Chapter XXIX. Lois Goes to the City
 

Betty's story filled Lois with still greater hope, and she was anxious to see Jasper's lawyer that she might tell him what she had learned. For most of the night she thought about the matter, and she tried to find some reason why Bramshaw should commit the murder. She thought, too, of Jasper, and wondered how he was bearing himself in his lonely cell. She longed to speak to him and tell him of the discovery she had made. She knew that his mental suffering must be great, and she did want to help him to bear his trouble.

Lois learned from her father and Dick upon their arrival from the city what a strong feeling was abroad against Jasper. People condemned him in no measured language, and denounced him as a dastardly villain who deserved the severest punishment. Mr. Sinclair told of the conversation he had with several people along the road, and how all were loud in their severe denunciations. Even the city papers, following the popular cry, had editorials about the murder. Though they did not mention Jasper by name, yet their allusions were so pointed that no one could mistake their meaning. All united in condemning the criminal and declaring that the deed was all the more abhorrent owing to the age of the murdered man and the friendly relations which had existed between him and his suspected assailant.

All this was very hard for Lois to endure. It annoyed her to think how willing people were to condemn a man and judge him worthy of death before he had received a fair trial. She had a secret satisfaction, however, in the information Andy and Betty had imparted to her. It buoyed her up with the hope that it would greatly assist in freeing Jasper and clearing him entirely from all blame. It was only natural that she should desire to see the ones who condemned him so severely put to an ignominious silence. She smiled almost bitterly as she thought how they would come about Jasper with their smooth, oily words of congratulation when he again came into their midst.

In the morning Lois went to the city with her father and Dick. She enjoyed the ride in the fresh air and she was somewhat sorry when she alighted from the car in front of her father's office. Dick wanted to drive her around to Mr. Westcote's house as he was most anxious to see Margaret. He had not met her for two days, and to him it seemed a very long time. But as Lois had some shopping to do, she preferred to walk.

"I'll be around this afternoon, though," Dick told her.

"Oh, I know you will," was the laughing reply. "Shall I tell her?"

"Yes, do, Lois. She's great, isn't she?"

"She certainly is, Dick. But I must hurry away now," she added as she saw that her brother was anxious to talk more about Margaret.

It did not take Lois long to do her shopping, and she was just leaving the store when she met Mrs. Dingle face to face. Had she seen her sooner she would have made a desperate effort to escape her. But there was nothing for her to do now but to submit with the best grace possible.

"Oh, isn't it lovely to see you, dear," Mrs. Dingle effusively cried, as she gave her a peck-like kiss upon the right cheek. "We have been talking so much about you lately. Sammie is fairly crazy to see you, and you must be prepared for a visit from him as soon as he learns you are in town. I am so thankful that I have such a dutiful son. He is quite a comfort to me, and I am sure any woman would be proud to have him for a husband. There are so many bad men these days that we appreciate a good one when we find him. We knew that you would come back to the city."

"What made you think that?" Lois enquired as Mrs. Dingle paused an instant for breath.

"To get away from that horrid country place, of course, where that terrible murder was committed. I hope they have that villain securely locked up."

"What villain?" Lois asked.

"Why the one who killed that poor old man for his money."

"No, he is not locked up yet."

"But I heard that he is. Surely he hasn't escaped!" and Mrs. Dingle held up her well-gloved hands.

"No, he isn't in prison yet," Lois calmly replied. "But there is an innocent man there, though, I am sorry to say."

"Do you mean that uncouth fellow Sammie was telling me about?"

"I am not referring to any uncouth fellow, Mrs. Dingle, but merely to Mr. Jasper Randall, a gentleman and a friend of mine."

"Oh, I didn't know that," and Mrs. Dingle looked her surprise as well as her embarrassment. "All I know is what Sammie told me."

"What did Sammie tell you?" Lois voice was sharp as she asked the question.

"I can't remember all. But he said that he was brought up on a farm, had to work his way through college, and that sort of thing, you know. As he is not of our set, of course I did not pay much attention to what Sammie told me."

Lois was both angry and disgusted at this woman. Oh, how she longed to tell her something that she would not soon forget. How she was tempted to place Jasper and Sammie side by side and compare them; the one an insignificant, brainless, useless, overdressed nincompoop; the other a strong, self-reliant, masterful man, fighting against fate with face to the front and head erect.

"Excuse me, Mrs. Dingle," she said, "I am in a great hurry this morning. And I am afraid if I stay I may say something to hurt your feelings. Mr. Randall is a friend of mine, and I have great respect for him. I have always made it a point of being loyal to my friends, and adversity is the test of friendship."

