"Exactly what I was thinking, Colonel Colby."
"First, however, you may send Randy Rover and his Cousin Fred to me. I want to question them, so as to make sure of my ground."
Expecting this call, Randy and Fred kept themselves in readiness, and as soon as Professor Brice came for them they hurried off to the office, taking care that none of their enemies should see them. Slugger, Nappy and Codfish, however, were out of sight, having gone upstairs to their rooms.
"Now, I want you to tell me exactly what was said," announced Colonel Colby, as soon as the two cadets appeared.
They had their story well in mind, and it did not take long to give the master of the Hall all of the details. In the midst of the conversation, Fred let drop accidentally that the three unworthy cadets had been smoking.
"They were smoking?" interrupted the colonel.
"Yes, sir. But—I—I—didn't mean to mention that," stammered Fred.
"What were they smoking, Rover?"
"All of them?"
"Yes, sir. Although, to tell the truth, Codfish—I mean Stowell—didn't seem to want to smoke, but Slugger—that is, Brown—urged him, so that he didn't know how to get out of it. I guess the cigarette made him sick."
"I see." Colonel Colby nodded his head slowly. "Now go on;" and then the story of what had been overheard in the upper room of the gymnasium was finished.
"It's an outrage! an outrage! if what you say is true; and I have no reason to doubt your word," went on the master of the Hall, after the cadets had finished. "I am sorry now that I gave Brown and Martell this chance to return to our school."
To this neither of the Rovers made any reply. For an instant both of them thought of the trick they had played on Asa Lemm. Colonel Colby seemed to follow their thought.
"Your trick and this thing are two entirely different affairs," continued the colonel. "In the one case, you, in your boyish fashion, tried to square up for the way you had been mistreated. In this case, however, these cadets are trying to get you into trouble, and if this trick had succeeded, it is just possible that I might have been angry enough to send you and the rest of your family home."
"Well, don't send Brown and Martell home on our account," announced Randy. "We are not afraid of them."
"That may be, Rover. But I cannot have such underhand work at this school. Now I want you cadets to do me a favor. I want you to act exactly as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. I want you to tell all of the others to keep quiet about this. I want to set a trap, and if possible catch those rascals in the midst of their work. Do you understand?"
"Yes, sir," came from both of the cadets.
"Then that is all."
Allowed to leave the office, Randy and Fred lost no time in hunting up the others, who had gone upstairs to the Rover boys' rooms. On the way, they met Walt, Spouter and Gif, and told these cadets to come along. Then they closed the door to the hallway.
"It's to be kept a secret," announced Randy.
In subdued voices, so that no one passing in the hallway might hear them, the Rovers and their chums discussed the situation. They were in the midst of this when they suddenly heard a wild cry of alarm. Then came a rush of footsteps, and less than a minute later the loud clanging of a bell.
"Hello! what's that?" exclaimed Jack.
"Something is wrong—that's sure!" announced Randy.
"What's the bell ringing for?" queried Fred. "It isn't time for parade yet."
"That isn't the parade bell!" ejaculated Gif. "That's the fire bell! There must be a fire!"
The boys flung open the doors, and ran hastily into the hallway. Cadets were pouring forth from every quarter, and there was a tremendous excitement.
"Is the building on fire?"
"Take it easy, boys! Take it easy!" yelled Major Ralph Mason, as he appeared at the head of one of the stairways. "There is no fire in this building. Don't get excited."
"Where is the fire?" queried a dozen voices in chorus.
"It's down at the gym! The upper floor is in flames!"
PUTTING OUT THE FLAMES
"What do you know about that! The gym is on fire!" gasped Fred, and clutched Randy by the arm. He looked at his cousin knowingly.
"I know what you're thinking, Fred. Those cigarettes that Slugger, Nappy and Codfish were smoking——"
"That's it! They threw them down recklessly, and also threw down the matches they had lighted."
"If the gym burns down Colonel Colby will hold them responsible for the loss," put in Jack, who had heard what was said.
While this talk was taking place, all of the cadets were rushing down the stairs. Soon they were out on the campus and headed through the fast-falling snow in the direction of the gymnasium building.
A heavy smoke was pouring from a broken-out upper window, and also from the edges of a scuttle on the roof. As the cadets hurried closer, they saw a thin flame show itself for a moment just inside the window.
"It's on fire all right enough, but maybe they can get it under control," announced Jack. "Come on, fellows! Do your duty!"
Warned by the fate which had overtaken Putnam Hall, Colonel Colby had taken every possible precaution against fire. There were several large water towers erected in and near the school buildings, and these were connected with various fire plugs. There were also numerous lengths of hose, with nozzles attached, hung up in the several buildings, and both the cadets and the teachers had been instructed in a fire drill.
Some of the cadets, who had been in the gymnasium when the fire was discovered, had already brought out the hose in that building and attached it to one of the plugs. Now this water was turned on, and a stream of fair size began to play upon the flames, the cadets, aided by one of the teachers, dragging the hose up the narrow stairway for that purpose.
"Get out hose number three and number eight!" directed Colonel Colby, who was on the scene; and the cadets went to work with a will, and soon had two more streams in action.
Despite the thickness of the smoke, two of the teachers and several of the cadets had gone up into the second floor of the building and located the fire.
"It's up near the steam radiator, just between the two windows," announced one of the teachers. "It's in some boxes and barrels that contain straw and excelsior."
"Isn't the building on fire?" queried one cadet.
"The flames are going up to the roof, but so far they haven't broken through."
The announcement that the fire so far was confined to some boxes and barrels, nerved the cadets and the others to make a greater effort to get it under control, and some began to fill buckets with water in the washroom below, and these were passed up the narrow stairway and the water thrown where it was apparently most needed.
Randy and Andy were in this bucket brigade, while Fred and Jack worked with one of the hose gangs. It was exciting labor for all of the boys, but this they did not mind.
"Hurrah! we're getting it under control!" shouted Major Mason presently. "Keep it up, boys, and we'll save the whole building!"
In the crowd were, of course, Slugger, Nappy and Codfish. At the first alarm they had run forth from the school and gazed in amazement at the smoke pouring from the gymnasium.
"Oh, look! It's the gym that's on fire!" Codfish had burst out; and then the little sneak had suddenly turned deadly pale, and would have sunk down in the snow had not Slugger caught him.
"See here, Codfish!" hissed the bully, shaking him. "Don't you say a word about this, do you understand? Not a word!"
"Don't you dare to admit to anybody that you were upstairs in the gymnasium," added Nappy.
"I—I ain't going to say nothing!" sniveled Codfish, and then, of a sudden, burst out crying. "You fellows let me alone! I didn't want to smoke anyhow!" he wailed.
"Shut up! Don't you mention smoking to anybody, or I'll just about half kill you!" hissed Slugger. "Now mind! not a word, if you know when you are best off!" and then he gave Codfish's arm such a twist that the little cadet screamed with pain.
Not to be suspected of what they had done, Slugger and Nappy mingled with the other cadets and did their full share in working on the lines of hose; but there were really more cadets than were needed for this labor, so they had little to do. Codfish also tried to take hold, but he trembled so that he soon had to give up, and then he ran back into the Hall, where he sat on the stairs, half sobbing.
By this time there was little more than smoke to be seen in the upper part of the gymnasium. The teachers and the cadets still continued to play water into the building. Some now began to open all the windows, realizing that a draft could not do much harm. Then, as the smoke began to clear away, they began an investigation, so that the last spark of the fire might be extinguished.
"I guess it's about out," announced Professor Brice presently. He had worked hard, and his face and hands were streaked with black.
"I think you are right, Brice," answered Colonel Colby, who had also mounted to the upper floor. "We may as well bring up a few buckets of water, and then turn off all the hose. There is no use of flooding the building, especially in this cold weather. As it is, I think the boys will have a skating pond below by morning," and he smiled faintly.
"Do you suppose this started from the heating plant?" questioned the teacher.
"Not at all!" was the low reply. "But we won't speak about that now, Brice," added Colonel Colby significantly; and thereupon the young teacher understood and said no more about the matter.
The cadets were sent below, and Colonel Colby and Professor Brice, aided by a couple of the hired men, made a close examination of the spot where the fire had taken place. It had been confined almost wholly to three boxes, loosely filled with excelsior, and two barrels containing straw and waste paper.
"It was a mistake to put such inflammable material up here," said Colonel Colby to Mr. Crews, the gymnasium instructor.
"I realize that now, Colonel Colby," answered Silas Crews, and his manner showed how much the fire had upset him. "But, you see, it was this way. We got some of that new gymnasium material in only a couple of weeks ago, and we weren't altogether satisfied with it—if you will remember. I said something about sending it back. Well, it came in those boxes and barrels, and so I just put them up here, thinking that maybe we'd want to use them in sending the stuff back. If it hadn't been for that, I'd have cleaned the boxes and barrels out and burnt the stuff up."
"I see, Crews. Well, after this, I want you to be careful and not do anything like that again."
"But I don't see how the boxes and barrels caught fire, sir," went on the gymnasium instructor perplexedly. "We had no light up here, and I don't see how they could catch from that little steam radiator over there. Why, that radiator hardly gets warm!" It may be mentioned here that the radiator had been placed on the upper floor of the gymnasium because there had once been talk of partitioning this part of the floor from the rest and making of it a meeting room for one of the cadet clubs.
"I'll make an investigation later," answered Colonel Colby. "For the present, as the steam heating plant seems to be in perfect order, you had better start the fire up well, so that we can dry things out here. Otherwise, all the pipes may freeze up, and that might give us more trouble than this fire."
