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- Walter Sherwood's Probation - 10/38 -


his pocket. It occurred to him that if he should really need money it might be better for him to sell the silver watch and retain the gold one.

"I have made thirty dollars at the very least on my purchase," he reflected, "for I am sure I can sell the watch for fifty dollars if I wish to do so. This is a white day for me, as the Romans used to say. I accept it as a good omen of success. I wish Doctor Mack and Nancy were here to see it. I think the doctor would give me credit for a little shrewdness."

The car sped on perhaps a dozen miles farther, when the door opened and the conductor entered, followed by a stout man of perhaps fifty years of age, who looked flushed and excited.

"This gentleman has been robbed of his gold watch," explained the conductor. "He is convinced that some one on the train has taken it. Of course, no one of you is suspected, but I will trouble you to show me your watches."

As Walter heard these words a terrible fear assailed him. Had he bought a stolen watch?

CHAPTER IX

AN INGENIOUS SCHEME

The passengers, though somewhat surprised, generally showed their watches with a good grace. One old man produced a silver watch fifty years old.

"That watch belonged to my grandfather," he said. "You don't claim that, do you?"

"Wouldn't take it as a gift," said the loser crustily.

"You couldn't get it in exchange for yours!" retorted the owner.

Presently they came to Walter. If he had not attached the gold watch to his chain, instead of his old silver one, he would have been tempted to leave it in his pocket and produce the less valuable one. But he was saved from the temptation, as this would now have been impossible. Besides, had the gold watch been found on him afterward it would have looked very suspicious.

"Well, youngster," said the stout man, "show us your watch."

With a flushed face and an uneasy feeling Walter drew out the gold timepiece.

"Is that your watch?" he said.

"Yes!" almost shouted the stout passenger, fiercely. "So you are the thief?"

"No, sir," answered Walter, pale but firm. "I am not the thief."

"Where did you get it, then?"

"I bought it."

"You bought it? That's a likely story. "Why, it was taken from me this very afternoon."

"That may be, but I bought it, all the same."

The owner was about to protest, when the conductor said quietly: "Listen to the young fellow's explanation."

Walter proceeded:

"A man came to my seat and told me he wanted to raise enough money to get to Dakota. He offered me the watch for twenty-five dollars, though he said it cost him ninety six months ago."

"And you paid him twenty-five dollars?"

"No; I had no money to spare, but when he offered it for twenty, and told me I could more than get my money back either by pawning or selling it, I made up my mind to purchase, and did so."

"Where is this man?" asked the conductor.

"He said he was going into the smoking-car."

"That's a likely story," sneered the stout gentleman.

"Do you charge me with taking the watch?" demanded Walter hotly. "I have never left this car. Have you seen me before?"

"No; but you are probably a confederate of the man from whom you got it. But I am not sure if there was any such man."

"I will describe him," said Walter.

As he did so, the conductor said: "There was such a man on the train. He got off at the last station."

"I don't know anything about that," said the claimant; "but I'll trouble you, young man, for that watch."

"Will you return me the twenty dollars I gave for it?" asked Walter.

"Of course not. I don't propose to buy back my own watch."

An elderly gentleman who sat just behind Walter spoke up here.

"It is rather hard on the boy," he said. "I can confirm his story about the purchase of the watch. I heard the bargaining and saw the purchase-money paid."

"That makes no difference to me," said the claimant. "I've identified the watch and I want it."

Walter removed it from his chain and was about to hand it to the claimant, when a quiet-looking man, dressed in a drab suit, rose from a seat farther down the car and came forward. He was a small man, not over five feet five inches in height, and he would not have weighed over one hundred and twenty pounds, but there was a look of authority on his face and an accent of command in his voice.

"You needn't give up the watch, my boy," he said.

Walter drew back his hand and turned round in surprise. The claimant uttered an angry exclamation, and said testily: "By what right do you interfere?"

"The watch isn't yours," said the small man nonchalantly.

"It isn't, hey? Well, of all the impertinent--"

"Stop there, Jim Beckwith! You see I know you"--as the stout man turned pale and clutched at the side of the seat.

"Who are you?" he demanded hoarsely.

"Detective Green!"

The claimant lost all his braggadocio air, and stared at the detective with a terrified look.

"That isn't my name," he managed to ejaculate.

"Very likely not," said the detective calmly, "but it is one of your names. It is a very clever game that you and your confederate are playing. He sells the watch, and you demand it, claiming that it has been stolen from you. I was present when the watch was sold, and the reason I did not interfere was because I was waiting for the sequel. How many times have you played this game?"

"There's some mistake," gasped the other.

"Perhaps so, but I have some doubts whether you came by it honestly."

"I assure you it is my watch," cried the other, uneasily.

"How much did you pay for it, young man?" asked the detective.

"Twenty dollars."

"Very well, sir; give the boy twenty dollars, and I shall advise him to give the watch back to you, as it may be stolen property, which he would not like to have found in his possession."

"But that will be paying twenty dollars for my own property. It was not to me he paid the money."

"You will have to look to your confederate for that. I am not sure but I ought to make you give twenty-five dollars."

This hint led to the stout man's hastily producing two ten-dollar bills, which he tendered to Walter.

"It's an outrage," he said, "making a man pay for his own property!"

"Are you sure that your statements in regard to this man are true?" asked an important-looking individual on the opposite side of the car. "To my mind your interference is unwarrantable, not to say outrageous. Justice has been trampled upon."

The detective looked round sharply.

"Do you know the man?" he asked.

"No."

"Well, I do. I first made his acquaintance at Joliet prison, where he served a term of years for robbing a bank. Is that true or not, Jim Beckwith?"

The man known as Beckwith had already started to leave the car, but, although he heard the question, he didn't come back to answer it.

"I generally know what I'm about," continued the detective, pointedly, "as those who are unwise enough to criticise my actions find out, sooner or later."


Walter Sherwood's Probation - 10/38

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