The Rover Boys In Business
The Search for the Missing Bonds
by Arthur M. Winfield, 1915
My Dear Boys: This book is a complete story in itself, but forms the nineteenth volume in a line issued under the general title of "The Rover Boys Series for Young Americans."
As I have mentioned in several other volumes, this series was started a number of years ago with the publication of "The Rover Boys at School," "On the Ocean," and "In the Jungle." I am happy to say the books were so well liked that they were followed, year after year, by the publication of "The Rover Boys Out West," "On the Great Lakes," "In Camp," "On Land and Sea," "On the River," "On the Plains," "In Southern Waters," "On the Farm," "On Treasure Isle," "At College," "Down East," "In the Air," "In New York," and finally "In Alaska," where we last met the lads.
During all these adventures the Rover boys have been growing older. Dick is now married and conducting his father's business in New York City and elsewhere. 'The fun-loving Tom and his sturdy younger brother, Sam, are at Brill College. The particulars are given of a great baseball game; and then Tom and Sam return home, to he startled by a most unusual message from Dick, calling them to New York immediately. Some bonds of great value have mysteriously disappeared, and unless these are recovered the Rover fortune may be seriously impaired. What the boys did under these circumstances, I will leave the pages which follow to disclose.
Once more thanking my host of young readers for the interest they have taken in my books, I remain,
Affectionately and sincerely yours,
Arthur M. Winfield.
AT THE RIVER
"I say, Sam, can't you listen for just a moment?"
"Oh, Tom, please don't bother me now!" and Sam Rover, with a look of worry on his face, glanced up for a moment from his writing-table. "I've got to finish this theme before to-morrow morning."
"Oh, I know! But listen!" And Tom Rover's face showed his earnestness. "Last night it was full moonlight, and to-night it is going to be equally clear. Why can't we get out the auto and pay a visit to Hope? You know we promised the girls that we would be up some afternoon or evening this week."
"Sounds good, Tom, but even if we went after, supper, could we get there in time? You know all visitors have to leave before nine o'clock."
"We can get there if we start as soon as we finish eating. Can't you finish the theme after we get back? Maybe I can help you."
"Help me? On this theme!" Sam grinned broadly. "Tom, you don't know what you are talking about. Do you know what this theme is on?"
"No, but I can help you if I have to."
"This is on 'The Theory Concerning the Evolution of——'"
"That's enough, Sam; don't give me any of it now. Time enough for that when we have to get at it. There goes the supper bell. Now, downstairs with you! and let us get through as soon as possible and be on our way."
"All right, just as you say!" and gathering up a number of sheets of paper, Sam thrust them in the drawer of the writing-table.
"By the way, it's queer we didn't get any letter to-day from Dick," the youngest Rover observed.
At the mention of their brother's name, Tom's face clouded a little.
"It is queer, Sam, and I must say I don't like it. I think this is a case where no news is bad news. I think if everything was going along all right in New York, Dick would surely let us know. I am afraid he is having a good deal of trouble in straightening out Dad's business."
"Just the way I look at it," responded Sam, as the brothers prepared to leave the room.
"One thing is sure, Pelter, Japson & Company certainly did all they could to mix matters up, and I doubt very much if they gave Dad all that was coming to him."
"I believe I made a mistake in coming back to college," pursued Tom, as the two boys walked out into the corridor, where they met several other students on the way to the dining hall. "I think I ought to have given up college and gone to New York City to help Dick straighten out that business tangle. Now that Dad is sick again, the whole responsibility rests on Dick's shoulders, and he ought not to be made to bear it alone."
"Well, if you feel that way, Tom, why don't you break away and go? I think, perhaps, it would be not only a good thing for Dick, but it would, also, be a good thing for you," and, for the moment, Sam looked very seriously at his brother.
Tom reddened a bit, and then put his forefinger to his forehead. "You mean it would help me here?" And then, as Sam nodded, he added: "Oh, don't you worry. I am all right now, my head doesn't bother me a bit. But I do wish I could get just one good chance at Pelter for the crack that rascal gave me on the head with the footstool."
"It certainly was a shame to let him off, Tom, hut you know how father felt about it. He was too sick to be worried by a trial at law and all that."
"Yes, I know, but just the same, some day I am going to square accounts with Mr. Jesse Pelter," and Tom shook his head determinedly.
Passing down the broad stairway of Brill College, the two Rover boys made their way to the dining hall. Here the majority of the students were rapidly assembling for the evening meal, and the lads found themselves among a host of friends.
"Hello, Songbird! How are you this evening?" cried Tom, as he addressed a tall, scholarly-looking individual who wore his hair rather long. "Have you been writing any poetry to-day?"
"Well,— er— not exactly, Tom," muttered John Powell, otherwise known as Songbird because of his numerous efforts to compose what he called poetry. "But I have been thinking up a few rhymes."
"When are you going to get out that book of poetry?"
"What book is that, Tom?"
"Why, as if you didn't know! Didn't you tell me that you were going to get up a volume of 'Original International Poems for the Grave and Gay;' five hundred pages, fully illustrated; and bound in full leather, with title in gold, and "Tom, Tom, now please stop your fooling!" pleaded Songbird, his face flushing. "Just because I write a poem now and then doesn't say that I am going to publish a book."
"No, but I'm sure you will some day, and you'll make a fortune out of it— or fifteen dollars, anyway."
"The same old Tom!" cried a merry voice, and another student clapped the fun-loving Rover on the shoulder. "I do believe you would rather joke than eat!"
"Not on your life, Spud! and I'll prove it to you right now!" and linking his arm through that of Will Jackson, otherwise "Spud," Tom led the way to one of the tables, with Sam and several of the other students following.
"What is on the docket for to-night?" asked Songbird, as he fell to eating.
"Tom and I are going to take a little run in the auto to Hope," answered Sam.
"Oh, I see!" Songbird Powell shut one eye knowingly. "Going up there to see the teachers, I suppose!"
"Sure, that is what they always do!" came from Spud, with a wink.
"Sour grapes, Spud!" laughed Sam. "You would go there yourself if you had half a chance."
"Yes, and Songbird would want to go along, too, if we were bound for the Sanderson cottage," put in Tom. "You see, in Songbird's eyes, Minnie Sanderson is just the nicest girl——"
"Now stop it, Tom, can't you!" pleaded poor Songbird, growing decidedly red in the face. "Miss Sanderson is only a friend of mine, and you know it."
Just at that moment the students at the table were interrupted by the approach of a tall, dudish-looking individual, who wore a reddish-brown suit, cut in the most up-to-date fashion, and who sported patent-leather shoes, and a white carnation in his buttonhole. The newcomer took a vacant chair, sitting down with a flourish.
"I've had a most delightful ramble, don't you know," he lisped, looking around at the others. "I have been through the sylvan woods and by the babbling brook, and have——"
"Great Caesar's tombstone!" exclaimed Tom, looking at the newcomer critically. "Why, my dearly beloved William Philander, you don't mean to say that you have been delving through the shadowy nooks, and playing with the babbling brook, in that outfit?"
"Oh, dear, no, Tom!" responded William Philander Tubbs. "I had another suit on, the one with the green stripe, don't you know,— the one I had made last September— or maybe it was in October, I can't really remember. But you must know the suit, don't you?"
"Sure! I remember the suit. The green-striped one with the faded-out blue dots and the red diamond check in the corner. Isn't that the same suit you took down to the pawnbroker's last Wednesday night at fifteen minutes past seven and asked him to loan you two dollars and a half on it, and the pawnbroker wanted to know if the suit was your own?"
"My dear Tom!" and William Philander looked aghast. "You know well enough I never took that suit to a pawnbroker."
"Well, maybe it was some other suit. Possibly the black one with the blue stripes, or maybe it was the blue one with the black stripes. Really, my dearest Philander, it is immaterial to me what suit it was." And Tom looked coldly indifferent as he buttered another slice of bread.
"But I tell you, I never went to any pawn-broker!" pleaded the dudish student. "I would not be seen in any such horrid place!"
"Oh, pawnbrokers are not so bad," came from Spud Jackson, as he helped himself to more potatoes. "I knew of one fellow down in New Haven who used to loan thousands of dollars to the students at Yale. He was considered a public benefactor. When he died they closed up the college for three days and gave him a funeral over two miles long. And after that, the students raised a fund of sixteen thousand dollars with which to erect a monument to his memory. Now, that is absolutely true, and if you don't believe it you can come to my room and I will show you some dried rose leaves which came from one of the wreathes used at the obsequies." And a general laugh went up over this extravagant statement.
"The same old Spud!" cried Sam, as he gave the story-teller of the college a nudge in the ribs. "Spud, you are about as bad as Tom."
"Chust vat I tinks," came from Max Spangler, a German-American student who was still struggling with the difficulties of the language. "Only I tinks bod of dem vas worser dan de udder." And at this rather mixed statement another laugh went up.
"I wish you fellows would stop your nonsense and talk baseball," came from Bob Grimes, another student. "Do you realize that if we expect to do anything this spring, we have got to get busy?"
"Well, Bob," returned Sam, "I don't see how that is going to interest me particularly. I don't expect to be on any nine this year."
"I know, Sam, but Tom, here, has promised to play if he can possibly get the time."
"And so I will play," said Tom. "That is, provided I remain at Brill."
"What, do you mean to say you are going to leave!" cried several students.
"We can't do without you, Tom," added Songbird.
"Of course we can't," came from Bob Grimes. "We need Tom the worst way this year."
"Well, I'll talk that over with you fellows some other time. To-night we are in a hurry." And thus speaking, Tom tapped his brother on the shoulder, and both left the dining-room.
As my old readers know, the Rover boys possessed a very fine automobile. This was kept in one of the new garages on the place, which was presided over by Abner Filbury, the son of the old man who had worked for years around the dormitories.
"Is she all ready, Ab?" questioned Tom, as the young man came forward to greet them.
"Yes, sir, I filled her up with gas and oil, and she's in apple-pie order."
"Why, Tom!" broke in Sam, in surprise. "You must have given this order before supper."
"I did," and Tom grinned at his younger brother. "I took it for granted that you would make the trip." And thus speaking, Tom leaped into the driver's seat of the new touring car. Then Sam took his place beside his brother, and in a moment more the car was gliding out of the garage, and down the curving, gravel path leading to the highway running from Ashton past Brill College to Hope Seminary.
