The Rover Boys at School





CHAPTER IV

 

THE LAST DAY AT THE FARM

 

 

"What does this mean?"

 

It was Gilbert Ponsberry, the chief constable of Oak Run, who

spoke, as he strode up to the grocery wagon, all out of breath.

 

"Hullo, Ponsberry, you are just the man we want to see!" cried

Joel Darrel.  "Did you notice who boarded that train?"

 

"No; I wasn't at the depot.  Anything wrong?"

 

"I have been robbed of a gold watch and chain," answered Dick, and

related the particulars.

 

"Gee shoo!  No wonder you drove fast," ejaculated the constable.

"I would have done so myself.  How did that fellow look?"

 

As well as he was able, Dick gave a description of the thief.

 

"I saw that tramp yesterday," said the constable, when he had

finished.  "He was in the depot, talking to a tall, thin man.  I

remember him well, for he and the other fellow were quarreling.  I

hung around rather expecting a fight.  But it didn't come."

 

"You haven't seen the thief since yesterday?"

 

"No."

 

"You remember the tall, thin man he was with?"

 

"Oh, sure, for he had a scar on his chin that looked like a knife

cut."

 

"Is he anywhere around?"

 

"I haven't seen him since.  Let us take a walk around, and we can

ask Ricks the station master about this."

 

"We had better ask Mr. Ricks first," said Dick.

 

All hands, even to the grocery boy, hunted up the station master,

an elderly fellow who was well known for his unsociable

disposition.

 

"Don't know anything about any thief," he snapped, after hearing

the story. "I mind my own business."

 

"But he may have taken the train," pleaded Dick.  It made his

heart sink to think that the watch, that precious memento from

his father, might be gone forever.

 

"Well, if he did, you had better go after him--or telegraph to

Middletown," was the short answer, and then the station master

turned away.

 

"You telegraph for me," said Dick to the constable.  "I will pay

the costs."

 

"All right, Dick. My, but old Ricks is getting more grumpy every

day!  If this railroad knows its business it will soon get another

manager here," was Gilbert Ponsberry's comment, as he led the way

to the telegraph office.

 

Here a telegram was prepared, addressed to the police officer on

duty at the Middletown station, and giving a fair description of

the thief.

 

The train would reach the city in exactly forty-five minutes; and

as soon as the message had been sent, Dick, Darrel, and the

constable went off on a tour of Oak Run and the vicinity.

 

Of course nothing was seen of the thief, and in an hour word came

back from Middletown that he was not on the cars.

 

This was true, for the train had stopped at a way station, having

broken something on the engine, and the thief had left, to walk

the remainder of the distance to Middletown on foot.

 

It was not until nightfall that Dick returned to his uncle's

farmhouse.

 

Here he found that Sam and Tom had already arrived.  Tom was lying

on the sofa in the sitting room, being cared for by his Aunt

Martha, who was the best of nurses whenever occasion required.

 

"Didn't find any trace of the villain?" queried Randolph Rover,

with a sad shake of his head.  "Too bad!  Too bad!  And it was

your father's watch, too!"

 

"I never wanted to see Dick wear it," put in Mrs. Rover.  "It was

too fine for a boy."

 

"Father told me to wear it, aunty.  He said it would remind me of

him," answered Dick, and he turned away, for something like a tear

had welled up in his eye.

 

"There, there, Dick, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings," cried

his aunt hastily.  "I would give a good deal if you had your watch

back."

 

Supper was waiting, but Dick had no appetite, and ate but little.

Tom braced up sufficiently to take some toast and tea, and

declared that he would be all right by morning and so he was.

 

"Here is a letter for Tom from Larry Colby," cried Dick during the

course, of the evening.

 

"I declare, I forgot all about it, Tom, until this minute."

 

"I don't blame you, Dick," was the reply, with a sickly smile.

"You read it for me.  The light hurts my head," and Tom closed his

eyes to listen.

 

Larry Colby was a New York lad who in years gone by had been one

of Tom's chums.  The letter was just such a one as any boy might

write to another, and need have no place here.  Yet one paragraph

interested everybody in the sitting room:

 

"Next week I am to pack my trunk and go to Putnam Hall Military

Academy [wrote Larry Colby].  Father says it is a very fine

military, school, and he has recommended it to your uncle."

 

"Putnam Hall Military Academy!" mused Tom.  "I wonder where it

is?"

 

"It is over in Seneca County, on Cayuga Lake," replied Randolph

Rover, and something like a smile appeared on his face.

 

"On Cayuga Lake, uncle!" cried Sam.  "Why, that's a splendid

location, isn't it?"

 

"Very fine."

 

"And is that where we are to go?" put in Tom eagerly.

 

"Yes, Thomas; I might as well tell you, although I wanted to

surprise you.  You are to go to Putnam Hall, and there you will

have with you Lawrence Colby, Frank Harrington, and several other

lads with whom you are all acquainted."

 

"Hurrah, Uncle Randolph!" came from Sam, and rushing up, he caught

his relative around the shoulder.  "You're the best kind of uncle,

after all."

 

"Putnam Hall is an institution of learning that has been

established for some twenty years," went on Mr. Rover, pushing

back his spectacles and laying down the agricultural work he had

been perusing.  "It is presided over by Captain Victor Putnam, an

old army officer, who in his younger days used to be a

schoolmaster.  He is a strict disciplinarian, and will make you

toe the mark; but let me say right here, I have it from Mr. Colby

that there is no schoolmaster who is kinder or more considerate of

his pupils."

 

"Is it a regular military institution like West Point?" asked Tom.

 

"Hardly, Thomas, although the students, so I am informed, dress

like cadets and spend an hour or so each day in drilling, and in

the summer all the school march up the lake and go into an

encampment."

 

"That just suits me!" broke in Sam enthusiastically.  "Hurrah for

Putnam Hall!"

 

"Hurrah!" echoed Tom faintly, and Dick nodded to show he felt as

they did.  At the cheer, Sarah the cook stuck her head into the

door.

 

"Sure an' I thought Tom was out of his head, bedad," she observed.

 

"Sarah, I'm going away soon--to a military academy.  I won't

bother you any more," said Tom.

 

"Won't yez now?  That will be foine."  Then the cook stopped

short, thinking she had hurt the boy's feelings.  "Oh, Master

Tom, don't moind me.  You're not such an--an awful bother as we

think," and then at a wave of Mrs. Rover's hand she disappeared.

 

After this the evening passed quickly enough, for the boys wanted

to know all there was to be learned about their future boarding

school.  Mr. Rover had a circular of the institution, and they

pored over this.

 

"Captain Victor Putnam is the head master," said Dick, as he read.

"He has two assistants, Josiah Crabtree and George Strong, besides

two teachers who come in to give instructions in French and

German if desired, also in music.  Uncle Randolph, are we to take

up these branches?"

 

"I am going to leave you to select your own studies outside of the

regular course, Richard.  What would be the use of taking up

music, for instance, if you were not musically inclined."

 

"I'd like to play a banjo," said Tom, and grinned as well as the

bandage on his head, would permit.

 

"I doubt if the professor of music teaches that plantation

instrument," smiled Mrs. Rover.  Then she patted Tom's shoulder

affectionately.

 

Now the boys were really to leave her, she was sorry to think of

their going.

 

"They will not take more than a hundred pupils," said Dick,

referring to the circular again.  "I should say that was enough.

The pupils are divided into two companies, A and B, of about fifty

soldiers each; and the soldiers elect their own officers, to serve

during the school term.  Tom, perhaps you may turn out captain of

Company B."

 

"And you may be Major Dick Rover of the first battalion," returned

Tom.  "Say, but this suits me to death, Uncle Randolph."

 

"I am glad to hear it, Thomas.  But I want you to promise me to

attend to your studies.  Military matters are all well enough in

their way, but I want you to have the benefits of a good

education."

 

"Oh, I fancy Captain Victor Putnam will attend to that," put in

Sam.

 

The circular was read from end to end, and it was after ten

o'clock before the boys got done talking about it and went to bed.

Certainly the prospect was a bright one, and if poor Dick had only

had his watch the three would have been in high feather.  Little

did they dream, of all the startling adventures in store  for them

during their term at Putnam Hall.

 

It must not be supposed that Mr. Randolph Rover intended to allow

the theft of Dick's watch to pass without a strong effort being

made to recover the article. Early in the morning he drove to the

Corners, and to Oak Run and another village called Bender's, and

at each place had a notice posted, mentioning the loss and

offering a reward of fifty dollars for the recovery of the

property and of one hundred dollars if the thief was captured in

addition.  This offer, however, proved of no avail, and Dick had

to leave for Putnam Hall wearing his old silver watch, which he

had put aside upon the receipt of the gold timepiece.

 

It was a clear, sun-shiny morning when the boys started off. They had

paid a last visit to the various points of interest about the place

and bid good-by to Sarah, who shook hands warmly, and said farewell to

the hired men, both of whom hated them to leave, for they had made

matters pleasant as well as lively. Their three trunks were loaded in

a farm wagon, and now Jack, one of the men-of-all-work, drove up with

the two seated carriage to drive them over to Oak Run by way of the

river bridge, half a mile up the stream.

 

"Good-by, Uncle Randolph!" cried one after another, as they shook

hands.  "Good-by, Aunt Martha!" and each gave Mrs. Rover a hug and

a kiss, something which brought the tears to the lady's eyes.

 

"Good-by, boys, and take good care of yourselves," said Randolph

Rover.

 

"And if you can't stand it at boarding school, write, and we will

send for you to come back here," added his wife; and then, with a

crack of the whip, the carriage rolled off, and the farm was left

behind.  It was to be many a day before the boys would see the

place again.

 



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