5. Three Letters
 

A new idea had entered Tom's mind, and he lost no time in carrying it out. Meeting Bob Grimes and Stanley Browne, he drew them quickly to one side and mentioned the talk he had had with William Philander.

"Now, carry it along," he concluded. "If you do it properly, we'll have a barrel of fun out of it."

"Right you are!" returned Bob, and Stanley winked knowingly. Then Tom hurried off, to interview several others of the students, principally those who were interested in the Brill baseball nine.

Just before the bell rang for breakfast, William Philander found himself confronted by Bob, who shook hands cordially. "This is the best news yet, William," said the baseball leader, heartily. "I have been wondering what we were going to do for a pitcher this season."

"Yes, it's all to the merry," put in Stanley, who had come up with Bob. "But tell us privately, William, are you going to depend on a straight ball and speed, or are you going to give them some curves and fadeaways?"

"Now, see here!" spluttered the dudish student. "I am not a baseball pitcher, and I want. you to----"

"Oh, William, don't try that game on us! '" burst out Stanley. "We know that you have been practicing pitching for the past two months; that you took lessons from one of the greatest ball twirlers in the Western League. Of course, we understand that you wanted to surprise us; and I must confess, it is a surprise."

"But a mighty agreeable one," came from Spud, who had joined the crowd, while Tom hovered behind William Philander, grinning broadly over what was taking place. "Brill has wanted a really great pitcher for years. Of course, we have won some victories with ordinary pitchers, but the moment I heard that you had taken to twirling the sphere, I said to all my friends; 'This is the year that Brill is going to come out on top.' My dear Tubbs, I think we ought to get down on our knees, and thank you for doing this much for our college. I am sure the board of directors, when they hear of this, will certainly give you a vote of thanks, because success in baseball and other athletic sports is what makes a college in these days. And you are taking up the sport in such a thoroughly systematic manner

"Oh, my dear fellow!" pleaded William Philander, frantically. "This is all some dreadful mistake, don't you know. How it came about, I can't imagine, but I haven't----"

"It's no use, fellows. He simply won't acknowledge it yet," broke in another student.

"We'll have to wait until he comes out on the diamond in his new uniform," added still another.

"Anyway, William, you might tell us whether you are going to use a straight ball or a curve and the fadeaway," pleaded Stanley.

"He is going to keep that a secret, so as to fool our opponents," broke in Tom. "And he'll fool them all right enough, you can depend on W. P. Tubbs every time."

"Three cheers for W. P.!" cried Spud. "Now, then, boys, altogether: W. P., the champion pitcher of Brill College!"

A cheer and a yell rent the air, and brought a great number of other students to that part of the campus. In a twinkling, William Philander was completely surrounded.

"What's it all about?"

"Is it a fight?"

"Who are they cheering?"

"It's all about Mr. W. P. Tubbs, Esq.," cried Tom, loudly. "Our new, double back-action, warranted, baseball twirler; the man who is going to shoot 'em over the plate in such a marvelous fashion that our rivals will go down and out in one, two, three order."

At his announcement, a great hubbub arose on all sides.

"Tubbs! is he a baseball pitcher?"

"I didn't know he knew a thing about baseball."

"That dude launching a fadeaway? That gets me!"

"Where did he learn to pitch?"

"Who put him on the team?"

"Say, Tubbs, explain this, won't you?" This last remark came from four students in unison.

"You let me out of this!" cried the dudish student in despair. "It's all some horrid joke! I am not going to pitch! I don't know anything about pitching! I don't know hardly anything about baseball! I don't want to play! Why, when a fellow falls down running around the bases, he is apt to get all dirty! You let me out of this!" And so speaking, William Philander Tubbs pushed his way out of the crowd, and fairly ran for the nearest of the school buildings.

"I guess that will hold W. P. for a while," was Tom's comment, as the tall student vanished.

"Good joke, Tom!" returned Bob.

"What's the matter with keeping it up?" added Spud. "Don't let him know the truth. Maybe some day we can drag him out on the diamond."

"All right," answered Tom. "I'll do it;" and then, as the bell rang for breakfast, all of the students hurried inside.

Some days passed, and during that time the Rover boys waited anxiously for some news from their brother Dick, and also for word from Hope Seminary. In the meantime, the lads had settled down to the usual grind of college life, and were doing as well as could be expected considering the interruptions their studies had suffered.

The Rover boys had already learned that the bridge across the Paxton River had been repaired. The automobile, which had gone into the stream, had been found intact, only needing some cleaning to make it once more useable. It had been taken to the hotel garage. The young man, who had been thrown into the stream at the time, was still in bed under the doctor's care. Evidently, the shock to his system had been more severe than had been at first supposed.

"Letters at last!" cried Tom, on the third morning, as he came in, holding up several epistles. One was from Grace, another from Nellie, and still a third from Dick.

As might have been expected, the boys opened the letters from the girls first.

"Nothing new in this," remarked Tom, somewhat disappointedly, after having read what Nellie had written. "She says that the diamond ring has not yet been found, and that everything is at a standstill concerning it."

"Grace says practically the same thing," returned Sam. "She adds that Nellie is very much downcast, and she thinks that, while her friends all stand by her, some of the girls are giving her the cold shoulder."

"It's an outrage! Oh, Sam, I wish I could do something!" And unable to control his feelings, Tom clenched his hands and began to pace the floor.

"It certainly is the meanest thing I ever heard of, Tom. But I don't see what we can do. In fact, I don't see what anybody can do. The seminary management must have made a thorough investigation, and if they haven't discovered anything, I don't see how an outsider can solve the mystery."

"Maybe they ought to shadow some of the hired help, or something like that."

"They may be doing that, Tom. They certainly won't let a four-hundred-dollar ring get away from them without making the biggest kind of an effort to find out where it went. But open that letter from Dick, and see what he has to say."

The communication was torn open, and Tom glanced over it hastily.

"I have something of a surprise for you. In coming to a settlement with Pelter, Japson & Company, they notified me that they were going out of business in New York City. Pelter claims that our exposing the firm practically ruined them, and at the present time there is still due father a matter of about fifteen hundred dollars, which they seem unable to pay. Both Pelter and Japson have offered to turn over to us the entire contents of their offices in Wall Street, along with their lease. I don't think the outfit is worth the fifteen hundred dollars, but when you can't get all that is coming to you, the next best thing is to take what you can get. I am writing to father about this, and if he agrees with me, I shall take the lease of the offices, and also the outfit, which includes several desks, chairs, a safe and a filing cabinet. Pelter says the outfit was new two years ago, so that it is in quite good condition.

"Dora sends her best regards. As you know, we are now installed in our suite at the Outlook Hotel, and she spends quite some of her time shopping and looking around the city. I have gone out with her a few times, but spend most of my time in straightening out these financial matters, and in taking care of father's other investments. Mr. Powell, the lawyer, is assisting me to unravel the tangle, but it is hard work, and I often wish that one or both of you were here to help me. Remember me to all the boys and likewise to Grace and Nellie.

"By the way, I understand that Josiah Crabtree is soon to leave the hospital. His leg was so badly broken that he will have to walk with either a crutch or a couple of canes. In one way, I feel sorry for the old fellow, but he brought the accident on himself. What a shame that a man with his education couldn't have remained honest and straightforward.

"As I said above, Pelter, Japson & Company, are going to give up business here. Just the same, I don't like Pelter's actions at all. I think he is a bad one through and through-- much worse than Japson-- who is more weak than wicked. I am going to keep my eyes open whenever Pelter is around."

"Here's a surprise, Sam," he cried. "Well, what do you know about this!" And he read as follows:

Both boys read this communication from Dick with deep interest. Then Sam read the letter a second time and looked thoughtfully at Tom.

"I don't think Dick is having any easy time of it," was his sober comment.

"Just what I have been thinking all along, Sam. When Dick says he wishes he had one or both of us with him, he means it. Just as soon as the college term comes to a close, I am going to New York."

"Well, I'll go with you," returned Sam. "I did think we might go on some kind of an outing during July and August, but it wouldn't be fair to take the time off and leave Dick at the grind alone."

"Of course, I think we ought to go home first," continued Tom, after a pause. "The folks will want to see us, and, besides, we will want to talk matters over with dad, and also with Uncle Randolph. They may want to tell us something about the business."

"Do you think that Uncle Randolph had much money invested with father?"

"I don't know exactly what to think, Sam. Uncle Randolph is very peculiar, and since father has been sick again, he has not wanted to talk matters over very much. We will have to be careful of what we say when we get home. It won't do, so the doctor said, to excite him too much."

"Oh, I know that as well as you do. In fact, it might be best not to mention business to dad at all. You must remember that this is the third breakdown he has had since we came to Brill, and another such turn might prove serious."

"Oh, don't talk like that! It makes me shiver to think of it. What in the world would we do if anything happened to poor, dear dad!"

"If only Uncle Randolph was more of a business man, he might go to New York and help Dick; but you know how he is all wrapped up in what he calls 'scientific farming.' Of course, it doesn't amount to a hill of beans, but he thinks it does, and he spends a great deal of money on it that might be put to better usage."

"Well, it's his own money, you must remember, and he has a right to do what he pleases with it. But for gracious sake! don't get him to go to New York. It would only mix up matters worse than ever. Dick would not only have to take care of the business, but he would also have to take care of Uncle Randolph. Besides, it wouldn't be fair to leave Aunt Martha to look after dad, alone." And there, for the time being, the talk on personal matters came to an end.