Adelia Applegate's Compliment 7 глава





"That seems queer," remarked Frank. "If Jackley had been in here within the past month you'd think his footprints would still show. By the appearance of this dust, there hasn't been any one in the tower for at least a year."

"Perhaps the dust collects more quickly than we think. It may have covered his footprints over even within a couple of weeks."

An inspection of the ground floor revealed the fact that there was no place where the loot could have been hidden, save under the stairs, and there was nothing in that place of concealment. Accordingly, the Hardy boys ascended to the next floor, finding themselves in a room as drab and bare as the one they had just left, Here again the dust lay heavy and the murky windows were thick with cobwebs. There was an atmosphere of age and decay about the entire place. It seemed to have been abandoned for years.

"Nothing here," said Frank, after a quick glance around. '' On we go."

They made their way up to the next floor, after again poking about under the stairs, but again without success.

The next room was a duplicate of the first. It was bare and cheerless, deep in dust. There was not the slightest sign of a hiding place, Much less was there any indication that another human being had been in the tower for years.

"Doesn't look very promising, Joe. Still, he may have gone right to the top of the tower."

So the search continued, until at last the Hardy boys had reached the top of the tower* Here they emerged into the open air, coming through a trapdoor that led through the roof from the upper room. They were now standing on a platform, and far below them lay the city of Bayport. To the east was Barmet Bay, the waters sparkling in the sun.

The platform was quite bare. The stone walls gave no opportunity of a hiding place. Their search had been in vain.

"We were fooled, I guess," Frank admitted, "There hasn't been any one in this tower for years. I knew it as soon as I saw there were no footprints."

The boys gazed moodily down over the city, and then down over the grounds of Tower Mansion. The roofs of the mansion itself were far below, and directly across from them rose the heavy bulk of the new tower.

"Do you think he might have meant the new tower?" exclaimed Joe suddenly.

"Dad said he specified the old one."

"But he may have been mistaken. In the darkness and everything, perhaps he didn't know the difference.''

"That's possible, too. It's certain that he didn't hide anything in this tower, at any rate. Although why he should say 'the old tower' - "

"Let's ask Mr. Applegate if we can search the new tower, too."

"What a fine chance we have! He'll get over us now in real earnest when we go back and tell him we didn't find anything. He'll say "I told you so', and if we try to get into the new tower he'll just laugh at us."

"It's worth trying, anyway. We can tell him the whole story about Jackley. That ought to convince him."

Disappointed, the Hardy boys descended through the trapdoor, and then made their way down through the tower until at last they were in the long gloomy hallway again. Their clothes were covered with dust and their hands and faces were grimy. Slowly, they trudged back into the main part of the mansion again, and there they met Adelia Applegate, who popped out of a doorway as they were passing and cackled with delight.

"So these are the fine boys who were going to find the stolen stuff for us, eh!" she exclaimed, in her cracked voice, "So these are the boys who were so sure it was hidden in the old tower! Well, well! And they didn't find anything after all!"

"I'm afraid we didn't, Miss Applegate," Frank answered, with a smile. "But if you and Mr. Applegate will let us tell our story I think we can convince you that we really thought the stuff was hidden there. Even now we believe it is hidden somewhere in the mansion-probably in the new tower."

''In the new tower!" she sniffed. "Absurd! I suppose you'll want to go poking through there now."

"If it wouldn't be too much trouble."

"It would be too much trouble, indeed!" she shrilled. "I shan't have any boys rummaging all through my house on a wild-goose chase like this. You'd better leave right away, and forget all this nonsense."

Her voice had attracted the attention of Hurd Applegate, who came hobbling out of his study at that moment.

"Now what's the matter?" he demanded. Then, seeing the boys, his face became creased In a triumphant smile.

"Ah, ha! So you didn't find anything after all! Heh! Heh!" he began to chuckle, immensely pleased with himself. "I told you

 

CHAPTER XVIII

The New Tower

 

"They have the audacity to want to go looking through the new tower now," said Miss Applegate, in high indignation.

Hurd Applegate's smile vanished.

"You can't do anything of the sort!" he snapped. "Are you boys trying to make a fool out of me? I knew mighty well you wouldn't find anything in the old tower."

"And we were pretty sure we would," answered Frank. "Listen, Mr. Applegate-we'll be fair with you. We'll tell you exactly why we wanted to make this search."

"Go ahead and tell me. Why didn't you tell me before?"

"Because we wanted to work this out ourselves, as far as possible. But the information we had came from the man who stole the jewels and the bonds."

"What! Has he been caught?"

"He was captured-but he will never come to trial."

"Is he escape again?"

