Adelia Applegate's Compliment 8 глава





"Even if he were tried and acquitted, it would be a stain on his reputation for the rest of his life, as long as the treasure isn't recovered," Frank summed up.

"We'll just have to wait and see what happens," Joe said. "We've done all we could, and it hasn't been enough."

"And dad has done the same. I'm sorry, on his account. He was so sure he had cleared the whole thing up when he got the confession from Jackley. But there was something lacking."

"Well, we all helped too," remarked Jerry. "We kept Collig and Smuff from catching that train. Jackley wouldn't have talked at all it they had seen him."

So, reluctantly enough, the boys were forced to admit that they were facing a stone wall. This also was the conclusion of Fenton Hardy, when they talked to him at lunch that day.

"There's nothing to be done," said the detective. "Robinson has been arrested, and while he might be cleared by a skillful lawyer, he hasn't any money to spend on his defense. Whether he is cleared or not, his reputation is ruined."

"Unless the loot is found," put in Joe.

"Yes, unless the loot is found. That Is the only hope, But I don't think there's much chance of that."

And there the mystery of Tower Mansion rested for the time being. The arrest of Mr. Robinson furnished a sensation for a day or so and then the case receded into the background, the newspapers finding other things to become excited about. But for the Robinsons It was, naturally enough, a matter of supreme moment. Perry Robinson paid a call at the Hardy home, pleading with the great detective to continue his efforts to clear the accused man.

Mr. Hardy was sympathetic, but, as he said, he was facing a stone wall.

"I've done all I can, my boy," he explained to the grief-stricken lad. "If there was anything more I could do, I would do it. But there are no more clues. If Bed Jackley's confession couldn't clear up the affair, then nothing else could. I'm afraid - "

He left the sentence unfinished.

"Do you mean my father will go to jail?"

"I wouldn't say that. But you must be prepared to face the worst.''

"He didn't do it," said Perry doggedly.

"I know you have confidence in him. The law looks only at the facts. Many an I sent man has been convicted on less evidence.'

"It will kill my mother."

Mr. Hardy was silent.

"I don't know what to do," said Perry, "I'd do anything to save him. But there's nothing - "

"There is nothing any of us can do now unless by some lucky chance the loot is recovered, That would clear everything up, of course, But in the meantime we just have to wait and hope."

"And you can't do anything more, Mr. Hardy?"

"A detective is not a miracle man, my boy," said Fenton Hardy kindly. "He is only a man who is trained in tracing criminals. He has to go by the facts at his disposal. I have exhausted every line of action in this case Everything that could be done, has been done."

Perry Robinson got up, twisting his cap nervously in his hands.

"We all thank you very much too, Mr. Hardy," he said huskily. "Don't think I've been ungrateful by coming here and asking you to do more. I guess I didn't realize just how hopeless it is."

"It isn't hopeless, exactly. Don't think that. There's always hope, you know. But- be prepared for the worst."

"I'll have to be."

With that, the boy left. Frank and Joe met him in the hallway and awkwardly tried to express their sympathy. Perry was grateful

"I know both of you have done a lot for us in this mess," he said. "If it hadn't been for you we wouldn't even have Jackley's story to go on."

"We're only sorry it didn't work out as we hoped, Perry," Frank said. "We thought that would clear the whole thing up. Instead, it seems to have involved your father deeper than ever."

"It wasn't your fault."

"Perhaps something will turn up yet. Joe and I aren't going to lie down on the job now. There isn't much we can do, but we'll have our eyes open for more clues-if there are any."

Perry Robinson shrugged his shoulders dispiritedly. "I guess there isn't much use now," he said. "But I appreciate it of you."

When he went away, the Hardy boys watched him going down the front walk. His carefree stride was gone, and instead he walked mechanically, as though in a daze.

"What a fine pair of detectives we are!" exclaimed Frank, in sudden disgust. "If we had been any good at all we could have got those clues soon enough for dad to have caught Jackley in time."

"'No use worrying about that now," replied his brother. "It was just the way things happened."

"Well, there's one thing left we must find that loot!"

"Haven't we tried?"

"Yes, but we can try some more. We’ve just got to clear Mr. Robinson. And there's only the one way. We must find the loot!"

It was a dull, gloomy day, indicative of rain and this did not add to the boys' spirits.

To ease their feelings the brothers took a walk, and quite unconsciously their steps took them in the vicinity of Tower Mansion.

"Let's have a squint at the old place from the outside," suggested Joe.

"Don't let Adelia see you, or she'll come after you with a broomstick," chuckled Frank. "Gee, but she's a tartar!"

