THE ROVER BOYS AT COLBY HALL
THE STRUGGLES OF THE YOUNG CADETS
ARTHUR M. WINFIELD (Edward Stratemeyer)
AUTHOR OF "THE ROVER BOYS AT SCHOOL," "THE ROVER BOYS ON THE OCEAN," "THE PUTNAM HALL SERIES," ETC.
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 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, 1917, BY EDWARD STRATEMEYER
The Rover Boys at Colby Hall
MY DEAR BOYS: This book is a complete story in itself, but forms the first volume in a line issued under the general title, "The Second Rover Boys Series for Young Americans."
As mentioned in several of the other volumes of the first series, this line was started a number of years ago with the publication of "The Rover Boys at School," in which my readers were introduced to Dick, Tom, and Sam Rover, three wide-awake American lads. In that volume and in those which followed I gave the particulars of their adventures while attending Putnam Hall Military Academy, Brill College, and while on numerous outings, both in our own country and abroad.
The Rover boys were, of course, growing older; and, having met three young ladies very much to their liking, each married and settled down, as related in detail in the several volumes immediately preceding this. They were well established in business; and in due course of time Dick Rover was blessed with a son, as was also Sam, while the fun-loving Tom became the proud possessor of a pair of twins who were as full of life as their father had ever been.
In this volume the younger Rover boys are old enough to go to boarding school. They are sent to Colby Hall Military Academy, presided over by an old friend and schoolmate of their fathers; and there they make both friends and enemies, and have numerous adventures.
In the beginning this chronicle of the younger Rovers, I wish to thank my numerous readers for all the kind things they have said about the other volumes in these series, and I trust that they will make just as good friends of Jack, Andy and Randy, and Fred as they did of Dick, Tom, and Sam Rover.
Affectionately and sincerely yours,
I INTRODUCING THE YOUNGER ROVERS 1
II SOMETHING OF THE PAST 13
III WHAT FOLLOWED ANOTHER TRICK 24
IV JACK IN WALL STREET 35
V GETTING READY TO LEAVE 45
VI ON THE TRAIN 54
VII A SCENE IN THE DINING CAR 65
VIII AT COLBY HALL 76
IX THE MISSING SUITCASE 88
X GETTING ACQUAINTED 98
XI DOWN IN THE CORNFIELD 109
XII LEARNING TO DRILL 119
XIII FRED IS FOLLOWED 129
XIV THE FIGHT 139
XV IN THE TOWN 148
XVI AT THE MOVING PICTURE THEATER 157
XVII THE GIRLS FROM CLEARWATER HALL 167
XVIII SLUGGER BROWN IS EXPOSED 178
XIX A SQUALL ON THE LAKE 187
XX IN GREAT PERIL 197
XXI ASSISTANCE REFUSED 206
XXII THE MEETING WITH HIXLEY HIGH 216
XXIII TARGET PRACTICE 226
XXIV THE FUN OF HALLOWE'EN 235
XXV OFF ON A HUNT 245
XXVI FROM ONE TROUBLE TO ANOTHER 254
XXVII ELIAS LACY'S DEMAND 265
XXVIII IN THE GUARDROOM 274
XXIX THE EXPOSURE 284
XXX A FOOTBALL VICTORY—CONCLUSION 296
THE ROVER BOYS AT COLBY HALL
INTRODUCING THE YOUNGER ROVERS
"For gracious sake! what's that racket?" exclaimed Dick Rover, as he threw down the newspaper he was reading and leaped to his feet.
"Sounds to me as if there was a battle royal going on," returned his younger brother, Sam, who was at a desk in the library of the old farmhouse, writing a letter.
"It's those boys!" exclaimed Tom Rover, as he tossed aside a copy of a comic paper which he had been looking over. "I'll wager they're up to some mischief again."
"Well, if they are your boys, Tom, you mustn't find fault with them," answered Sam Rover, with a twinkle in his eye. "If ever there were chips of the old block, your twins are It with a capital I."
"Humph!" snorted Tom Rover. "I don't think Andy and Randy are much ahead of your Fred when it comes to playing tricks, and I think Dick's Jack can hold up his end too."
"Never mind about that just now," broke in Dick Rover, hastily. "Let's go out and see what those kids are up to."
"All right. But don't be too severe with 'em," pleaded Tom Rover. "Remember, boys will be boys."
"That's true, Tom. But we've got to take 'em in hand sooner or later," remonstrated his brother Sam. "If we don't, they'll grow up the wildest bunch ever known."
A number of cries of alarm and protest, mingled with fierce cheering, had reached the house from the garden just beyond the broad veranda. As the three Rover brothers hurried through the hallway and outside, the yelling and cheering were renewed. Then, just as Tom Rover stepped out on the veranda, there was a sudden swish and a stream of water from a garden hose caught him directly in the left ear.
"Hi! Hi! Stop that!" cried Tom Rover, doing his best to dodge the stream of water, which suddenly seemed to play all over the piazza. "What do you mean by wetting me this way?"
"It wasn't my fault, Dad," came from a boy standing on the lawn, both hands clutching a rubber hose held, also, by another boy of about the same age. "It was Fred who turned the hose that way."
"Nothing of the sort! It was Randy twisted it that way trying to get it away from me," cried Fred Rover. "And he isn't going to do it!" and thereupon ensued a struggle between the two boys which caused the stream of water to fly over the garden first in one direction and then another.
In the meanwhile, not far away another stream of water was issuing from a hose held by two other lads. This, as well as the water from hose number one, had been directed towards the back of the garden, where an elderly white man and an equally elderly colored man were trying to shelter themselves behind a low hedge to keep from becoming drenched.
"Fo' de lan's' sake, Massa Dick! won't you make dem boys stop?" cried out the old colored man, when he caught sight of Dick Rover hurrying out on the lawn. "Dem boys is jest nacherly tryin' to drown old Aleck Pop, dat's what dey is!"
"They didn't have no call to touch them hoses," came from the elderly white man. "I tol' 'em they mustn't muss with the water; but they won't mind nohow!" and thus speaking old Jack Ness held up his hands in comic despair.
"Why! we didn't know you were behind the hedge," came from one of the boys holding the second hose. "We thought you were both down at the barn."
"You can't make believe like that, Andy Rover!" returned the old man of all work, shaking his head vigorously. "You knowed I was goin' to trim up this hedge a bit and that Aleck was goin' to help me."
"You boys let up with this nonsense," came sternly from Tom Rover. He turned to face one of his twins. "Randy, I ought to give you a thrashing for wetting me like this."
"Don't Fred get half the thrashing?" questioned Randy Rover, quizzically, for he could readily see that his parent was not as angry as his words seemed to imply. "I don't like to be selfish, you know. He can have more than his share if he wants it."
"You'll take your own thrashings—I don't want 'em," broke in his cousin Fred quickly.
"Jack," cried Dick Rover, turning to his son, "turn that water off at once."
"I don't know where to turn it off. I didn't turn it on," answered Jack Rover, the oldest of the four boys who had been fooling.
"I'll turn it off and fix it so they can't turn it on ag'in," came from old Jack Ness, and away hobbled the man of all work.
"I think it's a shame for you boys to drench old Ness and Aleck," was Sam Rover's sober comment. "Both of them might catch cold or get rheumatism."
"We didn't start to do anything like that, Dad," answered Fred Rover. "We were going to have a little fight between ourselves, playing rival firemen. We aimed the water at the hedge, and we didn't see Ness and Aleck until they let out a yell."
"But I saw two of you playing the water in that direction," cried Dick Rover. "You were one of them, Jack."
"Oh, well, Dad, what was the harm after they were all wet?" pleaded his son. "They'd have to change their clothing anyway."
"That's just it," added Andy Rover quickly, with his eyes twinkling from merriment. "A little more water won't hurt a person when he's already soaked. It's just like spoiling a rotten egg—it can't be done," and at this reply, both Dick Rover and his brother, the fun-loving Tom, had to turn away their faces to hide their amusement. Nevertheless, Dick sobered his face almost instantly as he answered:
"Well, these pranks around the farm have got to stop. You'll have your grandfather and Uncle Randolph and Aunt Martha all upset, not to say anything about your sisters and your mothers. It's a fortunate thing that they went down to the town to do some shopping. Otherwise I think all of you would be in for quite some punishment."
"Oh! Then you're not going to punish us, are you?" broke in Randy Rover quickly. "That's fine! I knew you wouldn't mind our having a little fun."
"Don't be so fast, young man," returned his father. "Your Uncle Dick may be too lenient. I am rather of the opinion that you and your brother, if not your cousins, have got to be taken in hand."
"Oh, please, Massa Tom, don' go fo' to punish 'em," burst out old Aleck Pop. "I—I don't s'pose dey meant any great ha'm, even do dey did t'row dat stream of wattah right in dis yere coon's mouf;" and he smiled broadly, showing a row of ivories, rather the worse for wear.
"I think all of you boys had better go into the house and get some dry clothing on before your mothers put in an appearance," suggested Dick Rover. "If they see you like this, all dripping wet, they'll certainly be worried."
"All right, Dad; I'll do it," answered Jack, quickly. And then he motioned to his cousins. "Come on, let's see how fast we can make the change;" and off into the big farmhouse rushed the boys, clattering up the back stairs one after the other, to the two big rooms which they occupied.
"Some boys!" was Sam Rover's comment, as he shook his head doubtfully.
"They are certainly growing older—and wilder," returned Dick Rover.
"We've got to take them in hand—that is dead certain!" said Tom Rover, with conviction. "Why! if I don't do something with Andy and Randy pretty soon, they'll be as—as——"
"As bad as you were, Tom, at their age," finished Dick Rover, with a smile.
"Now you've said something, Dick," affirmed Sam Rover. "Andy isn't quite so bad when it comes to playing tricks, although he certainly says some awfully funny things, but when it comes to doing things Randy continually puts me in mind of Tom."
"Oh, say! To hear you fellows talk, you'd think that I was the worst boy that ever lived," grumbled Tom Rover. "What did I ever do to raise such a rumpus as this?"
