The Putnam Hall Rebellionñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“That doesn’t matter – we can keep out of the servants’ way – or get them out of ours,” answered Roy Bock. His crafty face became fixed for a moment. “That’s a good idea. Let us visit Putnam Hall by all means and fix things up! When those tin soldiers get back they won’t know what to make of it!”
“Well, we don’t want to get caught at this,” said Carey.
“Are you afraid?” demanded Bock.
“No, but – ”
“No ‘buts’ about it,” said a youth named Grimes, who hated Major Jack and his chums greatly. “I’m for visiting Putnam Hall to-day. We couldn’t have a better chance, with the captain and his cadets away.”
The touring car journeyed along slowly and the students from Pornell Academy talked the matter over carefully. Just as they came in sight of the Hall they saw a buggy drive away from the entrance and turn in the direction of Cedarville, the nearest village.
“There goes the head teacher, a fellow named Crabtree,” said Bock. “The fellow driving him is Peleg Snuggers, the general helper. Boys, outside of some help that doesn’t count, the coast is clear!”
“I’ve got a scheme,” said Grimes. “Let us hide the auto in the woods, and then disguise ourselves as tramps by rubbing dust on our faces and putting on the old auto dusters. Then we can sneak up to the school building and the gym., and learn how the land lays.”
“Yes, – and turn things inside out,” answered Roy Bock, with a gloating look. “Oh, won’t they be surprised when they get back to-night!”
The suggestion to hide the touring car and disguise themselves was quickly put into execution, and then, with great caution, the six students from Pornell Academy leaped a side hedge and made for the gymnasium. Here they spent nearly half an hour in “fixing things up” to their satisfaction. Then they entered the school building by a side door, and while three went to the library and classrooms the others ascended to the dormitories. They took care to keep out of the way of all the hired help, although to do so taxed their ingenuity to the utmost.
“Now, I reckon we have done something toward squaring accounts,” remarked Roy Bock, as he led the way back to the touring car. “Even the servants won’t be able to straighten things out. When those folks get back they won’t know their own school!”
AT TARGET PRACTICE
“Here we are! Now to make nothing but bull’s-eyes!”
It was Pepper who spoke, as the Hall cadets came to a halt in Rawling’s pasture, – a lot containing nearly a hundred acres which were almost as smooth as a barn floor. It had taken the battalion almost an hour to march there, and the students were allowed half an hour in which to rest up previous to beginning the contest on the three ranges which had been established in the pasture. The ranges were of one hundred yards, two hundred yards, and three hundred yards, the last named distance being deemed sufficiently great for the light rifles the cadets used.
Had they had arms of greater caliber, Captain Putnam would have made the long range five hundred yards.
“I don’t expect to make very much of a score,” said Andy Snow. “I am not much of a shooter. Now if it was a contest in the gym. – ”
“Andy would win all the medals,” finished Jack, with a laugh.
“I’d rather have a fishing contest,” put in Stuffer, who loved to go out with his rod.
“Sure, and what’s the matter wid an eating contest, Stuffer?” inquired Hogan, with a broad grin. “I’m after thinking you’d take the head prize there – and all the others, too!”
“Huh, you needn’t talk,” grumbled Stuffer. “I notice you can do your share when we sit down in the mess hall.”
“That’s one thing I like about Putnam Hall,” declared Fred Century. “A fellow always gets enough to eat – at least I do. Now at Pornell Academy the meals were very uneven. The dinners were usually good, but some of the suppers were woefully slim.”
“If the meals were slim here I’d rebel,” answered Pepper.
“So would I!” cried Stuffer. “I’d raise the biggest kick you ever heard of.” How true their words were to become we shall see later.
The shooting soon began – at a distance of one hundred yards, and for two hours there was a steady crack! crack! of the rifles.
Each cadet had three shots at each target. A bull’s-eye counted five, so a perfect score would total up to forty-five.
