JACK RANGER'S WESTERN TRIP
From Boarding School to Ranch and Range
I. FUN AT WASHINGTON HALL II. JACK IN TROUBLE III. A THREATENING LETTER IV. A LESSON IN CHEMISTRY V. TURNING THE TABLES VI. A PLAN THAT FAILED VII. FOILING A PLOT VIII. THE BURGLAR SCARE IX. NAT'S INVITATION X. A MEETING WITH CHOWDEN XI. A GRAND WIND-UP XII. HO! FOR THE WEST XIII. AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE XIV. PROFESSOR PUNJAB'S TRICK XV. SHOOTING AN OIL WELL XVI. MR. POST'S ADVENTURE XVII. THE WILD STEER XVIII. THE OLD STOCKMAN XIX. A THIEF IN THE NIGHT XX. A STRANGE SEANCE XXI. FINDING ORION TEVIS XXII. JACK HEARS OF HIS FATHER XXIII. ON THE RANCH XXIV. THE OLD MAN XXV. THE COWBOY'S TRICK XXVI. JACK'S WILD RIDE XXVII. THE CATTLE STAMPEDE XXVIII. HUNTING MOUNTAIN LIONS XXIX. LOST ON THE MOUNTAIN XXX. A VIEW OF GOLDEN GLOW XXXI. JACK AND NAT PRISONERS XXXII. THE ESCAPE XXXIII. DOWN THE SLUICEWAY XXXIV. JACK'S GREAT FIND XXXV. THE ROUND-UP—CONCLUSION
FUN AT WASHINGTON HALL
"Now then, are you all ready?" inquired a voice in a hoarse whisper.
"Galloping grasshoppers! We're as ready as we ever will be, Jack Ranger!" replied one from a crowd of boys gathered on the campus of Washington Hall that evening in June.
"Nat Anderson, if you speak again, above a whisper," said Jack Ranger, the leader, sternly, "you will have to play 'Marching Through Georgia' as a solo on a fine tooth comb seven times without stopping!"
"Sneezing snakes! 'Nuff said!" exclaimed Nat, this time in the required whisper. "Playing combs always makes my lips tickle."
"Now then, is every one ready?" asked Jack again. "If you are, come on, for it's getting late and we'll have to do this job quick and be back before Dr. Mead thinks it is time to send Martin the monitor after us. Forward march!"
Then the crowd of boys, from the boarding school of Dr. Henry Mead, known as Washington Hall, but sometimes called Lakeside Academy, from the fact that it was on Rudmore Lake, in the town of Rudmore, started forth on mischief bent.
It was Jack Ranger's idea,—any one could have told that. For Jack was always up to some trick or other. Most of the tricks were harmless, and ended in good-natured fun, for Jack was one of the best-hearted lads in the world. This time he had promised his chums at the academy something new, though the term, which was within a month of closing, had been anything but lacking in excitement.
"Fred Kaler, have you got your mouth organ with you?" asked Jack, turning to a lad just behind him.
"He always has his mouth-organ, or how could he speak?" asked an athletic looking lad walking beside Jack.
"That's a poor joke, Sam Palmer," commented Jack, and he ducked just in time to avoid a playful fist Sam shot out.
"Want me to play?" asked Fred.
"Play? You couldn't play in a hundred years," broke in Nat Anderson, Jack's best chum. "But make a noise like music."
"Play yourself, if you're so smart!" retorted Fred.
"Simultaneous Smithereens!" cried Nat, using one of his characteristic expressions. "Don't get mad. Go ahead and play."
"Yes, liven things up a bit," went on Jack. "Give us a good marching tune. We're far enough off now so none at the Hall can hear us."
Fred blew a lively air and the score of boys behind him began to march in step.
"What is it this time?" asked Sam in a low tone, of Jack. "You haven't let on a word."
"We're going to administer a deserved rebuke to a certain character in this town," Jack answered. "You've heard of Old Smelts, haven't you?"
"That fellow who's always beating his wife and hitting his little girl?"
"That's the old chap. Well, I heard he just got out of the lock-up for being too free with his fists on the little girl. Now if there's anything that makes me mad it's to see a kid hurt, girl or boy, it doesn't matter. I've got a surprise in store for Mr. Smelts."
"What is it?"
"You've heard of the Klu-Klux-Klan, I suppose?"
"You mean that southern society that made such a stir during the Civil War?"
"That's the one. We're going to be Klu-Klux-Klaners to-night."
"But we haven't got any uniforms."
"You'll find them in yonder wood!" exclaimed Jack in tragic tones, and he pointed to a clump of trees just ahead.
"What's this, amateur theatricals?" asked Nat, catching the last words.
"Maybe," replied Jack. "Now Fred you can pay off your orchestra," he added. "I want to do a little monologue."
The boys crowded around Jack, and he told them what he had related to Sam.
"I have provided the necessary uniforms to enable us to take the part of Klu-Klux-Klaners," he said. "Old Smelts is a southerner and knows the significance of the thing. We'll throw a good scare into him, and maybe he'll let his wife and daughter alone. Now we're to put on the sheets and the tall white helmets, and you leave the rest to me. Do just as I do when we get to Smelts's house."
"Hemispheres and hot handkerchiefs!" exclaimed Nat. "This is going some!"
Jack went to the foot of a big hollow tree, from which he pulled a large bundle. This he opened and showed a number of ghostly uniforms. He distributed these among the boys, who at once donned them, making a weird looking band in the little glade.
"Every one stand still until I put the finishing touches on," commanded Jack.
With a bottle of phosphorous he outlined waving flame lines around the holes cut for eyes, nose, and mouth on each white-shrouded figure,
"Now we're ready," announced the leader. "Smelts's house is just beyond this wood. Follow me, and, Fred, when you see me put my hand on my head that means I want slow tremulous music, like they have in the theater when, the heroine is dying."
"Your wishes shall be obeyed," spoke Fred, in hollow tones, whereat the others laughed.
"Silence!" commanded Jack.
It was a good thing those in charge of Washington Hall could not see the pupils just then. If they had the prank would have cost the participators dear. But, after all, as Jack said, it was in a good cause. On they went until their leader held up a warning hand.
"Arrange yourselves in a circle about me," he whispered. "I am going to beard the lion in his den."
He walked up to a small cottage that stood some distance from any other dwellings on a lonely street in the village, and knocked loudly.
"Who's there?" came a voice, in answer, a few seconds later from an upper window.
"Tobias Smelts, come forth!" called Jack in deep tones. "We would hold speech with thee!"
The boys could see a man thrust his head further out of the casement.
"Come forth and linger not!" called Jack.
"Oh! Oh! It's the Klu-Kluxers! It's the Klan! They're after me!" exclaimed Smelts. "Oh, what shall I do?"
"Come forth if ye would not have us drag ye out!" cried Jack. "We have business with thee!"
"What'll I do?" wailed Tobias.
"Better go 'fore they come in here after ye," a woman's voice could be heard to say. "Remember what they did to Pete Baker in South Caroliny!"
The head was drawn in, with many a groan.
"Get ready, he's coming," whispered Jack.
A few minutes later a very much frightened man, clad in his shirt and trousers came out on the front steps, around which the boys in their ghostly disguise were gathered.
"Advance!" commanded Jack, and Tobias, his knees trembling, walked on until he stood in the midst of the frolicking students.
"Bind him to the stake!" commanded the leader.
A small, pointed stake had been prepared and with a hammer it was driven into the ground. Then the man was fastened to it with several coils of clothes line.
"Now the faggots!" said Jack, and the boys dropped some pieces of wood at the victims feet. A second later Jack had emptied the phial of phosphorous over the wood, and the lurid light shone forth.
"They're burning me alive!" yelled Tobias. "Save me!"
"This is the fate dealt out to all who beat their wives and children!" chanted Jack. At the same time he raised his hand to his head and Fred played tremulous music on the harmonica, lending a weirdness to the scene.
"Please don't kill me, good Mr. Klu-Klux-Klan men," begged Tobias. "I'll never do it again. I promise you I never will!"
"Do you promise by the great seal of the United States?" inquired Jack, in sepulchral accents.
"Yes, Oh yes; I'll promise anything!"
"'Tis well! This was but the first trial by fire. The next time will be more severe!" and with that Jack kicked aside the phosphorous covered sticks and signaled to those holding the ends of the ropes to loosen them.
Tremblingly Tobias crawled into the house.
"Be ye dead, Tobias?" asked his frightened wife, yet she was not a little gratified that her husband had made the promise the mysterious visitors exacted.
"Jest about," was the answer. "Oh, this is a terrible night!"
"Hence, my brave men," spoke Jack solemnly. "We have work elsewhere. But remember, Tobias Smelts, if thou dost so much as raise a finger to a woman or child we shall hear of it through our ghostly messengers and will visit thee again."
"I'll be good! Oh, I'll be good!" promised Tobias.
Then at a nod from Jack the white-robed figures filed away into the darkness, Fred playing a dirge.
"Say, that was the best sport yet," said Sam, when they were at a safe distance.
"Yes, and it was a good thing," said Jack. "That old codger'll not beat his wife any more, I reckon."
And it might be said in passing that he did not for a while. The visit of the masquerading Klu-Klux-Klan was a most effective remedy, and the whole village wondered what had cured Tobias temporarily at least, of his bad habit.
"Say, but you're all right," remarked Bob Movel to Jack, as the boys rid themselves of the costumes in the woods a little later.
"Towering tadpoles! I should say he was!" exclaimed Nat. "What will you do next?"
"I guess we'd better be getting back to the Hall," said Jack. "Professor Grimm might take a notion to sit up late and spot us."
While the boys were slipping quietly back to their rooms, having enjoyed a night's fun, which also had its useful side, we may take this opportunity of introducing them more formally to the reader.
