29. What The Girls Discovered
 

The Rover boys sent letters to their father, and on Saturday morning came replies from Mr. Rover. He said he was both surprised and shocked at what had occurred, and added that if they needed his aid he would come on at once. He showed that he believed them innocent, for which they were thankful.

"Here is more news," said Dick. "The case of Tad Sobber against the Stanhopes and the Lanings comes up in court next Tuesday; that is, they are going to argue the question of the injunction on that day."

"That will make Mrs. Stanhope and Mrs. Laning very anxious."

"Yes, and the girls, too, Sam."

"Well, we are anxious, too. Oh, I do hope our side wins!" cried Sam wistfully. "It would set me wild to see Tad Sobber get all that money!"

Dick and Sam were to meet Tom in Ashton at three o'clock, and all hoped that the girls would come later. Stanley could not go, for he had a Latin composition to write.

When the Rovers reached the hotel in Ashton they found Tom impatiently awaiting them By the look on his face they knew he had something to tell.

"Come up to my room," he said, and led the way to the apartment, located on the second floor, front.

"You can sit by the window, Dick, and keep a lookout for the girls," said Sam.

"Yes, they'll be here in about an hour," said Tom. "They telephoned this morning."

"Well, what have you discovered--anything?" demanded Dick impatiently.

"I think I am on the right track," answered Tom. "Let me tell you what I've done. In the first place, I visited the haunted house yesterday morning, and went through it from cellar to garret."

"Alone?" queried Sam.

"Yes, alone. But I carried a pistol, and I had it ready for use, too."

"I don't blame you," murmured Dick. "And I guess you looked to see if the doors were open, too."

  m b. Schlemp

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"I did, and smashed out several windows in the bargain. The first place I investigated was that fireplace, and in it I found this." And Tom held up a bit of white paper. On it was printed:

"That is from a druggist," said Dick.

"Exactly. I figure out the name is William b. Schlemp, that he is a druggist, and that he is doing business at some number on Main Street," came from Tom. "But I figure out more than that."

"What?"

"The paper was crumpled up, and had in it a few grains of a gray powder. I set the powder on fire and got that strange vapor that almost strangled us."

"You did!" cried Sam. "Then that stuff came from that druggist beyond a doubt."

"So I figure it. But there is no druggist named Schlemp here," went on Tom, "and the druggist here doesn't know of such a fellow."

"I know what we can do," cried Dick. "Don't you remember, Dan Baxter said he had worked for a wholesale drug house? We can telegraph and ask him if he knows of this Schlemp."

"Then let us do it at once," said Tom. "I have his route--the one he said he was to follow."

A few minutes later the following message was being flashed over the wires to Dan Baxter, then supposed to be located at Detroit:

"Send full name and address of Blank b. Schlemp, druggist, at once. Highly important.

"Thomas Rover,

"Ashton Hotel,"

"That was about all I found at the haunted house that was important," said Tom after the message had gone. "But I've found out something here that may lead to something else of value."

"What is that?" questioned Sam.

"There is a fellow hanging around here named Henry Parwick. He is rather dissipated, and does not seem to work for a living. One night this Parwick had been drinking pretty freely, and he got into a quarrel with one of his companions. They taunted each other about money, and Parwick said he had some good friends up to Brill who would give him all the cash he wanted. The other fellow wanted to know that was, and Parwick winked one eye and answered, 'Oh, there's a reason, Buddy, a good reason. They wouldn't dare to refuse me.' Since that time I have seen Parwick talking to Jerry Koswell and Bart Larkspur."

"Do you think this Parwick helped Koswell and the others in a plot against us?" asked Dick.

"It may be so. Anyway, I think Parwick has some kind of a hold on Koswell, for I saw Jerry give him some money."

"This is certainly interesting," mused Dick. "Do you suppose we could corner this Parwick and get him to talk?"

"We might, but I have another plan."

"What is that?"

"To watch Parwick, and follow him when I think he is going to meet Koswell and the others. I may be able to overhear their talk."

"Good!"

After that Dick and Sam told Tom of what had occurred at the college since their brother had left. Sam was just relating the particulars of a stormy interview with Professor Sharp when Dick uttered a cry.

"Look! Here comes Dora, and she is running!"

One after another the brothers ran down to the ground floor of the hotel and hurried outside.

"Oh, I am so glad I found you all together!" cried Dora, panting for breath. "Come quick!"

"Where to?" queried Dick.

"Down the road about half a mile. We just saw that Jerry Koswell and Bart Larkspur, and they are having a quarrel with a man who acts as if he was half intoxicated."

"It must be Henry Parwick!" ejaculated Tom.

"Yes, his name is Parwick," said Dora. "We heard Koswell mention it."

"Where are they?" asked Sam as the whole party hurried down the main street and out of Ashton, Dora leading the way.

"They are at a cottage where an old woman named Brice lives. We were going to stop for a drink of water when we heard voices, and saw the young men. Then Nellie and Grace heard them mention you, and they asked me to come here and get you just as quickly as possible. They said they would remain, and, if possible, hear what it was all about."

"I think we are on the right track!" cried Dick joyfully. "Maybe matters will come to a head quicker than we imagined."

"Dick, you stay with Dora!" cried Tom. "Come on, Sam!" And off the two brothers sped at top speed, leaving Dick and Dora to follow as rapidly as the strength of the girl would permit.

Curiosity lent strength to the legs of the two Rovers, and they covered the distance to the Brice cottage in an incredibly short space of time. As they came into view they beheld Grace watching for them. She held up her hand for caution. She was standing in among some bushes by the roadside.

"Be careful, or those wicked boys will see you!" she cried in a low voice. "They are back of the cottage, near the barn."

"Where is Nellie?" asked Tom.

"She is watching them."

"Have you learned anything?" asked Sam.

"Yes, indeed. We have learned that Koswell, Larkspur and Flockley were guilty of this plot against you, and that a man named Parwick aided them by getting a strange powder for them, the powder that made you dizzy and sick," were Grace's words, and they filled the Rovers with much satisfaction.