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Title: The Putnam Hall Encampment
       or, The Secret of the Old Mill

Author: Arthur M. Winfield

Illustrator: Charles Nuttall

Release Date: December 7, 2014 [EBook #47562]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8


Produced by Stephen Hutcheson, Rod Crawford, Dave Morgan
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at

The Putnam Hall Encampment
“The fire seemed to be everywhere.”

“The fire seemed to be everywhere.”
The Putnam Hall Encampment. Frontispiece. (Page 178.)

Or, The Secret of the Old Mill




Copyright, 1910, by



I. In the Belfry 1
II. Jack in Peril 11
III. Reff Ritter’s Confession 21
IV. Punishing a Bully 32
V. Josiah Crabtree Makes a Find 42
VI. An Announcement of Importance 52
VII. What the Girls Had to Tell 62
VIII. A Remarkable Adventure 72
IX. A Send-off for Josiah Crabtree 82
X. Off for the Encampment 93
XI. On the Trail of the Wagons 103
XII. The Cave in the Woods 114
XIII. The Encampment at Lake Caboy 125
XIV. What Happened During a Swim 136
XV. Hazing a Bully 147
XVI. A Game of Baseball 157
XVII. In Danger of Fire 167
XVIII. The Investigation 177
XIX. Ritter Gives a Feast 187
XX. On Butterfly Island 198
XXI. An Adventure with Snakes 209
XXII. The Missing Launch 217
XXIII. A Wild Goose Chase 225
XXIV. What Happened Underground 233
XXV. Bert Field’s Revelation 241
XXVI. A Story of Interest 249
XXVII. Caught in the Act 257
XXVIII. Captain Putnam Has His Say 265
XXIX. At the Haunted Mill 273
XXX. A Find of Importance—Conclusion 281


My Dear Boys:

This story is complete in itself but forms the fifth volume in a line issued under the general title of “Putnam Hall Series.”

As I have mentioned several times, this series was started at the solicitation of those who had read some of my “Rover Boys” books and who wanted to know something about what took place at Putnam Hall military academy before the Rovers went there.

In my first volume, called, “The Putnam Hall Cadets,” I told how Captain Putnam happened to organize that famous school, and how Jack Ruddy and Pepper Ditmore came to be among his first pupils. The boys made a host of friends and also some enemies, and proved their worth on more than one occasion.

In the second volume, “The Putnam Hall Rivals,” I related the outcome of several contests on the field of sports, and also gave the particulars of a thrilling balloon ride and of a strange discovery in the woods. Then came “The Putnam Hall Champions,” with more contests, in one of which Jack Ruddy’s enemies played him a foul trick.


Ever since the opening of the school there had been trouble with an overbearing teacher named Crabtree. When Crabtree and another teacher were left in sole charge of the school during the master’s absence, this trouble reached its climax, as related in “The Putnam Hall Rebellion.” The boys ran away and would not go back to school until Captain Putnam appeared to smooth matters out.

In the present volume are related the things that occurred during a long encampment, when the cadets marched from the academy to a beautiful spot on the shore of a lake. Not far away was an old mill, and at this place some of the lads fell in with a most unusual mystery. What that mystery was, and what it led to, I leave the pages which follow to explain.

Again I thank my former readers, young and old, for the nice things they have said about my stories. I trust the present volume affords you equal pleasure in the reading.

Affectionately and sincerely yours, Arthur M. Winfield.




“I say, Jack!”

“What’s the matter now, Pepper?” demanded Major Jack Ruddy, for the cry was a startling one.

“We are locked in!” answered Pepper Ditmore.

“Locked in?” repeated the young major of the Putnam Hall battalion. “What do you mean?”

“I mean that the trap door is fastened. I can’t budge it.”

“Oh, it must be stuck,” said Jack, as he started to climb down a ladder upon which he stood. “Why, there is nobody in the belfry but ourselves.”


“Don’t be so sure of that, Jack. Some of the other fellows may have followed us,” answered Pepper. He was down on his knees on the floor, pulling at an iron ring with all his strength. “Maybe you want to try this,” he added, as he gave an additional tug.

The young major of the school cadets leaped from the bottom of the ladder and took hold of the iron ring, which was set in the edge of a heavy trap door. He pulled with might and main, but the trap door refused to budge.

“Regular tug-of-war!” he panted. “Say, if we can’t get this door open what are we to do?”

“Don’t ask me.”

“It’s the only way out of the belfry, Pep.”

“I know that—unless we climb out of one of the windows.”

“Ugh! I don’t care to risk my neck in that manner.” And Jack Ruddy gave a slight shiver as he spoke.

“Well, we’ve got to get out somehow,” continued Pepper, making a wry face. “We don’t want to stay here all night.”

“If some of the other fellows played this trick on us——”

“They ought to be hammered for it.”

“Right you are. Maybe it was Reff Ritter.”


“Say, that’s so! Don’t you remember, we saw him and his cronies on their way to the Hall when we came here? Maybe they followed us, came up the stairs on the sly, and bolted the trap from the under side. I shut the door myself—so that we wouldn’t fall through the hole in the dark.”

“Well, if Reff Ritter & Company did this thing we’ll have an account to settle with them—when we get free.”

“Right you are. But before we talk about getting square let us get this trap door open and get out of here.”

The scene was the tall tower of a village church. The time was about nine o’clock of a fine moon-light night, and on all sides everything was quiet and serene.

An hour before, the two boys already introduced had left the school which they attended on a “dare” from some of their chums. The dare involved visiting the Cedarville Union Church. The boys were to steal into the edifice by way of a side window, usually left open to admit fresh air. They were to make their way into the gallery and thence to the tower where hung a big bell. They were to remove the clapper of the bell and bring it back to the school with them. If they accomplished the feat the other students were to get up a feast in their honor.


To those who have read the previous volumes of this “Putnam Hall Series” the two lads will need no special introduction. But for the benefit of others let me state that Jack Ruddy and Pepper Ditmore were chums living, when at home, in the western part of New York state. Jack was a little the older of the two, and was of a more or less serious turn of mind. Pepper was full of fun, and was frequently called The Imp, a nickname that fitted him well.

As related in the first volume of this series, called “The Putnam Hall Cadets,” the boys had been sent to a new institution of learning, located on Cayuga Lake. This military academy was presided over by Captain Victor Putnam, a retired army officer, who ran the place somewhat on the lines of our National school at West Point. The place was a large one, consisting of the school building proper, the gymnasium, the boathouse, and several other buildings. The captain was a strict disciplinarian, but he had a kindly manner about him, and the majority of the students liked him very much.


When Jack and Pepper came to the Hall everything was, of course, new to them. But it did not take them long to make some good friends, including Andy Snow, who was of an acrobatic turn, Stuffer Singleton, who preferred eating to studying, Dale Blackmore, who was a great football player, Joseph Hogan, who, because of his Irish accent, was usually called Emerald, and Joe Nelson, a lad who was the best scholar in the academy. They also made some enemies, including Reff Ritter, already mentioned by them, and his cronies, Gus Coulter and Nick Paxton.

At first the cadets were given their regular school studies and taught how to drill and march, but when they could do creditable duty as cadets Captain Putnam allowed them to ballot for their officers. This election resulted in Jack becoming major of the Putnam Hall Battalion, with Henry Lee captain of Company A and Bart Conners captain of Company B. Jack wanted Pepper to try for an officer’s position, but The Imp declined.

“I’ll continue to be a high private in the rear rank,” said Pepper, with a wink. “I can have more fun that way—especially if I have a major over me who knows when to keep his eyes shut.”

“Humph! I expect to have fun myself, even if I am a major,” had been Jack’s answer.

There had been a keen contest over the election of officers. An overbearing youth named Dan Baxter had wanted to be major, and he had bribed Gus Coulter and some others to vote for him, but without success. Baxter was now away on a vacation, and Jack and Pepper hoped he would remain away for good.


Following the election of officers, the chums had had several adventures, not the least of which was their aiding in the rescue of George Strong, one of the teachers, who had been made a prisoner in a hut in the woods by some insane relatives.

The teacher’s ancestry dated back to the Revolution, and he told the boys of a treasure buried by his relatives during war times. How the lads unearthed the treasure has been related in detail in the second volume of this series entitled, “The Putnam Hall Rivals.”

With the coming of summer, the cadets turned their attention to sports in the field and on the lake. Jack’s uncle had presented him with a fine sloop, and in this the youthful major sailed several races, as told about in “The Putnam Hall Champions.” The boys also had a bicycle race and a hill-climbing contest, and likewise went bowling against a rival institution of learning called Pornell Academy. At Pornell at the time was a youth named Fred Century, but this lad became so disgusted at the actions of some of the boys, and at Doctor Pornell, that he left the school and came to Putnam Hall.


As time went on Reff Ritter showed up as the worst boy at Putnam Hall. He did all in his power to get Jack and Pepper and their chums into trouble, and even dosed the young major with some French powders that made Jack violently sick. But this trick was eventually exposed and Ritter came close to being expelled. It was Jack who asked Captain Putnam to give the wayward youth another chance to reform, but Ritter did not appreciate his rival’s generosity.

For a short while matters ran along smoothly at Putnam Hall, but then came a happening far out of the ordinary, as related in full in “The Putnam Hall Rebellion.” During the absence of the head of the institution, and of George Strong, the Hall was left in charge of Josiah Crabtree, a teacher hated by nearly all the cadets, and a new assistant named Cuddle. Cuddle was a peculiar man who did not believe in hearty food for boys, and he almost starved the cadets, so that they had to rebel. For this they were locked in their dormitories. But they escaped at night, and went off to camp in the woods. Here the crowd split in two, Reff Ritter heading the insurgents. Ritter did all he could to annoy the crowd under Jack, and there might have been a pitched battle had not Captain Putnam put in an appearance. He made the cadets march back to the Hall, and there held some interesting interviews with all connected with the rebellion. As a consequence the students were allowed to return to their studies and Cuddle was pre-emptorially dismissed from the institution, while Josiah Crabtree escaped with a lecture.


The Ritter crowd did not come back to the Hall until after a severe storm had drenched all to the skin. They were in far from a good humor and many of them blamed Reff for the discomforts they had suffered, and gave their former crony the cold shoulder.

“It’s all that Jack Ruddy’s fault,” growled Ritter. “He and Pep Ditmore want to run everything. If I had had my say from the start we would have had a fine time.” But only Coulter, Paxton and a few others believed this. The others said very frankly they thought Ritter had made a mess of it when he got them to run away from the main body of the rebelling cadets.

With the return of Captain Putnam and George Strong, the students settled down once more to their studies. The dictatorial Josiah Crabtree was, for the time being, much subdued, yet the cadets knew that sooner or later he would become as harsh as ever. The one point in his favor was that he was a learned man and could teach well when he put his mind to it.

It was Andy Snow who had proposed the trip to the belfry of the Cedarville church, located about a mile and a half from the Hall. He had dared Jack and Pepper to make the trip with him, and the talk had been taken up by Stuffer Singleton, Fred Century, Dale Blackmore, and half a dozen others.


“They won’t dare to do it,” said Dale. “I’ll bet an apple pie on it.”

“And I’ll wager ice-cream for the crowd,” added Stuffer.

“With most of the ice-cream for Stuffer himself,” put in Pepper.

“I’m willing to try it,” declared Jack.

“So am I,” added Pepper. “We owe the sexton of that church one anyway, for chasing us from Mr. Dalter’s orchard when he had no right to do it.”

“Let us get the clapper and hide it in old Crabtree’s bed,” said Andy. But just then he was called away by one of the monitors. Then he sent a note back stating Captain Putnam wished him to do an errand, so he could not make the trip.

“I suppose that ends it,” said Dale Blackmore.

“Nobody dares to go,” said another cadet.

“Yes, I’ll go,” said Pepper promptly.

“So will I,” came from Jack. “But mum’s the word, remember. We don’t want any of the teachers to learn what is going on.”

“We’ll be as silent as oysters in a stew,” said Stuffer.


“Sure an’ ’twill be a great sphort to put the clapper in ould Crabtree’s bed,” said Emerald Hogan.

“Who is going to do that?” asked another.

“I’ll do it—if Pep and Jack get the clapper,” answered the Irish cadet promptly.

A little later Jack and Pepper set off on their quest, stealing away from Putnam Hall campus unobserved. They got half way to the church and then passed Reff Ritter and his cronies, who went by without speaking.

“This is dead easy,” remarked Jack, as they climbed in the church window. They had a lantern with them, and lighting this, mounted the stairs to the gallery, and then ascended the long ladder leading to the belfry floor. Here they opened the trap door and then closed it again, as already stated.

The bell was close at hand and it was a comparatively easy matter to detach the iron clapper. Pepper came down the ladder with it and then made the startling discovery with which our story opens. The trap door had been bolted from the under side and the two cadets were prisoners in the belfry, at a distance of seventy-five feet from the ground.



“We are in for it, Jack.”

“So it would seem, Pep. Do you really think Reff Ritter and his crowd came back here and fastened the trap door?”

“I think Reff came back. I don’t know about the others. You’ll remember Reff is just aching to do something to get us into trouble.”

“Wonder if we can’t pry the door up in some way.”

“We can try. But what is there to work with?”


Cautiously the two cadets allowed the light from the lantern to flash around the interior of the belfry. They had to be careful, for fear somebody below would see the light and wonder what it meant, for the belfry was never illuminated. An investigation by the sexton or some officers of the church might lead to arrest. Once some students from Pornell Academy had painted the porch of the church red and this had caused a great commotion in the community, and arrests might have been made had not one of the pupils’ fathers come forward, paid for repainting the porch, and made the church a handsome donation in the bargain. But even with this, some folks were still “sore,” and ready to pounce down on any boys who might do the property an injury.

Jack and Pepper knew well enough that they had no right to touch the bell clapper, and I am not upholding them in their actions. But they were wide-awake boys, always ready for fun, and saw no great harm in what they proposed to do. Sooner or later the clapper would be returned to its proper place—in fact it looked now as if it would be returned much quicker than originally intended.

The two boys allowed the rays from the lantern to sweep the floor and walls of the belfry, but without bringing to view anything with which to pry up the trap door. Then they set the lantern down and both got hold of the iron ring in the door.

“Pull with all your might!” exclaimed the young major.

“All right, here goes!” cried Pepper.


Both gave “a long pull, a strong pull, and a pull altogether.” At first there was no result, then of a sudden the iron ring broke from the door. The cadets were not prepared for this, and over both went backwards. Pepper landed on the lantern, knocking it over and breaking the glass and bending the top. Fortunately the light went out, so there was no danger of fire.

“Wow!” spluttered the mischievous youth, as he rolled over. “Oh, what luck!”

“Are you hurt?” questioned the young major quickly. “Did the glass cut you?”

“I guess not, but I’ve got some of it in my jacket, Jack. I didn’t think the ring would break away like that; did you?”


The broken glass had scattered all over the floor and the belfry was now dark excepting for the light from the moon that shone in the window.

“Got a match?” asked Jack, after a brief pause, during which he searched his pockets in vain for what he wanted.

His chum felt in first one pocket and then another.

“Nary a one,” he answered. “But what’s the use anyway? The lantern is busted, we can’t use it.”

“We might get a little light.”

“Well, I haven’t even a piece of a match. I meant to bring a pocketful, but I forgot it.”


With caution, the two cadets moved around the now semi-dark belfry. At every step the glass crunched under their feet.

“With the ring gone we can’t get any hold on the trap door,” sighed Pepper. “Jack, it looks as if we were booked to stay here for some time.”

“That’s so. But don’t you think the others will come to our aid, if we don’t get back to the Hall soon?”

“Maybe—but they may wait longer than we want them to.”

“Wonder if we can’t climb down from the outside? We could use the bell rope.”

The boys approached the window into which the moonlight was streaming and peered out. All they could see was the church roof and the roadway some distance from the building, for the edge of the roof cut off a sight of the ground directly below.

“I think I’ll try the rope,” said Jack.

“If we only had Andy along he’d go down the rope like a monkey,” returned Pepper, remembering Andy Snow’s acrobatic cleverness.

The bell rope ran from the bell down through a hole in the floor to the lower vestibule of the church. The boys pulled on it and it came up a length of probably sixty feet. Then it stuck fast.


“Must be a knot in it, too big to slip through the hole,” was Pepper’s comment, after both had pulled with all their might.

“I reckon there is enough of it anyway,” answered the young major. “We’ll cut it off and try it.”

“If we do that we may have to pay for a new rope.”

“Oh, the rope can be spliced. Maybe it’s spliced already.”

Jack got out his knife and the rope was soon cut in two. They heard the lower end drop down to a flooring below.

Making certain that the top end of the rope was well secured to the bell, so that it could not break away, and testing the strands to see if they would sustain his weight, Jack, aided by Pepper, lowered the rope out of the front window, first, however, putting several knots in it. It slid down over the edge of the roof and both boys kept lowering it until there was no more to pay out.

“Now for the great climb!” exclaimed the young major of the Putnam Hall cadets. “If I get down safely, Pepper, I’ll be up in a jiffy and open that trap door for you.”

“Be careful, Jack. I rather hate to see you trust yourself on that rope.”


“Oh, I guess it is safe enough—and I’ve gone down on a rope in the gym many a time, as you know.”

With caution Jack climbed out of the belfry window and took hold of the rope. Then down he went, hand under hand, with his legs twisted around the rope at the same time. Pepper watched him with keen interest and almost held his breath as he saw his chum disappear over the edge of the broad-guttered roof.

“He’ll have a pretty big drop I’m thinking, if that rope doesn’t reach,” mused The Imp, as he waited in the belfry. “We ought to have measured the rope—to see how long it was. Maybe it won’t come to within twenty feet of the ground.”

Several minutes passed—they seemed hours to Pepper—and he waited anxiously for some call from his chum.

“Jack! Are you down?” he cried finally.

“No!” was the surprising answer. “I’m stuck!”


“Yes. A knot on the lower end of the rope has caught on some kind of a brace, and I’m stuck.”


“Down here, on the front of the church!”

“Can’t you climb back?”

“N—no, I—ain’t go—got th—the—strength!”


The words came in jerks and showed that the young major was all but exhausted. He had done what he could to loosen the lower end of the rope but without success. Climbing back to the tower had proved equally difficult. Now he was sitting astride of the rope, clutching it with both hands and leaning against the building for support.

Pepper was frantic, but could do nothing to aid his chum. Had the lower end of the rope been loose he might have raised Jack to the belfry. He climbed out of the window as far as he dared and looked over the edge of the roof.

“Jack, can I do anything?” he asked, frantically.

“I—I do—don’t know,” was the gasped-out reply.

“Can’t you get that end of the rope loose somehow?”

“No, it won’t budge.”

It made Pepper a little dizzy to look directly downward over the edge of the gutter and for a moment he allowed his gaze to stray to the roadway beyond the church. In the moonlight he saw the figure of a man or boy approaching.

“Here comes somebody!” he cried. “I’m going to call for help.”

“We’ll be caught,” faltered Jack.

“I don’t care. I am not going to keep quiet and see you run the risk of breaking your neck.”


Pepper set up a loud call. At first the person in the road paid no attention, but presently he stopped short and looked upward in wonder.

“What’s the matter?” he asked, as he came closer.

“We are in trouble and we want you to help us,” answered Pepper. “Hurry up, before my friend tumbles down and kills himself.”

“Why, you are on a rope, aren’t you?” asked the person below, and now Pepper and Jack saw that he was a boy, very tall and thin.

“Yes, and I am caught fast,” answered Jack.

“How did you get there, this time of night? What do you want me to do?” fired back the tall boy.

“Come into the church, run up to the belfry, and unfasten the trap door!” called Pepper. “I am a prisoner, otherwise I’d go to my friend’s aid.”

“How can I get in?” asked the strange boy, noting that the church doors were closed.

“Climb through the side window which is open.”

The newcomer started for the side of the building, but suddenly halted.

“See here, this is a mighty queer proceedings,” he said slowly. “I don’t know but what you are thieves. Maybe I had better go for outside help.”


“We are not thieves—we are military school cadets, out on a lark,” answered Jack. “Can’t you see my uniform? Help me to get down and I’ll tell you all about it.”

“Yes, I can see your buttons,” answered the tall boy, and without another word he ran for the window and disappeared inside the church. He knocked around in the darkness but soon found the way upstairs and to the belfry ladder. Then Pepper heard him fumbling at the fastening of the trap door. Soon the door came up with a bang.

“There you are!” cried the stranger. “Now, if you want to help your friend you had better be quick about it.”

“Thank you for opening the trap door!” answered Pepper. He started down the ladder after the other lad. “Will you help me? We’ll pay you well.”

“I don’t want any pay for helping to save a fellow’s life,” was the quick response.

It did not take either of the boys long to reach the yard beside the church. In the rear was a long shed, where horses were tied up during services. Pepper knew that the sexton kept a ladder in this shed and he mentioned the fact to the stranger. The ladder was found, and both boys ran with it to the side of the church and started to raise it up at the spot where Jack was still astride of the rope.


It was no mean task to raise the long and heavy ladder. But both Pepper and the stranger realized that Jack’s life hung in the balance and they worked with a strength born of despair. With a bang the top of the ladder struck the side of the church, directly under the young major’s legs.

“Can you reach it, Jack?” questioned Pepper anxiously.

“I—guess—so!” panted Jack, and let himself down at arms’ length on the rope. His feet struck the top rung of the ladder, and in a few seconds more he came down to the ground. He staggered as he struck the grass, and then, lurching into Pepper’s arms, he fainted dead away.



“He got down just in time,” said the strange boy, as he assisted Pepper in making Jack comfortable on the grass. “Is there a well handy? If there is I’ll get some water.”

“There is a well back of the church,” answered Pepper. “But I reckon my chum needs a chance to get back his wind more than anything else,” he added.

The strange youth ran off, to return presently with a large tin dipper full of water. With this he and Pepper bathed the young major’s face and gave him a drink. Jack soon opened his eyes and sat up.

“Did I—I fall?” he stammered.

“Not until you were on the ground,” answered Pepper.

“You held out just long enough and no longer,” said the strange boy, with a short laugh. “You were plucky to hold out as long as you did.”


“It was a terrible experience,” answered Jack soberly. “I thought at one time I’d surely lose my grip and break my neck!”

“You keep quiet awhile,” advised Pepper. “You need a chance to rest and get back your nerve, that’s all.”

“He certainly had nerve!” said the strange youth, with a grin. “But, say, you promised to tell me what it was all about. I know there is a military school near here called Putnam Hall? Do you go there?”

“Yes,” answered Pepper. “But—er—would you mind helping me put that ladder back before we talk? We don’t want to be spotted if we can help it.”

“Sure, I’ll help you,” cried the stranger, and soon he and The Imp had the ladder down and back to the shed. By this time Jack had recovered sufficiently to stand up. He was still a bit dizzy but his strength was coming back fast.

“I am Pepper Ditmore,” said that youth to the stranger. “And this is my chum, Jack Ruddy. I am only a private at the Hall but Jack is an officer.”


“And I am Bert Field,” said the stranger, and extended his hand, which both of the other boys shook. “I am just stopping in Cedarville for a day or two on business which—er—but that won’t interest you,” he added hastily. “It was a lark, eh, climbing into the belfry?”

“Yes, we intended to take away the bell clapper,” answered Pepper. “Some of the other cadets dared us to do it.”

“But how did you get locked in?”

“We think one of the other cadets—who is down on us—followed us and fastened the trap door. I suppose he thinks we are up there yet.”

“I want to thank you for what you did for me, Field,” said Jack, earnestly.

“Oh, that’s all right.”

“If you’ll—er—accept a gift, I’ll be pleased——”

“No, thank you just the same, Ruddy. I don’t want a thing.”

“But we’d like to do something for you—to show you we appreciate your coming to our assistance,” put in Pepper.

“Maybe you’d like to visit our school?” suggested the young major.

“Thanks, but I haven’t time just now. But tell me, do you know a man living in these parts named Jabez Trask?” went on Bert Field, eagerly.

“No,” answered Jack, and Pepper shook his head.

“Never heard of him?”


“No,” said Pepper.

“Too bad! I thought maybe you boys knew about everybody living in this neighborhood.”

“Is it somebody you want to find?” questioned Jack.

“Yes, but—er—well, never mind. Don’t you bother your head about it.”

“The postmaster might be able to tell you where this Jabez Trask lives,” said the young major. “Why not ask him?”

“Well,—er—I don’t want to ask too many questions in public,” stammered Bert Field. “You see I—that is—can I trust you with my secret? You’ve trusted me with yours.”

“Certainly,” came from both of the Putnam Hall cadets.

“Well then, I want to find this Jabez Trask without his knowing anything about it.”

“Why, what in the world——” began Pepper, for he scented a mystery connected with the youth with whom he and his chum had just become acquainted.

“I can’t explain it—or at least I don’t wish to, now,” answered Bert Field, quickly. “Please don’t say anything about it to anybody.” He pulled a silver watch from his pocket. “Phew! after ten o’clock! I’ll have to be going! Goodbye! Maybe we’ll meet again!”


“Good-bye!” answered Pepper.

“Much obliged!” added Jack. And then the tall, thin boy turned out of the churchyard and hurried along the country road, some bushes and trees soon hiding him from view. The young major gazed after him curiously and so did Pepper.

“That’s a strange fellow,” was Jack’s comment. “But he certainly did us a good turn.”

“He sure did,” answered Pepper. “Wonder what he wants of this Jabez Trask?”

“Something important, you may be certain of that, or he wouldn’t be so secret about it.”

The two cadets walked to the roadway and then both stopped short and looked at each other. The same thought had occurred to each.

“We came for that clapper and we might as well have it,” declared Pepper. “I’ll go back and get it, Jack. You can rest behind the bushes, where nobody will see you.”

“All right—and I’ll watch out,—that nobody comes up to fasten that trap door again.”

“By jove! that’s so! Maybe the Ritter crowd is hanging around yet!”

“If they are, it was mighty mean of them not to come to my assistance when I was in peril of my life!”

“Maybe they were too scared and ran away.”


Jack found a convenient spot behind some bushes and Pepper disappeared once more inside the church. In less than ten minutes The Imp reappeared with both the bell clapper and the battered lantern.

“I shoved the broken glass into a corner with my foot,” he said. “And I pulled the rope back into the belfry. The lower end came loose easily when I pulled it up.”

“To be sure,” answered Jack. “A knot was caught in a crotch and that is why it held when the pull was downward. But come on, we’d better be getting back, or we’ll have trouble getting into the Hall.”

“I am not going to carry this busted lantern,” said Pepper, and threw the thing behind some bushes. Then, with the clapper of the bell done up in a newspaper he had brought along, he struck out for Putnam Hall, with Jack beside him.

“There will be a big row when they find the clapper gone, that’s certain,” mused the young major.

“Maybe they’ll lay it to the Pornell fellows,” answered Pepper, with a broad grin. “Hope they do! It will pay back Roy Bock and his crowd for their meanness to us.”


Jack had now fully recovered his strength and both boys kept up a rapid gait until more than half the distance to Putnam Hall had been covered. Then, of a sudden, the young major called a halt.

“What’s the trouble?” demanded his chum.

“Somebody is coming! Maybe some of the teachers!”

Both of the cadets leaped from the roadway to some convenient bushes. It was after hours and they well knew that to be caught by Captain Putnam or any of his assistants would mean severe punishment. Jack might even be reduced to the ranks, something that would have hurt the major’s feelings exceedingly.

A whistle arose on the air, a peculiar whistle, thrice repeated. Pepper answered it at once, and he and Jack stepped back to the roadway. In a moment they were confronted by Andy Snow and Stuffer Singleton.

“Did you get it?” demanded Andy, eagerly.

“What kept you so long?” added Stuffer. “We made up our minds something had gone wrong and we were coming to find out.”

“Something did go wrong,” burst out Pepper. “Somebody locked us in the belfry.” And then he and his chum told their story.


“It must have been Ritter and his crowd,” declared Stuffer. “None of us did it. I was with Dale and the others all the time, and Andy was on his errand for Captain Putnam.”

“If I was certain it was Ritter I’d give him a piece of my mind!” declared Jack. “It was a mean piece of business on his part—after what I did for him a few weeks ago. He might have been expelled from this school if I had not asked the captain to give him another chance.”

“Oh, you can’t rely on Ritter,” came from the cadet who loved to eat. “Why, yesterday, I had an extra piece of pie hidden in a closet, to eat after lessons, and he came along and gobbled it down! He ought to have the daylights hammered out of him!”

“Well, we got the clapper anyway,” said Pepper, grimly. “And it’s up to you, Stuffer, to treat to that ice-cream, and for Dale to find that apple pie that was promised.”

“I’ll keep my promise the first time we go to town, never fear,” answered Stuffer. “But just now I think the best thing all of us can do is to sneak into the school and get to bed, before we are found out.”

“And before Ritter plays some more of his dirty tricks,” added Andy.

The four cadets walked in the direction of the school, but before arriving at the campus turned into a side road bordering the lake.


“No use of going in by the regular entrance,” said Jack. “We’d be sure to be spotted—especially if Ritter or his cronies have told one of the teachers that we are out.”

“I know where Snuggers keeps his key to the kitchen door,” said Andy. “Maybe I can get that.” He referred to Peleg Snuggers, a general utility man around Putnam Hall, who divided his time between the school building and the stables.

“Where is the key?” asked Pepper.

“On a nail in the washshed. I saw him put it there one evening.”

“Then we had better go in by the back way—if we can get the key,” said Stuffer.

With caution the boys skirted the edge of the lake. As they passed the boathouse they heard a murmur of voices. They were about to set off on a run, thinking some teachers were in the building, when Jack called a halt.

“It’s Reff Ritter talking!” he cried, in a low voice, and a few seconds later there issued from the boathouse the forms of the school bully and his two particular cronies, Gus Coulter and Nick Paxton. As soon as the three saw the other cadets they started to walk away rapidly.

“Stop, Ritter! I want to talk to you!” cried Jack, in a low but steady tone.


“What do you want?” snapped back Reff Ritter, coming to a halt and wheeling around. It was after hours, so he did not take the trouble to salute the young major.

“I want to talk to you,—and I want to talk to Coulter and Paxton, too.”

“What about?” and now the seven students came together close to the side of the boathouse. “Don’t give me any of your long-winded speeches, Ruddy, for I am sleepy and want to get to bed.”

“Ritter, you and your gang played a mean trick on me and Ditmore to-night.”

“Did we?” sneered the bully.

“You did.”

“I don’t know what you are talking about.”

“Yes, you do.”

“Maybe you think you weren’t seen near the church?” put in Pepper, meaningly.

“Say, who—er—who saw us?” faltered Coulter.

“Ha, so you admit you were at the church!” cried Jack.

“Coulter, can’t you hold your jaw?” demanded Reff Ritter, angrily.

“Ritter, answer me straight,” said Jack, in a determined voice. “Were you at the church to-night or not.”


“Well, since you want to know so badly, I was,” answered the bully. “Now then, what of it?”

“You fastened the trap door of the belfry, did you?” put in Pepper.

“I did.”



After the frank confession of the bully of Putnam Hall that he had fastened the trap door of the church belfry, there was a moment of intense silence. He faced Jack and Pepper with a sickly grin on his face.

“It was a joke on you all right enough,” he continued. “You were lucky to get away as quickly as you did. What did you do,—force the trap door open in spite of the bolt?”

“Ritter, I think you are about the worst boy that ever came to this school,” said Pepper.

“Oh, you needn’t preach to me, Ditmore.”

“I wouldn’t say so much if you had played that trick on me alone,” went on The Imp calmly. “But to play it on Jack—after all he did to save you from being expelled—well, it’s beyond me. I guess you don’t know what a conscience is.”


“If you are going to talk to me like that I’ll smash you one in the jaw!” fired back the bully. “I know what I am doing, and it’s not for you to teach me manners.”

“Do you know that Jack came close to losing his life at the church and all because you locked us in the belfry?” added Pepper.

“Humph! What are you trying to do, scare me? It didn’t hurt you to be locked in.”

“Ritter, you listen to me,” broke in the young major, and now his voice was so cold and uncompromising that all in the crowd held their breath. “You admit that you locked us in the belfry, don’t you? You know what it would have meant for me if I had been caught there, and you know what it would have meant for the school. It was mean, dirt mean. I thought you were going to turn over a new leaf—be like the rest of the fellows. Now—well, I think I’ll teach you a lesson.”

“Me, a lesson?” faltered Reff Ritter.

“Exactly. I made a mistake when I didn’t let Captain Putnam expel you. The whole school would have been better off for it. Take off your jacket and cap.”


“Because I am going to give you a sound thrashing—and do it before we go to bed.”

“Humph! Want to fight, eh?”

“No, I didn’t say anything about a fight, I said I was going to give you a sound thrashing.”


