Chapter XXX. Home Again--Conclusion.
 

"Dan is gone!"

"Which way did he go?"

"I don't know."

"He ran up the shore, in that direction!" called out Dora, pointing with her hand.

Leaving Arnold Baxter in the grasp of Fairwell and Ruff, Tom and Sam hurried off.

But Dan Baxter had disappeared in a perfect wilderness of rocks and bushes and could not be located.

"Never mind," said Tom; "let him go, if he wants to remain on this lonely spot."

All were soon on board the sloop, and Tom and Sam told their tale, to which Dora, as well as the others, listened with close attention.

"Then my mother is safe!" burst out the girl. "Thank Heaven for that!"

"She was safe when last we saw her," said Tom. "I guess the best thing we can do will be to get back to the wreck of the Wellington without delay."

"Yes! yes! take me to my mother at once. I have been hunting for her ever since she disappeared."

"But how did you happen to come here?"

"I found out that Josiah Crabtree had hired the Wellington, and day before yesterday we ran across a steamboat which had sighted the schooner headed in this direction."

"How did he get her away in the first place?"

"We were stopping at a hotel in Canada and I went out to do some necessary shopping. When I got back my mother was gone. She had received a bogus note, written I presume by Crabtree, asking her to come to me at once, as I had been taken sick in one of the stores. I immediately hired a detective, Mr. Ruff here, and we tracked Mr. Crabtree to the lake."

"Good for you, Dora,--a man couldn't have done better," cried Sam so enthusiastically that Dora had to blush.

"But now I want to get to mother without further delay."

"Let us set sail at once, then," said Tom. "The distance to the wreck is not over two miles."

Without delay the anchor was hoisted, the mainsail set, and the sloop left the shore. She was a trim-built craft, and under a good breeze her bow cut the shining waters of the lake like a knife.

The only one on the boat who was not in good humor was Arnold Baxter. When he got the chance he called Tom Rover to him.

"Rover, what do you intend to do with me?" he asked.

"We intend to hand you over to the authorities."

"You are making a great mistake."

"I'll risk that."

"If you'll let me go I'll promise to turn over a new leaf, and, more than that, I'll help your father to make a pile of money out of that mine in Colorado."

"Your promises are not worth the breath they are uttered in, Arnold Baxter. You belong in prison, and that is where you are going."

At this Baxter began to rave and utter words unfit to print. But Tom soon stopped this.

"Keep a civil tongue in your head, or we'll gag you," he said, and then Baxter relapsed into sullen silence.

The breeze was favorable, and it was not long before the sloop rounded a point of the island and came in sight of the Wellington.

"Let us surprise old Crabtree," suggested Sam. "We can keep out of his sight until the last moment."

Tom was willing, yet Dora demurred, wishing to get to her mother as soon as possible. Yet, as they drew closer, the girl stepped behind the cabin for a minute.

"A ship!" cried Peglace, who was on watch on deck. "A ship at last, and coming to shore!"

He uttered the words in French, and they speedily brought to the deck his companion and his companion's fat wife.

"A ship, sure enough," said the other Canadian, while his wife shed tears of joy.

Josiah Crabtree had just been interviewing Mrs. Stanhope in the cabin. He was trying again to hypnotize her, and she was trying to keep from under the spell.

"A boat must be coming, by the cries," said the former teacher. "I will go to the deck and investigate."

He ran up the companion way, and Mrs. Stanhope followed. The lady felt weak and utterly discouraged.

"If I only had Dora with me!" she murmured to herself.

"Did you speak?" asked Crabtree, looking over his shoulder.

"Not to you," she answered coldly.

Soon Crabtree was at the stern. The sloop came closer, and a rope was thrown to the Wellington and made fast by the Canadians. The smaller craft drew so little water that she did not ground, even when lying at the larger ship's stern.

"Hullo!" began Josiah Crabtree, addressing Randy Fairwell. "This is most fortunate."

"I see you are wrecked," returned Fairwell calmly.

"Exactly, sir--a very unfortunate affair truly. Will you rescue us?"

"Anybody else on board?"

"Yes, a lady to whom I am engaged to be married," and Crabtree smiled blandly. "Will you come on board?"

"I guess I will," answered Fairwell. "Eh, Mr. Ruff?"

"Yes," answered the detective, and leaped on the deck of the wreck.

By this time Mrs. Stanhope was on deck also, gazing curiously at those on the sloop.

"I believe this is Mr. Josiah Crabtree?" went on Ruff coldly.

"Eh? Why--er--you have the advantage of me!" stammered the former teacher of Putnam Hall, falling back in dismay.

"Are you Josiah Crabtree or not?"

"I am; but--"

"Then consider yourself my prisoner, Mr. Crabtree."

"Your prisoner!"

"That is what I said."

"But why do you say I am arrested? Who are you?"

"You are arrested for plotting against the welfare of Mrs. Stanhope there and Dora Stanhope, her daughter; also for forging Dora Stanhope's name to a letter sent to the girl's mother."

"It is false. I--I--Oh!"

