Edward Stratemeyer.

The Putnam Hall Rebellion





CHAPTER XXVIII
AFTER THE TRAMPS

It was pleasant for Jack and his chums to have the Fords with them, and all spent an agreeable hour together, while waiting for the meal and during the repast. The pies and fresh rolls proved highly acceptable. The cake Stuffer wanted to cut, too, but the young major said that must be kept for supper.

Hed put on everything in camp, if I let him, Jack explained to the girls. Hes the greatest eater in the school, and thats why we call him Stuffer. But hes a good fellow all the same, he added, hastily.

During the meal the boys told Mr. Ford of the tramps, and what was to be done that afternoon to capture the fellows. The gentleman was much interested.

We have lost fowls over to my place, he said. Perhaps these men are guilty of the depredations. If so, I think I ought to have a hand in this round-up, and he smiled faintly.

You can go along if you wish, Mr. Ford, answered Jack, readily.

Then I will. The girls can drive home with Michael. And so it was arranged.

Papa, I want you to keep out of harm, said Laura, on parting. And you boys had better take care, too, she continued.

Well be on our guard, dont fear, answered Pepper, and then he and Andy saw the girls to the carriage, and saw Michael the coachman drive off with them.

While the cadets were awaiting the arrival of Landerson the butcher and Peters and Robinson, two farmers who had lately lost chickens by stealing, the young major gave some of them directions where to go and establish a new camp. This was a spot known to but a few, and he felt certain that Reff Ritter would not be able to follow them to it.

Take the horse and wagon along over the stones, he said, and then drive them down Bakers brook. Water leaves a mighty poor trail.

All right, well do the best we can, said Bob Grenwood, who was placed at the head of the cadets to superintend the removal.

About half-past two the butcher and the two farmers arrived, in company with a small, fat man who gravely announced himself as one of the deputy sheriffs of the county.

Great C?sar! Has he come to arrest us! whispered Bart Conners, as the deputy sheriff eyed the boys in a suspicious manner.

No, he has come to arrest the chicken thieves if he can find them, answered Jack.

It looked as if a storm might be brewing, so no time was lost in starting in the direction of the tramps camp. Andy and Stuffer, knowing the trail, led the way, and the men from Cedarville and Mr. Ford and six of the cadets followed. The deputy sheriff and the two farmers carried shotguns, and the butcher boastfully exhibited a pistol of the old hoss variety, and nearly two feet long.

We may as well arm ourselves, suggested Rossmore Ford. There is no telling what may happen, if those rascals show fight. And he cut himself a stout stick, and the cadets did likewise.

The deputy sheriff being fat was also short of wind, so the party had to move slowly.

Once they came to a halt, Andy and Stuffer being a little doubtful of the trail.

Dont er take us off the road, panted the deputy sheriff. This walk er is bad enough as it is, and he gave a deep sigh. Walking had never been his strong point.

At last they came in sight of the hollow and Andy pointed out the rude shelter and the remains of a campfire. Not a soul was to be seen.

Perhaps they have deserted the spot, said Jack. If they have its too bad.

Ha! dont tell me you have brought me here on a fools errand! puffed the deputy sheriff.

If you are fooled, Mr. Nugg, so are we, answered Rossmore Ford.

I think I see somebody sleeping under that shelter, said the butcher. Yes, I do! Its a man and a tramp, by the looks of his ragged clothing!

Then some of them must be on hand, answered Pepper.

I hope the man I am after is there, put in Andy. He was thinking more of the things he had lost than of capturing the rascals on account of the chickens that had been stolen.

Hadnt we better surround the place? suggested Jack, with true military instinct.

Just er what I was going to suggest, said Mr. Nugg, quickly. But dont do any shooting unless I give the command, he continued warningly.

I doubt if it will be necessary to do any shooting, said Rossmore Ford. Tramps are usually cowards and give up at the sight of firearms. If we do any shooting somebody of our own party may get hurt.

They spread out in a circle and with caution drew closer to the tramps camp. As they approached they saw that three men were resting under the rude shelter. Presently one of the men raised his head, looked around and uttered a cry of warning. Then all leaped to their feet, gazing at the approaching men and boys in consternation.

Surrender, in the name of the law! shouted the fat deputy sheriff.

Wots dis anyhow? demanded one of the tramps, trying to retreat, and finding himself hemmed in.

Do you surrender, or do you want to be shot? asked the butcher.

Surrender? asked a second tramp. Wots dis? We aint done nuthin.

Up with your hands! went on the deputy sheriff, who was bound to make the capture as dramatic as possible, and up into the air went three very dirty pairs of hands.

