Here they could hear the most of what was being said, and could also obtain a fair look at the side of Mrs. Stanhope's face. Josiah Crabtree's back was turned to them. They noticed that Mrs. Stanhope's face wore a peculiar, drawn expression, like that of one who is walking in his sleep.
"I'll wager he's been hypnotizing her again," whispered Tom. "Oh, what a rascal he is! Just as bad as the Baxters, every bit!"
"I do not, cannot, understand it all," the lady was saying. "I thought Dora and I were to take this trip alone."
"It will all be clear to you in a few days, Pet," returned the ex-school-teacher soothingly. He had lately gotten to calling the lady "Pet," although that was not her real name.
"Where is my child now? I do not wish to remain on board without her."
"She will be back soon; do not worry."
"I thought the trip would do me much good," continued the lady, with a deep sigh. "But I am more feeble than ever, and I cannot think as clearly as I would wish."
"It may be that this lake air is too strong for you, Pet. To-morrow we will take a run ashore. The village of Nestwood is close at hand, and I dare say I can find very good accommodations for you there."
"Will Dora be with me?"
"I do not wish to go ashore without her. She always said we would be safe on the boat."
"And you are safe."
"But she didn't want me to—that is, she didn't expect you to be along."
"She has changed her mind about that, Pet. I had a long talk with her and proved to her that she had been mistaken in me, and that I was not as black as painted."
"But they put you in jail."
"All a mistake, as I told you before. It was the work of those rascally Rover boys."
"I like that," muttered Tom. "Isn't he a peach, though, for smoothing matters over?"
"He has hypnotized her, beyond a doubt," returned Sam. "She would never believe him otherwise."
"And what did Dora say?" went on Mrs. Stanhope, after a pause, during which Josiah Crabtree took a turn up and down the deck.
"She is perfectly willing that we should marry, but under one condition."
"And what is that?"
"I hardly dare to tell you—it is so peculiar. She doesn't wish to be present at the ceremony."
"No. She says it would not be right. That she very foolishly made a vow never to be present should you marry again, and that she must keep that vow. She feels her position keenly, but she won't break her vow."
Such a statement would have aroused any ordinary woman, but Mrs. Stanhope appeared to be completely in Josiah Crabtree's power, and all she did now was to draw a long sigh and then wipe away a tear which stole down her pallid face.
"I do not think it right that I should marry without Dora being present."
"Pooh! If the girl wishes to remain away, let her do so. She will soon come to her senses and be glad of the way matters have turned."
"You do not know Dora. She is very—very headstrong at times."
"Yes, I do know her, Pet. She is headstrong, and greatly influenced by those Rover boys—especially by Dick Rover, who seems to be—ahem— somewhat smitten with her."
"Dick always impressed me as being a good youth."
"Good? He is anything but that. Why, if it wasn't for the Rovers, I would now have the finest boarding school for boys on Cayuga Lake. They spoiled all the plans I ever made. But they shall do so no longer. They cross my path again at their peril!"
"The tragic old fraud!" whispered Tom. "I've a good mind to face him just where he stands."
"Go slow! We dun't know who is on board of that ship."
"Evidently friends to Crabtree, or they wouldn't let him hypnotize Dora's mother."
"Where can Dora be?"
"That remains to be found out."
"I wonder where that ship hails from?"
"One of the lake towns. She is an old vessel. There is the name— Wellington. That sounds as if she might be a Canadian."
"Perhaps Crabtree got both of them into Canada and then cast Dora adrift."
There was now a stir on the ship, and a fat old sailor came on deck.
"How long you say we stay in dees island, hey?" he asked, in a strong French-Canadian accent.
"We will sail as soon as the sun goes down," answered Josiah Crabtree.
"I no lak to stay here," went on the sailor, "You no pay for to stay here."
"I will pay you for your full time," answered the ex-school-teacher smoothly. "Do not worry on that account."
"You go on de land, hey?"
"I think not. We shall set sail for Nestwood, as I told you before."
"Is Dora at Nestwood?" questioned Mrs. Stanhope.
"I expect to meet her there. But she may not show up until after the wedding, my dear."
"It is very, very strange," and Mrs. Stanhope sighed again.
The fat old sailor now went below again, and after a few words more with Mrs. Stanhope Josiah Crabtree followed.
"Now is our chance!" whispered Tom. "You stay here and I'll try to have a talk with Mrs. Stanhope in secret."
So speaking, Tom crawled out upon the fallen tree trunk until he could reach a rope hanging over the Wellington's side. Then he drew himself up silently.
"Oh!" cried Mrs. Stanhope, on catching sight of him. "Is it really you, Tom Rover?"
"Hush, Mrs. Stanhope! not so loud," he replied hastily. "I don't want to let Josiah Crabtree know I am here."
"But where did you come from?"
"From the island. It's a long story. I am here with Sam."
"It is very strange. But many things of late have been strange."
"May I ask how you happen to be here?"
"That, too, is a long story. I was to take a trip with Dora, for the benefit of my health. But, on the way to the lakes Dora disappeared and Mr. Crabtree turned up in her place—and he has been with me ever since."
"He wants to marry you, doesn't he?"
"Yes, he has always wished that, as you know."
"I wouldn't do it. He is after your money, and that is all. He is a fraud, and everybody knows it."
Mrs. Stanhope passed her hand over her brow. Tom's blunt words did much to counteract Josiah Crabtree's strange influence over her.
"Your words impress me deeply," she faltered. "Dora talks that way, too. But—but—Mr. Crabtree, when he is with me, makes me think so differently." She tried to get up, then sank back in her seat. "And I am so weak physically!"
"Don't alarm yourself, Mrs. Stanhope. If you need a friend, I'll stand by you—and so will Sam."
"Where is Dick? You boys are always together."
"I don't know where he is at present. We were carried off by the Baxters, who are not far off."
"The Baxters! Oh, I am afraid of those people—more afraid than I ever was of Mr. Crabtree."
"They are certainly more daring, but no worse morally than Crabtree." Tom ran his hand through his curly hair in perplexity. "Who is aboard of this boat?"
"Mr. Crabtree and myself, two sailors, and one of the sailors' wives, who has been waiting on me."
"Not a very large crowd."
"Mr. Crabtree said he did not wish too many along."
"How long have you been here on the lake?"
"Several days. I did not wish to go, but, but——"
"He has an influence over you?"
"Yes, a strange influence I cannot understand. Oh, I am so wretched!" And the lady suddenly burst into tears.
"Don't, please don't!" said Tom, all sympathy at once. "It's Crabtree's work, and he shan't harm you. I'll see you safe back to Dora and home."
"Will you?" she demanded eagerly. "I do not wish to marry unless Dora is pleased. She said——"
Mrs. Stanhope got no further, for at that instant Josiah Crabtree reappeared on deck. His astonishment at seeing Tom can better be imagined than described.
TOM BRINGS ONE ENEMY TO TERMS.
"Am I dreaming?" gasped the former school-teacher, when he could command his voice sufficiently to speak.
"You might better be dreaming, Josiah Crabtree," replied Tom, eying the man sharply. "This is a bad business you are engaged in."
"Where did you come from?"
"None of your business."
"Don't be impertinent, young man."
"Then don't try to pry into my private affairs."
"Have you been following this boat?" questioned Crabtree nervously.
"Never mind what I've been doing. I have found you out, and that appears to be a good job done."
"Found me out? What do you mean to insinuate by that?"
"I mean that you are up to no good; that's what I mean, Mr. Josiah Crabtree, A. M."
"You are very, very——"
"Don't try to abuse me, it won't work. I want to know what you propose to do with Mrs. Stanhope."
"That is my affair—or, rather, it is the affair of that lady and myself—and does not concern such a scamp as you."
"Oh, Josiah! I do not think Tom is a scamp," broke in Mrs. Stanhope, in a pleading voice.
"He is a scamp, and worse, Pet. Allow me to deal with him alone."
"So you thought to elope with Mrs. Stanhope," went on Tom sarcastically. "To elope without Dora being the wiser."
"Ha! what do you know of Dora!" ejaculated the man, starting back in alarm.
"I know a good deal."
"Has she—ahem! followed me?"
"Would that surprise you?"
"It is—er—very extraordinary." Crabtree cleared his throat. "I—that is—where is she now?" And he looked around.
"I told you I wasn't answering questions. But you had better take my advice and go slow, or you'll soon find yourself in jail again."
"You must have followed us in a boat. Where is your craft?"
"Another question which I am not answering. Do you surrender?"
"That is what I said."
"The case is very simple. You ran off with Mrs. Stanhope, influencing her against her will to accompany you. Your game is to marry her so that you can get hold of the money she is holding in trust for Dora—— "
"It is false!"
"It is the plain truth. Josiah Crabtree, you are a trickster of the first water, but if I can prevent your trickery I am going to do it." Tom turned to Mrs. Stanhope, who was now crying violently. "Won't you go below and let me have it out with this man?"
"Oh, I trust there will be no violence!" she sobbed.
"I shall teach this young upstart a lesson," fumed Josiah Crabtree. He saw that Tom's coming had greatly lessened his influence over the lady.
"Please go below, Mrs. Stanhope, and don't worry about me," said Tom.
