Chapter XXVIII Cloudburst and Flood - The Rover boys on a Tour by Edward Stratemeyer

"I see it!" cried Tom. "That's the spoke Chester Waltham told Sam he would put in our wheel."

"I guess you are right," returned his older brother. "Evidently Waltham is a meaner fellow than I took him to be. Just because Grace would not put up with his ungentlemanly attentions he evidently is going to do what he can to make trouble for us."

"I don't understand what dad means by the Haverford deal," went on Tom, as he studied the telegram. "I thought that deal was closed long ago."

"They thought of closing it, Tom, but at the last moment something went wrong and the men who were going into the matter withdrew. That put a large part of the burden on our shoulders. We have at least forty thousand dollars invested in it. Now, if Waltham has bought a controlling interest, as dad says, he will be able to swing it any way he pleases, just as he may be able to swing the Lansing deal, too."

"How much money have we got locked up in that? The last I heard it was only about eight thousand dollars."

"When I left, dad said he expected to put in another twelve thousand, which would make a total of twenty thousand dollars, Tom."

"Phew! Then that makes a grand total of sixty thousand dollars in the two deals. Chester Waltham must have a lot of loose money, if he can jump into deals as big as those are at a moment's notice."

"Oh, a young millionaire like Waltham can get hold of cash whenever he wants it," answered Dick. He ran his hand through his hair thoughtfully.

"This looks bad to me. Perhaps I had better take a train back to New York without delay."

"Oh, if you did that it would spoil the trip for Dora," protested his brother.

"It's better to spoil the trip than to let Chester Waltham get the better of us."

"Why not send a telegram asking if it will do any good for you to come home?" questioned Tom. And after a little discussion Dick decided to do this, and the telegram was sent without delay. A few hours later word came back that if Dick was needed his father would send for him.

The stay in Topeka was extended to the best part of a week, for that night a furious rainstorm set in which lasted two days. The downpour was unusually heavy, and as a consequence many of the outlying roads became well-nigh impassable.

During the last day of the storm Sam received a long letter from Songbird in which the would-be poet told of how he was working to make his way in the world and also earn some money that he might pay back the amount lost by Mr. Sanderson. He added that so far the authorities had been unable to find any further trace of Blackie Crowden.

"It's too bad!" was Sam's comment, after he had read this communication.

"Poor Songbird! I suppose he feels as bad as ever over the loss of that money."

At last the sun once more broke through the clouds and the journey of the tourists was resumed. Close to the city the roads were in fairly good condition, but farther out they soon found evidences of the tremendous downpour of the days before. Deep gullies had been cut here and there, and occasionally they came across washed-out trees and brushwood.

"We'll have to take it a bit slowly, especially after dark," remarked Dick.

When they passed over some of the rivers they found the rushing waters reached almost to the flooring of the bridges; and on the second day out they found one bridge swept completely away, so that they had to make a detour of many miles to gain another crossing.

"What a tremendous loss to some of these farmers," remarked Mrs. Laning, as they rolled past numerous cornfields where the stalks had been swept down and covered with mud. "I am glad to say we never had anything like this at Cedarville."

"And we never had anything like it at Valley Brook either," returned Dick. "This is the worst washout I ever saw."

At noon they stopped at a small town for dinner and there they heard numerous reports concerning the storm. In one place it had taken away a barn and a cowshed and in another it had undermined the foundations of several houses.

"The water up to Hickyville was three feet deep in the street," said one man at the hotel. "The folks had to rescue people by boats and rafts.

One man had four cows drowned, and up at Ganey Point a man lost all his pigs and two horses."

The party had scarcely left that town when it began to rain again. The downpour, however, was for a time so light that they did not think it worth while to stop or to turn back.

"We'll put the tops up," said Tom, "and maybe in a little while the clouds will blow away."

But Tom's hopes were doomed to disappointment. The downpour was comparatively light for about an hour, but then, just as they were passing through a patch of timber, it suddenly came on with great fury.

"Great Scott!" burst out Sam, as a gust of wind drove the rain under the automobile tops. "We'll have to put down the side curtains."

"Right you are!" answered Dick; and then the machines were halted and all the curtains were lowered and fastened. But even this did not protect them entirely, for the wind drove the rain in between the numerous cracks of the covering.

"How many miles to the next stopping place?" queried Nellie.

"About thirty," answered Tom. "That is, if we go as far as we calculated to when we left this morning."

"Oh, I don't see how we are going to make thirty miles more in such a storm as this!" cried her sister.

"We'll be lucky to make any kind of stopping place," announced Dick, grimly. "Just listen to that!"

There was a wild roaring of wind outside, and then came a flash of lightning followed by a deafening clap of thunder.

"Oh! Oh!" came in a shriek from the girls; and involuntarily they placed their hands to their ears.

"Richard, do you think it is safe to stay under the trees in such a storm as this?" questioned Mrs. Stanhope, fearfully.

Before Dick could reply to this question there came more lightning and thunder, and then a crash in the woods as a big tree was laid low.
"Oh, dear! Listen!" cried Nellie. "Suppose one of the trees should come down on the autos!"

"That is what I was afraid of," added her mother. "I think we had better get out of here."

"All right, if you say so," answered Dick. "I was only thinking about the awful wind. It's going to hit us pretty hard when we get out on the open road."

The automobiles had drawn up side by side, so that those in one machine could converse with those in the other. Now Dick started up one of the touring cars and was followed a minute later by Tom, at the wheel of the other automobile.

Once in the open air, those in the machines realized how furiously the wind was blowing and how heavily the rain was descending. The automobiles fairly shook and shivered in the blasts, and despite their efforts to keep themselves dry all those in the automobiles were speedily drenched. The downpour was so heavy that the landscape on all sides was completely blotted out.

