E-text prepared by W. R. Marvin
THE ROVER BOYS IN CAMP
Or, The Rivals of Pine Island
Arthur M. Winfield
My Dear Boys: "The Rover Boys in Camp" is a complete story in itself, but forms the eighth volume of "The Rover Boys Series for Young Americans."
As I have mentioned before, when I started this line of stories I had in mind to make not more than three, or possibly four, volumes. But the publication of "Rover Boys at School," "Rover Boys on the Ocean," "Rover Boys in the Jungle," and "Rover Boys Out West" did not appear to satisfy my readers, and so I followed with "Rover Boys on the Great Lakes," "Rover Boys in the Mountains," and lastly with "Rover Boys on Land and Sea." But the publishers say there is still a cry for "more! more!" and so I now present to you this new Rover Boys book, which relates the adventures of Dick, Tom, and Sam, and a number of their old-time friends, at home, at dear old Putnam Hall, and in camp on Pine Island.
In writing this tale I have had in mind two thoughts—one to give my young readers an out-and-out story of jolly summer adventure, along with a little touch of mystery, and the other to show them that it very often pays to return good for evil. Arnold Baxter had done much to bring trouble to the Rover family, but what Dick Rover did in return was Christian-like in the highest meaning of that term. Dick was not a "goody-goody" youth, but he was a thoroughly manly one, and his example is well worth following by any lad who wishes to make something of himself.
Once more let me thank all of those who have expressed themselves as satisfied with the previous stories in this series. I earnestly trust the present volume will also prove acceptable to them, and will do them good.
Affectionately and sincerely yours,
ARTHUR M. WINFIELD.
I. The Rover Boys at Home II. News of Interest III. A Midnight Visitor IV. A Useless Pursuit V. On the Way to Putnam Hall VI. Fun on the Boat VII. Something About the Military Academy VIII. A Scene in the Gymnasium IX. Settling Down to Study X. An Adventure in Cedarville XI. A Quarrel and it Results XII. The Election for Officers XIII. The Fight at the Boathouse XIV. Getting Ready for the Encampment XV. On the March to the Camp XVI. The First Day on Pine Island XVII. The Enemy Plot Mischief XVIII. Hazers at Work XIX. A Storm in Camp XX. The Rover Boys and the Ball XXI. A Tug of War XXII. A Swim and Some Snakes XXIII. A Glimpse of an Old Enemy XXIV. More Rivalry XXV. Winning the Contests XXVI. Sam Shows What He Can Do XXVII. A Prisoner of the Enemy XXVIII. Dick's Midnight Adventure XXIX. True Heroism XXX. Turning a New Leaf—Conclusion
THE ROVER BOYS AT HOME
"All out for Oak Run!" shouted the brakeman of the train, as he thrust his head in through the doorway of the car. "Step lively, please!"
"Hurrah for home!" shouted a curly-headed youth of sixteen, as he caught up a small dress-suit case. "Come on, Sam."
"I'm coming, Tom," answered a boy a year younger. "Where is Dick?"
"Here I am," replied Dick Rover, the big brother of the others. "Just been in the baggage car, making sure the trunks would be put off," he added. "Say, but this looks natural, doesn't it, after traveling thousands of miles across the Pacific?"
"And across the Continent from San Francisco," put in Sam Rover.
"Do you know, I feel as if I'd been away for an age?"
"It's what we've gone through with that makes you feel that way, Sam," came from Tom Rover. "Just think of being cast away on a lonely island like Robinson Crusoe! Why, half the folks won't believe our story when they hear it."
"They'll have to believe it." Sam hopped down to the depot platform, followed by the others. "Wonder if the folks got that telegram I forwarded from Buffalo?"
"They must have, for there is Jack with the big carriage," said Tom, and walked over to the turnout he mentioned. "Hullo, Jack!" he called out. "How is everybody?"
"Master Tom!" ejaculated Jack Ness, the Rovers' hired man. "Back at last, are you, an' safe an' sound?"
"Sound as a dollar, Jack. How are the folks?"
"Your father is putty well, and so is your Uncle Randolph. Your Aunt Martha got so excited a-thinkin' you was coming hum she got a headache."
"Dear Aunt Martha!" murmured Tom. "I'll soon cure her of that." He turned to his brothers. "What shall we do about the trunks? We can't take 'em in the carriage."
"Aleck is comin' for them boxes," said the hired man. "There's his wagon now."
A box wagon came dashing up to the depot platform, with a tall, good-looking colored man on the seat. The eyes of the colored man lit up with pleasure when he caught sight of the boys.
"Well! well! well!" he ejaculated, leaping down and rushing forward. "Heah yo' are at las', bless you! I'se been dat worried 'bout yo' I couldn't 'most sleep fo' t'ree nights. An' jess to t'ink yo' was cast away on an island in de middle of dat Pacific Ocean! It's a wonder dem cannonballs didn't eat yo' up."
"Thanks, but we didn't meet any 'cannonballs,' Aleck, I am thankful to say," replied Dick Rover. "Our greatest trouble was with some mutineers who got drunk and wanted to run things to suit themselves. They might have got the best of us, but a warship visited the island just in the nick of time and rescued us."
"So I heared out ob dat letter wot yo' writ yo' father. An' to t'ink dat Miss Dora Stanhope and de Laning gals was wrecked wid yo'! It's wonderful!"
"It certainly was strange, Aleck. But, come, I am anxious to get home. Here are the trunk checks," and Dick passed the brasses over.
In a moment more the three boys had entered the carriage, along with Jack Ness. Tom insisted on driving, and away they went at a spanking gait, over Swift River, through the little village of Dexter's Corners, and then out on the road that led to Valley Brook farm.
As my old readers know, the Rover boys were three in number, as already introduced. They were the sons of Anderson Rover, a well-to-do gentleman, who was now living in retirement at Valley Brook, in company with his brother Randolph, and the latter's wife, Martha.
While Anderson Rover had been on a hunt for gold in the heart of Africa, the three boys had been sent by their Uncle Randolph to a military academy known as Putnam Hall. Here they made many friends and also a few enemies, the worst of the latter being Dan Baxter, a bully who wanted his way in everything. Baxter was the offspring of a family of low reputation, and his father, Arnold Baxter, was now in prison for various misdeeds.
The first term at school had been followed by an exciting chase on the ocean, after which the boys had gone with their uncle to the jungles of Africa, in a search after Anderson Rover. After the parent was found it was learned that Arnold Baxter was trying to swindle the Rovers out of a valuable gold mine in the far West, but this plot, after some exciting adventures, was nipped in the bud.
The trip West had tired the boys, and they hailed an outing on the Great Lakes with delight. During this outing they learned something about a treasure located in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains, and the next winter visited the locality and unearthed a box containing gold, silver, and precious stones, worth several thousands of dollars. During this treasure-hunt Dan Baxter did his best to bring the Rover boys to grief, but without success.
After the winter in the Adirondacks, the boys had expected to return at once to Putnam Hall to continue their studies. But three pupils were taken down with scarlet fever, and the academy was promptly closed by the master, Captain Victor Putnam.
"That gives us another holiday," Tom had said. "Let us put in the time by traveling," and, later on, it was decided that the boys should visit California for their health. This they did, and in the seventh volume of this series, entitled "The Rover Boys on Land and Sea," I related the particulars of how they were carried off to sea during a violent storm, in company with three of their old-time girl friends, Dora Stanhope and her cousins, Nellie and Grace Laning. It may be mentioned here that Dick thought Dora Stanhope the sweetest girl in the world, and Tom and Sam were equally smitten with Nellie and Grace Laning.
Being cast away on the Pacific was productive of additional adventures and surprises. On a ship that picked the girls and boys up they fell in again with Dan Baxter, and he did all in his power to make trouble for them. When all were cast away on a deserted island, Dan Baxter joined some mutineers among the sailors, and there was a fight which threatened to end seriously for our friends. But as luck would have it, a United States warship hove into sight, and from that moment the boys and girls, and the friends, who had stuck to them through thick and thin, were safe.
Before the warship left the island a search was made for Dan Baxter and for those who had mutinied with him. But the bully and his evil-minded followers kept out of sight, and so they were left behind to shift for themselves.
"Do you think that we will ever see Dan Baxter again?" Sam had questioned.
"I hardly think so," had been Dick's reply. But in this surmise the elder Rover boy was mistaken, as later events will prove.
The journey across the Pacific to San Francisco was accomplished without incident. As soon as the Golden Gate was reached the boys, and also the girls, sent telegrams to their folks, telling them that all was well.
Mrs. Stanhope was staying at Santa Barbara for her health. All of the girls had been stopping with her, and now it was decided that Dora, Nellie, and Grace should go to her again.
"It's too bad we must part," Dick had said, as he squeezed Dora's hand. "But you are coming East soon, aren't you?"
"In a month or two, yes. And what will you do?"
"Go back to Putnam Hall most likely—if the scarlet fever scare is over."
"Then we'll be likely to see you again before long," and Dora smiled her pleasure.
"It will be like old times to get back to the Hall again," Sam had put in. "But first, I want to go home and see the folks."
"Right you are," had come from Tom. "I reckon they are dead anxious to see us, too."
And so they had parted, with tight hand-squeezing and bright smiles that meant a good deal. One train had taken the girls southward to Santa Barbara, and another had taken the boys eastward to Denver and to Chicago. At the latter city the lads had made a quick change, and twenty-six hours later found them at Oak Run, and in the carriage for the farm.
NEWS OF INTEREST
"My boys! my boys!"
Such was the cry given by Anderson Rover, when he caught sight of the occupants of the carriage, as the turnout swept up to the piazza of the comfortable farm home.
"Home again! Home again Safe from a foreign shore!"
sang out Tom, and leaping to the ground, he caught his father around the shoulders. "Aren't you glad to see us, father?" he went on.
"Glad doesn't express it, Tom," replied the fond parent, as he embraced first one and then another. "My heart is overflowing with joy, and I thank God that you have returned unharmed, after having passed through so many grave perils. How brown all of you look!"
"Tanned by the tropical sun," answered Sam. "Oh, here is Aunt Martha, and Uncle Randolph!"
"Sam!" burst out the motherly aunt, as she kissed him. "Oh, how you must have suffered on that lonely island!" And then she kissed the others.
"We've certainly had our fill of adventures," came from Dick, who was shaking hands with his Uncle Randolph. "And more than once we thought we should never see Valley Brook farm again."
"We were real Robinson Crusoes," went on Sam. "And the girls were Robinson Crusoes, too."
"Are the girls well?" questioned Mrs. Rover.
"Very well, auntie. If they hadn't been we shouldn't have parted with them in San Francisco. They went back to Santa Barbara to finish their vacation."
