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    Chapter 6

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    Chapter 7
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    ANOTHER SURPRISE

    The boys had listened to all that was said, and now they lost no time in filing into Mr. Fordham's bedroom.

    Job Haskers stared at them in amazement, and his face dropped in consternation.

    "Porter!" he gasped. "And Morr and Lawrence! Wha--what does this--er--mean?"

    "Perhaps you know as well as we do," answered Dave, sharply.

    "You have been spying on me!"

    "We are here by permission of Mr. Fordham," returned Roger.

    "How did you know I was to call?"

    "Never mind about that," put in Phil. "We are here, and that is enough."

    "And we know all about what you are trying to do," added Dave.

    "This is a plot--a plot against me--to ruin me!" spluttered the former teacher of Oak Hall. "Oh, you needn't try to disguise it! I know all of you!"

    "We have no plot against you, Mr. Haskers," replied Dave, calmly. "If your business is perfectly legitimate----"

    "Never mind about that!" interposed Job Haskers, hastily. He jammed the paper and his fountain pen in his pocket. "You can't make a fool of me! You have been following me up, and you mean to--to--do what you can to--er--get me into trouble." He backed towards the doorway.

    "What is your hurry, sir?" asked Mr. Passmore, and he quietly placed himself in front of the door.

    "Let me pass! Let me pass!" shrilled Job Haskers, and now he looked thoroughly scared.

    "Don't you wish to talk this matter over?" questioned Mr. Fordham, wonderingly.

    "No, sir. I am not going to stay here to be made a fool of!" cried the former instructor. "Let me pass, I demand it!" he added, to Bert's father.

    "Oh, all right, if you insist," answered Mr. Passmore, and stepped aside. At once Job Haskers threw the door open and retreated to the hallway.

    "Just wait, you young scamps! I'll get even with you for this!" he exclaimed, shaking a long finger at Dave, Roger, and Phil. "I'll show you yet! You just wait!" And with that threat he literally ran down the hallway and down the stairs and out of the hotel.

    "Say, he's some mad, believe me!" was Roger's grim comment.

    "I think he is more scared than anything else," returned Dave. "He acted as if he thought we had trapped him in some way."

    "Just how it struck me," put in Phil. "He certainly didn't lose any time in getting away, did he?" and the shipowner's son grinned broadly.

    "He had a guilty conscience," was Mr. Passmore's comment. "Mr. Fordham, I think you can congratulate yourself that he has left."

    "I think so myself, sir," replied the old gentleman. He looked kindly at Dave and his chums. "It looks to me as if you had saved me from being swindled," he continued. "If he had a fair sort of a proposition I think he would have stayed."

    "I think so myself," added Mr. Passmore. "Just the same, supposing I look into this Sunset Company for you?"

    "As you please, Mr. Passmore. But I doubt if I care to invest--after what I have heard and seen of this fellow, Haskers," answered the old gentleman.

    The matter was talked over a little more and then the boys and Bert's father departed, first, however, receiving the warm thanks of Mr. Fordham for what they had done. In the foyer of the hotel the chums fell in with Bert.

    "Say, I saw that Haskers fellow shoot out of the hotel in a mighty hurry," he said. "You must have made it hot for him."

    "We did," answered Dave. "Where did he go?"

    "Up the lake road, as fast as he could walk."

    "I wonder where he is stopping?" mused Phil.

    "We might take the auto and follow him?" suggested the senator's son. "There is no hurry about our getting home."

    "Let's do it!" cried Dave, for he was as curious as the others concerning the former teacher of Oak Hall.

    "If you don't mind I'll go along," said Bert.

    So it was arranged, and letting Mr. Passmore know of their plans they soon got ready for the trip.

    "Now, don't get into any trouble," warned the rug dealer, as they were about to depart. "That fellow Haskers may be like a rat--very ugly when cornered."

    "We'll keep our eyes open," answered Dave.

    Soon the touring-car was rolling over the lake road, in the direction Job Haskers had taken. The storm had left the road a trifle muddy in spots, but that was all. Overhead the sky was blue and the sun shone brightly.

    Less than a quarter of a mile was covered when those in the touring-car saw a figure ahead they knew to be Job Haskers. He was walking along more slowly now, his head bent down as if in deep thought.

    "I suppose he is trying to figure out what to do next," was Phil's comment. "Wants to locate another sucker--if he can."

    "Such a man ought to be in jail," said Bert "He may rob some poor fellow and do it in a legal way, too,--so that the man won't be able to get back at him."

    Roger had slowed down, so that the touring-car kept well behind the former teacher. Presently the boys saw Haskers turn up a side road, one that led to a small hotel, standing on a hill overlooking the lake.

    "He's going to the Fenton House," said Bert. "Maybe he is stopping there."

    "Possibly," returned Dave.

    Slowly following the man, they saw Job Haskers enter the hotel and walk in the direction of the reading-room. Roger stopped the car and turned to the others.

