26. In Which The Girls Arrive
 

Both of the Rover boys stared blankly at the visitor. His announcement had come very much like a clap of thunder out of a clear sky. For the moment neither of them knew what to say.

"I am sorry you did not know about this," pursued Mallin Aronson, when he saw by their looks how much they were disturbed. "Perhaps your dear father was taken sick so quickly that he did not have a chance to explain the situation."

"He hasn't been well for a long while, but I thought he had turned over all his business affairs to us," answered Dick. "It is queer that we have no record of this Sharon Valley Land Company investment," he added, turning to Tom.

"Have you gone over all the papers, Dick?" questioned the brother, quickly.

"The most of them. That is, all that I thought were of any importance. There are a great number that I haven't had time to look at yet. You know how numerous father's investments are."

"If you have no record of the transaction here, can you not ask your father about it?" questioned Mr. Aronson, smoothly.

"He is too sick to be disturbed, Mr. Aronson," answered Dick.

"Well, if you care to do so, you can stop at my office and look over the account there," went on the visitor.

"And you say this twenty thousand dollars has got to be paid a week from to- day?" asked Tom.

"Yes, Mr. Rover. The management will grant no extension of time."

"Supposing it isn't paid?" questioned Dick.

At this suggestion Mallin Aronson shrugged his shoulders and put up his hands.

"I am sorry, but you know how some of these land company people are," he returned. "This money must be paid in order to clear the land. If it is not cleared the company has the right to sell your father's interest to others. As I said before, he has paid fifteen thousand dollars. What his interest would bring if sold to somebody else, I do not know."

"Probably not very much," returned Dick, quickly. "Probably some of the land company people would buy it in for a song," he added, bitterly.

"Well, Mr. Rover, that is not my affair," and Mr. Aronson shrugged his shoulders. "I came in only to serve you notice that the twenty thousand dollars will have to be paid one week from to-day."

"Where are your offices, Mr. Aronson?"

"You will find my address on the card," was the answer. "If you wish any more information, I shall be pleased to give it to you;" and then the visitor bowed himself out.

It was a great blow, and the two youths felt it keenly. Ever since the loss of the sixty-four thousand dollars in bonds they had been struggling with might and main to cover one obligation after another. To do this had taxed about every resource that Dick could think of aside from borrowing from friends without putting up any security-- something the youth shrank from doing.

"Say, Dick, this is fierce!" exclaimed Tom. "What are we going to do about it?"

"I don't know yet," was the slow reply. can't understand why father didn't mention this investment to me."

"He must have felt so sick that he forgot all about it. You don't imagine that there is anything wrong about it?"

"Oh, no! I guess it is all straight enough. Aronson must know that he couldn't get any such money out of us unless everything was as straight as a string."

"Perhaps Mr. Powell could get the twenty thousand dollars for us."

"Maybe he could. But that isn't the point, Tom. I told you before that we want to 'stand on our own bottom.' Besides, it isn't a fair thing to ask any one to put up money like that without offering good security."

"But we don't want to lose the fifteen thousand dollars that father has already invested."

"I know that, too. It's a miserable affair all around, isn't it?" And Dick sighed deeply.

When Sam came back from his errand he brought news that under ordinary circumstances would have interested his brothers very much.

"I was coming through Union Square Park when whom should I see on one of the benches but Josiah Crabtree!" he exclaimed.

"Crabtree!" cried Tom. "Then he must be out of the hospital at last! How did he look?"

"He looked very pale and thin, and he had a pair of crutches with him," answered Sam. "I didn't see him walk, but I suppose he must limp pretty badly, or he wouldn't have had the crutches."

"Did you speak to him?" questioned Dick.

"No. At first I thought I would do so, but he looked so down-and-out that I didn't have the heart to say anything and perhaps make him feel worse."

"Do you suppose he has any money?" asked Tom.

"He didn't look as if he had. But you never can tell with such fellows as Crabtree-- he was a good deal of a miser."

"What a misspent life his has been!" was Dick's comment. "I am mighty glad that he didn't get the chance to marry Mrs. Stanhope."

"Right you are, Dick!" returned Tom. "He'd make a hard kind of a father-in-law to swallow!"

It did not take long for Dick and Tom to acquaint Sam with the new money problem that confronted them, and the youngest Rover became equally worried over the situation.

"I think we had better write to Uncle Randolph and see if he can find out a little about this land company affair from father without, of course, worrying him too much," suggested Dick. "There may be some loophole out of this trouble-- although I am afraid there isn't."

"All right, we'll do it," said Tom, and the letter was written at once, and sent to Dexter's Corners with a special delivery stamp attached.

On the following afternoon when Tom and Sam got back to the hotel, a surprise awaited them. Going up to the suite occupied by Dick and Dora, the brothers found themselves confronted by Nellie and Grace.

"Oh, Tom!" was all Nellie could say. And then coming straight forward she threw herself into his arms and burst into tears.

"Now-- now, don't go on this way, Nellie," he stammered, not knowing what to say. "It's all right. They've got the ring and you are cleared. What's the use of crying about it now?"

"Oh, but-- but I can't help it!" sobbed the girl. "You don't know how I have suffered! I couldn't sleep nights, or anything! Oh, Tom! it was grand-- the way you got that gardener to confess;" and she clung to him tighter than ever.

"And to think he put the ring in the inkwell!" cried Grace. "What a ridiculous thing to do!"

"He must have done it on the spur of the moment," said Sam. "But say, I'm mighty glad that affair is cleared up!" he added, his face beaming.

Then all of the young folks sat down, and the story had to be told once more in all of its details.

"I just had to come on! I couldn't stay home after I got the telegram and the letter," explained Nellie, "so I sent a telegram to Dora."

"We planned to surprise you," put in Grace.

"And it is a surprise, and a nice one," returned Sam. Soon Dick, who had been somewhat detained, came in, and then there was more excitement.

"Well, what about accommodations for the girls?" asked Dick, who never forgot the practical side of matters.

"Oh, that is all arranged, Dick," answered his wife. "I have a room for them, and as your wife I am to be their chaperon;" and she smiled brightly as she passed her hand over his forehead. "Poor boy, with so much to do!" she added, affectionately.

It was a happy gathering, and for the time being the Rover boys did their best to forget their troubles. They had a somewhat elaborate dinner, and then Tom and Sam took the newcomers out for a walk up "The Great White Way." Dick said he would remain at the hotel with his wife, as he wanted to write some letters.

"Might as well let them have their fling," he said, after the others had departed. "That's the way we wanted it before we were married;" and he gave his wife a hug and a kiss.

Of course the girls from Cedarville had a great deal to tell, and Tom and Sam had a great deal to relate in return. The two couples strolled on and on, and it was near eleven o'clock before they returned to the Outlook Hotel.

"And so you are going to be a real business man, are you, Tom?" said Nellie, during the course of the walk.

"I am going to try to be, Nellie," he answered. "Of course it is something of a job for a fellow who is full of fun to settle down. I need help." And he looked at her wistfully.

"Oh, Tom, if you would only settle your mind----"

"There's no use in talking, Nellie, I won't be able to settle down in the really-and-truly fashion until I am married," retorted the fun-loving Rover. "You have got to be the one to settle me."

"Tom Rover, if you talk like that I'll box your ears!"

"All right, anything you say goes, Nellie. Only tell me, aren't we going to be married some time this Fall or Winter?"

"Tom!"

"Well, aren't we?"

"Oh, maybe. But you come on! We are out for a walk, and here we are standing stock-still in the middle of the sidewalk with folks all around us. Come on! If you don't come I will leave you;" and Nellie started on, dragging Tom with her.