Chapter IV The Chase - The Rover boys on a Tour by Edward Stratemeyer

It must be confessed that Sam and Spud, as well as the woman of the house, were very much surprised over the statement made by Songbird.

"Attacked and robbed!" murmured Sam. "What an awful thing to do!"

"He said he had been robbed of four thousand dollars!" broke in Spud.

"Where in the world would he get that much money? He must be dreaming, Sam."

"I hardly think so, Spud. I know he was to go on a very important errand for Mr. Sanderson, who is laid up at home with a sprained ankle."

"Well, if Songbird was robbed, it's more than likely the fellow we saw in the cutter did it."

"Exactly! And the chances are he will get away just as fast as he possibly can," added Sam, bitterly.

"What do you think we ought to do?"

"I think we ought to notify the authorities, Spud."

"Hadn't we better wait until we get some particulars from Songbird?"

"Not much! The quicker we get after that fellow the better. Remember he is running away not only with the money but also with Mr. Sanderson's horse and cutter. Many people living in this vicinity know Mr.

Sanderson's animal, and that may help us to locate that rascal." Sam turned to the woman of the house. "Have you a telephone?"

"No, we haven't any; but the folks in the next house up the road have one."

"Then I'll go there and telephone," said Sam. "You do what you can for Songbird, Spud. I'll try to get a doctor, too, while I'm at it."

In a few seconds more Sam was on the way, using his horse and cutter for that purpose. Arriving at the next farmhouse, he readily received permission to use the telephone, and at once got into communication with the authorities in Ashton, and asked the official in charge to send word around to the various towns and villages within the next ten or fifteen miles, and he also sent word to a physician at Ashton. Then he managed to get Grace on the wire.

"I'm afraid I'll be late," he told the girl. "And maybe I won't be able to get there at all," he added. "Songbird has been knocked down on the road and robbed, and he is in pretty bad shape."

"Oh, Sam! isn't that too bad!" was Grace's reply. "Do you mean that he is seriously injured?"

"We can't tell yet, Grace. I have just telephoned for the doctor, and now I am going back to the Bray farmhouse, where Songbird is, to wait for him." And after that Sam gave the girl as many details of the affair as he deemed necessary.

"Oh! I hope he gets over it, Sam," said Grace. "And to think he was robbed of all that money! If they can't get it back, what ever will Songbird and the Sandersons do?"

"I don't know," he returned. "It certainly is a bad piece of business.

But now I've got to go back, so I'll say good-bye."

"Good-bye, Sam, and you stay with Songbird just as long as you please.

We can have our sleighride some other time."

When Sam returned to the Bray farmhouse he found that Spud and the lady of the house had washed Songbird's wound and bound it up. The lady had also brought forth some simple home remedies, and these had been so efficacious that Songbird was sitting on the couch, propped up by numerous pillows.

"Did you catch him?" asked the sufferer eagerly, as Sam entered.

"I've sent word to the police, Songbird, and sent word for a doctor too.

Now you had better take it easy until the doctor comes."

"But how can I take it easy with that four thousand dollars missing?"

groaned the youth on the couch. "Why, I can't make that amount up, and Mr. Sanderson can't afford to lose it."

"How does your head feel?"

"It feels sore all over, and sometimes spins like a top. But I wouldn't care about that if only I could get that money back. Can't you and Spud go after that rascal?"

"I'm willing if you want us to, Songbird; but you'll have to promise to stay here until the doctor comes. We don't want you to attempt to do anything while you are in your present condition."

"Oh, I'll stay here, don't fear," answered Songbird, grimly. "I just tried to stand up, and I went in a heap, and Spud and the lady had to put me back on this couch."

"Let's take that horse of yours and go after that fellow, Sam," burst out Spud, eagerly. "That horse is a goer, as we know, and we ought to be able to catch that man sooner or later."

"Providing we can follow his trail, Spud," answered Sam. "You must remember there are a good many side roads around here, and he can take to any one he pleases."

"But we might be able to find the footprints of the horse in the snow."

"Possibly, although I doubt it, with so many other horses using the highway. However, come on, we'll do the best we can." Sam turned again to the sufferer. "Now, Songbird, you keep quiet until the doctor comes, and then you do exactly as he orders."

"Maybe Mrs. Bray will see to that," ventured Spud.

"I will if you want me to," responded the woman of the house. "That cut on his head is a nasty one, and if he doesn't take care of himself it may make him real sick."

In a moment more Sam and Spud were out of the house and into the cutter, which was then headed up the side road where they had found Songbird.

Here they stopped for an instant to take another look around, and picked up two more books which had escaped their notice before.

"Books of poetry, both of 'em," remarked Spud. "Songbird thinks more of a poem than he does of a square meal," and he smiled a bit grimly.

It did not take long to reach the spot where the other cutter had passed them. They went straight on, soon reaching the point where the woodland road joined the main highway.

"Now, you see, here is where we are going to get mixed up," announced Sam, as they moved in the direction of Brill. "Did the fellow go straight to Ashton, or did he turn off to one of the other places?"

"The folks traveling along the road must have seen him," returned Spud.

"Let us make some inquiries as we go along."

This was a good suggestion, and was carried out. They found a farmer who had seen the strange man in the cutter drive toward Ashton, and a little later they met two ladies in a sleigh who declared that the fellow had turned into a side road leading to a hamlet known as Lester's Corners.