    "Well, what's the next move?" he asked. "Want to go in?"

    "What's the use?" asked Phil. "We'd only have a lot of words with him. He's got a right to stay here if he wants to."

    "Let's go in anyway," said Dave. "You must know somebody here," he continued, turning to Bert.

    "Oh, yes, I know several young fellows and girls," answered the lad who was spending the summer at the lake.

    "Then we can pretend to be calling on them," put in Roger.

    Leaving the touring-car standing in the road, the four youths entered the hotel. They glanced into the reading-room, and noted that over a dozen persons were present. Then Dave gave a low cry.

    "Look, boys! What do you think of that?"

    He pointed to one corner of the reading-room, where two persons sat on a leather couch, one with a newspaper in his hand.

    "Why, it's Link Merwell!" gasped Phil. "Merwell as sure as you're born!"

    "How did that rascal get here?" murmured Roger.

    "Who is it?" asked Bert, curiously.

    "That fellow who is on the couch with Haskers," whispered Dave. "He used to go to school with us at Oak Hall, and then he had to leave, and after that he and a fellow named Jasniff robbed Mr. Wadsworth's jewelry works."

    "Oh, yes, Roger told me about that. You fellows followed the rascals to Cave Island, didn't you?"

    "Yes, and we caught Jasniff, but Merwell got away."

    "Then why not have him locked up right now?" demanded Bert.

    "It's what we ought to do," declared Phil.

    "Haskers and Merwell must be in with each other," was Dave's comment. "Maybe Merwell is trying to sell some of that Sunset Company stock, too."

    "Wonder if we can't hear what they are saying?" said Roger. "It might help us to make out a case against them."

    "We can go around to that side window and listen," suggested Phil, and pointed to the window in question.

    This was quickly agreed upon, and the four boys left the hotel and walked out on a gravel path close to the window. As the day was warm, the window was wide open.

    "No, it was a frost!" they heard Job Haskers say, in harsh tones.

    "He wouldn't buy the stock?" queried Link Merwell.

    "Worse than that, Merwell. I was trapped, and I had all I could do to get away."

    "What do you mean?"

    "Do you know who was there, with that old man, when I went to see him?"

    "I have no idea."

    "Three of the boys you hate--Porter, Morr, and Lawrence."

    Merwell started back in consternation.

    "You don't mean it--you are fooling!"

    "It's the truth. They were there and ready to have me arrested, I suppose. I got out in a hurry." Job Haskers gave a deep sigh and wiped the perspiration from his forehead.

    "Did--did they follow you?" asked Link Merwell, nervously.

    "I don't think so--I didn't give them time. Oh, this is too bad! I expected to get a lot of money from that old man," and Job Haskers shook his head, sadly.

    "I told you it wasn't safe to stay around here," was Merwell's comment. "Why not go out West with me? It will be much safer there, I am sure."

    "My funds are low."

    "I'll stake you, as the miners say."

    "How much money have you?" asked Job Haskers, a bit more hopefully.

    "Enough to take us both West. I made dad come down--he sent the money order this morning, and I just got it cashed. I told him if he didn't come down I'd have to give myself up to the police, and that would disgrace the whole family."

    "I see." The former teacher of Oak Hall gritted his teeth. "Oh, how I wish I could do something to punish Porter and those others!"

    "Humph! you don't wish that any more than I do," replied Link Merwell, scowling. "I'm going to do something some day, mark my words!" he added, vindictively.

    At that moment the agent for a big observation car that ran around the lake approached the boys on the gravel path beneath the window.

    "Wouldn't you young gentlemen like to take a nice ride this afternoon?" he asked, in a business-like tone. "A fifty-mile ride in our new observation touring-car, visiting all the points of interest around the lake, and taking in Creswood, Lighton, and Tomkins' Mill--a two-hours' ride for one dollar." And he held up a handful of tickets.

    "We don't want any ride," answered Dave.

    "We have our own touring-car," added Roger, pointing to the car.

    "Oh, I see, all right," said the man, and passed on, to hunt for customers elsewhere.

    When the man had started to speak his voice had carried into the reading-room, and much surprised to think others were so near, both Haskers and Merwell had gotten up from the couch to glance out of the window.

    "Well, I never!" gasped Merwell.

    "They must have followed me after all!" groaned Job Haskers.

    The youth who had been mixed up in the robbery of the jewelry works grabbed the former teacher by the arm.

    "We can't stay here--at least I can't!" he whispered, hoarsely. "I am going to dust!" And out of the reading-room he glided, and Job Haskers followed him.

    "Where shall we go?" asked the former teacher, his shaking voice showing how much he was disturbed.

    "I don't know--but I won't stay here," returned Merwell. "Have you much baggage? I have only a Gladstone bag."

    "I have a suit-case, that is all."

    "Then let us pack up and get out by the back way. We can pay our bills later. Come on, there is no time to spare!"
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