"He escaped-by death. The thief is dead."

"Dead? What happened?" asked Hurd Applegate excitedly.

"His name was Red Jackley, and he was a notorious criminal. He was tracked down by our father, and when he tried to escape on a railroad hand-car he got into a smash-up, and he was fatally injured. But before he died, he admitted robbing Tower Mansion.

"He admitted it? He confessed?"

"He confessed everything."

"I don't believe it," sniffed Adelia Applegate. "Nothing will ever convince me that it wasn't that rascal Robinson."

"Jackley confessed the whole business," Frank persisted. "And on his deathbed he said that he hadn't been able to get away with the loot. That he had hidden it."

"Where?"

"In the old tower."

"And it isn't there?"

"Joe and I have just searched the place high and low. The stuff isn't there. And from the fact that there are no footprints or marks of any kind in the dust, I don't think any one has been in the place for a long time."

"The old tower has been closed for years."

"So we thought," Joe interjected, "that he might have been mistaken and that he had really hidden the stuff in the new tower instead."

Hurd Applegate rubbed his chin meditatively. His manner toward the boys had undergone a change, and it was evident that he was impressed by their story.

"So this fellow confessed to the robbery.

"He admitted everything. He was a man who once worked around Bayport and he knew this locality pretty well. He had been hanging around the city for some days before the robbery."

"Well," said Applegate slowly, "if he says he hid the stuff in the old tower and it isn't there, he must have meant the new tower, just as you say."

"Will you let us search it?"

"I'll do more than that. I'll help you. I'm just as anxious to get the jewels and bonds back as anybody."

"All nonsense!" declared Adelia Applegate. "It's all a pack of falsehoods. I don't believe a word of it."

"Now, now, Adelia," said her brother soothingly, "these boys may be right after all. It Won't hurt to take a look around, at any rate."

"And much you'll find, I'm sure! I declare, Hurd Applegate, you're just as bad as those boys are."

"Maybe, maybe," he answered. '''But going to help them search the new tower, anyway."

"Don't ask me to brush the dust off your clothes when you come back, then. For that all you'll get is Dust. Nothing more. The jewels and bonds are no more in the new tower than they are back in the safe right now."

"All right, Adelia. Perhaps you're right, But it won't hurt to make a search, anyway, Come on, boys."

"With that, Hurd Applegate led the way down the hall and opened the door leading to a corridor that extended toward the new tower. Frank and Joe, tingling with excitement, followed.

Although the new tower had been built just a few years back and although its rooms had been furnished, it had been seldom occupied;, save on the rare occasions when the Applegates had visitors from the city. The new caretaker, employed to replace Robinson, was a lazy and slovenly fellow, who did not bother to extend his duties to the tower, knowing that the Applegates seldom went near that part of the mansion and realizing that any laxity in his duties in that respect would scarcely be discovered. It came as a surprise to Hurd Apple-gate, then, to find out that the new tower was dusty, that the windows had not been cleaned, that there were cobwebs on the ceilings.

In the first room they found nothing, although they rummaged about in all the corners. Looked beneath the table, behind the chairs- looked everywhere, in fact. Not until they were quite satisfied that the loot had not been hidden there, did they ascend the stairs to the mext room, and there again their search was fruitless.

Hurd Applegate, being a quick-tempered man, fell back into his old mood. The boys' story had convinced him, and he had been even more certain than they that the stolen bonds and jewels would indeed be found in the new tower. But when two of the tower rooms had been thoroughly searched without success, his disappointment increased.

"Don't believe there was anything in that yarn, after all," he muttered, as they went up the stairs to the third room.

"I don't see why he should lie about it, after he confessed," remarked Frank thoughtfully. "Dad told us that he admitted not being able to get away with the stuff."

"Then where did he hide it?" demanded Applegate. "If he wasn't lying, the stuff must be around here some place."

"Perhaps he hid it a little more carefully than we imagine," put in Joe.

"Haven't we hunted carefully enough!" Hurd Applegate snapped.

In the third room their search was again in vain. They even inspected the window ledges and tapped the floors and ceiling in the faint hope of finding some secret cupboard that was unknown to them.

But the loot was not found.

When at last they emerged through the trapdoor in the roof, out on top of the new tower, and found it to be bare and empty, Applegate could not disguise his chagrin.

"Wild-goose chase!" he snorted. "Adelia was right. I've been made a fool of."

"You don't think we would make up a story like that, do you, Mr. Applegate?" Frank asked,

"I don't see any reason why you should. But there's something wrong somewhere. I've wasted half a morning poking around through this confounded tower-all for nothing."

"So have we."

