Chapter XXVI. A Flag of Truce
 

Sunrise found the two yachts far out on the ocean with land nowhere in sight. The- breeze was still stiff, but it was not as heavy as it had been, and Martin Harris was unable to decrease the space which separated his own craft from that of the enemy.

"You see, the Searchlight is the better boat in a strong blow," he explained. "When the wind is light the Flyaway has as good a chance of making headway as we have."

"Well, one thing is certain," said Tom. "This chase can't last forever."

"It may last longer than you imagine, lad."

"Hardly. We haven't more than enough provisions aboard to last over today."

"Perhaps the other boat is even worse off," said Sergeant Brown hopefully. "If that's the case we'll starve them out."

"I don't care what we do, so long as we rescue Dora and get that stolen fortune," said Dick, as he dragged himself to the crowd, followed by Sam.

"And how's Sam?" questioned Tom, turning to his younger brother.

"Oh, I'm all right -- if it comes to fighting."

"And you, Dick?"

"I think I can do something -- at least, I am willing to try."

Breakfast -- a rather scant meal -- had just been disposed of, when Martin Harris uttered a shout.

"They want to do some talking," he announced.

"Why, what do you mean?" asked Dick.

"They are hoisting a white rag."

"Sure enough!" ejaculated Tom, as he pointed to a flag of truce which Dan Baxter was holding aloft, fastened to an oar. "What do you make of that?"

"They want to make terms," laughed Sergeant Brown. "I reckon things are coming our way at last."

"Do we want to talk to them?" asked Tom.

"Let us make them surrender, and do the talking afterward," came from Sam.

"It won't hurt to let them talk," said the police sergeant. "We can do as we please, anyway, after they are done."

The matter was discussed for a moment, and then Tom tied his handkerchief to a stick and held it up.

"Ahoy there!" came from Arnold Baxter. "Will you honor the flag of truce?"

"Yes," yelled Sergeant Brown.

"And let us have our distance after our talk is over, if we can't come to terms?"

"Yes."

"All right, then; we'll come close enough to talk to you."

Slowly and cautiously the Flyaway drew nearer, until all on board of Harris' yacht could see their enemies quite plainly.

Arnold Baxter was armed with a shotgun, while Buddy Girk and Dan Baxter carried pistols. Mumps kept out of sight as much as possible, while Bill Goss attended to the steering of the boat. Dora and Mrs. Goss were below.

"Well, what have you got to say?" demanded Dick, as soon as the others were within easy talking distance.

"How many on board of that yacht?" demanded Arnold Baxter, as he looked at the police officers glumly.

"Enough," replied Dick. "Is that all you've got to say?"

"Don't grow impudent, boy. It won't set well."

"A person couldn't be impudent to such a rat such as you, Arnold Baxter."

"Have a care, Dick Rover. What do you propose to do?"

"Land all of you in jail, rescue Dora Stanhope, and recover that money you stole."

"Indeed!"

"Yes -- indeed! Don't you think we are pretty close to doing it?"

"No, you are a long way off. You won't dare to break this truce while the flags fly. If you do, I'll shoot you just as sure as you are born."

"I don't intend to dishonor any truce, Arnold Baxter. But, nevertheless, you and your crowd are almost at the end of your rope, and you know it."

"Feeling hungry, ain't you?" put in Martin Harris.

"You shut up!" roared Dan Baxter, for Harris had hit the nail exactly on the head. "We'll settle this with the Rovers and the police, not with you."

"You'll settle with me for burning my sails and breaking my lanterns," retorted the skipper of the Searchlight wrathfully.

"Let us come to terms," went on Arnold Baxter in a milder tone. "I reckon what you want principally is to rescue Dora Stanhope?"

"Yes, I want that," said Dick quickly.

"If we hand her over to you, will you promise not to follow us any longer?"

"Well - er - what of that money?" began Dick, glancing at those around him.

"We can't let you go," interposed Sergeant Brown. "You are wanted for that robbery in Albany."

