Chapter XI Tom Frees His Mind - The Rover boys on a Tour by Edward Stratemeyer

The party in Number 25 did not break up until some time after midnight, and all present declared that they had had the time of their lives. Only one interruption had come, made by a good-natured monitor who had begged them to make less noise, and this fellow, well known to Tom, had been bought off with several sandwiches and a bottle of ginger ale.

"And how do you fellows feel this morning?" asked Tom, who was the first to get up after a sound sleep.

"Oh, I'm first rate," announced his younger brother. "I thought I'd dream, with so much chicken salad and sandwiches and cake in me, but I slept like a log."

"I didn't sleep extra well," came slowly from Songbird. "But I don't think it was the feast kept me awake."

Tom walked over to where the would-be poet of Brill sat on the edge of a cot and dropped down beside him.

"Songbird, you take the loss of that money too much to heart," he said kindly. "Of course we all know it was a great loss. Yet it won't do to grieve over it too much. And besides, there is hope that some day the authorities will catch that Blackie Crowden and get at least part of the money back."

"It isn't the money alone, Tom; it is the way Mr. Sanderson has treated me. And besides that, I'm worried over that mortgage. I'd like to know just what old Grisley and his lawyer are going to do."

"I'll tell you what I'll do, Songbird. If you wish me to, I'll call on Mr. Sanderson and tell him what we are willing to do, so that he can rest easy about paying the mortgage off if he has to."

"I wish you would go, Tom--and put in a good word for me, too," cried Songbird, eagerly.

"Oh, I'll do that, never fear. I'll go this morning before I start back to New York;" and thus it was arranged.

"You said that you had something to tell me, Tom," remarked Sam, as the three were going downstairs to breakfast. "What was it?"

"Oh, it may not amount to much, Sam. I'll tell you about it as soon as we can get by ourselves," answered Tom.

The morning meal was quickly disposed of, and then Tom and Sam returned to Number 25, the former to repack his dress-suit case before leaving for the Sandersons' place and for New York.

"I don't exactly know how to get at this, Sam," began his brother, slowly, when the pair were in the bedroom and the door had been closed.

"It is about Grace and the Walthams."

"About Grace?" and Sam showed his increased interest. "What about her?"

"Well, as I mentioned last night, this Ada Waltham is very rich, and she has a brother, Chester, who is older than she is and much richer. In fact, I've heard it said that he is a young millionaire."

"Well?" queried Sam, as his brother paused.

"Oh, I really don't know how to get at this, Sam," burst out Tom, and his face showed his worry. "Maybe there is nothing in it at all; but just the same I thought I had better bring it to you at once. I knew you would rather have it come from me than from some outsider."

"But what in the world are you talking about, Tom?"

"I'm talking about the attentions this Chester Waltham is bestowing upon Grace. It seems that his sister, Ada, introduced him to Grace a couple of months ago, and since that time I've heard that he has been up to Hope several times, ostensibly to call on his sister, but really to see Grace. I understand he has taken both of them out riding several times."

"Taken Grace out riding!" cried Sam, and his face flushed suddenly. "Are you sure of this? Grace never mentioned it to me."

"I think it's the truth, Sam. You see, ever since Nellie left Hope she has kept corresponding with several of the girls there, and one of these girls knows Ada Waltham quite well, and she mentioned the fact of the sister and Grace going out with Chester. She said that she quite envied Grace being invited to ride out with a young millionaire. Then Nellie spoke to Dora about it, and Dora said she had heard practically the same thing from another one of the seminary students. Now I don't like to butt in, Sam, but at the same time I thought you ought to know just how things were going."

"I don't understand it at all," returned the younger brother, and for the moment he looked rather helpless. "If Grace received an invitation to go out with this Chester Waltham, I am quite sure she would mention it to me."

"Perhaps she merely went as a companion of Ada's," suggested Tom, "and she might have thought it wasn't necessary to mention it."

"Have you heard anything more than that, Tom?"

"Not much, except that in one of the letters this girl said that she would envy Grace all the nice flowers and boxes of candy she might expect from such a wealthy young man as Waltham. Now, as I said before, Sam, it's none of my business, but I just couldn't help coming out here to put a flea in your ear. We--Nellie and I--know just how you feel about Grace, and both of us would like nothing better than to have you double up with her after you graduate."

"Thank you, Tom; it's fine for you to talk that way, and it's fine to have Nellie on my side. But I don't understand this at all. If Grace has been going out with this Chester Waltham, why hasn't she said something to me about it? She has spoken to me about Ada a number of times, but I never heard this Chester mentioned once."

"Well, I can't tell you any more than I have told you," returned Tom.

"If I were you, I'd see Grace and find out just what this fellow has been doing. You know a fellow who is worth a million dollars is some catch for any girl."

"Yes, I know. It's a good deal more than I'll be able to offer Grace."

