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Chapter 23

TARGET PRACTICE


Colby Hall prepared for a great celebration that night in honor of their victory over Hixley High. Boxes and barrels had been stored away in anticipation of just such an occasion, and these were brought out and stacked up at a safe place along the river front.

"Bonfires to-night--and big ones, too!" cried Andy, and let off his surplusage of spirits by turning several handsprings.

"Look out, Andy!" cried Fred, "or some circus will capture you."

"Sour grapes!" retorted the fun-loving youth.

"Oh, it was grand--the way you held Hixley High back in that last quarter!" remarked Ruth to Jack. "I was so afraid they would break through and score, I could hardly wait for the whistle to blow."

"It was certainly some game!" answered Jack. "You see, they are so much heavier than we are."

The victorious eleven came in for all sorts of congratulations, and Jack was slapped on the back until the wind was almost knocked out of him. As soon as he could escape from his friends, he and the others took the girls down to a waiting automobile and set off for Clearwater Hall. On the way the young folks sang and cut up to their hearts' content, having the best possible time.

The only cadet at Colby Hall who was not elated over the victory was Slugger Brown. Even though two substitutes had been used in the game, and even though the big fellow had repented of his former decision, and agreed to play if called upon, Gif had ignored him and used a player at least ten pounds lighter in weight.

"He doesn't intend to give me a show--and that's all there is to it," remarked Slugger to Nappy Martell, bitterly.

"Well, you told him you wouldn't play unless you could go out at the start of the game," answered his crony.

"I told him that first, but afterwards I agreed to go in as a sub," growled Brown. "But I can see how it is--those Rovers have told Garrison how we acted on the lake, and so Garrison has made up his mind to ignore me entirely, even though I've got the weight and can play as good as any of them."

"Oh, I don't doubt but what it's the Rovers' fault!" retorted Martell. "And that puts me in mind--are we going to do anything to get square or not?"

"Don't worry about that, Nap--we'll do something all right enough! But I want the chance first to think up something that will be worth while," answered Slugger Brown, emphatically.

The bonfires along the river were lit directly after supper, after the cadets had received permission from Colonel Colby. The boys were allowed to do about as they pleased, the only stipulation being that they should avoid anything that might be dangerous or ungentlemanly.

With the bonfires blazing high, throwing a lurid glare over the campus and parade grounds, the cadets sang and danced and then started an impromptu parade which took them around the various buildings of the school. Many carried torches, while four had drums and bugles. There was a good deal of horseplay, and also something in the way of hazing.

"Here is where we get back at Codfish for some of his meanness!" cried Randy, as he and some of the others caught the sneak.

Then Codfish was made to stand up on an unusually large barrel and sing, after which he was told to hold out each hand for a valuable present.

"I don't want any present! I want to get down!" cried the sneak.

"Oh, this is something very valuable, Codfish," returned Randy, and winked at some of the others.

Just for the fun of it, some of the cadets had obtained some potatoes from the storehouse and started to roast these under one of the bonfires. Two of the potatoes, quite hot and black, were brought forth and thrust into Codfish's hands.

"Ouch! What do you mean by handing me red-hot potatoes!" yelled the sneak, in alarm.

"Oh, we thought you were hungry," cried one of the other cadets.

"You wanted to burn me--that's what you wanted to do!" shrieked Codfish, who, however, was far more scared than hurt. "I want to get down!"

"You've got to give us a dance first, Codfish," ordered Randy.

"That's right! Give us a jig!" put in Andy.

"Make it a Boston seven-step," suggested Jack.

"Or a Washington dip," added Fred.

A dozen of the cadets were shouting at poor Codfish to dance, and presently the excited boy commenced to shuffle his feet.

"Now jump up three times and we'll let you go!" cried Randy.

Codfish made one leap into the air and came down on the barrel top successfully. Then he tried a second leap, but, as Randy well knew, the barrel top was weak, and, with a crash, poor Codfish went down straight into the big barrel up to his armpits.

"Whoop! Codfish has busted the barrel!" cried Fred.

"What do you mean by breaking up housekeeping like that, Codfish?" demanded Andy.

"Let's do the baker act for him," went on Randy, quickly.

"The baker act?" queried several of the cadets. "What's that?"

"Don't you know the baker loves his rolls?" answered Andy, with a broad grin.

