6. News Of An Old Enemy.
 

Dick had not intended that the cane should hit him. He was prepared to dodge. But he wanted to make certain that Jasper Grinder would really try to carry out his ill-advised threat.

"Hi! give me that cane!" cried the schoolmaster, as he whirled around.

"I shall not," answered Tom, and began to run down one of the aisles to the door.

Instantly Jasper Grinder made after him. But the boys had gathered in a crowd, and it was with difficulty that the man could get through.

As Tom ran for one door Dick ran for another, and it was not long before both met in a hallway leading to the mess hall and the dormitories.

"Dick, what shall we do next?" questioned Tom. "We can't stay here, that's certain."

"We'll get out," answered Dick. "I think Mrs. Stanhope will keep us all night."

"And if she won't, I know the Lanings will," said Tom, with a grin.

"We must let Sam know," went on Dick. "He can go along. I shan't come back until Captain Putnam returns."

"Right you are."

Up the stairs they rushed, and into the dormitory where Sam and Tubbs were in hiding.

"Sam!" called Dick, and the youngest Rover at once appeared.

"What's up now? What are you in such a hurry for?"

"Get your overcoat and hat, and come on. We are going to the Stanhopes for the night. Here, Tubbs, is some supper," and Dick passed over what he had in the napkins, while Tom did the same.

"Thanks," said the rich boy. "But--but must I stay here alone?"

"I don't think we can take you along," answered Dick. "But you want to be careful. Old Grinder is as mad as a hornet. He was going to cane me for helping you two. Come, Sam, there is no time to waste. Tubbs, you had better let Fred Garrison know where you are. He's all right"

In a moment more Dick, Tom, and Sam were in their own room and putting on their heavy overcoats and their hats. They lost no time, and as they heard Jasper Grinder coming up one flight of stairs they ran down another pair leading into the kitchen.

Here the servants, directed by Mrs. Green, were putting away what was left of the students' supper.

"Oh, dear!" burst out the matron, on catching sight of the boys. "What do you want here?"

"Good-by, Mrs. Green," said Dick. "Tell the captain when he comes that we were driven away from the school by Mr. Grinder, and that we'll return as soon as we learn that he is back." And before the housekeeper could answer they opened the kitchen door and ran outside.

It was a dark night and the air was filled with snow, some of which was already sifting lazily downward. But they knew the way well, so the want of light did hot bother them. They crossed the parade ground on a run and made directly for the road leading to the Stanhopes' cottage.

"I reckon it will be quite a surprise for Mrs. Stanhope and Dora," said Tom, after they had told Sam of what had happened in the school-room. "They won't be looking for us."

"I know they'll treat us well," said Dick.

"To be sure they will--especially after all we did for them on the Lakes," put in Sam. "But let me tell you, I am curious to know how this thing is going to end."

"I think Mr. Grinder will get the worst of it," returned Tom confidently. "He must know he was doing wrong to put you in that icy storeroom and poor Tubbs in the stone cell. How did you make out with Tubbs in the closet?"

"Oh, he became quite friendly, and we decided to let the past drop. I promised I wouldn't call him Tubby any more."

"That's fair," came from Dick. "He isn't such a bad sort."

On and on hurried the boys. The road was a somewhat lonely one, with several patches of woods to be passed. Several times they halted, endeavoring to ascertain if they were being pursued. But all remained silent. The snow was now coming down more thickly than ever.

"What a lot of adventures we have had in these woods," observed Tom, during one of the halts. "Don't you remember the tramp who stole the watch, and the rows with Josiah Crabtree and with Arnold Baxter and Dan?"

"Indeed I do," said Sam. "Mrs. Stanhope and Dora must be glad to be rid of old Crabtree and Arnold Baxter."

"It's a pity Dan Baxter wasn't locked up with his father," said Dick. "Don't you remember how he used to bother Dora and the Laning girls?"

"Do you think he'd bother them now?" asked Sam. "If he bothers Grace Laning he had better look out for me."

