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A Rustic Rival by Sergeant Ryan
The tramp and his dog.
Private Detective

A Rustic Rival

by Sergeant Ryan

Author of THE MYSTERIOUS HIGHWAYMAN

Detective Story Magazine | Oct. 5, 1916 THE RED FILE | Apr. 22, 2018 | Vol. 9 No. 35

Nick Carter was enjoying a much-deserved vacation when a rustic schoolteacher asked for his help in solving the murder of Sam Bennet.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

A Fellow in a Great Hurry

Nick Carter had just concluded a most exciting adventure in a manner highly satisfactory to himself. It had been a contest of skill against pluck, and success had never been sure until the very last moment.

By a thousand artful turns and twists of his adversary, had the great detective been forced to do his level best. But he had conquered, and the victim of his prowess lay on the grass, at his feet.

I had come up in time to witness the conclusion of the struggle. The scene was a "deep hole" in the prettiest trout stream in Monroe County, Pennsylvania. The time was five o'clock of a May morning.

Nick held up the sparkling prey for my admiration. Then suddenly he dropped the brook trout, and faced about, looking across the pool.

I followed the direction of his glance, but saw nothing worthy of special attention, nor could I hear any sound but those that told of nature waking in the forest.

"That fellow is in a great hurry," said Nick.

"What fellow?" I asked.

"That's a question I can't answer," rejoined Nick, with a smile. "But I can make out that he's a tall man, familiar with the woods, has been running a long way, and will hit the stream about opposite us if he keeps on as he's going."

Half a minute later I was able to distinguish the faint sound of crackling twigs; but it seemed incredible that even Nick's ear could catch the separate footfalls, showing the length of the stride, and the labored breathing of the runner. That he was a woodsman was evident to me as to Nick, from the lightness of his tread among the underbrush and from the rapidity of his advance.

Presently he appeared upon the other side of the pool. He was a tall young man, seemingly a native of those parts, but certainly not a farmer. He had a rather handsome and remarkably intelligent countenance; and, despite his brown skin and rough attire, there was a hint of the scholar about him.

It was evident from his expression, as he looked across at us, that he had come to seek us, but he seemed in no hurry to announce his errand. I noted that he paid little attention to me, but stared at Nick point-blank.

"Good morning, Mr. Carter," he said, at last.

I was considerably surprised by this recognition, though my friend was known as Mr. Carter to Farmer Marvin, at whose house we had spent the previous night, and to a few others thereabouts.

"I sized you up from descriptions that I got from one or two people," continued the young man. "There's only one Carter from New York who can shoulder Marvin's flatboat as if she was a birch canoe, and walk off with her."

The feat to which he alluded had been performed on the afternoon before, when we had fished in Waverly Pond. I was not aware that anybody but myself had seen it.

"Your facts are scanty," rejoined Nick pleasantly; "but your conclusion is accurate. What can I do for you?"

"The boot's on the other leg," retorted the young man. "I'm going to do something for you."

"Very kind of you, I'm sure," said Nick. "What is it?"

"I'm going to put you on to one of the prettiest murder mysteries that ever you tackled," said the young man, with enthusiasm. "It happened last night, but it wasn't discovered till this morning. I was right there at the time, and I knew what to do.

"I said to all of 'em, including Deputy Sheriff Wilson, who got there almost as soon as I did: 'Don't disturb anything. Save it for Nick Carter.' And I made 'em do it, too."

"What was it that they saved?" asked Nick.

"There was his coat, all covered with blood, and the horse and wagon in the yard, and the broken board over the hiding place where he kept his money, and – "

"Where who kept his money?" demanded Nick.

The young man paused, shamefaced, like a boy who had done something very foolish when he has tried to be especially smart. He covered his embarrassment with a laugh.

"Guess I'm a bit rattled," he said. "Besides, I've had a hard run, and my breaths not as yet got back into my body. I'll be all right in a jiffy. You come across the brook — there's a fallen tree for a bridge just below here — and by the time you get over I'll be ready to talk."

Nick said nothing; but he started at once for the broken tree. I followed him, and we crossed the brook, young man was waiting for us.

I had already 'sized him up.' He was, or fancied himself to be, an amateur detective, with great talent for criminal investigation. He had probably studied the subject as it is presented in fiction. This crime which he had so imperfectly disclosed to us was doubtless his first opportunity for the display of his abilities, and he intended to prove his merit under the eyes of the great master of detection.

