HotFreeBooks.com
The Rover Boys Under Canvas - or The Mystery of the Wrecked Submarine
by Arthur M. Winfield
1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

THE ROVER BOYS UNDER CANVAS

By ARTHUR M. WINFIELD



THE ROVER BOYS UNDER CANVAS

OR

THE MYSTERY OF THE WRECKED SUBMARINE

BY

ARTHUR M. WINFIELD (Edward Stratemeyer)

AUTHOR OF "THE ROVER BOYS AT SCHOOL," "THE ROVER BOYS ON THE OCEAN," "THE PUTNAM HALL SERIES," ETC.

ILLUSTRATED

NEW YORK GROSSET & DUNLAP PUBLISHERS

Made in the United States of America



BOOKS BY ARTHUR M. WINFIELD (Edward Stratemeyer)

THE FIRST ROVER BOYS SERIES

THE ROVER BOYS AT SCHOOL THE ROVER BOYS ON THE OCEAN THE ROVER BOYS IN THE JUNGLE THE ROVER BOYS OUT WEST THE ROVER BOYS ON THE GREAT LAKES THE ROVER BOYS IN THE MOUNTAINS THE ROVER BOYS IN CAMP THE ROVER BOYS ON LAND AND SEA THE ROVER BOYS ON THE RIVER THE ROVER BOYS ON THE PLAINS THE ROVER BOYS IN SOUTHERN WATERS THE ROVER BOYS ON THE FARM THE ROVER BOYS ON TREASURE ISLE THE ROVER BOYS AT COLLEGE THE ROVER BOYS DOWN EAST THE ROVER BOYS IN THE AIR THE ROVER BOYS IN NEW YORK THE ROVER BOYS IN ALASKA THE ROVER BOYS IN BUSINESS THE ROVER BOYS ON A TOUR

THE SECOND ROVER BOYS SERIES

THE ROVER BOYS AT COLBY HALL THE ROVER BOYS ON SNOWSHOE ISLAND THE ROVER BOYS UNDER CANVAS

THE PUTNAM HALL SERIES

THE PUTNAM HALL CADETS THE PUTNAM HALL RIVALS THE PUTNAM HALL CHAMPIONS THE PUTNAM HALL REBELLION THE PUTNAM HALL ENCAMPMENT THE PUTNAM HALL MYSTERY

12mo. Cloth. Illustrated.

GROSSET & DUNLAP, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK

COPYRIGHT, 1919, BY EDWARD STRATEMEYER

The Rover Boys Under Canvas



INTRODUCTION

MY DEAR BOYS: This book is a complete story in itself, but forms the third volume in a line issued under the general title, "The Second Rover Boys Series for Young Americans."

As mentioned in a number of volumes of the first series, this line was started some years ago with the publication of "The Rover Boys at School," "On the Ocean," and "In the Jungle," in which I introduced my young readers to Dick, Tom, and Sam Rover. The volumes of the first series related the doings of these three Rover boys while attending Putnam Hall Military Academy, Brill College, and while on numerous outings.

Having acquired a good education, the three young men established themselves in business and became married. Presently Dick Rover was blessed with a son and a daughter, as was also his brother Sam, while Tom Rover became the proud father of twin boys. At first the four lads were kept at home, but then it was thought best to send them to a boarding school, and in the first volume of the second series, entitled "The Rover Boys at Colby Hall," I related what happened to them while attending this institution.

From Colby Hall the scene was shifted to Snowshoe Island, where the lads went for a mid-winter outing. Here they ran into a most unusual mystery, and helped an old lumberman to establish his claim to the island.

In the present volume the boys are back at Colby Hall, but it is time for the annual encampment of the military school, and soon they depart for a brief season "Under Canvas." This is at the time of the World War, and the lads get mixed up in the mystery surrounding a wrecked submarine. What this led to, I leave for the pages which follow to relate.

In conclusion I wish to thank my numerous readers for all the nice things they have said about my books. I trust the reading of the volumes will do all of them good.

Affectionately and sincerely yours, EDWARD STRATEMEYER.



CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

I A GAME OF BASEBALL 1

II ABOUT THE ROVER BOYS 12

III THE AMMUNITION FACTORY EXPLOSIONS 25

IV A RESCUE ON THE LAKE 35

V MEETING OLD ENEMIES 41

VI CELEBRATING THE BASEBALL VICTORY 56

VII FUN WITH CODFISH 66

VIII AN INTERRUPTED FEAST 76

IX A TELEGRAM FROM HOME 87

X ON THE WAY HOME 98

XI TOM ROVER'S DILEMMA 109

XII AT THE ROVER COMPANY OFFICES 120

XIII FUN AT A RAILROAD STATION 132

XIV BACK TO COLBY HALL 142

XV THE ELECTION FOR OFFICERS 153

XVI OFF FOR THE ENCAMPMENT 164

XVII A NIGHT ON THE ROAD 175

XVIII ONE SURPRISE AND ANOTHER 184

XIX AT CAMP BARLIGHT 194

XX FIRST DAYS UNDER CANVAS 202

XXI STRANGE NOISES 212

XXII AT THE RIFLE RANGES 221

XXIII GIRL VISITORS 231

XXIV TOM ROVER'S ANNOUNCEMENT 240

XXV AT CAMP HUXWELL 250

XXVI AN ASTONISHING DISCOVERY 260

XXVII ON BOARD THE SUBMARINE 271

XXVIII THE CABIN IN THE WOODS 282

XXIX THE FIGHT ON THE SUBMARINE 291

XXX AN IMPORTANT CAPTURE—CONCLUSION 300



THE ROVER BOYS UNDER CANVAS



CHAPTER I

A GAME OF BASEBALL

"Now for a home run, Jack!"

"Soak it out over the bleachers!"

"Show the Hixley boys what we can do!"

"Give him a swift one, Dink! Don't let him hit it!"

"Oh, dear, I do hope Jack scores!" came in a sweet, girlish voice.

"Of course he'll score!" returned a youth sitting near the girl who had made the remark. "He's been holding back for just this chance."

"Oh, do you think so?" asked another girl in the grandstand.

"Surest thing ever was," was the airy rejoinder. "This is the time we're going to show the Hixley boys what's what."

"Not on your life!" bellowed a heavy voice from the rear. "Here is where Colby Hall gets snowed under."

Then came a series of yells, followed by the tooting of horns and the sounding of rattles, making a din that was almost ear-splitting.

The occasion was the annual baseball game between Hixley High and Colby Hall. It had been scheduled to take place on the high-school athletic field, but at almost the last minute this field had been declared out of condition, and it had been decided to hold the contest on the athletic grounds attached to the military academy.

Hixley High was very anxious to win this game. During the previous fall, as related in a former volume of this series, the high-school lads had lost the annual football game with Colby Hall by a single touchdown. This defeat still rankled in their minds, and they were determined if possible to take the baseball game by a score that should be well worth while.

And they had good reason to be hopeful of doing this. While their football team had always been considered by the other teams of that locality to be of the "second string variety," the baseball nine was a remarkably strong organization. At its head was Dink Wilsey, a pitcher who was destined at some time in the future to show himself in one of the big leagues.

"Why, Dink alone can walk off with that game," was the way more than one Hixley High student had expressed himself.

But more than this—Hixley High had an exceptionally good first baseman and a trio of outfielders whose batting average was high.

"We're going to put it all over Colby Hall this trip," was the way the manager of the Hixley High ball club declared himself on the day previous to the match.

The game was now at the second half of the sixth inning, and the score stood, Hixley High, 4; Colby Hall, 2. Colby Hall was at the bat with two men out and one man at second.

It was therefore no wonder that the military academy students became anxious when Jack Rover took up his bat and walked to the plate. A home run would mean the tying of the score, and with a chance to do even better.

"Take your time, Jack," said Gif Garrison, who was the manager of the nine. "Make him give you a ball just where you want it."

"Watch yourself!" yelled one of the coaches to the runner at second, for the Hixley High pitcher had suddenly whirled around, sending the ball down to the second baseman. There was a quick drop by the runner, and he escaped getting caught by a few inches only.

"Close shave! Watch yourself, Dan!" yelled Gif Garrison; and Dan Soppinger, at second, nodded to show that he understood, and then danced away in the direction of third base as before.

The first ball pitched to Jack Rover was a slow in-curve, and he stepped back and allowed it to pass him.

"Ball one!"

At this decision a howl of delight went up from the followers of Colby Hall, while a corresponding groan came from Hixley High.

"That's the eye!"

"Better get a pair of glasses!"

"Sure! The umpire must be blind! That was a perfect ball!"

"Sure it was a perfect ball! That's the reason he called it a ball!" came from Andy Rover, who sat on the substitutes' bench.

The second ball delivered was a fairly good one, although rather low. Jack swung at it, and high into the air spun the sphere, well back of the catcher's head.

"Foul!"

"Run, Billy, you can catch it!"

Flinging off his mask, the Hixley High catcher rushed back toward where the ball was coming down. But it was too far away for him, and it struck slantingly on one of the back posts, rolling off toward the grandstand.

"Line it out, Jack! Don't be fooling with fouls!" yelled Fred Rover.

"Show 'em where the river is!" added Randy Rover.

The next ball to come in was a wide out-curve, and again Jack let it pass him.

"Ball two!" shouted the umpire.

"That's the way to do it, Jack! Make 'em give you what you want!"

