THE ROVER BOYS AT COLLEGE
THE RIGHT ROAD AND THE WRONG
ARTHUR M. WINFIELD
Author of "The Rover Boys at School," "The Rover Boys on the Ocean," "The Rover Boys on Treasure Isle," Etc.
BY THE SAME AUTHOR
* * * * *
THE ROVER BOYS AT SCHOOL, THE ROVER BOYS ON THE OCEAN, THE ROVER BOYS ON LAND AND SEA, THE ROVER BOYS IN CAMP, THE ROVER BOYS ON THE PLAINS, THE ROVER BOYS IN SOUTHERN WATERS, THE ROVER BOYS ON TREASURE ISLE.
I ON THE TRAIN II AT THE SANDERSON HOUSE III LIKE KNIGHTS OF OLD IV WHAT HAPPENED AT THE CAMPUS FENCE V GETTING ACQUAINTED VI A HAZING, AND WHAT FOLLOWED VII THE ARRIVAL OF SONGBIRD VIII THE COLORS CONTEST IX TOM IN TROUBLE X SONGBIRD MAKES A DISCOVERY XI HOW TOM ESCAPED PUNISHMENT XII IN WHICH THE GIRLS ARRIVE XIII THE ROWING RACE XIV WILLIAM PHILANDER TUBES XV AN AUTOMOBILING ADVENTURE XVI SOMETHING ABOUT A CANE XVII A MISUNDERSTANDING XVIII THE GREAT FOOTBALL GAME XIX MORE COMPLICATIONS XX DAYS OF WAITING XXI HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS XXII WORD AT LAST XXIII THE SPRINGTIME OF LIFE XXIV AT THE HAUNTED HOUSE XXV IN THE HANDS OF THE ENEMY XXVI THE EVIDENCE AGAINST THEM XXVII IN DISGRACE XXVIII DARK DAYS XXIX WHAT THE GIRLS DISCOVERED XXX A BEGINNING AND AN ENDING
THE ROVER BOYS AT COLLEGE
ON THE TRAIN
"We're making time now, Tom."
"Making time?" repeated Tom Rover as he gazed out of the car window at the telegraph poles flashing past. "I should say we were, Sam! Why, we must be running sixty miles an hour!"
"If we are not we are making pretty close to it," came from a third boy of the party in the parlor car. "I think the engineer is trying to make up some of the time we lost at the last stop."
"That must be it, Dick," said Sam Rover. "Gracious, how we are rocking!" he added as the train rushed around a sharp curve and nearly threw him from his chair.
"I hope we get to Ashton on time," remarked Tom Rover. "I want to take a look around the grounds before it gets dark."
"That's Tom, wanting to see it all before he sleeps!" cried Sam Rover with a grin. "You look out, Tom, that you don't get into disgrace the first thing, as you did when we went to Putnam Hall Don't you remember that giant firecracker, and how Josiah Crabtree locked you up in a cell for setting it off?"
"Ugh! Will I ever forget it!" groaned Tom, making a wry face. "But I got the best of old Crabtree, didn't I?" he continued, his face brightening.
"Wonder if we'll make as many friends at college as we did at Putnam Hall," remarked Dick Rover. "Those were jolly times and no mistake! Think of the feasts, and the hazings, and the baseball and football, and the rackets with the Pornell students, and all that!"
"Speaking of hazing, I heard that some of the hazing at the college we're bound for is fierce," came from Sam Rover.
"Well, we'll have to stand for what comes, Sam," answered his big brother. "No crying quit' here."
"Right you are, Dick," said Tom, "At the same time if—Great Caesar's ghost, what's up now!"
As Tom uttered the last words a shrill whistle from the locomotive pierced the air. Then came the sudden gripping of the air brakes on the car wheels, and the express came to a stop with a shock that pitched all the passengers from their seats. Tom and Sam went sprawling in a heap in the aisle and Dick came down on top of them.
"Hi, get off of me!" spluttered Sam, who was underneath.
"What's the matter? Have we run into another train?" asked Tom as he pushed Dick to one side and arose.
"I don't know," answered the older brother. "Something is wrong, that's certain."
"Are you hurt, Sam?" asked Tom as he helped the youngest Rover to his feet.
"No—not much," was the panting reply. "Say, we stopped in a hurry all right, didn't we?"
With the shock had come loud cries from the other people in the car, and it was found that one young lady had fainted. Everybody wanted to know what was the matter, but nobody could answer the question. The colored porter ran to the platform and opened the vestibule door. Tom followed the man and so did Sam and Dick.
"Freight train ahead, off the track," announced Tom. "We ran into the last car."
"Let us go up front and see how bad it is," returned Dick. "Maybe this will tie us up here for hours."
"Oh, I hope not," cried Sam. "I want to get to the college just as soon as possible. I'm dying to know what it's like."
"We can be thankful we were not hurt, Sam," said his older brother. "If our engineer hadn't stopped the train as he did we might have had a fearful smashup."
"I know it," answered Sam soberly, and then the boys walked forward to learn the full extent of the damage done and what prospects there were of continuing their journey.
To my old readers the lads just mentioned will need no special introduction, but for the benefit of those who have not read the previous volumes in this "Rover Boys Series" let me state that the brothers were three in number, Dick being the oldest, fun-loving Tom coming next and Sam the youngest. They were the sons of one Anderson Rover, a rich widower, and when at home lived with their father and an aunt and an uncle on a beautiful farm called Valley Brook.
From the farm, and while their father was in Africa, the boys had been sent by their Uncle Randolph to school, as related in the first book of the series, called "The Rover Boys at School." At this place, called Putnam Hall, they made many friends and also a few enemies and had "the time of their lives," as Tom often expressed it.
A term at school had been followed by a short trip on the ocean, and then the boys, in company with their uncle, went to the jungles of Africa to rescue Mr. Rover, who was a captive of a savage tribe of natives. After that came trips out West, and to the Great Lakes, and to the mountains, and, returning to school, the lads went into camp with the other cadets. Then they took another long trip on land and sea and led a Crusoe-like life on an island of the Pacific Ocean.
"I think we'd better settle down now," said Dick on returning home from being cast away, but this was not to be. They took a house-boat trip down the Ohio and the Mississippi rivers, had a number of adventures on the plains and then found themselves in southern waters, where they solved the mystery of a deserted steam yacht.
They returned to the farm and to Putnam Hall, and for a time matters went along quietly. On account of attending to some business for his father, Dick had fallen somewhat behind in his studies, and Tom and Sam did their best to catch up to him, and, as a consequence, all three of the youths graduated from Putnam Hall at the same time.
"And now for college!" Sam had said, and all were anxious to know where their parent intended to send them next But instead of settling this question Mr. Rover came forward with a proposition that was as novel as it was inviting. This was nothing less than to visit a spot in the West Indies, known as Treasure Isle, and made a hunt for a large treasure secreted there during a rebellion in one of the Central American countries.
"A treasure hunt! Just the thing!" Dick had said, and his brothers agreed with him. The lads were filled with excitement over the prospect, and for the time being all thoughts of going to college were thrust aside.
From Mr. Rover it was learned that the treasure belonged to the estate of a Mr. Stanhope, who had died some years before. Mr. Stanhope's widow was well known to the Rover boys, and Dick thought that Dora Stanhope, the daughter, was the finest girl in the whole world. There was also another relative, a Mrs. Laning—the late Mr. Stanhope's sister—who was to share in the estate, and she had two daughters, Grace and Nellie, two young ladies who were especial favorites with Sam and Tom.
"Oh, we've got to find that treasure," said Tom. "Think of what it means to the Stanhopes and the Lanings."
"They'll be rich—and they deserve to be," answered his brother Sam. It may be added here that the Rovers were wealthy, so they did not begrudge the treasure to others.
A steam yacht was chartered and a party was made up, consisting of the Rovers, several of the boys' school chums, Mrs. Stanhope and Dora and Mrs. Laning and Grace and Nellie. The steam yacht carried a fine crew and also an old tar called Bahama Bill, who knew the exact location of the treasure.
Before sailing it was learned that some rivals were also after the treasure. One of these was a sharper named Sid Merrick, who had on several occasions tried to get the best of the Rovers and failed. With Merrick was Tad Sobber, his nephew, a youth who at Putnam Hall had been a bitter foe to Dick, Tom and Sam. Sobber had sent the Rovers a box containing a live poisonous snake, but the snake got away and bit another pupil. This lad knew all about the sending of the reptile and he exposed Tad Sobber, and the latter, growing alarmed, ran away from the school.
The search for the treasure proved a long one, and Sid Merrick and Tad Sobber did all in their power to keep the wealth from falling into the hands of the Rovers and their friends. But the Rovers won out in the quest and sailed away with the treasure on board the steam yacht. The vessel of their enemies followed them, but a hurricane came up and the other ship was lost with nearly all on board.
"Well, that's the end of Sid Merrick and Tad Sobber," said Dick when he heard this news. "If they are at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean they can't bother us any more." But Dick was mistaken in his surmise. It was true that Sid Merrick had been drowned, but Tad Sobber was alive, having been rescued by a schooner bound for London, and he was now on his way back to the United States, more bitter than ever against the Rovers, and with a determination to do all in his power to bring Dick, Tom and Sam to grief and gain possession of the money which he and his uncle had claimed belonged to them instead of to the Stanhope estate.
On arriving at Philadelphia from the West Indies the treasure was deposited in a strong box of a local trust company. From it the expenses of the trip were paid, and the sailors who had aided in the search were suitably rewarded. Later on the balance of the treasure was divided according to the terms of Mr. Stanhope's will. This placed a large sum of money in the hands of Mrs. Stanhope, both for herself and Dora, and also a goodly amount in the hands of Mrs. Laning for herself and Grace and Nellie.
The Stanhopes had always been fairly well off, but not so the Lanings. John Laning was a farmer, and this sudden change to riches bewildered him.
"Why, mother," he said to his wife, "whatever will you and the gals do with the money?"
"Several things, John," she answered. "In the first place, you are not going to work so hard and in the next place the girls are going to have a better education."
"Well, I'm not afraid of work," answered the farmer. "About eddication, if they want it—well, it's their money and they can have all the learnin' they want."
