"Hi you! be careful back there!" cautioned the driver. "First thing you know, somebody will get pushed out."
"Oh, that will never happen!" cried Gif; but he had scarcely spoken when there came a wild yell from two of the cadets in the back of the box-sled, and the next moment Randy was seen to turn over and pitch out into the snow.
"Stop the sleigh! Stop the sleigh!" yelled Andy. "One man overboard, and no life-line handy!"
"Oh, dear! do you think he is hurt?" questioned May anxiously.
"He looks it!" answered her cousin. "Look out, or you'll get hit;" for scarcely had Randy landed in the snow than he picked himself up and began to make snowballs, which he sent after the sled in rapid succession. In the meantime, the driver had brought the turnout to a halt.
"Stop that, Randy," warned Jack. "You might hit some of the girls."
"No more such horseplay," announced Gif. "It's too dangerous, and, besides that, some of the girls might get hurt. You fellows have got to act like gentlemen. Ahem!" and Gif straightened himself up in imitation of Asa Lemm.
"Please, teacher, can't we act like ladies?" piped out Andy in a thin, effeminate voice.
"You'll remain after school for that, Rover, and recite one hundred lines of Caesar backward," commanded Gif.
"You bet your pink necktie, I'll be backward about reciting the hundred lines!" murmured the fun-loving boy.
The cadets had already arranged it between themselves to stop at a town about twelve miles away. There all hands trooped into a candy store to regale themselves with dainty sandwiches and hot chocolate. Some of the boys also obtained boxes of candy, and also some popcorn and peanuts, as well as apples, and these were passed around.
So far, Jack had had no opportunity to speak to Ruth in private, but while the others were still at the little tables in the rear of the candy shop, he motioned to her, and the pair walked toward the front.
"I want to ask you about the man we rescued in the woods, Ruth," he said. "Probably you know him. His name is Stevenson, although he said he was usually called Uncle Barney by all who knew him."
"Why, can that be possible!" exclaimed the girl in astonishment. "Uncle Barney Stevenson! Why didn't you tell me this before?"
"I'll tell you why," he answered. "I was afraid that possibly it might create some sort of scene. By the way this Barney Stevenson acted, I knew there was something wrong between him and your folks. When I mentioned your father's name, he said he didn't want to hear anything about him—not a word!"
"Poor old man! I am so sorry for him;" and Ruth's manner showed that she spoke the truth.
"Why doesn't he want to hear from your father? But, excuse me, Ruth—maybe that is a private matter."
"I don't know that it is so very private, Jack. And, anyway, I'd like you to know the truth,—otherwise you might get a wrong impression—if you heard the story from outsiders. In a nutshell, the matter is this: Some years ago my father and his Uncle Barney were connected with a certain manufacturing company in which both held a considerable interest. The company went to pieces, and my father and Uncle Barney both lost their money. But my father had other interests which were distantly connected with this company, and in some manner poor old Uncle Barney, who was not much of a business man even though he was a lumberman, got it into his head that my father had, in some manner, gotten the best of him, because my father had money and he had not. Then, in the midst of this trouble, Uncle Barney's wife died. My father was away in the West at the time with my mother, and could not get back in time for the funeral. This made Uncle Barney more bitter than ever, and he refused to listen to any explanations my folks might make. He had made some sort of deal to get possession of Snowshoe Island in Lake Monona, and he retired to the island and became almost a hermit."
"Yes, he told us he lived on the island, and he invited us to come over there, and he would show us some good hunting. I suppose it must be quite a place."
"My father has tried several times to patch up matters with old Uncle Barney, but he will not listen to any explanations. He is rather queer at times, and I suppose he has it strongly fixed in his mind that my father is in some manner responsible for his poverty, and that we think ourselves too high-toned to have anything to do with him, when, as a matter of fact, my folks would be very much pleased to have the old man become friends and live with them."
"Why doesn't your father send him a letter if he won't listen to his talk?"
"He has tried that. And mother has written old Uncle Barney some letters, too, during the last six or eight years. But he is very peculiar, and the letters come back unopened."
"And you really feel that you would like to be on good terms with him?"
"Yes, Jack. My folks would give a good deal to smooth the whole matter over. But, instead of becoming reconciled to the situation, old Uncle Barney apparently is becoming more bitter as time goes by."
"If you and your folks feel that way about it, I'd like very much to meet the old man again and have a talk with him. Of course, he told me that he never wanted to hear your father's name mentioned; but if I got a good chance I might be able to get him to open up and tell me his side of the story. And after he had done that, he might be more willing to listen to what I had to say."
"Oh, Jack! if you ever do get the chance, try to talk to him, by all means, and do what you can to impress it on his mind that my father had nothing to do with the loss of his money, and that my folks would have gone to Mrs. Stevenson's funeral had they been able to do so. And tell him, too, that my father and my mother, and also myself, would be very glad to become friends once more, and that our house will be open to him at any time."
The others of the sleighing party were now coming up, so there was no chance of saying anything further regarding the strange affair.
"Let's return to Haven Point by some other route," suggested Spouter.
"We'll have to ask the driver about the roads first," said Gif.
The driver had gone out to look after his horses. When questioned, he stated that they might return by a roundabout way through the village of Neckbury, but that it might take half an hour or so longer.
"Oh, I guess we've got time enough," said Fred, consulting his watch. "The girls haven't got to get back to Clearwater Hall until supper time, and we can get from one school to the other in a jiffy in the sleigh."
The liveryman was anxious to please the boys and girls, being desirous of getting more business from them in the future, and he readily agreed to take them home by the way of Neckbury, and he also agreed to get them back by the required time.
Once more all bundled into the turnout, and then, with a crack of the whip and a loud tooting of the horns, they started on the return.
"Another song now!" cried Andy, and commenced one of the ditties which at that time was popular at Colby Hall. In this the girls joined, most of them having heard it; and thus the crowd continued to enjoy themselves.
So far, they had met but few turnouts on the road, but now they found that the other route toward Haven Point was more popular, and they passed several farm sleds, and also a number of cutters, and even two automobiles, the latter ploughing along through the snow, using their heavy chains for that purpose.
They were soon mounting a small hill, and the driver allowed the horses to drop to a walk. From the top of the hill they could see for many miles around, with farms dotting one side of the roadway and the other sloping down gradually toward the distant lake.
"I'm afraid we're going to be a little late, after all," announced Gif, as he looked at his timepiece. "You'll have to shake it up a bit, old man," he added to the driver.
"Oh, I'll get you there in time—don't worry," was the ready reply, and then the driver cracked his whip and sent his horses down the other side of the hill at a good rate of speed.
About half way down the long hill there was a turn to the right. Here, on the outer edge of the road, was a gully which the wind of the day previous had partly filled with snow. Just before this bend was gained, those in the box-sled heard the toot of an automobile horn.
"Somebody coming up the hill," said Fatty Hendry, who had resumed his seat beside the driver.
"Confound 'em! and I've got to take the outside of the turn," muttered the liveryman.
"Better be careful—it's none too wide along here," cautioned the fat youth.
The driver was already reining in his steeds, but the slope was considerable, and it was hard to hold them back. The box-sled struck the rear horses in the flanks, and away they went as fast as ever, crowding the horses in front and urging them onward also. Then the on-coming automobile hove in sight, and passed so closely that the driver of the box-sled had to pull still further over to the edge of the highway.
"Look out where you're going!" yelled Jack.
"I told you to be careful——" commenced Fatty, and then clutched at the high seat of the box-sled.
There was a wild scream of alarm and a general confusion among all the young people as the back end of the box-sled slewed around. One corner went down into the gully, and an instant later the box-sled stood up on its side, and girls and cadets went floundering forth into the snow.
A MISHAP ON THE ROAD
"Gracious! where are we going?"
"Get off my head, Randy!"
"Say, Spouter, don't sit down on Ruth that way!"
"Hi! stop the horses, somebody!" screamed Fred, and then he leaped up and clung to the partly overturned box-sled, while Gif and another cadet did the same.
The driver had sensed the coming of the accident, and when the box-sled went over to one side, he had leaped to the other. Now he was standing in the snow with the reins still in his hands and doing his best to quiet the somewhat frightened steeds, which were plunging into each other in anything but an orderly fashion.
Down in the gully the girls and the cadets were having an exciting time of it. Some of the party had plunged almost head first into the snow.
"Come on, boys, help the girls all you can!" came from Jack, as he managed, though not without considerable effort, to bring Ruth to her feet.
Fred and Randy were already assisting May to arise, and soon the other girls and boys were doing what they could to scramble through the deep snow toward the highway. Here there was a slippery slope of several feet.
Jack was the first boy up, and Randy came behind him. Then, while the two Rovers, assisted by Spouter, held fast to each other, they pulled up one girl after another. In the meanwhile, the other cadets made something of a chain, and soon all stood at the spot where the box-sled had overturned.
"All here?" queried Gif.
"I guess so," answered Spouter, knocking some snow from his cap.
The driver of the box-sled, assisted by several of the cadets, had managed to quiet the horses, some of which were inclined to bolt. The box-sled was all right, and the boys picked up what they could of the dry straw, and also shook out and replaced the robes.
"Oh, my, what a dreadful experience!" remarked Annie Larkins.
