13. At The Farm
 

"All aboard who are going! We haven't any time to spare if you want to catch that nine-fifteen train."

"Good-bye, Tom, don't forget to write."

"Say, Spud, when you get down to the Maine coast, don't eat too many lobsters."

"And that puts me in mind, Stanley. When you reach the Grand Canyon, send me a piece of rock; I want to see how the Canyon looks."

"Say, whose baseball mitt is this anyway?" And following this question, the mitt came sailing through the air, to land on the floor of the Brill carryall.

"Please get off of my feet!" The wail came from William Philander Tubbs, who was sitting in a corner with another student partly on his lap.

"Everybody shove, and we'll be off!" cried another student, merrily.

Then came a great mixture of cries and whistles, intermingled with the tooting of horns and the sounding of rattles, in the midst of which there moved from the Brill grounds several carriages and an equal number of automobiles.

The term had come to an end, and the students were preparing to scatter. The majority were going home, but others had planned to go directly to the summer resorts where they were to spend their vacations.

"Good-bye, Brill!" sang out Tom, and, for once, his voice was a trifle husky. Now that he was leaving the college not to return, a sudden queer sensation stole over the youth. He looked at his brother, and then turned his gaze away.

"Never mind, Tom," said Sam, softly. "If I come back, as I expect, you'll have to come and visit me."

Hope Seminary was not to close until the week following, and the evening before the Rovers had visited Grace and Nellie. From them, Sam and Tom had heard news that interested them greatly. This was to the effect that Dora had invited her cousins to visit her in New York City some time during the vacation.

"That will be fine!" Tom had cried. "You come when Sam and I are there, and we'll do all we can to give you the best kind of a time." And so it had been arranged.

The boys and their friends were in the Rover touring car. This machine, it had been decided, was to remain at the college garage, in care of Abner Filbury. Abner was now driving, so that the boys were at liberty to do as they pleased.

"Let's give 'em a song," suggested Stanley, and the boys sang one college song after another, the tunes being caught up by those in the other turnouts. Thus they rolled up to the railroad station in Ashton. Then the train came in, and all the young collegians lost no time in getting aboard.

"Where are you going, my dear William Philander?" asked Tom, of the dudish student, who sat in front of him.

"I am going to Atlantic City," was the somewhat stiff reply, for William Philander had not forgotten the ducking in the river.

"Atlantic City!" exclaimed Tom. "Of course, you are not going in bathing?"

"To be sure I am! I have a brand new bathing suit ordered. It is dark blue, with pin stripes running----"

"But see here, Billy! If you go in bathing at Atlantic City this season, you'll be chewed up."

"What do you mean?" And now the dudish student seemed interested.

"Haven't you heard about the sea serpents they have seen at Atlantic City?" demanded Tom,-- "four or five of them." And he poked Sam, who sat beside him, in the ribs; and also winked at Spud, who was in the seat with William Philander.

"That's right, Tubbs," put in Sam. "Why, they say some of those sea serpents are twenty feet long."

"Oh, yes, I heard about them, too," added Spud, and now he braced himself for one of his usual yarns. "Why, they tell me that one afternoon the sea serpents came in so thickly among the bathers that it was hard for them-- I mean those in bathing-- to tell which was sand and which was serpents. Some of the serpents crawled up on the boardwalk, and even got into some of the stores and hotels. They had to order out the police, and then the fire department, and, finally, some of the soldiers had to come down from the rifle ranges with a Gatling gun. You never heard of such a battle! Somebody said they killed as many as ninety- seven sea serpents, and not less than three hundred got away. Why, William Philander, I wouldn't go within twenty-five miles of Atlantic City if I were you," concluded Spud.

"Oh, how ridiculous!" responded the dudish student. Nevertheless, he looked much worried. "Of course, they do report a sea serpent now and then."

"Well, you haven't got to believe it, Billy," answered Tom. "At the same time, you'll be a fine specimen of a college boy if you come back next Fall minus an arm and a leg. How on earth are you going to any of the fashionable dances in that condition?" And at this, there was a general snicker, in the midst of which William Philander arose, caught up his dresssuit case, and fled to another car.

"You can bet that will hold William Philander for awhile," remarked Sam. "He won't dare to put as much as a toe in the water at Atlantic City until he is dead sure it is safe."

"Humph! William Philander isn't one of the kind to go into the water," sniped Tom. "He belongs to the crowd that get into fancy bathing costumes, and then parades up and down on the sand, just to be admired."

It was not long before the Junction was reached, and here the Rovers had to part from a number of their friends. A fifteen-minute wait, and then their train came along. It was not more than half full, so the students had all the room they desired.

"I must say, the farm will look pretty good to me," remarked Tom, when the time came for them to collect their belongings.

"I want to see dad," returned his younger brother.

"Oh, so do I."

"Oak Run! All out for Oak Run!" It was the well-known cry of the brakeman as the train rolled into the station where the Rovers were to alight.

"Good-bye, everybody!" sang out both Sam and Tom, and, baggage in hand, they hurried to the station platform. Then the train went on its way, leaving them behind.

The boys had sent a message ahead, stating when they would arrive, and, consequently, Jack Ness, the hired man, was on hand with the family touring car.

"Back safe and sound, eh? Glad to see yer!" cried the hired man, as they approached, and he touched his cap.

"And we are glad to be back, Jack," returned Tom, and added quickly: "How is my father?"

"Oh, he's doin' as well as can be expected, Mr. Tom. The doctors say he has got to keep quiet. Your Aunt Martha said to warn both of you not to excite him."

"Is he in bed?" questioned Sam.

"Not exactly. He sits up in his easy chair. He can't do much walkin' around."

While talking, the boys had thrown their belongings into the car. Tom took the wheel, with Sam beside him, leaving the hired man to get in among the baggage. Then away they rolled, over the little bridge that spanned the river and connected the railroad station with the village of Dexter's Corners. Then, with a swerve that sent Jack Ness up against the side of the car, they struck into the country road leading to Valley Brook Farm, their home.

"Looks good, doesn't it?" remarked Sam, as they rolled along, past well-kept farms and through a pleasant stretch of woodland.

"Yes, it looks good and is good," returned Tom, with satisfaction. "The college and the city are all right enough, Sam, but I don't go back on dear old Valley Brook!"

"How the country around here has changed since the time when we moved here," went on Sam. "Do you remember those days, Tom?"

"Do I remember them? Well, I guess! And how Uncle Randolph used to be annoyed at what we did." And Tom smiled grimly.

Another turn or two, and they came in sight of the first of the farm fields. Then they reached the long lane leading to the commodious farmhouse, and Tom began to sound the automobile horn.

"There is Uncle Randolph!" cried Sam, pointing to the upper end of the lane.

"Yes, and there is Aunt Martha," added Tom, as a figure stepped out on the farmhouse piazza. Then both of the boys waved their hands vigorously.

"Back again, eh!" cried Uncle Randolph, when the car had been brought to a stop. "Glad to see you, boys," and he shook hands.

"Back again, and right side up with care!" exclaimed Tom. He made one leap up the piazza steps, and caught his aunt in his arms. "How are you, Aunt Martha? Why, I declare, you are getting younger and better looking every day!" and he kissed her heartily.

"Oh, Tom, my dear, don't smother me!" gasped the aunt. Yet she looked tremendously pleased as she gazed at him. Then Sam came in for a hug and a kiss.

"You mustn't be too boisterous," whispered Uncle Randolph, when all started to enter the house. "Remember, your father isn't as strong as he might be."

"Where is he?" both boys wanted to know.

"He is up in the wing over the dining-room," answered their aunt. "We thought that would be the nicest place for him. The window has a fine outlook, you'll remember."

"Can we go up now?" questioned Tom.

"Yes, but remember, do not say anything to excite him

"All right, we'll be careful," came from Sam. And then both lads cast aside their caps and hurried up the stairs.

Mr. Anderson Rover sat in an easy chair, attired in his dressing gown. He looked thin and pale, but his face lit up with a smile as his eyes rested on his two sons.

"Dad!" was the only word each could utter. And then they caught him by either hand, and looked at him fondly.

"I am glad to see you back, boys," said their father, in a low but clear voice. "It seems like a long while since you went away."

"And we have missed you a great deal!" broke out Sam. It's too bad you don't feel better."

"Oh, I think I'll get over it in time," answered Mr. Rover. "But the doctors tell me I must go slow. I wouldn't mind that so much, if it wasn't for Dick. I think he ought to have some help."

"Now, don't you worry, Dad," interposed Tom, gently. "You just leave everything to us. We are both going to New York to help Dick straighten out matters, and it will be all right, I am sure." And he stroked his father's shoulder affectionately.

"But you'll have to go back to college----" began the invalid.

"Sam is going back. I am going to help Dick, and stay with him. Now, don't say anything against it, Dad, for it is all settled," went on Tom, as his father tried to speak again. "I don't care to go back. I think Dick and I were cut out for business men. Sam is the learned member of this family."

"Well, boys, have your own way; you are old enough to know what you are doing." And now Mr. Rover sank back in the chair, for even this brief conversation had almost exhausted him.