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As Dick went down, Tom and Sam uttered cries of chagrin and horror. The eldest Rover had been struck on the chin, and the blood was flowing from a deep scratch.
"Get up! Get up, Dick!" cried Tom. "Don't say you are beaten!"
"Yes, yes; get up and go at him!" added Sam.
The urging was unnecessary, as Dick was already scrambling up. Dan Baxter made a dash at him, intending to strike him while he was down, but a fierce look from Tom stopped him.
"You'll fight fair, Baxter," were Tom's words.
"Yes, he'll fight fair," repeated Dick, throwing back his head as if to collect himself. "Fellow-students, Dan Baxter is not fit to be a pupil at this academy."
"Why not?" came in a chorus.
"He is not fighting me fairly."
"What do you mean?" blustered Mumps.
"Don't find fault because he knocked you down," added another of the bully's cronies.
"I say he is not fighting fair," repeated Dick Stoutly. "He has something in each hand."
At this unexpected announcement Dan Baxter started back and changed color. Then of a sudden he placed both hands into his trouser pockets.
"He is putting the things out of sight!" cried Tom, who saw through the bully's intentions.
"Come, Baxter, show us what you had."
"I didn't have anything," growled the bully. "If you say I had I'll punch your head off. This is only a ruse to, let Dick gain time to get his wind."
"That's it!" cried Mumps. "Go at him, Dan, and finish him!"
"Baxter daren't turn out his pockets," said Sam, "Do it if you dare."
"There is what I have in them," answered the bully, pulling a trunk key from one pocket and some small change from the other. "Perhaps you'll say I was fighting with these in my hands."
"Turn the pockets, out!" demanded Dick.
"Yes, turn 'ern out!" added Fred, and dozen others took up the cry.
"I won't do it," growled Baxter, but it was plain to see that he was growing uneasy. "I'm a gentleman, and I can whip Rover with ease, and do it fairly, too!"
While he was speaking Larry Colby had come up behind him. Ere Baxter could stop the movement, Larry pushed his hand into one of the bully's pockets and turned it out. A jagged stone as big as a walnut dropped to the ground.
"There, see that!" cried Larry. "For shame, Baxter!"
"I didn't have the stone -- you placed it there!" blustered the so-styled king of the school.
"Didn't you though?" said Fred Garrison, who had also come up behind Baxter, and he quickly hauled another stone from the other pocket.
"That is how he scratched me," said Dick. "I was sure he had something in his hand."
"It's a put-up job!" howled Baxter, growing red in the face. "If you want to continue the fight, come on!" and he squared off again.
"That's the talk!" said Mumps. "Let both show their hands! Perhaps Rover has some stones, too!"
Both opened their palms, then doubled up their fists. Baxter was the first to strike out. But, as quick as lightning, Dick dodged the blow and landed vigorously upon the bully's chest. Before Baxter could recover, Dick struck out again, and the bully caught it straight in the left eye.
"Oh!" he yelled in pain, and put his hand up to the injured optic, which began to grow black rapidly. Then he struck out wildly half a dozen times. He was growing excited, while Dick was as calm as ever. Watching his opportunity, Dick struck out with all his force, and Baxter received a crack on the nose which caused him to fall back into the arms of Mumps. As that nose had been struck heavily in the gymnasium, it was decidedly tender, and Baxter roared with pain.
"Have you had enough?" demanded Dick, coming up to him.
Yes -- Baxter had had more than enough; but he did not wish to acknowledge it. He made a sign to Mumps previously agreed upon, and Mumps raised his cap as a signal to one of the spies set on guard.
"Stop the fight!" cried the guard instantly. "Somebody is coming!"
"Nonsense -- nobody is coming!" said the other spy, but Baxter would not listen to him.
"I'm not going to be caught -- I'll finish this some other time," he said to Dick, and hurried away with Mumps and his other friends, leaving Dick the victor beyond question.
"I knew you could do it!" cried Tom, as he fairly hugged his elder brother.
"I'll wager he won't bother you again."
"No, indeed!" put in Sam; and Fred and the others said the same. That was the first and last, time that Dan Baxter fought any of boys openly, but he was their bitter enemy in secret; we shall learn in this and other volumes.
As soon as Baxter had retreated, Dick and his brothers hurried to a near-by brook, where the elder Rover took a wash, and tried by other means to remove the traces of the contest from his person. He had a slight swelling on the scratched chin, but that was all, and inside of an hour felt quite like himself once more.
With Baxter it was very different, and the Sunday following he asked to be excused from attending church services in the Hall, saying he had fallen on some rocks and hurt his face. On hearing this, Captain Putnam came to see him.
"Sorry to hear this, Baxter," he said. "Do you think you need a doctor?"
"No, sir; I'll be all right in a few days."
"Where did you fall?"
"Down by the brook, while we were playing tag."
"Indeed! Well, you want to be more careful in the future," was Captain Putnam's advice, and then he left Baxter. If he suspected anything he did not let on. To a certain extent he believed in letting boys fight out their own battles.
I The Rover boys had come to Putnam Hall in the fall, and now summer sports were cast aside among the pupils, and football and hare and hounds became the rage.
As we know, Sam was an excellent runner, and hare and hounds just suited him.
"We must ask the captain to let us take a long trip next Saturday afternoon," he said; and the boys went to the owner of Putnam Hall in a body and obtained permission.
It was decided that Sam and Fred should be the hares, while Larry Colby was to be leading hound. As Frank Harrington had a trumpet he was made whipper-in. Captain Putnam supplied the boys with a package of old copying books, and these were cut up into small bits and stuffed into two pillow cases loaned by Mrs., Green.
The start was made on a clear but frosty afternoon. The hares stood on the parade ground, with the hounds, to the number of thirty, behind them. George Strong had consented to start them off. The hares were to be given three minutes start of the little scholars and five minutes start of the big boys.
"All ready?" asked the second assistant of Putnam Hall, as he took out his watch.
"All ready," answered Sam and Fred.
"Then go!" And away went the two boys straight for the cornfield, dropping bits of paper as they sped along. They leaped the fence in the rear, crossed the brook, and then started along a path leading through the woods beyond.
"We mustn't dream of letting them catch as," remarked Sam, as he ran on, with Fred directly behind him. "I wonder where this path leads to?"
"The top of the mountain, so Mr. Strong told me. He said there was another path coming down to the westward."
On and on they went along the path until they came to a narrow mountain road. Here they met a farmer carting a number of logs in his wagon, and stopped him to ask a few questions.
"Yes, that road will take you right up to the top," he said. "But you want to be careful and not make a wrong turn, or you may get lost."
"I'm not afraid of being lost," said Fred with a light laugh; and on they sped again, as rapidly as ever, for Fred was as good a runner as Sam, and the pair worked very well together.
At the top of the first rise of ground they came to a spot that was somewhat bare, and here they halted to look back.
"There are the small fellows!" cried Sam, pointing with his finger. "And the big ones am not far behind."
"They are speeding along in good shape," was Fred's comment. "Come on, before they spot us!" And they hurried up the next hill. Here they encountered a number of rocks, and were brought to a halt several times to determine which was the best path to pursue.
"By jinks! the farmer was right -- we are getting lost!" said Sam presently.
"Where is the path?"
"I think it is to the right."
"And I think it is to the left."
At this both lads looked at each other, then burst out laughing.
"It can't be in both directions, Fred."
"That's true, and I am sure I am right."
"All right, we'll try it," and they did, but it was a good ten minutes before the path came into view again, and meanwhile the first of the hounds drew dangerously close.
But the game was by no means over, as we shall see.
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