E-text prepared by W. R. Marvin
THE ROVER BOYS ON TREASURE ISLE
Or, The Strange Cruise of the Steam Yacht
My DEAR Boys: This is a complete tale in itself, but forms the thirteenth volume of the "Rover Boys Series for Young Americans."
This line of books was started some ten years ago with the publication of the first three volumes, "The Rover Boys at School ... .. The Rover Boys on the Ocean" and "The Rover Boys in the Jungle." At that time I thought to end the series with a fourth volume provided the readers wanted another. But with the publication of "The Rover Boys Out West," came a cry for "more!" and so I added "On the Great Lakes," "In the Mountains," "In Camp," "On Land and Sea," "On the River," "On the Plains," "In Southern Waters" and "On the Farm," where we last left our friends.
For a number of years Tom, Dick and Sam have attended a military academy, but now their school days at Putnam Hall are at an end, and we find them getting ready to go to college. But before leaving home for the higher seat of learning they take a remarkable cruise on a steam yacht, searching for an island upon which it is said a large treasure is hidden. They are accompanied on this trip by their father and a number of friends, and have several adventures somewhat out of the ordinary, and also a good bit of fun for there is bound to be fun when Tom Rover is around. They lose themselves and lose their yacht, and once some of them come pretty close to losing their lives, but in the end—well, the story will tell the rest.
I cannot close without again thanking my many friends for all the nice things they have said about the "Rover Boys" stories and the "Putnam Hall" stories. I trust the present volume will fulfill every fair expectation.
Affectionately and sincerely yours, EDWARD STRATEMEYER
I Bound For Home II An Important Telegram III Fun On The Farm IV A Midnight Search V At The Old Mill VI The Story Of A Treasure VII In Which Something Is Missing VIII The Rover Boys In New York IX A Chase On The Bowery X Dick Becomes A Prisoner XI Aboard The Steam Yacht XII Something About Firecrackers XIII A Wild Automobile Ride XIV What A Roman Candle Did XV The Sailing Of The Steam Yacht XVI A Row On Shipboard XVII A Mishap In The Fog XVIII The New Deck Hand XIX Treasure Isle At Last XX The Boys Make A Discovery XXI Scaring Off The Enemy XXII Prisoners In The Forest XXIII What Wingate Had To Tell XXIV A Missing Landmark XXV The Trail Through The Jungle XXVI A Dismaying Discovery XXVII What Happened On The Steam Yacht XXVIII A New Move Of The Enemy XXIX The Hunt For The Treasure XXX Homeward Bound—Conclusion
BOUND FOR HOME
"HURRY Up, Sam, unless you want to be left behind!"
"I'm coming!" shouted Sam Rover, as he crossed the depot platform on the run. "Where is Tom?"
"He went ahead, to get two good seats for us," answered Dick Rover. He looked around the crowd that had gathered to take the train. "Hi, there, Songbird, this way! Come in this car, Hans!"
"Say, aren't you fellows coming aboard?" came a voice from the nearest car, and a curlytopped head with a pair of laughing eyes appeared. "Folks crowding in to beat the band! Come on in if you want seats."
"We'll be in directly," answered Sam, and followed his brother Dick to the car steps. Here there was quite a jam, and the Rover boys had all they could do to get into the car, followed by half a dozen of their school chums. But Tom Rover had managed to keep seats for all, and they sat "in a bunch," much to their satisfaction. Then the train rolled out of the station, and the journey homeward was begun.
The term at Putnam Hall Military Academy was at an end, and the school days of the three Rover boys at that institution were now a thing of the past. Each had graduated with honors, yet all were a trifle sad to think that there would be no going back to a place where they had made so many friends.
"It's almost like giving up your home," Dick had said, several times, while at the actual parting Sam had had to do his best to keep back the tears which welled up in his eyes. Even fun-loving Tom had stopped a good deal of his whistling and had looked unusually sober.
"We'll never have such good times as we've had at Putnam Hall," Sam had said, but he was mistaken, as later events proved.
The three Rover boys did not wish to part from their many school chums, yet they were, more than anxious to get home, and for this there was a very good reason. Their father had told them that he had a very important communication to make to them one regarding how the summer was to be spent. So far no arrangements had been made for the vacation, and the brothers were anxious to know "what was in the wind," as Tom expressed it.
"Maybe we are to prepare for college," said Dick.
"Perhaps we are to go on another trip to Africa?" added Sam.
"Or start on a hunt for the North Pole," put in Tom. "That would be just the thing for this hot weather."
"I can tell you one thing," went on Dick. "Whatever father has on his mind is of a serious nature. It is no mere outing for pleasure."
"I know that," answered Sam, "I could see it by the look on his face."
"Well, we'll know all about it by this time tomorrow," said Tom. "I hope it is some trip—I love to travel," and his brothers nodded their heads in approval.
To those who have read any of the twelve previous volumes in this "Rover Boys Series" the three brothers will need no special introduction. For the benefit of new readers allow me to state that Dick was the oldest, fun-loving Tom next, and Sam the youngest. They were the sons of Anderson Rover, a widower and rich mine owner. The father was a great traveler, and for years the boys had made their home with their uncle, Randolph Rover, and their Aunt Martha, on a farm called Valley Brook, in the heart of New York state.
From the farm, and while their father was in Africa, the boys had been sent to Putnam Hall, as related in the first volume of this series, entitled, "The Rover Boys at School." At the Hall they made a score of friends and several enemies, some of which will be introduced later. A term at school was followed by a trip on the ocean, and then one into the jungles of the Dark Continent in search of Mr. Rover, who had mysteriously disappeared. Then the Rover boys went out west and to the great lakes, and later spent a fine time hunting in the mountains. They likewise spent some time in camp with their fellow cadets, and during the summer vacation took a long trip on land and sea. Then they returned home, and during another vacation sailed down the Ohio River in a houseboat, spent some time on the plains, took an unexpected trip to southern waters, and then came back to the farm.
On getting back home, as related in the twelfth volume of this series, called "The Rover Boys on the Farm," the boys had imagined that adventures for them were a thing of the past. They were willing to take it easy, but this was not to be. Some bad men, including a sharper named Sid Merrick, were responsible for the theft of some freight from the local railroad, and Merrick, by a slick trick, obtained possession of some traction company bonds belonging to Randolph Rover. The Rover boys managed to locate the freight thieves, but Sid Merrick got away from them, dropping a pocketbook containing the traction company bonds in his flight. This was at a time when Dick, Tom and Sam had returned to Putnam Hall for their final term at that institution. At the Hall they had made a bitter enemy of a big, stocky bully named Tad Sobber and of another lad named Nick Pell. Tad Sobber, to get even with the Rovers for a fancied injury, sent to the latter a box containing a live, poisonous snake. The snake got away and hid in Nick Pell's desk and Nick was bitten and for some time it was feared that he might die. He exposed Tad Sobber, and fearing arrest the bully ran away from the Hall. Later, much to their surprise, the Rover boys learned that the bully was a ward and nephew of Sid Merrick, and when the sharper disappeared, Tad Sobber went with him.
"They are certainly a bad pair," said Dick, but how bad the Rovers were still to find out.
With the boys on the train were John Powell, better known as "Songbird," because he had a, habit of reciting newly made doggerell which he called poetry, Hans Mueller, a German youth who frequently got his English badly twisted, Fred Garrison, who had graduated with the Rovers, and some others.
"Dick, you haven't told me yet what you intended to do this summer," remarked Fred Garrison, as the train rolled on.
"Because I don't know, Fred," answered the elder Rover. "My father has something in store, but I don't know what it is."
"Can't you guess?"
"I wish we could take another trip like that on the houseboat—it was certainly a dandy."
"The best ever!" put in Tom. "Even if we did have trouble with Lew Flapp, Dan Baxter and some others."
"Speaking of Dan Baxter puts me in mind of something," came from Songbird Powell. "It has just leaked out that Tad Sobber sent a note to Captain Putnam in which Tad blamed some of the cadets for his troubles, and said he was going to get square some day."
"Did he mention any names?" questioned Sam.
"Yes—and Dick's and Tom's, too."
"It is just like Sobber—to blame his troubles on somebody else," remarked Dick.
"I am not afraid of him," declared Tom. "He had better keep his distance unless he wants to get the worst of it. We used to put up with a whole lot from Dan Baxter before he reformed—I am not going to put up with as much from Sobber."
"Tad certainly went off in bad company," said Sam. "His uncle ought to be in prison this minute."
"Have the authorities heard anything of Merrick?" asked Songbird.
"Not a thing."
"I dink me dot feller has skipped to Europe alretty," vouchsafed Hans Mueller. "He vould peen afraid to stay py der United States in, yah!" And the German boy shook his head wisely.
"Personally I never want to set eyes on Sobber again," said Dick, with a shrug of his broad shoulders. "The idea of introducing that deadly snake into the school was the limit. Why, half a dozen of us might have been bitten instead of only poor Pell."
"Maybe he did it only for a joke," said Larry Colby, another of the cadets.
"If he did, it was carrying a joke altogether too far—endangering one or more human lives. I don't believe in that sort of fun."
"Nor do I," came from several.
"If he is in Europe with his uncle perhaps I'll meet him there," said Larry Colby. "I am going to France and Italy with my uncle and cousin. Wish some of you fellows were going along," he added, wistfully.
"I am going to the Maine woods," said a lad named George Granberry. "You can never guess who is going there, too."
"William Philander Tubbs and Mr. Strong."
"What, our own dude going to camp in the wilderness," cried Tom. "Oh, if I was only along wouldn't I give him some surprises!"
"I'll have some fun don't forget that!" replied George, with a grin. "But as Mr. Strong is going to be along, of course I'll have to be a little careful."
"Dear Mr. Strong!" murmured Sam, with a sigh. "What a fine teacher he is, and how I hate to give him up!"
"I envy your having him along," said Dick.
At that moment the train rolled into a station and Larry and some of the others got off.
"We leave you at the next station," said Songbird, to the Rovers. "When you find out what you are going to do this summer, write and let me know."
"I certainly shall," answered Dick.
The three Rover boys soon after found themselves alone. They had to make a change of cars, and some time later rolled into the station at Oak Run.
"Home again!" shouted Tom, as he alighted on the depot platform.
"Yes, and there is Uncle Randolph waiting for us," added Dick, as he hurried forward to meet his relative. "How do you do, Uncle!" he cried.