On the short range, Jack managed to make three bull’s-eyes, thus scoring 15. Pepper got 13 and Andy 11. Much to his own delight Reff Ritter got 15, although one of his shots barely touched the bull’s-eye. Coulter received but 9, much to his disgust. The other cadets ranged from 10 to 5, – the five being made by Mumps, who was almost afraid to discharge his weapon.
“Wouldn’t Mumps make a fine soldier!” whispered Pepper to Jack. “If he saw the enemy approaching he’d run for all he was worth.”
“If he didn’t get too frightened to move,” added the young major.
“He certainly is both a coward and a sneak.”
At the two-hundred yard range Jack made 14, while Pepper finished with 13, the same as before. The long-range shooting was not to take place until after lunch.
“I don’t know whether to call it my unlucky thirteen or not,” said The Imp. “It’s not so good as your score, but it’s better than some others.”
“It is certainly lucky,” answered Andy, who had made but 9 on the middle range. “If you do so well on the long range you’ll be one of the leaders.”
“Reff Ritter made 14,” put in Joe Nelson. “He and Jack and Bart Conners are tied for first place so far.”
“Coulter had dropped behind, and Paxton’s score isn’t much better than Mump’s,” came from Dale Blackmore.
“I’ve got two elevens,” said Fred Century. “I don’t think that’s so bad for a fellow who hasn’t used a rifle for some years.”
Lunch was had in the shade of a number of trees growing at the edge of the pasture. While the cadets were eating many of them stacked their rifles and hung their belts and cartridge boxes on the weapons. Jack put aside his sword and also the gun and cartridge holder he had been using. There was a small brook nearby, fed by springs, and in this many of the boys washed their hands and faces before eating.
While the meal was still in progress Gus Coulter motioned to Reff Ritter and Nick Paxton, and the three drew away from the crowd and into some bushes behind the trees.
“I’ve got an idea,” said Coulter, in a low voice. “I don’t know if we can work it or not, but if we can – well, somebody will be surprised, that’s all.”
“What’s your idea?” demanded Ritter.
“I was hanging around when Bob Grenwood, the quartermaster, was giving out the ammunition for the shooting after lunch, on the three-hundred yard range. I heard him say that he had brought along a case of blanks by mistake. He said they looked a good deal like the cartridges that had bullets in. Now if we could get hold of that case of blanks – ”
“We can do that easily enough,” interrupted Nick Paxton. “The case is right over yonder, on a rock.” And he pointed with his hand.
“I reckon I know what you mean,” said Reff Ritter, a wise look coming into his face. “You mean for us to get the blanks and substitute them for the regular cartridges some of the fellows intend to use.”
“Exactly. Can we do it?”
“I don’t know. But it’s a great scheme. I’d like to put it up Ruddy’s back – and up Ditmore’s back, too.” Ritter bit his lip in thought for a moment. “Let’s see if we can get hold of that case of cartridges anyway.”
With great care the plotters stole through the bushes and up to the rock upon which rested the case containing the blank cartridges. All of the other cadets were busy lunching and nobody noticed them as they hauled the box out of sight.
“The cover is loose, anyway,” reported Ritter. “Guess I’ll take a few out, just for luck,” and he appropriated about a dozen blanks.
“Take out the top layer,” suggested Coulter. “Then Grenwood won’t be so apt to notice that the box has been trifled with.” And he and Paxton did so. Then the cover was slid into place once more and the case was restored to its original position. The blanks certainly looked like full cartridges, being tipped with silvery paper.
“Now to do some substituting,” said Reff Ritter. “That’s the hardest part of the job. Some of the fellows are hanging around those cartridge belts and boxes.”
“Maybe we can get them to walk away,” suggested Coulter. “Get them interested in something, you know.”
“I have it!” cried Ritter. “Nick, you walk down in the woods on the other side of the brook and yell like mad. Say you saw a big snake, or something. That will draw the crowd, and then Gus and I can get in our work with the blank cartridges.”
