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The Rover Boys at College by Edward Stratemeyer

Part 4 out of 4

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miserable; and that's the main reason for their going home."

"What a contemptible thing to do!" cried Tom. "Who do you suppose is
guilty--Tad Sobber?"

"I can think of nobody else. He is so angry he would do anything to
injure them and us."

"And what of the case?" asked Sam. "Will it come up in court soon?"

"Some time next Spring."

"And what do the lawyers think of our side winning?" questioned Dick

"They say it depends largely upon the evidence the other side submits.
It is possible that the case may drag on for years."

"What a shame!" murmured Dick.

It continued to snow all that night and the next day, and Christmas
found the family all but snowbound at Valley Brook.

"Merry Christmas!" was the cry, early in the morning, and the boys
tumbled out of bed and dressed in a hurry. Then they went below, to
find a stack of presents awaiting them. They quickly distributed the
gifts they had brought and then looked at their own. They had almost
everything their hearts could desire.

Yet each youth felt a pang of disappointment, for among all the gifts
there were none for them from the Stanhopes or the Lanings.

"We are out of it," said Dick laconically to his brothers.

"So it appears," answered Tom soberly. For once, all the fun was
knocked out of him.

"Well, I am glad I didn't forget them, anyway," said Sam bravely. But
he wondered how it was Grace could treat him so shabbily.

The boys passed the day as best they could in reading and playing
games, and in snowballing each other and Jack Ness and Aleck Pop.

"My! my! But dis am lik old times at Putnam Hall!" said the colored
man, grinning from ear to ear when Tom hit him on the head with a
snowball. "Hab yo' fun while yo' am young, Massa Tom."

"That's my motto, Aleck," answered Tom. "Have another." And he landed
a snowball on the colored man's shoulder.

"I move we go down to the post-office for mail," said Dick toward
evening. "We don't know what we may be missing."

"Second the motion!" cried Tom. "The post-office it is, if we can get

"Can't no hoss git through these drifts," came from Jack Ness.

"We'll hitch up our biggest team and take our time," said Dick. "We
have got to get down to the post-office somehow." He was hoping
desperately that he would find a letter from Dora there.

When the old folks heard of it they shook their heads doubtfully. But
the boys pleaded so strongly that at last they were allowed to go.
They got out a strong cutter and the best pair of horses on the farm,
and bundled up well.

"If you can't make it, drive in at one of the neighbors," said Mr.
Rover on parting.

"We will," answered Dick.



It was a long, hard drive to Dexter's Corners, and by the time the
boys arrived there they were chilled through and through and the team
was pretty well winded. They went directly to the postmaster's house,
for the office was in a room of the building.

"I'll see if there are any letters," said the postmaster, and went
off. He returned with a picture postal for Mrs. Randolph Rover and two
advertising circulars for her husband. There were also a newspaper and
a magazine for the boys' father.

"And is that all?" asked Dick, his heart sinking.

"That's all."

"Not worth coming for," muttered Tom as they turned away.

"The mail didn't come in this morning," shouted the postmaster after
them. "You'll have to wait for more stuff until the train arrives at
Oak Run."

"Let us go over to the Run and see if we can learn anything about the
trains," said Sam, a spark of hope springing up in his breast.

They drove over the river, and as they did so they heard the whistle
of a locomotive.

"Something is coming," cried Dick.

"Perhaps it's only the night freight," returned Tom.

When they reached the depot the train was standing there. It was the
morning accommodation, nine hours late. They saw some mail bags thrown
off and also several express boxes and packages.

Curiosity prompted Dick to inspect the express goods. He uttered a cry
of joy.

"A box for us!" he exclaimed. "And from Cedarville!"

"Where?" cried Tom and Sam, and ran forward to look the box over. It
was two feet long and a foot high, and equally deep, and was addressed
to R., T. and S. Rover.

"From the girls, I'll bet a snowball!" cried Tom joyfully. "Hurry up
and sign for it and we'll see what it contains."

The agent was at hand, for he was the ticket agent and station master
as well, and they soon signed for the box. Then they took it to a
secluded corner of the station, and with a borrowed hammer and chisel
pried off the cover.

The sight "that met their gaze filled them with pleasure. There were
several packages for each of the boys, from the girls and from Mrs.
Stanhope and Mrs. Laning. There were some beautiful neckties, some
books, and some diaries for the new year, and a box of fudge made
by the girls. Dora had written on the flyleaf of one of the books,
wishing Dick a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and similar
sentiments from Nellie and Grace appeared in the books for Tom and

"Say, I reckon this was worth coming for," remarked Sam.

"Rather," answered Dick.

"Wouldn't have missed it for a million dollars," added Tom.

"Maybe the mail bag has some letters for us," went on Sam. He was
disappointed that no note had accompanied the gifts.

"We'll take the bags to the office and see," said Dick, and this was
done a little later, after the box had been closed and put in the
cutter and carefully covered with a robe. In the bags were found
letters from their old friends, Hans Mueller and Fred Garrison, and a
postal from Dave Kearney, but that was all.

"Well, we mustn't expect too much," said Dick. "Remember, we didn't
send any letters."

"But we will now, thanking them for all these nice things," said Sam

It was nearly midnight before the boys got home again, and their folks
were much alarmed about them. They were almost exhausted, but very
happy, and they showed their new presents with great pride.

"They are dear girls!" said Mrs. Rover. "It was splendid of them to
remember you this way, and splendid of Mrs. Stanhope and Mrs. Laning,

The next morning was spent in writing letters. It was rather hard at
first to say just what they wanted to, but after they had started the
letters grew and grew, until each was ten pages or more. They told
about meeting Minnie Sanderson and the other girls by accident, and
about not getting the notes until that night, and Dick added the
following to his letter to Dora:

"And now let me tell you something in secret. Songbird Powell has
developed a very, very strong liking for Miss Sanderson, the girl Tom
and Sam and I aided when first we came to Brill. He talks about her a
good deal, and took her to a concert at Ashton one evening. He said he
was going to give her an autograph album for Christmas and write in
it an original poem sixteen verses long, on 'The Clasp of a Friendly
Hand,' That is pushing matters some, isn't it? We all wish him luck."

"There, that ought to make her understand how I feel about Miss
Sanderson," said Dick to himself. And then he ended the letter by
stating he hoped they would meet again soon so that they could have a
good long talk.

On the day after the letters were mailed the storm cleared away and
the sun came out brightly. The boys went for a long sleigh ride, and
visited some friends living in that vicinity. Then they helped to
clear off a pond, and on New Year's day went skating.

"And now back to the grind," said Tom with a little sigh.

"Never mind. Remember summer will soon be here," answered Sam. "And
then we can go on a dandy trip somewhere."

The next day found them back at Brill. This was Saturday, and the
school sessions were resumed on Monday. They went at their studies
with a will, resolved to get marks that would be "worth while" at the
June examinations. They were asked to join the college basketball
team, but declined, and took regular gymnasium exercise instead. Much
to their surprise, Dudd Flockley was put on the team.

"I don't think that dude will make good," said Tom, and he was right.
Flockley made some bad errors during the first game played, and was
lectured so severely that he left the team in disgust, and Songbird
Powell was put in his place. Then the team won three games straight,
which pleased all the students of Brill greatly. Minnie Sanderson was
at two of the games, and she applauded Songbird heartily. The two were
certainly warm friends. Dick spoke to Minnie, but did not keep himself
long in her company.

At last, after waiting much longer than they had expected, the boys
received letters from Dora and the Lanings. The girls had been on a
visit to some relatives in Philadelphia, and had just received the
letters mailed from Oak Run.

The three Rovers read those letters with deep interest. They told
about what the girls had been doing, and related the particulars of
the trouble at Hope Seminary. It was all Tad Sobber's work, they said,
and added that Sobber had written that he would not only get the
treasure, but also disgrace them all he possibly could.