"Yes, it will be best," added Crabtree, and then the lady disappeared down the companion way, walking slowly, for she felt weaker than ever, because of the excitement.
"Now, sir, we will come to an understanding," said the former teacher of Putnam Hall, as he faced Tom with a show of severe dignity.
"Very well, we will come to an understanding."
"You have followed me to here."
"You came in another boat with Dora."
"What if I did? Do you suppose I would come with her alone?" went on Tom, struck with a sudden idea.
"Do you mean to say you have—er—brought along any of the—ahem!— authorities?" And Josiah Crabtree glanced around nervously.
"I am not alone—nor is Dora where you can do her any harm."
Josiah Crabtree's face became a trifle pale.
"Boy, what do you wish to do—ruin me?"
"Mr. Crabtree, you are ruining yourself."
"You were the means of putting me in jail before—you and your brothers."
"You deserved it, didn't you?"
"I think you did. But that has nothing to do with the present situation. I want to know if you are willing to come to terms or not?"
"What—er—terms do you want me to make?"
"Are you in control of this boat?'
"Then, in the first place, you must turn the control of the boat over to me."
"And after that?"
"You can remain on board, if you behave yourself, until we reach the mainland."
"And what then?"
"After that you can make your own terms with Mrs. Stanhope and Dora."
"But the authorities—"
"Mr. Crabtree, for the sake of the Stanhopes we wish to avoid all publicity," replied Tom, playing his game as skillfully as possible. "I don't think they will want to bring you and themselves into court, if you will promise to leave them alone in the future."
"Who is with you here?" And Crabtree looked ashore anxiously.
"Sam is close at hand."
"And the others?"
"Never mind about the others. I hold a winning hand, but what that is I'll let time show. Now, for the last time, are you willing to let me take charge or not?"
"It is a very unusual proceeding."
"Say yes or no."
"What shall I say? I do not wish any trouble."
"Then I am going to take charge. Call up the two sailors who have been running this boat for you."
With a dark look on his face Josiah Crabtree did as requested. At the same time Tom beckoned to Sam to come on the deck.
The sailors were much astonished to see the two strangers. Only the fat tar could speak English, and he translated what was said into French for his companion's benefit.
It was with very bad grace that Josiah Crabtree told the sailor who commanded the Wellington that Tom would now direct the movements of the vessel.
"We have—er—decided to change our plans," said the former school- teacher.
"What you lak to do den, hey?" demanded the fat sailor.
"What is the nearest American town to here?" asked Tom.
"Ze nearest place?"
"And how far is that from here?"
"Ten or eleven miles."
"Then we will sail for that place, and at once."
At this Crabtree looked surprised.
"You are going to Buryport at once? What about the others you said were with you?"
"I will answer no questions." Tom turned around and winked at Sam, who had heard the previous conversation. "I guess they'll follow right enough, eh?"
"Sure," answered Sam. "Dick knows what he's doing, and so does that detective."
"A detective!" groaned Josiah Crabtree. "Has it come to this!" And he wrung his hands nervously.
"Mr. Crabtree, I must ask you to step forward," went on Tom. "I do not wish you to go below."
"I do not wish you to worry Mrs. Stanhope," answered the youth. But what he was afraid of was that Crabtree might take it into his head to arm himself and bring on further trouble.
"As you please," answered the former teacher, with a shrug of his shoulders. "You seem to have matters well in hand." And he strode forward, biting his lip in vexation. He would have tried to escape to the island, only he was afraid no one would ever come to rescue him.
While speaking, Tom had taken the pains to display the pistol taken from the sailor at the cave. Sam now took up a short iron bar lying near, and both boys showed that they meant to remain masters of the situation. The Canadians noted this, but said nothing, for they felt something was wrong and they wished to get into no trouble. A few minutes later the anchor was brought up, the sails hoisted, and the Wellington stood away from Needle Point Island.
THE SECRET OF THE ISLAND CAVE.
It is now time that we go back to the Rocket and see how Dick and those with him were faring.
At the announcement that a schooner looking like the Peacock was in sight he ran on deck with all speed, and caught up a glass belonging to the owner of the steam tug.
"It's the Peacock, sure," he cried.
"See anything o' that Captain Langless or them Baxters?" asked Luke Peterson.
"I see somebody, but we are too far off to make out their faces."
The order was passed to the engineer of the tug, and the speed of the craft was materially increased.
But before they could come up to the schooner she disappeared around a headland of the island.
"We must run out a bit," said Captain Parsons. "There is a nasty reef here, and if we aint careful we'll get aground."
"Where do you suppose the Peacock has gone?" asked Dick.
"Into one of the bays, most likely."
"Can we follow her?"
"Of coarse. The tug doesn't draw any more water than the schooner, if as much."
"Perhaps we had better see how the land lays before we approach too close," suggested Peterson. "They may be prepared to fight us off."
"That is true," said Dick. "Perhaps we can slip into another bay close by."
So it was arranged, and they sped on their way, passing the bay in which the Peacock lay.
Near the island was a quantity of driftwood, and they had just gotten out of sight of the bay when there was a sudden grinding and crashing sound on board of the tug, and the engineer shut off the steam power.
"A breakdown!" exclaimed the captain, and so it proved. The screw had become entangled in the limb of a tree, and sufficient damage had been done to render the screw useless.
This was indeed an unlooked-for accident, and Dick wondered what they had best do.
"We can't use the screw at all?" he asked of the engineer, after an examination.
"Not until I have had a chance to repair it."
"And how long will the repairs take?"
"Can't tell till I get at work. Maybe an hour or two, maybe half a day."
This was dismaying information, and Dick held a consultation with Larry Colby and Luke.
"I know what I'd do," said Larry. "I'd have the captain of the tug land me at some point above here, and then I'd watch the Peacock from behind some bushes on shore."
This was considered good advice, and Dick agreed to act upon it. He spoke to Parsons, and a small boat was put out, and Dick, Larry, and Peterson were rowed to land.
"Now what will you do with the tug?" asked the eldest Rover.
"We'll haul her in to a safe spot," answered Parsons. "I don't believe those repairs will take over a couple of hours. Then we'll be at your service again."
Once on land Dick led the way into the woods, moving in the direction of the bay where he had last seen the Peacock.
He was armed, and so were his companions, but they wished, if possible, to avoid all trouble.
They had landed at a spot where the rocks were numerous and the ground uncertain, and they had not proceeded far when Luke Peterson called a halt.
"We want to be careful here," he said. "This island is full of caves and pitfalls and, before you know it, you'll break a leg."
"It is certainly an ideal hiding place," returned Larry. "Hi, Dick! what's that?"
"I thought I saw somebody in the brush yonder."
Dick shook his head.
"I saw nothing."
"Neither did I," put in the lumberman. "Who did it look like?"
"Perhaps I was mistaken and it was a bird flitting through the brush. Come on."
Larry plunged ahead and Dick followed.
Both had hardly taken a dozen steps when each gave a yell.
"What's up now?" cried Peterson, and came after them at a bound.
Then all tried to scramble back.
It was too late. They had struck a tiny water-course between the rocks. And now the very bottom of it seemed to drop out, and they sank down and down into almost utter darkness.
"We are lost!" spluttered Dick, but it is doubtful if either of his companions heard him.
For the minute after Dick was so dazed and bewildered that he said nothing more. He clutched at rocks, dirt, and tree roots, but all gave way at his touch.
At last he found himself flat on his back on a heap of dead leaves and moss. Partly across him lay Larry, while Peterson was several feet away. Around the three lay dirt and bushes and several good-sized stones. It was lucky the stones had not come down on top of them, otherwise one or another might have been killed.
"Gosh, what a tumble!" ejaculated Peterson, when he could speak. "I told ye to be careful. This island is like a reg'lar honeycomb fer holes."
"Oh, my foot!" gasped Larry, as he tried to get up.
"That was a tumble and no mistake," said Dick. "What's the matter with your foot, Larry?"
"I don't know, excepting I must have sprained my ankle," was the answer. "Oh!" And Larry gave a loud groan.
Forgetful of their situation, Dick and the lumberman bent over Larry and helped him to get off his shoe and sock. His ankle was beginning to swell and turn red, and he had sprained it beyond a doubt.
The water was coming into the opening from the little stream overhead, and Dick readily procured a hatful of the fluid and the ankle was bathed with this. After this it was bound up, and Larry said it felt somewhat better.
"But I can't walk very far on it," he continued, and then added, with a sorry smile, "I am laid up, just as the Rocket is!"
"The question is, now we are down at the bottom of this hole, how are we going to get out?" said Dick to Peterson.
"We'll have to get out some way," was the unsatisfactory response. "See, the water is coming in faster than ever."
The lumberman was right, the water had been running in a tiny stream not larger than a child's wrist; now it was pouring in steadily like a cataract. Soon the bottom of the hole had formed a pool several inches deep.
"Wait till it fills up and then swim out," suggested Larry.
"No, thanks," returned Dick. "We might be drowned by that operation."
The hole was irregular in shape, about ten feet in diameter and fully twenty feet deep. What had caused the sudden sinking was a mystery until it was solved by the water in the pool suddenly dropping away into another hole still deeper. Then of a sudden the trio went down again, this time at an angle, to find themselves in a good-sized cave, where all was dark and uncertain.
