The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Rover Boys on Sunset Trail; or, The old miner's mysterious message

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Title: The Rover Boys on Sunset Trail; or, The old miner's mysterious message

Author: Edward Stratemeyer

Illustrator: Walter S. Rogers

Release date: June 17, 2022 [eBook #68332]

Language: English

Original publication: United States: Grosset & Dunlap Publishers, 1925

Credits: Donald Cummings and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at






(Edward Stratemeyer)




Made in the United States of America

Books by Arthur M. Winfield
(Edward Stratemeyer)




12mo. Cloth. Illustrated.

Grosset & Dunlap, Publishers, New York

Copyright, 1925, by

The Rover Boys on Sunset Trail



My Dear Boys: This book is a complete story in itself, but forms the ninth volume in a line issued under the general title, “The Second Rover Boys Series for Young Americans.”

The volumes issued in the First and Second Series so far number twenty-eight, and of these the publishers have already sold over three million copies! To me this is an astonishing number, and I must confess that I am tremendously pleased over the way in which the boys and girls, as well as their parents, have stood by me in my efforts to entertain them.

In the initial volume of the First Series, “The Rover Boys at School,” I introduced my readers to Dick, Tom and Sam Rover and their friends and relatives. This book and those which immediately followed related the adventures of the three Rover boys at Putnam Hall Military Academy, Brill College and while on many outings.

Having graduated from college, the three young men established themselves in business in New York City and became married to their girl[iv] sweethearts. Dick Rover was blessed with a son and a daughter, as was likewise his brother Sam, while Tom Rover became the proud father of twin boys. As the four youths were of a lively disposition, it was considered best by their parents to send them to a boarding school, and in the first volume of the Second Series, entitled “The Rover Boys at Colby Hall,” I related what took place while they were attending that institution. From Colby Hall the scene was shifted to “Snowshoe Island” and then to stirring adventures while “Under Canvas.” Then the boys went “On a Hunt” and later to “The Land of Luck.” Then came further adventures at “Big Horn Ranch,” at “Big Bear Lake,” and then when “Shipwrecked,” where we last met them.

In the present book the scene is laid first during the final days at Colby Hall and then on Sunset Trail in the far West. The boys had good times and also some strenuous adventures, all of which are related in the pages that follow.

Once more I wish to thank the young people for their interest in my books and for the many pleasing letters they have written to me. I trust that the reading of these books will do them all good.

Affectionately and sincerely yours,

Edward Stratemeyer.



I. What Happened on the Lake 1
II. Something About the Rovers 11
III. An Unexpected Explosion 22
IV. The Accusation 34
V. The Man on the Road 44
VI. Sam Rover Brings News 54
VII. Final Examinations 64
VIII. What Happened to the Girls 74
IX. The Last Night at Colby Hall 85
X. Tit for Tat 95
XI. A Mysterious Plot 105
XII. Home Once More 114
XIII. A New Acquaintance 123
XIV. Off for the West 133
XV. An Old Friend Turns Up 143
XVI. A Plot Against the Rovers 152
XVII. Four Boys and a Bull 162
XVIII. A Narrow Escape 171
XIX. The Disappearance of Lew Billings 182
XX. At the Rolling Thunder Mine 192
XXI. Out on Sunset Trail 201
XXII.[vi] The Mountain Lion 211
XXIII. At Lake Gansen 221
XXIV. The Timber Wolves 231
XXV. What Happened at the Log Cabin 241
XXVI. Three Demands 252
XXVII. Prisoners in the Cave 262
XXVIII. Trying to Escape 273
XXIX. Another Demand 284
XXX. The Round-Up—Conclusion 296






“Some baseball game, if you ask me!” exclaimed Andy Rover, as he threw his cap high into the air in satisfaction.

“Jack had the whole bunch from Longley guessing from the start,” added Andy’s twin brother, Randy Rover.

“What got me was the way Tommy Flanders was batted out of the box in that fatal sixth inning,” put in Captain Fred Rover. “It was worse than the time we batted him out before,” and he grinned broadly.

“You mustn’t give me too much credit for winning that game,” came modestly from Major Rover, as he smiled at his cousins and the other cadets of Colby Hall who were with him, all togged out in their natty baseball uniforms. “Remember, I made only one of the eleven runs we[2] got. Fred made two and so did Dan, while Gif brought in three.”

“Of course we all helped, Jack,” returned Gif Garrison, the captain of the Colby Hall nine. “But what counts big with us is that you held Longley down to a sum total of one big goose egg. Wow! that’s enough to keep them off the diamond for a year or two.”

“And I hope it does,” came from Spouter Powell, who had gone with the team as a substitute. “Remember, our team has got to be thoroughly reorganized next season, with Jack and Fred and Gif dropping out.”

“It’s a good thing that Colonel Colby didn’t enforce that rule he was going to put through of keeping officers out of athletic contests. If he had done that, we’d have been minus Jack and Fred for this game.”

“Gosh! how I’m going to miss old Colby Hall,” sighed Fred Rover. “At first I thought graduating and getting away was going to be fine. But when I think of what we’re going to miss in baseball and football and in the gymnasium and on the campus—well, I’m not so sure,” and his face clouded.

“Oh, well, we can’t be cadets and schoolboys all our lives,” consoled his cousin Jack. “Just the same, I’ll hate to give up baseball, and I’ll[3] hate to give up being major of the school battalion, too.”

“How the Longley Academy fellows hated to see that silver trophy going to us,” put in Phil Franklin, who had gone along as scorer. “Some of the fellows looked as black as a thundercloud when the committee wrapped it up in that cloth and turned it over to Gif.”

“Well, I guess the fellows from Hixley High and Columbus Academy felt just as bad,” came from Spouter Powell. For the trophy was one which had been fought for by four of the schools on and in the vicinity of the lake.

“We’ve got the goods! We’ve got the goods!
Because we played good ball.
No matter what we try to do,
Old Colby’s got the call!”

chanted Andy Rover gayly. “I don’t see why Colonel Colby can’t add a Chair of Baseball to the curriculum,” he added, with a grin. “We’d have a whole lot of professors to fill it.”

The cadets from Colby Hall were on their way to the boat-landing, where they intended to embark on several motor boats which were to take them across Clearwater Lake to where the military academy they attended was located. Behind them came a motley collection of other cadets and[4] spectators in general, including not a few girls from Clearwater Hall. Two of the members of the ball team—the second baseman and the right fielder—carried between them an object carefully wrapped in a bit of dark cloth. This object was a tall silver vase beautifully engraved. It had been put up as a prize by the owners of the rival institutions of learning on the lake, and now, having been won three times by the Colby Hall nine, had become the permanent property of that organization.

“What will we do with the vase, now we’ve won it?” questioned Fred.

“Better melt it up and make souvenirs of it,” suggested Randy Rover, with a smile. “Each cadet might get a medal the size of a quarter, stamped, ‘In Memory of the Time that We Licked Longley out of Its Boots,’” and at this there was a general laugh.

“I guess we’ll have to put it in that glass case in the gymnasium along with the other Hall trophies,” said Gif. “It doesn’t belong to any one in particular, you know. It belongs to the whole school.”

When the cadets reached the lake front they began to separate because the various motor boats were tied up at different landings. As the four Rover boys went forward they heard a girlish[5] cry behind them and, turning, saw four young ladies hurrying toward them.

“Oh, Jack! Wait a minute!” cried Ruth Stevenson, a tall and exceedingly good-looking girl, as she came up and extended her hand. “I want to congratulate you on your splendid victory. It was simply great!”

She caught the young major’s hand and squeezed it warmly.

“Oh, Fred, to think you really won that trophy!” burst out May Powell, another of the girls. “Oh, I could just have hugged somebody when I heard the good news!”

“Dad will be awfully glad to hear of this new victory of yours, Jack,” said Martha Rover.

“I’m going to write a long letter home to-night,” added Fred’s sister Mary quickly. “I’m just going to let them know what real heroes you two boys are.”

“Oh, say, Mary! don’t pile it on so thick,” interrupted her brother. “Remember, a baseball game is only a baseball game, after all.”

“All aboard!” shouted one of the cadets from a motor boat near by. “Remember, fellows, it’s getting late and we’ve got quite a trip before us.”

“Yes, and remember that we’ve got to get ready for the celebration to-night,” added another cadet.


“Oh, I wish we could see the celebration!” cried Ruth Stevenson.

“You don’t wish it any more than I do,” answered Jack quickly. “But I don’t see how it can be done.” And then, after a few words more, the boys and girls separated and the four Rovers boarded one of the Colby Hall motor boats, along with Gif, Phil Franklin, and half a dozen others.

“Who’s got the silver trophy? Where is the silver trophy?” came from others on the boat-landings.

“We’ve got it safe and sound,” sang out Phil Franklin.

“Well, take good care of it,” came from another cadet. “That trophy is worth just about a million dollars to Colby Hall.”

“Make it nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, and I’ll believe you,” answered Andy Rover loudly, and this produced a general chuckle. Then, one after another, the motor boats bound for Colby Hall set off across Clearwater Lake.

It was an ideal day in late June, with bright sunshine and just sufficient breeze to make the air bracing. There had been a good attendance at the ball game, and now the surface of the lake was alive with all manner of craft carrying spectators to various points on the water front. There were canoes and rowboats, motor boats and steam[7] yachts, as well as catboats and several small sloops. From the shore, where a road ran up and down the lake front, could be heard the sounds from numerous automobiles and motorcycles.

“I’ll bet the hole in a button against the hole in a doughnut that there won’t be much of a celebration at Longley to-night,” remarked Randy Rover, as the motor boat, under the guidance of Pud Hicks, one of the school employees, proceeded cautiously out from among the mass of craft near by.

“You’ll be able to cut the gloom with a knife,” answered his twin.

“And the gloomiest boy of the bunch will be Tommy Flanders,” put in Fred.

“I hope it takes some of the conceit out of him,” answered Jack. “I haven’t forgotten how he treated us when we were in camp up at Big Bear Lake,” he went on, referring to some happenings which have already been related in detail in another volume.

“I wonder if Tommy Flanders and his bunch will be at Longley next season,” mused Fred.

“I heard so,” returned Spouter Powell. “Tommy and his cronies didn’t pass some of the examinations last year, so they have got to hold over another term.”


“Gee! I hope we pass in our final examinations,” said Andy wistfully. “I’d hate awfully to flunk at the last minute, wouldn’t you?”

“Don’t mention it, Andy!” returned his brother. “It’s enough to give a fellow the shivers.” The twins were given to so much fun and horseplay that it was next to impossible for them to buckle down to their studies, and, as a consequence, each successive examination became more or less of a nightmare to them.

“Oh, we’ve got to pass—every one of us!” burst out Jack. “Now that the games are all at an end, each fellow has got to buckle down for all he’s worth. Just think of what the folks at home would say if we failed!”

“I wonder what that silver trophy is worth,” came from Phil Franklin. “It certainly is a handsome vase.”

“I heard somebody say it cost over two hundred dollars,” answered the young major of the school battalion.

“Yes, and then there is a lot of engraving to go on it, and that will be extra,” put in Gif. “Remember, the name of the winning club and the date of the final victory are still to be put on it.”

“Wouldn’t it be fine if we could take it home and show it to the folks,” said Fred wistfully.


“I didn’t get a very good look at it,” remarked Randy. “Phil, let’s take a look at it now while we’re going home.”

“Be careful and don’t get it tarnished,” cautioned Gif. “We want to keep that as nice as possible until we can put it under glass.”

“Oh, looking at it isn’t going to hurt it any,” answered Andy.

As the motor boat bounded on its way across Clearwater Lake in the direction of the Colby Hall dock, Phil and Randy, assisted by Andy, took the dark cloth covering off the tall silver vase and set the trophy up on the forward deck of the motor boat where all might inspect and admire the object.

“Gee, it certainly is a peach of a vase!” exclaimed Randy, as he and his twin brother turned the object around and inspected it closely.

“It certainly is an art to turn out a vase like this,” answered Fred, who was also looking the object over. “Just look at that curve to the top, will you? And that little vine that trails around and down to the bottom? Why, you can see every leaf just as plain as if it was real!”

“It’ll look better yet when it’s all engraved,” observed Randy. “I wonder where they will put the name and the date? On this side, I suppose,” and he turned the vase around.


“Look out there! Watch where you’re going!” came in a yell from Pud Hicks.

The cry was so sharp and unexpected that all of the cadets started in alarm. As they glanced up they saw a steam yacht bearing almost directly across their bow.

“Gee, we’re going to be hit, as sure as guns!” exclaimed Spouter Powell.

“Back her, Pud! Back her!” yelled Jack.

“Sheer off! Sheer off to the right!” came from Gif.

Badly frightened by the proximity of the steam yacht which had come up without warning, Pud Hicks stopped his motor and then threw over his steering wheel in a wild endeavor to sheer to starboard. But the steam yacht was too close. There came frantic cries to “look out!” from the craft, a blast of a steam whistle and the jangling of a bell, and then motor boat and steam yacht slid up to each other sideways.

For a moment it looked as if the motor boat must be capsized. The craft careened at a sharp angle, shipping not a little water. The shock was greatest at the bow, and in a twinkling Phil Franklin shot overboard. Andy and Randy Rover followed, carrying the silver trophy with them.



“Sheer off! Sheer off!”

“You’ll send us to the bottom!”

“Why don’t you look where you’re running?”

“It wasn’t our fault! You changed your course!” came from the steam yacht.

“Nothing of the sort! I was runnin’ as straight as an arrow!” yelled Pud Hicks, in reply.

Then the two boats sheered away from each other and presently both came to a standstill in order that the occupants might ascertain what damage had been done. In the meantime Phil Franklin, who had disappeared beneath the surface of the lake, reappeared and struck out lustily for the motor boat.

“Where are Andy and Randy?” gasped Fred, who had kept himself from being hurled overboard by a firm hold on the rear gunwale.

“Ouch! My fingers!” came in a wild yell from Spouter Powell. He had had the digits of[12] his left hand severely pinched when the two craft came together.

“The trophy went overboard!” groaned one of the other cadets. “Andy and Randy took the silver vase with them!”

“Never mind the trophy!” interrupted Jack quickly. “If only they are not hurt!” he added fervidly.

The youthful major had scarcely spoken when a head bobbed up on the surface of the lake about fifty feet away. It was Andy Rover, and he struck out somewhat feebly for the motor boat.

“Andy! Andy! Are you all right?” yelled Jack.

“I—I guess so!” gasped his cousin.

“Where is your brother?” screamed Fred. He was in mortal terror, fearing Randy had been seriously hurt and gone to the bottom.

The words were scarcely off his lips when the waters of the lake parted once more and Randy Rover reappeared. He threw up a hand feebly.

“Help! Help!” he gasped out. “Somebody help me!”

“He’s got a cramp, or something!” exclaimed Jack. “I’m going after him. Bring the boat over,” and without further ado he balanced himself on a seat of the motor boat and then dove[13] overboard in the direction where his cousin had appeared. Randy’s head and hand had gone down slowly, and now he was once more out of sight.

As my old readers know, the young major was an excellent swimmer and he struck out with vigor for the spot where his cousin had disappeared.

In less than a minute after Jack left the boat Andy managed to reach the craft and was pulled on board by Fred and Gif. Then the motor boat was turned in the direction where Jack was swimming.

“Be careful, Pud. We don’t want to hit anybody,” cautioned Fred. And then he and some others helped Phil Franklin to clamber aboard.

“I’ll be careful,” answered the man at the wheel. “Confound those fellers on that steam yacht! They’re to blame!”

“It’s a steam yacht from up the lake—Jocelyn,” said a cadet. “It belongs to the crowd that hangs around the Outlook Hotel.”

A minute of vigorous swimming brought Jack to the place where he had seen Randy go down. Filling his lungs with air, he dove beneath the surface, keeping his eyes wide open for whatever might appear.

He saw his cousin a few yards away, struggling[14] feebly to regain the surface. In another moment he was at Randy’s side and then both came up as quickly as possible.

“Oh, Jack, I’m so glad you came after me!” were Randy’s first words, coming with severe gasps. “I was afraid I was a goner.”

“What was the matter, Randy, that you couldn’t swim better? Were you struck or was it a cramp?”

“Neither. It was the silver trophy. I tried to save it, but it was too heavy for me.”

“Oh, gee, I forgot all about it!” answered Jack. “Then the trophy has gone to the bottom of the lake! But never mind—I’d rather have the trophy missing than you,” he added grimly, and then aided his cousin to keep afloat until the motor boat came alongside and they were both assisted on board.

And now I think it is high time that I pause for a moment to introduce the Rover boys and their friends to those who are meeting them for the first time. In the first volume of this line of books, entitled “The Rover Boys at School,” I introduced three brothers, Dick, Tom and Sam Rover, and related how they were sent to Putnam Hall Military Academy where they made a number of chums, including a cadet named Lawrence Colby. From Putnam Hall the three[15] Rover boys went to Brill College and then entered business in Wall Street, New York City.

During their days at school the Rover brothers fell in love with three nice girls, Dora Stanhope and her cousins, Nellie and Grace Laning. The three young couples became married and settled down in connecting houses on Riverside Drive in New York City. As the result of his marriage Dick Rover became the father of a son, Jack, and a daughter named Martha; Sam Rover was blessed with a girl named Mary, and then a son, who was christened Fred. About this same time Tom Rover’s wife, Nellie, came forward with a lively pair of twin boys, who were named Anderson and Randolph after their grandfather and their great-uncle. Andy and Randy, as they were always called, were full of fun, thus following in the footsteps of their ever-lively father.

Residing side by side, the younger generation of Rover boys, as well as the girls, were brought up very much as one large family. At first they attended private institutions of learning in the metropolis. But presently, when the lads began to develop a propensity for fun, it was decided to send them to some stricter institution of learning.

At that time Larry Colby was at the head of a military academy called Colby Hall. Jack and[16] Fred, as well as the lively twins, were sent to that institution of learning, and what happened to them during their first term there has already been related in a volume entitled “The Rover Boys at Colby Hall.”

At school and elsewhere the young Rovers made many friends, and also a few enemies. Among their warmest chums were Gif Garrison, the son of their fathers’ old friend, Fred Garrison, after whom Fred Rover was named, and Spouter Powell, the son of the older Rover boys’ chum, John Powell, always known as Songbird.

A term at Colby Hall had been followed by some stirring winter adventures on “Snowshoe Island.” Then the cadets returned to school to go into an encampment “Under Canvas.” Later still the lads went on a great “Hunt.” During these times Jack and Fred took a great interest in military matters, and the former gradually worked up until he became major of the school battalion while Fred became captain of Company C. This was at a time when the World War was taking place and when their fathers, and also Colonel Colby, were doing their duty on the battlefields of France.

The war at an end, the older Rovers returned to the United States. Through a soldier whose life he had saved Dick Rover became interested[17] in the oil fields of Texas and Oklahoma, and how he journeyed to the oil fields, taking the four Rover boys with him, is fully set forth in a volume entitled “The Rover Boys in the Land of Luck.” Dick Rover, aided by the boys, was highly successful in his quest for oil, but he made several bitter enemies, including Carson Davenport, who, with two of his pals, was sent to prison.

From the oil fields the boys returned to school, but a short time later accompanied Spouter Powell on a trip to “Big Horn Ranch.” Later still they went with Gif Garrison to “Big Bear Lake,” where they had some great doings. It was here that they found some of the Longley Academy boys in camp and where Tommy Flanders, the pitcher for the rival academy, had sought to do them much harm and had been brought to book.

Colby Hall was located on Clearwater Lake not far from the town of Haven Point. On the other side of the town was situated Clearwater Hall, a school for girls. Among the pupils at this institution were Ruth Stevenson and also May Powell, a cousin of Spouter Powell. Jack and the other lads speedily became acquainted with these girls and later on induced the folks at home to allow Martha and Mary to become pupils at the place.


Before Jack Rover had been elected major of the school battalion, Ralph Mason had occupied that important position. Through Ralph the lads obtained an invitation for a motor boat trip out to Nantucket and Cape Cod. What this trip led to has already been related in the volume preceding this, entitled “The Rover Boys Shipwrecked.” They found themselves carried down to the West Indies and were there plunged into an unexpected hunt for pirates’ gold.

“Well, we certainly had great times on that trip,” declared Randy. “I don’t suppose we’ll ever have such strenuous times again.” But Randy could not look into the future. Strenuous days were still to come for the boys, as the pages which follow will prove.

“Do you feel all right, Randy?” questioned Fred anxiously, as his cousin came aboard, followed by Jack.

“I—I think I’m all right!” gasped Randy. “Gee, it’s too bad the silver trophy went to the bottom of the lake! I hung on to it as long as I could, but it was too much for me.”

“You shouldn’t have risked your life for it,” said Phil Franklin.

“I had hold of it, too, but I let go before Randy did,” put in Andy. “I wasn’t going to drown for any trophy, no matter how valuable it was.”


“It’s all the fault of that steam yacht,” growled Pud Hicks. “We’re lucky they didn’t cut us in two.”

“Run up alongside and see what they’ve got to say,” said Jack, and as he spoke the young major of the school battalion did what he could to wring the water from his baseball uniform. Fortunately, it being a warm day, there was little danger of those who had been submerged taking cold.

The steam yacht was crowded with men and boys, most of whom had attended the ball game.

“You can’t lay this accident on me,” growled the man in charge of the steam yacht, a burly fellow with reddish hair and a bristly mustache. “I blew my whistle and I had the right of way.”

“No such thing!” retorted Pud Hicks. “You ran into us on purpose. I’m goin’ to report you.”

“It certainly was too bad it happened,” said a young man on the steam yacht, as he eyed the cadets critically. “You fellows didn’t get hurt, did you?”

“I came pretty close to getting drowned,” growled Randy.

“Yes, and the silver trophy we just won was knocked overboard,” added his brother. “I guess the owner of the yacht will have to settle that bill.”


“We won’t settle anything! It was all your fault, and you know it!” said the man who was running the steam yacht. “If any one is to make a complaint, it ought to be me!”

After this there was a wordy war lasting for five minutes or more. Each side seemed to be convinced that the fault lay with the other crowd. Finally a number of men aboard the steam yacht began to grumble.

“Stop chewing the rag and take us up to the hotel,” said one man. “I’ve got to catch that evening train.”

“That’s the talk!” put in another. “You fellows can settle this some other time.” And a minute later the steam yacht continued on its way up Clearwater Lake.

“Well, we didn’t make much out of that,” remarked one of the cadets.

“Just the same, I hold that they are responsible,” said Pud Hicks sturdily.

“I think so myself,” answered Jack. “But whether you can hold them for it or not is a question. If you took it to court probably they would have as many witnesses to side with them as we’d have for us.”

“I wouldn’t care so much if only the silver vase hadn’t been lost,” sighed Randy, who was now feeling once more like himself. “Gee! what[21] are we going to tell the other fellows and Colonel Colby when we get back to the school?”

“I’m afraid there’ll be an awful howl go up when the fellows learn that the trophy has been lost,” answered the young major soberly.

“Why can’t we fish it up?” questioned Fred quickly. “How deep do you suppose the water is around here?”

“Thirty or forty feet at least—maybe twice that,” answered Pud Hicks.

“Well, we’ve got to get it back somehow!” cried Gif. “We worked too hard to win it to lose it this way.”

The motor boat was run around in a circle in the vicinity of the spot where the precious silver trophy had disappeared beneath the waters of the lake. Then, with heavy hearts, Pud Hicks and the cadets turned once more in the direction of the Colby Hall boat-landing.



“Here they come!”

“Hurrah for the conquering heroes!”

“The fellows who snowed Longley under!”

“Let’s form a parade and march around the campus with the silver trophy!”

“I’ll tell you that was sure something worth while!”

Such were some of the cries that rang out as the motor boat containing the Rover boys and their friends approached the Colby Hall boat-landing.

“Gee! how are we ever going to face that bunch?” murmured Andy, and for once his face grew pale.

“I almost feel like hiding,” came from his twin, and it must be confessed that Randy looked thoroughly miserable.

A number of motor boats had already landed their occupants, but, strange as it may seem, none of these cadets had seen the collision between[23] Pud Hicks’ craft and the Jocelyn, due, no doubt, to the fact of there being so many boats making it necessary for every one in command to pay strict attention to how he was fashioning his course across the lake.

“Hello! Why, you’re dripping wet!” exclaimed Fatty Hendry, the stoutest lad in the school, as Jack, the first to land, leaped on the dock. “Whatever happened? Did you fall overboard?”

“We had an accident,” answered the young major.

“Hello, Andy and Randy are wet, and so is Phil Franklin!” put in Dan Soppinger, another of the chums.

“Anybody hurt?” questioned Ned Lowe, a cadet who was quite a singer and who generally led the cadets in their school songs.

“I had my fingers pinched, but it didn’t amount to much,” answered Spouter Powell. “But something pretty bad happened,” he went on.

“What was it?” questioned a dozen cadets at once, and then several added quickly: “Where is the silver trophy? Weren’t you to bring it over?”

For a moment there was a silence that was intense. Nobody seemed to be willing to break the bad news. Even Pud Hicks bent his head[24] away and pretended to be at work over the engine of the motor boat.

“Well, we might as well tell the truth,” announced Gif at last. “The silver trophy is at the bottom of the lake.”

“At the bottom of the lake!”

“How did that happen?”

“Why didn’t you fish it up again?”

Thereupon there was wild excitement, and the cadets began to crowd closer to those who were just landing. The boys kept coming up until at least fifty of the Colby Hall pupils were assembled. Then, seeing the unusual crowd, Captain Mapes Dale, the chief military instructor of the institution, strode forward hastily.

“A steam yacht ran into us and nearly bowled us over,” said Randy.

Then all the boys who had come across the lake with Pud Hicks tried to explain at once. Numerous questions were asked and answered and a dozen lads became wildly excited.

“Why didn’t you have the owner of the Jocelyn arrested?” questioned Walt Baxter.

“He ought to have been tarred and feathered,” came from Bart White.

“Gosh! I’ll bet you fellows will catch it for losing that trophy,” came from a thin boy who had weak, shifty eyes and an unusually broad[25] mouth. His name was Henry Stowell and he was generally known as the sneak of the school.

“It wasn’t our fault, Codfish,” answered Fred, calling the sneak by the nickname which was often applied to him. “The other boat headed directly for us. If Pud Hicks hadn’t acted quickly our boat might have been cut in two and some of us might have been killed.”

“Humph! that’s easy enough for you to say,” sneered Stowell. “If you could save yourselves, as you did, I don’t see why you couldn’t save the vase.”

This was a mean remark to make, since the sneak did not know the details of the affair. But his snap judgment was taken up by not a few of the other cadets and they looked rather sourly at the Rover boys and those who had been with them in the ill-fated trip across the lake.

“So you won the trophy only to lose it, eh?” came from Captain Dale in a voice that showed his regret. He had sense enough to know that no lads would have worked so hard to win a prize unless they were willing to do almost anything to keep it. “Are you quite sure the collision was not your fault, Hicks?” he demanded of the school employee. Hicks was really the janitor’s assistant, but had spent several years on the lake[26] and was known to be a careful man among both sailboats and motor boats.

“It wasn’t my fault at all, Captain Dale,” was Hicks’ firm reply, and he went into the details, as he knew them, of the happening.

“We’ll have to look into this and without delay,” said the military instructor. “You had better report to Colonel Colby.”

After that the Rovers and their chums hurried to the gymnasium, and there those who were wet, as well as the others, changed from their baseball outfits into their uniforms. By this time it was close to the supper hour, and Jack and Fred had to hurry off to take charge of their commands.

It must be confessed that Andy and Randy felt in anything but an enviable frame of mind when they went for their rifles and joined in the brief parade around the campus which always preceded the entrance to the mess hall.

“Some of the fellows will never forgive us for losing that trophy,” remarked Andy, and his usually smiling face showed nothing but gloom.

“I guess you’re right,” answered his twin. “No matter how we try to explain it, they’ll always think that somehow or other we ought to have hung on to the trophy when the collision came.”

“Yes, but, Randy, you nearly lost your life trying to save it!”


“There will be some of the fellows who’ll never believe that—Codfish, for instance.”

“Oh, you mustn’t pay any attention to that sneak.”

“Well, there’s a bunch of others besides Codfish. I heard Walt Baxter talking to Ned Lowe just a few minutes ago; and while they didn’t say it in so many words, it was easy to see that they rather thought we should have made more of an effort to save the trophy.”

“If only we can fish it up again!”

“I’m certainly going to have a try at it, and that very soon. More than that, what’s the matter with offering a reward for its recovery?”

“That’s the talk! We’ll do it!”

Here the conversation had to come to an end as the boys took their places in the company’s ranks.

“Battalion attention!” came a minute later from Major Jack Rover, and every cadet straightened up, with eyes front and rifle at his side. A moment later the order came to march, the drums and fifes struck up, and away went the three companies of the school battalion around the campus and then around the school buildings. A few minutes later the cadets filed inside, placed away their rifles and side arms, and crowded rather noisily into the big mess hall, there to distribute[28] themselves at the various long tables presided over by the teachers.

Discipline was rather strict this term, so that conversation flagged during the time set apart for eating. Yet the Rover boys could well understand that nearly everything that was said in an undertone related to the loss of the silver trophy.

“It will certainly put a damper on the celebration to-night,” whispered Fred to Gif, who sat beside him.

“Oh, we don’t have to take it as seriously as all that, Fred,” answered the manager of the baseball team. “We won the championship, and that’s the main thing, after all.”

“Yes, we can’t send that to the bottom of the lake,” returned the youngest Rover boy, with a slight grin.

In anticipation of a possible victory, a number of the cadets had been gathering boxes and barrels with which to build bonfires, and as soon as it grew dark enough these bonfires were started along the lake front, being placed there so that the Longley boys might see how their successful rivals were celebrating the victory.

“The baseball nine to the front!” shouted Fatty Hendry, who on account of his weight never played ball but was one of the best rooters[29] the team possessed. “Come on! Get your bats and join the parade!”

Andy and Randy felt like declining this invitation; but Fatty and a number of others would not listen to it and shoved them forward, and in a very few minutes those who belonged to the baseball team found themselves bats in hand and surrounded by the other cadets, some with drums and fifes and others with horns, rattles, pans, and anything else that might be utilized in making a noise. At the head of the procession marched three of the tallest cadets, each carrying a new broom borrowed for the occasion from Mrs. Crews, the housekeeper.

Up and down the lake front went the cadets, singing one school song after another always ending with the well-known Hall refrain:

“Who are we?
Can’t you see?
Colby Hall!
Dum, dum! dum, dum, dum!
Here we come with fife and drum!
Colby, Colby, Colby Hall!”

“That’s the stuff! Give it to ’em louder!” shouted Fatty Hendry, dancing wildly in front of the singers and brandishing a stick. “Sing it so loud that they can hear it clear across the lake!”


“Oh, Andy, we almost forgot!” cried his twin suddenly.

“Forgot what?” put in Fred, who was marching alongside his cousins.

“The cannon! We forgot the cannon,” answered Randy.

“Say, did you fellows fix the cannon after all?” questioned Fred quickly.

“We sure did! Come ahead, Fred. Now is our chance to make a little noise in the world.”

“Say, don’t you know that that cannon hasn’t been shot off in years?” demanded the young captain of Company C. “It was only planted along the lake front as an ornament.”

“Oh, well, we didn’t put in much of a charge,” answered Andy. “It will make more of a sky-rocket effect than anything else. We’ll elevate it high into the air and have a barrel of fun when it goes off.”

The field piece to which the lads referred was one Colonel Colby had obtained from the Government after the close of the World War. It had been captured on the battlefront in France and the owner of Colby Hall was proud to have the piece planted at the corner of the school campus overlooking the lake. At first the cadets had been curious concerning this piece of artillery,[31] but soon their interest flagged and few paid any attention to it. Then the idea entered Andy’s head to place a charge in the old piece and in case of a victory over Longley to discharge the same during the evening’s celebration. Fred and Jack had been called in consultation, but both had said that it would not be altogether safe to do this. Nevertheless, the twins had gone ahead and placed the charge in the piece when they thought nobody was looking.

“We’ve got to be careful, Andy, when we fire it,” cautioned his twin. “We can’t take too many chances on such a gun as that. It may have needed cleaning out when it was brought over here.”

“Oh, it will be all right,” was the ready reply. “There isn’t any ball or shot in it, or anything like that—it’s only a blank charge, one of those left over down in the powder house. Besides that, I’ve got a pretty long fuse, so we’ll not have to stand anywhere near the thing when it goes off.”

Making their way out of the crowd, the three Rover boys stole in the direction of the cannon. No one was near the piece, although they noticed that one of the other cadets was following them.


“Confound it, it’s Codfish! He’s always sneaking around to try to get something on us,” murmured Randy.

“Hi, Codfish! where are you going?” called out Fred sharply.

“None of your business,” retorted the sneak of the school, and then slunk back behind some bushes.

With only the fitful glare from the bonfires to light the way the three Rover boys advanced to the cannon and gave it a hasty inspection.

“Let’s try to elevate it a little,” suggested Randy. “Then the charge will make more of a showing.”

Not without considerable effort, the boys managed to raise the muzzle of the field piece until it was elevated to an angle of about forty-five degrees. Then Andy brought forth his fuse and attached the same.

“Now for it!” cried the fun-loving Rover, and without hesitation struck a match and applied the light to the fuse. Instantly the latter began to fizz, and all of the boys took to their heels.

Bang! It was a tremendous explosion, much louder than any of the boys had anticipated, and it fairly made the windows of the various school buildings rattle. Looking, they saw not one spurt[33] of flames, but a dozen or more shooting in various directions.


“It’s busted! The cannon has busted!” gasped Fred, who had been thrown off his feet by the concussion.

“Gee! it can’t have been much of a piece,” was Andy’s comment, and he looked startled.

The tremendous report which echoed and re-echoed against the buildings and the hills beyond was followed by a moment of silence. Then came a yell from the cadets at the other end of the lake shore.

“I’m hit! I’m shot in the arm!”

“Something struck me in the back!”

“Help! Help! I’m killed! Somebody shot me!”

So the cries ran on while the three Rover boys gazed at each other in abject consternation.



“Somebody’s shot!” cried Fred.

“They must have been hit by some pieces of the cannon!” gasped out Randy. “I felt something whizz by my ear when it went off.”

“Yes, something whistled close to me, too,” answered his twin. “Gee! I hope no one is seriously hurt.”

“You wouldn’t think so at such a distance,” said Fred. For the nearest group of cadets in the celebration was more than a hundred yards away, for the captured cannon had been placed on the boundary line of the campus.

Already a number of cadets and teachers were hurrying in the direction where the cannon had been located. The piece itself had blown in various directions, only a portion of the base remaining.

“Halt! What is the meaning of this?” came in ringing tones from Captain Dale, as the military[35] instructor ran swiftly in the direction of the explosion.

“Oh, Captain Dale, we didn’t mean to smash the cannon!” cried Randy quickly. For a brief instant he, as well as the others, had contemplated running away, then had tacitly decided to face the consequences of their ill-advised attempt at fun.

“Did you discharge that cannon?”

“Yes, sir. But we had no idea that it was going to explode,” answered Andy. “We didn’t put anything into it but a small blank charge—not enough to bust up a one-pounder.”

“Was any one seriously hurt?” questioned Fred anxiously.

“I don’t know. Colonel Colby and Professor Grawson are investigating. The colonel sent me up here to question those responsible for the affair. You admit that you did it, do you, Captain Rover?” he added sternly.

“It wasn’t Fred’s fault!” burst out Andy quickly. “I—and my brother—put the charge in the piece and set it off. But really and truly, Captain Dale, we didn’t expect it to do more than make a very small report. All we placed in the cannon was one of those blank charges from the powder house—one of those old ones marked ‘BB 27.’”


