The Rover Boys on the River
The Search for the Missing Houseboat
I. Plans for an Outing II. On the way to Putnam Hall III. The Doings of a Night IV. What the Morning Brought Forth V. For and Against VI. Link Smith's Confession VII. Fun on the Campus VIII. Good-bye to Putnam Hall IX. The Rover Boys at Home X. A Scene in a Cemetery XI. Attacked from Behind XII. Flapp and Baxter Plot Mischief XIII. Chips and the Circus Bills XIV. Fun at the Show XV. Acts Not on the Bills XVI. Aleck Brings News XVII. A Queer Captain XVIII. On Board the Houseboat XIX. Words and Blows XX. Days of Pleasure XXI. The Disappearance of the Houseboat XXII. Dan Baxter's Little Game XXIII. A Run in the Dark XXIV. The Horse Thieves XXV. Plotting Against Dora and Nellie XXVI. The Search on the River XXVII. Caught Once More XXVIII. A Message for the Rovers XXIX. Jake Shaggam, of Shaggam Creek XXX. The Rescue—Conclusion
My dear boys: "The Rover Boys on the River" is a complete story in itself, but forms the ninth volume of "The Rover Boys Series for Young Americans."
Nine volumes! What a great number of tales to write about one set of characters! When I started the series I had in mind, as I have mentioned before, to write three, or possibly, four books. But the gratifying reception given to "The Rover Boys at School," soon made the publishers call for the second, third, and fourth volumes, and then came the others, and still the boys and girls do not seem to be satisfied. I am told there is a constant cry for "more! more!" and so I present this new Rover Boys story, which tells of the doings of Dick, Tom, and Sam and their friends during an outing on one of our great rivers,—an outing full of excitement and fun and with a touch of a rather unusual mystery. During the course of the tale some of the old enemies of the Rover Boys turn up, but our heroes know, as of old, how to take care of themselves; and all ends well.
In placing this book into the hands of my young readers I wish once more to thank them for the cordial reception given the previous volumes. Many have written to me personally about them, and I have perused the letters with much satisfaction. I sincerely trust the present volume fulfills their every expectation.
Affectionately and sincerely yours,
ARTHUR M. WINFIELD.
THE ROVER BOYS ON THE RIVER
PLANS FOR AN OUTING
"Whoop! hurrah! Zip, boom, ah! Rockets!"
"For gracious' sake, Tom, what's all the racket about? I thought we had all the noise we wanted last night, when we broke up camp."
"It's news, Dick, glorious news," returned Tom Rover, and he began to dance a jig on the tent flooring. "It's the best ever."
"It won't be glorious news if you bring this tent down on our heads," answered Dick Rover. "Have you discovered a gold mine?"
"Better than that, Dick. I've discovered what we are going to do with ourselves this summer."
"I thought we were going back to the farm, to rest up, now that the term at Putnam Hall is at an end."
"Pooh! Who wants to rest? I've rested all I wish right in this encampment."
"Well, what's the plan? Don't keep us in 'suspenders,' as Hans Mueller would say."
"Dear old Hansy! That Dutch boy is my heart's own!" cried Tom, enthusiastically. "I could not live without him. He must go along."
"Go along where?"
"On our outing this summer?"
"But where do you propose to go to, Tom?"
"For a trip on the broad and glorious Ohio River."
"That's it, Dick. We are to sail the briny deep of that river in a houseboat. Now, what do you think of that?"
"I'd like to know what put that into your head, Tom," came from the tent opening, and Sam Rover, the youngest of the three brothers, stepped into view.
"Uncle Randolph put it into my head, not over half an hour ago, Sam. It's this way: You've heard of John V. Black of Jackville?"
"The man that owed Uncle Randolph some money?"
"Exactly. Well, Black is a bankrupt, or next door to it. He couldn't pay Uncle Randolph what was coming to him, so he turned over a houseboat instead. She's a beauty, so I am told, and she is called the Dora—"
"After Dora Stanhope, of course," interrupted the youngest Rover, with a quizzical look at his big brother Dick.
"Now look here, don't you start in like that, Sam," came quickly from Dick, with a blush, for the girl mentioned was his dearest friend and had been for some years. "Tell us about this houseboat, Tom," he went on.
"The houseboat is now located on the Ohio River, at a place not many miles from Pittsburg. Uncle Randolph says if we wish to we can use her this summer, and float down to the Mississippi and further yet for that matter. And we can take along half a dozen of our friends, too."
"Hurrah! that's splendid!" burst out Sam. "What a glorious way to spend the best part of this summer! Let us go, and each take a chum along."
"Father says if we go we can take Alexander Pop along to do the cooking and dirty work. The houseboat is now in charge of an old river-man named Captain Starr, who knows the Ohio and Mississippi from end to end, and we can keep him on board."
"It certainly looks inviting," mused Dick Rover. "It would take us through a section of the country we haven't as yet seen, and we might have lots of sport, fishing, and swimming, and maybe hunting. How many will the houseboat accommodate?" he added.
"Twelve or fourteen, on a pinch."
"Then we could have a jolly crowd. The question is, who are you going to take along? We can't take all of our friends, and it would seem a shame to ask some and not others."
"We can decide that question later, Dick. Remember, some of the fellows already have their arrangements made for this summer."
"I know Major Colby can't go," said Sam. "He is going to visit some relatives in Maine."
"And George Granbury is going up to the Thousand Islands with his folks," put in Tom.
"We might ask Songbird Powell," came from Dick. "I don't believe he is going anywhere in particular."
"Yes, we ought to have him by all means, and Hans Mueller, too. They would be the life of the party."
"I should like to have Fred Garrison along," said Sam. "He is always good company. We can—"
Sam broke off short as the roll of a drum was heard on the parade ground outside the tent.
"Dress parade, for the last time!" cried Dick Rover. "Come, get out and be quick about it!" And as captain of Company A he caught up his sword and buckled it on in a hurry, while Tom, as a lieutenant of the same command, did likewise.
When they came out on the parade ground of the encampment they found the cadets of Putnam Hall hurrying to the spot from all directions. It was a perfect day, this fifth of July, with the sun shining brightly and a gentle breeze blowing. The camp was as clean as a whistle, and from the tall flagstaff in front of the grounds Old Glory flapped bravely out on the air.
To those who have read "The Rover Boys at School," and other volumes in this series, Dick, Tom, and Sam need no special introduction. When at home they lived with their father and their aunt and uncle at Valley Brook farm, pleasantly located in the heart of New York State. From this farm they had been sent by their uncle Randolph to Putnam Hall military academy, presided over by Captain Victor Putnam, to whom they became warmly attached. At the academy they made many firm friends, some of whom will be introduced in the pages which follow, and also several enemies, among them Dan Baxter, the offspring of a criminal named Arnold Baxter, who, after suffering for his crimes by various terms of imprisonment, was now very sick and inclined to turn over a new leaf and become a better man.
A term at school had been followed by a remarkable chase on the ocean, and then a journey to the jungles of Africa, in a hunt after Anderson Rover, the boys' father, who was missing. Then had come a trip to a gold mine in the West, followed by some exciting adventures on the Great Lakes. On an island in one of the lakes they unearthed a document relating to a treasure hidden in the Adirondack Mountains, and next made their way to that locality, in midwinter, and obtained a box containing gold, silver, and precious stones, much to their satisfaction.
After their outing in the mountains, the boys had expected to return to Putnam Hall, but a scarlet-fever scare broke out and the institution was promptly closed. This being the case, Mr. Rover thought it best to allow his sons to visit California for their health. This they did, and in the seventh volume of the series, entitled "The Rover Boys on Land and Sea," I related how Sam, Tom, and Dick were carried off to sea during a violent storm, in company with Dora Stanhope, already mentioned, and her two cousins, Nellie and Grace Laning, two particular friends of Tom and Sam. The whole party was cast away on a deserted island, and had much trouble with Dan Baxter, who joined some sailor mutineers. Our friends were finally rescued by a United States warship which chanced to pass that way and see their signal of distress.
After reaching San Francisco once more, the Rover boys had returned to the East, while Dora Stanhope and the Lanings had gone to Santa Barbara, where Mrs. Stanhope was stopping for her health. The scare at Putnam Hall was now over, and in another volume of the series, called "The Rover Boys in Camp," I related how Dick, Tom, and Sam returned to the military academy again, and took part in the annual encampment. Here there had been no end of good times and not a little hazing, the most of which was taken in good part. The boys had made a new enemy in the shape of a bully named Lew Flapp, who was finally expelled from the school for his wrong-doings. Dan Baxter also turned up, but when the authorities got after him he disappeared as quickly as he had done many times before, leaving his father to his fate, as already mentioned.
"I don't think we'll be bothered much with Dan Baxter after this," Tom had said, but he was mistaken, as later events proved.
Rat, tat, tat! Rat, tat, tat! went the drum on the parade ground, and soon the three companies which comprised the Putnam Hall Battalion were duly assembled, with Major Larry Colby in command of the whole, and Dick at the head of Company A, Fred Garrison at the head of Company B, and Mark Romer leading Company C. In front of all stood Captain Putnam, the sole owner of the military institution, and George Strong, his chief assistant.
"The boys certainly make a fine showing, on this last day of our encampment," said Captain Putnam to his assistant. "And a good deal of the credit is due to you, Mr. Strong."
"Thank you for saying so, sir," was the answer. "Yes, they look well, and I am proud of them, Captain Putnam. I believe our military school will compare favorably with any in the land."
After the drill was over Captain Putnam came forward and made a rather extended speech, in which he reviewed the work accomplished at the academy from its first opening, as told by me in another series of books, entitled "The Putnam Hall Series," starting with "The Putnam Hall Cadets," down to those later days when the Rover boys appeared on the scene. He also complimented the cadets on their excellent showing and trusted they would all have a pleasant vacation during the summer. This speech was followed by a short address by George Strong, and then came a surprise when Dick Rover stepped forward.
"Captain Putnam," said he, "in behalf of all the cadets here assembled I wish to thank you for your kind words, which we deeply appreciate.
