13. The Rowing Race
 

Having told so much, Dora went into all the particulars of Tad Sobber's visit to the Stanhope homestead. She told of how Sobber had argued, and she said he had affirmed that the Rovers had falsified matters so that the Stanhopes and the Lanings might benefit thereby.

"What he says is absolutely untrue," said Dick. "Father went over those papers with care, and so did the lawyers, and the treasure belongs to you and the Lanings, and to nobody else."

"Don't you think Sid Merrick fooled Sobber?" asked the girl.

"Perhaps, but I guess Tad was willing to be fooled. They set their hearts on that money, and now Tad can't give it up. In one way I am sorry for him, and if a small amount of cash would satisfy him and set him on his feet, I'd hand it over. We put Dan Baxter on his feet that way."

"Oh, but Baxter isn't Sobber, Dick. Sobber is wild and wicked. I was so afraid he would attack mamma and me I hardly knew what to do. And his eyes rolled so when he talked!"

"Did he go to the Lanings?"

"No."

"Probably he was afraid of your uncle. Mr. Laning won't stand for any nonsense. I suppose your mother is afraid he'll come back?"

"Yes; and to protect herself she has hired one of the farm men to sleep in the house. The man was once in the army, and he knows how to use a gun."

"Then that will make Sobber keep his distance. He is a coward at heart. I found that out when we went to Putnam Hall together,"

"But you must beware of him, Dick. He may show himself here next."

"It won't do him any good. All I've got here is a little spending money. No, I don't think he'll show himself here. More than likely he'll try to hire some shyster lawyer to fight for the treasure in the courts. But I don't think he'll be able to upset your claim."

They had now reached Hope Seminary, and the conversation came to an end. The boys helped the girls to alight, and said good-by. Then they drove back to Ashton, where the buggy was left at the livery stable; and all piled into the carriage for the college. On the way Dick told his brothers about Tad Sobber.

"Dora is right. He is a bad egg," said Sam. "I wouldn't trust him under any consideration,"

"He is too much of a coward to attack anybody openly," was Tom's comment. "But as Dick says, he may hire some shyster lawyer to take the matter into the courts. It would be too bad if the fortune was tied up in endless litigation."

"He's got to get money to fight with first," said Dick.

"Oh, some lawyers will take a case like that on a venture."

"That's true."

Several days passed quietly, and the Rover boys applied themselves diligently to their studies, for they wished to make fine records at Brill.

"We are here to get a good education," was the way Dick expressed himself, "and we want to make the most of our time."

"As if I wasn't boning away to beat the band!" murmured Tom reproachfully.

"I'd like to take the full course in about two years," came from Sam.

"College studies are mighty hard," broke in Songbird, who was working over his chemistry. "I don't get any chance to write poetry any more."

"For which let us all be truly thankful," murmured Sam to Tom.

"Ten minutes more," announced Dick, looking at his watch. "Then what do you say to a row on the river?"

"Suits me!" cried Tom.

"All right, then. Now clear out, and--silence!"

A quarter of an hour later the Rover boys and Songbird walked down to the river. There were plenty of boats to be had, and Dick and Tom were soon out. Songbird and Sam received an invitation to go for a ride in a gasolene launch owned by Stanley.

"Suits me!" cried the would-be poet. "I can row any time, but I can't always ride in a motor boat."

"Same here," said Sam.

A number of craft were on the river, including one containing Jerry Koswell and Bart Larkspur. Koswell scowled as he saw Tom and Dick rowing near by.

"We'll give 'em a shaking up," he said to his crony, and turned their rowboat so that it bumped fairly and squarely into the craft manned by Tom and Dick. The shock was so great that Dick, who had gotten up to fix his seat, was nearly hurled overboard.

"See here, what do you mean by running into us?" demanded the oldest Rover on recovering his balance.

"Sorry, but it couldn't be helped," answered Koswell. "Why didn't you get out of the way?"

"We didn't have to," retorted Sam, "and if you try that trick again somebody will get his head punched."

"Talk is cheap," sneered Larkspur.

"Say, I heard you fellows have been boasting of how you can row," went on Koswell after a pause.

"We haven't been boasting, but we can row," answered Tom.

"Want to race?"

"When?"

"Now."

"I don't know as I care to race with a chap like you, Koswell," answered Dick pointedly.

"You're afraid."

"No, I am not afraid."

"Let us race them," whispered Tom to his brother. "I am not afraid of them."

"Oh, neither am I, Tom."

"Well race you to Rock Island and back," said Koswell, after consulting Larkspur.

"All right," answered Dick.

"Want to bet on the result?" questioned Koswell. He was usually willing to bet on anything.

"We don't bet," answered Tom.

