HotFreeBooks.com
The Rover Boys in New York
by Arthur M. Winfield
1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

The Rover Boys In New York

or

Saving Their Father's Honor

by Arthur M. Winfield

INTRODUCTION

My Dear Boys: This volume is a complete story in itself, but forms the seventeenth in a line issued under the general title of "The Rover Boys Series for Young Americans."

As I have mentioned several times, in other volumes, this line was started with the publication of "The Rover Boys at School," "On the Ocean" and "In the Jungle." The cordial reception afforded the stories called for the publication of the next volume, "The Rover Boys Out West," and then, year after year, by the issuing of "On the Great Lakes," "In Camp," "On Land and Sea," "On the River," "On the Plains," "In Southern Waters," "On the Farm," "On Treasure Isle," "At College," "Down East," and then by "In the Air," where we last met them.

The boys are not as young as they once were— indeed, in this book, Dick, the oldest, gets married and settles down to business. But all are as bright and lively as ever, and Tom is just as full of fun. When they go to New York City they have some strenuous times, and all prove their worth in more ways than one. Their father is in deep trouble and they aid him, and clear up quite a mystery.

Up to this writing, the sale on this line of books is but a trifle short of one million and a quarter copies! This is to me, of course, tremendously gratifying. Again, as in the past, I thank my many readers for their interest in what I have written for them; and I trust the perusal of my works will do them good.

Affectionately and sincerely yours,

Arthur M. Winfield.

CHAPTER I

THE BOYS AT BRILL

"Boys, what do you say to a trip in the Dartaway this afternoon?"

"Suits me, Sam," replied Tom Rover.

"Providing the breeze doesn't get too strong," returned Dick Rover, as he put up his hand to feel the air.

"Oh, I don't think it will blow too much," went on Sam Rover. "I don't mind some air."

"But no more storms for me!" cried his brother Tom, with a shake of his head. "That last old corker was enough for me."

"Where shall we go?" questioned Dick, with a queer little smile creeping around the corners of his mouth.

"Oh, my, just to hear Dick!" cried Tom, with a grin. "As if he would go anywhere but to Hope Seminary, to call on Dora!"

"And as if you would go anywhere but to call on Nellie, at the same place!" retorted the oldest Rover boy.

"Now, children, children'" came sweetly from Sam. "You mustn't quarrel about the dear girls. I know both of you are as much gone as can be. But——"

"And how about Grace, Sam?" said Tom. "Didn't I hear you making up some poetry about her yesterday, 'Those limpid eyes and pearly ears, and'——"

"Rats, Tom! I don't make up poetry— I leave that to Songbird," interrupted the youngest Rover boy. "Just the same, it will be nice to call on the girls. They'll be looking for us some day this week."

"That's right— and maybe we can give them a little ride," put in Dick Rover.

"Do you remember the ride we gave Dora and Nellie, when we rescued them from Sobber, Crabtree, and the others?" asked Tom.

"Not likely to forget that in a hurry," answered his big brother. "By the way, I wonder when the authorities will try those rascals?"

"Not right away, I'm thinking, Dick," answered Tom. "The law is rather slow up here in these back counties."

"Never mind— they will get what is coming to them sooner or later," was Sam's comment.

"Abduction is rather a serious offense."

"Right you are," answered Dick. "And I'll be glad to see Crabtree, Sobber, and our other enemies behind the bars. Then they won't be able to bother us any more."

"That will he the end of Sobber's efforts to annex the Stanhope fortune," mused Sam. "How hard he did try to get it away from Mrs. Stanhope and the girls!"

"I shouldn't have minded that had he used fair methods, Sam," returned the big brother. "But when it came to stealing and abducting——"

"Hello, you fellows!" shouted a voice from behind the Rover boys. "Plotting mischief?"

"Not just now, Stanley," answered Dick, as his college chum caught him by the shoulder and swung him around playfully.

"Want to go for a row on the river?" asked Stanley Browne.

"Not just now, Stanley. I've got a lecture to attend, and this afternoon we are going over to Hope in the biplane."

"Wish I had a flying machine," said the student, wistfully.

"Better swap the boat for one," suggested Sam.

"No, I think rowing is safer. Some day, if you are not careful, you'll get an awful tumble from that machine."

"We try to be as careful as possible," answered Dick. "Seriously, though, Stanley, I don't care for flying as much as I thought I would."

"Is that so? Now, I thought you were planning a honeymoon trip by aeroplane. Think of the novelty of it!"

"No, a steamboat or a parlor car will be good enough for me, when I go on a honeymoon trip," answered Dick, and for a very good reason he blushed deeply.

"Hello, William Philander Tubbs!" cried Tom, as a tall, dudish-looking student crossed the college campus. "What's the price of eggs this morning?"

"What is that, Tom?" questioned the stylishly-dressed youth, as he turned in the direction of the others.

"I asked what was the price of eggs?" said Tom, innocently.

"The— er— the price of eggs? How should I know?" stammered William Philander Tubbs" in astonishment.

"Weren't you in the chicken business once?"

"Gracious me! No, Tom, no!"

"Funny I made the mistake— and I want to know the price of eggs the worst way," went on the fun-loving Rover, innocently.

"What do you want to know the price of eggs for?" questioned William Philander, curiously.

"Why, you see, we've got a new problem in geometry to solve, and the price of eggs will help out," continued Tom, looking very serious.

"What is it, Tom?"

"It's this, Tubby, my boy. If the diameter of an egg ten degrees west of its North Pole is two and eleven-tenths inches, what is the value of the shell unfilled? I thought you might help me out on that."

"Tom, you are poking fun at me!" cried the dudish student, as a snicker went up from the other youths. "And please don't call me Tubby, I beg of you," pleaded William Philander.

"All right, Billy Gander," murmured Tom. "It shan't occur again."

"Billy Gander! That is worse than Tubby!" groaned the dudish youth. "Oh, you are awful!" he added, and strode off, trying to look very indignant.

"Poor Tubbs, I wonder if he will ever be sensible and get over his dudish ways," was Dick's comment.

"I doubt it— for it seems to be born in him," returned Sam.

"But he's a good sort with it all," ventured Stanley Browne.

"First-rate," agreed Tom. "But I— well, I simply can't help poking fun at him when he's around, he's such a dandy, and so lordly in his manner."

"Here comes Songbird!" interrupted Sam. "And, see, he is writing verses, as usual. I wonder——"

"Look!" exclaimed Dick. "Oh! There's a collision for you!"

William Philander Tubbs had started across the campus with his head high in the air. He was looking to one side and did not notice the approach of another student, who was coming forward thoughtfully, carrying a pad in one hand and writing as he walked. There was a sudden meeting of the pair, and the pad fell to the ground and with it the fancy headgear the dudish student was wearing.

"Oh, I— er— I beg your pardon, really I do, don't you know!" stammered William Philander.

"Great Hannibal's tombstone!" spluttered the other student. "What are you trying to do, Tubbs, knock me down?"

"I beg your pardon, Powell, I didn't see you coming," answered the other, as he picked up his hat and commenced to brush it off with care.

"You must be getting blind," growled John Powell, otherwise known as Songbird. "Confound the luck— you spoilt one of my best rhymes," he added, as he stooped to pick up his writing pad.

"Sorry, upon my honor I am," returned William Philander. "Can I help you out on it?"

"I don't think you can. Did you ever try to write poetry— real poetry, I mean?"

"No, my dear boy, no. I'm afraid I would not be equal to it."

"Then I don't see how you are going to help me," murmured Songbird, and he passed on a few steps, coming to a halt presently to jot down some words on his pad.

"Hello, Songbird!" called out Tom. "How is the Muse to-day, red-hot?"

For a moment John Powell did not answer, but kept on writing. Then his face broke out into a sudden smile.

"There, that's it!" he cried. "I've got it at last! I knew I'd get it if I kept at it long enough."

"Knew you'd get what, the measles?" asked the fun-loving Tom.

"'Measles' nothing!" snorted the would-be poet. "I have been writing a poem on 'The Springtime of Love,' and I wished to show how——"

"'The Springtime of Love!'" interrupted Tom. "That must be a second cousin to the ditty entitled ''Tis Well to Meet Her at the Well.' "

"I never heard of such a poem," answered Songbird, with a serious air. "How does it go?"

"It doesn't go, Songbird; it stands still. But what have you got on the pad?"

"Yes, let us hear the latest effusion," put in Sam.

"But not if it takes too long," was Dick's comment. "I've only got about ten minutes before that lecture on 'The Cave Dwellers.'"

"I can give Songbird six minutes," said Stanley, as he consulted his watch.

"This is— er— something of a private poem," stammered Songbird. "I wrote it for a— er— for a personal friend of mine."

"Minnie Sanderson!" cried Sam, mentioning the name of a farmer's daughter with whom all were well acquainted, and a young lady Songbird called on occasionally.

"Read it, anyway, Songbird," said Dick.

"Well, if you care to hear it," responded the would-be poet, and he began to read from the pad:

"In early Spring, when flowers bloom In garden and on fields afar, My thoughts go out to thee, sweet love, And then I wonder where you are! When pansies show their varied hues And birds are singing as they soar, I listen and I look, and dream Of days when we shall meet once more!"

"Grand! fine! immense!" murmured Tom. "Byron couldn't hold a candle to that, Songbird!"

"I listen to the tiny brook That winds its way o'er rock and sand And in the running water see A face that— that— that——"

"Go ahead, Songbird!" cried Sam, as the would-be poet stumbled and halted.

"I— er— I had the last line, but Tubbs knocked it out of me," grumbled Songbird. "And say, he knocked something else out of me!" he exclaimed suddenly. "I was going to tell you an important bit of news."

"You were?" cried Dick. "What?"

"The word just came in over the telephone, from the weekly newspaper office. Doctor Wallington said you would want to know about it."

"But what is it?" demanded Sam, impatiently.

"Josiah Crabtree has escaped from jail."

"Escaped!" ejaculated Tom.

"Why, we were just talking about him!" put in Dick "When did this happen?"

