THE ROVER BOYS ON A HUNT
THE MYSTERIOUS HOUSE IN THE WOODS
ARTHUR M. WINFIELD (Edward Stratemeyer)
AUTHOR OF "THE ROVER BOYS AT SCHOOL," "THE ROVER BOYS ON THE OCEAN," "THE PUTNAM HALL SERIES," ETC.
NEW YORK GROSSET & DUNLAP PUBLISHERS
Made in the United States of America
Copyright, 1920, by EDWARD STRATEMEYER
The Rover Boys on a Hunt
MY DEAR BOYS: This book is a complete story in itself, but forms the fourth volume in a line issued under the general title, "The Second Rover Boys Series for Young Americans."
As mentioned in some volumes of the first series, this line was started years ago with the publication of "The Rover Boys at School," "On the Ocean," and "In the Jungle," in which I introduced my readers to Dick, Tom and Sam Rover. The twenty volumes of the first series related the doings of these three youths while attending Putnam Hall Military Academy, Brill College, and while on numerous outings.
Having acquired a thorough education, the three young men established themselves in business and were married. Presently Dick Rover became the father of a son and a daughter, and so did his brother Sam, while Tom Rover became the father of twin boys. The four lads were later on sent to boarding school, as related in the first volume of this second series, entitled "The Rover Boys at Colby Hall."
From Colby Hall the scene was shifted to "Snowshoe Island," where the lads went for a winter outing. Then they came back to the military academy, and later on participated in the annual encampment, as related in the third volume, entitled "The Rover Boys under Canvas."
In the present volume the scene is shifted from lively times at Colby Hall to still more livelier times in the woods, to which the lads journeyed for a season of hunting. They came upon a mysterious house in the forest, and there uncovered a secret which I will leave the pages that follow to relate.
Once more I wish to thank my numerous readers for the many nice things they have said about these "Rover Boys" books. I trust that the reading of the volumes will do them all good.
Affectionately and sincerely yours,
I THE BOBSLED RACE
II ABOUT THE ROVERS
III NEWS OF IMPORTANCE
IV SOMETHING ABOUT CEDAR LODGE
V THE DEFEAT OF THE BULLY
VI AT THE MOVING PICTURE THEATER
VII THE END OF THE TERM
VIII CHRISTMAS AT HOME
IX THE RAILROAD ACCIDENT
X THE RESCUE
XI ON THE WAY TO CEDAR LODGE
XII AT THE FROZEN-UP SPRING
XIII THE MEETING ON THE ROAD
XIV THE FIRST HUNT
XV A CRY FOR HELP
XVI UNDESIRABLE VISITORS
XVII NEW YEAR'S DAY IN CAMP
XVIII FISHING THROUGH THE ICE
XIX LETTERS FROM HOME
XX LOST IN THE WOODS
XXI A NIGHT UNDER THE CLIFF
XXII AT TONY DUVAL'S CAMP
XXIII SIX BIG SNOWBALLS
XXIV A CONVERSATION OF IMPORTANCE
XXV THE MYSTERIOUS HOUSE IN THE WOODS
XXVI WHAT THE BIG BARN CONTAINED
XXVII THE COMING OF THE WOLVES
XXVIII THE MAN IN THE GREY OVERCOAT
XXIX WHAT HAPPENED AT THE LODGE
XXX THE EXPOSURE—CONCLUSION
THE BOBSLED RACE
"All ready, boys?"
"Wait a minute, Jack."
"Can't wait; life is too short!" cried Jack Rover gayly. He was seated at the front of a long bobsled holding six boys. "Remember, we've got to be back at the Hall in half an hour."
"Please don't mention it!" pleaded Randy Rover, his cousin.
"Hi, you fellows! are you going to race or not?" came from another youth on a bobsled standing close by.
"You bet we're going to race!" sang out Fred Rover, who was at the tail end of the first sled. "And we'll beat you, too, Bill Glutts!"
"You will, like fun!" grumbled the cadet addressed, a rather heavy-set and by-no-means pre-possessing youth. "Come on now, unless you're afraid."
"We're afraid of nobody!" sang out Andy Rover, and, leaning sideways from where he sat on the bobsled, he scooped up a handful of loose snow and threw it playfully at Glutts.
"Hi, you! what do you mean?" roared Bill Glutts in anger, as the snow landed directly behind his right ear.
"Hello! I guess it must have begun to snow again," cried Randy Rover, mischievously.
"I'll 'snow' you!" retorted Glutts. "I guess you fellows are afraid to race. That's why you are cutting up."
"Never mind—race them anyway, Bill," came from a small, pasty-faced youth, who was usually called Codfish on account of his broad mouth. "Go ahead and show 'em what your new bobsled can do."
"That's the talk!" cried another cadet, a newcomer at the academy. "Show 'em that the Yellow Streak can lick anything on this hill."
"That's a dream that will never come true!" cried Spouter Powell. "Come ahead, Jack, let's start this race," he added to the oldest Rover boy.
The scene was Long Hill, a rise of ground located about midway between Colby Hall Military Academy and the town of Haven Point. There was something of a wagon road leading up the hill from the main highway which skirted Clearwater Lake, and this road had been converted by the cadets of the academy into a slide for their bobsleds.
From the top of the hill the slide ran down and over two smaller hills, then crossed the main highway and shot down another road onto the lake, which at this season of the year was covered with ice.
It was a Saturday afternoon, and, as usual, the cadets of the military academy were making the most of their off time, some with bobsleds and other with ordinary handsleds and what were locally called "bread shovels."
For some weeks before this the boys, as well as many other residents in that vicinity, had enjoyed skating on the lake. But a rather wet snow had fallen which the wind had been unable to sweep away, and consequently skating became a thing of the past. Then the lads turned to their bobsleds, the Rovers getting out one they had used the season before. This they painted and varnished very carefully and christened the Blue Moon.
"Because, you see," explained Randy, with a wink, "it's only once in a blue moon that she'll be beaten."
The Rovers and their chums, as well as many other cadets and boys and girls from that vicinity, had been using the hill for a couple of hours when the race between the Blue Moon and the Yellow Streak was proposed by Nick Carncross, the new friend of Bill Glutts.
Now, as my old readers know, the Rovers and Bill Glutts were by no means on good terms with each other. In the past Glutts had proved himself anything but a friend, and they had had more than one personal encounter with this freckled-faced bully.
But it was not in the nature of any of the Rover boys to refuse a challenge to race, knowing well that if this was done many would think they were afraid of being beaten. So the challenge was accepted, and immediately the details were arranged.
Each bobsled was to carry six cadets, and they were to start down the hill side by side, the Blue Moon keeping well to the right and the Yellow Streak well to the left. The first sled to cross a mark located out on the lake was to be declared the winner.
With the four Rover boys were their intimate chums, Spouter Powell and Gif Garrison. With Glutts were Codfish, Carncross, and three other of the bully's cronies.
"Gee! I wish I was in that race," came from Will Hendry, who, on account of his unusual stoutness, was always called Fatty.
"Nothing doing, Fatty," remarked Dan Soppinger, another cadet. "You'd make the Rovers lose sure."
"All ready?" questioned Walt Baxter, who had been settled on as the starter of the race.
"All ready," answered Jack Rover, after a glance around to see that nothing was out of order.
"Been ready half an hour," grumbled Bill Glutts.
"All right, then!" cried Walt. "One—two—three—go!"
As he finished Fred Rover, who was at the rear of the Blue Moon, gave that bobsled a quick push and leaped aboard. At the same time Carncross sent the Yellow Streak forward and also sprang to his seat. Then, side by side, the two bobsleds moved down the long hill, slowly at first, but gradually gathering speed.
It was five o'clock of an afternoon in early December, and consequently quite dark, even on the snow-clad hills. Many of the smaller children, and also the girls, had gone home, leaving the place to the cadets and a few others.
"I hope we win this," remarked Randy, as the two sleds continued to speed forward side by side.
"Of course we'll win it," came promptly from Gif Garrison.
"We've got to win it!" added Fred Rover.
"If you don't win Bill Glutts will never stop crowing over you," put in Spouter Powell.
"Hi, there, Glutts! Keep to your side of the run," warned Jack suddenly. The Yellow Streak had swerved over well into the middle of the road.
"I know what I'm doing," growled Glutts. "You tend to your own business."
"Well, you know the rules," warned Jack. "You keep over on your own side. If you don't there'll be trouble."
"Humph! you don't have to tell me what to do," growled the other cadet; and then, striking a bit of extra smooth roadway, the Yellow Streak bounded ahead, much to the delight of its riders.
"Hurrah! here is where we leave them behind," sang out Codfish.
"Nothing to it but the shouting," added another of Bill Glutts' cronies.
"We'll be a mile ahead by the time we reach the lake," exulted Nick Carncross.
For half a minute it looked as if his prophecy might be true. The Yellow Streak was gliding over the icy surface of the long hill, and consequently going ahead, while the Blue Moon struck several soft spots where going was anything but good.
"Oh, Jack! can't you pull out of this?" queried Gif Garrison anxiously. "Pull over to the left where the going is harder. It's too soft here entirely."
"I'm sticking to my side of the road, just as I was expected to do," said Jack grimly.
