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Chapter 25

OFF ON A HUNT


"Say, as soon as we are outdoors let us give him the ha-ha and run away," whispered Fred to the others.

"Oh, no! Let's have some more fun," pleaded Randy. "Why! the sport has just begun!"

"That's it!" came from his twin.

"Don't forget we are due at the Hall," remonstrated Jack.

"Now then, show me them tramps!" cried Elias Lacy, as the whole crowd went outdoors and towards the front gate.

"Oh, protect us! Please protect us!" shrieked Randy, and caught hold of the old man's coat-tails.

"Don't let the tramps abduct us! I don't want to live with any tramp! I want to marry a millionaire!" screamed Andy, and began to cling so close to Elias Lacy that the old man could hardly move forward.

The twins cut up so that the others had all they could do to keep from laughing. One boy began to snicker, but promptly clapped his hand over his mouth.

"Don't hang on to me," ordered the old farmer. "I can't use my gun if you clutch my arm like that," and he tried to shake the twins off.

"Oh, there they are--behind the bushes!" screamed Randy, suddenly, pointing off to the left.

"Where?" demanded the old man, holding his lantern over his head. "I don't see nothin'."

"There they are!" screamed Andy. "They've got pistols, too! Oh, save us! Save us!"

"Drat the pesky rascals! I'll fix 'em!" snarled Elias Lacy, and, shaking loose the clinging boys, he ran off, lantern in one hand and shotgun held up to his shoulder with the other.

"Now is our time to skip out!" cried Jack.

"Right you are!" added another of the crowd. And then without waiting for the rest, this cadet let up a cry: "Sold! Mr. Lacy, you are sold!"

"Sold! With the compliments of the Colby Hall cadets!" cried another. And then, seeing that the disguise was at an end, the boys began to shout a variety of things not at all complimentary to the old farmer.

Elias Lacy was thunderstruck by the sudden turn of affairs, and, wheeling around, he stared in open-mouthed wonder at the retreating girlish figures.

"What's that?" he shrilled. "What are you runnin' away fur?"

"Good-bye, Mr. Lacy!" sang out Randy. "We're only having a little fun."

"Don't you know it's Hallowe'en?" queried Andy; and then started to walk off on his hands, but the dress he wore fell down around him and caused him to tumble over on his back. In the gloom, Fred stumbled and fell on top of him.

"Fun! Hallowe'en!" bellowed Elias Lacy, and of a sudden he became filled with rage. "You ain't gals at all! You're only playin' a trick on me!" he snarled.

"Good-bye and pleasant dreams!" shouted Randy.

"Don't tell any of your friends about the young ladies who called on you," advised Jack.

And then the other cadets made various taunting remarks. They had come to a halt to enjoy the old farmer's discomfiture and at the same time to give Andy and Fred a chance to regain their feet.

"Halt!" suddenly commanded Elias Lacy, and set down his lantern on a fence post. "Halt! or I'll shoot some of you!" and he aimed his shotgun at them.

"Don't shoot!" cried several of the cadets in alarm, for they could see that the old man was in a frame of mind to do almost anything.

"Stop! Don't you dare stir a step or I'll shoot as sure as you're standin' there!" continued the old man. And then, as all of the boys halted he went on: "Now come up here where I kin git a good look at you, but don't you come too clost or try to play any more tricks. If you do, somebody'll sure git shot."

There was no help for it, and rather sheepishly the crowd of cadets came forward as he had ordered.

"It was only a bit of Hallowe'en fun. We didn't mean any harm," pleaded Randy.

"Take them bunnets an' things off so I kin see your faces," ordered the old man, at the same time keeping the crowd covered with his shotgun.

With great reluctance one after another the cadets took off their veils and hats. The old man came a step or two closer, looking at each face sharply. His countenance grew even more hateful when he recognized the Rovers.

"Ha! you're the same fellers who robbed my chestnut tree," he snarled. "Didn't I tell you to keep off my premises? I've a good mind to have you locked up."

"Oh, come, Mr. Lacy, it was only a bit of fun," pleaded one lad. "Didn't you go out on Hallowe'ens when you were a boy?"

"No, I didn't! I stayed home an' done my work," was the harsh reply. "Nowadays boys cut up altogether too much."

Had it not been for the shotgun the boys would have taken to their heels; but with the old man thus armed none of them wanted to take any chances. But then came a lucky interruption. From back on the farm came a wild bellowing as if a cow was in trouble. This was followed by the squealing of a number of pigs.