"Phew! What did he ever do to raise such a rumpus as this?" mocked Sam Rover. "Well, what didn't he do? When father went to Africa and disappeared and we came down here to good old Valley Brook Farm, wasn't he the constant torment of Uncle Randolph and Aunt Martha, and the hired girl, and all the rest of the community until, in sheer despair, uncle had to send us off to Putnam Hall? And when we went to the Hall, who was the first one to get into trouble—exploding a giant firecracker on the campus? Answer me that, will you?"
"Ancient history," murmured Tom Rover, dryly. But then, of a sudden his eyes began to twinkle. "No use talking, though, we certainly did have some good times in those days, didn't we?" he continued. "Do you remember how we got the best of old Josiah Crabtree?"
"Yes. And how we got the best of a whole lot of our enemies," added Sam Rover.
"Yes, and what gloriously good times we did have at Putnam Hall and at Brill College," came from Dick Rover, with a sigh. "Sometimes I wish all those happy days could be lived over again."
"When you think of those days, Dick, just think of what great times are in store for our boys," said Sam. "I only trust they have as good times as we had."
"I guess they'll know how to take care of themselves all right enough," was Tom Rover's comment. "But, just the same, we can't permit them to become too wild. Sending them to that private school in New York City doesn't seem to have done them so very much good, although, of course, I admit they are well educated for their age."
"I know where I'm going to send Jack when the proper time comes," answered Dick Rover.
"Where?" came from his brothers.
"I'm going to send him to Colby Hall, the military academy which our old school chum, Larry Colby, has opened. Larry sent me some of his literature some time ago; and I have heard from several people that it's already a first-class institution of learning—every bit as good as Putnam Hall."
"Well, if it's half as good as dear old Putnam Hall it must be some school," said Tom Rover. "And there's no reason why Larry Colby shouldn't be able to run a first-class military academy. He was a good scholar and a first-class cadet when he was at Putnam Hall."
"After Larry left Putnam Hall he went to travel in Europe," continued Dick. "Then he went through college, and immediately after that he joined the militia of New York State and there worked his way up until he now sports the title of colonel."
"Colonel Colby, eh? That's going some," was Tom's comment.
"His school is patterned after West Point, as was Putnam Hall, and I understand he has a West Point officer there to instruct the cadets in military tactics."
"Well, that's the sort of school our boys will need," answered Tom Rover. "The stricter it is the better it will be for them."
"I think it would be a good scheme to send them to Larry Colby's school," was Sam's comment. "As Larry knows us so well he would probably take an especial interest in our boys."
"Yes. But I wouldn't want him to show our lads any special favors," broke in Tom, quickly. "If the boys went there, I should want them to stand on their own feet, just as we did when we went to Putnam Hall."
"That's the talk, Tom! No favoritism!" cried Dick. "The only way to make a boy thoroughly self-reliant is to make him take his own part."
"If we are going to send them off to boarding school, they might as well go this Fall as any other time," remarked Sam Rover. "Have you any idea when the term at Colby Hall begins, Dick?"
"About the middle of September."
"It's the middle of August now. That would give us a full month in which to make arrangements and for them in which to get ready."
"Have you ever said anything to the twins about going to boarding school, Tom?" questioned Sam.
"Oh, yes. They understand that they are to go to some place sooner or later. Fred understands it, too, doesn't he?"
"And I told Jack only a short while ago that he must get ready to think of leaving home," put in Dick Rover. "Of course, it will be rather hard on the boys at first. They have never been away from us at all except the two weeks when they were out in that boys' camp."
"They'll have to get used to it, just as we got used to it when father went off to Africa and Uncle Randy sent us to Putnam Hall. Perhaps we had better tell them——"
Sam Rover broke off short as a series of shrieks in a high-pitched feminine voice issued from the pantry of the big farmhouse. An instant later a hired girl, followed by a middle-aged cook, came flying forth from the kitchen doorway.
"Oh, save me! Save me!" cried the hired girl, clutching her skirts tightly around her ankles, "Save me!"
"Oh, Mr. Rover! Mr. Rover! It's those dreadful boys! I won't stay here another minute!" screamed the cook, flourishing a big spoon in one hand and a dish-cloth in the other. "It's outrageous! That's what it is! I'm going to pack my trunk and leave this house right away!"
"What's the matter?" demanded Tom Rover, quickly.
"Are you hurt?" came anxiously from Dick.
"What have the boys done now?" questioned Sam.
"What have they done?" wailed the hired girl. "I just went into the pantry and opened the closet door and out jumped about a thousand mice at me!"
"Yes! and they are running all over the house!" broke in the cook savagely. "One of 'em ran right over my foot and tried to bite me! I'm going to pack my trunk and leave! I won't stay here another minute!"
SOMETHING OF THE PAST
At the announcement of the hired girl that their sons had let loose in the farmhouse a thousand mice—more or less—the three Rover brothers looked at each other enquiringly.
"Another joke—and so soon!" gasped Sam Rover.
"That certainly is the limit!" broke out Dick Rover, as he started for the house.
"If I find Andy and Randy have been up to another trick right on top of this water-hose nonsense, I'll give them a tanning they won't forget in a hurry," added Tom Rover; and then he and Sam followed Dick up the back porch and into the kitchen.
To the readers of the former volumes in these two "Rover Boys Series," Dick, Tom and Sam Rover will need no special introduction. For the benefit of others, however, let me state that the sober-minded and determined Dick was the oldest of the three, with the fun-loving Tom coming next and sturdy Sam being the youngest. They were the sons of one Anderson Rover, who, when not traveling, made his home at Valley Brook Farm, in New York State, living there with his brother Randolph Rover and wife Martha.
While Dick, Tom, and Sam were quite young, and while their father was off exploring in the interior of Africa, the three Rovers had been sent to Putnam Hall Military Academy, where they had made a few enemies and likewise a host of friends, including a manly and straight-forward cadet named Lawrence Colby. After many adventures both at school and in various portions of the globe, they had graduated from Putnam Hall with honor and then entered Brill College.
At that time, Mr. Anderson Rover, who had long since returned from Africa, was not in the best of health. He had numerous business interests both in Wall Street, New York City, and in the West to take care of, and presently it was found necessary that Dick leave college and take charge of business matters for his parent. In this task Dick was soon aided by Tom, leaving Sam the only member of the family to graduate from Brill.
While at Putnam Hall the three Rovers had become acquainted with three charming girls, Dora Stanhope and her cousins, Nellie and Grace Laning. This acquaintance had ripened into loving intimacy; and when Dick went into business he took Dora Stanhope for his life-long partner. A little later Tom was married to Nellie Laning, and, after he had left Brill and joined his brothers in conducting their father's various business enterprises, Sam married Grace Laning.
With the aid of Mr. Anderson Rover and some others, The Rover Company was organized with offices on Wall Street, New York City. The company dealt in stocks, bonds, real estate, and other investments; and Dick was now president, with Tom secretary and Sam treasurer. The company had been prosperous from the start, although on several occasions enemies had done their best to give the concern a black eye.
When they were first married, Dick and his beautiful wife Dora had begun housekeeping in a cosy apartment in the metropolis, and they had presently been followed by Tom and Sam. But two years later the three brothers had a chance to buy a beautiful plot of ground on Riverside Drive facing the noble Hudson River, and on this they built three fine houses adjoining each other, Dick living in the middle house with Tom on one side and Sam on the other.
Before the happy young folks moved into the new homes, Dick and Dora were blessed with a little son, who later on was named John, after Mr. John Laning. Later still, this couple had a daughter, whom they named Martha, after Aunt Martha of Valley Brook Farm. Little Jack, as he was called in those days, was a wonderfully bright and clever lad with many of the clear-minded qualities which had made his father so successful in life.
About the time young Jack was presented with a baby sister, Tom and Nellie Rover came forward with twin boys, one of whom was named Anderson, after his grandfather, and the other Randolph, after his uncle. Andy and Randy, as they were always called for short, were exceedingly bright, each taking after his father, Andy always saying things that were more or less funny and Randy playing tricks whenever he got the chance. They were truly chips off the old block, and Tom knew it, although outwardly he professed to be ignorant of the fact.
"Those twins will be some boys when they grow up," was old Anderson Rover's comment, when the lads were less than five years old. "They're just as full of fun now as Tom ever dared to be."
"So they are," answered his brother Randolph. "My! my! what will they ever do with them when they get a little older?"
"I sha'n't mind," said Aunt Martha, her eyes beaming brightly. "That is, if they are really and truly as good-hearted as Tom has always been. He certainly was the worst of the lot when it came to playing jokes, but no lad ever had a better heart than Tom—not one!"
About the time that Tom began to boast about his twins, Sam and Grace came along with a beautiful little girl, whom they named Mary, after Mrs. Laning. About a year later the girl was followed by a boy, and this sturdy little chap was named Fred, after Sam's old school chum, Fred Garrison.
Living so close together, the four boys and the two girls were brought up almost like one big family. The girls were all but inseparable, and the boys could generally be found together, either studying, playing, or having a good time.
When the time came to set the children to studying, Martha and Mary were placed in a private school for girls located but a short distance from their homes. It was thought best, however, at the start to send the boys to a public school, and this was done. For three years matters went along very well, and during that time The Rover Company prospered far beyond the expectations of those in charge. But then Andy and Randy, becoming a little older, began to exhibit their talent for playing tricks, and usually they were seconded in these efforts by Jack and Fred. Once or twice all of the boys were reported by the school principal for this, and each time the lads were remonstrated with by their fathers in such a manner that, as young Andy expressed it, "it was far more comfortable to sit down standing up than it was any other way."
"I think I'll have to do something with those twins," said Tom Rover to his wife, after the boys had been reported for more tricks. "The school they go to doesn't seem to be strict enough." And thereupon he had sent the boys to a private establishment further uptown.
Jack and Fred had begged their parents that they might be allowed to do likewise; and at this private school the four cousins had been kept until the close of the Spring term the preceding June. To the credit of this school it must be said that the boys advanced rapidly in their studies. Their deportment, however, was apparently no better than it had been before, and as a consequence Tom Rover was more worried than ever, while Dick and Sam began to wonder secretly whether it would not be advisable to separate their sons from the mischievous twins.
