1. On The Train
 

"We're making time now, Tom."

"Making time?" repeated Tom Rover as he gazed out of the car window at the telegraph poles flashing past. "I should say we were, Sam! Why, we must be running sixty miles an hour!"

"If we are not we are making pretty close to it," came from a third boy of the party in the parlor car. "I think the engineer is trying to make up some of the time we lost at the last stop."

"That must be it, Dick," said Sam Rover. "Gracious, how we are rocking!" he added as the train rushed around a sharp curve and nearly threw him from his chair.

"I hope we get to Ashton on time," remarked Tom Rover. "I want to take a look around the grounds before it gets dark."

"That's Tom, wanting to see it all before he sleeps!" cried Sam Rover with a grin. "You look out, Tom, that you don't get into disgrace the first thing, as you did when we went to Putnam Hall Don't you remember that giant firecracker, and how Josiah Crabtree locked you up in a cell for setting it off?"

"Ugh! Will I ever forget it!" groaned Tom, making a wry face. "But I got the best of old Crabtree, didn't I?" he continued, his face brightening.

"Wonder if we'll make as many friends at college as we did at Putnam Hall," remarked Dick Rover. "Those were jolly times and no mistake! Think of the feasts, and the hazings, and the baseball and football, and the rackets with the Pornell students, and all that!"

"Speaking of hazing, I heard that some of the hazing at the college we're bound for is fierce," came from Sam Rover.

"Well, we'll have to stand for what comes, Sam," answered his big brother. "No crying quit' here."

"Right you are, Dick," said Tom, "At the same time if--Great Caesar's ghost, what's up now!"

As Tom uttered the last words a shrill whistle from the locomotive pierced the air. Then came the sudden gripping of the air brakes on the car wheels, and the express came to a stop with a shock that pitched all the passengers from their seats. Tom and Sam went sprawling in a heap in the aisle and Dick came down on top of them.

"Hi, get off of me!" spluttered Sam, who was underneath.

"What's the matter? Have we run into another train?" asked Tom as he pushed Dick to one side and arose.

"I don't know," answered the older brother. "Something is wrong, that's certain."

"Are you hurt, Sam?" asked Tom as he helped the youngest Rover to his feet.

"No--not much," was the panting reply. "Say, we stopped in a hurry all right, didn't we?"

With the shock had come loud cries from the other people in the car, and it was found that one young lady had fainted. Everybody wanted to know what was the matter, but nobody could answer the question. The colored porter ran to the platform and opened the vestibule door. Tom followed the man and so did Sam and Dick.

"Freight train ahead, off the track," announced Tom. "We ran into the last car."

"Let us go up front and see how bad it is," returned Dick. "Maybe this will tie us up here for hours."

"Oh, I hope not," cried Sam. "I want to get to the college just as soon as possible. I'm dying to know what it's like."

"We can be thankful we were not hurt, Sam," said his older brother. "If our engineer hadn't stopped the train as he did we might have had a fearful smashup."

"I know it," answered Sam soberly, and then the boys walked forward to learn the full extent of the damage done and what prospects there were of continuing their journey.

To my old readers the lads just mentioned will need no special introduction, but for the benefit of those who have not read the previous volumes in this "Rover Boys Series" let me state that the brothers were three in number, Dick being the oldest, fun-loving Tom coming next and Sam the youngest. They were the sons of one Anderson Rover, a rich widower, and when at home lived with their father and an aunt and an uncle on a beautiful farm called Valley Brook.

From the farm, and while their father was in Africa, the boys had been sent by their Uncle Randolph to school, as related in the first book of the series, called "The Rover Boys at School." At this place, called Putnam Hall, they made many friends and also a few enemies and had "the time of their lives," as Tom often expressed it.

A term at school had been followed by a short trip on the ocean, and then the boys, in company with their uncle, went to the jungles of Africa to rescue Mr. Rover, who was a captive of a savage tribe of natives. After that came trips out West, and to the Great Lakes, and to the mountains, and, returning to school, the lads went into camp with the other cadets. Then they took another long trip on land and sea and led a Crusoe-like life on an island of the Pacific Ocean.