They walked into the grounds. It was growing darker now and they easily made their way among the trees and bushes to the vicinity of the rambling mansion. They gazed up at the old tower questioningly.

"Some puzzle," was Frank's comment. "Will the case of The Tower Treasure ever be solved?"

"Search me!" was his brother's slangy answer, "Perhaps - oh, Frank, look!" he added suddenly.

He was gazing at the upper windows of the stone tower. He had seen a strange flash of light. Now this flash was followed by another flash.

"That's queer," muttered Frank. "What can it mean?"

The light disappeared, then all of a sudden it flashed out and downward in the direction of the lads.

"Must be looking for us!" gasped Joe, and started to get behind a bush.

"It's Adelia - and she has a big flashlight," came, a moment later, from Frank. "What do you know about that!''

"She's looking for the treasure herself!" cried Joe. "Huh! And after all she said about our looking being nothing but foolishness!"

They saw the woman gaze out of the window for a few seconds. In one hand she held the flashlight. For a moment she turned the light into her own face, and the boys saw there a look of utter disgust.

"Didn't find it, I'll bet a cookie!" chuckled Joe.

"Come on- let's get away before she spots us," returned his brother, and they were soon on their way.

As they walked home, Joe and Frank talked the matter over. They smiled when they thought of the eccentric woman up in the old tower, but their minds soon Stack to Slim and the troubles of the Robinson family.

"We've got to find that loot!" declared Frank emphatically. "No matter where tower treasure is, we've got to find it!"

"We simply have to, I tell you!"

 

CHAPTER XXI

A New Idea

 

A week passed, and still the loot was not discovered.

Mr. Robinson had been held for trial at an early court session. The general opinion in Bayport was that he would be sentenced to in prisonment. The fact that he still refused to tell where he had got the nine hundred dollars so near the time of the robbery, weighed heavily against him.

Fenton Hardy was downcast. It was the first case of its kind that he had been unsuccessful in solving completely. And although he was satisfied that he had done good work in track ing down Red Jackley and getting the confession, the result had scarcely been worth the affort.

Chief Collig and Detective Smuff were complacent. They made no effort to conceal their critical opinions of the great detective, who had taken so much time trying to solve the mystery, when the real thief was right under his nose all the time.

"I told you so," was the burden of Chief Collig's song of triumph. "I knew all the time that Robinson was the man. I arrested him right after the robbery, but they all said it couldn't be him. So I let him go. But I knew; all the time it couldn't be anyone else. Ain't that so, Smuff?"

And the loyal Smuff would dutifully chime in with, "Yes, chief. We have to hand it over to you. You had the right man all the time."

"I guess these professional detectives don't think they're so smart after all, eh, Smuff?"

"No, you bet they won't. We can still teach ‘em a thing or two."

"I'll say we can, Smuff. I'll say we can.''

These stories, naturally enough, reached the ears of Fenton Hardy and the Hardy boys and they felt keenly the arrogant superiority displayed by the Bayport police officials. Emit they said nothing, suffering their defeat in silence.

On the following Saturday, Frank and Joe decided to take an outing.

"I want to get out of this city for a change," said Frank. "We've been so worrying about the Tower Mansion case that we've forgotten how to play. Let's take the motorbikes and go out for a run."

"Good idea!" his brother replied. "Mother will make us up some lunch."

Laura Hardy, who was in the kitchen with the cook, smiled when they made known their request. Fair-haired and gentle, she had been tolerantly amused by her sons' activities in the Tower affair, but she was glad to see them return to their boyish ways.

"You'll be getting too grown-up altogether," she had said to them a few days previously. And now, when they said they were going on a day's outing with the motorcycles, she hastened to prepare a substantial lunch for them.

"We'll be back in time for supper, mother," Frank promised. "We're just going to follow the highway along the railroad. After that we may cut across country to Chet's place, and then home."

"Take care of yourself," she warned. "No speeding."

"We'll be careful," they promised, as Joe stowed the lunch basket on the carrier of his machine. Then, with a sputtering roar, the motorcycles sped out along the driveway and soon the boys were on the concrete highway leading out of the city.

In a short time they had reached the outskirts of Bayport, and then they turned west off to the State highway that ran parallel to the railway tracks. It was a bright, sunny spring morning, and the highway was not cob with traffic.

Freight trains shunted back and forth on the railway tracks below the embankment, and now and then a passenger train steamed by, trailing a cloud of black smoke. Like most boys Frank and Joe could not help but feel the fascination of the railway, although they admitted that they preferred the comparative freedom of their own motorcycles, which were not bound to follow the steel rails and did not have to obey the beck and call of despatchers.

