Chapter II. The Encounter on the River
 

For the instant after the collision occurred none of the Rover boys uttered a word. Tom and Sam stared in amazement at Mumps, while Dick gazed helplessly at the damage done.

"Pull her away, quick, Bill!" cried Mumps in a low voice to the old sailor, who at once sprang forward and shoved the two yachts apart with a long boat-hook. Then the rudder of the Falcon was put hard a port, and she swung, away for a distance of half a dozen yards.

"We are sinking!" gasped Tom, who was the first of the three brothers to find his voice.

"Mumps, you rascal, what do you mean by this work?" demanded Dick. And then, without waiting for an answer, he turned to Sam. "Steer for the shore and beach her -- if you can."

"I don't believe we can make it, Dick. But we can try."

"We'll have you locked up for this, Mumps," shouted Tom.

"I couldn't help It -- it was an accident," returned the former sneak of Putnam Hall glibly. "You should have kept out of the way."

"We'll see about that later on."

"Maybe you want us to help you."

"We shan't ask you for the favor," burst out Sam. "I'd rather drown first." But Sam did not exactly mean this. He and his brothers could all swim, and he felt certain that they were in no immediate danger of their lives.

"You had better not ask any favors. I wouldn't pick you up for a barrel of money."

"I think we'll have to settle this in court, Mumps," said Dick, as quietly as he could.

"You can't prove I ran you down."

"Don't you dare to have us hauled up," put in Bill Goss. "It was an accident, jest as John says. I reckon as how it will teach ye a lesson not to follow us ag'in."

By this time the two yachts were once more so far apart that talking from one to the other became difficult. Besides this, the Rover boys felt that they must turn their whole attention to the Spray, so no more was said.

The yacht had been struck just at the water line and the hole made in her side was all of six inches in diameter. Through this the water was pouring into the hold at a lively rate.

"We're going down as sure as guns," groaned Tom. "Steer her right for the shore, Sam." This was done, and just as the Spray began to settle they ran upon a muddy and rocky flat about thirty feet from the river bank proper.

"There, we can't go down now," said Dick, with something of a sigh of relief. "Let us lower the mainsail and jib before the wind sends us over on our beam ends."

The others understood the value of the advice, and soon the mainsail of the yacht came down with a bang, and the jib followed. The Spray seemed inclined to list to port, but stopped settling when her deck line touched the surface of the river.

"That settles yachting for the present," said Dick in deep disgust.

"And the worst of it is, we haven't even a small boat to go ashore in," added Sam. "What's to do?"

"There is a rowboat putting out from the shore now," cried Tom. "Hullo, there!" he shouted, and waved his hand.

The shout was returned, and the rowboat was headed, in their direction. As it came closer they saw that its occupant was a middle-aged man of pleasant appearance.

"So you had a smash-up, eh?" shouted the man, as soon as he came near. "Anybody hurt?"

"Our boat is hurt," answered Tom dryly.

"Much of a hole?"

"Big enough to put us on the bottom."

"So I see. Want me to take you ashore?"

"Yes," put in Dick, "if you will be kind enough to do it."

"Certainly; always willing to aid anybody in distress. That other craft run you down in short order, didn't she?" "Did you see it?" burst out Sam eagerly.

"To be sure I did."

"Then you know it was her fault."

"I do. She had no right to follow you up as she did."

"I'm glad you saw the mix-up, Mr..."

"Martin Harris is my name. I'm an old boatman around here -- keep boats to hire, and the like. And who is this I'm to take ashore?"

"My name is Sam Rover. These are my two brothers, Dick and Tom."

"Do you know who it was ran into you?"

"It was the Falcon, a yacht owned by a Mr. Fenwick. His son and a man he called Bill Goss were aboard."

At this Martin Harris drew down his mouth. "A bad set, those. I know 'em well."

"And we know, Fenwick, too," put in Dick, "He's a regular sneak."

"That's right -- takes after his father, who did his best to defraud me in a boat deal. And that Bill Goss is a sneak, too, and worse," and Martin Harris shook his head decidedly.

"Well, we can't talk about those people now," said Dick. "We're in a mess and must get out of it the best way we can. As you are an old boatman, what would you advise us to do?"

