Chapter V. For and Against
 

All in the barn gazed in amazement at the three rings which the constable of White Corners held in his hand.

"I don't know how those rings got into my coat," said Dick, who was the first to recover from the shock.

"I am certain Dick didn't steal them," put in Tom.

"And so am I," added Sam. "Dick, this is a plot against you."

"It ain't no plot--it's plain facts," came from Aaron Fairchild. "Go on an' continue the search, Josiah."

"That's what I'm a-doin'," returned the constable.

He felt the coat over carefully and presently brought forth another ring and a pair of child's bracelets.

"It's as plain as preachin'!" came from the third man, a farmer named Gassam. "He's the thief, sure."

"I declare upon my honor I am innocent," cried Dick, the hot blood rushing to his face. He turned to Captain Putnam. "You don't think I--I--"

"I believe what you say, Captain Rover," answered the master of the Hall, promptly. "There is assuredly some mistake here."

"Give me your coat," said Josiah Cotton to Tom.

The garment was handed over, and after a thorough search two small gold stick pins were found in the middle of the back.

"More o' my goods," cried Aaron Fairchild, triumphantly. "I can prove I had 'em on sale not four days ago."

Sam's coat was then examined, and from one of the sleeves came half a dozen cheap rings and an equally cheap watchchain.

"All mine. The case is as clear as day," said the jeweler. "Josiah, you must lock 'em up."

"0' course I'll lock 'em up," answered the constable.

"Lock us up!" cried Sam, aghast.

"Not much!" came from Tom. "I'm no thief, and I don't propose to go to jail."

"Boys, have you any idea how this jewelry got into your clothes?" asked Captain Putnam.

"No, sir," came promptly from the three.

The rest of the Rover boys' clothing was then searched and a few more cheap rings were brought to light.

"Now let us go for their baggage," said the constable, and this was done, but nothing more was found.

It was soon buzzing around the battalion, which stood at parade rest, that something was wrong, and then somebody whispered that the Rovers were accused of breaking into a shop and stealing some jewelry.

"It can't be true," said Fred Garrison. "I shall never believe it." And a number of others said the same. But a few shrugged their shoulders-- those who had belonged to the Lew Flapp and Dan Baxter crowd.

"I never trusted those Rovers altogether," said one. "They have too much money to spend."

"Well, they are worth a good bit of money," replied another cadet.

"This ain't a quarter of the stuff I lost," said Aaron Fairchild, after the baggage had undergone a rigid inspection.

"What have you done with the rest?" asked the constable of the Rovers.

"You may think as you please," said Dick. "I am innocent and I do not understand how that stuff got where you found it. An enemy must have placed it there."

"Yes, and that enemy must be the one who robbed the shop!" cried Tom.

"It's easy enough to talk," came from Gassam, the farmer. "But you can't go behind the evidence, as they say in court. You might just as well confess, an' give up the rest o' the goods. Maybe if ye do that, they'll let ye off easy."

"What do you consider this stuff worth?" asked Dick.

"Nigh on to thirty-five dollars," answered Aaron Fairchild.

"How much did you lose altogether?

"About a hundred an' sixty dollars' worth."

"Then the real thief kept about a hundred and twenty-five dollars' worth for himself," said Tom.

"There can be no doubt but that one of our enemies did this," said Sam. "The question is, which one?"

"Perhaps Dan Baxter--or Lew Flapp," suggested Dick.

"Yes, but how did the things get into our clothes, Tom?"

"I give it up."

"That sort of talk won't wash," put in the constable. "You have got to go with me."

"Where to?"

"To Squire Haggerty's office."

"I will go with you," said Captain Putnam. "This affair must be sifted to the bottom."

It was learned that Squire Haggerty lived two miles away. But a wagon was handy, belonging to a nearby farmer, and this was hired to take the whole party to the place.

"You must take charge of the cadets," said Captain Putnam to his head assistant. "I must see this affair through."

"I do not believe the Rovers are guilty, sir," whispered George Strong.