“What did you put on top of the blank charge?” demanded the military instructor. “Rammed the cannon full of stones, I suppose?”

“No, sir. We didn’t put in anything but a couple of loose newspapers. We thought the papers would scatter over the campus and make some fun.”

“Are you sure you didn’t put in any stones?” and the military instructor turned to Randy.

“Nothing but the newspapers, Captain. I am positive of it.”

“In that case how do you account for the cannon exploding? It undoubtedly needed cleaning, but it was too heavy a piece to blow up with nothing more in it than a blank BB 27 charge. Well, the three of you go to the office and report to Colonel Colby when he comes in,” ordered Captain Dale. “We’ll have a thorough investigation of this as soon as the excitement is over and we have found out how badly those cadets are injured.”

“Can’t we go and see if Jack is all right first?” questioned Andy.

“Yes, you may do that. But don’t waste any time. I ought to place you under arrest, but if what you say is true about using only a small blank charge, evidently you meant it only in fun to help along the celebration. Of course, you had[37] no right to take anything out of the powder house. But that point can be settled later.”

In the meanwhile the excitement among the cadets was gradually calming down. It was found that Ned Lowe had been struck in the shoulder and a cadet named Grimshaw had been hit in the back, while several others had received minor injuries. Both Lowe and Grimshaw were severely bruised and were sent to the school, there to be placed under the matron’s care until a doctor could be summoned.

“Jack! are you all right?” questioned Fred, as he ran up to his cousin, followed by the twins.

“All right, except that a stone or something flew right past my face,” was the reply. “Who shot off that cannon?”

“We did,” answered Andy, indicating himself and his brother. “But we didn’t know the confounded thing was going to bust,” and thereupon the twins made a complete confession, Jack, Gif, Spouter, and a number of others listening with interest. Then the three Rover boys went to the office as ordered.

Flashlights and lanterns were brought into play, and it was soon ascertained that none of the broken parts of the cannon had come near where the cadets had been celebrating. Pieces of cannon had struck behind the gymnasium and[38] along the lake front, and other pieces had probably gone into the water.

“It’s stones that did the damage—stones, and nothing else!” exclaimed Gif. “Look here!” and he pointed at a box standing near one of the bonfires. The box had been peppered with both large and small stones, some of the smaller ones being still embedded in the wood.

“But Andy and Randy said they placed nothing on top of the blank charge but a couple of loose newspapers,” said Jack.

“It was undoubtedly stones that did the damage here,” came from Professor Grawson.

“The boys who did this should be dismissed from the school,” thundered Professor Snopper Duke, a dictatorial teacher whom many of the cadets detested.

“Well, it was probably done in fun with no intention of harm,” returned Professor Grawson, who generally took the side of the boys.

While Fred and the twins were passing an uncomfortable time outside Colonel Colby’s office waiting for the commandant’s appearance, Dan Soppinger and Fatty Hendry came up.

“Say, what did you want to load that cannon with rocks for?” demanded Hendry. “Did you want to shoot somebody’s head off?”

“Didn’t put any rocks in,” retorted Andy.


“Yes, you did. Pieces of stone are sticking in all sorts of places; the cannon must have been loaded to the muzzle.”

“It was certainly filled with stones, Andy,” said Dan. “The fellows who were hurt were hit by stones and not by pieces of the cannon.”

“Then somebody fixed that cannon after we placed the charge in it!” exclaimed Randy. “Now, who could have done that?”

“Jimminy beeswax, I’ve got it!” ejaculated his twin. “Codfish! That’s what he was sneaking around for!”

“I believe you’re right!” put in Fred. “He’s just the sneak to play a mean trick like that. He knew you were going to fire the cannon and he filled it with stones just to make trouble for you.”

“Come on, let’s go after him before Colonel Colby comes!” cried Randy. “I’ll get the truth out of that sneak if I have to hammer the daylights out of him.”

It was no easy matter to locate Henry Stowell. He was not on the campus nor in the gymnasium. Nor was he to be found in the room he and another cadet occupied.

“That proves he’s guilty,” was Andy’s comment. “He wouldn’t hide like this if he didn’t have something to be afraid of.”


In one of the corridors they met several of the cadets, and one of these stated that he had seen Stowell walking toward the Hall garage. At once the twins and Fred started in that direction.

“I’ll bet Codfish is going to keep out of sight until it’s time to turn in,” said Fred.

“He isn’t going to keep out of sight—not if I can help it,” returned Andy.

“Let’s separate and each make a hunt on his own account,” suggested Randy. “If any one locates him whistle three times.” So it was arranged, and the three Rovers began a systematic search, first of the garage and then of the large barns attached to the Hall.

At first their hunt was unsuccessful. Nobody was in or near the garage and the horses seemed to have the barn to themselves. But then Fred came upon a toolhouse and, throwing open the door, saw a dim form inside.

“Who’s there?” he called out. “Come out of that!”

For a moment there was no reply, and then a pretended sleepy voice asked:

“What do you want? Why can’t you let a fellow sleep? I’m all tired out.”

“Come out of that, Codfish!” ordered the[41] young captain of Company C, and thereupon he whistled three times as loudly as he could.

“I haven’t done anything! You let me alone!” whined the sneak of the school.

“Come out!” ordered Fred again, and as Codfish emerged from the toolhouse he caught the cadet by the arm.

“You let me alone, Fred Rover! Let me alone, I tell you, or I’ll report you to Colonel Colby.”

“If there is any reporting to do, I’ll do it,” answered the young captain. “Now come along, and don’t try to run away.”

“Where are you going to take me? I wasn’t doing any harm. I got sleepy and thought I’d take a nap, that’s all.”

“Codfish, if I wasn’t mad at you, I’d have to laugh,” answered Fred. “Of course you’d rather sleep on a wooden box in the toolhouse than on your own soft bed upstairs, wouldn’t you?” he added sarcastically.

By this time Andy came running up, presently followed by his twin. As the three Rover boys surrounded him, Henry Stowell became more disturbed than ever.

“You let me alone!” he howled. “Don’t you dare touch me! I haven’t done anything!”

“Stowell, you stuffed that cannon with stones.[42] You know you did!” cried Randy, catching the sneak by the collar.

“I didn’t! I didn’t do anything!” howled Codfish.

“Yes, you did! And you’ve got to admit it!” stormed Andy, shaking his fist under the sneak’s nose. “You tell the truth now or you’ll get the worst licking you ever had in your life.”

“Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me!” bellowed Codfish, now shaking from head to foot. “Let me alone! Help! Help!” he added feebly.

“Shut up!” And now Randy clapped his hand over the sneak’s mouth. “You yell again and you’ll get something you won’t want. Now then, out with it! Why did you put the stones in the cannon?”

“Now—now—I—er—didn’t mean any harm,” spluttered Codfish. “I—er—only did it in fun. I didn’t know the cannon would explode.”

“You come along to Colonel Colby’s office and tell your story there,” said Fred.

“Oh, please, please, Captain Rover, don’t make me go to Colonel Colby’s office!” whined the sneak. “If he hears of this maybe he’ll send me home and then my father will knock the daylights out of me!”

“Well, you’re going to the office just the same,” declared Fred. “My cousins here aren’t going to[43] have this happening placed to their discredit. They’re in bad enough as it is—we all are,” he added.

Much against his will and still protesting loudly, Stowell was marched back to the Hall and to the office, where Colonel Colby had just arrived, followed by Captain Dale and Professor Grawson. Captain Dale had already reported to the master of the Hall, and Colonel Colby looked at the three Rovers in a troubled way.

“This is rather a serious piece of fun, Captain Rover,” he said, addressing Fred. “I am sorry to see you and your cousins mixed up in it.”

“He had nothing to do with it, Colonel Colby,” put in Randy. “I and my brother are guilty so far as placing a blank charge in the cannon and setting it off. But we didn’t place in it the stones that did all the damage,” he added.

“Who did that?” demanded Colonel Colby.

To this none of the Rover boys replied, but all looked suggestively at Codfish.

“Oh, Colonel Colby, please, please forgive me!” sobbed the sneak, breaking down and hiding his face in his hands. “I didn’t mean to do any harm—really I didn’t! I thought it would be nothing but a joke!”



“Well, I reckon you fellows can be thankful you got out of it so easily.”

It was Jack who spoke, addressing his three cousins. It was an hour after the session in Colonel Colby’s office, and the cadets had brought their celebration to an end and were preparing to retire.

Henry Stowell’s confession had come somewhat as a surprise to the owner of the Hall. The sneak had been so wrought up and so fearful of consequences that in the end he had been placed in charge of Professor Grawson, who did what he could to calm the youth.

A doctor had made a careful inspection of the wounds caused by the flying stones and had reported that none of the hurts was serious and that the injured cadets would be as well as ever in a few days. This being so, the colonel had come to the conclusion to let the matter rest as it stood.


“Of course the boys should not have discharged the cannon,” he said to Captain Dale. “But, after all, it was only a schoolboy trick.” He had not forgotten that he had once been a boy himself, and that when a pupil at Putnam Hall with Dick, Tom and Sam Rover he had played many a trick himself.

“I’ll say the colonel is a brick!” declared Andy, with satisfaction. “A real, genuine, dyed-in-the-wool brick!”

“He’s all wool and a yard wide,” added Randy. “The best ever!”

“It’s too bad the cannon had to go up,” said Fred. “I rather think the colonel will hate to lose that piece.”

“I was thinking about that,” said Randy. He turned to the young major. “Do you think, Jack, that your dad could get the authorities at Washington to let him have another cannon? They must have a lot of those old pieces lying around loose.”

“I don’t know; but we might find out,” was Jack’s answer.

News of the explosion was carried to Clearwater Hall, and the Rover girls and their friends became much excited wondering if any of the cadets had been seriously hurt.

“You mustn’t fire off any more cannons,” said[46] Martha, when she saw the boys. “It’s too risky a thing to do.”

“Just as if soldiers don’t have to fire off cannons right along!” ejaculated Andy.

“Yes! But not old pieces that are all rusty,” put in Mary.

The explosion was a topic of interest at the Hall for a number of days, and with this was another topic of equal if not greater importance, and that was, as may be imagined, the loss of the silver trophy.

Early on the morning following the celebration a number of the cadets went out on the lake and dragged a part of the bottom in the hope of bringing up the vase. This attempt proved of no avail, and later attempts during the term were equally unsuccessful. Colonel Colby had Captain Dale and Professor Paul Brice call upon the owner of the steam yacht and see what he had to say concerning the matter.

“I’m not at all to blame—not in the least,” declared the owner of the Jocelyn. “There are half a dozen men at the Outlook Hotel who were on board, and every one of them will testify to the truth of what I am saying.”

“Well, our cadets are willing to testify that it was your fault,” declared Captain Dale, with some sharpness.


“All right! If you think that way, go on and take it to court,” said the owner; and there the matter rested.

The one man who was thoroughly enraged over the matter was Pud Hicks, and he did not hesitate to declare himself.

“The feller who was steerin’ that steam yacht is to blame, and he knows it,” growled the Hall employee. “For two pins I’d go up to the Outlook Hotel and knock the stuffin’ out of him.”

“That would do more harm than good, Pud,” answered Gif. “He could have you arrested for it and perhaps sent to jail for six months for assault and battery.”

“Well, it’s a shame to let him get away with it, ain’t it?”

“So it is,” answered the manager of the ball team. “But I don’t see how it can be helped. If Colonel Colby took it to court they would have as many witnesses on their side as we should have on ours, and the case would probably get nowhere.”

“I believe some of the men on the yacht sympathized with us,” remarked Jack. “One fellow, a young man, looked that way, anyhow. But of course you can’t tell.”

“Perhaps Colonel Colby will have somebody investigate,” said Fred hopefully. “If he can get[48] the right witnesses he can put the screws on that yacht owner.”

There were many of the cadets who did not blame any of the baseball team for the mishap which had deprived the school of the trophy. There were, however, others, perhaps ten or a dozen all told, who laid the blame entirely on Andy and Randy.

“Those twins are forever cutting up,” growled Grimshaw, the fellow who had been hit by one of the stones from the cannon. “For all we know, it might have been nothing but their horseplay that sent the trophy to the bottom of the lake.”

“That isn’t true, Grimshaw!” burst out Spouter indignantly. “It was lost on account of the collision, and in no other way!”

“Well, anyhow, those Rover twins ought to be more careful,” put in another cadet.

“That’s the truth!” added still another. “What business had they to place the trophy on the forward deck, anyhow? Why didn’t they leave it in the bottom of the boat? Then it wouldn’t have gone overboard even when the boat did tip up.”

Some of this talk reached the ears of the Rover boys and it made them all, and especially the twins, feel very bad.

“Gee, I feel like taking some of that money[49] I got from the pirates’ treasure and buying another vase,” remarked Andy. “Only, it wouldn’t be the vase.”

“I’ll pay for a new one quick enough if they’ll get it,” added his twin. The following day, which was Saturday, the four Rover boys and their chums spent the whole afternoon dragging the lake bottom and in diving in a vain hunt for the missing trophy.

With the baseball season at an end, the cadets were forced to give all their attention to their studies. Final examinations were now at hand and those who expected to graduate had to turn in compositions on the subjects assigned to them.

“Gosh! but I’ll be glad when the examinations are over,” remarked Fred, one evening after he had been poring over his books for an hour or more. “My head is fairly splitting with all the stuff I’m expected to remember.”

“And I suppose you think it’s a real picnic for us fellows,” grinned Andy, and then, catching up a sheet of waste paper, he made a small ball of it which he threw at Jack, who was busy with pencil and paper sketching out a composition he had to turn in.

“Quit the horseplay,” came shortly from the young major, and then, after biting the end of[50] his pencil, he continued rather testily: “Hang it all, Andy, I had a brilliant thought I was going to put down and you knocked it clean out of my head.”

“Sorry. What does a brilliant thought look like? If it fell on the floor maybe I can find it for you,” returned the fun-loving Rover, with provoking calmness.

Thereupon Jack leaped up and rushed over, only to find that Andy had slipped under the table, coming up grinningly on the other side. Then ensued a race around the room in which the other two Rovers were jerked off their chairs. A general scrimmage followed in which Andy finally found himself on the floor with the other three on top of him.

“Hi! Let up! What do you think you’re holding down—the rock of Gibraltar?” gasped Andy, trying his best to kick and punch at the same time.

“Will you promise to keep quiet?” questioned the young major, who sat on his stomach.

“I’ll—I’ll be good!” gasped the boy on the floor. “Let up before you cave in all my ribs.” Thereupon he was released and quietness was once more restored so that the lads could continue their studies.

“Wonder what we can do this summer?” said[51] Fred on Sunday afternoon, after the boys, with some other cadets, had attended church at Haven Point. There they had met the girls from Clearwater Hall and two of these, Alice Strobell and Annie Larkins, had announced that they were to take a trip to Europe with their parents.

“I think that’s going to depend on how we make out with our examinations,” answered Jack. “Anyway, when I broached the subject to dad he said we had better put it off until after graduation.”

“Gee, suppose we don’t graduate?” interposed Randy.

“That’s just it! If we don’t, we don’t!” answered Fred. “And that means if we don’t graduate we don’t get any very remarkable vacation. Perhaps they’ll send us up on the farm, to take it easy with Aunt Martha and Uncle Randolph.”

“Wow! Think of spending a whole summer in that out-of-the-way place!” moaned Randy.

The Rover boys had separated from their chums and were walking along a road which ran some distance behind the school. They were in no hurry to get back to the Hall, having half an hour to spare before the mid-day meal. It was unusually sultry, and now the boys heard the distant rumble of thunder and noticed that[52] some heavy clouds were appearing on the horizon to the westward.

“We’re going to have a shower, and that very soon,” announced Jack. “Better hit it up and get to the school before we get wet.”

The boys were making rapid progress and had almost reached a back road running to the outbuildings of the school when the first drops of rain commenced to come down. At the same time they heard the toot of an automobile horn and a roadster carrying two men came whirling along the highway. The four Rovers stepped aside to let the car pass. As it came closer the roadster slowed up. Evidently the two men were strangers to that locality for they looked around as if trying to find some signboard.

“Is this the road to Haven Point?” called out one of the men. As he did so the second man, after a glance at the boys, suddenly turned his face away from them.

“It is,” answered Fred. “Keep straight ahead for about three-quarters of a mile.”

Upon hearing this the driver of the car put on speed and the roadster was soon lost in the distance.

“What’s the matter, Jack?” exclaimed Randy, as the car passed from sight. “What are you staring at?”


“That fellow who was in the roadster! The man who sat alongside the driver!” ejaculated the young major. “Did you notice him?”

“I saw him give one look at us and then turn away,” answered Andy. “Who was he?”

“Unless I was greatly mistaken, it was Carson Davenport,” announced Jack, and his words filled his cousins with astonishment.



“Carson Davenport!” exclaimed Fred. “Why, Jack, you must be dreaming!”

“Carson Davenport is in jail. We saw him arrested ourselves,” added Randy.

“And he couldn’t even get bail—dad said so,” put in Andy.

“I don’t care, I’m almost certain that was Carson Davenport in that car,” answered Jack firmly.

As the readers of the volume entitled “The Rover Boys in the Land of Luck” know, Carson Davenport was the oil well promoter whom the boys had met on the border between Texas and Oklahoma. He was an unscrupulous individual who had robbed Jack’s father of some papers supposed to be of great value and later on had done everything he could to harm all of the Rovers. But one plot after another had been exposed, and in the end Carson Davenport had been arrested just at the time he was attempting to leave town[55] with some money belonging to himself and to four of his partners. Two of his partners, Tate and Jackson, had stopped him, and a wordy quarrel had brought on the arrest of the three men. Each was tried for his wrongdoings and sentenced to a term in prison.

“If Davenport is out of the pen, Phil Franklin ought to know something about it,” said Fred. For Phil and his father lived in the oil fields and had had considerable dealings with the rascals mentioned.

“If Davenport is around here we had better keep our eyes open,” came from Randy. “I don’t trust that chap any more than I’d trust a rattlesnake.”

“I guess none of us would,” returned Fred. “Gee! how mad he was when he sunk that twenty thousand dollars he and Tate and Jackson put up, not to say anything about the small fortune contributed by the Martells, the Browns and Mr. Werner.”

As it was now raining harder, the boys hurried to the Hall and then up to their rooms to get ready for the mid-day meal. On Sunday all military exercises were dispensed with. On the stairs they met Phil Franklin and immediately asked him if he had a few minutes to spare.

“Sure,” was Phil’s ready response. “Haven’t[56] got a thing to do until the bell rings for grub.”

“Come on to our rooms while we’re fixing up,” said Jack.

Once in the rooms occupied by the Rovers, the latter acquainted the boy from the oil fields with what had taken place on the road.

“Davenport here? Oh, you must be mistaken!” said Phil. “Why, he’s in prison down in Texas. And so are Tate and Jackson.”

“Then you haven’t heard anything of their being released?” said Jack.

“Not a thing. And I don’t think they have been.”

“Well, perhaps I was mistaken, but I don’t think so,” and the young major shook his head slowly.

Final examinations began on Monday, and the boys were kept busy for several days. Then came a respite of twenty-four hours, for which the Rovers were thankful.

The mail came in at noon, and less than half an hour later Phil Franklin burst in on the Rover boys like a cyclone.

“Here’s news! Just the thing you wanted to know!” he cried out, waving a newspaper clipping. “My father sent it to me in a letter he wrote. It tells all about Davenport, Tate, Jackson[57] and several other prisoners. They are all out on parole.”

“You don’t say!” ejaculated Jack. “Let me see the clipping, Phil.”

His cousins gathered close while Jack read the newspaper clipping aloud. It had been cut from an Oklahoma sheet and told how a number of prisoners in one of the Texas prisons had been placed on parole by the authorities.

“Well, I guess I was right after all and that was Davenport,” said the young major. “Now the question is: What was he doing up here?”

“I’ll answer that by saying you can be sure he was up to no good,” declared Fred.

“I guess you’re right there,” answered Phil. “I wouldn’t trust that rascal a bit further than I could see him. If ever there was a snake in the grass, it was Carson Davenport. Just see how he and his cronies struck down Jack’s father in the room at the hotel and robbed him.”

“Oh, I’m not forgetting it,” answered Jack. “I think it’s an outrage that they let that rascal off so easily.”

“Maybe the prisons are overcrowded and they have to let some of the old prisoners out in order to let the new ones in,” suggested Randy.

“We’ll keep our eyes open,” said Fred, and[58] after Phil Franklin had left he continued: “You know what I think? I think we had better let the girls know of this.”

“You don’t suppose Davenport would bother Mary and Martha, do you?” asked Randy.

“I don’t know what he’d do. A rascal like that is apt to do almost anything.”

“Maybe Davenport just came up this way on business, or something like that,” suggested Andy lightly. “He’s got to do something for a living, you know. He sunk about all the money he could rake and scrape up in those oil wells that went dry.”

“I think Fred is right, and we had better let the girls know,” decided Jack thoughtfully. “Of course, we don’t want to alarm them too much; but it’s better to warn them so they can keep their eyes open if Davenport does show up.”

“We can’t telephone—it might scare ’em stiff,” said Fred. “Let’s get permission to go over there this evening. We can get Hicks to run us over in a car.”

So it was arranged, and the boys spent half an hour with the Rover girls and with Ruth Stevenson and May Powell.

“Who ever heard of such a thing!” exclaimed Martha. “Whatever do you suppose the man is up to, Jack?”


“There is no telling. But we want you to be careful when you go out. You don’t want to fall in with such a bad egg as Davenport.”

“You boys had better be careful yourselves,” broke in Mary. “I guess that man would rather do something to you than to us. From all accounts, he hates you and Uncle Dick like poison.”

“Oh, Jack, do be careful!” said Ruth, when the boys were ready to depart. “Why, for all you know, that rascal might try to shoot you!”

“You be careful, too, Fred,” came from May Powell. “Perhaps the fellow will try to rob you, just to get square for what he lost in the oil fields.”

The girls were also deep in their examinations, and as they had still some writing and studying to do the boys did not remain as long as they might otherwise have done. Returning to Colby Hall, they tried to dismiss Carson Davenport from their minds and pitch into the work that still remained to be done on their compositions.

So far Jack and Fred had done very well and each felt certain that up to that point he had scored at least ninety-five per cent. The twins were not so fortunate, but as Andy expressed it, “they hoped they hit the ninety mark, anyway.”

“Latin is what gets me,” groaned Andy. “Whoever wanted to invent such a beastly language,[60] anyway? Why couldn’t they talk United States and be done with it?”

“It’s mathematics that’s my bugbear,” said his twin. “The fellow who got up square root and cube root in that science ought to be hung.”

“Just wait until I get through with these books,” went on Andy. “If they won’t make the most dandy bonfire you ever saw, then I’ll miss my guess.”

The one humble boy around Colby Hall those days was Henry Stowell. Following the incident connected with the explosion of the cannon the sneak had not appeared for several days in the classrooms. When he did show up he had little to say and he did his best to avoid the Rovers.

“I guess he’s learned one lesson, all right enough,” was Randy’s comment.

“Gee, but putting those stones in the cannon was a serious piece of business,” declared Fred. “Why, some of the cadets might have been killed!”

At the end of the week came a surprise for the boys. Sam Rover had had to take a business trip to a city not far from Haven Point, and drove over in his automobile, first to call on the girls and then to visit his son and his nephews.

“Uncle Sam!” cried Jack, who was the first to greet him. “This sure is a surprise! I’m[61] awfully glad to see you!” and he shook hands warmly.

“Thought I’d drop in and see how you’re making out with your final examinations,” said Sam Rover. “Is everything going along all right?”

“We hope so,” answered the young major. “Some of the questions are pretty stiff though, I can tell you that!”

“Well, nothing that’s worth while in life is very easy,” answered Fred’s father, and then the others came up and there was a general rejoicing all around. The boys took the older Rover into the Hall, where he was greeted by his old chum, Colonel Colby.

“It always seems like a touch of old times when you or Dick or Tom come around,” said Colonel Colby to Sam Rover, when they were left alone for a few minutes. “It’s a pity we can’t get together oftener.”

“How are the boys making out? I hope they’re putting their minds down to their studies.”

“They’re doing very well, especially Fred and Jack,” answered the master of the Hall. “It seems to be a little more difficult for the twins. They take so much after Tom,” and Colonel Colby showed a twinkle in his eyes.

“Yes, they’re chips of the old block—no question about that,” answered Fred’s father.


Colonel Colby was on the point of mentioning the exploded cannon, but suddenly thought better of it.

“Perhaps the boys will have something to tell you, Sam,” he said, on parting for the time being. “If they haven’t, just ask me about it. I want to give them a chance to speak first if they care to do so.”

It was not a pleasant thing to broach, yet the twins thought they must make a clean breast of it, so when Sam Rover had accompanied the boys to their rooms Andy and Randy spoke not only about the exploded cannon, but also of the loss of the silver trophy.

“Gracious! you lads are certainly getting into hot water,” was Sam Rover’s comment. “To lose the trophy was bad enough, but to have that cannon explode——” He ended with a shake of his head. “You’ve got to be more careful. It won’t do to kill anybody.”

“We’d like to get another cannon for Colonel Colby,” said Randy. “Do you suppose Uncle Dick and you and dad could manage it?”

“Perhaps. We can see about that later. I’m glad you told me about this.”

“Did Colonel Colby say anything about it?” asked Jack.

“Not a word.”


“Isn’t he all to the mustard!” exclaimed Andy. “Gosh, Uncle Sam, he must have been a fine fellow for a school chum!”

“He was, Andy—a real prince of good fellows.” Sam Rover paused for a moment. “Now then, I’ve got something to tell you,” he went on. “I hope it won’t interfere with your examination tests,” he added. “But it’s something that must be told. I haven’t said anything to the girls about it, but you boys had better know it.”

“What is that?” the lads questioned in concert.

“That rascal, Carson Davenport, is at liberty along with his pals, Jackson and Tate.”

“We know that already.”

“Yes, so the girls told me this morning,” came from Sam Rover. “But there is something more to tell than that—something the girls know nothing about.”

“What is that?” questioned Jack.

“Davenport paid a secret visit to your father last week,” was the reply. “He demanded fifty thousand dollars, and said if it wasn’t forthcoming he would make the Rovers suffer as they had never suffered before.”



“Davenport demanded fifty thousand dollars!” ejaculated Randy.

“He certainly doesn’t want much, does he?” was Fred’s comment.

“Of course my dad didn’t let him have a cent!” came quickly from Jack.

“I knew you boys would be surprised,” said Sam Rover, with something of a grim smile crossing his face. “No, he didn’t give Davenport anything but a piece of his mind and told the fellow if he didn’t clear out at once he’d have him placed under arrest.”

“Dad should have had him held, Uncle Sam.”

“That’s what I said, and so did your Uncle Tom. But your father reasoned that he had had enough trouble with Davenport, and the fellow had had trouble too—losing his money in those oil wells that went dry.”

“Yes, but the rascal is a thief and worse!” burst out Fred. “Why, he even tried to rob his partners!”


“Did dad have any idea Davenport was coming up here?” questioned the young major.

“He didn’t know what Davenport’s next move would be, but he thought it would be a good idea for me to warn both you and the girls.”

“Well, we were already on our guard, and now that we know he has made this outrageous demand for money we’ll be more wary than ever,” said Randy.

“Oh, I hope he doesn’t try to make trouble for the girls!” cried Fred.

“I have warned them to be very careful of their movements while they remain at the school,” answered Sam Rover. “We would prefer to have them go home, but they wish to finish the term.”

“They ought not to go out at all unless they have a man or one of us with them,” remarked Jack. “It wouldn’t be safe.”

“Wonder who the man was in the runabout with Davenport?” came from Andy.

“He was a stranger to me,” replied his twin, and the other boys said the same.

Sam Rover took his departure that evening and on the following morning the boys went to their classes for their final tests. Jack did not finish until after three o’clock and his cousins were even later in appearing.


“Gee, I don’t know whether I squeezed through or not,” remarked Andy. “Some of the questions were stiffer than I expected.”

“Don’t say a word! I know I flunked on two or three questions,” answered his twin.

“I know I didn’t answer everything correctly,” came from the young major.

“Neither did I,” added Fred.

One by one the cadets assembled on the campus and along the lake front. A few went out to row, but most of them hung around, wanting to know how others had made out.

That day Phil Franklin received another letter from his father in which his parent stated that he intended to take a trip to the oil fields of Oklahoma.

“And he wants me to remain here until the school opens again this fall,” said Phil. “What do you know about that?”

“You don’t mean at the Hall!” exclaimed Fred. “Why, Colonel Colby just about shuts the place up during July and August.”

“No, my father wants to know if I can’t find some suitable boarding house at Haven Point, or some other place in this vicinity. He thinks I’d be better off here than down home during his absence.”

“What about boarding with Barry Logan?”[67] suggested Randy, mentioning a boy of the town whose mother kept a boarding house. The cadets had often met young Logan on the lake where he earned his living by fishing and by taking people out in his boat.

“That’s just what I was thinking I might do,” answered Phil. “I’ve met Barry’s mother, and she is a real nice lady, and I could have dandy times out on the lake with Barry.”

“If you stay here, Phil, I know what I’d like you to do!” cried Randy.

“What is that?”

“I’d like you to hire Barry to go on a hunt for that silver trophy. He might get some kind of a trawl and bring the vase up.”

“That’s the talk! If I stay here I certainly will go on a hunt for that trophy!” exclaimed Phil. “It will help fill in the time.”

On the following Friday afternoon there was a special session of the school, and the cadets were acquainted with the results of the examinations. It was found that Fred had received 96 per cent., Jack 94 per cent., Andy and Randy 89 and 88 per cent., respectively. Gif had 92 per cent. to his credit, Phil 91 per cent., while Spouter was overjoyed to learn that he had reached 98 per cent., the highest record made that year.

“Hurrah, Spouter! You’re sure the king pin[68] when it comes to studying!” cried Jack, and shook hands warmly.

“Well, you and Fred did pretty well,” answered Spouter modestly.

“Gee, but I’m glad I passed!” murmured Randy. “I got about ten more points than I thought I’d have.”

All of the cadets who were to graduate that year had passed, and they were, of course, correspondingly elated.

“We’ll have to celebrate,” said Gif.

“Let’s have a farewell dinner,” suggested Jack. “And it will be a real farewell, too—farewell to Colby Hall, farewell to our offices, and farewell to baseball, football, and everything else connected with the Hall.”

From that minute on the boys to leave Colby Hall forever were kept more than busy. The Rovers helped to arrange for a final formal dinner, and then lost no time in sending telegrams home, telling the glad news of their having passed the final tests.

“Now I think we deserve a real good vacation,” said Fred.

“What do you suppose it ought to be?” questioned the young major. He had started to polish his sword for the last time, preparatory to making the best showing possible during the[69] military maneuvers which would help to mark the closing of the term.

“Oh, I’d like to take a long trip somewhere,” answered Fred.

“Maybe you’d like to be shipwrecked again?” observed Andy. “We might fall in with another Ira Small and go after another pirates’ treasure,” he added, with a grin.

“If it’s all the same with you fellows, I’ll stay on land this summer,” said Randy. “I got all the ocean I wanted when we drifted down to the West Indies.”

The girls at Clearwater Hall did not finish their examinations until the plans for the final dinner at Colby Hall were well under way. Then it was learned that both Martha and Mary, as well as Ruth Stevenson, had passed with flying colors and that May Powell had been only slightly behind. This news came to the lads over the telephone.

“We ought to go over and congratulate them,” said Jack.

“I know what you want to do,” came from Andy, as he winked one eye suggestively. “You want to congratulate Ruth Stevenson.”

“Well, don’t you want to congratulate the girls?” demanded the young major, his face reddening.


“Of course he does! We all do!” burst in Fred.

“That’s right,” said Andy, nodding sagely. “Just the same, I’ll bet most of Fred’s congratulations go to May Powell,” and then he had to duck quickly in order to avoid a book which the youngest Rover aimed at his head.

The boys did not get a chance to go over to Clearwater Hall until the following day. In the meanwhile they received congratulatory messages from home which pleased them greatly. Then came a letter for Randy marked “personal” which filled that lad with curiosity.

“Randy’s best girl must be writing to him,” suggested Fred, as he turned the missive over. “Why don’t you let us know who she is, Randy?”

“Humph! I haven’t any best girl. And, anyway, this letter is postmarked ‘New York.’ I haven’t the least idea what’s in it.”

He tore the communication open and glanced at the heading. Then he glanced at the signature.

“Why, it’s for Andy as well as for me! And it’s from——” He stopped short. “Well, what in the world can this be, anyhow?” And then, as all of the other Rovers crowded closer, he pushed Jack and Fred back. “Excuse me, boys,[71] but this is marked private and is for nobody but Andy and myself.”

“Well, of all things!” murmured Fred.

“What’s the big secret?” came blankly from Jack.

“I’ve got to find out myself,” answered Randy, and thereupon he and Andy retreated to a corner where they read the somewhat lengthy communication from their father with keen interest.

“Gee, what do you know about that!”

“Isn’t that the best ever!”

“Say, it took dad to think up something worth while, didn’t it?”

“Hush now, or you’ll give it away. It’s to be a secret, you know.”

“Sure, it’s a secret.”

So the talk ran on between the twins while Fred and Jack looked on in silent amazement.

“Say, is this a game?” demanded the youthful major, at last.

“I’ll bet it’s a joke,” said Fred dryly.

“It isn’t a joke. It’s the best news I’ve heard since Noah gave up ship building,” cried Andy. Then he added quickly to his brother: “Shall we tell them anything at all?”

“Sure, we’ll have to tell them something, but not the thing,” was the quick reply.


“We’re going to take a trip this summer, and you two fellows are to go along.”

“Where are you going?” questioned Jack and Fred simultaneously.

At this question the twins looked at each other and slowly a broad grin appeared on the face of each.

“Once upon a time Spouter Powell invited us to take a trip with him. Only he didn’t tell us where we were to go——” began Andy teasingly.

“And another time Gif Garrison did the same thing, and then took us to Big Bear Lake,” added Randy.

“See here! Is this another one of those secrets?” cried Jack.

“That’s it!”

“You’ve hit the nail on the head, Jack.”

“Do you mean to say you won’t tell us where we are to go?” flung out Fred.

“Nope! Can’t! Dad says we’re to keep it a secret until we are ready to start.”

“Come on, Jack, we’ll pound it out of them!” cried the youngest Rover, and sprang at the twins, followed by his cousin.

“Stop! Stop! It won’t do you any good to fight,” spluttered Randy, when he found himself backed into a corner.


“Then spill the beans, and spill ’em quick,” ordered Jack.

“It’s all well enough for outsiders to keep a secret,” broke in Fred. “There shouldn’t be any secrets among us fellows. Come on! Tell us where we’re to go.”

“I can’t do it—not until the day we are leaving school. Those are dad’s orders,” said Andy.

“And that’s the truth,” added his twin. “You’ll know where you’re going to spend your vacation on the day you’re ready to leave Colby Hall.”

“And we’re ordered to hide this letter where nobody can get at it,” went on Randy. He looked questioningly at his brother and then at his cousins. “It’s mighty queer,” he continued, “but that’s just what dad wrote down. You can figure it out for yourselves if you want to.”

For a moment all of the Rover boys were silent, each gazing at the others questioningly. Then, of a sudden, Jack emitted a low whistle.

“Well, if you fellows are telling the truth, and I suppose you are, then I think I know the answer,” he said.

“What is the answer?” demanded Fred.




“My gracious, I wonder if you can be right!” said Fred.

“I guess he is right,” answered Randy, “for the letter says that Andy and I are not to mention the place to anybody, nor are we to talk about it in public. Especially, are we not to let the girls know a thing about it. And, as I said before, we are to hide this letter or destroy it.”

“Then I’m sure I’m right,” said the young major. “Your father doesn’t want to run the slightest risk of having Davenport find out where we are going on our vacation.”

“I guess that demand for fifty thousand dollars scared the folks at home a whole lot,” was Fred’s comment. “It looks to me as if they imagined Davenport was watching us every minute, trying to figure out what he could do to injure us.”

“But we haven’t seen or heard of the man since the day we saw him—or Jack thought he did—in that roadster.”


“Just the same, he may be in this vicinity watching every move we make,” said Randy, and his face was serious.

The twins read the letter again, and then, to make sure that no one else might know of its contents, they burnt it up.

“No use of taking any chances,” said Andy grimly.

“To tell the truth, that letter got on my nerves,” confessed his twin. “Dad wouldn’t write so seriously unless there was something in the wind.”

“Perhaps Davenport—or some of those other rascals—has been threatening the folks at home again. Gosh! I wonder if they would dare threaten my mother or Aunt Dora or Aunt Nellie?”

“If Davenport or any of his pals did that he ought to be shot!” answered Jack. “I’m sorry now my dad didn’t have Davenport arrested the first time he showed up. Such fellows ought to be in prison. They ought never to be given their liberty.”

When the boys telephoned to Clearwater Hall they found that the girls had gone out for a walk with one of the teachers. They were to be back in less than an hour, however, so the lads concluded to walk over to the girls’ school and wait for them.


The four Rovers, accompanied by Gif and Spouter, had just reached a side entrance of the Clearwater Hall grounds when they heard a cry behind them. Looking up, they saw Mary, Martha and Ruth hurrying from a patch of woods with a teacher behind them.

“Oh, we’ve had such a scare!” burst out Martha, in excitement.

“If only you boys had been on hand perhaps you might have helped us!” wailed Mary.

“What sort of a scare—wild animals, or a ghost, or what?” queried Andy.

“No, it was a man—two men.”

“What did they do?” demanded Jack quickly.

“They didn’t do anything. I didn’t give them a chance,” said the teacher, a tall, angular woman who carried a stout walking stick and who looked amply able to defend herself.

“The men were in a closed car, and they drove up right alongside of Martha and me,” explained Mary. “Ruth was walking ahead with Miss Lambert. One of the men opened a door of the car and asked us if we didn’t want to ride. Then he jumped out and acted just as if he wanted to make us get into the car, even if we didn’t want to.”

“I called for Miss Lambert and Ruth,” said Martha, “and as soon as the men saw the teacher[77] they went off in the car just as fast as they could go.”

“How did the man who jumped out look?” asked Fred.

“He was a tall man, with black hair and real black eyes that seemed to look right through me,” said Martha, and shivered a little as she spoke. “Oh, he was a perfectly horrid man!”

“That was Carson Davenport, I’ll bet a dollar!” exclaimed her brother. “Davenport is tall and has black hair and black eyes.”

“What about the fellow who stayed in the car?” asked Randy.

“We couldn’t see him very well. He had his coat collar turned up and his cap pulled down over his eyes.”

“I told Martha and Mary to stay close to us,” said Miss Lambert, who evidently felt that she must say something in her own defense. “But they dropped behind, and this was the result. However, I don’t think the men would have dared to carry them off in such a high-handed fashion.”

“You wouldn’t say that if you knew this man Davenport as we do,” answered Jack. “The fellow has done time in prison and is a thorough rascal and the associate of rascals.”

The girls were so excited that it was not until they had entered Clearwater Hall and reported[78] to Miss Garwood, the head of the establishment, that they could tell a clear and connected story. No one had taken down the car number of the automobile, nor had any one recognized the make of the machine.

“All I can say is that it was a very fine car—nothing cheap, like a Ford,” said Mary.

“If only we had the number it might help a whole lot,” returned Fred.

“I think you two young ladies had better remain within the school grounds until you start for home,” said Miss Garwood at the conclusion of the interview. “I cannot afford to have anything happen to you while you are under my care.” So it was arranged that Mary and Martha should not go away from the school grounds until they started for home.

“And then we’ll come and get you,” said Jack. “And if Carson Davenport shows up we’ll give him what is coming to him.”

“You bet we will!” added Fred. “And we’ll give it to him with interest, too!”

In the excitement of the occasion the visitors had almost forgotten to congratulate the girls on their success in the examinations. It was plain to be seen that Mary and Martha were both exceedingly nervous, and Ruth was scarcely less affected.


“Oh, Jack, do watch out that that man doesn’t get you,” said Ruth to the young major, on parting.

“Well, you keep your eyes open while you girls are here at school,” answered Jack. “If you see the least sign of that rascal call somebody and have him arrested.”

“Don’t you think it would be a good idea to set a detective on his trail?”

“Perhaps, Ruth. But I think now that he has failed in this new move of his he’ll keep under cover for a while. He’ll probably wait until we start for New York and then maybe follow us.”

“Martha and Mary want me to come down to New York and spend a week or two there.”

“That would be fine, Ruth,” and Jack’s face showed his satisfaction.

It was a rather sober group of cadets that returned to Colby Hall. The Rovers had very little to say.

“It’s a confounded shame!” was the way Gif expressed himself. “Why should the authorities let such a man out of prison? He ought to serve every day of his sentence.”

“That’s just the way I look at it,” returned Spouter. “What is the use of building prisons and having them finely equipped if they are not to be used? The whole trouble lies with those[80] soft-hearted individuals in every community who think prisoners ought to be treated with every sort of consideration. Just look at some of them—carrying fruit and flowers to murderers, and weeping over people found guilty of kidnaping, and all that sort of mush! Now, if I were in authority, I’d give every man who was guilty of a crime to understand that he must serve his sentence to the last minute. And I’d give the public to understand that——”

“Say, Spouter, are you only talking or are you delivering a lecture?” broke in Randy.

“Well, it makes me mad!” went on the cadet who loved to talk. “Don’t you agree with what I’ve said?”

“I certainly do,” answered Jack. “There is altogether too much soft-heartedness about this criminal business.”

The final parade at Colby Hall was a formal affair and attended by many people from Haven Point and other places. Every uniform was brushed and pressed and every rifle and sword polished to the last degree. As a consequence the three companies composing the school battalion presented a well-nigh perfect appearance when inspected by Colonel Colby and Captain Dale.

“I must congratulate you on the fine showing[81] you have made,” said the master of the Hall, in addressing the cadets. “I am proud of you. You have done very well.”

“Three cheers for Colonel Colby!” called out Jack, and the cheers were given with a will. Then came another cheer for Captain Dale and the other instructors.

“Three cheers for Major Rover!” called out Captain Dale, and once again the cheering was renewed. Then came cheers for the captains of the three commands and the other officers, after which there was a final parade around the campus, and then those who were to graduate from the Hall discarded their arms for the last time.

“I’m going to take my sword home with me. Colonel Colby said I might,” said Jack.

“I’m to take my sword, too,” answered Fred.

“What are Randy and I to take home?” demanded Andy.

“Oh, you can take an arithmetic or a grammar,” answered Fred.

“Not on your tintype!” came from the fun-loving Rover.

“We might take our guns,” suggested Randy jokingly. “Then we’d be fully prepared to meet Davenport and his pals.”

The dinner held by those who were to graduate from the Hall was one long to be remembered.[82] The mess hall was decorated especially for the occasion and the spread was one of the most elaborate ever prepared at that institution.

“I want you boys to remember Colby Hall as long as you live,” said Colonel Colby, addressing a number of the cadets but looking squarely at the Rover boys as he spoke. He did not say so, but the lads knew he was thinking of his own school days at Putnam Hall with their fathers.

“I couldn’t forget Colby Hall if I tried,” answered Major Jack feelingly. “I am sure it’s one of the best schools on earth.”

“So say we all of us!” cried Andy, and then the crowd broke into prolonged cheering for Colonel Colby and for everybody else connected with the institution. There followed a number of speeches and then a number of songs, and the dinner did not break up until nearly midnight.

“I’ll tell you what, boys, that was a grand wind-up, and no mistake,” declared Fred, when they were going upstairs to their rooms. “Colonel Colby certainly deserves a medal for the way he’s treated us.”

“It actually makes me sad to think I’m not coming back here next fall,” remarked Jack. “And I won’t be a major any more, either.”

“And I won’t be a captain.”


“Well, it’s one satisfaction,” said Andy, with a grin. “You two highbrows have got to come down to the level of us poor nobodies. Isn’t that so, Randy?”

“That’s right. No more Major This or Captain That.”

“Oh, I won’t mind that,” answered Jack. “Sometimes I think being major of the battalion kept me out of some fun. A fellow holding such an important office can’t do lots of things that an ordinary cadet can.”

“Well, I’m tired,” yawned Andy. “I’ll be glad after all this hubbub to hit the hay and get a sound sleep.”

“That’s the talk!” said Fred, as he threw open one of the doors leading to the connecting rooms which the cousins occupied.

The boys entered the rooms and then one after another turned on the lights. Then came a sudden exclamation from Jack.

“Great Cæsar! Who did this?”

“Who did what?” questioned Randy, and then gave a swift look at the bed to which Jack was pointing. “Why, all the bedclothes are gone!” he added in dismay.

“All my bedclothing is gone too!” came from Andy.

Then the four Rovers made a swift inspection[84] of the rooms. Each bed was destitute of its sheets, pillowcases and blankets. Only the bare pillows and mattresses remained.

“You don’t suppose the housekeeper has cleared these things away already?” questioned Fred.

“Not a bit of it!” cried Randy. “This is a trick, and I’m going after the fellows who did it!”



“Well, it’s no more than we had a right to expect,” said Andy, after a pause. “I was thinking of playing a few tricks myself.”

“One thing is sure: We’ve got to have some bedclothing before we go to bed,” muttered Fred.

“Oh, we could sleep without if we had to—it’s a warm night,” answered Jack. He had strode over to a closet door and now pulled it open. “Wow! What do you know about this!” he ejaculated.

His cousins came rushing forward and each gave a brief glance into the clothing closet. The place was practically bare.

“All the clothing gone!”

“Even the pajamas are missing!”

“And the shoes and hats!”

Fred ran to another closet while Randy and his twin darted into the other rooms of the suite. A moment later each of the lads set up a howl of dismay.


“We have been cleaned out!”

“Everything is gone—even that old play suit I was going to give away!”

“Perhaps we’ve been robbed,” suggested Fred.

“I doubt if any robbers would take the bedclothing,” answered Jack. “It’s a trick—that’s what it is!”

“I wonder if any of the other fellows have suffered like this,” came from Andy.

The words had scarcely been spoken when there came a knock on the hallway door and Gif entered, followed by Spouter.

“It’s the same story!” exclaimed Gif, glancing at the empty beds. “You’ve been cleaned out just the same as we were.”

“Were your closets ransacked too?” questioned the young major quickly.

“Yes, everything taken,” answered Spouter. “Confound the luck, anyway! I was going to do my packing to-night so that I’d have a little time to myself in the morning.”

“I was going to get up early to pack,” answered Fred.

“Has anybody else been cleaned out?” questioned Randy.

“I don’t know,” returned Gif. “We stopped at Ned Lowe’s room, and also asked Dan Soppinger,[87] and they said nothing had been touched in their rooms.”

Andy had walked to the corridor door and opened it. As he glanced down the semi-dark hallway he saw Fatty Hendry approaching.

“Say, Fatty,” he called out, “come here a minute! A lot of our stuff has been taken from our rooms. Do you know anything about it?”

“Not a thing,” returned the stout cadet. “What’s the matter—somebody play a trick on you fellows?” And then, after Andy had explained briefly, Fatty continued: “Maybe I can give you a clew. A while ago I came upstairs to get a book I had promised to Phil Franklin. As I came past here I saw Dock Wesley at your door. He looked rather scared and slid down the corridor as fast as he could. He had something under his arm.”

“Dock Wesley!” repeated Jack. “Why, he’s the new kid who is chumming with Codfish!”

“I wouldn’t put it past Codfish to try something like this to get square for being exposed the way he was,” remarked Fred, who had followed Andy to the doorway.

“You didn’t see anybody else, Fatty?” asked Randy, who had joined the others.

“Not a soul. But wait a minute! Come to[88] think of it, I did meet Wesley and Codfish a little later, along with some of the other fellows, and the bunch were having a good laugh over something.”

“Then I guess we have struck a clew,” declared Fred. “Come on, and we’ll soon get to the bottom of this.”

The Rover boys, followed by Gif, Spouter and Fatty, hurried down the corridor and around a corner where was located the room occupied by Codfish and Dock Wesley. They knocked on the door, but to this there was no response. Then they knocked again, and at last a somewhat faltering voice asked who was there.

“It’s Major Rover,” called out Jack. “Stowell, I want to talk to you.”

“I’ve gone to bed,” answered Codfish weakly. “I’m all tired out. Can’t you do your talking to-morrow morning?”

“No, I can’t. I want to do it now.”

“I’m not going to open the door,” declared Codfish. “You want to play some kind of a trick on me.”

“That’s right! Don’t open up,” came in Dock Wesley’s voice.

“Don’t forget that I am major of the battalion,” went on Jack sternly. “I want both of you to obey orders and open this door.”


“You’re not major any longer, Jack Rover!” cried Wesley. “Your commission went out of date to-day. You’re nothing but a student like ourselves.”

“You sha’n’t bulldoze me any longer,” put in Codfish, gaining a little courage by his chum’s manner. “I won’t stand for it. You go away and let us go to sleep.”

“Open that door or we’ll break it down!” cried Fred.

“You break that door down and you’ll get a baseball bat over your head!” stormed Wesley. “I’ve got a bat here, and so has Stowell, and we’ll both use ’em, too, if you try any funny business.”

“Wait a minute! I’ve got a plan,” whispered Andy. “Come here,” and he drew several feet away from the door.

“What do you propose?” questioned Gif.

“Jack, Fred, Spouter and Fatty can stay at the door and argue with Codfish and Wesley just as hard as possible so as to keep ’em interested. In the meanwhile, Randy and Gif and I can go around and get on the fire escape that runs under their window. Most likely their window is open and we’ll be able to sneak into the room. If we can do that Randy and I can hold both of them back while Gif unlocks the door and lets you fellows in.”


“Gee, that’s the stuff!” answered Randy, in a whisper, his eyes glistening. “Come on! Let’s get busy!”

The others were willing, and while Jack, Fred, Spouter and Hendry returned to the locked door, the others, led by Andy, disappeared around the corridor corner in the direction where a door led out to a long fire escape.

“We’ve got to be careful and make no noise,” whispered Andy. “Otherwise they may get on to the trick and lock the window and barricade it with a chiffonier or something. Then we’ll be out of it altogether.”

It was easy to get out on the fire escape, and, once there, the three cadets crawled cautiously along past several windows, coming finally to the window belonging to the room occupied by Codfish and Wesley.

“The window is open,” whispered Andy, after taking a cautious look. “All we’ve got to do is to raise the screen and leap inside.”

“Wait now!” returned his twin. “Let’s have everything understood. Take a look inside if you can without being seen.”

The light was lit in the room and by this, peering cautiously over the window sill, the cadets outside saw Codfish and Wesley standing close to the locked door, each with a baseball bat in[91] his hands. Both were arguing loudly with those in the corridor.

“I don’t think they’ll notice us,” whispered Andy. “Everybody is talking too loud. Come on now. Grab the bats first of all. And you, Gif, try to get to the door and unlock it.”

“Is the key in it? Maybe they have taken it out.”

“No, the key is there,” said Andy. “Now then! Be quick!”

Cautiously he raised the window screen and as soon as it was high enough Gif stepped into the room, followed immediately by the two Rovers. Their entrance was not noticed, for Jack was laying down the law in the hall outside and Codfish and Wesley were listening attentively.

“Now!” cried Randy, and hurled himself at Codfish while Andy leaped upon Wesley. Gif went between, reaching the door with scarcely an effort. For a few seconds there was a terrible mêlée in the rather small room. Andy managed to get the bat away from his opponent and then the two grappled and fell to the floor. In the meantime his twin also became engaged in a fierce scuffle. In the midst of this Gif flung open the door and into the room poured all of the others, and then the impromptu battle came to a sudden termination.


“Don’t hit me! Don’t hit me!” screamed Codfish, in terror as Randy stood over him, baseball bat in hand.

“What’s the meaning of all this?” demanded Dock Wesley, sitting down on the edge of a bed and scowling at those in front of him. “Going to start a rough house?”

“No, we’re going to bring you fellows to book,” answered Jack.

“I guess we had better bind and gag ’em and throw ’em into the lake,” suggested Gif, with a wink at his chums.

“No, no! Don’t do anything like that!” cried Codfish, more frightened than ever. “Let me alone! Please!”

“Look here, Codfish, what did you and your bunch do with our things?” demanded Randy.

“Don’t tell ’em anything,” snarled Wesley. “Keep your mouth shut.”

“Oh, so that’s what you intend to do, is it?” came from Spouter. “How do you like that?” and he suddenly caught Wesley by the collar and laid him out flat on the bed. “Let’s strip ’em, boys, and give ’em the licking they deserve!”

“Don’t you touch me! Don’t you dare! I’ll have you arrested!” howled Wesley, and now he seemed to be as much frightened as Codfish. He was a coward at heart, and that was one reason[93] he had sought the companionship of such a sneak as Stowell.

“I’ve got it!” declared Jack. “We’ll bind and gag ’em and take ’em down to the gymnasium. There we’ll give ’em a good lashing with a horsewhip and then throw ’em both into the lake. That will give ’em something to remember us by,” and he winked suggestively at his cousins and his chums.

“That’s the talk!” said Randy, taking up the cue. “We’ll give ’em the licking of their lives.”

“Sure thing!” declared Fred. “And we’ll tie ’em in potato sacks before we heave ’em overboard.”

“They both wanted to sleep—we’ll let them sleep with the fishes for a while,” declared Spouter.

It is possible that Codfish and his crony did not believe all that their tormentors said. Yet they felt that they were in for a rough time of it and that matters might be carried further than intended.

“Wha-what did you come he-here for?” faltered Codfish.

“You know well enough what we came for,” declared Fred.

“It was only a—a joke, Fred Rover! Indeed it was!” pleaded the sneak of the school.


“Shut up! Why can’t you shut up?” stormed Wesley. “That’s no way to spill the beans. If you’d only—— Oh!” And his talk came to a sudden end as he found himself flat on the floor, sent there by Gif and Spouter. Then, before he could get up, Randy emptied a pitcher of ice-water over him.

“Don’t! Let me up!” spluttered Wesley. “Ouch! that’s ice-water, don’t you know it? Let up!” and he tried to rise, but one of the boys sat on his chest and another on his legs and kept him down.

In the meantime the others got Codfish into a corner and Jack took the sneak by the ear. He looked at Codfish so menacingly that the sneak of the school was almost paralyzed.

“Don’t hit me, Major Rover! Please don’t!” he half sobbed. “I’ll tell you everything! We didn’t mean any harm! It was only done in fun. I’ll tell you where we took your clothing and the bed things!”



After that it was a comparatively easy matter to get Henry Stowell to tell the details of what had been done. Several times Dock Wesley tried to stop him, but finally he also capitulated and became almost as humble as the sneak.

“It was only a bit of fun,” said Wesley. “Can’t a fellow do something on the last night at school?”

“Sure!” answered Fred.

“But you’ve got to take your dose in return,” was Fatty Hendry’s comment.

Thereupon Codfish and Wesley admitted that they and four other cadets had entered the rooms occupied by the Rovers and their chums and taken away all their clothing and their bed things.

“Everything is locked up safe and sound in Room Forty-two,” said Codfish. “You know, that room hasn’t been occupied this term.”

“How did you get the key?” asked Andy.

“We got it one day from the janitor when he[96] was cleaning up. He thought he had lost it, and so locked up with a duplicate.”

“Where is the key now?” asked Jack.

“I—I let Dock keep it,” faltered Codfish.

“Say, you needn’t put off everything on me,” growled Wesley. “You had as much to do with this as anybody. The key is on a hook in that closet,” and Wesley nodded toward a closet in a corner.

“Now we want to know who the other fellows were,” declared Fred, after the key had been secured.

“Oh, you had better not ask that,” pleaded the sneak. “If we give them away they may hammer the daylights out of us.”

“You talk up, Codfish, or you may get the hammering right now,” put in Gif.

Thereupon Codfish mentioned the names of four cadets who had been more or less chummy with him since the term had started. Two were new boys, and all were fellows with whom the Rovers and their chums had had little to do.

“Now put on your slippers and come along with us,” ordered Jack.

“What do you want of us?” questioned Wesley.

“First of all, you’re going to bring all that stuff back,” declared the young major. “After that we’ll see what we’ll do.”


“Why don’t you make the other fellows join us?” asked Codfish. He thought there might be safety in numbers.

“We’ll take care of them later on,” put in Gif grimly.

Finding themselves cornered, Codfish and Wesley accompanied the others to Room 42, and there on the bed, on the chairs, and on the floor they found all the things taken from the Rovers and Gif and Spouter.

“I call this something of a mess,” declared Fatty, who had come along. “Here, give me some of that clothing! I’ll help carry it.”

Even with the assistance of those who had suffered from the joke, it was necessary to make several trips back and forth to get all the things where they belonged. During the last trip Fred and Andy noticed some other cadets hiding in the shadows at the end of the corridor and laughing softly among themselves.

“They think they’ve got the joke on us,” whispered Fred. “Come on, let us make a break for them.”

“Not yet. I’ve got a better plan,” came from Randy.

After everything had been restored to the rooms, the Rovers and their chums marched Codfish and Wesley back to their own quarters.


“Now then, I think we’ll give you a dose of your own medicine,” said the young major. “Boys, pick up all that extra clothing and all those quilts and bedsheets and put them in the closet over there.”

“Say, what does this mean?” demanded Wesley.

“You’ll see in a minute.”

The others were quick to catch the idea, and all the bed coverings, as well as the wearing apparel in the room, were quickly transferred to the closet.

“We’ll leave you your pajamas, for you might catch cold,” said Randy. Then the closet door was locked and the key taken away.

“Now, don’t try to raise a row, or you’ll be sure to get the worst of it,” said Jack, as the crowd prepared to leave the room.

“We can’t stay here with nothing on the beds!” cried Codfish.

“You thought we could do it, didn’t you?” asked Andy. “It’s simply tit for tat. Go on and lie down and enjoy yourselves.” And thereupon the Rovers and their chums withdrew, locking the door after them.

“I guess that will hold them for a while,” remarked Spouter. “They can’t get their things unless they break open the door, and I don’t[99] think they’ll go that far. And they can’t get out unless they go on the fire escape, and the door from there to the corridor is locked on the inside—they’d have to go through some of the other fellows’ rooms.”

“Now then, how are we going to square up with those other fellows?” asked Gif.

“I was thinking I might sneak down and get old Huxley’s garden syringe—the one he uses to spray the bushes and flowers with,” said Andy. “We might give ’em all a dose of ice-water, or something like that.”

“Old stuff,” declared Fred. “Can’t we think of something new?”

“We might blow some smoke through the keyholes or under the doors,” suggested Randy. “Then we could bang on the door and let them think there was a fire.”

“Gosh! that isn’t half bad,” said Fred. “But how shall we make the smoke? We can’t build a fire, or anything of that sort.”

“Some wet paper will do the trick.”

“I don’t think you ought to try that, boys,” declared Jack. “It might bring on a panic, and we don’t want any one to be hurt on this, the last night at the Hall. Come on and see if we can’t get hold of those fellows.”

They passed around a corner of the corridor,[100] and as they did so Gif suddenly clutched the youngest Rover by the arm.

“There go some fellows now!” he whispered. “See them crawling along over there? I wonder who they are and what they’re up to?”

The lights in the hallway had been turned low, and the Rovers and their chums could just make out the forms of four cadets slinking along silently. Then they disappeared from view around one of the numerous corners.

Curious to know what new fun might be in the air, the Rovers and the others followed the crowd like so many shadows. They saw the four cadets who were ahead stop in front of the room which they had left but a few moments before.

“Gee, I know that crowd!” exclaimed Andy, in a low voice. “Those are the very fellows Codfish and Wesley mentioned—the fellows who helped them take our things.”

“They must be wanting to know what we were doing here,” suggested Gif. “Say, why can’t we pounce on ’em and make ’em prisoners? We are seven to four.”

“I’m game if you fellows are,” answered Randy readily.

A plan was hastily formed, and just as the four cadets had begun their talk with Codfish[101] and Wesley, out of the semi-darkness pounced the Rovers and their chums.

“Give in! Give in!” was the whispered command. “Give in or you’ll get the licking of your lives!”

“Hi! Stop that!” roared one of the cadets, a lad named Morris. “Let up!”

“Do-do-don’t ch-choke me to death!” spluttered a cadet named Shamberg. “Let up, I tell you!”

“It’s the Rovers!” came from a third of the lads.

“They’ve found us out!” wailed the fourth, a fellow who was just as much of a sneak and coward as Codfish had ever been.

Surrounded and taken completely off their guard, the four cadets were speedily made prisoners. Then, almost before they knew what was happening, they were taken to the two adjoining rooms which they chanced to occupy. One of the rooms had a rather large closet which at one time had been a storeroom. It had a small window about five feet from the ground.

“I’ve got an idea,” said Jack. “Throw a mattress in here on the floor.”

The others quickly caught on and in a trice a mattress from one of the beds was flung on the floor of the storeroom. Then the four cadets who had been captured were forced into the place.


“Now you fellows can stay here until morning,” declared Jack. “You didn’t want us to have a decent night’s sleep, so now you can get along in any old way you please. Don’t dare to make a rumpus, or we’ll be after you in a way you least expect.”

“Gee, we’ll smother to death in here this warm night!” declared Morris.

“No, you won’t,” said Spouter. “You can take turns at looking out of the window. But I’d advise you not to crawl out, because it’s about twenty-five feet to the ground.”

“We’ll report this to-morrow, you see if we don’t,” grumbled Shamberg.

“Report and be hanged,” retorted Gif. “If you say a word to Colonel Colby we’ll tell him what you did.” And thereupon the Rovers and their chums withdrew, locking the storeroom door and then locking the door to the corridor.

It was a good quarter of an hour after Gif, Spouter and Fatty had left them that the Rovers were able to rearrange their beds so that they could lie down. All were now thoroughly tired out and Andy could scarcely keep his eyes open. But there was to be little sleep for any of the cadets during that last night at Colby Hall. Half a dozen parties were wandering around, making all the fun possible, and presently Professor[103] Snopper Duke came after some of the boys, trying to quiet them.

“This is disgraceful!” stormed the irate teacher. “I want you boys to keep quiet.”

Then came an alarm from Codfish and Wesley, as several other cadets broke into their room, bent upon bringing the sneak and his chum to terms for something done in the classroom the week before. Into this row Snopper Duke precipitated himself, and as a consequence was struck in the nose by a baseball which one of the lads threw at Codfish.

“Oh, oh, my nose! Who threw that baseball?” roared the teacher. Then, as the blood began to flow from the injured organ, he hastened off to the nearest bathroom where he might bathe it.

It was all of three o’clock before the Rovers got any sleep at all. By half past six they were again awake and busy packing their things, ready to depart. Then Randy and Andy sneaked away and liberated Morris, Shamberg and the other two with them.

“Hope you slept well,” said Andy, grinning.

“You let me get my hands on you, and I’ll show you how I slept,” stormed Morris. But then Andy ran off laughing and his twin followed him. The other boys were very sore, but did not dare to do anything.


“And now to get the girls and start for home!” said Jack, a short while after breakfast.

“And then for our vacation!” added Fred. “If only we knew where it was going to be!”

“You’ll know very soon,” declared Andy. “Randy and I have made up our minds to tell you as soon as we are ready to leave Haven Point.”



“Good-by, boys. I wish all of you the best of luck.”

It was Colonel Colby who spoke as he shook hands with the Rover boys and a number of the other cadets.

“Good-by, Colonel. I hope we see you again some time,” returned Jack.

“You must come and visit us at our home when you can get time,” put in Fred.

“I will certainly come when I can get away,” was the reply from the master of the school.

Breakfast was at an end and all was bustle and confusion as the cadets were hurrying in all directions, suitcases in hand, ready to leave the Hall. Many were going away in automobiles which lined one side of the campus drive. Others were to go to the Haven Point railroad station. A motor truck had already taken two loads of trunks away and was now back for a third.

“Good-by, fellows!” cried Gif. “Hope you[106] have a good time.” He and Spouter had arranged to go up on the coast of Maine with Dan Soppinger and their folks.

“Good-by!” cried the Rovers, and a few minutes later had entered the touring car which was to take them away.

“Here is something to remember us by!” shouted Spouter gayly, and threw a bunch of confetti over the Rovers.

“And here is something to remember me by!” yelled Andy, as the car moved away and he hurled an old shoe he had picked up at Spouter, catching that cadet in the stomach, causing him to give a grunt of surprise. Then the touring car rolled out of the grounds, all of the boys waving their hands as the place faded from their sight.

“Now it is good-by to Colby Hall and hurrah for a vacation!” exclaimed Fred. Then he added quickly: “Now then, Andy and Randy, where are we to go? Don’t keep me waiting any longer. I’m all on fire with suspense,” and the youngest Rover put on a tragic air.

“Wait till we pick up the girls,” pleaded Andy. “No use in going over the whole thing twice. They’ll want to know about it, anyway.”

It had already been arranged that Martha and Mary, along with Ruth, were to accompany the[107] lads to New York City. Although the others did not know it, Jack went armed, having obtained the loan of a pistol from Colonel Colby, who had been told the particulars regarding the rascality of Carson Davenport.

“I feel that I am responsible for the safety of my sister and my cousin,” the young major had told the master of the school. “I want to be sure that they get home safely.” And thereupon Colonel Colby had somewhat reluctantly permitted Jack to take his own private nickel-plated pistol.

When the boys arrived at Clearwater Hall they found the three girls waiting for them. A few minutes later the whole crowd was off for the Haven Point railroad station.

“Have you seen or heard anything more of that man Davenport?” questioned Mary anxiously, as they rode along.

“Not a thing, Mary,” answered her brother. “Have you?”

“Two or three times we saw somebody skulking in the bushes back of the school,” said the girl. “It was rather dark, and the man was so far off we couldn’t tell who he was, although Martha thought he walked like the fellow who tried to push us into the auto.”

It took but a few minutes to reach the railroad[108] station, and during that time Andy and Randy had no opportunity to speak of the trip the lads intended to take during their vacation. At the station they fell in with a number of the cadets, including Phil Franklin.

“I’ve arranged to stay with Mrs. Logan,” said Phil. “And I think Barry and I are going to have some bang-up times.”

“Don’t forget to look for the silver trophy,” said Jack quickly.

“Oh, I’ve already spoken to Barry about that,” answered the boy from the oil fields. “We’re going to make a systematic hunt. Of course, it isn’t going to be very easy to locate the exact spot where the vase went down.”

“It was opposite that clump of big pines,” declared Randy. “I noticed the pines just as I went overboard,” he added, with a sickly grin.

“I’ll remember that—it ought to help us in locating the spot,” said Phil, and then walked away to bid some of his other friends good-by.

“Now then, Andy and Randy, tell us where we’re going!” cried Fred, when the Rover boys and girls and Ruth were left for a moment to themselves.

“You’re going out West,” answered Andy dryly.


“Out West? Where?” came from Jack and Fred.

“You’re going out to the Rolling Thunder gold mine,” said Randy.

“Rolling Thunder! What a name!” exclaimed Ruth, dimpling.

“Where in thunder is Rolling Thunder?” demanded Fred. “I never heard of such a gold mine.”

“I have,” put in Jack quickly. “It’s the one Uncle Tom invested in a couple of years ago. I’m right, am I not?” he questioned of the twins.

“That’s it. It’s away out in the Rocky Mountains near a place called Maporah. It’s on what is known as Sunset Trail.”

“Gee, that sounds good! Sunset Trail!” murmured Fred.

“How are we to go? In an auto?” queried Jack.

“Hardly! We’re to take the train to Chicago and then another train to Maporah. From there we take horses and ride to a place called Gold Hill Falls where the mine is located. Dad says we ought to have a dandy time on Sunset Trail.”

“He says it’s a very wild country, with plenty of good hunting and fishing, and all that sort of thing,” came from the other twin. “He says[110] we can go out either with a guide or by ourselves, just as we please.”

“That sounds mighty good to me,” said Fred, his eyes brightening. “I’d like to spend a few weeks in the saddle, and I’d like to go where there is some real fishing.”

“Suppose some Indians catch you and scalp you?” put in his sister mischievously.

“Indians! Humph! If there are any Indians out there more than likely some of them are from college and on the baseball or football teams,” was the quick retort. “The old-fashioned Indians exist only in the story books.”

The boys and girls became greatly interested in the subject of the outing and talked about it freely until it was time for the train to arrive. Then they bustled around to say good-by to those who were to leave in the opposite direction.

“Gee, it makes me feel awfully queer to think I’m never coming back to Colby Hall!” murmured Fred, as he shook hands with one and another of the cadets.

“This place has certainly been a second home to us,” answered Jack. “No matter what happens in the future, I’ll never forget the days spent here.”

“None of us will!” cried Randy.

“They were great days, the best of days, in[111] spite of such fellows as Codfish, Gabe Werner, Bill Glutts, and Professor Duke,” declared the young major.

The girls were likewise in a flutter bidding farewell to their chums and also several of the teachers who were leaving. In the midst of all this excitement the train rolled in and a few seconds later boys and girls climbed aboard and the Rovers rushed down the aisle to get comfortable seats.

“Good-by to Haven Point!” shouted Andy, out of the window, and then opening a bag of popcorn he had purchased he scattered the entire contents over the heads of those left behind.

“Oh, my, look at that!” was the cry. “Popcorn! Did you ever!”

“That was Andy Rover! He’s always cutting up!”

“Here you are, Andy!” yelled Phil Franklin, in excitement, and just as the train started he sent a rubber ball whizzing through the open window of the car. The ball struck Andy in the ear, then bounced away into Ruth’s lap.

“Hi! We don’t want your ball!” called out Andy, and, catching it up, he threw it through the window, hitting the cadet named Morris in the chin. Then the train rolled away, and the journey to New York City was begun.


As the train passed out of sight two men, one about middle age and the other very much younger, stepped from a corner of a baggage room which was located close to where the Rover boys and those with them had been standing.

“I guess you got the right dope that time, Davenport,” said the younger man, as both walked away unnoticed and entered a roadster standing on a side road behind some bushes.

“I think I did,” answered Carson Davenport, his manner showing his satisfaction. “So they are going to Chicago and then to Maporah, and then out on Sunset Trail, eh? I’ll have to look into that.”

“Do you know anything about the Sunset Trail territory?” questioned the younger man.

“I do and I don’t,” was Davenport’s reply. “I was never there myself. But Tate, the fellow I’ve been telling you about, came from that district and he’s often told me about it. He spoke about this Rolling Thunder mine, too. He knows some of the fellows working there.”

“Then what you’ve got in mind ought to be easy, Davenport.”

“I don’t know about its being so easy! Those Rovers are not fools and since we made a mess of things the other day, more than likely they’ll be on their guard. I reckon I made something[113] of a mistake when I called on Dick Rover. I should have waited until I had things better in hand.”

“What is the next move?”

“I think we had better follow them to New York, and then you had better find out a few more details of their plans.”

“Why don’t you do that yourself?”

“They know me, and they don’t know you.”

“They saw me out riding with you.”

