19. More Complications
 

The football eleven celebrated the victory that evening by bonfires and by something of a feast. Of course Tom and Dick were present, as were also Sam and a host of others, but it must be confessed that the Rovers did not enjoy themselves.

"See here, Dick," said Tom after the festivities were over, "what is this trouble between you and Dora?"

"Don't ask me, ask her," returned Dick shortly. "She knows more about it than I do."

"She won't say a word," came from Sam "She said she didn't feel well, that's all; and I know that wasn't true altogether."

"Was it that Minnie Sanderson?" went on Tom.

"If it was, it wasn't my fault," answered Dick.

"But what did you do?" insisted Tom. He was bound to get at the bottom of the affair.

Thereupon Dick was compelled to relate all that had happened, which, in truth, was not much.

"And is that all?" asked Sam.

"Yes."

"I don't see why she should be put out over that," said Tom slowly. "But then girls are queer. The more you know them the less you understand them."

"Grace and Nellie take Dora's part," said Sam with a deep sigh. "It has put us all somewhat on the outs."

"I am sorry to hear that," answered Dick, and his tone of voice showed that he was sincere. "But I don't know what I can do," he added helplessly. "I don't want to be on the outs with anybody, but if Dora is bound to turn the cold shoulder to me--" He did not finish.

Following the game with Roxley, Brill played two other games with a college from Delton and another from Speer. The game with the latter college resulted in a tie, but Delton was beaten by Brill by a score of 16 to 10. Tom and Dick played in both games, and won considerable credit for their work.

During these days the boys did not see the girls, nor did they hear from them. Thanksgiving was passed at Brill, only a few of the students going home. Among the number to leave were Dudd Flockley and Jerry Koswell, and they did not return until a week later.

The dude and his crony, as well as Larkspur, were still down upon the Rovers, but for the present they kept quiet, the reason being that they were behind in their lessons and had to work hard to make up. But all were watching their chances to do the Rover boys some injury on the quiet.

Dick, Tom and Sam got along well in their studies. The only trouble they had in the classroom was with Professor Sharp, who made them "toe the mark" upon every occasion. But they took good care to obey the rules, so the irascible teacher got no chance to lecture or punish them.

The boys got a number of letters from home, and these brought news that the law case Tad Sobber had instituted against the Stanhopes and the Lanings was being pushed vigorously. Mr. Rover wrote that he felt certain the shyster lawyer Sobber had on the case was going to present a great mass of "evidence," no doubt manufactured for the occasion.

"It's a shame!" cried Tom after hearing this. "Such a lawyer ought to be in prison!"

"The thing of it is to prove he is doing something wrong," answered Dick. "It is one thing to know the truth and quite another to prove it in court."

"If the case should be lost the Lanings will be poorer than ever," said Sam.

"That is true, Sam. I wish we could do something, but I am afraid we can't."

Fate seemed bound to make matters worse for the Rover boys. On a clear, cold Saturday afternoon in December the three brothers and Songbird went out to look for nuts in the woods near Ashton. They had heard that the seminary girls occasionally visited the woods for that purpose, and each was secretly hoping to run across Dora and the Lanings.

It did not take the boys long to reach the woods, and they soon found a spot where hickory nuts were plentiful. They had brought some bags along, and were soon hard at work gathering the nuts.

While thus occupied they heard a number of girls coming along. At first they fancied the newcomers might be from the seminary, but soon saw that they were natives of the place. They were five in number, and among them was Minnie Sanderson.

"Why, how do you do?" said Minnie, coming up with a smile on her face. "How strange to meet out here!" And then she shook hands with each of the Rovers, and speedily introduced her friends, and the Rovers introduced Songbird.

Minnie was neatly attired in a brown dress, with a brown hat to match, and while she did not look anyway "stunning," she made an attractive appearance. Her friends, too, were pretty, and well dressed, and all were very jolly.

"It's a nice bunch, all right," murmured Tom to Sam. "I like their open-hearted way of talking."

"So do I," answered the youngest Rover.

The girls joined the boys in gathering nuts, and so spent an enjoyable hour roaming through the woods. Often the Rovers and Songbird would knock down the nuts with sticks and stones and leave the girls to gather what they wanted.

"We like to have a large quantity of nuts on hand for the winter," said Minnie to Dick. "Then, when there is a deep snow on the ground we can sit before the blazing fire and crack nuts and eat them. You must come over some time this winter and help," she added.

"Perhaps I will," murmured Dick. He had to admit to himself that Minnie was very cordial and that she was by no means bad looking. He did not wonder why Flockley and Koswell were so anxious to call upon her.

