Chapter XIX. The Search for the Schooner
 

"Anyway, we have got the name of the schooner," remarked Sam, after a moment of silence. "She's the Ellen Rodney."

"And we ought to be able to follow her somehow," added Tom.

"We must!" cried Dick. "Let us get to shore and see what we can do."

"Don't we get that dollar?" queried one of the boys who rowed the boat.

"Yes," answered Dick, and handed the money over. "Now get us to shore as quickly as possible."

"If you want to catch that schooner, why don't you go downtown after her?" asked the second boy of the rowboat.

"Just what I was thinking of doing," answered Dick. "I think we can get down there ahead of them. The only question is, Can we get anybody down there to go out after the schooner?"

"You can get a boat at the Battery, if you're willing to pay for it. Plenty of tug captains down there looking for jobs."

"Then we'll get to the Battery as fast as possible," said Tom.

The boys who had been rowing the boat were tired, so Tom and Dick took the oars, and thus the little craft was speedily brought back to the dock from which it had started.

"You can get an elevated train over there," said one of the boys, pointing with his hand. "It will take you right to the Battery."

The Rover boys lost no time in leaving the dock and crossing the railroad tracks. Then they fairly ran to the nearest station of the elevated railroad. Dick purchased the tickets and dropped them in the box. Then came a wait of several minutes on the platform.

"Train for South Ferry!" called out the guard, as a rumble was heard.

"Does that go to the Battery?" questioned Dick.

"Sure."

The boys piled on board and away swept the line of cars, on the way downtown. But it was a local train, making all the stops, so their progress was not as fast as they wished.

Here and there, through the cross streets, they caught sight of the glistening river, with its numerous craft. Once Tom thought he saw the Ellen Rodney, but at that distance he could not he sure.

At last the train swept around a curve into the Battery, as the little park at the extreme lower point of the great metropolis is called. Here were located several ferries and also some shipping offices, as well as the Aquarium. Dick almost ran to the nearest shipping office.

"I want to stop a schooner that is coming down the Hudson River," he said, to the clerk in charge. "Can I hire a boat around here to take me out?"

"Anything wrong?" asked the clerk, curiously.

"Yes, very much wrong."

"In that case, why don't you put the harbor police on the job?"

"Can I get them handy?"

"Yes, the office is up there," and the man pointed it out.

"Thanks," returned Dick, and headed for the place in question, with Tom and Sam at his heels.

An officer was in charge of the office of the harbor police and he listened with interest to what the boys had to tell.

"This is certainly a serious matter," he said, when they had finished. "Those men are actually kidnapping your father-- in fact, they have already kidnapped him. We'll have to get after them."

"You have a boat handy?"

"Yes, several of 'em."

The officer touched a bell and another man in uniform appeared. He was given some instructions, and then the second man told the Rover boys to follow him. He led the way to a dock where a steam tug lay, the smoke pouring from the funnel.

"Quick work here, Andy!" he cried, to an officer on board. "We've got to catch a schooner coming down the river-- the Ellen Rodney. Do you know her?"

"I've seen her," was the answer, from the tug officer.

"The fellows on board the schooner are kidnapping the father of these boys. I reckon it's a serious case-- a money affair," he added, in a lower tone.

"Who is the man?"

"Anderson Rover is his name. If you find him, and the boys make a charge, place all hands under arrest."

"I will."

The steam tug was fully manned, carrying a crew and several police officers. The Rover boys were told to get aboard, and the tug was headed out into the Hudson, or, as here called, the North, River.

"You don't suppose they have passed here. do you?" questioned the captain of the tug.

"I don't think so-- unless that towing tug was an extra fast one," answered Dick.

"They wouldn't dare to run too fast, with so many ferryboats crossing the river. It would be too dangerous."

The police tug swept out into the bay and then started slowly up the river, moving from one shore to the other. The police officer in charge had a pair of glasses and he used these on the various craft that came into view, and also allowed the boys to use them.

"Ought to be along soon," said Tom, after a quarter of an hour had passed. "It took us quite some time to get down here, you know."

"Maybe they didn't come down the river," suggested the officer.

"Didn't come down?" cried Sam. "What do you mean?"

"Maybe they thought you would come down here and wait for them and so changed their plans and went up the river instead."

"That's so!" exclaimed Tom. "They might do that."

"Well, if they went up the river, we ought to be able to catch them sooner or later," put in Dick.

"Let us hope so," returned the officer.

