Chapter VI. An Unexpected Meeting
 

As just related, the boys had brought the Spray as closely inshore as possible. All were now in the cabin, Dick and Tom attending to Sam's wants; and consequently no one noticed the passage of one of the palatial steamers that make daily trips between New York and the capital of the State.

These steamers, in running so fast, cast out long rollers on both sides that go tumbling shoreward one after another. The rollers now caught the Spray and sent her dancing up and down like a cork.

"Hullo, we're in danger!" shouted Tom, and rushed for the deck, with Dick almost at his heels. The anchor was dragging, and unless pushed off the yacht would soon be pounding on the rocks,

"I'll put up the sail!" roared Dick. "You bring up the anchor!"

"I guess you had better pole her off," replied Tom. Nevertheless, he did as Dick requested, working like a beaver.

The wind was still faint, and when the mainsail was hoisted it failed to fill. Seeing this, Dick seized a pole and Tom did the same. They speedily found that they could not send the yacht out any distance. But, with a pole at the bow and another at the stern, they managed to keep her off the rocks until the rollers began to go down. Then they shoved off with ease and moved slowly up the river.

"I'll tell you what, in handling a boat you have got to have your weather eye open all the time," observed Tom.

"Yes, and you want to have it open on all sides of you," smiled Dick. "If you don't, you'll catch it before you are aware."

Sam lay on one of the tiny berths with which the Spray was provided. His face was deathly white, and, to use his own words, he felt "as weak as a rag."

"I'm just beginning to realize how close to death I was," he whispered to Tom. "It was awfully good of you and Dick to do what you did."

"Pooh! you would do just as much for us, Sam," answered the fun-loving brother. But, just the same, he gave Sam's hand a tight squeeze on the quiet.

"What was that thumping, Tom?" asked the younger brother a bit later.

"The rollers from a big steamer nearly put us on the rocks."

"Gracious, more perils! Don't you think we had better give up our outing on the water?"

"It will come to an end in a few days, Sam. We'll make the trip to Albany, and that will be the last of it."

It was nightfall by the time they came up to the capital city. Getting the necessary permission to tie up at one of the private wharves, they locked up the cabin of the Spray and went ashore.

"Tom Rover, as I live! And Dick and Sam, too!"

The cry came from up the street, and soon a boy of Dick's age was running to meet them. It was Frank Harrington, their old school chum and room-mate of Dormitory No. 6.

"Frank!" came from the three, and a general handshaking followed.

"What brings you here?" asked Dick.

"Why, don't you know, my folks moved up to Albany from New York -- father's in the State Senate now, you know," returned Frank, with pride.

"Oh, that's so -- and you are a senator's son," put in Tom. "I guess we'll have to tip our hats to you after this and call you Mr. Harrington."

"Stow it, Tom, and keep your jokes until school opens," interrupted Frank. "Yes, we live here, and I thought you knew all about it. I sent you a letter."

"We've been away from home for several weeks," explained Dick, and told of their outing on the water.

"It must be jolly. My father owns a boat, but we seldom use it. So you are going to stay in Albany over tomorrow? If that's the case you must come up to our house. I won't hear of your going to a hotel."

"Will that arrangement suit your folks?" questioned Dick.

"Oh, yes! The girls are all away -- down to Asbury Park -- and so is mother; and father and I and the servants have the whole mansion to ourselves. I can tell you, it's just a bit lonely at times, and I'm real glad you came," concluded Frank.

"If your father is a senator perhaps you can get us a pass through the Capitol building," put in Sam.

"You won't need a pass. I'll go with you. But, Sam, you look sick."

Sam's tale had to be told to Frank, who, meanwhile, led the way to a street car. Boarding this, the boys soon reached the Harrington mansion, located on one of Albany's finest thoroughfares. Here they met Senator Harrington and were speedily introduced.

"I've heard of you before," smiled the senator. He was a pleasant-looking man of forty-five. "Frank says the Rover boys were the whole school -- or something like that."

At this there was a laugh. "I guess he must have been one of the Rovers, then," rejoined Tom; "he was just as good as any of us." And then there was another laugh, and the newcomers felt perfectly at home.