As Tom had predicted, it was a clear night, with the full moon just showing over the distant hills. Swinging into the highway, Tom increased the speed and was soon running at twenty-five to thirty miles an hour.
"Don't run too fast," cautioned Sam. "Remember this road has several dangerous curves in it, and remember, too, a good many of the countrymen around here don't carry lights when they drive."
"Oh, I'll be careful," returned Tom, lightly. "But about the lights, I think some of the countrymen ought to be fined for driving in the darkness as they do. I think——"
"Hark! what sort of a noise is that?" interrupted the younger Rover.
Both boys strained their ears. A shrill honk of a horn had been followed by a heavy rumble, and now, around a curve of the road, shot the beams from a single headlight perched on a heavy auto-truck. This huge truck was coming along at great speed, and it passed the Rovers with a loud roar, and a scattering of dust and small stones in all directions.
"Great Scott!" gasped Sam, after he had recovered from his amazement. "Did you ever see such an auto-truck as that, and running at such speed?"
"Certainly some truck," was Tom's comment. "That must have weighed four or five tons. I wonder if it came over the Paxton River bridge?"
"If it did, it must have given the bridge an awful shaking up. That bridge isn't any too strong. It shakes fearfully every time we go over it. Better run slow, Tom, when we get there."
"I will." And then Tom put on speed once more and the automobile forged ahead as before.
A short run up-hill brought them to the point where the road ran down to the Paxton River. In the bright moonlight the boys could see the stream flowing like a sheet of silver down between the bushes and trees. A minute more, and they came in sight of the bridge.
"Stop!" said Sam. "I may be mistaken, but that bridge looks shifted to me."
"So it does," returned Tom, and brought the automobile to a standstill. Both boys leaped out and walked forward.
To inspect the bridge in the bright moonlight was easy, and in less than a minute the boys made a startling discovery, which was to the effect that the opposite end of the structure had been thrown from its supports and was in danger of falling at any instant.
"This is mighty bad," was Sam's comment. "Why, Tom, this is positively dangerous. If anybody should come along here——"
"Hark!" Tom put up his hand, and both boys listened. From the top of the hill they had left but a moment before, came the sounds of an approaching automobile. An instant later the rays of the headlights shot into view, almost blinding them.
"We must stop them!" came from both boys simultaneously. But scarcely had the words left their lips, when they saw that such a course might be impossible. The strange automobile was coming down the hill at a furious rate. Now, as the driver saw the Rovers' machine, he sounded his horn shrilly.
"He'll have a smash-up as sure as fate!" yelled Sam, and put up his hand in warning. Tom did likewise, and also yelled at the top of his lungs.
But it was too late. The occupant of the strange automobile— for the machine carried but a single person— tried to come to a stop. The brakes groaned and squeaked, and the car swept slightly to one side, thus avoiding the Rovers' machine. Then, with power thrown off and the hand-brake set, it rolled out on the bridge. There was a snap, followed by a tremendous crash, and the next instant machine and driver disappeared with a splash into the swiftly-flowing river.
TO THE RESCUE
The accident at the bridge had occurred so suddenly that, for the instant, neither Rover boy knew what to do. They saw that the farther end of the bridge had given way completely. Just where the end rested in the water they beheld several small objects floating about, one of them evidently a cap, and another a small wooden box. But the automobile with its driver was nowhere to be seen.
"My gracious! That fellow will surely be drowned!" gasped Sam, on recovering from the shock. "Tom, do you see him anywhere?"
"No, I don't." Tom took a few steps forward and gazed down into the swiftly-flowing stream. "Perhaps he is pinned under the auto, Sam!"
"Wait, I'll get the searchlight," cried the younger Rover, and ran back to their automobile. The boys made a point of carrying an electric pocket searchlight to be used in case they had to make repairs in the dark. Securing this, and turning on the light, Sam ran forward to the river bank, with Tom beside him.
To those who have read the previous volumes in this "Rover Boys Series" the lads just mentioned will need no special introduction. For the benefit of others, however, let me state that the Rover boys were three in number; Dick being the oldest, fun-loving Tom coming next, and sturdy Sam being the youngest. When at home, which was only for a short time each year, the boys lived with their father, Anderson Rover, and their Uncle Randolph and Aunt Martha on a farm called Valley Brook, in New York State.
While their father was in Africa, the boys had been sent to Putnam Hall Military Academy, as related in the first volume of this series, entitled "The Rover Boys at School." There they had made quite a few friends, and, also, some enemies.*
*For particulars regarding how Putnam Hall Military Academy was organized, and what fine times the cadets there enjoyed even before the Rovers appeared on the scene, read "The Putnam Hall Series," six volumes, starting with "The Putnam Hall Cadets."— Publishers
The first term at school was followed by an exciting trip on the ocean, and then another trip into the jungles of Africa, where the boys went looking for their parent. Then came a journey to the West, and some grand times on the Great Lakes and in the Mountains. After that, the Rover boys came back to the Hall to go into camp with their fellow-cadets. Then they took a long journey over land and sea, being cast away on a lonely island in the Pacific.
On returning home, the boys had imagined they were to settle down to a quiet life, but such was not to be. On a houseboat the lads, with some friends, sailed down the Ohio and the Mississippi rivers, and then found themselves on the Plains, where they solved the mystery of Red Rock ranch. Then they set sail on Southern Waters, and in the Gulf of Mexico discovered a deserted yacht.
"Now for a good rest," Sam had said, and the three lads had returned to the home farm, where, quite unexpectedly, more adventures befell them. Then they returned to Putnam Hall; and all graduated with considerable honor.
It had been decided by Mr. Rover that the boys should next go to college, and he selected an institution of learning located in the Middle West, not far from the town of Ashton. Brill College was a fine place, and the Rovers knew they would like it as soon as they saw it. With them went their old-time school chum, Songbird Powell, already mentioned. At the same time, William Philander Tubbs came to the college from Putnam Hall. He was a dudish fellow, who thought far more of dress than of gaining an education, and he was often made the butt of some practical joke.
It did not take the Rover boys long to make a number of friends at Brill. These included Stanley Browne, a tall, gentlemanly youth; Bob Grimes, who was greatly interested in baseball and other sports; Max Spangler, a German-American youth, who was everybody's friend; and Will Jackson, always called "Spud" because of his unusual fondness for potatoes. Spud was a great story-teller, and some of his yarns were marvelous in the extreme.
During their first term at Putnam Hall, the Rover boys had become well acquainted with Dora Stanhope, who lived near the school with her widowed mother, and, also, Nellie and Grace Laning, Dora's two cousins, who resided but a short distance further away. It had not been long before Dick and Dora showed a great liking for each other, and, at the same time, Tom often "paired off" with Nellie, and Sam as often sought the company of Grace. Then came the time when the boys did a great service for Mrs. Stanhope, saving her from the wicked plotting of Josiah Crabtree, a teacher at Putnam Hall. Crabtree was exposed, and lost no time in leaving the school, threatening at the same time that, sooner or later, he would "square accounts with the Rovers."
But a few miles away from Brill College was located Hope Seminary, an institution for girls. When the Rover boys went to Brill, Dora, Nellie and Grace entered Hope, so the young folks met almost as often as before. A term at Brill was followed by an unexpected trip Down East, where the Rover boys again brought the rascally Crabtree to terms. Then the lads became the possessors of a biplane, and took several thrilling trips through the air. About this time, Mr. Anderson Rover, who was not in the best of health, was having much trouble with some brokers, who were trying to swindle him out of valuable property. He went to New York City, and disappeared, and his three sons went at once on the hunt for him. The brokers were Pelter, Japson & Company, and it was not long before Dick and his brothers discovered that Pelter and Japson were in league with Josiah Crabtree. In the end the boys found out what had become of their parent, and they managed to bring the brokers to terms. But, during a struggle, poor Tom was hit on the head by a wooden footstool thrown by Pelter, and knocked unconscious. Josiah Crabtree tried to escape from a garret window by means of a rope made of a blanket. This broke, and he sustained a heavy fall, breaking a leg in two places. He was taken to a hospital, and the doctors there said he would be a cripple for life.
"There is no use in talking, Dad," Dick had said to his father, "you are not in a fit physical condition to take hold of these business matters. You had better leave them entirely to me." And to this Mr. Rover had agreed. Then, as Dick was to leave college and spend most of his time in New York, it had been decided that he and Dora should get married. There had followed one of the grandest weddings the village of Cedarville had ever seen.
The blow on Tom's head proved more serious than was at first anticipated. Through it the poor lad suddenly lost his mind, and while in that state he wandered away from Brill College, and went on a long journey, as related in detail in the volume preceding this, entitled "The Rover Boys in Alaska."
As their father was too ill to take part in any search for the missing one, Dick and Sam took up the hunt, and after many thrilling adventures on the ice and in the snow, managed to locate their brother and bring him back home.
"And now, Tom, you must take a good long rest," his kindly Aunt Martha had said, and she had insisted upon it that he be put under the care of a specialist. Tom had rested for several months, and then, declaring that he felt as good as ever, had returned to Brill. Sam was already in the grind, and soon Tom was doing his best to make up for the time he had lost on his strange trip.
Of course, Nellie Laning had been very much worried over Tom's condition, and his disappearance had caused her intense dismay. Since he had returned to Brill, she had asked that he either call on her or write to her at least once a week. Tom preferred a visit to letter-writing, and as Sam was usually ready to go to Hope to see Grace whenever the opportunity afforded, the brothers usually took the trip together, as in the present instance.
Searchlight in hand, the Rover boys peered out over the surface of the swiftly-flowing river, which at this point was about seventy-five feet wide. The bridge was built in three sections, and it was the middle span which had collapsed at the farther end, so that the automobile had plunged into water which was at least eight feet deep.
"Do you see anything of him?" asked Sam, eagerly, as the rays from the light flashed in one direction and then in another.
"If he managed to get out of the auto, perhaps he floated down with the current," responded his brother. "Anyhow, he doesn't seem to be around here."
"Maybe he was caught under the wheel. If so, we had better get him out without delay."
"Look! Look!" And now Tom pointed. down the river. There in the moonlight, both boys saw a form coming to the surface. The fellow was beating the water wildly with his hands, and now he set up a frantic cry for aid. Turning the searchlight in that direction, the Rover boys left the vicinity of the broken bridge, and made their way down to something of a footpath that ran along the water's edge. Tom was in the lead. Here and there the bushes hung over the stream, and both lads had to scramble along as best they could.
