Chapter XVI. Aleck Brings News

"I reckon we got square," was Tom's comment, after the fun was over and they were on their way to the farm. "My, but wasn't that circus owner mad!"

"I don't think he'll have another such crowd to-night," said Fred, and he was right. The evening performance was attended by less than a hundred people, and a week later the show failed and was sold out completely.

By the end of the week word was received from both the Stanhopes and the Lanings that all would be glad to join the Rovers in their houseboat vacation. They would take a train for Pittsburg direct on the following Wednesday morning and would there await their friends.

"This suits me to a T!" cried Dick, after reading the communication Dora had sent him. "If we don't have the best time ever then it will be our own fault."

"Just what I say," answered Sam, who had received a long letter from Grace.

There were many articles to pack and ship to Pittsburg. The boys also made out a long list of the things to be purchased for the trip, and in this their father and their aunt helped them.

Sunday passed quietly, all of the boys attending both church and Sunday school. It was a hard matter for Tom to keep still on the Sabbath day, but he did so, much to his aunt's comfort.

Aleck Pop was highly delighted to think that he was to be taken along, especially as cook.

"I'se gwine to do ma level best fo' yo' an' fo' de ladies," said the colored man. "Yo' is gwine to hab reg'lar Waldorf-Astoria feed."

"Don't feed us too good, Aleck, or we'll all die of dyspepsia," said Sam.

"I'll take care of dat, Massah Sam. Don't yo' remember how I used to cook when we was out in de wilderness ob Africa?"

"Indeed I do, Aleck. Yes, I know you'll take care of us," answered Sam.

On the day before the start the boys were surprised to see Hans Mueller appear, with a big trunk and a dress-suit case. The German boy came over from Oak Run in a grocery wagon, having been unable to find a cab.

"How you all vos?" said he, shaking hands. "I dink first I go py dot Pittsburg und den I dinks me I got lost maybe--so I come here."

"That's right, Hans," said Dick. "But what made you bring such a big trunk?"

"Shsh!" answered Hans, putting a finger to the side of his nose. "Dot is a secrets alretty!"

"A secret?"

"Dot's him. You vos going to haf der ladies along, hey?"

"Yes, they are all going."

"I got me dree dress suits py mine drunk in."

"Three dress suits!" roared Dick. "Oh, Hans!"

"Ain't dot enough?" questioned the German cadet, dubiously.

"Three dress suits!" repeated Dick. "Oh, somebody hold me, or I'll have a fit!" And he nearly doubled up with laughter.

"What's the funeral about?" came from Tom, who was standing near.

"Hans is to become a real ladies' man, Tom."

"I don't solve the riddle."

"He has got three dress suits in his trunk."

"Phew! He'll leave us in the shade entirely. Say, Hans, have you got any patent leathers?"

"Yah, I got two pairs of batent-leather shoes."

"Hope you brought your pumps," put in Sam, who had come up.

"Bumps?" queried Hans, with a puzzled look. "Vy I pring me a bump? Does der poat leak?"

"Well, that's the limit!" roared Dick.

"Sam means your dancing pumps?" said Fred. "You mustn't forget them, you know--not if you want to be a really and truly society man."

"I got a pair of slippers for dot," answered Hans. "How many dress suits you vos dake along, hey?"

"Oh, about seven," answered Tom, carelessly.

"You ton't tole me dot, Tom! Maybe I haf to puy some more, hey?"

"Well, I shouldn't--not just yet," answered Dick. "Wait till the new fall styles come out. What you want for a starter is some everyday clothes, a sweater or two, and a pair of rubber boots, in case we have to walk ashore in the mud some time."

"Veil, I got dem too," answered Hans.

A letter had already been sent to Captain Starr, asking him to have the houseboat brought up to Pittsburg. The captain was also told to have the Dora thoroughly cleaned and put in proper trim for he outing.

"We want the ladies to be satisfied with her appearance," said Dick.

"And especially since she is named the Dora," grinned Tom.