"I see. Well, it certainly was a wonderful trip. You'll have to tell us all the particulars this evening. I suppose you are as hungry as bears just now. Tom is, I'm sure."
"Oh, Aunt Martha, I see you haven't forgotten my failing," piped in the youth mentioned, with a twinkle in his eye. "And do I get pie for dinner?"
"Yes, Tom, and all you care to eat, too. We are going to make your home-coming a holiday."
They were soon in the house, every nook and corner of which was so familiar to them. They rushed up to their rooms, and, after a brushing and a washing up, came down to the big dining room, where the table fairly groaned with good things.
"Gosh! this is a regular Christmas spread!" observed Tom, as he looked the table over. "Tell you what, Aunt Martha, I'm going to be cast away every week after this."
"Oh, Tom, don't speak of it! After this you must stay right here. Neither your father nor your uncle nor myself will want to leave you out of sight."
"Pooh! We can't stay home. But we'll be careful of our trips in the future, you can be sure of that."
"Have you heard anything about Putnam Hall since we went away?" asked Dick, during the meal.
"The academy opened again last week, Dick," answered his father. "We received a circular letter from Captain Putnam. The scarlet fever scare did not amount to much, for which the captain is very thankful."
"I sent him a telegram, stating we were safe," said Sam. "I knew he would like to hear from us. The captain is a brick."
"The best ever," said Tom, with his mouth full of chicken.
"And ditto, Mr. Strong," put in Dick, referring to the head assistant at the Hall.
"Exactly, Dick. But no more Jasper Grinders in mine," went on Tom, referring to a tyrannical teacher who had caused them much trouble, and who had been discharged from the academy, as already mentioned in "The Rover Boys in the Mountains."
"Or Josiah Crabtrees," said Dick, referring to another teacher, who had been made to leave Putnam Hall, and who had wanted to marry the widow Stanhope, in an endeavor to get control of the money that was coming to Dora. Crabtree's misdeeds had landed him in prison, where he was likely to stay for some time to come.
While the meal was still in progress the boys began the recital of their many adventures, and this recital was kept up until a late hour. It was astonishing how much they had to tell, and how interesting it proved to the listeners.
"You might make a book of it," said Anderson Rover. "It equals our adventures in the jungles of Africa."
"I am going to write it out some day," answered Dick. "And, maybe, I'll get the story printed. The trouble is, I can't end the tale properly."
"How is that, Dick?" asked his Uncle Randolph. "You were all saved. Isn't that a proper ending for any book?"
"Yes, but what of the villain? Baxter didn't show himself, and that is no ending at all. He should have fallen over a cliff, or been shot, or something like that."
"And we should have married the three girls," put in fun-loving Tom. "That would make the story even more complete."
"Well, things do not happen in real life as they do in story books," said the parent. "It is likely you will never hear of Dan Baxter again. But we may hear from his father."
"His father!" exclaimed the three youths in concert.
"Why, Arnold Baxter is in prison," added Sam.
"He was, up to five days ago, when they took him to the hospital to undergo some sort of an operation. At the hospital the operation was postponed for a day, and during the night he slipped away from the institution and disappeared."
"Well, I never!" burst out Dick. "Isn't he the slick one, though! Just when you think you've got him hard and fast, you haven't at all."
"Haven't they any trace of him?" asked Sam.
"None, so far as I have heard. There was a report that he had gone to New York and taken passage on a ship bound for Liverpool, but at present the ship is on the Atlantic, so the authorities can do nothing."
"I hope they catch him."
"We all hope that, Sam."
For a few days the three boys did nothing but take it easy. It was pleasant weather, and they roamed around the farm in company with their father and their uncle, or with Alexander Pop, the colored man of work. As my old readers know, Pop had been in former days a waiter at Putnam Hall, and Dick, Tom, and Sam had befriended him on more than one occasion, for which he was extremely grateful.
"Yo' boys is jes' naturally fust-class heroes," said Aleck one day. "Even if dem cannonballs had cum after yo', I don't t'ink da could have cotched yo', no, sirree!"
"It's a pity you weren't along, Aleck," answered Tom.
"I can't say as to dat, Master Tom. I got 'bout all de hair-raisin' times I wanted when we was in de jungles ob Africy. I'se only sorry ob one t'ing."
"And what is that?"
"Dat you didn't jes' go an' frow dat Dan Baxter overboard from dat ship de fust time yo' sot eyes on him. Suah as yo' am born he'll turn up some day to make moah trouble."
"Well, if he turns up we'll be ready for him," returned Tom grimly.
"How can yo' be ready fo' a pusson wot acts like a snake in de grass? He'll sting befo' yo' hab de chance to spot him."
"We'll have to keep our eyes open, Aleck," answered the youth; and then the subject was changed.
During those days the boys went fishing and bathing in the river, and also visited Humpback Falls, that spot where Sam had had such a thrilling adventure, as related in "The Rover Boys at School."
"What a lot has happened since those days," said Sam, taking a deep breath. "Tom, do you remember how you got into trouble with old Crabtree the very first day we landed at Putnam Hall?"
"I do, Sam; and do you remember our first meeting, on the boat, with Dan Baxter, and how we sent him about his business when he tried to annoy Nellie, and Grace, and Dora?"
"Yes, indeed. Say, I am getting anxious to get back to the Hall. It seems almost like a second home."
"So am I," put in Dick. "Besides, we have lost time enough from our studies. We'll have to pitch in, or we'll drop behind our classes."
"Father says we can return to the Hall next Monday, if we wish."
"I vote we do so."
"So do I."
And thus it was decided that they should return to the academy four days later.
But during those four days something was to happen which would have an important bearing upon their future actions.
A MIDNIGHT VISITOR
The next day, shortly after noon, it began to rain, and the storm increased in violence until the wind blew almost a gale.
The rain kept the boys indoors, at which Tom was inclined to grumble.
"No use of grumbling, Tom," said Dick cheerfully. "Let us improve the time by looking over our school books. That will make it easier to slip into the grind again when we get back to the Hall."
"That is excellent advice, Richard," said Randolph Rover. "Whatever you do, do not neglect your studies."
"By the way, Uncle Randolph, how is scientific farming progressing?" said Tom, referring to something that had been his uncle's hobby for years—a hobby that had cost the gentleman considerable money.
"Well—ah—to tell the truth, Thomas, not as well as I had hoped for."
"Hope you didn't drop a thousand or two this year, uncle?"
"Oh, no—not over fifty dollars."
"Then you got off easy."
"I shall do better next year. The potatoes already show signs of improvement."
"Good! I suppose you'll be growing 'em on top of the ground soon. Then you won't have the bother of digging 'em, you know," went on the fun-loving boy innocently.
"Absurd, Thomas! But I shall have some very large varieties, I feel certain."
"Big as a watermelon?"
"Big as a muskmelon, then?"
"Not exactly, but—"
"About the size of a cocoanut, eh?"
"No! no! They will be as large as—"
"I mean a little cocoanut," pleaded Tom, while Sam felt like laughing outright.
"Well, yes, a little cocoanut. You see—"
"We saw some big potatoes in California, Uncle Randolph."
"Ah! Of what variety?"
"Cornus bustabus, or something like that. Sam, what was the name, do you know?"
"That must be something like it, Tom," grinned the youngest Rover.
"Took two men to lift some of those potatoes," went on Tom calmly.
"Two men? Thomas, surely you are joking."
"No, uncle, I am telling nothing but the strict truth."
"But two men! The potatoes must have been of monstrous size!"
"Oh, not so very big. But they did weigh a good deal, no question of it."
"Think of two men lifting one potato!"
"I didn't say one potato, Uncle Randolph. I said some of those potatoes."
"The men had a barrel full of 'em."
"Thomas!" The uncle shook his finger threateningly. "At your old tricks, I see. I might have known it." And then he stalked off to hide his chagrin.
"Tom, that was rather rough on Uncle Randolph," said Sam, after a laugh.
"So it was, Sam. But I've got to do something. This being boxed up, when one might be fishing or swimming, or playing baseball, is simply dreadful," answered the other.
Just before the evening meal was announced Jack Ness came up from the barn, and sought out Randolph Rover.
"Found a man slinking around the cow-shed a while ago," he said. "He looked like a tramp. I wanted to talk to him, but he scooted in double-quick order."
"Humph! We haven't had any tramps here in a long time," came from Randolph Rover. "Where did he go to?"
"Down toward the berry patch."
"Did you follow him up?"
"I did, sir, but he got away from me."
"You must keep a close watch for those fellows," said Randolph Rover bluntly. "I don't want any of them getting in our barn and burning it down to the ground."
"You are right, Randolph," said Anderson Rover. "Make them keep away from the place by all means, Jack."
"I'll keep my eye peeled for 'em," answered the hired man.
The wind was now blowing a gale, causing the trees near the farmhouse to creak and groan, and banging more than one shutter. But the boys did not mind this, and went to bed promptly at the usual hour.
"A storm like this on land is nothing to one on the sea," was the way Tom expressed himself. "I don't like anything better than to listen to the whistling of the wind when I am snug in bed."
For the time being Sam and Tom were occupying a room in the L of the farmhouse, and Dick had a small bedchamber adjoining. The boys were soon undressed, and, having said their prayers, hopped into bed, and were soon sound asleep.
It was not until half an hour later that the older folks retired. Anderson Rover was the last to leave the sitting room, where he had been busy writing some letters at the desk that stood there.
As he was about to retire he fancied he heard a noise outside of one of the windows. He drew up the curtain and looked through the glass, but could see nothing.
"It must have been the wind," he murmured. "But, somehow, it didn't sound like it."
As he stepped into the dark hallway an uneasy feeling took possession of him—a feeling hard to define, and one for which he could not account.
"I think I had better go around and see that all the doors and windows are properly locked," he told himself. "Brother Randolph may have overlooked one of them."
He walked the length of the hallway, and stepped into the kitchen and over to a side window.
As he had his hand on the window-latch he heard a quick step directly behind him.
He started to turn, but before he could do so he received a blow on the head from a club that staggered him. Then he was jerked backward to the floor.
"Silence!" muttered a voice close to his ear. "Don't you dare to make a sound!"
"What does this mean—" he managed to gasp.
"Silence, I tell you!" was the short answer. "If you say another word, I will hit you again!"
Having no desire to receive a blow that might render him totally unconscious, or, perhaps, take his life, Anderson Rover said no more. He heard a match struck, and then a bit of a tallow candle was lit and placed on the edge of the kitchen table.
By this dim light the father of the Rover boys saw standing over him a tall man, beardless, and with his head closely cropped. One glance into that hardened face sufficed to tell him who the unwelcome visitor was.
"I see you recognize me," was the harsh reply. "Not so loud, please, unless you want that crack I promised you."
"What brings you here, and at such an hour as this?"
"I find it more convenient to travel during the night than in the daytime."
"The police are on your track."
