“We have no desire to do any trespassing,” was the response to this veiled threat. “But I want to answer you with a clear statement of our position. We are here with a purpose and we don’t intend to be turned aside from that purpose. To get down to brass tacks, three boys, one of them my son, have disappeared under remarkable circumstances from this island, and the indications point directly toward you men as responsible for their disappearance. What your motive is I have no idea, but you may be sure that it will be fathomed, and now that we have you in our power, we don’t intend to let you get away from us. We are armed with automatic pistols that shoot like machine guns and one move either toward or from us, contrary to order, will start them barking. Now, my instruction to you is that you drop those clubs and come forward, one at a time, and allow my companion to search you for weapons.”
As he spoke, Mr. Baker drew his pistol from one of his trouser pockets, and Cub did likewise. Instantly the scowls disappeared from the faces of the four men and were succeeded by looks suggestive of panic.
“There’s no need of any such action by you,” said the leader of the invaders with plaintive whine. “We ain’t done nothin’ out o’ the way. We did drive those kids off o’ the island, but we didn’t hurt ’em. They’re all right, and we c’n take you to ’em any time you want to go.”
“How could you drive them off of here when they had no boat to go in?” Mr. Baker demanded.
“Oh, we took ’em in our boat and put ’em on another island. If you’ll agree to go away from here we’ll produce those boys and land you anywhere you want to go.”
“Why is it you’re so anxious to have us go?” demanded Mr. Baker. “Is there something going on here that you don’t want the authorities to know anything about?”
This shot seemed to throw confusion into the ranks of the visitors, judging from the expressions of their countenances. But their spokesman attempted to brush the inference aside as of no consequence to them by answering:
“That’s foolish. If you think there’s anything bad going on here, just bring on the police and investigate; but we don’t intend to have anybody on these islands who hasn’t any right here.”
“Very well, we’ll make a test of the question of rights so there won’t be any dispute about it hereafter,” said Mr. Baker. “Robert, will you call your friend at Rockport and tell him to send some officers here for four prisoners, but keep your weather eye on these fellows meanwhile and your pistol beside you ready for instant use.”
Cub did as directed and soon was dot-and-dashing a thrilling message to Max Handy, who had been waiting apprehensively all this time for an explanation of the island operator’s protracted silence.
Meanwhile the four prisoners held a furtive conference among themselves, and after Cub had finished his telegraphic conversation with the Canadian amateur, the leader of the worthy quartet addressed Mr. Baker as follows: