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Plane and Plank; or, The Mishaps of a Mechanic By Oliver Optic Characters: 10939

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

"You don't mean to say that Farringford here, whom everybody in St. Louis knows, is your father-do you?" continued Mr. Gray, apparently amazed at the absurdity of the proposition, while his friend and the sergeant laughed heartily.

"That is precisely what I mean to say," I replied, in the most determined tone.

Farringford shook his head, and was apparently sorry that I had turned out to be such an abominable liar.

"What is your name?" inquired the sergeant.

"Philip Farringford."

I had taken especial pains not to give my full name to my father when he questioned me, and he doubtless supposed that I had invented the name for the occasion. He looked at me, and shook his head. Very likely, by this time, he was willing to believe I had deceived him, and that I had lost no money, for if I could lie about one thing I could about another.

"Do you justify this young man in calling you his father, Farringford?" said Mr. Gray.

"I am sorry to say I cannot. Gentlemen, I have endeavored to act in good faith," replied my father. "I have always found that the truth would serve me better than falsehood."

"Did you call him your son?"

"I did, but used the expression as a kind of harmless fib to carry my purpose with this Lynch, who had robbed the boy of nearly a hundred dollars."

"It is false!" exclaimed Lynch.

"Keep cool, if you please, sir," interposed the sergeant. "We have heard your story, and now we will hear the other side."

"Philip may have deceived me, but I believed that he had been robbed, and I did the best I could to get his money back, after he had pointed out to me the man who took it from him. Certainly he is not my son. I never saw him till yesterday; and I am sorry he has thought it necessary to repeat my fib, or falsehood, if you please," continued Farringford.

"Nevertheless, I hope I shall be able to prove in due time that he is my father," I added.

"But, my lad, everybody knows that Farringford has no children," said Mr. Gray.

"Never mind that now. I want to know whether any robbery has been committed," interposed the sergeant, impatiently.

"Let the boy tell his own story," replied Mr. Gray.

"Here is Lynch's purse," I began, handing it to the sergeant.

"Then you did take these things from him?"

"I did; but he told me to put my hand in his pocket and take out the pocket-book and the purse."

"Very probable!" sneered Lynch.

"It's all true," said Farringford.

"Well, go on, young man."

"I was coming down the Missouri River in the steamer Fawn-"

"She arrived last Tuesday morning," interposed Mr. Lamar, the gentleman with Mr. Gray.

"Yes, sir. I was with Mr. Gracewood and his family."

"What Gracewood?"


"Is he a brother of Robert Gracewood of Glencoe?"

"I don't know. He had a brother in St. Louis," said Mr. Lamar, who was an elderly gentleman, and appeared to know everybody and everything.

"He bought a place at Glencoe a year ago."

"His wife's brother was a Mr. Sparkley."

"It's the same man. But he separated from his wife years ago, cleared out, and has not been heard from since."

I explained that the family had been reunited, and were on their way to St. Louis. I had endeavored to find Mr. Gracewood's brother, but without success, in order to inform him of what had occurred up the river. The fact that he had moved from the city explained why I had not found his name in the Directory. I continued my story, with frequent interruptions, much to the disgust of the sergeant, who was interested only in the criminal aspect of the case. I told how Lynch had robbed me at Leavenworth, how I had identified him in St. Louis, and followed him and Farringford from Forstellar's to Front Street.

"Every word of that story is true so far as it relates to me," said Farringford.

"I watched Lynch and Farringford, the former trying to get rid of the latter all the time, until at last he laid violent hands upon him," I continued. "I couldn't stand it any longer; I went up behind Lynch, threw my hands around his neck, and stuck my knees into his back till he went down. He begged me to let him up, and promised to restore my money if I would. Then, when I was not willing to let him up without some security, he told me to take his pocket-book and purse. That was just what was going on when these gentlemen came out of Plum Street."

"Then you did not knock him down till he laid hands upon Farringford?" added the sergeant.

"No, sir; I did not till he took hold of my father."

"Your father!" exclaimed Mr. Gray. "The rest of your story is so straightforward that I hoped you would abandon that fiction."

"It is no fiction."

"It matters not to me whether it is fact or fiction," interposed the sergeant. "I only wish to know whether or not a crime has been committed in St. Louis. If the boy knocked this Lynch down in order to save Farringford from injury, it is no crime, whether father or not."

"I cried, 'Police!' as loud as I could, as soon as we struck the ground," I added.

"Can you identify your money?" asked the sergeant.

"Not every piece of it; but there was a five-dollar gold coin, with a hole through the middle, dated 1850. The clerk of the Fawn would not take it for my passage for five dollars."