There was a concert company in town, and, receiving permission from his father to do so, Frank took his friends to see the performance. The singing was very good; and, despite the fact that it was still warm weather, the concert hall was packed.

The program was a long one, and, with the numerous encores, did not come to an end until nearly eleven o'clock.

"That was immense," remarked Tom, when they were coming out. "I wish I could sing like that tenor."

"We ought to get up a quartet at the Hall," put in Frank. "I understand they had a singing club year before last."

"We're going to have a banjo club," said Dick.

"Larry Colby wrote to me about it. He has a new banjo that cost fifteen dollars, and he..." Dick broke off short as a slouchy-looking man brushed against him. The eyes of the man and the boy met, and then the man disappeared in the crowd as if by magic.

"Well, I never!"

"What's the matter, Dick?" came from all the others.

"Didn't you see him?"

"See who?"

"Buddy Girk the tramp thief, the fellow who used to train with Dan Baxter's father."

"What, the fellow who stole your watch and broke jail at Rootville?" came from Tom.

"The same."

"Where is he now?" questioned Sara.

"I don't know. The instant he saw me he skipped."

"I'll wager he wasn't in the crowd for any good purpose," went on Dick, as he remembered how he had suffered the loss of his timepiece at Buddy Girk's hands. Dick had had a good deal of trouble in recovering the article.

"He ought to be pointed out to the police," put in Frank. "It's not safe to have such men at large."

"I wish I could collar him and make him talk about father's affairs," grumbled Tom.

"Why, did he know anything of your father's affairs?" exclaimed Frank Harrington, in astonishment.

"I think so. You see, Arnold Baxter tried to defraud my father out of some western mining property, and this Buddy Girk was mixed up in the affair -- how, I don't exactly know."

"I see. By the way, Tom, have you heard anything of your father yet?"

"Not a word," and Tom's face grew sober. "It does beat all what has become of him, doesn't it?" he added.

"I should think you would want to go and hunt him up."

"We've talked about that already, but Uncle Randolph, who is our guardian, thinks it would prove a wild-goose chase. He says the interior of Africa is a big place to hunt any man in."

"He's right there. But still I would want to hunt for him, even if I had to go into the very jungles to do it."

"We'll go some day -- unless father turns up," put in Dick decidedly. "If Uncle Randolph won't go, we'll go alone. But I would like to meet this Buddy Girk," he continued, after a brief pause.

The boys had to walk to the corner of the block to get aboard of a street car, and while waiting there, somewhat in the shadow, Sam pulled Dick by the coat sleeve.

"There he goes!"

"Who?"

"Buddy Girk. See him sneaking along the buildings over there?" and the youngest Rover pointed with his hand.

All saw the figure, and Tom at once proposed that they follow the fellow. Frank was willing, and away they went across the street and also into the gloom.

Buddy Girk was making good time past a number of business buildings which at this hour of the night were locked and barred up and practically deserted.

"I wonder if he saw us start to follow him?" whispered Dick, after several blocks had been passed.

"I don't think so. If he had, it's more than likely that he would have legged it to get away. He -- hullo, he's going into that alleyway!"

As Tom spoke he pointed to an opening between two tall office buildings. Reaching the spot they saw, at the foot of the alleyway, a couple of tenement houses. Buddy Girk was ascending the steps of one of the houses, and presently he disappeared within the dark hall.

"He must be stopping here," remarked Sam.

"That is something worth knowing -- if we want to put the police on his track."

"I might have him arrested at once," suggested Dick. "He may not be here in the morning."

"Why don't you go and have a talk with him?" came from Frank. "He may get scared and tell you all you want to know about that mining business."

"By jinks, there is something in that!" cried Dick.

"Don't you get into trouble," warned Tom. "He may prove an ugly customer if you corner him."

"Let's all go in," said Sam. "He won't dare to do much with four against him."

The subject was discussed for a few minutes, and they resolved to follow Sam's advice, Dick to lead the way and learn just how the land lay.

Then all walked down the alleyway and toward the tenement, little dreaming of the surprise in store for them.