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    Chapter 2

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    THE CADETS OF PUTNAM HALL

    It was true, the team was running away. One of the horses was a spirited animal and he now had the bit in his teeth. The boys in the rear of the turnout looked back, to see Peleg Snuggers still lying in the highway. The stage belonging to Pornell Academy had turned down a side road.

    "Can't you stop them, Andy?" asked Jack Ruddy.

    "I don't see how," was the answer from the youth on the front seat. "I can't get hold of the lines."

    "We must stop 'em somehow!" cried Fred Century. "Otherwise we'll have a smash-up, sure!"

    "Whoa! whoa!" yelled half a dozen, but these cries only served to scare the team more, and away they shot along the country road, sending the carryall swaying from side to side.

    "Look! look!" yelled Andy, suddenly. "The regular road is shut off! They are repairing it!"

    The boys gazed ahead and saw that some wooden horses and planking had been placed across the highway. This side of the barrier some bars had been taken from a fence, so that those using the road might drive around, through an orchard belonging to a farmer named Darrison.

    "We are going to strike those planks!" cried Dale Blackmore.

    "Maybe the team will try to jump them!" came from Fred.

    "If they do, they'll smash the carryall sure!" answered Pepper. "Perhaps we had better drop out at the rear."

    "Look out!" sang out somebody, and just then the carryall left the highway and turned into the orchard. Then came a scraping, as the top of the turnout hit the low-hanging branches of some apple trees.

    "Whoa! stop that wagon!" yelled a man's voice, and Amos Darrison appeared from among the trees. He made a leap for the team, but they swerved to one side. Then came a crash, as one of the wheels caught in a stump. Over went the carryall, with the boys in it. Andy, quick to act, used his acrobatic abilities by leaping into the branches of a nearby tree. Then the farmer caught the team and stopped them.

    "Anybody hurt?" was Pepper's question, as he crawled out of the wreck.

    "I'm all right," answered Fred.

    "I got a twisted ankle, that's all," came from Dale, as he limped out.

    "Look at Jack!" cried several. "He's hurt!"

    All looked and saw the young major of the school battalion lying flat on his back in the front of the carryall. He had a nasty cut on the temple and his eyes were closed.

    "He is dead!" murmured Pepper, hoarsely.

    "Oh, don't say that!" said Andy, in sudden terror. He had just dropped to the ground.

    "If he ain't dead he's putty badly hurted," said the farmer who owned the orchard.

    Pepper caught his chum in his arms and brought him out and laid him on the grass.

    "He is still breathing!" he cried. "Get some water and we'll bathe his face. Maybe that will bring him around."

    "I'll get the water!" exclaimed Dale, and ran towards a well located at the side of the orchard.

    To those who have read the other volumes in this "Putnam Hall Series," the lads already mentioned will need no special introduction. For the benefit of others, let me state that Jack Ruddy and Pepper Ditmore were close chums, living, when at home, in the western part of New York State. Jack was slightly the older of the two and was of rather a serious turn of mind. Pepper was full of fun, and on that account was frequently called "The Imp."

    As related in my first volume, entitled "The Putnam Hall Cadets," the lads left home to become cadets at a new institution of learning located on Cayuga Lake. This new school was presided over by Captain Victor Putnam, a retired army officer, who had modeled his institution somewhat after the famous military academy at West Point. It was a large school, ideally located on the shore of the lake, and had attached to it a gymnasium, a boathouse, and several other buildings. On the lower floor of the main building were the classrooms, the mess-hall, and the offices, and upstairs were the dormitories.

    Arriving at the school, Jack and Pepper soon made a host of friends, including the acrobatic Andy Snow; Dale Blackmore, who was a great football player; Paul Singleton, who was usually called "Stuffer" because of his constant desire to eat; Joseph Hogan, commonly addressed as "Emerald" because of his Irish blood, and Joe Nelson, who was one of the best scholars the school ever had. They also made some enemies, the greatest of them being Reff Ritter, the big bully, and Gus Coulter and Nick Paxton, his cronies.

    Not long after the students learned how to drill and to march they were allowed to ballot for officers. A bitter contest was waged, which resulted in Jack being chosen major of the Hall battalion. A bully named Dan Baxter had wanted to be major, and he bribed Gus Coulter and some others to vote for him, but without avail. It may be added here that Baxter was now away on a vacation, but had written that he was going to return to the school before long.

    During their first term at Putnam Hall the chums had several adventures, not the least of which was one in the woods, where they rescued George Strong, one of the teachers, from two of his relatives who were insane.

    Mr. Strong's ancestry dated back to the Revolution, and he told the cadets about a family treasure buried in the vicinity of the lake. How the boys went in search of the treasure, and how they had numerous other adventures, was related in the second volume of this series, called "The Putnam Hall Rivals."

    With the coming of the next summer, the thoughts of the students turned to various sports, and in the third volume, "The Putnam Hall Champions," I told how the chums entered several contests, both on land and on the lake, and won out. At that time Fred Century was a pupil at Pornell Academy, but Fred became so disgusted at the actions of Roy Bock, Bat Sedley, and some others, that he quit the rival institution of learning and came to Putnam Hall, where he was given a warm welcome.

    The encounters that Jack and his chums had with Reff Ritter and his cronies were numerous, and more than once Ritter did his best to get the young major into serious trouble. Once he drugged Jack with some French headache powders, and when he was exposed Captain Putnam would have expelled him had not Jack very generously asked that he be given another chance. For this any ordinary youth would have been grateful, but gratitude did not appear to be a part of Reff Ritter's make-up, and he soon showed himself to be as mean as ever.

    For some time matters ran along smoothly at Putnam Hall, but then came trouble of an entirely new kind. Once, during the absence of Captain Putnam and George Strong, the school was left in charge of two other teachers--Josiah Crabtree and Pluxton Cuddle. Crabtree was dictatorial to a degree and Cuddle was a man of queer ideas, one being that boys ate entirely too much.

    As told in the volume called "The Putnam Rebellion," the two teachers sought to subdue the boys by starving them and locking them in their dormitories. They rebelled, left the school by stealth, and marched away, to camp in the woods. There the rebels split up, one party under Major Jack and the other under Ritter. At last Captain Putnam put in an appearance, and Major Jack explained matters. As a consequence, the cadets went back to the Hall, and then Josiah Crabtree and Pluxton were called on to explain. Crabtree was retained, after a stern lecture from the master of the school, but Cuddle was discharged.

    It was Captain Putnam's custom to take his students out once or twice a year to what was called an encampment--the lads marching to some spot where they could pitch their tents and go in for a touch of real army life, with target shooting, sham battles, and the like. In the next volume of the series, called "The Putnam Hall Encampment," I told how the cadets left the Hall and marched to a distant lake. Their camping outfit was sent ahead by wagons, but the wagons got lost, and were finally found in the possession of Roy Bock and some other students of Pornell, they having made off with them while the drivers were in a roadhouse obtaining refreshments. For this trick, Pepper and some of the others got after the Pornellites and made them prisoners in a cave, from which they could escape only by going out a back way, through some water and mud, and thorny bushes.

    While they were playing a certain trick in Cedarville, Jack and Pepper fell in with a youth named Bert Field. He was a queer lad, but did the chums a good turn, and in return they promised to help him. He was trying to locate a certain old man who was defrauding him out of some property. The old man was discovered during a visit to a mysterious mill said to be haunted, and by the chums' aid Bert Field got what was coming to him. It was thought best to send Bert to school, and he said he wanted to go to Putnam Hall.

    "We'll be glad to have him with us," said Jack, and so it was settled.

    Following the encampment had come the regular summer vacation, and the cadets had scattered far and wide, Jack and Pepper going for a cruise around the Great Lakes, and Andy and Dale going to Asbury Park and Atlantic City. Reff Ritter had started for a summer in the Adirondacks, but unexpected word from home, of which more will be said later, had caused him to give up the outing.
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