Chapter XVIII. On the Hudson River
 

When the boys returned to the Outlook Hotel they found several letters awaiting them. There was one each from the girls and also a communication from Songbird, written partly in verse, and telling of matters at Brill.

But the letter that interested them most just then was one from their Uncle Randolph, in which he explained something of the financial matters mentioned in the telegram. Their uncle was not a good business man, and often got his statements mixed, but from the communication the boys learned the truth.

There were two matters of importance-- the irrigation scheme and the purchase of a large tract of land which would be benefited by the flow of water, when the irrigation plant was put into operation. In both of the schemes the Rovers held large interests-- that is, they held what were called options, for which Anderson Rover had put up large sums of money, and he had likewise induced some friends to let him put up money for them. In order to clinch their hold on the two business propositions Anderson Rover must sign certain papers and have them delivered to the right parties inside of the next three days. Should he fail to do this, then his options on the property would terminate, and Pelter, Japson & Company would be able to step in and gain control. The brokers had at first tried to gain control by getting Anderson Rover to assign his interest in the options, but this the boys' father had refused to do.

"And now that father wouldn't turn the control over to them, they have had him kidnapped, so that he can't sign those papers and serve them," said Dick. "The case is as plain as day."

"And they got old Crabtree to manage the kidnapping," put in Tom.

"But how did they know about Crabtree?" asked Sam.

"Most likely he has been mixed up in some of their shady transactions of the past," replied Dick. "When he got in jail, he sent for Japson and made him fix it up so he could escape. That fire helped the rascals. Then both came down to New York, and all hands hatched the plot to put dad out of the way."

"Poor dad! If only we knew he was safe!" murmured Tom.

"That's just it-- he may be suffering terribly!" added Sam.

"I think we'll find out something definite to-morrow-- when we follow Pelter," said Dick. He, too, was greatly worried.

The evening proved a long one to the boys, even though they spent some time in penning letters to the girls and to the folks at home. Dick had received a most sympathetic letter from Dora, in which the girl stated that she wished she was with him to help him.

"Dear Dora!" he murmured, as he placed the letter in his pocket. "I wish all this trouble was over, and we could be married and go off on our honeymoon!"

The boys had found out from the hotel clerk how to reach the address in the Bronx, as the upper portion of New York city is locally called. They could take a subway train to within two blocks of Pelter's home.

They were up bright and early, and after a hasty breakfast went out to a nearby store, where all purchased variously-colored caps of the automobile variety, and also some automobile goggles.

"We'll pass for chauffeurs in a crowd," said Dick. "The goggles will change our appearance, even if we only wear 'em on our foreheads."

They were soon on a subway train and being whirled northward. The train was an express, making but few stops, and almost before they knew it, the guard called out their station.

Dick had consulted a street map at the hotel, so he knew exactly how to turn. They easily located the apartment house in which Jesse Pelter resided, and then stopped at a nearby corner to await his appearance.

"We have got to be very careful how we follow him," said Dick. "If he spots us, it will be all up with us. I think Sam had better go first. I will follow, and Tom, you can bring up the rear. And let us all act as if we were perfect strangers to each other."

Then came a wait of nearly half an hour. At last they saw the front door of the apartment open and several men came out. Two of the men turned in one direction and the other man hurried off alone.

"There he is-- there's Pelter!" cried Dick, in a low voice. "Now, Sam, see to it that he doesn't get out of your sight."

"I'll do my best," answered the youngest Rover, and walked off after the broker.

As Jesse Pelter hurried along he consulted his watch. Then he hastened his steps, making his way to the nearest railroad station. He boarded a train, and the boys followed, Sam getting in the same car with the broker and Dick and Tom entering the next car, but keeping in sight of their brother.

A number of stations were passed and then the broker left the train and the boys did likewise. On the street Jesse Pelter called a cab that was handy and entered it.

"Say, this looks as if we might lose him!" cried Dick, in alarm. Then he chanced to see another cab, and hurried to it, waving for Tom and Sam to do the same. He ordered the driver to keep the first turnout in sight, but not to get too close.

"I can do that with ease," said the driver, with a broad grin. "It's Jerry Dillon's cab, and Jerry's horse is no good at all."

The two cabs rolled on for several blocks, and then the first turned in the direction of the Hudson River. It halted near the railroad, and Jesse Pelter sprang to the ground. He paid the driver of the cab and dismissed him. Then he hurried along the railroad on foot.

"I guess he is going up to the dock yonder," Said Tom, while the boys got out.

"Looks like it," answered Dick.

All left the cab and hurried after Jesse Pelter, who was now all but out of sight. He passed between two buildings and the boys followed him slowly.

"Wait!" cried Dick presently. "Look!"

"Why, it's Crabtree!" exclaimed Sam, as another figure came into view-- that of a heavily-bearded man with a slouch hat.

