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Chapter 13

FRED IS FOLLOWED


It took the Rover boys several days to settle down at Colby Hall. Everything, of course, was new to them, and they took great delight in roaming around the place in company with Spouter, Gif and the various new friends they had made. During that time they continued to drill, both in the morning and the afternoon; and it was surprising how quickly they learned the manual of arms and also the other tactics which go to make up the discipline of a cadet.

"This life is all to the merry," was Andy's comment one day, while he and the others were down at the shore of the river inspecting the boathouse with its numerous craft.

"It certainly is one fine place," answered Jack. "If Putnam Hall was anything like this, no wonder our fathers thought so much of it."

Since Fred had asked Nappy Martell for the suitcase, the boy who was addicted to loud clothing had avoided the Rovers. But through the cadet named White they had learned much of what had happened in Nappy's room when he came in after it had been "rearranged" by the Rovers.

"Nappy Martell was the maddest fellow you ever saw," Bart White had declared. "He stormed all around the corridor, accusing nearly everybody in that vicinity of having taken his neckties and his underwear and a lot of jewelry. He even came to my room and threatened to tell Colonel Colby if I didn't tell him where the things were."

"And, of course, you couldn't do that," had been Randy's reply, with a side wink at the others.

"No. I told him I didn't know where the things were--because, you see, I really didn't know," went on Bart White, innocently.

"And after that?" queried Jack.

"Oh, he stormed around, accusing this one and that one until some of the boys got sick of listening and told him to shut up. Then he went back to his room and slammed the door hard enough to burst it off its hinges."

"Do you suppose he reported the matter to Colonel Colby?" had been Fred's question.

"I don't know about that. You see, when a fellow gets as mad as Martell was he's liable to do almost anything." And that was all Bart White had had to relate concerning the affair.

So far, the Rover boys had not had anything to do with Asa Lemm. They had met the sharp-faced professor once in the hallway and he had stared at them in a fashion which made Andy shiver.

"He's got it in for me all right!" had been the declaration of the fun-loving youth.

"I guess Gif was right," had been Jack's comment. "He'll have it in for us the whole term. Too bad! I'd rather be friendly with every one than have any enemies."

The Rover boys were just leaving the boathouse after having admired the beautiful four- and eight-oared shells stored there, when they saw Fatty Hendry coming towards them as rapidly as his stoutness permitted.

"Say! I've got something to tell you fellows," puffed the fat boy as he came closer. "I just saw that sneak of a Codfish coming from Fred's room. He looked awful sneakish, and I'm sure he was up to no good."

"I'll go up to my room at once and see," answered the youngest Rover, and lost no time in speeding back to the Hall.

He bounded up the stairs two steps at a time. But when he reached the room he occupied, a surprise awaited him. Everything was exactly as he had left it. It may be as well to state here that every cadet at Colby Hall was required to keep his room in absolute order, and a monitor came around twice a day to see that this regulation was carried out. If a pupil was lax in any particular regarding his room, he was given a demerit in consequence thereof.

"Well, thank goodness! he didn't upset anything, even if he was here," murmured Fred to himself. "I wonder what the little imp was up to?" Then a sudden thought struck him and he walked to the clothes closet in the bottom of which he had deposited his suitcase. He found the bag in the closet, but it was placed there in such a way that he was sure it had been handled.

"Well, what have you found?" questioned Andy, who had followed his cousin to the room.

"I think I know why he came here," declared Fred. "More than likely Martell sent him here to find out whether I really had the suitcase or not. The bag I know has been handled. When I placed it in the closet I put the open end of the straps against the wall. Now the open ends are on this side."

"Say! you're some detective, Fred!"

"I know how I left the bag. And he certainly had it out of the closet and put it back."

"See if he did anything to it," went on Andy, quickly; and thereupon Fred brought the bag forth and examined it. It was empty, just as he had left it.

"Well, that will take the worry of the missing bag from Martell's mind," was Fred's comment, as he and Andy left the room, this time locking the door.

"Martell must have had some kind of a clue to the truth or he wouldn't have sent Codfish here," was Andy's comment. "Maybe he got on to what part Walt Baxter and Ned Lowe played in the trick." And in this surmise Andy was correct. By the merest accident Codfish had overheard Walt and Ned speaking about the joke, and at once he had gone to Nappy with the news; and the upshot had been that Nappy had sent the sneak to Fred's room to learn if the suitcase with Fred's initials upon it was there.

Late that afternoon both the old and the new cadets were assigned to their places in the various classrooms and also given the text-books which they were to study during the term.

"This begins to look like work," sighed Randy.

