MR. EWING IS SUSPICIOUS

Dick looked eagerly at Roy, but Roy shook his head. So far they had
done nothing to merit punishment, but if they set on the farmer he
would have good cause for complaint against them. Besides, as Roy
realized, it was doubtful if they could overcome Mr. Ewing in a tussle.
Roy perched himself on the counter again and shrugged his shoulders.

“You’re making a fool of yourself,” he said, “just as I begged you not
to do.” The farmer paid no heed to him.

“You get your things off, Amanda,” he said, “and look around and see
just what’s gone. I reckon if these fellers own up to nine dollars’
worth you’ll find a heap more than that missing!”

“You’re a horrid, ugly, suspicious old man!” cried Harry, hotly. “And
just as soon as I get back to the boat I’m going to tell my father on
you!”

Mr. Ewing regarded her thoughtfully.

“Father’s with you, is he?”

“Yes, he is!”

“Guess you and your father wasn’t with these fellers a while back, was
you? When they stopped and paid me a visit?”

“No, but we know all about it. The boys only stopped at your place to
buy some milk, and your dog got after them and drove them into the
house.”

“Well, I ain’t saying you’ve got anything to do with this,” said the
farmer, quite kindly. “And if you want to run along home I ain’t got no
objections, Miss.”

“I sha’n’t go until you let Roy and Dick go,” replied Harry,
spiritedly. “You haven’t any right to keep us here.”

“I ain’t keeping you, Miss. I offered to let you out. You run along,
Amanda, and do as I tell you to. The sooner we find out what’s missing,
the better.”

“Well,” said Mrs. Peel, arising with a sigh, “I don’t know what to
say, James. It don’t seem to me as you’re doing right.”

“Don’t you worry about me, Amanda. I’ll stand good for my actions.”

With another sigh and a troubled, doubtful look about her, the little
woman went toward the door into the living-rooms.

“You’ll find the key on the third shelf at the right,” said Harry. “We
locked the door yesterday.”

“Might as well have a look around in there, too,” advised Mr. Ewing.
“Maybe they’ve been collectin’ silverware again.”

Dick groaned loudly, and the farmer cast a baleful look at him as
Mrs. Peel disappeared. Harry joined the boys, and they discussed the
situation in whispers, while Mr. Ewing stood guard near the front door.

“What’s the good of being huffy?” asked Roy. “It’s nothing but a lark,
anyway.”

“But look at the time,” said Dick. “Six o’clock already, and I’m as
hungry as a bear. And the doctor will wonder what’s become of us.”

“That’s so. I say, Harry, you’d better run along to the boat and bring
the doctor and Chub with you. There’s no use in missing our supper just
to please this old galoot.”

“Well, I will,” answered Harry. “I guess when papa comes he will
have something to say to this man!” She shot a vindictive look at
the unperturbed Mr. Ewing. “If you’ll kindly unlock the door,” she
announced, haughtily, “I’ll go.”

“Very well,” said the farmer, “but you fellers just stay where you be;
understand?”

“Yes, we understand,” replied Roy. “We won’t try to rush you. Don’t you
suppose we could get out of here if we wanted to try?”

“Maybe; maybe not,” answered Mr. Ewing, as he unlocked the door.
“Anyhow, you’d better not try it.”

“Good-by,” called Harry. “I’ll bring papa right back.”

“Oh, take your time,” replied Roy, with a wave of his hand. “We’re
quite comfortable. Besides, we have the inestimable pleasure of Mr.
Ewing’s society.”

The door closed again, and the farmer returned the key grimly to his
pocket. After a few minutes Mrs. Peel returned.

“Not a thing’s gone from the house, James,” she announced.

“Are you certain sure?” asked Mr. Ewing.

“Of course I am,” she replied, tartly.

“Well, now you take a look around the store.”

Mrs. Peel proceeded to do so. When she came to the money-drawer she
found the check which Harry had placed there. She brought it to Mr.
Ewing, and the latter looked it all over carefully.

“It looks perfectly good, don’t it, James?” she asked, anxiously.