Josiah Crabtree staggered back, for Dora had run forward. In a second more mother and daughter were in each other's arms. An affecting scene followed. Josiah Crabtree turned a sickly green, and his knees smote together.

"I--er--that is, we--the lady and myself--there is some mistake." He tried to go on, but failed utterly.

"You fraud, you!" cried Tom, and came forward, followed by Sam. "Now, Josiah Crabtree, we are on top, and we mean to stay there. Mr. Ruff, you had better handcuff him."

"I will," returned the detective, and brought forth a pair of steel "nippers."

"Handcuff me!" groaned Crabtree, "Oh, the disgrace! No! no!"

"You ought to have thought of the disgrace before," was Ruff's comment, and the next minute the handcuffs were fast on the prisoner.

A shout was now heard from one of the Canadian sailors. He was pointing to the north of the island, where a steam tug had just hove into sight.

The tug was coming on rapidly, and as she drew closer Tom and Sam made out a youth standing on the cabin top, eagerly waving his hand to them.

"Dick!" cried both of the Rovers. "Dick, by all that is wonderful!"

It was indeed Dick and the Rocket, and soon the steam tug came up to the stern of the sloop and made fast.

"Tom and Sam, and safe!" burst out Dick, and then his eyes fell upon the Stanhopes. "Dora!" He shook hands and blushed deeply, and so did the girl. "Why, I never expected this!"

"None of us did," answered Dora with a warm smile.

"And your mother, too!"

"It's like a fairy tale," put in Tom, "and I guess it's going to end just as happily as fairy tales usually do."

It took some time for each to tell his story. When it came to Dick's turn, he said the steam tug had done her best to follow up Captain Langless and his schooner, but had failed because of the darkness.

"She's now out of sight," he concluded, "and there is no telling where she is."

"Well, let him go," said Tom. "We have Arnold Baxter, and he is the chief villain. I don't believe Captain Langless will ever bother us again."

After a long conversation it was decided that all of the party should return to the mainland in the steam tug and the sloop, the latter to be towed by the former. Dick remained on the sloop with the Stanhopes, while Josiah Crabtree was placed in the company of his fellow-criminal, Arnold Baxter. With the party went the Canadian who was married, and his wife, leaving the other Canadian to look after the wreck until his partner should return with material with which the boat could be patched up.

The run to the mainland was a pleasing one to the Rovers, and also to Larry and faithful Aleck Pop. The negro was on a broad grin over the safety of the brothers.

"Dem boys beat de nation," he said. "Nebber gits into trouble so deep but wot da paddles out ag'in in short ordah; yes, sah!"

During the trip it was decided by the Stanhopes, on Dick's advice, to prosecute Josiah Crabtree to the full extent of the law. Mrs. Stanhope demurred somewhat to this, but Dora was firm, and when the case was brought to trial Crabtree was sent to prison for two years.

The first thing the Rover boys did when on shore was to telegraph to their father, telling him of their safety. This telegram caught Mr. Rover just as he was about to arrange for sending the ten thousand dollars to Arnold Baxter. He was overjoyed at the glad tidings, and came on as far as Detroit to meet the whole party.

"My boys, how you must have suffered!" he said, as he shook one after another by the hand. "In the future you must be more careful!"

Arnold Baxter wished to see Anderson Rover, hoping thereby to influence the latter in his behalf, but Mr. Rover refused to grant the interview, and on the day following Arnold Baxter was sent back to the prison in New York State, there to begin his long term of imprisonment all over again.

There was much speculation concerning Dan Baxter, and when the Rovers went back to the island on the steam tug,--to obtain what had been discovered in the cave,--they asked the Canadian on the wreck if he had seen the youth.

"Yes, I see him," was the answer. "But he is gone now. He went off in a small boat that torched here yesterday."

"It's just as well," said Tom. "We didn't want to see the fellow starve here."

But at the cave which Dick and the others had discovered he changed his tune, for there were many signs that Dan Baxter had visited the locality. The money which had been lying on the dust-covered table was gone, likewise the map and the dagger.

"We are out that much," said Dick to Larry and Peterson.

"The boxes and casks are not disturbed," replied the old lumberman.

"He couldn't carry those," said Larry. "Perhaps he thinks to come back for these later."

"Then we'll fool him," replied Dick.

All of the goods were transferred to the steam tug and taken to Detroit, where, after remaining unclaimed for some time, they were sold, the sale netting the Rovers and their friends several thousand dollars.

One odd-shaped box Dick kept as a souvenir. It had been a money casket and was lined with brass. Little did the youth dream of all the strange adventures into which that casket was to lead him and his brothers. What those adventures were will be told in another volume of this series to be entitled, "The Rover Boys in the Mountains; or, A Hunt for Fun and Fortune."

The home-coming of the three boys was celebrated in grand style, not alone by the Covers, but by many of their friends, who flocked in from far and near to see them. Captain Putnam was there, along with many of their old schoolfellows.

"It's good to be home once more," said Sam.

"Especially with so many friends around you," added Tom.

"And after escaping from so many perils," came from Dick.

And here let us leave them, wishing them well, both for the present and the future.

THE END.