"I think we'd better settle down now," said Dick on returning home from being cast away, but this was not to be. They took a house-boat trip down the Ohio and the Mississippi rivers, had a number of adventures on the plains and then found themselves in southern waters, where they solved the mystery of a deserted steam yacht.

They returned to the farm and to Putnam Hall, and for a time matters went along quietly. On account of attending to some business for his father, Dick had fallen somewhat behind in his studies, and Tom and Sam did their best to catch up to him, and, as a consequence, all three of the youths graduated from Putnam Hall at the same time.

"And now for college!" Sam had said, and all were anxious to know where their parent intended to send them next But instead of settling this question Mr. Rover came forward with a proposition that was as novel as it was inviting. This was nothing less than to visit a spot in the West Indies, known as Treasure Isle, and made a hunt for a large treasure secreted there during a rebellion in one of the Central American countries.

"A treasure hunt! Just the thing!" Dick had said, and his brothers agreed with him. The lads were filled with excitement over the prospect, and for the time being all thoughts of going to college were thrust aside.

From Mr. Rover it was learned that the treasure belonged to the estate of a Mr. Stanhope, who had died some years before. Mr. Stanhope's widow was well known to the Rover boys, and Dick thought that Dora Stanhope, the daughter, was the finest girl in the whole world. There was also another relative, a Mrs. Laning--the late Mr. Stanhope's sister--who was to share in the estate, and she had two daughters, Grace and Nellie, two young ladies who were especial favorites with Sam and Tom.

"Oh, we've got to find that treasure," said Tom. "Think of what it means to the Stanhopes and the Lanings."

"They'll be rich--and they deserve to be," answered his brother Sam. It may be added here that the Rovers were wealthy, so they did not begrudge the treasure to others.

A steam yacht was chartered and a party was made up, consisting of the Rovers, several of the boys' school chums, Mrs. Stanhope and Dora and Mrs. Laning and Grace and Nellie. The steam yacht carried a fine crew and also an old tar called Bahama Bill, who knew the exact location of the treasure.

Before sailing it was learned that some rivals were also after the treasure. One of these was a sharper named Sid Merrick, who had on several occasions tried to get the best of the Rovers and failed. With Merrick was Tad Sobber, his nephew, a youth who at Putnam Hall had been a bitter foe to Dick, Tom and Sam. Sobber had sent the Rovers a box containing a live poisonous snake, but the snake got away and bit another pupil. This lad knew all about the sending of the reptile and he exposed Tad Sobber, and the latter, growing alarmed, ran away from the school.

The search for the treasure proved a long one, and Sid Merrick and Tad Sobber did all in their power to keep the wealth from falling into the hands of the Rovers and their friends. But the Rovers won out in the quest and sailed away with the treasure on board the steam yacht. The vessel of their enemies followed them, but a hurricane came up and the other ship was lost with nearly all on board.

"Well, that's the end of Sid Merrick and Tad Sobber," said Dick when he heard this news. "If they are at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean they can't bother us any more." But Dick was mistaken in his surmise. It was true that Sid Merrick had been drowned, but Tad Sobber was alive, having been rescued by a schooner bound for London, and he was now on his way back to the United States, more bitter than ever against the Rovers, and with a determination to do all in his power to bring Dick, Tom and Sam to grief and gain possession of the money which he and his uncle had claimed belonged to them instead of to the Stanhope estate.

On arriving at Philadelphia from the West Indies the treasure was deposited in a strong box of a local trust company. From it the expenses of the trip were paid, and the sailors who had aided in the search were suitably rewarded. Later on the balance of the treasure was divided according to the terms of Mr. Stanhope's will. This placed a large sum of money in the hands of Mrs. Stanhope, both for herself and Dora, and also a goodly amount in the hands of Mrs. Laning for herself and Grace and Nellie.

The Stanhopes had always been fairly well off, but not so the Lanings. John Laning was a farmer, and this sudden change to riches bewildered him.

"Why, mother," he said to his wife, "whatever will you and the gals do with the money?"