"Dora is going to a boarding school and Nellie and Grace want to go with her," went on Mrs. Laning.
"Where is Dora going?"
"To a place called Hope Seminary. Her mother knows the lady who is the principal."
"Well, if it's a good place, I reckon the gals can go too. But it will be terrible lonesome here without 'em."
"I know, John, but we want the girls to be somebody, now they have money, don't we?"
"Sure we do," answered Mr. Laning readily.
So it was arranged that the three girls should go to Hope Seminary, located several miles from the town of Ashton, in one of the Central States. In the meantime the Rover boys were speculating on what college they were to attend. Yale was mentioned, and Harvard and Princeton, and also several institutions located in the Middle West.
"Boys, wouldn't you like to go to Brill College?" asked their father one day. "That's a fine institution—not quite so large as some but just as good." And he smiled in a peculiar manner.
"Brill? Where is that?" asked Dick.
"It is near the town of Ashton, about two miles from Hope Seminary, the school Dora Stanhope and the Laning girls are going to attend." And Mr. Rover smiled again.
"Brill College for mine," said Sam promptly and in a manner that made his brothers laugh.
"Sam wants to be near Grace," said Tom.
"Well, don't you want to be near Nellie?" retorted the youngest Rover.
"Of course I do. And I reckon Dick won't be angry at being where he can occasionally see Dora," went on the fun-loving Rover with a sly wink. "Of course it's nice enough to write letters and send boxes of chocolates by mail, but it's a good deal better to take a stroll in the moonlight and hold hands, eh, Dick?"
"Is that what you do?" asked Dick, but his face grew very red as he spoke.
"Never in the wide, wide world!" cried Tom.
"I leave that for my sentimental brothers, big and little."
"Who is sentimental?" exclaimed Sam. "Maybe I don't remember you and Nellie on the deck of the steam yacht that moonlight night—"
"Aw, cut it out!" muttered Tom. He turned to his father, who had been called from the room for a moment. "If you think Brill College a good one, dad, it will suit me."
"And it will suit me, too," added Sam.
"I mentioned Brill for two reasons," explained Mr. Rover. "The one was because it is near Hope Seminary and the other is because I happen to know the president, Dr. John Wallington, quite well; in fact, we went to school together. He is a fine gentleman—as fine a fellow as Captain Putnam—and I am sure his college must be a good one."
"If it's as good as dear old Putnam Hall, I shall be well content," answered Dick.
"Then you are satisfied to go there, Dick?"
So it was settled and arrangements were at once made for the three boys to go to Brill. Fortunately it was found that their diplomas from Putnam Hall would admit them to the freshmen class without examination. All of the boys wrote letters to the girls and received answers in return.
The college was to open two weeks before the seminary, so that to journey to Ashton together would be out of the question.
"Well, we'll see the girls later, anyway," said Dick. "I hope they like it at Hope and we like it at Brill; then we'll have some splendid times together."
"Right you are," answered Sam, and Tom said the same.
At last came the day for the boys to leave home. Trunks and dress-suit cases were packed, and not only their father but also their Uncle Randolph and their Aunt Martha went to the depot to see them off.
"Now be good and take care of yourselves," said Mr. Rover on parting.
"Learn all you can," added Uncle Randolph. "Remember that knowledge is better than wealth."
"Oh, I'm going to cram my head full of learning this trip," answered Tom with a grin.
"Take care of yourselves and don't get sick," was Aunt Martha's warning. "If you do, get a doctor right away." And then she gave each of the boys a warm, motherly kiss and a hug. She thought the lads the very best in all this wide world.
The train came and the boys were off. After a two hours' ride they had to change to the main line and got into the parlor car already mentioned. Then they had dinner in the diner and went back to the other car to read and to look at the scenery. Thus several hours slipped by, when of a sudden came the jar and shock that told them something out of the ordinary had happened.
AT THE SANDERSON HOUSE
When the Rover boys reached the head of the train they found an excited crowd beginning to collect. The locomotive of the express had cut into the last freight car a distance of several feet, smashing a number of boxes and barrels and likewise the headlight of the engine. Nobody had been hurt, for which everybody was thankful. But the engineer of the express was very angry.
"Why didn't you send a man back with a flag or put a torpedo on the track?" he demanded of the freight train conductor.
"Did send a man back," was the answer, "but he didn't go back far enough—hadn't time. This happened only a few minutes ago."
"You can't expect me to stop in a hundred feet," growled the engineer. As a matter of fact he had not stopped in many times that distance.
"Well, I did what I could," grumbled the freight conductor.
By making inquiries the Rover boys learned that the freight train had jumped a frog at a switch and part of the cars were on one track and part on another. Two trucks were broken, and nobody could tell how long it would take to clear the track upon which the express stood.
"May be an hour, but more likely it will be six or eight," said one of the brakemen to Tom. "This section of the road is the worst managed of the lot."
"And how far is it to Ashton?" asked Dick.
"About twelve miles by the railroad."
"Then walking is out of the question," came from Sam. "I shouldn't mind hoofing it if it was two or three."
"The railroad has to run around the hill yonder," went on the train hand. "If you go up the tracks for a quarter of a mile you'll come to a country road that will take you right into Ashton, and the distance from there isn't more than seven or eight miles."
"Any houses on that road?" asked Tom.
"Of course—farmhouses all along."
"Then come on," went on Tom to his brothers. "We can hire a carriage to take us to Ashton and to the college. Some farmer will be glad of the chance to earn the money."
"Let us wait and see if the train moves first," answered Dick.
"She won't move just yet," answered the brakeman with a sickly grin.
The boys stood around for a quarter of an hour and then decided to walk up to the country road that had been mentioned. Their trunks were checked through, but they had their dress-suit cases with them.
"We'll have to carry these," said Sam dolefully.
"Let us see if we can't check them," returned his big brother. But this was impossible, for the baggage car was locked and they could not find the man who had charge of it.
"Oh, well, come on," said Tom. "The cases are not so heavy, and it is a fine day for walking," and off he started and his brothers followed him.
It was certainly a fine day, as Tom said. It was early September, clear and cool, with a faint breeze blowing from the west. On the way they passed an apple orchard, laden with fruit, and they stopped long enough to get some.
"I declare this is better than sitting in that stuffy car," remarked Sam as he munched on an apple. "I am glad to stretch my legs."
"If we don't have to stretch them too long," remarked Dick.
"Say, I wonder if we'll pass anywhere near Hope Seminary!" cried Tom, "It may be on this road."
"What of it?" returned his younger brother. "The girls are not here yet—won't be for two weeks."
"Oh, we might get a view of the place anyway, Sam."
"I want to see Brill first," came from Dick. "If that doesn't suit us—" He ended with a sigh.
"Oh, it will suit, you can bet on it!" cried Sam. "Father wouldn't send us there if he wasn't sure it would be O.K. He's as much interested as we are."
Walking along the highway, which ran down to a little milk station on the railroad, the three boys soon discovered a farmhouse nestling between some trees and bushes. They threw their baggage on the grass and walked up to the front door.
They had to knock several times before their summons was answered. Then an old lady opened the door several inches and peeped out.
"What do you want?" she demanded in a cracked voice.
"Good afternoon," said Dick politely. "Can we hire somebody to drive us to Ashton? We were on the train, but there has been a smash-up, and we—"
"Land sakes alive! A smash-up, did you say?" cried the old lady.
"Was my son Jimmie killed?"
"Nobody was killed or even hurt."
"Sure of that? My son Jimmie went to Crawford yesterday an' was coming back this afternoon. Sure he wasn't on that train?"
"If he was he wasn't hurt," answered Dick. "Can we hire a carriage to take us to Ashton?"
"How did it happen—that accident?"
"The express ran into the end of a freight train."
"Land sakes alive! The freight! Maybe it was the one we sent the cows away on. Was there any cows killed, do you know?"
"I don't think so."
"Well, tell me the particulars, will you? I don't go out much an' so I don't hear nuthin'. But an accident! Ain't it awful? But I always said it was risky to ride on the railroad; I told Jimmie so a hundred times. But he would go to Crawford an' now maybe he's a corpse. You are sure you didn't see a tall, thin young man, with a wart on his chin, that was cut up?"
"What do you mean, the wart or the young man?" asked Tom, who was bound to have his fun.
"Why, the young man o' course; although I allow if he was cut up the wart would be, too. Poor boy! I warned him a hundred—"
"Can we hire a carriage here or not?" demanded Dick. The talk was growing a little tiresome to him.
"No, you can't!" snapped the old lady. "We never hire out our carriage. If we did it would soon go to pieces."
"Is there anybody who can drive us to Brill College? We'll pay for the service, of course."
"No. But you might get a carriage over to the Sanderson place."
"Where is that?" asked Sam.
"Up the road a piece," and the old lady motioned with her head as she spoke. "But now, if my son Jimmie was in that accident—"
"Good day, madam," said Dick and walked away, and Sam and Tom did the same. The old lady continued to call after them, but they paid no attention.
"Poor Jimmie! If he isn't killed in a railroad accident, he'll be talked to death some day," was Sam's comment.
"Don't you care. We know that Jimmie's got a wart, anyway," observed Tom, and he said this so dryly his brothers had to laugh. "Always add to your fund of knowledge when you can," he added, in imitation of his Uncle Randolph.
"I hope we have better success at the next farmhouse," said Sam. "I don't know that I want to walk all the way to Ashton with this dress-suit case."
"Oh, we're bound to find some kind of a rig at one place or another," said Dick. "All the folks can't be like that old woman."
They walked along the road until they came in sight of a second farmhouse, also set in among trees and bushes. A neat gravel path, lined with rose bushes, ran from the gate to the front piazza.
"This looks nice," observed Sam. "Some folks of the better sort must live here."
The three boys walked up to the front piazza and set down their baggage. On the door casing was an electric push button.
"No old-fashioned knocker here," observed Dick as he gave the button a push.
"Well, we are not wanting electric push buttons," said Tom. "An electric runabout or a good two-seat carriage will fill our bill."
The boys waited for fully a minute and then, as nobody came to answer their summons, Dick pushed the button again.
