"Well, if they thought that, they got left."
The next vote proved correct so far as numbers went, and once more the figures were announced:
"Number necessary to a choice 56 Jack Rover has 54 Gabe Werner has 30 Walter Baxter has 20 Bart White has 7."
"Hurrah, Jack, you're going up!" cried Fred enthusiastically.
"You're only two votes shy of a choice," said Randy.
"I guess you would have been elected if Bart White hadn't gone on the ticket," returned Spouter.
At that moment both Walt Baxter and Bart White came rushing up to Jack.
"I'm going to retire in your favor, Jack," said Walt.
"So am I," declared Bart.
"Well, now, I didn't expect this," stammered Jack, hardly knowing what to say.
"I can't get it anyway," declared Walt, "and as Werner is falling behind, I think it's perfectly safe now to withdraw."
"And I only went in to keep the votes from going to Werner," declared Bart.
Both of these cadets hustled around among their supporters and let all in the Hall know that they were withdrawing from the contest.
In the meantime Gabe Werner and his cronies circulated among the crowd, and it was afterwards said that Werner even went so far as to attempt to buy some votes, but without avail.
Then the next ballot was called for, and it was quickly cast.
"We have at last reached a result," announced Captain Dale. "And I am glad of it." And then he read the figures.
"Total number of votes cast 111 Necessary to a choice 56 Jack Rover has 81 Gabe Werner has 30."
"Hurrah! Jack Rover is elected captain of Company C!" and a great cheer went throughout the hall.
"He got all the votes that were cast for Baxter and White!" cried Fred.
"Right you are!" added Gif. "Gabe Werner did not get a single vote more than he had before."
"And that was two less than he got at the start," added Spouter.
"I hereby declare Jack Rover duly elected captain of Company C for the ensuing term," said Captain Dale. "Captain Rover, if you will come forward, I shall be glad to shake hands with you," he added. And then, as Jack walked to the platform to grasp the instructor's hand, there was a great burst of applause.
"Never mind, Gabe. We'll make you lieutenant again, anyway," declared Bill Glutts, while this scene was being transacted.
"I don't want to be lieutenant again!" howled Gabe. "If they don't want me for a captain, they needn't have me for anything. I'll decline to run!" And thus speaking, Gabe Werner marched out of the room in great disgust.
"He sure is a sweet one!" was Gif's comment.
A little while later it was announced that the balloting for lieutenants would begin. The names of eight aspirants were put up, including that of Fred Rover. There was a good deal of wire-pulling, and it took nine ballots to decide the various choices. But in the end Fred became the first lieutenant of the company of which Jack had been made captain.
"Good for you, Fred! I congratulate you!" cried Jack, catching his cousin by the hand.
"I guess we'll all do that," declared Randy.
"Three cheers for Lieutenant Fred Rover!" exclaimed Spouter, and the cheers were given with great heartiness, for Fred had made himself a favorite throughout the school.
"And now to get ready to go to Camp Barlight" said Andy. "My, but won't we have the best times ever while we are under canvas!"
"I hope we do," answered Jack.
But a little later the newly-elected captain became somewhat doubtful of this. As he and Fred, followed by the twins, went upstairs to their rooms they passed Gabe Werner and his cronies in the main corridor. The angular ex-lieutenant did not say a word, but he glared at Jack in a baneful way that boded no good.
"Werner has got it in for you, Jack," remarked Andy, when the four Rovers were in their rooms and the doors had been closed.
"I guess you're right," was Jack's reply. "Well, I'm not going to worry. I think I can take care of myself."
OFF FOR THE ENCAMPMENT
As was the usual custom at Colby Hall, all of the old officers and those newly elected were invited to participate in a dinner given by Captain Dale. This was held in a private dining room of the school, and was usually a function looked forward to with much pleasure by those to take part.
"Now we've got to look our prettiest," announced Fred to Jack. "Of course, we'll wear our new officers' uniforms."
The dinner proved to be one long to be remembered by the two Rover boys, and they were sorry to think the twins had not been present to see what took place. There were some speeches and a good deal of merrymaking, and the two Rovers were congratulated over and over again on having been elected.
"I'm mighty glad to think you're going to be at the head of Company C, Captain Rover," said Major Ralph Mason. "And glad, too, that your cousin Fred is going to be a lieutenant of that company. I shall expect great things from both of you."
"Well, I intend to do the best I can," announced Jack modestly.
There was but one drawback to the affair. Gabe Werner did not show himself, nor did he send any letter of regret to Captain Dale.
"Gabe is sore, all right enough," declared one of the under officers. "When I asked him if he was coming to the spread, he merely shook his head and looked like a thundercloud."
Sunday proved rather a busy day for all of the cadets, yet the Rovers, along with a number of others, went to Haven Point where they met some of the girls. All attended services at one of the local churches. Then the young folks paired off, the boys walking with the girls to Clearwater Hall.
"Oh, Jack, you can't think how proud I am to know they have made you a captain!" said Ruth, who was walking beside the newly-elected officer. "And I think you ought to be very proud yourself."
"I admit it makes me feel pretty good, Ruth," he answered.
"But you'll have to be careful," went on the girl anxiously. "Randy told me on the way to church that a cadet named Werner is very angry because you cut him out of one of the captaincies."
"I'm not afraid of Werner or any of his crowd!"
"Yes, but he may try to make trouble, Jack. Don't forget how Brown and Martell acted—and are acting still."
"I won't forget, Ruth." And then, making sure that none of the others was noticing, he pressed the girl's fingers tightly within his own. "It's awfully nice to have you so interested," he whispered. And, although she did not answer to this, she gave him a bright look that lingered in his memory for many a day afterward.
In the meantime Fred was walking along with May Powell, and had also been congratulated on attaining a lieutenancy. May was full of fun, and her eyes showed it.
"I suppose some day it will be Major Fred Rover!" she exclaimed. "My, won't you look grand with a whole lot of gold lace, and a cockade hat, and all that sort of thing!"
"No gold lace for mine, May!" he laughed.
Spouter and Gif were walking with Martha and Mary, and soon the whole crowd reached Clearwater Hall. Here the boys had to say good-bye to the girls, and this was rather a lingering process, since the young folks did not know exactly when they would get together again.
"But don't forget we expect to march past here to-morrow morning about ten o'clock," said Jack. "If you are really patriotic you'll be watching for us and have your flags out."
"Don't you worry about that," answered Ruth. "We're going to ask Miss Garwood for a special recess in honor of the occasion."
The evening was spent by the boys in packing their things and in otherwise getting ready for the encampment. There was, however, the usual song service at eight o'clock in the assembly room of the Hall, on this occasion presided over by a minister who had stopped at the Hall to visit his two nephews, who were pupils there. The minister was a good speaker, and he made an address which the cadets listened to with close attention.
Early in the morning came a sound that told all the cadets that the annual encampment was now at hand. Instead of the school bell ringing, there were the notes of two bugles ringing through the corridors. Then from outside came the vigorous rattle of several drums.
"Hurrah! No more studying! From now on we are soldier boys!" exclaimed Andy, and he bounced out of bed. "Get up, you sleepyheads!" And in the exuberance of his spirits he threw a pillow at his twin's head. Randy returned the compliment by throwing a shoe at him, hitting Andy in the stomach.
"Hi! What's this?" exclaimed Fred, scrambling up at the confusion.
"Over the top at the Huns!" shouted Andy, charging on Randy and sending him backward into a stand loaded with books. "Forward, the light brigade, and on to the gas attack!"
"Hi! You fellows are making altogether too much noise," came from Jack. "Attention, company! Line up! Eyes right!"
"My! but don't the bugles and drums sound fine?" was Fred's comment, as he hurried into his new uniform, of which, it may be said privately, he was exceedingly proud.
"I suppose we won't have a bit of fun at this outing, with a captain and a lieutenant keeping their eyes on us," grumbled Andy; but, of course, he did not mean what he said.
"Sure, I'll make you line up and toe the chalk mark," answered Jack, with a grin. "You won't dare to call your souls your own. If you infringe one fixed rule the sixteenth of an inch, I'll place you in the guardhouse."
"Yes, and we'll feed you on nothing but dry bread and dry water," added Fred.
"Good-night!" came solemnly from Randy. "Please lead me to the dungeon at once! What's the use of looking at the sunshine and trying to smile!"
It had been decided that the cadets should march to Barlight Bay, which was about thirty-five miles distant. They were to take two days for the journey, stopping over night on the outskirts of the village of Rackville, where Captain Dale had already rented a farm field for that purpose. All of their belongings were to be transported in several motor trucks, engaged for that purpose, these trucks being under orders from the battalion quartermaster.
Of course, it must be understood by my young readers that Colby Hall was only a military school for boys, and that the military matters there, while conducted somewhat on the lines of those at West Point, were by no means so strict. The officers, from the young major down, were expected to do their duty the same as if they were at a government camp, but all were under the supervision of Captain Dale and the Hall professors.
More than this, the boys did not pretend to do any of the camp cooking or any of the menial camp labor, this being accomplished by hired helpers. And again, the officers were only officers while on parade or during special hours of duty—otherwise they were just like the other cadets and were treated accordingly.
There was the usual morning roll call, and also the drill and inspection, this time the latter being unusually severe, for Captain Dale wanted to make sure that everything was right before the cadets left the Hall. The parade around the grounds, however, was omitted, and the lads went in to their breakfast half an hour earlier than usual. Then it was announced that they would leave the Hall at exactly nine o'clock.
At the roll call and inspection it was a new thing for Jack to take command of Company C, and for Fred to fill the position of a lieutenant; but both acquitted themselves creditably, and for this received a nod of approval from Captain Dale.
On Sunday evening it had been rumored about that Gabe Werner had decided not to attend the encampment. This rumor had its foundation in the fact that the angular ex-lieutenant had sent a telegram to his father explaining the situation and stating he wanted to come home. In return, however, Mr. Werner commanded his son to remain at Colby Hall, and so, much against his will, Gabe was on hand when the cadets were ready to march away.
"But I ain't going to do anything that I don't want to do," growled Gabe to Bill Glutts. "You just wait and see!"
