Chapter XXXVI. "All's Well That Ends Well"
 

Of course I was highly delighted with the success of my search, and as I brought forth the pocketbook all the others gave a cry of surprise.

"You've got it, Roger!" ejaculated my uncle. "You've got it, just as sure as guns is guns!"

"So I have," I replied, as coolly as I could, though I was at the top notch of excitement.

"Better examine it," put in Mr. Harrison, cautiously. "It may be empty."

"Empty!" cried Kate in dismay, and the word sent a chill through my own heart.

With nervous fingers I tore the pocketbook open. I suppose I ought to have given it to the widow, but I was too excited to think of what was just right and what was not.

"The money was in a piece of newspaper," said the Widow Canby. "I had-- ah, there it is!"

And sure enough, there it was-- nearly three hundred dollars-- safe and sound.

I almost felt like dancing a jig, and could not refrain from throwing up my hat, which I did in such a way that it caught in a limb of a tree, and forced me to climb up to recover it.

As I was about jumping to the ground I heard a buggy pass on the road. Looking down, I was surprised to see that it contained Mr. Aaron Woodward and Chris Holtzmann. On seeing the party on the ground below, the merchant stopped his horse and jumped out.

"How do you do, Mrs. Canby?" he said, as he came over to the fence without catching sight of me.

"Pretty well, Mr. Woodward," was the widow's reply.

"Have you heard anything of your money yet?" went on the merchant, with apparent concern.

"Oh, yes--" and the widow hesitated.

My sister whispered something in her ear.

"It was just found," said Kate.

The merchant gave a start.

"You don't mean it!" he cried. "Where?"

"Down here by the fence."

"Who put it there?" asked Mr. Woodward, sharply.

"No one. It was dropped by John Stumpy."

"Humph! Perhaps so!" sneered the merchant.

"It's true," exclaimed Kate, stoutly.

"More likely by your brother Roger."

"Avast there!" cried Uncle Enos. "You're saying too much."

"I don't think so," replied Mr. Woodward, in deep sarcasm. "Of course you want to shield the boy all you can, but I 'm sure in my mind that he is guilty."

"And I'm positive in my own mind that I'm innocent," said I, and I jumped to the ground.

"Roger Strong!" he cried, stepping back in surprise; and I saw Chris Holtzmann give a start. "Where did you come from?"

"I came from-- up a tree," I returned lightly, and I may add that never before had I felt in such particularly good humor.

"Don't trifle with me," he cried in anger. "Answer my question."

"I will when I get ready."

"You refuse?"

"Oh, no. But I'm not compelled to answer, understand that, Mr. Aaron Woodward. I'll answer because I choose to do so."

"Never mind," he snapped. "Where have you been?"

"To Chicago-- as you know-- and to Brooklyn."

"To Brooklyn!" he cried, growing pale.

"Yes, sir, to see Mrs. Agatha Mitts."

"And did you see her?" he faltered.

"Yes, sir."

"And she--" he began.

"What she said or did will be produced in court later on," put in Mr. Harrison.

"Eh?" the merchant wheeled around. "Who are you?"

"My name is James Harrison. I am from Chicago. I am this boy's friend, and I am here to see justice done."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that you and your colleagues-- Chris Holtzmann there, John Stumpy, alias Ferguson, and the late Nicholas Weaver-- have foully wronged this boy's father."

"It's a lie!" cried Aaron Woodward, with a quivering lip.

"It's the truth," I said. "The plain truth, and I can prove every word of it."

"Prove it!"

"Yes, in every detail, Mr. Aaron Woodward. I have worked hard fighting for honor, but I have won. Soon my father shall be free, and for aught I know to the contrary, you will occupy his place in prison."

"I!" cried the merchant, in horror. "A likely thing!"

"We shall see," I said. "In the meantime be careful of what you say against me, or I will have you arrested before sundown."

Mr. Woodward gave me a look that was savageness itself. Apparently he was on the verge of giving way to a burst of temper. But he seemed to think better of it, and turning, he jumped into his buggy and drove away.

It was the last time I ever saw him. On the following day Mr. Harrison, Uncle Enos, and myself drove down to Newville and engaged a first-class lawyer to take up the case. This legal gentleman pushed matters so fast that on the following Monday all the papers necessary for Woodward's arrest were ready for execution.

The officers came to Darbyville late in the afternoon to secure their man. They were told that Mr. Woodward had gone to New York on business. They waited for him the remainder of the day and all of the next.

It was useless. The highly respected head merchant of Darbyville did not appear; and an examination showed that he had mortgaged his house and his business, and taken every cent of cash with him.

It was an open acknowledgment of his guilt, and Kate was for letting it go at that.

"It will do no good to have him locked up," she said.

"One thing is certain, sech a rascal ain't fit to be at liberty," put in my Uncle Enos.

"He may turn around and rob somebody else," added the Widow Canby.

"That's just it," I said; and determined to bring the man to justice, I set a detective on his track.

The search was successful, for in a week Aaron Woodward was caught in Boston, preparing to embark for Europe. He was brought back to Newville to await the action of the grand jury. But he never came to trial. In less than a week he was found in his cell one morning, dying. Rather than face the humiliation of going to jail he had taken his life. What became of Duncan I did not know for a long while until, through Mr. Harrison, I learned that he was in Chicago working for one of the railroads. He had the making of a good fellow in him, and I trust that he became one. Chris Holtzmann disappeared, and his Palace of Pleasure is a thing of the past. John Stumpy went to Texas, and I heard that Pultzer went with him.

It was not long before my father received his pardon and came home. I cannot express the joy that all of us experienced when he came forth from prison, not only a free man, but also bearing the proofs of his innocence. We were all there to greet him, and as my sister Kate rushed into his arms I felt that fighting for honor meant a good deal.

Five years have gone by. My father and I are now in business in Newville. We live in Darbyville, along with my uncle,-- who married the Widow Canby,-- and my sister Kate.

Holland & Mack have recovered all that was stolen from them. They were profuse in their apologies to my father, and offered him a good situation, which he declined.

We are all happy-- especially Kate and I. During off hours we are all but inseparable. I like my work, and expect some day to be a leading merchant. The clouds that hung over the family honor have passed, and sunshine seems to have come to stay, and that being so I will bid my readers good-by.

THE END