"I don't hear it," said Sam. "Perhaps it doesn't ring."
"Probably it rings in the back of the house," answered his big brother.
Again the boys waited, and while they did so all heard talking at a distance.
"Somebody in the kitchen, I guess," said Tom. "Maybe we had better go around there. Some country folks don't use their front doors excepting for funerals and when the minister comes."
Leaving their dress-suit cases on the piazza, the Rover boys walked around the side of the farmhouse in the direction of the kitchen. The building was a low and rambling one and they had to pass a sitting-room. Here they found a window wide open to let in the fresh air and sunshine.
"Now, you must go, really you must!" they heard in a girl's voice. "I haven't done a thing this afternoon, and what will papa say when he gets back?"
"Oh, that's all right, Minnie," was the answer in masculine tones. "You like us to be here, you know you do. And, remember, we haven't seen you in a long time."
"Yes, I know, Mr. Flockley, but—"
"Oh, don't call me Mr. Flockley. Call me Dudd."
"Yes, and please don't call me Mr. Koswell," broke in another masculine voice. "Jerry is good enough for me every time."
"But you must go now, you really must!" said the girl.
"We'll go if you'll say good-by in the right kind of a way, eh, Dudd?" said the person called Jerry Koswell.
"Yes, Minnie, but we won't go until you do that," answered the young man named Dudd Flockley.
"Wha—what do you mean?" faltered the girl. And now, looking through the sitting-room window and through a doorway leading to the kitchen, the Rover boys saw a pretty damsel of sixteen standing by a pantry door, facing two dudish young men of eighteen or twenty. The young men wore checkered suits and sported heavy watch fobs and diamond rings and scarf-pins.
"Why, you'll give us each a nice kiss, won't you?" said Dudd Flockley with a smile that was meant to be alluring.
"Of course Minnie will give us a kiss," said Jerry Koswell. "Next Saturday I'm coming over to give you a carriage ride."
"I don't wish any carriage ride," answered the girl coldly. Her face had gone white at the mention of kisses.
"Well, let's have the kisses anyway!" cried Dudd Flockley, and stepping forward, he caught the girl by one hand, while Jerry Koswell grasped her by the other.
"Oh, please let me go!" cried the girl. "Please do! Oh, Mr. Flockley! Mr. Koswell, don't—don't—please!"
"Now be nice about it," growled Dudd Flockley.
"It won't hurt you a bit," added Jerry Koswell.
"I want you to let me go!" cried the girl.
"I will as soon as—" began Dudd Flockley, and then he gave a sudden roar of pain as he found himself caught by the ear. Then a hand caught him by the arm and he was whirled around and sent into a corner with a crash. At the same time Jerry Koswell was tackled and sent down in a heap in another corner. The girl, thus suddenly released, stared at the newcomers in astonishment and then sank down on a chair, too much overcome to move or speak.
LIKE KNIGHTS OF OLD
The Rover boys had acted on the impulse of the moment. They had seen that the girl wanted the two dudish young men to leave her alone, and stepping into the kitchen, Dick had tackled Dudd Flockley while Tom and Sam had given their attention to Jerry Koswell.
"You cowards!" cried Dick, confronting Flockley. "Why can't you leave a young lady alone when she tells you to?"
"They ought to be kicked out of the house," added Tom.
"You—you—" spluttered Dudd Flockley. He did not know what to say. He gathered himself up hastily and Jerry Koswell followed. "Who are you?" he demanded, facing Dick with clenched fists.
"Never mind who I am," was the reply of the oldest Rover. "Aren't you ashamed of yourself?"
"This is none of your affair," came from Koswell.
"Well, we made it our affair," answered Tom. He turned to the girl "I hope we did right," he added hastily.
"Why—er—yes, I think so," faltered the girl. She was still very white and trembling. "But—but I hope you didn't hurt them."
"See here, Minnie, are you going to stand for this?" growled Dudd Flockley. "It ain't fair! We're old friends, and—"
"You had no right to touch me, Mr. Flockley," answered the girl. "I told you to let me go. I—I thought you were a—a—gentleman." And now the tears began to show in Minnie Sanderson's eyes.
"I am a gentleman."
"You didn't act like one."
"Oh, come, don't get prudish, Minnie," put in Jerry Koswell. "We didn't mean any harm. We—"
"I want you to leave this house!" said the girl, with a sudden show of spirit. "You had no warrant to act as you did. It—it was—was shameful! Leave at once!" And she stamped her small foot on the floor. Her anger was beginning to show itself and her face lost its whiteness and became crimson.
"We'll leave when we please," muttered Dudd Flockley.
"So we will," added Jerry Koswell.
On the instant Dick looked at his brothers, and the three advanced on the two dudish-looking young men.
"You do as the young lady says," said Dick in a cold, hard voice. "I don't know you, but you are not wanted here, and that is enough. Go!" And he pointed to the door.
"See here—" blustered Flockley. But he got no further, for Dick suddenly wheeled him around and gave him a shove that sent him through the doorway and off the back porch.
"Now the other fellow," said the oldest Rover, but before Tom and Sam could touch Jerry Koswell that individual ducked and ran after Flockley. Then both young men stood at a safe distance.
"We'll fix you for this!" roared Flockley. "We don't know who you are, but we'll find out, and—"
"Maybe you want a thrashing right now," came from Tom impulsively. "I'm in fighting trim, if you want to know it." And he stepped out of the house, with Sam at his heels. Dick followed. At this hostile movement Flockley and Koswell turned and walked hurriedly out of the garden and down the country road, a row of trees soon hiding them from view.
"They are as mad as hornets," observed Sam. "If they belong anywhere near Ashton we'll have to look out for them."
"Right you are," answered Tom. "But I am not particularly afraid."
Having watched the two young men out of sight, the three Rover boys returned to the farmhouse. Minnie Sanderson had now recovered somewhat and she blushed deeply as she faced them.
"Oh, wasn't it awful," she said. "I—I don't know what you think of it. They had no right to touch me. I thought they were gentlemen. They have called here several times, but they never acted that way before."
"Then we came in the nick of time," answered Dick. "Will you allow me to introduce myself?" and he bowed. "My name is Dick Rover and this is my brother Tom and this my brother Sam. You are Miss Sanderson, I suppose."
"Yes, Minnie Sanderson."
"We are strangers here. We were on the train, but there was a little accident and we were in a hurry to get to Ashton, so we got off and walked up this road, thinking we could hire somebody to drive us to Brill College."
"Oh, do you go to Brill?" And the girl's eyes opened widely.
"We don't go yet, but we are going."
"Then—then you'll meet Mr. Flockley and Mr. Koswell again."
"What, are they students there?" cried Tom.
"Yes. This is their second year, I believe. I know they were there last spring, for they called here."
Sam gave a low whistle.
"We are making friends first clip, aren't we?" he murmured to his brothers.
The boys related a few of the particulars of the accident and their experience at the farmhouse near the railroad.
"Oh, that's old Mrs. Craven!" cried Minnie Sanderson. "She would talk you out of your senses if you'd let her. But about a carriage, I don't know. If papa was here—"
At that moment came the sound of carriage wheels on the gravel path near the barn.
"There is papa now!" cried Minnie Sanderson. "You can talk to him. I guess he'll take you to the college quick enough."
"How did those two young fellows get here?" asked Sam.
"I don't know. And please—that is—you won't say anything to my father about that, will you? It would make him very angry, and I don't know what he'd do."
"We'll not say a word if you wish it that way," answered Dick.
"I don't think they'll bother me again after the way you treated them," added the girl.
She led them toward the barn and introduced her father, a fat and jolly farmer of perhaps fifty. Mr. Sanderson had been off on a short drive with one horse and he readily agreed to take them to Brill College for two dollars.
"Just wait till I put in a fresh team," he said. "Then I'll get you over to the college in less than an hour and a quarter."
While he was hooking up he explained that he had been to a nearby village for a dry battery for the electric doorbell.
"We don't use the bell much, but I hate to have it out of order," he explained.
"That's why it didn't ring," said Sam to his brothers.
The carriage was soon ready and the three dress-suit cases were piled in the rear. Then the boys got in and Mr. Sanderson followed.
"Good-by!" called the boys to Minnie Sanderson.
"Good-by," she returned sweetly and waved her hand.
"Maybe we'll get down this way again some day," said Dick.
"If you do, stop in," returned the girl.
The farmer's team was a good one and they trotted out of the yard and into the road in fine shape. Dick was beside the driver and his brothers were in the rear. The carriage left a cloud of dust behind as it bowled along over the dry country road.
"First year at Brill?" inquired Mr. Sanderson on the way.
"Yes," answered Dick.
"Fine place—no better in the world, so I've heard some folks say—and they had been to some of the big colleges, too."
"Yes, we've heard it was all right," said Tom. "By the way, where is Hope Seminary?"
"About two miles this side of Brill."
"Then we'll pass it, eh?" came from Sam.
"Well, not exactly. It's up a bit on a side road. But you can see the buildings—very nice, too—although not so big as those up to Brill. I'll point 'em out to you when we get there."
"Do you know any of the fellows at Brill?" questioned Tom, nudging Sam in the ribs as he spoke.
"A few. Minnie met some of 'em at the baseball and football games, and once in a while one of 'em stops at our house. But we are most too far away to see much of 'em."
Presently the carriage passed through a small village which the boys were told was called Rushville.
"I don't know why they call it that," said Mr. Sanderson with a chuckle. "Ain't no rushes growing around here, and there ain't no rush either; it's as dead as a salted mackerel," and he chuckled again. "But there's one thing here worth knowing about," he added suddenly.
"What's that?" asked Dick.
"The Jamison place—it's haunted."
"Haunted!" cried Tom. "What, a house?"
"Yes, a big, old-fashioned house, set in a lot of trees. It ain't been occupied for years, and the folks say it's haunted, and nobody goes near it."
"We'll have to inspect it some day," said Sam promptly.
"What—you?" cried the fat farmer.
"Ain't you scared?"
"No," answered the youngest Rover. "I don't believe in ghosts."
"Well, they say it's worth a man's life to go in that house, especially after dark."
"I think I'd risk it."
"So would I," added Tom.
