Chapter 24 – The Homecoming
Some days later, Mr. and Mrs. Hardy return from their vacation in the woods. Their cab driver mentions that their sons have stirred up some excitement while they were gone and solved a mystery. When the couple arrives home, they find the boys on the porch with Aunt Gertrude and a stranger. Aunt Gertrude quickly launches into a litany of criticisms of the boys’ behavior, saying they should have just asked her to help and things would have gone much smoother. Mr. Hardy asks to be introduced to the stranger, who is of course Mr. Dalrymple.
After they have freshened up, Mr. and Mrs. Hardy are treated to the whole story by Frank (with many interruptions from Aunt Gertrude). Mr. Hardy is pleased with the success his boys have had and glad that they were none the worse for wear from their ordeal. They tell him that Applegate gave them $50 for each returned stamp and Mr. Dalrymple paid them $200 for solving the case. We don’t know how many stamps were recovered, but it seems like they made more from that case than from the rich banker’s case! Dalrymple tells the Hardys that Wandy did indeed pass away and that he was by his bedside to receive an apology from the poor old man.
Mrs. Hardy says she’s glad she didn’t know of these risks her sons were taking while she was enjoying her vacation. Frank insists that they were not risks, but fun!
So Aunt Gertrude gets the last line in the book. I just have such a hard time believing that young boys get so much enjoyment out of this shrill, annoying character that she must be so heavily featured.
Dated dialogue: The taxi-driver they engaged to drive them from the depot grinned as he touched his cap.
Strange line: “Stuff and nonsense! They bungled it from start to finish.” – Aunt Gertrude
Last line: “Except,” added Aunt Gertrude pointedly, “when the bomb was at your feet and the clock ticked.”
Next book tease: In their next case, “Footprints Under the Window,” she [Aunt Gertrude] was to play an amusing part. [Oh goody! More Aunt Gertrude!]
As I said in the beginning, I remember this to be the scariest Hardy Boys book in the series. Sure enough, there is a lot of talk of death and peril throughout. There are threats of death to Mr. Dalrymple, the boys often remark that maybe someone has been killed or that they might find a dead body and the specter of Amos Wandy is certainly scary. And, in fact, the villain comes to his senses in the end, he still dies. Yes, for a young boy there are plenty of thrills and chills in this book.
Ironically, in the midst of writing this series, my two young sons expressed a desire to have a chapter book read to them. So my wife and I decided to read this book to them. Now, they are age 3 and 5, so a bit young for the story, but the plunged right in and loved the book. They easily tracked with the twists and turns and remembered the motivations of each and every supporting character. The only problem was that my 5-year old did have one night of nightmares that he insisted were due to the scary story. We opted not to read it before bed after that.
So there you have it. A classic Hardy Boys book. If you have young kids, especially boys, I’d encourage you to pick up a book from the series and get them hooked. They are great adventure and mystery stories that are also wholesome throwbacks to a bygone era. They contain plenty of good vocabulary words that you won’t find in YA books these days. And they depict brothers who always get along with each other, work together and respect and honor their parents too. Steer clear of more recently re-booted Hardy Boys books and look for the originals, they are clearly the best. Oh, and they aren’t just for young people. I found it very enjoyable to re-read as an adult.
Chapter 23 – The Missing Stamps
So the boys and Applegate go to the living room and ask the police to wait a moment before putting the men in the police car. They confront Jensen about the missing stamps and he denies that he has them saying they have indeed been sent to an expert appraiser. But his companion chimes in and says that’s a lie and the stamps are in the house. Jensen is apoplectic with his partner as the man tells the boys they stamps are hidden in the secret room behind the clock. He says his Jensen is always stealing stamps wherever he goes.
The boys enter the room and find the missing stamps and many others in a box. The room is also littered with electronic equipment and wires as it was surely the hideout of Wandy and where he built his bombs. The boys return the stamps to the overjoyed Applegate. Applegate explains that he was lying awake that night and just had the overwhelming sense that his stamps were inside the Purdy Place and he had to retrieve them. Upon his arrival, he found the boys bound. The boys thank him for listening to this, somewhat insane, inner voice. And we see that the entire stamps affair was a B story designed to get Applegate to the house in time to release the Hardy boys.
Wandy is loaded into the ambulance bound for the city hospital. The two henchmen are loaded into the police car. Dalrymple locks up the house, content that no further trouble will occur there now. He tells the boys he will talk to the police the next day about Wandy and their history. The boys offer to drive Applegate home in their roaster.