"I am well, Richard," answered Randolph Rover, and then he shook hands with all three boys. "Your—er—your father—" he began and hesitated.
"Father? What of him?" asked Tom, in quick alarm, for he saw that his uncle was much disturbed.
"Isn't he with you?"
"Why, no!" answered the three, in a chorus.
"He started for home last night," added Dick.
"Took the train after the one you and Aunt Martha took."
"But he didn't come home," said Randolph Rover.
"Didn't come home?"
"Didn't he send any word?" questioned Sam.
"None that I received."
"He said he was going straight home would telephone from Lockville for the carriage to meet the last train," said Tom. "This is mighty queer."
It was queer and for the moment the Rover boys and their uncle stared blankly at one another.
"Something is wrong," declared Dick, presently. "And I am going to make it my business to find out at once what it is."
AN IMPORTANT TELEGRAM
Dick Rover would not have been so much disturbed by his father's disappearance had it not been for one thing, which was that Mr. Rover, on leaving the closing exercises at Putnam Hall, had declared that he would take the last train home that night. This train got into Oak Run at one o'clock in the morning, when the station was closed and the platform usually deserted.
"Let us ask around and see if anybody was here when the train came in," suggested Tom.
They first appealed to Mr. Ricks, the station master, an old and crabbed individual, who disliked the boys for the jokes they had played on him in times past. He shook his head at once.
"Don't keep the station open that long," he grunted. "I was home an' in bed, an' I don't know anything about your father."
"Was anybody around the station, that you know of?" went on Dick.
"Did any telegram come in for our family?"
"If it did I reckon Jackson would send it over, or telephone."
"Let us ask Jackson and make sure," said Sam, and led the way to the telegraph office. The telegraph receiver was ticking away at a lively rate, and Jackson, who had charge of the office, was taking down a message on a blank.
"Hullo!" cried the telegrapher, as he finished and looked up. "Here is a message for Mr. Randolph Rover hot off the wire. It won't take long to deliver it," and he handed it over. "It's paid for," he added. "But you'll have to sign for it," and Mr. Rover did so.
Eagerly all the Rovers read the communication, which ran as follows:
"Am following man I want to catch if possible. May be away from home several days or a week. Very important to see man—trip this summer depends upon it.
"Wonder who the man can be?" mused Dick, after reading the message twice.
"He has something to do with this matter father was going to tell us about," returned Sam. "It's certainly a mystery."
"Well, this relieves our anxiety," said Randolph Rover. "So long as I know nothing has happened, your father can stay away as long as, he pleases."
"But I am dying to know what it is all about," burst out Tom, who was always impatient to get at the bottom of things. "Uncle Randolph, do you know what father has in mind to do this summer?"
"He talks about taking a sea trip, but where to I don't know."
"And he wants us to go along?" queried the youngest Rover.
"I believe so, Samuel."
"Hurrah! I'd like a sea trip first rate."
"Yes, but—" Mr. Rover lowered his voice. "He doesn't want anybody to know where to. It's some kind of a secret—very important, I imagine —something to do with a gold mine, or something of the sort. He did not give me any particulars."
"He said he was going to let us know about it when we got home from the Hall," said Dick. "I hope he catches his man."
"Wonder who it can be?" came from Tom.
Nobody could answer that question, and in a thoughtful mood the three Rover boys followed their uncle to the carriage and got in. Then the team was touched up and away they whirled, out of the village, across Swift River, and in the direction of Valley Brook farm.
It was a beautiful day in June and never had the country looked finer. As they swept along the well kept road Dick drew a deep breath of satisfaction.
"This air makes a fellow feel new all over!" he declared.
"I suppose you are going to plant and grow some wonderful things this summer, Uncle Randolph," said Tom. His uncle had studied scientific farming for years, but had never made any tremendous success of it in fact his experiments usually cost him considerably more than they brought in.
"Well—er—I am trying my hand this year on some Mexican melons said to be very fine, Thomas," was the reply.
"Mexican melons?" said the fun-loving Tom, innocently. "That puts me in mind when I was over to Albany last I saw a pumpkin in a restaurant window eight feet high and at least ten feet across."
"Is it possible!" ejaculated Randolph Rover, gazing at his nephew incredulously.
"Sure thing. The pumpkin looked to be good, too. They had a lot of pumpkin pies set around it, just for an advertisement."
"Thomas, did you measure that pumpkin?"
"No; why should I?"
"Then how do you know it was eight feet high and ten feet across?"
"Why, Uncle Randolph, I didn't say the pumpkin was eight feet high and ten feet across. I said I saw it in a restaurant window eight feet high and ten feet across," and Tom drew down the corners of his mouth soberly.
"Tom, that's the worst ever!" cried Sam.
"You ought to be made to walk home for that," added Dick.
"Thomas! Thomas! you are as bad as ever!" said Mr. Rover, with a sigh. "But I might have been on my guard. I know there are no pumpkins of that size."
"Uncle Randolph, you'll have to forgive me," said Tom, putting his hand affectionately on his relative's shoulder. "I really couldn't help it—I am just bubbling over to think that school days are over and I won't have to do any studying for several months to come."
"I fancy we'll have to tie you down to keep you out of mischief."
"You won't have to tie me down if I go on a sea trip with dad."
"Haven't you had sea trips enough with being cast away in the middle of the Pacific, and being wrecked in the Gulf of Mexico? It seems to me every time you and the others leave home something serious happens to you."
"True but we always come back right side up with care and all charges paid," answered the fun-loving Rover airily.
They soon made a turn in the road which brought them in sight of the big farmhouse, nestling comfortably in a group of stately trees. As they turned into the lane their Aunt Martha came to the front piazza and waved her hand. Down in the roadway stood Jack Ness; the hired man, grinning broadly, and behind Mrs. Rover stood Alexander Pop, the colored helper, his mouth open from ear to ear. At once Tom began to sing:
"Home again! home again! Safe from Putnam Hall."
And then he made a flying leap from the carriage, rushed up the steps and gave his aunt such a hug as made her gasp for breath.
"Oh, Tom, you bear! Do let up!" she cried. "Now, there's a kiss for you, and there's another! How do you do, Sam, and how are you, Dick?" And she kissed them also. "I am glad you are back at last." She turned to her husband "What of Anderson, did you hear anything?"
"Yes, he will be back in a few days."
"I'se jess too pleased fo' anything to see yo' boys back heah!" came from Aleck Pop. "It's dun been mighty lonely since yo' went away."
"Don't worry, Aleck, we'll cheer you up," answered Tom.
"Oh, I know dat, Massa Tom yo'll turn dis place upside down in two days suah!"
"Why, Aleck, you know I'd never do anything so rash," answered Tom, meekly.
"Going to uncover some more freight thieves?" asked Jack Ness, as he took charge of the team and started for the barn.
"I think dem boys had bettah cotch some of dem chicken thieves," put in Aleck Pop. "Yo' don't seem to git holt ob dem nohow."
"Oh, never you mind about the chicken thieves," grumbled Jack Ness.
"Has somebody been stealing chickens again?" asked Dick, remembering that they had suffered several times from such depradations.
"Yes, da has took two chickens las' Wednesday, foah on Saturday, an' two on Monday. Jack he laid fo' 'em wid a shotgun, but he didn't cotch nobody."
"I'll catch them yet, see if I don't," said the hired man.
"Perhaps a fox is doing it," suggested Sam. "If so, we ought to go on a fox hunt. That would suit me first rate."
"No fox in this," answered Jack Ness. "I see the footprints of two men,—tramps, I reckon. If I catch sight of 'em I'll fill 'em full of shot and then have 'em locked up."
FUN ON THE FARM
Two days passed and the boys felt once more at home on the farm. The strain of the recent examinations and the closing exercises at school had gone and as Sam declared, "they were once more themselves," and ready for anything that might turn up.
In those two days came another telegram from Mr. Rover, sent from Philadelphia, in which he stated that he had caught his man, but had lost him again. He added that he would be home probably on the following Sunday. This message came in on Monday, so the boys knew they would have to wait nearly a week before seeing their parent.
"I am just dying to know what it is all about," said Tom, and the others said practically the same.
Tom could not keep down his propensities for joking and nearly drove Sarah, the cook, to distraction by putting some barn mice in the bread box in the pantry and by pouring ink over some small stones and then adding them to the coal she was using in the kitchen range. He also took a piece of old rubber bicycle tire and trimmed it up to resemble a snake and put it in Jack Ness' bed in the barn, thereby nearly scaring the hired man into a fit. Ness ran out of the room in his night dress and raised such a yell that he aroused everybody in the house. He got his shotgun and blazed away at the supposed snake, thereby ruining a blanket, two sheets, and filling the mattress with shot. When he found out how he had been hoaxed he was the most foolish looking man to be imagined.
"You just wait, Master Tom, I'll get square," he said.
"Who said I put a snake in your bed?" demanded Tom. "I never did such a thing in my life."
"No, but you put that old rubber in, and I know it," grumbled the hired man and then went back to bed.
Tom also had his little joke on Aleck Pop. One evening he saw the colored man dressing up to go out and learned that he was going to call on a colored widow living at Dexter's Corners, a nearby village.
"We can't allow this," said the fun-loving Rover to his younger brother. "The next thing you know Aleck will be getting married and leaving us."
"What do you think of doing?" asked Sam.
"Come on, and I'll show you."
Now, Aleck was rather a good looking and well formed darkey and he was proud of his shape. He had a fine black coat, with trousers to match, and a gorgeous colored vest. This suit Tom was certain he would wear when calling on the widow.
When in Ithaca on his way home the fun-loving Rover had purchased an imitation rabbit, made of thin rubber. This rabbit had a small rubber hose attached, and by blowing into the hose the rabbit could be blown up to life size or larger.
Leading the way to Aleck's room, Tom got out the colored man's coat and placed the rubber rabbit in the middle of the back, between the cloth and the lining. It was put in flat and the hose was allowed to dangle down under the lining to within an inch of the split of the coat tails, and at this point Tom put a hole in the lining, so he could get at the end of the hose with ease.
It was not long before Aleck came in to dress. It was late and he was in a hurry, for he knew he had a rival, a man named Jim Johnson, and he did not want Johnson to get to the widow's home ahead of him. He washed up and donned his clothing with rapidity, and never noticed that anything was wrong with the coat.
"Now, Sam, you fix his necktie for him," whispered Tom, who, with his younger brother, was lying in wait outside the house. "Tell him it doesn't set just straight."
Sam understood, and as soon as Aleck appeared he sauntered up side by side with Tom.
