The Rover Boys in the Air/Chapter 29



Soon Dick and Sam were on the way to where they had left the chauffeur and the big touring car. They fairly ran down the woodland trail, stumbling over the rocks and tree roots in the darkness. Once Sam went down, and scratched his hand, but he got up without complaining.

They were almost in sight of the machine when they heard a peculiar sound. Dick's heart gave a bound.

"Listen!" he cried. "He's trying to crank up! He must have gotten free of his bonds!"

The oldest Rover boy was right, the chauffeur had worked at the straps and ropes until he had liberated himself. Now he was working at the crank of the touring car, hoping to get away in the machine.

"He won't get started," muttered Sam, remembering what he and Tom had done to the automobile.

They sneaked up behind the man, and before he could resist had thrown him flat on his back. Then, while Dick held him down, Sam ran and got the straps and ropes.

"You let me go!" yelled the man. "Let me go, or it will be the worse for you!" And he tried to get away. But then Dick put a pistol to his head and he collapsed and offered no more resistance.

As soon as the chauffeur was again secured, the boys bundled him into the enclosed portion of the car and tied him fast to the foot rail and the robe rail. Then the youths lost no time in readjusting the machine so it could be used, and lighting all the front lamps.

"If they hear us they'll think it is the chauffeur going away," said Dick.

"Can you run her, Dick?" asked his brother.

"I think so. It seems to be a good deal like our car at home, only larger."

It was agreed that Sam should get into the coach part and watch the prisoner while Dick ran the car. Then Dick started up the machine, backed out and turned around, and then made his way out of the woods and across the field to the highway. At first he ran cautiously, but as soon as he became accustomed to the car he turned on the speed and spun along at the rate of thirty miles an hour in the direction of Plankville.

"How is she going?" asked Sam, from behind.

"Fine! How is that prisoner?"

"As mad as a hornet," and there was a chuckle in Sam's tone.

It was not long before they came in sight of Plankville, and Dick slowed down a little. He ran directly up to the hotel, where several men were on the point of separating for the night.

"I want to get some officers of the law," he cried. "Where can I find them?"

"Well, you've got one of 'em right here," answered one of the men, stepping forward. "What do you want?"

"Who are you?"

"I am Jackson Fells, and I happen to be sheriff of this county."

"The sheriff!" burst out Dick. "Just the man I'd like to meet. Sheriff, I've got a prisoner for you, and I want you to raise a posse as quickly as you can and round up five or six other persons."

"Eh, what? A prisoner?" cried the sheriff. "Where is he?"

"Tied up good and tight inside the car. Tell me where to take him, will you?"

"Hum! Well, I guess you better take him over to my office first and we'll look into this," said the sheriff. "It's right around the corner. I was just going home."

The county official got into the car and the other men followed on foot, anxious to see what was going on. In less than a minute they reached the sheriff's office and several lamps were lit and the chauffeur was brought in.

It took quite some time for Dick and Sam to make themselves clear and get Sheriff Fells to move. The driver of the big touring car was questioned, and then placed in charge of the keeper of the lock-up.

"Maybe you'll get off easy, if you turn state's evidence," said one of the men present. "You'd better do it, too, for this is a serious case."

"I'm willing to tell all I know," growled the prisoner. "I was led into this before I knew what was going on."

"We're going to use the car to round up the others," added Dick.

"Go ahead, I don't care. It don't belong to me anyway—I hired it from my boss."

"Then we'll settle with your boss," said Sam.

One of the men present was a constable and another a special policeman, and both said they would go along with the sheriff and the boys. The posse went well armed, for Dick had warned them that some of the rascals to be rounded up were desperate characters.

"We don't want any of them to get away," said the oldest Rover boy. "We want to make each one a prisoner."

"Don't you worry, young man, they won't get away from me," answered the sheriff. "I used to be on the New York force before I moved out here, and I know that class of scoundrels. I know that old stone house, and when we get there we'll fix a plan to bag every one of 'em."

All were soon in the touring car, and once more Dick put on the speed. They ran so fast it made the constable chuckle.

"Gee whizz!" he murmured. "We're exceedin' the speed limit, Sheriff! Don't you think I'd better hop out an' arrest the bunch?"

"'Necessity knows no law,'" quoted the county official. "Just the same, young man, don't you land us head up in a ditch!" he added, to Dick.

The boys were on the watch, and presently saw the field from which they had come and steered into it. Then they ran into the woods and brought the car to a standstill just where it had been before.

"Now, I think you had better be as quiet as possible," said Dick.

"Right you are," returned the sheriff, and gave orders to his men to that effect.

As silently as so many ghosts the posse and Dick and Sam hurried along the woodland trail in the direction of the old stone mansion. Soon they came in sight of the place. As they did so Tom came to meet them.

"Anything new?" questioned Dick, in a whisper.

"The men folks are in the sitting room of the place," answered Tom.

"In the sitting room? As late as this? Would't you think they'd retire," said Sam.

"They are quarrelling," went on Tom, and now he was chuckling.

"Quarrelling? Over what?"

"Over the way they are going to divide the money they squeeze out of dad and Mrs. Stanhope and Mrs. Laning. They've got it all cut and dried that they are going to get forty or fifty thousand dollars before they send Nellie and Dora back to school, and Crabtree and Sobber want the lion's share, while Koswell and Larkspur and that other chap, the doctor,—if he is one—want just as much. They are at it hot and heavy."

"What of the girls?"

"They must still be in the upper room, and the woman is either with them or next door to them."

Tom was glad to see the sheriff and his men, and in a very few words the county official outlined his plan for capturing the evildoers in the old stone mansion.

"We'll let them believe that I brought about a dozen men with me," said Sheriff Fells. "That will most likely take the starch right out of them. Then, before they can think of resisting, I'll clap the irons on them. You, Thompson, can stay out in front, and you, Rapp, can walk around to the rear. If they run, plug them in the legs," added the sheriff grimly. It had been a long time since he had had such an important case to deal with and he intended to make the best showing possible.

"We can go in with you, can't we?" asked Dick.

"Certainly, and don't hesitate to show your guns, boys. But don't use them unless they show fight and try to get away."

"They are not going to get away!" cried Tom, sturdily. "This is the time we are going to round 'em up, every one!"

A few further directions were given by the sheriff, and then he and the three Rover boys advanced to the front door of the old mansion. At the same time, with pistol in hand, the officer named Thompson remained where he was, while he named Rapp walked around to guard the rear.

The door was unlocked, for those inside had not dreamed of being disturbed. On tiptoes the party entered the dark hallway. To keep out the cold, the door to the sitting room had been closed. From within the room came a murmur of voices.

"Well then, that's settled," came from Tad Sobber.

"I think we ought to have more money," grumbled Koswell.

"You will be getting your full share," said Josiah Crabtree, tartly.

"And you'll be getting what is coming to you in another minute!" chuckled Tom.

Advancing to the door the sheriff paused for a moment and then threw it wide open, at the same time holding up a brace of pistols.

"Hands up!" he cried sternly. "Hands up, all of you, in the name of the law!"