"Hello! Those town boys must have come over after your cattle after all!" cried Jack, struck by a sudden idea.

"My cattle! What do you know about my cattle?" questioned Elias Lacy, quickly.

"That's it! The town boys are after the cows and pigs!" broke in Fred, quick to catch Jack's idea.

"You'll lose them all if you don't look out, Mr. Lacy!" put in Randy.

"They sha'n't tech my cows, nor my pigs neither!" snarled the old farmer; and, taking up his lantern, he left the cadets and ran off towards the rear of the premises. Fortunately, nothing serious had happened to his stock.

"Now's the time to skip out!" cried Jack, and led the way, and the others lost no time in following. The cadets had to hold their skirts high to keep from tripping as they sped along. They reached Colby Hall in safety, and lost no time in rejoining their friends. A little later the Hallowe'en celebration came to an end.

"Old Lacy will remember us," was Andy's comment, in speaking of the affair the next day. "He'll have it in for us."

"I'm afraid so," replied Jack, seriously.

The main topic of conversation at the school now was the football game which was to take place with the eleven of the Clearwater Country Club on the following Saturday. This was another gala occasion for the school, and once more the boys had the pleasure of escorting the girls to and from the conflict.

"I hope we can do them up as we did Hixley High," remarked Jack. But this was not to be. The Clearwater Country Club eleven were much older than the cadets and much heavier, and all the Colby Hall team could do was to hold them down to a score of 16 to 10.

"Well, that's not so bad but what it might be worse," remarked Gif, when the defeated eleven had returned to Colby Hall. "I did hope, however, that we might hold them to at least a tie."

"They carried too much weight for us," replied Jack. "Even Slugger Brown couldn't do anything against them." For Slugger had been used as a substitute in the third and fourth quarters. But the big cadet had failed to show either form or efficiency. He had been warned by the umpire, because of an unfair tackle, and this had put him in anything but a good humor.

"I won't play again so long as Gif Garrison is captain!" cried Slugger to Nappy Martell; and that evening he sent in his resignation, which Gif promptly accepted.

The game with Columbus Academy was not to take place until two weeks later, so that, although they kept at their practice, the football players had considerable time for other things. Jack and his cousins had continued their target practice, and their shooting was now so accurate that Captain Dale complimented them upon it.

"The hunting season opens to-morrow," announced Jack one day, as he came back from an errand to the town. "How I'd like to go out and try my luck!"

"I'd like to go myself," spoke up Fred.

A number of the senior cadets had received permission to go hunting and Jack spoke to one of these youths about the prospects.

"I'd like first rate to have you come with me, Rover," said the cadet, Frank Newberry by name; "and if your cousin Fred wants to come along, he can do so."

"We'd have to get permission first, and also permission to use a couple of the shotguns," answered Jack. The gun rack at Colby Hall boasted a number of these weapons, but none of them could be taken out and used without special permission from Captain Dale.

It was no easy matter for Jack and Fred to gain the desired permission, but when Colonel Colby heard from Captain Dale what good shots the boys had proved to be, he said they might go out, along with Frank Newberry and some of the others.

"But I want you to be very careful," said the colonel impressively. "I wouldn't have an accident happen to you for the world. Don't fire a charge until you are absolutely sure of what you're firing at. Never point your gun at anybody else; and be very careful how you handle your weapon in climbing a fence or leaping over rocks or brushwood."

The twins were a bit envious over the prospects for their cousins, but they wished Jack and Fred the best of luck. All of the cadets who were to go out had lessons in the morning, but they departed directly after dinner, and were told that they could remain out as long as they pleased.

"Now, don't forget to bring back a deer or a bear," cried Andy.

"And if you can, bag a buffalo or a hippopotamus," added his twin.

"We'll be lucky if we bag some rabbits and a squirrel or two or some woodcock," answered Jack. "Big game doesn't exist around here any more. The farms are too thick."

"Well, be sure and bring down a pink canary bird, anyway," advised Andy; and at this there was a general laugh.

Frank Newberry had been out the year before, and consequently knew much about the lay of the land.

"We'll go down into the woods directly back of Haven Point," he announced. "Last year the hunting there was much better than it was up the Rick Rack River."

And then off the cadets started on the hunt. Much that was unusual lay in store for them.


Edward Stratemeyer