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    Chapter 28

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    Chapter 29
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    TO THE RESCUE

    "If this weather keeps on, skating and iceboating will soon be over, Jack."

    "Right you are, Pepper. I think if we want any more skating this season we had better go out this afternoon."

    "Just what I say!" cried Dale Blackmore. "If it starts to rain the ice will be gone in no time."

    "All out for a skate, as soon as school is dismissed!" came from Andy.

    A week had passed, and during that time nothing had been learned concerning the robbery at Point View Lodge. Mr. Ford had hired two city detectives but, so far, neither these men, nor the local constable, had been able to accomplish anything. One city detective was trying to locate Cameron Smith, but that individual could not be traced.

    During the past few days the weather had moderated greatly. Much of the snow was gone, and the cadets feared that soon the ice on the lake would disappear and then skating would be a thing of the past.

    "Spring will be here before you know it," said Pepper.

    "Yes, and then summer, and the end of our days at Putnam Hall," added Jack, with something of a sigh.

    "Jack, how are you getting along in your studies?" questioned Andy.

    "Fairly well. I find Latin rather hard. How about you, Andy?"

    "Mathematics is my bugbear, Jack. Some of those problems old Crabtree gives us are corkers."

    "Well, you must be sure to pass, Andy, and then it will be good-by to Crabtree forever."

    After school was dismissed about twenty of the cadets hurried down to the lake-front to go skating.

    "I see Reff Ritter has hired the Rosebud again," remarked Pepper, as he was adjusting his skates. "Fred, are you going to take out the Skimmer?"

    "No, I don't think it is safe. Skating is one thing; to sail a heavy iceboat is another."

    "Just my idea," added Stuffer.

    They watched Reff Ritter sail away. The only person with the bully was Gus Coulter. Jack and Pepper watched Ritter closely and then looked questioningly at each other. What did Ritter know about Cameron Smith, and was the man really the fellow who had robbed the Ford mansion?

    Soon the merry shouts of the cadets proved they were enjoying themselves thoroughly. Some started a race, while others formed sides for a hockey contest, with Dale Blackmore as captain of one five and Emerald Hogan as captain of the other.

    "Let us go down the shore a bit," suggested Jack to Pepper and Andy, and the three joined hands for the spin. All felt like "letting out," as Andy expressed it, and they covered over a mile almost before they knew it.

    "The ice is getting pretty rotten," said Jack, as his skate cut in so deeply that he would have fallen had not his chums supported him.

    "Yes, a day or two more and skating will be at an end," answered Andy.

    "Jack, are you going in for baseball this spring?" questioned Pepper.

    "No, I am going in for nothing but study towards the end of the term."

    "Well, I guess I'll have to do the same--if I want to graduate," answered Pepper, and he heaved a deep sigh as he thought of all the fun he would have to miss.

    The three cadets skated on until they came to a spot where the shore made a sharp turn. On the point of land were a number of trees and bushes, so they could not see what was beyond.

    "Listen!" cried Andy. "Somebody is calling!"

    "Help! help!" came the cry. "Help!"

    "Somebody must have broken in!" exclaimed Jack. "Come on, maybe we can save him!"

    He broke away and led around the point of land. Beyond were some rocks and a sort of cove, where the ice was extra soft.

    "There is an iceboat!" exclaimed Andy. "It's the Rosebud!"

    "It's in the water!" ejaculated Pepper. "And see, Gus Coulter is clinging to it."

    "Where is Ritter?"

    "I don't know."

    "I see Ritter!" burst out Jack. "He is clinging to the ice yonder, trying to crawl out! Come on, fellows, we've got to help them both."

    "Help! help!" screamed Gus Coulter, and his voice showed that he was almost scared to death. Ritter did not call, but was making frantic efforts to get on top of the ice, which seemed to break away as he placed his weight on it.

    It took Jack, Pepper and Andy but a minute to get to the vicinity of the mishap. As he skated forward, the former major of the school battalion stripped off the sweater he was wearing.

    "Join hands with me," he called to his chums. "Now be careful; not too near the hole, remember. I'll throw Ritter the end of the sweater."

    His chums understood, and while they held hands, Jack advanced cautiously. The ice cracked ominously, but step by step he drew closer to where Ritter was clinging.

    "Catch hold!" he cried, as he swung one end of the sweater toward the unfortunate youth.

    "You--you won't let go?" questioned the bully, suspiciously.

    "Of course not!" retorted Jack. "Hold tight now, and we'll haul you up."

    He gave the signal, and Andy and Pepper pulled back with all their might, and Jack did the same. Slowly but surely Reff Ritter came up out of the icy water, his teeth chattering loudly. Soon he was out of danger.

    "Run for the nearest farmhouse!" cried Jack. "Put the sweater on if you want to," and he tossed the garment over.

    "It was Coulter's fault," growled Reff Ritter. "He swung the sail the wrong way." And then he ran off as advised.

    "Such meanness!" snorted Pepper. "And Coulter may be drowned!"

    "Ritter was always willing to lay the blame on somebody else," added Andy.

    The chums skated as closely as possible to where the iceboat was drifting in a sheet of open water--a spot where some days before a farmer had been cutting ice. To the craft Coulter was clinging and still crying piteously.

    "Help!" came in a chattering tone. "Please help me, somebody, or I'll be dro--drowned! I can't ho--hold on mu--much lon--ger!"

    "We are coming, Coulter!" yelled Pepper.

    "I'm nearly fro--frozen to de--death!" chattered the suffering cadet.

    "If we only had a line we might throw it to him," said Andy.

    "I've got an idea!" exclaimed Pepper. "Come on and get that fallen tree!"

    He pointed to the shore, where a long sapling lay partly uncovered in the snow. He skated off for this, with Andy at his heels.

    While Andy and Pepper were doing their best to get the sapling out of the snow and drag it over the ice, Jack circled the spot where the Rosebud was drifting. The iceboat was now within ten feet of the ice, so he could see Coulter quite plainly. The poor fellow had been ducked in the water and was shaking from head to feet from cold.

    "We'll soon have you ashore, Gus!" he called out. "Keep up your courage."

    "I--I can't hold on much longer!" was the gasped-out reply. "I am free--freezing to de--death!"

    At that moment a blast of air came sweeping across the lake. It caught the sail of the iceboat and tilted the craft over in the water.

    "Oh! oh!" screamed Coulter, and then, as the iceboat whirled around, the exhausted cadet lost his grip and commenced to slip slowly downward. Soon he was in the water up to his shoulders.

    "Save me!" he yelled. "Oh, Ruddy, don't let me drown! Please sa--save m--me! Please!" And then of a sudden his head went under out of sight!

    Jack was for the moment struck dumb with horror. He felt that Coulter was drowning before his very eyes. Then a sudden noble determination came to him, and measuring his distance carefully he leaped for the iceboat and managed to catch the swaying mast. He went down in the water up to his knees, but held on to a stay with his left hand.

    The icy water made the youth gasp. But he set his teeth hard and looked down for Coulter. Presently he saw the other cadet bob upward. Then a hand came up and was waved frantically. Jack tried his best to reach that hand, but could not. Then Coulter commenced to sink again from sight.

    "I must save him! I must!" thought Jack, and an instant later leaped boldly into the waters of the icy lake.
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