Chapter XXVI. Crabtree Joins the Baxters.
 

"Well, we are no better off than we were before," remarked Sam, after Josiah Crabtree had disappeared in the direction of the cabin and the two boys had walked forward by themselves.

"No, we are no better off, but we have succeeded in rescuing Mrs. Stanhope from old Crabtree's clutches, and that is something."

"True, but supposing we fall in the hands of the Baxters and Captain Langless again?"

"Can't we hold them at bay, if they try to come on board this tub?"

"Perhaps. But we can't remain on board the Wellington forever."

Now that the danger was over the lads found that they were hungry, and called upon the sailors to bring out what food the craft afforded. They made a hearty meal, in which Mrs. Stanhope joined. Josiah Crabtree was not invited, and had to eat later on with the sailors and the one sailor's wife.

"This wreck may throw us together for some time, Crabtree," said Tom, later on, when he and the former school-teacher were alone. "I want to warn you to behave yourself during that time."

"I know my own business," was the stiff reply.

"Well, you keep your distance, or there will be trouble."

"Can I not speak to Mrs. Stanhope?"

"When she speaks to you, yes. But you must not bother her with your attentions. And if you try your hypnotic nonsense we'll pitch you overboard," and so speaking, Tom walked off again. Josiah Crabtree looked very black, nevertheless he took the youth's words to heart and only spoke to Mrs. Stanhope when it was necessary.

By the time supper was over it was night and time to think of getting some rest. The boys took possession of one of the staterooms on board, and arranged that each should sleep five hours, Tom taking the first watch. Mrs. Stanhope soon retired, and so did Josiah Crabtree and one of the Canadians.

Tom found the fat Canadian, the man to remain on deck, quite a sociable fellow, and asked him much about himself and how he had come to hire out with Crabtree. He soon discovered that the Canadians were honest to the last degree, and had gone in for the trip thinking all was above- board.

"I soon see ze man haf von bad eye," said the Canadian. "I tell Menot I no like heem. Now he has brought ruin on our ship."

The Canadian imagined that Crabtree had hypnotized the sailing qualities of the Wellington as well as cast a spell over Mrs. Stanhope, and Tom saw no reason, just then, for saying anything to the contrary.

"You must watch Crabtree," he said. "Don't let him get you in his power. Stick by me and my brother, and you will be all right," and the Canadian promised.

"But who vill pay for ze ship?" he questioned dolefully. "'Tis all Menot and myself haf in ze worl'!" And he shook his head in sorrow.

"We will pay you well for whatever you do for us. The balance you must get out of Crabtree." Then Tom gave the fat sailor a five-dollar bill, and from that moment the pair were warm friends.

Feeling that Crabtree would not dare to do much as matters stood, Tom did not take the trouble to arouse Sam when he turned in, and the brothers slept soundly until some time after sunrise.

"Say, why didn't you wake me up?" asked Sam in astonishment. "You didn't stay up all night, did you?"

"Not much!" answered Tom, and spoke of the Canadian, whose name was Peglace.

"Well, what's to do?"

"I must confess I don't know. I suppose the Baxters and Captain Langless are on the search for us."

"More than likely."

"Then we had better lay low until some vessel comes to rescue us."

"I don't think very many ships come this way."

"Neither do I, but we won't despair. Come, I'm hungry again," and they stirred around to get breakfast.

An examination showed that the Wellington was hard and fast in the mud, and likely to remain exactly as she stood for an indefinite time. Wading around in the water below, the Canadians reported several planks broken and wrenched loose, and that immediate repairs seemed out of the question,

"Ze ship ees gone," said Peglace sadly. "We air like zat man, what-you- call-heem, Crusoe Robinson, hey?" And he shook his head.

"Well, I hope we don't have to stay as long on this island as Robinson Crusoe remained on that other," remarked Sam. "Tom, I'm going for a walk on shore."

"Can I go with you?" put in Josiah Crabtree humbly. "I am tired of this ship's deck."

"All right, come on."

"I will remain with Mrs. Stanhope," said Tom. "Don't go too far, Sam."

Sam and the former teacher of Putnam Hall were soon over the side. The boy came down the plank easily enough, but Crabtree slipped and went into the water and mud up to his knees.

"Ugh! I am always unfortunate!" he spluttered. "However, since the weather is warm, I don't think I'll suffer much."

At a short distance up the beach there was a headland, covered with tall trees. Sam decided to make his way to this.

"I'm going to climb the tallest of the trees and look around," he said. "You can go along, if you wish."

"I will go, but I cannot climb the tree," answered Crabtree.

To get to the headland they had to make a detour around a marshy spot and then climb over a number of rough rocks. The exertion exhausted Josiah Crabtree, and he soon fell behind.

Reaching the headland, Sam gazed around anxiously. He could see a long distance to the north and the west, but not a sail was in sight.

"The Peacock ought to be somewhere around here," he told himself, and then, coming to a tall tree with low, drooping branches, he began to climb to the top.

It was a difficult task, for the tree was a thickly wooded one and a veritable monarch of the forest. But he persevered, and at last gained the topmost branch.

Here the view of the island and its vicinity was much extended, and he could see not only the bay where the Peacock had been at anchor, but also several other harbors.

"The Peacock is gone!" Such were the first words which escaped him. "She must have left the island altogether!"

With anxious eye he turned his gaze to the other harbors, and suddenly gave a start.

"A steam tug! How lucky!" He had discovered the Rocket, which was just getting up steam in order to follow the Peacock; the screw being now repaired and ready for use.

As fast as he could he descended to the ground, his one thought being to tell Tom of his discovery, and to either get to the steam tug or to signal those on board, so that the tug might not leave the island without them. He had noticed the black smoke curling up from the stack, and knew that this betokened that steam was getting up.

"Sam Rover!"

The voice came from behind the rocks, like a bolt out of the clear sky. Then Dan Baxter rushed forward, followed by his father.

Sam was taken off his guard, and before he could do anything the Baxters had him by both arms and were holding him a prisoner.

"Let me go!"

"Not much!" came from Arnold Baxter. "Where are your brothers--I mean," he added, in some confusion, "where is Tom?"

"Find out for yourself, Arnold Baxter. Let me go, I say!" And Sam began to struggle.

"Daniel Baxter, is it possible!" came in Josiah Crabtree's voice, and he emerged from the brushwood. "What an extraordinary meeting!"

"I should say it was!" responded the bully. "Where did you spring from?"

"Perhaps, Daniel, I can ask the same question."

"Is Tom Rover with you?"

"No, he is on a ship which is beached a short distance from here."

"Alone?"

"No, with some Canadians and--er--Mrs. Stanhope."

"Oh, I see! the same old game," growled the bully. "Anybody else on the boat?"

"No."

"If that's the case we are in luck," came from Arnold Baxter. He gazed at Crabtree sharply. "Do you know where this lad came from?"

"What do you mean?"

"He and his brother Tom escaped from us. We brought them here,"

"What! I thought they had followed me and Mrs. Stanhope."

"Hardly." Arnold Baxter proceeded to bind Sam's arms behind him. "Dan, take him to yonder tree and tie him fast." Then he walked away to talk to Josiah Crabtree.

The conversation which followed lasted for quarter of an hour. What was said Sam could not make out. The boy wanted to get away, but was helpless, and now Dan Baxter took away the pistol with which he had provided himself. A little later the Baxters and Crabtree moved toward the wreck, leaving him bound to the tree, alone.