Chapter IX. A Chase on the Bowery
 

Tom's threat to have Tad Sobber arrested caused the former bully of the school to pause and turn pale.

"You--er--you don't mean that," he faltered. "You can't have me arrested."

"We'll see about that, Sobber."

"I haven't done anything wrong."

"Then why did you run away from Putnam Hall?"

"I had a right to leave. Captain Putnam wasn't treating me fairly."

"You ran away on account of that snake affair--you can't deny it."

"Humph!"

"That snake nearly killed Nick Pell. He isn't over it yet, altogether."

"Bah! It wasn't the snake made Nick sick. He wasn't feeling well some days before the snake bit him."

"It was the snake and nothing else put him in bed," answered Tom warmly. "And that is not all. You are in league with your uncle, who robbed my uncle of those traction company bonds."

"I--er--I don't know anything about that matter," answered Sobber, hastily.

"Well, I know all about it. You were with your uncle when he got away from us, and when he dropped the pocketbook containing the bonds."

"Did you get the bonds back?" asked Sobber, with sudden interest. It may be added here that Sid Merrick had gone back long after the chase to look for the pocketbook, but, of course, had been unable to get any trace of it.

"We did."

"My uncle didn't steal them. Your uncle put them in his hands to sell," went on Tad Sobber, with sudden boldness. "It is all a cooked up story about his running away with them. And it's a cooked up story about his having anything to do with those freight thieves. My uncle is an honest man."

"I know all about the freight affair, for I overheard him talking to some of the other thieves," answered Tom. "Where is your uncle now?"

"Do you think I'd be fool enough to tell you?"

"Perhaps you might--if I had you locked up."

"My uncle is a good long way from New York."

"I heard you tell that man your uncle would be in the city to-morrow."

"I didn't say any such thing!" burst out Sobber, but his manner showed that he was very much disturbed.

"You did say it. Where are you stopping?"

"Nowhere--I only got in a few hours ago."

"Did you come here to meet Cuffer?"

"What do you know about Cuffer?"

"I know your uncle hired him and a man named Shelley to visit our farm and get some things belonging to my father."

"Why, you're crazy! My uncle hardly knows Cuffer--and I never heard of a man named Shelley."

"I am not crazy, and you know I am speaking the truth," answered Tom, calmly. "Now you tell me where your uncle is or I'll have you arrested."

"You'll not arrest me!" exclaimed Tad Sobber, and with a sudden movement he twisted himself free from Tom's grasp. "You follow me and you'll get the worst of it!" he added, and darted across the park at top speed.

Tom made after the bully, but as luck would have it a nurse girl with a baby carriage got between them and before Tom could clear himself of the carriage Sobber was a good distance away. He turned to the eastward, down a side street where a large building was in the course of erection. He looked back and then skipped into the unfinished building.

"He shan't catch me," he muttered to himself, and ran to the rear of the building, amid piles of bricks and concrete blocks. A number of workmen were present, but nobody noticed him.

Reaching the building Tom peered inside, but saw nothing of the bully. He was about to go in when a warning cry reached him from overhead.

"Get back there, unless you want to be hurt!"

Tom looked up and saw a workman in the act of throwing down a mass of rubbish, broken bricks, sticks and old mortar. He leaped back and the stuff descended in front of him and raised a cloud of dust.

"What do you want here, young man?" demanded the superintendent of the building as he came forward.

"I am after a boy who just ran in here."

"Nobody here that I saw."

"He just came in."

"We don't allow skylarking around here. You make yourself scarce," and the superintendent waved Tom away.

"I want to have that fellow arrested--that is why he ran away from me."

"Oh, that's a different thing. Go find him, if you can."

The superintendent stepped aside and Tom entered the building. But the delay had cost him dear, for in the meanwhile Tad Sobber had made good his escape by running back to the next street. Tom looked around for over quarter of an hour and then gave up the chase.

"It's too bad, but it can't be helped," he mused. "I may as well go back to the park and wait for Dick and Sam. I hope they caught that Cuffer."

While Tom was talking to Sobber the other Rover boys had followed Cuffer to the elevated railroad station. A train was just coming in and Cuffer bounded up the steps two at a time, with the boys not far behind.

"Stop that man!" cried Dick, to the crowd coming from the train. But before anybody would or could act, Cuffer had slipped past the man at the ticket box and was trying to board one of the cars. Dick essayed to follow, but the ticket box guard stopped him.

"Not to fast, young fellow. Where's your ticket?"

"I must catch that man--he is wanted by the police," answered Dick.

