Chapter XIII. Chips and the Circus Bills
 

It is now time that we return to Sam and find out how he fared after being so unexpectedly hurled into the river by Lew Flapp.

The youngest Rover was taken so completely off his guard that he could, for the moment, do nothing to save himself. Down he went and his yell was cut short by the waters closing over his head.

He was dazed and bewildered and swallowed some of the water almost before he was aware. But then his common-sense returned to him and he struggled to rise to the surface.

As he neared the top, the current carried him against a sharp rock. Instead of clutching this, he hit the rock with his head. The blow almost stunned him, and down he went once more, around the rock and along the river a distance of fully a hundred feet ere he again appeared.

By this time he realized that he was having a battle for his life, and he clutched out wildly for the first thing that came to hand, It was a tree root and by its aid he pulled himself to the surface of the river and gazed around him.

He was under the bank, at a point where the current had washed away a large portion of the soil, exposing to view half of the roots of a tree standing above. To get out of the stream at that spot was an impossibility, and he let himself go once more, when he had regained his breath and felt able to take care of himself.

In a few minutes more Sam reached a point where to climb up the bank was easy, and he lost no time in leaving the river. Once on the bank he squeezed the water out of his garments. He had lost his cap, but spent no time in looking for the head covering.

"Oh, if only I had Lew Flapp here!" he muttered over and over again. But the bully had, as we already know, made good his escape, and Sam found it impossible to get on his track. Soaked to the skin he made his way back through the cemetery.

"Hullo, so you have fallen into the river!" sang out a man who saw him coming. It was Jack Sooker, the fellow mentioned by the cemetery keeper's daughter.

"No, I was pushed in," answered Sam, who knew Sooker fairly well.

"How did it happen, Sam?"

"I was after a rascal I wanted to have locked up. But he shoved me into the river and got away."

"You don't tell me! Where is he now?"

"I don't know."

"That's too bad. Do I know him?"

"No, he is a stranger around these parts."

"A young fellow?"

"Yes, about Dick's age."

"Can't say as I've seen him. What are you going to do about it?"

"I don't know yet. I've got to get some dry clothes first:"

Sam walked up to the cottage at the corner of the cemetery. Jennie, the keeper's daughter, saw him coming and gave a cry at his wet garments.

"Can I dry myself here?" he asked, after he had explained the situation.

"To be sure you can, Sam," she answered, and stirred up the fire in the kitchen stove. "If you wish I'll lend you a suit of my brother Zack's clothes--that is, if you are in a hurry."

"Thanks, I'll borrow the suit. I want to report this; and I'll send the suit back to-morrow."

"You needn't hurry. Zack isn't home just now, so he doesn't need the suit."

The clothes were found, and Sam slipped into a bedchamber of the cottage and made the change. Then, after thanking Jennie once more for her kindness, the youngest Rover set off for Oak Run as fast as he could.

A train was just coming into the depot and the first person to hop off was Fred Garrison.

"Hullo, I thought you'd meet me!" sang out Fred. "How are you?"

"Pretty well, considering," answered Sam, with a quiet smile. "But I've had a whole lot of happenings since I drove down to the depot."

"What's the matter, horse run away?"

"No, I met Lew Flapp."

"Nonsense! Why, what is he doing around here?"

"I give it up, Fred. But he was here and we have had a lively time of it," answered Sam, and told his story.

"Well, I'll be jiggered! What do you propose to do next?"

"I don't know what to do. I might get the village constable to hunt for him, but I don't think it will do any good."

"Why don't you tell your folks first?"

"Yes, I reckon that will be best. Jump in the carriage and I'll drive you over to our home."

Fred had but little to tell out of the ordinary. His folks had wanted him to go to the seashore for the summer, but he had preferred to take the houseboat trip with the Rovers.

"I am sure we shall have a dandy time," he said. "I was on a houseboat trip once, down in Florida, and it was simply great."

"What do you think about the Lanings and the Stanhopes going with us?"

"That will be nice. We certainly ought to have a bang-up time," answered Fred, enthusiastically.

Sam had driven over with the best horse the Rover stable afforded, a magnificent bay, which Anderson Rover had purchased in Albany at a special sale early in the spring. Sam had pleaded to take the steed and his parent had finally consented.

"That's a fine bit of horseflesh you have," observed Fred, as they sped along the level road leading to Valley Brook farm. "I like the manner in which he steps out first-rate."

"Chips is a good horse," answered Sam. "There is only one fault he has."

"And what is that?"

"He is easily frightened at a bit of paper or some other white object in the road."

"That is bad."

The conversation now changed and the boys spoke of the good times ahead. Farm after farm was passed, until they were almost in sight of Valley Brook.

"What a beautiful stretch of country," observed Fred, as he gazed around. "I don't wonder that your uncle settled here while your father was in Africa."

"We used to hate the farm, Tom especially. We thought it was too dead slow for anything. But now we love to come back to it, after being at school or somewhere else."

They were just passing the farm next to that of the Rovers when a man came driving up to them at a rapid gait. He was seated on a buckboard and had behind him a box filled with showbills.

"Visit the circus day after to-morrow! Biggest show on earth for a quarter!" he shouted, and flung a couple of bills at them.

"A circus!" began Fred, when, without warning, Chips made a wild leap that nearly threw him and Sam into the road. Scared by the sight of the showbills the horse made a plunge and then began to run away.

"Whoa, Chips, whoa!" sang out Sam.

"Don't--don't let him get away, Sam!" came from Fred, as he gripped the side of the carriage.

"He shan't get away if I can help it," was the answer, from between Sam's shut teeth. "Whoa, Chips, whoa!" he went on.

But Chips wouldn't whoa, and the sight of another white handbill in the middle of the road caused him to shy to one side. Both boys were unseated, and Sam would have gone to the ground had not Fred held him fast.

"Whoa!" yelled Sam, and now he pulled in tighter than ever on the reins. But on and on went the bay steed, straight through the lane leading to the Rovers' barn.

"He'll smash us up!" gasped Fred.

"Hi! hi!" came from the barnyard and then Dick Rover came into view. His quick eye took in the situation in an instant and he made a grand dash to reach Chips' head. He was successful, and in spite of the steed's efforts to throw him off, held on until at last the bay was brought to a standstill, trembling in every limb and covered with foam.

"How did this happen, Samuel?" asked his uncle, as he too came forward.

"A fellow with circus bills scared him," answered Sam, and he added: "I'd just like to catch that fellow and give him a piece of my mind!"

"And so would I," added Fred.

"Are either of you hurt?"

"No."

"Let us be thankful for that," said Mr. Rover; and then had the horse taken to the stable by Jack Ness.