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- The Rover Boys out West - 2/36 -
A groan went up, as is generally the case when an academy boy is asked to part with some of his spending money. But the groan counted for nothing, and the passing of the hat brought in over ten dollars.
"Ten-sixty for this load," announced the cadet who had made the collection. "And there are two other loads following, besides those who were on their wheels. We ought to be able to collect at least thirty dollars, and that will buy out half of Cedarville."
"If only old Carrick has some of his Fourth of July fireworks left," said Sam.
"Chust so!" grinned Hans Muelle, the German cadet who had joined the academy the season before. "Vot is von celebration midowit firevorks, hey? He vos chust noddings!"
"Do you want another pistol explosion?" asked one of the others, referring to an incident between Tom Rover and Hans which had nearly ended in a tragedy.
"Mine cracious, no!" howled the German lad. "I go me not py a hundred feet mid an old pistol again alrietty! I vould radder sit town on von can of dynamite to sleep, yes I vould!" And he shook his curly head earnestly.
"We won't have any pistols in this," broke in Tom, who felt like shuddering every time the incident was mentioned. "We'll just have skyrockets, and Roman candles, and pin-wheels, and all of the rest of the good old-fashioned things -- that is for the celebration on the outside."
"And for the celebration on the inside let us have cake, ice-cream, fruits, and nuts," put in Larry. "At this minute I feel hungry enough to eat the captain out of house and home."
"Ditto myself," came from another student.
"Perhaps the captain will be glad enough to have us celebrate -- at our own expense," suggested a cadet in one corner, yet he did not mean what he said, knowing that bluff Captain Putnam, the owner and headmaster of Putnam Hall was whole-souled and generous to the core.
The stage had already covered over a mile of the road, and now the turnout left the lake shore and began to climb a long hill leading to the heights upon which the academy was located. But there was still a little valley to cross, at the bottom of which dashed a rocky mountain torrent on its way to the placid waters beyond.
At the top of the first long rise Peleg Snuggers stopped the team for a few minutes' rest. Here the view was magnificent, and many a cadet stopped his idle talk to gaze at the mountains to the westward and the sparkling lake winding along in the opposite direction. It was early fall, and nearly every tree was tinted with red and gold, while here and there the first frosts had covered the ground with leaves and nuts.
"Don't wait too long, Peleg," urged Tom impatiently. "It will take some time to get ready for our celebration to-night, you know."
"I'm hurrying as fast as I can, Master Tom," was the reply. "Git up, Jack! git up, Sally!" And once more they moved off, and again some of the boys tooted their horns. At this Sally picked up her ears and gave a little start to one side of the narrow road, dragging her mate along.
"Whoa! Steady there!" cried Peleg Snuggers, and tried to pull the team in. Failing in this He grabbed the brake handle and pushed it back vigorously. He was so nervous that he gave the handle a mighty wrench, and in a twinkle the brake bar snapped off, close to the wheel. Onward bounded the stage, hitting the team in the flanks, and away leaped both horses on a dead run!
"The brake is broke!"
"Stop the team, Peleg, or they'll upset us sure!"
"Whoa, there, Jack! Whoa, Sally! Don't you know enough to stop?"
Such were some of the cries which rang out. Peleg Snuggers grasped the lines and pulled with might and main. But then came an awful bump, and away flew the driver into a bush along the roadside, and the reins fell to the horses heels, scaring them worse than ever,
"We are in for it!" gasped Tom. "I don't see how we are going to stop them now."
"The bridge! The bridge across the gully!" screamed another cadet, in terror-stricken tones. "They were mending it this morning. Supposing they haven't the new planking down?"
"There is the bridge!" burst out another, pointing ahead. "Oh, Heavens, boys, we are lost!"
All strained their eyes ahead to see what he meant, and then every face grew pale. The bridge was torn up completely, not a single plank of the flooring remained.
