The Rover Boys at School/13
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Chapter XIII: What the Game of Hare and Hounds Lead to
WHAT THE GAME OF HARE AND HOUNDS LED TO.
"What a glorious view!"
It was Sam who uttered the words. The top of the mountain had been reached at last, and the boys were feasting their eyes on the grand panorama spread on all sides.
"How beautiful the lake looks!" said Fred. "And how far one can see!"
"It's a pity we didn't bring a pair of glasses with us, Fred. But, say, I'm hungry."
"So am I. Let us eat that lunch at once and then start on the return."
Each had brought a sandwich along, and these were soon consumed and washed down with a drink of cold water from a spring not far away. Then on they went, over the top of the mountain, and along a path which they thought would bring them around its western base. It was now four o'clock, leaving them two hours in which to get back to Putnam Hall.
About a third of the distance down the mountain side had been covered, and Sam was slightly in advance, when suddenly he uttered a cry of alarm.
"What is it?"
"Over yonder! And he is coming for us!"
Sam was right; it was a snake—an angry-looking reptile all of six feet long, and as thick as Sam's wrist. It hissed savagely as it advanced, first upon Sam and then upon Fred.
If there was one thing which could fill Fred Garrison full of terror it was a snake, and the yell he gave would have outmatched that of an Indian on the warpath.
"Save me!" he screamed. "Don't let him touch me!"
"Jump back!" cried Sam, and leaped himself. Then, seeing a tall rock handy, he sprang upon it, and here Fred joined him.
Now, it happened that the snake had its home under the rock, and the movement of the lads made it more angry than ever. With a fierce hiss it came for the rock and disappeared underneath, out of the range of their vision.
"It's gone under the rock!" panted Fred. He was so agitated he could scarcely speak.
"I know it," returned Sam. "I wonder if it means to crawl up here?"
"Oh, don't say that, Sam. I—I—can't we hit it with something?"
"I haven't a thing but the bag of paper."
"Neither have I. Oh, what shall we do?"
"Perhaps we had better stay here until the others come up."
"Do you think the snake will keep quiet that long?"
"I'm sure I don't know."
Very much disturbed, the two boys peered over the edge of the rock. They were not versed in the different species of reptiles, and knew not but that the one at hand might be poisonous.
"I see his tail!" cried Fred with a shiver. "He is moving around as if getting ready to come out."
"I wonder if I can grab him by the tail?" mused Sam.
"Grab him? Oh, Sam!"
"I've heard you can catch them by the tail, snap them, and make their heads fly right off."
"Gracious, I wouldn't attempt it!"
While Fred was speaking the tail of the snake came up on the side of the rock.
Setting his teeth, Sam bent down and made a clutch for the slippery thing, and caught it tight.
With a hiss the snake raised its head, its diamond-like eyes shining like twin stars.
"You'll be poisoned!" shrieked Fred, when, whack! Sam gave the body of the reptile a swing and brought the head down with great force on the edge of the rock.
One blow was enough, for the head was mashed flat. Then Sam threw the body into the bushes, there to quiver and twist for several hours to come, although life was extinct.
Fred was as white as a sheet as he leaped to the ground. "I couldn't have done that for a million dollars!" he declared. "What a splendid nerve you have, Sam!"
"My father told me how to catch a snake in that way," exclaimed Sam. "But hurry, or the hounds will overtake us. I can hear them coming."
"Your father must have been equally brave, then," answered Fred, as they started off on a run. "By the way, have you heard anything of him yet?"
"Not a word, Fred."
"Don't it make you feel bad at times?"
"Does it, Fred! Why, some nights I can't go to sleep for thinking of where he may be dead in the heart of Africa, or perhaps a captive of some savage tribe."
"Have they ever hunted for him?"
"Several have gone out, but no traces are to be had. Dick, Tom, and I are goin to hunt for him, though, as soon as our Uncle Randolph will permit it."
"That's an idea. But you may have to go right into the jungles for him."
"I don't care if we have to go to the top of the North Pole, if only we find him," answered Sam with quiet determination.
