HOW SAM PARSONS EXPLAINED

“You caught me just right, my dear,” said the governor, smiling
cheerily into the girl’s anxious face. “I had nothing of importance
on hand at this time, so I ran away from half a hundred unimportant
demands and–here I am.”

He came for breakfast and was as eager for Aunt Hyacinth’s peerless
flapjacks as any of the youngsters, laughing and chatting with the
entire family like a boy just out of school. But afterward he sat with
Phoebe and Judith in the cosy sitting room and listened gravely to
every detail of the young girl’s story.

Phoebe was very frank in her relation, concealing nothing that she had
discovered or that had been confided to her. “I am supposed to keep
some of these things secret,” she said; “but I believe this secrecy on
the part of Toby’s friends, and their failure to get together, is going
to send the boy to prison unless we take advantage of our knowledge and
accomplish something practical. Anyhow, I can see no harm in confiding
in you, Cousin John, even if no good comes of it.”

The governor nodded approval.

“That’s right, Phoebe,” he said encouragingly. “Dust all the shelves
and let the grime settle where it will.”

Before this man had been drawn into politics and became first a senator
and then twice governor of his state, he had been a lawyer of unusual
prominence. His keen intellect followed the girl’s recital with
comprehension and even “read between the lines.” During the story he
saw probabilities she had never guessed. But he said:

“You have shown admirable intelligence, Phoebe, and I see you have
quickly recognized the important points of your discoveries. With the
information you have given me I believe I can put my finger on the
identical woman who is responsible for Toby Clark’s tribulations.”

“Oh; can you, sir?” she exclaimed. “Then I must have been very stupid.”

He turned to Judith with his whimsical smile.

“You see, she won’t admit that a rival detective has any talent.”

“Yes, I will,” said Phoebe. “I didn’t mean it that way at all. But
I can see no ‘identical’ woman in the case, as yet. A mysterious
woman stole the box, and of course it is a member of Dave Hunter’s
family–his mother or sister–or perhaps his sweetheart, Hazel
Chandler. Which of the three do you mean, sir?”

“None of those,” replied the governor, musingly. “The woman whom I
think has been the cause of your friend Toby’s past misfortunes and
present danger is–Mrs. Ritchie.”

Both Judith and Phoebe stared at him in amazement.

“Did she steal her own box, then?” said Phoebe.

“No, indeed; but she accused Toby Clark with a purpose, and she intends
to get him a long prison sentence–also with a purpose.”

“What purpose, sir?”

“I don’t know. That is still dark. But we shall turn the light on it.
Perhaps Mr. Spaythe knows, by this time.”

“Mr. Spaythe?”

“To be sure,” replied Cousin John blandly. “Why do you suppose he
appropriated that paper of Mrs. Ritchie’s, to which he had no legal
right, unless it contained something that required investigation?”

“Oh; I never thought of that.”

“Mr. Spaythe knew that Mrs. Ritchie had no right to the paper, and was
not acting squarely in regard to it. So he put the paper in a safe
place until he could discover the truth. It doesn’t take much of a
detective to figure that out, Phoebe. It’s the science of deduction.
Let’s go a little further: The paper concerns Toby Clark. That explains
why this reserved banker took the boy to his own home, to safeguard his
person or his interests until the truth could be learned. It’s as plain
as a pikestaff, Miss Conspirator. You had all the pieces of the puzzle,
but could not fit them together.”

“But–the woman who stole the box?” asked Judith, eagerly.

“Bother the woman who stole the box! What do we care about her?”
retorted Cousin John. “It is true she stirred up this mess, but the
stew may prove a savory one for Toby Clark, in the end. In that case we
cannot be too thankful that the poor creature yielded to temptation.
She has gained no material benefit, for the stolen property is all
restored; but fate had used her to right a grievous wrong. Let us treat
her with grateful consideration.”

Phoebe drew a long breath, striving to reconcile the governor’s view
of this mysterious case with the prejudices she had so long encouraged
in her own mind. She could not yet see by what process he arrived at
the astonishing solution of the problem he now advanced, but the keen
lawyer was quite satisfied that he had “nailed the truth.” Judith was
fully as perplexed as Phoebe and after a pause she inquired:

“Will Mr. Spaythe’s discovery, then, clear Toby Clark of the charge
against him?”

“Eh? Perhaps not. I’ve no idea what the discovery is and we must have
more information on that subject. My idea is that Mrs. Ritchie will be
forced to withdraw her charge; but the case might be taken up by the
public prosecutor and young Clark condemned, unless we manage to get
the case out of court altogether.”

“Even then,” said Phoebe, “Toby’s good name will not be cleansed.
Many people will say he escaped paying the penalty of his crime, but
was really guilty. The evidence they have brought against him is very
strong.”

“Cleverly argued, Phoebe. I see your point. We must not be content with
whitewashing the young man; we must restore him to his friends as sweet
and clean as before. So, after all, we can’t quite ignore the woman
whose folly caused all the mischief; nor even your friend Dave Hunter,
who obtained possession of the contents of the box and tried to throw
the blame onto Toby in order to save one whom he loved.”

“That’s it, sir. I think that was Dave’s motive.”