SOMETHING ABOUT THE ROVER BOYS
The Rover boys were three in number, Dick being the oldest, Tom coming next, and Sam the youngest. In their younger days they had resided with their parents in New York, but after the death of their mother and the disappearance of their father they had gone to live with their uncle, Randolph Rover, and their Aunt Martha, on a farm called Valley Brook, near the village of Dexter Corners, on the Swift River.
Those who have read the previous volumes of this series, entitled respectively, "The Rover Boys at School." "The Rover Boys on the Ocean," and "The Rover Boys in the jungle," know that our three heroes had already passed through many trying experiences and thrilling adventures. From home they had been sent to Putnam Hall, a military academy of high standing, and here they had made many friends, including those already mentioned, and several enemies, among the latter being one Dan Baxter, who was known as the school bully, and John Fenwick, better known as Mumps, the bully's toady. They had also made a bitter enemy of Josiah Crabtree, the headmaster of the Hall.
But since those first days at the school many things had happened and many changes had occurred. It was discovered that Dan Baxter was the son of one Arnold Baxter, a rascal who had, years before, tried to swindle the Rover boys' father out of some valuable mining property in the West, and that the son was little better than his parent. Dan had left the school in a hurry, and soon after this his father had been arrested in Albany for a daring office robbery, and was now in jail in consequence.
The disappearance of Dan, and Josiah Crabtree's yearning for wealth, had led to further complications. Near Putnam Hall resides the widow Stanhope and her pretty daughter Dora, and Crabtree, who exerted a sort of hypnotic power over the widow, tried to get the lady to marry him, so that he might obtain the fortune she held in trust for her daughter. But how the Rover boys fooled the grasping teacher, and how Dora was saved from the plot Crabtree and Dan Baxter hatched up against her, has already been told in "The Rover Boys on the Ocean."
Anderson Rover had gone to Africa to locate certain mines in that country, and when many years passed and no word came from him the three boys grew worried and wanted to go in search of him. At last came a strange letter written by a sea captain, containing some important information, and acting on this the Rover boys, accompanied by their Uncle Randolph, set out for the heart of the Dark Continent to find the long-lost. On the way they fell in with one Alexander Pop, who had formerly been a waiter at Putnam Hall, who proved a valuable friend when it came to dealing with men of his own ebony hue. In this hunt they likewise ran across Josiah Crabtree, who was out with an exploring party from Yale, and with Dan Baxter, and both of these rascals tried to do them much harm. But the schemes of the rascals fell through, and Crabtree only escaped after a severe whipping at the hands of Dick Rover, while Dan Baxter fared little better. Soon after this Mr. Rover was found, as a prisoner of a savage African tribe, and rescued, and then the entire party returned to the United States. Alexander Pop remained in the employ of the two elder Rovers, and the three boys returned to finish the term at Putnam Hall.
These are a few of the things that had happened. But there were countless others, which space will not permit being mentioned here. There had been many contests, in baseball, football, and other sports, and jokes that seemed to have no end, and there had also been a disastrous fire, which none of the Putnam Hall cadets were likely ever to forget--a fire as thrilling as the scene now being enacted on the road. But I am afraid I have already left the boys in the runaway stage too long, so we will return to them without further delay.
"The bridge is down!" The cry rang through the stage, bringing every cadet to his feet on the instant.
"Don't jump!" cried Dick, as he saw several preparing to leap. "You will break your necks!" For now the bushes were left behind, and on either side of the road were jagged rocks, covered here and there with withered vines.
As Dick spoke he pushed his way to the front of the stage and crawled out on the driver's seat.
"The back -- drop off at the back!" came from Frank Harrington, and he showed how it could be done. But the road was now rougher than ever, and he landed on his knees and his face, giving himself an ugly cut on the chin.
Dick was trying to reach the reins when Tom came down beside him.
"Can you make it?" asked Tom.
"I can try," was the desperate answer. "If only we could block those wheels!"
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