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"The ice has gone down!"
"Some of the boys will be drowned!"
"Get some boards and a rope, quick!"
These and a score of other cries rang out. In the meantime those near to the hole skated with all speed to one place of safety or another.
Some of the imperiled boys who had not gone down very deeply managed to scramble out with wet feet or wet lower limbs only, but when the crowd had drawn back it was seen that three boys were floundering in the chilling water over their heads. These boys were George Granbury and Frank Harrington, who had been supporting Tom on their shoulders, and Tom himself, who had been dropped into the opening head first by the frightened lads.
Realizing that something must be done at once, Mr. Strong ran to the boathouse, which was close at hand, and soon reappeared, carrying a long plank. He was followed by a boy with a rope, and several boys brought more planks and more ropes.
When the first plank was pushed out Tom lost no time in grasping hold of it. He crawled to a safe place on hands and knees, but was so nearly paralyzed he could not stand up.
"I'll carry him up to the Hall," said Peleg Snuggers, who had chanced upon the scene, and without ceremony he picked Tom up in his strong arms and made off for the school building on a run.
After Tom came Frank Harrington, who caught hold of one end of a rope tossed toward the hole. As soon as he shouted he had the rope secure, a dozen boys pulled upon it, and Frank was literally dragged from his icy bath. Once on shore he was started on a run for the Hall, some boys rushing ahead to obtain dry clothing for both him and the others.
Poor George Granbury was now the only one left in danger, and matters appeared to be going hard with him. He clutched at one of the planks thrust toward him, but his hold slipped and down he went out of sight.
"He'll be drowned! He's too cold to save himself!" was the cry of several who were watching him.
"Be careful, boys!" came warningly from Mr. Strong. "Be careful, or somebody else will get in!"
"Mr. Strong, if you will hold the plank, I'll crawl out and get hold of Granbury," came from Dick, in a determined voice.
"Rover, can you do it?"
"I feel certain I can. Hold tight, please."
Dick leaped upon the plank and threw himself flat. Then he crawled out as fast as he could, until he was on the end over the open water. Holding to the plank with one hand he reached out to grasp George's shoulder with the other.
"Sa--save me!" gasped the drowning boy.
"Give me your hand, George," called Dick.
Granbury tried to do so, but the effort was a failure, for the cold had so numbed him he could scarcely move. Reaching as far as he could, Dick caught a portion of his coat and drew the helpless boy toward him.
The ice cracked ominously, but did not break. Mr. Strong warned the others still further back.
Slowly but surely Dick raised George to a level of the plank. Then with an extra effort he hauled the half-drowned boy up.
"Now haul in on the plank," he called, and Mr. Strong and two boys did so immediately. In a moment more danger from drowning was a thing of the past for George Granbury.
A cheer went up because of Dick's heroic action, but this was instantly hushed as George was seen to stagger back and fall as if dead. Instantly Mr. Strong picked the boy up in his arms and ran toward the Hall.
"Oh, Dick, how noble of you!" It was Dora Stanhope who spoke, as she came up and placed a trembling little hand on his arm. "And how glad I am that you didn't get in while doing it." And her eyes filled with tears.
"I--I'm glad too, Dora," he said brokenly. And then added: "Excuse me, but I guess I'd better go up and see how Tom is making out."
"To be sure, and let me know if it's all right," she replied.
Once inside the Hall Dick learned that Tom had been put into a warm bed. He was apparently none the worse for his mishap, and likely to be as full of life and fun as ever oh the morrow.
Poor Granbury, however, was not so well off. It took some time to restore him to consciousness, and while Captain Putnam and Mr. Strong put him to bed, with hot- water bags to warm him up, Peleg Snuggers was sent off post-haste for a doctor. As a result of the adventure Granbury had to remain in bed for the best part of a week.
"I shan't forget you for what you did," he said to Dick, when able to sit up. "You saved my life." And many agreed that what George Granbury said was true. As for Dora Stanhope, she looked upon the elder Rover as more of a hero than ever.
After the mishap at the races on the ice the time flew by swiftly until the Christmas holidays. Before going home for Christmas Dick called upon the Stanhopes and gave them the gifts he had purchased, over which they were much pleased. For Dick Dora had worked a pretty scarf, of which he was justly proud. Mrs. Stanhope had books for all the boys, something which was always to their liking. The Rovers did not forget the Lanings, nor were they forgotten by these old friends.
"And now for home Hurrah!" shouted Sam, on the way to Cedarville. "I must say I'm just a bit anxious to see the old place once more."
"Yes, and see father, and Uncle Randolph and Aunt Martha," put in Dick.
