Chapter XXIV. From a Garret Window
 

"This is getting interesting!" whispered Tom.

"I should say so," murmured Dick.

"That must have been what was bringing Belright Fogg down to New York City."

"It looks like it."

"Well, if he is mixed up in this he can get pinched with the rest of the rascals."

"Right you are."

After that the boys listened to more of the talk between the brokers and Josiah Crabtree. From what was said it was easy to guess that the plotters expected to make quite a large sum of money out of their evil doings.

"But you have got to get Rover's signatures to those papers," said Jesse Pelter.

"We'll do it!" cried Josiah Crabtree. "Even if we have to starve him into it."

"I hope those boys didn't come after the schooner," muttered Japson.

"I reckon Captain Rodney will know how to throw 'em off the scent," returned Crabtree.

"We were lucky to find that automobile at the tavern," went on Pelter.

Some more talk followed and then Japson exclaimed:

"Why can't we make Rover sign those papers now? Maybe we can scare him into it."

"We might try," answered his partner, slowly.

The men arose and Japson lit a lantern, for he knew it was dark in the garret. Then, one behind the other, they filed out into the hallway and went upstairs.

"They are going to find out something pretty soon!" chuckled Tom.

"Come on, let us follow 'em, Tom," answered his brother. "I've got a new idea."

"What is it?"

"Perhaps we can lock 'em in that garret until help arrives."

"Just the cheese, Dick! I remember there was a lock on the door,-- and maybe we can fasten it in some other way, too-- so they can't break out."

"They can't get out by the windows-- they are too high from the ground."

By this time the three men were mounting the garret stairs. They had to pass around a pile of furniture to get to where Anderson Rover had been kept a prisoner.

"Quick now!" cried Dick, as the men disappeared from view. He closed the garret door and turned the key in the lock. "Get a chair or two, Tom, so we can wedge the door fast."

Tom understood, and ran into a nearby room, to bring out a square table. The stairway to the garret ran from a right angle of the wall, so that the table could be stood up against the door, with the bottom of the four legs against the wall opposite. Some books chanced to be handy, and the lads were able to place these against the wall under the feet of the table legs, thus wedging the door fast.

"Now I reckon they'll have their own job getting out!" cried Tom, grimly.

"Go to a front window and watch the road," ordered his big brother. "If you see any help coming, call them."

Tom at once departed, to station himself at the window of one of the front bed chambers. By this time a clattering of feet could be heard on the garret stairs.

"He has locked the door on us!" came a cry in Jesse Pelter's voice.

"How did he get free?" asked Japson. "I thought we tied him good."

"He cut the ropes!" cried Josiah Crabtree. "But how he got hold of his knife to do it, I can't guess."

Dick had to smile to himself. Evidently the rascals thought his father had liberated himself and turned the tables on them.

"Hi, Rover! Are you out there?" called Jesse Pelter. "If you are you had better unlock that door."

To this call Dick did not answer.

"He must have run away!" exclaimed Japson. "Break the door down! We must catch him!"

"That's the talk!" added Josiah Crabtree, in great excitement.

"Touch the door at your peril!" cried Dick, sharply. "I am armed and I will stand no nonsense!"

"Who is that?" asked Japson.

"That wasn't Rover's voice," added his partner.

"I think I know who that is," answered Josiah Crabtree, and his voice commenced to tremble. "Dick Rover, is that you?" he called, faintly.

"Yes. Don't you dare to touch that door, Crabtree," replied Dick.

"Is it Dick Rover?" questioned Pelter.

"Yes."

"Anderson Rover's oldest son? The one who was in the rowboat with the others?"

"Yes."

"Then we have been followed after all!" shouted Japson, hoarsely. "We have been trapped!"

"You've hit the nail on the head," called out Dick. "Now, don't touch that door, or it will be the worse for you."

"Is he alone?" whispered Pelter.

"No, I am not alone!" answered Dick. "Hi, Tom, am I alone?" he called.

"Not much!" answered Tom. "We are all on deck here, and all armed. You just sit still and suck your thumbs until the officers come," he added, dryly.

"The officers!" shrieked Josiah Crabtree, and was so overcome that he sank down on one of the steps of the stairs.

"See here, Dick Rover," said Jesse Pelter, after a pause. "Let us see if we can't-- er-- patch this up somehow."

"You can do your patching-up after you are in jail, Mr. Pelter."

"If you have me arrested, boy, you will be sorry for it!" growled the broker.

"We can ruin your family, and disgrace your father," added Japson. "Better let us go and fix this up without the police."

"No, I am going to have you locked up," replied Dick, determinedly. "As to what charge will be brought against you, I'll have to consult my father about that first."

"You lock us up and you'll get nothing out of us!" growled Japson. "We can ruin your family, and we'll do it!"

"Can't we get out another way?" asked Josiah Crabtree, in a whisper.

"I don't think so," said the owner of the house. "We can go up and look around."

All returned to the garret floor and walked to one window and the other. The distance to the ground was all of twenty-five feet, too far for any of them to risk a drop.

"We might make a rope of these old blankets," suggested Jesse Pelter. "Talk to Rover at the door while I try it."

His partner went back to the door, while the others commenced to make a rope by tearing a blanket into strips and tying the ends together. The back window was raised and the rope lowered.

"Nobody in sight!" cried Crabtree, looking down. "Oh, I trust we can get away from them!" He saw a term in prison staring him in the face.

"Don't lose any time!" cried Japson. "Here, tie the end fast to that old bed. Now let me get out!"

"I'll go first!" cried Josiah Crabtree, and shoved the broker aside. With trembling hands he grasped the improvised rope and slipped out of the window.

In the meantime Dick commenced to suspect that all was not right and called to Tom.

"Go below and outside and look at those windows," he said. "If they try to drop, shy some stones at 'em!"

"I will!" answered Tom, and ran down the stairs three steps at a time. He looked up at the front of the house but saw nothing unusual. Then he dashed to the rear.

"Hi! stop!" he called out, as he saw Josiah Crabtree dangling just under the garret window. "Get back there, or I'll fire at you!" And looking around, Tom saw a sharp stone and picked it up.

As he did this there was a sudden tearing sound, and the blanket-rope parted at the point where it passed over the window sill. Josiah Crabtree uttered a wild yell of terror and clutched vainly at the sill and the clapboards under it. Then he came tumbling to the ground, doubling up in a heap as he did so. Tom expected him to arise and run, but he lay still where he had fallen.

"He's hurt, seriously hurt!" muttered the youth. "Maybe he's killed!"