One day Dick broached this subject to his offspring. At once young Jack set up a wild remonstrance.
"Oh, Dad! don't take me away from Andy and Randy and Fred!" he pleaded. "Why, we are just like brothers! I wouldn't know how to get along without 'em."
"But I'm afraid Andy and Randy are leading you into bad habits," returned Dick Rover.
"I don't think so, Dad. Anyway, I've heard folks say that Andy and Randy are no worse than their father used to be—and you never wanted to be separated from Uncle Tom, did you?"
At this question Dick Rover's face took on a sudden sober look. "No; I never wanted to be separated from your uncle, that's true," he said. "But I tell you what we did used to do. When his pranks got too wild I and your Uncle Sam used to hold him in."
"All right then, Dad. I'll tell Fred about this, and we'll see what we can do towards holding in Andy and Randy;" and there, after some more talk along the same line, the matter was allowed to rest.
Young Jack was as good as his word, and during the remainder of that Spring term at the private school in New York City, Andy and Randy were as well behaved as could possibly be expected from two red-blooded lads.
It had been planned by the Rovers that the Summer should be spent by all the young folks and their mothers at Valley Brook Farm, the fathers to come down from time to time, and especially over the week ends. Since Dick, Tom, and Sam had become married the farm had been enlarged by the purchase of two hundred additional acres. The farmhouse, too, had been made larger, with the old portion remodeled, and a water system from the rapidly-growing town of Dexter's Corners, as well as electric lighting, had been installed. A telephone had been put in some years previous.
At first after their arrival at their grandfather's home, the four boys had been content to take it easy, spending their time roaming the fields, helping to gather the fruit, of which there was great abundance, and in going fishing and swimming. But then Andy and Randy had found time growing a little heavy on their hands, and one prank had been followed by another. Some of the tricks had been played on Jack and Fred, and they, of course, had done their best to retaliate, and this had, on more than one occasion, brought forth a forceful, but good-natured, pitched battle, and the fathers and the others present had had all they could do to hold the boys in check.
"I never saw such boys," was Mary Rover's comment to her brother Fred. "Why can't you behave yourselves just as Martha and I do?"
"Oh, girls never have any good times," answered Fred. "They just sit around and primp up and read, and do things like that."
"Indeed!" and Mary tossed her curly head. "I think we have just as good times as you boys, every bit; but we don't have to be rough about it;" and then she ran off to play a game of lawn tennis with her cousin Martha.
The time was the middle of August, and as the summer was proving to be an unusually warm one, all the older Rovers were glad enough to take it easy on the farm, they having earlier in the season been down to the seashore for a couple of weeks. Dick, Tom and Sam had each taken a week off at various times, and all managed to get down to the farm early every Saturday afternoon, to remain until Sunday night or Monday morning.
And it was late on a Saturday afternoon, when the ladies and the girls had gone to Dexter's Corners to do some shopping, and while the fathers were busy reading and writing, that the events occurred with which the present story opens.
As Dick Rover ran into the farmhouse he heard a slight scream coming from the sitting-room. The scream was followed by exclamations from two men, and then a wild thumping as if someone was hitting the floor with a cane.
"It's a mouse—several of 'em!" came in the voice of Grandfather Rover.
"Oh, my! oh, my! wherever did they come from?" exclaimed old Aunt Martha.
"Never mind where they came from, I'll fix 'em," asserted old Randolph Rover, and then followed another thumping as he rushed around between the chairs and behind the sofa, trying to slaughter some of the scampering mice with his heavy walking stick.
"Where are they? Where are those mice?" demanded Tom Rover, giving a hasty glance around the kitchen.
"There is one—under the sink!" ejaculated his brother Sam, and catching up a stove lifter he let fly with such accurate aim that the unhappy rodent was despatched on the spot.
"I see another one back of the pantry door," said Tom Rover a moment later, and then made a dive into the pantry. Here, in a side closet, the door of which was partly open, he saw a broom and grabbed it quickly. Then he made a wild pass at the mouse, but the rodent eluded him and scrambled over the kitchen floor and into the sitting-room.
"Oh, dear! Oh, dear! Did you ever see so many mice?" came in a wailing voice from Aunt Martha. She had clambered up on a chair and stood there holding her dress tightly around her feet.
"It's another of those boys' tricks, that's what it is," asserted Grandfather Rover. "They ought to be punished for it."
"Yes. But we've got to get rid of these mice first," answered his brother.
Then Randolph Rover, seeing a mouse scampering across the side of the room, threw his walking stick at it with all his force. But his aim was poor and the walking stick, striking the edge of the table, glanced off and hit a fish-globe, smashing it to pieces and sending the water and the goldfish flying in every direction.
WHAT FOLLOWED ANOTHER TRICK
When the hubbub downstairs started the four Rover boys were up in their adjoining bedrooms partly undressed and in the midst of a couple of impromptu boxing matches, one taking place between Andy and Jack and the other between Randy and Fred.
"There, my boy, how do you like that?" cried Andy, as, dancing around, he managed to land a slapping blow on Jack's bare shoulder.
"Fine, child! fine!" retorted young Jack. "But not half as good as this," he continued, and, with a sudden spring, he landed one blow on Andy's chest and another on his shoulder which sent Tom's son staggering half-way across the bed.
"Hurrah! one man down! Now for the next!" cried Fred, and managed to land several blows in quick succession on Randy's shoulder.
But then the fun-loving twin came at him with a rush, sending him into a corner and on to a little table containing a number of books. As Fred went down the table did likewise and the books fell all over him.
"Whoop!" roared Randy in his delight. "Down and buried!"
"But not dead," retorted Fred, promptly, and catching up several of the books he hurled them in quick succession at his opponent. One in particular caught Randy in the stomach, and down he sat with a suddenness that jarred the floor.
"Say!" exclaimed Jack, suddenly, and held up his hand, "this won't do at all. The folks downstairs will think we're pulling the house down over their ears. We'll have to slow up a bit. You know what our fathers said a little while ago."
"All right," returned Andy, promptly, as he arose to his feet. "After this we'll be as quiet as a thunder storm in a moving picture drama."
"That's the talk! Silence it is!" cried his twin; and then to let off a little extra steam he silently turned a cart-wheel across the floor, after which he proceeded with his toilet making.
The boys were still minus their collars and ties when they suddenly realized that something unusual was taking place downstairs. They had closed the bedroom doors, but now all of them rushed out into the hallway.
"Great watermelons!" groaned Randy, and turned slightly pale. "I forgot all about 'em!"
"About what?" chimed in Jack.
"You don't mean the mice?" demanded Andy.
"Yes, I do!"
"What mice?" questioned Fred.
"The mice I caught under the flooring of the old wagon house yesterday," answered Randy.
"I thought you put them in a cage and drowned them in the brook."
"I was going to do that, but then I changed my mind and put 'em in a couple of boxes. I thought maybe I might have a chance to train 'em—just like those mice we once saw in a show."
"Where did you put those boxes?" demanded Andy, quickly.
"I—I—didn't know exactly what to do with 'em, so—I—I—put 'em on the shelf in the pantry downstairs," faltered the twin.
"Great catfish, Randy! you've got us into a fine mess!" broke in Fred.
"Coming right on top of that trouble with the water-hose!" added Jack, ruefully.
After that there was a moment of silence, the four cousins gazing at each other uncertainly. Then Randy drew a long breath.
"Well, I'm going downstairs to see what's doing," he declared. "If I've got to suffer for this, I might as well see the fun."
"I'm going down, too," responded his twin, and side by side they ran down the stairs, with Jack and Fred close at their heels.
Perhaps it was poetic justice that Randy, who had been the cause of this commotion, should suffer the worst for it. Hardly had he put his foot in the lower hallway of the farmhouse when a mouse, scampering from a nearby doorway, made directly for him. The boy made a wild jump to step on the rodent, missed his footing, and came down flat on his back. He landed directly at the foot of the stairs, and his brother, being unable to stop, fell on top of him.
"Hi! Get off of me!" gasped the unfortunate youth. "What do you want to do—crack my head open?"
"Next time you go down, give a fellow warning," retorted his brother, scrambling to his feet; and then the two boys, with Jack and Fred, entered the sitting-room, doing this just as their fathers came in from the direction of the kitchen and just when old Uncle Randolph made his unfortunate attack on the fish-globe.
"Hello! look at the fish on the floor," exclaimed Jack. "What's the matter, Grandfather? Did the mice upset the globe?"
"No. I did that, trying to hit one of the pesky creatures," explained old Uncle Randolph. "We must kill them some way or they'll get all over the house, and then none of us will have any peace."
"I wouldn't care for a piece of mouse, anyway," remarked Andy, but in such a low tone that none of the older folks heard him.
"Everybody get a stick and go at those mice," commanded Dick Rover, and looked at the boys so sternly they all began to feel uncomfortable. "We've got either to kill them or drive them out of the house, otherwise the lady folks won't be able to sleep to-night."
"I'll get a poker and kill as many of 'em as I can," cried Randy, and ran out into the kitchen to do as he had mentioned.
The other boys, as well as their fathers, armed themselves with canes, umbrellas, and brooms, and for the next fifteen minutes there was a rapid and thorough search for all of the rodents. Several were driven outside through the open doors, while others were caught and slaughtered in various parts of the kitchen, the pantry, and the rooms adjoining. Then the goldfish were gathered up and put into another bowl of water and the bits of broken glass were removed.
"I'm awfully sorry, Uncle Randy, you broke the fish-globe," said Randy, contritely, "but I'm glad you saved the fish."
"Look here, young man, I want to talk to you—and to you, too!" cried Tom, sharply, and without more ado caught each twin by the arm and marched them into the library.
"Wow! I'm afraid Andy and Randy are in for it now," whispered Fred to Jack.
"Well, Randy certainly had no right to put those mice in the pantry," answered his cousin. "Just the same, I hope Uncle Tom isn't too severe with 'em."
"I don't see why Andy should be punished for this."
"Oh, they always stick together. You know that as well as I do."
"So I do. Isn't it wonderful how each is willing to share the blame with the other?" added Fred, with deep admiration.
Once in the library, Tom Rover shut the doors tightly and then faced his twin sons.
