"It beats me," Andy Forbes remarked to a number of men gathered before the store. "I'm mighty glad to have the lights there for they make things around here as bright as day. But why is it done? What has Crazy David got to do with it? You would think he was a king coming home instead of a half-cracked old man."
"But he supplied the plans, didn't he?" one of the men asked in reply.
"The plans be jiggered!" and Andy gave a contemptuous toss of his head. "What value do you suppose were his plans? I don't believe the company ever looked at them."
"There must be something, though," Ned Travis replied. "David's living in luxury now, and if the plans were not back of it, I'd like to know what is. It isn't natural for a big company with unlimited means to throw away money on an old man like that just for charity."
"How's Jim Goban feeling these days?" Andy asked. "I haven't seen him of late."
"He's a very sick man," Billy Goban answered, at which they all laughed. "He curses himself every minute day and night for letting Crazy David out of his clutches. He believes that if he had kept him he would have come in for a big share of David's good luck."
"Serves him right," Andy mused as he gazed thoughtfully at the array of lights before him. "He should be ashamed of himself, and so should we for that matter for selling that old man to the lowest bidder. It'll be the last time such a thing takes place in this parish if I can help it, and I guess I can. It's most degrading, and should be stopped."
While the people of Creekdale were intensely aroused over the marvellous progress of the Light and Power Company, the world beyond was becoming much interested in what was taking place. The day after David's arrival home the city papers devoted considerable space to the developments at the falls. They told about the mysterious company and the old man who had supplied the plans. They gave a most vivid account of the lighted way and the examples of the harnessed power at the Haven. They, like the people of Creekdale, could not understand why such a fuss should be made over David. They hinted that there was some mystery back of it all, the solving of which would be watched with considerable interest.
But the papers had much more to say. They spoke of the great benefit the city would receive from cheaper light and power, and how the new company would lower the rates, and perhaps force the city company out of business altogether. They deemed it a day of great things when people would not be compelled to pay such prices as hitherto, and how industries of all kinds would increase and flourish. A table of rates was appended showing the difference between the rates of the old company and the new.
It was with much satisfaction that David read these accounts to the captain as they sat out upon the verandah. He was a happy man that day, and when he was through with his reading he leaned back in his chair and remained silent for a long time. The captain watched him somewhat curiously as he puffed away at his pipe. Presently he took the pipe from his mouth and allowed it to go out, which was a most unusual thing for him. He even stared at David as if he had never seen him before. What his thoughts were he kept to himself, but he observed the old man now more closely than ever and studied his face most carefully.
They had been sitting on the verandah for about half an hour, when Sydney Bramshaw strolled up to the house, with his easel under his arm. He looked none the worse for his experience with Jasper and was most affable as he accosted David, who at once introduced him to the captain.
"You have a beautiful place here, sir," he remarked to the invalid. "I have been fascinated with the scenery and have done considerable work since my arrival. May I have the privilege of sketching this delightful cottage? It will make a fine picture, I am sure."
"Sketch away all you like," the captain replied. "It is a beautiful spot, if I do say it, and it can't be beat anywhere."
From the moment the captain had set eyes upon the artist he was sure that he had seen him before. Just where it was he could not at first recall, but suddenly it flashed into his mind, and with it a train of thoughts which excited him more than was his wont. He looked at David and then at the artist, and for a moment he closed his eyes as memories drifted upon him. What was this man doing here? he asked himself. He longed to question Bramshaw, but desisted, determined to await future developments. Nevertheless, he was very quiet during the rest of the day, which made his wife and Betty think that he was not well.
"You are not sick, are you?" Mrs. Peterson asked.
"Not at all," was the reply. "I am only thinking."
"Maybe he's got something in his head just like Mr. David," Betty suggested.
"Maybe I have, girl," the captain laughed. "But I'm afraid the thing that I've got won't make as much money as his. Where is Mr. David now?"
"He's with that artist over there, watching him sketch this house. He likes the man, for he talks to him so much about the falls. I don't like him; his face frightens me."
The captain made no reply to these words but gazed meditatively out over the fields long after Mrs. Peterson and Betty had left him. He was trying to piece together a number of fragmentary incidents which were revolving in his mind, and to ascertain how they were related.
"I'm sure 'twas on that trip," he muttered, "But darn it all, why can't I remember what he said. He was always talking and boasting about one thing and another. Hello, by jingo, I've got it!" and the captain gave such a whoop that both Mrs. Peterson and Betty came running from the kitchen to see what was the matter.
"It's nothing," the captain growled, disgusted with himself for attracting attention when he wanted to be alone, "I was just thinking, that's all. Can't a man whoop when he wants to without everybody rushing around him like mad?"
"It all depends on what kind of a whoop it is, Robert," his wife replied. "We couldn't tell whether you had gone out of your mind or had fallen off the verandah."
"It's that thing in his brain which did it, Mrs. Peterson," Betty explained. "Mr. David acted queer sometimes, though he never hollered out. It must be something great, Captain," she added, "which made you yelp like that."
"It certainly was, girl," and the captain smiled. "I feel better now, though, so you women needn't worry about me."
The next morning David told Betty that he had made up his mind to visit the falls. He said that he wished to see for himself the wonderful changes which had been made there. Betty was delighted and at once set to work to prepare the luncheon they were to take with them.
"We'll find a nice cosy place along the brook and have a picnic there," she told Mrs. Peterson.
"I'm afraid there will not be many cosy places," was the reply. "You must be prepared for great changes up the brook."
David and Betty were like two children off for a holiday as they left the Haven and walked gaily down the lane toward the main highway. It was a perfect morning, and the perfume of clover from the expansive meadows scented the air. Birds were darting here and there or twittering from the branches of the trees. A short distance from the road, and partly concealed, a white tent nestled among the trees, though no sign of the artist was to be seen. Betty breathed a sigh of relief when they were past. She did not wish to see Bramshaw, to whom she had taken such a violent dislike. She wondered where he was at that time of the morning. Perhaps he was still asleep, she thought, for she knew that he prowled about late at night.
The tent was a small one, such as is generally used by campers. It was in a beautiful situation, and it was so placed that it commanded an excellent view of the Haven and the lane leading to it. It was a common occurrence for people from the city to camp along the river during the summer months, and people did not wonder about this one among the trees. They all knew that Bramshaw was an artist of some note, and they felt rather pleased that he had come to Creekdale to obtain some pictures.
"I am glad we didn't meet that artist this morning," Petty remarked after they had left the tent out of sight.
"I cannot understand your dislike to the man," David replied. "He has been so civil to us both, and he is very fond of hearing about the work at the falls, and how the whole community will be benefited."
"I can't help it, Mr. David," and Betty twirled the sunbonnet she was carrying in her hand, as was often her custom. "He may be all right, but I don't like him. I wish he would go away and never come back. Isn't it strange how some people spoil everything? We are so happy this morning because we are going to the falls together, and yet as soon as I think of that man I shiver. I don't understand it at all."
"You'll get over it in time, Betty," David replied. "But, see, what a change they have made in our path. Why, it's a regular road now."
"I don't like it one bit," Betty protested. "It isn't half as nice as it was before. I hope they haven't touched my rock. If they have, somebody's going to get a big scolding."
Talking thus and passing remarks upon everything they saw, the two moved slowly along the newly-made road. Several freighting teams passed them and the drivers looked with interest upon the old man and the bright-faced girl.
"They all know you, Mr. David," Betty remarked. "Did you notice how the men lifted their hats!"
"They did it to you, girl," was the reply. "Why should they do such a thing to me?"
"Because you are great, that is why. They all know of the wonderful thing you had in your head. Oh!" she suddenly exclaimed, stopping short in her tracks.
"What is the matter?" David asked.
"They have taken away my rock! Look, there are only little pieces of it left."
"They needed it, no doubt, for the works up there, Betty. You must not mind when it has been put to such good use."
Betty, nevertheless, felt badly, and for a while she ceased her chattering and walked along quietly by her companion's side. At length they came to a place where the road left the path and swung to the right.
"Isn't this nice!" Betty exclaimed. "Some of our dear old path is left, anyway, and we can follow it and forget that any changes have been made."
The path ran close to the brook and after they had followed this for several hundred yards through a growth of young birches and maples, they came to a clearing which had been made since they were last there. Above them was the road, and on its lower side was a large pile of big poles ready to be rolled into the brook.
"I wonder what they left them there for?" David enquired.
"Oh, I know," Betty replied. "Mr. Jasper told us, don't you remember, that they left a lot of poles to be used along the brook. They must be the ones."
"So he did tell us that," the old man mused. "Your memory is better than mine. Suppose we sit down here and rest a while. That walk has tired me."