It struck me that he was acting wisely. A man of less sense would have tried to keep Nick Carter out of the case as long as possible, in order to secure for himself the honor of detecting the criminal.

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Chapter 2

Now For This Crime

The young man had fully recovered his self-command when we joined him after crossing the brook.

"My name is Walter Fairman," he said. "I've been teaching the school at Waverly Falls. Everybody round here knows me.

"Now for this crime. I was coming along the highroad, toward Marvin's, about three-quarters of an hour ago, intending to fish this stream. Just as I got opposite Sam Bennett's house — which is about a third of a mile the other side of Marvin's — I heard a woman scream.

"She seemed to be in Bennett's stable, which is built alongside his barn. The barn's back of the house, and the stable stands out at right angles with both, so that when you walk into the yard, the stable faces you and the house is on the left.

"As I came up, I had noticed Bennett's horse and wagon in the yard. The horse was facing the stable doors, which were closed. It looked as if Bennett had just driven in; and I wondered where he had been so early in the morning.

"When I heard the scream, I ran into the yard. Just as I did so, Mrs. Bennett threw open the big doors of the stable.

"She seemed to be a good deal stirred up about something. Says I: 'What's the matter, Mrs. Bennett?'

"She looked at me sort o' queer, as if she didn't know what to say. Finally she told me that she'd been robbed.

"Of course, I asked her all about it. She took me into the stable, and showed me a hole in the floor in a corner. Two or three planks had been pried up, and there were fresh splinters of wood, showing that it had been done very recently. Also, the amount of breaking and splintering proved that it had been done in a hurry. An ax lay on the floor, near by.

"Under one of the planks — a short piece, evidently cut to fit across two beams that were only about two feet apart — was a sort of box, made strongly, and fastened to the beams, on each side.

"'That's where Sam kept his money,' said Mrs. Bennett; 'and it's gone.' "

"Certainly, there was no money in the box, then. I asked her if he threw it in there loose, and she said no; he had a small, sheet-iron box to hold it, that had been taken away.

"'Where's Mr. Bennett?' I asked.

"'He's gone away,' she said. 'I don't expect him back to-day.'

"I thought that her manner was queer, but it was a good deal stranger when she began to urge me not to say anything about what I had seen.

"'Sam wouldn't like it,' she said. 'Besides, we can catch the thief easier if we keep quiet.'

"Just then, who should walk in but John Wilson, the deputy sheriff. He happened to be passing by — going fishing, just as I was — and he saw the horse and wagon in the yard. It seems that the horse had started while I was in the stable, and had come near turning the wagon over. Wilson had run in to keep him from doing it. Then he had naturally looked into the stable, to see who was there.

"He heard what Mrs. Bennett said about catching a thief, and that being in his line, he asked what had been stolen.

"Mrs. Bennett started to lie to him, but she thought better of it, and told him the truth.

"While she was doing it, I was taking a look around, and what do you think I found? Why, I found Sam Bennett's coat, all covered with blood, lying on the stable floor. I didn't pick it up. I just stooped down and examined it, to make sure that the stains were really blood. At the same time I saw other red marks on the floor, near the coat.

"Then I managed to get Wilson aside for a moment, and I told him that there was something worse than robbery in the case. He took a look at the coat, and motioned to me to say nothing to Mrs. Bennett.

"'You'll get cold here,' says he to her, intending to get her out of the way, so that we could talk. 'Run into the house, and put a shawl on.'

"She was dressed very thinly, and it was rather chilly. I had noticed that she was shivering.

"When Wilson told her to go in and get a shawl, she went right away. Then he asked me what I knew about the matter, and I told him.

"'Bennett's been murdered,' said he. 'Probably he came out here early, to hitch up the horse, and went to his money box. Some tramp, that had been sleeping in the barn, saw him, and killed him for the money. We'll find his body hidden in the barn.'

"'That theory won't work,' said I to him. 'These bloodstains are several hours old. Besides that, why did Bennett hitch up his horse with his head toward the stable doors? No, sir; this crime was committed last evening. Bennett had just got back from somewhere.

"All this time I was doing some thinking. Why had Mrs. Bennett told me her husband had gone off to stay a day or two, when she knew that the horse and wagon were in the yard? What had she been doing in the stable? How did she account for the horse being there, without any driver? It wasn't reasonable to suppose that she had been out anywhere in the wagon, dressed as she was."

"In short," said Nick, "you believed Mrs. Bennett guilty of the crime."

