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CHAPTER VII


IN WHICH DAVE IS ROBBED


Dave found himself in a decidedly unpleasant situation. The door of the room was locked and Tom Shocker stood against it. The man lit the gas, but allowed it to remain low. Dave saw Nat Poole standing close to a bed. The money-lender's son had a small bottle and some cotton in his hand.

"I suppose this is a trick?" said Dave, as coolly as he could.

"Rather good one, too, isn't it?" returned Nat, lightly.

"That depends on how you look at it, Nat. Did you forge Mr. Dale's name?"

"Why—er—I—er——"

"That isn't a nice business to be in."

"Humph! you needn't preach to me, Dave Porter! You played a dirty trick on me and I am going to pay you back."

"What are you going to do?"

"You'll see soon enough."

"I want you to open that door!" cried Dave, wheeling around and confronting Tom Shocker. "Open it at once!"

"This is none of my affair, Mr. Porter," answered the man, with a slight sneer. "You can settle it with Mr. Poole."

"I'll settle with you, you rascal!" cried Dave, and leaping forward he caught Tom Shocker by the shoulder and forced him aside. "Give me that key!"

"Don't you do it! " cried Nat. "Here, wait, I'll fix him! Hold him!"

Nat poured some of the stuff in the bottle on the cotton and advanced on Dave. At the same time Tom Shocker caught Dave by both arms and essayed to hold him.

Dave was strong, and a sudden fear gave him additional strength. He might have been a match for his two assailants, but for the stuff on the cotton. This was chloroform, and when Nat clapped the saturated cotton to his mouth and nose he was speedily rendered all but unconscious.

"Don't give him too much!" he heard Tom Shocker say.

"You watch him, while I tie his hands," answered Nat, and then Dave was forced back and onto the bed. He struggled weakly, but could not free himself, and before he realized it he was a close prisoner, with his hands tied fast to the head of the bed and his feet fast to the lower end. He was flat on his back.

"Now, you can stay there until somebody comes to release you," said Nat, mockingly. "I reckon that will teach you a lesson not to send me off on freight trains!"

"Nat, I've got to get back to Buffalo to catch my train for Chicago."

"Humph. Not to-night. You'll stay here."

"The others will worry about me."

"Let them worry. I'll be glad of it."

"Better destroy that note," suggested Tom Shocker. Then he noticed Dave's watch and chain, and valuable stickpin, and his eyes glistened. He began to wonder how much money the lad had in his pocket.

The note was taken by Nat. Then the money-lender's son took a soft pillow and placed it over Dave's face.

"That will keep you from calling too loudly," he said. "I guess it won't hurt your breathing though. Come," he added to the man. "Let us get out of here, before somebody comes."

"All right," answered Tom Shocker. He gazed wistfully at Dave's watchchain and at the stickpin. "I—er—all right," he added, and followed Nat to the door.

The pair walked outside and the man locked the door. Then both hurried below and out of the side door to the street. They went as far as the corner.

"Let us make for the depot," said Nat, who was plainly nervous. Now that the trick had been played he was becoming alarmed over the possible consequences. "You don't think he'll smother?" he asked, anxiously.

"Smother? Not a bit of it," answered Tom Shocker. "He'll be out of that room inside of an hour. He wasn't tied very hard, and he's sure to make a racket sooner or later."

Tom Shocker went with Nat a distance of two blocks more and then came to a sudden halt.

"By jove, I forgot!" he cried. "I must see my old friend, Dickson, before I leave town. It won't take me but a few minutes. You go to the depot and wait for me." And before the money-lender's son could reply, he was off, down another side street.

Tom Shocker was well acquainted with the thoroughfares of Niagara Falls and it did not take him long to double on his tracks and return to Fargo's resort. He mounted the stairs, pulling his hat far down over his forehead as he did so. Then he tied his handkerchief over the lower portion of his face. He had the key of the room still in his possession, and with it he unlocked the door.

The light was still burning, and on the bed he could see Dave struggling to free himself of his bonds and of the pillow which still rested lightly over his head. Holding the pillow in place with one hand Shocker gained possession of the watch and chain and stickpin with the other. Then he took from Dave's pocket a small roll of bank-bills. He tried to appropriate the lad's ring, but could not get it off the finger.

Dave, finding himself being robbed, struggled harder than ever. But the bonds held and he was helpless to protect himself. In less than two minutes Tom Shocker accomplished his purpose, and then he glided out of the room silently, once more locking the door. Once on the street he set off on a brisk walk, but he did not go in the direction of the depot.

"I reckon I can afford to part company with Poole now," the man told himself. "Won't there be a row when that Porter gets free! But he can't blame me!" he added, with a chuckle.

Left once more to himself, Dave continued to struggle, and at last he managed to toss the pillow from his face. Then he breathed more freely, for which he was thankful.

"What a mean trick!" he murmured, as he saw that his watch was gone.

