Chapter XVII. A Mishap in the Fog
 

"We have struck another vessel!"

"We are sinking!"

"How far are we from land?"

These and other cries rang out through the heavy fog, as the two crashes came, followed, a few seconds later, by a third.

Captain Barforth had left the steam yacht in charge of the first mate and was on the companionway going below. With two bounds he was on deck and running toward the bow at top speed.

"What was it? Have we a hole in the bow?" he questioned, of the frightened lookouts, who had been sent spinning across the slippery deck.

"Couldn't make out, captain--it was something black," said one lookout. "Black and square like."

"I think it was a bit of old wreckage," said the other. "Anyway, it wasn't another vessel, and it was too dark for a lumber raft."

"Is it out of sight?"

It was, and though all strained their eyes they could not make out what had been struck, nor did they ever find out.

From the deck the captain made his way below, followed by Mr. Rover, who was anxious to learn the extent of the injuries. In the meantime the ladies and girls had joined the boys on the deck, and the latter began to get out the life preservers.

The most excited man on board was Asa Carey, and without waiting for orders from the captain, he ordered two of the small boats gotten ready to swing overboard. Then he ran down to his stateroom, to get some of his possessions.

"Is we gwine to de bottom?" questioned Aleck, as he appeared, clad in a pair of slippers and a blanket.

"I don't know," answered Fred. "I hope not."

The boys had all they could do to keep the girls quiet, and Grace was on the point of becoming hysterical, which was not to be wondered at, considering the tremendous excitement.

"We cannot be so very far from one of the islands," said Dick. "And if the worst comes to the worst we ought to be able to make shore in the small boats."

"Are there enough boats?" asked Mrs. Laning.

"Yes, the steam yacht is well equipped with them."

The engine of the vessel had been stopped and the steam yacht lay like a log on the rolling waves. The shocks had caused some of the lights to go out, leaving the passengers in semi darkness.

"Oh, Dick, do you think we'll go down?" whispered Dora, as, she clung to his arm.

"Let us hope not, Dora," he answered and caught her closer. "I'll stick to you, no matter what comes!"

"Yes! yes! I want you to do that! And stick to mamma, too!"

"I will. But I don't think we'll go down just yet," he went on, after a long pause. "We seem to be standing still, that's all."

They waited, and as they did so he held her trembling hands tightly in his own. In that minute of extreme peril they realized how very much they were to one another.

At last, after what seemed to be hours, but, was in reality less than five minutes, Anderson Rover appeared.

"There is no immediate danger," said he. "We must have struck some sort of wreckage, or lumber float. There is a small hole in the bow, just above the water line, and several of the seams have been opened. Captain Barforth is having the hole closed up and has started up the donkey pump to keep the water low in the hold. He says he thinks we can make one of the nearby ports without great trouble."

This news removed the tension under which all were suffering, and a little later the ladies and the girls retired to the cabin, and Aleck stole back to his sleeping quarters. The boys went forward, to inspect the damage done, but in the darkness could see little.

"It was an accident such as might happen to any vessel," said the captain, later. "The lookouts were evidently not to blame. There are many derelicts and bits of lumber rafts scattered throughout these waters and consequently traveling at night or in a fog is always more or less dangerous.

"We shall have to put up somewhere for repairs, not so?" questioned Anderson Rover.

"It would be best, Mr. Rover. Of course we might be able to patch things ourselves, but, unless you are in a great hurry, I advise going into port and having it done. It will have to be done sooner or later anyway."

"Where do you advise putting in?"

Captain Barforth thought for a moment.

"I think we had better run over to Nassau, which is less than sixty miles from here. Nassau, as perhaps you know, is the capital city of the Bahamas, and has quite some shipping and we'll stand a good chance there of getting the right ship's--carpenters to do the work."

After some talk, it was decided to steer for Nassau, and the course of the Rainbow was changed accordingly. They now ran with even greater caution than before, and a strong searchlight was turned on at the bow, the surplus power from the engine being used for that purpose.

As my young readers may know, Nassau is located on New Providence Island, about two hundred miles east of the lower coast of Florida. It is under British rule and contains about fifteen thousand inhabitants. It is more or less of a health resort and is visited by many tourists, consequently there are several good hotels and many means of spending a few days there profitably.

The run to Nassau was made without further mishaps, and immediately on arriving the steam yacht was placed in the hands of some builders who promised to make the needed repairs without delay. The entire crew remained on board, as did Aleck Pop, but the Rovers and their friends put up at a leading hotel for the time being.

