared last evening and spoke to Roger Eliot, were you not?

Ye-yes, faltered Spotty faintly.

Speak a bit louder, witness, commanded the judge.

When Stone left the field you followed him, didnt you? asked Marsh.

I I dunno; I guess so. I never noticed.

Do you mean to say that you did not see Stone when he departed from the field?

Why, nun-no; I saw him. I guess twant long after he left before I got out. There want no use hangin round longer, for Eliot had tole me he didnt want me on the team any more.

On leaving the field, whither did you go?

To the gym.

Did you find Stone there?

Nope no, sir. There want nobody there.

Why did you go to the gym?

To peel off my togs. I was in a playing suit, you know. It didnt belong to me; it belonged to the team, so I left it in the gym.

How long were you in the gymnasium?

Cant tell; not a great while. It didnt take me no longer than was necessary to git off my football suit, git into my own rags and leave. There want nothing for me to hang round there for.

After leaving the gymnasium where did you go?

Lemme see, hesitated Spotty as if in doubt. I dont seem to remember just where I did go.

Come, come, young man; of course you remember. You must remember. Youll find it best to remember, I think. Where did you go?

Oh, I sort of poked along into the village.

Into the village? Where did you go in the village?

Oh, I remember now, said Spotty suddenly.

I thought there was something wrong with Stone thought it was queer he didnt stay for practise; so I just run in to Mrs. Jones house to see him.

You went to Stones room, did you?

Yep I mean yes, sir.

Was Stone there?

No; his brother was, though.

The blind boy?

Yes, he was there.

How long did you stay in Stones room?

Oh, lemme see. Id have to guess at it, for I aint got no watch, and I didnt take no notice of time, anyhow. Mebbe I was there five minutes or so.

What did you do while you were there?

Talked with Bens brother.

Did you sit down?

Dont blieve I did. Yes, come to think of it, I set on the edge of the bed while I was talkin to him. What are you askin me all these questions for? I dont know anything about this business. I cant tell anything that will do no good. Spotty was perspiring freely, even while he continued to shiver occasionally.

Were simply trying to get at the facts, said Lawyer Marsh quietly. Its always best to tell the exact truth.

I hope you dont think Im lyin, protested the disturbed witness. I aint got nothing to lie about.

Did you see Ben Stone at all?

Yep; he was just comin in as I was leavin. He was in an awful rush.

Did you stop to speak with him?

No; I was goin to stop, but he was in such a hurry I didnt. He acted mighty queer to me sort of scat like.

Thats all, young man, said the lawyer suddenly; and Spotty sank down with a breath of relief.

Then came a surprise as the lawyer said:

The next witness for the defense will be William Piper. Piper, stand up.

Sleuth rose to his feet, and there was a stir among those boys of the academy who had absented themselves from school to attend the trial.

What did Piper know about it?

CHAPTER XXIX.
SLEUTHS CLEVER WORK

Beneath the battery of wondering eyes turned upon him Sleuth bore himself proudly, for he felt that at last his hour had come the hour in which he would demonstrate to the confusion of those who had sneered at him that he really possessed the keen, penetrating, analytical mind of a great detective. He had long yearned for this opportunity, and at last, circumstances providing it, he was confident he had risen to the occasion. Indeed, there was an expression of dignity and sagacity in Pipers face which surprised those who knew him best and led more than one to fancy it possible he had underrated the lad.

Having been sworn, Sleuth cast a reassuring glance in the direction of Ben Stone, who was watching him intently, following which his eyes wandered to Spottys face, who once more suddenly fell to shivering, touched by the chill hand of apprehension and dread.

Silence fell on the room. Bernard Hayden leaned forward a trifle, that he might watch the witness the better, and anyone looking at him must have fancied that in his eyes there was an expression of anxiety which he could not wholly conceal, even if he sought to do so.

Piper, said Lawyer Marsh, I wish you to tell His Honor in your own language, and as concisely and clearly as possible, what you know about this case. Go on, my lad.

Sleuth cleared his throat. Your Honor and gentlemen of the jury, he began; and then he stopped short, realizing there was no jury. The slight titter that ran through the room did not disturb him, however. Your Honor, he commenced once more, being personally acquainted with the parties of the first part and the parties of the second part involved in this case

I presume, interrupted the justice, repressing any inclination to smile that he may have felt, you are referring to the prisoner and the plaintiff.

Yes, Your Honor, bowed Sleuth; in the language of the law, they are the parties under consideration. Being personally acquainted with the before-mentioned parties, what was more natural than that, on hearing that this heinous crime had been committed, I should become profoundly interested in the case and should resolve to give it my earnest attention with the determination of solving the deep, dark mystery appertaining thereunto?

In the silence following Sleuths pause at the end of this rounded period Chipper Cooper was distinctly heard as he whispered in the ear of Charlie Tuttle:

Say, Chub, old Sleuthy is slinging English some, isnt he?

The judge rapped for silence, requesting the witness to endeavor to tell his story in the simplest language he could command. Still unruffled, Piper proceeded:

Unfortunately, Your Honor, I was not present at the time the apartment of Benjamin Stone was searched by the representative of the law. Had I been present, doubtless, witnessing the discovery of the loot and the message penciled by the agitated hand of the unfortunate prisoner at the bar would have aided me greatly in drawing a correct and accurate deduction. Nevertheless, upon learning something of what had taken place I set forth to obtain precise knowledge as far as possible of every detail. I sought the fountain head of knowledge, our esteemed and highly efficient deputy sheriff, Mr. Pickle, but found him unwilling to accept my assistance upon the case, even though I gave him my generous assurance that I would solve the mystery. He was in a hurry; he wouldnt talk about it; he told me to get out and stop bothering him.

I then proceeded to interview my fellow schoolmate, the plaintiff, Bernard Hayden; but he likewise received me with extreme ungraciousness, informing me that I had better mind my own business. Although thus repulsed, I was in no whit discouraged and I vowed I would not be baffled.

It was later in the evening that I fell in with one Timothy Davis and drew him into conversation concerning the topic which was then upon every tongue. The said Davis seemed more than willing to discuss the matter and was surprisingly well informed upon certain points I desired to know. Up to that time I had not met anyone who had even dropped a furtive word concerning the discovery of the seemingly self-accusing missive penned by the hand of the before-mentioned defendant. The before-mentioned Davis knew about it, and, upon being closely interrogated, he declared he had obtained his information direct from the before-mentioned plaintiff. To me it seemed very remarkable indeed that the latter by which, if you please, I refer to Bernard Hayden should impart such information to Spotty Davis, with whom he had never been on terms of close comradeship, while withholding the desired knowledge from me. Upon my making further inquiries in a careless, offhand manner, Davis told me how the loot had been found hidden beneath the mattress two watches, two rings, and the exact sum of nine dollars and sixty-eight cents, including a five dollar bill and a two dollar bill.

Your Honor, interrupted Lawyer Frances, what bearing can all this rambling, second-hand information have upon the case? I think we are wasting valuable time.

May it please Your Honor, said Sleuth loftily, I have been requested by the attorney for the defense to tell my story in my own way, and ere I have finished I will demonstrate to your satisfaction and the satisfaction of every person present that every word I speak has a bearing upon the matter and is necessary to explain the reasons which led up to my deduction involving the before-mentioned Timothy Davis in a network of his own weaving, from which I think he will scarcely escape with ease.

At this Davis betrayed such consternation that even the least acute could perceive beyond question that he was intensely alarmed.

Go on, Piper, instructed Judge Trueworthy; but do try to cut out some of the big words.

As far as I could learn, proceeded Sleuth, not another person outside of those who were present at the time of the discovery of the swag knew exactly what sum of money had been found hidden beneath the straw mattress in the room of the defendant. It is true that, by comparison of their losses, Bern Hayden and Roger Eliot had stated the amount of money stolen; and here comes the discrepancy which set me at work upon a clew of vast importance. Unless the before-mentioned Hayden and Eliot were mistaken, the amount stolen from them failed to correspond by the sum of twenty cents to the amount recovered by the representative of the law, Deputy Sheriff Pickle. A trifling matter, perhaps you will say. Certainly it is true that the thief might have retained the missing sum, but does it not seem remarkable that he should have done so and left behind him in his flight the larger amount hidden in that room? It is likewise true that the beforesaid Davis might have learned from the before-mentioned Hayden just what sum of money was recovered, but, being nonchalantly questioned regarding this, he denied it. Therefore my deduction was that Timothy Davis, knowing precisely where the plunder was concealed, knowing accurately the amount recovered by the officer of the law, knew also more than he had revealed unto me. I spent some hours in meditating on this matter. Indeed, sleep scarcely visited my eyes during the night but lately passed.

