Poems & Short Stories: 4,271
Forum Members: 70,634
Forum Posts: 1,033,546
And over 2 million unique readers monthly!
OUT ON BAIL.
"Did you get a look at the faces of the men and the boy you say you saw?" asked the postmaster, after a pause.
"No, sir. I saw them, but it was too dark to distinguish faces."
"And you say each carried a handbag?"
"Can you prove that you were not around the post office at the time of the explosion?"
"I cannot, sir. I was just coming from home to go to Dr. Foley's, for my mother, who was taken sick during the night."
"And you went to Dr. Foley's afterward?"
"Yes, sir. He will tell you the same thing."
"What of the valise found in your back doorward?"
"I know nothing of it, excepting that both my mother and I fancied we heard somebody around the house just a short while before the constable and the others came."
Postmaster Hooker turned to Squire Paget.
"What do you think of this, squire?" he asked.
"Very queer," responded the squire, briefly. "I think you had better have him held until we can investigate further. Remember, we have not heard from the other parties who went out yet."
"Yes, we'll have to hold you, Nelson," said Mr. Hooker. "It's too bad, if you are innocent, but it can't be helped."
"Do you mean to say you will lock me up?" exclaimed Ralph, in horror.
"We'll have to--for a while--unless you can furnish satisfactory bail."
"How much bail do you wish?" asked the boy, faintly.
A consultation was held between the postmaster and Squire Paget, and finally bail was fixed at three hundred dollars.
"That will hold him tight enough," whispered the squire. "No one will go bail to that amount for him."
But Squire Paget was mistaken. While Ralph was being taken to the village lockup, a gentleman stepped up. In him Ralph recognized Mr. Leander Carrington, Julia Carrington's father.
"I will go that boy's bail," said the rich man.
"You, Carrington!" cried the squire, in some astonishment.
"You are running a mighty big risk," sniffed the squire.
"I reckon I can stand it," laughed Leander Carrington. "I do not believe the boy is guilty."
"Besides, he did my wife and daughter a service that I shall ever remember," went on Mr. Carrington, warmly. "He stopped my team when your son let them run away from him."
The squire did not relish this remark, and he turned away with some saying on his lips to the effect that if a man wanted to make a fool of himself, why, it was a free country.
"You are very kind, Mr. Carrington," said Ralph to the gentleman. "I did not expect this."
"It's all right. I don't expect you'll run away."
"You can rest assured that I will not."
"So I won't be anything out of pocket. And let me thank you personally for what you did for my wife and daughter. I just heard of it, as I have been away."
The party walked over to Squire Paget's office and here the necessary papers were made out and signed. The squire wished to put off the question of bail until more news should come in, but he had once fixed the amount, and Mr. Carrington would not let him go back on his word.
It was nearly nine o'clock when Ralph returned home and told his mother of all that had happened. A dozen men were out hunting for the robbers, but no news concerning them had yet come in.
"It was kind of Mr. Carrington to go your bail," said Mrs. Nelson.
"It was, indeed, mother. Now, I only hope they catch the robbers. Then I will easily be able to clear myself."
Breakfast was on the table, and the two sat down. While they ate Ralph revolved the question of the robbers in his mind, and set to thinking of one who might have accomplished it.
"By Christopher Columbus!" he cried, suddenly, leaping from his chair in his intense excitement. "He did it, I'll bet a million dollars!"
"Why, Ralph, what's the matter?" exclaimed Mrs. Nelson, half-believing her son had suddenly gone crazy.
"I know one of the men who robbed the post office, mother--at least, I think I do," he added, cooling down somewhat.
"And who is it?"
"Dock Brady? I never heard of him before."
"He is the man I rescued from the hay barge during the storm."
"Oh, I remember now. But what makes you think he is one of the men?"
"Because I remember he asked me something about the post office while we were out sailing. Then I saw him sneaking about the place when I was putting up circulars there. And that is not all. I saw him buying powder at Mr. Dunham's store."
"That certainly looks suspicious," returned Mrs. Nelson. "It's a pity you didn't think to tell Mr. Hooker of this."
"I was too excited to remember it. I'll go off right after breakfast and let him know."
Ralph was as good as his word. Half an hour later the postmaster was in possession of all the facts. Then a call was made upon Mr. Dunham, who stated that he remembered Dock Brady very well.
It was thought by the constable and the postmaster that Ralph was right, and an extra party was organized to hunt for Dock Brady.
The information was gained before nightfall that Brady and a man named Gaston had been stopping at a second-rate hotel in Eastport for two days. They had settled their bills the evening before and left, stating that they were going to Chambersburgh on the night boat.
On the following morning the captain of the night boat was seen, and he emphatically denied that he had had any such passengers as Dock Brady and Gaston. He had had only seven men on board, and all of these had been known to him.
"I guess Ralph Nelson tells the truth," said Jack Rodman. "Those men did the job, and now the old Harry only knows where they have gone to."
"But the boy?" said Squire Paget. "Who was the boy that helped them if it wasn't Ralph Nelson?"
"I give it up, squire," said the constable; and so did many others.
There being nothing else to do, Ralph went back to his work of distributing circulars for Mr. Dunham. He spent three days at this, and was then called upon to stand an investigation before the United States postal authorities.
This investigation lasted one whole day, and every one who was interested in the case was present.
Ralph answered all questions clearly and truthfully, and told all he knew concerning Dock Brady.
Whether the Government detectives found any more clews at the post office was not made public, but the next day Ralph was informed that his bail was withdrawn, and that he was absolutely free.
The reader can well imagine his joy, and also the joy of his mother, who shed tears when the news was brought to her.
"Thank Heaven for it, Ralph!" she said, as she kissed him. "Oh, what a relief now it is all over."
"But it is not over," he said, sturdily. "I want to find out the secret of that valise, and how my pocketknife got into the office, and I shall not rest until I have found out."
Although the boy and his fond parent did not know it, this remark was overheard by a detective who had been sent to the Nelson homestead to spy upon the boy. He at once left the place and informed his superior that the lad was innocent, and to watch further in that direction would be merely a waste of time.
But although the majority of the people in Westville and vicinity believed Ralph innocent, there were some who thought him guilty, and among these was Squire Paget.
And thinking him guilty, the squire was much worried.
"I'd give a good deal to know if that registered letter fell into his hands," he said to himself, one night, as he sat in his library. "Perhaps he got it and is waiting for this affair to blow over before he makes it public."
And then he groaned aloud, and began to pace up and down nervously. It was plain to see that he was more put out than he had been for years.
"I'll pay the Nelsons a visit to-night," he said, at last. "I'll face the boy and his mother alone, and see what they have to say. I am not going to stand this suspense any longer."
And sneaking out of the house without Percy or the housekeeper becoming aware of it, he set off on a swift walk for the little cottage by the lakeside.
|Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily|
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.