"I have been chosen by my fellows to present you with this as a token of our esteem. We trust it will prove to your liking, and that whenever you look upon it you will remember us all."
As Dick spoke he brought into view a fair-sized package wrapped in tissue paper. When unrolled, it proved to be a small figure of a cadet, done in silver and gold. On the base was the inscription: "From the Cadets of Putnam Hall, to Their Beloved Head Master, Captain Victor Putnam."
After that Mr. Strong was presented with a set of Cooper's works and the other teachers were likewise remembered. More addresses of thanks followed, and then the battalion was dismissed for dinner.
"It's a fine wind-up for this season's encampment," said Tom, after it was over. "I don't believe we'll ever have another encampment like it."
"And now, ho, for the rolling river!" cried Sam. "Say, I'm just crazy to begin that trip on the houseboat."
"So am I," came from both of his brothers. But they might not have been so anxious had they dreamed of the many adventures and perils in store for them.
ON THE WAY TO PUTNAM HALL
"Boys, we start the march back to Putnam Hall in fifteen minutes!"
Such was the news which flew around the camp not long after the dinner hour had passed. Already the tents had been taken down, the baggage strapped, and six big wagons fairly groaned with the loads of goods to be taken back to the military institution.
The cadets had marched to the camp by one route and were to return to the academy by another. All was bustle and excitement, for in spite of the general order a few things had gone astray.
"Weally, this is most—ah—remarkable, don't you know," came from that aristocratic cadet named William Philander Tubbs.
"What's remarkable, Tublets?" asked Tom, who was near by, putting away a pair of blankets.
"Lieutenant Rover, how many times must I—ah—tell you not to address me as Tublets?" sighed the fashionable young cadet.
"Oh, all right, Tubhouse, it shan't occur again, upon my honor."
"Tubhouse! Oh, Rover, please let up!"
"What's wrong, Billy?"
"That is better, but it is bad enough," sighed William Philander. "I've—ah—lost one of my walking shoes."
"Perhaps, being a walking shoe, it walked off."
"Maybe it got in that beefsteak we had this morning," put in Sam, with a wink. "I thought that steak was rather tough."
"Shoo yourself with such a joke, Sam," came from Fred Garrison.
"Have you really lost your shoe, Tubby, dear?" sang out Songbird Powell, the so-styled "poet" of the academy. And then he started to sing:
"Rub a dub dub! One shoe on the Tubb! Where can the other one be? Look in your bunk And look in your trunk, And look in the bumble-bee tree!"
"Whoop! hurrah! Songbird has composed another ode in Washtub's honor," sang out Fred Garrison. "Washtub, you ought to give Songbird a dollar for that."
"Thanks, but I make not my odes for filthy lucre," same from Powell, tragically, and then he continued:
"One penny reward, And a big tin sword, To whoever finds the shoe. Come one at a time, And form in line, And raise a hullabaloo!"
And then a shout went up that could be heard all over the encampment.
"I'll lend you a slipper, Tubbs," said little Harry Moss, whose shoes were several sizes smaller than those of the aristocratic cadet.
"Somebody get me a shingle and I'll cut Tubstand a sandal with my jackknife," came from Tom.
"I'll shingle you!" roared William Philander Tubbs, and rushed away to escape his tormentors. In the end he found another shoe, but it was not the one he wanted, for that had been rolled up in the blankets by Tom and was not returned until Putnam Hall was reached.
Drums and fifes enlivened the way as the cadets started for the military academy. The march was to take the balance of that afternoon and all of the next day. During the night they were to camp out like regular soldiers on the march, in a big field Captain Putnam had hired for that purpose.
The march did not take the cadets through Oakville, so the Rover boys did not see the friends they had made in that vicinity. They headed directly for the village of Bramley, and then for another small settlement named White Corners,—why, nobody could tell, since there was not so much as a white post anywhere to be seen in that vicinity.
"It's queer how a name sticks," declared Tom, after speaking of this to his brother Dick. "They might rather call this Brown Corners, since most of the houses are brown."
At the Corners they obtained supper, which was supplied to the cadets by the hotel keeper, who had been notified in advance of their coming.
While they were eating a boy who worked around the stables of the hotel watched them curiously. Afterwards this boy came up to Sam and Tom.
"We had a cadet here yesterday who was awfully mad," said the boy.
"Had hydrophobia, eh?" returned Tom. "Too bad!"
"No, I don't mean that; I mean he was very angry."
"What was the trouble?"
"I don't know exactly, but I think he had been sent away from the school for something or other."
"What was his name?"
"Why, I thought he had gone home!" cried Sam.
"So did I," answered his brother. He turned to the hotel youth. "What was this Flapp doing here?"
"Nothing much. He asked the boss when you were expected here."
"Is he here now?"
"No, he left last night."
"Where did he go to?"
"I don't know, but I thought I would tell you about the fellow. I think he is going to try to do you cadets some harm."
"Did he mention any names?"
"He seemed to be extra bitter against three brothers named Rover."
"Are the Rovers here?" went on the youth.
"I think they are, sonny. I'm one, this is another, and there is the third," and Tom pointed to Dick, who was at a distance, conversing with some other cadets.
"Oh, so you are the Rovers! How strange that I should speak to you of this!"
"Which way did this Lew Flapp go?" questioned Sam. "Off the way you are bound."
"I'll wager he tries to make trouble for us on our way to Putnam Hall, Tom."
"It's not unlikely, Sam."
"Shall we tell Captain Putnam of this?" Tom shook his head.
"No, let us tell Dick, though, and a few of the others. Then we can keep our eyes peeled for Lew Flapp and, if he actually does wrong, expose him."
A little later Tom and Sam interviewed Dick on the subject, and then they told Larry Colby, Fred Garrison, George Granbury, and half a dozen others.
"I don't believe he will do much," said Larry Colby. "He is only talking, that's all. He knows well enough that Captain Putnam can have him locked up, if he wants to."
By eight o'clock that evening the field in which they were to encamp for the night was reached. Tents were speedily put up, and half a dozen camp-fires started, making the boys feel quite at home. The cadets gathered around the fires and sang song after song, and not a few practical jokes were played.
"Hans, they tell me you feel cold and want your blood shook up," said Tom to Hans Mueller, the German cadet.
"Coldt, is it?" queried Hans. "Vot you dinks, I vos coldt mid der borometer apout two hundred by der shade, ain't it? I vos so hot like I lif in Africa alretty!"
"Oh, Hans must be cold!" cried Sam. "Let us shake him up, boys!"
"All right!" came from half a dozen. "Get a blanket, somebody!"
"No, you ton't, not by my life alretty!" sang out Hans, who had been tossed up before. "I stay py der groundt mine feets on!" And he started to run away.
Several went after him, and he was caught in the middle of an adjoining cornfield, where a rough-and-tumble scuffle ensued, with poor Hans at the bottom of the heap.
"Hi, git off, kvick!" he gasped. "Dis ton't been no footsball game nohow! Git off, somebody, und dake dot knee mine mouth out of!"
"Are you warm, now, Hansy!" asked Tom.
"Chust you wait, Tom Rofer," answered the German cadet, and shook his fist at his tormentor. "I git square somedimes, or mine name ain't—"
"Sauerkraut!" finished another cadet, and a roar went up. "Hans, is it true that you eat sauerkraut three times a day when you are at home?"
"No, I ton't eat him more as dree dimes a veek," answered Hans, innocently.
"Hans is going to treat us all to Limberger cheese when his birthday comes," put in Fred Garrison. "It's a secret though, so don't tell anybody."
"I ton't vos eat Limberger," came from Hans.
"Oh, Hansy!" groaned several in chorus.
"Base villain, thou hast deceived us!" quoted Songbird Powell. "Away to the dungeon with him!" And then the crowd dragged poor Hans through the cornfield and back to the camp-fire once more, where he was made to sit so close to the blaze that the perspiration poured from his round and rosy face. Yet with it all he took the joking in good part, and often gave his tormentors as good as they sent.
"They tell me that William Philander Tubbs is going to Newport for the summer," said Tom. a little later, when the cadets were getting ready to retire. "Just wait till he gets back next Fall, he'll be more dudish than ever."
"We ought to tame him a little before we let him go," said Sam.
"Right you are, Sam. But what can we do? Nearly everything has been tried since we went into camp."
"I have a plan, Tom."
"All right; let's have it."
"Why not black Tubby up while he is asleep?"
"Sam, you are a jewel. But where are we to get the lamp-black?"
"I've got it already. I put several corks in the camp-fire, and burnt cork is the best stuff for blacking up known."
"Right again. Oh, but we'll make William Philander look like a regular negro minstrel. And that's not all. After the job is done we'll wake him up and tell him Captain Putnam wants to see him at once."
Several boys were let into the secret, and then all waited impatiently for Tubbs to retire. This he soon did, and in a few minutes was sound asleep.
"Now then, come on," said Sam, and led the way to carry out the anticipated fun.
THE DOINGS OF A NIGHT
As luck would have it, William Philander Tubbs just then occupied a tent alone, his two tent-mates being on guard duty for two hours as was the custom during encampment.
The aristocratic cadet lay flat on his back, with his face and throat well exposed.
"Now, be careful, Sam, or you'll wake him up," whispered Tom.
One cadet held a candle, while Sam and Tom blackened the face of the sleeping victim of the joke. The burnt cork was in excellent condition and soon William Philander looked for all the world like a coal-black darkey.
"Py chimanatics, he could go on der stage py a nigger minstrel company," was Hans Mueller's comment.
"Makes almost a better nigger than he does a white man," said Tom, dryly.
"Wait a minute till I fix up his coat for him," said Fred Garrison, and turned the garment inside out.
A moment later all of the cadets withdrew, leaving the tent in total darkness. Then one stuck his head in through the flap.
"Hi, there, Private Tubbs!" he called out. "Wake up!"
"What—ah—what's the mattah?" drawled the aristocratic cadet, sleepily.
"Captain Putnam wants you to report to him or to Mr. Strong at once," went on the cadet outside, in a heavy, assumed voice.