"We deny the robbery," said Arnold Baxter.

"All right -- you'll have a chance to clear yourself in court."

"We are not going to court, not by a jugful," put in Buddy Girk. "If we give up the gal that's got to end it. Otherwise, we don't give her up, see?"

"But you'll have to give her up later on," put in Tom. "And the longer you keep her the more you will have to suffer for it, when it comes to a settlement."

"Let's give her up," whispered Mumps to Dan Baxter. To the credit of the toady let it be said that he was heartily sick of the affair and wished he had never entered into it.

"You keep your mouth shut!" answered the former bully of Putnam Hall. "My dad knows how to work this racket."

"Somebody said something about being hungry," continued Arnold Baxter significantly, "I imagine Miss Stanhope is as hungry as any of us, if not more so."

"Do you mean to say you are starving her!" cried Dick indignantly.

"I mean to say that she will have to starve just as much as we do," was the unsatisfactory answer.

"And you have run out of provisions?"

"We have run out of provisions for her, yes."

"That means that you won't give her any more, even though you may have some for yourselves? You are even bigger brutes than I took you to be," concluded the elder Rover boy bitterly.

"We've got to look out for ourselves," said Dan Baxter. "If we let you have the girl you ought to be satisfied."

"Let us talk to Dora," suggested Tom.

"No, you can't see her unless you agree to our terms," said Arnold Baxter decidedly. "If we bring her up now she may try to get away from us."

"You have got to submit to arrest and stand trial," said Sergeant Brown. "There are no two ways about it. If you won't submit quietly we'll have to fight. But let me tell you, if you fight it will go hard with you."

"That's right; make them give up everything," put in Tom. "I'll fight them if it comes to the worst."

"If only they don't harm Dora!" whispered Dick. "Think, they may be starving her already!"

"I don't believe they would dare, Dick."

"Dare? I think the Baxters are cruel enough to do most anything."

"Officer, do you know that you are on the high seas and can't touch us?" went on Arnold Baxter, after an awkward pause.

"I know nothing of the kind, and I'll risk what I am doing," retorted Sergeant Brown.

"Can't we compromise this matter?"

"What else have you to propose?"

"I'll tell you what I'll do. If you'll agree not to molest us further I'll turn the girl over to you and make each of you a present of one hundred dollars," went on Arnold Baxter nervously.

"Want to bribe us, eh?" cried Tom. "Thanks, but we are not in that business."

"I never took a bribe yet, and I've been on the force six years," put in Carter.

"You can't bribe me," said the sergeant, in a tone that admitted of no argument. "You must surrender absolutely or take the consequences."

"All right, then; we'll take the consequences," was the reckless response. "And remember, we hold that girl, and any harm you do us will only counteract on her head."

"Don't you dare to harm her, you villain!" cried Dick, turning pale. "Whatever you do you shall answer for in court."

"Humph, Dick Rover, don't be so smart," put in Dan Baxter. "This game is still ours, and you know it."

"I know nothing of the kind. We will starve you out and fight you, and you will see what the end will be, Dan Baxter," retorted Dick; and then the two yachts began to drift apart once more.

As the Flyaway moved off, Mumps, who had disappeared for a minute, came into sight once more. In his hand he hold something white, which he threw with all force at the Searchlight's mainsail.

"Take that!" he cried. "Take that, and remember me!"

By this time the two yachts were so far apart that no more could be said.

"What was that you threw on their boat?" demanded Baxter, turning to his toady.

"A seashell," replied Mumps. "I thought I could hit Dick Rover with it."

"Humph, you had better take some lessons in throwing," muttered the bully. "You didn't come within a dozen feet of him."

"Never mind; I showed them I wasn't afraid of them," said Mumps, and turned away. Then he looked back anxiously. "I hope they pick it up and see what's inside!" he murmured. "Oh, but ain't I tired of this crowd! If ever I get out of this, you can wager I'll turn over a new leaf and cut Dan Baxter dead."