“If you fight we’ll all be caught!” cried Nick Paxton, in alarm. “Put it off till to-morrow.”

“Yes, let us get to bed!” added Coulter. “I won’t say a word about your being at the church.”

“You bet you won’t—not unless you want a big licking,” cried Pepper.

“Mum’s the word on this, remember that, everybody,” cried Andy.

“Remember it—or take the consequences,” came from Stuffer.

While the others were talking Jack had shed his cadet jacket and his cap and thrown them on a nearby bench. He faced Ritter so determinedly that the bully backed away several steps.

“I want you to know——” began Ritter.

“Get ready, if you are going to,” returned the young major. And then as Ritter put up his fists and stuck out his chin he leaped forward and caught the bully by one wrist. The grip was like that of steel and he whirled the fellow around bodily.

“Take that!” roared Ritter and struck out wildly. Jack dodged the blow with ease.

Then, with the quickness of lightning, the young major “sailed into” his opponent. He hit Ritter a sharp blow in the right cheek and followed this up by one on the nose. Then the pair clinched, and he got the bully’s head under his arm and poked Ritter a hard one in the eye and a heavy one in the mouth that loosened several teeth.


“Le—let me g—g—go!” spluttered the bully.

“I’ll let you go when I am done with you!” returned Jack. “I am going to teach you a lesson you won’t forget in a hurry.”

“Break away!” cried Gus Coulter. “Fight him fair, Ruddy.”

“This isn’t a fight—I am merely giving him the thrashing he deserves,” answered the young major. “You keep out of it—or I’ll serve you the same,” he added, so sharply that Coulter stepped back in alarm.

How badly Jack might have damaged Ritter it is hard to state. He was thoroughly aroused and anxious to give the bully a “dressing down” he should never forget. But in the midst of the excitement a cry of alarm arose from Paxton, who had been looking anxiously towards the school building.

“Cheese it!” he called out. “Somebody is coming!”

“It’s old Crabtree!” exclaimed Stuffer. “Boys, we have got to leg it, unless we want to get caught,” he added, as the tall and angular form of the teacher was seen to emerge from the school building.


Jack had no more desire to be caught than anybody else and he quickly relinquished his hold on the bully and picked up his jacket and cap. Ritter was so dazed that he staggered for a second when let alone.

“Yo—you just wait, Jack Ruddy!” he muttered. “Just wait! I’ll get even, if it takes a lifetime to do it!”

“I’ll finish the thrashing some other time, Ritter,” answered the young officer, and then he and his chums ran in one direction while the bully and his cronies ran in another.

“Stop! stop!” came in the harsh, dictatorial voice of Josiah Crabtree, and he came rushing over the campus, cane in hand. “Stop, whoever you are!”

Fortunately for the cadets the moon, which had been shining clearly, now went under a heavy cloud, leaving the campus in darkness. The gloom was disastrous for the teacher, for in his hurry he did not see a low bench bordering the path. He bumped into the bench heavily, lost his balance, and went sprawling on his chest and face.

“Hi! hi! who did this? Who upset me?” he screamed wrathfully. “Stop, you young rascals! If you don’t stop I’ll have you all expelled!”


He picked himself up after an effort and got back his wind, but by that time all of the cadets were out of sight. The Ritter contingent went to an angle of the school building, where hung a rope running up to a dormitory. Jack, Pepper and Stuffer followed Andy to the washshed and there secured the key left by Peleg Snuggers.

“Hurry up, Andy,” cried Pepper, who was looking back to see if they were being followed. “Remember, old Crabtree is on the warpath!”

The kitchen door was quickly opened, the key being left in the lock, and up a back stairs sped the four cadets, Pepper leading the way.

“Wait a minute!” whispered The Imp, when the upper hallway was gained.

“What do you want?” questioned Stuffer.

“Here is the bell clapper. Crabtree is out of his room, and we might—”

“Hurrah! just the thing!” cried Andy. “Give it to me, Pep. You have done enough for one night.”

“I’ll go with Andy,” put in Stuffer. “You and Jack go to bed.”

And while the young major and his chum sped for their dormitory Andy and Stuffer ran down a side hall leading to the apartment occupied by Josiah Crabtree. As expected, the door was unlocked and they quickly stepped inside the room.

“I’ll put it in his bureau drawer, among his shirts,” said Andy. “He’ll be sure to find it to-morrow.”


“Oh, say, I’ve got an idea!” cried the lad who loved to eat. “But it will rob me of my candy,” he added woefully.

“What is the idea, Stuffer?” asked Andy, who was placing the bell clapper between the teacher’s dress shirts in the bureau.

“I’ve got this molasses candy with me. Supposing I put some of it in the bed? He might——”

“Have sweet dreams!” finished the acrobatic youth. “Good! Spread the candy out well, Stuffer. It’s a bit hard, I know. But the heat of old Crabtree’s body will fix it all right!”

The bell clapper disposed of, the two cadets spread the molasses candy, which was in thin, flat form, in the bed, between the sheets. Then they turned down the light as they had found it, and hurried forth and to their quarters. As they did this they heard a door below slammed shut and locked.

“Crabtree is coming in!” announced Pepper, who was on the watch. “I’ll wager he is as mad as a hornet for not catching us!”

Some of the other cadets had been told about what was going on, and at several dormitory doors heads peeped forth. But then sounded a peculiar whistle, coming from Emerald Hogan.


It was a signal that the teacher was coming around, inspecting the dormitories. Every cadet understood, and there was a wild scramble to put out the lights and leap into bed.

The only lad who did not escape was Gus Coulter. In the semi-darkness he ran into another cadet and was knocked flat. Before he could get up and reach his bed the door opened and Josiah Crabtree appeared. The light was burning brightly, for it was Coulter’s duty that week to put it out.

“Coulter, stand up!” cried the teacher, wrathfully, and the cadet arose sheepishly.

“What are you doing out of bed this time of night?” demanded Josiah Crabtree.

“I—er—I got up to—er—to get a drink,” answered the youth, stammeringly.

“Indeed!” was the sarcastic rejoinder. “And do you dress every time you want a drink?”

At this question there was a snicker from one of the beds. Josiah Crabtree whirled around to find out who was laughing at him. But every boy lay as if sound asleep.

“Who was laughing, I demand to know!” cried the teacher.

There was no answer.

“Coulter, were you outside a few minutes ago?” went on Josiah Crabtree.


“Me?” asked the cadet, in apparent astonishment. “I just got out of bed.”

“And dressed to get a drink of water, eh?”

Well, I—er—I didn’t feel well and I thought I might need a doctor. But I am better now.”

“Humph! a likely story,” growled the teacher. “I will attend to your case later.” And off he hurried, to find out, if possible, if any students in the other dormitories were up.

When he reached the room used by Jack and his friends he found the young major on his back snoring lustily. All the other boys seemed to be sleeping soundly, and their garments were hung up with care and their shoes placed exactly as the regulations of the school required. The teacher did not know that under the covers some of the boys had not yet taken off their socks and dress shirts, and that the shoes at Pepper’s chair were an extra pair and not the ones The Imp had been wearing all day,—those foot coverings being still on his feet.

Having looked around carefully, Josiah Crabtree retired and continued his inspection of the sleeping rooms. As soon as he was out of sight and hearing Pepper sat up and so did his chums.

“Just escaped and no more,” said Dale Blackmore. “Well, a miss is as good as four miles.”


“Sure, an’ somebody would have been caught had he looked at Pep’s feet!” came from Emerald. “Nixt toime take off your shoes, me b’y, ’tis safer.”

“I hadn’t time,” answered Pepper. “But I’ll take them off now,” he added. “Walking around the Hall at night in my socks is good enough for me.”

The boys had been told of what had been done with the sticky candy, and all waited impatiently for Josiah Crabtree to retire. Presently they heard the teacher enter his room, closing and locking the door after him.

“Now for a little more fun!” whispered The Imp. “Come on, but don’t make any noise!”

One after another the cadets stole out in the dimly-lit hallway and tiptoed their way to the teacher’s apartment. Listening at the door they heard Josiah Crabtree disrobe, put out the light, and crawl into bed.

“Now just wait!” whispered Stuffer. “There will be something doing in a few minutes, mark my words!”



With bated breaths the cadets awaited developments in the room occupied by the dictatorial Josiah Crabtree. They were not long in coming.

They heard the teacher turn over several times in bed. Then came a few seconds of silence and then a snort of disgust.

“What is this stuff?” they heard Josiah Crabtree mutter. “Is it glue, or what? I’m stuck full of it! It must be another trick of those confounded boys!”

Then the teacher bounced up out of bed. The sheets came up with him, and as he started to move toward the light, so that he might illuminate the scene, he got tangled up and fell to the floor with a crash, taking a stand full of books with him.


“Oh!” he groaned. “What is the matter with me, anyway? I am all tangled up! That must be glue, and I am full of it! Oh, those boys!” And then the lads heard him roll over and over in the darkness, trying to get out of the snarl of sticky bed sheets. Pepper burst out laughing, for he could hold in no longer.

“Hi, you young rascal, who are you?” roared the irate teacher. “What do you mean by treating me in such a fashion?”

“I hope you are having a sweet time of it, Professor!” called out Stuffer, in a deep bass voice.

“The candy is yours, for nothing!” added Pepper. “But don’t eat too much, it may give you indigestion.”

“Wait till I get hold of you!” cried Josiah Crabtree. “I’ll have you expelled from Putnam Hall!”

He arose to his feet at last and started towards the door. But by the time he had it open the cadets had fled and he found the hall deserted.

“The villains!” he murmured. “Oh, wait till I catch them! Just wait!”

“What is the trouble, Mr. Crabtree?” came in a voice from a side hall, and Captain Putnam appeared, attired in a dressing gown and slippers.

“The cadets—some of them have been playing tricks on me,” spluttered the teacher.

“Indeed! What sort of tricks?”

“They put molasses candy in my bed. I am stuck full of the sticky stuff!”


“Who did it?”

“I don’t know. But I am going to find out!” was the savage answer. “Some of them were out skylarking to-night and I went after them, but I didn’t catch them.”

“This skylarking at night must stop,” said the master of the Hall. “If you find out who is guilty, report to me,” and he went back to his room.

Safe in their dormitories, the cadets lost no time in disrobing and getting to bed. Some of them expected an immediate inspection, but it did not come. Josiah Crabtree visited a bathroom, to clear himself of the sticky candy, and by the time he had cleaned up it was too late to go after the boys who had played the joke.

“Mum’s the word, all around!” said Andy, after things had quieted down.

“Reff Ritter and his cronies may give us away,” said Pepper.

“If they do they had better look out!” answered one of the big students. “We want no tale-bearers in this school. I’ll warn them.” And, early in the morning he did so. It was a good move, for Coulter and Paxton were preparing to send a note to Captain Putnam, exposing Pepper, Jack and their chums.


“You do anything of the sort and you’ll catch it good and hot!” said the big student. “Remember, we haven’t forgot how you acted during the rebellion. If you don’t behave yourselves we’ll make it so uncomfortable for you that you’ll want to go home.” And then, in fright, Coulter and Paxton tore the note up.

By noon it was known throughout Cedarville that the church had been visited and the clapper of the bell taken. Some folks attributed the trick to the Pornell students, some to the Putnam Hall cadets, and still others to some village lads. A deacon of the church went to Pornell Academy and demanded the clapper, and got into a warm row with Doctor Pornell.

“My students are young gentlemen, they would not do such a thing!” cried the head of the academy, wrathfully. “It is an outrage to accuse them.”

“They weren’t any too good to paint the church porch red,” returned the deacon, pointedly. “If they have the clapper I want it.”

At this remark Dr. Pornell subsided and made some inquiries, but, of course, the clapper was not found.


It was not until evening that Josiah Crabtree went to his bureau drawer, to get out a clean dress shirt. He was still in a bad humor over the candy affair, and he hauled forth a shirt with no gentle hand.

The next instant he let out a cry of commingled pain and astonishment for the clapper had rolled from the shirt and fallen on his toes. He danced around on one foot, trying to nurse the other.

“Another trick!” he howled. “Oh my toes! The big one must be smashed to a jelly! And what is that iron thing?”

He nursed his foot for several minutes and then picked up the clapper and turned it over.

“A bell clapper! Ha! is it possible! It must be! The clapper belonging to the church! I must inform Captain Putnam of this at once!”

Down the stairs he hobbled as well as his injured foot permitted. He found the master of the school just preparing to take a drive.

“I have found it, sir!” cried the teacher. “It was hidden, where do you suppose? in one of my bureau drawers!”

“Found what?” asked Captain Putnam.

“The bell clapper belonging to the Union church.”

“Is it possible?” And now the Captain’s face took on a look of concern, for one of the church members had asked him about the clapper during the afternoon.


“I knew some of the boys were up to mischief last night,” went on Josiah Crabtree. “We ought to find out who is guilty.”

“You are right.”

“What of this bell clapper?”

“I’ll return it to the church at once.”

“And when will you investigate?”

“To-morrow morning, as soon as the school session begins,” answered Captain Putnam. “Give me the clapper. I’ll return it myself.” And the article was placed in his charge and he drove off with it. He left it at the home of the church sexton, and it was that evening restored to its original position in the belfry.

“We are in for trouble to-morrow,” said Pepper, late that evening, as he came in from a visit to the school library.

“On account of the clapper?” asked Jack.

“Yes. Captain Putnam is going to conduct a strict investigation to-morrow morning, as soon as school opens.”

“What will you do if he questions every cadet?” asked Dale.

“I’ll face the music,” answered Jack promptly.

“What do you think he’ll do if he finds out you took the clapper?” questioned Fred Century.

“I don’t know, I’m sure. Cut off our holidays perhaps,—or reduce me to the ranks.”


“I don’t want my holidays cut,” said Pepper. “And to have Jack’s official position taken from him would be too mean for anything.”

All of the boys who had had a part in taking the clapper and putting it in Josiah Crabtree’s room were very much worried although they tried not to show it. It was one thing to play a joke and quite another to take the consequences.

“How Reff Ritter and his crowd will laugh if we are found out and punished,” said Pepper to his intimate chums.

“If they laugh too loud I’ll punch ’em,” answered Andy.

“I believe what the captain does will depend upon what the church folks do,” put in Joe Nelson. “If they raise a big row he’ll have to investigate pretty thoroughly. It might be a good thing to smooth matters over with the church people.”

“And how would you do that?” asked Pepper.

“Oh, you might explain that it was only a bit of boyish fun, done on a dare—and you might propose to give the church an extra donation if the matter was dropped. I think Deacon Pelham would drop the matter if the extra donation was made—and he’s the head man in the church just now.”

“Deacon Pelham!” cried Fred Century. You mean Isaac Pelham, who lives up the lake shore near Grape Creek?”



“Why, I know him well. I took him out in my boat once,—when he was in a great hurry to get a doctor from across the lake. He was very thankful and wanted to pay me for my services, but I told him I wasn’t running the Ajax for money. That was when I was a student at Pornell.”

“Then you are the one to go to Deacon Pelham and smooth matters over,” cried Stuffer. “Go ahead, Fred; it may aid Pep and Jack a good deal.”

“Fred needn’t to do it unless he feels like it,” said the young major of the Hall battalion.

“I’ve got a plan,” came from Dale. “Fred needn’t to mention any names, only state that some of the boys would like to hush the matter up and also want to make a contribution.”

The matter was talked over, and presently it was decided that Fred should pay the deacon a visit, accompanied by Dale. They carried with them a “contribution” amounting to six dollars.

“Might as well go on bicycles,” suggested Dale, and got out his machine. Fred used a machine belonging to Pepper, and as the road was good the distance to Deacon Pelham’s home was quickly covered. They found the deacon coming in from a day of labor in a distant field.

“How do you do, Deacon Pelham,” said Fred politely.


“Why, bless my soul, it’s Fred Century!” cried the deacon smiling. “How do you do!” And he held out his hand. “Who’s this with you, another young sodger, I suppose.”

“Yes, sir, my fellow cadet, Dale Blackmore.”

“Come into the house. My wife will be glad to see you—she’s much better than when I had to hurry for a doctor that time,” added the church man.

“We haven’t much time to spare, Mr. Pelham,” said Fred. He lowered his voice. “We came on a little business.”

“Is that so? What do you want?”

“You once said if you could do me a favor you would,” continued the owner of the Ajax.

“So I will.”

“I came to see you about that bell clapper that was brought back to the church this afternoon.”

“Ah!” Deacon Pelham’s face became a study. “Did you take it?”

“No, sir.”

“Glad to hear it. It was a scandalous piece of business. But what do you know about it?”

“I know that some of the cadets of Putnam Hall wish to hush the matter up. It was only a little joke and——”

“A very bad joke, my boy.”


“Perhaps, but they thought that if you’d drop it they would make the church a contribution of this.”

Fred drew out the money—six new crisp one-dollar bills.

“Hum! Six dollars, eh? Well—er—the church needs money that is sure.”

“It will pay for the cut rope and more, sir. It was only a joke. If you’ll drop it, it will save some cadets a lot of trouble,” went on Fred earnestly. “All you’ve got to do is to send word to Captain Putnam that the matter has been adjusted. You’ll do that for me, won’t you Mr. Pelham?”

At first the deacon was obdurate, but in the end he weakened. The church was in a poor way and needed every dollar it could get. As head of the committee he promised to drop the matter, and wrote a note to that effect and signed it. Then Fred gave him the money.

“But, mind you, no more jokes,” said the deacon, as the cadets departed.

“Not that kind anyway,” answered Fred, and off he sped on his bicycle, with Dale beside him.

“It was easier than I thought,” said Dale. “Now to get that note to Captain Putnam in secret before he starts his investigation.”



“I guess that note will do the business—and we’ll never be suspected.”

It was Reff Ritter who spoke and he addressed Gus Coulter and Nick Paxton. The three cronies were in a wing of the school, out of sight and hearing of the other pupils.

“What did you put in the note?” asked Paxton with interest.

“Oh, I wrote in a disguised hand and stated that I knew the cadets had banded together to keep mum about the bell clapper and the only way for Captain Putnam to get at the bottom of the affair was to ask each officer and private, starting from the major down. I put the note on the captain’s desk and he must have it by now.”

“Good!” chuckled Paxton. “If he starts in by questioning Ruddy he’ll soon get at the bottom of the matter, for the major won’t dare to tell a falsehood.”


“And more than likely he’ll lose his position,” put in Coulter. “I hope he does.”

“He ought to lose it,” answered Reff Ritter. Not for a moment did he give Jack credit for the good turn he had done him.

While the three lads were talking Captain Putnam had entered his office and taken up the note. He read it with interest and his brow contracted.

He was much disturbed, for since the open rebellion of the cadets, when they had refused to be starved into submission by Pluxton Cuddle, he had made the students promise not to band together in secret against the discipline of the school. Ritter knew this, and this was why he sent the note.

“I cannot permit this,” murmured the head of the school to himself. “I must make a complete investigation to-morrow,—and the guilty parties must be made to suffer.” And then he held a conference with Josiah Crabtree and George Strong. Crabtree was in favor of punishing nearly everybody, but George Strong, with his usual goodheartedness, counseled moderation.


“It most likely was merely a thoughtless prank,” said Mr. Strong. “The cadets meant no harm. Bell clappers, as you know, have been taken by students from times immemorial.” And at this Captain Putnam had to turn away with a smile, for in his younger days he himself had assisted at the removal of, not a clapper, but the bell of the boarding school he had attended.

“We’ll see in the morning,” said Captain Putnam, and there for the time being the matter rested.

It must be confessed that Jack, Pepper and their chums were somewhat worried that night, and the young major slept but little. Fred and Dale had reported the interview with Deacon Pelham and had seen to it that the note got into Captain Putnam’s hands.

Early in the morning Pepper was out on the campus when he saw Captain Putnam appear. A moment later one of the stablemen brought up the captain’s black horse and the head of the Hall vaulted into the saddle in true military style and was off.

“He’s in a hurry,” thought Pepper, and he wondered where the master of the school was going. He watched the captain turn into the lake road and then uttered a low whistle.

“I’ll bet a button he is going to visit Deacon Pelham!” he murmured. “Maybe he wants to learn if that note was genuine.”


The roll of the drum soon summoned all of the cadets to the campus, and with Jack at the head of the battalion, they went through the manual of arms and then marched around the Hall and into the messroom. Jack and Pepper both put on a bold front, yet each felt far from easy.

“They’ll catch it—just wait!” whispered Ritter to Coulter. “Before noon they’ll wish they had let that clapper alone!”

After breakfast the cadets went to chapel. The services here were almost over when Captain Putnam came in and took his place on the platform.

“Now you’ll hear something drop!” said Ritter gleefully, to his cronies.

“Ritter, stop your talking!” said George Strong, who was near.

“I—er—I only wanted the window closed,” stammered the bully. “I feel cold.”

“Couldn’t you close it yourself?”

“Coulter was right there—I thought he could do it.” Then the window was closed, and the conversation came to an end.

“I have a few words to say to you young gentlemen,” said Captain Putnam, coming to the front of the platform. His eyes swept the auditorium and Jack and Pepper felt something cold run up and down their backbones. “As you all know, the clapper of the bell of the Union Church was taken night before last, and the deed was done by some cadets of this institution.”


The captain paused, and the silence was so intense that the ticking of the clock could be plainly heard.

“The taking of the clapper was a foolish prank, and it was an equally foolish prank to place it where it was found,” continued Captain Putnam. “Yesterday I resolved to make a thorough investigation and punish the offenders.”

“Quite right, eminently proper,” murmured Josiah Crabtree.

“I heard, too, that a plan had been put through by you cadets to stand together—that everybody was to keep mum, as it is called. This you know is a violation of the agreement made after the—er—the unfortunate affair which—er—led to a rebellion among you.”

“I didn’t hear of that,” murmured one of the cadets.

“Nor I,” added another.

“What did you say, Farhaven?” asked the captain quickly.

“I didn’t hear of any agreement to keep mum,” replied the cadet addressed.

“Nor did I,” put in Bob Grenwood, the quartermaster of the battalion.

“Nor I,” came from several others.

At these words the captain’s face showed relief.


“All who have not agreed to band together will raise their hands,” said the captain loudly, and instantly nearly every cadet raised his hand.

“This is really gratifying,” went on Captain Putnam, with almost a smile on his face. “To my mind, to take the clapper was bad enough, but to band together to overthrow the discipline of the school would be much worse. I am glad to learn you young gentlemen have not done such a thing.”

Again the head of the school paused, and the boys wondered what was coming next.

“Now, to return to the clapper. I have received a communication from one of the officers of the church and he had made an earnest request that the whole matter be dropped. The church has the clapper back, and the ones who took it have expressed their regrets over the affair, and have made the church a donation which had been gratefully received. Under the circumstances, I am going to leave this matter in the hands of yourselves.”

“Wonder what he means by that?” murmured Dale to Andy.

“All in favor of dropping the matter will rise. Those wishing to see the culprits punished will remain seated,” went on Captain Putnam.


Almost instantly three-quarters of the cadets arose to their feet. More followed, until but half a dozen remained seated. These were Reff Ritter, Coulter, Paxton, and their cohorts.

“Get up, you fellows!” cried Bart Conners, captain of Company B. And somewhat shamefacedly Ritter and the others got up. The bully realized that his plan to have Jack and Pepper punished had fallen through.

“Three cheers for Captain Putnam!” cried Dale and before the head of the school could interfere, the cheers were given with a will. Then came a cheer for the teachers.

“I’ll wager old Crabtree doesn’t like this,” whispered Andy to Joe Nelson, and he was right. Josiah Crabtree felt very much put out, for he had expected to see somebody punished, not only for putting the clapper in his bureau drawer but also for placing the molasses candy in his bed.

“I have another important announcement to make,” said Captain Putnam, after order and quietness had been restored. “As you know, we were to go on the term encampment two weeks from to-day. I have arranged to have some alterations made to this school by carpenters and masons, and they wish to start the work next week. Consequently, I am going to start the encampment next Tuesday—that is, we’ll leave the Hall on that day.”


“Hurrah!” came from the cadets, for they looked forward to the encampment with much pleasure. During that time there would be no studies.

“I have arranged for an outing up at Lake Caboy,” continued Captain Putnam. “The spot will be not far from the Caboy River with its magnificent falls, and will be ideal in every respect. I camped there once some years ago, and I know the fishing is good and also the swimming.”

“That suits me!” cried Pepper. He was much relieved to think the clapper affair had been dropped.

“I have hired a tract of land over a hundred acres in extent,” went on Captain Putnam. “We’ll go out as we did before, taking all our tents and our camping outfit with us.”

“And how long will the encampment last?” asked Jack. He was as much relieved as Pepper over the outcome of the clapper affair.

“At least two weeks, Major Ruddy, and perhaps longer—if the carpenters and masons do not finish up here in time. I do not want the students to come back here until the alterations are complete. To-morrow I shall announce more of the details. The students will now go to their classes as usual.”


As the boys poured forth from the chapel exercises Jack and Pepper worked their way over to Dale and Fred.

“Your visit to Deacon Pelham did the trick,” whispered the young major. “I am a thousand times obliged to you.”

“And so am I,” added The Imp.

“I want to know about this banding together the captain mentioned,” said Fred. “I never heard of it before.”

“I think I can put you wise,” came from Bob Grenwood, who was near. “I overheard Ritter and Coulter talking about it.”

“It would be like Ritter to get up that report!” cried Pepper. “He would do anything to get our crowd into trouble.”

“I know it,” said Grenwood, who had once suffered greatly at the hands of the bully, as I have related in detail in “The Putnam Hall Rebellion.”

“We’ll have to watch Ritter as closely as we ever did,” said Jack. “The trouble he got into a few weeks ago doesn’t seem to have made him a bit better than he was before.”

Ordinarily the clapper incident would have been the main topic of conversation among the cadets. But the announcement that the term encampment was to start in the near future turned the thoughts of the students in that direction.


“We’ll have the time of our lives,” declared Andy. “Just think of the fine swimming and fishing!”

“And no lessons!” put in Dale.

“And the baseball and track athletics!” said Stuffer.

“Thought you were going to say the eating,” came slyly from Pepper. “When we talk about going camping you usually talk grub the first thing.”

“Oh, of course, I expect to have plenty to eat,” added Stuffer hastily.

“I know one thing will happen during the encampment,” said one of the other cadets.

“What’s that?” asked Dale.

“There will be more or less hazing.”

“Right you are.”

“We ought to haze Ritter & Company,” cried Pepper. “They richly deserve it.”

“Right you are!” cried several.

“Maybe Ritter & Company will try to haze us,” said Fred.

“All right, let them try it,” answered Andy.

“I reckon we can give them as good as they send, every time!”



“What do you say, Jack, to a spin on our wheels?”

“That suits me, Pepper. Shall we go alone, or ask some of the others?”

“I have already asked Andy and Dale.”

“Good enough.”

It was after school hours and still light. As the cadets had good bicycles they often took rides up and down the lake road, or out in the country back of Cedarville.

All of the cadets were soon ready for the spin, and off they went, Jack and Pepper abreast, with Andy and Dale close behind.

“Want a race?” asked Andy. “I feel as if I could ride like the wind.”

“Well, I’ll go you!” cried Pepper.

“I’m not stripped for racing, but I’ll join in for the fun of it,” said Dale.

“So will I,” added the young major.


Coming to a smooth portion of the road the four bicycle riders drew up abreast.

“How far is this race to be?” questioned Dale.

“Oh, to Boston and back,” cried Pepper, with a grin.

“Make it Hong Kong while you are at it,” added Jack gaily.

“We’ll race to the old white post,” said Andy. “That’s a mile and a half from here.”

“Done!” cried the others.

“All ready?”


“Then go!”

Off shot the four cadets, keeping abreast for a distant of several rods. Then Andy pedalled to the front.

“Here is where I bid you good-bye!” sang out the acrobatic youth.

“Not much you don’t!” answered Pepper, and commenced to push on his pedals harder than ever. He soon ranged alongside of Andy, and away they went, side by side, with Dale and Jack dropping further and further behind.

“I can’t make time in this uniform,” said the young major. “Let them race it out.”

“Just what I say,” answered Dale. “I hate to get in a perspiration right before supper anyway.”


On and on went Andy and Pepper. The road was in excellent condition and so were the cadets. Each lad rode well and it remained a question as to who would come in ahead.

Half the distance to the post had been covered when the racers reached a turn. Around this they sped, and as they did so an unexpected scream reached their ears. It came from two girls in a buggy.

“Don’t run us down!” came the cry. And then the cadets saw that the girls had been in the act of turning their buggy around and that the turnout completely filled the road.

There was but one thing to do and that was to turn aside. Andy went to the right and Pepper to the left, and each brought up rather suddenly in a clump of bushes. Andy flew over his handle bars, and it was only his acrobatic agility that saved him from being seriously hurt.

There was but one thing to do, and that was to turn aside.

There was but one thing to do, and that was to turn aside.

Both of the girls screamed again, this time louder than ever.

“They are killed!” moaned one.

“Oh, how dreadful!” came from the other.

“It’s our fault, Flossie!”

“I know it, Laura!”


Their horse, greatly startled by the sudden appearance of the bicyclists, had begun to rear and plunge and for the moment the girls had to give all their attention to the animal in an effort to quiet it.

“Why, it’s Pepper Ditmore!” cried the older girl, as The Imp arose to his feet from the bushes.

“And Andy Snow,” added the other girl.

Still somewhat dazed the cadets looked again at the girls and now recognized two old acquaintances, Laura and Flossie Ford. They were the daughters of Rossmore Ford, a rich gentleman who had a fine summer home on a point of the lake shore. As related in “The Putnam Hall Cadets,” Andy, Jack and Pepper had once saved Laura and Flossie from drowning, and for this brave act the Fords were extremely grateful.

“How do you do, girls!” cried Pepper, with a grim smile.

“Oh, Pepper are you hurt?” queried Laura anxiously.

“Not much, scratched a little, that’s all.”

“And what of you, Andy?” questioned Flossie.

“Got a few bush leaves down my neck, that’s all,” answered Andy. His wrist was a good deal scratched but he kept it out of sight, not wishing to alarm the girls still more.

“Can we do anything for you?” questioned Laura.

“Might bake us a few pies,—as you did when we ran away from school,” answered Andy.


“How absurd!” cried Flossie, and gave a laugh. “Oh, I am so glad you didn’t hurt yourselves seriously.”

By this time Jack and Dale were coming up, and the situation was quickly explained. The young major shook hands with the girls and turned the horse around for them. The Ford girls were glad to meet the cadets but sorry that they had interrupted the race so disastrously.

“Oh, it was a tie anyway,” said Andy. “I don’t care, if Pep doesn’t.”

“It wasn’t much of a race anyway,” answered Pepper. “How have you been since we saw you last?” he added.

“Very well,” answered Laura. “How are matters at the school? We heard somebody had taken the clapper of the Union Church.”

“So we heard, too,” said Dale dryly. “But that’s a thing of the past now. We are getting ready to go into camp again—this time in the regular fashion, under Captain Putnam and the teachers, you know.”

“How delightful!” murmured Flossie. “And where are you going?”

“Up to Lake Caboy, near the river and the falls.”

“Well, of all things!”

“What makes you so surprised?” asked Dale.


“Why, we are going up to Lake Caboy ourselves—up to the new summer hotel there. Papa and mamma thought it would be a change for us.”

“Then we may see something of each other,” said Jack. “That will be fine.”

“We’ll come down to your camp—if you’ll allow visitors,” said Flossie.

“I guess Captain Putnam will have to allow them. Every time we go into camp the country folks come to see us. They like to see the tents and the uniforms, and like to see us drill.”

“Then we’ll be sure to come.”

“We’ll try to arrange for a regular visitors’ day,” said the young major. “Then we can have drills and athletic contests, and a lunch, and all that.”

“Oh, that will be grand!” cried both girls enthusiastically.

“Have you been to Lake Caboy before?” questioned Pepper.

“Yes, we were up there two years ago, for a week,” answered Laura. “We stayed at the old hotel that was burnt down—a place near the old Robertson mill. You’ve heard of that place, haven’t you?”


“It is said to be haunted.”


“Haunted!” cried all of the cadets in chorus.

“Yes. We never went very near it, for we were afraid.”

“We’ll have to investigate that mill,” said Dale. “I don’t believe in ghosts.”

“We had almost forgotten about the old mill until yesterday,” went on Flossie. “Then the strangest kind of a boy asked us about it—a tall, thin boy.”

“A tall, thin boy!” cried Pepper. “Did he tell you his name?”

“Yes, Bert Field.”

“Why, we met that boy once,” said Pepper. “But he wasn’t looking for the Robertson mill then. He was looking for——” And then Pepper stopped short, for he remembered what the strange lad had said—that he wished to find Jabez Trask without that individual being aware he was being sought out.