"Wants me to report?" questioned Tubbs, sitting up in astonishment.
"Yes, and at once. Hurry up, for it's very important."
"Well, this is assuredly strange," murmured William Philander to himself. "Wonder what is up?"
He felt around in the dark for a light, but it had been removed by Tom and so had all the matches.
"Beastly luck, not a match!" growled Tubbs, and then began to dress in the dark. In his hurry he did not notice that his coat was inside out, nor did he discover that his face and hands were blacked.
Captain Putnam's quarters were at the opposite end of the camp, and in that direction William Philander hurried until suddenly stopped by a guard who chanced to be coming in from duty.
"Halt!" cried the cadet. "What are you doing in this camp?" he demanded.
"Captain Putnam wants me," answered Tubbs, thinking the guard wanted to know why he was astir at that hour of the night.
"Captain Putnam wants you?"
"It's strange. How did you get in?"
"In? In where?"
"In this camp?"
"Oh, Ribble, are you crazy?"
"So you know me," said Ribble. "Well, I must say I don't know you."
"You certainly must be crazy. I am William Philander Tubbs."
"What! Oh, then you—" stammered Ribble, and then a light dawned on him. "Who told you the captain wanted to see you?"
"Some cadet who just woke me up."
"All right, go ahead then," and Ribble grinned. Behind Tubbs he now saw half a dozen cadets hovering in the semi-darkness, watching for sport.
On ran William Philander, to make up for lost time, and soon arrived at the flap of the tent occupied by Captain Putnam.
"Here I am, Captain Putnam!" he called out. And then, as he got no reply, he called again. By this time the captain was awake, and coming to the flap, he peered out.
"What do you want?" he asked, sharply. "You sent for me, sir," stammered Tubbs.
"I sent for you?"
"I have no recollection of so doing," answered Captain Putman. "Where are you from?"
"Why, I am—ah—from this camp," answered the puzzled Tubbs.
"Do you mean to tell me you belong here?" questioned the now astonished master of Putnam Hall.
"Of course, Captain Putnam. Didn't you send for me? Somebody said you did," continued William Philander.
"Sir, I don't know you and never heard of you, so far as I can remember. You must be mixed up.
"I mixed up? I guess you are mixed up," roared Tubbs, growing angry. "If I don't belong to this camp, where do I belong?"
"How should I know? We have no negroes here, to the best of my knowledge."
"Captain Putnam, what do you mean by calling me an—ah—negro?" fumed William Philander.
"Well, aren't you one? I can't see very well."
"No, sir; I am not a negro, and never was a negro," answered Tubbs, getting more and more excited. "I shall report this to my parents when I arrive home."
"Will you in all goodness tell me your name?" queried Captain Putnam, beginning to realize that something was wrong.
"You know my name well enough, sir."
"Perhaps I do, and perhaps I don't. Answer me, please."
"My name is William Philander Tubbs."
"Tubbs! Is it possible!"
"Somebody came to my tent and said you wanted to see me."
"Well, did you think it was necessary to black up to make a call on me?"
"Black up?" repeated William Philander. "That is what I said?"
"Am I black, sir?"
"Yes, as black as coal. Look at yourself in this glass," and the captain held out a small looking glass and also a lantern.
When Tubbs saw himself in the glass he almost had a fit.
"My gracious sakes alive!" he groaned. "How ridiculous! How did this happen? Why, I look like a negro!"
"Is anything amiss, Captain Putnam?" came from the next tent, and George Strong appeared.
"Nothing, excepting that Private Tubbs has seen fit to black up as a negro and call upon me," answered the master of the academy, with a faint smile playing around the corners of his mouth.
"I didn't black up!" roared William Philander. "It's all a horrid joke somebody has played on me while I was asleep! You don't want me, do you?"
"Then I'll go back, and if I can find out who did this—"
A burst of laughter from a distance made him break off short.
"They're laughing at me!" he went on. "Just hear that!"
"Go to bed, and I will investigate in the morning," answered Captain Putnam, and William Philander went off, vowing vengeance.
"Just wait till I find out who did it," he told himself, as he washed up the best he could in some cold water. "I'll have them in court for it." But he never did find out, nor did Captain Putnam's investigation lead to any disclosures.
William Philander's trials for that night were not yet at an end. On the march to the camp some of the cadets had picked up a number of burrs of fair size. A liberal quantity of these had been introduced under the covers of Tubbs' cot immediately after he left the tent.
Having washed up as best he could, the aristocratic cadet blew out the light he had borrowed and prepared to retire once more. He threw back the covers and dropped heavily upon the cot in just the spot where the sharpest of the burrs lay.
An instant later a wild shriek of pain and astonishment rent the air.
"Ouch! Oh my, I'm stuck full of pins! Oh, dear me!"
And then William Philander Tubbs leaped up and began to dance around like a wild Indian.
"What's the matter with you, Billy?" asked one of his tent-mates, entering in the midst of the excitement.
"What's the matter?" roared poor Tubbs. "Everything is the matter, don't you know. It's an ah—outrage!"
"Somebody told me you had blacked up as a negro minstrel and were going to serenade your best girl."
"It's not so, Parkham. Some beastly cadets played a joke on me! Oh, wait till I find out who did it!" And then William Philander began to moan once more over the burrs. It was a good quarter of an hour before he had his cot cleaned off and fit to use once more, and even then he was so excited and nervous he could not sleep another wink.
"William Philander won't forget his last night with the boys in a hurry," remarked Tom, as he slipped off to bed once more.
"You had better keep quiet over this," came from Dick. "We don't want to spoil our records for the term, remember."
"Right you are, Dick. I'll be as mum as a clam climbing a huckleberry bush."
The boys were tired out over the march of the afternoon and over playing the joke on Tubbs, and it was not long before all of the Rovers were sound asleep. The three brothers had begged for permission to tent together and this had been allowed by Captain Putnam, for the term was virtually over, ending with the dismissal of the cadets at the last encampment parade.
On guard duty at one end of the field was a cadet named Link Smith, a rather weak-minded fellow who was easily led by those who cared to exert an influence over him. At one time Link Smith had trained with Lew Flapp and his evil associates, but fortunately for the feeble-minded cadet he had been called home during the time when Lew Flapp got into the trouble which ended by his dismissal from Putnam Hall.
Link Smith was pacing up and down sleepily when he heard a peculiar whistle close at hand. He listened intently and soon heard the whistle repeated.
"The old call," he murmured to himself. At first he did not feel like answering, but presently did so. Then from out of the gloom stalked a tall young fellow, dressed in the uniform of a cadet but with a face that was strangely painted and powdered.
"Who is it?" questioned Link Smith, uneasily.
"Don't you know me, Link?"
"Lew Flapp!" cried the weak-minded cadet.
"Hush, not so loud, Link. Somebody might hear you."
"What do you want?"
"I want to visit the camp," answered Lew Flapp.
WHAT THE MORNING BROUGHT FORTH
Link Smith was much surprised by Lew Flapp's assertion that he wanted to visit the camp during the middle of the night and when practically everybody was asleep.
"What do you want to come in for?" he asked, feeling fairly certain that Flapp's mission could not be as upright and honest as desired.
"Oh, it's all right, Link," answered the big bully, smoothly.
"But what do you want?"
"Well, if you must know, I want to talk to a couple of my old friends."
"Why can't you talk to them to-morrow, after they leave school?"
"That won't do. I want them to do something for me before they leave the academy."
"It's a strange request to make, Lew."
"Oh, it's perfectly square, I assure you. You see, it's this way: I want them to get some proofs for me,—to prove that I am not as black as the follows reported to Captain Putnam."
Now, it is possible that some other cadet would not have been hoodwinked in this fashion by the bully, but Link Smith swallowed the explanation without a second thought.
"Oh, if that's what you want, go ahead," said he. "But don't tell anybody I let you in."
"I shan't say a word if you don't," answered Lew Flapp. "By the way," he went on, with assumed indifference, "they tell me the Rover boys have cleared out and gone home."
"No, they haven't," was Link Smith's prompt answer.—They are right here."
"Are you sure, Link?"
"Of course I am. They are bunking together in the last tent in Street B, over yonder," and the feeble-minded cadet pointed with his hand as he spoke.
"Is that so! Well, I don't care. I don't want to see them again until I can prove to Captain Putnam that they are a set of rascals."
"Are you going to try to get into the academy again, Lew?" asked Link, curiously.
"Not much! I'll be done with Captain Putnam just as soon as I can show him how he mistreated me and how the Rovers are pulling the wool over his eyes."
"Everybody here thinks the Rovers about perfect."
"That's because they don't know them as well as I and Rockley do."
A few words more passed, and then Lew Flapp slipped into the camp lines and made his way between the long rows of tents.
He had gained from Link Smith just the information he desired, namely, the location of the Rover boys' sleeping quarters. He looked back, to make certain that Link was not watching him, and then hurried on to where the Rovers rested, totally unconscious of the proximity of their enemy.
"I'll show them what I can do," muttered Lew Flapp to himself. "I'll make them wish they had never been born!"
At last the tent was reached and with caution he opened the flap and peered inside. All was dark, and with a hand that was none too steady he struck a match and held it up.
Each of the Rover boys lay sleeping peacefully on his cot, with his clothing hung up on one of the tent poles.
"Now for working my little plan," murmured Flapp, and allowed the match to go out. In a second more he was inside the tent, moving around cautiously so as not to disturb the sleepers.
The bully remained in the tent all of ten minutes. Then he came out as cautiously as he had entered, and fairly ran to where Link Smith was still on guard.
"Did you see them?" asked the feeble-minded cadet.
"I did, and it's all right, Link. Now, don't tell anybody I visited the camp."
"Humph! do you think I want to get myself in trouble?"
And in a moment more Lew Flapp was out of sight down the country roadway and Link Smith was pacing his post as before.
Bright and early the camp was astir, and at half-past seven o'clock a good hot breakfast was served, the cadets pitching into the food provided with a will.
"And now for Putnam Hall and the grand wind-up," said Tom, as he finished his repast.