"Exactly," returned Dick. "Now keep back, or we may spoil everything," he continued, cautiously.

The three boys saw Pelter and Josiah Crabtree converse earnestly for several minutes. The man who had escaped from jail pointed to a big bundle he carried and Pelter nodded. Then both walked slowly across the railroad tracks to a dock jutting out into the Hudson.

At the dock lay a rowboat, with a man who looked like a sailor at the oars. Pelter and Crabtree climbed down into the boat, which was quickly shoved away. Then the sailor took up the oars and commenced to row out into the broad river.

"Now we are stumped!" murmured Tom, as he and his brothers watched the departure of the rowboat from behind a shed at the inner end of the dock.

"Let us watch that rowboat as far as we can," returned Dick. "I don't believe they intend to row very far."

"Maybe they are going to one of the vessels anchored out yonder," remarked Sam.

"More than likely."

The sailor was pulling up the stream, close to the shore, and the brothers could watch him with ease. The tide was running out and the oarsman had all he could do to make any headway.

"If he is going to keep to the shore, we might follow him on foot," suggested Tom, after several minutes had passed, and while the rowboat was still clearly in view.

"He is turning out now!" cried Dick. "See, I think he is making for yonder two-masted schooner."

The rowboat had turned out and in a few minutes more the boys felt certain it was headed for the schooner.

"Oh, if we only had a rowboat!" groaned Tom.

Dick did not reply. He was watching a steam tug that had come up the river. A line had been thrown from the tug to the schooner and made fast.

"The steam tug is going to tow her down the river!" exclaimed Sam. "Oh, Dick, what shall we do?"

"Dad may be on that schooner!" supplemented Tom.

Dick gazed up and down the stream. A rowboat was coming along, manned by two boys. Dick gave the lads a hail.

"Hi! want to earn a dollar quick?" he asked.

"How?" questioned both lads, in a breath.

"See that schooner? We want to get on board of her as quickly as possible."

"All right-- but let us see the dollar first," answered one of the lads, shrewdly.

The rowboat came to the dock and the three Rovers leaped on board. Dick produced a dollar bill, and the boys commenced to row with all the power at their command.

In the meantime the first rowboat had reached the schooner's side and the men and the sailor had gone on hoard. The boat was tied fast to the stern and orders were given to the captain of the tug to go ahead.

"Stop! stop! You rascals!" cried Tom, as the schooner commenced to move down the Hudson. And in his anger he shook his fist at those on the vessel.

At first the actions of the boys attracted no attention. Then there was a stir on the rear deck of the craft.

"Somebody in a rowboat, calling to you," remarked the captain of the schooner, to Josiah Crabtree.

"To me?" exclaimed the former teacher, in surprise. "I will see about this."

He hurried to the stern of the schooner. The rowboat with the Rovers had now come quite close. Josiah Crabtree gave a start.

"Can it be possible?" he gasped.

"What is it?" asked Jesse Pelter, who had stepped up.

"Those young men in yonder boat! Unless I am mistaken they are Anderson Rover's sons!"

"Is it possible!" ejaculated the broker. "Oh, there must be some mistake."

"No, no! I know them well! And see, they are motioning to us! They want us to stop!"

"They must have seen and followed us!" said the broker, and his manner showed his sudden fear.

"Want to take those fellows on board?" questioned the captain of the schooner.

"No! no!" cried Josiah Crabtree. "Tell the captain of the tug to hurry up! That we er-- that we must make better time!"

"I will, sir," said the captain of the schooner, and hurried forward to give the necessary order.

A big steamboat was passing up the river and the wash from this sent the rowboat containing the Rover boys dancing up and down. The lads at the oars headed the craft to meet the rollers, and the schooner passed further and further away.

"They are leaving us!" groaned Sam. "Oh, what luck!"

"Mr. Rover!" yelled Dick, at the top of his lungs. "Are you on board? Rover! Anderson Rover! It's Dick! Dick!"

For fully a minute no answer came back. Then there was a commotion on the deck of the schooner and a man appeared, clad in a torn suit of clothing and hatless.

"Dick! Where are you?" was the exclamation, and the man rushed to the stern of the craft. "Dick! And Tom and Sam! Help me!"

"It's father!" yelled Dick. "Stop that schooner! Stop her, I say!"

"Get back there!" exclaimed Josiah Crabtree, catching Mr. Rover by the arm. "Get back, I say! Help me, somebody! This man is crazy!"

He and Jesse Pelter hustled Anderson Rover back, and then the boys saw their father disappear from view. Swiftly the tug and the schooner gathered headway. The boys shouted in vain. They looked around for some other boat to come to their aid, but none was in sight. Then the schooner passed down the Hudson River and the Rover boys were left in the rowboat, gazing at each other in dismay.