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The three Rover boys reached the Stanhope cottage on a run, to find nobody in charge but a washwoman, who was hanging up some clothing in the back yard.

Explaining the situation so far as was necessary, they went inside and hunted up the note Mrs. Stanhope had mentioned.

"I believe that is Dan Baxter's writing," said Dick slowly.

"It is," came from Sam. "I know it from the flourishes on the capitals. He was always great on flourishes."

"We won't waste time here," went on Dick. "Let us go down to the old boathouse."

They were soon on the way, along a road lined with brush and scrubby cedars, the trees which in years gone by had given Cedarville its name.

At the old boathouse everything was quiet and not a soul was in sight. Walking to the end of the house float they gazed out on the lake.

"Not a boat anywhere," murmured Dick, "Now, what could have become of Dora, do you suppose?"

"It's ten to one that Baxter took her off in Mumps' boat!" cried Tom. "By jinks! I think I see through this. Don't you remember the plot Josiah Crabtree and Mumps were hatching? I'll wager they are all in this, to get Dora away from her mother."

"I believe Tom is right," came from Sam. "And if that is true, Dora was taken off on a boat beyond a doubt."

"If she was it won't take very long to find her," returned Dick. "Let us go to Cedarville and see if anybody has seen the Falcon."

Dick had scarcely spoken when a small steam tug hove into sight, bound up the lake.

"There's a tug now!" exclaimed Tom. "Hi there! hi!" he yelled. "Stop!"

The captain of the tug heard him and saw him waving his hand, and, slowing up, made a half-circle toward shore.

"What's wanted, young man?" he asked. "Anything wrong?"

"Yes, a good deal is wrong," replied Tom. "Have you seen a yacht named the Falcon today?"

"No, but I saw her late yesterday afternoon," was the reply.

"Around here?"

"No, further down the lake. I think she was bound for Cayuga."

"Did you notice who was on board?"

"You seem to be very particular about it."

"We are particular. A young lady has disappeared, and we think she was taken away on that yacht," explained Dick, as the steam tug came to a halt.

"Is that so? Yes, I did see a young lady on board of her. She called to our boat as we passed, but I thought it was only in fun."

"I guess she wanted you to help her," said Dick bitterly. Then he continued suddenly: "Have you anything to do just now?"

"No; I was going up to Ithaca to look for a tow."

"What will you charge to take us down to Cayuga?"

The captain of the tug thought for a moment. "Three dollars. It ought to be worth that to find the young lady."

"We'll go you," answered Dick promptly. "Swing in and we'll jump aboard."

Captain Lambert did as requested, and in a moment more the three Rover boys were on board of the Cedar Queen, as the craft was named. The captain proved to be a nice man and became thoroughly interested in the story the lads had to tell.

"I hope we spot the rascals," he said. "I'll certainly do all I can for you."

The Cedar Queen was a little craft and somewhat slow, and the boys fretted a good bit at the long time it took to reach Cayuga.

When they ran into the harbor of the town at the foot of the lake they looked in vain for the Falcon.

"We'll take a sail around," said Captain Lambert; and this they did, continuing the hunt until long after dark.

"It's no use!" groaned Dick. "We've missed her."

It took nearly all the money the boys could scrape up between them to pay off the captain of the tug, and when they had been landed at one of the docks they wondered what they had best do next.

"We've got to stay here over night," said Dick. "We may as well telegraph to Captain Putnam for cash;" and this they did, and put up at one of the hotels.

The place was crowded, for there was a circus in the town and a public auction of real estate had also taken place that day. The boys could get only a small room, but over this they did not complain. Their one thought was of Dora and of the rascals who had carried her off.

"We must get on the track somehow," said Dick. But how, was the question. He could not sleep, and after the others had retired took a long walk, just to settle his nerves.

Dick's walk brought him to the lot where the circus had held forth, and for some time he watched the men as they worked under the flaring gasoline torches, packing up what still remained on the grounds. The tent men had to labor like slaves in rolling up the huge stretches of canvas and in hoisting the long poles into the wagons, and he shook his head grimly as he turned away. "No circus life in mine," he mused—"at least, not that part of it."

Dick had moved away from the grounds but a short distance when his attention was attracted to the strange movements of two rough-looking individuals who were hurrying off with a third man between them.