The Yellow Streak disappeared over the first rise, and for a few seconds was lost to view. But then the Blue Moon came along, and beyond this rise found going somewhat easier. Slowly but surely they crawled up behind the other bobsled.
"Keep to your side of the road, Glutts!" yelled Jack, in a second warning. "If you don't, there'll be trouble."
"And you'll get the worst of it," added Randy.
"I know what I'm doing," retorted Glutts. He had found the snow somewhat soft on his side of the road, and was now running near the center, and occasionally crowding to Jack's side.
"We'll run into 'em sure!" came from Spouter Powell in alarm. "Look out, Jack!"
"Look out!" echoed Fred.
"Over on your own side, or we'll smash you, Glutts!" yelled Jack, for the Blue Moon had suddenly found going much easier and was forging forward rapidly. "Get out of the way!"
The call was so peremptory that Glutts felt bound to obey. He swerved to his side of the road, and with not a second to spare, for almost instantly the Blue Moon shot past and continued down the slope toward the lake.
"We win! we win!" yelled Andy gayly.
"But the Yellow Streak is just behind us!" cried Spouter, looking back. "Here they come!"
"Yes, and on our side of the road, too!" cried Fred, in alarm. He turned his head still further around. "Glutts, get to your own side!"
"Aw, dry up!" cried the other cadet, in disgust. "You don't have to act as if you owned the whole road."
"You know the rules of the race," flung back Fred.
Crossing the highway which skirted the lake was not so easy, and beyond this the snow was rather deep, and consequently the speed of the Blue Moon was slackened. The Yellow Streak came dangerously close, and then Bill Glutts seemed to lose his head completely. He slued around to his own side of the road, but made such a short turn that in a twinkling the long bobsled was upset and the occupants hurled in all directions.
"There they go! They are upset!" yelled Fred. And then he lost sight of those left behind as the Blue Moon shot out on the surface of the lake and beyond the mark set for the end of the race.
"We win! we win!" cried Andy, leaping from the bobsled, and in the exuberance of his spirits he turned a handspring in the snow.
"What happened to the other sled?" asked Jack, who had been so busy steering the Blue Moon he had paid little attention to what had been going on behind.
"They had a spill," answered Fred. "But before they took it they came pretty close to running into us."
"It was up to them to keep to their side of the road," said Gif Garrison. "Why, we might have had a terrible accident if they had run into us!"
There were about a dozen boys on the lake who had witnessed the finish of the race, and these, along with those who had come down on the Blue Moon, now turned back to see what had happened to the Glutts party. They found the cadets who had been spilled picking themselves up and brushing the snow from their garments. One was nursing a bruised ankle, and another a bruised elbow, while Bill Glutts was wiping some blood from a scratch on his chin.
"Well, we won the race," said Jack briefly. He had no desire to crow over his opponents.
"Huh! you didn't win it fairly," growled Glutts, glaring at him.
"Didn't win it fairly!" exclaimed Jack. "What do you mean by that?"
"I mean you got in our way so we couldn't get past you—that's what I mean!" growled the other.
"That is false, Glutts, and you know it," retorted the oldest Rover boy.
"See here, Jack Rover! you can't talk to me in that fashion," roared Bill Glutts. He had been in a more or less bad humor all the afternoon, and the defeat had not improved his temper. "I say you got in my way, and that is why I lost the race."
"And I say your statement isn't true," returned Jack sturdily.
"It is true! And I won't let you or anybody else say any different," said Bill Glutts. And then, in sudden passion, he stepped forward and gave Jack a shove which sent the oldest Rover boy flat on his back in a snowbank.
ABOUT THE ROVERS
The attack upon Jack Rover was so unexpected that he had no chance to save himself from going down into the snowbank. He went down so hard and the snow was so soft that for the moment he was almost covered and had to flounder around quite some to regain his feet.
"See here, Bill Glutts! what do you mean by attacking my cousin?" cried Randy, leaping forward and catching the bully by the arm.
"He had no right to talk to me the way he did," retorted Glutts. "Let go of me!" and he shook himself free.
"What Jack said was true," put in Fred quickly. "I was on the back of our bobsled and watched you nearly all the time. You came over on our side of the road at least three different times."
By this time half a dozen of the cadets were speaking at once, Carncross and several others upholding Bill Glutts. In the midst of the discussion Jack managed to regain his feet, and, leaping forward, he caught Bill Glutts firmly by both wrists.
"Glutts, you listen to me," said he sternly, looking the bully in the eyes. "If I wasn't an officer at the Hall, I'd give you a sound thrashing for what you just did. As it is, I expect you to apologize or else take the consequences."
"Huh! I suppose you mean by that you'll play sissy and report me," said the bully.
"No, I won't report you, but I'll see to it that you get what is coming to you," answered Jack.
"Knowing he is an officer and can't fight you, you took a mean advantage of Jack," broke in Gif Garrison. "You ought to be thrashed for it, Glutts."
"I don't think Bill meant to shove him down into the snow," put in Codfish, somewhat timidly.
"He did mean to do it!" said Jack quickly. "And he'll either apologize for his actions or he'll take the consequences."
"Well, I'll take the consequences, whatever they are," retorted Bill Glutts, with a sickly grin. "I know that race wasn't a fair one. Come on, fellows, let's get back to the Hall, it's almost supper time," and with that he trudged away, he and his cronies pulling the Yellow Streak behind them.
"He sure is one sweet-tempered fellow," was Spouter's comment.
"Jack, why didn't you pitch into him, anyway?" questioned Andy anxiously.
"I didn't have to," returned Jack briefly. "Just the same, I won't forget the way he has acted. If it wasn't that I am captain of Company C, and am expected not to fight, I'd have given him the thrashing of his life."
To the many young folks who have read the former volumes in this series, the Rover boys will not need an introduction. But for the benefit of new readers a few words concerning my characters will be necessary.
In the first volume, entitled "The Rover Boys at School," I related how three brothers, Dick, Tom, and Sam Rover, were sent to Putnam Hall Military Academy, where they made a great number of friends, including a cadet named Lawrence Colby.
From Putnam Hall the boys went to Brill College, and, after leaving that institution of learning, joined their father in business in New York City, with offices on Wall Street. They organized The Rover Company, of which Dick was president, Tom, secretary and general manager, and Sam, treasurer.
During their cadet days at Putnam Hall the three Rovers had become acquainted with a number of charming girls, including Dora Stanhope and her cousins, Nellie and Grace Laning. When Dick went into business he made Dora Stanhope his life partner, and a short while after this Tom married Nellie Laning and Sam married Grace. The three brothers purchased a fine plot of ground on Riverside Drive overlooking the Hudson River, and there they built three connecting houses, Dick and his wife living in the middle house, with Tom on one side and Sam on the other.
About a year after their marriage Dick and his wife became the proud parents of a little son, who was named John after Mr. Laning. This son was followed by a daughter, named Martha, after her Great-aunt Martha, of Valley Brook Farm. Little Jack, as he was commonly called, was a manly lad with many of the qualities which made his father so successful in life.
It was about this time that Tom and Nellie Rover sprang a great surprise on all the others. This surprise was in the shape of a pair of very lively boy twins, one christened Anderson, after his grandfather, and the other Randolph, after his Great-uncle Randolph of Valley Brook Farm. Andy and Randy, as the twins were always called, were decidedly active lads, taking after their father, "who was never still a minute," to quote Grandpa Rover.
Shortly after the twins were born, Sam and Grace Rover came along with a beautiful girl, named Mary, after Mrs. Laning. Then, a year later, the girl was followed by a sturdy boy, who was called Fred, in honor of Sam Rover's old and well known school chum, Fred Garrison.
Residing so close together, the younger generation of Rovers were brought up very much like one big family. They usually spent their winters in New York City, and during the summers often went out to Valley Brook Farm, where their grandfather, Anderson Rover, still resided with Uncle Randolph and Aunt Martha.
When the boys and girls grew old enough they were at first sent to private schools in the Metropolis. But soon the lads, led by Andy and Randy, showed a propensity for "cutting loose" that their parents were compelled to hold a consultation.
"We'll have to send them to some strict boarding school—some military academy," said Dick Rover; and so it was decided.
Lawrence Colby, their old Putnam Hall chum, had since that time become a colonel in the state militia and had then opened a military academy called Colby Hall. To this institution, Jack, Fred and the twins were sent, as related in detail in the first volume of my second series, entitled "The Rover Boys at Colby Hall."
This military school was located about half a mile from the town of Haven Point on Clearwater Lake, a beautiful sheet of water about two miles long. The school consisted of a large stone building facing the lake. It was a three-storied structure and contained the classrooms and the mess hall, and also dormitories and private rooms for the students. Besides the main building, there was a smaller structure occupied by Colonel Colby and his family and some of the professors, and also an up-to-date gymnasium and boathouses and bathing pavilions.
On arriving at the academy the younger Rovers found several of their friends awaiting them, one of these being Dick Powell, the son of Songbird Powell, a former schoolmate of their fathers. Dick was always called Spouter because of a fondness for long speeches. Another cadet was Gif Garrison, a son of Fred Garrison, after whom Fred Rover had been named. There was also Walter Baxter, a son of Dan Baxter, who, years previous, had been an enemy of the older Rovers, but who had since reformed and who was doing well.
