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    Chapter 1

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    AN ENCOUNTER ON THE ROAD

    "Here we are again, as the clown says in the circus!"

    "Right you are, Pepper. And I'll be glad to get back to Putnam Hall once more," responded Major Jack Ruddy, as he followed his chum from the lake steamer to the Cedarville dock.

    "Hello, there is Andy!" cried Pepper Ditmore, as he caught sight of a familiar face in the crowd of cadets, "Andy, where have you been? Why didn't you come on the boat with us?"

    "I got in last night," answered Andy Snow. "How are you, anyway?" And he shook hands cordially.

    "Oh, I'm as fine as a new-tooth comb," answered Pepper Ditmore, with a grin. "Ready for study and fun."

    "Especially fun, I'll wager. How about it, Jack?"

    "Oh, Pepper usually manages to get his share," came from the young major of the Putnam Hall battalion. "But, Andy, did you---- Hi, look where you are going, will you, Ritter!" cried Jack, rather angrily.

    A tall youth, carrying a big dress-suit case, had forced his way through the crowd, hitting Jack in the knee with his baggage.

    "What do you want to block the way for?" demanded Reff Ritter, sourly. "Think you own the dock?"

    "I've got as much right here, Ritter, as you have!" retorted the young major, sharply. "Don't you knock me again like that."

    "I will--if you get in my way."

    "If you do, you'll take the consequences."

    "Bah! Don't you try to dictate to me, Jack Ruddy!" growled Reff Ritter. "You got the best of me last term, but you'll not get the best of me this term, I'll tell you that!"

    "Phew! Ritter is somewhat peppery!" whispered Andy Snow.

    "I guess I know the reason," came from a student named Dale Blackmore.

    "What is it?"

    "I'll tell you later--too much of a crowd here," rejoined Dale.

    About twenty cadets, all bound for Putnam Hall Military Academy, had arrived on the boat from Ithaca, and these, along with some others who had come down to the dock to see the boat come in, gathered around Jack Ruddy and Reff Ritter to see the outcome of the unexpected encounter.

    Jack Ruddy had good cause to consider Reff Ritter his enemy. But he had hoped that during the term now opening at the school the bully of Putnam Hall would keep his distance.

    "I am not trying to dictate to you, Ritter," answered Jack, as calmly as he could. "But I don't propose to let you hit me with your suitcase."

    "Huh! It was an accident!" growled Reff.

    "Oh, come on, Reff!" put in Gus Coulter, the bully's close crony. "Let us get good seats in the carryall."

    "That's the talk! Let us get in before the others take the seats!" came from Nick Paxton, another crony.

    He pushed ahead, and his elbow caught Pepper Ditmore directly in the ribs.

    "Not quite so swift, Paxton!" cried Pepper, and he gave the cadet a quick shove backwards. Paxton bumped into Reff Ritter, lost his footing, and fell over the dress-suit case in the bully's hand.

    "Hurrah! One down!" cried Andy Snow. "How many yards to gain for a touchdown, Nick?"

    "What do you mean by knocking me down!" roared Nick Paxton, as he scrambled to his feet. "I'll not stand for it."

    "Then sit down again," answered Pepper, merrily. "And next time keep your elbow out of my ribs," he added. "Come on, we don't want to get left!" he added to his chums.

    A bolt was made by many of the cadets for the Putnam Hall carryall, and soon a crowd was inside and on the front seat, talking, joking and cheering, as suited the mood of each individual. Jack, Pepper, Andy and Dale managed to crowd inside throwing their suitcases on the top. Gus Coulter got in also, but when he saw that Reff Ritter and Nick Paxton had been left, he scrambled out again, and his place was taken by Fred Century, another student.

    "Hello, Peleg, old sport!" cried Pepper, gaily, to the driver of the turnout. "How have you been for the past fifty years?"

    "Oh, I'm very well, thank you," responded Peleg Snuggers.

    "Heard you had a fortune left to you," went on Pepper, with a wink at his chums. "Old uncle died and left you half a million."

    "Three-quarters of a million," put in Andy Snow, scenting fun. "All in gold, too."

    "Isn't that fine!" said Jack. "Peleg, how about lending me ten or fifteen dollars?"

    "I could use a five-spot myself," added Dale.

    "I'd like to borrow about fifty for a new bicycle," came from Fred Century.

    "Don't be modest about lending us the cash," went on Pepper. "Just hand it out as if you had always had it."

    "I ain't had no fortune left to me!" burst out the general utility man, desperately. "Who said I had?"

    "Why, everybody knows it, Peleg," responded Pepper. "Come, don't be modest about it. Was it really three-quarters of a million?"

    "Maybe it was more," suggested Jack.

    "If I were you, Peleg, I'd not carry so much around in my pockets," said Dale.

    "I ain't had a cent left to me!" shouted the driver of the carryall. "This is some of your jokes, an' I want you to stop it! Oh, dear, now the school's opened ag'in I suppose there won't be no rest fer nobuddy!" And he heaved a mountainous sigh.

    "Oh, Peleg! Don't be angry with me!" murmured Pepper, with a trace of tears in his voice. "If you get angry I'll die!"

    "You behave yourself, Pepper Ditmore, or I won't drive you to the Hall."

    "Peleg, don't you want me to drive?" asked Andy, who was on the front seat. "I'm a cracker-jack at driving."

    "Not much! Don't you tech them hosses!" shouted the general utility man in alarm. "That off hoss is a new one an' he's mighty skittish, I can tell you. This mornin' when I was hookin' him up he nigh kicked the leg off o' me!"

    "Say, how are we going to get to the Hall?" came in ugly tones from Reff Ritter. He, with six other boys, was standing beside the carryall.

    "Captain Putnam said he'd send down some carriages," answered Peleg Snuggers. "There they come now," and he pointed to the turnouts.

    "Pshaw! I wanted to go in the carryall," grumbled Ritter.

    "So did I," added Gus Coulter.

    "Well, this is full, so you'll have to take the carriages," answered Peleg Snuggers. "Everybody hold fast!" he shouted, as he took up the reins.

    "We are off!" shouted Pepper, gaily. "Farewell to Cedarville and ho! for Putnam Hall!"

    "Wish I had room, I'd turn a handspring for you," came from Andy, who was quite an acrobat.

    "Now don't you cut up any monkey-shines," pleaded the driver of the carryall. "That new hoss won't stand for 'em."

    "All right, Peleg, I'll keep as quiet as a lamb without a tail."

    "Why is a lamb without a tail quiet?" asked Fred Century, quickly.

    "Give it up, Fred. Why?"

    "Because he has no tale to tell."

    "Wow!"

    "What a joke!"

    "Throw him out!"

    "Give him some cotton to eat!"

    "Say, do keep quiet!" pleaded Peleg Snuggers, as the boys in the carryall commenced to push Fred from one seat to another. "Want these hosses to ran away with you?"

    "Better draw it mild," suggested Major Jack. "We don't want any accident on the way to the Hall." He looked back at the crowd left on the dock. "Has anybody seen Bert Field?" he asked.

    "Yes, I saw him last week," answered a student named Paul Singleton. "He'll be here to-morrow."

    "How about Emerald?" asked Pepper.

    "Coming to-night," answered Andy. "He went to Ireland this summer, and his brogue is worse than ever."

    "Never mind, Emerald is a good fellow," said Major Jack. "His heart is as big as a barrel."

    "Say, but wasn't Reff Ritter mad!" came from Dale.

    "Oh, he makes me tired," answered Pepper. "After all that happened last term wouldn't you think he'd behave himself better?"

    "It isn't in him to behave himself," answered Fred Century. "He is a bully and always will be."

    "Well, he has got to keep his distance this term," said Major Jack, with a firm look on his face. "I am not going to stand for what I have in the past."

    "Nor I," added Pepper. "If he doesn't keep his distance he'll suffer for it."

    The carryall was now leaving the little village of Cedarville. Soon it came out on a country road that ran in the direction of Putnam Hall.

    It was an ideal day in early September, and the cadets returning to the school were in high spirits. One started to sing and the others joined in.

    "Hello, there goes the Pornell Academy stage!" cried Pepper, presently.

    "And there are some fellows we know!" returned Jack, as the turnout belonging to a rival school came closer. "Roy Bock and Bat Sedley."

    "I'll bet they are sore over what happened last June," cried Pepper.

    "It was their own fault that they suffered," came from Andy.

    "Look out!" sang out Dale, and dodged down in the carryall.

    Spat! A half-decayed apple struck the side of the turnout. Spat! came one through the open window. Then the skin of a banana followed, landing in Jack's lap.

    "Stop that, Bock!"

    "Don't throw things in here, Sedley!"

    "Something to remember us by!" shouted Roy Bock, the bully of Pornell Academy, and he threw another soft apple into the carryall. It landed on Pepper's arm, leaving quite a mess there.

    "All right, if that's your game!" cried Pepper, and feeling in his pocket he brought forth an orange he had purchased on the boat. Taking careful aim, he let fly with all force. The orange landed fairly and squarely on Roy Bock's nose.

    "Ouch!" roared Roy Bock, and clapped his hand to his nose, which began to bleed.

    "Here's something for you, Sedley!" cried Andy, and sent a handful of peanut shells into the Pornell student's face.

    "I'll fix you fellows!" roared Roy Bock in a rage, and catching up a heavy book that was on the seat beside him he started to throw the volume at Jack and Pepper.

    But the volume slipped and went sailing in the air in another direction, catching poor Peleg Snuggers on the cheek. The driver of the carryall was so startled that he let go the reins and fell from his seat into the dust of the road.

    As the reins dropped at their heels, one of the horses--the new one--threw up his head in sudden fright. Then he made a mad lunge forward, dragging his mate with him. The carryall gave a lurch and a bound that sent the occupants flying into each other's laps.

    "Stop the team!" was the cry.

    "The horses are running away!"
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