Those who read the first volume of this series, entitled "Jack Ranger's Schooldays; Or, The Rivals of Washington Hall," need not be told how it was that our hero and his friends came to be at that seat of learning. Jack was a bright American lad, who lived with his three maiden aunts, Josephine, Mary and Angeline Stebbins, in the village of Denton. Jack was to inherit some money when he became of age, but the conditions under which it was to come, as well as the secret of who his father was, bothered him not a little.
In the first volume of the series I told of his life in Denton, and the lively times he and Nat Anderson had before they were sent to the Academy. There things were even more lively, and there occurs a sort of sequel to a strange occurrence that happened in Jack's town.
At Denton, one night, Jack saw a man rob a jewelry store, but the only thing he took, as it developed, was a strange ring. It was one with a big moss agate, with the outline of a pine tree on it, and a lot of emeralds and rubies set around its center. This ring belonged to Jack's aunts, who had sent it to the jeweler's and when Jack told his relatives of the theft, and described the appearance of the man, they were much excited. However, they would tell him nothing.
At the academy, after many other adventures, including aiding and abetting the fighting of a mock duel between Professor Garlach, the German teacher, and Professor Socrat, the French instructor, Jack made the acquaintance of one John Smith, a half-breed Indian who had come to the academy for instruction. John had considerable Indian blood in his veins, as he proved on more than one occasion. Nevertheless, he and Jack Ranger became great chums.
One day John Smith disappeared. His friends found that his room had been entered at the school, and there were evidences of a hurried search having been made. Nat discovered, in John's absence, a curious ring under a steam radiator. It was the exact counterpart of the one the burglar stole in Denton. Jack was much puzzled at this, and more, when it developed that John had been kidnapped by some mysterious men. At last the semi-Indian lad was saved by Jack and Nat.
John Smith told Jack as much of the secret as he knew. It appeared that his father had given him the ring just before his death, and told him if he was ever poor or in trouble to take it to a man named Orion Tevis, and state who the bearer was.
Some time before that, the elder Smith had been in Oregon and Tevis came to him to get him to be a guide to a wild forest country in the far north. There he had bought five thousand acres of valuable land. Some schemers had stolen the papers connected with it and were making for the place, to take possession first, as that would give them a sort of title.
Tevis was too sick to make the journey himself, and got Smith to go with some of his own companions. John's father took a man named Clark and one called Roberts with him. Mr. Roberts, or Robert Ranger, which was his real name, was Jack's father. Because of some strange circumstances he had not seen his son in many years.
Roberts, for so he was known many years, Clark, and Smith succeeded in claiming the land for Tevis. He gave them each ten thousand dollars for their work and had three rings made as mementoes. They were like the one stolen from the jewelry store.
In addition Tevis said that at any time the men or their relatives needed his help they could have it.
Clark, later, was killed, John Smith's father retired on his little fortune and Jack's father got into trouble. It seemed that the land schemers offered him a large sum to help them contest Tevis's title. He refused, but learned that, if they could get him into court, they could throw the timber claim into litigation, and force Tevis to pay a large sum to compromise. Rather than do this Roberts told Smith he would become a wanderer over the earth.
Mr. Ranger sent his money to his sisters, Jack's aunts, for the use of his son, and then disappeared. He knew that if he could evade legal service for eleven years he would be free, and that was why he never sought to see his boy or sisters.
The Indian student believed that the man who stole Jack's aunts' ring, and those men who made an unsuccessful attempt to get his, thought they could, by use of the emblems send two boys, pretending to be Jack and John to Tevis, and get a lot of money from him.
John Smith's only knowledge of Tevis was that his address could be secured from the Capital Bank, at Denver, Colorado, and that he was somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, in retirement. Jack having heard this story, resolved that he and John Smith, would, some day, go in search of Mr. Ranger. However, Jack's aunts said he must finish his term at the academy, and this time was nearly up.
The students returning from their adventure were now approaching Washington Hall, and walking quietly along. Jack and John Smith were in the lead, and the others were strung out behind them.
Suddenly around a bend in the road there swung a big touring automobile. No lights were on it, and only for the subdued roar of the motor the car's approach would not have been noticed. As it was, Jack did not see it until it was almost upon him.
"Look out!" cried John Smith suddenly.
At the same time he sprang forward and pushed Jack to one side. To do this he had to get almost in the path of the car, and was struck by one of the projecting springs. He was knocked to one side, but not before he had pushed Jack out of harm's way, the latter being hit only a glancing blow.
"Why don't you look where you're going?" called an angry voice, as the car sped on.
"Are you hurt, John?" cried Jack, springing to pick up his friend.
"No, only bruised. They have nerve to go running without lights and then ask us where we're going. I wonder who they were."
"I have an idea." said Jack. "That voice sounded like Adrian Bagot's."
"What, that sporty new student?"
"Well, he'd better go a bit slow, I'm thinking."
JACK IN TROUBLE
The boys crowded around Jack and John, anxious to know if they were hurt. All were loud in their indignation when they learned what had happened.
"Let's pay that snob back!" suggested Dick Balmore.
"Make him sleep with you one night," suggested Fred, for Dick was so tall and thin that he had been christened "Bony" by his chums.
"Dry up!" exclaimed Dick. "I'd rather be thin than a wandering minstrel like you."
"Easy now!" suggested Jack. "No noise, we are too near quarters. Ouch! I think I've sprained my ankle, or that auto did it for me."
He tried to walk but had to limp, and was forced to accept the aid of Sam and John, on whose arms he leaned. In this manner he entered the Hall just as the monitor was closing up for the night. The other boys slipped to their rooms, but Jack had to be helped upstairs.
As the trio were passing through the corridors they met Professor Grimm. Now, Mr. Grimm was an old enemy of Jack's, since Jack had once caught him smoking, a violation of the school rules.
"Ha! More skylarking!" the instructor exclaimed. "What does this mean, Ranger?"
"I sprained my ankle," replied our hero.
"What are you doing out at this hour? And what are the others doing?"
"We had permission to go to the village," replied Jack, truthfully enough, for Dr. Mead had allowed the boys to go; though the object of the trip, of course, had not been disclosed to the master.
"Go to your rooms," commanded Professor Grimm. "I will look into this."
"I wish he hadn't seen us," said Jack, when his two chums had taken him to his dormitory.
"Why?" asked Sam. "Where's the harm?"
"I have a sort of queer feeling that something is going to happen," Jack replied. "I want to finish out the term with a good record, for my aunts' sakes. If there are any pranks played tonight, Grimm will be sure to suspect me."
"Don't cross a bridge until it trips you up," said Sam. "Now, let's have a look at that ankle."
They found it was not as bad as Jack had feared.
"I've got a bottle of arnica somewhere," he said. "I think I'll put some on."
His chums found the bottle, and were rubbing the swelling with the medicine when there came a knock at the door.
"Who's there?" asked Jack.
"Professor Grimm," was the reply. "I want to see if you are really in your room."
Sam opened the door and the cross-grained professor entered.
"So you're not fooling this time, eh?" he sneered, as he smelled the arnica and saw the swelling on Jack's ankle. "It's a good thing you were not."
"Nice old party, isn't he?" murmured Sam, when the teacher had withdrawn. "Well, I think I'll say good-night, Jack. Hope you sleep good. Say, but that Klu-Klux business was the limit!" and chuckling over the night's fun, he went to bed, leaving Jack and the Indian student together.
"A few weeks more and we'll not have to sneak around this way to have a little fun," said Jack. "Vacation will soon be here. I hope I can carry out a plan I have in mind, John."
"What is it, Jack?"
"I want to go out west and search for my father. I ought to be with him in his trouble. Besides, the time must be almost up, so he could come back to civilization again."
"I hope you do find him," said the semi-Indian.
"I wish you could help me, John."
"I wish so, too. Perhaps I can. But you'd better get to bed now. We don't want Grimm coming around again."
Jack fell asleep dreaming he was crawling through a deep canyon after his father, who was being carried away captive in a birch bark canoe by Indians. But in spite of this he slept so soundly that he did not hear a number of unusual noises under his window. Perhaps it was as well for his peace of mind that he did not.
It was about half past seven o'clock the next morning when Jack awoke with a start.
"I wonder what's the matter," he said to himself. "It seems as if something had happened. Oh, I know, I haven't heard the morning bell."
It was the custom at the academy to awaken the students by ringing the big bell in the tower every morning, and Jack had come to depend on it as a sort of alarm clock.
"I wonder what's the matter," he went on. "Can Martin have forgotten to sound the tocsin? It's the first time he ever slipped up."
A little later there came the sound of persons moving in the hall, and then voices could be heard calling one to the other.
He got out of bed, finding that his ankle was much better and looked from the window. There was nothing out of the ordinary to be seen. He turned toward his door, just as a loud knock came on the portal.
"Who's there?" he asked.
"Martin, the monitor," was the reply. "Dr. Mead wants to see you at once in the office."
"Trouble! I knew it!" exclaimed Jack to himself. "Well, I wonder what it is now. Hope word of that Klu-Klux-Klan business hasn't reached here already. But I'm not afraid of that. Even Dr. Mead will admit we acted from a right motive. All right, Martin," he called. "I'll be there as soon as I dress. Anything special?"
"I'm afraid it is," replied the monitor, as he hurried down the hall.
Jack made a hasty toilet and then went to the office of the head of the academy. He found a number of the teachers gathered there, including Professor Grimm, who looked more angry than usual. The latter was speaking as Jack entered:
"This positively has to stop, Dr. Mead," he said. "I will put up with this no longer. Either Ranger or I must leave."
"What have I done now?" asked Jack.
"Something more serious than usual, Ranger, if it turns out that you are guilty," answered Dr. Mead.
"Of course he's guilty," burst out Mr. Grimm. "Haven't I proof?"
"Last night," said Dr. Mead, speaking slowly and sternly, "the big bell was taken from the tower. It was carried and placed in front of Professor Grimm's room, and tied to his door so that when he opened it the bell was pulled into his room. In this way some valuable sea shells he had on the floor were broken."