"Now then, I want the truth about this," he commenced sternly. "Where did those mice come from?"
"They came from under the flooring of the old wagon house," answered Randy. "I caught them there when the carpenters tore up the floor to put down the new one."
"And where did you put them?"
"I put 'em in a—er—a couple of boxes."
"Randy was going to keep the mice and try to teach 'em to do tricks, just the same as those mice we once saw in a vaudeville show," put in Andy, quickly, to do what he could to shield his brother.
"More tricks, eh?" was Tom's dry comment. "It seems to me that it is nothing but tricks lately. I suppose you placed the boxes in the pantry just so the mice wouldn't catch cold, didn't you?" he went on quizzically.
"No, sir. I—I—placed 'em there just for safekeeping," was the hesitating answer. "I didn't know that Lulu would disturb them."
"That's it, Dad. I'm sure Randy didn't want 'em disturbed."
"And what did you have to do with this, Andy?" demanded the father.
At this the boy addressed had nothing to say.
"He had nothing to do with it, Dad," answered Randy. "I got the mice and put 'em in the two boxes. I s'pose it wasn't just the right thing to put 'em in the pantry, but I give you my word I didn't think they'd be upset the way they were and be sent running all over the house. If Lulu hadn't touched the boxes, the mice would be there yet."
"Perhaps," answered Tom Rover, dryly. "Just the same, I think you placed the boxes there hoping that Lulu or the cook would have curiosity enough to see what they contained. As it is, your actions have upset the whole house, brought on the destruction of the fish-globe, and the cook is so upset that she has threatened to leave."
"Oh, she won't leave, Dad. She likes her big wages too well," remarked Andy, quickly.
"I don't know about that, Son. Nobody is going to stand for your tricks much longer. They are getting altogether too numerous." Tom continued to look as stern as possible. "I've got to take both of you in hand, and that is all there is to it. You are growing wilder every day. Something has got to be done. Now you go right upstairs and finish dressing, and don't dare to let me hear of any more tricks being played for the rest of this day, otherwise I'll not only give you a sound thrashing, but I'll cut off your spending money and do several other things that you won't like;" and, thus speaking, the father of the twins opened the door to the hall and shoved them both out towards the stairs with more force than they had felt for some time. The two lads lost no time in retiring to their bedroom.
"Say, Randy, I think you got off rather easily," remarked Andy, when they were alone.
"I think so myself," was the quick response. "I thought Dad would be so mad that he would give me one everlasting licking."
"Say! how did you make out?" questioned Fred, eagerly, as he came sneaking in, followed by Jack.
"You don't look as if you had suffered very much," was Jack's comment. "I thought you'd come out looking as if you'd been through a threshing machine."
What Randy and Andy had to tell was quickly related. At the conclusion, Jack, who being somewhat older than any of the others, was looked upon as something of a leader, shook his head thoughtfully.
"I guess we had better pull in our horns a little, for a while at least," was his conclusion. "My father was mighty mad, too, and so was Fred's. If we don't look out, we'll all get in wrong. They didn't like that wetting business to start with."
While the boys were finishing their toilet and discussing the matter, their fathers were doing what they could to set matters to rights downstairs, and to pacify their Aunt Martha and also the cook and the hired girl. The cook was particularly wrought up.
"It ain't the first time nor the second time nor the third time that them boys have played tricks on us," she declared. "It's been nothin' but one thing or 'nother ever since they came here—and last Summer it was the same way. The first thing you know, they'll be doin' somethin' awful, and some of us'll get hurt. I think I had better leave."
"If she leaves, I'll leave too," declared the hired girl.
"Don't think of leaving," said Tom Rover. "I'll take those boys in hand and see to it that they don't bother you any more. If they do the least thing, I'll pack them back to our house in New York." And after a little more talk he succeeded in mollifying the cook and the hired girl to such an extent that they went back to their work. Then the fathers of the boys withdrew once more to the library.
"I don't know how you feel about it," began Tom, after he had picked up his comic paper once more and then thrown it aside in disgust. "I begin to think that the best thing I can do is to pack those twins off to Colby Hall."
"I don't know but what I agree with you, Tom," answered Sam. "And if you do send them, I think Fred might as well go along."
"Yes; and Jack also," added Dick. "Those boys will never want to be separated, and I don't know that we could do better than to place them under Larry Colby's care, especially if we let Larry know just how wild they are apt to be and tell him to take them in hand."
"Yes; I'd want Larry to know all about them," answered Tom. "And I'd want him to give me his word that he'd keep a sharp eye on Andy and Randy and punish them severely every time they broke any of the rules. It's the only way to bring them up properly."
"All right then, Tom. If you think that way and Dick thinks the same, let's get right down to business and send a letter to Larry Colby to-night," said Sam.
"But what of the boys' mothers?" questioned Dick Rover. He knew that his wife Dora would grieve considerably over having young Jack leave home.
"We'll have to explain the situation to them and get them to agree," answered Tom, firmly.
JACK IN WALL STREET
"Just to think, Jack! a week from to-day we'll be on our way to Colby Hall Military Academy."
"Yes, Fred. Doesn't it seem wonderful? I do hope we'll find the school to our liking," returned Jack, with a serious look on his face. "It would be too bad to go to some punk school."
"Oh, you can be sure that the school is all right; otherwise our fathers wouldn't have picked it out for us," broke in Andy. "They know what a good military academy is. Didn't they go to that famous old Putnam Hall?"
"I wish we could have gone to Putnam Hall," added Randy. "From what dad has told me, it must have been one dandy school."
"Well, we can't go to something that ain't," answered his twin with a grin. "Putnam Hall doesn't exist any more. When it burnt to the ground, Captain Putnam felt too old to have it rebuilt, and so he settled with the insurance companies and retired."
"Gee! but won't we have dandy times if that school is what we hope for?" cried Andy. "We'll make things hum, won't we?"
"Right you are!" came in a chorus from the others. And then, in sudden high spirits, the boys began to wrestle with each other, ending up with something of a pillow fight in which not only pillows but also bolsters and numerous other articles were used as missiles.
After a never-to-be-forgotten vacation at Valley Brook Farm, the boys, along with their sisters and their parents, had returned to their homes in New York City. The Summer was almost at an end, and schools all over were opening for the Fall and Winter term.
It had been no easy task for Dick, Tom, and Sam Rover to convince their wives that it would be best to send the boys to some strict boarding school instead of to the private school which they had been attending in the metropolis. Gentle Dora Rover had cried a little at the thought of having her only son Jack leave home, and Grace Rover had been affected the same way at the thought of parting from her only boy Fred.
"But both of you will be better off than I shall be," had been Nellie Rover's comment. "Each of you will have a daughter still at home, while both of my twins will be gone and I'll have nobody;" and her eyes, too, had filled with tears.
But with it all, the mothers were sensible women, and they agreed with their husbands that the boys needed to be placed under strict discipline and that this was not possible at the school which they had been attending.
"That school is altogether too fashionable," had been Dick Rover's comment. "They make regular dudes of the pupils and they think more of high collars and neckties and patent-leather shoes than they do of reading, writing and arithmetic. Now, I want Jack to get a good education and I want him to learn how to behave himself while he is getting it." And so, after several communications had passed between the Rovers and Colonel Lawrence Colby, it was settled that the boys should be enlisted as cadets at Colby Hall.
"Cease firing!" cried Jack, when there came a lull in the pillow fight. "The first thing you know somebody will come in here and we'll be in hot water again." The boys were up in Jack's bedroom, and all of their mothers were downstairs, talking over the question of the wardrobes the lads were to take along to school.
"All right, Commodore," answered Andy, gaily. "Out of the trenches, boys; the war is over!"
"Suits me," panted Randy, who was all out of wind from his exertions. "Melt the cannons into telephones and send messages to the girls that the soldier boys are coming home," and at this remark there was a short laugh. Then all the boys proceeded to make themselves comfortable in various attitudes around the bedroom.
"Say! I'm glad of one thing," remarked Fred; "and that is, we won't be utter strangers at Colby Hall. Spouter Powell will be there and so will Gif Garrison."
It may be as well to explain here that Spouter Powell, whose real first name was Richard, was the son of the Rovers' old friend, John Powell, commonly called Songbird. Richard Powell did not seem to have much of his father's ability to write verse, but he did have a great fondness for making speeches, whence had come his nickname of Spouter.
Gifford Garrison, always called Gif for short, was the son of the Rovers' old schoolmate, Fred Garrison, after whom Fred Rover had been named. Gif was a big, strong youth who doted on athletic sports of all kinds. Both Gif and Spouter had visited the Rover boys on a number of occasions, and consequently all of the lads were well acquainted.
"Yes, I'll be glad to meet Gif and Spouter," returned Jack. "I like them both, even though Spouter gets pretty talky sometimes."
Just then there sounded downstairs a postman's whistle, and a minute later Martha Rover came upstairs.
"Here's a letter for you, Jack," said his sister, holding it out.
"Thanks," he returned, as he took the communication and glanced at it. "Why! what do you know about this? Here we were just talking about Gif and Spouter, and here is a letter from Gif now," he cried.
"Wonder what he's got to say," remarked Fred, and then, as he saw his cousin lingering at the doorway, he added: "Don't you want to come in, Martha, and join us?"
"No, thank you," she returned. "I'm going out with Mary. We're going to buy some things for you boys to take along when you go to that boarding school."
"Oh, I know what those will be," burst out Andy, gaily. "Pink neckties with yellow dots, or nice red socks with blue rings around 'em."
"Oh, the idea!" burst out the girl. "What an eye for color you have!"
"Well, maybe it was blue socks with red rings around 'em," went on Andy, innocently; "and maybe the pink neckties will be plain yellow."
"Oh, Cousin Andy! I think you're just the worst ever!" shrieked Martha, and then ran downstairs to join those below.
In the meantime, Jack had torn open the letter and was scanning it hastily.
"Don't be selfish!" burst out Fred, curiously. "If Gif has anything to say about that school, let us hear it."
"Sure. I'll read it out loud," answered his cousin.
The communication, which was a rather long one, was of the usual boyish type, and much of it was of no particular interest. Several paragraphs, however, may be quoted here.