"The rascal!", muttered Dick when he read this. "He ought to be put in

Dora's letter to Dick was an especially tender epistle, and he read it
several times in secret. He was glad that the misunderstanding between
them was being cleared away. He wished she might be near, so that he
could go and see her.

"I'd take a run to Cedarville if it wasn't so far," he told his

"I'd go along," answered Tom, and Sam said the same.

"Perhaps we can run up there during the spring vacation," went on

There was little more snow that winter, but the weather remained
bitterly cold until well into February. The boys had considerable fun
snowballing, and skating on the river. Racing on skates was a favorite
amusement, and Sam and Tom won in a number of contests.

One day Tom was skating by himself. He was doing some fancy figures,
and he did not notice the approach of Jerry Koswell, who was skating
with a young lady from Ashton. Tom came around in a circle, and Jerry,
who was looking at the young lady instead of where he was going,
bumped into Tom. Both of the students went down, Tom on top.

"Hi! What do you mean by this?" burst out Koswell in a rage.

"What do you mean?" retorted Tom, getting up.

"You knocked me down on purpose!" howled Jerry.

"It was as much your fault as mine."

"It wasn't my fault at all. I've a good mind to punch your face!" And
having gotten to his feet, Koswell doubled up his fists threateningly.

At this the young lady let out a scream.

"Oh, please don't fight!" she cried. And then she skated to a distance
and disappeared in a crowd.

"You keep your distance, Koswell," said Tom coldly. "If you don't--"

He got no further, for just then Koswell let out with his right
fist. The blow landed on Tom's shoulder and sent him spinning away a
distance of several feet.



"A fight! a fight!" came from the crowd, and soon Tom and Koswell were
surrounded by a number of students and some outsiders.

The blow from the bully angered Tom greatly, and skating forward he
made a pass at Koswell. But the latter ducked, and then came back at
Tom with a blow that sent the fun-loving Rover into several students
standing by.

"Say, Rover, look out, or Jerry Koswell will eat you up!" said one of
the seniors.

"Koswell is a good scrapper," came from another.

"I gave him one lesson and I can give him another," answered Tom.
"There, take that!"

He turned swiftly and rushed at Koswell. One blow after another was
delivered with telling accuracy, and Koswell went flat on his back on
the ice. When he got up his nose was bleeding.

"I'll fix you!" he roared. "Come on to shore and take off your

"I'm willing," answered Tom recklessly. He knew fighting was against
the rules of the college, but he was not going to cry quits.

The pair moved toward the shore, the crowd still surrounding them.
They soon had their skates off.

"Now, Jerry, do him up brown!" came from Larkspur, who was present.

"Give him the thrashing of his life!" added Flockley, who had come up.

"He has got to spell able first, and he doesn't know the alphabet well
enough to do it!" answered Tom.

"What's up?" cried a voice from the rear of the crowd, and Dick
appeared, followed by Sam.

"Koswell attacked me, and wants to fight, and I am going to
accommodate him," said Tom.

"Don't you butt in!" growled Koswell.

"I won't," answered Dick. "But I want to see fair play." He knew it
would be useless to attempt to get Tom to give up the fight.

Without preliminaries the two faced each other, and Koswell made a
savage rush at Tom, aiming a blow for his face. Tom ducked, and landed
on his opponent's chest. Then Koswell hit Tom on the arm and Tom came
back at him with one on the chin. Then they clinched, went down, and
rolled over and over.

"Stop, you rascal!" cried Tom suddenly. "Can't you fight fair?"

"What's up?" asked Dick, leaping forward.

"He bit me in the wrist!"

"I--I didn't do anything of the kind!" howled Jerry Koswell.

"Break away, both of you!" ordered Dick. "We'll see into this."

Tom let go, but Koswell continued to hold fast. Seeing this, Dick
forced the two apart and both scrambled up.

"See here, this isn't your fight!" said Larkspur to Dick.

"It will be yours if you don't shut up!" answered Dick, so sharply
that Larkspur shrunk back in alarm.

"I didn't bite him!" grumbled Koswell.

"He did--right here!" answered Tom positively. "Look!"

He pulled up his sleeve and showed his wrist. There in the flesh were
the indentations of a set of teeth.

"You coward!" said Sam. "You ought to be drummed out of Brill!"

"That's worse than using a sandbag," added Dick.

"I--I didn't do it," muttered Koswell. He looked around as if he
wanted to slink out of sight.

"You did!" cried Tom. "And take that for it!" And before the brute of
a youth could ward off the blow he received Tom's fist in his right
eye. Then he got one in the other eye and another in the nose that
made the blood spurt freely. He tried to defend himself, but Tom was
"fighting mad," and his blows came so rapidly that Koswell was knocked
around like a tenpin and sent bumping, first into Flockley, then into
Larkspur, and then into some bushes, where he lay, panting for breath.

"Now have you had enough?" demanded Tom, while the crowd marveled at
his quickness and staying powers.

"I--I--" stammered Koswell.

"If you've had enough, say so," went on Tim. "If not, I'll give you
some more."

"I--I'm sick," murmured Koswell. "I was sick this morning when I got
up. I'll--I'll finish this with you some other day."

"All right, Koswell," answered Tom coolly. "But when you go at it
again, do it fairly, or you'll get the worst of it. Remember that!"

"Hurrah for Tom Rover!" was the cry from Stanley, and the cheer was
taken up on all sides. Jerry Koswell sneaked away as soon as he could,
and Flockley and Larkspur followed him.

"He'll have it in for you, Tom," said Sam as he and his brothers got
away from the crowd. "Most likely he is mad enough to do anything."

"Oh, he was mad before," declared Tom. "I am not afraid of him."

Everybody thought there might be another fight in the near future, but
day after day went by and Koswell made no move, nor did he even notice
Tom. He kept with Flockley and Larkspur, and the three were often
noticed consulting together.

At last winter was over, and the warm breath of Spring filled the air.
Much to the pleasure of the boys, they got news that Dora, Nellie and
Grace were going to return to Hope, regardless of the reports that had
been circulated about them.

"Good! That's what I call pluck!" cried Dick.

They learned when the girls would arrive at Ashton, and got permission
to go to town to meet them. It must be confessed that all of them were
a trifle nervous, in spite of the warm letters that had been sent.

When the train came in they rushed for the parlor car, and then what a
handshaking and greeting followed all around! Everybody was talking at
once, and after the first minute or two there was nothing but smiles
and laughter.

"I am so sorry that--you know," whispered Dick to Dora.

"So am I," she answered, "What geese we are, aren't we?"

"Well, we won't have any more misunderstandings, will we?" he went on,
squeezing her hand.

"Never!" she declared, and gave him an arch look. "And you say
Songbird is--is--"

"Going with Miss Sanderson? Yes; and they are as thick as two peas.
But, Dora, I never was--er--very friendly with her. I--I--"

"But you--you talked to her at that football game, Dick. And you
didn't meet me when Sam--"

"I know. But I had to find her a seat, after she about asked me to. I
wanted to be with you, I did really, dear."

"Who said you could call me dear?" And now her eyes were as bright as

"I said so, and I'm going to--when we are alone. The future Mrs. Dick
Rover deserves it," he went on boldly, but in a very low voice.

"Oh, Dick, you're awful!" cried Dora, and blushed. But somehow she
appeared mightily pleased.

The boys drove the girls to the seminary, and by the time the
boarding-school was reached all were on the best of terms once more.

"Mamma wanted us to come back," explained Dora. "She says, even if we
do lose that fortune she wants me to have a better education, and she
will pay the bill for Nellie and Grace, too."

"It will make the Lanings quite poor, I am afraid, if the fortune is
lost," replied Dick gravely.

"I know it, Dick, but we'll have to take what comes."

"Have you heard from Sobber or his lawyer lately?"

"Nothing since he threatened to disgrace us."

"You must watch out for him. If he attempts to bother you while you
are here let us know at once."

"We will."

"I hope the case in court is decided soon, and in your favor."

"Say, stop!" cried Tom, as they were turning into the gate at the

"What's up?" asked Sam, while Dick halted the team he was driving.

