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- The Rover Boys at School - 6/38 -


entering the outskirts of Oak Run when the whistle of a locomotive was heard.

"That's the down train for Middletown cried Joel Darrel. "Hurry up!"

The horse was whipped up, and they swept along to the depot at a speed which made the constable of the town shake his fist at Harry and threaten to arrest him for fast driving.

"Too late!"

The words came from Dick, and he was right. Before the depot was reached the long train had pulled out. Soon it was lost to sight in the distance.

The thief was on it; and his escape, for the time being, was now assured.

CHAPTER IV

THE LAST DAY AT THE FARM

"What does this mean?"

It was Gilbert Ponsberry, the chief constable of Oak Run, who spoke, as he strode up to the grocery wagon, all out of breath.

"Hullo, Ponsberry, you are just the man we want to see!" cried Joel Darrel. "Did you notice who boarded that train?"

"No; I wasn't at the depot. Anything wrong?"

"I have been robbed of a gold watch and chain," answered Dick, and related the particulars.

"Gee shoo! No wonder you drove fast," ejaculated the constable. "I would have done so myself. How did that fellow look?"

As well as he was able, Dick gave a description of the thief.

"I saw that tramp yesterday," said the constable, when he had finished. "He was in the depot, talking to a tall, thin man. I remember him well, for he and the other fellow were quarreling. I hung around rather expecting a fight. But it didn't come."

"You haven't seen the thief since yesterday?"

"No."

"You remember the tall, thin man he was with?"

"Oh, sure, for he had a scar on his chin that looked like a knife cut."

"Is he anywhere around?"

"I haven't seen him since. Let us take a walk around, and we can ask Ricks the station master about this."

"We had better ask Mr. Ricks first," said Dick.

All hands, even to the grocery boy, hunted up the station master, an elderly fellow who was well known for his unsociable disposition.

"Don't know anything about any thief," he snapped, after hearing the story. "I mind my own business."

"But he may have taken the train," pleaded Dick. It made his heart sink to think that the watch, that precious memento from his, father, might be gone forever.

"Well, if he did, you had better go after him -- or telegraph to Middletown," was the short answer, and then the station master turned away.

"You telegraph for me," said Dick to the constable. "I will pay the costs."

"All right, Dick. My, but old Rick is getting more grumpy every day! If this railroad knows its business it will soon get another manager here," was Gilbert Ponsberry's comment, as he led the way to the telegraph office.

Here a telegram was prepared, addressed to the police officer on duty at the Middletown station, and giving a fair description of the thief.

The train would reach the city in exactly forty-five minutes; and as soon as the message had been sent, Dick, Darrel, and the constable went off on a tour of Oak Run and the vicinity.

Of course nothing was seen of the thief, and in an hour word came back from Middletown that he was not on the cars.

This was true, for the train had stopped at a way station, having broken something on the engine, and the thief had left, to walk the remainder of the distance to Middletown on foot.

It was not until nightfall that Dick returned to his uncle's farmhouse.

Here he found that Sam and Tom had already arrived. Tom was lying on the sofa in the sitting room, being cared for by his Aunt Martha, who was the best of nurses whenever occasion required.

"Didn't find any trace of the villain?" queried Randolph Rover, with a sad shake of his head. "Too bad! Too bad! And it was your father's watch, too!"

"I never wanted to see Dick wear it," put in Mrs. Rover. "It was too fine for a boy."

"Father told me to wear it, aunty. He said it would remind me of him," answered Dick, and he turned away, for something like a tear had welled up in his eye.

"There, there, Dick, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings," cried his aunt hastily. "I would give a good deal if you had your watch back."

Supper was waiting, but Dick had no appetite, and ate but little. Tom braced up sufficiently to take some toast and tea, and declared that he would be all right by morning and so he was.

"Here is a letter for Tom from Larry Colby," cried Dick during the course, of the evening.

"I declare, I forgot all about it, Tom, until this minute."

"I don't blame you, Dick," was the reply, with a sickly smile. "You read it for me. The light hurts my head," and Tom closed his eyes to listen.

Larry Colby was a New York lad who in years gone by had been one of Tom's chums. The letter was just such a one as any boy might write to another, and need have no place here. Yet one paragraph interested everybody in the sitting room:

"Next week I am to pack my trunk and go to Putnam Hall Military Academy [wrote Larry Colby]. Father says it is a very fine military, school, and he has recommended it to your uncle."

"Putnam Hall Military Academy!" mused Tom. "I wonder where it is?"

"It is over in Seneca County, on Cayuga Lake," replied Randolph Rover, and something like a smile appeared on his face.

"On Cayuga Lake, uncle!" cried Sam. "Why, that's a splendid location, isn't it?"

"Very fine."

"And is that where we are to go?" put in Tom eagerly.

"Yes, Thomas; I might as well tell you, although I wanted to surprise you. You are to go to Putnam Hall, and there you will have with you Lawrence Colby, Frank Harrington, and several other lads with whom you are all acquainted."

"Hurrah, Uncle Randolph!" came from Sam, and rushing up, he caught his relative around the shoulder. "You're the best kind of uncle, after all."

"Putnam Hall is an institution of learning that has been established for some twenty years," went on Mr. Rover, pushing back his spectacles and laying down the agricultural work he had been perusing. "It is presided over by Captain Victor Putnam, an old army officer, who in his younger days used to be a schoolmaster. He is a strict disciplinarian, and will make you toe the mark; but let me say right here, I have it from Mr. Colby that there is no schoolmaster who is kinder or more considerate of his pupils."

"Is it a regular military institution like West Point?" asked Tom.

"Hardly, Thomas, although the students, so I am informed, dress like cadets and spend an hour or so each day in drilling, and in the summer all the school march up the lake and go into an encampment."

"That just suits me!" broke in Sam enthusiastically. "Hurrah for Putnam Hall!"

"Hurrah!" echoed Tom faintly, and Dick nodded to show he felt as they did. At the cheer, Sarah the cook stuck her head into the door.

"Sure an' I thought Tom was out of his head, bedad," she observed.

"Sarah, I'm going away soon -- to a military academy. I won't bother you any more," said Tom.

"Won't yez now? That will be foine." Then the cook stopped


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