"I know that as well you, Rover."
"What do you want here?"
"What does any man want when he has been stripped of all his belongings? I want money."
"I have none for you."
"Bosh! Do you think I have forgotten how you and your boys swindled me out of my rights to that mine in the far West?"
"We did not swindle you, Baxter. The claim was lawfully mine."
"I can't stop to argue the question, and I don't want you to talk so loud, remember that. No, don't try to get up," went on the midnight visitor, as Anderson Rover attempted to rise. "Stay just where you are."
He was feeling in his pocket, and now he brought forth a strip of cloth, with a knot tied in the middle.
It was a gag, and he started to place it in Anderson Rover's mouth, when the latter leaped up and began to struggle with all the force he could command.
"Stop, I tell you!" cried Arnold Baxter softly.
"Stop!" And then, catching up his club once more, he dealt Anderson Rover another blow, this time directly across the temple. The gentleman wavered for an instant, gave a deep groan, and fell like a log to the floor.
A USELESS PURSUIT
Half an hour later Tom awoke with a start. For the moment he could not tell what had aroused him. Then he remembered hearing the slam of a door or a window sash.
"Must have been the storm," he told himself, and was about to turn over and go to sleep when he heard a gun-shot from the direction of the barn.
"Something is wrong, that's certain!" he cried. "Sam, wake up!"
"What's the row, Tom?" questioned the youngest brother sleepily.
Before Tom could reply they heard Dick getting up, and also their Uncle Randolph and Aunt Martha.
"What did that shot mean?" demanded Randolph Rover, coming toward the boys' rooms. "Did any of you fire it?"
"No, it came from outside," returned Torn. "Hark!"
"Hullo, in the house!" came in the voice of Jack Ness. "Wake up, everybody! Something is wrong!"
After this it did not take long for those upstairs to slip into some clothing, and go below. Randolph Rover ran to the side door, to find it wide open. Dick lit the hall lamp.
"Saw a man running across the garden," said Jack Ness, who had his shot-gun with him. "I yelled to him to stop, and then fired the gun. I think he came from the house."
"How did you happen to be up?" asked Sam.
"One of the horses is sick, and I was attending to him."
By this time some of the others were looking into the various rooms.
"The desk has been broken open!" cried Dick. "And the pantry in the corner, too!"
"Mercy, save us!" shrieked Mrs. Rover, from the kitchen. "Come here at once. Poor Anderson has been killed!"
"Killed!" gasped Tom; and then all ran to the kitchen as quickly as they could.
They found Anderson Rover lying where he had fallen, and still unconscious. There was a lump on his forehead, and a thin stream of blood trickled down one side of his face.
"Thank heaven, he is not dead!" murmured Dick, as he knelt beside his father. "But he has been struck some cruel blows. Somebody fetch water and a bandage."
The water was procured, and also a bandage, and under skillful treatment, Anderson Rover was presently restored to consciousness.
"Where—where is he?" he questioned, when he could speak.
"Do you mean the person who struck you down?" asked Dick.
"I don't know. Got away, I guess."
"The villain! He attacked me most foully!"
"I saw him running across the garden," put in the hired man. "Did he steal anything?"
"To be sure he stole something," said Sam. "He ransacked the whole lower floor, by the looks of things."
"Wonder who it was?" put in Tom.
"It was Arnold Baxter," answered his father.
"Arnold Baxter!" cried the others in chorus.
"Are you certain?" asked Dick.
"Yes. He struck me down, and then lit the bit of tallow candle you see lying there. Then we struggled, and he hit me again, and that is all I know. But I am sure it was Baxter, for I spoke to him. He accused us of having robbed him of that mine out West."
"Was he alone?" asked Randolph Rover.
"I saw no one else."
"We ought to follow him up," declared Tom, now that he realized his father was not so badly hurt as at first feared.
"That's the talk!" ejaculated Dick. "Wait till I get my pistol."
"Boys, do keep out of harm," pleaded Mrs. Rover. "Remember that this Arnold Baxter is a desperate criminal."
"We are not afraid of him," answered Tom.
"We'll show him that he can't come here and attack father," added Sam.
Leaving their father in the care of their Aunt Martha, the three Rover boys armed themselves and sallied forth, accompanied by their uncle and Alexander Pop, the latter carrying a horse-pistol of the old-fashioned variety.
"Dat dar Baxter am a rascal of de fust water," was Aleck's comment. "He deserbes to be shot full ob holes, an' I am de boy to do dat same, if only I gets de chance."
Jack Ness was closely questioned, and he described the spot where he had last seen the unwelcome midnight visitor.
"He had a bag of something over his shoulder," he declared.
"Most likely the stuff taken from the house," declared Dick.
The party crossed the garden patch and then took to the path which ran down toward the river.
Here all was intensely dark, although it had stopped raining, and the wind was trying its best to scatter the heavy clouds that obscured the stars.
"Not a thing to see," observed Randolph Rover. "We may as well go back."
"Let us scatter and make a search," came from Dick, and his idea was carried out. But though they tramped the locality for a good half hour the pursuit of Arnold Baxter proved useless.
"He is probably making good use of his time," was Tom's comment. "He knew we would be after him hot-footed, just as soon as we heard of his being here."
"I'm going to drive over to the railroad station," said Dick. "He may hang around and get aboard of the first morning train."
"Take me along with you," said Sam, and Dick agreed. They got Aleck to drive them and took the fastest team the stable afforded.
But at the depot all was dark and deserted, and if Arnold Baxter was anywhere near he took good care not to show himself, nor was anything seen of him in Oak Run later on.
"He has left the neighborhood by some other way," said Randolph Rover, and his surmise was correct.
When the boys reached home again they found their parent sitting up in an easy-chair, with his forehead still bandaged. The blows he had received were painful, but by no means serious, and when the doctor was called in he said the patient would speedily recover.
"But you had a narrow escape," said the doctor. "Had you been struck a little harder your skull might have been broken."
"Well, I don't think Arnold Baxter would have cared if he had broken my skull," answered Anderson Rover. "He is a thoroughly bad man."
It was broad daylight before a complete examination of the house was made, and then it was learned that Baxter had run away with some silver knives, forks, and spoons, some gold napkin rings, a silver and gold water pitcher, and half a dozen similar articles. From the desk he had taken a pocketbook containing three hundred dollars in cash, and from Anderson Rover's person his watch and chain, and a diamond stud. He had also tried to rob the unconscious man of his diamond ring, but as the ring would not come off had pried out the stone and taken that.
"He is at his old tricks again," said Dick. "Evidently his term in prison has done him no good."
"Guess it has made him worse," added Sam. "Oh, how I would like to lay my hands on him!" And Tom said the same.
The authorities were notified, including the sheriff of the county, and later still Anderson Rover hired a New York detective to take up the case. But it was of no avail. Arnold Baxter did not show himself, and not a trace of him was to be found anywhere.
"I shouldn't be surprised if he disguised himself as soon as he got away from here," remarked Tom. "He could easily put on a false mustache, and a wig would fit capitally over that almost bald pate of his."
"But where would he get the mustache and wig, Tom?" asked Dick.
"He may have bought them before he came here. I have heard that some robbers prepare themselves for all sorts of emergencies. Only last week I was reading about a fellow who went to a ball, and between the dances went out and robbed a gentleman on the street of his watch. When he was arrested, he tried to prove that he hadn't been outside of the ballroom all night, and it was by the merest accident that the authorities found out his story wasn't true."
"Tom is right; some criminals are very shrewd," said his father. "And I fancy Arnold Baxter is about as slick as any of them."
"Well, I hope we run across him some day," said Dick.
With so much to occupy their minds the days flew by swiftly, and almost before they knew it Monday was at hand, and the three boys set out to return once more to Putnam Hall.
ON THE WAY TO PUTNAM HALL
The idea of going back to dear old Putnam Hall, with all of its pleasant memories, filled Tom with good humor, and he was fairly bubbling over on the train which carried the boys to Ithaca, where they were to take a steamer up Cayuga Lake to Cedarville, the nearest village to the academy.
"Makes me feel as I did the first time we went to the Hall," he declared. "Don't you remember that trip, and the fun we had with Peleg Snuggers, the wagon man?" and then he burst out singing:
"Putnam Hall's the place for me! Tra-la-lee! Tra-la-lee! Putnam Hall's the place for me! The best old school I know!"
"You'll have the conductor putting you off, the next thing you know," remarked Sam.
"Putting me off? Never!" cried Tom. "He knows that academy boys own privileges that other passengers do not possess. He can't cork me up. I defy him!"
"Wonder if we'll meet any of the other fellows," mused Dick.
He had hardly spoken when the train stopped at a junction, and two other lads got aboard and came down the aisle. One was tall and handsome, and the other stout and with a round, chubby face beaming with good humor.
"Larry Colby!" cried Dick, leaping up and grasping the tall boy's hand. "I'm awfully glad to meet you. Returning to the Hall, of course?"
"Yes," was the answer from the Rover boys' old chum. "Isn't it odd that I should be thinking of you just as we meet?" and he shook hands.
"Hullo, if it ton't peen dem Rofer brudders alretty," cried the round-faced lad, with a twinkle in his eyes. "I dink me you vos left der Hall for goot, yah!"
"Hans Mueller!" came from Sam. "Then you are going back, too? I thought you had scarlet fever?"
"Not much I ain't," said the German youth. "I vos eat too much of dem puckveat cakes alretty, und dot makes mine face preak owid, put I ain't got no scarlet fefers, nein! How you vos alretty annahow?" And he shook hands as Larry had done.
"I can hardly believe your story about being cast away on an island in the Pacific," said Larry.
"Your letter read like a fairy tale. If you tell the fellows they'll think you are drawing the long bow."
"Yes, Larry vos told me somedings apoud dot," broke in Hans. "You vos regular Robinson Roosters," he said.
"Great Scott! Robinson Roosters!" yelled Tom, bursting out into a fit of laughter. "Boys, we are discovered at last."
"Well, if you are, you needn't crow over it," came from Larry.
"Roosters and crowing! Oh, Larry, I didn't think you'd begin to pun so early," put in Sam.
"He just hatched it out," said Tom.
"I suppose you think that sounds chic," joined in Dick. And then there was a laugh in which all but Hans Mueller joined. The German youth looked blankly from one to another of his companions.
"Vos dot Robinson Rooster a choke?" he demanded. "Of it vos let me in by it kvick."
"Oh, you couldn't climb in on a gangway and a step-ladder combined," answered Tom.
"Put vos you Robinson Roosters or vos you not Robinson Roosters?"
"Oh, we were Robinson Roosters right enough," answered Tom, when he could control his laughter.
"Den vot you vos giggling apout, hey?"