"Hullo, Aleck, going to see your best girl?" he said pleasantly.
"I'se gwine to make a little call, dat's all."
"He's after the widow Taylor," put in Tom. "He knows she's got ten thousand or so in the bank."
"Massa Tom, you dun quit yo' foolin'," expostulated Aleck.
"If you are going to make a society call you want your necktie on straight," said Sam. "It's a fine tie, but it's no good the way you have it tied. Here, let me fix it," and he pulled the tie loose.
"I did hab a lot ob trubble wid dat tie," agreed the colored man.
"It's too far around," went on Sam, and gave the tie a jerk, first one way and another. Then he began to tie it, shoving Aleck again as he did so.
In the meantime Tom had gotten behind the colored man and was blowing up the rubber rabbit. As the rubber expanded Aleck's coat went up with it, until it looked as if the man was humpbacked. Then Tom fastened the hose, so the wind could not get out of it. Next the youth brought out a bit of chalk and in big letters wrote on the black coat as follows:
I have got to HUMP to catch the widow.
"Now your tie is something like," declared Sam, after a wink from Tom. "It outshines everything I ever saw."
"I'se got to be a going," answered Aleck. "Much obliged."
"Now, Aleck, hump yourself and you'll get the widow sure along with her fourteen children."
"She ain't got but two children," returned the colored man, and hurried away. His appearance, with the hump on his back and the sign, caused both the Rovers to burst out laughing.
"Come on, I've got to see the end of this," said Tom, and led the way by a side path to the Widow Taylor's cottage. This was a short cut, but Aleck would not take it, because of the briar bushes and the dust. As the boys were in their knockaround suits they did not mind this.
The widow's cottage was a tumbled down affair on a side street of Dexter's Corners. A stovepipe stuck out of a back window, and the front door lacked the lower hinge. In the front yard the weeds were several feet high.
"I don't see why Aleck wants to come and see such a person as this," observed Sam. "She may be pretty, as colored widows go, but she is certainly lazy and shiftless."
"Yes, and she has more than two children and I know it. Why, once I came past here and I saw her with at least seven or eight."
When the boys came up they saw several colored children hurrying away from the house. As they did this the widow came to the door and called after them:
"Now, Arabella, go to the cemetery, jest as I tole yo', an' stay thar!"
"I ain't gwine to stay long," answered Arabella.
"You stay an hour or two," answered the widow. "To morrow, I'll give yo' money fer lolly pops."
"What is she sending the children to the cemetery for?" asked Tom, in a whisper.
"Maybe to keep 'em quiet," answered Sam, with a grin.
"Must be wanting to keep them out of Aleck's way."
At that moment the figure of a tall, lanky colored man came down a side street. The man entered the widow's cottage and received a warm welcome.
"Glad to see you, Mistah Thomas. Hopes yo' is feelin' fine this ebenin'," said the widow graciously.
"I'se come fo' to make yo' an offah," said Mr. Thomas. "Yo' said yo' would mahrry me soon as I had a job. Well, I'se got de job now."
"Is it a steady job?"
"Yes, at de stone quarry dribin' a stone wagon."
"How much yo' gits a week, Peter?"
"Twelve dollahs," was the proud answer.
"Den I closes wid you," said the widow, and allowed the suitor to embrace her.
Just then Aleck came in sight. As he saw the couple through the open door he straightened up.
"Maybe yo' didn't look fo' me around, Mrs. Taylor," he said, stiffly.
"Oh, Yes, I did, Mistah Pop," she said, sweetly. "But yo' see—I— dat is—" She stopped short. "Wot's dat?" she cried.
"Dat hump on yo' back?"
"Ain't no hump on my back," answered Aleck.
"Suah da is."
"He's got a sign on, too," put in Peter Thomas. "Look wot it reads, 'I hab got to hump to cotch de widow.' Hah! hah! hah! Dot's a good one."
"Yo' needn't hump yo'self to cotch me," cried the widow, wrathfully. "I'se engaged to Mistah Thomas." And she smiled on the individual in question.
Crestfallen and bewildered, Aleck felt of his back and took off his coat. He squeezed the rubber rabbit so hard that it exploded with a bang, scaring himself and the others.
"Dat's a trick on me!" roared the Rover's man, and tore the rabbit from his coat. "Dem boys did dat!"
"I can't see yo' to night, or any udder night, Mistah Pop," said the widow. "I'se engaged to Mistah Thomas."
"Den good night," growled Aleck, and turning on his heel he started for home.
Tom and Sam saw that he was angry, yet they had to roar at the scene presented. They wondered what Aleck would say when he got back to the farm.
"We have got to square ourselves," said Tom.
"How are you going to do it?"
"Oh, we'll do it somehow."
They took the short cut, but so did Aleck, and consequently all three soon met.
"Yo' played dat joke yo' can't go fo' to deny it!" cried the colored man.
"We are not going to deny it, Aleck," said Tom. "But it was no joke. We did it for your good."
"We certainly did," put in Sam. "Why, Aleck, we can't bear to think of your getting married and leaving us."
"We want you to stay with us," said Tom. "Besides, that widow has a lot of children and is after your money."
"She ain't got but two chillen. She had moah, but she dun told me all but two was in de seminary."
"The seminary?" queried Tom. Then a light broke in on him. "You mean the cemetery."
"Persackly—de place da puts de dead folks."
"Well, they are in the cemetery right enough—but they are a long way from being dead."
"Wot yo' mean, Tom?"
"We saw her send five of them away this evening—she told 'em to go to the cemetery and stay there awhile."
"Wot! Yo' is fooling dis chile!"
"It is absolutely true," said Sam. "I am quite sure she has seven children."
"Huh! If dat's de case dat Thomas nigger can hab her," grumbled Aleck, and walked on. "But I ain't takin' yo' word fo' dis," he added cautiously. "I'se gwine to make a few investigations to morrow."
"Do so—and you'll thank us from the bottom of your heart," answered Tom; and there the subject was dropped. It may be added here that later on Aleck discovered that the widow had ten children and was head over heels in debt, and he was more than glad that the boys had played the trick on him, and that the other colored man had gained Mrs. Taylor's hand.
A MIDNIGHT SEARCH
That night was destined to be an eventful one on the Rover farm. Arriving home, Sam and Tom told of the fun they had had and Dick laughed heartily. Then all three of the boys went to bed.
About midnight came a loud shouting from the barn, followed by the report of a shotgun. This was followed by a shriek from Sarah, the cook, who was afraid that burglars had come to murder her.
"What's that?" questioned Dick, as he hopped out of bed.
"That's Jack Ness' gun," answered Tom. "Something must be wrong at the barn."
"Chicken thieves again—I'll bet a new hat," said Sam. By this time Randolph Rover and his wife were up and were lighting a lamp. Without waiting for them, the boys slipped on some clothing and their shoes and ran downstairs. Dick took with him a pistol and each of the others a baseball bat.
"Boys! boys! be careful!" shouted their uncle after them.
"All right," returned Dick, readily.
He was the first outside, but Sam and Tom were close upon his heels. He heard Jack Ness running to the edge of a cornfield, shouting lustily. Then came another report of the shotgun.
"What is it, Jack?" shouted Dick. "Who are you shooting at?"
"I'm after two men," was the hired man's reply. "They jest run into the cornfield."
"Chicken thieves?" queried Tom.
"I guess so—anyway they was prowlin' around the hen house an' the barn. I called an' asked 'em what they wanted and they ran for dear life—so I knew they was up to no good."
"They certainly must have been chicken thieves, or worse," was Sam's comment. "Really, this is getting to be too much," he added. "We ought to catch them and have them locked up."
"I'm willing to go after them," answered Tom, readily.
"Did you get a good look at the rascals?" asked Dick.
"Not very good," answered Jack Ness.
"They weren't boys, were they?"
"No—they were men—both tall and heavy fellows."
"Did you ever see them before?" asked Tom. "Not that I can remember."
While they were talking the party of four had run down to the edge of the cornfield. This spot was really a peach orchard, but the trees were still so small that the ground was being utilized that season for corn, planted in rows between the trees. The corn was not yet full grown, but it was high enough to conceal a man lying flat or crouching down.
The sky was filled with stars and the old moon was beginning to show over the hills beyond the valley, so it was fairly light across the field. The boys kept their eyes on the corn and the peach trees, but failed to discover any persons moving among them.
"My shotgun is empty—maybe I had better go back and load up," said the hired man.
"Yes, do it, but hurry up," answered Dick. "I'll stay here on guard with the pistol."
The hired man ran off toward the barn. Hardly had he disappeared when Sam gave a short cry and pointed into the field with his hand.
"I saw somebody raise up just now and look around," he said. "He is out of sight now."
"Where?" came from Dick and Tom quickly. "Over yonder by the twisted peach tree."
"I'll investigate," said Dick. "You can come along if you want to. Keep your eyes open for both men. We don't want either to get away if we can help it."
The three lads spread out in something of a semi circle and advanced slowly into the field, keeping their eyes and ears on the alert for anything out of the ordinary. Thus they covered fifty yards, when Tom found himself near one of the largest of the peach trees. As he passed this a form arose quickly from under a bough, caught him by the waist and threw him forcibly to the ground.
"Hi!" yelled Tom. "Let up!" And then he made a clutch for his assailant, catching him by the foot. But the man broke away and went crashing through the corn, calling on "Shelley" to follow him.
The yell from Tom attracted the attention of Dick and Sam, and they turned to learn what had happened to their brother. As they did this a second man leaped up from the corn in front of them and started to run in the direction of the river.
"Stop!" called out Dick. "Stop, or I'll fire on you!" And then he discharged his pistol into the air as a warning. The man promptly dodged behind a row of peach trees, but kept on running as hard as ever.
The Rover boys were now thoroughly aroused, and all three started in pursuit of the two men. They saw the fellows leave the field and hurry down a lane leading to Swift River.
"I believe they are going to the river. Maybe they have a boat," said Tom.
"I shouldn't wonder," answered Dick.
"I wish they would take to a boat," said Sam. "We could follow them easily—in Dan Bailey's boat."
"Hi, where are you?" came a shout from behind, and they saw Jack Ness returning. "Your uncle and aunt want you to be careful—they are afraid those villains will shoot you."
"We'll be careful," answered Tom. "But we are going to capture them if it can be done," he added, sturdily.
The hired man had reloaded the shotgun and also brought some additional ammunition with him. He was nervous and the boys could readily see that he did not relish continuing the pursuit.