"Don't forget Alexander Pop," put in Tom, referring to the colored man who had once been a waiter at the Hall, and who was now in the Rover employ.
"And Jack Ness and the rest," put in Sam. "I guess we'll be glad enough to see everybody."
When the boys arrived at Ithaca they found there had been a freight smash-up on the railroad, and that they would have to wait for five or six hours for a train to take them home. This would bring them to Oak Run, their railroad station, at three o'clock in the morning.
"I move we stay in Ithaca over night," said Tom. "If we got to Oak Run at three in the morning, what would we do? There would be no one there to meet us, and it's a beastly hour for rousing anybody out."
So they decided to put up at a hotel in Ithaca, and went around to a new place called the Students' Rest. The hotel was fairly well filled, but they secured a large apartment with two double beds.
"There's a nice concert on this evening by a college glee club," said Sam. "I move we get tickets and go."
"Second the motion," said Tom promptly.
"The motion is put and carried," put in Dick just as promptly. "I trust, though, the concert don't make us weep."
"They won't know we're there, so perhaps they won't try it on too hard," said Sam, and there the students' slang came to an end for the time being.
The concert was quite to their taste, and they were surprised, when it was over, to learn that it was after eleven o'clock.
"I hadn't any idea it was so late," exclaimed Dick. "We'd better be getting back to the hotel, or we won't get our money's worth out of that room."
"That's right," laughed Tom. "Although, to tell the truth, I'm not very sleepy."
Several blocks were covered when Sam, who was looking across the street, uttered a cry of astonishment.
"Look!" he exclaimed.
"At what?" asked both Tom and Dick.
"Over in front of that clothing store. There is Dan Baxter, and Jasper Grinder is with him!"
"Sam is right," came from Dick. "They must have struck up some sort of a friendship, or they wouldn't be here together."
"Let's go over and see what Baxter has to say for himself," said Tom boldly.
"All right," returned Dick. "But we want to keep out of a row; remember that."
They crossed the street and walked straight up to Baxter and Jasper Grinder, who were holding an animated conversation in the doorway of a clothing establishment which was closed for the night.
As they came up, Sam caught the words, "There is money there, sure," coming from Baxter. He paid no attention to the words at the time, but remembered them long afterward, and with good reason.
"Hullo, Baxter!" said Dick, halting in front of the bully.
Dan Baxter gave a start, as if detected in some wrong act. Then, as the light from an electric lamp shone upon Dick's face, he glared sourly at the oldest Rover.
"Where did you come from?" he asked, and then, seeing the other Rovers, added: "Been following me, I suppose?"
"No, we haven't been following you," said Dick. "We just came from, the college boys' concert in the hall down the street."
Jasper Grinder looked as sour as did Dan Baxter. Then he shook his finger in Dick's face.
"I haven't forgotten you, Richard Rover," he said bitterly. "And I am not likely to forget you."
"As you please, Mr. Grinder," was the cool rejoinder.
"And I shan't forget you, Jasper Grinder," put in Sam. "You were the means of my going to bed with a heavy cold."
"Bah! it was all put on," exclaimed Jasper Grinder. "Had I had my way, I would have kept you in the storeroom all night, and flogged you beside."
"Captain Putnam did a good thing when he dismissed you," put in Tom. "It's a pity he ever took on such a cold-hearted and miserly fellow."
"You Rovers think you are on top," said Dan Baxter savagely. "But you won't stay on top long, I'll give you my word on that."
"What are you going to do about it?" asked Dick, not without considerable curiosity.
"Never mind; you'll learn when the proper time comes."
"Is your dad going to try to break jail again?" asked Sam.
"It's none of your business what he does--or what I do, either."
"We'll make it our business if you try any of your games on us again," said Dick. "We've stood enough from you and your kind, and we don't intend to stand any more."
"Are you going back to school after the holidays?" asked Dan Baxter, after a pause.
"That's our business," answered Tom.
"All right; you needn't answer the question if you don't want to."
"What do you want to know for?" asked Sam.
"Oh! nothing in particular. I suppose it's a good place for you to go to. You are all Captain Putnam's pets, and he won't make you do a thing you don't like, or make you study either, if your father shells out to him."
"We study a great deal more than you ever studied, Baxter," said Dick.
"Let them go," cried Jasper Grinder, in deep irritation. "I want nothing to do with them," and he turned his back on the Rovers.
"We're willing to go," said Dick. "But, Baxter, I warn you against doing anything in the future. You'll only put your foot into it."
So speaking, Dick walked away, and Tom and Sam followed him. Baxter shook his fist at them, and Jasper Grinder did the same.
"They're a bad team," said Tom, as they walked to the hotel. "If they try, perhaps they can give us lots of trouble."
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