"What makes you think I did it?" asked Jack. "I was laid up with a sprained ankle."
"That's just how I know it was you and some of your chums," cried Professor Grimm. "Tied on the bell, where it had been used, so the sharp edge would not cut one's fingers, was this rag. There it is. Smell of it. What does it smell like?" and he thrust it under Jack's nose.
"Why—why—it smells like arnica," replied our hero, wondering what was coming next.
"Arnica! Yes, I guess it does. What was it you were pretending to put on your ankle last night, Ranger? Arnica, wasn't it? Of course it was. I've caught you this time! The evidence is all against you! You didn't think you dropped that rag, and that the arnica would figure in the evidence. Dr. Grimm, I repeat, Ranger must leave or I shall!"
A THREATENING LETTER
For a few seconds there was a silence following Professor Grimm's ultimatum. Jack was so surprised he did not know what reply to make. The suddenness of the accusation, with the experience of the night before, and the upset over his sprained ankle, combined to make him hesitate before he made answer.
"What have you to say, Ranger?" asked Dr. Mead, in a sterner voice than he had ever before used toward Jack. "I know you will tell the truth, for I have never yet known you to lie. But I must tell you that if I find that you are guilty it will go hard with you this time. I have put up with a good deal from the students, but this is too much."
"I—I don't know what to say, sir," replied Jack, in a sort of daze. "I'm not guilty, I can assure you of that!"
"It's one thing to say so and another to prove it," snapped Professor Grimm. "The evidence is all against you."
"It's all circumstantial," interrupted Jack.
"But rather conclusive," went on the irate professor. He detailed how he had seen Jack and his friends out late, how he had come upon them using arnica, and mentioned some of their pranks in the past, including the mock duel arranged between Professor Socrat the French teacher and Professor Garlach, the German instructor.
"I admit I have played pranks in the past," said Jack frankly, "but I'm not guilty this time. All I ask is a chance to prove that I had no hand in this."
"You don't deserve a chance!" exclaimed Mr. Grimm.
"That's hardly fair," spoke Jack indignantly.
"Don't talk back to me!" burst out the angry teacher.
"I think your request is a fair one, Ranger," went on Dr. Mead. "I will give you twenty-four hours in which to prove that you had no hand in this. That is all now; you may go."
Dr. Mead was a man of few words, but Jack knew he would be absolutely fair. So, bowing to the head of the school, and without a glance at his accuser, Jack left the office.
"Whew!" exclaimed the youth, as he got outside. "I seem to be up against it harder than ever. Twenty-four hours to prove something that may take a week. Well, I've got to get busy, that's all."
"Hello!" exclaimed a voice as Jack was walking along the corridor toward his room. "Whasmatternow? Betcher Ic'nguess!" and the voice evolved itself into a good-natured looking lad, who stretched a big wad of gum from his mouth, and slowly got it back again by the simple but effective process of winding it about his tongue.
"Hello, Budge Rankin!" exclaimed Jack, as he saw the queer, bright lad who had lived near him in Denton, and for whom Jack had secured the place of second janitor at the school. "So you think you know what the trouble is?"
"Betcherlife," replied Budge, who had a habit of running his words together, a habit which his gum-chewing did not tend to relieve.
"What is it?"
"Accused you takin' that bell," went on Budge more slowly. "Hu! Wanterbe a detective?"
"How did you know it?" asked Jack, a little surprised at Budge's remark.
"Easy. Heard 'em talk. Transom open," was his answer.
"What do you mean about me turning detective?"
"Lookerthis," Budge said, quickly holding out a small object to Jack. "Found it in Grimm's room, 'sIsweptout."
"You found it in Mr. Grimm's room as you swept it out?" inquired Jack, not certain he had heard aright.
"'Smatter!" exclaimed Budge, that being his short-hand way of stating that was what was the matter.
"A spark plug from an automobile," mused Jack. "Well, that doesn't seem to give me much of a clue."
"Gotermobe?" asked Budge.
"No, of course I haven't an automobile," replied Jack.
"Do I know who has? Why—By Jove! I believe I see what you mean. Say, it's lucky you found this. I'll turn detective for awhile now. I wonder how this got into Grimm's room."
"Rolled under door, I guess," replied Budge, speaking more rationally as he threw away his cud of gum. "From hall, maybe."
"That's it!" exclaimed Jack. "I see it now. Thanks Budge. I hope I succeed. I'm much obliged to you."
"'Sallright!" exclaimed Budge, as he hurried away to attend to some of his duties.
When Jack got back to his room he found quite a gathering of his chums there.
"In for it on account of that Klu-Klux business?" asked Sam Chalmers.
"Not exactly that," answered Jack, "though if I'd stayed at home It wouldn't have happened."
"Ha-ha-ha-has it g-g-gg-got anything t-t-t—" began Will Slade.
"Whistle it!" exclaimed Bony Balmore.
"Sing it!" came from Fred Kaler. "Here I'll help you out," and he began to play on his harmonica.
"Whole-wheat-whangdoodles!" cried Nat Anderson, "but tell us, Jack. Don't keep us in suspense."
"It's the bell," said Jack. "I'm accused of taking it down and putting it in Grimm's room. They found a rag with arnica on it near the ding-dong, and Old Grimm jumped to the wrong conclusion, basing his belief on what he saw here last night in the first-aid-to-the- injured line. I've got until to-morrow to prove that I didn't do it."
"We can prove it easily enough," said Sam.
"Not so easily as you think," spoke Jack. "Grimm saw us out late, you remember, and if all of you joined in saying it wasn't I who did it, they wouldn't believe you. I guess they want to make an example of someone. No sir, I'm going to do some sleuthing on my own hook. I've got a good line and a bit of evidence to start with. I'm pretty sure I can make some folks around here sit up and take notice about this time to-morrow."
"Good for you, Jack!" exclaimed Dick. "If you want any help call on us!"
"Thanks," replied Jack. "Now I guess we'd better get ready for breakfast."
His chums left him to complete his dressing, and, when they were gone, Jack carefully laid aside the spark plug Budge had given him.
"First link," he said.
During the noon intermission Jack had a short but earnest talk with Socker, the school janitor. The latter nodded his head vigorously several times during the conversation.
"I'll get it for you," he said as he and Jack parted.
At the close of school that afternoon the janitor went to Jack's room with a large bundle.
"Any trouble?" asked our hero.
"Not a bit," replied Socker. "He was out and I found it rolled up in a corner, just where he had thrown it. He hasn't even cleaned it."
"So much the better," said Jack, as he gave Socker a small sum of money. "I'll keep quiet about this, don't worry."
"I hope you will," the janitor went on. "It's against the rules for me to do what I did, but I want to oblige you, and have you come out all right."
"Which I think I will," Jack added.
When he was alone he opened the bundle Socker had brought. It was a linen duster, and, as Jack saw several brown spots on it he uttered an exclamation of satisfaction.
With his knife he scraped some substance from the garment, and placed the particles in a test tube. Then, taking this with him, he went to the laboratory, where he remained for some time.
Late that afternoon Jack, who had avoided his chums, took a walk around the campus. As he came near a small building, where some of the students kept their motor cycles, one or two small automobile runabouts, and a few of the more well-to-do, their ponies, Jack assumed a slow and halting gait. He seemed to be limping from the effects of his sprained ankle.
"I wonder if he's around," he muttered to himself. "Socker said he was going to take a spin this afternoon, and it's about time for him to start, by all accounts."
As Jack neared the entrance to the combined garage and stable he saw a group of students approaching from an opposite direction. His limp became more decided than before.
"He's there!" he said softly to himself.
"Hello, Ranger!" exclaimed a number, as Jack passed them. He knew them fairly well, but was not intimate with them as they belonged to the "fast set," a good-enough crowd, but lads who had more spending money than was good for them.
"Hello!" called Jack in reply.
"What's the matter?" came several inquiries as the students noticed Jack's limp.
"Turned on my ankle," was the reply. "A bit stiff yet."
The crowd had nearly passed by this time, and, owing to the fact that Jack had the middle of the sidewalk, and did not turn to one side, the little group separated. Some went on one side, and some on the other. Just as Jack came opposite a tall, elaborately dressed youth, he seemed to stumble. To save himself from falling Jack threw out his hand and caught the tall student on the wrist. As he did so the well- dressed youth uttered a cry.
"Clumsy! You hurt my sore wrist!"
"I beg your pardon!" exclaimed Jack, struggling to recover his balance, but still keeping his hold of the other's hand. "Awfully careless of me!"
There was quite a little jostling among the students, several trying to help Jack recover his balance. Then Jack straightened up.
"I'm all right now," he said. "I bore down on it a little too hard."
He limped on, thrusting one hand hurriedly into his pocket. As he did so, the tall student cried.
"There! I've lost the rag off my sore wrist! I sprained it cranking my auto yesterday."
Several of his companions began a search for it, but as Jack hurried on, as fast as he could, while still pretending to limp painfully he said to himself:
"I guess you'll look a long while, Adrian Bagot, before you find that rag. Maybe I can get even with you for running me down last night," and Jack pulled a piece of cloth from his pocket and smelled of it.
"That's the evidence!" he exclaimed, as he turned down a side street.
Whether it was this change, or whether it was because his ankle suddenly healed, was not in evidence, but Jack began to walk with scarcely the semblance of a halt in his step as soon as he was out of sight of the students.
The lad hurried back to his room. There he spent a busy half hour, poring over some books on chemistry. He got several test tubes, and his apartment took on the appearance of a laboratory, while many strange smells filled the air.
While Jack was engaged in pouring the contents of one test tube into another there came a knock at his door.
"Who's there?" he called.
"It's me, Sam," was the reply.
"Say, Sam, excuse me, but I can't let you in," Jack answered. "I'm working on something that I can't leave. I may have a surprise for you in the morning."
"All right," Sam answered. "Here's some mail, that's all. I'll shove it under the door."