"And then to go home and prepare for that grand trip on the houseboat," came from Sam.
"Which puts me in mind that we must see who will go with us," said Dick.
"Songbird Powell says he is more than willing," answered Tom. "And I know Dutchy will fall all over himself to become one of the party."
"I think Fred Garrison will go," said Sam. "He said he would let me know as soon as he heard from his parents."
Captain Putnam had expected to begin the march to the Hall by half-past eight, but there were numerous delays in packing the camping outfit, so the battalion was not ready for the start until over an hour later.
The cadets were just being formed to start the march when several men appeared at the edge of the field.
"There's them young soldiers now!" cried one. Come on and find the rascals!"
"What do you want, gentlemen?" demanded George Strong, who happened to be near the crowd.
"Who is in charge of this school?" asked one of the men.
"Captain Victor Putnam is the owner. I am his head assistant."
"Well, I'm Josiah Cotton, the constable of White Corners."
"What can I do for you, Mr. Cotton?"
"I'm after a feller named Dick Rover, and his two brothers. Are they here?"
"They are. What do you want of them?"
"I'm goin' to lock 'em up if they did what I think they did."
"Lock them up?" cried George Strong, in astonishment.
"That's what I said. Show me the young villains."
"But what do you think they have done?"
"They broke into my shop an' stole some things," put in another of the men.
"That's right, they did," came from a third man. "Don't let 'em give ye the slip, Josiah."
"I ain't a-goin' to let 'em give me the slip," growled the constable from White Corners.
"When was your shop robbed?" demanded George Strong, of the man who had said he was the sufferer.
"I can't say exactly, fer I was to the city, a-buying of more goods."
"Mr. Fairchild is a jeweler and watchmaker, besides dealing in paints, oils, glass, an' wall paper," explained the constable. "He carries a putty considerable stock of goods as are valuable. Yesterday, or early last night, when he was away, his shop was broken into and robbed."
"And what makes you think the Rovers are the thieves?" asked George Strong.
"We got proof," came doggedly from Aaron Fairchild. "We're certain on it."
By this time, seeing that something was wrong, Captain Putnam came to the scene. In the meantime the battalion was already formed, with Major Colby at the head and Dick in his proper position as captain of Company A.
"I cannot, believe that the Rover Boys are guilty of this robbery," said the master of Putnam Hall after listening to what the newcomers had to say. "What proof have you that they did it?"
"This proof, for one thing," answered Josiah Cotton, and drew from his pocket a memorandum book and the envelope to a letter. In the front of the memorandum book was the name, Richard Rover, and the envelope was addressed likewise.
"The thief dropped that," went on the constable.
"Where did you find these things?"
"On the floor of the shop, in front of the desk."
"Anybody might have dropped them."
"See here, Captain Putnam, do you stand up fer shieldin' a thief?" roared Aaron Fairchild. "To me this hull thing is as plain as the nose on my face."
As Aaron Fairchild's smelling organ was an unusually large one, this caused the master of Putnam Hall to smile. But he immediately grew grave again.
"This is a serious matter, Mr. Fairchild. I do not wish to shield a thief, but at the same time I cannot see one or more of my pupils unjustly treated."
"Are ye afraid to have 'em examined?"
"By no means. I will call them up and you can talk to them. But I advise you to be careful of what you say. The Rover boys come from a family that is rich, and they can make it exceedingly warm for you if you accuse them wrongfully."
"Oh, I know what I'm a-doin' and the constable knows what he's a-doin', too," answered Aaron Fairchild.
George Strong was sent to summon Dick, Tom, and Sam, and soon came up with the three brothers behind him.
"Something is wrong, that is certain," murmured Dick.
"Those men look mad enough to chew us up," answered Tom.
"Now, boys, keep cool," cautioned George Strong. "I think some terrible mistake has been made."
"What's it all about, Mr. Strong?" asked Sam.
"I'll let them explain," returned the head assistant.
Josiah Cotton had heard Captain Putnam's words of caution to Aaron Fairchild, and as he had a great regard for persons who were rich, and did not want to get himself into trouble, he resolved to move with caution.
"I'd like to ask you three young gents a few questions," said he, as the boys came up. "Fust, which one of you is Richard Rover?"
"I am Richard, commonly called Dick," was the ready reply. "This is my brother Tom, and this is Sam."
"Very well. Now then, do you remember visitin' Mr. Fairchild's jewelry an' paint store?" went on the constable.
"Visiting a jewelry and paint store?" repeated Dick. "I do not. What a combination!"
"Perhaps he paints his jewels," put in the fun-loving Tom.
"Don't you git funny with us!" growled Aaron Fairchild. "Let's come to the p'int. My store was robbed, an' I'm thinking you fellers done the deed."
"Robbed!" echoed Sam.
"And you think we did it," put in Dick, indignantly. "I like that!"
"We are not thieves," said Tom. "And you ought to have your head punched for thinking it."
"Boys, keep cool," came from Captain Putnam. "Mr. Cotton, hadn't you better do the talking for Mr. Fairchild?"
"I want 'em searched," burst out Aaron Fairchild. "If they robbed my store they must have put the stuff somewheres."
"What makes you think we robbed you?" asked Dick.
"This," and he was shown the memorandum book and the envelope.
"Humph! I lost that book some weeks ago, when I had my fight with Lew Flapp, Rockley, and the rest of that crowd that were dismissed from the academy."
"And what of the envelope, Richard?" asked Captain Putnam.
"I don't remember anything about that. It probably came on a letter from home and I must have thrown it away."
"The book and the envelope were found on the floor of the shop that was robbed."
"Well, I didn't drop them there."
"And neither did I," came from Tom.
"Nor I," added Sam.
"Are you going to let us search you and your belongings or not?" demanded the constable from White Corners.
"I don't see why you should search us," put in Tom, hotly. "It's an outrage, to my way of thinking."
"You had better let him make a search," came from Captain Putnam. "Then he will see that he has made a mistake."
"All right, search me all you please," said Sam.
"I am of Tom's opinion, that it is an outrage," said Dick. "Nevertheless, he can search me if he wishes."
"Let us retire to yonder barn, out of the sight of the battalion," said Captain Putnam.
The constable and Aaron Fairchild were willing, and all walked to the barn in question.
"You can look at that first," said Dick, and unbuttoning his coat he took it off and handed it to the constable.
Josiah Cotton dove into one pocket after another, bringing out various articles which were Dick's private property.
"Any o' these yours?" he asked the jeweler.
"Can't say as they are, Josiah," answered Aaron Fairchild. "Go on a-huntin'. Maybe somethin' is in the linin'."
"There is!" shouted the constable, running his hand over the padding. He found a small hole and put in his fingers. "Here ye are!" he ejaculated, and brought forth two plain gold rings and one set with a topaz.
"My property!" gasped Aaron Fairchild. "My property and I'll swear to it! Didn't I tell ye he was a thief?"
FOR AND AGAINST
All in the barn gazed in amazement at the three rings which the constable of White Corners held in his hand.
"I don't know how those rings got into my coat," said Dick, who was the first to recover from the shock.
"I am certain Dick didn't steal them," put in Tom.
"And so am I," added Sam. "Dick, this is a plot against you."
"It ain't no plot—it's plain facts," came from Aaron Fairchild. "Go on an' continue the search, Josiah."
"That's what I'm a-doin'," returned the constable.
He felt the coat over carefully and presently brought forth another ring and a pair of child's bracelets.
"It's as plain as preachin'!" came from the third man, a farmer named Gassam. "He's the thief, sure."
"I declare upon my honor I am innocent," cried Dick, the hot blood rushing to his face. He turned to Captain Putnam. "You don't think I—I—"
"I believe what you say, Captain Rover," answered the master of the Hall, promptly. "There is assuredly some mistake here."
"Give me your coat," said Josiah Cotton to Tom.
The garment was handed over, and after a thorough search two small gold stick pins were found in the middle of the back.
"More o' my goods," cried Aaron Fairchild, triumphantly. "I can prove I had 'em on sale not four days ago."
Sam's coat was then examined, and from one of the sleeves came half a dozen cheap rings and an equally cheap watchchain.
"All mine. The case is as clear as day," said the jeweler. "Josiah, you must lock 'em up."
"0' course I'll lock 'em up," answered the constable.
"Lock us up!" cried Sam, aghast.
"Not much!" came from Tom. "I'm no thief, and I don't propose to go to jail."
"Boys, have you any idea how this jewelry got into your clothes?" asked Captain Putnam.
"No, sir," came promptly from the three.
The rest of the Rover boys' clothing was then searched and a few more cheap rings were brought to light.
"Now let us go for their baggage," said the constable, and this was done, but nothing more was found.
It was soon buzzing around the battalion, which stood at parade rest, that something was wrong, and then somebody whispered that the Rovers were accused of breaking into a shop and stealing some jewelry.
"It can't be true," said Fred Garrison. "I shall never believe it." And a number of others said the same. But a few shrugged their shoulders— those who had belonged to the Lew Flapp and Dan Baxter crowd.
"I never trusted those Rovers altogether," said one. "They have too much money to spend."
"Well, they are worth a good bit of money," replied another cadet.
"This ain't a quarter of the stuff I lost," said Aaron Fairchild, after the baggage had undergone a rigid inspection.
"What have you done with the rest?" asked the constable of the Rovers.
"You may think as you please," said Dick. "I am innocent and I do not understand how that stuff got where you found it. An enemy must have placed it there."
"Yes, and that enemy must be the one who robbed the shop!" cried Tom.
"It's easy enough to talk," came from Gassam, the farmer. "But you can't go behind the evidence, as they say in court. You might just as well confess, an' give up the rest o' the goods. Maybe if ye do that, they'll let ye off easy."
"What do you consider this stuff worth?" asked Dick.
"Nigh on to thirty-five dollars," answered Aaron Fairchild.
"How much did you lose altogether?
"About a hundred an' sixty dollars' worth."
"Then the real thief kept about a hundred and twenty-five dollars' worth for himself," said Tom.