The officer poured the gold from the purse upon the table, and instantly picked out the coin I had described, which Lynch had perhaps found it as difficult to pass as I had

. He looked at the date, and declared it was 1850.

"That is very good evidence, my boy," said the officer, bestowing a smile of approval upon me. "Can you give me any more."

"If you can find Captain Davis, of the Fawn, he will say that I left the boat with Lynch."

"Where is he?"

"He has gone up to Alton with the Fawn. When Mr. Gracewood comes, he will tell you the same thing."

"Your witnesses are not at hand. In what boat did you come down the river."

"In the Fawn."

"And you, Mr. Lynch?"

"In the Daylight."

"Where from?"

"St. Joe."

The sergeant continued to question and cross-question Lynch for half an hour. His statements were confused and contradictory, and being based upon falsehoods, they could not well be otherwise. It appeared that the Daylight, in which he had arrived, came down the river immediately after the Fawn, which made my story the more probable.

"I do not see that any crime has been committed in St. Louis," said the officer, after his long and patient investigation.

"Then you don't call it a crime to knock a man down, and take his purse and pocket-book from him?" added Lynch, in deep disgust.

"I believe the young man's story," replied the officer. "If your money had been taken from you by force, you would not have walked quietly through the streets with those who robbed you, passing an officer on your way without hinting at what had happened. The young man's story is straightforward and consistent, except as to his relations with Farringford, which is not material. I am of the opinion that you commenced the assault upon Farringford."

"Not so."

"Both Farringford and the young man agree in all essential points."

Lynch growled and protested, but finally declared that he was satisfied to let the matter drop where it was. He had recovered his money, and he could not complain.

"But I have not recovered mine, and I am not satisfied," I added, feeling that the discharge of Lynch was total defeat to me.

"You were robbed in the territory of Kansas, and not in the city of St. Louis," replied the officer.

"Must I lose my money for that reason?"

"Certainly not; but the complaint against Lynch must be made at Leavenworth, and a requisition from the governor of the territory must be sent here."

The case was full of difficulties, and Lynch, in charge of a policeman, was sent out of the room to enable us to consider the best means of proceeding. I could not go back to Leavenworth very conveniently, and it would cost me more than the amount of money I had lost. We decided to let the matter rest till the next day, and Lynch was called in again.

"I propose to detain you till to-morrow, when Farringford will complain of you for an assault," said the officer.

"I would rather give a hundred dollars than be detained," said Lynch.

"We don't settle cases in that way. Of course we intend to reach the robbery matter in some manner."

"I will give the boy the money he claims to have lost," added the culprit.

"If you wish to restore the money, you can," replied the sergeant.

"I do not admit the truth of his story."

"Then you shall not give him any money. You shall not be swindled here."

"If I admit the-"

"Don't commit yourself unless you choose to do so. Whatever you say may be used as evidence to convict you."

"You put me in a tight place," said Lynch. "If I commit myself, you will prosecute me. If I don't commit myself, I cannot give the boy the money."

"I did not say I should prosecute you. The crime, if any, was committed beyond the limits of this state. I cannot enter a complaint. The young man may do so if he thinks best."

"Can I make Phil a present of a hundred dollars?" demanded Lynch, desperately.

"You can do as you please with your own money," answered the officer.

The robber counted a hundred dollars from his pocket-book, and handed it to Mr. Lamar, who declared that the amount was right, and the bills were good. It was passed to me; but I declined to receive any more than I had lost, and changing a bill, I returned two dollars and a half.

"I will make no complaint for assault now," said Farringford.

"Then I cannot detain him. If the young man chooses to complain of Lynch in Leavenworth, he is still liable to prosecution."

"I will risk that," said Lynch, more cheerfully.

"You can leave," added the officer.

The rascal promptly availed himself of this permission, and left the office.

"I am sorry to have a case settled in that manner. I know that man as a notorious blackleg," continued the officer.

"I don't see that it could be settled in any other way now," replied Mr. Gray. "We have done nothing to prejudice the interests of justice. The young man can prosecute now."

"I can't afford to go to Kansas to do so," I replied.

"We will keep watch of him," said the sergeant.

We all left the office together. The two gentlemen who had manifested so much interest in the affair were unwilling to part with Farringford and me. Mr. Gray asked me what had induced me to say that Farringford was my father.

"It's a long story, gentlemen; and I have to convince him as well as you of the truth of what I say. If you will go to my boarding-house I will do so."

I told them where it was, and they consented to accompany me. When we reached the house, Mrs. Greenough was astonished at the number of my visitors, but I conducted them all to my chamber.

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