The Wizard of the Sea/Chapter 2
A TERRIFIC EXPLOSION.
Nautical Hall was a large building of brick, stone, and wood situated at the top of a small hill. In front was a level parade ground, and to one side the grounds sloped down to the edge of a small bay, while at the other they were flanked by a heavy wood.
The institution was owned and managed by Captain Hooper, an ex-army and -navy officer, who looked to the military drill of the boys and left the educational department to an able corps of assistants. With the assistants and the gallant captain himself we will become better acquainted as our tale proceeds.
Mont soon became acquainted with nearly all of the one hundred and odd boys who attended Nautical Hall, and became the leader of a set composed of himself, Link Harmer, Barry Powell, another lively lad, Carl Barnaby, his old-time chum, Piggy Mumps, a fat youth, and Sam Schump, a German pupil, as good-natured as can possibly be imagined.
As soon as the boys arrived they were assigned to their places. Mont was put in the room with the crowd above mentioned. This room connected with another, in which were installed the bully, Hoke Ummer; Bill Goul, his toady, and half a dozen of the bully's cronies.
"This room will get into a free fight with that gang some day," was Barry Powell's comment, after Schump, the German boy, had related how the bully had treated him.
"Dot's it, mine gracious," replied Sam Schump. "Ve vill git togedder an' show dem vot ve can do, aint it!"
Several days were spent in getting ready for the term. Mont was placed in the first class, with twenty others, and he was likewise put in an awkward squad to learn the steps and manual of arms, for the boys had regular military and naval exercises.
As luck would have it, our hero was placed under one of the assistant teachers, and fared very well, but poor Piggy Mumps was put in a squad under Hoke Ummer, who did all he could to make the fat boy miserable.
"Eyes right! Eyes left! Front!" shouted Hoke. "Why don't you mind, you clown!" he added to poor Piggy, who was in a sweat to do as ordered.
"Vot you say, eyes right an' den eyes left, ven da vos right?" asked Piggy innocently.
"Silence! Eyes right! Eyes left! You clown, can't you twist your eyes, or are you too fat?" roared Hoke.
"Ton't vos call me a clown, you—you unchentlemanly poy!" cried Piggy wrathfully, when without warning Hoke fell upon him and hit him a blow on the neck.
This was too much for Piggy, and he ran out of the line and closed with the bully. But he was no match for the big boy, and Piggy would have been severely punished had not Hoke been caught by the shoulder and hurled backward against a wall.
"Let him alone!" came in the voice of Mont. "You have no right to touch him, Hoke Ummer."
"Haven't I, though?" sneered the bully. "Do you suppose I'm going to be made a fool of by a lump of fat like that? You clear out, or I'll give you a dose, too!"
"You can try it on any time you please," replied our hero quietly.
"A fight! A fight!" exclaimed half a dozen at once, and the awkward squad was broken up on the instant.
"A fight?" repeated the bully. "He'll get a thrashing—that's all it will amount to. Come on down to the woods if you want to have it out."
"I'm willing to meet you," returned Mont, and started along, followed by Piggy, Link, and a dozen others.
But scarcely had the boys gone a rod before the belfry bell rang out loudly five times.
That was the signal for assembly on the parade grounds.
"Hullo, we can't go now!" cried Link. "Boys, you'll have to postpone that mill till later."
"I'll meet you after assembly," growled Hoke Ummer, under his breath, as Captain Hooper put in an appearance.
"I'll be ready any time," rejoined our hero.
"Boys, we are to have visitors in fifteen minutes!" shouted out Captain Hooper. "Attention! The captains will form their companies on the campus and a salute will be fired as the visitors enter the grounds."
Orders were quickly passed, and inside of five minutes the boy cadets were drawn up in long lines, with the officers of the two companies in their proper places.
The visitors were old friends of the captain who had come to the Hall merely out of curiosity. As their carriages approached, a cannon was run out, and Link and several others were detailed to fire it off.
Link chose Mont to assist, and before long all was in readiness to touch her off.
"Here they come!" shouted somebody.
"Stand ready to fire!" sang out Captain Hooper, in true military style. "Steady, boys, now—I expect all to make the best possible appearance. Fire!"
Link touched the cannon off, while our hero and several others stood close at hand.
The report was terrific. The old cannon was overcharged, and was blown into a thousand pieces, which flew in all directions.
Both Link and Mont were hurled flat, and while the former was seen to stagger up again, our hero lay as one dead!