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CHAPTER XXII CAUGHT
There was considerable excitment about Oak Farm when Russ and Paul returned from their unsuccessful chase after the mysterious man, leaving Sandy to continue the hunt. All the players, and a number of the hired men, were discussing the occurrence, and eagerly questioning Ruth and Alice as to what they knew and had seen. This was little enough, however.

When Russ and Paul came up, still breathing hard after their run, they added what they knew.

"Vy shouldn't ve make ourselves yet into a committee und all go after him?" asked Mr. Switzer. "Dot feller ought to be caught."

"That's true enough," agreed Mr. Pertell; "but we're here to make moving pictures, and we can't do it if the whole company chases after that fellow."

"Besides, something might happen," remarked Mr. Sneed, gloomily. "He might have a gun and shoot us."

"Then I'm glad you girls didn't keep on after him," said Mr. DeVere in his hoarse voice. "I wish you would take no further part in this affair, Ruth and Alice," and he spoke earnestly.

"Don't worry, Daddy," laughed Alice. "I'm sure, after all, that the man isn't dangerous. He wouldn't hurt us, that's certain, for he loaned us the use of his cabin, and he was very polite about it."

"He doesn't seem to care about us," added Ruth. "For he runs every time he sees us. Is there anything peculiar about us?"

"Yes," said Russ, "there is."

"What?"

"I'll tell you—some other time," he informed her, and Ruth grew rosy red.

"Well, I suppose we could go on with the barn-burning scene," said Mr. Pertell, when the chase had been discussed in all its phases. "I did want Sandy on hand, though, as representing his father, the owner of the farm, in case anything happens."

"I won't own the farm much longer," said Felix Apgar sadly. "The sale will come off next week, and then I s'pose we'll be turned out bag and baggage, Mother."

"Oh, Pa, I hate to hear you talk that way," she said, as she put her trembling hand in his. The old couple made a pathetic picture as they stood together on the porch of the white house—the house that had been their home so many years, but out of which they were soon to be turned by a cruel shift of fate.

"Cheer up!" said Pop Snooks, who had a leisure hour. "It's always darkest just before dawn, you know. Something may happen to save the farm for you."

"I'm too old to believe in miracles," replied Mr. Apgar, with a shake of his head. "Come on in the house, Mother, and we'll begin to pack. They can't take our things from us, anyhow, though where we'll go the Lord only knows."

"Why, you won't have to move out, even after the mortgage was foreclosed," said Alice, as she slipped her arm about the waist of the trembling old lady. "I heard the sheriff say you could stay on for some time yet."

"I know, dearie, but it wouldn't be our farm, and Pa and me wouldn't feel like stayin' when Squire Bladsell owns it. It would be like livin' on charity. No, we'll go as soon as the sale is over. But you're a dear, good girl to try and help us."

"They have helped us a lot, Mother—all of 'em!" exclaimed Mr. Apgar. "You movin' picture folks have been real kind to us, and the money you paid for the use of the farm come in mighty handy, seein' that some of the crops wasn't over and above good. Yes, we'll never forget you—never."

He and his wife turned into the house, and the hired men went about their tasks.

"I suppose we'll have to wait until Sandy comes back," spoke Mr. Pertell. "I don't want to set the barn afire until he's here. For, not only do I want him on hand, as I said, to represent his father, but I'm depending on him to lead his men, and some of the others, in an attempt to put out the fire. I want plenty of action in this scene. So we'll wait."

"I wonder what has happened to him?" mused Ruth. But no one knew.

The carpenter Mr. Pertell had hired to cut away part of the roof asked if he should set about his task.

"No, I think we'll wait until Sandy comes back," replied the manager. "You can get all ready, though. Russ, I suppose your camera is in shape?"

"Oh, yes. In fact I've got two—one for emergencies."

"That's good. Plenty of film on hand?"

"All we'll need, I think."

"Well, then, the only thing to do is to wait."

Meanwhile Sandy was keeping on after the daring and mysterious fugitive. Fortunately for the young farmer his horse was a comparatively fleet one, or he would have lost sight of the auto soon after the strange race began. As it was he managed to keep the doctor's car in sight for a considerable distance.

And then, so suddenly that it seemed like a trick of fate, something occurred which completely turned the tables in favor of Sandy. The fleeing man in the auto found himself behind a load of hay, that occupied a considerable part of the road. Sandy was close enough to hear the frantic tooting of the horn, but either the driver of the hay wagon did not hear, or he had a constitutional objection to autoists, for he did not pull out.

Thus the strange man was obliged to turn to one side and, unluckily for him, but luckily for Sandy, there was a roadside ditch at that point. Into this the wheels of the auto went and as it was sticky and soft the car came to such a sudden stop that the man was pitched out over the glass wind-shield, landing in the ditch.

"Now I've got you!" cried Sandy, and clapping his heels to the sides of his panting horse the young farmer rode up alongside the prostrate man.

