A BIG SURPRISE
Evidently, Steve was commencing to get on the scent of the explanation of the mystery; but as for Toby and Bandy-legs, they found themselves up against a blank wall, for aught they could see.
Instead of trying to explain, Obed turned to Max, saying meekly:
“You tell them, please, Wax; it’s only your due, after solving the puzzle as nearly as you have. I saw you turn back to that book again, and scan my initials in the front. That was why you asked me If Mr. Coombs’ first name had been Robert, when it was not. But it’s all right, and I’m satisfied I had my peek of fun out of it, let me tell you. Now introduce me to your chums, Max.”
“With the greatest of pleasure,” laughed the other, as he took hold of Obed, and waving in a ceremonious fashion with the other hand, he continued: “Friends, Toby and Bandy-legs, allow me to present some one to you whom you’ll be delighted to know—this is Roland Chase!”
Bandy-legs stood as if riveted to the spot, staring, and holding his very breath through astonishment. Toby Jucklin wanted to express his amazement, and also his ecstatic delight, over the wonderful outcome of their mission; but alack and alas! as so often happened with Toby, while the spirit was willing the flesh was lamentably weak, and he could not make a sound except a sort of spluttering gasp, while his eyes blinked, and his face grew rosy red.
Still laughing, the so-called Grimes’ boy proceeded to grip hands with his guests. He acted as though it might be a simon-pure introduction; as it certainly was, in one sense.
“I’m ashamed of the way I bamboozled you fine fellows, and that’s the honest truth,” he started to say. But on the impulse of the moment I thought of that Obed Grimes name; and once I gave it to you I had to follow up with the lingo. I guess I got balled up more than once, for Max soon discovered that I didn’t always speak as a true Grimes should, and that gave him his clue. Yes, I’m the same Roland you started out to find, just to please my dear old aunt, bless her heart. I was planning to surprise them all by appearing in town with my five thousand dollars, after I’d sold the fox cubs, and then claiming my share of uncle’s estate. I guess it’s all getting plain enough to you now, eh, fellows?
Bandy-legs could speak at last.
“Why, it’s as plain as the nose on my face, Obed—I beg pardon, Roland; and I can never forgive myself for being so easily taken in and done for. So you thought to invest your two thousand dollars in starting a silver-black fox farm, did you? Well, it was a daring venture, and I hardly think you would have made the game if you hadn’t been lucky enough to meet up with that splendid Mr. Coombs.”
“That’s a certainty, Bandy-legs,” admitted the other, who apparently was not at all given to boasting over his achievements; “yes, I was in great luck to be able to do Mr. Coombs a favor, and win him for a friend. See what he’s done for me. But all the same, I invested my money in this business, and according to our partnership agreement, I am to have one-half the proceeds of any sales, so there can be no slip of the law, to beat me out of my inheritance; if only I can get those precious pups to the man who’s engaged them.”