2. A Glimpse At The Past.
 

As old readers of this series of books know, the Rover boys were three in number, Dick being the oldest, fun-loving Tom next, and small but sturdy Sam bringing up the rear of a trio of as bright and up-to-date a set of American lads as could be found anywhere.

The home of the lads was with their father, Anderson Rover, and their Uncle Randolph and Aunt Martha, on a beautiful farm at Valley Brook, in the heart of New York State. From this farm they had been sent to Putnam Hall, a semi- military institute of learning situated near Cedarville, on Cayuga Lake. This was while their father had mysteriously disappeared while on an exploring tour into the heart of Africa.

At Putnam Hall the Rover boys made a number of friends, some of whom have already been mentioned in these pages, and they likewise made several enemies. Chief among the enemies were Josiah Crabtree, a dictatorial teacher, and Dan Baxter, a bully who had done his best to make them "knuckle under" to him.

Since those first days at school many changes had taken place; so many, in fact, that but a few can be noted here. Crabtree had been discharged, and was now in prison for trying to hypnotize a lady into marrying him. This lady was Mrs. Stanhope, the mother of Dora Stanhope, who lived in the vicinity of Putnam Hall, and a girl of Whom Dick Rover thought a good deal.

It had not taken the Rover boys long to discover that not only the dictatorial old teacher, but also the bully, Dan Baxter, were rascals, and, what was more, that Arnold Baxter, the father of Dan, was an old enemy to their father. Following this had come a journey to Africa and into the jungle in search of Mr. Rover, and this mission accomplished, the Rover boys had gone West to establish a mining claim in which their father was interested. This claim was disputed by the Baxters, and when the Rovers won out and went for a pleasure trip on the Great Lakes, the Baxters did their best to bring Dick, Tom, and Sam to grief. But instead of accomplishing their purpose they failed once more, and Arnold Baxter was returned to the prison from which he had escaped some months before. What had become of Dan Baxter nobody knew, but the Rover boys were soon to learn, as we will see in the chapters which follow.

After their stirring adventures on the Great Lakes, and especially on Needle Point Island in Lake Huron, the Rover boys were glad enough to get back to dear old Putnam Hall and to their studies, even though the latter were something of a "grind," as Tom declared. They all loved Captain Victor Putnam, the owner of the institution, and it may be added here that the captain thought as much of the Rovers as he did of any of the scholars under him, and that was a good deal.

The coming of Jasper Grinder as a new under-teacher was a shock to many of the boys at the school. The principal teacher under Captain Putnam was Professor George Strong, who was stern but fair, and almost as well liked as the captain himself, and there were now several others, all of whom were on a good footing with the scholars. What had induced the captain to take in such a dictatorial and harsh master as Jasper Grinder was a mystery which nobody could explain.

As a matter of fact, Grinder had come into the Hall under a misrepresentation. He was from the Northwest, and claimed to have been a professor at a well-known California college. It was true he had once taught at this college, but his record was far from being as satisfactory as Captain Putnam had been led to believe. It was true he was a learned man,--quite the opposite of Josiah Crabtree, who had been wise only in looks,--but it was also true that he was a high-strung, passionate man, given to strange fits of anger, and that he was a miser, never spending a cent that was not absolutely required of him.

"I say, let me go!" cried Sam, as Jasper Grinder almost dragged him across the parade ground between the gymnasium and the school building. "I am not to blame for this row."

"Silence! I won't listen to a word until we are in the office," commanded the irate teacher.

"He started the whole thing," came from Tubbs. "He called me Tubby, and got the crowd to singing a song about me."

"I had nothing to do with the song, and all the boys have called you Tubby since you came here," went on Sam.

"Be quiet, I tell you!" cried Jasper Grinder, and clutched the arm of each so tightly that Tubbs set up a yell of pain. "I am master here, and I will show you how to mind."