"Maybe you'll get a chance to make it warm for Jack Rover and his bunch," suggested the wholesale butcher's son.
"You bet!" answered Werner laconically.
The cadets were all assembled on the parade ground, and the motor trucks, piled high with all of their belongings, as well as the camping paraphernalia, had already left the grounds. There was a final rattle of drums to call any cadets who might still be missing.
"Battalion attention!" commanded the young major, after he had received his orders from Captain Dale.
At once the three companies came to attention.
"Shoulder arms!" came the command a few seconds later. "Forward—march!"
Boom! Boom! Boom, boom, boom! went the drums, and the Colby cadets stepped off gaily, while the professors and helpers left behind at the Hall cheered loudly and waved their hands. From the big flagstaff on the campus floated a large American flag, this being run up every morning at sunrise and taken down at sunset.
Soon the drums gave a preliminary rattle, and then the shrill fifes struck up into a lively marching air, and one company after another passed out of the Hall grounds and on to the road leading to Haven Point.
"Hay foot, straw foot!" murmured Andy jokingly to Randy, who was marching by his side. "I wonder how our feet will feel after we have covered the eighteen miles we have to do to-day?"
"Oh, that will be all right, I think," answered his twin. "I've done more than eighteen miles in a day, and so have you."
It did not take long for the cadets to reach the outskirts of Haven Point. Their coming was expected, and quite a crowd of town folks were out to see the parade. Some few had put out flags, for all were proud to have such an institution as Colby Hall in that vicinity.
The moving-picture theater was decorated with flags from top to bottom, and across the street the enterprising manager had hung a big banner inscribed with the words:
Good-bye COLBY HALL Have a good time, boys
Captain Dale was marching beside Major Mason, and as the school came in sight of this banner the major whispered a few words to the elderly military man, who nodded in approval. Then the young major turned and, walking backward, cried:
"Battalion attention! Three cheers for Mr. Felix Falstein!"
The cheers were given with a right good will, and a number of the cadets swung their caps at the manager of the moving-picture theater, who stood in the doorway, smiling at them. The cheer had been totally unexpected, and Mr. Falstein grew exceedingly red in the face. But he bowed and smiled, and kept on bowing, in the meantime waving his hat at the cadets, until they had passed up the street.
Leaving Haven Point behind, and with a generous following of small boys, the cadets continued their march by taking to the road leading past Clearwater Hall. Here another surprise awaited them. The girls of the school had strung long lines of colored paper across the roadway, and had decorated the entire front of the school grounds with small flags. More than this, all of the girls were out in a long line facing the roadway, and many of them carried flags and wore red, white and blue ribbons.
"Good-bye! Have a good time!" called out Ruth.
"Don't forget to write!" came from Martha.
"Oh, but you do look nice!" called May.
And then there was such a babble of exclamations that hardly a word of what was said could be understood. And in the midst of this the cadets gave a rousing cheer for Clearwater Hall and everybody connected with that school.
"Oh, but don't they look lovely!" cried May, when the boys had passed. "Did you see Jack at the head of the third company?" she asked of Ruth.
"Why, of course! And he certainly looked every inch a captain."
"I wish I were a boy and could go along!" sighed Mary.
"Oh, I guess we all wish that," declared Ruth. "But come—let us give them another cheer!" And this rent the air just as the cadets reached a turn in the road and passed out of sight.
A NIGHT ON THE ROAD
"This is the life, boys!"
"Ho for a life under canvas!"
"Beats rooming in a school all hollow, doesn't it?"
"Exactly so! And think—we haven't any studying to do. Oh, boy!" and Andy, who was the speaker, felt so light-hearted that he turned several cartwheels on the grass.
"Say, you look out, Andy, or somebody will grab you and put you in the circus," was Spouter's comment.
The Colby Hall cadets had finished their first day's march and were now in camp on the outskirts of Rackville. They had made the hike without mishap, stopping at noon for lunch along the roadside.
The encampment consisted of three long lines of tents, one for each company. As was the usual practice, the cadets had erected the canvases themselves, doing it with real military precision. They were in the center of a large, sloping field, one end of which bordered the road running into Rackville. The field was a pasture lot belonging to a large farm owned by a man named Oliver Appleby. Appleby owned a dairy farm, and employed about a dozen hired hands.
"I know one thing we'll get here," remarked Fred, after a look around. "We'll probably get all the milk we want to drink."
And in this surmise he was correct. Captain Dale had made the necessary arrangements with Oliver Appleby, and that evening and the following morning the cadets were furnished with the best of cream and also all the fresh milk they desired.
After the setting up of the tents came supper, and my readers can rest assured that none of the boys were "backward about coming forward," as Randy expressed it. All were as hungry as wolves, and the amount of food they stored away was simply astonishing. But Captain Dale had received orders from Colonel Colby that the students should be well treated, so everybody got all he wanted.
"Gee! this is so different from a school I used to attend," remarked Fatty Hendry, with a sigh of satisfaction. "At that place we only got about half enough to eat, and many a time I had to go down to the village and buy something extra to keep from starvation."
Having spent so many of their vacations at the old Rover homestead at Valley Brook, the Rovers were much interested in the Appleby place, and after the evening meal Jack and Fred took a stroll up to the cow barns to inspect the herd. Oliver Appleby had a number of prize cattle, of which he was very proud.
"They are certainly beautiful cows," remarked Fred, when they were walking through the shed which housed the best of the herd. "They must have cost a mint of money."
The two young officers were on the point of leaving the cow sheds when, quite unexpectedly, they ran into Jed Kessler.
"Hello! I thought I'd see some of you fellers," cried the old dockman. "Out for your annual encampment, I understand."
"Yes," answered Jack. "How are you these days? Have you got over the effects of that explosion?"
"I'm about over it—although I haven't returned to work yet," answered Kessler. "You see, those awful shocks, and being thrown into the lake that way, kind of got on my nerves. My folks don't want me to go back until I'm feelin' stronger."
"Have they resumed work at the shell-loading plant?" questioned Fred.
"They're startin' up to-day. One gang is clearin' up the wreckage, while a number of the old hands are at work in the places that wasn't damaged very much. And say! I've got something to tell you that I know you'll be interested to hear," went on old Jed Kessler.
"What is that?" questioned Jack.
"I saw those two German-lookin' fellers again early this morning, when I was on my way here to visit my brother who works on this farm."
"You did!" cried the two Rovers simultaneously.
"Where were they?" added Jack.
"They was down on the road that runs to Barlight Bay."
"Walking?" queried Fred.
"No, they was in an old wagon pulled by the sorriest lookin' nag I ever set eyes on. They had the wagon piled high with packages."
"Were you sure they were the same men?"
"I think they was the same. Of course, I wouldn't like to swear to it until I got a better look at 'em. They was just goin' past as I came in from a side road, and as soon as they saw me they whipped up their horse and started down the road in a cloud of dust."
"You ought to have stopped them," said Jack.
"How could I do that? I wasn't close enough to catch hold of the horse. And besides that, what chance would an old feller like me have against two husky men? More than likely, too, they was armed, while I didn't have anything—not even a cane."
"But you should have notified the authorities," said Fred.
"Oh, I did that, knowing that they was on the lookout for those fellers. I hurried to Rackville just as fast as I could, and called on the justice of the peace and the town constable. Then they got busy and telephoned to the next town and notified the police. They got a gang of six or eight men lookin' for the men and the wagon, but up to this afternoon they hadn't got any trace of 'em."
"Well, that certainly is interesting," remarked Jack. "You say you are pretty sure they are the same fellows who were around the plant just previous to the explosion?"
"Well, as I said before, I wouldn't like to swear to it until I got a better look at 'em. But those two fellers on the wagon had the same bushy black hair and whiskers and the same round faces. More than that, they wore the same slouch hats that the other fellers had."
"Have you any idea what was in the packages in the wagon?" questioned the young captain.
"Sounded to me as if it might be iron, or something like that. It jangled just like hardware."
"It's queer they would be on that back road with such stuff," said Jack slowly. "Did the folks at Rackville think they might live down near the bay?"
"They said there wasn't any folks around there so far as they knew that wore bushy black hair and black beards. They knew about everybody who lives within several miles of here," answered Jed Kessler.
The two Rovers talked the matter over with the old man for a few minutes longer, the foreman of the dairy also having his say. Then the boys had to hurry back to the camp, to fulfill their duties as captain and lieutenant.
As was to be expected, there was a certain amount of horseplay in camp that evening to which those in charge turned something of a blind eye.
"We'll have to leave the boys let off steam a little," said Captain Dale to the professors who had come with him. "I think they'll soon settle down to regular routine."
But the excitement of getting ready for the encampment, and the long tramp over the dusty roads, had tired all of the cadets, and it was not long before the great majority of them were ready to retire. Only a few, like Andy and Randy, wanted to continue the fun, but Jack and Fred quickly subdued the twins.
"You'll have plenty of time for your jokes when we get into the regular camp," said the young captain. "Now you had better get a good night's rest, for we have a long hike before us for to-morrow—over the Lookout Hills."
As members of Company C, Gabe Werner and Bill Glutts would have been under the direct command of Jack and Fred. This was a thorn in the side of the ex-lieutenant, and as soon as he had received word from home that he must remain at the school for the period of the annual encampment, he went to Captain Dale and asked to be transferred to another company, and requested that Glutts be transferred also.
"I think I can understand your feeling, Werner," said Captain Dale kindly. "I am very sorry that you refused to run for a lieutenancy after your defeat. Which company would you like to go in—A or B?"
"If it's all the same to you, Glutts and I would like to go into Company B."
"Very well. I'll have the necessary shifts made, and you can report to the captain of that company before we start away." And so it was arranged.
"The Rovers ain't going to get me under their thumb!" growled Werner to Glutts. "I know they would like nothing better than to find all sorts of fault and to get me into trouble."
This, of course, was not true, because both Jack and Fred had decided to treat the defeated candidate with every consideration.
"But I'm glad they've been transferred," said Fred, when he heard the news.
