Chapter XXI. The Meeting in the Bay
 

"There is Dora now!" cried Dick, and his heart leaped into his throat at the sight of his dearest friend.

"Dick Rover, are you there?" came from the girl in nervous tones.

"Yes, Dora, I am here, with my brothers and a sailor friend."

"Save me, please!"

"We will!" came from all of the Rover boys in concert.

"Take her below!" roared Baxter angrily, as he turned to Mrs. Goss, who had followed Dora to the dock. "Didn't I tell you to keep a close eye on her?"

"She said she wished to speak to you," answered the woman. "I thought she wanted to make terms with you."

Mrs. Goss caught Dora by the wrist and, assisted by Mumps, carried her below. She struggled and tried to fight them off, and her cries, reaching Dick, made the youth long to be at her side.

"Let her alone, Baxter!" he cried hotly. "If you harm her you shall pay dearly for it, remember that!"

"Talk is cheap, Dick Rover," came back with a sneer. "Now keep off, or I'll do as I threatened."

"You won't dare to fire on us."

"Won't I? Just come a little closer and you'll see."

By this time the two yachts were not over a hundred feet apart, the Searchlight to the starboard of her rival. So, far the countless stars had brightened up the bosom of the ocean, but now Martin Harris noted a dark mass of clouds rolling up from the westward.

"We'll have it pretty dark in a few minutes," he cautioned. "If you want to haul up close, better do it at once."

"All right, run them down," ordered Dick, half recklessly. "I don't care how much their boat is damaged, so long as I save the girl. Mumps ran me down, remember."

"I reckon I can sheer 'me all right enough," grinned Harris, who by this time had entered fully into the spirit of the adventure. "But will they shoot?"

"I don't believe they have any firearms," said Tom. "And if they have I don't think Baxter could hit the side of a house at fifty yards."

"Are you going to keep off or not?" yelled Baxter. "I'll give you just ten seconds in which to make up your mind."

"By jinks! He has got a gun!" whispered Sam, as he caught a glint of the polished barrel. "The villain!"

"Baxter, you are playing a foolish game," answered Dick. "What do you intend to do with Dora Stanhope?"

"That's my business. I shan't harm her -- if you'll promise to leave me alone."

"Did you run off with her on Crabtree's account?"

"It's none of your business," put in Mumps, who had just returned to the deck, after making sure that Dora should not get away from Mrs. Goss again for the time being.

"It is my business."

"You're awfully sweet on her, ain't you?"

"Do you know it's a State's prison offense to abduct anybody?"

"I haven't abducted anybody. She came of her own free will -- at first. It's not my fault if she's sick of her bargain now."

"I don't believe a word you say."

"Do as you please. But are you going to keep off or not?"

"We'll not keep off."

"Then I'll fire on you."

"If you do so, we'll fire in return," said Sam. "Maybe we can scare him too," he added, in a whisper.

"I don't believe you've got any weapon," came from Mumps, in a voice that the toady tried in vain to steady. If there was one thing Mumps was afraid of it was a gun or a pistol.

"Try us and see," said Tom. Then he raised his voice. "Harris, bring up that brace of pistols you said were in the locker."

"All right," answered the sailor, catching at the ruse at once; and he hurried below, to return with two shining barrels, made of the handles of a dipper and a tin pot. He held one of the tin barrels out at arm's length. "Shall I fire on 'em now?" he demanded at the top of his voice.

"Don't!" shrieked Mumps, and dropped out of sight behind the mainmast of the Flyaway.

The toady had scarcely uttered the word when a loud report rang out, and a pistol bullet cut its way through the mainsail of the Searchlight. Baxter had fired his gun, but had taken good can to point the weapon over the Rover boys' heads. The bully now ran for the cabin, expecting to receive a shot in return, but of course it did not come.

By this time the two yachts were almost side by side and running along at a high rate of speed. Harris got out his boathook to catch fast to the Flyaway, when a cry from Tom made him pause.

"Help me! Don't leave me behind!"

"Great Caesar!" gasped Sam. "Tom's overboard!"

"Down with the mainsail!" roared Harris.

"How did he fall over the side?"

"He tried to jump to the other boat," said Dick, who had seen the action. "I was just thinking of doing it myself."