“I’ll do it,” answered Nick Paxton, and hurried around through the bushes and across the brook. He had been gone about five minutes when the cadets at lunch, as well as Captain Putnam and the others, heard a great yelling.
“Help! help! A snake! A snake!”
“What’s that?” exclaimed half a dozen, and then, as the yelling was continued, a rush was made in the direction of the brook.
“Now is our chance,” said Ritter to Coulter, and then the pair stole out of the bushes and in the direction of the stacked arms and the cartridge belts and boxes.
“What’s the matter, Paxton?” demanded Captain Putnam, who was the first to arrive at the spot from whence the cries for help emanated.
“A snake, sir!” answered the cadet glibly. “Ugh! He ran right between my legs!” And Paxton pretended to shiver.
“A snake!” cried several.
“Where is it?”
“Why didn’t you kill it?”
“Yes, a snake, and – and I guess it was a rattler, too. It was about that long,” and Nick Paxton held his hands as far apart as possible. “I couldn’t kill it for I didn’t have a thing in my hand. I – er – I looked for a rock, but the snake was too quick for me.”
The news that a snake was around – and that it might be a rattlesnake at that – alarmed many of the cadets, and some of them recrossed the brook to the open pasture. But others, and Captain Putnam, began a hunt for the reptile, but, of course, without success.
“We may as well give up the search,” said the master of the Hall, after a hunt of ten minutes. “If it was a rattlesnake it has managed to get away.”
“What was you doing here, Paxton?” asked Andy.
“Why I – er – I came over to look for – er – for ferns,” stammered the youth who had played the trick.
“Ferns? Didn’t know you were interested in ferns,” observed Joe Nelson, who was something of a collector of plants himself.
“Oh, I do a little collecting now and then,” answered Paxton, and then walked off, to escape being questioned further.
Half an hour later the noonday rest came to an end and the target practice was again taken up. In the presence of his pupils Captain Putnam took several shots at the long distance target, making a bull’s-eye each time. Then he and the old army officer who had been hired showed the boys how to fire to the best advantage.
Reff Ritter was one of the first to shoot at the three hundred yard target, and much to his chagrin got only three fours – a total of 12. Coulter got but 9, and Paxton 7.
When Jack stepped to the front with the rifle and cartridge box he had been using Reff Ritter winked suggestively at Coulter and Paxton.
“Now we’ll see something rich!” whispered Coulter.
“Hush! you want to keep this to yourself,” warned the bully of the Hall.
“Now, Jack, a bull’s-eye!” said Pepper to his chum.
“Right in the middle of the eye, too,” added Andy.
“I’ll do what I can,” answered the young major, modestly.
With great care he took aim at the target and pulled the trigger. There was a crack and a flash and then a moment of breathless waiting.
“He didn’t hit the target even!”
The announcement was true, and the young major turned a trifle pale in spite of his efforts to control himself.
“Don’t fire hastily, Major Ruddy,” said Captain Putnam kindly. “Draw a bead directly on the center of the target.”
“I – I – thought I did,” stammered Jack.
Again the rifle was raised. Jack was now a bit nervous, yet he managed to steady himself ere he took another shot. His aim was directly for the center of the target.
“Why, Jack, what’s got over you?” cried Pepper, real distress showing in his voice.
“I – I don’t know,“ faltered the youthful major.
“Don’t you feel well?” asked Stuffer. “Or is it your eyesight?”
“Yes, I feel well enough – and my eyesight is all right.”
“Maybe you had a blank cartridge,” cried Dale, suddenly.
This remark caused Jack to look at the remaining cartridges he possessed. Captain Putnam insisted upon examining them also, for he, too, was unwilling to believe that the young officer has made a total miss of the two shots.
“These are certainly ball cartridges,” he said, as he looked them over. “Nothing wrong there. You must have been careless in your aim, Major Ruddy.”
“Captain Putnam, I did the very best I could,” pleaded Jack.