"There's a nice place right in front of that big stump close to the brook," and Betty pointed with her finger. "We can rest there and eat a part of our lunch."
When they had reached the place Betty began to unpack the basket. First of all she spread down a white cloth, and then laid out the sandwiches and cake. Then she paused, and a look of dismay overspread her face.
"We forgot to bring anything to drink!" she exclaimed. "I had the milk all ready in the bottle and came away without it. What shall we do?"
"Oh, never mind," David replied. "We can drink some of this brook water, can we not?"
"No, it's nasty. It's too warm. I know," and she reached for two tin cups. "There's a nice cool spring just up the brook. I have often got water there. You keep off the flies from the food. I won't be a minute."
Leaving David, Betty hurried up along the edge of the brook until she reached the spring bubbling out of the bank. Filling the cups she made her way back as carefully as possible so as not to spill any of the water. She had just reached the edge of the clearing when a strange sound fell upon her ears. It startled her, and looking up, her face blanched with terror, for coming down the steep bank was one of the large poles which had been separated from its companions. It was only a few seconds in making the descent, but in that brief space of time a world of thought crowded into Betty's excited brain. She saw David sitting right in the track of death, unconscious of impending doom. Betty tried to shout, to rush forward to rescue him, but no words came from her lips, and her feet seemed glued to the ground. Rapidly the pole sped down the bank, and then just when but a score of feet from the helpless old man it struck the large stump in its onward sweep. With a wild bound it leaped high and like a mighty catapult hurled itself through the air over David's head and fell with a terrific crash into the brook below.
At first a wild scream of terror escaped Betty's lips, followed instantly by a cry of joy as she rushed forward, seized the hand of the bewildered old man and led him to a place of safety near the edge of the forest. Then her strength deserted her, and she sank down upon the ground and wept like a child.
"Oh, Mr. David, Mr. David," she sobbed, "you were nearly killed. Oh, oh, oh! Wasn't it awful!"
"There, there, Betty, don't feel so badly," and David stroked her hair in a gentle manner. "I'm all right now, so why should you cry?"
"But I can't help it," the girl moaned. "I was sure you would be killed, and I could do nothing to save you."
"Strange," her companion mused, "what started that log just as I was sitting there. It must have been loose and ready to start at the least motion."
"Let us go home," and Betty rose suddenly to her feet. "I don't want to stay here any longer. The place is not like it used to be. I do not feel safe. There seems to be danger everywhere."
Hurrying as fast as possible across the open space and casting apprehensive glances up the bank lest another pole should take a sudden notion to come down, they soon reached the woods beyond.
"There, I feel safer now," Betty panted. "Those poles can't touch us, anyway."
"I did want to see the falls," David replied, "and I am quite disappointed. But I do not feel able to try the trip again as it tires me too much."
"Suppose we ask Mr. Jasper to drive you there," Betty suggested. "I know he will be only too pleased to do it. Isn't it funny we didn't think of that before?"
"That is a good idea," David assented. "Maybe he will do it to-morrow. But what's the matter, girl?" he demanded, looking with surprise upon Betty, who had suddenly stopped and was staring down upon the brook through an opening among the trees.
"Look," she whispered, pointing with her finger, "there is that artist sketching down below. He doesn't know we are here, so let us be as quiet as possible."
"Well, why should he startle you?" David enquired. "He is not troubling us. I'm not afraid of him. In fact, I feel inclined to go and have a talk with him."
"Don't, please don't," and the girl laid her right hand imploringly on his arm. "Let us go home at once, for I feel shaky all over."
"Very well, then," David assented. "But I wish you would get over your foolish notion about that man. He is merely a harmless artist who has come to this place to get some good pictures. Why can't you be sensible?"
Jasper had charge of fixing the poles and stretching the wires for light and power between the city and the falls, as well as throughout the country wherever it was planned to extend them. Gangs of men were at work along the lines, and Jasper was kept busy moving from place to place giving instructions and supervising everything. The entire responsibility rested upon him, and he wished to prove worthy of the trust.
The afternoon when David and Betty were up the brook, Jasper remained closer than usual to Creekdale, where a number of men were working. Opposite them a small island nestled out in the river, called "Emerald" Island by reason of its rich covering of fir, pine and birch trees. As a rule, Jasper paid strict attention to his duties, but to-day his mind often wandered and he would stand gazing out over the water to the island beyond.
As the afternoon wore away he became quite restless and watched the river most anxiously. A wind had sprung up, which, gentle at first, increased steadily into a gale. The water soon became rough and great white-caps rolled up-stream, especially heavy where the tide was strongest.
At length, leaving his men he went to the shore and stood close to the watery edge. He looked more down the river than formerly, as if expecting some one from that direction. But occasionally he cast his eyes off toward the island and breathed more freely after each look. He often consulted his watch as he now paced up and down the beach.
"What can be keeping that fellow?" he muttered. "He should have been here an hour ago. Surely he's not tied up on account of the wind. I gave him strict instructions to come back as soon as possible. If he does not——Hello, there he is now," and his face brightened as he gave a sigh of relief.
Coming up the river was a big boat used for rafting purposes containing one man. Volumes of spray leaped high as she surged through the water driven by a seven horse-power engine. This craft was used for towing logs and poles, and for the carrying of supplies to the various camps.
"You're late, Tom," Jasper remarked as the boat's bow touched the shore where he was standing. "I expected you an hour ago."
"It was the wind, sir," was the reply. "A number of logs broke loose from the raft and I had a hard time to collect them. There's a heavy sea runnin' below the Bar."
"It's bad out there, too," and Jasper pointed off toward the island.
"Sure thing," the man replied, turning partly around. "There's a boat leavin' the island now. Surely it's not goin' to try to run over."
"Where is it?" Jasper demanded.
"Look," and Tom stretched out his long right arm, "ye kin just see it. There, it's plainer now."
The only answer Jasper made was to give the boat a vigorous push from the shore, leap aboard, seize the wheel and order Tom to start the engine. In a few seconds they were cutting their way rapidly through the water straight for the big white-caps beyond. Tom asked no questions, but attended to the engine. It was all in the day's work to him, and this was much easier than towing logs.
From the moment he had seized the wheel Jasper had not taken his eyes off of the little boat away in the distance. He could see that it was in the rough water and was pitching about in an alarming manner. It seemed to be beyond control and was drifting rapidly toward the rougher water of the main channel.
"We are going very slow, Tom," he remarked. "Can't we do any better?"
"She's runnin' full speed," was the reply. "I'd like to slow down a bit, for we're gettin' soaked."
"Never mind the water, Tom. I wish you could make her go as fast again. Oh! did you see that?"
"The way that little boat pitched. I thought she had swamped."
It did not really take them more than ten minutes to run across that stretch of water, but to Jasper it seemed much longer. The boat pounded and threshed her way forward, shipping water at every plunge, keeping Tom busy with the small suction pump. At last, however, it was easy for Jasper to see two women sitting in the drifting boat. That they were helpless and had given up all attempt to reach the shore was quite evident. One was seated astern, and the other was holding the oars in her hands, but making no use of them. Jasper's heart beat quicker as he watched her, for he well knew what a struggle she must have made before giving up in despair.
"They're women!" Tom exclaimed in astonishment. "What in the devil are they doin' out here!"
"Shut up, and attend to your engine," Jasper sternly ordered.
They were quite close now, and the women saw them. As they approached Jasper could see Lois' face turned toward him and it was very white.
"Sit still," he shouted, and then he motioned to Tom to slow down. "Stop her," he presently ordered, and soon they were drifting up close to the little boat.
It took Lois and Margaret but a few seconds to step on board of the rafting boat, and then their own craft was taken in tow. There was no time for words now, as Jasper had all he could do to handle his own boat, for she was rolling heavily as he swung her around and headed for the shore. Running almost broadside to the waves a great deal of water was shipped, which kept Tom busy at the pump.
Jasper had no time to pay any attention to the women, but he intuitively knew that Lois was watching him. He was really happier than he had been for days, and he was so pleased that he had been of some service to the woman he loved. This was the second time he had rescued her from the water, and his mind went back to the experience up the brook below the falls. There was no Sammie Dingle present now to mar his pleasure, for which he was most thankful.
It did not take the boat long to run to the Sinclair shore, and here in a snug place, safe from the wind, she was beached.
"We can never thank you for what you have done for us to-day," Lois remarked as she and Margaret walked with Jasper to the house. "You have saved our lives."
"Don't thank me," Jasper replied. "It was a pleasure for me to do what I did."
"But how did you know we were out there?" Margaret asked.
"It was Tom who saw you first and pointed your boat out to me. He is the one you should thank."
"But why was Tom looking toward the island?" Lois enquired. "Your explanation does not satisfy me."
