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    Chapter 15

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    Chapter 16
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    IN THE TOWN

    "Hello! Nappy's overboard!"

    "Wow! that was some crack on the ear!"

    "Can he swim?"

    "Sure, he can swim! If he can't we can haul him in easy enough."

    "I don't believe the river is very deep here."

    Such were some of the words uttered immediately after the well-delivered blow from Jack Rover had sent his opponent spinning into the swiftly flowing waters of the Rick Rack River. Fortunately, the moon and the stars were shining brightly, so it was not as dark as it otherwise might have been. Indeed, had it not been for the brightness of the night it is doubtful if the fight could have been carried on as already described.

    All of the cadets present lined up along the river bank, and an instant later saw Nappy Martell come to the surface. He was striking out wildly and spluttering at the same time, showing that he had gone overboard with his mouth open and had swallowed some of the water. One hand and shoulder were covered with mud from the river bottom, for at that particular point the stream was less than five feet deep.

    "Oh, he'll be drowned! I know he'll be drowned!" screamed Codfish in terror.

    "You shut up, you little imp!" burst out Gif. "You'll arouse the whole school, and there is no need of doing that."

    By this time Nappy Martell was close to the river bank, and he reached up his hand appealingly to those above him.

    "Here, give me your hand, Nappy!" cried Slugger Brown, and reached down to aid his crony. But the bank was a slippery and treacherous one, and he was in danger of going overboard himself.

    "Wait a minute, Slugger--let me help you," cried Spouter, and he took hold of the big youth's left hand.

    Then the others also came forward to do what they could, and in a few seconds more Nappy Martell was hauled up on the grass. He was pretty well exhausted and panted painfully.

    "I'm sorry you went overboard, Martell," said Jack, promptly. "I didn't expect to knock you into the river."

    "You did it on purpose! You know you did!" returned the other youth wrathfully. "Yo--you--d--d--don't know how to f--f--fight fair," he added, his teeth suddenly beginning to chatter, for the unexpected bath at this season had proved awfully cold.

    "Say! he's shivering like a leaf!" cried Fred.

    "You had better get back to the Hall and change your clothing," advised Jack.

    "I won't change anything until I've given you a licking," roared Nappy Martell.

    "Oh, say, Nappy, you had better call it off for to-night," interposed Slugger Brown. "You can't fight in those wet clothes. Finish it some other time."

    "I won't!" came the ejaculation, and then the dripping boy hurled himself once more at Jack.

    But he was blinded by water and mud as well as by rage; and the oldest Rover boy easily evaded the new onslaught. Then, of a sudden, he reached out and caught Martell by both wrists and held him in a vise-like grasp.

    "Now, see here, Martell, don't be foolish," he said sternly. "I don't want to fight a fellow who has been overboard and is wringing wet. You'll catch your death of cold hanging around here in this night air. Go on back to the Hall and change your clothing. If you want to finish this some other time, I'll be ready for you."

    "That's the talk!" added Spouter.

    "It would be foolish to go on in this condition," remarked Gif. "Call it off, by all means."

    "You might as well do it," came from Slugger Brown. "You wouldn't have any kind of a fair show, Nappy--after having been in the river, and after having had to lick the other Rover first."

    "He didn't lick me!" burst out Fred, indignantly.

    More words followed, but in the end Nappy Martell consented to return to the Hall and went off in company with Slugger Brown, Codfish, and one or two more friends who had chanced to come up.

    "You'll have to slip in on the sly, or else somebody may ask some unpleasant questions," remarked Slugger Brown on the way to the school.

    "You lend me your coat, and I'll take mine off and make a bundle of it," answered Martell; and so it was arranged. The others clustered around the dripping youth and thus they managed to get him to his room without being detected.

    "He'll never forgive you, Jack, for knocking him into the river," said Randy, while the Rovers and their friends walked slowly back to the Hall.

    "I guess you're right," was the answer.

    "And what is more, he'll probably try to play some underhanded trick on you," added Andy.

    "I wish I had had the chance--I think I could have knocked him out myself," broke in Fred. "I'm not afraid of him, even if he is bigger than I am."

