Chapter XLI. Conclusion
 

Mrs. Deborah Simpkins, a near neighbor of Doctor Mack, was an ill- natured gossip, and had always disliked Walter because he once interfered to prevent a boy of hers from abusing a young companion. One day about two months later she put on her bonnet and with a smile of malicious satisfaction walked over to the doctor's house.

"How do you do, Mrs. Sprague?" she said. "I thought I'd run over and have a chat with you."

"Come in, Mrs. Simpkins," said Nancy, civilly, but not cordially, for she did not like her visitor.

"I've got something unpleasant to tell you," went on the widow, as she sat down in a rocker. "I'm awful sorry."

"Are you?" said Nancy, dryly. "What's it all about?"

"I got a letter from my niece Sophrony, out in Iowa, yesterday, and she sent me a cuttin' from an old paper. It's somethin' awful!"

"Is it?"

"Yes, and it's about Walter Sherwood!" continued Mrs. Simpkins, triumphantly.

"He hasn't met with an accident, has he?" inquired Nancy, turning pale.

"It's wuss than that!" answered the widow, nodding her head ominously.

"Worse than an accident?"

"Yes; leastways, I call it so."

"Let me hear it, then, Mrs. Simpkins."

"Here 'tis; you can read it for yourself."

This was the paragraph:

"A young man named Walter Sherwood was arrested yesterday, charged with stealing a valuable mare belonging to Colonel Richard Owen. We understand his trial is to take place this morning."

"When is the paper dated?" asked Nancy, who did not appear so much overcome as her visitor expected.

"Over two months since. Walter Sherwood is probably in jail now. I feel for you and the doctor," said Mrs. Simpkins, in a tone far from sympathetic, fixing her beadlike eyes on the housekeeper.

"That's very good of you, but, as we got a letter from Walter yesterday, there ain't no call to be troubled."

"Did he write from the jail?"

"Don't be a fool, Mrs. Simpkins! He wrote from the town of Shelby, where he has been teaching a classic school, and he inclosed the program of the exhibition. Perhaps you would like to look at it."

Mrs. Simpkins took the paper, and looked intensely disappointed as she saw that Nancy had only told the truth.

"He teach school! A boy like him!" she ejaculated.

"Yes, Mrs. Simpkins, and it's been a great success. They want him to go back next year, but the doctor prefers to have him finish out his college course. We're expecting him home every day."

There was a noise heard as of the front door opening, and a moment later Walter was in the room.

"Oh, Walter!" exclaimed Nancy, overjoyed, in her excitement throwing her arms around his neck. "I'm so glad to see you!"

"And I am glad to see you, Nancy, How's my guardian?"

"He's well, and will be home soon."

"Good afternoon, Mrs. Simpkins," said Walter, politely.

"Mrs. Simpkins has just been telling me that you were in jail for horse-stealing," said Nancy. "She is much pleased to find it all a mistake."

Walter laughed.

"I am still more pleased," he remarked. "I find school-teaching much pleasanter."

"I guess I must be goin'," said Mrs. Simpkins, hurriedly.

When Doctor Mack returned he welcomed Walter with a joy not inferior to that of his housekeeper.

"And so you have succeeded?" he said.

"Yes; the trustees of the Shelby Classical School want me to come back, as my predecessor has accepted a position in New York. But I think I had better return to college and finish out my course. I have a thousand dollars saved up, and a little more, and I think with economy I can pay my own way for the remainder of the course."

"It won't be necessary, Walter."

"But, as my property is lost--"

"You must forgive me, Walter, for deceiving you, but you have just as much property as ever--indeed, more, as you only drew one hundred dollars in the past year."

"But, doctor, why, then, did you lead me to think otherwise?"

"It wasn't altogether a falsehood. About a hundred dollars had been lost in an investment, and I made that a pretext for withdrawing you from college. I saw that you were wasting your time and acquiring expensive habits, so I thought the best remedy would be a year of active life, in which you would be thrown upon your own resources."

"You are right, doctor. It has made a man of me. I shall go back to old Euclid and work in earnest. I have been a teacher myself, and I understand what a teacher has a right to expect from his pupils."

"Then my experiment has been a success, and your year of probation has done you good."

"I hope to prove it to you, my dear guardian."

Walter returned to college, and two years later graduated, valedictorian of his class. The money he had earned in his year of probation he devoted to helping the needy members of his class to obtain an education. Gates alone received three hundred dollars, and it saved the poor fellow from leaving college a year before graduation. Walter intends to study law, and it is predicted that he will win success at the bar. For whatever success he may achieve he will be inclined to give the credit to his year of probation.

THE END