Chapter XXIII. The Rescue
 

The oldest Rover boy had reached a rapid conclusion. This was that his father was not on the first floor of the house, nor in the cellar. Consequently, if he was in the building at all-- and Dick believed he was-- he must be somewhere upstairs. While the three rascals were in the sitting room he intended to make a quick investigation.

With his stick still in his hand, in case of attack, Dick reached the second floor and entered a small bed chamber. Opening from this was a second room, containing a cot. Beyond the rooms was a closet, and that was all.

"Too bad! This stairs leads only to a kitchen addition!" murmured the boy. "How can I get into the main house? Why didn't they cut a door through?"

He looked out of a window and saw the roof of a porch. At the end of the roof was another window, one of a room in the main building. Without hesitation Dick raised the sash of the window at which he stood and stepped out on the porch top. Soon he was at the other window.

It was locked, but the catch was not a strong one, and with the blade of his pocketknife he easily pushed it back. Then the sash came up and he stepped into the bedroom beyond.

The room was empty and the bed showed that it had not been used for some time. Dick crossed the apartment and opened a door leading to a wide hallway. From downstairs came a murmur of voices. The rascals were still in consultation.

Swiftly the oldest Rover boy passed from one room to another of the big house. Each was empty, and in the last he came to a halt, somewhat dismayed. Then he thought of an enclosed staircase he had noticed, leading to the next floor, and he hurried to this.

The third floor of the building was but an open garret, piled high with old furniture and discarded things generally. The two windows were covered with dirt and cobwebs, and as it was dark outside, because of the rain, Dick could see but little.

"Father!" he called softly. "Father, are you here?"

He listened and heard a tapping, coming from one end of the garret. He moved over in the direction and struck a match. Then he gave a cry, half of gladness and half of dismay.

His parent was there, bound to an upright of the garret floor. He had his hands behind him, and a towel was tied over his mouth. With deft fingers Dick unloosed the towel, and then he cut his father's bonds with his pocketknife.

"Oh, Dick! How glad I am that you have come!" gasped Anderson Rover, when he could speak. "That towel nearly smothered me!"

"Did they hurt you any, Dad?" asked the boy anxiously.

"Not so very much, Dick. We had several rough and tumble fights,-- when I tried to get away from them. But they were too many for me. Have they gone?"

"No, they are in the sitting room below, talking matters over."

"And you came here all alone?" asked Mr. Rover, stretching his cramped limbs.

"No, Tom and Sam are down in the cellar. I told them I would come upstairs and investigate."

"Good! Then we are four to three. I am glad to know that. It will make it easier to get away from them."

"Have you done anything for them-- I mean, signed any papers, or anything like that?" asked the son, anxiously.

"No. They wanted to keep me from signing certain papers that must be signed inside of two days, Dick."

"I know it."

"They also wanted me to sign other documents, and Crabtree said if I didn't do it he would leave me here to starve!"

"The rascal!" muttered Dick. "We have got to get him back to jail, that's sure! Are you sure you are well enough to go with me, Dad? "

"I-- I think so, Dick. But this has been an awful strain on me," sighed Anderson Rover.

He was very pale, and the hand he placed on Dick's shoulder trembled greatly.

"After this you must let me attend to business for you," said the son. "I am old enough to do it. You need a complete rest."

"Yes, Dick, but your college career----"

"We'll talk about those things later, Dad. First, I want to get you away from here, and in a safe place. Then we'll attend to Crabtree, Pelter and Japson," added Dick, grimly.

"The business matters have been too much for me-- I realize it now," sighed Anderson Rover. "I must take a rest-- a good, long rest. They would not have gotten the best of me if I had been stronger."

"Come," said Dick. "Don't make any noise if you can help it," he added, in a whisper.

He guided his parent, and both tiptoed their way to the second floor of the dwelling. Then they entered the bed chamber opening on the top of the porch, and so made their way down to the kitchen and then into the cellar.

"Father!" cried Sam and Tom, simultaneously, and rushed to embrace their parent.

"My boys!" murmured Anderson Rover, and the tears stood in his eyes. Never before had he realized how much they were to him.

"Come on-- no time to talk now," said Dick, in a low voice. "We'll get away from here first."

"But those rascals--" began Sam.

"We'll take care of them, Sam, never fear."

The boys led their father from the cellar and across the back yard to the barn. From the barn a lane ran to the main road. The lane had a hedge that practically hid it from the house.

"Wait here, in the barn," said Dick. "But keep out of sight."

"Where are you going?" asked Tom.

"To watch on the road for a wagon or an auto, to take us to the nearest town or railroad station."

"Going to leave those men here, Dick?"

"Not much! I thought Sam might take dad back to New York, while you and I had it out with Crabtree and the others."

"Good! I'm with you!" cried Tom.

Dick posted himself on the highway, and presently saw a covered wagon approaching, drawn by a spirited team. The driver was a young man, evidently from some nearby town.

"Going to town?" asked Dick, as he stopped the fellow.

"Yes, want a ride?" and the young man smiled.

"I don't, but another fellow, my brother, and my father, do," said Dick. "If you'll take them, we'll pay you."

"All right," was the answer. "Come right along."

"How far is it to the railroad station?" went on Dick.

"About two miles."

"Will you take 'em over?"

"Sure-- I'm going there myself."

Dick hurried back to the barn, and soon Sam and Mr. Rover were in the wagon. Before Sam left his big brother gave him some instructions in private. Then the wagon went on through the rain.

"Thank heaven! dad is safe!" murmured Tom, when the wagon had disappeared. "I hope Sam doesn't let him out of his sight until those business affairs are settled up."

"He is going to take him to the Outlook Hotel first," answered Dick. "But he is going to do more than that, Tom-- if it is possible."

"What?"

"I told him to stop in that town and send some help here-- a police official, or a constable, or some men. Crabtree has got to go back to jail, and I think we ought to have Pelter and Japson locked up, too-- although that may depend upon what father may have to say."

"Then we can't do anything until somebody gets here from town," said Tom, somewhat disappointedly.

"We can watch those rascals and listen to what they are talking about," returned Dick.

Both boys returned to the barn, to get out of the rain. Then they sneaked to the cellar of the house and up to the kitchen, and then to a little storeroom next to the dining room. From the storeroom they could catch much of the conversation coming from the three men in the dining room.

There were some matters Dick and Tom did not understand. But from what was said they learned that Japson was a distant relative of Josiah Crabtree and the two had been in several shady transactions together. Crabtree had agreed, if aided in his escape from the Plankville jail, to assist the brokers in making Anderson Rover a prisoner and keeping him such until he signed certain documents and until the time had passed when he could no longer take up the options which were so valuable to the Rovers and their friends.

"Well, I think these documents are all right," the boys heard Jesse Pelter say, presently. "Now we can turn them over to Belright Fogg and tell him to go ahead."

The boys looked at each other in amazement. Belright Fogg! The lawyer who had tried to outwit them in their claim against the railroad company because of the smashed Dartaway! Was that fellow mixed up in this game also? It looked like it.