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CHAPTER XXX


THE ROUND-UP—CONCLUSION


"What's this?"

"It's the Rovers!"

"Who is this man—an officer?"

"We are caught!"

"Let me get out of here!"

These and various other exclamations rent the air, when those in the sitting room of the mansion beheld the sheriff of the county and the three Rover boys standing at the doorway, each armed. All leaped to their feet and every one present tried to get out of range of the sheriff's pistols.

"The game is up, gentlemen," went on Sheriff Fells. "The best thing you can do is to submit quietly. I've got fifteen men outside to take care of you."

"Caught!" burst out Bart Larkspur hoarsely, and sank on a chair all but overcome. "Oh, why did I go into this scheme!"

"The—there is—er—some mistake!" stammered Josiah Crabtree, whose face had gone the color of white chalk.

"Yes, a big mistake, Crabtree—and you and the others are going to pay for it," answered Dick.

"I'll not submit!" yelled Tad Sobber, and sneaking up behind Koswell he sent that individual flying into the sheriff. Then he leaped towards one of the windows. At the same moment Crabtree leaped for another window.

But the Rover boys were too quick for them, and while the sheriff continued to cover Koswell and the so-called doctor, and also kept an eye on Larkspur, the lads leaped on their old enemies. With a rapid swing of his right hand, Tom gave Sobber a blow on the jaw that sent him staggering against the wall. At the same time Dick attacked Josiah Crabtree.

"That for abducting Dora Stanhope and her mother!" he exclaimed, and his fist landed on Crabtree's nose with such force that the former teacher was sent spinning across the room. He let out a yell of agony, and another yell when Dick hit him in the left eye.

"Don't! don't! I beg of you Rover!" he whined.

While this was going on, Koswell tried to dodge behind Larkspur and go out by a side door. But Sam put out his foot and tripped the rascal up, and then sat on him.

The noise downstairs reached the ears of those above, and in a few seconds Mrs. Sobber appeared at the head of the stairs, with a lighted candle.

"What is going on down there?" she asked.

"Madam, you keep where you are!" shouted the sheriff. "This house is surrounded by officers of the law. Don't you dare to come down."

"Oh dear me!" shrieked the woman.

"Sam, go up and see if the girls are safe!" cried Dick. "We can take care of things down here. Don't let that woman get away."

"I'll take care of that woman, never fear!" answered the youngest Rover.

The sheriff had brought along all the handcuffs necessary, and in a few seconds he had handcuffed Koswell. He threw a pair of the steel bracelets to Dick and another pair to Tom, and the Rovers had the satisfaction of handcuffing Josiah Crabtree and Tad Sobber. Then the sheriff made prisoners of the rest of the crowd, and called in the two men from the outside, at the same time shouting loudly: "You other fellows remain where you are!" as if the force of a dozen or more were still there.

"Can we go upstairs now?" asked Dick.

"Sure you can," said the sheriff, with a little grin. "But I'll have to go along—to get the evidence, you know."

Up the stairs bounded Dick and Tom. They found Mrs. Sobber in a corner of the hallway, the lighted candle on a dusty stand. At a nearby door Sam was inserting a key in the lock.

"Just got the key from the woman," he explained. "Can we come in?" he called out.

"Yes! yes!" came eagerly from Dora and Nellie.

The youngest Rover opened the door, and like a flash Dick and Tom sped past him and into the room. Dora and Nellie rushed to meet them, laughing and crying hysterically.

"Oh, Dick! Dick!" burst out poor Dora, and then sank into his arms, too weak to stand.

"Dora!" he murmured. "Oh, this is awful! Well, it shall never happen again, never!" And he pressed her to him.

"Oh, Tom, how glad I am that you came!" said Nellie as she clung to him.

"They didn't hurt you, did they?" demanded Dick.

"They carried us off—that was enough," answered Dora. "Oh, Sam, what of Grace?"

"It was Grace who told us," answered the youngest Rover. "She got away from them, you know."

"We hoped so, but we weren't sure. They wouldn't tell us about her," said Nellie. "Are you alone?"

"No, indeed; we have the sheriff and his posse with us. Every one of the rascals is under arrest."

"Good! It is what they deserve!"

"Have you got Mr. Crabtree?" faltered Dora.

"Yes," returned Dick. "And this time we'll take care that he is put where he will never bother you and your mother again," he continued.

Although told to do so by Mrs. Sobber, the girls had refused to go to bed and were fully dressed. They had been offered supper by the woman but had found it impossible to eat.

"Well, we haven't had a mouthful ourselves," said Sam.

"But we are going to have the finest kind of a spread just as soon as we get to town and those rascals are locked up," added Tom.

"But how did you manage to follow us so quickly?" asked Dora, wonderingly.

"We came to Hope to call on you in the Dartaway," Dick explained. "And we followed most of the way by biplane."

"Then you have the flying machine here?"

"Yes, although we didn't bring it very close to the house."

"What are you going to do with me?" cried Mrs. Sobber. "Oh, please do not send me to prison! Tad made me do it!"

"This case is now in the hands of the law," answered Dick, coldly. Then the sheriff, who had said nothing, came forward and handcuffed the woman and marched her downstairs.

When the Rovers and the girls went below they found that all of the prisoners had been marched outside. The sheriff was anxious to get them to the jail and the boys did not blame him.