"Last night, so the newspaper man said. It seems there was a small fire at the jail— down in the kitchen. There was great excitement, for supper was just being served. In the excitement three of the prisoners, who were out of their cells, escaped. Josiah Crabtree was one of them."

"Too bad!" murmured Sam. "And we thought he was safe!"

"This spells Trouble for us," was Tom's comment, and Dick nodded his head, to show that he was of the same opinion.

CHAPTER II

ABOUT THE PAST

"Did you get any more particulars?" asked Sam, of the college poet.

"No. The newspaper man was busy, so the Doctor said, and didn't have time to go into details," answered Songbird.

"Did he say who the other prisoners were who got away?" asked Dick.

"Yes, a tramp who was up for robbing a man on the road and a bank clerk who took some money from the bank."

"None of the crowd we are interested in," said Tom.

"I'm glad of it," returned his older brother. "It is bad enough for Crabtree to get away. I hope they keep a strict guard over the others after this."

"Oh, they will, rest assured of that," came from Stanley Browne. "The head jailer will get a raking over the coals for this, mark my words."

"The Stanhopes and the Lanings will be sorry to learn that Crabtree got away," said Sam. "I wonder if they aren't searching for him," mused Sam.

"Oh, they'll search for all of them," put in Songbird. "I think the newspaper man said the sheriff had a posse out."

"Too bad!" said Dick, shaking his head gravely. "And just when we felt sure old Crabtree wouldn't be able to give us any more trouble!"

"It beats the nation, what that man can do!" cried Sam. "Maybe be hypnotized one of the jailers— just as he hypnotized Mrs. Stanhope years ago.

"He'd be equal to it— if he got the chance," answered Tom; and then all of the students had to go in to their classes.

To those who have read the previous volumes in this "Rover Boys Series" of books, the lads we have just met will need no special introduction. For the benefit of my new readers, however, let me state that the Rover boys were three in number, Dick being the oldest, fun-loving Tom coming next, and Sam being about a year younger still. When at home they lived with their father, Anderson Rover, and their Uncle Randolph and Aunt Martha on a beautiful farm called Valley Brook, in New York State.

Years before, and while their father was in Africa, the three boys had been sent by their uncle to Putnam Hall Military Academy, as related in detail in the first volume of this series, called "The Rover Boys at School." At the Hall they had made a number of friends, including Songbird Powell and the dudish student, William Philander Tubbs. They had also made some enemies, who did their best to bring the Rover boys to grief, but without success.

A term at school had been followed by a short cruise on the ocean, and then a trip to the jungles of Africa, whither the lads went to find their father, who had disappeared. Then, during vacation, the boys took a trip West, and then another trip on the Great Lakes. After that they went in the mountains, and then came back to Putnam Hall, to go into camp with their fellow cadets.

This term at Putnam Hall was followed by a long journey on land and sea, to a far-away island of the Pacific, where the boys and their friends had to play "Robinson Crusoe" for a while. Then they returned to this country, and, in a houseboat, sailed down the Ohio and the Mississippi Rivers. After leaving the Mississippi they took an outing on the plains, and then went down into southern waters, where, in the Gulf of Mexico, they solved the mystery of a deserted steam yacht.

"And now for home and a big rest!" said Dick, and they went back to the farm. But here something very unusual occurred, and the boys had as lively a time as ever.

While at school the three Rover boys had become well acquainted with three girls, Dora Stanhope and her cousins, the two Laning sisters, Nellie and Grace. Dora was the only daughter of Mrs. Stanhope, a widow, and soon she and Dick became the warmest of friends, while Tom was quite taken by Nellie, and Sam often "paired off" with Grace.

In those days Josiah Crabtree had been an instructor at Putnam Hall. He was very dictatorial, and none of the cadets liked him, and the Rovers liked him still less when they learned that he was trying to practically hypnotize Mrs. Stanhope into marrying him, so that he could get control of the fortune which the widow was holding in trust for Dora. They foiled the teacher's efforts to wed the lady, and in the end Josiah Crabtree had to leave Putnam Hall. Later still he was arrested for some of his misdeeds and given a short sentence in jail.

The Stanhope fortune, as a part of the money coming to the Stanhopes and the Lanings was called, had come to Mr. Stanhope in a peculiar way, and some outsiders claimed the treasure, which, at that time, was secreted in a spot among the West Indies called Treasure Isle. There was a lively chase to get there first, but the Rovers won out, and because of this their enemies were more bitter than ever.

The boys had finished their term at Putnam Hall and on their return home became students at Brill College, a fine institution of learning of the Middle West. At the same time Dora, Nellie, and Grace became pupils at Hope Seminary, located not many miles from Brill. At the college the Rovers made many friends, including Stanley Browne, already introduced, and Will, otherwise known as "Spud," Jackson, a lad who loved potatoes, and who also loved to tell big yarns.

A term at college had been followed by a trip down East, taken for a peculiar reason, and then, while on a visit home, the three lads had become the possessors of an up-to-date biplane, which they named the Dartaway. In the biplane, as related in the volume before this, called "The Rover Boys in the Air," our heroes made a somewhat spectacular trip from the farm to the college campus, much to the amazement of their fellow collegians and their instructors. Later they made a trip through the air to Hope Seminary, and at that time Dick was delighted to place upon Dora's finger a diamond engagement sing.

A short while later an alarming thing occurred. The boys were out in the Dartaway when they met Grace on the road and learned that Dora and Nellie had been abducted by Josiah Crabtree, Tad Sobber, and some of their other old enemies. They gave chase in the biplane, and, after several adventures, located the girls in a lonely mansion in the country, where they were prisoners, in charge of Sobber's aunt The boys at once went for the authorities, and, after something of a fight, the rascals were made prisoners, and the girls were rescued and taken back to the Seminary.

"You will appear against these scoundrels?" asked the sheriff, Jackson Fells, of the Rover boys, as they were about to leave the sheriff's office at Plankville.

"We'll appear all right enough," Tom had answered. "Why, Mr. Sheriff, you couldn't beat us away with a club!" And so it had been arranged that the Rover boys should appear in court against the evildoers whenever wanted. Then Crabtree, Sobber, and the others had been put under lock and key in the old-fashioned country jail; and there, for the time being, the matter had rested.

"I wish we could learn more about Crabtree's escape," remarked Tom, as he and his brothers entered the main building of the college.

"So do I," added Sam. "Can't we telephone over to Plankville, to Sheriff Fells?"

"More than likely the sheriff is out, hunting for Crabtree and the others," answered Dick. "But I'll tell you what we might do— if the weather stays good," he added, suddenly.

"Sail to Plankville in the Dartaway?" queried both of the others.

"Yes, if Doctor Wallington will give us permission."

"He ought to— since we are so much interested in this case," returned Tom.

"We'll find out, as soon as the morning session is over," said the eldest Rover boy; and then all hurried to their classes, for the final bell had ceased to ring.

It was hard work for the boys to keep their minds on their lessons. Dick, especially, was very serious, and for a good reason. Something was worrying him greatly— something of which Tom and Sam knew little. What it was we shall learn later.

The boys had a quarter of an hour after classes before going to lunch, and they immediately sought out Doctor Wallington, whom they found in his private office.

"Yes, it is too bad that that rascal Crabtree escaped," said the head of the college. "I can well imagine that you are worried— since he has caused you and your friends so much trouble in the past. Let us hope that the authorities will quickly recapture him."

"Have you had any further word, sir?" asked Dick.

"I had word at eleven o'clock, from the newspaper office. Up to that time he had not been located."

"We wish to ask a favor," went on Dick, and spoke about the proposed trip to Plankville.

"Very well, you may go, and in your biplane if you deem it safe," said the worthy doctor. Secretly he was quite proud of the students' success with the Dartaway, as it had advertised Brill College not a little.

"Possibly we won't be able to get back until to-morrow," said Tom. "We may be detained, or it may storm

"Take your time on the trip. Only be careful that you have no accidents."

"We'll try to be careful," answered Dick, with a grim smile. "We don't want a tumble if we can help it."

"It is a grand sport," answered the head of the college. "Before long I expect to see aeroplanes in constant use."

"Wouldn't you like to go up with us some day, Doctor?" questioned Tom, slyly.

"Well— er— perhaps, Thomas. But not just yet. I wish— er— to see them more in general use first." And then the doctor bowed the students out.

The boys lost no time in preparing for the trip to Plankville. After a somewhat hasty lunch they put on their flying suits and then went down to where the Dartaway was housed, in one of the buildings attached to the gymnasium.

"Looks to be all right," remarked Dick, after an inspection of the flying machine, and while Sam and Tom were filling the gasoline tank and the oil distributor.

The engine was tried out for a minute, and found to be in perfect order. As usual, as soon as the explosions of the motor were heard, a crowd commenced to gather, to see the start of the flight.

"Wish you luck!" cried Stanley.

"Say, look out that you don't forget how to stop and sail to the North Pole!" sang out Spud Jackson.

"As if that could really occur!" murmured William Philander Tubbs, with a lofty look of, disdain.

"Sure it could happen," returned Spud, good-naturedly. Why, I heard of an airman who went up once and forgot how to turn his machine down, and he went around and around in a circle for sixteen hours. And then he dropped ker-plunk right on top of a baker's wagon and smashed twenty-six pies— all because his gasoline gave out."

"Ridiculous!" murmured William Philander.

"Absolute fact, Tubbs," responded Spud, earnestly. "Come with me, some day, and I'll show you where the pies made a dent in the street when the flying machine struck 'em." And then a general laugh went up, and the dudish student stepped back in the crowd, out of sight.

"All aboard!" sang out Dick, as he hopped into the driver's seat and took hold of the wheel. "Start her up, somebody!"

Sam and Tom got aboard and willing hands grasped the propellers and gave each a twist. Bang! bang! bang! went the explosions, and soon the propellers were revolving swiftly, and then with a swoop the Dartaway ran over the campus on its wheels and suddenly arose in the air. A cheer went up, and the students threw up their caps. Then Dick swung around in a quarter circle and headed directly for Plankville.

It was an ideal day for flying, not too hot or too cold, and with very little breeze, and that of the "steady" kind, not likely to develop "holes"— the one great terror of all airmen.

