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- Marguerite Verne - 40/71 -


"It's no earthly use to try to sift Stephen, for he's as firm as a granite bowlder; but one thing is certain, there's something in the wind just now--something in which Mr. Lawson and Moses Spriggins are both concerned, though either or both may be unaware of it. Let me see," continued Mrs. Montgomery, elevating her eyebrows, and looking very much like a lawyer when he has his client's opponent in the witness stand. "Mr. Lawson was here last night and left early. Moses Spriggins was here also, and left later. Now, as to what took Moses to the office that's where the mystery is, and that there is one I am as certain as the head is on my body."

One good trait in Mrs. Montgomery's character was that she never lost confidence in a friend until she had the most positive proof of his guilt, her honest nature was slow to believe in the worst side of humanity.

"Whatever it is," murmured she, "it is the doings of some other parties, for both are above suspicion."

The entrance of Mr. Verne put an end to the soliloquy, but did not drive away the subject, and when the latter was safely out of hearing, Mrs. Montgomery exclaimed to herself "I see plainly that Stephen is deeply agitated. He seldom carries that look. It is something of an uncommon nature that has aroused him. He thinks he hides his secret whatever it be, but poor Stephen is not schooled in the ways of deception, and in the end it is better so." And repeating the words, "'tis better so," the whole-hearted woman was soon occupied over the ways and means of domestic economy.

CHAPTER XXVI.

DESPONDENCY.

Much as we would like to follow other friends we cannot yet leave Phillip Lawson. He is now in great trouble having met with a loss that is great.

"I might have known that it was too much good fortune for me," cried the young man in sad and pathetic voice. "Fool that I was to carry it about when I was so lucky for once in my life."

Phillip Lawson was the picture of despondency. A heavy cloud had settled down just as all had promised fair and now all was darkness and gloom, not a ray of hope pierced the grim portals which had closed so suddenly upon him.

He thought of the Tuscan poet and wondered if it were possible that his bitter experience had called forth that direful inscription--

"Abandon hope all ye who enter here."

"Ah, my life is Hades! I look for none other!" cried Phillip, his mind now in an unsettled state and ready almost to doubt truth and revelation.

"I have tried hard to lead a good moral life, to live according to the teachings of the Golden Rule and to live with God's help in accordance with the teachings of His holy doctrine, and why is it that I am thus hardly dealt with?"

We cannot blame our young friend if he be somewhat rebellious. His faith is sorely tried and he is at first found wanting; but unlike many others who have gone down under the weight of the angry billows, stems the torrent and with his eye straight for the beacon light reaches the haven in safety.

"I believe that some good may yet spring from it. Hubert Tracy will not have the power to injure my reputation. He may succeed for a time, but there is a Nemesis cruel as death."

Phillip repeated these words as if he were the avenging Deity himself and the hoarseness of his voice made them sound doubly prophetic.

"If they could only have passed into Mr. Verne's hands instead of mine it would have been better for all parties; but what's the use of talking."

Phillip looked sad and careworn, aye, ten years older than on the previous night, and had Mrs. Montgomery looked in upon him then she would surely have been more perplexed than ever.

"It will never do for me to be hunting around the doors at 'Sunnybank.' For the life of me I cannot see how such a thing could have happened."

For the sake of explanation we must admit that our legal friend had a failing which often turned out disastrously for himself and at times for others--he was simply speaking--absent-minded, but bear in mind it was only outside of business matters. As a clear thinker Mr. Lawson had no superior, he was equal to any question, running over with brilliant repartee and thoughtful speech.

It was only when the office door was closed and business suspended that he was guilty of this weakness, and as it on this occasion, caused him to suffer much from the consequence we hope to prove that he had overcome it. The fact was the paper had slipped between the folds of his handkerchief when he had taken it to brush off some dust that persistently adhered to his coat sleeve. There was another view of the matter from a more jubliant source, Mr. Moses Spriggins.

The latter toiled away in the ten acre lot at Mill Crossing in the happy thought of some day being "as big a gun as the rest of 'em," and with the kindness received from Mr. Verne the happy climax was almost reached.

"Would'nt it be great," mused Moses as he followed the plough in the field above referred to, "if when Melindy and myself go to town that we would put up at them 'ere Verneses. Golly it would make the Wiggleses eyes stick out furder than ever. They're a jealous lot at the best o' times, and its sich a silly idear for Melindy to be a-naggin' at me for goin' there when I never go nearer than the rickety old gate."

Mr. Spriggins was evidently taking on a few airs for he seemed quite exasperated and ready to battle against such aspersions. Instantly his face became radiant as the noonday sun, and he burst forth in rapturous strains--

"What a man I would be and what sights I would see If I had but ten thousand a year,"

until the hills and dales in the vicinity of Mill Crossing caught up the refrain and all nature seemed to rejoice.

"What's the use of wishin'? it won't bring the ten thousand any more than I could turn that old millstream yonder tother way. But what's the odds so long as yer happy?" and once more there floated on the breeze--

"If I had but _one_ thousand a year."

"Yes sir, I'd be content," exclaimed Mr. Spriggins, as he finished the last stanza and took a vigorous pull at his pipe as means of reconciliation with his present circumstances.

"And, by-the-bye, I must go up to Ned Joneses to-night and talk him into that business. It aint any sense for Ned and me to be a keepin' up spite 'cause the old folks want ter. No sir, not this child, anyhow."

Between eulogizing and soliloquizing Moses' morning wore into evening and having hitched up the old mare he set off for the post office--a spot doubly endeared to him since Melindy Jane Thrasher went to service, since which time there regularly arrived every Monday evening a suspicious letter addressed:--

MR. MOSES SPRIGGINS, Mill Crossin', Kings County, N. B. In haste.

Imagine the surprise of our friend on being presented with three whole letters--nothing more, nothing less--and one was addressed "Moses Spriggins, Esq."

"I wouldn't take that as a joke, nohow, Mose," said a lugubrious looking individual, whose face looked as if it had been playing "I spy" with a tallow candle and got the worst of the battle.

"Bet your life on it it's no joke; you're jest right Zeb, it's real down airnest; the fellow that rit that ain't one of your jokin' consarns."

Mr. Spriggins glanced over Melindy's letter to see if she was in good "speerits," and being more than satisfied, broke open the seal of the second one, which was from Mr. Verne.

It was written in a large and legible hand, and was couched in the most simple language, and ended with a request that the finding of the paper should be kept secret until such time as he (Mr. Verne) should see fit to acknowledge it. "I do not doubt you, Mr. Spriggins, only you might carelessly let it be made known among your friends."

When Moses read these lines he was more than delighted. They expressed such confidence in him that he felt so proud, to quote his own expression, "that he wouldn't claim relationship with the Attorney Gin'ral."

The third letter which drew our friend's attention, was a notice from the Dominion Safety Fund Company, which almost gave as much pleasure as the other, for in it lay, as Moses expressed it, "a big bonanzer one of these days."

But Moses was not destined to live many days in a perpetual ray of sunshine.

Mrs. Spriggins was a motherly and kind woman, careful, industrious and economical, but she had one bad habit--that of scolding.

"Mother could no more live without scoldin' than dad could live without his tobaccer," was Moses' frequent comment when beyond the old lady's hearing.

The happy first-born was dear to Mrs. Spriggins as "the apple of her


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