"No, sir," replied Fairman, with something like a chuckle. "I'd been keeping my eyes open, and I'd seen one or two things. In the first place, the thief had ripped up several planks before he'd found the right one. Mrs. Bennett knew where it was.

"In the second place, she never could have ripped up those planks; it required a man's strength. Now, here's the problem, and I think it's worthy of your genius, Mr. Carter:

"Mrs. Bennett lied to me. She tried to keep the affair a secret. Her manner was calculated to excite suspicion in anybody. Her story about her husband's absence shows that she knew something had happened to him.

"Yet she didn't do the deed; she screamed when she found that it had been done. How do you reconcile these facts?"

"Let me have a few more facts first," said Nick. "What happened after she left you and Wilson?"

"Several other men came by, and Wilson called them in. They were most of them strangers, who had come up here to fish. Wilson explained the case to them, and a search of the stable was begun. I didn't wait for it. I didn't have the time to waste."

He looked knowingly at Nick as he said these words. I could not fathom his meaning, but Nick seemed to understand.

"I told Wilson about your being here," Fairman continued. "I made him promise not to disturb things; to hunt for the body, but not to move it in case he found it, till you arrived. Of course he won't find it."

"Why not?" I asked.

"Because it isn't there," he replied, with a wink at Nick.

I was nettled to be treated in this way by a yokel. Yet I could not deny that he was a shrewd fellow.

"I see your point," said Nick. "You think that the murder was committed somewhere else, and that the bloody coat was put there just as a blind."

"Precisely!" cried Fairman. "Why should the murderer take pains to hide the body, and leave the coat in plain sight?"

"There's something in that," said the detective. "Did you have any further conversation with Mrs. Bennett?" "No; she hadn't got back from the house when I left. I hurried away because I hoped to catch you before you left Marvin's."

That was the substance of Fairman's story as it was told to us as we hurried toward the Bennett house.

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Chapter 3

The Bennett House

Half a dozen men were talking excitedly in the road before the house as we came up. Wilson was one of them. Others could be seen in the yard before the stable door.

"Well, Wilson, did you find the body?" asked Fairman, as we came up.

"No; is that Mr. Carter?"

All eyes were turned upon the great detective.

"That's the man," said Fairman, with the air of one who is exhibiting a trophy.

"I'm glad to see you, sir," said Wilson, walking up to Nick. "This is a very strange affair."

"From what this gentleman has told me, I should judge that it is," replied the detective.

"Where is Mrs. Bennett?"

"That's the strangest part of it!" exclaimed Wilson. "She has disappeared !"

"You're a smart man, I don't think," said Fairman. "Why did you let her get away?"

"I never thought of her going," protested Wilson.

"It's natural enough," sneered Fairman. "Circumstances are against her."

"Now, look here," rejoined Wilson warmly; "I don't set up to be a detective, but I hope I've got common sense. Here's a woman who has lived in this community all her life, and is known to be a good Christian and a loving wife. Don't you try to tell me that she killed her husband. I know her too well to believe you. She had nothing to do with it."

"Then why has she run away?"

"I don't believe she has run away."

"Then what's become of her?" Wilson threw up his hands with a gesture of utter bewilderment.

"Have you searched the house and barn?" asked Nick.

"We've searched everywhere," responded Wilson, with something like a groan. "We can't find a trace of her or of Sam Bennett's body."

"If you'll allow me," said Nick, "I'll take a look around, the premises. Meanwhile permit me to suggest, if there's any place where Mrs. Bennett would be likely to go, that you send there."

"That's what I was about to do," Wilson replied. "These five men are going around to all the houses near here."

"Has she any relatives in the neighborhood?"

"No; she has a brother living about three miles down the road."

"Who occupied this house besides Mr. and Mrs. Bennett?"

"Nobody is here now. They have lived alone since their daughter Jennie was married, about three months ago."

Nick, Fairman, and I walked toward the stable. Wilson and the other men went upon their several errands.

We were assured by a man named Hamlin, who was on guard in the stable, that nothing had been disturbed. Hamlin was a sort of unofficial deputy of Wilson's.

Nick made a rapid general survey of the place, glanced into the barn, which was reached by a door from the stable, and then turned his attention to the bloodstains.

There were some small, irregular splashes on the floor, and then a line of drops leading direct to the spot where the coat lay.

It was a much-worn garment, spread flat upon the floor, with the lining upward. The stains were all on the lining, and close together. They represented a considerable quantity of blood.