"Do you imagine that I was spying upon your little outing?" Jasper questioned.
"Not exactly spying. I don't like that word. But you must have known that we were there."
"Yes, I did. I saw you go over this afternoon, and when the wind sprang up it was only natural to suppose you would have trouble in getting home. That is all there is about it."
"And so you kept watch, and then came to our assistance?"
Lois said no more just then, but walked quietly to the house. She was doing considerable thinking, however, and when she and Margaret went upstairs to change their wet clothes, she again referred to the matter.
"It is just like him," Margaret remarked. "He knew that we were over there and that our lives would be in danger on the water. Not many men would have thought of such a thing."
Lois made no reply, but there was a deep happiness in her heart. She believed that Jasper had been thinking of her throughout the day and that she was always much in his mind. Margaret somewhat divined her thoughts and twined her arms around her neck.
"I believe he thinks a great deal of you, dear," she said, "and I am so glad. It is only natural, for who could resist you? You are as sweet and loveable as can be. If I were a man I am sure I would fall in love with you the first time I met you."
"You did it, anyway, didn't you?" Lois asked, in order to hide her embarrassment. "But there is the car," she added. "I wonder what brings father home so early?"
Going downstairs, they found Mr. Sinclair and Jasper seated upon the verandah in a corner protected from the wind by heavy vines.
"You are early to-day, Father," Lois remarked as she gave him the customary kiss. "We generally have to wait dinner for you."
"It is quite necessary that I should get back early, from what I have heard about you young women," was the reply. "It is hardly safe to leave you alone."
"So you know all about our narrow escape, then," and Lois looked enquiringly into his face. She believed that Jasper must have been telling him, and it somehow disappointed her. She did not think that he would be the first one to talk about the rescue he had made.
"Oh, yes, I learned all about it before I got home," Mr. Sinclair explained. "The men down the road saw it all, and then when Tom took the boat back he gave them the full details. You must be very careful after this, Lois, about going over to the island. You might not always have a rescuer handy as you had to-day."
Lois did not reply. She was glad that Jasper had not told, and she was sorry that she had judged him wrongly. She might have known better, so she mused.
Mr. Sinclair was in excellent spirits. He had changed a great deal since his illness and had become more like a father to her than he had ever been before. He entered more into the life of his family, and his old sternness passed away. Lois wondered what brought him back so early from the city. She asked no questions, however, feeling sure that he would explain the reason in due time.
She did not in fact have long to wait, for after they were all seated at dinner Mr. Sinclair looked quizzically into his daughter's face.
"I know you are puzzling your brain why I came home so early," he began. "Now, are you not?"
"I certainly am," Lois laughingly replied. "Margaret and I have been having all kinds of surmises."
"I've done a great stroke of business to-day," Mr. Sinclair continued, "and it has lifted a heavy burden from my mind. Can any of you guess what it is?"
"Bought a new tract of timber, Dad," Dick replied. "I can't think of anything that would please you better than that."
"No, it's not that."
"Maybe you've found some work for Dick to do," Lois suggested. "That would certainly be a great stroke of business."
"Come, come, Lois," her brother remonstrated. "You seem to think that I have nothing to do."
"Haven't I good reason to think so?"
"No, it's not that," Mr. Sinclair intervened. "You're a long way off."
"Have you bought out the new Light and Power Company?" Jasper asked.
"No, no," and Mr. Sinclair chuckled as he went on with his dinner. He was enjoying immensely the little game.
"I think I know what it is," and Margaret looked intently into his face. "You have sold out to the Break Neck Light and Power Company."
"How in the world did you know that?" Mr. Sinclair asked in surprise. "Why, I thought it was a dead secret."
"So it was in a way," Margaret smilingly replied. "But, you see, I am supposed to know a little of what is going on."
"And your father told you about it, did he?"
"Yes. I have known for some time that he was hoping you would sell out, and thus avoid trouble."
"Is it possible, Father," Lois asked, "that you have sold out all your interest in the City Light and Power Company?"
"We've all sold out, and at such a figure that we are much satisfied."
"Oh, I am so glad," and Margaret clasped her hands before her. "I was afraid that there might be trouble between you and father, and I did not want that."
"There is no danger of that now," Mr. Sinclair replied, "though there was at one time. I never believed that the matter could be so satisfactorily arranged, for I had no idea that the new company would be willing to come to our terms."
Margaret said nothing more, and while the others talked she took no part in the conversation. She very well knew why the matter had been so amicably settled, and she smiled to herself as she thought of the several long conversations she and her father had had together. But for her interference nothing would have been done, she was well aware of that. She remembered how stubborn her father had been when she first suggested the idea to him. But after he had considered it most carefully he realised what a good business proposition it would be.
"I believe Margaret is getting home-sick," Dick remarked.
"Why, what makes you think that?" she asked, somewhat startled by the question.
"Because you are so quiet. You haven't said a word for the last five minutes."
"She hasn't had much chance," Lois laughingly replied. "You have been doing most of the talking, Dick."
"Have I?" and the young man opened his eyes wide in apparent amazement. "But I am going to be silent now and let Margaret tell my fortune. She is a dandy at that," and he handed over his cup as he spoke.
"Oh, I have told your fortune so often," was the reply, "that it is getting to be an old story now."
"Won't you tell me mine?" Jasper asked, passing his cup. "I should like to know what's in store for me."
Margaret took the cup in her hand and gazed at it thoughtfully for a few seconds.
"Do you really wish to know?" she asked.
"Well, then, I see great trouble ahead of you."
"Whew!" Dick whistled. "This is getting serious. You'd better be careful, Spuds."
"Yes," Margaret continued, "I see a big black cloud, and it entirely surrounds you."
"Does it pass away?" Lois questioned, now much interested.
"I can not altogether tell."
"He's going to have a nightmare," Dick bantered, at which they all laughed.
"I hope there's nothing in your prophecy," Jasper remarked. "If I were at all superstitious I might worry a great deal over what you say."
"Look here, Lois," and Dick turned to his sister, "is there a hole in that tea-strainer? For pity sakes get a new one, and don't let so many grounds get through in the future. We don't want any more clouds."
When dinner was over they all went out on the verandah. It was a beautiful evening, for the wind had subsided, and the river stretched out before them like a huge mirror.
"How I should like to be out there now," Lois remarked, as she gazed pensively upon the water. "Suppose we go for a row?"
"I should think you'd be sick and tired of the river after your experience to-day," Dick replied. "I prefer the car to a boat any time."
"With all the enjoyment of dust, noise, and smell of gasoline thrown in," his sister sarcastically retorted.
"I guess you were most thankful to smell gasoline to-day, though, when Spuds picked you up in that old tub of his. Now, weren't you?"
Before Lois could reply Betty suddenly appeared before them. Her face was flushed, and she was panting as if she had been running fast.
"I have only a minute to spare," she explained, "for Mr. David doesn't know I have left him. He wants to see you, Mr. Jasper, and so I have come before it gets too late. I am afraid to come out after dark now."
Jasper did not like the idea of leaving such agreeable company and going with Betty. It was so pleasant to be near Lois, and he was hoping that they might have a quiet little conversation together. Why could not David wait? There was surely nothing of great importance that he wished to see him about. No doubt he wanted to ask him some questions concerning the progress of the work at the falls. He could call in on his way home and have a chat with him.
These thoughts ran quickly through his mind as he sat there watching Betty. But something in the girl's face told him that he had better go at once, and so he rose from his chair.
"Won't you come back again?" Lois asked. "It is go early that surely Mr. David will not keep you all the evening."
"I'm afraid not," was the reluctant reply. "I shall go over to my cabin and get a good sleep. I was up late last night looking after that raft of poles which we took down river to-day."
Lois had the feeling that something was wrong, and she longed to go to the Haven and find out what it was. She was almost tempted to leave the rest and accompany Jasper and Betty. She banished this idea, however, thinking that after all there was nothing over which she should worry. But in a twinkling there flashed into her mind the words Margaret had so lightly spoken over the tea-cup. "I see a big black cloud, and it entirely surrounds you." Why did those words come to her now? she asked herself, and why should she have that strange foreboding of impending trouble? So strong was this impression that she was inclined to hurry after Jasper and give him warning. She did nothing of the kind, however, but during the remainder of the evening she was quieter than usual and took little part in any conversation.
Jasper walked by Betty's side along the road leading to the main highway.
"How did you know where I was?" he presently asked her.
"We saw you this afternoon out on the river saving Miss Lois and Miss Margaret."
"Why, where were you?"
"Mr. David and I were up on the hill. We had just come back from a walk up the brook. Mr. David was tired after his excitement, and so we sat down to rest. It was then that we saw you."
