The Rover Boys on the Great Lakes/4
IN THE HANDS OF THE ENEMY.
Daylight found poor Dick all but exhausted. He still held to the stick of lumber, but his hands were numb and without feeling, and his lower limbs were in the same condition.
"I can't stand this much longer," was his dismal thought. "I've got to let go soon."
He looked around him anxiously. All that met his eyes was the broad expanse of water, with here and there a solitary stick of lumber. He gazed about for Luke Peterson, but the lumberman was not in sight.
"He must have been drowned," he thought.
"Heaven help me, or I'll go, too!"
Gradually the sky cleared of the clouds, and the hot July sun began to pour down with a glare on the water that was well-nigh blinding. As the waves went down he changed his position on the log, and this gave him temporary relief. Soon the sun made his head ache, and he began to see strange visions. Presently he put out his hand, thinking that Tom was before him, and then went with a splash into the lake.
Almost unconscious of what he was doing, he caught the log again. But he was now too weak to pull himself up. "It's the end," he thought bitterly. Then a cry came to him, a cry that seemed half real, half imaginary.
"Hullo, Rover! Is that you?"
It was Peterson who was calling. The lumberman had drifted up on another log, and as the two sticks bumped together he caught hold of the youth and assisted him to his former resting place.
"I—I can't hold on any—any longer!" gasped Dick.
"Try, lad, try! Some kind of a boat is bound to appear, sooner or later."
"I—I am nu—numb all over."
"I suppose that's true—I'm numb myself. But don't ye give up."
Encouraged somewhat by Peterson's words Dick continued to hold on, and a few minutes later the lumberman gave a cheering cry:
"A steamer! Saved at last!"
The lumberman was right; the freighter Tom and Sam had hailed was approaching, the castaways having been discovered by the aid of a marine glass.
"A man and a boy," observed Captain Jasper to his mate.
"The boy looks pretty well done for," returned the mate. "He must be the one that was thrown off the yacht."
"More than likely."
As speedily as possible the freight steamer drew closer, and a line was thrown to Peterson.
He turned to give one end to Dick, and then made the discovery that the latter had fainted from exhaustion.
"Poor fellow!" he muttered, and caught the youth just as he was sliding into the lake.
It was no easy task to get Dick on board of the freight steamer. But it was accomplished at last, and, still unconscious, he was carried to a stateroom and made as comfortable as possible.
Peterson was but little the worse for the adventure, and his chief anxiety was for his friend Bragin, of whom, so far, nothing had been heard.
The coming of Dick on board of the Captain Rullow was viewed with much astonishment by two of the passengers on the freighter.
These two persons were Arnold Baxter and his son Dan.
The two had quite recovered from the injuries received in the landslide in Colorado, and it may be as well to state right here that they were bound East in order to carry out a new plot which the elder Baxter had hatched up against the Rovers.
What that plot was will be disclosed as our story proceeds.
"Father, it is Dick Rover," cried Dan Baxter, after having seen the unconscious one brought on board.
"Hush, Dan! I know it," whispered Arnold Baxter.
"It's a pity he wasn't drowned in the lake."
"I agree with you. But he isn't dead, and we'll have to keep out of sight for the rest of the trip."
"Humph! I am not afraid of.him!" said the bully, for, as old readers know, Dan had never been anything else.
"That may be, but if he sees us he may—ahem—make much trouble for me."
"On account of our doings in Colorado? What can he prove? Nothing."
"Perhaps he can. Besides, Dan, you must remember that the officers of New York State are still after me."
"Yes, I haven't forgotten that."
"I wish how that I had put on that false wig and beard before we left Detroit," went on Arnold Baxter. "But I hated to put them on before it was absolutely necessary—the weather is so warm."
"Can you put them on now?"
"Hardly, since all on board know my real looks. I will have to keep out of Rover's sight."
"I would like to know what he is doing out here."
"On a pleasure trip, most likely."
The talk went on for some time, and then Dan approached one of the mates of the freighter, who had just come from the stateroom to which Dick had been taken.
"How is that young fellow getting on?" he asked carelessly.
"He's in bad shape," was the answer.
"Do you think he'll die?"
"Hardly, but he is very weak and completely out of his mind. The hot sun, coming after the storm, must have affected his brain."
"Out of his mind? Doesn't he recognize anybody?"
"No, he talks nothing but lumber, and cries out to be pulled from the water. Poor boy! it's too bad, isn't it?"
"It is too bad," said Dan Baxter hypocritically. "Do you know his name?"
"No, but he's a brother to those boys who us from the yacht a couple of hours ago. A lumber raft struck the yacht and the boy was knocked overboard and managed to cling to some timber."
"Is the man who was saved his friend?"
"No, he was on the raft and the two are strangers;" and with this remark the mate of the freight steamer passed on.
Without delay Dan told his father of what he had heard. Arnold Baxter was much pleased.
"If he remains out of his mind we'll be safe enough," he said. "I presume they'll put him off at Cleveland and send him to the hospital."
"I wonder where that yacht is?"
"Oh, we have left her miles behind."
"And how soon will we reach Cleveland?"
"Inside of half an hour, so I heard one of the deck hands say."
No more was said for the time being, but both father and son set to thinking deeply, and their thoughts ran very much in the same channel.