"That's right, Sam, stand up for your own particular girl----" began Tom.

"I didn't say she was my girl," cried Sam, and he was glad that the darkness hid his red-growing face. "I'm no more sweet on her than you are on her sister Nellie."

"It's Dick who must lead off, with Dora Stanhope----" went on Tom.

"Oh, stow it, and come on!" burst in Dick. "If you keep on talking you'll surely be caught. Grinder may be coming after us in a carriage."

"If we had our bicycles we could get there in no time," said Sam.

"Yes, and we might break our necks in the dark," added Dick. "Come, we haven't more than a mile further to go."

On the three trudged, through the snow, which was coming down faster each instant. Once they thought they heard carriage wheels behind them, but soon the sounds faded away in the distance.

At last they came in sight of the Stanhope cottage. A bright light was streaming from the sitting-room windows, and looking in they saw Dora sitting at the table reading a book, and Mrs. Stanhope resting comfortably in an easy-chair in front of the bright-burning fire.

Dora herself came to the door in answer to their ring. "Why, mamma, it's the Rovers!" she cried, as she shook hands, "I never expected to see you to-night, in such a snowstorm. How kind of Captain Putnam to let you come."

"The captain had nothing to do with it," answered Dick, as he gave her hand an extra squeeze, which he somehow thought she returned. "We came because we were having a lot of trouble, and didn't know what else to do."

"More trouble!" came from Mrs. Stanhope, as she also greeted them. "I was hoping all our troubles were a thing of the past."

"This isn't any trouble for you," answered Dick. "Excepting that it brings trouble through your giving us shelter for the night."

"If that's the case, then let it bring trouble," put in Dora promptly. "But what is it all about."

"I'll tell you presently, Dora. But in the meantime can you give Sam some supper? He hasn't had a mouthful since dinner time."

"You poor boy!" came from Mrs. Stanhope. "To be sure he shall have his supper. I'll tell Mary to prepare it at once," and she bustled from the room to give the servant the necessary directions, and returned at once.

Sitting down in front of the fire the three boys told their tale, Mrs. Stanhope and Dora listening with keen attention. When Dick got to the point where Jasper Grinder had wanted to thrash him Dora gave a scream.

"Oh, Dick, the idea! Why, he really must be crazy!"

"I believe his passion got the best of him," said the eldest Rover.

"I'm glad Tom took the cane away," went on Dora.

"It is really too bad," observed Mrs. Stanhope, when their story was finished. "I quite agree with you that Captain Putnam will not uphold Mr. Grinder in his inhuman course. Of course you must stay here to-night, and as long after that as you please."

It was not long before supper was ready for Sam, and when he entered the dining room Mrs. Stanhope went along, to see that he got all he desired.

"I am awfully glad you came," said Dora, in a low voice, when she was alone with Dick and Tom. "I have something important to tell you, something I didn't wish to mention in front of mamma, for it will only worry her without doing any good."

"And what is it?" asked Tom and Dick, in a breath.

"I was down to Cedarville yesterday to do some shopping, and I am almost certain that I saw Dan Baxter hanging around the hotel there."

"Dan Baxter!" ejaculated Dick.

"Hush, Dick! not so loud. Yes, Dan Baxter. He was on the hotel stoop, but the minute he saw me he went inside."

"Perhaps you are mistaken," said Tom. "I hardly think he'd dare to show himself here."

"At first I was uncertain about it. But when I came back that way I looked again, and I caught him peeping out at me from one of the bar-room windows. As soon as he saw me look he dodged out of sight."

"If Dan Baxter is in this neighborhood, he is here for no good," was Dick's blunt comment. "Evidently he has not forgiven us for helping to put his father back in jail."

"Dan Baxter is not of a forgiving nature, Dick. You must be careful, or he will make trouble for all three of you."

"We can take care of ourselves, Dora. If only he doesn't annoy you and your mother."

"I don't think he'll do that--now Mr. Crabtree is out of it," answered Dora, and then, as Mrs. Stanhope re-entered the room, the subject was dropped.