Chapter VII Sam and Grace - The Rover boys on a Tour by Edward Stratemeyer

"This whole affair is certainly a tough proposition," remarked Sam, when, about half an hour later, he and Spud were on their way back to Brill.

The time had been spent in telling Mr. Sanderson how they had failed to obtain any satisfaction over the telephone, and in listening to the farmer's tirade against poor Songbird.

"Old Sanderson certainly pitched into Songbird," returned Spud. "I declare if anybody called me down that way, I think I'd be apt to get into a regular fight with him."

"He is very much excited, Spud. I think when he cools down he will see matters in a different light. Just at present the loss of the four thousand dollars has completely upset him."

"I suppose he pitched into Minnie even more than he pitched into us."

"Maybe he did. I must say I am mighty sorry for that poor girl."

"What are you going to tell Songbird?"

"I suppose we'll have to tell him the truth, Spud, although we'll have to smooth over Mr. Sanderson's manner as much as we can. There's no use in hurting Songbird's feelings, especially now when he's broken up physically as well as mentally."

When they reached the college they found that Songbird had insisted upon it that he be taken to the room he occupied with Sam instead of to the sick ward. He was in bed, but wide awake and anxious to hear all they might have to say.

"Of course I knew Mr. Sanderson would blame me," he said, after asking a great number of questions. "Four thousand dollars is a heap of money."

He knitted his brows for a moment, and then cast an anxious glance at Sam. "How did Minnie really seem to take it?" he continued.

"She sided with you, Songbird, when her father talked against you,"

answered Sam.

"She did, did she? Good for her!" and Songbird's face lit up for an instant. "She's true blue, that girl is!"

"Now, the best thing I think you can do is to try to go to sleep and get a good night's rest," went on Sam. "This worrying about what can't be helped won't do you any good."

"Yes, but, Sam, what am I going to do if that money isn't gotten back?

The Sandersons can't afford to lose it, and even if I went to work right away, it would take me a long, long time to earn four thousand dollars."

"I have been thinking that over, Songbird, and as the money was to be used in paying off a mortgage, I think I can arrange the matter, providing the holder of the present mortgage won't extend the time for it. I think I can get my father or my uncle to take the mortgage."

"Very good, Sam, so far as it goes. But that wouldn't be getting the money back. If it isn't recovered, I'll feel that I am under a moral obligation to earn it somehow and give it to Mr. Sanderson."

"We'll talk about it later. Now you've got to go to sleep," were Sam's concluding words, and after that he refused to say any more. He undressed and threw himself on his bed, and was soon asleep. But poor Songbird turned and twisted, and it is doubtful if his eyes closed until well along in the early morning hours.

On the following day Sam had several classes to attend, as well as to work on a theme; but as soon as these tasks were over he obtained permission to leave the college to find out, if possible, if anything had been done in the matter of the robbery. He visited Ashton and had an interview with the police, and then used the telephone in several directions. But it was all of no avail; nothing whatever had been seen or heard of the rascal who had made the attack upon Songbird.

"I'm afraid it will be one of those mysteries which will never be explained," mused the youngest Rover boy, as he jumped into the cutter which he was using and drove away from Ashton. "It's too bad! Oh! how I'd like to get my hands on that rascal, whoever he may be!"

It was not until two days later, when Songbird was once more able to be about and had insisted on being driven over to the Sanderson place, that Sam had a chance to go on the sleighride with Grace Laning. He drove over to Hope Seminary about four o'clock in the afternoon, having sent word ahead that he was coming. Grace was waiting for him, and the pair speedily drove away, wistfully watched by a number of the girl students.

"It's so nice of you to think of me, Sam, when you've got so much to think about on poor Songbird's account," said Grace, as they were speeding out of the seminary grounds. "How is he?"

"Oh, he's doing better than we expected, Grace. He insisted on being driven over to the Sandersons this afternoon. Stanley took him over, because none of us thought Songbird was strong enough to drive himself."

"I want you to give me all the particulars of the attack," said the girl, and this the youth did readily.

"It must have been the man who stuttered and whistled--the fellow Songbird saw at the Knoxbury bank," declared the girl, positively.

"Wouldn't it pay to get a detective on his track?"

"Perhaps so, Grace. I think Songbird is going to mention that to Mr.


Sam did not want the girl to worry too much over what had occurred and so soon changed the subject. They talked about college and seminary matters, and then about affairs at home, and about matters in New York City.

"I just got another letter from Nellie to-day," said Grace. "She says that the apartment she and Tom have rented is perfectly lovely--every bit as nice as the one occupied by Dick and Dora."

"I'm glad they like it, Grace. But, believe me, it will be some job for Tom to settle down and be a staid married man! He was always so full of fun."

"Why, the idea, Sam Rover! Don't you think a man can be married and still keep full of fun?"

"Well, maybe, if he got such a nice girl as Nellie. Just the same, I'll wager Tom sometimes wishes he was back in good old Brill."

"Indeed! And do you think you'll wish you were back at Brill if ever you get married?" she asked slyly.

"Oh, I didn't say anything about that, Grace. I--I----"

"Well, it's just about the same thing," and Grace tossed her pretty face a trifle.

