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CHAPTER XVIII.


UNCLE EZRA'S VISIT.


But Grit had no intentions of wasting time on Simon when his revenge was not complete. He dropped the large piece of cloth he had torn from Simon's trousers and kept on after the two other fleeing individuals.

The ragged youth was the faster runner, and the man, lagging behind, turned as if to beat off the dog. But Grit was fearless. Right at the man he sprang, and the fellow gave a yell of agony as he saw the brute launched at his throat. But Grit was not blood-thirsty. He caught the man by the lapel of his ragged coat, and, in an instant, had pulled him to the ground. Then, having worried him until the thief must have thought he was being eaten alive. Grit left him and set off after the third of the trio.

The youth was becoming exhausted, but Grit was as fresh as ever. There was no give-up to him. He caught the ragged lad before he had gone a hundred feet farther and soon had him down. He fairly tore the coat off his back, and, after standing over him a few seconds, growling as though he was about to tear him into little pieces, Grit, with a satisfied shake of his head, started back on the run toward Dick.

"Grit! Grit, old boy! So they tried to steal you, did they?" murmured Dick, as the dog bounded up on him and frantically licked his face. "Well, I guess they wish they hadn't."

Grit nearly shook himself apart trying to wag his stump of a tail to show his delight at again being with his master. Dick fairly hugged his pet, but the tears almost came to his eyes as he saw several cruel welts on the dog's satin-like coat, where he had been beaten.

"So they struck you, eh?" asked Dick, a fierce light coming into his brown eyes. "I don't blame you for taking after them as soon as you broke loose. I guess I'll have a score to settle with Simon and his cronies."

But there was no chance to do this. Simon gave one look at Dick and Grit as they walked back to the hotel. Then, trying to pull his coat down so as to conceal the big hole in his trousers, he hurried away up the road, after the man and youth, who had continued their interrupted escape as soon as they were assured that Grit had left each two legs on which to run.

"Well, Grit, old boy," went on Dick, as he entered the hotel. "I got you back without putting any two hundred dollars under a stone at Butternut Creek, didn't I? But I guess Henry is entitled to his hundred of the reward. Now to make some inquiries."

The landlord soon told all he knew of the case. Late the previous night, he said, the ragged youth and his companion had arrived at the hotel, bringing the dog in the wagon. They said they had purchased it and were taking it to a man in the country. They paid for the keep of themselves and their horse and remained all night.

"This morning the well-dressed young fellow came along," went on the landlord.

"That was Simon," murmured Dick.

"He registered as Thomas Henderson," said the hotel keeper. "I didn't much like his looks, but I'm here to hire rooms and furnish meals to travelers, not to criticise 'em. I was a leetle s'prised that he seemed to know them other two, but I thought that was his business. He seemed to know the dog, too, but the beast didn't take much of a notion to him. They stayed here all day, and one of my hostlers says the dog tried to break loose several times. They kept him chained in the stable, and they licked him more than once, I guess. They said he was savage and had to be beat to make him mind."

"Poor Grit," murmured Dick, and the dog barked joyfully at being again with his master.

"Wa'al," resumed the hotel man, "Simon, as you call him, an' the other two, they had several talks together. I heard 'em say suthin' about expectin' someone with money."

"That was me," interposed Dick, with a smile. "Only I determined to get my dog, if I could, without paying them anything."

"And you did it," said the landlord, with a laugh.

"I did," replied Dick. "But I never suspected Simon would try such a desperate game as this. He must have found the leash the night of the party," he went on, after telling the landlord what had happened. "Then he got in with these fellows and had them steal Grit. The letter they mailed gave me a clue, and Henry told me enough more to enable me to find Grit. Well, I guess I've seen the last of Simon Scardale."

It was not exactly the last, but Simon did not reappear in Hamilton Corners, and, though he afterward played a part in Dick's life, he had dropped out of it for the present.

The horse and wagon, which the man and youth left behind, was called for that evening by an individual of the tramp variety, but, as he brought the cash to pay the last of the hotel bill, the landlord let him take the rig. Dick decided to stay at the Eagle Hotel all night, and he sent a telegram to his father explaining his absence and telling of his success. He decided he would not follow up Simon or his cronies to prosecute them for the theft.