"Oh, I don't know that it was so very dreadful," returned Ruth. "No one was hurt."
"But we might have been," added Jennie Mason.
"Oh, I thought it was fun," laughed Ruth.
"It was the fault of that auto," grumbled the liveryman, thinking he had to defend himself. "He crowded me too close to the edge of the gully."
"That's just what he did!" cried Fatty. "The fellow who was driving that car ought to be arrested."
"Did you get his number, Fatty?" questioned Fred.
"Get his number? I didn't have time to get anything. He just slid by, and the next thing I knew, I was turning a somersault in the air and diving right down into the bottom of that hole;" and at this remark the other cadets had to smile.
The cadets assisted the girls back into the box-sled, and then they moved off once more, Jack and Gif both cautioning the driver to be careful.
Now that the danger was past, the young folks soon recovered from their scare, and then, to put all in a better humor, Andy started another school song, in which all joined lustily. Thus they soon rolled into town, and a little later came up to the entrance of the Clearwater grounds.
"I've had a perfectly splendid time, in spite of that little mishap," declared Ruth, as she bid Jack good-bye.
"We couldn't have had a nicer afternoon," said May. "You can come around with your box-sled just as often as you please;" and she smiled mischievously, in a way that set Fred's heart to bounding.
As it was growing late, the boys had scant time in which to bid the girls good-bye. Soon they were on the way to Colby Hall, and they told the driver to hurry as much as possible.
"If we're late and Asa Lemm finds it out, he'll certainly punish us in some way," was Randy's comment.
"Well, we're in luck for once," announced Gif. "I heard old Lemon say that he was going away right after lunch and wouldn't be back until to-morrow."
"It seems to me he has been spending quite some time away lately," remarked Spouter. "Not but what I'm perfectly willing that he should absent himself at every possible opportunity. The institution of learning can very well dispense with the services of such an individual as Professor Asa Lemm."
"A little long-winded, Spouter, but you hit the nail on the head," answered Fred. "Old Lemon could quit for good, and I doubt if any of us would shed a tear."
Although the cadets were half an hour late, neither Colonel Colby nor any of the professors who saw them found any fault, and for this they were thankful.
As soon as he had an opportunity to do so, Jack told his cousins about what Ruth had said regarding old Barney Stevenson. They listened to his recital with keen interest.
"He certainly must be a queer stick," was Randy's comment. "Just the same, I'd like to go to Snowshoe Island and visit him."
"Yes, and try the hunting around that neighborhood," added Fred. "According to what that Bill Hobson said, Uncle Barney, as they call him, must be quite a hunter, as well as a lumberman."
"I'd like to have the chance to talk with him," resumed Jack. "From the way Ruth spoke, I'm quite sure her folks are very much put out over the way he is acting."
"I'll tell you what!" put in Andy, "we're going to have an extra long Christmas holiday, and we might get a chance to go over to Snowshoe Island hunting at that time."
"How do you know the holiday is going to be extra long?" queried Fred.
"I heard Professor Brice saying so. It seems they have got to fix some part of the heating plant, which is pretty well worn out, and the furnace man said it would take longer than at first expected. So, instead of closing up for ten days or two weeks at Christmas, they are going to shut down for about three weeks."
"Three weeks! That will give us a nice holiday at home and give us a chance for an outing in the bargain," cried Jack.
Late that evening Slugger Brown and Nappy Martell put in an appearance and were closeted with Colonel Colby for the best part of half an hour. What was said by the master of Colby Hall the other cadets did not learn, but the two new arrivals looked exceedingly meek when they went up to their former rooms. On the following day they met the Rovers, but paid no attention whatever to them.
"Maybe they are going to give us the cold shoulder," remarked Fred.
"Well, that won't hurt me," answered Jack.
Several days went by, and the Rover boys applied themselves closely to their studies, realizing that before long the examinations previous, to the Christmas holidays would take place. They did very well in their recitations, and got along nicely with all the professors except Asa Lemm.
"There is no use of talking—I can't get along with that man!" said Andy one afternoon. He was almost in despair. "If I hadn't just shut my mouth hard when old Lemon lectured me, there would have been an explosion, and I'd have told him just exactly what I think of him—and it wouldn't have been anything that he would want to hear."
"Gif was telling me that Lemm is getting more and more anxious about some of that money he lost years ago."
"Maybe he thought he saw a chance of getting it back, and now it is slipping away from him again, and that is making him more sour than ever," suggested Randy.
"I don't care what is making him so sour—he needn't take it out of me," retorted his twin.
There had been another slight fall of snow, and on Thursday afternoon the cadets of Colby Hall organized a grand snowball match. A fort was built on the top of a little hill in the vicinity, and one crowd of cadets defended this, while the others made an attack. The school flag was hoisted over the fort, and the battle raged furiously for over an hour. Major Ralph Mason was in charge of the fort defenders, while the Rover boys, along with half of the school cadets, composed the attacking party. The fort was captured only after a terrific bombardment with snowballs, and it was Jack who had the pleasure of hauling down the flag.
"Some fight that!" remarked Fred, after the contest was over.
"Almost like a real battle," said Randy. "Just look at my left ear, will you?" and he pointed to that member, which was much swollen. "Got hit there twice—with regular soakers, too."
"Well, that's part of the game, Randy," remarked Jack. He had been hit half a dozen times, but had not minded it in the least.
On the following afternoon the Rover boys visited a long hill in that vicinity, which a number of the cadets were using for coasting purposes. With money sent to them by Jack's father, they had purchased a fine bobsled, and on this they took numerous rides, along with several of their chums.
There were two ways of going down the hill. One was in the direction of Haven Point, and the other wound around a second smaller hill and ended in the pasture lot of an old farmer. This farmer was an Irishman named Mike O'Toole, a pleasant enough individual, who had often given the boys rides on his farm wagon, and who was not averse to selling them fruit, and also milk, when they desired it. He was such a good-natured old man that very few of the cadets ever thought to molest his orchard.
"Say, I've got an idea!" cried Andy suddenly, when he and the other Rovers were riding down into O'Toole's pasture. "Let's go down and have a look at the old man's goats," and he winked knowingly at his twin.
O'Toole had once lived in the city, and there had been the proud possessor of several goats, which he had used in one of the public parks, where they were attached to little wagons in which the children could ride for ten cents per person. O'Toole had brought his goats to the farm with him, and treated them with as much affection as if they were members of his family.
"What have you go up your sleeve, Andy?" questioned Fred, as they got off the bobsled and dragged it behind them toward Mike O'Toole's house. The old Irish farmer and his wife lived alone, having no children and no hired help.
"Oh, I thought we might hire a goat or two to pull the bobsled," was the easy answer.
"To pull the bobsled?"
"To be sure. If those goats can pull wagons, they can certainly pull sleds, too. Then, I thought if we could get the goats to pull us all the way to Colby Hall, it wouldn't be any more than fair to take the goats in out of the cold and treat 'em nicely."
"Oh, I see!" cried Randy, who was listening to his twin's talk. "For instance, we might take the goats into the Hall and up to Professor Lemm's room, eh?"
"You've caught the idea, Randy. What do you think of it?"
"Fine! Couldn't be better!" chuckled the other.
"What's this talk about taking O'Toole's goats to Colby Hall?" demanded Jack.
"Oh, we were thinking Professor Lemm would like to see the goats."
The oldest Rover boy looked stern for an instant, but then his mouth relaxed and he broke into a broad grin.
"Of course, we'll have to be careful how we get the goats into the Hall," he began.
"Hurrah! I knew it would hit you just right, Jack!" cried Andy, slapping his cousin on the shoulder. "Just you wait—we'll make old Lemon sit up and take notice this time!"
"But mum's the word—remember that," cautioned Randy. "If he ever caught us, well—good-night!"
SOMETHING ABOUT TWO GOATS
The four Rover boys were almost up to Mike O'Toole's place when suddenly Jack caught Andy by the shoulder.
"Wait a minute!" he exclaimed.
"What's wrong now?" demanded the fun-loving youth.
"I've just been thinking, Andy. If we take those goats into the Hall and get into any kind of trouble, Professor Lemm will find it an easy matter to learn who got the goats from O'Toole."
"That's right, too!" broke in Fred, in dismay.
"Maybe we can get the goats on the sly," suggested Randy.
"I think that would be the better way to do it," answered Jack. "We can leave a note behind, stating that the goats will be returned, and we can also pay O'Toole something for using his animals."
The boys talked the matter over for several minutes, and then it was decided that Andy and Randy should go ahead and reconnoitre. This they did, and were gone for about ten minutes.
"The coast is clear so far as we can see," announced Randy. "Mike O'Toole and his wife are both in the kitchen of the farmhouse preparing supper.
"And where are the goats?" questioned Fred quickly.
"He keeps them in a little shed off of his barn. Come on, I'll show you," returned Randy.
The other cadets followed him, and they soon reached the place he had mentioned. Here O'Toole kept six goats, and they were found finishing up some food he had evidently given them a short while before.
Two of the billy goats were quite large, one possessing a very fine pair of horns. This one, the boys knew, was called Patrick. The other large goat went by the name of Dan.
"Here is the harness," said Andy, bringing it from some pegs on which it was hanging. "We'll have to do the best we can about hitching 'em up."
