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.”

Continue Reading

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.”

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.”

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.”

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

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THE SUN OF PEACE

The colonists had won, and men asked one another how they would use
their power. But we who have followed their story know that they
had not waited for victory to force them to a generous attitude. We
remember how in the very teeth of strife they held out their hands and
lifted four of their Maori brethren to places by their side in the
Colonial Parliament; so it is not surprising to learn that, almost
before the blasts of war had done blowing in their ears, they made room
in the Upper House for two chiefs of high rank, who were thenceforth
to bear the title of “Honourable,” and be for life members of the
Legislative Council.

If that were not enough to show the cordial mind of the white men to
their brown brothers, the Maori prisoners taken in war were treated
for the most part as political offenders and, after a very short
period of restraint, allowed to return to their tribes without the
exaction of further penalty. Exceptions were naturally made in cases
where individuals were proved guilty of actual crime; but, otherwise,
everything was done to show the desire of the colony to soften as far
as possible all painful memories, to erase all bitterness from the
record of events, and to begin the new chapter of their history upon a
page inscribed with the great words of a great man, “Liberty and Union,
now and for ever, one and inseparable.”

As the colonists had never allowed war to hinder them from forging
ahead, so, now that peace was assured, they gave rein to their energy
and saw to it that their country marched with equal step abreast of the
world’s progress. As time went on not even that sufficed, and ever and
again the old world would stop, agape, while New Zealand confidently
adopted political, social or domestic reforms, at which her grown-up
relatives were still looking askance as “new-fangled ideas,” “dangerous
radicalism,” and so forth. New Zealand has never been afraid to
experiment, and most of her experiments have proved successful, and in
their issue “come to stay,” if the phrase may be allowed.

One of the earliest products of peace was a large addition to the
population, thanks to a policy by which fifty thousand immigrants were
introduced into the colony in the two years 1874 and 1875. This policy
did not stop there; for the Government, as far as possible, found work
for the men whom they introduced, just as they are doing at this day.

Take for instance that large area in New Zealand known as “The King
Country,” where, as we have seen, the “Land League” so long had sway.
This, which includes more than a million of acres of forest-covered
land, and that high plateau surrounding old Te Heu Heu’s “ancestor,”
the smoking cones of Tongariro, is only now being reduced to
conditions which shall render cultivation possible. To this wilderness
the Government sends hundreds of newly arrived immigrants, who are set
to work upon the railway which is being carried through it.

The beauty of this region is almost indescribable; and there, too, a
man may taste of the experiences of the pioneers and yet miss their
greatest hardships. For, if a settler, he works with the certainty of
return for his labour; if otherwise, he is paid good wages and is in
any case assured of food, for carts carrying bread and meat continually
traverse the bush tracks. He is free from the haunting fear that he
will awake at some grey dawn to hear the wild yells of blood-lusting
savages, or return to his lonely hut to find his wife and children dead
upon his hearth. He has no dread of beasts of prey, unlike his brother
immigrant in Africa; and he can push his way through breast-high fern
or clinging tangle of undergrowth, undismayed lest his heel be bruised
by fang of poisonous snake, the terror of his Australian cousin.

The year 1875 saw the abolition of the Provinces Act, in which many had
from the first scented danger to the cultivation of a national spirit,
and a beginning was made in the following year of the present system
of local government, the colony being subdivided into counties and
municipal boroughs. The old provincial spirit was not easily quenched,
for many were not unnaturally inclined to esteem themselves and their
own more excellent than their neighbour and his own. Still, there are
very few in New Zealand who will venture to deny that to-day is better
than yesterday, although there is at least one “fine old New Zealand
gentleman, one of the olden time,” who annually brings forward a motion
for retrogression to the ancient order of things. Such conservatism is
rare in liberal New Zealand, and has few hopes and fewer followers.

A most interesting event occurred in 1877; for Sir George Grey returned
to power, not as Governor, but as Premier. He had made for himself a
home on an island in the beautiful Hauraki Gulf, and perhaps nothing
could have been more fortunate than his presence in the Colony at a
time when the new union between Pakeha and Maori required the cement of
perfect comprehension to render it irrefragable. Among the colonists
there might be disagreement as to Sir George Grey and his policy;
among the Maori there was none. To them he was ever the _Kawana nui_
(the great Governor), the man who understood them and who cared to
understand them.