With two balls against him, the noted pitcher for the high school exercised a little more care in his next delivery. He sent in a straight, swift one, directly over the outer point of the plate. It was not exactly what Jack desired, but it was good enough, and he swung at it with all his strength. Crack! And the ball went sailing directly over the head of the shortstop and into the field beyond.

"Run, Jack! Run! It's good for a two-bagger!"

"Leg it, Dan! Leg it for home!"

"Send the ball in, Wiffles! Don't let 'em get home!"

These and a hundred other cries rang out as nearly every spectator sprang to his or her feet in the excitement. Dan Soppinger, half way to third when Jack made the hit, had now touched that bag and was tearing for the home plate.

In the meantime Jack, running like a deer, had passed first and was making for second. The shortstop had made a high but ineffectual jump for the ball, and now he and the fielder behind him were both after the sphere. There was a short mix-up, and then the fielder sent the ball with unerring aim toward the catcher at the home plate.

"Slide, Dan, slide!"

And then Dan Soppinger, running as he had never run before, dropped down and slid to the plate amid a whirl of dust, followed instantly by the ball, which landed with a thud in the catcher's mitt.

"He's safe! He's safe!"

"And look! Jack Rover is going to make third!"

Realizing that it was too late to catch the man at the plate, the catcher threw the ball down to second. But Jack Rover had already started for third, and now he streaked along with all his might, arriving at that bag just an instant before the ball followed him.

"That's the way to do it, boy! Keep it up!"

"Oh, he made three bases!" cried one of the girls in the grandstand. "Isn't that just lovely?"

"I told you he'd do it, Ruth," said another of the girls.

"I wish my cousin Dick was coming up," remarked one of the girls. "I'm sure he would be able to help them out."

"Never mind, May. He'll be coming up pretty soon," answered Ruth Stevenson.

The next cadet to the bat was Walt Baxter. Walt was a good all-around player, but just at present he was not in the best of condition, having suffered from a touch of the grippe early in the season.

"Bang out a homer, Walt!" sang out Andy Rover.

"Never mind that, Walt. Make a safe hit and bring Jack in," said Gif Garrison.

"I'll do my best," answered Walt Baxter. But it was plainly to be seen that his recent illness had rendered him somewhat nervous. He had a ball and a strike called on him, and then got another strike through a little foul that passed over one of the coaches' heads. Then Dink Wilsey passed him a slow, tantalizing ball. Walt connected with it but sent up only a pop fly, which the third baseman gathered in with ease.

"Hurrah! that's the way to hold 'em down," came the cry from one of the high-school boys.

"Gee, old man, it's too bad you didn't have a chance to bring that run in," remarked Gif Garrison to Jack Rover, as the latter walked in from third base.

"Well, anyway, I brought Dan in," returned Jack, as cheerfully as he could.

"Yes; but if you had got in that would have tied the score," went on the manager. "However, the game isn't over yet."

"Over! Why, we've just begun to play!" returned Jack, with a grin.

"That's the talk!" cried Andy Rover. "Colby Hall forever! Now then, boys, all together!" he yelled, turning to the grandstand. And a moment later there boomed out this refrain:

"Who are we? Can't you see? Colby Hall! Dum! Dum! Dum, dum, dum! Here we come with fife and drum! Colby! Colby! Colby Hall!"

And then followed a great yelling and tooting of horns and sounding of rattles.

"My gracious! if they keep on I'll surely become deaf," said Martha Rover.

"I think I had better retire from this game," remarked Walt Baxter, as he faced the manager. "I told you I didn't feel like going in, and now I am sure I should have kept out of it."

"All right, Walt. I'll be sorry to lose you," answered Gif. And then he told Andy Rover to get ready to get into the game.

With a score still 4 to 3 in their favor, Hixley High opened the seventh inning with vigor. They managed to get a man on first, and then on a sacrifice advanced him to second. Then came a two-bagger, and the play made by Colby Hall in the ending of the sixth inning was repeated by their opponents, thus making the score 5 to 3.

On their part Colby Hall tried its best to score during the seventh, but was doomed to disappointment.

Then came the eighth inning with a goose egg placed on the board for each nine.

"Say, this begins to look bad for us," remarked Will Hendry, the fattest boy at Colby Hall. "It looks as if Hixley High was going to have a sweet revenge."

In the Hixley High half of the ninth inning Dink Wilsey showed what a very good all-around player he was. The noted pitcher cracked out a home run, making the tally with ease. Fortunately this was at a time when there was no one on base, so that only one run was scored. Two men were out, and the next player knocked a fly to short, which was gathered in by Frank Newberry with ease.

"Hurrah! Score another for Hixley High!"

"That makes the score six to three!"

"I guess this game is as good as won!"

So the cries ran on among the high-school scholars and their friends. The Colby Hall contingent was, of course, much downcast, but they refused to show it, and once more the slogan of the military academy boomed forth.

"Now, boys, pull yourselves together and go at 'em hammer and tongs," cried Gif Garrison. "Watch the pitcher. Don't let Dink put anything over you."

Fred Rover was at the bat, and he managed to make a safe hit. He was followed by a player who made another safe hit, thus advancing Fred to second. Then came two outs, but in the mix-up Fred managed to steal to third, while the player on first got down to second. Jack Rover was now once more to the bat, and all of his friends were yelling at the top of their lungs for him to "Knock the hide off the ball!" "Send it over the back fence!" "Show 'em where the other side of the river is!" and to "Wipe up the field with Hixley High!"

One ball was called, and then a strike. Then came another strike, and things began to look gloomy for Colby Hall. But then Jack got a ball exactly where he wanted it, and he swung at it with every ounce of muscle he could command. Crack! went the bat, and the sphere went sailing far down in left field.

"That's the way to do it! Run, boys, run!"

"Come on home, Jack!"

Fred, on third, was already streaking for home, and close behind him came the player who had been on second. In the meanwhile, Jack raced to first and around to second, and then came plowing up to third.

"Hold it, Rover! Hold it!"

"Come on in—don't wait! Come on in!"

Jack looked down into the field and saw that the fielder was just in the act of picking up the ball. With a great bound, he started for the home plate, and when ten feet from that place dropped to the ground and slid in with the rapidity of lightning.

"He's safe! A home run!"

"That ties the score!"

"Now then, boys, go in and finish 'em up!"

The din and excitement was now tremendous. The score was indeed a tie. Which club would win?



CHAPTER II

ABOUT THE ROVER BOYS

"Now then, fellows, don't forget to bring in the winning run!"

"Show Hixley High what we can do!"

And then came a rousing cheer from the Colby Hall cadets, and once more they gave the well-known military academy refrain.

Any ordinary pitcher might have been nervous over the prospect ahead of him; but Dink Wilsey was not one of that caliber, and he faced the next batsman as coolly as he had all of the others. Two balls were called, and then two strikes, and then two more balls, and the batsman walked to first base.

"Hurrah! he's afraid to give him the kind we chew up."

"Maybe he'll let the next man walk, too!" cried another.

But this was not to be. The next cadet up went out on a foul, and the inning came to a sudden end.

"A tie! A tie! The game is a tie!"

"Now for the winning run! Hixley High!"

"That's the stuff! Larsen to the bat! And, my, won't he wallop that ball!"

Larsen was the Hixley High center fielder—a tall, sturdy youth with blue eyes and light hair, of Norwegian descent. He came to the plate with a "do-or-die" look on his face. He allowed two balls to pass him, only one of which, however, was called a strike. Then he made a sweep for the next ball, sending it out in a red-hot liner toward Jack.

Many a young ball player would have stepped out of the way with such a red-hot variety of baseball coming his way. But not so Jack Rover. Like a flash his hands went out and he caught the ball firmly, although the impact of the sphere whirled him half way around.

"Gee, look at that!"

"I wouldn't have caught that ball for a thousand dollars!"

A great shout of approval rang out, and during this Gif hurried over to Jack's side.

"How about it—did it hurt you any?" he questioned quickly.

"It stung me a little, that's all," was Jack's reply. His hands burnt like fire, but he did not intend to let anybody know it.

"One down! Now for the other two!" came the cry.

"Not much! Here is where we score!"

But alas for the hopes of Hixley High! The next man up went out on strikes, and the fellow to follow knocked a foul which was easily gathered in by the third baseman.

"Now here is where we bring home the bacon!" cried Ned Lowe, one of the Colby Hall fans.

Andy Rover had been burning to distinguish himself, and now his chance came. First to the bat, he made a very neat base hit. Then, however, came an out, and the Colby Hall boys were, for a moment, downcast. But they quickly recovered when the next player made a single and Andy slid around safely to third.

"Now then, a hit! Just a neat little hit!" came the entreating cry.

"Oh, if only they do get it!" murmured Ruth Stevenson. "I wish Jack was at the bat."

"It's my cousin Dick!" cried May Powell, and she was right—Spouter Powell was up.

Spouter was not a particularly strong ball player, but he had one feature which was in his favor—he knew how to keep cool, and that helped greatly in this heart-breaking emergency. He waited calmly until two strikes and two balls had been called, and then he struck a low one, sending it just inside the first-base line. It slipped past the baseman, and as Spouter's feet crossed the bag, Fred Rover slid in safely to the home plate.

"Hurrah! Hurrah! Colby Hall wins!"

Then followed a wild cheering and yelling, in the midst of which the crowds on the bleachers and the grandstand broke forth to mingle with the players on the ball field. Of course, the Hixley High students were much crestfallen, yet they tried to take their defeat in good part.

