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    Chapter 4

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    "Just to think, Jack! a week from to-day we'll be on our way to Colby Hall Military Academy."

    "Yes, Fred. Doesn't it seem wonderful? I do hope we'll find the school to our liking," returned Jack, with a serious look on his face. "It would be too bad to go to some punk school."

    "Oh, you can be sure that the school is all right; otherwise our fathers wouldn't have picked it out for us," broke in Andy. "They know what a good military academy is. Didn't they go to that famous old Putnam Hall?"

    "I wish we could have gone to Putnam Hall," added Randy. "From what dad has told me, it must have been one dandy school."

    "Well, we can't go to something that ain't," answered his twin with a grin. "Putnam Hall doesn't exist any more. When it burnt to the ground, Captain Putnam felt too old to have it rebuilt, and so he settled with the insurance companies and retired."

    "Gee! but won't we have dandy times if that school is what we hope for?" cried Andy. "We'll make things hum, won't we?"

    "Right you are!" came in a chorus from the others. And then, in sudden high spirits, the boys began to wrestle with each other, ending up with something of a pillow fight in which not only pillows but also bolsters and numerous other articles were used as missiles.

    After a never-to-be-forgotten vacation at Valley Brook Farm, the boys, along with their sisters and their parents, had returned to their homes in New York City. The Summer was almost at an end, and schools all over were opening for the Fall and Winter term.

    It had been no easy task for Dick, Tom, and Sam Rover to convince their wives that it would be best to send the boys to some strict boarding school instead of to the private school which they had been attending in the metropolis. Gentle Dora Rover had cried a little at the thought of having her only son Jack leave home, and Grace Rover had been affected the same way at the thought of parting from her only boy Fred.

    "But both of you will be better off than I shall be," had been Nellie Rover's comment. "Each of you will have a daughter still at home, while both of my twins will be gone and I'll have nobody;" and her eyes, too, had filled with tears.

    But with it all, the mothers were sensible women, and they agreed with their husbands that the boys needed to be placed under strict discipline and that this was not possible at the school which they had been attending.

    "That school is altogether too fashionable," had been Dick Rover's comment. "They make regular dudes of the pupils and they think more of high collars and neckties and patent-leather shoes than they do of reading, writing and arithmetic. Now, I want Jack to get a good education and I want him to learn how to behave himself while he is getting it." And so, after several communications had passed between the Rovers and Colonel Lawrence Colby, it was settled that the boys should be enlisted as cadets at Colby Hall.

    "Cease firing!" cried Jack, when there came a lull in the pillow fight. "The first thing you know somebody will come in here and we'll be in hot water again." The boys were up in Jack's bedroom, and all of their mothers were downstairs, talking over the question of the wardrobes the lads were to take along to school.

    "All right, Commodore," answered Andy, gaily. "Out of the trenches, boys; the war is over!"

    "Suits me," panted Randy, who was all out of wind from his exertions. "Melt the cannons into telephones and send messages to the girls that the soldier boys are coming home," and at this remark there was a short laugh. Then all the boys proceeded to make themselves comfortable in various attitudes around the bedroom.

    "Say! I'm glad of one thing," remarked Fred; "and that is, we won't be utter strangers at Colby Hall. Spouter Powell will be there and so will Gif Garrison."

    It may be as well to explain here that Spouter Powell, whose real first name was Richard, was the son of the Rovers' old friend, John Powell, commonly called Songbird. Richard Powell did not seem to have much of his father's ability to write verse, but he did have a great fondness for making speeches, whence had come his nickname of Spouter.

    Gifford Garrison, always called Gif for short, was the son of the Rovers' old schoolmate, Fred Garrison, after whom Fred Rover had been named. Gif was a big, strong youth who doted on athletic sports of all kinds. Both Gif and Spouter had visited the Rover boys on a number of occasions, and consequently all of the lads were well acquainted.

    "Yes, I'll be glad to meet Gif and Spouter," returned Jack. "I like them both, even though Spouter gets pretty talky sometimes."

    Just then there sounded downstairs a postman's whistle, and a minute later Martha Rover came upstairs.

    "Here's a letter for you, Jack," said his sister, holding it out.

    "Thanks," he returned, as he took the communication and glanced at it. "Why! what do you know about this? Here we were just talking about Gif and Spouter, and here is a letter from Gif now," he cried.

    "Wonder what he's got to say," remarked Fred, and then, as he saw his cousin lingering at the doorway, he added: "Don't you want to come in, Martha, and join us?"

    "No, thank you," she returned. "I'm going out with Mary. We're going to buy some things for you boys to take along when you go to that boarding school."

    "Oh, I know what those will be," burst out Andy, gaily. "Pink neckties with yellow dots, or nice red socks with blue rings around 'em."

    "Oh, the idea!" burst out the girl. "What an eye for color you have!"

    "Well, maybe it was blue socks with red rings around 'em," went on Andy, innocently; "and maybe the pink neckties will be plain yellow."

    "Oh, Cousin Andy! I think you're just the worst ever!" shrieked Martha, and then ran downstairs to join those below.

    In the meantime, Jack had torn open the letter and was scanning it hastily.

    "Don't be selfish!" burst out Fred, curiously. "If Gif has anything to say about that school, let us hear it."

    "Sure. I'll read it out loud," answered his cousin.

    The communication, which was a rather long one, was of the usual boyish type, and much of it was of no particular interest. Several paragraphs, however, may be quoted here.

    * * * * * * *

    "You will be interested to know that besides Spouter Powell there will be another boy here who may or may not join our set. The fellow's name is Walter Baxter, and he is the son of Dan Baxter, the man who, years ago, caused your father and your uncles so much trouble at Putnam Hall and other places. Baxter is very hot-tempered and willing to fight almost any time.

    "When I get back to school I am going in for athletics, particularly football this Fall, and I hope some of you fellows will want to go into athletics, too, for it will make it more interesting to have some friends on the eleven. Spouter don't go in for that sort of thing. He likes to save his wind for talk."

    * * * * * * *

    "Hum! that's rather interesting," was Randy's comment. "I wonder if this Walt Baxter will try to make trouble for us like his father did for our fathers?"

    "Well, if he does, I guess we can take care of him, just as our folks took care of his father," returned his twin.

    "No use borrowing trouble," came from Fred. "I've heard from my dad that Mr. Dan Baxter has reformed and is now a first-class business man and is quite prosperous. It may be that while his son Walt is somewhat hot-tempered, he may still be a thoroughly good fellow. I wouldn't give a rap for a boy that didn't show some spirit once in a while."

    On the following morning Jack was on the point of going over to Fred's house to return some books he had borrowed, when his father called to him.

    "I want you to go down to our offices with me this morning, Jack," said Dick Rover. "I've got a package there that I meant to bring up for your mother. You can come right back with it."

    "All right, Dad. I'll be with you in a minute," answered the son, and ran off to deliver the books and to let Fred, as well as Randy and Andy, know where he was going.

    Jack's temperament was a good deal like that of his father, and, young as he was, he already took an interest in what was being done in the offices of The Rover Company. On more than one occasion he had begged his parent's permission to visit the place on Wall Street, and once had been granted a "look-in" at the Stock Exchange during one of its busiest sessions. That sight was one he had never forgotten.

    When the Rovers had first opened up in Wall Street, they had taken possession of a set of rather shabby offices formerly occupied by another firm with which they had had various difficulties, the particulars of which were related in "The Rover Boys in New York" and "The Rover Boys in Business." Now, however, they occupied the entire fourth floor of another building in a much better location. There was a large general office and a counting room, and a private office for each of the three brothers. Their office help numbered about twenty; and when business was brisk, the place consequently was a decidedly busy one.

    When the offices of The Rover Company were reached, Dick Rover brought out the package intended for his wife. It was quite a bundle, and not wrapped as well as it might have been.

    "You'd better let the office boy put an extra string around that, Jack," said the father.

    "Oh, that's all right, Dad. I can get it home just as it is. There won't be much of a crowd on the subway train going uptown this time of day."

    Jack spent a few minutes in the offices, speaking to the office boy and to several of the clerks with whom he was acquainted, and then started off for home, the bundle under his arm. He came down by one of the several elevators to the lower corridor of the building, and there stood in the wide-open doorway, contemplating the bustle in the narrow street beyond. Wall Street is the financial heart of our nation, and the activity there during business hours is something tremendous.

    As Jack stood with his bundle under his arm, his attention was suddenly attracted to what was going on close by, beyond several columns which formed a part of the entrance to the building. In a niche of the wall stood a peddler, a short, sallow-faced and hollow-eyed man, evidently of foreign birth, trying to sell some cheap wares displayed on a little three-legged stand which he had set up. In front of the peddler stood a tall, slim, overbearing boy, loudly dressed and wearing light-colored spats and gloves to match.

    "You've got no right to plank yourself here!" cried the overbearing boy savagely. "You get out of here or I'll dump that trash of yours into the street."

    "Please, Mister, I am a poor man," pleaded the peddler in very broken English. "Please, Mister, you buy somet'in'?"

    "You get out, I tell you!" went on the tall youth with a very lordly air. "Get out, I tell you! You foreigners are all thieves! Get out of here!" And without further warning he caught the thin, little peddler by the shoulder and gave him such a shove that the man had all he could do to keep from falling and from upsetting his little stock in trade.
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