Fred Fearnot's Day, or The Great Reunion at Avon

THE IRONWOOD CLUB.
By Kit Clyde

"Murdered by tramps," were the words that greeted my ears as I trudged along the forest road in one of the northern countries of Michigan, under the hot sunshine of a June day.

An old man had been murdered in his cabin for money -alone old fellow, who lived a hermit life-and great excitement prevailed in the neighborhood. I had been sent to the scene of the murder by a woman who was interested in the case, and I went to ferret the assassin out and see him imprisoned for his crime.

A dozen men, rough frontiersmen, were gathered about the rude log-cabin when I approached, with my bundle on my shoulder, and looked upon the scene.

"Eh? Who's this?"

Sharp, suspicious glances were cast over me. I resembled a tramp very much, and those men were just at present in an ugly mood. I did not fear them, however. I had carried my life in my hands on too many occasions for that.

"What seems to be the trouble, gentlemen?" I questioned, in a pleasant voice, that served to disarm enmity and suspicion.

"Old Ramroyd hez been murdered," answered a giant settler. "Some ornary cuss hes gin Sam his quietus wi' a club. Ef we git our hands on him we'll fix him."

The man looked savage enough to keep his word.

I pushed my way inside the rude frontier cabin, and there my eyes met a sight that was sickening in the extreme.

An old gray-bearded, gray-haired man, clad almost in rags, lay prostrate near the center of the room, his head a ghastly sight, having been beaten with some blunt instrument, the floor and matted hair saturated with blood. The old eyes were open and glassy, filled with a nameless horror that it was terrible to contemplate. It was indeed a cruel murder.

"Who did it?"

At length I put the question to the men.

"That the question, cap!" grunted a tall, gaunt man. "Ef we know'd 'twouldn't take us long to fix him so he wouldn't do no more jobs of the same kind. Most folks think 'twas a tramp, but I don't know nothing of the kind.

"Them fellers has got 'nough ter ans'er for 'thout puttin' more on their shoulders than they're guilty of. Now, don't look likely that a stranger -- an' a tramp would be a stranger-would look into this hyer house fur money, does it? -- nor to sich as him to hev it?"

The gaunt old fellow pointed at the moment toward the ragged corpse.

I felt that there was much wisdom in the word of the settler.

"'Twan't no stranger as did this, you kin bet yer life on thet; but someone who know'd Sam Ramroyd had four hundred dollars hoarded up in this old shanty."

"He did have that amount you think?"

"I expect so, stranger."

"Then your theory seems to be a sensible one."

I made a thorough examination of the room, and soon found the weapon that had been used in performing the awful work. It was an iron-wood club, about three feet in length, the full size of the sapling from which it had been cut, something like two inches in diameter. The small end had been whittled with a knife, making a neat handle.

Doubtless the club had been cut for the express purpose for which it was used. There were too many tracks about the house to note any particular one.

After making some further inquiries, I left the cabin, taking the ironwood club with me.

"The man who cut this club is undoubtedly the murdered I reasoned. "I must find who cut it and watch the fellow. This is a clew that I feel sure, will lead to something."

I scanned the forest closely in the vicinity, but saw no ironwoods among the saplings. It was not here, then, that the bludgeon of death was cut.

I crossed the wagon-road that led past from the village of Morgan, six miles distant, and entered the woods beyond I came upon a path that led into the denser forest. Instinctively I followed this path, believing that it must lead somewhere. I had gone perhaps hall a mile when I came to a sudden halt.

The body of a slender, newly cut sapling lay beside the path. I at once examined it to find that it was ironwood, and that the club I carried had been cut from the same. A brief comparison assured me of this beyond a doubt.

I now pursued my way, and in a little time came out in front of a log house, about which were many shavings.

Under a shed near was a shaving horse, and near it several bunches of shingles. Just as I came up an old man came to the door of the house. He greeted me with a gruff good-morning and asked my business.

"I'm in the north woods looking for a job," I said, tossing my bundle to a log, club and all.

"Waal, you won't git none here," growled the old chap, rather surlily.

"Did you know old Sam Ramroyd was dead?" I questioned abruptly, my eyes fixed on the fellow's face keenly.

"Yes, I did. I was over this mornin'. 'Twas a beastly stranger. I warned old Sam lots o' times, but it didn't seem to do no good. hev they got the murderer?"

"No. Have you seen any suspicious characters about here?"

"Not any. Nobody comes to see old Si Bunday 'cept he wants ter git a few shingles. Nelse, of course, comes up, but it's ter see Mandy, I reckon," and the old shingle weaver gave vent to a chuckle.

"Who is Nelse?"

"Nelse Faddock, him that was widder Eade's boy. A good-for-nothin' chap mostly, but I s'pse he likes Mandy, and the to gal's took all of a heap fur him."

"Your daughter?"

"Yes, cap," with a trifle straightening of the lean old from. "Come over an' chat ef ye like. I am goin' ter work."

The old man was soon at his post shaving shingles. I moved over and sat down near. Seeing a hatchet, I picked it up and examined it with some curiosity. There was a peculiar shaped nick near the center. This interested me not a little.

