The Rover Boys on the Ocean/12
DICK VISITS DORA STANHOPE.
"Battalion, fall in. Attention! Carry arms!"
It was several days later, and the cadets were out for their first parade around the grounds. Dick still retained his position as second lieutenant of Company A, having been re-elected the term previous. Tom was first sergeant of Company B, while Sam was still "a high private in the rear rank," as the saying goes.
The day was an ideal one in the early autumn, and Captain Putnam and George Strong were both on hand to watch the drilling. Major Bart Conners had graduated the year before, and his place was now filled by Harry Blossom, formerly captain of Company A.
"Shoulder arms!" came the next order. "Battalion, forward march!"
Tap! tap! tap, tap, tap! went the drums, and then the bass drum joined in, and the two companies moved off. Soon the fifers struck up a lively air, and away went the cadets, around the grounds, down the road and back, and then to the mess-hall for supper. The boys felt good to be in the ranks once more, and Captain Putnam congratulated them on their soldierly appearance.
"It does me good to see that you have not forgotten your former instructions in drilling and marching," he said. "I trust that during the present term we shall see even better results, so that the work done here may compare favorably with that done at West Point."
The school had now begun to settle down, and inside of a few days everything was working smoothly.
"What a difference it makes to have Dan Baxter and Mumps absent!" observed Tom to Dick. "We don't have any of the old-fashion rows any more."
"I'd like to know what Mumps and Josiah Crabtree were up to," put in the elder Rover. "It's queer we didn't hear any more of them. I'm going to get off soon and try and see Dora Stanhope. Perhaps she knows what Crabtree is doing."
On that day Frank Harrington received a letter from his father, in which the senator stated that nothing more had been heard of the men who had looted Rush & Wilder's safe. "I fancy they have left the State, if not the country," was Mr. Harrington's comment.
The three Rover boys got off the next day and took a walk past the cottages where resided the Lanings and the Stanhopes. At the Lanings' place Nellie and Grace came out to greet them.
"So you are back!" cried Nellie, blushing sweetly. "Father said you were. He saw you come in at Cedarville."
"Yes, back again, and glad to meet you," answered Tom, and gave the girl's hand a tight squeeze, while Sam and Dick also shook hands with both girls.
"And how do you feel?" asked Grace of Dick. "Wasn't that dreadful the way Mr. Baxter treated you on that train!"
"Well, he got the worst of it," answered Dick.
"Oh, I know that! And now they suspect him of a robbery in Albany. Papa was reading it in one of the Ithaca papers."
"Yes, and I guess he's guilty, Grace. But tell me, does Josiah Crabtree worry Mrs. Stanhope any more?" continued the boy seriously.
"Why, to be sure he does! And, oh, let me tell you something! Dora told me that he was terribly angry over having been sent to Chicago on a wild-goose chase."
"I wish he had remained out there."
"So do all of us," said Nellie Laning. "He seems bound to marry aunty, in spite of our opposition and Dora's."
"How is your aunt now?"
"She is not very well. Do you know, I think Mr. Crabtree exercises some sort of a strange influence over her."
"I think that myself. If he could do it, I think he would hypnotize her into marrying him. He is just rascal enough. Of course he is after the money Mrs. Stanhope is holding in trust for Dora."
"He can't touch that."
"He can—if he can get hold of it. I don't think Josiah Crabtree cares much for the law. Is Dora home now?"
"I believe she is. She was this morning, I know."
"I'm going over to see her," went on Dick. "I promised to do all I could for her in this matter of standing Crabtree off, and I'm going to keep my word."
As Sam and Tom wished to converse with the Laning girls a bit longer, Dick went on ahead, telling them to follow him when they chose.
It did not take Dick long to reach the Stanhope homestead. As he approached he heard loud talking on the front piazza.
"I want nothing to do with you, Dan Baxter, and I am astonished that you should come here to see me," came in Dora Stanhope's voice.
"That's all right, Dora; don't get ugly," was the reply from the former bully of Putnam Hall. "I'm not going to hurt you."
"I want you to go away and leave my mother and me alone."
"Will you come and see Mr. Crabtree, as he wanted?"
"No. If Mr. Crabtree wants to see me let him come here."
"But you told him you didn't want him here," said Dan Baxter.
"Neither I do—to see mamma. But I won't go to see him, so there! Now please leave me."
"You're a strong-minded miss, you are," sneered Dan Baxter. "You want taking down."
"What's that you say?" demanded Dick, as he strode up. "Baxter, you deserve to be knocked down for insulting this young lady."
"Oh, Dick, is that you?" burst out Dora, her pretty face brightening instantly. "I'm glad you came."
"Dick Rover!" muttered the bully, and his face fell. "What brought you here?"
"That is my business, Baxter. So Josiah Crabtree sent you to annoy Miss Stanhope."
"It's none of your affair if he did."
"I say it is my affair."
"Do you want to get into another row with me, Dick Rover?" And Dan Baxter clenched his fists.
"If we fought, the battle would end as it did before—you would be knocked out," answered Dick. "You have no right to come here if these people want you to stay away, and you had better take yourself off."
"I'll go when I please. You can't make me go—nor the Stanhopes neither," growled Dan Baxter.
At these words Dick grew white. Dora, as old readers know, was his dearest friend, and he could not stand having her spoken of so rudely. For a moment the two boys glared at each other; then Baxter aimed a blow at Dick's face.
The elder Rover ducked and hit out in return, landing upon Baxter's neck. Dora gave a scream.
"Oh, Dick! don't fight with him!"
"I won't—I'll—I'll run him out!" panted Dick, and leaping behind the bully, he caught him by the collar and the back. "Out you go, you brute!" he added, and began to run Baxter toward the open gateway. In vain the bully tried to resist. Dick's blood was up, and he did not release his hold or relinquish his efforts until the bully had been pushed along the road for a distance of fifty yards.
"Now you dare to come back!" said Dick, shaking his fist at the fellow. "If you come, I'll have you locked up."
"We'll see about it, Dick Rover," snarled Dan Baxter. He paused for an instant. "'He laughs best who laughs last,'" he muttered, and strode off as fast as his long legs would carry him, in the direction of the lake.
When Dick returned to Dora he found that the girl had sunk down on the piazza steps nearly overcome."
"Don't be afraid, Dora; he's gone," he said kindly.
"Oh, Dick, I'm so afraid of him!" she gasped.
"Was he here long before I came up?"
"About ten minutes. He brought a message from Mr. Crabtree, who wants to see me in Cedarville, I told him I wouldn't go—and I won't."
"I shouldn't either, Dora. Perhaps Crabtree only wants to get you away from the house so that he can come here and see your mother."
"I never thought of that."
"Where is your mother now?"
"Lying down with a headache. She is getting more nervous every day. I wish Mr. Crabtree was—was——"
"In Halifax, I suppose," finished Dick.
"Yes, or some other place as far off. Every time he comes near mamma she has the strangest spells!"
"He is a bad man—no doubt of it, Dora. I almost wish we had him back to the Hall. Then I could keep my eye on him."
"I'm glad you are back, Dick," said the girl softly. "If there is any trouble, you'll let me call on you, won't you?"
"I shall expect you to call on me, Dora—the very first thing," he returned promptly. "I wouldn't have anything happen to you or your mother for anything in the world."
By this time Sam and Tom were coming up, and they had to be told about Dan Baxter.
"He and his father are a team," said Sam. "I wonder if he knows what his father has done. If I meet him I'll ask him."
Dick had expected to pay his respects to Mrs. Stanhope, but now thought best not to disturb her. All the boys had a short chat with Dora, and then set out on the return to school.
On the way the three boys discussed the situation, but could get little satisfaction out of their talk.
"Something is in the wind," was Dick's comment. "But what it is time alone will reveal."
And he was right, as events in the near future proved.