"Oh, now look here, Grace! You haven't any call to talk that way. I suppose when I get married I'll be just as happy as Dick or Tom. That is, providing I get the right girl," and he gazed at the face beside him very ardently.

"Sam Rover, you had better watch where you are driving, unless you want to run us into the rocks and bushes," cried the girl, suddenly. For, forgetting the steed for a moment, Sam had allowed the horse to turn to one side of the somewhat rough highway.
"I'll attend to the horse, never fear," he answered. "I never yet saw the horse that I couldn't manage. But speaking of letters, Grace, I had one from Dick day before yesterday and he made a suggestion that pleased me very much."

"What was that?"

"He suggested that if I graduate from Brill this coming June, as I expect to do, that we make up a party to occupy two or three automobiles and go off on a regular tour this summer, taking in the Middle West and maybe some other points."

"Oh, Sam, how grand! Of course he was going to take Dora along?"

"Yes. His idea was that if matters could be arranged at the offices in New York, that he and Dora, as well as Tom and Nellie, would go along and that we would go too, along with some others--say enough to make at least two automobile loads."

"Oh, I'd love an auto tour like that! Couldn't we have just the best times ever?" and Grace's pretty eyes sparkled in anticipation.

"When I got the letter I thought the same, and I also thought we might ask Songbird and Minnie--Dora and Nellie could chaperon her, you know.

But now I don't know what we'll do about them. Most likely Songbird wouldn't feel like going if that money wasn't recovered, and more than likely Mr. Sanderson wouldn't let Minnie go."

"Oh, dear! I suppose the loss of that money will hang over Songbird like a big cloud forever," pouted the girl. "It's too bad! I don't see why Mr. Sanderson couldn't have paid that mortgage with a check."

"Just exactly what we all say now, Grace. But that doesn't do any good."

"Are you sure you are going to graduate, Sam?"

"I certainly hope so. I am going to try my best not only to graduate, Grace, but to get as close to the top of the class as possible. Dick and Tom had to leave before they had a chance to graduate, so I want to make a good showing for the Rover family."

"It's the same with me, Sam. Nellie left to get married, and so did Cousin Dora, so I've got to do the best I can for our family next June."

"Then you hope to get through too?"

"Of course."

"How are the teachers treating you these days? Have you had any more trouble with Miss Harrow, or the others?"

"Not the least bit. They are all perfectly lovely, and Miss Harrow is so sorry that she ever thought Nellie had taken that diamond ring."

"Well, she ought to feel sorry," responded Sam. "It certainly put Nellie to a lot of trouble. Did that gardener who put the diamond ring in the inkwell ever come back to work at the seminary?"

"Andy Royce? Yes, he is working there. I have seen him several times. He is quite a changed man, and I don't think he drinks at all."

"Well, that's one good job done, Grace. That man's worst enemy was liquor."

Sam had arranged that they might remain out until nine o'clock that evening, and so drove Grace over to Knoxbury, where they went to quite a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Here they met several young men and girls they knew, and all had a most delightful time during the repast.

When Sam went outside to get his horse and cutter, which had been placed in a livery stable near by, he was surprised to encounter the very man he had mentioned but a short while before, Andy Royce, the gardener who had once been discharged from Hope Seminary for not attending properly to his duties and who, through the intercession of the Rovers and the Lanings, had been reinstated in his position.

"Good evening, Mr. Rover," said Andy Royce, respectfully, as he touched the cap he wore.

"Hello, Royce! What are you doing here?" asked the youth.

"Oh, I just drove over to Knoxbury to get some things for the seminary,"

replied Royce; and then stepping closer he added in a lower tone: "I saw you going into Meeker's restaurant a while ago and I stayed here to see you when you came out. I'd like to talk to you a bit."

"All right. What have you to say?" returned Sam, briskly. "I haven't got much time to waste."

"I wanted to ask you about the young fellow who was knocked down and robbed the other afternoon," went on Andy Royce, as the two walked away, out of the hearing of the others in the livery stable. "Somebody told me that the fellow who was robbed said a man did it who stuttered and whistled."

"Well, we rather think that man did it, but we are not certain,"

answered Sam. He glanced sharply at the gardener. "Do you know anything of that fellow?"

"I think I do, Mr. Rover. You see it's this way: Several years ago I used to live out West, in Denver and Colorado Springs, and I used to know a man out there who went by the name of Blackie Crowden. He used to stutter fearfully and had a funny little whistle with it."

"Out in Denver, you say? That's a long way from here."

"I know it is, sir, but after I left I heard that this Blackie Crowden had come to Center Haven, and that's only twenty miles from here. And that ain't all," continued Andy Royce, earnestly. "I was in this town about a week ago and I am almost certain I saw this same Blackie Crowden on the street. I tried to reach him so as to speak to him, but he got away from me in a crowd that had come up to see a runaway."

"This is interesting," returned Sam. "Tell me how this Blackie Crowden looks," he went on. And then as Andy Royce described the individual he added slowly: "That seems to tally with the description Songbird gave of the fellow who looked at him through the bank window when he was placing the money away. More than likely that fellow was that same Blackie Crowden."

"Well, if it was Blackie Crowden, why don't you have him locked up?"

queried the gardener.

"Perhaps I will, providing he is still in Center Haven," answered Sam.