THE ROVER BOYS ON THE GREAT LAKES
THE SECRET OF THE ISLAND CAVE
ARTHUR M. WINFIELD (Edward Stratemeyer)
AUTHOR OF THE ROVER BOYS AT SCHOOL, THE ROVER BOYS ON THE OCEAN, THE PUTNAM HALL SERIES, ETC.
MY DEAR BOYS: This volume, "The Rover Boys on the Great Lakes," is a complete story in itself, but forms the fifth volume of the Rover Boys Series for Young Americans.
When first I started this series with "The Rover Boys at School," I had no idea of extending the line beyond three or four volumes. But the second book, "The Rover Boys on the Ocean," immediately called for a third, "The Rover Boys in the Jungle," and this finished, many boys wanted to know what would happen next, and so I must needs give them "The Rover Boys Out West." Still they were not satisfied; hence the volume now in your hands.
So far we have followed the doings of Dick, Tom, and Sam at dear old Putnam Hall, with many larks and sports; then out upon the broad Atlantic in a daring chase which came pretty close to ending in sad disaster; next into the interior of Africa on a quest of grave importance; and lastly out into the mountainous regions of the wild West, to locate a mining claim belonging to Mr. Anderson Rover.
In the present tale the scene is shifted to the Great Lakes. The three boys go on a pleasure tour and, while on Lake Erie, fall in with an old enemy, who concocts a scheme for kidnapping Dick, who had fallen overboard from his yacht in a storm. This scheme leads to many adventures, the outcome of which will be found in the pages that follow.
In placing this volume in my young readers hands I can but repeat what I have said before: that I am extremely grateful to all for the kind reception given the other Rover Boys stories. I sincerely trust the present tale meets with equal commendation.
Affectionately and sincerely yours,
April 12, 1901
INTRODUCTION I. A STORM ON LAKE ERIE II. THE DISAPPEARANCE OF DICK III. ON A LUMBER RAFT IV. IN THE HANDS OF THE ENEMY V. THE SAILING OF THE "PEACOCK" VI. HUNTING FOR DICK VII. THE ESCAPE OF ARNOLD BAXTER VIII. ON THE LAKE AGAIN IX. CAUGHT IN A TRAP X. THE ESCAPE FROM THE HOLD XI. GAINING A POINT XII. A DINNER OF IMPORTANCE XIII. PRISONERS THREE XIV. DICK MAKES HIS ESCAPE XV. WHAT THE LAME MAN KNEW XVI. OFF FOR NEEDLE POINT ISLAND XVII. A CAVE AND A SNAKE XVIII. COFFEE FOR THREE XIX. AN ASTONISHING DISCOVERY XX. JOSIAH CRABTREE'S GAME XXI. TOM BRINGS ONE ENEMY TO TERMS XXII. THE SECRET OF THE ISLAND CAVE XXIII. THE BAXTERS ARE FOLLOWED XXIV. AN ENCOUNTER IN THE DARK XXV. BEACHING THE "WELLINGTON" XXVI. CRABTREE JOINS THE BAXTERS XXVII. HOW TOM WAS CAPTURED XXVIII. THE BAXTERS TALK IT OVER XXIX. DORA STANHOPE APPEARS XXX. HOME AGAIN—CONCLUSION
THE ROVER BOYS ON THE GREAT LAKES.
A STORM ON LAKE ERIE.
"Dick, do you notice how the wind is freshening?"
"Yes, Sam, I've been watching it for ten minutes. I think we are in for a storm."
"Exactly my idea, and I shouldn't be surprised if it proved a heavy one, too. How far are we from shore?"
"Not over three miles, to my reckoning."
"Perhaps we had better turn back," and Sam Rover, the youngest of the three Rover brothers, shook his head doubtfully.
"Oh, I reckon we'll be safe enough," responded Dick Rover, who was several years older. "I know more about sailing a yacht than I did when we followed up the Baxters on the Atlantic Ocean."
"The poor Baxters!" put in Tom Rover, who stood close by, also watching the wind, and the heavy clouds rolling up from the westward. "Who ever supposed that they would be buried alive in that landslide on the mountain in Colorado?"
"It was a terrible fate," came, with a shudder, from Dick Rover. "But, nevertheless, I am glad we are rid of those rascals. They caused father and us trouble enough, goodness knows."
"And they brought trouble enough to Dora Stanhope and her mother, too," observed Sam. "By the way, Dick, weren't Dora and her mother going to take a trip on these lakes this summer?"
"Of course Dora was," put in Tom, with a sly wink. "If she wasn't, what do you suppose would bring Dick here? He got a letter only last week—"
"Oh, stow it, Tom!" cried the elder Rover, his face growing red. "You wanted to take a trip on the Great Lakes as much as anybody—said you wouldn't like anything better, and told all the fellows at Putnam Hall so, too."
"Well, I don't know as I would like anything better," rattled on Tom. "The Swallow seems to be a first-class craft, and I've no doubt but what we'll see lots to interest us in this trip from Buffalo to Lake Superior."
"When are the Stanhopes coming out?" asked Sam.
"I can't say, exactly," replied Dick. "I expect another letter from them when we reach Cleveland. In the last letter Dora said her mother was not feeling as well as before."
"A trip on the lakes ought to do her good."
"Wonder if old Josiah Crabtree has been bothering her with his attentions?" came from Tom. "Gosh! how anxious he was to marry her and get hold of the money she is holding in trust for Dora."
"Crabtree's term of imprisonment ran out only last week, Tom. He couldn't annoy her while he was in jail."
"He ought to have been given five years for the way he used them, and us. It's strange what an influence he had over Mrs. Stanhope."
"He's something of a hypnotist, and she seems to be just the right kind of a subject for him. His coming from prison is one reason why Dora wanted to get her mother away. She isn't going to let outsiders know of the trip, so old Crabtree won't know where they are."
"He'll find out, if he can," remarked Sam. "He always was a nosy old chap."
"If he tries any game on, I'll settle him in short order," came from Dick, with determination. "We've put up with enough from him in the past, and I don't intend to give him any leeway in the future."
"Leeway?" burst out Tom. "Not a foot! Not an inch! I haven't forgotten how he treated me when he was a teacher at Putnam Hall. I wonder that Captain Putnam didn't kick him out long before he was made to go."
A sudden rush of wind cut the conversation short at this point, sending the Swallow bowling along merrily. The clouds were increasing rapidly, and Dick ordered that all the sails be closely reefed.
"We don't want to lose our mast," he observed.
"We don't want to lose anything," answered Sam. "For my part, I wish we were back in Buffalo harbor."
"Oh! we'll run along all right," came from Tom. "Don't get scared before you are hurt." He looked at his watch. "Half-past five! I didn't think it was so late."
"It will be dark before long," said Dick. "Perhaps the blow will go down with the setting of the sun."
"We'll never know when the sun sets—excepting by the almanac," murmured Sam. "It's as black as ink already, over to the westward."
To keep up his courage Tom Rover began to whistle, but soon the sound was drowned out by the high piping of the wind, as it tore over the deck and through the rigging of the Swallow. They were certainly in for a storm, and a heavy one at that.
It was the middle of July, and the Rover boys had journeyed from Valley Brook, their country home, to Buffalo, a week before, for a six-weeks' outing upon the Great Lakes previous to their returning to Putnam Hall for the fall and winter term. Their thrilling adventures in Colorado, as told in "The Rover Boys Out West," had taxed them severely, and their father, Mr. Anderson Rover, felt that they needed the recreation. At first he had wished them to remain at the farm, and so had their Uncle Randolph Rover and their motherly Aunt Martha, but this had been voted "too slow" by the three brothers, and it was decided that they should go to Buffalo, charter a small yacht, and do as they pleased until the opening of school.
"Only please keep out of danger," had been Mr. Rover's pleading words. "You have been in peril enough." And the boys had promised to do their best, little dreaming of the many adventures and dangers ahead.
The boys knew very little about the lakes, and at the last moment had invited Larry Colby, an old schoolmate, to accompany them on the outing. Larry had spent two summers on Lake Huron and Lake Superior, and knew both bodies of water fairly well. But the lad could not come on at once, and so had sent word that he would join the party at Sandusky, some time later. Larry's father was rich, so the expense of traveling counted for nothing.
With the boys, however, went one individual with whom all our old readers are well acquainted. This was Alexander Pop, the colored man who had once been a waiter at Putnam Hall, and who was now a servant to the Rovers in general and the three boys in particular. The boys had done much in the past for Aleck, as they called him, and Pop was so greatly attached to the youths that he was ready at all times to do anything they desired.
"I dun lub dem Rober boys, aint no ust ter talk," Pop would say. "Dem is de most up-to-date boys in de world, dat's wot, and da did dis yeah niggah a good turn wot he aint forgittin' in a hurry, too." What that good turn was has already been related in full in "The Rover Boys in the Jungle." Pop was now installed on board the Swallow as cook and general helper, a position he was well fitted to fill.
The boys had laid out a grand trip, and one which certainly promised a good deal of pleasure. The first stop was to be at Cleveland, and from that city they were to go to Sandusky, and then up the lake and through the Detroit River to Detroit. Here a short stay was to be made, and then the journey was to be resumed through Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River to Lake Huron. Once on Lake Huron they expected to skirt the eastern coast of Michigan, stopping whenever they pleased, and thus gradually make their way to Whitefish Bay and Lake Superior. What they would do when Lake Superior was reached would depend upon how much time was left for the outing.