"There can be no doubt but that one of our enemies did this," said Sam. "The question is, which one?"
"Perhaps Dan Baxter—or Lew Flapp," suggested Dick.
"Yes, but how did the things get into our clothes, Tom?"
"I give it up."
"That sort of talk won't wash," put in the constable. "You have got to go with me."
"To Squire Haggerty's office."
"I will go with you," said Captain Putnam. "This affair must be sifted to the bottom."
It was learned that Squire Haggerty lived two miles away. But a wagon was handy, belonging to a nearby farmer, and this was hired to take the whole party to the place.
"You must take charge of the cadets," said Captain Putnam to his head assistant. "I must see this affair through."
"I do not believe the Rovers are guilty, sir," whispered George Strong.
"Neither do I. This is a plot against them. The question is, who carried the plot out?"
Not long after this the battalion of cadets marched off on the road to Putnam Hall while the Rovers and the others entered the big wagon.
Inside of half an hour Squire Haggerty's home was reached. The squire proved to be an Irishman of about fifty, who when he was not acting as a judge did jobs of mason work in the vicinity.
"Sure, an' it's the boldest robbery we have had in this neighborhood for years," said the squire. "The back door av the shop was broken open and many valuables extracted from the premises."
"Have you any idea when the robbery was committed?" asked Captain Putnam.
"Not exactly Mr. Fairchild was away all day yesterday and did not get home until nearly twelve o'clock at night."
"Didn't he leave anybody else to run the shop?"
"He has nobody. When he goes away he has to lock up."
All were ushered into the squire's parlor, where he had a flat-top desk and several office chairs. The squire had heard of Captain Putnam, and knew of the fame of the academy, and he respected the Hall owner accordingly.
"I will be after hearing all the particulars of this case," said he, as he sat down to his desk.
In a long, rambling story Aaron Fairchild told how he had come home from a visit to the city late the night before. He had some goods for his shop with him and on going to the place had found the back door broken in and everything in the shop in confusion. Jewelry and other things to the value of a hundred and sixty dollars had been taken, and on the floor he had found the memorandum book and the envelope. From some boys in the hamlet he has learned that the Rover boys belonged to the Putnam Hall cadets, and farmer Gassam had told him where to find the young soldiers. Then he had called up the constable and set out; with the results already related.
"This certainly looks black for the Rover boys," said Squire Haggerty. "How do ye account for having the goods on your persons, tell me that now?"
"I can account for it only in one way," said Dick. "The thief, whoever he was, placed them there, for the double purpose of keeping suspicion from himself and to get us into trouble."
"Thin, if he wanted to git you into throuble, he was after being a fellow who had a grudge against ye?"
"That must be it," put in Captain Putnam.
"Do ye know of any such persons?"
"Yes, there are a number of such persons," answered Dick. And he mentioned Dan Baxter, Flapp, Rockley, and a number of others who in the past had proved to be his enemies.
Following this, Captain Putnam related how Dan Baxter had escaped after trying to harm Dick Rover and how it was that Lew Flapp was considered an enemy and how the fellow had been dismissed from the academy, along with several followers. Squire Haggerty listened attentively.
"Well, if one of thim fellows robbed the shop he must have visited your camp, too," said Squire Haggerty. "Did ye see any of thim around?"
Captain Putnam looked inquiringly at the Rover boys.
"I must confess I didn't see any of them," said Dick.
"But we heard from Lew Flapp," cried Tom, suddenly. "How strange that I didn't think of this before."
"Where did you hear from him, Thomas?"
"At the hotel where we stopped for supper yesterday. A boy who works around the stables told me Flapp had been there and was very angry because he had been sent away from the academy. The boy said Flapp vowed he was going to get square with the Rovers for what they had done."
"What boy was that?" asked Josiah Cotton, with interest.
The boy was described and, a little later, he was brought over from the hotel. He was very much frightened and insisted upon it that he had had nothing to do with the robbery.
"Tell what you can about Lew Flapp," said Dick, and the boy did so.
"That young fellow had been drinking, or else he wouldn't have talked so much," added the lad. "He certainly said he was going to get square with the Rover brothers."
"Have you seen him since?"
"Yes, I saw him in the village right after the cadets left."
"Anywhere near Mr. Fairchild's shop?"
"On the road that runs back of the shop."
"Where was he going?"
"I don't know."
"And that is the last you saw of him?"
"You don't know if he went towards the back of the shop?"
More than this the boy could not tell and he was excused. Squire Haggerty shook his head in perplexity.
"I don't know about this," he said. "But it looks to me as if I'll have to hold these Rover brothers until they can clear themselves."
LINK SMITH'S CONFESSION
For a moment there was a painful pause and the Rover boys looked at each other and at Captain Putnam in perplexity.
"Does this mean that we must go to jail?" demanded Tom.
"I don't think it will be necessary to hold them," came from Captain Putnam. "Squire Haggerty, I presume you know who I am."
"Yes, sir, Captain Putnam of Putnam Hall."
"Then you will, of course, let me go on a bail bond for these three pupils of mine."
"If ye care to do it, captain."
"Certainly. I am convinced that they are innocent. Why, it is preposterous to think that they would break into such a shop and rob it of a hundred and sixty dollars' worth of goods. They are rich young gentlemen, of a high-standing family, and each has all the spending money he needs."
"I see, I see."
"Well, it ain't nuthin' to me what they be, so long as I git my goods back," growled Aaron Fairchild. "I ain't got nuthin' against 'em personally, especially if they are innocent."
"I think you will find it to your advantage to let this whole matter rest for the present," went on Captain Putnam. "If you make a charge against the boys it will hurt both them and my school. I feel sure they will not run away, and I will give you my personal word that they shall appear in court whenever wanted."
"That sounds reasonable," came from the constable, who was beginning to fear the influence which Captain Putnam and the Rovers might bring to bear on the case. "It ain't no nice thing to ruin a boy's repertation, if he ain't guilty," he added.
"That is a sensible speech which does you credit, sir," said the captain.
"I'd like to find this feller Flapp," went on Aaron Fairchild. "How does he look?"
"I have his photograph at the academy. I will let the constable have that, if he wishes it."
"That suits me," returned Josiah Cotton. "Hang me if I don't kinder think he must be guilty. But it puzzles me how them things got in the boys' uniforms."
The matter was discussed for fully an hour, and the whole party visited Aaron Fairchild's shop. But no clews were brought to light. Then a wagon was hired to take the captain and the boys to Putnam Hall. The constable went along, to get the photograph which had been promised.
On the way the three Rovers were unusually silent and but little was said by the master of the school. Arriving at the Hall the picture was turned over to Josiah Cotton, who soon after departed. Then the three Rovers were invited into the captain's private office. The marching battalion had not yet arrived and was not expected for several hours.
"I'd like to sift this matter out," said the captain, seating himself at his desk. "Richard, when did you clean your uniform last?"
"Yesterday afternoon, Captain Putnam."
"Were those holes in there then?"
"I don't think so."
"How about your uniform, Thomas?"
"I cleaned up yesterday morning. I don't remember any holes."
"And you, Samuel?"
"I had a hole in my left sleeve, but the jewelry was found in the right sleeve."
"Let me examine the coats."
This was done, and all concluded that the holes had been cut with the blade of a sharp knife, or with a small pair of scissors.
"I believe the job was done in the dark," said Dick. "Somebody must have visited our tent last night after we went to sleep."
"When did you go to sleep, Richard?"
"Well, I don't think we were real sound asleep until about midnight. There was some sort of a noise in the camp that kept us awake."
"Somebody said Tubbs was up playing negro minstrel," added Tom, soberly.
"Yes, he was up. So you went to sleep about midnight? And when did you get up?"
"At the first call," answered Sam.
"And your coats were as you had left them?"
"Mine was," came from Sam and Dick.
"I don't remember exactly how I did leave mine," said Tom. "But I didn't notice anything unusual."
"Then, if the real thief visited our camp he must have come in between midnight and six o'clock," went on the master of the school. "I must question those who were on guard duty about this."
"That's the idea!" cried Dick. "If the thief sneaked in somebody must have seen him."
"Unless a guard was asleep on his post," came from Tom. "As it was the last night out they may have been pretty lax in that direction."
Dinner had been ordered, and the three Rovers dined with the captain in his private dining room. Then the boys went up to their dormitory to pack their trunks.
"I must say this is a fine ending for the term," was Tom's comment, as he began to get his belongings out of the closet. "And after everything looked so bright, too!"
"It's a jolly shame!" cried Sam. "If Lew Flapp did this, or Dan Baxter, I'd like to—to wring his neck for it!"
"It will certainly put a cloud on our name," said Dick. "In spite of what we can say, some folks will be mean enough to think we are guilty."
"We must catch the thief and make him confess," went on Tom.
The three boys packed their trunks and other belongings and then went below again and down to the gymnasium and then to the boathouse. But they could not interest themselves in anything and their manner showed it.
"What is the matter that you came back so soon?" questioned Mrs. Green, the matron of the academy, who knew them well.
"Oh, we had business with Captain Putnam," answered Tom, and that was all he' would say. He dearly loved to play jokes on the matron, but now he felt too downcast to give such things a thought.
Late in the afternoon the distant rattle of drums was heard, and soon the battalion, dusty and hot, came into view, making a splendid showing as it swung up the broad roadway leading to the Hall.
"Here they come!" cried Sam. But he had not any heart to meet his friends, and kept out of sight until the young cadets came to a halt and were dismissed for the last time by Captain Putnam and Major Colby.
"Well, this is certainly strange," said Larry Colby, as he came up to Dick. "What was the row in the barn about?"
"I'll have to tell you some other time, Larry," was Dick's answer. "There has been trouble and Captain Putnam wants to get at the bottom of it."
"Somebody said you had been locked up for robbing a jewelry shop."
"There has been a robbery and we were suspected. But we were not locked up."
As soon as he was able to do so, Captain Putnam learned the names of the twelve cadets who had been on picket duty between midnight and six o'clock that morning. These cadets were marched to one of the classrooms and interviewed one at a time in the captain's private office.