"Three cheers for Hixley High!" shouted Gif Garrison, and they were given with a will. Then followed a cheer from the high-school students for those of the military academy, and then the crowd started to disperse.

"Oh, boys! some celebration to-night, what?" cried Randy Rover, and in the exuberance of his spirits he turned several handsprings on the grass.

"You bet we'll celebrate!" exclaimed his cousin Fred.

"Say! we ought to shoot off the old cannon for this," burst out Andy Rover. He referred to an ancient fieldpiece located on the front lawn of the school.

"Too dangerous," interposed his cousin Jack. "That old cannon is too rusty, and it would fly into a million pieces."

"Yes, but we might——"

Boom!

It was a loud explosion coming from a considerable distance. The cadets, as well as all the others gathered on the ball field, looked at each other in surprise.

"What could that have been?" questioned Fred Rover.

"Sounds like a big cannon going off," answered Walt Baxter.

Boom! Boom!

Two more explosions rent the air, both much louder than the first. The very ground seemed to be shaken by the concussion.

"Say, that sounds like a warship!"

"No warships around here," was the answer.

"Maybe it's a German Zeppelin!"

"Gee! do you suppose the Germans have come over here to bombard us?"

Boom! Boom! Boom!

Several more explosions came now close upon the others, each explosion heavier than those which had gone before. The ground all around seemed to tremble, and those who were still in the grandstand cried out in alarm.

"The grandstand is going down! Everybody jump for his life!"

"Look! Look!" was the sudden cry from Jack Rover, and he pointed to a place on the opposite shore of Clearwater Lake. A dense volume of smoke was rolling skyward. Then came another tremendous explosion, and a mass of wreckage could be seen to be lifted skyward.

"It's the Hasley ammunition factory going up!" cried Fred Rover. "What an awful thing to happen!"

"That factory is right across the lake from our school!" cried Martha Rover. "I wonder if it will damage that place any?"

"I shouldn't be surprised," answered her cousin Andy. And then he added quickly: "I hope Mary will be safe."

"Oh, oh! do you think Mary is in danger?" cried Ruth Stevenson, who had just joined the others. Mary was Fred Rover's sister, who had been left behind at the girls' boarding school because she had been suffering that day with a severe headache, and had said she preferred resting to attending the ball game, even though she loved to be with the others.

"There goes another building!" yelled Andy Rover, as another report rent the air. Then those who were looking down the river and across the lake saw some strange objects being hurled through the sky in the direction of Clearwater Hall.

"If that whole ammunition factory starts to go up, it will certainly mean damage to the boarding school," declared Jack. "I guess the best we can do is to get down there and see if Mary is safe."

"That's just what I say!" declared Fred. "I'm going to get down there just as fast as I can." And he ran off, to board one of the automobiles headed in that direction.

Now, I know it will not be at all necessary to introduce the Rover boys or their friends to my old readers, but for the benefit of those who have not perused any of my former stories a few words concerning these characters will be necessary. In the first volume, entitled "The Rover Boys at School," I told how three brothers, Dick, Tom, and Sam Rover, were sent off to Putnam Hall Military Academy, where they made a great number of friends, including a youth named Lawrence Colby. From Putnam Hall the lads went to Brill College, and on leaving that institution of learning went into business in New York City with offices on Wall Street. They organized The Rover Company, of which Dick was now president, Tom secretary and general manager, and Sam treasurer.

While at Putnam Hall the three Rovers had become acquainted with three very charming girls, Dora Stanhope and her two cousins, Nellie and Grace Laning, and when Dick went into business he made Dora Stanhope his lifelong partner. A short time later Tom married Nellie Laning and Sam married Grace.

The three brothers purchased a fine plot of ground on Riverside Drive overlooking the noble Hudson River, and there they built three connecting houses, Dick and his family living in the middle house, with Tom on one side and Sam on the other.

About a year after their marriage Dick and his wife became the proud parents of a little son, who was named John after Mr. Laning. This son was followed by a daughter, called Martha after her great-aunt Martha of Valley Brook Farm, where the older Rovers had spent many of their younger days. Little Jack, as he was commonly called, was a manly lad with many of the qualities which had made his father so well liked and so successful.

It was about this time that Tom and Nellie Rover came to the front with a surprise for all of the others. This was in the shape of a pair of very lively twins, one of whom was named Anderson, after his grandfather, and the other, Randolph, after his great-uncle Randolph of Valley Brook Farm. Andy and Randy, as they were always called, were very active lads, in that particular being a second edition of their father.

About the time Tom's twins were born Sam and Grace Rover came along with a beautiful little girl, whom they named Mary after Mrs. Laning. Then, a year later, the girl was followed by a sturdy boy, christened Fred after Sam Rover's old and well-known school chum, Fred Garrison.

Residing so close together, the younger generation of Rover boys, as well as their sisters, were brought up very much like one family. They spent their winters usually in New York City, and during the summer often went out to Valley Brook Farm, where their grandfather, Anderson Rover, still resided with Uncle Randolph and Aunt Martha.

At first the boys and girls had been sent to private schools in the Metropolis; but soon the lads, led by Andy and Randy, showed such a propensity for "cutting loose" that their parents were compelled to hold a consultation.

"We'll have to do as Uncle Randolph did with us," said Dick Rover. "We'll have to send them to some strict boarding school—some military academy." And to this the others had agreed.

Some time previous their old school chum, Lawrence Colby, who had since become a colonel in the state militia, had opened a military academy, called Colby Hall.

"We'll send them to that place," was the decision of the older Rovers. "Lawrence Colby is just the fellow to make them behave themselves, and as we are such good friends he will be sure to give them extra attention."

So the boys were sent off to this school, as related in detail in the first volume of my second series, entitled "The Rover Boys at Colby Hall." This military school was located about half a mile from the town of Haven Point on Clearwater Lake, a beautiful sheet of water about two miles long and nearly half a mile wide. At the head of the lake was the Rick Rack River, running down from the hills and woods beyond.

The school consisted of a large stone building, facing the river at a point not far from where the stream emptied into the lake. It was a three-storied structure, and contained the classrooms and a mess hall and also the dormitories and private rooms for the scholars. Close by was a smaller brick building, occupied by Colonel Colby and his family and some of the professors.

On the opposite side was an up-to-date gymnasium, while at the water's edge were a number of small buildings used as boathouses and bathing pavilions. Behind the hall were a stable and barn, and also a garage, and further back were a large garden and several farm fields and a great athletic field where the boys played baseball in the spring and football in the fall.

On arriving at Colby Hall the young Rovers had found several of their friends awaiting them, one of these being Dick Powell, the son of Songbird Powell, a former schoolmate of their fathers. Dick was always called Spouter because of his fondness for long speeches. Another was Gifford, the son of Fred Garrison, after whom Fred Rover had been named. There was also Walter Baxter, a son of Dan Baxter, who years before had been an enemy of the older Rovers, but who had now reformed and was doing very well.

Before coming to Colby Hall, Jack Rover had had a quarrel in New York City with a tall, dudish youth, named Napoleon Martell. Nappy Martell, as he was called by his cronies, was a cadet at the military academy, and he and his crony, an overgrown bully named Slugger Brown, did what they could to make trouble for the Rovers. But one of their underhanded transactions was exposed, and they were sent away from the academy for the time being.

As mentioned, Colby Hall was located about half a mile beyond Haven Point. On the opposite side of the town was located Clearwater Hall, a boarding school for girls. During a panic in a moving-picture theater Jack and his cousins became acquainted with a number of these girls, including Ruth Stevenson, May Powell, Alice Strobell, and Annie Larkins. They found out that May was Spouter Powell's cousin, and the whole crowd of young people soon became friends. Later on Mary and Martha Rover became pupils at the girls' school.

Ruth Stevenson had an old uncle Barney, who in times past had had a bitter quarrel with Ruth's parents. The Rover boys once went out hunting, and on this occasion saved the old man's life, as related in "The Rover Boys on Snowshoe Island." For this the old man was exceedingly grateful, and as a result he invited them to spend their winter holidays on Snowshoe Island, a place which he said he owned and of which he was very proud.

The boys traveled to this island and had many adventures while hunting and otherwise. They found out that the father of Slogwell Brown, always called Slugger by his comrades, was laying claim to the island. This man, backed up by Asa Lemm, a discharged teacher of Colby Hall, and backed up likewise by his son Slugger and Nappy Martell, did all he could to take possession of the property. But the Rover boys exposed the plot, and held the rascals at bay, and in the end old Barney Stevenson's claim to the land was made safe. During the time on the island Slugger Brown and Nappy Martell had stolen a tin box containing some valuable papers from the old man, and for this they had at first been threatened with arrest, but had been allowed to go when Slugger's father gave up his claim to the place.

"You think you're smart, don't you?" Slugger Brown had grumbled to Jack when he was ready to depart from Snowshoe Island. "You just wait, Jack Rover! I'm not going to forget you and your cousins in a hurry!"

"And I won't forget you either," Nappy Martell had added. "We'll get even with you when you least expect it."

But for quite a while now none of the Rovers had seen or heard anything more of Slugger Brown and Nappy Martell. But they were destined to hear more from these two unworthies, and in a most unusual fashion.