At break of day I rose and hastened to the gymnasium, to which I obtained admittance by a key similar to that provided every member of the football team. At the gymnasium I made a close inspection of the pilfered lockers, being there to obtain a clew of some sort, a desire which was amply rewarded. Within the locker of the plaintiff, Bernard Hayden, I discovered, attached to the end of a protruding nail, a shred of cloth apparently torn from the coat-sleeve of some person who had reached into that locker. I seized upon it with avidity, for I was assured it would prove of vast importance in the solution of the dark and baffling mystery.

Is this the shred of cloth you found there, Piper? questioned Lawyer Marsh, as he took a tiny three-cornered piece of fabric from amid the exhibits on the table and passed it to the witness.

That is the identical shred, declared Sleuth positively, handing it back. Close examination led me to the conclusion that that piece of cloth could possibly have come from the garment of only one person in Oakdale. In order, however, that I might make no error, I again sought Timothy Davis immediately after breakfast, and, without arousing his suspicions by letting him become aware of my motive, I perceived that a small patch of cloth, corresponding in every particular with the one before the court, had been torn from the right sleeve of his coat.

Again all eyes were turned on Davis, who sat huddled upon his chair, his right arm held across his lap.

Davis, called Lawyer Marsh sharply, will you please stand up.

Shaking like a leaf, Spotty lifted himself upon his pins.

Hold up your right hand, requested the lawyer, stepping quickly toward him and seizing his wrist. Here, Your Honor, you may see the torn place in this lads coat-sleeve, and you may also perceive beyond question that the shred of fabric discovered by Piper clinging to the nail in Bernard Haydens locker corresponds with the material of this garment.

I never began Spotty chokingly; but the lawyer released him, and the judge, rapping his desk, sternly ordered him to sit down and be silent.

Triumphantly Piper proceeded. By this time, Your Honor, I was absolutely convinced that I was on the right trail, and thenceforth I shadowed the suspect with the persistence of a bloodhound, never once letting him escape from beneath my hawklike eye. About an hour before court opened Davis entered the store of one Theodore Welcome, who is proprietor in this town of a bazaar at which tobacco in its various forms may be purchased. I was at his heels, lingering at a little distance in a careless, insouciant manner; and from the open doorway of Mr. Welcomes store I saw Davis purchasing a pack of cigarettes, for which he tendered a piece of silver money.

Then arose some discussion over the silver piece, which the proprietor of the store stated amounted only to the value of twenty cents, but which the before-mentioned Davis had apparently fancied was a quarter. The instant Davis departed I hurried to Mr. Welcome and asked the privilege of examining that piece of money, which he kindly showed me. The moment my eagle eye fell upon it I knew it was a coin on which there was a premium, as it bore the date of 1878. This piece of money I secured from Mr. Welcome, giving him fifty cents for it, and it is here among the exhibits as evidence in this case. There is upon it a mutilation, a tiny cross cut or scratched by some sharp instrument.

Your Honor, I knew the moment my eyes fell on that mark that I had previously seen that twenty-cent piece in the possession of my highly esteemed friend, Roger Eliot, who carried it as a pocket piece. Therefore I was assured beyond doubt that it must be a part of the plunder, the sum missing when the money was recovered from its place of concealment. I had often heard Eliot refuse to part with that silver piece, upon which he stated in my hearing that there was a premium of two dollars.

By this time there was a profound sensation in the courtroom. As he proceeded, the somewhat extravagant language of Piper was overlooked by all, and now, with this climax, the judge was compelled to rap repeatedly to restore quiet and order in the room.