"We'll pay the haunted house a visit some day when there is no session at the college," said Dick "It will give us something to do."
"Hum!" mused the farmer. "Well, if you do it you've got backbone, that's all I've got to say. The folks around here won't go near that Jamison place nohow."
The road now became hilly, with many twists and turns, and the farmer had to give his entire attention to his team. The carriage bounced up and down and once Sam came close to being pitched out.
"Say, this is fierce!" he cried. "How much more of it?"
"Not more'n a quarter of a mile," answered Mr. Sanderson. "It is kinder rough, ain't it? The roadmaster ought to have it fixed. Some of the bumps is pretty bad."
There was one more small hill to cross, and then they came to a level stretch. Here the horses made good time and the farmer "let them out" in a fashion that pleased the boys very much.
"A fine team and no mistake," said Dick, and this pleased Mr. Sanderson very much, for he was proud of but two things—his daughter Minnie and his horses.
"There is Hope Seminary," said Mr. Sanderson presently and pointed to a group of buildings set in among some large trees. "That's a good school, I've been thinking of sending my daughter there, only it's a pretty long drive, and I need her at home. You see," he explained, "Minnie keeps house for me—has ever since my wife died, three years ago."
The boys gazed at the distant seminary buildings with interest, and as they did so Dick thought of Dora Stanhope and Tom and Sam remembered the Lanings. All thought how jolly it would be to live so close together during the college term.
"Now we've got only two miles more," said Mr. Sanderson as he set his team on a trot again. "I'll land you at Brill inside of fifteen minutes, even if the road ain't none of the best."
The country road ran directly into the town of Ashton, but there was a short cut to the college and they turned into this. Soon the lads caught sight of the pile of buildings in the distance. They were set in a sort of park, with the road running in front and a river in the rear. Out on the grounds and down by the stream the Rover boys saw a number of students walking around and standing in groups talking.
With a crack of his whip Mr. Sanderson whirled from the road into the grounds and drove up to the steps of the main building.
"This is the place where new students report," he said with a smile. "I'll take your grips over to the dormitory."
"Thank you, Mr. Sanderson," said Dick. "And here are your two dollars," and he handed the money over.
While Dick was paying the farmer Sam turned to the back of the carriage to look at the dress-suit cases. He gave an exclamation.
"What's the matter?" asked Tom.
"Didn't you have a suit case, Tom?"
"Well, it's gone."
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE CAMPUS FENCE
"Yes, gone Are you sure you put it in the carriage?"
"Positive," was Tom's answer. "I put it on top of yours and Dick's."
"Then it must have jounced out somewhere on the road."
"What's up?" asked Dick, catching a little of the talk.
"Tom's case is gone. He put it on top of ours, and I suppose coming over that rough road jounced it out."
"One of the satchels gone, eh?" came from Mr. Sanderson. "Sure you put it in?"
"Yes, I am positive."
"Too bad. Reckon I'd better go back at once and pick it up."
"I'll go with you," said Tom.
The matter was talked over for a minute and then Tom and the farmer rentered the carriage and drove off. As they did this a man came out to meet Dick and Sam.
"New students?" he asked shortly.
"Yes," replied Dick.
"Please step this way."
The doorman led them along a broad hall and into a large office. Here they signed a register and were then introduced by an under teacher to Dr. Wallington, a gray-haired man of sixty, tall and thin, with a scholarly aspect. The president of Brill shook hands cordially.
"I feel that I know you young gentlemen," he said. "Your father and I were old school chums. I hope you like it here and that your coming will do you much good."
"Thank you, I hope so too," answered Dick, and Sam said about the same. The two boys felt at once that the doctor would prove their friend so long as they conducted themselves properly, but they also felt that the aged president of Brill would stand for no nonsense.
Having been questioned by the doctor and one of the teachers, the boys were placed in charge of the house master, who said he would show them to their rooms in the dormitory. Dick had already explained the absence of Tom.
"Your father wrote that you would prefer to room together," said the house master. "But that will be impossible, since our rooms accommodate but two students each. We have assigned Samuel and Thomas to room No. 25 and Richard to room No. 26, next door."
"And who will I have with me?" asked Dick with interest. He did not much fancy having a stranger.
"Well, we were going to place a boy with you named Stanley Browne, a very fine lad, but day before yesterday we received a new application and the applicant said he desired very much to be put with the Rovers. So he can go with you, if you wish it."
"Who was the applicant?" asked Dick quickly.
"John A. Powell. He said he was an old school chum of yours at Putnam Hall and had been on a treasure hunt with you during the past summer."
"Songbird!" cried Dick, and his face broke out in a smile. "Oh, that's good news! It suits me perfectly."
"Did you call the young man Songbird?" queried the house master.
"Yes, that's his nickname."
"Then he must be a singer."
"No, he composes poetry—or at least verses that he calls poetry," answered the eldest Rover.
"I wish some more of the old Putnam Hall crowd were coming," put in Sam. "Think of having Hans Mueller here!" And the very idea made him grin.
"Hans isn't fit for college yet, Sam. But there may be others," added Dick hopefully.
They soon reached the dormitory, located across the campus from the main building and followed the house master up-stairs and to rooms No. 25 and 26. Each was bright, clean and cheerful, with big windows looking to the southward. Each contained two clothes closets, two beds, two bookshelves, a bureau, a reading table, two plain chairs and a rocker. The walls were bare, but the boys were told they could hang up what they pleased so long as they did not mar the plaster.
"The lavatories are at the end of the hall," said the house master. "And the trunk room is there, too. Have you had the trunks sent up yet?"
"No, sir," answered Dick.
"Then let me have your checks and I will attend to it. I see the man has already brought up your suit cases. I hope your brother has no trouble in recovering the one that was lost."
"When is John Powell coming?" asked Dick.
"To-morrow, so he telegraphed."
The house master left Dick and Sam and the two boys looked over the rooms and put some of the things from their suit cases in the closets and in the bureaus. Then they walked down to one of the lavatories and washed and brushed up. Everything was so new and strange to them that they did not feel at all at home.
"It will take a few days to get used to it I suppose," said Sam, with a trace of a sigh. "I know I felt the same way when first I went to Putnam Hall."
"Let us go down and take a look around and watch for Tom," replied his brother. "Say, but I'm glad Songbird is coming," he added. "I don't care much for his doggerel, but John's a good fellow just the same."
"None better," replied Sam heartily. "And his poetry isn't so very bad, always."
The two brothers went below and strolled around. They found the main building formed the letter T, with the top to the front. In this were the offices and the classroom and also the private apartments of the president and his family and some of the faculty. To the east of the main building was a long, one-story structure, containing a library and a laboratory, and to the west the three-story dormitory the lads had just left. Somewhat to the rear was another dormitory and beside it a large gymnasium, with a swimming pool attached. A short distance away was a house for the hired help and a stable and carriage sheds. Down by the river was a boathouse, not unlike that at Putnam Hall but larger.
"This is a fine layout and no mistake," observed Dick with satisfaction.
"Did you see that fine athletic field beyond the campus?" returned Sam. "That means baseball and football galore."
Having walked around the outside of the various buildings the Rover boys made their way to the highway to watch for the coming of Tom. Hardly had they reached the road when they saw a crowd of six students approaching. Among the number were Dudd Flockley and Jerry Koswell.
"See those two, Dick?" whispered Sam. "Won't they be mad when they see us here?"
"Well, I don't care," answered Dick coolly. "If they say anything, let me do the talking." And thus speaking, Dick sat down on the top of a stone fence and his brother hopped up beside him.
The six students came closer, and of a sudden Dudd Flockley espied the Rovers. He stopped short and pulled his crony by the arm, and Jerry Koswell likewise stared at Dick and Sam.
"You here?" demanded Flockley, coming closer and scowling at the youths on the fence.
"We are," answered Dick briefly.
"Humph!" And Flockley put as much of a sneer as possible in the exclamation.
"How did you get here?" asked Koswell.
"Got a carriage at the Sanderson place," answered Sam with a grin.
"You did!" cried Flockley. "Say, you're a fresh lot, aren't you?" he went on, glaring at Dick and Sam. "Where's the third chap?"
"None of your business," answered Dick sharply.
"Don't you talk to me like that!" cried Dudd Flockley, and then his face took on a look of cunning. "Freshmen, eh? Then you don't know what we are. We are sophs, and we want you to answer us decently."
"That's the talk!" cried Koswell. "Boys, these are freshmen, and on the fence, too. We can't allow this, can we?"
"No freshies allowed on that fence!" answered another boy of the crowd. "Off you go and quick!"
As he spoke he approached Sam and tried to catch him by the foot to pull him off. Sam drew in his foot and then sent it forth so suddenly that it took the sophomore in the stomach and sent him reeling to the grass.
"At them!" yelled Flockley. "Show them how they must behave! Sophs to the front!"
"Wait!" The command came from Dick, and he spoke so clearly and firmly that all the sophomores paused. "Is this an affair between Flockley and Koswell and ourselves or is it simply two freshmen against six sophs?"
"Why—er—have Flockley and Koswell anything against you two?" demanded one of the boys curiously.
"I think so," answered Dick. "We had the pleasure of knocking them both down a few hours ago. As it was a private affair, we won't go into details."
"Didn't do it because you were freshmen?" asked another lad.
"Not at all. We were total strangers when the thing occurred."
"Yes, but—" came from another sophomore.
"Sorry I can't explain. Flockley and Koswell can if they wish. But I advise them to keep a certain party's name out of the story," added Dick significantly. He felt bound to protect Minnie Sanderson as much as possible.
"It's all stuff and nonsense!" roared Dudd Flockley. "They are freshies and ought to be bounced off the fence and given a lesson in the bargain."
"That's it—come and hammer 'em!" added Jerry Koswell.
"What's the row here?" demanded a tall lad who had just come up. He had light curly hair, blue eyes and a face that was sunshine itself.
"Two freshies on the stone fence, Holden," said one of the sophomores. "We can't allow that, you know."
At this Frank Holden, the leader of the sophomore class, laughed.