“What was he looking for?” asked Laura.

“Oh, it doesn’t matter.”

“He did ask us about something else,” said Flossie. “Oh, yes, I remember now. He wanted to know where a man named Trask lived—Jabez Trask.”

“Well, he asked us, too,” said Pepper. “Did you tell him? We never heard of such a person.”


“Yes, we told him. Trask lives between here and Lake Caboy, on the Ritchfield road. We know because papa once had some business dealings with him. He is an old man, and papa says he is a regular miser.”

“Was the boy a relative?”

“I don’t know. But he was certainly a strange fellow. He asked us a great number of questions and seemed to be grateful for the information we gave him. But this morning papa took me across the lake in his boat and when I was in the town over there I met him again, face to face, and he didn’t even recognize me.”

“That is queer,” said Jack thoughtfully. “Maybe he was afraid you’d say something in public he didn’t want you to. He told us he didn’t want this Jabez Trask to know he was asking for him.”

“I told papa about it, and he told me something that makes the matter queerer than ever. He says that the Trask family once had something to do with the old Robertson mill.”

“Humph!” mused Jack. “I’d like to meet that boy again and talk to him. Maybe he knows something about why the old mill is haunted.”

“He is certainly a strange boy!” declared Laura.


The girls wished to know something of the details of the proposed encampment and the cadets told as much as they knew.

“We’ll come over if we can,” promised Laura. “And if you get the chance you must call on us at the new hotel.” And this the cadets readily promised to do. Then the girls turned homeward, and the boys continued their ride.

“They are fine girls,” said Dale. “It was a great feather in your cap to save them from drowning.”

“Oh, let us forget that!” cried Andy, who did not care at any time to pose as a hero.

“There is one thing I regret about this encampment at Lake Caboy,” said Jack, as the four cadets turned in the direction of Putnam Hall. “There is no way of getting our sailboats up to that lake. Some of the rowboats will be taken over on the wagons, but I’ll have to leave the Alice behind, and Fred Century will have to leave the Ajax, too.”

“Well, we’ll have to take our fun on the water out in rowing and swimming and fishing,” said Dale.

“What’s the matter with having a nice sail before we go away?” came from Pepper.

“To be sure, we can do that,” said Jack; and so, later on, it was arranged.


The Alice was a truly beautiful sloop, with graceful lines. Her hull was finely painted and her sails were of snowy whiteness. The Ajax, too, was a good boat, and the youthful owners were justly proud of the two craft.

On the Saturday afternoon previous to the time for the encampment Jack and Fred made up their parties for a sail. The young major carried Pepper, Andy and four others, and the Ajax took on an even greater load. It was decided to go up the lake, and the cadets received permission to remain out from two o’clock to six.

There was a favorable wind blowing, and a cheer went up when the two sloops spread their canvases and stood up the lake shore. Jack and Fred were at the tillers and each handled his craft with care and skill.

“Going to race?” asked one of the cadets, of Fred.

“No, we are just out for the pleasure of it,” said Fred. He knew his boat was a good one, but the young major had beaten him before and he did not, just then, wish to risk another defeat.

Soon the sloops were well on their way up the lake. Pepper and Andy were in particularly good humor, and neither of them dreamed of the remarkable adventure in store for them.



“It looks like rain!”

The remark came from Andy, who was in the bow of the boat. He was gazing anxiously at the sky.

“Don’t say rain!” cried Stuffer, who was eating a banana, one of a hand purchased at the Cedarville dock. “I don’t like to be out in the rain.”

“We’ll not get it right away,” answered Jack. “But it looks as if it would come sooner or later,” he added, as he surveyed the clouds over to the westward.

Two hours had been spent in cruising around the lake. A brief stop had been made at Cedarville, where the cadets had purchased some fruit and candy. The Ajax was almost out of sight in the distance.


“If you are going near Parberry Point I’d like to do an errand,” said Pepper. “I want to visit that old basket maker and ask him to make a fancy basket for my Aunt Bess. She has a birthday soon, and I know she would like a new hanging basket, with ferns and flowers in it.”

“All right, we can pass there,” answered Jack. “We’ll drop you and then pick you up later.”

“All right,” answered Pepper. “Anybody want to go to the basket maker’s with me?” he went on, looking around at his chums.

“I’ll go,” answered Andy. “I’ve been eating so much fruit and candy I think it will do me good to walk a little.”

“The errand won’t take more than half an hour,” said Pepper. “We’ll hurry as fast as we can.”

Parberry Point was soon reached and Andy and Pepper leaped ashore.

“I’ll be back here in just half an hour,” cried Jack, consulting his watch. “Don’t keep us waiting, for maybe that rain will come quicker than I thought it would.”

“I’ll hurry all I can,” answered The Imp. “Come on, Andy.” And the pair disappeared up the road from the lake, while the sloop sheered off for the other shore.

Pepper and Andy were both good walkers and they lost no time in getting to the spot where the basket maker had lived. To their dismay the cottage was closed and deserted.


“Must have moved,” said the acrobatic youth. “Too bad! What are you going to do about it?”

“I don’t know, Andy. Wait, here comes a man in a wagon. Maybe he can tell us where the fellow moved to.”

The farmer was consulted and said the basket maker had moved up a side road leading to Lake Caboy.

“It’s only about a quarter of a mile from here,” he explained.

Pepper decided to walk the distance and he and Andy set off. Just as both cadets made a turn in the road they heard a distant rumble of thunder.

“That storm is coming faster than I thought,” said Pepper.

“Right you are, and we’ll have to hurry, unless we want to get wet.”

“Humph! It won’t do any good to get to the sloop. We’ll get wet on her as well as out here, Andy.”

“I suppose that’s so.”

The boys went on, around another bend of the road, and soon came in sight of a second cottage. But to their astonishment, this too was deserted.

“We’ve come on a fool’s errand,” said Pepper. “The basket maker was here but has moved.”


They could see the evidences of basket making in the dooryard, but the cottage was locked up and minus furniture.

“Might as well get back to the Point,” said Andy. “Jack will be waiting for us.”

“I think this side road is shorter than the other,” said Pepper. “It makes a turn toward the lake just above here. We’ll keep on instead of turning back.”

“All right, if you say so, Pep. But it doesn’t look right to me,” answered Andy.

The pair hurried on, for the sky was now growing dark. The rumbling of thunder increased, and presently some large drops of rain came down through the trees bordering the road.

“Might as well run for it!” cried Pepper, and set off on a dog trot. In a few minutes they made a turn and came out on a broad highway. Just beyond was a large white mansion set in a perfect wilderness of trees.

“Why, this isn’t the road I was looking for!” cried Pepper in dismay. “I don’t know where we are now.”

He had hardly spoken when there came a rush of wind through the trees. This was followed by flashes of lightning and cracks of thunder, and then the rain came down in a torrent.


“We can’t stay out here—we’ll be drenched to the skin!” cried the acrobatic youth. “Come on to the house!”

“But we don’t know the folks, Andy.”

“That doesn’t matter. Any port in a storm, as the sailors say.”

Andy started through the trees for the mansion and Pepper followed at his heels. Both ran across a small and badly-kept lawn and up on a broad piazza. Just as they reached the piazza there came a blinding flash of lightning and a peal of thunder that made both jump in fright. Then followed a crash of another kind.

“It struck a tree—out yonder!” exclaimed Pepper, pointing towards the road. “I am glad we weren’t under it!”

“Let us get in the house, where the rain can’t reach us,” answered his chum, and lost no time in ringing the door bell.

There was no answer to the summons, and Andy rang the bell again. Then, of a sudden, the wind increased, and the door of the mansion was blown wide open.

Thinking somebody had unfastened the door and been unable to hold it against the wind, the acrobatic youth entered the hallway beyond, and was followed by Pepper.


“Excuse us, but we came in to get out of the storm,” said Andy, trying to see around him, for with the darkness outside the hallway was pitch black.

To his astonishment nobody answered. A gust of wind came into the hallway and lifting a picture from its nail hurled it to the floor with a crash. Then Pepper caught the door and shut and bolted it.

“Anybody here?” he called out.

Nobody answered, and each of the cadets caught the other by the arm.

“I—I guess the door just blew open,” stammered Andy. The situation was so unusual he knew not what to say. Here they were in a strange house with nobody to speak to them.

The boys could not see a thing, saving when the lightning outside lit up the scene. They felt their way through the hallway to a door and entered what appeared to be a parlor. The apartment had a musty smell, as if it had not been opened for a long time. The blinds were closed but the slats were open and through these faint light showed.

“Looks to me as if this house was deserted, too,” remarked Pepper. “Gracious, the whole neighborhood must be moving out!”

“Somebody lives here, I am sure of that,” answered his chum. “Out in the hall I smelt the odor of fried onions.”


“Let us walk back to the kitchen and find out,” said Pepper.

A flash of lightning made the boys pause for a moment. Then they walked to the end of the hallway and entered a dining room. Here a window was open and through this the rain was sweeping wildly.

“The owner of this place must be away,” said Andy. “Gosh! how it rains!” he added, as he shut the window.

“Look at the quaint silver set!” said Pepper, his eyes catching sight of the service on a sideboard. “That must be pretty old.”

He picked up a silver dish and Andy picked up another. As they were looking at the silver pieces they heard a door open and felt a sudden gust of air.

“Somebody is here——” commended Pepper, when he fell back in sudden alarm. For from out of a dark corner an old man had appeared. He wore a long, white beard and his straggling hair was of the same color. In his hands he carried a short shotgun and this he had leveled straight ahead of him.

“Burglars! thieves! robbers!” he screamed. “Drop my silver plate or I will shoot you!”


His manner was so stern and wild that the two cadets lost no time in setting down the silver pieces they had picked up. The old man continued to point his shotgun, first at Andy and then at Pepper.

“I heard there were burglars in this vicinity,” he said, in a croaking voice. “But I did not think you would dare to come here.”

“We are not burglars!” answered Pepper.

“Ha! I know better! You cannot deceive me!”

“We are schoolboys and we came in here to get out of the storm,” explained Andy.

“I do not believe it! You are burglars! Those uniforms are merely a disguise. You were after my precious silver plate! The world-renowned Robertson silver plate! But you shan’t have it! Jabez Trask knows how to protect his own!”

At the mention of the old man’s name the cadets started. This then, was the man for whom Bert Field was seeking. Certainly as strange an individual as the tall, thin youth himself.

“Mr. Trask, you are making a mistake,” said Pepper, as calmly as he could. “We did not come here to steal, we——”

“I will not listen! I shall hand you over to the authorities for entering my house! I saw you sneaking around this morning—one of you at least.”

“No, you didn’t,” answered Andy.


“I know better—I saw you quite plainly.”

To this the boys did not answer. Pepper, however, wondered if the person seen sneaking around had been the mysterious Bert Field.

“I want you fellows to back into the corner,” went on Jabez Trask, after a painful pause.

“But, sir——” commenced Andy.

“Not another word—until I call an officer of the law!”

“We are not criminals,” cried Pepper stubbornly. “We belong to Putnam Hall military academy.”

“I do not believe it! You came here with the intention of robbing me of my precious plate and other things. But you did not think I’d get after you with my shotgun!” added the old man cunningly. “You thought you would have me at your mercy! But I have outwitted you! Ha! ha! it was well done, not so? Back into the corner, I say, and open the door!”

The command was such a pre-emptory one that the cadets obeyed. Andy opened the door. Beyond was a small storeroom, having a narrow window which was barred from the outside.

“In you go, you young villains!” cried Jabez Trask, and held the muzzle of the shotgun on a line with their breasts. Fearing that in his excitement he would pull the trigger, the two cadets stepped back into the room.


“Now kick the door shut with your foot, and be quick about it,” went on the old man, to Pepper, and aimed the weapon straight at The Imp.

The door was closed as the man desired, and in a twinkling Jabez Trask stepped up close and turned the key in the lock. It was a heavy door, with an equally effective lock, and the cadets knew that they were prisoners.

“Ha! ha! very well done, I do declare!” chuckled the old man, after the door was fastened. “A neat trick, if I do say it myself, a clever trick! It takes a smart man to get the best of Jabez Trask. You thought I’d shoot you, didn’t you? Well, let me tell you that the shotgun isn’t loaded and hasn’t been for a month! But now I am going to load it, and load it well. If you try to break out—well, your blood will be on your head!”

Andy and Pepper did not reply. In the dim light of the little storeroom they looked at each other questioningly. They were in a serious predicament. What would be the outcome of this remarkable adventure?



Andy and Pepper heard the old man leave the dining room and then, excepting for the occasional rumble of thunder in the distance, all became quiet around them. The sudden shower was passing away to the eastward, and soon the rain ceased.

“Well, if this isn’t the worst yet!” exclaimed the acrobatic youth, after looking at the narrow window with its iron bars. “Pep, this is as bad as the lock-up at the school!”

“Right you are, Andy. We are certainly prisoners.”

“And accused of attempted burglary!”

“I don’t believe anybody in Cedarville will believe that charge, after we tell our story.”

“No, but they may think we were up to some trick—especially after that affair of the bell clapper.”


“Wonder if he’ll come back?”

“He’ll come soon enough if we try to break out of here.”

Each of the boys tried to open the door. But the key was still on the other side and they could not turn it.

“Not a thing to smash it down with either,” said Pepper, gazing around the storeroom. The apartment contained nothing but some odds and ends of books and bric-a-brac and an old ice-box which was empty.

Pepper knocked on the door, but for several minutes there was no reply to this summons. Then came the nervous tones of Jabez Trask.

“You keep quiet, or I’ll shoot right through the door!” shrilled the old man. “I’ve got ye! You can’t get away!”

“We want to talk this matter over,” said The Imp.

“Not now. You can do your talking after I have put you in the hands of the law!” And then the old man seemed to walk to another part of the mansion.

“We have got to get out somehow!” said Andy in a low voice.

“I’ve got an idea!” answered Pepper. “Let us examine the floor. Maybe some of the boards are loose.”


Both boys got down and lit matches and examined the floor with care. Pepper moved the old ice-box in doing this, and a long ice-pick fell from it.

“Hurrah, I can use this as a pry!” said the cadet. “Wait till I find a board that looks a little loose.”

Presently he found a board that looked inviting and he managed to get the ice-pick in the crack beside it. By working with care he loosened one end of the board and it came up several inches.

“A coal cellar below,” he said, as he caught sight of some shiny pieces of coal.

“Well, if we can get into that cellar I guess we can get out of the house,” answered his chum.

Making as little noise as possible, the two cadets raised up the board and then took up that next to it. This left an opening just wide enough for them to squeeze through. They looked down and saw that the coal was but a few feet beneath them.

“Here goes!” said Pepper and let himself down with care. As his feet touched the coal some of it slid away, making considerable noise.

“Keep quiet!” whispered Andy. “The old man may be listening.”

“I didn’t mean to make that noise,” was the reply. “Come on, quick!”


Andy dropped down on the coal and both boys left the bin and came out into the cellar proper. It was quite dark and they stumbled over some ironware and crocks. The ironware made a crash that could be heard all through the mansion.

“Hi! hi! Who is that?” they heard the old man yell, and then he came running across the floor overhead.

“Quick, or we’ll be caught again!” exclaimed Pepper. “I see a way out!”

He had espied a back entrance to the cellar. To this he ran, with Andy close behind him. They pushed open a door and ran up a flight of stone steps. Above was the back yard, close to the kitchen of the house.

The cadets did not wait to look around them, but made a straight dash across the yard toward a barn. They skirted this building and as they did so Pepper gave a cry of wonder.

“See, Andy!” he exclaimed.

“What is it?”

“That boy—running through the trees!”

“Who is it?”

“The boy Jack and I met at the church, Bert Field! He must have been spying around here!”

“Perhaps he’s the one the old man said he saw this morning.”

“More than likely.”


They looked and saw the tall, thin youth disappear in a grove of trees lining the main road. Then, a few minutes later, they saw him walking down the road as fast as possible.

“There is certainly something queer about that boy,” was Pepper’s comment.

“And there is something queer about the old man, too,” was the reply. “But, come on, unless you want Jabez Trask to fill you full of shot.”

The old man was now at the door of the mansion and he held his shotgun in his hands. The cadets darted out of sight and took good care to keep out of range of the weapon.

“That’s an adventure for you,” said Pepper, after they had covered quite a distance. “I rather think I’ll keep away from strange houses after this.”

“I wonder if the old man will come to Putnam Hall to make trouble?”

“I hope not.”

The rain had ceased and the sky was brightening. The cadets went on to a fork of the road and then reached a path they knew ran down to the lake front.

“More than likely the Alice had returned to the Hall,” said Andy. “I’d not blame Jack for doing it, in such a rain.”


“Nor I, Andy. But let us look around a little and see. Maybe he tied up at some boathouse during the storm.”

The two boys walked to the edge of the lake and looked up and down the shore.

“There she is!” exclaimed Pepper, and pointed up the lake.

“Sure that’s the Alice?” queried his chum.

“Yes, I’d know her as far as I could see her.” Pepper raised his voice: “Sloop ahoy! On board the Alice!”

At first his cry was not heard. Then Jack caught sight of the pair standing on a rock, and waved his hand in return. The mainsail of the sloop was thrown over, and the Alice came slowly up to the rock and Andy and Pepper leaped on board. Then a straight course was laid for Putnam Hall.

“We tied up at Paul’s boathouse when it started to rain,” said the young major. “It was certainly a heavy shower, eh?”

“Yes, indeed,” returned Pepper.

“I see you managed to keep dry,” came from Stuffer. “Have some peanuts,” he added, diving into a pocket and bringing up a handful.


“Yes, we managed to keep dry,” answered Andy. “But we had a remarkable time doing it.” And then he and Pepper told of their adventure at old Jabez Trask’s mansion. The others listened in wonder to what they had to tell.

“That old man must be a tartar,” was Dale’s comment.

“Sure, an’ mebbe he’ll come to the school to make trouble fer ye,” said Hogan. “But if he does sure yez can have him arristed fer false imprisonment!”

“Somehow, I don’t think he’ll come to the school,” answered Pepper. “I imagine he is the kind of a man to keep by himself—one who hates publicity.” And he was right, Jabez Trask did not come to the school, nor did he report the affair to the Cedarville authorities. There was a reason for this, as we shall learn later.

“Then you didn’t get your basket, Pepper?” said Jack, just as the school dock was reached.

“No, but I’ll get something of the sort in Cedarville, and send it to my aunt,” was the answer, and the lad was as good as his word. He found the basket maker had removed to town, and there procured a basket that pleased his relative very much.


“I know one thing I’d like,” said Pepper to Jack, the next morning. “I’d like to meet that Bert Field and have a talk with him. There is something odd about his wanting to meet such a queer stick as Jabez Trask, and about his wanting to know the location of that haunted mill.”

“Maybe you’ll meet him while we are in camp, Pep.”


Sunday passed quietly in and around Putnam Hall, and on Monday morning the cadets commenced their preparations for going into camp. Each student was allowed to take along a dress-suit case full of clothing, the suit-cases being transported to the camp by wagon, along with the tents, the cooking outfits, and blankets.

“Hurrah! I’ve got good news!” cried Dale, bursting into the dormitory where Jack and some others were sorting out their things.

“Then tell it quick,” returned the young major.

“Old Crabtree isn’t going to camp with us. He has a call to come to Albany on some family business. Only Captain Putnam and Mr. Strong are going.”

“Thanks be to Crabtree for staying away,” said Andy solemnly. “What a blessing it would be if he would stay away forever.”

“No such luck,” put in Fred, who, though a comparatively new pupil at the Hall, detested the first assistant teacher as cordially as did the others.


“Say, if Crabtree is going away we ought to give him something to remember us by,” came from Pepper.

“Sure, let us present him with a gold watch and chain,” answered Dale sarcastically. “We might have it inscribed as follows: ‘To our much beloved friend, The Honorable Josiah Crabtree, A. M., P. M., X. X. M., and all the rest, as a slight token of our love, esteem, friendship, well-wishes, and undying affection.’”

“He’d fall dead if he got it,” put in Andy.

“I move we present him with an alarm clock,” said Pepper. “A good loud one. I saw a special sale of ’em in Cedarville for seventy-five cents each.”

“That’s the talk!” cried Dale. “If you’ll get one, I’ll get another.”

“The box is now open for contributions to the Crabtree Alarm Clock Collection!” announced The Imp, grinning broadly. “Who wants to chip in to get our beloved teacher a few clocks with good alarms attached?”

The idea took like wildfire and in a short time the cadets collected several dollars. Pepper and Dale were chosen to get the clocks, and they bought five, each with an “alarm” that was loud and long.

“We must be careful to set them just right,” said The Imp.


“I think about five minutes apart will do,” said Andy, and so it was arranged. The boys watched their chances, and after winding up the clocks managed to place them in two dress-suit cases which Josiah Crabtree had packed to take with him. They knew that the teacher was going to take the boat from Cedarville at five o’clock and timed the clock alarms accordingly.

“We must get down to Cedarville to see the fun,” said Pepper. This was an easy matter, for, because of going away in the morning, the cadets were allowed to do pretty much as they pleased, Captain Putnam and George Strong being too busy getting ready for the encampment to pay much attention to them.

A crowd of the cadets went to Cedarville on their bicycles and some walked. Josiah Crabtree went in the school carryall, driven by Peleg Snuggers.

The teacher was bachelor yet he had quite an eye for the ladies, and when he saw a pretty widow he knew walking down to the steamboat dock he bowed and tipped his hat and asked her to ride with him. She accepted and entered the carryall, and then both walked out on the dock to await the arrival of the boat.

“Five minutes yet!” announced Pepper. “And then for some fun!”


Josiah Crabtree found a seat for the widow, and both chatted pleasantly. In the meantime a crowd commenced to collect on the dock.

“Yes, I dearly love music,” the widow was saying.

“Music is grand,” answered Josiah Crabtree. “I often think——”

What the teacher thought was not expressed, for just then from one of the dress-suit cases came the shrill rattle of one of the alarm clocks.



“Oh, dear me!” shrieked the widow. “What in the world is that?”

“I—I don’t know!” answered the teacher, as he surveyed the suit-case in wonder.

“Time to get up!” observed a man standing nearby. And at this sally several persons laughed.

“You evidently are carrying an alarm clock,” said the widow to Josiah Crabtree.

“I—er—I didn’t know it,” was the answer. “I—er—wish the thing would stop!”

Br-r-r-r-r-i-ng! went the alarm clock as loudly as ever, and now all the people on the dock commenced to laugh. The widow grew red and the teacher bit his lip savagely.

“Must be some joke of the boys,” he muttered.

Presently the alarm gave out, and Josiah breathed a sigh of relief.

“As you were saying about music——” he began, with a smile.


“Why, yes, Professor Crabtree! I think music is grand. I love to sit in church and listen to the deep tones of the organ, and the singing of the——”

Br-r-r-r-r-r-i-ng! went the second alarm clock, in a tone louder than the other. Josiah Crabtree gave a jump and the widow screamed. Br-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-i-ng!

“Oh, dear me! Did you wind that thing up again!” gasped the widow.

“No, madam, I didn’t touch the confounded thing!” snapped Josiah Crabtree. “This is—er—a trick!”

The alarm continued to rattle and the crowd on the dock roared. The teacher caught up the suit-case and started to open it in a hurry. He was not careful and out dropped several dress-shirts and some socks and underwear. This made the crowd laugh again and Josiah Crabtree grew sour.

“You may think this a laughing matter, but I don’t!” he cried. “It is a trick, and if I find out who is guilty——” Then he pulled out one of the offending clocks and hurled it into the waters of the lake. By this time the second clock had run down and quietness was restored. The teacher found this, but left it in the suit-case. The other clocks were in his other baggage.


The boat was coming in and soon the passengers commenced to come ashore. Josiah Crabtree started to talk to the widow again and had just got her to smile when there came another rattle. He dropped the suit-case like a hot potato and this time the crowd fairly howled. And the cadets, who were watching from behind a pile of boxes, howled too.

Br-r-r-r-r-r-i-ng! went one alarm clock, and a minute later still another joined in. The noise was great and the teacher did not know what to do. In his rage he jumped on the suit-case, smashing the middle flat. But the clocks rattled on more viciously, it would seem, than ever, and now the fifth and last added to the racket. Everybody stopped to enjoy the fun and a large crowd collected.

“What’s the matter?”

“Is it a fire-alarm?”

“Does he want an ambulance?”

“He must be a clock vendor. Anybody want to buy an alarm clock cheap?”


“You shut up, all of you!” roared Josiah Crabtree. “I don’t sell clocks! This is a trick! Oh, those cadets! I’d like to wring their necks! What a disgrace!” And he jumped on the suit-case again. “Will you stop? Oh, what a racket! I shall go mad!” And then picking up the offending baggage he fairly ran on the steamboat and disappeared into the cabin, the last of the clocks still rattling shrilly. The widow hurried in another direction, and the teacher did not dare to go near her during the trip.

“Well, I reckon that send-off was worth the price,” said Pepper, after he and his chums had laughed themselves sore. “What a figure he did cut, trying to stop the clocks!”

“And wasn’t the widow mad!” put in Jack. “She’ll never speak to him again!”

“Crabtree will remember those clocks as long as he lives,” added Andy.

“We’ll give him another when he comes back—just for a memento of the occasion,” said The Imp. And then in high spirits over the success of their trick, the cadets returned to Putnam Hall.

For the time being, lessons were a thing of the past, and that evening the students had a good deal of fun, in one way or another. Some of the crowds went from one dormitory to another, and pillow fights were frequent.

“The Ritter gang is coming down the hall,” announced Joe Nelson, about ten o’clock. “Look out for them, for they may have something worse than pillows and stuffed clubs.”


It was well that Joe issued the warning, for less than five minutes later Ritter came on, followed by Coulter, Paxton, and four others. They had pillows and stuffed clubs, but the latter were stuffed with sawdust and were quite hard.

“Repel boarders!” sang out Andy, and caught up a water pitcher full of water. “Back, if you don’t want a ducking!”

“Down with ’em!” roared Reff Ritter, and struck at Pepper with his club. The Imp ducked and then caught the bully by the foot and yanked him down.

In a moment more the fight raged furiously. Pillows, shoes, soap, books and other articles sailed through the air. Jack was struck in the ear by Coulter and he retaliated by filling the fellow’s mouth with soft soap that was handy in a dish. Andy wet Ritter and Paxton with the contents of the pitcher.

“Let up! that ain’t fair!” roared Paxton.

“You need a bath, to wash up your reputation, Paxton!” answered the acrobatic cadet.

Ritter had arisen to his feet, and watching his chance he drew something from his pocket. He was about to hurl it at Jack’s head when Pepper caught his arm.

“No, you don’t!” cried Pepper. “Give me that!” And he tried to get the article from the bully’s grasp.

“Let me alone!” cried the bully, in alarm.


“Give me that!”

“I won’t!”

“You shall!” And then Pepper and Ritter commenced to tussle. The Imp went down, but still kept his hand over that of his enemy.

“Ough! my hand! Do you want to cut it?” suddenly howled the bully, and then opened his hand. A large lump of rough glass fell to the floor.

“Hello, what’s this?” demanded Dale, coming up.

“Ritter was going to throw that at Jack’s head.”

“I wasn’t!” answered the bully, doggedly.

“Glass, I declare!” said Dale, picking it up. “Say, Ritter, this is no thing to use in a fight like this.”

“I wasn’t going to use it. I only had it in my hand,” was the lame reply.

“You were going to throw it at Jack’s head—I am positive of it,” said Pepper firmly.

“If you were, Ritter, you’re a villain!” declared Dale.

“What’s that?” demanded Stuffer, and now the fight came to a sudden stop.

“Ritter was going to throw a lump of rough glass at Jack’s head!” cried Pepper. “He might have cut Jack badly!”


“It’s not true!” was the bully’s answer.

“Here’s the glass. He had it aimed at Jack when I caught his hand.”

The cadets gathered around and looked at the glass and then at Ritter. Nobody had known about the glass but the bully and even his cohorts were surprised.

“So you were going to throw that at me, eh?” said Jack, sternly, as he looked Ritter squarely in the eyes.

“I—I wasn’t.”

“I’d rather take Pepper’s word for it than yours. It was a contemptible piece of business, Ritter!”

“It might have cut Jack badly,” said Fred. “The glass is very sharp on one side.”

“I tell you I wasn’t going to use it,” cried the bully. “I held it up just to scare Ruddy.”

“I shall never believe that, Ritter. You are a coward as well as a bully. Now get out of here and be quick, or I’ll knock you down!”

“It’s not safe to fight here,” said the bully, growing slightly pale. “But I’ll tell you what I’ll do, Ruddy. I’ll fight you to a finish when we are in camp. Do you dare do that?”

“As you please,” muttered the young major; and then the boys from the other dormitories withdrew.


“What a mean, dirty trick,” was Dale’s comment. “A chunk of glass, of all things!”

“It shows up Ritter in his true character,” said Fred.

“He ought to be drummed out of this school,” said another.

“Jack, will you fight him again?” asked Pepper.

“Certainly if he wants it. I am not afraid of him.”

“He’s a bully, but he is strong,” said Dale, and there the talk had to come to an end, for the monitor put in an appearance and made them go to bed.

The cadets were to have breakfast at an early hour and promptly at six o’clock the drum roll aroused the lads. Pepper ran to the window and looked out

“Clear as a bell!” he cried. “A dandy day for marching!”

He commenced to dress and so did the others. They put on their marching uniforms, and all presented a fine appearance when they assembled for roll-call. Drill was dispensed with, and the cadets lost no time in eating their breakfast in the mess-hall.


It had been noised around that the cadets were to march to Lake Caboy and quite a crowd from the village and from the neighboring farms gathered to see them depart. The wagons were already on the way, loaded high with the baggage and the camping outfit. It had been decided that the march to the lake was to be made in two days instead of one, so that no cadet would get tired out from the tramp. The first night out was to be spent at a place called Hayville, and there the wagons were to await the arrival of the battalion.

“Battalion attention!” called out Major Jack Ruddy, after breakfast was over and the drum had sounded again. And the companies formed in haste and the cadets stood as stiff as ramrods.

Then Captain Putnam made a short speech, telling of the encampment, and stating he hoped all would pass off pleasantly.

“Forward march!” was the next command from the young major, and then the drums sounded out, and off the battalion started across the campus. “By columns of fours!” came the next order. And so they passed out on the highway, with Captain Putnam and George Strong on horseback in the lead, and the young major following. The music came from two snare drums, a bass drum and three fifers, and could be heard a long distance away. The two companies made a fine appearance and the onlookers applauded vigorously.


“Have a good time, boys!” said one of the teachers, who had been left behind, to superintend the alterations on the school buildings.

“We’ll try to!” called back Pepper.

“You keep out of mischief,” added the teacher, who understood The Imp’s fun-loving disposition only too well.

On marched the boys, along the lake and then taking to a highway that led directly to Lake Caboy. As they passed farm after farm, the folks came out to look them over and give them a cheer.

Dinner was had at a place called Dodd’s Corners, and after a brief rest the march was resumed towards Hayville. Here the road was not so good, and some of the cadets were glad when, at four o’clock, they came in sight of their resting place for the night. But here a great surprise awaited Captain Putnam and all of the others. The baggage train, consisting of four large wagons, was missing with all of their outfit.



“Where are the wagons?”

“Thought they were going to meet us here!”

“Didn’t they come on the same road we took?”

“If they missed the way, what are we to do for the night? We can’t stay out doors without tents.”

Such were some of the questions asked and remarks made as the cadets came to a halt, broke ranks, and surrounded Captain Putnam and George Strong.

“I cannot understand this,” said the head of the school, his face showing his concern. “I told the wagon men to come straight here.”

“Did they know the road?” asked Mr. Strong.

“They said they did, although none of them had been over it before. It’s straight enough.”


All looked around in perplexity, and while doing so were approached by a farmer who lived in the vicinity. He said he had seen nothing of the wagons, although he had looked for them. To this farmer belonged the field which Captain Putnam had rented for the night.

“We may as well scatter and make a search,” said the young major, after talking the matter over with the master of Putnam Hall. “Perhaps the wagons took to some side road.”

It was agreed that the cadets should look for the wagons, and permission was given to stay away for two hours, no longer. Several parties were formed, one being made up of Jack, Pepper, Andy and Stuffer.

“Say, I’ve got an idea,” said the youth who loved to eat, when the party was out of hearing of the others. “I may be away off, but it won’t do any harm to tell what I think.”

“Well, what is in your brain, Stuffer?” asked the young major.

“I think some of the Pornell Academy students are responsible for the non-appearance of those wagons,” answered Stuffer, as he commenced to chew on some gum in lieu of eating.

“What makes you think that?” demanded Pepper.