For his island home the “Knight of the Kawan” did everything which
it was possible for a man so liberal and refined to do. He loved it
and adorned its beauty with every fresh charm he could procure. He
brought thither the English rose and the Australian eucalyptus, and
when Australia shall lament the wholesale destruction of her unique
fauna, the sole survivors of the quaint marsupial order shall, perhaps,
be found in the isle of the Kawana. This charming spot is to-day a
favourite resort of holiday-makers, and Sir George Grey’s mansion,
bereft, alas! of its hospitable founder, still offers visitors shelter
and entertainment.

The eightieth birthday of this remarkable man (whom Queen Victoria
honoured with her personal friendship) was celebrated in New Zealand
with the utmost enthusiasm, and at his death in 1898 there were not
many who grudged him the designation of “The Great Proconsul,” or
cavilled when St. Paul’s Cathedral received the honoured dust of one
who was not only an Imperialist but a Nation-maker.

In 1886, Nature arose in violent mood and swept into ruin one of the
most romantically beautiful spots in the world, and the most powerful
and splendid of New Zealand’s many scenic attractions–her justly-named
“Wonderland.” This was the hot lake of Rotomahana, with its far-famed
Pink and White Terraces.

In the volcanic region between the Bay of Plenty on the north and Lake
Taupo, with its giant sentinels Ruapehu and Tongariro on the south, is
Lake Tarawera, overhung by the volcano of Tarawera, which had never in
the memory of the Maori given any sign of eruption. A river of the same
name connected the lake with the much smaller basin of Rotomahana, in
which the water was hot owing to the numerous thermal springs in its
immediate vicinity. Rotomahana was really a crater of explosion, and
the principal boiling spring, Te Tarata, descending from terrace to
terrace down to the lake, was the greatest marvel in this marvellous
region.

Upon the Mount of Tarawera were the graves of many generations of Arawa
heroes and chiefs of might; nor dared profane feet disturb their rest
for fear of the fiery dragon which, though never yet seen by Maori
eyes, kept watch and ward. At the mountain’s foot lay the sister lake,
into whose waters–green as the stone in far Te Wai Pounamou–flowed
the river, charged with a fervent message from hot-hearted Rotomahana
with his terraced fringe of white and pink, laced with the blue of pools

which in perfect stillness lie,
And give an undistorted image of the sky.

Eighty feet above the warmed water of Rotomahana was the basin of Te
Tarata, with wall of clay, thirty feet in height. Its length was eighty
feet, its breadth sixty, and it was filled full of exquisitely clear,
boiling water, as blue as the sky above the swirl of azure vapour which
constantly overhung the wondrous pool.




In the depths, far below the placid surface, sounded ever the rumble
and grumble of immense quantities of water on the boil, and the
overflow had formed a crystal stairway, white as Parian marble, to
the lake beneath. From step to step was the height of a tall man, the
breadth of each platform five or six times that measure, and every
shining step was an arc of the great circle of which the red-walled
crater of Rotomahana was the centre. Each ledge was overhung with
stalactites, pure as alabaster, and every platform held its pools of
limpid, azure water of all degrees of warmth, in baths whose elegance
would have charmed a Roman eye.

On the opposite side of the lake was the spring of Otaka Puarangi, its
tranquil blue water confined in a basin little more than half the size
of Te Tarata. Its silicious deposits used to “descend from its orifice
down to the lake,” and were scaled “by a marble staircase, so sharp
in its outline, so regular in its construction, and so adorned with
graceful borders of evergreen shrubs that it seemed as if Nature had
designed it in very mockery of the skill and industry of man.”

But on this side the silica was flushed to a delicate rose, and from
every step pink wreaths were hung, and garlands of tinted stone, and
on every platform flashed the opalescent stalactites, festooning the
ledges, midway down, or dropping from azure pool to azure pool until
they reached the golden _solfatara_[70] and the rainbowed mud.

One hour after midnight on the 10th of June, men who dwelt or sojourned
in this beautiful, dangerous region were awakened by the trembling of
the earth and, knowing what that portended, rushed from their houses
into the open to see the Mount of Tarawera rent asunder from top to
bottom, while from the gaping wound shot up a column of roaring flame,
whose capital of smoke and cloud reared itself four and twenty thousand
feet above the blazing crater–a beacon of misfortune four miles high.

