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- The Rover Boys in New York - 30/40 -
"They chartered the schooner for a week-- I was under their orders."
"Where were they going at first?"
"Down the Jersey coast and back. They said they thought a little ocean air would do the crazy man good before they put him in the sanitarium. I own up that I was suspicious, but they claimed everything was straight."
"They were going to take my father down the coast for several days so that he could not sign important papers," returned Dick. "It is a well-laid plot to do our family out of a great deal of money and dishonor my father."
"Well, I ain't in it, I give you my word. I chartered my vessel to 'em, that's all."
"We will take you at your word, then. But you must tell all you know about them and their plans," said Dick, after a pause.
"And if I do that, will you-- er-- drop the charge against me?" questioned the master of the Ellen Rodney, eagerly.
"If you don't, we are going to have you
placed under arrest as soon as we can get an officer."
"Don't do that! I never had any trouble before and I don't want it now. I'll help you all I can-- if what you say its true, and that man is your father."
After that the captain was quite willing to talk, and he told how Crabtree and Japson had come to him and questioned him about the schooner, and finally chartered the craft for a week. They had at first wanted to pay him at the end of the time, but he had insisted upon receiving his money in advance and it was then paid over. He had been told that the strange man was Crabtree's brother, who had gone crazy because of the loss of his money in a Western irrigation scheme.
"They said they would take him down the coast for three or four days, to brace him up a bit. Then we were to run in at Absecon, near Atlantic City, and land all hands. They said they would go from Atlantic City to Lakewood, where the sanitarium was located."
"Probably they intended to let him go at Absecon and then deny that they had ever touched him," said Dick.
"Maybe-- I don't know anything about that," replied the captain.
"But how did you come to change your plans?" asked Tom.
"When you came out in that rowboat and the crazy man-- excuse me, I mean your father-- cut up so, they hustled him back to one of the state-rooms," went on Captain Rodney. "Then they had a long talk. I think they were afraid you would go down the river by train and try to head them off "Which we did," murmured Sam.
"After a while Pelter and Japson came to me and said they must come up the river-- that a sister of the crazy man lived up here, and they must visit her before they went down the coast. I was suspicious, but what could I do? I had chartered my vessel and I had my money, so I obeyed orders. Then we came up here as fast as we could. The steam tug was dismissed, and we came ashore to this place. Then they hired an auto and went off-- and that's all I know about it."
"You don't know where they went?" cried Dick.
"No more than what they said-- that they were going to the crazy man's sister."
"Which was false," muttered Tom.
"What were you to do?" asked Dick.
"They told me I might sail up the river to Newburgh and wait there for a telegram."
After that the captain talked freely. But what he had to say shed but little more light on the subject. The boys came to the conclusion that he had been dragged into the plot without knowing what it was, but that he had been willing to lend his help, provided he was well paid for it.
"When the proper time comes I shall want your testimony," said Dick, at the conclusion of the interview. "In the meantime I advise you to have no more to do with those fellows."
"They shan't come near the schooner, even if they did charter her," growled Captain Rodney.
HOT ON THE TRAIL
The boys had no appetite, but as they were in the dining room they ordered a light lunch and paid for it. Then they saw an automobile come splashing through the mud of the road.
"There is that car!" cried Sam, as be recognized the driver.
The boys ran out and made their way through the rain to the garage. The enclosed touring car had just entered and the driver had shut off the power. The wind shield had been up, but the man had gotten quite wet and stood shaking the water from his coat.
"Here's the car!" cried the colored man, coming forward.
"So I see," returned Dick. He turned to the driver. "Pretty bad traveling, I imagine."
"You bet! The road is a mass of slippery mud. I came near skidding half a dozen times."
"Where did you go?" and Dick stepped closer to the chauffeur.
The man started and looked at the oldest Rover boy sharply.
"What's that to you?" he asked, shortly.
"Everything. We want to go to the same place."
"And as quickly as you can get us there," added Tom.
The chauffeur surveyed the three Rovers in amazement. Then he took off his coat and shook it briskly.
"Sorry, but I can't take you," he said, slowly. "I've got another job in-- er-- in half an hour."
"You are going to take us," said Dick, firmly. "And right away. What did those men pay you?"
"What is that----"
"How much-- out with it? I haven't any time to spare."
"All right. You'd like another ten, wouldn't you?"
"Ten dollars to get us to the same place inside of twenty minutes," went on Dick, and showed a roll of bankbills.
"Can't do it-- in this slippery weather," answered the man, his eyes glistening at the sight of the money. "Make it in half an hour."
"All tight then."
"I'll put on the chains," cried the chauffeur, and brought out the anti-skidding chains for the rear wheels. The boys got the colored man to assist him, and the chains were soon adjusted. Then the car was backed out of the garage and the three Rovers leaped inside.
"Now, don't lose a minute," said Dick.
"I won't. But we are taking chances on this road, sir, I can tell you that."
It was still raining steadily, and the highway was a mass of oily mud,-- a splendid compound upon which to skid. On and on rushed the touring car at a rate of speed varying from twenty to thirty-five miles an hour.
"I could eat this road up if it was dry," shouted the chauffeur. "The machine is good for fifty miles an hour."
"Well, don't climb a tree, or a stone wall," cautioned Dick, grimly.
Ordinarily the Rover boys might have been anxious because of such wild riding, but now every thought was centered on their father. How he was faring, and would they be able to rescue him?
Twice the touring car made dangerous lurches to one side, once fairly brushing some trees which lined the roadway. But the driver stuck to his post, and gained the middle of the roadway again, and rushed on as rapidly as ever.
"I'll wager he doesn't own the machine," muttered Sam. "If he did, he'd be more careful of it."
"Well, he owns his own neck," returned Tom, grimly. "So maybe he'll be careful of that."
They passed through several small villages, the inhabitants gazing out curiously at the rushing and swaying car. Then they took to a side road, where the traveling was worse than ever.
Suddenly the car made a turn. They had struck a rut in the road and even the chains did not save them. Around swung the automobile. There was a grinding of the brakes and the power was shut off. Then came a jar that sent the Rover boys in a heap.
"Something has happened sure!" cried Tom, who was the first to get up.
They looked out of the door of the enclosed car. They had come up to a mass of bushes beside the road, and the left front wheel had struck a rock and was twisted around. The mud guard on that side had crumpled up.
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