"If he went there, we ought to have a chance to catch him," cried Spud.

"This road I know doesn't go beyond the Corners."

"Yes. But he could take a road from there to Dentonville," answered Sam, "and you know that is quite a railroad station."

"But if he went to Dentonville and to the railroad station, couldn't you telephone to the operator there to have him held?"

"Maybe, Spud, providing there is any telephone at the Corners."

Onward they went once more, through some heavy woodland and then over several small hills, finally coming in sight of the Corners, where were located a general store, a blacksmith's shop, a chapel, and about a dozen houses.

"Did I see a feller in a cutter goin' as fast as he could?" repeated the storekeeper, when questioned by Sam. "You just bet I did. Gee whiz! but he was goin' to beat the band!"

"And which way did he head?" questioned the Rover boy, eagerly.

"Headed right straight for Dentonville."

"And how long ago was this?" put in Spud.

"Oh, about quarter of an hour, I should say. Say! he nearly skeered old Mrs. Rasley to deth. She was a-crossin' the road comin' to my store when he swung aroun' that corner yonder, and he come within a foot of runnin'

over her. She wanted to git Joe Mason, the constable, to arrest him, but, gee whiz! there wasn't no arrestin' to it--he was out o' sight before you could say Jack Robinson."

"Have you any telephone connection with Dentonville?" questioned Sam.

"Ain't got no telephone here at all. The telephone fellers promised to put a line through here three years ago, but somehow they hain't got around to doin' it. You see, Squire Buzby owns some of their stock, and he don't think that we ought to----"

"That's all right, Captain," broke in Sam, hastily. "Then if we want to catch that fellow, all we can do is to go after him, eh?"

"Thet's about the size on it," returned the storekeeper. "Now you see if we had thet telephone here, we might be able to----"

"That's so, we might. But as the telephone is missing, we'll go after him in our cutter," broke in Sam; and a few seconds later he and Spud were once more on their way.

The road to Dentonville was not much traveled, and for a mile and a half they met no one. Then, just as they reached a crossing, they came in sight of an old farmer driving a box-sled filled with milk cans.

"Did you meet a man driving a horse and cutter very rapidly?" questioned Sam, after he drew up. "A dark horse with a white breast and white feet?"

"I jest guess I did!" replied the farmer. "He come pretty close to runnin' into me."

"Which way was he headed?"

"Headed straight for Dentonville."

"Can you tell me when the next train stops there?"

"The train is due there in about fifteen minutes, and she won't stop more'n long enough to put my milk cans on board. I jest left 'em there, and got these empty ones," explained the farmer, pointing to the cans behind him.

"Fifteen minutes!" cried Spud. "And how far is it from here?"

"Nigh on to three miles."

"Is it a good road?" queried Sam.

"Pretty fair. It's some washed out on the hills, but the snow has covered the wo'st of the holes. Want to ketch that feller?"

"We certainly do. That horse and cutter belongs to Mr. Sanderson."

"By gum! You don't say! Did he steal the turnout?"

"He certainly did," answered Spud, "and nearly killed a young fellow in the bargain."

"Then I hope you ketch 'im," answered the farmer, and stood up in his sled to watch Sam and Spud as they sped once more along the highway leading to Dentonville.

The boys had a long hill ahead, and before the top was gained the horse attached to the cutter was glad enough to settle down to a walk. But once the ridge was passed, he did not need much urging, and flew along almost as rapidly as ever.

"This horse must have been in the stable for quite some time," remarked Spud. "He evidently enjoys the outing thoroughly."

"Listen!" cried Sam, a little later. "Isn't that the whistle of a locomotive?"

"It sure is, Sam! That must be the train coming into Dentonville!"

They were passing through a small patch of timber, and directly beyond were the cleared fields and the buildings of a tidy farm. As the boys came out of the woods they looked over the fields in the direction of Dentonville and saw a mixed train, composed of several passenger coaches and a string of freights, entering the station.

"There she is!" cried Sam. "Oh, if only we can get there before she leaves!"

He spoke to the horse and did what he could to urge the steed forward at a greater rate of speed than ever. Much to the astonishment of several onlookers, they dashed into the outskirts of Dentonville and then along the main street leading down to the railroad station.

"Hi! Stop!" roared a voice at them, just as they were crossing one of the side streets, directly in front of a sleigh and two wagons. "Hi!

Stop, I tell you! You ain't got no right to drive that fast here in town," and a blue-coated policeman, one of the four of which the place boasted, shook his club at the boys and ran out in front of their cutter.

"Say! officer, you are just the man we want," cried Sam, hurriedly.

"Come on with us. We want to have a man arrested down at the depot before he has a chance to get away on the train."

"What's that? Want a man arrested?" queried the bluecoat. "What has he done?"

"A whole lot of things," broke in Spud. "Jump in; we haven't any time to explain now--that train may pull out at any moment."

"That's so; so it might," replied the officer; and then, as Spud made room for him, he sprang into the cutter, sitting on the boy's lap. "But you look out that you don't kill somebody," he added to Sam, who was now using the whip lightly to urge the horse to greater efforts.

They were still two blocks away from the railroad station when there came a whistle, followed by the clanging of a bell, and then they saw the train moving away.

"There she goes!" groaned Spud. "But she isn't moving very fast."

"Maybe we can catch her yet," returned Sam; and then the race continued as before.