Out in the open country they put on a little more speed. The highway was like a city pavement beneath them and the cool breeze stung the color into their cheeks. For more than two hours they rode, passing through villages and small towns, until at last they came to a point where another railway intersected the line they had been following. Here, a road also ran parallel to the tracks, branching off the main highway. Always on the alert for new country to explore, the Hardy boys decided to follow this side road.

"It's off the main stream of traffic," said Frank, "and the country seems to be wooded farther on. We can have lunch in the shade of some trees."

This appeared to be an advantage, for there were no trees along the State road, and the constant stream of vehicles made a roadside lunch, something of a public affair. Accordingly, the boys turned their motorcycles down the side road which, although it was not paved, was well graded, and led through a quieter countryside.

"What railroad is this, anyway?" asked Frank, as they sped along.

"The Bayport and Coast line. It's mostly freight."

"The Bayport and Coast! Why, that's the railway that Red Jackley used to work for, Don't you remember dad telling us that? His first crime was stealing freight from the road."

"So he did! I'd forgotten all about it.''

The boys looked down at the tracks below the embankment with renewed interest, by virtue of the railway's association with the notorious criminal. Mention of Jackley's name revived recollections of the Tower Mansion case, and when the boys finally decided to stop in the shade of a little grove of trees beside the road for lunch, they reviewed every incident of the mysterious affair.

"It would have been better for every one if Jackley had stayed with the railway," Frank observed, as he bit into a thick roast beef sandwich.

"He sure caused a lot of trouble before he died."

"And he has caused even more since, by the looks of things. The Robinsons will remember his name for a long time to come."

"I wonder if Mr. Robinson really was in league with him, Frank?"

"I don't think so. And I don't believe Mr. Robinson ever found that treasure after the robbery, either. There is some explanation to this whole affair that none has been able to gather."

"If I remember rightly, it was in this part of the country that Jackley worked."

"That's what dad told us. He said it was along the right of way near the State road. Jackley was a section hand or signalman, or something."

Both boys gazed down the two lines of railway tracks that gleamed in the sun. Far into the distance, the glittering bands of steel extended, vanishing into a common perspective.

The land along the right of way was thickly wooded. It was an attractive part of the country and here and there the wooded spaces were broken by green fields and meadows. The boys were at the top of a slope, and they had a view of a wide expanse of country below them.

In the far distance, along the tracks, they could see a little red railway station, and back of that the roofs and spires of a village. Nearer still they could see the spindly legs and squat bulk of a water tank, painted a bright scarlet. This water tank was not far from railway station, but half a mile down the track and only a few hundred yards from the place where the Hardy boys were seated, rose the bulk of another water station.

But this tower-one of the old style built before the modern tanks came into use-was not freshly painted. It had been allowed to fall into a state of disrepair. Some of the rungs were missing from the ladder that led up the side, and the tower itself had a forlorn and weather-beaten aspect, as though it had been deserted. This, indeed, was the case. The new tower tank closer to the station had been erected to replace it, and although the old structure had not been torn down, it was not now used.

Frank took a huge bite out of his sandwich and began to munch it thoughtfully. The sight of the two water stations had given him an idea, but at first it seemed to him to be too absurd for consideration. He was wondering whether he should mention it to his brother.

Then he noticed that Joe, too, was gazing thoughtfully down the railway tracks. Joe raised a sandwich to his lips absently, had a bite and missed the sandwich altogether. Still he continued gazing at the two water towers.

Finally Joe turned and looked at his brother

In the eyes of both was the light of a great discovery. They knew that they were both thinking of the same thing.

"Two water towers," said Frank slowly.

"An old one and a new one."

"And Jackley said - "

"He hid the stuff in the old tower.'"

"He was a railwayman."

"Why not?" shouted Joe, springing to his feet. "Why couldn't it have been the old water tower? He used to work around here."

"He didn't say the old tower of Tower Mansion, after all. He just said 'the old tower!"

"Frank, I believe we've stumbled on the clue!"

"It would be the natural thing for him to come to his old haunts after the robbery. And if he found he couldn't get away with the stuff he would hide it somewhere he knew. The old water tower! Why didn't we think of it before, Joe! Why, that must be the place!"

 

CHAPTER XXII

The Search

 

Then onward, motorcycles-everything else was forgotten!

"With a wild yell of delight, Frank began to scurry down the embankment that flanked the right of way. At his heels ran Joe.

They raced down the grassy slope until they came to the wire fence. They scrambled over it, heedless of tearing their clothes. They dashed up on to the cinder path beside the rails.

"What if we're wrong, Frank?" panted Joe.