From the first six cadets to go in but little was learned. One cadet, when told that something of a very serious nature had occurred—something which was not a mere school lark and could not be overlooked—confessed that he had allowed two cadets to slip out of camp and come back again with two capfuls of apples taken from a neighboring orchard.
"But I can't tell their names, Captain Putnam," the cadet added.
"How long were they gone, Beresford?"
"Not over fifteen or twenty minutes."
"Did you see the apples?"
"Yes, sir, I—er—ate two of them."
"And you allowed nobody else to pass?"
"Very well; you may go," and Beresford went, thankful that he had not been reprimanded for neglect of duty. Had the thing occurred in the middle of the term the reprimand would surely have been forthcoming.
The next cadet to come in was Link Smith, who showed by his general manner that he was much worried. Captain Putnam knew Smith thoroughly and also remembered that the feeble-minded cadet was a fellow easily led astray.
"Smith, you were on guard duty from twelve o'clock to two last night," he began severely.
"Yes, sir," answered Link Smith, with an inward shiver.
"Did you fall asleep on your post during that time?"
"No, sir—that is, I don't think I did."
"What do you mean by saying you don't think you did?"
"I—that is—I was awfully sleepy and could scarcely keep my eyes open. I—I sat down on a rock for a little while."
"I—I think not."
"Was that before or after you allowed an outsider to get into our camp?"
"Oh, Captain Putnam, how did you know I let somebody in? I—that is—I mean, who said I let anybody in?" stammered poor Smith, taken completely off his guard.
"Never mind who told me. What I want to know is, did you sleep after you let him in or before?"
"Tell me the truth, Smith."
"I guess I took a nap afterwards, sir. But it was only for a minute, sir," pleaded the cadet.
"I see. Did you see the outsider leave camp after you had let him in?"
"I want the strict truth, remember, Smith. If you don't tell the truth you may get yourself in great trouble."
"Oh, Captain Putnam, I—I didn't mean to do anything wrong!"
"Did you see the outsider leave again or not?"
"Yes, sir, I saw him leave?"
"How soon after he had come in?"
"About fifteen or twenty minutes,—certainly, not much longer than that."
"Now, who was the outsider?"
"Answer me, Smith!" And now Captain Putnam's voice was as keen as the blade of a knife. He stood before the frightened cadet, looking him squarely in the eyes.
"It was Lew Flapp. But, oh, please, don't let him know I told you! He'll kill me if he finds it out!" Link Smith was about ready to cry.
"Lew Flapp." The captain drew a long breath. "How did you come to let him in? You knew he had been dismissed from the school."
"He begged me to let him in, saying he merely wanted to speak to two of his old friends. I asked him why he didn't wait until morning, but he said he wanted them to do something for him before they left the school—that he must see them then and there."
"Did he mention his friends' names?"
"What did he say when he went away?"
"Nothing much, sir, excepting that he had seen them and it was all right."
"Where did he go to?"
"I don't know. It was dark and I soon lost sight of him."
"He came alone?"
"Yes, sir. But, please, Captain Putnam, don't tell him I told you, or he'll kill me."
"Don't be alarmed, Smith. I'll protect you. If you see Flapp again tell me at once."
"I will, sir."
This ended the examination of Link Smith, and as soon as it was over the remainder of the cadets who had been on guard duty the night before were likewise told they might go.
FUN ON THE CAMPUS
"It was Lew Flapp, just as I supposed," said Dick, when he heard the news from Captain Putnam. "What a rascal he is getting to be! Almost as bad as Dan Baxter."
"Oh, he would have to be a good deal worse than he is to be as bad as Dan," returned Sam. "But I admit, he is bad enough."
"I'd give some money to lay my hands on him," put in Tom. "Oh, but wouldn't I punch his head good and hand him over to the police afterwards!"
Word was sent to Josiah Cotton and other officers of the law to look for Flapp, but for the time being nothing was seen or heard of that individual.
The Rover boys were to start for home the next day and that night a large number of the cadets held a special jollification on the parade ground in front of the Hall. A bonfire was lit, and the lads danced around and sang to their hearts' content.
In the midst of the excitement somebody saw Peleg Snuggers, the general-utility man of the school, hurrying across the backyard.
"Hullo, there goes Peleg!" was the shout.
"Let's give him a rousing farewell, boys," came from Tom Rover. "Hi, there, Peleg, come here."
"Can't, I'm in a hurry," responded the man-of-all-work, who had had the cadets plague him before.
"Oh, you must come," was the cry, and in a moment more Peleg Snuggers was surrounded.
"Let us march him around on our shoulders," went on Tom. "Peleg loves that, I know he does."
"Don't, neither!" cried the general-utility man. "Now, Tom Rover, you just let me alone."
"We'll carry you around for your rheumatism, Peleg. You've got rheumatism, haven't you?"
"No, I haven't."
"It's good for the lumbago, too."
"Ain't got no lumba—Oh, crickey! Let me down, boys. I don't want a ride!"
"Behold, the conquering hero comes!" announced Sam, as six of the boys hoisted poor Snuggers up into the air. "Now, sit up straight, Peleg. Don't you want a sword?"
"Here's a broom," put in Fred Garrison, and handed over an article which was worn to a stump. "Present arms! Forward, march! General Washtub will lead the funeral procession."
"If you let me tumble I'll break my neck!" gasped Peleg Snuggers. "Oh, creation! How can I carry that broom and hold on, too! This is awful! Shall I call the captain? Let up, I say!"
"Send for Mrs. Green to give him some soothing syrup, he's got the fits," came from a cadet in the crowd.
"I'll get her," cried Tom, struck with a new idea.
Off ran the fun-loving youth to the kitchen of the academy, where the matron was superintending the work of several of the hired girls.
"Oh, Mrs. Green, come quick!" he gasped, as he caught the lady by the arm.
"What is it, Tom?"
"It's poor Peleg! They say he's got a fit! He wants some soothing syrup, or something!"
"Well, I never!" ejaculated Mrs. Green. "A fit! Poor man! Shall I ring for the doctor?"
"Perhaps you had better ring for two doctors, or else come and see if you can help him."
"I'll do what I can," answered the matron, and ran to get some medicine from a chest. "I know what it is," she added. "It's indigestion. He ate four ears of green corn for dinner and four for supper,—and it was very green at that."
"Then he will surely want Mrs. Green to help him," murmured Tom.
Off hurried the matron with some medicine and Tom at her heels.
In the meantime the boys had marched poor Peleg close to the fire.
"Now, steady," cried Sam. "Don't let him fall into the flames and singe his hair."
"Let us warm his feet for him," cried a cadet. "Take off his shoes and stockings!"
"Hi, don't you do nuthin' of the kind," cried Peleg Snuggers, in new alarm. "My feet are warm enough!"
But there was no help for it, and in a twinkling off came his shoes and his socks followed.
"I ain't a-goin' to have my feet warmed!" groaned the utility man. "You are worse nor heathens! Lemme go!"
He struggled violently, but the cadets placed him on the grass and sat on him. Then one, who had run down to the ice-house for a piece of ice, came up.
"Here's a red-hot poker," he said. "Peleg, don't you want your initials branded on your feet?"
"No! no! Oh, help! somebody, help!" yelled the utility man.
"Be careful, or he may get a spasm," whispered Dick, who was looking on without taking part.
"Oh, he's all right," returned the cadet with the ice. "Wait till I brand a P on one foot and an S on the other!" And he drew the ice across the sole of one foot as he spoke.
The poor utility man thought it was a red-hot poker and gave a yell which would have done credit to a South Sea savage. He squirmed and fought, and in the midst of the melee Mrs. Green and Tom arrived.
"There he is," said Tom. "He certainly must have a fit."
"Poor Peleg!" cried Mrs. Green. "Here, my dear, take this. It will do you good." And she held out the bottle of medicine she had brought. "Take about a big spoonful."
"Hurrah, Mrs. Green to the rescue!" shouted Sam. "Come, Peleg, don't be backward about coming forward."
"What is this, Mrs. Green?" asked the astonished man-of-all-work, as he suddenly sat up.
"It's for your cramps, or fits, or whatever you've got, Peleg."
"Cramps, or fits? I ain't got no cramps or fits! Are you crazy, Mrs. Green?"
"Oh, Peleg, don't act so! You certainly have cramps, or indigestion. Come, take the medicine!"
"That fer your medicine!" roared the angry man-of-all-work, and flung the bottle into the bonfire.
"Oh, that medicine!" shrieked the matron. "And I made it myself, too!"
"It's them pesky boys, Mrs. Green! They be a-tormenting the life out of me."
"The boys?" The matron stopped short in wonder.
"Yes, mum. They've stolen my shoes and socks, and they started to brand me with a red-hot poker. I ain't got no fits, nur cramps, nur nuthin', I ain't!"
"Well, I declare!" burst out the thoroughly angry matron. "Tom Rover, come here!"
"Thank you, Mrs. Green, I'll come day after to-morrow!" murmured Tom, as he kept at a safe distance.
"Well, I guess you are all in this together," went on Mrs. Green, looking at the crowd of cadets. "It's your last night and I suppose you will tear the academy down over our ears."
"Why, Mrs. Green, we never do anything wrong," said Sam, reproachfully.
"Oh, no, of course not," was the sarcastic answer. "I'll be thankful to find myself alive after you are all gone." And with this reply the matron bounced off into the kitchen, where she slammed the door after her.
"Here are your shoes, Peleg," said George Granbury, as he handed them over.
"I want my socks first."
"Here you are," came from Larry Colby. As Larry's term as major was now over he was inclined to be as full of fun as anybody.
Peleg took his socks and his shoes and started to put on the former.
"Hullo, what's this!" he cried, and shook one foot violently. "What's in that sock! A grasshopper, I declare! Larry Colby, did you do that?"
"Why, Peleg, you know I never play any jokes," answered the ex-major, innocently.
"Don't I, though! But never mind." The general-utility man started to put on the other sock. "If you think—Great snakes, what's this? Oh, my foot! A hop-toad! Beastly!" And Peleg flung the toad at Larry. The ex-major dodged and the animal struck William Philander Tubbs full in the face.
"Oh, ah—what do you—ah—mean by such actions!" stormed the aristocratic cadet. "I shall report this."
"Hurrah, Tubby has gone into the frog-raising business," shouted Tom, merrily.
"I shan't put nuthin' on here," went on Peleg Snuggers, and watching his chance, he ran off at top speed, with his shoes in one hand and his socks in the other.
GOOD-BYE TO PUTNAM HALL
"Now, Songbird, give us one of your best poetical effusions," came from Dick Rover, after the excitement had died down a little. "We haven't heard a word out of you for fourteen minutes and a quarter."
"Yes, Songbird, turn on the poetry spigot and let her flow," put in Tom.
"Give us something on old schooldays," came from another cadet.
"Put in a touch of last farewells," added another.
"Don't forget to speak of the moon and fond memories."
"Or, shall we ever forget?"
"Or, camping on the old camp-ground, Songbird."
"And of all things, mention the soup we had last Thursday. No piece of poetry would be complete without that soup."
"Who's making up poetry about soup?" roared Songbird Powell. But then he grew calmer. "All right, fellows, here goes." And he started:
"Of all the days to mem'ry dear, The dearest days are those spent here, When we—"
"That's a libel!" interrupted Tom. "Captain Putnam's rates are no higher than the rates of other first-class academies. I move we cut that verse out, Songbird."
"I didn't mean the cost of the days spent here."
"You can't spend anything here," put in George Granbury. "You have to go to Cedarville to do your shopping."
"I'll make a fresh start," came from Powell, and he warbled:
"Old Putnam Hall I do adore, And love the place as ne'er before, The campus, boathouse, fishing pier— The roads that run from far and near— Each classroom is a hallowed spot, Though many lessons are forgot! The dormitories, bright and clean— No better rooms were ever seen! The mess-room, where we gathered oft—"
"To eat our eggs both hard and soft!"
finished up Tom, and then went on:
"The prison wherein I was cast, And thought that day would be my last, The teachers sweet and the teachers sour, And the feasts we held at the midnight hour, The games of ball we lost and won, And the jubilees! What lots of fun! And then the skating on the ice—"
"When we broke in, 'twas not so nice:"
interrupted George Granbury, referring to a calamity the particulars of which have already been related in "The Rover Boys in the Mountains." And then Songbird Powell took up the strain once more:
"I love each corner and each nook, I love the lake and love the brook, I love the cedars waving high—"
"And love the dinners with mince pie,"
interrupted Tom once more, and continued:
"In fact, I love it one and all, There is no spot like Putnam Hall!"
And then, with one accord, all standing around joined in the academy cheer:
"Zip, boom, bang! Ding, dong! Ding, dong! Bang! Hurrah for Putnam Hall!" Then the fire was stirred up, more boxes and barrels piled on top, and the cadets danced around more wildly than ever. They were allowed to keep up the fun until midnight, when all were so tired that further sport was out of the question, and all went sound asleep.
Bright and early the next morning the cadets assembled for their last breakfast in the mess-room. The parade was dispensed with, for some had to leave by the early boat on the lake in order to make the proper connections. Many were the handshakings and the kind words of farewell. Some of the students had graduated and were not to come back. Of these a few were bound for college, while others were going into various lines of business.
"We shall never forget our days at Putnam .Hall!" said more than one.
"And I shall never forget you, boys," answered Captain Putnam. "I wish all of you the best of success in life."
It was not until ten o'clock that the three Rover boys left for Cedarville in the big school stage. As was usual, Peleg Snuggers drove the turnout, which was filled to overflowing with cadets. Behind the stage came a big wagon, heavily loaded with trunks and boxes.
"Now, young gents, no cutting up," pleaded the general-utility man. "The hosses won't stand it, nowhow!"
"That's an old scare, Peleg," replied Tom. He had a tin horn and gave a loud blast. "That will let folks know we are coming." And then a dozen other horns sounded out, while some of the cadets began to sing.
A few minutes after reaching the steamboat dock at the village, which, as my old readers know, was located on the shore of Cayuga Lake, the Golden Star came along and made her usual landing. The boat looked familiar to them and they gave the captain a rousing greeting.
Over a dozen pupils were to make the trip to Ithaca at the foot of the lake. There the Rovers would get aboard a train which would take them to Oak Run, the nearest railroad station to their home.
"The Golden Star looks like an old friend," remarked Dick, when they were seated on the front, upper deck, enjoying the refreshing breeze that was blowing.'
"I am never on this boat but what I think of our first meeting with Dan Baxter and with Dora Stanhope and Nellie and Grace Laning," came from Tom. "What an enemy Dan Baxter has been from that time on!"
"And what a pile of things have happened since that time!" was Sam's comment. "By the way, it is strange that none of us have heard from any of those girls lately. They ought to be coming east from California by this time."
"I wish they were home," went on Tom. "I'd like to propose something."
"Maybe you'd like to propose to Nellie," put in his younger brother, slyly.
"No sooner than you'd propose to Grace," was Tom's prompt answer, which made Sam blush. "Dick," he went on, "wouldn't it be great if we could get the girls and Mrs. Stanhope to take that trip with us on the houseboat?"
"That would certainly be immense," cried the eldest Rover, enthusiastically. "Why didn't we think of it before? We might have written to them about it."
"Is it too late to write now?" asked Sam. "Or, maybe we can telegraph."
"Perhaps Mrs. Laning wants her girls at home now," said Dick, slowly. "They have been away a long time, remember."
"Perhaps Mrs. Laning might go along. We could have a jolly time of it with six or seven boys and perhaps the same number of girls and ladies."
The idea of having the girls along interested the three Rovers greatly and they talked of practically nothing else during the trip on Cayuga Lake.
Ithaca reached, they bid farewell to the last of their school chums, who were to depart in various directions, and then made their way to one of the hotels for dinner.
"There they are, mamma!" they heard a well-known voice exclaim. "Oh, how glad I am that we didn't miss them!" And the next moment Dora Stanhope rushed up, followed by Nellie and Grace Laning and Mrs. Stanhope.
"Well, of all things!" ejaculated Dick, as he shook hands warmly. "Where did you drop from?"
"We were talking about you during the trip from Cedarville," said Tom, as he too shook hands all around, followed by Sam.
"We were wondering why you hadn't written," added Sam.
"We were going to surprise you," answered Grace. "We expected to get home yesterday and visit the academy. But there was a breakdown on the line and our train was delayed and that made us miss a connection."
"We thought sure we'd miss you," said Nellie. "It made us feel awfully."
"Have you dined yet?" asked Dick.
"Then you must all come and take dinner with us. We want to hear all you've got to tell."
"And we want to hear what you've got to tell too," said Dora, with a merry laugh. She was looking straight into Dick's eyes. "Have you had a good time at the Hall?"
"Yes, but we had a better time at the encampment."
"I heard you met some very nice young ladies up there," went on Dora.
"Who wrote to you about that, Dora?"
"Oh, never mind; I heard it, and that's enough."
"Well, we did meet some nice young ladies."
"Oh!" And Dora turned away for a moment. They were on their way to the dining room and the others were temporarily out of hearing.
"But I didn't meet anybody half as nice as you!" went on Dick, in a low tone of voice, and caught her hand.
"Oh, Dick!" She said this with a toss of her head, but smiled, nevertheless.
"It's true, Dora. I wished you were there more than once. I would have written more, only we had a whole lot of trouble with our enemies."
"And you really did think of me?"
"I did—nearly every day. I suppose you forgot all about me, and that's why you didn't write."
"Dick Rover, you know better than that!"
"I suppose you met some stunning Californian that owns a gold mine and he claimed all of your attention."
"I did meet one rich young man, and—and he proposed to me," faltered Dora.
"Oh, Dora!" And now Dick's heart seemed to stop beating. "And you—you didn't accept him, did you?"
"Would you care if I did?" she whispered. "Dora!" he answered, half fiercely.
"Well, I told him I didn't want him, so there," said Dora, hurriedly. "I told him that I wanted to marry somebody that lived in the East, and that I—I—"
"And that you had the young man picked out? Why didn't you tell him that, Dora? You know—"
"Hi, you folks!" came in a cry from Tom. "What are you steering for the smoking room for? We are bound for the dining room."
"Well, I never!" murmured Dora. "Dick, we had better watch out where we are going."
"That's right." They turned toward the dining room. "Dora, you know, as I was saying, that—"
"Dick Rover, I thought we were going to dinner! Just see the folks! What a crowd! You musn't talk like that here."
"Yes, that's true, but—"
"You really must mind, Dick." She gave him a bright smile. "I—I—guess I understand you!"
And then all went in to dinner.
THE ROVER BOYS AT HOME
There was a great deal to tell on all sides, and the dinner lasted over an hour. The Stanhopes and the Lanings had had a grand time while at Santa Barbara and the widow was much improved in health, so much so, in fact, that she was now practically a well woman. Those who had been in the Far West listened with interest to the boys' doings at the Hall and during the encampment, and were amazed to think that Dan Baxter and his father had turned up once more, and that Arnold Baxter was trying to turn over a new leaf.
"I do not believe Dan will ever turn over a new leaf," said Dora. "He is a thoroughly bad young man."
"Let us hope that he does," said her mother. "I do not wish to see anybody throw himself away as that young man is doing."
"After this you will have to watch out for this Lew Flapp as well as for Dan Baxter," said Nellie. "Both appear to be painted with the same brush."
During the dinner the houseboat project was broached, and the boys spoke of what a fine time they expected to have on the Ohio, and perhaps on the Mississippi.
"And we would like all of you to go with us," said Dick.
"With you!" exclaimed Mrs. Stanhope.
"Oh, mamma, what a delightful trip it would be!" exclaimed Dora.
"And we would like your mother to go too," went on Tom, to Nellie and Grace.
"Oh, if mamma would only go!" cried Grace. "I am sure it would do her a great deal of good. She goes away from home so little."