The tumble had wrenched Larry's ankle still more, and the youth could not suppress his groans of pain.
As soon as he was able Peterson leaped up, struck a match, and lit some brushwood which happened to be near and which the water had not yet touched.
By this light Larry's ankle was again attended to and bound up in a couple of handkerchiefs.
"If we keep on we'll get to the center of the earth," remarked Dick, as he gazed around curiously. "Where do you suppose we are now?"
"In one of the island caves," answered Peterson. "I told you the place was full of them. That's the reason the smugglers used to hold out here."
"Perhaps we'll come across some of their treasures."
At this Peterson shook his head. "Not likely. When the last of the smugglers was arrested the government detectives searched the island thoroughly and gathered in all to be found."
"I see. Well, how are we to get out, now we are down here?"
"We might climb back, Rover, the way we came, but that is dangerous on account of the water. I rather think we'll do better to look for the regular opening to the cave, if there is any."
The matter was talked over for several minutes, and it was decided that Dick and Peterson should investigate, while Larry remained by the fire, keeping it as bright as possible and resting his sore ankle.
At a short distance ahead the cave branched into two parts, and coming to the forks, Dick took the right while Peterson moved to the left. Dick carried a torch, which he held overhead, and likewise a pistol, in case any snake or wild animal should attack him.
The youth had not proceeded far before he came upon signs which showed that the cave at one time had been inhabited by human beings. First he espied a part of an old bag, then a weather-beaten sailor's cap, and soon after a rusty pistol, falling apart for the want of care.
"This must have been a smugglers' retreat sure," he murmured to himself. "My, if I should stumble across a box of gold!"
He hurried forward and presently reached a spot where the cave broadened out into a round chamber. Here there were a rude table and several benches, all ready to fall apart from decay.
With quick steps he approached the table, for he had seen something lying upon it—something which made him start and give a cry of wonder.
In the center of the table was a heap of silver dollars, and beside this was a land map, drawn by hand. On the map lay a rusty dagger and a human skull!
THE BAXTERS ARE FOLLOWED.
"Well, I never!"
Dick gazed at the silver, the map, the daggers and the skull with mingled surprise and horror.
How had those things come there, and what was the mystery concerning them?
Coming closer, he picked up several of the dollars and examined them. All were dated thirty to forty years back.
Then he picked up the dagger, a beautiful affair of polished steel with a curiously wrought handle of buckhorn.
The skull he left untouched.
The map was covered with dust, some of which he endeavored to blow away. Beneath he saw that there were odd tracings of many kinds, and lettering's in a language which was strange to him. Then his light began to go out and he shouted for Peterson to join him.
The sound echoed and re-echoed throughout the cavern, showing that the place was even more roomy than he had anticipated. He waited several minutes, then saw Peterson's light.
"What's up?" demanded the lumberman as he approached. "Find anything important?"
"I should say so," answered Dick. "Look there."
Peterson did so, then gave a cry of astonishment.
"Silver, lad, silver! And a skull!"
"There is some story hidden in this affair," said Dick soberly. "Can you explain it?"
"I cannot." Peterson picked up the dagger. "That's a French weapon."
"But the dollars are U. S. money."
"Right. It is a mystery and no error. How much money is there here?"
The two counted the pile and found it footed up to two hundred and forty dollars.
"Not a fortune, but still a tidy sum," said Peterson. To a man in his standing two hundred and forty dollars was quite an amount.
"A fair share of it is yours," said Dick. "Let us investigate some more."
The lumberman was willing, and lighting a fresh torch, they moved around the circular chamber. At one point they saw an opening leading into a second chamber. Here were a number of boxes and casks, all covered with dust and dirt, the accumulation of years. Prying open one of the boxes which was handy, they discovered that it contained canned vegetables. A second box contained dress goods, and a third some candles. A cask close at hand was marked "Cognac."
"This was a regular smugglers' hangout," said Peterson. "Those boxes must contain stuff of some value. Rover, we have made a haul by coming here."
"Yes, but I am forgetting all about my brothers," added Dick hastily. "Let us leave this alone for the present. I guess it is safe enough."
"No doubt, since it has rested undisturbed so many years."
They left the storeroom, as it may properly be termed, and returned to the circular chamber.
At first they could find no further opening, but then Dick saw a thin shaft of light coming from a corner. Here there was a flat rock which was easily pulled aside. A broad opening led upward to the outer world.
"Safe, so far as getting out is concerned," remarked Peterson. "All told, I reckon we had quite a lucky tumble, after all."
"If Larry's ankle isn't too bad."
They hurried back to where Larry had been left, and found him still nursing his ankle, which had swollen to the size of his knee. He tried to stand upon it, but the pain was so great he was glad enough to sit down again.
He listened in open-mouthed wonder to what Dick had to tell. "A treasure cave!" he cried. "Who would have dreamed of such a thing on Lake Huron!"
Now that Larry could not move, the others were in a quandary as to what to do. Dick was impatient to be after the Peacock.
"The folks on the schooner may take it into their heads to sail away, if they caught sight of the steam tug," he said. "And if they give us the slip I won't know where to look for them."
"I guess I'll be safe if left alone," said Larry. "I have water and the fire, and my pistol. You go ahead, and come back for me when it is convenient. Only don't leave the island without me."
"Leave without you? Not much!" answered Dick.
"You forget the treasure," put in Peterson, with a laugh. "We are not going to let that slip."
"That's so," said Larry. "All right; I'll remain as the guardian of the treasure." And so it was arranged.
It was no easy matter to gain the outer air once more, for the passageway was choked with dirt and brushwood which the wind had blown in. When they came into the open they found themselves close to the lake shore at a spot surrounded thickly with trees.
"A fine cove for a smuggler to hide in," observed Peterson. "No wonder they made this cave their rendezvous."
"Where is the bay in which the Peacock disappeared?"
"To the westward, Rover. Come, I'll show the way."
"Be careful that we don't get into another trap."
"I've got my eyes open," responded the lumberman.
On they went once more, over the rocks and through a tangle of brushwood. It was now almost dark, and Dick was beginning to think they would lose their way when Peterson called a sudden halt.
"Here we are," he whispered and pointed ahead. There, through the trees, could be seen the waters of the tiny bay, and there lay the Peacock at anchor.
Only one man was on deck, a sailor Dick had seen several times. Otherwise the craft appeared deserted.
"Do you suppose the Baxters and the others have gone ashore?" asked Dick.
"No telling yet, lad. Let us watch out for a while."
They sat down and watched until the darkness of night began to hide the Peacock from view.
At last they saw Arnold Baxter come on deck, followed by Dan.
The two entered a rowboat and a sailor took them ashore. They had scarcely landed when Captain Langless appeared, coming along a pathway but a few yards from where Dick and the lumberman were in hiding.
At once a wordy war ensued between the Baxters and the owner of the schooner. What it was about Dick and Peterson could not make out, although they realized that it concerned Tom and Sam.
"Your men are a set of doughheads," cried Arnold Baxter. "They are to be trusted with nothing."
"Never mind, we'll come out ahead anyway," retorted Captain Langless. "I reckon you've been tripped up yourself before this."
"I warned you to be careful."
"It wasn't my fault."
"What's to do now?" put in Dan Baxter. "Shall we stay on the island, dad?"
"Certainly," grumbled Arnold Baxter. "But I don't know exactly what to do," and the man scratched his head in perplexity.
"Let us go up to the cave."
"That won't do you any good," growled Captain Langless. "I know what I am going to do."
"I'm going to sail around the island and find out if any other boat is near. I don't want those boys to signal another boat."
"A good idea," said Arnold Baxter. "But Dan and I can remain on shore anyway."
"Just as you please," and Captain Langless shrugged his shoulders.
The rowboat was still at the shore, and the captain returned to the Peacock with the member of his crew, leaving the Baxters to themselves.
Dick nudged Peterson in the side.
"Can it be possible that Tom and Sam have escaped?" he whispered.
"It looks that way," answered the lumberman. "Anyway, something is very much wrong or these rascals wouldn't fall out with each other."
"Hadn't we better watch the Baxters?"
"I think so. The Peacock will not go far, I'm pretty sure of that."
The Baxters now passed along the footpath leading to the cave in which Tom and Sam had been placed.
Noiselessly Dick and Peterson followed. As Dick advanced he drew his pistol.
Quarter of a mile was covered and they were close to the cave, when Arnold Baxter suddenly halted.
"Dan, supposing Captain Langless doesn't come back," he exclaimed, loud enough for Dick and his companion to hear.
"Doesn't come back!" ejaculated the bully. "Why, he's got to come back."
"No, he hasn't."
"But I don't understand——"
"You know well enough that the Rovers tried to bribe the captain."
"Yes, but they ran away——"
"Perhaps it's only a bluff, Dan. The boys may have been taken to another part of the island, from which Langless can transfer them to the schooner later."
"What, and desert us!" groaned the bully.
"Yes, and desert us. I think we were foolish to leave the Peacock without taking the captain or Cadmus along. I won't trust any of them any longer."
"Well, what shall we do, dad; go back?"
"It's too late now. The Peacock has gotten under way long ago."