Inside of half an hour the bottom of the mountain was gained, and then they struck out along a road which presently took them within sight of the Stanhope homestead.
"I wonder if we have time to call on Dora?" mused Fred. "It would be a scheme to leave our paper trail right through their garden."
"Glorious!" burst from Sam, caught by the idea. "I am certain Dora Stanhope will appreciate the sport."
It did not take them long to reach the garden around the farmhouse; and, running up the path, they ascended a side porch.
As they did so two forms appeared around the house. One was Mrs. Stanhope, wearing a shawl over her shoulders and a bonnet on her head, and the second was—Josiah Crabtree!
"Old Crabtree!" murmured Sam, and then of a sudden he pulled Fred out of sight behind some lattice-work inclosing one end of the porch.
"We must hurry, my dear, or we may be too late," Josiah Crabtree was saying; and now the boys noted that he was conducting the lady toward a carriage standing by the horse block.
"I—I—had we not better wait until next week, Josiah?" questioned Mrs. Stanhope timidly. She was a pale, delicate woman of forty, of a shrinking nature, easily led by others.
"No, my dear, there is no use in waiting."
"You must not mind what your daughter says, my dear. When we are married she will easily become reconciled to the change, mark my words."
"Gracious, old Crabtree is going to marry her!" whispered Sam. "Poor Dora!"
"She wants me to wait," continued the lady.
"And you ought to wait, mother," came in Dora's voice; and now she too came into sight, but without a hat or wraps.
"Mr. Crabtree wishes very much to have the ceremony performed this afternoon, Dora dear."
"If he wants to marry you, why can't he do it openly—at home or in our church?"
"He is averse to any display."
"It seems to me it is a very sneaking way to do," answered Dora coldly. "When you and papa were married the wedding was well attended, so I have been told."
"Your father and myself are different persons, Miss Dora," interrupted Josiah Crabtree stiffly. "I prefer a quiet wedding, and no time is better than the present. I shall at once resign my position at Putnam, Hall and come to live here."
Dora Stanhope's lip curled in scorn. She saw through Josiah Crabtree's motives, even though her mother did not.
"If you wish to marry my mother, why do you not make preparations to support her?" she said.
"Dora!" cried Mrs. Stanhope pleadingly.
"I mean what I say, mother. He intends to marry you and then make you support him out of the proceeds of this farm."
"You are entirely mistaken," interrupted Josiah Crabtree. "Perhaps you do not know that I am worth, in bank stocks and in bonds, between twenty and thirty thousand dollars."
"I would like to see the stocks and bonds," said the girl.
"So would I," whispered Fred to Sam. "I'll wager he isn't worth a thousand dollars all told—although they say he is a good deal of a miser."
"Dora, do not insult Mr. Crabtree. If you wish to come along and see the ceremony performed, put on your things."
"I do not wish to go."
"Very well, then; you had best return to the house."
"It is a shame!" cried the girl, and burst into tears.
"We will be back by seven o'clock," said Josiah Crabtree, and led the widow down the garden path to where the carriage was standing.
"I wish I could stop this wedding," whispered Sam to his chum.
"I am with you on that," returned Fred. "Creation, here come the hounds! Just the thing!"
He looked at Sam, and his chum instantly understood. Leaving the porch at a bound, they ran across the garden.
"Hurrah! we have you!" yelled Larry Colby, as he rushed up, followed by Tom, Dick, and a dozen of the other big cadets.
"Quick, this way!" cried Sam. "Do you see that carriage?"
"Of course we do," answered Tom.
"It contains Mrs. Stanhope and old Crabtree. They are going to drive off and get married against Dora Stanhope's wishes."
"Phew!" came in a low whistle from the eldest of the Rover Boys.
"We ought to stop this affair," went on Fred.
"Old Crabby is going to get married!" came in a shout. "Come on, let us go along!"
And pell-mell went the boys after the carriage, which had just turned from the horse-block, with the teacher and Mrs. Stanhope inside and a farmhand named Borgy on the front seat.