Chapter XXV. What Happened to Tom
 

Tom glanced up, to see the white face of Jesse Pelter peering down upon him.

"You had better let us out of this!" cried the broker, hoarsely.

"You stay where you are-- if you know, what is best for you!" returned Tom.

"Is he dead?" went on the broker, referring to Crabtree.

"I don't know."

The youth ran up to the former school teacher and turned him over. As he did this Josiah Crabtree gave a gasp and a groan and opened his eyes.

"Oh! Oh! what a-- a fa-- fall!"

"If you hadn't tried to get away it wouldn't have happened," returned Tom, briefly. He could have but little sympathy for such a hardened rascal.

Josiah Crabtree sat up and then tried to get to his feet. There was a cut on his forehead from which the blood was flowing.

"Oh! oh!" cried the man and put his hand to his left leg. It was twisted under him in a peculiar fashion. To get up on it was impossible, and Crabtree fell back with a cry of pain and fright.

"My leg! It is broken! Oh, what shall I do? Rover, please help me!" And the former teacher turned a look of genuine misery on Tom.

"Let me examine it," said the boy, in a more kindly tone. He approached the man and felt of the injured limb. By the way it was doubled up Tom felt certain it must be broken, perhaps in two places.

"I don't know what I can do," said Tom. "I guess you need a doctor. I'll carry you to the barn, if you say so-- or into the house."

"Can't you-- you----" began Josiah Crabtree, and then another look of pain crossed his face and he fainted.

Alarmed, Tom picked up the tall, thin form and carried the man into the house, for it was still raining, although not as hard as before. He placed Crabtree on an old couch in the sitting room and, getting some water, laid a wet cloth over his bruised and swelling forehead. Knowing but little about broken limbs, he did not attempt to do anything for the broken leg but placed that member out in a somewhat straight position. He called up to Dick and told his brother of what had happened.

"Keep the other fellows up there, Tom!" yelled back the big brother. "Don't let 'em get away!"

At this Tom ran out of the house once more. With the fall of Crabtree had come the greater portion of the blanket-rope. Pelter had disappeared from the window, and evidently he and Japson were in consultation.

"See here, Rover, we want to talk to you!" called out the broker, reappearing at the window a minute later. "Call your brothers."

"What do you want?"

"We want to fix matters up with you."

"You can do that after you are in jail."

"You'll gain nothing by having us arrested."

"That remains to be seen."

"We have got the upper hand in those deals with your father and if you have us locked up we won't let go-- no matter what happens," put in Japson.

"We'll make you let go," returned Tom, with determination. "You fellows have reached the end of your string, and the sooner you realize it the better it will be for you."

"Bah! Do you think we'll give up the things we have fought so hard to get? Not much!"

While Japson was speaking Pelter had stepped back into the garret. Now he came again to the window, at the same time whispering to his companion.

"Hello, Dixon!" he called, as if to somebody behind Tom.

As was but natural, the youth below turned quickly, thinking some friend of the broker's had appeared. The moment Tom turned, Pelter hurled something down at him. It was an old wooden footstool, and it struck the youth squarely on the head. Down went poor Tom in the grass, senseless.

"Now is our time!" exclaimed Pelter. "Quick, with that other rope!"

A second rope, also made from sections of a blanket-- but stronger than the first-- was produced. As the lower end struck the ground, Pelter commenced to slide down, closely followed by his partner. Evidently they were both willing to risk their lives in an effort to escape. The thought of going to jail filled them with grim terror.

Reaching the ground, neither of the men hesitated an instant over what to do next. The man who owned the place knew it thoroughly, and he turned in the direction of the barn, and his partner went after him. They crossed a back lot, and then, coming to a side road, took to that, running as fast as their wind and strength permitted.

In the meantime Dick, hearing Crabtree groaning, came down in the sitting room to look at the sufferer. The man was still flat on his back.

"Oh, my leg!" he groaned. "Oh my leg! Can't you get a doctor?"

"Perhaps,-- later on," answered Dick.

"Oh, Rover, I never thought I would come to this!" whined the criminal. "Oh, the pain!"

"We'll do what we can for you, Crabtree. You had better lie still for the present."

Dick listened in the hallway. As nobody seemed to be at the garret stairway, he ran outside, to learn how Tom was faring.

"Tom! Tom! What happened to you?" he cried, in horror, when he beheld his brother on the ground. Then he saw the footstool and a cut on Tom's head and understood what had occurred. The dangling rope told the rest of the story.

"They have gotten away!" he groaned. "And after all our efforts to hold them prisoners until help came! Too bad!"

He wanted to go after the brokers, but just now his concern was entirely for his brother.

He turned Tom over and then ran for some water. When he returned Tom was just opening his eyes.

"Dick! Some-- something hi-- hit me!" gasped the hurt one.

"They threw that wooden footstool at you, Tom. I'm afraid you're badly hurt."

"Am I? I-- I feel mighty queer," returned Tom, and then he closed his eyes again.

Dick was now more alarmed than ever. He carried his brother to the dining room, and laid him on some chairs, with a doubled-up blanket from a bed for a pillow. He washed Tom's head and bound it up as best he could. Once or twice the injured youth opened his eyes for an instant, but he did not make a sound.

"It was a fearful blow,-- it must have been!" thought Dick. "I hope they didn't crack his skull!"

Josiah Crabtree was still groaning in the next room, but Dick paid little attention to the man. Nor did he think of the rascals who had escaped. All his thoughts were centered on Tom.

"If I only knew where to get a doctor," he mused. Then he ran out of the house by the front door and looked up and down the road.

A carriage was approaching, containing three men. As it drew closer Dick saw that one of the men wore a shining badge on his coat and carried a policeman's club.

"Want me here?" he cried, on catching sight of the youth.

"Are you a policeman?"

"I am."

"Then come right in."

The policeman and the other two men followed Dick into the house. The youth took them first to where Josiah Crabtree lay.

"There is a man who escaped from the jail at Plankville. He tried to get out of a garret window and had a fall. I guess his leg is broken."

"If that's the case, he won't need much watching from me," replied the policeman, grimly.

"The other two rascals who were with him got away, after hitting my brother with a footstool and hurting him quite badly. Here he is. Can I get a doctor anywhere around here?"

"Doctor Martin lives up the road about half a mile," said the man who had driven the carriage.

"Will you get him for me, just as soon as you can?"

"I will," said the man, and went off at once after the physician.

While he was gone Dick told his story to the policeman and the other man, who was a local constable. Both listened with interest, and said they would make a hunt for Pelter and Japson.

"They may go back to New York," said Dick. "If they do, telephone down there to have them arrested." And he gave the address of the brokers' offices.

It was about half an hour later when Doctor Martin, and elderly physician, arrived. Dick escorted him at once to where Tom lay, still in a semi-conscious state.

"A bad case, I am afraid," said the doctor, after a brief examination. "His skull may be fractured. We had better get him to the hospital at once!"