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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesShavings - Chapter 18
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Shavings - Chapter 18 Post by :ndennis Category :Long Stories Author :Joseph Crosby Lincoln Date :May 2012 Read :936

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Shavings - Chapter 18


Jed came forward, the roll of bills in his hand. He seemed quite oblivious of the Babbitt stare, or, for that matter, of the complete silence which had so suddenly fallen upon the group in the shop. He came forward, smoothing the crumpled notes with fingers which shook a little. He stopped in front of Captain Hunniwell. The captain was gazing at him and at the money. Jed did not meet his friend's eye; he continued to smooth the banknotes. Captain Sam spoke first.

"What's that?" he demanded. "What money's that?"

Jed's fingers moved back and forth across the bills and he answered without looking up. He seemed much embarrassed.

"Sam," he faltered. "Sam--er--you remember you told me you'd--er-- lost some money a spell ago? Some--er--money you'd collected over to Wapatomac. You remember that, don't you?"

Captain Sam looked at him in puzzled surprise. "Remember it?" he repeated. "Course I remember it. Gracious king, 'tain't likely I'd forget it, is it?"

Jed nodded. "No-o," he drawled, solemnly. "No, course you couldn't. 'Twas four hundred dollars you was short, wan't it?"

The Captain's puzzled look was still there.

"Yes," he replied. "What of it?"

"Why--why, just this, Sam: I--I want it to be plain, you understand. I want Major Grover and Phineas here to understand the--the whole of it. There's a lot of talk, seems so, around town about money bein' missin' from the bank--"

Captain Sam interrupted. "The deuce there is!" he exclaimed. "That's the first I've heard of any such talk. Who's talkin'?"

"Oh, a--a good many folks, I judge likely. Gabe Bearse asked Babbie about it, and Phin here he--"

"Eh?" The captain turned to face his old enemy. "So you've been talkin', have you?" he asked.

Mr. Babbitt leaned forward. "I ain't begun my talkin' yet, Sam Hunniwell," he snarled. "When I do you'll--"

He stopped. Grover had touched him on the shoulder.

"Sshh!" said the Major quietly. To the absolute amazement of Captain Sam, Phineas subsided. His face was blazing red and he seemed to be boiling inside, but he did not say another word. Jed seized the opportunity to continue.

"I--I just want to get this all plain, Sam," he put in, hastily. "I just want it so all hands'll understand it, that's all. You went over to Sylvester Sage's in Wapatomac and he paid you four hundred dollars. When you got back home here fourteen hundred of it was missin'. No, no, I don't mean that. I mean you couldn't find fourteen hundred--I mean--"

The captain's patience was, as he himself often said, moored with a short cable. The cable parted now.

"Gracious king!" he snapped. "Jed, if that yarn you're tryin' to spin was wound in a ball and a kitten was playin' with it you couldn't be worse snarled up. What he's tryin' to tell you," he explained, turning to Grover, "is that the other day, when I was over to Wapatomac, old Sylvester Sage over there paid me fourteen hundred dollars in cash and when I got back here all I could find was a thousand. That's what you're tryin' to say, ain't it?" turning to Jed once more.

"Yes--yes, that's it, Sam. That's it."

"Course it's it. But what do you want me to say it for? And what are you runnin' around with all that money in your hands for? That's what I want to know."

Jed swallowed hard. "Well, Sam," he stammered, "that--that's what I was goin' to tell you. You see--you see, that's the four hundred you lost. I--I found it."

Major Grover looked surprised. Phineas Babbitt looked more surprised. But, oddly enough, it was Captain Sam Hunniwell who appeared to be most surprised by his friend's statement. The captain seemed absolutely dumbfounded.

"You--you WHAT?" he cried.

Jed smoothed the bills in his hand. "I found it, Sam," he repeated. "Here 'tis--here."

He extended the bundle of banknotes. The captain made no move to take them. Jed held them a little nearer.

"You--you'd better take it, Sam," he urged. "It might get lost again, you know."

Still Captain Sam made no move. He looked from the bills in Jed's hands to Jed's face and back again. The expression on his own face was a strange one.

"You found it," he repeated. "YOU did?"

"Yes--yes, I found it, Sam. Just happened to."

"Where did you find it?"

"Over yonder behind that pile of boards. You know you said the money was in your overcoat pocket and--and when you came in here on your way back from Sylvester's you hove your coat over onto those boards. I presume likely the--the money must have fell out of the pocket then. You see, don't you, Sam?"

The tone in which the question was asked was one, almost, of pleading. He appeared very, very anxious to have the captain "see." But the latter seemed as puzzled as ever.

"Here's the money, Sam," urged Jed. "Take it, won't you?"

Captain Sam took it, but that is all he did. He did not count it or put it in his pocket. He merely took it and looked at the man who had given it to him.

Jed's confusion seemed to increase. "Don't you--don't you think you'd better count it, Sam?" he stammered. "If--if the Major here and Phin see you count it and--and know it's all right, then they'll be able to contradict the stories that's goin' around about so much bein' stolen, you know."

The captain grunted.

"Stolen?" he repeated. "You said folks were talkin' about money bein' lost. Have they been sayin' 'twas stolen?"

It was Grover who answered. "I haven't heard any such rumors," he said. "I believe Lieutenant Rayburn said he heard some idle report about the bank's having lost a sum of money, but there was no hint at dishonesty."

Captain Sam turned to Mr. Babbitt.

"YOU haven't heard any yarns about money bein' stolen at the bank, have you?" he demanded.

Before Phineas could answer Grover's hand again fell lightly on his shoulder.

"I'm sure he hasn't," observed the Major. The captain paid no attention to him.

"Have you?" he repeated, addressing Babbitt.

The little man shook from head to foot. The glare with which he regarded his hated rival might have frightened a timid person. But Captain Sam Hunniwell was distinctly not timid.

"Have you?" he asked, for the third time.

Phineas' mouth opened, but Grover's fingers tightened on his shoulder and what came out of that mouth was merely a savage repetition of his favorite retort, "None of your darned business."

"Yes, 'tis my business," began Captain Sam, but Jed interrupted.

"I don't see as it makes any difference whether he's heard anything or not, Sam," he suggested eagerly. "No matter what he's heard, it ain't so, because there couldn't have been anything stolen. There was only four hundred missin'. I've found that and you've got it back; so that settles it, don't it?"

"It certainly would seem as if it did," observed Grover. "Congratulations, Captain Hunniwell. You're fortunate that so honest a man found the money, I should say."

The captain merely grunted. The odd expression was still on his face. Jed turned to the other two.

"Er--er--Major Grover," he said, "if--if you hear any yarns now about money bein' missin'--or--or stolen you can contradict 'em now, can't you?"

"I certainly can--and will."

"And you'll contradict 'em, too, eh, Phin?"

Babbitt jerked his shoulder from Grover's grasp and strode to the door.

"Let me out of here," he snarled. "I'm goin' home."

No one offered to detain him, but as he threw open the door to the outer shop Leonard Grover followed him.

"Just a moment, Babbitt," he said. "I'll go as far as the gate with you, if you don't mind. Good afternoon, Jed. Good afternoon, Captain, and once more--congratulations. . . . Here, Babbitt, wait a moment."

Phineas did not wait, but even so his pursuer caught him before he reached the gate. Jed, who had run to the window, saw the Major and the hardware dealer in earnest conversation. The former seemed to be doing most of the talking. Then they separated, Grover remaining by the gate and Phineas striding off in the direction of his shop. He was muttering to himself and his face was working with emotion. Between baffled malice and suppressed hatred he looked almost as if he were going to cry. Even amid his own feelings of thankfulness and relief Jed felt a pang of pity for Phineas Babbitt. The little man was the incarnation of spite and envy and vindictive bitterness, but Jed was sorry for him, just as he would have been sorry for a mosquito which had bitten him. He might be obliged to crush the creature, but he would feel that it was not much to blame for the bite; both it and Phineas could not help being as they were--they were made that way.

He heard an exclamation at his shoulder and turned to find that Captain Sam had also been regarding the parting at the gate.

"Humph!" grunted the captain. "Phin looks as if he'd been eatin' somethin' that didn't set any too good. What's started him to obeyin' orders from that Grover man all to once? I always thought he hated soldierin' worse than a hen hates a swim. . . . Humph! . . . Well, that's the second queerest thing I've run across to-day."

Jed changed the subject, or tried to change it.

"What's the first one, Sam?" he hastened to ask. His friend looked at him for an instant before he answered.

"The first one?" he repeated, slowly. "Well, I'll tell you, Jed. The first one--and the queerest of all--is your findin' that four hundred dollars."

Jed was a good deal taken aback. He had not expected an answer of that kind. His embarrassment and confusion returned.

"Why--why," he stammered, "is--is that funny, Sam? I don't--I don't know's I get what you mean. What's--what is there funny about my findin' that money?"

The captain stepped across the shop, pulled forward a chair and seated himself. Jed watched him anxiously.

"I--I don't see anything very funny about my findin' that money, Sam," he said, again. Captain Sam grunted.

"Don't you?" he asked. "Well, maybe my sense of humor's gettin' cross-eyed or--or somethin'. I did think I could see somethin' funny in it, but most likely I was mistaken. Sit down, Jed, and tell me all about how you found it."

Jed hesitated. His hand moved slowly across his chin.

"Well, now, Sam," he faltered, "there ain't nothin' to tell. I just--er--found it, that's all. . . . Say, you ain't seen that new gull vane of mine lately, have you? I got her so she can flop her wings pretty good now."

"Hang the gull vane! I want to hear how you found that money. Gracious king, man, you don't expect I'm goin' to take the gettin' back of four hundred dollars as cool as if 'twas ten cents, do you? Sit down and tell me about it."

So Jed sat, not with eagerness, but more as if he could think of no excuse for refusing. His companion tilted back in his chair, lit a cigar, and bade him heave ahead.

"Well," began Jed, "I--I--you see, Sam, I happened to look behind that heap of boards there and--"

"What made you think of lookin' behind those boards?"

"Eh? Why, nothin' 'special. I just happened to look. That's where your coat was, you know. So I looked and--and there 'twas."

"I see. There 'twas, eh? Where?"

"Why--why, behind the boards. I told you that, you know."

"Gracious king, course I know! You've told me that no less than ten times. But WHERE was it? On the boards? On the floor?"

"Eh? . . . Oh, . . . oh, seems to me 'twas on the floor."

"Don't you KNOW 'twas on the floor?"

"Why . . . why, yes, sartin."

"Then what made you say 'seems as if' it was there?"

"Oh, . . . oh, I don't know. Land sakes, Sam, what are you askin' me all these questions for?"

"Just for fun, I guess. I'm interested, naturally. Tell me some more. How was the money--all together, or kind of scattered 'round?"

"Eh? . . . Oh, all together."

"Sure of that?"

"Course I'm sure of it. I can see it just as plain as day, now I come to think of it. 'Twas all together, in a heap like."

"Um-hm. The band that was round it had come off, then?"

"Band? What band?"

"Why, the paper band with '$400' on it. That had come off when it fell out of my pocket, I presume likely."

"Yes. . . . Yes, I guess likely it did. Must have. . . . Er-- Sam, let me show you that gull vane. I got it so now that--"

"Hold on a minute. I'm mighty interested about your findin' this money. It's so--so sort of unexpected, as you might say. If that band came off it must have broke when the money tumbled down behind the boards. Let's see if it did."

He rose and moved toward the pile of boards. Jed also rose.

"What are you goin' to look for?" he asked, anxiously.

"Why, the paper band with the '$400' on it. I'd like to see if it broke. . . . Humph!" he added, peering down into the dark crevice between the boards and the wall of the shop. "Can't see anything of it, can you?"

Jed, peering solemnly down, shook his head. "No," he said. "I can't see anything of it."

"But it may be there, for all that." He reached down. "Humph!" he exclaimed. "I can't touch bottom. Jed, you've got a longer arm than I have; let's see if you can."

Jed, sprawled upon the heap of lumber, stretched his arm as far as it would go. "Hum," he drawled, "I can't quite make it, Sam. . . . There's a place where she narrows way down here and I can't get my fingers through it."

"Is that so? Then we'd better give up lookin' for the band, I cal'late. Didn't amount to anything, anyhow. Tell me more about what you did when you found the money. You must have been surprised."

"Eh? . . . Land sakes, I was. I don't know's I ever was so surprised in my life. Thinks I, 'Here's Sam's money that's missin' from the bank.' Yes, sir, and 'twas, too."

"Well, I'm much obliged to you, Jed, I surely am. And when you found it-- Let's see, you found it this mornin', of course?"

"Eh? Why--why, how--what makes you think I found it this mornin'?"

"Oh, because you must have. 'Cause if you'd found it yesterday or the day before you'd have told me right off."

"Yes--oh, yes, that's so. Yes, I found it this mornin'."

"Hadn't you thought to hunt for it afore?"

"Eh? . . . Land sakes, yes . . . yes, I'd hunted lots of times, but I hadn't found it."

"Hadn't thought to look in that place, eh?"

"That's it. . . . Say, Sam, what--"

"It's lucky you hadn't moved those boards. If you'd shifted them any since I threw my coat on 'em you might not have found it for a month, not till you used up the whole pile. Lucky you looked afore you shifted the lumber."

"Yes . . . yes, that's so. That's a fact. But, Sam, hadn't you better take that money back to the bank? The folks up there don't know it's been found yet. They'll be some surprised, too."

"So they will. All hands'll be surprised. And when I tell 'em how you happened to see that money lyin' in a pile on the floor behind those boards and couldn't scarcely believe your eyes, and couldn't believe 'em until you'd reached down and picked up the money, and counted it-- That's about what you did, I presume likely, eh?"

"Yes. . . . Yes, that's just it."

"They'll be surprised then, and no wonder. But they'd be more surprised if I should bring 'em here and show 'em the place where you found it. 'Twould surprise 'most anybody to know that there was a man livin' who could see down a black crack four foot deep and two inches wide and around a corner in that crack and see money lyin' on the floor, and know 'twas money, and then stretch his arm out a couple of foot more and thin his wrist down until it was less than an inch through and pick up that money. That WOULD surprise em. Don't you think 'twould, Jed?"

The color left Jed's face. His mouth fell open and he stared blankly at his friend. The latter chuckled.

"Don't you think 'twould surprise 'em, Jed?" he repeated. "Seems likely as if 'twould. It surprised me all right enough."

The color came surging back. Jed's cheeks flamed. He tried to speak, but what he said was not coherent nor particularly intelligible.

"Now--now--now, Sam," he stammered. "I--I-- You don't understand. You ain't got it right. I--I--"

The captain interrupted. "Don't try so hard, Jed," he continued. "Take time to get your steam up. You'll bust a b'iler if you puff that way. Let's see what it is I don't understand. You found this money behind those boards?"

"Eh? Yes . . . yes . . . but--"

"Wait. And you found it this mornin'?"

"Yes . . . yes . . . but, Sam--"

"Hold on. You saw it layin' on the floor at the bottom of that crack?"

"Well--well, I don't know as I saw it exactly, but--but-- No, I didn't see it. I--I felt it."

"Oh, you felt it! Thought you said you saw it. Well, you reached down and felt it, then. How did you get your arm stretched out five foot long and three-quarters of an inch thick? Put it under the steam roller, did you?"

Jed swallowed twice before replying. "I--I--" he began. "Well-- well, come to think of it, Sam, I--I guess I didn't feel it with my fingers. I--I took a stick. Yes, that was it. I poked in behind there with a stick."

"Oh, you felt it with a stick. And knew 'twas money? Tut, tut! You must have a good sense of touch, Jed, to know bills when you scratch across 'em with the far end of a five foot stick. Pick 'em up with a stick, too, did you?"

Mr. Winslow was speechless. Captain Sam shook his head.

"And that ain't the most astonishin' part either," he observed. "While those bills were in the dark at the bottom of that crack they must have sprouted. They went in there nothin' but tens and twenties. These you just gave me are fives and twos and all sorts. You'd better poke astern of those boards again, Jed. The roots must be down there yet; all you've scratched up are the sprouts."

His only answer was a hopeless groan. Captain Sam rose and, walking over to where his friend sat with his face buried between his hands, laid his own hand on the latter's shoulder.

"There, there, Jed," he said, gently. "I beg your pardon. I'm sorry I stirred you up this way. 'Twas mean of me, I know, but when you commenced givin' me all this rigmarole I couldn't help it. You never was meant for a liar, old man; you make a mighty poor fist at it. What is it all about? What was you tryin' to do it for?"