"I've got you! Surrender!" commanded the young farmer, leaping down, and grabbing the man, who was now sitting up a dazed look on his face. "I've got you, and I arrest you in th' name of th' law!"

"Yes, I see you've got me," replied the man, slowly. "But on what charge do you arrest me?"

Sandy was puzzled for a moment, and scratched his head. He had not thought of this.

"You have no right to arrest me," the man went on. "I have done nothing to you."

"I don't know whether you have or not," Sandy said. "I think you've been tryin' to, but couldn't do it. I'm suspicious of you. That's it—I arrest you on suspicion!"

"That's no charge," cried the man, struggling to his feet and trying to break away. But Sandy held him firmly. "Besides, you are not an officer, and have no warrant."

"I don't need any!" cried Sandy, who had that point clear enough in his mind. "Any citizen of the United States can make an arrest if he wants to, and I'm a citizen. So I arrest you, whatever your name is, on suspicion."

"Suspicion of what?"

Again Sandy was puzzled.

"I don't just know," he confessed. "I'll leave that to Squire Blasdell. He's th' law-court around here—and he's a hard one, too. I'll take you afore him. So come along. You've been trespassin' on our place, anyhow, and I can make that a charge if I can't any other. Come along."

Sandy was young, strong and vigorous, and the man, though almost his equal, was tired out from his long run before he had taken to the auto. Besides he was badly jolted up by the sudden and unceremonious manner in which he left the car.

"All right, I s'pose I've got to come," the man admitted in a sullen manner.

"You'd better," observed Sandy, grimly. "And there's another charge, too. You took th' doctor's automobile."

To this the man answered nothing. He probably knew that this was a serious enough charge on which to hold him.

"We'll jest go back in th' car, too," went on Sandy, "since you know how to run 'em. But, mind you! No monkey tricks! Don't you try to run away with me."

"All right—get in," said the man, shortly. "I'll see if I can get her out of the ditch. You wouldn't have gotten me if that man with the hay had given me my share of the road."

"Maybe not," admitted Sandy, grimly, "but I have got you, jest th' same. Come on."

Sandy left his horse cropping the grass at the roadside, and got into the auto with his prisoner. After a few attempts, the machine was gotten out of the ditch, and the start back was begun. Sandy saw a farmer whom he knew, and asked him if he would bring the horse back to Oak Farm.

"And now we'll 'tend to your case," the young farmer remarked to the man in the auto. "I don't believe you told me what your name was," he added significantly.

"No, I didn't, and I don't intend to," snapped the stranger. "You can find out any way you like."

"Oh, we'll find out, all right," Sandy returned. "Drive on."

The man did not speak as he drove the car forward. They reached the house where the physician had been, and found him waiting; a very angry medical man indeed.

"So you got him; eh?" he called to Sandy.

"That's what I did. And I'd like to borrow your car to take him to jail, if you don't mind."

"I don't mind a bit, and I'll go along to lodge a charge against him. There's a state law against anyone taking another person's automobile without permission. Who is he, anyhow, Sandy?"

"I don't know, and he won't tell."

The man maintained a sullen silence during the remainder of the trip, and when the office of Squire Blasdell was reached he was led inside by Sandy.

"I've got a prisoner here for you, Squire," announced the young farmer. "I don't know what his name is, and I don't exactly know what charge we can make against him. But he's been hanging around Oak Farm for some time, and he runs whenever anyone comes near him, and if that ain't suspicion I don't know what is."

"You're right there, Sandy," said the squire, who, in spite of the fact that he was about to foreclose on Oak Farm, was not on bad terms with the Apgars. The truth of the matter was that the squire only acted as agent for others whose money he put out on mortgages. Personally he was sorry for the Apgars.

"Now then, Mister whatever-your-name-is," began the squire, "what about you?"

"I'll tell you nothing," said the man. "You have no right to hold me."

"He took my auto," broke in the doctor.

"Then we'll hold him on that charge, and we'll call him John Doe," decided the squire. "Maybe he'll change his tune after a bit. Lock him up," he ordered the constable in charge, and the mysterious man, as mysterious as ever, was led away.

"I'd like to ask one favor," he declared, halting a minute.

"You can ask, but I don't know as we'll grant it," spoke the squire.

"I've left a dog up in the old cabin," the man went on. "I guess you know the place," he said to Sandy. "It's the cabin where the girls took shelter from the rain. There's a dog tied there and he might starve to death. I wish you'd feed him."

"I'll do that," responded Sandy, quickly. "I'll look after him, too. He's entitled to some consideration, even if you ain't."

The man said nothing.

"Is it your dog?" asked the squire.

"I—I found him," answered the man, hesitatingly, "and he likes me. I wouldn't want to see him starve."

"He shan't!" promised Sandy.

Then, as the queer character was locked up, Sandy started back for Oak Farm, puzzling over the mysterious man and his object.


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