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Arnold Baxter hesitated but a moment on gaining the depot platform. A freight train was passing the station at a slow rate of speed, and, running to an empty car which stood wide open, he leaped on board.
Dick was close behind him, and as the man boarded the freight car caught him by the leg. As Dick held on like a bulldog there was nothing left for Arnold Baxter to do but to drag the youth up behind him.
"You imp!" he snarled, as the two faced each other on the car floor. "What do you mean by following me in this fashion?"
"And what do you mean by running away in this fashion?" panted Dick.
"I have a right to do as I please."
"And so have!"
"You have no right to follow me."
"That remains to be seen, Arnold Baxter. I would like to ask you a few questions."
"Would you, indeed?" sneered the tall man.
"Yes. I won't waste words. Were you and my father enemies years ago?"
At this direct question Arnold Baxter scowled darkly. "Yes, if you are anxious to know," he muttered.
"I fancied as much. You tried to swindle him out of some Western mining property."
"The boot was on the other leg -- he tried to swindle me -- ran off to Africa with my papers, I think, or else left them somewhere where I can't find them."
"I do not believe you, for my father was an honest man, while you are the boon companion of a thief."
"Have a care, boy -- I won't stand everything!" snarled Arnold Baxter, his eyes gleaning like those of an angry cat.
"I am not afraid of you, Arnold Baxter. I shall hand you over to the police at our next stopping place!"
"Will you!" hissed the man, and leaped at Dick, bearing him down to the car floor. At once his hand sought the lad's throat.
"I've a good mind to choke the life out of you," he went on. "I hate you all -- everyone who bears the name of Rover!" I
"Le -- let up!" gasped Dick, growing purple in the face, while his eyes bulged from their sockets."
"I'll pitch you off!" was Arnold Baxter's answer, and suddenly he lifted Dick up in his strong arms and stepped to the open doorway. They were passing over a trestle spanning a wide gully, at the bottom of which were bushes, rocks, and a tiny mountain stream.
"Don't!" cried Dick, and snatched at the handle of the car door. He had just clutched it, when Arnold Baxter launched forth his body into space.
The next instant, and while Baxter stood by the edge of the door, the long train swung around a sharp curve. There was a quick jerk, and with a yell of fright which sounded in Dick's ears for days afterward, Arnold Baxter slipped through the doorway and went tumbling head foremost down into the gully!
Dick shut his eyes at the sight and clung fast mechanically. Then, as soon as he could recover, he swung himself into the car. He could not stand, and sank like a lump of lead to the car floor unconscious.
When he recovered, several train hands surrounded him, and his face was wet from the water they had poured over him. It was fully an hour before he could tell his story, and then a hand-car was sent back to the spot where Arnold Baxter had had his terrible fall.
The rascal was found at the foot of the gully, a leg and several ribs broken and otherwise bruised. He was carried to the hand-car like one dead, and later on transferred to a hospital at Ithaca. Here it was announced that he might possibly recover, although this was exceedingly doubtful.
"He's a bad one," said Tom, when he heard Dick's story. "I would like to know what Buddy Girk has to say about him."
Buddy had been taken to the Rootville jail and searched, and a pawn-ticket for the stolen watch found in his vest pocket. The ticket was on a Middletown pawnbroker, and showed that fifteen dollars had been loaned on the timepiece. Buddy had more than this amount in his pocket, and some time later the money was forwarded to the pawnbroker, and then the precious watch and chain came back to Dick, in as good a condition as ever.
"I haven't got nuthin' to say," said Buddy, when Dick tried to make him talk. "I didn't steal the watch, and I didn't do nothin'."
"You won't tell me anything about Arnold Baxter?" questioned Dick.
"Ain't got nuthin' to say," repeated Buddy, who was planning to escape from jail that very night.
And escape he did, through a window the bars of which were bent and broken. The authorities searched for him for nearly a week, but the search proved unavailing.
"I don't particularly," said Dick, in commenting on the affair. "I have my watch back and that's the main thing."
"But Buddy ought to be punished. Now if it was Arnold Baxter who had gotten away -- after that terrible fall -- I wouldn't say a word," answered Tom.
The encampment came to an end in a blaze of glory on the Forth of July, with firecrackers and fireworks galore. The cadets "cut up like wild Indians" until after midnight, and Captain Putnam gave them a free rein. "Independence Day comes but once a year," he said. "And I would not give much for the boy who is not patriotic."
"You are right there, captain," returned George Strong. "Our boys are true blue, every one of them."
Out on the parade ground the cadets were singing loudly and marching at the same time. Everyone was in the best of high spirits, and it was a time never to be forgotten.
Here I must bring to a close, for the present, the story of the Rover Boys' doings at Putnam Hall and elsewhere. We have seen how Dick was robbed of his watch and how he recovered the timepiece; how the boys joined the other cadets, and what friends and enemies they made; and we have likewise entered into many a sport and contest with them.
With the termination of the encampment the school term came to an end, and the Rover boys returned to their home with their uncle and aunt. But more adventures were in store for them, and these will he related in another volume, to be entitled "The Rover Boys on the Ocean; or, a Chase for Fortune." In this volume we will meet all of our old friends, and also learn more concerning Josiah Crabtree and his little plot to marry Mrs. Stanhope and obtain the money the lady was holding in trust for Dora. We shall likewise meet Dan Baxter and his toady Mumps, and learn much concerning a thrilling chase on the ocean and its happy results.
But for the present all went well. The boys arrived at the homestead two days after the Fourth and were met at the door by their Uncle Randolph and Aunt Martha.
"Welcome home, all of you!" cried Randolph Rover. And as their aunt kissed them, he continued, "And what do you think of your school?"
"What do we think?" repeated Tom.
"Why, we think Putnam Hall is the best boys school on earth!"
And Dick and Sam agreed with him.
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