“True! But I don’t think they’ll remember you. Anyway, you can easily put on some sort of a disguise. You can bump into the boys and pretend to get friendly and all that sort of thing,” went on the man from the oil fields.

“All right, Davenport, I’ll do whatever you want me to,” returned the younger man. “But understand, I’m not doing this for nothing.”

“I understand that well enough. And I’m not doing it for nothing either. If we work this thing right there will be a small fortune in it for all of us.”



“Here we are at last!”

It was Fred who spoke as the long train rolled into the Grand Central Terminal, New York City, and came to a stop. The boys had collected their hand baggage and soon the Rovers and Ruth were in the midst of the crowd that was pouring through the gateway into the waiting room of the big station.

“Here you are—and glad to see you!” exclaimed Dick Rover, as he came up, followed by his wife and Fred’s mother.

There was a general handshaking and many kisses, and then Dick Rover took possession of the young folks’ checks for their trunks and led the way to a side street where two of the family touring cars waited.

The trip to the metropolis had been without special incident save for the fact that a number of the cadets, including Andy and Randy, were inclined to indulge in more or less horseplay on the way. They had had to make one change at[115] the Junction, and on account of the heavy travel had been compelled to come down in an ordinary day coach in place of getting seats in a parlor car. They had managed, however, to get lunch on the train and had had considerable fun during the meal.

“I am certainly glad to see you young folks home again,” remarked Dora Rover, as she gazed affectionately at her son and daughter and then at the others. “And you are more than welcome, Ruth,” she added, tapping the visitor on the shoulder.

“Maybe we’re not glad to see little old New York again!” cried Fred.

“I don’t think I’d call it ‘little old New York,’” answered Ruth, with a smile. “To me it’s a wonderfully big and busy city. When I first arrive here I always feel like shrinking back until I can get my bearings.”

“Oh, New York is just all right. I wouldn’t want it any better,” answered Randy.

“But you don’t want to stay here even when you come,” put in his Aunt Grace. “You just stay at home a few days and then away you go on one of those trips.”

“Well, I’m a Rover by name, so why not be a rover by nature?” was the sly reply, and this brought on a general laugh.


Soon the young folks were aboard the two automobiles. In the meantime Dick Rover had turned the checks for the trunks over to an expressman and in a few minutes more the whole crowd was headed for Riverside Drive. Here a surprise awaited them. Not only was Mrs. Tom Rover on hand to greet them, but likewise their grandfather, Anderson Rover, and their old Aunt Martha and Uncle Randolph, who had come from Valley Brook Farm on a short visit to the city.

“My gracious, this is fine!” cried Fred. “A regular family reunion!” and then came more hugs and kisses all around.

“My, my! how big you boys are getting!” said old Aunt Martha, as she surveyed them through her spectacles. “The first thing you know, you won’t be boys any more—you’ll be men.”

“Well, you couldn’t expect them to remain boys all their life, could you?” queried Uncle Randolph. “Now they have graduated from Colby Hall, I suppose they’ll either have to go to college or go into business.”

“No use of shoving them ahead too quickly,” came from Grandfather Rover, as he sat down and rested his chin on the top of his cane. “They have been studying pretty hard for years—let ’em take a rest. They might take a whole year, if it was necessary.”


“Gee, Granddad, you’re a pippin!” exclaimed Randy, going up and placing his arm around the old man’s shoulder. “A year’s vacation would be all to the mustard.”

“It might be if you could only get rid of some of your slang in the meantime,” put in his mother. Yet she had to smile as she spoke.

The boys were glad to get back into their old quarters, and in the meantime Martha escorted Ruth to the room she was to occupy during her visit. All the connecting doors of the three houses had been thrown wide open, making the residences virtually one. While this was going on Dick Rover hurried back to Wall Street, for business with The Rover Company was brisk and he was needed at the offices.

“You must be making a lot of money, Dad,” remarked Jack, as his parent was leaving.

“Well, we’re holding our own, Jack,” was the reply.

“How are the oil wells making out?”

“Very fine.” Dick Rover stepped closer to his son. “Did you hear anything from Carson Davenport?” he asked in a low tone so that the others might not hear.

“Nothing since the girls met him. They said they sent word about that.”

“You want to be very careful, Jack. We’ll[118] talk the whole thing over to-night. That rascal is certainly going to put one over on us if he possibly can.”

“Why did they let him out of prison?”

“I don’t know. He may have got a number of important friends to appear for him before a board of pardons, or something like that. Then again, you must remember that what he was tried for was his trouble with his partners. I did not want to appear against him because it would have taken too much of my time, which, just then, was very valuable to our concern. It’s possible that he got the very people he swindled—or tried to swindle—to sign a petition in his favor and in favor of his other partners, Tate and Jackson. But I must hurry now. We can talk the whole thing over later.”

During the afternoon the twins went out to renew their acquaintance with some of their former boy chums while Jack and Fred accompanied the girls on a sightseeing and shopping expedition.

“I’ll be awfully sorry to leave you, Ruth,” said Jack, when he got a chance to speak to the visitor alone.

“Well, then you’d better stay,” she answered mischievously.

“Oh, you know I couldn’t do that,” he returned[119] hastily. “What would the other fellows say?”

“I was only joking, Jack. You go ahead and have your outing. I hope you enjoy every minute of it. Only, please don’t get into any trouble,” and the girl’s face clouded.

“I think we’ll be able to take care of ourselves, Ruth. And you take care of yourself, too.”

“Are you going to write?”

“Sure I am! And I’ll expect you to answer, too. You will, won’t you?”

“Why, of course.”

There was a brief silence, neither of them seeming to know what to say next. Then the former major of the Colby Hall battalion stepped closer.

“I’m going to take that photograph of you along—you know, the one you gave me some time ago,” he said in a low tone.

“Never!” she returned quickly. “Oh, Jack, suppose—suppose the others saw it!”

“I don’t care! I’m going to take it,” he answered firmly.

“Well, if you’re set on it, I suppose I can’t stop you,” answered Ruth. Her eyes were shining like stars. Then Jack caught her hand and pressed it warmly just as the others came up and interrupted what might have proved a very interesting tête-à-tête.


Dinner that evening was a grand affair, and Ruth, who sat next to Jack, declared she had never enjoyed anything so much in all her life. The twins and Tom Rover were full of fun, and Tom told several stories which convulsed everybody with laughter.

“Gee, Dad, you’re a wonder!” breathed Randy, trying to stop laughing. “I can see where Andy gets his wit from.”

“Yes, and I know where you get your habit of playing tricks from,” put in his mother, gazing fondly at her husband.

“Now, now! No knocking!” cried Tom gayly. “The boys are just all right! They may cut up a little now and then, but as they both bear marks of their mother’s good looks, that will be forgiven them,” and then Tom dodged back, as his wife made a move as if to pull his hair.

Ruth was quite a pianist and had cultivated that talent carefully during her days at Clearwater Hall. After dinner Dora Rover insisted that the girl give them some music. After playing one of her best compositions Ruth gathered all the boys and girls around her and they sang one popular song after another.

“A touch of old times, eh?” said Dick Rover to Dora, as, with his arm around her waist, they surveyed the scene.


“It’s history repeating itself, Dick,” she answered. And then she looked at her husband questioningly and nodded toward where Jack was carefully turning the sheets of music for Ruth. “What do you think of them?” she whispered.

“I think Jack is hit pretty hard,” he returned.

“Well, Ruth seems to be an awfully nice girl, Dick.”

“I agree. I wouldn’t ask for a better girl,” he answered.

“But Jack is so young!”

“He isn’t any younger than I was when I came after you and saved your mother from old Crabtree.”

“Oh, well, that was different!” murmured Dora.

So far the boys had had no opportunity to speak to Tom Rover about the proposed trip to the West. But soon the twins broached the subject, and then the crowd around the piano broke up and Mary and Martha retired, taking Ruth with them.

“We want to talk to the boys in the library,” said Tom Rover to his wife and his sisters-in-law, and thereupon the ladies took the hint and also left them.

“Now, Dad, tell us all about the Rolling Thunder[122] mine and Sunset Trail!” cried Randy. “Gee, I wish I was out there right now!”

“And on horseback!” put in his twin. “Say, we’ll have the best times ever!”

“I certainly hope so,” returned Dick Rover. “At the same time, I want to caution you.”

“Don’t scare the boys into fits, Dick,” said Tom. “You’ll spoil the whole outing if you do.”

“I’m not going to scare them into fits, Tom,” answered the older brother. “But I am going to give them some advice that I think they ought to have.”

“I think so too,” came from Sam Rover. “If any fellow ever got on my nerves, it’s that rascal, Carson Davenport.”



The mention of Carson Davenport’s name made all the boys look serious.

“Has that fellow made another demand?” questioned Jack quickly.

“Not directly,” answered his father. “But I have heard in an indirect way, through a detective working for one of the local agencies, that he is watching us very carefully. He has been seen in the vicinity of our offices several times, and you have seen him twice in the vicinity of Colby Hall and Clearwater Hall. That’s enough for me to realize that the scoundrel means business.”

“You forgot to mention one thing, Dick,” came from Fred’s father. “Another one of the detectives from that agency saw Davenport in this vicinity less than three weeks ago.”

“What do you mean? Here at the houses?” questioned Randy.

“Yes. He was out on the Drive, skulking up and down looking at all the doors and windows.[124] And he asked one of the tradesmen who lived here, evidently to make sure that he had the right place.”

“Why don’t they arrest him?” questioned Andy impatiently.

“That’s what we’re going to do as soon as we can get any real evidence against him,” answered his Uncle Dick. “I’d like to catch him red-handed at something.”

“I’ve got a scheme!” exclaimed Randy. “Jack, you’d be the fellow to put it through because you’re Uncle Dick’s son and it’s Uncle Dick that Davenport is sore on.”

“What’s the idea?” questioned his cousin.

“Lay a trap for Davenport by placing yourself in such a position that he can get at you. Then, when he thinks he’s got you, let the detectives close in on him and make him a prisoner.”

“No, no! Nothing like that!” came from Dick Rover. “Davenport is too dangerous a fellow. He might get away with his scheme, and Jack would suffer. You can’t imagine how vindictive that rascal is. Why, when he appeared at the offices and made his demand for that money he acted like the most cold-blooded villain you can imagine. Sometimes I wonder if the loss of his money down there in the oil fields hasn’t turned his brain.”


“In that case we certainly had better look out,” answered Fred. “Why, for all we know, he might try to set fire to the houses or something of the sort.”

“No, I don’t think he’ll try anything like that. He is out for money, and to burn down these houses wouldn’t give him any. Of course, he might threaten to burn the places down, but that wouldn’t get him anything, anyway, because we have the places insured, and it would not be our loss even though it might place us in personal peril and cause us great inconvenience.”

“What do you really think he’ll try to do, Uncle Dick?” asked Andy. And now for once the fun-loving Rover boy was really sober.

“I think he’ll work his scheme in one of two ways,” answered Dick Rover. “He’ll either try to get at me in some business way—by threatening The Rover Company with some tremendous loss unless we come across as he wants me to—or otherwise he’ll work his scheme either through the girls or their mothers or through you boys.”

“Do you think he might try to carry some of us off?” asked Fred bluntly.

“Didn’t it look like it when he tried to get Martha and Mary into the auto?” questioned Sam Rover.

“And what about that invitation my wife got[126] that she paid no attention to?” put in Tom Rover.

“What was that?” queried several of the boys.

“You know your Aunt Nellie is quite interested in basket work. This was an invitation to attend an exhibition of such work to be given by some Indians at a place uptown. Your Aunt Nellie was urged to come by all means, and to bring her sisters-in-law with her, and the letter was signed in the name of one of her friends. She did not go because her foot happened to hurt her. Later, we found that the signature on the invitation was forged, and a detective found out that the exhibition of basket work was a fake. The whole thing was gotten up to get your Aunt Nellie and her sister and Aunt Dora to a rather out-of-the-way place. What might have happened if they had gone there, heaven only knows,” and Tom Rover shook his head ominously.

This revelation was a surprise to the four boys, and they hardly knew what to say concerning it. It looked as if there had been a slick attempt made to get the mother of the twins, and possibly the mothers of the others, into the clutches of Carson Davenport.

“I would like to lay my hands on that rascal if he tried to do anything to my mother!” cried Jack, his eyes flashing. “I would like to hammer the daylights out of him!”


“I guess we’d all like to do that,” came from Fred.

“Maybe we’d better stay at home instead of going on any trip,” said Randy. “We might be needed in case Davenport tried anything on the girls or mother or the others.”

“No. We have talked the matter over, and we have made another arrangement,” said Dick Rover. He walked to the door, looked out into the room beyond, and then closed the door carefully. Then he walked to the windows, to see that no one might be outside listening.

“I’m beginning to think we have to be very careful,” he went on in a lower tone of voice. “For all we know there may be a spy in the house. We have two new servants, you know; and while I think they are all right, we cannot afford at this stage of the game to take any chances.”

“The idea is this,” said Tom Rover, as his older brother paused. “You boys are to go out West with me, keeping the matter as quiet as possible. We won’t even let any one know the exact time we’re going to start. When we go Uncle Dick and Uncle Sam will look after the girls and their mothers and your Aunt Nellie.”

“Will they stay here?” asked Fred rather anxiously.

“No. We have already arranged for a trip.[128] They are going down the coast on a private yacht owned by Stanley Browne.”

“Oh, you mean the gentleman who is a cousin of Colonel Colby and who was your chum at Brill College!” interrupted Jack.

“That’s the one. I communicated with Colonel Colby, and when he was in New York last he brought in Mr. Browne whom I had not seen for a long time. Mr. Browne is taking the trip for his health along with his wife and his daughter, and they were very glad that the girls and their mothers should accompany them. They will also take Ruth along if her folks are willing. No one will know the destination of the steam yacht, so I think they will be safe until Davenport is rounded up.”

“Say, this is certainly interesting!” was Andy’s comment. “I don’t like the idea of running away from such a fellow as Davenport. I’d rather go after him.”

“We’d do that in a minute, Andy, if it wasn’t for the girls and your mother and your aunts. But as it is, we feel that we can’t afford to take the chance. Davenport is a dangerous character, and we have learned that he was mixed up in a number of shady transactions in the West before he landed in the oil fields. He isn’t above doing desperate things when forced into a corner. And[129] it’s true that he and Tate and Jackson fixed up their differences before they got out of prison. And while Tate and Jackson may not have the brains that Davenport has, still they are fellows with plenty of backbone to put through any nefarious scheme.”

After this there was a consultation lasting the best part of an hour. The boys could plainly see that their fathers would have gone after Davenport and his pals without hesitation were it not that they were afraid something would be done to injure the other members of the Rover families. They learned that a local detective agency had been engaged to follow up Davenport and his pals, but that so far little headway had been made, showing that the rascal was keeping well under cover.

It was decided the next day that Tom Rover and the four boys should start on their Western trip the following Monday. In the meantime their mothers and the girls, including Ruth, who obtained permission to go along, got ready for the trip on the steam yacht and departed on Wednesday. Without much ado all of the others went down to the steam yacht which lay in the North River and saw them off on the trip.

“Hope you have a good time,” said Jack, “and no mishaps.”


“You take care of yourself,” returned Ruth. Then all in the party waved their hands until the steam yacht was lost to view down the river.

Tom Rover was busy with his brothers fixing up business matters previous to his departure for the West, and he left it to the boys to buy the necessary railroad tickets, including Pullman accommodations. The father of the twins wished to stay in Chicago for two days, and the passage westward was to be arranged accordingly.

Having made so many trips before, the boys knew exactly what they wanted to take along on the present outing, so it did not take them long to get their things together. Then, with little else to do, they all set out that afternoon to purchase the railroad accommodations desired. They left the house in a bunch, going in one of the family automobiles. The ticket office was down on Broadway, and it did not take them long to reach that place.

As they left the house they did not notice that they were being watched by a young man on the other side of Riverside Drive. This young man followed the car to the nearest corner, and then summoned a taxicab that was passing, leaped in, and followed them.

“You can wait here for us, Peter,” said Jack to the family chauffeur. “I don’t think we’ll be[131] very long,” and thereupon he and his cousins started to enter the ticket agency.

As the four Rovers crossed the pavement in the crowd a young man suddenly stepped up and confronted them.

“Hello!” he exclaimed cordially. “Am I mistaken, or is this Jack Rover?”

“I’m Jack Rover, all right enough,” answered the young major.

“And this is Fred, isn’t it?” went on the stranger, smiling at the youngest member of the crowd.

“Yes, I’m Fred Rover,” was the reply. “But—but I’m afraid you’ve got the best of me,” Fred stammered. He thought the fellow’s face looked a bit familiar, but he could not place him.

“Why, I’m Joe Brooks,” said the stranger. “Don’t you remember? Fatty Hendry introduced us one day when you were over at Haven Point—the day of the big football game last year. I was over there with Fatty and a fellow named Ned Lowe, a great singer.”

“Are you the fellow who had the stiff neck and was wearing a silk neckerchief?” questioned Randy.

“Now you’ve got my number,” answered Joe Brooks. “What are you fellows doing down here? I thought you were up at the military academy?”


“School has closed. And, anyway, we have graduated,” answered Jack. He was trying vainly to recall the stranger. The fellow’s face looked familiar, but he could not remember having ever spoken to him.

“Out for a day’s fun, I suppose,” said Brooks easily. He acted as if he was in no hurry to leave the Rovers. “How was Fatty the last you saw of him?”

“Fine as silk,” answered Andy. “Taken on a few pounds more,” and he grinned. He rather liked the looks of the stranger.

“We’re going to get some railroad tickets,” added Fred, and he nodded toward the agency.

“Why, that is just where I was going!” exclaimed Joe Brooks. “I want to get accommodations to Chicago.”

“Well, we’re going farther than that,” said Randy, and thereupon all entered the ticket agency.



While the four Rover boys consulted with one clerk in regard to Pullman accommodations, first to Chicago and from there to Maporah, Joe Brooks spoke to another clerk alongside regarding accommodations to the first named city only. The stranger seemed to hold the attention of the clerk, asking numerous questions. But his eyes and ears were wide open to take in all that the Rovers were doing.

“I can’t say that I like that train particularly,” Andy heard Brooks remark to the second clerk after their own business was concluded. “I traveled on it once and the accommodations were punk. I think I’ll ask one of my friends what train he took. He said he had the finest accommodations he had ever struck.”

With the railroad tickets and the sleeping car coupons in an envelope in his pocket, Jack and his cousins prepared to leave the agency. As they did this, Joe Brooks turned to shake hands, smiling as he did so.


“I’m very glad to have met you,” he said. “I’ll mention it to Fatty Hendry when I see him this fall. I suppose you know Fatty has gone up into Canada.”

“Yes, I know that,” answered Jack.

“Hope you’ll have a nice trip when you do go to Chicago,” put in Fred, who felt that he ought to be nice to any friend of Fatty’s, who had always been a good chum.

“Oh, it’s only a business trip. I sha’n’t be in Chicago very long. I’ve got to come back to Buffalo and then go to Toronto,” answered Brooks, and then, bowing and smiling, he walked off and disappeared into the crowd.

“It’s the funniest thing, but I can’t remember that fellow at all,” remarked Jack.

“I remember the fellow who was at the football game—the chap with the stiff neck,” said Andy. “But, somehow, this fellow doesn’t look exactly like he did. That fellow had more of a round face.”

“Well, he seemed to know us all right enough—and he certainly must know Fatty and Ned Lowe,” remarked Randy.

All of the boys were in need of new caps, and they became so interested in picking out the new headgear that soon Joe Brooks was practically forgotten.


But the Rover boys would have been tremendously interested had they seen the immediate future actions of the fellow who had so unceremoniously introduced himself to them. Walking only a few blocks, Brooks entered a telegraph office and wrote out the following message:

John Carson,
“Alberg Hotel,

“Four boys and Uncle Tom to Chicago morning of thirtieth. Two days in Chicago, then on to Gold Hill Falls, Maporah. Not recognized.

Joe Brooks.

“There! I guess that will make Davenport get busy,” murmured the young man as he handed the message in. Then he paid for it and hurried again out into the Broadway crowd.

With their mothers and the girls gone, the boys found it rather lonely at the houses, and upon Fred’s suggestion they had the chauffeur take them down in the car to their fathers’ offices on Wall Street.

“I think I’m going to get into the game with dad some day,” remarked Jack, as they watched what was going on. “Financial dealings seem to suit me exactly.”

“I think I’d rather go into some profession,” said Fred. “Law, or something like that.”


“Nothing like that for me!” burst out Andy. “I’d rather be a sailor or some kind of a traveler.”

“Now you’re talking, Andy!” returned his twin. “When we get old enough let’s go around the world.”

“Oh, I’d like a trip around the world myself,” Fred put in quickly.

“Well, if you fellows went, you couldn’t leave me behind,” remarked Jack. “But I guess we’re a long way from going around the world just yet. I think we can be thankful to get such trips as we’re having.”

Since the time the offices had first been opened the business of The Rover Company had steadily increased. The company now employed eight clerks, and the quarters had recently been doubled in size. Dick, Tom and Sam had each an office to himself, and there were likewise offices for the bookkeepers and stenographers. In front there was a handsome reception room where customers might be received.

“Mighty spiffy, I’ll say,” declared Fred, as they walked around. “I don’t believe there are any nicer offices in the whole city.”

All the heads of the company were busy just then, but presently the lads managed to see the[137] twins’ father and told him of the railroad accommodations they had purchased.

“Very good,” declared Tom Rover. “Just what we need. I was afraid we might be disappointed trying to get accommodations at such short notice.”

To the boys, so impatient to start on the trip, the time from then to Monday passed rather slowly. They attended a couple of moving picture shows and took a ride up to Bronx Park, where they viewed the large collection of animals, and went swimming at one of the city’s large natatoriums. On Saturday afternoon they attended a ball game at the Polo Grounds, rooting strenuously for the Giants, who were playing one of the teams from the West. On Sunday they went to church in the morning and in the afternoon the twins did what they could to help their father in getting ready for the trip, since Tom had little time to spare away from his desk in Wall Street.

“Have you told anybody what train you were going to take, or anything like that?” questioned Tom Rover, when the last of the packing had been done.

“No, we haven’t told anybody that,” answered Randy. Neither he nor the other boys suspected[138] that the stranger who had introduced himself as Joe Brooks had been spying on them.

“Well, I’m glad to hear that,” answered Tom Rover. “Of course, it might not make any difference; but, on the other hand, there is no use in taking chances.”

At last came the hour for departure. Dick Rover and his brother Sam saw the crowd off at the Pennsylvania Station.

“Have the best time you can,” said Dick to his son. “And don’t forget to write.”

“And you take care of yourself, Dad, and don’t work too hard,” answered Jack. “Take a day off now and then—it will do you good.”

“If you hear anything from that Carson Davenport, let me know at once,” went on Dick to Tom.

“I sure will!” answered the father of the twins. “And if you hear anything, you must let us know, too.”

“We will,” put in Sam Rover. And then it was almost time for the train to depart, and the five travelers clambered aboard.

The boys had reserved two whole sections, so there was plenty of room for everybody and for the hand baggage. They were soon out of the tunnel and flying across the Jersey meadows on the first stage of their trip westward.


“Uncle Tom, you promised to tell us the particulars of what was taking you to the West,” remarked Fred, who was curious to know the details.

“It’s rather a long story, Fred,” answered his uncle. “But I can give you a few of the main facts if you’d like to hear them.”

All were more than anxious, and as the train sped onward across New Jersey and into Pennsylvania they all crowded into one section around Tom Rover to hear what he might have to tell them.

“I made my first investment in the Rolling Thunder mine about two years ago,” began the father of the twins. “It was recommended to me by an old gold miner we met out West years ago, a very reliable fellow. I put twenty-five thousand dollars in the venture, and then followed it with another twenty-five thousand dollars. Six months ago I invested a third twenty-five thousand dollars, making a total of seventy-five thousand dollars.”

“Gee, that’s quite a sum of money!” murmured Andy.

“Yes, it is. And that’s why I am so anxious to get out and see just what is going on,” said his father. “When I made my first investment the mine was doing very well, and it continued[140] to do well after I made the second investment. Then came something of a break, and the management of the mine changed hands. I was told that an assessment was in order, and as it looked all right to me I put up the third twenty-five thousand as I just remarked. Now there seems to be another break and something or other has gone wrong, although just what it is I cannot imagine.”

“How did you find out that matters were going wrong? Did they stop paying dividends?” questioned Jack.

“No, they’ve not stopped paying dividends. But I am of the opinion that the dividends are being paid out of the surplus and not out of earnings, as I have a right to expect. There is an old miner out there, a fellow named Lew Billings, a man I know well. Billings has sent me three messages urging me to come on and make an investigation. In his last message he said he didn’t think it would do any good to send an agent or a lawyer—that I had better come myself, that there were some things he wanted to explain to me personally.”

“That looks as though there might be some crooked work there, doesn’t it?” questioned Jack.

“I’m afraid so. Lew Billings is an old-timer and strictly honest, and he wouldn’t send such[141] messages as he has unless he was confident that something was wrong. He wanted me to hurry, and that is why I am trying to get out there as soon as possible.”

“But you’re going to stop off in Chicago!” broke in Randy.

“I’m doing that, Son, because two other men who are interested in that mine live in Chicago and I want to interview both of them, if I can get hold of them. It is just possible that they may have gone on to Maporah ahead of me.”

“Are those two men your friends or do you think they are working against you?” questioned Fred.

“I hardly know what to think, Fred. I want to have a talk with them first, then I’ll know how they stand. If they are friendly, well and good. But if they are on the other side, so to speak, then I’ll have to fight my battle alone,” answered Tom Rover.

“I certainly hope those men prove friendly to you,” said Randy. “It will make matters so much easier. It’s hard to fight a battle like that all alone, I guess.”

“Do you know anybody at the mine outside of this Lew Billings?” asked Andy.

“Not a soul, Son. They are all strangers to me. There were half a dozen men I knew well[142] when I made my first investment. But when the change came those men either withdrew or were forced out. If they were there now I wouldn’t have much trouble. But as it is—well, I suppose I’ll have to take things as they come,” and Tom Rover heaved something of a sigh. Evidently the trouble at the Rolling Thunder mine was causing him a good deal of worry.



The boys passed a fairly comfortable night on the train, even though it was rather warm. They got up early in the morning, to find themselves rolling swiftly along over the level fields of the middle West.

“Where is Uncle Tom?” asked Fred when the twins appeared.

“He’ll be out in a few minutes,” answered Randy. “I don’t think he slept very well. I heard him moving around quite a bit during the night.”

“I’m afraid he’s worried about that mine, Randy,” said Jack.

“Well, I think he’s got enough to worry about,” put in Andy. “Seventy-five thousand dollars is a lot of money.”

“I’ll say so,” came from Fred. “Gee, I certainly hope he finds everything all right when we get out there!”

“I’m anxious to get out on Sunset Trail,” said[144] Jack. “That name certainly sounds interesting to me. We ought to have the best times ever out there.”

Lunch and dinner had been had on the train the day before, and now as soon as Tom Rover appeared the crowd entered the dining car for breakfast.

“I think I’ll have some cantaloupe to start with,” said Fred. “That is, if——” He stopped short and stared out of the window. The train had rolled into the station of a fair-sized town and come to a halt where a small crowd was collected.

“What are you looking at, Fred?” questioned Jack, as he noticed his cousin’s manner.

“Look! Look!” cried Fred. “See that man with the big panama hat? Am I mistaken or is that really Uncle Hans Mueller?”

Jack gave a quick look and so did the others, including Tom Rover.

“Gee, it’s Uncle Hans, all right enough!” exclaimed Andy. He rapped on the window. “Hello there!” he called out through the screen. “Hello there, Uncle Hans!”

The man on the platform started and turned around in bewilderment.

“Hello there, Uncle Hans! Don’t you see us?” broke in Fred, knocking on another window.


“Py chimminy Christmas!” gasped Hans Mueller, for it was really he. “If it don’t be dem Rofer poys! What do you know apout dat!”

“Are you going to take this train?” questioned Tom.

“Hello der, Dom! You der too, eh? Yes, I was going to takes dis train by Chicago on. I was waiting till dey start already. Dey got five minutes here. But now I comes on board quick right avay,” went on Hans Mueller, and then disappeared in the direction of a spot where the door to the steps of one of the vestibules of the cars was open.

As my old readers know, Hans Mueller had been a chum of the older Rovers when they had attended Putnam Hall. He was of German extraction, but during the World War had proven his American patriotism in a marked degree. After leaving school he had settled in Chicago, and was now the owner of a chain of well-known delicatessen stores. He was without family, and had always insisted that the Rover boys and girls call him uncle.

“I’m going after him and bring him in!” cried Jack, and left the table as he spoke. He had to walk through two cars, and then found the delicatessen dealer approaching him. Hans Mueller was grinning from ear to ear.


“Dis is de surbrize of mine life!” he exclaimed, as he shook hands. “I was mighty glad to see you. You go py Chicago, eh? Vell, I go der too. You know dat is where my chain of stores is.”

“Come on and have some breakfast with us, Uncle Hans,” said Jack. “We’ll be real glad to have your company.”

“Breakfast, eh? Why, I got breakfast t’ree hours ago! But I come and have some coffee mit you, anyhow. I can trink a couple of cubs of coffee any time.”

The twins were sitting with their father, leaving Fred and Jack at a table opposite. The others greeted the newcomer cordially, and then Hans Mueller sat down beside Fred.

“You must be my guests while you are py Chicago in,” said the delicatessen dealer, when they had explained the situation to him. “I got patchelor quarters mit two extra bedrooms, and I can get anudder bedroom by one of my neighbors. I got a gut German cook, and I know you been satisfied.”

“That will be very kind of you, Hans,” answered Tom.

“Vat do you say, poys?”

“I’d like to go, if it won’t be putting Uncle Hans out too much,” said Randy readily.


“You can’t put me oud,” said the delicatessen dealer. “I vill stay in der house mit you.”

While the Rovers ate and the delicatessen dealer sipped one cup of coffee after another, the former gave a few of the details of what had brought them on the trip.

“I’d like to go oud Vest mit you, but I can’t do it,” said Hans Mueller. “I got to tend to my chain of stores. Last veek I opened me a new one, and next month I’m going to open anudder. Dat vill make fourteen all told.”

“You must be getting rich, Uncle Hans,” remarked Randy.

“Veil, I make enough py mine stores to keep de mule from de window.”

“The mule from the window?” queried Fred, in perplexity.

“Yes. You know vat I mean. Maybe he don’t was a mule; maybe he was a lion. Anyway, he was some kind of a wild animals.”

“Oh, I know what you mean!” exclaimed Jack. “You mean ‘keep the wolf from the door.’”

“Yes, dot’s him,” answered the delicatessen dealer complacently.

The Rover boys were delighted to have Hans Mueller with them, for they loved to hear him talk. While a pupil at Putnam Hall Hans’s English had not been of the best, and since he had[148] withdrawn to Chicago, and gone into the delicatessen business, it had certainly not improved.

“I suppose he comes in contact with so many foreigners his tongue gets all twisted up,” was the way Jack explained it. “But he’s a dear old Uncle Hans, nevertheless.”

“Many is der time what I’d like to go py Putnam Hall pack,” said Uncle Hans, with a mountainous sigh. “But dat old school ain’t no more, so I hear.”

“Yes, you are right. Captain Putnam had to retire on account of his age,” answered Tom. “We certainly did have some great times there, Hans.”

“Yes, Dom, so we did. Do you remember dem other fellows—dat Villiam Philander Dubbs, for instance?”

“Do I remember William Philander Tubbs!” cried Tom, mentioning a dudish youth who had created considerable sport for him and his brothers. “I’ll never forget him!”

“Do you know what Dubbs is doing now?” went on Uncle Hans, his small eyes twinkling.


“Dot is a good joke, ha-ha!” roared Uncle Hans. “Dot is de best joke what I know of!”

“What does this William Philander Tubbs do?” questioned Jack eagerly.


“Vell, dot fellow vas de most redicular boy whatever lived. His shoes vas patent leathers, and his neckties alvays silks, and so loud dey could almost talk. And he vas so clean! Oh, you nefer saw a fellow what washed himself so much and combed his hair so often. Vell, I don’t t’ink he vas so clean now, nor so dudish either, ha-ha!” exploded Uncle Hans. “T’ree years ago Villiam Philander Dubbs’s uncle dies and he leaves all his property to dot young man.”

“That was nice enough,” put in Randy.

“You t’ink so? You know what dat property vas? Dat property vas a brickyard where dey makes t’ousands and t’ousands of bricks.”

“A brickyard!” cried Tom, with a grin. “Really?”

“Dot’s it, Dom. And now Villiam Philander Dubbs he sells bricks, t’ousands and t’ousands of ’em. And not only dat, he goes down py de yard and he sees dat dose bricks are made shust right. Now, can you beat him?” and once again Uncle Hans roared.

“Well, that’s the way it goes,” said Tom, laughing also. “The fellow who would like to become an artist runs a shoe factory, and the fellow who would like to be a carpenter has a music store willed to him.”

Hans Mueller had kept track of quite a few[150] of the former pupils of Putnam Hall, and he told Tom many interesting bits of news. In the course of this talk he mentioned several jokes that had been played and then turned to Andy and Randy.

“You must not t’ink dot your fader was alvays so meek like a donkey,” he said, closing one eye suggestively. “Your fader could play more jokes like a dog could scratch fleas.”

“Now, see here, Hans! You mustn’t give me away like that,” remonstrated Tom. “The boys will get the idea that I was a regular cut-up.”

“A cut-up! Ha-ha! You was worse like a t’ousand cut-ups, Dom Rover!” laughed the delicatessen dealer. “Ven dose poys cut up, it ain’t to be wondered at, because dey vas slices from der old stump.”

“Wow-wow!” exploded Randy. “Slices of the old stump! Did you get that, Andy?”

“I sure did!” was the ready reply. “It knocks ‘chips of the old block’ silly, doesn’t it?” and then all the boys began to laugh.

The boys were so interested talking to Uncle Hans that almost before they knew it the train rolled into the big Union Station in Chicago and they had to alight. Hans Mueller rushed off to engage a couple of taxicabs, and in a few minutes more they were on their way to his[151] bachelor quarters which were on a pleasant side street and not so very far distant.

“I like to live close py mine main stores,” explained Hans Mueller. “Den if anyt’ing goes wrong, I can pe right on de spot quick.”

Even though he was in the heart of Chicago, his quarters were exceedingly comfortable, and the boys speedily made themselves at home. Then Tom Rover went off to interview the two men who were interested in the Rolling Thunder mine.

“I got to go to pusiness now,” said Hans Mueller. “What would you poys like to do?”

“I think we’ll just take a look around,” said Jack. “We won’t bother you any more for the present.”

“Vell, you be here in time for supper at six o’clock,” said the delicatessen dealer, and so it was arranged. Then the boys sallied forth to look around the big city of the lakes.



That afternoon the four Rover boys visited a number of points of interest in Chicago and even took a run out to the famous stock yards, Hans Mueller having given them a card to an official located there. Through this man they were enabled to see many interesting details of how large quantities of meat are prepared for consumption.

“It’s all right enough,” remarked Andy when they were returning to the delicatessen dealer’s apartment. “But, just the same, excuse me from working in or around any stock yard.”

“The same here,” answered Fred readily. “If they had to depend on me to kill their cattle or dress it, I am sure we would have to go without meat.”

That evening the boys learned that Tom Rover had had an interesting session with one of the stockholders in the Rolling Thunder mine. He was to meet another one of the owners on the following morning.


“I can’t say that things look very good,” said the twins’ father, in reply to a question from Jack. “There’s a crowd at the mine that is evidently bent on pushing some of the stockholders, including myself, to the wall.”