"Wish we had the girls along," remarked Sam, when they were well on the way.

"Not for this trip, Sam," answered Dick, grimly. "We have got our work cut out for us."

"Why, what do you mean?"

"If old Crabtree hasn't been caught yet me must see if we can't round him up."

CHAPTER III

A USELESS HUNT

"Say, that's the talk!" cried Tom, quickly. "I hadn't thought of that,— but it's just what we ought to do."

"It won't be easy, Tom," said his younger brother. "The chances are that Crabtree has made good use of his time. He may be hundreds of miles away— bound for the West or the South, or Canada or Europe."

"Well, we can have a try at finding him, anyway," put in Dick. "Someti a criminal sticks close to the jail until the excitement is over, Look at those fellows who escaped from jail in New York City not long ago. The detectives thought they had gone to Chicago or St. Louis, and all the while they were on the East Side, right in New York!"

"Oh, my! but wouldn't I just like to land on old Crabtree!" muttered Tom. "I think I'd be apt to put him in the hospital first and jail afterwards! He certainly deserves it— for all the trouble he has caused us and our— er— friends."

"'Friends' is good, with Dick engaged to marry Dora and you as good as engaged to Nellie," snorted Sam "Precisely, and you and Grace making goo-goo eyes at each other," added Tom, with a wink at his younger brother. Then he quickly changed the subject. "Dick, do you think you can strike a straight course for Plankville?"

"I'll try it," was the answer. "I don't think I'll go much out of the way."

The Dartaway had a powerful motor, and once on the right trail the eldest Rover advanced his gasoline and spark, and they went rushing through the air at express-train speed. The boys were provided with face guards, so they did not mind this. They did not fly high, and so kept the railroad and other familiar objects fairly well in view. They passed over several villages, the inhabitants gazing up at them in open-mouthed wonder, and finally came in sight of a big church spire that they knew belonged in Plankville. Then Dick slowed down the engine, and soon they floated down in an open field close to the main street and not a great distance from the sheriff's office and the jail.

"Well, it certainly didn't take long to get here," cried Tom, as he consulted his watch.

A man who lived close by was approaching and he readily agreed, for a small amount, to guard the biplane.

"Have they caught those men who escaped from the jail?" asked Sam, of the man.

"Got two on 'em," was the reply. "Dacker and Penfield."

"What of Crabtree?" asked Dick.

"Nuthin' doin', up to an hour ago. The sheriff is out with about ten men, lookin' fer him."

"Then there is no use of our going to the sherif's office," said Dick to his brothers "We'll go right to the jail."

"Will they let us in?" asked Sam.

"In the office, yes. We won't want to go to the cells," answered Dick, with a short laugh.

When they reached the office of the jail they found several men present, including the head keeper and one of the State detectives. The keeper had seen the Rover boys at the time of the capture of Crabtree and the others and he smiled a little as he shook hands.

"Bad business," he said, in answer to a question Dick put. "But I can't exactly blame my men for what happened."

"Weren't you here at the time?" asked Tom.

"No, I was out of town— calling on my mother, who is very old and quite sick. There was a fire in the pantry off the kitchen, and for a few minutes it looked as if the old jail would burn to the ground. Of course the guards got excited, and all they thought of was to put out the blaze— and it's a good thing they did that. That's how the prisoners got away. I suppose you've heard that we rounded up two of them."

"Yes," answered Dick. "Have they any idea what became of Crabtree?"

"I haven't. If the sheriff knows anything he hasn't told it. By the way, boys, I'll tell you something, now you are here. That man is a hypnotist!"

"We know it," said Dick "I thought I told you."

"He tried to hypnotize one of the men one day,— almost got away, doing it!"

"Did he hire any lawyer to defend him?" asked Tom, curiously.

"I don't know about a lawyer. He had a man out to see him, several times. The two were very friendly."

"They were?" cried Dick. "I never knew Josiah Crabtree had any friends, outside of the rascals he associated with. Who was the man?"

"He gave his name as John Smith. But I guess that was false, for he acted as if he didn't want to be known."

"What kind of a looking man was he?" asked Sam.

"Why, he was a tall, thin fellow with a very pointed chin, and bushy black hair and heavy black eyebrows. When he spoke his voice had a regular rumble to it."

At this description the Rover boys shook their heads. They could think of nobody they had met who would fit the picture.

"When was that man here last?" asked Dick.

"A couple of days ago. I didn't like him for a cent, but as the prisoners haven't been convicted of any crimes as yet I had to let 'em see their friends," explained the jail keeper.

"What of Sobber, Larkspur and the others?" questioned Tom.

"All safe enough. Nobody else is going to get out of here if I can help it," and the keeper shook his head decidedly.

The boys remained at the jail for a while longer, and heard the particulars of how the fire had originated and of how the prisoners had gotten away. Two of the men had kept together, but Crabtree had gone off by himself, and the last seen of him was when he was running for the river, which flowed some distance back of the jail.

"Let us go down to the river and take a look around," suggested Dick, at last, and bidding the jailer good-bye, they hurried away.

Along the river bank they found several men and boys, all looking for Crabtree, some thinking there might be a reward offered for the capture of the criminal. The Rovers joined in the hunt for the best part of an hour, but without success.

"It's worse than looking for a pin in a haystack," grumbled Tom, presently. "We might as well give it up."

"Let us walk around the town and see if we can learn anything," suggested his big brother.

They walked down the main street of Plankville from end to end, questioning several people they knew. At last they got word that a mysterious automobile had passed through the town about midnight of the day Josiah Crabtree had broken from jail. But who had been in the touring car nobody could tell.

"He may have escaped in that," declared Dick.

"And if he did, that man who came to see him at the jail had the car," added Sam.

"Just what I think," cried Tom. "Well, if he got away in an auto there is no use of our looking for him here," he added, with a sigh.

Nevertheless, the boys hung around Plankville for an hour longer. Then they got aboard of the Dartaway, and with Tom at the wheel, and Dick with a pair of field glasses to his eyes, swung in several circles about the neighborhood.

"No use," declared the oldest Rover boy, at last. "It is getting late. We might as well return to college. We can do nothing here."

"Haven't we got time to go to Hope?" asked Sam, a bit wistfully.

"Well, I don't know," answered his big brother, just as wistfully.

"Let us take time— Doctor Wallington didn't want us to hurry back," put in Tom. "I think the girls ought to know about this, so as to be on guard, in case old Crabtree tries to molest them again."

As the lads were all of one mind, the biplane was headed in the direction of Hope. As before, the flying machine swung through the air at a good rate of speed, and half an hour before sundown they came in sight of the Seminary buildings.

"Wonder where they are?" mused Dick, as the biplane came to earth at the spot where they had landed before.

"If they are around they must have heard us," answered Tom. "The engine makes noise enough to wake the dead." And this was well expressed, for the motor, like many of the flying machine kind, had no muffler attached, and the explosions were not unlike the firing of a gatling gun.

Some girls had seen them come down, and presently the boys saw three figures hurrying towards them.

"Oh, what made you come so late?" cried Grace, as she rushed up and shook hands with Sam and then with the others.

"We thought you might come to-day," put in Nellie, as she beamed on Tom, and extended both hands.

"I heard the machine first," declared Dora, and came straight to Dick, who did not hesitate to give her the hearty kiss to which he thought his engagement entitled him.

"We have been to Plankville," came from Tom and Sam, in a breath.

"Have you heard the news?" questioned their big brother, and he looked anxiously from Dora to her cousins.

"What news?" cried Dora, quickly. "We have heard nothing unusual."

"Josiah Crabtree broke out of the Plankville jail and ran away."

"Oh, Dick!" and Dora grew suddenly pale. "Do you really mean it?"

"When was this?" demanded Nellie.

"Tell us all about it," supplemented Grace.

"We can't tell you any more than what we have heard," answered Sam. "We just got word ourselves this morning."

Then the boys told their story and answered innumerable questions which the girls put to them.

"This will be bad news for mother," said Dora, to Dick. "She is afraid of Josiah Crabtree, and always has been— because of his strange hypnotic power."

"I don't think he will dare to show himself— at least, not for a while, Dora," he answered. "He knows only too well that the jail is waiting to receive him."

"That strange man with the bushy eyebrows and the pointed chin must have helped him to get away," was Nellie's comment.

"So we think," answered Tom.

"But who was he?" questioned her sister.

"That's a conundrum we can't answer," returned Sam. "I think he was waiting around with that auto, and as soon as the fire started Crabtree saw the chance he wanted and got out."

"Maybe Crabtree started the fire?" suggested Dora.

"No, that was purely an accident— so the jailer says. The wind blew a curtain against a lamp and the burning curtain fell into some excelsior in a box of new dishes. The excelsior made quite a blaze and a lot of smoke, and everybody in the jail was badly frightened for a while."

After that the talk became general, and quite unconsciously Dick and Dora strolled off by themselves, down towards a tiny brook that flowed past the campus grounds.

"You must be very careful, Dora, now that Crabtree is at liberty," said the eldest Rover boy. "I wouldn't have him run off with you again for the world," he added, tenderly.

"I shall watch out, Dick,— and I'll make the others watch out, too." And then, as he squeezed her hand, she added, in a lower voice: "How is that other matter coming along?"

"Not very well, Dora," and Dick's face became more serious than ever.

"Can't your father manage it?"

"I don't think so. You see, he isn't in very good health— he breaks down every once in a while. Those business matters worry him a great deal."

"Can't your uncle help him?"

"No, Uncle Randolph means well, but he is no business man— he showed that when he allowed those men to swindle him out of those bonds," went on Dick, referring to an event which has been related in detail in "The Rover Boys on the Farm."

"But what can you do, Dick?" questioned the girl, earnestly.

"I think I'll have to quit college and take up the matter myself," answered Dick Rover.

CHAPTER IV

THE END OF THE "DARTAWAY"

"Quit college? Oh, Dick, do you want to do that?"

"Not exactly, Dora— and yet I don't think I am exactly fitted for a professional career. That seems to be more in Tom and Sam's line. I like business, and I'd enjoy getting into something big, something worth while. I think I could handle those matters, if father would only let me try. And then there is another thing, Dora," went on the youth, looking squarely into his companion's face. "Perhaps you can guess what that is."