As mentioned, Colby Hall was situated about half a mile from Haven Point. On the opposite side of the town was located Clearwater Hall, a boarding school for girls. During a panic in a moving picture theatre Jack and his cousins became acquainted with a number of these school girls, including Ruth Stevenson, May Powell, Alice Strobell and Annie Larkins. They soon found out that May was Spouter Powell's cousin, and the whole crowd of young people became friends. Later on Mary and Martha Rover became pupils at Clearwater Hall.
Ruth Stevenson had an old Uncle Barney, who in times past had had a bitter quarrel with Ruth's parents. The Rover boys, while out hunting one day, had occasion to save the old man's life. For this the old fellow was exceedingly grateful, and as a result he invited them to spend their winter holidays with him, which they did, as related in "The Rover Boys on Snowshoe Island."
On this island the lads met two of their former enemies, Nappy Martell and Slugger Brown, as well as Asa Lemm, a discharged teacher of Colby Hall. The boys exposed a plot against old Uncle Barney, and in the end caused the old fellow's enemies to leave in disgust.
"I guess we haven't seen the last of Nappy and Slugger," said Jack when he and his cousins had left Snowshoe Island.
And he was right. Nappy and Slugger turned up once more, as related in the volume previous to this, entitled "The Rover Boys Under Canvas." In that volume I told how the cadets went into their annual encampment, this being after a spirited election for officers in which Jack Rover had been elected captain of Company C and Fred had been elected first lieutenant of the same command.
Among the cadets who wished to become a captain was one named Gabe Werner, a great chum at that time of Bill Glutts. Having failed of election, Werner did all he could to make things uncomfortable for the Rovers, and in his actions he was seconded by Glutts. But in the end Werner and Glutts were discovered in some of their nefarious doings, and, becoming alarmed, Gabe Werner left the school camp early in the morning and did not return. Glutts was brought before Captain Dale, the teacher in charge of the camp, and received a stern lecture and was deprived of many liberties he might otherwise have enjoyed. He laid his troubles at the door of the Rovers and vowed that sooner or later he would pay them back for the way he had been treated.
While the Rover boys were at Colby Hall the great war in Europe had opened and our country was now overrun with German spies and sympathizers. During their time at the encampment the boys made several surprising discoveries, and in the end helped the Secret Service officers to capture a hidden German submarine. They also rounded up the fathers of Nappy Martell and Slugger Brown. Mr. Brown and Mr. Martell were sent to prison, while Slugger and Nappy were marched off to a detention camp in the South, and that, for the time being, was the last the Rovers heard of them.
"Well, one thing is certain—we're well rid of Slugger and Nappy and their fathers," remarked Jack, as this news was brought to them.
"Yes, and I guess we're rid of Gabe Werner too," said Fred. "He seems to have dropped out completely." But in his remark concerning Werner the young lieutenant was mistaken. Gabe Werner was destined to turn up in their path unexpectedly and cause them not a little trouble.
When the call for volunteers came, Dick Rover and Sam had lost no time in enlisting. At first Tom Rover had been unable to get away. But now the business in New York City had been left in reliable hands, and all three fathers of the boys were in the trenches in Europe doing their bit for Uncle Sam. They had been in several small engagements, and so far had come through unwounded.
"But there is no telling if they will come through every time," was the way Fred expressed himself anxiously.
"Right you are," answered Jack. "Do you know, I dread to look at the lists of the killed and wounded in the newspapers for fear I'll see one of their names."
"Oh, if only this awful war was over!" put in Randy.
NEWS OF IMPORTANCE
"Battalion attention! Shoulder arms! Forward march!"
Boom! Boom! Boom, boom, boom! The drums beat, and away marched the three companies forming the Colby Hall battalion. They marched around the school building, as was the custom, and then marched into the place, put away their rifles, and entered the mess hall.
The roll call and brief drill and march took place less than half an hour after the encounter on the hill following the finish of the bobsled race. Captain Jack and Lieutenant Fred had lost no time in hurrying back to the school, and their chums had gone with them. Bill Glutts and his cronies had gone ahead, as already stated. And they did not show themselves until the call came to appear on the parade ground.
As captain and lieutenant, Jack and Fred were in rather a delicate position when it came to quarreling with the other cadets. In the past Colonel Colby had laid down the rule that there should be no fighting at the Hall, and this rule was particularly enforced when it came to officers. Now that the master of the military academy had joined the army and gone with the older Rovers to Europe, Captain Dale, who was in general command, was enforcing this rule with more strictness than ever before.
The afternoon spent coasting had given the Rovers and their chums good appetites, and they fell to with gusto over the ample supper provided for them. Unlike many boarding schools, the table at Colby Hall was always a bountiful one, and it is needless to say that the growing cadets always did full justice to everything that was set before them.
"What are you going to do about Bill Glutts, Jack?" questioned Fred, after the meal was over and the two were on their way to get several reference books from the school library.
"I don't know yet," was the young captain's answer. "He ought to have a thrashing, but you know how matters stand."
"Of course. And Jack, we can't think of that with the end of the term so near. You don't want to spoil your record, and neither do I."
"It's a confounded shame that Glutts didn't leave when Gabe Werner went," continued the oldest Rover boy. "They were two of a kind."
"Did you hear what Andy said—that he thought Glutts had a lot of German blood in him?"
"That might be. His face looks it, and the name sounds a little that way too."
"Andy and Randy both want to pitch into him," continued the young lieutenant.
"You warn them not to do it—at least, not until this term comes to an end," warned Jack. "They have been cutting up so much since last September that their averages are none too high as it is. They'd be mighty sorry if Captain Dale sent home a bad report about them. It would just about break Aunt Nellie's heart, I'm sure."
Having procured the reference books, the two made their way upstairs to the rooms occupied by them. The Rovers had a suite of four rooms, one of which was used as a sitting room and for studying. As they walked through the upper hallway they passed Nick Carncross and Bill Glutts. Glutts looked sourly at them but did not say a word, and they refused to notice the pair.
"I guess you've got their goat, Bill," remarked Carncross, as they passed on. "That race really belonged to you, and they know it."
"Of course it belonged to me," returned Glutts. "If they hadn't got in my way I'd have won with ease. There isn't a bobsled anywhere around that can beat the Yellow Streak."
"I'm glad you shoved him over in the snow, even if he is a captain," continued Carncross. "He's got too big an opinion of himself."
"He only got to be captain by a fluke, Nick. Gabe Werner should have had that office," continued Glutts.
"Is that why Werner left?" questioned Carncross curiously.
"Oh, no. He left because he got sick of the discipline around here. He said there was no chance for any fun," answered Glutts.
"Where is he now? Did his folks approve of his leaving school?"
"Oh, I guess they didn't care one way or the other. Old man Werner is pretty rich, and he didn't get his money by being educated either. So I guess he doesn't care much for education."
"Does he let Gabe have much spending money?"
"Quite a little—but, of course, not as much as Gabe would like to have. You know Gabe is a good deal of a sport." Bill Glutts' face lit up with satisfaction. "I expect we are going to have a bang-up time together during the holidays."
"Then you expect to see him?"
"Yes; we're planning a trip together."
"Gee! I'll envy you," returned Carncross.
Andy and Randy had not yet come upstairs. Neither could resist the temptation to have a little fun, and after supper they had gone outside and begun to snowball Shout Plunger, the school janitor, and Bob Nixon, the chauffeur.
"It's all in fun, you know," explained Andy, as he let fly a snowball at the old janitor, who was always called Shout because he was so deaf.
"Hi there! you stop that!" roared Shout. And then, when they continued to snowball him, he came after them with a wooden snow-shovel.
"Look out! Here comes the enemy!" cried Randy gayly, and let fly a snowball which struck the upraised snow-shovel and sent a shower of loose snow into the janitor's face.
"You young rascals!" roared Plunger, and then lost his footing on some ice. In endeavoring to keep his balance he sent the snow-shovel whirling through the air. It landed at Andy's feet, catching that fun-loving youth in the shins and sending him flat on his face.
"Hurrah! One down!" came from Bob Nixon good-naturedly, and then the chauffeur picked up a large chunk of snow and threw it high in the air, to land directly on Randy's shoulder.
"Great pyramids of Egypt!" gasped Randy. "Is that a snowslide?" For some of the snow had filled his ear and gone down his neck.
"Oh, we didn't begin this, you know," cried the chauffeur gleefully. "Come on, Shout; let's show 'em what the older generation can do." And then he picked up another chunk of snow and hurled it at Andy, nearly burying that youth while he was endeavoring to regain his feet.
"Hi! Hi you!" spluttered Andy. "We went in for snowballing. We didn't go in for avalanches."
"When you start something, always be sure you can finish it," admonished Bob Nixon. And then he picked up a third chunk of snow; but before he could make use of it the Rover twins had dived out of sight around a corner of the school building.
"I guess that's the time we got the worst of it," remarked Andy ruefully.
"And maybe we deserved it," was Randy's ready response. "Come on and snowball some of the other cadets."
A number were willing, and an impromptu snowballing battle took place which lasted the best part of a quarter of an hour. Then one of the teachers came out and ordered the youths upstairs, for this was the study hour.
On Sundays such of the cadets as desired to do so were permitted to attend one or another of the churches in Haven Point. All of the Rovers went to church, and there met, not only Mary and Martha, but also Ruth Stevenson, May Powell, and some of the other girls.
"Well, Jack, I suppose this snowy weather puts you in mind of the time you went to my Uncle Barney's place on Snowshoe Island," remarked Ruth Stevenson, with a bright smile at the young captain, who, of course, was dressed in his best uniform.
"That's what it does, Ruth," he answered. "And, my, what a good time we did have! How is your uncle getting along?"
"Very well indeed. He is a changed man since he stopped quarreling with my folks and since it has been proved that Snowshoe Island is really and truly his property."
"I'm glad we were able to help the old man."
"Have you decided on what you intend to do during the coming holidays?" continued the girl from Clearwater Hall.
"Not exactly, Ruth. More than likely we'll go home with the girls and spend some time with our mothers. They probably feel pretty lonely now that our dads have gone to Europe."
"Yes, I can imagine how that must be."
"You girls ought to come down with Mary and Martha."
"We're talking of doing that," put in May Powell. "You see, we wanted them to come up to my house first, and then Ruth wanted them. But as their mothers are now all alone in New York they thought it best that we should spend the time down there. We could have something of a house party, and that would help cheer the older folks up."
"A good idea!" came from Fred. "Do it by all means!"
"Yes, you girls can have a fine time in New York during the winter holidays," added Randy.
"I suppose you boys will want to go off hunting," said May, pouting a little. "I wish I was a boy and could do that!"
"Gee! I wish we could go off hunting, like we did that time at Snowshoe Island," cried Randy wistfully. "Such an outing would suit me right down to the ground."
"Gif Garrison said something a few days ago about going off on a hunt," remarked Fred. "He says his father some years ago bought a place known as Cedar Lodge. He didn't tell me very much about it. In fact, he acted quite mysteriously."
"I suppose he didn't want to hurt your feelings, Fred," returned Jack. "More than likely he knew you would feel bad to have him going off for a good time up in the woods and have you and the rest of us staying at home."
Two days passed, and the young cadets were so busy getting ready for the examinations previous to the midwinter holidays that they had no time to pay attention to anything else. They heard that Bill Glutts was openly boasting that the Yellow Streak could beat any bobsled in that vicinity and that the Blue Moon had won the contest by a foul. But to this just then they paid no attention.
"I'll get at Bill later—just wait!" was the way Jack expressed himself, and the others knew that the young captain would keep his word.
On Wednesday the boys received letters from home stating that word had come in that their fathers were still in the trenches in France. No serious fighting had so far taken place in their sector, and none of them had been wounded and all were in the best of health.
"That's the best news yet," said Fred, with satisfaction, and the others agreed with him.
Gif Garrison had also received a letter, and this he read with tremendous satisfaction. His face was aglow as he called the Rover boys to him.
"I've got an important announcement to make to you fellows," he said. "Let us go up to your rooms and talk it over."
"What is the announcement?" questioned Andy eagerly.
"I'll tell you when we are alone," answered Gif.
SOMETHING ABOUT CEDAR LODGE
"Oh, go ahead, Gif, and get it off your chest!"
"Don't keep us waiting."
"Has some one died and left you a fortune?"
Such were some of the remarks made after Gif Garrison had said that he had an important announcement to make to the four Rover boys.
"Not another word until we get to your rooms," said Gif. "And, Andy, won't you please run off and get Spouter Powell? I just saw him heading for the gymnasium."
"All right, Gif. But don't you dare to let the others in on the secret until I get back," returned the fun-loving Rover boy, and away he sped on his errand.
A few minutes later all of the lads mentioned were assembled in the Rover boys' sitting room, some on chairs, one on a table, and two on a couch. Andy playfully started to throw a pillow at Fred, but Gif at once put up his hand in protest.
"Any horseplay, and I'll call it all off," he warned.
"I'll be good, Gif!" cried Andy reluctantly, and got rid of the pillow by using it for a back rest.
"This letter is from my Uncle Louis, who is a partner with my father in the ownership of a large tract of land not far from the seacoast," began Gif. "There is a small but comfortable bungalow on it, known as Cedar Lodge. Nobody was going to use the Lodge this winter, and I suggested to my folks and Uncle Louis that they allow us fellows to occupy it during the holidays."
"And what did they say?" questioned Randy eagerly.
"They said I could go there if I wanted to, and I could take you Rover boys and Spouter with me, provided you could get consent to go."
"Isn't that dandy!"
"Of course we'll go, Gif. Horses couldn't hold us back!"
"How is the hunting there? Can we get a deer or a moose?"
"How do you get there?"
These were a few questions hurled at Gif after he had made his important announcement. He placed his hands over his ears in despair.
"One question at a time, please!" he begged. "What do you think I am, anyhow—an encyclopaedia? To get there you go from here to Portview, and then along the coast to a place called Timminsport. From Timminsport you have either to take a sleigh or else hike to the camp, which is about five or six miles away. There is an old fellow, named Jed Wallop, who lives near the property in a little shack some distance from the bungalow. If we want him to, he will get a sled and drive us to the place, and he will also assist us in getting settled, and in getting what stores we may need—that is, provided you fellows can really go."
"You can count of me," declared Spouter promptly. "My folks said I could do as I pleased during the holidays, provided I kept out of mischief. And what mischief could a fellow get into in the midst of those grand primeval forests where perhaps the woodsman has never dared to lay his axe to the heart of the sturdy oak, and where the timid deer, in fancied freedom, ambles through the darkening glades, and—"
"Turn off the spigot, Spouter, or you'll have us flooded!" burst out Randy.
"Save your orations for the day before election," came from Fred.
"You can give us the rest of it, Spouter, when we are in camp some night and have nothing to read and don't know what to do," suggested Jack.
"That's it—always cutting my rhetorical effusions short," remarked Spouter reproachfully. "Some day, when you are aching to have me make a speech, you'll find me dumb."
"Tell us more about this camp, Gif," cried Fred.
Thereupon Gif Garrison related all he knew concerning the camp, which was located on a small stream of water that in the summer time ran down to a bay emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. There was a good deal of timber on the tract, and, so far as Gif knew, there was quite some small game.
"I don't know about deer," he continued. "More than likely the big animals have gone further north. But one might get a chance at a wolf or a fox, and maybe some brook mink. We'll be sure to get plenty of rabbits and squirrels and ducks, and most likely some partridges and maybe wild turkeys. But, first of all, you Rovers have got to make sure that you can go."
"Oh, we'll arrange that somehow, Gif," said Jack. "Of course, we'll want to go home first and see our folks and cheer them up a bit. They are pretty lonely now that our dads are over in France."
"Oh, I'm going home myself first. But we can have at least three weeks up there, because the school is going to be closed more than a month before and after Christmas."
Gif's announcement was such a pleasing one that the Rovers found it hard work after that to settle down to their studies. Letters were at once written to their mothers, and presently word came back that they might go to the camp immediately after Christmas if they wanted to do so. Then Jack telephoned to his sister at Clearwater Hall and got word back that Ruth and May would go down to New York with Mary and Martha and remain there until it was time to return to the girls' school.
"It's too bad we can't be at home while the girls are there," remarked Jack to his cousins. He sighed deeply.
"You mean it's too bad you can't be there while Ruth is there," put in Andy slyly.
"That's the time you struck the nail on the head!" cried Randy.
"Humph! you needn't rap me about it," returned the young captain briefly. "I guess you'd like to see the girls yourselves."
Now that they knew what they were going to do during the midwinter holidays, the Rover boys and their chums were eager to have the school session come to an end. But they did not neglect their studies, nor did Jack and Fred neglect their duties as officers.
Jack had an essay to write on "The Real Training of a Soldier," and he spent a great deal of time over this.
"Not but what there is a good deal about it that I don't know," said Jack to his cousins. "I guess dad could write a better essay than I can turn out. He's seen some of the real side of a soldier's life."
"What wonderful things our dads will have to tell when they get back," said Fred. "That is, if they ever do get back," he added anxiously.
"Oh, they've got to come back, Fred! They've simply got to!" returned Jack. But his face, too, showed his worry. The Rover boys did not care to admit it to each other, yet each day every one of them worried over their parents. It was dreadful to think that one's father, or one's beloved uncle, might be killed by the Germans, or even badly wounded.
On the Saturday following the bobsled contest the boys assembled once more on the long Hill, and this time they were accompanied by many of the girls from Clearwater Hall. Jack and his cousins gave Ruth and the others many rides down the hill, much to their mutual delight.
"Here comes Bill Glutts with his Yellow Streak," cried Fred presently.
"Here's a chance to have another race with him, Jack," said Fatty Hendry. "He says you won the other race by a foul."
"That's the talk, Jack!" cried Dan Soppinger. "Show him and the whole crowd that you beat him fairly."
At first Jack did not care to pit himself again against Glutts. But there was so much talk that at length he consented, but insisted upon it that the whole course of the slide must be policed by the cadets.
"All right, we'll do that," said Major Ralph Mason, and then ordered all the cadets he could collect to station themselves on each side of the slide from the top to where it ran out on the lake.
"Oh, Jack, I hope you do win again!" said Ruth anxiously.
"I intend to do my best," he answered.
"You have got to win, Jack Rover!" cried his sister Martha. "If you don't beat that great big clumsy Glutts, I'll never speak to you again."
With so many cadets stationed along the course, Bill Glutts felt that his chances of winning the race were diminishing. He had thought that he could crowd Jack as he had done before, but now Walt Baxter laid down the law in such a manner that it could not be misunderstood.
"I will toss up a coin," said Walt, "and if you guess right, Glutts, you can take your choice of sides, and whichever side you or Jack Rover select, that side you must stick to from start to finish."
The coin was tossed up, and Bill Glutts called out "tails" and won. Then he said he would take the right side of the slide, that which Jack Rover and his chums had previously used.
"All right, then, Glutts," announced Walt. "Now then, remember that you have got to keep to the right all the way down; and you, Jack Rover, must keep to the left. If either of you crosses the middle of the course, that one will be disqualified and the race will be given to the other."
"All right, Walt, I will stick to the left from start to finish; just watch me and see," declared Jack.
"And I'll stick to the right," announced Bill Glutts. But his face showed anything but a happy expression as he spoke.
Jack had the same crowd on board that he had before, but Glutts made several changes. He retained Nick Carncross and Codfish, but for the other three cadets substituted youths who were slightly built, and consequently rather light in weight.
"He's saving all the pounds he can," whispered Randy.
"Jack, do you think the right side of the course is better than the left?" questioned Gif.
"I don't know. One looks about as good as the other to me," was the young captain's reply.
Professor Frank Grawson had come up and was quite interested in the proposed contest.
"I used to do a lot of bobsledding myself," said the professor, who was well liked by nearly all the cadets. "I used to have a home-made sled which was my pride for several seasons. Now, to make this more interesting, I'll put up a prize for the winner."
"Fine, Professor! Fine!" was the cry.
"What's the prize?"
The teacher thought for a moment.
"Well, every boy likes a good pocket knife," he said presently. "Now, to the one who wins this race I'll give a first-class, four-bladed, buck-handled knife. I saw some very good ones down in the hardware store at the Point, and I'll get one Monday."
"That's splendid, Professor!" cried Jack. "I'll do my best to win that knife."
"You'll see that knife coming to me!" exclaimed Bill Glutts, glaring at the young captain.
Walt Baxter now called for the contestants to get ready. In a minute more the two bobsleds stood side by side, each with its load of passengers, and with Fred ready to push one to the front and Nick Carncross ready to shove the other.
"All ready!" shouted Walt. "One—two—three! Go!"
And away both bobsleds dashed, and the great race was on.
THE DEFEAT OF THE BULLY
"Go ahead, Jack! You've got to win!"
"Don't let 'em beat you, Bill. Put it all over those Rovers."
"Oh, Jack, don't let them get the best of you!" cried Ruth.
"You've got to win!" screamed Martha.
"Here is where Glutts shows 'em what the Yellow Streak can do!"
So the cries ran on as the two bobsleds slowly gathered momentum and started down the long slope leading to Clearwater Lake.
At the beginning Glutts had a little the better of it, because the right side of the slide seemed to be more slippery than the other. He was the first to gain the top of the nearest rise and he shot over this while Jack's bobsled was still climbing the slope.
"Hurrah! Bill Glutts is ahead!"
"He said the Yellow Streak could beat any thing in this vicinity."
"Oh, do you really think Glutts will win?" questioned Ruth anxiously, as she turned to Dan Soppinger.
"Well, I should hope not!" answered Dan.
"If he does win there will be no holding him down," put in Ned Lowe, another chum of the Rovers. "He'll crow to beat the band all winter."
Forward went the two bobsleds, each steersman doing his best to guide his sled where running might be the easiest.
Just as Jack topped the first rise and started to speed down on the other side, he saw Bill Glutts start to resume his old tactics. The bully was running close to the center of the course, and now he overlapped the other side by at least six inches.
"Hi, there, Glutts! Get over on your side!" yelled one of the cadets who was helping to police the course.
"That's right, Bill. Get over, or you'll be disqualified," added another.
"Keep to the right! Keep to the right!" was the cry from several others. And then, knowing that the eyes of all the cadets in that vicinity were upon him, the bully slowly steered over to his side of the course. And he was not any too quick, for otherwise there might have been a serious disaster. Down the slope of the first hill rushed the Blue Moon. Jack was on his side, but had not more than six inches to spare. Had Glutts kept on as he was running the Blue Moon would have sideswiped the Yellow Streak, and there would undoubtedly have been a serious accident.
"Here comes the Blue Moon!"
"Say, but they are gathering some speed!"
"Hurrah, the Rovers are ahead!"
"Go on, Glutts! Go on! Don't let 'em beat you!"
It was true that the Blue Moon was now ahead and was slowly but surely increasing the distance between the Rovers and those aboard the Yellow Streak.
"Push her ahead, Bill! Push her ahead!" yelled Nick Carncross desperately.
"We've got to win!" cried Codfish.
"I'm doing the best I can," muttered Bill Glutts between his set teeth, and his eyes glowed with hatred as he saw the Blue Moon vanishing over the second rise of the course.
After that, as Fatty Hendry remarked, "it was all over but the shouting." Down toward the highway skirting the lake shot the Blue Moon. Then it ran swiftly along the final lap of the course and came out on Clearwater Lake, shooting several hundred feet beyond the finishing mark. The line was crossed while the Yellow Streak was still on the roadway beyond the lake shore.
"Hurrah! The Blue Moon wins!"
"My, but that was some run, believe me!"
"What will Bill Glutts have to say now?"
"He can't say this wasn't a fair race."
The run for the Blue Moon had certainly been a swift one, and while Jack was congratulated on his victory, he was also praised for the way in which he had handled his speedy bobsled.
"We certainly came down fast," remarked Randy. "I thought my ears were going to blow right off my head," and this remark caused a general laugh.
Glutts had finished the race twelve seconds behind his opponent and was in anything but a happy frame of mind.
"There were a number of sticks and stones on my side of the slide, and they held us back," he protested lamely. "I guess some of the fellows who didn't want to see the Yellow Streak win put 'em there."
"I can't believe that, Glutts," answered Major Mason flatly. "I looked over the course, and it was just as clear on one side as it was on the other."
"Don't be a sorehead, Bill, just because you lost," put in Fatty Hendry. "Be a good sport and shake hands with Jack over your defeat."
"I'll do as I please," roared the bully. "I don't need any advice from you. You fellows are all against me." And with this remark he turned his back on the crowd, and soon he and his cronies were making their way up along the lake shore, dragging the Yellow Streak behind them.
"It was a well won race, Captain Rover," said Professor Grawson. "You can be proud of being the possessor of such a speedy bobsled. On Monday I shall take great pleasure in getting that knife for you."
"Thank you, Professor. And I'll take great pleasure in accepting the knife," said Jack, with a grin.
"Well, that's the time you squared up with Bill Glutts," remarked Spouter, after the fun on Long Hill had come to an end and the boys had said good-bye to the girls and were on the return to Colby Hall. "You certainly paid him back for shoving you into that snowbank."
"I don't know whether I did or not," answered the young captain. "Evidently Glutts doesn't know when he's had enough. I suppose he'll be more bitter now than ever against me."
"Oh, I wouldn't worry about Glutts," put in Gif. "He's nothing but a great big overgrown butcher boy." He said this because it was a well-known fact that Bill Glutts was the only son of a wholesale butcher who had made a small fortune in manufacturing and selling frankfurters.
"I don't see how a fellow like Nick Carncross can take up with him," remarked Fatty Hendry.
"I know why he does that," came from Ned Lowe. "Bill has had plenty of money to spend lately—an uncle or somebody sent him quite a wad—and Nick's pocketbook, I imagine, is rather thin."
"Say, Ned, come around to our rooms to-night and give us some music just to celebrate this glorious event!" cried Fred, for Ned Lowe was quite a performer on the mandolin and usually had some very funny songs to sing.
"All right, I'll be glad to come," answered the mandolin player. "Any eats?"
"Oh, maybe we can scrape up something," answered Randy. The idea of a little spread on the quiet appealed to him.
The idea of a little spread appealed to the others, too, and as a consequence it was arranged between the Rovers and their chums that two of them should go to Haven Point for some things for the spread. This task was delegated to Andy and Fred, and they hurried off early in the evening, returning with several packages containing sandwiches, cake, candy, nuts and a large hand of bananas. In the meantime, the other Rover boys and Ned Lowe had gathered in Gif Garrison's room, and there enjoyed themselves singing and listening to Ned's playing of the mandolin.
As soon as the monitors had gone their rounds to see that everything was quiet for the night, Spouter, Gif, Fatty, Ned, Dan, Walt and several others found their way to the Rover boys' suite.
"Now, don't make too much noise," admonished Fred, who let them in. "Remember Bill Glutts and his gang will be only too glad to find out what is going on and report us."
"And we don't want to get any black marks when it's so near the end of the term," added Jack.
"Right-o," came from Andy.
The new arrivals proceeded to make themselves at home, and then the Rovers passed around the good things which had been obtained.
"Say, this is all right," declared Walt, munching a tongue sandwich.
"Couldn't be beat," came from Gif, who had his mouth full of layer cake.
"Here, Fatty, have some nuts!" cried Andy gayly, and let several almonds slide down the fat youth's collar.
"Hi, there! Let up!" cried Fatty. "I don't eat nuts that way," and he made a pass at Andy with a pillow.
"No horseplay, now! Cut it out, Andy," warned Jack.
After that the cadets conversed in low tones and at the same time enjoyed the many good things to eat.
"What are you going to do with those banana skins, Andy?" questioned his twin, as he saw the youth place several of the skins in a bit of newspaper.
"Oh, I've got a plan to use them," was the answer.
"Well, if there is any fun on foot, let me in on it," went on Randy promptly.
"I was thinking we might send some of these good things over to Bill Glutts, Codfish and Nick Carncross," went on the fun-loving Rover. "It might make 'em feel better over their defeat."
"What! Give up some of these good eats to them?" demanded Fred.
"Well, I don't know whether they would be very good eats or not," answered Andy, closing one eye suggestively. "Do you see what I've got in this little package?" he went on, bringing a small paper bag from his pocket. "Smell it."
Fred did so, but with caution. Then he gave a sudden sneeze.
"Right you are, Freddie boy! How did you guess it?" and Andy grinned broadly.
"Say, that's the talk!" burst out Randy. "Let's send them over a few sandwiches and a couple of slices of cake, all well doctored with cayenne pepper."
"They'll be suspicious, especially if you take them over," remarked Jack. "We ought to get some outsider to do the job."
"I'll do it if you want me too," responded Walt Baxter promptly. "I don't love those chaps any more than you do. You just fix up some sandwiches and the cake, and I'll go around and explain that Dan and Ned and Fatty, and some of the rest of us, are giving the Rovers a little spread in honor of the victory and that we don't think it any more than right that they should have some of the good things."
So it was decided, and a little while later the cover of a pasteboard box was fixed up as a tray, containing several tempting looking sandwiches, some slices of layer cake, and two bananas. Then Walt Baxter marched off with the things in the direction of the room occupied by Bill Glutts.
"Come on and listen to what happens," said Andy, and presently, having slipped off their shoes, he and the others followed Walt down the corridor, but kept well in the background.
When Baxter arrived at Bill Glutts' room he heard low voices, and was much pleased to learn that Glutts was talking to Nick Carncross. When he knocked lightly on the door there was an uneasy stir within.
"Maybe it's one of the monitors come back," whispered Carncross uneasily.
"Who is there?" questioned Glutts sharply.
"It's I—Walt Baxter," was the answer. "Open the door, Glutts. I've got something good for you fellows."
The door was opened cautiously, and Walt explained his errand, at the same time holding out the improvised tray.
"I don't know that we want anything," said Glutts rather sourly.
"Oh, well, we might as well take it," put in Carncross hastily. He was a growing cadet, and always hungry.
"We'd like to have Codfish have some of this, too," said Walt. "Will you see that he gets some?"
"Sure!" answered Carncross readily. "He's right across the hall. I'll call him."
In a few minutes more Codfish came from his room clad in his pajamas and slippers. He sneaked over into the room occupied by Glutts and Carncross, and then the three began dividing the things Walt had brought for them.
"I'll have to go now," said Walt hastily. "Remember, this is with regards from our whole crowd," he added significantly.
"Thanks," muttered Carncross briefly, while Glutts and Codfish said nothing.
Then the bully closed the door and he and his cronies prepared to enjoy the things which had been brought to them.
AT THE MOVING PICTURE THEATRE
"There'll be something doing in a minute or two," murmured Randy, as he and the others came to a halt before Bill Glutts' door.
"You fellows be careful and don't step on any of these," whispered Andy, as he bent down and laid the banana skins he had saved on the floor. "Splendid doormat for them when they come out," he added, grinning.
Fortunately, those within the room were so busy dividing the sandwiches and cake that they paid no attention to what was going on outside.
"Rather nice of them to remember us," remarked Codfish. "Thank you, I don't think I care for any sandwiches, but I'll take that piece of cake instead."
"Me for a sandwich, Bill," murmured Carncross. "I'm quite hungry."
Then the three began to munch away on the sandwiches and the cake at a lively rate.
All had their mouths full when suddenly Codfish began to splutter.
"Hello! what's the matter?" cried Glutts. "Trying to swallow too much at once?"
"You don't want to make a pig of yourself, Codfish," admonished Carncross.
"Oh! Oh!" cried the sneak of the school. "Oh!"
"Oh, I'm burning up! Oh, they must have poisoned me!"
"Gee! do you suppose they put something in that cake?" cried Carncross, in sudden alarm.
"Oh, my mouth is on fire!" groaned Codfish.
To this neither Glutts nor Carncross made any answer. Each was beginning to feel a sudden strange sensation on his tongue and in his throat. Both began to feel as if their mouths were burning up.
"It's something they've put in the eats!" exclaimed Glutts. "They're trying to poison us, or something!"
"It's pepper! That's what it is—cayenne pepper!" came from Codfish. "Oh, give me a drink of water, or something! This is dreadful!"
The sneak made a dash across the room to where a water pitcher stood on a stand with a glass beside it. But the pitcher proved to be empty.
"My gracious, this is terrible!" spluttered Carncross, and began to cough.
In the meantime Glutts smelled of the food that remained on the improvised tray, and suddenly gave a loud sneeze, followed by several others.
"Hurrah! they are enjoying it all right enough," remarked Jack, in a low tone.
"I've got to have a drink!" yelled Carncross recklessly. "Gee! I'm burning up clean from my mouth to my stomach!"
"You're no worse off than I am," spluttered Glutts. "Oh, just wait until I get hold of that Walt Baxter!"
"It was the whole bunch that did it. I'll bet the trick was gotten up by those Rovers!"
The door was flung open, and all of the occupants of the room dashed out into the hallway, bent upon getting to the nearest bathroom or water cooler for a drink. Not one of them noticed the slippery banana skins spread out on the floor, and on the instant Bill Glutts went sliding along and came down flat on his back. Carncross did likewise, Codfish tripping over him and pitching headlong.
"Say! what's this?" exploded Glutts. "Oh, my back! I guess I've broken my shoulder."
"They must have soaked the floor," came from Carncross. "No! It's banana skins," he added, in deep disgust. "Say, Codfish, take your feet off my stomach, will you?"
"I—I couldn't help falling over you, you went down so suddenly," apologized the sneak. "Oh dear! let me get a drink of water—I'm all on fire inside."
The Rovers and their chums had retreated to a distance, and this was wise, for, had Glutts and Carncross been able to get hold of them, there would certainly have been a fight. But as it was, the bully and his cronies passed down a back corridor to the nearest bathroom, where they proceeded to wash out their mouths and get a long drink.
"Now we'd better get back to our rooms and get into bed as soon as possible," said Jack. "They may report us, and some of the professors may come around to investigate."
"Let them come! We'll all be asleep like so many innocent lambs," remarked Randy.
"They'll find that I've been asleep for the last two hours," added Walt Baxter, and at this the others had to smile.
The crowd separated, and the four Rovers returned to their rooms, where they lost no time in getting rid of all the evidences of the feast. Then they undressed, turned out the lights, and crept into their beds.
"I don't believe they'll dare to report this," whispered Andy to his twin. And in this surmise the fun-loving Rover was correct. Glutts and his cronies did a good deal of grumbling, but there the matter, for the time being, ended.
"But I'll get square some day! You just wait and see!" Glutts told the others.
The school term was now drawing to an end, and it was definitely announced that, owing to the war conditions, Colby Hall would remain closed for a period of six weeks for the winter holidays. This would give the Rovers and their chums a full month's vacation after New Year's.
"And what a good time we will have up at Cedar Lodge!" cried Fred.
"It certainly was grand of Gif to ask us to go up there with him and Spouter," added Jack.
The Rovers and their chums, and especially Walt Baxter, kept a close eye on Bill Glutts and his cronies. But beyond scowling at them whenever they passed, the bully did nothing regarding the peppered food which had been presented.
"He's laying low for something, I suppose," said Walt. "However, I'm not going to worry."
One day he received a "soaker" of a snowball in his left ear while hurrying to the gymnasium. He did not know who threw the missile, but was satisfied in his mind that it came from either Glutts or Carncross.
The examinations for the term were held, and much to the Rover boys' satisfaction all acquitted themselves creditably. Spouter and Gif did very well too, and were equally elated.
"Let us go down to town this evening and celebrate," suggested Jack that afternoon. "I think Captain Dale will let us go, and I understand they are giving a very good war picture at Mr. Falstein's moving picture theater."
"That will suit me," answered Fred.
The matter was talked over by a number of the cadets, and they went to see Captain Dale about it; and as a result nine of them set out for Haven Point, where was located the moving picture theater at which Jack and his cousins first met the girls from Clearwater Hall.
