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BEGINNING OF THE END.
"It would be a great thing if you could get this Martin Thomas to confess his secret," remarked Horace Kelsey to Ralph, after the hearing was over.
"That is true," returned the boy. "But I don't see how I am going to do it. He is very stubborn."
"He won't be stubborn long. He knows the charge against him is too grave. You might intimate to him that it will go easier with him if he confesses."
"That is true, sir."
"If he is merely a tool it is nothing to you whether he is punished or not. You wish to bring the instigator of this plot against you to justice."
"Supposing I go in and have a talk with him, then?" suggested Ralph.
"We will both go in," returned Horace Kelsey.
Half an hour later they were closeted with Martin Thomas in a side room of the police station. They told the rascal of the object of their visit.
At first Martin Thomas would not listen to them but when Horace Kelsey pictured the possible future to him he grew more pliable. He began to pace up and down nervously.
"Well, supposing I own up to everything," he said, at last. "Will you drop this case against me?"
"That depends on what you have to say," said Ralph, cautiously.
"Well, I can say this much: I was only hired for this work--I and Toglet."
"Squire Paget, of Westville."
Had a bombshell exploded at Ralph's feet he would have been no more astonished than at this declaration.
"Do you mean to say Squire Paget hired you for this work?" he demanded.
"Yes, I do. The whole scheme was his."
"But what was his object?"
"He wanted to get you out of the way."
"He didn't tell me why, but I reckon it was on account of some valuable Westville property."
"It must be the property down by the lake front!" cried Ralph.
"Had he the papers for that land?" asked Horace Kelsey.
"I never thought so," returned the boy, slowly. "But he might have. He used to transact most of father's business for him years ago."
"Then you can depend upon it that he has the papers."
"But the land belongs to my mother."
"He's going to force her into selling out to him," put in Martin Thomas. "With you out of the way he felt sure, I suppose, that he could do as he pleased with your mother."
"The scamp!" ejaculated Ralph, his honest eyes flashing fire. "If you have told the truth, he shall suffer for this, mark my words!"
"And, hoping you will drop this matter against me," went on the prisoner, "let me give you another pointer. You wrote to your mother the other day, didn't you?"
"Well, he got that letter. Your mother never saw it."
"No wonder I haven't received any reply then!" burst out Ralph. "Did you ever hear of anything so mean?" he added, turning to his rich friend.
"Your duty at present is plain, Ralph," replied the insurance agent, pointedly. "The best you can do is to take the first train home."
"You are right."
"There is no telling, if this Squire Paget is so villainous, what he may not try to do."
"You think he will not wait?"
"It is not likely. He has shown a great haste in the whole matter."
"No. Don't wait. Go home and have him locked up," put in Martin Thomas. "I will appear against him, if you wish it."
He was willing now to do anything to save himself from a long term in prison.
"I will go home," said Ralph. "I will not lose another minute."
"Shall I go along?" asked Horace Kelsey. "You may need some one to help you in your fight against so influential a man as Squire Paget."
"I shall consider it a great favor," said Ralph, and he gave the insurance agent a grateful look.
They consulted a time-table, and found that they could get a train for Chambersburgh in an hour. This train would connect with the regular lake steamer that stopped at Westville.
The two questioned Martin Thomas for a few minutes longer, and got what additional information they could from him. Then they called in the jail keeper and hurried off.
"I guess Squire Paget will be surprised when we walk in on him," said Ralph, with a grim smile.
"He will be still more surprised when he learns that Martin Thomas has been arrested and that his whole plot is known," replied Horace Kelsey.
The insurance agent had several small matters to attend to. But these did not take long, and then they took an elevated train for the depot.
Fifteen minutes later, Ralph's homeward journey had begun. It was none too soon, as the sequel will show.
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