"What made Mr. David excited?" Jasper enquired. "I suppose it was the great change he saw at the falls, was it?"
"Oh, no, not that. It was the rolling log which did it. You see, Mr. David was nearly killed this afternoon."
At these words Jasper stopped short and looked keenly into Betty's face.
"Nearly killed! What do you mean?" he demanded.
"Yes, that was it." Then in a few words the girl told him what had happened up the brook that afternoon, and of old David's narrow escape.
For a while Jasper walked slowly along the road after Betty had finished. He was greatly puzzled, for he could not believe that any log would become loosened at the exact moment when David was directly in front of it unless there was something to start it on its downward course.
"Did you see any men working near the logs when you were there?" he at length asked.
"I didn't see any," was the reply. "But we met several teams on our way up."
"And you saw no one near the place at all?"
"We didn't see any one near where we were going to have our lunch, but as we were coming home we saw the artist down by our brook."
"You did? And where was he?"
"Not far from Pyramid Rock. I don't think he saw us, for we hurried by as fast as we could."
"Why did you do that?"
"Because I'm afraid of him."
"What, did he ever do anything to frighten you?"
"No. But he makes me shiver all over. I can't understand why it is."
Jasper found David crouched in his big easy chair near the open window facing the falls. His eyes brightened as the young man entered and sat down by his side.
"It is good of you to come," David began, "for I have been anxious to speak to you ever since we came back from up the brook. You may go," and he motioned Betty to the door. "I wish to be alone for a while with Mr. Randall."
He waited until the door had closed behind the girl, and then turned his eyes upon his visitor's face. Jasper noted the worry there, and at once connected it with his experience up the brook that afternoon.
"Has Betty told you?" and David laid his right hand gently upon Jasper's arm.
"About the rolling log, and your narrow escape this afternoon?"
"Yes, she told me about it on our way here. I am so thankful that you were not hurt."
"I might have been killed! It was nothing less than a miracle that I escaped."
"It has shaken you up a great deal, so I see. But you will be all right after a good night's sleep. Your nerves are somewhat unstrung now."
"Perhaps so," the old man mused. "But I feel uneasy. It may be the shock, as you suggest. But there is something in my heart that I cannot explain. I never had such a feeling before, and I thought that perhaps you could help me."
"In what way?" Jasper asked, as David paused as if groping for the right words.
"It appears as if everything is about to slip away from me. I seem to-night as if about to start on a long mysterious journey, and that I shall never return. People call me crazy, and perhaps they have good reason for doing so. You may think the same, and especially so now as you listen to my words. But I cannot help this peculiar notion that possesses me and almost overwhelms me with strange forebodings. It may be the outcome of a mind diseased, who knows? My great concern, though, is in connection with the work at the falls. I have the feeling that in some way I am necessary to its welfare. I do not wish it to stop, and I want you to promise me to-night that if anything should happen to me that you will take my place, and be keenly interested in it."
"I do not see how I can take your place, for that is not in my power. But take a deep interest in all that goes on up there I certainly shall, and be as deeply interested in its progress as you have been."
"Ah, you can never be interested in it as I am," and David's eyes glowed with the intensity of his old-time devotion. "Can any one be as much interested in the growth and progress of a child as its parents? My child is up there," and he stretched out his arm toward the falls. "For it I have longed and suffered. It is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. My heart's blood is there."
Jasper now felt certain that the old man's mind was really unbalanced. He attributed it to the excitement of his narrow escape that afternoon. A good sleep would refresh him, and he would be all right in the morning. He rose to his feet and took David's hand in his.
"I must go now," he said. "We both need sleep. I was up late last night, and so must go home early to get a good rest. You had better do the same."
"I don't want to sleep," David emphatically replied. "My mind is too much upset to rest. But if you must go let me walk a short way with you. Perhaps the cool night air will refresh me. Wait a moment until I put on my coat and hat. Betty will be angry if I go without them."
Then he suddenly paused and caught Jasper fiercely by the arm.
"Do you hear them?" he asked. "Listen," and he held up his right hand.
In the old man's eyes had come a peculiar light, and his manner reminded Jasper of the first night he had met him on the road when he had rescued him from the speeding auto.
"Do you hear them?" David repeated. "My beautiful falls, my beautiful falls. What sweeter music than the sound of your rushing water. People have been deaf to your luring voice. I alone have listened and understood. They called me a fool and said I was crazy, ha, ha! But they know better now. They have seen what my beautiful falls can do. Light and power! Light and power! The world transformed. Burdens lifted from weary shoulders; homes transformed, and the hearts of all made glad."
He was standing in the middle of the room as he uttered these words, and Jasper noted how the fire of excitement was increasing in intensity.
"Come," and he laid his hand upon his companion's arm as he spoke, "let us go for a walk."
"Hush! Listen!" he cried, unheeding Jasper's words. "There it is again! Do you hear it? It's coming from the valley; it has winged its way across the sea. Ha, ha, he will hear it and tremble. But, wait, he is not there; he is in hell. Yes, that's where he is—in hell! Where else could he be?"
David's voice had risen to a shriek as he uttered the last words. Jasper stared at him in amazement. What did he mean by such strange utterances? Surely the man was out of his mind.
"Come," he again ordered, "let us leave the house and go for a walk. You will feel better out in the cool air."
Taking him by the arm Jasper led him out upon the verandah and down the steps. The twilight was deepening fast, and a quiet peace had settled over the land. Away to the right the trees on the high hills were clearly silhouetted against the evening sky. At any other time Jasper would have stood and revelled in the beauty of his surroundings. But now he was too much concerned about the man at his side to think about such things. From the time they left the house until they reached the main highway David talked incessantly. He was greatly excited, and gesticulated at almost every word.
At length he stopped, placed his right hand to his forehead, and looked around.
"What have I been saying?" he asked in a calmer voice. "It seems to me that I have been in a strange country seeing all kinds of things."
"You are all right now," Jasper replied. "You certainly have been raving at a great rate."
"Have I?" the old man queried, and he lapsed into a momentary silence. "Peculiar feelings come over me at times. The fresh air of night has done me much good. I shall walk a short way with you along the road."
David was now a pleasant companion, and Jasper enjoyed talking to him. He enquired about the progress of the work at the falls and asked numerous questions. Not once did he refer to the dark forebodings which had possessed him at the Haven, and Jasper believed that he had forgotten about them.
"I think I shall return now," he said after they had walked some distance.
"Shall I go back with you?" Jasper asked.
"Not at all. I shall enjoy the walk alone. You are tired and should get home at once. So, good night. I hope to see you again soon."
Jasper stood and watched him until the darkness swallowed him up. Then he made his way along the road to his own lonely house. He was very tired, but he found it difficult to get to sleep. The strange words which David had uttered kept running constantly through his mind. When he did at last fall into a fitful slumber, he was beset by a dreadful monster, which was slowly crushing him to pieces while he was unable to do anything to save himself.
He was aroused from this nightmare by a loud pounding upon the door. At first he imagined it was some one coming to his relief. Half dazed he groped his way across the room, threw open the door and peered out into the night.
"Who's there?" he demanded.
"It's only me," came a voice which he recognised at once as Betty's. "Oh, Mr. Jasper, have you seen Mr. David?" she asked.
"Seen Mr. David!" Jasper exclaimed in surprise. "I haven't seen him since I left him last night on the road near the Haven. Didn't he go home?"
"No, he didn't, and that's the reason I'm here. I waited up for him and when he didn't come back, I started out to find him."
"You stay there a minute," Jasper ordered, as he closed the door and turned back into the room. Lighting a lamp, he was astonished to find that it was near midnight. It took him but a few moments to dress, and then he again threw open the door and stepped out into the night.
By the light streaming through the doorway Jasper could see that Betty's face was very pale. She was greatly agitated as well, and her teeth chattered as she spoke.
"You have been running hard," Jasper remarked. "You had better come in and rest awhile."
"No, no," the girl protested. "Don't let us wait a minute. We must find Mr. David!"
"Are you sure he isn't home?" Jasper asked.
"Yes, I am sure he isn't there."
"But he may have slipped in and you didn't hear him."
"No, no, he couldn't have done it. I was listening and watching every minute for him to come back. I am certain I would have seen him."
"Does Mrs. Peterson know where you are?"
"No. She was asleep when I left. I only intended, to come a short distance for I was sure that I would meet Mr. David coming back. But when I didn't, I came all the way here. Oh, let us go at once."
Jasper stepped back into the room, and put out the light. He was about to close the door when he paused.
"Wait a minute," he said, "until I get my lantern. We can't do anything without a light. Mr. David may have fainted by the side of the road. He is an old man, you know."