"Several things, John," she answered. "In the first place, you are not going to work so hard and in the next place the girls are going to have a better education."

"Well, I'm not afraid of work," answered the farmer. "About eddication, if they want it--well, it's their money and they can have all the learnin' they want."

"Dora is going to a boarding school and Nellie and Grace want to go with her," went on Mrs. Laning.

"Where is Dora going?"

"To a place called Hope Seminary. Her mother knows the lady who is the principal."

"Well, if it's a good place, I reckon the gals can go too. But it will be terrible lonesome here without 'em."

"I know, John, but we want the girls to be somebody, now they have money, don't we?"

"Sure we do," answered Mr. Laning readily.

So it was arranged that the three girls should go to Hope Seminary, located several miles from the town of Ashton, in one of the Central States. In the meantime the Rover boys were speculating on what college they were to attend. Yale was mentioned, and Harvard and Princeton, and also several institutions located in the Middle West.

"Boys, wouldn't you like to go to Brill College?" asked their father one day. "That's a fine institution--not quite so large as some but just as good." And he smiled in a peculiar manner.

"Brill? Where is that?" asked Dick.

"It is near the town of Ashton, about two miles from Hope Seminary, the school Dora Stanhope and the Laning girls are going to attend." And Mr. Rover smiled again.

"Brill College for mine," said Sam promptly and in a manner that made his brothers laugh.

"Sam wants to be near Grace," said Tom.

"Well, don't you want to be near Nellie?" retorted the youngest Rover.

"Of course I do. And I reckon Dick won't be angry at being where he can occasionally see Dora," went on the fun-loving Rover with a sly wink. "Of course it's nice enough to write letters and send boxes of chocolates by mail, but it's a good deal better to take a stroll in the moonlight and hold hands, eh, Dick?"

"Is that what you do?" asked Dick, but his face grew very red as he spoke.

"Never in the wide, wide world!" cried Tom.

"I leave that for my sentimental brothers, big and little."

"Who is sentimental?" exclaimed Sam. "Maybe I don't remember you and Nellie on the deck of the steam yacht that moonlight night--"

"Aw, cut it out!" muttered Tom. He turned to his father, who had been called from the room for a moment. "If you think Brill College a good one, dad, it will suit me."

"And it will suit me, too," added Sam.

"I mentioned Brill for two reasons," explained Mr. Rover. "The one was because it is near Hope Seminary and the other is because I happen to know the president, Dr. John Wallington, quite well; in fact, we went to school together. He is a fine gentleman--as fine a fellow as Captain Putnam--and I am sure his college must be a good one."

"If it's as good as dear old Putnam Hall, I shall be well content," answered Dick.

"Then you are satisfied to go there, Dick?"

"Yes, sir."

So it was settled and arrangements were at once made for the three boys to go to Brill. Fortunately it was found that their diplomas from Putnam Hall would admit them to the freshmen class without examination. All of the boys wrote letters to the girls and received answers in return.

The college was to open two weeks before the seminary, so that to journey to Ashton together would be out of the question.

"Well, we'll see the girls later, anyway," said Dick. "I hope they like it at Hope and we like it at Brill; then we'll have some splendid times together."

"Right you are," answered Sam, and Tom said the same.

At last came the day for the boys to leave home. Trunks and dress- suit cases were packed, and not only their father but also their Uncle Randolph and their Aunt Martha went to the depot to see them off.

"Now be good and take care of yourselves," said Mr. Rover on parting.

"Learn all you can," added Uncle Randolph. "Remember that knowledge is better than wealth."

"Oh, I'm going to cram my head full of learning this trip," answered Tom with a grin.

"Take care of yourselves and don't get sick," was Aunt Martha's warning. "If you do, get a doctor right away." And then she gave each of the boys a warm, motherly kiss and a hug. She thought the lads the very best in all this wide world.

The train came and the boys were off. After a two hours' ride they had to change to the main line and got into the parlor car already mentioned. Then they had dinner in the diner and went back to the other car to read and to look at the scenery. Thus several hours slipped by, when of a sudden came the jar and shock that told them something out of the ordinary had happened.