“Because I was down to Cedarville last night, and I saw Roy Bock, Bat Sedley, and several others quizzing Peleg Snuggers about where we were going to camp and all that. As I passed them I heard Bock mention the wagons, and he asked who was going to drive ’em.”

“It would be just like the Bock crowd to do such a thing!” cried Andy. “Just to get square with us for the tricks we have played on ’em in the past.”

“But how could they get possession of the wagons?” asked Pepper. “Do you suppose they played highwaymen?”

“I don’t know. Bock and his gang are willing to do anything, I guess, to square old scores. But most likely they directed the drivers to the wrong road. They could easily do that, if the men didn’t know the road in the first place.”

“If that’s the case it is up to us to find those wagons as soon as possible,” cried Jack. “If we had to stay out all night without tents the Pornell students would have the laugh on us.”

The boys were walking along the road by which they had come. They kept their eyes on the ground, and presently saw some tracks that interested them.

“Here is where some wagons turned off into yonder field,” said Andy. “The question is, Were they our wagons or not?”

“Let us follow the tracks and see,” returned Pepper.


They crossed the field and came out on a back road that led through a dense patch of trees. Beyond this were two other roads.

“The wagons took that to the left,” announced Stuffer. “Oh, dear!” he added. “Wish we could find them and get supper! I’m mortally hungry!”

“Were you ever otherwise?” asked Jack “Come on, we’ll not have anything to eat until this mystery is cleared up.”

They walked on for over a mile, and came to a spot where the trees were interspersed with heavy brushwood.

“Here is one of the wagons,” shouted Andy.

“Here is another!” cried the young major.

“The whole four are here,” came, a minute later, from Pepper. “But where are the men and the horses?”

The wagons stood among the trees and bushes. The eight horses that had been hitched to them were missing, and so were the four drivers. The cadets looked around, but the spot appeared to be deserted.

“Well, we’ve found the wagons anyway,” said Jack. “That’s something.”

“But how are we to get them to Hayville without teams?” asked Stuffer.

“I don’t know. Maybe we can borrow horses nearby, although I don’t see any farmhouse.”


“Say, can’t I get something to eat?” went on Stuffer pleadingly. “I am hollow down to my shoes!”

“Go ahead—if you can find anything,” answered the young major, and the cadet who loved to eat lost no time in locating what he wanted on one of the wagons.

The boys walked into the woods a distance, but saw nothing of the horses. Then they came back to the wagons.

“Two of us had better stand guard with our guns while two go back and tell Captain Putnam,” said Jack. “I’ll detail you, Pepper and Stuffer, to stay here.”

“All right,” answered Pepper. “But don’t stay away too long, for it is getting late.”

“We’ll be back as soon as possible. And you, Stuffer, don’t eat too much or you’ll get sick,” added the young major.

“I never get sick from eating,” answered Stuffer, calmly munching on a biscuit, his sixth.

Jack and Andy hurried through the woods, taking a short cut in the direction of Hayville. They had covered less than a quarter of a mile when to their surprise they came to a tumbled-down cottage with a big barn attached.

“What an out-of-the-way place for a building!” cried Andy.


“I guess it was built before the trees grew up,” answered his chum. “Maybe—Wait, get down out of sight!”

Jack dropped behind some bushes and the acrobatic youth followed his example. The young major had seen two boys coming from the old cottage. They were headed for the dilapidated barn.

“Roy Bock and Bat Sedley!” murmured Andy. “Jack, I reckon we are on the right track!”

“That’s what we are!”

“More than likely they have the horses here.”

“I think so myself.”

“But what became of the drivers of the wagons?”

“That remains to be found out.”

“You don’t suppose those fellows would make them prisoners, do you? They’d think they were going to be robbed and would put up a fight.”

“Oh, I reckon the Bock gang played some sort of trick on them. Maybe they got ’em to go into a roadhouse for refreshments and then drove off with the wagons on the sly.”

“What shall we do?”

“I don’t know yet—it depends upon how many of the crowd are here.”


Still keeping out of sight behind the bushes, Jack and Andy watched the two Pornell students closely. They saw the pair enter the barn. Then they came out again and went back to the old cottage.

“Come on—I think they are alone,” said the young major. “And if they are——”

“We’ll get the best of ’em somehow,” finished his chum.

With caution the two cadets sneaked along through the bushes and up to the side of the dilapidated cottage. Looking through a broken-out window they beheld Roy Bock and Bat Sedley seated on benches, smoking cigarettes.

“How soon do you suppose Carey will get back?” Bock was asking.

“Oh, he won’t come for an hour or two,” answered Sedley. “It’s quite a walk.”

“He ought to have taken one of the horses.”

“He didn’t dare, for he had to pass the very roadhouse where we left those drivers.”

“Say, those drivers must have been astonished when they found the wagons gone.”

“Humph! That will teach ’em a lesson not to let strangers treat them. All of them were glad enough to be treated at Plunkett’s expense.”

“Is Plunkett still with ’em?”

“I suppose so. He said he’d stay, so they wouldn’t suspect him of having anything to do with running off with the wagons.”


“Say, how mad those cadets and Captain Putnam must be!”

“Serves ’em right. I haven’t forgotten how we got it in the neck, the last time we tried to play a joke on them.”

So the talk ran on. In the meantime Jack and Andy had heard enough and convinced themselves that Bock and Sedley were alone and that they did not expect anybody else for some time to come.

“It’s a cinch!” whispered the young major. “We’ll make them prisoners! Just wait till I get a strap or two from the harness on the horses.”

He hurried to the barn, and presently came back with several straps. Then he gave his chum a few directions.

A moment later Roy Bock and Bat Sedley were dumbfounded to find themselves confronted by the two cadets, one with a drawn sword and the other with a leveled rifle.

“Hands up, or I’ll shoot!” ordered Andy, in the sternest voice he could command, and this order made Sedley, who was something of a coward, scream in fright.

“Don’t shoot me! Please don’t shoot!”

“Then up with your hands!” And in keen fright Sedley put his hands over his head and kept them there.


“Humph! It’s Jack Ruddy and Andy Snow!” murmured Roy Bock. “How did you get here?”

“Up with those hands, Bock, or I’ll order Snow to fire!” returned Jack. “I want you to understand this is no laughing matter.”

“You won’t dare to shoot us,” said Bock, but his voice showed his uneasiness.

“Don’t you believe it! You are nothing but highway robbers!”

“No, we are not, we——”

“Are you going to put up those hands or not?” demanded Andy. “This is a repeating rifle, and it is fully loaded.” He spoke the truth, for Captain Putnam had allowed the cadets to load up before starting on the search, not knowing what might turn up. The boys, however, had been cautioned to be very careful.

Slowly Roy Bock elevated his hands. He was uneasy, for he did not know what to expect.

“Can’t you take a joke,” he grumbled.

“Maybe you won’t find this a joke when you get through with it,” said Jack. “Stealing horses and wagons is a State’s prison offence.”

He made the statement merely to scare the Pornell students, and his words had their full effect on Sedley if not on Bock.


“Oh, please don’t have us locked up!” cried Sedley. “It was only done in fun, really it was! We didn’t touch anything in the wagons, and the horses are safe in the barn.”

“Are you alone?” asked Bock.

“Alone? All of the cadets are out looking for the wagons,” answered Jack. “Andy, keep them covered, and shoot if I tell you to.”

“I will, Major!” answered the private, with true military precision.

“Hi, what are you going to do?” demanded Bock, as Jack slipped his sword into its scabbard and advanced with the straps.

“You’ll soon find out,” was the cool reply. “Now, no monkey work—unless you want to get shot!”

Sedley was badly scared, and it was an easy matter to bind his hands behind him and tie him fast to a door handle at one side of the room. Bock looked as if he wanted to fight or run away, but having the muzzle of the rifle pointed directly at his head made him waver.

“Have your way,” he muttered. “But we’ll get square sometime, don’t forget that!”

“You are only getting what is coming to you, Bock,” answered Jack, as he tied the Pornell student fast to another door. “Now I reckon you won’t get away until your friends come for you,” he added, and then motioned to Andy to withdraw.


“One thing more,” said Andy. “Where did you leave those drivers?”

“At Maddock’s roadhouse,” said Sedley. “But I reckon they are not there now. Most likely they are out looking for the teams and wagons.”



Leaving the Pornell students prisoners in the old cottage, Andy and Jack hurried to the barn. There were all of the horses, tied up in the stalls and in the portion devoted in years gone by to threshing. They had suffered no injury and had been fed from bags of oats taken along by the drivers.

“We’ll take them over to the wagons and hitch them up,” said the young major. “There is no use of reporting to Captain Putnam. We can bring the wagons right in with us.”

His chum was willing, and in a few minutes they had the animals out of the barn. They were ordinary work horses, so there was small danger of their running away.

“I think we can manage them,” said the young major. “I’ll lead the bunch and you can follow them.”


Thus the start was made through the woods, and before long they came in sight of the four wagons, with Pepper and Stuffer on guard. The latter was munching on some cake he had managed to locate in a box on one of the wagons.

“Hello, if they haven’t found the horses!” cried Pepper joyfully. “This is famous!”

“Where did you locate them?” questioned Stuffer, hiding the cake from the young major.

The story was soon told, the boys meanwhile hitching the horses to the wagons.

“I hope those Pornell fellows have to remain at the old cottage all night,” said Pepper. “It will serve ’em right.”

“We ought to get a crowd and go there and wipe up the floor with ’em!” said the lad who loved to eat.

“We’ll see what can be done after we get back to Hayville,” answered Jack. “I can drive one wagon. Can you chaps drive the others?”

“Sure!” came in a chorus from his chums.

“Then let us be off. Captain Putnam will be much worried until he learns that the outfit is safe.”

Not without some difficulty the wagons were turned around and taken to the main road. Then the horses were urged on, and it was not long before they came in sight of Hayville. Almost the first persons they met were Captain Putnam, George Strong and one of the wagon drivers.


“Safe, eh?” cried the master of the Hall. “I am glad to hear it.” And his face showed his relief.

He insisted upon knowing the details and Jack told us as much as he deemed necessary.

“It was only a schoolboy trick, sir,” he added. “I guess they meant no harm.”

“Nevertheless, I shall make a complaint to Doctor Pornell,” answered Captain Putnam. “He ought to know how his students are conducting themselves. It was largely, however, the fault of the drivers. One of the older academy seniors got them to leave their wagons and go into the roadhouse with him. There he treated them and got them to take their eyes off my property—and then the other students ran off with the outfit.”

“Well, they didn’t make the trick turn out as intended,” said Pepper. “We’ve got the outfit back,—and it is only a little after supper time. We can get supper, and get up our tents, too, before it is very late.”

“I am very thankful for what you cadets did,” went on the master of the Hall. “I shall not forget it. It was lucky that you struck the right trail.”


The drummers were called in and they rolled their drums,—a signal that the outfit had been found. This brought in the cadets from all over, and soon, while some were helping the regular cooks get supper, others were at work erecting the tents.

The only cadets who were not glad that the outfit had been found were Reff Ritter and his crowd. They were jealous of what Jack and his chums had accomplished, and could not help but show it.

“The Ruddy crowd will now be more stuck up than ever,” grumbled Ritter.

“Oh, pshaw! it wasn’t so much to do,” added Coulter.

“It was more than you ever did for the school, Coulter,” answered Fred, who chanced to overhear the remarks.

“Was it?” sneered Coulter.

“Yes, it was, and you know it.”

“If Ruddy and his crowd hadn’t found the wagons we might have stopped at the hotel over night,” said Paxton. “I’d rather stay there anyway than out here.”

“I think the Hayville Hotel would have hard work to accommodate so many cadets,” said Fred, with a smile. “It has about six rooms for guests.” And then he walked away, leaving the Ritter crowd to continue their fault-finding.


The cadets were not used to marching over the rough roads, and a good many of them were tired out and glad enough to turn in and go to bed. But some of them had to stand guard, and among these were Andy and Stuffer.

“Say, let us go back into the woods and see what became of those Pornell fellows,” said Pepper to Jack.

“I can’t get away, otherwise I would,” answered the young officer.

“Supposing I get up a crowd and go, Jack? You’ll have the guards keep their eyes closed, won’t you?”

“Sure. But don’t let Ritter and his gang spot you.”

“I’ll be careful.”

Pepper made a careful canvass and managed to enlist the services of nine cadets, including Fred, Dale, Emerald and Bob Grenwood.

“I’ve got a plan to scare them—if they are still in the woods,” said the quartermaster of the battalion. “I was going to try the trick on some of our own fellows, up at Lake Caboy—but I’d rather work it on the Pornell crowd,” and then he told what his plan was.

“Just the thing!” cried Pepper. “We’ll scare ’em out of their senses!”


With caution the party stole away from the temporary camp. Several of them carried bundles, and Bob Grenwood had a big megaphone.

“We’ve got to hurry, otherwise they may be gone,” said Pepper. “Bock and Sedley were waiting for Carey.”

It was not yet ten o’clock and the sky was bright with stars. The cadets hurried as fast they could, The Imp leading the way.

“We may as well put on the disguises now,” said he, as soon as they reached the spot where the wagons had been found. “For all we know they may be coming this way.”

The party halted and undid their bundles. Out rolled some white bedsheets and tall hats made of white cardboard. The cadets put on the hats and wound the sheets around them, making them look like so many ghosts.

“Now for the phosphorus,” said Bob Grenwood and brought forth a little box. He rubbed some on his hands, his forehead and his cheeks and the others did likewise. The phosphorus gave forth a sickly yellow glow that was ghastly in the extreme.

“Look!” cried Pepper, just as the boys had finished their ghostly preparations. “Here they come now!”


All looked and saw that he was right. From the direction of the dilapidated cottage four young fellows were approaching rapidly. They were Bock and Sedley, their particular chum, Carey, and Plunkett, the senior who had invited the wagon drivers into the roadhouse.

“We’ll surround them,” whispered Pepper. “And be sure and don’t let any of them escape.”

So it was arranged, and the ghostlike figures ranged themselves in a semi-circle in the woods.

“Halt!” cried Bob Grenwood, through the megaphone. “As you value your lives, halt!”

He spoke in a low tone, and in amazement the four Pornell students stopped short. Then Sedley caught sight of the figures with the glow upon their faces and he set up a yell.

“It’s ghosts!”

“Ghosts?” repeated Carey.

“Ye—yes—don’t—yo—you see ’em?” And Sedley’s teeth commenced to chatter. “Oh, I wish I wa—was ba—back to Pornell!” he wailed.

“They aren’t ghosts,” growled Plunkett. “This is a trick!”

“They look like ghosts!” gasped Carey, who was as much of a coward as Sedley.

“I don’t believe in ghosts,” said Roy Bock. “It must be some of the Putnam Hall cadets—or else some of our own crowd.”


“Halt!” cried Bob again, and his companions repeated the command. Then, as the Bock crowd stopped, the cadets surrounded them, so that none of them might slip away.

“What do you want?” demanded Bock, who was evidently the leader, though Plunkett was older.

“We want you to have a good time,” said Bob, in a pleasant voice. “We came to treat you—in return for giving the Putnam Hall boys so much trouble.”

“Who are you?” demanded Plunkett. It was too dark under the trees to distinguish faces, especially when distorted from the glowing of the phosphorus.

“Friends,” said another cadet, for the quartermaster’s plan had been explained to all.

“What do you want of us?”

“We want you to come along. We have a plan to play another trick on the Putnam Hall fellows.”

“But who are you?” demanded Sedley, who had recovered from his fright.

“That’s telling, Bat. But you’ll soon know—when we get at the feast Oliver has prepared for us.”


Now Oliver was a caterer who had often supplied the Pornell Academy students with good things to eat. The mention of his name took the Bock crowd off their guard.

“Have you got a spread for us?” demanded Bock, who was tremendously hungry.

“We sure have, Roy.”

“But this rig——”

“We were going to scare the cadets—if we missed you,” answered Pepper, in a disguised voice.

Some more questions were asked, and then Bock and his crowd agreed to follow the ghostlike figures through the woods. The cadets kept in the dark as much as possible and worked hard to keep their identity a secret. Bock at last concluded the boys belonged to a new batch of Pornell students, who had come to that institution only a short while before. One of these lads had spoken about giving a feast, in honor of his birthday, and Bock thought the feast was now on the way.

Bob Grenwood was something of a hunter, and during his spare hours he had tramped for many miles through the woods, looking for game. On one of these expeditions he had run across a cave in a hillside, bordering a stream that flowed into one of the lakes of that vicinity. He had visited the cave several times and had fixed it up for use, with a rough bench and table, and a rude fireplace.


To this cave the young quartermaster now led the way and all of the others followed. When almost there Bob called a halt.

“I will go ahead and see if all is in readiness,” he said in a deep voice.

Then he ran into the cave and found a candle that was there. He cut the candle into six pieces and lit them all, making quite a light as they were ranged on the table. He covered the center of the table with a cloth, resting on several sticks of wood, so that the cloth would look as if it had things to eat under it.

“Now advance, and prepare for the grand feast!” he called out, and seeing the lights streaming from the cave the Bock crowd ran forward.

“A cave!” cried Sedley.

“And a spread!” added Carey. “See the table!”

“This is a surprise,” murmured Plunkett.

“We’ll see what they’ve got to eat,” came from Bock, and then the four students marched into the cave and surrounded the table with its burning candles.


“Now then, work quick!” cried Bob in a low voice, and leaped towards some sticks beside the cave entrance. The others understood, and soon had the sticks piled up against the opening. Against the sticks they heaped up some rocks that were handy.

“What does this mean?” roared Roy Bock, wheeling around and trying to get out of the cave.

“It means you are prisoners of the Putnam Hall cadets!” cried Pepper, throwing off his disguise.




“I thought all along they might be fellows from Putnam Hall!”

“What fools we were to trust them!”

Such were some of the remarks made by the students of Pornell Academy when they found themselves prisoners in the cave.

In vain they rushed to the entrance, trying to get out. Bob had some heavy sticks handy and these were quickly wedged in between the rocks so that they could not be budged excepting from the outside. Then more rocks were piled up to keep the prisoners from breaking the sticks.

“See here,” demanded Roy Bock. “Ain’t you going to let us out?”

“We’ve got to get back to the Academy before morning,” added Bat Sedley. “Otherwise we’ll get into hot water with Doctor Pornell.”


“Don’t you care!” cried Pepper. “You’ve got a roof over your head—and that is more than we might have had if we hadn’t located those wagons.”

“Oh, let up about the wagons, will you?” growled Bock. He felt heartily sick over the outcome of that trick.

“There is one way you can get out of this cave,” announced Bob. “That is by the back way.”

“The back way?” queried Plunkett, looking behind him.

“Yes. See that opening in the rocks? Well, if you squeeze through that you’ll come out in a deep cut, and if you’ll follow the cut you’ll reach the woods, not far from the road to your school. I advise you to take those candles with you though, for it is pretty dark in the cut, and there are some bad holes.”

“We may break our necks!” growled Carey.

“Not if you are careful. But you may get in the mud,” answered the young quartermaster.

“Oh, let us out the front way!” pleaded Bock.

“No, it’s back way or nothing,” said Pepper. “You deserve to suffer for the way you treated us. Good night!”

“Going to leave us here alone?” cried Sedley.

“We are,” said Emerald. “Pleasant drames to ye!”


“Just wait—we’ll square up!” growled Roy Bock. Then the Putnam Hall cadets took their departure. The phosphorus no longer showed on their hands and faces, and they put away the white sheets and hats for possible future use.

“Can they really get out the back way?” asked Fred, as the party hurried for the night’s encampment.

“Yes,” answered Bob. “But they’ll have to wade through water and mud up to their knees, and fight their way through a lot of wild blackberry bushes! They’ll be sights to see when they get back to Pornell!”

The young quartermaster was right in his statement. The Bock crowd left the cave by the back way shortly after the departure of the Putnam Hall cadets. In the cut they had to walk in muddy water up to their knees, and once Sedley got stuck in the muck and his cronies had to pull him out. Bock fell down, and the mud entered his mouth and nose. Then all of the students got caught in the wild blackberry bushes and scratched themselves and tore their clothing. They did not get back to Pornell Academy until half-past seven o’clock in the morning, and were caught by a teacher just as they were trying to enter by a side door.


“What in the world is the matter with you young gentlemen!” cried the teacher, as he beheld the mud and blood. “Have you been in a smash-up on the road?”

“We—er—we were in the woods and got lost and—er—tumbled in a gully,” stammered Roy Bock.

“That is too bad, Bock! Do you want a doctor?”

“I—er—I guess not,” was the reply. Then the crowd hurried off to their rooms, while the teacher reported the matter to Doctor Pornell.

Bock and his cronies thought they would escape punishment, but this was not to be. Later in the day Doctor Pornell received a stiff letter from Captain Putnam informing him of what had been done with the wagons, and stating he might possibly take the matter to court unless the guilty students were properly punished. This worried the head of the academy, and he had Bock and the others brought before him. Under sharp questioning they broke down, and Sedley and Carey confessed all.

“I’ll look into this affair further,” said Doctor Pornell, and the next day he announced that those who were guilty were to have their holidays for that term cut off and were to do a number of extra lessons. He also made the crowd write a letter to Captain Putnam, apologizing for what they had done.


Pepper and his friends returned to the encampment and got past the guards without trouble. The cadets were worn out by the day’s doings and once at rest slept “like tops,” as Fred expressed it. There was a little “horseplay” during the night, but none of the lads who had been out in the woods took part in it. In the morning it was whispered about how the Bock crowd had been treated, and many of the cadets said it served the Pornell students right.

By nine o’clock the wagons were re-loaded and the march for Lake Caboy was resumed. To make sure that no further harm should befall the wagons and their drivers, the turnouts were made to keep close to the battalion.

By noon the end of the lake was gained and they had their dinner at a summer hotel located there. Not far away was the hotel where the Fords were stopping, and Jack, Pepper and Andy obtained permission to run over and see Laura and Flossie.

“Papa has hired a gasolene launch,” said Laura. “So you can expect to see us on the water more or less. Maybe we’ll be able to take you out—that is, if you care to go.”


“Just try us and see—if we can get permission to leave camp,” answered Pepper.

“Jack ought to be able to get permission—being a major,” answered Flossie.

“Well, you must remember we are all under Captain Putnam’s orders,” replied the young officer. “I am in command only during drill and parade, and like that.”

“Well, we’ll come up anyway, sooner or later,” said Laura; and a few minutes later the cadets had to hurry back to where they had left the others, for the drum was already rolling to call the boys together.

As Jack, Andy and Pepper passed a corner of the summer hotel where the cadets had had dinner they caught sight of a tall youth just leaving the building.

“Hello, there is that Bert Field!” cried Pepper. “I’ve a good mind to speak to him.”

“You haven’t much time,” answered Jack.

Pepper ran up to the tall, thin boy and caught him by the arm.

“Hello! How are you?” he said, pleasantly.

“Why—er—how do you do?” stammered Bert Field.

“I want to tell you that I know where you can find the man you were looking for, Jabez Trask,” went on Pepper.


“I—er—I have found him,” answered the strange boy, in some confusion. “That is—I—er—I know where he lives now.”

“Yes, I thought I saw you around his mansion.”

At this announcement Bert Field looked around nervously. Evidently he was a boy who was not strong physically, and one who had been “kept down” by others. He did not seem to have much of a will of his own.

“I—I—How did you happen to see me?” he stammered. He was evidently ill at ease.

“I can’t tell you now—I haven’t time. I’ve got to be on the march, with the rest of the cadets. We are going into camp up the lake this afternoon. And by the way, it is not far from an old deserted mill.”

“What!” Bert Field was now all attention.

“Yes, the Robertson mill. You are looking for that place, too, aren’t you?”

“Yes. But who told you?”

“Some young lady friends of mine. But I’ve got to hurry. If you come up the lake, won’t you call at our camp and see me?”

“Maybe I will,” answered Bert Field. He looked keenly at Pepper then of a sudden caught his arm. “Say, you are a boy like myself and you look honest,” he went on in a low voice. “Would you—would you help me to—to—do something?”


“If it was fair and square I would,” answered Pepper, readily.

“This is fair enough. But it is—is dangerous—at least it may become dangerous.”

“Well, you call on me at our encampment and we’ll talk it over,” answered Pepper, and ran off. Then of a sudden he turned back. “Is it money you need?” he questioned.

“No, that is, I don’t need any just now. I may need some later on though.”

“Well, I’ll do what I can for you. I like your looks.”

“And I like yours,” answered Bert Field, heartily. “I’ll come up to your encampment sooner or later. I can’t come right away,” and he hurried off in the opposite direction.

Pepper had barely time to get into the ranks before the advance up the lake was resumed. As he marched along The Imp could not help but think over what Bert Field had said.

“He is certainly a queer stick,” he reasoned. “And there is some mystery about him. I’ll be glad enough to aid him just to find out what the mystery is. Evidently it is connected in some way with Jabez Trask and the old Robertson mill.”


The route along the lake shore was a rough one, but presently they gained a fairly good highway, and late in the afternoon reached a broad field, bordered by the lake on one side and by dense woods on the others.

It was an ideal location for an encampment and nearly all of the cadets were greatly pleased and said so. The only ones who did not particularly like it were Ritter and a few others who were inclined to be “sporty.” For them the spot was too far away from a town or city.

“We’ve got to stay here or go to one of the summer hotels for fun,” said Reff Ritter. “I wanted to camp somewhere where we could get into town now and then on the sly, and play pool and billiards, and get something to drink.”

The field had been staked off into two long streets, one for Company A and the other for Company B. Between the two streets was an opening, and here were erected tents for Captain Putnam, George Strong, and likewise a shelter for Major Jack and another officer. At the end of the streets were the cooking quarters and also a big tent where mess could be served in wet weather. In dry weather the cadets got their food and ate it where they pleased.


The tents in the streets were erected with regularity. The ground sloped toward the lake, and ditches were dug around the canvases, to carry off the water when it rained, so that the tent floorings might remain dry. Each cadet had a cot upon which to sleep, and extra clothing was hung upon the tent-poles or kept in the suit-cases. In the very center of the encampment a tall pole had been erected and from this the Stars and Stripes were already floating.

“We ought to have the time of our lives here,” declared Andy. “No lessons to learn, and plenty of chances to go fishing and swimming.”

“If only the food is good,” came from Stuffer.

“Hard tack and black coffee after to-night,” answered Dale, with a wink at the others.

“Not much!” burst out the lad who loved to eat. “I want something better than that.”

“Well, maybe you’ll get horsefly soup some days—when the flies are thick,” said Pepper, consolingly.

“Huh! horsefly soup! Do you want to make me sick?”

“And ant cake,” added The Imp. “I know you love cake full of ants.”

“Say, Pepper, do you want to disgust the lot of us?” cried Fred. “I can see the ants already, crawling up my legs.”


“I went camping once, up in the Adirondacks,” came from Dale. “The ants got so thick they covered everything we had, and we had to move in a hurry.”

“We’ll not be bothered here with ants, or horseflies either—I had them all cremated,” said Jack, and this sally brought forth much laughter.

It was late by the time supper was had and the boys had arranged their sleeping quarters to suit them.

“Any hazing to-night?” asked several.

“Not to-night,” was the answer from the most of the others. “But watch out to-morrow night!”



On the following morning camp duty commenced in earnest and Major Ruddy and his fellow officers had their hands full. Drill and inspection were had, following breakfast, and then the camp was “policed,” that is, cleaned up. After that the cadets had two hours in which to do as they pleased.

Some boats had been sent to the spot by Captain Putnam, and some of the lads went rowing, while others went fishing and bathing. Pepper and his friends preferred a dip into the cool and inviting waters of the lake and were soon in their bathing suits, which had been brought along. Reff Ritter and Gus Coulter went off in a rowboat, followed by some others.

“Say, this is something like!” cried Andy, after a first plunge into the limpid waters. “I am going to have a dip every day I am here!”


“So am I, unless something happens to prevent it,” returned Fred. He missed the use of his sloop very much.

The cadets had found a cove where the water was deep and here they had erected a springboard, and took turns in diving from this. It was great sport and for some time George Strong watched the lads.

“Come on in, Mr. Strong!” cried Andy. “The water is fine!”

“Not to-day,” answered the teacher, with a smile. “But I may come in some other day. I like swimming as well as you do.” And then he walked off, to attend to some camp duties.

“What a difference between him and old Crabtree!” sighed Dale. “If all teachers were like Mr. Strong we’d never have a bit of trouble.”

“Right you are,” answered Pepper. “But old Crabtree is the kind that sets your teeth on edge the minute you rub up against him.”

The boys spent quite some time diving and sporting around, and then Fred proposed a race.

“To the rock over yonder and back!” he cried, pointing with his hand.

“I’ll go you!” said Andy. “What’s the prize?”

“A brass-bound copy of last year’s almanac,” answered Jack, and this caused a general laugh.


Six cadets entered the race, and at a word from a lad on the shore all struck out sturdily for the rock that was to be the turning spot of the contest.

At first Pepper was ahead, with Fred second, but presently Emerald drew to the front, followed by Dale.

“Hi, this won’t do!” cried Jack, good naturedly. “Throw out your anchor!”

“Sure, an’ I can’t sthop, so I can’t!” answered Hogan.

As the six swimmers made the turn at the rock one after the other, a rowboat shot into view. It was that containing Reff Ritter and Gus Coulter.

“Racing, eh?” murmured the bully, crossly. He had not slept well the night before and was all out of sorts.

“I’d like to spoil their fun for ’em,” returned Coulter.

“Maybe we can do it,” went on the bully, craftily. “They have no right to get in the way of our boat.”

“Say, you wouldn’t run ’em down, would you?” asked his crony, anxiously.

“Not very hard, Gus—only enough to break up their race.”


“Stop! stop!” cried Andy, in alarm, as he saw the rowboat being sent in close to the swimmers.

“Get out of the way!” roared Reff Ritter, ungraciously.

“Don’t run us down!” called out Fred. “Turn out, Ritter!”

But Ritter would not turn out. Instead he sent the boat closer to shore. All in the water tried to avoid the craft, some swimming to one side and others ducking beneath the boat. The race was completely broken up.

Hogan heard the cries, but he was too anxious to win the race to pay much attention. Suddenly the rowboat shot beside him and struck him a sharp blow in the shoulder. With a gasp the Irish cadet threw up an arm and then disappeared from view.

“Emerald is struck!” cried Andy.

“Oh, I hope he isn’t hurt,” added Jack

“It was his own fault,” said Ritter. “Why didn’t he get out of the way?” Now that the damage was done he was somewhat scared himself.

“It was your fault, Ritter,” answered Dale.

The rowboat drifted over the spot where Emerald had gone down, and all of the other cadets looked in that direction. The Irish lad was nowhere to be seen.


“Maybe he’s killed!” gasped Andy. “He got struck pretty hard.”

“Oh, don’t say that!” gasped Coulter, and he went white with fear.

All of the boys in the water swam to the spot, and presently Jack and Dale caught sight of Hogan, near the bottom of the lake. They dove down and brought him up. He was unconscious and had swallowed considerable water. He could not aid himself and the others took him ashore.

“This is the worst trick yet,” said Jack, after Emerald had given a gasp and opened his eyes. “How do you feel, old man?”

It was several seconds before the Irish cadet could reply. In the meantime, very much disturbed, Ritter and Coulter had beached their boat and joined the group surrounding the sufferer.

“I—er—I lost control of the boat at the last minute,” said the bully lamely. “I didn’t mean to hit anybody. I was only going to scare you.”

“It was done on purpose! I saw it,” answered Andy firmly.

“See here, Andy Snow, you say that again and I’ll knock you down!” cried Ritter fiercely.

“You have got to spell Able first,” was the acrobatic youth’s reply, as he doubled up his fists.


“Whe—where is that spalpeen, Ritter?” came unsteadily from Hogan. “Where is he, I say?” And he staggered to his feet. There was a slight cut on his neck, from which the blood was flowing.

“Here he is,” answered Pepper. “But, Emerald, you had better keep quiet for awhile. We’ll attend to Ritter later.”

“I’ll attend to Ritter and right now!” roared the Irish cadet, and having recovered himself somewhat he made a sudden leap at the bully. “I’ll be afther givin’ ye a dose o’ your own medicine, so I will!” he added.

He caught Ritter and in his fury shook the bully as a dog shakes a rat. Then he commenced to back Ritter to the lake front.

“Hi, let up!” roared the other. “It was only done in fun, I tell you, Hogan!”

“Thin lit this be fun too,” was the Irish cadet’s answer, and of a sudden he gave Ritter a shove in the breast that sent the bully over backwards with a splash into the lake.

“Serves Ritter right,” murmured Dale.

“An’ now fer you, me little goslin!” went on Hogan and leaped for Coulter.

“Le-let me alone—I didn’t mean to touch you!” whined Coulter.


“You backed up Ritter—an’ ye can cool off wid him, too,” answered Hogan, and catching Coulter by the neck and the seat of his trousers, he ran him down to the lake after Ritter and pitched him in. Coulter landed on top of his crony, and both went out of sight with a great splash. Then Hogan shoved from the shore the rowboat Ritter and Coulter had been using.

“You git into that, an’ be off wid yez!” roared the Irish cadet, when Ritter and Coulter reappeared in the water. “Don’t yez dare to land here!”

Much alarmed at Hogan’s sudden fury, the bully and his crony kept away from the shore. They swam to the rowboat and clambered on board. Then, dripping from head to feet, they picked up their floating caps, and took up the oars.

“You think you’re smart, but I’ll show you!” cried Reff Ritter.

“’Tis your own fault,” answered Emerald. “Supposin’ I had been drowned, what thin, eh? Bad cess to you, Ritter! You’re a bad egg, if iver there was wan!”

To this the bully did not dare make answer, and he and his crony rowed off. They went to a secluded but sunny spot up the lake, and there dried themselves as best they could.

“I told you not to do it,” whined Coulter.


“Oh, dry up, you make me tired,” answered Ritter, and for the remainder of the day he and Coulter had little to do with each other.

“What makes you so wet?” asked Paxton, when the pair went back to the camp.

“Oh, we got into a mix-up with some of the cadets and fell overboard,” answered Ritter, in an off-handed manner. “Where have you been?” he added, quickly, to avoid giving further particulars.

“Went up to the head of the lake,” answered Paxton. “And say, I and Mumps made a discovery,” he added. Mumps was, as my old readers know, a small cadet whose real name was John Fenwick. He was a good deal of a sneak and continually toadying to those bigger than himself.

“What did you discover?”

“We found a good big hornets’ nest.”

“Humph! that’s of no account,” was Coulter’s comment

“Isn’t it though! That’s all you know about it,” cried Paxton. “I once found a hornets’ nest and put a big flour bag over it and took it down and brought it to school and had dead loads of fun with it.”

“Say, can you handle ’em that way?” queried Ritter, with interest.

“Certainly, but you have to be awfully careful.”


“Then, it would be a scheme to secure the nest and introduce some of our enemies to the hornets.”

“Just what I was thinking,” said Nick Paxton.

“When can you get the nest?”

“The best time is at night, when the hornets are all inside.”

“You’ll want a good, heavy bag, otherwise the hornets will get out and sting you.”

“I can make a bag, of paper and paste,” said Paxton.

“Well, keep it quiet and we’ll see what we can do with the nest—after we have it,” answered Reff Ritter. “I think I know of a scheme,” he chuckled.

“What?” asked the cadet who had made the find.

“Sooner or later the Ruddy crowd will have some kind of a feast. When they get together we can watch our chance and throw the hornets’ nest in their midst. I reckon that will wake ’em up!”

“It sure will,” said Paxton with a chuckle, and even Coulter had to smile over the prospect of doing such a thing to the enemy.

In the meantime, while this talk was going on, Jack and Andy were walking in the woods back of the encampment. Presently they fell in with Mumps.


“Hello, Mumps!” cried the young major pleasantly. “Walking out for your health?”

“Oh, I’ve been up the lake with Paxton,” answered the little sneak. He liked to be noticed by such a superior as the major of the battalion.

“Well, did you see anything worth seeing?”

“Oh, lots of things. Saw a hornets’ nest.”

“Fall into it?” asked Pepper. “If you did I guess you got out in a hurry.”

“No, I didn’t fall into it. Paxton and I found it.”

“I’ll wager you threw stones at it,” said Jack.

“No, we didn’t touch it. I wanted to throw a stone but Paxton wouldn’t let me. He said—But never mind that now,” added the sneak hastily.

“What did he say, Mumps?” demanded Pepper.

“Oh, well, if you want to know, he said he might come and get the hornets’ nest some time and play a joke on some of the cadets with it. I guess he wants to get square with some of the fellows.”

“Hum, I see,” mused Jack, and he and Pepper looked knowingly at each other. “Where was the hornets’ nest?”

“Oh, Paxton said I wasn’t to tell anybody.”

“You tell me, Mumps, and I’ll give you my old baseball,” said Pepper. He chanced to know that the sneak wanted a ball.


“Well, I’ll tell you, but you musn’t tell Paxton I did so.”

“We won’t say a word,” said The Imp. And thereupon the sneak took him and the young major to where the hornets’ nest was located.

“I’ll give you the ball to-morrow,” said Pepper, on the way back to the camp. “Now, mum’s the word all around remember.”

“I won’t tell anybody I told you,” answered Mumps.



Pepper and Andy slept close together in one of the tents. That night, about twelve o’clock, each was rudely awakened by having the cot upon which he rested tipped up on one side. Both rolled to the floor and bumped into one another.

“Hi, what’s this?” cried the acrobatic youth.

“Hazing!” returned Pepper. “Will you kindly take your head out of my stomach,” he added.

“Who did it?” asked Andy, as he struggled to get up, a blanket having become twisted about his feet.

“I don’t know—excepting it may be the Reff Ritter crowd,” returned Pepper, rubbing his nose, which had been bumped on the floor.


Cries came from the tent adjoining, and the two boys soon discovered that the cots of a dozen cadets had been turned over. One sufferer’s nose was bleeding, and all of the crowd were more or less angry.

“It was Ritter!” cried one cadet. “I saw him just as he dodged around a corner of the tent.”

“How is it you were awake?” asked another suspiciously.

“I just came in from guard duty. I was on Post 5.”

“Well, if it was the Ritter crowd we ought to get after ’em,” came from Dale.

“How could it be the Ritter crowd?” came from another cadet. “I heard they were going to have a feast to-night.”

“That comes off to-morrow night,” answered Joe Nelson.

As quietly as possible, so as not to disturb Captain Putnam and George Strong, the cadets looked around the various tents of their enemies. They found Ritter in his tent, lying on his cot and snoring loudly.

“He is shamming,” whispered Pepper. “Just wait till I prove it.”

“How will you do it?” asked Dale.

“I’ve got some red ink in a bottle here. I’ll daub his face with that. It’s indelible and it won’t come off for a month. He’ll look like an Indian on the warpath.”


The Imp spoke in a whisper and on tiptoes he approached Reff Ritter. As he bent over the bully the latter sat up very suddenly.

“You let me alone!” he blustered. “Don’t you dare to daub me with your red ink!”

“Ha! so you are wideawake, just as I suspected,” cried Pepper.

“Don’t you touch me with that red ink, Pepper Ditmore!”

“Red ink?” questioned The Imp, innocently. “Who mentioned red ink?”

“You did—but you’re not going to put any on me! I’ll report you if you do!”

“You must be dreaming, Ritter. I haven’t any red ink. I just came in to see if you were awake. Do you usually snore so loudly when you aren’t asleep?”

“Humph! think you’re smart, don’t you?”

“He was shamming true enough!” cried Andy. “Boys,” he went on, addressing his friends. “I move we initiate Ritter into the mysteries of a trip on an airship.”

“Airship?” said the bully. “Who has an airship?”

“That’s the talk!” cried several who understood Andy’s allusion to an “airship.” “Let’s give him his first lesson now.”


In a twinkling Reff Ritter was surrounded and bundled up in his own blanket. Then he was lifted bodily from the cot and taken out of the tent through the back. Six cadets carried him across the field.

Some cadets were still on guard and how to get out of camp was a problem. But Dale solved that question with ease. He gave a low whistle and one of the guards answered it almost instantly.

“Go past Post No. 7,” said Dale. “The guard there will be looking at the stars.”

The others followed his advice. On Post No. 7 Fred Century was stationed. They saw him looking intently up at a bright star, evidently oblivious to his surroundings and, of course, he did not see or notice them.

“Good for Fred!” cried Pepper. “He knows his little book all right!”

Reaching the end of the encampment field, the cadets entered the edge of the woods. Here was a swing which some of the boys had put up the afternoon before.

The rope of the swing was speedily secured, and several cadet belts were placed around Ritter’s waist and under his arms. Then the rope was run under these belts and the other end was thrown over the limb of a big tree.

“Now up with him!” ordered Andy. “Ritter, you’ll soon know how it feels to fly through the air!”


The cadets pulled on the rope with a will and up into the air went Ritter, sprawling out like a frog and turning around and around.

“Hurrah!” shouted one of the cadets. “Reff, how do you enjoy flying?”

“My, but he cuts a pretty figure!” added another.

“Just move your arms and you’ll think you are flying sure,” came from a third.

“Say, you let me down!” growled the bully. “It’s no fun to have these belts cutting you. I’m getting dizzy, too.”

“I guess you can stay there until sunrise!” answered Pepper.

“Sunrise! Not much! You let me down!” howled Ritter.

“We’ll let you down if you’ll apologize for dumping us out of bed and if you’ll promise not to do it again,” said Andy. Nobody had any intention of leaving Ritter suspended in mid-air for any great length of time.

“I’ll apologize to nobody!” cried the bully.

“Then let him hang,” said Dale. “Come on back, fellows.”

He made a move as if to leave the spot and his chums did the same.

“Hi, come back! Don’t leave me!” yelled Ritter, in sudden horror. “I can’t stand it! Let me down!”


“Will you apologize?” demanded several.

“I suppose I’ll have to. But this ain’t fair.”

“Do you apologize?”

“Yes,” was the low answer.

“And do you promise not to do such a thing again?”

“Oh, yes, anything you want,—only let me down,” growled Ritter.

The bully was lowered and the rope and belts were loosened. He was a little dizzy, and sank down on the ground.

“Gi—give me air!” he gasped.

The other cadets fell back, so that he might have all the air he desired. This was the chance the bully wanted and with a bound he arose and commenced to run for camp with all the speed he could command.

“Corporal of the guard!” he yelled, as he dodged past one of the cadets on guard. “Thieves! Robbers! Help!” he went on, and then he dodged into his tent and threw himself on his cot, pretending to be asleep as before.

The loud alarm woke the entire camp, just as the bully had desired, and Captain Putnam came rushing from his tent, followed by George Strong. Then Major Jack appeared and so did Captain Bart Conners and Captain Henry Lee.


“What is the trouble?” demanded Captain Putnam.

“I don’t know, sir,” answered Major Jack, but he suspected that some of the cadets were out for a lark.

“I’ll go the rounds of the guards and find out,” went on the master of the school shortly. He was determined to break up the horseplay if it could possibly be accomplished.

In the meantime Andy, Pepper and the others had not yet gotten into camp. They had to put the swing rope away and distribute the belts, and the sudden alarm given by Ritter had taken them all unawares.

“Say, fellows, we are going to have a tight squeeze of it getting in,” said Pepper, as the alarm increased.

“I didn’t think Ritter would be mean enough to raise such a hullabaloo,” said Dale. “He can’t take a joke.”

“He is sour on our crowd and will do all in his power to get us into trouble,” said Joe.

“We can’t get past Fred again, for there is Captain Putnam making straight for that post!” said another.

“Come on down to the lake front,” said Andy. “But be quick. They may call the roll!”


The cadets skirted the woods on the double-quick and came down to the water’s edge. Here, to their relief, they found Hogan on guard. Hale gave a low whistle, to which the Irish cadet responded. Then up into the air went Emerald’s face and he commenced to study the stars, utterly oblivious to his surroundings.

“This is our chance!” cried Pepper, and past the guard they sped, Hogan paying not the slightest attention to them. After they had passed Dale whistled once more, and the Irish cadet withdrew his gaze from the stars and resumed his march to the end of his post

Scarcely had the boys gotten into camp when the drum rolled out sharply. Wondering what was wrong, those who had been sleeping soundly got up and hurried to the parade ground. Lanterns and torches were lit, and the two companies lined up.

“Have the roll called, Major Ruddy,” said Captain Putnam. “Note carefully the names of all those who do not answer.”

“I will sir,” answered the young officer, and he wondered how many of his chums would prove to be missing.

Pepper dropped into line yawning broadly, as if just aroused from a heavy sleep, and Andy and the others followed suit, Dale stretching himself as if he could not get awake.


“Why don’t they let a fellow sleep?” grumbled The Imp, and this almost set some of the others to laughing.

“Shut up!” said Andy in a low voice. “I want to keep a straight face.”

“Did we all get here?” asked another anxiously.

“I guess so.”

The calling of the roll commenced, and one after another the cadets answered their names. The roll was called by the quartermaster, but George Strong had another roll on which he did the checking, so that Bob might make no mistake or check off some friend who did not answer.

“Eleven cadets missing,” announced George Strong after the roll call had come to an end.

“Eight of those are on guard duty,” answered Major Jack, and had the corporal of the guard give the names. He was wondering who the three other cadets could be.

“That leaves three to account for,” said Captain Putnam. “Who are they?”

George Strong consulted his roll.

“Nicholas Paxton, William Sabine and Frank Barringer.”


“Barringer had permission to go away—his folks are at the Lake Hotel,” answered the master of the school. He raised his voice: “Does anybody know anything about Paxton and Sabine?”

To this question there was no answer.

“We will take a look around the camp and see if we can find them,” said Captain Putnam.

This was done but the two cadets could not be found.

“Paxton said after supper he didn’t feel very well,” said Coulter, lamely. “Maybe he left the camp to look for a doctor.”

“Possibly, but I doubt it,” answered Captain Putnam, dryly.

The cadets were dismissed and told to keep absolutely quiet for the remainder of the night. As they returned to their tents speculation was rife concerning the two missing cadets.

“If they slipped off to one of the lake hotels they will be punished for it,” said Andy.

“Paxton is getting quite sporty,” answered another cadet. “And poor Billy Sabine is just foolish enough to follow his example.”

“I am sorry for Billy,” said Dale. “He is a pretty decent sort sometimes.”

The cadets retired and for about an hour matters in camp were quiet. Then, from the woods, came several screams of terror. A rifle shot rang out, and once more the camp was in an uproar.



“What’s the trouble now?”

“Did somebody get shot?”

“Say, this night is the worst yet! Why can’t they let a fellow sleep?”

“If it’s going to keep on like this we better go back to the Hall!”

So the talk ran on, as the cadets rushed out on the parade ground to learn the cause of the new disturbance.

Those to make first appearance beheld Nick Paxton and Billy Sabine running as if some demon was after them. Both were out of breath and shaking with terror.

“Save me!” screamed Billy Sabine, and ran to Captain Putnam and clutched him by the arm frantically.

“What is the trouble, Sabine?” asked the master of the school anxiously.


“It’s a ghost—a madman, a monster!” gasped Sabine. “Oh, don’t let him touch me, please!”

“A ghost?” queried Captain Putnam.

“Yes, sir.”

“It was worse than a ghost,” came from Paxton, when he was able to speak. “Oh, I hope it doesn’t come this way!” And he glanced over his shoulder apprehensively.

“This is nonsense, boys! There are no ghosts.”

“Who fired that shot?” asked George Strong, while a crowd of cadets gathered around to learn what the new alarm meant.

“I did,” said a guard named Leeks. “I called on those fellows to halt, but they didn’t, so I fired to arouse the corporal of the guard.”

“Which was quite right, Leeks,” returned the master of the school. He turned again to Paxton and Sabine. “Now, give me your stories. Where have you been? You had no permission to leave the grounds. We missed you an hour or more ago.”

At these words Paxton and Sabine hung their heads. Sabine looked thoroughly miserable. As my old readers know, he was not naturally bad but was a lad easily led into wrongdoing.

“Cannot you answer me?” demanded the master of the school, after a painful pause.


“Paxton got me to go to a hotel down the lake shore, sir,” said Sabine in a low tone. “I am very sorry I went, sir, and I hope you’ll forgive me, sir. I won’t do it again.” And he gazed pleadingly at Captain Putnam.

“How about this, Paxton?”

“I—er—I went to the hotel because I thought some of my friends were stopping there,” was the lame reply. “As soon as I—er—found my friends weren’t there I came back.”

“Do you usually make calls after midnight?” demanded the master of the school, with fine sarcasm.

“I—er—I didn’t know it was so late, sir. But we would have been back long ago if it wasn’t for that—er—ghost, or worse!” continued Paxton.

“What did you see? Now no fooling, Paxton, or it will go hard with you,” and Captain Putnam’s voice grew extra stern.

“We saw a ghost, or demon, or something, sir. It was horrible!”

“The most frightful thing one could possibly imagine,” broke in Sabine, and his voice commenced to tremble again. “Oh, Captain Putnam, you may not believe it, but it was awful, sir, awful!”

“But what was it?” persisted the master of the school, seeing how much in earnest both cadets were.


“It was like a half-man and a half-beast,” answered Paxton. “It was very large and had a terrible voice. It chased us with a stick that was full of flashes of fire, and both of us thought we were going to be killed.”

“Maybe a trick of some of the cadets,” suggested George Strong.

At this suggestion Paxton and Sabine looked up quickly.

“Oh, could it have been some of the cadets?” questioned Sabine. “But no, it couldn’t be—it was too awful!” And he shook his head positively. Evidently he had been almost frightened out of his senses.

“The cadets have all been accounted for,” said Captain Putnam. “I don’t think any of them are responsible for this.”

“Where did this happen, over in yonder woods?” questioned George Strong.

“Back of the woods, sir.”

“Back of the woods?”

“Yes, sir, near the falls. There is an old mill up there. We were coming along the mill road when all of a sudden the Thing, whatever it was, rushed at us. We ran and it came after us! Oh, I thought my last moment on earth had come!” gasped Sabine, shaking afresh over the recollection of what had occurred.


“This is strange, to say the least,” mused the master of the school. “How did it look to you, Paxton?”

“I can’t tell you any more than I have, sir,” was the reply. “It was ghostlike and half-man and half-beast, and it had a loud voice and that stick of fire. It came at us so—so ferociously that we had to run for fear of being killed on the spot!”

This was all either Paxton or Sabine could tell. They stuck to their tale so persistently that Captain Putnam felt compelled to believe them.

“I’ll investigate in the morning,” said he. “It is probably some trick.”

“Maybe it was played by some of the Pornell students,” suggested Bart Conners.

“Possibly. Now go to bed, all of you, and let me hear no more alarms.”

Once again the cadets retired. Pepper walked off with Jack and Andy.

“Jack, what do you make of this?” asked Pepper.

“Oh, it was some trick,” answered the young major.

“But did you hear what they said—that it happened near that old mill, the Robertson mill?”


“That’s so,” mused Jack. “The place that Bert Field was asking about, and the spot some claim is haunted.”

“I don’t think the Pornell fellows would play that trick,” said Andy. “They wouldn’t dare—so close on their other doings.”

“I’d like to investigate this on my own account,” continued Pepper. “I am very curious to visit that haunted mill, and I am curious to know why Bert Field is interested in it.”

“Well, you may get a chance some day,” answered Jack; and there the talk had to come to an end.

In the morning the majority of the cadets were sleepy and inclined to lay around after inspection and breakfast and take it easy. Paxton and Sabine were again questioned, and Captain Putnam departed on horseback, to investigate their story.

“Looks as if it was going to rain,” said Andy, and he was right, and soon the drops commenced to fall. It was a steady downpour, lasting until the middle of the afternoon and the boys were glad enough to keep under shelter, only the guards being out, wearing their rubber coats.

In the midst of the storm Captain Putnam came back. He held a long talk with George Strong and then called in Paxton and Sabine.


“I do not know what scared you,” said the master of the school. “I rode around the old mill and found it locked and nailed up and nobody in sight. As you were badly frightened I will not punish you for leaving the camp without permission. But do not do it again, or I will punish you severely.” And there the matter rested.

The rain put a damper on the enthusiasm of the cadets and a few wished they were back at the Hall. But by nightfall it cleared off, and great campfires were kindled, so that things might be dried out, and then everybody felt better.

On Saturday it had been arranged that a game of baseball should come off, between nines of Company A and Company B. The rivalry between the nines was intense and much interest was manifested as a consequence.

Company A had for its pitcher Reff Ritter. Ritter had not been chosen for his popularity but because he knew how to pitch and had lately been doing good work in the box. For a catcher Ritter had Coulter, and two of his other cronies were in the field.

Dale was the pitcher for Company B, and Stuffer was catcher. On this nine, Andy was shortstop and Pepper covered second. These were not the positions the lads had previously filled, but Captain Putnam insisted that some changes be made, so that other lads might have a chance.


To make matters more interesting it was announced that visitors would be welcome to the camp during the game and afterwards, and Jack, who did not play, quickly invited the Fords to attend. A little stand was erected, so that the visitors might have seats.

Mr. Rossmore Ford came up the lake road in a big tallyho, bringing with him his wife, his two daughters, and half a dozen other people. Others arrived in carriages, on bicycles and on foot, until the visitors numbered fully a hundred.

“Oh, I hope Pepper and Andy’s side win!” cried Laura Ford, enthusiastically, after she had looked over the players.

“So do I,” added Flossie.

“Well, I think Company B has as good a show as Company A,” answered Jack, with a smile.

A professional ball player who chanced to be stopping at one of the lake hotels had consented to be umpire, and promptly at three o’clock he called out “Play!”

Company A was first at the bat, with their best men heading the list, and when they retired they had scored two runs. This made their supporters enthusiastic and they were loudly applauded.

“Now show ’em what you can do!” cried a cadet, as Company B came up to the home plate.

“Ritter will strike ’em out!” said another.


The first man up was struck out and the second followed. Then came a pop fly, which was easily gathered in, and Company B retired with the score 2 to 0 against them.

“This looks bad,” said Jack. “But the game is young yet.”

In the second inning Company A managed to get one more run and in the third they brought their score up to seven runs. Company B scored three times.

“Take a brace, boys!” cried Jack, to Pepper and Andy.

“My arm was a little stiff at the start, from getting wet during the storm,” said Dale. “But it is limbering up now.” And this proved to be true, and in the next inning he struck out three men in succession, amid great applause.

When Company B came to the bat Pepper knocked a home run and Andy a three-bagger. But that ended the run getting for the time being.

The beginning of the eighth inning found the score 11 to 7 in favor of Company A. Ritter and his followers were in high feather, thinking they were sure of winning.

“And maybe we won’t celebrate to-night,” chuckled the bully.

“Rub the defeat in good while you are at it,” said Paxton, who was on the substitute bench.


“You bet we will!” answered Ritter boastfully.

Ritter was to the bat and managed to line out a safety. He was followed by a player who went out on a foul, but the next man knocked a two-bagger and Ritter managed to slide home, amid well-deserved applause. When Company A retired they had 14 runs to their credit.

Dale was now to the bat and managed to get to second in safety. Pepper got to first and a wild throw over the baseman’s head gave Dale third and Pepper second. Then came a streak of good batting and the end of the eighth inning found Company B with 11 runs.

“We must hold ’em down!” said Pepper, as Company A came up for the ninth time to the bat. “Dale, do your best!”

The pitcher tried to steady himself and struck out the first man up. The second went to first on balls and the next batter hit a safety.

“Steady, Dale, steady!” cried Jack. And Dale settled down to even work once more, and Company A retired with only its 14 runs.

“Our last chance to win!” cried Pepper, as his side came in.

“Right you are,” answered the young major, anxiously. “Three runs to tie the score and four to win!”



Ritter had a smile of confidence on his face and he walked down to the pitcher’s box with something of a swagger.

“Strike the three of ’em out, Reff!” shouted one of the bully’s supporters. “Don’t let ’em see what first looks like.”

“I’ll take care of ’em, don’t worry,” answered Ritter.

A cadet named Jackson was first to the bat. He was not an extra good hitter and now he was nervous.

“Strike one!” was the umpire’s cry as the first ball pitched whizzed over the plate.

“That’s the way to do it, Reff!” came the cry from one of the bully’s cronies.

The next was a ball, but then came two strikes, and much crestfallen Jackson retired, while the supporters of Company A cheered Ritter.


Dale came to the bat next and had one strike called on him. Then he hit out a safety and got to first with ease.

“Hurrah! Now keep up the good work!” cried a supporter of Company B.

As before, Pepper followed Dale. He watched the ball closely, and had two balls called on him and a strike. Then he got just what he wanted and lined out a beautiful two-bagger. Dale was on the alert and by the time Pepper got safely on second he slid home, amid a wild cheering.

“That’s the way to do it!”

“You’ve got Ritter going! Keep up the good work!”

“My, but wasn’t that a beaut of a two base hit?”

Andy was now at the bat. Plainly Ritter was getting nervous and soon he had two balls called on him.

“Don’t let him walk—make him hit it!” was the cry.

“I’ll fix him!” muttered the bully sourly, and then sent in a ball directly over the plate.

Andy was there to meet it, and the way he lined the sphere down to left field was a sight to behold. Down he pounded for first while Pepper legged it for all he was worth for home. The ball came in, but too late and while Pepper was called safe Andy managed to slide to second amid a renewed cheering.


“Thirteen to fourteen!” was the cry. “And only one man out! Now is your chance to tie the score!”

Coulter walked down to the pitcher’s box.

“Keep cool, Reff,” he whispered. “Don’t let them rattle you.”

“They are not rattling me,” was the dogged answer. But the very tone of his voice showed the bully’s nervousness.

Stuffer was now up and he, too, was nervous. He watched the pitcher as a cat watches a mouse. Ritter sent in a ball that was remarkably swift. It came directly for Stuffer’s head and he had barely time to pull back out of the way.

“Ball one!” cried the umpire.

“Say, what do you want to do, kill me?” cried Stuffer angrily.

“I—er—the ball slipped,” answered Ritter lamely.

“Bat it down to the woods, Stuffer!” cried one of the supporters of Company B.

Following the ball came two strikes and the supporters of Company B grew sober, thinking Stuffer would strike out. But then the lad who loved to eat hit the sphere fairly, sending it just over the second baseman’s head. He gained first while Andy, who had stolen to third, came in amid a cheering that was deafening.


“A tie! A tie! The score is a tie!”

Bart Conners, the captain of Company B, was now to the bat. Bart was a better military officer than a baseball player, yet he resolved to do his best for his command. He bunted the ball, reaching first on a fumble by Coulter, while Stuffer got down to second.

Conners was followed by Fred who, so far, had done but little to aid Company B to win the match. Fred had two strikes called on him, and it looked as if he would be put out when he met the sphere fairly and squarely and sent it far down into the center field.

“Run! Run! Everybody run!” was the cry, and amid great excitement Stuffer ran in, followed by Bart. Fred got to third and might have reached home but Ritter got in his way, sending him flat on the grass.

“Two runs! Company B wins!”

“My, but that was a dandy hit!”

“He ought to have come in.”

“Ritter got in his way on purpose!”

“I didn’t do anything of the kind!” growled the pitcher. “If anybody says I did I’ll punch his head!”


“Are you hurt, Fred?” asked Jack, running to his chum’s side.

“I—I guess not,” was Fred’s reply. “But he bumped into me pretty lively.”

A lively discussion followed, and in his rage Reff Ritter threw the ball on the grass.

“You are all down on me—I won’t pitch any more,” he growled, and started to walk from the field.

“As you please,” answered Pepper. “We have won the game anyway.”

“That’s right!” was the cry. “No use of playing it out. Company B wins by the score of 16 to 14,—with only one man out in the ninth.” And so the game came to an end. Some wanted Ritter to pitch the inning out but he positively would not, and nobody cared to take his place.

“Well, it was a great game!” declared Jack. “I never was so interested before in my life.”

“I enjoyed it very much,” said Laura. “I am glad Company B won.”

“So am I,” added Flossie.

“That Ritter seems to be an ugly sort,” was Mr. Ford’s comment.

“He is—especially when he cannot have his own way,” answered the young major.


Following the baseball game came some athletic contests, such as high jumping and hurdling. In the hurdling Emerald Hogan carried off the honors and was greatly applauded. The high jumping contest was won by Henry Lee, who was quiet but a great favorite. One of the girls present presented Henry with a big bouquet, which made the athlete blush deeply.

The guests who had been especially invited by Captain Putnam and the cadets to the contests were also asked to remain to a collation. Cake and ice-cream had been brought from one of the summer hotels down the lake shore, and these were served, with lemonade, by the boys. Jack and his chums found seats under an awning for the Fords and did all they could to make the girls comfortable.

“It must be jolly to camp out!” declared Flossie. “Papa, we must try it some time.”

“It is fine—when it doesn’t rain,” answered Andy.

“Or the mosquitoes don’t get too lively,” added Pepper, and at this there was a general laugh.

The only cadets who did not enter into the spirit of the celebration were Reff Ritter and his cronies. Ritter did not wait for cake and ice-cream, but walked away into the woods, taking Coulter, Paxton and Billy Sabine with him.


“It makes me sick—the way the other crowd crow!” declared the defeated pitcher. “They won by a fluke, that’s all.”

“Sure that’s all,” declared Coulter, who had made several bad errors behind the bat. “But just wait, we’ll wax ’em next time!”

“Sure we will!”

“Say, what about that hornets’ nest?” asked Sabine. “Thought you fellows said something about using it.”

“We will—but there is no hurry,” answered Ritter. “Just wait till some night when the Ruddy crowd have a celebration—we’ll make it lively for ’em!” And he laughed coarsely.

By nightfall the festivities came to an end and the visitors departed for home. Some of the boys wanted to build a big bonfire, to celebrate the baseball victory during the evening, but Captain Putnam would not allow it.

“The wind is rising and it is very shifty,” said the master of the school. “If the fire got to blowing among the tents we might have trouble.”

“Oh, I don’t think the fire would hurt anything,” grumbled Dale.


“Well, you never can tell,” answered Fred. Some wood had been gathered for the fire by Dale, Pepper, Andy and Fred, and the quartet were much disappointed when they found they could not start the blaze. Fred had thought to start the fire in a new way—by putting some carbide from a bicycle lamp on the ground in a little water and then igniting the gas formed by the combination. He forgot to put the carbide holder away, leaving it on the pile of wood.

Captain Putnam was right about the wind, it was steadily rising and blowing first from one direction and then another.

“Have your men peg down the tents good and tight,” said the captain to Major Jack, and the young commander of the battalion at once issued the necessary orders.

By bedtime the wind was blowing almost a gale. Then, however, it appeared to die down. The guards were set as usual. Reff Ritter was stationed on Post 3, while Sabine was on Post 2. At the other end of that side of the encampment, on Post 4, was a cadet named Mason.

“It’s a raw night to be out,” grumbled Ritter to Sabine, when the two met.

“That’s so,” was the answer. “I’ll be glad to get under the covers when my time is up.”

“I think I’ll smoke a cigarette,” went on Reff Ritter, looking around to see if anybody was in that vicinity.

“Don’t let anybody catch you at it,” said Sabine, who well knew that cigarette smoking was against the rules.


Ritter got out a cigarette and, not without difficulty, lit it. He took several puffs and inhaled the smoke.

“Have one,” he said, and passed over the box.

“Thanks, I will,” answered Billy Sabine weakly. He did not wish to smoke, but he did not want to look like a coward.

The boys were at the end of the woods and remained together for several minutes. Then each walked off along his post The wind was now coming up again, and presently a sudden gust took Ritter’s cigarette from his fingers. It struck a nearby bush and the burning tobacco was carried through the air a distance of a hundred feet or more.

“Hello, what’s that?” cried the cadet named Mason, as he came to a halt at the end of Post 4.

“What’s what?” grumbled Ritter.

“Thought I saw some fire flying through the air. Well, I declare! Look!”

Mason stared in wonder in the direction of where the wood had been heaped up for the bonfire. The burning tobacco had been carried by the wind to this heap and had landed on the box of carbide. A few drops of rain were coming down, and the carbide was commencing to blaze up like a gasolene torch.


“Oh, that’s nothing,” cried Ritter and running forward he kicked at the brushwood in semi-darkness. Over went the can of carbide into a pool of water. At once came a flash of fire from the gas thus generated, and the brushwood commenced to blaze away at a lively rate.

It was now raining lightly and the wind was blowing stronger and stronger. Ritter tried to put out the fire, but it roared louder and louder, as more gas from the carbide was generated, and he grew afraid and drew back.

“Fred Century had that carbide,” said Mason. “I saw him with it.”

“Sure he had it,” added Ritter quickly. “It’s his fault that the brushwood took fire.”

“But he didn’t set it on fire, Reff.”

“How do you know?”

“He isn’t anywhere around.”

“Humph! He might have put a slow match to it.”

“Do you think he did that? I saw some fire in the air—but I thought it came from this direction.”

“Well, you keep quiet about this,—or we’ll both get into trouble!” answered Ritter. And just then the wind came up with a sudden fury, sending the burning brush rolling directly towards the tents of the encampment!



There was very little rain, but the wind was heavy and increasing constantly. It sent the burning brands from the brushwood directly between the tents of Company A and Company B.