As Nick rose from beside the coat, I saw a peculiar smile upon his face.

"Here's something that will interest you," he said to Fairman.

Between his thumb and finger he held half a dozen short, gray hairs.

"That fits my theory exactly!" cried Fairman. "Bennett's head has rested on that coat. His hair was gray, and he wore it about that length. He must have been killed by a blow on the head, and then this coat was wrapped around the fatal wound to prevent the blood from staining something else.

"My belief is that the body was carried in that wagon from the place where the crime was committed to the place where the murderer has concealed the corpse. Then, probably, the horse was turned loose, and wandered here."

"There is evidence in support of that last view," said Nick. "I suppose your sharp eyes noted the wagon tracks in the street and in the yard."

"You bet; I noticed them right away," replied Fairman, with an emphatic nod. "The tracks show that the wagon must have grazed one of the gateposts, and that the horse had strayed about the yard before coming to a halt. I can swear that there was nobody in the wagon when it came into this yard."

"As to the crime having been committed elsewhere," said Nick, "what do you say to this?"

He pointed to a broken bottle on the floor. It had been a large and heavy bottle. The bottom of it, and a few fragments, lay near those bloodstains which were farthest from the coat. The neck of the bottle was some distance away, in a corner.

Nick picked up the bottom of the bottle and showed a faint stain of blood upon a ragged edge of the glass. Fairman was staggered.

"It looks as if he had been knocked down with that bottle," he admitted. "Perhaps I was wrong. In that case, the body was certainly carried away in the wagon."

"You noticed that a piece had been torn out of the lining of the coat?"

"Yes; but that might have been done long ago."

"I do not think so," said Nick; and he proceeded to tear out another piece.

The first had been a strip about two inches wide and a foot long. Nick put into his pocket that which he had torn off.

"The murderer probably used that to wipe his hands on," commented Fairman.

Nick made no reply. He was scanning the stable floor closely. At last he walked toward a small and rough door which opened from the rear of the stable.

"Here are more bloodstains," he said. We approached just as Nick opened the door. There were stains upon the threshold, though they were very faint, scarcely perceptible, in fact. The principal one was nearly round, and somewhat smaller than a watch.

"Let's see what we can find in this direction," said Nick, leading the way into a little garden behind the stable.

"Here are a man's tracks!" exclaimed Fairman. "They're not Bennett's; they're too small. He had enormous feet."

"You'll find several men's tracks if you look closely," remarked Nick. "The searching party seems to have been out here."

There was a path leading toward a Held. The ground was very soft, and footprints could be easily traced.

There was one line of them that was plainly visible. It led along the path. I made out that he who had made those footprints had been running rapidly.

Considering the ease with which they could be seen, I was surprised to observe the extreme caution with which Nick proceeded.

After he had gone about fifty yards, however, he went on with more confidence. We passed into the Held, which was partly overgrown with grass, and partly bare.

Crossing this, we came to a fringe of trees. Here Nick made quite an extended search. He went down to the bank of a brook which flowed beyond the trees, and I followed him, but I sawno tracks there. Then we returned; and presently Nick found what he was seeking. It was a box made of tinned iron. There had been a padlock on it, but it had been wrenched away. The box was empty.

"You've tracked the thief," said Fairman, in envious admiration. "That's Bennett's cash box, beyond a doubt."

Nick said nothing. He began to walk rapidly back toward the stable.

When he reached the little door he paused for a moment, and, naturally, Fairman and I came to a halt. The schoolmaster turned about, and set his back against the stable. Then he sprang away, uttering a loud cry, and pointing to the field.

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Chapter 4

Mrs. Bennett Returns

I looked, and saw a woman running. Just as my eye lighted upon her, she dodged behind some bushes on the edge of the garden.

"It's Mrs. Bennett!" cried Fairman. "She's coming back."

"Don't let her know that you saw her," said Nick, and he drew us into the stable.

We watched cautiously from a window. The woman approached the house, shielding herself from observation as well as she could. No one saw her but us. She passed on the other side of the barn. We walked hurriedly through the stable, crossed the yard, and entered the kitchen of the house, just as she came in by a door on the opposite side. The room was an L, and occupied the full width of it.

"Good morning, Mrs. Bennett," said Nick. "Where have you been?"

"Well, that's cool," she rejoined. "If it's any of your business, I've been down to the barn, looking out for the cows."

"You don't seem to take much interest in this robbery."

