Ben Stone at Oakdale
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“It seems that your father, in those years while he worked so privately in his home, was engaged upon a very clever invention, which he had practically perfected at the time of his unfortunate arrest. That invention fell into the hands of Asher Rand, who, on learning its value, was sorely tempted and kept its existence a secret, finally disposing of it to a concern that pays a royalty upon it of three thousand dollars yearly. Your uncle’s conscience must have been pricked to a point which led him to draw up that last will, in which he provides that the income from this invention shall be divided equally between you both.
“But since Mr. Rand’s death there have been disclosures of still greater importance. Nathan Driggs, the man who caused all your father’s trouble and calamitous misfortune, has been ill for some months, and recently he passed away. Ere he died, being satisfied beyond doubt that there was no hope for him, he made a confession which fully exonerates your father and clears his name of the stigma upon it. Driggs confessed that your father’s testimony concerning him at the trial was absolutely true – that he did bring the packages of dies for making counterfeit money to your father, and, having deceived him regarding the contents of those packages, induced him to conceal them in his house, where they were found. Therefore Abner Stone was unjustly convicted of the crime and died an innocent man through the effects of the wound he received while trying to escape from prison.”
All this was so marvelous that it left the two boys breathless.
The widow had listened with speechless delight; and now, her eyes again filled with tears of joy, she cried:
“Lands to mercy! Now ain’t that jest amazin’! Here I’ve been entertainin’ under my roof a couple of heirs to wealth! Three thousand dollars! Fifteen hundred dollars apiece! Why, it puts y’u both beyond the touch of the tooth of avarice. I guess folks ’round this town will set up an’ take notice when they hear about it.”
Ben gave his blind brother a hug. Everybody laughed. The little yellow dog, sitting on his haunches and gazing at them, barked sharply, then, with his mouth open, wrinkled his nose and bobbed his tongue.
“Look,” cried Jimmy – “look at Pilot! He’s laughing, too.”
Every cloud was gone from the sky, swept away to return no more. Ben Stone, whose appearance in Oakdale had been so unfavorable, whose days there had been so filled with trouble and strife, found himself the hero of the village and the coveted friend of those lads who had once regarded him with doubt and aversion. When he and Jerry and Pilot departed, with Henry Bailey, who took the boys away until such time as Asher Rand’s affairs should be definitely settled and a guardian appointed for them, nearly every lad in the village, together with a number of the girls and not a few of the older citizens, accompanied them to the railway station.
“Ben,” said Roger Eliot, speaking for the party on the station platform, “we’re proud of you, and we hate to see you leave us.We need you on the eleven. It’s too bad you’re going away now.”
“My deduction is,” interrupted Sleuth Piper, “that he will come back.”
“Yes, boys,” promised Ben, with his hand grasping the iron rail of the passenger coach, “I shall come back if I can. I have talked about it with Mr. Bailey, and he thinks there will be no trouble in making the arrangements. I have had something of a scramble in Oakdale, but I like the place; for here at last I have found more friends that I ever knew before. Oh, yes, I’m coming back if I can.”
Then the train bore him away.
He did come back. In less than two weeks he returned to finish his course at the academy, stopping, as before, at the home of the Widow Jones, but now having the best room in the house.
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