Chapter V. A Never-to-Be-Forgotten Swim
 

"I've got him fast! Help! Help!"

"Tom's caught the bear!" shouted Sam. "Can you hold him, Tom?"

"I guess I can if some of you will help me!" panted the youth. "Hurry up!"

Sam and Dick were on the stairs, but now both ran to their brother's assistance, and all three pushed upon the door with all of their strength.

The barrier groaned and creaked and it looked as if at any instant it would burst from its hinges.

"Gracious, we can't hold him very long!" gasped Sam. "Can't somebody hit the animal with a club?"

"I reckon I can do dat!" shouted one of the hostlers, and caught up an ax-handle which stood in one corner. As he approached the bear, the beast uttered a roar of commingled rage and fear, and this was so terrorizing to the colored man that he dropped the ax-handle and ran for his very life.

"Come back here!" cried Tom.

"Can't do it, boss; he's gwine ter chew me up!" howled the hostler.

"Hold the door -- I'll hit him," put in Sam and he picked up the ax-handle. Stepping forward, struck out heavily, and the bear dropped in a completely dazed and more than half choked to death.

By this time the Italian was again at hand. In one pocket he carried a thin but strong line, in a twinkle he had tied one fore and one leg together, so that the bear, when he got again, could do little but hobble along. Then another pocket he drew a leather muzzle, which he buckled over the beast's head. But bear had had all of the ugliness knocked out him and was once more as docile as ever.

"Tom," whispered Dick. "I guess the best we can do is to get out of this place. If folks discover the trick you played, they'll mob you."

"I guess you're right. But who'll settle our bill?"

"I'll do that," said Sam. "They know I wasn't near the bear when the rumpus started."

So it was agreed, and while Tom and Dick left hotel grounds Sam strolled into the office to pay their bill. It was some time before the clerk came to wait on him.

"Say, I believe, your brother started this kick-up," observed the clerk.

"What?" demanded Sam, in pretended astonishment.

"I say, I think he started this kick-up."

"What kick-up?"

"The one with the bear, of course."

"Why, my brothers helped to catch the beast."

"I know that; but one of 'em started it. What do you want?"

"I want to pay our bill. How much is it?"

"Going to leave?"

"Yes."

"Think you had better, eh?"

"We only hired our room until this noon." Sam drew himself up. "If you want your pay you be civil."

"Yes, but -" The clerk broke off short. "That will be six dollars, please."

"All right, there you are," and Sam shoved the bills over. "Now don't say we created a muss or I'll report you to the proprietor."

"Yes, but see here --"

"I've not got my glasses just now. Good-by, and -"

"That man hasn't got his monkeys yet, and -"

"What's that to you? Are you afraid the proprietor will put one of 'em in here in your place?" And before the clerk could say another word Sam ran off and joined his brothers at the river bank.

Soon the three reached the dock where the Spray lay undergoing repairs. The deaf man was, just finishing his work.

"She'll be about as good as ever," he said, in reply to Dick's question. "She's a fine boat."

"I guess he says that of every boat that brings him in a job," murmured Sam. "Come on."

He went aboard and the others followed. Dan Haskett was paid off, the mainsail was hoisted, and once more they stood up the river in the direction of the State capital. It was their intention to spend two days in Albany and then return to New York with the yacht. This would wind up their vacation, for Putnam Hall was to open on the following Monday.

The day proved an ideal one, but the wind was light and the yacht scarcely moved even with the mainsail and jib set to their fullest. This being so, the boys got out their fishing lines and spent an hour in trolling, and succeeded in catching several fair-sized fish.

"We'll have to cook our own dinner," remarked Dick. "Tom, since you did us out of our meal at the hotel I reckon you are the one to fall in for this work."

At this Tom cut a wry face, but still, seeing the justice of his elder brother's remark, he went at the dinner-getting with a will. The yacht boasted a kerosene stove, and over this he set fish to frying and a pot of potatoes to boiling. As the river was calm and the yacht steady the little stove worked very well.

They were still out of sight of Albany when the midday meal was pronounced ready. In addition to the articles already mentioned, they had coffee, bread and butter, and what was left of a cocoanut pie purchased the day previous. The boys were all hearty eaters, and the food disappeared as if by magic.

After dinner the breeze died out utterly, and Sam proposed that they cast anchor close to shore and take a swim. The others were willing, and soon they had disrobed and donned their bathing trunks and were sporting in the water to their hearts' content.

The water was somewhat colder than they had anticipated, and the effect upon Sam was disastrous. The youngest Rover had eaten more heartily than either of his brothers and this made him sick at the stomach. However, as he did not wish to alarm Dick and Tom and so spoil their fun, he said nothing about his condition.

"Let us race each other," suggested Tom, and started off up the shore, with Dick close beside him. Sam brought up in the rear, but soon gave up the contest.

"Help!" The single cry reached the ears of Tom and Dick when they were fully a hundred feet from the Spray. Both turned just in time to behold Sam throw up his arms and sink from view.

"Great Caesar!" burst out Dick. "What can that mean?"

"Maybe he is only fooling," replied Tom.

"Yet I wouldn't think he would be so foolish."

"I don't think Sam is fooling," said Dick seriously, and at once struck out to where the youngest Rover had gone down. Of course Tom went with him.

To reach the spot was not an easy matter, and they were still some distance away when they saw Sam come up again. Then there was a wild circling of arms and the boy disappeared once more.

"He is drowning!" gasped Dick hoarsely.

"Come, we must save him, Tom!"

"Yes, yes," was the puffing answer, for Tom was swimming as never before, and for a brief instant he remembered that awful adventure Sam had had at Humpback Falls, the summer previous. At that time the youngest Rover had nearly lost his life in the water.

It was Dick who gained the spot first, just as Sam came up and went down again -- totally unconscious. Diving, the elder Rover caught his brother around the chest, under the arms.

"Sam, Sam, what is it?" he questioned, and as no reply came back his heart almost stopped beating. What if his brother was dead? The agony of the thought was terrible beyond description.

"Can I help you?" The question came from Tom, who was now at the side of the others.

"Catch hold of one arm, if you will," answered Dick. "He's a dead weight."

"Oh!" The moan came so unexpectedly that both Tom and Dick were amazed. Then of a sudden Sam opened his eyes and clutched Dick by the throat. "Save me!"

Clearly the youngest Rover was out of his mind or he would not have taken such a hold. As it was, Dick was nearly strangled and had to unlock the fingers by sheer force. Then Sam grabbed him again, and it looked as if both would go down to a watery grave.

But now Tom came to the rescue. Swimming up from behind, he caught Sam first under one arm -- and then under the other, in a back-to-back fashion. Then he bent forward and began to tread water, thus holding his brother's head well out of water.

"Push us ashore, Dick!" he panted, and understanding the movement perfectly, the elder brother did as desired. Soon all three gained a point from which Tom could wade to the river bank with ease.

It was an anxious pair that bent over Sam, who rested on his back with his eyes closed. But the youngest Rover was not allowed to remain long in that position. Tom and Dick knew something of how to handle a person who is nearly drowned, and they now made use of this knowledge with all speed. Sam was rolled and hoisted up by the ankles, and thus he got rid of a large quantity of the water he had swallowed.

Yet even when he came to his senses he was too weak to walk, and Tom had to bring the Spray close to shore, and the sufferer had to be carried on board, his brothers wading up to their waists for that purpose.

"The first cramp I got was in the stomach," said Sam, when he could talk. "Then it went all over me like an electric shock, and I felt I was going to drown. What happened after that was like some awful dream!" And he shuddered. It was a long while before any of them got over that adventure.