"We can't be wrong. I just know that's what Jackley meant. The old tower. It was the old water tower he meant all along. He didn't have time to explain."

The Hardy boys were tingling with excitement.

It seemed that they could never reach the water tower. They dashed along the cinder path with all the speed at their command, but the tower still seemed a long distance away.

"If only we have stumbled on the secret after all, Joe!"

"It'll clear Mr. Robinson - "

"We'll get the reward - "

"Dad'll be proud of us."

These thoughts gave them new strength and their hopes were high as they neared the tower.

The structure reared gloomily from beside the tracks. At close quarters it was even more decrepit, even more in a state of disrepair than they had imagined. The old tower had been abandoned for some time in favor of the new tank nearer the station. It sagged perilously. The ladder that led to the top lacked so many rungs that at first the boys feared they would be unable to ascend.

"If Jackley got up this ladder, we can do the same," said Frank, as he stopped, panting, at the bottom. "Let's go."

He began to scramble up the flimsy ladder.

Hardly had he ascended four rungs, then there came an alarming crack!

"Look out!"

Frank clung to the rung above, just as a rung snapped beneath his weight,, He hung ib midair for a moment, then drew up his feet and placed them on the next rung. This proved firmer, and he was able to go on.

"Don't break 'em all," called Joe, "I want to be in on this."

Frank continued up the ladder. Occasionally, when he came to a place where a rung had broken off, he was obliged to haul himself upward by main force, but finally he neared the top. The ladder ran up along the side of the tank to the very top of the great, vat-like receptacle, and there it led to a trapdoor.

The Hardy boys did not look down. They were high above the ground now, and the old water tower was swaying alarmingly. They began to realize their peril, for the tower was old and liable to topple over with them. But the thought did not serve to restrain them, and at last Frank scrambled over the last rung and found himself on the upper surface of the tower. He turned around and helped Joe over.

Far below them lay the countryside, the green fields laid out in neat patterns, the roads in the distance like white ribbons, and the railway tracks glistening in the sunlight. The wind seemed much stronger on top of the tower, and it whistled about their ears. The flimsy structure swayed to and fro with every movement they made.

The trapdoor was closed, Frank went over to it and tugged at it, but the timber was heavy and Joe was obliged to help him. Between the two, however, they managed to raise it, revealing a dark gap that led into the recesses of the abandoned water tower.

The upper part of the tank was a space about four feet in depth and separated from the lower, or main portion by a thick floor. Frank lowered himself through the opening, and he was quickly followed by his brother. They crouched down below the roof of the tank and peered about them in the obscurity.

"It must be in here. There's no other place he could have hidden the stuff," said Frank.

"Let's hunt for it, then, I wish we had brought our flashlights."

Frank, however, had matches. Cautiously, he lit one. Then, crawling on hands and knees, he advanced into the darkness of the tower.

In the faint glow of the match they saw that the place was half-filled with rubbish. There was a quantity of old lumber, miscellaneous bits of iron, battered tin pails, crowbars, and other things piled up pellmell in all parts of the tower.

But there was no sign of hidden loot.

"It must be here somewhere!" declared Joe doggedly. "He wouldn't leave it out in the open. Probably it's in behind all this junk."

Frank held the match. They had to be careful, for the place was as dry as timber and any Negligence might have made the whole place a mass of flame from which there would have been no escape. In the glow, then, Joe searched frantically, casting the old pails and the old bits of board and lumber aside with reckless abandon.

One entire side of the tower top was searched without result. Then, on the far side, they spied a number of boards piled up in a peculiar manner. They did not look as though they had been flung there carelessly or accidentally, but rather as though they had been placed to hide something.

Like a terrier after a bone, Joe made for It, Frantically, he tore away the boards.

There, in a neat little hiding place formed by the wood, lay a bag. It was an ordinary gunny sack, but when Joe dragged it forth he knew at once that their search had ended.

"We've found it!" he exulted.

"The Tower treasure!"

"This must be it."

Joe dragged the gunny sack out into the light beneath the trapdoor. They did not even wait to go out on top of the water tower.

"Hurry!" exclaimed Frank, as with trembling fingers Joe began to open the sack.

It was tied with a piece of twine, and Joe tugged at the stubborn knots. At last, however, the twine fell away, and the bag sagged

Joe plunged his hand into the recesses of the sack and he first withdrew an old-fashioned bracelet of precious stones.

"Jewelry!"

"How about the bonds?"

Again Joe groped into the sack. His fingers encountered a bulky packet. He withdrew it and the packet proved to be comprised of long, imposing-looking documents, held together by a rubber band. On the surface of the outer document, when they held it up to the light, they read the information that it was a negotiable bond for $5000 issued by the City of Bayport.

"That settles it," said Frank. "We've found the treasure."

The boys looked at one another in triumph.

"Jackley wasn't lying after all. He did hide the stuff in the old tower. And Mr. Robinson wasn't in league with him and didn't find it after it was hidden," ruminated Joe. "We can clear up the whole affair now."

"Let's start, then!" Frank exclaimed. "No use sitting here all day patting ourselves on the back. It's up to us to get right back to Bayport and turn this treasure over to the Applegates."

Hastily, he scrambled up through the trap, and Joe passed the bag of treasure up to him. Frank put the sack carefully to one side, then helped his brother up to the top of the tower.

After that he tied the treasure sack to his back, in order that he might have the full use of his two hands in descending the precarious ladder,.

They were so excited by their momentous discovery, by the knowledge that all the days of fruitless search had now ended, that they descended the ladder at breakneck speed. The last two rungs of the ladder snapped under Frank's feet and the boys were obliged to undertake a drop of six feet in order to reach the ground, but they hardly noticed it, Scarcely had they picked themselves up than they were off on a run for their motorcycles parked far back on the hillside.

"We've shown 'em, eh?" gasped Joe.

"I'll say we have! Oh boy, won't this surprise everybody?"

"Now I'd like to see dad tell us we're not cut out to be detectives!"

"Wait till Adelia Applegate sees all her jewelry back again. She'll change her opinion of us."

"Wait till Hurd Applegate sees his bonds back. And wait till Chief Collig and Detective Smuff hear about it!"

So the Hardy boys gloated over their prospective return, but beneath it all they were thinking of what this discovery meant to the Robinsons.

They reached the embankment, scrambled over the fence, and made their way up the slope until at last they regained their motorcycles. Although they had only partly finished their lunch, they were too excited to eat any more, so they stowed the remainder away in the basket, lashed the bag of treasure securely to Frank's carrier, and turned the motorcycles around.

"What a lucky chance for us that we decided to go down this road!" declared Frank "If we had done as we intended and circled around by Chet's place we would never have found the stuff!"

"And it's ten chances to one that neither of us would have thought of that water tower until his dying day."

The rest of their speculations were drowned by the roar of the motorcycles as the Hardy boys set out on their return to Bayport with the Tower treasure.

 

CHAPTER XXIII

Adelia Applegate's Compliment

 

Curtain rolled down on the mystery of the Tower treasure that afternoon in the library of the Applegate home.

The Hardy boys had gone directly to their father with the story of the recovery of the loot, and Fenton Hardy had lost no time in acquainting Hurd Applegate with the facts. Between them, they arranged a little surprise for Chief Collig and Detective Smuff, as well as for Henry Robinson. On the invitation of Hurd Applegate, the chief brought Mr. Robinson to Tower Mansion, "to be faced with additional evidence," as Fenton Hardy suavely put it.

Chief Collig and Detective Smuff entered the library with their prisoner between them. They had confidently anticipated that Mr. Applegate had discovered some new facts that would further serve to tighten the web about the unfortunate caretaker, and when they came into the room there was nothing at first to eradicate this impression.

Hurd Applegate and Adelia Applegate sat by the huge library table, and with them were Mr. Hardy and his sons. Chief Collig did not at first notice the gunny sack lying on the table.

"Well, Mr. Applegate," said the chief, fanning himself, as usual, with his hat. "I brought along Mr. Robinson, just as you asked."

"Good. As I mentioned to you, there has been some new evidence in this case."

"I knew something would turn up," grunted Smuff.

"Not that any new evidence is needed, of course," declared the chief. "We got this fellow dead to rights, as it is. He ain't got a chance in the world. But still, it's just as good to make a real strong case of it."

"I'm afraid you don't understand me," went on Hurd Applegate. "This new evidence will clear Mr. Robinson. And when he is cleared, I want him back in my employ again."

"Huh?" gasped Chief Collig.

"What's that you say?" exclaimed Smuff.

"The stolen stuff has been found."

"No!"

"Here it is," put in Fenton Hardy, getting up and dumping the gunny sack upside down on the table. There was a tinkle and clatter as jewels came rolling out on the table, and then there was a rustle of paper as the packets of bonds followed.

"Where was it found?" asked the chief. "This doesn't clear him. He probably hid it some place."

"The stuff was found just where Jackley said he hid it. In the old tower."

"But the old tower was searched high and low."

"There is more than one 'old tower'," went on Mr. Hardy. "Only we didn't happen to think of that at the time. It was found in the old water tower, down at the Junction, where Jackley used to work."





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