Presently he heard footsteps passing along the hallway, and he uttered a call. The footsteps came to a stop.

"Come in here, please!" he called. "I need help."

"What's up?" asked somebody outside, and then the door was tried. Soon a key was inserted in the lock, the door was opened, and a chambermaid showed herself.

"Untie me at once!" cried Dave.

The maid turned up the gas and then uttered a cry of astonishment. Without waiting to question the youth she flew out of the room and down the stairs, to return, a few minutes later, with a burly man.

"What's this mean?" asked the man, as he commenced to untie the ropes that held Dave.

"It's a trick that was played on me," answered Dave, thinking rapidly. He was on the point of stating that he had been robbed, but he did not wish to create too much of a scene. He felt sure that Nat would, sooner or later, return his belongings to him.

"A trick, eh?" said the hotel proprietor. "Certainly a queer one. Where are the fellows who hired this room?"

"I don't know. They tied me fast and left."

"Did you know them?"

"I knew one of them—he goes to boarding school with me."

"Oh, I see, a schoolboy's trick, eh? You schoolboys are up to all sorts of pranks."

"You don't know where they went to, do you?" questioned Dave, as he leaped up from the bed and stretched himself.

"No, I haven't the least idea. They hired this room for to-night, that's all."

"I think I'll try to catch them," said the youth. "Much obliged for setting me free."

"You are welcome. But say, I don't want any more skylarking around here," added the proprietor of the resort, as Dave hurried out of the room and down the stairs.

He had found his hat on the floor, and, after brushing up a little, he started on a brisk walk for the hotel where the others were to have dinner. He did not, of course, know the way, and so hired a newsboy for a dime to act as guide.

"Dave! you have been away a long time!" cried Laura, as he appeared. "We have almost finished eating."

"Never mind, I can get all I wish in a few minutes," he answered.

"Why, your stickpin is gone!" cried Jessie. "And your watchchain, too."

"Dave, have you been robbed?" questioned his uncle, quickly.

"Yes and no," he answered, with a grim smile. "I suppose I might as well tell you what happened," he continued, and then gave a few of the details. Then he had to tell his uncle how Nat had been put aboard the freight car.

"Well, it's a case of tit for tat, I suppose," said Dunston Porter. "You can thank your stars that you got away so quickly. A little later and you would have missed the train,—and we would have missed it, too—for I should not have gone on without you."

"I suppose Nat thinks he has the laugh on you," said Roger. "But what of your watch and pin and money? Are you going West without them?"

"I suppose I'll have to. But I'll make him give them up in short order. I'll send him a telegram."

"Tell him if he doesn't send them on by express at once that you will put the case in the hands of the law," said Phil. "That will scare him."

Dave was quickly served with a meal, and he lost no time in eating what he wanted. Then the entire party walked toward the railroad station, to catch the train for Buffalo.

"I was a chump to follow that man up into that room," said Dave to his chums. "Next time I'll be more on my guard. But I thought Mr. Dale must be in some dire trouble."

"It was a nervy thing to do—to forge his name," was the comment of the senator's son. "It's a pity you didn't keep the note."

"I couldn't. After I was tied up they had me at their mercy."

"Who was the man?"

"I don't know. I never saw him before."

"He must have been some friend of Nat's."

"I suppose so."

Arriving at the station, they found they had several minutes to wait. When the train rolled in all got on board but Roger, who was buying a late newspaper from a boy on the platform.

"Hurry up, or you'll get left!" cried Dave.

"I'll get on the car behind!" cried the senator's son, and did so. He did not rejoin his companions until the train was on its way towards Buffalo.

"What do you think!" he cried. "Nat Poole is on board!"

"Nat!" ejaculated Dave. "Is that man with him?"

"No, Nat seems to be alone."

"Did he see you?"

"I don't think so. He was crouched down in a seat, as if in deep thought."

"I'll interview him," said Dave, and left the car, followed by Phil, Roger, and his uncle.

"Don't quarrel on the train," cautioned Dunston Porter. "But insist upon it that Nat return your belongings."

Roger readily led the way to where the son of the Crumville money-lender sat, crouched down, and with his eyes partly closed. When touched on the shoulder Nat sat up, and a look of fright came into his face.

"Why—er—why——" he stammered and was unable to proceed.

"Didn't expect to see me quite so soon, did you?" returned Dave, pleasantly, and dropped into the seat beside him. "Nat, if it's all the same to you, I'll take my watch, my stickpin, and my money," he added, coldly.

"Your what?" exclaimed Nat. Then he stared blankly at Dave. "I—er—I don't understand you."

"Yes, you do. I want my things, and I want them at once!"

"I haven't got your things, and you needn't say I have!" retorted the money-lender's son. "Oh, I see how it is," he added, struck by a sudden thought. "You want to play another joke on me, don't you? Well, it won't work this time. I didn't touch your things, and you know it."