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CHAPTER XXIV EXPLANATIONS
Sandy found Squire Blasdell having an interview with the strange prisoner.

"I'm putting him on the grill, and trying to find out something about him, but it's hard work," the Squire said to the young farmer.

"Yes, you might as well save your time," spoke the man. "I'll tell you nothing!"

"I've got news for you, Squire," said Sandy, a little later when the constable had been called in to take the stranger back to his cell.

"Looks like good news, by your face, Sandy," the lawyer replied. "You haven't been finding money for the mortgage; have you?"

"That's just what I have, Squire!" Sandy cried. "We just found Uncle Isaac's money box!"

"You did! 'Gosh all Hemlock' as the boys used to say. How was it?"

"We found the money box—with a lot of cash and papers in a secret room in the old barn we're goin' to burn for movin' pictures. We found the money box, all right."

There was a sound from the room where the prisoner sat. He started to his feet, and stepped to the grating which separated the cell from the apartment in which Sandy and the Squire were.

"You say you found Isaac Apgar's hidden wealth?" he asked.

"Yes—but what is that to you?" inquired the Squire.

"A lot to me. The game is up now, and I'll confess everything. I've been keeping still, hoping I could get out and find that box myself. That's what my object has been in hanging around your farm," he went on. "I was looking for that box myself. I—I thought maybe I might get a reward if I located it."

This statement might be doubtful, but there was no way of disproving it. The man might have been hoping only for a reward; but, on the other hand, if he had found the wealth he might have kept it all for himself.

"How did you come to know about this?" asked Squire Blasdell, curiously. "Did you ever know Isaac Apgar?"

"Well, I don't know as you could exactly call it 'knowing' him," was the slow answer, "seeing that he didn't know anybody himself, of late years. I may as well tell you the whole story. My name is Monk Freck, and I used to be a keeper in the state lunatic asylum where Isaac Apgar was confined. That's how I knew him. I was his keeper!"

This was strange and startling news, but it explained many things.

"Go on," urged the Squire. "What about looking for his money?"

"That's it," added Sandy.

"I'll come to that. Though few folks knew it, Mr. Apgar had some lucid moments during his insanity. He was as right as anyone at times, but maybe only for a half hour or so at a stretch. And it was in those times that he'd talk about the wealth he had hidden.

"I tried to get him to tell me just where it was, for I had heard rumors that he had hidden quite a pile before he went crazy. But he was either too cunning to tell me, or his mind failed him at the critical moment. All I could learn was that it was hidden somewhere about the corner of the old barn on the Apgar place.

"Well, he kept on getting worse until he died, and I made up my mind to have a try for the money box. I gave up my job in the asylum, and came here. And since then I've been looking around, trying to make the discovery, and claim a reward.

"I spent a good deal of time in the barn, but I never thought there could be a secret room. I thought it might be buried somewhere around the place. I didn't have much chance to hunt, though, after the moving picture people got here," he added.

"And was it you who made the queer noises in the barn, and scared the girls?" asked Sandy.

"It was. I didn't mean to scare 'em, though. I was trying to crawl up between two beams one day, when I slipped and fell. I rattled some loose boards where I had lifted some up to have a place to hide. I hurt myself, too, and I guess I groaned. The fall made me lame for a while."

"That accounts for your limp," said Sandy. "How did you come to go to the cabin?"

"Oh, I wanted some place to stay near your barn, and as no one used the cabin, I took up my quarters there. Before that I often used to sleep in a secret place in your old barn. But I didn't mean any harm. Of course I didn't want it known who I was, for if it was learned that I had been Mr. Apgar's keeper in the asylum everybody would have guessed my object. So I ran whenever I saw anybody from Oak Farm. But you finally caught me. I'm not sorry, for I was getting tired of the game. And so you found the hidden box? Well, I wish it could have been me."

"Did you steal that dog, too?' asked Sandy.

"No, I did not. I found him wandering about and took a notion to him. I guess maybe he had been stolen, but I didn't do it. If I had known who he belonged to I might have got a reward from them."

"The owner is known," Sandy said, "and she may reward you. I feel so happy that I don't wish anybody bad luck. Now Squire, I suppose the foreclosure is off; ain't it? I've got more than the four thousand dollars."

"The old farm is safe, Sandy," the Squire answered, "and I'm glad of it, for your sake. You may have thought me hard and grasping, but I had to do the business for my clients. Now we'll have to decide what to do with this man. I reckon we can let him go, seeing that he didn't really do anything except take the auto, and I guess the doctor won't press that charge."

This proved to be the case, and that day Monk Freck was released. Mrs. Delamont was to over-joyed to get her dog back that she gave Freck a substantial reward, for the former asylum keeper had been kind to Rex III, and insisted that he had found him after the dog had gotten away from the real thief.



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