“Well, the sooner we begin to burrow the sooner we shall unearth the
truth. I want to see Sam Parsons, first of all.”

“I will send Don for him,” proposed Judith.

“If you please, Cousin.”

It was Saturday and Don chanced to be within hailing distance. He
accepted the mission with joy and lost no time in running to the
constable’s house.




“Hurry up, Sam,” he said: “The governor’s at our place and wants to see
you.”

Sam sat down in his rocker.

“Now?” he inquired.

“Right away. He came this morning, you know. Perhaps he’s goin’ to
promote you; make you Chief of Police or Grand Marshal. The governor
can do anything, Sam.”

Sam shook his head. He rocked to and fro, thinking deeply and dreading
the governor with a cowardly sinking of the heart.

“Well, what are you going to do? Mutiny?” asked Don impatiently.

The constable sighed. Then he rose and picked up his hat, walking
slowly in the wake of his eager conductor to face the man he most
feared.

“Good morning, Parsons. I know you well,” said the governor. “You’re an
honest man and a good officer. Who took Mrs. Ritchie’s box from Judge
Ferguson’s office?”

“I–I—-”

“Who stole the box?” more sternly.

“Sir, a–a—-”

“Parsons!”

“Hazel Chandler, sir.”

“Thank you. I thought so. Now, then, sit down and tell me about it.”

Perspiration was oozing from the constable’s forehead. He wiped it away
and sat down, staring stupidly at the great man and wondering how he
had come to admit a fact that he had sworn to keep secret to his dying
day.

“There is nothing to tell, sir,” he said weakly.

“Begin at the beginning, stating why you spied in the hallway, outside
of Judge Ferguson’s door.”

“The night before, sir, I had seen–seen—-”

“Hazel.”

“I had seen Hazel carrying the box home. She passed under a light and
I was in the shadow. It was Mrs. Ritchie’s blue box. The next day I
watched. She brought the box down to the post office with her, wrapped
in a cloak to make the bundle look round, and then covered with paper.
Everyone was excited over the judge’s death, that day. The girl watched
her chance and in the afternoon stole upstairs with the box, put it on
the office table and hurried away. I sneaked up afterward and looked
through the keyhole, but I found Hazel had forgotten to lock the door
behind her, although she had carried off the key. I went in and looked
at the box. It was unlocked and empty, except for a paper or two, which
I did not touch. I left it there and went into the post office; but
Will Chandler, Hazel’s father, said she had run over to the Ferguson
house on an errand.”

“By the way, Phoebe,” said Cousin John, “can you get Janet Ferguson for
me?”

“Yes; I can telegraph to her from my room.”

“Thank you.”

Phoebe ran up to telegraph Janet, asking her to come over at once to
see the governor. Meantime Sam Parsons resumed his story.

“You still watched the office?” asked Cousin John.

“Yes, sir. After Hazel returned, Will Chandler took the office key
to Holbrook and asked him to hand it to Mr. Spaythe, and not long
afterward the banker came over and went up to the office. Will had
caught me a couple of times in the hallway, so I didn’t dare stay
there any longer. I went up to our lodge room, over the drug store,
which is just opposite, and from the window there I could see into
the windows of Judge Ferguson’s offices. I saw Mr. Spaythe go in and
examine the box. He read a paper that was in it and then put the paper
in his pocket. Afterward he wrapped up the box and took it away to his
office. I was in deadly fear, sir, that Hazel’s theft of the box would
be discovered. I imagined Mr. Spaythe had taken it away to hold for
evidence; so I followed to his office.”

“Why did you fear Hazel’s discovery?” asked the governor. “Is it a
constable’s duty to shield a criminal?”

“I wasn’t a constable then, sir; I was just a man. Hazel has always
been a favorite of mine, from babyhood,” said Sam. “Her father, Will
Chandler, is my best friend. We play chess together and he belongs to
my lodge. But aside from that the Chandlers are rated the proudest
and most respectable family in Riverdale–bar none. Their ancestors
came over in the Mayflower, and then founded this village. Will is the
government’s trusted agent. If Hazel’s foolish act is discovered, the
disgrace will kill Mrs. Chandler, who is a very proud woman and in
delicate health, and there are six little brothers and sisters whose
lives will be ruined.”

“She should have thought of that,” said the governor.

“And Hazel herself is engaged to be married to Dave Hunter, one of the
finest young men in the village,” continued Sam. “I think if Dave knew
what she had done it would mar all his future life; and he has a sister
and mother depending on him. That was why I shielded her, sir; it was
better to let Toby Clark suffer alone than to overwhelm so many honest
folks with disgrace.”

“You took the box from Mr. Spaythe?” asked the governor, without
commenting upon the man’s excuses.

“Yes, sir. He left it on the office table and went into the bank, and
I went in and got it. I carried it home and hid it, to save Hazel, and
afterward I was astonished to find another box, just like it, in Toby
Clark’s back yard. I decided it was put there with a purpose–to prove
Toby was guilty–so I kept quiet about it.”

“Wasn’t that very irregular, Parsons?”

“Very, sir. I’ll lose my star, and perhaps I’ll be prosecuted. But I’m
glad I did it.”