"True, but money isn't everything in this life, Sam. I didn't look for money when I married Nellie, and I don't think she cared a rap how much I was worth."

"That's the way it ought to be done----"

"I always supposed that you and Grace had some sort of an understanding between you," went on Tom, after rather an awkward pause. "Of course, Sam, you haven't got to say a word about it if you don't want to," he added hastily.

"We did have some sort of an understanding, Tom. But you know how it was with you and Nellie--Mrs. Laning wouldn't think of your becoming publicly engaged until after you had left college. She has told Grace that she will have to wait. So she is free to do as she chooses."

There was but little more that could be said on the subject, and so Tom turned to pack his suit case while Sam got ready to attend one of his classes. The youngest Rover heaved a heavy sigh, which showed that he was more disturbed than he cared to admit.

A little while later Tom had said good-bye to his brother and to his numerous friends at Brill and was on his way in a hired turnout to the Sanderson homestead, which he had promised to visit before leaving on the train at Ashton for New York City. Tom went on his errand alone, none of the others being able to get away from the college that morning.

The Sandersons had heard nothing about his arrival at Brill and, consequently, were much surprised when he drove up. Minnie greeted him with a warm smile, and even Mr. Sanderson, considering his great loss, was quite cordial.

"Ain't comin' back to complete your eddication, are you, Mr. Rover?"

questioned the farmer, with a slight show of humor.

"No, Mr. Sanderson. I'm through with Brill so far as studying goes,"

answered the youth. "I just took a run-out to see how Sam and the others were getting along. They told me all about your loss, and I'm mighty sorry that the thing happened. Poor Songbird is all broke up over it."

"Humph! I reckon he ain't half as much broke up as I am," retorted the farmer. "This has placed me in a fine pickle."
"Now, Pa, please don't get excited again," pleaded Minnie, whose face showed that she had suffered as much, or more, as had her parent.

"Ain't no use to get excited now. The money is gone, and I suppose that is the last of it. What I'm worryin' about is how I'm goin' to settle about that mortgage. Grisley at first said he would put it off, but yesterday he sent word that he was comin' here to-day with his lawyer to settle things."

"And here they come now!" interrupted Minnie, as she glanced out of a window. The others looked and saw two men drive up the lane in a cutter.

They were old Henry Grisley, the man who held the mortgage on the farm, and Belright Fogg. The girl went to the door to let the visitors in. Old Henry Grisley paid scant attention to Tom when the two were introduced to each other. The lawyer looked at the visitor in some astonishment.

"Huh! I didn't expect to see you here, Mr. Rover," said Belright Fogg, coolly. "Are you mixed up in this unfortunate affair?"

"I may be before we get through," answered Tom.

"You weren't the young man who lost the money?"

"No."

"I've got an account to settle with your brother," went on Belright Fogg, rather maliciously. "He took great pleasure the other day in hitting me in the head with a snowball, almost knocking me senseless.

I've had to have my head treated by a doctor, and more than likely I'll sue him for damages."

"I reckon you'll do what you can to make it hot for him," returned Tom.

"It's your way, Mr. Fogg. But just let me give you a word of advice--you take care that you don't get your fingers burnt."

"Ha! Is that a threat?"

"Oh, no. It is only a word of advice. Please to remember that we know all about you, and we won't stand any nonsense from you. If my brother really hurt you, he'll be willing to do the fair thing; but if you think you can gouge him in any way, you've got another guess coming."

"Looky!" came in a shrill voice from old Henry Grisley. "I thought we come here fer my money on that er mortgage," and from under a pair of heavy gray eyebrows he looked searchingly into the faces of Mr.

Sanderson and the lawyer.

"Yes, Mr. Grisley, that's what we came for," returned Belright Fogg, "and the sooner we come to business perhaps the better."

"As I've told you before, the money is gone--stolen," said Mr.

Sanderson. "I can't pay--at least not now, and I'd like an extension of time."

"Mr. Grisley isn't inclined to grant any extension," said Belright Fogg, somewhat pompously. "The mortgage is too big for this place anyway, and he feels that he ought to have his money."

"And if Mr. Sanderson can't pay, what then?" questioned Tom, before the farmer could speak.

"Why, we'll have to foreclose and sell the place," answered the lawyer, quickly.

"That's it! That's it!" came shrilly from old Henry Grisley. "I want my money--every cent of it. If I don't git it, I'm goin' to take the farm,"

he added in tones which were almost triumphant.

"But see here----" began Mr. Sanderson.

"Oh, Pa, don't let them sell the farm!" burst out Minnie, and as she spoke the tears started to her eyes.

"You won't sell the farm, Mr. Grisley," said Tom, coolly.

"Why not, if the money isn't paid?" cried the old man.

"The money will be paid--every cent of it," answered Tom.