Any more of you around here? asked Andy, quickly, for he saw that not one of the fellows present was the individual he had met at the jewelry store.

De udders have began the third tramp, a nervous looking young fellow.

You shut yer mouth, Bug! cried the first tramp who had spoken, warningly.

Let him speak if he wants to, said Jack, stepping forward. At the sight of the military uniform the rascals looked much worried.

So youse is bringin de soldiers here, hey? said one.

Da aint soldiers, da are cadets from a school, said one tramp. Dont yer know Flatnose told us about em?

Where is Flatnose? asked Andy eagerly. He remembered that the tramp he was after had a somewhat flat nose.

Hell be back in about began the younger of the three tramps, when a warning look from both of the others halted him as before.

When will he be back answer me? said Rossmore Ford sternly.

Dont youse say a word more! growled the largest of the tramps.

Here comes some men now over yonder hill! cried Dale, who chanced to look back.

Yes and there is the rascal I want to catch! returned Andy. Come on, Jack and Pepper, will you help me?

We will! answered his two chums.

There are four men! cried the butcher.

I know one of em! yelled one of the farmers. I saw him around my henhouse one evening! Hes the chap I want to catch! And away he went with his shotgun.

Hi! Wots dis? cried one of the tramps in the distance.

I know wots up, answered another. Da are after us! Our hangout has been discovered! Say, boys, we have got to dust if we want to keep out o jail!

And then off they ran, in several different directions, and after them went Andy, Jack and Pepper, and two other cadets, and Mr. Ford and one of the farmers did likewise.

CHAPTER XXIX
SOMETHING OF A CONFESSION

I want to get hold of that fellow with the flat nose! cried Andy to his chums. I dont care so much about the others.

We are with you, Andy, answered the young major.

We are bound to catch him sooner or later, added Pepper.

The tramps had a start of at least a hundred yards and lost no time in trying to escape. The fellow called Flatnose made for a dense patch of woods behind the spring and was soon lost to sight. But the cadets heard him as he crashed and plunged through brushwood and over rocks, and slowly but steadily they drew nearer to the rascal.

You might as well stop! cried Andy. We are bound to catch you.

If you come any closer somebody will git hurt, called back the tramp roughly. You aint goin to catch me, not much you aint!

Do you think hell dare to shoot at us? asked one of the cadets.

No, answered Jack. I believe they are all cowards.

On and on plunged the tramp, with the boys after him. He was now ascending a small hill. Beyond, the cadets knew, was a cliff, fringed with brushwood.

Wonder if he knows about the cliff? said Pepper.

He must since he has been in this neighborhood so long, answered Jack. But if he doesnt he may take a nasty tumble.

Maybe he is hoping to make us take the tumble, came from Andy.

This was a trick the tramp had in mind, and reaching the edge of the cliff, he darted to the right and crouched down under some thick bushes.

The cadets ran on at full speed until they neared the cliff and then slowed up. They peered over the edge of the height into the little valley below but could see no one.

Hes around here somewhere, declared Jack, and just then saw a bush that had been caught back switch itself into place. He leaped into the direction.

Here he is, fellows!

Where? asked Andy and Pepper in a breath.

Under a bush. Come out of that! Jack added to the fugitive.

I aint comin out, whined the tramp. He was out of wind and crestfallen.

If you dont come out, well kick you out, answered Andy, and then he shook his stick at the fellow. Come out of that, and be quick about it.

The tramp looked at the acrobatic youth and he gave a little gasp. Evidently he recognized Andy.

I aint done nuthin, he grumbled. Im an honest fellow, I am.

You certainly look it, answered Jack. Come, get up. And he, too, raised his stick as if to hit the rascal over the head.

Dont dont strike me! was the cry. Ill come out! But I aint done nuthin.

Very reluctantly the tramp crawled out from under the bushes and faced the boys. When Andy looked at him his eyes fell.

I guess you know me, said Andy, sternly.

You? I aint never seen you before.

Oh, yes, you have. We met in the jewelry store in Cedarville one evening.

Not me. Youve got the wrong man.

No, you are the fellow. And after we met at the jewelry store you attacked me on the road, threw me off my bicycle, and robbed me.

No, I didnt! cried the tramp, but his manner showed that he was much dismayed by the accusation.

What I want to know is, What did you do with the things you took from me? continued Andy.

Didnt I say you had the wrong man?

Will you give up the stuff or not?

Say, I aint

Answer my question. And Andy raised his stick as if to hit the fellow on the head.

I I aint got the stuff, cried the tramp in alarm. Dont hit me. I I turned the stuff over to Levi, the fence.