At these words Sam's heart gave a sudden drop. It was Friday afternoon, and the next day would be, as usual, a holiday. Taking advantage of this fact Professor Strong had gone to Buffalo to visit a sick relative residing there, and only an hour before Captain Putnam had been driven away behind his team to visit an old army friend living at Fordview, twelve miles away. Professor Strong would not return until Monday morning, and it was more than likely the captain would remain away over night. During this interval Jasper Grinder would be in absolute charge of the academy and the pupils.

In a few minutes the teacher had led the way into Captain Putnam's office, and with a final pinch of their arms, which made Tubbs cry out once more with pain, he flung the pair away from him.

"Don't you know it is disgraceful to fight?" he thundered.

"We weren't fighting--that is, not exactly," said Tubbs meekly.

"Silence! I saw the whole affair. Why, your nose is still bleeding."

"I don't care. It was Rover's fault, Mr. Grinder. He started the boys, and they all began to make fun of me. He wouldn't stop----"

"And then you fought like a pair of young tigers. Disgraceful! I will have to make an example of both of you."

"I'd like to see Captain Putnam about the matter," said Sam boldly.

At these words Jasper Grinder fairly trembled with suppressed anger. "The captain is not here, and I shall deal with you as you deserve," he said.

Tubbs sank down on a chair and began to attend to his nose with his handkerchief. Sam remained standing, but his whole manner showed that he did not consider he was being treated fairly.

"What both of you boys deserve is a good thrashing," said the teacher, after a pause.

At this Sam looked his surprise. Thrashing was not permitted at the Hall. The worst that could happen to a student was to place him in solitary confinement over night, after a supper of bread and water.

"As I am not permitted by the rules to thrash you, I shall put you in the stone cell over night," went on Jasper Grinder.

"Together?" questioned Tubbs, from behind his blood-stained handkerchief.

"No. You shall go to the cell; and Rover shall be placed in the empty storeroom next to it."

"The cell is ice cold, and so is the storeroom," protested Sam.

"It is not my fault that you must be placed there, and you will have to put up with the cold," was the curt answer.

"I shan't stay in a cold room!" cried Sam. "It's not fair."

"You shall, and I'll put you there myself!" ejaculated Jasper Grinder. "Tubbs, don't dare to stir until I return."

So speaking, the unreasonable teacher caught hold of Sam once more, and despite the youngest Rover's struggles hustled him out of the office and through a long hallway, at the end of which was located the storeroom he had mentioned. The key to the room was in the lock.

"Now stay there until you are willing to behave yourself," said Jasper Grinder, and shoved Sam into the apartment. "For your impudence to me you shall go without your supper to-night."

"That remains to be seen," replied Sam, but in such a low voice that the teacher did not hear. Then the door was closed and locked, and Jasper Grinder hurried away with the key in his pocket, to make poor Tubbs a prisoner in the stone cell.

"Here's a pretty mess, and no mistake," thought Sam, as he sank on a bench, the only article of furniture the room contained. "I'm being treated worse than Tom was treated by old Crabtree when first we came to the Hall. And all because I called Tubby by his nickname! If this keeps on a fellow won't dare to breathe out loud when Grinder is around. What a passionate fellow he is at times! He glares at a fellow as if he was going to eat you up!"

While Sam remained on the bench he heard footsteps in the hallway and a howling protest from Tubbs. Then he heard the rich youth thrown into the stone cell next to the storeroom and left to his fate.

It was nipping cold, and, even with the window tightly closed and nailed over with slats, Sam could not endure it to remain on the bench long. Leaping up he began to stamp his feet and slap his arms across his chest to get them warm. Soon he heard Tubbs doing the same thing.

"I guess he's worse off than I am," thought the youngest Rover. "That stone cell hasn't any bench in it any more, and it must be twice as cold and damp as this room. It's a shame to put anyone there in this freezing weather. I don't believe Captain Putnam would stand for it if he was here."

He tried to speak to Tubbs, but the wall between was too thick, and he soon gave up the idea. Then he continued to stamp his feet and slap his arms, and even went through ah imaginary prize fight, in order to warm up. It was now growing dark, and with the darkness the atmosphere of the storeroom became colder and colder.