"If that fellow did hide the stuff in one of the towers, some one else must have come along and got it. That's the only way I can figure it out. He had some one working with him. Or else Robinson found the stuff-That's more likely! Probably Robinson found the loot right after the robbery and kept it for himself."

"I don't think he would do that. He isn't that kind of man," Joe objected.

"I Wouldn't put it past him for a minute.

From where did he get that nine hundred dollars, then?

Explain that. He can't. He won't tell."

As they descended the stairs and went back into the main part of the mansion, Hurd Applegate elaborated on this theory. The fact that the loot had not been found in the face of Red Jackley's story, seemed to strengthen his Conviction that Robinson had something to do with the affair.

"Either Robinson found the stuff and kept it, or else he was in league with Jackley!" said Applegate. "He's mixed up in it some way. I'm sure of that."

 

The boys could say nothing. They realized that the theory was probable, although in their hearts they found it hard to believe that their chum's father could have had anything to do with the theft. They were deeply puzzled and tremendously disappointed, for they had been practically certain that the loot would be found, Now they saw that the only consequence of the Whole affair was to involve Mr. Robinson more deeply than ever in the mystery.

Back in the hallway they endured the taunts of Adelia Applegate, who cackled jubilantly when she saw that the searching party had returned empty handed.

"There now!" she crowed, "Who's right? Didn't I tell you it was all nonsense?"

Hurd Applegate, you've simply been made a fool of by these two boys." "Now, Adelia, I think they meant well - " "Meant well! Of course they meant well! And what did it gain you? They have prowled through the place all morning and all the good that's come of it is that perhaps you won't be so ready to believe the next cock-and-bull story some one tells you. Go back to your stamps, Hurd Applegate, and let it be a lesson to you, As for you boys, you should be ashamed of yourselves, disturbing folks like this!"

Whereupon she escorted the Hardy boys to the door, while Hurd Applegate, muttering sadly, went back to his study with a puzzled air.

 

CHAPTER IX

The Mystery Deepens

 

Fenton hardy was dumbfounded when his sons returned to him with the news that the loot had been found in neither the old tower nor the new. So implicitly had he believed in the dying confession of Red Jackley that he had not even bothered to join in the search, preferring to let his sons have the satisfaction of recovering the stolen goods that he was positive were hidden in the old tower.

"And you're sure you searched the place thoroughly?" he asked, for the third time.

"Every inch of it. There was nothing in the old tower. No one had been there in weeks," answered Frank.

"How could you tell ?"

"By the dust. It hadn't been disturbed, there wasn't a footprint of any kind."

"But you searched anyway."

"We went through the tower from top to bottom," Frank replied. "It wasn't any use, no one had been there. So then we thought Jackley might have been mistaken and that he had left the stuff in the other tower."

"And Applegate let you search that as well?" and Fenton Hardy's eyes twinkled.

"Not until we had told him our reasons. We told him about Jackley, and then he became enthusiastic and even helped us in the search, But we didn't find anything."

"Strange," muttered the detective. I know Jackley wasn't lying. He had nothing to gain by deceiving me. Absolutely nothing. He was in real earnest if ever a man was. 'I hid it in the old tower.' Those were his words. he would have told more if he had been alive And what could he mean but the old tower of Tower Mansion? Why should he be so careful to say the old tower. Every one knows the mansion has two towers, the old and the new.'"

"Of course, it may be that we didn't search thoroughly enough," Joe said. "The stuff may be hidden in the flooring or behind the walls."

"That's the only solution I can think of," replied Fenton Hardy. "I'm not satisfied yet that the loot isn't there. I'm going to get in touch with Applegate and ask permission for a real, thorough search of both towers. It's to his interest as well as mine."

"Applegate thinks possibly Jackley hid the stuff all right but that Robinson found it and took it," said Frank "He hinted that he was of the opinion that Robinson was in league with the thief."

"It does look rather bad," Mr. Hardy admitted. "One couldn't blame Applegate very much for thinking Robinson found the stuff after it was hidden and made away with it."

"Robinson wouldn't do that!" cried Joe. "He's too honest."

"I don't think he would do it, either. But sometimes, if a man is in need of money and temptation is placed in his way, he gives in. I'd hate to believe that of Robinson, but if that stuff isn't found in the tower I'll have to admit that it looks very much as if he were mixed up in it."

The interview with their father left the Hardy boys feeling far from cheerful, for they saw that Mr. Robinson was now more deeply Involved in the affair than before. On the face of it, circumstances seemed to be against the caretaker.