"Well, let us try to get on the track of the two boys. Perhaps we can follow them up from the cave. If all of the footsteps point this way we'll know the captain has been deceiving us."
Again the Baxters moved on, and so did Dick and Peterson. The way was rough and made Dan grumble a good deal.
"We ought to have kept this game all in our own hands from the start," said the former bully of Putnam Hall. "We made a rank mistake to take Captain Langless into our confidence."
"I won't care if only we make Anderson Rover pony up that money," answered the father. "I'm afraid the mine scheme will have to fall through."
"What did you strike him for in cash?"
"Ten thousand dollars."
"You ought to have made it fifty."
"I wanted to get ten first and double that afterward. If I struck him too high first I was afraid he wouldn't try to meet me, but put the detectives on the track without delay."
AN ENCOUNTER IN THE DARK.
A little while later the Baxters reached the cave where Tom and Sam had been held prisoners.
The sailor who had been left bound had long since been released, so the place was deserted.
"Look out for snakes," said Dan. "We had better light torches."
This was done, for it was now dark under the trees.
Hiding in a thicket, Dick and Peterson saw the Baxters enter the cave. The pair remained inside for fully quarter of an hour, and came out looking much disappointed.
With torches close to the ground they searched for Sam and Tom's trail.
"Here are footprints!" exclaimed Arnold Baxter, at last. "They are not made by men, either."
"They must be the boys'," answered Dan. "Come on, let us follow."
"It is very dark, Dan. I'm afraid we'll have to wait until morning."
Nevertheless, the pair passed on, and again Dick and Peterson came behind.
Hardly three rods had been passed when Dan Baxter let out a cry as some small wild animal dashed across the trail. The bully turned to run, and discovered Dick ere the latter could hide.
"Dick Rover!" he gasped.
"Rover!" cried Arnold Baxter. "What are you talking about, Dan?"
"Here is Dick Rover! And that lumber fellow is with him."
"Impossible! Why, Rover, where did you come from?" And Arnold Baxter came up, hardly believing his eyes.
"We were following you, Arnold Baxter," answered Dick quietly.
"To see what you were going to do next?"
"Have you found Sam and Tom?" questioned Dan quickly.
"Dan, be still!" thundered his father. "You are always putting your foot into it."
"I reckon you chaps are fairly caught," put in Luke Peterson.
"Caught?" came from both, in a breath.
"Yes, caught," said Dick. "We did not follow you for nothing."
"Perhaps you are the ones who are caught," said Arnold Baxter, with a sickly smile.
"Hardly," and Dick showed his pistol. "We are well armed, Arnold Baxter, and will stand no fooling."
"We are armed, too—" began Dan, but his parent stopped him.
"Of course you came to this island on a boat of some sort," went on the elder Baxter.
"How else could we come? The mainland is miles away."
"Where is your boat?"
"Not far off, and well manned, too," added Dick. "We came not alone to capture you, but also the Peacock and all on board."
At this announcement the faces of the Baxters fell, and Dan actually trembled.
"Where is your boat?" repeated Arnold Baxter.
"As I just told you, not far off. The question is, will you submit quietly, or must I summon help?"
"Submit to what?"
"Submit to being taken to our boat."
"You have no right to make me go to your boat."
"I'll be hanged if I'll go," growled Dan.
"And you may be shot if you don't go," answered Dick significantly. "I know you well, and I shall take no further chances with you. Now will you go or not?"
"I suppose, if we don't go, you'll bring some officers here to compel us to do as you wish."
"You may as well give in," said Peterson. "This island is not large, and even if you try to run away you'll be found, sooner or later. The Peacock is probably already captured, and those on our boat will see that no other boat comes near here until we have you safe on board. The jig is up."
"I won't give in!" cried Arnold Baxter. "Come, Dan!" He caught his son by the arm, and both turned and sped into the nearest brush.
It was dark, the torches having died low, and before Dick could shoot, even if he wished to do so, the pair of rascals were out of sight.
"Stop!" said Dick to Peterson, who was for following them up. "We can do nothing in the darkness. Let them go. To-morrow is another day. Let us return to the Rocket and take steps to capture the Peacock."
"Yes, and we must get back to Larry," said the lumberman.
It was no easy matter to find their way back to the treasure cave, and they missed the direction half a dozen times. When they did get back it was so gloomy in the bushes that they had to call out to Larry, in order to locate him.
"Gracious! I was afraid you would never come back," said the youth.
"We've had quite an adventure," replied Dick, and related the particulars.
Larry's ankle was somewhat better, and by leaning on both Dick and Peterson he managed to hobble along to where the Rocket's small boat had landed them.
The steam tug was close at hand, and they were soon on board.
"Is the screw repaired?" was Dick's first question.
"Not quite, but it will be inside of half an hour," answered Jack Parsons.
"Have you seen anything of the Peacock? She is sailing around the island."
"No, haven't seen any sail since you left. We—"
A cry from the lookout interrupted the captain.
"Here comes the Peacock!"
The report was true, and all crowded forward to catch sight of the schooner in the darkness.
The stars made it fairly light on the water and, as the schooner came up close to the steam tug, Dick made out several figures on board.
"Ahoy, what tug is that?" came from the schooner.
"The Rocket" answered Parsons. "What schooner is that?"
To this there was no answer.
"What are you doing here?" asked Captain Langless instead.
"We are in trouble," returned Parsons, after whispering with Dick.
"We've had a breakdown."
"Seen anybody from the island?"
"Why, we thought this island was deserted."
"So it is."
"Come up closer and give us a lift."
"Can't, we are behind time now."
Then, without warning, a Bengal light was lit on board of the schooner. A large reflector was placed behind the light, which was thus cast on the deck of the Rocket. At once Dick, Peterson, and the others were exposed to the gaze of Captain Langless.
"Ha! I suspected as much!" roared the master of the schooner. "Sheer off, Wimble, or the game is up!"
The helm of the Peacock was at once thrown over, and she began to move off. A stiff breeze caused her to make rapid progress.
"Stop!" cried Dick. "Stop, or we will fire on you!"
He had scarcely spoken when the report of a pistol rang out and a bullet cut through the air over his head.
"Let that be a warning to you to leave us alone!" cried Captain Langless.
Then the schooner increased her speed, the flare from the Bengal light died out, and soon the Peacock was lost to view in the darkness.
BEACHING THE "WELLINGTON"
"How is this for a turn of fortune?" remarked Tom, as he and Sam stood on the deck of the Wellington and watched the shore of Needle Point Island fading from view in the distance.
"It's all right, if only we can make those Canadians obey us," replied the youngest of the Rovers. "They don't seem to like matters much. They look dark and distrustful."
"I don't think they'll make trouble, Sam."
"Josiah Crabtree seems thoroughly cowed."
"Don't trust him. He is worse than a snake in the grass and he hates us worse than poison."
The two paced the deck thoughtfully. Mrs. Stanhope was still in the cabin, in the company of one of the sailors' wives, while the former teacher of Putnam Hall also kept out of sight.
"This seems an old tub of a boat," went on Tom, a few minutes later. "I wonder that Crabtree didn't hire something better. She just crawls along, and no more."
"Probably he got the boat cheap. He always was the one to go in for cheap things." And in his surmise the lad was correct.
It was not long before one of the Canadians took hold of a hand-pump near the bow of the boat and began to pump the water out of the hold.
"Hullo, your old tub leaks, eh?" said Tom.
"Yees, heem leak some," answered the fat Canadian. "Heem want some what-you-call-heem, tar; hey?" And he smiled broadly.
"Any danger of sinking?"
At this the Canadian shook his head. Then he went to pumping at a faster rate than ever.
"I believe he is afraid," said Tom to Sam. "She must leak fearfully, or he wouldn't pump up so much water."
"Well, the journey to the mainland won't last forever—that's one satisfaction, Tom. I reckon the tub is good for that much of a run. I don't care what becomes of her after we are ashore."
"Nor I. She can sink if she wishes, with Crabtree on board, too."
"Sink!" cried a voice behind them. "Is there danger of the ship going down? I noticed that she was leaking yesterday."
It was Josiah Crabtree who spoke. He had just come up and he was very pale.
"I guess she'll keep up a few minutes longer," said Tom soberly.
"A few minutes! Oh, dear! if we did sink what would become of us?"
"Why, if we did sink we'd sink, that's all."
"I mean, if the ship sunk what would we do?"
"You might wade ashore, if your legs are long enough."
"But this is no joking matter, Thomas. The lake is very deep out here."
"Then you had better find a life-preserver."
Josiah Crabtree gave something of a groan and moved away. He did not know whether Tom was poking fun at him or not. Yet he did search for a preserver—and in doing that he was wiser than the boys had anticipated.
Presently the wind veered around and the yards came over with a bang. The Wellington gave a lurch, and there was a strange creaking and cracking far below the deck. The Canadian pumped more madly than ever, and shouted to his companion in French.
"Is she leaking worse?" asked Tom.
The Canadian nodded. Then the Wellington gave another lurch, and Tom noticed that her bow gave an odd little dip.
"Filling with water, I'll be bound," he muttered, and running to the hatch he sounded the well hole. There were sixteen inches of water below. Soon it measured seventeen inches.
