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    Chapter 5

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    Chapter 6
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    THE FIGHT IN THE GYMNASIUM

    It was not until two days later that Andy Snow felt like himself again. No bones had been broken, but the acrobatic youth had received a shaking up that was severe.

    So far he had not been told of his loss, and when he asked for his belongings he was much depressed by the news.

    "Couldn't find them anywhere?" he repeated, to Pepper. "Oh, are you sure you made a good search?"

    "We certainly did, Andy," returned Pepper. "We went back the next day, early in the morning."

    "And you didn't find a thing?"

    "Only this button and lead pencil, and this buckle."

    "The pencil is mine, but not the button and the buckle." Andy heaved a sigh. "Then I am out my watch and chain, the stickpin, and eight dollars! Was there ever such luck!"

    "Andy, was anybody near you when you had the tumble?" asked Pepper.

    "Near me? Why, yes, there was a man on the road just ahead of me! I had forgotten all about it until now."

    "Who was he?"

    "I don't know. A tall fellow, with a thin, leathery face."

    "A farmer?"

    "No, he looked more like a city man. He had on a regular sack suit and a derby hat."

    "I was thinking that possibly somebody robbed you while you were unconscious."

    "Perhaps that is so, Pep. I'd like to see that man."

    "You never saw him before?"

    "Not that I can remember."

    "Would you know him if you saw him again?

    "I don't know about that. I didn't have much time to look at him. I was busy trying to escape being hit by the tree branches."

    "You must have been lying on the road five or ten minutes before we found you," pursued Pepper. "If that stranger was a rascal he would have had plenty of time to go through your pockets. I don't see how riding could make you lose all those things at once."

    "If he robbed me, I'd like to get hold of him," cried Andy.

    "More than likely, if he did rob you, he'll take good care to keep out of your reach."

    "What of the horse? Did they catch him?"

    "Not yet. Most likely he left the road after he got tired of running and wandered into the woods. He was a valuable animal and Captain Putnam is worried about him."

    "Will he hold me for that loss?"

    "I don't think so--you didn't run away with him--he ran away with you."

    The report of the loss of Andy's valuables was thoroughly circulated around Putnam Hall and Cedarville, and a reward of ten dollars for the return of the things was posted.

    The next day a farmer named John Lane, who lived not far from the school, appeared there, riding on the back of the runaway Jim. The horse looked much subdued and was covered with burrs.

    "I was out in the woods with my son Bill, when we ran across the horse," explained John Lane. "I knew him right away as the animal that had belonged to Jerry Toller. I asked Jerry about it and he said he had sold the horse to you, so I brought him here."

    "You are very kind, Mr. Lane," replied Captain Putnam. "I'd like to pay you for your trouble."

    "Oh, that's all right, Captain Putnam," responded the farmer. "Glad to do you a good turn."

    "Thank you very much. Any time I can do you a good turn, let me know."

    "Well, you might buy some of my extra hay, and extra potatoes. I've got some prime hay, and the best potatoes ever grown in these parts, and I'll sell 'em at regular market prices."

    "Then I'll take all I can use, Mr. Lane," answered the captain, and a little later a bargain was struck, not alone for the hay and potatoes, but also for some turnips, cabbages, and table celery.

    "What that horse needs is exercise," said John Lane, on departing. "Give him a few miles every day and he'll be as mild as any of 'em. He's too full-blooded to remain standing in the stable."

    "I'll see to it that he gets the exercise," answered Captain Putnam.

    On the day that the horse was returned Jack, Pepper and Fred walked down to the boathouse, to look over the boats. As my old readers know, Jack owned a sloop called the Alice, while Fred possessed a similar craft named the Ajax. Besides these sloops, there were numerous boats belonging to the Hall.

    "Well, our sloops look natural," said the young major.

    "I was wishing this summer I could go out in the Ajax," answered Fred. "What do you say if we take a little sail now?"

    "In which boat, Fred?" asked Pepper. "We can't go out in both."

    "Make it the Alice!" cried Jack.

    "No, the Ajax!" came from Fred.

    "I'll toss up for it," went on Pepper and produced a cent. "Head you win, tail you lose." And up into the air spun the coin.

    "Head!" cried Fred.

    "Head it is, and we go out in the Ajax."

    "All right, but you'll have to go out in the Alice next time," cried the young major.

    "By the way, did you hear about Tom Rollinson?" asked Pepper, as he walked into the boathouse to inspect his locker there.

    "What of him?" asked Fred.

    "The family were burnt out this summer and lost everything."

    "Lost everything?" queried Jack. "That's tough luck. I shouldn't want to lose all I had."

    "Well, it will happen sometimes," said Fred.

    "Well, some lose by fire and some lose in other ways," went on the young major. "You have heard about Ritter. His father----"

    "You shut your mouth about my father!" roared a voice from behind a dressing-room door. "My father is just as honest as anybody, and I won't have you or anybody else running him down!" And then Reff Ritter appeared, minus his coat, vest and collar, and his face distorted with rage.

