Chapter XI. Brought to Trial
 

"By jinks! we'll have to be on our good behavior," observed Tom, after he had read his father's letter.

"That's so," responded Sam. "Father means to have us study, or else we must stay here during the spring term."

As anticipated, Alexander Pop reached Cedarville Tuesday afternoon. He came first to Putnam Hall, and was warmly received both by the Rover boys and by the others who knew him as an old hand around the Hall.

"Glad you have come, Aleck!" cried Tom. "I declare it looks as if you belonged here."

"Yes, sah, an' I dun feel like I belong heah, too, Massah Tom," answered the colored man.

"Remember the sport we used to have?" put in Sam.

"'Deed I does, Massah Sam -- an' de tricks youse lads used to play on dis yeah coon," and Aleck smiled broadly.

Captain Putnam also came forward to greet Pop. There had been a time when the captain had suspected Pop of stealing, and the colored man had run away in preference to being sent to jail, but now it was known by all that the faithful negro was innocent, and the master, of the Hall was sorry that he had ever accused the man.

"Pop, I miss you a good deal," he said kindly.

"If ever you are out of work again, come to me and I will let you stay here as long as you please."

"T'ank you, Cap'n Putnam, I'll remember dat. But I dun lub de Robers, ain't no use ter talk, an' so long as da wants me to stay by 'em, why dat's whar you will find Aleck Pop, yes, sah!" And he bobbed his head to emphasize his words.

"I do not blame you for sticking by them," answered the captain. "For they always stood up for you."

Of course some of the boys could not help but have some fun with Pop. Some ran off with his hat, and when they returned it to him it was half full of flour, although he did not know it.

"Mustn't do dat, Larry Colby," he said, as he took the hat. "Dis niggah dun cotch cole in his haid widout a hat." And then they clapped the headgear on his head, very carefully.

"Only a bit of Larry's sport," said Frank. "Come in, the captain wants to give you some supper before you start out for the Stanhopes' place."

Never suspecting that anything was wrong, Aleck Pop entered the kitchen attached to the academy, where Mrs. Green, the matron, had a nice supper spread for him.

"How do you do, Aleck," she said pleasantly, as he came in.

"How do yo' do, Missus Green," he answered, and took his hat off with such a flourish that part of the flour swept into her face and the balance landed over the supper table.

"Oh! oh!" screamed Mrs. Green. "What in the world have you done? I am covered with flour from head to foot!" And then she began to sneeze with great violence.

"Deed, missus, I don't -- ker -- chew!" replied Pop, sneezing. "I didn't -- ker -- chew --"

"But you did -- ker -- chew!" she answered. "You covered me with -- ker -- chew! Ker -- chew!"

"Oh, you -- ker -- chew!" and then she went off into another prolonged sneeze.

Pop had gotten some of the flour in his eyes, indeed, his face was white from top to bottom, and it was several minutes before he could see what he was doing. His sneezing made him bump his head against the kitchen shelf, and at a point where sat a bowl of rice pudding. Part of the pudding was plastered to his forehead, while the balance turned over on to the cat sleeping on the floor.

"Me-ow!" wailed the cat, and started across the kitchen on a run, nearly upsetting Mrs. Green in its hurry to get away from more trouble.

"Stop! Did you kick my pet cat?" screamed Mrs. Green. "Oh, you -- ker -- chew! You brute! I never -- ker -- chew! Ker -- chew!" And then she had to stop talking and let the sneezing have full play.

"I didn't kick -- ker -- chew -- nuffin!" spluttered Aleck. "I'se dun -- ker -- chew -- dem boys dun -- ker -- chew! Dern boys did it."

"Did what?"

"Put flour in ma hat, de ole boy take 'em!" finished Aleck, and then he blundered out of the kitchen and tried to find Larry and the others. But all of the cadets, who had been watching proceedings through the kitchen window, had vanished and could not be found.

A couple of hours later Tom and Dick took the colored man down to the Stanhope cottage. Mrs. Stanhope already knew the man well, as did Dora, and both were glad that he had come to stay with them. Pop had brought along a pistol, and also a war club he had picked up in Africa, and declared himself ready to meet any and all comers.

"I'se dun learned how to shoot putty straight," he remarked. "So de fellers wot prowls around bettah look out fo' demselbes."

"Crabtree is in jail, so you will only have Dan Baxter to guard against," said Dick. "And I hardly think he will show up in a hurry."

That night Dick and Tom had a long conversation with Mrs. Stanhope. The lady was very nervous, and when asked if she would appear against Josiah Crabtree she shivered from head to foot.

"I -- I cannot do it," she said brokenly. "Do not ask it of me! He -- he -- I cannot face him without he makes me feel as if I were in his power."

"He is something of a hypnotist," said Tom. "Cannot you remember that, and nerve yourself against coming under his spell?"

But the lady only shivered again. "No! no! I have tried it -- for Dora's sake -- but I cannot do it! I am horrified at his influence, but I cannot withstand it."

"Then you will keep away from the court room when he is tried?"

"Yes, I must. I will get my doctor to issue a certificate that I am ill."

"Will you let Dora testify? If she wishes to do so."

There the matter rested, and the two boys sought out Dora.

"It is too bad," said Dick, on the way. "Mrs. Stanhope is on the verge of a nervous collapse, and I believe it is all on account of Crabtree's doings."

"Yes, and I am afraid she will never get away from his influence. If he hadn't been something of a hypnotist I don't believe she would ever have taken to him at the start as she did."

When Dora was told of what her mother had said, she felt like crying, and the tears stood in her eyes.

"I know it all only too well," she said. "I am glad mamma mill not face him. Why, he would influence her into declaring that he was innocent!"

"But you will testify, won't you?" asked Dick earnestly.

"If you wish it, Dick. But I hate the publicity."

"Crabtree ought to be put where he can do your mother no further harm."

"Yes, I feel that, too."

"And you must remember how he helped to abduct you."

"I haven't forgot that."

Vick and Tom remained until it was quite late, and then almost ran back to the Hall, for the captain had told them not to be out after eleven o'clock.

For several days matters ran smoothly at the Hall. Then came Josiah Crabtree's trial, and all of the Rover boys went to the county seat, to remain several days. With them went Dora and her uncle, John Laning.

The former teacher's trial lasted longer than expected, and the jury were out the best part of a night before arriving at a verdict. In the end, much to the Rover boys' surprise, Crabtree was sentenced to six months in the county jail, instead of to several years in the State's prison.

"I can't understand it," muttered Dick, when, they were on the way back to the Hall. "He must have hypnotized the judge who tried the case." The verdict was a disappointing one, yet it was something to know that Crabtree would be out of the way even that long.

"Before he gets out you can be on your trip to Buffalo and the Great Lakes," said Dick to Dora. "And perhaps you can hide your whereabouts from him, so that he can't get at your mother, to try on his game again."

"I will certainly try to throw him off the track," answered the girl. "I never want to see him again."

Captain Putnam was anxious to learn how the trial had ended, and came from the academy on horseback to meet the boys.

"Well, it is something," he said, half-smiling. "But you are right, he deserved more."

"I knew he was no good," said Tom. "Knew it from the first time I met him, when he was head assistant here, and placed me under arrest for shooting off a fire-cracker at the gate."

At this Captain Putnam laughed outright.

"You have a good memory, Thomas, I must say! Well, you are square now, as you boys call it."