Just as the freight steamer was about to make the landing at Cleveland, Arnold Baxter touched his son on the arm.
"If they take Dick Rover ashore, let us go ashore too," he whispered.
"I was thinking of that, dad," was Dan's answer. "Was you thinking, too, of getting him in our power?"
"I don't see why we can't do it—if he is still unconscious."
"It won't hurt to try. But we will have to work quick, for more than likely his brothers will follow us to this city," went on Arnold Baxter.
The steamer had but little freight for Cleveland, so the stop was only a short one.
When poor Dick was brought up on a cot, still unconscious, Arnold Baxter stepped forward.
"I have determined to stop off at Cleveland," he said to Captain Jasper. "If there is anything I can do for this poor fellow, I will do it willingly."
"Why, I thought you were going through to Buffalo," returned the captain in surprise.
"I was going through, but I've just remembered some business that must be attended to. I'll take the train for Buffalo to-morrow. If you want me to see to it that this poor fellow is placed in the hospital, I'll do it."
The offer appeared a good one, and relieved Captain Jasper's mind greatly.
"You are kind, sir," he said. "It isn't everyone who would put himself to so much trouble."
"I was wrecked myself once," smiled Arnold Baxter. "And I know how miserable I felt when nobody gave me a hand."
"I suppose the authorities will take him until his brothers come in on that yacht."
"There is no need to send him to a public institution. I will see to it that he gets to a first-class hotel," went on Arnold Baxter smoothly.
There was a little more talk, and then Dick was carried ashore and a coach was called.
By this time the freight steamer was ready to leave, and a minute later she proceeded on her way.
Arnold Baxter and Dan looked around and saw only a few people at hand. In the crowd was Luke Peterson, who now came forward.
"Want any help?" asked the lumberman respectfully.
"You might keep an eye open for that yacht," replied Arnold Baxter.
"All right, sir. Where are you going to take young Rover?"
"To the Commercial Hotel. I am well known there, and can easily get him a good room and the necessary medical attention."
"Then, if I see anything of the yacht, I'll send his brothers up to the hotel after him."
"That's it," returned Arnold Baxter. He turned to the driver of the coach. "To the Commercial Hotel," he went on, in a loud voice. "And drive as easy as you can."
Dan was already in the coach, supporting poor Dick in his arms. Arnold Baxter leaped in and banged the door shut. Soon the coach was moving away from the water front and in the direction of the hotel which had been mentioned.
"Of course you are not going to the Commercial Hotel," observed Dan, as soon as he felt safe to speak.
"Leave it all to me, my son," was Arnold Baxter's reply. "We got him away nicely, didn't we?"
"Never mind the future, Dan. How is he?"
"Dead as a stone, so far as knowing anything is concerned."
"I trust he remains so, for a while at least."
The coach rattled on, and presently came to a halt in front of the hotel which had been mentioned.
"Wait here until I get back," said Arnold Baxter to his son and to the coach driver, and then hurried inside of the building.
Instead of asking for a room he spent a few minutes in looking over a business directory.
"It's too bad, but they haven't a single room vacant," he said, on coming back to the coach. "I've a good mind to take him to some private hospital, after all. Do you know where Dr. Karley's place is?" he went on, turning to the coach driver.
"Then drive us to that place."
Again the coach went on. Dr. Karley's Private Sanitarium was on the outskirts of Cleveland, and it took half an hour to reach it. It was an old-fashioned building surrounded by a high board fence. Entering the grounds, Arnold Baxter ascended the piazza and rang the bell.
A negro answered the summons, and ushered him into a dingy parlor. Soon Dr. Karley, a dried-up, bald-headed, old man appeared.
"And what can I do for you, sir?" he asked, in a squeaky voice.
"Just the man I wanted to meet," thought Arnold Baxter.
He was a good reader of character, and saw that Dr. Karley would do almost anything for money. The doctor's sanitarium was of a "shady" character. Among the inmates were two old men, put there by their relatives merely to get them out of the way, and an old lady who was said to be crazy by those who wished to get possession of her money.
"I have a peculiar case on hand, doctor," said Arnold Baxter, after introducing himself as Mr. Arnold. "A young friend of mine has been almost drowned in the lake. I would like you to take charge of him for a day or two."
"I will pay you well for your services," went on Arnold Baxter.
"You have him with you?"
"Yes, in a coach outside. He was found drifting on a log and almost out of his head on account of exposure to the water and the hot sun. I think a few days of rest and medical attention will bring him around all right."
The little old doctor bobbed his head. "I will go out and see him," he said.
Quarter of an hour later found Dick in an upper room of the sanitarium, lying on a comfortable bed, and with Dr. Karley caring for him.
In the meantime Arnold Baxter had gone out and paid the coach driver.
"Do you generally stand down by the docks?" he asked.
"No, sir; my stand is uptown," was the reply. "I had just brought down a passenger when you hailed me. But I can go down for you, if you wish."
"It will not be necessary. The doctor has a carriage, and I will hire that later on, when I see how the patient is making out."
"All right, sir; then I'm off."
As the coach passed out of sight Arnold Baxter chuckled to himself.
"I reckon that was well done," he muttered. "I don't believe the Rovers will find their brother very soon, if they ever find him!"