"Help! Help!" The cry came faintly, and then the two boys saw the fellow in the water throw up both arms and sink from view.
"He has gone under!" gasped Sam. "Hurry up, Tom, or we'll be too late!"
Scrambling wildly through the last of the bushes and onto some flat rocks that, in this vicinity, ran out into the river, the Rover boys soon gained a point which was less than four yards from where the unfortunate youth had disappeared. Leading the way, Tom leaped from one flat stone in the stream to another. Sam followed closely, holding the searchlight on the spot where both hoped the fellow in the water might reappear.
"Here he is!" cried Tom. And, as he spoke, Sam saw a dark object turn over in the stream close to the rock on which his brother had leaped. The next instant Tom was down on his knees and feeling through the water.
"Hold my hand, Sam," said the older Rover. And as Sam took his left hand, Tom clutched with his right the coat of the party in the river. Then came a hard pull; and a moment later Tom had the dripping form on the rock.
"Is he— he— dead?" questioned Sam, hoarsely.
"I don't think so, but he certainly has had a close call. We must get him ashore and work over him as soon as possible. You light the way; I think I can carry him alone."
The fellow who had been hauled out of the river was a slightly-built youth, not over twenty years of age. As Tom was both big and muscular, it was an easy matter for him to throw the stranger over his shoulder. Sam led the way to the shore, keeping the light down on the rocks so that his brother might be sure of his footing.
Once safe, the boys placed the stranger on the grass and started to work over him. He was unconscious, and had evidently swallowed considerable water. Fortunately, the lads had taken lessons in how to resuscitate a person who had been close to drowning, so they knew exactly what to do.
"It's a mighty lucky thing that we were here to aid him," remarked Sam, as he and Tom proceeded with their efforts. "Another minute, and it would have been all up with this poor fellow."
"Well, he isn't out of the woods yet, Sam, but I think he is coming around." And even as Tom spoke the stranger gave a gasp and a groan, and tried to sit up.
"It's all right, my friend," cried Sam, reassuringly. "We've got you, you are safe."
"Oh, oh!" moaned the young man who had been so close to drowning. And then as he sat up and stared at the brothers, he added: "Did— did you sa— save me?"
"Well, we hauled you out of the river," replied Tom, simply.
"You did!" The young man shivered as he glanced at the swiftly-flowing stream. "The bridge— it was broken, but I didn't notice it in time."
"We tried to warn you," said Sam, "but you were coming too fast."
"I know it, but I— I——" And then the young man, having tried to get to his feet, suddenly collapsed and became unconscious again.
"Phew!" came from Sam in surprise. "He must be worse off than we thought."
"Perhaps he got struck when he went down," suggested Tom. "See here, there is blood on his hand; it is running down his sleeve!"
"Maybe his arm is broken, Tom. I guess the best thing we can do is to get him to some doctor."
"Why not take him right down to Ashton to Doctor Havens?"
"Good idea; we'll do it."
Tom again took up the unconscious young man, and, with Sam leading the way, both hurried to their automobile. The stranger was deposited on the seat of the tonneau, and then Tom lost no time in turning the machine around and heading for town.
"I wonder who he can be?" remarked Sam, as they sped along.
"I'm sure I don't know," was Tom's reply. Neither of the boys dreamed of the surprise in store for them.
SOMETHING OF A SURPRISE
It did not take the Rover boys long to reach Ashton; and once in town, they lost no time in running their auto to where Doctor Havens resided. They found the house well lit up, and the old doctor in his study, poring over some medical works.
"Saved a fellow from drowning, eh?" he queried, after the lads had explained matters. "Got him out in your auto? All right, bring him right in if you want to— or wait, I'll go out and take a look at him. Maybe I know who he is and where he belongs." And thus speaking, the doctor went outside.
Sam still had the searchlight in hand, and as the physician approached the automobile, the lad flashed the rays on the face of the stranger, who was still unconscious.
"Why, I've seen that young chap before!" exclaimed Doctor Havens. "He is stopping at the hotel. I saw him there only this afternoon."
"Then perhaps we had better take him over there," suggested Tom.
"By all means, and I'll go with you."
Running into the house, the doctor procured his hand case, and then joined the boys in the automobile. A run of a few minutes brought the party to the hotel, and Sam and Tom lifted the young man out and carried him inside.
The arrival of the party created some consternation, but as only the proprietor of the hotel and a bellboy were present, the matter was kept rather quiet. The young man had a room on the second floor, and to this he was speedily taken, and placed in the care of the doctor.
"No bones broken so far as I can ascertain," said Doctor Havens, after a long examination. "He has cut his forehead, and he also has a bruise behind his left ear, but I think he is suffering more from shock than anything else."
"Did you say you knew him?" questioned Tom.
"Oh, no, only that I had seen him around this hotel."
"What is his name?" asked Sam, of the hotel proprietor, who had followed them to the room.
"His name is Pelter."
"Pelter!" The cry came from Tom and Sam simultaneously, and the brothers looked at each other questioningly.
"Yes, Pelter. Do you know him?"
"What is his first name?" demanded Tom.
"Why, let me see," The hotel man mused for a moment. "I have it! Barton Pelter."
"I never heard that name before," said Tom. "We know a man in——" And then, as Sam looked at him in a peculiar way, he added, "Oh, well, never mind. We don't know this fellow, anyway. I hope he gets over this trouble."
By this time the sufferer had again recovered consciousness, but he was evidently very weak, and the doctor motioned for the Rover boys and the hotel man to leave the room.
"All right, but let us know in the morning by telephone how he is, Doctor," returned Tom; and then the Rover boys and the hotel man went below.
"Can you tell us anything about this Barton Pelter?" questioned Sam, of the proprietor.
"I know very little about him, excepting that he is registered as from Brooklyn, and that he came here three days ago. What his business is in Ashton, I haven't the least idea."
"Is he well off— that is, does he appear to have much money?" asked Tom.
"Oh, he hasn't shown any great amount of cash around here," laughed the hotel man. "My idea is that he is some sort of a commercial traveler, although he hasn't anything with him but his suitcase."
This was all the hotel man could tell them, and a few minutes later the Rover boys were in their automobile once more and headed back for the scene of the accident.
"We ought to have put up some danger signal, Tom," remarked Sam, while on the way.
"I know it, but we hadn't any time to waste while we had that poor chap on our hands. By the way, do you think he can be any relative of Jesse Pelter, the rascal who knocked me out with the footstool, and who tried his best to rob dad?"
"I'm sure I don't know. One thing is certain: The name of Pelter is not common. Still, there may be other Pelters besides those related to that scoundrel of a broker."
Arriving at the vicinity of the broken bridge, the boys found a farmer with a wagon there. The countryman was placing some brushwood across the road.
"The blame bridge is busted down," said the farmer, "and I thought I ought to put up some kind of a thing to warn folks of it."
"That is what we came for," answered Sam; and then he and his brother related some of the particulars of what had occurred.
"Gee, shoo! You don't mean to tell me that one of them automobiles is down in the river!" gasped the countryman. "I don't see nothin' of it."
"It most be down on the bottom, close to where that end of the bridge settled," answered Sam "I suppose there will be a job here for somebody to haul it out."
"If they want a man for that, I'm the feller to do it," returned the countryman. "Maybe I had better go down to the hotel and see about it."
"Better wait till morning," suggested Tom. "The young man who owns the machine can't see anyone now."
"All right, just as you say."
"Now that this bridge is down, how can we get over the river?" mused Sam.
"Where do you want to go?"
"We were on our way to Hope Seminary. I suppose we can go around to the Upper Road, but it will be four or five miles out of our way."
"It ain't necessary to go that far. You go down stream about half a mile on the Craberry Road, and you can cross The Shallows."
"Isn't it too deep for an automobile?" questioned Tom.
"No, not now. It might be, though, in wet weather."
"I don't know about that," said Sam, and shook his head. "We don't want any accident in the water, Tom."
"Oh, come ahead, we can try it, anyway," returned Tom, who, in spite of the recent happenings, was as anxious as ever to get to the seminary and see Nellie.
Leaving the countryman at his self-appointed task of putting a barrier across the road— and he had said that he would also, get over to the other side of the river somehow and put a barrier there— the Rover boys swung around once again in their touring car, and headed for the side road which had been mentioned to them. Soon they reached what was known as "The Shallows," a spot where the river broadened out, and was filled with loose stones and sandbars.
By the rays from the headlights, which they now turned on to their fullest extent, the car was guided into the water. At the edge, they saw several tracks made, undoubtedly, by wagons, and one track evidently made by the anti-skid tires of an automobile.
"Well, if one auto got through, we ought to be able to make it," remarked Tom, grimly.
"Better take it on low gear," suggested his brother. "We can't see in this water, and we may go down in a hole before we know it."
Slowly and cautiously, Tom guided the machine along, trying to keep as much as possible to the high points of the various sandbars which ran in a diagonal direction to the stream itself. Once or twice they bumped over some rather large stones, and once they went into a hollow which was somewhat deeper than expected, but, with it all, they managed to keep the working parts of the car above the surface of the stream, and inside of five minutes found themselves safe and sound on the opposite shore, and headed for another side road which joined the main highway less than a quarter of a mile beyond.
"I am mighty glad we are out of that," remarked Sam, as they left the rather uneven side road and came out on the smooth highway. "I must say, I don't like autoing in the water."
"Pooh, that wasn't so bad!" replied Tom. "But it would be, I think, after a heavy storm, when the river was swollen. It must be getting late," he added. "Better speed her up a little, or we'll get to Hope just in time to say 'good-night,'" and he smiled grimly.
Fortunately for the boys, there was very little traveling that night. They met but two wagons and one automobile; and these on straight stretches of the road where there was little danger of collision. Tom was now running at thirty-five to forty miles an hour, and this was rather dangerous where the highway curved, and where what was ahead was partly hidden by, trees and bushes.
"Here we are at last!" cried Tom, presently, as they came in sight of Hope Seminary, a fine collection of buildings nestling in a pretty grove of trees. All the dormitory windows showed lights, and there was also a light in the reception parlor of the main building, for which the lads were thankful.
"Give 'em the horn, Tom," suggested Sam.
"Sure! I was only waiting to get a little closer," was the answer, and then, as the automobile turned into the seminary grounds and ran along the road leading up to the main entrance, Tom sounded the horn in a peculiar fashion, a signal which had been arranged between the boys and the girls long before.
The cries came from two girls dressed in white, who had been seated on a rustic bench near a small fountain. Now, as Tom brought the car to a quick stop, the girls hurried forward.
"Hello, here we are again!" sang Tom, merrily, and leaping to the ground he caught Nellie Laning by both hands. "How are you?"
"Oh, I am pretty well, Tom."
"And how are you, Grace?" came from Sam, as he, too, left the automobile.
"Oh, Sam, I am so glad you have come!" cried Grace Laning. "Nellie and I have been waiting for you."
"Well, we are glad we are here. We have had quite an adventure to-night."
"Oh, did you have a breakdown?" questioned Grace, anxiously.
"No, but we had to go to the rescue of a fellow who ran into the river."
"Oh, dear! Troubles never seem to come singly," sighed Nellie.
"What do you mean!" demanded Tom, quickly. "Is something wrong here?"
"Indeed there is, Tom!" answered Grace. And then, with a look at her older sister, who had turned her face away, she continued: "I think it is a shame! If it was not that it would make it look as if Nellie were guilty, we would pack up at once and leave this place."
"Why, what do you mean?" came from both of the Rovers.
"Oh, Grace, perhaps you had better not tell them," cried Nellie, with almost a sob.
"Nellie!" And now Tom caught the girl tightly in his arms. "What has happened?"
"I— I— can't tell!" sobbed the girl. "Grace will tell you."
"I don't suppose it is necessary to go into all the details," said Grace, "but the long and short of it is, that Nellie is suspected of stealing a four-hundred-dollar diamond ring."
"What!" ejaculated Tom.
"It was this way, Tom," pursued Grace. "One of the teachers here, a Miss Harrow, who assists the seminary management by keeping some of the books, had a diamond ring said to be worth four hundred dollars placed in her possession by a Miss Parsons, another teacher. It seems that Miss Parsons had an eccentric old aunt, who wished to give the seminary some money, and so turned over the ring, to be converted into cash. This ring Miss Harrow left on her desk in the office. Nellie went into the office to see the teacher, but finding no one there, came away. Then Miss Harrow came back a few minutes later, and found the diamond ring gone. She at once made inquiries, but as she could find nobody who had been in the once after Nellie had left, she called Nellie in and wanted her to tell what had become of the piece of jewelry."
A FOUR-HUNDRED-DOLLAR RING
"Did you see this ring, Nellie?." questioned Tom, after a painful pause.
"Why, yes, it was lying in the middle of a flat-top desk," responded the girl, wiping her eyes with her handkerchief.
"Didn't somebody go into the office after you were there?"
"I don't know, Tom. In fact, nobody seems to know."
"I was in the office with another girl about five minutes before Nellie went there," came from Grace. "I saw the ring there, too, and I thought it was very foolish to leave it so exposed. Why, anybody could have run off with it."
"It certainly was careless," put in Sam.
"Miss Harrow said she was on the point of putting it in the safe when she was called by 'phone to one of the other buildings. She had a dispute to settle between some of the hired help, and she did not think of the ring until some time later. Then, so she says, she rushed back to the office to find it missing."
"Well, I think it is a shame that she accused Nellie," said Tom, stoutly and with something of a savage look in his eyes. "Nellie, if I were you, I wouldn't stand for it."
"She— she hasn't accused me, exactly," returned the suffering girl. "But she intimated that I must have taken the ring, so it's just as bad."
"What does the seminary management have to say about it?" asked Sam.
"They seem to think it lies between Nellie and the teacher," answered Grace.
"In that case, how do we know the teacher didn't take the ring herself?" broke in Tom, quickly.
"Oh, do you think that possible?" questioned Nellie, in surprise.
"It's more reasonable to think she took it than you did. Anyway, she hasn't any right to accuse you," went on Tom, bluntly.
"As I said, Tom, she hasn't accused me— that is, openly; but I know what she thinks, and I know what she will make others think," returned Nellie. And now she showed signs of bursting into tears again. "Oh, I feel as if I must pack up and go home!"
"Don't you do it, Nellie. That would make it look as if you were guilty. You stay here and face the music." Then, as Nellie began to cry again, Tom took her in his arms and held her tightly.
"Come on!" said Sam, in a low tone of voice. "I think some people at the window are listening." And he led the way to a distant portion of the seminary grounds. After that, Grace told all she knew of the miserable affair, and Nellie related just how she had seen the diamond ring on the teacher's desk.
"Was the window open at the time?" questioned the older Rover boy.
"If I remember rightly, the window was tight shut," replied Nellie.
"Yes, it was shut when I was in the office," put in Grace. "I have been trying to think out some way by which the ring could have disappeared, but without success."
The matter was talked over for some time, and then the girls questioned the boys regarding the happening at the broken bridge. Nellie, and Grace also, wanted to know the latest news from Dick and Dora.
"So far as I know, Dora is in fine health and enjoying herself in the city," said Tom. "But Dick is having his hands full, and I rather think that, sooner or later, I'll have to pack up and go to his assistance."
"Then you'll leave Brill for good?" questioned Nellie.
"I think so. I can't be breaking in on my college course every now and then as I have been doing, and pass my examinations. More than that, I begin to believe that I was not cut out for a college man. I am like Dick; I prefer a business career rather than a professional one. It is Sam who is going to make the learned one of the family."
"Oh, come now, Tom! Don't pile it on!" pleaded the younger brother. And yet he looked greatly pleased; and Grace looked pleased, too.
"But if you leave Brill, you won't be able to get here very often, Tom," remarked Nellie, wistfully.
"That is true. But if I have to go to New York, why can't you go, too?"
"Well, that is what Dora did when Dick gave up his college career. I think the folks understand——"
Just then a bell in the tower of the main seminary building began to clang loudly. At the first stroke both girls started.
"There goes the first bell!" cried Grace. "We must go."
"Oh, hang the bell!" muttered Tom, and then, as Grace ran towards the building, with Sam beside her, he once more caught Nellie by the hand.
"Now say, Nellie, don't you think——"
"Oh, Tom, I must get in before the second bell rings!" pleaded Nellie.
"Yes, but won't you promise——"
"How can I promise anything, Tom, with this affair of the missing ring——"
"Missing ring! You don't suppose for one minute that that is going to make any difference to me, do you?"
"Oh, no, Tom. I know you too well for that." And now Nellie gave him a look that thrilled him through and through. "But I think I ought to clear my name before— before I do anything else."
"All right. I suppose it has got to be as you say," returned Tom, hopelessly. "But listen! If they make any more trouble for you, promise me that you will let me know."
"All right, Tom, I will." And then, after Tom had stolen a quick kiss, Nellie hastened her steps, and a few seconds later she and her sister disappeared within the building.
"Do you know what I'd like to do, Sam?" muttered Tom, as the brothers turned away from the seminary grounds in the automobile. "I'd like to wring that Miss Harrow's neck! What right has she to accuse Nellie?"
"No right at all, Tom. But one thing is certain, the ring must be missing. I don't think that the teacher had anything to do with taking it. They don't have that sort here."
"Possibly not. At the same time, to my mind it is far more reasonable to suppose that she took it than that Nellie had anything to do with it," declared Tom, stoutly.
"If the window was closed down, it seems to me that the ring must have been taken by somebody in the building," pursued Sam, thoughtfully. "Perhaps one of the hired help did it."
"Maybe." Tom gave a long sigh. "I certainly hope they clear the matter up before long. I shall be very anxious to hear from the girls about it."
As the young collegians had received permission to be out after hours, they did not attempt to take the short cut through The Shallows on returning to Brill. Instead, they went around by another road, over a bridge that was perfectly safe.
"It's not so late, after all," remarked Sam, as they entered their room. "Perhaps I had better, finish that theme."
"Oh, finish it in the morning," returned Tom, with a yawn. "You'll feel brighter."
"All right," answered Sam, who felt sleepy himself; and a few minutes later the brothers retired.
The next morning found Sam at work on the theme long before the hour for breakfast. Tom was also up, and said he would take a walk around the grounds to raise an appetite.
"As if you needed anything of that sort," grinned Sam. "The first thing you know, you'll be eating so much that the college management will be charging you double for board."
Down on the campus, Tom ran into Songbird. and, a few minutes later, William Philander Tubbs. Songbird, as usual, had a pad and pencil in his hand.
"Composing verses, I suppose," remarked Tom. "What have you got now?"
"Oh, it isn't so very much," returned Songbird, hesitatingly. "It's a little poem I was writing about dogs."
"Dogs!" chimed in William Philander. "My gracious me! What sort of poetry can you get up about dogs? I must confess, I don't like them. Unless, of course, they are the nice little lap-dog kind."
"This isn't about a lap-dog, exactly," returned Songbird. "It's about a watchdog."
"Um! By the way, Songbird, haven't the Sandersons a new watchdog?"
"Yes." And now Songbird reddened a little.
"Well, let us have the poem, anyway. I love dogs, and some poetry about them ought to run along pretty good."
Thereupon, rather hesitatingly, Songbird held up his writing-pad and read the following:
"The sun sinks low far in the west— The farmer plodeth home to rest, The watchdog, watching in the night, Assures him ev'ry thing is right."
"Fine!" cried Tom. "Real, dyed-in-the-wool poetry that, Songbird. Give us some more." And then the would-be poet continued:
"The sun comes up and it is morn, The farmer goes to plow his corn, The watchdog, watching through the day, Keeps ev'ry tramp and thief away."
And be it night or be it day——"
"The watchdog's there, and there to stay!"
continued Tom, and then on:
"The watchdog, watching in his sleep, Catches each flea and makes him weep!"
"Catching fleas indeed!" interrupted Songbird. "Now, Tom, I didn't have any fleas in this poem."
"But all dogs have fleas, Songbird— they own them naturally. You wouldn't deprive a poor, innocent dog of his inheritance, would you?"
"But, Tom, see here——"
"But I wanted to say the poem couldn't be better," went on the fun-loving Rover. "Why don't you send it to some of the dog journals? They would be sure to print it."
"Dog journals?" snorted the would-be poet. "Do you think I write for such a class of publications as that?"
"Well, you might do worse," responded Tom, coolly. "Now, for a first-class journal, they ought to pay you at least a dollar a foot."
"Oh, Tom, you are the worst ever!" murmured Songbird, as he turned away. A few minutes later, Tom saw him sit down on a bench to compose verses as industriously as ever.
"I think I must be going," said William Philander, who had listened to Songbird's effort without making any comment.
"Wait a minute, my dear Billy, I want——"
"Now, Tom, please don't call me Billy," pleaded the dudish student.
"Oh, all right, Philly. I was just going to say——"
"Now, Tom, Philly is just as bad as Billy, if not worse. You know my name well enough."
"All right, Tubblets. If you prefer any such handle to the tub, why I——"
"Tom, if you are going to talk that way, I'll really have to leave you, don't you know," cried William Philander. "I am not going to stand for it any longer. I have told you at least a hundred times——"
"No, not a hundred times, not more than sixty-eight times at the most," interrupted Tom.
"Well, I've told you enough times, anyway, Tom. So if you——"
"Don't say another word, or you'll make me weep," said Tom, and drew down his face soberly. "Why, my dear fellow, I wouldn't hurt your feelings, not for the world and a big red apple thrown in. But what I was going to say was this: Are you going to play on our baseball team this Spring? Somebody said you were going to pitch for us," and Tom looked very much in earnest.
"Me pitch for you?" queried William Philander. "Why, who told you such a story as that?"
"It's all over college, Tubbs, all over college. You must be practicing pitching in private."
"But I don't know a thing about pitching. In fact, I don't know much about baseball," pleaded the dudish student."
"Oh, come now, Tubbs— you can't fool me. Most likely you have been practicing in private, and when you come out on the diamond you will astonish everybody. Well, I am glad to know that Brill College is really to have a first-class pitcher at last. We need it if we are going to win any baseball games.
"Now, Tom, I tell you that I don't know——"
"Oh, you can't fool me, William," declared Tom, positively. "I got the information straight, and I know it is absolutely correct. You are booked as the head pitcher for Brill this season." And thus speaking, Tom turned on his heel and walked off, leaving William Philander Tubbs much perplexed.
A new idea had entered Tom's mind, and he lost no time in carrying it out. Meeting Bob Grimes and Stanley Browne, he drew them quickly to one side and mentioned the talk he had had with William Philander.
"Now, carry it along," he concluded. "If you do it properly, we'll have a barrel of fun out of it."
"Right you are!" returned Bob, and Stanley winked knowingly. Then Tom hurried off, to interview several others of the students, principally those who were interested in the Brill baseball nine.
Just before the bell rang for breakfast, William Philander found himself confronted by Bob, who shook hands cordially. "This is the best news yet, William," said the baseball leader, heartily. "I have been wondering what we were going to do for a pitcher this season."
"Yes, it's all to the merry," put in Stanley, who had come up with Bob. "But tell us privately, William, are you going to depend on a straight ball and speed, or are you going to give them some curves and fadeaways?"
"Now, see here!" spluttered the dudish student. "I am not a baseball pitcher, and I want. you to——"
"Oh, William, don't try that game on us! '" burst out Stanley. "We know that you have been practicing pitching for the past two months; that you took lessons from one of the greatest ball twirlers in the Western League. Of course, we understand that you wanted to surprise us; and I must confess, it is a surprise."
"But a mighty agreeable one," came from Spud, who had joined the crowd, while Tom hovered behind William Philander, grinning broadly over what was taking place. "Brill has wanted a really great pitcher for years. Of course, we have won some victories with ordinary pitchers, but the moment I heard that you had taken to twirling the sphere, I said to all my friends; 'This is the year that Brill is going to come out on top.' My dear Tubbs, I think we ought to get down on our knees, and thank you for doing this much for our college. I am sure the board of directors, when they hear of this, will certainly give you a vote of thanks, because success in baseball and other athletic sports is what makes a college in these days. And you are taking up the sport in such a thoroughly systematic manner
"Oh, my dear fellow!" pleaded William Philander, frantically. "This is all some dreadful mistake, don't you know. How it came about, I can't imagine, but I haven't——"
"It's no use, fellows. He simply won't acknowledge it yet," broke in another student.
"We'll have to wait until he comes out on the diamond in his new uniform," added still another.
"Anyway, William, you might tell us whether you are going to use a straight ball or a curve and the fadeaway," pleaded Stanley.
"He is going to keep that a secret, so as to fool our opponents," broke in Tom. "And he'll fool them all right enough, you can depend on W. P. Tubbs every time."
"Three cheers for W. P.!" cried Spud. "Now, then, boys, altogether: W. P., the champion pitcher of Brill College!"
A cheer and a yell rent the air, and brought a great number of other students to that part of the campus. In a twinkling, William Philander was completely surrounded.
"What's it all about?"
"Is it a fight?"
"Who are they cheering?"
"It's all about Mr. W. P. Tubbs, Esq.," cried Tom, loudly. "Our new, double back-action, warranted, baseball twirler; the man who is going to shoot 'em over the plate in such a marvelous fashion that our rivals will go down and out in one, two, three order."
At his announcement, a great hubbub arose on all sides.
"Tubbs! is he a baseball pitcher?"
"I didn't know he knew a thing about baseball."
"That dude launching a fadeaway? That gets me!"
"Where did he learn to pitch?"
"Who put him on the team?"
"Say, Tubbs, explain this, won't you?" This last remark came from four students in unison.
"You let me out of this!" cried the dudish student in despair. "It's all some horrid joke! I am not going to pitch! I don't know anything about pitching! I don't know hardly anything about baseball! I don't want to play! Why, when a fellow falls down running around the bases, he is apt to get all dirty! You let me out of this!" And so speaking, William Philander Tubbs pushed his way out of the crowd, and fairly ran for the nearest of the school buildings.
"I guess that will hold W. P. for a while," was Tom's comment, as the tall student vanished.
"Good joke, Tom!" returned Bob.
"What's the matter with keeping it up?" added Spud. "Don't let him know the truth. Maybe some day we can drag him out on the diamond."
"All right," answered Tom. "I'll do it;" and then, as the bell rang for breakfast, all of the students hurried inside.
Some days passed, and during that time the Rover boys waited anxiously for some news from their brother Dick, and also for word from Hope Seminary. In the meantime, the lads had settled down to the usual grind of college life, and were doing as well as could be expected considering the interruptions their studies had suffered.
The Rover boys had already learned that the bridge across the Paxton River had been repaired. The automobile, which had gone into the stream, had been found intact, only needing some cleaning to make it once more useable. It had been taken to the hotel garage. The young man, who had been thrown into the stream at the time, was still in bed under the doctor's care. Evidently, the shock to his system had been more severe than had been at first supposed.
"Letters at last!" cried Tom, on the third morning, as he came in, holding up several epistles. One was from Grace, another from Nellie, and still a third from Dick.
As might have been expected, the boys opened the letters from the girls first.
"Nothing new in this," remarked Tom, somewhat disappointedly, after having read what Nellie had written. "She says that the diamond ring has not yet been found, and that everything is at a standstill concerning it."
"Grace says practically the same thing," returned Sam. "She adds that Nellie is very much downcast, and she thinks that, while her friends all stand by her, some of the girls are giving her the cold shoulder."
"It's an outrage! Oh, Sam, I wish I could do something!" And unable to control his feelings, Tom clenched his hands and began to pace the floor.
"It certainly is the meanest thing I ever heard of, Tom. But I don't see what we can do. In fact, I don't see what anybody can do. The seminary management must have made a thorough investigation, and if they haven't discovered anything, I don't see how an outsider can solve the mystery."
"Maybe they ought to shadow some of the hired help, or something like that."
"They may be doing that, Tom. They certainly won't let a four-hundred-dollar ring get away from them without making the biggest kind of an effort to find out where it went. But open that letter from Dick, and see what he has to say."
The communication was torn open, and Tom glanced over it hastily.
"Here's a surprise, Sam," he cried. "Well, what do you know about this!" And he read as follows:
"I have something of a surprise for you. In coming to a settlement with Pelter, Japson & Company, they notified me that they were going out of business in New York City. Pelter claims that our exposing the firm practically ruined them, and at the present time there is still due father a matter of about fifteen hundred dollars, which they seem unable to pay. Both Pelter and Japson have offered to turn over to us the entire contents of their offices in Wall Street, along with their lease. I don't think the outfit is worth the fifteen hundred dollars, but when you can't get all that is coming to you, the next best thing is to take what you can get. I am writing to father about this, and if he agrees with me, I shall take the lease of the offices, and also the outfit, which includes several desks, chairs, a safe and a filing cabinet. Pelter says the outfit was new two years ago, so that it is in quite good condition.
"Dora sends her best regards. As you know, we are now installed in our suite at the Outlook Hotel, and she spends quite some of her time shopping and looking around the city. I have gone out with her a few times, but spend most of my time in straightening out these financial matters, and in taking care of father's other investments. Mr. Powell, the lawyer, is assisting me to unravel the tangle, but it is hard work, and I often wish that one or both of you were here to help me. Remember me to all the boys and likewise to Grace and Nellie.
"By the way, I understand that Josiah Crabtree is soon to leave the hospital. His leg was so badly broken that he will have to walk with either a crutch or a couple of canes. In one way, I feel sorry for the old fellow, but he brought the accident on himself. What a shame that a man with his education couldn't have remained honest and straightforward.
"As I said above, Pelter, Japson & Company, are going to give up business here. Just the same, I don't like Pelter's actions at all. I think he is a bad one through and through— much worse than Japson— who is more weak than wicked. I am going to keep my eyes open whenever Pelter is around."
Both boys read this communication from Dick with deep interest. Then Sam read the letter a second time and looked thoughtfully at Tom.
"I don't think Dick is having any easy time of it," was his sober comment.
"Just what I have been thinking all along, Sam. When Dick says he wishes he had one or both of us with him, he means it. Just as soon as the college term comes to a close, I am going to New York."
"Well, I'll go with you," returned Sam. "I did think we might go on some kind of an outing during July and August, but it wouldn't be fair to take the time off and leave Dick at the grind alone."
"Of course, I think we ought to go home first," continued Tom, after a pause. "The folks will want to see us, and, besides, we will want to talk matters over with dad, and also with Uncle Randolph. They may want to tell us something about the business."