While the others were doing this, Jack tore a page from a notebook he carried, and on this, in a large, disguised hand, he wrote the following:
"DEAR MR O'TOOLE:
"We have taken the privilege of using two of your goats until to-morrow. They will be safely returned to you."
"I think we ought to pay him for the use of the animals," said Jack. "A little money will make him feel a great deal better."
"Let's pin two dollars to the note," suggested Fred, and this was done by Jack and the note placed where the Irish farmer would be sure to find it when he came again to tend to his animals.
It was an easy matter for the four boys to get the goats out of the shed, and then they led them to a spot behind some trees where the animals were hitched to the bobsled. Soon they started on the way to Colby Hall.
"Now that we've got possession of the goats, how do you fellows expect to work this stunt?" demanded Fred, as they brought the two goats down to a walk.
"I'll tell you one thing," declared Jack. "If you want to play this trick without the whole school knowing it, you had better reach Colby Hall by the lane that comes up behind the barn."
"Just what I was thinking of doing," answered Andy. "I thought maybe we could stable them in that little toolhouse in the cornfield until we had a chance to get 'em into the Hall."
"That's the talk!" cried Randy. "Of course, we'll have to watch our chance, and not make a mess of it."
The two billy goats had often been harnessed together, so they got along quite amiably on the trip to the Military Academy. They were strong animals, and consequently the boys reached the field behind the barn in ample time to unhitch the goats and place them in the toolhouse that had been mentioned. Then they hurried around to the garage, where they were allowed to store their bobsled, and after that lost no time in getting ready for the evening parade and drill.
Directly after supper was over, the Rovers took Spouter, Gif and Fatty Hendry aside and told them of what was in the wind.
"Oh, say! that's great!" cried Fatty. "Let me have a hand in it, won't you?" He had had a quarrel with Asa Lemm a few days before, and was as sore as any of the other cadets.
"You ought to let us all have a hand in that, Andy," put in Spouter. "I believe every one of us feels the same way when it comes to old Lemon. He may have a vast amount of learning stored in his cranium, but his font of the milk of human kindness is completely dried up. Were he to realize, or have the least conception——"
"Cut it, Spouter!" interposed Gif. "We agree with you—Asa Lemm is the lemon of all lemons, and I for one would like to teach him some kind of lesson."
The matter was talked over for some time, and, as a result, a number of other cadets, including Walt Baxter, Ned Lowe and Dan Soppinger, were let into the secret.
"Some of you will have to keep tab on Lemm while others see if the coast is clear during the time we are trying to get the goats upstairs," announced Randy.
"I don't think we'll have an easy time getting two animals to old Lemon's room," remarked Fred. "However, we'll get 'em up there somehow!"
Dan Soppinger was detailed to locate and watch Asa Lemm, and he soon came back and reported that the professor was sitting in a corner of the school library, making notes from several volumes.
"Well, you watch him, Dan," said Jack, "and if he starts to come upstairs, you let us know at once;" and to this Soppinger agreed.
After the supper hour, the cadets had their usual studying to do, and then came another hour for recreation previous to retiring.
"Now is our time," said Andy, as he threw aside his books and leaped to his feet. "Come on! Everybody on the job!"
The lads had already figured out how they expected to get the goats up to Asa Lemm's room. In the extreme rear of the school building was located an outside fire-escape leading from the third and second floors to the ground. At each floor there was a large doorway with a bolt on the inside. In order to induce the goats to mount the steps of the fire-escape, the boys had provided themselves with some vegetables purloined from the kitchen storeroom. Leaving the others to watch on the fire-escape and in the upper hallway of the school, the Rovers went out to the toolhouse and released the two goats.
"Now then, Patrick and Dan, be good!" said Randy, patting the animals on the neck. And then he handed each of them a small carrot.
With more vegetables displayed close in front of them, the two billy goats mounted the fire-escape quite nimbly, being rewarded with something more to eat when they stood on the landing in front of the door leading into the upper hallway.
"Now if they only don't take it into their heads to let out a loud 'ba' when they get into the hall!" said Fred anxiously.
"We'll feed them something," returned Jack. "That will be sure to keep them quiet," and he passed over some bits of celery he had in his pocket.
A cautious rap on the iron door, and it was unbolted by Walt Baxter, who had been assigned to that duty.
"How about it—is the coast clear?" whispered Andy anxiously.
"I think so; but wait a minute and I'll make sure," whispered Walt in return.
Soon he came back with word from Fatty and Ned that the rear hall of the school was practically deserted. Ned had already tried several keys in the door to Asa Lemm's apartment, and unlocked it.
It was by sheer good luck that the boys managed unobserved to get the two goats into the school through two hallways and at last into the room of the hated professor.
On one side of the professor's bedroom there was a large clothing closet, and in this the two goats were placed.
"Now we'll take off their harness," said Jack. "There is no use in getting that snarled up or damaged."
"I'm going to fix up some new harness for them," announced Randy. "Come on, Andy."
His twin understood, and while the others remained on guard in the hallway, Randy and Andy lost no time in decorating the two goats with various articles of Professor Lemm's wearing apparel. They buttoned a coat around each goat like a blanket, and got a bright green sweater over one goat's head and around his neck. Then they found a number of used neckties in a chiffonier, and these were tied on the goat's legs and horns.
"They sure do look like some goats now!" cried Andy gaily. Then the animals were shoved back into the closet and the door closed.
"Is the coast still clear?" asked Randy, as they came out of the bedroom.
"It is. But I don't think Lemm will stay downstairs much longer," answered Jack.
"Will you fellows come down again? I've got another idea!" burst out Randy. "Come on—quick!"
Not knowing what was in the wind, the others followed him through the hallway and down the fire-escape once more. Then he led them to a place behind the garage. Here were a number of flat boxes, which, in the springtime, had been used for raising plants. These boxes had had a small amount of water in them, and were now filled with thin sheets of ice.
"Let's take a few of those sheets of ice upstairs," said Randy. "They'll fit in very nicely between the sheets on old Lemon's bed."
All of the others caught at the suggestion with avidity, and in a very few minutes each of the boys was mounting the fire-escape once again, this time with a large sheet of ice, not unlike a heavy pane of glass, under his arm.
"I've got a scheme," suggested Andy, with a broad grin. "We'll place three of the sheets of ice in his bed under the sheet, and the others on the floor here right in front of the door. Then he'll have a chance to slide into the room."
"Wow! and maybe it won't be some slide!" chuckled Walt Baxter.
The sheets of ice were soon placed in the bed and covered with some of the bedspreads, and the others were disposed on the hardwood floor directly in front of the door inside the room. Then the cadets turned out the lights, locked the door as before, and hurried away.
It was less than five minutes later when Dan Soppinger came rushing upstairs, whistling in a peculiar manner. This was a signal that danger was at hand.
"He just put the books away, and he's gathering up his papers," announced Dan. "I think he'll be upstairs in a few minutes more."
"All right, Dan, we're ready for him," announced Randy. "Now then, fellows, if there isn't some fun when Asa Lemm enters his room, then I miss my guess."
The joke that was to come off seemed to be too good to keep, and as a consequence, after a hurried consultation, about a dozen other cadets were let into the secret. All watched eagerly for the coming of Professor Lemm, and there was a low whistle of warning went from room to room when the hated teacher was seen to be mounting the stairs.
As was quite usual with him, Asa Lemm was not in good humor. He had been hunting up a number of references in the library without his usual success.
"This job of teaching is getting worse and worse," he grumbled to himself. "It's too bad that I've got to waste my time on these boys. If I could only get back some of that money I lost, I wouldn't spend another hour over this tiresome task," and he heaved a deep sigh. The loss of his little fortune was the one great sore spot with him.
He came swinging through the hall with long, rapid strides, and as he did so the Rovers and their friends watched him from various doorways and side halls. They saw him unlock his door and throw it open. The next instant came a sudden yell of alarm, and then a tremendous bump. Asa Lemm's feet had struck the sheets of ice on the floor, and they had gone out from under him very suddenly, letting him down flat on his back.
"Hi! hi! what's the meaning of this?" spluttered the teacher; and then, as his hand struck the icy coldness of what was beneath him, he gave another cry. "Ice! What does this mean? Can the water pipes have burst and flooded the room?"
Not without difficulty he managed to regain his feet, and then started to walk to where he could turn on the lights. But again he slipped, and this time he came up against a small table piled high with books and sent this over with a crash.
"Gee! he's sure enjoying himself!" chuckled Andy.
"Come on, fellows, let's see what all the noise is about!" exclaimed Jack in a loud voice. "Something dreadful must be going on in Professor Lemm's room."
"What's the matter—is somebody getting killed?" called out Randy.
"It isn't a fire, is it?" broke in Walt Baxter, catching the cue.
"Sounds to me as if somebody was pulling the school down," was Spouter's contribution.
"Everybody to the rescue!" yelled Ned Lowe.
These cries, combined with the noise which was coming from Asa Lemm's apartment, caused such a commotion that soon fully a score of other cadets showed themselves in the hallway.
"What's the matter?" questioned Slugger Brown, who had just been on the point of retiring, and who was in his pajamas and slippers.