She blushed deeply.

"What?" she whispered.

"I want to marry you, and take you some place where I know you'll be safe from such creatures as Crabtree and Sobber and Larkspur— and I want the right to look after your mother, too."

"Oh, Dick!" And she clung tightly to his arm.

"Aren't you willing, Dora?"

"Yes." She looked at him frankly" "Yes, Dick, whenever you say."

"And your mother——"

"Mamma depends upon me in everything, and she has told me to do just as we thought best."

Dick gave a swift look around. Nobody was in sight at that moment. He pressed Dora to him.

"You best and dearest sweetheart in all the world!" he cried, in a low tone. "Then I can depend on you? We'll be the happiest couple in the whole world!"

"Indeed, yes, Dick!" And Dora's eyes fairly beamed with happiness as she snuggled closer to him. "But about your father," she continued, a moment later. "I am selfish to forget him. Then he is not so well?"

"He is fairly well, but he gets a bad spell ever so often, and then to attend to business is out of the question. But that isn't the worst of it. He has gotten tangled up in some sort of financial scheme with some brokers in New York City and it is worrying him half to death. He has told me something about it, but I don't know half as much as I'd like to know."

"Then you must find out, Dick, and help him all you possibly can," declared the girl, promptly.

"I'm looking for a letter from home every day— I mean one telling about these financial affairs. As soon as it comes I'll know what to do."

All too soon the boys' visit to Hope Seminary had to come to an end. Sam and Tom returned to the biplane and gave the motor a brief "try-out," which noise reached Dick's ears just as he was trying to break away from Dora. He gave her a last hug and a kiss and then ran to join his brothers.

"The best of friends must part, as the hook said to the eye!" sang out Tom, merrily.

"I believe you are anxious to leave us!" returned Nellie, teasingly.

"Sure thing!" he retorted, promptly. "I planned to get away an hour before I came." And then she playfully boxed his ear, at which he chased her around the biplane and gave her a hearty smack just below her own pretty ear.

"Tom Rover!" she gasped. But, somehow, she looked pleased, nevertheless.

"A11 in the family!" sang out the fun-loving Rover, coolly. "As the lady said when she kissed her cow."

"Who is going to run the Dartaway back?" questioned Sam. "I think it's my turn at the wheel."

"It's rather dark, Sam," answered Dick. "But you can try it— if you want to."

"All right— I think I can see as much as you or Tom," responded the youngest Rover. "If I get off the course, and you find it out, let me know."

Darkness was settling down when the boys finally bid the girls good-bye and flew away. "Beware of old Crabtree!" sang out Dick.

"We'll watch out!" answered Nellie.

"Indeed we will!" came from Dora and Grace.

"If you catch sight of him, have him arrested!" yelled Sam, and then the biplane sailed out of hearing.

Sam knew how to handle the Dartaway almost as well as did Dick and Tom, and as there was but little wind, and the flying machine appeared to be in good condition, the others did not doubt but what Sam would make a fine flight of the trip.

"Keep a little to the south," called out Dick, after Hope had been left behind and when they were sailing over some broad fields. "If you do that you can follow the old turnpike for quite a distance."

"I thought I'd run for the railroad tracks," answered the lad at the steering wheel.

"You can do that later— after we pass that big farmhouse with the four barns."

Running along in the air is a different proposition from running on the ground, and the air-man has to be careful about the lay of the land below him or he will soon go astray from his course. The earth looks altogether different when viewed from the sky from what it does when looked at from a level, and when an air-man is five or six hundred feet up he has all he can do to make out what is below him.

It had begun to cloud up a little and this made it darker than ever. After following the turn-pike for nearly two miles, Sam veered slightly to catch the railroad tracks and the gleam of the signal lights.

"I can follow the lights best of all!" he shouted, into Dick's ear. "It's too dark to see the road."

"All right, follow the railroad right to Ashton," answered the oldest Rover boy, naming the town that was the railroad station for Brill College.

The cloudiness increased rapidly, and long before Ashton was gained it commenced to blow, gently at first, and then stronger and stronger. Evidently a storm was in the air.

"We are going to catch it!" was Tom's comment.

"Oh, I don't think it will storm just yet," returned Sam.

"Watch yourself, Sam!" cried Dick, warningly. "If the wind gets too strong bring her down in the first field we come to."

"I will," was the answer.

They were now flying close to the railroad tracks. Presently they saw a glare of light illuminate the rails and a long line of freight cars, drawn by a big locomotive, passed beneath them.

"Wish that was going our way— we could follow it with ease," said Sam, as the train disappeared from view, leaving the landscape below darker than ever.

The youngest Rover boy now had to give the Dartaway all of his attention. The breeze was coming in fitful gusts, sending the biplane first to one side and then to the other. They struck a "bank," and he had to use all his wit and courage to bring the flying machine to a level keel once more.

"Better go down!" cried Tom. "This is getting dangerous."

"Don't go down here!" sang out Dick. "There are woods on both sides of the track!"

Sam had been working the horizontal rudder, to bring the biplane down, but at Dick's words he shifted again and they went up.

"I'll tell you when we reach an open field," went on the oldest Rover. "Say, this sure is some blow!" he added.

Another fitful gust struck the Dartaway and for one brief moment it looked as if the biplane would be turned over. Had this occurred the machine would have dropped like a shot and most likely all of the boys would have been killed.

But Sam was on guard, and worked his levers like lightning. As quickly as she had tipped, the Dartaway righted herself, and then they shot upward on a long slant.

"Phew! that was some escape!" muttered Tom. "Dick, can't you see any open field where we can land?"

"Must be one ahead," was the answer. "I fancy——"

Dick did not finish, for at that moment came a blast of air stronger than any that had gone before. The Dartaway spun around, left the railroad tracks, made a semi-circle, and then came back again. As it made the final turn there was a crack like that of a pistol.

"What was that?" cried Tom. "Was it the engine?"

"No, it was one of the stays!" answered Dick. He glanced around. "The right plane is giving 'way! Sam, let her down, as quick as you can!"

"On the tracks!" gasped the lad at the wheel.

"Yes— anywhere— before we tumble!"

The biplane was already out of control. Sam manipulated the rudders as best he could, and likewise the ailerons, and the machine dropped in several wild dashes.

"The train!" yelled Tom. "Look out for the express!"

There was another gleam of light along the railroad tracks. The evening express was approaching, running at topmost speed, to make up some lost time.

The biplane was coming down swiftly. It veered towards the woods beside the railroad tracks. Then it took another wild turn and hung directly over the railroad. The boys were speechless, not knowing what to do. The light of the express train kept coming closer and closer.

Crash! the biplane had struck the earth, directly beside the railroad tracks. One end of the machine rested across the rails, the other end hung in the bushes bordering the tracks.

As they struck Tom and Dick were thrown out— the former into the bushes and the latter on the tracks. Sam kept at the wheel, the force of the intact smashing the landing wheels beneath him.

For the instant all three boys were too stunned to do anything. Then, as the gleam from the express train came closer, Tom let out a wild cry.

"Jump! Jump for your lives! We haven't a moment to lose!"

"Dick!" screamed Sam. "Save Dick! He is on the tracks!"

"Where?"

"There!" and Sam pointed with one hand, while he clambered down from his seat. The seat was broken and his coat got caught in the splinters, and it was several seconds before he could release himself.

Tom looked to where his brother pointed and saw Dick lying in a heap, face downward. The fall had been sufficient to stun him and he was thus unable to help himself.

Tom did not hesitate over what to do. Dick was very dear to him and never for an instant did he consider the risk he was running in going to the rescue. He made a flying leap from the bushes to the tracks and took another leap to his brother's side.

"Get up, Dick" he yelled. "Here, let me get you off the tracks! The train is coming!"

Only a faint groan answered him. Dick was still too dazed to think or to act.

Tom caught hold of his brother and raised him up, and commenced to drag him to the other side of the tracks, away from the wrecked biplane. As he did this there came a shrill warning shriek from the locomotive whistle. The engineer had seen the obstruction on the tracks and had put on brakes, in a vain endeavor to stop the express.

As Tom commenced to haul Dick across the tracks, Sam came bounding to his assistance, the shreds of his torn coat flapping behind him. He caught his big brother by one arm.

"Hurry!" he yelled, hoarsely. "The express is almost here!"

Both boys made a wild leap to the edge of the railroad, dragging Dick between them. Tom got his foot caught in the rails and almost pitched headlong. They fairly fell into the bushes, and Dick went down with them.

Then the express thundered up, the whistle shrieking loudly and the sparks flying from the wheels where the brakes gripped them. The locomotive struck the Dartaway, and the next instant the biplane was smashed to pieces, the broken parts flying in all directions!

CHAPTER V

TWO VISITORS

"That's the last of the Dartaway!"

"Are you hurt, Dick?"

"My, wasn't that a narrow escape!"

"A minute later and it would have been all up with us!"

"I— I guess I'm all right," stammered Dick, putting one hand to his forehead, where a lump was rapidly rising. "I got some fall though!" he added, grimly.

"Look what hit me!" cried Sam, picking up a section of a bamboo stick— one which had supported one of the planes of the flying machine.

"I'm glad we weren't closer to that smash-up!"

Having plowed through the biplane, the express train had come to a halt with the last car standing not a great distance beyond the scene of the collision. Already the trainmen were hurrying out, some with lanterns, to learn if anybody had been killed or hurt.

"Why, it's an airship!" cried the conductor. "How in the name of Adam did that get here?"

"Here are three fellows!" cried the engineer, as the rays of a lantern revealed the Rover boys. "Were you in that flying machine?" he called.

"We were," answered Tom, grimly.

"Anybody hurt?"

"My brother got a bad tumble and is partly stunned."

"We didn't hit anybody, did we?" questioned the engineer, anxiously.

"Nothing but the biplane," answered Sam. "You made mince-meat of that."

"How did you happen to land on the track?" asked the fireman.

"The wind put the machine out of control and we came down quicker than we wanted to," explained Sam. "Then you came along— before we had a chance to drag the biplane off the tracks."

"Well, I'm glad I didn't hit anybody," said the engineer, in tones of relief.

"We had a close shave," returned Tom, and then he and Sam told of how they had struck, and of how Dick had been dragged out of the way. By this time the oldest Rover boy was feeling more like himself and he managed to stand up, even though somewhat dizzy.

"Well, we're losing time," said the conductor, consulting his watch by the light of his lantern. "We'll have to get into Ashton and report this."

"And somebody has got to pay for the biplane," said Tom.

"I don't see as it is our fault," answered the trainman, and then he gave the order to go ahead— after it had been ascertained that the track was clear.

"We'll ride to Ashton with you," said Dick. "No use of staying with this wreckage," he added, to his brothers. "We can drive down to-morrow and look it over. I don't think it is worth much."

"Never mind— I am glad nobody was seriously hurt," returned Sam.

"I guess we all feel that way," added Tom.

It was a run of only a few minutes to Ashton. On the way the conductor of the train took the Rover boys' names and address.

"I don't see how you can blame us for smashing the flying machine," he said. "You had no business to come down on the track."

"We might have gotten our biplane off the track, if you had halted the train," returned Dick. "We could have dragged it into the bushes."

"I don't know about that."

As soon as the train rolled into Ashton the bays alighted. The only other passenger to get off was one of the local storekeepers.

"You were lucky boys," said the man, pleasantly. He knew them by sight, for they had traded at his shop.

"That's true, Mr. Striker," said Dick. "But we don't seem to be lucky just now."

"How's that?"

"There isn't a conveyance of any kind here to take us to Brill, and I must say I don't feel like walking."

"You go around to Carson's livery stable. He'll take you over to the college," answered Mr. Striker.

The livery stable was but a short distance away and they found the proprietor on hand, reading a newspaper and smoking his pipe.

"It's a wonder you wouldn't have a rig over at the depot, to meet the main trains," grumbled Tom.

"'Twouldn't pay," answered Neal Carson. "I tried it once, and earned two dollars and a half in two weeks. Folks that want me can come here for me."

"Well, we want to get to Brill College," said Dick.

"All right, but it will cost you fifty cents each."

"Very well."

The livery stable keeper hustled around and soon had a team ready. The boys were glad enough to take it easy in the carriage, and on the way to college but little was said.

"Rather late, young gentlemen," remarked Professor Blackie, sharply, as they entered.

"We had an accident, Professor," returned Dick.

"An accident?" and the instructor was all attention.

"Our biplane got smashed up," put in Tom.

"Indeed! I am sorry to hear that. Are you hurt?"

"Got a shaking up and a few scratches," answered Sam.

Then their story had to be told in detail. Soon it became noised all over the place that the Dartaway had been wrecked, and before they could get a mouthful to eat the three Rovers had to tell the story over and over again.

"I'm sorry the biplane was wrecked, but glad you escaped," said Songbird, earnestly. He cherished his old friends as if they were brothers.

"Just what I say already," cried Max Spangler, a German-American student. "You can buy a new flying machine, yes, but you can't buy a new head or a body, not much!" And he shook his head earnestly.

Even while the lads were eating they had to give further details of the disastrous flight. Doctor Wallington congratulated them on their escape.

"You had better leave flying alone after this," he remarked.

"I think we shall— for a while, at least," answered Tom, dryly.

As soon as it was possible to do so, the boys sent a message to the girls and to their folks, telling about the accident and of their escape.

"It's bound to get in the newspapers," said Dick. "And if we don't send word the others will be scared to death."

The oldest Rover boy was right about the affair getting in the newspapers. The local sheets gave the accident a column or more and some city sheets took it up and made a "spread" of it, with pictures that were truly thrilling even though they were inaccurate.

"Humph! look at this picture!" cried Sam, showing up the supplement to a New York Sunday newspaper. "Looks as if we hit the smokestack of the locomotive and sailed along on that for a mile or two! Phew! what an imagination that artist must have!"

"And here is a picture showing the train climbing over the biplane!" returned Tom. "Say, it's a wonder we didn't wreck the Express instead of the Express wrecking us!"

On the day following the accident the boys were told, after class hours, that some gentlemen wished to see them. They went to the reception room, to find two men there— a lawyer and a doctor.

"You are the— er— the young gentlemen who were in the— er— the flying machine smash-up?" queried one of the visitors, sharply.

"Yes," answered Dick.

"Mr. Rover?"

"Yes, Richard Rover."

"Just so. Glad to know you. My name is Fogg— Belright Fogg. This is Doctor Slamper. We represent the railroad company, Mr. Rover. The doctor came along to see if you had been hurt."

"I got this," answered Dick, with a quiet smile, and pointed to the lump on his forehead.

"Ah, yes, I see," put in Doctor Slamper. "Not very serious, I take it."

"Oh, it didn't kill me."

"Ha! ha! Good joke, Mr. Rover! Feel pretty good otherwise, eh?"

"Oh, I'm able to sit up."

"And these other young gentlemen are all right, of course," went on the doctor, smoothly.

His manner was such that the boys were disgusted. Evidently he had come to smooth matters over, so that they would not put in a claim for personal injuries. And the lawyer had come to ward off a claim for the loss of the Dartaway.

"No, I'm not all right, Doctor— far from it," cried Tom, before the others could say another word. And then the fun-loving Rover went on: "My knee is sprained, and my back twisted, and I have a pain in one of my right teeth, and my brothers both got their arms wrenched, and one got his left big toe out of joint, and none of us can see extra good, and I think my big brother's right ear is out of order, and my digestion is not what it should be, and I fear——"

"Stop! stop!" interrupted the doctor, in amazement. "Do you mean to say——"

"And the back of my neck feels out of kilter somehow," continued Tom, "and Sam's left hip isn't just as straight as it should be, and when I hit my elbow I have the funniest sensation crawl down my shoulder blade ever was, and we all think we ought to go to a sanitarium for at least six months or a year; don't you think so, too, Doctor?"

"Well, I never!" gasped Doctor Slamper, falling back against a center table. "Why, my dear young men, I think——"

"And the Dartaway is gone— our dear old flying machine!" groaned Tom. "The machine we hoped to fly in to Washington, to the next inauguration. Why, don't you know that the planes of that machine were covered with the autographs of most of the big men of this country? Whenever we sailed around to visit our friends or the big men we had them write their autographs on the canvas wings of the machine. Those autographs alone were worth about a million, more or less!"

"What's this?" put in Belright Fogg, quickly. "A flying machine valuable because of the autographs on it? Preposterous! If you think the railroad will stand to pay anything on such a thing as that, you are mistaken."

"But how are we to get those autographs back?" whined Tom. "Some of the men who gave them may be dead now!"

"See here, let us get down to business," cried Belright Fogg. "You don't look to be knocked out— at least, not a great deal anyway. Am I right, Doctor?"

"I— I think so. Of course they may be— be shocked a little," returned the physician. "Probably they are— from the way this young man talks— little nervous disorder." And he pointed at Tom, while Dick and Sam had to turn away, to keep from bursting into laughter.

"Um! Nervous, eh? Well, a few days of quietness will remedy that," answered the lawyer. "Now, see here." He looked wisely at the three Rovers. "Our railroad disclaims all responsibility for this accident. But at the same time we— er— we want to do the right thing, you know— rather do that than have any unpleasant feelings, understand? Now if you are willing to accept our offer, we'll fix this matter right up and say no more about it."

"What is you offer?" questioned Dick.

"Three hundred dollars— one hundred dollars each."

"You mean for our personal injuries?" questioned Sam.

"I mean for everything."

"Nothing doing," returned Dick, promptly, and with a bit of pardonable slang.

"You will not accept?"

"We might accept three hundred dollars for the shaking up we got— although we don't know if our nerves are all right or not. Sometimes these things turn out worse than at first anticipated. But the railroad has got to pay for the biplane it smashed."

"Never!"

"I think it will."

"You got in the way of the train— it was your own fault."

"Your track isn't fenced in— I have a right to cross it where I please. If I had a wagon and it broke down, you would have no right to run into it. The law might not hold you criminally liable, but it would hold you liable for the worth of the wagon and contents.

"Say, are you a lawyer?" queried Belright Fogg, curiously.

"No, but I know my rights," returned Dick, promptly.

CHAPTER VI

THE MISSING BIPLANE

For a moment there was silence. The lawyer and the doctor who represented the railroad company looked from one to another of the Rover boys.

"Pretty shrewd, aren't you?" said the lawyer, finally.

"We have to be— in dealing with a railroad company," answered Dick, bluntly. "Now let us get to business— if that is what you came for," he continued. "We might put in a big claim for damages, and I think a jury would sustain our claim. But we want to do what is fair. The question then is, Do you want to do what is fair?"

"Why, yes, of course," returned Belright Fogg, but he did not say it very cordially.

"Very well then. That flying machine cost us twenty-eight hundred dollars new and we have spent over two hundred dollars on improvements, so when she was smashed she was worth at least three thousand dollars."

"But you can save something, can't you?" gut in the lawyer.

"Perhaps we can save the engine, and a dealer in second-hand machinery may give a hundred dollars for it. Now what I propose is this: You pay for half the value of the biplane and we'll call it square."

"Preposterous!"

"Very well then, Mr. Fogg, we'll consider the interview closed."

"If you sue, you won't get a cent, Mr. Rover."

"That remains to be seen."

"I am willing to give you five hundred dollars in place of the three hundred first offered."

"No, sir— it is fifteen hundred or nothing, Mr. Fogg."

"But you have not been hurt."

"Yes, we have been hurt. I have been to our college doctor about this lump on my head, and my brothers have been to him, too. We were badly shaken up— not as much as my brother made out, but enough. If we have to sue we'll put in our claim for personal injuries as well— and maybe for time lost from our studies."

"But fifteen hundred dollars! I— er— I can't see it," and the lawyer began to pace the floor.

"Maybe we had better sue," suggested Sam. "We might get the full amount of our loss— three thousand for the Dartaway and some for our injuries."

This did not suit the lawyer at all, for he had been instructed to settle if possible and thus avoid litigation, for the railroad authorities had heard that the Rovers were rich and might make the affair cost a good deal.