"Too bad, fellows, but they've got you. Term doesn't begin until to-morrow and they can sit where they please until twelve o'clock midnight. After that"—he turned to Dick and Sam—"well, your blood will be on your own heads if you disturb this fence or the benches around the flagstaff."
"My gracious! Frank's right, term isn't on until to-morrow," cried another student. "I beg your pardon, boys!" And he bowed lowly to the Rovers.
"Gee, it's a wonder you fellows wouldn't say something before I was kicked off the earth!" growled the sophomore who had been sent to the grass by Sam.
"Don't thank me for what I did," said Sam pleasantly, and this caused some of the other college fellows to grin.
"Don't say a word," cried the one who had gone down. "Only—well, if I catch you on the fence, it will be who's best man, that's all."
"Aren't we to do anything to these freshies?" demanded Dudd Flockley. He did not at all relish the turn affairs had taken.
"Can't do a thing until to-morrow," answered Frank Holden decidedly.
"Bah! I believe in making a freshie toe the mark as soon as he arrives."
"So do I," added Jerry Koswell.
"Can't be done—against the traditions of Brill," answered the class leader. "You've got to give a freshman time to get his feet planted on the ground, you know," he added kindly and with a smile at Dick and Sam.
"Thank you for that," answered the older Rover. "We'll be ready for the whole sophomore class by to-morrow."
"We'll see," answered Holden and passed on, and the majority of the second-year fellows followed. Flockley and Koswell lingered behind.
"See here, you chaps," said Flockley. "What are your names?"
"If you want to know so bad, my name is Dick Rover and this is my brother Sam."
"And who was the other fellow?" asked Koswell.
"My brother Tom."
"Three brothers, eh, and named Rover!" growled Dudd Flockley. "All right, I'll remember that, and I'll remember how you treated us up to the Sanderson place."
"And I'll remember it too and square up," added Koswell.
"We'll make Brill too hot to hold you," snapped Flockley, and then he turned into the gateway leading to the campus and his crony followed.
"Dick, we have made two enemies, that's sure," remarked Sam to his brother as they watched Flockley and Koswell depart.
"It couldn't be helped if we have, Sam," was the reply. "You are not sorry for what we did at the Sanderson house, are you?"
"Not in the least. What we should have done was to give those chaps a sound thrashing."
"They seem to have a number of friends here. Probably they will do all they can to make life at this college miserable for us."
"Well, if they do too much, I reckon we can do something too."
Some new students had been standing at a distance watching the scene described in the last chapter. Now one of them approached and nodded pleasantly.
"Freshmen?" he asked.
"Yes," answered both of the Rovers.
"So am I. My name is Stanley Browne. What's yours?"
"Dick Rover, and this is my brother Sam."
"Oh, are you Dick Rover? I've heard about you. My cousin knows you real well."
"Who is your cousin?"
"Larry!" cried Dick. "Well, I guess he does know us well. We've had some great times together at Putnam Hall and elsewhere. So you are Larry's cousin? I am real glad to know you." And Dick held out his hand.
"Larry is one of our best chums," said Sam, also shaking hands. "I remember now that he has spoken of you. I am glad to know somebody at this place." And Sam smiled broadly. Soon all three of the boys were on good terms, and Stanley Browne told the Rovers something about himself.
"I come from the South," he said. "My folks own a large cotton plantation there. Larry was down there once and we had a lot of fun. He told me of the sport he had had with you. You must have had great times at Putnam Hall."
"We did," said Sam.
"I thought there were three of you, from what Larry said."
"So there are," answered Dick, and told about Tom and the missing dress-suit case. "Tom ought to be getting back," he added.
Stanley had been at Brill for two days and had met both Flockley and Koswell. He did not fancy either of the sophomores.
"That Frank Holden is all right," he said, "but Flockley and Koswell are very overbearing and dictatorial. I caught them ordering one of the freshmen around like a servant. If they had spoken that way to me I'd have knocked them down." And the eyes of the Southern lad flashed darkly.
"Where do you room?" asked Dick. He remembered what the house master had said about Stanley and felt that the youth would make a nice roommate for anybody.
"I'm in No. 27, right next to you fellows. Mr. Hicks was going to put me in with you first, but afterward said a friend of yours was going to fill the place."
"Yes," said Dick. "But you will be right next door, so it will be almost the same thing. Who is your roommate?"
"A fellow named Max Spangler. I don't know much about him, as he only came this noon. But he seems all right. Here he comes now."
As Stanley spoke he motioned to a short, stout lad who was walking across the campus. The boy had a distinctly German face and one full of smiles.
"Hello, Friend Browne," he called out pleasantly and with a German accent. "Did you find somebody you know?"
"I've made myself known," answered Stanley, and then he introduced the others. "They bunk next door to us," he added with a nod toward Dick and Sam.
"Hope you don't snore," said Max Spangler. "I can go anybody but what snores."
"No, we don't snore," answered Sam, laughing.
"Then I'm your friend for life and two days afterward," answered the German-American lad, and said this so gravely the others had to laugh. Max put the Rovers in mind of their old friend Hans Mueller, but he spoke much better English than did Hans, getting his words twisted only when he was excited.
Dick suggested that they all walk down the road to meet Tom, and this was done. The conversation was a lively one, Stanley and Max telling of their former schooldays and the Rovers relating a few of their own adventures. Thus the four got to be quite friendly by the time the carriage with Tom and Mr. Sanderson came in sight.
"Find it?" sang out Sam to his brother.
"No," was Tom's reply.
"You didn't!" cried Dick. "How far back did you go?"
"Way back to Rushville. I know it was in the carriage at that place, for I saw it."
"Too bad," said Sam. "Did you have much of value in it?"
"Not a great deal. Most of my stuff is in my trunk. But the case alone was worth six dollars, and it had my comb and brush and toothbrush and all those things in it."
"Want me any more?" asked Mr. Sanderson. "If you don't, I'll get home. It's past milking time now."
"No, I'll not need you," answered Tom and hopped to the ground. A minute later the farmer turned his team around and was gone in a cloud of dust.
Tom was introduced to Stanley and Max, and the whole crowd walked slowly back to the college grounds. Then Tom was taken to his room, the others going up-stairs with him. He washed and brushed up, went to the office and registered, and then the bell rang for supper.
The dining hall at Brill was a more elaborate affair than the messroom at Putnam Hall, but the Rovers were used to dining out in fine places, so they felt perfectly at home. Dick and Sam had already met the instructor who had charge of their table, Mr. Timothy Blackie, and they introduced Tom. Stanley and Max were at the same table and also a long-haired youth named Will Jackson, although his friends called him "Spud."
"I don't know why they call me Spud," he said to Dick, "excepting because I like potatoes so. I'd rather eat them than any other vegetable. Why, when I was out in Jersey one summer, on a farm, I ate potatoes morning, noon and night and sometimes between times. The farmer said I had better look out or I'd sprout. I guess I ate about 'steen bushels in three weeks."
"Phew!" whistled Sam. "That's a good one."
"Oh, it's a fact," went on Spud. "Why, one night I got up in my sleep and they found me down in the potato bin, filling my coat pockets with potatoes, and—"
"Filling your coat pocket?" queried Stanley. "Do you sleep with your coat on?"
"Why, I—er—I guess I did that night," answered Will Jackson in some confusion. "Anyway, I'm a great potato eater," he added lightly. Later on the others found out that Spud had a vivid imagination and did not hesitate to "draw the long bow" for the sake of telling a good story.
The meal was rather a stiff and quiet one among the new students, but the old scholars made the room hum with talk about what had happened at the previous term. There was a good bit of conversation concerning the last season of baseball and more about the coming work on the gridiron. From the talk the Rovers gathered that Brill belonged to something of a league composed of several colleges situated in that territory, and that they had held the football championship four and three seasons before, but had lost it to one of the colleges the next season and to another college the season just past.
"Football hits me," said Dick to Stanley. "I'd like to play first-rate."
"Maybe you'll get a chance on the eleven, although I suppose they give the older students the preference," was the reply.
Stanley had met quite a few of the other students, and after supper he introduced the Rovers and Max and also Spud. Thus the Rovers were speedily put on friendly terms with a score or more of the freshmen and also several of the others. One of the seniors, a refined young man named Allan Charter, took the crowd through the library and the laboratory and also down to the gymnasium and the boathouse.
"We haven't any boat races, for we have no other college to race against," said the senior. "The students sometimes get up contests between themselves, though. Dick Dawson used to be our best oarsman, but last June a fellow named Jerry Koswell beat him."
"Koswell!" cried Sam. "I thought he was too much of a dude to row in a race."
At this remark the senior smiled faintly.
"Evidently you have met Mr. Koswell," he remarked pointedly.
"We have," answered Tom.
"Well, he can row, if he can't do anything else."
"I'd like to try my skill against him some day," said Tom, who during the past year had taken quite a fancy to rowing.
"Perhaps Koswell will be glad to let you have the chance," said Allan Charter.
A little later the senior left the freshmen, and the latter strolled back in the direction of the college buildings. It was now growing dark, and the Rovers concluded to go up to their rooms and unpack their trunks, which had just come in from the depot.
"You fellows want to keep your eyes wide open to-night," cautioned Stanley, who came up with them.
"Hazing?" asked Dick.
"So I was told."
"Will they start in so early?" asked Sam.
"Any time after midnight. I hate to think of it, but I reckon a fellow has got to submit."
"That depends," answered Dick. "I'll not stand for everything. I'll not mind a little hazing, but it mustn't be carried too far."
"That's the talk," cried Tom. "If they go too far—well, we'll try to give 'em as good as they send, that's all."
"Right you are!" came from Sam.
They unpacked their trunks and proceeded to make themselves at home as much as possible. As Dick was alone in his room, he went over to his brothers' apartment for company, locking his door as he did so.
"I'll tell you what I'd do if I were you, Dick," said Tom. "Stay here to-night. My bed is big enough for two on a pinch. Then, if there is any hazing, we can keep together. To-morrow, if Songbird comes, it will be different."
This suited the oldest Rover, and he brought over such things as he needed for the night. The boys were tired out, having put in a busy day, and by ten o'clock Sam and Tom were both yawning.
"I think I'll go to bed," said Sam. "If anything happens wake me up."