* * * * *
"You will be interested to know that besides Spouter Powell there will be another boy here who may or may not join our set. The fellow's name is Walter Baxter, and he is the son of Dan Baxter, the man who, years ago, caused your father and your uncles so much trouble at Putnam Hall and other places. Baxter is very hot-tempered and willing to fight almost any time.
"When I get back to school I am going in for athletics, particularly football this Fall, and I hope some of you fellows will want to go into athletics, too, for it will make it more interesting to have some friends on the eleven. Spouter don't go in for that sort of thing. He likes to save his wind for talk."
* * * * *
"Hum! that's rather interesting," was Randy's comment. "I wonder if this Walt Baxter will try to make trouble for us like his father did for our fathers?"
"Well, if he does, I guess we can take care of him, just as our folks took care of his father," returned his twin.
"No use borrowing trouble," came from Fred. "I've heard from my dad that Mr. Dan Baxter has reformed and is now a first-class business man and is quite prosperous. It may be that while his son Walt is somewhat hot-tempered, he may still be a thoroughly good fellow. I wouldn't give a rap for a boy that didn't show some spirit once in a while."
On the following morning Jack was on the point of going over to Fred's house to return some books he had borrowed, when his father called to him.
"I want you to go down to our offices with me this morning, Jack," said Dick Rover. "I've got a package there that I meant to bring up for your mother. You can come right back with it."
"All right, Dad. I'll be with you in a minute," answered the son, and ran off to deliver the books and to let Fred, as well as Randy and Andy, know where he was going.
Jack's temperament was a good deal like that of his father, and, young as he was, he already took an interest in what was being done in the offices of The Rover Company. On more than one occasion he had begged his parent's permission to visit the place on Wall Street, and once had been granted a "look-in" at the Stock Exchange during one of its busiest sessions. That sight was one he had never forgotten.
When the Rovers had first opened up in Wall Street, they had taken possession of a set of rather shabby offices formerly occupied by another firm with which they had had various difficulties, the particulars of which were related in "The Rover Boys in New York" and "The Rover Boys in Business." Now, however, they occupied the entire fourth floor of another building in a much better location. There was a large general office and a counting room, and a private office for each of the three brothers. Their office help numbered about twenty; and when business was brisk, the place consequently was a decidedly busy one.
When the offices of The Rover Company were reached, Dick Rover brought out the package intended for his wife. It was quite a bundle, and not wrapped as well as it might have been.
"You'd better let the office boy put an extra string around that, Jack," said the father.
"Oh, that's all right, Dad. I can get it home just as it is. There won't be much of a crowd on the subway train going uptown this time of day."
Jack spent a few minutes in the offices, speaking to the office boy and to several of the clerks with whom he was acquainted, and then started off for home, the bundle under his arm. He came down by one of the several elevators to the lower corridor of the building, and there stood in the wide-open doorway, contemplating the bustle in the narrow street beyond. Wall Street is the financial heart of our nation, and the activity there during business hours is something tremendous.
As Jack stood with his bundle under his arm, his attention was suddenly attracted to what was going on close by, beyond several columns which formed a part of the entrance to the building. In a niche of the wall stood a peddler, a short, sallow-faced and hollow-eyed man, evidently of foreign birth, trying to sell some cheap wares displayed on a little three-legged stand which he had set up. In front of the peddler stood a tall, slim, overbearing boy, loudly dressed and wearing light-colored spats and gloves to match.
"You've got no right to plank yourself here!" cried the overbearing boy savagely. "You get out of here or I'll dump that trash of yours into the street."
"Please, Mister, I am a poor man," pleaded the peddler in very broken English. "Please, Mister, you buy somet'in'?"
"You get out, I tell you!" went on the tall youth with a very lordly air. "Get out, I tell you! You foreigners are all thieves! Get out of here!" And without further warning he caught the thin, little peddler by the shoulder and gave him such a shove that the man had all he could do to keep from falling and from upsetting his little stock in trade.
GETTING READY TO LEAVE
"The mean fellow!"
Such was Jack's exclamation as he witnessed the scene between the hollow-eyed little street peddler and the dudish, overbearing youth who had attacked him.
"Get out, I tell you!" repeated the overbearing boy, as the peddler straightened up and caught hold of his little stand to keep it from tumbling over. "I've a big mind to kick your stuff into the street for you."
"Let up there, you big boob!" cried Jack, and without stopping to think twice he leaped towards the other youth and caught him firmly by the arm.
The boy who had attacked the peddler had not expected such interference, and he whirled around greatly surprised, especially when he saw a boy smaller than himself confronting him.
"What—what do you mean by catching hold of me this way?" he stammered.
"Why can't you leave that poor peddler alone?" retorted Jack.
"What business is this of yours?"
"That chap wasn't doing any harm here so far as I can see. He's only trying to earn his living."
"See here, kid! this is none of your affair, and I want you to keep out of it," stormed the dudish-looking youth. "We don't allow those fellows around this building."
"Then you tell him to move on in a decent kind of way," returned Jack.
"I'll do as I please." The big boy turned again towards the peddler and made a motion as if to push both the man and his stand down, but, instantly, Jack caught hold of him again and pulled him back, shoving him in between two pillars of the building's entrance.
"You had better go on," said Jack to the peddler, and, evidently much frightened by what was occurring, the little man took up his stand and disappeared as if by magic in the crowd on the street.
"Say! you've got gall to interfere with me!" burst out the big youth, glaring at Jack. "I'll teach you a lesson;" and with a sudden move he pulled Jack's bundle from under his arm and threw it out into the street. "Now you go about your business and don't you interfere with me again."
To have the bundle belonging to his mother treated in that fashion made the young Rover's blood boil. He jumped at the big youth, and as the other aimed a blow at him he dodged and then caught his opponent by the ear.
"Ouch! Let go!" screamed the big youth in sudden pain, and then he landed a blow on Jack's shoulder and received a crack on the chin in return.
How far this encounter might have gone, it is hard to say, but at that moment, while a crowd was beginning to gather, there came a sudden interruption in the appearance of Jack's Uncle Tom, followed by his Uncle Sam.
"Hello! What does this mean?" demanded Tom Rover, as he stepped between the two boys.
"It means that I've got an account to settle with that young snip, Mr. Rover!" cried the big youth savagely and giving Jack a look full of hatred.
"Uncle Tom, that fellow is nothing but a brute," declared Jack.
"A brute? What do you mean?"
"He just attacked a poor little peddler who was trying to sell a few things from a stand here in the corner. He tried to knock the peddler down and upset his stand. I told him to stop and then he attacked me."
"Humph! Are you this boy's uncle, Mr. Rover?" asked the big youth, in surprise.
"I am, Martell."
"Then I want to tell you that he has no right to interfere with me," went on Napoleon Martell, uglily. "Those peddlers are always hanging around here and my opinion is they are all thieves."
"That fellow was no more a thief than you are," broke in Jack, sturdily.
"Ha! Do you mean to call me a thief?"
"Come, Jack, such talk won't do down here in Wall Street," remonstrated his Uncle Sam, who had listened closely to what had been said. Sam Rover, from a distance, had seen the bundle flung into the gutter and had picked it up. Both the wrapping and the string were broken, but the contents of the package seemed to be uninjured.
"If that kid is your nephew, you had better take him in hand," grumbled Napoleon Martell, and then, not wishing to have any more words with the two older Rovers, he broke through the crowd which had gathered and hurried up the street.
"Come into the building," ordered Tom Rover to Jack, for the crowd was getting denser every instant; boys and men who had been hurrying by stopped to find out what was the matter.
"I guess I'll have to go back to get that bundle tied up again," answered Jack. The encounter had excited him not a little. "Uncle Tom, that fellow seemed to know you?"
"Yes, I know that boy. His name is Napoleon Martell, although they call him Nappy for short. He is the son of Nelson Martell, one of our rivals in business, a man who occupies the floor above us in this building."
"I didn't know Nappy was much of a scrapper," was Sam Rover's comment. "I thought he was too much of a dude to fight."
"He certainly is a dude as far as appearances go," answered Jack; "but he has the manner of a brute. I wish now I'd had the chance to give him a good licking," he went on heartily.
"You had better go slow when it comes to fighting," returned his uncle. "A fight seldom settles anything."
"Didn't you ever have any fights, Uncle Sam?"
At this direct question Sam Rover's face became a study while his brother Tom looked at him rather quizzically.
"Yes! I had my share of fights when I was a boy," admitted the uncle. "But, looking back, I think a good many of them might have been avoided. Of course, I expect a boy to take his own part and not be a coward. But a fight isn't always the best way to settle a difficulty."
Once back in the offices, Jack did not hesitate to tell his father about what had happened. In the meantime, an office boy rewrapped the bundle, securing it this time with a stout cord.
"I am sorry to hear about this trouble, Jack," said his father seriously. "I don't want you to grow up into a scrapper."
"But, Dad, I couldn't stand by and see that fellow abuse a poor little peddler like that," answered the son. "It wasn't fair at all! What right had that Nappy Martell to order the man away?"
"No right, that I know of. Jack, except that Mr. Martell owns some stock in the company that owns this building; but that would be a very far-fetched right at the best."
"I guess those Martells are all tarred from the same stick," was Tom Rover's comment. "The father is just as overbearing as the son."
"Do you know what I'm inclined to think?" remarked Sam Rover, as he walked over and closed the door to the outer office so that the clerks might not hear what was said. "I'm inclined to think that Nelson Martell is a good deal of a crook."
"And that's just my idea of the man, too," added Tom Rover. "What do you think, Dick?"
At this direct question the oldest of the three brothers pursed up his lips in concentrated thought.
"To tell the truth, I don't know exactly what to think," he answered slowly. "Some of the things that Nelson Martell is trying to put through are certainly rather shady. Still, they may be within the strict letter of the law, and if that is so it would hardly be fair to call the man a crook."
When Jack returned home, he, of course, told his cousins of his encounter at the entrance to the office building.
"It's a pity you didn't have a chance to give Martell one in the eye or in the nose," was Randy's comment. "Such a brute deserves to be hauled down a peg or two."