“Fire! fire!” was the cry, as several cadets on guard duty saw the danger, and then one in his excitement fired his gun.

The shot brought the corporal of the guard to the scene, and in a moment a general alarm arose. The wind was now humming and whistling throughout the encampment and the burning brands were rolled first in one direction and then another.

“The camp is burning up!” yelled Mumps, as he came from his tent. “Save me! save me!” And he rushed towards the lake, with the idea of leaping into the water.


When Pepper came from his tent a burning brand, flying through the air, hit his cheek. One also struck Jack. The wind was now so fierce that the cadets could scarcely stand up, and some of the tents were swaying and bulging dangerously.

“All out!” called Captain Putnam, after a glance at the situation. “Company A, mind the tents and keep them from blowing away. Company B, see if you can secure the burning wood and throw it into the lake.”

At once the cadets ran to execute the orders. One tent was down and it fell directly on some of the burning wood, adding to the flames. Another tent went down on top of three cadets, and it was with difficulty that the lads were rescued from the wreckage. One had his shoulder twisted, but in the general excitement this was scarcely noticed.

But if Company A had its hands full saving the tents, Company B had even more strenuous labor fighting the flames. In such a high wind it was dangerous to go anywhere near the burning and flying brushwood and more than one lad had his hands and face blistered, trying to throw or haul the fiery stuff to the lake. Some of the cadets got rakes, used in policing the camp, and with these the bigger brands were pulled to the water and submerged. The fire seemed to be everywhere, and the boys did not know where to fight it first.


“The camp is doomed!” said Dale. “Wonder what started it?”

“We’ll find out later,” answered Andy. “I am glad now that we didn’t light the bonfire.”

“So am I.”

Captain Putnam and George Strong joined the ranks of the fire fighters and directed the work. Yet little headway was made until there came a lull in the wind. Then, as quickly as possible, most of the burning brush was hurried to the lake.

“We’ll wet some horse-blankets and beat the fire out that way,” said George Strong, and this order was carried out, and before the wind again arose all in the camp were glad to know that the conflagration was under control.

That night was one destined never to be forgotten by either Captain Putnam or those under him. With the danger from the fire past, the danger from the wind storm increased.

“It’s a regular tornado!” said Jack to George Strong, as both did what they could to hold down the big tent in the midst of the camp.

“Hardly, Major Ruddy, but it is a pretty stiff gale,” answered the teacher.

“Do you think it will keep up all night?”


“It may. But if it does I am afraid half of the tents will be down.”

“Yes, three of ’em are down already.”

“This is the worst wind we have had in some time. I did not look for such a blow.”

For an hour the wind kept up, only dying down for a minute or two. It was useless to attempt to peg down the tents when they once got loose and they were allowed to remain flat, and some cots were placed on top, to keep them from blowing away.

“This is the worst yet!” grumbled Stuffer. “I’d give as much as a dollar to be back in my bed at the Hall.”

“This is the fun of a soldier’s life!” cried Pepper. “Don’t you want to join the regular army, Stuffer?”

“Not to-night!” was the quick answer.

“The wind is going down a little,” announced Andy, some time later. “I think we’ll have a quiet Sunday morning.”

By two o’clock in the morning the wind had died down to a gentle breeze. Lanterns were lit and an inspection of the wreck was begun. Five tent poles had been shattered, three tents had been torn, and two tents had had good sized holes burnt in them. Among the cadets seven or eight had burnt blisters on their hands and faces and, one boy had his shoulder wrenched and another had twisted his ankle. Fortunately, however, none of the hurts were serious.


Extra tents were to be had from one of the wagons, and these were set up in place of those torn and burnt. Then the other tents were again fastened down, and the cots were readjusted. It was some time before the cadets had retired, for the excitement served to keep them awake.

“There will be an investigation of this,” said Andy to Pepper. “Whoever started that bonfire had no right to do so, for it was against Captain Putnam’s order.

“Do you think Fred started it?”

“He says not, and I believe him.”

Sunday morning found the storm cleared away and the sun shining brightly. When the cadets got up they were sleepy, and consequently Captain Putnam had roll call and breakfast delayed. Then came chapel service.

“As to-day is Sunday I shall not inquire into the cause that led to the fire last night,” said the master of the school, when the cadets had assembled. “But an investigation will be made to-morrow morning.”

This announcement was received with interest, and during the remainder of the day the cadets discussed the matter freely among themselves.


“You keep quiet about our smoking,” said Ritter to Sabine.

“I—I didn’t start the fire,” faltered Sabine. “I—er—I put out my cigarette as soon as you left me.”

“Don’t you dare to shove this thing off on me!” said the bully fiercely. “You are as much to blame as I am.”

This remark fairly terrorized the weak-kneed cadet and he promised not to say a word about smoking.

The investigation was started directly after breakfast on Monday morning. The entire school was assembled for the purpose and Captain Putnam showed that he meant to get at the bottom of the affair.

“A fire was kindled against my express orders,” said the master of the school. “I knew a storm was coming but I must confess I did not think it would blow quite so strongly. It was Providence that kept the entire camp from burning down. Dale Blackmore, come forward.”

At this command Dale stepped to the front.

“You assisted in gathering the wood for that bonfire, did you not?” asked the master of the school.

“I did sir,” answered Dale.

“Who else assisted at this work?”


“Captain Putnam, do you expect me to tell on the other cadets?” demanded Dale.

“Blackmore, this is a serious piece of business. The whole camp might have burnt up and some of the cadets with it.”

“I didn’t start the fire, and I don’t know who did.”

“Who gathered the wood beside yourself?”

“I did, for one!” said Pepper, coming forward a few steps.

“So did I,” added Andy and Fred.

“Anybody else?” questioned Captain Putnam, gazing around at the assemblage.

“I was going to, but I didn’t do it, after you said you didn’t want a bonfire,” said Coulter.

“Snow, you admit you helped to gather the wood. Did you kindle the fire?”

“No, sir.”

“What have you to say, Ditmore?”

“I didn’t start any fire.”

“Century, how about you?”

“I didn’t start the fire, Captain Putnam.”

“Somebody had a can of carbide. To whom did that belong?”

“That was mine, sir,” answered Fred. “I—er—I was going to show some of the fellows a new way to light a fire, by mixing the carbide with some water and generating acetylene gas.”


“Didn’t you light the gas?”

“No, sir.”

“You are positive?” And now Captain Putnam’s voice was stern.

“I have told you the truth, Captain Putnam,” answered Fred, and looked the head of the school squarely in the eyes.

“Ahem! When you retired, what did you do with the can of carbide?”

“I was going to put it back on my bicycle, where it belongs, but I forgot it and left it by the pile of brushwood.”


“Yes, sir.”

“Rather a dangerous thing to do.”

“I know it, sir, and I am sorry I did it.”

“Major Ruddy, who was corporal of the guard when the fire started?”

“Corporal Selick, sir.”

“Corporal Selick, what cadets were on post at the time?”

The corporal of the guard consulted his time book and read off the names of eight cadets, including Mason, Sabine and Ritter.

“Mason, you said you saw some fire in the air,” said Captain Putnam, to the lad who had been on Post 4.

“Yes, sir, I did,” answered Mason.


“Will you explain just what you mean?”

“Well, sir, I will as well as I can. I was walking towards Post No. 3 when I saw some fire fly into the air. The wind carried it towards the pile of brushwood. All of a sudden the brushwood was in a blaze, from the can of carbide.”

“You mean the fire fell on the carbide?”

“I guess that’s it, sir, and the carbide got wet from the rain that was just starting.”

“Why didn’t you put the fire out?”

“I tried to, but it roared so from the carbide and gas I got frightened,—and then the high wind did the rest,” answered Mason frankly.

“You say the fire came from the direction of Post 3?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Who was on that post?” asked the master of the school, turning to the other guards.

“I was,” answered Reff Ritter, after a pause.

“Did you see the fire, Ritter?”

“I—er—yes, sir—that is, after Mason spoke about it.”

“Where did it come from?”

“Why sir—I think—er—it came out of the sky. Maybe it was from a fire balloon,” added the bully, struck by a sudden inspiration.

“A fire balloon?” queried Captain Putnam doubtfully.


“Yes, sir—they set ’em off from the hotels down the lake sometimes.”

“Hum! And you think it was a fire balloon, eh? What do you think, Mason?”

“I don’t know what to think, sir. I saw a little fire flying through the air, that’s all.”

“Wasn’t it more like the fire from a cigar, or a cigarette?” demanded Captain Putnam, searchingly.

“Why—er—it might have been, sir. It wasn’t very large, that’s sure.”

“Were any of you guards smoking?” demanded Captain Putnam, looking at the eight cadets.

Nobody spoke, but Billy Sabine shifted uneasily and grew very red in the face.

“Sabine, answer me at once!” cried the master of the school. “You were smoking, were you not?”

“Oh, Captain Putnam, I—er——”

“Answer me at once!” thundered Captain Putnam, and striding forward he caught the weak-kneed cadet by the arm.

“Yes, sir, I—er—tried a cigarette Reff Ritter gave me,” gasped Sabine, in terror. “But I didn’t set the wood on fire, sir. It was—was the light from Ritter’s cigarette did that!” went on Sabine, shaking from head to foot in fright.



Billy Sabine’s revelation caused a profound sensation in the camp. Captain Putnam turned sternly to Reff Ritter.

“What have you to say to this, Ritter?” he questioned.

“It’s a—er—a mistake,” stammered the bully. “I was only fooling Sabine.”

“You gave him a cigarette, did you not?”

“Why, sir, you see I—I found a box of them, in the woods. I took one myself and let Sabine have the other. We just lit them for a moment and then put them out. Isn’t that true?” and Ritter glared darkly at the cadet who had occupied Post 2.

“Why—er—I—I guess so,” stammered Sabine. “But, oh Captain Putnam, I didn’t mean any harm, really I didn’t!” wailed the weak-kneed cadet.


“Mason, you said the fire came from Ritter’s post, didn’t you?” asked the head of the school.

“From that direction, yes, sir.”

“Did it look as if it might be from a cigarette?”

“Well, sir—I—I——”

“Answer me!”

“It might be from a cigarette, yes.”

“Ritter, I rather think this is proof positive that the fire may be laid at your door,” went on Captain Putnam.

“I didn’t light the bonfire,” answered the bully doggedly. “At home I am allowed to smoke—I don’t see why I can’t do it here,” he added sourly.

“Because it is against the rules, that is why, Ritter. I do not consider smoking good for any growing boy. Your infringement of the rules did a good deal of harm and it might have resulted still more disastrously. I am afraid I shall have to take up this matter with your father. You will come to my tent, and you can come too, Mason and Sabine. Major Ruddy, you may dismiss the battalion.”

The necessary orders were given and the cadets broke ranks, and gathered in knots to discuss the situation.

“Ritter will catch it for this,” said Joe.


“Sure he will, an’ he’s afther deservin’ it,” answered Emerald. “I had me ear burnt, so I did, through his foolishness!”

What was said in Captain Putnam’s tent did not get out until some time later. The captain read Ritter and Sabine a stern lecture, and said he would send the bully’s father a bill for the burnt tents, and also said he would let Mr. Ritter know how the conflagration had come about. He made both boys promise not to smoke again.

“It was all your fault,” growled Ritter, as he and Sabine came away, followed by Mason. “If you had only kept your mouth shut we would have been all right. I’ve a good mind to give you a licking!” And he advanced so threateningly on Sabine that the latter took to his heels and ran out of sight.

When Mason came out he joined Pepper, Andy, and some of their friends.

“I didn’t want to expose Ritter, but he was the one to blame,” said the cadet who had occupied Post 4. “He let the cigarette light fly right in the carbide.”

“Well, I should have put the carbide away,” said Fred, who was present

“How did you come to have it?” asked Pepper.


“Oh, I went to the Hall on an errand for Captain Putnam, and I came back on my wheel, and carried it,” was the answer. “I thought it would be handy—to fill the acetylene lamp with.”

After the excitement attending the fire and the windstorm, matters moved along smoothly in the camp for several days. During that time some of the cadets got up a rowing race, between a crew of four from Company A and another crew from Company B. In this contest Company A won, which helped them to get over their defeat on the baseball field. Ritter did not row in the race, nor did Coulter.

“We don’t want Ritter,” said Henry Lee. “He might give up right in the middle of the race. And we have better oarsmen than Gus Coulter.”

Late in the week Pepper heard through Mumps that Paxton and Ritter were going after the nest of hornets that had been discovered in the woods. He at once went to Jack and Andy with the information.

“I think we might as well secure that nest,” said the young major. “If the Ritter crowd get it, there is no telling what they will do with it.”

“Come on—I’m willing to get it,” said The Imp.

The three cadets walked into the woods and then made the discovery that Ritter and Paxton were just ahead of them. Paxton had a big, white paper bag in his hand.


“We are too late!” cried Andy in dismay.

“Wait, if they get the nest let us see what they do with it,” whispered Jack.

Taking care not to be seen, the young major and his chums followed the bully and Paxton through the woods until they came to the spot where the hornets’ nest was located. It was after sundown and the hornets had gone into the nest.

Paxton had a veil and this he put over his face and then put on his white cadet gloves. This done he climbed the tree from which the nest was suspended and over the nest slipped his big paper bag. Then he broke the nest loose and tied the bag shut.

“I’ve got it!” he cried in triumph! “Now we can have dead loads of fun!”

“We’ll put it in Jack Ruddy’s tent,” said Ritter. “And we’ll tell Ditmore and Snow the major wants to see them.”

“Listen to that!” whispered Pepper.

“I wish I could break that bag over Ritter’s head,” came from the acrobatic Andy.

Jack and his friends saw Ritter and Paxton walk through the woods in another direction. Then the bag with the hornets’ nest was left in the crotch of a tree.

“They intend to come back for it to-night,” said Andy.


“I’ve got an idea!” exclaimed Pepper. “Say, it’s great! We’ll fix up a bogus bag and make an exchange!”

This suggestion met with instant favor, and while Jack watched the bag in the crotch of the tree Pepper and Andy ran into camp, got some paper and paste and made another bag, similar in size and looks. Into the second bag they stuffed some moss and dirt.

“That’s all right,” said Jack, when the pair came back. “Now we’ll make the exchange.” And this was soon accomplished, and the bogus bag left where the original had rested.

“I think we ought to let some of the other fellows in on this trick,” said Andy. “We’ll have the laugh on Ritter and Paxton. More than likely they’ll tell their cronies.”

This was agreed to, and Dale, Fred, and half a dozen others were told. Then Dale said he had heard that Ritter was going to give a little feast that night, he having sent to one of the lake hotels for cake, and bottled soda water and root beer.

“Oh, if we could only get hold of that cake and the soft drinks!” cried Pepper.

“Maybe we can,” said Dale. “A boatman named Lemoss is going to bring them.”


“We must interview Lemoss,” said Pepper, and straightway he and Andy and Dale concocted a scheme for intercepting the boatman with the supplies.

This was an easy matter, for Lemoss was an innocent fellow and did not dream that he was being humbugged. He had been paid for the stuff and turned it over to Pepper and Dale, when they came out in a rowboat to meet him. The boys quickly “doctored” the soda water and root beer by adding to it a large dose of pepper and salt, and they also peppered the cake. Then they rowed to the shore and put the things out on a fallen tree.

Scarcely had they rowed away than they saw Ritter, Coulter and Paxton come out and look up and down the lake. The chums were behind some bushes and they heard Ritter utter an exclamation.

“Well, if the old fool hasn’t put the things out here on a log!” came from the bully. “How careless!”

“Too lazy to row in and tell us,” grumbled Coulter.

“Never mind, the stuff is here, and that’s the main thing,” said Paxton. “I’d just like to have some of the root beer now.”


“No, you’ve got to wait till to-night,” said Ritter. “There is just enough to go around.” And then the things were smuggled up to the camp and out of sight.

That evening when the cadets had an hour to themselves, Pepper and Andy were accosted by Mumps.

“You two fellows are wanted at Major Ruddy’s tent,” said the little sneak. “Hurry up.”

“Who said so?” asked The Imp, with a grin to his chum.

“Word was passed along, that’s all I know,” answered Mumps, and ran away, to avoid further questioning.

Andy and Pepper hurried to the tent. On a cot rested a neat package. It was addressed as follows:

Major Jack Ruddy:

Call in your friends, Snow and Ditmore, and treat them.

Two Lady Friends.

“Hello, so you’ve got it!” said Pepper. “I suppose the enemy is watching outside, to see developments.”

“Hush,” whispered Jack. “I was going to suggest——”


“Wait!” came from Andy. “Ritter celebrates to-night. Why don’t you postpone this—just to throw them off the track?”

The cadets held a consultation and then came outside of the tent. They saw Ritter, Coulter and several others hanging around.

“Looks like a fine cake,” said Jack, in a low voice, addressing his chums. “Must have come from the Fords.”

“Wish you could cut it to-night,” grumbled Andy.

“It will keep,” was the reply. “I’ll invite the crowd and open up the bundle to-morrow night, eight o’clock.”

“All right, we’ll be on hand,” said Pepper, and then he and Andy walked away. A little later the chums saw Ritter and his cronies slouch off much disappointed.

“We’ve got to wait for our fun,” growled Ritter.

“Maybe the hornets will be dead by that time,” said Paxton. “But I suppose we can’t help that. Ritter, how about your celebration?”

“That won’t be postponed,” chuckled the bully. “We’ll have a dandy time.”

Word was passed around and after the camp was quiet Ritter and his cronies stole away, taking with them several bundles done up in newspapers. They would have been astonished had they known what was in one of the bundles—one smuggled in by Pepper and Andy.


The crowd went into the woods, and there by the light of two lanterns Ritter brought out his cake, root beer, soda water, and other good things to eat and drink.

“Now help yourselves,” cried the bully, good naturedly.

Some cake was cut and passed around, and also the drinks.

“Wow! this is hot cake!” cried Coulter, biting into some pepper.

“I should say so!” added Paxton. “Say! my mouth is on fire!”

“Hi, give me a drink! I’ve got a mouthful of salt!” exclaimed another cadet.

“Say, are you fellows batty—this cake is all right!” declared Ritter and filled his mouth with the compound. The next instant he commenced to splutter.

“Oh! oh! I’m on fire! Give me a drink, quick! And he grabbed a bottle of soda water.

In the meantime the other lads had begun to drink. They did not, however, swallow much, for root beer and soda water with salt and pepper in them are not very palatable.

“This is a trick!” roared Reff Ritter, in a rage. “Somebody has doctored this stuff.”


“Try the other cake,” said Coulter, pointing to a bundle that had not yet been opened.

“I will, but I suppose it’s as bad as any of it,” grumbled the bully and tore the bundle apart savagely. Then it slipped from his hand and struck the ground violently.

“The ball has opened!” came in a low voice from Pepper, who with his chums, was viewing the scene from a distance—a safe distance, they hoped.



“What’s this?”

“Oh, I am stung!”

“It’s a nest of hornets!”

“Let me get out of this!”

“Ouch! Wow! This is terrible!”

So the cries rang out, as the paper bag broke and the hornets’ nest fell to the ground with a thump.

The hornets had been angry before, at being imprisoned, and now the shock evidently made them madder than ever. Out they swarmed about Reff Ritter and his cronies, who slapped right and left to ward them off.

Ritter was stung on the nose and on the chin, and every one of the other lads was attacked.


For several seconds the bewildered boys did not know what to do, and simply made wild passes through the air at their enemies. Then, with one accord, they attempted to run away. In doing this Coulter bumped into Paxton, and both went down and the hornets swarmed all around them.

“Let me get away!” screamed Gus Coulter. “I’ll be stung to death!”

“Let me up!” shrieked Paxton. “I’m stung in the eye!”

“It’s your hornets’ nest!” growled Coulter, and getting up he went after the crowd, who were scattering in all directions.

It was certainly the liveliest time imaginable and Pepper and his chums roared heartily as they saw the others doing their best to fight off the little pests. Fortunately the Ritter crowd did not come near them, so they were not bothered at all by the hornets. Ritter ran for the lake shore, and the whole crowd traveled nearly a quarter of a mile before they dared to halt, so thoroughly were they alarmed.

“Well, that’s a case of the stinger getting stung!” was Andy’s comment, after the excitement was over.

“I’ll wager the Ritter crowd won’t go back to finish that feast,” came from Dale, with a grin.

“Too bad! So much good cake and stuff gone to waste!” said Stuffer, with a sigh.


“Go on back after it, Stuffer,” said the young major. “I reckon they will let you have the whole of it.”

“Not on your life!” cried the lad who loved to eat. “Think I want an introduction to those hornets? Besides, the stuff is all doctored anyway.”

As soon as the fun was over, Jack and Pepper and the others hurried back to camp and retired for the night. They did not, however, go to sleep but kept their ears open for the return of Ritter and his cronies.

The bully’s crowd came in about an hour later. To keep the stings from hurting they had covered the spots with soft mud and so everyone was a sight to behold. All grumbled a good deal under their breath.

“They’ll be more hateful than ever now,” was Andy’s comment. “Better watch ’em.”

“I intend to,” answered Pepper.

On the following morning when Ritter and his cronies appeared at roll call everybody else had to smile. The bully had a big swelling on his nose and another on his chin. Coulter had a puffed-out cheek and Paxton had one eye closed. As they lined up for inspection The Imp could hardly keep from roaring outright.


“Ritter, what is the matter with you?” asked George Strong, as he caught sight of the bully’s face.

“Some friends and I found a hornets’ nest in the woods and the hornets got after us,” was the answer.

“Is that so!” cried the teacher. “I am very sorry to hear it. Who else was stung?”

The bully gave the names.

“We have some salve you can put on the hurts,” continued the teacher sympathetically. “I will get it for you.”

“Oh, we put salve on last night,” said Ritter. “But maybe some more will help,” he added quickly, for the stings were still painful.

Jack and the others had expected an open row with the bully and his cohorts, but it did not come. As a matter of fact the crowd that had been stung were so ashamed of their appearance that they did all they could to keep out of sight. When it was off-time they got two boats and rowed down the lake, to a refreshment resort at which they stopped whenever they got the chance.

“I’ll get square, you mark my words,” cried Reff Ritter, savagely, as all were waiting for ice-cream to be served.

“I don’t understand how they got the hornets’ nest,” said Paxton.


“They made some kind of an exchange,” said Coulter. “And we got it in the neck!” he added, coarsely.

“Yes, and in the face and on our hands too,” added another cadet, who had a swollen forehead.

The cadets were about to leave the refreshment place when they saw a carriage approaching on the road which skirted the lake shore. The carriage contained Mr. and Mrs. Ford and their two daughters.

“Come on, we don’t want to meet those folks,” said Ritter.

“I am not afraid of them,” said Paxton. “I’ll get out when I feel like it.”

Some were for going and some were for staying, and the upshot of the matter was that Paxton and two others remained. Ritter, Coulter and the rest rowed off down the lake.

When the Paxton crowd came back they were met by the others. Paxton was excited and looked at Ritter and Coulter knowingly.

“I’ve got a note for Major Ruddy,” said one of the cadets, a lad named Wilbur who had only been at the school a short while. “That gentleman who stopped at the refreshment place gave it to me.”

“What’s it about?” asked Ritter, abruptly.


“I know,” said Paxton quickly. “I’ll tell you about it later.”

As soon as the encampment grounds were reached Wilbur went off to deliver the note to Jack. Paxton called Ritter and Coulter to him, and the three walked away to a spot where nobody could hear them.

“That note to Ruddy is an invitation for the Ruddy crowd to go on a picnic with the Fords,” said Paxton. “I overheard the Fords mention it when Mr. Ford was writing the note.”

“When and where?” demanded Ritter.

“They are going up to Butterfly Island day after to-morrow, directly after breakfast. They’ll take lunch along and stay there until supper time. They’ve invited Ruddy, Ditmore, Snow and Blackmore to participate.”

“Butterfly Island, eh?” mused the bully.

“Yes. Say, why can’t we go up there too and spoil the fun?” went on Paxton.

“That’s the talk!” added Coulter.

“We can—if we can get away from the camp,” answered Ritter. “Let us watch our chance and see what we can do. How are they to go to the island?”

“Mr. Ford is going to charter a launch, the Emma, and will stop here for the others,—if they get permission to go.”


“Oh, they’ll get permission easily enough—Captain Putnam wouldn’t care to offend such a rich man as Mr. Ford.”

While this talk was going on the note was delivered to Jack. The young major read it and then sought out his chums.

“Here’s a chance for a fine outing!” cried Jack, and handed the invitation around for inspection.

“If Captain Putnam will let us accept,” said Pepper. “Let us go and ask him right now.”

They soon found the head of the school and showed him the note.

“Yes, you may go,” said he. “Only remember to be back by nightfall,—and don’t get into any mischief.”

“We’ll remember,” said Andy.

“Don’t stir up any hornets’ nests, for instance,” and Captain Putnam smiled meaningly.

“We’ll let hornets severely alone,” answered Jack with a laugh.

Word was sent to the Fords that their kind invitation was accepted, and then the four cadets waited impatiently for the time for the picnic to arrive. They went in undress uniform, and it is safe to say that never did four lads brush up more or pay more attention to their shoes, collars and ties.


“Jack is going to try to make the hit of his life,” said Pepper, with a grin.

“You needn’t say a word,” was the answer, while the young major’s face grew red. “You’re grooming up as much as anybody.”

“Andy has fixed his collar four times,” came from Dale. “Say, you keep on and you’ll have it dirty before you start.”

“Well, the collar doesn’t fit the shirt-band!” growled the acrobatic youth. “I never saw such a collar anyway!” And he threw it aside and adjusted a fresh one.

Promptly at the time appointed the launch Emma appeared at a point of the shore near the encampment. On board were the Ford family, and the girls waved their handkerchiefs gaily at the cadets, who waved their caps in return. Then the launch came closer and the boys clambered aboard.

“Oh, I am so glad the weather is fair!” cried Laura, after the greetings were over. “I thought last night it would rain!”

“We looked at the sky about every ten minutes,” answered Pepper, and this caused a laugh.


“Last night it looked as if we might not get here,” said Mr. Ford. “The engine of the launch broke down and the man had quite a time fixing it. But he finally got it to working.”

“She don’t work just right yet,” put in the man who was running the craft. “But I reckon I can fix her while you folks are having your picnic.”

Butterfly Island was a narrow strip of land lying some distance from the eastern shore of Lake Caboy. It was a well-wooded spot and used frequently by Sunday schools and societies for picnic purposes. Mr. Ford had learned that no picnic would be held that day, however, so they would have the island to themselves.

“We’ll camp out in regular hunter style,” declared Flossie. “We brought a coffee pot and a frying pan, and you boys can build a big camp fire, and we’ll set the table, and all that! Won’t it be just too lovely for anything?” And her eyes beamed brightly.

The launch ran slowly and it was nearly an hour before the island was reached. Then all went ashore, and the boys carried the things that had been brought along to a spot the girls picked out. This was on a high, grassy knoll that overlooked the southern end of the lake.


While the Fords and the boys proceeded to make themselves at home, the man who owned the launch got to work to fix his motor. A fire was lit and when it came lunch time the girls made hot coffee and fried some lake bass that had been caught that morning near the hotel. A table cloth was spread out under the trees, and all sat around it and enjoyed the coffee and fish, and the numerous good things brought along by the Fords from the hotel.

“Say, Stuffer ought to see us now!” whispered Andy to Dale, while munching on a piece of cream cake. “Wouldn’t he turn green with envy!”

“Yes, and what would Ritter and his crowd say?” answered Dale. “No hornets’ nest in this, eh?” And he smiled broadly.

When the meal was ready the man from the launch had been called up from the shore, and he was given his share of the good things and sat off by himself to enjoy them. He said he had taken off a part of one of the cylinders of the launch and hoped, when he put it back, that the engine would work better.

An hour was spent in eating, and then the man left the picnic ground to return to his work on the launch. The young folks cleared away the remains of the repast and then the boys invited the girls to take a walk completely around the island.


“Be careful and don’t get into any trouble,” said Mrs. Ford. “We’ll stay here until you return.”

The path around the shore of Butterfly Island was rough, but the young folks did not mind this. Jack led the way, and he and the other cadets helped the girls down and up the rocks, and “jumped” them over the hollows. All were in the best of spirits, and the woods rang with laughter.

“Come on out to the headland,” said Andy presently, and led the way to a narrow strip of land extending out into the lake for fully a hundred feet. All followed and Andy was about to point out some object of interest when Pepper, who chanced to glance back, uttered a cry of alarm.



“What’s the matter, Pepper?” questioned Jack, quickly.

“What did you see?” asked Andy.

“Why, I—er—I guess I was mistaken,” stammered Pepper, looking first at his chums and then at the girls.

“But what was it?” questioned Laura. “Why, you gave a regular jump!”

“Why I—er—that is—Oh, never mind,” answered Pepper. “Go on, I’ll be with you in a minute,” and he turned back on the rocks.

“Something is wrong,” muttered Dale to himself, and as Andy and Jack went on with the girls he sided up to The Imp. “What was it?” he asked in a low tone.

“I think I saw a big snake, Dale.”

“A snake!”




“Back between the rocks we just crossed. It poked its head up and looked right at us.”

“Then why didn’t you say so?”

“I didn’t want to alarm the girls. If they thought a snake was near they’d have a fit.”

“I suppose that is so. Well, I hate snakes myself. Let us see if this one is still around.”

The boys walked back, but not for far. As they placed their feet on one of the rocks that joined the headland to the island proper they heard a vigorous hissing, and not one but three snakes of good size showed themselves.

The cadets were so startled that both let out a yell and tried to retreat. Their cries reached the others in the party, and all turned back.

“Oh, a snake! a snake!” screamed Flossie, as she caught sight of one of the reptiles. “Oh, what shall we do?”

“I see two of them!” said Laura, and gave a shudder. “Oh, dear me! And they are right between us and the island! However are we to get back to the picnic grounds?”

All of the young folks kept at a distance. Two of the snakes were still in sight, the third had disappeared.

“Maybe we had better stone ’em,” said Andy. “That’s what I’d do if I was alone.”


“If you do that they may come for us,” answered Flossie, almost tearfully.

“If we only had sticks!” sighed Dale, but there were no sticks or bushes on the headland, only grass and rocks.

The cadets talked the situation over and then, leaving the girls at the extreme end of the headland, the lads picked up a number of jagged stones and advanced with caution to where the snakes had been seen. Two were still in view and they aimed at these and hit each.

“That’s the way to do it!” cried Andy, as the snakes dropped back in a hollow and commenced to squirm around. “Give ’em some more stones!” The stones were forthcoming and one that was well-aimed took the larger of the two snakes in the head, killing it. But the other continued to whip around, and presently came out on the rocks and in the direction of the cadets.

“He’s coming this way!”

“Hit him with another stone!”

Jack was trying to get another stone when the snake made a sudden move and twined around the young major’s ankle. Jack took his free foot and tried to kick it off, but in vain.


It was now that Dale showed his nerve. Like a flash he pulled out his jackknife and opened the blade. Then he bent down and slashed away quickly at the snake, ripping open the reptile’s back. Then he struck the snake in the head.

“That’s it—give it to him!” gasped Jack, and Dale continued to use his knife. The girls screamed loudly and wrung their hands. Then the snake, cut in two, dropped down on the rocks. Andy kicked the severed parts into the water and they sank from sight. Pepper kicked the other snake into the water also.

“Oh, dear, this is terrible!” moaned Flossie.

“I wish we were back to papa and mamma,” sighed Laura. Both girls looked as if they were ready to faint.

“Don’t get scared,” said Pepper. “They are both dead.”

“But there may be others,” said Flossie. She turned to Jack. “Did the snake bite you?”

“No, he didn’t get a chance, thanks to Dale,” answered the young major, with a grateful glance at his chum.

“Shall we try to go back?” asked Laura.

“Wait until we make sure that the way is clear,” said Pepper, who had not forgotten about the third snake.

He went back with caution and made an inspection. The third snake was nowhere in sight, and what had become of it he could not tell.


“I think you girls had better let us carry you,” said Pepper. “Then the snakes won’t be able to get at you, even if they do appear.”

At first the girls demurred at being carried. But they hated to step where the snakes had shown themselves, and finally consented. Pepper took Flossie in his arms and Jack followed with Laura, and Andy and Dale, armed with stones and their jackknives, led the way. The girls might have giggled at being taken up like children, but they were too alarmed to do so.

Just as the headland was passed and Pepper and Jack had deposited their burdens on their feet, Mr. and Mrs. Ford appeared. The gentleman and his wife were greatly excited.

“Didn’t we hear the girls scream?” asked the lady anxiously.

“I guess you did, mamma,” answered Laura.

“We ran into a nest of snakes!” said Flossie. “The boys killed two of them! Oh, it was awful!” And Flossie ran to her mother and caught her by the arm.