"We can't do nothin' in the dark," he grumbled. "Let us wait till morning."
"No, I am going after them now," answered Dick, decidedly.
"So am I," added Sam and Tom.
They were going forward as rapidly as the semi darkness would permit. The ground was more or less uncertain, and once the youngest Rover went into a mud hole, splashing the mud up into Jack Ness' face.
"Hi, stop that!" spluttered the hired man. "Want to put my eye out?"
"Excuse me, Jack, I didn't see the hole," answered Sam.
"It ain't safe to walk here in the dark—somebody might break a leg."
"If you want to go back you can do so," put in Dick. "Give Tom the shotgun."
"Oh—er—I'm goin' if you be," answered Jack Ness. He was ashamed to let them know how much of a coward he really was.
It was quite a distance to Swift River, which at this point ran among a number of stately willows. As the boys gained the water's edge they saw a boat putting out not a hundred feet away.
"There they are!" cried Dick.
"Stop!" yelled Tom. "Stop, unless you want to be shot!"
"We'll do a little shooting ourselves if you are not careful!" came back in a harsh voice.
"Take care! Take care!" cried Jack Ness, in terror, and ran to hide behind a handy tree.
The two men in the boat were putting down the stream with all speed. The current, always strong, soon carried them around a bend and out of sight.
It must be confessed that the boys were in a quandary. They did not wish to give up the chase, yet they realized that the escaping men might be desperate characters and ready to put up a hard fight if cornered.
"Jack, I think you had better run over to the Ditwold house and tell them what is up," said Dick, after a moment's thought. "Tell Ike and Joe we are going to follow in Dan Bailey's boat." The Ditwolds were neighboring farmers and Ike and Joe were strong young men ever ready to lend a hand in time of trouble.
"All right," answered the hired man, and set off, first, however, turning his firearm over to Tom.
The three Rover boys were well acquainted with the river, and had had more than one adventure on its swiftly flowing waters, as my old readers know. They skirted a number of the willows and came to a small creek, where they found Dan Bailey's craft tied to a stake. But there were no oars, and they gazed at one another in dismay.
"We might have known it," said Dick, in disgust. "He always takes the oars up to the barn with him."
The barn was a good distance off and none of the boys relished running that far for oars. More than this, they felt that by the time the oars were brought the other craft would be out of sight and hearing, and thus the trail of the midnight prowlers would be lost.
"Here is a bit of board," said Sam, searching around. "Let us use that for a paddle. The current will carry us almost as swiftly as if we were rowing. The main thing will be to keep out of the way of the rocks."
"I wish those chaps would run on the rocks and smash their boat to bits," grumbled Tom, who had gotten a stone in his loose shoe and was consequently limping.
The boys shoved the rowboat from the creek to the river and leaped in. Dick, being the largest and strongest, took the board and using it as a sweep, sent the craft well out where the current could catch it. Down the stream went the boat, with Sam in the middle and Tom in the stern. There was no rudder, so they had to depend entirely upon Dick, who stood up near the bow, peering ahead for rocks, of which the river boasted a great number.
"Those fellows must know this river," remarked Sam, as he started to lace his shoes, there being nothing else just then to do.
"They ought to—if they are the fellows who visited our henhouse before," answered Tom. "Dick, can you see them?"
"No, but I know they must be ahead."
"Perhaps they went ashore—just to fool us."
"They couldn't get ashore here very well—it is too rocky, you know that as well as I do. Listen!"
They listened, but the only sound that broke the stillness was the distant roar of Humpback Falls, where Sam had once had such a thrilling adventure, as related in "The Rover Boys at School." Even now, so long afterward, it made the youngest Rover shiver to think of that happening.
A minute later the boat came clear of the tree shadows and the boys saw a long stretch ahead of them, shimmering like silver in the moonbeams. Sam, looking in the direction of the opposite shore, made out a rowboat moving thither.
"There they are!" he cried.
At once Dick essayed to turn their own craft in that direction. But with only a bit of a board for a paddle, and with the current tearing along wildly, this was not easy. The rowboat was turned partly, but then scraped some rocks, and they were in dire peril of upsetting.
"I see where they are going!" cried Tom. "To the old Henderson mill."
"We'll have to land below that point," said his oldest brother. "If I try to get in there with only this board I'll hit the rocks sure."
"They are taking chances, even with oars," was Sam's comment. "See, they have struck some rocks!"
He was right, and the Rovers saw the boat ahead spin around and the two men leap to their feet in alarm. But then the craft steadied itself, and a moment later shot into the shadows of the trees beside the old flour mill.
It was not until five minutes later that Dick was able to guide their own rowboat to the shore upon which the mill was located. They hit several rocks, but at last came in where there was a sandy stretch. All leaped out, and the craft was hauled up to a point out of the current's reach.
"Now to get back to the mill as soon as possible, and corner those fellows if we can," said Tom, and without delay the three Rover boys started through the woods in the direction of the spot where the two men had landed.
AT THE OLD MILL
The Henderson mill was now largely so only in name. So far back as the Rover boys could remember, it had been a tenantless structure going slowly to decay. The water wheel was gone, and so were the grinding stones, and the roof and sides were full of holes. Henderson, the owner, had years ago fallen heir to a fortune, and had moved away, leaving the building at the mercy of the tramps who frequently stopped there.
It was no easy matter to climb around or over the rocks which lay between the boys and the old mill, and the darkness under the thick trees was intense. They felt their way along slowly, and Tom was careful to carry the shotgun with the barrel pointed downward, that there might be no accident.
"More than likely those fellows have been putting up at the old mill," said Dick.
"They'll leave now—if they think we are coming," answered Sam.
"Let us keep quiet," put in Tom. "If they hear us talking they will surely skip out."
After that but little was said. Foot by foot they drew closer to the dilapidated structure, until it loomed up dimly before them. Then Dick motioned for the others to halt.
With bated breath the boys listened. At first they heard little but the rushing of the water over the rocks. Then came a sudden cracking of a rotten floor board, followed by an exclamation.
"Confound the luck! I've put my foot through the floor again," growled a man's voice. "Shelley, why don't you light the lantern? Do you want me to break my neck?"
"If I light the lantern the Rovers may come here," was the answer from the man called Shelley.
"Oh, they went down the river I saw them."
"They may have turned in nearby."
Some more words followed, but spoken so low that the boys could not understand them. They heard a faint creaking of the flooring of the old mill, but that was all.
"They are there, that's certain," whispered Dick. "But I don't see how we are going to capture them in this darkness."
"I wish we had a lantern," said the youngest Rover.
"We wouldn't dare to light it, Sam," answered Tom. "Let us crawl up close to the building. Maybe we can find out something more about the men. They may be some good for nothing fellows from the village."
As there seemed nothing else to do, this advice was followed, and soon the boys were at one of the broken out windows of the mill. They listened and looked inside, but saw and heard nothing.
"They are not here," whispered Sam, disappointedly.
"They are not far off," answered his big brother confidently.
"Look!" came from Tom. "A light!"
He pointed through the window to the flooring inside. From between the loose boards shone several streaks of light. As the boys gazed the light vanished and all was as dark as before.
"They are in the lower room, the one where the water wheel used to be," whispered Tom. "Maybe that is where they have been hanging out."
"Come after me—but don't make any noise," said Dick, cautiously. "If they have gone into the second room down there maybe we can make them prisoners!"
"That's the idea!" cried Sam. "Just the thing!"
"Hush, Sam, or you'll spoil all."
Scarcely daring to breathe, now that they knew the strange men were so close, the three Rover boys walked to the open doorway of the old mill and went inside. Dick led the way and crossed to where an enclosed stairs ran to the floor below. On tiptoes he went down, not trusting a step until he was sure of his footing. It was well he did this, for two of the steps were entirely rotted away, and he had to warn his brothers, otherwise one or another might have had a fall.
Standing in the wheel room of the old mill the boys saw another streak of light, coming from the room which Dick had suggested. The door to this was closed, a bolt on the inner side holding it in place. There was another bolt on the outside, which Dick remembered having seen on a previous visit.
"We can lock them in if we wish," he whispered.
"Do it," answered his brothers promptly.
The bolt was large and old fashioned, and Dick had considerable trouble in moving it into its socket. It made a rasping sound, but this was not noticed by the two men, who were conversing earnestly.
"Well, we made a mess of it," growled the man called Shelley.
"So we did. But I didn't think that hired man would wake up. Neither of us made a bit of noise. He must be a light sleeper."
"I only hope they think we were after chickens, Cuffer. If they knew the truth—" The man named Shelley broke off with a coarse laugh.
"Well, we got chickens the other night, didn't we?" and now the man called Cuffer laughed also. "But say, this is getting serious," he went on presently. "Merrick expects us to do this job for him and do it quick, and he won't like it at all when he finds out how we have missed it."
"We can't do the impossible. Those Rovers are too wide awake for us."
"They certainly were too wide awake for Merrick in that traction company bond matter. He was a chump not to sell those bonds as soon as he got hold of them."
"He didn't dare—he was afraid the market was being watched."
"What does he want of those papers, anyway?"
"I don't know exactly. But you know what he said—there would be a small fortune in it for us if we got 'em. He says he's got some papers —or a map I guess it is—but he wants these papers, too. He didn't dare show himself around here—you know the reason why."
"Sure—those Rovers would recognize him, even if he tried to disguise himself."
Dick, Tom and Sam listened to this conversation with keenest interest and amazement. These men had mentioned the name of Sid Merrick, the rascal who had in the past tried so hard to harm them and who had up to the present time escaped the clutches of the law. Evidently they were in league with Merrick and under his directions.
"We must capture those fellows by all means," whispered Tom, excitedly. "If we do, maybe we can find out where Merrick is."
"Yes, and Tad Sobber, too," added Sam, who had not forgotten the poisonous snake episode at Putnam Hall.
"They weren't after chickens—that was only a blind," said Dick. "They want to get something from the house—some papers that Merrick wants."
"They must be valuable," said Sam.
"Father has all sorts of valuable papers," went on Tom. "Bonds, deeds to mining properties, and such. But I thought he had the most of those in a safe deposit vault in the city."
"So he has," answered Dick. "Maybe these fellows would be fooled even if they got into Uncle Randolph's house. They—Listen!"
Shelley and Cuffer had begun to talk again. They mentioned a tramp steamer called the Josephine, and Shelley said she was now in port being repaired. Then the conversation drifted to sporting matters, and Cuffer told how he had lost a hundred dollars on a prize fight.
