Chapter V. The Sailing of the "Peacock."
 

"Oh, my, what a bad dream I have had!"

Such were the words which Dick uttered to himself when he came once again to the full possession of his senses.

He gazed around him curiously. He was in a plainly furnished room, lying on the top of a bed covered with a rubber blanket, so that his wet clothing might not soil the linen beneath. His coat and shoes had been removed, likewise his collar and tie, but that was all.

The shades of the two windows of the apartment were tightly drawn and a lamp on the table lit up the room but dimly, for it was now night. No one was present but the sufferer.

"Well, one thing is certain, I didn't drown, after all," he went on. Then he tried to sit up, but fell back exhausted.

He wondered where he was, and if Tom and Sam were near, and while he was wondering he fell into a light sleep which did a great deal toward restoring him to himself.

When Dick awoke he found Dr. Karley at hand, ready to give him some nourishing food. The doctor had just come from a long talk with Arnold Baxter, and it may as well be stated that the two men understood each other pretty thoroughly.

"Where am I?" he asked, in a fairly strong voice.

"Safe," said the old doctor soothingly. "Here, take this. It will do you a whole lot of good."

"Are my brothers around?"

"We'll talk later, after you are stronger."

The old doctor would say no more. Dick took the medicine offered, and did really feel stronger. Then a light breakfast was brought in, of which he partook readily. The food gone, the doctor disappeared, locking the door after him, but so softly that Dick was not aware of the fact until some time later.

While Dick was trying to get back his strength the Baxters were not idle.

Arnold Baxter had on his person all the money he possessed, a little over three thousand dollars. This had been saved from the wreck of his expedition to the West, and he was now resolved to spend every dollar of it, if necessary, in bringing the Rovers to terms, as he put it.

"I was going to New York State to get the youngest Rover boy in my power," he said to Dan, "but fate has thrown Dick in our path, and so we will take him instead. Once he is absolutely in our power, I am sure I can bring Anderson Rover to terms and make him turn the entire right to that Eclipse mine over to my representatives."

"It's a ticklish job," replied the son. "What of this doctor here? Won't he suspect anything?"

"I reckon the doctor is no better than he ought to be, Dan. I think I see my way clear to doing as I please with him. A couple of hundred dollars will go a long way with fellows of his stripe."

A conversation lasting half an hour followed, and Dan promised to keep close watch while his father went away to the docks.

Arnold Baxter was absent the best part of the morning, but came home with a face which showed he was well satisfied with what he had accomplished.

"I fell in luck," he explained. "Ran across a man I used to know years ago--Gus Langless--a sly old dog, up for anything with money in it. Langless owns a small schooner, the Peacock, and be says I can have her for a month, with the services of himself and his crew, for one thousand dollars--and nothing said about the job."

"Did you accept, dad?"

"Certainly--it was just what I wanted. Langless is all right, and I told him I would double his money if he would stick by me to the finish, and he swore that he would."

"And what is the next move?"

"We'll take Rover on board to-night, and then set sail direct for Detroit and Lake Huron. Langless knows an island in Lake Huron which will give us just the hiding place we want."

"And after that?"

"I'll send a letter to Anderson Rover which will sicken him to the heart and make him do just as I demand. He thinks the world of his oldest son."

"Good for you, dad! You've got a long head on your shoulders. And when are you going to let Dick Rover know he is in our power?"

"Not until we have him on the Peacock, if I can prevent it. If he knew here, he might kick up a big row."

"Pooh! we could easily shut him up!" sniffed Dan.

Now Dick was in their custody he was impatient to browbeat the youth and taunt him with his helplessness. But Arnold Baxter would not listen to it, so the graceless son had to bide his time.

The afternoon was an anxious one for both of the Baxters, who were afraid that the Rovers would find their way to Dr. Karley's place and thwart their carefully arranged plan. But no one put in an appearance, and by nightfall everything was in readiness for the departure. The doctor had loaned his private turnout, and for a "consideration," otherwise a bribe, had dosed poor Dick into semi-unconsciousness, and had promised to say to all comers that the young man had got well and gone off in the company of two of his friends, a Mr. Arnold and a Mr. Daniels.

When it came to transferring Dick to the carriage, Arnold Baxter put on the false wig and beard which he had been carrying in his valise, thus transforming his appearance greatly. Dan kept out of sight on the seat of the carriage, so that Dick saw only his back in the gloom of the night. The son drove while Arnold Baxter held Dick.

It was no easy matter to find the location of the Peacock, and equally difficult to get Dick on board without observation. But Captain Langless had wisely sent his men to a neighboring saloon, so the coast was tolerably clear. Once Dick was in the cabin, Arnold Baxter left him in Dan's charge and hurried back to the sanitarium with the turnout. In the meantime Captain Langless summoned his sailors and told them they would sail at early dawn--half-past four.

Locking the door of the cabin and putting the key in his pocket, Dan Baxter turned up the light and then looked at Dick, who lay half propped up in a chair.

"I guess I'll wake him up," he muttered, and going over to the helpless youth he pulled his nose vigorously.

"Oh!" groaned Dick, and opened his eyes dreamily. Then he caught sight of Dan and stared as if he had seen a ghost.

"Dan Baxter!" he said slowly. "Can it be possible?"

"Yes, it's me," replied the bully, with small regard for grammar. "Do you know that you are in my power, Dick Rover?"

"I--I--thought you were dead," and Dick closed his eyes again, for it was next to impossible for him to arouse himself.

"I'm a long way from being dead," laughed Dan harshly. "I reckon you'll die before I do."

Dick pulled himself together with a great effort.

"Then the landslide didn't catch you?" he questioned.

"Yes, it did, but it didn't kill me, nor my father neither. We are both here, and you are absolutely in our power."

"Is this the steamer that took me on board?"

"No, this is a boat that is under my father's command."

"I don't understand it at all."

"Reckon you will understand before we are done with you. You thought you could crow over us, but the crowing will be on the other side of the fence now."

"What are you going to do with me?"

"You'll find out soon enough."

"Where are my brothers?"

"I don't know--and I don't care."

"Well, I am glad they are not in your power," returned Dick, with something of a sigh of relief.

"One of you is enough," growled Dan.

"And you won't tell me what boat this is?"

"It is one under the command of my father."

"Are we sailing?"

"Not yet, but we will be in a few minutes."

With an effort Dick arose to his feet. But he was dizzy from the effects of the dose administered by the doctor, and immediately sank back again. Baxter gave a brutal laugh.

"Now you see how it is," he observed. "You are absolutely in our power. How do you like the situation?"

"How should I like it? A lamb among wolves would be as safe, to my way of thinking."

"I don't know but what you are right. We intend to make a big thing out of you, Dick Rover."

"How?"

"I told you before you'd find out soon enough."

"I presume you'll try to make my father ransom me, or something like that."

"We'll about make him give up that mining claim."

"You were going to make him give that up before."

"Well, we won't trip up this time. Our plans are carefully laid."

"You were always good at bragging, Dan Baxter."

"Don't insult me, Dick Rover."

"I am telling the plain truth."

With a sudden darkening of his face Dan Baxter strode forward.

"Dick Rover, I hate you, always have hated you, and always will hate you. Take that for your impudence."

He struck out and slapped the helpless boy heavily upon the cheek. Then, as Dick sank back in the chair, he turned and left the cabin, closing and locking the door after him.

At half-past four in the morning the Peacock got under way, and in less than an hour was far out upon the broad waters of Lake Erie.