"Nothing, only it was so funny to be a Robinson Rooster and live on a big island with nobody but lions, buffaloes, snakes, and 'cannonballs,'" added the fun-loving youth.
"Cannonballs?" queried Larry
"That's what Aleck Pop calls 'em, Larry. He said it was a wonder the 'cannonballs' hadn't eaten us up," and then came another laugh, during which Hans was as mute as ever.
"Vos dere lions, snakes, and buffaloes py dot island on?" went on the German youth.
"To be sure there were, Hans. And likewise elephants, panthers, cats, dogs, hippopotamuses, mice, elk, rats, and winged jibberjackers."
"Mine gracious, Tom! Und you vosn't eaten up alretty kvick!"
"None of the animals troubled us, but the three-horned jibberjacker. He came into our house one night, crawled upstairs, and began to swallow Sam alive."
"You ton't tole me!"
"Yes, I do tell you. He had Sam in his mouth, and had swallowed him as far as his waist, when Sam began to kick on the floor with his feet."
"I see, I see—" Hans' eyes were as big as saucers.
"That woke Dick and me up, and we ran and got Sam by the legs, and pulled for all we were worth."
"You ton't tole me, Tom! Und vot did dot vot-you-call-him do den?"
"He planked his ten feet on the floor, and—"
"His ten feet did you said, Tom?" interrupted Hans doubtfully.
"To be sure. Didn't you know that a real jibberjacker has ten feet?"
"Maype I did—I ton't oxactly remember about him."
"I am surprised at your ignorance of natural history, Hans. Yes, the real jibberjacker has ten feet, although a branch of the family, known as the jibbertwister, has only eight feet."
"Well, go on. He planked his ten feets by der floor town—"
"He held on and so did we, and it was a regular tug of war between us. Sam was swallowed as far as the waist, and couldn't do anything to help himself. You just ask Sam if that isn't so."
"When Tom tells the truth it's a fact every time, Hans," answered Sam, who felt as if he would choke from suppressed laughter.
"So the blamed old jibberjacker held on and held on," continued Tom. "Then we gave a tug and he gave a tug, and all of a sudden Sam came out. The shock was so great it threw Dick and me clear across the room, and through a doorway into the next room. But the poor jibberjacker fared still worse."
"How vos dot?"
"He flew up against the outside wall, and his weight was so great he went right through the side of the building, and landed on some rocks below. All of his ten legs were broken, and of course he couldn't get away, so we went down, got a long cross-cut saw, and sawed off his head. Now, if you don't believe that story, you come to our house sometime and I'll show you the cross-cut saw."
Hans stared in breathless amazement. His solemn face was too much for the others, and a peal of laughter rang through the car. At this Hans grew suspicious, and at length a sickly grin overspread his features.
"I know you, Tom Rofer," he said. "Dot vos von of dem fish stories, ain't it alretty?"
"No, it's a jibberjacker story, Hans."
"It vos a jibjacker fish story den annahow. You can't fool me some more. I vos too schmart for dot alretty. Ven I go py der academy I git mine ear teeths cut, hey?"
"All right, Hans, if you have cut your ear-teeth we'll call it off," said Dick, and here the conversation took a more rational turn.
"So far as I know only a few of the fellows have left the Hall on account of the scarlet fever scare," said Larry. "And they were boys that nobody seemed to care much about."
"I was told that the fellows expected to elect an entirely new lot of officers," said Sam. "We have been away so much I've rather lost track of our military affairs."
"Captain Putnam said we would have to ballot for officers as soon as all the boys were back," said Larry. "Some of the old officers have graduated, you must remember."
"I've not forgotten that I was once second lieutenant of Company A," put in Dick. "Reckon I'll have to try my luck once more—if the boys want me to run."
"Well, I want you to run for one, Dick," said Larry. "Hans, you'll vote for Dick, won't you?"
"Yah, und I vonts him to vote for me, too," said the German youth.
"Why, Hans, do you want to be water-carrier this year?" asked Sam.
"Nein, I vonts to be high brivate py der rear rank alretty. Von of der fellows tole me dot would chust suit me."
"All right, Hans, we'll all elect you high private of the rear rank," answered Larry with a laugh.
FUN ON THE BOAT
At the city of Ithaca the boys stopped long enough to get dinner, and were here joined by Fred Garrison and George Granbury, two more of their old school chums.
"Hurrah for the gathering of the clans!" cried George Granbury, with a beaming face. "This is like a touch of old times. How are all of you, anyway?"
"First rate, with the exception of Hans here," said Tom. "He's got the buckwheat measles."
"Yah, und Tom he's got der jipperjocker fefer," declared the German boy, bound to do his best to get square.
"Good for Hans!" cried Sam. "Tom, after this, you have got to take care, or Hansie will roast you."
"Oh, Hans is just all right," observed Tom, and when the German boy's face was turned away he took the latter's coffee and put into it about a teaspoonful of salt. "Tell you what, fellows, this coffee just touches the spot," he added loudly.
"Right you are," said Fred Garrison. "Never tasted better in my life."
So far Hans had not touched the coffee, but hearing the words he took up his cup and downed a deep draught. It may be added that he was a German who loved coffee a good deal, and frequently drank several cups at a meal.
For an instant the German youth said nothing. Then his face turned pale.
"Dat coffee was no goot!" he gasped.
"Why, Hans," cried several.
"See how pale he is getting," came from George Granbury. "Hans, are you going to die?
"Don't say the coffee is going to poison him," burst out Tom. "I was reading about poison getting into the coffee at this hotel last week. But, of course—"
"Did da got poison py der coffee in here?" demanded Hans.
"To be sure, put—"
"How vos dot poisoned coffee taste annahow?"
"I'm sure I don't know."
"I think it was a little salty," came from Fred Garrison.
"Mine cracious me! Of dot's so I vos poisoned, sure. Run for der toctor kvick!"
"Here, eat some jam, Hans. That will counteract the effect of the poison," said Tom, and handed over a small dish with jam in it, over which he had just sprinkled the pepper with an exceedingly liberal hand.
Anxious to do anything that would stop him from being poisoned, the German boy clutched the dish and took a large spoonful of the jam. But as he gulped it, he gave a gasp, and the tears started down his cheeks.
"Du meine zeit!" he bawled. "I vos purnt up alife by mine mouth alretty! Dake it avay kvick!" And jumping up from the table he began to dance around madly.
"It's a serious case," said Tom. "If he's burning up we had better call out the fire department."
This remark made Hans grow suddenly suspicious. He caught up Tom's cup of coffee and tasted it.
"I know you, Tom Rofer," he said. "Dot vos more dricks of yours, ain't it?" He held the cup of coffee on high. "How you like dot, hey!" And splash! down came the coffee on Tom's head, and trickled down his back.
"Hi, you! let up!" roared Tom, and knocked the half-empty cup to one side. "Let up, I say, or I'll have the landlord put you out."
"I told you to take care, Tom," came from Sam, when the other boys had restored quietness. "When Hans gets his dander up he is dangerous."
"Dot is drue," came from Hans. "I vonts no more of them chokes alretty." And then, as the waiter came hurrying up, he forced Tom to order him another cup of coffee, and took good care to keep it out of the fun-loving youth's reach. Poor Tom sopped away the spilt coffee as best he could, but it must be admitted that for the balance of that day his backbone felt none too comfortable. Yet he bore no grudge towards Hans, for he knew that he had deserved the punishment meted out to him.
Down at the dock the boys found the Golden Star, a trim little side-wheeler, ready to take them up the lake. There were about half a hundred passengers, bound for various landings, and among them six Putnam Hall scholars, including our old-time acquaintances, Jack Powell, generally called Songbird Powell, because of his habit of composing poems and songs, and that aristocratic young gentleman who rejoiced in the name of William Philander Tubbs.
"The family is surely getting together," remarked Dick, after another handshaking had been indulged in. "Songbird, do you warble as much as ever?"
"You can wager a sweet potato he does," said George Granbury. "Nothing short of a cyclone will ever stop Songbird's warbling, eh, Songbird?"
For reply the youth addressed turned a pair of dreamy eyes on the speaker, and then said slowly:
"With hopeful hearts And brightest faces, To school we go To fill our places. We'll study hard, And do our best—"
"If Songbird Powell Will give us a rest!"
finished Tom. "Oh, Songbird, have mercy on us, and don't begin so early."
"You're a good one to preach, Tom," came from Larry. "Started to joke the moment we met him, didn't he, Hans?"
"Did I?" questioned Tom innocently. "I had forgotten." He turned to Tubbs. "And how is our friend Philliam Willander to-day?"
"William Philander, if you please, Rover," was the dignified reply. "I must insist on your getting my name correctly this term."
"All right, Tubby, old boy, it shall be just as you say. I wouldn't hurt your feelings for a big red apple."
"Then, please don't call me Tubby. You know my real name is William Philander Tubbs."
"Don't you want Esquire tacked to it, too?"
"That is hardly necessary as yet. But you may write it after my name, if you have occasion to send me any written communication," continued Tubbs, with greater dignity than ever.
"Phew! but Tubby is worse than he was before," whispered Sam to Dick. "They must have been tuning him up at home."
"Tubbs is going to try for a captaincy this term," said Powell, who had not minded Tom's interruption of his versification in the least.
"Hurrah for Captain Tubbs!" cried Tom. "Captain, allow me to salute you," and he made a sweeping bow to the deck. Tom spoke so earnestly that Tubbs was pleased, and instantly forgot their little differences.
"I shall be pleased to become a captain," said the young gentleman. "I feel I can fill the position with credit to myself and dignity to the academy. There is military blood in my veins, for a second cousin on my mother's side was a lieutenant in the Civil War. Besides that, I have studied military movements at West Point, where I went to see the cadets drill."
"Do you know how to swab out a cannon?" asked Sam, with a wink at the others.
"I shouldn't—ah—care for such dirty work," replied William Philander Tubbs with dignity.
"Or police a camp?"
"Surely you don't think I was ever a policeman?"
"Don't you remember what policing a camp is?" asked George Granbury.
"Upon my honor, I do not."
"It means to clean up the streets, burn up the rubbish, and all that."
"Thank you, but I do not—ah—care to become a street cleaner," returned Tubbs, with great dignity.
"Sorry, but I'm afraid you are not cut out for a corporalship," came from Tom.
"I didn't say a corporalship, Tom, I said—"
"Excuse me, I meant a sergeantship."
"No, I said—"
"Make it a second lieutenantship, then, Tubby. Anything to be friends, you know."
"Oh, bother, if you want to be a major-general, go ahead. Nobody will stop you."
"Hurrah, Major-General Tubbs!" cried Sam. "That sounds well, doesn't it, fellows?"
"We'll have to present him with a tin-plated sword," came from one of the crowd.
"And a pair of yellow worsted epaulets," added another.