“Yes, it _looks_ all right,” he acknowledged, grudgingly, “but it’s the
best-lookin’ checks that’s the worthlessest. Horace Collins, over to
Highwood, took a check like this from a stranger once, and it wa’n’t a
bit of good. Came back to him marked right across the face of it, ‘No
funds.’ You can’t ever tell by _lookin’_ at a check what it’s _worth_,
Amanda.”

Roy and Dick sat on the edge of the counter and swung their heels and
grinned.

Mrs. Peel continued her investigation, and when she was through she
did some figuring, dipping the little stump of a pencil at frequent
intervals into the corner of her mouth. Finally:

“It’s just as they said, James,” she announced. “I can’t see as
anything’s missing except the canned things and the bacon. And that
foots up to just eight dollars and forty cents.”

“Glad to hear it,” said Mr. Ewing, in tones which belied his assertion.
“It might have been a heap worse.” He turned to the boys. “If Amanda’s
willing to take that money in cash instead of paper and let you off,
I ain’t got anything more to say. If I was her I’d have ye all put in
jail, but women-folks are soft-hearted and easy-goin’, and it’s for her
to say.”

“Of course,” said Mrs. Peel, hurriedly, “this check may be all right. I
don’t get many of them, you see, and don’t pretend to be able to tell
the good ones from the bad. But James says it’s risky, and so if you
gentlemen wouldn’t mind just giving me the money instead–”

“We’d do it in a minute for you, ma’am,” Roy answered, “but this
gentleman here has got on my nerves. So I guess that, seeing we aren’t
liable for that money anyway, it’ll have to be the check or nothing.”

“Didn’t you agree–” began the farmer, angrily.





“There, there, James,” Mrs. Peel soothed. “There ain’t any cause to
pursue the subject. They’re right, I guess; they ain’t bound to pay
back what the burglars took, and I don’t know as I ought to take the
money from them.” She laid the check on the edge of the counter and
observed it dubiously.

“That’s all right, ma’am,” said Dick. “We want you to have it. We’ve
made it up between us. It wasn’t our fault that the store was broken
into, but still we were left in charge, after a fashion, and we’d feel
better about it if you let us pay.”

Farmer Ewing laughed sarcastically.

“Gettin’ out of it pretty cheap at that, I guess,” he sneered. “If it
was my store–”

“Oh, see here, now, if it was your store you’d have had no customers!”
broke out Roy.

Further hostilities were interrupted by a knock at the door. Mr. Ewing
turned the key and looked out. Then the door swung open, and the
doctor and Harry appeared.

“Well,” said the doctor, gravely and quietly, “what’s going on here,
pray?”

“Is he your father?” asked the farmer of Harry. She nodded.

“Then I’ll explain to him,” said Mr. Ewing. He started in and had
reached the robbery of his farm in June, when his silverware had been
taken, when the doctor smiled and held up his hand.

“One moment, sir,” said the doctor. “I happen to know exactly where all
three of these young gentlemen were during the first three weeks of
June, and it is quite impossible that they could have had anything to
do with taking your silver. As for the time they visited your farm and
were found by you in your house, their explanation is quite truthful.
I’ve known them all for periods of from three to five years, sir, and I
assure you that you can believe what they tell you. As for attempting
to connect them with the recent burglary here, why, that is quite
absurd. I think, Mr. Ewing, that you have allowed your imagination to
run away with you.”

“Sounds mighty fine,” growled Mr. Ewing, “but how do I know who you
are?”

“My name is Emery, sir, and I’m principal of the Ferry Hill School at
Ferry Hill, which, as you probably know, is only a short distance down
the river from here. These boys have all been my pupils, and this young
lady is my daughter. Now, boys, I guess we’d better get back to supper.”

Dick and Roy followed the doctor to the door, Mr. Ewing offering no
objection. At that moment there was the sound of an automobile horn,
and a big gray car swept down the road and stopped with a jarring
of brakes in front of the store. In the front seat sat Chub and Joe
Whiting; in the back of the car were the sheriff and three chaps of
about Whiting’s age.

“Hello, there!” cried Chub, cheerily. “Mrs. Peel in? Tell her we’ve got
pretty nearly all her stuff, and what we couldn’t find we’ve brought
the money for!”

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