choose the Ruddy crowd,” said Coulter.
“Very well, have your own way,” answered Jack, coldly. “But it would be nicer the other way.”
“I wouldn’t trust you, Ruddy, or trust your friends either,” remarked Dan Baxter, bitterly. “You’d pretend to be friends and then get us into a hole the first chance you got. I know you!”
“You evidently judge us by yourself,” said Pepper, hotly. “We are not so mean.”
“Don’t waste any words on them,” said Andy. “Come on and let them take their pictures,” and he skated away, and Jack and Pepper followed.
“What a fellow Dan Baxter is!” sighed the youthful major of the cadets. “No matter how nice a fellow tries to be to him he seems to resent it.”
“It’s because he doesn’t want us for friends,” answered Pepper. “He prefers fellows like Coulter and Paxton, and that sneak, Mumps.”
Just then a merry crowd of skaters swept along, playing snap-the-whip. Our friends were invited to join in, and the sport soon became so uproarious that the bully and his associates were forgotten for the time being.
“Here is where I live!” ejaculated Pepper, as he skated along. “Come on, fellows, and snap for keeps this time.”
“Not too fast!” cried out Stuffer, who chanced to be on the end at the time. “I—I—can’t keep up, you—know!” And then down he went on the smooth ice and rolled over and over. Several other skaters went down likewise, and a general laugh arose. Then up the cadets leaped, to form a new “whip.”
“Only five minutes more!” said Dale, consulting a watch he carried. “We won’t dare to be late to-day.”
“Not much, with old Crabtree on guard,” answered Pepper. “If we are he’ll be certain to keep us in to-morrow for it.”
“How I wish I had him out here on the ice,” was Dale’s comment.
“Sure an’ we’d be after teachin’ him some foin points,” said Hogan. “We’d make him spread th’ eagle on his head, so we would!”
“Crabtree knows enough to keep off the ice,” said Jack. “Perhaps he can’t skate.”
“Mr. Strong is a beautiful skater,” said Pepper. “I saw him out day before yesterday. He cut some very fancy figures.”
“What a difference between those two men,” said Andy. “Just as much difference as between Baxter and—and Joe Nelson,” he added, naming a quiet and steady pupil, well liked by all of the cadets.
“Now, boys, for the last swing!” cried Jack. “Pepper, your turn on the end this time.”
“All right, but please don’t snap me into the middle of next week,” answered the fun-loving youth.
“We’ll snap you into the middle of next year!” cried Andy, gleefully. He wanted to square up with somebody for a tumble he had taken.
Away went the boys, in a long line, across the lake. All were shouting and cheering, the hills beyond the lake echoing with their glee. They did not attempt to make a sweep until all had gained good headway.
“Now then, all together!” came from Dale. “Let her go!”
“Whoop!” shrieked Andy. “Good-bye, Pepper!”
The long line began to sweep around. It was fairly close to the lake shore, at a spot where there was a point upon which grew a number of low bushes, all thickly covered with snow.
“Pepper is going into the snow this trip!” cried Dale, as the line broke, and Pepper was hurled forward, flat on the smooth ice. But he was mistaken. The boy turned over and over, and then disappeared around the point like a flash. The next instant there came a strange crash, an exclamation of alarm, and then a babel of voices raised in anger.
THE BULLY OF THE SCHOOL
“What in the world is up now?” ejaculated Jack, as he started to skate around the point.
“Pepper is in trouble, that’s sure,” answered Andy.
In a moment the boys who had been playing snap-the-whip saw what had happened. Around the point of land Dan Baxter had been trying to take a time picture of the snow-laden bushes and the rocks beyond—certainly an artistic bit of landscape. Pepper, sprawling on the ice, had hit the tripod and sent the camera crashing down and the bully of Putnam Hall with it.
SENT THE CAMERA CRASHING DOWN, AND THE BULLY
“Look here!” spluttered Dan Baxter, as he got on his knees. “What’s the meaning of this?”
“I—er—I didn’t—er—see you!” gasped Pepper. The wind had been knocked completely out of him by the unexpected contact with camera, tripod, and owner.
“It’s false!” cried the bully. “You couldn’t help seeing me! It’s all a bluff!”
“You—er—you’re mistaken,” panted Pepper, and started to rise, when the bully caught him by the collar and pulled him flat again.
“Let go of me, Dan Baxter!”
“I’ll not! I am going to teach you a good lesson!”
“Hi! hi! What’s this?” exclaimed Jack, skating closer. “Let go of him, Baxter.”
“Why should I?”
“He isn’t to blame,” put in Andy.
“Sure, an’ that’s the truth av it,” broke in Emerald. “We all had a hand, so we did!”
“We were playing snap-the-whip,” explained Dale. “You must have seen us.”
“Thanks, but I don’t watch such childish games,” sneered the bully. “I was tending to my own business when he comes along, smashes the camera, and knocks me down. Do you think I am going to stand for that?”
“You can’t stand if you are knocked down,” said Andy, dryly.
“Humph! Don’t get funny, Snow! This is no laughing matter.”
“As the dentist said when he pulled the wrong tooth,” came softly from Dale.
“Is the camera really broken?” asked Jack.
“Yes, it is, and it cost my dad twenty-five dollars.”
“I can get one like it for twelve,” said Stuffer. “Same size and make.”
“I don’t think it is broken,” said Jack, looking the box over.
“I heard something crack.”
“Maybe it was the glass plate. The lens and shutter are certainly O. K., and the box is tight too. One leg of the tripod is broken though.”
“Pepper Ditmore has got to pay for this,” came firmly from Dan Baxter.
“That’s right, don’t let him crawl out of it,” put in Gus Coulter.
“He’s too smart altogether,” added Nick Paxton.
“See here, Coulter, don’t you put in your oar,” cried Pepper. “If you do, I’ll give you what I gave you before.” And then Gus Coulter slunk back, for he had not forgotten the drubbing Pepper had administered but a few weeks previous.
“Are you going to pay for the damage done or not?” demanded Dan Baxter.
“I shall certainly pay,” said Pepper, promptly. “Let me have the camera and I’ll get it fixed. Or you can have it fixed and have the bill sent to me.”
“We’ll all pay the bill,” cried Jack. “I think I am as much to blame as Pep.”
“So am I,” added Andy, and many of the others who had been playing snap-the-whip said the same.
“I am not going to let you have my camera,” said Dan Baxter, sulkily. “I’ll get it mended as it should be.” He paused a moment. “But I ain’t going to let you knock me down for nothing.”
“As I explained, it