Chapter VIII. A Box of Candy
 

"Say, I've got to have some fun or bust!"

It was Tom who uttered the words. For over a week everything had run along smoothly at Brill College. The boys had settled down to their studies. They had sent letters home, and to the girls, and had received several communications in return. They had been congratulated on their escape from the wrecking of the biplane, and Dora had written to Dick urging him to give up flying.

"I'm going to give it up for a while, at least," Dick had answered. During those days the search had been kept up for Josiah Crabtree, but so far nothing had been heard of the fugitive from justice. That the man had left the neighborhood was quite probable.

"What sort of fun do you want, Tom?" asked Sam, throwing down the book he had been studying.

"Oh, anything," was the answer. "I feel as if I was getting musty and rusty, and I've simply got to do something. Wish there was a hazing on, or something like that," and the fun-loving Rover gazed moodily out of the window.

"Now don't you get yourself into trouble, Tom," warned Dick. "Better get at that theme you've got to write on 'Educational Institutions of the Revolutionary Period'."

"Hang the themes, Dick! I've got to have some fun-- and I'm going out for it!" answered Tom, and catching up his cap he passed out of the dormitory.

"Guess I'll go, too," added Sam, and quickly followed. Soon Dick came also, not wishing to be left behind if anything unusual was to take place.

In the lower hallway the boys found several men at work, cleaning and oiling the hardwood floor. They had a box of wax polish with them, and this immediately gave Tom an idea.

"I'd like to buy a little of that," he said, to the head workman, and a bargain was quickly struck, and the fun-loving Rover walked away with half a box of the wax polish.

"What are you going to do with it?" asked Sam.

"Don't know yet-- but I'll do something," was the reply.

"Looks like maple sugar candy," said Dick, gazing at the wax.

"Wait! I've struck it!" cried Tom. "Just the thing! Hurray!" And his face brightened.

"What is it, Tom?" asked both of his brothers.

"I'll make William Philander Tubbs a present of this," was the reply. "Come on, and watch how I do it."

"William Philander has gone to see that new, girl of his," answered Sam.

"Not just yet-- but he'll be on the way soon. I'll have to hurry, if I want to do something."

Tom led the way up a back stairs and to the room occupied that term by Tubbs and some other students. They met the dudish student, half dressed, going to the lavatory to wash up.

"Quick!" cried Tom. "I hope I can find the box."

"What box?" asked Dick, as he and Sam followed Tom into Tubbs' room.

"The box of candy he bought for Miss Ruggles. It was a dandy-- but maybe we can improve it just a little," and Tom grinned broadly.

All looked around and presently found the box of candy on a dresser. It was tied up with a blue ribbon, but this Tom slipped off with ease. Inside of the box were chocolates and bonbons and some candied fruit.

"Hold the box, Sam," said Tom, whipping out his knife. "We've got to move mighty quick!"

On the instant he was at work with his pocket-knife, cutting the floor wax into various shapes to resemble candy. He took out some of the candied fruit and substituted the wax. Then he felt in his pocket.

"This will help," he said, bringing forth a soapstone slate pencil, which he cracked into tiny lengths. "The candy that lasts!" he cried softly, as he dropped the bits into the box.

"Rather rough on the girl," declared Dick.

"Not at all, Dick," said Sam. "I was introduced to her last week and the very next day she passed me on the road with a stare as if she had never seen me."

"And Stanley says she is stuck up to the last degree," added Tom. "Maybe this will take her down a peg-- anyway I hope so."

Sam was searching his pockets. He brought out several dried beans and a heavy rubber elastic.

"The remains of a slingshot and ammunition I confiscated from a Freshy who was taking shots at me," he explained.

"Drop the beans in-- they'll look like jelly beans!" cried Tom. "And cut up that rubber band into pieces for jujube-paste!"

Dick was at the door on guard, and presently he gave a low whistle, to notify the others that Tubbs was coming back. Instantly Tom shut the candy box, put back the paper covering and ribbon; and then he and Sam slipped out of the dormitory by a side door, so that the dudish student might not see them.

Such a joke as had been played Tom could not keep to himself, and when the Rovers went downstairs he told Stanley, Songbird and Spud Jackson.

"Fine!" cried Stanley. "That Miss Ruggles deserves it, too. She thinks, just because her father has rocks, that she is too good to even recognize any of us. The only fellow she tolerates is Tubby-- I guess because he's such a dude."

Tom wanted to follow William Philander Tubbs when he went to see the young lady, who was stopping with an aunt who lived not far from Brill. The others were willing, and all hung around the campus until the stylish student made his appearance.

"She's crazy for candy-- Tubby told me so himself," said Spud. "Eats about a barrelful a week, so I understand. That's why he got her the box, I guess."

"If she eats that boxful she'll be a good one," was Tom's dry comment.

It was not long before Tubbs appeared. The stylish student was faultlessly attired, in light trousers, dark Prince Albert coat, white vest, spats, and a silk hat. In one hand he carried a cane and in the other the box of candy.