"Well, I rather think I gave his ear a pretty good twist," answered Jack, grinning.
"You ought to have made him pick up that bundle he flung into the gutter," added Fred.
"I couldn't do much of anything with the crowd gathering around. My! how the people do flock together when the least thing happens! If we had stayed there another minute or two, we might have had a thousand people around us."
With so many things to be thought of and done previous to the departure for Colby Hall, the subject of Nappy Martell was soon dismissed. All the boys were wondering what they had better put in their trunks and suitcases.
"Gee! I've got enough stuff planned out to fill five trunks," declared Randy. "I want to take all my clothing, and my fishing outfit, and my football and baseball togs, and my gym suit, and I'd like to take along my dumbbells, and my physical culture exerciser, and maybe a shotgun, and that favorite paddle of mine, and——"
"And about five thousand other things," finished his twin. "I'm in the same boat. But we've simply got to cut down and take only the things that are actually necessary."
"We won't need any baseball things during this term," declared Jack. "The Fall is the time for football—not baseball. And say! we don't want to forget our skates. There's a river up there and also a lake; so if the winter gets cold enough there ought to be some dandy skating."
"Yes. And if the lake is large enough there ought to be a chance for some ice-boating," added Fred.
At last, with the aid of their parents, the four boys got their trunks and suitcases packed. They were to leave home for Colby Hall on Wednesday morning, and on Tuesday evening their folks gave them a little send-off in the shape of a party given at Dick Rover's residence. At this gathering many of their boy friends were present, as well as a number of girls along with Mary and Martha. All of the young folks had an exceedingly pleasant time, which was kept up until midnight.
"And now for Colby Hall!" exclaimed Jack, after the party had come to an end.
"That's it," returned Fred. "Colby Hall and the best times ever!"
"So say we all of us!" came from the twins.
ON THE TRAIN
"I've been ready for the last half hour."
"So have I. Come on, if we're going to catch that train."
"Yes, boys, you don't want to miss the train," came from Mrs. Dick Rover. She gazed at Jack fondly. "Oh, dear! how I hate to have you go!"
"And how I do hate to see Fred leave!" sighed Mrs. Sam Rover.
"And my twins!" murmured Tom's wife. "I suppose they'll be getting into all sorts of mischief at that boarding school."
"Oh, Ma! we're going to be regular little lambs there," declared Andy.
"Just you wait and see what fine records we send home," added his twin.
"The automobiles are waiting, boys," broke in Dick Rover. "Come. The train is due to leave in twenty minutes, and you know how crowded traffic is around the Grand Central Terminal."
There were hasty good-byes, a number of kisses and words of cheer, and then the four boys left their mothers and the girls and ran down to where two automobiles were standing at the curb. The twins and their father leaped into one, and Jack and Fred and their fathers into the other, and in a moment more the two machines were gliding down Riverside Drive on the way to the Grand Central Terminal at Forty-second Street.
It was a perfect autumn day, and all four of the lads were in the best of spirits. To be sure, the fact that they were leaving home to be gone for several months sobered them a trifle; but all were eager to find out what was in store for them rather than to give thought to what had been left behind.
As might have been expected, there was a perfect jam of automobiles and carriages in the vicinity of the Terminal, and as a consequence the lads had barely time to get aboard the train which was to carry them to Haven Point, the town on the outskirts of which Colby Hall was located.
"Take care of yourselves!" cried Dick Rover.
"Learn all you can," added his brother Sam.
"And go slow on mischief," warned Tom.
"We'll remember everything," came in a chorus from the four boys; and then, as they waved their hands to their parents, the long train pulled out of the big, gloomy station and the trip to the boarding school was begun.
Haven Point was located in the heart of New England, so that the boys had a ride of several hours ahead of them. They had seats in a parlor car, two on one side and two on the other, and they proceeded without delay to make themselves comfortable, the porter aiding them in disposing of their handbaggage.
"Good-bye to old New York!" cried Jack. "Won't we have a lot of things to talk about when we get back!"
"I'm just crazy to see Colby Hall, to find out what it really looks like," said Andy.
"That picture we had of it looked pretty good," was Fred's comment. "But, of course, you can't always tell by a picture."
"Not much!" vouchsafed Randy. "A building may look all right enough in a picture and still be about ready to tumble down."
The boys had left home in the middle of the forenoon, and expected to have their lunch on the train before reaching Haven Point.
"When lunch time comes I'm going to fill up," declared Andy. "No telling what sort of grub we'll get at the Hall."
"Father said they used to have first-class eats at Putnam Hall," declared Fred.
"Not always!" cried Jack. "At one time, while Captain Putnam was away, the food got so bad there that the cadets rebelled and left the school."
"Oh, that was before our fathers went to Putnam Hall," answered Randy. "I heard about that, too. But while our fathers were there, the food was very good, indeed."
After about half an hour's ride the train halted at a station, and among the passengers to get aboard were two youths with suitcases.
"Hello! what do you know about this?" cried Jack, surprised. "If there isn't Spouter Powell! I wonder what he is doing down here. He doesn't live in this town."
"And look at the fellow who is with him!" burst out Fred. "Did you ever see such a fat chap in your life?"
"Oh, say! I'll bet I know who that fellow is," declared Randy. "It must be Spouter's friend, Will Hendry. Spouter told me about him. They call him Fatty."
"And he fits his name," declared Randy. "Here they come now. They must have seats in this car."
Spouter Powell, a tall, thin youth with a mass of wavy, black hair overhanging his forehead, and wearing a small cap well back on his head, strode forward towards them. Behind him came the fat youth, struggling with a suitcase and puffing audibly.
"Hello, you Rover boys!" sang out the son of Songbird Powell, cheerfully. "I thought you might be on this train."
"Glad to see you, Spouter. How are you?" returned Jack, grasping his hand cordially. "Got a little friend with you, I see."
"Exactly! My chum, Will Hendry. Fatty, these are the Rover boys. This is Jack, this is Fred, and these two little innocent lambs are the twins, Andy and Randy."
"Glad to know you," came from all, and a general handshaking followed.
It was found that the new arrivals had two seats at the other end of the parlor car; but there were other seats vacant near the Rover boys, and an exchange for these was quickly made through the Pullman conductor.
"Say! they don't make you pay extra fare, do they?" queried Andy, as he looked at Fatty Hendry doing his best to squeeze into one of the chairs.
"Not yet. But I don't know what I'm coming to," puffed the stout youth. "Seems to me I'm taking on about a pound a day," he added, dolefully.
"Maybe you eat too much," suggested Randy, "Why don't you cut down on your victuals?"
"Eat too much!" puffed Will Hendry. "I don't eat half as much as some of you slim fellows. Why, Spouter here eats twice as much as I do!"
"Yes. But see the exercise I take," answered Dick Powell. "I walk at least five miles to your one. And I spend lots of time in the gym, too—something that you cut out entirely."
"Well, what would I be doing in the gym?" demanded the fat youth. "If I got up on the rings or the bars, I'd pull the whole blamed business down to the ground," and at this remark there was a general snicker.
Spouter Powell explained that he had been visiting Will Hendry, who lived in the town where the two had boarded the train. He had been at Colby Hall ever since its opening, and he had much to tell about the school and those who attended it.
"Oh, I'm sure you'll like it," declared Spouter, growing eloquent. "It's so delightfully situated on a hill overlooking the river, and is surrounded by stately trees and a well-kept campus. The scene from the front is exceedingly picturesque, while to the back the woods stretch out for many miles. Soon, when the frost touches the leaves, the hues and colors will be magnificent. The sparkle of the sunlight glinting across the water——"
"Wow! Spouter is off again!" puffed Fatty Hendry. "I told you to be careful," he pleaded.
"I was only acquainting them with the beauties of Colby Hall," remonstrated Spouter. "When one comes to contemplate nature, it's necessary to understand what real harmony——"
"Exactly, exactly! Just so!" burst out Andy. "We understand what you mean, Spouter. But please remember the scenery is there—it won't move—and we'll have lots of time to look at it."
"Tell us about the boys who go there—and the teachers," broke in Randy.
"Yes. The teachers especially," added Fred.
"Is there any hard-hearted fellow—like that Josiah Crabtree our folks tell about?"
"We've got one fellow there—Professor Asa Lemm—that nobody likes," answered Spouter. "He's a language teacher. They say he was once quite well off, and he constantly laments the loss of his wealth."
"And being poor now, he tries to take it out on every pupil who comes under him," finished Fatty Hendry. "Oh, Asa is a lemon, believe me!"
"Well, you know what lemons grow for," commented Andy, mischievously. "They are raised to be squeezed."
"And maybe we'll have to squeeze Mr. Asa Lemm—the lemon," added his twin.
"Then all the other profs are perfectly good fellows?" questioned Jack.
"Oh, yes! Captain Dale, our military instructor, is one of the nicest men I ever met, and so are Professors Grawson and Brice. The others don't seem to cut much ice one way or the other."
"Tell us something about the cadets."
"Any bullies there?" queried Fred.
"Yes; we've got one bully all right enough," answered Spouter. "Slogwell Brown is his name, but everybody calls him Slugger. He's from the country, but he thinks he knows it all and is very overbearing. You've got to keep your eye open for Slugger or you'll get into trouble sure."
"Thanks. I suppose we'd better give Mr. Slugger Brown a wide berth," remarked Fred, dryly.
"I don't think I'll let him ride over me," answered Jack, determinedly.
"Then, there is Walter Baxter. He isn't a half bad sort, although he's pretty hot-tempered. He had a room directly opposite Ned Lowe, who plays the mandolin and is quite a singer. About sixty of the old scholars are coming back, and then there will be quite a bunch of new fellows—not less than twenty, I've been told."
"Gif Garrison wrote to us and spoke about football," went on Jack. "I suppose they have some pretty good games up there?"
"Sure. We always have our regular eleven and a scrub eleven, and, besides that, we have two or three games with rival schools. Gif was at the head of the football eleven last season, and I suppose he'll be at the head this year, although Slugger Brown would like that place."
So the talk ran on, the Rover boys gaining quite a little information concerning the school to which they were bound. Then the porter came through the car announcing the first call for lunch.
