Chapter XXII. The Baxters Make a New Move
 

As silently as possible Dick and Sam came after Baxter and his toady John Fenwick. The pair of evildoers left the stretch of meadow as fast as they could, and hurried up a narrow path leading to a half-tumbled-down brick factory.

At the corner of the dilapidated building they paused, and Dan Baxter emitted a long, low whistle. A silence of several seconds followed, and then a man appeared out of the darkness.

"Who's dat?" came the question.

"It's me, Girk -- Dan Baxter," replied the former bully of Putnam Hall with small regard for the grammar that had been taught to him.

"Who's dat with you?"

"Mumps. He's all right."

"I don't know about dat. Yer father t'ought yer would come alone," growled the tramp thief.

"I've got a new movement on, Buddy. Take us to my father without delay."

"Is dat fellow to be trusted?"

"Yes, you can trust me," replied Mumps with considerable nervousness. His steps in the direction of wrong were beginning to frighten him.

At the start he had thought of nothing but to aid Josiah Crabtree in his suit with Mrs. Stanhope, and had calculated that after the marriage the running off with Dora would be overlooked. But here he was taking the girl miles from her home and associated with two men who had robbed a firm of bankers of many thousands of dollars. The outlook, consequently, worried him very much.

"All right, den," muttered Buddy Girk. "Follow me."

He disappeared within the ruined factory, and Baxter and Mumps went after him. Listening intently at a broken-out window, Dick and Sam heard them ascend to an upper floor.

"I guess we have tracked Arnold Baxter," whispered Dick. "I wonder if he and Girk have that stolen money and the securities here?"

"More than likely, Dick. Thieves don't generally leave their booty far out of their sight, so I've been told."

"I would like to make sure. I wonder if we can't go inside and hear some more of their talk?"

"We would be running a big risk. If Arnold Baxter caught us he would -- would -- Well, he wouldn't be very friendly, that's all," and Sam gave a shiver.

"I'm going in. You can remain outside, on watch. If you want me, whistle as we agreed."

"But be careful, Dick!" pleaded the younger brother.

"I will be."

"And don't stay too long," added Sam, who did not relish being left alone in such a forlorn looking spot, and in the intense darkness which had now settled down over them.

"I won't be any longer than necessary, you can depend on that," replied the big brother.

As silently as a cat after a mouse, Dick entered the gloomy building and felt his way over the half-rotted floor to where the stairs were located.

Ascending these, he found himself in something of a hallway, the upper floor of the building being divided into several apartments by wooden partitions nine or ten feet in height.

From one of the apartments shone a faint light. To this he made his way, and, looking through a good-sized knot-hole in the partition, he saw Arnold Baxter, Girk, and the two newcomers, seated on several boxes and boards. On one box stood a candle thrust in the neck of a bottle, some liquor and glasses, and a pasteboard box containing a cold lunch.

"So you're glad I've come, eh?" Dan Baxter was saying to his father.

"Yes, I am glad," was the slow reply, "that is -- I want to get away from here as soon as possible."

"Why don't you go?"

"I'm afraid to go up into the town. I would prefer to go away by boat."

"To where?"

"To Searock, on the Jersey coast."

"Do you want us to take you there?"

"If you can do it, Dan. I'll give Mumps and .your sailor friend a nice little sum for your trouble."

"And don't I get anything?" cried the son sharply.

"To be sure, Dan."

"How much?"

"I'll give you a hundred dollars."

"Pooh! What's that? I want more."

"We'll arrange that later."

"You and Girk are making a fortune out of this deal."

"Not as much as you think."

"I've read the newspapers and I know how much was in the haul. I want a thousand dollars."

"We'll arrange that afterward, Dan. Remember, in the future what is mine is yours."

"Now you're talking, dad," was the bully's quick reply. "I like the way you are doing things, and I'm going to stick to you as soon as this little matter Mumps and I have on hand is settled."

"All right, you shall stay with me," responded the elder Baxter. "Where is your boat?"

"Not over half a mile from here."

"All ready to sail?"

"Yes."

'Then let us make off at once."

"Dat's it," put in Buddy Girk. "I'm afraid the police will let down on us any minit."

"The trouble is, that other boat I mentioned is after us."

"How many are on board?"

"The three Rover boys and an old sailor."

"Four, and we'll be five, not counting the woman you mentioned. I don't think I am afraid of the Rovers," returned Arnold Baxter. "Besides, can't we get away from them in the dark without their knowing what is up?"

"Perhaps we can," said the son slowly. "The trouble is -- What's that?"

Dan Baxter stopped short, as a cracking sound broke upon their ears.

Dick had stepped on a rotten board, and it went down. His foot was caught and held at the ankle, and before he could extricate himself Arnold Baxter and Buddy Girk had him in their grasp.

"Dick Rover again!" ejaculated Arnold Baxter. "Where did you come from?"

"Your son can tell you that," answered Dick. "Let go of me!"

"To be sure I will!" returned the elder Baxter sarcastically. "Are you alone?"

"You can look for yourself."

"I don't see no buddy here," announced Girk, as he held up the candle. "Maybe somebody is downstairs."

"I'll go down and see," put in Dan Baxter.

Fearful that Sam might be caught, Dick did his best to break away. "Sam! Sam! look out for yourself!" he yelled. "Don't let them catch you! Call Tom and Harris, and the police, quick!"

"Hang the luck!" muttered Arnold Baxter. "We must cut for it, and be lively about it, too."

"Take de swag," said Girk, referring to a tin box hidden under the flooring of the factory. In this was hidden the money and securities stolen from Rush and Wilder.

He ran off to get the box. In the meantime Arnold Baxter stood undecided as to what to do. Then he raised his fist and struck Dick with an unexpected blow to the temple.

"Take that, you imp!" he cried, and the youth went down at full length more than half stunned.

In the meantime Sam heard the rapid footsteps and the cry of alarm, and his heart leapt to throat. Then, as Dan Baxter and Mumps came towards him, he retreated in the direction of the Searchlight, giving the danger signal as he ran.

"I've got de box!" shouted Buddy Girk to Arnold Baxter. "Wot's de next move?"

"Follow me," said Dan Baxter. "And lose no time. That other boy will soon have the whole neighborhood aroused."

Away went the crowd out of the factor, the bully leading. Once down in the meadow, Dan Baxter hurried them off in the direction of a tiny cove where the Flyaway lay at anchor, with Bill Goss on watch at the stern and Mrs. Goss in the cabin with Dora.

As quickly as they could do so, one after another tumbled on board of the yacht. They heard cries in the distance, as Tom and Martin Harris leaped ashore to join Sam.

"Up the mainsail!" roared Dan Baxter, and Goss obeyed the order with alacrity. At the same time Dan Baxter and Mumps pulled up the anchor; and in less than two minutes the Flyaway was standing out into the bay.