Chapter XVI. Off for Needle Point Island.
 

"Needle Point Island?" repeated Dick.

"Exactly, sir--Needle Point Island. Most of the lake pilots know it."

"How far is it from here?"

"About sixty miles."

"And how do you know the Peacock has gone there?"

"Overheard Captain Langless talking about it, yes, sir--overheard him talking to a man named Baxter and a man named Grimsby--he as used to be a smuggler. Langless used to be in with Grimsby, although few know o' that. They talked a lot, but that wouldn't interest you. But the fact that they are goin' to Needle Point Island interests you, eh?"

"When did you hear this talk?"

"The morning you escaped from the schooner, accordin' to the newspaper."

"Where did you hear it?"

"Up on the other side of the elevator. The men came out of one o' the saloons to talk it over."

A long conversation followed, and Dick became more than half convinced that what Jock Pelly had to relate was true.

The man described the Baxters clearly, showing that he had really seen the pair, and also described Captain Langless' appearance on the morning in question.

"I will follow up this clew," Dick said, when ready to depart.

Jock Pelly caught the youth by the arm.

"Hold on!"

"What do you want now?"

"My reward. Don't I get that fifty dollars?"

"You do, if I catch the captain and his schooner."

"That aint fair--I ought to have the money now."

"I must prove what you have told me first You may be all wrong in your suppositions."

Jock Pelly's face fell.

"'Taint fair--I ought to have the money now. Maybe you won't ever come back."

"Don't alarm yourself, my man. If the information is of real value, you'll get paid for it. Here is something on account."

Dick slipped a five-dollar bill into the old man's hand, at which Jock Pelly's face relaxed. A few minutes later the elder Rover had joined Luke Peterson and was telling the lumberman what he had heard.

"Needle Point Island!" exclaimed Peterson. "Yes, I know the spot Years ago it was a great hanging-out place for smugglers. But our government cleaned out the nest."

"Then it is likely that this man told the truth?"

"I don't know as Captain Langless could find a better hiding place. The island is in the shape of a five-leaf clover, and the bays are all surrounded with tall trees and bushes, so that a vessel could be hidden there without half trying. Besides that, the island is a rough one, full of caves and openings, and that would just suit a crowd holding those boys prisoners."

When the pair reached the Rocket a consultation was held, and it was decided to start for Needle Point Island on the following morning. Jack Parsons said it would take from five to six hours to reach the locality.

Now that Dick had received what he thought was definite information, he was anxious to go to the island that had been mentioned, consequently the night proved a long and sleepless one to him. He awaited further news from his father, but none came.

But information did come which disturbed him not a little. He was speaking to Larry before retiring, and from one thing to another the conversation drifted around to Mrs. Stanhope, the widow who lived near Putnam Hall, and her pretty daughter Dora. As old readers know Dick was tremendously interested in pretty Dora, and had done much to keep her from harm.

"Before I came on, I heard that the Stanhopes had started on a trip for the lakes," said Larry. "They left Cedarville secretly, and I got the news quite by accident from Frank Harrington, who happened to see them off."

"I knew they were going, sooner or later," replied Dick. "Mrs. Stanhope was rather ill, as you know, and needed a change of some sort."

"I was wondering if she didn't want to get out of the way of Josiah Crabtree, who is just out of prison," continued Larry. "Oh, but wasn't he a slick one for getting around the widow--when he learned she was holding all that money in trust for Dora."

"He's something of a hypnotist, Larry--that is why Dora fears him. She is afraid he will hypnotize her mother into doing something she will be sorry for afterward."

"Do you really suppose he has so much influence as that?"

"He has when Mrs. Stanhope is not feeling well. The stronger she is, the less he seems to affect her. By the way, have you heard from old Crabtree since he was let out of jail?"

"Yes; some of us boys met him at Ithaca one Saturday. We started to have a little fun with him, asking him why he didn't come back to the Hall and ask Captain Putnam for another position, and how he liked live crabs in his bed. But he flew in a rage and threatened to have us all arrested if we didn't clear out, so we had to drop it. But I'll tell you one thing, Dick; I'll wager Crabtree's up to no good."

"Oh! he might possibly turn over a new leaf."

"Not he; it isn't in him. He was always a sneak, like Baxter, only a bit more high-toned, outwardly."

"I am anxious to know if he is aware where the Stanhopes have gone to?"

"I think he could find out if he tried hard. They made a mistake that they didn't go traveling before he got out of jail."

"They couldn't go, on account of Mrs. Stanhope's health. She had a relapse just about the time Crabtree's term was up. But he had better not bother them again, or--"

"Or what, Dick? Will you get after him again?"

"I will if I can, and I'll send him to jail for the rest of his life."

The Rocket was to sail at six in the morning, and long before that time Dick and Larry, with the others, were on board. Jack Parsons reached the tug at the last moment, having had some private business which required his attention.

The day was fair, with a stiff breeze blowing, which was good for the Peacock, as Dick observed, if she was still sailing the waters of the lake.

Jack Parsons knew Needle Point Island as well as did Luke Peterson, and the former said he had stopped at the place only a few months before.

"I thought it was deserted," he said. "The old cave the smugglers used to use was tumbled in and overgrown with brush."

The run to Port Huron occurred without incident, and a little while later the Rocket was steaming merrily over the clear waters of Lake Huron.

Had it not been for his anxiety concerning his two brothers, Dick would have enjoyed the scene very much. The Rocket was a fine tug, and cut the water like a thing of life. She carried a crew of five, all young and active fellows. This made the party eight, all told, and as Dick and his friends were armed and the tug boasted of several pistols, a gun, and a small cannon, those on board felt themselves able to cope with the enemy, no matter what occurred.

"We can't get there any too soon for me," said Dick to Luke Peterson. "There is no telling how cruelly Sam and Tom are being treated, now that they made the attempt to run away."

"I hope your father doesn't give the rascals any money before we have a chance to catch them," returned the lumberman.

"I think he will wait to hear from me, after he reads the letter I left for him at Detroit. He is as down on the Baxters as I am,"

"When we come in sight of the island we'll have to move with caution," went on the lumberman. "If we don't, Captain Langless may lay low and give us the slip in the dark."

"Are there any other islands close to Needle Point?"

"A dozen of them, and some with just as good hiding places, too. That's why the smugglers used to hang out in that locality. They are ideal places for smugglers' caves and the like, I can tell ye that," and Luke Peterson nodded his head sagaciously.

At noon Parsons announced that they were within three miles of Needle Point Island. Dinner was ready, but it must be confessed that Dick was almost too excited to eat. Half a dozen vessels had thus far been sighted, but not one which looked like the Peacock.

He was finishing up a hasty repast when a cry came from the deck.

"Needle Point Island is in sight!" announced the lookout, and a moment later he added: "A schooner bearing away to the bay on the east end!"

"It must be the Peacock!" ejaculated Dick, and rushed to the deck to learn the truth.