The Rover Boys on the Ocean/19
DORA TRIES TO ESCAPE.
"Now we are in a pickle!" whispered Mumps. "That man may cause us a whole lot of trouble."
"You let me do the talking," answered Dan Baxter. "Help Goss get her back to the cabin."
"I won't go back!" screamed Dora. "Let me be!" And she ran for the rail.
But Mumps caught hold of her and dragged her back. Then Bill Goss approached, followed by his wife.
"You must go below, miss," said the sailor. "Come, Nancy, give us a lift."
Poor Dora found herself at once surrounded and shoved back. She tried to call out again, but Mumps checked her with that ever-ready hand of his.
"Be careful!" shouted Baxter, for the benefit of the man on the flatboat. "Treat her with care, poor girl!"
"All right," grinned Mumps. "Come, down you go," he went on, to Dora, and literally forced her down the companionway.
Once in the cabin she was left in Mrs. Goss' care. The door was locked, and Goss and Mumps went on deck to learn what Baxter was doing.
"What does this mean?" asked the man in the flatboat. He was a farmer, who had just been taking a load of hay across the stream.
"Oh, it's all right," answered Baxter carelessly. "That's my sister."
"What's the row?"
"No row at all—excepting that I am trying to get her back to the asylum."
"Is she crazy?"
"A little bit; but not near as bad as she used to be. She got out of the asylum in Brooklyn yesterday, and I've had my hands full trying to get her back. She imagines she is a sea captain and always runs off with my uncle's yacht."
"I see. That's putty bad for your family."
"Oh, yes; but we are getting used to it. Take care, we are going to swing around."
Never suspecting that he had been regaled with a string of falsehoods, the farmer let go with his boathook, and yacht and flatboat speedily drifted apart.
It was with a big sigh of relief that Dan Baxter saw the flatboat recede in the distance.
"That was a narrow shave," he muttered. "If that fellow had insisted on talking to Dora there might have been a whole lot of trouble."
In vain Dora waited for the man to come on board. He had said that he would do what he could for her. Surely he would not desert her!
But as the time slipped by her heart failed her and she gave herself up to another crying spell. This caused Mumps and Goss to withdraw, and she was left alone again with Mrs. Goss.
"Where are we now?" she asked at length.
"We are approaching New York," was the answer.
"And that man, what of him?"
"Oh, he didn't come on board."
It was night when the Flyaway came to a landing near the upper portion of the metropolis.
The boys and Bill Goss went ashore, leaving Dora in Mrs. Goss' care.
"Be careful and don't let her escape," cautioned Dan Baxter. "We won't be gone very long."
Baxter had left for a telegraph office, expecting to receive a message from Josiah Crabtree.
For half an hour Mrs. Goss sat in the cabin watching Dora, who was pacing the floor impatiently.
"Make yourself comfortable, miss," said the woman. "It won't do you any good to get all worked up over the matter."
"You do not understand my situation, Mrs. Goss," faltered Dora. "If you did understand I am sure you wouldn't keep me a prisoner in this fashion."
"I am only obeying orders, miss. If I didn't my Bill would almost kill me."
"Is he so harsh to you?"
"He is now. But he didn't used to be—when he didn't drink."
"Then he drinks now?"
"Yes; twice over what is good for him."
"Where have they gone?"
"To a telegraph office."
"Didn't they say they would be back soon?"
Dora said no more, but sank down on the couch. Then an idea came to her mind, and lying back she closed her eyes and pretended to go to sleep.
The woman watched her closely for a while; then, satisfied that the girl had really dropped off, gave a long sigh of relief.
"I guess I can get a little sleep myself," she muttered. "I think I deserve it."
She locked the cabin door carefully and placed the key in her pocket.
Then she stretched out in an easy chair with her feet on a low stool.
Dora watched her out of the corner of her eyes as a cat watches a mouse.
Was the woman really sleeping?
Soon Mrs. Goss' breathing became loud and irregular.
"She must be asleep," thought Dora, and stirred slightly.
Mrs. Goss took no notice of this, and with her heart in her throat the girl slipped noiselessly from her resting place and stood up.
