Chapter XXXV. The Widow Canby's Money
 

I am sure my readers will well understand why my thoughts were busy as the train rolled on its way to Newville. I could hardly realize that I held the proofs of my father's innocence in my possession; and I was strongly tempted several times to ask my kind Western friend to pinch me to make sure that I was really awake, and was not merely dreaming my good fortune.

Mr. Harrison probably guessed what was passing in my mind, for he placed a kindly hand upon my shoulder, and said, with a smile:--

"Does it seem almost too good to be true?"

"That's just it," I returned. "The events of the past week have so crowded on each other that I'm in a perfect whirl."

"You will have a little more excitement before it is over."

"I suppose so. But now that I know it is all right I shall not mind it. I wonder if I couldn't send my father the good news by telegraph?"

"You can easily enough. But don't you think you had better wait until all is settled? You might raise false hopes."

"No fear; Aaron Woodward is guilty beyond a doubt. But I will wait if you think best."

It was not long before the train rolled into Newville. On alighting Mr. Harrison insisted on hiring a cab, and in this we bowled swiftly on our way to Darbyville. As we passed out of the city and up on the country road I wondered how matters had progressed during my absence. Had the merchant returned home?

At Darbyville a crowd of men gazed at us with curious eyes. Among them was Parsons the constable and others who knew me.

"Hello, you back again?" shouted Parsons.

"Yes, indeed," I replied. "I suppose you didn't expect me so soon?"

"I'll allow as how I didn't expect you at all," he returned, with a grin.

"Well, you were mistaken. I'm back, and back to stay," said I.

My heart beat high as we turned into the side road that led to the Widow Canby's house. I strained my eyes to catch sight of the first one who might appear. It was my Uncle Enos. He was doing a bit of mending on the front fence. As soon as he saw me he threw down his hammer, and ran toward us.

"Well, well, Roger, struck port again, have you? Glad you're back."

And he shook my right hand hard.

"My friend, Mr. Harrison, from Chicago," said I. "This is my uncle, Captain Enos Moss."

They had hardly finished hand-shaking, when Kate and the Widow Canby came out of the house.

"Oh, Roger, I'm so glad you're back!" cried Kate. And then she looked earnestly into my eyes. "Did you-- did, you--"

"Yes, Kate, I've succeeded. Father's innocence can be proven."

"Oh, thank God!" cried my sister, and the tears of joy started from her eyes. I felt like crying, too, and soon, somehow, there was hardly a dry eye in the group.

"You must have had a hard time of it," sail the Widow Canby.

"My kind friend here helped me a good deal," I said.

Mr. Harrison was introduced to the others, and soon we were seated, on the piazza, and I was relating my experiences.

The interest of my listeners grew as I went on. They could hardly believe it possible that Mr. Aaron Woodward, with all his outward show of gentlemanliness, was such a thoroughly bad man. When I came to speak of John Stumpy, alias Ferguson, Kate burst out:--

"I declare, I've almost forgotten. I've got good news, too. This very morning I went hunting again and picked up the paper that was lost. I was trying to read it when you drove up. Here it is."

And my sister handed over Nicholas Weaver's dying statement.

"It is hardly of use now," I said. "Still, it will make the evidence against Mr. Woodward so much stronger."

"I've discovered that this Nick Weaver was a chum of Woodward's," said Uncle Enos.

"A chum?"

"Yes. He came from Chicago."

"From Chicago!" I ejaculated.

"Exactly."

Meanwhile Mr. Harrison was examining the statement, which Kate had produced from her dress pocket.

"I see it all," he cried. "Nicholas Weaver was the man who helped Holtzmann concoct the scheme whereby a relative in Chicago was supposed to have died and willed Aaron Woodward all his money."

"I see. But why did he leave the statement?" I asked.

"Because, he says here, Woodward did not treat him right. This Ferguson or Stumpy was a friend to Weaver, and the paper was gotten up to bring Woodward to terms."

That explanation was clear enough, and I could easily understand why John Stumpy had come to Darbyville, and how it was the merchant had treated him with so much consideration.

"And there is another thing to tell you, Roger," put in the Widow Canby. "Something I know you will be greatly pleased to hear."

"What is it?" I asked, in considerable curiosity.

"I have evidence to show that this John Stumpy was the man who robbed me of my money. Of course I knew it was so when Kate and you said so, but outsiders now know it."

"And how?"

"Miles Nanson saw the man running from the house. He was hurrying to get a doctor for his wife, who was very sick, and he didn't stop to question the fellow."

"But why didn't he speak of it before?" I asked. "He might have saved us a deal of trouble."

"He never heard of the robbery until last night, his wife has been so sick. He can testify to seeing the man."

"I'm glad of that," I said. "But unfortunately, that doesn't restore the money."

"No, I suppose not. This Stumpy still has it."

"No; he claims to have lost it," I returned, and I related the particulars as I had overheard them in the boarding-house on the opposite side of the Pass River.

"I wish I could find it-- the money, I mean-- as I did the papers," put in Kate.

"Where did he jump over the fence?" I asked suddenly.

"Down by the crab-apple tree," said Uncle Enos.

"Have you looked there?" queried Mr. Harrison.

"No," said Kate; "you don't think--" she began.

"There is nothing like looking," said my Western friend, slowly.

"I guess you're right," I replied, "and the sooner the better."

In a minute I was out of the house. Kate was close on my heels, and together we made our way to the orchard, followed by the others.

"Now, let me see," I went on. "If he went over the fence here he must have vaulted over. I'll try that, and note how the money might have dropped."

I placed my hands on the top rail and sprang up to vault over. As my head bent over, my eyes caught sight of an object lying in the hole of the fence post.

I picked it up. It was the Widow Canby's pocketbook.