Chapter XVII. In Which Dora is Carried Off
 

Perhaps it will be as well to go back a bit and learn how poor Dora was enticed into leaving home so unexpectedly, to the sorrow of her mother and the anxiety of Dick and her other friends.

Dora was hard at work sweeping out the parlor of the Stanhope cottage when she saw from the window a boy walking up the garden path. The youth was a stranger to her and carried a letter in his hand.

"Is this Mrs. Stanhope's place?" he questioned, as Dora appeared.

"Yes."

"Here's a letter for Miss Dora Stanhope," and he held out the missive.

"Whom is it from?"

"I don't know. A boy down by the lake gave it to me," was the answer, and without further words the lad hurried off, having received instructions that he must not tarry around the place after the delivery of the communication.

Tearing open the letter Dora read it with deep interest.

"What can Dick have to tell me?" she mused. "Can it be something about Mr. Crabtree? It must be."

Dropping her work, she ran upstairs, changed her dress, put on her hat, and started for the boathouse.

It took her but a short while to reach the place, but to her surprise nobody was in sight.

"Can I have made some mistake?" she murmured; when the Falcon hove into view from around a bend in the shore line.

"Is that Miss Stanhope?" shouted a strange man, who seemed to be the sole occupant of the craft.

"Yes, I am Dora Stanhope," answered the girl.

"Dick Rover sent me over from the other side of the lake. He told me if I saw you to take you over to Nelson Point."

Nelson Point was a grove situated directly opposite Cedarville. It was a place much used by excursionists and picnic parties.

"Thank you," said Dora, never suspecting that anything was wrong. "If you'll come in a little closer I will go with you."

The Falcon was brought in, and Dora leaped on board of the yacht.

She had scarcely done so when Mumps and Dan Baxter stepped from the cabin.

"Oh, dear!" she gasped. "Where - where did you come from?"

"Didn't quite expect to see us here, did you?" grinned the former bully of Putnam Hall.

"I did not," answered Dora coldly. "What -- where is Dick Rover?"

"Over to Nelson Point."

"Did he send you over here for me?"

"Of course he did," said Mumps.

"I do not believe it. This is some trick!" burst out the girl. "I want you to put me on shore again."

"You can't go ashore now," answered Baxter.

"Ease her off, Goss."

"Right you are," answered Bill Goss. "What's the course now?"

"Straight down the lake."

"All right."

"You are not going to take me down the lake!" cried Dora in increased alarm.

"Yes, we are."

"I - I won't go!"

"I don't see how you are to help yourself," responded Baxter roughly.

"Dan Baxter, you are a brute!"

"If you can't say anything better than that, you had better say nothing!" muttered Baxter.

"I will say what I please. You have no right to carry me off in this fashion!"

"Well, I took the right."

"You shall be locked up for it."

"You'll have to place me in the law's hands first."

"I don't believe Dick Rover sent that letter at all!"

"You can believe what you please."

"You forged his name to it."

"Let us talk about something else."

"You are as bad as your father, and that is saying a good deal," went on the poor girl bitterly.

"See here, don't you dare to speak of my father!" roared the bully in high anger. "My father is as good as anybody. This is only a plot against him -- gotten up by the Rovers and his other enemies."

Dan Baxter's manner was so terrible that Dora sank back on a camp stool nearly overcome. Then, seeing some men at a distance, on the shore, she set up a scream for help.

"Here, none of that!" ejaculated Mumps, and clapped his hand over her mouth.

"Let me go!" she screamed. "Help! Help!"

"We'll put her in the cabin," ordered Dan Baxter, and also caught hold of Dora. She struggled with all the strength at her command, but was as a baby in their grasp, and soon found herself in the cabin with the door closed and locked behind her.

It was then that her nerves gave way, and, throwing herself on a couch, she burst into tears.

"What will they do with me?" she moaned. "Oh, that I was home again!"

It was a long while before she could compose herself sufficiently to sit up. In the meantime the Falcon was sailing down the lake toward Cayuga with all speed.

"This must be some plan of Josiah Crabtree to get me away from home," she thought. "Poor mother! I wonder what will happen to her while I am away? If that man gets her to marry him what will I do? I can never live with them -- never!" And she heaved a deep sigh.

Presently she arose and walked to the single window of which the cabin boasted. It was open, but several little iron bars had been screwed fast on the outside.

"They have me like a bird in a cage," she thought. "Where will this dreadful adventure end?"

Hour after hour went by and she was not molested. Then came a knock on the cabin door.

"Dora! Dora Stanhope!" came in Dan Baxter's voice.

"Well?"

"Will you behave yourself if I unlock the door?"

"It is you who ought to behave yourself," she retorted.

"Never mind about that. I have something for you to eat."

"I don't want a mouthful." And Dora spoke the truth, for the food would have choked her.

"You had better have a sandwich and a glass of milk."

"If you want to do something, give me a glass of water," she said finally, for she wished a drink badly, the cabin was so hot and stuffy.

Baxter went away, and presently unlocked the door and handed her the water, of which she drank eagerly.

"Where are you going to take me?" she questioned, as she passed back the glass.

"You'll learn that all in good time, Dora. Come, why not take the whole matter easy?" went on the bully, as he dropped into a seat near her.

"How can I take it easy?"

"We won't hurt you -- I'll give you my word on that."

She was about to say that his word was not worth giving, but restrained herself. If she angered Baxter, there was no telling what the follow might do.

"Is this a plot of Josiah Crabtree's?" she asked sharply.

Baxter started. "How did you -" he began, and stopped short. "You had better not ask any questions."

"Which means that you will not answer any?"

"You can take it that way if you want to, Dora."

"It was a mean trick you played on me."

"Let's talk of something else. We are going to leave the Falcon soon, and I want to know if you are going with us quietly?"

"Leave the Falcon?"

"Yes, at Cayuga."

"Are we there already?" gasped Dora in dismay.

'We soon will be."

"I don't wish to go with you."

"But we want you to go. If you go quietly all will be well -- and I'll promise to see you safe home in less than twenty-four hours."

"You, wish to keep, me away from home that length of time?"

"If you must know, yes."

"And why? So Josiah Crabtree can - can -" She did not finish.

"So that Mr. Crabtree can interview your mother-yes," put in Mumps, who had just appeared. "Baxter, there's no use in beating around the bush. Crabtree is bound to marry Mrs. Stanhope, and Dora may as well know it now as later."