29. The Japanned Box
 

"Now to find out where Crowley Pelter lives!" said Dick.

The train carrying the three Rover boys from New York to Philadelphia was rolling into the big, smoky station. It was about two o'clock in the afternoon, and the youths had dined on the train while making the journey. They had left the offices in charge of Bob Marsh, stating that they would most likely be away for the rest of the day. At first Dick and Tom had thought to leave Sam behind, but the latter had insisted on going along. It had been a two hours' run to the Quaker City.

"Let's look at a telephone directory," suggested Tom.

"Oh, you don't want to telephone to him, do you?" queried Sam. "That might put Jesse Pelter on his guard."

"We won't telephone, we'll simply look for the address," answered his brother.

But there proved to be no Crowley Pelter in the telephone directory, so the boys had to consult a regular directory. They found that the man lived quite a distance out, in the Germantown section.

"Let's hire a taxi, and get out there as fast as we can," suggested Dick. Now that they were actually on the trail of the missing broker he was anxious to bring the pursuit to an end.

Outside the railroad station taxicabs were numerous, and the boys quickly hired one of the best of the machines and gave the driver directions where to go.

"And don't lose any time," ordered Dick.

"I'll run as fast as I dare," returned the chauffeur.

The ride to Crowley Pelter's residence took a good three-quarters of an hour. The place was a small but well-kept one on a corner.

"I guess I had better go in alone," suggested Dick. "If I need you I'll whistle or wave my handkerchief;" and then he ran up the front steps and rang the bell. A tall, angular woman, wearing large spectacles, soon answered his summons.

"Good afternoon," said Dick, politely. "Is this Mr. Crowley Pelter's residence?"

"Yes, sir."

"I believe Mr. Jesse Pelter is staying here. Can I see him?" went on Dick.

"Mr. Jesse Pelter was staying here, but he has just gone-- he went about an hour ago."

"Is that so!" cried Dick. "Can you tell me where he went to?"

"Well, I-- er-- I don't know," faltered the woman, and eyed Dick sharply.

"I have a very important message for him," Dick hastened to say. "I must see him at once."

"Oh, in that case you'll find him down at the docks. He has engaged passage on the Princess Lenida bound for Liverpool."

"And when does the Princess Lenida sail?" asked Dick, quickly.

"I don't know exactly. Either this afternoon or to-morrow morning."

"And you are sure he has gone to the steamer?"

"Oh, yes. He sent his baggage off this morning, and he said he would not be back."

"Thank you, Madam." And without another word Dick turned and left the residence.

As he did this he saw a man he knew hurrying along the street. The man stopped when he caught sight of Dick and the two boys in the taxicab.

"Why, you here, Mr. Bronson?" cried Dick.

"Hello! how in the world did you fellows get here!" exclaimed the detective the Rovers had hired but a short time before. "Are you on the trail of Pelter, too?"

"We are," answered Dick. "How did you learn he had been here?"

"Had been! Do you mean to say he has left?"

"Yes. The woman who came to the door told me he had left about an hour ago. He is going to sail on the Princess Lenida for Liverpool either this afternoon or to-morrow morning."

"Say, then we want to get after him at once!" cried the detective.

"I agree on that," answered Dick. He turned to the chauffeur. "Do you know the dock from which the Princess Lenida sails?" he questioned.

"Sure I do! I've been there many a time," answered the taxicab driver.

"Then take us there just as quickly as you can," said Dick. "Never mind the speed laws. If you are held up we will pay the fine."

"We won't be held up-- not if I show this," said the detective, and exhibited the badge pinned to his vest. Then Dick and Mr. Bronson jumped into the taxicab, and away the turnout went at top speed back to the heart of the city.

"How did you get here?" questioned Tom, of the detective while riding along.

"As I said I would, I got into communication with one of our men out West, and he went after that Barton Pelter. He got him in Dayton, and made him confess that he had sent that note to you. Then he told our man that his uncle was most likely here in Philadelphia; so I came on at once to see if I could locate the man."

"If only we can catch him before he sails!" cried Sam.

"Oh, we've got to do it!" put in Tom.

Soon the taxicab reached the crowded thoroughfares of Philadelphia. They made several turns, crossing the track of the street cars, and finally came to a halt near the river front.

"There's the dock you want," said the chauffeur, pointing with his hand.

"Is that the Princess Lenida?" questioned Dick, quickly, indicating the upper works of a steamer, which could be seen over the dock buildings.

"I think so, sir."

"Come on, then!" cried Tom. "Sam, you pay the fellow, will you?"

"All right!" was the quick reply. And then Tom and Dick hurried after Mr. Bronson, who was already entering the dock building.

Had they been alone the Rovers might have had some difficulty in gaining entrance to the dock; but the detective led the way, showing his badge; and soon the party found themselves at the gang-plank of the steamer. Here Sam rejoined them.

From the purser they learned that Jesse Pelter had engaged stateroom Number 148.

"But I can't say if he is aboard or not," said the steamer official. "You see, we are not to sail until nine o'clock to-morrow morning. There was some talk of sailing this afternoon, but we have been delayed. Do you want me to send to the stateroom for you?"

"Oh, no, we'll go there ourselves," returned the detective, quickly. "I don't want to alarm him if I can help it."