“Well, you have one more shot,” answered the master of the school.
As pale as a sheet the young major of the battalion walked to the front once more and raised his rifle. For several seconds there was a deathlike silence. Then came another crack and flash and a moment of suspense.
“Hurrah! A bull’s-eye!”
“That’s the time you did it, Jack!”
“Why didn’t you do that before?”
With a long breath, Jack lowered his rifle and, turning faced the master of the school:
“Captain Putnam,” he said in a low but firm tone. “I made a bull’s-eye that time because there was a bullet in the cartridge. I am satisfied now that my other two shots were blanks.
THE BLANK CARTRIDGES
For the moment after Jack spoke so positively there was a silence. Captain Putnam looked at the young officer thoughtfully.
“Huh! that’s all tommy-rot!” observed Reff Ritter. “He missed and that is all there is to it.”
“Of course he missed,” chimed in Coulter. “He isn’t a crack shot by any means.”
“What makes you so certain that the first two shots were blanks, Major Ruddy?” asked the master of the school, somewhat sternly.
“Well, sir, I think my record helps to prove it,” answered Jack. “At the hundred-yard target I made three bull’s-eyes; at the two-hundred-yard target I made two bull’s-eyes and a four; now I have made a bull’s-eye and two blanks. Doesn’t it stand to reason, sir, that if those cartridges had not been blanks I would at least have made a two or a one?”
“It is probable, yes,” answered the captain, thoughtfully. “But I did not know any blanks had been brought along, much less dealt out.”
“I brought a case along by mistake,” put in Bob Grenwood. “But as soon as I discovered my mistake I put the case to one side. There it is, sir, on yonder rock.”
“I see. You are sure you didn’t hand any blanks around? That particular box looks like the real thing.”
“Yes, sir – I was very careful.”
Captain Putnam strode over to the rock and shoved back the lid of the case.
“Why, the top layer of cartridges is gone!” he cried. “Was the box full when you opened it?”
“Why – er – yes, sir – I think so, sir,” stammered the quartermaster of the school battalion. “It looked full to me.”
“Young gentlemen,” went on Captain Putnam, raising his voice. “Please to look over the cartridges you have left.”
There was a hasty examination by over a score of cadets.
“Mine are O. K., sir.”
“So are mine.”
“Here, I’ve got a blank!” cried Andy Snow, rushing forward and holding it up. “It’s one of the kind we used to have – those that looked so much like the ball cartridges.”
“Hum! So it is – one of the kind made to represent ball cartridges,” mused Captain Putnam.
“I’ve got two of them!” exclaimed Pepper, and held them up. “My other one is all right,” he added.
“Two blanks and one good one,” said Jack. “That must have been just what I had!”
“Quartermaster Grenwood, can you explain this?” demanded Captain Putnam, sternly.
“N – no, sir. I – I am sure I didn’t deal out any of the blanks. I was very careful, sir.”
“Then how do you account for the blanks being in use?”
“I – I don’t account for it, sir. I am sure, though, I didn’t give them out.”
“You gave out all the ammunition, didn’t you?”
“Then you must have given out the blanks. It was very careless on your part.”
“No wonder I missed!” growled one of the cadets.
“I think we ought to shoot over again,” added another.
“It was a mean trick!” cried a third.
“Quartermaster Grenwood, you have been grossly careless, and your carelessness has caused a great deal of trouble,” said Captain Putnam, sternly.
“I wasn’t careless, I tell you, I – ”
“Silence. I say you were careless, and I now ask you to resign your position as quartermaster of the school battalion.”
“Resign!” gasped Bob Grenwood.
“That is what I said. The battalion must have a quartermaster who can be relied upon at all times. Supposing we were going to have a sham battle and you dealt out ball cartridges instead of blanks, what would happen? Why some of the cadets might be killed! Do you resign or not?”
“Captain Putnam, I – I – ”
“If you refuse to resign I shall have to take the office away from you.”