"Oh, Dick! what in the world shall we do?" gasped Dora, and it was plainly to be seen that she was badly frightened.

"I'd turn in somewhere if I only knew where," answered her husband, trying his best to peer through the rain-spattered wind-shield. "I don't see anything like a house anywhere around, do you?"

"No, I can't see a thing."

Dick was running along cautiously, and now, of a sudden, he put on the brakes. Just ahead of him had appeared a flood of water, and how deep it was there was no telling.

"Listen!" cried Mrs. Stanhope, when the automobile had come to a standstill. "Did I hear somebody calling?"

Scarcely had she spoken when there came another vivid flash of lightning followed by more thunder, and then a downpour heavier than ever. As the lightning flashed out Dick was surprised to see a girl splashing through the water on the road and running toward them.

"Look! Look!" he ejaculated. "Unless I am mistaken it's Ada Waltham!"

"It is! It is!" exclaimed Dora. "What in the world is she doing out alone in such a downpour as this!"

As the girl on the road came closer to the touring car Dick threw up one of the curtains, opened the door, and sprang out to meet her.

"Oh, Mr. Rover!" gasped Ada Waltham, "is it really you? How fortunate!

Won't you please help me?"

"What's wrong?" he demanded quickly.

"Chester! He's lost!"

"Lost! Where?"

"He tried to cross the river yonder in the storm, and the bridge broke and let the automobile down. I managed to save myself and jumped ashore, but he was carried off by the torrent." The rich girl clasped her hands nervously. "Oh, please save him, Mr. Rover! Please do!"

By this time the second automobile had come up, and Dick waved to Tom to stop. Seeing that something was wrong, Tom quickly alighted, followed by Sam.

"What's wrong?" came from both of the new arrivals, as they gazed at Ada Waltham in astonishment.

"Miss Waltham says her brother is lost--that he has been carried off in the flood of yonder river," answered Dick.

"Oh, please hurry!" burst out the girl eagerly. "Please hurry, or it will be too late! I don't think Chester can swim."

"All right, we'll tell the others where we are going and then we'll do what we can," answered Dick. "But if that flood is very strong we may have----"

Dick was unable to finish his speech. Just then there came more lightning followed by a deafening crash of thunder. Then the very heavens seemed to open, to let down a torrent of water which seemed to fairly engulf them.

"Oh! Oh! Oh!" came from the women and the girls. "Oh! what a terrible storm!"

"It is a cloudburst! That's what it is!" gasped Sam.

"You're right!" ejaculated Tom. "Look! See how the water in the river is rising! It's a cloudburst and a flood!"

Tom was right--there had been a cloudburst, but fortunately not directly over the heads of our friends, otherwise they might have perished in the terrible downpour which immediately followed. The catastrophe had occurred at a point about a mile farther up the river, and now the waters from this flood were coming down with great swiftness and rising higher and higher every instant.

"We've got to get out of here," was Sam's comment. Already they were standing in water up to their ankles. "We've got to find higher ground."

"Oh, Sam! Sam! please don't let my brother drown!" pleaded Ada Waltham, catching him by the arm.

"We'll do what we can to save him, Ada, but we've got to save ourselves first," he answered.

"See! there is a little hill ahead," came from Dick, as he did his best to look through the rain, which was coming down as heavily as ever. "Let us run to the top of the rise, then we'll be in less danger from the flood if the river gets much higher." He turned to the distracted girl.

"Come, you had better go with us, then we will see what we can do for your brother."

"Oh, Dick! Dick! If you don't hurry we'll be swept away, sure!" cried Dora, and then made room so that Ada might get in beside her.

In a moment more the three Rovers had re-entered the touring cars, and then the machines were sent forward through the water, which was now nearly a foot deep on the roadway.

"Oh! I never saw such a storm in my life," was Mrs. Laning's comment.

"If only we get out of this alive!" breathed Mrs. Stanhope. Being naturally a very nervous woman, she was on the verge of a collapse.

Running with care through the swirling water that covered the roadway, they at length reached a rise of ground several feet above the flood.

Here they stopped at the highest point they could gain, bringing the machines side by side.

When the storm had started in earnest the three Rovers had donned their raincoats. Now, with rain caps pulled well down over their heads, they once more alighted.

"If you can show us where your auto went into the river we'll see if we can locate your brother," announced Dick to Ada Waltham. "Maybe he got out and is walking somewhere around here," he added, by way of encouragement.

"Oh, dear! I'm so nervous I can scarcely stand!" gasped the girl, and when she reached the ground they had to support her.

Splashing along through the water that covered the roadway, they slowly progressed until they gained a point where the youths felt it would be impossible for Ada Waltham to go any farther.

"There is what is left of the bridge over yonder," cried the girl, pointing with her hand.

The Rovers looked in that direction and saw a few sticks of timber sticking out of the swirling waters, which were running down stream as turbulently as ever.

"I don't think there is any use of looking for Chester around that bridge," was Tom's remark. "Most likely he was carried down stream--how far there is no telling. I think the best thing we can do is to take a look farther down."

"That is just my opinion," returned his older brother. "I think you had better return to the autos. It won't do any good for you to remain out in this storm," he continued to the girl.

When the party got back to the cars they found a farmer and his grown son standing by the machines.

"I was just telling the ladies you had better run your automobiles up to my place," said the farmer. "It's about ten or fifteen feet higher than this, and, consequently, just so much safer. Besides, the ladies can come into the house."
"We want to find this young lady's brother. He was swept off the bridge yonder," returned Dick.

"So the ladies were telling me," returned James Barlow. "You come up to the house, and I'll go out with you. We've got a big rowboat that may come in handy. Say! ain't this some storm? Worst let-down I've ever seen in these parts."