Lawyer Marsh, grave but well satisfied, took the piece of money from the table and requested Piper to identify it, which he did. Roger Eliot likewise examined the coin, and stated that it belonged to him and had been stolen, with the rest of his money and his watch, from his locker.

Your Honor, said Sleuth, eager to proceed, having learned from the lips of the said Davis that, after leaving the football field last night, he visited the room of the defendant while the said defendant was absent, I immediately arrived at the deduction that

Never mind your deductions, young man, interrupted the justice. If you have reached the end of your story you may sit down.

This Piper did with evident great reluctance and disappointment; and, Theodore Welcome being present, he was called to the stand, where he corroborated the statement of the last witness and also identified the coin as the one he had received from Davis.

Your Honor, said Lawyer Marsh, the defense, having no further witnesses and desiring none, rests here, with the request that the deputy sheriff be instructed to keep a close watch upon Timothy Davis until a warrant may be sworn out for his arrest.

A sob broke the silence; it came from Davis, who suddenly cried in a husky, choking voice:

Dont arrest me please dont! Ill confess! Ill tell everything! I took the stuff from the lockers. I was sore on Eliot cause he fired me off the eleven. I was sore on everybody, I guess Stone, too, cause he had made good. But Id never done it if it hadnt been for Bern Hayden. He come to me when I was changing my togs in the gym. He told me to do it, and he promised to git me back onto the team and give me ten dollars to boot. Hes more to blame than I be.

Its a lie, shouted Hayden, who had risen to his feet, a dirty lie, and I

Order in the court! thundered the judge, pounding the desk with his gavel.

CHAPTER XXX.
CLEAR SKIES

The case against Ben Stone broke down right there. Lawyer Frances held a hurried consultation with Lemuel Hayden and his son, and on his advice the charge against Ben was withdrawn and Stone was dismissed, exonerated.

The demonstration which followed was remarkable. People crowded around Ben and Jerry and insisted on shaking the formers hand and telling him how pleased they were because his innocence had been established. His schoolmates thumped him on the back and would have carried him on their shoulders from the hall had he not fought against it. Mrs. Jones forced her way through the crowd, with Jimmy hobbling on his crutches behind her, and, sobbing her joy, clasped Ben in her arms.

I knowed he want no thief! she cried happily. Nobody that could be good as he was to a little lame boy would steal. Youve had a heap of troubles, Ben, but theyre all over now. I dont spose yu have et anything since yu was locked up; but I callated youd git off, an Ive got Sadie tendin a big roast, an well have a feed thatll give yu injunjesshun, which I guess yu can stand once if Joel, my late departed, could endure it all his born days. Land! but Im so happy I feel like cryin my eyes out.

With your permission, madam, said Henry Bailey, I would like to accompany these two lads to your house, having a matter of great importance to talk over with them.

Come right along, mister, invited the widow. Therell be plenty of vittles for yu, too.

Mr. Bailey was not the only one who accompanied them. Leaving the courtroom, Ben and Jerry were escorted by a triumphal procession all the way to Mrs. Jones gate, where twenty boys cheered the acquitted lad, who paused upon the steps to look back at them, his plain face illumined by an expression of joy which made it seem actually comely.

Thank you, fellows, he said, holding out his open hands to them. Its good of you, and Ill never forget it.

Sleuth Piper started to make a speech.

My deduction was he began.

Your deduction was all right, Sleuth, laughed Roger Eliot, giving him a slap on the shoulder. Youve established your reputation as the greatest detective of modern times, Sherlock Holmes not excepted.

Even after the house was entered those boys were heard cheering for Stone as they marched back into the village.

Set right down, everybody, invited the widow. Make yourselves to home while I take a look at the roast an git the potatoes to bakin.

It is very fortunate, boys, said Henry Bailey, that this affair terminated as well as it did. This is my first opportunity to talk with you both together, and Ill tell you now that much more good fortune is in store for you. Jerry put himself to needless trouble by running away ere his uncles will was read; for in that will, which was drawn up barely two months before Asher Rands death, and which was found in Mr. Rands small private safe, a legacy was left to you both a legacy that will place you beyond need.





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