It did not take Jasper long to get the lantern, and soon they were speeding across the field toward the main highway. He noticed that Betty kept very close to him, and as they drew near the Haven she seemed to be trembling violently. She started often, and Jasper wondered what was the matter with her.
"Were you not frightened to come all the way alone?" he asked.
"Not at first," was the reply. "But I was frightened after a while and I ran hard."
"What frightened you? Were you afraid of the dark?"
"No—yes," Betty faltered. Jasper wondered at her answer, but made no comment.
All along the road they watched most carefully, thinking they might find David. Especially careful was this search as they neared the Haven but not a trace of him could they find.
The Petersons were greatly concerned over the missing man. The captain suggested that the neighbours should be notified and a search-party should start out at once. As this seemed the only thing to do, Jasper hurried to the village and aroused Andy Forbes from his slumbers. It took the storekeeper several minutes to grasp the significance of the affair, and Jasper had to do considerable explaining.
"So you tell me that Crazy David is lost?" he at length queried.
"Certainly. Isn't that what I have been trying to tell you? We must get a search-party out after him at once. I fear that evil has befallen the old man. He may be wandering off in the woods somewhere, as his mind seems to be uncertain at times."
"I'm afraid we can't do much to-night," and Andy scratched his head in perplexity. "However, I'll see what I can do. Maybe I can get a bunch of men together before morning."
"That's good," Jasper encouraged. "You round up the men here, and I'll go to the camp down the road. There are several men there and I'll get one of them to hurry to the falls and bring in all the men. I feel responsible for the welfare of David as I had strict instructions to look after him. If anything has befallen him I shall never forgive myself."
It took Jasper over an hour to go to the camp and bring back a half dozen men. In the meantime a dozen or more had left the village with lanterns to begin the search. These he met up the road. They had searched every nook and corner, but had found no trace of the missing one.
"It's no use hunting when it is so dark," Andy informed him. "We might as well look for a needle in a hay-stack. I move that we wait until morning."
This suggestion was carried out, and while most of the men went back to their homes in order to get something to eat, Jasper made his way to the Haven. Mrs. Peterson met him at the door and her face bore a worried expression.
"Have you found him?" she enquired. "We have been so uneasy."
"No," was the reply. "We must wait until morning. It is no use groping about in the dark. Where is Betty?"
"She's in Mr. David's room. I am so anxious about her. She has been crying and wringing her hands ever since you left. I cannot tell what has come over the girl."
"She is fretting about David, no doubt."
"Yes, that may account for some of her grief," and Mrs. Peterson's eyes rested thoughtfully upon the floor. "But there's something else troubling her, mark my word. She's been nearly frightened to death over something, and the way she sits and shivers at times is hard for me to stand."
"But won't she tell you what's the matter?" Jasper asked.
"I have asked her over and over again, but she always shakes her head, and falls to sobbing and moaning worse than ever. Poor child, I feel so sorry for her."
"It is strange," Jasper mused. "May I see her? Perhaps it is only the excitement that is troubling her."
Betty's face brightened somewhat as Jasper entered the room. This was for only an instant, however, and then she buried her face in her hands and sobbed as if her heart would break.
"Betty, Betty, what is the matter?" Jasper asked. "Tell me what is worrying you?"
"It's about Mr. David!" she moaned. "He's lost and I'm sure he's dead!"
"But we hope to find him," Jasper soothed. "Just as soon as it is light enough we are going to continue our search for him. He must have wandered away into the woods, and no doubt we shall soon find him. There is something else troubling you, is there not? Won't you tell me what it is?"
But the girl shook her head, and try as he might Jasper could not induce her to talk. She was determined to remain obstinately silent.
There was but one person to whom Jasper felt he could turn for assistance, and that was Lois. He had thought of her before, and wondered if she had heard the news of David's disappearance. He felt that it was unlikely as no one would think of carrying the news there. As he stood for a few minutes looking upon Betty who was sitting before him the very embodiment of abject misery, he believed that Lois was the only one who could comfort her, and perhaps induce her to reveal the cause of her unusual state of agitation. Telling the girl to be brave, and to keep up hope for David's safe return, he left the Haven and hastened down the road toward the main highway, and then took a short cut across the field toward the Sinclair house. Far off in the east light was breaking above the horizon, and he knew that in a short time the search would again begin for the missing man, and he must be there.
Not a sign of life could he observe around the place, and he wondered how he could awaken Lois and not disturb the whole household. As he drew near the verandah he noticed that a light shone from one of the upstairs windows. Whether it was Lois' room or not he could not tell, but scarcely had he stepped upon the verandah and tapped gently upon the door, ere it was opened and Lois stood before him, dressed in her out-of-door clothes.
"What's the matter?" she asked before Jasper had time to say a word.
"Have you heard anything?" Jasper enquired,
"No, nothing," was the reply. "But I saw the lights near the Haven and along the road and felt sure that something was wrong."
Jasper noted that Lois' face was very pale, and that she was trembling as if cold. He did not know that she had been unable to sleep owing to the strange presentiment which had come to her the previous evening. So strong had this at last become that she had risen and looked out of the window facing the Haven. It was then that she saw the moving lights, and her worst tears were confirmed.
"David is missing," Jasper told her, "and we are waiting for daylight to have another search for him."
"David is missing!" Lois slowly repeated, as if she had not heard aright. "Have you any idea where he is?"
"No. I left him last night on the road near the Haven. He may have wandered off somewhere into the woods. But Betty is feeling very badly, and I have come thinking that perhaps you might be able to comfort her."
"I shall go at once," Lois replied. "I am so glad you have come for me, as I was almost frantic wondering what was going on."
As they made their way toward the Haven Jasper told Lois more about Betty and her state of agitation.
"What is the cause of it, do you suppose?" Lois asked. "Do you think it is in connection with Mr. David?"
"Not altogether, I am quite certain. There is something else on her mind. She might explain to you what it is when she would tell no one else."
They had just reached the gate leading to the Haven when Andy Forbes, accompanied by several men, swung up the road.
"I must leave you now," Jasper told Lois, "and assist in the search."
"Please let us know as soon as you find any trace of Mr. David," Lois replied. "I shall stay with Betty for a while."
It was quite light now, and as the men walked along the road they searched most carefully every nook and corner, but all in vain.
"He is not anywhere here," Andy remarked. "But he may have wandered into the woods along that old winter road. I suggest that we follow it for a while. He may be wandering about in there. We can comb the woods if he's not on the road."
The men moved very quietly, keenly alert, each hoping to make the discovery first. To Jasper there seemed something uncanny about the way they moved so silently onward at that weird morning hour. A spirit of depression came upon him, and his companions appeared like enemies. He felt that in some unaccountable way they believed that he was to blame for all the trouble, and that he should have taken more care of the old man.
After they had gone some distance along the old road and had found nothing, they stopped and held a consultation as to what they should do.
"Suppose we divide up and search through the woods," Jasper suggested. "Andy, you and Dave come with me, and we'll work back on this side of the road, while the rest of the men do the same on the other."
Acting upon this suggestion, they at once plunged into the woods and took up their positions several rods from one another. Jasper was nearest the road. Next to him was Dave, while Andy was farthest off. Walking abreast among the trees, they were thus enabled to examine every portion of the ground. In a way it seemed almost a hopeless task, but there was nothing else for them to do. They knew that other men would be scouring up and down the main road, as well as through the fields, and in fact every place where David might have strayed.
They had been thus searching for some time and were not far from the main highway, when they heard loud shouting from the men on the other side of the old wood-road. Feeling sure that they were needed, the three men hurried forward in the direction from whence the sounds came. Jasper led, and his heart beat fast as he bounded through the woods, unheeding scratches upon his face and hands from the rough branches which brushed his body.
It took him only a few minutes to accomplish this, and he suddenly came upon the men grouped around something which was lying upon the ground. When his eyes rested upon the form of David huddled there, he gave a half-suppressed cry, and brushing the men aside, dropped upon his knees by the old man's side.
"Is he dead?" he asked in a hoarse whisper.
"Dead as a door nail," Jim Goban replied. "Guess he's been dead fer some time by the look of things. Mighty bad piece of business this, I call it."
"Do you suppose he was killed?" Jasper enquired.
"Sure. There's no doubt about that from the mark on his head. He's been knocked down like an ox."
A shiver shook Jasper's body at these words, and he straightened himself up. He did not notice that several of the men were watching him closely and observing his every word and action.
"Who could have done such a diabolical thing?" Jasper mused, as if to himself. "Let us examine the ground very carefully to see if the man who did this deed left any trace. He might have dropped something."
"We have looked," Jim replied, "and we found this."