CHAPTER III

THE AMMUNITION FACTORY EXPLOSIONS

"Oh, I do hope Mary is safe!" cried Martha Rover, as she and the others ran toward where the automobiles which had brought them over to Colby Hall from the girls' boarding school were standing.

"So far those explosions haven't reached Clearwater Hall," answered her brother Jack. "But there is no telling what a real heavy explosion may do."

"That's just it!" burst out his cousin Randy. "For all we know, those Hasley people may have a large quantity of TNT or some other high explosive stored there, and if that should go up—good-night!"

"It would be fierce!"

"I think it's awful to allow those ammunition people to have their works so close to a town," was Ruth Stevenson's comment.

Boom! Boom!

Two more explosions rent the air. Then followed a series of poppings like the discharge of a machine gun.

"Those must be some of the small shells going off," said Andy. "Gosh, what a shame they couldn't have held this back until the Fourth of July!" he added. Andy would probably have wanted to joke at his own funeral.

The Rovers and their girl friends were soon seated in the automobiles which they had used earlier in the day to bring the girls to Colby Hall. With them went as many of the other cadets and their friends as could pile into the machines or hang fast to the running boards. All of the ball players went in their baseball outfits, not taking time to change to their uniforms.

The Rovers and their friends were among the first to leave the military institution, and for this reason they got away without any trouble. They had scarcely departed when Captain Mapes Dale, the military instructor attached to the school, appeared and forbade any more of the cadets to leave the grounds.

"There is no telling how dangerous those explosions may become," said Captain Dale, "and Colonel Colby thinks it is best that you remain here where it is comparatively safe. Even as it is, we may have some big shells coming this way."

The Hasley Shell Loading Company had been located on the opposite shore of Clearwater Lake for a number of years previous to the opening of the war in Europe. But at that time it had been only a small concern, employing but a handful of men. A year after the opening of hostilities, however, the plant had been enlarged, and now, since the entrance of the United States into the war, the force of workmen had been again doubled and many additional buildings had been erected, some along the lake front and others in the hills further back. A spur of the railroad had also been built to the plant, and on this were numerous cars, all painted to show the dangerous nature of the freight they were destined to carry.

On two different occasions the Rover boys and their chums had rowed over to the vicinity of the shell-loading works to look at what was going on. Guards around the works, however, had kept them from landing or even getting within a reasonable distance of the place. This, they knew, was done because the authorities feared that some spies might try to get into the buildings with a view to blowing them up.

"Gee, that certainly sounds like war!" cried Andy, as the explosions continued. There was a continual popping of small shells, punctured every now and then by a decidedly heavier explosion.

"My gracious! Look at that!" burst out Jack a moment later.

What the oldest Rover boy referred to was a curious explosion of a quantity of shells which seemed to go up in the form of an immense sheaf of wheat. Thousands of small objects filled the air, flying off in all directions of the compass.

"I'll bet we'll get some of those over here!" exclaimed Gif Garrison, who was clinging to the running board of the machine.

And he was right. Only a few seconds later several small bits of metal came down around them, two striking the hood of the automobile and one falling into the tonneau on Ruth's lap.

It did not take those in the automobile long to cover the half mile which lay between them and Haven Point, where the railroad station was located. Here they found the town people in great excitement, and learned that steps were already being taken to care for any of the workmen who might be injured by the explosions.

"Of course we have no idea yet how many people have been killed or wounded," declared a policeman who gave the cadets this information. "We are all upset because we don't know how bad the explosions may get. If they don't get any worse than they have been, we'll be thankful."

The cadets and their girl friends did not remain long in Haven Point. All were anxious to get to Clearwater Hall, to learn if that place was much damaged. The girls' school was directly opposite the shell-loading plant, and consequently more liable to suffer than the town or Colby Hall.

"Look at them getting away from that place, will you?" cried Fred, who had come as far as Haven Point on another automobile and then had rejoined his cousins. He pointed to the lake, where a number of rowboats and other craft were leaving the vicinity of the explosions.

"You can't blame them for wanting to get away," returned Jack. "It may mean life or death to them."

"Oh, I hope nobody has been killed!" murmured Ruth.

"I'm afraid, Ruth, that's too much to expect," answered Jack soberly.

"Oh, I just think war is too horrible for anything!" cried out Alice Strobell, who was along.

"I just wish they could sink all those Germans in their old submarines!" declared Annie Larkins who was also in the crowd.

"I guess we'd all be willing to subscribe to that!" cried Randy.

"You just wait until Uncle Sam gets into this scrap," declared Jack. "We'll show 'em what's what!"

"How I wish I could go to the front," said Andy wistfully. "It would beat going to school all hollow."

"Now that we've gone into the war, we'll have an army over there before long," said Spouter. "I suppose they'll send some of the regulars over first, and then some of the national guard—of course taken into the regular army—and after that we'll have the volunteers. I suppose if Uncle Sam really wanted to do it, he could get together several million men without half trying. And with an army like that, properly trained and equipped, and transported to the battlefields of Europe, we shall be sure to make a showing which will throw terror into the hearts of——"

"Hurrah! Spouter is off again," broke in Randy.

"Say, Spout! they ought to send you to the front to help talk the Huns to death," put in Andy. "Talk about gas and gas masks——"

"Aw say! you're always butting in when I've got something to say," growled the lad who loved to talk.

There might have been a little friction right then and there, but another explosion came from across Clearwater Lake, and all stopped to gaze at the thick volume of yellowish-black smoke which rolled directly toward them.

"The wind must be shifting," declared Jack, for all of the smoke heretofore had rolled up the lake shore.

"It's too bad it is coming this way," said Ruth. "Miss Garwood declares that a good deal of smoke from such shells is poisonous." Miss Garwood was the head of the school for girls, and likewise an authority in chemistry.

The road was filled with automobiles going and coming, and Randy had all he could do to send the machine along without getting into some sort of collision. The heavy smoke continued to roll across the lake, and soon they were in the midst of this. It had a curious pungent odor to it, which set them to sneezing and coughing.

"No fun in this, I must say," declared Jack. The girls all had their handkerchiefs to their faces, and May Powell looked as if she was getting sick.

In a minute more they came within sight of Clearwater Hall, a large structure setting back in well-kept grounds. There were numerous bushes and flowers and quite a number of fair-sized trees.

Several automobiles had reached the school ahead of them so the scene was one of animation. Town people, as well as scholars from the Hixley High School, mingled with the cadets and the girls from Clearwater Hall.

"Go on in and find Mary," said Jack to his sister. "Tell her we are here to help her in case anything happens."

Martha rushed off, followed by Ruth, and the two soon located Fred's sister. She was in a rear room of the school, along with a number of the other pupils and one of the assistant teachers.

"Oh, I'm so glad you've come!" declared Mary Rover. "What a dreadful thing this is getting to be!"

"I suppose it has made your head ache worse than ever," said Martha sympathetically.

"No, strange to say, it's just the other way around," declared Fred's sister, with a faint smile. "Those explosions seemed to have shocked the headache all away."

Mary was glad to join the others, and the Rovers and their friends proceeded to one of the reception rooms of the school. In the meantime the explosions across the lake continued, but seemed to be gradually dying down.

"It looks to me as if the worst was over," remarked Fred, after there had been comparative silence for fully a quarter of an hour.

"Say, I'm going down to the lake front to see what's doing," declared Randy, a little later. "Perhaps we can be of some assistance."

"That's the talk! We can't do anything more here," returned his twin.

"Let's all go down!" cried Jack. "We ought to be able to do something for those poor workmen who have been hurt." And then, turning to Ruth, he continued: "If there are any more big explosions and this place seems to be in danger, we'll be back."

"Oh, Jack! I don't want you to run into any danger down at the lake shore," said the girl, looking at him pleadingly with her big brown eyes.

"I guess we'll be able to take care of ourselves," he answered lightly. But it pleased him a great deal to have Ruth so full of consideration for him.

Leaving their automobiles in the school grounds, the Rovers and their chums left the place, crossed the highway, and followed the footpath leading down to the Clearwater Hall boathouse. Here they found only a few people congregated, the heavy-rolling clouds of smoke keeping a good many away.

"Not very pleasant here," was Gif Garrison's comment, after the smoke had made him cough. "I don't think I'm going to stay."

"Neither am I," said Spouter. And presently he and quite a few others left, leaving the four Rovers to themselves.

"You know what I've got an idea of doing?" declared Jack. "Why not get out one of the Clearwater Hall boats and row over a little closer to that place? We may be able to be of some assistance to some of the workmen."

The others were willing, and soon a large rowboat was brought out, with two pairs of oars, and the four Rovers manned it and sent it well out into the lake.

"We've got to keep our eyes open in this smoke," declared Jack. "It's worse than a fog."

"You're right there," returned Randy. "If some of those poor chaps——"

Boom!

Another terrific explosion cut short what he was saying. The very water under the rowboat seemed to shake, and the air presently was filled with flying missiles dropping all around them. Then, as Andy stood up in an endeavor to get a better view of the situation, something came flying through the air, hit him on the shoulder, and hurled him overboard!



CHAPTER IV

A RESCUE ON THE LAKE

"Andy's overboard!"

"Grab him, somebody!"

"Wow! what is this anyway—a bombardment?"

Such were the cries coming from the three Rovers when they saw the luckless Andy lose his balance and go over into the lake with a splash.

"It's fire coming down! We've got to get out of this!" cried Fred, a few seconds later.