    "I didn't say your father was dishonest, Reff," returned Jack, as calmly as he could. "I was simply going to state----"

    "Oh, you needn't try to smooth it over, Jack Ruddy," fumed the bully. "Don't imagine that I don't know all about the mean stories you and others are circulating about my family. You'd like to make out that my father is the worst swindler that ever lived, and I won't stand for it."

    "Reff, that isn't true," interrupted Pepper. "Jack hasn't said a word against your father."

    "Oh, you can't bluff me, Pep Ditmore. I know better."

    "What Pepper says is true--I haven't said a word, Reff, truly I haven't. I heard that you had lost some of your money, and I said I was sorry to hear it--and I am sorry. I know how I'd feel if my father lost money. You----"

    "Don't smooth it over, I tell you!" roared the bully. "I know you! You and your cronies have been down on me ever since I came to this school, and now you think you can crow over me, and maybe get me to leave Putnam Hall. But I am not going to leave, and if you dare to open your mouth against me I'll punch your head."

    "You'll not punch my head, Reff!" answered Jack, and now his tones grew stern. "If you don't want to believe me, you needn't. But I'll not let you threaten me."

    "Humph! You can't boss me, even if you are major of the battalion."

    "I don't want to 'boss' anybody. You behave yourself and leave me alone, and I'll leave you alone."

    The loud talking had attracted the attention of a number of cadets, and they commenced to crowd around Jack and Ritter. Among the number were Gus Coulter and Nick Paxton.

    "Why don't you fight him, Reff?" suggested Coulter.

    "That's the talk," added Paxton. "Show him that he can't talk about you and your father as he pleases."

    "He won't fight; he is afraid," answered Reff Ritter, with a sneer in his tones.

    "I am not afraid, Ritter, and you know it," answered Jack, trying to keep his temper. "But you know the rules, and I, as major of the cadets, am bound to uphold them."

    "Hit him one!" whispered Coulter, in his crony's ear. "I'll stand by you."

    "So will I," added Paxton.

    "Well, if you won't fight, take that for your impudence!" cried Reff Ritter, and with a quick step forward, he slapped Jack on the cheek.

    The blow was but a light one, yet it seemed to sink deep into Jack's very heart, and on the instant all thoughts of prudence and rules were cast aside. His face went white and his eyes flashed fire. Reff Ritter stepped back to guard himself, but before he could do so, Jack's arm shot out and a heavy blow landed on the bully's chin, sending him staggering into Coulter's arms.

    "That's the way to do it, Jack!" came from Pepper.

    "He started it, now give him what he deserves!" added Fred.

    "That's for the slap in the face, Reff Ritter!" said Jack, in cold tones. "Now mind and keep your distance."

    "Wait--I'm not done yet!" yelled the bully, and doubling up his fists he hurled himself on the young major.

    Several body blows were struck and then the two clinched. As Ritter was partly stripped for battle, while Jack had on his stiff uniform, the bully had a little the better of it from the beginning. Around and around the gymnasium floor they struggled.

    "Break away!" cried several cadets. "Break away!"

    "I'll break if he will," answered Jack.

    "All right," answered Ritter, and the hold of each youth was loosened. But as they broke the bully tried to land his fist on Jack's ear.

    "Hi, that isn't fair, Ritter!" cried Fred.

    "You keep out of this, Century!" was Coulter's warning.

    "I'll not keep out, Coulter. Make Ritter fight fair."

    Again the two cadets faced each other. Now Ritter was on his guard, and cleverly ducked a blow aimed at his face. Then he hit Jack on the chest and in the shoulder.

    "That's the talk," came gleefully from Paxton. "Pummel him well while you are at it."

    Again Jack struck out, and this time landed on the bully's arm. But then Ritter swung a heavy left-hander that took the young major in the ear and sent him staggering against Pepper.

    "Follow him up! Follow him up!" screamed Coulter. "You've got him going, Reff! Finish him!"

    Thus encouraged, Ritter leaped in and another blow landed on Jack's ear. He was a bit dazed, but shut his teeth hard and ducked under Ritter's arm. Then both sparred for an opening, circling around the gymnasium floor once more, the crowd of cadets around them growing larger and larger.

    "It's a great fight, all right!"

    "Say, I hope none of the teachers come to cut it short."

    "They are about evenly matched aren't they?"

    "I don't know; we'll soon find out."

    So the talk ran on, but to it neither Jack nor Ritter paid attention. The bully was in a fierce rage, while Jack tried his best to keep cool. Suddenly Ritter leaped forward and two quick blows were delivered.

    Jack knocked one blow aside and dodged the second. Then he let drive, right and left, as quick as lightning and with all his strength. One blow took the bully in the nose and the second in the mouth. Over he went against one of the wooden horses. Then his eyes suddenly closed, and in a limp mass he slid to the floor.
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