HOW MRS. RITCHIE CHIDED HER LAWYER

The parade was the one topic of conversation in the village. The editor
of the _Riverdale News_, Mr. Fellows, interviewed Don and Allerton, got
the name of every member of the Marching Club and published the list
incident to a two-column article in his paper, in which he sided with
the children and strongly espoused the cause of Toby Clark. Mr. Fellows
always liked to side with popular opinion and he shrewdly guessed
that the children voiced the sentiment of the majority of Riverdale
citizens. The editor rendered Sam Parsons very uneasy by concluding
his article with a demand that the guilty person be discovered, so as
to free Toby from any further suspicion, and he stated that if Mr.
Holbrook, the lawyer defending Toby, and the village officers–meaning
of course the constable–were unable to find the real criminal
and bring him to justice, then outside aid should be summoned and
detectives brought from the city.

In this demand poor Mr. Fellows found he had gone a step too far.
Mr. Spaythe, angry and resentful, called on him and requested him not
to publish any more such foolish ideas. Sam Parsons called on him
and politely but firmly requested him to mind his own business. Mr.
Holbrook called on him and sarcastically asked if he preferred to
undertake the case, with its responsibilities, rather than trust to the
judgment of a competent attorney. The bewildered editor tore up the
article he had written for the next edition and resolved to keep silent
thereafter, as a matter of policy.

Lawyer Kellogg was also keeping very quiet, relying upon the evidence
he had on hand to convict the accused. He was greatly annoyed at times
by Mrs. Ritchie, who drove to town every few days–usually in the
evenings–and urged him to get back her money and the missing paper.
This the lawyer was unable to do, even when she offered him a thousand
dollars for the recovery of the paper alone.

“What was the paper?” he asked.

“That don’t concern you,” she retorted.

“It does, indeed, Mrs. Ritchie,” protested the man. “How can I find
a paper if I am totally ignorant of its character? Was it a deed, a
mortgage, or what?”

She looked at him uneasily.

“I wish I could trust you,” she muttered; “but you’re such a lyin’
scoundrel that I’ve no confidence in you.”

“I’m honest to my clients, at all times, and as honest as most men in
other ways,” he assured her. “I’ve often observed that those who can’t
trust their lawyers are not honest themselves.”

“Meaning me, sir?”

“Yes.”

“Well, you’re right. That paper might cause me trouble if it got into
the wrong hands,” she frankly stated. “Even Judge Ferguson never knew
what it was, for I kept it sealed up in a long yellow envelope just
marked ‘private’ on the outside. When the box was stolen the envelope
and all disappeared.”

“What was the paper?” he asked again.

“A–a will.”

“Oh! Mr. Ritchie’s will?”

“No. But it was a will, giving me power over property. If you run
across it, and see my name, don’t read the paper but bring it straight
to me and the thousand dollars is yours–with the understanding you
keep your mouth shut forever.”

He smiled at her complacently. Here was a streak of good luck that well
repaid the unscrupulous attorney for undertaking Mrs. Ritchie’s case
and submitting to all her abuse. She admitted she was not an honest
woman. She admitted the lost will would be damaging evidence against
her. Very well, she was now in his power and as she was a rich woman he
could extort money from her whenever he pleased, by simply resorting to
threats.




Mrs. Ritchie read the smile correctly and nodded with grim
comprehension.

“I’ve told you this for two reasons,” she said. “One is so you can
identify the paper if you find it, and bring it to me. The other reason
is because I can put you in jail if you try to blackmail me.”

“Oh; you can?”

“Easy. It was you that put that box in Toby Clark’s rubbish heap, so
the police could find it there. You got a box, painted it blue, to look
like mine, put my name on the end, and then smashed the lock, battered
the box all up an’ carried it to the rubbish heap.”

“Did I?”

“Yes. I found the blue and white paints in your office closet. I’ve
seen several such boxes in your possession when you opened your safe.
The lock of the box found in Toby’s yard won’t fit my key, for there
were two keys to my box and I carried one and Judge Ferguson the other.
Last of all, I was driving home one night when I saw you sneaking
along the dark road. I got out of my buggy an’ followed you, an’ I saw
you go into Toby’s yard an’ hide the box.”

“Why did you say nothing of this until now?”

“Because I’d like to see Toby go to prison. It’s a dead sure thing
he stole my box, for no one else would have taken just that yellow
envelope and hid the other papers where they might be found. So I mean
to make him do time for that trick, behind prison bars, and the sort of
evidence you fixed up will help send him there. But I want that paper
back, and I want the money, an’ you’ve got to get ’em for me, Abner
Kellogg. If you don’t, I’ll tell about the box. That act of yours was
conspiracy, accordin’ to law, and it’ll mean state’s prison for you.”

Mr. Kellogg, rather uneasy to find the tables turned on him so
cleverly, took time to rearrange his thoughts. Then he said:

“I didn’t hide your papers in the boy’s room. I received an anonymous
letter, telling me where to look for them. Did you write that letter?”

“Don’t be a fool. If I’d known, I’d have got the papers myself. I don’t
accuse you of hiding the papers, but I do know you manufactured that
box evidence.”

“Yes, for a purpose. If I had known the papers would be found I
wouldn’t have bothered about the box, for the papers are really the
strongest proof against young Clark. But I wonder why, when he hid the
other papers, he kept out the yellow envelope containing the will.”

“He wanted to keep that,” she said.

“Then you think he intended the other papers to be discovered?
Nonsense! You’re more clever than that, Mrs. Ritchie.”

She frowned.

“Well, what then, sir?” she asked.

“This case is more complicated than you dream of,” he replied. “I’ve a
notion that others besides Toby Clark are implicated. If you were not
so anxious for that paper, I’d say the safest plan we can follow is to
convict Toby, put him in prison, and then let the matter drop. What
harm will the loss of the paper do? No one would dare use it, for it
would proclaim him the accomplice of the thief. If it’s a will, a legal
document, it has been probated and recorded, so no one will question
your right to the property it conveys. Keep quiet about the loss and
you will be safe. It seems to me that the only danger is in stirring
things up.”

She thought this over.

“Find it if you can,” she said, rising to go, “but don’t mention
to a soul that it’s a will you’re looking for. Try and get Toby to
confess; that’s the best plan. Promise him a light sentence; promise
him anything you like if he’ll give up the yellow envelope, or tell
you where it is. When we’ve got our hands on it we can forget all our
promises.”

The lawyer nodded, with an admiring smile for his confederate.

“I’ll try,” he said, but with a doubtful accent.

“A thousand dollars for you if you succeed,” she repeated, and went
away.