"I don't see how that auto is going to hold all of us," said the county official. "Reckon we'll be kind of crowded."

"Oh, I'd hate to ride with those bad men!" murmured Dora. "I'd rather walk!"

"So would I," added Nellie.

"It's too far to walk," answered Dick. "But I'll tell you what you might do, if you are willing to risk it. You might sail to town in the Dartaway."

"Dick if you do it, so will I," cried Dora.

"You won't be afraid?" he asked, anxiously.

"Why should I be?" she murmured. "If anything happened to you, why I—I'd just as soon have it happen to me, too!"

"I'll go, if Tom goes," put in Nellie. "I don't want to go anywhere near those horrid men."

"Someone will have to run the touring car," said Dick.

"I can do that,—if you will look after the girls," answered Sam, promptly; and so it was finally arranged. A few minutes later the prisoners were marched off by the sheriff and his men and Sam. Dick and Tom, and the two girls, went ahead, to walk to where the biplane had been left among the trees.

The girls were a little frightened at first, but did their best not to show it. Dora sat as close to Dick as she could, and Tom held Nellie in a seat in front of him. Up into the air rushed the Dartaway and both girls gave a little gasp. Dick did not sail high, nor did he put on much speed, since there was no need.

"I see something in the road!" cried Tom, after they had been sailing along for several minutes. "It's the auto, with the sheriff's crowd, and the prisoners!" And then Dick swept down close to the turnout and Sam gave three blasts on the horn, to let them know he saw them. Then the biplane and the touring car continued on the way to Plankville.

News of the intended arrest had been circulated, and a crowd was in waiting at the sheriff's office when they arrived. As it was past midnight, the hearing was a brief one, and soon the prisoners were placed behind the bars, to await the further action of the law. Then the Rovers and the girls were told they could go where they pleased so long as they agreed to appear when wanted.

"We'll appear all right enough!" cried Tom. "Why, Mr. Sheriff, you couldn't beat us away with a club! We intend to see to it that every one of those rascals gets what is coming to him!"

"I reckon you've got a good enough case," answered the county official, grimly.

The hotel keeper had been at the hearing and he readily offered to give the girls a room next to that occupied by himself and his wife, and give the boys rooms also. And he likewise agreed to get the party a substantial midnight supper.

"But we must send word to the folks first," said Dora.

"Yes," answered Dick. And this was soon done, although they had to get a telegraph operator out of bed to do it. But as the man was well paid for his trouble, he did not mind this.

"And now to get back to Hope and to Brill!" cried Tom, the following morning, when the boys and girls were dining again. "How shall we go?"

"We've got to get the Dartaway back," said Sam. "I can do that, if you folks want to go by train, trolley and stage."

"It's a long-winded trip that way," answered Tom. "We'd have to make five changes. I asked the sheriff about it."

"Do you boys wants us to go in the biplane?" asked Nellie.

"Would you go?" asked Tom, eagerly.

"I will if Dora will."

"I'll go if Dick wishes it," said Dora, with a fond glance at the youth who was some day to be her husband.

So it was settled that all should travel in the flying machine, and the boys at once set to work to go over the biplane carefully. The start was made an hour later, the sheriff and the hotel keeper and his wife waving them a farewell. Sam ran the biplane, and, as was to be expected, Dora sat close to Dick and Nellie close to Tom. There was no wind, only clear sunshine, and after a little nervousness, the girls began to enjoy the trip. Not a stop was made, all being too anxious to get to Hope.

Grace was on the watch for their return, and as the biplane came down she ran to greet them, and there was a great jollification, the girls laughing and crying by turns. The students and teachers crowded around, wanting to know the particulars of what had happened. A little later Songbird and Stanley appeared, having driven over from Brill to learn if any word had been received from the Rovers.

"Glad you caught those rascals," was Songbird's comment. "And I hope they send 'em all to prison for life!"

"They'll be sure to get pretty long terms," answered Sam.

Everybody has his or her story to tell, and that day there were but few lessons both at Hope and at Brill. The Rovers were the heroes of the occasion, and everybody wanted to congratulate them on what they had done.

"Well, it was a pretty strenuous experience," said Dick to his friends. He did not realize that still more strenuous happenings were in store for him and his brothers. What they were, will be told in another volume, to be entitled, "The Rover Boys in New York; Or, Saving Their Father's Honor."

All of the girls had been too upset by what had happened to go on with their studies, and it was thought best to let them go home for awhile and take it easy. The boys, too, went home, to let their folks know all the details of the happening.

"You did very well, boys!" cried their father, when he greeted them. "Very well indeed! I am proud of you!"

"And the best of it is, all of those rascals are now where they can bother us no longer," added Randolph Rover. Then the boys wanted to know about their parent's health and his business prospects.

"I am feeling quite some better," said Mr. Rover. "And I think that before a great while all those business complications will be straightened out."

"That's fine, dad!" cried Tom, and threw his cap in the air. "Hurrah! We come out ahead every time, don't we?" And then he did a jig, he felt so happy.

"Let's go for a sail in the Dartaway!" came from Sam. "We'll call on Peter Marley and the rest of those folks and let them know how we rounded up Crabtree, Sobber & Company."

"That's the talk!" exclaimed Dick. "A sail will just suit me!"

And then off rushed the three Rover boys for an outing in their biplane. And here we will leave them, wishing them all the good times possible.


THE END