"Come ashore with me and then get Dan Haskett to take your boat in charge and fix her up. He can stop that leak somehow and pump her out and have her all right inside of twenty-four hours."

"Where can we find this Haskett?"

"Come into my boat and I'll take you to him."

The rowboat was now close at hand, and one after another the Rover boys stowed themselves away in the craft. Then Martin Harris took up the oars and started for the river bank. He turned down the stream a bit and landed them at an old dock over which hung the sign: "Daniel Haskett, Boat Builder and Repairer jobs Promptly Attended to -- Charges Small."

Dan Haskett proved to be an elderly man, who was somewhat deaf, and it took the boys some time to make him understand the situation.

"We've had a smash-up," began Dick.

"Cash up?" said the deaf man. "Cash UP to what?"

"We've had a smash-up!" repeated the boy in a louder tone. "We want our boat mended."

"What's ended?" asked the boat builder. "Your boat?"

"Almost ended," roared Tom. "We-want you-to-fix-up-our-boat," he yelled.

"Oh, all right. Where is she?"

Dick pointed with his finger, and at once the boat builder understood. "There's a hole in her side," bawled the boy. "We want it patched up."

"All right; I can do that."

"Can we have her by tomorrow?"

"How's that?" And Dan Haskett placed his hand to his ear.

"Can-we-have-her-by-tomorrow?" yelled Dick.

"I guess so. I'll have to see how badly she is damaged first."

Haskett got out a small boat of his own and, taking Dick with him, rowed over to the wreck. He pronounced the injury small and said the boys could have their boat by noon the next day. The charges would be twelve or fifteen dollars.

"We'll be getting off cheaper than I thought," said Tom, on Dick's return. "Ought to come out of Mumps' pocket."

"That's so," added Sam. "By the way, I wonder what he meant by saying we were dogging him?"

"I can't say," replied Dick. "But I've been thinking that he can't be up to any good, or he wouldn't be so suspicious."

"Just exactly my idea!" burst out Tom. "Do you know what I half imagine?"

"Well?"

"That Mumps is cruising around waiting for Dan Baxter to join him."

"But Baxter went to Chicago."

"He won't stay there -- not as long as his father is in the East. He will be back before long, if he isn't back already."

"But he took that money belonging to hi! father."

"What of that? His father can't do anything against him, for he himself is worse than his son, as we all know. Besides, his father is most likely still in the hospital."

"If you young gentlemen want to sail around until tomorrow noon, I can take you out in one of my boats," remarked Martin Harris. "I've got a first-class yacht, the Searchlight, that I can let you have reasonably."

"Thanks, but I would just as lief stay on shore until our boat is mended," answered Dick. "But I want to pay you for what you did for us," he added.

"Oh, that's all right."

But the boys thought otherwise, and in the end gave Martin Harris two dollars, with which the boatman was highly pleased.

"Remember, I saw that accident," he said, on parting. "I can prove it was the Falcon's fault."

"We'll remember that," answered Dick.

From time to time they had watched the Falcon's course until the yacht had disappeared down the river.

After a short debate the brothers decided to put up at a hotel which stood not far away, on a high cliff overlooking the noble Hudson.

"We've been on the water for nearly two weeks now," said Dick, "and to sleep in a real bed will be something of a novelty."

As it was in the height of the summer season the hotel was crowded; but some guests were just departing, and they managed to get a fairly good room on the second floor. This had a double bed, and a cot was added, to accommodate Sam; Dick and Tom sleeping together, as usual.

It was supper time when the boys arrived, and as soon as they had registered and washed up and combed their hair, they descended to the spacious dining room, where fully a score of tables were set.

"This way, please," said the head waiter, and showed them to a table at one side, overlooking one of the wide verandas of the hotel.

"I'm as hungry as a bear!" exclaimed Tom. "You can't serve us any too quick," he added, to the waiter who came up to take their orders.

"Yes, sah, do the best I can, sah," grinned the colored man. "What kind of soup, please?"

"I'll have ox-tail -- " began Tom, when he happened to glance out of the window. As his gaze fell upon a man sitting in an easy chair on the veranda he uttered a low whistle. "By jinks, boys, look! Josiah Crabtree, as sure as you're born!" he whispered.