“But how can they do that, Uncle Tom?” questioned Jack.

“They’ve been depressing the value of the stock on the market as much as possible,” answered his Uncle Tom. “Now they have virtually got control of the actual working of the mine and are doing things out at Gold Hill Falls to suit themselves. I think it is high time that I got on the ground to protect my rights.”

“Dat’s de vay to do it,” came from Hans Mueller. “It’s all right enough to write letters and talk by de telephone over to a man, but if you want to do real pusiness go and talk mit him face by face.”

Hans Mueller was quite anxious that all of the Rovers should see the factory, or works, which he ran in connection with his chain of delicatessen stores. Tom could not spare the time to go, but the boys were willing, and so set off on the following morning early.

The works was one where Hans Mueller turned out his sauerkraut, pickles, and numerous table delicacies. Here they handled many hundreds[154] of pounds of frankfurters, bolognas, and numerous kinds of smoked and salted fish and meats.

“Mine sauerkraut has taken already six brizes,” said the delicatessen dealer proudly. “And nobody in all Chicago has any better hot dogs, as you call ’em, dan I carry. And den mine cheeses! Why, I import cheeses from all over de world! I can show you cheeses what you never even heard de name of,” he went on earnestly.

“And I’ll bet the smell of some of them would knock a house down,” added Andy.

“Vell, a smell is already something what you got to get used to,” answered Hans Mueller philosophically.

The lads had lunch with the delicatessen dealer at a cafeteria restaurant run in connection with his largest store. They had chicken salad and tongue sandwiches, along with “home-made” apple pie, all of which the boys relished keenly.

“It’s as good a lunch as a fellow could get at a leading hotel,” declared Jack to their host. “No wonder your stores are a big success, Uncle Hans.”

“Vell, I tries to give de bublic der money’s worth,” was the reply.

After lunch Hans Mueller had to go off to visit some of his other stores, and the boys started[155] out on another inspection of the big city by the lakes.

“It’s a good deal like New York, only somewhat different,” said Andy.

“That certainly is a queer way to put it,” returned Fred, with a grin. “How can it be the same if it’s different?”

“Oh, well, it’s like a ball game I saw some time ago,” said Andy dryly. “It was nine to nine in the first inning, and only three to five in the last inning.”

“Nine to nine in the first inning and three to five in the last!” cried Fred in perplexity. “What are you talking about?”

“Well, it was this way: There were nine players on each side in the first inning, and they started——” And thereupon Andy dodged quickly behind a signboard as Fred made as if to attack him while the others laughed.

The four boys were walking along in the vicinity of the Union Station when they saw somebody coming toward them. It was the young man they had met while going for railroad tickets in New York.

“Well, of all things!” cried Joe Brooks, smiling. “You said you were coming to Chicago, but I certainly didn’t expect to fall in with you again.”


“Did you just get in?” questioned Fred.

“Got in a few hours ago. How are you enjoying yourselves in the Windy City?”

“Oh, we’re getting along all right enough,” answered Jack. “We have been around town quite a bit, and also out to the stock yards.”

“You aren’t staying in Chicago very long, I take it,” went on Joe Brooks.

“We’ll leave to-morrow morning,” answered Randy.

Thereupon Joe Brooks started to tell them a somewhat lengthy story of what had brought him to Chicago. He said that he was traveling for a crockery house and hoped to catch one of his customers that afternoon.

“It’s a rich concern and I’m hoping to land a big order, but I’ve got to wait till five o’clock before I can see my man,” he went on. “So I’ve got quite a little time on my hands. What are you fellows doing? I might go along if you don’t mind,” and he smiled genially.

“We’re not doing much of anything,” answered Jack politely.

“Want me to show you around a little? I’ll be glad to do it. I’d do almost anything for friends of Fatty Hendry. He and his relatives have always treated me fine.”

Joe Brooks was a slick talker and before long[157] he was walking with the four Rover boys, pointing out various places of interest and also pointing out different people as they passed either on foot or in automobiles.

“There’s the mayor of this burg,” he declared as an auto flashed past. “Great fellow he is, too. I had the pleasure of meeting him once when I was here at a trade dinner. And that man walking on the other side of the street over there is at the head of the schools here. A great man. I understand he has made a small fortune out of spelling books.”

“Is that so?” answered Andy. “Well, I don’t think I’ll ever make a fortune out of spelling books,” and he grinned.

In the most casual manner possible Joe Brooks drew the boys out until he got many of the particulars from them concerning their proposed trip to Gold Hill Falls and Sunset Trail. Now that they were so far on their trip, they did not consider it necessary to be as secretive about it as before. Never for one minute did they suspect that this young man knew Carson Davenport or had anything to do with that scoundrel.

“You fellows ought to have the time of your lives out there around Maporah,” said Brooks. “Gee, I wish I could go along! I’m sure it would beat selling crockery all to pieces.”


“I certainly hope to have a splendid outing,” answered Jack.

“Well, I guess you have earned it. It’s hard work to graduate from any school, and I suppose your studies were pretty stiff at that military academy you and Fatty attended.”

“They were certainly stiff enough,” answered Randy.

“Going to be out there long?”

“A month at least, and maybe six or seven weeks,” answered Fred. “We hope to have some good fishing, and maybe a little hunting too.”

At half past four Joe Brooks excused himself, stating that he would have to hunt up his customer before the man had a chance to get away from him. He shook hands all around and again wished the Rovers the best of luck.

“He’s a pretty good sort, seems to me,” said Fred.

“He certainly acted nice enough,” answered Andy.

“That’s what he did,” added his twin.

Jack said nothing. For some reason he could not fathom, the strange young man had not altogether appealed to him. Yet, what there was about Joe Brooks he did not like was something he could not put into words.

Less than half an hour after Joe Brooks had[159] left the Rover boys he entered a hotel in one of the shabby sections of Chicago. Here he fell in with Carson Davenport and a few minutes later the pair were joined by two other men.

“Well, did you find out anything more?” questioned the man from the oil fields.

“I think I’ve found out everything we want to know,” answered Joe Brooks.

“Then you found out where they’re stopping?”

“Didn’t have to. I ran right into the four boys on the street.”

“Well, you certainly were lucky!”

“I hung around the station for three hours before that,” answered Brooks. “At first I thought I’d call up the leading hotels by telephone; but I was afraid that might look suspicious. So then I thought I’d go out and take a look around. I didn’t expect to see them, and I only thought I could fill in time until to-morrow morning, when they were to take that train for which they bought accommodations in New York. I thought maybe I could have a chance to talk to them before they left and get a few particulars. But now I think I’ve got everything we need.”

“Let’s go upstairs and talk it over,” said Carson Davenport. “No use of letting anybody else in on this. There are too many open ears around down here.”


Thereupon the four men took a rickety elevator to the fourth floor of the hotel. They entered one of the rooms they had engaged and all sat down to hear what Brooks had to say.

“They’re going straight to Maporah first,” said the young man. “From there they are to take horses to Gold Hill Falls. After that the boys expect to have a good time on Sunset Trail. They did not know exactly where they would stay, but thought it would be in some place engaged by a miner named Lew Billings.”

“Lew Billings!” exclaimed one of the other men. “I know him, all right enough!”

“He’s one of the foremen at the Rolling Thunder mine, isn’t he, Tate?” questioned Davenport.

“Yes,” answered Tate.

“We know all about Sunset Trail,” put in the other man of the party. “Tate and I have gone over it many a time.”

“Well, that ought to help a whole lot, Jackson,” returned Davenport, with satisfaction. “It’s just the place to put through a deal like we have in mind, isn’t it?”

“Sure thing!” answered Jackson. “Couldn’t be better. Let us once lay our hands on those kids, and I’ll defy anybody to get ’em away from us.”

“The main thing is to keep out of their sight[161] until our trap is sprung,” went on Carson Davenport. “We mustn’t let them know what we’re doing. But once let me get my hands on those boys, and I’ll guarantee that I’ll make their fathers pony up good and plenty,” he added, his eyes gleaming wickedly.



When the Rover boys returned to Hans Mueller’s house they found the twins’ father hard at work over a mass of papers.

“I saw that other stockholder,” said Tom Rover, in explanation. “He is as much mystified as to what is taking place at the Rolling Thunder mine as I am. He’ll follow us out there just as soon as he can arrange certain business affairs here. He’s with me in everything, and is going to help me bring those other fellows up with a round turn.”

“It’s too bad that this whole business had to get into such a mix, Uncle Tom,” declared Fred.

“For all I know, I may have to call on you boys to help me,” answered the twins’ father. “From what Brother Dick told me, you did very well in the oil fields, and you may have a chance to show your mettle out in the gold fields.”

“Well, I’m ready to help you all I can, Uncle Tom,” cried Jack quickly. “I’ll do anything you say.”


“The fun of the outing can wait,” declared Fred.

“Sure, it can wait, Dad!” cried Randy. “You just give the orders, and we’ll fill ’em.”

“I wouldn’t mind running a gold mine for a day or two,” grinned Andy. “It might give me a chance to fill my pockets with nuggets.”

“I want to warn you boys to be careful of what you say and what you do when we get to the mining region,” answered Tom Rover. “Some of the men out there are desperate characters and some are very touchy. You say the wrong thing to a touchy man and he may pull a gun on you.”

“Oh, we know enough to watch out,” answered Jack. “Just the same, Uncle Tom, if we fellows can help you in any way, don’t you hesitate to call on us.”

Early the following morning the Rovers bade farewell to Hans Mueller, who had them taken to the railroad station.

“If I could only get avay already, I’d go mit you in a minute,” declared the genial delicatessen dealer. “I haf not forgot what a good time I haf ven I go to Big Horn Ranch dat time.”

“Yes, and what a dandy outing we did have, every one of us,” declared Randy.

Soon the Rovers were aboard the train bound westward. As before, they had a double section[164] and proceeded to make themselves as much at home as possible.

As the hours went by Tom Rover gave the boys some of the particulars regarding his interview with the mine’s stockholders.

“There is a fellow at the mine named Garrish—Peter Garrish—who is now in charge. He’s a promoter from Canada and an unusually slick individual. From what I can make out, Garrish is going to do his best to squeeze us out and put himself and his friends in complete possession of the Rolling Thunder mine.”

“But you say you have your representative there—this old miner named Lew Billings,” said Jack.

“So I have, Jack. But the trouble is, while Billings is a first-class mining operator, he is rather deficient in education and knows little about the legal aspects of affairs. On the other hand, Garrish was at one time a lawyer and evidently knows the mining game from a legal standpoint in all its details. For all I know, when it came to legal matters he might be able to twist Billings around his finger.”

“Perhaps it would have been a good thing, Dad, if you had brought a lawyer along,” suggested Randy.

“Before I left Chicago I had an interview with[165] a lawyer who is affiliated with our attorneys in New York. I arranged matters with him so that if he is needed he’ll come on immediately to represent me.”

As the boys had traveled westward before, the trip was no great novelty. Yet there were many interesting sights along the way, and they did not tire of looking out of the windows or of spending hour after hour on the observation platform of the last car.

“These open spaces are what get me,” declared Randy, stretching out his arm in a semicircle. “Just look at the thousands and thousands of acres of land that seem to be going to waste!”

“Yes, and then think of the thousands and thousands of people who are huddling in the tenements of all of the big cities,” returned Jack. “It seems all wrong, doesn’t it?”

“Well, I suppose a lot of those people want companionship,” came from Fred. “And they wouldn’t get much of it if they were spread all around this scenery.”

“I don’t believe I’ll ever want to settle down in the heart of a big city,” said Andy thoughtfully. “Where we live isn’t so bad. We’ve got plenty of air and a nice view of the Hudson River. But, just the same, I’d rather rove around the open places. When I get down in one of[166] those narrow streets in lower New York, with the monstrous buildings on both sides, I always feel shut in, just as if the whole thing was going to tumble down on top of me.”

“You’d rather have a bungalow on the top of Pike’s Peak, wouldn’t you, Andy?” laughed Jack.

“Perhaps. Although I think I’d prefer a bird’s nest on the top of the north pole,” answered the fun-loving boy, with a grin.

The first day on the train passed without special incident. The boys slept well, and the twins were glad to note that their father did likewise.

“I guess dad is glad that Mr. Renton is going to act with him. You know he represents a sixty-thousand-dollar interest, and that is a good deal,” said Randy. Mr. Renton was the second stockholder Tom Rover had called upon in Chicago.

At noon on the second day, which was the Fourth of July, came something of an interruption. The whole party were at lunch in the dining car when there came such a sudden halt that their coffee was splashed all over the table.

“Wow!” exclaimed Andy. “Good-by, green corn!” he added, for an ear of corn had rolled from his plate to the aisle of the car.

“We certainly stopped in a hurry,” declared Fred. “I wonder what is the matter?”

“Maybe it’s a celebration,” suggested Randy.


The boys and Tom Rover finished their meal and then walked back to the car where their sections were located. They found that a number of the passengers had left the train, and from one of these learned that there was trouble on a bridge just ahead.

“A freight that was crossing left the tracks, and they say it will take an hour or more to clear up the muss,” explained one of the passengers.

“Let’s go up ahead and take a look at things,” said Jack. “I’ll be glad to stretch my legs.”

“I don’t think I’ll go,” returned Tom Rover. “While the train is standing still I think I’ll try to catch a nap. You boys can go if you want to. But keep out of trouble and don’t get left when the train starts again.”

The spot was one where the road crossed a small stream. Along this watercourse there was a fringe of trees and brushwood. The land was comparatively level and covered with sage and prairie grass.

Quite a crowd of people were collected at the front of the train, and the boys soon saw what the trouble was. Two freight cars were off the track and resting in just such a position that the other train could not get by.

“They’ve sent for a wrecking crew and think they’ll be here inside of half an hour,” said one[168] of the men, in answer to the boys’ questions. “It won’t take them very long to straighten matters out when once they get at work.”

Having viewed the wreck for several minutes, the boys saw a footpath leading along the stream, and Andy suggested that they take a short walk in that direction.

“I don’t know what state we’ll be walking in,” said the fun-loving Rover. “But it will certainly be a state that suits me.”

“I’ll tell you what we might do, Andy,” suggested his brother, with a twinkle in his eye. “You were saying something this morning about missing your bath. What’s the matter with going in swimming here?”

“Gee, that would be an idea!” was the ready response. “Let’s do it!”

“No, you don’t!” ordered Jack. “You don’t know a thing about that stream in the first place. And in the second, how would you feel if you were in the water and suddenly heard the train whistle to go ahead?”

“I’d grab up my clothing and run,” answered Andy.

“Maybe you would and maybe you wouldn’t,” declared Fred. “I’d like a swim myself. But I really don’t think we ought to risk it,” he added.

It was very pleasant walking along the footpath[169] bordering the river, and the boys found several spots which in the past had evidently been used for camping. They had vaulted a low fence, satisfied that no one would interfere with their walk.

“Not a house in sight,” declared Jack, looking around. “And yet we passed a fair-sized town just when we started to go to lunch.”

“This is some sort of a ranch, I take it,” returned Fred. “Aren’t those cows further up the river?”

“Sure they’re cows!” declared Randy. “And a pretty big herd of ’em, too.”

“I understand cattle on the hoof is worth a good deal of money these days,” went on Jack. “I’d like to own a few thousand cattle.”

“It must be a lot of fun rounding them up,” declared Andy.

“It isn’t so much fun though if the cattle try to round you up,” answered Fred.

The boys walked on a little farther and then concluded that it would be best to return to the train. They had just started to retrace their steps when they heard a crashing in the brushwood behind them. “Hello! who’s coming?” cried Fred.

“He must be in a tremendous hurry by the noise he’s making,” came from Randy.


“Sounds to me like one of those cows,” announced Jack.

The sounds kept coming closer and presently through an opening in the brushwood behind them the four boys saw a large beast come into view.

“It isn’t a cow—it’s a bull!” exclaimed Fred.

“Yes, and he doesn’t look to be any too friendly,” answered Jack.

“Say, I don’t like this,” said Andy. “Looks to me as if that beast might come for us.”

The boys continued on their way in the direction of the train and the bull came after them. At first the beast eyed them with more curiosity than anger. But presently he gave a bellow and started to charge toward them.

“Look out! He’s coming for us!” yelled Jack. “Run for it, everybody!”

No one needed any urging, and the four boys hurried down the footpath as fast as they could go. The sudden flight of the lads seemed to take the bull by surprise. His first charge came to a sudden halt. Then, however, he let out another bellow and came after them swifter than ever.



“Run! Run!”

“He’s right behind us!”

“Maybe we’d better jump into the river!”

“Get behind the bushes,” suggested Jack. “He can’t get through as quickly as we can! He’ll get himself all tangled up!”

One after another the Rover boys left the footpath and plunged into the brushwood leading down to the stream. Then they came to a clump of trees, several branches of which swung low, and Randy, who was in advance, pulled himself up. The others, seeing the move, followed. On and on came the bull, crashing through the brushwood with scarcely an effort. Then, just as the last of the four lads had pulled himself up into one of the trees, the enraged beast gave a bellow and a snort and came to a stop just beneath them.


“Gee, but that was a narrow escape!” gasped Randy, when he could catch his breath.

“I’ll tell the world it was,” panted Fred.[172] “Gosh! did you ever see such a savage beast?”

“He was certainly willing to horn all of us,” answered Jack.

“Yes, and he’s still willing,” came from Andy as he looked downward. “Hi! Get out of there!” he yelled, shaking his fist at the bull. But this only made the beast bellow louder than ever. He switched his tail and shook his head from side to side and then glared viciously at the four boys.

“We’re in a pickle, if you ask me,” declared Fred, after a pause during which the boys tried to regain their breath. “If that bull doesn’t go away, how are we going to get back to the train?”

“Is that a question or a riddle?” queried Andy. “If it’s a riddle, I give it up. This is sure a new sort of Fourth of July celebration.”

“If we only had a few rocks to throw at the bull perhaps we could chase him away,” suggested Fred.

“Not that bull!” answered Jack. “He’s a real dyed-in-the-wool monarch of the pasture. Just look at him! Why, he looks as if he was thinking he might butt down the tree and get at us that way!”

The boys were certainly in a quandary. They had not only to act, but to act quickly. Any[173] moment they expected to hear the whistle of the train preparatory to continuing the journey westward.

“We’ll be in a fine pickle if that train goes off,” groaned Andy.

“Yes, and what will dad think when he finds us missing?” added his twin.

The tree the boys had climbed was a short, stocky affair, and some of its branches intertwined with those of another tree standing directly on the bank of the stream along which the lads had been walking.

“Come on! I think I see a way out of this!” cried Jack. “Anyway, it won’t hurt to try it!”

“What do you propose to do?” questioned Fred quickly.

“See that big tree? It leans right over the river and some of the branches touch one of the trees on the other side.”

“Hurrah! That’s the thing to do!” burst out Randy. “I don’t believe that bull will follow us across the stream.”

“I don’t think so myself. Anyway, we can try getting over. We won’t be any worse off on that side of the water than we are on this.”

Jack led the way with all possible speed, and one after another his cousins followed him. It was not difficult to get into the next tree; but[174] climbing out on the sloping trunk and then out on the limbs which brushed those from the tree on the other side of the stream was not so easy. Jack made the first swing and Andy followed. Then came the other twin.

“Be careful, Fred!” yelled Jack, as he saw his cousin swing downward.

He had scarcely spoken when there was a crack of wood as the limb upon which the youngest Rover had depended snapped. But Fred swung himself outward and then caught tight hold of a limb below those upon which the others rested.

“Safe?” queried Jack eagerly.

“I—I guess so!” panted Fred. “Gee, but that was a close shave!”

“Listen!” called out Andy suddenly. “Isn’t that the locomotive whistle?”

All stopped short. They heard the bellow of the bull that had been left behind them, and then, loud and clear, came the whistle from the locomotive near the bridge.

“They’re going to leave us behind!” groaned Fred.

“Come on—all of you!” yelled Jack. “I’ll go ahead and see if I can’t stop the train some way.”

When looking at the wreck the oldest of the Rover boys had noticed that after leaving the bridge the track curved slightly northward in[175] the direction in which they had been walking. Now, forgetting the bull entirely, Jack clambered to the trunk of the tree, slid down, and rushed through the brushwood and then out across the field beyond to where he could see the distant tracks and telegraph poles.

“I hope he makes it!” cried Andy, as he followed his cousin to the ground.

“Look! Look! I think the bull is coming after us, after all!” yelled his twin.

One after another the boys reached the ground. They glanced back, to see that the bull had come down to the edge of the stream and had even waded in up to his knees. But evidently the footing did not please him, and there he remained, bellowing his defiance.

Jack had been in many cross-country runs and athletic contests, but never had he sprinted faster than now. Over the prairie and through the sage brush he tore, heading for the nearest point on the railroad. As he went he pulled out his handkerchief and waved it wildly, yelling as he did so.

The wreckage had been moved sufficiently to allow the limited to pass, but the margin of safety was narrow, and the long line of Pullmans had to proceed slowly. In the meantime the whistle and the bell were kept going, so that[176] the track might be kept clear of the wrecking crew and any men who might be around belonging to the freight train.

At last Jack was less than a hundred yards from the track. The train had been coming slowly, but now, as the wreck was left behind, the engineer increased the speed. Then Jack bounded on the track, took off his coat and waved it wildly.

On and on came the train. Would it stop? Jack was almost afraid his signal would not be heeded, for the great locomotive glided past him, thundering loudly. Then the brakes were applied, and with a jerk the long train slowed up.

“Hurrah! She’s stopped!” came from Fred, and in a few seconds more the three Rover boys came up alongside of the young major.

As soon as the train halted the conductor had a porter open one of the vestibule doors so that he might ascertain the cause of the new delay. The train official saw the boys and could not help but grin as they came up to him all out of breath.

“Almost got left, eh?” he said genially. “Well, it might have served you right. You had no business to leave the train.”

“Are you all there?” came a voice from over the conductor’s shoulder, and Tom Rover appeared, his face full of anxiety. “I’ve been looking[177] all over for you. I thought you might be on some other part of the train.”

“We’re all here safe and sound, Dad,” answered Randy. “But we’ve had one experience, believe me!”

“What kind of an experience?” questioned the conductor. And then he added quickly: “Any more to come aboard?”


“All right then, we’ll go ahead,” and the vestibule door was closed again and the long train proceeded on its way.

Not only Tom Rover and the conductor but the porter and a number of passengers listened with interest to the story the boys had to tell. Quite a few laughed when they related how the bull had wanted to horn them.

“You were lucky to get off so easily,” said Tom Rover. “And doubly lucky that you weren’t left behind.”

“It was clever to think of crossing the stream from tree to tree,” commented the conductor. “Bright idea! Of course, the bull might have waded over, but that would have taken time.”

The boys went back to their sections and were content for the rest of that Fourth of July to take it easy.

“Well, we had a touch of Western life right[178] at the start,” remarked Randy. “I suppose we’ve got to look for all sorts of things to happen when we get out on Sunset Trail.”

“Oh, you mustn’t think the West is as wild as all that,” answered Tom Rover. “Most of the wild things that are happening to-day are in the movies. You may find things no more exciting at Gold Hill Falls than in any coal-mining town in Virginia or Pennsylvania. With the coming of men to those places, the wild animals have taken themselves to the tall timber.”

“Oh, don’t spoil the outing, Uncle Tom!” cried Fred. “Why, we expect to see bears and mountain lions and everything like that before we go back!”

“All right then, Fred, go to it,” laughed his uncle. “Only don’t let the bears and mountain lions see you first.”

By noon of the next day they had left the prairies behind and were slowly but surely climbing the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Now the character of the scenery changed, and the boys were gradually impressed with the beauties of nature as unfolded to their vision.

“Here’s a regular scene for a painter,” said Jack presently, and he pointed down into a deep valley where a river wound its way among numerous bowlders. There was a small stretch of pasture[179] land on one side of the stream, and beyond was a mountain covered with timber of various kinds.

It was at the next stop, reached about an hour later, that the Rover boys caught their first sight of Indians. There was a reservation not a great distance away, and a number of the redmen, along with their squaws, had come down to the station to sell trinkets and to obtain tips for allowing their photographs to be taken.

“That’s one way of getting into the pictures,” remarked Jack. “That old Indian yonder said I could take his photograph shaking hands with you other fellows for fifty cents apiece. What do you know about that!”

“The old Indians don’t change much,” answered Tom Rover. “They are out for any money they can get. Just the same, that old Indian may have a son at college or on one of the big baseball teams.”

“I knew one of the Indian ball players,” said Fred proudly. “His name was Big Knee, but they called him Joe Smith. He was a twirler for a middle West team.”

It lacked but an hour to sunset when they arrived at Maporah. The boys had expected to see quite a town, and were somewhat disappointed when they saw only a dingy little station,[180] a store and post-office combined, and half a dozen tumbled-down dwellings.

“Hardly anybody lives around here,” explained Tom Rover. “It used to be quite a center when the gold mines behind the town were in operation. But as soon as they failed to pay, the town practically went broke. But it’s the nearest station to Gold Hill Falls.”

Several days before Tom Rover had sent a telegraph to Lew Billings, asking that individual to be on hand at the station with saddle horses or some conveyance to take the whole party over to Sunset Trail. He was therefore much disappointed when on alighting from the train with the boys he saw nothing of the man from the mine.

“I don’t understand this,” he said, after a look around. “He certainly should have received my message.”

There was only a handful of men around the little station, and no one but the Rovers had left the train. While Tom Rover was deliberating on what to do next a strange man, a miner wearing a flannel shirt, broad-brimmed hat, and with his trousers tucked in his boots, strode up hesitatingly.

“Are you Mr. Rover?” he asked in rather a low voice.


“I am,” answered Tom.

“My name is Butts—Hank Butts. I work over at the Rolling Thunder mine.”

“Is that so? Then, Butts, perhaps you can tell me where Lew Billings is?”

For reply, and greatly to Tom Rover’s astonishment, the miner leaned forward and whispered hoarsely:

“I can’t tell you that, partner. Lew disappeared two days ago, and nobody seems to know what’s become of him.”



“Lew Billings has disappeared!” exclaimed Tom Rover.

“Yes, partner. Teetotally and completely vamoosed, and nobody knows where to,” answered the strange miner.

“Do you think he has been the victim of foul play?” went on the father of the twins, his face showing his concern.

“I can’t say as to that. He left between two days, as the saying goes. Nobody saw him go. That is, if they did see him they haven’t mentioned it,” corrected Hank Butts.

“Did you come here to tell me this?”

“I did. You see, Lew and me have been partners for a good many years. We went up to the Klondike together, and we also staked out the Blue Daisy claim. Me and Lew was just like brothers. He told me a little about what you expected to do when you got here, and told[183] me about when he expected you to arrive. That’s the reason I’ve been on the lookout for you.”

“Did you say you’ve been working with Billings?”

“Not exactly. You know the mine is divided into two veins, the north and the south. Lew always had charge up at the north end while I work under a man named Haggerty at the south end. But we got together quite often, just for the sake of old times,” went on Hank Butts.

The boys listened with much interest to this conversation and continued to listen when Butts explained more in detail concerning the mysterious disappearance of Lew Billings. He said that Billings and the manager at the mine, Peter Garrish, had had a hot discussion over certain matters concerning the way the work was being carried on in the north vein, and he was afraid Billings had said too much.

“He mentioned you, Mr. Rover, and also a Chicago capitalist named Renton, and that seemed to make Garrish wild. I understand the two had it hot and heavy for quite a while, and then Billings went away in disgust.”

“Was that the night he disappeared?” asked Jack. Tom Rover had explained to the miner that the boys were his two sons and his two nephews.


“That’s it. Garrish and Lew had their argument about five o’clock. Then Lew went down to the bunkhouse, and a little later had his supper. After that he got some kind of a message and went up the mountainside where they had reported some kind of a landslide a few days before. That was the last seen of Lew by any one of our men.”

“Gee! you don’t suppose he was swallowed up by the landslide?” exclaimed Randy.

“There wasn’t no landslide when Lew went there. That happened several days before. Besides, me and some other men searched the whole vicinity and didn’t find no trace of Lew.”

“But he might have been caught in a new slide and buried out of sight,” said Andy.

“It’s possible, my lad. But I don’t think so. Lew Billings was a very careful man, and he wouldn’t go prowling around no loose dirt or rocks unless he knew what he was doing. In all the years he’s been mining and prospecting, I never knew him to get caught in any such way as that.”

“Well, what’s your idea, Butts? Give it to me straight,” came sharply from Tom Rover. “We’re both friends of Lew Billings, so there is no use in beating about the bush.”

“Well, it ain’t for me to say what happened[185] to Lew,” returned the old miner doggedly. “I told you about the argument he had with Peter Garrish. Maybe that had something to do with it, and maybe it didn’t.”

“Well, Lew Billings is my friend and Peter Garrish is not,” answered Tom Rover bluntly. “This looks like some sort of foul play to me.”

“Oh, Dad, you don’t think they would——” Andy broke off short, hardly daring to go on.

“I don’t know what to think, Andy,” was his father’s sober reply. “This is rather a wild country, you know; and I have told you my opinion of Garrish and his crowd before.”

“Do you think it possible that Billings took a train to Chicago to head you off?” questioned Jack. “He might have gained some new information that he wanted to get to you as soon as possible.”

“I don’t think he took no train,” interposed Hank Butts. “Leastwise, not from this station. I’ve asked the station master, and he named over everybody who got a ticket and went aboard, both ways. If he took a train at all, it would have been from some other place.”

“Can’t you figure it out at all, Butts?” questioned the twins’ father.

“No, I can’t. I don’t think Garrish is the man[186] to shoot another fellow. He’s too much of a coward. But he might play Lew some underhand trick. I think Lew made a big mistake to mention you and that Mr. Renton.”

“Maybe that gave this Peter Garrish an idea that Billings knew too much and ought to be gotten out of the way,” suggested Jack.

“It almost looks like that,” answered his uncle. “But the question just now is: What did they do with the man?”

The matter was talked over for some time longer, but no one could suggest a solution of the mystery. Lew Billings, the individual Tom Rover had depended on in his fight to maintain his rights in the Rolling Thunder mine, had disappeared, and Tom was almost at a standstill concerning what to do next.

“Aren’t you going over to Sunset Trail?” demanded Randy anxiously. “You aren’t going to back out, are you, Dad?”

“No, I’m not going to back out,” was the firm reply. “But I suppose I’ll have to change my plans somewhat, awaiting the reappearance of Lew Billings or some word from him. He wrote that he had important information, but he didn’t give sufficient details for me to go ahead alone. If Billings doesn’t show up, I suppose all I can do is to wait until Mr. Renton comes.”


Hank Butts had come over to Maporah on horseback, leading one other steed, that belonging to Lew Billings.

“And that proves that Lew didn’t go away on horseback,” said Butts, “because it’s the only nag he owns. I brought him over in case I met up with you,” and he nodded to Tom Rover.

“Well, I’ve got to find some sort of mounts for the boys,” answered the twins’ father. “Otherwise, we’ll have to make some arrangement to stay here.”

“You might get a shakedown over to Gus Terwilliger’s,” answered the old miner, waving his hand toward the store. “He’s got a kind of bunkhouse in the back there. It ain’t much of a place, but the miners and cowboys use it sometimes, when they’ve got to wait for trains.”

“Do you suppose he has any horses?”

“I can’t say. He might have.”

“I don’t suppose they have anything in the way of an auto running up that way?” came from Fred.

“Not much!” and for the first time since meeting them Hank Butts grinned. “Pretty good going down here, but once you get in the mountains, and you couldn’t run an auto a hundred yards. Besides, some of them trails is so narrow a horse can’t scarcely navigate ’em.”


“In that case, how did they get the mining machinery up there?” questioned Jack.

“It all had to come in by the lower route, lad. It’s over a hundred miles more than this way around. But they had to do it, for there ain’t no other way to reach Gold Hill—that is, by wagon.”

The crowd had walked away from the station and now came back to find the place deserted and locked up.

“No more trains to stop here until nine o’clock to-morrow morning,” announced Hank Butts, as he untied the two horses and offered one of the steeds to Tom Rover. “Each of us might carry one of the boys, but I don’t see how we could carry two,” he went on.

“We’ll go over to the store and see what we can do,” answered the twins’ father, and with the boys walking and the men riding they soon reached the general store which the miner had indicated. Here the last of the customers had departed, and the proprietor sat in an easy chair dozing with his pipe hanging from the corner of his mouth.

“Sure! I can give you a shakedown for the night if you want it,” said Gus Terwilliger, after the situation had been explained to him. “Or,[189] if you want it, I may be able to fit you out with horses.”

“Didn’t know you had so many animals, Gus!” exclaimed Butts, in surprise.

“Oh, a general store like this has got to keep everything,” answered the storekeeper, with a grin, and then went on to explain that six cowboys had gone away on a vacation and had left their steeds in his care.

“They said I could hire ’em out to any responsible parties that came along,” went on Gus Terwilliger. “They’d be mighty glad to get a little money out of the beasts instead of having ’em eat their heads off in my corral. Cowboys ain’t any too wealthy, you know.”

The quarters the storekeeper had to offer were clean and fairly comfortable, and after another talk with Hank Butts Tom Rover decided to stay at Maporah over night.

“If we went over to Gold Hill with you it might only make more trouble for you,” he explained to the old miner. “You had better go back and say nothing about having seen me. We can ride over to-morrow just as well as not. But I’m going to depend on you as a friend, Butts,” he added, taking the old miner by the hand. “And if you hear of anything worth[190] knowing, don’t fail to let me know about it and at once.”

To this the old miner agreed, and a few minutes later set off on horseback, taking Lew Billings’s mount with him. Then the Rovers reëntered the general store and asked the proprietor if he could give them their supper.

“Sure thing! And breakfast, too,” answered Gus Terwilliger. “That’s what my wife and two daughters are here for—to wait on all customers.”

The boys were shown a place where they could wash, and a little later they and their uncle were conducted to a small but comfortable dining room and there treated to a home-cooked meal that, while perhaps not as elaborate as those served on the train, was entirely satisfactory. The two Terwilliger girls waited on the table and smiled broadly at the visitors.

“Going to work in the mine?” questioned one of the girls, a miss of fifteen.

“No. We came out to hunt elephants,” answered Andy, with a wink, and thereupon both girls giggled and soon became quite friendly.

After the meal the horses were brought out and examined and Tom Rover, with the aid of the boys, selected five of the mounts, and also hired the sixth animal for the purpose of transporting their baggage up to Sunset Trail.


“Well, Uncle Tom, things don’t look very bright, do they?” questioned Jack of his uncle when they were ready to turn in.

“They certainly do not, Jack,” was the sober reply. “This unexpected disappearance of Lew Billings upsets me a good deal. I hardly know what to expect when I reach the mine.”

“Do you think you’ll have trouble with this Peter Garrish?” questioned Randy.

“I certainly do! A whole lot of trouble!” answered Tom Rover.



“What a magnificent view!”

It was Jack Rover who spoke. The party had been on the way to Sunset Trail for over two hours. All were mounted on the steeds Tom Rover had hired from the storekeeper and behind them came the extra horse loaded down with their belongings.

“I’ll say it’s a fine view!” declared Fred, who was riding beside his cousin.

They had reached the top of one of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and on all sides stretched rocks and forests with here and there a great mound rearing its head toward the sky. At one point there was a sharp cleft in the mountainside, and from this rushed a torrent of water, making a thundering sound as it reached the rocks and the river bed far below.

“That’s where the Rolling Thunder mine gets its name,” said Tom Rover, pointing to the waterfall. “If you close your eyes you’ll think the sound very much like rolling thunder.”


“Is the mine over there?” questioned Andy eagerly.

