Chapter XXVI. Dick Takes the Reins
 

It was long after dark before an ambulance could be brought to the old house. Tom was still unconscious, in fact he had not even opened his eyes for the past half hour. Dick's heart was filled with fear. Was it possible that his brother, so full of fun and high spirits, was so badly hurt that he was going to die?

"No! no! Not that!" groaned poor Dick, and sent up an earnest prayer to heaven that Tom might be spared.

The doctor had said that Josiah Crabtree's leg was broken in two places, above and below the knee. The physician had done what he could for the sufferer, and Crabtree was to be removed to the hospital after Tom was taken there.

Neither the policeman nor the constable had come back to the house, so Dick did not know whether or not the brokers had been captured. To tell the truth, he hardly thought of the men, so anxious was he concerning Tom's condition.

"Can I go to the hospital with you?" he asked, when they were about to take Tom away.

"If you wish, Mr. Rover," said the ambulance doctor. "Hop up on the seat with the driver." And Dick did so.

It was a drive of several miles and during that time Dick said but little. Once Tom roused up, to murmur something about his head, but that was all.

As soon as the hospital was reached, Tom was placed in a private room, Dick asking for such accommodations.

"Do your best for my brother," said he, to those in attendance. "Don't let money stand in the way. I'll see that all bills are paid."

"We'll have the best doctor we can get for your brother," answered the physician in attendance, and then he sent for a specialist.

After that there was nothing to do but to wait. Dick went down to the office and called up the Outlook Hotel in New York by telephone. He found that Sam had just arrived there with his father, and told his younger brother of what had occurred.

"Don't worry father too much about it," said he. "Maybe it will all come out right in the end-- anyway I hope so." And then he told Sam to get the police to watch the offices of Pelter, Japson & Company, and also look out for Belright Fogg.

Before the specialist arrived to care for Tom, the ambulance came back with Josiah Crabtree. The former teacher of Putnam Hall showed his cowardly nature by groaning dismally every time he was moved. He was placed in a public ward, and those in attendance were told that he was an escaped prisoner and must not be allowed to get away again, under any circumstances.

"He won't try it himself for a good many weeks," said one of the doctors, grimly. "Those breaks are had ones. He'll be lucky if he gets over them."

At last the specialist came and took charge of Tom. For over an hour Dick waited for a report on his brother's condition. When the specialist came to the youth he looked unusually grave.

"Your brother's case is a peculiar one, Mr. Rover;" said he. "I do not find any crack in the skull. But he has received a great shock, and what the outcome of that will be I cannot say."

"You don't think he will-- will die?" faltered Dick, hardly able to frame the words.

"Hardly as bad as that, Mr. Rover. But the shock has been a heavy one, and he will need close attention for some time. I will come in again to-morrow morning and see him."

"Well, do your best," said Dick, brokenly,

"I always do that," answered Doctor Garrison, gravely.

There were no accommodations for Dick at the hospital, so he found a room at a hotel several blocks away. From the hotel he sent another telephone message to Sam, telling him what the specialist had said. Then he asked Sam if he would come up.

"If you'll do that I can go down and help father," he added.

"All right-- I'll come up to-night or first thing in the morning," said Sam.

It was eight o'clock in the morning when the youngest Rover boy appeared. He was as anxious as Dick concerning Tom, and both waited for the specialist to appear and report. Tom had regained consciousness for a few minutes, but that was all.

"He is no worse," reported Doctor Garrison. "I hope to see him improved by this afternoon. I will call again about three o'clock." And then he left directions with the nurse as to what should be done.

"This is terrible, Dick!" murmured Sam, when the brothers were alone, in the room at the hotel. "Poor Tom! I can't bear to see him lay as he does!"

"I feel the same way, Sam," answered Dick. "But I think I ought to go down to New York and help father with his business affairs. He isn't well enough to do anything alone."

"That's true, Dick; and this news about Tom has upset him worse than ever."

A little later they separated, Sam promising to send word both to New York city and to Valley View farm as soon as there was any change in Tom's condition. Dick hurried to the railroad station and a little later got a train that took him to the Grand Central Depot.

The youth found his father at the rooms in the Outlook Hotel, he having promised to remain there until Sam returned, or Dick arrived. Mr. Rover looked much careworn, and Dick realized more than ever that his parent was in no physical or mental condition to transact business.

"You ought to return to the farm and rest, Father," said he, kindly.

"I must fix up these papers first, Dick," was the answer. "But tell me about poor Tom! Oh, to think that those villains should strike him down that way!"

"They are desperate and will stop at nothing now," answered the son.

Then he told as much as he could about his stricken brother. Anderson Rover shook his head sadly.

"I am afraid he will never get over it, Dick!" he groaned.

"Let us hope for the best, Father," answered the son, as bravely as he could.

Then he questioned his father about the investments in the Sunset Irrigation Company and in the lands out west, and soon the pair were going over the matters carefully.

"I think we need the services of a first-class lawyer-- one we can trust absolutely," said Dick.

"But where can you find such a lawyer?" asked the father.

"Oh, there must be plenty of them." Dick thought for a moment. "One of my best chums at Putnam Hall and at Brill was John Powell-- Songbird. You know him. He has an uncle here, Frank Powell, who is a lawyer. The family are well-connected. Perhaps this Frank Powell may be the very man we need. I can call him up on the telephone and find out."

"Do as you think best, Dick," sighed Mr. Rover. "From now on I shall leave these business matters in your hands. I realize that I am too feeble to attend to them properly."

Dick lost no time in communication with Mr. Frank A. A. Powell, as his name appeared in the telephone book. When the youth explained who he was the lawyer said he would be glad to meet the Rovers. His office was not far from the Outlook Hotel, and he said he would call at once, Dick explaining that his father was not feeling very well.

Mr. Powell's coming inspired Dick with immediate confidence. He was a clean-cut man, with a shrewd manner but a look of absolute honesty.

"My nephew has often spoken of you," he said, shaking hands with Dick. "I shall be pleased to do what I can for you."

"It's a complicated case," answered Dick. "My father can tell you about it first, and then I'll tell you what I know, and show you all our papers."

A talk lasting over an hour followed. The lawyer asked many questions, and studied the various documents with interest.

"From what I can make out, Mr. Rover, that concern-- Pelter, Japson & Company-- are a set of swindlers," said he, at last. "If I were you I'd close down on them at once, and with the heaviest possible hand. To give them any leeway at all might be fatal to your interests."

"Do as you think best,-- with Dick's advice," returned Mr. Rover. "I am going to leave my business affairs in his hands after this," he added.

"Then we'll go ahead at once!" cried the lawyer. "I will draw up the necessary papers and you can sign them. We'll get after that whole bunch hot-footed!"

"And don't spare them," added Dick, thinking of poor Tom. "They deserve all that is coming to them."

"And they'll get it," said the lawyer, briefly.