And then Songbird Powell began to sing softly:
"Rub a dub, dub! Here comes General Tubb! He'll make you bow to the ground! You must stop ev'ry lark, And toe the chalk mark, As soon as he comes around."
"There you are, Tubby; think of Songbird composing a poem in your honor," cried Tom. "You ought to present him with a leather medal."
"I—I don't like such—er—such doggerel," cried William Philander Tubbs angrily. "I think—"
"Well, I never!" ejaculated Tom, in pretended astonishment. "And Songbird worked so hard over it, too! Thus doth genius receive its reward. Songbird, if I were you, I'd give up writing poems, and go turn railroad president, track-walker, or something like that."
"You boys are simply horrid, don't you know!" cried Tubbs, and, pushing his way through the crowd, he walked to the other end of the boat.
"Being away from school hasn't done Tubby any good," was Fred Garrison's remark. "He thinks he's the High Tum-Tum, and no mistake."
"Don't fret, he'll be taken down before the term is over," came from Larry Colby.
"That's true," added another pupil, who had been taken down himself two terms before. "And when he hits his level he'll be just as good as any of us."
The time on the steamer passed quickly enough, and after several stops along the lake, the Golden Star turned in at the Cedarville landing, and all of the Putnam Hall cadets went ashore.
SOMETHING ABOUT THE MILITARY ACADEMY
As my old readers know, Cedarville was only a small country village, so the arrival and departure of the steamer was a matter of importance to the inhabitants.
The boys, consequently, found the little dock crowded with sightseers and more than one face looked familiar to them.
"There are the Rover boys," said one man, quite loudly. "Everybody knows 'em."
"We are growing notorious, it would seem," whispered Dick to Sam.
Back of the dock stood the big carryall attached to Putnam Hall, with the old Hall driver, Peleg Snuggers, on the box.
"Hullo, Peleg, old friend!" shouted Tom, waving his hand at the man. "How are we to-morrow, as the clown in the circus puts it?"
"I'm all right, Master Tom—an' will be so long as you let me alone," was the deliberate answer from the driver.
"He remembers you all right enough, Tom," came from George Granbury.
"Now, Peleg, don't throw cold water on my enthusiasm," said Tom reproachfully.
"I ain't throwin' water on nobody, Master Tom; I'm only giving fair warning that I want to be let alone," answered the driver doggedly. "No more monkey shines around me, remember that."
"All right, Peleg, I'll remember. And how is Mrs. Green, our worthy housekeeper?"
"Nor measles, or chicken-pox?"
"Not a bit of 'em."
"Or mumps? Tell me, now, she really hasn't got the mumps, has she?"
"See here, Master Tom, didn't I jest tell you—"
"No, you didn't tell me, and that's why I'm so anxious to know. If she's got the mumps, and the chilblains, and the ingrowing warts—"
"Oh, crickey! I knew it!" groaned Peleg Snuggers. "I says to myself as I was a-drivin' over, 'if thet Tom Rover comes back, I might as well throw up my job, for he won't give nobody a rest!' If you would only—"
"All right, Peleg, I see you are really and truly bound to go back on me. You hate me!" Tom drew his handkerchief from his pocket. "It is awful, after all I have tried to do for you in the past. I've got to— to—cry! Boo—hoo!" And the boy began to wipe his eyes.
"Look a-here, Master Tom, it ain't nothin' to cry about," said Peleg half suspiciously. "I only give you warnin'—"
"You are so—so hard-hearted, Peleg. Boohoo! I want to go back home!" And Tom began to sob.
This was too much for the driver, and his face fell.
"Don't you mind me, Master Tom," he said softly. "I didn't mean nothin', indeed, I didn't. You're all right. I like you better'n any of 'em."
"Oh, dear!" burst out Larry Colby. "Just to hear that!"
"Peleg, have you gone back on us?" demanded George Granbury.
"He ought to have a ducking for that," put in another.
"Let's dump him into the lake!"
"Come on, a cold bath will do him good!"
"No! no! Oh, crickey!" groaned the driver of the carryall. "This is a mess! I—I didn't mean nuthin', gents, indeed, I didn't—"
"He's mean enough for anything, that's what he means," came from a voice in the rear. "Pile in, before he runs away, and leaves us to walk to the Hall!" And into the carryall the boys tumbled, one over another. Dick got a seat beside the driver, and away they went at a spanking gait, through Cedarville, and then along the winding road leading to the academy. Two or three of the cadets had brought tin horns with them, and they made the welkin ring as the turnout dashed on its way.
"A ginger-snap prize to the first fellow who spots the academy," cried Sam, as they made the last turn in the highway.
"I see the Hall!" shouted half a dozen voices in chorus. And in a few seconds they came out into full view of the broad brick and stone building, with its well-kept parade ground, and its trees and shrubbery. The parade ground came down to the edge of the wagon road, and off to the other side the land sloped gradually down to the lake, glistening like a sheet of gold in the rays of the setting sun.
The boys set up a loud shout and a wild blowing of horns, and in a moment a score of cadets came running forward to greet them, followed by Captain Victor Putnam, the master of the academy, and George Strong, his head assistant.
"I am glad to see you, young gentlemen," said Captain Putnam, as he shook one and another by the hand. "You look as if your vacation had done you good."
"It's done me a pile of good," said Sam. "But I don't know as I want another like it."
"You Rover boys have certainly had some remarkable experiences," continued the captain. "I congratulate you on escaping so many grave perils. Sometime you must give me all the particulars. But now it is time to prepare for supper. I dare say the trip on the lake has made you hungry."
"Dot is so," came from Hans Mueller. "I vos so hungry like four lions alretty."
"I have made some slight changes in your sleeping accommodations," went on Captain Putnam. "Mr. Strong will show you to your rooms." Then the boys marched into the academy, led by the head assistant.
The majority of the cadets had their dormitories on the second floor of the building. Each room held from four to eight students, and was both bright and clean. The rules of Putnam Hall were similar to those in force at West Point, and every pupil was expected to keep his clothing, his books, and his other possessions in perfect order. Each had a cot, a chair, and a clothes closet to himself, extra closets having been introduced in the rooms for that purpose, and each was allowed the use of his trunk in addition. Each cadet had to take his turn at keeping the room in order, although the dormitories were given a regular sweeping and cleaning once a week by the servants.
As before, the Rover boys were placed in one room, and into this came also Larry Colby, Fred Garrison, and George Granbury. The apartment was at an angle of the building, and next to it was another occupied by Songbird Powell, Tubbs, Hans, and three other cadets. Between the two rooms was a door, but this was closed, and was supposed to be kept locked.
"This makes one feel like home," said Sam, as he began to wash up for supper.
"Right you are," answered Larry Colby. "No matter where I go during a vacation, I am always glad to get back to Putnam Hall."
A little later came the evening parade of the cadets, who marched around the parade ground several times before entering the messroom, as the dining hall was termed. The late arrivals did not join in the parade, but they watched it with interest, and then hurried to their accustomed places at the long tables, where a plain, but substantial supper awaited them.
Only a little talking was allowed throughout the meal, but at its conclusion the cadets were given an hour off, in which time they could do very much as they pleased. In that hour some played games, others took walks, and not a few drifted over to the gymnasium, which stood at one corner of the grounds.
"I'm going over to the gym," said Dick to Larry Colby. "Want to go along?"
"Certainly," was the prompt answer. "I am going in for gymnastics this term, Dick."
"Want to win some of the prizes when we have our contests?"
"If I can."
"I don't see why you shouldn't, Larry. You seem to be in first-class shape physically."
"I am going to try hard, Dick."
They were soon in the building, and Larry slipped off to the dressing room to don his gymnasium suit.
While Dick was waiting for his friend to reappear he looked on at the efforts of the other cadets present. Some were on the rings and bars, others were using the parallel bars and horses, and still others were at the pulling and lifting machines. In one corner two of the boys were boxing, while another was hammering a punching bag as hard as he could.
The boy at the punching bag was a tall, big-boned youth, named Lew Flapp. He was a newcomer at Putnam Hall, but though he had been there but three weeks he acted as if half of the place already belonged to him. At the start, he had made a few friends, principally on account of the money he had to spend, but these were gradually deserting him.
Dick was interested in the work on the punching bag, and he walked closer to note what Lew Flapp was doing. Clap! clap! clap! went Flapp's fists on the bag, which bounced back and forth with great rapidity.
"Well, how do you like that?" asked Lew Flapp, as he paused in his exercise and stared at Dick.
"It's all right," answered Dick briefly.
"I'll bet there ain't another cadet here can do as well," went on Lew Flapp boastfully.
"Oh, that's saying a good deal," said Dick. "Some of the boys can hit the bag pretty well."
"Humph!" Lew Flapp stared at the eldest Rover harder than ever. "Perhaps you think you can do it," he sneered.
"I didn't say that."
"But your words implied it."
"Dick Rover can do every bit as well," said a cadet who overheard the talk.
"I want to see him do it."
"I didn't come here to punch the bag," said Dick as calmly as ever. "I just thought I'd take a look around."
"Humph! Afraid to try, eh?"
"I dare you to show what you can do," sneered Lew Flapp.
"Very well, I'll show you," came from Dick, and he began to take off his coat, collar, and tie.
A SCENE IN THE GYMNASIUM
Lew Flapp spoke in such a loud, overbearing voice that a crowd began to collect in the corner where the punching apparatus was located.
"What's up?" asked more than one cadet.
"Lew Flapp and Dick Rover are going to try to beat each other at punching the bag," was the report.
"Rover will have to do his best then. Flapp is a prime one at bag punching. It's about the only thing he can do real well."
"This isn't a fair contest," put in another student. "Flapp took lessons from a man who used to do bag-punching on the vaudeville stage."
"If that's so I wouldn't try to beat him, if I was Dick Rover."
Dick heard some of this talk but said nothing. He was soon ready for the trial, and stepping up to the punching bag he began to undo the top strap.
"That bag is all right," blustered Lew Flapp.
"Yes—for you," answered Dick. "But you must remember, I am not quite so tall. I must have it an inch lower."
"It seems to me you are mighty particular."
"I have a right to be. When you do your punching you can raise the bag as high as you please."
"That's the talk," came from several standing near.
By this time Larry was on the floor again, and he came up to learn what Dick was doing.
"Dick, they tell me he is the best bag-puncher here," whispered Larry.
"I can't help it."
"He will crow over you if you don't do as well as he can do."
Dick began his punching exercise slowly, for he had not tried it for some time, and was afraid he was a little stiff. But, it may be added here, there was a punching bag in the barn at the Rovers' farm, so the youth knew exactly what he was doing.
"Oh, anybody can do that," remarked Lew Flapp presently. "That's as simple as A. B. C."
"Well, can you do this?" returned Dick, and branched off into something a trifle more difficult.
"To be sure I can."
