Read CHAPTER XXXI - THE GLAD HAND of Uncle Terry A Story of the Maine Coast , free online book, by Charles Clark Munn, on

Albert Page had just finished reading his morning mail the first day of September, when his office door opened and he saw the genial face of Uncle Terry enter.

“Well, well!” exclaimed Albert, springing to his feet and advancing to meet his caller. “How are you, Uncle Terry?” Then, as he seized that man’s hand in both of his, and shook it heartily, he added in one breath, “How is your good wife and Telly, and when did you arrive, and why didn’t you let me know so I could meet you?”

“Wal,” answered Uncle Terry, seating himself, “I got in purty late last night an’ put up at a tavern near the depot.”

“But why didn’t you write or wire me, so I could have met you at the train and taken care of you?” asked Albert.

“The fact on’t is,” replied Uncle Terry, removing his hat and laying it on the floor beside him, “I’ve allus pulled my own boat in this world, an’ it sorter goes agin the grain now to hist the oars over to ’nother fellow.” Then reaching into his pocket, drawing out a letter, and handing it to Albert, he added, “’Bout two weeks ago I got this ’ere from that dum thief Frye. I was ‘spectin’ the gov’ment boat ’long most every day, and so couldn’t cum any sooner.”

Albert read the letter and gave a low whistle. “Frye must have been either very hard up when he wrote,” he said, “or else the other parties are crowding him and this is his last effort to fleece you. I have heard that he has been speculating in wheat lately, and it may be he has got caught. I hope so, for it will be easier for us to bring him to terms. I have my plans all mapped out and I think we had best go for him at once, while he is likely to be in his office.” Then calling to Frank, and rapidly writing a check for five hundred dollars, while that surprised young man was shaking hands with Uncle Terry, he continued: “Please go up to the station, Frank, and get an officer at once, and step into the Maverick Bank on your way back and get this check cashed. We will go prepared for the worst.”

When Frank had gone Uncle Terry said, “There wa’n’t no need o’ yer gettin’ money, Mr. Page; I’ve brung three hundred, which is all the cut-throat asked fur.”

“We may need more, nevertheless,” answered Albert, “and as I wish to make but one visit to Frye’s office, it’s best to go prepared. He may ask more now.” Then after filling out a writ of replevin he added, “Excuse me a moment, Mr. Terry; I will be back soon.”

He was absent perhaps five minutes, and then Uncle Terry was astonished to see a strange man enter from an inner room. He wore a full black beard, smoked glasses, broad slouch hat, and a clerical coat, which was buttoned close to his chin. Uncle Terry looked at him in surprise, waiting for the stranger to speak.

“Don’t you know me, Uncle Terry?” said the new arrival.

“By gosh! it’s you, Mr. Page,” exclaimed the old man, “or else I’m tuck with a change o’ heart.” Then he added with a laugh, “I’d never known ye ’cept for yer voice.”

“I’m all right, then, I guess,” said Albert, “and now for my plan. When the officer comes we four will go at once to Frye’s office. You will go in alone and open matters; contrive to leave the door ajar, and when you get to talking the rest of us will creep up and listen. And here is where your wits must work well. Act as though you did not suspect anything wrong, but tell him you are discouraged and have put out all the money you can; also that you are poor and can’t afford to waste any more on what you believe to be a hopeless case. Then ask him to return you the trinkets you gave him, as the girl values them highly, and right here is where you must contrive to get Frye to admit he has these trinkets. Most likely he will refuse to give them up until his fee is paid, and he may ask quite a sum. If you can settle the matter by paying him one or two hundred dollars I should advise it, but not more. If it comes to his refusal we will walk in at that point and the officer will serve the writ. We can search his premises, and even make him open his safe, and if we find what we want, we will take it. If not, we are checkmated, and must find who employed him and appeal to them.”

When Frank and the officer returned, and the former had also donned a disguise, the four proceeded at once to Frye’s office. It was early, and none of the other office occupants on that floor had arrived. As agreed, Uncle Terry knocked at Frye’s door alone, but no one answered. He knocked again; still no answer. He tried the door; it was locked. Then he knocked harder; no reply. Then he stepped back to where the others were waiting. “Thar’s nobody in thar,” he whispered, “or if thar is he’s asleep!” Albert went forward and listened; there was no sound. Then he stooped and tried to look through the keyhole; it was plugged.

“I smell gas coming out of the keyhole,” he whispered to the officer; “you go and try it.”

The officer did so. Then he took out a pocket knife and thrust the blade through the keyhole and peeped in. Then he beckoned to Albert.

