Chapter XXVII. How Tom was Captured.
 

Tom was pacing the deck of the wreck in thoughtful mood when, on looking up, he saw Josiah Crabtree coming back alone.

"Where is Sam?" he called out.

"Samuel wishes you to join him at the headland," replied Crabtree. "He thinks a boat is coming around the other side of the island."

"Did you see it?"

"No, my eyesight is failing me and I had no spectacles along."

"Well, you can go back with me," said Tom, to make sure that the former teacher should not bother Mrs. Stanhope during his absence from the Wellington.

"I calculated to go back," responded Crabtree.

Telling Mrs. Stanhope that he would soon return, Tom left the wreck and followed Josiah Crabtree around the marsh land and over the cocks.

So long as Crabtree was in front poor Tom did not anticipate any treachery, consequently he was taken completely by surprise when the Baxters fell upon him from behind and bore him to the ground.

"Don't!" he cried, and tried to rise. But Dan Baxter struck him a heavy blow with a club, and then pointed the pistol at his head, and he had to submit.

When he was a prisoner Josiah Crabtree came back, his face beaming sarcastically. "The tables are turned once more, Thomas," he said. "We are masters of the situation. How do you like the prospect?"

"What have you done with Sam?"

"We have taken care of him," answered Arnold Baxter. "And we'll take good care of you after this, too."

Tom said no more, but his heart sank like a lump of lead in his breast. The talk of a ship being in sight must be a hoax, unless Crabtree referred to the Peacock.

The Baxters had a small bit of rope remaining, and with this they tied Tom's hands behind him. Then he was made to march to where Sam was a prisoner.

"What, Tom! you too?" cried the youngest Rover. And then he felt worse than ever, for he had hoped that his brother might come to his rescue.

Both boys were tied to the trees, but at some distance apart. Then, without delay, the Baxters and Josiah Crabtree hurried off toward the Wellington. The Baxters had heard that the boat was not much damaged, and thought that it might be possible to patch her up sufficiently to reach the mainland, and to do this ere Dick Rover and his party discovered them. For the Peacock and Langless Arnold Baxter now cared but little.

"She has left the bay," he said to Dan, "and more than likely has abandoned us."

The Canadians were surprised to see Josiah Crabtree returning with two strangers, and Mrs. Stanhope uttered a shriek when confronted by the Baxters.

"I must be dreaming," she murmured, when she had recovered sufficiently to speak. "How came you here?"

"We are not answering questions just now, madam," said Arnold Baxter. "We wish to patch up this boat if we can, and at once," and he called the Canadians to him.

As can be imagined, the sailors were dumfounded, especially when told that the Rover boys would not be back, at least for the present. They shook their heads.

"Ze ship cannot be patched up," said Peglace. "Ze whole bottom ees ready to fall out."

Arnold Baxter would not believe him, and armed with lanterns he and Dan went below to make an examination.

"What does this mean?" demanded Mrs. Stanhope of Crabtree, when they were left alone. "What have you done with the Rover boys?"

"Do not worry about them, my dear," said the former teacher soothingly. "All will come right in the end."

Then he began to look at her steadily, in an endeavor to bring her once more under his hypnotic influence. But, without waiting, she ran off and refused to confront him again.

"Follow me and I will leap into the lake," she cried, and fearful she would commit suicide, he let her alone.

The examination below decks lasted nearly an hour, and was far from satisfactory to Arnold Baxter. He felt that the Wellington might be patched up, but the work would take at least several days, and there was no telling what would happen in the meantime.

"Dick Rover and his party are sure to find us Before that time," said Dan.

"I am afraid so, Dan. But I know of nothing better to do than to remain here."

"We might find the Peacock and make a new deal with Captain Langless."

"Langless is a weak-hearted fool, and I'll never trust him again. We would have done much better had we hired a small boat which we could ran alone."

"But what shall we do, dad?"

"I think we had best go into hiding in the interior of the island. We can take a store of provisions along from this boat."

"Shall we take the Rovers with us?"

"We may as well. We can't let them starve, and by holding them prisoners we may be able to make terms with Dick Rover and his friends."

"That's an idea. I reckon Dick will do a lot rather than see Tom and Sam suffer."

"To be sure."

"Where do you suppose Dick Rover and his friends are now?"

"Somewhere around the island, although I have seen nothing of their boat."

By noon the Baxters had completed their plans and left the boat, carrying with them a load of provisions wrapped up in a sheet of canvas. They invited Josiah Crabtree to go with them, but that individual declined.

"I cannot take Mrs. Stanhope along," he said, "and I will not desert the lady."

"As you please," replied Arnold Baxter.

"What are you going to do with Tom and Sam Rover?"

"Take them with us. If you see anything of Dick Rover, don't say anything about us."

"I don't wish to see Dick Rover," answered Josiah Crabtree nervously.

"If the Dick Rover party leaves the island, we'll come back," put in Dan. "In the meantime, if I was you, I'd lay low."

Soon the Baxters were out of sight, and then Josiah Crabtree turned to have another talk with Mrs. Stanhope, in the meantime setting the Canadians on guard, to watch for and hail any passing sail which might appear.

In his wandering on the island Arnold Baxter had stumbled across a convenient cave near the headland where he had encountered Sam Rover, and thither father and son now made their way.

The cave gained they put down their bundles, which included a quantity of rope, and then started for the headland to bring in Tom and Sam.

The headland gained, a surprise awaited than. Both boys had disappeared.