“Yes. But you can’t see it from this point. We’ve got to cover at least two miles more before we get in sight of the place.”

“And where is Sunset Trail?” questioned Jack, with equal eagerness.

“That’s just above and a little to the south of the falls,” answered his uncle. “We’ll hit that trail just before we get to Gold Hill.”

The climbing up and down the foothills leading to the mountains beyond was no easy task for either horses or riders, yet the boys enjoyed the outing thoroughly.

“It beats reciting in a classroom all hollow,” was the way Randy expressed himself. “Me for a life in the open air every time!”

“I knew you boys would enjoy this,” declared Tom Rover. “If it wasn’t for what I’ve got on my mind just now I’d be as crazy about it as you are,” and for an instant there was an old-time twinkle in his eyes.

“Oh, Uncle Tom, don’t worry about the mine all the time!” burst out Fred. “Things may straighten themselves out quicker than you expect.”

“I hope they do,” answered his uncle. But almost immediately his face again resumed a[194] worried look. The disappearance of Lew Billings had affected him deeply.

Tom Rover had already explained to the boys that many of the men at the mine kept house for themselves and that there was also something of a boarding house, presided over by a colored man, Toby White, who at one time had been a chef in a San Francisco hotel. It was at Toby White’s boarding house they hoped to obtain accommodations during their stay at Gold Hill.

“But of course we won’t want to stay at the boarding house all the time,” said Fred, as the party rode along. “We want to get out on Sunset Trail and do some hunting and fishing.”

“You’re welcome to go out as much as you please, Fred,” answered his uncle. “All I ask of you is that you keep out of trouble.”

“Oh, we know how to take care of ourselves,” answered the youngest Rover confidently.

“But remember, Uncle Tom, we won’t want to leave you if you need us,” put in Jack quickly. “If there is any fighting to be done, we want to be right alongside to help you.”

“I don’t expect any fighting, Jack,” was the reply. “Peter Garrish isn’t that kind of a man. As Hank Butts said, he’s a good deal of a coward. If he tries anything at all, it will be in a very underhand way. What I want him to do is to[195] open the books of the concern and let me talk with the superintendent and the others in charge of the mine and find out exactly how things are going. I have an idea they are selling a good portion of their ore to another concern at a low price and that that concern is owned by Garrish and his friends.”

It was not yet noon when they came in sight of Gold Hill. As they made a turn of the mountain trail they came again within sound of the thundering falls, which was now below them.

The entrance to the Rolling Thunder mine was not a prepossessing one. The opening was in the side of the hill and from it ran a small railway to a crusher a short distance off. There were half a dozen buildings, some of wood and some covered with galvanized iron. Half a dozen men were moving about and they gazed curiously at the new arrivals.

“We’ll go over to Toby White’s boarding house first and see what sort of accommodations we can get there,” said Tom Rover. “I don’t want to give Garrish a chance to keep us out.”

“Keep us out! What do you mean?” questioned Randy.

“He might give Toby a tip not to take us in. He might try to make it so uncomfortable that we couldn’t stay here.”


“But we could camp out if we had to!” cried Fred.

“Sure we could! And that’s what I’ll do if we have to,” answered his uncle.

Tom had been at Toby White’s before, at the time he had made his investment in the mine, and as he had treated the colored boarding-house keeper rather liberally, White was all smiles when he recognized his visitor.

“I suah am proud to see you, Mistah Rover,” he said, bowing. “Got your fambly with you, eh?”

“I have, Toby. My two sons and my two nephews. I want to know if you’ve got accommodations for us.”

“I ce’tainly has. Come right in and make you’selves at home. Dinner will be ready in half an hour.”

“We may want to stay quite a while, Toby,” went on Tom Rover, as he dismounted, his action being followed by the boys.

“Stay as long as you please, sir. I can give you a room to you’self and I’ve got two other rooms where the young gentlemen can double up. Just come right in, sir.”

“I wonder if he’d have been so friendly if he knew Uncle Tom was after Peter Garrish’s scalp,” whispered Fred to his cousins.


“Hush, Fred,” admonished Jack in a low tone. “You’d better keep all that sort of talk under your hat for the present.”

Having proceeded to make themselves at home in the rooms by putting away their belongings, the boys rejoined Tom Rover, who had announced that he was going over to the office of the mine, one of the small buildings near the mouth of the mine shaft.

“It’s just possible Garrish may want to see me alone,” announced Tom Rover. “So if I give you boys the hint just make yourselves scarce for the time being,” and so it was arranged.

“But don’t forget if you need us just yell and we’ll come running,” announced Randy. He had heard his mother warn his father not to get into a fight with the mine manager.

While Tom Rover walked over to the office the boys wandered down to the mine opening, gazing curiously at the darkness beyond where only a few lights flickered.

“Gee, I never could see what there was in being a miner—I mean a fellow to work way in the bowels of the earth like this,” remarked Fred.

“I don’t think this is as bad as a coal mine,” answered Andy. “Gosh! that would get your goat, sure. Those poor fellows are hundreds and hundreds of feet out of sight of daylight.[198] If anything gives way, it’s all up with them. I’d rather be a lineman working on the top of telephone poles.”

“Yes, or even an aviator flying through the clouds,” added his twin.

When Tom Rover entered the office attached to the mine he found two young clerks in charge. Neither of them was working. One had a newspaper in his hand and from this was reading some baseball scores. They stared in wonder at their visitor.

“Is Mr. Peter Garrish around?” questioned Tom. His manner was one of authority and the clerks felt instinctively that here was some one who was entitled to their attention.

“Mr. Garrish just stepped out to the mine for a few minutes,” answered one of the clerks. “He’ll be back presently. Anything I can do for you?”

“Did he go down in the mine?” questioned Tom Rover.

“No, he only went over to call up one of the gang foremen. They’re getting ready to set off another charge down there.”

“Then I’ll walk over and see if I can find him.”

The boys walked around the mouth of the mine and then stepped inside for several yards in order[199] that they might get a better view of what was beyond. They were straining their eyes in the semi-darkness when suddenly Jack felt a rather rough hand on his shoulder.

“Hi, you fellows! What are you doing here?” cried an unsympathetic voice. “Don’t you know that strangers have no business in this mine?”

“Excuse us, but we didn’t know we were intruding,” answered Jack, and he and the others retreated to the mouth of the opening, followed by the man who had accosted them. He was a tall, thin individual with gray hair and steely blue-gray eyes.

“Where did you boys come from?” questioned the man abruptly, and looked sharply from one to another.

“My brother and I came with my father,” answered Randy. “These two fellows are my cousins.”

“What’s your name?”

“Randy Rover,” was the answer.

“Randy Rover!” repeated the man, and his manner showed his astonishment. “Are you all Rovers?”


“Are you the sons of Mr. Thomas Rover of New York?”


“We are,” answered Andy.

“Humph! Did your father send you out here?”

“No. We came with him,” answered Randy, and then he continued quickly: “Who are you?”

“You don’t know that? I thought everybody knew me. I am Mr. Peter Garrish, and I am in charge here. You say you came with your father—where is he?”

“Here he comes now,” answered Randy, as Tom Rover strode toward the crowd.

Peter Garrish looked, and as he saw the parent of the twins his face took on a look of commingled fear and anger. He compressed his lips and gave a slight toss to his head.

“Came to make trouble, I suppose,” he snarled, “Well, it won’t do him any good!”



If Peter Garrish was ill at ease, it must be confessed that Tom Rover was also somewhat perplexed regarding the best way of approaching the manager of the mine. He had thought to get a great deal of data concerning the mine from Lew Billings and then confront Garrish with these proofs of his wrongdoing.

“Came to look the place over, I suppose?” said Garrish, eyeing Tom distrustfully.

“I did,” answered the father of the twins bluntly. “And I also came to take a look at the books.”

“Take a look at the books, Mr. Rover? What’s in the wind now?” and Garrish’s voice took on a decidedly unpleasant tone.

“I won’t beat around the bush, Garrish. You know that for a long time I have not been satisfied with the way things are going here. I have got a lot of money tied up in this mine, and I don’t intend to lose it.”


“Who said you were going to lose it?” demanded the manager.

“Nobody said so, Garrish. But I can put two and two together as well as the next fellow. I don’t like the way things are running here. By the way, what have you done to Lew Billings?”

“Billings! I haven’t done anything to Billings.”

“He seems to be missing.”

“Well, that’s his fault and not mine. We had something of an argument and I told him if he was not willing to carry out my orders he had better look for a job. Since that I haven’t seen or heard of him.”

“He seems to have disappeared very mysteriously, Garrish,” went on Tom suggestively.

“See here, Rover, do you want to start something?” snarled the manager. “If you do, I’ll tell you right now it won’t get you anywhere! I’ve had nothing to do with Billings’ disappearance. He went off on his own hook. Now, I know you’re a stockholder here and you’ve got a stockholder’s rights. But you must remember that I’m the manager and that I represent the majority of the stockholders. I’m willing to do what’s fair, but I won’t be bulldozed.”

“I sha’n’t ask you to do anything but what is[203] fair, Garrish,” answered Tom. “You certainly ought not to object to a large stockholder like myself looking over the books and taking a look around the mine.”

“That’s all right. But you’ve got to treat me as a manager ought to be treated, or you’ll keep out of the office and out of the mine too.”

“Well, perhaps after——” began Tom, and then suddenly stopped and said instead: “Well, have it your own way, Garrish. Just the same, I don’t think you’re treating me quite decently, seeing that I have seventy-five thousand dollars locked up in this mining company.”

“Other people have over half a million dollars locked up in it. I’m representing them as well as you. You know the majority rule, and I am taking my orders from the majority.”

After this there was a sharp exchange of words lasting ten minutes or more. During that time Peter Garrish tried to draw Tom out, but the father of the twins refused to commit himself any further than stating that he had come West to look over the mine and likewise the books.

“Well, you can’t go down in the mine to-day, and probably not to-morrow,” said Peter Garrish at last. “We are using a lot of dynamite and it might be dangerous. As soon as it’s safe you can go down and take a look around.”


“All right, that’s fair,” answered Tom. “Now, what about the books?”

“The two bookkeepers are busy to-day making out the pay roll and doing some other things, but I’ll fix it so you can go over the books with them in a couple of days.”

This was as much as Peter Garrish was willing to concede. Then he added that they might obtain accommodations from the general storekeeper at Maporah.

“Yes, we stopped there last night,” answered Tom. “But now we have already made arrangements to stay at Toby White’s boarding house.”

“Toby White’s!” exclaimed the manager, and it was evident that this information did not please him in the least. “Toby had no business to take you in. That boarding house is run exclusively for mine employees.”

“Well, he had room, and he took us in. I don’t see what harm there is in it when the rooms are vacant.”

“That place is on mining property, and Toby understood the boarding house was to be exclusively for our employees. Of course, if you, as a stockholder, want to stay there, I’ll raise no objections. But I don’t see what we’re going to do with these boys around.”

“We don’t expect to stay around very much,”[205] put in Randy quickly. “We’re going out on Sunset Trail to see if we can stir up any fishing and hunting.”

Another argument started over the question of the boarding house, but here Tom Rover was firm and stated that they would stay as long as the colored man would permit them. Then some one came to tell the manager that they were getting ready to set off the charge as ordered, and he said he would have to leave and see that everything was all right. But before going down into the mine he hurried off to the office, where he closed the door sharply behind him.

“Uncle Tom, those bookkeepers were not busy at all!” whispered Jack. “When we looked in at the window they were both looking over a newspaper and talking about baseball scores.”

“Never mind,” answered his uncle, with a peculiar look in his eyes. “I think I know how to handle this Peter Garrish. He puts on the front of a bulldog, and just at present I’m going to let him do it. But before I get through with him I’ll make him squeal like a stuck pig. Don’t you boys give him any information, and especially don’t say a word about those stockholders I stopped off to see in Chicago. You just go back to the boarding house, and then you can go out on Sunset Trail if you want to. I’m going to[206] ride back to Maporah. I want to send off several telegrams. He says he has the backing of the majority of the stockholders. Well, he won’t have when I get through with him.”

“Gee, that’s the way to talk, Dad!” exclaimed Randy, in admiration. “You get the other stockholders to back you up, and you can soon give Mr. Peter Garrish his walking papers.”

All returned to the boarding house. A little later Tom Rover set off on his return to the railroad station. Then the boys, with nothing else to do, looked over their hunting and fishing outfits and, after dinner, went off on horseback to do a little exploring.

They found Sunset Trail a fairly good highway leading westward. It wound in and out among the hills and mountains, and there were numerous high spots where the descending sun might be viewed to advantage.

“I suppose that is where the name comes from,” remarked Fred, as they came to a halt at one of these high spots to view their surroundings. “It must be beautiful here when the sun is setting beyond those distant mountains.”

“I don’t believe there’s very much in the way of hunting around here,” remarked Jack. “So far I haven’t seen a sign of anything outside of a few squirrels.”


“I’d like to get some trout or pickerel,” came from Fred. “Gee, I haven’t been fishing for almost a year!”

“Speaking of fishing puts me in mind of Clearwater Lake,” remarked Randy. “I wonder if Phil Franklin has done anything about looking for that silver trophy we lost overboard.”

“Gee, I certainly wish that was found!” sighed his twin. “They ought to be able to get at it somehow, if they fish long enough.”

The boys rode up a long hill and then went down the somewhat steep decline on the other side. At the foot they found a fair-sized stream of water rushing along through the rocks.

“Here is a pretty good trail,” announced Jack. “And look, isn’t that a lake?”

“That’s what it is!” cried Fred. “Come on! Let’s ride over and see what it looks like. Maybe we’ll have a chance for some fishing to-day,” he added, for they had brought their rods along and also a box of assorted flies.

The trail was rocky in spots, but the horses seemed to be used to this sort of going and made fairly good progress. Presently they came out on the edge of the lake which seemed to be about half a mile long and over two hundred yards wide. There were numerous rocks on the shore interspersed with brushwood and trees.


“There ought to be something in the way of fish in this lake,” remarked Jack. “Let’s try our luck and rest the horses at the same time.”

The lake was located about seven miles directly westward from Gold Hill and in a spot evidently but little visited by the natives. Not a building of any sort was in sight, and when the boys discovered the remains of a campfire they came to the conclusion that the fire must have been built months before.

Tethering the horses so as to make sure the animals would not stray away, the four boys quickly unslung their fishing outfits and got them ready for use.

“I don’t know what we ought to fish with—flies or worms,” said Randy. “What do you think?” and he looked at Jack.

“If we can find any worms we might mix it up,” was the reply, and so it was arranged.

Having baited to their satisfaction, the boys wandered along the bank of the lake, seeking various points that might look advantageous. Jack and Andy found convenient fallen trees while the others walked out on a rocky point that projected far into the water.

“Hurrah, I’ve got something!” cried Randy, after a few minutes of silence, and brought up a lake trout about nine inches long.


“Good for us!” came from Jack. “Not so very large, but it’s the first catch, anyway.”

For some time after that the fish did not seem to bite. But presently Jack brought in a trout weighing at least a pound, and then the others were equally successful. Inside of an hour they had a mess between them weighing five or six pounds.

“Gee, we’re going to have fish for supper all right enough,” declared Fred, with satisfaction. “I don’t see why the miners and other folks around here don’t do more fishing.”

“It doesn’t pay as well as mining, that’s why,” answered Jack. “Just look at it, we’ve been here nearly two hours, and we’ve got about two dollars’ worth of fish. If the four of us were working at the mine we’d have earned at least eight dollars in that time.”

“This wouldn’t be a bad spot for camping,” suggested Andy.

“Suppose we ride around the lake,” suggested his twin. “There seems to be a trail all the way around.”

The others were willing, and soon the fishing tackle was put away and they were once more on horseback.

At the lower end of the lake they found another stream of water running between a mass of dense[210] brushwood. Here the trail was narrow and the horses had to pick their way, for the spring freshets had thrown the loose stones in all directions.

“Maybe we had better turn back,” came from Fred. “The trail seems to be getting worse instead of better.”

“Oh, I reckon it will be all right on the higher ground,” answered Jack. “When the snows melted last spring I suppose the water was pretty fierce down here where the lake empties.”

Andy and Randy had pushed ahead, and now they disappeared around a bend of the trail. A moment later came a yell.

“Hi! Look out, boys! There’s some wild animal here! He’s up a tree!” came from Andy.

Then came a snarl, followed by a snort of fright from the horse Randy was riding. The next instant something came flying through the leaves of the tree, landing on the horse’s flank.



“It’s a wildcat!”

“No, it’s a mountain lion, and it’s going to attack Randy!”

“Shoot the beast!”

“Look out or you’ll shoot Randy!”

“There they go—through the bushes!”

“What shall we do?”

Such were the startled exclamations from the other three boys. The yell from Andy had brought Fred and Jack hurrying forward, and they were just in time to see the wild animal land on the flank of the horse. Then the steed, evidently terror stricken, dashed into the brushwood alongside the trail, carrying Randy with him.

“Was it really a mountain lion?”

“Where did they go?”

“Randy! Randy! Can’t you shoot the beast?” screamed Andy.

The words had scarcely left Andy’s lips when[212] there came a scream from his twin and another wild snort from the horse. Then there was added to the tumult the snarl of the mountain lion and an instant later the beast dropped from the horse and shot through the brushwood directly in front of where Jack and Fred had brought their mounts to a halt.

The boys had brought their guns with them, but not having noticed any game worth shooting at had placed the weapons behind them. Both Jack and Fred made frantic efforts to get their weapons into action, but before they could aim at the mountain lion it had whirled around and disappeared up a rocky trail and then behind a clump of brushwood. An instant later they saw it streaking up the mountainside. Jack took aim and so did Fred, but before either could pull a trigger the beast disappeared.

“Randy! Randy! Are you all right?” called out his twin anxiously, for they could hear the horse Randy was riding thrashing viciously around in the brushwood some distance away.

“Whoa! Whoa!” Randy called out. “Whoa, I tell you! You’re all right now, old boy! Keep quiet! Whoa!” The boy continued to talk to the horse and do his best to subdue the animal. But the nails of the mountain lion had been dug deep into his flank and he evidently felt as if he[213] had been scourged with a whip. He continued to prance here and there and then, of a sudden, streaked off across a clearing that led upward.

“There they go!” shouted Jack. “The horse is running away!”

“Hold tight, Randy!” shouted Fred. “Don’t let him throw you!” For a dash upon those sharp rocks that lay strewn all over the open space might mean death.

Fortunately, Randy had slung his fishing rod beside his gun and had tied his share of the fish in a cloth behind his saddle. Consequently, his hands were free to hold the reins, and this he did grimly as the horse pranced over the field very much like an untamed broncho.

“Whoa! Whoa!” went on Randy, doing his best to subdue his mount. “Whoa, I tell you! That wildcat—or whatever it was—is gone.”

As the horse shot across the field and among some short brushwood, the three boys left behind headed in that direction. Each had his gun ready for use, thinking that possibly the mountain lion or some other wild beast might show itself.

Never had Randy had a rougher experience than the present. Several times he was all but flung from the horse as the animal swung around to avoid hitting one rock or another. Once he dropped the reins and held on to the horse’s mane.[214] Then the animal stumbled and the lad went up in the air and it looked for a moment as if he might go over the horse’s head. But he came back safely, and at last brought the horse down to a walk.

“Whoa there, Charley Boy,” he said as soothingly as a panting breath would permit. “Good boy now! Keep quiet!” And then he managed to bring the horse to a standstill.

When the others came up Randy dismounted and all saw that the horse had received several deep scratches on the flank, and from these the blood was still flowing. Randy and Jack attempted to wipe the blood away, but the horse would not have this and acted as if he meant to “kick them into kingdom come,” as Andy expressed it. So then they let him alone.

“What became of the wildcat?” questioned Randy.

“It wasn’t a wildcat. It was a young mountain lion,” declared Jack. “Fred and I tried to get a shot at it, but it got away up the mountainside before we could get our guns around to taking aim.”

“Didn’t the mountain lion hit you at all, Randy?” questioned his brother anxiously.

“No, he missed me by a couple of inches,” was the reply. “I saw him coming and I dodged.[215] He went right over my shoulder and then struck the horse. Of course Charley Boy wouldn’t stand for that, and he swung around as if hit with a red-hot whip. That threw the mountain lion to the ground, and what happened to the animal after that I don’t know because I had my hands full with the horse.”

“Gee, I’m sorry we didn’t get a crack at that beast!” said Fred regretfully.

“Well, there’s one thing sure,” returned Andy, and something of a grin showed on his face. “We know that there’s one kind of game around here. In fact, two kinds, if you’re going to count the fish.”

After the horse that had been attacked had been thoroughly subdued the boys continued on the trail around the lake. Now, however, they kept their guns handy, hoping they might get a sight of the mountain lion or some other game.

But nothing appeared and, having come to the point from which they had started, they climbed up the road leading to Sunset Trail. By this time the sun was descending behind the mountains to the westward and they thought it time to return to Gold Hill.

When they got back to the boarding house they found that Peter Garrish had been busy during their absence. Evidently the mine manager had[216] called upon the colored man who kept the place, for Toby was no longer as affable as he had been on their first appearance.

“Very sorry to tell you,” he announced. “But I’m expecting some other miners in a day or two, so I’ll have to ask you all to give up your rooms and go elsewhere.”

“Have you told my father this, White?” demanded Randy.

“I ain’t seen your father. He didn’t even come back for his dinner.”

“That’s because he had to go away on an errand,” answered Andy. “He said he’d be back by supper time, and it’s almost that now. You had better not try to do anything until you see him.”

“Well, I’ve got to have the rooms, that’s all there is to it,” answered Toby White, and started to shuffle off.

“I suppose Mr. Garrish put you up to this,” called Jack after him.

“That don’t make no difference—I’ve got to have them rooms,” muttered the colored man, and then went away.

A little later Tom Rover appeared and the boys at once acquainted him with what Toby White had said. They had agreed to say nothing about the encounter with the mountain lion, fearing[217] that Tom might keep them from going out camping as they had hoped to do.

“I expected something of that sort,” answered the twins’ father. “And after I had sent off my telegrams I had a talk with Terwilliger, the keeper of the store. He told me of a man who lives up on Sunset Trail just a short distance from here—a man named Corning. I went and saw this Corning, who used to run the Mary Casey mine. I made an arrangement to stop at Corning’s house provided we were put out here. Corning has his two old-maid sisters with him, and Terwilliger says they are good cooks and good housekeepers, so I imagine we won’t miss anything by making a change.”

“But don’t you want to keep an eye on this place?” questioned Jack.

“Yes, I’m going to keep an eye on it, and in a way Garrish little expects. But I won’t be able to do much openly until I hear from Mr. Renton and two other stockholders named Parkhurst and Leeds. If I can get those three stockholders to act with me we’ll control a majority of the stock, and then we’ll be able to run things here to suit ourselves.”

“Did you hear anything at all from Billings?” asked Fred.

“Not a word. He wasn’t seen around Maporah[218] nor at Allways, the next station. I am satisfied that he is either in hiding or else he’s met with foul play.”

The meal served to the Rovers that evening was a fairly good one, but it was plainly to be seen that Toby White was more than anxious to have them take their departure. Tom said but little to the colored man, fearing that the fellow was entirely under Garrish’s thumb.

“I don’t believe in staying where I’m not wanted,” he told Toby White. “I’ll settle with you right now and we’ll leave as soon as we can pack our things.”

“Sorry, Mr. Rover, very sorry,” said the colored man. “But you know how it is here—this place is leased to me by the mining company and I’ve got to keep my rooms for nothing but miners.”

“Yes, I know. And we’ll go.” And shortly after that the boys and Tom Rover took their departure.

It was not a long journey to Cal Corning’s place, a long, low log cabin containing eight rooms, all on the ground floor. Behind the cabin were half a dozen outbuildings, for Corning was the only man in that vicinity who kept any cattle.

“Well, I’ll say this is an improvement over Toby White’s place,” remarked Jack, when they[219] were settling down in the three rooms assigned to them. Two were of fair size, and these were taken by the boys, while the third, a smaller room, went to Tom Rover.

“I’ve made a deal with Corning,” announced the twins’ father, when the Rovers were alone. “He is going to keep an eye on the office of the Rolling Thunder mine.”

“The office?” asked Jack. “Is he an expert bookkeeper, or something like that?”

“No, no! Nothing of that sort, Jack,” and Tom Rover smiled. “I’m simply going to have him watch, so that Garrish doesn’t take it into his head to have the records of the mining company carted away. I want to get at the bottom of this deal with that concern that is getting a good part of our ore.”

After that several days slipped by without anything unusual happening. Tom and the boys took a look around the outside of the mine, and even glanced in at the office. They saw Peter Garrish, but had no further words with him.

“He can stew until I’m ready to move,” said Tom to the boys. “I’ll wager he’s doing a lot of deep thinking right now.”

On the afternoon of the third day the boys rode over to Maporah to post some letters, the post-office being in Gus Terwilliger’s store.


“Here are some letters for you fellows, and also a letter for Mr. Rover,” said the storekeeper, and he handed the epistles over. “They came in on the noon train.”

“Hurrah! That’s just what we’ve been looking for,” cried Fred.

Then the boys went outside and sat down on the stoop of the store to read the communications.

“Here comes a fellow tearing along on horseback,” announced Jack, looking up. “He seems in a tremendous hurry.”

The rider had come from a trail which crossed the railroad close to the station. Now he sailed past the Terwilliger store at full speed. He wore a miner’s outfit, and the flap of his broad-brimmed hat flew back in the breeze. In less than a quarter of a minute he was out of sight down a side trail.

“My stars!” ejaculated Fred, leaping to his feet. “Did you recognize that man?”

“It was Tate—the oil man from Texas!” answered Randy.



“Are you sure it was Tate?” demanded Andy, who had had his back turned to the rider.

“It certainly was,” answered his twin.

“What in the world can that man be doing here?” demanded Jack.

“Don’t ask me!” returned Randy. “I suppose now they’ve let him out of prison he has as much right to roam around as Davenport has.”

“I remember now that Tate did come from the West,” said Jack. “He was a miner before he became an oil man. Perhaps he’s interesting himself in the mines in this vicinity.”

“He couldn’t have anything to do with the Rolling Thunder mine, could he?” questioned Fred.

“I’m sure I don’t know.”

“Let’s go in and ask Mr. Terwilliger if he knows Tate,” suggested Fred, after a pause.

“Never heard of such an individual,” answered the storekeeper when the question had been put to him. “I don’t believe he belongs around[222] here. Anyway, he doesn’t get any mail at this office.”

The boys talked the matter over for several minutes more. But then they were anxious to get at their letters and returned to the store stoop for that purpose. There were long letters from the girls postmarked at Jacksonville, Florida, where the steam yacht on which they were taking their outing had stopped. One letter to Jack was from Ruth, and this, it can well be imagined, the young major read with much interest. Ruth was enjoying herself greatly and trusted that Jack and his cousins were having a good time.

“Hello, here’s news that’s mighty interesting!” cried Randy. “Here is a letter from Phil Franklin, and he says that he and Barry Logan have made half a dozen efforts to bring up the silver trophy from the bottom of the lake. He says that once they had it hooked up and brought it to the top of the water, but before they could grab it the thing slipped from the trawl and sank out of sight again.”

“Oh, what a shame!” murmured his twin. “To almost have it and then lose it again!”

“It’s just like the big fish that gets away,” returned Fred. “But, anyway,” he added, his face brightening, “they must know the exact spot now.”


“They do,” answered his cousin. “Phil writes that as soon as the vase slipped out of sight he and Barry took a piece of fish line, weighted it well, and let it go down to the bottom. Then they tied a bit of board to the top of the line, and on this hoisted a rag on a stick so they could see the board from a distance. He wrote this letter the day after the thing happened and said they were going out again just as soon as it stopped raining.”

“They’ll get it, I’m sure of it!” declared Jack.

“Well, I’ll feel better when that silver trophy is safe in the glass case in the gymnasium,” answered Randy.

All was going well with the folks who were taking the steam yacht trip, and for this the boys were thankful. They had a letter from Sam Rover, and from this learned that he and Jack’s father were exceedingly busy in Wall Street. There was also a letter from Dick Rover, but this was for Tom. When the latter received this communication he read it with great satisfaction.

“Your dad is right on the job,” he said to Jack. “He had been communicating with two other stockholders in the Rolling Thunder mine and has got them to put their proxies in my hands. That means that I can vote for them[224] at any meeting of the stockholders that may be called. Those two men represent a hundred and ten thousand dollars’ worth of stock. And that means that I can get along without Leeds if I have to. All I shall want now is the backing of Mr. Renton and Mr. Parkhurst and then I’ll be ready to put the screws on Garrish.”

The boys told Tom Rover of having seen Tate, and this interested the twins’ father at once.

“You want to keep your eyes open for that rascal,” said Tom. “He used to be in cahoots with Davenport, and he may be yet.”

“We’ll watch out for him, never fear,” answered Jack.

All of the boys were anxious to go farther westward on Sunset Trail and it was finally arranged for them to take an outing to last several days. They went on horseback, carrying such things as they needed with them.

“It’s a pretty wild country, don’t forget that,” said Tom Rover. “But you have been out before and have always been able to take care of yourselves, so I don’t suppose that I should worry. Just the same, remember that I shall be thinking of you,” and he smiled faintly.

“And we’ll be thinking about you, Dad,” said Andy. “I hope by the time we get back you’ll be in a position to tell Garrish where he gets off.”


“I hope so myself, Son.”

“I’ll bet you have a hot time with him when you tell him to clear out,” put in Randy.

“It’s awfully queer you don’t get some sort of word from that Lew Billings,” declared Jack.

“You couldn’t get word very well if he’s dead,” was Fred’s comment.

“Hank Butts gave me an idea yesterday,” said Tom Rover. “He’s got a hunch that Billings was made a prisoner by the Garrish crowd first and that he got away and is now in hiding, probably watching what is being done by that outside company that is taking some of our ore. Of course, Butts may be mistaken, but he’s a rather shrewd old fellow and may have struck the truth.”

As the weather was clear and warm the boys did not deem it necessary to take much in the way of shelter. They carried their sleeping bags and also a dog tent and blankets, and that was all. They took with them a few cooking utensils and a few necessary provisions.

“We know we can get fish and we ought to be able to get some small game,” said Jack. “Anyway, it won’t hurt us to rough it. If we have to starve a bit, why, that may be good for our digestions,” and he smiled faintly.

“We shan’t starve as long as we have got our beans and bacon,” answered Fred. “We’ll get[226] along. We’ve done it before, and we can do it again.”

From Cal Corning they obtained directions regarding the best points to visit along Sunset Trail.

“That lake you fished in was Dogberry Lake,” said their host. “About ten miles farther on is Gansen Lake. I know you’ll like it up there. The fishing is good, and you ought to be able to stir up something in the way of game.”

Once on the road, the boys felt in high spirits and for the time being the trouble at the Rolling Thunder mine was forgotten. Swinging his cap high in the air, Andy led the way with Fred close behind him and Jack and Randy following.

“I’ll tell you what—this is the life!” sang out Andy gayly. “I feel as if I could keep riding right along to the Pacific Ocean.”

“Sounds good,” answered Fred. “But I think your horse will have something to say about that. You’d better take it a bit slow climbing these hills.”

The two Corning sisters had put up a lunch for the boys, and this was partaken of shortly after noon, when they reached a high spot on the trail. Here was a precipice, and standing on its brink they could look down into a stony valley six or seven hundred feet deep.


“Gee, this is a jumping-off place, I’ll say!” remarked Andy.

“It would be a bad spot for a runaway,” returned Jack.

Back of the precipice was some brushwood, as well as a number of tall trees, and here the boys proceeded to make themselves at home. They had sandwiches, cake, and some fruit, and that being so did not deem it necessary to start a fire for the purpose of making anything hot to drink. They had passed a spring in coming up to the precipice, and obtained a bucket of cool, clear water.

“This region is certainly a lonely one,” said Jack while they were eating. “Just think—we’ve been traveling for better than three hours and haven’t met a soul!”

“It would be a great place for a stage hold-up,” returned Randy. “The bandits could get away with almost anything out here.”

“We don’t want any hold-up,” put in Fred. “All we want to do is to enjoy ourselves,” and he leaned back contentedly against a tree while munching a chicken sandwich.

A little later found the boys again on the way, and by three o’clock in the afternoon they came in sight of Gansen Lake. The lake was supplied from a mountain torrent and the torrent contained[228] a waterfall ten or twelve feet in height and half that in width.

“Here is certainly an ideal place for camping out!” exclaimed Jack. “To my mind, it could not be better.”

“It’s all to the mustard!” sang out Andy. “Let’s unload right here and call it a day.”

“That lake looks mighty inviting to me,” declared Fred. “I’ll say a swim wouldn’t go bad.”

“Now you’ve said something!” burst out Randy. “Let’s get settled as soon as we can and then go swimming.”

The idea of getting into the lake after the long and somewhat warm ride appealed to all the lads, and in less than quarter of an hour they had their horses unloaded and properly tethered and then hurried down to a point along the lake shore where the water looked particularly inviting.

“I don’t suppose there can be anything dangerous in this lake,” said Jack.

“Nothing more dangerous than a few sharks and whales,” answered Andy, with a grin. “What did you expect to find here—leviathans?”

“There might be some water snakes,” put in Fred. “However, I’m not going to worry about that. I’m going to have a swim,” and without further words he proceeded to disrobe and the others did likewise.


At first the mountain water seemed exceedingly cold. But soon the boys got used to it, and then they proceeded to have as much fun as possible. They dived and raced, and Andy and his brother indulged in all manner of horseplay. Near the shore they found the lake quite shallow, but farther out they were unable to touch bottom.

“These lakes are very deceiving,” said Jack. “Sometimes they lie right in between steep mountains and the bottom is hundreds of feet down.”

“We ought to be careful about diving too deep,” cautioned Randy. “There might be some outlet to this lake at the bottom. And if so, a fellow might be sucked down and be unable to come up again.”

“Let’s get up another race,” suggested Andy, after they had gotten through splashing water in each other’s faces.

“See that rock over yonder?” returned Fred. “Let’s race to that and back. Come on! Everybody ready?”

“All ready!”

“Then go!”

Away the boys started side by side, laughing and shouting merrily. Soon Randy pulled slightly to the front, with Jack close behind him.

“Hi, you fellows, wait for me!” spluttered Fred, who was last.


“The fellow who wins can cook supper for us!” sang out Jack.

“Nothing doing!” yelled back Randy. “The loser can cook supper and wash the dishes too.”

He came in ahead, the others following closely in a bunch. Then, somewhat out of breath, the four boys crawled out on some flat rocks to rest before swimming back to where they had left their clothing.

“My gracious!” suddenly exclaimed Andy, and leaped to his feet in astonishment. “Look there, will you?”

He pointed across the water to a spot midway between where they had left their clothing and their camping outfit.

“Wolves!” breathed Jack. “Three of them! What do you know about that!”



“Now we are in a pickle!”

“I’ll say so! Why, we haven’t even got our clothing, much less our guns!”

“What are we going to do about it?”

“Don’t ask me! I was never good at answering riddles!”

Thus speaking, the four Rover boys gazed in wonder and astonishment at the sight before them. Sneaking along cautiously were three large gray timber wolves, gaunt and fierce in appearance. They had evidently been attracted to the spot by the scent of the boys and the horses and also, possibly, by the bacon in the supplies.

“There comes another one,” said Fred.

“Yes, and two more are crouched up on the rocks a short distance behind,” came from Jack.

“Six wolves! Maybe there’s a regular pack of them.”

“Shouldn’t wonder. They often travel in packs.”


“And they look hungry enough to eat us up,” came from Fred, and the tone of his voice showed that he felt anything but comfortable.