"Then what about this?" and now Dick settled down to some real work. Clap! clap! went the bag, this way and that.
"Yes, I can do that, too," answered the tall boy.
"I'd like to see you."
Lew Flapp was only too anxious to show his skill, and having adjusted the bag to suit him, he went at the work once again, doing just what Dick had done.
"Now do this!" he cried, and gave a performance of his most difficult exercise. It was certainly well executed and at the conclusion many of the cadets began to applaud.
"Dick Rover will have to hump himself to do that," remarked one.
"I don't believe he can touch it," said another.
With care Dick fixed the bag and went at the exercise. It was something he had not practiced for a considerable time, yet he did not miss a stroke, and he wound up with a speed fully equal to that exhibited by his opponent.
"Good for you, Dick!" cried Larry heartily.
"They'll have to call it a tie," suggested another cadet.
"I'm not done yet," said Dick. "Can you do this?" he asked of Lew Flapp, and then commenced an exercise he had learned some time before, from a boxing instructor. It was full of intricate movements, all executed so rapidly that the eye could scarcely follow them. The cadets looked on in wonder, Lew Flapp staring angrily at the performance.
"I didn't know Dick Rover could do such punching!"
"Say, Flapp, you'll have to get up early in the morning to beat that."
"Oh, you shut your mouth!" retorted Lew Flapp angrily. "I can do ten times better, if I want to."
"Let us see you."
"I—I—I'm in no condition to go ahead just now. Remember, I was punching the bag for an hour before Rover got here."
"How can that be, when all of us just came from the mess hall?" questioned Larry.
"He's trying to sneak out of the trial," said a voice in the rear of the crowd.
"I'll sneak you!" roared Lew Flap, in a rage. "I want you all to know that I ain't afraid of Dick Rover, or anybody else."
"Do you want the trial to continue?" questioned Dick, in an even tone.
"Didn't I just say I was tired out? But I'll show you what I can do some time," blustered Lew Flapp.
"Oh; all right."
"You needn't think you're king-pin of the punching bag," went on the tall boy, who had lost control of his temper because of the exhibition.
"Thank you, Flapp, what I think and what I don't think isn't any of your business."
"Pooh! I've heard about you and your two brothers, Dick Rover. They tell all sorts of stories about you, but I don't believe the half of them."
"Come, come, what's the use of quarreling," put in Larry pleasantly.
"I'm sure I don't want to quarrel," answered Dick. "He challenged me to punch the bag against him, and I did so, that's all."
"You're dead stuck on yourself, Rover," went on Lew Flapp slangily. "You think you're the only toad in the puddle. But you ain't, let me tell you that. As soon as I heard about you, I made up my mind I wouldn't knuckle under to you."
"This isn't right!" cried Larry. "Dick is my friend, and let me say he never asks any cadet to knuckle under to him, unless the cadet did something that wasn't on the level."
"That's true! That's true!" came from half a dozen of the students. "Dick Rover is all right!"
"So you're all turning against me, eh?" burst out Lew Flapp fiercely, his face growing dark with rage. "I was warned of this before I came here."
"Who warned you?" asked Tom, who had just put in an appearance.
"A gentleman who used to teach here."
"What was his name?" questioned several.
"Mr. Jasper Grinder. He said he had left because the Rover boys tried to run everything."
"That old fraud!" cried Larry.
"He left because he was kicked out," came from another.
"And he is a criminal," put in Dick. "I can prove it, if he wants me to do it."
"Oh, you can talk all you please," growled Lew Flapp. "I know what I know, and don't you forget it. And what is more, Dick Rover, don't you expect me to knuckle under to you. If you try that game, you'll get what you least expect," and so speaking Lew Flapp forced his way out of the crowd and left the gymnasium.
"Well, of all the idiots I ever met!" came from Tom. "He believes in meeting trouble three-quarters of the way, doesn't he?"
"I think Jasper Grinder must have stuffed him full of stories about us," said Dick. "That's the way that rascally teacher expects to get square on Captain Putnam—by ruining the reputation of the school."
"Oh, it's mostly Lew Flapp's fault," put in a pupil who had been at the Hall for some time. "The very first day Flapp arrived he had a row with little Tommy Browne, and knocked Tommy down, and a few days after that he had a fight with Jack Raymond, and was pounding Jack good when Mr. Strong came up and made them run off in different directions. He's a good deal of the same kind of a bully that Dan Baxter was."
"If that's the case, he had better keep his distance," said Dick determinedly. "I don't want any quarrels, but I despise a bully thoroughly."
"So do I."
"I wonder if this Flipflap ever heard of Dan Baxter," put in Tom. "If he has he ought to profit by the example."
"Hullo, Tom's got a new name for Flapp," said one of the boys.
"Isn't his name Flipflap?" questioned Tom innocently. "Or is it Flapjack?"
"It will be Flopdown, if he ever gets into a fight with Dick," said Larry, and then followed a general laugh.
"I really don't want any more fights," said Dick, when he could be heard. "I came back to Putnam Hall to dig in and learn something. I've had enough adventures to last a lifetime. If the others will only leave me alone I'll leave them alone."
"But if they won't leave you alone, Dick?" asked George Granbury.
"Then they had better look out for themselves, that's all," was the reply of the eldest Rover.
SETTLING DOWN TO STUDY
Dick meant what he said concerning coming back to Putnam Hall for the sake of learning something. He felt that he had lost too much time from school already to lose more, and he pitched in with a vigor that was indeed surprising.
"I don't see how you can do it," said Tom one day. "I can't, to save my life." Yet Tom was by no means a poor scholar, and if he did not stand at the head of his class he was not far from it. Sam was also doing his best, and all of this gratified Captain Putnam exceedingly.
"It shows they can work as well as play," was what the captain told himself, and he wrote Anderson Rover a long letter, in which he praised the boys for their efforts.
The boys fell into their places at the academy with a naturalness that was surprising when one considered the adventures that had but lately befallen them. Over and over again did they have to tell of their doings while on the Pacific, and as Crusoes, and some of the cadets never tired of listening to the stories. A few, including Lew Flapp, did not believe them true, but the majority did, and that was enough for the Rovers.
Dick was now advancing in years, and he knew that before long he would either have to go into business or to college, which he had not yet fully decided. To tell the truth, the thought of separating from his brothers was exceedingly distasteful to him.
"If I went to college I'd like you fellows to be with me," he said one day to Tom and Sam. "There would be no fun in going alone."
"That's true," answered Tom. "But if you wanted us to go together you'd have to wait for Sam and me to catch up to you."
"Well, I might spend a year or so in traveling while I waited, or Sam and you might hurry up a little," answered the eldest Rover.
During those days but little out of the ordinary happened. Dick took especial care to avoid Lew Flapp, and the tall youth did not attempt to bother him. It was soon learned that Flapp was more of a braggart than anything else, and then even some of the smaller boys grew less afraid of him.
As already told, it had been decided by Captain Putnam to have the cadets elect a new set of officers for the term, and these officers were to be chosen in a somewhat different manner than heretofore.
"In the past," said the captain, when addressing the students on the subject, "you have been permitted to elect whoever you pleased to any office, from major down. This has occasionally resulted in someone being chosen who, while he might be a good scholar and a good fellow generally, was not exactly fitted to a military position. On that account I have made a change. Next Wednesday and Thursday I shall hold a general examination in military matters only, and the twenty pupils standing highest shall be the ones eligible for the positions of major, captain, and first and second lieutenants. On these twenty names you shall vote as heretofore. As we now have three companies here we shall want a major, three captains, and six lieutenants, making a total of ten officers. After that each company shall choose its own corporals and sergeants. The company marching best on parade the following Saturday shall have the honor of carrying the flag until after the annual encampment, which this year will begin a month from to-day."
At the mention of the annual encampment the cadets set up a cheer. The outing was looked forward to with great interest.
"Where are we going this year?" asked George Granbury.
"It's a secret, I believe," answered Larry Colby. "But I am pretty certain that we are going further away than usual."
"I hope we go into the mountains."
"Or along some other lake, where the fishing is fine," put in Tom.
"Yes, that would suit me, too."
The announcement concerning the examination in military matters also caused much talk, and many of the cadets began at once to study military tactics harder than ever, while drills became a pleasure instead of a hardship.
"I'm going to win some kind of a place," said Larry earnestly. "Even a lieutenantship would be better than nothing."
"I am sure I am going to win," put in William Philander Tubbs. "I am perfect in every kind of a drill."
"Good for Buttertub, the perfect man!" sang out Tom. "Billy, you ought to have your picture done in oil, to hang alongside of Washington's, in the library."
"Don't you dare to call me Buttertub, or Billy either, you rude thing!" snorted Tubbs, and walked away in outraged dignity.
"Dot examinations vos dickle me alretty," said Hans. "Vot I don't know apoud dem military tictacs you don't know, ain't it. I vill pe by der top of der class so kvick as neffer vos, you pet yourself!" And he nodded his head as if he meant every word of it.
Dick Rover said but little on the subject, but he meant to win if he possibly could, and so did Tom. Sam felt he was as yet too young to become anything but a sergeant, so he did not enter the competition with much vigor.
Lew Flapp was not a particularly bright pupil, but there was one thing, outside of bag punching, that he could do well, and that was to drill. He took to military tactics naturally, and knew nearly every rule that the book of instructions contained.
"It's going to be an easy matter to get into the chosen twenty," the tall boy told himself. "But after that, will the cadets elect me to one of those positions?" He wanted to be major of the battalion, but doubted if he could muster up sufficient friends to elect him.
The examination in military matters came off on the afternoon of the following Wednesday and on Thursday morning. Captain Putnam was very thorough in the work, and made the pupils do certain things over and over again, and write the answers to long lists of questions.
"It has given me great pleasure to conduct this examination," he said, on the day following. "It shows that the average in military knowledge is much higher than it was last term. The following are the pupils who have passed, given in the order of merit." And then he read the list of names. Lew Flapp came first, Dick Rover next, Larry Colby third, George Granbury fourth, and the others, including Tom and Fred Garrison, followed. Neither William Philander Tubbs nor Hans Mueller were mentioned.
"I dink me dere vos a mistake py dot," said the German boy. "Or else I vos know so much der captain didn't vont nobody to know apout it," and this raised a laugh.
"It's an outrage!" declared Tubbs. "An outrage! I shall request my parents to withdraw me from the institution." And he wrote a letter home that very night. But his parents refused to grant his request. Probably they knew of his shortcomings, and thought a few terms at Putnam Hall would do him good.
Lew Flapp was much pleased over the fact that he headed the list of those who had passed, and nobody could blame him for this. But he immediately made himself more obnoxious than ever by going around among the cadets and declaring that he was the only one to be elected to the office of major.
"It's mine by right," he said. "It wouldn't be fair to elect anybody else."
