Chapter XXVII. Off for the Summer Encampmemt
 

The present situation was enough to make any pitcher nervous, and it must be confessed that Tom could scarcely control himself. "A wild pitch, and it's all up with our side," he thought, as he took his place in the "box."

"One ball!" That was the verdict as the sphere landed in Frank's hands. "Two balls!" came immediately after.

Frank paused, then rolled the ball to Tom. "Do be careful," whispered Dick. "Take your time."

"Perhaps we had better put Larry in the box," suggested another player, but Tom shook his head determinedly. "I'll stick it out!"

"One strike!" The batter had tried, but failed to hit the sphere. Tom felt more hopeful, but immediately after came three balls and then four balls, and amid a cheer from his friends the Pornell player walked to first base.

The second man at the bat went out on a foul, and the cadets cheered this time. Then came a strong hit to left field, and in came one run.

"Hurrah! 3 to 2 in Pornell's favor!"

"You've got 'em on the run now, boys; keep it up!"

Two balls, and the next batter knocked a hot liner to Fred. It came along like lightning, but Fred wore a "do-or-die" look and made a dive for it -- and held on, although his hands stung as if scorched with fire.

"Hurrah! Two out! Now for the third, and then knock out that lead of one run!"

Alas! This was easier said than done. The next player gained first, and so did the youth to follow. Then came a heavy hit, and the score went up to 5 to 2. But that was the last of it, so far as Pornell was concerned.

"Now, Putnam Hall, see what you can do!"

Larry was at the bat, and cautious about striking. "One strike!" called the umpire, as the boy let a good ball go by. Another real strike followed, and then Larry caught the sphere fairly and squarely, drove it far into left field, and made a home run.

"A homer! Wasn't that great!"

"That makes the score 5 to 3. Keep it up, Putnam Hall!"

The home run was very encouraging, and now Dick came forward with his ashen stick. He had one strike called on him and then managed to make a clean one-base hit.

Another player, named Forwell, took stand next. The pitcher for the Pornell team was now as nervous as Tom bad been and suddenly Forwell was hit in the arm by the ball.

"Dead ball!" cried the umpire. "Take your base," and Forwell went to first, while Larry marched to second.

Then Sam came to the bat, but his first strike was a foul, caught by the third baseman. Another out followed, made by the captain, much to his chagrin. The score now stood 5 to 3, with two players on base and two out. One more out and the match would come to an end, unless the score was a tie.

"Tom Rover to the bat" called the score-keeper, and Tom marched to the plate. A strike and two balls, and he made as clean a one-base hit as had his elder brother.

"Three on base and two out!" came the cry.

"Now, Pornell, be careful!"

Fred Garrison was the next of the team to come forward. All eyes were centered upon Fred. "Be careful, oh, be careful!" pleaded Frank. "Don't get out as I did!"

"One strike!" cried the umpire as the ball whizzed over the plate. "Ball one!" came a moment later. "Strike two!" was immediately added.

Bang! the ball had come on again, and Fred had hit it with all of the force at his command. It shot past second base and toward centerfield. "Run! run!" yelled Frank, and the crowd joined in, as Dick started for home, followed by Forwell and Tom. The center fielder fumbled the ball, and the four runners came in one right on top of the other.

"Putnam Hall has won!"

"Say, but wasn't that a great game?"

"Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!" came from the cadets and their friends.

It was a great time for the boys. They gave three cheers for their opponents, but the Pornellites felt their second defeat too keenly, and as quickly as they could they left the grounds, and quarter of an hour later were on their way home.

After this contest matters moved along quietly until June. In the meantime the cadets studied up with all diligence for the examinations soon to take place. All of our friends passed creditably, Dick standing second in his class, Tom fourth and Sam third in their classes. Captain Putnam and George Strong heartily approved of the showing made.

"That Tom Rover is full of fun," was the captain's comment, "but he knows how to study as well as how to play jokes."

