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    Chapter 8

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    Chapter 9
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    THE FOOTBALL ELEVEN

    "Hi! Let go of me!" spluttered Reff Ritter, as he found himself flat on his back, with the ax up-raised in his two hands.

    "Ritter, you leave this boat alone!" exclaimed Pepper.

    "Humph! so it's you, Ditmore," muttered the bully, and now he turned over and arose.

    "Going to chop the boat to pieces, I suppose," went on Pepper, "Well, not if I can prevent it."

    "I'll chop you to pieces!" roared the bully, and swung the ax so suggestively that Pepper leaped back in alarm. "You've got no right to interfere with me!"

    "This is Jack Ruddy's sloop; you have no right to touch her."

    "Aw, you shut up."

    "I'll not shut up, Reff Ritter. If you make another mark on this boat I'll have you locked up!"

    "Humph! you think you've got the best of me, don't you?" sneered the bully, but his manner showed that he was considerably disconcerted. He had imagined that all the cadets were at supper and that no one would see his foul actions.

    "I want you to get off of this boat."

    "Supposing I won't?"

    "Then I'll call help, and advise Jack to have you arrested."

    "Going to run the whole school, aren't you?"

    "I am going to run this affair, Ritter. Now leave the boat."

    "Oh, I'll leave," muttered the bully, and walking to the side, he sprang down to the float. Then he ran to the boathouse and placed the ax inside. "Don't you dare to mention this to anybody!" he shouted as he reappeared. "If you do, you'll get yourself in hot water. My word is as good as yours." And then he turned and ran towards the school building.

    Pepper watched him out of sight.

    "No use of reporting this to Captain Putnam," he reasoned. "Ritter would, of course, deny everything. Wonder if he did much damage?"

    Pepper made an examination. Luckily the bully had not had time to get in his nefarious work to any extent, and the bottom of the sloop showed only two slight ax cuts, not deep enough to do harm.

    "Caught him just in time," thought Pepper, and then he sat down on the stern seat and munched away at the sandwich and cake, washing the stuff down with a drink from the cooler in the boathouse.

    By the time he had finished, the other cadets were coming from their supper, and soon he was joined by Jack, Dale and several others. In private, he told the young major of what had occurred.

    "The rascal!" cried Jack. "If he hurts my boat he shall pay for it!"

    "Captain Putnam must have given him a good dressing down to make him so ugly."

    "Well, he deserved it."

    "Say," put in Dale. "That was mean of old Crabtree to send you away from the table."

    "Never mind, I'll pay him back," answered The Imp, grimly.

    Several days passed and during that time Reff Ritter kept his distance. The bully was in a bitter mood, and even his cronies could get little out of him.

    The reason for this was twofold. He was smarting over the treatment received at the hands of Jack and Captain Putnam and he was also disturbed because his father had written to him, stating he could allow him hardly any spending money for the term. He had already borrowed a small amount from Paxton and he was wondering how he was going to pay it back. Added to this, he had gambled with some racetrack men during the summer, and one of those fellows now held his IOU for forty dollars.

    "Dad has got to let me have money, that is all there is to it," he told himself. "If he won't, then I'll write to mother. She'll raise it for me somehow; she always does." Which shows how foolish an indulgent mother can sometimes be.

    In the meantime, Andy had recovered from the accident and was now around as usual. Another hunt had been instituted for his belongings, but without success. A report came in that a strange man had been seen on the road just previous to the accident, and the cadets and Captain Putnam wondered if that individual had picked up Andy's things and made off with them.

    "Maybe he was the fellow I saw," said Andy, and then he heaved a deep sigh, thinking he would never hear of his property again.

    Jack and Pepper were glad to see Bert Field again, and also to see their old friend, Joseph Hogan. Emerald came back wearing a smile that was sunniness itself.

    "Sure, an' it does me heart good to be here once more, so it does," he said, in his rich Irish brogue. "I traveled all over the ould sod this summer, so I did. But Putnam Hall an' the States fer me every toime!"

    "Is this your last term here, Emerald?" asked Dale.

    "I think so--if I am lucky and get through. How about you?"

    "I hope to graduate next June."

    "And so do Jack and I," added Pepper. "But you can't always tell. I'll be sorry to leave Putnam Hall."

    "That's so; such good times as we have had here," added Jack.

    As soon as the cadets were settled down at the Hall, and the excitement over the runaway, the loss of Andy's things, and the fight between Jack and Ritter, was at an end, the talk of the boys turned to football and other Fall sports. As in the past, the cadets hoped to have a good eleven and win some substantial victories.

    "Wonder if we'll be allowed to play Pornell," said Jack.

    "I don't know," answered Dale. "I rather think the captain is sore over the reply he got from the head of that school, over the carryall affair, and maybe he won't let us play them." And in this Dale was correct. Pornell was cut out that season, but it played Putnam Hall the year following.

    Dale Blackmore was at the head of the football eleven, and, as before, he organized a fine team. Jack, Andy, Hogan, and Bart Conners were in their usual places.

    "And I want you, too, Pepper," said Dale.

    "Oh, I can go on the sub-bench," was the answer, for Pepper did not care very much for football. "Give Fred Century and Bert Field a chance."

    "I know what Pepper wants," said Andy. "He wants us to play, while he sits in the grandstand, having a good time with the girls."

    "Sure thing," answered The Imp, coolly. "Somebody has got to entertain 'em."

    "They ought to be entertained by the game," came from Dale.

    "Girls make me tired when they are at a football game," put in the cadet named Brown. "I took one once, and she said she knew all about football. After the game was half over she asked me how many runs and base hits had been made, and what they had done with the bats!"

    Reff Ritter felt extra sore when the football eleven went out for practice. He wanted to play, but Captain Putnam would not allow it, and the bully went off by himself, up the lake-shore, where he sat down on a rock to smoke cigarettes and brood over his troubles. While he sat there he took from his pocket a letter and read it over several times.

    "Twenty dollars by Saturday! I don't see how I am going to raise it," he muttered to himself. "I guess I'll have to send mother a telegram for a remittance."

    The first football game of the season was arranged to take place between Putnam Hall and an eleven from Cedarville called the Dauntless. The Dauntless players were made up of former college boys and some all-around athletes, and the cadets were told that they would have a stiff time of it trying to beat the aggregation. The game was to take place on the grounds at Cedarville. These were roped off and an admission fee was charged, the entire proceeds to go to a local Old Folks' Home.

    "I've got news!" cried Pepper, a few days before the game was to come off. "Some of the Pornell students are coming to the game, and I understand they are going to try to make trouble for our team."

    "Is it the Roy Bock crowd?" questioned Jack.

    "Yes."

    "Then it is up to you to keep an eye on them, Pepper. We can't do it while we are playing."

    "I'll keep an eye on 'em, don't fear," was the answer.

    The eleven practiced every afternoon, under the direction of Mr. Strong, who had once been a player on a college team. Josiah Crabtree took no interest in the sport, declaring it was a waste of valuable time.

    "I've got a plan to outwit the Pornellites, if they try any funny work," said Pepper, the day before the game. And then he took about a dozen cadets aside and told them what his plan was. All agreed to help him, and did what he asked of them without delay.

    The day for the game dawned clear and bright, and promptly on time the eleven started for Cedarville in the carryall, which had just come from the repair shop. Some of the cadets went on their bicycles, and Captain Putnam and some of the teachers drove over in carriages.

    When the cadets arrived at the grounds they found quite a crowd assembled. Horns and banners were in evidence, and from a flagpole floated the Stars and Stripes. On one side was a grandstand and this was about three-quarters filled.

    "I see some friends of mine," cried Pepper, and advanced to the stand.

    He had caught sight of Laura Ford, and her sister, Flossie, two young ladies who lived on the lake-shore at a place called Point View Lodge. In the past Pepper and his chums had done the Ford sisters several valuable services, for which Laura and Flossie were profoundly grateful.

    "Oh, how do you do, Pepper?" called out Laura, on catching sight of him.

    "Aren't you playing?" questioned Flossie.

    "No, I'm merely an onlooker to-day," answered Pepper, and he raised his cap and shook hands. "How have you been since I saw you last?"

    "Very well, thank you," answered Laura.

    "We hope Putnam Hall will win," came from her sister.

    "You can't hope it any more than I do," answered Pepper, and then he introduced several cadets to the young ladies, and all sat down to enjoy the game.

    Pepper has his eyes open for the appearance of the students from Pornell. At first a few came in and took a stand in a corner, out of the way. They did not belong to the Bock crowd and seemed to be content to behave themselves.

    "Maybe Roy Bock got cold feet and stayed away," said a cadet named Melmore.

    "No, here he comes!" cried Bob Grenwood. "And Sedley and four others are with him."

    Pepper looked in the direction pointed out and saw Roy Bock and his cronies approaching. All had big tin horns and immense wooden rattles, and their pockets bulged with apples and peanuts.

    "Whoop her up, Dauntless!" yelled Roy Bock, as soon as he reached the grandstand. "Whoop her up, and wipe up the ground with Putnam Hall!" And then he swung his big rattle, and his cronies did likewise. Then the Pornellites crowded into the grandstand and took seats near Pepper and his fellow cadets and the girls. They talked in loud voices and said a number of things that caused the faces of the girls to burn, and made the cadets thoroughly angry.

    "They ought to be put off the stand!" cried Bob, indignantly.

    "And they will be put off if they keep this up," answered Pepper. "They can cheer all they please for the Dauntless eleven, but they have got to act like gentlemen."

    As soon as the two elevens appeared, the practice commenced, and then there was a toss-up for goals, which Dauntless won. They took the south goal and Putnam Hall took the ball. Then came the kick-off, and the game was on.
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