    All those who had witnessed the contest were cautioned to keep quiet about it. Yet in a school like Colby Hall it was next to impossible to keep the particulars of the affair from circulating, and before long many of the cadets knew the truth. The majority were of the opinion that Jack could readily have defeated Martell had the contest been fought to a finish.

    "He'll undoubtedly lay for you, Jack," remarked Fred that night, in talking the matter over in their rooms.

    "Maybe he'll lay for you, Fred," smiled his big cousin. "You had better keep your eyes peeled."

    "I guess we had better all watch out," was Randy's comment.

    But for the next few days Nappy Martell, as well as his particular crony, Slugger Brown, kept to themselves, while Codfish was so timid that he hardly dared to show himself.

    About a week, including Sunday, went by, and the school began to settle down to its regular routine of studies. The Rover boys had had all their classes mapped out for them, and had also been assigned to a class in gymnasium work. Gymnastics especially suited the agile Andy, who nearly always preferred action to sitting still. The Rover boys on leaving home had promised their parents that they would pay strict attention to their studies, and now they did their best in that direction. Of course, some of the lessons were rather hard, and Fred, being the youngest, often found he needed assistance from the others.

    During those days they quickly discovered why Dan Soppinger had been referred to by one of their friends as the "human question mark." Dan always wanted to know something, and he did not hesitate to ask for information on any and all occasions, no matter what else might happen to be under discussion at the time.

    "He'll die asking questions," remarked Andy. "I never knew a fellow who could fire questions at a person so rapidly."

    It was now ideal weather for football, and as soon as the school became settled football talk filled the air. Gif Garrison had been at the head of the football eleven the Fall previous, and now he was looked upon to whip the new team into shape.

    "We generally play three games with outside schools," explained Gif to the Rovers one day. "First we play Hixley High. Then we play the Clearwater Country Club. And after that we wind up usually with our big game with Columbus Academy."

    "It must be great sport," answered Jack.

    "Did you ever get a chance to play football in New York?"

    "Oh, yes, we occasionally played a game."

    "Jack would make a first-rate football player if he had the chance," put in Randy. "I've seen him play, and I know."

    "Yes. And Fred makes a pretty good player, too," added Andy. "Of course, he's small and light in weight, but he's as quick on his feet as they make 'em."

    "How about you and Randy?" questioned Gif.

    "Oh, we never cared very much to play football. We'd rather have some fun in the crowd looking on," was the answer of the twin.

    At this, the football leader smiled. "Well, we've got to have some kind of an audience--otherwise there wouldn't be any fun in pulling off a game." He looked at Jack and Fred, thoughtfully. "I'm going to keep you two fellows in mind, and if I can put one or both of you on the team, I'll do it. Of course, you'll have your try-outs on the scrub first."

    "Well, you can put me on the scrub as soon as you please," answered Jack, promptly.

    "I'll be glad of the chance," added Fred.

    As was to be expected, no sooner had the boys attempted to settle down at Colby Hall than they began to want for a number of things which they had failed to bring from home. These articles were, for the most part, of small consequence; yet the boys could not get along very well without them, and so resolved on the following Saturday, which was a holiday, to walk down to Haven Point and do some shopping.

    "I'd like first rate to take a look around the town, too," said Randy. "It looked like a pretty good sort of place."

    "Maybe we can go to the moving picture show there," put in his brother. "We'll have time enough."

    "Perhaps--if the films look worth while," answered Jack.

    They had already learned that the moving picture show in the town was of the better class, and that the pupils of the school were allowed to attend a performance whenever they had time to do so.

    It did not take the four cousins long to walk the distance to Haven Point. They left the school directly after lunch, and inside of an hour had purchased the various small articles which they desired. Then all headed for the moving picture theater, which was located on the main street in the busiest portion of that thoroughfare.

    As the boys walked up to the booth to purchase their admission tickets, they saw a bevy of girls just entering the door. They were all well dressed and chatting gaily.

    "Nice bunch, all right," was Randy's comment. "I wonder where they are from?"

    "I think I know," answered Jack. "Spouter was telling me there is a girls' school on the other side of this town, called Clearwater Hall. It's about as large as Colby Hall. More than likely those girls come from that school."

    "I wish we knew them," said Andy. "I wonder if some of the cadets from our school don't know them."

    "More than likely some of our fellows know some of the girls," said Jack. "We may be able to become acquainted with them some day."
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