“Well, let’s see,” Mr. Baker continued. “How can I present the matter so as to start you out right? Perhaps you will be willing to tell me who you are and what your business is. But first. I’ll be fair and introduce myself. My Name is James C. Baker. I live in Port Hope, and my business is that of hay, grain and feed merchant. Now, will you tell me your name? One of your friends called you Captain. Do you run a boat on the river?”
Whether the fellow was about to reply or would continue in stubborn silence may not be known, for the thus-far-one-sided conversation was suddenly interrupted by a shout of eager joy from the pacing boy sentinel.
“Oh, there they come, there they come,” the latter shouted. “There are Hal and Bud.”
Sure enough, two boys had just emerged from the narrow belt of bushes between the camp area and the only practical landing place of the island.
The “Crusoe Mystery” Deepens
“Now, where have you boys been? Did those men take you away? Where did they take you? Did you escape? How did you escape?”
This rapid-fire succession of questions was hurled by Cub at Hal and Bud as they approached the place where Mr. Baker was quizzing his prisoner under the protection of the boy sentinel against a surprise attack from the prisoner’s friends. Some of these questions were encouraged by nods and smiles of assent to preceding interrogatories.
“Yes, yes, but one question at a time,” Hal replied. “You’re on the right track, Cub, but that isn’t the way to get our story out of us. I see you have one of the rascals a prisoner. Keep him. He’s the worst of the bunch.”
The “rascal” winced at the characterization.
“Who are they, anyway,” asked Cub. “What are they doing here? Do they own this island?”
“Now, you’ve added three more questions,” Hal remarked with a smile, for he was much pleased at the opportunity to tease the tall and usually super-wise youth in something of the latter’s characteristic manner. “We can’t answer all your questions, Cub, but we know there’s a mystery about this fellow and his friends, and I suppose we’ll have to wait for your father’s mathematics to solve it.”
“Was it those four men who made prisoners of you?” inquired Cub, who, in his eagerness to get some definite information, resolved to ask one question at a time and pursue his inquiry in an orderly manner.
“Yes,” Hal replied.
“They grabbed me first while I was down at the landing,” put in Bud, who was almost as impatient to tell the story as Cub was to hear it. “I went down there when I saw a rowboat pulling up and didn’t recognize the men in it until they came ashore. I thought they were still on the island, for when they left us a few hours before, they didn’t go toward the landing, and we didn’t see them go toward it since then. I hollered when they grabbed me, and Hal came rushing to see what was the matter.”