"I will— er— make my offer an even thousand dollars," he said, after some more talk. "But that is my limit. If you won't take that, you'll get nothing."

"All right— we'll sue," said Dick, and he made a move as if to close the interview.

"See here, are you of age— have you authority to close this matter?" demanded Belright Fogg, suddenly.

"I can close the matter, yes," answered Dick. "My father will be perfectly satisfied with whatever I do. I transact much of his business for him."

"Ah, well then, let us consider this thing a little more, Mr. Rover." And thereupon the lawyer went all over the matter again. Presently he offered twelve hundred dollars. But Dick was firm; and in the end the lawyer said he would pay them fifteen hundred dollars the next day, provided they would sign off all claims on the railroad.

"We'll do it as soon as we see the money," answered Dick.

"Can't you trust me, Mr. Rover?" demanded Belright Fogg.

"I like to do business in a business-like way," answered Dick, coolly. "When you bring that check kindly have it certified," he added.

"Very well!" snapped the lawyer; and then he and the doctor got out, Belright Fogg stating he would return the next morning.

"Dick, you ought to be a lawyer yourself!" cried Tom. "You managed that in fine style."

"Tom helped," added Sam. "He nearly scared that doctor into a fit, talking about our aches and pains!"

"Wait— perhaps the lawyer won't come back with the money," said Dick. "He may reconsider the offer."

"You didn't say anything about the wreckage," said Sam. "Who gets that?"

"We do, Sam. They are to pay us for damages, don't you see? If they pay only that, they can't claim the wreckage."

Promptly at the appointed time the next day Belright Fogg appeared. He was a bit nervous, for the railroad officials had told him to settle at once— before the Rovers took it into their heads to bring suit.

"I have the check, certified," he said, producing the paper. "Here is what you must sign, in the presence of witnesses," he added, and brought out a legal-looking document.

"We'll call in two of the teachers," answered Dick.

The oldest Rover boy read the document over with care. It was all right, excepting that in it the railroad claimed the wreckage of the Dartaway absolutely.

"Here, this comes out," cried Dick. "The wreckage belongs to us."

At this there was another long discussion. But the Rovers remained firm, and in the end the clause concerning the wreckage was altered to show that the Dartaway must remain the boys' property. Then the three brothers signed the paper and it was duly witnessed by two teachers, and the certified check was handed to Dick.

"Very sharp young man, you are," was Belright Fogg's comment, as he was about to leave. "You ought to be a lawyer."

"Perhaps I will be some day," was Dick's answer.

"Better get that check right in the bank!" cried Sam, when he and his brothers were alone. "That fellow may stop payment on it."

"He can't stop a certified check, Sam. I'll put it in the school safe for the present. What we want to do is to look after the Dartaway. She may not be worth much, but what there is of her belongs to us."

"Right you are. Let us get permission to go after her right away. For all we know, somebody may have carted her off already!"

The boys readily obtained permission to see to their property, and walked down to the college stables to get a horse and carriage to take them to the spot where the accident had occurred. Just then came a toot of an automobile horn, and a fine five-passenger car rolled into view, with Stanley Browne and a stranger on the front seats.

"Hello, you fellows!" cried Stanley, as the auto came to a stop. "Come over here! I hoped I'd see you!"

The Rovers hurried across the campus and were introduced to Jack Mason, Stanley's cousin, the driver of the car. He was passing through Ashton on the way to join his folks in the White Mountains.

"Jack wants me to take a ride with him this afternoon," said Stanley. "And I can invite three others to go along. Will you come with us?"

"That is kind," answered Dick. "But we have some business to attend to," and he related what it was.

"Say, let's take a look at the wrecked biplane!" cried Jack Mason. "I'd just as soon go there as anywhere."

"So would I," added Stanley.

"Very well— that will suit us down to the ground!" cried Tom.

"We were going to drive over in a carriage," explained Dick. "We can get there much quicker in the auto."

The boys piled into the tonneau of the car and they started off.

"Got to show me the roads," said Jack Mason. "All I know around here is the regular auto road to the White Mountains,— and I don't know that any too well."

"You can't lose us on the roads!" cried Tom. "We'll keep you straight."

Jack Mason loved to run fast and soon they were bowling along at a forty-mile-an-hour rate. Stanley and Tom told the driver what turns to make, and almost before they knew it they had passed the outskirts of Ashton and were approaching the locality where the fast Express had dashed into the crippled biplane.

"Here we are!" cried Tom, presently. "We can't go any further on the road. We'll have to walk through the woods to the tracks."

"I see a wood road!" exclaimed Jack Mason. "If the ground isn't too soft I'll try that."

He went on and passed in between the trees, and soon they were within a hundred feet of the railroad tracks. As the car came to a stop the Rover boys jumped to the ground and ran forward. Then, of a sudden, all three set up a shout:

"The biplane is gone!"

"Gone?" queried Stanley, who was close behind them.

"Yes, gone," returned Tom.

"Are you sure this is the spot where it was struck?"

"Of course I am."

"There are the marks where we landed and where the locomotive hit the Dartaway," said Sam. He looked around. "Wonder who took her, and to where?"

"That's to be found out," answered Dick, seriously.

"I don't see any airship," said Jack Mason, as he came up, having shut off the engine of the touring car.

"Somebody has hauled it away," answered Dick. He looked on both sides of the track. "This is queer," he added, presently. "I can't see any marks in the sand or mud or bushes. She'd make marks if anybody hauled her."

"I've got it!" cried Tom. "They hoisted her on a flat car! The railroad people have taken her!"

"But she is our biplane!" cried Sam, stubbornly.

"Maybe they took her to the freight house in Ashton," suggested Stanley.

"We'll soon find out— if you'll take us there in the auto."

"Sure!" answered Jack Mason, promptly.

The boys were about to leave the neighborhood when they heard the strokes of an axe, ringing through the woods.

"There's a wood chopper!" cried Dick. "Maybe he knows something about this. I guess I'll ask him."

They soon located the man— an elderly individual who worked for the farmer who owned the woods.

"Yes, I see 'em hoist the airship on the flat car," said he, in answer to their questions. "Had quite a job o' it, too."

"Did they take it to Ashton?" queried Dick.

"No. They was goin' to fust, but then Jimmy Budley— the section boss— said it would be better to take it up to the freight yards at Rallston."

"And they took it there?"

"I 'spect they did. They went off that way, anyway," replied the old wood chopper.

"To the Rallston freight yards!" cried Sam. "What a nerve!"

"I'll make 'em bring it back!" cried Dick, firmly.

"How far is it to Rallston?" asked Jack Mason.

"About nine miles."

"Pooh! that's nothing. Jump in and I'll take you there in no time— if the road's any good."

"The road is O. K.," answered Dick.

The automobile was backed out of the woods, and turned in the direction of Rallston. Jack Mason was in his element, and in less than twenty minutes they came in sight of the town and turned into a side street leading to the freight yards.

"There she is!" cried Sam, a minute later.

He pointed to one of the tracks in the yards and there, on a flat car, the boys beheld the wreck of the biplane. A small crowd of curious men and boys surrounded the remains of the Dartaway.

"What yer going to do with her, Jimmy?" asked a man in the crowd, of a burly individual on the flat car.

"I guess the railroad is going to sell her," replied the section boss.

CHAPTER VII

THE SALE OF THE BIPLANE

"Did you hear what that man said?" demanded Sam in a whisper, of his brothers.

"I did," returned Dick. "But he isn't going to sell our property," added Tom, warmly.

"Hardly," responded Dick. He pushed his way through the crowd and walked straight up to the flat car.

"Who is in charge here?" he demanded.

"What's that?" came in some surprise from the section boss.

"I asked who was in charge of this flat car with this flying machine?"

"What business is that of yours, young fellow?"

"This is our biplane— it belongs to me and my brothers here," and Dick waved his hand at Tom and Sam.

"Oh! Are you the Rover brothers?"

"Yes. And I want to know what business you had to bring that flying machine here?" went on Dick sharply, for he saw the kind of a man with whom he had to deal.

"Say, look here, if you've got any kick coming you go to the office with it," cried Jimmy Budley.

"Very well, I will. But I want to know who ordered you to bring that biplane here."

"Never mind; you go to the office and find out."

"You brought it here, didn't you?" asked Tom, who had now come up to Dick's side, along with the others.

"I ain't answering questions when I don't have to," returned the section boss, with a sneer.

"Sure he brought it here— on this flat car!" cried a man in the crowd. "Why don't you answer the young fellow straight, Jimmy?"

"This biplane belongs to my brothers and me," went on Dick, as sharply as before. "You had absolutely no right to touch it. If I wished to do so, I could have you arrested for this," he continued.

"Say, I don't allow nobody to talk to me like that!" growled the section boss. "You git out of here and see the men at the office."

"We'll not get out!" put in Tom. "This flying machine is ours and we want it."

"You'll take it right back to where you found it," added Sam. "And be careful that you don't break it worse than it is, or you'll foot the bill."

"I won't listen to you!" stormed the section boss, who was of an ugly disposition naturally and not liked in the neighborhood.

"Very well then," answered Dick. He turned to Stanley. "Will you go out and see if you can find a policeman?" he asked, loudly.

"Sure," returned the college youth, readily.

"Wow! he's goin' to have Budley locked up!" exclaimed a small boy.

"See here, don't you get fresh!" stormed the section boss, eying Dick angrily.

"We'll have a policeman settle this," answered the oldest Rover boy. "This is our property, and we can easily prove it. You had no right to touch it."

"I had orders," said Jimmy Budley, doggedly.

"Why don't you telephone to the office, Jimmy?" suggested a friend. "Maybe there was some mistake."

"Wasn't no mistake," growled the section boss; nevertheless he hopped down from the flat car and hurried in the direction of a shanty wherein was located a telephone. Dick followed him.

"You can tell them what I said," said the youth; "And they may find it to their interest to call up Mr. Belright Fogg before they give you orders."

"Have you seen Fogg?" demanded the section boss.

"Yes."

"Did he say you could take the machine?"

"He said nothing about our taking it. He settled for what damage the railroad did to the biplane. We went to get our property and found it gone. Nobody had a right to touch it, excepting to take it from the tracks."

"Huh!" grumbled the section boss, and shot into the shanty, banging the door behind him. Dick heard him shout something into the telephone, and quite a lengthy conversation ensued.

In the meanwhile Stanley had gone off for a policeman and presently came back with a bluecoat who did duty in the streets beyond the railroad yards.

"Well, what have you got to say about it?" demanded Dick, when the section bass came from the shanty and while Stanley and the policeman were approaching. "Do we get our property or not?"

"It's yours," returned the railroad man, and his voice was much milder than before. "They had no right to give me the orders they did."

"What about taking it back?" went on Dick.

"I've got orders to take it to any place where you want it," answered the section boss, and he looked anything but happy as he made the confession.

"Then you can run it down to Ashton," answered Dick. "Will you do it right away?"

"I guess so— I'll see," was the answer.

"What do you want me for?" asked the policeman, as he came up.

"I don't believe you'll be needed— now," answered Dick.

"It's all right, Murphy," put in Jimmy Budley, quickly. "We had a misunderstanding over orders, that's all."

"This young man told me a flying machine had been stolen," said Murphy, and nodded towards Stanley.

"It was a misunderstanding. I wasn't to blame." The section boss turned to Dick. "I'll get a freight engine to run the car with the machine down to Ashton inside of an hour."

"Very well," answered Dick. "And be careful that the biplane isn't damaged in unloading."

"She ain't much but kindlin' wood now," and the section boss smiled a trifle.

"Well, the engine is all right— and that's the valuable part of her," returned Dick. "I'll look for her at Ashton in an hour."

"Want to ride down on the flat car with her?"

"I'll see about that."

The matter was talked over, and in the end it was agreed that Dick and Sam should ride on the flat car, while Tom went with Stanley and Jack Mason in the automobile. Then the section boss went off to get the freight engine to haul the flat car.

"Got out of that better than I expected," whispered Sam to his big brother.

"It pays to put on a front, Sam," was the answer. "If I had been weak-kneed about it that fellow wouldn't have done a thing."

"Oh, you've got a head for business, Dick— I can see that," said the youngest Rover, admiringly.

"I hope so, Sam— for I think I'll need it soon."

"You mean for helping Dad?"

"Yes,"

"It's too bad he has these weak spells, isn't it?"

"Yes. What he needs, I think, is a good, long rest."

The others went off in the touring auto, and Dick and Sam made themselves at home on the flat car. Soon a freight engine backed up, the car was attached; and off they started, in company with the section boss and two track laborers, in the direction of Ashton.

As the Rovers could readily see, the Dartaway was a complete wreck, beyond the possibility of being repaired. But the motor looked to be in good order, and the stays and turn-buckles would, of course, be worth something.

When Ashton was reached Sam and Dick found that the automobile and its party had gotten there ahead of them.

"I've found a place where we can store the biplane— or what's left of it," said Tom. "In that barn," and he pointed to a structure directly beside the tracks.

"Good enough!" cried Dick. "That will save the trouble and expense of hauling it any distance."

The flat car was stopped in front of the barn, and after some trouble the remains of the biplane were transferred to the structure. Then the section boss brought out a receipt which Dick signed.

"Next time I move a flying machine I'll make sure that orders are O. K.," he remarked, grimly.

"It might save a lot of trouble," answered Tom, dryly.

"Tell me— didn't you act on orders from that lawyer, Fogg?" questioned Dick, curiously.

"I did— if you want to know."

"I thought so. He's too sharp for his own good."

"You're right— and maybe he'll catch it for this," answered Jimmy Budley; and then he and his men rode away on the flat car, leaving our friends to themselves.

"Well, now you've got the wreckage, what are you going to do with it?" questioned Stanley.

"Offer it to the folks who build flying machines," answered Dick. "I'll write the letters to-night."

With the biplane off their minds, the Rovers rejoined their friends in the automobile, and took a run through the country for fifty miles or more. They stopped at a country hotel, and there Dick treated to cake, ice cream and other refreshments.

The letters to the flying machine manufacturers brought various replies. Several did not care to buy the wreckage at all, while others offered a ridiculously low price.

"This doesn't look encouraging," was Dick's comment. "Boys, I guess we'll have to pocket our share of the loss."

The next day, however, came another letter, one from a young aviator of Worcester. He wrote that he had heard that they had the wreckage for sale and if it was still on the market he would come and look at it.

"Maybe he'll give us a little more than those manufacturers offer," said Sam, hopefully.

The letter was answered, and the young aviator came on the next day, going first to inspect the remains of the Dartaway and then coming up to the college.

"Pretty well smashed," said he, to the Rover boys. "About all that is good is the motor and fittings."

"But that engine is a dandy," said Tom.

"How much do you want for the outfit as it stands?"

"I don't know," answered Dick. "The biplane cost us about three thousand dollars."

"Yes, but she's a complete wreck. All I can use is the engine— and maybe a few other things."

"Well, make an offer," put in Tom.

"I might pay three hundred dollars."

"Make it double that and the machine is yours," returned Dick.

No, it wouldn't be worth six hundred dollars to me," answered the young aviator.

A discussion lasting the best part of half an hour ensued. The aviator went up to four hundred dollars and then to four hundred and fifty. Finally, Dick said he would accept five hundred dollars cash; and the bargain was concluded at that figure. The money was paid over, and the Rover boys gave the purchaser a bill of sale, and he departed without delay, stating he wished to make arrangements for shipping the wrecked biplane away.

"Not so bad, after all," declared Dick, when the brothers were alone.

"It's very good," put in Tom.

"That's the end of the Dartaway," came from Sam, mournfully. "Well, we had some pretty good times in her while she lasted."

CHAPTER VIII

A BOX OF CANDY

"Say, I've got to have some fun or bust!"

It was Tom who uttered the words. For over a week everything had run along smoothly at Brill College. The boys had settled down to their studies. They had sent letters home, and to the girls, and had received several communications in return. They had been congratulated on their escape from the wrecking of the biplane, and Dora had written to Dick urging him to give up flying.

"I'm going to give it up for a while, at least," Dick had answered. During those days the search had been kept up for Josiah Crabtree, but so far nothing had been heard of the fugitive from justice. That the man had left the neighborhood was quite probable.

"What sort of fun do you want, Tom?" asked Sam, throwing down the book he had been studying.

"Oh, anything," was the answer. "I feel as if I was getting musty and rusty, and I've simply got to do something. Wish there was a hazing on, or something like that," and the fun-loving Rover gazed moodily out of the window.

"Now don't you get yourself into trouble, Tom," warned Dick. "Better get at that theme you've got to write on 'Educational Institutions of the Revolutionary Period'."

"Hang the themes, Dick! I've got to have some fun— and I'm going out for it!" answered Tom, and catching up his cap he passed out of the dormitory.

"Guess I'll go, too," added Sam, and quickly followed. Soon Dick came also, not wishing to be left behind if anything unusual was to take place.

In the lower hallway the boys found several men at work, cleaning and oiling the hardwood floor. They had a box of wax polish with them, and this immediately gave Tom an idea.

"I'd like to buy a little of that," he said, to the head workman, and a bargain was quickly struck, and the fun-loving Rover walked away with half a box of the wax polish.

"What are you going to do with it?" asked Sam.

"Don't know yet— but I'll do something," was the reply.

"Looks like maple sugar candy," said Dick, gazing at the wax.

"Wait! I've struck it!" cried Tom. "Just the thing! Hurray!" And his face brightened.

"What is it, Tom?" asked both of his brothers.

"I'll make William Philander Tubbs a present of this," was the reply. "Come on, and watch how I do it."

"William Philander has gone to see that new, girl of his," answered Sam.

"Not just yet— but he'll be on the way soon. I'll have to hurry, if I want to do something."

Tom led the way up a back stairs and to the room occupied that term by Tubbs and some other students. They met the dudish student, half dressed, going to the lavatory to wash up.

"Quick!" cried Tom. "I hope I can find the box."

"What box?" asked Dick, as he and Sam followed Tom into Tubbs' room.

"The box of candy he bought for Miss Ruggles. It was a dandy— but maybe we can improve it just a little," and Tom grinned broadly.

All looked around and presently found the box of candy on a dresser. It was tied up with a blue ribbon, but this Tom slipped off with ease. Inside of the box were chocolates and bonbons and some candied fruit.

"Hold the box, Sam," said Tom, whipping out his knife. "We've got to move mighty quick!"

On the instant he was at work with his pocket-knife, cutting the floor wax into various shapes to resemble candy. He took out some of the candied fruit and substituted the wax. Then he felt in his pocket.

"This will help," he said, bringing forth a soapstone slate pencil, which he cracked into tiny lengths. "The candy that lasts!" he cried softly, as he dropped the bits into the box.

"Rather rough on the girl," declared Dick.

"Not at all, Dick," said Sam. "I was introduced to her last week and the very next day she passed me on the road with a stare as if she had never seen me."

"And Stanley says she is stuck up to the last degree," added Tom. "Maybe this will take her down a peg— anyway I hope so."

Sam was searching his pockets. He brought out several dried beans and a heavy rubber elastic.

"The remains of a slingshot and ammunition I confiscated from a Freshy who was taking shots at me," he explained.

"Drop the beans in— they'll look like jelly beans!" cried Tom. "And cut up that rubber band into pieces for jujube-paste!"

Dick was at the door on guard, and presently he gave a low whistle, to notify the others that Tubbs was coming back. Instantly Tom shut the candy box, put back the paper covering and ribbon; and then he and Sam slipped out of the dormitory by a side door, so that the dudish student might not see them.

Such a joke as had been played Tom could not keep to himself, and when the Rovers went downstairs he told Stanley, Songbird and Spud Jackson.

"Fine!" cried Stanley. "That Miss Ruggles deserves it, too. She thinks, just because her father has rocks, that she is too good to even recognize any of us. The only fellow she tolerates is Tubby— I guess because he's such a dude."

Tom wanted to follow William Philander Tubbs when he went to see the young lady, who was stopping with an aunt who lived not far from Brill. The others were willing, and all hung around the campus until the stylish student made his appearance.

