Chapter III What Happened to Songbird - The Rover boys on a Tour by Edward Stratemeyer

It was fully half an hour later before Sam Rover could break away from his college chums and run up to room Number 25, which he had formerly occupied with his brother Tom and which he now shared with Songbird Powell.

Nearly a week before, the youngest Rover had made a date with Grace Laning, inviting her, if the snow remained on the ground, to a sleighride that afternoon and evening. At that time Sam had forgotten completely that this day was the date set for the annual snowballing contest.

"I think I'll go anyway," he had remarked to Songbird, the day before.

But then had come word to his roommate that Mr. Sanderson wanted him on a matter of importance, and Stanley, as the leader of the seniors, had insisted upon it that he could not spare both of his chums.

"All right, then," Sam had answered finally; "you can go, Songbird, and do what Mr. Sanderson wants you to, and I'll put off my sleighride with Grace until after the contest;" and so it had been settled.

There were no public turnouts at the college, but Sam had arranged with Abner Filbury, who worked around the place with his father, to obtain for him a first-class horse and cutter from the Ashton livery stable.

"That horse is some goer, believe me!" remarked Abner, when he came to the door of Sam's room, to tell him that the turnout was in readiness.

"You'll have to keep your eye on him, Mr. Rover."

"All right, Ab. Trust me to take care of him," returned Sam lightly.

"Don't forget that I was brought up on a farm, and my Uncle Randolph had some pretty spirited animals."

"Have a good time, Sam!" cried Spud, who was present to see his chum depart. "Wish I was going to see such a nice girl."

"Oh, your time will come some day," answered Sam.

"Are you going directly to Hope?"



"I expect to unless you want to ride along that far."

"Say! I'd like that first-rate," returned Spud, eagerly. "I know some of the girls up there, and I'd like to call on them. I wouldn't mind walking back later on."

"Then come on if you are ready. I haven't any time to wait."

"Oh, I'm always ready," came from Spud; and he lost no time in bestowing himself beside Sam.

The latter gathered up the reins, gave a slight chirp to the horse, and away they sped out of the college grounds and on to the highway leading past Hope Seminary, which was about two miles distant.

The air was cool and bracing, and the snow on the highway well packed down, so that the cutter slid over it with ease. As Abner Filbury had said, the steed was a mettlesome one, and soon Sam found he had all he could do to hold the horse in.

"Some goer, that!" remarked Spud, as he pulled his cap down tighter to keep it from flying off. "Puts me in mind of a race horse."
"Yes, I shouldn't wonder but what he could make a mile in almost record time," responded Sam, as they flew along past the trees, bushes and occasional farm buildings which lined the roadway near Brill.

"You want to watch yourself with a horse that goes as fast as that,"

returned Spud, with a chuckle. "If you don't, you'll get a mile or two past Hope before you know it;" and at this little joke Sam grinned.

Early in the ride they passed one or two cutters and several farm wagons. Then they reached a turn in the road, and to their surprise saw ahead of them a sign resting on a large wooden horse:


"Hello! What does this mean?" queried Sam, as he brought his horse to a standstill. "I didn't know this road was shut off."

"Oh, yes, I heard something about this, come to think of it," returned Spud. "They are going to move that old Jackson barn from one side of the road to the other, and they must have closed the road for that purpose.

You'll have to take the old road on the left, Sam."

"I suppose so," grumbled the other. "Too bad, too, for this road was just about perfect for sleighing. But never mind, I suppose I can get through on the other road well enough."

They turned back a distance of less than two hundred feet, and then took to the side road which Spud had mentioned. This was more hilly than the other, and ran through a long patch of timberland on which no houses were located.

"Hark! Don't I hear another sleigh coming?" questioned Spud, a minute later.

"Something is coming, that's sure," answered Sam. "Gracious me! Look at that!"

Coming to another bend of the woodland road, the youngest Rover had barely time to pull his steed well toward the right hand and almost into some bushes when another cutter hove into sight, coming along at a furious rate. The horse was on a gallop, and the man driving him, a fellow wrapped up in a heavy overcoat and with a fur cap pulled far down over his forehead, was using his whip freely.

"Wow! That fellow must be in some hurry," observed Spud, as the other turnout flashed past. "He isn't sparing his horse any."

"It's a lucky thing for me that I pulled in here as I did," returned Sam, and his tone of voice showed his anger. "If I hadn't done it he would have run into us, sure pop."

"You're right, Sam. That fellow had no right to come along in that fashion. He ought to be arrested for reckless driving. But maybe he wants to catch a train at Ashton or something like that."

"No train he could catch for an hour and a half, Spud. And he could walk to the station in that time;" and thus speaking, Sam chirruped to the horse, and they resumed their ride.

