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
"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
"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
And he rushed at Tom and aimed a blow at the boy's head with his
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
"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
"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
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
"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?"
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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.
"It is a--a most unusual proceeding," growled the head
"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."