"This looks like a pretty good picture," remarked Gif, as he pointed to one advertised on the billboards. "A real war play with some of the scenes taken at the front."
"Either at the front or on the Hackensack Meadows," remarked Randy dryly. "They tell me that more than three-fourths of those so-called war pictures are faked up."
"Well, you wouldn't expect the moving picture actors to go right out in the middle of a battlefield and perform, would you?" queried Jack.
"Here's a good comic, too!" put in Fatty Hendry. "That suits me all right. I like a good laugh."
"Fatty, you ought to go in the movies," remarked Fred. "You would make a hit as the Living Skeleton."
"He would unless his face broke the camera," added Ned Lowe.
"I understand some of those fat fellows in the movies get a couple of hundred dollars a week for acting," said Fatty. "I wouldn't mind doing some of those stunts myself at that price."
The cadets purchased their tickets and were soon inside the showhouse. An educational film was being thrown on the screen, and they were much interested in seeing the details of tanning leather and making leather belts, handbags, and shoes.
"Gee! how easy it is to learn about these things in a moving picture," remarked Gif.
"What a pity it is they can't teach a fellow algebra and geometry in the same way," sighed Randy.
The educational film was followed by the war play, and whether this was given with faked-up backgrounds or not, it proved to be a very interesting production, especially to the Rover boys. There were pictures of life in the soldiers' camps and on the transports bound for Europe, and then scenes of life in the French trenches, culminating in a terrific bombardment by big cannons, and then a thrilling charge over No-Man's Land.
"Gee, isn't that immense!" murmured Fred. "Think of dad being in such a charge as that!"
"It brings the war pretty close, doesn't it, Fred?" asked Jack.
The scenes of the mighty conflict not alone thrilled the Rover boys but also sobered them, especially when there came a picture of the dead and the dying, with the ambulances rushing hither and thither to take the wounded to the field hospitals.
Poor Fred felt the tears coming into his eyes, and was glad that the moving picture house was rather dark, so that he might use his handkerchief without being noticed.
The war picture was followed immediately by one depicting the trials and tribulations of a fat man who obtained a position as a bell-boy in a country hotel. He did some wonderful stunts, and managed to break up a great deal of crockeryware and innumerable pies, and this set all the cadets, as well as the majority of the audience, to roaring with laughter.
"I guess those fellows earn their money," remarked Spouter to Fatty. "Just think of being slammed around in front of the camera like that!"
"Yes. And think of having three or four pies plastered all over your face," returned the stout youth. "I guess, after all, I'd rather go into ordinary business."
"I imagine some of those so-called stunts are only trick pictures—I mean those things like climbing up the side of a house and holding on to the top of a church steeple," remarked Jack. "Just the same, those moving picture actors have to risk their lives more than once, especially when they take wild rides on horse-back or in automobiles, or get in railroad smash-ups."
Immediately following the comic picture, all the lights in the theater were turned on and a gentleman stepped on the stage to address the audience.
"I wonder what he's going to talk about," whispered Randy.
"Liberty Loan, or something like that, I suppose," answered his twin.
He was right. There was a new drive on to raise money for the Government to be used for war purposes, and this gentleman, as a member of the local committee, had come forth to urge every man and woman in the audience to invest in Liberty Bonds.
"That is what my father was doing in and around New York before he went to war," explained Andy to Walt Baxter. "He made quite a success of it, too. He was on a whole lot of committees."
"And he did a lot of work for the Red Cross, too," added Randy.
While the lights were turned on the cadets had a chance to look around the showhouse. They thought that possibly some of the girls from Clearwater Hall might be present, but they were disappointed.
The talk about Liberty Bonds had come to an end, and several men and women were passing through the audience trying to get subscribers for the bonds when half a dozen newcomers entered the moving picture theater. One of the number was in cadet uniform, and as he came down the aisle and took a seat on the other side of the showhouse, Jack caught Fred by the arm.
"Look who's here, will you?" he whispered excitedly.
"Why, it's Bill Glutts!" returned Fred.
"Exactly! And do you see who is with him?"
"No. I can't make out. Who is it?"
"Gabe Werner! Are you sure, Jack?"
"Positive! I saw him full in the face just before he sat down."
Soon the lights in the showhouse went out once more, and the moving picture performance continued.
THE END OF THE TERM
"What can Gabe Werner be doing around here?" questioned Randy, who had heard the conversation between his two cousins.
"I'm sure I don't know," answered Jack. "He doesn't live anywhere in this vicinity, and I thought after he left the school he went home."
"Evidently Glutts must have known about his being here, otherwise they wouldn't be together," said Andy.
Jack stood up so that he might get a better view of the other side of the showhouse. He noticed several vacant seats directly behind those occupied by Glutts and Werner.
"I'm going to slip over there just as soon as the lights are turned down," he said to Fred. "If they are hatching out any mischief perhaps we'll hear something worth listening to."
"I'll go with you," was the ready reply.
The pair explained to the others what they were about to do, and then slipped out of their seats and made their way to the back of the moving picture theater. Then, when the lights were being turned out, they moved forward and slipped into two seats directly behind Glutts and Werner without being noticed by the two bullies.
The educational film was now being shown again, and this caused Glutts to give a snort of disgust.
"I don't care for that sort of stuff," said the wholesale butcher's son. "I wish they would put on the war play. Tell me some more about this scheme you've got for spending the winter holidays."
"Oh, it's a dandy scheme, all right, Bill," responded Werner. And then he began a description of a winter's camp and told how he had permission to go there and how he wanted Glutts to go with him.
While Gabe Werner was speaking some people sitting next to him had arisen and were trying to get out. Gabe and Bill arose, and as they did so the former turned around and caught sight of the two Rovers.
"Say! what do you know about this?" he cried in astonishment.
"Jack Rover and Fred Rover!" murmured Glutts, and his face likewise betrayed astonishment.
"Did you fellows follow us into the theater?" demanded Werner.
"We certainly did not," returned Fred quickly. "We were in the theater long before you came in."
"Huh!" Werner was stumped for a moment. "I didn't notice them here, did you?" he questioned his crony.
"If I had I should have taken a seat elsewhere," was Glutts' ready reply. He glared at the Rovers. "I suppose you have been listening to everything we said."
"If you don't want to be heard you had better not talk in a place like this," replied Jack.
"I don't care what they did hear," grumbled Werner. "I'm not ashamed of what I am doing or intend to do."
"If I were you, Glutts, I'd cut Werner," advised Fred. "Captain Dale won't give you any credit for sticking to him after what happened at the encampment."
"I suppose you are going to tell Captain Dale you saw me with him," retorted Glutts.
"I shan't say a word unless I am questioned."
"I haven't forgotten what happened at the encampment," said Gabe Werner, turning to Jack. "Some day I'm going to square accounts with you."
"When that time comes I think I'll be able to defend myself, Werner," answered the young captain coldly.
By this time a number of people in the audience were turning around, evidently annoyed by the conversation. One heavy-set man turned back and tapped Werner on the shoulder.
"Say, if you fellows want to hold a talk-fest, go outside and do it," he growled. "We want to look at the pictures."
"Come ahead, Jack," whispered Fred. "It won't do us any good to stay here, now that Glutts and Werner have discovered our presence."
"Right you are," was the answer. And a moment later the two Rovers slipped out of their seats and made their way to the rear of the showhouse. Here they were joined by the others of their crowd; and all went outside and across the street to a drugstore, where Jack treated the others to hot chocolate soda.
"They are hatching out something, that is sure," remarked Jack.
"As near as I could make out, Werner is going off into the woods on a hunt and wants Glutts to go with him," returned Fred. "I wonder where they are going?"
No one could answer that question, and presently the crowd began to talk of other things, and especially of the war play they had just witnessed.
"Gosh! but a play like that brings the war pretty close to a fellow," said Randy, with a sigh.
"Makes a fellow think of how our dads are making out over there, doesn't it?" said Fred.
"When they showed those ambulance scenes with all the dead and dying lying around it gave me the cold shivers," came from Andy. "I tell you what—war is a terrible thing."
"Yes, and you have got to see something like that to realize how really terrible it is," put in Jack.
Several days later the term at Colby Hall came to an end. There was something of an entertainment, with prize speaking in which Spouter distinguished himself, and then came the final drill and parade around the campus. Following this the cadets indulged in several snowball fights and in quite some horseplay, and then rushed off to their rooms to pack their suitcases and other baggage so as to be ready to depart for home in the early morning.
"Wow! but it feels good to know I haven't got to look at a grammar or an algebra for the next few weeks," cried Randy, with satisfaction.
"Say! it makes me feel as happy as a clown in a circus," declared Andy, and, in high spirits, he began a jig and ended by turning a flip-flap over one of the beds. Then he and his twin indulged in a pillow fight, in which Fred joined.
"Hi, you fellows! stop your rumpus," cried Jack, who was trying to pack his suitcase. "You keep on, and you'll have the ceiling of the floor below down."
"Can't help it!" cried Andy gayly. "We've got to break loose once in a while," and he playfully landed a cake of soap in the open suitcase.
"I'll soap you!" cried the young captain, and, taking the article in question, he made a leap over the bed, caught his cousin by the neck, and allowed the cake of soap to slip down Andy's back.
