“Well, Baxter has got a wad of rocks all right enough. I saw the money myself.”
“I’m going to watch him,” came from Pepper, and he motioned for Andy Snow to go along.
“What will you do, if you learn he is really offering money for votes?” questioned Andy, as they hurried away.
“I don’t know yet, Andy. But it would be a mean piece of business. Why, in politics that is bribery, and they can arrest a man for it.”
“I know that—but it’s seldom a briber is caught.”
It was not difficult to trace Dan Baxter. From a small cadet they learned he was down by the lake, back of the row of bathing-houses.
By going down to the boathouse first, and then stealing along a fringe of bushes skirting the lake shore, they reached the bath-houses without being seen. As it was past the bathing season, the houses were supposed to be “out of commission,” and locked up, but one of them—the largest—stood wide open.
“Well, that is the chance of your life, if you only know it,” reached their ears, in the voice of Dan Baxter. “Besides, you know well enough that I would make as good a major as anybody in the school.”
“That’s a fine way to blow one’s own horn,” murmured Pepper.
“And what will you give me, Baxter, if I work for you?” came from a big boy named Gus Coulter. He, too, was a bully, and, coming from humble parentage, had very little spending money.
“I’ll give you five dollars, Gus.”
“Will you give it to me now?”
“Yes, if you’ll promise to do all you can to elect me major.”
“All right, then, hand over the money,” answered Gus Coulter. “I’d just as soon work for you as anybody.”
“Why can’t I have a fiver, too?” put in Mumps, who was present. “I’ll work as hard as Gus.”
“I’ll give you two dollars, Mumps,” said the bully. “I can’t afford any more.”
“Where do I come in on this?” came from a lad named Paxton.
“I’ll give you two dollars, too, Nick, if you’ll vote for me and try to get others to do so, too.”
“Humph! Aren’t my services worth as much as Gus Coulter’s?” demanded Nick Paxton.
“Well, if I’m elected I’ll give you two dollars more.”
“Very well, hand over the dough, Dan. As Gus says, I’d just as soon work for you as for anybody.”
“What a barefaced thing to do!” whispered Andy Snow. “Baxter can’t have a bit of honor about him!”
“The others are just as bad—to take his money,” whispered Pepper in return. “If they—who’s this?”
“Hullo, what are you doing here?” demanded a rough voice behind them, and a cadet named Sabine appeared on the scene.
“Who is there?” cried Dan Baxter, and rushed from the bath-house. “Humph! Pepper Ditmore and Andy Snow! So you’ve been spying on us, eh? That’s a nice business to be into, I must say!”
ELECTING A MAJOR
“Have they been spying on us?” queried Mumps, and turned slightly pale.
“Yes, they have been spying—I caught them at it,” came from Billy Sabine. “What have you fellows been up to here?” he added, anxiously.
“Never mind just now,” answered Dan Baxter. He looked much disconcerted. “Just step in here a minute, will you?” he requested, of Pepper and Andy.
“What do you want of us?” asked Pepper, cautiously, while Andy also held back.
“Have you been listening to our talk?”
“It was a mean piece of business, Pepper Ditmore!”
“Not half as mean as what you were up to, Dan Baxter!”
“What was I up to?”
“You were bribing these fellows to vote for you.”
“No, I wasn’t. I—er—that is—we were talking about something else. It’s a—er—a secret society,” stammered the bully. He did not know what to say.
“Bosh!” came from Andy. “You were bribing them to vote for you for major,—paying them from two to five dollars apiece.”
“You shut up!” roared Baxter, rushing up to Andy and catching him by the arm. “I know what I’m doing. I don’t want any talk from you!”
He ran Andy against the side of the bath-house, but as said before, Andy was a good deal of an acrobat, and in a twinkling he had slipped from Baxter’s grasp.
“Let us get out of here, Andy,” said Pepper. “We have seen and heard enough.”
“Are you going to blab on us?” demanded Gus Coulter.
“That depends upon what you do,” retorted Pepper, bravely. “We are not going to stand for such underhanded work as has been going on here.”
“If you dare to say a word I’ll—I’ll thrash you within an inch of your life!” hissed Dan Baxter, rushing forward and catching Pepper by the throat. “Don’t you dare to do it! Don’t you dare!”
“Le—let up, Baxter!” gasped Pepper. He pushed the bully back with his hand. “You won’t, eh? Then take that!”
So speaking, he landed a blow that took Dan Baxter full in the face and sent him staggering back several paces.
“What’s going on here?” came the cry from the parade ground, and half a dozen cadets appeared, including Joe Nelson and Jack.
“Perhaps Baxter will tell you,” said Andy.
“I—er—I haven’t anything to say!” stammered the bully.
“But I have something to say!” cried Pepper, boldly. “Boys, take care that he doesn’t try to bribe you to vote for him. He has just bribed Coulter, Paxton, and Mumps. I saw him pay over his money, and so did Andy Snow.”
“It’s a—a—falsehood!” stormed Dan Baxter. He was beside himself with rage.
“It’s the truth,” came from Andy. “It was the most disgraceful thing I ever witnessed in my life. We don’t want such a chap for a major, or even for a captain.”
“Maybe we don’t want him even for a high private,” came from somebody in the crowd.
Gus Coulter whispered to Baxter, and then to Paxton and to Mumps.
“That’s the way to talk!” whispered Mumps. “Our word is as good as theirs!”
“What these fellows say is not true,” came from Gus Coulter. “I was never bribed in my life.”
“I wouldn’t accept a bribe,” put in Paxton, loftily. “I’m not that sort, and my friends know it.”
“We all belong to a secret society, and we were counting up the money in the treasury,” said Mumps. “In the midst of it Ditmore and Snow rushed up and intimated that Dan was bribing us. They ought to have their heads punched for it!”
“Well, you’ll never punch them, Mumps,” said Pepper. “And Baxter won’t punch them, either.”
“Don’t be so sure about that,” growled Dan Baxter. “You may get more than you expect!”
“I am not afraid of you,” answered Pepper.
Further talk was cut short by the ringing of the school bell, calling the cadets into the Hall. Baxter and his cronies went off in one bunch, while Pepper, Andy, and Jack went off in another.
Among so many cadets opinions were necessarily divided. Some thought Baxter guilty, while others believed in his protestations of innocence. Yet with it all, the bully had only a limited circle of friends and hangers-on, as later events proved.
During the evening the air was filled with subdued excitement. All of the candidates for the officers’ positions were discussed, and it was generally admitted that Jack, Bart Conners, Henry Lee, and Dan Baxter