"That's why I'm here," he added. "And I want some money the next time I see Sid Merrick."
"He won't give us any unless we—" said Shelley, and the boys did not hear the end of the sentence, for the speaker tried the door as he spoke, throwing the inner bolt back. Of course with the outer bolt in place, the door refused to budge. The boys drew back, and Tom raised the shotgun and Dick his pistol.
"The door is caught!" cried Shelley, and pushed on it as hard as he could.
"What!" exclaimed Cuffer and leaped forward. He, too, tried to move the barrier. "This is a trick! Somebody has bolted the door on the outside."
"Was there a bolt there?"
"Yes, a heavy one, too."
"Then somebody has trapped us!"
"Open that door!" sang out Cuffer, before his companion could stop him.
"We are not going to open that door," answered Dick, in an equally loud voice. "We have got you fast and we intend to keep you so."
"Who are you?"
"I am Dick Rover, and my two brothers are with me. We are well armed, and we'll shoot if you try to break that door down."
"Caught!" cried Shelley in a rage, and then uttered several exclamations under his breath.
"What are you going to do?" asked Cuffer, after a moment of silence.
"Hold you prisoners until we can get help and then turn you over to the officers of the law."
"We haven't done anything wrong."
"That remains to be seen."
"You haven't any right to lock us in here."
"Then we take the right," answered Tom grimly.
"Let us smash the door down," came in a low tone from inside the room.
"If you try it we'll surely fire," said Dick, and cocked his pistol so the men might hear the click. Tom did the same with the shotgun.
"See here, you let us out and we'll make it all right with you," remarked Shelley, after another pause. "We are not the bad fellows you take us to be. We were only going to play a joke, that's all."
"I suppose you think Sid Merrick's doings are a joke, too," said Sam, before he had time to think twice.
"Ha! what do you know of Merrick?" ejaculated Cuffer. "They must have been listening to our talk," he added, in a low tone to his companion.
"Yes, and if so, we are in a bad box," answered Shelley. "I'd give a good deal to be out of here just now."
"Talk to them, while I take a look around," continued Cuffer, struck by a sudden idea.
Shelley did as told, pleading with the three Rovers to let him go and offering to pay fifty dollars for his liberty. He talked in a loud tone, to cover up what noise his companion might make. The boys listened, but refused to open the door until some sort of help should arrive, or until morning came.
"Sam, you go outside and see if Jack and the Ditwolds are anywhere around," said Dick, and the youngest Rover departed immediately.
Presently Tom and Dick heard Cuffer give a cry of pain.
"You've stepped on my sore toe!" howled the man. "Phew! how it hurts!"
The two men talked about the hurt toe for several minutes. Then their voices suddenly ceased. Tom and Dick strained their ears, but could hear absolutely nothing.
"They must be up to some trick," whispered the eldest Rover. "Hi, you, what are you doing?" he called out.
There was no answer and the silence was just as ominous as before. The light in the inner room had gone out.
"What are you doing?" repeated Dick, and ran close to the door to listen. Nothing but absolute silence followed.
What to do next the two boys did not know. They waited for fully five minutes—then five more. Presently they heard Sam coming back.
"I yelled for Jack and the others, but I got no answer," said he. "What are the men doing?"
"We don't know," answered Tom. "We are afraid they are up to some trick."
"A trick?" repeated Sam. Then he gave a gasp. "The room—isn't there a back door, leading out to the shed?"
"I don't know," answered Dick.
"I'll run and see."
Sam was gone less than two minutes when they heard a cry, and then he pounded on the door they had so carefully guarded.
"There is a back door and it is wide open. The men have gone!" was his dismaying announcement.
THE STORY OF A TREASURE
It was a disheartening discovery, but the three Rover boys did not stop to think it over. Throwing open the bolted door, Tom and Dick joined Sam, and in the darkness made their way to the rear of the room in which they had held Cuffer and Shelley prisoners. In a minute more they were outside, under the trees at the rear of the old mill.
"Which way did they go?"
Tom asked the question, but nobody could answer it. The moon had now gone under some clouds and it was so dark they could scarcely see ten feet in any direction.
"Perhaps they took to the river again," suggested Sam.
"It is not likely," answered his big brother. "But we can take a look."
They ran around to where the men had landed. Their boat was still in its place, tied to a tree.
"Listen!" cried Sam "Somebody's shouting, and there is a light."
"It is Jack Ness," said Tom.
The boys set up an answering shout, and soon a boat came up to the shore. It contained the hired man and the two Ditwolds. They had a lantern with them and also an old fashioned single barrel shotgun.
The situation was quickly explained, and then the party of six began a systematic search of the woods and the various roads in the vicinity of Henderson's mill. This search lasted until morning, but nothing came of it.
"We may as well give up," said Dick, at last. "They have gotten away and that is all there is to it."
The boys were completely tired out when they got home. Their uncle and aunt were much worried over their prolonged absence and overjoyed to see them return unharmed.
"I was so afraid one of you might get shot or something," said Mrs. Rover. "Some of those, chickens thieves are desperate characters."
"Those men were more than chicken thieves," answered Dick. And he told his uncle and aunt of the conversation overheard at the old mill.
"It is a great pity that they got away," said Randolph Rover.
"What do you imagine they are after, Uncle Randolph?" questioned Sam.
"I do not know, excepting it may be some mining stocks or a deed to some property. Perhaps your father will be able to explain it when he gets back."
The authorities were notified, but they failed to apprehend the men. It was learned that the boat they had used had been stolen from, a point near Oak Run, and the craft was returned to its owner. That they had used the old mill for a stopping place was evidenced by the remains of numerous meals found there. The boys made a careful search of the premises, but brought nothing to light which was of use to them.
"I wish father was home—or we knew how to reach him by telephone, or with a telegram," remarked Dick.
"Well, we can't reach him, so we'll have to be patient until he returns," answered Sam. "By the way, I wonder if his going away had anything to do with what those men were up to?"
"It might be so," returned Dick, slowly. "Both happenings are queer, to say the least."
"I wish I knew what father has in mind to do," came from Tom. "I hope we take some kind of a trip. I don't want to stick on the farm all summer."
With nothing to do, the next two days passed slowly. The boys went fishing and swimming, and they also did some shooting at a target which they set up behind the barn, and whiled away, some time at boxing and in gymnastic exercises. Dick also spent an hour in penning a long letter to Dora Stanhope, who, as my old readers are well aware, was his dearest girl friend. Dora and her mother lived not far from Putnam Hall, and Dick and his brothers had become acquainted with her and her two cousins, Nellie and Grace Laning, when they had first gone to school. The Rover boys had on several occasions saved Mrs. Stanhope from serious trouble, and for this the widow was very grateful. She and her daughter had gone with them on the houseboat trip down the Ohio and the Mississippi, and Mrs. Laning and Nellie and Grace had likewise accompanied the party. It may be added here that Tom and Sam thought Nellie and Grace two of the nicest girls in the whole world, which indeed they were.
On Saturday morning the boys were contemplating a bicycle ride when Sam, who chanced to look toward the road, set up a shout:
"Here comes father!"
All gazed in the direction and saw Mr. Rover coming toward them in a rig he had hired at the depot. They ran to meet their parent and were soon shaking him by the hand. They saw that he looked travel worn and tired.
"I have been on the go ever since I left Putnam Hall," said Anderson Rover. "It was a most unexpected trip. I will tell you all about it as soon as I have rested a bit and had something to eat."
"We have something to tell, too," answered Dick. "But that can keep until later."
Inside of an hour Mr. Rover had been served with a good, hot breakfast and then he declared that he felt like a new man. He invited the whole family into the sitting room for a conference of importance.
"I told you lads I had something on my mind," he said. "I did not want to speak of it while at the graduation exercises at the school because there was too much going on. Now I am going to tell you everything and also tell you what I propose to do. But first, I want to listen to what you have to tell me."
It did not take the three boys long to relate the particulars of the pursuit of Cuffer and Shelley, and of what they had overheard at the old mill. Anderson Rover listened with close attention and did not seem surprised when they mentioned Sid Merrick's name.
"That fits in, to a certain degree, with what I have to tell you." he said, when they had finished.
"It is a strange story, and the only way for me to do, so that it will be perfectly clear to you, is to tell it from the beginning."
"Well, we're willing enough to listen," said Dick, with a smile.
"We've been on pins and needles ever since you said you had something important to tell," added Tom, grinning.
"Well, to start, this concerns Mrs. Stanhope more than it concerns ourselves," began the father.
"What!" ejaculated Dick. He had not expected anything of this sort.
"I knew you would be surprised, Dick, and you'll be more surprised when I get through."
"Are the Lanings in this?" questioned Sam, thinking of Grace.
"They are in a certain sense—or will be if everything turns out successfully. When Mr. Stanhope died he left most of his property to Mrs. Stanhope and Dora—the majority to Dora—but a small share was left to the Lanings, they being so closely related and such good friends."
"But what is it all about?" asked Tom, impatiently.
"As I said before, I must start at the beginning, or perhaps you won't understand at all. As you know, Mr. Stanhope died some years ago. He was interested in various business enterprises, including a number of vessels which carried freight between the United States and the West Indies. One of his partners in the freight carrying business was a man named Robertson and another was a Silas Merrick."
"Merrick!" cried Sam.
"Yes, and this Silas Merrick was an older brother to Sid Merrick, the rascal who stole the bonds, and whom you heard mentioned by Cuffer and Shelley. Let me say here that Silas Merrick is dead, and when he died he left all his property to his brother Sidney and his sister. The sister is dead, too, and her property, so I understand, went to her son Tad Sobber."
"This is getting deep," said Tom, his sunny face growing wrinkled.
"It will soon get deeper, Tom. During the time that the firm of Stanhope, Robertson & Merrick were carrying freight from the West Indies there was a fierce revolution in Central America. Some families of high rank were forced to flee, among them a nobleman named Parmonelli, who left home carrying with him gold and diamonds worth many thousands of dollars. He managed to get on board one of the vessels owned by Mr. Stanhope's firm, and Mr. Stanhope was on the ship at the same time. The vessel was followed by revolutionists who were no better than pirates, and after a fierce fight the revolutionists shot Parmonelli and carried off his fortune."
"This is certainly getting deep," murmured Sam.