"Say! let's go and have something to eat," cried Will Hendry, struggling to his feet.
"I thought you were going on a diet," remarked Andy, mischievously.
"Sure. But I'm going to have something just the same," answered the fat boy. "Come on if you are going to the dining car. If you wait too long, you won't be able to get a seat."
"My! I shouldn't think he'd want anything to eat for a month," whispered Fred to Spouter.
"Don't you believe a word of what Fatty says about cutting down on his food," returned the other in a low voice. "He eats just as much as anyone. That's what makes him so fat."
Possessed of the full appetites of growing boys, the Rovers were not loth to follow the fat youth and Spouter into the dining car, which, to their surprise, was almost full.
"We'll have to have a table for four and another table for two," remarked Jack to the head waiter. "Do you think you can find that many places?"
"Come this way," was the reply; and the party of six started for the other end of the dining car. They were about to take the seats assigned to them by the head waiter, when a very fussy man, accompanied by another man, pushed forward to crowd in at one of the vacant tables.
"Say! that's pretty cheeky," declared Randy. "Now I don't know where we are going to sit."
"I'll fix you up on the other side of the car," said the head waiter. The appearance of the boys had rather pleased him, while he did not like the actions of the fussy man and his companion at all.
Spouter and his fat chum were behind the Rovers, so they did not see the face of the fussy individual who had deprived the lads of one of the seats. They sat down on the other side of the aisle, and the Rover boys spread themselves around as best they could.
Fred and Jack had just sat down and Randy was doing likewise, when one of the waiters came through the swaying car carrying a tray filled with eatables. Suddenly the car gave an extra lurch, and Andy was thrown up against the waiter in such a manner that the tray tilted from the colored man's hand, and an instant later the contents of a large platter containing a broiled steak with some French-fried potatoes was deposited over the neck and shoulders of the fussy man in the seat near by.
"Oh!" roared the man, starting up in great anger. "What do you mean by this? What do you mean, I say?" he shrilled.
At the sound of this voice, Spouter Powell and Fatty Hendry looked up in sudden wonder. Then, as some of the Rover boys commenced to laugh over the mishap, Spouter clutched Jack by the arm.
"That man is Professor Asa Lemm!" he whispered.
A SCENE IN THE DINING CAR
"You don't mean it!" gasped Jack. "The lemon of a professor we were just talking about?"
"Then I'm afraid Andy has gotten himself into trouble right at the start."
"It wasn't his fault. It was the lurching of the train did it," put in Fred.
"Just the same, I'd hate to be in your cousin's shoes," was Fatty Hendry's comment.
In the meanwhile the waiter, by a lightning-like move, had managed to save the broiled steak from slipping to the floor of the dining car. He now had it on the platter, but the French-fried potatoes were scattered in all directions.
"What do you mean, I say?" repeated Professor Asa Lemm in a loud, harsh voice.
"Scuse it, boss," answered the waiter humbly. "'Twas the swingin' o' de car what done it. Besides, one o' dem passengers knocked agin my arm."
"I think it was that boy's fault quite as much as the waiter's," came from the man who was accompanying Professor Lemm.
"I couldn't help it," answered Andy. "The car gave such a sudden lurch that I was almost thrown off my feet."
"We'll fix this all up, sir," broke in the head waiter, coming to the front. "Take that steak back to the kitchen and bring some more potatoes," he added to the waiter. "I am glad to say it hasn't mussed you up very much;" and he handed the professor a fingerbowl full of water and an extra napkin.
A number of passengers had witnessed the accident and were smiling broadly. Spouter and Fatty Hendry were also on a broad grin, but their faces took on a sudden sober look when they found Asa Lemm's gaze directed toward them.
"Ha! so you are here," was the teacher's comment. "What business have you to laugh?"
"Excuse me, Professor Lemm, I—I—didn't—er—mean anything," stammered Spouter.
"Sorry it happened, very sorry," puffed Fatty.
"Is this young man traveling with you?" demanded Asa Lemm, suddenly, as he looked from Spouter and Fatty to Andy.
"Y—yes—sir," answered the son of Songbird Powell.
"Hum! Is he bound for the Hall?"
"Indeed? Then perhaps I'll see all of you later," muttered Asa Lemm; and after that did what he could with the aid of some water and a napkin to remove the traces of the accident from his person. In this he was aided by the head waiter, who was profuse in his apologies over what had occurred.
"I'm afraid you've got yourself into a pickle, Andy," whispered his twin, when the latter had taken his seat at the table.
"I don't care. I didn't mean to do it. It was an accident. Besides that, I think the waiter was as much to blame as I was."
"You'll never make old Lemon believe that," returned Spouter.
"Spouter's right about that," puffed out Fatty. "Once Asa Lemm gets down on a boy—good night!"
"I wonder who the man with him is?" questioned Spouter.
"Maybe it's a new teacher," vouchsafed Jack.
"I don't think so," returned Randy. "I heard both of them talking about some lawsuit and about money matters. Maybe the other fellow is a lawyer."
"I guess you're right," said Spouter. "As I told you before, old Lemon used to be worth a lot of money. Since he lost it he has been having one lawsuit after another trying to get some of it back. Most likely the other fellow is his lawyer." And in this surmise Spouter was correct.
The accident had sobered all the boys, consequently the lunch was not near so lively as it might otherwise have been. Still the irrepressible Randy could not hold back altogether, and he got what little sport he could out of it by putting some red pepper on Fatty's last mouthful of pie. He used a liberal dose, and the pie had scarcely disappeared within the stout youth's mouth when the boy began to splutter.
"Ug—ug—ugh!" came from Fatty as he made a wry face. "What pie! That last mouthful was like fire—full of pepper!"
"I thought the pie was rather hot," answered Randy, coolly.
"Hot! It's nothing but pep all the way through!" roared the fat boy. "Wow! let me have some water!" and he gulped this down so hastily that he almost strangled, the tears running down his cheeks. The other boys set up a laugh.
The boys had had some celery served with their lunch and several stalks which were not particularly good still remained in the dish on the table. When the boys were ready to leave, Professor Asa Lemm and his companion were still at their table discussing the particulars of a coming lawsuit.
"I'll give 'em something to remember us by anyhow," whispered Andy to the chums when the party had arisen to leave the dining car; and before any of the others could stop him he took up the stalks of celery and on passing Asa Lemm dropped them in the professor's side pocket, leaving the tops dangling outside.
"Gee! but you're some funny boy," chuckled Fatty, gazing at Andy in admiration. "I wish I could think of things like that to do."
"You'll think of 'em some day—when you get thin," returned Andy, encouragingly. "You see, I wanted to give him a bouquet to remember me by;" and at this remark there was a general snicker. Two or three of the passengers in the car had noticed Andy's action and all were smiling broadly over the incident.
"If he ever finds out who did that, he'll be down on you worse than ever," declared Jack, when the boys were once more in the chair car.
"Oh, well, what's the difference?" returned the light-hearted Andy. "I'd just as lief be shot for a mule as for a hoptoad."
"I suppose he's going on to the Hall," remarked Spouter. "If he is, I hope he doesn't get into the auto-stage with us."
"If he gets in the auto-stage, we might hire a jitney," suggested Fatty. "There are six of us, and we could get one of the jitneys to take us over to the Hall, baggage and all, for half a dollar."
A little later the train made a stop of several minutes at quite a large city. The boys were tired of sitting still and were glad enough to go out on the platform to stretch their legs. Here they saw Professor Lemm and his friend leave the train and walk up the main street of the place.
"Hurrah! we won't be bothered with him any more on this trip," declared Spouter.
"Look!" cried Randy, suddenly, pointing to the two men; and as the boys gazed in that direction they were just in time to see Asa Lemm pull the stalks of celery from his pocket and throw them in the street. His whole manner showed that he was much disgusted.
"And to think he has thrown away your beautiful bouquet, Andy," lamented Fred.
"Never mind, Fred; we have to get used to keen disappointments in this life," groaned Andy.
"Won't he be coming back?" questioned Fatty.
"I don't think so—he won't have time," answered Jack; "here comes the conductor now."
"All aboard!" shouted the conductor at that moment, and the boys had to hurry in order not to be left behind. Then the train pulled out of the station and the journey was continued.
"We certainly ought to have some dandy times," said Jack to Spouter, as the train sped along. "I suppose your father has told you of all the good times our folks had when they went to Putnam Hall and Brill College."
"Yes, Jack. That is, he has told me about a good many things. Of course I don't suppose he told me about some of the tricks they played."
"Well, I've heard from father and from my Uncle Sam that my Uncle Tom was playing tricks almost continually."
"Then Andy and Randy come by their fun-making naturally."
"They sure do! And what do you suppose the folks at home expect me to do?" went on Jack, seriously. "They expect me to hold those twins in. Why! a fellow could no more do that than hold in a pair of wild horses. You've seen a little of what Andy can do. Well, his jokes aren't a patch to those Randy occasionally gets off."
"You don't say! Well, I'm not sorry. The last term at Colby Hall was rather slow. Now maybe we'll have some life;" and Spouter's face lightened.
While the boys had been at lunch the sky had darkened, and now the train rushed into a sudden heavy shower, the rain driving against the windows of the car in sheets.
"I don't like this much," said Fred, dolefully. "Maybe we'll get out at Haven Point in a regular downpour."
"Oh, this looks more like a local shower than anything else," answered Jack. "We may run out of it in a few minutes."
"Some rain, all right," remarked Randy, as the water continued to dash against the windows.
"Just look there!" cried Andy, pointing out. "Before it began to rain I noticed the automobiles on yonder road kicking up quite a dust. Now just look at the water and mud."
"We'll be at Haven Point in twenty minutes—that is, if the train is on time," announced Spouter, consulting his watch. "Too bad! Because I wanted you to see the beautiful scenery with which the school is surrounded. Oh! the woods are perfectly beautiful, and after a heavy rain the torrent of water coming down the river makes the outlook one of marvelous beauty. I have stood there contemplating the scene——"
"Turn it off, Spouter! turn it off!" broke in Fatty. "You promised me on your bare knees that you would stop spouting about nature this term—and here you start in the first thing!"