Another groan. The captain tried again.

"What's the real yarn?" he asked. "What are you actin' this way for? Course I know you never found the money. Is there somebody--"

"No! No, no!" Jed's voice rose almost to a shout. He sprang to his feet and clutched at Captain Sam's coat-sleeve. "No," he shouted. "Course there ain't anybody. Wh-what makes you say such a thing as that? I--I tell you I did find the money. I did--I did."

"Jed! Of course you didn't. I know you didn't. I KNOW. Gracious king, man, be sensible."

"I did! I did! I found it and now I give it back to you. What more do you want, Sam Hunniwell? Ain't that enough?"

"Enough! It's a darned sight too much. I tell you I know you didn't find it."

"But I did."

"Rubbish! In the first place, you and I hunted every inch behind those boards the very day the money was missin', and 'twa'n't there then. And, besides, this isn't the money I lost."

"Well--well, what if 'tain't? I don't care. I--I know 'tain't. I--I spent your money."

"You SPENT it? When? You told me you only found it this mornin'."

"I--I know I did, but 'twan't so. I--I--" Jed was in an agony of alarm and frantic haste. "I found your money two or three days ago. Yes, sir, that's when I found it. . . . Er. . . er . . ."

"Humph! Why didn't you tell me you found it then? If you'd found it what made you keep runnin' into the bank to ask me if I'D found it? Why didn't you give it back to me right off? Oh, don't be so ridiculous, Jed."

"I--I ain't. It's true. I--I didn't give it back to you because-- because I--I thought first I'd keep it."

"Keep it? KEEP it? Steal it, do you mean?"

"Yes--yes, that's what I mean. I--I thought first I'd do that and then I got--got kind of sorry and--and scared and I got some more money--and now I'm givin' it back to you. See, don't you, Sam? That's the reason."

Captain Sam shook his head. "So you decided to be a thief, did you, Jed?" he said, slowly. "Well, the average person never'd have guessed you was such a desperate character. . . . Humph! . . . Well, well! . . . What was you goin' to do with the four hundred, provided you had kept it? You spent the money I lost anyway; you said you did. What did you spend it for?"

"Oh--oh, some things I needed."

"Sho! Is that so? What things?"

Jed's shaking hand moved across his chin.

"Oh--I--I forget," he faltered. Then, after a desperate struggle, "I--I--I bought a suit of clothes."

The effort of this confession was a peculiar one. Captain Sam Hunniwell put back his head and roared with laughter. He was still laughing when he picked up his hat and turned to the door. Jed sprang from his seat.

"Eh? . . . You're not GOIN', are you, Sam?" he cried. The captain, wiping his eyes, turned momentarily.

"Yes, Jed," he said, chokingly, "I'm goin'. Say, if--if you get time some of these days dress up in that four hundred dollar suit you bought and then send me word. I'd like to see it."

He went out. The door of the outer shop slammed. Jed wiped the perspiration from his forehead and groaned helplessly and hopelessly.

The captain had reached the gate when he saw Phillips coming along the road toward him. He waited until the young man arrived.

"Hello, Captain," hailed Charles. "So you decided not to come back to the bank this afternoon, after all?"

His employer nodded. "Yes," he said. "I've been kept away on business. Funny kind of business, too. Say, Charlie," he added, "suppose likely your sister and you would be too busy to see me for a few minutes now? I'd like to see if you've got an answer to a riddle."

"A riddle?"

"Um-hm. I've just had the riddle sprung on me and it's got MY head whirlin' like a bottle in a tide rip. Can I come into your house for a minute and spring it on you?"

The young man looked puzzled, which was not surprising, but his invitation to come into the house was most cordial. They entered by the front door. As they came into the little hall they heard a man's voice in the living-room beyond. It was Major Grover's voice and they heard the major say:

"It doesn't matter at all. Please understand I had no thought of asking. I merely wanted you to feel that what that fellow said had no weight with me whatever, and to assure you that I will make it my business to see that he keeps his mouth shut. As for the other question, Ruth--"

Ruth Armstrong's voice broke in here.