"Parmonelli was not killed at once, but died two days after being shot down. He was very bitter against the revolutionists, and said they had no right to take his fortune from him—that it was his and did not belong to the state. As Mr. Stanhope had befriended him to the last he made a will, leaving the fortune to Mr. Stanhope if the same could be recovered."
"And how much was it?" questioned Dick.
"I cannot say exactly the will mentions six bags of gold and one bag of precious stones, all packed in several chests."
"It's queer I never heard of this from Dora," said Dick. "She told me about the other money her father left."
"Mr. Stanhope kept the matter to himself, and at his death told only Mr. Laning, for—as you know—Mrs. Stanhope was then in delicate health and it was deemed very unwise to excite her."
"But what about the fortune—was it recovered?" asked Tom.
"Then the money has long since been spent," cried Sam in dismay.
"No, Sam, the money and the jewels, to the best of my belief, have never been touched. When the revolutionists carried them off they said they were going straight back to Central America with them. Instead, however, they landed on an island of the West Indies and there started to divide the fortune. This caused a bitter fight, in which several of the party were killed and wounded. Then it was decided to hide the money and jewels in a cave on the island and make a division later. A place was selected and the gold and jewels placed under heavy rocks in a small cave. After that the party sailed away. When they got home, much to their surprise and dismay, they found their country in the hands once more of the government. They were captured and all but two were sentenced to be shot as traitors. The two were sent to prison and they were released less than a year ago. One was a Spaniard named Doranez and the other a Spanish American sailor named Camel, but usually called Bahama Jack, because he has spent nearly all his life among the Bahama Islands."
"Did those two men go after the treasure when they got out of prison?" asked Sam.
"They wanted to, but were poor and had forgotten the exact location of the island where the treasure was hidden. Bahama Jack was a happy go lucky sort of a sailor and he came to this country and worked for a while on a lumber schooner running from Florida to Boston. Doranez also came to this country, but where he kept himself at first I do not know."
"Go on, Dad, this is getting exciting," broke in Tom, as his parent paused in his recital.
"Not long ago Mrs. Stanhope came to me for advice concerning this matter. Mr. Laning had told her everything, and she wanted to know if it would be worth while to organize an expedition to hunt for the treasure. I said I would look into the matter and ask her to give me what papers Mr. Stanhope had left in reference to the affair. I started to hunt up Bahama Jack and Doranez. After a good deal of work I found the former and had several long talks with him."
"Did you get any news from him?" asked Dick.
"A little. He does not remember exactly where the island was located, but told much about its general appearance and what other islands were in that vicinity. But he also told me something else, which worried me a good deal. It was that Sid Merrick, as the heir of Silas Merrick, was also after the treasure."
IN WHICH SOMETHING IS MISSING
"Sid Merrick after the treasure!" cried Dick.
"Yes. He wants it both for himself and for his nephew, Tad Sobber. He claims that the revolutionists took it from a ship belonging in part to his brother and consequently he has as much right to it as has Mrs. Stanhope."
"But that isn't so, is it?" asked Sam.
"No; the treasure, if it is found, belongs to Mr. Stanhope's estate absolutely—that is, to Mrs. Stanhope, Dora and the Lanings. The fact that Silas Merrick had an interest in the ship at the time of the stealing of the wealth cuts no figure at all."
"What is Sid Merrick doing?" asked Tom.
"He has been working in secret, looking for Bahama Jack and the Spaniard, Doranez. I found out that he had one talk with Bahama Jack, but the sailor did not like Merrick and told him very little. Then I started to find Doranez—he is the man I have been after during the past week. I found him and he promised to work with me if I would pay him for his trouble. But yesterday he sent me a note, stating he had changed his mind and was going to Spain, to look up some of his relatives. So he is probably out of it from now on."
"Maybe he is going to look for the treasure on his own account," suggested Randolph Rover.
"He cannot do that very well, for he has little or no money."
"And what do you propose to do, father—go on a hunt for the treasure?" asked Dick.
"Yes. From what papers I have on hand and the information gotten from Bahama Jack I think we stand a fair chance of locating that island and of finding the cave where the treasure is secreted. Of course, there is a good deal of guess work about it, but I am convinced the thing is worth trying."
"And how are you going at it?" came from Tom.
"A friend of mine in Philadelphia, a Mr. Dale, has a steam yacht which he is not going to use this summer, as he is going to Europe. I have determined to charter that yacht and go on a cruise among the West Indies. It will be a fine outing for the summer, even if we don't locate Treasure Isle, as Mr. Stanhope called the spot."
"And you'll take us along?" asked Tom, quickly.
"If you want to go."
"If we want to go? Does a duck want to swim, or a dog want to scratch fleas? Of course we want to go."
"Such a trip will suit me to a T," said Sam. "And I hope with all my heart we locate that treasure," he added earnestly.
"Of course you'll take this Bahama Jack along," said Dick.
"Yes, and I have promised him a big reward if the treasure is recovered," answered his father.
"Who else will be in the party?"
At this question Anderson Rover's eyes began to sparkle.
"I was going to keep it a secret, but perhaps I had better tell you. The steam yacht is a large one and can readily accommodate fifteen or twenty passengers. I have decided to ask Mrs. Stanhope to go and bring Dora, and will also ask the Lanings. Then they will know exactly what is being done to recover the treasure. In addition, if you want to take some of your chums with you, as you did on that houseboat trip."
"Hurrah, just the thing!" burst out Sam. "Let us take Fred Garrison by all means."
"Yes, and Songbird Powell and Hans Mueller" added Tom. "They will help to make things lively."
"Can they go?" questioned Dick.
"We can telegraph and find out," answered Tom. "I'll telegraph this afternoon," he added always ready to do things on the rush. "We ought to get an answer to night or to morrow morning.
"When do you want to start on the trip?" asked Dick.
"As soon as the party can be made up, and the steam yacht can be gotten in readiness. I have already instructed the captain to provision her for the trip."
"Then she has a captain and a crew?"
"Oh, Yes, she carries ten men, including an engineer and his assistant."
"That is certainly fine!" said Dick, and he smiled as he thought of what a nice trip they would have with Dora Stanhope on board. Dick was not "moonstruck," but he had a manly regard for Dora that did him credit.
After that Anderson Rover gave them many more details regarding the treasure, and his talks with Bahama Jack and of what he hoped to accomplish. He had a fair idea of the latitude and longitude of Treasure Isle, which, he had been told, was of coral formation, covered with palms and shaped somewhat like a horseshoe.
"Bahama Jack says the treasure cave is about in the center of the inner curve of the island, but that you cannot sail close to it on account of the numerous reefs. You have to land on the island in a small boat, and that is why very few ships stop there. Natives of that vicinity occasionally go there for fruit and for birds, but there is no regular village on the island."
"If the island is shaped like a horseshoe we ought not to have great difficulty in locating it," said Dick.
"The trouble is, you cannot see the formation very well from the sea, Dick. If one were in a balloon it would be different. You must remember that there are many hundreds of islands scattered in that part of our globe."
"Let's take a balloon along," suggested Tom. "Then we could go up and take a look around."
"You couldn't look far enough, Tom, and if you tried to sail in the balloon you'd probably drop into the ocean and be drowned. No, we'll have to do our searching from the steam yacht. But I have several maps and drawings which I think, will aid us."
"The things Cuffer and Shelley were after?" cried Dick.
"Perhaps if they are in league with Sid Merrick. Merrick, of course, would like to get all the information possible."
"I'd like to look at the maps and drawings."
"So would I," added Sam and Tom. The idea of going on a treasure hunt filled them with great interest.
"The maps and drawings I have are only copies," went on Anderson Rover. "The originals are in Mrs. Stanhope's possession."
Mr. Rover turned to his brother. "You have them, Randolf. Will you please get them?"
"I have them?" queried Randolph Rover, in perplexity. As my old readers know, he was at times somewhat absent minded.
"Why, yes, don't you remember my giving them to you? They were in a large yellow envelope. I think you placed them away with your traction company bonds."
"Why—er—so I did," stammered Randolph Rover. "But I—er—I don't quite remember what I did with them." He scratched his head. "I'll go and get my tin box."
He left the sitting room, and after being gone fully ten minutes returned with a flat tin box, in which he kept some papers of value.
"The envelope doesn't seem to be here," he said, turning over the contents of the box.
"Don't you remember it?" asked his brother, anxiously.
"Oh, yes, I remember it very well now. I saw it only a couple of days before I went to Carwell with my bonds."
"Did you take that tin box to Carwell?" asked Tom.
"Was the envelope in it then?"
"I—er—I really don't know, Thomas. You see I was much upset, thinking my bonds were no good. Perhaps the yellow envelope was in the box, under the bonds."
"And did Sid Merrick have hold of the box?" demanded Anderson Rover.
"He may have had. The box was on a side table, and he walked around the room and over to it several times."
"Then, unless you have the envelope now, Sid Merrick stole it," said Anderson Rover, somewhat bitterly.
This announcement filled Randolph Rover with increased anxiety and as a result he looked over all his private papers and ransacked his safe and his desk from end to end. But the precious yellow envelope and its contents were not brought to light.
"Merrick must have gotten hold of that envelope at the time he stole the bonds," said Dick. "Maybe that is what made him trace up this story of the treasure."
"That may be true, Dick," answered his parent.
Randolph Rover was greatly distressed over the disappearance of the maps and drawings and upbraided himself roundly for not having been more careful.
"Now that they are in this Merrick's hands he may make use of them," he said dolefully.
"Undoubtedly he will," answered Anderson Rover.
"If he has those papers and maps why did he send Cuffer and Shelley here?" asked Tom.
"Most likely he thought he could get additional information."
"It seems to me the best thing we can do is to get after that treasure without delay," said Dick. "If we don't, Merrick may form some kind of a party, locate the island, and steal the gold and jewels from under our very noses!"
"Oh, such things are not done in a day, Dick," said his father, with a faint smile. "But I agree with you, the quicker we get after the treasure the better."
After that a discussion lasting well after the dinner hour followed, and was only ended when Mrs. Rover fairly drove them into the dining room for the midday repast. It was resolved that the party to go in search of the treasure should be made up of Anderson Rover and his three sons, Mrs. Stanhope and Dora, the Lannings, and also Fred Garrison, Songbird Powell and Hans Mueller. During the afternoon a number of telegrams and letters were written, and the boys send these off before nightfall.
Aleck Pop was very much interested in such conversation as he had overheard, and as he had accompanied the boys to the jungles of Africa and on the houseboat trip he was very anxious to be a member of the present party.
