17. A Misunderstanding
 

"Here's a letter from father--quite an important one, too," said Dick as he joined his brothers in one of the rooms several days later.

"What about?" questioned Sam, while Tom looked up from a book with interest.

"It's about Tad Sobber and that fortune from Treasure Isle," answered Dick.

"What! Has that rascal showed up again?" exclaimed Tom.

"He has; and according to what father says, he is going to make all the trouble possible for the Stanhopes and the Lanings,"

"That's too bad," said Sam.

"I'll read the letter," went on Dick, and proceeded to do so. In part the communication ran as follows:

"You wrote that you knew about Sobber's call upon Mrs. Stanhope. Well, after the girls left for Hope Seminary, Sobber and a lawyer named Martin Snodd called upon Mr. Laning and then upon me. Sobber was very bitter, and he wanted to know all about what had been done with the treasure. He claims that he and his uncle, who is dead, were robbed of the boxes. Evidently Sobber and the lawyer had talked the matter over carefully, for the latter intimated that Sobber might settle the case if the Stanhopes and the Lanings would give him seventy-five per cent. of the fortune. Mr. Laning did not wish to go to law, and told Sobber he might be willing to settle for a small amount, say two or three thousand dollars. But Sobber wouldn't listen to this, and went off declaring he would have it all.

"'Since that time Martin Snodd has been busy, and he has obtained a temporary injunction against the Stanhopes and the Lanings, so that they cannot touch a dollar of the money, which, as you know, is now in several banks. The matter will now have to await the result of the case, which will probably be tried in court some months from now.

"'I have learned that Sobber has little or no money, and that Martin Snodd has taken the case on speculation, Sobber to allow him half of whatever he gets out of it. Snodd's reputation is anything but good, so I am afraid he will have a lot of evidence manufactured to order. I have recommended a firm of first-class lawyers to Mrs. Stanhope and the Lanings, and they will, of course, fight the matter to the bitter end."

"This is too bad!" cried Sam after Dick had finished. "So the fortune is tied up so they can't spend a cent of what's left?"

"They can't touch a cent until the courts decide who the fortune really belongs to," answered Dick, "and if Sobber should win, the Stanhopes and the Lanings will have to pay back that which they have already used."

"Oh, how can Sobber win?" cried Tom. "Father said the Stanhope and Laning claims were perfectly legal."

"True, Tom; but you can never tell how a case is going to turn out in court. If this Martin Snodd is a shyster he may have all sorts of evidence cooked up against our friends. Sobber would most likely swear to anything, and so would some of the sailors saved from the Josephine. And then there are some of Sid Merrick's other relatives, who would try to benefit by the case. They'd probably testify in favor of Sobber, for they wouldn't expect anything from Mrs. Stanhope or the Lanings."

"But the records of Mr. Stanhope's business deals ought, to be clear," said Sam.

"They are not as clear as one would wish, so father told me," answered Dick. He gave a long sigh. "Too bad! And just when we thought the Stanhopes and the Lanings could sit down and enjoy all that fortune."

"I wonder if the girls know of this yet?" mused Tom.

"Most likely they have had word from home," answered Dick.

"It will make them feel pretty sore," said Sam.

"Yes, it would make anybody feel sore," answered the oldest Rover. "We'll have to drive over and see, the first chance we get."

When they met the girls the boys learned that they knew all about the affair. All were worried, and showed it.

"This will upset mamma very much," said Dora. "I am afraid it will put her in bed."

"It's too bad, but it can't be helped," said Dick.

"Dick, do you think we ought to buy Sobber off?"

"No. He doesn't deserve a cent of that money."

"Papa says the case will not come up for a long time, the courts are so crowded with cases," remarked Nellie. "He is about as worried as anybody, for he has already spent several thousand dollars, and if we lose he won't know how to pay it back,"

"We'll lend him the cash," said Tom promptly, and for this Nellie gave him a grateful look.

The boys did their best to cheer up the girls, but their efforts were not entirely successful. All felt that the coming legal contest would be a bitter one, and that Tad Sobber and the shyster lawyer who was aiding him would do all in their power to get possession of the fortune found on Treasure Isle.

The girls were coming to the football game with Sam, and all said they trusted Brill would win the contest.

"We are all going to carry Brill flags," said Grace, "and I am going to root--isn't that what you call it?--as hard as I can."

"Then we'll be sure to win!" cried Dick.

Yet the oldest Rover was by no means confident. The Brill eleven had heard that their opponents were in the pink of condition. They had played three games already, and won all of them. Brill had played against the scrub only, which was hardly a test of what it could do.

The day for the contest dawned clear and bright, and early in the afternoon the visitors from Roxley, Hope, and other institutions of learning, as well as from Ashton and other towns, commenced to pour in. They came on foot, in carriages and automobiles, and on bicycles, and soon the grandstand and the bleachers were filled to overflowing. Flags and college colors were in evidence everywhere, and so were horns and rattles.

