The Rover Boys on Land and Sea/Chapter 3

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"Hullo, what does this mean? Here is a key in the door."

It was Dick Rover who spoke. He stood in the hallway of the hotel, and beside him were Tom and Sam. They had eaten rather heartily at the restaurant and taken more time than they had anticipated.

"I didn't leave the key there," came from Tom. "Here it is," and he brought it out of his pocket. "I meant to leave it at the desk, but it slipped my mind."

Dick found the door open and walked into the room, followed by his brothers. Baxter had extinguished the gas and they stood in the dark until Sam found a match and lit up. Then a cry went up from all three:

"We have been robbed!"

"This is some sneak thief's work," came from Dick. "Run down and tell the hotel clerk at once."

Tom bolted from the room and went down the stairs three steps at a time. The clerk sat dozing in his chair and was roused up with difficulty. But as soon as he realized that something was wrong he was wide-awake.

"A robbery, eh?" he queried. "What have you lost?"

"We've got to find that out," answered Tom.

In less than a quarter of an hour they knew the extent of their loss—three diamonds and a pair of cuff buttons, in all worth over two hundred dollars, and two hundred and seventy-five dollars in cash—not to mention a ruined valise and one missing, and the loss of a light overcoat, some silk handkerchiefs and some underwear.

"A total loss of over five hundred dollars," said Tom.

At this the hotel clerk gave a long whistle.

"As much as that?"

"Yes," said Dick.

"We must get on the track of the thief, and without delay."

"I reckon I know the thief," said Sam.

"You think it was Dan Baxter?" questioned his elder brother.

"I do."

"Perhaps you are right. But there is no proof that he did it."

The hotel clerk found the windows closed and locked.

"The thief came in and went out by the door," he said. "The hall boys or somebody else must have seen him. This key is stuck in the lock, which proves that it is not a regular hotel key."

Without delay the story of the robbery was telephoned to the nearest police station, and soon two detectives appeared. By this time some of the servants noticed that something was wrong, and the waiter who had seen Dan Baxter come in and go out told his story, to which the boys, the hotel clerk, and the detectives listened with interest.

"Tell us just how that fellow looked," said Dick, and the waiter gave a very good description of the person he had seen.

"I imagine Sam is right," said Dick. "If it wasn't Dan Baxter it was his double."

Upon hearing this the hotel clerk and the detectives insisted upon knowing who Dan Baxter was, and the boys told as much of the bully as they deemed necessary.

"Of course, if he is guilty the chances are that he will leave San Francisco as soon as possible," said one of the detectives. "The best we can do is to try to head him off."

"And we'll do our best to find him, too," added Tom.

"I think the hotel ought to be responsible for this robbery," said Dick.

"You didn't leave your key at the desk when you went out," cried the hotel clerk, struck by a sudden idea.

"What of that?" asked Tom.

"That makes the guest responsible."

"What!" cried Tom, aghast.

"We are responsible only when the key is left at the desk. And jewels must be left for keeping in one of our safes," went on the clerk. "There are our rules," and he pointed to the printed form tacked on the inside of the door.

"Don't let us talk about that just now," said one of the detectives. "I think we can get hold of this thief, and if we are quick about it we'll get everything he took, too."

The matter was talked over for a quarter of an hour longer and then the detectives went off to make their report and to follow on the trail of Dan Baxter, if such a thing was possible.

It must be confessed that the three Rover boys slept but little that night. The loss of the cash was something of a serious matter to them, even though they still possessed a hundred odd dollars in cash between them, and could easily telegraph home for more. More than this, the diamonds and cuff buttons had been gifts of which they were very proud.

"And to think that Dan Baxter should get them," said Tom. "I wouldn't feel half so bitter if it had been just some ordinary sneak thief."

And the others said the same. Two days went by and nothing was learned concerning Dan Baxter further than that he had put up at the Montgomery Hotel for one night and had left early in the morning.

"He is hundreds of miles away from here by this time," said Dick sadly.

"He said he would get square, and I guess he has done it," returned Tom.

But Dan Baxter had not gotten as far as they supposed. He was in hiding in Oakland, across the bay, having pawned the diamonds at a pawn broker's of shady reputation for seventy-five dollars. This gave him three hundred and fifty dollars in cash, which made him, for the time being, feel quite rich.

But he was afraid to take a train to some other town, and so remained in the boarding house for nearly a week, under the assumed name of Robert Brown.

At the end of the fifth day Dan Baxter became acquainted with a seafaring man named Jack Lesher. Lesher was a rough fellow, who had sailed to many ports on the Pacific Ocean. He had now obtained the position of first mate on a large schooner which was to sail in a few days from San Francisco to several ports in Australia.

"I'd like to go on that trip to Australia," said Baxter, thinking of his distant relative. "Do you want a passenger?"

"I'll see about it, my hearty," replied Jack Lesher, and on the following day said that Captain Blossom would take him for an even hundred dollars. A bargain was struck at once, and Dan Baxter went on board of the schooner Golden Wave that afternoon.

"I'm glad I am out of it," he told himself, when snug on board of the craft. "I'll get to Australia after all, and I'm considerably richer than I thought I would be. More than that, I've got in on those Rover boys in a way they won't forget in a hurry."

While the detectives looked for the thief, the boys had small heart to go sight-seeing. Every time they, went out they looked for Dan Baxter.

"If only I could meet him!" cried Tom. "Oh, but wouldn't I just punch him good before I passed him over to a policeman."

During those days the lads received several letters from home, and also three communications from the Stanhopes and the Lanings.

"The Stanhopes have gone to Santa Barbara," announced Dick, after perusing an epistle from Dora. "And she says her mother Is slightly better."

"Nellie Laning is coming out, and so is Grace," said Tom.

"When?" questioned Dick.

"They have already started, according to the letter I have," put in Sam. "Boys, I think we can have just the jolliest time ever was when the girls are all together."

"Right you are," came from Tom. "What a pity we had to have that robbery to darken our fun."

"I am not going to let it darken my fun," said Dick. "Don't worry but what some day we'll get the best of Dan Baxter. That stolen stuff will never do him much good."

The very next morning came word from the detectives. One of them called at the hotel.

"I am afraid the case is queered," said he. "We tracked the rascal to Oakland, and now it looks as if he had given us the slip for good."

"Can't you find any trace of him?" questioned Sam.

"Oh, yes! but he has shipped on a vessel which is bound for Australia, and as she is already two days out of port he is out of our reach."

"You are certain he went on that vessel?" cried Tom.

"Yes. He went as a passenger, under the name of Robert Brown."

"And did he take the jewels and money with him?"

"More than likely. At any rate, we can find no trace of the jewels."

"Then that chase is done for," said Dick, "and we shall have to pocket our loss."

The detective was chagrined to think that he had tracked Dan Baxter only to lose him, and promised to see if anything more could be done in the matter.

But nothing could be done, as there was no telling when the Golden Wave would arrive at Australia, and what port the craft would first make.

"We have seen the last of Dan Baxter," said Sam.

But the youngest Rover was mistaken. They were to meet the bully again, and under circumstances as astonishing as they were perilous.