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Chapter 3

WHAT FOLLOWED ANOTHER TRICK


When the hubbub downstairs started the four Rover boys were up in their adjoining bedrooms partly undressed and in the midst of a couple of impromptu boxing matches, one taking place between Andy and Jack and the other between Randy and Fred.

"There, my boy, how do you like that?" cried Andy, as, dancing around, he managed to land a slapping blow on Jack's bare shoulder.

"Fine, child! fine!" retorted young Jack. "But not half as good as this," he continued, and, with a sudden spring, he landed one blow on Andy's chest and another on his shoulder which sent Tom's son staggering half-way across the bed.

"Hurrah! one man down! Now for the next!" cried Fred, and managed to land several blows in quick succession on Randy's shoulder.

But then the fun-loving twin came at him with a rush, sending him into a corner and on to a little table containing a number of books. As Fred went down the table did likewise and the books fell all over him.

"Whoop!" roared Randy in his delight. "Down and buried!"

"But not dead," retorted Fred, promptly, and catching up several of the books he hurled them in quick succession at his opponent. One in particular caught Randy in the stomach, and down he sat with a suddenness that jarred the floor.

"Say!" exclaimed Jack, suddenly, and held up his hand, "this won't do at all. The folks downstairs will think we're pulling the house down over their ears. We'll have to slow up a bit. You know what our fathers said a little while ago."

"All right," returned Andy, promptly, as he arose to his feet. "After this we'll be as quiet as a thunder storm in a moving picture drama."

"That's the talk! Silence it is!" cried his twin; and then to let off a little extra steam he silently turned a cart-wheel across the floor, after which he proceeded with his toilet making.

The boys were still minus their collars and ties when they suddenly realized that something unusual was taking place downstairs. They had closed the bedroom doors, but now all of them rushed out into the hallway.

"Great watermelons!" groaned Randy, and turned slightly pale. "I forgot all about 'em!"

"About what?" chimed in Jack.

"You don't mean the mice?" demanded Andy.

"Yes, I do!"

"What mice?" questioned Fred.

"The mice I caught under the flooring of the old wagon house yesterday," answered Randy.

"I thought you put them in a cage and drowned them in the brook."

"I was going to do that, but then I changed my mind and put 'em in a couple of boxes. I thought maybe I might have a chance to train 'em--just like those mice we once saw in a show."

"Where did you put those boxes?" demanded Andy, quickly.

"I--I--didn't know exactly what to do with 'em, so--I--I--put 'em on the shelf in the pantry downstairs," faltered the twin.

"Great catfish, Randy! you've got us into a fine mess!" broke in Fred.

"Coming right on top of that trouble with the water-hose!" added Jack, ruefully.

After that there was a moment of silence, the four cousins gazing at each other uncertainly. Then Randy drew a long breath.

"Well, I'm going downstairs to see what's doing," he declared. "If I've got to suffer for this, I might as well see the fun."

"I'm going down, too," responded his twin, and side by side they ran down the stairs, with Jack and Fred close at their heels.

Perhaps it was poetic justice that Randy, who had been the cause of this commotion, should suffer the worst for it. Hardly had he put his foot in the lower hallway of the farmhouse when a mouse, scampering from a nearby doorway, made directly for him. The boy made a wild jump to step on the rodent, missed his footing, and came down flat on his back. He landed directly at the foot of the stairs, and his brother, being unable to stop, fell on top of him.

"Hi! Get off of me!" gasped the unfortunate youth. "What do you want to do--crack my head open?"

"Next time you go down, give a fellow warning," retorted his brother, scrambling to his feet; and then the two boys, with Jack and Fred, entered the sitting-room, doing this just as their fathers came in from the direction of the kitchen and just when old Uncle Randolph made his unfortunate attack on the fish-globe.

"Hello! look at the fish on the floor," exclaimed Jack. "What's the matter, Grandfather? Did the mice upset the globe?"

"No. I did that, trying to hit one of the pesky creatures," explained old Uncle Randolph. "We must kill them some way or they'll get all over the house, and then none of us will have any peace."

"I wouldn't care for a piece of mouse, anyway," remarked Andy, but in such a low tone that none of the older folks heard him.

"Everybody get a stick and go at those mice," commanded Dick Rover, and looked at the boys so sternly they all began to feel uncomfortable. "We've got either to kill them or drive them out of the house, otherwise the lady folks won't be able to sleep to-night."

"I'll get a poker and kill as many of 'em as I can," cried Randy, and ran out into the kitchen to do as he had mentioned.

The other boys, as well as their fathers, armed themselves with canes, umbrellas, and brooms, and for the next fifteen minutes there was a rapid and thorough search for all of the rodents. Several were driven outside through the open doors, while others were caught and slaughtered in various parts of the kitchen, the pantry, and the rooms adjoining. Then the goldfish were gathered up and put into another bowl of water and the bits of broken glass were removed.

"I'm awfully sorry, Uncle Randy, you broke the fish-globe," said Randy, contritely, "but I'm glad you saved the fish."

"Look here, young man, I want to talk to you--and to you, too!" cried Tom, sharply, and without more ado caught each twin by the arm and marched them into the library.

"Wow! I'm afraid Andy and Randy are in for it now," whispered Fred to Jack.

"Well, Randy certainly had no right to put those mice in the pantry," answered his cousin. "Just the same, I hope Uncle Tom isn't too severe with 'em."

