Chapter XXIX The Rescue on the River - The Rover boys on a Tour by Edward Stratemeyer

It did not take long to run the automobiles down the road and up a side lane leading to the farmer's house. Here the ladies got out, and then the machines were placed in a barn.

"You will do all you can to find my brother?" wailed Ada Waltham, anxiously.

"Yes, we'll do our level best," answered Dick; and Tom and Sam said practically the same.

The Rovers consulted with Mr. Barlow and his son, James, and all five walked down as close to the edge of the river as the effects of the cloudburst would allow. They saw bushes, trees, and parts of buildings coming down the swiftly-flowing stream, the waters of which were now thick with mud.

"Here is my rowboat," announced the farmer, pointing to where the craft was tied fast to a large tree. "You can use it if you want to, but it looks to me like rather a hopeless matter to try to do anything while the river is raging like this. You had better wait until it calms down a little."

"The trouble of it is, it may then be too late," answered Tom. He looked at his brothers. "I think we can manage it," he added.

The matter was discussed for fully a quarter of an hour, and during that time the storm seemed to let up a little. The first awful effects of the cloudburst were passing, and the water was going down slowly but surely.

"We'll try it," announced Dick, at last. "If we can't manage the rowboat we'll come ashore farther down the stream."

The craft was a substantial one, and there were two pairs of oars, and to these James Barlow added a sweep to be used as a rudder. Then the three Rovers embarked, Tom and Sam to do the rowing and the other brother to guide the craft. It was hard, dangerous work, as they realized as soon as they struck the current of the swollen stream. They were sent along pell-mell, and it was all they could do to keep themselves from crashing into one object or another on the way.

"Look out, or you'll get upset!" yelled James Barlow to them, and then his voice was drowned out in the rushing and roaring of the elements around them.

A half hour passed--which to the Rovers just then seemed almost an age.

During that time the three kept their eyes wide open for a possible sight of Chester Waltham or anybody else who might have been carried away by the flood.

"There is somebody!" suddenly called out Dick. "A man caught in a tree!"

"Is it Waltham?" demanded Tom, quickly.

"I can't make out. He is crouched in a heap on some limbs and is waving frantically for us."

Not without additional peril did the Rovers turn the rowboat across the river, for the tree in which the man was crouching was on the shore opposite to that from which they had embarked.

"Hello! there are two fellows in the tree!" announced Tom, as they drew closer.

The second man crouched behind the trunk, so that they had not at first been able to see him.

"Help! Help!" came from the fellow who had been waving so frantically to them. And now, as they drew still closer, they saw that the individual was Chester Waltham. The young millionaire was capless and coatless, and his face and hands were much scratched.

"We're in luck, that's sure," was Tom's comment, in a low voice.

"And I'm glad on his sister's account," added Sam.

"When we bring the boat up beside the tree you lower yourself into it, Waltham," directed Dick. "But be careful how you do it or we'll upset.

The current here is very swift."

"Yes, yes, I'll be careful," answered the young millionaire in a voice which trembled so that he could scarcely speak. He was, of course, much surprised to discover that it was the Rovers who had come to his assistance.

He was so exhausted that to get out of the tree in safety was all but impossible, and finally Dick had to assist him while Tom and Sam did all they could to hold the rowboat in position.

"It's fine of you to come for me!" panted Chester Waltham, when he found himself safe in the rowboat. "Di-did my si-sister get you, or what?"

"Yes, she escaped and told us of your plight," answered Dick, briefly.

"Good for Ada! Now get me safe on shore once more and I'll pay you handsomely for your trouble."

"You won't have to pay us a cent, Waltham," was Sam's quick reply. "Just sit still so that the boat doesn't go over."

"Can I help you in any way?"

"No. Sit still, that's all," came from Tom, sharply. The idea of having Waltham speak of paying them at such a time disgusted him.

In the meantime the second fellow in the tree had moved down a limb or two with the idea of following Waltham into the rowboat. But now, as he looked at the three Rovers, he suddenly drew back.

"Hi there! don't you want to come with us?" cried Dick, considerably astonished over the man's actions.

To this the individual in the tree made no reply. He kept behind the trunk and finally waved a hand as if to motion them away.

"Say! is that fellow crazy?" questioned Sam.

"He must be," was Tom's comment. He turned to Chester Waltham. "Do you know him!"

"No, he's a stranger to me. I tried to speak to him, but he was so scared and cold from the ducking he got he did nothing but chatter, so I couldn't understand him."

"See here, it's foolish to stay up there," called out Dick. "Come on down and we'll take you ashore."

"D-do-don't want to g-g-go," came the stuttered-out reply. "G-go-wheep!"

came in a funny little whistle. "G-g-go a-away!"

"Well, of all the scared fellows----" commenced Tom.

"Great Scott! I wonder if that fellow can be Blackie Crowden!"

ejaculated Sam.

"G-g-go a-wa-way!" stuttered the man in the tree, and then tried to say something more, but the words only ended in a strange little whistle.

"Sam, do you really think it can be the fellow who robbed Songbird?"

demanded Dick. "What would he be doing away out here?"