Soon they had passed up the river to a point opposite the Twenty-third Street ferries. Here a number of boats were moving up and down the stream, and from the Hoboken shore a big trans-Atlantic steamer was coming out, to start on its trip across the ocean.

"That looks like her!" cried Sam, pointing to a craft behind the trans-Atlantic steamer.

"So it does!" returned Tom.

They made a semi-circle, other boats giving way to the police tug. But when they got closer to the schooner in question, all the Rover boys uttered a cry of dismay. It was a craft similar to the Ellen Rodney, but that was all.

"Either we missed her or else the schooner went up the river," said Dick, at last.

"Looks that way," returned Tom, with a sigh.

They continued to move up the stream, scanning each shore closely. They passed numerous boats, but not one that looked like the craft they were after.

"Well, here we are, at the spot where Crabtree and Pelter got aboard," said Dick, a while later. "So, either we have missed them, or else the Ellen Rodney went up the river instead of down."

The boys were much disheartened, for they had thought that the police tug would surely locate the craft and that they would thus be able to come to their father's rescue. They scarcely knew what to do next.

"I'll go up the river a bit further, if you say so," said the police officer in charge of the tug.

"Perhaps we had better run down first and make another search on our second trip," suggested Dick. "I shouldn't like them to get out into the Bay and give us the slip."

The tug was turned back, and a little later they reached the vicinity of the Battery once more. Then began another search up the river, from shore to shore, as before. But not a trace of the schooner could be found.

"Must have gone up the river," said the police official. "We'll try it for a way and see."

This they did, the police tug moving from side to side as before.

"This is the end of it, so far as we are concerned," said the officer in charge of the tug, at last. "We don't go up the river any further than this."

"All right then," answered Dick, much disheartened. "I guess the only thing for you to do is to put us ashore."

"Sorry we couldn't find that schooner. Of course, if you'll make a regular charge against these men we'll send word up the river to be on the lookout for them."

"We'll make the charge," answered Dick.

The steam tug turned in on the New York City side and the Rover boys went ashore.

"I'll make the regular charge a little later," said Dick. "It may be that I'll have some men in the city arrested first." And then he and his brothers moved off, after receiving instructions from the police official as to what might be best to do.

"Are you going to have Japson arrested?" asked Sam.

"If I can find him. But I guess he'll keep out of sight for the present, Sam. You must remember one thing-- these rascals only want to keep dad a prisoner for three days. After that they will let him go-- and then it will be too late to save that property."

"Would that be so if we could prove that dad had been kept a prisoner?" asked Tom, with much anxiety.

"I don't know. Another thing, they may make dad sign certain papers. Don't you remember Pelter said over the telephone that he would 'make him do it'? They'll force father into something-- if they can."

"Well, what's our next move?" asked Sam, impatiently.

"As it is after noon, we had better visit a quick lunch room and get a bit to eat. Then I think we had better hire some private tug to take us up the river. I am almost certain now that the Ellen Rodney went that way."

"If she went up the river she might go all the way to Albany," said Tom.

"Possibly, but I think those rascals would be too afraid to do that. They'll leave the schooner at the first chance they get, and take father with them."

The boys did not have to walk far before they came to a small shedlike building displaying the sign, "Quick Lunch." They entered and ordered some sandwiches, pie, and coffee. While they were eating they questioned the proprietor about some craft to take them up the river.

"We are hunting for a schooner," explained Dick. "We don't know just where she is. We'll pay somebody well for finding her for us."

"I know a young fellow who owns a motor-boat," said the quick lunch man. "He could take you anywhere you'd want to go."

"Just the thing!" cried Dick, quickly. "Where is that fellow?"

"He ought to be here now-- he generally comes in about noon for sandwiches and coffee."

"I wish he would come now," murmured Sam.

After that they did not hurry their lunch, hoping the owner of the motor-boat would appear. He came in ten minutes later-- a bright, cheery individual, not much older than Dick.

"Sure I can take you anywhere along the river, if you are willing to pay for it," said he, in answer to a question from the oldest Rover boy. "Just give me time to get a mouthful and I will be with you."

"Let us take some lunch along," suggested Tom. "There is no telling how long this search will last."

"We might take a little," answered Dick. "But I don't think we'll be on the river long."

Ten minutes later the crowd was on the way to the river, to a dock where lay the motor-boat. It was not a very elegant craft, but it had a good engine and could travel well-- and that, just then, meant everything to the Rover boys. A bargain was struck for the run, and the boys and the owner got aboard. And then the search for the schooner was begun anew.