"Yes, sir. I'll see to it, sir," said Silas Crews hastily. "And I'll have this whole place cleaned up the first thing in the morning. And I'll also have the broken windows fixed."
As soon as he returned to the school, Colonel Colby sent for Randy and Fred. He questioned them closely about the cigarette smoking indulged in by Slugger, Nappy and Codfish.
"You two are quite sure that you were not smoking yourselves?" he demanded sternly.
"We don't smoke, sir," answered Randy promptly.
"Did you light any matches while you were upstairs in the gymnasium?"
"No, sir. We had no need for a light," returned Fred.
"Have you any idea how this fire started?"
"I don't see how it could start unless it was from the cigarettes and the matches those fellows used," answered Randy bluntly. "I hate to make that statement, but the truth is the truth."
"I believe you are right, Rover. Now then, I wish you to do me a favor. I want you to keep as quiet about this as you are to keep quiet about that joke those cadets proposed to play. Do you understand?"
"Yes, sir," answered both the Rovers.
"Then that is all for the present;" and, so speaking, Colonel Colby dismissed the boys.
"I guess he's going to save this fire affair until he catches them trying to play the joke," was Fred's comment, as they hurried away to join the others.
"That's it, Fred." Randy looked at his cousin knowingly. "There is certainly something coming to Slugger, Nappy and Codfish, isn't there?"
CAUGHT IN THE ACT
The news that there had been a fire at Colby Hall soon spread to the town and to Clearwater Hall, and there were many anxious inquiries over the telephone and otherwise as to whether anybody had been hurt.
"No, nobody was hurt, and the fire didn't amount to much," said Spouter, when called up by his Cousin May. "Perhaps, when we see you girls personally, we'll have something to tell you that will be a surprise."
In the middle of the afternoon of the day following the fire, a number of letters were brought in by one of the hired men from the Haven Point post-office.
"Here's a drop letter for you, Jack," remarked Gif, who was distributing some of the mail. "Most likely from your best girl," and he smiled good-naturedly.
"Doesn't look much like a girl's handwriting," answered the oldest Rover boy, as he inspected the envelope. Wondering what the letter might contain, he tore open the envelope and was considerably surprised to read the following, written on a raggedly-torn half sheet of note paper:
"You Rovers think yourselves smart, but do not forget that I am not done with you. You have been the means of my losing a very lucrative position. I will not have you arrested, for it would be a hard matter for me to obtain justice in this neighborhood; but I will remember you, and some day I will bring you to book for what you have done. You are nothing but a set of imps and hoodlums, and sooner or later Colby will learn the truth."
"This is undoubtedly from Professor Lemm," announced Jack, as he allowed his cousins and their chums to read the letter.
"He's certainly a sweet-natured man," was Andy's comment. "He's real charitable and kind, isn't he?" and this brought forth a smile from the others.
"What do you think he'll do?" questioned Fred.
"I don't believe he'll do anything," answered Jack. "Fellows who write such anonymous communications are usually cowards. Old Lemon belongs in the class with Slugger, Nappy & Company."
The heavy snowstorm cleared away as rapidly as it had come, and the wind blew the snow from large sections of the lake, so that the cadets could once more enjoy themselves skating.
"Let's skate up to Clearwater Hall and see the girls," suggested Jack at the first opportunity; and this was agreed to readily by all of the crowd.
They found the girls of Clearwater Hall on the ice, watching out for them, and soon the cadets and the girls were enjoying themselves thoroughly.
"You must tell me all about the fire and about how Professor Lemm happened to leave the Hall," said Ruth, as she skated away with Jack.
"I'll do that," he answered. "But you must keep a good part of what I'm going to tell you a secret—at least for the present," he added, and then gave the particulars of the joke which had been played on the disliked teacher. Then he told of what had occurred at the gymnasium.
"Oh, Jack! do you really think Slugger and Nappy and that little Codfish set the gymnasium on fire?" cried the girl.
"I think they did, Ruth—although, of course, it was by accident."
"What dreadful boys they must be getting to be," sighed the girl.
She had quite a few things to tell about happenings at the Hall, and also mentioned what she intended to do during the Christmas holidays.
"I wish you were coming down to New York," said Jack. "I'd like first rate to have you meet my Sister Martha and my Cousin Mary."
"Perhaps I shall get down there some time, Jack. Are you going to stay at home during all of the holidays?"
"No. We have been planning to stay at home about a week, and then, if we can arrange it, we want to visit Snowshoe Island and do a little hunting before school opens again."
"Then you're going to accept old Uncle Barney's invitation!"
"That's the idea, Ruth. You don't mind, do you?" and the oldest Rover boy looked anxiously at his companion.
"Not at all. In fact, I'm rather glad to hear of your going to the island. It may give you a chance to talk to old Uncle Barney about my folks. And if you get any such chance, I hope you'll impress it upon him that we want to be friends."
When the cadets returned to Colby Hall, both Jack and Fred were in unusual good humor, for, not only had Ruth said she would try to get down to New York during the holidays, but May had told Fred that if Spouter came down to the metropolis she would try to accompany her cousin.
Several days slipped by, and the Rover boys applied themselves closely to their lessons, for they wished to make as good a showing as possible during the coming examinations. During that time, they saw Slugger, Nappy and Codfish a number of times, but all of those unworthies seemed to give them a wide berth.
Although Colonel Colby had not given the Rovers any of the particulars of what he proposed to do, he had not forgotten what Randy and Fred had told him. He had had a conference on the subject with Professor Brice, Silas Crews, and Bob Nixon, the chauffeur, and Nixon and Crews were detailed to watch every movement made by the bully and his cronies.
It was on the following Tuesday, the day previous to the examinations, that Silas Crews came hurrying to the master of the Hall, who had just entered the school library in search of a certain book.
"I think Brown and Martell are at it," he announced in a low tone of voice. "Martell just sneaked a quart bottle of ink from the storeroom, while Brown picked up some of the cans of vegetables which were cast aside by the cook as unfit to eat. Now they have both gone down into the boiler-room, evidently after those ashes."
"Continue to watch them, Crews, and tell Nixon to watch them, too. I will notify Professor Brice, and also Captain Dale." Captain Dale was the military instructor of the Academy.
Silas Crews hurried off, and Colonel Colby lost no time in notifying the others of what was taking place. As a result, a guard was established, which took cognizance of every move made by Slugger and Nappy. Why it was that Codfish was not with them, nobody knew. The fact was, the poor little sneak had been so terrified at the mere mention of doing anything further that he had burst out crying and locked himself in his room, stating that he was too sick to act.
Having obtained the bottle of ink and several cans of spoiled tomatoes, Slugger and Nappy watched their chance and visited the boiler-room under the school. Here they found a dozen large cans of ashes, and also an old empty soap-box.
"We'll fill the soap box half full of ashes," said Slugger, "and then we can place the opened-up cans of tomatoes and the opened-up bottle of ink on top. When we get the stuff over to Colonel Colby's rooms, we can spread half of everything around where it will make the best showing, then we can skip over to the offices and do the same thing, and after that we'll rush back and leave a little trail of ashes and some ink leading into the Rovers' rooms, and place the empty ink bottle and the empty cans in their closets and put the ash-box under one of the beds."
"Dandy!" replied Nappy. "Come on!"
Not knowing that Bob Nixon was watching them from a corner of the boiler-room, they soon had the box of ashes and other stuff ready. Then, watching their chance to see that the coast was clear, they sneaked up out of the boiler-room and then out of the school by a side door. Here a path led to the nearby building where Colonel Colby had his private suite of rooms.
"Now then, hurry up!" cried Nappy, who was beginning to show signs of nervousness.
They found the door to the main room unlocked, and both entered and set the box of stuff on one of the easy chairs. Then one took up the ink and the other an opened can of the decayed tomatoes.
"Now make a fine job of it," whispered Slugger.
Both took a step forward to start their nefarious work, when each was almost paralyzed by hearing Colonel Colby's voice.
"Stop!" commanded the master of the school, and stepped out from behind a screen which stood near a corner of the apartment.
"Oh!" ejaculated Nappy. "We're discovered!" and, dropping the bottle of ink in his hands, he started to run.
"Not so quick, Martell!" came from the doorway, and then both of the youths were startled to see themselves confronted by Bob Nixon. Behind the chauffeur stood Captain Dale, while in another doorway appeared the form of Professor Brice.
"Wa—wa—what does this mean?" stammered Slugger. He knew not what to say or do.
"It means that I have found you out," answered Colonel Colby sternly. "You will both march over to my office at once."
"Good riddance to bad rubbish!"
"You told the truth that time, Andy. We're certainly well rid of Slugger Brown and Nappy Martell."
"Say! I'd like to know some of the particulars of the interview Slugger and Nappy had with Colonel Colby. It must have been a pippin," remarked Fred.
"One thing is certain—Colonel Colby must have laid down the law pretty severely to them; otherwise they would never have gotten out of this school in such a hurry," came from Jack.
"I'm mighty glad I got that one crack in on Martell," remarked Fred. "Some day I'll give that fellow a licking, big as he is," continued the youngest of the Rover boys.
"The only fellow I'm sorry for is Codfish," came from Randy. "That poor little rat looks about as miserable as any kid could look."
"He ought to be thankful that he wasn't kicked out with the others," said Spouter. "He certainly deserved it."
"He did," agreed Jack. "Just the same, now that Slugger and Nappy are gone, if Codfish wants to turn over a new leaf and make a man of himself, I'm not going to stand in his way."
