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- The Rover Boys at School - 10/38 -
"Yes," Peleg Snuggers paused for a moment. "They say the widder thinks of marrying again."
"Is that so!" put in Dick, and then he wondered if Dora would be pleased with her stepfather. "So that is the place?"
"Yes, sir; two hundred and fifty acres, and the fittest dairy in these parts. If, the widder marries again, her husband will fall into a very good thing. The dairy company at Ithaca once offered fifty thousand dollars for the cattle and land."
"Gracious!" came from Tom. "We've been chumming with an heiress. Are the Lanings rich, too?"
"Very well to do. That is their place, that side road. Here is where we turn off to get to the Hall. Captain Putnam had this road made when the Hall was first built."
The road was one of cracked stone, as smooth as a huge iron roller could make it. They bowled along at a rapid rate, under the wide spreading branches of two rows of stately maples. They were close to the lake, and occasional glimpses of water could be caught through the tree branches.
"It is certainly a splendid locality for a boarding academy," was Dick's comment. "My, what pure air -- enough to make a sick boy strong! Do you have much sickness at the Hall?"
"Very little, sir. The captain does not let a cast of sickness stand, but calls in Dr. Fremley at once."
"That is where he is level-headed," said Fred. "My father said I was to call for a doctor the minute I felt at all sick."
They were now approaching Putnam Hall, but there was still another turn to make. As they swept around this, they came upon a tramp, half asleep under a tree. The tramp roused up at the sounds of carriage wheels and looked first at the driver of the carryall and then at the four boys.
"Phew!" he ejaculated, and lost no time in diving out of sight into some brush back of the row of maples.
"Hullo, who was that?" cried Sam.
"A tramp, I reckon," answered the utility man. "We are bothered a good deal with them."
"Begging at the Hall for the left-overs?"
"Exactly. The captain is too kind-hearted. He ought to drive 'em all away," answered Peleg Snuggers; and then the carryall passed on.
When it was gone, and the wagon with the trunks had followed, the tramp came out of the brush and gazed after both turnouts. "Say, Buddy Girk, but dat was a narrow escape," he muttered to himself. "Wot brought dem young gents to dis neighborhood? It can't be possible da have tracked me -- an' so quick." He hesitated. "I t'ink I had better give dis neighborhood de go-by," and he dove into the brush again. He was the rascal who had stolen Dick's timepiece.
TOM GETS INTO TROUBLE
Putnam Hall was a fine building of brick and stone, standing in the center of a beautiful parade ground of nearly ten acres. In front of the parade ground was the wagon road, and beyond was a gentle slope leading down to the lake. To the left of the building was a playground hedged in by cedars, at one comer of which stood a two-story frame building used as a gymnasium. To the right was a woods, while in the rear were a storehouse, a stable, and several other outbuildings, backed up by some farm lands, cultivated for the sole benefit of the institution, so that the pupils were served in season with the freshest of fruits and vegetables.
The Hall was built in the form of the letter F, the upright line forming the front of the building and the other lines representing wings in the rear. There were three entrances -- one for the teachers and senior class in the center, one for the middle classes on the right, and another for the youngest pupils on the left. There were, of course, several doors in the rear in addition.
The entire ground floor of the Hall was given over to class and drill rooms. The second floor was occupied by Captain Putnam and his staff of assistants and the pupils as living and sleeping apartments, while the top floor was used by the servants, although there were also several dormitories there, used by young boys, who came under the care of Mrs. Green, the housekeeper.
Captain Victor Putnam was a bachelor. A West Point graduate, he had seen gallant service in the West, where he had aided the daring General Custer during many an Indian uprising. A fall from a horse, during a campaign in the Black Hills, had laid him on a long bed of sickness, and had later on caused him to retire from the army and go back to his old profession of school teaching. He might have had a position at West Point as an instructor, but he had preferred to run his own military academy.
"Hurrah, here we are at last!" cried Fred Garrison, as the carryall swept into view of the Hall. "I see twenty or thirty of the students, and all togged out in soldier clothes!"
"I suppose we'll be wearing suits soon,", answered Tom. "By George! I'm going to give them a salute."
(For the doings of the Putnam Hall students previous to the arrival at that institution of the Rover boys see "The Putnam Hall Series," the first volume of which is entitled, "The Putnam Hall Cadets." - Publishers)
"How?" asked Sam.
"Never mind. Just wait and see."
In a minute more they swept up to the gateway leading to the parade ground. Some of the pupils had seen the carriage coming, and they ran down to learn if any old friends had arrived.
"Hullo!" yelled several.
"Hullo yourself!" came in return, and then Tom drew out the firecracker still in his pocket and lit it on the sly. Just as it was about to explode he threw it up into the air.
Bang! The report was loud and clear, and everybody within hearing rushed to the spot to see what it meant. There were forty or fifty pupils and two assistant teachers, but Captain Putnam had gone out.
"Hi! Hi! What does this mean?" came in a high-pitched voice, and Josiah Crabtree, the first assistant, rushed up to the carryall. "What was that exploded?"
"A big firecracker, sir," answered Peleg Snuggers.
"And who exploded it?"
Before the utility man could answer there came a cry from the parade ground: "Don't peach, Peleg, don't peach!"
"Silence, boys!" burst from Josiah Crabtree wrathfully. "Such a disturbance is against the rules of this institution."
"We didn't fire the cracker," piped up a tall, slim boy. "It came from the carriage."
"Mumps, you're nothing but a sneak and tattle-tale," was the reply to this, from several older cadets; and, afraid of having his ears boxed on the sly, John Fenwick, nicknamed Mumps by everybody in the Hall, ran off.
"Which of you fired the cracker?" demanded Josiah Crabtree, advancing to the carriage step.
There was no reply, and he turned to the, driver.
"Snuggers, what have you to say?"
"I can't say anything, sir. I was taking care of the horses, sir," answered the hired man meekly.
"I will find out who fired the cracker before I have finished with you," growled the head assistant. "Get down and march into the Hall."
"Gracious, what have we struck now?" whispered Fred to Dick.
"Is this Captain Putnam?" asked Dick, without answering his chum.
"No, young man; I am Josiah Crabtree, A. M., Captain Putnam's first assistant. And you are --" He paused.
"I am Dick Rover, sir. These are my brothers, Tom and Sam."
"And I am Fred Garrison," finished that youth.
"Very good. I hope, Richard, that you were not guilty of firing that cracker?"
"Was there any great harm in giving a... a salute upon our arrival?"
"Such a thing is against the rules of the institution. Article 29 says, 'No pupil shall use any firearms or explosive at any time excepting upon special permission'."
"We are not pupils yet, Mr. Crabtree."
"That argument will not pass, sir. So you fired the cracker?
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