7. The Arrival Of Songbird
 

"So you've made some enemies as well as some friends, eh?" remarked Songbird Powell, after he had been registered, taken up to his room, and had listened to what the Rover boys had to tell. "No use of talking, it doesn't take you fellows long to stir things up!"

"You said you had a surprise for us, Songbird," returned Tom. "I'm dying by inches to know what it is."

"Maybe it's a new poem," put in Sam with a grimace at his brothers.

"I've got a poem--several of them, in fact," answered Songbird, "but I didn't have those in mind when I spoke. Who do you suppose I met yesterday morning, in Ithaca, while I was waiting for the train?"

"Dora Stanhope and the Lanings," answered Tom promptly.

"No. Tad Sobber."

"Tad Sobber!" exclaimed the Rover boys in concert.

"Songbird, are you sure of it?" demanded Dick.

"Sure? Wasn't I talking to him!"

"But--but--I thought he was lost in that hurricane, when the Josephine was wrecked."

"No. It seems he escaped to a vessel bound for England; but his uncle, Sid Merrick, was lost, and so were most of the others. Sobber just got back from England--came in on one of the ocean liners, so he told me."

"How did he act?" asked Tom.

"Where was he going?" added Sam.

"Did he seem to have any money?" came from Dick.

All of the Rovers were intensely interested, and showed it plainly.

  "'A little lad named Johnny Spark

  Was nothing but a question mark.

  He asked his questions night and day,

  When he was resting or at play.

  One minute he would tackle pa,

  And then he'd turn and tackle ma;

  And then his uncle he would quiz--"

  "And let that line please end the biz,"

"Say, one question at a time, please!" cried Songbird, "You put me in mind of a song I once wrote about a little boy:

finished Tom. "Say, Songbird, please don't quote poetry when we are waiting to hear all about Tad Sobber. Have some pity on us."

"Yes, tell us of Sobber," added Sam and Dick.

"All right, if you don't appreciate my verses," returned the would-be poet with a sigh. "Well, to start with, Tad Sobber was well dressed, and looked as if he had all the money he needed. He wore a brown checkered suit, so evidently he hasn't gone into mourning for his uncle. He told me he had had a rough experience on the ocean during the hurricane, and he blames you Rovers for all his troubles."

"That's just like Sobber," was Dick's comment.

"He wouldn't tell me where he was going or what he was going to do, but he did let drop a remark or two about the fortune you discovered on Treasure Isle. He said that he was firmly convinced that the money belonged to him and to his uncle's estate, and that he meant some day to make a fight for it."

"In the courts?" asked Tom. "If he does that he'll get beaten. Father says the treasure belongs to the Stanhope estate and to nobody else."

"No, he didn't say he was going to court about it, but he said he was bound to get hold of it some day."

"I hope he doesn't try to get it by force," said Sam. "That would mean trouble for the Stanhopes and the Lanings."

"The money is in the banks now, Sam," said Dick. "He couldn't get hold of it excepting on an order from those to whom it belongs."

"And they'll never give him any such order," added Tom.

"Do you suppose he was going to see the Stanhopes and the Lanings?" questioned the oldest Rover anxiously.

"He didn't say, I wanted to question him further, but a man who was standing on a corner, some distance away, beckoned to him, and he left me and joined the man, and the two walked off."

"Who was the man?"

"I don't know."

The boys talked the matter over for some time, but Songbird had nothing more to tell, and at last the subject was dropped. Songbird was introduced to Stanley, Max, and a number of the other students, and soon he felt quite at home.

That evening there was a bit of hazing. Dick and Tom escaped, but Sam, Songbird and Stanley were caught in the lower hallway by a number of the sophomores and carried bodily to the gymnasium. Here they were tossed in blankets and then blindfolded.

"We'll take them to the river," said one of the sophomores. "A bath will do them good."

"Let's give 'em a rubbing down with mud!" cried Jerry Koswell. He had some tar handy, and if the mud was used he intended to mix some of the tar with it on the sly.

"That's the talk!" cried Larkspur, who knew about the tar, he having purchased it for Koswell and Flockley. The three had at first intended to smear the beds of the Rovers with it, but had gotten no chance.

"Give them a good dose!" said Dudd Flockley. He had joined in the blanket-tossing with vigor.

Sam, Songbird and Stanley were being led to the river when Max came rushing up to Tom and Dick, who happened to be in the library, looking over some works of travel.

"Come on mit you!" he cried excitedly in broken English. "Da have got Sam and Stanley and dot friend of yours alretty! Hurry up, or da was killed before we git to help 'em!"

"They? Who?" asked Dick, leaping up.

"Sophs--down by der gym!" And then Max cooled down a bit and related what he had seen.

"We must surely go to the rescue!" cried Tom. "Wait! I'll get clubs for all hands!" And he rushed up to his room, where in a clothing closet lay the end of the hose he had taken away from the sophomores. With his knife he cut the section of hose into eight "clubs," and With these in his hands he hurried below again.

