TROUBLE AND SKYROCKET
You can imagine there was much excitement and some very frightened feelings in the hearts of all the children when the clerks in the store where the five and ten cent Christmas presents had been bought said Trouble was not there.
"But where can he be?" asked Janet, hardly able to keep back the tears.
"Perhaps he went out and walked back to the store where Uncle Toby is buying his things," suggested Lola. "Let's look there."
"I guess that's where he is all right," said Teddy.
Just at that moment, Trouble came running round the corner of the grocery store, followed by Skyrocket. "Look," he said. "Skyrocket missed us so much he ran all the way here to the store to be with us. Aren’t you glad I found him? We should never leave him home again, shall we, Uncle Toby? "
"No, that’s for certain. Now all of us let’s get home quickly. Aunt Sallie will be wondering what happened to Skyrocket"
It was nearly dusk when the big automobile drew near the old deserted cabin of Newt Baker, from which the strange man had once been seen running away. Looking from the window on his side, Ted peered at the old shack, and as he did so he uttered a cry of surprise and wonder.
"What is it?" asked Uncle Toby, quickly bringing the machine to a stop, for he thought someone had opened a door and fallen out.
"The man. He’s in there again! I saw him at the window just now! In there!" and Ted pointed to the old cabin. Mr. Bardeen lost little time in jumping from the automobile.
And they all saw the same stranger who had rushed away from the cottage the time Uncle Toby went to the well to get water for the automobile radiator.
"What are you doing here?" asked Uncle Toby in a stern voice.
"Don't turn me in!" pleaded the man. "I'm in trouble! I've had a lot of trouble. I was in the war—and—but that was long ago—and—"
His voice was very faint, and as Uncle Toby walked toward him the man tried to run back into the room. But his foot slipped and he fell. Then he rolled over and lay very quiet.
"He's fainted, I guess," said Tom.
"Looks so," agreed Uncle Toby. "Well, I'm going to tell the police. This mystery of the stranger is solved. I guess he'd better have a doctor, too," he added. "He's cut his head in his fall. Ted, you and Tom go to the next house," he went on. "There's a telephone there. Tell Mr. Hick to call up the police have them send out a doctor. It's a short walk to Mr. Hick's place. Then come back here. I don't want to leave this man alone, as I'd have to do if we all went away in the auto."
"We'll go to the telephone," said Tom and Ted, and Harry went with them.
As soon as the boys started tramping through the gathering dusk to Mr. Hick's house, Janet quieted Trouble and got Skyrocket to stop barking. This last was hard because the dog was so overjoyed at being with his friends again.
The stranger was still lying very quiet on the floor of the lonely cabin. It was a long time before the three boys came back, but soon after them the constable and the doctor arrived. The doctor said the man was not badly hurt, but should have good care.
The man was taken away by the constable and the doctor to the doctor's own home, where he could be well cared for until he was well enough to be put in jail, for he was under arrest for having stolen quite a number of objects over the past several weeks. At last things could get back to normal and they would soon find out who this stranger was, who had been living in Newt’s cabin, and why!