There was a rustling of paper and several letters came beneath the portal. Jack laid aside his test tube and gathered them up. One was from his aunts at home, another from Judge Bennetty regarding the payment of certain bills Jack had contracted, while the third was in unfamiliar handwriting.
"I wonder who that's from," said Jack. "The best way to find out is to open it."
He ripped the envelope down, and, as he did so, a piece of paper fluttered to the ground. Picking the missive up, Jack read:
"It's a long lane that has no turns. I'll get even with you for having me suspended and sent away from the Hall. My time will come yet.
"Jerry Chowden," murmured Jack. "So he's trying to scare me, eh? Well I guess he'll find I don't scare."
Jack slowly folded the letter and placed it back in the envelope. He glanced at the postmark, and saw it was stamped "Chicago."
"Wonder how he got out there," he mused. "Well, I'm glad he's far away," and he gave little more thought to the matter of the bully, a nephew of Professor Grimm's, whose vain attempt to cast disgrace on Jack, in the matter of painting a pipe on the professor's portrait, had rebounded on his own head. He had been suspended for two months for the escapade, which Jack was accused of, but which our hero managed to prove himself innocent of, and, since leaving the Hall, nothing had been heard of him.
"Maybe I'll meet him if I get out west on that strange hunt of mine," thought Jack, as he went on with his chemical tests.
He worked far into the night, and when he put out his light he said to himself:
"I think I've got things just where I want them."
A LESSON IN CHEMISTRY
Jack was awakened next morning by a knock on his door.
"Who's there?" he asked.
"Martin, the monitor," was the reply. "Dr, Mead wishes to see you at once."
"Great Scott! I've overslept!" exclaimed Jack, as he jumped out of bed and saw it was after eight o'clock. "No wonder, being up half the night. Tell Dr. Mead I'm sorry and I'll be right down," he went on.
Jack almost made a record for dressing, and went to Dr. Mead's office, where he found the same gathering that had confronted him the previous morning.
"Well, Ranger," began the head of the school, "the time you asked for has expired. Have you anything to say?"
"I have, sir," replied Jack. "But first I would like to request that this hearing be adjourned to the laboratory. I also request that Sam Chalmers, Dick Balmore, Fred Kaler, Budge Rankin and Adrian Bagot be summoned."
"Do you accuse all of them?" asked Dr. Mead, in some astonishment.
"I accuse no one," Jack replied. "I want to make a demonstration, and let the facts speak for themselves."
"This is all nonsense!" exclaimed Professor Grimm. "This boy is guilty and he knows it. He is only seeking to delay matters. I demand his expulsion!"
"I think it only fair to grant his request," said Dr. Mead. "Professor Gales, will you kindly summon the students mentioned. Professor Hall, please see that the laboratory is opened."
In a few minutes Jack was leading the way to the latter room. He carried several bundles, while Socker, the janitor, bore a rack of test tubes he had taken from Jack's room. The lads mentioned attended, wondering what had happened.
"What's this all about?" demanded Adrian, haughtily. "I haven't had my breakfast yet."
"The time was up an hour ago," said Dr. Mead sharply, glancing at the new student, who seemed disposed to take life as easily as possible.
"May I speak?" asked Jack, of Dr. Mead.
"Since you are the accused it is but fair that you be given a chance to clear yourself," was the reply. "But as you have given a certain publicity to this matter, I shall tell these other students what it is all about."
Dr. Mead then explained the charge against Jack. There was an uneasy movement among the other boys, and Adrian Bagot was seen to shift about. He even started to walk around as though to leave the room, but the monitor stood at the door and Adrian did not want to make any confusion by forcing past him. So young Bagot remained in the laboratory.
"When Professor Grimm accused me of playing this trick I denied it, as I am innocent," Jack said, when Dr. Mead had finished and looked at him as if inviting him to speak. "Perhaps if the matter has been made public the fellows who took the bell would have come forward and admitted it. As it is I asked twenty-four hours to prove that I did not do it. I believe I have succeeded.
"In the first place," Jack went on, "I wish to exhibit this garment," and he held up to view a long linen coat, commonly called a duster. "You will observe," he went on, "that there are several brown lines on it. I have measured these and they are exactly the shape and size that would be made by the sharp rim of a bell, if it was rested on the garment when some one was wearing it."
"You will have to have better evidence than that," sneered Professor Grimm.
"I think I will have," announced Jack quietly. "Of course those marks might have been made by any sharp, rusty object. Now the bell metal rusts scarcely at all, but the iron clapper of a bell does. The rust from that runs down inside a bell, and gets on the edges. I took some iron rust from the clapper of the stolen bell and placed it in a test tube. I assumed, for the purpose of experimenting, that I did not know that it was iron rust, but only suspected it. I applied the proper chemical tests, and I got the results that showed me there was iron present in the test tube. Here, I will show you."
Jack mixed a few chemicals and soon the brown mixture in the tube turned red.
"That is from the bell clapper," the young chemist went on. "Here is a solution made from scraping the lines on the duster. I will apply the test and see what happens."
While the others looked on anxiously Jack dropped some of the mixture into the second tube. In an instant it turned red.
"There!" exclaimed Jack, holding up the two tubes, side by side. "The same color coming in both mixtures from the same strength of chemicals that I used, shows that the iron rust on the duster and that on the bell clapper are the same."
"What does that prove, except that you might have worn the duster?" asked Dr. Mead.
"That is all, as yet," Jack admitted. "But I will prove that the duster is not mine, and that I never wore it. I have something else here," he went on.
From among a pile of things on the laboratory table Jack took a white object, with brown spots. Walking rapidly across the room he handed it to Adrian.
"The rag off my sprained wrist!" exclaimed the sporty student. "Where did—"
Then he stopped, seeming to realize he had said too much.
"I will ask Professor Grimm to smell of that," Jack continued, thrusting the rag under the teacher's nose.
"Arnica!" exclaimed the instructor. "The same that you used, and which enabled me to discover it was you who played the trick."
"It is arnica," Jack admitted, "but it happens I was not the only one who used it that night. I have also to show this article, which was picked up in your room, Professor Grimm," and Jack extended the spark plug Budge had given him.
"Ha! What is that?" asked Mr. Grimm.
"It is some part of an automobile," Dr. Mead said. "Who, of our students, has one. Ah! I begin to see," he added.
"Adrian Bagot, I will return your duster to you," Jack went on, walking forward and passing the rust-stained automobile garment to young Bagot. "I had to borrow it from your room, but I am through with it now. You may also have your spark plug, and this rag I had to take from your wrist rather unceremoniously last night."
"You're a thief!" burst out Adrian, but Jack stopped him with a gesture.
"I'll not take that from you or any one else," exclaimed Jack. "Dr. Mead," he went on, "I ask that you inquire of my friends, Sam Chalmers, Dick Balmore and Fred Kaler when they last saw Adrian in his auto."
"When did you?" Dr. Mead asked the boys.
"The night the bell was stolen," answered Sam, and the others agreed with his testimony. Jack told the story of the collision and how his ankle was injured.
"Is there anything else?" asked Dr. Mead.
"I think not," was our hero's answer, "unless Bagot has something to say."
"So you did it, eh?" asked Professor Grimm, turning to the new student. "I demand that he be punished, Dr. Mead," and Mr. Grimm did not even take the trouble to beg Jack's pardon for having falsely accused him.
"What have you to say, Bagot?" asked the head of the academy. "Circumstances point strongly to you,"
Bagot mumbled something about it being only a harmless joke, and seemed quite confused.
"I will not ask you to tell on your companions," Dr. Mead went on sternly. "There must have been several of them. If they choose to come forward and admit their part, well and good. I will go no further with this, since the chief culprit is known. Ranger, you are fully vindicated, and I congratulate you on the effective manner in which you have proved your innocence."
"As for you, Bagot, seeing that it is your first offense, I will be lenient. I will suspend you for one week, and you are to make up all the studies you lose in that time. That is all."
With a scowl on his face, and an angry look at Jack, Adrian shuffled from the laboratory. The teachers followed Dr. Mead out, while Jack's friends gathered around to congratulate him.
"Didn't know you were such a chemist," spoke Sam.
"I'll have to play a march of victory on the jew's-harp and mouth organ at the same time!" burst out Fred Kaler.
"Well," admitted Jack, "it came out about as well as I expected."
"Betcherwhat!" exclaimed Budge, as he walked off, stretching his gum out at arm's length.
The news soon spread that Jack had been vindicated, and there was an impromptu celebration in his room.
"Lopsided lollypops!" exclaimed Nat Anderson. "We ought to do something to get even with Bagot, Jack."
"Oh, I'm satisfied, let it go as it is." "But we're not," Sam Chalmers put in. "You got vindicated all right, but an insult to you is one to all this crowd you travel with. I'll bet Dr. Mead has a sort of idea that some of us had a hand in the joke. We may not be able to prove we didn't, but we can get even with that sneak Bagot for making all the trouble."
"L-l-l-lets puncture h-h-h-is t-t-t-t-ti—" sputtered Will Slade.
"What's that about his necktie?" asked Sam with a grin.
"W-w-w-who s-s-s-said n-n-neck t-t-ti-?"
"I thought you were trying to, and I wanted to help you out," replied Sam.
"I-I-I-I ni-m-m-meant his autototototo—"
"Toot-toot!" sung out Fred. "All aboard! Where does your train stop, Will?"
"I know what you mean," put in Jack, coming to Will's relief. "But I don't want to do anything like bursting his auto tires. That's not my way."
"We can easily enough find a plan," Sam went on. "Will you join us, Jack?"
"You know I'm always ready for anything that's going."
"Then I'll try and think up something," Sam concluded. "But we'd better hustle now. Chapel bell will ring in five minutes."
TURNING THE TABLES
For several days after this there were review examinations so that all the students at the academy were kept busy, and there was little time for anything but study. At the end of the week Adrian Bagot returned from his period of suspension. He did not seem to have suffered much, and the boys heard him boasting of having ridden nearly a thousand miles in his auto.
One evening Sam and some of his chums paid a visit to Jack Ranger.
"Got anything on to-night?" asked Sam.
"Nothing special, why?"
"Well, I'll not tell you the particulars, and then, if anything happens you can truthfully say you never knew a thing about it. But if you want to see something, put on an old pair of slippers, so you can walk through the corridors softly, and follow us."
"Some fun?" asked Jack.
"Well, we wouldn't go to all this trouble if it was work or study," replied Sam with a grin. "But say nothing, only saw wood and come on."
Jack, nothing loath, did as he was told. He got an old pair of felt slippers, and noticed that the others were also wearing similar foot-gear.
"First to Professor Socrat's room," whispered Sam when the boys, including Will Slade, Fred Kaler and Bony Balmore were out in the corridor.
"He's not going to fight a duel with Professor Garlach, is he?" asked Jack, recalling an occasion when the two teachers nearly did.
"Not this time," replied Sam, "but there may be a fight in it."
With Sam in the lead the boys went to the room of the French professor.
"Now stay back in the shadows," advised the leader. "You can see and listen, but keep quiet."
Sam knocked on the door, and, in his most polite tones said:
"I was asked, my dear professor, to leave this with you with the compliments of the sender."
"Ah, I zank you extremely, sir," said Professor Socrat, bowing low, "I zank ze giver, an' I zank you for ze most polite attention you have bestowed on me."
"You are very welcome, I'm sure," murmured Sam, as he hurried away to join his waiting comrades.
"I don't see anything funny about that," said Jack.
"Wait until he opens it," whispered Sam.
A few seconds later the hidden boys heard the door of the French teacher's room open, and saw him come out.
"It is some meestake," they heard him murmur. "Zis ees for Professor Grimm. I will take it to heem," and he walked along the corridor toward the elderly instructor's apartment.
"Act one," whispered Sam. "Now for the second."
Silently in their slippers the boys followed the French professor to Mr. Grimm's room.
"What is it?" asked the latter when the Frenchman had knocked.
"I come wiz a package, left by mistake wiz me," Mr. Socrat remarked, in his usual polite way. "It is addressed to you inside, but ze outside wrapper was wiz my name inscribed. I ask your pardon."
"Thanks," said Mr. Grimm shortly, as, with a polite bow, Mr. Socrat went back to his room.
Professor Grimm left his door open a little way, and the boys could see him quite plainly. They saw him take off the wrapper, and disclose a small white box. This he opened and, as he took the cover off, there dropped out something that gave a musical clang.
"A bell!" exclaimed Jack in a whisper.
"Hush!" cautioned Sam. "Let's hear what he says."
"Ha!" exclaimed Mr. Grimm. "So this is a joke, eh, Mr. Frenchman? Well, we'll see about this!"
He grasped the bell, which was a small one, by the handle, and started down the corridor, a scowl on his face, as the boys could see by a flickering gaslight, as they were hidden around the corner.
"Now back to Mr. Socrat's room for the third act," said Sam. "Come on."
Without the formality of a knock, Mr. Grimm entered the French teacher's room.
"So this is your idea of a joke, eh?" he cried, shaking the bell under Professor Socrat's nose. "I'll report you to Dr. Mead for this. You frog-eater you!"
"Sir-r-r-r!" fairly shouted Professor Socrat. "You call me a frog- eater-r-r-r-r?"
"Yes, and a donkey also!" exclaimed Mr. Grimm. "You knew how I've felt since that bell joke, and you dare to send me a miniature one!"
"I sent nossing!"
"Didn't I see you just bring this?" demanded Mr. Grimm, holding out the bell.
"It was addressed to you on ze paper!"
"Yes, and you did it!"
"I did not!"
"I say you did!"
"Zen you mean zat I tells a lie?"
"If you want to take it that way!"
"Zen I say you also are one who knows not ze truth!"
"Don't call me that name or I'll—"
What the excited professor meant to say was not disclosed as, at that moment, in shaking his fist at Professor Socrat he let slip the bell, which, with a clang struck the French teacher on the chest.
"A blow! I am insult!" Mr. Socrat exclaimed. "It must be wiped out wiz ze blood of my insulter!"
He caught up a book to throw at Mr. Grimm, and let it fly, just as Adrian Bagot entered the room. The sporty student caught it full in the face.
"Pardon, my dear young friend!" exclaimed the French teacher, seeing his missile had gone wide of one mark, though finding another.
"What does this mean?" demanded Adrian, as he saw the two belligerents.
"Leave the room, sir!" ordered Professor Grimm. "This is none of your affair!"
"I was asked to come here," said Adrian.
"Ha, so this is another part of your plan to play a joke on me," cried Mr. Grimm, glaring at the Frenchman. "You ask this student, who was responsible for the original trouble to come here to see a repetition."
"Your talk, it ees of ze incomprehensible!" exclaimed Mr. Socrat. "I have sent for no one."
"I got a note, signed with your name, asking me to call at your room at eight o'clock," said Bagot.
"Hold me, some one, before I die laughing," whispered Sam to his chums. In fact they were all laughing so that only the excitement on the part of the three in Mr. Socrat's room prevented the boys from being discovered.
"Let me see ze writing," said the French teacher.
Adrian showed it to him.
"I nevair wrote that, nevair, nevair, nevair!" exclaimed the representative of France.
"But you brought me the bell," put in Mr. Grimm.
"I did, because your name, it was on ze covair of ze box. I not write heem."
"Then if you didn't, who did?" asked Mr. Grimm.
"I am no readair of ze mind," replied the Frenchman.
"I'll bet it is one of Jack Ranger's tricks," said Adrian. "It is just like him."
"Are you sure you had no hand in it?" asked Mr. Grimm suspiciously, turning to Bagot.
"You don't think I'd risk another suspension with graduation so near, do you?" asked Bagot.
"I guess you're innocent this time," admitted Mr. Grimm unwillingly. "If I discover who did this I'll settle with him."
"You've got to catch 'em first," murmured Sam.
"Well I guess I'll go," went on Mr. Grimm.
"I have been insult, I demand satisfaction," said Mr. Socrat, drawing himself to his full height and glaring at the other teacher. "Will you name a friend, sir, to whom I can send my representative?"
"You—you don't mean to fight a duel, do you?" asked Professor Grimm, nervously.
"Of a certainly yes! I have been struck! I have been insult! I must have ze satisfaction!"
"If it comes to that so have I," said Adrian, rubbing his face where the book had hit him.
"I have apologized to you. I beg your ten thousand pardons, my young friend," said Mr. Socrat, bowing low. "I know when I am at fault. It was all an accident. Still, if you demand satisfaction I am bound to give it you. I will send ze—"
"Oh, I accept your apology," said Adrian, hastily.
"But I have been called ze eater of ze frogs, an' I have been struck by—by a—person!" exploded the Frenchman. u I must see ze blood flow, or—"
"Oh, I'll apologize, if it comes to that," said Mr. Grimm, rather awkwardly. "I didn't mean to hit you with the bell. As for calling you names, why—why I was all excited. I beg your pardon."
"Zen you have made ze amend honorable, an' I accept it," said the Frenchman, bowing almost to the floor. "We will regard ze incident as closed."
"I'll not, by a long shot," murmured Bagot. "I want satisfaction from whoever got me into this and I'll find out sooner or later."
"Mostly later," murmured Sam.
"Where did you get the package?" asked the sporty student of Mr. Socrat.
"It was brought to me a little while ago, by one of ze students. It was dark in ze hallway and I could not see ze face of heem."
"Luck for me," murmured Sam.
"I see my name on ze wrappair," went on Professor Socrat. "Zen I open it an' I see ze name of Mr. Grimm. I go to heem. Ha! Zings begin to what you call happen—after zat!"
"Vamoose!" whispered Sam. "I guess we've seen all the fun. They'll disperse now. Everyone to his room and undress. Be studying in bed. If there's an investigation we can't be accused."
A little later the boys heard Professor Grimm tramping to his room, muttering dire vengeance on his tormentors. They heard him open his window and throw something out. It fell with a tinkle to the ground.
"The bell," whispered Sam, as he hurried to his room.
"How did you manage it?" asked Jack an hour or so later when Sam had entered his chum's apartment, matters having quieted down.
"It was too easy," explained Sam. "I did up the bell, and left it with Socrat. I purposely addressed it double. I figured out what would happen. Then I sent a fake note to Bagot, telling him Socrat wanted him. It came out better than I expected."
"I hope there's no trouble over it," Jack said.
There was none, for neither of the professors cared to have the facts made public, and Bagot did not want to let it be known that he had been fooled.
A PLAN THAT FAILED
One afternoon Dr. Mead announced that there would be an evening lecture, in preparation for final examinations, and he stated that he expected every student to be present.
"The only excuse that will be accepted for non-attendance," he said, "will be illness. As there are no students sick now, I shall regard with grave suspicion any reports of indisposition between now and the time for the lecture."
"What do you say to a swim?" asked Sam, of Jack, as they filed out from the auditorium where Dr. Mead had made his announcement.
"I'll go," replied Jack. "Any of the other fellows going along?"
"Dick, Nat and Bill Slade are coming," said Sam. "I left them going for their suits. Come on."
"Wait until I get mine," spoke Jack, and he hurried off, to join Sam a few minutes later.
On the way to a quiet spot in Rudmore Lake, where the boys were in the habit of taking their swimming exercises, Jack and Sam were joined by the others.
"Did you hear the latest?" asked Bony Balmore, making his anatomy rattle in a way peculiar to himself.
"No, what is it?" asked Jack.
"Two new students arrived," went on Bony. "They're chums of Sport Bagot's I guess, 'cause I saw them walking with him."
"Who are they?" asked Sam.