"You're not half as glad as I am, Fred," answered the young captain.
Jack and his two lieutenants occupied a tent together, while Andy and Randy were under canvas with Gif and Spouter. The night was a pleasant one, neither too hot nor too cold, and it was not long after the young cadets had turned in before most of them were sound asleep. But not so Gabe Werner and Bill Glutts.
During the halt at noon for lunch, the cronies had held an animated conversation, and this talk had been continued after the battalion had gone into camp for the night. The subject of their discussion had been the question of getting square with Jack and Fred because of what had occurred during the election. Werner attributed his downfall entirely to the Rovers.
"I'll show 'em a thing or two before I get through with 'em!" he asserted to his crony. "They can't walk all over me and get away with it!"
"Well, Gabe, you know I'll be on deck to help you in anything you try to put over on 'em," responded the wholesale butcher's son.
"Of course we'll have to be careful what we do," went on Werner. "We don't want to run afoul of Captain Dale or any of the professors. If we did they might set us some awful mean tasks to do while we were in camp."
"Yes, we'll have to be on our guard and work on the sly."
Neither Werner nor Glutts were particularly brilliant in evolving their scheme, but finally the ex-lieutenant hit upon something which he thought would answer. Then he told his crony of what had occurred to him.
"That's the talk!" cried Bill Glutts, his eyes gleaming wickedly. "Let's go and do it this very night, just as soon as they are sound asleep. My, won't there be some rumpus in the morning when they wake up and find out what has happened!"
ONE SURPRISE AND ANOTHER
Fred Rover was so tired that he closed his eyes in slumber almost as soon as he touched his cot.
But not so the young captain. Jack was fatigued, but he was also worried over some of the problems connected with his company, and these he tried to solve as he lay there in the darkness.
As the cadets were to remain in this camp for but one night only, nothing had been done toward putting any flooring in the tents. The cots of the captain and the two lieutenants rested on the short grass of the pasture. More than this, as the night was rather warm, one of the tent flaps was left open for ventilation, and for the same purpose a corner of the canvas in the rear was turned up.
As all of the cadets had tramped the distance from Colby Hall, no one was called on that night to remain on guard. In place of this a professor who had ridden over in an automobile agreed to sit up to see that nothing was stolen by any outsiders who might have an idea of doing such a thing.
But no outsiders appeared in view, all of the curiosity seekers having left the pasture lot before it came time for the cadets to turn in. As a consequence, the professor had nothing to watch, and soon grew exceedingly sleepy. Sitting in the tonneau of an open automobile, he presently began to nod, and then his head fell forward on his breast.
Jack had thought that he would soon drop to sleep, but the problems in his mind worried him so that presently he found himself wide-awake in spite of his fatigue.
"Confound it! why can't I go to sleep?" he murmured to himself. Then, punching his pillow to freshen it up, he turned over and tried his best to drop off.
He was just on the edge of dreamland when a sound from outside the tent attracted his attention. At first he thought some night bird or a bat might be flying around. But then came a low murmur of voices.
"Somebody is up," he thought. "Perhaps it is Professor Grawson taking a walk around. He said he was going to keep an eye on things until morning."
Jack lay perfectly still, and presently saw a ray of light shoot into the tent from the rear. It was the gleam of a small pocket flashlight. A thin silk handkerchief was over the end, so that the light was quite dim.
"Sure this is the right tent, are you?" he heard, in a low tone.
"Yes, this is the place," was the reply, in the faintest of whispers. "Keep quiet now, and if there is any alarm, run for your life."
On hearing these words, the young captain was puzzled for the time being. But then he realized that the voices had a familiar sound, and he smiled grimly to himself.
Slowly and cautiously Gabe Werner and Bill Glutts wormed their way into the tent by way of the opening in the rear. Gabe had the flashlight, and this he cast from one side to another, taking care, however, that the rays did not fall into the face of any of the officers.
Jack kept his eyes closed when the marauders looked at him. But as they turned around he eyed them sharply. A line had been strung from the front to the rear pole of the tent, and on this were a number of hangers containing the three officers' uniforms and some of their other belongings. Stepping up to the uniforms, the two from outside looked them over quickly. Then Werner pointed to one uniform and to another, to signify that these belonged to Jack and Fred.
Not a word was spoken by those who had come in to play their mean trick on the Rovers. Silently each drew out his pocketknife and opened one of the blades.
Werner's scheme, to which Glutts had agreed, was to cut all the buttons from both uniforms and then slit the garments so that they would be next to useless. Then they were going to take the other belongings of the young captain and the lieutenant and throw them into a muddy brook located in one corner of the pasture.
Watching the marauders as a cat might watch a mouse, Jack saw the pocketknives opened and saw the two rascally cadets take hold of his coat and that belonging to his cousin.
"No, you don't, you rascals!" he cried loudly, as he bounced off the cot. "Leave those uniforms alone!"
The interruption came so unexpectedly that both Werner and Glutts were dumbfounded. As Jack pounced on Gabe from the rear, Glutts, muttering a cry of terror, plunged through the opening of the tent by which he had come and fled down past the other nearby shelters at top speed.
"Let go of me!" hissed Gabe Werner, as he turned swiftly to find himself in Jack's embrace.
The flashlight had dropped to the ground and rolled under one of the cots. The young captain and the ex-lieutenant began to wrestle, and in doing this fell over on the cot occupied by Lieutenant Blake just as this lieutenant and Fred were awakening.
"Hi! what does this mean?" spluttered Tom Blake, as both Jack and Werner came down on top of him.
The combined weight of the three brought the cot down with a crash. In the meantime Fred had jumped up.
"Say, what's all this row mean?" he demanded quickly.
"Here is a fellow who was going to play a dirty trick on us!" shouted Jack. "Grab him! Don't let him get away!"
He said this because in the tumble his hold on Gabe had been somewhat lessened, and in the mix-up Werner was now endeavoring to slip out of his grasp. All had fallen to the ground, and the ex-lieutenant kicked out vigorously with his heavy shoes, landing one blow in Blake's stomach, and the other on Jack's knee.
It was so dark in the tent that but little could be seen, and as Fred made a leap forward he fell over somebody's legs and went down. Then in the mix-up Blake got in the way, and both Jack and Fred grabbed him, each by an arm, thinking he was the intruder.
"Give in!" cried Jack sternly. "If you don't, it will be the worse for you."
"You've got the wrong man, Captain!" cried Blake. And then, as he was released, he added: "Wait until I make a light so that we can see what we are doing."
A lantern was hanging at the front of the tent, and, striking a match, Blake lit this. In the meantime, however, Fred saw a form disappearing through the hole in the back of the tent.
"There he goes!" he yelled to Jack.
This suggestion was unnecessary, for Fred was already crawling through the opening. But, being aroused from a sound sleep so suddenly, he was still somewhat dazed, and by the time he had got on the outside of the tent and was on his feet, Gabe Werner was a good distance away and running like a deer.
"Come back here!" shouted Fred, looking after the flying figure.
In a few seconds Fred was joined by Jack. By this time the hubbub around the officers' tent had been heard by others, and even Professor Grawson was awakened from his nap.
"What's the trouble here?" demanded the professor, leaping from the tonneau of the automobile and hurrying in that direction.
"Two outsiders came into our tent," said the young captain.
"What did they want?"
"I guess they were going to play some trick. But I woke up and scared them off."
"Do you wish to make any complaint, Captain Rover?" went on the professor, as Blake came around with the lantern and some other cadets began to gather.
"I don't think so—at least not to-night, Professor," answered Jack, after a few seconds of rapid thinking.
"I hope they didn't do any damage," went on Professor Grawson.
"They didn't have time. Although in the struggle, when I tried to catch one of them, we fell over one of the cots and broke it down."
"I see." The professor mused for a moment. "Well, perhaps you might better let the matter rest," he continued. He was afraid someone would ask him about himself, and then he would have to acknowledge that he had been asleep instead of remaining on guard.
The excitement soon died away, the report being that some of the cadets had been starting in for a little more horseplay, but that the scheme had been nipped in the bud. Andy and Randy were on hand, and asked Jack for some of the particulars.
"I'll tell you about it to-morrow," whispered the young captain. "But mum is the word just now."
Returning to their tent after the excitement was over, the Rovers assisted Lieutenant Blake to put up his cot, so that he could sleep upon it. In doing this, Jack picked up the flashlight and the silk handkerchief with which the end had been covered. In the struggle the light had been turned off. Without saying anything about his find, the young captain slipped the articles into his pocket.
Running as fast as his somewhat clumsy steps would permit, Bill Glutts reached the tent which he and Werner occupied along with two of their cronies, cadets who had asked them to join Company B just previous to their leaving Company C. Glutts had run so fast that he could hardly breathe, and he sank down on his cot gasping.
"You look to be in a hurry, Bill," remarked one of the other cadets, who was awakened by the sudden entrance.
"Shut up—don't make a sound!" whispered Glutts, half savagely. "If you do you'll get the whole bunch into trouble."
While trying to regain his breath and to undress, Glutts kept his ears wide open, and presently heard Gabe Werner approaching. Then the ex-lieutenant dove into the tent, quickly tying the flaps behind him. Without saying a word, he began to pitch off his clothing.
"Gee, I'm glad they didn't catch you, Gabe," muttered Glutts, in a hoarse whisper.
"They did! But I gave 'em a couple of kicks they won't forget! And then I ran for it."
"Do you suppose they recognized you?"
"I don't think so. The minute we went down the light went out."
"We sure did make a botch of that job," grumbled the wholesale butcher's son.
"How was I to guess that they'd be awake watchin' us?" retorted the ex-lieutenant. "When I looked into the tent I thought the whole bunch was fast asleep. But shut up now—they may be coming this way, and we want to do the innocent act."
"It's me for that," chuckled Glutts, and, having finished undressing, he turned over on his cot and commenced to snore. And in this Gabe Werner soon followed his example.
Both waited impatiently for five minutes or more. Then, as nothing came to disturb them, both breathed more freely.
"I guess they missed us," whispered Glutts.