"Why, Blackie Crowden came from Denver or Colorado Springs," announced the youngest Rover. "Remember, we are not so many miles away from those places." He raised his voice. "You come down out of there, Crowden. We know you and we want you."
At this command the man in the tree seemed much disturbed. He tried to speak, but because of his natural stutter and his terror of the situation through which he was passing, his effort was a failure.

"If you don't come down, we'll haul you down," ordered Dick, finally, and then, after a little more urging, the fellow finally consented to come out of the tree, and dropped into the rowboat.

"Blackie Crowden, as sure as fate!" murmured Sam, as soon as he got a good look at the fellow's features. "Well, if this isn't luck!"

"Evidently you know this fellow," came from Chester Waltham, curiously.

"We sure do!" declared Sam. "He's the man who knocked our college chum, John Powell, down on the road near Ashton and robbed him of four thousand dollars."

"I di-didn't r-r-rob any bo-body," stuttered Blackie Crowden. "It's all a mi-mis-mis-mista-ta-take!" and he ended with his usual queer whistle.

"We'll see about that later, Crowden," put in Dick, sternly. "Now you sit perfectly still or else maybe you'll go overboard and be drowned."

It would be difficult to describe the joy with which Ada Waltham greeted her brother on his safe return. She flew into his arms and, as wet as he was, hugged him over and over again.

"Oh! I was so afraid you'd be drowned, Chester!" and then she added quickly: "How grand it was for the Rovers to go to your assistance!"

"It certainly was very fine of them to do it," returned the young millionaire. And now it must be admitted that he seemed very much disturbed in mind. "I'm going to pay them back, you see if I don't," he added, after a thoughtful pause.

Blackie Crowden had done his best to make them believe that he was not guilty of the attack upon Songbird, but the Rovers would not listen to this, and put him through such a grilling that finally he broke down and confessed all.

"I wouldn't have done the deed at all if it hadn't been that I was worried over another matter," he said amid much stuttering and whistling. "I ain't a bad man naturally, even though I do drink and gamble a little. If it hadn't been for a lawyer named Belright Fogg I would never have robbed the young man."

"Belright Fogg!" came from the Rovers.

"What has that shyster lawyer to do with it?" added Sam.

"Do you know he is a shyster lawyer?"

"We sure do!" added Tom, promptly.

"Then you will understand me when I tell you how it was. Some time ago I was mixed up in a land transaction. It is a long story, and all I need to tell you is that Belright Fogg was in it, too. I did some things that I oughtn't to, and that gave Fogg a hold on me. Finally he claimed that I owed him three hundred dollars, and he said if I didn't pay up he would make it hot for me and maybe land me in jail. That got me scared and I said I'd get the money somehow.

"Then by accident I saw Powell get the money from the bank, and I followed him on horseback, passed him, and took the cash, as you know.

As soon as the deed was done I was sorry for it, but then it was too late," stuttered Blackie Crowden, and hung his head.

"And did you go to Belright Fogg and give him the three hundred dollars?" queried Sam.

"Yes. I met him in Leadenfield, at a road house kept by a Frenchman named Bissette."

"Then I was right after all!" cried Sam. "I accused Fogg of meeting you, but he denied it."

"Well, he got the three hundred all right enough," stuttered Crowden.

"And how was it you tried to keep out of our sight in that flood?" asked Sam curiously. "Did you know us?"

"I knew you--saw you follow me to the depot at Dentonville. You thought I got on that train. But I didn't--I took a night freight."

"I see. That is why the authorities didn't spot you."

"That's it. But you were asking about Fogg," continued Blackie Crowden, speculatively.

"And did he know you had stolen the money?" demanded Dick, sharply.

"I'm pretty sure he did, although he didn't ask any questions. He knew about the robbery, and he knew well enough that I didn't have any three hundred dollars of my own to give him."

"What did you do with the rest of the money, Crowden? I hope you didn't spend it?" questioned Sam, anxiously.

"Spend it!" came in a bitter stutter from the criminal. "I didn't get any chance to spend it. All I had was two hundred dollars!"

"Then what became of the other thirty-five hundred?" questioned Tom.

"It's in a room at the Ashton hotel, unless somebody found it and stole it."

"At the Ashton hotel!" cried Sam.

"That's it. You see, after I met Fogg I stopped at Ashton for one night and put up at the old hotel on the Cheesley turnpike. I hid the money in an out-of-the-way corner of a clothes closet, because I didn't want to carry it on my person. Then, when I was on the street, I heard that you were on my trail, and I got scared and I was afraid to go back to the hotel to get it."

"Can you remember what room it was?" queried Tom.

"Yes, it was a back room--number twenty-two. I put the money in a hole in the wall back of an upper shelf."

"We had better notify the authorities at Ashton of this," said Tom to his brothers.

"Let us telegraph to Songbird and tell him to go to Ashton," suggested Sam. "If the money is there, Songbird ought to have the fun of getting it and returning it to Mr. Sanderson."

"All right, let's do it!" cried Dick; and so the matter was arranged.