"Oh, you'll wake up fast enough if they come," answered Tom. "But I am going to lay down myself. But I am not going to undress yet."
Taking off their shoes and collars, ties and coats, the boys said their prayers and laid down. Sam was soon in the land of dreams, and presently Tom and Dick followed.
Two hours passed and the three lads were sleeping soundly, when suddenly Tom awoke with a yell. A stream of cold water had struck him in the head, making him imagine for the instant that he was being drowned.
"Hi, stop" he spluttered and then stopped, for the stream of water took him directly in the mouth. Then the stream was shifted and struck first Dick and then Sam. All three of the Rovers leaped from the beds as quickly as possible. Although confused from being awakened so rudely, they realized what it meant.
They were being hazed.
A HAZING, AND WHAT FOLLOWED
The stream of water came from a small hose that was being played through a transom window over the door of the room. A lad was holding the hose, and in the dim light Dick recognized the face of a youth named Bart Larkspur, a sophomore who did not bear a very good reputation. Larkspur was poor and Dick had heard that he was used by Flockley, Koswell and others to do all sorts of odd jobs, for which the richer lads paid him well.
"Stop that, you!" cried the oldest Rover, and then, rushing to the door, he flung it open and gave a shove to what was beyond. This was a short step-ladder upon which Larkspur and several others were standing, and over the ladder went with a crash, sending the hazers to the floor of the hallway in a heap.
"Get the hose," whispered Tom, who had followed his brother, and while the sophomores were endeavoring to get up, he caught the squirming hose and wrenched it, nozzle and all, from Bart Larkspur's hand.
"Hi, give me that!" yelled Larkspur.
"All right, here you are," answered Tom merrily, and turned the stream of water directly in the sophomore's face. Larkspur spluttered and shied and then plunged to one side into a fellow student standing near. This was Dudd Flockley, and he was carried down on his back.
"Play away, Six!" called out Tom in true fireman style, and directed the stream on Flockley. It hit the dudish student in the chin and ran down inside his shirt collar.
"Stop, I beg of you! Oh, my!" screamed Flockley, trying to dodge the water. "Larkspur, grab the hose! Knock that rascal down! Why don't somebody do something?"
"Give me that hose, you freshie!" called out Jerry Koswell, who was in the crowd. "Don't you know better than to resist your superiors? I want you to understand—"
"Keep cool, old man, don't get excited," answered Tom brazenly. "Ah, I see you are too warm. Will that serve to keep your temperature down?" And now he turned the hose on Koswell, hitting the fellow directly in the left ear. Koswell let out a wild yell and started to retreat and so did several others.
"Don't go! Capture the hose!" called out Flockley, but even as he spoke he took good care to get behind another sophomore.
"Capture it yourself!" growled the youth he was using as a shield.
"Say, you're making too much noise," whispered another student. "Do you want the proctor down on us? And turn that water off before you ruin the building. Somebody has got to pay for this, remember," he added.
As it was an unwritten law of Brill that all hazers must pay for any damage done to college property while hazing anybody, one of the sophomores started for the lavatory where the hose had been attached to a water faucet. But while the water still ran, Tom, aided by Dick and Sam, directed the stream on the sophomores, who were forced to retreat down the hallway.
"Now rush 'em! Rush 'em!" yelled Flockley, when the water had ceased to run. "Bind and gag 'em, and take 'em down to the gym. We can finish hazing 'em there!"
"Get into the room!" whispered Dick. "Hurry up, and barricade the door!"
"Right you are, but no more hose water for me," answered Tom, and pulled on the rubber with all his might. It parted about half way down the hallway, and into the room he darted with the piece in his hands. Then Sam and Dick closed the door, locked it, and shoved a bed and the table against the barrier. They also turned the button of the transom window so that the glass could not be swung back as before.
"Now they can't get in unless they break in," said Dick grimly, "and I doubt if they'll dare to do that."
"Say, maybe I'm not wet," remarked Sam, surveying his dripping shirt.
"Never mind; we sent as good as we got, and more," answered Tom with a grin. "Let us put on our coats so we don't catch cold. No use of putting on dry clothing until you are sure the ball is over."
"Tom, you're a crack fireman," said Dick with a smile. "I'll wager those sophs are mad enough to chew nails."
"What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander," quoted the fun-loving Rover. "What's the good of living if you can't return a compliment now and then?"
For several minutes all was silent outside. Then came a light knock on the door. Dick held his hand up for silence and the knock was repeated.
"Don't answer them," whispered the oldest Rover.
"Say, I want to talk to you fellows," came in low tones. "This is important."
"Who are you?" asked Dick after a pause.
"I'm Larkspur—Bart Larkspur, I want to tell you something."
"Well, what is it?" demanded Tom.
"Your resistance to our class won't do you any good. If you'll come out and take your medicine like men, all right; but if you resist it will go that much harder with you."
"Who sent you—Frank Holden?" asked Sam.
"What has Holden to do with it?" growled Larkspur.
"We know he's the leader of your class."
"He is not. Dudd Flockley is our leader."
"Then Flockley sent you, eh?" put in Dick.
"Yes, if you want to know it."
"Well, tell Flockley to mind his own business," answered Dick sharply. "If Frank Holden wants us we'll come, but not otherwise."
"Are you hazing any of the other fellows?" asked Tom.
"We'll haze them after we get through with you," growled Larkspur, and then the Rovers heard him tiptoe his way down the hall.
"I think this attack was gotten up by the Flockley-Koswell crowd," was Dick's comment. "Maybe it wasn't sanctioned by the other sophs at all."
The Rovers waited a while longer and then with caution they pulled back the bed and the table and opened the door. By the dim light in the hallway they saw that the place was deserted. Somebody had run a mop over the polished floor, thus taking up most of the water.
"I guess they have given it up for to-night," said Dick, and his words proved correct.
After waiting a good hour the three Rovers rearranged the room, hanging up some of the bedding and rugs to dry near the window, which they left wide open. Then they locked the door and went into Dick's room, which had not been disturbed. As they did this another door opened, and Stanley poked out his head, followed by Max.
"We heard it all," said the Southern lad with a chuckle. "Hope you doused 'em good!"
"We did," answered Tom. "They didn't tackle you, did they?"
"No; but I suppose they will later, or to-morrow."
"I am ready for them if they come," came from Max. "I got this," and he held up a long, white sack.
"What is it?" asked Sam.
"Plaster of Paris. If they tackle me I'll make 'em look like marble statues already." And the German-American youth winked one eye suggestively.
Despite the excitement the Rover boys slept soundly for the rest of the night. All were rather sleepy in the morning, but a good wash in cold water brightened them greatly. While getting ready for breakfast they looked for Flockley and Koswell, but those two students, as well as Larkspur, kept out of sight.
"They don't like the way matters turned out last night," said Dick.
On entering the dining-room they saw the sophomores at a nearby table. Flockley and Koswell glared darkly, while as they passed, Larkspur put out his foot to trip Sam up. But Sam was on guard, and instead of stumbling he stepped on the fellow's ankle, something that caused Larkspur to utter a gasp of pain.
"What did you do that for?" he demanded savagely.
"Sorry, but you shouldn't sprawl all over with your feet," answered the youngest Rover coldly, and passed on to his seat. When he looked back, Larkspur, watching his chance so that no teacher might see him, shook his fist at Sam.
"We have got to keep our eyes wide open for that bunch," was Dick's comment. "Last night's affair will make Flockley and Koswell more sour than ever, and Larkspur is evidently their tool, and willing to do anything they wish done."
After chapel the Rovers were assigned to their various classes and given their text-books. It was announced that no regular classes would be called until the following Monday morning.
"That gives us plenty of time to study our first lessons," said Sam.
"Yes, and gives us time to get acquainted with the college layout and the rest of the students," added Tom. "Do you know, I think I am going to like it bang-up here."
"Just what I was thinking," returned Dick. "It isn't quite so boyish as Putnam Hall was—some of the seniors are young men—but that doesn't matter. We are growing older ourselves."
"Gracious, I'm not old!" cried Tom. "Why, I feel like a two-year-old colt!" And to prove his words he did several steps of a jig.
Only about half of the students had as yet arrived, the others being expected that day, Friday, and Saturday. The college coach was to bring in some of the boys about eleven o'clock, and the Rovers wondered if Songbird Powell would be among them.
"You'll like Songbird," said Dick to Stanley Browne. "He's a great chap for manufacturing what he calls poetry, but he isn't one of the dreamy kind—he's as bright and chipper as you find 'em."
The boys walked down to the gymnasium, and there Sam and Tom took a few turns on the bars and tried the wooden horses. While they did this Dick talked to a number of the freshmen with whom he had become acquainted.
"We are to have a necktie rush Monday," said one boy. "Every fellow is to wear the college colors. Meet on the campus an hour before supper time."
"I'll be there," said Dick. He knew what was meant by a necktie rush. All the freshmen would don neckties showing the college colors, and the sophomores, and perhaps the juniors, would do their best to get the neckties away from them. If more than half the boys lost their ties before the supper bell rang the freshmen would be debarred from wearing the colors for that term.
Shortly before eleven o'clock a shout was heard on the road, and a number of the students made a rush in that direction. The college coach swung into sight in a cloud of dust. It was fairly overflowing with boys and young men, all yelling and singing and waving their hats and caps. At the sight those on the campus set up a cheer.
"This is something like!" cried Tom enthusiastically. He wanted to see things "warm up," as he expressed it.
The coach was followed by three carriages, and all deposited their loads at the main building steps and on the campus. There were more cheers and many handshakes.
"There he is!" cried Sam, and rushing forward, he caught John Powell by the hand, shook it, and relieved the newcomer of his suit case.
"Hello, Sam!" cried Songbird, and grinned from ear to ear. "Hello, Dick! Hello, Tom! Say, did I surprise you?" And now he shook hands with the others.
"You sure did," replied Dick. "I was afraid I was going to have a stranger for a roommate. Your coming here suits me to a T!"
"I didn't write to you because I wanted to surprise you," explained Songbird. "I've composed some verses about it. They start—"
"Never mind the verses now," interrupted Tom. "Come on in and we'll introduce you to the fellows, and then we'll listen to your story. And we'll tell you some things that will surprise you."