"I don't see how yo' young gen'men is gwine to get along widout me," he said to Sam. "Don't yo' think you kin squeeze me aboadh somehow?"
"Aren't you afraid you'd get seasick, Aleck?" asked Sam.
"I ain't afraid ob muffin, if only yo'll take me along," answered the darkey earnestly.
"I suppose the steam yacht has its cook."
"Dat might be, Massa Sam, but didn't I cook all right on dot houseboat?"
"You certainly did."
"Might be as how I could gab dot cook on de yacht seem p'ints as to wot yo' young gen'men like, ain't dot so?"
"Perhaps, Aleck. If you wish, I'll speak to father about it."
"T'ank yo' werry much, Massa Sam!"
"But you must promise one thing," put Tom, who was listening to the talk.
"Wot is dat?"
"You won't run off and marry the widow Taylor when you get back."
"Huh! I'se done wid dat trash!" snorted Aleck. "She kin mahrry dat Thomas an' welcome. I don't want her or her chillun neither!"
"All right, then, Aleck, we'll, see what we can do for you," said Tom, and Sam said the same. In the end it was agreed that Aleck should accompany the party as a general helper, and this pleased the colored man very much. It was a lucky thing for the boys that Aleck went along, as certain later events proved.
THE ROVER BOYS IN NEW YORK
The more the Rover boys talked about the treasure hunt the more enthusiastic they became, until, as Tom expressed it, they were "simply boiling over with enthusiasm."
"It will be a grand thing for the Stanhopes and the Lanings if we do locate that treasure," said Sam. "Mr. Laning has some money, but I know he'd like more, so he wouldn't have to farm quite so hard."
"And Dick wants to get all he can for Dora, I'm certain of that," said Tom, with a merry glance at his elder brother.
"How about you getting the Laning share for Nellie's benefit?" retorted Dick, his face growing red. "I reckon the boot is as long as the shoe."
As the Rovers had plenty of money it was an easy matter to arrange for the expenses of the trip. Mrs. Stanhope wanted to pay a share, but Anderson Rover said she had better wait until the treasure was found.
Inside of three, days word was received from all those who had been asked to participate in the search. Mr. Laning said that he could not leave his farm very well, but that his wife and two daughters would go. Mrs. Stanhope and Dora said they would pack immediately. Fred Garrison was visiting Hans Mueller and the two sent a telegram as follows:
"You couldn't hold us back if you tried. Where shall we meet you?"
"That's like Fred," said Dick. "I am awfully glad he is to be with us —and glad Hans will come, too."
The last telegram to come in was from Songbird Powell. The reply of the would-be poet of Putnam Hall was characteristic:
"Tell me where, And I'll be there, On the run For lots of fun."
"If that isn't Songbird!" exclaimed Sam, laughing, as he read the telegram. "Had to talk in rhyme even over the telegraph wire!"
It was finally decided that the whole party should meet in Philadelphia about the Fourth of July, which was now less than a week off. They should go directly to the steam yacht, and the voyage was to begin as soon as all arrangements were completed.
"I wish to stop off at New York for a day," said Anderson Rover. "If you boys want to go with me you may do so."
"That will suit me," answered Dick, and his brothers said the same.
It had been agreed that no outsiders should be told of the treasure hunt, so nothing was mentioned but a summer trip on a steam yacht. The day the Rovers and Aleck Pop left the farm was a clear one, and all were in the best of spirits. The colored man drove to the depot with Jack Ness and the trunks and dress suit cases, and all of the others went in the carryall, Randolph Rover driving and Mrs. Rover giving the boys final instructions about taking care of themselves.
"I shall miss you very much," she said, with tears in her eyes. Her lively nephews were as dear to her as if they were her own sons.
"You'd better go along, Aunt Martha," said Dick.
"We'd like it first rate," added Sam.
"It might help us to keep out of mischief," came from Tom, with a bright smile.
"No, I'll stay at home with your uncle, boys. But do take care of yourselves, and come home safe."
"Oh, there will be no danger in this trip," said Dick, but he was mistaken—there was to be great peril and of an unusual kind. If the treasure hunters could have seen what was before them they would not have started off in such a confident frame of mind.
The train was a little late, but presently it rolled into the station and the trunks and other baggage were hoisted aboard. Then came the final embraces and the boys climbed up the steps, followed by their father and Aleck.
"Hurrah, we are off at last!" cried Tom, and waved his cap enthusiastically. The others did the same, and then the train started and Oak Run quickly faded from sight. As the boys settled down in their seats a lad came from another car and moved swiftly toward them.
"Songbird, by all that's lucky!" cried Dick, and caught the other by the hand.
"I thought you'd be on this train," answered Songbird Powell. "I got your wire last night that you would stop off at New York. I am going to stop, too—to see an uncle of mine on a little business."
"Then you'll travel with us to Philadelphia?" queried Sam.
"Good! Tom was just saying he'd like some of the others along."
"When I got your invitation I danced a jig of delight," went on Songbird. "I just couldn't help it. Then I sat down and wrote—"
"A piece of poetry about it thirty five stanzas long," finished Tom.
"No, Tom, there are only six verses. You see I couldn't help it—I was so chuck full of enthusiasm. The poem begins like this:
"'Twas a peaceful, summer night, When all the stars were shining bright, There came a rap on our house door Which made me leap from bed to floor. To me had come a telegram From my old chums, Dick, Tom and Sam Asking if I had a notion To sail with them upon the ocean. To skim along on waters blue—"
"And then and there get seasick, too," finished Tom. "Don't forget to put in about the seasickness, Songbird—it always goes with a voyage, you know."
"Seasick!" snorted the would-be poet. "Who ever heard of seasickness in a poem? The next line is this:
"And see so many sights quite new, To rest in quiet day by day And watch the fishes at their play."
"That's the first verse. The second begins—"
"Save it, Songbird, until we're on the yacht," interrupted Sam. "We'll have more time to listen then."
"All right," answered the would-be poet cheerfully. "I want to fix up some of the lines anyhow. I've got 'harm' to rhyme with 'storm' and it doesn't quite suit me."
"Never mind—a storm often does great harm," said Dick. "You can easily fix it up by throwing out both words, you know."
After that the talk drifted around to the matter of the treasure hunt and Songbird was given some of the details, in which he became much interested. He declared that he thought the trip on the steam yacht would be even more interesting than the one on the houseboat had been.
"We're after something definite this trip," he said. "We've got something to look forward to specially if that Sid Merrick starts a rival hunt."
"We want to get ahead of Merrick," answered Dick. "We want to locate Treasure Isle and get the gold and jewels before he knows what we are up to."
"What's the name of the steam yacht."
"That's a good name, for a rainbow is a sign of good promise," was Songbird's comment.
The party had to make one change of cars and had their dinner on the train. They arrived at the Grand Central Depot at half past two o'clock and the Rovers went to a nearby hotel, taking Aleck with them, while Songbird hurried off to transact his business with his uncle.
Mr. Rover had to meet some men who were interested in his mining ventures in the far west, and so, after accommodations had been obtained, he hurried off, leaving the boys to their own devices.
"Let us take a stroll down Broadway," suggested Sam, to whom the sights of this busy thoroughfare were always interesting.
The others were willing, and they passed through Forty second street to Broadway and then turned southward. The street was filled with wagons, trucks and trolley cars, and the sidewalk appeared to "overflow with folks," as Sam said. At one point a man was giving some sort of an exhibition in a store window and here the crowd was so great they had to walk out into the gutter to get past.
"I can tell you one thing," remarked Dick. "There is after all but one New York and no other city is like it."
The boys walked slowly as far as Union Square and then sat down on one of the park benches to rest. Nearly all the benches were filled with people and in idle curiosity Dick began to scan the various types of men present, from bright, brisk clerks to fat and unshaved bummers, too lazy to work.
Dick uttered the exclamation so abruptly that Sam and Tom were startled.
"What do you see?" queried both.
They gazed in the direction Dick pointed out and on a distant bench saw a youth of about Tom's age, but heavier set, talking to a man who wore a rusty suit of brown and a peculiarly shaped slouch hat.
"Why, that's Tad Sobber!" cried Tom.
"So it is," added Sam. "Who is that fellow with him?"
"I don't know, although his figure looks somewhat familiar to me," answered Dick.
"What can Tad be doing in New York?" questioned Tom. "Do you suppose he is down here with Sid Merrick?"
"Let's go over and see what he has to say for himself," suggested Sam. "Maybe he'll run away when he sees us."
All of the boys were curious to know what the former bully of Putnam Hall might have to say for himself and they strode over to the bench upon which Sobber and the man in brown were sitting. They came up behind the pair.
"I can't give you any money, Cuffer," they heard Tad Sobber say. "You'll have to wait till my Uncle Sid gets here."
"When will he get to New York?"
"That fellow is Cuffer, the man who ran away from us at the old mill!" cried Dick.
"Let us catch him and hand him over to the police," returned Tom.
In his excitement he talked rather loudly and this attracted the attention of Cuffer and Tad Sobber.
"The Rovers!" cried Sobber, leaping to his feet in consternation. "How did they get down to New York?"
"Who did you say?" questioned Cuffer, and then looking at the three youths his face blanched. "We must get away from here, and be quick about it!"
He started to run and Dick and Sam went after him. The chase led to the lower end of the little park, and then Cuffer crossed Fourteenth street, and amid the crowd bound homeward for the day, pushed his way in the direction of the Third Avenue elevated railroad station.
In the meantime Tad Sobber started to run in another direction. But before he had taken a dozen steps Tom was on him and had him by the arm.
"Stop, Sobber," he said shortly.
"I won't! You let me go, Tom Rover."
"I'll not let you go," answered Tom, firmly. "And if you don't stand still I'll call a policeman and have you arrested."
A CHASE ON THE BOWERY
Tom's threat to have Tad Sobber arrested caused the former bully of the school to pause and turn pale.
"You—er—you don't mean that," he faltered. "You can't have me arrested."
"We'll see about that, Sobber."
"I haven't done anything wrong."
"Then why did you run away from Putnam Hall?"
"I had a right to leave. Captain Putnam wasn't treating me fairly."
"You ran away on account of that snake affair—you can't deny it."
"That snake nearly killed Nick Pell. He isn't over it yet, altogether."
"Bah! It wasn't the snake made Nick sick. He wasn't feeling well some days before the snake bit him."
"It was the snake and nothing else put him in bed," answered Tom warmly. "And that is not all. You are in league with your uncle, who robbed my uncle of those traction company bonds."
"I—er—I don't know anything about that matter," answered Sobber, hastily.
"Well, I know all about it. You were with your uncle when he got away from us, and when he dropped the pocketbook containing the bonds."
"Did you get the bonds back?" asked Sobber, with sudden interest. It may be added here that Sid Merrick had gone back long after the chase to look for the pocketbook, but, of course, had been unable to get any trace of it.
"My uncle didn't steal them. Your uncle put them in his hands to sell," went on Tad Sobber, with sudden boldness. "It is all a cooked up story about his running away with them. And it's a cooked up story about his having anything to do with those freight thieves. My uncle is an honest man."
"I know all about the freight affair, for I overheard him talking to some of the other thieves," answered Tom. "Where is your uncle now?"
"Do you think I'd be fool enough to tell you?"
"Perhaps you might—if I had you locked up."
"My uncle is a good long way from New York."
"I heard you tell that man your uncle would be in the city to-morrow."
"I didn't say any such thing!" burst out Sobber, but his manner showed that he was very much disturbed.
"You did say it. Where are you stopping?"
"Nowhere—I only got in a few hours ago."
"Did you come here to meet Cuffer?"
"What do you know about Cuffer?"
"I know your uncle hired him and a man named Shelley to visit our farm and get some things belonging to my father."
"Why, you're crazy! My uncle hardly knows Cuffer—and I never heard of a man named Shelley."
"I am not crazy, and you know I am speaking the truth," answered Tom, calmly. "Now you tell me where your uncle is or I'll have you arrested."
"You'll not arrest me!" exclaimed Tad Sobber, and with a sudden movement he twisted himself free from Tom's grasp. "You follow me and you'll get the worst of it!" he added, and darted across the park at top speed.
Tom made after the bully, but as luck would have it a nurse girl with a baby carriage got between them and before Tom could clear himself of the carriage Sobber was a good distance away. He turned to the eastward, down a side street where a large building was in the course of erection. He looked back and then skipped into the unfinished building.
"He shan't catch me," he muttered to himself, and ran to the rear of the building, amid piles of bricks and concrete blocks. A number of workmen were present, but nobody noticed him.
Reaching the building Tom peered inside, but saw nothing of the bully. He was about to go in when a warning cry reached him from overhead.
"Get back there, unless you want to be hurt!"
Tom looked up and saw a workman in the act of throwing down a mass of rubbish, broken bricks, sticks and old mortar. He leaped back and the stuff descended in front of him and raised a cloud of dust.
"What do you want here, young man?" demanded the superintendent of the building as he came forward.
"I am after a boy who just ran in here."
"Nobody here that I saw."
"He just came in."
"We don't allow skylarking around here. You make yourself scarce," and the superintendent waved Tom away.
"I want to have that fellow arrested—that is why he ran away from me."
"Oh, that's a different thing. Go find him, if you can."
The superintendent stepped aside and Tom entered the building. But the delay had cost him dear, for in the meanwhile Tad Sobber had made good his escape by running back to the next street. Tom looked around for over quarter of an hour and then gave up the chase.
"It's too bad, but it can't be helped," he mused. "I may as well go back to the park and wait for Dick and Sam. I hope they caught that Cuffer."
While Tom was talking to Sobber the other Rover boys had followed Cuffer to the elevated railroad station. A train was just coming in and Cuffer bounded up the steps two at a time, with the boys not far behind.
"Stop that man!" cried Dick, to the crowd coming from the train. But before anybody would or could act, Cuffer had slipped past the man at the ticket box and was trying to board one of the cars. Dick essayed to follow, but the ticket box guard stopped him.
"Not to fast, young fellow. Where's your ticket?"
"I must catch that man—he is wanted by the police," answered Dick.
"That's an old dodge, but it don't work with me, see? You go back and get a ticket," said the gateman, firmly.
"But he'll get away from me," pleaded the eldest Rover.
"If he does, it's not my fault. You can't pass here without a ticket."
By this time the train was almost ready to start. But Sam had procured tickets and he rushed up.
"There are two tickets!" he cried. "Come on, Dick!" and he sprinted for the train.
The guard was closing the platform gate, but they managed to squeeze through. The train was crowded with people going home from their day's work and in the jam they could see nothing of Cuffer.
"But he is on board," said Dick.
"I know it," returned his brother, "and we must find him. Quick, you go to the front and I'll go to the rear. If you locate him, tell the trainman you want him arrested at the next station."
Without another word the brothers separated and each tried to work his way to an end of the train, which was composed of five cars. This was by no means easy, for the crowd was in no humor to be jostled or have its toes stepped upon.
"Look where you are going!" cried one stout man to Sam. "Stop pushing me!" And then as the youngest Rover dodged out of his way he ran his ear into the big feather on a young lady clerk's immense hat. The girl glared at him and murmured something under her breath, which was far from complimentary. By the time he had reached the front end of the car half a dozen passengers were his enemies.
Dick had gone to the rear and as he entered the last car he saw Cuffer crouching down in a seat near the door. The train was stopping at another station, and quick as a flash the fellow arose in the seat, shot between Dick and a man with several bundles, and forced his way out on the platform. Dick tried to follow, but was caught fast by several men.
"Here, don't be acting in such a rowdy fashion!" cried one man, in great irritation.
"You knocked my bundle from my hand!" added another. "It's a shame the way some roughs act on these trains. The authorities ought to have them arrested," he went on in a loud voice.
"What's the trouble in there?" demanded a policeman, who was on the station platform in the crowd.
"This young fellow is too fresh," explained the man who had dropped his bundle.
"I want to get off, that's all," said Dick.
"Well, you behave yourself," growled the guardian of the peace, and Dick was glad enough to get away with this reprimand. He saw Cuffer running for the stairs and made after him as rapidly as the density of the crowd permitted.
When Dick gained the street once more the train bearing Sam was again on its way downtown. Cuffer was about a block away, running past Cooper Institute in the direction of the Bowery.
"I may as well keep up the chase and try to run him down," thought Dick, but he wished his brother was with him.
At this time of day the Bowery, always a busy thoroughfare, was swarming with people, and the numerous "barkers" for the clothing stores, photograph establishments, and the like, were doing their best to make trade come to them. As Dick hurried past one clothing establishment a short, stocky Jew stepped in front of him.
"Von't you step inside, young chentleman? I sell you some gloding cheap as dirt."
"I don't want any clothing," answered Dick, briefly.
"I vos mof next veek, und I sell you a suit for next to nodding," persisted the clothing dealer.
"I don't want to buy anything," said Dick, and tried to push past the man. The fellow caught him by the arm.
"If you vill only look at dose peautiful suits vot I haf for twelf dollar—"
The Jew got no further, for with a strong push Dick sent him staggering among the dummies in front of his store. He tried to recover his balance, but could not, and over he went, bringing down two of the dummies on top of him.
"Serves you right," flung back Dick, as he ran on. "The next time you'll know enough to leave me alone."
"Isaac! Moses! Sthop dot young mans!" bawled the clothing dealer, as he scrambled to his feet. "He has ruined two peautiful dummies, mit fine suits on! Sthop him!"
"Not to day!" muttered Dick, and dodged into the crowd. Then, seeing that Cuffer had crossed the street, he did the same, and continued the pursuit on that side.
But to follow anybody long in a crowd on the Bowery is not easy, and after six blocks had been passed Dick came to a halt on a corner in bewilderment. He had seen Cuffer last on that corner, but where the rascal had gone was a question.
"Want a paper?" asked an urchin close by. "Evening papers!"
"Say, kid, did you see a man run past here just now?" asked Dick.
"Sure I did."
"Where did he go?"
"Wot will yer give me if I tell yer?" asked the newsboy shrewdly.
"All right, hand over de nickel."
"Here it is," and Dick showed the money in his hand. "Now where was it?"
"He went in de Sunrise Hotel, down dare. I watched him run in."
"What kind of a hat did he have on?"
"A soft hat wid a big knock in one side."
"And you are sure he went in that hotel?"
"Cross me heart, mister. I watched him, cos he was out o' breath, an' I knowed he was up to som't'in'."
"Here is your money," answered Dick, and passed the nickel over. Then he walked to the hotel and paused on the sidewalk to look the place over before entering.
DICK BECOMES A PRISONER
The Sunrise Hotel had seen better days. It was a five story brick building, blackened by age and had numerous small windows, down in front of which ran an iron fire escape. The lower floor was used as a drinking place, to one side of which ran a narrow stairs, leading to an office and a parlor above.
Looking in over the short doors of the drinking place, Dick saw that Cuffer was not there. He rightly surmised that the fellow had gone upstairs, to a room he was occupying.
"Perhaps that fellow Shelley is with him," mused Dick. "If so, I'd like to collar them both."
Several men were coming and going and nobody paid particular attention to the youth until he gained the dingy office, where two men were smoking and talking over the merits of some race horses.
"What can I do for you?" asked one of the men abruptly, as Dick looked around.
"Is a man named Cuffer stopping here?"
The hotel clerk shook his head.
"Perhaps I have the name wrong. I mean a man who came in a minute or two ago—fellow with a soft hat, knocked in on the side."
"Oh, that chap! Yes, he's here—room eighteen, next floor," and the clerk pointed up the stairs, for the hotel had no elevator.
Dick walked up the stairs slowly, revolving in his mind what he should do if he met Cuffer face to face. If he had the man arrested it might lead to legal complications, and the voyage in search of Treasure Isle might be delayed. It would be hard to prove that the rascal had done any actual wrong.
Reaching the upper hallway, Dick looked at the dingy numbers on the still more dingy doors. Eighteen proved to be at the rear, where it was so dark he could scarcely see.
As the youth approached the door he heard a murmur of voices in the room beyond. He listened, and made out Cuffer speaking, and then he recognized the voice of Shelley.
"And so I dusted out before I had a chance to get any money from Sobber," Cuffer was saying.
"Well, did the Rovers catch the young fellow?" questioned Shelley.
"That I don't know. If he didn't know enough to run away he is a fool."
"You say one of the Rovers followed you from the train?"
"Yes, but I gave him the slip as soon as I reached the Bowery," answered Cuffer with a chuckle.
"Well, what are we to do next?" asked Shelley, after a pause.
"There is nothing to do but to wait until tomorrow, when Merrick arrives."
"Have you any faith in this treasure hunt of his?"
"I have so long as he pays the bills. I wouldn't put a cent of my own money in it."