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- The Rover Boys on the Ocean - 2/38 -


jail yet?"

"Never mind Dan Baxter," growled Mumps, growing red in the face; and then the two yachts moved so far apart that further talk was impossible.

"Well, I didn't expect to meet him," muttered Dick, after the three brothers had cooled down a bit. "He must have known we were in this boat."

"I saw his craft last night, down near Catskill," said Tom. "I'll wager he has been following us up."

"He wouldn't do that unless he had some reason for it."

"I believe he would sink us if he could," put in Sam. "To my mind he is almost as bad as Baxter."

"Hardly, Sam; Dan Baxter is a thief and the son of a thief," came from Tom. "By the way, I wonder if Arnold Baxter is still in the hospital at Ithaca."

"More than likely, since he was so badly hurt by that fall from the train. If we -- Look, Mumps has turned around and is following us!"

Sam pointed to the Falcon, and his brothers saw that he was right. Soon the larger craft was again within hailing distance.

"Hi, Mumps, what are you following us for?" demanded, Dick, as he stepped up on the stern seat.

"Didn't know I was following you," was the sour rejoinder. "I have a right to sail where I please."

"If you have any game in mind I advise you not to try it on."

"What game would I have, Dick Rover?"

"Some game to get yourself into trouble."

"I know my own business."

"Alright, you can go about your business. But don't try to step on our toes - or you'll get the worst of it."

"So you're going to play the part of a bully?"

"No; I'm only giving you fair warning. If you let us alone we'll let you alone."

"You have been watching the movements of the Falcon since day before yesterday," went on Mumps, slowly and distinctly, as though he expected his words to have a great effect.

"Watching your boat - " began Dick and Tom simultaneously

"Yes, watching my boat - and I don't like it," answered Fenwick, and his face grew dark.

"Why should we watch your boat?" demanded Sam.

"Never mind why. You've been watching her, and that's enough."

"And why should we put ourselves out to that extent - when we are merely out for pleasure," said Dick. "There is no fun in watching a fellow like you, I'm sure."

"John is right; ye have been a-watchin' this boat," growled the old sailor named Bill Goss, who, it may be as well to state here, was thoroughly under his younger master's thumb for reasons best known to himself. "If I had my way I'd wollop the lot on ye!" And he shook his fist at the occupants of the Spray.

"You keep your oar out!" cried Dick sternly. "You are entirely mistaken in your suspicions. We are not spying on you or anybody, and if you -"

Dick was permitted to go no further. While Bill Goss was speaking to the Spray had been caught by a sudden puff of wind and sent over to starboard. Now the Falcon came on swiftly, and in an instant her sharp bow crashed into the Rover boy's boat. The shock of the collision caused the Spray to shiver from stem to stern, and then, with a jagged hole in her side, she began to slowly sink.

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."


The Rover Boys on the Ocean - 2/38

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