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- The Rover Boys in Business - 2/39 -
"Great Caesar's tombstone!" exclaimed Tom, looking at the newcomer critically. "Why, my dearly beloved William Philander, you don't mean to say that you have been delving through the shadowy nooks, and playing with the babbling brook, in that outfit?"
"Oh, dear, no, Tom!" responded William Philander Tubbs. "I had another suit on, the one with the green stripe, don't you know,-- the one I had made last September-- or maybe it was in October, I can't really remember. But you must know the suit, don't you?"
"Sure! I remember the suit. The green-striped one with the faded-out blue dots and the red diamond check in the corner. Isn't that the same suit you took down to the pawnbroker's last Wednesday night at fifteen minutes past seven and asked him to loan you two dollars and a half on it, and the pawnbroker wanted to know if the suit was your own?"
"My dear Tom!" and William Philander looked aghast. "You know well enough I never took that suit to a pawnbroker."
"Well, maybe it was some other suit. Possibly the black one with the blue stripes, or maybe it was the blue one with the black stripes. Really, my dearest Philander, it is immaterial to me what suit it was." And Tom looked coldly indifferent as he buttered another slice of bread.
"But I tell you, I never went to any pawn-broker!" pleaded the dudish student. "I would not be seen in any such horrid place!"
"Oh, pawnbrokers are not so bad," came from Spud Jackson, as he helped himself to more potatoes. "I knew of one fellow down in New Haven who used to loan thousands of dollars to the students at Yale. He was considered a public benefactor. When he died they closed up the college for three days and gave him a funeral over two miles long. And after that, the students raised a fund of sixteen thousand dollars with which to erect a monument to his memory. Now, that is absolutely true, and if you don't believe it you can come to my room and I will show you some dried rose leaves which came from one of the wreathes used at the obsequies." And a general laugh went up over this extravagant statement.
"The same old Spud!" cried Sam, as he gave the story-teller of the college a nudge in the ribs. "Spud, you are about as bad as Tom."
"Chust vat I tinks," came from Max Spangler, a German-American student who was still struggling with the difficulties of the language. "Only I tinks bod of dem vas worser dan de udder." And at this rather mixed statement another laugh went up.
"I wish you fellows would stop your nonsense and talk baseball," came from Bob Grimes, another student. "Do you realize that if we expect to do anything this spring, we have got to get busy?"
"Well, Bob," returned Sam, "I don't see how that is going to interest me particularly. I don't expect to be on any nine this year."
"I know, Sam, but Tom, here, has promised to play if he can possibly get the time."
"And so I will play," said Tom. "That is, provided I remain at Brill."
"What, do you mean to say you are going to leave!" cried several students.
"We can't do without you, Tom," added Songbird.
"Of course we can't," came from Bob Grimes. "We need Tom the worst way this year."
"Well, I'll talk that over with you fellows some other time. To-night we are in a hurry." And thus speaking, Tom tapped his brother on the shoulder, and both left the dining-room.
As my old readers know, the Rover boys possessed a very fine automobile. This was kept in one of the new garages on the place, which was presided over by Abner Filbury, the son of the old man who had worked for years around the dormitories.
"Is she all ready, Ab?" questioned Tom, as the young man came forward to greet them.
"Yes, sir, I filled her up with gas and oil, and she's in apple-pie order."
"Why, Tom!" broke in Sam, in surprise. "You must have given this order before supper."
"I did," and Tom grinned at his younger brother. "I took it for granted that you would make the trip." And thus speaking, Tom leaped into the driver's seat of the new touring car. Then Sam took his place beside his brother, and in a moment more the car was gliding out of the garage, and down the curving, gravel path leading to the highway running from Ashton past Brill College to Hope Seminary.
As Tom had predicted, it was a clear night, with the full moon just showing over the distant hills. Swinging into the highway, Tom increased the speed and was soon running at twenty-five to thirty miles an hour.