The matter was talked over until it was time for the two parties to separate, and the Rovers promised to write more particulars in a few days,—as soon as they knew more about the houseboat and how it was to be run, and what sort of sleeping accommodations it afforded.
The boys saw the Stanhopes and the Lanings on the boat bound up the lake and then almost ran to the depot to catch their train. It came in directly, and in half a minute more they were being whirled away in the direction of Oak Run.
"There is no use of talking, those girls are just all right," said Sam, bluntly. "I never met a nicer lot in my life."
"I guess Dick thinks one of them is all right," said Tom, with a grin. "Although I don't see why you were steering her into the smoking room," he added, to his big brother. "Were you going to teach her to smoke cigarettes?"
"Oh, say, Tom, let up," grumbled Dick. "You paid about as much attention to Nellie as I did to Dora."
"Anyway, I didn't steer her to the smoking room."
"No, but while you were talking to her I saw you put five spoonfuls of sugar in her coffee for her," returned Dick. "Maybe you didn't think she was sweet enough for you, eh?"
At this Tom reddened, while Sam set up a roar.
"He's got you, Tom!" cried the youngest Rover. "Better cry quits and talk about something else. We all like those girls amazingly, and that's the end of it;" and then the subject was changed.
It was almost dark when Oak Run was reached. Here a carriage, driven by Jack Ness, the Rovers' hired man, was in waiting for them.
"Hullo, Jack!" cried Tom. "All well at home?"
"Very well, Master Tom," was the answer. "And how are you, and how is Master Dick and Master Sam?"
"All O. K. and top side up, Jack," said Sam.
They were soon in the carriage, and then the hired man whipped up the team and away they sped across Swift River, through the village of Dexter's Corners, and then along the highway leading to the farm.
"I see the lights of home!" sang out Sam, as they made the last turn. "I can tell you, it makes a fellow feel good, doesn't it?"
"It's a true saying that there is no place like home," returned Dick. "Here we are!"
The carriage made a turn around a clump of trees and then dashed up to the piazza. From the house rushed several people.
"Here we are, father!" sang out Dick. "How are you, Uncle Randolph, and how are you, Aunt Martha?"
"Dick!" cried Mr. Anderson Rover, and embraced his oldest son. "And Tom and Sam! I am glad to see you looking so well!"
"My boys!" murmured their aunt, as of old, and gave each a sounding kiss.
"Getting to be big young men," was their uncle's comment. "They won't be boys much longer."
"I'm going to stay a boy all my life, Uncle Randolph," answered Tom, promptly. "By the way," he went on, with a merry twinkle in his eye, "how is scientific farming getting on?"
"Splendidly, Thomas, splendidly."
"Not losing money any more, then?"
"Well—er—I have lost a little, just a little, this summer. But next summer I expect grand results."
"Going to grow a new kind of turnip?"
"Or maybe it's a squash this time, uncle."
"No, I am trying—"
"Or a parsnip. I have heard there is a great call for parsnips in New Zealand. The natives use them for dyeing—"
"Thomas!" interrupted his father, sternly. "Please don't start to joke so early. To-morrow will do."
"All right, I'll subside," answered Tom. "But really, do you know, I'm bubbling all over, like an uncorked soda-water bottle."
"Don't you feel hungry?"
"Hungry! Just you try me and see."
"I made a big cherry pie for you, Tom," said his aunt. "I know you like it."
"Oh, Aunt Martha, that's worth an extra hug." He gave it to her. "Your pie can't be beat!"
"And I've got some fried chicken. Dick likes that."
"And I like it, too," said Sam.
"Yes, I know it, Sam. But I made some spice cakes too—"
"Oh, aunt, just my weakness!" cried the youngest Rover. "There's another kiss for you, and another! You're the best aunt a boy ever had!"
They were soon washed up and sitting down to the table. Scarcely had they seated themselves than Alexander Pop came in, acting as waiter, something he always did when the boys came home. Alexander, usually called Aleck for short, was a good-natured colored man who had once been employed at Putnam Hall. He had gone to Africa with the Rover boys, as already related in "The Rover Boys in the Jungle," and had been with them on numerous other trips. He was now employed steadily in the Rover household.
"Howde do, gen'men?" he said, with a broad grin on his coal-black face.
"Aleck!" all three cried together; "how are you?"
"Fust-rate, thank yo'. Yo' am looking right smart, too," went on the colored man. And then he began to serve them with the best the place afforded. He loved dearly to talk, but thought the present no time for so doing.
It was a happy family gathering, and all remained at the table a long time, the boys telling their different tales from beginning to end. Mr. Anderson Rover was much interested in what they had to say about the Baxters and Lew Flapp.
"You must be careful," said he. "Arnold Baxter can do you no more harm, but the others will be worse than snakes in the grass."
"We'll watch out," answered Dick, and then he and the others asked about the houseboat which had been taken for debt and how soon they could use the craft.
"You may use the houseboat as soon as you please," said Randolph Rover. "But you must promise your father and Aunt Martha and me not to get into mischief."
"How could we get into mischief with a houseboat?" questioned Tom. "Why, we just intend to knock around and take it easy all summer."
"The rest ought to do all of you a power of good," came from his father. "I declare, it seems to me you have been on the jump ever since you first went to Putnam Hall."
"Where is the houseboat now?"
"Tied up at the village of Steelville, not very far from Pittsburg. As I wrote to you, she is under the command of Captain Starr. He knows the Ohio and the Mississippi thoroughly and will take you wherever you wish to go."
"Well, we want to stay home a few days first, and make all of our arrangements," said Dick; and so it was decided.
A SCENE IN A CEMETERY
"Hurrah, Fred Garrison says he will go with us!" cried Sam, two days later. "I have just received a telegram from him. He says he will come on to-morrow."
"And here is word from Songbird Powell," put in Dick. "He will go, too. He is to meet us at Pittsburg, any time I say."
"And Hans Mueller will go," said Tom. "That makes three of our friends to start with. I hope the Lanings and the Stanhopes go."
"So do I," answered Dick, who could not get that talk with Dora in the hallway of the hotel out of his head.
Sam was anxious to meet Fred Garrison, and on the following afternoon drove down to the railroad station at Oak Run to greet his chum.
The train was late, and after finding this out Sam took a walk around the village to see what changes had been made during the past few months. But Oak Run was a slow place and he look in vain for improvements.
"Guess I'll have my hair cut while I am here," he said to himself, and started to enter the only barber shop of which the railroad village boasted.
As he pushed open the door a young fellow got out of one of the chairs and paid the barber what was coming to him. Then he reached for his hat and started to leave.
"Lew Flapp!" ejaculated Sam. "Is it possible?"
The bully of Putnam Hall whirled around and gave a start. He had not dreamed of meeting one of the Rovers.
"What—er—what do you want?" he stammered, not knowing what to say.
"Where did you come from, Flapp?"
"That's my business."
"It was a fine trick you played on us while we were on the march back to Putnam Hall."
"Trick? I haven't played any trick on you," answered Lew Flapp, loftily, as he began to regain his self-possession.
"You know well enough that you robbed that jewelry shop and then tried to lay the blame on me and my brothers."
"Rover, you are talking in riddles."
"No, I'm not; I'm telling the strict truth."
"Bah!" Lew Flapp shoved forward. "Let me pass."
"Not just yet." Sam placed himself in front of the barber shop door.
"What's the row?" put in the barber, who happened to be the only other person in the shop.
"This fellow is a thief, Mr. Gregg."
"You don't say!" cried Lemuel Gregg. "Who did he rob?"
"He robbed a jewelry shop up near Putnam Hall and then he laid the blame on my brothers and me."
"That was a mean thing to do."
"It is false!" roared Lew Flapp. "Get out of my way, or it will be the worse for you!"
"I'm not afraid of you, Flapp," responded Sam, sturdily. "Mr. Gregg, will you help me to make him a prisoner?"
"Are you certain of what you are doing?" questioned the barber, nervously. "I don't want to get into trouble over this. I once cut off a man's beard by mistake and had to pay twenty-two dollars damages."
"I know exactly what I am doing. Help me to make him a prisoner and you shall be well rewarded."
At the promise of a reward Lemuel Gregg became interested. He knew that the Rovers were well-to-do and could readily pay him handsomely for his services.
"You—you had better stay here, young man," he said, to Lew Flapp. "If you are innocent it won't hurt you. We'll have the squire look into this case."
"I won't stay!" roared the bully, and making a sudden leap at Sam he hurled the youngest Rover to one side and tried to bolt through the door.
"No, you don't!" came from the barber, and leaping to the front he caught Lew Flapp by the end of the coat and held him.
"Then take that!" And the next instant Lew Flapp hit the barber a telling blow in the nose which made the blood spurt from that member. Then Flapp dove for the door, pulled it open, and sped up the street with all speed.
"Oh, my nose! He has smashed it to jelly!" groaned the barber, as he rushed to the sink for some water.
Sam had been thrown against a barber chair so forcibly that for the moment the wind was knocked completely out of him. By the time he was able to stand up, Flapp was out of the building.
"We must catch him!" he cried. "Come on!"
"Catch him yourself," growled Lemuel Gregg, "I ain't going to stand the risk of being killed. He's a reg'lar tiger, he is!" And he began to bathe his nose at the sink.
Lew Flapp was running towards the railroad, but as soon as he saw that Sam was on his track he made several turns, finally taking to a side road which led to the Oak Run Cemetery. Here he saw there were numerous bushes and cedar trees, and thought he could hide or double on his trail without discovery.
But he forgot one thing—that Sam was a splendid runner and good of wind as well as limb. Try his best, he could not shake the youngest Rover off.
"The fool!" muttered the bully to himself. "Why don't he give it up?"
Flapp looked about him for a club, but none was at hand. Then he picked up a stone and taking aim, hurled it at Sam. The missile struck the youngest Rover in the shoulder, causing considerable pain.
"I reckon two can play at that game," murmured Sam, and he too caught up a stone and launched it forth. It landed in the middle of Lew Flapp's back and caused the bully to utter a loud cry of anguish.