Mumps was almost at the foot of his class. The sneak had hardly any friends left, and he announced that he was going to leave Putnam Hall never to return -- for which no one was particularly sorry.

Immediately after the examinations it was announced that the entire school would march to a place called Brierroot Grove, where they would go into their annual encampment for two weeks. At once all of the cadets were in a bustle, and soon uniforms were brushed up, buckles and buttons polished, knapsacks packed, and rifles oiled and cleaned.

"Makes a fellow feel as if he was going off to the war!" observed Sam. "I don't know but what I would like to be a soldier some day."

The battalion marched away one Monday morning, with flags flying, drums beating loudly, and the fifers blowing away upon "Yankee Doodle" with all of their might. The route was the lake road, and many of the farmhouses passed were decorated in honor of the departure. As they passed the Stanhope homestead, Dora and Mrs. Stanhope came forth and waved their handkerchiefs, and Dick, as second lieutenant of Company A, could not resist the temptation to wave his sword at them.

The camping-out spot was reached that afternoon at five o'clock. The provision wagon and that loaded with the tents had already come up, and soon the cadets were putting up their tents, while the cooking detail was preparing supper. The evening mal consisted of nothing but bread, coffee, and beef stew, but never did plain fare taste better, with such pure mountain air for sauce.

"It's just boss!" said Tom on the second day in camp. "Living in a tent suits me to death."

The next day, however, he changed his tune, for it rained in torrents, and everybody got soaked to the skin.

"Ugh!" said Tom. "I wasn't thinking of this when I said it suited me to death." All made the best of it, and luckily the storm did not last over twenty-four hours, when the sun came out warmly, and that was the last of the rain while the encampment lasted.

A week had passed by when one afternoon Dick, Tom, and Sam received permission to visit the town of Rootville, a mile away. They were not to be gone not over three hours, and were to purchase some medicine needed by several cadets who had taken cold during the damp spell.

The boys walked to Rootville in high spirits, and readily procured the drugs desired, then they wandered around from place taking in the sights.

There was a depot, and as natural they drifted thither, and into the waiting room. Here almost the first persons they saw was Arnold Baxter and Buddy the tramp thief.

"Gracious!" burst from Dick's lips, and then he pulled Tom and Sam back. "Here is a chance at last to arrest that thief!"

"That's so!" cried Tom. "Wait, I saw a policeman outside. I'll call him," and he darted off. While Dick and Sam awaited Tom's reappearance, they noticed that Baxter and Buddy were holding a conversation of great interest.

"I will pay you well if you will help me in this deal," Arnold Baxter was saying.

"I'll do all I can," answered Buddy Girk. "But what of your son Dan?"

"Dan is not to be depended upon," answered Arnold Baxter. "He robbed me of two hundred dollars and skipped out for Chicago."

"Humph!" murmured Dick. "Here is certainly news of Dan Baxter that is very much to his discredit. I hope I and Dora and the rest never hear of him again."

Some other folks now came into the depot, and Arnold Baxter and Buddy lowered their voices, so that Dick and Sam could hear nothing further.

Soon Tom in arrived, followed by the policeman, who looked anxiously at the two men.

"You say they are thieves?" he asked of Dick.

"The short man is. He stole my watch."

"What of the other?"

"He is a bad man too -- although it may be hard to prove it."

At once the crowd approached the evil pair, and the officer caught Buddy Girk by the arm, "I want you," he said in a low, firm voice.

The thief turned swiftly, and as he saw himself confronted by Dick and the officer of the law his face fell.

"I ain't done nothing'!" he cried, and tried to break away, but the officer at once overpowered him and brought forth a pair of handcuffs.

"You'll put these on," he said grimly, and spite his protestations Buddy Girk was handcuffed.

"Hold on! "cried Dick, as Arnold Baxter started to run. He made a clutch for the man, but Baxter was too quick for him and slipped through the crowd and out of the depot. Instantly Dick made after him.