"Just the same," said Frank, as the boys left the house and went down the street, "I 'don't believe Jackley ever hid the stuff in the tower. If he had ever so much as opened the tower door he would have left some marks in the dust and we would have seen them. So I don't believe Robinson came along later and got the loot"

"As we saw it, the dust in the tower wasn't disturbed in weeks. Why, there was even rust on the door-knob, when Mr. Applegate led us in."

"'Then, why should Jackley say he hid the stuff there?" exclaimed Frank, puzzled.

"Don't ask me, I'm just as much in the dark as you are."

When the boys reached the business section of the city they found that already Jackley's confession had become common property. People were discussing the deathbed confession on the street corners and newsboys were busy selling copies of papers in which the story of the criminal's last statement was featured on the front page under black headlines.

Policeman Con Riley was ambling along Main Street in the morning sunshine, swinging his club with the air of a man without a care in the world. When he saw the boys he frowned, for there was no love lost between Hardys and the Bayport police department.

"Well," he grunted, "I hear you got Stuff back."

"I wish we had," said Frank.

"What?" said the constable, brightening up at once. "You didn't get it? I thought it said in the paper this morning that this fellow Jackley told where he had hidden it."

"He did."

"And you can't find it! Ho! Ho!" Con Riley indulged in a hearty laugh. "What a fine detective your father is! Didn't Jackley say the stuff was hidden in the old tower! "What more does he want?"

"Our father didn't search for the stuff," retorted Frank. ""We did. And it wasn't there. Jackley must have made a mistake."

"It wasn't there?" exclaimed Riley, in high light. "That's a good one. That's the best i'Ve heard in years." He chuckled exceedingly, and slapped his knee. "Jackley put a good one over on your father that time. Ho! Ho! Ho! The stuff wasn't there!"

Riley wiped the tears from his eyes and went on his way, trying to laugh and at the same time retain his dignity as an officer of the law. The joke, he decided, was too good to keep, so as he proceeded back toward the police station, there to notify Chief Collig and Detective Smuff with the tale, he buttonholed various passers-by and poured the story into their willing ears. It was not long before the yarn had spread throughout the city with that swiftness peculiar to stories spread by word of mouth, and in the telling the story was exaggerated, the net effect being that Fenton Hardy was made to look ridiculous by believing a false confession.

Highly colored accounts of the boys' search of the old tower quickly spread, and throughout the day they were subjected to many caustic and sarcastic inquiries on the part of friends and acquaintances alike. They took all these remarks in good part, although they did not enjoy their sudden prominence.

"Never mind," said Frank, "we'll show them yet."

"I hope they find that stuff when they search the towers again," added Joe. "Then the people will have to eat crow. It'll be our turn to laugh."

"Yes," agreed Frank; "but just now our laughter seems to be in a far - distant future."

When they returned home they found that Fenton Hardy had been busy in the meantime and had convinced Hurd Applegate that a thorough search of the towers would be advisable. True, he had not accomplished this without a great deal of opposition on the part of Adelia and without misgivings on the part of Hurd Applegate himself, who had by that time come to the conclusion that Robinson had indeed been mixed up in the affair all along.

In this conviction he was sustained by Chief Collig, who had paid a call at the Applegate home as soon as Collig had told him of the vain search of the towers.

"The chief says Robinson is behind it, and I'm beginnin' to think he's right," said Applegate.

"But how about the confession!" Mr. Hardy asked.

"The chief says that's all a blind. Jackley did it to protect Robinson. They were both, working together."

"I know it looks bad for Robinson, but I don't think it would hurt to give the towers another thorough search. I was the one who heard Jackley make the confession and I don't believe he was lying. I believe he was trying to tell me all he knew."

"Maybe. Maybe. I think he was too smart for you, Mr. Hardy, and everybody else thinks so too. It was all a hoax."

"I'll believe that after I've searched the towers inside and out."

"Well, go ahead. Go as far as you like. But I don't think you'll find that treasure."

"With that, Mr. Hardy was content. He made preparations for a search of the towers, although Adelia Applegate flatly declared that the detective was making a laughing-stock of her and her brother and that if the nonsense continued she would leave Tower Mansion forever and carry out her often - expressed intention of going to one of the South Sea Islands as a missionary.

In spite of the protestations of the worthy lady, however, the search was carried out. The tower was visited first, and for the greater part of the following morning the place was searched from top to bottom. Even the floors were torn up in places in the quest for some secret hiding place in which Jackley might have left the loot.

But although Fenton Hardy, accompanied by the boys and Hurd Applegate, who soon became infected with the dogged enthusiasm of the others and lent every assistance in his power, hunted throughout the old tower in every conceivable place, the missing jewels and bonds were not recovered.

"Nothing left but to search the new tower," Mr. Hardy commented briefly, when the search was over, and throughout the whole afternoon the new tower was the scene of a search that was as thorough as it was fruitless.

Walls and partitions were tapped, floors were sounded, furniture was minutely examined-not an inch of space escaped the minute scrutiny of the detective and his helpers, But as the search wore on and the loot still evaded discovery, the chagrin of Fenton Hardy deepened and Hurd Applegate finally lost his temper.

"A hoax!" he declared. "A hoax from start to finish."

"The man was in earnest!" the detective said.

"Then where is the stuff!'"

"Some one else may have found it, That's the only explanation I can think of."

"Who else could have taken it but Robinson!"

To this, Mr. Hardy was silent. In spite of his knowledge of and liking for the man, he was beginning to suspect that the caretaker may have had a hand in the affair after all.

"Either that or Jackley simply told that yarn to shield Robinson," declared Applegate.

"I'm not going to give up this search yet," said Mr. Hardy patiently. "Perhaps the loot was hidden somewhere about the grounds."

So the grounds of Tower Mansion, particularly in the vicinity of the two towers, were thoroughly searched. The shrubbery was in-' spected but to no avail.

The search continued until sundown, and by that time Adelia Applegate was pale with wrath, for the place, as she expressed it, had been "turned upside down," Hurd Applegate was outspoken in his rage and disappointment, while Fenton Hardy was deeply chagrined As for the boys, although they had expected that the additional search would be without success, they shared their father's bewilderment.

"I can't understand it," admitted the detective. "I could have sworn that Jackley was in earnest when he made that confession. He knew he was near death and that he had nothing to gain by concealment. I can't understand it at all."

And there the mystery remained, deep in it had ever been.

 

CHAPTER XX

The Flash in the Tower

 

Two days after the unsuccessful search at Tower Mansion, there were no further developments in the affair of the robbery. But the third day, Chief Collig took a hand.

The first intimation the Hardy boys had of it was when they met Callie Shaw and Iola Morton on their way to school. Iola, a plump, dark girl, was a sister of Chet Morton and had achieved the honor of being about the only girl Joe Hardy had ever conceded to be anything but an unmitigated nuisance.

Joe, who was shy in the presence of girls, professed a lofty scorn for all members of the other sex, particularly those of high school age, but had once grudgingly admitted that Iola Morton was "all right, for a girl." This, from him, was high praise.

"Have you heard what's happened?" asked Callie, as they met the boys near the school entrance.

"School called off for today!" asked Joe.

"No, no. Nothing like that. It's about Robinsons."

"What's happened now?"

"Mr. Robinson has been arrested again."

The Hardy boys stared at her thunderstruck.

"What for?" demanded Frank, in astonishment.

"Over that robbery at Tower Mansion. He has been working in the city lately and Chief Collig sent Detective Smuff for him last night. Iola and I were over to see the Robinson girls last night and they told us about it. Smuff should be back by now."

"Well, can you beat that!" exclaimed Frank, "I wonder what's the big idea of arresting him again?"

"It seems the chief has an idea that Mr. Robinson was in league with this man Jackley, the man your father got the confession from. He told Mrs. Robinson last night that he was sure Mr. Robinson had the stuff hidden somewhere and that he was going to find out. He was perfectly mean and nasty about it, and Mrs. Robinson doesn't know what to do."

The Hardy boys looked at one another. The affair had suddenly assumed more serious proportions.

"If Mr. Robinson is brought back, he'll lose his job, and he will have a hard time getting it, ' said Iola.

"The worst of it is," said Frank slowly, that the case looks pretty bad against Mr Robinson."

"You don't think they'll send him to the penitentiary?"

"It looks bad. The thief said he hid the stuff in the old tower. When we looked for it, the stuff wasn't there. About the only person that could have found it and taken it away, was Mr. Robinson himself."

"He wouldn't do it!" declared Iola indignantly.

"We're sure he wouldn't. But a jury mightn't be so easy to convince."

It was time to go into school at that moment and they went to their classrooms, Frank and Joe deeply worried by what they had just heard. At recess that morning they met Jerry, Phil, Tony and Chet Morton, and told them the news. All the boys were highly concerned over this sudden turn in events.

"This will be tough on Perry," said Phil.

"It'll be tough on the whole family," Chet declared. "They've had enough trouble over this dirty affair as it is."

The boys discussed the situation from all angles and racked their brains for some way whereby they could help the Robinsons, but they were reluctantly forced to admit that only by the actual discovery of the hidden loot could Mr. Robinson be cleared of suspicion in connection with the robbery.





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