"It looks like it, Bill. But, say! I just thought of something," went on Werner, and the tone of his voice showed his dismay.
"What's wrong now?"
"In the struggle I dropped that flashlight and the silk handkerchief I had tied over it."
"Gee, that's too bad! Did either of the things have your name or initials on it?"
"Well, that's good. You haven't got to admit that you own 'em."
"That's all right, Bill, but that flashlight and the handkerchief cost money," grumbled Gabe Werner.
After that there was silence, but it was a long while before either of the rascally cadets could get to sleep. Both were bitterly disappointed over the failure of their scheme to do Jack and Fred an injury, and both wondered whether they would be found out.
AT CAMP BARLIGHT
There was so much to do in the morning, getting breakfast, taking down the tents and packing them in the motor trucks, and doing other necessary things, that the Rovers got no opportunity to talk over the stirring events of the night before. As officers Jack and Fred had many duties to perform.
Jack and Fred noticed that Gabe Werner and Bill Glutts were in their usual places in the company ahead of them. Once or twice they caught the ex-lieutenant and his crony gazing at them furtively, but to this they paid scant attention. Both were satisfied that these two unworthies were the guilty parties.
"I'm sure they are the ones," said Jack to Fred and the twins, when they had come to a halt at the roadside for the noon-day meal and the cadets had some time to themselves. The story had been told to Andy and Randy, who had listened with much interest.
"What did you do with the flashlight and the handkerchief?" questioned Andy.
"I've got them both in my pocket."
"Are you going to return them?" asked Randy.
"I don't see what else to do. I don't care to carry them about, and I don't care to give them up to Captain Dale or any of the professors. I wouldn't want Werner and his crowd to think we are squealers."
The matter was talked over among the Rovers and Spouter and Gif, who were let into the secret. Spouter looked the flashlight over, and was certain that it belonged to Gabe.
"I was down in Haven Point when he bought it," he said. "I was thinking of getting one of them myself, so I looked them over pretty carefully."
"I've got an idea!" cried Andy. "Just let me have those things, and I'll see to it that Werner and Glutts get them back—and with a vengeance."
"What's the scheme?" questioned his twin eagerly, while the others listened, being equally curious.
"I'll put each of them in a real, nice, comfortable, little package," answered Andy, with a grin. "And then to-night, if I can get the chance, I'll put one in Werner's cot and the other in Glutts's."
"What do you mean by a 'real, nice, comfortable, little package?'" questioned Fred.
"Oh, a package that he'll feel when he lies down on it. Something that he won't be apt to overlook," returned Andy innocently.
"Wow! that's the stuff," cried Randy eagerly. "Let's have those things, Jack. We'll fix 'em up O. K."
"Well, you take care that you don't get caught at it," answered the young captain, and then passed the flashlight and the silk handkerchief over to the twins.
The cadets were now among the Lookout Hills, and after the lunch hour they had a long hike over two more of the hills. On the top of the last of these, they paused to rest and to look around them. A grand panorama burst upon their view, stretching many miles in all directions. Directly ahead, through a somewhat dense forest, they could see Barlight Bay, the waters of which sparkled brightly in the sunshine. Off to the northeast were some cleared fields, and this spot was pointed out to them as that where the camp was to be located. To the southeast, beyond the timber and a series of jagged rocks, was another cleared space stretching for several miles, and this was dotted by numerous low buildings and tents.
"That must be Camp Huxwell!" exclaimed Jack, as he looked at the buildings and tents.
"It is," announced Captain Dale, who was standing near. "If you care to look through my fieldglasses, Captain Rover, you will be able to see the camp quite distinctly."
"I'll be pleased to do that," answered Jack quickly, and took a good look through the glasses. Nearly everybody wanted to look, and Captain Dale good-naturedly allowed them to pass the fieldglasses around.
"It's not quite so close to our camp as I thought it was going to be," remarked Fred disappointedly. "There's a wide belt of rocks and timber between."
Barlight Bay, opening up on the rolling Atlantic, was shaped very much like a half moon. Within the semicircle there were two smaller bays, on the lower one of which was located Camp Huxwell, while on the upper one was to be established Camp Barlight. Between these two minor bays, as stated before, was a series of rocks and cliffs broken by a thick forest, with here and there patches of dense undergrowth.
"I'd like to take a tramp through those woods some time while we are in camp," said Jack. "It might be lots of fun."
"Oh, sure! We'll take more than one walk that way," answered Fred. "And don't forget, we want to go over to Camp Huxwell."
The climb to the top of the last of the hills had tired a good many of the cadets, and they were glad that the remainder of the march would be downward instead of upward. Soon they were once more on the way, and reached the site of Camp Barlight about four o'clock in the afternoon.
The motor trucks had preceded them, and as the work of getting the place into shape had been proceeding for over a week, the sights to be seen were decidedly interesting. At one end of the grounds there were three long rows of platforms. Upon each platform a tent was to be erected. To one side was a much larger platform, and over this had already been erected a large mess tent, made quite substantial by means of a wooden frame. This mess tent had behind it the cooking quarters.
The opposite end of the camp site had been leveled for a parade ground, and here a tall flagpole had been erected, from the top of which floated the Stars and Stripes in all of their glory.
"Oh, see how close we are to the water!" exclaimed Randy. "That looks mighty good to me. I'm going in swimming at the first opportunity."
The cadets were allowed to rest for half an hour, and then they were set to work to erect the tents and otherwise get the camp in order. A few of the lads grumbled at the work to be done, but the most of them were cheerful and obliging.
Down at the water's edge there was one spot where there was a wide, sandy beach, and here several small tents had been put up for use as bathing houses.
"Any one who cares to do so can take a dip in the bay just before supper," announced Captain Dale, after the work of putting up the tents had come to an end. "But don't stay in longer than fifteen minutes."
Away rushed about half of the cadets, the Rovers among them. They lost no time in divesting themselves of their uniforms and getting into their bathing trunks, and then there was another rush to see who could be the first in.
"Wow, but it's cold!" exclaimed Fred, as he ran in up to his knees.
"Cold!" exclaimed another cadet. "Gee, it's icy!"
"This is the way to go in!" cried Jack, and, rushing in part way, he took a plunge and disappeared from sight.
Almost immediately a score of cadets followed him. Then came a wild plunging and swimming about, those in the water sending the spray flying over those who were too afraid to enter. There was a good deal of horseplay, but every one enjoyed himself immensely.
Following the evening meal the cadets were told they could do as they pleased until nine o'clock, but must not leave the confines of the camp. Many of the lads were too tired to do much of anything, and so sat around, taking it easy and talking over the prospects.
"Don't forget that we have got to fix up things for Werner and Glutts," whispered Andy to his brother, when it was almost time to retire.
"Right you are!" returned Randy. "Come on—let's slip away while the others are not noticing."
The first move the twins made was in the direction of the cooking quarters of the camp. Watching their chance, they entered a tent where the stores were kept, and soon found what they were looking for—a sack filled with onions.
"All we want is two good juicy ones," whispered Randy, and these onions were quickly procured.
After this the two boys wandered down to the edge of the forest, and there picked up a number of sharp sticks and stones, placing these in two dirty towels they had procured at the cook's quarters. Then they retired to a corner of the woods where no one could observe them and went to work to finish what they had in mind to do.
It was about an hour after this when taps was sounded and all the cadets were supposed to turn in for the night. Previous to this Andy and Randy had rejoined their cousins.
"We've got 'em fixed, all right enough," whispered Randy. "Don't you fellows want to see the fun?"
"Can't do it—not as captain of this company," answered Jack promptly.
"If we got caught we'd have to do a lot of explaining," added Fred.
"Well, that's where it pays to be a private," chuckled the fun-loving Rover. "Never mind, Randy and I will tell you all about it to-morrow, and we'll also tell you something else."
The twins, along with Spouter and Gif, occupied a tent together; and, as luck would have it, this was almost in a direct line with the tent assigned to Werner and Glutts and two of their cronies. Watching their chance, the twins stole out of their own quarters and hurried over to the side of the tent occupied by their enemies.
FIRST DAYS UNDER CANVAS
"Gee, but I'm tired!" Andy and Randy heard Glutts grumble. "I'll bet I'll be stiff all over to-morrow morning."
"It was too much of a hike over those hills," answered Werner, yawning and stretching himself. "I'll bet I'm getting a blister on my left heel."
"Huh! I'll bet your left heel isn't any worse than my right shoulder from carrying that gun," growled the wholesale butcher's son. "That old piece of iron weighs about a ton."
"Say, will you fellows shut up and get to bed?" grumbled one of the other cadets in the tent.
"That's it!" came from the fourth occupant. "Do your visiting in the morning. With your monkeyshines last night, I'm all tired out now."
Werner and Glutts wished to remonstrate, but did not dare, fearing that more might be said concerning the escapade of the night before. They undressed as quickly as possible, blew out the light, and then each threw himself on his cot.
"Cats and dogs! what in thunder is this?"
"Say! who put these rocks in my bed?"
"Something stuck me right through the back!"
"And I got stuck, too! Gee, this is the worst yet!"
Such were some of the exclamations from Werner and Glutts as they sat up and then bounced off of their cots. Then, in a rage, the ex-lieutenant and his crony began to accuse the others in the tent of having played a trick on them.
"We didn't do anything of the sort," growled one of the cadets.
"You fellows make me tired," howled the other. "If you don't shut up and settle down I'm going to ask to be put in another tent."
"I'm going to light up and see what that confounded thing in my cot is," growled Bill Glutts.
Something had stuck him in several places on his back, and he felt anything but comfortable. Werner was rubbing himself and saying things under his breath that were far from complimentary. The lantern was lit, and both made an inspection of their cots. Each found a bundle tied up in a thin, dirty towel.
"Rocks and sticks!" cried Gabe Werner, in deep disgust. "Hang the luck, anyway!" He took up the bundle and gazed at it closer. "Well, what do you know about this?"
"What is it?" questioned his crony.
"Here is a card! What do you know about this?" and he looked at a bit of pasteboard on which had been scrawled:
"Returned with the compliments of the Rovers."
"You might know they'd try to get back at us," remarked Glutts.