"Here comes a buggy along the side road. Just look who is in it!"

All turned to look in the direction of the turnout which was
approaching. As it came closer the Rover boys recognized it as one
belonging to Mr. Sanderson. On the front seat sat Songbird, driving,
with Minnie Sanderson beside him. On the rear seat was William
Philander Tubbs, in company with one of Minnie's friends--a girl the
Rovers had met while nutting.

"There's a happy crowd!" cried Tom after they had passed and bowed and

"No happier than we are," said Dick as he looked meaningly at Dora.

"You are right, Dick," she answered very earnestly.



"Boys, I've got a proposition to make," said Dick, one Friday
afternoon, as he and his brothers, with Songbird and Stanley, were
strolling along the river bank.

"All right. We'll accept it for twenty-five cents on the dollar,"
returned Tom gaily.

"What is it, Dick?" asked Songbird.

"Do you remember the haunted house at Rushville, the place Mr.
Sanderson called the Jamison home?" asked Dick of his brothers.

"Sure!" returned Sam and Tom promptly.

"Well, I propose we visit that house to-morrow and investigate the
ghosts--if there are any."

"Just the thing!" cried Sam.

"I've heard of that place," said Stanley. "I am willing to go if the
rest are."

"If I go as far as Rushville I might as well go on to the Sanderson
home," said Songbird, who could not get Minnie out of his mind.

"Well, we'll leave you off--after we have interviewed the ghosts,"
answered Dick with a laugh.

"Do you believe in ghosts?" asked Stanley with a faint smile.

"No. Do you?"

"Hardly, although I have heard some queer stories. My aunt used to
think she had seen ghosts."

"She was mistaken," said Tom. "There are no real ghosts."

"Say, Tom, how could a ghost be real and still be a ghost?" asked
Songbird and this question brought forth a general laugh.

The boys sat down on a bench in the warm sunshine to discuss the
proposed visit to the deserted Jamison place, and it was arranged that
they should drive to the spot in a two-seated carriage. Then, while
the Rovers and Stanley investigated to their hearts' content, Songbird
was to drive on to the Sanderson home for a brief visit.

"But, mind, you are not to stay too long," said Dick. "An hour is the

"I'll make it an hour by the watch," answered the would-be poet. "Say,
I just thought of something," he went on, and murmured softly:

"To-morrow, ere the hour is late,
We shall go forth to investigate.
The Jamison ghost
Shall be our host;
We trust we'll meet a kindly fate!"

"That's as cheerful as a funeral dirge!" cried Tom.

"We don't want to meet any kind of a fate," added Sam. "We want to
have some fun."

While the boys were discussing the proposed trip to Rushville they did
not notice that Larkspur was close at hand, taking in much that was
said. Presently Larkspur sauntered off and hunted up Jerry Koswell.

"The Rovers are going off to-morrow," he said. "Where do you suppose
they are going?"

"I am not good at guessing riddles," answered Koswell rather sourly.
He hated to hear the Rover name mentioned, since it made him think of
his defeat at Tom's hands.

"They are going to the old Jamison place at Rushville."

"Well, what of it?"

"I was thinking," answered Larkspur meaningly. "You said you would
like to square up with the Rovers, and with Tom especially."

"So I would. Show me how it can be done and I'll go at it in jig
time." And now Koswell was all attention.

"I happen to know that Tom Rover and Professor Sharp are on the outs
again," said Larkspur. "The professor wouldn't like anything better
than to catch him doing something against the rules."

"Well, what do you propose, anyway?" demanded Jerry Koswell.

"Come up to the room and I'll tell you," answered Larkspur, and then
the two hurried off and, joined by Dudd Flockley, hatched out a scheme
to get the Rovers into dire trouble with the college authorities. They
had a number of preparations to make, and paid a hurried visit to
Ashton and several other places, Flockley hiring a runabout for that

Saturday proved clear and warm, and the Rovers and their friends
started directly after lunch for Rushville in a two-seated carriage,
hired from a liveryman of Ashton. As they did not wish to excite any
curiosity, they told Tubbs and Max that they were going out merely for
a long ride.

"Going to call on Miss Stanhope and the Misses Laning, I suppose,"
said William Philander.

"No. They have some lessons to make up to-day," answered Dick, and
this was true; otherwise the Rovers might not have been so willing to
spend their time at the haunted house.

No sooner had the Rovers and their two friends driven away from Brill
than an automobile dashed up on the side road, and Flockley, Koswell
and Larkspur climbed in. The automobile kept to the side road until
the Rovers turnout was passed, then took to the main highway, passing
the upper end of Ashton.

"Here is where you can leave us," said Koswell to the chauffeur. "I'll
see to it that the machine comes back safely."

"You are sure about being able to run it?" asked the man.

"Of course. I ran a big six-cylinder at home."

"Very well, then. This is a fine car, and there would be trouble with
the boss if anything happened to it."

"Nothing is going to happen, so don't worry," answered Koswell coolly.
Then the chauffeur left, and the automobile dashed on its way in the
direction of Rushville.

As the Rovers and their chums were out purely for pleasure, they
took their time in driving to Rushville, going there by way of Hope
Seminary. They thought they might catch sight of Dora and the Lanings,
but were disappointed.

"Too bad that they have got to grind away on such a fine day as this,"
said Dick.

"Well, such is life," returned Sam. "One good thing, schooldays won't
last forever."

"Just wait till the summer vacation comes!" cried Tom. "I'm going to
have the best time anybody ever heard about."

"What doing?" questioned Stanley.

"Oh, I don't know yet."

They took their time climbing the long hill leading to the haunted
house, and it was just three o'clock when they came in sight of the
dilapidated structure, almost hidden in the tangle of trees and

"Now, Songbird, you've got to be back here by four, or half after, at
the latest," said Dick as he and his brothers and Stanley got out. "No
spooning with Minnie till six."

"Huh! I don't spoon," grumbled the would-be poet. "I am--er--only
going to show her some new verses I wrote. They are entitled--"

"Keep them for Minnie!" cried Sam. "And remember what Dick said. We
are not going to hang around here after dark."

"Scared already?" asked Songbird.

"No, but enough of this place is enough, that's all."

"I'll be back, don't worry," said Songbird, and away he drove at a
swift gait, leaving the Rovers and Stanley in the roadway in front of
the house said to be haunted.

It was certainly a lonely spot, no other house being in sight, for
Rushville lay under the brow of a hill. The boys stood still and
listened. Not a sound broke the stillness that surrounded the deserted

"It sure is a ghostlike place," remarked Stanley. "I shouldn't care to
come here at midnight."

"Oh, that wouldn't make any difference, if you had a light," answered
Dick. The thought of a ghost had never bothered him very much.

Boldly the four boys entered what had once been a fine garden. The
pathway was now overrun with weeds and bushes, and they had to pick
their way with care. Then they ascended the piazza, the flooring of
which was much decayed.

"Look out that you don't fall through somewhere, and break a leg,"
cautioned Tom. "This is worse than it looks from the outside."

"Wait till we get inside," said Sam. "Glad we brought a lantern." For
a light had been taken along at the last minute.

They pushed open the front door and entered the broad hall. As they
did so they heard a noise at the rear of the place.

"What was that?" asked Stanley nervously.

"Sounded like a door closing," answered Dick.

"Hello!" called out Tom. "Is any one here?"

To this call there was no answer. Nor was the noise they had heard

"Come on," said Dick bravely. "I am going to walk right through the
house, room by room, from top to bottom."

"And we'll all go along," said Tom and Sam.

"Well, I am with you," came from Stanley. But he plainly showed that
he did not relish what was before him.



The first room the boys entered was the parlor. It was totally dark,
the blinds of the windows being tightly closed. It was full of
cobwebs, which brushed their cheeks as they passed along.

"Certainly this was a fine mansion in its day," said Dick, as he threw
the rays of the lantern around. "But it is utterly worthless now," he
added as he gazed at the fallen ceilings and rotted woodwork.