"And we wouldn't with you, if we did," added Dick. "I don't think you are in our class, Koswell, and you never will be. At the same time, since you are so anxious to row against us, we'll race you--and beat you."

This answer enraged Jerry Koswell, and he dared the Rovers to wager ten dollars on the race. They would not, but others took up the bet, and then several other wagers were made.

Rock Island was a small, stony spot half a mile up the stream, so the race would be about a mile in length. Frank Holden was chosen as referee and umpire, and all of the contestants prepared for the struggle.

"Your boat is lighter than that of the Rovers," said Holden to Koswell and Larkspur. "You really ought to give them some lead."

"No. This is an even start," growled Koswell.

"Very well, but it doesn't seem quite fair."

It was soon noised around that the race was to take place, and the river bank speedily became lined with students anxious to see how the contest would terminate.

"Now, Tom, take it easy at the start, but finish up strong," cautioned Dick.

"I feel like pulling a strong stroke from the first," answered Tom. "Let us do it, and leave them completely in the shade."

"No. We must first try to find out what they can do."

"Say, you've got to beat 'em," came from Sam, as the launch came close. "If they win you'll never hear the end of it."

"They're not going to win," answered Dick, quietly but firmly.

"All ready?" asked Frank Holden, as the boats drew up side by side near the boathouse float.

"We are!" sang out Tom.

"Ready!" answered Jerry Koswell.

"Go!" shouted Frank.

Four pairs of oars dropped into the water simultaneously, and away shot the two craft side by side. There was no disguising the fact that Koswell and Larkspur were good oarsmen, and what was equally important, they had done much practicing together. On the other hand, while Dick and Tom could row well, they had pulled together but twice since coming to Brill.

"You've got your work cut out for you!" shouted Songbird. "But never mind. Go in and win!"

For the first quarter of a mile the two row-boats kept close together. Occasionally one would forge ahead a few inches, but the other would speedily overtake it. Then, however, the Rover boys settled down to a strong, steady stroke, and forged a full length ahead.

"See! see! The Rovers are winning!" shouted Max in delight.

"That's the way to do it!" cried Stanley, "Keep it up! You're doing nobly!"

"Show 'em the way home!" added Songbird.

"Pull, Jerry! Pull!, Bart!" screamed Dudd Flockley to his cronies. "Don't let them beat you!"

Before long the island was reached, and the Rovers rounded it a length and a half ahead. This made Jerry Koswell frantic, and he called on Larkspur to increase the stroke.

"All right, I'm with you," was the short answer.

The increase in the stroke speedily told, and inch by inch the second boat began to overhaul the first Then Tom made a miss, sending a shower of water into the air. At this the craft containing Koswell and Larkspur shot ahead.

"Hurrah! That's the way to do it!" yelled Flockley in delight. "Even money on the green boat!"

"Take you," answered Spud Jackson promptly. "How much?"

"A fiver."

"All right."

"Steady, Tom," cautioned Dick. "Now, then Ready?"

"Yes."

"Then bend to it. One, two, three, four."

Again the Rover boys went at the rowing with a will, increasing their stroke until it was six to the minute more than that of Koswell and Larkspur. The latter were frantic, and tried to do likewise, but found it impossible. Inch by inch the Rovers' craft went ahead. Now it was half a length, then a length, then two lengths.

"Say, there is rowing for you!" was the comment of a senior. "Just look at them bend to it!"

"Yes, and look at the quick recovery," added another fourth-year student.

From two lengths the Rovers went three lengths ahead. Then Koswell missed a stroke, and tumbled up against Larkspur.

"Hi! What are you doing?" spluttered Larkspur in disgust.

"Cou--couldn't hel--help it," panted Jerry, He was all but winded, for the pulling had been too much for him.

"The Rovers win! The Rovers win!" was the shout that went up, and in the midst of the hubbub Dick and Tom crossed the line, winning by at least six lengths. Koswell and Larkspur were so disgusted that they did not even finish, but stopped rowing and turned away from the float.

"The Rovers win," announced Frank Holden. "A fine race, too," he added. "Let me congratulate you," and he waved his hand pleasantly to Dick and Tom.

"I got a pain in my side, and that made me miss the stroke," said Jerry Koswell lamely. "Some day I'll race them again, and win, too."

"You should have won this time," growled Dudd Flockley when he was alone with his cronies. "I dropped twenty dollars on that race."

"I never thought they could row like that," was Larkspur's comment. "I don't think I want to row against them again."

Dick and Tom were warmly congratulated by all their friends. It had been a well-earned victory, and they were correspondingly happy. Koswell was sourer than ever against them, and vowed he would "square up" somehow, and Larkspur agreed to help him. Dudd Flockley was glum, for his spending money for the month was running low, and it was going to be hard to pay the wagers he had lost.