After dropping Applegate off at his home, the boys debrief as they drive to their house. They posit that there will be no charges pressed against Wandy since he likely won’t live through the night.
So things are basically all wrapped up now. The plots are all resolved. The stamps were a completely random theft by a guy who was also involved in this bomb plot and that connection allowed Applegate to be the rescuer at the house. Got it?
Dated dialogue: “What with river thieves and crazy men and stamp thieves, I don’t think the old joint has any more crooks hiding inside,” he said.
Strange line: The old man was speaking querulously: “It’s no use,” he said. [Woah, “querulously”. Def. adjective – 1.2. ]
Last line: “He won’t live until morning,” said Frank.
Cliffhanger rating: B-
Chapter 22 – The Plot for Vengeance
It’s wrap-up time! The henchmen are corralled into the house and the old man is laid down carefully inside. The boys ask how Dalrymple knew there was a plot when he thought Frank had called him on the phone. Dalrymple says he could tell it wasn’t Frank’s real voice and asked the police to come to the house with him.
Dalrymple now recognizes the old man as Amos Wandy. He explains that years ago he had managed Wandy’s money at the bank, but the collapse of an investment house lost both men considerable amounts of money. Wandy became senile and insisted that Dalrymple was to blame for making him destitute when in actually he still had money in his account at the bank. He threatened Dalrymple and eventually was placed in a sanitarium. Dalrymple had all but forgotten about the old man.
Wandy’s fall has, somehow, cleared his head and he apologizes profusely for his actions. He says he wants some absolution before dying as he is critically injured.
Frank then says he thinks he has figured out how the threatening notes were placed in the secret locked room. H brings Joe and Dalrymple to the rooftop from which Wandy fell. At the chimney, he pulls on the rope and hoists up an electric car of some kind on wires. He says that the car was lowered down the chimney, fitting through the bars within, and driven into the secret room by remote control. It would then deposit the note and Wandy would hoist it back up the chimney without a trace. Joe and Dalrymple go down into the secret room and watch as Frank demonstrates how it worked. No one had ever truly entered the room – the lunatic inventor had used this cart to deliver the notes.
The mystery is solved, except for one more thing. As they are leaving the secret room the encounter Hurd Applegate in a state of consternation. His stamps are still missing and he’s insistent that they are in the house somewhere. Frank and Joe remember that Dalrymple’s double (actually named Jensen) is still downstairs. They head that way to get an explanation and find the infernal stamps.
Seriously, these stamps. Always with the stamps.
Dated dialogue: “Why did he want to avenge himself on you?” asked Joe.
Strange line: He pointed to the little electric wagon. “This was the death messenger!”
Last line: “We’ll get the stamps,” he said.
Cliffhanger rating: C+
Chapter 21 – On the Roof
The stamp collector, Hurd Applegate, is stunned to find the boys tied up in the house. His incredulity wastes precious time, but Frank finally gets the gag out of his mouth and sparks Applegate to action. He frees Frank who immediately runs to the clock and yanks off the wires to the bomb just as the clock is about to strike the fatal hour. They are safe, for now.
The boys give Applegate a quick synopsis of their predicament and Applegate wants to flee before the men come back. The Hardys, however, smartly say that if they don’t apprehend the men now they will only try again. They must catch them now. Then the tell Applegate that one of the men is the one who stole his stamps. That convinces the collector to help them.
They quietly begin searching the house for the men. As they go upstairs, they hear muffled voices, but they can’t find their source. In the attic, they finally look out the window and onto a lower flat rooftop. They see the madman there near the chimney with some sort of box. He is lowering it down the chimney on a rope into the house. Another bomb! Just then, they see a car coming down the road to the house. Dalrymple has arrived! The madman sees the car too and ties the rope off on the chimney. He quickly starts trotting along the edge of the roof when he slips on a spot wet with rain. The slip sends him screaming off the edge from two stories up! His henchmen emerge from a window, look down and then scamper back inside and down the stairs. The Hardys and Applegate quickly follow. They make their way to the back of the house and see the old man lying on the ground with his two henchmen next to him. They say he is nearly dead.
Just then, a police force arrives and surrounds the group. Dalrymple is with them. The police demand an explanation for this scene. The henchmen adjure them to wait until they carry the injured man into the house.
The rooftop is a cool visual set piece for the action. Again, though, it’s dumb luck that takes down the enemy here. The boys are largely passive. And blindly yanking the wires out of a bomb like that might have been okay in the 20’s, but you don’t see that today. Today the defusing would have been the big set piece.
Dated dialogue: The boys caught the glint of brass buttons on police uniforms.
