Chapter XI. A Row in the Gymnasium
 

For several days matters moved along smoothly with the Rover boys. In that time their chums, Frank Harrington and Larry Colby, arrived, and these, with Fred, made up the "Metropolitan Sextet," as they called themselves -- the sole occupants of dormitory No. 6.

Next to this dormitory was apartment five, occupied by Dan Baxter, Mumps, and six others of the bully's cronies. The two apartments were connected by a door, but this was nailed up.

So far there had been no open rupture between Baxter and Dick, but there was trouble "in the air," and it was bound reach a climax sooner or later.

Fortunately for Dick and his brothers, Captain Putnam had cadet uniforms to fit them, and the three were now dressed in true military style. The other boys had to wait until uniforms could be made for them.

The first day at Putnam Hall was spent in assigning the newcomers to the various classes, according to their knowledge. On the second day the three Rover boys were placed in the awkward squad, to learn the military drill.

The squad was presided over by Corporal Mark king, a youth who was cut out to be a soldier, although his father was a sea captain.

"Now then, line up!" he called out to the newcomers. "All of you will please toe that crack in the floor; now turn out your toes like this, and put your shoulders back, hands with the palms to the front."

His instructions were followed to the letter, for all were anxious to learn as fast as possible.

"Now the first thing to remember is to say nothing, but obey orders promptly," exclaimed the corporal. "When an order is given the first part is a warning, while the conclusion is the time when that order must be executed. For, instance, I tell you 'Eyes right!' I say 'Eyes,' and you get ready to move your eyes; I add 'Right,' and you instantly turn them to the right, and keep them there. Now we'll try. Eyes-right! Great smoke! number four, you turned them to the left! Now again: Eyes right! Good! Eyes- front! That's first-class. Now: Eyes - left! Eyes -- front! That couldn't be better."

And so it went on for an hour, during, which the boys learned not alone how to use their eyes, but also to "left face," "right face," "front face," and "about face" -- that is, to turn directly to the rear. Then they learned how to mark time "with their feet, starting with the left foot."

"Tomorrow you shall learn how to march," said Corporal King when the drilling was over. "And then each of you will get a gun and go through the manual of arms."

"Will we learn how to shoot? asked Tom. "I can shoot a little already."

"We have target practice once a month, and during the annual encampment," concluded the corporal.

"I wish that encampment was already at hand!" sighed Sam. He imagined that life under a tent would just suit him.

As soon as the boys "got the run" of the institution they began to feel at home. They made friends rapidly, especially when it became known that Sam was a fine runner and Tom a capital baseball player. There were several baseball teams in the school, and they frequently played matches on Saturday afternoons.

The gymnasium pleased Dick as much as it did his younger brothers, and nearly every day, he spent a quarter of an hour or more in the building, using one apparatus or another, for the building was fitted up with rings, parallel bars, wooden horses, pulling machines, and other paraphernalia of athletic usage.

One afternoon Dick had just begun to use a set of parallel bars when Dan Baxter sauntered in, accompanied by Mumps and two other cronies.

There were very few cadets in the building at the time, and Baxter came directly to Dick.

"I guess we can settle that little affair now," muttered the bully, and slapped Dick on the cheek. "That for interfering with my doing on the boat."

Being on the bars, Dick could not ward off the blow, but he immediately sprang down, and with flushed cheeks leaped in front of Baxter.

"You seem very anxious to fight," he said in a low, steady voice. "You can, therefore, take that for a starter!" And hauling off with his right fist, he struck Dan Baxter fairly and squarely upon the nose, causing the blood to spurt and sending the bully to the floor like a shot.

If ever there was an individual taken by surprise it was the bully of Putnam Hall. He had not anticipated such a sudden and determined resistance, and for several seconds he lay still, too dazed to move. In the meantime his friends sprang forward, but Dick waved them off.

"My fight is with Baxter," he said. "I want you to keep your hands out of it."

"You hit him when he wasn't prepared," blustered Mumps.

"And he hit me when I was not prepared. Stand back!"

And Dick made such a show of being ready to attack Mumps that the toady fell back in great alarm.

In the meanwhile Dan Baxter arose, and tried to stop the flow of blood with his handkerchief. "I'll get even with you, Rover!" he growled behind the stained cloth.