After the run on shipboard from Philadelphia to the Bahamas, the ladies and girls were glad enough to set foot again on land. After one day of quietness at the hotel the party, went out carriage riding, and, of course, the boys went along. They saw not a few unusual sights, and were glad they had their cameras with them.

"We'll have a dandy lot of pictures by the time we get home," said Sam.

"There is one picture I want more than any other," said Tom.

"One of Nellie, I suppose," and Sam winked.

"Oh, I've got that already," answered the fun-loving Rover unabashed.

"What's that you want?" asked Songbird.

"A picture of that treasure cave with us loading the treasure on the yacht."

"Now you are talking, Tom!" cried his older brother. "We all want that. I am sorry we have been delayed here."

"How long vos ve going to sthay here?" questioned Hans.

"The repairs will take the best part of a week, so the ship builders said."

"Ain't you afraid dot Sid Merrick got ahead of you?"

"I don't know. He may be on his way now, or he may not have started yet from New York."

"Oh, I hope we don't meet Merrick, or Sobber either!" cried Dora.

On the outskirts of the town was a fine flower garden where roses of unusual beauty were grown. One day the girls and ladies visited this and Dick and Songbird went along. In the meantime Tom and Sam walked down to the docks, to see how the repairs to the Rainbow were progressing, and also to look at the vessels going out and coming in.

"A vessel is due from New York," said Tom. "I heard them talking about it at the hotel."

"Let us see if there is anybody on board we know," answered his brother.

They walked to the spot where the people were to come in, and there learned that the steamer had sent its passengers ashore an hour before. A few were at the dock, taking care of some baggage which had been detained by the custom house officials.

"Well, I never!" exclaimed Tom. "If there isn't Peter Slade! What can he be doing here?"

Peter Slade had once been a pupil at Putnam Hall. He had been something of a bully, although not as bad as Tad Sobber. The boys had often played tricks on him and once Peter had gotten so angry he had left the school and never come back.

"Let us go and speak to him," said Sam.

"Maybe he won't speak, Sam. He was awful angry at us when he left the Hall."

"If he doesn't want to speak he can do the other thing," said the youngest Rover. "Perhaps he'll be glad to meet somebody in this out of the way place."

They walked over to where Peter Slade stood and both spoke at once. The other lad was startled at first and then he scowled.

"Humph! you down here?" he said, shortly.

"Yes," answered Tom, pleasantly enough. "Did you just get in on the steamer?"

"I don't know as that is any of your business, Tom Rover!"

"It isn't, and if you don't want to speak civilly, Slade, you haven't got to speak at all," said Tom, and started to move away, followed by his brother.

"Say, did you meet Tad Sobber and his un--" And then Peter Slade stopped short in some confusion.

"Did we meet who?" demanded Tom, wheeling around in some astonishment.

"Never mind," growled Peter Slade.

"Were they on the steamer?" asked Sam.

"I'm not saying anything about it."

"Look here, Slade, if they were on the steamer we want to know it," came from Tom.

"Really?" and the former bully of the Hall put as much of a sneer as possible into the word.

"We do, and you have got to tell us."

"I don't see why."

"You will if you are honest," said Sam. "You know as well as I do that Tad Sobber's uncle is a rascal and ought to be in prison."

"Tad says it isn't so--that his uncle didn't take those bonds-- that they were placed in his care to be sold at a profit, if possible."

"When did Tad tell you that?"

"Only a couple of days ago--I mean he told me, and that's enough."

"Then he told you while you were on the steamer," put in Tom.

"Yes, if you must know." Peter Slade's face took on a cunning look. "I guess Mr. Merrick and Tad will trim you good and proper soon."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Oh, I know a thing or two."

"Did they tell you what had brought them down here?"

"Maybe they did."

"Who was with them?"

"You had better ask them."

"Where are they?"

"That's for you to find out."

"See here, Slade, this is no way to talk," went on Tom earnestly. "If you know anything about Sid Merrick and his plans you had better tell us about them. If you don't I shall take it for granted that you are in league with that rascal and act accordingly."

"Yes, and that may mean arrest for you," added Sam.

Peter Slade was a coward at heart, and these suggestive words made him turn pale.

"I am not in league with them," he cried hastily. "I met them on the steamer by accident. Tad told me he and his uncle were going to get the best of you, but how he didn't say."

"Who was with them, come, out with it."

"A Spaniard named Doranez."

"Doranez!" cried both the Rover boys and looked suggestively at each other.

"Yes, do you know him?"

"We know of him," answered Tom slowly. "Where did they go?"

"I don't know exactly."

"Don't you know at all?"

"They were going to look for some tramp steamer that was to be here. If they found her they were going to sail at once to some other island," answered Peter Slade.