Chapter XXVIII. Home Again -- Conclusion
 

When the collision came, Dick, to save himself from injury, gave a leap up into the air, and Sergeant Brown did the same. The shock sent the Searchlight backward, and when the youth came down he found himself sprawling on the Flyaway's deck, close beside Dan Baxter.

"Dick Rover!" gasped the former bully of Putnam Hall. "So it is your boat that has run into us?"

"Baxter, where is Dora Stanhope?" panted Dick, as soon as he could speak. He was afraid that one or both yachts were going down and that Dora might be drowned. Even in this extreme moment of peril his one thought was for his girl friend.

"Find out for yourself," burst out Baxter, and aimed a blow at Dick's head with his fist. But the blow never reached its mark, for Mumps hauled the bully backward.

"We've had enough of this -- at least, I've had enough," said Fenwick, astonishing himself at his own boldness. "Dick, Dora is in the cabin - no, she's coming up."

"Save me!" came in a scream from the girl.

"Oh, Dick, is it really you!" and she ran right into Dick's arms.

By this time it was discovered that the two yachts were locked together, the bowsprit of the Flyaway having become entangled in the rigging of the Searchlight. Both yachts were badly damaged, but neither sufficiently so as to be in danger of sinking.

"Back with you!" came from Arnold Baxter, and fired his shotgun at the police officer. But the rocking of the boats spoiled his aim. Then Sergeant Brown fired, and the elder Baxter went down, shot through the left leg.

By this time all of the evildoers realized that the final struggle for freedom was at hand, and began to fight desperately, Buddy Girk engaging Dick, Bill Goss facing Carter, and Mrs. Goss beating Martin Harris back with a stew pan from the gallery. In the meantime Tom and Sam swam back to the Searchlight, and clambered on board as rapidly as possible.

They were in time to see Carter go down, hit over the head by Bill Goss. But that was the last of the fight, so far as the skipper of the Flyaway was concerned, for two blows, delivered by tom and Sam simultaneously, stretched him senseless on the deck.

"You had better give up!" cried Tom to Dan Baxter, who was doing what he could to get the two yachts apart. "This is our battle."

"Not much!" muttered the bully. "Stand back, or it will be the worse for you!"

He sprang at Tom and shoved a pistol under the boy's very nose. But before the weapon could be discharged, Dick, leaving Dora, kicked the pistol from the bully's hand!

"You villain, take that!" cried Dick, and grappled with Baxter. Both rolled over on the deck, and shoved by somebody from behind, Sam rolled on top of the pair. A second later all three rolled down the cabin stairs in a heap.

"Oh, my back!" It was Baxter who uttered the cry, and not without cause, for his backbone had received a hard crack on the bottom step of the stairs.

"You lie still!" commanded Dick, as he leaped to his feet. "If you dare to move I'll put you out of the fight altogether."

"Don't -- don't shoot me!" panted Dan Baxter in sudden fear.

"Do you give in?"

"Yes."

"Then keep still. Sam, guard him, will you? I want to see how matters are on deck."

"Yes, I'll guard him," answered the youngest Rover.

The fight on deck had been short and fierce, but our friends had had the best of it from the very start, and when Dick came up he found but little for him to do. Arnold Baxter lay where he had fallen, moaning piteously, while Buddy Girk and Bill Goss were in irons. Mrs. Goss still stood at bay, flourishing her stew pan over her head, while Mumps remained at a distance, his arms folded over his breast and an anxious look in his eyes.

"I won't go to prison!" shrieked Mrs. Goss. "You let me and my husband go."

"Mrs. Goss, you had best give in -" began Sergeant Brown, when Tom, sneaking up behind her, snatched the stew pan from her grasp. As she turned on the boy, Carter ran in, and in a twinkle she was held and her hands were bound behind her. Then the crowd turned to Mumps.

"I submit," said the misguided boy. "Didn't I tell you in the note that I would help you?"

"Yes, he has tried to do better," put in Dora.

"If it hadn't been for him I wouldn't have had a mouthful to eat today."

"I guess we can trust him, then," said Dick. "But, Mumps, take care that you don't go back on us."

"I won't go back on you," said the toady. "I'm going to cut that crowd after this."

"You can't make a better move," was Dick's comment.

Now that affairs were in their own hands, our friends hardly knew how to turn next. After a discussion it was agreed to place the Flyaway in charge of Dick and Tom, who were also to carry Dora and Mumps. All of the others went aboard of the Searchlight, Arnold Baxter being carried by the police officers, who attended to his wound as well as the accommodations on board of the yacht permitted.