As the journey was a little too long for Grit to make afoot, and as Dick could not take him in the saddle with him, he sent Rex home in care of a man he hired, and engaged a carriage for himself and the dog, arriving home the next day at noon.

"Well," remarked Mr. Hamilton, as his son came in with Grit, "your detective work was all right."

"Yes, thanks to Henry Darby," answered the son. "I'm going to send him a check for a hundred dollars," which he proceeded to do.

"Here are a couple of letters for you," went on the millionaire, handing the missives to his son. One proved to be a note from Guy Fletcher. He had heard what had occurred regarding the dog, for Mr. Hamilton told several friends of his son's telegram, and Guy hastened to assure Dick that he had no idea of Simon's scheme.

"He told me he was only going to play a joke on you," wrote Guy, in the note which was delivered by a messenger. "He took the leash from your pocket the night of the party, and said he was going to hide Grit and make you believe he was stolen. I hope you don't believe I'd have anything to do with Simon if I thought he intended to really steal your dog. He has gone out West, I hear, somewhere in the gold mine region. My father has forbidden me to ever speak to Simon again."

"I guess you'll not get a chance right away," murmured Dick.

The whole thing was plain to him now. Simon wanted money, and thought he could make it by getting the man and youth to steal Grit, and then making Dick put the two hundred dollars under the stone. Everything had gone well up to a certain point. The dog had been taken away, carried in the wagon to Leonardville, and thither Simon had gone to make the final arrangements. The unexpected appearance of Dick had spoiled the scheme. Simon had hurried to the barn to warn his confederates, but at that instant Grit, excited by a beating he was getting, had broken loose.

"No," mused Dick, "I don't believe Simon will show up around here for some time."

"Who is the other letter from?" asked Mr. Hamilton.

"I don't know. I'll open it."

Dick rapidly scanned the contents.

"Uncle Ezra Larabee is coming to pay us a visit," he announced. "He'll be here to-morrow."

"Uncle Ezra, eh?" repeated Mr. Hamilton. "I suppose he wants to see how you are getting on—with your investments."

"Hum!" exclaimed Dick, with an uneasy laugh, "maybe he thinks the year is up and I'm to go back with him. But it isn't—I'm glad to say."

"Well, we must make his visit pleasant," said Mr. Hamilton. "It isn't often he comes to Hamilton Corners."

Uncle Ezra Larabee arrived the next day. Dick was in the library reading when he heard the door bell ring and the butler answered it.

"Is Mr. Hamilton in?" he heard a voice ask, and he knew it was his uncle. The boy hastened to greet his relative.

"Why didn't you let us know what train you were coming on and I would have met you with the carriage," asked Dick, politely.

"No, thank you, Nephew Richard," replied Uncle Ezra, in rasping tones. "I'm not too old to walk, and it's well to save the horse all you can."

"And you carried that heavy valise?" asked Dick.

"Of course I did, Nephew Richard. You didn't suppose I was going to pay twenty-five cents to have a boy carry it, did you? Lots of them wanted to, but twenty-five cents isn't earned every day, so I brought it myself," and with an expression of pain that he could not conceal Mr. Larabee set the heavy satchel down. His arm was stiff from carrying it, but he smiled grimly with satisfaction when he thought of the quarter of a dollar he had saved.

"Come right upstairs and I'll show you to your room," invited Dick. "Then I'll telephone father you are here."

"No, no, don't waste any money telephoning, Nephew Richard," said Uncle Ezra, hastily.

"Why it doesn't cost anything, uncle. We have to pay for the telephone by the year."

"Well, don't do it. They might charge you something this time. You never can tell. Besides, you might interrupt your father in some business deal and make him lose some money. No, I'll wait until he comes home."

"Very well," assented Dick.

"Gracious! What's that?" exclaimed Uncle Ezra, as a low growl came from a dark corner by the stairs. "Have you any wild beasts in here?"

"No, that's only my dog, Grit, uncle. He'll not hurt anyone."

"A dog? In the house?" exclaimed Mr. Larabee. "Why, he might chew a hole in the carpet. Besides, I can't bear dogs. Get out, you brute!" he exclaimed, aiming a kick at Grit, who walked toward Dick.

The bulldog, with an ugly growl, crouched for a leap at Mr. Larabee.