The youngest of the Rovers was right. It was indeed a rain of fire that had suddenly descended upon them through the pall of yellowish-black smoke. It was falling into the boat and on their persons. Where it struck the lake it sent out a curious hissing sound.

"Come—let us get Andy aboard again and row out of this as quickly as possible!" gasped Jack.

Andy had disappeared from view, but only for a few seconds. He came up, thrashing around wildly, for he had been almost stunned by the thing which had struck him, a block of wood carried up from the ammunition plant by one of the explosions.

"Steady, Andy, steady! We'll save you!" called out his twin, and as Fred and Jack sent the rowboat in the luckless one's direction, Randy bent over and grabbed his brother by the hand. Then, taking care that the craft should not tip over, Fred and Randy pulled Andy aboard.

"Are you much hurt?" questioned Randy anxiously.

"I—I don't know," was the gasped-out reply. "I—I don't think so, though. What did you slam me in the back for?" Andy demanded of Jack, who had been behind him.

"I didn't hit you. It was a block of wood which came sailing over from the ammunition factory," was the quick reply. "Come on—we've got to get out of here, or the first thing you know we'll be on fire."

"Better wet your clothing," said Andy. "It may help a whole lot."

This was good advice, and the others lost no time in filling their baseball caps with water, which they sprinkled over their shoulders and the other portions of their baseball outfits. They also wet down the bow and stern seats of the rowboat. Then they grabbed up their oars and commenced to row up the lake, trying to get out of the range of both the fire and the smoke.

"Here is what the fire consists of," declared Fred presently, when he caught a whisp of it on his arm. "It's nothing but oil-soaked waste. They must have had a whole lot of it at that plant, and one of the explosions sent it high into the air and scattered it in every direction."

The boys continued on their way for a few minutes, and then ran into another cloud of smoke. This was of a peculiar bluish-green cast, and seemed so sulphurous they were nearly choked by it.

"Listen!" burst out Andy. "I think I heard somebody calling."

He held up one hand for silence, and all listened attentively. In spite of the roaring of the flames, which were now devouring several of the buildings at the shell-loading plant, and the continual popping of some of the smaller shells, all heard a frantic cry for assistance.

"It's somebody calling for help!"

"Where is he?"

"I think the cry came from over yonder," said Jack, in answer to the latter question. "Let's pull over there and see."

All were willing, and the four once more bent to their oars, sending the rowboat through the bluish-green smoke, which almost choked and blinded them.

"Hello there!" yelled Fred. "Where are you?"

"Help! Help!" came the cry from off to their left. "Help! Save me!"

The rowboat was turned in that direction, and a few seconds later the Rover boys caught sight through the smoke of a water-logged rowboat to which an elderly man, dressed in the garb of a workman, was clinging.

"Help me! Help me! I can't hang on much longer!" gasped the man, as soon as he saw the boys.

"Sure, we'll help you," declared Jack. "Go slow now," he cautioned his cousins. "We don't want to knock him off into the water."

With care the rowboat was brought around so that they came up alongside of the elderly man. He was glad enough to turn from his water-logged craft to the other boat. But he was well-nigh exhausted, and the Rovers had not a little trouble in getting him on board.

"Tell you what—I'm mighty glad you lads came along," panted the old man, when he was safe. "I couldn't have held out much longer. This is something terrible, ain't it? Say, would you mind hooking that boat fast and pulling it to shore? It belongs to me, and I ain't so wealthy that I can afford to lose it. Besides, it's got some of my things in it."

"We'll take it along unless it keeps us back too much," answered Jack. And then he bent down, got hold of the bowline of the craft, and tied it fast to their stern. Fortunately the other boat was a small one, so they had not much difficulty in towing it along.

"I'm a dockman over at the ammunition factory," explained the old man. "And when things began to go off I thought it was high time to get out. I tried to save a few of my things and dumped 'em into my boat and began to pull for the shore. But then one of the big explosions went off, and I got caught in a lot of smoke and a rain of I don't know what, and was nearly rendered senseless. When I came to, I had drifted along to near where you found me. Something must have hit the boat and gone through the bottom, for she was filling with water fast. Then she tipped, and I went overboard. I can't swim very well, and that confounded smoke got in my lungs, and I thought sure I would be a goner. You boys certainly came in the nick of time."

"And we are glad of it," declared Fred, and the others nodded in approval.

The elderly man said that his name was Jed Kessler, and that he lived on the outskirts of Haven Point. He knew very little about Colby Hall, however, for previous to being employed by the Hasley Shell Loading Company he had worked around the docks at Hixley, at one end of the lake. So much the boys learned from him when they had rowed out of the pall of smoke and the rain of fire and could breathe freely and in comfort.

"Have you any idea what started that fire?" questioned Jack, when they were headed for one of the docks at Haven Point.

"I've got my idea, yes. But I don't know whether it's correct or not," replied Jed Kessler. "Of course, any kind of a slight accident in a place like that might set things to going. But I know one thing, and that is very important, I think."

"What is that?" questioned Randy.

"The first explosion took place down the railroad track, in one of the cars loaded with shells, while the second explosion, which came less than half a minute later, occurred in one of the supply houses."

"Was the supply house near the car where the first explosion happened?" queried Jack.

"No. The two places are at least five hundred feet apart."

"In that case, it isn't likely that the first explosion brought on the second, is it?" questioned Andy.

"It didn't!" was the prompt answer. "Those two explosions had nothing to do with each other—except in one way,—and that is that they were both started by the same person or persons," declared Jed Kessler emphatically.

"Gee! do you suppose there were German spies around?" ejaculated Randy.

"I am sure there were," went on the old dockman.

"But I supposed your guards kept all strangers away from the plant," said Jack.

"They were supposed to. But you know how it is. Those fellows aren't on the watch all the time. They get tired of their job, and sometimes they take it easy. Besides that, it is rather easy to reach the plant from the water front, and it is almost equally easy to come down through the woods on the hill behind the place. Of course, we've got a big wire fence up all around, but it doesn't take much to go through that if a fellow has a good pair of wire cutters."

"Did you ever see anybody suspicious?"

"Lots of times. But, of course, most of the people who looked suspicious proved to be nothing but men who had an idle curiosity regarding the plant. But I saw some fellows around there two weeks ago and again a couple of days ago, and they looked mighty suspicious to me. They were a couple of heavy-set looking fellows, with strong German faces, and I heard 'em at a distance talking in a language that I'm pretty sure was German."

"Why didn't you report this to the guard?"

"I did. But they were a lot of fresh young fellows, and they only laughed at me and said I was too suspicious," grumbled Jed Kessler. "But that is where I made a mistake. I should have gone right to the offices and reported to the head boss."

"Do you suppose you'd know those fellows again if you saw them?" questioned Jack.

"I think I would—although I'm not sure. They were both fellows with heavy black hair and heavy black beards, and one of them walked with his right foot kind of turned out."

"You certainly ought to report this as soon as possible," declared the oldest Rover boy. "It may furnish the authorities with an important clue. If I were you, I would get into communication with one of your bosses without delay."

Leaving the old man and his rowboat at the dock, the four Rovers rowed up the lake once more in the direction of the Clearwater Hall boathouse. By this time the explosions at the shell-loading plant had practically ceased, and only a small amount of smoke was now coming from the ruins.

When the Rovers arrived at the boathouse connected with the girls' school, they found that Mary and Martha had come down to the place, accompanied by a number of the other girls. All had heard that the Rovers had taken the rowboat, and were wondering if the lads were safe.

"You've given us a terrible scare," declared Martha to her brother. "You shouldn't have taken such a risk!"

"Well, it was worth while," answered Fred, and then told of the rescue of Jed Kessler.

"Well, we've had a surprise since you went away," said Ruth Stevenson presently.

"A thoroughly disagreeable surprise, too," added May Powell. "You'll never guess who was here only a few minutes ago!"

"Some of our folks from New York?" questioned Jack quickly.

"No such luck," answered his sister.

"They were two persons we didn't care to see," said Ruth. "They were Slugger Brown and Nappy Martell!"



CHAPTER V

MEETING OLD ENEMIES

"Slugger Brown and Nappy Martell!" The cry came from all of the Rover boys simultaneously.

"What were those fellows doing here?" continued Jack.

"Did they dare to speak to you?" demanded Fred.

"Of course they spoke to us—you can't stop fellows like Brown and Martell from doing that," answered Ruth. "But you can be sure we gave them both the cold shoulder."

"What did they want here?" questioned Jack.

"I don't know what they wanted or where they came from," continued Ruth. "Their appearance gave us such a shock we didn't know what to do at first."

"We were on our way from the school to the boathouse, and were just crossing the roadway when Slugger and Nappy came along in a runabout," said May. "The minute they saw us they stopped and jumped out. They asked us a whole lot of questions about how we were getting along at school and if your sisters were here."

"Our sisters!" cried Fred. "What business have they got to ask about Martha and Mary?"

"Of course we didn't answer their questions, and Martha and Mary had gone on ahead, so Brown and Martell didn't see them," said Ruth. "They tried to act in a friendly manner, but we gave them to understand that we wanted nothing to do with them. Then they jumped into the runabout again and drove off."

"Did they go toward Haven Point?" questioned Randy.

"Yes."

"Those fellows certainly have their nerve with them—to show themselves anywhere near Colby Hall after what happened!" burst out Andy.

"One would think they wouldn't want any of their old classmates to see them," remarked Fred.