The Swallow was a well-built, sturdy craft, fifty feet long and correspondingly broad of beam. She had been constructed for a pleasure boat and had all of the latest improvements. She belonged to a rich man of Buffalo, who had known the Rovers for years. The rich man was now traveling in Europe, and had been only too glad to charter the yacht for a period of six weeks. When the Rover boys were through with her she was to be placed in charge of the rich man's boatman, who was to take her back to Buffalo.
The start on Lake Erie had been full of pleasure. The yacht had a good supply of provisions on board, and everybody was in the best of spirits. Aleck Pop had brought along his banjo, and on the first evening out had given them half a dozen plantation songs, for he was a good singer as well as player. On the day following the breeze had died away and they had all gone fishing, with fair success. This was the third day out, and since noon the wind had been blowing at a lively rate, helping them to make good time on their course toward Cleveland. Now the wind was blowing little short of a gale, and the sky was growing blacker each instant.
"We are in for it, beyond a doubt," said Dick, with a serious shake of his head.
Every inch of canvas had been taken in, yet the Swallow spun along before the wind rapidly, ever and anon dipping her bow deeply into the white-caps, which now showed themselves upon all sides.
"Here she comes!" burst out Tom suddenly. "Hold hard, everybody!"
And then the storm burst upon them in all of its fury—a storm which lasted all night, and one which the Rover boys never forgot.
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF DICK.
"Oh, my, but this is a corker!"
It was Tom who uttered the words, half an hour after he had cautioned everybody to hold fast. He was standing at the wheel, helping Dick to make the Swallow keep her bow up to the waves, which rolled fiercely on every side of the craft. He cried out at the top of his lungs, yet his elder brother understood him with difficulty.
"I wish we were out of it," returned Dick. "Did Sam go below, as I ordered?"
"What of Aleck?"
"He is in the galley, trying to keep his dishes from being smashed to bits. He is scared, I can tell you, and said he was sure we were going to the bottom."
"If I was sure of the course I would steer for shore, Tom. I'm afraid myself that this is going to be more than we bargained for."
"Pooh, Dick! We've been in as bad a storm before, and you know it."
"But not on Lake Erie. This lake has a reputation for turning out some nasty ones, that do tremendous damage. Light up, will you?—or we may be smashing into some other boat before we know it."
"I will, if you can hold the wheel alone."
"I can get along for a few minutes. But it's enough to pull a fellow's arms out by the sockets," concluded Dick.
With extreme caution, for the deck was as wet and slippery as it was unsteady, Tom made his way to the tiny cabin of the yacht. Here he found Sam lighting the ship's lanterns, four in number.
"I thought you'd be wanting them," said the youngest Rover. "Is it letting up, do you think?"
"No; if anything, it is growing worse."
"Don't you want me to help on deck? I hate to stay down here alone."
"You can do nothing, Sam. Dick and I are tending the wheel, and there is nothing else to be done."
"I might go on the lookout. You can't watch very well from the stern," added the youngest Rover, who did not relish being kept back by his older brothers.
"We can watch good enough. Stay here—it's safer. If the yacht should swing around—Great Scott!"
Tom Rover broke off short, and with good reason. A strange creaking and cracking sound had reached his ears, followed by a bump and a jar which nearly pitched him headlong. Sam was thrown down on his back.
"Something is wrong!" burst out Sam, as soon as he could speak. "We must have struck something."
Tom did not answer, for the reason that he was already on his way to the deck, with a lantern slung in the crook of his right elbow. Sam followed with another lantern, leaving the remaining ones wildly swinging on the hooks in the cabin's ceiling.
The cry came from out of the darkness, somewhere in the wake of the Swallow; a cry cut partly short by the piping gale. With his heart thumping violently, Tom leaped over the deck toward the wheel.
"Dick! What is the matter?"
"Help!" repeated the voice, but now further off than ever. Then Tom made a discovery which thrilled him with horror.
The position at the wheel was vacant! Dick was gone!
"Dick! Dick! Where are you!" he shouted hoarsely. "Dick!"
"Help!" came more faintly. The cry was repeated several times, but nothing more reached Tom's ears nor the hearing of his younger brother, who was now beside him, his round face as pale as death itself.
"Dick's overboard!" The words came from both, and each looked at the other in consternation.
Both held up their lanterns, the glasses of which were speedily covered with flying spray. The lanterns made a small semicircle of light at the stern, but Dick was beyond that circle and could not be seen.
"Take the wheel—I'll get a life-preserver!" said Tom, and ran for the article he had mentioned.
"Shall I try to turn the yacht around?" questioned his brother, as he, after several unsuccessful attempts, caught the spokes of the wheel, which was flying back and forth with every pitch of the craft.
"No! no! We will be swamped if you do that. Keep her up to the wind."
Regardless of the danger, Tom flew across the deck to where there was a life-preserver, attached to a hundred feet of small, but strong, rope. Once at the stern again, he threw the life-preserver as far out as possible.
"Catch the lifeline!" he shrieked. But if Dick heard he gave no answer.
"Can't we fire a rocket?" said Sam. "We ought to do something," he added, half desperately.
Lashing the end of the lifeline to the stern, Tom ran down into the cabin and brought forth several rockets. With trembling hands he set off first one and then another. The blaze was a short one, yet it revealed to them a large mass of lumber rising and falling on the bosom of the turbulent waters.
"A lumber raft. It is going to pieces in the storm."
"Did you see Dick?"
"I saw two persons on the lumber, but I don't know who they were. They looked more dead than alive."
"Oh, I hope Dick isn't dead!" burst out Sam, and the tears stood in his eyes as he spoke.
"Wot's dat you dun said?" came from out of the darkness.
"Dick's overboard," answered Tom.
"No!" A groan of genuine regret came from Aleck Pop. "How it dun happen?"
"We must have struck a lumber raft and the shock knocked him over," answered Sam. "Oh, Tom, what shall we do?"
"I'll try another rocket, Sam—I don't know of anything else."
It took fully a minute to obtain another rocket, and some red fire as well. The red fire made quite an illumination, in spite of the storm.
"I don't see nuffin," said Pop.
"Nor I," added Tom. "The raft has disappeared."
As the light died out all set up a loud shout. But only the howling wind answered them. And now Sam noticed that the lifeline was drifting idly at the stern, and there was nothing to do but to haul it in again.
The hours which followed were full of agony to Tom and Sam, and the warm-hearted colored man was scarcely less affected.
"What if Dick is drowned?" whispered the youngest Rover. "Father will never forgive us for coming on this trip."
"Let us hope for the best," was his brother's answer. "Dick has been in a tight fix before. He'll come out all right, if he has any show at all."
"Nobuddy kin lib in sech a storm as dis!" put in Pop. "Why, it's 'most as bad as dat dar hurricane we 'perienced in Africa. Jest see how it's beginnin' to rain."
Pop was right; so far the rain had held off for the most part, but now it came down steadily and soon turned into little short of a deluge. All were speedily soaked to the skin, but this was a discomfort to which, under the circumstances, no one paid attention.
The Swallow heaved and pitched, and fearful that Sam would be lost overboard, Tom told him he had better go below again.
"You can do nothing up here," he said. "If anything turns up, I'll call you."
"But you must be careful," pleaded Sam. "If I were you, I'd tie myself to the wheel," and this is what Tom did.
Slowly the night wore away, and with the coming of morning the storm abated somewhat, although the waves still lashed angrily around the Swallow. With the first streak of dawn all were on deck, watching anxiously for some sign of the lumber raft or of Dick.
"Nothing in sight!" groaned Sam, and he was right. The raft had disappeared completely, and all around them was a dreary waste of water, with a cloudy sky overhead.
Feeling that he must do something, Aleck Pop prepared a breakfast of broiled fish and hot coffee, but, when summoned to the repast, both of the Rovers shook their heads.
"I couldn't eat a mouthful," sighed Sam. "It would choke me."
"We must find Dick first, Aleck," said Tom. "Go ahead yourself and have breakfast. Don't mind us."
"'Deed, I aint no hungrier dan youse is," replied the colored man soberly. "But youse had bettah drink sum ob dat coffee, or youse might cotch a chill." And he made each sip some of the beverage, bringing it on deck for that purpose.
At half-past seven Tom espied a cloud of smoke on the horizon. "I think it's a lake steamer," he said to his brother, and he proved to be right. It was a freighter known as the Captain Rallow, running between Detroit and Buffalo. Soon the steamer came closer and they hailed her.
"Seen anything of a lumber wreck, with some men on it?" questioned Tom eagerly.
"Haven't seen any wreck," was the answer, from the captain of the freighter. "Whose raft was it?"
"I don't know. The raft hit us in the darkness and a young man on our yacht was knocked overboard. We lit some red fire and saw two people on the raft, which seemed to be going to pieces."
This news interested the owner of the freight steamer greatly, since he had a brother who was in the business of rafting lumber, and he asked Tom to give him the particulars of the affair.