"Ed Simpson and John Higley," replied Sam. "I heard they were regular cut-ups, and got fired out of one school. Their guardians sent them here to finish the term. I s'pose they'll try some funny work."
"L-l-l-l-et 'em t-t-t-try it!" spluttered Will. "I-i g-g-g-guess we c-c-c—"
"Oh, whistle it!" exclaimed Sam.
"Pzznt!" exploded Will, which seemed to get his vocal cords in shape again. "We'll fix 'em if they try any tricks!"
"Now you're talking," said Jack.
The boys lost little time in getting into the lake. They were splashing about in the water, when Jack, who happened to swim near shore, was startled by a cautious hail. He looked up, to see Budge Rankin half hidden in the grass, making signals to him.
"What is it?" asked Jack.
"Geasynow!" exclaimed Budge, in a hoarse whisper, tossing aside a wad of gum that he might talk more plainly.
"Go easy about what?" asked Jack.
"They're going to play a trick on you," said Budge.
"Who?" inquired Jack, while the other boys, attracted by the conversation drew near.
"Adrian Bagot and the two new students," went on Budge. "They're on their way here. Goin' t' steal your clothes an' make you late for th' lecture. I heard 'em talkin' about it. Thought I'd warn you. 'Sthmatterithfoolinem?" Budge had taken a fresh chew of gum, which accounted for the way in which he inquired what was the matter with fooling the enemy.
"True for you!" exclaimed Sam. "How we going to do it?"
Jack pondered a moment, idly splashing the water with his opened hand. Then he exclaimed:
"I have it! How long before they'll be here, Budge?"
"'Bout ten minutes I reckon."
"Long enough. Come on boys."
"What you up to?" asked Nat.
"Say nothing but follow me," was all Jack replied.
He scrambled up the bank to where he had left his clothes. Catching up the garments into a bundle he placed them further along the bank, on a little bluff that overlooked the edge of the lake. The clothes were in plain sight.
"They'll see them there," objected Fred.
"That's what I want," Jack replied. "Do as I do."
Wondering what was up the others obeyed. Jack then ran to a small boathouse, close to the swimming place, and returned with three long, thin ropes, used to tie the craft to the dock.
For a few minutes Jack's fingers flew nimbly. Then he placed three rope circles, hiding them well in the grass, each one just in front of each of the three piles of clothes. He carefully carried the long ends of the ropes down the bank and into the water.
"Oh, I see!" exclaimed Sam, with a chuckle. "Say, this is great!"
"Now, Budge," said Jack, when he had finished his preparations. "You hide in the bushes. When you think it's time, you toss a stone into the water. Do you understand?"
"Betcherlife!" replied Budge, shortly.
"Get down under the bank, then, fellows," said Jack to his companions. "Keep well in shore, and when you hear the stone splash, pull. That's all!"
"But they may take our clothes," objected Will, who did not seem to understand.
"I don't believe they will," replied Jack, grimly.
The boys entered the water again, and, crouched close under the bank, sinking down so that only the tip of their noses were above the surface. It was almost impossible to tell they were there.
Had any one been up on the bank a few minutes later he would have observed three lads come creeping along, as if they were afraid of being seen. Adrian Bagot was in the lead.
"I don't see them" spoke one of the trio.
"Keep quiet, Ed Simpson," cautioned Adrian. "That Ranger chap has sharp ears. Do you see 'em, John?"
"There's their clothes in little piles, just ahead," replied John Higley. "They couldn't have left 'em better for us. Come on; we'll hide 'em, and then we'll see what happens."
"Guess they won't be so fresh after this," spoke Bagot.
Slowly the trio crept forward. Well might Jack and his chums worried for the fate of their garments had they seen the three conspirators. But Budge was on the watch.
Just as the three sneaks were about to reach down and gather the swimmers' clothes, a stone sailed through the air, and fell with a splash into the water. An instant later there was a wild scene on the bank.
Three youths went flying toward the edge of the lake as though propelled by unseen hands. They seemed to have ropes attached to their legs, ropes which were being pulled from below.
Then three well-dressed lads were struggling in the water, while five other youths stood up in the shallows looking on.
"I guess we turned the tables that time," remarked Jack.
FOILING A PLOT
"Save me! Save me!" yelled Adrian Bagot.
"I'm drowning!" screamed Ed Simpson.
"I'm sinking!" shouted John Higley.
The three conspirators were floundering about in the water. Because of the rope nooses about their feet their efforts to stand upright were not entirely successful.
"Who did this?" inquired Bagot angrily, as he tried to get rid of a mouthful of water.
"If—if I-I die they'll hang for this!" spluttered Ed Simpson.
"No danger of your drowning, you're too mean," said Jack. "Besides it's only up to your knees. Stand up and wade out."
By this time the three lads, their clothing dripping with water, had managed to stand upright. They reached down under the dancing wavelets and loosened the nooses.
"You'll pay for this, Jack Ranger," shouted Adrian, shaking his fist at our hero.
"All right, I'm ready whenever you are," was the cool answer. "Come on, fellows, we don't want to be late for the lecture," and he started from the water, followed by his chums.
"I'll have you arrested for damaging my clothes," exclaimed Ed.
"And I suppose you'd tell on the witness stand about what you intended to do to ours," went on Jack. "I guess you'll cry 'quits,' that's what you'll do. You tried to play a trick on us, but you got left. So long. Don't miss the lecture."
He scrambled ashore, his comrades doing likewise, while the three lads who had taken such an unexpected bath waded out as best they could. They were sorry looking sights.
"But I don't exactly un-d-d-d-erstand how it it h-h-h-appened?" stuttered Will, who had not had hold of one of the ropes.
"I just made slip nooses, and placed them where they'd have to step into them before they could lay hands on the clothes," explained Jack. "Budge gave me the signal when they were inside the ropes."
"And then we just pulled," put in Nat. "Wow! It was a corker, Jack! How did you think of it?"
"It just happened to come to me. Say didn't they come down off that bank sailing, though?"
"I pulled as if I was landing a ten pound pickerel," said Fred. "I wonder who I had."
"Didn't stop to notice," Jack said, as he slipped on his coat. "They all came together. What a splash they made!"
By this time the three conspirators had crawled up the bank. They were so soaking wet that it was hard to walk. Their shoes "squashed" out water at every step. They sat down on the grass, took them off, and removed some of their garments, which they proceeded to wring out.
"Better hurry up," advised Jack, as he finished dressing. "Lecture begins in about two hours, and you're quite a way from home."
"I'll—" began Ed Simpson, when Adrian stopped him with a gesture.
"Sorry we have to leave you," Sam went on. "If you'd sent your cards we would have had the water warmed for you. Hope you didn't find it too chilly."
The three cronies did not reply, but went on trying to get as much water as possible from their garments. Leaving them sitting on the grass, as the afternoon waned into evening, the swimmers hurried back to the academy.
When the roll was called at the evening lecture, which was at an early hour, Jack and his friends replied "here!"
For a week or more after the episode at the lake, matters at the academy went on in a rather more even tenor than was usual. One night Sam, who finished his studying early went to Jack's room.
"Boning away?" he asked.
"Just finishing my Caesar," was the reply. "Why, anything on?"
"Nothing special," replied Sam. "Do you feel anything queer in your bones?"
"Not so much as a touch of fever and ague," replied Jack with a laugh. "Do you need quinine?"
"Quit your fooling. I mean don't you feel as if you wanted to do something?"
"Oh I'm always that way, more or less," Jack admitted. "I'm not taking anything for it, though."
"I'd like to take a stroll," said Sam. "I think that would quiet me down. I feel just as if something was going to happen."
"Probably something will, if we go out at this hour," Jack said. "It's against the rules."
"I know it is, but it wouldn't be the first time you or I did it. Come on, let's go out. Down the trellis, the way you did when you discovered Grimm smoking."
"I don't know," began Jack.
"Of course you don't," interrupted Sam. "I'll attend to all that. Come on."
Needing no more urging, Jack laid aside his book, turned his light low, and soon he and Sam were cautiously making their way from Jack's window, along a trellis and drain pipe to the ground.
"There!" exclaimed Sam, as he dropped lightly to the earth. "I feel better already. Some of the restlessness has gone."
"Keep shady," muttered Jack. "Some of the teachers have rooms near here."
They walked along under the shadow of the Hall until they came to a window from which a brilliant light streamed forth. It came from a crack between the lowered shade and the casement. It was impossible to pass it without seeing what was going on inside the apartment. At the same time they could hear the murmur of voices.
"Adrian Bagot, and his two cronies up to some trick!" whispered Jack, as he grasped Sam by the arm.
The two friends saw the three new students bending over a table, containing a pot of something, which they seemed to be stirring with a long stick.
"What are they up to?" whispered Sam.
"Experimenting with chemicals, perhaps," said Jack.
"Don't you believe it," retorted Sam. "They're up to some game, you can bet. I wonder if we can't get wise to what it is."
Cautiously they drew nearer to the window. They found it was open a crack.
"Will it make much of an explosion?" asked Ed Simpson.
"Hardly any," replied Higley. "Only a puff and lots of smoke, but it will leave its mark all right, and I guess those fresh friends of Jack Ranger's will laugh on the other corner of their mouths."
"I'd like to get even with them before the term closes," put in Adrian.
"We'll do it all right," went on Ed.
"Don't be too sure of that," whispered Jack.
It did not require much effort on the part of Jack and Sam to understand what the three conspirators were up to. Their conversation, which floated through the opened window, and their references to certain localities put the two listeners in possession of the whole scheme.
"Well, if that isn't the limit," said Jack in a whisper. "I wouldn't believe they'd dare to do it."
"How can we foil their plans?" asked Sam.
"Hark, some one is coming," said Jack, dropping down on his hands and knees, an example which Sam followed. Then came a cautious signal, a whistle.