Mrs. Dingle stared in amazement after Lois. She could not understand what had come over the girl, and at luncheon she discussed the matter with Sammie.

"You must see her at once, dear," she told him. "It would not do to lose her, for her father is very rich and she is his only daughter. I am afraid she thinks a great deal of that uncouth fellow who has been arrested."

"Hm," her son grunted. "Don't you worry one bit. Spuds'll be fixed all right. The noose is hanging over his head and just ready to drop, I was talking to some of the fellows to-day and they say that he's a goner, and that nothing can save him. Oh, by the way, Ma, I saw Bramshaw to-day."

"You did!" his mother replied in surprise. "Why I thought he had left the city."

"So he did; but he's back now all right."

"Where did you meet him?"

"Just as he was coming out of the C. P. R. ticket office. He was in a great hurry and had no time to stop and talk."

"You must find out where he is staying, Sammie, and invite him to come and see us. He is a very distinguished young man, you know; an artist of wide reputation, and it makes a favourable impression to have such a man visit us. He is a gentleman, and not like that uncouth man who committed that terrible crime at Creekdale."

"But I don't believe he'll be here long, Ma," Sammie replied.

"Why, what makes you think that?"

"I guess he's leaving the city. He must have been at the office getting his ticket when I met him. No doubt he is going on this evening's train."

"He is visiting some of the big cities, no doubt, Sammie. A man like that could not be expected to remain in a small place like this. People must be anxious to see the man who has painted such famous pictures."

"Have you seen any of them, Ma?" her son asked.

"Oh, no. But he has told me about them, and they must be great from what he said. He has sold a great many at large prices, but the most valuable he keeps in his mansion in England, so he informed me. He said that he regretted that he had not brought several with him, but the risk was too great, and the pictures were so big that it was difficult to transport them so far."

"H'm," Sammie grunted, as he went on with his luncheon, and nothing more was said then about the artist.

Lois found Margaret at home and they had luncheon together. There was only one topic of conversation, and Lois told of the information she had received from Andy and Betty Bean.

"Have you any idea what your father wishes to see me about?" she asked. "I am quite curious to know."

"I really don't know," and Margaret shook her head. "He generally tells me his secret plans because he knows that I will not divulge them."

"You will go with me to his office this afternoon, will you not?"

"Certainly, if you care to have me. Father generally gets his luncheon out and is somewhat late getting back to his office. Wait a minute, dear, while I phone and tell him you are here."

Margaret was gone only a few minutes, and when she returned she resumed her seat at the table.

"Father will be back in his office at one-thirty," she began, "and he says that I may go with you. Lois, I have something important to tell you." Here she dropped her voice and looked apprehensively around the room. "Since you told me about that letter and Betty's fright I have been doing some serious thinking. You say that Sydney Bramshaw has left Creekdale?"

"Yes. He cleared out, tent and baggage."

"Have you any idea where he is?"

"No. But I am afraid he is far away by this time."

"Well, he isn't. He's in the city now."

"In the city!" Lois repeated in surprise.

"Yes. I met Sammie Dingle on the street this morning, and he told me that he met Bramshaw coming out of the C. P. R. ticket office."

"Oh!"

"Yes, that's what he told me. I did not think anything about it at the time, but I see things in a different light now. He must be planning to leave the city on the evening train, and if he once gets across the Border it will be difficult to find him. You should tell father all you know, and I am sure he will take action at once."

"And will he have Bramshaw arrested?" Lois asked.

"What else will there be to do? It would not do to let him escape with such evidence against him. It will be necessary for him to explain about that letter and his suspicious actions and threat to Betty. We have really no time to lose. My, I am getting interested and excited."

"For my part," Lois replied, "I believe he is the guilty man. But I cannot understand the motive of his crime. If we knew that it might lead to greater discoveries. You see, in reference to that envelope it will be merely one man's word against another. Andy will swear that he saw him pick up an envelope which Mr. Randall dropped on the floor, but he cannot swear that it is the same one that was found by the side of the murdered man. Bramshaw will also swear that he never met Betty that night on the road. His lawyer will not overlook anything, mark my word. It will be only circumstantial evidence after all, and it may not have much effect."

"Keep up courage, Lois," Margaret encouraged. "You have accomplished a great deal in a short time, and I know that father's lawyer has not been idle."

"Has he found out anything yet?" Lois eagerly asked.

"I am afraid not. There has not been much time, you see. But he is a very able man and will leave no stone unturned. But, come, dear, it is time for us to get ready. We must not keep father waiting as he is very busy these days."