"Don't run too fast," cautioned Sam. "Remember this road has several dangerous curves in it, and remember, too, a good many of the countrymen around here don't carry lights when they drive."
"Oh, I'll be careful," returned Tom, lightly. "But about the lights, I think some of the countrymen ought to be fined for driving in the darkness as they do. I think----"
"Hark! what sort of a noise is that?" interrupted the younger Rover.
Both boys strained their ears. A shrill honk of a horn had been followed by a heavy rumble, and now, around a curve of the road, shot the beams from a single headlight perched on a heavy auto-truck. This huge truck was coming along at great speed, and it passed the Rovers with a loud roar, and a scattering of dust and small stones in all directions.
"Great Scott!" gasped Sam, after he had recovered from his amazement. "Did you ever see such an auto-truck as that, and running at such speed?"
"Certainly some truck," was Tom's comment. "That must have weighed four or five tons. I wonder if it came over the Paxton River bridge?"
"If it did, it must have given the bridge an awful shaking up. That bridge isn't any too strong. It shakes fearfully every time we go over it. Better run slow, Tom, when we get there."
"I will." And then Tom put on speed once more and the automobile forged ahead as before.
A short run up-hill brought them to the point where the road ran down to the Paxton River. In the bright moonlight the boys could see the stream flowing like a sheet of silver down between the bushes and trees. A minute more, and they came in sight of the bridge.
"Stop!" said Sam. "I may be mistaken, but that bridge looks shifted to me."
"So it does," returned Tom, and brought the automobile to a standstill. Both boys leaped out and walked forward.
To inspect the bridge in the bright moonlight was easy, and in less than a minute the boys made a startling discovery, which was to the effect that the opposite end of the structure had been thrown from its supports and was in danger of falling at any instant.
"This is mighty bad," was Sam's comment. "Why, Tom, this is positively dangerous. If anybody should come along here----"
"Hark!" Tom put up his hand, and both boys listened. From the top of the hill they had left but a moment before, came the sounds of an approaching automobile. An instant later the rays of the headlights shot into view, almost blinding them.
"We must stop them!" came from both boys simultaneously. But scarcely had the words left their lips, when they saw that such a course might be impossible. The strange automobile was coming down the hill at a furious rate. Now, as the driver saw the Rovers' machine, he sounded his horn shrilly.
"He'll have a smash-up as sure as fate!" yelled Sam, and put up his hand in warning. Tom did likewise, and also yelled at the top of his lungs.
But it was too late. The occupant of the strange automobile-- for the machine carried but a single person-- tried to come to a stop. The brakes groaned and squeaked, and the car swept slightly to one side, thus avoiding the Rovers' machine. Then, with power thrown off and the hand-brake set, it rolled out on the bridge. There was a snap, followed by a tremendous crash, and the next instant machine and driver disappeared with a splash into the swiftly-flowing river.
TO THE RESCUE
The accident at the bridge had occurred so suddenly that, for the instant, neither Rover boy knew what to do. They saw that the farther end of the bridge had given way completely. Just where the end rested in the water they beheld several small objects floating about, one of them evidently a cap, and another a small wooden box. But the automobile with its driver was nowhere to be seen.
"My gracious! That fellow will surely be drowned!" gasped Sam, on recovering from the shock. "Tom, do you see him anywhere?"
"No, I don't." Tom took a few steps forward and gazed down into the swiftly-flowing stream. "Perhaps he is pinned under the auto, Sam!"
"Wait, I'll get the searchlight," cried the younger Rover, and ran back to their automobile. The boys made a point of carrying an electric pocket searchlight to be used in case they had to make repairs in the dark. Securing this, and turning on the light, Sam ran forward to the river bank, with Tom beside him.
To those who have read the previous volumes in this "Rover Boys Series" the lads just mentioned will need no special introduction. For the benefit of others, however, let me state that the Rover boys were three in number; Dick being the oldest, fun-loving Tom coming next, and sturdy Sam being the youngest. When at home, which was only for a short time each year, the boys lived with their father, Anderson
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