Jasper's eyes had been searching the ground, but something in Jim's voice caused him to turn suddenly, and as he did so his heart almost stopped beating and his face turned ghastly pale, for there in the man's out-stretched hand was an envelope with his own name upon it.
"Where did you find that?" he gasped, as he reached out to take it.
But Jim drew back, while an expression of exultation gleamed in his eyes.
"No, I guess I better keep it," he replied. "It might come in handy later on. We found it right there," and he pointed to a spot near where the dead man was lying. "Guess we all saw it at once."
A sickening feeling suddenly overwhelmed Jasper, and he felt faint. He looked keenly into the faces of the men standing near, but their eyes were averted. Did they believe him to be guilty of such a foul deed? he asked himself. Something told him that they did, and the less he now said the better it would be. He wanted to get away from their presence to think it all over.
"You better carry the body to the Haven," he at length suggested in a voice as calm as possible. "I'm afraid I can't be of any more service."
With that, he turned and walked rapidly away, leaving the men staring after him with suspicious, wondering eyes.
Never in the entire history of Creekdale had there been such intense excitement as when word was received of the murder of old David. At first people could not believe it was true, and thought there had been some mistake. But when the men who had found David related the story then all doubt was set aside. The store was crowded that afternoon with excited men who had gathered to hear the smallest detail, and to discuss with one another the whole affair. It was Sandy Miller who described how he had made the discovery, and then shouted for his companions.
"Was the letter lying near?" Andy Forbes asked.
"I didn't notice it at first," was the reply, "as I was so overcome by the sight before me. It must have been lying there all the time, for Jim Goban saw it at once."
"Where is that letter now?"
"Jim has it, I guess. It wasn't a letter, but merely an envelope with 'Jasper Randall' written plain on the outside. You should have seen that fellow's face when Jim showed it to him."
"But do you think that proves anything?" Andy enquired.
"Wouldn't like to say. But you know as well as I do how suspicious the thing looks, and how much the lawyers will make out of it."
"Is the body at the Haven now?" one of the men asked.
"We took it there," Andy replied. Then he paused and looked around upon his audience. "I hope I shall never have to take part in such a business again," he continued. "I can't get the face of that girl Betty out of my mind, and her wild cry is still ringing in my ears. I thought she would go crazy for sure when she heard what had happened."
"She was very fond of the old man, so I understand," Ned Purvis remarked.
"She certainly was. They were just like father and daughter. But I must say that Miss Sinclair was a regular brick. She took charge of everything at once and seemed to know the right thing to do. But, my, her face was pale, and you should have seen her eyes—when she turned them upon Jim Goban."
"What did she do that for?" Ned questioned.
"Because Jim showed her the envelope and hinted that Randall was the guilty one."
"Did she say anything?"
"Never a word. But her eyes said enough, and I saw Jim flinch as if he had been struck in the face."
"The women folks say that her and him are pretty thick," Steve Clemwell drawled. "Maybe that's the reason why she's goin' to stick up fer him. They've been seen drivin' together, and he's been often at her house."
"But what reason would Randall have for murdering Crazy David?" Andy asked. "They've always been the best of friends, and they've never had a quarrel as far as I know."
"But the old man had money, so it was reported," Ned replied. "Andy here knows something about that."
The storekeeper, however, shook his head. He was not anxious now to appear to know more than he really did. He alone of all the men was feeling keenly for Jasper.
"Mark my word, men," and he looked around solemnly upon those before him, "there's a deep mystery connected with this affair. You have taken for granted that Randall is guilty because that envelope was found near the body. But I think we had better keep our mouths shut, for if we don't some of us may get into trouble. There's going to be a big time over this, and it's best for us to wait and see what will be the outcome. When the detectives get to work they won't leave a stone unturned, and the smallest detail which bears upon the matter will be put into evidence.
"When will the detectives begin work?" Ned asked.
"I don't know, and I don't suppose any of us will, for that matter. They're not going to inform the public of their movements, and maybe we'll never know they've been here. But they'll find out all there is to know, or I'm much mistaken."
"D'ye s'pose they'll arrest that chap on suspicion?" Steve enquired, as he cut a slice from a plug of tobacco he was holding in his hand. "I've heered they ginerally do that furst of all so as to make no mistake."
"Most likely they will," Andy replied. "I wonder where he is, anyway. I haven't seen him since he left us in the woods."
"Maybe he's cleared out," Ned suggested.
Scarcely had he finished speaking ere Jasper entered the store. His face was very pale, and he walked at once toward Andy.
"I want to use the phone," he told him.
"All right, go ahead," and the storekeeper motioned to a small closet-like compartment in one corner of the room. Andy prided himself upon this place which he had built with his own hands. As there were generally people in the store he found it important that the ones using the telephone should be as private as possible. It was for his own protection as well as for others that he had built it.
Jasper at once crossed the room, entered the place and closed the door tightly after him. He well knew that the ears of all would be strained to the utmost to hear what he was saying. It took him only a short time to call up Central in the city and to get into communication with Mr. Westcote. His message was very brief.
"There is great trouble here, and you must come as soon and fast as you possibly can. Come at once to my cabin, and bring the best lawyer in the city. I will explain everything then."
That was the message, and in reply Mr. Westcote told him that he would leave immediately in his car, travel as fast as possible, and bring his own lawyer with him.
Jasper then crossed the room and paid the storekeeper the price of the message. There was a dead silence while he did this, which Jasper was not slow to notice. He spoke to none of the men gathered there, in fact did not even look at them, but left the store as soon as possible.
From the time the blow had fallen and he realised that he was a man suspected of murder, he seemed to be dazed.
He had gone to his own cabin and had tried to reason the whole thing out. But the more he thought the more puzzled he became. There was no doubt that David had been murdered, but who had done the deed, and for what purpose? Only one person came to his mind, and he recalled what Betty had told him about the old man's narrow escape from the rolling log. Though he felt that Sydney Bramshaw had something to do with the affair, he had no definite proof. He naturally connected him with the murder. But what object would the man have for doing such a dastardly deed? He wondered much about the envelope, and how it got there. He had never been to that spot before, and he was quite certain that David did not have it with him. Somebody, then, must have obtained possession of the envelope and dropped it near the body in order to cast suspicion upon him. But why should any one wish to involve him in such a serious crime?
Long and carefully Jasper considered the matter in an effort to solve the problem. But the more he thought the greater was he puzzled. He realised that he must have assistance as that envelope and the fact that he was on the road with David the night of the murder would tell strongly against him. He naturally turned to Robert Westcote as the one man who could help him and would stand by him in his time of need.
He felt very lonely and wretched as he left the store and walked slowly up the road. He did not wish to go back to the silence of his own cabin. If he could only speak to some one and feel that all were not against him it would be some comfort. He thought of Lois, and wondered if she were at the Haven. He was certain that she would not believe him guilty of such a cowardly deed, but would stand by him to the last. Yes, she was the very one, and he would go to her at once. His step quickened as this impulse possessed him and he hurried rapidly along the road, with swinging strides.
"Hello, you seem to be in a great hurry."
Jasper started at these words, stopped short and looked in the direction from whence the voice came. As he did so his face darkened, for there, sitting before his easel not far from the road, was Sydney Bramshaw.
His brush was poised in hand as if he had merely paused in his work of sketching a bunch of birch trees a short distance away.
"You seem to be in a great hurry," the artist repeated, evidently enjoying the forbidding expression upon Jasper's face.
"Well, what of it?" was the curt reply. "It's a free country, isn't it?"
"That all depends," and Bramshaw laid down his brush in a thoughtful manner. "It might be free to one and not to another. You and I can do about as we please to-day, and no one will try to interfere with us. But it isn't the same with the one who put that poor old man out of business last night. He isn't free in the sense we are."
"So you've heard about it, have you?" Jasper questioned.
"Oh, yes. The whole country is wild with the news. I have been talking to a number of people and they are greatly worked up over the cowardly deed. Poor old David! He certainly was an innocent cuss."
"When did you first hear about it?" Jasper enquired.
"Not until late this morning. I am a sound sleeper."
"You surely must be. I don't see how any man could sleep with all the noise the men made passing along the road last night. Were you up late, eh?"
"What do you mean?" and an angry light leaped into Bramshaw's eyes. "I wish you to know that I went to sleep with the birds last night."
"I am glad to hear of it. You didn't always keep such good hours, especially one night when I caught you prowling about my place. Perhaps a hint to the wise was sufficient, and you have changed your manner of living."
"D—— you!" Bramshaw cried, rising to his feet. "I was willing to be friendly with you, but you insult me to my face."
"That's much better than insulting you behind your back, isn't it? You are sure who does it and you can act accordingly."
"Is that a challenge to fight?"
