downstairs like a—a cyclone?”
“We’re after a fellow who threw some mud up into our room,” explained Jack Ruddy.
“I didn’t see you coming,” added Pepper. “Very sorry—it shan’t occur again.”
“This jumping downstairs has got to be stopped!” fumed Josiah Crabtree. “I shall make an example of you, Ditmore. Go back to your classroom and write this sentence one hundred times: ‘It is best to walk with care.’”
“Have I got to go back now?” cried Pepper.
“It isn’t fair, Mr. Crabtree. I didn’t mean to run into you; really, I didn’t.”
“Stop! I want no back talk. To the classroom instantly.”
“Mr. Crabtree,” put in Jack Ruddy, “please——”
“Silence, Master Ruddy, or I shall send you, too.”
“Catch that boy if you can, Jack,” said Pepper, and walked slowly towards his classroom. Josiah Crabtree saw him enter, and saw Jack Ruddy leave the building, and then continued on his way upstairs.
Jack Ruddy and Pepper Ditmore were chums. Both hailed from the western part of New York State, and they had arrived at Putnam Hall about a month before this tale opens. Jack was a few months older than Pepper, but the youths were of the same size and weight. Jack was of a serious turn and studious, while Pepper was rightly called the Imp, on account of his fun-loving disposition.
At the time of which I write, Putnam Hall was a new institution of learning. It was located on Cayuga Lake, in New York State, not many miles from the village of Cedarville. It was a handsome structure of brick and stone, standing in the middle of a parade ground of about ten acres. In front was a well-kept wagon road, and beyond this the grounds sloped down to the lake, where were located the academy boathouse and bathing houses. To the rear of the school were the barns and a storehouse, and on one side a well-fitted-up gymnasium, all backed up by a stretch of thick woods.
On the ground floor of the Hall, which was built in the shape of the letter E, were located the classrooms and also a drillroom and a messroom, all reached by three entrances, each of imposing appearance. Above the ground floor were the sleeping apartments, those for the students divided into dormitories holding four, six, or eight cadets.
The master of the school was Captain Victor Putnam, a bachelor, and a West Point graduate. The captain had seen strenuous service in the West, where he had fought under the gallant General Custer during several Indian uprisings. But a fall from a horse had placed him on a sick bed, and when he regained his health he decided to give up army life, and go back to his former profession of teaching. Money had been left to him, and with this he purchased the grounds and built the academy.
As was to be expected from a military man, the school was organized upon military lines, and each cadet was given instructions in military duties daily. All were clothed in neat but serviceable uniforms, and there was a general parade each day, just before supper.
To get the school into proper shape, Captain Putnam had hired three retired officers of the army to drill the boys daily. Under their tuition all of the scholars had learned rapidly, and now the master of the Hall was about to let the cadets choose their own officers and do their own drilling, under his sole management.
Captain Putnam was a well-educated man, and taught several classes in the school, besides looking after the general management. His head assistant was Josiah Crabtree, just introduced, and his second assistant was George Strong, whom we shall meet later.
Josiah Crabtree was a morose individual, with a very exalted opinion of himself. He had come to the Hall with high recommendations, but it cannot be said that Captain Putnam liked the man, and as for the cadets, they nearly all hated him.
Leaving the building, Jack Ruddy hurried to the spot where his chum had seen the boy called Mumps. He found the boy talking earnestly to a big, burly youth, who carried a baseball bat in his hand.
“It was lots of fun,” Mumps was saying, as Jack strode up. “I struck Andy Snow, and Hen Lee, and some fellows in dormitory No. 4, and——”
“And you struck me, you sneak!” cried Jack, catching the boy by the arm. “I suppose you thought it fine fun to cover me with mud.”
“Hi! let me go!” cried Mumps, in sudden alarm. “Let me go. I—I—didn’t do anything.”
“You threw a lump of mud up into our room and struck me.”
“You can’t get out of it. I’ve a good mind to box your ears, Mumps.”
“Say, you let that kid alone,” came from the big boy with the baseball bat. “Leave him alone, I say!”
“See here, Dan Baxter, this is none of your quarrel,” retorted Jack.
“Let him alone.”
“I’ll let him alone when I feel like it.”
“You’ll let him alone now.”
“Will I?” Jack caught Mumps by the collar and shook him thoroughly. “Now, after this, you behave yourself, or I’ll thrash you good,” he went on.
“Oh! oh!” screamed the boy. “Le—let up! Don’t—don’t shake my head off!”
“Stop it!” roared Dan Baxter. “Stop it!” And rushing in he took hold of Jack and tried to draw him back.
“Baxter, let go of me,” said Jack, quietly, but with determination. “If you don’t——”
“What?” came from the big youth with a sneer.
“That!” retorted Jack, and turning from Mumps, he gave a quick push that sent Dan Baxter flat on the turf.
THE MYSTERIOUS SLOOP
The attack had come so unexpectedly that for the moment Dan Baxter did not know what to do. In a dazed fashion he sat up, and finally scrambled to his feet. Mumps, the toady and sneak, gazed at Jack Ruddy in wonder.
“You’ll catch it for that!” he cried. “Dan Baxter’ll most kill you!”
“He has got to spell able first,” murmured Jack.
“See here, what did you do that for?” spluttered Dan Baxter, when he could collect himself sufficiently to speak.
“I told you this was none of your affair!” answered Jack. “After this you attend to your own business, and I’ll attend to mine.”
“I told you to let up on Mumps.”
“Well, you are not my master, Baxter.”
“Mumps is under my protection.”
“What you mean is, that he is one of your toadies.”
“I ain’t anybody’s toady,” came from John Fenwick, but his face grew as red as a beet.
“Yes, you are, and you’re a sneak in the bargain,” said Jack.
“I’ve a good mind to give you a crack with this,” burst out Dan Baxter, as he swung his baseball bat aloft.
“Here, don’t you hit Jack Ruddy with that!” came a voice from the rear, and on the instant another cadet caught hold of the bat.
“Thanks, Andy,” came from Jack. “But I don’t think he’d dare.”
“So you’re going to take part in this too, eh?” said Dan Baxter, turning to the newcomer.
“Oh, I only want to see fair play,” answered Andy Snow, a tall, slender boy, who was a good deal of an acrobat, and at the head of the gymnasium class.
“Andy, were you up in your dormitory a while ago?” questioned Jack.
“Did you get hit with a lump of mud?”
“Yes. I’d like to spot the rascal that threw it.”
“I was hit myself. That’s why I came down after Mumps.”
“So you’re the guilty party, eh?”