Levi, the fence? queried Andy.

A fence, in criminals language, is a receiver of stolen goods, explained Jack. Where is this Levi? he asked.

Over in Albany. He was in Cedarville when I give him the goods. He promised me twenty dollars, but I only got five. He ought to be pinched, went on the tramp, meaning by pinched he should be arrested.

You come with us, said Andy, and between them the cadets marched the tramp back to the camp in the hollow.

At the hangout they found that four of the tramps had been caught and made prisoners. The others had escaped, and what became of them nobody found out.

I have heard of that fellow Levi, said the deputy sheriff. He has been wanted for some time. I think the Albany police are now after him.

Seeing it would be useless to conceal matters longer, the tramp called Flatnose made a full confession, in which he told of attacking Andy just as had been supposed. He had found the tree limb in the woods near the road, and had thrust it out from the bushes just when the bicyclist was passing.

I got scared when you didnt come to your senses, he said. I didnt mean to do nuthin but knock you into the road an take the things.

Well, that was enough, said Andy, grimly. But I must say I am thankful I wasnt killed.

These men are all rascals, said Rossmore Ford. They are petty thieves, and they have terrorized the women and children for several miles around. Well see to it that they all get what they deserve. And it may be added here that every one of the tramps was sent, later on, to jail. At the camp were found ample proofs of how they had been robbing not only henroosts and sheepfolds, but also houses and barns. The butcher and the farmers were glad to see the rascals rounded up, and the deputy sheriff was proud of the part he had played in the affair.

Well look out for your things, said the deputy to Andy. And as soon as we get them well let you know.

It was not deemed necessary for the cadets to help get the tramps to the Cedarville lock-up and so, after bidding the men good-bye, the boys started off in the direction where the new camp of the school runaways was to be located.

Ill wager Reff Ritter was mad when he found the horse and wagon and all those things gone, said Pepper.

Hell do his best to find our new camp, answered Jack. Perhaps hell want to fight next.

If he does, I reckon we can give him all he wants, said Andy.

The sky was much overcast and it looked as if it might rain at any moment. This caused the cadets to increase their speed, and soon they were past the spot where the first camp had been located.

Hello, look there! cried Pepper, presently, and pointed among the trees.

Its Gus Coulter! answered another cadet What is he doing here?

They must be looking for us already, exclaimed Jack.

All ran up to Coulter, to learn that he was alone some others who had been with him having scattered to look for the new camp of the crowd under the young major.

See here, Coulter, I want to talk to you! cried Jack, grabbing the cadet by the arm. Come here, boys! he added, to his friends.

Thus caught alone, Coulter was much frightened and when the young major began to talk to him he trembled in every limb.

What do you want? he faltered.

I want to talk to you, Coulter.

What about?

About a certain talk you had with Reff Ritter.

I dont know what you mean.

Well, you will know before I am done with you.

You let me go, said Coulter, uneasily. You havent got any right to detain me in this fashion.

Well, I am taking the right, answered the young major sturdily. I want you to understand

Jack got no further, for with a sudden twist and a push Gus Coulter freed himself, leaped through the crowd, and dashed away.

After him! yelled Pepper. He mustnt get away like this!

I reckon we can catch him, put in Andy, and then all of the cadets started in pursuit of the fleeing one.

Coulter was badly scared why he could not exactly tell and he ran like a deer. But the others kept on his track.

There he goes! cried Jack, as the running lad darted behind a heavy clump of bushes.

The next instant there arose on the air a wild cry of dismay and alarm.

Oh, dear! Help me, somebody!

Hes in trouble! said Andy.

Go slow or somebody else may get into trouble, too, cautioned the young major.

Slackening their pace, the crowd approached the clump of bushes and passed around to one side. They then saw what had caused Coulter to cry for assistance.

On the other side of the bushes was a big swamp hole, filled with muck, dead leaves and water. In his anxiety to escape Gus Coulter had plunged into the swamp hole and was now up to his waist and rapidly sinking.

Ge get m me out, somebody! he gasped. Quick, or Ill Ill go down an and be smothered!

The others saw that Coulters plight was serious and something must be done to save him.

Ive got it! cried Andy, as he looked around. I reckon I can get him out.

How? questioned Pepper.

Wait Ill show you.

The acrobatic youth ran to a big tree growing close to the edge of the swamp. He climbed up with marvellous rapidity, and then worked his way out on a branch that grew over Coulters head.

Good for Andy! cried Jack.

If only the limb will bend down far enough, added Pepper.