"I don't see why Andy should be punished for this."

"Oh, they always stick together. You know that as well as I do."

"So I do. Isn't it wonderful how each is willing to share the blame with the other?" added Fred, with deep admiration.

Once in the library, Tom Rover shut the doors tightly and then faced his twin sons.

"Now then, I want the truth about this," he commenced sternly. "Where did those mice come from?"

"They came from under the flooring of the old wagon house," answered Randy. "I caught them there when the carpenters tore up the floor to put down the new one."

"And where did you put them?"

"I put 'em in a--er--a couple of boxes."

"Randy was going to keep the mice and try to teach 'em to do tricks, just the same as those mice we once saw in a vaudeville show," put in Andy, quickly, to do what he could to shield his brother.

"More tricks, eh?" was Tom's dry comment. "It seems to me that it is nothing but tricks lately. I suppose you placed the boxes in the pantry just so the mice wouldn't catch cold, didn't you?" he went on quizzically.

"No, sir. I--I--placed 'em there just for safekeeping," was the hesitating answer. "I didn't know that Lulu would disturb them."

"That's it, Dad. I'm sure Randy didn't want 'em disturbed."

"And what did you have to do with this, Andy?" demanded the father.

At this the boy addressed had nothing to say.

"He had nothing to do with it, Dad," answered Randy. "I got the mice and put 'em in the two boxes. I s'pose it wasn't just the right thing to put 'em in the pantry, but I give you my word I didn't think they'd be upset the way they were and be sent running all over the house. If Lulu hadn't touched the boxes, the mice would be there yet."

"Perhaps," answered Tom Rover, dryly. "Just the same, I think you placed the boxes there hoping that Lulu or the cook would have curiosity enough to see what they contained. As it is, your actions have upset the whole house, brought on the destruction of the fish-globe, and the cook is so upset that she has threatened to leave."

"Oh, she won't leave, Dad. She likes her big wages too well," remarked Andy, quickly.

"I don't know about that, Son. Nobody is going to stand for your tricks much longer. They are getting altogether too numerous." Tom continued to look as stern as possible. "I've got to take both of you in hand, and that is all there is to it. You are growing wilder every day. Something has got to be done. Now you go right upstairs and finish dressing, and don't dare to let me hear of any more tricks being played for the rest of this day, otherwise I'll not only give you a sound thrashing, but I'll cut off your spending money and do several other things that you won't like;" and, thus speaking, the father of the twins opened the door to the hall and shoved them both out towards the stairs with more force than they had felt for some time. The two lads lost no time in retiring to their bedroom.

"Say, Randy, I think you got off rather easily," remarked Andy, when they were alone.

"I think so myself," was the quick response. "I thought Dad would be so mad that he would give me one everlasting licking."

"Say! how did you make out?" questioned Fred, eagerly, as he came sneaking in, followed by Jack.

"You don't look as if you had suffered very much," was Jack's comment. "I thought you'd come out looking as if you'd been through a threshing machine."

What Randy and Andy had to tell was quickly related. At the conclusion, Jack, who being somewhat older than any of the others, was looked upon as something of a leader, shook his head thoughtfully.

"I guess we had better pull in our horns a little, for a while at least," was his conclusion. "My father was mighty mad, too, and so was Fred's. If we don't look out, we'll all get in wrong. They didn't like that wetting business to start with."

While the boys were finishing their toilet and discussing the matter, their fathers were doing what they could to set matters to rights downstairs, and to pacify their Aunt Martha and also the cook and the hired girl. The cook was particularly wrought up.

"It ain't the first time nor the second time nor the third time that them boys have played tricks on us," she declared. "It's been nothin' but one thing or 'nother ever since they came here--and last Summer it was the same way. The first thing you know, they'll be doin' somethin' awful, and some of us'll get hurt. I think I had better leave."

"If she leaves, I'll leave too," declared the hired girl.

"Don't think of leaving," said Tom Rover. "I'll take those boys in hand and see to it that they don't bother you any more. If they do the least thing, I'll pack them back to our house in New York." And after a little more talk he succeeded in mollifying the cook and the hired girl to such an extent that they went back to their work. Then the fathers of the boys withdrew once more to the library.

"I don't know how you feel about it," began Tom, after he had picked up his comic paper once more and then thrown it aside in disgust. "I begin to think that the best thing I can do is to pack those twins off to Colby Hall."

"I don't know but what I agree with you, Tom," answered Sam. "And if you do send them, I think Fred might as well go along."

"Yes; and Jack also," added Dick. "Those boys will never want to be separated, and I don't know that we could do better than to place them under Larry Colby's care, especially if we let Larry know just how wild they are apt to be and tell him to take them in hand."

"Yes; I'd want Larry to know all about them," answered Tom. "And I'd want him to give me his word that he'd keep a sharp eye on Andy and Randy and punish them severely every time they broke any of the rules. It's the only way to bring them up properly."

"All right then, Tom. If you think that way and Dick thinks the same, let's get right down to business and send a letter to Larry Colby to-night," said Sam.

"But what of the boys' mothers?" questioned Dick Rover. He knew that his wife Dora would grieve considerably over having young Jack leave home.

"We'll have to explain the situation to them and get them to agree," answered Tom, firmly.


Edward Stratemeyer