Red lightning played in fork and spiral about the flaming crags or
sheeted the gloomy base, and many miles away from the convulsed
mountain streams of fire poured upon the stricken earth. Fire-balls
fell, a blazing hail, consuming whatsoever they touched, and burying
beneath their increasing weight the remains of lonely hut and crowded
native village.

When the pallid light of the winter dawn struggled through the dense
veil of falling debris, Tarawera’s mount was seen to be shivered as
though smitten by the hammer of Thor; Tarawera’s lake had risen forty
feet, the trees beside its margin buried to their tops in volcanic mud;
Tarawera’s river and Rotomahana’s lovely terraces were gone for ever,
submerged beneath an enormous mass of ashes, mud, and stone.

For eighteen hours dust and mud fell continuously, burying fifty feet
deep the entire _hapu_ of the Matatu Maori, all save nine, and raining
desolation as far as Tauranga on the Bay. Pasture land, grass and fern
were burnt bare, and the same volcanic hail which slew the birds in
their flight blotted out the food-supply and starved the very rats in
the undergrowth.

One hundred and one persons perished in this eruption, which was not
only the fiercest and most destructive which New Zealand had known
since the coming of the Maori, but was one of the most violent recorded
in the story of the world.

From year to year New Zealand strode on, giving her women the franchise
as she went, and calling upon them to help her in the conduct of
municipal affairs. She seldom marked time, and ever held her head high
and preserved a proud distinction of her own among the three and forty
colonies or dependencies of the Empire. If she once got a little out
of breath through the sheer rush of her onward march, the firm hand of
a strong man steadied her, sending her on again, _integris viribus_,
with greater speed. In Richard Seddon, a man of immense energy and
remarkable gifts, who for thirteen years stood at the head of the
State and guided her towards the high status she has now obtained, New
Zealand found her man of the hour. Fortunate, too, it was for her that,
on the great Premier’s untimely death in 1906, so strong a man as Sir
Joseph Ward was at hand to take his place.

As the nineteenth century waned to a close, the important question fell
to be answered by New Zealand–Should she, or should she not, allow
herself to be enrolled among the States of the Australian Commonwealth?
Federation had been in the air for a long time, and since 1891 it had
been recognised that it must come, and come soon,–as far as Australia
was concerned. But would New Zealand take her place among the States?

There were arguments in favour of her doing so from the point of view
of commercial and administrative expediency; but there were very many
who did not like the idea. These pointed to the thousand miles of
ocean which separated their country from the continent of Australia
as an argument against inclusion with her great neighbour, and to her
remarkable progress as proof that she had learned, and could be trusted
to stand alone.

In 1899 the question required an answer; but Mr. Seddon still declared
himself uncertain of the popular will, and in 1900 craved the Imperial
Parliament to insert an “open door” clause in the Constitution, in
order that New Zealand might enter at her own time on equal terms with
the other States.

A Royal Commission was then appointed, with the result that, after an
exhaustive discussion of the arguments for and against the proposal,
and the hearing of voluminous evidence on both sides of the Tasman Sea,
the Commission declared emphatically against the submersion of New
Zealand’s identity in that of the Commonwealth of Australia.

Australia was dubious, and Mr. Reid, Premier of New South Wales,
asked, “How long will New Zealand be able to preserve an independent
orbit in the presence of a powerful gravitation and attraction, such
as a federated Australia must possess?” No one could answer that; but
New Zealand was firm, and a reply was to some extent contained in Sir
Joseph Ward’s later declaration, “I consider this country (New Zealand)
is certainly the natural centre for the government of the South
Pacific.”

So New Zealand elected to stand alone; and, this done, the question
immediately arose–Was she, with all her natural advantages, with
her remarkable progress, to remain a mere undistinguished unit among
the crowd of dependencies, simply one colony among a number of other
colonies? The answer came as immediately–No! The New Zealanders
determined to find a suitable designation by which their country should
be honourably distinguished. What was to be that designation?

It remained for Sir Joseph Ward to answer that In May, 1907, being in
London after the Conference of Colonial Premiers, he wrote to Lord
Elgin, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and repeated what
he had urged at that historic gathering; that, “having regard to
the position and importance of New Zealand, it had well outgrown the
‘colonial’ stage, and was as much entitled to a separate designation as
the Commonwealth of Australia or the Dominion of Canada.” He further
declared that “the people of New Zealand would be much gratified” if
the designation chosen were “The Dominion of New Zealand.”

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