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    Chapter 17

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    Chapter 18
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    THE GIRLS FROM CLEARWATER HALL

    The Rover boys remained with the girls from Clearwater Hall for the best part of half an hour after the scare at the moving picture theater, and during that time the young folks became quite well acquainted.

    "We'll have to be getting back to our school now," said Ruth Stevenson, presently.

    "Oh, what's your hurry?" pleaded Jack. "Weren't you going to stay to the pictures?"

    "No. We were going to leave immediately after that reel they were showing when the explosion occurred," the girl replied.

    "Well, we've got to get back to Colby Hall in time for supper; but we can make that easily enough--we are all good walkers."

    "I should think you would ride in your auto-stage," put in Alice Strobell. "I'd ride if we had a stage handy."

    "The stage isn't down here now," answered Randy. "It only comes on order."

    The four boys walked with the girls to the end of a side street of the town, and there the pupils from Clearwater Hall stopped to say good-bye.

    "We are very thankful for what you did for us at the theater," said Ruth Stevenson. "You were very kind, indeed."

    "You are regular heroes!" burst out May Powell, who by her merry eyes showed that she was almost as full of fun as were the Rover twins. "I'm going to write to Spouter and let him know all about it."

    "And don't forget to mention the rescue of my hat," added Alice Strobell with a giggle.

    "I hope I have the pleasure of meeting you again, Miss Stevenson," said Jack, in an aside to the oldest girl of the party.

    "Well, maybe," she returned, looking at him frankly.

    "I've enjoyed this afternoon very much--in spite of that excitement."

    "Oh, so have I!" and now she cast down her eyes while a faint flush stole into her cheeks.

    "We won't dare say much about that trouble in the theater when we get back to school," remarked Jennie Mason.

    "That's right!" burst out Annie Larkins. "If we did, maybe Miss Garwood would refuse to let us attend any more performances."

    "Is Miss Garwood the head of your school?" questioned Randy.

    "Yes. And let me tell you, she is a very particular and precise woman."

    "I guess she isn't as precise and particular as one of our professors," was Andy's comment.

    "Oh! do you mean that teacher they call old Lemon?" cried May Powell.

    "Yes."

    "We've met him a number of times. What a ridiculous man he is! I don't understand why Colonel Colby keeps him."

    "I saw you look at me when I spoke about that boat race," said Jack to Ruth Stevenson. "Maybe you like to be out on the water?"

    "Oh, I do--very much! You know we have boats at the school, and I often go out with my friends."

    "I like to row myself. Perhaps some day you'd like to go out with me?" went on the oldest Rover, boldly.

    "I'd have to ask permission first," answered the girl, and then dropped her eyes. Evidently, however, the tentative invitation pleased her.

    As was to be expected, the parting between the boys and the girls was a rather prolonged affair, and it looked as if everybody was highly pleased with everybody else. But at last Annie Larkins looked at a wrist watch she wore and gave a little shriek.

    "Oh, girls, we must be going! We ought to be at the school this minute!"

    "Then here is where we start the walking act," declared May Powell. "Good-bye, everybody!" and away she hurried, leaving the others to trail behind her.

    "Don't forget about the row," said Jack in a low tone to Ruth Stevenson.

    "I'll remember--if I get the chance," she returned; and in a moment more all of the girls were gone and the boys retraced their steps to the center of the town.

    "Pretty nice bunch," was Randy's comment.

    "It's funny that Spouter Powell never told us he had such a nice cousin," came from Fred.

    "Hello, Fred's already smitten!" cried Jack, gaily.

    "Huh! you needn't talk," retorted the youngest Rover. "How about yourself? Didn't I catch you trying to make a date with that Ruth Stevenson?"

    "Oh, say, Fred! your ears are too big for your head," retorted Jack, growing red, while Andy and Randy looked at each other suggestively.

    By this time the excitement around the moving picture theater had died away completely and the crowd had disappeared. The front doors were closed, but the manager was just hanging out a sign to the effect that the evening performances would be given as usual.

    "I guess it was a big scare for nothing," was Randy's comment.

    "The audience can be thankful that they got out without anybody being hurt," returned Jack.

    The boys made a few more purchases in Haven Point, and then started back for Colby Hall.

    "I wonder if those girls go to church in Haven Point on Sundays," remarked Jack, just before the Hall was reached.

    "I don't know," answered Andy. "More than likely." His eyes began to twinkle. "Thinking of going to church yourself, Jack?"

    "Didn't we go to church when we were at home, Andy?"

    "Sure," was the prompt reply.

    "I think we can find out from Spouter or from some of the other cadets," answered Fred. "I know the boys are allowed to go to whatever church they please on Sundays." It may be as well to add here that on week days regular chapel exercises were held at Colby Hall before the ordinary classes were in session.

    From Spouter Jack received the information he desired, which was to the effect that his cousin May and a number of her chums generally attended a church on the outskirts of Haven Point in the direction of Clearwater Hall.

    "If you say so, I'll go with you there to-morrow morning," continued Spouter; and so the matter was arranged. At the church the cadets heard a very good sermon, and after the services had the pleasure of strolling with the girls as far as the entrance to their school grounds.