Twenty-four hours had passed since the events recorded in the previous chapter. They had been filled with both mystery and excitement for the Rover boys and their chums. Only a little of what had taken place in Colonel Colby's office had filtered out to the cadets, but it was enough to show them that the master of the Hall had dealt severely with Slugger and Nappy. Those two unworthies had come forth looking both cowed and excited, and they had rushed up to their rooms to pack their belongings without delay.
In the meanwhile, Codfish had come forth sobbing, and had been allowed to go to his room, where he locked himself in and denied himself even to Mrs. Crews, the matron who looked after the younger scholars.
"I—I don't want to see no—nobody!" Codfish had cried out. "Go away and leave me alone! I—I didn't mean to do anything! It was Brown and Martell made me do it!" and then he had burst into another fit of weeping.
Both the Rover boys and their chums had wanted to see how the bully and his crony would act after their interview with Colonel Colby. They met Slugger and Nappy in the hall as they were on the point of leaving the school, and some sharp words had passed. Nappy had threatened Fred, and made a savage pass at him with his fist. In return, the youngest Rover had landed on the other's chin, and sent Nappy staggering up against the wall.
In the meanwhile, there had been a set-to between Slugger and Jack, and although the oldest Rover boy was struck on the shoulder, he had had the satisfaction of making the bully measure his length on his back. Then the approach of Professor Brice, backed up by Captain Dale and Bob Nixon, had brought the brief contests to a close, and Slugger and Nappy had lost no time in hurrying below, where the auto-stage was already in waiting to take them and their baggage to Haven Point. Many of the cadets assembled had jeered at the departing youths, and they, in their rage, had shaken their fists at those left behind as the auto-stage departed.
"I hope we never see those fellows again," remarked Randy. But this wish was doomed to disappointment—the Rovers were to see a good deal more of Slugger Brown and Nappy Martell.
The boys had now to apply themselves to their examinations, and they went at this with a will, resolved to make the best showing possible.
"We've got to do it," was the way Jack expressed himself. "We want the folks at home to know that we are keeping at our studies. Then, if they happen to hear of some of the jokes we play, they will know that we're doing something else here besides having fun."
The lads had already written home regarding the Christmas holidays and what they would like to do. In return, they received word that they could have Gif and Spouter down for the week between Christmas and New Year's if they so desired. And Jack's mother also sent a letter to Spouter inviting him to bring along his Cousin May and her friend, Ruth.
"All of us, including Martha and Mary, will be glad to become acquainted with your cousin and her school chum," wrote Mrs. Dick Rover. "The girls are very anxious to learn more about Clearwater Hall, and it is just possible that we may send them to that school later on."
"Hurrah! that's fine!" cried Jack, when Spouter showed him the letter. "If only May and Ruth go to New York, I'm sure they'll be able to persuade Martha and Mary that there is no better girls' school on earth than Clearwater Hall."
"You leave that to me, Jack," answered Spouter. "I'll tell May just what to do."
Of course the Rover boys were all very anxious after the examinations were over to find out how they had fared. On the following Friday afternoon Colonel Colby read the results. Fred and Randy had received ninety-four per cent., Jack had gotten ninety-two, and Andy had reached eighty-eight. As seventy per cent. was the passing mark, it can be seen that the boys had passed with considerable to spare.
"My, that's a relief!" sighed Andy. "Somehow, at the last minute, I was afraid I had fallen down completely. There were a few examples in algebra that were regular stickers for me."
"Physiology was what got me," observed Jack grimly. "How do I know how many bones I've got in my body? I never saw them," and at this there was a general smile.
After the examinations there was but little to do at the school apart from the drills. There was an entertainment given by the boys in which both Jack and Andy took part. Then, almost before they knew it, the session came to an end, and the cadets had packed up and were on their way home.
"After all, I'll be glad to see little old New York once more," remarked Randy, when they and their friends were seated on the train.
"Right you are!" cried Fred. "I think, after the semi-country life at Haven Point, a big city will look mighty good to us."
"Say, fellows, do you remember when we came up to the school, how we fell in with Asa Lemm?" remarked Andy.
"I haven't forgotten it!" cried his twin, and then he added quickly: "I wonder if old Lemon wrote to our folks."
"I don't think so," answered Jack. "If he had, I think we would have heard of it."
When the boys arrived at the Grand Central Terminal, they found Martha and Mary and Tom Rover awaiting them.
"Glad to see you back, boys!" cried the father of the twins, as he greeted them warmly, and then greeted the others.
"Oh, Jack, I declare you're growing awfully tall!" burst out his sister Martha, as she embraced him.
"Well, I guess Fred is growing tall, too," put in Mary Rover.
"Well, you wouldn't expect any of us to grow shorter, would you?" queried Andy gaily, and this made both of the girls laugh.
With greetings all around finished, the whole party pushed its way through the crowd to the Forty-second Street entrance of the Terminal, where two of the Rover limousines were in waiting.
"This looks something like!" remarked Jack, when the automobiles were on their way through the busy streets to Riverside Drive. "I haven't seen so many people since I left."
"And how do you like Colby Hall?" questioned his sister eagerly.
"Dandy, Martha! It couldn't be beat! I can tell you, we boys are mighty glad that our dads picked out such a bully good school for us," and his face showed his satisfaction.
"And what about Clearwater Hall?"
"That's a dandy place, too,—at least, the girls who go there say it is. If May Powell comes down with Spouter, she'll tell you all about it."
The home-coming of the Rover boys was a gala occasion. Dick Rover and his brother Sam had just come up home from the offices in Wall Street, and they and their wives, as well as the twins' mother, greeted the lads affectionately.
"It's been kind of lonely since you went away," said Mrs. Tom Rover, as she caught each of the twins around the waist.
"I suppose you missed our tricks, Ma," returned Andy slyly.
"Maybe I did, Andy. But I wouldn't mind the tricks so much if only you were here," and she gave a little sigh.
"Well, we're going to be here for a week, anyway," put in Randy, and then both of the twins gave their mother such a hug as she had not received for a long time.
Jack was already telling his father and his two uncles something about Colby Hall. All of the men listened with close attention and considerable satisfaction.
"I guess Larry has patterned it pretty closely after Putnam Hall and West Point," remarked Sam Rover. "And that's as it should be, to my way of thinking."
"He'd have to go a long way to do better," answered Tom Rover. "Everybody knows that West Point is an ideal school, and dear old Putnam Hall was a close second to it."
"I hope you lads haven't been playing too many tricks," went on Dick Rover, as he gazed from one face to another before him.
"Well, Uncle Dick, we had to play some tricks," answered Andy, a bit lamely.
"You couldn't expect us to just sit still and hold our hands," added Randy.
"We might as well own up to one thing," said Jack boldly. "We did play a trick on one of the teachers—a fellow named Asa Lemm. Nobody liked Lemm, and when Colonel Colby had a rumpus with him and made him resign, all of us felt better."
Fortunately for the boys, an interruption came just at that moment in the way of an announcement that dinner was ready. This was served in the Dick Rover home, and was participated in by all of the members of the Rover family. It made quite a table full.
"Gee! but it's nice to be here once more!" exclaimed Andy, while he was eating.
"Beats a meal in the mess-room at the Hall all hollow, doesn't it?" returned his twin.
"And yet you talk about going away on a hunting trip," broke in their father quizzically.
"Oh, yes! But Uncle Tom, we are going to spend a whole week in New York before that!" broke in Fred.
"I want to know a little more about this trip you're planning to Snowshoe Island," remarked Dick Rover. "I want to make sure that it's a perfectly safe place for you to visit."
"Oh, I'm sure it's safe enough," answered Jack; and thereupon he and the others told what they knew about the island and Barney Stevenson.
"That old lumberman must be quite a character," was Dick Rover's comment. "Well, we'll see about this trip later," and there, for the time being, the matter was dropped.
The boys had gotten home just two days before Christmas, and they spent their entire time the next day in shopping for presents. In this they were partly aided by Martha and Mary, especially when it came to selecting presents for their mothers. Then, however, they sent the girls away, so that they might buy something for them. Although they did not mention this, Jack also wished to get a little reminder for Ruth, while Fred was equally desirous of obtaining something for May.
Christmas dawned bright and clear, and many were the cries of joy which rang throughout the three Rover households. All the young folks spent over an hour in running back and forth, wishing this one and that one "Merry Christmas!" Then came the distribution of presents.
"Just what I wanted!" cried Fred, as he inspected his pile of gifts. There was a new watch, some gorgeous neckties, several books, and a splendid little double-barrelled shotgun.
"Don't say a word! It couldn't be better!" came from Randy.
"The best Christmas ever!" echoed his twin. They, too, had numerous gifts, including little diamond stickpins, new skates, some boxing gloves, and bright-colored sweaters, into which their cousins had knitted the initials C. H.
"Now, I presume, you'll be real Colby Hall cadets," said their mother, when they had donned the sweaters and were strutting around in them.
"This sure is one grand Christmas!" said Jack. He, too, had fared well, receiving a beautiful seal ring, a new traveling bag, completely equipped, several sets of books for which he had longed greatly, and also a small, but first-class, repeating rifle.
"Now we've certainly got to go on that hunt," remarked Fred, placing his new shotgun beside the new rifle.
"Right you are, Fred!" responded Jack. "But first we're going to have one dandy time down here in New York."
OFF FOR SNOWSHOE ISLAND
"What an awfully large place New York is!"
It was Ruth who uttered the words while she was taking a ride down Fifth Avenue in company with Jack and his sister and several of the others.
It was the day after Christmas, and Spouter had arrived at noon, bringing his cousin May and Ruth with him. The young folks were taking a ride previous to stopping at the Grand Central Terminal to meet Gif, who was to come later.
"You won't find many places larger," answered Dick. He felt very happy to think that Ruth was beside him, and more so because Ruth and his sister seemed to become good friends from the very moment they met.
Behind the first auto came a second, containing Spouter, May, Mary, and Fred. They, too, were enjoying themselves, the youngest Rover doing what he could to point out the various places of interest to Spouter's fair cousin.
The Rover boys, aided by Mary and Martha, had laid their plans for the next five days with care. The young folks were to be taken to Central and Bronx Parks, to several well-known theaters, and also to the Grand Opera, and Mrs. Dick Rover had arranged to give a party at her home in the visitors' honor.
Mary and Martha had been eager to hear about Clearwater Hall, and the two girl visitors were not slow in singing the praises of that institution.
"Oh, I think I'd like to go there!" cried Martha. "What do you think, Mary?"
"I think I'd like to go myself, now that we know somebody there," was her cousin's reply. Mary had always been a little shy.
During those days of pleasure in New York only one thing occurred to mar the happiness of the young folks. That was one afternoon when all of them went over to Central Park for a couple of hours to enjoy the skating. There, quite unexpectedly, they ran into Nappy Martell. He favored the Rover boys with a black look, and then lost himself in the crowd of skaters.
"He certainly has no love for us," was Jack's comment. "If he could possibly do us an injury, I think he would do it."
But aside from this incident the young folks had nothing to worry them, and they spent a most agreeable time on the ice. They talked a good deal of nonsense, and often laughed when there was no apparent cause for so doing, but that was due entirely to their high spirits. When they returned to the Rover homes the girls had a glow in their cheeks and a sparkle in their eyes that made them more beautiful than ever.
"That Ruth Stevenson is certainly a handsome girl," whispered Mrs. Dick Rover to her husband.
"So she is, Dora," answered Dick. "And if you'll notice, our Jack has quite an eye for her," he added dryly.
"Oh, Dick! you don't suppose he's smitten with her? Why, he's so young!"
"I'm not saying anything about that, Dora. I can't help but remember that I was smitten with you the first time I saw you," and at this Dora Rover gave her husband a warm look that meant a great deal.
May had not forgotten her promise to her Cousin Spouter, and during the visit she did all she could to impress on the older folks the charms of life at Clearwater Hall. She told of what fine teachers there were at the school, how rapidly most of the pupils advanced in their studies, and of the good times to be had there.
"And I do hope that you will let Mary and Martha join us," she concluded. "I am sure they will feel perfectly at home there, and that they will be as well taught, if not better, than they would be if they remained here in the city."
"I'll think it over, May," answered Mrs. Sam Rover; and Martha's mother said the same.
Jack and his cousins had already sent a letter to Barney Stevenson, completing the arrangements for going up to Snowshoe Island. Now came a brief communication from the old lumberman, stating that he would be on the look-out for them, and would do all he could to make their outing enjoyable.
"What a nice letter for him to write!" exclaimed Ruth, when Jack showed her the communication. "Oh, I do hope you'll be able to fix up this difference between old Uncle Barney and my folks! It's dreadful to have him on the outs with our family."
"As I said before, Ruth, I'll do what I can," Jack replied.
With so much going on, the holidays sped by swiftly, and all too soon it was time for the visitors to take their departure. Spouter and Gif both wished they could accompany the Rovers to Snowshoe Island, but this was not to be, as they had already made other arrangements.
"But have a good time," said Spouter.
"Don't forget to lay low a few deer and a bear or two," added Gif.
"Good gracious! you don't expect them to shoot bears, do you?" exclaimed May, in some alarm.
"I don't believe there are any bears on that island, are there?" came from Ruth.
"There are very few bears anywhere," answered Jack. "Gif was only fooling. The biggest game that we may possibly see will be a deer, although even they are growing scarce. We may see nothing bigger than squirrels, rabbits and partridges, and maybe a mink or a fox."
The Rover boys accompanied the others to the Grand Central Terminal. Here Jack managed to have a few words in private with Ruth, and at the conclusion he gave her hand so tight a squeeze that she blushed. Then the visitors boarded the train and in a minute more were gone.
"And now to get ready for the trip to Snowshoe Island!" cried Randy.
"That's the talk!" returned his twin.
The boys were to leave for Rockville, the nearest railroad station to Snowshoe Island, on the day after New Year's. They spent several hours in packing their things, being advised in that matter by their fathers, who, as my old readers know, had been on many hunting expeditions before them.
"Now, there is no use of my giving you any advice on how to handle your firearms," said Dick Rover. "I have given you that advice before, and you ought to remember what I said."
"I do, Dad," answered his son. "And I'm sure the others remember, too."
"And I want you two boys to keep out of mischief," put in Tom Rover, addressing his twins. "Of course, you can have all the fun you please, but let it be good, innocent nonsense. Don't do anything mean, and don't do anything to get somebody else into trouble."
"And my advice is, to go slow and be careful," added Sam Rover. "In other words: 'Look before you leap'——"
"As the clown in the circus said," finished Tom Rover, "when he thought he was going to jump through a paper hoop and found instead that it was a solid white barrel-head;" and at this little joke there was a general laugh.
The boys had already told their fathers about the doings of Nappy Martell and Slugger Brown.
"Nappy Martell is evidently the son of his father," remarked Dick Rover. "The senior Martell is just as domineering, and not one bit more reliable. Down in Wall Street we've been watching him pretty closely."
"Yes, and he needed watching," put in Tom Rover. "To my mind, if he isn't a fraud, he's pretty close to it."
"You said something about his underhanded work before," came from Sam. "If he is a swindler, I certainly hope that sooner or later they expose him."
The boys had learned that Rockville was a town of considerable importance and boasted of several good-sized stores. They felt certain that they could buy all the supplies needed at that place, so it would be unnecessary to get them in New York. They, however, took along all the clothing that was needed, and likewise their guns and a good supply of ammunition.
"Now do be careful!" pleaded Mrs. Tom Rover, when they were ready to depart. "I don't want any of you to get shot."
"Don't you worry, Ma. We'll be careful all right enough," answered Randy, as he kissed her good-bye.
Several of the neighboring boys had come to see them off, and there was a little bit of envy as these watched the Rovers depart. They went to the railroad station in one of the limousines, only the two girls going with them to see them off.
"Now don't get hurt, Jack," said Martha, when it was almost time for him to take the train. "Remember, if you do, Ruth will never forgive you," and she gave her brother a roguish look which, somehow, made his cheeks burn.
"Aw, cut that, Martha!" he answered. And then, of a sudden, he continued: "You join those girls at Clearwater Hall, and I'll pick a fine cadet for you to go out with."
"Boo!" cried Martha, and put out the tip of her tongue at him. "Who said I wanted any of your old cadets!" Then, as he and his cousins ran for the train, she waved him an affectionate farewell.
The boys had obtained seats in advance in one of the parlor cars, and soon they made themselves comfortable. They talked over what had happened while their visitors had been with them, and presently commenced to discuss the expected hunting on and around Snowshoe Island.
"We ought to have a dandy two weeks," was Fred's comment. "Just think of it! For fourteen days we'll be able to do exactly as we please!"
"Yum-yum!" added Randy. "Sleep as long as you please, eat when you please and as much as you please, and shoot all the game you want to! What more could a fellow want?"
"And cut all the firewood you want to! And wash all the dirty dishes you want to! And miss all the really good game you want to——" commenced Andy.
"Jump on him!"
"Throw him out of the window!"
"Let's make him go without his supper to-night!"
So the cries went on as the three others caught Andy by the arms and by the coat collar.
"Hold up! I surrender!" gasped the fun-loving youth. "Let up! will you?"
"You've got to promise to be good and not throw cold water on our hopes," announced Jack. "We're going to have the best time ever on Snowshoe Island. And not a thing is going to happen to mar our pleasure."
But in this last surmise the oldest Rover boy was sadly mistaken. Many things of which he and his cousins did not dream were to occur, not only to startle and annoy them, but also to place them in extreme peril.
CAUGHT IN A SNOWSTORM
"Next station stop Rockville!"
"That's our jumping off place, boys! We had better get our baggage together!" exclaimed Jack.
"I wonder if Barney Stevenson will be at the station to meet us?" questioned Fred.
"That depends on whether he got my last message or not," answered Jack. "However, if he isn't there, I guess we can find our way to Snowshoe Island alone."
Soon the long train rolled into the little station at Rockville, and the boys alighted, being assisted by the porter, who had already taken charge of their baggage. He readily accepted the tip they gave him, and, as he had learned that they were off on a little hunting tour, said he hoped they would have every success.
"But don't you bring down too many lions and elephants," added the colored man.
"No, we'll leave the lions and elephants for you," returned Andy, and this made the porter grin broadly, showing two rows of white ivories.
"Hello, boys! So you've got here at last, eh?" cried a voice from the doorway of the railroad station, and old Barney Stevenson strode toward them. He looked the picture of health, having recovered entirely from the accident in the woods. He shook hands cordially, giving each hand a squeeze that made the recipient wince.
"We're glad to see you, Mr. Stevenson," began Fred, when up went the old lumberman's hand in protest.
"'Twon't do, boys! 'Twon't do at all! If you're going to come over to Snowshoe Island with me, you've got to drop that Mister business. Plain Uncle Barney is good enough for me."
"All right, then! Uncle Barney it is!" answered Fred, and the others smiled and nodded.
"I just got your message this noon," explained the old lumberman. "Billy Sanders, the station agent's son, brought it over to me. I see you've got your duffle with you," and he looked at their various bags.
"We didn't bring anything along in the way of provisions," answered Randy. "We thought we could buy all those things here in town."
"So you can—providing you've got the money, lad;" and Uncle Barney smiled.
"Oh, we've got the money!" answered Andy. "Our folks treated us very handsomely."
"I brought over my big bobsled," went on the old lumberman. "Come ahead—I'll help you carry your baggage. We can leave it all at Crumpers' boathouse until we get the other stuff."
He led the way, and they soon found themselves at the boathouse he had mentioned. Here they placed their traveling bags on Uncle Barney's bobsled, and then made their way to a nearby general store, where the old fellow was well known.
"We've got a list written out here," explained Jack, bringing it forth. "I'll read it to you, and then you can tell me what you think of it."
The list was quite a long one, and the old lumberman listened attentively as Jack read it over. Then he nodded approvingly.
"You've got it about right, boys," he said. "You must have been out before."
"My dad helped me make out this list," explained Dick. "He and my uncles have had quite some experience hunting, and, of course, they knew just what to take along."
"Do you think it will be enough?" questioned Randy anxiously. His appetite for eating never seemed to be lacking.
"You've got enough there for six or eight," answered the old lumberman. "However, it won't do any harm to add a few more beans and a little extra bacon; likewise a little more sugar, seeing as how boys generally like things sweet."
It was an easy matter to purchase the various articles at the general store, and the boys had the clerk pack them securely in several soap boxes. Then Jack, as the treasurer for the crowd, paid the bill.
By this time it was growing dark, and Uncle Barney told them they had better not waste their time.
"I may be mistaken, but it looks a good deal like another snowstorm to me," he explained. "And if it's going to snow, we might as well get to the island before it starts to come down too hard."
The old lumberman was right about the snow, and some early flakes came sifting down while they were still at the boathouse packing the bobsled. The old lumberman showed them how to secure the load so that there would be no danger of its falling off.
"Now then, on with your skates, and we'll be off," he announced. In the winter time he always made the journey between the island and the town on his steel runners.
"I suppose skating is a good deal easier than walking," remarked Fred, while the boys were putting on their skates.
"To be sure. And we can make so much better time."
"How far have we got to go?" questioned Andy.
"To the upper end of the island, where I've got my home, is about four miles."
"Oh, that isn't so far!" cried Fred. "We can skate that in no time."
"We could if we could go in a straight line. But we can't," answered Uncle Barney. "The wind blew the last snow in all sorts of ridges across the ice, and we'll have to pick our way along as best we can."
A long rope had been attached to the bobsled, so that they could all assist in hauling it along. On the smooth ice the load proved to be a light one, so that they had little difficulty in progressing. But, as the old lumberman had said, the ridges of snow on the lake were numerous, and some of these were piled up several feet high, and the party had to make long detours around them.
"This isn't going to be so easy, after all," remarked Fred, after they had skated for almost half an hour. "I thought we would get to Snowshoe Island in no time."
It was now quite dark, and the snow was falling steadily. So far, there had been little wind, but now this, too, sprang up, sending the frozen particles directly into their faces.
"Gee! this isn't so pleasant!" exclaimed Andy, as he pulled down his cap and pulled up the sweater he was wearing.
"The wind is increasing," said Fred a minute later. "Hark to that, will you?"
All listened, and from a distance heard the wind stirring through the woods bordering the lake in that vicinity. Then the wind bore down upon them, and with it came a heavier fall of snow.
"Say, this is going to be some snowstorm!"
"Yes, and some blow too!"
"I wish it wasn't so dark!"
"Uncle Barney, are you sure you know the way?" questioned Randy, as all came to a halt for a moment to turn their backs to the wind and catch their breath.
"Oh, yes, my lad! I know the way well enough," was the old lumberman's reply. "But, believe me, I didn't expect any such snowstorm as this when I went after you. I thought it would be just an ordinary fall."
"It seems to be getting heavier every minute," declared Jack, as he sheltered his eyes with his hand and tried to peer forth into the darkness. "Why, the snow is coming down in regular chunks!"
The flakes were indeed both heavy and thick, and the wind sent the snow sweeping across the ice, forming new ridges in every direction.
"The first thing you know, we'll be blocked completely," declared Randy, after they had progressed another quarter of a mile. "Just look at that wall of snow, will you?" and he pointed ahead, where a snowdrift was all of five feet high and rapidly growing higher.
The Rovers could see by his manner that the old lumberman was growing much disturbed. He led the way first in one direction and then in another. Then presently he called a halt.
"It ain't no use," he declared flatly. "I thought I could work my way around these snowdrifts, the same as I did when I came over to town after you. But the darkness and this heavy fall of snow is bothering me tremendously."
"What do you think we ought to do?" questioned Fred anxiously. The situation was making the youngest Rover boy a little fearful.
"I guess about the best thing we can do is to strike a bee-line for the island," answered Uncle Barney. "It won't be much harder to break through these snowdrifts than it is to try to find our way around them in this wind and darkness."
"Are you sure you know the way to the island?" questioned Jack, who knew only too well that it was the easiest thing in the world to get turned around in such a situation as this.
"Oh, I'm pretty sure I haven't lost my bearings," answered the old lumberman. "However, to make sure, maybe I had better have a squint at my compass."
"Oh, say! that puts me in mind!" burst out Randy. "What's the matter with using one of our flashlights?" for the boys had brought along two of those useful articles, which were now packed in the baggage on the bobsled.
"Yes, let's get out both of the flashlights," returned Fred. "In this darkness we'll want all the light we can get."
Sheltering themselves as best they could from the wind, which seemed every minute to be increasing in violence, the boys unstrapped part of their load and managed to bring forth the two flashlights. While this was being done, Uncle Barney brought from his pocket a small compass.
"Now, I think north is in that direction," he said, pointing with his hand. With the aid of one of the lights, the compass was inspected, and it was found that the old lumberman was almost right, he having pointed a little to the northwest.
"If we'd gone on the way I expected to go, we'd have struck the lower end of the island instead of the upper," he explained. "It wouldn't have made a great deal of difference, but we might as well take the straightest line we know how. Come on! Follow me, and I'll break the way for you."
Once more they started forward, and in a minute more the boys found themselves struggling through snow which was several feet deep.
"Gee! a fellow ought to have snowshoes instead of skates!" panted Fred, when in the midst of the drift. "This is the worst ever!"
"The drift isn't very wide, Fred," announced Jack, who was ahead of his cousin, flashing one of the lights around. "Here we come to the clear ice again," and a few seconds later they found themselves skating along as easily as before.
But this open patch did not last long. Soon they came to several more snowdrifts. The first was barely a foot high, but the second was almost up to their arm-pits. The old lumberman was still ahead, breaking a path for them as well as he was able. Hampered with the load of the bobsled, the boys made slow progress.
"It's no use!" groaned Andy at last. "I'm all out of breath. I've got to stop and rest."
"We had better not stop to rest here, Andy," answered Jack quickly. "We must reach some sort of shelter from this wind."
"I'm all out of breath myself," came from Fred. The exertion of plowing through the snowdrifts had tired him dreadfully, and he was trembling in the legs so that he could scarcely stand.
"Come on, boys! Don't stay here!" called back Uncle Barney to them. "This snowstorm is getting worse every minute!"
The old lumberman had scarcely spoken when all the boys heard a strange whistling in the air. Then the wind tore down upon them harder than ever, sending the snowy particles in all directions, so that to make out what was ahead, even with the flashlights, was out of the question.
AN ASTONISHING REVELATION
The situation was certainly a disheartening one, and the boys huddled close together around the bobsled, both for protection and to talk the matter over.
"Can you tell us at all how far we really are from some sort of shelter—I mean the nearest shelter at hand?" questioned Jack of Uncle Barney, as the old lumberman came back to see what had happened.
"It's about a mile to my cabin," was the reply.
"And is that the nearest place?" asked Fred, who had sat down on the bobsled load to rest.
"No. The nearest place is a little hut that I put up at this end of the island several years ago. It isn't very much of a shelter, but it might do."
"Do you mean we could stay there all night?" queried Randy.
"Oh, yes. It's plenty large enough for all of us, and there is a rough fireplace where we could start a blaze and cook something."
"Then let's head for that place, by all means!" cried Jack. "This storm is getting worse every minute."
With the wind whistling keenly in their ears and blowing the snow across the ice and into numerous high drifts, the little party moved on once more, the boys doing their best to keep up with the old lumberman. This was comparatively easy, for even Uncle Barney was well-nigh exhausted by his exertions.
"If this snow keeps on, it will be one of the worst storms we ever had up here," he announced. "But, somehow, I don't think it will last; the sky didn't look heavy enough this afternoon."
"I hope it doesn't last," returned Jack.
"We don't want to be snowed in while we are up here," added Randy. "We want to have a chance to hunt."
To make progress against the fury of the elements was not easy, but presently the boys heard Uncle Barney give a cry of satisfaction.
"Here we are, lads, in sight of the island!" exclaimed the old lumberman. "Now it won't be long before we reach that shelter I mentioned."
By the aid of the two flashlights, the boys made out a number of trees and bushes ahead. The bushes were covered thickly with snow, and behind them were sharp rocks, also outlined in white.
"This is what I call Squirrel Point," explained the old lumberman. "It used to be a great place for squirrels."
"How much further to that shelter?" queried Fred. Just then he took no interest whatever in game. He was so tired he could scarcely place one foot in front of the other; and, to tell the truth, his cousins were little better off.
"We've got only a couple of hundred feet to go," was the reply. "Come ahead. I'll help you pull that bobsled," and now Uncle Barney took hold, and once again they started forward, this time skirting the lower extremity of Snowshoe Island. Here there were a great number of pines and hemlocks growing amid a perfect wilderness of rocks, now all thickly covered with snow.
"Now you'll have a little climbing to do," announced the old lumberman a few minutes later. "You might as well take off your skates, and I'll do the same. And we'll have to hoist that bobsled up the best we know how."
He had turned toward the island, and soon they were climbing up over the rough rocks and pulling the bobsled after them. In one spot they had to raise the sled up over their heads. The old lumberman assisted them in this task, and then pointed to a small, cleared space between a number of pines.
"Hurrah! I see the hut!" cried Jack in delight, and ran forward, followed by his cousins. Uncle Barney came with them, and an instant later had forced open a rude door. Then one of the lights was flashed inside.
The boys and Uncle Barney had expected to find the little cabin vacant. Consequently they were much surprised when they heard a queer little noise, not unlike the snarl of a dog.
"By gum! it's a wolf!" ejaculated the old lumberman in amazement.
Scarcely had he spoken when there leaped into view a full-grown wolf. As he confronted the boys and the old man, he snarled viciously, and his eyes appeared to gleam like two balls of fire.
"It's a wolf, sure enough!"
"Shoot him, somebody! Shoot him!"
"Where's my gun?"
"The guns are all strapped down on the bobsled!"
Such were some of the cries which came from the Rover boys when they found themselves confronted by the wolf. They fell back several paces, and Uncle Barney did likewise. The old lumberman had gone to Rockville armed, but he too had strapped his weapon fast on the bobsled, so that he might assist the boys in hauling the load.
As the little party fell back wondering what was best to do, the wolf gave another leap, thereby reaching the doorway of the little cabin. Then, with a snarl, he whirled around, leaped into the snow behind some hemlocks, and in a moment more had disappeared from view.
"Well, what do you know about that!" cried Fred faintly.
"And to think we weren't ready to shoot!" groaned Randy.
"We're a fine bunch of hunters, we are!" scoffed Andy.
"Well, we didn't expect to find a wolf in possession of this hut," remarked Jack. "Just the same, I wish we had been able to get a shot at him," he added wistfully.
"I should have carried my gun," remarked Uncle Barney. "It was a mistake to put it on the sled. That's just my luck, confound it! Whenever I go out free-handed, I'm almost certain to see something worth shooting," and he shook his head grimly.
"You didn't say anything about wolves being on the island," said Fred, while the old man was looking around inside the cabin with both flashlights.
"There are very few wolves in this neighborhood," was the reply. "The last wolf I saw on the island, outside of this one, was two years ago."
As the door to the cabin had been closed, the boys wondered how the wolf had gotten into the place, but Uncle Barney showed them a small, broken-out window in the rear of the shelter. This window was now partly covered with snow.
"I suppose the wolf thought he couldn't get out that way on account of the snow, and consequently he had to come by way of the door," explained the old lumberman. "Well, I'm mighty glad he didn't go any damage."
An examination revealed the fact that no other living thing was in or around the cabin, and as soon as they were satisfied of this, the boys brought in the bobsled. In the meantime, Uncle Barney stirred around outside and managed to find some firewood which was fairly dry. Then a blaze was started in the rude fireplace, the door was shut, and a blanket was nailed up over the broken-out window.
"Now this is something like!" remarked Jack, when the cabin began to grow warm. The boys had unpacked the contents of the bobsled and brought forth a candle, which was lighted and placed in a rude holder on the wall.
Now that they were safe from the storm, all of the Rovers felt in better humor. Uncle Barney showed them how they could obtain water by melting some snow and ice, and soon they had enough to make a pot of chocolate and another pot of coffee. In the meantime, the old lumberman, assisted by Jack, opened up a box of sardines fried some bacon, and also warmed up a can of green corn which had been among the stores. They had no bread, so they used up one of the boxes of soda crackers which they had purchased.
"It's too bad we haven't got some game to cook," observed Randy.
"Let's be thankful that we've got some sort of a roof over our heads, and that we can rest," put in Fred. He had not yet gotten over the struggle to get through the snow.
With nothing else to do, the boys and the old lumberman took their time over the evening meal, and never had anything tasted better than did this first supper on Snowshoe Island to the Rovers.
Outside the wind was blowing as strongly as ever, and the snow still came down steadily. To make sure that they would not suffer from the cold, all of the lads went out with Uncle Barney and brought in a large supply of firewood. Then they built up a good blaze, around which they sat in a semicircle on the sled and the boxes brought along, and on a rude bench of which the little cabin boasted.
"When I first came to Snowshoe Island, twelve years ago, I thought I would locate at this end," remarked Barney Stevenson during the course of the conversation. "But after staying here a short while I concluded that it was nicer at the upper end, so I went there."
"Did you buy the island as far back as that?" queried Jack.
"Oh, no, lad. In those days I only leased the island. You see, it belonged to an old lady named Martinson. She had a son who drifted out to California, and then went to Alaska. When the old lady died, Luke Martinson came back home, and then he came to see me. He wanted to get rid of all his property around here so he could go back to Alaska, and he offered this place to me, and I bought it. That was several years ago."
"It's nice to own an island like this," observed Fred. "A fellow can have a regular Robinson Crusoe time of it if he wants to."
"When I bought the island I thought I'd have no difficulty in holding it," continued Barney Stevenson. "But since that time I have had a whole lot of trouble. Two men claim that Luke Martinson never had any rights here—that the old Martinson claim to the island was a false one. They have tried two or three times to get me off the place, but I've refused to go."
"Didn't you get a deed to the island?" questioned Jack, who had often heard his father and his uncles speak about deeds to real estate.
"Certainly, I got a deed! But they claim that the old Martinson deed was no good. But it is good—and I know it!" grumbled Uncle Barney.
"Who are the men who want to take the island away from you?" questioned Andy. "Some hunters around here, or lumbermen?"
"Oh no! They are two men from the city—a real estate dealer and a man who used to be interested in buying and selling property, but who lost most of his fortune and then went to teaching, or something like that."
"Teaching!" exclaimed Jack, struck by a sudden idea. "What is that man's name, if I may ask?"
"His name is Asa Lemm, and the name of the other man is Slogwell Brown," was the reply of the old lumberman, which filled the Rover boys with amazement.
THE FIRST NIGHT ON THE ISLAND
"Asa Lemm and Slogwell Brown!"
"What do you know about that, boys?"
"That's bringing this matter pretty close to us, isn't it?"
"I should say so!"
Such were some of the remarks coming from the Rover boys after Barney Stevenson had made his astonishing declaration that the father of Slugger Brown and the ex-teacher of Colby Hall were the two men who were trying to dispossess him.
"Why, you speak as if you knew those two men!" exclaimed the old lumberman.
"We certainly know Asa Lemm," answered Jack.
"And we know the son of Slogwell Brown," added Randy.
"Yes, and if Mr. Brown is no better than his son, I wouldn't put it past him to do something crooked," was Andy's comment.
"Tell me what you know," said Uncle Barney.
Thereupon the four boys related the particulars of the trouble they had had with Professor Lemm, and of how he had left the military academy. They also told much about Slugger, and, incidentally, Nappy Martell, and of how the two cadets had been dismissed by Colonel Colby.
"This certainly is wonderful!" exclaimed the old lumberman, when they had finished. "I had no idea you boys knew anything about those men. I reckon your opinion of their honesty is just about as high as mine is," and he smiled grimly.
"Asa Lemm claims to have lost quite a fortune," said Jack; "but we certainly did not think that part of it was located in this island."
"It isn't located in this island—at least it isn't so far as I am concerned!" cried Uncle Barney. "If those men bought what they thought were the rights to this island, they were defrauded, that's all! And that has absolutely nothing to do with my rights to this land!"
"I should think if you got a good deed to the land from that Luke Martinson—and his folks had a good deed from somebody else—that ought to be proof enough that you own the island."
"Well, I've got the deed from Martinson, and I've got the old deeds he used to have, too! I've got them placed away in a tin box and in a safe place, too!" answered the old man.
"Then, if you've got those deeds, why do they bother you?" questioned Fred.
"As I've said before, they won't admit that the deeds old Mrs. Martinson had were any good. The fact of the matter is, Slogwell Brown wants to get those deeds away from me. He has been at me to let him look at the deeds several times, but I've always refused, for I was afraid that if he got the deeds away from me I would never see them again."
"I thought they recorded deeds at the Court House," said Jack, who had heard this fact mentioned between his father and his uncles.
"They do record deeds, and I suppose that one was recorded at some time or other; but the Court House in this county was burnt down some years ago and all the records went up in smoke."
"But you could get the deeds recorded now—I mean have it done over again," remarked Randy.
"I suppose so. But that wouldn't do me any good, because they would probably try to prove that the deeds I brought in were not the originals. You see, the date when a deed is recorded has a good deal to do with it. Anyway, I'm not going to let anybody have those deeds until I am sure of what I'm doing," went on Uncle Barney. It was easy to see that the old man was peculiar and wanted to do things in his own manner.
"Did you ever ask a lawyer about this?" questioned Fred.
"No! I ain't got no use for lawyers!" was the quick reply. "I hired a lawyer in a lawsuit nigh on to thirteen years ago, and I lost the suit and it cost me over a hundred dollars more than I might have paid otherwise." The old lumberman did not add that this was a lawsuit to which Ruth Stevenson's father was also a party, yet such was the fact.
"How long is it since you heard from Mr. Brown and Professor Lemm?" asked Andy.
"The last time they came to see me was in the middle of the summer. They threatened all sorts of things, and they got me so mad that I had to take down my shotgun and warn them away. Then they left in a big hurry."
"Don't you think it's a bad thing to warn them off with a gun?" questioned Jack. "They might have you arrested for threatening their lives."
"I'm not afraid of them!" was the quick reply. "This is my island, and nobody shall take it away from me!"
The boys could see that the subject was becoming distasteful to the old man, and so they started to speak of other things. They questioned him about how they could get to his regular cabin, and also the cabin they were to occupy, and then spoke about the game they might have a chance to bring down.
"Your going hunting will depend a good deal on how the weather turns out," said the old lumberman. "If this snow keeps on for a day or two, it will make traveling pretty bad. However, I'm in hopes that the storm will clear away by morning."
The boys had put in a strenuous day, and they were glad enough when Uncle Barney suggested that they turn in for the night.
"We're pretty short on blankets," he said, "but that won't matter so much so long as we keep the fire going. I've got a good back log started, and that ought to last until morning, if not longer. When I'm at this hut alone, I usually sleep in that corner, and I'll do the same to-night. You can spread yourselves around as you please."
With such a limited supply of blankets, it was no easy matter to make comfortable couches, yet the boys had left home to rough it, so nobody complained. They lay down in their clothing, using some of their suitcases and Gladstone bags for pillows.
"If we had had a chance to do so, we might have brought in some pine boughs to lie on," said Jack. "But as it is, I guess we'll manage."
"Is there any chance of that wolf coming back?" questioned Fred, a bit anxiously.
"I hardly think so, Fred. And, anyway, I don't see how he's going to get in here, with the door closed and the blanket nailed over the window. However, we can keep our guns handy in case he does appear."
Worn out so completely, it did not take the boys long to fall into a sound sleep, and the old lumberman soon joined them, snoring lustily. Thus the night passed, and nothing came to disturb them.
Of the lads, it was Randy who was the first to arise in the morning. He found Uncle Barney in the act of stirring up the fire. The old lumberman had already brought in some ice to be melted for a pot of coffee.
"I ain't really awake in the morning until after I've had my cup of coffee," he explained. "That's the one thing that really sets me on my feet."
"How about the storm?" questioned Randy, and now the sound of his voice set the others to stirring.
"The storm is about over," was the welcome announcement. "In a little while I think you'll see the sun peeping out over the woods on the eastern shore."
"Hurrah! that's good news!" cried Andy, leaping to his feet and stretching himself. "I must have a look!" and, jamming his cap on his head, he started for the door. The other Rovers followed him.
Outside they found the snow covering everything to a depth of from several inches to several feet, but the air was as clear as a bell, and just beyond the woods, on the eastern shore of Lake Monona, there was a rosy glow, betokening the rising of the sun.
"It's going to be a grand day!" exclaimed Fred.
"I don't think it could be any better, even though the snow is quite deep in spots," returned Jack.
Once more they went over the stores which had been brought along, and took out enough for breakfast. They had with them some flour for griddle cakes, and soon the appetizing odor of the cakes, mingling with the aroma of hot coffee and hot chocolate, filled the little cabin. Then they took turns at frying bacon and making more griddle cakes and eating breakfast.
"What do you think will be the easiest way of getting to the other end of the island?" questioned Jack of Uncle Barney, while they were eating.
"Well, as you've got the bobsled and all those stores along, I should say the easiest way would be to climb down to the lake again," was the reply. "That wind must have cleaned off some of the ice, and we can get along a good deal better by skating and by hauling the bobsled over the ice than we can trying to break our way through the woods in this heavy fall of snow."
"I was thinking if we walked the length of the island we might stir up some game," remarked Randy.
"You'll have plenty of chances to go out after game after you're settled at the regular camp," returned the old lumberman. "The game isn't going to run away, you know," and he smiled pleasantly.
Breakfast at an end, the boys lost no time in repacking their belongings, and Uncle Barney assisted them in fastening the load to the bobsled.
"But I'm going to carry my shotgun this time," announced Fred. "Then, if any game appears, I'll be ready for it."
"You can all carry your guns if you want to," said the owner of the island. "I'll leave my weapon strapped to the sled, so that if any game appears you boys can do the shooting."
The little cabin was closed up, and then the party made its way down over the rough rocks and between the trees to the lake shore. It was no easy matter to bring the bobsled along, and once Fred slipped on one of the smooth rocks and pitched headlong into a snowbank.
"Hi you! stop your fooling!" cried Andy, and then, in great glee, he picked up a chunk of snow and hurled it at Jack.
"Let up!" cried the oldest Rover boy. "This is no time for jokes!" and then, as Andy came at him with another chunk of snow, he jumped at his cousin, put out his foot, and made the fun-loving youth measure his length in a drift.
"Wow! but that snow is cold!" cried Andy, who had gotten some down the sleeves of his sweater. "Stop! Don't bury me! I'll be good!" And then he scrambled to his feet once more, while Fred did the same. Then the whole party proceeded on its way.
Reaching the lake, they lost no time in putting on their skates, and then, with Uncle Barney leading the way, the four Rovers followed, dragging the loaded bobsled behind them.
On all sides could be seen snowdrifts and ridges of snow piled in curiously fantastic shapes. But the keen wind of the afternoon and night had cleared many long reaches of the ice, and over these reaches Uncle Barney picked his way, gradually working closer and closer to the upper end of Snowshoe Island.
"We'll turn in here," he announced presently, when they came to where there was something of a cove. "There seems to be quite a cleared space. It won't be very long now before we reach the upper end."
As they turned in once more toward the island, Jack noticed a peculiar fluttering among some trees not far away.
"Wait a minute!" he cried out in a low tone. "I think I see some game!"
All came to a halt, and then Uncle Barney looked in the direction to which the oldest Rover boy pointed.
"You are right, my lad," answered the old lumberman. "There is a fine chance for all of you."
"What are they?" questioned Fred a trifle excitedly.
"Wild turkeys! And the best kind of eating—if you can only get close enough to bring them down."
"Oh, say! we've got to bring down at least one of those wild turkeys!" cried Andy.
"Keep quiet," admonished Jack, speaking in a whisper. "If those turkeys hear you they'll be gone in a jiffy."
"I didn't know there were any wild turkeys around here," remarked Randy. "I thought they had been all cleaned out long ago."
"They are getting very scarce," answered Uncle Barney, "but once in a while you will see a small flock of them. I was after that flock about a week ago, but they got away from me. I've a notion that it's about the last flock in this district."
While this talk was going on in low tones of voice, all of the Rovers had abandoned the bobsled and were moving toward the shore of the island.
"You had better come this way and crawl up in the shelter of yonder rocks and brushwood," advised Uncle Barney. "And don't shoot until you have a good aim and know what you're shooting at," he concluded.
It must be admitted that all of the boys were somewhat excited over the prospect ahead. They caught only a brief glance at the game, but felt certain that it was close at hand.
"Wild turkeys are a good sight better than rabbits or squirrels, or even pheasants," said Fred. "They'll make dandy eating."
"Don't eat them until after you have shot them, Fred," remarked Andy dryly.
"Hush," warned Jack. "Now, make as little noise as possible, and each of you hold his gun ready for use."
They had not stopped to take off their skates, but this was unnecessary, for the snow was deep and the skates merely kept them from slipping. They pushed on around some large rocks, and then in between the thick brushwood, where the snow fell upon their heads and shoulders, covering them with white—something which was to their advantage, as it aided them in hiding themselves from the game. Not far away they could hear the wild turkeys, one in particular giving the peculiar gobble by which they are well known.
"I see them," whispered Fred a minute later, and pointed with his gun.
There in a little clearing some distance ahead was a tall and long turkey gobbler surrounded by a number of hens. They were plump and of a peculiar black and bronzed color.
"Let's all fire together. Maybe we can bring down the whole flock!" exclaimed Randy, and his manner showed that he was growing quite excited.
"All right—I'm willing," answered Jack. "But let us see if we can't get a little nearer first."
"Maybe if we try to get closer they'll get away from us," said Andy.
"Keep your guns pointed at them, and if they start to leave fire as quickly as you can," answered Jack, and then he moved forward with his cousins ranged on either side of him.
The Rover boys had advanced but a few paces when the wild turkeys caught sight of them. The turkey cock issued a loud note of alarm, and all started to fly from the low bushes upon which they had been resting.
"Fire!" yelled Jack, and discharged his rifle.
The crack of this weapon was followed by the report of Fred's shotgun, and then the twins also let drive. Then Fred fired again, and so did some of the others.
At the first report the turkey cock was seen to rise in the air, followed by some of the hens, while two hens dropped lifeless in the snow. The turkey cock, however, was seriously wounded and fluttered around in a circle.
"Give him another shot!" yelled Fred, whose gun was empty; and thereupon Jack and Randy fired and the gobbler fell directly at their feet. He was not yet dead, but they quickly put him out of his misery by wringing his neck. By this time the hens which had flown away were out of sight.
"Two hens and one gobbler!" cried Jack, as he surveyed the game. "I think we can congratulate ourselves on this haul."
"You certainly can!" exclaimed Uncle Barney, as he plowed up behind the boys. "Wild turkeys are no mean game to bring down, let me tell you! I've tried time and again to get a turkey, and somehow or other it would always get away from me."
"Some size to this gobbler!" remarked Fred. "And some weight, too," he added, as he picked the turkey cock up by the legs.
"He'll weigh sixteen or eighteen pounds at least," said the old lumberman, as he took the turkey cock from the youngest Rover boy and held the game out in both hands. "Yes, sir! every bit of eighteen—and he may go twenty. You'll have a dandy meal off of him."
"I know what I'd like to do," said Randy wistfully. "I'd like to send him home to the folks."
"That's the talk!" returned his twin. "Why can't we do it?"
"I'm willing," answered Jack. "The express company ought to know how to pack game like that so it will carry properly."
