Chapter XX. At the Prison
 

Mr. Woodward's actions had aroused me as I had never been aroused before. My eyes were wide open at last. I realized that if I ever expected to gain our family rights I must fight for them-- and fight unflinchingly to the bitter end.

It was nearly ten o'clock when I reached the Widow Canby's house. I met my Uncle Enos on the porch. He had grown impatient, and was about to start for Darbyville in search of me.

In the dining room I told my story. All laughed heartily at the ruse I had played upon the merchant, but were indignant at the treatment I had received.

"Wish I'd been with you," remarked my uncle, with a vigorous shake of his head. "I'd a-smashed in his figurehead, keelhaul me if I wouldn't!"

"What do you intend to do now?" asked Kate.

"Let's see; to-day is Friday. If you will take us to Trenton to-morrow, Uncle Enos, I'll start for Chicago on Monday."

"Don't you think you had better have this Woodward arrested first?" asked Captain Enos.

"No; I would rather let him think that for the present I had dropped the whole matter. It may throw him off his guard and enable me to pick up more clews against him."

"That's an idea. Roger, you've got a level head on your shoulders, and we can't do any better than follow your advice," returned my uncle.

I did but little sleeping that night. For a long time I lay awake thinking over my future actions. Then when I did fall into a doze my rest was broken by dreams of the fire at the tool house and Mr. Woodward's attack.

I was up at five o'clock in the morning, attending to the regular chores. I did not know who would do them during my absence, and as soon as the widow appeared I spoke to her on the subject.

"Your uncle mentioned the matter last night," said Mrs. Canby. "He said he would do all that was required until you came back. He doesn't want to remain idle all day, and thought the work would just suit him."

This was kind of Uncle Enos, and I told him so when an hour later he appeared, dressed in his best, his trunk having arrived the evening before.

"Yes, Roger, I'd rather do it than sit twirling my thumbs, a-waiting for you to come back," said he. "I used to do such work years ago, before I shipped on the Anna Siegel, and to do it again will make me feel like a boy once more. But come; let's go to mess and then hoist anchor and away."

A few minutes later we were at breakfast. Then I put on my good clothes and brought around the horse and carriage, for the Widow Canby insisted upon driving us down to Newville by way of Darbyville just to show folks, as she said, that she had not lost confidence in me.

Kate was in a flutter of excitement. She had wished to see my father every day since he had been taken away. As for myself, I was fully as impatient. My father was very dear to me, and every time I thought of him I prayed that God would place it within my power to clear his name from the stain that now rested upon him.

We reached the station in Newville five minutes before train time. My uncle procured our tickets and also checked the basket of delicacies the Widow Canby had prepared.

"Remember me to Mr. Strong," said the widow, as we boarded the train. "Tell him I don't believe he's guilty, and perhaps other people in Darbyville won't think so either before long."

A moment later and we were off. Kate and Uncle Enos occupied one seat, and I sat directly behind them. A ride of an hour followed, and finally, after crossing a number of other railroads, we rolled into a brick station, and the conductor sang out:--

"Trenton!"

It was eleven o'clock when we crossed the wooden foot-bridge of the station and emerged upon the street.

"We'll go to the prison at once," said my uncle. "Perhaps it isn't 'visiting day,' as they call it, but I reckon I can fix it. Sailors on shore have special privileges," he added with a laugh.

"Which way is it?" asked Kate.

"I don't know. We'll take a carriage and trust to the driver."

He called a coach, and soon we were rolling off.

Finally the coach stopped, and the driver sprang from his box.

"Here you are, sir," he said, as he opened the door.

I looked up at the big stone buildings before us. My father was behind those walls. I glanced at Kate. The poor girl was in tears.

"You had better stay on board here till I go in and take soundings," said Captain Enos. "I won't be gone long."

Jumping to the pavement, he walked up to the big open door and entered.

"What a dreadful place!" said my sister, as she strained her eyes to catch sight of some prisoner.

My uncle was gone not over ten minutes, yet the wait seemed an age. He returned with a brightened face.

"I had hard work to get permission, but we are to have half an hour's talk with your father under the supervision of a deputy," he explained.

In another moment we were inside. We walked along a wide corridor and into an office, and then a short, stout man, Mr. Carr, the deputy, joined us.

"This way, please," he said, and gave a kindly glance at Kate and myself. "You will have to leave the basket here. I will see that it reaches the-- the-- your father."

He led the way. How my heart beat! Why, I cannot tell.

"I'll go in first," said my Uncle Enos.

We entered a room. In a moment the deputy brought in a man dressed in striped clothing, and with his hair cut close. It was my father.

My uncle and I rushed forward. But we were too late. With a cry Kate was in his arms. It was a great moment all around.

"My children! My Katie and my Roger!" was all my father could say, but the words went straight home.

"I am heartily glad that you are back," he said then to my uncle. "You will look after them, Enos, until I am free."

"Indeed I will," replied Captain Enos, heartily. "But you must listen to Roger. He has a long story to tell."

"Then tell it. I am dying to hear news from home." We sat down, and I told my story. Perhaps the deputy ought not to have allowed me to say all I did, but he pretended not to hear.

My father listened with keen attention to every word, and as I went on, his eyes grew brighter and brighter.

"Roger, my faithful boy, you almost make me hope for freedom," he cried. "Oh, how I long to be set right before the world!"

"God make it so," put in my uncle, solemnly. "To suffer unjustly is terrible."

Then I told of my interview with Mr. Woodward in his library and of Holtzmann.

"Holtzmann was one of the principal witnesses against me," said my father. "So was Nicholas Weaver, who managed the Brooklyn business for Holland & Mack. Who John Stumpy can be I do not know. Perhaps I would if I saw him face to face. There was another man-- he was quite bald, with a red blotch on the front of his hand-- who was brought forward by Woodward to prove that he had nothing to do with the presentation of the forged checks and notes, but what his name was I have forgotten."

"This can't be the man, for he has a heavy head of hair," I replied. "But I am sure Stumpy is not his true name."

"Probably not. Well, Roger, do your best, not only for me but for Katie's sake and your own."

Then the conversation became general, and all too soon the half hour was at an end. My father sent his regards to Mrs. Canby, with many thanks for the basket of delicacies, and then with a kiss for Kate and a shake of the hand to Uncle Enos and me, we parted.

Little was said on the way back. No one cared to go to a restaurant, and we took the first train homeward.

It was dark when we reached Newville. The Widow Canby's carriage was at the depot waiting for us.

"Suppose I get my ticket for Chicago now," said I. "It will save time Monday, and I can find out all about the train."

"A good idea," returned my uncle. "I'll go with you."

So while Kate joined Mrs. Canby we entered the depot.

The ticket was soon in my possession, and then I asked the ticket seller a number of questions concerning the route and the time I would reach my destination.

Suddenly instinct prompted me to turn quickly. I did so and found John Stumpy at my shoulder.