"We can't give you any particulars. We were taken completely by surprise, and it was too dark to see much," said Tom. Nevertheless he and Sam told what they could, to which the freight captain listened with close attention.
"I'll keep my eye open for the raft," said the latter. "And if I see anything of your brother I'll certainly take him on board."
"Where are you bound?"
"I am going to stop at Cleveland first. Then I go straight through to Buffalo."
A few words more passed, and then the captain of the freight steamer gave the signal to go ahead.
The stopping of her engines had caused the steamer to drift quite close to the Swallow, and as she swung around those on the yacht caught a good view of the freighter's stern deck.
There were a small number of passengers on board, and as Sam looked them over he gave a sudden start.
"My gracious, can it be possible!" he gasped.
"Can what be possible, Sam?" queried Tom.
"At the passengers on the steamer. Am I dreaming, or is that—he is gone!" And Sam's face fell.
"Who are you talking about?"
"Arnold Baxter! He was on the steamer, just as sure as I stand here. And we both thought him dead!"
ON A LUMBER RAFT.
"You think you saw Arnold Baxter?" demanded Tom.
"Yes, I saw Arnold Baxter, just as plain as day."
"Sam, you must be—"
"No, I am not dreaming. It was Arnold Baxter, true enough. As soon as he saw I had spotted him he drew out of sight."
"But we thought he was dead—buried under that landslide out in Colorado."
"We didn't find his body, and he isn't dead. Why, I would never make a mistake in that rascal's face, never," and Sam shook his head to emphasize his words.
"Was Dan with him?"
"I didn't see the son."
"If it was really Arnold Baxter we ought to let the authorities know at once, so that they can arrest him for getting out of prison on that bogus pardon."
"Yes, and we ought to let father know, too, for you may be sure Baxter will do all he can to get square with us for keeping the Eclipse mining claim out of his grasp."
"He can't do anything about that claim now. Our claim is established by law, and he is nothing but an escaped jailbird. But I agree he may give us lots of trouble in other directions. I presume he would like to see us all hung for the way we got ahead of him and his tools."
"If the steamer wasn't so far off we might hail her," continued Sam, but this was now out of the question.
Both lads were very much disturbed, and with good reason. Arnold Baxter had been an enemy to Mr. Rover for years, and this meant a good deal when the desperate character of the man was taken into consideration. He was a well-educated fellow, but cruel and unprincipled to the last degree, and one who would hesitate at nothing in order to accomplish his purpose.
"Dat's de wust yet," was Aleck Pop's comment. "I was finkin' dat rascal was plumb dead, suah. And Dan, too! Suah yo' didn't see dat good-fo'-nuffin boy?"
"No, I didn't see Dan."
"He must have been with his father when the landslide occurred," went on Tom. "And if one escaped more than likely the other did, too. My, how I despise that chap! and have, ever since we had our first row with him at Putnam Hall."
"I wonder what brought Arnold Baxter back to this section of the country? I shouldn't think he would dare to come back."
"He always was daring to the last degree in some matters, just as he is cowardly in others. I would give something to know if Dan is with him."
"We might follow up the steamer, if it wasn't for poor Dick."
The boys talked the matter over for some time, and while doing this the sails of the Swallow were again hoisted, and they turned the yacht back to the vicinity where Dick had gone overboard.
And while Tom and Sam are looking for their elder brother, let us turn back and learn what really did become of Dick.
He was waiting for Tom to come on deck with the lanterns when, of a sudden, something black and threatening loomed up out of the darkness to the starboard of the Swallow.
The mass was the better half of a monstrous lumber raft, which was rapidly going to pieces in the storm.
The raft, or rather what was left of it, hit the Swallow a glancing blow, otherwise the sailing craft must have been stove in and sunk.
The shock caught Dick with one hand off the wheel, and, before he could catch hold again, the youth found himself flung heels into the air and over the Swallow's stern.
Down and down he went into the lake waters, until he thought he would never come up.
The turn of affairs bewildered him, and he did not come fully to his senses until his head struck one of the timbers of the raft.
He clutched the timber as a drowning man clutches the proverbial straw, and tried to draw himself to the surface of the lake, only to discover, to his horror, that there were timbers to both sides of him, cutting off his further progress upward.
"Must I be drowned like a rat in a trap!" was the agonizing thought which rushed through his brain, and then he pushed along from one timber to another until the last was reached and he came up, almost overcome and panting heavily for breath.
"Help! help!" he cried feebly, and presently heard his brothers answer him. Then the lifeline was thrown, but it fell short and did him no good. By the red fire and the rockets he saw the position of the Swallow, and saw his brothers, but was too weak to even signal to Sam and Tom.
It was with an effort that he at last drew himself to the top of some of the lumber. This movement came none too soon, for a moment later one of the outside chains of the raft broke, and fully a third of what was left of the lumber was scattered in all directions.
"Hullo, Bragin! is that you?"
The cry came from out of the darkness and from the other end of the top lumber.
"Are you calling to me?" replied Dick, in as loud a voice as he could muster.
"Is that you, Bragin?" repeated the voice.
"I am not Bragin," answered Dick. "Where are you?"
"Here." And the unknown repeated the cry until Dick located and joined him. He was a burly lumberman of forty, with a heavy black beard and an equally heavy voice. He gazed at the youth in astonishment.
"Hullo! Where did you come from?" he demanded.
"From the yacht this lumber raft just struck."
"Did the shock knock ye overboard?"
"Humph! I thought ye was Bragin."
"I came pretty close to being drowned, for I came up under the lumber."
"Well, we aint out o' the woods yet, young man. Didn't see nuthin o' Bragin, did ye?"
"I've seen nobody but you."
"Then he must be down to the lake bottom by this time."
"He was on the raft with you?"
"Yes. He and I left the tug to see to the chains when the storm came up."
"Where is the tug?"
"The raft broke away from her at the fust blow. A fool of a greenhorn was a-managin' of the thing, an' this is the result. Come here—it's safer."
Dick was perfectly willing to crawl closer to the burly lumberman, who was a good fellow, as could be seen by a glance.
"We'll be all right, if this section o' the lumber keeps together," went on the lumberman. "There are four chains here, so it ought to hold."
Once safe, for the time being, Dick began to wonder about the fate of the Swallow.
"Did the yacht go down?" he asked anxiously.
"I reckon not, young man. They burned red fire, you know. They wouldn't do that if there was much trouble aboard."
"That is true." Dick was silent for a moment. "I wish I could get back to her."
"Be thankful that ye aint at the bottom o' the lake. If we kin outride this storm we'll be safe enough, for the tug will be lookin' for the raft when it gits light."
Slowly the hours wore away, and in the meanwhile Dick learned that the lumberman's name was Luke Peterson and that he was from the timberlands of Michigan.
"I used to be in the United States service on the lakes, hunting down smugglers between here and Canada," said Peterson. "But that was years ago."
"Do they do much smuggling?" asked Dick.
"More than most folks think," was the decided answer.
The lumberman listened to Dick's tale with interest. Of course the story had to be short, and was frequently interrupted, as high waves would come along and almost sweep them into the lake. Both lay flat, clutching at the lumber and at the huge chains which held it, and which had thus far refused to part, although the strain upon them were tremendous.
It was about two o'clock in the morning when the storm, according to Dick's calculation, reached its height. The waves literally drove over the raft from end to end, and it was all both he and Luke Peterson could do to keep on the timbers.
"Hold on tight, young man, if ye value your life!" roared the lumberman. "An' if the raft parts, stick to the fust timber ye lay hands on."
Peterson had scarcely spoken when the raft went up to the top of a mighty wave and then came down with a dull boom in the hollow below. The shock was terrific, and it was followed by loud reports as the chains they had been depending upon snapped, one after another. Immediately the lumber loosened up and began to drift apart.
"Take care a' yerself!" shouted the lumberman, and hung fast to an extra long and heavy log. Dick heard him, but could not answer for fear of getting his mouth full of water. The youth turned over and over, clutched at one log and missed it, missed a second and a third, and then touched a fourth, and clung with a deathlike grip that nothing could loosen.
It was a soul-trying time, and one which poor Dick never forgot. The storm roared all around him, mingled with the thumping and bumping, grinding and crashing, of the sticks of timber. Once his left leg was caught between two sticks, and for the instant he was afraid the limb would be crushed. But then the pressure lessened and he drew the foot up in a hurry. The water washed into his face and over him, and he caught his breath with difficulty. Each instant looked as if it might be his last.
IN THE HANDS OF THE ENEMY.
Daylight found poor Dick all but exhausted. He still held to the stick of lumber, but his hands were numb and without feeling, and his lower limbs were in the same condition.
"I can't stand this much longer," was his dismal thought. "I've got to let go soon."
He looked around him anxiously. All that met his eyes was the broad expanse of water, with here and there a solitary stick of lumber. He gazed about for Luke Peterson, but the lumberman was not in sight.
"He must have been drowned," he thought. "Heaven help me, or I'll go, too!"
Gradually the sky cleared of the clouds, and the hot July sun began to pour down with a glare on the water that was well-nigh blinding. As the waves went down he changed his position on the log, and this gave him temporary relief. Soon the sun made his head ache, and he began to see strange visions. Presently he put out his hand, thinking that Tom was before him, and then went with a splash into the lake.
Almost unconscious of what he was doing, he caught the log again. But he was now too weak to pull himself up. "It's the end," he thought bitterly. Then a cry came to him, a cry that seemed half real, half imaginary.
"Hullo, Rover! Is that you?"
It was Peterson who was calling. The lumberman had drifted up on another log, and as the two sticks bumped together he caught hold of the youth and assisted him to his former resting place.
"I—I can't hold on any—any longer!" gasped Dick.
"Try, lad, try! Some kind of a boat is bound to appear, sooner or later."
"I—I am nu—numb all over."
"I suppose that's true—I'm numb myself. But don't ye give up."
Encouraged somewhat by Peterson's words Dick continued to hold on, and a few minutes later the lumberman gave a cheering cry:
"A steamer! Saved at last!"
The lumberman was right; the freighter Tom and Sam had hailed was approaching, the castaways having been discovered by the aid of a marine glass.
"A man and a boy," observed Captain Jasper to his mate.
"The boy looks pretty well done for," returned the mate. "He must be the one that was thrown off the yacht."
"More than likely."
As speedily as possible the freight steamer drew closer, and a line was thrown to Peterson.
He turned to give one end to Dick, and then made the discovery that the latter had fainted from exhaustion.
"Poor fellow!" he muttered, and caught the youth just as he was sliding into the lake.
It was no easy task to get Dick on board of the freight steamer. But it was accomplished at last, and, still unconscious, he was carried to a stateroom and made as comfortable as possible.
Peterson was but little the worse for the adventure, and his chief anxiety was for his friend Bragin, of whom, so far, nothing had been heard.
The coming of Dick on board of the Captain Rollow was viewed with much astonishment by two of the passengers on the freighter.
These two persons were Arnold Baxter and his son Dan.
The two had quite recovered from the injuries received in the landslide in Colorado, and it may be as well to state right here that they were bound East in order to carry out a new plot which the elder Baxter had hatched up against the Rovers.
What that plot was will be disclosed as our story proceeds.
"Father, it is Dick Rover," cried Dan Baxter, after having seen the unconscious one brought on board.
"Hush, Dan! I know it," whispered Arnold Baxter.
"It's a pity he wasn't drowned in the lake."
"I agree with you. But he isn't dead, and we'll have to keep out of sight for the rest of the trip."
"Humph! I am not afraid of him!" said the bully, for, as old readers know, Dan had never been anything else.
"That may be, but if he sees us he may—ahem—make much trouble for me."
"On account of our doings in Colorado? What can he prove? Nothing."
"Perhaps he can. Besides, Dan, you must remember that the officers of New York State are still after me."
"Yes, I haven't forgotten that."
"I wish now that I had put on that false wig and beard before we left Detroit," went on Arnold Baxter. "But I hated to put them on before it was absolutely necessary—the weather is so warm."
"Can you put them on now?"
"Hardly, since all on board know my real looks. I will have to keep out of Rover's sight."
"I would like to know what he is doing out here."
"On a pleasure trip, most likely."
The talk went on for some time, and then Dan approached one of the mates of the freighter, who had just come from the stateroom to which Dick had been taken.
"How is that young fellow getting on?" he asked carelessly.
"He's in bad shape," was the answer.
"Do you think he'll die?"
"Hardly, but he is very weak and completely out of his mind. The hot sun, coming after the storm, must have affected his brain."
"Out of his mind? Doesn't he recognize anybody?"
"No, he talks nothing but lumber, and cries out to be pulled from the water. Poor boy! it's too bad, isn't it?"
"It is too bad," said Dan Baxter hypocritically. "Do you know his name?"
"No, but he's a brother to those boys who hailed us from the yacht a couple of hours ago. A lumber raft struck the yacht and the boy was knocked overboard and managed to cling to some timber."
"Is the man who was saved his friend?"
"No, he was on the raft and the two are strangers;" and with this remark the mate of the freight steamer passed on.
Without delay Dan told his father of what he had heard. Arnold Baxter was much pleased.
"If he remains out of his mind we'll be safe enough," he said. "I presume they'll put him off at Cleveland and send him to the hospital."
"I wonder where that yacht is?"
"Oh, we have left her miles behind."
"And how soon will we reach Cleveland?"
"Inside of half an hour, so I heard one of the deck hands say."
No more was said for the time being, but both father and son set to thinking deeply, and their thoughts ran very much in the same channel.
Just as the freight steamer was about to make the landing at Cleveland, Arnold Baxter touched his son on the arm.
"If they take Dick Rover ashore, let us go ashore too," he whispered.
"I was thinking of that, dad," was Dan's answer. "Was you thinking, too, of getting him in our power?"
"I don't see why we can't do it—if he is still unconscious."
"It won't hurt to try. But we will have to work quick, for more than likely his brothers will follow us to this city," went on Arnold Baxter.
The steamer had but little freight for Cleveland, so the stop was only a short one.
When poor Dick was brought up on a cot, still unconscious, Arnold Baxter stepped forward.
"I have determined to stop off at Cleveland," he said to Captain Jasper. "If there is anything I can do for this poor fellow, I will do it willingly."
"Why, I thought you were going through to Buffalo," returned the captain in surprise.
"I was going through, but I've just remembered some business that must be attended to. I'll take the train for Buffalo to-morrow. If you want me to see to it that this poor fellow is placed in the hospital, I'll do it."
The offer appeared a good one, and relieved Captain Jasper's mind greatly.
"You are kind, sir," he said. "It isn't everyone who would put himself to so much trouble."
"I was wrecked myself once," smiled Arnold Baxter. "And I know how miserable I felt when nobody gave me a hand."
"I suppose the authorities will take him until his brothers come in on that yacht."
"There is no need to send him to a public institution. I will see to it that he gets to a first-class hotel," went on Arnold Baxter smoothly.
There was a little more talk, and then Dick was carried ashore and a coach was called.
By this time the freight steamer was ready to leave, and a minute later she proceeded on her way.
Arnold Baxter and Dan looked around and saw only a few people at hand. In the crowd was Luke Peterson, who now came forward.
"Want any help?" asked the lumberman respectfully.
"You might keep an eye open for that yacht," replied Arnold Baxter.
"All right, sir. Where are you going to take young Rover?"
"To the Commercial Hotel. I am well known there, and can easily get him a good room and the necessary medical attention."
"Then, if I see anything of the yacht, I'll send his brothers up to the hotel after him."
"That's it," returned Arnold Baxter. He turned to the driver of the coach. "To the Commercial Hotel," he went on, in a loud voice. "And drive as easy as you can."
Dan was already in the coach, supporting poor Dick in his arms. Arnold Baxter leaped in and banged the door shut. Soon the coach was moving away from the water front and in the direction of the hotel which had been mentioned.
"Of course you are not going to the Commercial Hotel," observed Dan, as soon as he felt safe to speak.
"Leave it all to me, my son," was Arnold Baxter's reply. "We got him away nicely, didn't we?"
"Never mind the future, Dan. How is he?"
"Dead as a stone, so far as knowing anything is concerned."
"I trust he remains so, for a while at least."
The coach rattled on, and presently came to a halt in front of the hotel which had been mentioned.
"Wait here until I get back," said Arnold Baxter to his son and to the coach driver, and then hurried inside of the building.
Instead of asking for a room he spent a few minutes in looking over a business directory.
"It's too bad, but they haven't a single room vacant," he said, on coming back to the coach. "I've a good mind to take him to some private hospital, after all. Do you know where Dr. Karley's place is?" he went on, turning to the coach driver.
"Then drive us to that place."
Again the coach went on. Dr. Karley's Private Sanitarium was on the outskirts of Cleveland, and it took half an hour to reach it. It was an old-fashioned building surrounded by a high board fence. Entering the grounds, Arnold Baxter ascended the piazza and rang the bell.
A negro answered the summons, and ushered him into a dingy parlor. Soon Dr. Karley, a dried-up, bald-headed, old man appeared.
"And what can I do for you, sir?" he asked, in a squeaky voice.
"Just the man I wanted to meet," thought Arnold Baxter.
He was a good reader of character, and saw that Dr. Karley would do almost anything for money.
The doctor's sanitarium was of a "shady" character. Among the inmates were two old men, put there by their relatives merely to get them out of the way, and an old lady who was said to be crazy by those who wished to get possession of her money.
"I have a peculiar case on hand, doctor," said Arnold Baxter, after introducing himself as Mr. Arnold. "A young friend of mine has been almost drowned in the lake. I would like you to take charge of him for a day or two."
"I will pay you well for your services," went on Arnold Baxter.
"You have him with you?"
"Yes, in a coach outside. He was found drifting on a log and almost out of his head on account of exposure to the water and the hot sun. I think a few days of rest and medical attention will bring him around all right."
The little old doctor bobbed his head. "I will go out and see him," he said.
Quarter of an hour later found Dick in an upper room of the sanitarium, lying on a comfortable bed, and with Dr. Karley caring for him.
In the meantime Arnold Baxter had gone out and paid the coach driver.
"Do you generally stand down by the docks?" he asked.
"No, sir; my stand is uptown," was the reply. "I had just brought down a passenger when you hailed me. But I can go down for you, if you wish."
"It will not be necessary. The doctor has a carriage, and I will hire that later on, when I see how the patient is making out"
"All right, sir; then I'm off."
As the coach passed out of sight Arnold Baxter chuckled to himself.
"I reckon that was well done," he muttered. "I don't believe the Rovers will find their brother very soon, if they ever find him!"
THE SAILING OF THE "PEACOCK."
"Oh, my, what a bad dream I have had!"
Such were the words which Dick uttered to himself when he came once again to the full possession of his senses.
He gazed around him curiously. He was in a plainly furnished room, lying on the top of a bed covered with a rubber blanket, so that his wet clothing might not soil the linen beneath. His coat and shoes had been removed, likewise his collar and tie, but that was all.
The shades of the two windows of the apartment were tightly drawn and a lamp on the table lit up the room but dimly, for it was now night. No one was present but the sufferer.
"Well, one thing is certain, I didn't drown, after all," he went on. Then he tried to sit up, but fell back exhausted.
He wondered where he was, and if Tom and Sam were near, and while he was wondering he fell into a light sleep which did a great deal toward restoring him to himself.
When Dick awoke he found Dr. Karley at hand, ready to give him some nourishing food. The doctor had just come from a long talk with Arnold Baxter, and it may as well be stated that the two men understood each other pretty thoroughly.
"Where am I?" he asked, in a fairly strong voice.
"Safe," said the old doctor soothingly. "Here, take this. It will do you a whole lot of good."
"Are my brothers around?"
"We'll talk later, after you are stronger."
The old doctor would say no more. Dick took the medicine offered, and did really feel stronger. Then a light breakfast was brought in, of which he partook readily. The food gone, the doctor disappeared, locking the door after him, but so softly that Dick was not aware of the fact until some time later.
While Dick was trying to get back his strength the Baxters were not idle.
Arnold Baxter had on his person all the money he possessed, a little over three thousand dollars. This had been saved from the wreck of his expedition to the West, and he was now resolved to spend every dollar of it, if necessary, in bringing the Rovers to terms, as he put it.
"I was going to New York State to get the youngest Rover boy in my power," he said to Dan, "but fate has thrown Dick in our path, and so we will take him instead. Once he is absolutely in our power, I am sure I can bring Anderson Rover to terms and make him turn the entire right to that Eclipse mine over to my representatives."
"It's a ticklish job," replied the son. "What of this doctor here? Won't he suspect anything?"
"I reckon the doctor is no better than he ought to be, Dan. I think I see my way clear to doing as I please with him. A couple of hundred dollars will go a long way with fellows of his stripe."
A conversation lasting half an hour followed, and Dan promised to keep close watch while his father went away to the docks.
Arnold Baxter was absent the best part of the morning, but came home with a face which showed he was well satisfied with what he had accomplished.
"I fell in luck," he explained. "Ran across a man I used to know years ago—Gus Langless—a sly old dog, up for anything with money in it. Langless owns a small schooner, the Peacock, and be says I can have her for a month, with the services of himself and his crew, for one thousand dollars—and nothing said about the job."
"Did you accept, dad?"
"Certainly—it was just what I wanted. Langless is all right, and I told him I would double his money if he would stick by me to the finish, and he swore that he would."
"And what is the next move?"
"We'll take Rover on board to-night, and then set sail direct for Detroit and Lake Huron. Langless knows an island in Lake Huron which will give us just the hiding place we want."
"And after that?"
"I'll send a letter to Anderson Rover which will sicken him to the heart and make him do just as I demand. He thinks the world of his oldest son."
"Good for you, dad! You've got a long head on your shoulders. And when are you going to let Dick Rover know he is in our power?"
"Not until we have him on the Peacock, if I can prevent it. If he knew here, he might kick up a big row."
"Pooh! we could easily shut him up!" sniffed Dan.
Now Dick was in their custody he was impatient to browbeat the youth and taunt him with his helplessness. But Arnold Baxter would not listen to it, so the graceless son had to bide his time.
The afternoon was an anxious one for both of the Baxters, who were afraid that the Rovers would find their way to Dr. Karley's place and thwart their carefully arranged plan. But no one put in an appearance, and by nightfall everything was in readiness for the departure. The doctor had loaned his private turnout, and for a "consideration," otherwise a bribe, had dosed poor Dick into semi-unconsciousness, and had promised to say to all comers that the young man had got well and gone off in the company of two of his friends, a Mr. Arnold and a Mr. Daniels.
When it came to transferring Dick to the carriage, Arnold Baxter put on the false wig and beard which he had been carrying in his valise, thus transforming his appearance greatly. Dan kept out of sight on the seat of the carriage, so that Dick saw only his back in the gloom of the night. The son drove while Arnold Baxter held Dick.
It was no easy matter to find the location of the Peacock, and equally difficult to get Dick on board without observation. But Captain Langless had wisely sent his men to a neighboring saloon, so the coast was tolerably clear. Once Dick was in the cabin, Arnold Baxter left him in Dan's charge and hurried back to the sanitarium with the turnout. In the meantime Captain Langless summoned his sailors and told them they would sail at early dawn—half-past four.
Locking the door of the cabin and putting the key in his pocket, Dan Baxter turned up the light and then looked at Dick, who lay half propped up in a chair.
"I guess I'll wake him up," he muttered, and going over to the helpless youth he pulled his nose vigorously.
"Oh!" groaned Dick, and opened his eyes dreamily. Then he caught sight of Dan and stared as if he had seen a ghost.
"Dan Baxter!" he said slowly. "Can it be possible?"
"Yes, it's me," replied the bully, with small regard for grammar. "Do you know that you are in my power, Dick Rover?"
"I—I—thought you were dead," and Dick closed his eyes again, for it was next to impossible for him to arouse himself.
"I'm a long way from being dead," laughed Dan harshly. "I reckon you'll die before I do."
Dick pulled himself together with a great effort.
"Then the landslide didn't catch you?" he questioned.
"Yes, it did, but it didn't kill me, nor my father neither. We are both here, and you are absolutely in our power."
"Is this the steamer that took me on board?"
"No, this is a boat that is under my father's command."
"I don't understand it at all."
"Reckon you will understand before we are done with you. You thought you could crow over us, but the crowing will be on the other side of the fence now."
"What are you going to do with me?"
"You'll find out soon enough."
"Where are my brothers?"
"I don't know—and I don't care."
"Well, I am glad they are not in your power," returned Dick, with something of a sigh of relief.
"One of you is enough," growled Dan.
"And you won't tell me what boat this is?"
"It is one under the command of my father."
"Are we sailing?"
"Not yet, but we will be in a few minutes."
With an effort Dick arose to his feet. But he was dizzy from the effects of the dose administered by the doctor, and immediately sank back again. Baxter gave a brutal laugh.
"Now you see how it is," he observed. "You are absolutely in our power. How do you like the situation?"
"How should I like it? A lamb among wolves would be as safe, to my way of thinking."
"I don't know but what you are right. We intend to make a big thing out of you, Dick Rover."
"I told you before you'd find out soon enough."
"I presume you'll try to make my father ransom me, or something like that."
"We'll about make him give up that mining claim."
"You were going to make him give that up before."
"Well, we won't trip up this time. Our plans are carefully laid."
"You were always good at bragging, Dan Baxter."
"Don't insult me, Dick Rover."
"I am telling the plain truth."
With a sudden darkening of his face Dan Baxter strode forward.
"Dick Rover, I hate you, always have hated you, and always will hate you. Take that for your impudence."
He struck out and slapped the helpless boy heavily upon the cheek. Then, as Dick sank back in the chair, he turned and left the cabin, closing and locking the door after him.
At half-past four in the morning the Peacock got under way, and in less than an hour was far out upon the broad waters of Lake Erie.
HUNTING FOR DICK.
"Dick must be drowned."
It was Tom who spoke, addressing Sam and Aleck Pop.
For hours they had searched among the floating lumber for some sign of the missing one, and the only thing that had been found was Dick's cap, caught in a crack of one of the timbers.
"It's awful!" murmured Sam. His face was white and he was ready to cry, for Dick was very dear to him.
"Perhaps dat steamboat dun pick him up," suggested Pop. He wanted to say something comforting.
"I pray to Heaven she did," murmured Tom. "I suppose the best thing we can do now is to steer for Cleveland."
"Yes, that's the only hope left," answered Sam. "If he was floating around here we would surely have spotted him before this with the glass."
The course was changed, and toward nightfall they came in sight of Cleveland, and learned where they could tie up, at a spot close to where the steamer had made her landing.
Their first inquiries were at this point, and from a longshoreman they quickly learned that two persons had been picked up by the steamer, a big man and a young fellow.
"It must be Dick!" cried Sam.
"Where did they take the young fellow?" questioned Tom.
"A man and a big boy came from the steamer and took charge of him," answered the longshoreman.
"Don't you know where they went?"
"No; most likely to the hospital. The young fellow was in pretty bad shape. They got in a coach."
"Did the other man who was saved go along?"
"No; he's all right, and is around here looking for you folks—so he told me. He—here he comes now."
The longshoreman pointed to Luke Peterson, who had just appeared at the upper end of the dock. Both Sam and Tom ran to meet him.
"So you are Dick Rover's brothers," said Peterson, as he shook hands. "Glad to know you. Yes, your brother is all right, although mighty tucked out by the exposure. He fell in with a couple o' friends on the steamer, and they took him up to the Commercial Hotel."
As Peterson was curious to know how Dick was faring, he agreed to accompany Sam and Tom to the hotel, and all three boarded a handy street car for that purpose.
"I wish to see my brother, Dick Rover," said Tom to the clerk at the desk.
"Not stopping here, sir," was the reply, after the clerk had consulted the register.
"I mean the young man who was hauled out of the lake and was brought here feeling rather sick."
The clerk shook his head. "No such person here."
Sam and Tom stared in astonishment, and then turned to the lumberman.
"The friends who were with him said they were going to bring him here," said Luke Peterson. "And I promised to send you after 'em as soon as I spotted ye."
"I don't understand—" began Tom, and then turned swiftly to Sam. "Can this be some of Arnold Baxter's work?"
"It may be. Mr. Peterson, how did the man who was with my brother look?"
As well as he could Luke Peterson described Arnold Baxter, and also Dan. Tom gave a low whistle.
"I'll wager poor Dick has fallen into the hands of the enemy," he cried.
"What enemy?" questioned the lumberman.
In as few words as possible Tom and Sam explained the situation, concluding by saying they had discovered Arnold Baxter on the steamer. The story made Luke Peterson look very grave.
"Reckon we let your brother git into the wrong hands," he observed.
"The question is, where did they take Dick?"
"That's so, where?"
"Evidently they didn't come here at all."
"Perhaps, if I could find that coach driver, I might learn somethin'."
"That's so—let us find him by all means."
But to find the driver was not easy, and by midnight the search was abandoned. Much dejected, Sam and Tom returned to the Swallow, and Luke Peterson accompanied them. Peterson was also downhearted, having heard nothing of the tug which had been towing the lumber raft or of his friend Bragin.
"I'll notify the police in the morning," said Tom, and did so. He also sent a telegram to his father, telling of what had happened. The police took up the case readily, but brought nothing new to light.
"I'm going to interview every cabby in town," said Tom, and proceeded to do so, accompanied by Luke Peterson and Sam.
At five o'clock in the afternoon they found the coach driver who had taken Dick from the dock.
"The man said they had no rooms vacant at the Commercial Hotel," said the coach driver. "So he had me drive the party to Dr. Karley's Private Sanitarium."
"Where is that?"
"On the outskirts, about a mile and a half from here."
"Can you take us there now?"
"Sorry, but I've got a job in quarter of an hour."
"We'll pay you double fare," put in Sam. "Get somebody else to take that other job."
To this the coach driver readily agreed, but to make the arrangement took time, and it was six o'clock before they were on the way to Dr. Karley's place.
When they reached the sanitarium they found the building dark, with the shutters on the ground floor tightly closed. Dr. Karley answered Tom's summons in person.
"Yes, the parties were here," he said smoothly. "But I could not accommodate them, and so they went elsewhere."
"Elsewhere?" echoed Tom.
"But our coach driver says they got off here. He was the one who brought them."
At this announcement the face of the physician changed color for an instant. But he quickly recovered himself.
"Well—er—they did get off here, as the sick young man wished to rest. When I said I couldn't accommodate them the older man went off and got another coach, and all three went off in that."
"I do not know, although I recommended the general hospital to them."
"They did not go to any of the city institutions."
"Then perhaps they went to a hotel."
"We have inquired at every hotel in town."
The little old doctor shrugged his bony shoulders. "I am sorry, but I can give you no further information."
"How was the sick young man when he was here?"
"He didn't appear to be very sick. Had he been bad I would have certainly done more for him."
"And you haven't the least idea where they went to?"
"I have not."
"It's mighty strange," was Tom's blunt comment. "Do you know who the sick young man was?"
"I haven't the slightest idea. I never ask questions unless they are necessary."
"He was my brother, and those fellows who had him in charge are his enemies and up to no good."
"Indeed!" And Dr. Karley elevated his shaggy eyebrows in well-assumed surprise.
"I am bound to find my brother, and if you know anything more you had better tell me," went on Tom bluntly.
The random shaft struck home, and the old doctor started back in dismay.
"Why—er—surely you do not—er—suspect me of—ahem—of anything wrong?" he stammered.
"I want to get at the truth. Which way did they go when they drove off?"
"Directly for town."
"And when was this?"
"Inside of half an hour after they got here."
"Did they give any names?"
"No. It was not necessary, since I could not take them in."
"Your place doesn't seem to be very crowded."
At this the physician glared angrily at Tom.
"Boy, it seems to me that you are growing impudent!" he cried. "I am not accustomed to being addressed in this fashion. I think I had better bid you good-night."
The two were standing in the hallway, and now the doctor opened the door to signify that the interview was over.
"All right, I'll go," muttered Tom. "But I am going to get to the bottom of this affair, don't you forget that." And then he hurried out and rejoined Sam and Peterson at the coach.
"He may be telling the truth," said the coach driver, on hearing what Tom had to say. "But, all the same, I was driving around these streets for a good hour after I left here, and I saw no other rig with those men and your brother in it."
"I am inclined to think the doctor is humbugging us," answered Tom. "But the thing is to prove it."
"Perhaps you had better watch the place for a while," suggested the lumberman.
"Do you know anything of this doctor—what sort of a reputation he has?" asked Sam of the driver.
"His reputation is none of the best," was the answer. "He has been in court twice because of the people he treats."
"Then he wouldn't be above helping Arnold Baxter—if he was paid for it," said Tom.
All entered the coach and drove off around the nearest corner.
Then Tom and Sam got out and walked away, intending to come up at the rear of the sanitarium.
Presently a carriage appeared in view, driven by a man who, in the gloom, appeared strangely familiar, despite his false beard.
"Arnold Baxter!" cried Sam. "Hi, there, whoa!"
He ran toward the carriage and caught the horse by the bridle. Tom followed, and the man, who was just returning from taking Dick to the Peacock, was brought to bay.
THE ESCAPE OF ARNOLD BAXTER.
"Arnold Baxter, where is my brother Dick?" demanded Tom, as he reached the carriage and caught the evildoer by the arm.
To say that Arnold Baxter was astonished would be to put it altogether too mildly. He was completely dumfounded.
"You!" he said slowly, hardly knowing how to speak after he had caught his breath.
"Yes, you rascal. Where is Dick."
"I know nothing of your brother. This is a—a complete surprise. I didn't know you were in Cleveland."
"Perhaps not. But let me tell you that we know your game, and we are going to hand you over to the law."
"Never!" Arnold Baxter fairly hissed out the words. "Let go of that horse"—the latter words to Sam.
"Don't you do it!" cried Tom, and then he caught Arnold Baxter by the leg. "Come out of the carriage."
A fierce struggle ensued, and, afraid that Tom would get the worst of it, Sam set up a loud shout for help.
"You whelp! I'll fix you!" ejaculated Arnold Baxter, and catching up the whip, he struck at Tom with the butt end. He caught the youth directly over the head, and Tom went down as if shot.
"Let Tom alone," screamed Sam. "Help! help!"
"Who is it?" came from a distance, and Luke Peterson hove into sight. "Hullo! the man we are after."
He made a dive for Arnold Baxter, but the latter was too quick for him, and leaped from the opposite side of the carriage to the ground. The horse now became frightened and set off on a run, directly for a lane behind Dr. Karley's institution.
"Tom, are you badly hurt?" questioned Sam, but, even as he spoke, Tom tried to stagger to his feet. Seeing this, Sam began a chase after Baxter, with the lumberman beside him.
Arnold Baxter was fleet of foot, and realizing what capture meant—a return to prison with his sentence to be served once more from the beginning—he ran as never before, straight for the dock where the Peacock lay.
His first thought was to board the schooner and set sail out into the lake, but a second thought convinced him that this would be unwise.
"They will follow me on a tug or steamer, and the jig will be up in no time," he said to himself "I must find some hiding place."
Many of the docks were inclosed by high board fences, and coming to one of these, he leaped over and made his way to a huge pile of merchandise. Here he crouched down and kept as quiet as a mouse.
Sam and Peterson, followed by Tom, traced him to the fence, but once on the opposite side, lost all track of the rascal.
"He's gone," said Tom, after running hither and thither on the dock. "He has given us the slip nicely."
"He can't be far off," returned Sam. "I believe he was bound for that doctor's sanitarium when we spotted him."
"So do I, and I wouldn't wonder if poor Dick is at the place, a prisoner."
The matter was talked over for several minutes, and the two brothers decided to return to Dr. Karley's sanitarium. The lumberman said he would remain around the docks on the lookout for Arnold Baxter.
"If you catch him I'll give you fifty dollars," said Tom. "My father, I know, will pay the amount willingly."
"I'll do my best," answered Peterson. He was by no means rich and glad enough of a chance to make such a sum. Besides this, the ways of the Rover boys appeared to please him.
When Sam and Tom returned to the doctor's place they found the coach driver still at hand, he having caught Arnold Baxter's horse at the entrance to the lane.
"Take him to the stable and ask the doctor if the rig is his," said Tom, and the coach driver agreed. He was gone the best part of quarter of an hour.
"The doctor says it is his horse and carriage, but he also says he didn't know the turnout was out," he announced, with a grin. "He's an oily one, he is!"
"Right you are, but he can't stuff us with his fairy tales," replied Tom. "Do you suppose there is a policeman handy?"
"There is probably one somewhere around."
"I wish you would hunt him up and bring him here."
"What are you going to do?"
"Dare the lion in his den; eh, Sam?"
"Right, Tom! That doctor must know a good deal more than he is wiling to tell."
The coach driver went off, and walking around to the front of the sanitarium the boys rang the bell sharply.
There was no answer to the summons, and then Tom gave the bell knob a jerk which nearly broke it off. A second-story window was thrown open with a bang.
"I want you boys to go away!" came in angry tones.
"And I want you to come down and let us in," retorted Tom.
"I won't let you in. I've told you all I know, and that is the end of it."
"It's not the end of it, Dr. Karley. We want to know how you came to let Arnold Baxter have your horse and carriage."
"I didn't know the horse and carriage were out of the stable. The man must have taken them on the sly."
"It's not likely. Open the door and let us in—it will be best for you."
"Ha, you threaten me!"
"I've done more than that-I've sent for a policeman."
At this announcement the old doctor grated his teeth savagely. He was much disturbed and knew not how to proceed.
"I was a fool to go into this thing," he muttered. "It may lead to all sorts of trouble. I must get myself clear somehow."
"Are you going to let us in?" went on Tom.
"Yes, I will let you in. But allow me to state that you are acting very foolishly," answered the doctor, and dropped the window. A few minutes later he appeared at the door, which he opened very gingerly.
"You can come into the parlor," he said stiffly.
"We'll remain right here," answered Tom, afraid of some sort of a trap.
"Well, what do you want?"
"I want to know where that young man, my brother, is."
"The man who was with him said he was his nephew."
"It was a falsehood. Now where is my brother?"
"Honestly, I have not the slightest idea."
"What was that man doing with your carriage?"
"I repeat, young man, I did not know he had the carriage." The old doctor drew a long breath, wondering how soon an officer of the law would appear. "Of course if anything is wrong I am perfectly willing to do all I can to set it right. My institution is above reproach, and I wish to keep it so."
"Are you willing to let me look through your place?"
"So you think your brother is here?"
"You are very forward. Still, to convince you that you are mistaken, you are at liberty to go through my place from top to bottom. But you must not disturb any of the patients."
"All right; let us go through. Sam, you remain here, on the watch for that policeman."
With bad grace Dr. Karley led the way and took Tom through the sanitarium from top to bottom, even allowing him to peep into the rooms occupied by the "boarders," as the medical man called them. Of course there was no trace of Dick.
"Now I trust you are satisfied," said the doctor, when they were again at the front door.
"I am not satisfied about that carriage affair," returned Tom, as bluntly as ever.
"Well, I have told you the truth."
At this moment the coach driver came in sight, accompanied by a policeman.
"What's the trouble?" demanded the officer of the law.
Tom and Sam told their tale, and then the doctor had his say, and the driver related what he knew.
"Certainly a queer mix-up," remarked the policeman. He turned to the Rovers. "What do you want to do?"
"I want to find my brother, who has disappeared," said Tom.
"You say you have searched through here?"
"I have—after a fashion."
"You can go through, if you wish," said the doctor to the officer.
"I reckon my brother is gone," went on Tom. "But this doctor helped the rascals who spirited him away."
"I did absolutely nothing," cried Dr. Karley. "I am willing to aid you all I can. But I am innocent. I received no pay for giving the unfortunate young man some medicine to strengthen him, and my horse and carriage were taken without my knowledge."
A long and bitter war of words followed, but in the end the doctor was left to himself.
"We'll make no charge against him yet," said Tom to the policeman. "But I wish you would keep an eye on the institution—in case that rascal puts in an appearance again."
"I will," returned the officer.
A little while later Sam and Tom set out to rejoin Luke Peterson. When they gained the dock they saw nobody.
"He ought to be somewhere about," said the younger Rover.
They tramped about from place to place for fully an hour.
Presently they came close to where the Swallow lay. Had they but known it, the Peacock, with poor Dick on board, lay but three blocks further away.
"My gracious!" cried Sam suddenly.
He had seen a form stretched motionless across some lumber lying near.
The form was that of Luke Peterson, and his cheek and temple were covered with blood.
ON THE LAKE AGAIN.
"Peterson!" cried Tom, in dismay.
"Can he be dead?" came from Sam. Then he bent over the lumberman. "No, he still lives. But he has been treated most shamefully."
"This must be some more of Arnold Baxter's work"
"Or else the work of some footpad."
Both boys knelt over the prostrate form of the lumberman and did what they could to restore him to his senses.
In this they were partly successful.
"Don't hit me again! Please don't hit me!" the man moaned, over and over again.
"You're safe," said Tom. But Peterson paid no attention, and only begged them not to hit him.
"Let us carry him to the Swallow," suggested Sam, and between them they did so.
"Wot's dis?" asked Aleck Pop, in astonishment.
"He is our friend, and has been struck down," answered Tom. "Get some water in a basin, and a little liquor."
When the colored man returned with the articles mentioned both boys washed the wounded man's head and bound it up with a towel. Then Tom administered a few spoonfuls of liquor. This seemed to give Peterson some strength, but he did not fully recover for some hours.
"Follow the Peacock," were his first rational words. "Follow the schooner Peacock."
"The Peacock?" repeated Tom. "Why should we follow her?"
"Your brother is on board." And having spoken thus, the lumberman sank again into semi-unconsciousness.
"Can he be telling the truth, or is he out of his head?" questioned Sam.
"I'm sure I don't know, Sam."
"Perhaps we had better look around for the schooner he mentioned."
"All right, I'll do so. You stay here with Aleck."
"Hadn't I better go with you?"
"No, I'll keep my eyes open," concluded Tom, and hurried away.
It was now dawn, and the early workers were just getting to their employment. Soon Tom met a couple of watchmen and hailed them.
"I am looking for the schooner Peacock," said he. "Do you know anything of the craft?"
"Sure, an' that's Gus Langless' boat," said one of the watchmen. "She's lying at the end of Bassoon's wharf, over yonder."
"Thank you," and Tom started away.
The wharf mentioned was a long one, and it took some time for the youth to reach the outer end. As he ran he saw a boat in the distance, moving away with all sails set. Of course he could not make out her name, but he saw that she was schooner-rigged, and felt certain she must be the craft for which he was searching.
At the end of the pier he met a dock hand, who had been resting in a nearby shed.
"Is that boat the Peacock?" he asked.
"Do you know anything of the people on board?"
"I do not."
"Has she a cargo?"
"I believe not."
"You didn't see anybody going on her?"
"Hold up! Yes, I did; a young fellow and a man."
"Was the young man in a feeble state?"
"He seemed to be."
Tom turned away with something of a groan. "Dick must be on board of that craft, along with the Baxters. Oh, what luck we are having! Now what ought I to do next?"
His wisest move would have been to have informed the authorities, but Tom was too much upset mentally to think of that. With all speed he returned to the Swallow.
"The Peacock has sailed!" he cried. "We must follow her!"
"You are certain?" queried Sam.
"Yes, I saw her in the distance. Come, let us get after her before it is too late."
As Luke Peterson was now doing fairly well, all of the others ran on deck, and soon the Swallow was in pursuit of the schooner. At first but little could be seen of the Peacock, but when the sun came up they saw her plainly, heading toward the northwest.
"We must keep her in sight," said Tom.
"Yes, but supposing the Baxters are on board, how can we capture them?" came from Sam. "We are but three, or four at the most, counting Peterson, while that craft must carry a crew of five or six."
"We can hail some other boat to help us. The main thing is not to lose track of the rascals."
The breeze was all that could be desired, and once the shore was left behind they kept the Peacock in sight with ease. But, try their best, they gained but little on the larger boat.
As there was now nothing to do but to let the yacht do her best, Tom left Sam at the wheel and turned his attention to Peterson. The lumberman was now able to sit up, although very weak.
"I discovered Arnold Baxter and tracked him to the schooner's dock," he said. "His son came to the dock, and from what they said I am sure your brother is on the craft. Then they discovered me, and the father struck me down with the butt of a pistol he carried. After that all was a blank until I found myself here."
"You can be thankful you weren't killed."
"I suppose so. I shall not rest until that villain is brought to justice. But what are ye up to now, lad?"
"We are in pursuit of the Peacock."
"On the lake or up the river?"
"On the lake."
"Can you keep her in sight?"
"So far we seem to be holding our own."
"Good! I'd go on deck and help ye, but I feel kind o' strange-like in the legs."
"Better keep quiet for the present. We may need you later on."
"Got any firearms on board?"
"Yes, a gun and two pistols."
"Ye may want 'em afore ye git through with that crowd. They are bad ones."
"We know them thoroughly, Mr. Peterson. We have been acquainted with them for years." And then Tom told of how Dan Baxter had been the bully at Putnam Hall, and how he had run away to join his rascally father, and of how Arnold Baxter had been Mr. Rover's enemy since the days of early mining in the West.
"O' course they are carrying off your brother fer a purpose," said the lumberman. "Like as not they'll try to hit your father through him."
"I presume that is the game."
The morning wore away slowly, but as the sun mounted higher the breeze gradually died down.
The Peacock was the first to feel the going down of the wind, and slowly, but surely, the Swallow crept closer to the schooner.
But at last both vessels came to a standstill, about quarter of a mile apart.
"Now what's to do?" questioned Sam dismally.
"I reckon we can whistle for a breeze," returned his brother.
"Whistling won't do us any good. I've been wondering if we could not do some rowing in the small boat."
"Hurrah! just the thing!"
There was a small rowboat stored away on board the Swallow, and this was now brought forth, along with two pairs of oars.
"Gwine ter row ober, eh?" observed Aleck Pop. "Racken you dun bettah been careful wot youse do."
"We shall go armed," answered Tom.
The boys soon had the rowboat floating on the lake, and they leaped in, each with a pair of oars, and with a pistol stowed away in his pocket.
From the start those on board of the Peacock had been afraid that the yacht was following them, and now they were certain of it.
"Two boys putting off in a rowboat," announced Captain Langless.
"They are Tom and Sam Rover," answered Arnold Baxter, after a brief survey through a marine glass.
"How did they get to know enough to follow this craft?"
"I'm sure I don't know. But those Rover boys are slick, and always were."
"What will you do when they come up?"
"Warn them off."
"I've got an idea, dad," came from Dan.
"Why not get out of sight and let Captain Langless invite them on board, to look for Dick. Then we can bag them and put them with Dick."
"By Jove, that is a scheme!" exclaimed the rascally parent. "Langless, will you do it? Of course, we'll have to get out of sight until the proper moment arrives."
"But if you bag 'em, what of those left on the Swallow?" questioned the captain.
"There is only one man, a negro. He doesn't amount to anything."
"There may be more—one or two officers of the law."
Arnold Baxter used his glass again. "I see nobody but the darky. If there were officers at hand, I am sure they would have come along in that rowboat."
"I guess you are right about that."
"If we capture the boys the darky won't dare to follow us alone, and it may be that we can capture him, too," went on Arnold Baxter.
By this time the rowboat was drawing closer, and Arnold Baxter and Dan stepped out of sight behind the forecastle of the schooner.
A few additional words passed between Captain Langless and the Baxters, and then the owner of the Peacock awaited the coming of our friends, who were now almost alongside, never suspecting the trap which was set for them.
CAUGHT IN A TRAP.
"Do you see anything of the Baxters?" asked Sam, when the rowboat was within a hundred feet of the schooner.
"I thought I did before, but I don't see them now," answered Tom.
"Rowboat, ahoy!" shouted Captain Langless. "What brings you?"
"I reckon you know well enough," Tom shouted back. "We are after Dick Rover."
"Dick Rover? Who is he?"
"Our prisoner?" The owner of the Peacock put on a look of surprise. "Really, you are talking in riddles."
"I don't think so. Where are Arnold Baxter and his son Dan?"
"Don't know anybody by that name."
"They went on board of your boat," put in Sam.
"You must be mistaken." Captain Langless turned to his mate. "Find any stowaways on board?"
"Nary a one," was the mate's answer. "And just came up from the hold, too."
This talk perplexed Tom and Sam not a little.
Was it possible Luke Peterson had made some mistake?
"We have it on pretty good authority that the Baxters are on board of your boat, and that Dick Rover is aboard, too," said Sam.
"It's all a riddle to me," answered Captain Langless. "We are not in the business of carrying prisoners. We are bound for Sandusky for a cargo of flour."
This talk completely nonplused the boys, and they held a whispered consultation.
"I don't believe him," said Sam.
"No more do I. But what shall we do about it?"
"I'm sure I don't know."
"You can come on board and look around, if you wish," called out the owner of the schooner. "I want you to satisfy yourself that you are mistaken."
"Shall we go?" whispered Tom. "It may be a trap?"
"He seems honest enough."
"Supposing I go and you stay in the rowboat? Then, if anything happens, you can call on Aleck and Peterson for help."
So it was arranged, and in a minute more Tom was climbing up the ladder which had been thrown over the Peacock's side.
"Is the other young fellow coming?" asked the captain, who did not fancy this move.
The captain scowled, but said no more.
Once on deck Tom looked around him curiously, and then moved toward the companion way leading to the cabin. He felt instinctively that he was in a dangerous position. As he crossed the deck several ill-appearing sailors gazed at him curiously, but said nothing—being under strict orders from the captain to remain silent in the presence of the stranger.
The cabin of the Peacock was a small affair, considering the general size of the schooner, and contained but little in the shape of furniture.
Dick had been removed long before, so the apartment was empty of human occupants when Tom entered.
"Nobody here," he murmured, as he gazed around. "What foolishness to come, anyway! The Baxters could easily hide on me, if they wanted to."
He was about to leave the cabin when a form darkened the companion way, and Arnold Baxter appeared.
"Silence!" commanded the man, and pointed a pistol at Tom's head.
The sight of the rascal startled the youth and the look on Baxter's face caused him to shiver.
"So you are here, after all," he managed to say.
"Silence!" repeated Arnold Baxter, "unless you want to be shot."
"Where is my brother Dick?"
Before Arnold Baxter could reply Dan put in an appearance, carrying a pair of handcuffs.
"Now, we'll get square with you, Tom Rover," said the bully harshly.
"What do you intend to do?"
"Make you a prisoner. Hold out your hands."
"And if I refuse?"
"You won't refuse," put in Arnold Baxter, and, lowering his pistol, he leaped behind Tom and caught him by the arms. At the same time Dan attacked the lad in front and poor Tom was soon handcuffed. Then he was led out of the cabin by a rear way, a door was opened, and he was thrust into the blackness of the hold. But ere this was accomplished he let out one long, loud cry for help which reached Sam's ears quite plainly.
"Hi! what are you doing to my brother?" ejaculated the younger Rover. He had brought the rowboat close up alongside the schooner.
"I don't know what's up," answered the mate of the Peacock. "Better come aboard and see."
"He has fallen down the hatchway!" cried Captain Langless. "Poor chap! he's hurt himself quite badly." And he disappeared, as if going to Tom's assistance.
If Sam had been in a quandary before, he was doubly so now. Had Tom really fallen, or had he been attacked?
"I can't leave him alone," he thought, and without further hesitation leaped up the side of the schooner with the agility of a cat.
It was a fatal movement, for scarcely had he reached the deck when he was pounced upon by Captain Langless and held fast until Arnold Baxter appeared.
"Let me go!" cried Sam, but his protest proved of no avail. A lively scuffle followed, but the lad was no match for the men, and in the end he found himself handcuffed and thrown into the hold beside Tom.
"Tie the rowboat fast to the stern," ordered Arnold Baxter, and this was done.
The going down of the wind was only temporary, and now a slight breeze sprang up.
"We are in luck!" said the captain of the schooner.
"We must keep away from the yacht," returned Arnold Baxter.
Soon the schooner's sails were filling and she continued on her course, dragging the small boat behind her. Aleck Pop saw the movement and grew much perplexed.
"Dat don't look right to me, nohow!" he muttered. "'Pears lak da was bein' tuk along sumway!"
Aleck was not much of a sailor, but he had been out enough to know how to handle the yacht under ordinary circumstances, and now he did his best to follow the Peacock.
With the glass he watched eagerly for the reappearance of Sam and Tom, and his face became a study when fully half an hour passed and they failed to show themselves.
"Da is in trouble, suah!" he told himself. "Now wot's dis yeah niggah to do?"
He lashed the wheel fast and sought advice from Luke Peterson, who was feeling stronger every minute. The burly lumberman shook his head dubiously.
"In trouble for certain," was his comment. "Didn't hear any pistol shots, did ye?"
"Didn't heah nuffin, sah."
"They wouldn't remain on board of that craft of their own free will."
"Don't specs da would, sah. De question is, sah: wot's to do?" And Aleck scratched his woolly head thoughtfully.
"I don't know, excepting to keep the schooner in sight, if possible, and see if something doesn't turn up. If you sight a steamer or a steam tug let me know, and I'll try to get help."
So it was arranged, and Aleck returned to the wheel. The Swallow was going along smoothly, and he did what he could to make the sails draw as much as possible. Peterson now discovered the medicine chest of the yacht, and from this got another dose of liquor, which afforded him the temporary strength of which he was in so much need.
The coming of night found the two vessels far out upon the waters of Lake Erie and nearly half a mile apart. Peterson now came on deck, to keep an eye on things while Aleck prepared supper. It promised to remain clear, but, as there would be no moon, Peterson was afraid that they would lose sight of the Peacock in the gathering darkness.
Supper was soon served, the lumberman eating first, and then Aleck cleared away the few dishes and tidied up generally. The colored man was much downcast.
"Fust it was Dick, an' now it am de whole t'ree of 'em," he remarked. "I'se afraid dar is gwine ter be a bad endin' to dis yeah trip."
"We will have to take what comes," answered Peterson. "But I have taken a fancy to those boys, and I'll stick by you to the end."
Slowly the darkness of night settled over the waters of the lake, and with the going down of the sun the stars came forth, one after another. During the last few hours several sail had been seen at a distance, but none had come close enough to be hailed.