"Do you think that Uncle Randolph had much money invested with father?"
"I don't know exactly what to think, Sam. Uncle Randolph is very peculiar, and since father has been sick again, he has not wanted to talk matters over very much. We will have to be careful of what we say when we get home. It won't do, so the doctor said, to excite him too much."
"Oh, I know that as well as you do. In fact, it might be best not to mention business to dad at all. You must remember that this is the third breakdown he has had since we came to Brill, and another such turn might prove serious."
"Oh, don't talk like that! It makes me shiver to think of it. What in the world would we do if anything happened to poor, dear dad!"
"If only Uncle Randolph was more of a business man, he might go to New York and help Dick; but you know how he is all wrapped up in what he calls 'scientific farming.' Of course, it doesn't amount to a hill of beans, but he thinks it does, and he spends a great deal of money on it that might be put to better usage."
"Well, it's his own money, you must remember, and he has a right to do what he pleases with it. But for gracious sake! don't get him to go to New York. It would only mix up matters worse than ever. Dick would not only have to take care of the business, but he would also have to take care of Uncle Randolph. Besides, it wouldn't be fair to leave Aunt Martha to look after dad, alone." And there, for the time being, the talk on personal matters came to an end.
With so many other affairs to claim our attention, I have purposely avoided going into the details of the baseball season at Brill that year. As my old readers know, the college had a baseball nine and a football eleven, and both had, at various times, done well at one sport or the other.
This particular year, baseball matters had not gone as well as had been expected. In the first place, several of the best players on the nine had graduated the year before and left the college. Then had come a long wet spell, during which time only some indoor practice in the gymnasium could be attempted. Thus, at the opening of the season, the nine possessed four players who had hitherto played only on the scrub, and the whole team lacked the practice that was essential to success. The most serious loss was in the battery, both the pitcher and catcher of the year previous having left the college. Bob Grimes, who played at shortstop, was the captain, and after a good many tryouts, he had put Spud Jackson in as catcher. For pitcher, there were three candidates: a lad named Bill Harney, who was a tall junior; a much smaller chap who had come from Yale, named Dare Phelps; and Tom, who had been pushed forward by a number of his friends. Tom had thought to pay strict attention to his studies for the remainder of the term, but finally agreed to accept the position if it was offered to him.
"I think you are going to make it, Tom," said Songbird one day after Tom had been pitching on the regular team against Bill Harney, who had been pitching on the scrub. Tom had managed to hold the scrub down to three hits, while Harney had allowed fourteen hits, one of which had been turned by the batter into a home run.
"Oh, I don't know about that," replied Tom. "Harney isn't so bad. He had a little ill luck to-day, that's all. And then, don't forget Phelps."
"I'm not forgetting either of them. Just the same, I think you are going to make the nine."
The next day, Tom was put in as pitcher on the scrub, while Dare Phelps occupied the box for the regular nine. For the first six innings, it was a nip-and-tuck battle between the two pitchers. But from that time on, Dare Phelps seemed to go to pieces, while Tom struck out man after man. As a result, the score at the end of the game stood 4 to 10 in favor of the scrub.
"Tom, I think that settles it!" cried his brother, as he rushed up and took the other by the shoulder. "You certainly held them down in great shape."
"And say, didn't the scrub bang Phelps all over the diamond!" broke in another student. "My, he must feel pretty sore!" And evidently this was true, because a minute later Dare Phelps left the diamond and disappeared from view. Nearly everybody in the college had watched the games between the scrub and the regular nine; and that night the concensus of opinion seemed to be that Tom ought to pitch for the regular team.
"You'll have to do it, Tom," said Bob Grimes, when he called on the older Rover in the morning. "Phelps acknowledges that you are a better pitcher than he is, and I think Bill Harney will have to do the same."
"Better wait and see how I pitch in one of the regular games," returned Tom, modestly. "For all you know, I may go to pieces."
"Nonsense, Tom! I know you too well for that," and Bob grinned broadly. "We'll show Roxley College this year what we can do."
Every year there were two contests between Brill and Roxley, a rival college located some miles away. One contest was at baseball, and the other football. During the past Fall, Roxley had suffered its second defeat on the gridiron at the hands of Brill. But the Spring previous, its baseball nine had literally "wiped up the diamond" with Brill by a score of 6 to 0. My, readers can, therefore, well imagine how anxious the baseball management was to win the game scheduled to come off in about a week.
Since returning to college from his trip to New York, and then the longer trip to Alaska, Sam had given almost his entire time to his studies. He was quite a baseball player, but he felt that to play on the regular team would take too much of his time.
"If you are going to leave college this June, it won't make so much difference whether you pass with flying colors or not, Tom," he said. "But if I am to return in the Fall, I want to make sure that I am not going to do so under conditions."
"But, Sam, I don't see why you can't play a game or two," persisted Tom. "It doesn't seem natural for you to keep out of it altogether."
"Well, I have played some on the scrub."
"Oh, I know, but that isn't like going in for the regular thing. You could be on the regular team if you really wanted to."
This matter was talked over several times, but Sam refused to be entirely persuaded. He, however, finally agreed to go on the bench as a substitute, provided Bob would not ask him to play any inside position. By a toss-up, it had been decided that the game should take place on the Roxley grounds. As a consequence, the boys of Brill and their friends would have to go to the other college either by train from Ashton, or in automobiles or some other kinds of conveyances.
"Of course, we'll take the girls, Tom," said Sam, in talking the matter over. "We can go over to Hope in the auto for them, and I think it would be nice if we took Songbird along and stopped at the Sanderson cottage for Minnie."
"All right, that suits me," replied Tom, "Let us ask Songbird about it."
Of course the would-be poet was delighted, and he at once sent a note to Minnie, asking her to be ready when the auto arrived. The girls at Hope were communicated with over the telephone.
"I'm afraid it's going to rain," said Spud, on the evening before the great game was to take place. And Spud was right. By nine o'clock it was raining steadily.
"Just our confounded luck!" muttered Songbird, as he paced up and down the room which he and half a dozen others were occupying. "Now, I suppose that game and our nice auto ride will be all knocked in the head."
"Don't worry so early," returned Sam, cheerfully. "I don't think this is anything more than a shower, and we need that to lay the dust." Sam proved to be right, for before some of the boys retired, the rain had stopped coming down, and one by one the stars began to appear. In the morning, the sun came up as bright as ever, and by ten o'clock the ground was as dry as any one could wish. The day was a Saturday, and, of course, a holiday both at Brill and Roxley. By eleven o'clock, a carryall had taken a large number of the students to Ashton, where they were to take a special train for Roxley. All of the automobiles at Brill were in use, and with them all of the turnouts that could be hired in the vicinity.
"No time to spare!" sang out Tom, as he ran the automobile up to the college steps.
"I am ready," said Sam, who had a dresssuit case with Tom's uniform and his own in it.
"Where is Songbird?"
"I don't know, I thought he was with you."
"Here I am!" came the cry, and the would-be poet of the college came rushing across the campus. He was dressed in his very best suit, and wore a rose in his buttonhole.
"Wait! I almost forgot the horns!" cried Sam, and he darted back into the building, to reappear a few seconds later with several long tin horns. Into the automobile piled the boys, and then, with a loud sounding of the horn, Tom turned on the power, and the machine started off in the direction of Hope, soon reaching the spot where the automobile had gone into the river.
"That poor chap didn't hurt his machine much. so I have heard," remarked Sam, as they bowled along over the bridge. "But, I think it might have been better if he had come out of it scott free, and the auto had gone to pieces."
"We ought to call on him, Sam," returned Tom. "I would like to find out whether or not he is related to Jesse Pelter."
"Oh, don't bother about that to-day. Let your, mind rest on the game— and the girls," and Sam grinned faintly.
The run to the seminary did not take long. The Laning girls stood waiting on the porch, and once they were in the car, the machine was headed in the direction of the Sanderson cottage.
Nellie occupied the front seat with Tom, while Sam was in the tonneau with Grace and Songbird. The younger girl was in her usual happy mood, but Nellie's face showed worriment.
"Have you heard anything more about the missing ring?" questioned Tom, while on the way to the Sanderson farmhouse.
"Not a thing, Tom," answered Nellie, soberly.
"Of course they have questioned the hired help?"
"Yes. And they have also questioned a number of the teachers and the students."
"Has Miss Harrow said anything more about it to you?"
"No, but every time we meet, she gives me such a cold look that it fairly makes me shiver. Oh, Tom, sometimes I don't know how I am going to stand it!" And now the girl showed signs of breaking down.
"There, there! Don't think about it any more, Nellie— at least, for to-day. Think of the jolly good time we are going to have and how we are going to defeat Roxley."
"Do you think Brill will win, Tom? I heard some of the girls at Hope say that they were sure Roxley would come out ahead. They said they have an unusually strong nine this year, and that they have already won some games from the strongest nines around here."
"Well, that is true. Nevertheless, we hope to come out ahead."
"Sure we'll come out ahead!" cried Songbird. "With Tom in the box it's a cinch."
"Just what I say," broke in Sam. "Tom has got some curves that are bound to fool them."
In order to make time, Tom had put on nearly all the speed of which the car was capable, and in a short while they came in sight of the Sanderson farm. Mr. Sanderson was at work in an apple orchard near by, and waved his hand to them as the machine drew up to the horse-block.
"Better come along," sang out Sam, gaily.
"I wouldn't mind a-seein' the game," returned the old farmer. "But I've promised to pick these early apples and ship 'em. I wish you boys luck." And then he brought over a pail full of apples, and dumped them in the tonneau of the car. Minnie, looking as fresh and sweet as ever, was on the piazza, and when the car stopped she hurried down the garden walk. Songbird leaped out and helped her in beside Grace, shaking hands at the same time.
"Good gracious, Pa! how could you do so?" said Minnie, reproachfully, as she stepped between the apples.
"Oh, I thought as how ye might git hungry on th' way," returned Mr. Sanderson, with a broad grin. "If ye don't want to eat them, you feed your hosses on 'em." And he laughed at his little' joke.
"We'll eat them fast enough don't worry," cried Sam, and then, with a toot of the horn, the automobile proceeded on its way to Roxley.
THE GREAT BASEBALL GAME
"Some crowd, this!"