"Well, we didn't come here just for the fun of it," declared Jack. "We came here, if you'll remember, to get an education."

"Oh, I'm not going to complain," returned his cousin quickly. "I'm willing to do my share of studying. But after the splendid vacation we had this Summer it will be a little tough at the beginning to get down to the grind."

"That's just what I was thinking," declared Andy. "I wish a fellow didn't have to study. Why can't some of our great inventors invent some kind of knowledge pill so a fellow can just go and buy a few boxes and then take them regularly?"

"Great idea, Andy!" exclaimed his twin merrily.

By the next morning all of the cadets had arrived, and also all of the teachers and the other persons connected with Colby Hall. Then the cadets were assembled on the parade ground and made to march into the general assembly room of the institution, where Colonel Colby addressed them. He spoke about the good work done by the cadets during the former term at the school, and said he trusted that the present term would turn out still better.

"At present all of our old officers of the battalion will hold over," he announced. "But in the near future--just as soon as we have got settled in our classes--I will announce the time for a new election. The major and the two captains to be elected must be in their senior year at this institution. The other officers may be either sophomores or juniors."

"That lets us out," whispered Andy to Jack. "Evidently no freshmen can be officers."

"Well, why should we be officers?" answered his cousin. "We hardly know a thing about soldiering yet. I think Colonel Colby's rule is a very good one."

During the meeting in the assembly room all of the professors were called on to say a few words to the cadets. The addresses delivered by Professors Grawson and Brice and one or two of the other teachers were well received; but it was plainly evident that when Asa Lemm came forward to speak to the boys there was a distinctly cold feeling towards him.

"I want to speak about attention to work," he said in a severe tone of voice. "During the last term at this school there was not that attention in classes that I desire. From now on I expect every one who comes to me to pay strict attention at all times. Any laxity will be severely punished."

"Gosh! He's a cheerful customer!" was Fred's comment.

"He'd make a fellow down on him almost before the term began," was another cadet's comment.

"I don't wonder they call him old Lemon," added another youth.

"And now we're all ready to go to work," said Jack, after the cadets had been dismissed. On the following day the classes were to begin.

There had been so much bustle and confusion throughout the school that day that Fred, who was not feeling extra well, got quite a headache.

"You had better lie down for a while and rest," said Jack, kindly. "You don't want to get sick."

"Oh, it's only a headache, and I'll soon be over it," declared Fred. "I think I'll go out for a quiet walk along the river."

"Do you want me to go along?"

"No. I'd just as lief go alone, Jack. I think the quietness will do me more good than anything."

This mood was not a new one with the youngest Rover, so Jack said no more, and a few minutes later Fred slipped on his heavy sweater and donned his cap and set out for his walk. His steps took him towards the boathouse and the bathing houses, and then he continued on along a path running close to the shore of the river.

Although the youngest Rover did not know it, his departure had been watched by Codfish. The small boy lost no time in hurrying to Nappy Martell and Slugger Brown with his information.

"You're sure he's alone?" asked Nappy, quickly.

"Yes. Nobody went out with him."

"Then that's our chance, Slugger," went on the boy from New York. "Come ahead, if you want to help me."

"All right, Nap. But I thought you said you could polish him off alone?"

"So I can. But I thought you'd like to see the fun."

"Can't I go along too?" put in Codfish.

"Yes, if you'll promise to keep your mouth shut about it."

"Oh, I won't say a word," returned the little cadet, quickly.

Putting on their hats and coats, the three cadets lost no time in following Fred. It was quite dark on the campus and parade ground, but they soon caught sight of the figure ahead as the youngest Rover moved past the bathhouses to the river path beyond.

"He's alone all right enough," was Slugger Brown's comment.

"I thought I'd catch him sooner or later after I set Codfish to watching him," answered Nappy Martell. "Now I guess I'll be able to teach him to play tricks on me," he added sourly.

The three cadets quickened their pace, and in a moment more caught up to Fred just as he reached a point on the river shore almost out of sight of the Hall. Fred had dipped his handkerchief in the water and used the same for wiping off his aching brow.

"See here, Rover, I want to talk to you!" cried Nappy Martell, and, striding forward, he caught Fred roughly by the arm.

Of course, the youngest Rover was startled, not dreaming that anyone was following him. Yet he showed no signs of fear.

"What do you want of me, Martell?" he asked quietly.

"I'll show you what I want of you!" cried Nappy Martell in sudden wrath. "I'll teach you to play tricks on me! Try to make me believe your suitcase was stolen, will you? And then come to my room and rough-house things, eh? Just wait till I get through with you and you'll wish you'd never been born!"


Edward Stratemeyer