Chapter VII. The Escape of Arnold Baxter.
 

"Arnold Baxter, where is my brother Dick?" demanded Tom, as he reached the carriage and caught the evildoer by the arm.

To say that Arnold Baxter was astonished would be to put it altogether too mildly. He was completely dumfounded.

"You!" he said slowly, hardly knowing how to speak after he had caught his breath.

"Yes, you rascal. Where is Dick."

"Dick?"

"Yes, Dick."

"I know nothing of your brother. This is a--a complete surprise. I didn't know you were in Cleveland."

"Perhaps not. But let me tell you that we know your game, and we are going to hand you over to the law."

"Never!" Arnold Baxter fairly hissed out the words. "Let go of that horse"--the latter words to Sam.

"Don't you do it!" cried Tom, and then he caught Arnold Baxter by the leg. "Come out of the carriage."

A fierce struggle ensued, and, afraid that Tom would get the worst of it, Sam set up a loud shout for help.

"You whelp! I'll fix you!" ejaculated Arnold Baxter, and catching up the whip, he struck at Tom with the butt end. He caught the youth directly over the head, and Tom went down as if shot.

"Let Tom alone," screamed Sam. "Help! help!"

"Who is it?" came from a distance, and Luke Peterson hove into sight. "Hullo! the man we are after."

He made a dive for Arnold Baxter, but the latter was too quick for him, and leaped from the opposite side of the carriage to the ground. The horse now became frightened and set off on a run, directly for a lane behind Dr. Karley's institution.

"Tom, are you badly hurt?" questioned Sam, but, even as he spoke, Tom tried to stagger to his feet. Seeing this, Sam began a chase after Baxter, with the lumberman beside him.

Arnold Baxter was fleet of foot, and realizing what capture meant--a return to prison with his sentence to be served once more from the beginning--he ran as never before, straight for the dock where the Peacock lay.

His first thought was to board the schooner and set sail out into the lake, but a second thought convinced him that this would be unwise.

"They will follow me on a tug or steamer, and the jig will be up in no time," he said to himself "I must find some hiding place."

Many of the docks were inclosed by high board fences, and coming to one of these, he leaped over and made his way to a huge pile of merchandise. Here he crouched down and kept as quiet as a mouse.

Sam and Peterson, followed by Tom, traced him to the fence, but once on the opposite side, lost all track of the rascal.

"He's gone," said Tom, after running hither and thither on the dock. "He has given us the slip nicely."

"He can't be far off," returned Sam. "I believe he was bound for that doctor's sanitarium when we spotted him."

"So do I, and I wouldn't wonder if poor Dick is at the place, a prisoner."

The matter was talked over for several minutes, and the two brothers decided to return to Dr. Karley's sanitarium. The lumberman said he would remain around the docks on the lookout for Arnold Baxter.

"If you catch him I'll give you fifty dollars," said Tom. "My father, I know, will pay the amount willingly."

"I'll do my best," answered Peterson. He was by no means rich and glad enough of a chance to make such a sum. Besides this, the ways of the Rover boys appeared to please him.

When Sam and Tom returned to the doctor's place they found the coach driver still at hand, he having caught Arnold Baxter's horse at the entrance to the lane.

"Take him to the stable and ask the doctor if the rig is his," said Tom, and the coach driver agreed. He was gone the best part of quarter of an hour.

"The doctor says it is his horse and carriage, but he also says he didn't know the turnout was out," he announced, with a grin. "He's an oily one, he is!"

"Right you are, but he can't stuff us with his fairy tales," replied Tom. "Do you suppose there is a policeman handy?"

"There is probably one somewhere around."

"I wish you would hunt him up and bring him here."

"What are you going to do?"

"Dare the lion in his den; eh, Sam?"

"Right, Tom! That doctor must know a good deal more than he is wiling to tell."

The coach driver went off, and walking around to the front of the sanitarium the boys rang the bell sharply.

There was no answer to the summons, and then Tom gave the bell knob a jerk which nearly broke it off. A second-story window was thrown open with a bang.

"I want you boys to go away!" came in angry tones.

"And I want you to come down and let us in," retorted Tom.

"I won't let you in. I've told you all I know, and that is the end of it."

"It's not the end of it, Dr. Karley. We want to know how you came to let Arnold Baxter have your horse and carriage."

"I didn't know the horse and carriage were out of the stable. The man must have taken them on the sly."

"It's not likely. Open the door and let us in--it will be best for you."

"Ha, you threaten me!"

"I've done more than that-I've sent for a policeman."

At this announcement the old doctor grated his teeth savagely. He was much disturbed and knew not how to proceed.

"I was a fool to go into this thing," he muttered. "It may lead to all sorts of trouble. I must get myself clear somehow."

"Are you going to let us in?" went on Tom.

"Yes, I will let you in. But allow me to state that you are acting very foolishly," answered the doctor, and dropped the window. A few minutes later he appeared at the door, which he opened very gingerly.

"You can come into the parlor," he said stiffly.

"We'll remain right here," answered Tom, afraid of some sort of a trap.

"Well, what do you want?"

"I want to know where that young man, my brother, is."

"The man who was with him said he was his nephew."

"It was a falsehood. Now where is my brother?"

"Honestly, I have not the slightest idea."

"What was that man doing with your carriage?"

"I repeat, young man, I did not know he had the carriage." The old doctor drew a long breath, wondering how soon an officer of the law would appear. "Of course if anything is wrong I am perfectly willing to do all I can to set it right. My institution is above reproach, and I wish to keep it so."

"Are you willing to let me look through your place?"

"So you think your brother is here?"

"I do."

"You are very forward. Still, to convince you that you are mistaken, you are at liberty to go through my place from top to bottom. But you must not disturb any of the patients."

"All right; let us go through. Sam, you remain here, on the watch for that policeman."

With bad grace Dr. Karley led the way and took Tom through the sanitarium from top to bottom, even allowing him to peep into the rooms occupied by the "boarders," as the medical man called them. Of course there was no trace of Dick.

"Now I trust you are satisfied," said the doctor, when they were again at the front door.

"I am not satisfied about that carriage affair," returned Tom, as bluntly as ever.

"Well, I have told you the truth."

At this moment the coach driver came in sight, accompanied by a policeman.

"What's the trouble?" demanded the officer of the law.

Tom and Sam told their tale, and then the doctor had his say, and the driver related what he knew.

"Certainly a queer mix-up," remarked the policeman. He turned to the Rovers. "What do you want to do?"

"I want to find my brother, who has disappeared," said Tom.

"You say you have searched through here?"

"I have--after a fashion."

"You can go through, if you wish," said the doctor to the officer.

"I reckon my brother is gone," went on Tom. "But this doctor helped the rascals who spirited him away."

"I did absolutely nothing," cried Dr. Karley. "I am willing to aid you all I can. But I am innocent. I received no pay for giving the unfortunate young man some medicine to strengthen him, and my horse and carriage were taken without my knowledge."

A long and bitter war of words followed, but in the end the doctor was left to himself.

"We'll make no charge against him yet," said Tom to the policeman. "But I wish you would keep an eye on the institution--in case that rascal puts in an appearance again."

"I will," returned the officer.

A little while later Sam and Tom set out to rejoin Luke Peterson. When they gained the dock they saw nobody.

"He ought to be somewhere about," said the younger Rover.

They tramped about from place to place for fully an hour.

Presently they came close to where the Swallow lay. Had they but known it, the Peacock, with poor Dick on board, lay but three blocks further away.

"My gracious!" cried Sam suddenly.

He had seen a form stretched motionless across some lumber lying near.

The form was that of Luke Peterson, and his cheek and temple were covered with blood.