"I fancy the ghosts are nothing but rats and bats," said Tom. "Come
on," he continued. "It's damp enough to give one the rheumatism."

From the parlor they passed to a sitting-room. Here there was a huge
open fireplace, filled with ashes and cobwebs. As they entered the
room they heard a rushing noise in the chimney.

"What's that?" cried Stanley anxiously.

"Birds," answered Dick. "I suppose they have made their home in the
chimney, since it is not used for fires."

In a corner of the sitting-room was an old table, and on it several
musty books. The boys looked the books over, but found little to
interest them. As relics the volumes were of no value.

"Come on to the dining-room," said Tom. "Maybe we'll find something
good to eat."

"Ugh! I don't want anything here," answered Stanley with a shudder.

"Wouldn't you like a piece of ghost pie, or some specter doughnuts?"
went on Tom, who was bound to have his fun.

"Nothing, thank you, Tom."

The dining-room of the house was in a wing, and to get to it they had
to pass through a pair of folding doors which were all but closed. As
they did so all heard a peculiar rustling sound, but from whence it
came they could not tell.

"What was that?" asked Sam.

"I don't know," answered his oldest brother.

"Say, this room looks as if it had been used lately," cried Tom, as
the rays of the lantern illuminated the apartment. "Why, it's quite

"Maybe some tramps have had their headquarters here," said Dick. "It
would be just like them to single out a spot like this."

"Yes, provided they weren't afraid of ghosts," came from Stanley.

"Tramps aren't usually afraid of anything but work," answered Tom
dryly. "But this is queer, isn't it?" he added, as he picked up
an empty cigar box. "Somebody must smoke good cigars--these were

"Here is an empty liquor flask," said Stanley.

"And here are some empty wine bottles," added Sam.

"And here are some decks of playing-cards," put in Dick. "Yes, some
persons have certainly used this as a hangout."

"What is this in the fireplace?" asked Tom as he pointed to something
smoking there.

"It certainly has a vile smell!" exclaimed Stanley, making a wry face.

"That shows somebody has been here recently," was Dick's comment. "We
had better be on guard if they are tramps."

"I can't stand that smell," said Tom. "I am going to get out."

The stuff in the fireplace, whatever it was, now burned up more
brightly. It gave off a peculiar vapor that made the boys dizzy.

Tom turned to a door that led to the kitchen of the house. The door
was shut, and he tried in vain to open it. The others were behind him
and they, too, tried to open the barrier.

"Must be locked from the other side," said Tom. "Come on out the way
we came in. Gracious! Isn't that awful stuff that is burning?" he
added, for the vapor now filled the room completely.

In sudden alarm the four boys turned back toward the folding
doors through which they had entered the dining-room. To their
consternation, the doors were tightly shut.

"Who shut these?" asked Dick as he tried to open one of the doors.

"I didn't," said Sam.

"Neither did I," added Tom.

"Nobody touched the doors!" ejaculated Stanley. "It must be some of
the ghost's work."

"Nonsense!" answered Dick sharply. "Somebody shut the doors--and
locked 'em," he added after trying both. "Hi, you!" he called. "Open
these doors, and be quick about it!"

"Thou fool, to come here!" exclaimed a hollow voice from the other
side of the doors.

"It's the ghost! I said it was!" said Stanley,

"It's somebody fooling us," answered Tom. "Open the door, or we'll
smash it down!" he added in a loud voice.

Instead of a reply there came a weird groan and then the rattle of
some heavy chains. Stanley turned pale and began to tremble, but the
Rovers were not much impressed.

"We don't believe in ghosts, so you might as well let us out!" cried
Dick. "That stuff you set on fire is smothering us!"

At this there was a murmur from the next room, but what was said the
prisoners did not know.

"Come on, let us get out of a window!" cried Tom. His head was
commencing to swim, and he could hardly see.

"Tha--that's it," murmured Sam. "Say, I'm--I'm--going--" He did not
finish, but sank to the floor in a heap.

"Sam has been overcome!" cried Dick in horror.

"Oh, if only we hadn't come here!" groaned Stanley. "I--the
window--I--am--smothering!" He took another step forward and then
fell. Dick tried to pick him up, but went down also, with his brain in
a whirl and strange lights flashing before his closed eyes.

Tom was the last to be overcome. He reached a window, only to find it
tightly locked. He smashed the glass, but could not open the blinds.
Then he went down; but before he closed his eyes he saw the door to
the kitchen open and several masked faces appeared. He tried to
say something, but the words would not come, and then all became a
terrible dark blank around him.

For about half a minute after Tom went down nothing was done. Then the
door to the kitchen was thrown wide open and four figures appeared.
All wore sheets and masks.

"You are sure it won't kill any of them, Parwick?" asked a voice that
sounded like Jerry Koswell's, and which was far from steady.

"Yes, I'm sure," answered the voice of a stranger. "But we don't want
to leave them in this room too long. Take 'em below."

"If we get found out--" said another, and one could readily recognize
Flockley's voice.

"We won't get found out," put in a fourth person. It was Larkspur.
"Come ahead, and don't waste time here."

With great haste the masked ones picked up the three Rovers and
Stanley and dragged them into the kitchen of the old house. Then one
after another the unconscious ones were taken down into a dark and
musty cellar and placed on some straw.

"Now to fix up the evidence!" cried Koswell. "We must be quick, or it
may be too late!"

For all of a quarter of an hour the three Rover boys and Stanley
Browne lay where they had been placed on the moldy straw. They
breathed with difficulty, for the strange vapor still exercised its
influence on their lungs.

At last Sam stirred and opened his eyes.

"Wha--what's the matter with me?" he murmured, and then sat up.

He could see next to nothing, for the cellar was dark. His head ached
keenly, and he could not collect his senses. He also felt somewhat
sick at the stomach.

"Dick! Tom!" he called. "Where are you?"

There was no reply, but presently he heard somebody stir.

"Don't--don't kill me!" murmured Stanley. "Take the ghosts away!"

"Stanley!" called Sam. "Whe--where are we?"

"Who--who is tha--that?" stammered Stanley, sitting up.

"It is I--Sam!"

"Whe--where are we, Sam?"

"I--I don't know."

"My head is go--going around like--like a top."

"So is mine. Tom! Dick!"

"Is that you, Sam?" came faintly from the elder Rover as he opened his

"Yes. Where is Tom?"

"Here, I guess, beside me." Dick shook his brother. "Tom! Tom! Wake
up!" he cried. But Tom continued to lay quiet with his eyes tightly

Sam was feeling in his pocket for a matchbox, and presently he brought
the article forth and made a light. He was still so dizzy he could
scarcely see about him. Stanley had fallen back again, gasping for

By the dim light afforded by the match the two brothers looked at Tom.
He was gasping in a strange, unnatural fashion.

"I believe he is choking to death!" said Dick hoarsely. "Air! He must
have air!" He arose unsteadily to his feet. "Bring him here!"

And he made for a closed cellar window with all the strength he could



Fortunately a loose brick lay handy and with this Dick smashed out the
panes of glass in the cellar window. Another window was opposite,
and this he likewise demolished. At once a current of pure air swept
through the place.

"Hold him up to the window," said Dick as he staggered around. And he
and Sam raised Tom up as best they could.

"If we could only get outside," mumbled Sam. His head was aching worse
than ever.

"I'll see what I can do," answered his oldest brother, and stumbled up
the narrow stairs. To his joy, the door above leading to the kitchen
of the house was unfastened.

Not without great labor did the two brothers carry Tom to the floor
above. Then they went after Stanley, who was conscious, but too weak
to walk. As they stumbled around they sent several empty liquor
bottles spinning across the floor, and one was smashed into pieces.

"I wish I knew how to revive him," said Dick as he and Sam placed Tom
near the open doorway. "Wonder if there is any water handy?"

"Oh, my poor head!" came from Stanley. "I feel as if I had been
drinking for a month!"