    Monday morning found the Rovers once more down to the grind of lessons. So far they had gotten along very well. But on Tuesday the unfortunate Andy had another run-in with Asa Lemm.

    "This won't do at all, Rover," stormed the professor, after Andy had given the wrong answer to a question. "You must pay more attention to your studies."

    "I'm doing the best I can, Professor," pleaded the youth.

    "Nonsense! I don't believe a word of it. They tell me you spend most of your time in horseplay. Now, that won't do at all. You must buckle down to your studies or I shall have to take you in hand;" and Professor Lemm glared at the lad as if ready to devour him.

    "Say, Andy, you'll have to toe the chalk mark after this," whispered his twin. "If you----"

    "Silence there! I will have silence!" cried Asa Lemm, pounding on his desk with a paper weight.

    "I'll have one grand smash-up with that man some day," was Andy's comment in speaking of the affair after the school session had closed. "I can't stand his arbitrary ways."

    "Oh, he's a lemon--and worse," returned his brother.

    During that week there was an election of officers for the school battalion, composed of Company A and Company B. The Rover boys, being freshmen, could not compete for any position, even had they so desired; but there was a good deal of electioneering among the cadets, and the lads got quite a lot of fun out of it. The announcement of who was elected was followed by a parade around the grounds and an unusually good supper in the mess hall. Then the boys were allowed to gather at one end of the parade ground near the river, where they soon had several large bonfires burning, around which they danced, sang, and cut up to their hearts' content.

    The election had been a bitter disappointment to Slugger Brown and Nappy Martell. Each had wanted to be an officer of the battalion, and each had failed to get the required number of votes.

    "It's that Gif Garrison-Spouter Powell crowd that did it," muttered Slugger Brown. "I saw 'em working like troopers to defeat us."

    "Yes. And those Rover boys worked against both of you, too," piped in Codfish, who was present. "I watched 'em do it. They went all around among the fellows they know electioneering for the others who were running."

    "It would be just like them to do it," muttered Nappy Martell, gloomily.

    "I thought you were going to fight that Jack Rover to a finish some day?" questioned the sneak of the school.

    "So I am--when I get the chance," returned Martell.

    As soon as the election of officers was settled, the minds of a certain number of cadets turned to football. Gif Garrison was busy arranging his teams and placing the names of the players up on a big board in the gymnasium.

    "Hurrah!" shouted Fred, bursting in on Jack one afternoon while the latter was busy in his room studying the next day's lessons. "Our names are up on the board, Jack! Gif has put us up for a try-out on the scrub eleven!"

    "Is that so!" exclaimed his cousin, his face showing his satisfaction. "Are you sure?"

    "I am. I just came from the gymnasium. We are to report for practice to-morrow afternoon at four o'clock."

    "Is Andy or Randy up?"

    "No. You remember they told Gif they didn't want to play football this season."

    The Rover boys soon learned that not only Gif but also Spouter, Ned Lowe, Walt Baxter, and Slugger Brown were on the regular eleven. The scrub team was made up largely from the freshmen class, although Dan Soppinger and a few others of the older cadets who had never played on the first team were also included.

    "Now, I want all of you to do your very best," said Gif, at the close of a long talk to the boys on what was required of them. "We'll have nothing but squad work first, and then a game or two just to find out how matters are shaping themselves."

    As an aid Gif had Mr. Crews, the gymnasium instructor, who in his younger days had been quite a football player. Between the pair matters took shape rapidly, and by the end of the week the scrub was in shape to play a game against the regulars.

    As was to be expected, this opening contest was a decidedly ragged one, even the regular team making many plays which caused hearty laughter.

    "You fellows have all got to do better if we want to win any matches," declared Gif. "Now then, go at it as if you meant it and see that you mind the rules." And after that the playing showed gradual improvement.

    Colonel Colby had not forgotten his own football days, and one afternoon he came down to the field to see what progress his pupils were making.

    "Be on the alert when the signals are given," he said. "The signals," he added, "count for a good deal."

    With the master of the school present, the cadets put forth renewed efforts and the playing became actually snappy. There were several well-earned runs, and once Jack managed to kick a goal from the field which brought forth considerable applause.

    "Keep it up, Jack! You're doing fine!" were Gif's encouraging words.

    "Thanks. I'll do the best I know how," was the rejoinder.

    Fred was also working hard, and a little later he made a run which netted the scrub team fifteen yards.

    "Fine! Fine!" cried his cousin encouragingly.

    "That was well played," announced Gif. "But I want every man on the field to do better than he has been doing," he added, stiffening up, for he knew that a captain can only get out of his men the best that is in them by thus urging them on.

    During several of the plays Jack had come into contact with Slugger Brown, and the big fellow showed that he had no friendly feeling for the Rover boy.

    "You be careful," warned Jack, when Brown started once to tackle him unfairly. But the big fellow merely grinned in a sarcastic fashion. Then, less than two minutes later and while there was a wild rush on, Slugger Brown, by a sidelong and unexpected leap, hurled Jack to the ground and spiked him in the leg with his shoe.
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