"Why should I? We'll never see the money again. It's gone, and there's the end of it. Some of those pesky tramps have stolen it. I should think the law might do something to protect us from those critters."

"Where is your husband?"

"I dunno. He's gone off somewhere. He'll be back in a day or two."

"Who hitched up your horse this morning?"

"The tramp, I reckon. He probably intended to steal him, but was frightened away. I heard the horse in the yard, and went out to take care of him."

"Mrs. Bennett," said Fairman, breaking in, "why do you act in this way? A crime has been committed, and you seem disposed to shield the criminal. Don't you know that we have reason to believe that your husband has met with foul play?"

"You mean he's been murdered?" she cried.

Fairman bowed his head.

"I don't believe it!" she exclaimed; and then, falling into a chair, she buried her face in her hands, while her frame shook as with sobs.

At first I pitied her, but, on closer inspection, I decided that she was only pretending to cry.

The woman's heartlessness shocked me. That she was an accomplice in the crime was to me a matter of certainty. Her clumsy efforts to account for her husband's absence, and her absurd assumption of the manner of an innocent person ignorant of the facts would have excited my pity if the enormity of her crime had not made them abhorrent.

I tried to question her, but she would not speak. Nothing could induce her to move from that chair or to take her hands from her face.

Nick paid no attention to the woman.

"I'm going over to the railroad station," said he to me. "I want to send telegrams to the surrounding towns, giving a description of the criminal, with directions for his arrest."

"A description!" I cried. "How can you give that?"

"I can furnish one that is infallible," said Nick, with a smile.

"There was something in his footprints – "

Nick shook his head.

"I never saw any that were more commonplace."

"Then I'm all at sea."

Fairman's face took on a strange expression, made up of surprise, disappointment, and a dozen other emotions. He followed Nick to the door.

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Chapter 5

You have learned about Martin Heywood

"You have learned about Martin Heywood," he said, in a low, anxious voice.

"Never heard of him," said Nick. "Who is he?"

"This woman's brother, and the principal in this crime, beyond a doubt. Don't try to deceive me. You are on his track."

"I may be," said Nick; "but, upon my word, I didn't know it."

"Didn't know it!"

"No; what makes you think he's the man?"

"He's Bennett's only enemy. There was a lawsuit. Everybody around here knows that Bennett's testimony would have cost Heywood nine-tenths of all he's worth. He had testified once against his brother-in-law, and Heywood threatened to kill him then.

"The case went against Heywood, but, on appeal, a new trial was ordered. The case was to be called to-morrow.

"Wilson had the summons for Bennett in his pocket. He wasn't going fishing; he was coming here to serve it."

"Rather early in the morning," said Nick.

"Yes; Wilson was afraid Bennett would evade it. As a matter of fact, he was afraid for his life if he testified."

"And you think that Heywood killed him to suppress his testimony?"

"Yes; is there any other explanation of this woman's conduct? She knows her brother did the deed. She's trying to shield him."

"That's a promising theory," said Nick. "Suppose you go to Heywood's house and try to work it up, while I go and send my telegrams."

"Telegrams? Do you think Heywood has run away?"

"I don't know anything about it."

Fairman was puzzled, but not more than I was.

"You seem to be guessing," said the schoolmaster, at last. "You discover evidence accidentally. I've heard a good deal about your luck, and now I believe it.

"I'll tell you one piece of evidence that you've turned up. There's a way to Heywood's house along that brook where you found the box. What do you think of that?"

"It's quite interesting," said Nick. "I suppose Mrs. Bennett ran away to see her brother?"

"Of course."

"Very natural."

Nick nodded an adieu to Fairman, and walked away in the direction of the railroad station. I followed him. As we went down the road, we saw Fairman going the other way, probably toward Heywood's. There was nobody to watch Mrs. Bennett, unless the men who loitered about the stable yard could see her through the windows.

Nick sent his telegrams, and we spent the forenoon waiting around the station for replies.

None had come at twelve o'clock. We decided to go to Farmer Marvin's for dinner, crossed the railroad tracks, and struck into the road, when suddenly Nick went down upon his knees, and closely examined the ground.

I had no doubt that he had recognized a footprint, but none was visible to me. Nick was surely on the trail. He followed it back to the railroad, then up the path, beside the tracks, until at last he stopped beside some freight cars that were stalled there.

After several efforts he opened the door of one of them. As he did so, I noticed a faint mark of blood on the wood just under the door.