"I don't want to go, I tell you," the middle man muttered; "I don't want more to drink."

"That's all right, Mr. Castor," said one of the other men glibly. " Just have one more glass, that's a good fellow."

"I won't take it, so there!" cried the man called Castor. "I know when I've had enough."

"You've got to come along with us," put in the third man savagely. "You owe us some money."

"I don't owe you a cent, Fusty."

"Yes, you do—and I'm bound to have it. Hold him, Mike, till I go through him."

Of a sudden there was a struggle, and the man called Castor found himself helpless, while the fellow called Fusty began to go through his pockets with great rapidity.

The scene alarmed Dick, and he wondered what he had best do. Then he made up his mind to go to Castor's assistance, and ran forward.

"Here, let that man alone!" he cried, as he picked up a fence picket which happened to lie handy. "Leave him alone, I say!"

"The Old Nick take the luck!" muttered one of the other men. "Who's this?"

"Help! help!" cried Castor.

"Let him alone, I say!" repeated Dick, and then struck at one of the men and hit him on the arm.

Seeing himself thus re-enforced, Castor also struck out, and continued to call for help.

"We might as well give it up, Fusty!" cried one of the rascals, and took to his heels, and then there was nothing to do for the other man but to follow him.

"Are you hurt?" asked Dick, as he helped the man who had been assaulted to his feet.

"Not much," was the slow reply. "Young man, you came in time and no more."

"Do you know those fellows who just ran away?"

"I met them at the circus this afternoon. We had several drinks and they became very friendly. I believe they were after my money."

"I think so too, Mr.—"

"My name is George Castor. And who are you?"

"I am Dick Rover, sir."

"Rover, I must thank you for your services. I shan't forget you, not me!" and George Castor held out his hand cordially. "I think I made a mistake by drinking with those fellows."

"I haven't any doubt of it, Mr. Castor."

"Do you reside in town?"

"No, sir; I am stopping at the hotel with my brothers. We just came into town to-night on rather a curious errand."

"Indeed, and what was that?"

In a few words Dick explained the situation. He had not yet finished when George Castor interrupted him.

"My boy, you have done me a good turn, and now I think I can return the compliment."

"Do you mean to say you know something of this case?" demanded Dick eagerly.

"Perhaps I do. Describe this Dan Baxter as well as you can, will you?"

"Certainly." And Dick did so.

"It is the same fellow. I met him last night, down near the lumber wharves. You see, I am a lumber merchant from Brooklyn, and I have an interest in a lumber company up here."

"You saw Baxter? Was he alone?"

"No, there was another man with him, a tall, slim fellow, with an unusually sour face."

"Josiah Crabtree to a T!" burst out Dick. "Did you notice where they went?"

"I did not. But I overheard their talk. They spoke about a boat on the Hudson River, the Flyaway. They were to join her at Albany."

"Who was to join her?"

"This Baxter, if it was he, and somebody else—a man called Muff, or something like that."

"Mumps! You struck them, sure enough! But did they say anything about the girl?"

"The tall man said that he would see to it that she was there—whatever he meant by that."

"I can't say any more than you, Mr. Castor. But I guess they are going to carry Dora Stanhope through to Albany, from all appearances."

"Then perhaps you had better follow."

"I'd go at once if I had the money that I have telegraphed for. You see, my brothers and I came away in a hurry, for the Stanhopes are close friends of ours."

"Don't let the matter of money worry you. Do you know how much I have with me?"

"I haven't the slightest idea, sir."

"Nearly eleven hundred dollars—and if those rascals had had the chance they would have robbed me of every dollar of it."

"I shouldn't think you would carry so much."

"I don't usually; but I was paid a large bill to-day, and went to the circus instead of the bank—not having seen such a show in years. But to come back to business. Will a hundred dollars see you through?"

"You mean to say you will loan me that much?"

"Perhaps I had better give it to you, as a reward for your services."

"I won't take it, for I don't want any reward. But I'll accept a loan, if you'll make it, and be very much obliged to you," continued Dick.

"All right, then, we'll call it a loan," concluded George Castor, and the transfer of the amount was made on the spot. Later on Dick insisted upon returning the money.