Simply for the reason that I had noticed a peculiar crease on both ends of the ironwood club that showed a defect in the instrument doing the cutting.

Carelessly, while talking with Si Bunday, I placed the edge of the hatchet along the spot cut at the end of the ironwood stick. The fact was at once patent to my mind that this was the hatchet that had cut the murderous bludgeon.

"Hello, cap! Where's you get that?"

"I found it right here in the shavings."

"Land, is that so? I missed the hatchet two days ago. Glad you've found it, cap, for I've needed it more'n twice what it's worth. I've rummaged them shavings over a dozen times. I don't see how it come to be there now."

"Has Mr. Faddock been here to-day?"

"This mornin'. He's gone to Morgan, and feelin' mighty good he was, too. I'm given to thinkin' the ornary cuss s'pects to git Mandy 'fore long, they both looked so awful cunnin' when I seed 'em together."

Soon after I left the vicinity of the shingle-weaver's cabin. I was assured that his hatchet had cut the ironwood club that had been used to murder Ramroyd. Now to find the user of the hatchet.

Was it old Mr. Bunday?

I did not believe it was. It might be Nelse Faddock, and I resolved to learn more of the fellow. Morgan was his home, and I resolved to go there soon to look for him. Meantime I went back to the scene of the murder. I learned that an old watch and pocketbook were missing, as well as the old man's money, the latter having been taken from a hole under the floor.

The country sheriff was already on the ground and several local detectives.

Early on the following day I called on my fair patron in whose service I was now engaged.

Miss Betty Sanger was a spinster; one of those lively, energetic business women, who had thus far made her own way in the world, and at the present time was village dressmaker.

Old Ramroyd was an uncle, which accounts for Miss Sanger's interest in the case.

"Such a queer thing has happened since you went away yesterday, Mr. Sharp," said Betty Sanger, after I had given my report. The little dressmaker was all animation, her cheeks flushed, her eyes dancing.

"Well, Miss Sanger, will you let me know what it is that has such an amusing side?" I questioned.

"You see this?"

She turned and lifted a shimmer of glistening dress goods from a lounge near. She brought it to me and held it up for my inspection.

"It is very pretty; very rich goods."

"The best grosgrain silk north of Grand Rapids," said the petite dressmaker, "and it's for a bride. You's at once say that a very wealthy young lady was on the point of matrimony."

"Certainly."

"Then you'd miss it by a long ways," returned Miss Sanger "This cloth was brought me late yesterday by the, queerest chap in the north woods- Nelse Faddock. We all supposed him as poor as a church mouse, and the bride serving for whom this elegant dress is intended is the poor shingle-maker's daughter, Mandy Bunday. I never was so surprised in my life."

I began to prick up my ears.

"Miss Sanger," I said rising and laying my hand on her shoulder, "there is good reason for this ignorant woodman's sudden wealth. he is the assassin of Sam Ramroyd."

"The infamous scoundrel! I'll not touch this cloth again -- it was bought with blood!" and she flung the silken drapery from her with a vengeance.

"Be calm, Miss Sanger," I said. "You, of course, expect a visit ere long from this Nelse Faddock."

"Yes, he promised to come this morning with trimmings for the dress."

"Then he will undoubtedly put in an appearance before long. Will you aid me a little, Miss Sanger?"

"I am willing to do anything, of course, to bring a villain to justice," answered the dressmaker, in a calm tone that increased my admiration for her.

I laid my plan before the spinster in a few words, and she promised to carry out my instructions to the letter.

Even while we were talking the sound of steps was heard ascending the stairs, and Betty gave me a significant glance.

"I will step behind this curtain," said I, pointing to an apartment curtained from the main room. Betty nodded, and I had hardly time to slip into concealment ere the door opened unceremoniously and the man of my thoughts entered the apartment of the dressmaker.

He handed Betty Sanger a bundle and said:

"Them's the best trimmin's I could find in Morgan, Miss Sanger. Don't spare no expense now, will you? I want Mandy to look stunnin'. It'll make the old man's eyes stick out when he sees that new dress; but I swow Mandy'll fill it to perfection."

"One moment, Mr. Faddock," said the little dressmaker, in her softest tones. "In making a dress of this kind, so valuable, I usually require a small sum of money in advance."

"Eh? Money. Waal, how much?"

Quickly he drew forth an old black wallet and opened it. A thick roll of bills met the dressmaker's eve.

"Nelse, where did you get Uncle Sam Ramroyd's pocket-book?"

"It's a lie! 'Taint the old miser's book. I didn't kill him!"

On the instant I glided from my concealment and presented a cocked revolver at the head of Nelse Faddock.

"Give the book to me."

He handed it over with a growl.

I had little difficulty in getting the handcuffs on the rascal. I was confident now that he was the murderer. Betty had acted her part well, and had really recognized her uncle's old black wallet.

After locking Faddock in jail, I made a thorough search of the room he occupied in an old house in Morgan, where the murdered man's watch, and other articles of less value were brought to light.

He made no confession, but the jury were convinced of his guilt, since he was unable to account for the money and match, or explain away the other links in the chain. Faddock was sent to state prison for life, a sentence he is still serving. Betty Sanger is still a spinster and dressmaker.

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