“He helped me good and hard at any rate. Only for Shea I’d never have got the better of it, I’m afraid,” said Frank, always ready to cover up any little failing on the part of another, though never hesitating to denounce his own shortcomings.
“But just to think of the meanness of it all,” continued Andy, shaking his head in the aggressive way he had. “That Puss Carberry ought to be shut up behind bars, that’s my opinion straight from the shoulder, and if I could only find out for sure that he was in this I’d get Colonel Josiah to prosecute him to the limit.”
“But we have no proof that it was Puss,” remarked Frank. “The fellow who stole my wheel went off along the road away from town. And he went licketty split, too, as if he had business over in Shelby or Newtown. Perhaps it was only a hobo. He may have started the fire by accident, and was trying to put it out when I saw him first. Then, when I shouted, of course, he had to scoot.”
“What’s this?” demanded Andy, kicking some object, and then seizing hold of his foot, for he had forgotten that he had no shoes on.
Frank uttered a cry and picked it up.
“Look here, don’t you recognize this?” he asked, as he held a can up.
It was Andy’s turn to give vent to a low exclamation.
“Why, it’s our kerosene can, Frank!” he said.
“That’s what I thought. And it is kept on a bench just outside the kitchen door, isn’t it?” demanded the other, quickly.
“That’s a fact. And neither of us ever brought it here. Shea, did you ever see this oil can before?” and Andy dangled it before the eyes of the watchman who had slept on his post.
“I niver did the same, sor,” replied the man, as he surveyed the can.
“Then that settles it, Frank. The mean skunk grabbed that can and fetched it over here to spray the wall of the shed with oil and making the fire jump.”
“True as you live,” said the other. “Do you know, I thought I smelled burning kerosene. And that was why the flames kept crawling up everywhere so fast. Well, it was a good job that we saved the place. And ain’t I glad I didn’t wait just five minutes longer at Lovejoy’s place. Nothing could have helped then, and we’d just have to build another airship. But here comes the colonel stumping along, Andy!”
IN SEARCH OF A CLUE.
“Heigho! what’s all this fuss and feathers about?” demanded the old retired traveler, as he came limping along, with his crutch and cane.
Several neighbors accompanied him, having been aroused by the clamor.
“Same old story, sir,” remarked the disgusted Andy, still clutching his bruised toe tenderly. “They’ve been trying to beat us one way, if they couldn’t another.”
Frank gave him a nudge.
“Be careful what you say, Andy,” he remarked. “There is no proof as yet that any one we knew had a hand in this business. You may get in trouble if you mention names offhand. Go slow now. We’ll find out the truth later on, perhaps.”