HOW THE MYSTERY CLEARED

It was only a few minutes walk to the bank and Mr. Spaythe received
them in his private office, expressing little surprise at seeing the
governor again in Riverdale but welcoming him with frank cordiality.

When they were seated the banker looked at his visitors with polite
inquiry.

“I’m helping Phoebe get the facts in this Toby Clark case,” said the
governor, speaking easily and as to an equal, for he knew Mr. Spaythe’s
record and reputation. “In her confidences to me concerning the
peculiar circumstances surrounding this affair, which seems to have
worn a veil of mystery from the first, she has mentioned the paper you
found in the Ritchie box.”

The banker bowed but remained silent.

“There has been raised a great hue and cry for that paper, on the part
of Mrs. Ritchie and her attorney,” continued the speaker; “therefore we
may consider the document of prime importance to the old lady. When it
fell into your hands you hypothecated it and carefully locked it in
your safe; further evidence of its importance. Phoebe has concluded,
from your unconditional defense of the accused boy, that you believe
him innocent, in the first place, and also that the document referred
to is in some way connected with–Toby Clark.”

Mr. Spaythe smiled.

“It’s difficult to keep a secret from Phoebe,” he replied.

“For my own part,” the governor resumed, “I have figured from your
long silence regarding the paper that you have been investigating its
validity or for some reason have been seeking outside information
concerning it. I hope I am not in any way forcing your hand by asking
if my surmise is correct and if you have yet received the information
you desire.”

“Allow me to add that it is difficult to keep a secret from the
governor,” laughed Mr. Spaythe. “Really, sir, you and Phoebe have
guessed so much that you are entitled to know more, and fortunately my
first information of value concerning this paper reached me but a few
hours ago, in the morning’s mail.”

“Through my interest in my Cousin Judith I became acquainted with
Phoebe Daring,” said Cousin John. “Through my interest in Phoebe I
became acquainted with the sad plight of Toby Clark, and my interest
in humanity at large induced me to ‘play hookey’ from the business of
governing this exacting state, long enough to run down here and help
things to a climax. So, sir, as my time is limited, I—-”

“It will afford me pleasure to confide in you with the utmost
frankness,” said the banker. “I would like you to know all that I know.”

“Thank you. I may say that we have finally run down the guilty party
and are now certain that Toby Clark’s case will never come to trial.”

“Indeed!” exclaimed Mr. Spaythe. “Then you have solved a very
perplexing mystery.”

“Have you had no hint of the truth?” inquired the governor.

“Not the slightest, although I have several times suspected my lawyer,
a man named Holbrook.”

“And a very well meaning young fellow,” added the governor. “I think,
from the information I have received, that Holbrook has conducted
himself in a manly way that is distinctly creditable. But may I ask
how you expected to save Toby Clark from prison without knowing who
committed the fault of which he stands accused, and in the face of a
mass of incriminating evidence against him?”

“Yes; I expected to save him through Mrs. Ritchie.”

“You can compel her to withdraw the charge?”

“Mrs. Ritchie is completely in my power. Would you mind telling me who
first took the box from the judge’s cupboard?”

“A weak and thoughtless girl–Hazel Chandler–who was tempted to steal
the money that she might sooner wed the young man to whom she was
engaged.”

“Dear me. Hazel Chandler! How unfortunate.”

“There is a general disposition, among those who know the facts,
to shield her,” suggested the governor. “The girl has already been
punished–through fear, personal remorse and the reproaches of her
fiancé. I can see no benefits to the public at large nor to the
interest of justice to be gained by casting this foolish girl into
prison. Her redemption, if redemption is still needed, may be better
accomplished in other ways.”

“I quite agree with you, sir; and I think that between us we may find
a way to restore Toby Clark’s reputation to its former purity without
drawing Hazel Chandler into the mire. When Mrs. Ritchie knows that her
treachery and embezzlements have been discovered, I think she can be
induced to sign a statement that her box was not stolen at all.”

“I see your point, Mr. Spaythe. And now please tell us about that
paper.”

The banker excused himself a moment and went into the counting room, in
the rear of which stood a large safe. From a drawer which he unlocked
he took a paper and with it returned to his private office.

“Although this document has been for years in Judge Ferguson’s
keeping,” began Mr. Spaythe, “its character and contents were unknown
to him, for before she placed it in her box Mrs. Ritchie enclosed it in
a heavy yellow envelope which she sealed and marked ‘private.’ The girl
who took the box tore open the envelope, perhaps thinking it contained
money, and so enabled me to make a discovery that otherwise might never
have come to light. The moment I saw this paper I became interested,
for it is a will, properly probated and attested, and on the outside it
is docketed: ‘Last Will and Testament of Alonzo Clark.’”

“Alonzo Clark?” echoed Phoebe; “why, who was he, sir?”