“Snakes!” exclaimed Rossmore Ford. “Where?”

The boys pointed out the spot and told what had been done. Mr. and Mrs. Ford were much concerned.

“You had better not climb over any more of the rocks,” said the lady. “It is too dangerous.”


“I don’t think the snakes are poisonous,” said her husband. “Still, I think we had all better try to keep out of their way after this. I did not think there were any on the island.”

“The folks who hold picnics here ought to know about them,” said Jack.

“Well, snakes are to be found almost anywhere where there are rocks,” answered Rossmore Ford. “Come, let us go back to where we left our things. My wife and I were just dozing away with our backs to a tree when we heard the screams. We could not locate them at first and were much worried.”

Knowing that the girls would not care to climb the rocks after such a scare, the cadets walked back to the camping place with the Fords.

“I am glad you knifed that snake, Dale,” said Jack on the way. “It was a brave thing to do.”

“Oh, it wasn’t much,” was the modest reply. “I was once in a camp in the mountains and saw an old hunter do it.”

The party had hardly reached the spot where the campfire had been built when the man who ran the launch appeared.

“Where did you go?” he asked hurriedly of Mr. Ford. “I have been looking all over for you.”

“What do you want, Mr. Fales?”


“I came to see you about the launch. She is gone!”

“Gone!” echoed Rossmore Ford, while the cadets listened with interest.

“Yes, sir—disappeared while I was having dinner. I thought she might have drifted around the shore, but I can’t find her anywhere.”

“Did you tie her fast?” asked Pepper.

“Certainly, I always tie up when I come ashore,” answered Able Fales.

“Let us go down to the shore and take a look around,” suggested Jack.

Wondering over what had become of the boat, the entire party left the picnic grounds and hurried down to the lake front. Here was a small cove where they had landed, and Able Fales pointed out an overhanging tree to which he had secured his craft.

“Even if she got loose I don’t think she’d drift out of the cove,” said the boatman. “There is no current here to carry her out.”

“Well, she is gone, sure,” remarked Andy. He turned to his chums. “What do you make of this.”

“I’d hate to say,” said Dale.

“Then you think it is a trick?” questioned Jack.


“Doesn’t it look like it? Remember the hornets’ nest.”

“Yes, and look there!” exclaimed Andy. “If that isn’t the limit! Yes, it’s a trick all right!”

The acrobatic youth pointed to the tree to which the launch had been fastened. From a cord on the tree hung the hornets’ nest, now empty. Pinned to the nest was a bit of paper. The boys secured the sheet and read the following:

Use this nest if you have to stay out all night.



As the cadets read the words on the sheet of paper their faces showed their deep chagrin and mortification. Had they been alone they would have considered the affair a trick on them and nothing more, but with the Fords along it was an entirely different matter.

“What is that? Let me see it,” said Laura, and took the paper from Andy’s hand. She read the words aloud.

“I must say I do not understand this,” said Mrs. Ford. “What has this empty hornets’ nest to do with the launch?”

“It means that a trick has been played on us,” said Jack, his face growing red. “I think it’s a shame to involve you in it—and I’ll tell those other fellows so, when I get the chance!” he added, half savagely.


“But what is it about?” asked Rossmore Ford.

“We may as well make a clean breast of it,” said Pepper to his chums, and then he related the particulars of the hornets’ nest and how it had been used during the Ritter feast. The girls laughed outright and Mr. and Mrs. Ford smiled.

“Now here is where the Ritter crowd pay us back,” went on Pepper. “I don’t know how they got here, but they did—and they have either hidden the launch or made off with it. I am awfully sorry—on your account,” and he looked anxiously at the Fords.

“Well, you are in the same boat as ourselves,” said Mr. Ford.

“I guess you mean we are both out of the boat,” returned Andy, with a sickly grin. He turned to Able Fales. “Have you looked all along the shore for the launch?” he asked.

“Pretty much,” was the answer. “But I can take another look. So it was some friends of yours took the boat, eh?”

“Hardly friends,” answered Dale dryly. “They belong to our military school.”

“I know you fellers are full of tricks. Took the bell clapper of the church once,” went on the boatman.


Another search was made by the boatman and the boys and Mr. Ford joined in the hunt. But not a trace of the missing craft could be found. Jack looked at his watch and saw that it was nearly five o’clock.

“If this isn’t the worst yet!” he murmured. “Pepper, what do you think we had best do?”

“I don’t know. If they don’t bring the boat back we may have to remain on the island all night.”

“That would be a hardship on Mrs. Ford and the girls. They are not used to roughing it, and there is nothing but a shed here, and that isn’t very clean.”

“Well, what do you propose?”

“I don’t know what to say.”

“If we had a canoe, or even a raft, we might get to the mainland and hire another boat,” said Dale. “Can’t we build a raft of some kind?”

“We might, but it would take time.”

While this conversation was going on Andy had walked to some high rocks overlooking the lower end of the lake. Now, of a sudden, he set up a shout:

“Boat ahoy! Hello! Come in here, we want you!”

“Andy has sighted a boat!” ejaculated Pepper, and ran to join the acrobatic youth, and his chums followed.


All saw a launch moving up the lake. It contained a young lady of about twenty and a boy of sixteen.

“What do you want?” asked the boy, as the launch came to a standstill out in the lake.

“We want help!” called back Andy. “Will you please come ashore?”

“What is wrong?” questioned the girl, as she set the motor of the boat in motion once more and steered for the shore of Butterfly Island.

“Our boat is gone,” answered Andy.

“Why, that is Belle Penwick!” cried Laura, as she caught sight of the girl in the launch. “And her brother Roger! How fortunate!”

“Then you know them?” said Jack.

“Oh, yes, we are old friends, and they are stopping at the same hotel with us. That is Belle’s boat, but her brother Roger aids her in running it.”

The Spray, for that was the name of the craft, soon came close to the shore, and then the engine was stopped once more. The boys were introduced to the newcomers, and the latter were told about the missing Emma.

“Why, we saw that boat about an hour ago!” cried Roger Penwick. “Some cadets dressed like you fellows had her in tow and were taking her towards Hull Island.”

“Did they leave her there?” questioned Jack


“I don’t know.”

“Were the cadets in a rowboat?”


“I suppose they couldn’t run the launch because of the dismantled motor,” said Pepper. “Most likely they hid her in the bushes on the shore of Hull Island.”

The matter was talked over, and the Penwicks said they would take some of the party over to Hull Island if they wished to go. It was arranged that Jack, Andy and Able Fales should make the trip.

“If the launch is there I’ll fix her up as soon as I can and run her back here,” said the old boatman.

The Spray was soon on the way. She was a light-built craft and cut the bosom of the lake like a thing of life.

“I like my sloop, but I declare I’d like a motor boat too,” said Jack. “They certainly can travel!”

“And they don’t have to wait for the wind,” added Pepper.

“It’s fine—if the motor doesn’t get out of order,” said Roger Penwick. “But sister and I have to do a lot of tinkering, I can tell you! Yesterday we spent about an hour sailing around and two hours fixing the engine.”


“Well, my spark wasn’t just right, that was all,” responded Belle. “You can’t make a boat run well without a good electric spark,” she explained.

The run to Hull Island, a small patch of land close to the upper end of Lake Caboy, did not take long, and then the island was slowly circled, while the boys and the old boatman scanned the shore with care.

“There she is, there’s the Emma!” cried Abel Fales, presently, and pointed out his craft, shoved in under some overhanging bushes. “Pretty well hidden, I must say! I would have had a hard job finding her if you hadn’t seen her being taken here,” he added to the Penwicks.

The Ritter crowd had done nothing to the launch but tow her off, and soon Able Fales was at work fixing his engine. With the cylinder repaired the machinery worked very well, and both craft started back to Butterfly Island, arriving there a little later.

“Some of you can come in my boat if you wish, it will make your run easier,” said Belle Penwick, and then it was arranged that Andy and Dale and Flossie should go with her. This divided up the weight of passengers pretty evenly, and when the two boats left the island they kept close beside each other.


“I’ve got a plan to scare the Ritter crowd,” said Jack, on the way home, and then he explained what it was.

The Fords were willing to let him carry out his idea, Rossmore Ford being especially anxious to make the boys who had taken the Emma suffer for the trick. Jack and his chums were landed at a distance up the lake shore from the encampment, and the Emma took care to keep out of sight as she swung down the lake.

“Tell ’em I’ll have ’em locked up if they don’t return my boat by to-morrow morning!” cried Able Fales, who, now that he had his boat back, entered into the spirit of the fun that was afloat.

Jack and his chums watched their opportunity and stole into camp without being noticed by anybody but one of the guards. They slipped to their tents and donned their regular uniforms, and the young major buckled on his sword.

As the cadets came out on the parade ground they saw Ritter, Coulter and Paxton directly ahead of them. They hurried on, and soon caught up to the trio, who were conversing earnestly.

“They won’t get away until morning, and I know it,” Ritter was saying.

“I’ll bet they were mad when they saw the hornets’ nest,” came from Coulter.


“If they ate up everything they carried for dinner they will have to go without supper and breakfast,” added Paxton.

“How are you, Ritter!” cried Jack, pleasantly.

The entire crowd ahead wheeled around and a look of blank astonishment came into their faces.

“Why—er—where did you come from?” stammered Ritter. He did not know what to say.

“From Butterfly Island,” answered Jack. Then he lowered his voice and added: “Ritter, you and your cronies have got yourselves in a nice mess. You stole Mr. Fales’s boat, and he says if you don’t return it to him by to-morrow morning he’ll have you all locked up!”



The announcement that Jack made filled the Ritter crowd with alarm, and they showed it.

“Have us arrested?” cried the bully, and he grew somewhat pale.

“That is just what he said,” broke in Pepper. “Fun is fun, but to steal a launch is another story.”

“We didn’t steal the boat,” came from Coulter. “We—er—What do you know about it anyway?” he demanded suddenly.

“We know all we wish to know,” said Andy. “You took Mr. Fales’s boat and did not return it. You can well imagine how angry he is. He looked all around Butterfly Island for it, but with no success.”

“We didn’t leave it at Butterfly Island,” said Paxton. We left it—” He stopped short and looked at his cronies questioningly.


“How did you get away from the island?” asked Ritter.

“A party came along in another launch, the Spray,” said Jack, and did not attempt to explain further.

“We—er—we hid the Emma on the shore of another island,” said Coulter. “We didn’t hurt the boat in the least.”

“Well, you better return her before morning, or Mr. Fales may get out warrants for your whole crowd,” said Andy. “After we found the hornets’ nest he wanted to know who you were.”

“Humph! I suppose you told him too,” sneered Ritter.

“Why not? You put us in a hole. But you’d better get the boat. Don’t you know that there are some thieves on this lake? They wouldn’t hesitate to take that launch if they found it, and paint it over and change the name—and then you’d never find the craft.”

“Yes, you’ll get into serious trouble if you don’t return that boat by morning,” said the young major, and then he motioned to his chums and all walked away. Looking back they saw the Ritter crowd get together and commence an earnest conversation.

“I’ll wager they go out after the launch,” said Andy, with a broad grin.


“Won’t they be surprised when they find the boat missing from Hull Island!” came from The Imp. “They’ll think she drifted away or was stolen!”

“If they go out they may get wet,” said Jack. “It certainly looks like rain.”

The chums joined the other cadets, and pretended to pay no further attention to the Ritter faction. But on the sly Dale watched them and after taps saw Ritter, Coulter, Paxton and Sabine steal away in the direction of the lake. They took one of the rowboats with two pairs of oars and rowed away in the darkness.

“There is a wild goose chase for you!” cried Jack, and he and his chums laughed heartily over the matter. The young major was right—it was indeed a wild goose chase. The row to Hull Island was a hard one, and when the spot was reached the search for the launch in the darkness was difficult. To add to the discomfort of the crowd it commenced to rain, and as they had no covering each of the cadets got wet to the skin. They all spent over an hour looking for the Emma, but all in vain.

“She must have drifted away, or else she was stolen!” groaned Billy Sabine. “Oh, if we don’t find her, will they really lock us up?”


“She couldn’t drift away, for she was tied up,” said Ritter. “I tied her myself, and I did it good, too.”

“Nobody was around here when we brought the launch in,” came from Paxton. “I looked around good. And I don’t know how any thieves could locate her.”

“Do you know what I am beginning to think?” cried Ritter. “I think they played a trick on us.”


“They got the boat back, but made up a plot to get us out on the hunt.”

“We might row down the lake to where they usually keep the launch and find out,” said Paxton. “We better do it. I wouldn’t sleep a wink if I thought I was going to be arrested in the morning.”

“Nor I,” added Sabine, with a shiver. “Let’s have a look.”

“It’s over three miles from here,” grumbled Ritter. Nevertheless, he was as much disturbed as anyone, and in the end the four took up the oars and commenced the tedious task of rowing down the lake in the rain. It was an hour before they reached the dock where the launch was usually kept. They came in rather awkwardly and bumped loudly against the stringpiece.


“Here she is!” cried Ritter, as he made out the Emma tied securely to the dock. “She’s all right, too.”

“Then that Ruddy crowd played a trick on us—getting us to look for her in this rain!” grumbled Coulter.

“Hi! hi! what does this mean? Who are you?” came a call from the darkness.

“Shove off! We don’t want to meet anybody!” said Ritter in a low voice.

The rowboat had drifted in and was now between the launch and the dock, and it was hard work to shove the craft out into the lake. They heard footsteps and a man showed himself.

“Stop!” he called loudly. “Stop, or I’ll fire!” And now he pointed a pistol at the cadets.

“Don’t shoot!” screamed Sabine. “Don’t shoot! We haven’t done anything, mister!”

“Then stop,” called the man. He was a watchman, employed by Able Fales and a number of others, to look after the various craft in that vicinity.

“It’s all right,” Ritter endeavored to assure the watchman. “We only stopped in here to see if a certain boat was safe.”

“Fine time to do it, I must say!” returned the watchman. “It’s half-past one o’clock! What boat were you looking for?”


“The—er—the Emma,” stammered Coulter, as Ritter paused before replying.

“Oh, I know now!” said the watchman, and his face took on a grin. He sprang aboard the Emma and so got closer to the quartet of cadets. “You are from that military school, ain’t you? You run off with the boat, and Able sent word he’d have you locked up if you didn’t return her! Ha! ha! Able got the boat all right, and you’ve had a fine time looking for her! It’s a nice night for a long row! No dust, nor nuthin’ like that!” And the watchman laughed again.

“Aw, you dry up!” said Ritter, in deep disgust, “Come on back to camp,” he added to his cronies.

“Don’t you dare to touch any of these boats ag’in!” shouted the watchman. “If you do you’ll git shot!” And then the rowboat started up the lake for the encampment. Ritter and his cronies were wet through and through and thoroughly tired out when they got back, and a more disgusted crowd it would be hard to imagine.


On the following Monday came a tug-of-war between two teams composed of ten cadets each. Dale, Hogan and Andy were on one team, and their side won, after a tug that lasted sixteen minutes. The tug-of-war was followed by a game of hare and hounds, or, as some boys called it, a paper chase. In the paper chase Andy and Pepper were the “hares” and Dale the leader of the “hounds,” which numbered about thirty cadets. The “hares” carried big bags of paper cut into fine pieces which they scattered on the ground as a trail, so the “hounds” could follow them.

“The hares will have just ten minutes start,” announced Jack, who had been chosen umpire and referee. “Now then, Andy and Pepper, are you ready?”

The two cadets looked to their shoe laces, their belts, and their bags of paper, and then announced that they were.

“Then go!” shouted the young major, and off Andy and Pepper bounded, across the camp and into the woods. They took to a road leading westward, but presently came to a trail running southward and switched off to that.

“We ought to get a good start in ten minutes,” remarked Pepper, as they moved along on a dog trot, dropping the fine bits of paper on the way.

“Well, don’t forget that those other fellows can run too,” returned the acrobatic youth. “Say, but it’s a fine day, isn’t it!” he added, and then, coming to a cleared space, his spirits arose and he turned several hand-springs in quick succession.

“Hi, stop that!” called Pepper. “Save your wind for running, Andy.”


“Oh, I couldn’t help it,” was the reply. “I’ve got to do a stunt once in a while or I’ll bust!”

The two cadets presently came to a hill and climbed this and then dropped from a cliff to the gully below. They left paper everywhere, so the trail would be plain.

“They’ll have to get down the cliff one at a time,” said Andy. “That will retard them a little—if they want to keep in a bunch.”

Presently they came to another road and followed this for over a mile. Then they left the road and took to another trail through the woods.

“Here is a river!” cried Andy, presently. “Hark how the water roars!”

“I know this stream,” said Pepper. “It is the Caboy River, and what you hear are the Falls. This is the place where that haunted mill is located.”



“You mean the Robertson mill?” asked Andy.

“Yes, the one mentioned by that Bert Field.”

“Have you heard from that boy, Pepper?”

“Not lately.”

“Shall we go to the old mill and see what it looks like?”

“We might pass it. We haven’t time to stop—not unless we want to get caught.”

Still walking swiftly, the chums went along the river until they came in sight of the Falls. Not far off was the old mill.

“Think we’ll meet that ghost?” asked Andy, as they paused at a distance to gaze at the ancient structure, some of the lower windows of which had been boarded over.

“I don’t know I’m sure. Want to go closer?”

“I’m not afraid.”


“Come on then, and we’ll scatter some paper near the door. Maybe the crowd will think we entered the mill.”

Knowing they had no time to spare, if they wanted to keep out of the reach of the hounds, the two cadets hurried on until they stood beneath a shed adjoining the old mill.

“I don’t see anything unusual,” said Pepper, as he looked around. “Maybe this story about a ghost is all made up.”

“Yes, but what about that yarn of a ghost that was half man, half beast?”

“I don’t know. But I think——Hark!”

Both boys listened. From inside the old mill a grating sound had reached their ears.

“Why, I wonder if the wheel is going!” cried Andy. “It sounds like it.”

“Let us look in at the door and see—if the door is unlocked,” was Pepper’s reply.

The chums stepped closer to the doors of the mill. Scarcely had they done so when, without warning, some planking gave way and they found themselves dropping into some space below. Each tried to save himself, but it was too late, and down they went, into a lower apartment of the old mill. Then, as swiftly as it had moved before, the planking overhead closed, leaving the two cadets in almost total darkness.


They were completely bewildered by what had occurred, and for the moment could do little but clutch each other and try to pierce the darkness which surrounded them. Andy had gone sprawling, with Pepper on top of him. Now both arose.

“What do you make of this?” asked Pepper, trying vainly to control his voice.

“I—I guess we have been trapped!” gasped Andy. “I—I wish we had a pistol, or something!”

“Did we fall or was a trap-door opened, Andy?”

“I guess a door was opened. Anyway, the opening is closed again.”

“Well, I don’t believe any ghost did it, do you?”

“No, it was some human being. But that human being might be just as bad as a ghost.”

“Right you are. How are we going to get out?”

“That remains to be seen.”

The two boys felt around them. On every side was a stone wall. In two of the walls were doors. One was locked, but the other stood partly open.

“Now we are down here we may as well do a little exploring,” whispered Pepper. “But let us keep close together.”

“Take care that you don’t fall into another hole!” answered his chum.

“Wonder if we can’t find sticks, or stones, or something.”


They felt around but nothing but the bare walls and bare floor met their touch.

At a distance they heard a strange rumble, but could not make out what it was or where it came from. They advanced with caution and passed through the open door. All was as dark as before, but they heard a rushing close at hand.

“Is that wind?” asked Andy.

“No, that must be the river, or the falls, Andy. We can’t be very far from the water.”

The boys had reached a flooring of wood. They passed along on this for several feet. They were side by side, trying to pierce the darkness, which was intense. A foul, musty odor greeted them.

“I’ll be glad to see daylight again,” said Andy. “Do you think——”

He got no further, for just then the flooring upon which they stood tilted downward. Both tried to save themselves from another fall, but in vain. Down they rolled over the flooring and fell with a splash into the water.

Pepper went down several feet and his hand struck some rocks. Andy followed, and the chums grabbed each other by the shoulder. The ducking came so quickly that each swallowed considerable water.


“Hi, what’s this?” spluttered Pepper, when he could speak.

“We are in the river!” answered Andy. “Look out that you don’t hit your head on something!”

The water was flowing swiftly, and forward shot the two boys, in darkness that was as intense as before. They felt the passageway narrowing and felt the sharp rocks on either side of them.

“We can’t be in the river!” gasped Pepper. “We must be in some underground stream, an off-shoot from the river!”

“I guess you are right!” groaned his chum. “But if it is an off-shoot where is it taking us?”

“I don’t know.”

There was little opportunity to say more, for the water was now boiling and foaming all around them. The boys were jerked first one way and then another, and all but had the breath knocked from their bodies. Andy was hit on the head by a projecting rock and dazed.

“Save me!” he moaned, and Pepper clutched him and held fast. Then Pepper was struck and for several minutes knew no more.


When the two boys were able to realize what had happened they found themselves still in the dark, but almost out of the water, which was rushing madly beside them. On all sides were rough rocks, some of them of immense size. From far overhead came a glimmer of light.

“Are you all right, Andy?” asked Pepper, when he felt strong enough to speak.

“I—I guess so,” was the gasped-out answer. “But say, I don’t want to go through anything like that again!”

“Nor I! We came close to being drowned!”

“Yes, and close to having our heads pounded to a jelly!”

“Where do you suppose we are?”

“Somewhere among the rocks below the old mill. Instead of following the river we were caught in a side stream that flows under and between the rocks. I suppose we can be thankful that our lives were spared.”

“Yes, indeed!”

For several minutes the cadets were content to rest and gather their scattered wits together. The game of hare and hounds was completely forgotten until Andy chanced to glance at a big water-soaked paper still slung over his shoulder.

“Wonder what became of the other fellows,” said he.

“I hope they didn’t fall down the hole,” answered Pepper. “But if they did I reckon we would have heard it,” he added.


How to get out of the place in which they found themselves was a serious problem. On all sides were the great rocks. The opening through which the light was streaming was fully fifty feet over their heads.

“I guess the only thing to do is to climb out,” was Andy’s comment. “Think we can do it?”

“We can try. But we don’t want to break our necks.”

“Let us go to the upper end of the opening,” suggested the acrobatic youth. “It looks better to me there.”

They walked to the spot Andy indicated, and then the acrobatic youth commenced to scale the rocks. Pepper followed, and thus they managed to climb about half the distance to the top. But at that point little short of sheer walls confronted them.

“I guess we are stumped,” said Andy, in a disappointed voice.

“Wonder if the other fellows are in this vicinity,” said Pepper. “If they are they could help us out somehow.”

“Might call, Pepper.”

Both of the boys called out at the top of their lungs, not once but several times. At first no answer came back.


“Try again,” said Pepper, and they did so. The echoes had just died away when they saw a form appear at the top of the opening.

“Who is down there?” came the cry.

“Two boys,” answered Andy. “We want somebody to help us get out of this hole.”

“Oh, that’s it,” said the person at the top of the hole. “Well, maybe, I can do the trick. I happen to have a long rope with me.”

Something in the voice of the speaker struck Pepper as familiar. He strained his eyes, and then saw that the person who had spoken was the strange lad, Bert Field.



“Hello there, Bert Field!”

“Hello yourself,” answered the lad at the top of the opening, in surprise. “Who are you?”

“I am one of the Putnam Hall cadets, Pepper Ditmore.”

“Oh, one of the fellows I met at the church?”

“Yes. I have a friend with me, Andy Snow. Can you help us to get out of here?”

“I guess I can,” was the answer from the boy above. “Can you climb a rope?”

“I can,” answered Andy quickly. “And if Pepper can’t perhaps the two of us can pull him up.”

“All right, here you are then. But wait till I tie the rope fast,” continued Bert Field.

Quickly the end of a stout rope dropped into the opening. Then came a pause, and then the boy above shouted out:


“All ready!”

Andy caught hold of the rope and now his ability as an acrobat stood him in good stead. Up the line he went, hand over hand, in a manner that would have done credit to a circus performer. Then Pepper tried it, and after a struggle came up, too, although much more slowly.

Up the line he went, hand over hand.

Up the line he went, hand over hand.

“How in the world did you get down there?” asked Bert Field, after the two cadets were safe. “I see you are pretty wet,” he continued, glancing at their soaked garments.

“It’s rather a long story,” answered Pepper, with a side glance at Andy, to keep the latter quiet. “By the way, Field, didn’t you say that you were looking for the old mill in this vicinity?”

“I said so, yes,” was the slow reply.

“May I ask what you know about that old mill?” went on Pepper.

“Why, I—that is—it is a personal matter, a family matter,” stammered Bert Field.

“I thought that if you told us something about the old mill we might be able to help you,” went on Pepper. “Has Jabez Trask something to do with it?”


“And that is why you were looking for Trask?”


“Yes.” Bert Field’s face became a study. He looked at Pepper and Andy with eyes that seemed to pierce them through and through. “I wonder if I can trust you?” he said slowly.

“You can,” answered Pepper.

“If the thing is on the level you can trust me,” added Andy. He saw that the strange lad was laboring under some subdued excitement.

“I—I guess I need a friend,” went on Bert Field. “I said once I might need help. I may be able to solve this mystery alone, but somehow I am beginning to doubt it.”

“Then it is a mystery?”


“About the old mill?”

“Yes, and about Jabez Trask.”

“I thought so,” said Pepper, with a little smile.

“It’s a long story and maybe you won’t want to listen to it now—with your clothing all wet. You may take cold.”

“Well, that’s true,” answered Pepper. “Can you meet us to-morrow evening near our encampment up the lake shore?”

“I will if you say so. I was going to use this rope to-day—but I can postpone that.”

“And we’ll postpone our story,” said Andy.


Bert Field showed them the way back to the trail through the woods and then separated from them. Andy and Pepper saw the odd youth slouch off with the coil of rope hung over his shoulder.

“He is certainly a queer stick,” was Pepper’s comment. “I venture to say he’ll have a queer story to tell.”

“Well, we’ll have a queer one to tell too,” replied Andy. “Wonder what he was going to do with that rope?”

“That remains to be found out. Maybe he was going to make the ghost a prisoner.”


“I think we ought to keep our adventure a secret,” went on The Imp. “Maybe some day we’ll be able to solve this secret of the old mill.”

“Well, I am willing to keep it a secret for the present. But we want to find out what the others have to say first.”

The boys walked through the woods and on coming out on a regular road saw the hounds in a crowd, evidently hunting for the paper scent.

“There they are!” cried Dale, on seeing them. He ran up, followed by the others. “Where in the world did you go to?” he questioned.

“Went into the water,” answered Andy, pointing to his uniform. “Got a free bath.”

“Well, I never!” burst out another cadet. “No wonder we missed you!”

“How far did you follow us?” asked Pepper.


“Almost to the old mill. But some of the fellows wouldn’t go there, so we went in a semi-circle, but we couldn’t find the scent anywhere.”

“We tumbled into the water before we knew it,” said Pepper, telling the plain truth. “And we had an awful time getting out, for the current carried us quite a distance. We are wet through and through and want to get to camp as soon as possible, to change our clothing.”

“I don’t blame you,” said Dale. “Well, this ends the game,” he added, to his followers.

The whole crowd returned to the camp, and Andy and Pepper lost no time in taking a good rubbing down and in changing their raiment. The others thought they had simply slipped into the river and did not ask for particulars. Nevertheless, that evening, when they got the opportunity, Andy and Pepper gave Jack and Dale the details.

“Well, that is certainly queer,” was the comment of the young major. “Some wicked person must be hanging out at that old mill. But for what purpose?”

“Maybe it’s a counterfeiters’ den,” said Dale.

“I don’t know what it is,” said Pepper. “But somehow I’ve got one idea fixed in my mind and I can’t get it out.”

“What is it, Pep?” asked Jack.


“I think old Jabez Trask is mixed up in it. You’ll remember how he acted at his mansion. Well, isn’t this a good deal like that?”

“Perhaps, but what would Trask be doing at the old mill?”

“I don’t know. He may be trying to keep others from going there.”

“But why? An old, tumble-down mill like that is of no account. I doubt if there is anything about the place worth stealing. A thief couldn’t take the ground, and that is all there is of value.”

“Well, we’ll learn what this Bert Field has to say,” said Andy.

“Wish we could all meet him,” came from Dale, who was now as much interested in the mystery as anybody.

“Perhaps we can,” said Pepper. “Anyway, I can ask him about it.”

Promptly at the time appointed, Andy and Pepper went off to meet Bert Field. They had mentioned an old tree with a broken limb, and they found the strange boy there, pacing the ground nervously. He gave a start when Andy called to him, but when he recognized them he called up a faint smile.

“He is as nervous as a cat,” whispered Andy.

“Perhaps he has good cause to be,” was Pepper’s answer.


As soon as the cadets reached Bert Field, they mentioned Jack and Dale and the strange boy said they might be summoned if desired. Andy let out a shrill whistle, which Dale answered, and soon the latter and the young major appeared, and the whole crowd walked along the shore road and sat down on a grassy bank in the starlight.

“I said I’d tell you my story and I will,” said Bert Field, after an awkward pause. “I am an American like yourselves, but I was born in Japan, while my folks were on a trip around the world. My folks are dead now and about the only relative I have in the world is Jabez Trask.”

“Jabez Trask your relative!” cried Pepper.

“Yes, and he isn’t much of a one, sort of a third cousin, that’s all. I had another relative, a Robertson, but he is dead too.”

“The one that owned the old mill?” asked Jack.

“Yes. That mill was in the Robertson family for years, and they got rich from it, so I am told. Well, to cut a long story short, when my folks died they were in New York City and I was placed in the care of Jabez Trask, who sent me to a boarding school in Connecticut, the Haley Oaks School.”

“I’ve heard of that place!” said Dale. “Very strict institution.”


“It is a miserable place!” cried Bert Field. “The pupils are half starved and sometimes beaten. I had more than one row with the master, and about six months ago I ran away.”

“But you said you didn’t know where Jabez Trask was?” said Pepper, questioningly.

“True, for he had moved to the country—to the mansion he now occupies and which belonged to the Robertson estate. I tried to locate him, but I didn’t do it openly—for reasons I’ll tell you later. Well, at last I found him—and then I found the old mill.”

“But I don’t understand at all what you are driving at,” came from Andy. “Why all this secrecy?”

“I’ll tell you,” answered Bert Field earnestly. “Jabez Trask has a fortune in his keeping. He pretends that it belongs to him, but I think it belongs to me.”



The cadets listened with much interest to what Bert Field had to say. Here indeed was a mystery—yet more of a mystery was to follow.

“I won’t go into all the details of the case,” went on the strange youth, “for it would take too long. As I said, Jabez Trask sent me to boarding school. He also went into court and had himself appointed my guardian. My folks left a little money and this he handled to suit himself.”

“I believe he is equal to it—he looked like a miser,” was Pepper’s comment.


“In a roundabout way I heard about the Robertson mill and the Robertson fortune. My mother and the Robertsons were related and I heard that when William Robertson died he had expected to leave his property to my mother’s side of the family and not to the Trask side. I wrote to Jabez Trask about this and he came to see me. He was furious and said the fortune belonged to him. He admitted that William Robertson’s will was missing. Nobody knew what had become of the paper.”

“This sounds like a story book,” said Dale, as Bert Field paused.

“Perhaps, but I am telling you only facts. Well, time slipped by and I was treated worse and worse at the boarding school. Then, one day I got a letter from an old woman who had once been a servant in the Robertson family. She said she was dying, but before she died she wished to tell me something. She said she was sure that William Robertson had made a will leaving his property to my mother and her heirs. She said she thought he had gone to the old mill with it, and that maybe the will was hidden in the mill. She added that Jabez Trask knew about this will and was looking for it and probably wanted to destroy it, so that he could keep possession of the Robertson fortune. That letter set me to thinking, and one day I up and ran away from the school.”

“To find the will, I suppose,” said Andy.

“Yes. But first I had to locate the old mill—and also locate Jabez Trask, who had moved, as I told you. You must remember that I was a stranger in this part of the country and had never known much about the Robertsons or the old mill. When I found the old mill I learned that it had the reputation of being haunted.”


“I believe I begin to see the truth!” cried the young major.

“What do you think?” asked Bert Field.

“Jabez Trask makes folks believe the old mill is haunted so that they will keep away. He is afraid that if folks visit the mill they may, accidentally or otherwise, find the missing will.”

“That’s it exactly—or at least, that is how I figure it out,” answered the strange youth.

“Do you think Trask plays ghost?” asked Pepper. “If he does, I’d like to go there and catch him at it.”

“He either does it himself or has somebody do it for him,” answered Bert Field. “You must remember that he is a very queer man,—very suspicious as well as miserly.”