  "Hark to the silence all around!

  The well-trained ear doth hear no sound.

  The birds are silent in their nest,

  All tired Nature is at rest.

  The brook in silence finds its way

  From shadows deep to perfect day.

  The wind is dead, there is no breeze--"

  "To make a fellow cough and sneeze!"

Roaming through the woods caused Songbird to become poetic, and while they rested in the sunshine, and picked some of the nuts that Tom and Sam had cracked, he recited some verses composed on the spur of the moment:

murmured Tom, and gave a loud ker-chew! that set all the girls to laughing.

"That isn't right!" declared Songbird half angrily. "There is no sneeze in this poem,"

  "The wind is dead, there is no breeze

  To stir the bushes or the trees.

  Full well I know, as here I stand,

  That Solitude commands the land!"

"Oh, excuse me. I only thought I'd help you out," answered Tom soberly. And then the would-be poet continued:

"Good! Fine! Immense! Great!" cried Sam enthusiastically. "Hurrah for Solitude!"

"Why, Mr. Powell, you are a real poet," said one of the girls gravely. And this pleased Songbird greatly.

"You'll have to write in my autograph album," said another, and the would-be poet readily consented. Later he inscribed a poem in the book three pages long.

At last it came time to leave the woods, and the boys walked with the girls toward the road. As they did this they heard the sound of wheels.

"Must be a carriage coming," said Dick, and stepped into the roadway to see, followed by the others in the party. A few seconds later a turnout rumbled into sight. It was the Hope Seminary carryall, and it contained half a dozen girls, including Dora, Nellie and Grace.

"Hello! Look there!" cried Tom, and raised his cap, and the other boys did the same. Dora and her cousins looked at the crowd, and their faces flushed. They bowed rather stiffly, and then the carryall bowled on its way.

"Why, those are your friends!" cried Minnie, turning to the Rovers. "Don't you want to speak to them?"

"It's too late now," answered Dick. He had a curious sinking sensation in his heart that he could not explain. He looked at his brothers, and saw that they, too, were out of sorts.

The passing of the carryall put a damper on matters, and the girls felt it. They talked with the Rovers and Songbird a few minutes longer and then turned in one direction while the Brill students turned in another.

"Fine lot of girls," was Songbird's comment. "Very nice, indeed. And they know how to appreciate poetry, too," he added with satisfaction.

"Oh, yes, they are all right," answered Dick carelessly. Somehow, he was now sorry he had gone to the woods after nuts.

"I am going to call on all of them some time," went on Songbird. "That Minnie Sanderson told me she plays the piano, and sings. I am going to get her to sing a new song I am writing. It goes like this-- "

"Excuse me, Songbird; not now," said Dick. "I want to do an extra lesson." And he hurried off, while Sam and Tom did the same.

Two hours later Dick ran into William Philander Tubbs, who had been down to town in company with Stanley.

"Had a lovely time, don't you know," drawled William Philander. "While Stanley posted some letters and addressed some picture postals I did up the shops. And what do you think? I found a beautiful new maroon necktie, and it was only a dollar--same kind they would charge one seventy-five for in the big cities. And I saw a new style of collar, and some patent-leather pumps that have bows with loose ends, and--"

"Some other time, Billy," interrupted Dick. "I'm in a hurry now."

"Oh, I'm sorry. But, Dick, one other thing. I met Miss Stanhope and her cousins."

"You did?" And now Dick was willing to listen. "Where?"

"At one of the stores. They were doing some buying, in company with those chaps you don't like."

"The chaps I don't like! You don't mean--"

Dick paused in wonder.

"I mean that Flockley chap and his chums, Koswell and Larkspur."

"Were Miss Stanhope and the Misses Laning with those fellows?" demanded the elder Rover.

"They seemed to be. They were buying fruit and candy, and I think Flockley treated to hot chocolate. The girls seemed glad enough to see me, but I--ah--didn't want to--ah--break in, you know, so I came away."

"Where did they go after having the chocolate and candy?"

"I don't know. I didn't see them after that." And there the talk came to an end, for several other students appeared. Dick walked off in a thoughtful mood.

"Deeper and deeper!" he told himself, with something like a groan. Then he hunted up Sam and Tom.

"Going with Flockley and that crowd!" cried Tom. "Not much! I won't have it!" And he commenced to pace the floor.

"What are you going to do about it?" asked Sam.

"Call on the girls and talk it over--and you and Dick are going with me."

"I'll not go," declared Dick.

"Neither will I," added Sam.

"Yes, you shall--and to-night," said Tom firmly.