"We've sprung a bad leak," he announced to Sam. "It looks as if we might go to the bottom."
"Oh, Tom, you don't mean it!"
"Yes, I do."
"Can't we turn back? The island isn't more than two miles off. It may be safer to go back than to keep on."
"Exactly my idea, Sam. I'll speak to the Canadian about it."
The fat sailor was still pumping, but his face was full of despair.
"De ship he go down," he gasped. "We drown in ze lake!"
"Better turn back to the island," returned Tom. "And lose no time about it."
"Yees! yees! zat ees best. We turn heem back!"
The Canadian shouted to his companion, who was at the wheel, and then left the pump to attend to the sails. At once Tom took his place at the pump, at the same time calling to Sam to go down for Mrs. Stanhope.
"Tell her to come on deck," he said. "And find some life-preservers, if you can."
"What of the rowboat?"
"It's as rotten as the ship, Sam. We'll have to swim for it, if this tub sinks."
Sam disappeared into the cabin and Tom turned to the pumping. Never had he worked so hard, and the perspiration poured down his face. Soon Mrs. Stanhope appeared, her face full of fear.
"Oh, pray Heaven we do not go down!" she murmured. "How far are we from land?"
"We have turned back for the island," answered Tom, hardly able to speak because of his exertions. "We are not much more than a mile away."
"A mile! And how long will it take us to reach the island?"
"About ten minutes, if the wind holds out."
The Wellington was now groaning and creaking in every timber, as if she was aware that her last hour on the surface of the lake had come. She was, as Tom had said, an old "tub," and should have been condemned years before. But the Canadians were used to her and handled the craft as skillfully as possible. They, too, provided themselves with life-preservers and, when Sam relieved his brother at the pump, Tom did likewise.
As she filled with water the ship moved more slowly until, despite the breeze, she seemed to merely crawl along. It was now growing dark and the island was not yet in sight.
Sounded again, the well hole showed twenty inches of water. At this the fat Canadian gave a long sigh and disappeared into the forecastle, to obtain a trunk and some of his other belongings. Sam had already brought on deck the things belonging to Mrs. Stanhope.
At last the fat sailor uttered a welcome cry. "The island! The island!"
"Where?" questioned the others.
The sailor pointed with his hand. He was right; land was just visible, and no more. Then of a sudden came a crash and a shock which threw all of those on board headlong.
"We have struck a rock!" yelled Josiah Crabtree. "We are going down!" And in his terror he leaped overboard and struck out wildly for the distant shore.
Sam was also ready, in a moment, to spring into the water, but Tom held him back. The Wellington settled and swung around, and then sheered off the rock and went on her way. But it was plainly to be seen that she could float but a few minutes more at the most.
"There is a sandy shore!" cried Tom to the Canadians. "Better drive her straight in and beach her!"
"Good!" said the fat sailor, and spoke to his companion in French. Then, as well as they were able, they brought the water-logged craft around to the wind. Slowly she drifted in, her deck sinking with every forward move. Then came a strong pull of wind which caught the sails squarely and drove them ahead. A grating and a slishing followed, and they ran up the muddy shore and came to a standstill in about three feet of water.
"Hurrah! saved!" shouted Sam. "My, but that was a narrow escape!"
"Where is Mr. Crabtree?" asked Mrs. Stanhope anxiously. "Oh, do not let him drown!"
They looked around and saw him in the water not a hundred feet away, puffing and blowing like a porpoise.
"Save me!" he screamed, as soon as he saw their safety. "Don't let me drown!"
"You're all right," returned Tom. "It's shallow here. See if you can't walk ashore."
Josiah Crabtree continued his paddling, and presently put down his feet very gingerly. He could just touch the bottom. Soon he was in a position to walk, and lost no time in getting out of the lake and coming up to the bow of the Wellington.
"Oh, dear, this is dreadful!" he groaned, with a shiver. "Throw out a plank that I may come onboard."
"Thought you were tired of the old tub," said Tom dryly.
"I thought she was surely going down, Thomas. Please throw out a plank, that's a good boy."
The Canadian got the longest plank at hand and, resting one end at the bow, allowed the other to fall ashore, in a few inches of mud and water. Then Josiah Crabtree came up the plank on hands and knees, looking for all the world like a half-drowned rat.
CRABTREE JOINS THE BAXTERS.
"Well, we are no better off than we were before," remarked Sam, after Josiah Crabtree had disappeared in the direction of the cabin and the two boys had walked forward by themselves.
"No, we are no better off, but we have succeeded in rescuing Mrs. Stanhope from old Crabtree's clutches, and that is something."
"True, but supposing we fall in the hands of the Baxters and Captain Langless again?"
"Can't we hold them at bay, if they try to come on board this tub?"
"Perhaps. But we can't remain on board the Wellington forever."
Now that the danger was over the lads found that they were hungry, and called upon the sailors to bring out what food the craft afforded. They made a hearty meal, in which Mrs. Stanhope joined. Josiah Crabtree was not invited, and had to eat later on with the sailors and the one sailor's wife.
"This wreck may throw us together for some time, Crabtree," said Tom, later on, when he and the former school-teacher were alone. "I want to warn you to behave yourself during that time."
"I know my own business," was the stiff reply.
"Well, you keep your distance, or there will be trouble."
"Can I not speak to Mrs. Stanhope?"
"When she speaks to you, yes. But you must not bother her with your attentions. And if you try your hypnotic nonsense we'll pitch you overboard," and so speaking, Tom walked off again. Josiah Crabtree looked very black, nevertheless he took the youth's words to heart and only spoke to Mrs. Stanhope when it was necessary.
By the time supper was over it was night and time to think of getting some rest. The boys took possession of one of the staterooms on board, and arranged that each should sleep five hours, Tom taking the first watch. Mrs. Stanhope soon retired, and so did Josiah Crabtree and one of the Canadians.
Tom found the fat Canadian, the man to remain on deck, quite a sociable fellow, and asked him much about himself and how he had come to hire out with Crabtree. He soon discovered that the Canadians were honest to the last degree, and had gone in for the trip thinking all was above- board.
"I soon see ze man haf von bad eye," said the Canadian. "I tell Menot I no like heem. Now he has brought ruin on our ship."
The Canadian imagined that Crabtree had hypnotized the sailing qualities of the Wellington as well as cast a spell over Mrs. Stanhope, and Tom saw no reason, just then, for saying anything to the contrary.
"You must watch Crabtree," he said. "Don't let him get you in his power. Stick by me and my brother, and you will be all right," and the Canadian promised.
"But who vill pay for ze ship?" he questioned dolefully. "'Tis all Menot and myself haf in ze worl'!" And he shook his head in sorrow.
"We will pay you well for whatever you do for us. The balance you must get out of Crabtree." Then Tom gave the fat sailor a five-dollar bill, and from that moment the pair were warm friends.
Feeling that Crabtree would not dare to do much as matters stood, Tom did not take the trouble to arouse Sam when he turned in, and the brothers slept soundly until some time after sunrise.
"Say, why didn't you wake me up?" asked Sam in astonishment. "You didn't stay up all night, did you?"
"Not much!" answered Tom, and spoke of the Canadian, whose name was Peglace.
"Well, what's to do?"
"I must confess I don't know. I suppose the Baxters and Captain Langless are on the search for us."
"More than likely."
"Then we had better lay low until some vessel comes to rescue us."
"I don't think very many ships come this way."
"Neither do I, but we won't despair. Come, I'm hungry again," and they stirred around to get breakfast.
An examination showed that the Wellington was hard and fast in the mud, and likely to remain exactly as she stood for an indefinite time. Wading around in the water below, the Canadians reported several planks broken and wrenched loose, and that immediate repairs seemed out of the question,
"Ze ship ees gone," said Peglace sadly. "We air like zat man, what-you- call-heem, Crusoe Robinson, hey?" And he shook his head.
"Well, I hope we don't have to stay as long on this island as Robinson Crusoe remained on that other," remarked Sam. "Tom, I'm going for a walk on shore."
"Can I go with you?" put in Josiah Crabtree humbly. "I am tired of this ship's deck."
"All right, come on."
"I will remain with Mrs. Stanhope," said Tom. "Don't go too far, Sam."
Sam and the former teacher of Putnam Hall were soon over the side. The boy came down the plank easily enough, but Crabtree slipped and went into the water and mud up to his knees.
"Ugh! I am always unfortunate!" he spluttered. "However, since the weather is warm, I don't think I'll suffer much."
At a short distance up the beach there was a headland, covered with tall trees. Sam decided to make his way to this.
"I'm going to climb the tallest of the trees and look around," he said. "You can go along, if you wish."
"I will go, but I cannot climb the tree," answered Crabtree.
To get to the headland they had to make a detour around a marshy spot and then climb over a number of rough rocks. The exertion exhausted Josiah Crabtree, and he soon fell behind.
Reaching the headland, Sam gazed around anxiously. He could see a long distance to the north and the west, but not a sail was in sight.
"The Peacock ought to be somewhere around here," he told himself, and then, coming to a tall tree with low, drooping branches, he began to climb to the top.
It was a difficult task, for the tree was a thickly wooded one and a veritable monarch of the forest. But he persevered, and at last gained the topmost branch.
Here the view of the island and its vicinity was much extended, and he could see not only the bay where the Peacock had been at anchor, but also several other harbors.
"The Peacock is gone!" Such were the first words which escaped him. "She must have left the island altogether!"
With anxious eye he turned his gaze to the other harbors, and suddenly gave a start.
"A steam tug! How lucky!" He had discovered the Rocket, which was just getting up steam in order to follow the Peacock; the screw being now repaired and ready for use.
As fast as he could he descended to the ground, his one thought being to tell Tom of his discovery, and to either get to the steam tug or to signal those on board, so that the tug might not leave the island without them. He had noticed the black smoke curling up from the stack, and knew that this betokened that steam was getting up.
The voice came from behind the rocks, like a bolt out of the clear sky. Then Dan Baxter rushed forward, followed by his father.
Sam was taken off his guard, and before he could do anything the Baxters had him by both arms and were holding him a prisoner.
"Let me go!"
"Not much!" came from Arnold Baxter. "Where are your brothers—I mean," he added, in some confusion, "where is Tom?"
"Find out for yourself, Arnold Baxter. Let me go, I say!" And Sam began to struggle.
"Daniel Baxter, is it possible!" came in Josiah Crabtree's voice, and he emerged from the brushwood. "What an extraordinary meeting!"
"I should say it was!" responded the bully. "Where did you spring from?"
"Perhaps, Daniel, I can ask the same question."
"Is Tom Rover with you?"
"No, he is on a ship which is beached a short distance from here."
"No, with some Canadians and—er—Mrs. Stanhope."
"Oh, I see! the same old game," growled the bully. "Anybody else on the boat?"
"If that's the case we are in luck," came from Arnold Baxter. He gazed at Crabtree sharply. "Do you know where this lad came from?"
"What do you mean?"
"He and his brother Tom escaped from us. We brought them here,"
"What! I thought they had followed me and Mrs. Stanhope."
"Hardly." Arnold Baxter proceeded to bind Sam's arms behind him. "Dan, take him to yonder tree and tie him fast." Then he walked away to talk to Josiah Crabtree.
The conversation which followed lasted for quarter of an hour. What was said Sam could not make out. The boy wanted to get away, but was helpless, and now Dan Baxter took away the pistol with which he had provided himself. A little later the Baxters and Crabtree moved toward the wreck, leaving him bound to the tree, alone.
HOW TOM WAS CAPTURED.
Tom was pacing the deck of the wreck in thoughtful mood when, on looking up, he saw Josiah Crabtree coming back alone.
"Where is Sam?" he called out.
"Samuel wishes you to join him at the headland," replied Crabtree. "He thinks a boat is coming around the other side of the island."
"Did you see it?"
"No, my eyesight is failing me and I had no spectacles along."
"Well, you can go back with me," said Tom, to make sure that the former teacher should not bother Mrs. Stanhope during his absence from the Wellington.
"I calculated to go back," responded Crabtree.
Telling Mrs. Stanhope that he would soon return, Tom left the wreck and followed Josiah Crabtree around the marsh land and over the cocks.
So long as Crabtree was in front poor Tom did not anticipate any treachery, consequently he was taken completely by surprise when the Baxters fell upon him from behind and bore him to the ground.
"Don't!" he cried, and tried to rise. But Dan Baxter struck him a heavy blow with a club, and then pointed the pistol at his head, and he had to submit.
When he was a prisoner Josiah Crabtree came back, his face beaming sarcastically. "The tables are turned once more, Thomas," he said. "We are masters of the situation. How do you like the prospect?"
"What have you done with Sam?"
"We have taken care of him," answered Arnold Baxter. "And we'll take good care of you after this, too."
Tom said no more, but his heart sank like a lump of lead in his breast. The talk of a ship being in sight must be a hoax, unless Crabtree referred to the Peacock.
The Baxters had a small bit of rope remaining, and with this they tied Tom's hands behind him. Then he was made to march to where Sam was a prisoner.
"What, Tom! you too?" cried the youngest Rover. And then he felt worse than ever, for he had hoped that his brother might come to his rescue.
Both boys were tied to the trees, but at some distance apart. Then, without delay, the Baxters and Josiah Crabtree hurried off toward the Wellington. The Baxters had heard that the boat was not much damaged, and thought that it might be possible to patch her up sufficiently to reach the mainland, and to do this ere Dick Rover and his party discovered them. For the Peacock and Langless Arnold Baxter now cared but little.
"She has left the bay," he said to Dan, "and more than likely has abandoned us."
The Canadians were surprised to see Josiah Crabtree returning with two strangers, and Mrs. Stanhope uttered a shriek when confronted by the Baxters.
"I must be dreaming," she murmured, when she had recovered sufficiently to speak. "How came you here?"
"We are not answering questions just now, madam," said Arnold Baxter. "We wish to patch up this boat if we can, and at once," and he called the Canadians to him.
As can be imagined, the sailors were dumfounded, especially when told that the Rover boys would not be back, at least for the present. They shook their heads.
"Ze ship cannot be patched up," said Peglace. "Ze whole bottom ees ready to fall out."
Arnold Baxter would not believe him, and armed with lanterns he and Dan went below to make an examination.
"What does this mean?" demanded Mrs. Stanhope of Crabtree, when they were left alone. "What have you done with the Rover boys?"
"Do not worry about them, my dear," said the former teacher soothingly. "All will come right in the end."
Then he began to look at her steadily, in an endeavor to bring her once more under his hypnotic influence. But, without waiting, she ran off and refused to confront him again.
"Follow me and I will leap into the lake," she cried, and fearful she would commit suicide, he let her alone.
The examination below decks lasted nearly an hour, and was far from satisfactory to Arnold Baxter. He felt that the Wellington might be patched up, but the work would take at least several days, and there was no telling what would happen in the meantime.
"Dick Rover and his party are sure to find us Before that time," said Dan.
"I am afraid so, Dan. But I know of nothing better to do than to remain here."
"We might find the Peacock and make a new deal with Captain Langless."
"Langless is a weak-hearted fool, and I'll never trust him again. We would have done much better had we hired a small boat which we could ran alone."
"But what shall we do, dad?"
"I think we had best go into hiding in the interior of the island. We can take a store of provisions along from this boat."
"Shall we take the Rovers with us?"
"We may as well. We can't let them starve, and by holding them prisoners we may be able to make terms with Dick Rover and his friends."
"That's an idea. I reckon Dick will do a lot rather than see Tom and Sam suffer."
"To be sure."
"Where do you suppose Dick Rover and his friends are now?"
"Somewhere around the island, although I have seen nothing of their boat."
By noon the Baxters had completed their plans and left the boat, carrying with them a load of provisions wrapped up in a sheet of canvas. They invited Josiah Crabtree to go with them, but that individual declined.
"I cannot take Mrs. Stanhope along," he said, "and I will not desert the lady."
"As you please," replied Arnold Baxter.
"What are you going to do with Tom and Sam Rover?"
"Take them with us. If you see anything of Dick Rover, don't say anything about us."
"I don't wish to see Dick Rover," answered Josiah Crabtree nervously.
"If the Dick Rover party leaves the island, we'll come back," put in Dan. "In the meantime, if I was you, I'd lay low."
Soon the Baxters were out of sight, and then Josiah Crabtree turned to have another talk with Mrs. Stanhope, in the meantime setting the Canadians on guard, to watch for and hail any passing sail which might appear.
In his wandering on the island Arnold Baxter had stumbled across a convenient cave near the headland where he had encountered Sam Rover, and thither father and son now made their way.
The cave gained they put down their bundles, which included a quantity of rope, and then started for the headland to bring in Tom and Sam.
The headland gained, a surprise awaited than. Both boys had disappeared.
THE BAXTERS TALK IT OVER,
"Tom, we are in a fix."
"So it would seem, Sam. Who ever dreamed of running across the Baxters in this fashion?"
"We are in the hands of a trio of rascals now, for Crabtree is as bad as the others."
"Perhaps, but he hasn't the nerve that Arnold Baxter has. What shall we do?"
"Try to get free."
"I can't budge an inch. Dan Baxter took especial delight in tying me up."
"I can move one hand and if—It is free! Hurrah!"
"Can you get the other hand free?"
"I can try. The rope—that's free, too. Now for my legs."
Sam Rover worked rapidly, and was soon as free as ever. Then he ran over to where Tom was tied up and liberated his brother.
"Now, what shall we do?"
"I move we go after the people on that steam tug and get them to help us rescue Mrs. Stanhope."
"That's a good idea, and the quicker we go the better."
Sam remembered very well in what direction he had seen the tug, and now set a straight course across the island to the cove.
But the trail led over a hill and through a dense thicket, and long before the journey was half finished both lads were well-nigh exhausted.
"We ought to have followed the shore around—we would have got there quicker," panted Tom, as he fairly cut his way through the dense brush- wood.
"I hope there are no wild animals here."
"I doubt if there is anything very large on the island. If so, we would have seen it before this."
So speaking, they pushed on once more. The woods passed, they came to a swamp filled with long grass. They hurried around this, and then into the forest skirting the lake shore.
At last the cove came into sight. Alas! the steam tug was nowhere to be seen.