A little farther on the woodland road made another turn, and here the way was uphill. The numerous rains of the summer previous had washed the rocks bare of dirt, and often the cutter bumped and scraped so badly that Sam was compelled to bring his steed down to a walk.

"Well, one satisfaction, we'll be back to the main road before long,"

observed Spud, as they finally reached the top of the hill and could get a view of the surroundings. "There is the other road just below us."

"Hello! What's that ahead?" cried Sam, pointing with his left hand.

"Looks to me like somebody lying in the snow."

"It is somebody!" exclaimed his chum. "Say! do you suppose that other horse was running away, and this fellow fell out?"

"Not much, with that other fellow using the whip as he was!" returned Sam. "This fellow ahead probably had nothing to do with that other cutter. Excepting he may have been knocked down by the horse," he added suddenly.

"That's what the trouble is! That rascal knocked this fellow down and then hurried on, Sam! Poor fellow! I wonder if he is much hurt?"

By this time the cutter had reached a point opposite to where the person in the snow rested. All the boys could see was some person, wrapped in an overcoat, lying face downward. A cap that looked strangely familiar to Sam lay close at hand. Stopping the horse, Sam leaped from the cutter, and Spud did the same.

"Say, Sam!" burst out the latter, "it looks like----"

"Songbird!" burst out the Rover boy. "It's Songbird, Spud, and he's badly hurt."

It was indeed poor Songbird Powell who rested there in the snow by the roadside. He had on his overcoat and his fur-lined gloves, but his head was bare, and from a cut on his left temple the blood was flowing. The boys turned their college chum over, and at this Songbird uttered a low moan.

"He has either had an accident or been attacked," was Spud's comment. "I wonder how badly he's hurt?"

"I'm afraid it's pretty bad," answered Sam, soberly. "That's a nasty cut. And say! his chin is all swelled up as if he had been hit there with a club!"

The two boys knelt beside their unconscious chum and did what they could to revive him. But Songbird did not open his eyes, nor did he make any other sound than a low moan.

"We'll have to get him somewhere out of this biting, cold air," observed Sam. "There is a farmhouse just below here on the main road. Let us put him in the cutter and carry him there."

When they picked Songbird up he uttered another moan and for an instant his eyes opened; but then he collapsed as before. They deposited him on the seat of the turnout, and Sam picked up his cap and several books that lay scattered around. With sober faces the boys led the mettlesome horse down the slope to the main road. Both kept their eyes on their chum, but he still remained insensible.

"Maybe he won't get over it," suggested Spud.

"Oh, don't say that!" cried Sam in horror. "It can't be as bad as that."

And then he added: "Spud, did you notice the looks of that horse when he dashed past us?"

"I didn't have time to notice much," was the reply.

"Did he wear white stockings?"

"What? Oh! I know what you mean--white feet. Yes, he had white feet. I know that much."

"And did he have any white under his neck?"

"Yes, I think he did. Do you think you know the horse, Sam?"

"I know Mr. Sanderson has a horse with white feet and a white chest--a dark horse, just like that one was."

"Then it must have been Mr. Sanderson's horse and cutter!" cried Spud.

"If it was, do you think that man was running away with the outfit?"

"I don't know what to think, Spud. To my mind it's a mighty serious piece of business. But our first duty is to do all we can for poor Songbird."

Arriving at the nearest farmhouse, Spud ran ahead and knocked on the door. A woman answered the summons, and as she happened to know the youth, she readily consented to have Songbird brought in and laid on a couch in the dining-room. Hardly had this been done when the sufferer slowly opened his eyes.

"Don--don't hit m-m-me again!" he murmured. "Ple-please don't!"

"It's all right, Songbird. Don't you know me?" said Sam, quietly.

The injured collegian opened his eyes again and stared at the youth before him.

"Sam! Wh-where did you co-come from?"

"Spud and I found you on the road, face down in the snow," answered Sam. "What happened? Did you fall out of the cutter, or were you attacked?"

"I--I---- Oh! how my head spins!" muttered Songbird. He closed his eyes again and was silent for a moment. Then he looked once more at Sam.
"I was attacked," he mumbled. "The man--he hit me--with a club--and hauled me out of the cutter."

"It must have been the fellow we saw on the road!" exclaimed Spud.

"Songbird, why did he do it?"

"I--I--do-don't know," mumbled the sufferer. "But maybe I do!" he suddenly shouted, in a strangely unnatural voice. Then with a sudden strength born of fear, he raised his left hand and dived down into the inner pocket of his coat. "The package! It's gone!"

"The package! What package?" queried Sam.

"The package belonging to Mr. Sanderson!" gasped poor Songbird. "The package with the four thousand dollars in it! It's gone!" and with another groan Songbird lapsed once more into unconsciousness.