"Wonder what it was?" murmured Sam. "I--I can't make it out at all."

"Nor I," added Dick. "But come, we must do what we can for Tom." And
he commenced to loosen his unconscious brother's tie and collar.

Suddenly a form darkened the outer doorway of the kitchen, and to the
surprise of the boys Professor Abner Sharp showed himself. He was
accompanied by Professor Blackie.

"Ha! So we have caught you, have we?" cried Professor Sharp, in tones
of evident satisfaction. "Nice doings, these, for students of Brill.
Aren't you ashamed of yourselves?" And he glared maliciously at the
Rovers and Stanley Browne.

"Oh, Professor, can you--er--help us?" murmured Stanley. "We--er--are
in a lot of trouble."

"So I see," answered Abner Sharp chillily. "Nice doings, I declare!
Don't you think so?" he added to the other professor.

"It is too bad," murmured Professor Blackie. "I thought them all
rather nice lads."

Dick's head was still dizzy, so he could not catch the import of the
professor's words. He continued to work over Tom, who just then opened
his eyes.

"Gi--give me a--a drink!" murmured poor Tom. His throat seemed to be
on fire.

"Not another drop!" shouted Professor Sharp. "Not one! This is
disgraceful! Look at what they have been drinking already!" And he
pointed to the bottles scattered around.

"Say! What's the matter with you?" asked Sam, sleepily and angrily. He
was doing his best to pull his wits together, and thus overcome the
effects of the strange vapor.

"There is nothing the matter with me!" roared Professor Sharp "The
matter is with you, Rover. You have been drinking too much."

"Me? Drinking?" stammered Sam, "No, sir!"

"Rover, you may as well admit it," came from Professor Blackie. "It is
a sad state of affairs."

"But I haven't been drinking."

"We know better. Look at the evidence!" roared Abner Sharp, pointing
to the bottles. "Why, your very clothing smells of rum!" he added,
smelling of Dick's shoulder.

"Sam has told you the truth. We haven't been drinking," said Dick.

"Rover, it would be better if you did not add falsehoods to your other
shortcomings," said Professor Blackie. He was usually a very mild man,
and had little to say outside of the classroom.

"You are mistaken," murmured Dick. It was all he could say, for he was
still too bewildered to make a clear note of what was going on.

"This one seems to be the worst of all," said Abner Sharp, turning to
Tom. "He must have drunk more than the others."

"He will have to sleep it off," answered Professor Blackie. "Too bad!
Too bad! Why will young men do such things?" And he shook his head

"I believe what the note said. This has been a regular hangout for the
Rovers and their chums," said Professor Sharp severely. "It is high
time it was broken up."

"Yes yes," answered the other instructor How shall we--er--get them
back to Brill?"

"I'll see about that. They must have some sort of a carriage here, or
maybe somebody was going to call for them."

"Shall I take a look around?"

"If you will."

Professor Blackie looked around the house and grounds and then went
through the tangle of a garden to the roadway. He espied Songbird
coming along, driving the team rapidly and singing to himself.
Songbird had passed an all-too-short hour with Minnie Sanderson.

"Stop, Powell!" cried the professor.

"I was going to, sir," answered the would-be poet cheerily. "How is
this, Professor Blackie? Did you come to hunt for the ghost, too?"

"Ghost? I came for no ghosts--since there are no ghosts," was the
quiet answer. "Were you to stop here?"

"Yes, sir, to pick up the three Rovers and Stanley Browne. They must
be somewhere about. They came to explore the old house and to settle
this ghost story."

"I think they came more for spirits than for ghosts," answered
Professor Blackie dryly, "Then you know all about it, eh?"

"Why, yes."

"Then you knew they came here to drink and to carouse generally," went
on the instructor, and his voice grew stern.

"Drink? Carouse? What are you talking about?" gasped Songbird. "The
Rovers don't drink at all, and Stanley Browne drinks very little."

"Of course you wish to shield them, but it will do little good,
Powell. Professor Sharp received word of what was going on, and he
asked me to accompany him here. We have seen a sad sight. What Doctor
Wallington will say when he hears of it, I cannot tell. I am afraid,
however, that he will deal severely with the offenders."

"Professor Blackie, what you say is a riddle to me," answered
Songbird. "I don't understand you at all."

"Then come with me, and perhaps you will understand," was the
instructor's reply, and he led the way to the rear of the deserted

All of the students and Professor Sharp were now outside, on or near
the back porch. Tom had recovered his senses, and Sam had obtained for
him a drink of water from an old well. Much to the astonishment of the
students, the professor had caught sight of a liquor flask in Tom's
pocket, and had snatched it away.

"Here is evidence you cannot deny!" cried Abner Sharp in triumph. "All
but empty, too!" he added, after shaking the flask and smelling of it.

"How did that--that get in m--my pocket?" mumbled poor Tom. He was
still hazy in his mind.

"You probably know better than anybody else," retorted Professor
Sharp. "And you can tell, too, where the liquor went to," he continued
with a sneer.

"You're a--a--contemptible old sneak!" cried Tom wrathfully, "and if I
didn't feel so--so dizzy I'd knock you down!"

"Tom!" cried Dick warningly. He was growing a little clearer in his
mind, and could see that a terrible mistake had been made.

"You'll not knock anybody down, you young villain!" roared Abner Sharp
in a rage. "I'll teach you to come here and drink and carouse, and
bring disgrace upon the fair name of Brill College! I'll have you
dismissed and sent home in disgrace!"

"You're making a mistake--" began Dick.

"No, there is no mistake. Of course you wish to hide the truth, and
smooth matters over, but it won't go with me, nor with Professor
Blackie, either," stormed Professor Sharp. "We know what we see and
what we smell. You young fellows are a disgrace to Brill, and the
sooner everybody knows it, the better. Now, then, march to the
roadway, every one of you, and no more back talk!"

"But, sir--" began Stanley in dismay.

"Not another word!" cried Abner Sharp. "If you have anything more to
tell, you may tell it to Doctor Wallington."



Still dizzy from the effects of the strange vapor, the students were
driven rapidly over the country roads in the direction of Brill
College. The fresh air served to make them feel a little better, but
all were far from clear headed when ushered into the presence of
Doctor Wallington.

"We have brought them back with us, sir," said Professor Sharp

The president of the college gazed keenly at the Rovers and Stanley.
They looked at him in return, but blinked and swayed as they did so.

"I will listen to the story," said Doctor Wallington, turning to the
two instructors, and his voice had a hard tone to it that did not
augur well for the students.

Thereupon Professor Sharp told how he had received an anonymous note
stating that the Rovers and some others were going off to the old
Jamison house to drink and gamble, and that it was thought they were
going to take some innocent outsider with them, to fleece him of his
money. On receiving the note Abner Sharp had called Professor Blackie
into consultation with him, and had gone off, after leaving word for
the doctor about what they proposed to do.

"We found them--the three Rovers and Stanley Browne--in a beastly
state," continued Professor Sharp. "Truly beastly state--with empty
liquor bottles and flasks strewn around, and Thomas Rover had a flask
in his pocket, which I took from him." The instructor placed the
flask on the president's desk. "There were also cigar butts scattered
around, and some packs of playing-cards."

"Where was Powell?"

"He had dropped the others off at the old house and gone on to visit
some folks named Sanderson. He came back later."

"Had he been drinking, too?"

"I do not think so," answered Professor Blackie.

During this talk Dick and his brothers and Stanley stared somewhat
vacantly at the president and the professors. The students wanted to
speak several times, but Doctor Wallington waved them to be silent.

"I will hear what you have to say after Professor Sharp and Professor
Blackie have finished," said the head of the college.

He asked the instructors a great number of questions, and then turned
to Dick, as the oldest of the boys.

"Now, then, what have you to say about your disgraceful conduct?" he
demanded severely. "Or perhaps it would be as well to postpone further
conversation until you are in a fit condition to tell a straight
story." The doctor was sarcastic as well as severe.

"I--I am not well, sir," said Dick in a low voice. "None of us are.
But it was not liquor that did it. It was the vapor."

"Vapor?" queried Doctor Wallington in perplexity.

"Yes, sir."

"What do you suppose he means?" and now the master of the college
turned to Abner Sharp.

"When we found them in such a sad state they tried to excuse
themselves by stating that a strange vapor had made them sick," was
the instructor's reply. "But we could not trace any such vapor. I feel
sure it is merely an excuse."

"You ought to have your head punched!" growled Tom. He was still sick,
and the sickness made him reckless.

"Rover! How dare you?" exclaimed Doctor Wallington severely.

"I don't care! He is down on us, me especially, and he wants to put us
in disgrace. He's a miserable sneak, that's what he is!"

"You are evidently in no condition to tell your story, and your
companions are little better off," went on the head of the college. He
turned to the two professors. "You may take them up to rooms 77 and
78, Mr. Blackie. I will confer with you further, Mr. Sharp."

There was no help for it, and with their heads still in a whirl, the
Rovers and Stanley were taken to two rooms not used by any of the
other students. The rooms were in an angle of the building, away
from all others. They had a small hallway of their own, with a door
shutting it off from the main hall.

Professor Blackie marched the boys into the rooms, and saw to it that
they had a pitcher of fresh drinking water.

"You will have to remain here until Doctor Wallington sends for you,"
said the instructor, and walked out of the room. The boys heard him
pass through the little hall and close and lock the door to the main

"Prisoners! What do you think of that?" cried Sam.

"It is carrying matters with a high hand," answered Dick. He placed a
hand on his forehead. "How my head aches!"

"Same here," answered Stanley. "I am going to rest," he added, and
threw himself on one of the beds.

The others were glad to rest, also, and soon all were occupying the
beds the connecting rooms contained. They left the windows wide open,
so that they might get all the fresh air possible. Strange to say,
each was soon in a profound slumber.

While they were sleeping they did not know that Professor Sharp came
in to see if they wanted any supper. Seeing them sleeping so soundly,
he notified Doctor Wallington.

"Do not disturb them," said the president of Brill. "Sleep will do
them more good than anything. I doubt if they care to eat." And he
heaved a sigh as he thought of the problem before him. He liked the
Rovers and Stanley Browne, but according to what he had seen and been
told, some of the strictest rules of Brill had been violated, and it
would be impossible for him to pass the affair by or mete out ordinary

"I am afraid I shall have to dismiss them," he told himself. "Too

In some manner the story leaked out, and by Sunday noon all the
students at Brill knew that the Rovers and Stanley were in disgrace,
and in danger of dismissal. A few sided with the boys, but the
majority shook their heads.

"They had no business to go off on such a lark," said one of the
seniors. "It's a disgrace to the whole college. If they are sent home
it will serve them right."

Koswell and Larkspur were in high glee over the success of their plot,
and when alone winked at each other and poked each other in the ribs.

"They'll get what's coming to 'em this trip," said Bart Larkspur with
a chuckle. "They'll be lucky if they are not sent home."

"And we'll rub it in, too," added Koswell. "You know how those Rovers
are dead stuck on those girls at Hope."


"Well, I'll fix it so those girls hear all about this affair."

"Good!" cried Larkspur. "That will be the bitterest dose of all."

"Say," put in Dudd Flockley nervously, "you don't suppose there is any
danger of our being found out?"

"Not the slightest," answered Koswell. "I saw to it that all our
tracks were covered."

"But that fellow Parwick? Are you certain he can be trusted?"

"Yes. But we have got to pay him for his trouble. I promised him
twenty dollars. I'll give him half and you can give him the other
half," answered Koswell. He knew Larkspur had no spending money.

"Oh, I'm willing to pay him his price," said the dudish student. "But
I want to be dead certain that he will keep his mouth shut."

"I'll make him do that," returned Jerry Koswell.



The Rovers and Stanley Browne were kept in the rooms until Monday
morning. During that time their meals were sent to them, and Professor
Sharp came to see them twice.

"Doctor Wallington will dispose of your case on Monday," said the

"I think we should have had a doctor," said Dick. "All of us were
sick, and needed medical attention."

"Nonsense!" cried Abner Sharp. "You have sobered up, and that was all
that was needed."

This assertion led to a war of words, and Tom came close to whacking
the unreasonable teacher over the head with the water pitcher. As a
consequence, Abner Sharp ran out of the room in fear and reported to
the head of the institution that he had been assaulted.

On Monday morning the four boys were told to go down and report at the
president's office Previous to this they had held a "council of war,"
as Sam expressed it, and made Dick their spokesman.

"Now, then, as you appear to be sober, I will listen to your story,"
said Doctor Wallington. He was the only other person present, "And
remember," he added sharply, "I want nothing but the truth. You cannot
hope for any leniency on my part unless you tell me everything."

"That is what we propose to do, sir," answered Dick, looking the
doctor full in the eyes. "My brothers and Stanley have asked me to do
the talking for all of us. Shall I tell my story now?"


Thereupon Dick told his tale from beginning to end, very much as
I have set it down here. He, of course, could tell nothing of the
actions of Koswell and his crowd, for he had been unconscious most of
the time.

"Certainly a remarkable story," mused Doctor Wallington, when the
oldest Rover had finished, "And you mean to say you did not drink any
of the liquor?"

"Not a drop, sir; and neither did the others,"

"And this vapor? What was it, and how do you account for it?" The
doctor's tones were very sceptical.

"I can't account for it, excepting by thinking it was part of a plot
against us."

"Hum!" The doctor turned to Stanley. "Have you anything to add to
Rover's story?"

"Nothing, sir, excepting that it is absolutely true, Doctor

After this the boys were questioned for the best part of an hour, but
without shaking their testimony in the least. Then Songbird was called
in, and he told what he knew.

"If your story is true, it is a most extraordinary occurrence," said
the head of Brill at last. "But I must confess that I can scarcely
credit such a tale. However, I will, for the time being, give you the
benefit of the doubt, and in the meantime make some investigations on
my own account. If I find you have not told the truth I shall dismiss
you from the college. Do you understand that?"

To this the students bowed.

"One thing more. All of you may return to your classes but Thomas
Rover. He has an extra charge against him, that of assaulting
Professor Sharp. Thomas Rover, you will remain here. The rest of you
can go."

With strange feelings in their hearts Dick, Sam and Stanley,
accompanied by Songbird, left the office. They had been heard, but had
not been believed.

"We may be dismissed from here, after all," said Sam bitterly.

"What a shame!" cried Songbird. "Oh, if you could only find out who
did it, and expose them!"

The boys went back to their classes with heavy hearts. They saw a
number of the other students looking at them questioningly.

Jerry Koswell saw them return, and was much astonished. Had his plot
to put them in disgrace miscarried, after all? Larkspur, too, was
perplexed. Flockley was a bit relieved, and half hoped the whole
matter would blow over and nothing more be heard of it.

The day went by, and the other lads did not see Tom. But they saw him
in the evening, just before supper.

"Well, how did you make out?" asked Dick eagerly.

"Got a vacation," was Tom's laconic answer.

"Dismissed?" asked the others in concert.

"No, suspended until Doctor Wallington can investigate the whole
matter more thoroughly. He wanted me to apologize to Sharp, and I said
flatly that I wouldn't do it, because I hadn't anything to apologize
for. He got mad at first, and threatened me with instant dismissal.
Then I warmed up, and said I was innocent of all wrongdoing, and
perhaps I'd be able to prove it some day, and if so, and I was
dismissed, I'd sue the college for loss of reputation. That brought
matters to a head, and I guess the doctor saw I was in deadly earnest.
He told me I could consider myself suspended for two weeks, or until
he could get to the bottom of the affair. So I've got a holiday."

"I'm glad you didn't apologize to Sharp," said Sam.

"What are you going to do with yourself--go home?" asked Dick.

"No. I am going to move to Ashton, and then try to get to the bottom
of this matter."

"The doctor will send a letter home."

"So will I, and you must do the same. I think father will believe us."

Tom left that night, and established himself at the leading hotel in

News travels swiftly, and Koswell and his cohorts took care that the
girls at Hope should hear the story about the Rovers and Stanley
and their supposed disgraceful doings. Dora, Nellie and Grace could
scarcely believe their ears when they heard it.

"This is awful!" murmured Dora, and the tears came to her eyes.

"I don't believe one word of it!" cried Nellie with spirit.

"But Tom has been suspended," said Grace. "And think of poor Sam and
Dick!" And her heart sank like lead within her bosom.

"I am going to send Dick a note right away," said Dora. "I cannot bear
this suspense."

"But you don't think Dick is guilty, do you?" asked Nellie.

"No. But--but the disgrace! It is terrible!" And now Dora burst out
crying in earnest.

The note from Dora reached Dick the following day, in the afternoon
mail. It was short, but to the point, reading as follows:

"DEAR DICK: We have just heard something awful about you and Tom and
Sam. Tell us what it means. Of course we don't believe you have done
anything wrong.



This note disturbed Dick and Sam greatly, for they could understand
how the evil report concerning them had been circulated at Hope
Seminary, and how the girls had suffered in consequence.

"I am glad they think we are innocent," said Sam.

"They couldn't do anything else, knowing us as they do," returned his
brother. And then he sent a note back stating that the reports were
all falsehoods, and asking them to meet Tom and themselves on the
following Saturday at Ashton.

"Perhaps Tom will have something to report by that time," said Dick.

The time to Saturday dragged miserably. The boys could not set their
minds on their lessons, and as a consequence got some poor marks. For
this Professor Blackie gave them a lecture.

"You ought to show your appreciation of what Doctor Wellington has
done in your case," said the instructor.

"We can't settle down to lessons with this cloud hanging over us,"
answered Dick frankly. "It has got to be cleared away, or--" he did
not finish.

"Or what, Rover?"

"Or I'm afraid we'll have to leave, even if we are not dismissed," was
the slow answer, and Dick breathed a deep sigh.



The Rover boys sent letters to their father, and on Saturday morning
came replies from Mr. Rover. He said he was both surprised and shocked
at what had occurred, and added that if they needed his aid he would
come on at once. He showed that he believed them innocent, for which
they were thankful.

"Here is more news," said Dick. "The case of Tad Sobber against the
Stanhopes and the Lanings comes up in court next Tuesday; that is,
they are going to argue the question of the injunction on that day."

"That will make Mrs. Stanhope and Mrs. Laning very anxious."

"Yes, and the girls, too, Sam."

"Well, we are anxious, too. Oh, I do hope our side wins!" cried Sam
wistfully. "It would set me wild to see Tad Sobber get all that

Dick and Sam were to meet Tom in Ashton at three o'clock, and all
hoped that the girls would come later. Stanley could not go, for he
had a Latin composition to write.

When the Rovers reached the hotel in Ashton they found Tom impatiently
awaiting them By the look on his face they knew he had something to

"Come up to my room," he said, and led the way to the apartment,
located on the second floor, front.

"You can sit by the window, Dick, and keep a lookout for the girls,"
said Sam.

"Yes, they'll be here in about an hour," said Tom. "They telephoned
this morning."

"Well, what have you discovered--anything?" demanded Dick impatiently.

"I think I am on the right track," answered Tom. "Let me tell you what
I've done. In the first place, I visited the haunted house yesterday
morning, and went through it from cellar to garret."

"Alone?" queried Sam.

"Yes, alone. But I carried a pistol, and I had it ready for use, too."

"I don't blame you," murmured Dick. "And I guess you looked to see if
the doors were open, too."

"I did, and smashed out several windows in the bargain. The first
place I investigated was that fireplace, and in it I found this." And
Tom held up a bit of white paper. On it was printed:

m B. Schlemp
ain St.

"That is from a druggist," said Dick.

"Exactly. I figure out the name is William B. Schlemp, that he is
a druggist, and that he is doing business at some number on Main
Street," came from Tom. "But I figure out more than that."


"The paper was crumpled up, and had in it a few grains of a gray
powder. I set the powder on fire and got that strange vapor that
almost strangled us."

"You did!" cried Sam. "Then that stuff came from that druggist beyond
a doubt."

"So I figure it. But there is no druggist named Schlemp here," went on
Tom, "and the druggist here doesn't know of such a fellow."

"I know what we can do," cried Dick. "Don't you remember, Dan Baxter
said he had worked for a wholesale drug house? We can telegraph and
ask him if he knows of this Schlemp."

"Then let us do it at once," said Tom. "I have his route--the one he
said he was to follow."

A few minutes later the following message was being flashed over the
wires to Dan Baxter, then supposed to be located at Detroit:

"Send full name and address of Blank B. Schlemp, druggist, at once.
Highly important.

"Thomas Rover,

"Ashton Hotel,"

"That was about all I found at the haunted house that was important,"
said Tom after the message had gone. "But I've found out something
here that may lead to something else of value."

"What is that?" questioned Sam.

"There is a fellow hanging around here named Henry Parwick. He is
rather dissipated, and does not seem to work for a living. One night
this Parwick had been drinking pretty freely, and he got into a
quarrel with one of his companions. They taunted each other about
money, and Parwick said he had some good friends up to Brill who would
give him all the cash he wanted. The other fellow wanted to know that
was, and Parwick winked one eye and answered, 'Oh, there's a reason,
Buddy, a good reason. They wouldn't dare to refuse me.' Since that
time I have seen Parwick talking to Jerry Koswell and Bart Larkspur."

"Do you think this Parwick helped Koswell and the others in a plot
against us?" asked Dick.

"It may be so. Anyway, I think Parwick has some kind of a hold on
Koswell, for I saw Jerry give him some money."

"This is certainly interesting," mused Dick. "Do you suppose we could
corner this Parwick and get him to talk?"

"We might, but I have another plan."

"What is that?"

"To watch Parwick, and follow him when I think he is going to meet
Koswell and the others. I may be able to overhear their talk."


After that Dick and Sam told Tom of what had occurred at the college
since their brother had left. Sam was just relating the particulars of
a stormy interview with Professor Sharp when Dick uttered a cry.

"Look! Here comes Dora, and she is running!"

One after another the brothers ran down to the ground floor of the
hotel and hurried outside.

"Oh, I am so glad I found you all together!" cried Dora, panting for
breath. "Come quick!"

"Where to?" queried Dick.

"Down the road about half a mile. We just saw that Jerry Koswell and
Bart Larkspur, and they are having a quarrel with a man who acts as if
he was half intoxicated."

"It must be Henry Parwick!" ejaculated Tom.

"Yes, his name is Parwick," said Dora. "We heard Koswell mention it."

"Where are they?" asked Sam as the whole party hurried down the main
street and out of Ashton, Dora leading the way.

"They are at a cottage where an old woman named Brice lives. We were
going to stop for a drink of water when we heard voices, and saw the
young men. Then Nellie and Grace heard them mention you, and they
asked me to come here and get you just as quickly as possible. They
said they would remain, and, if possible, hear what it was all about."

"I think we are on the right track!" cried Dick joyfully. "Maybe
matters will come to a head quicker than we imagined."

"Dick, you stay with Dora!" cried Tom. "Come on, Sam!" And off the two
brothers sped at top speed, leaving Dick and Dora to follow as rapidly
as the strength of the girl would permit.

Curiosity lent strength to the legs of the two Rovers, and they
covered the distance to the Brice cottage in an incredibly short space
of time. As they came into view they beheld Grace watching for them.
She held up her hand for caution. She was standing in among some
bushes by the roadside.

"Be careful, or those wicked boys will see you!" she cried in a low
voice. "They are back of the cottage, near the barn."

"Where is Nellie?" asked Tom.

"She is watching them."

"Have you learned anything?" asked Sam.