"She has gone!" groaned Sam. "Oh, what luck!
"I can't see a sign of her anywhere?" returned Tom. "She must have steamed away right after you came down the tree."
"More than likely."
Much disappointed and utterly worn out, they cast themselves down in the shade to rest. As they rested they listened intently, but only the breeze through the trees and the soft lap-lap of the waves striking the rocks reached their ears.
"I never thought a spot on our lakes could be so lonely," said Sam at length. "Why, it's as if we were in the middle of the Pacific!"
"I trust no harm befalls Mrs. Stanhope, Sam. Perhaps it is our duty to go back to her, in spite of the danger."
"I was thinking of that, too. But we are only two boys against two men and a boy, and they are armed."
"I think the Canadians will prove our friends in a mix-up. They hate Crabtree, for they half fancy he bewitched their boat."
"We might go back on the sly and do some spying."
"That is what I mean."
But they were too tired to go back at once, and spent a good hour near the beach. Close at hand was a tiny spring, and here they procured a drink of water and took a wash-up, after which they felt somewhat better.
They were about to start on the return when Tom suddenly plucked his brother by the sleeve.
"Somebody is coming," he whispered. "Let us hide."
They had scarcely time to get behind some brushwood when the Baxters came into view, moving very slowly and gazing sharply around them.
"I don't see a thing, dad," came from Dan Baxter in disgusted tones. "I don't believe they came this way."
"They certainly didn't go back to that old boat," replied Arnold Baxter. "Let us take a walk along the beach."
"I am tired to death. Let us rest first."
So speaking, Dan Baxter threw himself on a grassy bank overlooking the lake, and Arnold Baxter followed.
Both were out of sorts and did a large amount of grumbling. The father lit a short briar-root pipe, while the son puffed away at a cigarette,
"I'd give a hundred dollars if a boat would come along and take us to the mainland," observed the father. "I am sick and tired of this game all through."
"So am I sick of it, dad. We made a mistake by ever coming East, it seems to me."
"If I could get to the mainland I might make money out of it even so, Dan. Anderson Rover may have sent that ten thousand dollars to Bay City, after all. He thinks an awful lot of his sons, and won't want a hair of their head harmed."
"So the money was to go to Bay City. You didn't tell me that before."
"I wanted to keep the matter secret."
"Who will receive it there?"
"A man I can trust."
"Oh, pshaw! you needn't be so close-mouthed about it," growled the son, lighting a fresh cigarette.
"Well, the man's name is Cowdrick—Hiram Cowdrick. He comes from Colorado, and used to know the Roebuck crowd."
"I suppose old Rover was to send the money in secret?"
"Certainly. I wrote him a long letter, telling him that if there was the least effort made to follow up the money on his part the lives of his sons should pay the forfeit."
"That's the way to put it, dad. I shouldn't wonder if old Rover sent the money on."
"I'd soon find out, if I could get to shore. If I had the money the boys could rot here, for all I care."
"Thank you for nothing," muttered Tom, under his breath. "Just you wait till I have a chance to square accounts, that's all!"
"Hush!" whispered Sam. "They must not discover us." And then Tom became silent again.
"Josiah Crabtree is in a fix, too," went on Dan, with something of a laugh. "He don't seem to know what to do."
"Where is Mrs. Stanhope's daughter?"
"I don't know. If Crabtree marries Mrs. Stanhope, it will break Dora all up."
"Well, that isn't our affair. But it is queer we should run together on this island. We can—What is that? A sail!"
Arnold Baxter leaped to his feet, and so did Dan. Tom and Sam also looked in the direction pointed out.
There was a sail, true enough, far out on the lake. All watched it with interest and saw it gradually grow larger. Evidently the craft was heading directly for the island.
"She is coming this way, dad!" almost shouted Dan.
"It looks so to me," replied Arnold Baxter, with increasing interest. "And she isn't the Peacock, either."
"No, she's a strange ship—a sloop, by her rig."
The Baxters watched the coming sail eagerly, and it must be confessed that the Rover boys were equally interested.
"If the folks on that boat are honest, they will surely help us against the Baxters," murmured Sam.
"Just what I was thinking," replied his brother.
At last the vessel was near enough to be signaled, and, running to a high rock overlooking the water, Dan swung his hat and a handkerchief in the air.
At first the signals were not seen, but at last came a voice through a speaking trumpet.
"Ahoy!" shouted Dan. "Come here! Come here!"
"What's the trouble?"
"We are wrecked. We want you to take us off."
"Yes. Will you take us off?"
Slowly, but surely, the sloop drew nearer. She was a fair-sized craft, and carried a crew of three. The men seemed to be nice fellows, and not at all of the Captain Langless class. Soon the sloop dropped anchor close in shore and the mainsail came down at the same time.
DORA STANHOPE APPEARS.
"So you have been shipwrecked?" said the master of the sloop, a young man of apparently twenty-five, whose name was Fairwell.
"Yes," answered Baxter senior.
"Your own boat, or some large vessel?"
"Our own boat. We were out on a little cruise when we struck something in the dark and our craft went down almost immediately. Fortunately we were not far from this shore, or we would have been drowned. Where are you bound?"
"Nowhere in particular. How long have you been on the island?"
"Since night before last?"
"Had anything to eat?"
"Well—er—not much," stammered Arnold Baxter. "We found some wreckage with some bread and a few cans of sardines, but that is all."
"Then I reckon you won't go back on a square meal?" laughed Fairwell.
"Indeed I won't!" put in Dan, bound to say something.
"We would like to get back to the mainland as soon as possible," went on Arnold Baxter. "I am from Chicago, and must attend to some banking matters. My name is Larson—Henry Larson of State Street."
"Well, Mr. Larson, we'll get you to the main shore as soon as we can; that is, providing the lady who has hired this sloop is willing to go on without stopping here. I reckon this young man is your friend?"
"He is my son. And you are—?"
"Randy Fairwell, at your service, sir. It's too bad you were wrecked, but you can be thankful your life was spared. Seen anybody around here since you've been ashore?"
"Not a soul."
"Nor any sail?"
"Nothing. It has been very, very lonesome," and Arnold Baxter shook his head hypocritically.
Tom and Sam listened to this talk with keen interest. Tom now nudged his brother.
"This has gone far enough," he whispered. "Those men seem all right and I'm sure will prove our friends. I'm going to show myself."
"Wait till the Baxters go on board," replied Sam. "Otherwise they may take it into their heads to run away again."
A few words more followed between those on the sloop and the Baxters, and then the latter ran on the deck of the sloop by means of a plank thrown out for that purpose.
Then Tom came forward, stick in hand, and Sam followed.
"Hold those men!" he cried. "Don't let them get away from you!"
Of course the men on the sloop were much astonished, both by the boys' sudden appearance and by the words which were spoken.
"What's that?" called out Randy Fairwell.
"Those Rover boys!" ejaculated Arnold Baxter, and his face turned white.
"I said, Hold those men!" repeated Tom. "Don't let them get away from you."
"What for? Who are you?"
"Those fellows are rascals, and the father is an escaped prison-bird," put in Sam. "Hold them or they will run, sure."
"It's false," burst out Dan Baxter. "That fellow is crazy. I never saw him before."
"I guess they are both crazy," put in Arnold Baxter, taking the cue from his son. "Certainly I never set eyes on them before."
"Do not believe one word of what he says," said Tom. "His name is not what he said, but Arnold Baxter, and he is the man who got out of a New York prison by means of a forged pardon. You must have read of that case in the newspapers last summer?"
"I did read of it," answered Randy Fairwell. "But—but—" He was too bewildered to go on. "Where did you young men come from?"
"We were carried off in a schooner hired by these rascals and put in a cave on this island. We escaped only after a hard fight."
"But why were you carried off?" asked one of the other men on board of the sloop.
"These Baxters wanted to get our father to pay them money for our safe return."
"A kidnapping, eh?"
"It's a—a fairy story, and these fellows must be stark mad!" cried Arnold Baxter. "I give you my word, gentlemen, I never set eyes on the chaps before. Either they are escaped lunatics or else their lonely life here has turned their brains."
For a moment there was a pause; Sam and Tom standing at the end of the plank, clubs in hand, and the Baxters on the deck of the sloop, surrounded by the three men who had been sailing the craft. Those of the sloop looked from one party to the other in bewilderment.
"Well, I must say I don't know whom to believe," said Randy Fairwell slowly. He turned to the boys. "Who are you?"
"Tom Rover, and this is my brother Sam," answered the elder of the pair.
"I never heard the name before," said Arnold Baxter loftily.
"They don't appear to be very crazy," put in one of the men, whose name was Ruff.
"That's true, but they must be crazy or they wouldn't address my father and me in this fashion," said Dan Baxter.
"They can talk all they please," retorted Sam. "But if you let them escape, you will make a great mistake."
"Here is a fair suggestion," said Tom. "Take us all to the mainland and to the nearest police station. The authorities will soon straighten out this tangle."
"That certainly seems fair," muttered Randy Fairwell.
"I say these boys must be crazy," blustered Arnold Baxter. "If you take them on board, the chances are they'll try to murder us."
"I don't want to sail with a couple of crazy fellows," put in Dan, scowling darkly at the Rovers.
