Chapter XXVIII. The Baxters Talk It Over.
 

"Tom, we are in a fix."

"So it would seem, Sam. Who ever dreamed of running across the Baxters in this fashion?"

"We are in the hands of a trio of rascals now, for Crabtree is as bad as the others."

"Perhaps, but he hasn't the nerve that Arnold Baxter has. What shall we do?"

"Try to get free."

"I can't budge an inch. Dan Baxter took especial delight in tying me up."

"I can move one hand and if--It is free! Hurrah!"

"Can you get the other hand free?"

"I can try. The rope--that's free, too. Now for my legs."

Sam Rover worked rapidly, and was soon as free as ever. Then he ran over to where Tom was tied up and liberated his brother.

"Now, what shall we do?"

"I move we go after the people on that steam tug and get them to help us rescue Mrs. Stanhope."

"That's a good idea, and the quicker we go the better."

Sam remembered very well in what direction he had seen the tug, and now set a straight course across the island to the cove.

But the trail led over a hill and through a dense thicket, and long before the journey was half finished both lads were well-nigh exhausted.

"We ought to have followed the shore around--we would have got there quicker," panted Tom, as he fairly cut his way through the dense brush- wood.

"I hope there are no wild animals here."

"I doubt if there is anything very large on the island. If so, we would have seen it before this."

So speaking, they pushed on once more. The woods passed, they came to a swamp filled with long grass. They hurried around this, and then into the forest skirting the lake shore.

At last the cove came into sight. Alas! the steam tug was nowhere to be seen.

"She has gone!" groaned Sam. "Oh, what luck!

"I can't see a sign of her anywhere?" returned Tom. "She must have steamed away right after you came down the tree."

"More than likely."

Much disappointed and utterly worn out, they cast themselves down in the shade to rest. As they rested they listened intently, but only the breeze through the trees and the soft lap-lap of the waves striking the rocks reached their ears.

"I never thought a spot on our lakes could be so lonely," said Sam at length. "Why, it's as if we were in the middle of the Pacific!"

"I trust no harm befalls Mrs. Stanhope, Sam. Perhaps it is our duty to go back to her, in spite of the danger."

"I was thinking of that, too. But we are only two boys against two men and a boy, and they are armed."

"I think the Canadians will prove our friends in a mix-up. They hate Crabtree, for they half fancy he bewitched their boat."

"We might go back on the sly and do some spying."

"That is what I mean."

But they were too tired to go back at once, and spent a good hour near the beach. Close at hand was a tiny spring, and here they procured a drink of water and took a wash-up, after which they felt somewhat better.

They were about to start on the return when Tom suddenly plucked his brother by the sleeve.

"Somebody is coming," he whispered. "Let us hide."

They had scarcely time to get behind some brushwood when the Baxters came into view, moving very slowly and gazing sharply around them.

"I don't see a thing, dad," came from Dan Baxter in disgusted tones. "I don't believe they came this way."

"They certainly didn't go back to that old boat," replied Arnold Baxter. "Let us take a walk along the beach."

"I am tired to death. Let us rest first."

So speaking, Dan Baxter threw himself on a grassy bank overlooking the lake, and Arnold Baxter followed.

Both were out of sorts and did a large amount of grumbling. The father lit a short briar-root pipe, while the son puffed away at a cigarette,

"I'd give a hundred dollars if a boat would come along and take us to the mainland," observed the father. "I am sick and tired of this game all through."

"So am I sick of it, dad. We made a mistake by ever coming East, it seems to me."

"If I could get to the mainland I might make money out of it even so, Dan. Anderson Rover may have sent that ten thousand dollars to Bay City, after all. He thinks an awful lot of his sons, and won't want a hair of their head harmed."

"So the money was to go to Bay City. You didn't tell me that before."

"I wanted to keep the matter secret."

"Who will receive it there?"

"A man I can trust."

"Oh, pshaw! you needn't be so close-mouthed about it," growled the son, lighting a fresh cigarette.

"Well, the man's name is Cowdrick--Hiram Cowdrick. He comes from Colorado, and used to know the Roebuck crowd."

"I suppose old Rover was to send the money in secret?"

"Certainly. I wrote him a long letter, telling him that if there was the least effort made to follow up the money on his part the lives of his sons should pay the forfeit."

"That's the way to put it, dad. I shouldn't wonder if old Rover sent the money on."

"I'd soon find out, if I could get to shore. If I had the money the boys could rot here, for all I care."

"Thank you for nothing," muttered Tom, under his breath. "Just you wait till I have a chance to square accounts, that's all!"

"Hush!" whispered Sam. "They must not discover us." And then Tom became silent again.

"Josiah Crabtree is in a fix, too," went on Dan, with something of a laugh. "He don't seem to know what to do."

"Where is Mrs. Stanhope's daughter?"

"I don't know. If Crabtree marries Mrs. Stanhope, it will break Dora all up."

"Well, that isn't our affair. But it is queer we should run together on this island. We can--What is that? A sail!"

Arnold Baxter leaped to his feet, and so did Dan. Tom and Sam also looked in the direction pointed out.

There was a sail, true enough, far out on the lake. All watched it with interest and saw it gradually grow larger. Evidently the craft was heading directly for the island.

"She is coming this way, dad!" almost shouted Dan.

"It looks so to me," replied Arnold Baxter, with increasing interest. "And she isn't the Peacock, either."

"No, she's a strange ship--a sloop, by her rig."

The Baxters watched the coming sail eagerly, and it must be confessed that the Rover boys were equally interested.

"If the folks on that boat are honest, they will surely help us against the Baxters," murmured Sam.

"Just what I was thinking," replied his brother.

At last the vessel was near enough to be signaled, and, running to a high rock overlooking the water, Dan swung his hat and a handkerchief in the air.

At first the signals were not seen, but at last came a voice through a speaking trumpet.

"Ahoy, there!"

"Ahoy!" shouted Dan. "Come here! Come here!"

"What's the trouble?"

"We are wrecked. We want you to take us off."

"Wrecked?"

"Yes. Will you take us off?"

"Certainly."

Slowly, but surely, the sloop drew nearer. She was a fair-sized craft, and carried a crew of three. The men seemed to be nice fellows, and not at all of the Captain Langless class. Soon the sloop dropped anchor close in shore and the mainsail came down at the same time.