Soon the acrobatic youth was close to the outer end of the limb. He bent down, but his hand did not come within a foot of Gus Coulters reach.

I I cant ma make it! gasped the boy below. His face was full of abject fear.

Wait a minute, answered Andy.

He turned over, and the next moment was hanging from the limb by his feet, which he had crossed one over the other. Thus he was able to reach Coulter with ease.

Look out, Andy, that you dont go down, too, cautioned Jack.

And take care that the limb doesnt break, added Pepper.

Slowly but surely Andy began to draw poor Gus Coulter from the muck. It was a severe strain on the acrobatic youth, and his muscles stood out like whipcords, while his face, from hanging down, became purple. The tree limb bent low, until the outer leaves swept the swamp hole.

I dont think hell make it, was the comment of one of the cadets, but even as he spoke there was a sucking sound and up came Coulter, and the tree limb bounded several feet higher.

Hurrah! Hes got him! yelled Pepper, and his cheer was echoed by the others.

Both boys in the tree were somewhat out of breath and they did not descend at once. Finally Andy slid down and Coulter followed.

The lad who had the accident presented a most woebegone appearance. He was covered with black muck up to his armpits, and some of the muck was on his hands and face. Now that the danger was over the others had all they could do to keep from laughing at the unfortunate one.

Coulter, you can thank Andy for saving your life, remarked Pepper.

I er I wouldnt have tumbled into the hole if you hadnt chased me, grumbled Coulter.

And we wouldnt have chased you if you hadnt tried to run away, came from the young major.

You had no right to stop me.

As I said before, I am taking the right, Coulter. I want you to confess something.

Me? I havent done anything.

You know what Reff Ritter did. I heard you talk it over.

What do you mean?

I mean just this, answered Jack, and then spoke about the talk he had heard between Reff Ritter and Coulter concerning the use of the French headache powders.

Now I want you to tell the truth, Coulter, said the young major, finally. Who put those powders into my drinking water? Answer, or Ill give you the biggest thrashing you ever had in your life!

Dont dont hit me! cried the cadet.

Then answer and tell the strict truth.

Reff Ritter. But if he learns I told on him hell hammer me to death, added Coulter, with a very white face.

And then he told the particulars, just as Ritter had given them. All of the cadets present listened with interest. When Coulter had finished Jack caught him by the shoulder.

Now get out! he cried. Go back to Ritter, and dont you show your face near our camp! And Coulter lost no time in disappearing.

Five minutes later the cadets came in sight of the new camp. As they entered the clearing Pepper gave a gasp.

Look! There is Captain Putnam!

You are right, answered Jack. Now weve got to face the music!

CHAPTER XXX
BACK TO THE HALL CONCLUSION

Well, young gentlemen, it would seem that you have been taking matters into your own hands, remarked Captain Putnam, as he faced those who had just arrived. He looked stern, yet not as angry as they had sometimes seen him.

Captain Putnam, we felt it was absolutely necessary to do what we have done, answered Jack.

Have the others told you how we were treated? asked Pepper.

In part, yes. But I wish to hear what you have to say also.

And I suppose youd like to hear what Mr. Crabtree and Mr. Cuddle have to say, put in Andy.

Never mind that just now, said the master of the Hall. Major Ruddy, I will listen to your story.

In a plain, straightforward manner Jack told his story from beginning to end, very much as I have set it down here. He did not omit a single important detail. He told of the throwing of the inkwell, the hot potatoes and the bread, but mentioned no names. He also related the particulars of the trouble in the classrooms, and of how Pluxton Cuddle had endeavored to starve them into submission, aided in this work by Josiah Crabtree. When this was told the captain drew down the corners of his mouth and frowned.

He wont stand for that I knew he wouldnt, whispered Dale to Stuffer.

Nobody would stand for starving! cried the lad who loved to eat.

After Jack had finished, several other cadets were interviewed. Then Captain Putnam wanted to know the whereabouts of Ritter and his crowd.

We can take you to them, said Dale.

That will not be necessary, Blackmore. You may go to their camp and tell them that I want them to return to Putnam Hall at once. And somewhat against his will, Dale departed on the errand.

What are we to do? asked Andy.

Break camp and return to the school, now, Captain Putnam turned to Jack. Major Ruddy, you will give the necessary orders.

Gladly, sir now that you are back, Captain Putnam, cried Jack.

Are you really glad that I am back, Ruddy?

Yes, sir and I know the others are glad, too. We didnt run away just for the fun of it, he added, earnestly.

It may give my school a black eye.

Not as much of a black eye as the teachers gave it by hiring those men from Cedarville to come down and play guard.





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