“Something’s wrong in there, Mr. Page,” he said. “I can see a man’s legs, and the gas is coming out of that keyhole enough to choke you. We’d best call the janitor.”

That official was found, and he too peeped.

“I noticed a light in Frye’s office when I retired last night,” he said; “depend upon it, there is something wrong.” Then turning to the officer he added, “You are an officer of the law, and as I am in charge of this building I give you permission to open Frye’s door on the score of public safety.”

The burly officer waited for no further orders, but, grasping the knob, threw his whole weight against the door, and it gave way. A cry of surprise escaped him, and as the rest crowded up they saw a hideous sight. Frye was sitting in his chair with head thrown back staring at the ceiling, and with mouth and eyes wide open! The room was stifling with gas, and the officer opened the window. In doing so he noticed the two stop-cocks were opened and he turned them off. Then he returned to the hall. When the room was fit to breathe in again, all four entered, and the officer laid his hand upon Frye’s face.

“Dead,” he exclaimed, “and has been for hours!”

Then as the others crowded up to gaze at the face, which bore a look of inexpressible agony, Albert noticed an envelope on Frye’s desk directed to Silas Terry. He quietly put it in his pocket and joined with the rest in a search of the room.

“It looks like a case of suicide,” observed the officer, “door locked, keyhole and cracks plugged, window shut, and two gas-burners open! Safe unlocked and wide open, and here’s a till with money in it!”

Then taking up a bundle of papers that lay in this till and examining them he gave a long whistle and exclaimed, “Here’s a contract for fifty thousand bushels of wheat bought in Chicago at ninety-eight cents, and wheat closed yesterday at seventy-one! And here are two more lots, one for one hundred thousand bushels!” Then handing the certificates to Albert he added, “Old Nick has been bulling wheat, and if he has been holding on to these purchases for the last three weeks, I don’t wonder he has taken gas!” And then, as a crowd had gathered, and were gazing at the ghastly staring face of Frye, made ten times more hideous in death than in life, he added, “In the name of the law I must close the door and notify a coroner.”

When Albert, with Uncle Terry and Frank, reached his office he drew the letter he had taken from Frye’s desk out of his pocket and handed it to Uncle Terry. “It was directed to you,” he said, “and I thought best to bring it away.”

When the old man opened it he exclaimed, “By the great eternal jumpin’ Jehosaphat, if here ain’t the hull o’ the things we want so bad, and a letter to some furriners! Here, you read it, Mr. Page; the writin’s wussen crow tracks in the mud.”

The letter was as follows:


GENTLEMEN: I have good and sufficient reason to believe an heir to the estate in your hands exists in the person of a young woman now living with one Silas Terry, a lighthouse keeper on Southport Island, Maine, and known as Telly Terry. This person, when a babe, was saved from a wreck by this man Terry and by him cared for and brought up. A report of the wreck and the saving of one life (the child’s) was made at the time by this man Terry, and is now on file in Washington. As I am going away on a long journey, I turn this matter over to you for further investigation, and subscribe myself,

Respectfully yours,

When Albert had finished the reading of this important letter aloud he grasped Uncle Terry’s hand and exclaimed: “Telly’s heritage is saved for her, and for that I forgive Frye for all the wrongs he has done you and me.”

As for Uncle Terry he remarked, “Wal, he cost me four hundred, but I’ll forgive him that now, an’ mighty glad to do it.” Then he added with a chuckle, “He must ‘a’ had a sudden change o’ heart, and if the Widder Leach hears on’t she’ll swear ‘twas the workings o’ the Lord on a sinner’s mind. He looked as though he’d seen some awful sight.”

When the tragic end of Frye had been duly commented upon, Albert said to Uncle Terry, “Take those valuables back with you, but leave me the letter and I will attend to the rest.” Then he added, “You are my guest as long as you can stay in Boston, and now we can go sight-seeing with a light heart.”

How earnestly Albert set about entertaining Uncle Terry, and how thoroughly the old man enjoyed it all, need not be enlarged upon. When two days later he was ready to depart, Albert handed him a large package containing a silk dress pattern for Aunt Lissy, a woolen one for Mrs. Leach, and a complete artist’s outfit for Telly. “With these things,” he said, “go my best regards for those they are for, and among them are the photographs of two sketches I made when I was with you that I want you to ask Miss Telly to paint for me.”

When she opened her package she found two sketches of herself, one leaning against a rock with her face resting on her hand, and the other sitting beside a flower-decked boat with a broad sun-hat in her lap.