"I'll fix 'em—you see if I don't!" and, in a rage, Gabe took up the bundle which had been placed on his cot and threw it with all his force to the back of the tent It struck a pole, and from inside came a crash.
"Hello, you've broken something!" cried Glutts. "Maybe it's a bottle. I wouldn't put it past 'em to put one in there, thinking you might get cut with it."
To this Werner did not reply. A sudden thought had come to his mind, and hastily he picked up the bundle, now somewhat torn, and opened it. In the midst of the sticks and stones lay his flashlight, bent and with the glass broken.
"Huh! that's a fine way to treat your own property," remarked Glutts, with malicious humor. "Why didn't you examine the bundle before you threw it away?"
"Aw, you shut up! You make me tired! Go on and look in your own bundle."
The wholesale butcher's son did so, and there found another card from the Rovers. This was pinned fast to the silk handkerchief, which was neatly folded.
"Well, anyhow the handkerchief is all right," said Glutts consolingly, as he passed it over.
"I ought to make 'em pay for that broken flashlight," grumbled Werner.
"I think I see you doing it," came with a laugh from the other. "You'll pocket your loss and say nothing about it."
"We've got to get square with the Rovers for this."
"I agree with you there. But now I guess we had better go to bed and try to get some sleep;" and then the two turned in once more.
Andy and Randy, crouching low at the side of the tent, had, of course, taken in all that was said and done. Each was on a broad grin as they stole back to their own quarters.
"Wasn't it rich?" chuckled Andy. "I had the greatest desire in the world to burst out laughing."
"I could hardly keep still," returned his twin. "When Gabe threw his own flashlight away and busted it I nearly exploded."
"But wait until to-morrow—oh, boy!" cried Andy.
Both of the fun-loving youths slept soundly that night, but each was up early, and they lost no time in acquainting their cousins and Spouter and Gif and a few of the others with what was likely to happen next.
As was usual with them, Werner and Gabe were late in getting up, so they had to hustle in order not to be late at roll call. Then they hurried back to their tents to get their mess kits, for this camp was conducted on real military lines when it came to eating. Each cadet had been provided with his own kit, including a big covered cup, plate, and knife, fork and spoon.
"Now watch!" cried Randy to his chums. "I think you'll see something."
"And maybe you'll smell something," added Andy, slyly.
The cadets formed in a long line to be served by the cook and his helpers. Glutts was behind Werner, and the Rovers and their friends got close by, but not too close, being warned by the twins to keep a respectable distance.
As they came up to receive their food, both Werner and Glutts opened their kits, and as they did this a powerful, penetrating smell filled the air around them.
"Hello! what in blazes have you got in your kits?" cried one of the cook's helpers, who was ready to serve them.
"Why, I ain't got——" began Werner, and then stopped short. The smell coming from his mess kit was sickening, and it made his eyes water until the tears ran down his cheeks.
"It's onions!" yelled Glutts. "It's chopped-up onions!"
"Gee, what a smell!" came from another cadet.
"Say, who opened up the onion factory?"
"Somebody shut the cover down before we faint!"
Such were some of the cries that arose as the odor of the chopped-up onions floated out on the morning air. In the meanwhile Werner and Glutts stood there in helpless fashion, holding their mess kits at arm's length. Both were red-eyed, and looked as if they were weeping copiously.
"Say, if this is a joke, it's a mighty poor one!" stormed the cook, stepping forward with a big ladle in his hand. "You chase yourselves and get out of here!" And he flourished the ladle so threateningly at the pair that Werner and Glutts ran as if for their lives. They did not look where they were going, and so dashed headlong into Professor Grawson, who was coming forward to get his own breakfast, for he had decided to rough it with the students.
"Here, here! What is this?" exclaimed the professor, as some of the chopped-up onions flew over his clothing. "My, what an awful smell! What are you young gentlemen eating?"
"We're not eatin' this stuff!" exclaimed Glutts. "Somebody played a joke on us. They filled our mess kits with onions."
"Ah, I see." Professor Grawson held his nose and stepped back several feet. "Please do not come any closer. Raw onions are very healthful, so I understand, but I never cared for them."
"We don't want 'em either. I hate 'em!" roared Werner. "Come on—let's go over to the water tank and wash up," he added to his crony; and then rushed away.
By the end of three days the cadets felt quite settled at Camp Barlight. Everything had been put in the best of order, and drills and other exercises had been held daily. Captain Dale was teaching the cadets a new bayonet exercise, and one afternoon he had an officer come over from Camp Huxwell to show the students some of the fine points in handling a bayonet. This was decidedly interesting, especially to Jack, and he did his best to imitate what the regular military instructor had done.
"No use of talking, when it comes to fighting the Huns our men have got to be pretty quick," was the young captain's comment.
"I hope we see some of those exercises when we get over to Camp Huxwell," returned Fred.
During those first days in camp the boys did not forget to write long letters to the folks at home, and also to the girls at Clearwater Hall, telling of how they were settled down. They invited the girls to call at the camp before going home, and a couple of days later came back word that the girls would do this, paying the visit in a touring car.
"It will be mighty nice to have all of them here for a day," said Jack. "We can show them all around the camp and let them look at our exercises. And maybe we can have a little picnic in the woods, too."
"That would suit me right down to the ground," answered Fred.
To give the camp a truly military aspect, Captain Dale instituted a regular guard, both night and day. The cadets were given a password, and it was understood that no one could get into the camp without giving this.
"Well, it's my turn to go on guard to-night," announced Randy one evening at supper time. "And I must say, I don't like the outlook much. It looks to me as if it was going to rain."
"Well, you'll have only four hours of it, Randy," answered Jack. "That isn't so very long. What time do you go on?"
"Twelve o'clock. Then I am to relieve Ned Lowe."
Randy retired early, and was awakened about half past eleven o'clock. Then he dressed, got a cup of the hot chocolate that one of the cook's helpers had ready for the sentries, and then went out to join the detail which was to go on guard from midnight until four o'clock in the morning.
The post which Ned Lowe had covered, and which was turned over to Randy, lay on the far side of the camp, not a great distance from where the cliffs overlooked the bay. It was a lonely spot, particularly on a night like this, when the sky was overcast and a rising wind was moaning through the branches of the trees.
"See any ghosts to-night, Ned?" said Randy to Ned Lowe jokingly, as he relieved that sentry.
"Well, I saw something, Randy," was the unexpected reply. "I've been trying to make up my mind for the last half hour what it was."
"Saw something! What do you mean?"
"I think I saw somebody sneaking through the woods over yonder," said Ned Lowe, pointing into the forest. "I shouted out, but no one answered, and then the figure—or whatever it was—vanished."
"Oh, say! you must be seeing things," returned Randy lightly. "Just the same, I'll keep my weather eye open," he added. "Maybe some of the other cadets were out, and tried to play a trick on you."
"No, I don't think it was one of our cadets," said Ned Lowe. "I think it was a stranger. But what he was doing around here at this time of night is a mystery to me."
"Maybe he was a tramp, and thought he could get a chance to steal something," ventured the fun-loving Rover, sobering down.
"Maybe. I guess you had better keep your eyes wide open," said Ned Lowe, and then turned away and left Randy alone on the post.
Left to himself Randy tramped up and down slowly along the post assigned to him. The distance was several hundred feet, and at either end he met another guard. One of these was Codfish, and it must be admitted that the sneak of Colby Hall was thoroughly scared.
"I don't like this at all," Codfish declared, when he and Randy met. "There's a terrible wind sighing through those trees."
"Have you seen anybody?" questioned Randy.
"I thought I did, but I'm not sure whether it was some person or an animal."
"When was that?"
"Nearly an hour ago."
"Maybe it was the same person Ned Lowe thought he saw," went on Randy. "He called out, but nobody answered."
"If I see anybody again, I'll shoot off my gun and call the corporal," announced Codfish.
His whole manner showed that he was much disturbed. His post was along the edge of the wood beyond where Randy was stationed, but the latter saw that the sneak never walked very close to the trees and brushwood.
The time dragged heavily, and Randy heaved a sigh when he looked at his watch and found that it was only one o'clock.
The young cadet, as was the custom with many of the lads, had supplied himself with a thin cake of sweet chocolate, and to help pass the time he munched on bits of this. Then it commenced to rain, the scattering drops making quite a noise on the trees and fallen leaves.
Fortunately Randy had brought his raincoat with him. It hung on a bush about midway between the ends of his post, and, turning, he hurried to get the garment. He was just in time to see a figure sliding away between the bushes. This figure had confiscated the raincoat only a few seconds before.
"Come back here!" yelled Randy, in justifiable anger. "Come back, I say, or I'll fire at you!"
"Fire, and be hanged!" came in a somewhat familiar voice. Evidently the speaker knew that Randy's rifle contained only blank cartridges.
Randy's blood was up, for he felt certain the raincoat had been taken by one of his fellow cadets, probably Werner or Glutts. Leaping forward, he cleared some low bushes at a bound, and then made after the figure skulking along among the trees.
"Drop that raincoat or I'll crack you on the head with my gun!" he roared, as he drew closer to the fleeing fellow.
"Keep back, or it will be the worse for you, Randy Rover!" cried the other cadet, and now Randy recognized the voice of Gabe Werner quite distinctly.
The fun-loving Rover did not reply to Werner. Instead he hurried on faster than ever, coming so close presently that he was able to reach the ex-lieutenant with his gun. He swung the weapon by the barrel, and the stock caught Werner a severe blow on his right shoulder.
"Ouch!" yelled the big cadet, and his right arm dropped to his side and the raincoat slipped to the ground.
"You're a fine rascal to steal my raincoat," remonstrated Randy, raising his gun as if to give the ex-lieutenant another blow.
"Aw! can't you take a joke? You Rovers didn't think anything of smashing my flashlight."
"You did that yourself, throwing it against your tent pole," answered Randy.
"Huh! who told you that?"
"Never mind who told me—I know it's the truth. Now, after this, Gabe Werner, you leave my things alone!"