"Yes, indeed. We have learned that Koswell, Larkspur and Flockley were
guilty of this plot against you, and that a man named Parwick aided
them by getting a strange powder for them, the powder that made you
dizzy and sick," were Grace's words, and they filled the Rovers with
much satisfaction.



"It was Allan Charter's coming that clinched matters," said Tom.
"Doctor Wallington might not have believed us, but he had to believe

"He had to believe the girls, too," added Dick. "He knew they would
not tell him such falsehoods. But I am glad Charter came along. He
hated to get mixed up in it, I know, but he acted the man about it,
didn't he?"

"Wonder what the doctor will do with Koswell & Company?" questioned

"Fire 'em, most likely, and they deserve to be fired," growled
Stanley. "Oh, when I think of the trick that was played I feel like
wiping up the floor with every one of those scoundrels!"

"It was certainly a bit of dirty work," was Dick's comment.

The boys were seated in Sam and Tom's room, talking it over. It was
Sunday afternoon, and outside the sun shone brightly and a light
breeze stirred the trees.

It had proved a strenuous Saturday afternoon and evening. Dick and
Dora had come up, meeting Allan Charter, the leading senior of Brill,
on the way. They had persuaded Charter to accompany them to the Brice
cottage, and there all had witnessed a bitter quarrel between
Henry Parwick and Koswell, Larkspur and Flockley. Parwick was
semi-intoxicated, and in a maudlin way had exposed all that had been
done at the haunted house. He had spoken about getting the powder for
them, and mentioned how Koswell had fixed a fuse and lit it, and he
told of getting the liquor bottles and flasks and other things. He had
warmed up during his recital, and had demanded fifty dollars on the
spot. When refused he had threatened to go to the Brill authorities
and "blow everything." Then Koswell had threatened, if this was done,
that he would have Parwick arrested for robbing his former employer,
William Schlemp. Then had come blows, and in the midst of this Charter
had stepped forward and confronted the evildoers.

"We have seen and heard all," he had said sternly. "I am a witness,
and so are these young ladies. You, Koswell, Flockley and Larkspur,
ought to be ashamed of yourselves. I never dreamed any students of
Brill could be so bad. I shall report to Doctor Wallington without

Charter had been as good as his word, and had been closeted with the
head of the college for an hour. The girls went back with Tom, Dick
and Sam, and also had an interview with the president. Then Doctor
Wallington sent for Flockley, Koswell and Larkspur. Only Flockley
answered the summons, and it was learned that Koswell and Larkspur
were afraid to come back, fearing arrest. Parwick had also
disappeared. Then had come a telegram from Dan Baxter giving the
address of the druggist, Schlemp. Word was sent to this man, and later
he wrote that Parwick had once worked for him, but had been discharged
for drunkenness and because he was not honest.

The interview between Doctor Wallington and Flockley was a most
affecting one. The dudish student broke down utterly, and confessed
all. He said Koswell had hatched out the plot, aided by Larkspur, and
that he himself had been a more or less unwilling participant. He told
much about Parwick, and how that dissolute fellow had spoken of having
the strange powder, which was a Japanese concoction, and which, if
used often, would render a person insane. He begged the good doctor to
forgive him, and said he would be willing to do anything in order to
remain at Brill.

"My father will never forgive me if I am dismissed," he said in a
broken voice.

"But supposing I had dismissed the Rovers and Stanley Browne?" asked
the doctor severely.

"Yes, yes, I know, sir!" wailed Flockley. "But, oh, sir, don't send me
away! I'll do anything if you'll let me stay!"

"I will think it over," answered the head of Brill shortly. And thus
Flockley was dismissed from the office.

"It was certainly a wicked piece of work," said Songbird to the others
in the room. "I really think somebody ought to be arrested."

Tom was about to speak when a footstep sounded in the hall, and a
knock on the door followed. Sam opened the portal, to behold Flockley
standing there, hat in hand. The dudish student was as white as the
wall, his clothing looked dishevelled, and his shoes were un-blacked,
a great contrast to the Flockley of old.

"What do you want?" asked Sam abruptly.

"I want--I want--" commenced Flockley brokenly. Then he stepped into
the room and confronted Dick. "Oh, Rover!" he cried, "won't you--won't
you please, please get Doctor Wallington to let me stay at Brill?
Please don't let him send me home! I'll do anything--apologize, get
down on my knees, if you like--but please help me to stay here!"

Flockley caught Dick by the arm and continued to plead, and then he
entreated Sam, Tom, and Stanley, also. It was a truly affecting scene.
They all commenced to speak. He had been so mean, wicked, so unlike a
decent college fellow, how could they forgive him?

And then came a pause, and during that pause a distant church bell
sounded out, full and clear, across the hills surrounding Brill. Dick
listened, and so did his brothers and Stanley, and the anger in their
faces died down.

"Well, I'm willing you should stay," said Dick, "and I'll speak to the
doctor about it, if you wish."

"And so will I," added Sam and Tom, and Stanley nodded.

"But you ought to cut such fellows as Koswell and Larkspur," said Tom.

"I will! I will!" said Flockley earnestly.

The Rovers and Stanley Browne were as good as their word. On the
following day they had another interview with the head of the college
and spoke of Flockley.

"Well, if you desire it, he can remain," said Doctor Wallington. "As
for Koswell and Larkspur, I doubt if they wish to return, since they
have not yet shown themselves. You can prosecute them if you wish."

"No, we don't want to do that," said Dick. "We have talked it over,
and we think, for the honor of Brill, the least said the better."

"That conclusion does you much credit, and I feel greatly relieved,"
said the head of the college. He turned to Tom. "You are, of course,
reinstated, Thomas, and I shall see to it that the marks placed
against your name are wiped out. I sincerely trust that you and
Professor Sharp will allow bygones to be bygones, and will make a new

"I'm willing," answered Tom. And a little later he entered one of
the classrooms and he and Professor Sharp shook hands. After school
Professor Blackie came up and shook hands all around.

"I am glad to know you are exonerated," said that professor. "This has
taught me a lesson, to take nothing for granted," he added.

When the truth became known many of the students flocked around the
Rovers and Stanley and Songbird, and congratulated them on the
outcome of the affair. Flockley did not show himself for a long time,
excepting at meals and during class hours.

"He feels his position keenly," said Dick. "Well, I hope he turns over
a new leaf."

"A telegram for Richard Rover," said one of the teachers to the boys a
few days later.

"Wonder what's up now?" mused Dick as he tore open the yellow
envelope. He read the slip inside. "Hurrah! This is the best news
yet!" he cried.

"What is it?" asked Tom and Sam.

"The injunction against the Stanhopes and the Lanings is dissolved
by the court. They can keep the fortune. Tad Sobber has had his case
thrown out of court!"

"Say, that's great!" ejaculated Tom, and in the fullness of his
spirits he turned a handspring.

"I reckon that's the end of Mr. Tad Sobber," said Sam. But the
youngest Rover was mistaken. Though beaten in court, Sobber did not
give up all idea of gaining possession of the fortune, and what he did
next will be related in another volume, to be called "The Rover Boys
Down East; Or, The Struggle for the Stanhope Fortune." In that book we
shall also meet Jerry Koswell and Bart Larkspur once more, and learn
how they tried again to injure our friends.

But for the time being all went well, and the Rover boys were
exceedingly happy. As soon as possible they met the girls and all
spent a happy half day in taking another ride in an automobile. From
Flockley they gradually learned how Koswell and Larkspur had done many
mean things, including putting the glass in the roadway, and using the
pencil box out of Tom's dress-suit case.

"Vacation will soon be at hand," cried Sam one day, "and then--"

"Well have the best time ever known," finished Tom.

"Ah, vacation time," put in Songbird. "I have composed some verses
about that season. They run like this--"

"Not to-day, Songbird," interrupted Dick. "I've got to bone away at my

"Then hurry up, Dick," said Sam. "I want you to come and play ball."

"Ball it is--in half an hour," answered Dick. "And then," he added
softly to himself, "then I guess I'll write a good long letter to


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