"Oh, you haven't any more eye for beauty than a cow," retorted Spouter, ruefully.
"Why abuse the cow?" questioned Andy, gaily. "A cow has an eye for beauty. Just you hold out a beautiful red apple to her and see if she hasn't;" and at this the others grinned.
Haven Point was still five miles away when the boys saw that the rain was letting up; but the ditches along the track, and the highways wherever they passed them, were filled with running water, showing that the downpour in that vicinity had been a severe one.
"Next station Haven Point!" called out one of the trainmen as he came through the car.
"Better get your bags ready," cried Spouter. "There may be other fellows going to the Hall, and we want to get good seats on the auto-stage if we can."
"All right. You lead on, Spouter," answered Jack; "we'll follow you."
In a few minutes more Haven Point was reached and the long train rolled into the little station. One after another the boys alighted, the porter helping them with their suitcases and gladly accepting the tips they offered.
Spouter headed for a large auto-stage drawn up on the opposite side of an open plot behind the station. As the Rovers and their friends started for the turnout belonging to Colby Hall, they noticed that several other boys had also left another coach of the train and were headed in the same direction.
"New fellows, like ourselves, I suppose," remarked Fred. "Let's get ahead of 'em."
"That's the talk!" exclaimed Randy. "Come on!" and he set off on a run beside Spouter with the others at their heels.
The rain had been falling heavily at Haven Point just previous to the arrival of the train, and consequently the open place behind the depot contained numerous hollows of water and mud, around which the boys had to make their way as best they could. They were rushing along as fast as their handbaggage would permit, when they came up side by side with three other lads also bound for the stage.
"Look out there!" cried Jack as one of the strangers leaped into a puddle of water, splashing the mud right and left.
"Look out yourself!" cried the other youth, a big lad, much larger than any of the others.
"That's Slugger Brown—the bully I was telling you about," explained Spouter as he continued to run.
Directly behind Slugger Brown came another youth, loudly dressed in a checkered suit and a soft checkered hat to match. He was rather fastidious as to where he stepped, and with his eyes on the ground ran directly into Fred.
"Hi! look where you are going!" cried the youngest of the Rover boys, and then, to keep himself from slipping down, made a clutch at Randy's arm. This brought Randy around, and both he and Fred bumped into the elegantly attired youth.
"Stop that!" cried the stranger, and then, seeing a puddle directly in front of him, attempted to leap over it. But his foot slipped in the mud and down he went flat on his back with a loud splash.
AT COLBY HALL
"My! look at that!"
"Some tumble that, eh?"
"Why! he sent some of that water and mud over me!"
Such were some of the exclamations as the loudly-dressed youth went down in the puddle of water and mud.
He was flat on his back, and it took several seconds for him to turn over and get to his feet. The fall had attracted the attention of everybody making for the auto-stage excepting Spouter and Jack.
"Oh, my eye! you're certainly a sight to see," came from the biggest boy in the crowd, Slugger Brown.
"It wasn't my fault that I fell," retorted the unfortunate one. "Those fellows bumped into me and made me lose my footing," and he pointed to Fred and Randy.
"No such thing!" burst out Fred, indignantly. "You bumped into us first; and you only fell when you tried to jump across the puddle and your feet slipped."
"I say it's your fault!" spluttered the boy who had gone down. His hands were covered with mud and water and he stood there helpless, filled with rage.
"Take your handkerchief and wipe your hands off," advised Slugger Brown. He looked coldly at Fred and Randy. "If they tripped you up, they ought to have a licking for doing it."
"That's the fellow who's responsible," answered the boy who had fallen, and he strode up to confront Fred. "For two pins I'd smash you on the nose," he continued, hotly.
"You leave him alone!" broke in Randy, and doubled up his fists.
The boy who had gone down had expected Fred to back away; but the youngest Rover bravely stood his ground.
"Say! what's up back there?" queried Spouter, suddenly looking around to see why the other boys had not followed him to the auto-stage.
"Looks to me as if somebody was going to get into a fight," returned Jack. "See! one of those fellows just made a pass at Fred. Come on, this won't do!" and he ran back towards the crowd that was gathering.
The boy who had fallen had, indeed, made a pass with one of his dirty fists at Fred, but the latter had dodged the blow with ease and now he had the loudly dressed youth by the arm.
"You behave yourself!" he said sharply. "I didn't knock you down, and you know it! I'm sorry you got yourself all dirty, but it wasn't my fault."
"You fight him, and you'll fight me too!" broke in Randy. "If there is any blame in this it belongs to me as much as to my cousin."
By this time Jack had reached the group and pushed his way to the front. As he caught sight of the face of the boy who had fallen, he gave a quick exclamation.
"Well I never! Nappy Martell!"
"Do you know this fellow?" questioned Andy, quickly.
"I've met him before," was the reply. "He's Nappy Martell—the fellow I had trouble with in front of the office in Wall Street—the fellow who so mistreated that poor street peddler."
"Oh! So this is the same chap, eh?" broke out Randy. "No wonder he wants to fight with Fred. He's a regular scrapper, in spite of his fine clothes."
"What are you doing here?" asked Nappy Martell, curiously, as he looked at Jack. Then his gaze suddenly shifted to Fred and Randy. "Are you Rovers, too?"
"We are," was the quick response.
"Humph! No wonder you knocked me down. I suppose that fellow told you all about me?" and Nappy pointed to Jack.
"What's the use of quarreling about a little thing like a tumble in the dirt?" panted Fatty, who was almost out of breath because of his run towards the auto-stage. "Come on! let's get to the Hall and see who is there."
"I'm not anxious to fight," answered Fred, readily; "but I don't like this fellow's talk."
"I'll talk as I please," blustered Martell. "And I'll fight, too, if I want to."
"That's the talk, Nappy!" came from Slugger Brown. "Don't let any new boys lord it over you. If you want to fight, go ahead."
"I owe these Rovers one," muttered the loudly dressed youth. "I had a run-in with this one in New York," and he pointed to Jack. "They are all of a kind—too fresh to live."
"There is no use of your talking that way, Martell," broke in Jack. "We didn't come here to scrap, but everyone of us can take his own part if it is necessary."
A perfect war of words followed, and the argument proved so hot that it looked as if there would certainly be a fight with Fred and Randy, and possibly some of the others, on one side, and Nappy Martell, Slugger Brown and one or two of their cronies who had come up on the other. But then came a sudden diversion as a heavily built and military looking man came from the main street of the town and walked towards them.
"Cheese it, boys!" came from one of the lads present. "Here comes Captain Dale. He'll report us all if he knows there's anything like a fight going on."
At the announcement that Captain Mapes Dale, who was the military instructor at Colby Hall, was approaching, the boys who had attended the academy the term previous fell back in alarm. They knew the captain to be a strict disciplinarian who abhorred fighting except in a military way.
"Well, boys, are you going up to the Hall?" said the captain pleasantly, as he came closer. The old pupils present saluted him and were saluted in return.
"Yes, sir," answered Spouter. And then before any of the others could speak he added: "Captain Dale, will you permit me to introduce some new scholars?" and thereupon he mentioned the Rover boys' names.
"Glad to know you," said Captain Dale, and shook hands all around.
In the meanwhile Nappy Martell had dropped somewhat in the background so that the military instructor might not notice the soiled condition of his clothing. Then one or two other new pupils were introduced, and the whole crowd made for the auto-stage.
The stage was a large affair, and Slugger Brown, Nappy Martell and some of their friends kept to the front end, leaving the Rovers and their friends together at the rear, the captain and a professor connected with the Hall seating themselves between the two factions.
"This row is only stopped for the time being," whispered Randy to Jack. "I think that fellow Martell is too ugly to let it drop."
"He's rather a big fellow to tackle Fred," returned Jack. "Why, he is even bigger than I am!"
"That's the way with most bullies," put in Fatty. "They don't feel like tackling a fellow of their size. They like to pick out little chaps."
"Oh, don't misunderstand me," returned the oldest of the Rover boys. "Fred may be small, but he is very strong and wiry, and he knows how to take care of himself. But I shouldn't like to see any out and out fighting—at least not so soon. We don't want to get a black eye before we get settled down."
"That's the talk!" came from Andy. "I'd rather have some fun than have any fighting. I hope we'll find the other fellows at the Hall more pleasant than this Martell and that great big Slugger Brown."
"It's queer you didn't mention Martell to us on the train," remarked Fred.
"I thought he had left school," answered Spouter. "You see, he went home before the term closed last Spring, and I didn't know that he was coming back."
"He and Brown seem to be pretty thick," was Randy's comment.
"Yes; they were always together last term, they and a fellow named Henry Stowell. Stowell is a regular little sneak, and most of the boys call him Codfish on account of the awfully broad mouth he's got."
"Well, there's one thing sure," remarked Jack; "we'll all have to keep our eyes open for Martell, Brown and Company."
While on the train the Rover boys had learned that Haven Point was a clean and compactly built town containing about two thousand inhabitants. It was located at the head of Clearwater Lake, a beautiful sheet of water about two miles long and half a mile wide and containing a number of picturesque islands. At the head of the lake was the Rick Rack River, running down from the hills and woods beyond. Up in the hills it was a wild and rocky watercourse containing a number of dangerous rapids, but where it passed Colby Hall it was a broad and fairly deep stream, joining the lake at a point where there were two rocky islands. The distance from the railroad station to the Military Academy was a little over half a mile, along a road branching off through the main street into a country highway bordered on one side by the river and on the other by a number of well-kept farms, with here and there a small patch of timber.
"There's the Hall!" exclaimed Spouter presently, after the auto-stage made a turn through a number of trees and came out on a broad highway running in a semi-circle around a large campus. "What do you think of the place? Looks rather fine, doesn't it?"
All of the Rover boys gazed eagerly at what was before them. They saw a large stone building, shaped almost in the form of a cross, the upper portion facing the river. It was three stories in height and contained not only the classrooms and mess hall of the institution, but also the dormitories for the boys. To one side was a small brick building which at one time had evidently been a private dwelling. This was now occupied by Colonel Colby and his family and the various professors. On the opposite side was a long, low, wooden building.