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- The Rover Boys at School - 20/38 -


out of sight behind some lattice-work inclosing one end of the porch.

"We must hurry, my dear, or we may be too late," Josiah Crabtree was saying; and now the boys noted that he was conducting the lady toward a carriage standing by the horse block.

"I - I -- had we not better wait until next week, Josiah?" questioned Mrs. Stanhope timidly. She was a pale, delicate woman of forty, of a shrinking nature, easily led by others.

"No, my dear, there is no use in waiting."

"But Dora --?"

"You must not mind what your daughter says, my dear. When we are married she will easily become reconciled to the change, mark my words."

"Gracious, old Crabtree is going to marry her!" whispered Sam. "Poor Dora!"

"She wants me to wait," continued the lad.

"And you ought to wait, mother," came in Dora's voice; and now she too came into sight, but without a hat or wraps.

"Mr. Crabtree wishes very much to have the ceremony performed this afternoon, Dora dear."

"If he wants to marry you, why can't he do it openly -- at home or in our church?"

"He is averse to any display."

"It seems to me it is a very sneaking way to do," answered Dora coldly. "When you and papa were married the wedding was well attended, so I have been told."

"Your father and myself are different persons, Miss Dora," interrupted Josiah, Crabtree stiffly. "I prefer a quiet wedding, and no time is better than the present. I shall at once resign my position at Putnam Hall and come to live here."

Dora Stanhope's lip curled in scorn. She saw through Josiah Crabtree's motives, even though her mother did not.

"If you wish to marry my mother, why do, you not make preparations to support her?" she said.

"Dora!" cried Mrs. Stanhope pleadingly.

"I mean what I say, mother. He intends to marry you and then make you support him, out of the proceeds of this farm."

"You are entirely mistaken," interrupted Josiah Crabtree. "Perhaps you do not know that I am worth, in bank stocks and in bonds, between twenty and thirty thousand dollars."

"I would like to see the stocks and bonds," said the girl.

"So would I," whispered Fred to Sam. "I'll wager he isn't worth a thousand dollars all told although they say he is a good deal of a miser."

"Dora, do not insult Mr. Crabtree. If you, wish to come along and see the ceremony performed, put on your things..."

"I do not wish to go."

"Very well, then; you had best return to the house."

"It is a shame!" cried the girl, and burst into tears.

"We will be back by seven o'clock," said Josiah Crabtree, and led the widow down the garden path to where the carriage was standing.

"I wish I could stop this wedding," whispered Sam to his chum.

"I am with you on that," returned Fred.

"Creation, here come the hounds! Just the thing!"

He looked at Sam, and his chum, instantly understood. Leaving the porch at a bound, they ran across the garden.

"Hurrah! we have you!" yelled Larry Colby, as he rushed up, followed by Tom, Dick, and a dozen of the other big cadets.

"Quick, this way!" cried Sam. "Do you see that carriage?"

"Of course we do," answered Torn.

"It contains Mrs. Stanhope and old Crabtree. They are going to drive off and get married against Dora Stanhope's wishes."

"Phew!" came in a low whistle from the eldest of the Rover Boys.

"We ought to stop this affair," went on Fred.

"Old Crabby is going to get married!" came in a shout. "Come on, let us go along!"

And pell-mell went the boys after the carriage, which had just turned from the horse-block with the teacher and Mrs. Stanhope inside, and a farmhand named Borgy on the front seat.

CHAPTER XIV

JOSIAH CRABTREE IN DIFFICULTY

Dora Stanhope had witnessed the approach of the boys, and now she came out into the garden again and confronted them. She blushed prettily upon seeing Dick and several others with whom she was acquainted.

"I understand that Mr. Crabtree is about to be married," said Dick in a low tone.

"Yes, he insists on marrying my mother this afternoon. He has been at her about this for several months," answered Dora between her sobs.

"Evidently you oppose the marriage."

"I -- I hate Mr. Crabtree!" came almost fiercely. "He is -- is nothing like my poor dead papa was."

"I believe you, Dora," answered Dick. "I don't see what your mother can find in him to like. We hate him at the academy."

"I know it -- and I imagine Captain Putnam is preparing to get rid of him, for I heard he was corresponding with a teacher in Buffalo -- one who has been head master in a military academy out in that vicinity."

"Indeed! I hope we do get clear of him -- and I wish you could get clear of him too."

"It doesn't seem as if I could," sighed Dora. "He has wound my mother right around his finger, so to speak. But what are those other boys going to do?" And she pointed to the balance of the cadets, who were following closely upon the wheels of the carriage, which had turned into the highway leading to Cedarville.

"I'll go after them and see," said Dick, and turned to leave. Then he came to a halt and turned back. "Dora, I am awfully sorry for you," he whispered. "If I can ever do anything for you, don't hesitate to call on me."

"I'll remember that, Dick," she replied gratefully, but never dreamed of how much she would one day require his aid.

When Dick joined the crowd he found it on all sides of the carriage, shouting and hurrahing wildly. At first Josiah Crabtree pretended to pay no attention, but presently he spoke to the driver, and the turnout came to a halt.

"Students, what doe's this unseemly conduct mean?" he demanded harshly.

"Why, Mr. Crabtree, is that you!" exclaimed Frank Harrington in pretended surprise.

"Yes, Harrington. I say, what does it mean?"

"We are out playing hare and hounds, sir."

"But you are following this carriage."

"Oh, no, sir, we are following the paper scent, sir," answered Larry Colby, and pointed to the pieces of paper, which Fred Harrison was slyly dropping just in front of the horses.

"Then our carriage is on the trail," sighed Josiah Crabtree. "It is very annoying."

"Oh, it doesn't bother us much, sir," answered Frank coolly.

"Bother you! It is myself and Mrs. Stanhope to whom I referred. Make the hares take another course."

"Can't do that, sir, until we catch them."

"But why must you keep so close to this carriage?"

"I don't know, sir. Perhaps it is the carriage which is keeping close to us."

Josiah Crabtree looked more angry than ever. He spoke to the driver, with a view to increasing the speed of the team, but Borgy had entered into the spirit of the fun at hand, and he was, moreover, a great friend of Dora, and he shook his head. "Couldn't do it sir," he said. "I wouldn't want to run the risk of winding them."


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