The Rover Boys at School





CHAPTER X

 

SETTLING DOWN AT THE HALL

 

 

"It's a boy!" cried the tall, slim man.

 

"One of the boys!" came from the tramp known as Buddy.

 

"You don't say!"  The tall man turned to Tom.  "How did you get

here?"

 

"Walked," answered Tom as calmly as he could, although this is not

saying much, for he realized that the pair before him were

desperate characters and that he was no match for them.

 

"Have you been spying on us?" demanded the fellow called Nolly.

 

"I've been spying on this man," answered Tom, pointing to the

other fellow.  "He stole my brother's watch.  What have you done

with it?"

 

"Never stole a watch in me life!" returned Buddy quickly.

 

"I say you did, and it will do no good to deny it."

 

"If you say I stole any watch I'll--I'll knock yer down," cried

Buddy fiercely.

 

And he rushed at Tom and aimed a blow at the boy's head with his

stick.

 

Nolly also ran forward with his sand-bag; and seeing this, Tom

leaped back, and was soon making tracks as fast as his legs could

carry him.

 

The two men did not pursue him far.  Instead, they turned and ran

in the opposite direction.

 

Tom hurried on until he came within sight of a large farmhouse.

Reaching the front door, he used the brass knocker vigorously.

 

Soon an upper window was raised, and the head of a middle-aged man

was thrust out.

 

"Who is there?" he demanded.

 

"I want help, sir," answered Tom.  "I am a pupil at Putnam Hall,

and I have just spotted a fellow in this neighborhood who robbed

my brother of a gold watch."

 

"Is that so!"

 

"Oh, papa, is it one of the boys Grace and I were telling you

about?" came in the voice of Nellie Laning.  "Aren't you Tom

Rover?"

 

"Yes.  This must be Mr. Laning."

 

"Yes, my boy, I am John Laning," answered the farmer.  "I will be

down in a moment.  We are in the habit of retiring early."

 

In a few minutes Tom was let into the house, and he told his story

to John Laning, his wife, and the two girls, all of whom listened

with interest.

 

Then a hired man was aroused, and the two men and the boy hurried

to where the campfire had been located.

 

But, as stated before, Buddy and Nolly had made good use of their

time, and no trace of them was to be found.

 

"They have skipped out," said Mr. Laning.

 

"To look for them will be worse than looking for spiders in a corn

stack.  I suppose you'll be getting back to Putnam Hall now?"

 

"If it is all the same, I would like to engage a room at your

farmhouse for the night," answered Tom, and told his tale.

 

At the mention of Josiah Crabtree's name John Laning's face grew

dark.

 

"I don't wonder you had a row with that man," he said.  "I know

him only too well.  You can stay at my house if you will, and it

shall not cost you a cent."

 

"Hullo, here is luck!" thought Tom, and thanked the farmer for his

offer.

 

When they got back to the farmhouse Tom's story had to be told to

Grace and Nellie, while Mr. Laning went off to prepare a room for

the youth.

 

"Oh, Josiah Crabtree!" cried Nelly.  "Why, don't you know he is

trying to court our Aunt Lucy?"

 

"Your Aunt Lucy?  Who is she?"

 

"Dora Stanhope's mother.  Dora's father is dead, you know."

 

"Great Caesar!" burst from Tom; "I hope Dora never gets him for a

stepfather!"

 

"So do all of us, Tom; but I'm afraid he has made quite an

impression on Aunt Lucy.  She is rich; and my own idea is that

Josiah Crabtree is after her money."

 

"He's none too good for it," was Tom's blunt comment.

 

The girls and the lad chatted together for half an hour, and then

all retired for the balance of the night.

 

"They're awfully sweet," thought the boy, "these two, and Dora

too."

 

He slept soundly, and did not arise until after seven.  On coming

below he found a hot breakfast awaiting him, to which it is

perhaps needless to state he did full justice.

 

While he was talking to the girls, and finishing up at the same

time, Mr. Laning came in.

 

"Thought I would tell you that Captain Putnam just drove down the

Hall road on his way to the school," he announced.

 

"Then I'll get back at once," said Tom, and bade the various

members of the family good-by.  "Hope we meet again soon," he

whispered to the girls, and this made both blush.

 

Mr. Laning would have driven the lad to the academy, but Tom

declined the offer and set off on foot.  It did not take him long

to cover the distance, and he entered the grounds as unconcernedly

as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

 

"Hullo!" cried several cadets as they noticed him.  "Where did you

come from?  Mr. Crabtree has been looking all over for you."

 

"I don't wish to see him.  I wish to see Captain Putnam?  Where is

he?"

 

"Gracious, but you're a cool one!" remarked one of the cadets.

"The captain is in his office, I think."

 

"Will you please show me to the place?"

 

"Certainly."

 

The office was a finely furnished apartment just off the main

classroom.  Tom knocked on the door.

 

"Come in," said a cheery voice, and the boy calmly entered to find

himself confronted not only by Captain Putnam, but likewise by

Josiah Crabtree.

 

"Ah!  Here is the young reprobate now!" cried Crabtree, as rushing

up, he grasped Tom by the arm.

 

"You will kindly let go of my arm, Mr. Crabtree," said Tom

steadily.

 

"You shan't run away again!"

 

"That's true—now that Captain Putnam is here."

 

"So this is Thomas Rover," said Captain Victor Putnam, with

something like a twinkle in his clear eyes.  "Rover, I have heard

a rather serious report about you and your brother Richard."

 

"What kind of a report, if I may ask, sir?"

 

"Mr. Crabtree says you have been impudent to him, and that when he

locked you in the guardroom for breaking the rules you attacked

him and knocked him down."

 

"He attacked me first.  If anybody attacked you, wouldn't you be

apt to knock him down if you could?"

 

"That would depend upon, circumstances, Rover.  If a man attacked

me on the street I would certainly endeavor to defend myself to

the best of my ability.  But you must remember that you are a

pupil here, and Mr. Crabtree is one of your masters, appointed by

me."

 

"I am not a pupil yet, sir--although I hope to be very soon."

 

"Why, what do you mean?" demanded Victor Putnam, and now his voice

grew stern.  Many a boy would have flinched, but Tom had

determined to say just what he thought of Crabtree, and he stood

his ground.

 

"I mean just this, Captain Putnam.  I came to Putnam Hall with the

best intention in the world of doing my duty as a pupil and

becoming a credit to your institution.  I hadn't a thought of

breaking a rule or being impudent.  Before I entered your grounds

I thought of a big fire cracker I had in my pocket, and just for

the fun of the thing set the cracker off, as a sort of farewell to

the outdoor life so soon to be left behind."

 

"Captain Putnam, are you going to listen to such tomfoolery?"

interrupted Josiah Crabtree.

 

"I believe I have a right to tell my story," answered Tom.

"Unless that right is granted, I shall leave the Hall, go back to

my guardian, and tell him that I refuse to become a pupil here."

 

"You are a pupil already," snarled Crabtree.

 

"I am not--and that is just the point I am trying to make," went

on Tom to the owner of Putnam Hall.  "As soon as the firecracker

went off, this man rushed up and demanded an explanation.  He was

going to lock up my brother first, but I said I had fired the

cracker, and so he compelled me to go to the guardroom with him.

I was locked in and treated to bread and milk for supper, and he

wanted to steal the keys of my trunk and valise from me."

 

"Steal!" ejaculated Josiah Crabtree.

 

"That is what it amounted to, for the keys, and boxes are my

property."

 

"Mr. Crabtree merely wanted to see that your baggage contained

nothing improper," put in Captain Putnam.  "There are certain

things we do not allow boys to bring into the institution."

 

"Then he had a right to keep my baggage out until I was properly

enrolled as a pupil.  I did not bring in the trunk and bag

myself."

 

At this Captain Putnam began to smile.

 

"I see the point you are trying to make, Rover.  You are trying to

prove that you were placed under arrest, so to speak, before you

were under our authority here."

 

"Exactly.  I will leave it to you, Captain Putnam, if I was really

a pupil when Mr. Crabtree hauled me off to the guardroom."

 

At this plain question the face of the owner of the Hall became a

study.

 

"You make a very fine distinction, Rover," he answered slowly.

 

"Perhaps so, sir; and I do it because I want to begin right here.

If I am to be handicapped at the start of my career, what is the

use of my trying to make a record for myself?" and Tom looked the

master of Putnam Hall full in the face.

 

Without a word Captain Putnam held out his hand.  "Thomas, you

have considerable spirit, but I think your heart is in the right

place, and I am willing to try you.  Supposing you enroll as a

pupil now, and we let bygones be bygones?"

 

"With all my heart, sir!" cried Tom, glad to have the whole affair

settled so easily.

 

"Why, are you going to let the--the young rascal go?" demanded

Josiah Crabtree, in amazement.

 

"I'm not a rascal, Mr. Crabtree."

 

"Yes, you are!"

 

"Mr. Crabtree, I have decided to drop the matter," put in Captain

Putnam, in a tone which admitted of no dispute, and the head

assistant fell back abashed.  "Rover says he wishes to make a

record for himself, and I am inclined to help him.  He starts his

term free and clear of all charges against him--and his brother

whom you have locked up shall do likewise.  Kindly call Mr.

Strong."

 

"It is a--a most unusual proceeding," growled the head

assistant.

 

"Perhaps, but we will talk that matter over at another time."

 

Josiah Crabtree went out; and in a minute George Strong appeared,

and Tom was turned over to him, to sign the roll of the academy

and to join Sam, Fred, and the others in the class room over which

Mr. Strong presided.

 

"Hullo, you're back," whispered Sam, but no more could be said

until recess, when Tom told his story in detail.  In the meantime

Dick was released.

 

"So you met the fellow who stole my watch!" cried the elder

brother.  "I wish you had got the timepiece."

 

"So do I, Dick."

 

Dick had been captured by Josiah Crabtree just as he was vaulting

the iron fence around the guardroom window.  The head assistant

had locked him up in the apartment Tom had occupied, and there

Dick had remained all night.

 

"Oh, Crabtree is a terror!" said Dick later on.  "I hope Dora

Stanhope's mother never marries him."

 

"I'll wager neither of you have heard the last of Crabtree, even

if we are not in his classes," remarked Sam.  "He will watch for a

chance to get even, mark my words."

 

"I don't doubt it, Sam," answered Tom.  "But let him come on.  I

intend to do my duty as a cadet, and I am not afraid of him."

 

 



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