"Neither do I. This is a plot against them. The question is, who carried the plot out?"

Not long after this the battalion of cadets marched off on the road to Putnam Hall while the Rovers and the others entered the big wagon.

Inside of half an hour Squire Haggerty's home was reached. The squire proved to be an Irishman of about fifty, who when he was not acting as a judge did jobs of mason work in the vicinity.

"Sure, an' it's the boldest robbery we have had in this neighborhood for years," said the squire. "The back door av the shop was broken open and many valuables extracted from the premises."

"Have you any idea when the robbery was committed?" asked Captain Putnam.

"Not exactly Mr. Fairchild was away all day yesterday and did not get home until nearly twelve o'clock at night."

"Didn't he leave anybody else to run the shop?"

"He has nobody. When he goes away he has to lock up."

All were ushered into the squire's parlor, where he had a flat-top desk and several office chairs. The squire had heard of Captain Putnam, and knew of the fame of the academy, and he respected the Hall owner accordingly.

"I will be after hearing all the particulars of this case," said he, as he sat down to his desk.

In a long, rambling story Aaron Fairchild told how he had come home from a visit to the city late the night before. He had some goods for his shop with him and on going to the place had found the back door broken in and everything in the shop in confusion. Jewelry and other things to the value of a hundred and sixty dollars had been taken, and on the floor he had found the memorandum book and the envelope. From some boys in the hamlet he has learned that the Rover boys belonged to the Putnam Hall cadets, and farmer Gassam had told him where to find the young soldiers. Then he had called up the constable and set out; with the results already related.

"This certainly looks black for the Rover boys," said Squire Haggerty. "How do ye account for having the goods on your persons, tell me that now?"

"I can account for it only in one way," said Dick. "The thief, whoever he was, placed them there, for the double purpose of keeping suspicion from himself and to get us into trouble."

"Thin, if he wanted to git you into throuble, he was after being a fellow who had a grudge against ye?"

"That must be it," put in Captain Putnam.

"Do ye know of any such persons?"

"Yes, there are a number of such persons," answered Dick. And he mentioned Dan Baxter, Flapp, Rockley, and a number of others who in the past had proved to be his enemies.

Following this, Captain Putnam related how Dan Baxter had escaped after trying to harm Dick Rover and how it was that Lew Flapp was considered an enemy and how the fellow had been dismissed from the academy, along with several followers. Squire Haggerty listened attentively.

"Well, if one of thim fellows robbed the shop he must have visited your camp, too," said Squire Haggerty. "Did ye see any of thim around?"

Captain Putnam looked inquiringly at the Rover boys.

"I must confess I didn't see any of them," said Dick.

"But we heard from Lew Flapp," cried Tom, suddenly. "How strange that I didn't think of this before."

"Where did you hear from him, Thomas?"

"At the hotel where we stopped for supper yesterday. A boy who works around the stables told me Flapp had been there and was very angry because he had been sent away from the academy. The boy said Flapp vowed he was going to get square with the Rovers for what they had done."

"What boy was that?" asked Josiah Cotton, with interest.

The boy was described and, a little later, he was brought over from the hotel. He was very much frightened and insisted upon it that he had had nothing to do with the robbery.

"Tell what you can about Lew Flapp," said Dick, and the boy did so.

"That young fellow had been drinking, or else he wouldn't have talked so much," added the lad. "He certainly said he was going to get square with the Rover brothers."

"Have you seen him since?"

"Yes, I saw him in the village right after the cadets left."

"Anywhere near Mr. Fairchild's shop?"

"On the road that runs back of the shop."

"Where was he going?"

"I don't know."

"And that is the last you saw of him?"

"Yes, sir."

"You don't know if he went towards the back of the shop?"

"No, sir."

More than this the boy could not tell and he was excused. Squire Haggerty shook his head in perplexity.

"I don't know about this," he said. "But it looks to me as if I'll have to hold these Rover brothers until they can clear themselves."