The Rover Boys at School





CHAPTER II

 

AN ENCOUNTER ON THE ROAD

 

 

"I'll race you to the path," said Sam, when the woodshed was left

behind.

 

"All right," answered Tom, who was always ready to run.  "Toe the

mark here.  Now then--one, two, three!  Go!"

 

And away they went across the meadow, leaping two ditches with the

agility of a pair of deer, and tearing through the small brush

beyond regardless of the briers and the rents their nether

garments might sustain.  At first Tom took the lead, but Sam

speedily overhauled and then passed him.

 

"It's no use--you always could outrun me," panted Tom, as he

came to a stop when Sam crossed the footpath ten yards ahead of

him.  "I can't understand it either.  My legs are just as long as

yours, and my lungs just as big, too, I think."

 

"You want to do your running scientifically, Tom.  That athletic

instructor in New York--"

 

"Oh, bother your scientific things, Sam!  Uncle gives us enough of

that, so don't you start in.  I wonder if Dick has got a letter

from Larry Colby?  He promised to write last week.  He is going to

a boarding school soon."

 

"We'll know in a few minutes.  I wonder where Larry--Gracious,

listen!"

 

Sam broke off short, as a loud cry for help reached their ears.

It came from the footpath, at a point where it ran through a grove

of beech trees.

 

"It's Dick's voice!  He wants help!" burst from Tom's lips.  "Come

on!" and he set off as rapidly as his exhausted condition would

permit.  As before, Sam readily outdistanced him, and soon came

upon the scene of a most brutal encounter.

 

A burly tramp, all of six feet in height, had attacked Dick Rover

and thrown him upon his back.  The tramp was now kneeling upon the

prostrate boy's chest, at the same time trying to wrench a watch

from Dick's vest pocket.

 

"Keep still there, or I'll knock you on the head!" cried the

tramp, as, letting go of the watch chain, he clapped a dirty hand

over Dick's mouth.

 

"I--won't--kee--keep still!" spluttered Dick.  "Let--me--up!"

 

"You will keep still--if you know what is best for you.  I have

your pocketbook, and now I am bound to have that watch and that

ring."

 

"No! Don't rob me of the watch!  It belonged to my father!" panted

Dick, and as the watch came out of the pocket he made a clutch at

it.  "Help! help!"

 

"Will you shut up!" burst out the tramp fiercely, and struck at

the youth with his fist.

 

It was at this juncture that Sam put in an appearance.  A glance

told him how matters stood, and without waiting an instant he came

up behind the tramp, and, catching him by the shoulders, hurled

him backward.

 

"Sam!  Good for you!" burst out Dick joyfully.  "Don't let him get

away!"

 

"What do you mean, boy?" demanded the ruffian, as he turned over

and leaped to his feet.

 

"You let my brother alone--that's what I mean," was the answer.

 

"Give me my pocketbook and that watch!" went on Dick, for the

tramp held both articles, one in each hand.

 

"Yes, I will--not," was the ready reply, turning, suddenly, the

tramp started through the grove of trees on a run.

 

Without waiting, Sam ran after him followed by Tom, who had now

arrived.  Dick came behind, too much winded by being thrown on his

back to keep up with them.

 

"He is making for the river!" cried Tom, after running for several

minutes without gaining on the thief.  "If he has a boat he'll get

away!

 

"I don't think he has a boat, Tom.  He looks like a regular

tramp."

 

"We'll soon find out."

 

They could not see the ruffian, but they could hear him quite

plainly as he crashed through the brush beyond the grove of trees.

Then came a crash and a yell of pain.

 

"He has stumbled and fallen!" said Sam, and redoubled his speed.

Soon he reached the spot where the tramp had gone down.  He was

about to proceed further when a well-known object caught his eye.

 

"Here is the pocketbook!" he burst out, and picked the article up.

A hasty examination showed that the contents were intact; and the

two boys continued the pursuit, with Dick still following.

 

They were now going downhill toward the river, and presently

struck a patch of wet meadow.

 

"We must be careful here," observed Tom, and just then sank up to

his ankles in water and mud.  But the tramp could now be seen

heading directly for the river, and they continued to follow him.

 

They were still fifty yards from the shore when Sam uttered a cry

of dismay.  "He's got a boat!"

 

"So he has.  Stop there, you thief!"

 

"Stop yourself, or I'll hurt one of you!" growled the tramp, as

he leaped into a flat bottom craft moored beside a fallen tree.

 

They came to a halt, and an instant later the flat-bottom craft

shot away from the river bank.  By this time Dick came up, all out

of breath.

 

"So he has gotten away!" he cried in dismay.

 

"Yes," answered Sam, "but here is your pocketbook."

 

"And what of my watch--the one father gave to me before he left

for Africa?"

 

"He's got that yet, I suppose," said Tom.

 

At this Dick gave a groan, for the watch was a fine gold one which

Mr. Rover had worn for years.  Dick had begged for the timepiece,

and it had been entrusted to him at the last moment.

 

"We must get that watch back somehow!" he said.  "Isn't there

another boat around here?"

 

"There is one up to Harrison's farm."

 

"That is quarter of a mile away."

 

"I don't think there is any nearer."

 

"And the river is all of two hundred feet wide here!  What shall

we do?"

 

It was a puzzling question, and all three of the boys stared

blankly at each other.  In the meantime, the thief had picked up a

pair of oars and was using them in a clumsy fashion which showed

plainly that he was not used to handling them.

 

"If we had a boat we could catch him easily," observed Tom.  Then

his eyes fell upon the fallen tree.  "I have an idea!  Let us try

to get across on that!  I won't mind a wetting if only we can get

Dick's watch back."

 

"Yes, yes; just the thing!" put in his elder brother quickly.

 

All hands ran down to the fallen tree, which was about a foot in

diameter and not over twenty-five or thirty feet in length.  It

lay half in the water already, and it was an easy matter to shove

it off.

 

"We can't do much without oars or a pole," said Tom.  "Wait a

moment," and he ran back to where he had seen another fallen tree,

a tall, slender maple sapling.  He soon had this in hand; and,

cleared of its branches, it made a capital pole.  Dick and Sam sat

astride of the tree in the water, and Tom stood against an upright

branch and shoved off.  The river was not deep, and he kept on

reaching bottom without difficulty.

 

By this time the tramp was halfway across the stream, which was

flowing, rapidly and carrying both boat and tree down toward a

bend quarter of a mile below.

 

"Go on back, unless you want to be shot!" cried the man savagely,

but they paid no attention to the threat as no pistol appeared;

and, seeing this, the thief redoubled his efforts to get away.

 

He was still a quarter of the distance from the opposite shore,

and the boys on the tree were in midstream, when Sam uttered a

shout.  "There goes one of his oars!  We can catch him now--if

we try hard!"

 

It was true that the oar was gone, and in his anxiety to regain

the blade the tramp nearly lost the second oar.  But his efforts

were unavailing, and he started to paddle himself to the bank,

meanwhile watching his pursuers anxiously.

 

"We'll get him," said Dick encouragingly, when, splash! Tom went

overboard like a flash, the lower end of his pole having slipped

on a smooth rock of the river bottom.  There was a grand splutter,

and it was fully a minute before Tom reappeared--twenty feet

away and minus his pole.

 

"Hi! help me on board, somebody!" he spluttered, for he had gone

overboard so quickly that he had swallowed a large quantity of

water.

 

Both Sam and Dick tried to reach him, but could not.  Then the

current caught the tree and whirled it around and around until

both boys began to grow dizzy.

 

Seeing they could not aid him, and getting back a little of his

wind, Tom struck out for the tree.  But the water running over his

face blinded him, and ere he knew he was so close the tree came

circling around and struck him on the side of the head.

 

"Oh!" he moaned, and sank from sight.

 

"Tom's hit!" gasped Sam.  "He'll be drowned sure now!"

 

"Not if I can help him!" burst out Dick, and leaped overboard to

his brother's assistance.  But Tom was still out of sight, and for

several seconds could not be located.

 

Sam waited anxiously, half of a mind to jump into the river

himself.  The tramp was now forgotten, and landed on the opposite

bank unnoticed.  He immediately dove into the bushes, and

disappeared from view.

 

At last Dick caught sight of Tom's arm and made a clutch for it.

Hardly had he taken hold than Tom swung around and caught him by

the throat in a deathlike grip, for he was too bewildered to know

what he was doing.

 

"Save me!" he groaned.  "Oh, my head!  Save me!"

 

"I will, Tom; only don't hold me so tight," answered Dick. "I--can't

get any air."

 

"I can't swim--I'm all upset," was the reply; and Tom clutched

his elder brother tighter than ever.

 

Seeing there was no help for it, Dick caught hold of the fingers

around his throat and forced them loose by main force.  Then he

swung himself behind Tom and caught him under the arms, in the

meantime treading water to keep both of them afloat.

 

"Sam, can't you bring that tree closer?" he called out.

 

There was no reply, and, looking around, he saw that the tree and

his younger brother were a hundred yards away, and sailing down

the river as rapidly as the increasing current could, carry them

for quarter of a mile below were what were known as the Humpback

Falls--a series of dangerous rapids through which but few boats

had ever passed without serious mishap.

 

"I reckon Sam is having his hands full," he thought.  "I must get

Tom to the shore alone.  But it is going to be a tough job, I can

see that."

 

"Oh, Dick!" came from Tom.  "My head is spinning like a top!"

 

"The tree hit you, Tom.  But do keep quiet, and I'll take care of

you."

 

"I can't swim--I feel like a wet rag through and through."

 

"Never mind about swimming.  Only don't catch me by the throat

again, and we'll be all right," was Dick's reassuring reply, and

as his brother became more passive he struck out for the bank upon

which the thief had landed.

 

The current carried them on and on, but not so swiftly as it was

carrying the tree.  Soon they were approaching the bend.  Dick was

swimming manfully, but was

now all but exhausted.

 

"You can't make it, Dick," groaned Tom.  "Better save yourself."

 

"And let you go?  No indeed, Tom.  I have a little strength left

and--Hurrah, I've struck bottom!"

 

Dick was right: his feet had landed on a sandbar; and, standing

up, both boys found the water only to their armpits.  Under such

circumstances they waded ashore with care, and here threw

themselves down to rest.

 

"That thief is gone," said Dick dismally.

 

"And my watch too!"

 

"But where is Sam?" questioned Tom, then looked at his brother

meaningfully.

 

"The Humpback Fall!" came from Dick.  "Sam!  Sam!" he yelled;

"look out where you are going!"

 

But no answer came back to his cry, for Sam had long since floated

out of hearing.

 

 

 



Continue the adventures


Return to story list






Return to Chapter Books










Return to Nursery Rhymes Fun Home