"Well, I should say so! Say, this is the biggest crowd we ever had at any game."
"And look at the new grandstand, all decked out in flags and banners!"
"And look at the automobiles! We'll have to hurry up, or all the parking space will be gone."
"Hurrah, Brill! Come down here to see us defeat you, eh?" And a merry looking student, wearing the colors of Roxley on his cap, and waving a Roxley banner in his hand, grinned broadly at Tom and the others.
"No, we came to bury you," retorted Sam. "It's all over but the shouting." And then he took up one of the horns he had brought, and sounded it loudly.
"Better let me take the car to the other end of the grounds," suggested Songbird. "You fellows will want to get into your uniforms and into practice."
"Oh, we want to get good seats for the girls first," broke in Tom. "It won't take long to park the machine."
In a moment more, they found themselves in a perfect jam of touring cars, motor cycles, and carriages. Finding a suitable spot, Tom brought the touring car to a standstill, turned off the power, and placed the starting plug in his pocket. Then the entire party made its way as rapidly as possible to the grandstand, one-half of which had been reserved for the students of Brill and their friends. Here Songbird took charge of matters.
"Just leave it all to me," he said. "You fellows go in and win."
"Yes, you must win, by all means, Tom!" cried Nellie. "Just remember that I've got my eye on you."
"Yes, we all want you to win," came from Minnie Sanderson. "I am going to root— isn't that the right word?— for all I know how."
"That's the word!" cried Sam. "I declare, before you get through, you'll be a regular baseball fan!" And at this sally there was a general laugh.
Tom and Sam would have liked it had they been able to stay with the girls longer, but the other members of the team were already in the dressing room, donning their uniforms, and thither the Rovers made their way. A short while later, the word was passed around, and the Brill team marched out on the grounds for practice; even Sam, as a substitute, taking part. Evidently, the outsiders living in that vicinity were of the opinion that the game would be well worth seeing, for long after the grandstand and the bleachers were filled, the crowd kept coming in the several gates.
"My, but this is going to be the banner game so far as attendance goes," remarked Sam to Bob.
"Yes, and it will bring us in a neat bit of money," returned the Brill captain.
"How are they going to divide this year?"
"One-third and two-thirds," returned Bob; meaning thereby that the winning team would take two-thirds of the receipts, and the losing team the remaining third. This money, of course, did not go to the individual players, but was put into the general athletic fund of each college.
Roxley won the toss, and as a consequence, Brill went to bat first. As the first man took his position, there were cries of all sorts, mingled with the tooting of many horns and the sounds of numerous rattles.
"Now then, Brill, show 'em what you can do!"
"Knock a home run first thing!"
"Don't let 'em see first, Roxley! Kill 'em at the plate!"
The Roxley pitcher took his position, wound up; and the ball came in quickly.
"That's right! Make him give you a good one."
Again the ball came in, and this time, as it was a fairly good one, the batter swung for it, and missed.
"That's the talk, give him another like that, Carson!"
Again the ball came whizzing over the plate. The batsman struck it fairly, and it sailed down toward second base. The runner was off like a shot, but it availed him nothing. The second baseman caught the fly with ease.
"Hurray! One down! Now for the other two!"
The second man at the bat went out in one-two-three order. Then the third player up knocked a short fly to first.
"Three out. That's the way to do it, Roxley!"
"Now, for a few runs!"
It must be confessed that Tom was a trifle nervous when he took the ball and walked down to the box. The eyes of over twelve hundred spectators were on him, and those included the eyes of the girl he thought the dearest in all the world. He gave a short sigh, and then suddenly braced up. "I've got to do it," he muttered to himself. "I've simply got to!"
As was to be expected, Roxley had its best batters on the top of the list. The first fellow to face Tom was a hitter well-known for his prowess. As Tom had heard that this man loved a low ball, he purposely sent in the sphere rather high.
"That's right, Clink! Make him give you what you want."
The next ball was intended for an out-curve, but, somehow, Tom missed it, and it came in fairly over the plate. Crack! The bat connected with it, and away the sphere sailed to center field.
"Run, run!" The cry echoed from all sides, and, almost in a twinkling, Clink was down to first, and racing for second. Then, feeling that he had time to go further, he bounded onward, and slid safely to third.
"That's the way to do it! Look, a three-bagger!"
"Hurray! We've got them on the run; keep it up, boys!" And then the air was rent with the noise of horns and rattles.
"Steady, Tom, steady," whispered Bob, as he walked toward the pitcher. "Don't let them rattle you; take your time."
"They are not going to rattle me," returned Tom, and set his teeth hard. He faced the new batsman, and then, of a sudden, twirled around and sent the ball whizzing to third.
"Look out! look out!" yelled the coach at third, and Clink dropped and grabbed the sack just in the nick of time. Then Tom went for the batter. One strike was called, and then two balls, and then another strike, and a ball.
"Don't walk him, Tom, whatever you do," said Spud, as he came down to consult with the pitcher.
"All right. What do you think I ought to give him?"
"Try him on an in-shoot."
Once again, Tom sent the ball over to third, almost catching Clink napping as before. Then, the instant he had the sphere once more in his possession, he sent it swiftly in over the plate.
"Three strikes! Batter out!"
"Good for you, Rover! That's the way to do it!"
"Now kill the other two, Tom!"
But to "kill the other two" was not so easy. The next man went out on a pop fly to third, which held Clink where he was. Following that came a safe hit which took the batter to first and allowed Clink to slide in with the first run. For the moment pandemonium seemed to break loose. The Roxley cohorts cheered wildly and sounded their horns and rattles. Brill, of course, had nothing to say.
"Oh, Songbird, they got in a run!" remarked Nellie, much dismayed.
"Well, the game is young yet," returned the Brill student. Nevertheless, he felt much crestfallen to think that Roxley had scored first.
With one run in, and a man on first, Roxley went to the bat with more confidence than ever. But it availed nothing, for Tom finished the inning with the Roxley runner getting no further than second.
"Now, boys, we've got to do something," said the Brill captain, when the nine came in. "Two runs at least, and three if we can possibly get them."
"What's the matter with half a dozen, while we are at it?" laughed the second baseman.
"All right. As many as you please," returned Bob.
But it was not to be. With all her efforts, Brill managed, during this inning, to get no further than third. Tom came in for a try at the bat, but the best he could do was to send up a little pop fly that the rival pitcher gathered in with ease. Then Roxley came in once more, and added another run to her credit.
"Hurrah for Roxley! That makes it two to nothing!"
There were looks of grim determination on the faces of the Brill players when they went to the plate for the third time. The first man up was struck out, but the second sent a clean drive to left field that was good for two bases. Then came a sacrifice hit by Spud, that advanced the runner to third, and on another one-base hit, this run came in amid a wild cheering by the Brill followers.
"Hurrah! One run in! Now, boys, you've broken the ice, keep it up!" And then the horns and rattles of the Brillites sounded as loudly as had those of the Roxley followers a short while before.
But, alas! for the hopes of our friends! The only other run made that inning was a third by Roxley!
During the fourth inning, Roxley added another run to her score. Brill did nothing, so that the score now stood 4 to 1 in favor of Roxley. The fifth inning was a stand-off, neither side scoring. Then came the sixth, in which Frank Holden, the first baseman, distinguished himself by rapping out a three-bagger, coming in a few seconds later on a hit by the man following him.
"Up-hill work, and no mistake!" said the Brill captain, when the team had come in for the seventh inning.
"See here, Bob, if you think you would rather try some of the other pitchers——" began Tom.
"Nothing of the sort, old man. You are doing very well. I don't consider four runs against two any great lead. And you haven't walked as many men as their pitcher."
The seventh inning brought no change in the score. But in the eighth, Roxley added another run, bringing her total up to five.
"Looks kind of bad," said Sam, to another substitute on the bench. "Five to two, and the ninth inning. We've got to play some if we want to beat them."
"Sam, I want you!" cried Bob, coming up. "Felder has twisted his foot, and you will have to take his place in left field,"
"Am I to bat in his place?" questioned the youngest Rover.
"All right. I'll do the best I can."
There was silence around the grounds when the Brill team came to the bat. With the score 5 to 2 in favor of Roxley, it looked rather dubious for the visitors. Some of the onlookers, thinking the game practically over, started towards the gates, and the carriages and automobiles. The first man up was the captain, and he walked to the plate with a "do or die" look on his face.
"Now, Bob, lam it out for all you are worth!" shouted one of his admirers.
The first ball sent in was too low, and Bob let it pass him; but the second was just where he wanted it. The bat swung around like lightning, and, following a loud crack, the sphere sailed off towards left field.
"Run, Bob, run!" yelled a great number of his friends, and the captain let go all the speed that was in him. When the ball finally reached the diamond, it found Bob safe on third.
"That's the way to open up! Now, then, bring him in!"
This was not so easy. The batter up tried a sacrifice hit, but the ball rolled down well towards the pitcher, who landed it at first in a twinkling. Bob attempted to get home, but then thought better of it, and slid back to third. The next batter up was Sam. He had with him his favorite ash stick, and, as he stepped behind the plate, he gritted his teeth and eyed the pitcher closely.
Carson had been practicing on what he called a fadeaway ball, and now he thought this would be just the right thing to offer Sam. He wound up with a great flourish, and sent the sphere in.
Sam was on his guard, and calculated just right. His bat came around in a clean sweep, and on the instant the ball was flying down towards deep center.
"My! look at that!"
"Run, Rover, run!"
No sooner had the ball connected with the bat, than Bob, at third, was on his way home. He reached the plate before Sam touched first. Then Sam, skirting the initial bag, tore straight for second, and then for third. In the meantime, the fielder was still running after the ball. As Sam started for home, the fielder managed to capture the sphere, and threw it with all his skill to the second baseman.
"Run, Sam, run!" yelled Tom, fairly dancing up and down in his anxiety. "Leg it, old man, leg it!"
And certainly Sam did "leg it" as he never had before. Straight for the home plate he came, and slid in amid a cloud of dust, just before the ball came up from the field.
"Hurrah! hurrah! a home run!"
"Now, boys, we've started the ball rolling," cried out Bob. "Remember, only one more run ties the score."