"At any time you please, Baxter," returned Dick. "But don't you take me off my guard again, or I'll have no mercy on you."

"Do you dare to meet me in a fair, standing up fight?" demanded the bully.

"I certainly do."

"All right, then. Next Saturday afternoon at three."

Dick bowed. "Where?" he questioned.

"In the patch of woods behind the cornfield."

"All right."

"Mums is the word, fellows," said Baxter to his cronies. "You will keep this to yourself, Rover, won't you?"

"How many do you expect to bring to the fight?"

"Only the four fellows who are here."

"Very well; I will bring a like number."

"Want to tell everybody, don't you?"

"No, but I think I am entitled to fair play; and that means that I must have as many friends there as you have."

"All right," grumbled Baxter, but he evidently did not like the arrangement. A moment later he hurried off, to do what he could to prevent his nose from swelling.

"Dick told only his brothers and his chums of what had occurred, but the news leaked out that a fight was on, and Saturday afternoon found at least twenty cadets in the secret and on their way to witness the "mill," as those who had read something about prize-fighting were wont to call the contest.

Now, lest my readers obtain a false impression of my views on this subject, let me state plainly that I do not believe in fights, between boys or other-wise. They are brutal, far from manly, and add nothing to the strength of one's character. It is well enough to know how to defend one's self when occasion requires, but such occasions occur but rarely.

But I have set out to relate the adventures of the Rover boys, in school and out, and on land and sea, and I feel I must be truthful and tell everything just as it happened, not only in this volume, but in a those which are to follow; and, consequently, I shall tell of the fight as the particulars were related to me by Sam Rover, Fred Garrison and others - details which I am certain are correct.

The spot was a sheltered one, and on the edge of the woods two spies were posted, to warn the contestants should Josiah Crabtree or any of the other teachers appear, for fighting was against the rules of Putnam Hall, and neither Dick nor Baxter wanted to be caught.

Both came to the spot promptly, and, without preliminary talking, took off their coats, collars, ties, and caps. A ring was formed, and Dick stepped forward and faced Baxter.

The bully was several inches taller than his opponent and at least fifteen pounds heavier. His nose was a bit swollen, and there was a sneer upon his coarse face.

"Rover, if you wish to apologize to me you can do so, and save yourself a thrashing," he remarked.

"I can take care of myself, Baxter. Perhaps you would like me to make a similar proposition to you. If so, let me say it is too late; I came here to give you a well-deserved thrashing, and I mean to stick to my determination."

"Phew, but we talk big!" muttered Mumps. "You keep your oar out, Mumps," put in Tom. "If you don't I'll give you a hiding, just as soon as Dick is done with Dan."

"Will you? Maybe you'll be the one to catch it," muttered Mumps. Nevertheless, he said no more.

"Are you ready?" asked the boy who acted as timekeeper.

"I am," said Dick.

"So am I," returned Baxter, and hurled himself at his opponent without a second's delay.

He had expected to catch Dick napping, but he found himself mistaken. A blow aimed at Dick's face was well parried, and in return Dick hit Baxter heavily on the shoulder.

"Hurrah! Score one for Dick!" cried Larry Colby. "That's right, old man, keep at him."

"Keep cool, Dan!" put in Mumps. "You can polish him off at your leisure."

The blow on the shoulder staggered Baxter, and he fell back, to become more cautious; and then the two boys began to circle around and around, each looking for a favorable "opening." At last Baxter thought he saw what he wanted, and struck out again, and Dick was hit on the cheek.

"That's the way, Baxter!" came the cry.

"That was a teaser! Give him another!"

Again Baxter launched out, and now Dick was hit on the arm. He slipped to one side, and struck out like lightning, and the bully caught it in the neck, something which, spun him around like a top.

"Another for Dick!" cried Frank Harrington. "Keep it up!"

Again the two boys faced each other. But only for an instant. With a savage cry Baxter sprang upon Dick as if to fairly tear him apart. One blow landed upon Dick's arm and a second on his chest.

"It's Baxter's fight! Baxter is still king of this school!"

'You might as well give it up, Rover; he's too many for you!"

So the cries ran on, while the bully, encouraged by his success, renewed his efforts; and an additional blow sent Dick to the ground in a heap.