"Take it any way you like. I am anxious to get my hands on somebody to-day, for I want a little exercise. I'm getting tired of doing nothing."
"But there's nothing to be gained by fighting," Bramshaw protested. "What reason have we for fighting?"
Jasper gave a sarcastic laugh, and looked the artist up and down.
"You certainly wouldn't gain much by fighting, but I would. Sydney Bramshaw, I believe you are a miserable sneak, ay, and worse, and it would be a great satisfaction for me to get my hands on your measly carcass just for two minutes."
Under the impulse of the moment Jasper had left the road and approached close to the artist. The latter shrank back and his face paled at the action of his formidable opponent.
"Bah! I wouldn't touch you," Jasper sneered. "I wouldn't spoil your nice clothes and your soft delicate hands. Oh, no. Go on with your work of painting the beautiful things in nature."
For a few seconds Jasper stood and looked upon the man cowering before him. He longed to pierce his very soul that he might learn whether his suspicious were really true. He was tempted to startle him with a question about that envelope. But, no, he felt that it would be better to consult the lawyer before saying anything.
Leaving the artist, Jasper regained the highway with a bound, and hurried onward. It did not take him long now to reach the road leading to the Haven, and his angry mood passed like a cloud from the face of the sun when he saw Lois standing there beneath the shade of a large tree. Her eyes brightened when she saw him, and without a word she held out her hand. For a few heartbeats neither spoke, but their eyes met, and Jasper knew by the look that Lois gave him that she at least was true and believed in him.
"You know all?" he stammered.
"No, not all," was the quiet reply. "But I know enough to make me certain that the people in this place are wrong in their suspicions."
"Whom do they suspect?" Jasper eagerly asked, thinking that perhaps he might learn something new.
"Don't you know?"
"Yes, I'm afraid I do," Jasper bitterly replied. "But I can endure it if I know that you believe me to be innocent."
"I certainly do, no matter what others think."
"What proof have you?"
"Your life; isn't that proof enough?"
"It may be to you, but I'm afraid it will count but little at the trial."
"At the trial!" Lois repeated in amazement. "Surely you'll not be——-"
"Arrested?" Jasper assisted, as Lois' voice faltered.
"Yes, that's what I mean."
"I'd like to know what's to prevent it. Wasn't I with David the night he was murdered, and wasn't that envelope with my name on it found by his body? Do you for one moment imagine that I can hope to escape a severe grilling and perhaps conviction with such evidence against me?"
"But it isn't right," and Lois stamped her foot impatiently. "It's only circumstantial evidence, and that shouldn't count."
"But it does. It has convicted many men before this. But tell me, did you learn what is troubling Betty?"
"It's about Mr. David, you know. She grieves very much over his death. She loved the old man dearly, almost as if he were her own father."
"I know she feels badly. But isn't there something else troubling her as well? Didn't you notice it?"
"I did, but Betty would tell me nothing. I believe she has been frightened in some way, for at times she started up in terror, and her whole body trembled. I wonder what it can be!"
Before Jasper could reply, an auto swung up the road and stopped near them. There were two men in the car and almost intuitively Jasper knew that they were detectives. They looked keenly at the two standing beneath the tree, and then asked the way to Captain Peterson's. Jasper told them, and without another word they turned to the left and sped up to the house.
"Who are they, do you suppose?" Lois asked.
"They must be detectives," Jasper slowly replied.
"Oh!" It was all that Lois could say as she stood watching the car until it drew up before the Haven.
"I shall go back to my cabin now," Jasper remarked. "I expect Mr. Westcote shortly, and so I must be there when he arrives."
Slowly they walked along the road to the gate leading to the Sinclair house. For a while neither spoke. Jasper realised that it would be a long time ere he would again be with her who was so dear to him. Perhaps never, for who could tell what the lap of the future might contain? Lois was thinking of the same thing, and her heart was very heavy. There came to her mind the words Margaret had so lightly spoken over the tea-cup. Why had she not warned Jasper? she asked herself over and over again. Never before had she fully comprehended what this man really meant to her. He was the first one who had ever inspired her with the spirit of courage and endurance. Not once had she heard him whine or complain but, in her presence at least, he had always appeared as master of his fate. Now he was going from her, and she might never see him again. But no matter what happened she was sure that he would bear himself manfully, and fight to the very last.
Having reached the gate, they paused. Both knew that the moment for parting had come and strange feelings stirred their hearts. Jasper thought that Lois never looked so beautiful. Oh, if he were only certain that she loved him. If he could only take her in his arms and tell her of his love, and feel that his great love was returned; then he could go down into the dark valley of trouble, and perhaps death, with a braver heart. But, no, it would not do for him to tell of his love now with such a shadow hanging over his head. There were many things he longed to do, but all he did was to step forward, seize Lois' right hand in his, and press it fervently to his lips. Instantly he realised his boldness.
"Forgive me," he cried, "but I could not help it."
"There is nothing to forgive," Lois quietly replied, though her heart was beating fast and her face was more flushed than usual. "You had better go now, for Mr. Westcote may come at any moment. Good-bye, and may God bless and keep you."
That was the hardest parting Jasper had ever known. But as he walked up the road a new spirit possessed his soul. He knew what it was to fight, for he had fought all his life long. But now he had the vision of a fair woman to sustain him, and for her sake, and to show her that he was worthy of her trust he would still fight the fiercest battle of all. What the outcome would be he could not tell, but he was determined to bear himself in such a manner that Lois would never be ashamed of him. He well knew that even a defeated man might be more of a conquerer than those who triumphed over him. And even as he walked there flashed suddenly into his mind a vision of the Man of Sorrows bearing his cross. Why had he not thought of Him before? he asked himself. There was his example to follow; there was the One who was the victor even on the cross, and there was the One to whom he could now turn for comfort in the hour of his great need.
IN THE TOILS
It was with a heavy heart that Lois made her way slowly toward the house. She felt that many changes would take place before she would again see Jasper. Not for an instant did she consider him guilty of murdering old David. But she was well aware that others would think differently, and would be only too ready to condemn Jasper upon the slightest evidence. An idea suddenly flashed into her mind, which caused her heart to beat quicker. Some one was guilty of the murder, and that person must be found, whoever and wherever he was. Was there not something that she could do? she asked herself. Jasper must be saved, and who else would take such a real heart interest in the matter as herself? She knew that a woman was not expected to undertake work of such a nature. But Lois Sinclair had very little respect for social customs if they stood in the way of duty.
During the day she had thought much about the murder and had tried to unravel the mystery connected with it. Who was there in the place likely to commit such a cowardly deed, and what would be his motive? Old David had not an enemy, as far as she knew, and he had injured no one. It was necessary for her to probe deeper still, and as she neared the house her mind brooded over this question. She chided herself that she had not asked Jasper's opinion. Perhaps he had some suspicion, for even upon the slightest clue important results might depend.
Lois had reached the steps leading to the verandah when she happened to stop and look down toward the river. As she did so, she started, for there near the shore, with his easel before him, was Sydney Bramshaw. Had she known of the stormy scene which had taken place between him and Jasper about an hour before she would have been more surprised to see him where he was. He was seated facing the house, and thus could observe all that took place about the building. If he saw Lois he gave no sign of recognition, but seemed to be entirely occupied with his work.
The sight of this man had a remarkable effect upon Lois. She had seen him but little of late, and to behold him now when she was thinking so much about the murder was most startling. She entered the house as if nothing unusual were agitating her mind. But with the door closed behind her, she hurried upstairs, where she found Margaret sitting in her room engaged upon some fancy-work. It was a bright sunny room, and the girl sitting there by the open window presented a beautiful picture of peace and youthful charm.
"What is the matter, dear?" she asked, pausing in her work, as she noted the troubled expression upon Lois' face.
"Look," and Lois pointed toward the river, "there he is near the shore."
"Well, what of it?" Margaret enquired with a smile. "One would think that you had never seen a man before."
"But not such a man as that, Margaret," and Lois sat down by the girl's side. "Something tells me that he had much to do with the murder of poor old David."
"Whatever put such a foolish notion as that into your head?" and Margaret looked keenly into Lois' face.
"Sydney Bramshaw is merely a harmless artist, and wouldn't hurt a fly."
"So you have always said. You may be right, but my heart tells a different story, and it is hard for me not to believe it. I am going to find out, anyway, if there is any justification for my suspicion of that man."
"You!" and Margaret looked her astonishment. "Why, what can you do?"
"Perhaps nothing. Anyway, I am going to try. Something must be done at once if Mr. Randall is to be saved." Lois then told Margaret all about the finding of David, of the envelope lying near the body, and how the people were accusing Jasper of the murder.
