Chapter XXVII. The Little Captain--Conclusion

"Wasn't it mean," grumbled Tavia, "I thought it would be so dramatic."

"Dramatic enough for me," answered Dorothy. "I felt a chill steal all over me when I put my hand on that man's arm, and said, 'This is he!' Ugh, I have the rub of his sleeve still on my palm," and Dorothy tried to efface the memory of it on her small white hand by rubbing it briskly on her linen skirt.

"Well, I am disappointed," pouted Tavia, "and I don't want any more mock trials."

"We must hurry, your father will soon be here. And how anxious I am to go to that place. What if the man has deceived the police as he did poor Mr. Burlock?"

"No danger. He is caught in his own trap now, and his only hope is from good behavior--they make it lighter for him as he makes it easier to clear up the case. I heard pop talking to the folks last night about it."

This was the day after the identification of Andrew Anderson by Dorothy in the Police Court. The man had disguised his appearance by taking off his beard, but there were other marks, and the girl could not be shaken in her positive identification.

The man had denied his guilt at first, but finally broke down when confronted with the evidence against him and admitted he had the Burlock child in hiding, but she was now in charge of some woman. Dorothy was to go for her to-day.

Mr. Travers, though having many important affairs to attend to, was on time, and he agreed to take Dorothy and Tavia with him to find Nellie.

"Keep close to me," he told the girls, making their way through dirty and uncertain streets. "This is a rough part of town."

House after house he stopped at, leaving the girls in each instance waiting anxiously to be told to follow. But the places were so much alike in their squalor the search was becoming more and more tiresome.

"Maybe he gave the wrong address," ventured Tavia, discouraged and dissatisfied with the many mistakes.

"No, but these people change homes so often," explained her father. "Here, this looks--wait a minute!"

Down the steps of a dark basement Squire Travers hurried. The girls looked after him--that place was not dirty, merely poor and bare.

Presently he called to them:

"Come in, girls," and Dorothy felt she could hardly move--she was so anxious and expectant.

A woman, with a kind face, greeted them sadly, but with that unmistakable air of one whom poverty cannot drag down from self-respect.

"Yes, I have a child with me," she answered nervously, "but I cannot allow you to see her."

Then Squire Travers produced his credentials.

"You need not fear us," he told her kindly. "We have the best of news for little Nellie Burlock, and we are only too anxious to make her acquainted with it."

"But we have been disappointed so often," objected the woman, "and that man Anderson--"

"You need not think of him now," said Squire Travers. "We have just left him in the hands of the sheriff. This little girl," placing his hand on Dorothy, "has brought it all about. She showed the child's father how to die happily--made it possible for him to see the hope beyond, and then she and her good father have worked untiringly to find the child. Cannot we see her now?"

The woman took Dorothy's hands, and looked straight into her eyes. Then, without a word, she turned and opened a narrow door, that seemed to run under a stairway.

"Nellie!" she called softly.

Dorothy's heart felt as if a life was dependent upon those few moments. What if it should not be the right one?

A child--pale and wan, but with an inexpressibly sweet face--stood before them. She clung to the woman like a frightened little bird.

"They have good news for us, Nellie," said the woman. "This child is Nellie Burlock, only child of Miles Burlock."

Instantly Dorothy had her arms around the little girl.

"To think we have really found you," she tried to say, but the words choked for very joy in her throat.

"Have you any papers?" asked Squire Travers of the woman.

"Yes," she answered, "and more than papers. I took that child from her dying mother's arms, and no threats nor promises of that villain Anderson have taken her from me. She is all I have now--my own darling has been spared the hardships we have to suffer."

"But we will not take her from you," said Squire Travers. "I know something of your affairs. Your husband is a printer out of work? His name is Mooney?"

"Yes," answered the woman sadly.

"Then how long will it take you to get ready to leave for Dalton? Yourself, Nellie and Mr. Mooney?"

"Leave?" gasped the woman, "we have until to-morrow morning to get out of this place--"

"Very well," replied the squire, "then you can come with us promptly, for Major Dale will not rest until we get back. Here, you two Dalton girls, don't smother that child. Save a kiss or two for those at home. They will want to know Nellie, too," and Dorothy looked from the little stranger's face to smile at the jolly squire.

When the next afternoon train from the west pulled into Dalton there alighted from it a party that attracted the attention of all who chanced to be about the depot. The little blue-eyed girl, Nellie Burlock, was very pale, but "wonderfully pretty" Tavia declared. Mrs. Mooney had also that frightened, tired look, but her husband seemed to have left all Rochester behind him. He was a first-class printer and was to work on Major Dale's paper, and was not that a bright prospect for an ambitious man?

Dorothy brought Nellie in alone to the major, He raised his head to kiss his daughter, then he kissed the fatherless one--a new light came into his eyes.

"Dorothy," he murmured. "My own Little Captain! You have led us all to victory! God bless you!"

Of course there were a hundred and one explanations to make, and many stories to tell besides. Nellie Burlock told of her life with Mrs. Mooney, and of how she and the woman had been threatened more than once by Andrew Anderson. To Mr. Mooney the affair was nothing but a mystery and he had not bothered his head much about it.

"The authorities will take care of Anderson," said the major, and told the truth, for the rascal was sent to prison for a term of years. Then Major Dale was regularly appointed as little Nellie's guardian, although the girl continued to reside with Mrs. Mooney. But she often came to see Dorothy, and to see Tavia, too.

"It has all turned out for the best," said Dorothy, one day, to Tavia.

"I wonder if anything so wonderful will ever happen to us again," remarked her friend.

"I doubt it," answered Dorothy; yet she was mistaken; something wonderful did happen, although of an entirely different nature. What it was we shall discover in another story about her, to be called, "Dorothy Dale at Glenwood School."

Schooldays at Dalton were rapidly drawing to a close now. Both Dorothy and Tavia applied themselves diligently, and, wonder of wonders, both passed!

"I can't believe it!" cried Tavia, and she began to dance around the room. "Isn't it sublime!" And then she caught Dorothy and made her dance too.

"It certainly is grand," answered Dorothy. "Oh, I am so happy!" and then she kissed her girl friend; and here let us say good-bye.

The End