"And I'll tell you some things that will surprise you, too," returned John Powell, as he was led away by the three Rover boys.
THE ARRIVAL OF SONGBIRD
"So you've made some enemies as well as some friends, eh?" remarked Songbird Powell, after he had been registered, taken up to his room, and had listened to what the Rover boys had to tell. "No use of talking, it doesn't take you fellows long to stir things up!"
"You said you had a surprise for us, Songbird," returned Tom. "I'm dying by inches to know what it is."
"Maybe it's a new poem," put in Sam with a grimace at his brothers.
"I've got a poem—several of them, in fact," answered Songbird, "but I didn't have those in mind when I spoke. Who do you suppose I met yesterday morning, in Ithaca, while I was waiting for the train?"
"Dora Stanhope and the Lanings," answered Tom promptly.
"No. Tad Sobber."
"Tad Sobber!" exclaimed the Rover boys in concert.
"Songbird, are you sure of it?" demanded Dick.
"Sure? Wasn't I talking to him!"
"But—but—I thought he was lost in that hurricane, when the Josephine was wrecked."
"No. It seems he escaped to a vessel bound for England; but his uncle, Sid Merrick, was lost, and so were most of the others. Sobber just got back from England—came in on one of the ocean liners, so he told me."
"How did he act?" asked Tom.
"Where was he going?" added Sam.
"Did he seem to have any money?" came from Dick.
All of the Rovers were intensely interested, and showed it plainly.
"Say, one question at a time, please!" cried Songbird, "You put me in mind of a song I once wrote about a little boy:
"'A little lad named Johnny Spark Was nothing but a question mark. He asked his questions night and day, When he was resting or at play. One minute he would tackle pa, And then he'd turn and tackle ma; And then his uncle he would quiz—"
"And let that line please end the biz,"
finished Tom. "Say, Songbird, please don't quote poetry when we are waiting to hear all about Tad Sobber. Have some pity on us."
"Yes, tell us of Sobber," added Sam and Dick.
"All right, if you don't appreciate my verses," returned the would-be poet with a sigh. "Well, to start with, Tad Sobber was well dressed, and looked as if he had all the money he needed. He wore a brown checkered suit, so evidently he hasn't gone into mourning for his uncle. He told me he had had a rough experience on the ocean during the hurricane, and he blames you Rovers for all his troubles."
"That's just like Sobber," was Dick's comment.
"He wouldn't tell me where he was going or what he was going to do, but he did let drop a remark or two about the fortune you discovered on Treasure Isle. He said that he was firmly convinced that the money belonged to him and to his uncle's estate, and that he meant some day to make a fight for it."
"In the courts?" asked Tom. "If he does that he'll get beaten. Father says the treasure belongs to the Stanhope estate and to nobody else."
"No, he didn't say he was going to court about it, but he said he was bound to get hold of it some day."
"I hope he doesn't try to get it by force," said Sam. "That would mean trouble for the Stanhopes and the Lanings."
"The money is in the banks now, Sam," said Dick. "He couldn't get hold of it excepting on an order from those to whom it belongs."
"And they'll never give him any such order," added Tom.
"Do you suppose he was going to see the Stanhopes and the Lanings?" questioned the oldest Rover anxiously.
"He didn't say, I wanted to question him further, but a man who was standing on a corner, some distance away, beckoned to him, and he left me and joined the man, and the two walked off."
"Who was the man?"
"I don't know."
The boys talked the matter over for some time, but Songbird had nothing more to tell, and at last the subject was dropped. Songbird was introduced to Stanley, Max, and a number of the other students, and soon he felt quite at home.
That evening there was a bit of hazing. Dick and Tom escaped, but Sam, Songbird and Stanley were caught in the lower hallway by a number of the sophomores and carried bodily to the gymnasium. Here they were tossed in blankets and then blindfolded.
"We'll take them to the river," said one of the sophomores. "A bath will do them good."
"Let's give 'em a rubbing down with mud!" cried Jerry Koswell. He had some tar handy, and if the mud was used he intended to mix some of the tar with it on the sly.
"That's the talk!" cried Larkspur, who knew about the tar, he having purchased it for Koswell and Flockley. The three had at first intended to smear the beds of the Rovers with it, but had gotten no chance.
"Give them a good dose!" said Dudd Flockley. He had joined in the blanket-tossing with vigor.
Sam, Songbird and Stanley were being led to the river when Max came rushing up to Tom and Dick, who happened to be in the library, looking over some works of travel.
"Come on mit you!" he cried excitedly in broken English. "Da have got Sam and Stanley and dot friend of yours alretty! Hurry up, or da was killed before we git to help 'em!"
"They? Who?" asked Dick, leaping up.
"Sophs—down by der gym!" And then Max cooled down a bit and related what he had seen.
"We must surely go to the rescue!" cried Tom. "Wait! I'll get clubs for all hands!" And he rushed up to his room, where in a clothing closet lay the end of the hose he had taken away from the sophomores. With his knife he cut the section of hose into eight "clubs," and With these in his hands he hurried below again.
At a cry from Dick and Max the freshmen commenced to gather on the campus, and Tom quickly handed around the sections of hose. Other first-year lads procured sticks, boxing gloves, and other things, and looked around for somebody to lead them.
"Come on!" cried Dick, and he sprang to the front, with Tom on one side and Max on the other. The German-American boy had a big squirtgun filled with water, a gun used by the gardener for spraying the bushes.
The sophomores had captured four more freshmen, and marched all of the crowd down to the river front, when the band under Dick, sixteen strong, appeared. The latter came on yelling like Indians, and flourishing their sections of hose, and sticks and other things.
"Let 'em go! Let 'em go!" was the rallying cry, and then whack! whack! whack! down came the rubber clubs and the sticks on the backs of the second-year students.
"Fight 'em off!" came from the sophomores.
"Chase 'em away!" yelled Dudd Flockley; but hardly had he spoken when Max discharged the squirtgun, and the water took Flockley in the eye, causing him to yell with fright and retreat. Then Max turned the gun on Larkspur, soaking the latter pretty thoroughly.
Attacked from the rear, the sophomores had to let go their holds on their victims, and as soon as they were released Sam, Songbird and the others ran to the right and the left and joined the force under Dick.
All told, the freshmen now numbered twenty-three, while the sophomores could count up but fourteen. The second-year students were hemmed in and gradually forced nearer and nearer to the bank of the river.
"Let up! let up!" yelled several in alarm. "Don't knock us overboard!"
"It's nothing but mud here! I don't want my new suit spoiled!" cried one.
"I can't swim!" added another.
"I've got an idea," whispered Tom to the others near him. "Shove 'em in the mud and water, or else make 'em promise not to take part in the necktie rush."
"That's the talk!" replied Dick. He caught hold of the sophomore in front of him. "All shove, fellows!" And the second-year students were gradually forced to the very edge of the river at a point where there was a little water and a good deal of dark, sticky mud. Of course they fought desperately to push the freshmen back, but they were outnumbered, as already told.
"Now, then, every fellow who will promise not to take part in the necktie rush Monday will be allowed to go free," said Dick loudly. "The others must take their ducking in the water—and mud."
"Let me go!" roared Dudd Flockley. "I'm not going to have this suit ruined!"
"I don't want to get these patent leathers wet!" cried Jerry Koswell, who had on a new pair of shiny shoes.
"Then promise!" cried Sam, and "Promise!" "Promise!" came from many others.
Without delay several of the sophomores promised, and they were allowed to depart. Then the others began to show fight, and three managed to escape, among them being Dudd Flockley. The others were forced into the water and mud up to their knees. Then they cried out in alarm, and while two finally escaped, the others also promised to keep out of the necktie contest.
"Just wait!" snarled Jerry Koswell as he at last managed to pull himself out of the sticky mud. "Just wait, that's all!" His patent-leather shoes were a sight to behold.
"Not so much fun when you are hazed yourself, is it?" asked Sam coolly.
"We'll give it to 'em yet," put in Bart Larkspur. "Lots of time between now and the closing of the term." And then he and Koswell ran off to join Dudd Flockley. The three went to their rooms and cleaned up as best they could, and then took a walk down the road in the direction of Rushville.
"It was that Dick Rover who led the attack," said Dudd Flockley. "Do you know what I think? I think he is going to try to make himself leader of the freshies."
"Just what I thought, too," answered Larkspur. "And if that's the fact we ought to do all we can to pull him down."
"Tom Rover is the fellow I am going to get after," came from Jerry Koswell. He had not forgotten how Tom and Sam had sent him to the floor in the presence of Minnie Sanderson.
The three students walked a distance of half a mile when they saw approaching them a trampish-looking man carrying what looked to be a new dress-suit case. They looked at the fellow rather sharply and he halted as he came up to them.
"Excuse me," he mumbled, "but did any of you gents lose this case?"
"Why, it must be Rover's case!" cried Flockley. Nearly every one in the college had heard about the missing baggage.
"I found it in the bushes alongside the road," went on the tramp. "Thought it might belong to some of the college gents."
"Let me look at it," said Koswell, and turned the case around. "Yes, it's Rover's," he added, seeing the initials and the address.
"Better take it up to the college," put in Larkspur.
"Wait, I'll take it up," said Jerry Koswell suddenly. "This belongs to a poor chap," he added to the tramp. "He won't be able to reward you, but I will. Here's a quarter for you." And he passed over the silver piece.
"Much obliged," said the tramp. "Want me to carry it up to the buildings?"
"No, I'll do that," said Koswell, and then he winked at his cronies. The tramp went on and the three watched him disappear in the distance.
"What did you do that for, Jerry?" asked Flockley with interest. He surmised that something new was afoot.
"Oh, I did it for the fun of the thing," answered Koswell coolly. "But maybe I can work it in somehow against that Rover bunch. Anyway, I'll try."
THE COLORS CONTEST
The next morning Tom was much surprised to find his missing dress-suit case standing in front of his room door.
"Hello! How did this get here?" he cried as he picked up the baggage.
"What's that?" asked Sam, who was just getting up.
"Look!" answered his brother, and brought the case in. "Somebody must have found it and left it here while I was asleep."