"Something going on in Professor Lemm's room," answered Nappy Martell, who had been with him, and who was similarly attired.
By this time Professor Lemm had managed to regain his feet a second time, but the broken sheets of ice were now all over the floor of his room, and just as he managed to turn on the lights he slipped once more, this time sending a chair spinning against the closet door.
"It's ice—it's ice, and nothing else!" he ejaculated, as he gazed in wonder at the floor. "Now, how did that come here? I don't see any broken water pipe." Then, of a sudden, his face took on a dark look. "It's those boys—confound them! If I can catch them, I'll make them suffer for this!"
THE JOKE ON ASA LEMM
"Let's go in and see what's the matter with the poor man," suggested Andy.
"That's right—maybe he's got a fit."
"Something has happened to Professor Lemm!" yelled one of the other cadets.
By this time the commotion had attracted the attention of nearly everybody in the school, and teachers and cadets came running from all directions, and even some of the hired help from the kitchen came up the back stairs, wondering what had gone wrong. Then the bunch of boys, led by the Rovers, suddenly threw open the door which led to Asa Lemm's room. It was at this instant that the astonished and bewildered professor was making his way toward the closet door. A strange thumping had reached his ears.
"I knew it—it's some of those boys, and more than likely one of them got locked into the closet by his fellows. I'll soon find out who he is and make him tell me who is responsible for this outrage!"
The door had been locked by Randy, but the key was in it, and readily turned. Then Professor Lemm flung the door open viciously.
"You rascals, I'll teach you to play tricks on me!" he began, as in the somewhat dim light he made out what he thought were the forms of two crouching boys. Then he let out a sudden yell of alarm as one of the crouching figures launched itself forward at him. The figure was that of Patrick, the larger of the goats.
Bewildered by the confinement, and not at all liking the way in which he had been dressed up, the big billy goat hurled himself straight at the teacher. He struck Asa Lemm fairly and squarely in the stomach, bowling him over as if he were a tenpin. Then he made another leap, and landed on the top of the bed, where he gazed around, not knowing which way to turn next.
"Oh my! look at what Professor Lemm has in his room!" piped up Andy.
Asa Lemm had rolled over and was now trying to get up, but just as he raised himself on his hands and knees, he struck some of the sliding sheets of ice, and down he went once more, this time directly in front of the other goat, which promptly proceeded to leap on top of him.
"Hi! get off of me, you rascal!" spluttered the professor, and thrashed around wildly. "Get off of me! Who are you, anyway?" and then, as he got a better sight of the animal, which at that moment leaped up on the bed beside his mate, he turned and sat up in amazement.
"A goat! Two goats! How did they get here?"
"What do you know about this? Professor Lemm is keeping goats in his room!" cried Jack.
These and a score of other cries rent the air, while all the cadets crowded into the doorway of the room to see what was going on. In the bunch of boys were Slugger Brown and Nappy Martell, and it must be confessed that these two unworthies were enjoying the scene quite as much as anybody.
"I'll fix some of you for this!" roared Asa Lemm, as he struggled to his feet, slipping around and clutching the end of his bed as he did so. "I'll have some of you suspended! Where is Colonel Colby? Send for Colonel Colby at once!"
Evidently Patrick, the larger goat, did not like the looks of the irate teacher, who was now shaking his fists at the grinning cadets. Suddenly the goat made another leap, this time striking Asa Lemm in the shoulder, and once more the professor went down, this time with his feet sliding directly under the bed, so that he became somewhat wedged in from his waist down. Then the goat made another leap and charged toward the door to the hallway.
"Look out!" warned Jack, and was just in time to push Fred out of danger. Then the goat made a rush, and the next minute came full tilt into Slugger Brown, sending the bully crashing into those behind him. The second goat also leaped from the bed, and made for the doorway, hitting Martell as he passed.
"Look out for the battering-ram!"
"This is only a battering goat—but it's just as bad!" yelled Andy. "Go it, goat! Go it!" he added gleefully.
Both goats did "go it." They raced through the hallway, knocking down cadets right and left. One younger boy, named Stowell, but who was always called Codfish by the others because of his unusually broad mouth, was attacked at the head of the stairs and sent hurtling down to the bottom.
"Oh! oh! I'm killed! He has knocked me to pieces!" yelled Codfish.
With the two goats racing around the school, the excitement increased. But gradually the goats were driven by the Rovers to a lower hallway, and then toward a side door, which Jack and Fred lost no time in opening.
"Get them out of here as quick as you can. We don't want them to be captured," whispered Jack to his cousins. "We don't want old Lemon to know they are Mike O'Toole's animals."
"Stop those goats! I don't want them to get away!" yelled Asa Lemm, from the upper hallway. But the goats were already outside.
"Oh gee! we forgot one thing—I mean several things!" gasped Andy. "The goats are dressed up in old Lemon's clothes!"
"Gracious! why didn't we think of that?" gasped Randy. "We can't let 'em run away with all that stuff!"
"I'll go after them and see if I can stop them," said Jack.
"Want me to go with you?" questioned Walt.
"If you will, Walt. Maybe it will take two of us to manage the goats." And then Jack and Walt hurried off and the others returned to see what would happen next.
Fortunately for the boys who had gone after them, the goats did not run very far. Jack had a few more vegetables left in his pocket, and with these in his hand he walked cautiously up to the animals, which had run down to a corner of the campus.
"Hurrah! I've got one of them!" cried the Rover boy presently, as he caught Patrick by the horns. "Now, Walt, see if you can hold the other, and we'll take these things off of them."
Now that they were once more in the open air, the goats appeared to be quite docile, and consequently the two cadets had little difficulty in disrobing them.
"Why don't you return the goats to O'Toole while you are at it?" suggested Walt, after the wearing apparel had been placed in a small bundle.
"I'd do it if I had their harness, Walt."
"Want me to go back for it?"
"If you will."
"All right, I'll do it. And give me that bundle. I'll smuggle it into the school somehow and watch my chance to leave it in old Lemon's room." Evidently the son of Dan Baxter was as bold as his father had ever been before him.
So it was arranged, and a minute later Walt disappeared into the school building. He was gone the best part of five minutes, and then came running across the school campus, carrying the goats' harness under his sweater.
"Gee, but they are having a peach of a time in the school," he announced. "Asa Lemm is quarreling with Colonel Colby, who came over from his rooms. He wants to have half the school arrested on account of the goats and the ice."
"What did you do with the bundle?"
"Oh, say—that was easy! All the crowd were around old Lemon and the colonel discussing the matter, so I slipped behind them and threw the bundle in the corner of Lemon's room."
The two Rovers lost no time in placing a little of the harness on the goats—just sufficient to drive them.
"Now, you needn't go with me, Walt, unless you want to. I can get these goats to O'Toole's alone."
"Oh, I'd just as lief keep you company," answered the other cheerfully.
Urging the two goats before them, the pair made off down the hill in the direction of the O'Toole farm. The animals seemed to know the way home, and kept up a brisk pace.
"Now then, we had better go a bit slow," announced Jack, when they came in sight of the buildings. "Maybe O'Toole has discovered the absence of the goats, and is on the watch for us."
This warning, however, was unnecessary, for the old Irish farmer and his wife had retired for the night, doing this without being aware of what had taken place among their live stock.
Cautiously the two cadets opened the goat stable and led the animals inside. Then, while Walt lit a couple of matches, Jack managed to place the goats where they had been before, and also put the harness away.
"I don't think I'll leave that note, or the money either," he said. "Maybe it will be as well if O'Toole never knows that the goats were out. I don't think the experience did them any harm. If it did, we can settle with O'Toole later;" and he pocketed the note he had previously written, and also the money. Then the two cadets lost no time in hurrying back to Colby Hall.
In the meantime, what Walt had said about the commotion going on at the school was true.
"I tell you, sir, it's a perfect outrage!" bawled Asa Lemm at the top of his lungs. "An outrage, sir, and I demand satisfaction!"
"Please do not become so excited, Professor," responded Colonel Colby. "We must try to get at the bottom of this matter. You say there is ice on the floor of your room?"
"Yes, sir; a perfect pond of ice!"
"Did somebody flood your floor and then freeze it?" questioned the master of the Hall in wonder.
"I don't know how it was done. But it was done, and I nearly broke my neck the minute I entered the room. It was disgraceful! I never saw anything to equal it!" and Asa Lemm's face was fairly purple with rage.
"And what about those goats?"
"They were locked up in my closet and dressed up in some clothing—my clothing, I suppose."
"Then, when they ran out of the building, they must have taken your clothing with them."
"More than likely. Oh, it's shameful!" and the irate professor shook his fists in his rage.
"Where are the goats now?"
"I don't know, and I don't care."
"One of those goats knocked me flat," growled Slugger Brown.
"Yes, and he biffed me one, too," came from Nappy Martell.
"Let us go and make an investigation, Professor Lemm," remarked Colonel Colby. "I will accompany you to your room," for they were now near the stairway which the goats had descended.
The pair proceeded to the apartment, followed by some of the other teachers and nearly all of the cadets. By this time much of the ice on the floor had melted, forming little pools of muddy water.
"We had better have this cleaned up at once," said Colonel Colby, and turned to one of the teachers. "Order some of the hired help up here, please;" and the teacher hurried off to execute the errand.
While Colonel Colby was looking at the ice and the water, Asa Lemm chanced to glance in a corner. Then he strode forward and caught up the bundle Walt Baxter had flung there.
"What is that?" questioned the master of the Hall. And then, as the professor undid the bundle, he continued: "Is that your clothing?"
"I—I think it is," faltered Asa Lemm. "Yes, sir."
"Did they undress the animals before they let them go?" queried the master of the school, and, if the truth must be told, he had all he could do to keep a straight face. He could not help but remember some of the pranks he had played himself while a cadet at Putnam Hall.
"I don't know anything about this, Colonel Colby. But these are my things," and, catching up the bundle, Asa Lemm flung it into the clothing closet. He continued to storm around, demanding that some of the boys be punished for what had occurred. While this was going on, two of the hired help came up from the kitchen with pails and mops, and presently succeeded in cleaning up the floor. Two rugs which had been lying there were taken away to be dried.
"I think we had better let this matter rest until morning," said Colonel Colby finally. "It is too late to start an investigation now. I wish all of you to retire at once," he commanded, to the amused cadets.
"Some one is going to suffer for this," growled Asa Lemm.
"I shall do what I can for you, Professor," announced the master of the Hall, and then he moved away, scattering the cadets before him.
Most of the boys retired to their rooms smiling broadly to themselves, for nearly all of them had enjoyed the joke greatly.
"But it isn't over yet," whispered Andy to his immediate friends. "There is more to come. Just watch and see!"
IN COLONEL COLBY'S OFFICE
As soon as Jack and Walt returned to Colby Hall, they hurried up to the rooms occupied by the Rover boys. They found Jack's cousins present, and also Gif, Spouter and several others.
"We had the best luck ever!" declared Jack, and related how they had managed to get the goats back to Mike O'Toole's stable without the Irish farmer being aware of what had happened.
"Say, that's fine!" burst out Andy.
"We want to be on the watch," remarked Randy. "Old Lemon will be going to bed pretty soon, and we want to find out just how comfortable he finds his bed," and he grinned.
Word had been passed around to about a dozen of the cadets, and as soon as the school had quieted down and the others had retired to their rooms, these cadets came forth into the halls on tiptoes and made their way noiselessly in the direction of the apartment occupied by Asa Lemm.
"He's arranging that clothing in his closet," announced Andy, after peering through the keyhole in the door. "He's partly undressed, so I guess he'll go to bed pretty soon."
There was a short silence, and then the boys heard the bed creak as Professor Lemm got into it. An instant later came a cry of rage.
"What's this? More ice, I declare! The bed is sopping wet! Oh, those young rascals!" for Asa Lemm had thrown himself down beneath the spread under which had been placed several sheets of thin ice. A large portion of the ice had melted, and the sheets were as wet as they were cold. As a consequence, his pajamas were pretty well soaked, and he shivered as he threw the covers back and bounced to his feet.
"He's enjoying it all right enough," whispered Andy.
"Hang those boys!" roared the irate teacher. "Oh, what I wouldn't do to them if I had them here!" He hopped around the room first on one foot and then on the other, shivering as he did so. As was usual, the steam throughout the building had been turned off some time before, so that the apartment was quite cold.
"We had better scatter," warned Jack. "He may open the door at any instant and find us here."
"Right you are!" answered Randy, and then, unable to resist the temptation, he bent down and shouted through the keyhole: "Pleasant dreams, Professor! I hope you enjoyed the ice-water!"
Then all of the cadets fled to their rooms, and in less than five minutes each of them was undressed and safe in bed.
If ever there was an angry man, it was Asa Lemm at that particular moment. He had to change all his night clothing, and then don a bathrobe and slippers and go down below once more and get some of the hired help to clean up his room and take away the wet mattress of his bed. A dry mattress was substituted from a vacant bedroom, but it was all of half an hour before this work was accomplished; and in the meantime the professor stormed around, threatening about everything he could imagine.
"I'll have the law on them! I'll have every one of them locked up!" he said to Colonel Colby. "It's an outrage that I should be treated in this fashion."
"It is certainly a most unpleasant occurrence, Professor," agreed the master of the Hall. "But boys will be boys—you know that as well as I do. I can remember when I went to school, I loved to play practical jokes, and they were not always kindly jokes, either. But as for having these boys arrested, or anything of that sort, that, I think, would be going too far. We can punish them enough right here—that is, provided we can find out who they are."
"I don't believe in such jokes!"
"Neither do I—now that I have grown older. But I did believe in them when I was a boy."
"The trouble with this school is, the discipline is not strict enough," snapped Asa Lemm. "If we are not more strict, the cadets will degenerate into nothing but rowdies and hoodlums."
"I think I am the best judge of how discipline should be maintained in this institution," responded Colonel Colby, with dignity. "I will take this matter up in the morning and do my best to sift it to the bottom. Now I think we had better retire, as it is growing late," and thereupon he returned to his own rooms.
"I think that was the best joke we ever played," remarked Andy, when he and the other Rovers were dressing on the following morning.
"It sure did count one against old Lemon," chuckled Randy.
"Yes. And to think the way Slugger and Nappy were knocked over by the goats too!" broke in Fred.
"I'll bet they're mad over that," observed Jack. "More than likely, it will make them take a hand in assisting Lemm to find out who was guilty. We'll have to be on our guard against them."
"Did anybody see you making off with the goats?" queried Randy suddenly.
"I don't think so," answered Jack. But in this surmise he was mistaken; one cadet had seen Walt Baxter hurrying from the school with goats' harness under his sweater, and this youth had, from a safe distance, watched Jack and Walt place some of the harness on the goats and drive them off in the direction of Mike O'Toole's farm.
This cadet was Codfish, who was always sneaking around, trying to pick up information that did not rightly belong to him.
"Ha, ha!" said the little sneak to himself, after Walt and Jack had disappeared. "Now I know who was responsible for bringing those goats into the school."
At first the sneak thought he would report the matter to either Asa Lemm or Colonel Colby, but as he was not in particularly good favor with the professor on whom the joke had been played, he thought it might be as well for him to wait and think the matter over.
"Maybe I had better tell Slugger and Nappy first and see what they've got to say about it," he reasoned. He went to the bully and his crony with everything.
He dressed early, and then went over to Nappy's room, where he found the cronies together, just as he had surmised. They were talking over the affair of the night before and wondering who could be guilty.
"I've got some news," announced Codfish.
"What news?" demanded Nappy.
"It's very important," went on the little cadet. "If I tell you will you promise not to give me away?"
"Is it about last night's affair, Cod?" demanded Slugger quickly.
"Now look here, Slugger! You promised not to call me Cod any more," pleaded the sneak.
"All right, Henry. That was merely a slip of the tongue," returned the bully good-naturedly. He knew exactly how to handle such a fellow as Stowell. "Now tell us what you've got on your mind."
"Will you promise not to give me away?"
"Sure!" came from both of the others promptly.
"Well then, I know who brought those two goats into the school last night," announced Codfish proudly; and thereupon, being urged to do so by the others, he told of what he had seen.
"I knew the Rovers were mixed up in that!" cried Slugger.
"And I've noticed that Walt Baxter has been training with them. More than likely it was the work of the whole Rover crowd," announced Nappy.
"Don't you think we ought to let Colonel Colby know about this?" questioned Codfish anxiously. It was his delight to get other cadets into trouble and see them suffer, but he always wanted to keep his own actions dark for fear his schoolmates might turn on him and start in to "square up."
"Of course we ought to let Colonel Colby know about this—and Professor Lemm too," answered Nappy. "The question is, how can we do it without getting mixed up in it ourselves?"
"We might send a note to Colonel Colby," suggested the sneak.
The matter was talked over for several minutes, and then it was decided that two notes should be written and one delivered to Colonel Colby and the other to Asa Lemm.
"Who is going to write the notes?" questioned Codfish.
"You can do that, Henry," said the bully quickly. He had not forgotten how the anonymous letter he had once sent out had been traced back to him, in spite of the disguised handwriting.
"Oh, I couldn't do that!" answered Stowell in alarm. And he shook his head vigorously.
"Yes, you can!" broke in Nappy. And thereupon, somewhat against his will, Codfish penned the two notes in as much of a disguised hand as was possible for him.
"But I'm not going to deliver the notes," he warned feebly. "You two have got to do that much."
"All right, we will," answered Slugger. He turned to his crony. "You slip one of them under Professor Lemm's door, and I'll place the other on Colonel Colby's desk."
"All right, but be careful."
"Bet your life!"
Asa Lemm was just finishing his morning toilet and grumbling over the happenings of the night, when he chanced to glance toward the door of his room, and at that moment saw a letter thrust under it. He stared for an instant in amazement, and then rushed forward and threw the door wide open. But his movement, quick as it was, came too late, for Nappy Martell had already slipped around a corner and made his escape. Taking up the letter, the professor read the contents with great interest. The communication ran as follows:
"DEAR PROFESSOR LEMM:
"If you want to know more about the trouble last night, ask John Rover and Walter Baxter. They had the two billy goats. I think you will find that all of the Rovers and the boys who go with them were in this joke.
"One Who Knows."
"So that's who is guilty!" muttered the teacher, after reading the letter a second time. "The Rovers, eh? I might have known it because of the trouble I have had with them in the classroom. And I remember now that I have also had trouble with that Baxter boy. I must see Colonel Colby about this at once."
The professor hurried downstairs, and found that Colonel Colby had entered his office but a few minutes before, and was perusing the communication left there secretly by Slugger Brown.
"I have found out who was guilty last night," snapped Asa Lemm, as he flourished the letter in his hand.
"Did you receive an anonymous communication?" demanded the master of the Hall.
"I did, sir. But what makes you ask that question?"
"I have such a communication myself," and Colonel Colby indicated the epistle.
"We must punish those rascals, sir!"
"First I want to find out if there is any truth in these letters," answered Colonel Colby. "Very frequently anonymous communications cannot be relied upon."
"Oh, I haven't the least doubt but what Rover and Baxter are guilty!" exclaimed Asa Lemm quickly. "I've had trouble in the classroom with them, and also with the other Rovers. I should not be surprised if the whole crowd had something to do with it."
"I will send for Rover and Baxter."
It must be confessed that Jack was somewhat surprised when one of the assistants came to him and told him he was wanted immediately in the office.
"Gee! this looks bad!" cried Randy.
"Want any of us to go with you?" questioned Fred quickly.
"No; I can face the music alone," answered the oldest Rover boy.
He arrived at the office just as another assistant was bringing in Walt Baxter. The two exchanged glances, but said nothing. But the glance given Walt meant, "Keep mum," and the other understood and nodded slightly.
"So here you are, eh?" cried Asa Lemm, before Colonel Colby had a chance to say a word. "I thought I'd catch you!"
"Excuse me, Professor Lemm, but I wish you would allow me to conduct this examination," put in Colonel Colby a trifle stiffly. If the truth must be told, the overbearing manner of the teacher was not any more to the liking of the master of the Hall than it was to the cadets. Yet, Asa Lemm had come well recommended, and Colonel Colby did not wish to pass hasty judgment on him.
"Yes, sir," returned the professor. "But please remember I have suffered greatly, and I demand satisfaction."
"I have sent for you cadets in order to clear up the affair that happened last night," began Colonel Colby, ignoring Asa Lemm's last remark. "I have been given to understand that you were the two to bring those goats into the Hall. Am I right?"
"I did not bring the goats into the Hall," returned Walt Baxter promptly. "Just the same, I guess I'm as guilty as anybody," he added quickly, not wishing to shirk responsibility.
"I was one of the cadets who brought the goats into the Hall, Colonel Colby," answered Jack promptly.
"Baxter did not assist in bringing them into the Hall?"
"But you were not alone, Rover?"
"Who was with you in this escapade?"
"I prefer not to answer that question, Colonel Colby."
"Make him answer! Make him answer!" stormed Asa Lemm. "You young rascal! I'll teach you to play tricks on me!" and he shook his fist in Jack's face.
"Professor Lemm, I'll thank you to be less violent," interrupted Colonel Colby. "This examination must be held in an orderly fashion. You say you were not alone, Rover. Will you tell me how many were mixed up in this affair?"
Jack thought for a moment. "Do you mean the whole happening in Professor Lemm's room?"
"Oh, there were eight or ten of us—maybe more. Of course, some had more to do with it than others," responded Jack.
"Eight or ten of you!" gasped Asa Lemm. "As many as that?" And his face showed his surprise. He had imagined that possibly only the Rover boys and Walt Baxter were guilty.
"Are you quite sure you don't want to mention any names, Rover?" asked Colonel Colby again.
"No, Colonel. And if you were in my position, I do not think you would want to mention any of them either," added Jack, looking the master of the Hall squarely in the eyes.
"We won't discuss that side of the question." Colonel Colby turned to Walt Baxter. "How about you? Do you care to say who was mixed up in this affair?"
"No, sir," was the prompt response.
"Make them tell! Make them tell!" exclaimed Asa Lemm. "Punish them severely! Put them in the guardhouse on bread and water until they are willing to divulge the names of all the rascals who were mixed up in these outrageous proceedings."
"I am not going to make them tell if they won't do it on their own account," was Colonel Colby's answer. As a cadet at Putnam Hall, he had never had any use for a tale bearer.
"Then I'll take the law in my own hands!" cried Asa Lemm vindictively. "I'll go down to Haven Point and make a complaint and have them both arrested!"
ASA LEMM IS DISMISSED
While the examination of Jack and Walt was taking place in the office, the other Rovers and their chums held a meeting in Randy's room.
"What do you suppose this means—calling Jack and Walt down to the colonel's office?" remarked Fred anxiously. He had just been informed by Dan Soppinger about Walt.
"It was Jack and Walt who took those goats back. Maybe somebody spotted them," suggested Spouter.
The discussion lasted for some minutes and grew quite warm, and then Andy leaped up.
"I know what I'm going to do!" he said. "I'm going below and try to find out just what it means."
"And so am I," added Fred and Randy quickly.
"We'll all stand by him," announced Spouter. "Of course, you fellows brought the goats here, but I think we had as much to do with the rest of it as any of you."
Andy hurried off, and lost no time in making his way to the door of Colonel Colby's private office. The door had been left slightly ajar, so it was an easy matter for him to take in most of what was said.
"Gracious! this certainly is growing serious," he murmured to himself, when Asa Lemm made the declaration that he would go down to Haven Point and have Jack and Walt arrested. "I guess I had better let the others know about it," and he scurried upstairs again.
"Oh, Andy! do you suppose old Lemon will really have them locked up?" questioned Fred anxiously, after being told of what was taking place below.
"I don't think he would dare to do it," announced Spouter.
"I move we all go down and take a hand in this!" cried Gif. "There is no fairness in letting Jack and Walt suffer for what we did."
Several other cadets had drifted in, those who had either been on the watch while the joke was being prepared or who had assisted in placing the sheets of ice on the floor and in the bed, and all agreed that the crowd had better stand together when it came to acknowledging what had been done.
"Forward march!" cried Gif, who, as a leader in athletics, took it upon himself to manage the affair. "Come on now—and no shirking!"
Braced up by numbers, all of the cadets fell in readily with this plan, and as a consequence there were ten boys led by Gif and the Rovers who marched down to the office.
"We'll enter by column of twos," announced Gif. "March in in regular military fashion," he added, and then knocked upon the office door.
Colonel Colby was doing what he could to question Jack and Walt on one hand, while trying to make Asa Lemm keep quiet on the other, when the others arrived. The master of the Hall was having no easy time of it, because Professor Lemm seemed to be growing more and more excited.
"I'll have the law on them, I tell you!" he cried. "They ought to go to state's prison for this!"
"Please be quiet just a minute, Professor," remonstrated Colonel Colby. Then came the knock on the door, and the colonel flung it open, not at all pleased over the interruption.
"Wha—what does this mean?" gasped Asa Lemm, as he saw the double row of cadets filing in.
"Colonel Colby, we have come to report," announced Gif, saluting.
"Please allow me to be the spokesman, Gif," pleaded Randy, stepping to the front. And then, before his school chum could speak, he continued: "Colonel Colby, we have come to give ourselves up."
"Give yourselves up! What do you mean, Rover?"
"We were all in this lark together, sir."
"And if there is to be any punishment we want to stand for our share of it," added Andy.
"I think we Rover boys were more to blame than the others," put in Fred.
"You see, Professor Lemm is down on us, and we thought we had to do something to get square," Andy endeavored to explain.
"He doesn't treat us fairly in the classroom!" cried Spouter.
"If he wasn't here we'd get along without any trouble whatever," piped up a voice in the rear.
It must be confessed that the sudden entrance of the ten cadets, and what they had to say concerning the joke that had been played, somewhat stumped the master of the Hall. As for Asa Lemm, for the moment he was dumbfounded; but then his natural antipathy to boys asserted itself, and he glared at them viciously.
"So you were all in it, eh?" he snarled. "I might have known as much. You are all a pack of rowdies! You are not fit to associate with respectable people!"
"Professor Lemm, I do not wish you to address our cadets in such a manner," said Colonel Colby sternly. "These young gentlemen are not rowdies, even though they have played a joke which was not particularly nice. I do not uphold them in the least in what they have done, but, at the same time, I cannot help but remember that they are only boys, and that boys are sometimes very thoughtless."
"Thoughtless! They think too much! I tell you, sir, they are a pack of rowdies, and unless you punish them, and punish them severely, I shall take the matter in my own hands and have them arrested."
"If you do anything of that sort, Professor Lemm, we will have to dispense with your services in this school," announced Colonel Colby flatly. He was growing weary of the irate teacher's manner.
A strenuous half hour followed, everybody present forgetting all about roll call and breakfast. Colonel Colby did what he could in questioning all of the cadets regarding the occurrences of the night before, but was continually interrupted by the unreasonable teacher. Finally he could stand it no longer, and turned to the professor with all the dignity he could command.
"Professor Lemm, I have stood enough," he said in a cold, hard voice, which instantly commanded attention. "I want no more such language from you. You may go to your breakfast, and I will conduct this examination alone, and will see you about it before we begin the day's session in the school. And, in the meantime, allow me to impress upon you that it is all nonsense to talk about having any of these boys arrested. They have done nothing that warrants arrest, and if you attempt anything of that sort, you will not only make yourself ridiculous, but you might place yourself open to a suit for damages. Now, please leave this office."
"I'll see about this! I'll see about this!" snapped the unreasonable teacher, and left the office in anything but a dignified fashion.
As soon as Professor Lemm had gone, the master of the Hall questioned the boys closely concerning, not only the affair of the night before, but also about the troubles they had had with the teacher, both in the classroom and elsewhere. This was the first time the boys had had a chance to "get one in on old Lemon," as Andy afterwards declared, and they did not mince matters in telling of the many trials and tribulations which Asa Lemm had caused them. It is barely possible that some of the complaints were overdrawn, yet there was such a unanimity of opinion concerning Professor Lemm's harshness that Colonel Colby was quite impressed.
"Now I want to ask you boys a question, and I want you to answer it honestly," said Colonel Colby toward the close of the examination. "Would you have played such a trick as this upon any of the other professors?"
"I wouldn't," answered Randy quickly.
"Nor I," came from Fred and Andy.
"I'd never dream of playing such a trick on anybody but a man like Professor Lemm," announced Jack. The others also agreed that it was not likely any such joke would have been played on anybody else in the Hall.
"Then, evidently, none of you likes Professor Lemm," said Colonel Colby slowly.
To this there was no reply, but the look on the faces of the various cadets showed the master of the Hall that he had struck the truth.
"Now I'm going to ask you boys another question," he went on, after a pause, and there was a faint smile on his face when he spoke. "Don't you think you ought to be punished for what you have done?"
For a moment there was another silence. Then Jack spoke up.
"In one way, yes, sir; but in another, no," he replied. "Professor Lemm treated us very unjustly in the classroom in making us stay in and making us do extra lessons, and we didn't know of any other way to get square with him."
"Looks to me as if we got our punishment before we played the joke," said Andy, and this reply made some of the cadets grin.
Colonel Colby looked out of the window, which faced the snow-covered campus. Although the boys did not know it, he hardly knew what to say or do. He realized that he could not pass over the occurrence without punishing the lads, and yet he could see their point of view—that Asa Lemm had been the first at fault in not treating them fairly during classes.
"Order has got to be maintained in this school," he said finally, as he faced them. "If we did not have order, the whole institution would go to pieces. That is my first point. My second is that two Wrongs have never yet made a Right, and instead of taking matters into your own hands, as you did, after having trouble with Professor Lemm, you should have come to me and told me what was wrong.
"I shall take this matter up later, after I have had an opportunity to make further inquiries concerning your conduct. In the meantime, you may go to breakfast, and then to your classes;" and thus he dismissed them.
Of course, as soon as the boys were by themselves, they began to discuss the situation from every possible angle. Several wanted to know how it was that the master of the Hall had learned that Jack and Walt were guilty.
"Somebody sent Colonel Colby a note about us. I saw it on his desk," answered Jack.
"Yes, and Asa Lemm had another note just like it," added Walt. "Some sneak in this school must have watched us, and then sent the notes."
Much to the cadets' relief, they did not see Asa Lemm in the messroom. Nor did the language teacher show himself during the morning session.
"Perhaps he's having another talk with Colonel Colby," suggested Fred.
The youngest Rover was right. The unreasonable teacher was closeted with the master of the Hall for over an hour, and during that time much of what had been told by the cadets was threshed over. Asa Lemm was as unreasonable as ever, and finally Colonel Colby lost all patience with him.
"I am afraid, Professor Lemm, that you are not suited to be a teacher in this institution," he said. "Your actions here show that you are very irritable and unreasonable. After you left this office, I questioned all of those cadets closely, and all had practically the same story to tell; namely, that you had required more than was fair of them in your classes, and that, on the slightest pretext, you had punished them by making them stay in and do extra lessons. I went into many of the details, and I am convinced that in a good proportion of the cases the students were right and you were wrong. Now, I regret this very much, because I realize that——"
"Sir, I don't want to be talked to in this fashion!" cried Asa Lemm, bridling up. "I was not in the wrong at all. Those boys are regular imps! They don't know how to treat a teacher decently! I won't stand for their nonsense! I want them severely punished, or else——"
"Wait a moment, Professor Lemm," interrupted the colonel, rising and facing him sternly. "I said I was sorry, and I am; but I feel that you are not the man to teach in this institution, and consequently I must ask you for your resignation. I will pay you your salary up to the first of next month, and you can leave this school just as soon as you desire."
"Wha—what? This! to me?" ejaculated the professor in consternation.
"Yes, sir. You can draw your pay, and, if you wish, you can leave this morning."
"But—but—this is outrageous! I won't stand it! I was hired for the school year!"
"You were—on condition that your services were entirely satisfactory to me. They are not satisfactory, and consequently I am giving you this opportunity to resign."
"If I have to leave, I'll have those boys arrested!" stormed Asa Lemm.
"I don't think I'd be so foolish, if I were in your place, Professor. What they did was nothing but a foolish schoolboy joke, and they did that simply to get square with you for your unreasonable conduct toward them. I think the best you can do is to drop the matter. If you insist on dragging this affair before the public, perhaps the boys, and I, myself, will have something to say that you will not care to hear."
"We'll see—we'll see!" cried Asa Lemm, shaking his head and with his eyes blazing wrathfully. "We'll see about this!" and thus speaking, he stamped away.
OVERHEARING A PLOT
"Professor Lemm has left Colby Hall!"
"What do you mean, Jack? Left the Hall for good?"
"Who told you that?" questioned Fred eagerly.
"I just got it from Professor Brice. He said that old Lemon resigned, took his pay, and left yesterday afternoon while we were in classes."
"Hurrah! that's the best news I've heard in a year of Sundays!" cried Andy. "Gone for good! Just think of it!" and, in high spirits, he began to do a jig, and ended with a handspring across the room, landing with a violent thump on the bed.
"Hi, you, Andy!" remonstrated Jack. "Just because you are happy is no reason you should bust up my sleeping place."
"Wow! I feel fine enough to do almost anything," returned the fun-loving Rover. "Just to think of it! We won't be worried by Asa Lemm any more!"
"Don't you be too sure of that," went on his cousin. "Asa Lemm is gone, it is true; but we may hear from him, nevertheless. When he went away he was an angry as ever, so Professor Brice said."
As was usual, the Rovers had congregated in their rooms, along with several of their chums. Outside it was snowing once again, the soft particles whirling in all directions and clinging fast to the window panes. It was the off hour of the afternoon, but none of the lads had cared to go outside, or even visit the school library.
The news that Asa Lemm had left the Hall was true. Following his heated interview with Colonel Colby, he had written out his resignation, accepted his pay for the month, packed his baggage, and left the school, never to return. Only several of the teachers and the man who had driven him away had seen him go; and this was as Colonel Colby wished it, for he was afraid that if the cadets were present at the disliked teacher's departure, they would make some sort of demonstration against him.
Strange as it may seem, Colonel Colby had said nothing further about punishing the cadets. Evidently he had taken their word for it that they would not have played the trick on any other teacher in the school, and possibly he remembered what Andy had said to the effect that the boys had been punished beforehand for what had been done. A few of the lads were afraid that the matter might be taken up later, but the majority had reached the conclusion that they would hear no more concerning it.
"It's too bad it's snowing," said Jack, after he and the others had tired of speaking about the departed teacher. "I had an idea we would be able to get in some fine skating before we left for the Christmas holidays."
The Rover boys had not forgotten the fact that both Asa Lemm and Colonel Colby had received notes concerning the joke that had been played. They remembered well how Slugger Brown, as related in a previous volume, had sent an anonymous communication to Elias Lacy, accusing them of having shot the old farmer's cows.
"If Slugger was mean enough to send that letter, he'd be mean enough to send these notes," was the way Jack put it.
"I wish we could see one or both of the letters," remarked Randy. "We could very quickly tell if they were in Slugger's handwriting, or Nappy's either."
"Oh, you can bet they'd disguise their handwriting as much as possible," said Fred.
The snow continued the next day, and it was so windy and unpleasant outdoors that the battalion had to dispense with its outdoor parade and spend that time in a drill in the gymnasium. After this was over the Rovers and some of their chums amused themselves on the bars, swinging rings, and with the exercising machines the gymnasium afforded.
The boys were doing all sorts of stunts, when suddenly Fred called Randy to one side.
"Come on with me," he said in a low voice. "I think I've discovered something."
His manner showed that he had something unusual on his mind, and Randy lost no time in doing as was bidden. The two cousins hurried to a corner of the gymnasium, and then Fred led the way up a narrow stairway, which opened up on the second floor of the building, a place which was heated, but seldom used by the majority of the cadets. It was used more as a storeroom, and contained a lot of disused gymnasium paraphernalia and boxes and barrels.
"What's going on up here?" questioned Randy, when his cousin placed a hand over his mouth.
"I just saw Slugger and Nappy come up here with Codfish," whispered Fred. "And those three wouldn't come to such an out-of-the-way place if there wasn't something in the wind."
"You're right there, Fred," was the equally low reply. "When those three get together on the sly there is generally something brewing."