"Oh, please," she begged, "not now. I--I am so sorry I can't tell you everything, but--but it isn't my secret and--and I can't. Perhaps some day-- But please believe that I am grateful, very, very grateful. I shall never forget it."

Charlie, with an anxious glance at Captain Hunniwell, cleared his throat loudly. The captain's thoughts, however, were too busy with his "riddle" to pay attention to the voices in the living-room. As he and Phillips entered that apartment Major Grover came into the hall. He seemed a trifle embarrassed, but he nodded to Captain Sam, exchanged greetings with Phillips, and hurried out of the house. They found Ruth standing by the rear window and looking out toward the sea.

The captain plunged at once into his story. He began by asking Mrs. Armstrong if her brother had told her of the missing four hundred dollars. Charles was inclined to be indignant.

"Of course I haven't," he declared. "You asked us all to keep quiet about it and not to tell a soul, and I supposed you meant just that."

"Eh? So I did, Charlie, so I did. Beg your pardon, boy. I might have known you'd keep your hatches closed. Well, here's the yarn, Mrs. Armstrong. It don't make me out any too everlastin' brilliant. A grown man that would shove that amount of money into his overcoat pocket and then go sasshayin' from Wapatomac to Orham ain't the kind I'd recommend to ship as cow steward on a cattle boat, to say nothin' of president of a bank. But confessin's good for the soul, they say, even if it does make a feller feel like a fool, so here goes. I did just that thing."

He went on to tell of his trip to Wapatomac, his interview with Sage, his visit to the windmill shop, his discovery that four hundred of the fourteen hundred had disappeared. Then he told of his attempts to trace it, of Jed's anxious inquiries from day to day, and, finally, of the scene he had just passed through.

"So there you are," he concluded. "I wish to mercy you'd tell me what it all means, for I can't tell myself. If it hadn't been so-- so sort of pitiful, and if I hadn't been so puzzled to know what made him do it, I cal'late I'd have laughed myself sick to see poor old Jed tryin' to lie. Why, he ain't got the first notion of how to begin; I don't cal'late he ever told a real, up-and-down lie afore in his life. That was funny enough--but when he began to tell me he was a thief! Gracious king! And all he could think of in the way of an excuse was that he stole the four hundred to buy a suit of clothes with. Ho, ho, ho!"

He roared again. Charlie Phillips laughed also. But his sister did not laugh. She had seated herself in the rocker by the window when the captain began his tale and now she had drawn back into the corner where the shadows were deepest.

"So there you are," said Captain Sam, again. "There's the riddle. Now what's the answer? Why did he do it? Can either of you guess?"

Phillips shook his head. "You have got me," he declared. "And the money he gave you was not the money you lost? You're sure of that?"

"Course I'm sure of it. In the first place I lost a packet of clean tens and twenties; this stuff I've got in my pocket now is all sorts, ones and twos and fives and everything. And in the second place--"

"Pardon me, just a minute, Captain Hunniwell. Where did he get the four hundred to give you, do you think? He hasn't cashed any large checks at the bank within the last day or two, and he would scarcely have so much on hand in his shop."

"Not as much as that--no. Although I've known the absent-minded, careless critter to have over two hundred knockin' around among his tools and chips and glue pots. Probably he had some to start with, and he got the rest by gettin' folks around town and over to Harniss to cash his checks. Anthony Hammond over there asked me a little while ago, when I met him down to the wharf, if I thought Shavin's Winslow was good for a hundred and twenty-five. Said Jed had sent over by the telephone man's auto and asked him to cash a check for that much. Hammond said he thought 'twas queer he hadn't cashed it at our bank; that's why he asked me about it."

"Humph! But why should he give his own money away in that fashion? And confess to stealing and all that stuff? I never heard of such a thing."

"Neither did anybody else. I've known Jed all my life and I never can tell what loony thing he's liable to do next. But this beats all of 'em, I will give in."

"You don't suppose--you don't suppose he is doing it to help you, because you are his friend? Because he is afraid the bank--or you-- may get into trouble because of--well, because of having been so careless?"

Captain Sam laughed once more. "No, no," he said. "Gracious king, I hope my reputation's good enough to stand the losin' of four hundred dollars. And Jed knows perfectly well I could put it back myself, if 'twas necessary, without runnin' me into the poorhouse. No, 'tain't for me he's doin' it. I ain't the reason."