"Great salt mackerel!" ejaculated the fun-loving Rover, and, pulling his coat tight, he arched his back. "Anybody notice the camel's hump?"
"It isn't a hump, Andy. It's only a wart on your backbone," answered his twin.
"Well, hump or wart, it isn't going to stay there very long," remarked the other, and immediately proceeded to stand on his hands, shaking his body in such a manner that presently the soap rattled out on the floor. Then quietness was restored for the time being, and the Rovers continued their packing.
A conference was held with Gif, and it was decided that all of the crowd were to go home for Christmas. Several days later the Rovers were to meet Gif and Spouter at Portview, and then all would proceed to Cedar Lodge.
"And don't forget to bring your guns and all your other traps," said Gif.
"You trust us for that!" responded Fred.
"We'll be there with everything that is necessary outside of the provisions. Those, of course, we can get at Portview or at Timminsport."
"I hope we get a chance at a moose," sighed Randy.
"Gee! Why don't you make it a lion or an elephant or a polar bear while you are at it?" cried his twin. "Might as well wish for everything in the menagerie. It doesn't cost any more," and at this there was a general smile.
"I know what I'd like to get," said Jack. "I was reading about one in the paper the other day. They must be beautiful creatures."
"What's that?" questioned Gif.
"A silver fox."
"Oh, say, Jack! that would be fine. But I imagine silver foxes are exceedingly rare."
"Oh, I know that. Just the same, I'd like to bag one. The fur would make a very fine piece for some lady to wear."
"Ruth Stevenson, for instance," murmured Andy; and at this his cousin made a playful pass at him with his fist, which the fun-loving Rover easily dodged.
The next morning the cadets had an early breakfast, and a short while later saw many of them on their way by carriage and automobile to Haven Point. Many girls were also coming in from Clearwater Hall, so that the railroad station present an unusually lively appearance.
In the crowd was Bill Glutts, but he took care to keep away from the Rovers. Gabe Werner was nowhere to be seen, and the Rovers rightfully conjectured that he had left the town.
The boys had hardly arrived when a carry-all came in from Clearwater Hall containing Mary and Martha, as well as Ruth and May and a dozen other girl students. There was a general handshaking, and then all took a stand on the station platform to wait for the coming of two trains which were to bear the various students in opposite directions. Everybody had already procured a ticket, and the trains which were expected were extras, for it would have been impossible for the ordinary locals to have taken care of such heavy traffic.
"I am sorry you're not going to travel with us to New York," said Jack to Ruth.
"Well, I'm sorry you're not coming my way," answered the girl, with a smile.
"But you'll be down to our house directly after Christmas, won't you?"
"Yes, we'll be down the day after—May and I."
"Well, that will give us a whole day together, anyhow, before us fellows start for Cedar Lodge," went on the young captain. Then he nudged Ruth in the elbow. "Come over here," he whispered. "I want to show you something that I don't want the others to see."
Together they slipped out of the crowd and around the corner of the little railroad station. Then Jack brought out a large flat package from an inner pocket of his overcoat. "I had these taken as a Christmas surprise to mother and Martha. What do you think of them?" and he brought forth several photographs of himself taken in his cadet uniform. They had been taken by the leading photographer of Haven Point who made a specialty of work for the two schools, and they certainly showed the young captain at his best.
"Oh, how lovely, Jack!" cried Ruth in genuine pleasure. "I declare, they are splendid pictures."
"Then you like them?" he queried anxiously.
"I certainly do! I don't think they could be better." She looked at the three poses presented critically. "If it's all the same to you, I'll keep this one," she said finally.
"Oh, Ruth, you don't want my picture, do you?" he questioned, and there was a trace of wistfulness in his voice.
"Of course I do, Jack. I can keep this one, can't I?" and the girl looked full at him in a manner that spoke volumes.
"Why, sure! if you want it," he answered quickly. "But, say! don't I get one of yours in return?" he added.
"Well, I'll see about that," she hesitated.
"Oh, now, Ruth—"
"I haven't had one taken in an awfully long time, Jack."
"Never mind, you will let me have one of them anyhow, won't you?"
"I—I guess—maybe so. I'll give it to you for a Christmas present. Only don't tell the others."
"I won't, Ruth. And you can keep about my picture to yourself, too," added the captain. And thereupon the decidedly interesting conversation between the pair had to come to an end as one of the trains came puffing in—that which was to carry Ruth and some of the other girls, as well as many of the cadets, away.
CHRISTMAS AT HOME
"Well, here we are at last. I wonder if anybody will be at the station to meet us," said Martha Rover.
"Oh, I'm sure somebody will come down," answered Mary.
The six Rovers had had a long and uneventful train ride from Haven Point to the Grand Central Terminal, Forty-second Street, New York City. They had had to change cars at the Junction, where some months before they had had such fun with Mr. Asa Lemm, the discharged teacher of the Hall, as related in detail in the volume previous to this. The train had been crowded with passengers, but the Rovers had managed to get seats together, much to their satisfaction; and they had also managed to get pretty fair accommodations when it came time to go into the diner.
They had telegraphed ahead concerning their coming, and found two chauffeurs employed by Dick Rover and Tom Rover on hand to receive them and take charge of their baggage. Then they went out to the street, where they found two automobiles awaiting them, one containing Jack's mother and the other the mothers of Fred and the twins.
"Hello, Ma!" cried the young captain, as he rushed forward to embrace his parent. "How are you? You are looking pretty good."
"Oh, I am feeling quite fair," answered Mrs. Dick Rover with a smile.
"Home again, and glad of it!" exclaimed Fred, as he embraced his mother.
"My, my, but I'm glad that that term at the school is at an end!" cried Andy, as he gave Mrs. Tom Rover the hug he knew she would be expecting, a hug which was speedily duplicated by his twin. "Hope you've got a good big dinner waiting for us. Traveling has made me hungry."
"Not but what we had a pretty good meal on the train," added his twin.
"You'll get all you want to-night," answered Mrs. Tom Rover affectionately.
In the meantime Mary and Martha had come up and joined their parents. There was a good deal of kissing and questioning, and while this was going on the chauffeurs assisted the young people to their seats and stowed away their handbaggage. There were no trunks to come, for all the young folks had left a large part of the belongings at the schools.
There was only one thing which saddened the home-coming of the young people, and that was the absence of their fathers. Although Jack had said that his mother was looking well, still he had not failed to notice that her face showed a certain paleness and some lines of care.
"Don't worry, Mother. I'm sure dad will come back all right," he said later on, in an endeavor to comfort her.
"I am hoping so, Jack. But, oh! how I wish this awful war would come to an end," and Mrs. Dick Rover sighed deeply.
All too quickly the next few days passed. Young folks and old folks were busy doing their shopping for Christmas, and in addition to this, the boys went out to purchase a number of things they thought they might need while at the camp.
"I'm afraid we're in for it," said Randy dismally, on the afternoon before Christmas. "This looks like a regular blizzard."
It certainly did look like a blizzard, with the snow coming down thickly and the wind blowing it first in one direction then in another. By nightfall the streets were almost impassable, and in the morning traffic along Riverside Drive was practically suspended.
"Merry Christmas!" shouted Randy, who was the first to get up.
"Merry Christmas!" replied Andy. "And how do you like to live at the North Pole?" he added, as he glanced out of the window at the storm-bound street and the river and the Palisades beyond.
There was a grand reunion of the three families in the Dick Rover residence, and presents were exchanged all around. The boys had purchased a number of small but appropriate gifts for their mothers and the two girls, and also for the various servants of the families. In return they received a number of gifts, both useful and ornamental, including gold-mounted stylographic pens, which each one had desired, and also some new hockey skates and story books.
Martha had knit a bright sweater for her brother, and Mary had done the same for Fred, and the girls between them had likewise knit sweaters for the twins.
"We sure are the lucky kids," remarked Andy, when all of them were looking over their gifts. "This sweater suits me to a T. And, my! just wait until I get on those hockey skates. There won't be a thing in New York or on Clearwater Lake that will beat me."
"I see you doing some tall skating to-day," replied his twin, with a grin. "What you will need is a snow shovel if you want to get anywhere."
The storm kept up until noon of Christmas, and then cleared away almost as rapidly as it had come, the night being clear and cold, with a beautiful moon and twinkling stars shining from above.
"I hope it stays clear so that May and Ruth will have a chance to come down," remarked Fred during the course of the afternoon.
"I guess we all hope that," answered Jack.
With so much to think of in connection with their proposed trip to Cedar Lodge, the Rover boys put in a busy time all of that day and part of the next. Then they went down to the Grand Central Terminal with the girls to meet the expected visitors.
"There they are!" cried Martha, after the long train had rolled into the station. And a moment later she and Ruth were in each other's arms, while Mary was embracing May. Then the boys shook hands, and all drove away to the Rover residences.
"Did you get that picture for me, Ruth?" questioned Jack, as soon as he could get a chance to speak to the girl in private.
"Oh, you don't want any picture," she declared mischievously.
"Aw, come now," he pleaded, "don't try to put me off that way. You know what you promised."
"Well, can't you wait until we get to the house?"
"Oh, sure! But I wanted to make certain that you had brought the picture along."