"It's John Smith, my Indian friend!" exclaimed Jack. "He must have just got back," for the half-breed had been away for a few weeks, as one of his relatives was ill. Jack sounded a cautious whistle in reply, and soon the Indian student was at his side. There were hurried greetings, and Jack soon explained the situation.
"Let me think it over a minute," said John Smith. "It takes me rather suddenly."
For a few seconds John remained in deep thought. Then he exclaimed:
"I think I have it. Have you any chemicals in your room, Jack?"
"Plenty," was the answer. "I've been boning on that lately, and I got a fresh supply from the laboratory the other day to experiment with."
"Then I think we'll make these chaps open their eyes."
The three friends hurried to Jack's room, where they were busy for some time, behind carefully drawn shades. At the end of about two hours, Jack, who had been keeping watch from a window, exclaimed:
"There they go with the stuff. It's time we got a move on."
"They'll not set it off until midnight," spoke Sam, "That's what they said. We'll have time enough to do what we are going to."
The three friends worked hurriedly. When they had finished they had several packages. Down the trellis they went and out on the campus, which was shrouded in darkness.
They made their way to the foot of a statue of George Washington, which stood on a broad base in front of the school. There stood the Father of His Country, with outstretched arms, as if warning invaders away from the precincts of learning.
"They've been here!" said Sam in a whisper.
He pointed to some straggling black lines at the base of the figure, and to a thin thing like a string: which led over the grass toward the room of Adrian Bagot.
"They've put our initials in powder here," said Jack. "Trying to throw the blame on us when it goes off."
"We'll soon fix that," replied Sam. The three boys made some rapid movements around the statue, and then cut the thin thing which led to the room of young Bagot.
"I guess when he touches off that fuse he'll wonder what has happened," observed John Smith.
"Have you enough of the other fuse?" asked Jack.
"Plenty," replied the Indian student. "Have you changed the initials?"
"Every one," said Sam.
"Then I think we can go back," said John. "Take care of my fuse. Don't get tangled up in it."
The boys made their way quietly to a spot just under the window of Bagot's room. There they placed what seemed to be a piece of board.
"Now back to your room, and wait until they start the fun," said John.
The three friends had not long to wait. A little after midnight they heard Bagot's window cautiously open. There was the sound of a match striking, and then Sam called to Jack:
"Let her go!"
A second later a thin trail of fire spurted along the ground from the sporty student's room. It was followed by a larger one from the foot of the trellis by which Jack had descended. A few seconds later it seemed as if a Fourth of July celebration was in progress.
Sparks of fire ran along to the statue of the first President. Then there was a puff of smoke, and in front of the hero of the Revolution there shot up dancing flames.
At the same time there sounded several sharp explosions, as though the British were firing on the Minute Men at Lexington, and the latter were replying as fast as they could load and discharge their flintlocks.
Windows began to go up here and there, and heads were thrust forth.
"What is it?" "What's the matter?" "Are there burglars?" were some of the cries.
Brighter now burned the fire at the foot of the statue, which was enveloped in a cloud of flame and smoke, and, had the original been alive he must have delighted in the baptism of gunpowder.
Then there came a louder explosion. It was followed by a shower of sparks, and a trail of sparks began running along the ground, toward the college.
An instant later there blazed forth on a board as on an illuminated sign, in front of the room of Adrian Bagot the words in letters of fire:
WE DID IT.
Underneath, in smaller characters were the initials;
"A.B. E.S. J.H."
"Wait until Dr. Mead sees that," said Jack, as he looked out on the campus, which was now a scene of brilliancy.
THE BURGLAR SCARE
The whole academy was now aroused. Several students and teachers, in scanty attire, had come from their rooms and were hurrying down to see if the place was on fire. For several minutes the blazing words and initials shone out amid the darkness. Then they died away in a shower of sparks, and windows could be heard being put down.
"That's excitement enough for one night," remarked John Smith. "It succeeded better than I thought it would."
"That was a great idea," said Jack.
"Glad you think so," the Indian went on.
"I've seen soldiers at the Canadian forts play all sorts of tricks with gunpowder and slow fuse so I just adopted some of them. It was easy enough, after they laid the powder train, with the initials of you, Sam, and Bony, to change them into a general serpentine twist with their initials in the midst of it. By ramming some of the powder down into the holes in the foundation it exploded with quite a noise."
"Lucky you had those chemicals in your room, Jack, or I'd never been able to make that board with the words 'We did it' on and stick it up in front of Adrian's window. I used part of their own long fuse, and it was a good one."
"Seemed to do the work all right," agreed Sam.
"It sure did," observed Jack. "I wonder what they thought when they saw the fire coming their way?"
"Hush! Here comes some one!" exclaimed Sam. and the boys put out their light, which was burning low.
"It's Dr. Mead; I know his step," said Jack.
"I'll bet he's on his way to Bagot's room," spoke Sam. "Cracky! I'm glad it isn't me."
"It's only good luck it isn't!" put in Jack. "If we hadn't gone out they might have exploded their powder, and, in the morning our initials would have been found at the bottom of the statue, burned in the stone."
A little later loud talking was heard from the direction of Adrian's room. It quieted down, after a while. But there was a strenuous session at chapel the next morning, and Adrian and his cronies were given extra lessons to do.
For a week or more after this all the students had to buckle down to hard study, as the annual examinations were approaching. Jack and his chums had little time for sports of any kind, as they had a number of lessons to master in addition to their regular work. But by diligence they kept up with the requirements, and, about two weeks before the time set for the closing of the school, they found themselves on even terms.
"I'm ready for some fun," announced Jack, one evening. "I've been good and quiet so long I can feel my wings sprouting."
"Better go easy," cautioned John Smith.
"I'm going to; as easy as I can," replied Jack. "But I've got to do something or break loose."
"Shivering side-saddles!" exclaimed Nat Anderson. "Let's have a burglar scare."
"How?" asked Sam.
"I'll think of a plan," Nat went on. "Howling huckleberries, but I too am pining for a little excitement, Jack."
"Well, trot out your plan," Jack said. "We haven't got much time."
"Let me think a minute," begged Nat, and, while he assumed an attitude as though he was trying to solve a problem in geometry, Fred drew out a little tin fife and played such a doleful air that Nat cried:
"How do you expect me to think with that thing going?" and, with a quick grab he snatched it from Fred's hand and sent it spinning across Jack's room.
"I have it!" Nat exclaimed, when the excitement had somewhat subsided. "You all know what timid creatures Professors Gale and Hall are. They room together, and I believe they'd scream if they saw a mouse. Not that they're a bad sort, for they have both helped me a lot in my lessons. But men ought not to be such babies. Now what's the matter with a couple of us disguising ourselves as burglars and going into their rooms about midnight? The rest of us can hide and hear the fun."
"Maybe they'll shoot," suggested Sam.
"Shoot! They'd be afraid to handle a revolver," was Nat's comment.
"Well, as long as it won't do any real harm, and as we positively have to have something happen, let's go on with it," said Jack. "Who'll be the burglars?"
"Nat'll have to be one," spoke John Smith, as he proposed it."
"Ll-l-let me be t-t-the o-o-o-other," said Will Slade haltingly.
"What? And when you demand their money or their lives how would you say it?" asked Sam.
"Nice sort of a burglar you'd make. 'G-g-g-give m-m-m-me y-y-y-your m-m-mon—'"
Sam stopped suddenly and dodged back, as Will aimed a blow at him. In doing so he stumbled over a pile of books and went down in a heap.
"Serves you right," said Jack. "Just for his making fun of Will I vote we elect Will as one of the burglars."
The others agreed, even Sam, and Will regained his good nature.
"How about masks?" asked Sam.
"I'll make some," replied Jack, and, from some pieces of black cloth, he quickly cut two false-faces.
"I-I-I-I've g-g-got t-t-t have a g-g-g-g—" came from Will.
"Are you trying to say a pair of gum shoes?" asked John Smith. "I'll lend you a pair of moccasins."
"I guess he means gun," volunteered Nat. "But these will do just as well," and he got a couple of nickel-plated bicycle pumps from a drawer. "They'll shine in the dim light just like revolvers," he went on.
"Guess I'll take a stroll down the corridor and see how the land lies," said Jack. "We don't want to burglarize a room that has no one in it, and they may not be in when the second story men get there."
"That's so, how are we going to get in?" asked Nat.
"Easy," replied Jack. "Their room is on the ground floor, and you can just raise the screen up and drop in. They always leave their window open a bit, as they're fresh air fiends."
While Jack went to take an observation, the two amateur burglars made their arrangements. They turned their clothing inside out, and, with the two pieces of black cloth across their faces, while ragged caps were drawn down close over their foreheads, they looked the part to perfection.
Jack soon returned, to report that the coast was clear, and that both assistants were in the room.
"Gales is reading Shakespeare, and Hall is manicuring his nails," the spy reported. "But it's too early yet. Let's go take a stroll and about midnight will be the right time. We can hide in the bushes opposite the room and hear 'em call for help. Then we can rush up and pretend we came to the rescue. That will be a good excuse in case we're caught watching the game."
Both assistants retired early, and the boys knew that twelve o'clock would find them both sound asleep. After a stroll about the college grounds, taking care not to venture into the light but keeping well in the shadows, Jack announced it was the hour for the show to commence.
"Better let Nat do the talking," Jack advised Will. "Have you got anything to disguise your voice, Nat?"
"I can talk down in my throat."
"Better put a peanut in your mouth," Jack went on passing over several. "That will make you sound more like a desperate villain."
Accordingly, Nat stuffed one of the unshelled nuts into his cheek, and then, seeing that Will was ready, he led the way from the shadow of the bushes toward the window of the room where the assistants slept. It was a dark night, which was favorable to their plans.
As Jack had said, the only bar to entrance was a light screen in the casement. Nat raised this, and, listening a few seconds, to make sure the teachers were asleep, he crawled into the room.
Will followed him. For a moment after they had entered the boys did not know what to do. They were unaware of the method of procedure common among burglars. They were in doubt whether to announce their presence, or wait until the sleepers discovered it.