"I guess you are after him," said the purser, grimly.

"We certainly are!" answered Tom.

It was an easy matter to locate stateroom Number 148, which was on the main deck forward. The entrance was in a narrow passageway, and close at hand was a door opening on a narrow walkway between the staterooms and the ship's rail.

"Wait a moment," whispered the detective, and stepped outside. He was now close to a shuttered window of the stateroom engaged by Jesse Pelter.

From the room came a murmur of voices, and without speaking further the detective motioned for the Rover boys to join him beside the window. Although the slatted shutter was up, evidently the glass of the window had been let down its full length, for those outside could hear what was said within with ease.

"That proposition is all right as far as it goes," they heard, in Jesse Pelter's voice. "But I can't see, Haywood, where you ought to have fifty per cent. of the returns."

"I do!" answered somebody else-- evidently the man called Haywood. "I'm running all the risk, it seems to me."

"Not so very much of a risk," went on Jesse Pelter. "Sixty thousand dollars' worth of those bonds are unregistered."

"All very true. But for all you know the numbers may be advertised as stolen. If so, I may get pinched when I offer them."

"Not if you are careful and work the thing in the right kind of a way," pursued the former broker.

"Well, I'll tell you what I'll do," returned Haywood. "I'll take a third and not a dollar less. Now let us go over the bonds and check them up," he continued. And then followed a rustling of numerous papers.

"Don't you think we have heard enough?" whispered Dick, to the detective.

"All that is necessary, Mr. Rover," was the answer. "Stand close by me," the detective continued, "and be prepared to rush them the instant the door is opened."

Having thus spoken, Mr. Bronson stepped back through the passageway, and knocked sharply on the stateroom door.

"Who's there?" came in nervous tones from Jesse Pelter.

"A telegram for Mr. Pelter!" cried the detective, in a high-pitched, boyish voice.

"Oh!" came from within; and then the key was turned in the lock, and the door was opened several inches.

The next instant the detective threw his weight against the barrier, and forced it back. He leaped into the stateroom, and the three Rover boys followed him.

"Hi, what does this mean?" cried Jesse Pelter, as he was forced backward against a washstand.

"It means that your game is up, Pelter!" cried Tom.

"We've caught you just as we wanted to!" added Dick.

"And you're not going to get away either," came from Sam, as he managed to close the stateroom door and put his back against it.

Mr. Bronson had said nothing. He held the former broker with one hand, and produced a pair of handcuffs with the other. Then came a double click, and Jesse Pelter found himself handcuffed.

"See here, you let me out of this!" stormed the man named Haywood. "I haven't done anything wrong. You let me go!" And he started for the door.

"Not much! You stay where you are!" cried Tom, and gave the fellow a shove which sent him sprawling backward over a berth.

In the meanwhile Dick's quick eyes had located the japanned box partly filled with the missing bonds. Other bonds lay on the berth and on the floor. The oldest Rover boy lost no time in gathering up the precious documents, and placed them in the box.

"I tell you I want you to let me go!" spluttered Haywood. "I haven't done anything wrong!"

"See here, Grimes," broke in the detective, sternly, "you sit right where you are. I know you, and you ought to know me;" and the detective took a step forward and looked the man full in the face.

"Oliver Bronson!" murmured the man who had agreed to dispose of the stolen bonds. "How did you get onto this game?"

"You'll find out about that later, Grimes."

"Is his name Grimes?" questioned Tom.

"That's one of his names. He is also known as Haywood, and likewise Slippery Peter. He used to work in Pittsburgh and Washington; but I heard some time ago that he was trying his games on in Philadelphia."

"See here, Rover, can't we-- er-- fix this little matter up somehow?" faltered Jesse Pelter.

"We can, and we will-- in court," answered Dick, coldly.

"Oh, but see here----"

"Don't waste your breath, Pelter. We let you go on those other charges, but we are not going to let you go on this one," interrupted Dick. "This was a downright steal, and you have got to take the consequences. Mr. Bronson, what do you want to do with them?"

"One of you had better call in a policeman," returned the detective. "Then we'll take them to headquarters. I think this is quite a catch," he continued. "The authorities have been trying to fasten something on Grimes for a long while."

"Humph! You haven't fastened this on me yet," growled the sharper mentioned.

"Don't worry. You'll get what's coming to you," returned the detective.

Sam slipped out, and in a few minutes returned with a policeman. Then a call was sent in for a patrol wagon, and in this the entire party was taken to the police station. A formal charge was entered against the two criminals, and they were led away to separate cells. Then came several formalities before Dick and his brothers were allowed to take possession of the japanned box with its precious contents. The bonds were gone over with care, and it was ascertained that not one was missing.

"Oh, this is great!" cried Tom, his face beaming. "I feel like dancing a jig."

"So do I," returned Sam. "Dick, don't you think we had better send word to New York?"

"Oh, we'll take the next train back, Sam, and surprise the girls," answered the oldest brother.

"I'll remain behind in Philadelphia, and take charge of this case," said Mr. Bronson. "Now that you have your bonds back, I suppose you'll want to fix up some of those financial matters that you mentioned."

"We certainly do," answered Dick.

And after a few words more, the boys bade the detective good-bye, and hurried to take a train back to the metropolis.