"But Dick Rover and Larry Colby stand almost as high," said one of the cadets. "Captain Putnam said your average was 96 per cent., while Rover's average was 95 per cent., and Larry Colby's was 94 per cent. A difference of one or two per cent. out of a possible hundred isn't much."
"I don't care," retorted Lew Flapp, "I ought to be elected major, and that is all there is to it."
When Dick was approached he had but little to say.
"I didn't expect to stand so high," he declared. "I don't know that I care to be made major. If I get to be a captain or a first lieutenant I shall be well content. You know I was a second lieutenant once."
"My percentage is more than I expected," said Larry. "I really didn't think I was so well up in military matters. Now, if the boys want me for an officer I'll take whatever they give me."
"And that is what I say," added George Granbury.
"Ditto, myself," put in Tom. "Even a second lieutenantship will not be declined by yours truly."
After this there was a good deal of canvassing and "log rolling" as it is called. Lew Flapp spent much money in secret, treating boys when at the village and elsewhere. By this means he gathered quite a band of followers around him.
"He is going to win, by hook or by crook," observed Songbird Powell. "He acts just like some of those politicians who don't care what they do so long as they win."
"I am not going to spend a cent on the boys," declared Dick. "I don't believe in buying votes."
There was a strict rule at Putnam Hall that no cadet should touch liquor of any kind excepting when ordered by the doctor. This rule had been broken in the past by Dan Baxter and a few others, but the majority of the cadets respected the rule and kept it.
But Lew Flapp had always been allowed to drink when at home and now he frequently drank on the sly when down to Cedarville. On these excursions he was generally joined by a weak-minded boy named Hurdy, who was usually willing to do whatever Flapp desired done.
One day, just before the election for officers was to come off, Lew Flapp called Ben Hurdy to him.
"I am going down to Cedarville this evening," he said. "I want you to go along and invite Jackson and Pender and Rockley."
"Going to have a good time?" asked Ben Hurdy.
"Yes and you can tell the others so, and tell them if they know some others who want a good time, and can keep their mouths shut about it, to bring them along. But mind, Hurdy, we want no blabbers."
"All right, Flapp, I'll get the right fellows," answered Ben Hurdy, and ran away to fulfill his questionable errand.
AN ADVENTURE IN CEDARVILLE
On the same evening that Lew Flapp and his particular cronies went down to Cedarville to have a good time in a very questionable way, Dick Rover and Songbird Powell also visited the village, one to buy some handkerchiefs, and the other to invest in a book he had ordered from the local bookseller and newsdealer.
"I heard that Lew Flapp was going to Cedarville," said Powell, while on the way. "Do you know, Dick, I don't like that fellow at all."
"Neither do I, Songbird."
"It will make me sick if he is elected major of the battalion."
"Nevertheless, the cadets have a right to elect whom they please."
"I know that as well as you do. But I can't stand Flapp's domineering ways. And he is bound to grow worse if he is put in authority."
"As to that, I shall not stand being bullied," came from Dick, with flashing eyes. "I'll let him go just so far, and if he goes any further he'll have to beware."
Both boys were excellent walkers and it was not long before Cedarville was reached. Dick soon had the handkerchiefs wanted, and then Powell led the way to the bookstore, to obtain a volume of humorous verses he had ordered the week previous.
"I don't see why you buy verses, since you can make them up so readily," said Dick with a smile.
"Oh, I like to see what the other fellows are doing," answered his friend.
"I saw some more of your cadets in town to-night," said the bookseller, while wrapping up the book.
"Yes, I believe half a dozen or more came down," returned Powell.
"Having a special celebration to-night?"
"Not that I am aware of."
"Why do you ask?" put in Dick, who knew the bookseller well.
"Oh, I only thought some of the boys were flying their kite pretty high, that's all," and the man closed one eye suggestively.
"Where did you meet the fellows?"
"Well—er—I'd rather not say, Rover. You see, I don't want to make trouble for anybody."
"Are they in town yet?"
"I presume they are. But don't say I mentioned it, please," pleaded the bookseller.
No more was said, and having paid for the book Powell walked out, with Dick behind him.
"If those fellows are drinking it's a jolly shame," declared Dick, when they were out of hearing. "What do you think about it, Songbird?"
"Exactly as you do, Dick."
"Shall we hunt them up?"
"What good will it do? Lew Flapp won't listen to what you say, and I'm sure I don't want to play the spy and report him."
"But what if he is leading some innocent students astray? He has had half a dozen young chaps dangling at his heels lately."
"I know that." There was a pause. "We might look into some of the places as we pass them."
Very slowly they walked up and down the main street of Cedarville, a thing easy to do, since the stores extended only a distance of two blocks. Then they passed to a side street, upon which two new places had recently been built.
One of the new places was a butcher shop, and this was dark and deserted. Next to it was a new resort known as Mike Sherry's Palace, and this was well lit up and evidently in full blast.
"If Flapp is drinking he is evidently in this place," remarked Dick. "But I don't see anything of him," he added, after peering through the swinging doors.
"They tell me this Sherry has a room upstairs, also for drinking purposes," returned Powell. "Maybe Flapp and his friends are up there. They wouldn't want to be seen in public, you must remember."
"That is true. But how do they get upstairs—through the saloon?"
"There may be a back way. Let us look."
They walked around to the rear of the building and here found a door leading into a back hall. But the door was locked.
"This is the way up, I feel sure," said Dick. "Somebody has locked the door as a safeguard."
"Then, I'm afraid, we'll have to give it up."
"Not yet, Songbird." Dick had been looking over toward the rear of the butcher shop. "See, the painters are at work here and have left one of their ladders. Wonder if we can't move it over and put it up under one of those windows?"
The matter was talked over for a minute, and then the two boys took hold of the long ladder and did as Dick desired.
"This may be a wild goose chase," was Powell's comment. "And if it is, and Mike Sherry discovers us, he'll want us to explain. Maybe he'll take us for burglars."
"You can keep shady if you want to, Songbird. I'm going up," and so speaking Dick began to mount the ladder.
The window under which the ladder had been placed was open from the top only, and a half curtain over the lower portion hid what was beyond from view. So, in order to look over the curtain, Dick had to climb to the very top of the ladder and then brace his feet on the window sill.
He could now hear voices quite plainly, and presently heard Lew Flapp speak.
"I'm on the right track," he called softly to Powell. "They are in the room next to this one, but the door between is wide open."
"Shall I come up?"
"Suit yourself. I'm going inside."
As good as his word, Dick slipped over the top of the lowered window sash, and an instant later stood in the room, which was but dimly lit. Then he tiptoed his way behind a door and peeped into the room beyond.
Seven cadets were present, including Lew Flapp, Ben Hurdy, and their particular cronies Jackson, Pender, and Rockley. The others were two young cadets named Joe Davis and Harry Moss.
On the table in the center of the room stood a platter of chicken sandwiches and also several bottles containing beer and wine, and a box of cigars. Evidently all of the crowd had been eating and drinking, and now several were filling the apartment with tobacco smoke.
"Come, smoke up, Moss," cried Lew Flapp, shoving the box of cigars toward one of the younger cadets. "Don't be afraid. It won't kill you."
"Thank you, Flapp, but I—I guess I won't to-night," pleaded Harry Moss, whose face was strangely flushed.
"I—I—don't feel well. The drinking has made me feel sick."
"Oh, nonsense! Here, take this cigar and smoke up. It will brace your nerves. And you, Davis, have another glass of something to drink," went on Lew Flapp, pouring out a glassful and handing it to the one addressed.
"Thank you, Flapp, but I don't want any more," answered Joe Davis. He looked as ill at ease as did Harry Moss.
"Don't you want to be sociable?" demanded the tall boy.
"It isn't that, Flapp. I—I guess I've had enough already."
"Oh, don't be a sissy, Davis. Here, I'll drink with you, and then I'll smoke a cigar with Moss. If you are going to be men you want to start right in. Eh, Rockley?"
"That's right, Lew," answered Rockley, as he lit a fresh cigar.
"What you need is another glass, Davis," came from Pender. "It will act as a bracer. Just try it and see."
"I—I don't want to get—get—" faltered Davis.
"Intoxicated—really I don't—"
"Who said anything about that?" demanded Lew Flapp in apparent anger. "Don't be a fool. One more glass won't hurt you. Here, take it," and he almost forced the liquor to Joe Davis's lips.
But before he could accomplish his wicked design Dick Rover leaped quickly into the apartment and hurled the glass from the big boy's hand.
"For shame, Flapp!" he cried. "For shame!"
"And that's what I say, too," came from Powell, who was close behind Dick.
Every cadet in the room was astonished, and all leaped to their feet.
"What's up?" cried Rockley.
"They have been spying on us!" came from Jackson.
"Talk about meanness! This is the limit!" added Pender.
"I want you to leave Joe Davis and Harry Moss alone," went on Dick, as calmly as he could. "It's an outrage to get them to drink and smoke against their will."
"Are you two alone?" asked Lew Flapp, glancing nervously over the newcomers' shoulders.
"What right had you to come here?"
"Well, we took the right."
"Then you enjoy playing the spy?"
"No, Flapp," said Dick boldly, "but I do enjoy doing Davis and Moss a favor."
"What do you mean by that?"
"I mean that I am going to stand by them, so you shall not get them to drink any more or smoke."
"Humph! What right have you to interfere?"
"Maybe he's going to squeal to the captain," put in Jackson.
"If he does that I'll punch his head for him!" roared Lew Flapp, who had been drinking just enough to make him ugly and unreasonable.
"I did not come here to squeal on anybody," answered Dick.
"I know you did—and I'm going to pound you well for it!" howled Lew Flapp, and on the instant he leaped forward and aimed a savage blow with his fist at Dick's head.
A QUARREL AND ITS RESULT
Had the blow landed as intended Dick Rover would have received a bloody nose and might perhaps have lost one or two teeth.
But Dick was on the alert and he dodged to one side, so the blow landed on Songbird Powell's shoulder.
"See here, what do you mean by that, Flapp?" demanded Powell, who was no weakling.
"I meant to hit Rover," was the answer.
"Hands off, Flapp!" cried Dick. "I didn't come here to fight, but I can defend myself."
"We'll see!" roared the unreasonable tall boy, and made another rush at Dick. But in a twinkling he found himself flat on the floor, where he had been thrown with a suddenness that took away his breath.
"Hi! that ain't fair," put in Rockley. "You let Lew alone."
"I will, when he leaves me alone," retorted Dick. He turned to Harry Moss and Joe Davis. "Do you want to stay here any longer?"
"No," answered both of the small cadets promptly.
"I didn't wish to come at all, but Ben Hurdy urged it," continued Harry Moss.
"And Pender said it would do no harm," added Joe Davis. "He said we were going to have nothing but sandwiches, root beer, and soda."