"They are not that kind," replied Jack. "Both of them are too thick-skinned to be sensitive. More than likely they have been telling their friends that we did our best to get them into trouble and that they were not to blame."

"Oh, Jack! if you go back to Colby Hall by way of the town, I hope you don't get into any trouble with those horrid fellows," said his sister.

"Don't worry about that, Martha," answered her brother quickly. "I'm not afraid of Slugger or Nappy either. They have got to behave themselves; otherwise we may bring up one of the old charges against them."

Of course the girls wanted to know more concerning what had happened to the Rover boys while they were out on the lake, and they related many of the particulars.

"And do you really think those two Germans that that Jed Kessler spoke about set fire to the munition plant?" questioned Ruth.

"I don't know what to think, Ruth," answered Jack. "One thing is certain: If the first explosions weren't accidental, then they must have been due to some underhand work."

During the time the boys spent with the girls at the boathouse there were no more explosions, and now the fire on the opposite shore of the lake was dying out, while only a small part of the pall of curious-colored smoke remained.

"I guess it's about over," was Randy's comment.

Feeling that those at Clearwater Hall would be safe, at least for the time being, the Rovers decided to return to Colby Hall, knowing that Colonel Colby and his assistants would be anxious concerning the welfare of all the cadets.

Spouter and those with him had taken one automobile, but the other remained, and, bidding the girls good-bye, the Rover boys jumped into this and were soon off. Jack was at the wheel, and in spite of the numerous machines on the road, for the blowing-up of the shell-loading plant had caused great excitement for many miles around, he drove the car with considerable speed in the direction of Haven Point.

"Let us stop at the town for a few minutes and find out, if we can, just how bad this affair has been," said Fred.

"That's it!" returned Randy. "I'd like to know if anyone has been killed or seriously hurt."

They stopped on the main street close to where were located a number of the stores and also the moving-picture theater where the cadets had first met Ruth Stevenson and her chums.

"It's a pretty bad affair," said one of the storekeepers, with whom in the past the boys had done some trading. "I was just down to police headquarters, and they say there that two workmen were killed and about fifteen injured. It certainly is a rascally piece of business, and the fellows who did it ought to be strung up."

"Then they are pretty certain that it is the work of some German sympathizers?" questioned Jack quickly.

"They can't figure it out any other way. The boss of the plant, and likewise two of his head foremen, have been closely questioned, and they declare that every possible precaution against accidents was taken. More than that, they say that there were two separate explosions occurring almost at the same time—one down on the railroad tracks and another in a storehouse quite a distance away."

"Yes, we heard that, too, from one of the dockmen of the plant," answered Fred. "He said he thought two men who looked like Germans and who had been hanging around the plant might be guilty."

"Yes, I've heard that story, too. I think it was started by old Jed Kessler, wasn't it?"

"That's the man," said Randy.

"I think I saw those two fellows here in Haven Point," continued the storekeeper. "They were heavy-set, round-faced men, and each had heavy black hair and a heavy black beard, just as Kessler described them. They were here several times. I think they had business at one of the machine shops, although I'm not certain about that."

The Rover boys spoke to several other people of the town and gathered a little additional information regarding the destruction of the shell-loading plant, and then reentered their automobile and started once more for the military academy. With them went Bart White and Frank Newberry, who had come down to the town directly after the ball game.

"It's too bad this affair had to happen just as it did," declared Bart White. "It kind of takes the shine off of our victory over Hixley High."

"So it does," said Jack. "But that can't be helped."

"If you put it up to the shell-loading people they would probably have been willing to postpone the blowing up indefinitely," remarked Andy dryly.

"I suppose the newspapers here will be full of nothing but this affair," said Fred wistfully; "and they won't give our game with Hixley High more than a brief mention."

"Oh, well, what of it?" cried Randy gaily. "We walloped 'em, and that's the main thing."

"Right you are!" came in a chorus from several of the others.

At one of the street corners, owing to the excitement, there was a congestion of traffic, and Jack had to bring the car to a stop. As he did this there was a sudden yell from behind, and then came a slight bump followed by a jingling of glass.

"Hi, you! what do you mean by stopping so suddenly?" yelled an irate voice from the rear.

"They've busted one of our headlights!" added another voice in surly tones.

Those in the tonneau of the Rovers' automobile looked around quickly.

"Nappy Martell and Slugger Brown!" ejaculated Fred in surprise.

"They must have been following us!" added Randy quickly.

"Say, I didn't know those fellows were anywhere around here!" burst out Frank Newberry.

"I thought from what you fellows told us those fellows would steer clear of this vicinity," added Bart White.

By this time Jack and Andy, who were on the front seat, were also looking back to see what had happened. They beheld a runabout standing close up to their own car. The collision had not been sufficient to do any more damage than to break the glass in both of the headlights of the runabout. They had struck the framework holding an extra shoe on the rear of the Rovers' car, and for this reason the other automobile had not suffered any damage whatsoever.

"You fellows will pay for this damage!" grumbled Slugger Brown, who was at the wheel of the runabout.

"You did it yourself," answered Bart White quickly.

"You fellows had no business to stop so suddenly!"

"They did it on purpose!" burst out Nappy Martell.

As was usual with the youth, he was loudly dressed, wearing a light checkered suit with a cap to match and a flaming red tie. He looked somewhat dissipated.

"I'll attend to this," said Jack to his cousins and the others. And without delay he leaped from the front machine and walked back to the other.

"Just see what you've done, Jack Rover!" began Slugger Brown. But then the stern look in Jack's face caused him to come to a stop.

"I'm glad I met you, Brown—and you too, Martell," said Jack in a low, steady voice. "I was hoping I'd see you before you had a chance to leave Haven Point."

"Wanted to see us, eh?" said Slugger; and now a somewhat uneasy look took possession of his face.

"Don't let him talk himself out of paying for the damage done," put in Nappy loftily. He was puffing on a cigarette and blew the smoke high into the air as he spoke.

"We're not going to pay for any damage done," said Jack. "This little accident is your own fault, for you had no business to be driving so close behind our car."

"We'll see about that," grumbled Slugger.

"What I want to talk to you about is another matter," went on Jack, without raising his voice because he did not wish to have any outsider hear. "You took the trouble a while ago to stop at Clearwater Hall and speak to some of the young ladies attending that school."

"Well, what of it? Haven't we got a right to do that if we want to?"

"I guess we can speak to our lady friends any time we feel like it," added Nappy.

"Both of you know very well that none of those young ladies want anything to do with you," continued Jack. "You've had your warning before. Now I want you to leave them alone."

"Huh! you talk as if you were our master," growled Slugger, an ugly look coming into his eyes.

"Never mind how I talk, Brown. You just listen to what I'm saying, and you mind me. If you don't, you'll get into a whole lot of trouble, just as sure as you are born."

By this time Fred had also left the forward car and was standing beside Jack.

"You fellows asked about my sister and about Jack's sister," said Fred. "Why did you do that?"

"That's our business," answered Nappy.

"I know why you did it," went on Fred quickly. "You did it because you thought you might make some sort of trouble for the girls. I know you! Jack," he continued, turning to his cousin, "I think the best thing we can do is to have them both arrested for that affair on Snowshoe Island."

"You can't bring up those old things—they are past and gone!" cried Nappy Martell, his face showing sudden uneasiness. "Old Barney Stevenson agreed to let the whole matter drop provided he was allowed to remain on the island."

"Oh, he's only bluffing, Nappy," broke in Slugger. "They can't do a thing, and they know it!"

"We can and we will unless you leave all the girls at Clearwater Hall alone," declared Jack stoutly. "Not a one of them wants anything to do with you."

"How do you know what they want?"

"Because they told us."

"I don't believe it, Rover."

"You can suit yourself about that, Brown. But just you remember this: If you or Martell attempt to do anything in the future to annoy my relatives or any of our girl friends at that school, I'll see to it that you are punished, and punished heavily."

"Say, do you know what I think?" cried Andy, who had come to the rear of the front car. "I think we ought to give them both a good licking."

"It might do them both good," answered his twin.

"I don't see how you fellows can show yourselves around here," remarked Frank Newberry. "After the way you acted at Colby Hall and up on Snowshoe Island I should think you'd want to keep out of sight."

"What right have you got to butt in here, Frank Newberry?" cried Slugger Brown wrathfully.

"I've got a good deal of right, and you know it, Brown! You and Martell were a disgrace to Colby Hall, and every cadet at the academy is aware of that fact. And I, too, know for a fact that none of the young ladies at Clearwater Hall wants to have anything to do with you."

"Aw, you fellows make me tired!" growled Slugger Brown.

By this time a small crowd had collected, anxious to find out how the damage to the headlights of the runabout was to be settled. Then a policeman pushed his way forward.

"Any trouble here?" he asked.

"No trouble that I know of," answered Jack. "I stopped my car, and this fellow came up behind me so suddenly that he smashed his headlights."

"I see." The policeman turned to Slugger Brown. "Your own fault, was it?"

"It was his fault! He stopped too quickly," grumbled Slugger. "But—er—I—I—won't make any complaint—at least not—not now," he said lamely. "I'll take this up later."

"And we'll get what's coming to us—you see if we don't!" put in Nappy Martell.

Then Slugger Brown started up the engine of his runabout, backed up a few feet, and turned out into the roadway. He ran around the nearest corner and up the road, and was soon out of sight in the distance.