"Bah! don't talk to me, Randy Rover. If it wasn't that you have nearly broken my right shoulder, I'd give you the licking you deserve."
"And for two pins, Gabe Werner, I'd report you for being absent from camp without leave," retorted Randy. "Now you get back to your tent just as fast as you can."
"Rats! don't you talk to me," growled the ex-lieutenant. Nevertheless, he turned and walked through the woods toward the encampment, and then lost no time in hurrying to his tent.
Randy slipped on his raincoat, and then resumed his duty as a sentinel. Back and forth he tramped, occasionally exchanging a word or two with Codfish or with the guard at the other end of his post. Thus two hours more dragged by. For half of that time it rained steadily, and if his feet did not get wet, they at least got very damp. Then, however, the shower passed on, and presently the morning stars shone forth.
Randy was watching for the first streaks of the coming dawn and congratulating himself that his lonely vigil would soon come to an end, when an unusual sound broke upon his ears. From a distance came a curious clank! clank! followed by another sound that seemed to be the rattle of several chains.
"Hello! where does that come from?" he asked himself. "Somebody must be getting to work pretty early in the morning."
The noises kept up for a minute or two, and then abruptly ceased. The young cadet listened for quite a while, and then resumed his tramp. But a little later the strange clanking and rattle of chains was continued, and once more he halted, trying to locate the direction of the sounds.
"Must come from somewhere in the woods," he reasoned, and he thought this rather strange, for he was of the opinion that this portion of the forest was entirely uninhabited.
Several times after that he heard the strange clanking, and every time it was followed by a rattle as of chains. Then came a sharp tapping, as of a hammer on steel, and with this a curious humming sound, as if some big blowing machine was in action.
"Maybe it's an airship, or something like that," he said to himself. "That humming sound may be the propellers going around. Maybe they had an accident and had to come down for repairs."
It lacked ten minutes of the time for the new sentry to go on duty when Randy, who had come to a halt to learn if the curious clanking was still taking place in the woods, saw a movement behind some trees at a distance.
"Must be either an animal or a man," he said to himself.
With strained eyes he watched the location, and presently saw two slouch hats moving behind the top of some brushwood. Then for a brief instant he caught sight of the forms of two men as they disappeared in the distance.
"I wonder if those were the two men who were making all that noise?" he mused.
At such a distance it had been impossible for him to note anything of the features of the men. Both wore dark clothing and dark slouch hats, but beyond that he made out nothing concerning them.
When the corporal of the guard came along to change the detail, Randy said nothing about the attempt of Gabe Werner to deprive him of his raincoat, but he did mention the sounds he had heard in the woods, and also the appearance of the two men.
"Oh, I guess they were a couple of lumbermen," remarked the corporal, in an offhand way. "They occasionally come here, I suppose, to get a stick of timber." And not thinking it of any importance, he dismissed the matter from his mind.
It was not until after the morning drill that Randy got a chance to speak to his brother and his cousins, telling them of the encounter with Werner.
"I supposed he would try to get square!" cried Jack. "I'm mighty glad he didn't get away with it."
Then Randy told of hearing the strange clanking noises and also the sounds of chains rattling and of some big blower in motion.
"That's certainly curious," remarked Jack. "From what Captain Dale said, I thought these woods had no one in them. In fact, I supposed they belonged to the government and were a part of the Camp Huxwell reservation, and that all outsiders were to be kept out."
"I thought the blowing sound might be an aeroplane's propellers," went on Randy. "I was thinking a machine might have been disabled and come down, and the fellows on board might be trying to make repairs."
"They couldn't come down safely between those trees and on those rocks," cried Andy. "They'd break their necks!"
"Well, I certainly heard something, and I saw two men."
"Say, did those two fellows look anything like the two Germans Jed Kessler spoke about?" queried Randy's twin quickly.
"I don't know about that. I only got a glance at 'em, and they were a long way off. All I know is that they were dressed in very dark clothing and wore dark slouch hats."
"I think it might be a good thing to mention this to Captain Dale," said Jack thoughtfully. "The authorities are very anxious to get on the track of those two men who were seen around the ammunition plant. It won't do any harm to have this matter investigated." And then he and his cousin sought out the old West Pointer for that purpose.
Captain Dale listened attentively, and nodded his head several times while Randy was speaking.
"You are right, Captain Rover," he said to Jack. "And I'm glad that you brought your cousin here to tell me this. I'll go over to town this morning and report to the authorities. Of course there may be nothing in it, but as you remarked, it is a clue that should not be overlooked. Those two men with the wagon load of stuff certainly disappeared somewhere in this vicinity, and I know the forest is supposed to be a part of the government reservation, and no strangers would be permitted to go into it and cut down any trees. More than that, the strange sounds heard by your cousin Randy make it look as if something unusual was being done there."
"Would there be any objection to our going into the woods and taking a look around?" questioned Randy.
"Not the least, Rover. But I think you had better go slow, because if those men we are looking for are really there, and they know the authorities are after them—well, that may make them very desperate, and you may get into serious trouble."
"Oh, I guess we could take care of ourselves," answered Randy quickly. "Of course, Jack and I wouldn't go alone. We would take quite a bunch with us. There is generally safety in numbers, you know," and he grinned.
"All right, you may go if you want to. Only take good care of yourselves."
So the matter was arranged, and in less than half an hour later the four Rovers, accompanied by Spouter, Gif, and Walt Baxter, set off into the forest.
AT THE RIFLE RANGES
It did not take the cadets long to reach the place where Randy said he had noticed the two strangers. Here, to the surprise of the Rovers and their chums, they discovered a faint trail leading north and south through the forest.
"The men must have been following this footpath," remarked Fred. "Now then, Randy, which way were they headed?"
"They were headed north," was the reply.
They found that following the footpath was by no means easy. It led in and out among big trees and around various clumps of bushes, and more than once they found themselves in a hollow where going was exceedingly treacherous. Then in spots they had to climb over the rough rocks.
"Hello, here is something!" cried Jack presently. "Now, what in the world is it?" he went on, as he held up an object he had picked from between two of the rocks.
It was a curiously-shaped bar of steel, about a foot and a half long, round at one end and flattened at the other, with several square holes punched through the latter end.
"Looks like a piece of machinery of some kind," said Spouter, after the thing had been passed around for examination. "You know, Randy, you may be right, after all, and that may be a piece from an aeroplane," he added, looking the bar over critically.
Carrying the bar of steel, Jack continued along the footpath, followed by the others, and a few minutes later emerged on a much larger trail. Here were the marks of wagon tracks, and also horses' hoofs.
"Hello, this proves that a wagon came this way!" cried Fred.
"Maybe it was the one those Germans were riding in," added Andy.
"Oh, I wouldn't want to say that," returned Jack. "This may be a regular thoroughfare through this corner of the forest."
They followed the wagon tracks, and soon found that the road, came to an end among some rocks overlooking Barlight Bay. Then they came back and walked in the other direction, and presently emerged on the highway along which they had marched on their way to the camp.
"That ends it, as far as following this trail is concerned," said Jack. "Those men could go to almost anywhere from here."
The cadets looked around for a while, and then went back to the spot where Randy had seen the men early in the morning. They looked for footprints, but were not successful in finding any they could follow for a distance.
"Gee, I'm getting tired!" said Randy, with a yawn. "Please remember I did not get much sleep last night."
"Yes, and I'm getting hungry," added his twin. "I think we'd better go back to camp."
The others thought so, too, and a few minutes later all set off. As before, the young captain took the lead, and he and Randy lost no time in visiting the tent occupied by Captain Dale.
"Well, this certainly is a find," declared the old West Pointer, looking the steel bar over critically. "I agree that it belongs to some sort of machine, although what, I haven't the least idea. If any of the authorities come here I'll let them look it over."
Several days, including Sunday, passed without anything new developing. Several of the local authorities had appeared, and also a Secret Service man from Camp Huxwell. All listened closely to what Captain Dale and the Rovers had to tell, and examined the steel bar critically. Then they went off, and that, for the time being, was all those at Camp Barlight heard of them.
"Hurrah! the girls are coming soon, and then maybe we'll get a chance to run over to Camp Huxwell," cried Fred, one day after the mail had been brought in.
"They say they will be over late in the week," said Jack. He looked at his cousins. "We'll have to lay plans to treat them royally."
The young cadets had continued their drills and also their bayonet and other exercises. Now it was announced that target practice would start the following morning and continue until all of the cadets had proved what they could do in hitting the mark.
"Well, Fred, here is your chance to show what you can do!" cried Andy, after this announcement had been made. "You were the high man in our family last term." He remembered that out of a possible score of 25 Fred had netted 19, while Jack had received 18, Randy 12, and himself but 10.
"Please don't forget that I've got Lewis Barrow to shoot against," answered Fred. Lewis Barrow had been the high man on the previous occasion, with a score of 20.
There were three targets to be shot at—one at short range, one at medium, and one at long range. It would be possible to score 20 points at each target, making a total of 60 points for each cadet.
In the past Gabe Werner had been a fairly good shot. He was in the habit of patronizing a shooting gallery in Haven Point, and the proprietor of this had given him many lessons in how to hold a rifle and how to take aim.
"I guess here is where I get a chance to show those dubs what I can do," remarked Gabe to his cronies.
To make the contest more interesting for the cadets, Colonel Colby had authorized Captain Dale to put up six prizes; the first a gold medal, the second a silver medal, and the others various books of more or less value.
"Now, Fred, I want you to do your prettiest," said Jack to his cousin. "You came out ahead of us last term, and this time I want you to top the whole school."
"I'll do my best," answered the youngest Rover boy. "But, Jack, you've got to do your best, too."
"Sure I will!"
The target practice lasted for three days, and the competition among more than half of the cadets was very keen. The others were such indifferent marksmen that they had no hopes of winning any of the prizes, and so they shot more because they were expected to do so than for any other reason.
"Well, I guess I'm keeping up my reputation!" cried Randy, with a grin, when his shooting had come to an end. "Twelve points at the first target, six at the second, and four at the long distance—a total of twenty-two points."