With all possible speed the big sheet of the Searchlight was lowered, and then they turned as fast as the wind would permit, to the spot where unlucky Tom was bobbing up and down on the swells like a peanut shell.

"Catch the line!" cried Dick, and let fly with a life preserver attached to a fair-sized rope. His aim was a good one, and soon Tom was being hauled aboard again with all possible speed.

"Oh, what a mess I made of it!" he panted when he could catch his breath. "I'm not fit to hunt jack rabbits."

"It's lucky you weren't run down by the yacht and killed," said Dick. "I was going to jump, but when I saw you go down I thought better of it."

Ten minutes of precious time had been lost, and now the Flyaway was once more far in the distance. She was heading for shore, and soon the oncoming darkness hid her from view.

"Now what's to be done?" questioned Sam.

"She'll slip us sure."

"She can't go very far," answered Harris. "The water-line around here is rather dangerous in the dark."

"Is that a storm coming up?" asked Dick.

"I wouldn't be surprised."

With care they continued on their way, taking the course they surmised their enemies had pursued.

"There is some kind of land!" cried Sam, who was on the watch. "What place is that, Harris?"

"Becker's Cove, so they call it," answered the old tar. "It's not far from Staten Island."

"Do you think they came in here?"

"If they did I reckon they calculate to stay over night."

"Why?"

"Because they'll want a pilot otherwise. It's rather dangerous sailing about here -- especially in the dark."

Five minutes later found them close to shore, and the sails were lowered and the anchor cast out.

"I'm going to land," said Dick, and, after a consultation, it was decided that he should take Sam with him, leaving Tom and Martin Harris to keep watch from the yacht. If either party discovered anything, a double whistle twice repeated was to notify the others.

Now that Dan Baxter had actually opened fire on them, Dick wished he had a firearm of some sort. But none was at hand, nor did he know where to obtain such a thing in that vicinity, and the best he and Sam could do was to cut themselves clubs out of some brush growing not far from the shore line.

The spot at which they had landed was by no means an inviting one. It looked like a bit of dumping and meadow ground, and not far away rested the remains of half a dozen partly decayed canal boats which the tide had washed up high in the bogs years before.

"If they landed around here I'd like to know where they went to," grumbled Sam, after he and his big brother had trudged around for half an hour without gaining any clue worth following. "It begins to took as if we had missed it, doesn't it?"

"Never give up, Sam. We have got to find them, you know."

"Yes, if we don't break our necks before that time comes, Dick," and as Sam spoke he went down into a meadow hole up to his knees. Dick helped him out, and as, he did so the sound of two voices broke upon their ears.

"You needn't come if you don't want to, Mumps," came out of the darkness, in Dan Baxter's voice. "I only thought you would be glad of the chance."

"There they are," whispered Dick. "Lie down, and we'll see where they are bound, and if Dora is with them."

He threw, himself to earth, and Sam followed. In another moment Baxter and his toady came into plain view, although still some distance away.

"I'll come," came from Mumps. "But I didn't expect to meet your father here."

"I did. He's been here for several days. That's the reason why I had Goss bring the Flyaway over. I'm going to kill two birds with one stone."

"What do you mean?"

"I'm going to carry Dora Stanhope off, just as old Crabtree wanted, and I'm going to give my father a lift."

"You mean that you are going to help him to escape from the authorities?"

"I didn't put it that way. He wants to keep, out of sight."

"It amounts to the same thing, Dan."

"As you will. Will you come, or do you want to go back to the yacht?"

"I -- er -- I guess I'll come," faltered the toady. "But we must be careful."

"To be sure. I reckon I have as much at stake as you."

The two passed out of hearing, and Dick touched his brother on the arm.

"Did you hear that, Sam?" he asked excitedly.

"I did. What can it mean?"

"Mean? It means that Dan Baxter's father is in the neighborhood and Dan is going to call on his parent."

"I know that, but -"

'You are surprised that father and son are equally bad? I'm not; I thought it all along."

"What will you do?"

"Follow them."

"Will you whistle for Tom and Martin Harris?"

"No; that might arouse suspicion. Let us follow them alone. When they return to their yacht we can tell the others," concluded Dick.