CHAPTER VI

CELEBRATING THE BASEBALL VICTORY

"He was afraid to make a complaint," was Fred's comment.

"I can't understand why two such fellows should act the way they do," said Bart White. "They both come from fairly well-to-do families, and they could be really fine fellows if they wanted to."

"Slugger Brown doesn't come from a very good family—at least as far as his father is concerned," answered Jack. "Mr. Brown is just as mean and dishonorable as Slugger. He was at the head of the plot to do poor Barney Stevenson out of Snowshoe Island."

"Yes, and to my mind Mr. Martell is no better," added Randy. "I've heard my father talking about him several times. Martell has been in more than one shady stock transaction down in Wall Street."

When the Rover boys arrived at Colby Hall they were immediately surrounded by a number of their friends, all eager to learn the particulars of what had occurred in the vicinity of the girls' boarding school. Of course the others who had come in ahead of them had already told their stories, but everybody at the military academy was eager to get all the details possible.

"It's the worst calamity that ever happened around here," said Will Hendry, the stoutest boy in the school, and who was generally called Fatty. Hendry had started to leave the school grounds shortly after the others had gone, but had been stopped by Captain Dale.

"It looks to me as if it was the work of German sympathizers," said Major Ralph Mason, who was the cadet at the head of the school battalion. Ralph was the oldest student at the Hall, and one who was greatly liked by everybody.

"Ralph, what do you think about our getting into this war in Europe?" questioned Randy. During off hours the young officer was always addressed by the Rovers by his first name, although during school hours and when on parade they invariably addressed the young major by his official title.

"I'm glad we've got into it at last," returned Ralph Mason. "My father thinks we should have gotten into it long ago. I only wish one thing," he added wistfully.

"And I know what that is!" cried Jack. "You wish you were old enough to volunteer for the army or the navy!"

"If we were all older what a grand company of volunteers the Government could get out of Colby Hall," said Randy. "I'll wager more than half of the fellows would want to go."

"I'm certain fellows like Codfish wouldn't want to go," remarked Fred.

He referred to one of the younger boys, Henry Stowell by name, a lad who was a good deal of a sneak and who in time past had been a toady to Brown and Martell. On account of the great width of his mouth, Stowell was usually called Codfish.

"If you fellows will keep a secret, I'll tell you something," remarked Ralph Mason, lowering his voice. "I just heard of this a while ago."

"What is it, Ralph?" questioned Jack quietly.

"Will you fellows keep it to yourselves until it becomes public property?" asked the young major anxiously.

"Sure!" was the prompt response.

"I overheard the talk quite by accident while I was in the library. Colonel Colby was talking to Professors Grawson and Brice. He stated that he intended to leave the Hall under the management of Captain Dale."

"You mean Colonel Colby is going away?" questioned Fred. "Where to?"

"He has offered his services to the Government."

"Hurrah for the colonel! I knew he'd do something like that!" cried Randy.

"Do you know whether his offer has been accepted?" questioned Jack.

"Of course his offer will be accepted," answered Ralph Mason. "Now that we are in this great war Uncle Sam will need all the soldiers he can possibly muster, and of course they've got to have first-class men like Colonel Colby to command them."

"You're right there," said Fred. Then he looked questioningly at Jack and the twins. The others understood that look, but just then nothing was said concerning the thought which had rushed into their minds.

"I've got to go now," said Ralph Mason, a few minutes later. "I suppose you fellows will want to celebrate that baseball victory to-night?"

"Surest thing you know!" declared Jack.

"I don't suppose we'll have as much fun as we would have had if the shell-loading plant hadn't gone up," grumbled Andy. "We can't make any such noise as that."

"Oh, we'll have fun enough—don't worry about that," answered his twin quickly.

"Well, don't tear the old Hall down," returned the young major, laughing, and then hurried away.

"This certainly is great news about Colonel Colby's volunteering for the army," said Jack, a little later.

"I wonder why Captain Dale doesn't volunteer, too?" said Andy.

"Oh, he's too old; and besides he's somewhat crippled by rheumatism or something," said Randy.

The Rover boys hurried off to their room to get into their cadet uniforms. The twins went on ahead, leaving Jack and Fred alone for the time being.

"Jack, what do you think our fathers will do?" questioned Fred. He remembered that both Jack's father and his own had at one time been officers of the cadets at Putnam Hall. The fun-loving father of the twins had never aspired to such a position, being content to remain "a high private in the rear rank," as he himself had often expressed it.

"I'm sure I don't know, Fred," was the sober reply. "It may be that they will be just as anxious to get into the war as Colonel Colby seems to be. But you must remember that they are at the head of The Rover Company, and possibly they won't be able to leave—at least not right away."

"But they are so patriotic they'll want to go," declared Fred.

"Well, if they make up their minds to go, I guess we'll be among the first to hear about it."

"Gee, how I'd like to be a soldier boy!" sighed Fred. "Wouldn't it be great if all of us cadets could go into the army?"

"We'll have to wait four or five years before we can do that, Fred. And I rather think that by that time this great war will be over."

"Oh, you can't tell how long a war like this will last. For all you know the Germans may come right over here."

"I don't think they'll do that. They'll have their hands full fighting in Europe."

"Well, they've sent their submarines over here already."

"I know that. But I don't think they've got enough submarines to transport an army that way."

Since coming to Colby Hall the Rover boys had occupied four very pleasant rooms on the second floor in a wing of the great building. But instead of using the four rooms for bedrooms, the twins slept together and all used one of the extra rooms, No. 20, for a sitting-room.

"You fellows have got to hurry up or you'll be late for roll call!" cried Randy, when he entered.

"Oh, I think they'll give us a little leeway on account of all the excitement," returned Fred. And he was right,—the roll call and drill were postponed for half an hour, for which many of the cadets were thankful.

It did not take the Rovers long to throw off their baseball togs, wash, and don their uniforms. Then they lost no time in rushing below to the gun rack and obtaining their rifles, doing this just as the drums rattled on the parade ground.

Soon the battalion of several companies was examined, and then began the roll call. After this there was a brief inspection by Captain Dale, with Colonel Colby looking on. Then the drums rattled and the fifes struck up a lively march air, and the cadets marched around the grounds, disposed of their rifles, and entered the mess hall of the institution. Here each had his place assigned to him at one of the long tables, each table presided over by one of the officers or a teacher.

The meal was a substantial one, for Colonel Colby believed in treating his pupils well, and it is perhaps needless to state that all of the cadets fell to with vigor. There was a constant clatter of forks and knives, mingled with a flow of lively conversation, carried on, however, in rather a subdued tone, for boisterousness of any sort in the mess hall was against regulations. After each lad finished he excused himself and left the hall, and soon all of them had scattered in various directions.

"Bonfires to-night!" announced Andy gaily, as he turned a handspring on the campus.

"I think we ought to have some sort of feast," said Fred.

"Great Caesar, Fred! didn't you get enough to eat at supper?" queried Jack.

"Oh, you know what I mean—a little something to eat just before we go to bed!" answered his cousin.

"Suits me!" was the cry from the others.

Talk about the victory over Hixley High and about the excitement attending the destruction of the shell-loading plant filled the air. The cadets were only boys, and the facts regarding the awful occurrence across the lake could not subdue their high spirits when they considered their great victory over the high school.

"We've just got to celebrate and let off steam somehow," was the way Randy expressed himself.

Boxes and barrels had already been stored away in anticipation of a victory, and these were promptly brought forth and placed on the river front. They were piled as high as possible and then set on fire, the flames shooting skyward quickly and illuminating the scene for a long distance around.

"Hello there, Codfish!" cried Andy gaily, when he beheld the sneak of the school standing not far from one of the bonfires.

"Got any more boxes to put on the fire, Codfish?" questioned Randy, who was beside his twin.

"I haven't got any boxes," grumbled the young cadet. Since the departure of Slugger Brown and Nappy Martell from the Hall, Codfish had kept a good deal to himself. But he was as much of a sneak as ever, and did many mean things which were exceedingly irritating to the other cadets.

"You haven't any boxes?" said Randy, in apparent surprise. "What's the use of talking like that? You know better;" and then he winked at his brother.

"I'm on," whispered Andy quickly. "Bring him up to his room in about ten minutes." And then he ran away at top speed.

"It's a waste of good money to burn up boxes and barrels like that," was Codfish's comment. "I don't see why Colonel Colby allows it. Those boxes and barrels could be used to pack all sorts of things in."

"Well, if you don't like to see the boxes and barrels burned up, why don't you furnish us with a little cord wood?" inquired Gif Garrison, who had come up.

"That's the talk!" said Jack quickly. "Show us where you've got your cord wood stored, Codfish," he went on, after Randy had whispered in his ear. Then Randy ran off in the direction his twin had taken.

"I haven't any cord wood, I tell you!" stormed Codfish. "And I haven't any boxes or barrels, either!" and then he walked away to get clear of his tormentors.

But Jack remembered what Randy had said to him, and did not allow Codfish out of his sight. He kept the sneak in view, and quickly gathered Spouter, Gif, Fatty, Walt, and a number of others around him.

"We're going to take Codfish up to his room in a few minutes and treat him to the surprise of his life," he explained. "Don't forget to come along and see the fun."



CHAPTER VII

FUN WITH CODFISH

The idea of having a little fun with Codfish had occurred to Andy and Randy on the day previous, when they had been out collecting some boxes and barrels for the bonfires which they hoped to have—provided, of course, that Hixley High was beaten in the baseball contest. They had talked the matter over for some time, and had then set to work, laying their plans to give the sneak of the school the surprise of his life.