"That's the talk!" came in a shout. "Let's give Codfish a roll;" and before the sneak could save himself the barrel was tipped up on its side and sent rolling over and over towards the parade ground.

"Ouch! Let up! I'll be killed!" screamed the victim. "This barrel may have a lot of nails in it!"

"Oh, do you think that's true?" asked one of the cadets in fright.

"Nary a nail! I saw to that before we used the barrel," answered Randy. "Such a rolling won't hurt him a bit;" and the cadets continued their sport with the barrel, finally sending it down a slight hill in the direction of the river. Here it lodged against some bushes, and Codfish was allowed to crawl forth. At once he took to his heels and disappeared.

It was noticed by many that Slugger Brown and Nappy Martell had not participated in the festivities of the evening. The two had gone off for a walk, during which they smoked many cigarettes and talked over their grievances against the Rovers. On their return they were met by Codfish, who related to them his tale of woe.

"Oh, we've got to do something," was Nappy Martell's comment. "If we don't, before we know it the Rovers will be fairly running this school."

"Well, they won't run me," growled Slugger Brown.

The following Monday found the Rover boys once more hard at work over their studies. They had now settled down to the regular routine of the Hall, and were doing very well, not only in their classes, but also in their training as young soldiers. Each of them could march and handle a gun as well as anybody, and now they were given the privilege of practising at target shooting--something which interested them greatly.

"Let's get up a little match among ourselves," said Randy one day; and this was agreed upon, eight new cadets entering the contest.

The shooting was done at a target set up against a tree some distance behind the gymnasium building; and the boys did their practising under the direction of Captain Dale.

"It requires considerable practice to become an expert shot," said the military instructor. "Once in a while we find someone who is a natural-born sharpshooter, but that is very rare. Some of the best shots in the army are men who, at the start, hardly knew how to handle firearms."

At this target practice a perfect score would have netted twenty-five points. The contest went on merrily, and at the conclusion it was found that Andy had scored ten points; Randy, twelve; Jack, eighteen; and Fred, nineteen. One other cadet, a youth named Lewis Barrow, had scored twenty.

"Well, the prize goes to Barrow!" cried Jack.

"Yes. But we came pretty close to winning," cried Fred, with justifiable pride.

"You and Jack needn't complain," was Andy's comment. "Eighteen and nineteen points out of a possible twenty-five is going some, especially for beginners."

"If I win the prize, what is it?" questioned Lewis Barrow, a tall, lanky youth with a rather leathery face. He came from the far West, and knew much more about firearms than did the Rovers.

"Oh, the prize is first choice of holes in half a dozen doughnuts," snickered Andy.

"Holes in doughnuts!" replied Barrow, who was not over-bright. "Suffering buffaloes! What would a fellow do with holes out of doughnuts?" and at this there was a little laugh.

"For beginners, I think you have all done very well," remarked Captain Dale. "The lowest score, I see, is nine. Last year when the new cadets went at practice, we had several fellows who didn't hit the target."

"Gee! I'd hate to go hunting with such chaps," was Andy's dry comment. "A fellow would have to get right directly in front of 'em to be sure of not being hit;" and this remark made even the military instructor laugh.

"I'll be proud of all of you," said Major Ralph Mason, when he heard of the scores that had been made. "First thing you know, we'll have a company of genuine sharpshooters."

"This practising at a target will come in fine if we get a chance to do any hunting this winter," remarked Fred. "Wow! Just think what would have happened if that target had been a deer, or even a partridge!"

"A deer or a partridge isn't apt to stand still," returned Randy. "If you want to become expert as a hunting shot, you'll have to practise at a swinging target."

"Well, that's to come later, so Captain Dale said," was the answer.

"Say, let's go out hunting some day when the season opens!" cried Jack. "I'd like first rate to bag something, even if it were only a few rabbits."

"That's the talk!" answered Fred, quickly. "As soon as the hunting season opens let's go out, by all means."

The target practice had been witnessed by Slugger Brown and Nappy Martell. Now, when Jack and Fred spoke of hunting, Slugger Brown's face became thoughtful.

"I think I see a way to square accounts with those Rovers," he remarked to his crony. "From now on, I'm going to watch 'em pretty closely. If ever they do go out hunting, I think we'll be able to put one over on 'em they'll never forget."


Edward Stratemeyer