"Oh, you're only piqued because she isn't named the Nellie," retorted his older brother, with a laugh.

"Never mind, Dick; some day you can use the houseboat on a honeymoon," answered Tom, and then ran off.

At last came the time for the boys to leave the farm. Jack Ness took all the trunks and suit cases to the depot and then transported the boys in the family carriage, with Aleck on the seat beside him.

"Good-bye to Valley Brook farm!" cried Tomb waving his hat.

"Take good care of yourselves, boys!" shouted Anderson Rover.

"Don't get drowned," put in the aunt. And then with final adieux they were off. The drive to Oak Run was a quick one, and ten minutes later the train came in and they went aboard.

The run to Pittsburg was to occupy several hours, so the boys made themselves as comfortable as possible. They had dinner on the train and ordered the best of everything to be had.

It had been arranged that all bound for the houseboat trip should meet at the American House, and thither the boys made their way on reaching the Smoky City, as Pittsburg is often called, on account of its numerous manufactories.

"Here we are!" cried a voice, as soon as they entered, and Songbird Powell hurried up to them. "I thought you'd get here about this time."

"Have you seen anything of the ladies?" queried Dick.

"Yes, they are all in the ladies' parlor. I told them I'd keep a lookout for you."

They made their way to the parlor, where a great handshaking took place. Mrs. Stanhope and Dora were there, and also Grace and Nellie with Mrs. Laning. The latter was not used to traveling and was in quite a flutter.

"The girls insisted upon my coming," said Mrs. Laning. "I didn't think I could do it at first, but they wouldn't take no for an answer."

"And we are real glad to have you," answered Dick.

Aleck had been sent off to hunt up Captain Starr and the houseboat, and in the meantime all of the party obtained rooms for the night and then went to supper.

"This puts me in mind of the time we took dinner at Ithaca," said Dick to Dora, on the way to the dining hall. "Do you remember?"

"Indeed I do," she answered, with a pretty blush. "But please do not steer me into the smoking room again," she added, mischievously.

"Don't you think we are going to have a good time, Dora?"

"If I hadn't thought that I shouldn't have come," answered the miss.

It was a happy gathering, and Hans Mueller kept the young folks convulsed by his odd speeches.

"And you ton't vos put no salt py mine coffee in dis dime, Tom," said Hans, referring to a trick which had once been played on him.

"All right, Hansy," answered Tom. "And please don't you pour any coffee down my back," he added, for he had not forgotten how he had been paid back for that joke.

The supper lasted a long time, and after it was over all went to one of the rooms upstairs, where they spent a couple of hours very agreeably.

"We can be thankful that it is such pleasant weather," said Mrs. Stanhope. "An outing on a houseboat during a wet spell would not be so nice."

"Oh, we'd try to make things pleasant," said Tom. "There is a piano on board, and we could have music and singing--"

"A piano! Oh, Tom!" cried Nellie. "How nice! It must be a regular little palace!"

"I haven't seen the boat yet. Uncle Randolph said there was a piano on board."

"And I've got a guitar," came from Songbird Powell.

"With which he will sing to the moon on dark nights," came from Tom.

"I haf got some musics py mine drunk in too," said Hans.

"What have you got, Hansy?" asked Sam--"a tin whistle?"

"No, a music pox vot mine fadder brought from Chermany. He vos a fine pox, too, I can told you."

"That's splendid, Hans," said Dora. "I love a good music box."

So the talk ran on until there was a knock at the door and Aleck appeared. The look on his black face showed that he was excited.

"Say, Massah Dick, I would like to see yo' in private a minute," he said.

"Certainly," replied Dick. "Excuse me," he added, to the others, and went out into the hall with the colored man.

"I didn't want fo' to alarm de ladies," explained Aleck. "But I wanted to tell you as soon as I could."

"Tell me what, Aleck?"

"Dat I dun seen dat rascal, Dan Baxter, less dan half an hour ago," was the answer.