Chance, however, took charge of matters for them. In moving about Will hit a book that projected over the edge of a table. It fell down, bounced against a cane standing in one corner, and the stick toppled against a wash pitcher, making a noise as if a gong had been rung.
"Now be ready to throw a scare into 'em!" whispered Nat to Will. "That's bound to rouse 'em."
It did. They could hear the sleepers sitting up in bed. Then Mr. Hall demanded:
"Don't move as you value your life!" exclaimed Nat, in his deepest tones.
"We-we-we!" began Will forgetting the instructions to let Nat do the talking. His companion, however, silenced him by a vigorous punch in the stomach.
"We're after money!" Nat went on.
There was a sudden click and the room became illuminated. Mr. Hall had pulled the chain that turned on the automatic gaslight. The two teachers were sitting up in their beds, staring at the intruders.
Nat drew his bicycle pump, and Will followed his example.
"Money or your life!" exclaimed Nat, in dramatic accents.
"Why—why—I believe they're burglars!" cried Mr. Gales.
"The impudence of them!" almost shouted Mr. Hall. The next instant he sprang out of bed and advanced on Nat and Will with long strides. This was more than the boys had bargained for.
Seizing Nat, Mr. Hall, who proved much more muscular than his build indicated, fairly tossed the boy out of the window. Fortunately he fell on the soft grass and was only shaken up.
"Get out of here, you scoundrel!" exclaimed the athletic teacher, making a rush for Will.
"D-d-don't h-h-h-hurt me!" pleaded the bold burglar. "I-I-I-I we—"
As Mr. Hall grabbed him the black mask came off and the instructor, seeing the lad's face cried out:
"It's Will Slade!"
He was about to send the burglar flying after his companion, but this discovery stopped him. At the same instant, the hidden crowd, thinking it was about time to do the rescue act, had started forward.
"Keep back!" cried Nat. "It's a fizzle!" and he limped from under the window as fast as he could.
The boys needed no other warning to make themselves scarce. They had reckoned without their host in planning the trick on the two teachers.
"Where's Will?" asked Jack of Nat.
"I guess they've caught him," the limping "burglar" said.
"That means trouble," put in Sam. "How did it happen?"
The conspirators were now some distance away from the Hall, and out of hearing distance.
"It happened because they weren't the milksops we thought them," said Nat; rubbing his elbow. "The way he grabbed me felt as if I was being hugged by a bear."
"Then they didn't get frightened?"
"Not a bit. Came right at me."
The boys looked back. The brilliantly lighted window of the teacher's room shone out plainly amid the blackness of the night. As the boys watched, they saw a figure climb over the sill.
"There comes Will," spoke Sam.
"I wonder if they're not going to report us," said Jack. "Say, It will be the first time a teacher didn't take an opportunity of getting even."
As soon as Will found himself on the ground he set off on a run, toward where he supposed his friends to be in hiding.
Jack gave the usual signal-whistle of his crowd, and Will, hearing it, came up quickly.
"Didn't he make a row?"
"Are they going to report it?"
"How'd you get away?"
These were some of the questions to which the throng of boys demanded answers.
"I-I-I—c-can't t-t-tell h-h-h—."
"Here! you quit that!" exclaimed Jack sternly, thinking to frighten Will out of his stuttering.
The rebuke had the desired effect, and, for once Will forgot to mix his words and letters.
"When he saw it was me," he explained, "he didn't seem to know what to say. Then he laughed and Gales laughed, and I felt pretty foolish; I tell you.
"Gales asked me who was with me, but Hall cut in and said he didn't want me to tell. I wouldn't anyhow, only it was white of him not to insist."
"It sure was," murmured Jack. "Oh, I can see trouble coming our way."
"Well," went on Will. "He looked at me a little longer, and I heard Gales mutter something about 'boys will be boys,' then Hall made a sign to him, and Gales went back to bed."
"What did you do?" asked Jack.
"Why, Hall motioned to me to climb out of the windows and I did, mighty quick, you can bet"
"Wait until chapel to-morrow morning," said Nat. "Maybe we won't get it! Never mind, the end of the term is almost here, and they can't do any more than suspend us. Though I hate to have the folks hear of it."
There were several anxious hearts beating under boyish coats when the opening exercises were held the next morning. The burglar schemers watched the two assistants file in and take their usual places on the raised platform.
"How do they look?" whispered Nat to Jack.
"Don't seem to have an awful lot of fire in their eyes," was the answer.
"Wait until Dr. Mead begins," whispered Sam, a sort of Job's comforter.
But to the boys' astonishment, there was no reference to the night's prank. The exercises went off as usual, though every time Dr. Mead cleared his throat, or began to speak on a new subject, there was a nervous thrill on the part of the conspirators.
"I have one more announcement to make, and that will end the exercises for the day," the head of the Academy said.
"Here it comes," whispered Jack.
"Will Slade and Nat Anderson are requested to meet Professors Hall and Gales after chapel," was what the doctor said.
There was a little buzz of excitement among the students, for the story of the escapade had become generally known.
"Glad I'm not in their shoes, but I suppose we'll all come in for it," said Sam, as he and the others filed out of the assembly room. Will and Nat remained, their spirits anything but pleasant.
Their companions stayed out on the campus, waiting for them, instead of dispersing to their rooms to prepare for the first lesson period. As the minutes dragged away there was a general feeling of apprehension.
"Don't s'pose they'll get a flogging do you?" asked Sam.
"Against the rules of the institution," replied Jack.
"Here they come," announced Fred Kaler. "I don't know whether I ought to play a funeral march or 'Palms of Victory.'"
"Probably the former," put in John Smith.
"Well?" asked Jack, as the two "burglars" came within hailing distance, "what did they do to you?"
"It's all right!" exclaimed Nat. "Say, they're bricks all right, Gales and Hall are! They took us to Dr. Mead's little private office, and we thought sure we were in for it. I didn't know how they recognized me until Gales gave me my handkerchief, which I had dropped in the room. It had my name on it."
"Skip those details!" interrupted Sam. "Get down to business. Did they fire you?"
"Not a bit of it," replied Nat. "They asked me if I was hurt in the— er—the—jump I took from the window. I said I wasn't. They then made some remarks about the night air being bad toward the end of the term, and they told us to go to our classes. Not a word about it. I call that white, I do."
"Right you are!" came in chorus from the others.
"We ought to send 'em a vote of thanks," suggested Sam.
"No, I think I'd let it rest where it is," came from Jack. "They want to show that they could have made trouble if they wanted to. We'd better let it drop. I wonder if Dr. Mead knows it?"
"I don't believe they told him," was Nat's opinion. "You see there wasn't much of a row, and it was all over in a little while. But it certainly is one on us."
To this they all agreed. Yet one good thing came of it, for the boys had a better understanding of the characters of the two instructors. They felt an increased respect for them morally as well as physically, and there came a better spirit between Jack's crowd and the two professors. The latter never even referred to the burglar incident, and, whenever any of the other students spoke in rather slighting terms of either of the instructors, Jack and his friends were ready defenders.
On account of preparations for examinations there was only a half day's session, the boys being given the afternoon off. After dinner Jack accepted an invitation from John Smith to go out in the Indian student's canoe on the lake.
They paddled about for several hours, and were on their way back to the boathouse, when a rowing craft, in which two youths were seated, came swiftly toward them.
"Look out!" called Jack. "Do you want to run us down?"
Whether the rowers intended that or not was not evident, but they certainly came within a few inches of smashing the frail canoe. Only John's skill prevented it. As the rowboat swept past one of the oars fairly snatched the paddle from Jack's hand.
"What's the matter with you?" he demanded angrily.
The only answer was a mocking laugh, and, as the boat was now far enough past to show the faces of the rowers, Jack looked to see who they were.
"Jerry Chowden!" he exclaimed. "I thought he was in Chicago," and he recalled the threatening letter.
"Guess he's here to see the closing exercises," remarked John. "Who's that with him?"
"Adrian Bagot" replied Jack. "Well, they're a nice team. I shouldn't wonder but there'd be some trouble for some one if they stay long."
"Not many more days left," John observed. "Grab your paddle," and he swung the canoe around to where the broad blade floated.
In his room that evening Jack's meditations as to what Chowden's return might mean were interrupted by the entrance of Nat Anderson. He seemed quite excited and was waving a letter over his head.
"Great news," he exclaimed.
"What is?" asked Jack. "Some one left you a thousand dollars?"
"No, it's an invitation from my uncle, Morris Kent, who has a big ranch near Denville, Colorado, to come out and spend the summer vacation with him."
"Fine!" cried Jack.
"But that isn't the best part," added Nat. "He says I can bring two chums with me, and I want you to be one."
"Do you mean it?" asked Jack.
"Who else will you take?"
There was a noise in the corridor.
A MEETING WITH CHOWDEN
"Studying or talking?" asked a voice in the hall outside of Jack's room, and the door was pushed open to admit John Smith. Jack and Nat looked at each other. The same thought seemed to come to both of them.
"Him!" they exclaimed together.
"What's this, a game, or a joke?"
"A little of both," Jack said. "Tell him about it, Nat."
Nat explained the receipt of his uncle's invitation.
"We were just wondering who would make the third member of the party, when you came in," he said, "and we both decided on you."
"It was very kind of you to invite me," John said. "I guess I can arrange to go. Where is this ranch?"
"Near Denville, Colorado," replied Nat.
John started and looked at Jack.
"Nothing the matter with that place, is there?" asked Jack.
"No. On the contrary it couldn't be better," replied John. "That's where we want to go to settle the mystery—"
He stopped, evidently on account of Nat's presence.
"Oh, Nat knows all about it," said Jack. "I see what you're driving at."
"Yes," went on John. "Denville is not many miles from Denver, and at the latter place, you remember, we can go to the Capital Bank, and get the address of Orion Tevis."