Chapter I. The Boys at Brill

"Boys, what do you say to a trip in the Dartaway this afternoon?"

"Suits me, Sam," replied Tom Rover.

"Providing the breeze doesn't get too strong," returned Dick Rover, as he put up his hand to feel the air.

"Oh, I don't think it will blow too much," went on Sam Rover. "I don't mind some air."

"But no more storms for me!" cried his brother Tom, with a shake of his head. "That last old corker was enough for me."

"Where shall we go?" questioned Dick, with a queer little smile creeping around the corners of his mouth.

"Oh, my, just to hear Dick!" cried Tom, with a grin. "As if he would go anywhere but to Hope Seminary, to call on Dora!"

"And as if you would go anywhere but to call on Nellie, at the same place!" retorted the oldest Rover boy.

"Now, children, children'" came sweetly from Sam. "You mustn't quarrel about the dear girls. I know both of you are as much gone as can be. But----"

"And how about Grace, Sam?" said Tom. "Didn't I hear you making up some poetry about her yesterday, 'Those limpid eyes and pearly ears, and'----"

"Rats, Tom! I don't make up poetry-- I leave that to Songbird," interrupted the youngest Rover boy. "Just the same, it will be nice to call on the girls. They'll be looking for us some day this week."

"That's right-- and maybe we can give them a little ride," put in Dick Rover.

"Do you remember the ride we gave Dora and Nellie, when we rescued them from Sobber, Crabtree, and the others?" asked Tom.

"Not likely to forget that in a hurry," answered his big brother. "By the way, I wonder when the authorities will try those rascals?"

"Not right away, I'm thinking, Dick," answered Tom. "The law is rather slow up here in these back counties."

"Never mind-- they will get what is coming to them sooner or later," was Sam's comment.

"Abduction is rather a serious offense."

"Right you are," answered Dick. "And I'll be glad to see Crabtree, Sobber, and our other enemies behind the bars. Then they won't be able to bother us any more."

"That will he the end of Sobber's efforts to annex the Stanhope fortune," mused Sam. "How hard he did try to get it away from Mrs. Stanhope and the girls!"

"I shouldn't have minded that had he used fair methods, Sam," returned the big brother. "But when it came to stealing and abducting----"

"Hello, you fellows!" shouted a voice from behind the Rover boys. "Plotting mischief?"

"Not just now, Stanley," answered Dick, as his college chum caught him by the shoulder and swung him around playfully.

"Want to go for a row on the river?" asked Stanley Browne.

"Not just now, Stanley. I've got a lecture to attend, and this afternoon we are going over to Hope in the biplane."

"Wish I had a flying machine," said the student, wistfully.

"Better swap the boat for one," suggested Sam.

"No, I think rowing is safer. Some day, if you are not careful, you'll get an awful tumble from that machine."

"We try to be as careful as possible," answered Dick. "Seriously, though, Stanley, I don't care for flying as much as I thought I would."

"Is that so? Now, I thought you were planning a honeymoon trip by aeroplane. Think of the novelty of it!"

"No, a steamboat or a parlor car will be good enough for me, when I go on a honeymoon trip," answered Dick, and for a very good reason he blushed deeply.

"Hello, William Philander Tubbs!" cried Tom, as a tall, dudish-looking student crossed the college campus. "What's the price of eggs this morning?"

"What is that, Tom?" questioned the stylishly-dressed youth, as he turned in the direction of the others.

"I asked what was the price of eggs?" said Tom, innocently.

"The-- er-- the price of eggs? How should I know?" stammered William Philander Tubbs" in astonishment.

"Weren't you in the chicken business once?"

"Gracious me! No, Tom, no!"

"Funny I made the mistake-- and I want to know the price of eggs the worst way," went on the fun-loving Rover, innocently.

"What do you want to know the price of eggs for?" questioned William Philander, curiously.

"Why, you see, we've got a new problem in geometry to solve, and the price of eggs will help out," continued Tom, looking very serious.

"What is it, Tom?"

"It's this, Tubby, my boy. If the diameter of an egg ten degrees west of its North Pole is two and eleven-tenths inches, what is the value of the shell unfilled? I thought you might help me out on that."

"Tom, you are poking fun at me!" cried the dudish student, as a snicker went up from the other youths. "And please don't call me Tubby, I beg of you," pleaded William Philander.

"All right, Billy Gander," murmured Tom. "It shan't occur again."

"Billy Gander! That is worse than Tubby!" groaned the dudish youth. "Oh, you are awful!" he added, and strode off, trying to look very indignant.

"Poor Tubbs, I wonder if he will ever be sensible and get over his dudish ways," was Dick's comment.

"I doubt it-- for it seems to be born in him," returned Sam.

"But he's a good sort with it all," ventured Stanley Browne.

"First-rate," agreed Tom. "But I-- well, I simply can't help poking fun at him when he's around, he's such a dandy, and so lordly in his manner."

"Here comes Songbird!" interrupted Sam. "And, see, he is writing verses, as usual. I wonder----"

"Look!" exclaimed Dick. "Oh! There's a collision for you!"

William Philander Tubbs had started across the campus with his head high in the air. He was looking to one side and did not notice the approach of another student, who was coming forward thoughtfully, carrying a pad in one hand and writing as he walked. There was a sudden meeting of the pair, and the pad fell to the ground and with it the fancy headgear the dudish student was wearing.

"Oh, I-- er-- I beg your pardon, really I do, don't you know!" stammered William Philander.

"Great Hannibal's tombstone!" spluttered the other student. "What are you trying to do, Tubbs, knock me down?"

"I beg your pardon, Powell, I didn't see you coming," answered the other, as he picked up his hat and commenced to brush it off with care.

"You must be getting blind," growled John Powell, otherwise known as Songbird. "Confound the luck-- you spoilt one of my best rhymes," he added, as he stooped to pick up his writing pad.

"Sorry, upon my honor I am," returned William Philander. "Can I help you out on it?"

"I don't think you can. Did you ever try to write poetry-- real poetry, I mean?"

"No, my dear boy, no. I'm afraid I would not be equal to it."

"Then I don't see how you are going to help me," murmured Songbird, and he passed on a few steps, coming to a halt presently to jot down some words on his pad.

"Hello, Songbird!" called out Tom. "How is the Muse to-day, red-hot?"

For a moment John Powell did not answer, but kept on writing. Then his face broke out into a sudden smile.

"There, that's it!" he cried. "I've got it at last! I knew I'd get it if I kept at it long enough."

"Knew you'd get what, the measles?" asked the fun-loving Tom.

"'Measles' nothing!" snorted the would-be poet. "I have been writing a poem on 'The Springtime of Love,' and I wished to show how----"

"'The Springtime of Love!'" interrupted Tom. "That must be a second cousin to the ditty entitled ''Tis Well to Meet Her at the Well.' "

"I never heard of such a poem," answered Songbird, with a serious air. "How does it go?"

"It doesn't go, Songbird; it stands still. But what have you got on the pad?"

"Yes, let us hear the latest effusion," put in Sam.

"But not if it takes too long," was Dick's comment. "I've only got about ten minutes before that lecture on 'The Cave Dwellers.'"

"I can give Songbird six minutes," said Stanley, as he consulted his watch.

"This is-- er-- something of a private poem," stammered Songbird. "I wrote it for a-- er-- for a personal friend of mine."

"Minnie Sanderson!" cried Sam, mentioning the name of a farmer's daughter with whom all were well acquainted, and a young lady Songbird called on occasionally.

"Read it, anyway, Songbird," said Dick.

"Well, if you care to hear it," responded the would-be poet, and he began to read from the pad:

  "In early Spring, when flowers bloom
   In garden and on fields afar,
   My thoughts go out to thee, sweet love,
   And then I wonder where you are!
   When pansies show their varied hues
   And birds are singing as they soar,
   I listen and I look, and dream
   Of days when we shall meet once more!"

"Grand! fine! immense!" murmured Tom. "Byron couldn't hold a candle to that, Songbird!"

  "I listen to the tiny brook
   That winds its way o'er rock and sand
   And in the running water see
   A face that-- that-- that----"

"Go ahead, Songbird!" cried Sam, as the would-be poet stumbled and halted.

"I-- er-- I had the last line, but Tubbs knocked it out of me," grumbled Songbird. "And say, he knocked something else out of me!" he exclaimed suddenly. "I was going to tell you an important bit of news."

"You were?" cried Dick. "What?"

"The word just came in over the telephone, from the weekly newspaper office. Doctor Wallington said you would want to know about it."

"But what is it?" demanded Sam, impatiently.

"Josiah Crabtree has escaped from jail."

"Escaped!" ejaculated Tom.

"Why, we were just talking about him!" put in Dick "When did this happen?"

"Last night, so the newspaper man said. It seems there was a small fire at the jail-- down in the kitchen. There was great excitement, for supper was just being served. In the excitement three of the prisoners, who were out of their cells, escaped. Josiah Crabtree was one of them."

"Too bad!" murmured Sam. "And we thought he was safe!"

"This spells Trouble for us," was Tom's comment, and Dick nodded his head, to show that he was of the same opinion.