For the matter of that, all of the boys felt uneasy. Not only were they without their clothing but their four guns lay within a hundred feet of where the three leading wolves were standing.

The horses had also discovered the wolves and were now snorting wildly and trying to break from their tethers. Charley Boy, Randy’s mount, was particularly nervous, probably from his experience with the mountain lion.

The wolves had been sniffing first in the direction of the boys’ clothing and then in the direction of the supplies and the horses. Now they looked across the small arm of the lake at the boys themselves and uttered a series of snarls, baring their teeth as they did so.

“Oh, if I only had a rifle or a heavy shotgun!” murmured the young major.

“Can’t we heave some rocks at them?” suggested Fred.

“I don’t think it would do any good,” answered Randy. “We’re too far off. We were foolish to rove around in a wild place like this without our guns.”

Although the wolves snarled viciously, they did not as yet make any attempt to approach the four[233] boys. Instead, while two sniffed at the clothing on the rocks, turning it over with their noses and paws, the others loped over to the supplies.

This was more than the horses could stand, and, plunging wildly, one after another broke his tether and shot off out of sight along the mountainside.

“Good-by to the horses!” cried Fred. “Now we sure are in a pickle even if we can manage to get rid of those wolves.”

“They’re coming this way!” yelled Randy.

“Pick up as many loose stones as you can carry,” ordered Jack. “Then wade out into the lake. I guess it’s about the only thing we can do.”

Three of the wolves were advancing around the arm of the lake in the direction of the boys. Evidently they were exceedingly hungry, for otherwise they would have run away at the sight of human beings.

Small stones were handy, and it did not take the four boys long to pick up half a dozen each. Then they waded out in the lake until they were in water up to their waists. By this time the three wolves had reached the flat rock on which the youths had been resting. They snarled repeatedly, showing their fangs, and their eyes gleamed in a manner that indicated they would[234] like nothing better than to get hold of the lads and make a meal of them.

“Let ’em have a dose of rocks!” cried Jack. “Be careful how you throw! Don’t waste your ammunition!”


He let fly, and so did the others, and all the wolves were hit in the head or in the side. They set up a fearful howl of commingled pain and rage and then made a move as if to leap into the lake after the lads.

While this was going on the other wolves had approached the duffel bags of the boys and were tearing the outfit apart in an endeavor to get at the bacon and dried beef the lads carried.


It was the report of a rifle and the shot startled the boys quite as much as it did the wolves. Then came a second crack, and, looking across the arm of the lake, the boys saw one of the big gray wolves leap into the air and fall back lifeless. Then came a third shot and a second wolf sprang into the air and then came down and with a wild snarl went limping away into the forest.

“Hurrah, somebody has come to our assistance!” cried Jack. “Give it to ’em! Give it to ’em good and plenty!” he yelled at the top of his lungs.

“Plug every one of ’em!” came from Andy.


“Shoot ’em down!” added his twin.

“Don’t let any of them get away!” was the way Fred expressed himself.

At the first crack of the rifle the three wolves that had come after the boys raised their heads to listen. Then, as they saw one wolf killed and another wounded, they waited no longer, but, turning, leaped swiftly over the rocks and then up the mountainside, their movements being hastened by a bullet that hit the rocks between them as they fled. In the meanwhile the remaining wolves had also taken their departure.

Satisfied that the coast was now clear, the boys swam across the arm of the lake. As they did this they saw a somewhat elderly man approaching on horseback, his rifle in his hands. He was a tall man with a short-cut black beard and he wore a miner’s outfit.

“Reckon I come just about in time,” he sang out as he watched the approach of the boys. “Didn’t think any timber wolves would attack you like that.” And then he replaced the empty cartridges in the magazine rifle with fresh ones and waited for the lads to come up.

“It was fine of you to arrive as you did,” sang out Jack, who was the first out of the water. “We were caught good and plenty with our guns over in our outfits yonder.”


“Where do you belong? I don’t think I ever saw you before,” said the miner, as he dismounted. Then he added quickly: “You ain’t them Rover boys, are you?”

“Yes, we are,” answered Jack.

“Well, now, ain’t that great!” and the miner began to grin broadly. “Bet you a dollar you don’t know who I am.”

“We know you’re our friend,” came quickly from Fred.

“I’m Lew Billings,” answered the miner. “I guess Mr. Tom Rover has talked about me.”

“Lew Billings!” gasped all of the boys in concert.

“That’s it! And I’m downright glad I got here just in time to take care of them timber wolves for you. That one yonder is as dead as a doornail, and I don’t think them others will bother you again for a while. You see, timber wolves has been multiplying most amazing in Canada, and they’ve got so thick they’re slipping all over us down here. There’s a bounty on killing ’em, but what it is I don’t just know.”

“But where have you been, Mr. Billings?” questioned Randy. “My dad has been looking all over for you.”

“I know it, lad. But I had to lay low. I[237] had a good reason for doing it, too. Your father will know all about it as soon as I reach him. I understand he’s stopping with Cal Corning.”

“He is,” put in Andy. And then he went on: “From what Hank Butts said, my dad thought you might have been made a prisoner by Mr. Garrish.”

“So I was. And Garrish wanted me to sign some reports that was all false. I wouldn’t do it, and I got away from him and since that time I’ve been spying on him and on them fellers who’re running the Bigwater crusher. I’ve got a lot to tell Mr. Rover when I see him. And I’ve got an account to settle with Peter Garrish, too,” went on the old miner.

The boys dressed, and while so doing Lew Billings gave them a few particulars of what had happened to him. But he was in a hurry to go on and left them as soon as he felt satisfied that they were now able to take care of themselves.

“As you’ve all been to a military academy you ought to know how to shoot,” he declared. “And as you’ve got your guns and also a couple of pistols with you, it ain’t likely that you’ll have any more trouble—especially if you keep your firearms handy. You don’t want to prowl around[238] in these mountains without some kind of a gun.”

“Believe me, you won’t catch us without our guns again,” answered Fred.

“Even when I sleep I’m going to have a pistol under my pillow,” added Randy.

They thanked Lew Billings heartily for what he had done and then watched the old miner as he rode away on Sunset Trail in the direction of Gold Hill Falls.

“If you ask me, I’ll say he was a friend in need if ever there was one,” declared the young major. “I don’t know what we’d have done if he hadn’t come along.”

“It ought to be a lesson to us to be on our guard,” answered Fred.

“Now I am armed, oh, how I’d love to get a shot at those wolves!” remarked Andy.

“What about the horses?” questioned Randy. “We’ve got to find those animals. I think the quicker we get after them the better. If they’re allowed to stay away all night there’s no telling if we’ll ever be able to round ’em up.”

But rounding up the four horses proved easier than expected. None of them had gone away any great distance. Two of them were found on Sunset Trail just above the lake and the others in the bushes on the mountainside. They were[239] rather difficult to handle for a few minutes, but presently calmed down when spoken to soothingly.

The boys did not know exactly what to do with the lean gray wolf that had been laid low by Billings’s bullet. At first they thought to skin the animal and save the pelt. But the hair was poor at this time of year, and none of the boys relished the labor, so they simply dragged the carcass down the lake shore for a distance, and then threw it in an opening between the rocks.

By nightfall the boys had erected their little shelter and had a campfire going, and all did their share in preparing the evening meal and in cleaning the dishes afterward.

“Wonder what will happen to-night,” said Randy, as they turned in, thoroughly tired out over the happenings of the day. “Maybe we’ll see more wolves, or a mountain lion or a bear.”

None of them cared to admit it, yet each was a trifle nervous, thinking that possibly the timber wolves might return. But nothing came to disturb them, and, having made sure that their campfire would not set fire to the forest around them, one after another fell asleep and slumbered soundly until after sunrise.

The next day proved to be one of unalloyed[240] pleasure for all the boys. In the morning they went fishing and managed to get a good-sized catch. In the afternoon they tramped through the forest and there managed to bag several squirrels and also a somewhat larger animal which none of them could name.

“I thought we’d strike a bear, or something like that,” said Andy.

“I guess you want too much,” answered Fred, with a laugh.

The boys returned to camp while it was still light. All were hungry and immediately set to work to clean some of the fish for supper. They were hard at work at this when they saw a man on horseback riding rapidly toward them.

“That man acts as if he wanted to see us in a hurry,” said Jack, as he straightened up and watched the fellow’s approach.

The man was a stranger to them and eyed them inquiringly as he came closer.

“Are you the Rovers?” he demanded.

“We are,” answered Jack. “What of it?”

“I’ve got bad news for you,” was the man’s answer. “Mr. Tom Rover has been seriously hurt, and the other fellows think you had better come to see him just as soon as possible.”



“My dad hurt!”

The cry came simultaneously from Andy and Randy.

“What happened to him?” questioned Fred and Jack.

“His horse stumbled on the down trail and threw Mr. Rover over his head,” answered the man. “I don’t know but he may have his skull cracked. Some miners picked him up and took him to Longnose’s shack.”

“You mean the Indian called Longnose?” queried Randy, for the boys had heard of such an individual living along Sunset Trail. He was an old man and quite a notorious character, and the lads had thought that some time they might visit him.

“That’s the fellow. They put Mr. Rover to bed and sent one of the men off for a doctor. He was unconscious for a while, but then he began to call out for his sons and for Jack[242] and Fred. One of the men knew about you being in this vicinity and said you were stopping with Cal Corning. So then I rode over to Corning’s place. He wasn’t home, but the women folks there told me that you were on a camping trip and that I could find you either at Dogberry Lake or Gansen Lake. I rode over to Dogberry first, and then I came here. My name is Nick Ocker. I’m from Allways.”

“Will you take us over to my dad?” questioned Andy.

“Sure, I will. I told the other fellows that I’d come back with you. They thought if they couldn’t get the doctor they might get some sort of a wagon and move Mr. Rover over to Allways. He’s west of here, and it would be easier traveling that way than this. The road is better going. Besides that, we’ve got two doctors over there, and one of them, Doc Hendershot, runs a kind of hospital.”

The sad news that the twins’ father had been seriously hurt worried the boys greatly. The twins were the most affected and so worked up they could scarcely prepare themselves for the trip.

“Oh, Jack! suppose he dies?” burst out Andy frantically.

“Oh, it may not be so bad, Andy,” said the[243] young major soothingly. “First reports are often ten times worse than they ought to be.”

“But if he’s got a fractured skull——” put in Randy, and then choked up so he could not go on.

The boys could think of but one thing, and that was to get to Tom Rover’s side as quickly as possible. Kicking the campfire into the lake so that the blaze might do no damage during their absence, they ran for their horses and were soon mounted. In their hurry to get away they forgot almost everything else, although just before leaping into the saddle Fred grabbed up one of the pistols and Jack the other.

The horse on which Nick Ocker was mounted showed signs of having been ridden a considerable distance. Yet he got over Sunset Trail at a fairly good rate of speed, although to the boys, anxious to get to Tom Rover’s side, it seemed almost a snail’s pace.

“If we were only sure where this Longnose’s cabin was located we could go ahead,” said Randy.

“That’s right,” breathed his brother, clattering along beside his twin over the rocky trail. “Gee, if only we had an auto and could use it!”

“If dad is seriously hurt what are we going to do?”

“I don’t know. I suppose it will depend on circumstances. It’s too bad there isn’t some city[244] near by where we could get a first-class doctor and maybe put dad in a real hospital. That’s most likely what he’ll need.”

Up one foothill and down another passed the Rover boys and their guide. Then Sunset Trail made a sharp turn and they found themselves climbing the mountainside. Here the going was exceedingly rough, and they had to ride with care. Then they reached the top of the rise and went downward, still hugging the mountainside.

“I reckon it was somewhere along here that the other fellows picked Mr. Rover up,” observed Nick Ocker as they clattered along, occasionally sending a loose stone down into the rocky valley below them. “It’s a mighty bad place to get a tumble, if you want to know it.”

“Did he break any bones, do you know?” questioned Fred.

“It seemed to me one of his wrists acted that way,” answered Ocker. “It was very limp and swollen. But, of course, Mr. Rover was hurt too badly around the head to tell anything about it. He’s got a bad bruise on his left shoulder too. I don’t like to alarm you boys, but I think he’ll be mighty lucky if he pulls out of it.”

“How far have we to go now?” questioned Randy. He had asked the same question several times before.


“Not more than half a mile,” was the reply of the guide.

Nick Ocker was not a prepossessing individual when it came to looks. He was tall, gaunt, and had several scars on the side of his face and on his neck. He had bulging black eyes that seemed at times to almost pop out of his head, and a crop of black hair that was almost as stiff as a brush. He was rather poorly dressed, showing that he was most likely down on his luck.

But just now the boys paid little attention to their guide except to follow him on the trail. Their thoughts were centered upon their relative who had been hurt. In what condition would they find him? Was he still alive?

Presently they reached a split in the roadway. Sunset Trail continued westward and a smaller trail headed along the mountainside to the north.

“There is Longnose’s cabin!” exclaimed Nick Ocker, pointing ahead. “And there is one of the fellows waving to us to come on.”

The place he pointed out was an old and dilapidated log cabin built, evidently, by some prospector years ago. It stood in the shadow of a clump of fir trees and on one side was an immense rock resting precariously close to the edge of a sharp cliff.


“Are those the Rover boys?” sang out the man in front of the cabin, as the party came up.

“Yes,” answered Nick Ocker. “How is Mr. Rover?”

“Not so well,” was the reply. “He’s been asking for his two sons and the others right along. But listen,” went on the man. “You chaps want to go in there cautiously. The doctor was here and said Mr. Rover was not to be excited.”

Hastily dismounting, the four boys entered the log cabin, and as they did so the two men outside led the horses away. Then several other men appeared, each with his soft hat pulled far down over his forehead.

“Make it short and snappy,” said one of the men to all of the others. “Don’t take any chances. If you give ’em any rope they’ll fight like wildcats.”

“I’m all ready,” answered one of the other men. He was carrying a number of ropes.

One after another the boys entered the log cabin. It was rather dark inside, and for several seconds they could see little or nothing. Then they saw a bunk on the far side of the room and on it rested a form partly covered with a blanket. The head of the form was swathed in bandages. With their hearts in their throats Andy and Randy approached what they thought was the[247] form of their father, and Fred and Jack followed. Then, as they were bending over the form in the bunk, they heard hasty footsteps behind them. The next instant each of them found his arms pinned behind him.

“Take it easy now! Take it easy or you’ll be sorry for it!” cried one of the men in a hard voice.

“If you try to fight you’ll get the worst licking you ever had in all your life,” added another of the men.

“Wha-what does this mean?” stammered Randy. The sudden turn of affairs completely bewildered him.

“Dad! Dad!” came from Andy, who in a flash thought his father might be the victim of foul play at the hands of the men who were now attacking them.

“Keep quiet there—keep quiet!” ordered one of the men who was holding Jack.

But the young major had no intention of submitting calmly to the unexpected attack that had been made on him and his cousins. Like a lightning flash it came to him that they were the victims of a trap, and his astonishment was increased when he saw that the man who was holding him was Carson Davenport!

“I told you I’d get you some day, you rat!”[248] cried Davenport between his set teeth. “I’ve waited a long time, but now I’ve got you!” and still holding Jack he did his best to bind the young major’s hands behind him.

In the meanwhile the other boys were struggling with might and main to get away from the rascals who were holding them. Half a dozen blows were struck, and poor Fred was dragged outside by two of the men and tightly bound, hands and feet. Andy presently followed, and then the whole gang of men set upon Randy and Jack. They continued to fight until each received a blow on the head that all but stunned him. Then they, too, were roped up.

In the mêlée in the cabin Randy and his assailant had lunged against the bunk where the figure supposed to be that of Tom Rover rested. In the mix-up the figure fell out on the floor and proved to be nothing but a crudely made dummy.

When the boys recovered somewhat from the effects of the unexpected attack they were surprised to find themselves confronted, not only by Carson Davenport, but also by Tate and Jackson, Davenport’s cronies in the oil fields. The other two men were a fellow named Digby and the guide who had brought them to the ill-fated spot.

“Well, that trick worked to perfection,” said Davenport, as he eyed the four prisoners with[249] satisfaction. “Now then, Ocker, tell us just how you worked it.”

Thereupon Ocker related how he had gone directly to Gansen Lake and told his faked story of Tom Rover’s mishap. He had not been near Cal Corning’s home, for the reason that the crowd had already information regarding the movements of the younger Rovers.

“I think the best thing you can do, Ocker, is to go back to that camp and bring all of the duffel up here. Take Digby with you. Make it look as if the boys had been there and then moved on to some other place. That will set Tom Rover to guessing and give us a chance to make a clean get-away.”

“Now you’ve captured us, what do you intend to do with us?” questioned Jack. The blood was flowing down one of his cheeks, but he had no means of wiping it away.

“You’ll find out a little later,” answered Davenport.

“You kids are responsible for our dropping a lot of money down in the oil fields,” came from Jackson, with a sour look at the Rovers. “We calculate to get some of that money back.”

“Nothing happened to you but what you deserved,” retorted Fred.

“That’s your way of looking at it. We think[250] differently,” growled Tate, and then he added: “We might as well be on the way. Longnose will be back here to-night most likely, and we’ll want to clean up before he comes.”

Bound as they were, the boys were helpless. One after another they were lashed fast to their horses and then the men brought forth their own steeds. The log cabin was put in order, the door closed, and the whole party rode off, Jackson in advance and Davenport bringing up the rear. Between them rode the four boys and Tate. All of the men carried guns, and Davenport had the pistol taken from Jack while Tate carried the one Fred had brought along.

“Well, I’m mighty glad of one thing,” said Randy to his twin, as they rode along a narrow trail leading into the mountains. “I’m glad that figure in the bunk was a dummy and not dad.”

“That’s right,” answered his brother quickly. “Gee! when I think of that story being a fake I’m almost satisfied to be a prisoner.”

“I wonder if we can’t ride away from them,” whispered the other.

“What! with all of them carrying guns? I’m afraid not. They could easily shoot our horses, even if they didn’t want to shoot us.”

The boys, bruised and bleeding from the atrocious attack made upon them, thought the ride[251] along the mountainside would never come to an end. The horses had to proceed with care, for the rocky trail was full of perils, and before the ride came to an end Fred was so dizzy and weak he could hardly see. Randy’s back hurt him, and he would have given almost anything just to lie down.

Presently they reached a place where the underbrush among the trees was heavy. Here the whole party came to a halt and the men dismounted. One after another the boys were unlashed and the ropes binding their feet were released. Then, somewhat to their surprise, they were led into a long, low cave shaped somewhat like a dumb-bell with a narrow opening in the center. At this opening some rough timbers had been placed, held securely by several chains. At one side one of the timbers could be pushed away, forming something of a door.

“Now then, in you go!” cried Davenport, and one after another the lads were thrust into the back section of the cavern. Then the log door was pushed again into position and chained, and the four Rover boys found themselves prisoners in the cave.



On the morning following the capture of the four Rover boys, Miss Jennie Corning, on getting up to prepare breakfast for her brother and Tom Rover, was much surprised to find a letter that had been thrust under the front door of the house.

“Well, I declare, it’s a letter for Mr. Rover!” she exclaimed to herself. “I wonder why they didn’t knock? Perhaps they thought we were all asleep and didn’t want to wake us up.”

She heard Tom stirring in his room, and, going to it, knocked on the door.

“A letter for you,” she said as he peered out through a crack. “I found it shoved under the front door.”

On the day previous Tom Rover had received telegrams from both Mr. Renton and Mr. Parkhurst stating that they were with him in his actions against Peter Garrish and that they would come to Gold Hill as soon as possible.


“Maybe Garrish has got wind of what I’m up to and wants to head me off,” thought Tom as he sat down on a chair by the window and opened the communication.

He read the letter hastily and then uttered a low whistle as he read it a second time. The communication ran as follows:

“You and your family have done a whole lot toward placing us in a hole. Now we intend to get square. We have your twin sons and the other two boys prisoners a long distance from here. They are in a spot where you will never be able to find them. If you ever expect to see your twins alive again be prepared to pay us fifty thousand dollars in cash. This is a first notice so that you can get the money together and have it ready. You will soon receive another notice as to how the money is to be paid. Do not try to put the authorities on our track or you will regret it as long as you live.


It would be hard to analyze poor Tom’s feeling when he had ascertained the contents of the letter. The news that the boys were prisoners of their enemies upset him fully as much as the boys had been upset when they had been told the twins’ father was injured.

“Dick was right, after all!” he groaned. “I thought he was overcautious when he had the[254] women folks and the girls taken away. But he was right. Davenport must have been up around Colby Hall and Clearwater Hall for the express purpose of getting his hands on the boys, and the girls too. It was a deep-laid plot, no doubt of it. And that being so, they have probably done everything they could to cover up their tracks.”

What to do Tom hardly knew. He dressed with all possible haste and then went to talk the matter over with Cal Corning, who had not been away from home, as Nick Ocker had told the boys.

“It’s a villainous piece of business,” was Corning’s comment. “Why, those rascals have kidnaped the lads! They ought every one of them to be shot down!”

“I agree with you,” answered Tom. “But first we’ve got to find them. You told them to go to a place called Gansen Lake, didn’t you?”

“Yes. It’s one of the finest spots in this vicinity for camping out.”

“Then I think I’d better ride over there and try to find out what happened,” went on the twins’ father. “I’d like you to come along.”

“I sure will, Mr. Rover. And we’ll take guns along too—we may need ’em,” went on Cal Corning, an angry look in his eyes. “I hope[255] we can round those rascals up. Things have been pretty peaceable like in this county, and we want ’em to continue that way. We don’t harbor no bandits nor kidnapers either.”

Tom waited until Cal Corning had swallowed a hasty breakfast. For himself, he managed to drink a cup of coffee at the earnest solicitation of Miss Jennie and Miss Lucy, both of whom were highly excited over what was taking place. Then the two men rode off toward Lake Gansen.

It was an easy matter for Corning to locate the spot where the four boys had camped. On the edge of the lake they found the remains of the campfire, and, searching the vicinity, came upon a handkerchief bearing Fred’s initials. But everything was gone, for Ocker and Digby had taken the things away the evening before.

Cal Corning was a thorough backwoodsman and after a careful search declared that all of the horses had passed up to Sunset Trail. They followed the hoofmarks for a short distance, but soon lost them where the trail became rocky.

It was long after dark before Tom Rover returned to the Corning homestead. Cal had preceded him, but Tom had been loath to give up the hunt for the missing ones. He had found absolutely no trace of the boys, and he was increasingly dispirited. For the time being all[256] thoughts concerning Peter Garrish and his doings were forgotten.

“I’ve got to do something,” muttered Tom to himself. “I’ve simply got to do something!” But what to do he did not know. He started another hunt the next day, and then, being equally unsuccessful in getting a trace of the four boys, rode over to Maporah and sent a long telegram to his two brothers.

The telegram was delivered to Dick Rover at the home on Riverside Drive in New York just at a time when Dick and Sam were so excited they could scarcely contain themselves.

And their excitement was justified, for while the two men had been eating dinner in Dick’s home, a messenger had appeared at the front door with two communications, one addressed to Dick and the other to his younger brother. Each of the two letters was similar to that sent to Tom Rover. In the one addressed to Dick the three rascals, Davenport, Jackson and Tate, demanded fifty thousand dollars for the safe return of Jack, while in the communication addressed to Sam the same amount of money was demanded for the safe return of Fred. Completely bewildered by these letters the two men had been discussing the situation when the telegram from Tom was brought in.


“Poor Tom is in the same boat!” exclaimed Sam. “Those scoundrels want fifty thousand dollars from him or they won’t return the twins.”

“That means that Tate, Jackson and Davenport want a hundred and fifty thousand dollars from us for the safe return of the four boys,” came from Dick. “It’s a pretty stiff demand, I take it.”

“Are you going to pay it, Dick?”

“Not if I can possibly help it. Fifty thousand dollars isn’t a flea bite. At the same time, I don’t want them to hurt Jack or the other boys. I know Davenport and his crowd pretty well. They are about as hard-boiled as they come. I suppose the gang are as mad as hornets at me and the kids for the way we turned the tables on them down in the oil fields.”

“Well, I don’t believe in giving them a cent, either,” said Sam. “Just the same, it makes me shiver to think of what they might do to Fred if I don’t pony up.”

“We’ve got to do something, that’s sure.” Dick Rover began to pace up and down the floor. “I expect Tom is just as much worried as we are. It was an outrage to let Davenport and those other fellows out of prison, and this proves it. I’ll tell you what, Sam. I’d give a good part of that fifty thousand dollars right now to get my[258] hands on Davenport,” and Dick’s eyes sparked angrily.

From the servant girl they learned that the message had been delivered by a boy. Who the fellow was she did not know, nor could she give a very good description of his appearance.

“I suppose he was a kid just hired for the occasion,” said Dick. “Most likely he knew nothing about the fellow who gave him the letters.” And in this surmise Jack’s father was correct.

The two talked the matter over for half an hour and then Dick telephoned to a telegraph station and sent a telegram to Tom stating he was starting for Maporah immediately and that Sam would probably follow in a day or two.

“Somebody will have to go down to the office in the morning,” said Dick. “I’ll take the midnight train for Chicago. You can follow just as soon as you can fix things up in Wall Street,” and so it was arranged.

Although he did not know it, Dick Rover’s departure for the Grand Central Terminal was noted by a young man who was watching the three Rover houses from the other side of Riverside Drive. This person was none other than the fellow who had introduced himself to the Rover boys as Joe Brooks. And it was Brooks, acting on information sent to him by telegraph[259] by Davenport, who had made the demands in the letters received by Dick and Sam.

“Going West, eh?” muttered Brooks to himself, after he saw Dick on his way on the midnight limited. “I’ll have to let Davenport know about this,” and he immediately forwarded a cipher dispatch. Then he returned to the vicinity of the Rover homes to learn if possible what Sam Rover intended to do.

He remained around the vicinity for more than an hour, then returned to his hotel to snatch a few hours’ sleep. But he was up by seven o’clock and once more on the watch, and he followed Sam down into Wall Street and at noon saw Sam also depart for Maporah. Then he sent an additional dispatch to Davenport.

“I think I might as well go out West myself now,” he told himself after the dispatch had been forwarded. “There is no use of letting Davenport and that crowd get their fists on one hundred and fifty thousand dollars when I’m not around. If I’m not on hand they may forget all the work I’ve done on the case. I’m entitled to my full share of whatever comes in, and I intend to have it.” A few hours later he too departed for the West, getting a ticket for Allways. He traveled as he was as far as Chicago. But there, before changing to the other train,[260] he donned the costume of a Westerner and put on a wig of sandy gray hair which made him look considerably older than he was.

Although he had not said a word to anybody about it, Dick Rover carried with him on his Western trip the equivalent of seventy-five thousand dollars, part in cash and part in Liberty Bonds. When Sam left the city at noon the day following he carried a like amount of cash and securities, the two sums making the total of the amount demanded by the rascals who were holding the four boys for ransom.

“If the worst comes to the worst, we’ll have to pony up and let it go at that,” was the way Dick had expressed himself before leaving. “Just the same, I hope we won’t have to give up a cent, and that we can catch those rascals red-handed.”

Dick hoped greatly that Tom would have good news for him on his arrival. But he was doomed to disappointment. Tom rode over to the Maporah station to meet his brother, and one look at his face told Dick that so far the hunt for the missing boys had proved fruitless.

“I’m keeping the thing as quiet as possible,” said Tom, whose eyes showed that he had slept but little the past few nights. “But I’ve got Cal Corning, Hank Butts, Lew Billings, and half a dozen other men hunting high and low for the[261] boys. So far though they haven’t turned up the slightest clew, and I haven’t been able to get a clew myself, although I’ve been riding up and down one trail and another and making inquiries of every one I met. Not a soul seems to have seen them since they were at Lake Gansen.”

“Have you received any more letters?” asked Dick.

“No. But I’m expecting one every day. Those fellows are probably as anxious as we are. They’ll want to get their money and most likely get out of the country—maybe going down into Mexico where we can’t get at them.”

“I don’t like it, Tom, that you haven’t got more word,” and now Dick’s face showed deeper anxiety than ever. “Those fellows may have got cold feet on the whole proposition and done away with the boys.”

“That may be so, Dick,” and Tom’s voice took on a tone of hopelessness. “I wouldn’t put it past Davenport and that gang to do anything. I only pray to Heaven that the boys may still be alive.”



Meanwhile, what of the four Rover boys and their captors?

Bruised and bleeding, the lads had been thrown into the rear part of the stony cavern, as already mentioned. The ropes which had bound them had been taken away, but they were prisoners behind heavy logs kept in place by strong chains.

Fred was so weak he was unable for the time being to stand, and so slipped down in a heap in a corner with his back against a big stone. There Andy followed him, nursing a wounded shoulder where he had been struck with a club. Randy and Jack had also suffered, the former having one arm severely wrenched in the mêlée at Longnose’s cabin and the young major suffering from several cuts on the forehead and on his chin.

“Now then, you boys behave yourselves and rest a while, and then we’ll have a talk,” announced[263] Davenport, and he and his gang went outside, leaving the boys alone.

It was rather dark in the cavern, the only light coming from the entrance, which was partly screened by the bushes, and from a small crack overhead. This crack served to ventilate the place, there being a continual current of air from the opening in front to that above.

It must be admitted that the four boys felt anything but happy as they peered at their surroundings. All were too fatigued from the forced ride over the rocky trail to do much talking. They gathered in a group on the stony floor of the cave, trying to attend to their cuts and bruises as well as their limited means permitted.

“Gee, if a fellow only had a bit of water!” said Fred.

“They are a bunch of beasts!” cried Randy.

“They have certainly made us prisoners,” said Jack grimly. “Evidently they fixed this place on purpose for us.”

“Certainly looks it,” came from Andy. “Gee, it’s just like a regular prison! Not much chance of getting away from here, I’m afraid.”

A little later Tate came in carrying two buckets of water and two towels. He was followed by Jackson, who unlocked the chain holding the log of the doorway in place, so that the water and[264] towels might be placed inside of the prison-like apartment. The men had a lantern with them, and this they placed on a flat stone.

“There is one bucket to wash in and another for drinking,” said Tate. “And here are a couple of towels you can use on your hurts. We didn’t mean to treat you quite so rough, and it wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t put up a fight.”

“What are you going to do with us, Tate?” demanded Jack.

“You’ll find out a little later. Davenport will come in and talk with you.”

“I suppose you’ve made another demand on our folks for money,” declared Randy.

“Don’t bother your head about that now,” put in Jackson. “Better have a drink and wash up. Then you’ll feel better.” Thereupon the two men placed the log of the doorway in position, adjusted the chain, and left the cave.

The boys were glad to get the water and likewise the use of the lantern. Each washed in turn and took a drink, and then all felt somewhat better. But their long tramp through the woods that afternoon, the ride to Longnose’s cabin, and then the ride to the cave had made all of them exceedingly hungry.

“Wonder if they’re going to give us anything to eat,” remarked Fred after the light from outside[265] had faded, leaving only the lantern to light the cavern.

“I hardly think they intend to starve us,” replied Jack. “Those fellows are out for only one thing—money.”

The young major was right in regard to being starved, and less than an hour later Tate and Digby appeared carrying a pot of stew, another of coffee, and a loaf of bread.

“It’s the best we can do to-night,” said Tate, grinning. “Perhaps to-morrow we’ll have something better.”

“Then you intend to keep us prisoners?” demanded Jack.

“Sure thing!”

“Don’t you know you’ll get yourselves into hot water doing that, Tate?”

“I reckon we know what we’re doing, Rover.”

“If you kids will only behave yourselves you’ll be treated fine,” put in Digby. “We don’t want to hurt you. All we expect to do is to keep you here for maybe a week at the most. As soon as your folks come across we’ll let you go.”

“And suppose they don’t come across?” questioned Fred.

“Then you’ll have to take the consequences.”

Once more the Rover boys were left to themselves. The men had brought with them four[266] tin plates, four cups, and the necessary knives, forks and spoons, and the lads lost no time in attacking the simple meal which had been furnished them.

“This must have been a well-prepared plan of theirs,” was Andy’s comment while they were eating. “They’ve even got tableware for us, and towels.”

“I’ll wager Davenport’s had this planned ever since he went to Haven Point,” returned Jack. “Perhaps he thought he could get hold of us or a hold of the girls while we were there. And since I’ve been here thinking things over I’ve got another idea,” went on the young major slowly. “I may be all wrong, but somehow I can’t get it out of my mind.”

“What is that?” questioned Fred.

“Do you remember that fellow who was in the runabout with Davenport the day we met them on the road near Colby Hall?”


“Well, ever since we met that fellow named Joe Brooks first in New York and afterward in Chicago I’ve been trying to figure out where I saw the chap. Now I’m wondering if he wasn’t the fellow who was driving that car.”

“Why, he said he was a friend of Fatty Hendry’s!” exclaimed Andy.


“Yes, he said so. But that doesn’t make it so, does it?”

“You think he was a faker?” came quickly from Randy.

“He was if he was in cahoots with Davenport. Do you remember how he stood alongside of us when we were buying our tickets for Maporah, and how he questioned us about Sunset Trail when we were going around with him in Chicago? He must have been nothing but a confederate of Davenport and his gang.” And in this surmise, as we already know, Jack was correct.

Although the bread was somewhat stale, the stew and the coffee were both warm and fairly good, and, all told, the boys managed to satisfy their hunger. They were wondering what was going to happen next when Jackson and Digby came in carrying four blankets.

“No feather beds for you kids to-night,” said Digby. “But I reckon you’ll find these a good deal better than nothing.”

“Davenport told me to tell you he’d have a talk with you in the morning,” put in Jackson. “Now don’t try to break out and get away, because one of us will be on guard in front of the cave all night. Whoever is there will be armed and ready to shoot if you try any monkey business.”


“Have you got a camp near by?” questioned Jack.

“Yes; we’re right where we can keep our eyes on you.”

The men went out and once more the four Rovers were left to themselves. Jack and Randy now felt better, and while the latter took up the lantern the young major made a careful inspection of the walls of the cavern.

This inspection was disappointing. There were several nooks and angles in the back of the cave and one large crack and several small ones, all leading upward. But nothing in the way of an opening large enough to admit the passage of the body was revealed.

“It isn’t likely that those fellows would leave any loophole for us,” remarked Randy, as he held up the lantern. “They probably went over this place very carefully before they set those logs up and chained them.”

“I suppose that’s true,” was Jack’s answer. “But I’m going to get out of here somehow if I possibly can.”

“Humph! I guess we all want to get away if it can be done, Jack.”

“If we don’t get away soon those rascals will hold our dads up for thousands and thousands of dollars.”


“I know that, too. But we’re not going to be able to get away if this prison is secure, and if they’re going to set a guard to watch us. For all you know, they may be listening to every word we’re saying.”

As tired and worn out as they were, Andy and Fred also took a look around the rocky prison. But nothing new was brought to light, and presently all four of the boys were too tired to do more. They arranged their blankets as best they could, and then sank down to rest. But it was a long while before any of them fell asleep. Jack was the last to drop off, and he turned the lantern low just before doing so in order not to waste the oil, for there was no telling if any more would be forthcoming.

When the four boys arose in the morning each felt in anything but an agreeable humor. All were stiff and lame and it is doubtful if any of them could have run very far even had the chance offered. They had expected a visit from Davenport, but much to their surprise that individual failed to show himself. Instead Tate and Ocker brought them a breakfast consisting of coffee, bread, and some slices of bacon.

“Sorry I can’t let you out in the sunshine,” said Tate. “But if you behave yourselves to-day maybe we’ll let you out to-morrow.”


“Is Davenport in command here?” questioned Jack.

“He’s our leader, yes.”