"Look here, Davis, you keep your mouth shut!" cried Pender. "You knew exactly what to expect. You know Mike Sherry don't run a temperance hotel," he continued, with a sneer.
At these words Joe Davis grew pale.
"Yes, I know it—now, and if I ever get out of it, I shan't come again."
"Oh, you're too good to live!" broke in Jackson. "You ought to be laid away in a glass case for safe keeping."
"Davis is all right, and he has more brains than you, Jackson," came from Dick. "If you want to make a fool of yourself by drinking and smoking, I shan't stop you. But you shan't drag Joe and Harry into it against their will."
"That's the way to talk, Dick," said Powell. "Let us clear out, and take the youngsters with us."
By this time Lew Flap had recovered from the flooring received and now he approached Dick once more.
"Do you want me to hammer you good, Rover?" he panted.
"As I said before, Flapp, I didn't come here to fight, but I can defend myself. I propose to leave quietly, and take Harry and Joe with me."
"Supposing I won't let you leave?"
"I don't think you'll stop me."
"Come, Flapp, don't make a fool of yourself," put in Powell. "We didn't come here to quarrel, but to urge all of the crowd to quit drinking. You know it's against the Hall rules and regulations."
"And you intend to blab on us?"
"Not at all. I'm not that kind. And Dick Rover isn't either."
"I know how to fix 'em," came from Pender, with a cunning look in his eye.
"How?" asked Flapp and Rockley, in concert.
"Our word is as good as anybody's. If they say they found us at Mike Sherry's we can say that we found them there, too. For all we know they were drinking below before they came up."
"That's it!" interrupted Lew Flapp, thinking he saw a way of implicating Dick and Powell. "Mike Sherry never lets anybody in his saloon without they drink something."
"It's as plain as day," came from Rockley.
"They had all the liquor they wanted before they came up, and now they want to stop our sport."
"Your story might be believed were it not for one thing," said Dick, trying to keep calm. "Come on, Harry, come, Joe." And he whispered something into their ears.
"Oh, all right," said Harry Moss, and he retreated from the room, speedily followed by Joe Davis.
"Hi! come back here, you young scamps!" roared Lew Flapp. And then he made for the doorway leading to the next room.
"Not so fast, Flapp!" said Dick, and blocked the opening with his own form, while Powell stood directly behind.
"Say, fellows, Moss and Davis are getting out of the window!" cried Flapp, in astonishment.
"That's the way Rover and Powell must have gotten in," came from Pender.
"Exactly," answered Dick, "and that proves we didn't have to stop below for liquor," he added triumphantly.
"Look here, I don't mean to let those fellows go yet," blustered Lew Flapp. "Let me get at them."
"Not to-night, Flapp."
Scarcely had Dick spoken when the tall boy flung himself forward. The pair grappled, and a moment later both went down, with Dick on top.
"Hit him, Dick, don't let him get the best of you!" cried Powell, and an instant later found himself tackled by Pender and Jackson. For the moment Ben Hurdy, who had remained silent during the most of the talk, did nothing, but then he ran forward, and watching his chance, kicked Dick in the side of the head with his foot.
The quarrel was now on in earnest, and in the midst of the melee a burly waiter came rushing from below, demanding to know what was the matter.
"A pair of spies!" shouted Pender. "Help us to give them a sound thrashing, Pat."
"Sure, Oi will that!" was the answer, and the waiter joined in the attack on Dick and Powell.
It was with a mighty effort that Powell managed to throw off his assailants. Then he leaped for the window, reached the ladder, and fairly slid to the ground.
"Let up on Dick Rover!" he called, when safe. "If you don't, I'll rouse the constable and have somebody locked up."
"Confound him!" muttered Rockley. "We had better dust out. If he calls a constable the jig will be up."
With a parting kick at Dick he rushed down the back stairs to the resort, and unlocked the door. Taking care that Powell should not see him, he darted into the gathering darkness.
Ben Hurdy followed Rockley, and a moment later Pender and Jackson did the same. Then Flapp came staggering down the stairs, holding his nose, from which the blood was flowing freely.
"Let's get back to the Hall as quickly as we can," he said to the others. "And if we are examined, we can deny everything."
"All right," said Pender. "But what did you do to Rover?"
"Somebody kicked him and he's about half unconscious. I left him to the tender mercies of Pat the waiter." And then Lew Flapp and his cronies hurried away on the road leading to Putnam Hall.
Dick might have defended himself, but he was cruelly kicked several times, and partly lost consciousness, as already told. In a dim, uncertain manner he felt himself raised up and carried below, and then put on the grass of the yard behind Mike Sherry's resort.
When he was able to move he sat up and then arose to his feet slowly. At that moment Songbird Powell discovered him. Powell had been up the ladder a second time, to find the window closed and locked.
"Dick!" he exclaimed. "Are you badly hurt?"
"I—I don't know," was the slow reply. "How are you?"
"I'm all right?"
"Where are Flapp and the rest?"
"They ran away."
"And Harry and Joe?"
"They are waiting for us, down at the turn in the road."
Dick put his hand to his head, to find a big lump directly back of the ear. His ear was cut, and there was a scratch on his chin.
"They didn't fight fair," he explained, when he felt a little stronger. "They kicked me when I was down."
Aided by Powell he made his way to a pump and there bathed his head and procured a drink of water.
While both boys were recovering from the adventure all the lights in Mike Sherry's resort were put out and every door and window was locked.
"He wants to steer clear of trouble," said Powell.
"I put the blame on Lew Flapp," answered Dick. "To my mind he is about as mean as any boy around here."
"Of course we can't report him, Dick."
"No, I'm no tale-bearer, Songbird. But he ought to be punished."
"He'll make a fine major, if he's elected," went on Powell, as he and Dick started for the road leading to the academy.
"He shall never be elected, if I can help it."
"I am with you on that."
They found Harry Moss and Joe Davis walking slowly toward Putnam Hall. Joe seemed to feel all right now that he was out in the fresh evening air, but Harry complained of a strange sickness at the stomach.
"It was horrid of Lew Flapp to make us drink," said the young cadet. "I told him I didn't want anything stronger than soda. But he and Pender made me take it."
"I think the walk will do you good, Harry," answered Dick kindly. "Here, take my arm, and Songbird can take your other arm."
When the Hall was reached they found that Lew Flapp and his cronies had already gone to bed. Dick took Harry and Joe to their dormitory and then rejoined Powell.
"Going to keep mum?" asked the latter.
"For the present," answered the eldest Rover. "But after this let us keep a sharp eye on Flapp, Pender & Company."
And so it was agreed.
THE ELECTION FOR OFFICERS
On the following morning all of the cadets but Harry Moss appeared in the messroom.
"Joe Davis says Harry is quite sick," said Powell to Dick.
"That's too bad. Have they sent for a doctor?"
"I don't know."
When Lew Flapp heard that Harry was sick he grew pale, and during the morning session could scarcely fix his mind on his studies.
"I hope the little fool don't blab on us," was his thought. "If he does there is no telling what the captain will do. He's altogether too strict for comfort in some things."
No doctor was sent for, so it was finally agreed that Harry Moss was not as ill as had been supposed. But the young cadet did not enter the schoolroom for all of that day.
The sickness had frightened Captain Putnam, who was not yet over the scarlet fever scare, and he questioned Harry thoroughly about what he had been doing, and about what he had been eating and drinking.
At first the young cadet did not dare to tell the truth, but finally he blurted out that he had taken a glass of liquor against his will and it had turned his stomach in a most painful manner.
"Where did you get the liquor?" demanded Captain Putnam sternly.
"I—I—oh, must I tell you, sir?"
"I—that is, Lew Flapp—Oh, sir, I don't want to be a tattle-tale."
"Did Lew Flapp give you the liquor? Answer me at once."
"Yes, sir, he and another cadet named Pender. But, sir, I don't want to hurt them. I—I—" and here Harry burst into tears.
"Where was this?"
"Down in Cedarville, sir. But, I—I—I shan't say any more, Captain Putnam," and after that Harry remained silent. As it was plain to see that he was suffering, Captain Putnam did not push the matter. But he called Lew Flapp and Pender into his private office and interviewed the unworthy pair for fully half an hour.
"To do such a thing is outrageous," said the captain. "If I hear of it again I shall dismiss you from the Hall at once."
On the following morning one of the assistant teachers made a brief announcement that filled the entire school with curiosity.
"On next Monday you are to have an election of officers for the term," said he. "As you know, twenty cadets were selected as worthy of being elected. The list has since been cut down to eighteen. Lew Flapp and Augustus Pender will not run."
At this announcement Dick and Powell looked at each other significantly. All of the other cadets looked around to find Flapp and Pender, but the pair were absent, nor did they put in an appearance at all until the next school session.
"The captain found it out in some way," said Dick to Powell.
"Shouldn't wonder if Harry Moss let the cat out of the bag," was the answer.
"It's queer about Flapp and Pender," declared Tom to his older brother. "Do you know why they were dropped?"
"Yes, Tom, but I don't want you to say anything about it."
"There's a report around that they were found cutting loose in the village," put in Sam.
"Well, as I said before, I don't want to speak about it," went on Dick.
A few of the boys dared to question Flapp and Pender, but got no satisfaction.
"If I want to drop out I reckon I can do it," growled Flapp, and that was as much as either he or his crony would say.
With Flapp out of the race there was considerable curiosity to know who would be elected for the term. Each set of cadets had their favorite candidates and the spirit of rivalry ran high. But most of the candidates were good-natured about it, and especially Dick and Tom Rover and George Granbury, Fred Garrison, and Larry Colby.
It had been decided that the cadets should first elect the major, then the three captains, and then the six lieutenants, all to be selected according to the highest number of votes received.
The voting began on Monday immediately after breakfast. Captain Putnam had slips passed around and on these each cadet wrote down his choice for major.
"I will read the result," said the captain, a few minutes after the poll was declared closed. And he read as follows:
"Whole number of votes cast—96.
"Lawrence Colby has 67.
"The next highest student has 19.
"Lawrence Colby is declared elected major of the battalion for the present term, including the annual encampment."
"Hurrah for Major Larry Colby!" cried Tom, and a rousing cheer followed, while Captain Putnam strode over and shook hands with the newly elected commanding officer.
"I must congratulate you, Major Colby," he said warmly. "I must say I am well satisfied with the choice of our students."
"Thank you, sir," answered Larry, and blushed in spite of himself.
"We will now proceed to the election of the three captains," went on Captain Putnam. "Remember, the three standing highest on the list will be declared elected respectively."
Again slips were passed around and again the students marked down the names of their favorites, three upon each slip.
Counting up the vote for captains took longer than that for major, but soon the captain had his statement ready and the cadets listened in silence as he proceeded to make his announcement: