Chapter XX. A Long Chase Begun
 

As they journeyed down the Hudson the boys and Martin Harris scanned, the river eagerly for some sign of the Flyaway.

"It's ten to one she put down a pretty good distance," remarked Dick. "They wouldn't bring Dora over here unless they were bound for New York or some other place as far or further."

"I believe you," said Tom. "But she may be delayed, and if what Harris says is true the Searchlight ought to make better time than Baxter's craft."

Several miles were covered, when, Sam, who had just come up from the cabin, called attention to a farmer who was ferrying a load of hay across the river.

"If he's been at that sort of work all day he may know something of the Flyaway," he suggested.

"We'll hail him, anyway," said Torn. "It won't do any harm, providing we don't lose any time."

So the farmer was hailed and asked if he bad seen anything of the craft.

"Waal now, I jest guess I did," he replied. "They war havin' great times on board of her - a takin' care of that crazy gal."

"A crazy girl!" cried Dick. "Who said she was crazy?"

"One of the young men. He said she was his sister and had escaped from some asylum. She called to me to help her. But I don't want nuthin' to do with crazy gals. My wife's cousin was out of his head and he cut up high jinks around the house, a-threatenin' folks with a butcher knife."

"That girl was not crazy, though, as it happens," said Dick coldly. "That villain was carrying her away from home against her will. She was no relation to him."

"By gosh!" The farmer's face fell and he stared at the youth blankly. "You are certain of this?"

"Yes. We are after the crowd now. If we catch them we'll put them in prison, just as sure as you are the greatest greeny we ever met," continued Dick, and motioned to Harris to continue the journey.

The farmer wanted to "talk back," as the saying is, but could find no words. "Well, maybe I deserved it," he muttered to himself. "I was tuk in, no doubt on't." And he continued to ferry his hay load along.

"Well, we are on the right track, that's one satisfaction," said Tom. "That farmer couldn't have done much against a man and two big boys."

"He could have gone ashore and got help," replied Dick. "But he was so green he took in all that was told to him for simple truth. How Dan Baxter must have laughed over the way his ruse worked!"

"Yes, and Mumps too," added Sam. "Say, we ought to punch their heads well for them when we catch them."

"Let us get our eggs before we cook them," said Tom. "By the way, I'm getting hungry."

"Ditto," came from Harris. "Will you boys see what you can offer? I don't like to leave the tiller, for I know just how to get the best speed out of the Searchlight."

"I'll get up some kind of a meal," said Sam, who had played cook on many previous occasions.

Inside of half an hour he had the table set and Harris was called down, Dick taking his place. By the time all hands had been served they were in sight of upper New York City.

"Now we had better take in some sail," said the old sailor. "The yachts are pretty thick around here and we will miss the Flyaway without half trying unless we are careful."

By the time it was dark they were pretty well down the water front of the metropolis. A consultation was held, and it was decided to lower the mainsail and topsail and leave only the jib flying.

"We can't go much further tonight, anyway," said Harris. "I don't know but what it may be as well to tie up somewhere."

"We'll have to do that unless we can catch some sort of clue," responded Dick gloomily. "If they have taken her to some place in New York we'll have a big job to find her."

A half-hour passed, and they were on the point of turning in at a dock when Tom gave a cry. "Look! Look!"

"What's up, Tom!" came from Dick and Sam simultaneously.

"Is that the Flyaway?"

All gave a look and saw a large yacht moving away from a dock just below where they had thought to stop.

"Call Harris!" cried Dick, and Sam ran to the cabin for the sailor, who had just gone below.

"I reckon that's our boat," said Martin Harris, after a quick look.

"Hark!" cried Dick, and held up his hand. "That's Dan Baxter's voice, just as sure as fate."

"I believe you," returned Sam. "Come, we can run her down in no time."

As quickly as it could be accomplished the course of the Searchlight was changed. But the tall buildings of the city cut off a good deal of wind, and it took several minutes before they could get their sails filled.

"Boat ahoy!" shouted Tom, before Dick could stop him. "Is that the Flyaway?"

"That's Tom Rover!" came back, in Mumps' voice. "They have tracked us, after all!"

"Tom, what made you call?" demanded Dick in disgust. "We might have sneaked upon them unawares."

"Never mind, I reckon we can catch them any how," returned Tom, but he was crestfallen, nevertheless, as he realized the truth of his elder brother's observation. "Crowd on the sail, Harris."

"That's what I am a-doin'," came from the sailor. "We'll catch 'em before they gain the Battery."

"Yes, but we must be careful," said Dick. "We don't want to have a collision with some other boat."

"No, indeed," put in Sam. "Why, if one of those big ferryboats ran into us there would be nothing left of the Searchlight."

"You jest trust me," came from Martin Harris, "I know my business, and there won't be any accidents."

"The other yacht is making for the Jersey, shore," cried Sam, a little later. "If we don't look out we'll lose her. There she goes behind' a big ferryboat."

"She's going to try to bother us," grumbled Martin Harris, as he received a warning whistle from the ferryboat and threw the yacht over on the opposite tack. "The fellow who is sailing that boat knows his business."

"Is that Bill Goss, I suppose," said Tom. "There they go behind another ferryboat."

"It won't matter, so long as we keep her in sight," said Harris. "We are bound to run her down sooner or later."

Inside of half an hour the two boats had passed the Statute of Liberty. The course of the Flyaway was now straight down the bay, and the Rover boys began to wonder where Dan Baxter and his crowd might be bound.

"They must have Dora a close prisoner," mused Dick, with a sad shake of his head. "That is if they didn't leave her in New York," he added suddenly.

"Do you suppose they did that?" asked Sam.

"Perhaps -- there is no guessing what they did."

"We missed it by not telegraphing, back to the authorities at Cedarville to arrest Josiah Crabtree," said Tom. "I think we can prove that he is in this game before the curtain falls on the last act."

"We'll telegraph when we get back," answered Dick, never thinking of all that was to happen ere they should see the metropolis again.

Gradually the lights of the city faded from view and they found themselves traveling down the bay at a rate of five to six knots an hour.

"We don't seem to be gaining," remarked 'Tom, after a long silence. "I can just about make her out and that's all."

"But we are gaining, and you'll find it so pretty soon," answered Martin Harris. "They had the advantage in dodging among those other boats, but now we've got a clear stretch before us."

On and on went the two yachts, until the Flyaway was not over five hundred feet ahead of the Searchlight.

"What did I tell you?" said Harris. "We'll overtake her in less than quarter of an hour."

"This is a regular yacht race," smiled Dick grimly. "But it's for more than the American Cup."

"Keep off!" came suddenly from ahead. "Keep off, or it will be the worse for you!"

It was Dan Baxter who was shouting at them. The former bully of Putnam Hall stood at the stern rail of the Flyaway and was using his hands like a trumpet.

"You had better give up the race, Baxter!" called Dick in return. "You can't get away from us, no matter how hard you try."

"Keep off." repeated Baxter. "We won't stand any nonsense."

"We are not here for nonsense," put in Tom. "What have you done with Dora Stanhope?"

"Don't know anything about Dora Stanhope," came back from Mumps.

"You have her on board of your boat."

"It's a falsehood."

"Then you left her somewhere in New York."

"We haven't seen her at all," put in Baxter. If you are looking for her you are on the wrong trail. She went away with Josiah Crabtree."

"Did he take her to Albany?"

"No. They went West."

"We do not believe you, Baxter," said Dick warmly. "You are one of the greatest rascals I ever met -- not counting your father -- and the best thing you can do is to surrender. If you don't you'll have to take the consequences."

"And we warn you to keep off. If you don't we'll shoot at you," was the somewhat surprising response.

"No, no; please don't shoot at them!" came in Dom's voice. "I beg of you not to shoot!"

She had escaped from Mrs. Goss' custody and now ranged up alongside of Dan Baxter and her other enemies who were handling the Flyaway. Her hair was flying wildly over her shoulders and she trembled so she could scarcely stand.