HOW THE GAME ENDED
The next batter up was plainly nervous. He had two strikes called on him, and then he knocked a small foul, which was quickly gathered in by the third baseman. Then Tom came to the bat, and was lucky enough to make a clean one-base hit. After that, came several base hits in rapid succession. These brought in not only Tom, but also the man behind him. Then came a bad fumble on the part of the Roxley shortstop, and, as a result, another run was put up to the credit of Brill.
"Seven runs. That's going some!"
"I guess this is Brill's game, after all."
"Make it a round dozen while you're at it, boys."
But this was not to be. The hits for Brill had evidently come to an end, and the side retired with seven runs to its credit.
"Now, Tom, hold them down if you possibly can," said Bob, as his team took the field.
"I'll do my level best, Bob," was the reply.
With the score five to seven against them, Roxley put in a pinch,hitter by the name of Bixby. This player certainly made good, getting a three-base hit with apparent ease. Then followed an out, and then another base hit, bringing in Bixby's run. Then followed some ragged play on the part of Bob and his second and third basemen, which put out one man, but evened up the score, 7 to 7.
With two men out, and the score a tie, it was certainly a delicate position for Tom.
"Tom, hold them! please hold them!" pleaded Bob, as he came up. "Don't let them get as far as first if you can help it."
The batter to face Tom was a fairly good one, but the young pitcher remembered that this fellow had always struck at balls which were both high and far out. Accordingly, he fed him only those which were low and well in, "One strike!"
"That's it, Tom! Keep it up!"
Again Tom wound up, and the ball shot over the plate. This time the batsman swung for it, but failed to connect.
"Good boy, Tom, that's the way to do it!"
"Be careful, Billy, make him give you just what you want!"
Once again Tom wound up, and this time sent the ball in with all the speed that was left to him. Again the bat came around.
"Strike three! Batter out!"
A wild yell arose. Here was the end of the ninth inning, and the game was a tie!
"Oh, Songbird! do you think Brill will win?" exclaimed Grace, anxiously.
"I certainly hope so. We've pulled up pretty well. We had only two runs when they had five, remember."
"Hasn't Tom pitched pretty well?" questioned Minnie.
"Sure, he has! Those Roxley fellows are great batters. More than once they have knocked a pitcher clean out of the box."
"Oh, I certainly hope Brill wins," murmured Nellie.
There was an intense silence when the tenth inning opened. Frank came to the bat first, and knocked a little one, but managed to reach first. Then, on a sacrifice hit, he advanced to second. Following that, came a wild throw by the Roxley pitcher, and Frank dusted as fast as he could for third.
"Now, Carson, hold him!" yelled a number of the Roxley followers to their pitcher. "Don't let him get in!"
Carson did his best, but with two strikes called on the batter, there came a neat little one-base hit, and, amid a wild cheering and a grand tooting of horns and sounding of rattles, Frank slid in to the home plate.
"Hurrah! hurrah! that makes the score eight to seven!"
"Keep it up, boys! You've got 'em going."
But that was the end of the run making for Brill. The next man was put out with ease, and the side retired with the score reading: Roxley— 7, Brill— 8.
"Now, if we can only hold them," was Spud's comment, as he glanced at Bob and then at Tom. "How about it?" he demanded, of the pitcher.
"I'll do what I can," was Tom's simple answer.
Nearly all the spectators in the grandstand and on the bleachers were now on their feet. All sorts of cries and suggestions rent the air. Amid this great hubbub, the Brill nine took their positions, Sam going down to left field as directed by Bob.
Tom was a trifle pale as he faced the first batter, but, if he was nervous, the Roxley player was evidently more so. Almost before either of them knew it, two strikes had been called. Then, however, came a short hit to third, which the baseman fumbled, and the batter got safely to first.
"That's the way! Now, keep it up!"
"We only want two runs to win."
The next batter was one that Tom, fortunately, had studied closely. This man usually waited all he could in the hope of having balls called on the pitcher. As a consequence, Tom fed him several straight ones over the plate, and so quickly that two strikes were called almost before the baseman realized what was occurring. Then, as he swung at a low one, the third strike was called, and he was declared out. In the meantime, however, the runner on first had made second. Then came another out, and then a drive to second, which landed the batsman on first, but kept the man on second where he was.
"Two men on base!"
"Bring 'em in, Landy! Bang it out for all you are worth!"
"Careful, Tom, careful!" pleaded Bob; and even Spud came down to interview the pitcher.
"I'm doing all I can," returned Tom.
It must be admitted that Tom's blood was surging wildly. A miss— and the game would either become a tie or be won by Roxley.
In came the ball, and the Roxley player swung at it viciously.
"Good boy, Tom, keep it up!"
"Strike him out, old man!"
Again Tom twirled the ball and sent it in. Just the instant before it left his hand, his foot slipped, and the sphere came in, not on a curve as the young pitcher had intended, but straight. Crack! went the bat, and in a twinkling the sphere was sailing high in the air toward left field.
"Hurrah, that's the way to do it!"
"Run, everybody run!"
"Get it, Sam, get it!"
The ball was high in the air and well over Sam's head. The youngest Rover was running with might and main down left field. The eyes of all the spectators were on him. On and on, and still on, he sped, with the ball curving lower, and lower toward the field. Then, just as the sphere was coming down, Sam made a wild clutch with his left hand and caught it.
"My, what a catch!"
"Wasn't it a beauty!"
"Brill wins the game!"
Such a riot as ensued! Hats and canes were thrown up into the air, horns tooted loudly, and the noise of the rattles was incessant. The Brill students fairly danced for joy, and their friends, including the ladies, were almost equally demonstrative.
"Sam, that's the best catch I ever saw in my life!" cried Bob, as' he ran forward to grab the young left-fielder by the hand.
"It certainly was, Sam; and you pulled me out of a big hole," came from Tom. "When I saw that fellow hit the ball, I thought it was all up with us."
"Some catch, that!" broke in Spud. And all the others on the nine, and many of Sam's friends, said the same.
Of course, Roxley was tremendously disappointed at the outcome of the struggle. Nevertheless, as was usual, she cheered her opponent, and was cheered in return. Then the two teams broke and ran for the dressing rooms, and the great crowd of spectators began to slowly disappear.
"Oh, Sam, that catch was too lovely for anything!" cried Grace, when the two Rover boys had managed to break away from the rest of the team and their numerous friends, and had rejoined the girls and Songbird. "Why, do you know, I was on pins and needles when I saw that ball coming down and you running after it. I was so afraid you wouldn't get there in time!"
"Well, I just got it, and no more," returned Sam, modestly.
"He pulled me out of a hole," broke in Tom. "If it hadn't been for Sam, Roxley would have won the game."
"But you did well, Tom,— better than our other pitchers would have done," replied his brother, loyally. "Everybody says so. Why, four or five of those Roxley hitters can knock the ordinary pitcher clean out of the box."
"Believe me, there will be some celebration to-night!" vouchsafed Songbird, as his eyes lit up in expectation. "Bonfires, speeches, parades, and all that."
"Don't I wish I was a college boy, to be there!" returned Minnie, wistfully.
"Too bad! but no girls are allowed," returned Sam. "Just the same, I don't think we'll have to get back to the college very early."
It had already been arranged that the Rovers and Songbird and the three girls should go off on a little automobile trip after the game. Grace and Nellie had received permission to be absent from Hope during the supper hour, and Tom had telephoned to the hotel at Cliffwood, about twenty miles away, asking the proprietor to reserve a table for them and prepare dinner for six.
Sam was now at the wheel, and as he could handle the car as well as his brother, the run to Cliffwood did not take long. At the hotel, the young folks encountered several other parties from Brill and Hope, and the gathering was, consequently, quite a merry one. Tom had ordered flowers for the table, and also small bouquets for each of the girls.
"Oh, how perfectly lovely, Tom!" cried Nellie, on catching sight of the flowers.
"I think the gentlemen ought to have button-hole bouquets," said Grace.
"All right, I'm willing," returned Sam quickly, and thereupon some of the flowers from the larger bouquet were speedily transferred to three coat buttonholes.
It was a lively time all around, for between the courses that were served, the young folks insisted upon singing some of the Brill and Hope songs. As it happened, there were no outside guests present, so the students and their friends could do pretty much as they pleased.
"Sorry, but we've got to start back," said Tom, presently, as he looked at his watch. "Not but what I'd rather stay here than go to Brill for the celebration!" and he looked fondly at Nellie.
"What's the matter with my driving the car?" suggested Songbird, who was well able to perform that service. "You've both had a whack at it; it seems to me it's my turn now."
Both of the Rovers were willing, and a short time later, with Songbird at the wheel and Minnie beside him, and the Rovers and the Laning girls in the tonneau, the touring car left the hotel and started on the way to the Sanderson cottage and the seminary.
"What's the matter with a song?" cried Sam, as the car sped along.
"Right you are!" returned his brother. "Girls, what shall it be?"
Instead of replying, Nellie started up an old favorite at the college, sung to the tune of "Camping on the Old Camp Ground." Instantly all of the others joined in.
"Some song!" exclaimed Tom, after the first verse had come to an end. "Now then, altogether!" and he waved his hand like a band leader. The voices of the young people arose sweetly on the evening air, but hardly had they sung two lines of the second verse, when there came an unexpected interruption.
Bang! The sound came from below them. Then the touring car suddenly swerved to the side of the road. Almost as quickly Songbird threw out the clutch and applied both brakes. They came to a standstill in the middle of the roadway.
"Oh, Tom! what's the matter?" gasped Nellie "I don't know, but I'm afraid it's a blowout," was the serious reply.
CELEBRATING THE VICTORY,
"Oh, what luck!"
"And just when we wanted to make time, too!"
"I hope it doesn't take us long to put on another tire!"
These remarks came from the three students as they climbed down from the car to make an examination of the damage done. Sam had secured his searchlight, but this was hardly needed. One glance at the left-hand back tire told the story. They had evidently run over something sharp— perhaps a piece of glass— and there was a cut in the shoe at least three inches long. Through this, the inner tube had blown out with the report that had so startled them.
"Well, boys, everybody on the job!" cried Tom, and lost no time in stripping off his coat and donning a jumper, which he carried for use when working on the car.
"I suppose that's my fault," said Songbird, much crestfallen.
"It might have happened to any of us, Songbird," returned Sam. "Let us see how quickly we can put on another shoe and inner tube." He, too, put on a jumper, and in a few minutes the boys had the back axle of the touring car jacked up.