"I'm a whole barrelful better than that!" answered his brother gaily. "I made twenty-three points. I guess we had both better open a school for target practice," and he grinned broadly.
At the short-range target Jack and Fred were tied with 16 points each, and, strange as it may seem, Lewis Barrow and Gabe Werner were tied with 17 points each.
"Say, Werner can certainly shoot," remarked Spouter, who had made but eleven points. "I knew Barrow could do it, but I didn't expect it of Gabe."
"Shooting at the short-range target is his specialty," announced Walt, whose score was also a modest one. "Remember, he has been doing a lot of practicing at the Haven Point shooting gallery."
At the medium-distance target the scores were not so good, Jack making 10, Fred 11, Barrow 13, and Werner 14.
"Hello, what do you know about this! Werner is ahead!"
"He shot one point better than Lew Barrow."
"I knew he could do it!" boasted Bill Glutts. "Just wait until you fellows get at the long-distance range! He'll show you what's what!"
The score now stood, Jack 26, Fred 27, Barrow 30, and Werner 31. The others had all dropped behind several points more.
"Say, you fellows have got to hump yourselves," declared Randy, as he came up to his cousins. "Werner is four and five points ahead of you."
"Well, I am doing the best I can," declared the young captain. He would have resented such familiarity from anyone except his fun-loving cousin.
"And I'm doing the best I can," asserted the young lieutenant.
At the long-distance range Lewis Barrow was the first of the four to show his skill. He was a young Westerner, and had a great familiarity with firearms. He shot quickly and neatly, making a score of 10.
"Hurrah! That gives Lew Barrow a total of forty points!"
"Good work, Lew! I guess that gold medal is yours."
"Not much!" returned the Westerner, with a faint smile. "I didn't do very well. I guess the wind was against me."
The next to shoot was Fred, and to the amazement of many of those looking on, the youngest Rover made a score of 15, giving him a total of forty-two points.
"Good work, Fred!" cried Jack, grasping his cousin by the hand.
"Oh, it takes our Fred to do it!" cried Andy, dancing around. And then he had to turn a couple of handsprings to relieve his feelings.
"Huh! you just wait till Gabe shoots," said Bill Glutts.
"He's the one to win that gold medal!" piped in Codfish.
"Well, there is one thing sure—you'll never walk off with any medal, Codfish," returned Randy; and at this there was a laugh, for the sneak of the school had made a poor showing on all of the targets—in fact, he was so timid that he was almost afraid to discharge his rifle.
Gabe Werner strode forward with a superior air and inspected the rifle that was handed to him critically.
"I want a gun that shoots straight," he said.
He took a long time to shoot, sighting his rifle several times before each discharge. His first shots were fairly good, but then his nervousness asserted itself, and he all but missed the target. His total was eight points, bringing his grand total up to thirty-nine points.
"Hello, Werner's dropped down!"
"He is one point behind Barrow and three points behind Fred Rover."
"Say, Gabe, what happened to you? Did you get a dose of the shakes?" asked one of his followers.
"Maybe somebody moved the target on him," suggested Andy slyly.
"Perhaps the rifle had a twist in the barrel," announced Randy.
"Oh, say, this is none of your affair!" growled Gabe Werner, as he threw down the rifle in disgust and faced the two fun-loving Rovers. "You mind your own business!"
"Gracious, but you're peppery!" said Andy.
"I'll pepper you some day!" howled Werner, and then turned on his heel and strode off, looking anything but pleasant.
"Gee! but he takes it hard," remarked Walt.
"How foolish," returned Gif. "Even if I was disappointed, I wouldn't show it."
It was now Jack's turn to shoot, and he did so without delay. His first two shots were not particularly good, but then he found the bull's-eye twice in succession, much to the amazement of all the onlookers.
"Say, there's shooting for you!"
"Fred, you'd better look to your laurels or Jack will beat you," cried Spouter.
"I want him to beat me—if he can," answered Fred generously.
And beat his cousin Jack did by just one point. He scored a total of forty-three, while Fred had forty-two.
Barrow came in for third place with forty points, and Werner fourth with thirty-nine points. Frank Newberry was fifth, and a cadet named Henkerson sixth.
"Well, you beat me fairly and squarely, Jack!" cried Fred, shaking hands.
"Not such an awful lot at that, Fred. Only one point," returned the young captain good-naturedly.
"But it gives you the gold medal, while I'll have to content myself with the silver medal. Just the same, I'm glad I did as well as that," added Fred.
After the target practice the cadets of Colby Hall settled down to the usual routine of the camp. The Rovers and their chums were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the girls from Clearwater Hall, and they made arrangements with Captain Dale so that the visitors might be appropriately entertained.
The girls came in two large touring cars, which had been hired at the Haven Point garage. The Rovers and their chums were on the lookout for them, and set up a cheer as soon as they appeared.
"Oh, what a lovely spot for a camp!" exclaimed Ruth Stevenson, as she leaped to the ground and shook hands with Jack.
The visitors were escorted by Captain Jack to Captain Dale's quarters. He knew some of the young ladies already, and soon made all of the crowd feel perfectly at home.
"Your friends will show you around our camp, and if you care to do so you may have regular mess with our cadets," said the old West Pointer, smiling.
"Oh, let's have a regular mess dinner by all means!" cried Mary. "I've always wanted to know how it tasted."
"Grandest soup you ever struck, Mary," said Gif.
"Especially if a pinching bug or a worm chances to drop into it," came from Andy.
"You horrid boy!" cried Martha. "Jack, you ought to box his ears for that."
The girls were shown over the camp, and even taken down to the rifle ranges, in the meantime being told about the very excellent scores Jack and Fred had made.
It had been arranged that the girls were to be away from Clearwater Hall for two days. They were to spend one day with the boys at Camp Barlight and the following day near Camp Huxwell, where Alice Strobell had an aunt living who had promised to take them all in for the night.
"We'll come over here early in the morning for you boys," said Martha, "and then all of us can visit Camp Huxwell together. I've already sent word to dad, and Mary has sent word to Uncle Sam, so they will be on the lookout for us."
"That will be fine!" cried Jack. "I've been wanting to see that camp ever since we got here, but, somehow, I couldn't get away to do it."
"And I want to see my dad, too," added Fred enthusiastically.
The twins were likewise eager to see the government camp and their uncles, but they were somewhat depressed, and could not help but show it.
"I know what's the matter," whispered Martha to her brother. "They are thinking about their father. Poor Uncle Tom! What a shame it is that he couldn't join father and Uncle Sam."
"Well, you know how they arranged it," answered the young captain. "Somebody had to stay at home to manage the business."
While the Rovers and their chums were showing the girls around the camp, Gabe Werner and Bill Glutts eyed them enviously.
"I don't see why they are permitted to have girls come here and visit them," growled the ex-lieutenant.
"Girls are all out of place in a camp like this," added the wholesale butcher's son. "You can't have the same amount of freedom with those skirts around."
"I just heard something," put in Codfish, who had come up a moment before. "The Rovers and those other fellows are going to take the girls out into the woods for a picnic."
"Where did you get that news?" asked Glutts quickly.
"I heard the cook telling one of his helpers. They are fixing up a great big bunch of grub for them."
"Huh! some folks have nerve," grumbled Werner. "I suppose he'll let 'em have all the best things there are in camp and we can take what's left."
"Chopped-up onions, for instance," and Glutts grinned.
"I'll onion them, you see if I don't!" cried Gabe Werner. And then he suddenly caught his crony by the arm. "Say, I've got an idea! If we can get away and follow those fellows maybe we can spoil their old picnic for 'em."
"I get you!" cried Glutts quickly.
"What are you going to do?" questioned Codfish.
"Will you keep your mouth shut if we take you in on this?" demanded the ex-lieutenant.
"Of course I'll keep my mouth shut."
"All right then, you can come in, Henry. But remember, if you open your trap on us we'll come down on you like a ton of bricks," added Gabe.
The matter was talked over for several minutes by Werner and Glutts, and then Codfish was dispatched to the cook's quarters on an errand.
The girls enjoyed eating the regular mess lunch immensely. Each was provided by the boys with a new mess kit and instructed into the art of using the same. They sat at the main table in the mess hall, a table presided over by Captain Dale himself.
"This is quite an honor, ladies," said the old West Pointer politely. "It's the first time we have had so many of the opposite sex in any of our camps."
"It is very lovely of you, Captain Dale, to permit us to come," said Ruth. "I am sure we all thank you very much for all the courtesies you have shown us."
"Indeed we do!" came from the others.
"I'm afraid this meal will put a little damper on our picnic," remarked Fred. "We should have eaten our lunch out in the woods."
"Don't you worry about that," retorted Andy. "We'll be ready for another meal after we've tramped about over the rocks and among the trees for several hours."
The food to be taken along had been placed in three old knapsacks with which the camp was provided, and these the twins and Spouter placed on their back when they set off for the woods. All were in high spirits, and Andy and Randy whistled gaily as they trudged along.
"Let us go up on top of one of the cliffs," suggested Jack, after they had been tramping for the best part of an hour. "We ought to be able to get a splendid view of the bay from there."
The others were willing, and about the middle of the afternoon they reached a high, rocky point, overlooking Barlight Bay and the rolling Atlantic. It was a clear, sunshiny day, and consequently they could see for miles in several directions.
"I see a big steamer coming up the coast!" cried Gif presently. "See the trail of smoke she is leaving behind her?"
"I wonder if those big coastwise steamers are in any danger of the German submarines?" remarked Martha.
"Oh, I don't believe there are any submarines around here," said Randy.
"Don't be too sure about that," put in Jack. "Don't forget that the Huns sent over several of their U-boats before we even got into the war."
"There may be more German submarines lurking in these waters than we have any idea of," remarked Spouter. "It is a well-known fact that the Central Powers have an enormous number of submarines, and that they have been sent to all the important lanes of travel in the Atlantic Ocean, as well as the Mediterranean Sea and the North Sea. They have got the science of building U-boats down exceedingly fine, and they evidently know exactly how to handle such craft. And not only that, but they have invented some exceedingly destructive torpedoes, and likewise some devices——"
"Say, Spouter, have you started to deliver a lecture on German submarines?" demanded Randy.