“Tell him I want to talk to him.”

“He’s gone off and he won’t be back until this afternoon.”

After that the hours dragged by more slowly than ever. The boys chafed under the restraint but could not think of a single thing to do to better their condition.

“I wonder if we can’t push some of those logs apart and squeeze through the opening somehow,” whispered Fred after the breakfast had been disposed of. “Maybe some of the chains are not as tight as they look.”

With the coming of day the light in the cave had grown brighter. With this, and also the lantern to aid them, the four lads set to work and examined the logs and the chains minutely. As they did this they watched the opening to the cave so that no one might notice what they were doing. But none of the gang that had made them captives appeared.

At first the case looked hopeless and the boys were filled with despair. But then Andy noticed where one of the chains seemed to have slipped down over a notch in one of the logs. This was pried up and by their united efforts the boys were[271] finally able to move the top of one of the logs a distance of six or eight inches.

“There! I’m sure that opening is wide enough to let a fellow out,” declared Fred. “Anyhow, I am sure I could get through it.”

“We could all get through if we could get up there,” returned Jack. The widened opening between the logs was a foot or two above his head.

It was here that their gymnastic exercises stood the boys in good stead. Jack quickly managed to place himself on Randy’s shoulders and then squeezed his way through the opening between the logs. Fred and Andy followed, and then those outside gave Randy a hand up, and presently all four of the lads stood outside of what had been their prison.

“Now what shall we do—make a rush for it?” whispered Fred.

“Wait a minute. I’ll see how the land lies,” announced the young major, and while the others waited he crawled cautiously to the entrance of the cave and peered out between the bushes.

The others waited with bated breath wondering what would happen next. Half a minute passed and then Jack tiptoed his way back to his cousins.

“Tate and Jackson are out there, smoking their pipes and resting on the ground,” he announced.[272] “Each has a gun handy. They are about fifty feet from the entrance to the cave.”

“Are they looking this way?” asked Randy.

“Yes, both are facing the entrance to the cave.”

“Have they got their guns in their hands?” questioned Fred.

“No, their guns are resting against a tree near by.”

“Then why can’t we make a dash for it?” asked Andy recklessly.

“I don’t think we’ll have to do that,” answered the young major. “I’ve got another plan.”



In a whisper so that the two men outside of the cave might not hear him, Jack outlined his plan for escape.

“The bushes on the left of the entrance are very thick and extend outside for ten or fifteen feet. There are also several bushes just in front of the entrance that are a foot or more high. If we can crawl out in snake fashion maybe we can get into those bushes and work our way along until we reach some spot where we shall be out of line of their vision. Then, as soon as we get that far, we can leg it for all we are worth.”

“Gosh, Jack, I hope we can do it!” returned Randy. “Come on, let’s try at once. Those fellows may take it into their heads to come into the cave any time.”

All were more than willing to make the attempt to escape, even though they realized that the men watching them were desperate characters and[274] would not hesitate to use their firearms if they thought it necessary.

The four boys approached the entrance of the cave with caution, dropping flat on their stomachs as they did so. Then, led by Jack, one after another wormed his way along until the bushes screening the opening were reached.

“Now be careful,” warned Jack. “Don’t shake the bushes too much or those men will get suspicious. It may pay to go slow. And don’t make any noise.”

As silently as Indians on a hunt the four boys began to worm their way through the bushes at the side of the cave opening. This was no easy task, for there was always danger of cracking some dry twig or of shaking the tops of the bushes unduly. They could hear the men talking earnestly and even heard Jackson knock out his pipe against a tree.

“As soon as I get my hands on the dough I’m going to light out for Mexico,” they heard Jackson tell Tate. “That’s the safest place to hide.”

“Maybe it is,” they heard Tate answer. “But I don’t like to live among those Greasers. I’ll try my luck up in the Northwest. I don’t think anybody will try to follow me to where I’m going.”


“Do you think the Rovers will come across, Tate?”

“Sure, they will! They’ll pay up to the last dollar! Davenport will make ’em do it!”

“But suppose they balk?”

“Then Davenport will send ’em a finger or an ear. That will surely bring ’em to terms mighty quick.”

“Would he go as far as that?”

“Davenport? You don’t know the man! He’d go a great deal further if he thought it would bring him in any money. That fellow is about as cold-blooded as they make ’em.”

Every one of the boys heard this talk, and it made them feel anything but comfortable. Evidently the scoundrels who had made them captives would stop at nothing to accomplish their ends.

Presently Jack found himself confronted by a big rock that stuck up almost to the top of the bushes. As silently as a cat after a bird, he crawled over this rock, and one after another the others followed. Then came a series of rocks and more brushwood, and at last the four lads found themselves out of sight of Tate and Jackson.

“Which way are you going to head?” questioned[276] Randy when he thought it was safe to speak.

“I don’t know,” was the whispered reply. “The main thing is to get out of reach of those fellows. Come on—don’t lose any time. If they discover our escape they’ll do their best to round us up again.”

Without knowing where they were going, the four boys plunged on through the bushes and over the rough rocks until they came to a narrow trail running along the mountainside.

“I think we’re heading for Sunset Trail,” announced Fred. “And if we are, so much the better.”

“If we see or hear anybody coming jump behind the trees or bushes,” ordered Jack. “We might run into Davenport. They said he had gone off on some sort of an errand.”

The boys pushed on for several hundred feet, and there found that the trail came to an end at a spring of water which gushed forth from between several rocks. Beyond this point was a heavy mass of practically impenetrable forest.

“Doesn’t look as if we could go any farther in this direction,” remarked Andy, his face falling as he gazed around.

“No. I guess we’ve got to go back,” answered the young major.


“Wait a second. I’m going to have a drink,” cried Fred, and bent down to partake of the clear, cool water of the spring.

All were thirsty, and they spent a full minute in refreshing themselves. They were just turning away from the spring when they heard a shout followed presently by three gunshots in rapid succession.

“They’ve discovered our escape and that’s a signal to warn the others!” ejaculated Jack. “Now we’ve got to be careful or they’ll catch us sure.”

How to turn the boys did not know. They could not go ahead, and they did not want to backtrack on the trail for fear of running into some of their enemies. To climb the mountainside was practically impossible, and it looked almost as dangerous to attempt to descend between the uncertain rocks and dense brushwood.

“Well, it’s suicide to stay where we are,” was the way Andy expressed himself.

“Can’t do it,” added his twin.

“Unless I’m mistaken, I can see some sort of a trail below us,” announced Jack. “Look there and tell me if I am right.”

All gazed in the direction indicated and came to the conclusion that there was another and better trail about a hundred yards below them.[278] Then one after another they began the perilous descent between the rocks and bushes.

All went well for a distance of sixty yards. Then Randy slipped and his twin almost immediately followed. Jack was ahead of them, and in a twinkling they took the young major off his feet. Fred made a wild clutch to stop Andy, and as a consequence he, too, began to slide. All of the boys went down with a rush, carrying several small bushes with them. They slid over the rocks and a number of loose stones, and finally brought up in a hollow, some small stones rattling all around them as they did so.

“Wow! Talk about your toboggans!” gasped Randy, when he could speak. “I guess I came down at the rate of half a mile a minute.”

“Anybody hurt?” sang out Jack. He himself had scratched his elbow, his ear and one of his knees.

All of them were scratched and bumped, but not seriously, and they stood up quickly, brushing themselves off and gazing around to find out where they had landed.

“Look!” cried Jack, pointing. “If that isn’t Sunset Trail over there then I miss my guess! What do you say?”

“It sure is! And yonder is Longnose’s cabin,” answered Fred.


“Out of sight! All of you!” came quickly from Randy. “There is Davenport and a couple of others with him!”

One after another the Rover boys tried to hide behind such rocks and bushes as were available. But their movements came to little. They were discovered by one of the men with Davenport, and that individual immediately set up a cry of alarm. Then the men, led by Davenport, came riding toward the spot as rapidly as the condition of the trail permitted.

“Stop where you are!” yelled the man from the oil fields. “Hands up and stop, or it will be the worse for you!”

The boys heard the rascal but paid no attention to his threat. They did their best to lose themselves in some bushes below the spot where they had landed. But the way was rough and uncertain and one after another they took another tumble, to find themselves at last hopelessly tangled up in a mass of brushwood.

“You can’t get away from us, so you might as well give up,” yelled Davenport as he rode as close as the brushwood and rocks would permit. “Come out of there one by one. If you don’t, we’ll use our guns.”

Seeing that all of the men were armed, the boys knew it would be useless to attempt to go[280] farther, and so one by one they came out of the tangle of rocks and brushwood, their clothing torn and their hands bleeding from their rough experience. Fred was the first to emerge, and, telling his companions to “keep all of the rats covered,” Davenport dismounted and caught the youngest Rover by the arm.

“Thought you’d get away, eh?” snorted the oil man, an ugly look crossing his face. “I reckon we let you have too much liberty. After this I’ll see to it that you won’t get a yard from where we place you.”

All of the boys did their best to argue with Davenport, but the oil man would not listen to them, and in the end they were compelled to march along the trail as it wound in and out along the mountainside, at last reaching a camp close to where the cave in which they had been prisoners was located. At the camp they fell in with Tate and Jackson, who had been looking everywhere for the lads.

“How did they get away?” stormed Davenport.

“Don’t know,” answered Tate. “We haven’t made an inspection of the cave yet. They must have crawled through some kind of a hole.”

The cave was entered, and soon the rascals discovered how two of the logs had been pried apart at the top.


“After this we’ll have to guard ’em! That’s all there is to it!” declared Davenport. “Why, if we hadn’t been lucky enough to spot ’em, they’d have gotten away sure.”

“See here, Davenport! what’s the meaning of this, anyway?” questioned Jack, putting on as bold a front as he could.

“Hasn’t your father already told you what I intend to do?” demanded the oil man.

“He told me you demanded a lot of money of him.”

“So I did, Jack Rover. And I intend to get it—a whole lot of money.”

“And I suppose you want some money out of my father too,” put in Fred.

“That’s right!” answered Tate. “If you want to know some of the particulars I’ll tell you. We’re asking fifty thousand dollars for the release of Jack Rover, fifty thousand dollars for the release of Fred Rover and fifty thousand dollars for the release of Andy Rover and Randy Rover. That’s a hundred and fifty thousand dollars for the bunch.”

“Huh! Then you think my two cousins are worth twice as much as my brother and I, eh?” asked the irrepressible Andy, with a faint grin.

“Pah, Andy Rover! Don’t make fun of it!” snarled Davenport. “It’s nothing to laugh at.[282] If you don’t like the price we’ve put on you and your brother we can easily raise it to fifty thousand apiece.”

“That’s the talk!” cried Tate. “Then we’d have fifty thousand dollars more to divide between us,” and he smiled wickedly.

“This high-handed proceeding may get you in hot water, Davenport,” said Jack.

“I’m willing to take the risk. Now that we’ve got you again I’ll see to it personally that you’ll never get back to your folks again until that money is paid.”

“Suppose our folks can’t raise the money?” questioned Fred.

“I happen to know that they can raise it,” answered the oil man. “Your folks are rich. They have made barrels of money out of their transactions in Wall Street and in the West and down in the oil fields. They can pay that hundred and fifty thousand dollars easily enough, and they are going to do it.”

“Have you already made a demand for the money?” asked Randy.

“We have.”

“Well, if they won’t pay it, what then?” questioned Andy.

“Then we’ll put the screws on you boys until[283] you send word to your folks that they’ve got to pay.”

“And if we won’t send word, what then?”

“Oh, you’ll send word all right enough before we get through with you,” replied Davenport suggestively.

Then the boys were hustled back into their prison and additional chains were placed upon the logs. After that a regular guard was stationed at the entrance to the cave, so that another escape would be impossible.



A week dragged wearily by and the four Rover boys still found themselves prisoners of Carson Davenport and his gang.

During that time they had been given no chance to escape. For two days they were kept in the close confinement of the cave and after that they were taken out each day for several hours so that they might enjoy the fresh air and the sunshine. But when this was done each had his hands tied behind him and was fastened by a rope to one of the trees while not less than two of the men sat near by, guns handy, to guard them.

“Gee, we couldn’t be any worse off if we were in a regular prison,” was the way Randy expressed himself.

“If we were in a regular prison I think the food would be better,” answered Fred.

For the first three days the food supplied to them had been fairly good. But now it was becoming worse every day. That morning they[285] had had the vilest of coffee and bread that was musty and old, and the previous evening the stew offered to them had made the twins sick.

They were satisfied that Davenport and his crowd were negotiating with not only the twins’ father but with the fathers of Jack and Fred. But they were given only a slight inkling of how matters were progressing. Then they heard the oil man tell Jackson and Tate that he expected Booster to arrive soon.

“And as soon as he comes we’ll put the screws on the boys. That will bring their folks to terms,” said Davenport.

The next day the fellow called Booster put in an appearance, and despite the wig he was wearing the boys to their surprise recognized the young man who had introduced himself as Joe Brooks. The confidence man smiled grimly when Jack spoke to him.

“I fooled you kids pretty neatly, didn’t I, in New York and in Chicago?” said Joe Booster, for that was his real name. “You never suspected that I was in with Davenport, did you?”

“Then you don’t know Fatty Hendry at all, do you?” put in Andy.

“Oh, I met him once,” answered the confidence man carelessly. “I palmed myself off as a friend of one of his cousins and got him to lend me ten[286] dollars. That was when I was pretty well down on my uppers.”

Davenport, Tate, Jackson and Booster had a long conversation and then the four rascals came again to the boys.

“Well, how are you making out?” asked Booster pleasantly. “They give you pretty good grub, don’t they?”

“No, it’s getting worse every day,” answered Fred bluntly.

“Why, I thought they were giving you genuine mocha coffee,” went on the confidence man.

“Giving us dishwater!” retorted Andy.

“And fine stew, too!”

“It made me sick yesterday,” came from Randy.

“Well, you listen to us,” put in Davenport. “Unless you’re willing to do what we want you to, the grub is going to be a good deal worse instead of better. More than that, we’ll keep you in the cave all the time.”

“What is it you want us to do?” questioned Jack, although he already had an idea on that subject.

“We want all of you boys to write a letter to your fathers, stating that they had better pay the money that we have demanded of them and that otherwise you are afraid of what may happen to you. You can tell them that so far you[287] have had the best of food and the best of treatment generally, but that you have been threatened with starvation if the money isn’t forthcoming. We want all of you to make that letter just as strong as you can. You write the letter,” he went on, pointing to Jack, “and all of you sign it with your full names, so that your folks will know it’s a genuine communication.”

“Excuse me, Davenport, but I’m not writing any such letter,” declared Jack flatly.

“Neither am I,” put in Fred.

“Nor I,” added the twins in concert.

“You will write it!” bellowed Davenport, his anger rising swiftly. “If you don’t write it I’ll give each of you a horsewhipping.”

“That’s the talk!” cried Tate.

“Give ’em a licking and no supper,” added Jackson.

“I don’t think you’ll have to whip ’em,” came from Joe Booster, who did not believe in violence of any sort. “Just let ’em go without their supper, and their breakfast to-morrow morning. Maybe then they’ll sing a different tune.”

“I owe ’em a licking for all the things they’ve done against me,” growled Davenport.

“Never mind. It will be enough after we get hold of that money,” returned Booster. “Just cut ’em off from the eats. That’s the way you[288] can bring anybody to terms. I’ve tried it before, and I know.”

“All right then,” said the oil man shortly. And then he and his cronies left the cave.

“Well, they’re a nice bunch, I don’t think!” came from Andy, when the four boys found themselves alone.

“Going to starve us, eh?” muttered Fred. “Do you think they’ll dare do it?”

“It looks to me as if they’d dare to do anything,” came from Jack. “Gee, it’s too bad we didn’t make our escape when we had the chance.”

Randy looked toward the entrance of the cave to make certain that all of the men had departed.

“Let’s try to get away again to-night,” he whispered. “It’s our one hope.”

“I hope our dads don’t turn over that money to them,” went on Jack, his eyes flashing angrily. “That bunch oughtn’t to have a hundred and fifty cents, much less a hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Such a demand is the worst kind of a hold-up.”

“Well, such demands have been made before, and the money has been paid, too,” answered Fred. “Don’t you remember that case of the fellow that was held by the bandits in Algeria, and the case of the two girls who were held by[289] the Mexican bandits? Their folks had to come across. Otherwise those people would have been put out of the way.”

Supper time came, but no food was brought to the boys. They, however, were given a bucket of drinking water by Ocker.

“Davenport didn’t want you to have this,” whispered the man, as he handed the water in. “But I told him I wouldn’t stand for letting you kids go thirsty. It’s bad enough to make you go without the eats.”

“Thank you for so much sympathy anyhow, Ocker,” returned Jack, and then went on quickly: “Why does a nice fellow like you stand in with such a bunch as Davenport’s crowd? Why don’t you cut them and help us to get away? We can make it well worth your while.”

“I wouldn’t dare do it, Rover,” muttered the man. “They’d never forgive me, and they’d be sure to get me sooner or later. I’m kind of sorry that I stood in with ’em, just the same,” and then, as Tate appeared at the entrance of the cave, Ocker walked away hastily.

“Gee, maybe we can work on that fellow’s sympathies and get him to help us,” was Randy’s comment.

“Maybe if we make him a worth-while offer he’ll help us to escape,” put in his twin. “Even[290] if they got the money from our folks it isn’t likely that Davenport, Tate and Jackson, along with that Booster, would let Ocker or Digby have any great amount of it.”

The boys wondered what their folks were doing. Of course, they knew nothing about Dick Rover and Sam joining Tom in Maporah.

Davenport, through Booster, had kept a close watch and reported the arrival at Maporah of the fathers of Jack and Fred. Thereupon a demand had been made upon the three older Rovers for the money, which was to be paid in cash. It was to be placed in a package under a tree along Sunset Trail, and the Rovers were to take care that no one was to be in that vicinity during the night or early morning under penalty of an attack from ambush. As soon as the package was safely received by the Davenport crowd the four boys were to be released and set on their way toward Gold Hill.

“Those fellows certainly know what they want,” said Sam Rover to his two brothers. “What are we to do about it?” All efforts to locate the boys had failed and their fathers were frantic, not knowing how to turn or what to do next.

In the meantime Mr. Renton and Mr. Parkhurst, the heavy stockholders in the Rolling[291] Thunder mine, had reached Maporah and there had a short but effective interview with Tom Rover.

“I’ll take charge of things here,” declared Mr. Renton, when he had heard about the boys being held for ransom. “I think I know exactly how to handle Garrish. You go ahead and look for those kids. Garrish won’t get away from me, and neither will the Rolling Thunder mine.” And thereupon Tom turned matters over to the other stockholders who had agreed to act with him.

The water brought to them by Ocker satisfied the boys’ thirst but it did not allay their hunger, and as hour after hour passed and none of their captors presented himself, the lads began to grow desperate.

“I wish I had an ax! I’d try to smash down those logs,” declared Andy. “We might be able to make a rush for it in the dark.”

“I’ve got an idea! I wonder we didn’t think of it before,” said Jack in a low tone. “Here, Randy and Andy, stand back to back and give me a chance to climb up on your shoulders. When I’m up there, Fred, you hand me the lantern. I’m going to inspect those cracks overhead and see if I can’t find some sort of an opening up there.”


The young major, having removed his shoes, was soon standing upright on the shoulders of the twins. Fred passed up the lantern, and Jack had the twins move slowly from one part of the rocky cavern to another.

For a long while Jack found nothing that looked promising, but presently he discovered a stone that seemed to be loose. He told those below to be on the watch and pulled and tugged at the bowlder with all his might. It came down with a crash and a number of loose stones and some dirt followed. Jack immediately leaped down and threw himself on the ground, the others following his example.

“Hi there! What are you fellows doing?” came from the entrance to the cave in Jackson’s voice.

“A loose stone came down! It nearly smashed us!” cried Jack.

“I don’t want to stay here if the roof is coming down on us,” wailed Fred.

“Do as we told you to and you won’t have to stay there,” answered Jackson, and then, after waiting a few minutes more, the man disappeared from the entrance.

Once more Jack mounted to the shoulders of the twins and with caution he poked at the hole which had been started.


“Take off your jacket, Fred, and catch the loose stones so that they don’t make any noise,” he whispered. And this the youngest Rover did.

It was a long, tedious task, and several times the young major was on the point of giving up. But just when he felt that his labors were of no avail he broke through an opening overhead. Immediately the cool night wind struck him and he realized that he had reached the outer air.

Again their gymnastic training stood the lads in good stead. Jack hauled Fred up and then held him still higher, and soon the youngest Rover had crawled through the opening above.

“I’m right here among a lot of bushes,” he whispered, looking down. “It’s a side hole, so there isn’t much danger of its caving in.”

Fred leaned down and assisted Jack up, and then the two cut a long heavy stick and with this assisted the twins to get out of the cave, bringing Jack’s shoes with them. They were but a short distance away from the camp of the men and could hear them talking quite plainly.

Hardly daring to breathe, the four boys crawled through the brushwood until they reached something of a trail. They could see little, owing to the darkness, but managed to make fair progress.

“Thank fortune, we’re out of that!” exclaimed[294] Jack presently. “Now we’ve got to see to it that they don’t catch us again.”

“Right-o!” answered Randy. Then, looking up at the sky, he continued: “See how dark it is—not a star showing. I think it’s going to rain.”

He was right, and in a few minutes more the first of the drops began to come down. Then came a dim flash of lightning, followed presently by a vivid streak across the heavens.

“We’re in for a regular thunder storm,” said Fred. “Gee, I hope the lightning doesn’t strike us.”

On and on went the boys, bumping into more than one tree and sometimes going headlong over the rocks. They had but one purpose in mind—to put as much space as possible between themselves and the Davenport gang.

At last, having moved along for over an hour and being soaked to the skin, they came to rest under the shelter of a rocky precipice. The storm continued, vivid flashes of lightning being followed by claps of thunder that echoed and re-echoed through the mountains.

“We’ve got to go on,” said Jack, at last. “As soon as daylight comes those fellows will be searching for us, and they’ll have a big advantage for they’ll be on horseback while we’ll be on foot.”


Forward they went again, although in what direction they did not know. They were hoping that they were getting farther and farther away from the cave where they had been held captive.

They were passing along the sloping side of the mountain when another flash of lightning followed by a loud clap of thunder startled them and brought them again to a halt. Then came another crash as a tree toppled down not far away.

“Gee, that was close enough!” exclaimed Jack.

He had scarcely spoken when the four boys were startled by a yell of fright. A few seconds later came a man’s voice crying piteously:

“Help! Help! For the love of heaven, help! I’m caught fast under the tree and I’ll be crushed to death! Help!”



“Somebody’s in trouble! We’ll have to see if we can’t help him!”

“Beware! It may be one of the Davenport crowd.”

“That may be true, but we can’t let him die. Come on.”

Another flash of lightning lit up the scene, and by this the Rover boys saw where a tall tree of the mountainside had been broken off. The top hung down over some sharp rocks and under several limbs rested the form of a man, held down so that he could do little but kick frantically with one leg.

“It’s Ocker!” exclaimed Fred, as they drew closer.

“Help! Help!” came faintly from the man as he saw the dim forms of the boys in the darkness. “Help! I’m being crushed to death!”

Fully realizing that they might be playing into the hands of their enemies and yet not willing[297] to see Ocker crushed to death, the four lads sprang forward and began to tug at the tree branches which held the fellow a prisoner. They could see that any instant the top of the tree might break away entirely from the trunk and then Ocker would be crushed to a pulp.

It was strenuous work, but the military experiences of the former cadets stood them in good stead, and now, as the twins and Jack raised one limb after another, Fred propped them up with such stones as were handy so that they could not slip back. Then, while the twins continued to exert pressure on the treetop, Jack hauled Ocker away.

The man was bruised and bleeding and for the moment so winded he could scarcely speak. At first he had not recognized his rescuers and he stared in astonishment when another flash of lightning revealed their faces.

“You!” he gasped hoarsely. “You! And I was helping to keep you prisoners!”

“Ocker, we have saved your life, and you know it,” answered Jack quickly. “Now then, it is up to you to help us escape. Will you do it?”

“I sure will!” panted the man. “I’m done with that crowd, anyhow. I told Davenport I wasn’t brought up to do such dirty work as he has[298] planned.” Ocker paused to regain his breath. “Why, Davenport is as bad a skunk as Pete Garrish!”

“Pete Garrish!” exclaimed Randy. “Do you know anything about that man?”

“I know everything about him,” muttered Ocker. “He and his crowd are trying to swindle your father and some other men out of their interest in the Rolling Thunder mine.”

“You come with us, Ocker, and you won’t regret it,” put in Jack hurriedly. “Show us the way to Cal Corning’s house.”

For an instant the man hesitated.

“If I take you back where you belong, you won’t have me arrested, will you?” he pleaded. “I don’t want to hurt you fellows, and I’d just as lief tell Mr. Rover what I know about Garrish.”

“You won’t be arrested,” answered Jack. “I’ll give you my word on it. Come—hurry up! We not only want to get back, but we want to have a chance to round those other fellows up.”

“But don’t do it before I’ve a chance to get away!” And the man’s face showed his sudden terror.

“All right, we’ll give you your chance, and we’ll make it worth your while, too,” answered Jack.


Ocker had been on foot, not daring to take his horse when he had stolen away from the Davenport crowd. He led the way to a broader and better trail, and less than half an hour later found the whole crowd on Sunset Trail. By this time the storm was passing and only a few scattering raindrops were coming down.

That tramp was one the Rover boys never forgot. Soaked to the skin, and so footsore they could scarcely walk, they reached Cal Corning’s place at about five o’clock in the morning. Their knock on the door brought Corning to that portal, gun in hand.

“Why—why, it’s the Rover boys!” called out the man, in amazement. “Hurrah! Mr. Rover! Mr. Rover! The boys are here, safe and sound!” he yelled.

It was then that pandemonium seemed to break loose. From a couple of the bedrooms rushed Tom Rover followed quickly by Sam and Dick. The men were partly dressed, having removed only their coats and shoes.

“My boys! My boys!” cried Tom Rover, and there was almost a sob in his throat as he rushed to embrace the twins. Then Dick ran to Jack and Sam to Fred, and there was a genuine hugging match all around.

“Gee, but it’s good to be back!” was the way[300] Andy expressed himself, and each of the other lads endorsed that sentiment.

“We were out looking for you until the storm came up,” said Dick Rover. “We were going out again as soon as it was daylight.”

“Where have you been and what did those rascals do to you?” questioned Sam Rover.

“It’s a long story, Dad,” answered Fred, and then he added quickly: “Here’s a man you’ll like to see, Uncle Tom. His name is Ocker, and he knows all about Peter Garrish.”

“Did he find you?” questioned Tom quickly.

“No. We found him—under a tree that was struck by lightning,” put in Jack quickly. “We’ll give you the particulars in a little while. Just now we want to know if you don’t want to get a crowd together to go after Davenport and his bunch. Those men ought to be rounded up and put back in prison.”

“Sure, we’ll round them up if it can be done,” announced Dick Rover.

All entered the house, and very soon the boys and the others were provided by the Corning sisters with a substantial breakfast. While eating, the lads told their story and then the men questioned Ocker.

The good luck of the Rover boys in escaping from the cave and falling in with the man who[301] had guided them to the Corning place was followed directly after breakfast by more good luck. Two cowboys and six miners, including Lew Billings and Hank Butts, came riding by the place and were immediately halted and told what was in the air. These men at once agreed to join the others in an attempt to bring Davenport and his cohorts to justice.

“I want to go along,” said Jack to his father when the posse was ready to start, and the other lads echoed that sentiment, and somewhat against the wishes of their parents the four boys joined the men in the hunt for the rascals.

The round-up lasted until sundown, when Davenport, Tate and Jackson were located by part of the crowd under Dick Rover. Several shots were exchanged and Davenport received a slight wound in the shoulder. Then the three men held up their hands in token of surrender.

In the meantime the boys and some of the other men managed to catch Digby and Booster. The young man who had so imposed upon the lads in New York and Chicago did his best to get away and then tried to show fight. But Jack promptly knocked him down by a smashing blow on the jaw, and when Booster got up again Randy hit him in the ear and Fred got behind him so that when Andy gave the fellow a shove he went[302] down flat on his back with a thud. Then he was captured and his hands were bound tightly behind him.

“I don’t think you’ll play any more confidence games in a hurry,” said Jack. And he was right, for as a result of his participation in the plot against the boys, Joe Booster, as well as Digby, was sent to prison for a number of years.

Davenport, Tate and Jackson looked much crestfallen when confronted by the lads and their fathers. They were fearful of being lynched, knowing that some of the miners and cowboys might be in favor of such a proceeding. They were glad when the sheriff was called and they were taken off to the county jail. They, too, were sentenced to prison for long terms.

From Ocker Tom Rover was able to gain much information regarding Peter Garrish and his method of running the Rolling Thunder mine. As a result of this and the action of Tom and several of the other large stockholders Garrish was compelled to cancel a contract he had made with the ore company in which he and his friends were interested and was likewise made to surrender some stock which he had appropriated. Then he was allowed to retire, a poorer if not a wiser man.

Because of what he had done for the boys and[303] for Tom, Ocker was not prosecuted. Instead, the Rovers gave him sufficient money to buy his passage to the gold fields of Alaska where, they hoped, he would turn over a new leaf and make a real man of himself.

“Well, they didn’t get that hundred and fifty thousand dollars after all!” chuckled Randy after the rascals had been rounded up and the boys were safe once more at Cal Corning’s house.

“No, they didn’t get it,” answered his father. “Just the same, we were ready to pay it in case we couldn’t get any trace of you.”

“It certainly was a strenuous experience—being kept prisoners in that cave on the mountainside,” said Jack. “I don’t believe we’ll ever have such a thrilling thing happen again.” But Jack was mistaken. More thrilling days were in store for the four lads, and what these were will be related in another volume, to be entitled “The Rover Boys Winning a Fortune.”

During the week the boys had spent as prisoners a number of letters had come for them, including communications from their mothers and from the girls, and also letters from Gif, Spouter and Phil Franklin.

“Well, the girls are having a good enough time,” said Jack, who was reading a letter from Ruth. “And I’m glad of it.”


“I suppose they’ll be coming home soon, now that the Davenport crowd are rounded up,” returned Fred.

“Here’s good news from Phil Franklin!” burst out Andy. “He’s found the silver trophy. Fished it up out of the lake two days after he sent that last letter.”

“Good enough!” cried his twin. “Now we won’t have that on our minds any more,” and his face showed his satisfaction. “Now if only we could get a new cannon for Colonel Colby, to replace the one that busted, we’ll be all right.” And let me add here that later on Jack’s father did obtain a new piece from the government and it was installed on the Military Academy campus with much ceremony.

And now, while the Rover boys are talking about their friends and discussing the finding of the silver trophy, and their adventures while prisoners on the mountainside, we will say good-by.


This Isn’t All!

Would you like to know what became of the good friends you have made in this book?

Would you like to read other stories continuing their adventures and experiences, or other books quite as entertaining by the same author?

On the reverse side of the wrapper which comes with this book, you will find a wonderful list of stories which you can buy at the same store where you got this book.

Don’t throw away the Wrapper

Use it as a handy catalog of the books you want some day to have. But in case you do mislay it, write to the Publishers for a complete catalog.




Beautiful Wrappers in Full Color


No stories for boys ever published have attained the tremendous popularity of this famous series. Since the publication of the first volume, The Rover Boys at School, some years ago, over three million copies of these books have been sold. They are well written stories dealing with the Rover boys in a great many different kinds of activities and adventures. Each volume holds something of interest to every adventure loving boy.

A complete list of titles is printed on the opposite page.



(Edward Stratemeyer)


Uniform Style of Binding. Colored Wrappers.
Every Volume Complete in Itself.

Grosset & Dunlap, Publishers, New York



Individual Colored Wrappers and Illustrations by
Each Volume Complete in Itself.

Thrilling tales of the great west, told primarily for boys but which will be read by all who love mystery, rapid action, and adventures in the great open spaces.

The Manly Boys, Roy and Teddy, are the sons of an old ranchman, the owner of many thousands of heads of cattle. The lads know how to ride, how to shoot, and how to take care of themselves under any and all circumstances.

The cowboys of the X Bar X Ranch are real cowboys, on the job when required but full of fun and daring—a bunch any reader will be delighted to know.




Illustrated. Every Volume Complete in Itself.

The Hardy Boys are sons of a celebrated American detective, and during vacations and their off time from school they help their father by hunting down clues themselves.


A dying criminal confessed that his loot had been secreted “in the tower.” It remained for the Hardy Boys to make an astonishing discovery that cleared up the mystery.


The house had been vacant and was supposed to be haunted. Mr. Hardy started to investigate—and disappeared! An odd tale, with plenty of excitement.


Counterfeit money was in circulation, and the limit was reached when Mrs. Hardy took some from a stranger. A tale full of thrills.


Two of the Hardy Boys’ chums take a motor trip down the coast. They disappear and are almost rescued by their friends when all are captured. A thrilling story of adventure.


Mr. Hardy is injured in tracing some stolen gold. A hunt by the boys leads to an abandoned mine, and there things start to happen. A western story all boys will enjoy.


Automobiles were disappearing most mysteriously from the Shore Road. It remained for the Hardy Boys to solve the mystery.


When the boys reached the caves they came unexpectedly upon a queer old hermit.


A story of queer adventures on a rockbound island.


The Hardy Boys solve the mystery of the disappearance of some valuable mail.




Illustrated. Each Volume Complete in Itself.

No subject has so thoroughly caught the imagination of young America as aviation. This series has been inspired by recent daring feats of the air, and is dedicated to Lindbergh, Byrd, Chamberlin and other heroes of the skies.




Uniform Style of Binding. Individual Colored Wrappers.
Every Volume Complete in Itself.

Every boy possesses some form of inventive genius. Tom Swift is a bright, ingenious boy and his inventions and adventures make the most interesting kind of reading.




Author of “The Tom Swift Series”

Every red-blooded boy will enjoy the thrilling adventures of Don Sturdy. In company with his uncles, one a big game hunter, the other a noted scientist, he travels far and wide—into the jungles of South America, across the Sahara, deep into the African jungle, up where the Alaskan volcanoes spout, down among the head hunters of Borneo and many other places where there is danger and excitement. Every boy who has known Tom Swift will at once become the boon companion of daring Don Sturdy.


(Trademark Registered)


Author of the “Railroad Series,” Etc.

Illustrated. Every Volume Complete in Itself.

Here is a series that gives full details of radio work both in sending and receiving—how large and small sets can be made and operated, and with this real information there are the stories of the radio boys and their adventures. Each story is a record of thrilling adventures—rescues, narrow escapes from death, daring exploits in which the radio plays a main part. Each volume is so thoroughly fascinating, so strictly up-to-date, and accurate that all modern boys will peruse them with delight.

Each volume has a foreword by Jack Binns, the well known radio expert.




Author of the “Radio Boys,” Etc.

Uniform Style of Binding. Illustrated.
Every Volume Complete in Itself.

In this line of books there is revealed the whole workings of a great American railroad system. There are adventures in abundance—railroad wrecks, dashes through forest fires, the pursuit of a “wildcat” locomotive, the disappearance of a pay car with a large sum of money on board—but there is much more than this—the intense rivalry among railroads and railroad men, the working out of running schedules, the getting through “on time” in spite of all obstacles, and the manipulation of railroad securities by evil men who wish to rule or ruin.


Transcriber’s Notes:

A List of Illustrations has been provided for the convenience of the reader.

Printer’s, punctuation and spelling inaccuracies were silently corrected.

Archaic and variable spelling has been preserved.

Variations in hyphenation and compound words have been preserved.