"We might keep a close watch on them," suggested Ruff.
"And keep a close watch on the Baxters," added Tom.
At this moment the door of the tiny cabin of the sloop opened, and a girl came out, rubbing her eyes as if she had been taking a nap, which was a fact.
She stared at the Baxters like one in a dream, and then gave a sudden cry of alarm.
"Is it you!"
"Dora Stanhope!" ejaculated Tom and Sam in a breath.
Then the girl started and turned her eyes ashore. "Tom Rover! And Sam! Where in the wide world did you come from?"
The Baxters fell back, almost overcome, and the father clutched the arm of his son savagely.
"We've put our foot into it here," he muttered.
"Who would have supposed that she was on this boat?" came from the son.
"Do you know these folks, Miss Stanhope?" questioned Randy Fairwell.
"Yes, I know all of them." answered the girl, when she had somewhat recovered from her surprise.
"Of course she knows us," put in Tom, "and she knows those rascals, too; don't you, Dora?"
"Yes, Tom. But how did you come here?"
"It's a long tale, Dora. But just now I want you to help me bring the Baxters to justice. They are trying to make out that they are all right and that we are crazy."
"Crazy! The idea! Indeed, Mr. Fairwell, these boys are not crazy. They are my best friends. They are Tom and Sam Rover, and they are brothers to the Dick Rover I told you about."
"And what of these fellows?" questioned the master of the sloop.
"This man is an escaped prisoner, and this is his son, who is also wanted by the authorities, I believe."
"Trash and nonsense!" stormed Arnold Baxter, hardly knowing what to say. "This is simply a plot against us." He caught his son by the arm. "Come, we had better be going, since we are not wanted here."
He leaped upon the plank and Dan came after him.
"Get back there!" roared Tom, standing at the outer end of the plank. "Another step and I'll crack your head open, Arnold Baxter!"
And he swung his club in the air defiantly.
"Out of my way, or I will fire on you!" answered Arnold Baxter, and started to draw his pistol.
"Oh, don't!" screamed Dora, and covered her face with her hands.
"We want no shooting here—" began Randy Fairwell, and then stopped short in wonder.
For reaching down, Tom had suddenly given the end of the plank a wobble. Before they could save themselves, the Baxters, father and son, pitched with a loud splash into the lake.
"Good for you!" cried Sam. "If only they don't try to shoot when they come up."
There was a commotion in the water and mud lining the shore, and slowly the Baxters appeared to view, covered with slime and weeds, and both empty-handed, for Dan had not had time to draw his weapon, and that of the father lay somewhere on the bottom.
"Now do you surrender, or shall I do a little shooting?" said Tom sternly, although he had no weapon.
"Don't shoot me, please don't!" howled Dan, his last bit of courage deserting him.
The father said nothing, but looked as if he would like to annihilate both of the Rovers.
Randy Fairwell turned quickly to Dora Stanhope.
"You are certain these people are bad?" he said.
"Yes, yes; very bad!" answered Dora, and continued: "You can believe all the Rovers tell you concerning them."
One end of the plank still rested on the sloop, and Fairwell quickly placed the board in position again.
By this time the Baxters were crawling out of the lake. Sam caught hold of Dan while Tom tackled the father.
With a heavy boathook in his hand Randy Fairwell now ran ashore, followed by Ruff.
"You had better give up the fight," said Fairwell to Arnold Baxter. "If you are in the right, you shall have justice done to you."
"I will never give in!" growled Arnold Baxter savagely, and did his best to get away. Seeing this, Sam let Dan go and started in to help Tom. The struggle lasted several minutes, but Fairwell put an end to it by catching Arnold Baxter from behind and holding him in a grasp of iron, and then the rascal was made a close prisoner by being bound with a rope.
"Now for Dan!" cried Tom, and turned around, to find that Dan Baxter had taken time by the forelock and disappeared. It was destined to be many a day before any of the Rovers set eyes on him again.
"Dan is gone!"
"Which way did he go?"
"I don't know."
"He ran up the shore, in that direction!" called out Dora, pointing with her hand.
Leaving Arnold Baxter in the grasp of Fairwell and Ruff, Tom and Sam hurried off.
But Dan Baxter had disappeared in a perfect wilderness of rocks and bushes and could not be located.
"Never mind," said Tom; "let him go, if he wants to remain on this lonely spot."
All were soon on board the sloop, and Tom and Sam told their tale, to which Dora, as well as the others, listened with close attention.
"Then my mother is safe!" burst out the girl. "Thank Heaven for that!"
"She was safe when last we saw her," said Tom. "I guess the best thing we can do will be to get back to the wreck of the Wellington without delay."
"Yes! yes! take me to my mother at once. I have been hunting for her ever since she disappeared."
"But how did you happen to come here?"
"I found out that Josiah Crabtree had hired the Wellington, and day before yesterday we ran across a steamboat which had sighted the schooner headed in this direction."
"How did he get her away in the first place?"
"We were stopping at a hotel in Canada and I went out to do some necessary shopping. When I got back my mother was gone. She had received a bogus note, written I presume by Crabtree, asking her to come to me at once, as I had been taken sick in one of the stores. I immediately hired a detective, Mr. Ruff here, and we tracked Mr. Crabtree to the lake."
"Good for you, Dora,—a man couldn't have done better," cried Sam so enthusiastically that Dora had to blush.
"But now I want to get to mother without further delay."
"Let us set sail at once, then," said Tom. "The distance to the wreck is not over two miles."
Without delay the anchor was hoisted, the mainsail set, and the sloop left the shore. She was a trim-built craft, and under a good breeze her bow cut the shining waters of the lake like a knife.
The only one on the boat who was not in good humor was Arnold Baxter. When he got the chance he called Tom Rover to him.
"Rover, what do you intend to do with me?" he asked.
"We intend to hand you over to the authorities."
"You are making a great mistake."
"I'll risk that."
"If you'll let me go I'll promise to turn over a new leaf, and, more than that, I'll help your father to make a pile of money out of that mine in Colorado."
"Your promises are not worth the breath they are uttered in, Arnold Baxter. You belong in prison, and that is where you are going."
At this Baxter began to rave and utter words unfit to print. But Tom soon stopped this.
"Keep a civil tongue in your head, or we'll gag you," he said, and then Baxter relapsed into sullen silence.
The breeze was favorable, and it was not long before the sloop rounded a point of the island and came in sight of the Wellington.
"Let us surprise old Crabtree," suggested Sam. "We can keep out of his sight until the last moment."
Tom was willing, yet Dora demurred, wishing to get to her mother as soon as possible. Yet, as they drew closer, the girl stepped behind the cabin for a minute.
"A ship!" cried Peglace, who was on watch on deck. "A ship at last, and coming to shore!"
He uttered the words in French, and they speedily brought to the deck his companion and his companion's fat wife.
"A ship, sure enough," said the other Canadian, while his wife shed tears of joy.
Josiah Crabtree had just been interviewing Mrs. Stanhope in the cabin. He was trying again to hypnotize her, and she was trying to keep from under the spell.
"A boat must be coming, by the cries," said the former teacher. "I will go to the deck and investigate."
He ran up the companion way, and Mrs. Stanhope followed. The lady felt weak and utterly discouraged.
"If I only had Dora with me!" she murmured to herself.
"Did you speak?" asked Crabtree, looking over his shoulder.
"Not to you," she answered coldly.
Soon Crabtree was at the stern. The sloop came closer, and a rope was thrown to the Wellington and made fast by the Canadians. The smaller craft drew so little water that she did not ground, even when lying at the larger ship's stern.
"Hullo!" began Josiah Crabtree, addressing Randy Fairwell. "This is most fortunate."
"I see you are wrecked," returned Fairwell calmly.
"Exactly, sir—a very unfortunate affair truly. Will you rescue us?"
"Anybody else on board?"
"Yes, a lady to whom I am engaged to be married," and Crabtree smiled blandly. "Will you come on board?"
"I guess I will," answered Fairwell. "Eh, Mr. Ruff?"
"Yes," answered the detective, and leaped on the deck of the wreck.
By this time Mrs. Stanhope was on deck also, gazing curiously at those on the sloop.
"I believe this is Mr. Josiah Crabtree?" went on Ruff coldly.
"Eh? Why—er—you have the advantage of me!" stammered the former teacher of Putnam Hall, falling back in dismay.
"Are you Josiah Crabtree or not?"
"I am; but—"
"Then consider yourself my prisoner, Mr. Crabtree."
"That is what I said."
"But why do you say I am arrested? Who are you?"
"You are arrested for plotting against the welfare of Mrs. Stanhope there and Dora Stanhope, her daughter; also for forging Dora Stanhope's name to a letter sent to the girl's mother."
"It is false. I—I—Oh!"
Josiah Crabtree staggered back, for Dora had run forward. In a second more mother and daughter were in each other's arms. An affecting scene followed. Josiah Crabtree turned a sickly green, and his knees smote together.
"I—er—that is, we—the lady and myself—there is some mistake." He tried to go on, but failed utterly.
"You fraud, you!" cried Tom, and came forward, followed by Sam. "Now, Josiah Crabtree, we are on top, and we mean to stay there. Mr. Ruff, you had better handcuff him."