"Please remember that we came to camp for the sole purpose of escaping lectures," added his twin.
"I'm not delivering a lecture," returned Spouter coldly. "I was only trying to pound into your somewhat bonelike heads a few important facts. But, of course, the task is rather a useless one, because you wouldn't be able to assimilate such knowledge even if——"
Spouter's oratory was cut short by a wad of wet leaves which Randy picked up and hurled at him. Then Andy poked him with a long tree branch he had picked up, and for a few minutes there was quite a good-natured pitched battle, the girls looking on with much interest.
"Avast and heave to!" roared Andy, melodramatically. "Over the top and at 'em! Chew 'em up alive! Don't let 'em cry 'Kamerad'! Make 'em yell, 'Have you used Brickbat's Soap!'" And at this there was a shriek of laughter from the girls.
When the horseplay had finally come to an end, the young folks walked out on the rocks where they might get a better view of the bay and the ocean beyond. As was quite natural, the boys and the girls paired off together, and Jack saw to it that Ruth obtained a seat that was comfortable. Fred did the same for May, while Spouter and Gif walked on a short distance further with the two Rover girls.
The knapsacks containing the food had been left on some flat rocks a short distance to the rear. So that they might not get too warm, the boys had placed some brushwood over them, along with some wraps which the girls had brought along.
Although the Rovers and their chums did not know it, they had been followed into the woods by Werner, Glutts and Stowell, who had obtained a brief leave of absence from the officer of the day. The trio had watched the girls and their cadet friends closely, and viewed the disposal of the knapsacks and the wraps with satisfaction.
"Here is where we get square with them," muttered Gabe. "We'll fix 'em for putting chopped-up onions in our mess kits!"
"What are you going to do with those onions I got for you?" questioned Codfish.
"We'll doctor up every bit of their food with 'em," answered Glutts. "They can have onion sandwiches and onion cake and onion pie galore. My, but that lunch will be one sweet mess when we get through with it!" he added gleefully.
"Yes, and I'll tell you another thing we can do," pursued Gabe Werner maliciously. "We can put some of the chopped-up onions into the pockets of those girls' coats. That will make 'em all smell fine!"
"Oh, say! do you think you ought to touch the girls' things?" questioned Codfish timidly.
"Sure! That will give those fellows a job cleaning the mess up," answered Gabe heartlessly.
"But we don't want to get caught." Now that the time had arrived to play the joke on the Rovers and their friends, the sneak of the school was beginning to tremble.
"Oh, we won't get caught," said Werner. "Come on. They are all out of sight, and it will be dead easy to turn the trick."
TOM ROVER'S ANNOUNCEMENT
Fred and May had gone up to the topmost point of the cliff overlooking Barlight Bay. Here they could get a view not only of the water front, but likewise of the Colby Hall camp stretched out in the clearing to the northeast of the woods. The wind was blowing rather freely, and presently the youngest Rover noticed that the girl beside him shivered.
"Why, you are cold, May! You should have brought your coat along," Fred declared.
"I wish I had," May answered.
"Let me run back and get it."
"Oh, don't bother, Fred. We won't stay up here so very long."
"It's no bother at all. It will take me only a few minutes to get it," answered the young lieutenant gallantly, and began to climb down the rocks.
It did not take Fred long to reach a point where the cliff was more level, and then he hurried off in the direction where the knapsacks and the wraps had been left.
"Hello! what's this?" he asked himself, coming up beside the flat rocks. "I'm sure we left them here." But neither the knapsacks with food nor the wraps were anywhere in sight. Fred scratched his head, wondering if he were dreaming.
"Hi, fellows!" he called out. "Something wrong here!"
"What's the matter?" yelled Gif, who was the nearest of the others.
"The knapsacks and wraps! They are gone!"
"Gone! Do you mean somebody has taken them?" exclaimed Gif.
"Yes, I do! Call the others, quick."
As Fred uttered the last words he darted away from the flat rocks. He had seen a movement behind some trees and bushes not a great distance away. As he drew closer to the spot he heard Codfish give a cry of alarm.
"We're discovered! Fred Rover is coming!"
"Hi, Codfish! what are you doing here?" demanded Fred. But instead of answering, the sneak of the school set off on a run through the woods as fast as his legs could carry him.
By this time Gif was coming up, followed by Andy and Randy, while Jack and several others of the party were trying to get down from the rocks at the front of the cliff.
"Who was it? Who took the things?" questioned Gif hurriedly.
"I saw Codfish," answered Fred. "And there are Glutts and Werner!" he added suddenly, as the pair came into view between the trees. They were running swiftly, carrying the three knapsacks between them. Codfish had been carrying the girls' wraps, but had dropped them in his fright.
"The mean rascals, they were going to make off with our eats!" roared Spouter. "Come ahead! Let's catch 'em!"
There was no need for him to utter these words, for already Gif and Fred were making after Werner, Glutts and Codfish at top speed. Behind them came all of the other cadets, each now aware of what had occurred.
"Hang the luck! I didn't think they would spot us like this," panted Gabe, as he lumbered along. He had a knapsack in each hand, while Glutts carried the third. Codfish, free-handed, was just ahead of them.
The three had a fair start, and might have gotten away by hiding behind the trees and brushwood of the forest had not the unlucky Codfish met with an accident. His foot caught in an exposed tree root, and down went the sneak of the school flat on his breast. Then, before they could stop themselves, Werner and Glutts fell over him, banging him on the head with the heavy knapsacks as they did so.
"Oh! Oh!" moaned Codfish. "Don't hit me like that! Get off! You are smashing my ribs!"
Werner and Glutts rolled over, letting go of the knapsacks as they did so, and scrambled to their feet. But these movements took time, and in the meanwhile Fred and Gif rushed up, catching each by the arm.
"You let go of me, Fred Rover!" cried the wholesale butcher's son; and when the youngest Rover did not do as commanded, Glutts made a savage pass with his fist.
Had the blow landed as intended, Fred would have been struck full in the nose, but he knew something about boxing, and dodged cleverly, and then he came back at Glutts with a blow in the ear which sent that youth sprawling once more.
In the meantime Werner attempted to get away from Gif. But that athletic youth put out a foot behind the ex-lieutenant, and down went Gabe once more on the panting and bewildered Codfish. Both rolled over among the tree roots, and it was several seconds before they could untangle themselves and get to their feet.
By this time Andy and Randy had come up, and a short while later Jack and the others appeared.
"What's this all about?" demanded Jack, who, as a captain of the cadets, felt that he was in charge.
"They were sneaking off with the grub and with the girls' wraps," answered Fred. "I spotted them just in the nick of time. Another half minute, and they would have been out of sight."
"We weren't going to take the things away. We were only going to hide 'em," said Gabe Werner. He saw that there was now no chance to run for it, because he and his cronies were completely outnumbered.
"Gee, what an awful smell!" broke suddenly from Randy.
"No cologne there," said Jack.
"Smells like garlic," said one of the other cadets, holding his nose.
"It's onions!" declared Andy emphatically. "I guess I know onions when I smell 'em," he added significantly.
Werner started, and then looked more disturbed than ever, and so did Bill Glutts. Both clapped their hands to their side pockets. Something was soaking through the cloth of their uniforms. The others came closer, and then Andy and Randy set up a roar of laughter.
"Chopped-up onions!" cried the former of the twins. "What do you know about that! They are carrying pockets full of chopped-up onions! Wow!"
"I'll bet I know what they were going to do with those!" declared Randy. "They were going to doctor up our grub with 'em!"
"Well, what if we were?" said Gabe Werner boldly. "Didn't you fellows doctor up our mess kits?"
"Did they have a chance to get at the stuff in the knapsacks?" questioned Jack anxiously.
The girls were now coming up in a bunch, wondering what the disturbance meant. A swift examination proved that Werner and those with him had had no opportunity to disturb the things to eat, nor had they done any harm to the girls' wraps outside of mussing them up a trifle.
"Say, we ought to give those fellows the licking of their lives," declared Fred emphatically. "The idea of wanting to play a joke like that with the girls around!"
"No, we want no fighting to-day," declared Jack. "This affair can wait." He turned to the unworthy ones. "You clear out of here, and be mighty quick about it! We'll settle with you another time."
"Come on—I'm going back to camp!" cried Codfish timidly, and without waiting for a reply he struck off through the woods.
"You needn't think you can boss everything, Jack Rover, even if you are a captain," growled Werner. "On account of the girls, we won't say anything more about it just now. Come on, Bill." And a few seconds later he and his crony followed Codfish, and soon all were out of sight.
For the time being the encounter with the Werner crowd put a damper on the others. But they were young in hearts and spirits, and soon they forgot what had taken place and went back to the front of the cliffs. Here they presently opened up the knapsacks, and the boys allowed the girls to fix the spread for them while they built a small fire in a hollow between the rocks where they made a large pot of chocolate. It is needless to say that all enjoyed the outing very much, and were sorry when it was time to bring it to an end.
When the boys and their visitors had returned to Camp Barlight, and the young cadets had seen the girls safely on their way in the two automobiles, they set out on a hunt for Werner and his crowd. But those unworthies kept well out of sight, only showing themselves at roll call and when it was time to eat, and then disappearing as if by magic.
"They are afraid to meet us," was Fred's comment.
"Well, I'm just as well satisfied," answered Jack. "If we got into a fight it might mean all sorts of trouble for us if Captain Dale or the professors heard of it."
The Rovers were up bright and early the following morning and on the lookout once more for the girls. Soon they came in sight, and then the Rovers, along with Gif and Spouter, got into the two automobiles, and all headed straight for Camp Huxwell.
"My, what a big place!" exclaimed Jack, when, after being inspected, they were permitted to pass through the main gateway.
"I understand they have over twenty-five thousand men here now," said Spouter.
Some bodies of soldiers at a distance were going through various maneuvers, while other bodies still further away were hard at work at bayonet practice, charging and stabbing some sacks of hay hung on long wires. At still another point the soldiers were constructing trenches and dugouts in real military fashion.