Still the woman took no notice, and now Dora found herself confronted by a most difficult task.
Without the key to the cabin door she could do nothing, and how to obtain the much coveted article was a problem.
With trembling hands she sought the pocket of Mrs. Goss' dress only to find that the woman was sitting on the key!
"Oh, dear, this is the worst yet!" she murmured.
As she stood in the middle of the cabin in perplexity, her captor gave a long sigh and turned partly over in her chair.
The pocket was now free and within easy reach, and with deft fingers Dora drew the key forth and tiptoed her way to the cabin door.
She was so agitated that she could scarcely place the key in the keyhole.
The lock had been used but seldom, and the action of the salt air had rusted it greatly.
As the key turned there was a grating sound, which caused Mrs. Goss to awaken with a start.
"What's the matter? Who is there?" she cried, and turned around to face the cabin door. "Come back here! Come back!"
She started after Dora, who now had the cabin door wide open. Away went girl and woman up the low stairs. But Dora was the more agile of the two, and terror lent speed to her limbs.
On the deck, however, she came to a pause. The Flyaway was a good six feet from the dock, and between lay a stretch of dark, murky water the sight of which made her shiver. What if she should fall in? She felt that she would surely be drowned.
But as Mrs. Goss came closer her terror increased. She felt that if she was caught she would be treated more harshly than ever for having attempted to run away.
"I'll take the chances!" she thought, and leaped as best she could. Her feet struck the very edge of the stringpiece beyond and for an instant it looked as if she must go over. But she clutched at a handy spile and quickly drew herself to a place of safety.
And yet safety was but temporary, for Mrs. Goss followed her in her leap and struck the dock directly behind her.
"Come back, you minx!" she cried, and caught Dora by the skirt.
"I won't come back! Let me be!" screamed the girl, and tore herself loose, ripping her garment at the same time. Then she started up the dock as swiftly as her trembling limbs would carry her.
But fate was against her, for as she gained the very head of the dock, Bill Goss appeared, followed by Baxter and Mumps.
"Hullo, who's this?" cried the sailor. "The gal, sure as you are born!"
"She is running away!" called out Mrs. Goss. "Stop her!"
"Here, this will never do," roared Dan Baxter. "Come here, Dora Stanhope!" and he made a clutch at her.
Soon the two boys were in pursuit, with the sailor close behind. Fortunately for the evil-doers the spot was practically deserted, so that Dora could summon no assistance, even though she began to call for help at the top of her lungs.
The girl had covered less than a half-block when Baxter ranged up alongside of her.
"This won't work!" he said roughly. "Come back," and he held her tight.
"Let me go!" she screamed. "Help! help!"
"Close her mouth!" put in Mumps. "If this keeps on we'll have the police down on us in no time!"
Again his hand was placed over Dora's mouth, while Baxter caught her from behind. Then Goss came up.
"We'll have to carry her," said the former bully of Putnam Hall. "Take her by the feet."
"Wot's the meanin' o' this?" cried a voice out of the darkness, and the crowd found themselves confronted by a dirty-looking tramp who had been sleeping behind a pile of empty hogsheads.
"Help me!" cried Dora. "Bring the police! Tell them I am Dora Stanhope of Cedarville, and that I—"
She could get no further, for Mumps cut her short.
"Dora Stanhope," repeated the tramp. "If I—"
"You forget this, my man," said Baxter. "Here's half a dollar for you. This lady is my cousin who is crazy. She just escaped from an asylum."
"T'anks!" came from the tramp, and he pocketed the money in a hurry. Then he ran off in the darkness.
"He's going to tell the police anyway!" cried Goss. "You had better get away from here."
"You are right," responded Mumps. "Hurry up; I don't want to be arrested."
As quickly as it could be done they carried Dora aboard of the yacht and bundled her into the cabin.
"Now keep her there!" cried Baxter to Mrs. Goss. "After we are off you can explain how she got away."
"She hit me with a stick and knocked me down," said the woman glibly. "She shan't get away a second time."
Once again poor Dora found herself a prisoner on board of the Flyaway. Then the lines were cast off, the sails set, and they stood off in the darkness, down New York Bay and straight for the ocean beyond.