The Rover Boys on Land and Sea/Chapter 9
IN WHICH THE ENEMY IS CORNERED
The loud talking had attracted the attention of Captain Blossom, and now the master of the Golden Wave strode up to the crowd.
"What's going on here?" he demanded of the Rover boys. "Why are you not at work, as I ordered?"
"I have made an important discovery," answered Dick. "Is this your passenger, Captain Blossom?"
"He is. What of him?"
"He is a thief and ran away from San Francisco to escape the police."
"It's a falsehood!" roared Dan Baxter. "They have made a mistake. I am a respectable man just out of college, and my father, Doctor L. Z. Brown, is a well-known physician of Los Angeles. I am traveling to Australia for my health."
"His real name is Daniel Baxter and his father is now in prison," said Tom. "He robbed us of our money and some diamonds while we were stopping at a hotel in San Francisco. The detectives followed him up, but he slipped them by taking passage on your ship."
"I tell you my name is Brown—Robert Brown!" stormed Baxter. "This is some plot hatched up against me. Who are these fellows, anyway?" he went on, turning to the captain.
"They came from the steamer we ran into," answered Captain Blossom.
"I never saw them before."
At this moment Dora touched the captain on the shoulder.
"Please, captain," she said, "I knew Dan Baxter quite well and I am sure this young man is the same person."
"It aint so. I tell you, captain, it is a plot."
"What kind of a plot could it be?" asked Captain Blossom. He scarcely knew what to say.
"I don't know. Perhaps they want to get hold of my money," went on Baxter, struck by a sudden idea.
"That's right, we do want to get hold of the money!" cried Sam. "For it belongs to us—at least two hundred and seventy-five dollars of it—not counting what he may have got on the diamonds and the cuff buttons."
"You shan't touch my money!" screamed Baxter.
"Captain, he ought to be placed under arrest," said Dick.
Dora had gone back to the cabin and now she returned in great haste with Nellie and Grace.
"To be sure, that is Dan Baxter," said Nellie.
"There can be no mistake," put in Grace, "We all know him only too well."
"You see, Captain Blossom, that we are six to one," said Tom. "And you will surely believe the ladies."
"How is you all happen to know him so well?" demanded the captain curiously.
"We know him because we all went to school together," answered Dick. "These young ladies lived in the vicinity of the school. We had trouble with Baxter at school and later on out West, and ever since that time he has been trying to injure us. We met him in San Francisco in the hotel lobby and at night he went to our room, cut open a traveling bag and unlocked our trunks and robbed us of two hundred and seventy-five dollars in cash, some diamond studs, a pair of cuff buttons, and some clothing."
"I've got an idea!" almost shouted Sam. "Maybe he has some of the stolen stuff in his stateroom."
"Yes, yes, let us search the stateroom by all means!" exclaimed Tom.
"You shall not touch my room!" howled Baxter, turning pale. "I have nothing there but my own private property."
"If that is so, you shouldn't object to having the stateroom searched," observed Captain Blossom.
"If we get back our money we may be able to pay you something, captain, for our passage," said Dick.
This was a forceful argument and set Captain Blossom to thinking. He was a man who loved money dearly.
"I will go along and we will look around the stateroom," he said, after a pause.
"This is an outrage!" cried Dan Baxter. "I will have the law on you for it."
"Shut up! I am master on my own ship," retorted Captain Blossom, and led the way to the stateroom Dan Baxter occupied. The door was locked and Baxter refused to give up the key. But the captain had a duplicate, and soon he and the Rover boys were inside the room. Baxter followed them, still expostulating, but in vain.
"Here is a pocketbook full of bills!" cried Tom, bringing the article to light.
"Here is my light overcoat!" came from Dick. "See, it has my initials embroidered in the hanger. Aunt Martha did that for me."
"Here are my gold cuff buttons!" exclaimed Sam. "They were a present from my father and they have my monogram engraved on each." And he showed the articles to the captain.
"I reckon it's a pretty clear case against you," said Captain Blossom, turning to Dan Baxter.