While Dick was waiting to catch sight of the carriage containing Sam and the girls from Hope he saw another turnout approaching. In it were Mr. Sanderson and his daughter Minnie.

"Why, how do you do, Mr. Rover!" cried the girl pleasantly.

"Very well," answered Dick politely, raising his cap. "And how are you?"

"Oh, fine! I made papa drive me over to see the game. It's going to be something grand, so I've heard," went on Minnie, and then she added: "Thought you and your brothers were coming to see us?"

"We--er--we haven't had much time," stammered Dick. He did not care to add that when he went to see a young lady it was always Dora Stanhope, and that Tom and Sam called only on Nellie and Grace Laning.

"I've been expecting you," said the girl with a pretty pout.

"Have Dudd Flockley and Jerry Koswell been there since?"

"Yes, both of them came once, and Flockley came after that, but I refused to see them. Mr. Flockley wished to bring me to see this game, but I sent word that I was going with papa."

"He ought to know enough to stay away by this time," said Dick. He could think of no other remark to make.

"Can I get a seat anywhere?" asked Minnie, looking anxiously over in the direction of the grandstand.

"I think so. Wait, I'll look."

"Hold on," put in Mr. Sanderson. "Just you take Minnie along, Mr. Rover. I'll go and take care of the hoss. I can stand anywhere and look on."

Minnie prepared to spring to the ground, and there was nothing to do but for Dick to assist her. He wondered if Sam was coming with Dora and the others, but did not see them. Then he led the way through the crowd to where some seats were reserved.

"I think you'll be able to see nicely from here," he said.

"Oh, I know I shall." She smiled broadly at him. "You are very kind. I don't know what I should have done if I had been alone--there is such a jam. Oh, I do hope you win!" And Minnie beamed on Dick in a manner that made him blush, for he saw that several were watching them.

"I must go now. It is getting late," said Dick after a little more talk. He turned, to see Sam, Dora and the Laning girls only a few seats away. Dora was looking fully at Minnie Sanderson with wide open eyes and a flush mounting to her cheeks.

"Oh, so you've arrived!" cried Dick cheerily, but his voice had a catch in it. Somehow he felt guilty, he could not tell why.

"Yes, here we are," answered Nellie.

"And what a crowd!" added Grace. Dora said not a word. She had stopped looking at Minnie and her eyes were directed to nothing at all on the football field.

"Well, Dora, are you going to wish me success?" asked Dick, bound to say something.

"Oh, I guess all your lady friends will wish you that," was the answer in a voice that did not seem like Dora's at all.

"Why, what's the matter?" he asked in a low voice meant only for her ears.

"Nothing."

"But there is, Dora."

"You had better go down to the field now. I see the other players are getting ready."

"But if you are angry at me--"

"Oh, I am not angry, so please leave me alone!" And now Dora turned still further away, while something like tears began to spring into her eyes.

Dick drew back, for her tone of voice nettled him. He felt he had done nothing wrong. He did not see that look in her eyes, or he would have understood how much she was hurt. He turned, nodded pleasantly to Nellie and Grace, and hurried from the grandstand.

"Where have you been?" asked Tom when he appeared in the dressing- room.

"Up on the stand, talking to the girls," was Dick's short answer.

"Anything wrong? You look out of sorts."

"No, nothing is wrong," answered the oldest Rover. But he felt that there was something my much wrong, yet he could not tell Tom.

"I didn't do anything out of the way, I'm sure I didn't," Dick murmured to himself as he prepared to go out on the gridiron. "Any gentleman would have found a seat for Miss Sanderson. I suppose Dora saw me talking to her, and now she imagines all sorts of things. It isn't fair. Well, I don't care." And Dick whistled to himself, just to keep up his courage. He did care a great deal.

At last he was ready, and he followed Tom out on the field. The Roxley team had just come out, and their friends were giving them a royal welcome.

"Roxley! Roxley!" they shouted. "They are the boys to win!"

"It's Brill this time!" was the answering rally, and then horns and rattles added to the din, while banners were waved gaily in the bracing autumn air.

Dick looked toward the grandstand, trying to single out Dora. Instead, his eyes met those of Minnie Sanderson, and she waved both her banner and her handkerchief. He answered the salute, and then turned to look where Dora and the Lanings were sitting. Nellie and Grace, as well as Sam, cheered him, but Dora took no notice. But she waved her flag at Tom.

This last action made Dick's heart sink, figuratively speaking, to his shoes. How could a fellow hope to play and win with his girl cutting him like that? But then of a sudden he shut his teeth hard.

"I'll win even if she doesn't care," he told himself. "I'll not do it for her, or myself--I'll do it for the honor of Brill!"