“All right, I’ll resign,” cried Bob Grenwood, bitterly. “All the same, I say you are treating me unjustly.” And with a red face and bowed head he stepped back into the crowd.
“I don’t believe Bob did it,” whispered Stuffer to Hogan.
“Sure, and I thought he was more careful meself,” answered the Irish-American cadet. “It’s a bad mess, so it is!” added.
Captain Putnam now held a consultation with several of the others and then announced that for every shot fired which had not hit a target the cadet should have another try. In the meantime the blanks were collected and ball cartridges dealt out instead.
“Now, Jack, show ’em what you can do!” cried Pepper, as his chum walked to the front once more.
“Confound it, I guess our plan is busted,” whispered Paxton to Ritter.
“Hush! Not a word of it!” whispered the bully, warningly. “If Captain Putnam ever finds it out, – well, he’ll make it mighty warm for us, that’s all!”
With great care Jack took aim once more. Everybody watched him with interest, and a wild shout went up when the result was announced.
“There, what did I tell you?” cried Pepper. “I knew he could do it!”
“Now another, Jack!” said Andy, enthusiastically.
And the youthful major did make another bull’s-eye, amid the applause of his many friends.
“That’s the highest score yet!”
“Major Ruddy, I must congratulate you,” said Captain Putnam, holding out his hand. “I am now as convinced as you are that those other shots were blanks.”
“Jack, that’s the highest score yet,” said Dale. “I rather think you take the prize.”
“Didn’t know there was a prize, Dale.”
“Well, metaphorically speaking.”
“You’ve bested Reff Ritter and that’s a good deal,” said Andy.
When Pepper came to shoot he made one bull’s-eye and two fours. This gave him quite a high score and made him content. Andy and Dale also did well, while Bart Conners tied Ritter. Mumps and Paxton each made two misses on the long distance target.
“More blanks, I suppose,” grumbled Paxton, although he knew better.
“No,” said Captain Putnam. “That was only your carelessness did that. You shot too quickly.”
“I – I’m not feeling well to-day,” said the school sneak lamely. “I ought to have stayed at the Hall.”
After the target practice was at an end the cadets were allowed an hour to themselves.
“Let us take a walk through the woods,” said Pepper. And he and Jack and half a dozen went off in one direction while Reff Ritter and his cronies went off in another. Bob Grenwood felt so bad that he strolled off by himself.
“I must say, I feel sorry for Bob,” said Jack. “Even if he did deal out the blanks, I don’t think he meant to do it.”
“He feels all cut up to lose the quartermastership,” said Dale. “After the captain made him resign I saw the tears standing in his eyes.”
“What do you say if we go to Captain Putnam and ask him to reinstate Grenwood?” questioned Pepper, who was always ready to help anybody in distress.
“I’ll do that willingly,” came from several of the others.
“I don’t think we ought to go right away,” said Bart Conners. “Wait a few days – until his temper has a chance to cool. Finding the blanks riled him all up.”
“By the way, fellows, have you heard the news?” asked Joe Nelson.
“A new teacher is coming.”
“Who told you that?” asked Pepper.
“Nobody. I heard Captain Putnam and Mr. Strong talking about it. It seems Mr. Strong has got to go away on business, and the new man is coming during his absence.”
“Who is he, did you hear, Joe?” asked several, for they were always anxious concerning their instructors.
“Hope he isn’t like old Crabtree,” was Pepper’s comment. “If he is I’ll feel like jumping into the lake!”
“I don’t know anything about him, excepting that his name is Pluxton Cuddle.”
“Pluxton Cuddle!” cried The Imp. “Wonder if he’ll try to cuddle up to us?”
“I did hear that he was quite a scientist,” went on Joe Nelson. “One of the kind who does everything by rule.”
“Oh, dear! I can see my finish!” sighed Pepper. “It will be ten minutes for this, ten minutes for that, and so on, all day long. And find out the whyforness of the thus of everything in the bargain!”ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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