"Here are half a dozen letters," said Tom, holding them up. "You can see they are all ad dressed to Daniel Baxter. That's his name, and he'd be a fool to deny it any longer."
"Well, I won't deny it," cried the big bully. "What would be the use—you are all against me even the captain."
"I am not against you," retorted Captain Blossom. "But if you are a thief I want to know it. Why did you give me your name as Robert Brown?"
"That's my business." Baxter paused for a moment. "Now you have found me out, what are you going to do about it?" he went on brazenly. "You can't arrest me on ship board."
"No, but we can have you arrested when we land," said Dick. "And in the meantime we will take charge of what is our own."
"Here are some pawn tickets for the diamonds," said Sam, who was continuing the search. "They show he got seventy-five dollars on them."
"We will keep the tickets and the seventy-five dollars, too if we can find the money," said Tom.
But the money could not be found, for the greater part had been turned over to Captain Blossom for Baxter's passage to Australia and the rest spent before leaving shore. The pocketbook contained only two hundred and thirty dollars.
"What did he pay you for the passage?" questioned Dick of the captain.
"One hundred dollars."
"Then you ought to turn that amount over to our credit."
"Why, what do you mean?"
"I mean that Dan Baxter has no right to a free passage on your ship, since he bought that passage with our money. Let him work his way and place that passage money to our credit."
"That's the way to talk," put in Tom. "Make him work by all means."
"He deserves good, hard labor," came from Sam.
"I don't think you can make me work!" burst out Dan Baxter. "I am a passenger and I demand that I be treated as such."
"You are an impostor!" returned Captain Blossom bluntly. "The fact that you used an assumed name proves it. If I wanted to do so, I could clap you in the ship's brig until we reach port and chain you into the bargain. I want no thieves on board my ship."
"Here is more of our clothing," came from Tom.
"Pick out all the things that are yours," said the captain. "And take the other things that are yours, too."
This was done, nobody paying any attention to Baxter's protests. When the Rovers had what there was of their things the captain turned to the bully.
"I've made up my mind about you," he said, speaking with great deliberation. "I am master here, and a judge and jury into the bargain. You can take your choice: Either sign articles as a foremast hand for the balance of the trip, or be locked up as a prisoner, on prison rations."
"Do you mean th—that?" gasped Baxter, turning pale.
"But the passage money——"
"Goes to the credit of these young fellows."
"It's an outrage!"
"No, it's simply justice, to my way of thinking. I'll give you until to-morrow to make up your mind what you will do."
This ended the talk with Dan Baxter. The captain said he wanted to see the Rover boys in the cabin, and they followed him to that place.
"Captain, I feel I must thank you for your fair way of managing this affair," said Dick, feeling that a few good words at this point would not go amiss. "I hope you treat Baxter as he deserves."
"I will try to do right," was Captain Blossom's answer. "But what I want to know now is, What do you intend to do with that money? It seems to me I should be paid something for keeping you on board."
"I have a proposition to make, captain. We will give you two hundred dollars if you will allow us to consider ourselves passengers. And by 'us' I mean the young ladies as well as ourselves."
"It's not very much."
"If we pay you that amount it will leave us but thirty dollars, hardly enough with which to cable home for more. Of course, when we get our money in Australia we will pay you whatever balance is due you,—and something besides for saving us."
This pleased Captain Blossom and he said he would accept the offer. The matter was discussed for half an hour, and it was decided that the boys should have two staterooms, the one occupied by Baxter and another next to that given over to the girls.
When Dora, Nellie, and Grace heard of the new arrangement that had been made they were highly pleased.
"I didn't want to see you do the work of a common sailor," said Dora to Dick.
"Oh, it wouldn't kill me," he returned lightly. "Even as it is, I'll give a hand if it is necessary."
"It's a wonder Captain Blossom took to your offer so quickly."
"He loves money, that's why, Dora. He would rather have that two hundred dollars than our services," and with this remark Dick hit the nail squarely on the head.