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Chapter 5

GETTING READY TO LEAVE


"The mean fellow!"

Such was Jack's exclamation as he witnessed the scene between the hollow-eyed little street peddler and the dudish, overbearing youth who had attacked him.

"Get out, I tell you!" repeated the overbearing boy, as the peddler straightened up and caught hold of his little stand to keep it from tumbling over. "I've a big mind to kick your stuff into the street for you."

"Let up there, you big boob!" cried Jack, and without stopping to think twice he leaped towards the other youth and caught him firmly by the arm.

The boy who had attacked the peddler had not expected such interference, and he whirled around greatly surprised, especially when he saw a boy smaller than himself confronting him.

"What--what do you mean by catching hold of me this way?" he stammered.

"Why can't you leave that poor peddler alone?" retorted Jack.

"What business is this of yours?"

"That chap wasn't doing any harm here so far as I can see. He's only trying to earn his living."

"See here, kid! this is none of your affair, and I want you to keep out of it," stormed the dudish-looking youth. "We don't allow those fellows around this building."

"Then you tell him to move on in a decent kind of way," returned Jack.

"I'll do as I please." The big boy turned again towards the peddler and made a motion as if to push both the man and his stand down, but, instantly, Jack caught hold of him again and pulled him back, shoving him in between two pillars of the building's entrance.

"You had better go on," said Jack to the peddler, and, evidently much frightened by what was occurring, the little man took up his stand and disappeared as if by magic in the crowd on the street.

"Say! you've got gall to interfere with me!" burst out the big youth, glaring at Jack. "I'll teach you a lesson;" and with a sudden move he pulled Jack's bundle from under his arm and threw it out into the street. "Now you go about your business and don't you interfere with me again."

To have the bundle belonging to his mother treated in that fashion made the young Rover's blood boil. He jumped at the big youth, and as the other aimed a blow at him he dodged and then caught his opponent by the ear.

"Ouch! Let go!" screamed the big youth in sudden pain, and then he landed a blow on Jack's shoulder and received a crack on the chin in return.

How far this encounter might have gone, it is hard to say, but at that moment, while a crowd was beginning to gather, there came a sudden interruption in the appearance of Jack's Uncle Tom, followed by his Uncle Sam.

"Hello! What does this mean?" demanded Tom Rover, as he stepped between the two boys.

"It means that I've got an account to settle with that young snip, Mr. Rover!" cried the big youth savagely and giving Jack a look full of hatred.

"Uncle Tom, that fellow is nothing but a brute," declared Jack.

"A brute? What do you mean?"

"He just attacked a poor little peddler who was trying to sell a few things from a stand here in the corner. He tried to knock the peddler down and upset his stand. I told him to stop and then he attacked me."

"Humph! Are you this boy's uncle, Mr. Rover?" asked the big youth, in surprise.

"I am, Martell."

"Then I want to tell you that he has no right to interfere with me," went on Napoleon Martell, uglily. "Those peddlers are always hanging around here and my opinion is they are all thieves."

"That fellow was no more a thief than you are," broke in Jack, sturdily.

"Ha! Do you mean to call me a thief?"

"Come, Jack, such talk won't do down here in Wall Street," remonstrated his Uncle Sam, who had listened closely to what had been said. Sam Rover, from a distance, had seen the bundle flung into the gutter and had picked it up. Both the wrapping and the string were broken, but the contents of the package seemed to be uninjured.

"If that kid is your nephew, you had better take him in hand," grumbled Napoleon Martell, and then, not wishing to have any more words with the two older Rovers, he broke through the crowd which had gathered and hurried up the street.

"Come into the building," ordered Tom Rover to Jack, for the crowd was getting denser every instant; boys and men who had been hurrying by stopped to find out what was the matter.

"I guess I'll have to go back to get that bundle tied up again," answered Jack. The encounter had excited him not a little. "Uncle Tom, that fellow seemed to know you?"

"Yes, I know that boy. His name is Napoleon Martell, although they call him Nappy for short. He is the son of Nelson Martell, one of our rivals in business, a man who occupies the floor above us in this building."

"I didn't know Nappy was much of a scrapper," was Sam Rover's comment. "I thought he was too much of a dude to fight."

"He certainly is a dude as far as appearances go," answered Jack; "but he has the manner of a brute. I wish now I'd had the chance to give him a good licking," he went on heartily.

"You had better go slow when it comes to fighting," returned his uncle. "A fight seldom settles anything."

"Didn't you ever have any fights, Uncle Sam?"

At this direct question Sam Rover's face became a study while his brother Tom looked at him rather quizzically.

"Yes! I had my share of fights when I was a boy," admitted the uncle. "But, looking back, I think a good many of them might have been avoided. Of course, I expect a boy to take his own part and not be a coward. But a fight isn't always the best way to settle a difficulty."

Once back in the offices, Jack did not hesitate to tell his father about what had happened. In the meantime, an office boy rewrapped the bundle, securing it this time with a stout cord.

"I am sorry to hear about this trouble, Jack," said his father seriously. "I don't want you to grow up into a scrapper."

"But, Dad, I couldn't stand by and see that fellow abuse a poor little peddler like that," answered the son. "It wasn't fair at all! What right had that Nappy Martell to order the man away?"

"No right, that I know of. Jack, except that Mr. Martell owns some stock in the company that owns this building; but that would be a very far-fetched right at the best."

"I guess those Martells are all tarred from the same stick," was Tom Rover's comment. "The father is just as overbearing as the son."

"Do you know what I'm inclined to think?" remarked Sam Rover, as he walked over and closed the door to the outer office so that the clerks might not hear what was said. "I'm inclined to think that Nelson Martell is a good deal of a crook."

"And that's just my idea of the man, too," added Tom Rover. "What do you think, Dick?"

At this direct question the oldest of the three brothers pursed up his lips in concentrated thought.

"To tell the truth, I don't know exactly what to think," he answered slowly. "Some of the things that Nelson Martell is trying to put through are certainly rather shady. Still, they may be within the strict letter of the law, and if that is so it would hardly be fair to call the man a crook."

When Jack returned home, he, of course, told his cousins of his encounter at the entrance to the office building.

"It's a pity you didn't have a chance to give Martell one in the eye or in the nose," was Randy's comment. "Such a brute deserves to be hauled down a peg or two."

"Well, I rather think I gave his ear a pretty good twist," answered Jack, grinning.

"You ought to have made him pick up that bundle he flung into the gutter," added Fred.

"I couldn't do much of anything with the crowd gathering around. My! how the people do flock together when the least thing happens! If we had stayed there another minute or two, we might have had a thousand people around us."

With so many things to be thought of and done previous to the departure for Colby Hall, the subject of Nappy Martell was soon dismissed. All the boys were wondering what they had better put in their trunks and suitcases.

"Gee! I've got enough stuff planned out to fill five trunks," declared Randy. "I want to take all my clothing, and my fishing outfit, and my football and baseball togs, and my gym suit, and I'd like to take along my dumbbells, and my physical culture exerciser, and maybe a shotgun, and that favorite paddle of mine, and----"

"And about five thousand other things," finished his twin. "I'm in the same boat. But we've simply got to cut down and take only the things that are actually necessary."

"We won't need any baseball things during this term," declared Jack. "The Fall is the time for football--not baseball. And say! we don't want to forget our skates. There's a river up there and also a lake; so if the winter gets cold enough there ought to be some dandy skating."

"Yes. And if the lake is large enough there ought to be a chance for some ice-boating," added Fred.

At last, with the aid of their parents, the four boys got their trunks and suitcases packed. They were to leave home for Colby Hall on Wednesday morning, and on Tuesday evening their folks gave them a little send-off in the shape of a party given at Dick Rover's residence. At this gathering many of their boy friends were present, as well as a number of girls along with Mary and Martha. All of the young folks had an exceedingly pleasant time, which was kept up until midnight.

"And now for Colby Hall!" exclaimed Jack, after the party had come to an end.

"That's it," returned Fred. "Colby Hall and the best times ever!"

"So say we all of us!" came from the twins.


Edward Stratemeyer