Strange line: He wrenched at the wires leading to the infernal machine. [Because wildly pulling at the wires of a bomb is a great idea.]
Last line: “He’s given his last warning. He’s almost dead.”
Cliffhanger rating: B-
Chapter 20 – The Face at the Window
The Hardy boys are still tied to the chairs and unable to escape. The madman makes a call on the telephone and they quickly realize he is calling Mr. Dalrymple in Lakeside. When Dalrymple answers, the madman does an uncanny impression of Frank’s voice and completely fools Dalrymple into thinking he is Frank. He tells Dalrymple that they have solved the mystery and he must come to the Purdy Place at once. Dalrymple is reluctant at first since it is the middle of the night, but agrees and says he will be there in about 30 minutes. The madman hangs up and cackles with glee as he exits the room.
The boys furiously try to free themselves in this moment of solitude. Frank works his fingers into his pocket in an attempt to reach is jack knife. He has just gotten it out and opened the blade when the madman returns. He has been watching the struggle. He takes Frank’s knife and searches Joe’s pockets where he finds another knife. He leaves again, content that they are helpless.
Frank and Joe are utterly defeated and sit waiting for their fate. It is then that they hear a noise at the window and see a figure peering in. At first they can’t tell who it is, but then the window opens and a man scrambles into the house. They are completely flabbergasted to see that the man is, in fact, Hurd Applegate! What is HE doing there?
The loss of the knife is a good touch to up the fear factor in the scene. Then the boys redemption comes thanks to the simpering stamp collector! Finally, this annoying stamp subplot is paying its dividends!
Dated dialogue: In a moment he was speaking to the operator, asking for a number in Lakeside.
Strange line: A pair of wild, haggard eyes, a white face distorted by the glass.
Last line: The man was Hurd Applegate.
Cliffhanger rating: B+
Chapter 19 – The Fatal Hour
The Hardy boys are in a very bad situation. Tied to chairs and gagged as a madman approaches them. This chapter is all about the fiend’s monologue and the exposition it provides.
The man has emerged from a secret door built into the grandfather clock that leads to a recessed room beyond. The Hardys watch as two henchmen emerge carrying a box that they are told is a bomb. One of the men is Dalrymple’s double that they saw on the street earlier. As the two men work on this bomb, the elderly madman begins to explain his dastardly plan.
It turns out this madman is an inventor and he invented this bomb setup that will be wired to the grandfather clock. At the appointed hour, the clock will trigger the bomb and destroy the house. All because Dalrymple, the banker, wouldn’t loan this man $500 to complete a revolutionary invention. The madman tells them that he had already borrowed $3000 from the banker, but needed $500 more to finish his work. Dalrymple refused, saying the man had nothing to show for the $3000 so he would get no more. The madman subsequently got very sick and forgot his lucrative idea and has now lost out on a fortune. This plot is his revenge against Dalrymple.
The boys realize that Dalrymple is not yet in the man’s clutches, but the plan is to lure him to the house soon. They must escape and fast. It is now almost 2am and the bomb will be wired to go off at 3am. As the boys watch helplessly, the madman begins to slosh gasoline and gunpowder around them. The man tells them that they have an hour to live and then they and Dalrymple will die! The he sets about to summon his quarry to the rigged house.
So the plot is finally revealed and things look pretty bad now. How are the Hardy boys going to get out of this one?
Dated dialogue: Dalrymple, then, was not yet in the madman’s clutches.
Strange line: He was a beetle-browed, sullen-featured rascal.
Last line: “I shall summon him now, I shall invite him to his death.”
Cliffhanger rating: A+
Chapter 18 – At The Old House
The Hardy boys are speeding across town out to the Purdy Place in an effort to find Mr. Dalrymple. After a near collision on the highway, the roaster blows a tire and careens into a deep ditch. The boys have no spare and cannot get the car up and out on the rim. They walk a fair distance to a garage and wake up the worker in his house nearby. The convince him to get a tow truck out and haul their car into the shop. Once there, they fix the flat and empty their pockets to pay for it. Finally, well after midnight, they’re back on the road as a thunderstorm kicks up.
At the house, the Hardys find that the police guards have been called off following the apprehension of the river thieves. The doors are all locked, but Frank (somehow) has a skeleton key that opens the back door to the kitchen. Inside the dark house, the boys turn on their flashlight. They get the feeling they are not alone. As they exit the kitchen, the flashlight is knocked from Joe’s hand and both boys are attacked by strong assailants. They are subdued and bound and gagged again, just like the river thieves had done to them a few nights back.
