“Well, if you knew for sure that somebody had tried to but a short time before, it would make you rather suspicious of that somebody, wouldn’t it?”
“I should say so!” Mr. Westcote exclaimed. “But do you know of any one who made the attempt, Dobbins?”
“You can judge of that, sir, when you hear what I have to say. It was this way. The day of the big wind I was sent to the shore to get a piece of mill belting, which was to come from the city on the afternoon boat. I had almost reached the brow of logs on the edge of the clearing when I stopped to get a drink from that little spring by the side of the road. I sat down for a minute or two under the shade of a small thick fir tree to fill my pipe, when happening to glance to my left I saw a man running up the road. I at once saw it was that artist fellow, and curious to know what he was running for I moved back a little behind the fir so’s he couldn’t see me. He stopped right by the logs and peered down the bank. Then he looked cautiously around and, picking up a stick, he pried loose one of the logs lying on top, and which was almost ready to go anyway. As soon as he had done this, he dropped the stick and ran like a streak of lightning down the road, and that was the last I saw of him.”
“Well?” Mr. Westcote questioned as Dobbins paused and wiped the perspiration from his forehead with a big red handkerchief.
“This is the part, sir, which I am ashamed to tell,” the man continued. “I heard the crash of that log down the bank and the splash in the water. Then there fell upon my ears a shriek of terror. I knew it was a woman’s voice and I leaped from my hiding place and peeked down the bank. And there I saw old David and that girl Betty Bean standing there frightened almost out of their senses. Say, I wasn’t long getting back under cover again, for I knew that if they saw me they would say for sure that I had rolled that log down the bank on purpose. I didn’t dare to go to the shore on the road so I cut up through the woods and came out another way. I didn’t dare to say a word about it for fear I might get into trouble. But when young Randall, who is a chap we all think a lot of, was arrested for the murder of that old man I couldn’t sleep a wink. If that artist fellow tried to kill old David once he would try again, and put the blame off on some one else. At last I could stand it no longer and so made up my mind to tell you all I know. You can judge now, sir, for yourself.”
Mr. Westcote was greatly excited at this story, though outwardly he remained very calm. Twice during the narration he had glanced at the manuscript lying upon the desk, and once he had reached out his hand as if to pick it up. For a few seconds he remained silent when the story was ended. Then he rose to his feet and reached out his hand.
“Dobbins,” he began, “I wish to thank you for what you have told me to-day. You have done a good deed by thus unburdening your mind. Will you be willing to swear to what you have just told me?”