"She's crazy for candy— Tubby told me so himself," said Spud. "Eats about a barrelful a week, so I understand. That's why he got her the box, I guess."

"If she eats that boxful she'll be a good one," was Tom's dry comment.

It was not long before Tubbs appeared. The stylish student was faultlessly attired, in light trousers, dark Prince Albert coat, white vest, spats, and a silk hat. In one hand he carried a cane and in the other the box of candy.

"My, but we are some swell!" murmured Sam.

"He ought to pose for a fashion magazine," returned Tom. "Keep back, fellows, or he'll spot us!" And he pulled those nearest to him behind some shrubbery.

William Philander passed them and they followed at a safe distance in the darkness. The dudish student headed directly for the house at which Miss Clarabel Ruggles was stopping, and the others saw him ascend the front piazza and ring the bell. A servant ushered him in, and the boys saw the light turned up in a parlor.

"Come on and see the fun," said Tom, and led the way across a lawn. The curtains to the parlor windows were half up, so they could look into the room with ease. One window was partly open for ventilation.

They saw William Philander sitting in a chair, the box of candy on his lap. Presently Clarabel Ruggles came in, attired in an elaborate evening gown. Tubbs at once arose to his feet and, bowing very low, accepted her hand, which was held on high. Then the dudish student said something and offered the box of candy.

"Oh, is this really for me!" those outside heard the young lady cry, the words coming through the partly open window.

"No, he bought it for the cat!" murmured Tom, and at this the others had to snicker.

"A— er— a slight token of my regard, don't you know," said William Philander, with a flourish.

"So kind of you, Mr. Tubbs!" The girl gazed hungrily at the box. "Shall I open it now?"

"If you wish to," answered the dudish student, gallantly.

"I will— and you shall have a share of the candy," said the young lady, and quickly drew off the ribbon and paper. "Oh, my, how perfectly delicious!" she murmured. "Oh, Mr. Tubbs, how could you guess just the kind I like!"

"Help yourself, my dear Miss Ruggles," said Tubbs, as the box was held out. "Ladies first, don't you know," and he smiled sweetly.

She took a candy and he did likewise, and as they ate they talked of various things. Then the box was passed back and forth.

"Yes, I came to see if you would go to the— er— to the— er——" stammered William Philander, and then he came to a dead halt. "Oh, my tooth!" he gasped, suddenly.

"What is it, Mr. Tubbs?"

"I— er— I really think I've broken one of my— er— teeth, don't you know!" gasped the stylish student. "Oh, dear, that candy is awfully hard!"

"I didn't find it so, Mr. Tubbs. Here, try another piece," answered the young lady, and helped both him and herself. "As you were going to say," she added, with a smile. "Was it that concert that——" She, too, stopped short. "Oh, my!" she gasped.

"Wha— what is it?" stammered William Philander.

"This piece of candy I have! It tastes awfully queer!"

"So does this piece I have!" groaned the dudish student.

"Oh, Mr. Tubbs, what kind of candy is it anyway? My teeth are— are stuck fast in it!"

At this moment the aunt of the young lady came in. She looked in wonder at the others, for both were making wry faces.

"It's the candy, Aunt Mabel!" cried the young lady. "It— it tastes so queer!"

"Ha! Let me see that box?" exclaimed the aunt, who was a portly person. "I read in the newspaper only yesterday of some folks being poisoned by eating cheap candy." And she looked severely at poor Tubbs.

"This is— er— not cheap candy, my dear Mrs. Garlett," spluttered William Philander. "It is some of the best to be had in Ashton, I assure you."

By this time the lady had taken something from the box and was sampling it. As it chanced to be a piece of the rubber band she made slow progress in chewing it.

"I never saw such candy!" she declared, with vigor. She took another piece. "That was all right," she added, a moment later. "But this piece! Why, I declare, it tastes like wax! And it is wax, too," she continued, inspecting the lump more closely.

"Wax!" gasped poor William Philander, hollowly.

"Yes, wax, Mr. Tubbs."

"Oh, you must be mistaken, my dear Mrs. Garlett!"

"Humph! I think I know wax when I see it. And this is rubber— nothing but rubber!"

"Oh, Aunt Clarabel!" murmured the young lady.

"Let me look at that box!" cried the lady of the house. She commenced to make an inspection, holding the box close to a lamp. "Humph! Rubber bands, beans, slate pencils, and polishing wax!" she declared. "Mr. Tubbs, do you call this a box of candy?"

"Upon my word, Mrs. Garlett, I——" gasped the dudish student. He did not know how to finish.

"It's just some old horrid joke!" declared Miss Ruggles, haughtily. "One of your college jokes, I presume!" And she gazed scornfully at poor Tubbs.

"No, no, I— er— I didn't— I really——" gasped William Philander.

"You can have your box of candy back, Mr. Tubbs," went on the girl, sarcastically. "I do not wish it. And allow me to bid you good evening!" And with a stately bow she passed out of the room.

"I'll keep this box of so-called candy and have it investigated," said Mrs. Garlett. "I don't want to be poisoned. Good night, Mr. Tubbs."

"But, my dear Mrs. Garlett——"

"I said good night," interrupted the lady of the house. "Mary will show you to the door," she added, and then, in complete bewilderment, poor William Philander rushed out of the residence, and along the garden walk in the direction of the road leading to Brill.

CHAPTER IX

A BREAKDOWN ON THE ROAD

"I rather think that was rough on William Philander," remarked Dick, with a serious shake of his head.

"Oh, he has got to be taken down somehow," replied Tom, "That's right," added Stanley. "Why, the way he acts towards some of the fellows is outrageous. Just because they don't dress as well as he does he thinks them beneath his notice."

"And I wouldn't waste any sympathy on that girl," put in Spud. "She is as bad as Tubby, when it comes to cutting the fellows she doesn't care to know."

"Well, I guess it will all pass over," remarked Sam. And it must have, for a few days later William Philander and Clarabel Ruggles were seen out driving together and apparently as friendly as over. The dudish student had sent the young lady a letter stating he thought some of his fellow collegians had doctored the box of candy, and this explanation was accepted by the girl and her aunt. Then William Philander sent the girl some candy he was sure was all right, and also a big bouquet of roses; and that was the end of the unpleasantness.

It must not be thought that in those days the girls at Hope Seminary were forgotten. Whenever the Rover boys got a chance they visited the place, and many a nice time they and the girls had together. On those occasions Dick and Dora would roam off together, the others making no attempt to follow them, and the pair would plan the many things they hoped to do in the future.

"You have not heard from Josiah Crabtree, have you?" questioned Dick, on one of these visits.

"Not a word— and I don't want to hear from him," replied Dora.

"He's in hiding, but he'll let us hear from him sooner or later— mark my words."

"Oh, I wish he hadn't escaped, Dick!" And Dora clung tightly to his arm.

"Well, that can't be helped."

"Is there anything new about your father's business?"

"Nothing of any importance."

"How does he feel?"

"In his last letter he said he felt somewhat better and was going to take a trip to New York. How is your mother?"

"Quite well. But the fact that old Crabtree is at large disturbs her very much. As soon as she heard of it, she went over to the Lanings' home to stay."

The boys had driven over to Hope in a carriage. When they started to return to Brill it was quite dark.

"We've got to hurry up," remarked Tom, as they rode away, Sam driving the team.

"Why so?" asked Dick. "We have no boning to do to-night."

"Have you forgotten the spread Bob Grimes is going to give? He said it was to be the finest yet given at Brill, and I don't want to miss it."

"That's so!" cried Dick. "Sure, we want to be on hand, since we are invited. Bob is a first-class fellow."

"Queer we forgot about that feast," murmured Sam. "But I suppose we were thinking too much of the girls," and he grinned sheepishly.

"What time is the spread to come off, Tom?" asked his big brother.

"Ten o'clock sharp, so Bob said."

"In his room?"

"His room and the one next to it. They connect, you know."

"We'll get there in plenty of time— unless we have a breakdown— which I don't expect."

"Don't be too sure of that. This carriage is none too good. I said so when Abner Filbury brought it around for me."

"The wheels do appear to be somewhat shaky," remarked Sam.

"We miss the biplane, for making quick trips," returned Tom, with a sigh. "We ought to get a runabout— an auto runabout, I mean."

"That's the talk!" cried his younger brother. "If we had one of those we could run over to Hope whenever we pleased."

The main road was being repaired, so, at a certain place, the boys had to turn off on a side road for a distance of nearly a mile. Here the going was anything but good, and they went down in more than one rut or hollow.

"Be careful, Sam!" warned Dick. "Don't drive so fast."

"Oh, go ahead," put in Tom, impatiently. "We are losing a lot of time on this side road."

Just then came a narrow turn, with a down grade, very uneven and full of rocks. Over the latter bumped the carriage. Then came a sudden jounce, followed by a crash.

"Whoa!" yelled Sam to the team, and brought them to a standstill at the foot of the hill.

"What broke?" asked Dick, anxiously.

"The back axle, I think," answered Tom, as he leaped to the ground.

The boys had a lantern with them and with this they looked for the damage done. Tom's guess proved correct— the back axle had given way close to the left wheel.

"What's to be done now?" asked Sam, in some dismay. "Say, I don't think that was my fault," he added, quickly.

"I told you to be careful," returned Dick. "Now we are in a pickle and no mistake."

"If we had a wire we might bind up that axle," said Tom, looking at the fracture, which was in the form of a long split.

"But we haven't any," said Dick. He looked into the carriage. "Nothing here but the hitching strap and I don't think that will do."

"There is a farmhouse," said Sam, pointing to a light in a nearby field. "Maybe I can get help there."

"We'll see," said Dick. "Just draw up alongside the fence— so that nobody will run into the carriage. Now that the main road is shut off, everybody has to use this one."

Soon the carriage was safe by the roadside, and then the three Rovers hurried to where the light gleamed from the kitchen windows of a small farmhouse. Dick knocked on the door of the place.

There was a stir from within, and then the door was opened, revealing an old man, who held a lighted lamp in his trembling hand.

1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse