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    Chapter 11

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    Chapter 12
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    DOWN IN THE CORNFIELD

    The other boys gathered around in curiosity as Fred brought forth from the stack of cornstalks his missing suitcase. Beside the bag were several newspapers crumpled up into a wad.

    "Those must be the newspapers he had the suitcase wrapped in," remarked Walt Baxter.

    "More than likely," answered Jack. He picked up the wad of papers and glanced at them. "New York newspapers, too," he cried. "Nappy must have brought them with him from home."

    "Was the suitcase locked, Fred?" questioned Randy.

    "No. I didn't bother to lock it, because, you see, I had it with me. I only lock a suitcase when I check it."

    "Then you'd better take a look inside and see if your duds are all right," advised Andy.

    The youngest Rover quickly unstrapped the suitcase and threw back the catch. Then, as Randy sent the rays of the flashlight into the bag, he, as well as the others, uttered various exclamations.

    "The mean fellow!"

    "Fred, you ought to get after him for this!"

    For a quick look inside the suitcase had revealed the fact that Nappy Martell had opened the bag and thrown handfuls of dirt amid the pieces of clothing and the various other articles Fred had packed therein.

    "You'll have to have all that laundered stuff done over again before you can wear it," declared Jack. "And you'll have to have those neckties cleaned, too, I am afraid. Say! this is a shame!"

    "Just wait! I think I'll be able to get square with Nappy Martell," muttered the youngest Rover.

    "He ought to be reported for this," broke in Walt Baxter. "This isn't a joke. It's a low-down, dirty trick."

    At this remark all of the other Rover boys looked at Fred, and he looked at his cousins in return.

    "I don't know about reporting this," he answered slowly. "I rather think I prefer to settle with Martell myself."

    "That's the talk!" cried Andy. "If you reported this, some of the fellows might put you down for a softy and a sneak. I'd rather watch my chance and give Martell as good as he sent."

    "And with interest," added his twin.

    "If you fellows are anything like your fathers were before you, I reckon you'll know how to get square with Nappy," remarked Walt Baxter. "I've heard that the Rovers never took a back seat for anybody."

    "I'll figure out what I'm going to do after I get settled here," returned Fred. He suddenly began to smile. "Say! things have been happening since we left home, haven't they?"

    "I should say yes!" answered Andy.

    With Jack assisting his cousin in carrying the suitcase, the whole crowd returned to Colby Hall, and here the Rovers started to separate from Walt Baxter, first requesting him to remain silent regarding the finding of the handbaggage.

    "If we don't say a word about it, maybe Nappy will get worried," said Fred; "and that is what I want him to do."

    "He may go down to the cornfield to see if the bag is still there."

    "Hold on!" burst out Randy, suddenly. "I've got an idea!" and then in a few words he explained what had occurred to him. The others listened with interest, and even Walt Baxter had to laugh outright over what he proposed.

    "I'll do it!" declared the son of Dan Baxter, readily. "I'll do it the first chance I get. And, believe me, I'll fix it so Nappy Martell gets into hot water!"

    "I'd like to see what effect the story has on Martell," said Andy, grinning broadly. "Can't you fix it so we can be around at the time?"

    "Sure! When I get the chance, I'll drop you a hint."

    "And now I must get this bag to my room without anyone seeing me," said Fred.

    "Better let Spouter or Fatty carry it up," advised Jack. "Then, if Martell sees it, he won't know that it is your suitcase."

    It was an easy matter to get Spouter to do what was required, although he insisted upon knowing what was in the wind. When he was told, he, too, laughed heartily.

    "It will serve Martell right," he said. "I hope it worries him to death."

    As soon as the suitcase was safe in Fred's room, he sought out Professor Brice, who was busy arranging the order of some classes.

    "I wish to report that I've got my suitcase back, Professor," said the youth.

    "Ah, indeed!" was the teacher's reply, and his face showed his relief. "I'm glad to know it. Did you--er--have any trouble?"

    "Nothing that I care to mention--at least at this time," answered Fred. "If you don't mind, Professor, we'll drop the matter."

    "Oh, very well, Rover. Just as you please." The young professor looked at Fred rather knowingly. "Of course, if there is anything wrong, you can report it later," he added hesitatingly.

    "Yes, sir. Thank you, sir," answered the youth, and then bowed himself out of the office. In the hallway he was joined by Andy.

    "Did he make you squeal?" questioned the cousin quickly.

    "Not much!" was the reply. "He's a good sport. I guess he's been through the mill himself."

    Fred spent some time over the contents of the suitcase, brushing the dirt from some of the articles and sorting the rest out to be cleaned or laundered.

    "It's going to cost two or three dollars to fix this up," he declared to Randy. "I really ought to send the bill to Martell."

    "Well, just wait first and see if we get any fun out of this," answered the joke-loving cousin.

    As was to be expected, there was far from a full night's sleep coming to the Rover boys that night. The quarters were strange to them, and there was more or less noise throughout the school building, a bunch of scholars coming in on a late train and not getting settled down until after midnight. There was also something of horseplay, although the majority of the cadets were too tired from their journeys to be very active.

    "I suppose we'll have to stand some hazing and all that sort of thing later on," remarked Jack before retiring.

    About one o'clock the school seemed to settle down, and then one after another the Rover boys fell asleep, not to awaken until the autumn sun was showing well above the hills beyond Clearwater Lake.

    "This certainly is a splendid location," remarked Jack, as he went to the open window, stretched himself, and filled his lungs with the fresh morning air.

    "I don't wonder Colonel Colby picked this place out for a school," answered Andy, who had come in. "He couldn't have done better."

    Not being accustomed to their surroundings, it took the Rovers a little longer than usual to get washed and dressed. They were just finishing their toilets when there came a light knock on Randy's door. He opened it to find Walt Baxter standing there.

    "Nappy Martell just went downstairs, and I've fixed that matter up with Ned Lowe," said Walt. "Come on down if you want to see what takes place."

    He led the way, and all of the Rover boys followed at a safe distance. They saw Walt enter one of the big living-rooms of the Hall, to one end of which was attached the school library. Nappy Martell was at one of the library tables glancing carelessly over a magazine. In the living-room Walt was joined by Ned Lowe, and the pair walked up behind Nappy.

    "Why, yes, it was the strangest thing I ever saw," said Walt to Ned in a loud voice so that Nappy Martell could not help but hear. "The fellow seemed to come from a stack of cornstalks down in the cornfield."

    "It wasn't one of the cadets, was it?" questioned Ned, innocently.

    "Oh, no. I think this fellow was some kind of a tramp--maybe some fellow who had been sleeping under the stack all night. But what he was doing with such a fine suitcase gets me."

    "That's right. Tramps don't generally have suitcases," returned the other boy. "Did he come toward the school?"

    "No. He dug out the other way just as fast as he could go."

    "Poor fellow! maybe he was afraid if he came towards the school he would be arrested. If he had a suitcase he couldn't have been just an ordinary tramp. Maybe he was some working man looking for a job and without the price of a night's lodging."

    "Perhaps, Ned. At the same time, I don't think Colonel Colby wants his cornstalks used for a hotel," returned Walt; and then he and Ned walked through the library and went outside on the campus.

    During this conversation the Rover boys, hidden behind some open doors, had watched Nappy Martell closely. They had seen that he had caught what was being said and had immediately lost all interest in the magazine he was perusing. His face took on a worried look, and he glanced inquiringly after Walt and Ned. Then he threw down his magazine and started to leave the room.

    "Come on, let us watch him," whispered Jack.

    "Yes. But keep out of his sight," returned Randy. "We don't want this joke spoiled."

    Keeping well in the background, they saw Nappy Martell ascend the stairs to his room. A moment later he came forth with his hat in his hand.

    "I bet an oyster against a soda cracker he's going down to that cornfield!" cried Andy.

    "Right you are!" answered Fred. "Come on, let's follow him;" and rushing up to their own rooms the Rover boys donned their caps and sweaters, for the day was unusually cool.

    Nappy Martell left the Hall by a rear door, and the Rovers followed. They saw the loudly dressed youth hurry toward the stable and then disappear to the rear. Soon he was on the highway leading to the cornfield.

    "There is no use of our following him, for he might see us and that would spoil everything," said Randy. "Let's wait here at the stable until he comes back."

    It did not take Nappy Martell long to reach the cornfield; and from a distance the Rovers saw him rush around, first to one stack of cornstalks and then to another. He was gone fully a quarter of an hour, and came back looking decidedly worried.

    "He thinks some tramp got that suitcase and went off with it," said Fred, grinning. "Randy, that certainly was one great joke."

    "Don't say a word," answered Randy. "Just let him keep on worrying for a while. Maybe it will do him good."

    As Martell passed the stable, the Rover boys stepped out of sight in the building. They saw him re-enter the Hall, and then they took a roundabout course which soon brought them to the campus, where they joined Fatty and Ned.

    "It's certainly a good joke," was Fatty's comment. "And any fellow who would be mean enough to dirty a fellow's clothing like that ought to suffer for it. Gee! I'll bet he's worried!"

    Of course, such a joke could not be kept entirely secret, and before long it was spread among a good many of the cadets. But great care was taken to keep it from Slugger Brown, Codfish and all the others belonging to the Martell crowd.

    "And now to pay Martell back for his meanness!" said Fred a little later. "This joke of Randy's is all right as far as it goes, but I think I'm going to go him one better--that is, if I can get into Martell's room."

    "All right, Fred. Anything you say goes," added Andy, quickly. "Isn't that so, Randy?"

    "Sure thing!"

    "Look here! You don't want to get into trouble," warned Jack.

    "There won't be much trouble about this," answered Fred. "I am only going to give Nappy Martell something to think about."
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