At a cry from Dick and Max the freshmen commenced to gather on the campus, and Tom quickly handed around the sections of hose. Other first-year lads procured sticks, boxing gloves, and other things, and looked around for somebody to lead them.

"Come on!" cried Dick, and he sprang to the front, with Tom on one side and Max on the other. The German-American boy had a big squirtgun filled with water, a gun used by the gardener for spraying the bushes.

The sophomores had captured four more freshmen, and marched all of the crowd down to the river front, when the band under Dick, sixteen strong, appeared. The latter came on yelling like Indians, and flourishing their sections of hose, and sticks and other things.

"Let 'em go! Let 'em go!" was the rallying cry, and then whack! whack! whack! down came the rubber clubs and the sticks on the backs of the second-year students.

"Fight 'em off!" came from the sophomores.

"Chase 'em away!" yelled Dudd Flockley; but hardly had he spoken when Max discharged the squirtgun, and the water took Flockley in the eye, causing him to yell with fright and retreat. Then Max turned the gun on Larkspur, soaking the latter pretty thoroughly.

Attacked from the rear, the sophomores had to let go their holds on their victims, and as soon as they were released Sam, Songbird and the others ran to the right and the left and joined the force under Dick.

All told, the freshmen now numbered twenty-three, while the sophomores could count up but fourteen. The second-year students were hemmed in and gradually forced nearer and nearer to the bank of the river.

"Let up! let up!" yelled several in alarm. "Don't knock us overboard!"

"It's nothing but mud here! I don't want my new suit spoiled!" cried one.

"I can't swim!" added another.

"I've got an idea," whispered Tom to the others near him. "Shove 'em in the mud and water, or else make 'em promise not to take part in the necktie rush."

"That's the talk!" replied Dick. He caught hold of the sophomore in front of him. "All shove, fellows!" And the second-year students were gradually forced to the very edge of the river at a point where there was a little water and a good deal of dark, sticky mud. Of course they fought desperately to push the freshmen back, but they were outnumbered, as already told.

"Now, then, every fellow who will promise not to take part in the necktie rush Monday will be allowed to go free," said Dick loudly. "The others must take their ducking in the water--and mud."

"Let me go!" roared Dudd Flockley. "I'm not going to have this suit ruined!"

"I don't want to get these patent leathers wet!" cried Jerry Koswell, who had on a new pair of shiny shoes.

"Then promise!" cried Sam, and "Promise!" "Promise!" came from many others.

Without delay several of the sophomores promised, and they were allowed to depart. Then the others began to show fight, and three managed to escape, among them being Dudd Flockley. The others were forced into the water and mud up to their knees. Then they cried out in alarm, and while two finally escaped, the others also promised to keep out of the necktie contest.

"Just wait!" snarled Jerry Koswell as he at last managed to pull himself out of the sticky mud. "Just wait, that's all!" His patent- leather shoes were a sight to behold.

"Not so much fun when you are hazed yourself, is it?" asked Sam coolly.

"We'll give it to 'em yet," put in Bart Larkspur. "Lots of time between now and the closing of the term." And then he and Koswell ran off to join Dudd Flockley. The three went to their rooms and cleaned up as best they could, and then took a walk down the road in the direction of Rushville.

"It was that Dick Rover who led the attack," said Dudd Flockley. "Do you know what I think? I think he is going to try to make himself leader of the freshies."

"Just what I thought, too," answered Larkspur. "And if that's the fact we ought to do all we can to pull him down."

"Tom Rover is the fellow I am going to get after," came from Jerry Koswell. He had not forgotten how Tom and Sam had sent him to the floor in the presence of Minnie Sanderson.

The three students walked a distance of half a mile when they saw approaching them a trampish-looking man carrying what looked to be a new dress-suit case. They looked at the fellow rather sharply and he halted as he came up to them.

"Excuse me," he mumbled, "but did any of you gents lose this case?"

"Why, it must be Rover's case!" cried Flockley. Nearly every one in the college had heard about the missing baggage.

"I found it in the bushes alongside the road," went on the tramp. "Thought it might belong to some of the college gents."

"Let me look at it," said Koswell, and turned the case around. "Yes, it's Rover's," he added, seeing the initials and the address.

"Better take it up to the college," put in Larkspur.

"Wait, I'll take it up," said Jerry Koswell suddenly. "This belongs to a poor chap," he added to the tramp. "He won't be able to reward you, but I will. Here's a quarter for you." And he passed over the silver piece.

"Much obliged," said the tramp. "Want me to carry it up to the buildings?"

"No, I'll do that," said Koswell, and then he winked at his cronies. The tramp went on and the three watched him disappear in the distance.

"What did you do that for, Jerry?" asked Flockley with interest. He surmised that something new was afoot.

"Oh, I did it for the fun of the thing," answered Koswell coolly. "But maybe I can work it in somehow against that Rover bunch. Anyway, I'll try."