“Have you been to his mansion, or to the old mill yet?” questioned Pepper.

“Yes, I was near the mansion several times, once during that thunderstorm, when I saw two of you, and I have been around the old mill. I tried to enter it once, when it was dark, but was warned away by a ghostlike figure. I wasn’t much alarmed by the ghost, but when the figure threatened to shoot me I walked away.”


“That proves that the so-called ghost is nothing but a man,” was Andy’s comment. “Well, I was sure of that before,” he added.

“When you saw me with the rope I had a new scheme I was going to try to carry out,” continued Bert Field. “I have been watching the streams around here and I came to the conclusion that the one flowing along where I met you ran under the old mill. I got the long rope and was going to let myself down in that opening and see if I couldn’t follow the stream backward to the place. By doing that—if it could be done—I thought I might be able to get into the old mill without Mr. Ghost knowing anything about it. Then, if I did get into the mill, I was going to watch my chance and hunt for that missing will. The old woman wrote to me that William Robertson was a great man for hiding valuable things under the floor. Maybe that will is under some flooring in the old mill.”

“Perhaps you can get into the mill by that stream,” said Andy. “But I advise you not to attempt it. Pepper and I came through that way and were nearly drowned.”

Then Andy and Pepper related the particulars of what had occurred to them during the game of hare and hounds. Bert Field’s manner showed that he was keenly interested.


“It fits in!” he cried. “Whoever is at the mill is doing his best to keep all other folks away.”

“Do you know what I think we ought to do?” said Jack. “We ought to march on the old mill in a body and demand admittance. They can’t play off that game of ghost on a big crowd.”

“That’s the talk!” exclaimed Pepper. “Why, we can organize a regular company for that purpose and go there with our rifles! I think Captain Putnam would let us do it.”

“That might work, if it wasn’t for one thing,” answered Bert Field. “Jabez Trask may get so alarmed that he may burn the old mill down—and then the will would be burnt up too. Even as it is, I am afraid every day that he will set the place on fire.”

“Yes, that is true,” answered Dale. “And I suppose all you care about is that will.”

“Exactly. The old mill is of no account whatever.”

“Well, we are willing to help you all we can,” said Pepper, after a pause. “I said I’d do that before.”

“Then you don’t think I can get into the mill by way of that stream?”


“Hardly. I’d not risk it. I think, if I were you, and you wish to get into the mill on the sly, I’d wait for a dark night and then crawl up very cautiously.”

“But the traps? You fell into one, and there may be others even more dangerous.”

“I’ve got a plan!” cried Andy. “I am sure it will work, too.”

“What is that?” asked Bert Field with interest.

“When we were near the old mill I noticed that on the upper side were several very large trees. One of these trees had its branches hanging directly over the roof of the main building. Back of that tree were other trees, stretching down into the woods. Now, why couldn’t some of us climb into the trees and work our way along from one limb to another until we reached the tree near the roof? Then we could get on the roof and from there into one of the upper windows of the mill. I don’t believe that way is guarded, and if we worked quietly and in the dark I think we would give whoever is in the mill a complete surprise.”

“Say, that’s a great scheme!” cried Pepper. “Let us try it.”

“I’m willing!” said Jack.

“So am I,” added Dale. And then all of the cadets looked at Bert Field.

“Aren’t any of you fellows afraid of the ghost?” asked the strange lad.

“No!” was the prompt reply.


“We don’t believe in ghosts,” added the young major. “But we realize that there may be great danger in visiting the old mill—the visit of Andy and Pepper proves it.”

“And you all want to go with me?”

“Yes,—if you’ll take us,” was the chorus.

“It is very kind of you,” said Bert Field, with a little catch in his voice. “Say, do you know, you’re the only ones who have been friendly to me since I ran away from school? Most folks think me a suspicious character and an odd one. Once I stopped at a farmhouse, wanting to buy my dinner, and the woman set her dog at me!”

“Well, maybe they have seen you skulking around the Trask mansion and in this vicinity and didn’t know what to make of it,” answered Jack kindly.

“Maybe.” Bert Field paused. “I must say I like that idea of getting into the old mill by way of the roof,” he went on. “And if you want to aid me, why come ahead. How soon will you be ready to tackle the job?”

“Let us make it to-morrow night,” said Jack. “We can all get away then. Shall we keep it a secret?”

“Sure,” answered Pepper. He saw that Bert Field was not one to court publicity.


“When and where will you meet me?” asked the strange boy.

The matter was discussed for a few minutes, and then it was decided that the crowd should meet where they were then standing, at exactly eleven o’clock the following night. The cadets were to procure pistols and thus arm themselves, and Bert Field said he would also bring a weapon and likewise a rope for possible use in climbing. This settled upon, the cadets and their new friend separated, and the former hurried back to camp, leaving the strange lad to go his own way.



Reff Ritter and his crowd were exceedingly angry over the outcome of the launch affair. They had rowed around in the darkness and the rain until they were tired, and now they were fairly aching to pay Jack and his chums back for sending them on the wild goose chase.

“I think I can fix Ruddy and Ditmore,” said the bully to Coulter, during the time when the young major and his chums were having their meeting in the woods with Bert Field. “I’ve got a plan for getting them into no end of trouble.”

“All right, let me hear what it is,” answered Coulter, quickly.

“Will you promise to keep it a secret, Gus? This is no ordinary affair, and we can’t afford to be found out.”

“You can depend on me.”

“We might take in Paxton, but I won’t trust Sabine. He is too weak-kneed.”


“Right you are. Take in Nick and that’s all.”

A little later Paxton was called into the tent where Ritter and Coulter sat and then the leader of the ne’er-do-wells unfolded his plan to get Jack and Pepper into trouble.

“We might involve the others,” said Ritter. “But Ruddy and Ditmore are the leaders. I’m hoping we can have them both dismissed from the school.”

“Say, that would be great!” murmured Coulter.

“It would suit me down to the ground,” added Paxton. “I’ve hated them ever since I came to Putnam Hall.”

“But it must be kept a secret, remember that,” continued Ritter, in a hoarse whisper. “Not a word to anybody, on your life!”

Both Coulter and Paxton were at first startled when Ritter broached his plan and each shook his head. But gradually the bully won them over, and they agreed to aid him in the undertaking.

Ritter had learned during the morning that George Strong had been to Ithaca on business and had brought back with him a box containing a collection of rare United States paper money. In the collection were old five, ten, fifteen, twenty-five and fifty-cent bills worth many times their real value, as curiosities. The teacher was writing a magazine article on the art of paper money engraving and was studying the collection for that purpose.


Ritter’s scheme was to confiscate the entire collection of paper money and hide the various bills in the clothing and other things belonging to Jack and Pepper. The trick, taken as a whole, was not a particularly new one, but Ritter was not a particularly brilliant youth when it came to thinking out new things.

“When do you want to work this game?” asked Paxton.

“The sooner the better,” was the answer. “Strong may not keep the collection longer than to-morrow.”

“Then we’ll have to do it to-night,” said Coulter. “What do you want us to do?”

“Come with me and keep watch while I get the stuff. Then both of you can help me stow the bills away in Ruddy and Ditmore’s clothing.”

The plotters waited until all was quiet and then stole through the camp to where was located the tent occupied by George Strong. Here they came to a halt at the rear of the tent and listened intently.

“He’s asleep,” whispered Ritter.

“Well, you look out that you don’t wake him up,” answered Coulter in a voice that shook from nervousness.


“I’ll be careful. If you see anybody coming give a low whistle,” continued the bully. “Remember to look in every direction.”

Coulter and Paxton promised to keep their eyes open, and as silently as a shadow Reff Ritter walked around to the front of the tent, untied the flap and peered inside.

All was dark, yet in a faint way he discerned George Strong resting on a cot and sleeping soundly. He tiptoed his way into the tent and felt around.

He knew the collection of rare paper money was in a square wooden box with a brass handle. It rested on a campchair close to the head of the cot.

As Ritter touched the wooden box the teacher gave a heavy sigh and turned over. With his heart in his throat the bully crouched down on the floor in a corner. But the teacher did not awaken, and soon commenced to breathe as regularly as ever.

Once Ritter had the wooden box in his grasp he lost no time in quitting the tent. As he came outside Paxton gave a low whistle.

“What’s wrong?”

“A guard is coming this way—lay low!”

The three boys threw themselves flat on the ground and remained there, scarcely daring to breathe. It was the corporal of the guard who was approaching, and he had another cadet with him.


“You say you saw somebody sneaking around here?” asked the corporal.

“I did,” answered the guard.

“Who was it?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, I’ll take a walk through the whole camp,” said the corporal. “You can go back to your post.”

The guard left, and the corporal walked off in the direction of the tent occupied by Captain Putnam. Then he went down one of the company streets, and at last disappeared into his own quarters.

“Say, that was a close shave!” muttered Coulter.

“Well, a miss is as good as a mile,” answered Ritter, coolly. “Come on, if we want to get some sleep to-night.”

“Say, I’m beginning to think this is a dangerous piece of business,” was Paxton’s comment. His teeth were chattering, but not from cold.

“You can’t back out now,” answered the bully, quickly.

“But if we are found out——”

“We won’t be found out—unless you blab.”

“Oh, I’ll not say a word,” answered Paxton hastily.

“Then come into the tent.”


They entered the tent occupied by the bully, and Coulter lit a candle. By the faint light afforded Ritter opened the wooden box, took out the paper money and divided it into three parts.

“Now, I’ll take my share and hide it in Ruddy’s things,” said Ritter.

“And what do you want us to do?” asked Coulter.

“Put your share in Ditmore’s clothing and in his dress-suit case.”

“Supposing he is awake?” asked Paxton.

“He won’t be—he’ll be asleep and snoring like a top.”

“All right. But if he is awake I’ll not go in,” said Paxton.

“Don’t be chicken-hearted, Nick.”

“I don’t want to be caught.”

“You won’t be caught.”

“Come on,” said Coulter. “We’ll do our share, you do yours,” he added, to Ritter.

The cadets separated, each with the old paper money stuck in the bosom of his coat, where he could get at it easily. Ritter hurried directly to the tent occupied by the young major of the school battalion.

He knew he must act with caution and so listened closely at the flap of the tent. Not a sound came from within.


“Wonder if he is out?” mused the bully and opened the flap cautiously. Then he saw in a dim way that the tent was empty.

“Maybe he is off on a lark,” said Ritter to himself. “Well, so much the better, although I’d like to put some of the money in the uniform he is wearing. When he is found out he’ll have to explain where he has been.”

As the tent was empty Ritter did not hesitate to light a candle he carried. By the rays thus afforded he found Jack’s dress-suit case and in it stuffed some of the paper money. Then he took the young major’s extra uniform and placed some of the bills in the pockets and lining of that. He placed the last of the bills under the sheet on the cot.

“Ritter, what are you up to?”

The question came so unexpectedly that the bully jumped as if shot. He was on the point of blowing out the candle when it was snatched from his grasp. Swinging around, he found himself confronted by Jack, just returning from the conference with Bert Field.

“Why, I—er—” stammered the bully. He was so dumbfounded he did not know what to say.

“What did you hide on my cot, under the sheet?” went on the young major.



“I saw you put something there. What was it?”

“I didn’t put anything there,” answered Ritter stubbornly. “You let me go!” And he tried to brush past Jack.

“This is my tent and you have no right in it,” cried the young major. “You give an account of yourself,” and now he caught the bully tightly by the arm.

Hardly had he done this when with a cry of commingled alarm and rage the bully struck out, hitting Jack in the face. Then he broke loose, blew out the light, and ran out of the tent.



The young major was surprised, and for one instant he did not know what to do. But then he recovered his wits and dashed out after Ritter. He caught the bully making his way back of the tent, and putting out his foot sent the fellow sprawling. Then, before Ritter could arise, Jack sat on him.

“You—you le—let m-me up!” gasped Ritter, who all but had the breath knocked out of him. “Le—let me up, do yo—you he—hear?”

“I’ll let you up when you explain, not before!” cried Jack. “You were doing something in my tent. I want to know what it was.”

Before Ritter could frame a reply—and it is doubtful if he had one ready—a cry came from the tent occupied by Pepper, Andy and Dale.

“We’ve got you!” came in the voice of The Imp. “Stand where you are, Coulter!”


“Let me go! Please let me go!” pleaded the voice of Nick Paxton. “Oh, let me go this time and I’ll never do wrong again!”

“Hello, so the rest of your crowd are in this,” said Jack to Ritter. “I might have known it. Come with me, and don’t you try to run away, or I’ll give you the worst licking you ever had.”

The young major allowed the bully to get up and caught him tightly by the arm. The two walked over to the other tent, and there beheld Coulter and Paxton surrounded by Andy, Dale and Pepper. Paxton was trembling as if with the ague, and Coulter was also much disturbed.

“We caught them in our tent at our things,” said Pepper. “At least, they were at my things.”

“And Ritter was in my tent, putting something in my bed,” answered Jack.

“Coulter dropped something. Make a light and see what it was,” suggested Andy.

“Oh, don’t make a noise! You’ll have the guard down on us! And Captain Putnam and Mr. Strong!” cried Paxton, hoarsely. “We don’t want to get caught!”

“You are making as much noise as anybody,” answered Ritter. He was much disturbed, but tried not to show it. “We were only playing a little joke,” he continued. “Just to square up for that launch affair.”


Andy had struck a match and lit a lantern that was handy. He cast the rays on the flooring of the tent.

“Here is what Coulter dropped,” said Dale, and picked the object up. “A twenty-five cent bill, I declare! Where did that old-time money come from?”

“Here is another bill—a ten-cent one,” added Pepper, taking it from his suit-case, which Coulter had not had time to close. “Where did they get this stuff?”

“Let me see those bills,” cried Jack. “Keep your eyes on Ritter as well as Coulter and Paxton,” he added, to his chums.

The young major took the paper money and examined it with care. He gave a start and then turned sternly to Ritter.

“Where did that money come from, Ritter?” he demanded.

“Don’t ask me,” returned the bully as coolly as he could.

“You took it from Mr. Strong’s collection.”

“How do you know?”

“I feel sure of it. Shall I call Mr. Strong and find out?”

“No! no!” cried Paxton. “Don’t call him! Don’t call anybody, please!” And he fell on his knees before the young major.


“Paxton, tell me the whole truth of this,” said Jack.

“Don’t you say a word, Nick!” cried Ritter. “Remember your promise.”

“But—but if they call Captain Putnam—” stammered the frightened cadet.

“Our word is as good as theirs,” answered the bully.

“Then you are willing to tell falsehoods to get out of this affair, eh?” said Jack, in disgust.

To this Ritter did not reply. Coulter looked at Paxton and then at the other cadets. Evidently he was trying to think out a way to escape punishment.

“See here,” he said, in a low, nervous voice. “If we tell the truth about this, and fix everything as it was before, will you let us go?”

“That depends,” answered Jack. “You tell us what you were up to first. I know this paper money belongs to the collection Mr. Strong brought from Ithaca. I saw it this afternoon.”

“All we were doing was to play a trick on you, and Mr. Strong,” went on Coulter. “We took the old paper money and hid it in your tent.”

“And then you were going to put the blame of taking it on us,” broke in Pepper quickly. “A fine trick, I must say! Why, Mr. Strong might have had us locked up for stealing!”


“It was only a trick!” cried Paxton. “We would have explained it afterwards.”

“Perhaps,—but most likely not,” said Andy. “It was a dirty trick, to say the least. You had no business to touch the money.”

“Oh, you needn’t preach to us, Andy Snow!” cried Ritter.

“I—I wish I hadn’t touched the money!” whined Paxton. “I didn’t want to do it in the first place!”

“Oh, you make me sick!” roared Ritter.

“Well, we’re in a mess, and now we have to get out of it,” muttered Coulter. “We can’t stay here all night.”

“Better collect all that money first,” suggested Jack.

“Yes, that would be the best plan,” said a voice from the doorway of the tent, and looking around all of the cadets saw George Strong confronting them. The teacher had donned his long mackintosh and a pair of shoes.

“Oh, Mr. Strong!” cried Pepper.

“I presume none of you expected to see me,” went on the teacher.

“Well, hardly,” stammered Jack.


“I happened to wake up, and hearing you talking thought I would get up and see what was the matter. I listened to your conversation and found out that the collection of paper money I brought with me to-day has been—what shall I say?—appropriated or borrowed? That collection is very valuable and is not mine, and I am under a promise to return it intact. I wish you would return the money to me, every bill, and each in good condition.”

“Mr. Strong, I wish to state that neither Ditmore, Snow, Blackmore nor myself had anything to do with the taking of that money,” said the young major.

“So I judged, by the talk I overheard,” answered the teacher, and his words gave Jack and his chums great relief.

More lanterns were lit, and Coulter, Paxton and Ritter were forced to hunt up all the bills, both in the young major’s tent and in that occupied by his friends. The corporal of the guard came along, to find out what was going on, but when he saw the teacher in charge he retired.

It took some time to collect all the paper money, and while this was going on Mr. Strong was grimly silent. He looked over the collection with care.

“Every bill seems to be here,” he said, at last. “Now all of you young gentlemen can go to bed. In the morning I will investigate further, and report to Captain Putnam.”


Much worried, Ritter, Coulter and Paxton withdrew to their quarters. They had been caught in their own trap, and wondered what punishment would be meted out to them.

“Well, we’ve got to answer a few questions, too,” said Jack. “Don’t forget that we were found fully dressed when we should have been in bed and asleep.”

“That is true,” answered Pepper. “But, nevertheless, I am mighty glad Mr. Strong came in as he did. If he hadn’t Ritter and his gang might have gotten us into no end of trouble.”

“Ritter is a bad egg—I wish we were rid of him,” was Andy’s comment.

None of the boys slept well that night. In the morning roll call and parade were held as usual, and then word was sent out for all the boys who knew about the affair of the night before to report to Captain Putnam.

Jack and his chums were first called on to tell their story, and they frankly admitted that they had left the camp to talk to an outsider.

“The boy is a stranger here and he wanted aid, and we said we would help him if we could,” said the young major. “We did not go on any lark or play any tricks. We simply sat and talked, and then came back to camp.” And this testimony was corroborated by Jack’s chums. Then all told how they had discovered Ritter, Coulter and Paxton hiding the paper money.


After that Mr. Strong told his story, and then the bully and his cronies had their say. Ritter tried to evade the truth, but Coulter and Paxton broke down and confessed all, and pleaded for mercy.

After the hearing Captain Putnam read the cadets a stern lecture and forbid their going out of camp without permission. Then he proceeded to lecture Ritter and his followers separately.

“What you have done was despicable,” said the head of the school. “I did not imagine any of the cadets could be so mean. I will think the matter over, and this noon I will let you know what your punishment is to be.”



“I think Ritter and his cronies will catch it rather heavily,” remarked Andy, as he and his friends walked away from Captain Putnam’s quarters. “Well, it will serve them right.”

“I think we have gotten ourselves in trouble,” said Jack. “We have promised not to leave camp unless we have permission to do so. How are we to get off to go to the old mill with Bert Field?”

“We might ask Captain Putnam for permission,” said Pepper “But I doubt if he would let us go.”

The morning passed, and at noon the lads heard that Ritter, Coulter and Paxton had been assigned to extra guard duty. More than this, they were cut off from leaving the camp at any time and were also cut off from taking any part in all athletic contests.


“That’s a blow for Ritter,” said Dale. “He wanted to row in a race and wanted to play another game of ball.”

“Well, he can be thankful he wasn’t expelled,” came from the young major.

What to do about meeting Bert Field the cadets did not know. They wanted to keep their word with the youth and they did not desire to break their promise to Captain Putnam.

“I suppose we’ll have to go to the captain and tell him about the old mill,” said Jack. “But I am almost sure he won’t let us go there, especially at night.”

“Well, he might let us go in the daytime,” returned Pepper.

The matter was solved in a most unexpected manner. From the Fords came in an invitation to visit them at their hotel that evening, when a well-known magician was going to give an entertainment for the benefit of the guests. Mr. Ford enclosed a note to Captain Putnam, asking the master of the school to give Jack, Pepper, Andy and Dale leave of absence.

“Hurrah! I guess we’ll get off!” cried Pepper, and lost no time in handing the note to Captain Putnam. Mr. Ford was to call for the cadets in a launch, and they were given permission to take in the entertainment.


It must be confessed that the boys did not enjoy the entertainment as much as they might have under other circumstances. They liked the show, and the girls treated them as cordially as ever, but they could not help but glance at the clock, and wonder if they could get away in time to meet Bert Field. At last Laura noticed Jack’s nervousness.

“What is the matter?” she asked.

“I’ll tell you,” he answered frankly. “We have another engagement—a secret one—an hour from now. It’s something Captain Putnam doesn’t know anything about—something just among us boys.”

“Oh, I know—a feast or hazing, or something like that!” cried Laura. “Well, I’ll see that you get off to it, and when it is over you’ll have to write to me and tell me all about it.”

“Perhaps I will,” answered the young major.

Laura explained to her sister, and the two managed it so that the cadets left the hotel without having Mr. Ford take them back to camp in the launch.

“Now for the place where we are to meet Bert Field,” cried Pepper. “I hope we find him on hand. I am just in the mood for an adventure.”

“Well, you’ll get it—if we get in the old mill,” answered Andy, grimly. “Don’t forget what happened before.”


“I am not forgetting it,” answered The Imp, and felt of the pistol he had brought along. He had no desire to do any shooting, but he was resolved to do his best to save himself from bodily harm.

Their numerous tramps in that vicinity had made them more or less familiar with the roads, and they took as direct a course as possible for the spot where they were to meet Bert. He was on hand and glad to see them.

“I was afraid you couldn’t come,” he said. “I made up my mind to wait just an hour and then go it alone. Here is the rope. Are you armed?”

“Yes; are you?”

“I am.”

But little more was said, for the boys were afraid that somebody going to or coming from the old mill might hear them. Like a file of Indians they walked through the woods in the direction of the dilapidated structure that was located on the bank of the river.

“I’ve got a notion that Jabez Trask is at the mill,” whispered Bert, when they came within view of the place. “I’ve been watching around his house all afternoon, but he was nowhere in sight.”

They did not go very close to the old mill, but halted at the foot of the trees before mentioned. Andy boosted the others into a tree and then climbed up himself. Then the acrobatic youth led the way, from one tree to another. All moved closer to the mill without making any noise.


There was no moon, but the stars were shining brightly, and by the light they saw the building loom up before them. Not a light was to be seen, and the only sound that reached their ears was the roaring of the Falls some distance away.

“Now then, be careful!” whispered Andy, as he moved out on the end of a limb. “Don’t make a noise when you drop on the roof.”

As he went out the limb bent beneath his weight until it rested on the shingles of the roof. He alighted on the top of the mill with ease, and one after another the others followed.

The limb bent beneath his weight.

The limb bent beneath his weight.

The roof was of the low, gabled sort, with several windows at either end of the building, just below the top. Andy crawled over the shingles with the ease of a trained athlete and looked over the edge. One of the windows was within three feet of him and he noted with satisfaction that one of the sashes was completely gone and the other was minus its panes of glass.

“I’d hate to break any glass—it would make such a noise,” said he. “Now then, the rope.”

This was quickly made fast and Andy went down and crawled through the window into the loft of the mill. The others came after him. Then the five boys stood in a circle, almost holding their breath, and wondering what they had best do next.


“Well, we are in the place anyway,” murmured Pepper.

“Yes, and they haven’t dropped us into the river either,” added Andy.

It must be admitted that the hearts of the four cadets thumped wildly in their bosoms. They realized that they were in a dangerous situation, and there was no telling what would happen next. Bert Field was strangely self-possessed, even though his nerves were at a high tension.

“I’ll go first,” said he. “I think it is my place to do so.”

“Well, we’ll watch out, and do all we can to protect you, and ourselves, in case of trouble,” answered Jack.

Having listened for several minutes, the boys grew bolder and Bert Field lit a small bullseye lantern he had brought along. By the aid of the light, they tiptoed their way across the loft floor and down a narrow pair of stairs.

“Listen!” said Bert, suddenly, and came to a halt. He shut off the light, and all came to a halt and strained their ears.

From a distance came a murmur of voices. Three men were talking in one of the rooms of the old mill. Then the boys saw a ray of light shining under a closed door.


“They are in that room,” said Bert. “I’m going to the door and listen to what they have to say.”

He moved on and so did the cadets, all anxious to listen to the conversation. Now the boys were certain they had only human beings to deal with they felt better.

“I want you, Vidder, to go out on the road and watch,” came in the voice of Jabez Trask. “Put on that cowhide with the horns to-night.”

“All right,—but I am pretty tired,” croaked the voice of an old man.

“Never mind—you can sleep all day to-morrow,” answered Jabez Trask. “You, Jepson, guard all the doors. If anybody comes, why—the trap—you know!”

“Indeed I do!” answered another voice, shrill and harsh.

“I am going to make another hunt to-night,” went on Jabez Trask. “I must find that will. That boy is watching me and I don’t like it.”

“Wish you would find the will,” growled the old man called Vidder. “Then we’d get our money.”

“Right you are. Now begone, so I can get to work,” went on Jabez Trask.


The men in the room began to move, and the cadets and Bert crouched out of sight behind some boxes and barrels. Then two of the men came out and left the mill. A moment later Jabez Trask appeared, lantern in hand.

“I’ll follow up that new clue to-night,” the boys heard the miser mutter. “Let me see, what was it? Third stone from the top, sixth stone from the left. William Robertson wrote that in the note-book, and it must mean something. If I can get that will, and destroy it, the fortune will be mine, all mine!”

Lantern in hand, Jabez Trask crossed the room and entered another apartment. The boys heard him going down a flight of stone steps.

“I am going after him,” whispered Bert, excitedly. “He thinks he is going to locate that will! Maybe I got here just in time!”



“Don’t make a noise—or you may spoil it all,” whispered Jack.

He caught Bert by the arm, and as silently as shadows the pair followed the old miser down the flight of stone steps, and the others came after them. They saw that Jabez Trask had entered a room that was almost a vault, being built of stone and about ten feet square. The miser had placed his lantern on the floor and was counting the stones on one of the walls.

“That’s not right,” the boys heard him mutter to himself. “This wall has eighty-six stones in it. I want the one with seventy-six—seventy-six, like the Revolutionary year. Let me see,” and he commenced to count the stones in another of the four walls.

This, too, was a disappointment, and then he went at the third. Then he gave a chuckle of satisfaction.


“Seventy-six, clean and clear!” he muttered. “This must be the wall. Now then, sixth stone from the left, third stone from the top. Ha! here it is! Now to find out what is behind it!”

He brought forth a chisel and commenced to pry on the stone. It came from the wall with ease, revealing an opening behind it.

“The box! The box at last!” almost shrieked the miser, and putting his arm into the opening he drew forth a black, metal box, covered with dirt and mildew.

Bert Field uttered a cry, he could not help it But in his excitement Jabez Trask did not notice the noise. The miser fell on his knees on the dirt floor and commenced to fumble with the opening of the box. Then the lid flew back and out tumbled half a dozen legal-looking documents.

“The will! At last!” almost shrieked the man, and fairly kissed one of the papers. “I’ll read it over first, to make sure it is the one, and then I’ll burn it. Then the Robertson fortune will be mine, all mine!”

“You scoundrel! Give me that will!” cried Bert Field, and before the others could stop him, even had they wished to do so, he was on top of Jabez Trask and had hurled the miser on his back. The man clung to the paper desperately.

“Stop!” he bawled. “Help! help!”


“Give me that will!” repeated Bert. “It is mine,—I have a right to it!”

“No! no!” screamed Jabez Trask. “Vidder! Jepson! Where are you? Help!”

He continued to struggle, and the will was in danger of being torn to pieces, when Jack and Pepper rushed forward and caught Jabez Trask by the arms. Then Bert got a good hold on the legal document and twisted it free.

“Don’t take that! It is mine—all mine!” moaned the miser, and suddenly his eyes commenced to roll, as if he was going to have a fit.

“Take the box and the other papers!” cried the young major to Bert. “I’ll see if there is anything more in that opening.”

He ran forward and felt into the opening, only to find it empty. By this time footsteps were sounding overhead.

“Those men are coming!” cried Andy. “If you’ve got what you want we had better get out of here, unless you want to fight.”

“I don’t want to stay, now I have the will and the other private papers,” answered Bert. “Come on—they may try to take the papers away from me!”

The boys ran from the vault and across the lower floor of the old mill. Then an outer door opened and the man called Vidder appeared.


He presented a comical appearance and under ordinary circumstances the boys would have laughed at him. Over one shoulder dangled a cow’s hide and over the other a pair of fearful looking horns. In one hand he carried a light, placed in an object formed to represent a large human skull.

“What does this mean?” he asked, when Bert ran full tilt into him, hurling him flat. Then the youth ran through the doorway, and the cadets followed him.

“Beware of traps!” sang out Pepper. “Let us keep in a string and join hands.”

This was done, Bert forming one end of the line and Dale the other. Once they stepped on a platform that threatened to go down with them, but they were on the alert and got off in a hurry. Then they dashed straight into the woods, where they knew the men would have difficulty in following them.

“Well, I guess we have accomplished what we set out to do,” said Jack, when they finally came to a halt.

“Yes, indeed!” cried Bert. “And I do not know how to thank you enough,” he added, warmly.


“Don’t you want to read that will over and see if it is really in favor of your mother?” asked Dale.


A light was made, and all of the boys looked over the document with care. The will left small sums of money to various servants and employees and then the bulk of the Robertson estate went to Bert’s mother and her heirs—the only heir now being Bert himself.

“I’ll tell you what I would advise,” said Jack. “You come to camp with us, Bert. You can sleep with me. In the morning we’ll lay this whole matter before Captain Putnam and ask his advice. I am sure he will tell you what is best to do.”

“I ought to have Jabez Trask arrested.”

“Perhaps. But it will be punishment enough for that miser if he has to let go his hold on the property.”

Bert agreed to follow the advice of the young major, and before long they reached the camp, and Jack took the strange lad to his tent with him, and gave him the use of a vacant cot.

It was certainly a meeting of importance that occurred in Captain Putnam’s headquarters the next morning, after breakfast and drill. Bert told his story in full, and the cadets had their say, and then the will and the other documents were brought forth and looked over with care.


“What you need is a good lawyer,” said the master of the school to Bert. “This Jabez Trask is undoubtedly a scheming rascal who will do all in his power to keep you out of your own. If you wish I’ll take you to Rochester and introduce you to a legal gentleman who will take care of all your interests and have the courts mete out to Trask the punishment he deserves.”

This suited Bert, and the journey to Rochester was taken the next day, Jack and Pepper accompanying the captain and the Robertson heir. A long conference with a first-class lawyer was held, and immediate steps were taken to place Bert in possession of his own.

When efforts to locate Jabez Trask were made there was a surprise. The miser had closed up his mansion and fled. Nor could the two men, Vidder and Jepson, be found.

“It is evidence of their guilt,” said the lawyer to Bert. “I do not think you will have any difficulty in establishing your claim to the fortune.” And the legal gentleman was right. Bert obtained the fortune with but little trouble, and he was correspondingly happy. The courts appointed a well-known business man of Ithaca as his guardian, and this guardian told Bert the best thing he could do would be to go to some first-class school and finish his education.


“That is just what I want to do,” said Bert. “And the school I want to go to is Putnam Hall.”

“A good selection,” was his guardian’s reply. “A fine school.”

“And one in which I have some warm friends,” added Bert earnestly.

Bert’s coming to Putnam Hall pleased Jack and his chums, and they gave him a royal welcome. Before this time the repairs to the school building were finished, and the encampment at Lake Caboy came to an end.

“Well, we had a dandy time camping out,” said Jack to his chums.

“And lots of adventures,” added Pepper. “Wonder if we’ll ever have any more?” They did have more adventures, and what they were I shall relate in another volume, to be called “The Putnam Hall Mystery; or, The School Chums’ Strange Discovery.” In that book we shall meet all our old friends again, and also learn something more of the doings of Reff Ritter and his cronies.

It was an ideal day when the cadets marched back to Putnam Hall. The sun shone brightly overhead, and most of the lads were in the best of spirits. The Fords came over to the camp to see our friends take up the march.

“Well, are you glad to go back?” asked Laura, of the young major.


“Rather,” was Jack’s answer. “Putnam Hall seems like home, you know.”

Then Captain Putnam gave the order to break camp. The drums rolled and the boys set up a cheer. The young major stepped in front of the two companies.

“Battalion, attention!” he called out. “Shoulder arms! Forward march!”

The drums sounded, the flag floated out on the breeze, and the march for the Hall was begun. The visitors gave a shout of farewell, and the girls waved their handkerchiefs. And here for the present we will leave the Putnam Hall cadets, and say good-bye.


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