"What's doing, Jack?" questioned Walt Baxter, in some surprise.

"Going to put one over on Codfish?" questioned Gif.

"Just you wait and see," announced Jack. And then, turning to Spouter, he continued: "In about five minutes I wish you would go over to Codfish and tell him somebody wants to see him up in his room without delay. Put it to him good and strong so that he goes up at once."

"Trust me for that," answered Spouter, with a grin. "I'll tell him his grandfather has just died and the lawyer is up there waiting to hand him an inheritance of a million dollars."

"Don't pile it on as thick as that!" cried Fred. "If you do, he'll take it for another joke, and won't go at all."

All of the crowd kept their eyes on Codfish, and when the time was up Spouter approached Stowell as if in a great hurry.

"I say, Henry," he said in an earnest voice, "there's a man wants to see you. They just sent him up to your room."

"To see me! What for?" questioned Codfish in surprise.

"I don't know. He seemed to be a very nice man, though. He was in a great hurry. You had better not keep him waiting. He said it was very important," and without waiting to be questioned further, Spouter hurried away.

Codfish looked after the other cadet rather doubtfully, and stood still for a moment. Then, however, his curiosity got the better of him, and he hurried off in the direction of the Hall.

"Come on, fellows!" cried Jack in a low voice. "But don't let him suspect that you are following him, or it may spoil the fun."

Stowell entered the school by a side door and ran up the nearest stairway to the main corridor above. The others hastened around to the front entrance and came up by another staircase. They were just in time to see the sneak hurrying into the room he occupied.

"Hist!" came in a low voice from the other end of the corridor, after the door had closed upon Codfish, and then from a shadowy recess Andy and Randy appeared.

"Did you get everything fixed up?" questioned Jack hurriedly.

"All fixed," answered Andy laconically. "Come on in here," and he motioned to a room next to that occupied by Stowell. This belonged to a student who, for the time being, was away from the school.

Once inside of this room, Randy and Andy took the others to where there was a door connecting that apartment with the one occupied by the sneak. This was partly open, so that they could look into Stowell's room with ease.

"Hello there!" they heard the sneak exclaim. And then followed the switching on of an electric light. "It's only one of their rotten jokes! I knew it all along!" murmured the cadet.

He looked around the room, and then a cry of astonishment burst from his lips. In the center of the floor were piled at least ten boxes of various sizes and shapes. Some of the boxes had had straw in them and others excelsior, and part of this was strewn on the floor.

"Huh! Some of those fellows are mighty smart, putting these boxes in my room!" growled Codfish to himself. "I'd just like to know who did it! If it was that Spouter Powell, I think I'll go and tell on him!"

"Here is where I got in fine!" murmured Spouter.

Codfish glanced further, and his eyes fell on the interior of the closet of the room, the door to which stood wide open. Then he gave a gasp.

"My gracious! if they haven't taken all my clothing, and my hats, and even my shoes!" he groaned. "This is the worst yet!" He rushed to the closet, and another look convinced him that the place was entirely empty. Then he ran to a corner where stood a clothes tree, which had contained some of his athletic outfit. This was likewise empty. Then he rushed to his chiffonier.

"Gone! Everything gone! Not a thing left!" he groaned. "Oh, if this isn't the worst yet! If I don't tell on somebody for this!"

Coming back to the middle of the room, he surveyed the pile of boxes suspiciously. Then a sheet of paper resting on the top box claimed his attention.

"'For anything that is missing look in the boxes,'" he read from the slip of paper. "Oh, dear! I suppose those fellows were just mean enough to stuff all my things in those packing cases. I wonder what they did that for? Maybe they thought they were going to cart them down to the bonfire and burn them up, and burn all my stuff, too. Just wait and see if I don't fix somebody for this!"

There was rather a small box on top of the others, and this Codfish started to open first. One end of the lid was nailed down, but the other was loose, and he pulled up on this with vigor.

And then the sneak got the first of a series of surprises. The lid of the box held down a large rubber frog, and this bounced out of the box, hitting him full in the face. He staggered back and fell over on his bed.

"Hurrah! First round!" whispered Andy delightedly.

"Just wait for the second," said Randy.

There was nothing else in the box but excelsior, and having rummaged about in this, Codfish threw the box aside and started to investigate the next receptacle.

The lid to this was screwed on, and he had quite a job opening it. The other cadets watched with interest, doing their best to keep from laughing. When the box was opened, Codfish found that it contained a layer of excelsior. Under this, however, were a number of bundles wrapped in newspapers, each containing a small portion of the stuff taken from his chiffonier.

"Huh! thought they were smart, didn't they?" he muttered, as he put the things where they belonged. "Just wait! I'll fix 'em for this."

The next box contained some of his clothing, which he hung in the closet. Then he tackled a rather large box which was bound up with an old clothesline. He had to tug at the line quite a little to get it loose, not thinking in his excitement that it would be easier to cut the line. The top of the box was filled with all sorts of rubbish. Beneath this were some more of his things, and then at the very bottom a rather small wooden box with a sliding cover.

Any ordinary school boy would have suspected some trick in connection with this box. But not so Codfish. He looked at it carefully, and then, bringing it close under the light, proceeded to pull the sliding cover back.

And then he was treated to another surprise, this time far more disagreeable than the other. The box contained a large codfish, one which, as Andy afterwards explained, had seen better days.

"Phew, what a smell!" cried the sneak, as he allowed the decayed codfish to fall out on the floor.

The odor when released from the air-tight box was so overpowering that he had to go over and throw open the window.

"Codfish for the Codfish!" sang out Andy gaily, unable to keep quiet any longer.

The sneak of the school whirled around suddenly, and there beheld in the doorway of the next room the Rover boys and their chums in a group, all grinning at him.

"How'd you like the fish, Codfish?" questioned Fred.

"Thought you said you didn't have any boxes in your room," came from Jack.

"I didn't know you were raising frogs for a living," remarked Randy.

"Why don't you take those boxes down and put them on the bonfire?" questioned Gif.

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself—littering up your room with all that straw and excelsior," was Walt's comment. "If you aren't careful, you'll get some mighty bad marks for doing that."

"What did you do with the man who wanted to see you?" questioned Spouter. "Did you tell him that you were too busy to talk?"

"You're a fine bunch of fellows!" howled Codfish, not knowing what to say. "You had no business to play a trick like this on me!"

"Play a trick on you?" questioned Andy innocently. "Who has been playing a trick? Why, we don't know what it is to do anything like that!"

"I think somebody said you wanted to see us, but I don't know what for," added Randy.

"If anybody should ask me, I would say you had a queer way of cleaning house, Codfish," remarked Fred calmly.

"And to think he stole one of the codfish from the pantry!" said Jack. "By the way it smells, he must have taken it the day he enrolled here."

"Maybe he likes codfish good and strong," suggested Gif.

"I'll 'codfish' you fellows if you don't leave me alone!" howled the sneak. He was so vexed he almost felt like crying. "You just wait till Colonel Colby or Captain Dale hears about this!"

"Yes, I wonder what the colonel will say when he finds out you stole one of the codfish belonging to the school," said Andy. "You oughtn't to have done it, Henry, my boy. If you wanted anything to eat, why didn't you ask one of the teachers for it?"

"Maybe he chews on codfish in the middle of the night when he can't sleep, or when he is trying to solve a problem in algebra," suggested Randy.

"I don't do any such thing, and I didn't take that codfish from the pantry, and you know it!" howled Codfish, in anger. "It's a put-up job, and you are the fellows who did it! All of you ought to be sent away from this school."

"If he took a codfish, maybe he took some other things, too," said Jack. "I think this ought to be investigated."

"And how did you happen to get all these boxes?" demanded Fred. "I know them. They were collected for the bonfire some days ago."

"You certainly have no right to have them in your room, Codfish," said Gif. "Better hustle 'em down and put 'em on the fire before the rest of the fellows hear of this."

"And if you've got things belonging to the school victuals besides that codfish, you'd better fork 'em over," admonished Jack.

"You clear out, every one of you! I don't want to hear another word!" screamed Codfish, in a rage. "You just wait until I report you! I think you're all too mean for anything! Go on away!" And he tried to close the door to the other room in their faces. But they held it back so he could do nothing.

"Come on, fellows, let's put those boxes where they belong!" cried Jack. And, marching into the room, he picked up one of the packing cases, and the others quickly followed suit. Then they marched out into the hallway, leaving Codfish staring after them in bewilderment.

"I know you've got some other things belonging to the school besides that fish!" cried Andy. "You've got the pockets of your overcoat just stuffed with good things!"

"Haven't any such thing!" declared the sneak. And then, struck by a sudden idea, he ran to the clothing closet and brought forth his overcoat, which had been in one of the boxes. He rammed his hand into one of the pockets, and then suddenly withdrew it with a yell of fright and pain.

And his fright and pain were not without good reason, for clinging to the thumb of the hand he had inserted into the pocket of the overcoat was a small, but exceedingly active, snapping turtle!



CHAPTER VIII

AN INTERRUPTED FEAST

"Oh, oh, oh!" yelled Codfish, dancing around the room wildly. "Take that thing off! Oh, I'll be bitten to death! Take it off, somebody! What is it, anyhow?"

1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse