Chapter XI. Attacked from Behind
 

Lew Flapp watched Sam's departure with much anxiety. As my old readers know, he was a coward at heart, and the thought of being put under arrest for the robbery of Aaron Fairchild's shop made him quake in every limb.

"I must get out of here, I really must," he told himself, over and over again.

He shook the door violently, but it refused to budge. Then he tried to reach the catch by putting his hand through the grating, but found it was out of his reach.

"It's a regular prison cell!" he groaned. "What a fool I was to come in here!"

He tried to reach the catch by using his stick, but that was also a failure.

"Wonder if I can't find a bit of wire, or something?" he mused, and struck a match he had in his pocket.

Now it chanced that the widow who had given the new vault to the cemetery association had a horror of allowing supposed dead folks to be buried alive. As a consequence she had had the vault furnished with an electric button which opened the door from the inside. It had been stipulated that a light should be placed close to the button, but as yet this was not in place.

By the light of the match Lew Flapp saw the button, and these words over it:

To Open the Door and Ring
the Bell Push This Button.

"Good! that just suits me," he chuckled to himself, but immediately had something of a chill, thinking that the button might not yet be fixed to work.

With nervous fingers he pushed upon the object. There was a slight click, and he saw the big iron door of the vault spring ajar.

"The trick is done, and I am free!" he murmured, and sprang to the door. But here he paused again, to gaze through the grating. Sam was out of sight and not another soul could be seen. The coast was clear.

"Now good-bye to Oak Run," he muttered to himself. "I was a fool to come here in the first place, even to meet that Dan Baxter!"

In a moment more he was out of the vault and running to the rear of the cemetery as fast as his legs would carry him.

In the meantime Sam made his way as quickly as possible to a house situated at the front corner of the cemetery, where the keeper of the place resided.

A knock on the door brought the keeper's daughter. She knew Sam and smiled.

"What can I do for you, Sam?" she asked.

"Where is your father, Jennie?"

"He just went down to the village to buy a new spade."

"Oh, pshaw! that's too bad."

"What is the matter? I hope you're not going to have a funeral in your family."

"No funeral in this, Jennie. I met a thief in Oak Run and tried to have him arrested. He ran into the cemetery and hid in the new vault and I locked the door on him. Now I want your father or somebody else to help me take him to the lock-up."

"A thief! What did he steal?"

"Some jewelry. It's a long story. Do you know where I can find somebody else?"

"Jack Sooker is working over to the other end of the cemetery--cutting down an old tree. You might get him."

"Where?"

"I'll show you."

Jennie ran to get her hat. She was just putting it on when a bell began to ring in the hall of the cottage.

"Gracious me!" gasped the girl.

"What's the matter now?"

"That's the bell to the new vault."

"I don't understand."

"There is an electric button in the vault. When you push it, it unlocks the door and rings this bell. It was put there in case somebody was in the vault in a trance and came to life again."

"What!" ejaculated Sam. "Then that rascal must have pushed the button and opened the door from the inside."

"Yes."

"I'm off. He is not going to escape if I can help it." And so speaking, the youngest Rover dashed off the porch of the cottage and in the direction from whence he had come.

It did not take him long to reach the new vault and a glance through the open doorway showed him that his bird had flown.

"What a dunce I was not to think of that electric button!" he mused. "I knew Mrs. Singleton had stipulated it should be put in. She has a perfect horror of being buried alive."

Sam looked around in all directions, but could see nothing of Lew Flapp.

But not far away was a pile of loose dirt and in this he saw some fresh tracks, pointing to the rear of the cemetery.

"That's his course," he thought, and set off in that direction. He still carried the stick he had picked up and vowed that Lew Flapp should not get away so easily again.

The end of the cemetery bordered on the Swift River, a stream which has already figured in these stories of the Rover boys. It was a rocky, swift-flowing watercourse, and the bank at the end of the burying ground was fully ten feet high.

"Perhaps he crossed the river," thought the youngest Rover. "But he couldn't do that very well unless he had a boat and then he would run the risk of being dashed on the rocks."

The edge of the river reached, Sam looked around on all sides of him. Lew Flapp was still nowhere to be seen.

"I've missed him," thought Sam. "What next?"

As the youngest Rover stood meditating, a figure stole from behind some bushes which were close at hand. The figure was that of Lew Flapp, who had been on the point of turning back when he had seen Sam coming.

"He will raise an alarm as soon as he sees me," reasoned the bully. "Oh, if only I could get him out of my way!"

He gazed at the youngest Rover and when he saw how close to the water's edge Sam was standing, a sudden thought came into his mind. As silently as a wild beast stealing on its prey, he crept up to Sam.

"There! how do like that, Sam Rover!" he cried, triumphantly, and gave the youngest Rover a shove which sent him over the bank and into the rocky stream below.

Sam gave out one yell and then, with a loud splash, sank beneath the surface.

Lew Flapp gazed for a second in the direction, wondering when Sam would reappear. But then a new fear took possession of him and off he ran, this time harder than ever.

His course was along the river bank for a distance of a hundred yards, and then he came out on a road leading to a small place called Hacknack.

"To Hacknack!" he muttered, after reading a signboard. "That's the place I'm looking for. One mile, eh? Well, I had better lose no time in getting there."

The bully was a fair walker and now fear lent speed to his limbs, and in less than fifteen minutes he reached the hamlet named. He gazed around and presently located a small cottage standing near the edge of a sandpit.

"That must be the cottage," he told himself, and walking to it he rapped on the door four times in succession and then four times again.

There was a stir within and then an old woman, bent with age and with a wicked look in her sharp, yellowish eyes, came to answer his summons.

"Is this Mother Matterson's place?" he asked.

"Yes, I'm Mother Matterson," squeaked the old woman. "Who are you and what do you want?"

"My name is Lew Flapp. I'm looking for a fellow called Si Silvers," he added, for that was the name Dan Baxter had assumed for the time being.

"It's all right, old woman; tell him to come in," said a voice from inside the cottage, and Lew Flapp entered the house. Immediately the old woman closed the door after him and barred it.