"They'll pack anything you want them to down at the railroad station," said Uncle Barney. "There is a man there who makes a specialty of that sort of thing for hunters. He'll see that the turkey reaches your folks in New York in first-class shape."
"We can send the gobbler home and keep the two hens," said Fred. "That will make eating enough for us, I'm sure. They must weigh at least seven or eight pounds apiece."
"All of that," came from the old lumberman.
Much elated over the success of their first effort at hunting on Snowshoe Island, the Rovers picked up the game and made their way back to where they had left the bobsled. They placed the turkeys on the sled, and then resumed their journey once more.
"We're coming up to the end of the island now," announced Barney Stevenson presently, and a minute later they made a turn around some trees lining the shore and came into view of a cleared spot, containing a small boat-landing. Beyond the cleared spot, backed up by some tall pines and hemlocks, were two fair-sized cabins, standing about a hundred feet apart.
"That's the cabin I use," explained the old lumberman, pointing to the building on the right. "The other is the one you can make yourselves at home in."
The setting for the two cabins was an ideal one, and the boys could well imagine how beautiful the place must look in the summer time with the green trees, and the cleared space sloping down to the great lake. Now, of course, the ground, as well as the trees and brushwood, was heavily covered with snow, and the snow hung down off the rough roof of each cabin.
"I'll take you directly over to the cabin you are to occupy," said Uncle Barney. "I've got it all in shape for you, with plenty of firewood and everything."
He led the way, and they followed, dragging the bobsled behind them. The door to the cabin had been locked, for the old lumberman stated that he did not wish any outside hunters or other people to take possession during his absence.
"Of course, a good many of the hunters and lumberman are my friends," he explained. "But then there are often strangers, and some of those fellows wouldn't be above carrying off anything that suited their fancy."
The boys gave cries of delight when he took them into the cabin which they were to occupy during their stay on the island. They found it a fairly large place, divided into two rooms, one a general living-room and the other a sleeping apartment. In the former was located a fairly well-made table, a couple of benches, and also a swinging shelf, containing quite an assortment of dishes, while at one side there was a big open fireplace, and in a corner a small closet furnished with numerous kitchen utensils.
The other apartment contained three regular bunks and a temporary one put in for the occasion; and these bunks were well spread with fresh pine boughs and camp blankets. The opening from one room into the next was so located that the warmth from the fire in the living-room could easily reach the sleeping apartment.
"Say, this is bang-up!" exclaimed Randy.
"It's the best ever!" echoed Fred.
"It's a peach!" was Andy's comment.
"I certainly didn't expect anything half as good as this, Uncle Barney," remarked Jack, his eyes showing his pleasure. "If we don't have a good time here, it certainly won't be your fault."
"Then you really like it, do you, boys?" asked the old lumberman anxiously.
"I certainly don't know how it could be better," remarked Randy. "And just look at the dishes and things to cook with!"
"And these fine bunks!" exclaimed his twin, sitting down on one. "Why, this is just as good as a hair mattress!"
"And how sweet the pine boughs smell!" murmured Fred.
"If you boys want to send that turkey cock home, you had better let me take it down to Rockville to-day," said the old lumberman. "I won't mind the trip at all," he added, as he saw that some of them were going to remonstrate. "Fact is, I forgot to get some of the things I was going to buy yesterday. So if you'll just make yourselves at home here, I'll go down there and be back some time before nightfall."
"Don't you want to wait until after dinner?" questioned Jack.
"No. I'll get something to eat while I'm in town."
The matter was talked over, and it was finally arranged that Barney Stevenson should return to Rockville with the turkey cock and have it shipped by express to the Rover boys' folks in New York. Jack wrote out a card, which was to be sent with the game, and also another card to be tacked on the box in which it was to be shipped. Then the old lumberman hurried over to his own cabin to get ready for the journey.
"Won't our folks be surprised when they get that box!" exclaimed Fred. "I wish I could be there to see them."
"They'll know we didn't lose any time going hunting," added Andy, with a happy laugh.
When the old hunter had departed with the turkey cock, the boys hung up the dead hens and then proceeded to make themselves at home in the cabin which had been assigned to them. They had quite something to do to build a fire and to unpack and stow away the various things which they had brought along, and almost before they were aware it was time for dinner.
"Shall we eat the game to-day?" questioned Randy.
"Oh, let us wait until to-morrow. Then Uncle Barney will be with us, and he can enjoy it, too," answered Jack, and so it was decided. Then the boys started in to get such a meal as their stores and the things which the old lumberman had turned over to them provided.
It was great fun, and all of them felt in the best of spirits. Andy could hardly keep himself down, and had to whistle at the top of his lungs, and even do a jig or two while he moved about.
"It's going to be the best outing ever!" he declared over and over again.
"Yes, and won't we have something to tell when we get back to Colby Hall!" put in Fred.
It was over an hour later before dinner was ready. Having had such an early breakfast, the boys did full justice to all the things they had cooked, and they spent quite some time over the meal. After that they continued to put the cabin in order, and cleaned their skates, and also looked over their guns.
"We'll have to try these snowshoes to-morrow," announced Jack, referring to a number of such articles which Barney Stevenson had hung on the walls of the cabin. "Maybe we'll almost break our necks at first, but there is nothing like getting used to a thing."
"What do you mean? Getting used to breaking your neck?" questioned Andy dryly, and this brought forth a laugh all around.
About the middle of the afternoon the boys found themselves with but little to do, and Fred suggested that they might go out and look for more game.
"Oh, let's take it easy for the rest of the day, and go out early in the morning," cried Randy.
"Let us go over to the other cabin and take a look around," suggested Andy. "I'm sure old Uncle Barney won't mind. He's a fine old gentleman, even though he is rather peculiar."
"I want to talk to him about Ruth Stevenson's folks some time," said Jack; "but I'm afraid I'm going to have a hard time getting at it."
Andy led the way out of the cabin, and the four boys had almost reached the place used by the old lumberman when suddenly Fred gave a cry.
"Here come two men from the lake!"
"Maybe it's Uncle Barney coming back with one of his friends," said Andy.
"No; neither of the men walks like the old lumberman," announced his twin.
"One of those men looks familiar to me," burst out Jack. He gazed intently at the advancing pair.
"There are two others behind them," broke in Fred. "Young fellows, I think."
"One of those men is Professor Lemm!" cried Jack.
"And the two fellows in the rear are Slugger Brown and Nappy Martell!" added Fred.
A WAR OF WORDS
The knowledge that Professor Lemm, Slugger Brown and Nappy Martell were approaching the cabins on the upper end of Snowshoe Island filled the Rover boys with wonder.
"Professor Lemm must have come to see Uncle Barney about those deeds," remarked Randy.
"I wonder if that is Slugger's father with him?" broke in Fred.
"Maybe," answered Jack. "Those men were the only two who were interested in getting possession of this island."
"I'll tell you what I think we ought to do!" exclaimed Andy.
"What?" came from the others quickly.
"I think we ought to go back to our own cabin and arm ourselves."
"That might not be such a bad idea, Andy," returned Jack. "Those men, backed up by Slugger and Nappy, may want to carry things with a high hand."
Acting on Andy's suggestion, the four boys retreated to the cabin which they had just left, and each took possession of his weapon.
"I don't think they'll try much rough-house work when they see how we are armed," remarked Randy grimly.
"Of course, we don't want to do any shooting," cautioned Jack. "We only want to scare them, in case they go too far."
"Jack, you had better be the spokesman for the crowd," remarked Randy. "You go ahead and talk to them, and we'll stand back with our guns."
Still holding his rifle, Jack went forward again, and in a moment more found himself confronted by Asa Lemm and the man who was with him.
"Rover! Is it possible!" exclaimed the former teacher of Colby Hall in astonishment. "What are you doing here?"
"I and my cousins are here to hunt."
"Humph! I didn't know old Stevenson allowed anybody to do hunting around here."
"Maybe they are hunting here without the old man's permission," suggested the other man. "Where is Barney Stevenson?" he demanded of Jack.
"Mr. Stevenson has gone over to Rockville on an errand," was the reply.
By this time Slugger and Nappy had come up, and they stared at Jack and his cousins as if they could not believe the evidences of their senses.
"Well, what do you know about this!" burst out the former bully of Colby Hall.
"All of those Rovers up here, and armed!" came from Nappy.
"Who gave you the right to come to this island?" went on the bully, glaring at Jack.
"Do you know these boys?" queried the man who was with Professor Lemm.
"Sure, Dad, I know them! They are the Rover boys I told you about—the fellows who helped to have me and Nappy sent away from school."
"Oh, so that's it!" cried Slogwell Brown. "Did you have any idea they might be up here?" he questioned quickly.
"Not the least, Dad. I thought they were down in New York. Nappy said he had seen them on the ice in Central Park."
"I did see them, too," answered the lad mentioned.
"Well, we didn't come here to see you Rovers," broke in Asa Lemm stiffly. "Not but what I have an account to settle with you," he continued significantly.
"We want nothing more to do with you, Professor Lemm," answered Jack boldly.
"But I'm going to have something to do with you, young man!" stormed the former teacher of the Hall, beginning to show his usual ill humor.
"Never mind these boys now, Lemm," interposed Slogwell Brown. "We want to fix up our business with old Stevenson first."
"If you have anything to say to Mr. Stevenson, you'll have to come when he is here," answered Jack.
"When do you expect him back?"
"I don't know exactly when he will come—probably before nightfall."
"Then, all we can do is to wait for him," grumbled Slogwell Brown.
"If we have to wait, we might as well go inside his cabin and do it," suggested Nappy. "It's too cold to stay out here."