"That's an old dodge, but it don't work with me, see? You go back and get a ticket," said the gateman, firmly.

"But he'll get away from me," pleaded the eldest Rover.

"If he does, it's not my fault. You can't pass here without a ticket."

By this time the train was almost ready to start. But Sam had procured tickets and he rushed up.

"There are two tickets!" he cried. "Come on, Dick!" and he sprinted for the train.

The guard was closing the platform gate, but they managed to squeeze through. The train was crowded with people going home from their day's work and in the jam they could see nothing of Cuffer.

"But he is on board," said Dick.

"I know it," returned his brother, "and we must find him. Quick, you go to the front and I'll go to the rear. If you locate him, tell the trainman you want him arrested at the next station."

Without another word the brothers separated and each tried to work his way to an end of the train, which was composed of five cars. This was by no means easy, for the crowd was in no humor to be jostled or have its toes stepped upon.

"Look where you are going!" cried one stout man to Sam. "Stop pushing me!" And then as the youngest Rover dodged out of his way he ran his ear into the big feather on a young lady clerk's immense hat. The girl glared at him and murmured something under her breath, which was far from complimentary. By the time he had reached the front end of the car half a dozen passengers were his enemies.

Dick had gone to the rear and as he entered the last car he saw Cuffer crouching down in a seat near the door. The train was stopping at another station, and quick as a flash the fellow arose in the seat, shot between Dick and a man with several bundles, and forced his way out on the platform. Dick tried to follow, but was caught fast by several men.

"Here, don't be acting in such a rowdy fashion!" cried one man, in great irritation.

"You knocked my bundle from my hand!" added another. "It's a shame the way some roughs act on these trains. The authorities ought to have them arrested," he went on in a loud voice.

"What's the trouble in there?" demanded a policeman, who was on the station platform in the crowd.

"This young fellow is too fresh," explained the man who had dropped his bundle.

"I want to get off, that's all," said Dick.

"Well, you behave yourself," growled the guardian of the peace, and Dick was glad enough to get away with this reprimand. He saw Cuffer running for the stairs and made after him as rapidly as the density of the crowd permitted.

When Dick gained the street once more the train bearing Sam was again on its way downtown. Cuffer was about a block away, running past Cooper Institute in the direction of the Bowery.

"I may as well keep up the chase and try to run him down," thought Dick, but he wished his brother was with him.

At this time of day the Bowery, always a busy thoroughfare, was swarming with people, and the numerous "barkers" for the clothing stores, photograph establishments, and the like, were doing their best to make trade come to them. As Dick hurried past one clothing establishment a short, stocky Jew stepped in front of him.

"Von't you step inside, young chentleman? I sell you some gloding cheap as dirt."

"I don't want any clothing," answered Dick, briefly.

"I vos mof next veek, und I sell you a suit for next to nodding," persisted the clothing dealer.

"I don't want to buy anything," said Dick, and tried to push past the man. The fellow caught him by the arm.

"If you vill only look at dose peautiful suits vot I haf for twelf dollar--"

The Jew got no further, for with a strong push Dick sent him staggering among the dummies in front of his store. He tried to recover his balance, but could not, and over he went, bringing down two of the dummies on top of him.

"Serves you right," flung back Dick, as he ran on. "The next time you'll know enough to leave me alone."

"Isaac! Moses! Sthop dot young mans!" bawled the clothing dealer, as he scrambled to his feet. "He has ruined two peautiful dummies, mit fine suits on! Sthop him!"

"Not to day!" muttered Dick, and dodged into the crowd. Then, seeing that Cuffer had crossed the street, he did the same, and continued the pursuit on that side.

But to follow anybody long in a crowd on the Bowery is not easy, and after six blocks had been passed Dick came to a halt on a corner in bewilderment. He had seen Cuffer last on that corner, but where the rascal had gone was a question.

"Want a paper?" asked an urchin close by. "Evening papers!"

"Say, kid, did you see a man run past here just now?" asked Dick.

"Sure I did."

"Where did he go?"

"Wot will yer give me if I tell yer?" asked the newsboy shrewdly.

"Five cents."

"All right, hand over de nickel."

"Here it is," and Dick showed the money in his hand. "Now where was it?"

"He went in de Sunrise Hotel, down dare. I watched him run in."

"What kind of a hat did he have on?"

"A soft hat wid a big knock in one side."

"And you are sure he went in that hotel?"

"Cross me heart, mister. I watched him, cos he was out o' breath, an' I knowed he was up to som't'in'."

"Here is your money," answered Dick, and passed the nickel over. Then he walked to the hotel and paused on the sidewalk to look the place over before entering.