"My, but we are some swell!" murmured Sam.

"He ought to pose for a fashion magazine," returned Tom. "Keep back, fellows, or he'll spot us!" And he pulled those nearest to him behind some shrubbery.

William Philander passed them and they followed at a safe distance in the darkness. The dudish student headed directly for the house at which Miss Clarabel Ruggles was stopping, and the others saw him ascend the front piazza and ring the bell. A servant ushered him in, and the boys saw the light turned up in a parlor.

"Come on and see the fun," said Tom, and led the way across a lawn. The curtains to the parlor windows were half up, so they could look into the room with ease. One window was partly open for ventilation.

They saw William Philander sitting in a chair, the box of candy on his lap. Presently Clarabel Ruggles came in, attired in an elaborate evening gown. Tubbs at once arose to his feet and, bowing very low, accepted her hand, which was held on high. Then the dudish student said something and offered the box of candy.

"Oh, is this really for me!" those outside heard the young lady cry, the words coming through the partly open window.

"No, he bought it for the cat!" murmured Tom, and at this the others had to snicker.

"A-- er-- a slight token of my regard, don't you know," said William Philander, with a flourish.

"So kind of you, Mr. Tubbs!" The girl gazed hungrily at the box. "Shall I open it now?"

"If you wish to," answered the dudish student, gallantly.

"I will-- and you shall have a share of the candy," said the young lady, and quickly drew off the ribbon and paper. "Oh, my, how perfectly delicious!" she murmured. "Oh, Mr. Tubbs, how could you guess just the kind I like!"

"Help yourself, my dear Miss Ruggles," said Tubbs, as the box was held out. "Ladies first, don't you know," and he smiled sweetly.

She took a candy and he did likewise, and as they ate they talked of various things. Then the box was passed back and forth.

"Yes, I came to see if you would go to the-- er-- to the-- er----" stammered William Philander, and then he came to a dead halt. "Oh, my tooth!" he gasped, suddenly.

"What is it, Mr. Tubbs?"

"I-- er-- I really think I've broken one of my-- er-- teeth, don't you know!" gasped the stylish student. "Oh, dear, that candy is awfully hard!"

"I didn't find it so, Mr. Tubbs. Here, try another piece," answered the young lady, and helped both him and herself. "As you were going to say," she added, with a smile. "Was it that concert that----" She, too, stopped short. "Oh, my!" she gasped.

"Wha-- what is it?" stammered William Philander.

"This piece of candy I have! It tastes awfully queer!"

"So does this piece I have!" groaned the dudish student.

"Oh, Mr. Tubbs, what kind of candy is it anyway? My teeth are-- are stuck fast in it!"

At this moment the aunt of the young lady came in. She looked in wonder at the others, for both were making wry faces.

"It's the candy, Aunt Mabel!" cried the young lady. "It-- it tastes so queer!"

"Ha! Let me see that box?" exclaimed the aunt, who was a portly person. "I read in the newspaper only yesterday of some folks being poisoned by eating cheap candy." And she looked severely at poor Tubbs.

"This is-- er-- not cheap candy, my dear Mrs. Garlett," spluttered William Philander. "It is some of the best to be had in Ashton, I assure you."

By this time the lady had taken something from the box and was sampling it. As it chanced to be a piece of the rubber band she made slow progress in chewing it.

"I never saw such candy!" she declared, with vigor. She took another piece. "That was all right," she added, a moment later. "But this piece! Why, I declare, it tastes like wax! And it is wax, too," she continued, inspecting the lump more closely.

"Wax!" gasped poor William Philander, hollowly.

"Yes, wax, Mr. Tubbs."

"Oh, you must be mistaken, my dear Mrs. Garlett!"

"Humph! I think I know wax when I see it. And this is rubber-- nothing but rubber!"

"Oh, Aunt Clarabel!" murmured the young lady.

"Let me look at that box!" cried the lady of the house. She commenced to make an inspection, holding the box close to a lamp. "Humph! Rubber bands, beans, slate pencils, and polishing wax!" she declared. "Mr. Tubbs, do you call this a box of candy?"

"Upon my word, Mrs. Garlett, I----" gasped the dudish student. He did not know how to finish.

"It's just some old horrid joke!" declared Miss Ruggles, haughtily. "One of your college jokes, I presume!" And she gazed scornfully at poor Tubbs.

"No, no, I-- er-- I didn't-- I really----" gasped William Philander.

"You can have your box of candy back, Mr. Tubbs," went on the girl, sarcastically. "I do not wish it. And allow me to bid you good evening!" And with a stately bow she passed out of the room.

"I'll keep this box of so-called candy and have it investigated," said Mrs. Garlett. "I don't want to be poisoned. Good night, Mr. Tubbs."

"But, my dear Mrs. Garlett----"

"I said good night," interrupted the lady of the house. "Mary will show you to the door," she added, and then, in complete bewilderment, poor William Philander rushed out of the residence, and along the garden walk in the direction of the road leading to Brill.