"And you're quite sure his story is ALL untrue. You don't imagine that he did find the money, your money, and then, for some reason or other, change it with smaller bills, and--"

"Sshh, sshh, Charlie, don't waste your breath. I told you I KNEW he hadn't found the four hundred dollars I lost, didn't I? Well, I do know it and for the very best of reasons; in fact, my stoppin' into his shop just now was to tell him what I'd heard. You see, Charlie, old Sylvester Sage has got back from Boston and opened up his house again. And he telephoned me at two o'clock to say that the four hundred dollar packet was layin' on his sittin'-room table just where I left it when he and I parted company four days or so ago. That's how I KNOW Jed didn't find it."

From the shadowy corner where Ruth Armstrong sat came a little gasp and an exclamation. Charles whistled.

"Well, by George!" he exclaimed. "That certainly puts a crimp in Jed's confession."

"Sartin sure it does. When Sylvester and I parted we was both pretty hot under the collar, havin' called each other's politics about every mean name we could think of. I grabbed up my gloves, and what I thought was my money from the table and slammed out of the house. Seems all I grabbed was the two five hundred packages; the four hundred one was shoved under some papers and magazines and there it stayed till Sylvester got back from his Boston cruise.

"But that don't answer my riddle," he added, impatiently. "What made Jed act the way he did? Got the answer, Charlie?"

The young man shook his head. "No, by George, I haven't!" he replied.

"How about you, Mrs. Armstrong? Can you help us out?"

Ruth's answer was brief. "No, I'm afraid not," she said. There was a queer note in her voice which caused her brother to glance at her, but Captain Hunniwell did not notice. He turned to go.

"Well," he said, "I wish you'd think it over and see if you can spy land anywheres ahead. I need a pilot. This course is too crooked for me. I'm goin' home to ask Maud; maybe she can see a light. So long."

He went out. When Charles returned, having accompanied his employer as far as the door, he found Ruth standing by her chair and looking at him. A glance at her face caused him to stop short and look at her.

"Why, Ruth," he asked, "what is it?"

She was pale and trembling. There were tears in her eyes.

"Oh, Charlie," she cried, "can't you see? He--he did it for you."

"Did it for me? Did what? Who? What are you talking about, Sis?"

"Jed. Jed Winslow. Don't you see, Charlie? He pretended to have found the money and to have stolen it just to save you. He thought you--he thought you had taken it."

"WHAT? Thought I had taken it? I had? Why in the devil should he think--"

He stopped. When he next spoke it was in a different tone.

"Sis," he asked, slowly, "do you mean that he thought I took this money because he knew I had--had done that thing at Middleford? Does he know--about that?"

The tears were streaming down her cheeks. "Yes, Charlie," she said, "he knows. He found it out, partly by accident, before you came here. And--and think how loyal, how wonderful he has been! It was through him that you got your opportunity there at the bank. And now--now he has done this to save you. Oh, Charlie!"

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Shavings - Chapter 19 Shavings - Chapter 19

Shavings - Chapter 19
CHAPTER XIXThe clock in the steeple of the Methodist church boomed eleven times and still the lights shone from the sitting-room windows of the little Winslow house and from those of Jed's living quarters behind his windmill shop. At that time of year and at that time of night there were few windows alight in Orham, and Mr. Gabe Bearse, had he been astir at such an hour, might have wondered why the Armstrongs and "Shavings" were "settin' up." Fortunately for every one except him, Gabe was in bed and asleep, otherwise he might have peeped under Jed's kitchen

Shavings - Chapter 17 Shavings - Chapter 17

Shavings - Chapter 17
CHAPTER XVIIThe next morning found Jed heavy-eyed and without appetite, going through the form of preparing breakfast. All night, with the exception of an hour or two, he had tossed on his bed alternately fearing the worst and telling himself that his fears were groundless. Of course Charlie Phillips had not stolen the four hundred dollars. Had not he, Jed Winslow, loudly proclaimed to Ruth Armstrong that he knew her brother to be a fine young man, one who had been imprudent, it is true, but much more sinned against than sinning and who would henceforth, so he