When Mr. Sinclair and Dick came home they brought with them a copy of The Evening News, which contained a long account of the murder. Lois' hand trembled as she took the paper and saw the big startling headlines. She feared lest Jasper's name should be mentioned in connection with the affair, and she breathed a sigh of relief when she saw that it did not appear. The article merely said that a certain person was suspected and that the detectives were working on the case.
"I'm afraid Spuds is in hot water," Dick remarked, as they all sat down to dinner.
"What makes you think that?" Lois asked in a voice as calm as possible.
"Oh, from what people are saying. It's known all over the country that he was with Crazy David that night, and that they left the Haven and walked along the road together. That in itself looks suspicious, for Spuds was the last person seen with old David."
"Who saw them together?" Lois enquired, "and how did that information get abroad?"
"The Petersons, I suppose, or that girl Betty told it."
"But do you suppose some one else saw them together? Have you thought of that?"
"I don't catch the drift of your meaning," and Dick looked enquiringly at his sister.
"Suppose there was some one else near the road that night watching Mr. Randall and David as they walked along? And suppose, further, that when the old man was going back alone to the Haven some one had killed him?"
"Good heavens, Lois! you make my blood run cold. Why should you suggest such a thing?"
"But you don't believe that Mr. Randall killed David, do you?"
"No, no! I couldn't for a moment think that Spuds would do such a thing."
"Well, then, some one must have done it in a way similar to what I have said."
"Sure, I never thought of that. But who do you suppose did it?"
"That's for us to find out."
"Yes, why not? Isn't it right to stick by our friends in their time of need?"
"But what can we do?"
"That remains to be seen."
"But what about that envelope, Lois? How do you I suppose it got there? That looks queer, doesn't it?"
"That's another part of the mystery to be solved, that's all."
The next day was an exciting one, for all kinds of rumours were afloat, and at times Lois hardly knew what to believe. But there were several things about which there was no doubt. She learned that an inquest had been held over David's body, and that it had been decided that David Findlay had met his death at the hands of some unknown person or persons. There was nothing more left to be done but to give the body a decent burial.
The funeral was held that afternoon, and it seemed that the entire parish turned out. It was a fine mild summer day, but notwithstanding that the farmers left their fields and attended the funeral. Lois and Betty walked together to the church, and as they passed Jasper's cabin they looked across the field, thinking they might see some one there. But not a sign of life could they behold.
The service in the church was brief and solemn, and Betty found it very difficult to control her feelings. At the grave side she broke down completely, and Lois had to lead her away to a quiet spot.
"Poor Mr. David!" the girl moaned. "I shall never see him again. He was so good to me."
"There, there, dear," Lois soothed. "If he were alive he would not wish you to feel so badly. He is at rest, anyway."
"I know that, but I miss him so much. Oh, why was he taken?"
For some time they sat there, Betty sobbing out her grief, and Lois trying to sooth her, at the same time wondering what had become of Jasper. If he had not gone away it was strange that he was not at the funeral. The people leaving the grave passed close to the spot where they were sitting, and many were the curious glances cast in their direction. Several women stopped to speak to them, among whom was Mrs. Wadell, noted all over the parish for her fondness for gossip, as well as for meddling in the affairs of others.
"So ye feel bad, do ye?" and she fixed her piercing eyes upon Betty's tear-stained face. "I wouldn't feel bad fer such as him," and she jerked her thumb toward the grave.
"But I do," Betty protested. "He was good to me, and now he is gone."
"I guess ye'll like him better now that he's gone," Mrs. Wadell remarked. "I know I should, anyway, if he'd done as handsome by me as he's done by you."
"Why, what do you mean?" Betty asked in surprise.
"Why, about the money he's left ye. It's a snug sum, so I understand, and I suppose it'll make ye put on mighty fine airs, so's ye won't speak to common folks any more."
Lois now became much interested in the words of this garrulous old woman, and she was anxious to know more, and where she had obtained her information.
"How did you hear that?" she asked.
"Land sakes, don't ask me sich a question as that, Miss," was the evasive reply. "How could I begin to tell ye where I hear things, fer the air is full of all kinds of stories to-day. But I guess it's true all right."
"I didn't know that Mr. David had made a will. That is a surprise to me."
"And indeed it is to everybody else, Miss. We didn't think that Crazy David had anything to leave. Why he was sold as a pauper to Jim Goban in this very parish about a year ago. But that isn't the only thing that surprises me."
"What, is there something more?"
"There surely is, Miss. It's reported that he's left a hull lot to that Randall feller. I guess he knew how to work his cards all right with the old man. He didn't take an interest in him fer nuthin', oh, no. People don't generally do sich things these days fer love."
"Mr. Jasper hadn't anything to do with that will," Betty angrily protested. "He didn't know anything about it, neither did I."
"Oh, you wouldn't know," and the old woman gave a sarcastic chuckle. "He wouldn't want people to know what he was doin'. He was cute enough fer that. And then to think that he should kill Crazy David to git his money. Why the poor old man couldn't have lived much longer, anyway."
"You lie!" and Betty, trembling in every limb, sprang to her feet. "Mr. Jasper didn't do it. I tell you he didn't, and you have no right to say such things."
"Come, Betty," Lois remarked, rising to her feet and taking the girl by the arm, "let us go home."
"Ye may not believe me," the old woman called after them as they walked away, "but ye'll soon find out fer yerselves, and then maybe ye won't talk so big and mighty."
Betty was going to reply, but Lois checked her.
"I wouldn't say anything more, dear," she advised. "We must expect people to talk and imagine all sorts of things. Let us be brave and hope for the best."
"But I can't bear to hear them say such awful things about Mr. Jasper," the girl sobbed. "I'm sure he didn't get Mr. David to make his will, and then kill him to get the money."
"So am I, Betty. But I'm afraid we'll be the only ones who think so. We'll stand by him, anyway, and do all we can for him, won't we?"
Lois suddenly stopped and her face went pale. They had now come in sight of Jasper's cabin, and near it were several men. On the road were most of the people who had been at the funeral. That they were greatly excited was quite evident. In an instant Lois realised the meaning of it all, and she clutched Betty by the arm in the intensity of her emotion.
"They are going to arrest him!" Her voice was hoarse, and she spoke scarcely above a whisper.
"Who?" Betty asked in surprise, not fully comprehending the meaning of her words.
"The constables are after Mr. Randall," Lois explained. "There they are now!" she cried. "They are coming from the house, and he is walking between them."
"Are they going to put him in prison?" the girl asked.
"Yes, I'm afraid so."
With a wild cry, Betty sprang forward and rushed up the road. Lois followed, wondering what the girl was going to do. She reached the crowd just as Jasper and the constables approached, and stood there a silent watcher. What could she do? she asked herself. Would he see her, and know of her sympathy?
Jasper was walking with a free easy motion, closely guarded by the two constables, one of whom was Jim Goban. His face was pale and he looked very careworn, but he held his head erect and kept his eyes straight before him. Betty standing near, rushed suddenly forward and caught him by the hand.
"Oh, Mr. Jasper," she cried, "we know you didn't do at, and I want to tell you so."
Taken by surprise, Jasper paused and looked at the girl.
"Thank you," he replied. "I am glad you believe in me."
"And so does Miss Lois," Betty explained. "She's standing right there," and she motioned to the right.
Jasper turned, saw Lois, and their eyes met. Not a word did they say, but in that fleeting glance the expression that he saw in the eyes of the woman he loved gave him great comfort and courage.
"Git out of the way, girl," Jim Goban brutally ordered. "What d'ye mean by stoppin' us in our duty? We'll miss the boat if we don't hurry."
Lois stood and watched Jasper and the constables until a bend in the road hid them from view. Then taking Betty by the hand, she moved away from the crowd. She could not bear to listen to their animated discussions as to what would happen to the prisoner, for she was well aware that most of them believed him to be guilty. She walked quite fast until the path across the field was reached. This led along the edge of a grove of young maples and birches, and here was a restful seclusion from all prying eyes.
"You must come and have dinner with me, Betty," she said, speaking for the first time since leaving the crowd. "You will be lonely at the Haven now, and I would like to have you for company, as Miss Westcote has gone to the city."
"Oh, may I?" and the girl lifted her tear-dimmed eyes to her companion's face. "How nice that will be, and we can talk together about him, can't we? I must go home soon, for mother will be anxious to see me. She hasn't been well lately and wasn't able to get to the funeral. I must do what I can to help her."
"You will not have to work out any more, I suppose," Lois remarked.
"Why?" the girl asked.
"Because of the money Mr. David has left you. You remember what Mrs. Wadell said, don't you?"
"Oh, yes," and Betty fixed her eyes thoughtfully upon the ground. "I have been thinking about that. But do you think I should use that money on myself?"