INTRODUCING THE ROVER BOYS
"Hurrah, Sam, it is settled at last that we are to go to boarding
"Are you certain, Tom? Don't let me raise any false hopes."
"Yes, I am certain, for I heard Uncle Randolph tell Aunt Martha
that he wouldn't keep us in the house another week. He said he
would rather put up with the Central Park menagerie--think of
that!" and Tom Rover began to laugh.
"That's rather rough on us, but I don't know but what we deserve
it," answered Sam Rover, Tom's younger brother. "We have been
giving it pretty strong lately, with playing tricks on Sarah the
cook, Jack the hired man, and Uncle Randolph's pet dog Alexander.
But then we had to do something--or go into a dry rot. Life in
the country is all well enough, but it's mighty slow for me."
"I guess it is slow for anybody brought up in New York, Sam. Why,
the first week I spent here I thought the stillness would kill me.
I couldn't actually go to sleep because it was so quiet. I wish
uncle and aunt would move to the city. They have money enough."
"Aunt Martha likes to be quiet, and uncle is too much wrapped up in
the art of scientific farming, as he calls it. I'll wager he'll stay
on this farm experimenting and writing works on agriculture until he
dies. Well, it's a good enough way to do, I suppose, but it wouldn't
suit me. I want to see something of life--as father did."
"So do I. Perhaps we'll see something when we get to boarding
"Where are we to go?"
"I don't know. Some strict institution, you can be sure of that. Uncle
Randolph told aunty it was time the three of us were taken in hand. He
said Dick wasn't so bad, but you and I--"
"Were the bother of his life, eh?"
"Something about like that. He doesn't see any fun in tricks. He
expects us to just walk around the farm, or study, and, above all
things, keep quiet, so that his scientific investigations are not
disturbed. Why doesn't he let us go out riding, or boating on the
river, or down to the village to play baseball with the rest of
the fellows? A real live American boy can't be still all the time,
and he ought to know it," and, with a decided shake of his curly
head, Tom Rover took a baseball from his pocket and began to throw
it up against the side of the farmhouse, catching it each time as
it came down.
Tom had thrown the ball up just four times when a pair of blinds
to an upper window flew open with a crash, and the head of a
stern-looking elderly gentleman appeared. The gentleman had gray
hair, very much tumbled, and wore big spectacles.
"Hi! hi! boys, what does this mean?" came in a high-pitched voice.
"What are you hammering on the house for, when I am just in the
midst of a deep problem concerning the rotation of crops on a
hillside with northern exposure?"
"Excuse me, Uncle Randolph, I didn't think to disturb you,"
answered Tom meekly. "I'll put the ball away."
"You never stop to think, Thomas. Give me that ball."
"Oh, let me keep it, Uncle Randolph! I won't throw it against the
house again, honor bright."
"You'll forget that promise in ten minutes, Thomas; I know you
well. Throw the ball up," and Mr. Randolph Rover held out his hands.
"All right, then; here you go," answered Tom, somewhat put out to
thus lose a ball which had cost him his week's spending, money;
and he sent the sphere flying upward at a smart speed. Mr. Rover
made a clutch for it, but the ball slipped through his hands and
landed plump on his nose.
"Oh!" he cried, and disappeared from sight, but reappeared a
moment later, to shake his fist at Tom.
"You young rascal! You did that on purpose!" he spluttered, and
brought forth his handkerchief, for his nose had begun to bleed.
"Was anyone ever tormented so by three boys?"
"Now you are in for it again, Tom," whispered Sam.
"I didn't mean to hit you, Uncle Randolph. Why didn't you catch
it on the fly?"
"On the fly?" repeated the uncle. "Do you suppose I am accustomed
to catching cannon balls?"
"Didn't you ever play baseball?"
"Never. I spent my time in some useful study." The elderly
gentleman continued to keep his handkerchief to his nose, and
adjusted his glasses.
"Thank fortune, you are all going to go to boarding school next
week, and we will once more have a little peace and quietness
around Valley Brook!"
"Where are we to go, Uncle Randolph?" asked Sam.
"You will learn that Monday morning, when you start off."
"It wouldn't hurt to tell us now," grumbled Tom.
"You must learn to be patient, Thomas. My one hope is that life
at boarding school makes a real man of you."
"Of course we are all to go together?"
"Yes, you are to go together, although I can get along with
Richard very well, he is so much more quiet and studious than you
"I reckon he takes after you, Uncle Randolph."
"If so, he might do worse. By the way, what were both of you
"Nothing," came from Sam.
"We haven't anything to do. This farm is the slowest place on
earth," added Tom.
"Why do you not study the scientific and agricultural works that I
mentioned to you? See what I have done for scientific farming."
"I don't want to be a farmer," said Tom. "I'd rather be a
"A sailor!" gasped Randolph Rover. "Of all things! Why, a sailor
is the merest nobody on earth!"
"I guess you mean on the sea, uncle," said Sam with a grin.
"Don't joke me, Samuel. Yes, Thomas--the calling of a sailor
amounts to absolutely nothing. Scientific farming is the thing!
Nothing more noble on the face of the earth than to till the
"I never saw you behind a plow, Uncle Randolph," answered Tom,
with a twinkle in his blue eyes. "Besides, I heard you say that
the farm ran behind last year."
"Tut, tut, boy! You know nothing about it. I made a slight
miscalculation in crops, that was all. But this year we shall do
"You lost money year before last, too," commented Sam.
"Who told you that?"
"Mr. Woddie, the storekeeper at the Corners."
"Mr. Woddie may understand storekeeping, but he knows nothing of
farming, scientific or otherwise. I spent several thousands of
dollars in experimenting, but the money was not lost. We shall
soon have grand results. I shall astonish the whole of New York
State at the next meeting of our agricultural society," and Mr.
Randolph Rover waved his hand grandiloquently. It was easy to see
that scientific farming was his hobby.
"Randolph!" It was the voice of Mrs. Rover, who now appeared
beside her husband. "What is the matter with your nose?"
"Tom hit me with his ball. It is all right now, although it did
"The bad boy! But it is just like him. Sarah has given notice
that she will leave at the end of her month. She says she can't
stand the pranks Tom and Sam play on her."
"She need not go--for the boys are going to boarding school, you
"She says you promised to send them off before."
"Well, they shall go this time, rest assured of that. I cannot
stand their racing up and down stairs, and their noise, any
longer. They go Monday morning."
"Better send them off tomorrow."
"Well--er--that is rather sudden."
"Sarah's month is up Friday. She will surely go unless the boys
are out of the house. And she is the best cook I have ever had."
"Excepting when she burnt the custard pies," put in Tom.
"And when she salted the rice pudding!" added Sam.
"Silence, both of you. Randolph, do send them off."
"Very well, I will. Boys, you must go away from the house for an
hour or two."
"Can we go fishing or swimming?" asked Tom.
"No, I don't want you to go near the river, you may get drowned."
"We can both swim," ventured Sam.
"Never mind--it is not safe--and your poor father left you in
"Can we go down to the village?"
"No, you might get into bad company there."
"Then where shall we go?" came from both boys simultaneously.
Randolph Rover scratched his head in perplexity. He had never had
any children of his own, and to manage his brother's offspring was
clearly beyond him. "You might go down to the cornfield, and
study the formation of the ears--"
"Send them blackberrying," suggested Mrs. Rover. "We want the
berries for pies tomorrow, and it will give them something to do."
"Very well; boys, you may go blackberrying. And mind you keep out
"We'll mind," answered Tom. "But you might let me have that
"I will give it to you in the morning," answered Randolph Rover, and
turned away from the window with his wife.
As soon as they were out of sight, Tom threw up both hands in
mock tragedy, "Alack, Horatio, this excitement killeth me!" he
cried in a stage whisper. "Sent blackberrying to keep us out of
mischief! Sam, what are we coming to?"
"Well, it's better than moping around doing nothing. For my part,
I am glad we are to go to boarding school, and the sooner the
better. But I would like to know where to?"
"If only we were going to a military academy!"
"Hurrah! Just the thing! But no such luck. Get the berry
baskets and let us be off. By the way, where is Dick?"
"Gone to the village for the mail. There he comes down the road
now," and Tom pointed to a distant path back of the meadows.
The two boys hurried into a woodshed behind the large farmhouse
and procured a basket and two tin pails. With these in hand they
set off in the direction of the berry patch, situated along the
path that Dick Rover was pursuing, their intention being to head
off their brother and see if he had any letters for them.
Of the three Rover boys, Richard, commonly called Dick, was the
eldest. He was sixteen, tall, slender, and had dark eyes and dark
hair. He was a rather quiet boy, one who loved to read and study,
although he was not above having a good time now and then, when
he felt like "breaking loose," as Tom expressed it.
Next to Richard came Tom, a year younger, as merry a lad as there
was ever to be found, full of life and "go," not above playing all
sorts of tricks on people, but with a heart of gold, as even his
uncle and aunt felt bound to admit.
Sam was the youngest. He was but fourteen, but of the same height
and general appearance as Tom, and the pair might readily have
been taken for twins. He was not as full of pranks as Tom, but
excelled his brothers in many outdoor sports.
The history of the three Rover boys was a curious one. They were
the only children of one Anderson Rover, a gentleman who had been
widely known as a mineral expert, gold mine proprietor, and
traveler. Mr. Anderson Rover had gone to California a poor young
man and had there made a fortune in the mines. Returning to the
East, he had married and settled down in New York City, and there,
the three boys had been born.
An epidemic of fever had taken off Mrs. Rover when Richard was but
ten years of age. The shock had come so suddenly that Anderson
Rover was dazed, and for several weeks the man knew not what to
do. "Take all of the money I made in the West, but give me back
my wife!" he said broken-heartedly, but this could not be, and
soon after he left his three boys in charge of a housekeeper and
set off to tour Europe, thinking that a change of scene would
prove a benefit.
When he came back he seemed a changed man. He was restless, and
could not remain at home for more than a few weeks at a time. He
placed the boys at a boarding school in New York and returned to
the West, where he made another strike in the gold mines; and when
he came back once more he was reported to be worth between two and
three hundred thousand dollars.
But now a new idea had came into his head. He had been reading up
on Africa, and had reached the conclusion that there must be gold
in the great unexplored regions of that country. He determined to
go to Africa, fit out an exploration, and try his luck.
"It will not cost me over ten to twenty thousand dollars," he said
to his brother Randolph. "And it may make me a millionaire."
"If you are bound to go, I will not stop you," had been Randolph
Rover's reply. "But what of your boys in the meanwhile?"
This was a serious question, for Anderson Rover knew well the risk
he was running, knew well that many a white man had gone into the
interior of Africa never to return. At last it was settled that
Randolph Rover should become Dick, Tom, and Sam's temporary
guardian. This accomplished, Anderson Rover set off and that was
the last any of his family had ever heard of him.
Was he dead or alive? Hundreds of times had the boys and their
uncle pondered that question. Each mail was watched with anxiety,
but day after day brought no news, until the waiting became an old
story, and all settled down to the dismal conviction that the
daring explorer must be dead. He had landed and gone into the
interior with three white men and twenty natives, and that was all
that could be ascertained concerning him.
At the time of Anderson Rover's departure Randolph had been on the
point of purchasing a farm of two hundred acres in the Mohawk
Valley of New York State. The land had not changed hands until a
year later, however, and then Dick, Tom, and Sam were called upon
to give up their life in the metropolis and settle down in the
country, a mile away from the village of Dexter Corners.
For a month things had gone very well, for all was new, and it
seemed like a "picnic," to use Tom's way of expressing it. They
had run over the farm from end to end, climbed to the roof of the
barn, explored the brook, and Sam had broken his arm by falling
from the top of a cherry tree. But after that the novelty wore
away, and the boys began to fret.
"They want something to do," thought Randolph Rover, and set them
to work studying scientific farming, as he called it. At this
Dick made some progress, but the uncle could do nothing with Tom
and Sam. Then the last two broke loose and began to play pranks
on everybody that came along, and life became little short of a
burden to the studious Randolph and, his quiet-minded spouse.
"I must send them off to a boarding school, or somewhere,"
Randolph Rover would say, but he kept putting the matter off,
hoping against hope that he might soon hear from his lost brother.