So far nothing had been said about the money and securities stolen by Baxter and Girk, but they were in a locker in the Flyaway's cabin, and easily brought to light.

"This is a big day for us," said Dick. "Won't folks at home be astonished when they hear of what we have done?"

"I cannot get home fast enough," said Dora. "Poor mama, if only I knew she was safe!"

"Josiah Crabtree shall suffer for this," said Dick. "Remember, it was he who had you carried off by Mumps and Dan Baxter."

The Searchlight was already on the way and the Flyaway me behind her. The course was due west, and they kept on until the breakers could be heard in the distance. Then Martin Harris bore away to the northward.

With the coming of daylight the fog disappeared as if by magic, and they found themselves close to the seashore town of Lightville. Here there was a small river, and they ran into this and came to a safe anchor close to one of the docks.

On going ashore Dick's first movement was to send two telegraph messages, one to Rush & Wilder, telling them that the stolen securities and money had been recovered, and the second to Captain Putnam, breaking the news of Dora's safety and requesting the master of the Hall to acquaint Mrs. Stanhope with the fact and take steps toward Josiah Crabtree's arrest. Later another message was sent to Randolph Rover so that the boys' uncle might no longer be alarmed over their safety. Sergeant Brown also telegraphed to his superiors.

Inside of an hour after landing, Arnold Baxter, Buddy Girk, Dan Baxter, and the two Gosses were safely housed in the Lightville jail. At first it was thought to arrest Mumps also, but he begged for his liberty, and promised, if let go to tell everything. As some witness would be wanted when the others came to trial he was taken at his word.

It was a happy party that started for Cedarville that evening. No one could have been more attentive than Dick was to Dora, and no one could have been more appreciative than the girl of what the three Rover boys had done for her.

At Ithaca a surprise awaited the crowd. Frank, Fred, and Larry were there to welcome them, and soon after Captain Putnam appeared.

"I am very glad to see you all safe and sound," said the captain, as he shook hands. "You have had a regular ocean chase, and no mistake."

"And how is my mother?" questioned Dora quickly.

"She is happy, Miss Stanhope; but the shock of your sudden disappearance has made her quite ill."

"And Josiah Crabtree?"

"Has disappeared. Your mother said he wanted to marry her after you went away, but she would not listen to him. I imagine that after this he will keep his, distance."

"He had better keep his distance -- if he wants to remain out of jail," put in Dick.

The return of the boys to Putnam Hall was the signal for a regular jollification, and my readers can rest assured that all of the cadets made the most of it. Captain Putnam ordered an extra dinner for them, and in the evening a huge bonfire was started on the campus, and, as the boys gathered around Dick, Tom, and Sam they sang "For he's a jolly good fellow!" until they were hoarse. It was a celebration never to be forgotten. "Just the right sort for a home coming," as Sam expressed it.

"Let them have it," said the master, as he looked on. "They deserve it."

"You are right," returned George Strong.

"Those Rover boys have proved themselves regular heroes."

Here I will bring to a close the story of the Rover boys' doings on the ocean while trying to rescue Dora Stanhope from her abductors and while endeavoring to recover the fortune stolen from Rush & Wilder.

Words cannot describe the happiness which mother and daughter felt when Mrs. Stanhope and Dom found themselves together once more. Tears were freely shed, and the widow blessed the boys who had done so much for herself and her child. She declared that her eyes were now to the real wickedness of Josiah Crabtree, never more would she have anything to do with the man.

Rush & Wilder were immensely pleased to recover what had been taken from their safe, and when money and securities were returned to them they rewarded the Rover boys and the others handsomely for their work. But to this day Dick declares that the recovery of the stolen fortune was "only a side issue." "We were out to rescue Dora," he says. "And, thank God, we did it!"

In due course of time the evildoers were brought to trial, and with Mumps and the others to testify against them, all were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment. Being wounded, Arnold Baxter was taken, as before, to a hospital; but this time the authorities kept a close watch on him.

With their enemies in custody the Rover boys imagined that life at Putnam Hall would now run along smoothly. But in this they were mistaken. They had hardly settled down to their studies when a strange message from over the sea started them off on a search for their father, the particulars of which will be related in another volume, to be entitled: "The Rover Boys in the jungle; or, Stirring Adventures in Africa." In this book we will not only meet Dick, Tom, and Sam again, but also Dan Baxter and several others with whom we are already acquainted.

But for the time being all went well, and here we will leave the three boys, wishing them the best of good luck in the future.

The End