“The father of Toby Clark. I knew him very slightly during the years
preceding his death, when he lived at Riverdale. He once attempted to
borrow some money from the bank on some mining stock which I considered
worthless; so I refused him. He was a relative of Mrs. Ritchie.”

“I never knew that!” cried Phoebe, surprised.

“Nor I, until recently,” replied the banker. “This document which I now
hold bequeaths to Alonzo Clark’s only child, Toby Clark, all of his
interest in that mining stock, making Mrs. Ritchie the executor and
providing that in case the stock becomes valuable and pays dividends it
must not be sold or otherwise disposed of, but the proceeds shall be
devoted to the education of Toby and the balance reserved until he is
of age, when it is all to be turned over to him. During the minority
of Toby, Mrs. Ritchie is to properly educate and clothe him and she
is authorized to retain ten per cent of the income in payment for her
services as trustee.”

“You say the stock is worthless?” asked the governor.

“I thought it was, at the time Alonzo Clark brought it to me; but
when first I saw this paper I found that the will had been probated
and Mrs. Ritchie duly appointed executor and trustee under its terms.
That fact, and the woman’s eagerness to recover the paper, led me to
suspect that the stock had become valuable; so I retained the will and
began to investigate both the mine and the history of Alonzo Clark. As
I told you, the first important report of these investigations reached
me to-day. I will briefly relate to you their purport, rather than ask
you to wade through the verbose mass of evidence submitted.”

“That will be best, I think,” agreed the governor.




“Alonzo Clark was a mining engineer of education and ability, who was
employed by large corporations as an expert, to examine mines and
report upon their value. He successfully pursued this vocation for
several years and came to be regarded as a reliable judge of both
copper and gold mines. Then he met with a misfortune. While in a rough
mining camp in Arizona he fell in love with a plump, pretty girl–the
daughter of one of the superintendents–and married her. She became
Toby’s mother and proved far beneath her husband in both refinement and
intellect. At about the same time that he married, Clark conceived what
he thought a clever idea to make his fortune. Being sent to examine an
outlying mine that had never been developed, he found it to contain
the richest deposit of copper he had ever known of–so rich, in fact,
that it was destined to become one of the greatest copper mines in
America. A company of capitalists would purchase and develop this mine
if Clark reported on it favorably. He forwarded them some very ordinary
specimens of ore and said he believed the mine would pay a fair profit
if worked economically, but he predicted no big things of it. Then
he set to work to invest every dollar he had in the world in stock of
this very mine, and he was able to secure a large quantity because his
discouraging report had failed to inspire the promoters with any degree
of enthusiasm. Then the schemer became properly punished, for the men
who had formed the company got possession of another mine that promised
better, but in which Clark had no interest, and devoted their exclusive
attention to working that. Clark dared not argue the matter with them,
for he had declared the rich mine to be unimportant, so he was obliged
to wait until the company was ready to develop it, when he knew it
would speedily make him rich.

“This affair ruined the engineer’s life–that, and his wife’s dissolute
habits, for she became addicted to drink and her companionship was not
pleasant. Clark had beggared himself by his large purchase of stock
and his vain dreams of wealth speedily destroyed his usefulness in his
profession. In a few years he lost all ambition, became discredited in
mining circles and finally drifted here, perhaps being attracted to
Riverdale by the fact that a distant cousin–the only relative I have
been able to trace–lived near here in the person of Mrs. Ritchie, a
widow with a large and prosperous farm.

“It seems that Mrs. Ritchie, however, would do nothing to assist the
impoverished Clarks, who had brought their little son Toby with them.
She even doubted the man’s story about his rich mine, which he declared
would some day bring him a fortune. She is very shrewd in business
matters and knew that mining stock is dangerous to gamble on. Clark
did a little work in the village, but not much, for he was incapable
of steady manual labor. He fished a good deal in the river and won the
name of being lazy, surly and unsocial. As a matter of fact he was a
disappointed man and had fallen rapidly in the social scale. His wife
soon drank herself to death and a year or so afterward Clark contracted
pneumonia on the river and soon passed away, having previously made his
will and given it to Mrs. Ritchie for safe keeping.

“Toby was a much neglected boy, as you may imagine,” continued Mr.
Spaythe, after a brief pause. “Mrs. Ritchie ignored his very existence
and after his father’s death the little fellow continued to reside in
the shanty by the river–a ragged, barefooted urchin whom everyone
liked because he was so sunny natured and agreeable. He inherited his
father’s intellect but not his misanthropic ideas. Toby was not only
willing, but glad to work and earned a modest living by doing odd jobs
until, finally, Judge Ferguson noticed him and took charge of the boy.
I think, governor, I have now given you the entire Clark history.”

“But the mine?” said the governor, greatly interested in the story.

“By a queer whim of fate the mine was developed soon after Alonzo
Clark’s death and its enormous wealth became a seven days’ wonder.
I believe it is to-day reputed one of the best paying mines on this
continent, which proves that the engineer knew what he was doing when
he invested his all in its stock. Mrs. Ritchie evidently heard of the
great mine, for she had Clark’s will probated and applied for letters
of administration, which were granted her. For several years she has
been receiving dividends on the stock–which is worth a fortune to
Toby, by the way–and yet the woman has kept her secret and the money
to herself. Never a penny has been applied to Toby’s needs or to his
education.”

“Oh, how dreadful!” exclaimed Phoebe, who was really shocked at this
recital of Mrs. Ritchie’s perfidy.

“Her intention. I suppose,” said the banker, “was to continue to retain
these receipts for herself. Toby had no other relatives to interfere in
his behalf; he was too young at the time of his father’s death to know
anything about the mine, and I doubt if he knew–or yet knows–that
he is in any way related to Mrs. Ritchie. The deception might have
continued indefinitely had not the box been stolen and so, by a chain
of curious accidents, the will of Alonzo Clark discovered by those
interested in Toby.”

After the banker had concluded his relation all three were silent for a
time, pondering on the remarkable discovery. Then Phoebe said:

“I cannot understand, in view of the fact that Mrs. Ritchie was
deliberately robbing Toby, why she was so bitter against him, or why
she had him arrested and is even now trying to send him to prison.”

“That is a natural sequence, my dear,” replied the governor. “The woman
has been greatly worried over the loss of this document, which, falling
into certain hands–such as those of Mr. Spaythe–would perhaps lead to
the discovery of her perversion of trust funds, which is a very serious
crime. Perhaps she thinks that in some way Toby Clark has himself
gained possession of the will, but believes that if he is discredited
and put in prison he cannot appear against her. Without Mr. Spaythe’s
exhaustive researches no one in Riverdale would be likely to know that
the mine described in the elder Clark’s will had become valuable.
The will itself would mean little or nothing to Toby unless he had
opportunity to investigate his father’s bequest. There was a fair
chance of Mrs. Ritchie’s evading detection, even with the will missing;
but Toby in prison would be more safe to her interests than Toby at
liberty.”

“Toby mustn’t go to prison,” declared Phoebe, with energy.

“Certainly not,” replied Mr. Spaythe. “The boy must regain the position
in society to which he is fully entitled.”

“Can’t we do anything to Mrs. Ritchie?” she asked.

“We’ll try,” said the governor, looking at his watch. “Just now dinner
is waiting at the Daring mansion and I promised Judith I’d not forget
it. But this afternoon I’d like to drive over with you, Mr. Spaythe, to
see the woman.”

“I will be glad to accompany you,” replied the banker. “We close at one
o’clock on Saturday, you know; so at two, if you will be ready, I will
call for you with my motor car.”

“That will be quite satisfactory,” said the governor, rising. Then he
hesitated a moment. “May we take Phoebe with us?” he asked. “She has
been so interested in this affair and has already accomplished so much
in Toby’s behalf that I think she is entitled to be present at the
climax.”

“I think so, too,” answered Mr. Spaythe readily. “Do you care to go,
Phoebe?”

“Yes, if you please.”

Then she and Cousin John went home to dinner and the youngsters, who
suspected something important was under way, were able to drag no
information from their big sister beyond mysterious looks and sundry
shakes of the head, which of course aroused their curiosity to the
highest pitch.

“I think you might tell us, Phoebe,” pouted Sue, disconsolately. “I
always tell you _my_ secrets.”

Cousin John laughed.

“Listen, then,” said he. “We’ve discovered that Toby Clark is innocent
and that we can prove it; so he is no longer in danger of prison.
That’s more than Toby Clark knows yet. Furthermore, we have discovered
that Toby is not a mere nobody, as everyone has considered him, but the
owner of considerable valuable property. I say ‘we’ have discovered
this, but really it was Phoebe who solved the whole mystery. Now, if
you can keep this secret for a few days, until the newspaper prints the
complete story, I’ll take you into my confidence the next time I know a
secret.”

Don cheered and Becky clapped her hands in delight, while Sue cried
ecstatically: “Bully for Toby!” and was promptly repressed by Phoebe,
who was annoyed by such a wild demonstration in the presence of the
great man. But Cousin John seemed to enjoy the outburst.

Judith has listened gravely and seemed surprised.

“Is this indeed the truth?” she asked.

“Part of it,” replied the governor. “When Phoebe and I return from a
little trip this afternoon you shall have the entire story, with all
the details. You see, we’re rehearsing a little show of our own. The
play isn’t entirely finished yet, for the last act is on and we must
corner the villain before the final curtain falls.”

This contented them for the time, for they really believed they had
been taken into the great man’s confidence; but when Mr. Spaythe’s
automobile drew up at the door and Phoebe and the governor entered it,
they were followed by envious looks and much speculation among the
Darings as to their errand.

“I hope,” said Sue, anxiously, “the villain won’t hurt Phoebe.”

“Pshaw!” returned Don, with scorn, “villains never amount to anything;
they’re only put in a play to be knocked out in the last round.”