"Very kind, whoever he was," said Sam. "Are the contents all right?"
Instead of answering Tom placed the suit case on a chair and started to unlock it.
"Hello, it's unlocked!" he murmured. "I thought I had it locked."
He shoved back the clasps and threw the case open. The contents were much jumbled, but he had expected this from the fact that the bag had been jounced out of the carriage.
"I guess the stuff is all here," he said slowly, turning over the clothing and other things. "Somehow, I thought I had more in the case, though," he added presently.
"Don't you know what you had?"
"Well—er—I packed it in a hurry, you know. I wanted to go fishing, and so I got through as soon as I could. Oh, I guess it's all right."
Tom was too lively a youth to pay much attention to his personal belongings. Often he hardly knew what suit of clothing he had on or what sort of a necktie. The only times he really fixed up was when Nellie Laning was near. Why he did that only himself (and possibly Nellie) knew.
Sunday passed quietly. Some of the boys attended one or another of the churches in Ashton, and the Rovers went with them. Dudd Flockley and his cronies took a walk up the river, and reaching a warm, sunny spot, threw themselves down to smoke cigarettes and talk.
"Well, what did you do about the dress-suit case, Jerry?" asked Flockley with a sharp look at his crony.
"Returned it, as you know," was the answer, and Jerry winked suggestively.
"I'd have flung the bag in the river before I would give it to such a chap as Tom Rover," growled Larkspur.
"You trust me, Larky, old boy," answered Jerry Koswell. "I know what I'm doing."
"I said I returned the case, but I didn't say I returned all that was in it."
"What do you mean by that?" demanded Flockley. "If you've got a secret, out with it."
Koswell looked around to make certain that no outsider was near.
"I kept a few things out of the bag—some things that had Tom Rover's name or his initials on them."
"And you are going to—" went on Flockley.
"I am going to use 'em some day, when I get the chance."
"Good!" cried Flockley. "I'll help you, Jerry!"
"And so will I," added Larkspur. "If we work it right we can get Tom Rover in a peck of trouble."
On Monday morning the college term opened in earnest, and once again the Rovers had to get down to the "grind," as Sam expressed it. But the boys had had a long vacation and were in the best of health, and they did not mind the studying.
"Got to have a good education if you want to get along nowadays," was the way Dick expressed himself. "If you don't learn you are bound to be at the mercy of anybody who wants to take advantage of your ignorance."
"Dick, what are you going to do when you get out of college?" asked Tom.
"I don't know—go into business, I imagine."
"Oh, he'll marry and settle down," chimed in Sam. "He and Dora will live in an ivy-covered cottage like two turtle doves, and—"
Sam got no further, for a pillow thrown by Dick caught him full in the face and made him stagger.
"Sam is thinking of what he and Grace are going to do," said Dick. "And you and Nellie will likely have a cottage across the way," he added, grinning at Tom.
"Really!" murmured Tom, and got as red as a beet. "Say, call it off," he added. "Do you know we have the necktie rush this afternoon?"
"It won't amount to much," answered Sam. "Too many sophs out of it."
"Don't you believe it," said Dick. "Remember, the juniors come into this as well as the sophs."
"Say, I've thought of a plan!" cried Tom. "Greatest ever! I'm going to patent it!" And he commenced to dance around in his excitement.
"What's loose?" asked Songbird, coming up at that moment, followed by some others. "Tom, have you got a pain in your inwards?"
"No, an idea—it's about the same thing," responded Tom gaily. "We want to get the best of the second and third-year fellows during the necktie rush, and I think I know how we can do it. We'll all sew our neckties fast!"
For a moment there was silence, and then, as the others caught the idea, they commenced to laugh.
"That's it!" cried Sam. "I'll sew mine as tight as a drum!"
"I'll rivet mine on, if that will do any good," added Dick.
"Sure thing!" came from Songbird, and he commenced to recite:
"Oh, the sophs and the juniors will try To steal from the freshies each tie; But they will not win, For we'll fight them like sin—"
"And bust 'em right plumb in the eye!" finished Tom. "Oh, say, but will you all sew your neckties fast?"
"And we'll tell the rest to do so, too," added another freshman who was present.
The news soon circulated, and was kept from all but the first-year students.
It must be confessed that many of the students found it hard to fix their minds on their lessons that afternoon. One boy, Max Spangler, brought on a great laugh when the following question was put to him:
"What great improvement in navigation did Fulton introduce?"
"Neckties," answered Max abstractedly.
"Neckties?" queried the instructor in astonishment.
"I—er—I don't mean neckties," stammered the German-American student, "I mean steamboats."
When the afternoon session was over the students hurried to their various rooms. The sophomores and the juniors who were to take part in the contest talked matters over, and as far as possible laid out a plan of action. It was decided that the largest and heaviest of the second and third-year students were to tackle the smallest freshmen first, while the others were to hold the rest of the first-year men at bay.
"We'll get fifteen or twenty neckties first clip that way," said one of the sophomores, "and it doesn't matter who we get them from. A little chap's tie counts as much as that of a two-hundred pounder."
In the meantime the freshmen were busy following Tom's advice and sewing their ties fast to their collars, shirts, and even their undershirts. Then Dick, who had, unconsciously almost, become a leader, called the boys into an empty recitation-room.
"Now, I've got a plan," said he. "We want to bunch up, and all the little fellows and lightweights get in the center. The heavy fellows can take the outside and fight the others off. Understand?"
"That's a good idea!"
"Forward to the fray!" yelled Stanley, "and woe be to him who tries to get my tie! His blood be on his own head!" he added tragically.
"Forward!" cried Sam, "and let our watchword be, 'Die, but no tie!'"
"Now don't get excited," said Dick. "Take it coolly, and I'm certain that when the time is up we'll have the most of our ties still on."
It was the custom to go out on the campus at a given time, and when the chapel bell sounded out the hour Dick led the freshmen forward. They came out of a side door in a body and formed around the flagstaff almost before the sophomores and juniors knew they had appeared.
The seniors took no part, but three had been "told off" to act as referees, and they stood around as if inspecting the buildings and the scenery. The instructors, who also knew what was coming, wisely kept out of sight.
"Come on, and at 'em!" called out Dudd Flockley, and this cry was quickly taken up by all the others who were to take part in the contest.
"Hello! They know a thing or two," said Frank Holden, who was the sophomore leader in the attack. "They've got the little fellows in the middle."
As tightly as possible the freshmen gathered around the flagstaff. Each wore a necktie of the college colors and it was fastened as tightly as strong thread could hold it.
"At 'em!" was the yell of the second and third-year lads. "Tear 'em apart! Pull the ties from 'em!"
And then they leaped in at the big freshmen, and on the instant a battle royal was started. Down went four boys on the campus, rolling over and over. Others caught each other by the hands and shoulders and wrestled valiantly.
Dick and Tom were in the front rank, with Sam directly behind them. Dick was caught by Frank Holden, and the two wrestled with might and main. Frank was big and strong, but Dick managed to hold him so that all the sophomore leader could do was to get his finger tips on the sought-for necktie.
Flockley tackled Tom, and much to his surprise was tripped up and sent flat on his back. Mad with sudden rage, Flockley scrambled up and let out a savage kick for Tom's stomach. But Tom was too quick for the sophomore, and leaped to one side.
"Foul!" cried Tom.
"Don't do that again!" called one of the seniors to Dudd. "If you do you'll be ruled out." Kicking and punching were prohibited by the rules. All the boys could do was to wrestle and throw each other, and either try to pull the neckties away or hold on to them.
On and on the battle waged, each minute growing hotter. Many of the students were almost winded, and felt that they could not endure the struggle much longer. Dick, Tom and Sam managed to keep their neckties, although Sam's was torn loose by two sophomores who held him as in a vise until Stanley came to his assistance. When the time was half up eleven neckties had been captured—two of them almost torn to shreds.
"At 'em!" yelled Frank Holden. "We haven't begun yet!"
"Hold 'em back!" was Dick's rallying answer. "Don't let 'em get near the little fellows!"
Again the contest raged, and this time with increased bitterness. In the melee some few blows were exchanged, but it must be admitted that one side was about as much to blame for this as the other. Three additional neckties were captured, making fourteen in all. As thirty-seven freshmen were in the contest, the sophomores and juniors had to capture five more neckties to win.
"Only three minutes more!" sang out one student, looking at his watch. "At 'em! Rip 'em apart!"
"Three minutes more!" yelled Dick. "Hold 'em back and we'll win!"
The enemy fought with increased fury, and one more necktie was taken—the collar and collar band coming with it. But then of a sudden the chapel bell tolled out the hour.
"Time's up!" was the cry.
"And we win!" came from a score of freshmen in huge delight.
"Look out! Look out!" cried several small youths in the center of the crowd.
Crack! It was the flagstaff, and all looked in that direction. The pole, old and decayed, was falling. It looked as if it would crush all who stood in its path.
TOM IN TROUBLE
"Look out, the flagpole is coming down!"
"Stand from under, or you'll be killed!"
Crack! came from the pole, and now many saw that it was breaking off close to the ground. Some of the students had clung to it during the contest, and the strain had been too much for the stick, which was much rotted just where it entered the ground.
Those on the outside of the crowd ran away with ease, but not so those who were hemmed in. Two of the smallest of the freshmen, Billy Dean and Charley Atwood, could not move fast enough, and one fell over the other, and both went down.
"Save me!" gasped one of the lads.
"Don't let the pole come down on me!" screamed the other.
The flagstaff was falling swiftly, and Dick and many others saw that it would fall directly across Dean and Atwood unless its progress was stayed.
"Hold it up! Hold it up!" yelled Dick. "Hold it up, or they'll be killed!"
He put up his hands to meet the pole, which was coming down across the front of the campus. Tom did likewise, and so did Frank Holden, Stanley Brown, and several others, including an extra tall and powerful senior.
It was a heavy weight, and for the moment the boys under it thought they would have to let it go. Over came the pole, and when it rested on the boys' hands the top overbalanced the bottom and struck the ground, sending the lower end into the air. As this happened Billy Dean and Charley Atwood were hauled out of harm's way. Then the pole was dropped to the campus with a thud.