The boys are placed on chairs in the dining room. They hear the ticking of the grandfather clock. Then the light is turned on and a haggard, elderly man emerges and laughs at them. He is a somewhat ghastly sight to behold and the boys are terrified. The man surmises that they have come to solve the mystery. Then says, “you are going to solve it. But it will be the end for you.” It sounds like the end of the road for our heroes!
Yikes, now this is a cliffhanger! We finally meet the man who appears to be the “big bad” of this story – an old, creepy, insane man!
Dated dialogue: “Probably takes us for highwaymen,” said Joe bitterly.
Strange line: For once Frank ignored the speed limit, and the car responded nobly.
Last line: Then, pointing a skinny finger at the boys, he said menacingly: “I have given my last warning!”
Cliffhanger rating: A
Chapter 17 – Dalrymple’s Double
The Hardy boys are walking down the street discussing what their next move should be. They decide they should check in with Mr. Dalrymple about the fact that the source of the threatening notes is still at large. As if on cue, they spy Dalrymple strolling down the street. However, when the talk to him, they realize it is not Dalrymple but a man who looks remarkably like him. Frank remembers that Hurd Applegate insisted that it was Dalrymple who stole his stamps. On a hunch, Frank confronts this doppelganger about the theft. The man is surprised to be accosted like this, but states that it was indeed he who took the stamps. His story is that he hoped to buy the stamps from Applegate. When Applegate left the room and was gone for some time, he figured he had gone to bed. He took the stamps and sent they to a New York appraisal service to verify that they are genuine. If they prove to be, he will pay Applegate. The boys are not buying the story, but the man gets into a car and leaves. Frank jots down the plate number of the car.
The boys head back to the police station to report the incident and ask for a trace on the car. Then they got to Applegate’s house to tell him of the incident. Applegate is not happy that the man got away, but the Hardys assure him the police will track him down again.
Upon leaving Applegate’s house, the Hardy decide Dalrymple should know about the existence of his double. They try calling his bank and home, but cannot reach him. That evening they drive to Lakeside to find him and hear that no one has seen him since that morning. The enlist the Lakeside police to search his home and find no trace. The police don’t believe there is much cause for concern and wonder if this is a prank. Frank and Joe are worried and wonder if he’s met some fate at the Purdy Place. They hop in their roadster and race back towards the estate.
Again, more threads to this mystery. We all surmised that there was a Dalrymple lookalike running around, but here we finally stumble onto him by sheer dumb luck. This stamp subplot just won’t die either. Every time we see Hurd Applegate he’s crying and fussing about his silly stamps.
Dated dialogue: “We should have collared him,” said Frank regretfully.
Strange Line: “If you boys are makin’ a fool out of me-,” said the Chief threateningly.
Last line: What would they find! What had happened, to Mr. Dalrymple?
Cliffhanger rating: B+
Chapter 16 – The Death Yell
The Hardys are bound and gagged in the bottom of a boat being driven upstream by a pair of thieves when Joe actually works his gag free and yells for help. The police boat is still nearby and hears the call. The thieves gag Joe and turn up their speed trying to get away. Soon the police fire some warning shots and the men realize the gig is up. They give themselves up and the Hardy boys are freed. The police take the men into custody and immediately recognize them as “Indian Tom” [eye roll] and Zeke Peters, men long suspected of crime but never caught. They take the boys home and tell them to come to the station in the morning to give statements and find out what happens to the thieves.
As the boys arrive home very late and disheveled from their ordeal, they encounter Aunt Gertrude who is livid about their late night activities. Then she sees their ruined clothes and hits a new level of incredulity. The boys finally make it to bed and wonder what they will learn at the police station in the morning.
When they do get to the station, they are met by a very smug Detective Smuff. He informs them that he has solved the case and that they were lucky that his men saved them and tied up the caper all on their own. He tells them that “Indian Tom” and Zeke Peters were river thieves. They had been using the Purdy Place to stash their loot, unaware that the house had been bought by Mr. Dalrymple. The boys press him about the scream that sent the men running, but Smuff says that it was “Indian Tom” who screamed. It was their way of trying to scare off anyone who may discover their hideout.
The boys are angry that Smuff has taken full credit when they are the ones who flushed the thieves out. Plus, if the thieves didn’t know Dalrymple owned the house, then they were not responsible for the threatening notes. The case is still not solved.
So it turns out that river thieves do figure into this mystery somehow, but there is clearly more going on. And it doesn’t get much more dated than referring to a screaming crook as “Indian Tom”. Yikes.