The light that struck into the car shone full into the face of a frowzy tramp who sat on a sackful of merchandise, and stared stupidly at us.

His hand rested upon the head of the most miserable dog that ever I saw. The animal was a mongrel of a thousand low breeds at once. It had suffered in its wanderings even more than its master. I observed with pity that the creature was lean with hunger, and that one of its feet had been badly hurt, and was bandaged.

It offered a feeble resistance — the best of which the faithful brute was capable — when Nick sprang into the car and laid his hand on the man's shoulder.

"You are under arrest," was all the detective said.

The tramp swore a round oath, but he made no resistance. He took the wretched dog in his arms, and tenderly carried it out of the car. Once upon the ground, the dog ran well enough with three legs.

There was a rude hotel opposite the station. Nick put the tramp and the dog into a room there, set the landlord to guard them, and called to me to follow.

"We have the criminal now," he said. "It's time to look for the body of the victim."

"And for the money," said I. "The tramp had none when you searched him."

"We shall find that, too," rejoined Nick.

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Chapter 6

Heywood’s House

As we walked along, I plied him with questions about the proof against the man whom he had arrested. All I could get out of him was the somewhat irrelevant remark that he had a right to make an arrest, for Wilson had authorized him to act as a deputy.

We came at last to a very nice house, nearly two miles beyond the station. To my surprise, we found Fairman at the gate.

"What does Heywood say?" asked Nick.

So that was Heywood's house. I had not known it before.

"He won't talk," replied Fairman; "but his manner is conclusive. That man is guilty."

Heywood appeared at this moment.

"This is all foolishness about Sam Bennett being murdered," he said. "And, as for my having anything to do with it, that's worse yet. I've got nothing agin' Bennett."

"Since when have you been reconciled?" demanded Nick.

The man bit his lip, but did not answer.

"Now, Mr. Heywood," said Nick, "look right down in the dirt at your feet and you will see the track of Mr. Bennett's wagon, made last evening. He came over to see you, and, in my opinion, lie's here yet. I'm going to search your house."

Heywood groaned.

"You've got the authority, have you?"

Nick nodded. Of course, it was a "bluff."

Heywood turned toward the house.

"Sam!" he yelled. "Come out here. There's no use of staying in there any longer."

Presently the elongated form of Samuel Bennett appeared at the door.

"Well, I swear!" ejaculated Fairman.

"Good day, Mr. Bennett," said Nick. "I was told that you were murdered, but I didn't believe it. I'm not yet sure whether you've been robbed."

"No, I ha'n't lost nothin'," growled Bennett. "I took all my money out'n that hidin' place last evening. I'd seen a tramp critter hanging 'round my barn, and I was afeared."

"He was in the barn when you hitched up your horse last night," said Nick. "He watched you through a knot hole in the door between the barn and the stable. I saw the prints of his muddy boots on the floor. He had to stand on tiptoe to see through the hole, and he supported himself by partly gripping a dusty beam over the door.

"He saw you when you went to your bank, but he didn't know that you took your money out. After you were gone, he ripped up the floor and stole the empty box.

"Meanwhile his dog stepped on a piece of an old bottle, and cut his foot. Then he limped over to your coat, and lay down on it while he nursed his wound. The bloodstains led to the theory that you had been murdered. Our friend Mr. Fairman was impolite enough to say that some of the dog's hair looked very much like yours.

"After a study of the case, I sent some telegrams requesting the police of neighboring towns to arrest a tramp with a three-legged dog. I subsequently arrested him myself. I also recovered your box, by following the trail of three legs out of four — for I knew, of course, that the dog was so badly hurt that he would hold up one of his feet.

"Your wife's disappearance this morning, and her subsequent demeanor could be explained only on the theory that she had come over here to see you, and had found you all right. Therefore I came to seek you here. I suppose she persuaded you not to testify against her brother, and that you intended to hide at his house to avoid service of the summons. Am I right?"

"Yes, blast you!" said Bennett.

"And the horse?" queried Nick. "Did he run away?"

"Yes; confound him. I had just hitched him up this morning, intending to take him back before it was light, when he bolted. I went after him, but lost the track, and when I at last got in sight of the house, there were a lot of people around, and I didn't dare to go in."

Nick turned to Fairman.

"I'm obliged to you for a pleasant and novel experience," he said. "Will you join us on our fishing trip this afternoon?"

"No!" growled Fairman. "I'm going home, to kick myself."

~ The End ~


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