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    Chapter 24

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    Chapter 25
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    ANDY SHOWS HIS COURAGE

    "Stop that, Ritter! What do you mean by kicking Andy when he is down?"

    It was Pepper who uttered these words, as he rushed up from the other side of the campus.

    "I didn't kick him," retorted Ritter. He was startled, for he had not anticipated being seen.

    "You did!"

    "A fight! A fight!" was the cry, and soon a crowd of cadets began to collect.

    Slowly Andy arose to his feet. His face was pale, for both the blow on the chin and the kick in the side had been severe.

    "You--you brute!" he gasped. "You dirty brute!"

    "Hi, don't you call me a brute!" roared Ritter.

    "You are a brute!" put in Pepper. "No fair-minded chap would kick a fellow when he was down."

    "Ditmore, you keep out of this," grumbled the bully.

    "I'm going to see that Andy has fair play," returned Pepper.

    The encounter had occurred after Captain Putnam and the teachers had disappeared, so there was little chance of an interruption by the Hall authorities.

    Andy stood up and tried to collect himself. He was "boiling mad," for the attack had been a dastardly one.

    "Had enough?" demanded the bully, coming closer, and with his fists clenched.

    "No, I haven't!" answered the acrobatic youth, and then, of a sudden, he sprang high in the air, to come down on Ritter's shoulder. Then he caught the bully around the neck with one arm.

    "Hi! hi! let up----" began Ritter. "I--I----"

    "I'll not let up!" retorted Andy. "You brought this on yourself, Reff Ritter, and now you can take the consequences. How do you like that, and that, and that?"

    Each "that" was accompanied by a stinging blow, one on the ear, one on the eye and one on the nose. The second made the bully's left optic black, and the third caused the blood to spurt freely. Then Andy landed another blow on Ritter's mouth, leaped to the ground, and shoved the fellow from him.

    "I'll give you those for an opener," he said, breathing heavily. "You can have some more in another minute."

    "You--you rat!" hissed the bully and came at Andy with a rush. But the acrobatic youth dodged, and Ritter ran full tilt into Dan Baxter.

    "Hi, keep your distance, Ritter!" growled Baxter.

    "I'll fix him!" yelled Ritter, and made another lunge for Andy. This time he hit Andy on the shoulder. But the acrobatic youth came back at him in double-quick order, and Ritter received a blow in the chin that bowled him over into the arms of Nick Paxton. As he went over his eyes closed, and then he slid in a heap to the ground.

    "A knockout for Snow!"

    "Say, that was a smashing blow!"

    "It served Ritter right; he kicked Andy when he was down."

    "Yes, and he hit him before he was ready."

    Paxton, Coulter and several others gathered around the fallen bully and rubbed his face with some snow. In a few minutes he opened his eyes and stared around.

    "Don't--don't hit me again!" he mumbled, between his bleeding teeth.

    "Have you had enough?" demanded Andy. "If you haven't, stand up and get some more."

    "Don't--don't hit me again!"

    "Then you have had enough?"

    "I'll--I'll meet you another time."

    "No, you won't, Ritter, you'll meet me now."

    "That's the talk!" cried several. "Finish the fight."

    "I don't want to fight any more," answered the bully, and his words came in almost a whine.

    "Then you have had enough? Yes or no?"

    "I've--I've had enough," said Ritter, in a low tone.

    "Very well; see that you remember this lesson," declared Andy, and then turned on his heel and walked towards the Hall, followed by a dozen of his admirers.

    "Andy, it was great, the way you jumped on him!" declared Pepper.

    "It was only a little acrobatic stunt," declared Andy. "But it came in mighty handy. I shouldn't have tried it only he didn't fight fair--hitting me before I was ready, and kicking me when I was down."

    "You watch out that he doesn't play you foul," said Dale, who was present.

    "I'll keep my eyes open."

    It was soon whispered around the school how Andy had met and vanquished the bully, and as a consequence many of the fellows who had toadied to Ritter deserted him. Even Paxton gave him the cold shoulder openly, and Baxter simply sneered at him. Only Gus Coulter clung to Ritter, and the pair seemed to become greater cronies than ever.

    After the election of officers, and the fight, matters ran along swiftly until the midwinter holidays. During those days many of the boys visited their homes. Captain Putnam spent his time in trying to clear up the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the things from the Hall, but without success. The detective he had hired unearthed nothing of importance and was discharged. One of the waiters left of his own accord, and the master of the school could not help but wonder if he was the guilty party.

    In the meantime, Andy and his chums had been trying to find out something about Cameron Smith. They were equally unsuccessful, for no one they knew in Boston had ever heard of that individual. His name was not in the directory.

    "There was something strange about him," said Andy. "I wish Ritter would tell us more about him. But I know it would be useless to ask Reff. He hasn't spoken to me since the fight."

    After the holidays came some fine skating on the lake, and also some iceboating.

    Fred Century had had a new iceboat built at Cedarville. It was called the Skimmer, and he was exceedingly proud of the craft.

    "You must come out with me," he said to Jack, Pepper and Andy, one Saturday afternoon. "The ice is as smooth as glass, and the wind is just right."

    "All right!" cried Pepper. "A sail will suit me down to the ground."

    Jack and Andy were also pleased to go, and the quartet of boys were soon down at the boathouse, where the Skimmer was tied up.

    They were just getting aboard of the iceboat when they saw another craft heave in sight.

    "Who is that on board?" asked Andy.

    "It is Reff Ritter," answered Pepper, "and Gus Coulter is with him."

    "The iceboat belongs to a fellow in Cedarville," said a cadet standing near. "Ritter hired it for a week."

    The second craft was called the Rosebud, and was rather a fine-looking outfit, with steel runners and a snowy-white sail.

    "He must have paid something to rent that," observed Jack. "I thought he didn't have much money?"

    "He says his father is in business again and is doing better," answered Paxton, who was present. "Hello, Reff!" he called out. "Want another passenger?"

    "I don't want you!" answered the bully, briefly.

    "All right, you don't have to have me!" growled Paxton.

    "Say, Century, do you want to race me?" asked Ritter, as he brought the Rosebud alongside the dock.

    "I don't know," answered Fred, slowly. "What do you say?" he whispered to the others.

    "Do you think you can beat him?" asked Pepper.

    "I can try."

    "Then go ahead," said Jack. "You don't care, do you, Andy?"

    "Not at all--if Fred can beat him," was the reply from the acrobatic youth.

    "All right, I'll race!" called out Fred. "But you will have to carry four, the same as myself."

    "Humph!" growled Ritter. "I don't know about that."

    "I'll go, Reff!" cried Mumps.

    "So will I!" added a cadet named White.

    "All right, jump aboard," cried the bully, and Mumps and White lost no time in doing as bidden.

    "Where do you want to race to?" asked Fred.

    "Up to Dorsett's Point and back."

    "All right. Are you ready?"

    "Yes."

    "Then let her go!" yelled the owner of Skimmer; and in a moment the iceboat race had started.
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