Before emerging on the second floor of the gymnasium, they looked around cautiously. At the far end, near a steam radiator, they saw Slugger and Nappy seated on a couple of boxes, while Codfish rested on the top of an old nail keg. The two older boys were puffing away at cigarettes, something that was against the school rules.
"Might as well have a cigarette, Henry," Slugger was saying good-naturedly, and, at the same time, holding out a box.
"I—I don't think I will," answered Codfish.
"Oh, go ahead. It will make a man of you," put in Nappy; and, somewhat against his will, the small cadet took a cigarette and lit it.
While this was going on, Fred and Randy had managed to step from the top of the stairs to where a number of boxes were piled up. They moved along cautiously, and soon got to within a few feet of where the other three cadets were seated, without being noticed.
"Now, then, let's come to business!" remarked Slugger, after puffing away at a cigarette for a moment. He blew a cloud of smoke to the ceiling. "I think now is a dandy time to get square with those Rovers."
"But you want to be careful—they are awful sly," said Codfish.
"I think you are mistaken, Henry. They didn't find out about those notes," and the bully chuckled.
"Just the same, Slug, I think we ought to take Cod's advice and be careful," broke in Nappy, lighting a fresh cigarette. "I have a hunch that the Rovers are watching us like a cat watches mice."
"Maybe they are. But I guess we know how to fool them," went on the bully swaggeringly. "And now is just our chance to get them into a hole."
"It's just like this, Nappy. Of course, they haven't admitted it, but you know just as well as I do that Colonel Colby must have punished them pretty severely for the trick they played on Lemm. What he did to them, we don't know, but probably he has given 'em some extra lessons to do, and maybe he's punished 'em in other ways."
"Oh, sure! he must have punished them somehow."
"I haven't seen any of them going down to town since it happened," put in Codfish. "Maybe Colonel Colby made them promise to stay within bounds."
"Perhaps. Well, as I was saying, being punished, they, of course, are pretty sore on the colonel. Now then, if we can only play some dirty trick on Colonel Colby and make it appear as if the Rovers and their crowd did it, they'll sure get into hot water over it."
"I'm willing to do anything to square up with those fellows," grumbled Nappy. He paused for a moment to puff away at his cigarette. "What do you propose doing?"
"That, of course, is something we'll have to figure out. We'll want to be careful, so as not to get our own fingers burnt."
"I'll tell you what you might do!" broke in Codfish eagerly. "You might drop ashes all over Colonel Colby's office and his bedroom, and then leave some of the ashes in a box in the Rovers' rooms, and somebody might say something about having seen Jack Rover getting the ashes from the boiler-room."
"That's good as far as it goes, Henry, but it isn't quite strong enough," returned Slugger. "We ought to do something that will make Colonel Colby hopping mad."
"I'll tell you what let's do!" broke out Nappy. "We'll use the ashes, and we'll use some other things too. I was down past the kitchen a while ago, and I heard one of the cooks complaining about some of the canned tomatoes which were all spoiled and he was going to throw out. Now, suppose we use some of those spoiled tomatoes with the ashes, and maybe a quart or two of ink. How about it?"
"Great!" exclaimed Slugger. "Ashes, ink and decayed tomatoes will make one fine combination, believe me!"
"Oh, you want to be very careful," remarked Codfish, his voice shaking a little. "The ink will be sure to spoil some things, not to mention the bad tomatoes."
"Well, we want to spoil something," returned Slugger. "We want to get Colonel Colby real mad. Maybe then he'll send the Rovers home."
"How soon do you suppose we can play this joke?" questioned Nappy, while Slugger lit a fresh cigarette.
"Perhaps we can play it very soon. We'll have to watch our chance," was the answer. Slugger held out his box of cigarettes to Codfish. "Here, Henry, have another."
"N-n-no, th-thank you," stammered the sneak. "I—I do—don't care to smoke any more. It—it makes my head dizzy."
"Oh, you'll soon get over that. Come on, be a real man and smoke up!" urged Slugger; and much against his will poor Codfish lit a second cigarette, he having dropped the other behind the nail keg.
This talk was followed by an animated discussion between Slugger and Nappy as to just how the proposed trick might be played. Codfish said but little. He was growing pale, and at the first chance threw away the second cigarette.
Of course Fred and Randy had listened to every word that was said. Ordinarily, the Rovers did not favor playing the part of eavesdroppers, but just now they thought they were amply justified in listening to everything that their enemies might have to say.
"They are a fine bunch if ever there was one!" whispered Randy.
"Come on away; I guess we've heard enough," answered his cousin. "The best thing we can do is to report to Jack and Andy, and then make up our minds what we are going to do next."
AN ALARM OF FIRE
With great care, so as not to make any noise, the two Rover boys tiptoed their way back behind the boxes and barrels until they reached the narrow stairway.
"Come on! But don't make a bit of noise," said Randy quickly, and went down the stairs as rapidly as possible, with Fred at his heels. Reaching the lower floor of the gymnasium, they shut the door, and then lost no time in mixing with the other Rovers and their chums at the far end of the building.
"Where have you fellows been?" questioned Jack, who had suddenly noticed their absence.
"I'll tell you later," said Fred.
"Now, don't say a word more about our being away—especially if Slugger and Nappy and Codfish come this way. Act just as if we had been here right along."
"I get you, Randy," said Jack; and a minute later, as the others who had been mentioned came into sight, he continued in a loud voice: "Go ahead, Randy, it's your turn. Have you been asleep?"
"No; I'm not asleep," answered Randy, and caught a ball which was being pitched around.
Fred began to practise on an exercising machine, and acted as if he had been at it for some time.
Soon Slugger, Nappy and Codfish came down and passed the crowd, eyeing all of them closely. Then Slugger winked to the others, and the three made their way slowly from the gymnasium building.
"Now then, I'll tell you fellows something," announced Fred; and thereupon he and his cousin related to the others what they had overheard in the upper room of the building.
"So that's their game, is it?" cried Jack wrathfully. "That's the way they are going to pay us back for agreeing to give them another chance at this school!"
"You ought to tell Colonel Colby about this at once," put in Spouter, who had listened to what was being said. "Then he can have those rascals watched."
"I don't like the idea of going to Colonel Colby," Jack answered. "I feel more like taking the matter in my own hands."
"Don't you do it, Jack," advised Gif. "Your idea would be all well enough if they were ordinary cadets. But they are not. They should have been dismissed from this school long ago. If I were you, I wouldn't dirty my hands on them. Report the matter to the colonel, and let him take charge of it."
"What is this you are saying, Garrison?" demanded a voice from close behind the cadets, and Professor Brice appeared in the doorway of the washroom of the gymnasium. "What is this you just said about Brown and Martell?"
"I said they were not fit to be cadets in this institution," answered Gif flatly.
"From what you young gentlemen have been saying, I should judge that you know something concerning Brown and Martell," went on the young teacher, with a glance around the crowd.
"We do know something," answered Walt, after a somewhat painful silence. "That is, two of the crowd here know. We have been urging them to speak to Colonel Colby about it."
"Who are the two, and what do you know?"
Again there was a silence, and then Spouter came to the front.
"Professor Brice, I'd like to ask a question," he said. "Two of the cadets here overheard a talk between Brown, Martell and Stowell. Those three proposed to play a most outrageous trick on Colonel Colby, and then make it appear as if that trick had been played by some other cadets. In fact, they were going to make all the evidence point to those other cadets. Now, do you think those cadets ought to defend themselves by telling Colonel Colby all they know? They feel that they don't want to be tale bearers."
"If the trick was to be played solely to injure their reputation, they certainly ought to expose it," was the teacher's quick response. "It is one thing to tell on another person just for the sake of telling, and it is quite a different thing to defend one's own reputation."
Following this there was quite a discussion, but in the end Professor Brice convinced the Rovers that they had better tell the particulars of what they had overheard. He listened to their story with close attention.
"This is certainly worthy of an investigation," he said, after they had finished. "I'll tell Colonel Colby about it, and maybe he will send for you. If he does so, kindly take my advice and see to it that when you come to the colonel's office you are not watched by Brown, Martell and Stowell, or that may spoil everything. I think that the colonel will agree with me that the thing to do is to catch those fellows red-handed."
"All right, Professor, we'll leave everything in your hands," answered Fred. Even yet he did not feel just right over what had been done. He still felt that he and his cousins should have settled affairs privately with Slugger Brown and his cronies, even if it had been a matter of fist fights.
The young professor lost no time in going to Colonel Colby. He found the master of the Hall in his study looking over the questions which were to be used in the coming examination.
"I am sorry to report more trouble, sir," he announced, and, sitting down, he gave Colonel Colby a rapid sketch of what had taken place at the gymnasium.
"Too bad! too bad!" and the master of the Hall showed his disappointment. He heaved a sigh. "It looks to me, Brice, as if I had made a mistake in giving Brown and Martell another chance."
"Just what I was thinking, sir," returned the young teacher.
"You say the Rovers did not wish to report the matter?"
"That's it, sir. I had to fairly drag the story but of them. They did not want to have the reputation of tale bearers."
"I think I understand their view of it, Brice. At the same time, this is too serious a matter to allow them to settle it between themselves. I think the best thing we can do is to have those three cadets watched closely, to see if they really intend to carry out their nefarious plot."