The Rover Boys on the River by Edward Stratemeyer
Chapter III. The Doings of a Night
As luck would have it, William Philander Tubbs just then occupied a tent alone, his two tent-mates being on guard duty for two hours as was the custom during encampment.
The aristocratic cadet lay flat on his back, with his face and throat well exposed.
"Now, be careful, Sam, or you'll wake him up," whispered Tom.
One cadet held a candle, while Sam and Tom blackened the face of the sleeping victim of the joke. The burnt cork was in excellent condition and soon William Philander looked for all the world like a coal-black darkey.
"Py chimanatics, he could go on der stage py a nigger minstrel company," was Hans Mueller's comment.
"Makes almost a better nigger than he does a white man," said Tom, dryly.
"Wait a minute till I fix up his coat for him," said Fred Garrison, and turned the garment inside out.
A moment later all of the cadets withdrew, leaving the tent in total darkness. Then one stuck his head in through the flap.
"Hi, there, Private Tubbs!" he called out. "Wake up!"
"What--ah--what's the mattah?" drawled the aristocratic cadet, sleepily.
"Captain Putnam wants you to report to him or to Mr. Strong at once," went on the cadet outside, in a heavy, assumed voice.
"Wants me to report?" questioned Tubbs, sitting up in astonishment.
"Yes, and at once. Hurry up, for it's very important."
"Well, this is assuredly strange," murmured William Philander to himself. "Wonder what is up?"
He felt around in the dark for a light, but it had been removed by Tom and so had all the matches.
"Beastly luck, not a match!" growled Tubbs, and then began to dress in the dark. In his hurry he did not notice that his coat was inside out, nor did he discover that his face and hands were blacked.
Captain Putnam's quarters were at the opposite end of the camp, and in that direction William Philander hurried until suddenly stopped by a guard who chanced to be coming in from duty.
"Halt!" cried the cadet. "What are you doing in this camp?" he demanded.
"Captain Putnam wants me," answered Tubbs, thinking the guard wanted to know why he was astir at that hour of the night.
"Captain Putnam wants you?"
"It's strange. How did you get in?"
"In? In where?"
"In this camp?"
"Oh, Ribble, are you crazy?"
"So you know me," said Ribble. "Well, I must say I don't know you."
"You certainly must be crazy. I am William Philander Tubbs."
"What! Oh, then you--" stammered Ribble, and then a light dawned on him. "Who told you the captain wanted to see you?"
"Some cadet who just woke me up."
"All right, go ahead then," and Ribble grinned. Behind Tubbs he now saw half a dozen cadets hovering in the semi-darkness, watching for sport.
On ran William Philander, to make up for lost time, and soon arrived at the flap of the tent occupied by Captain Putnam.
"Here I am, Captain Putnam!" he called out. And then, as he got no reply, he called again. By this time the captain was awake, and coming to the flap, he peered out.
"What do you want?" he asked, sharply. "You sent for me, sir," stammered Tubbs.
"I sent for you?"
"I have no recollection of so doing," answered Captain Putman. "Where are you from?"
"Why, I am--ah--from this camp," answered the puzzled Tubbs.
"Do you mean to tell me you belong here?" questioned the now astonished master of Putnam Hall.
"Of course, Captain Putnam. Didn't you send for me? Somebody said you did," continued William Philander.
"Sir, I don't know you and never heard of you, so far as I can remember. You must be mixed up.
"I mixed up? I guess you are mixed up," roared Tubbs, growing angry. "If I don't belong to this camp, where do I belong?"
"How should I know? We have no negroes here, to the best of my knowledge."
"Captain Putnam, what do you mean by calling me an--ah--negro?" fumed William Philander.
"Well, aren't you one? I can't see very well."
"No, sir; I am not a negro, and never was a negro," answered Tubbs, getting more and more excited. "I shall report this to my parents when I arrive home."
"Will you in all goodness tell me your name?" queried Captain Putnam, beginning to realize that something was wrong.
"You know my name well enough, sir."
"Perhaps I do, and perhaps I don't. Answer me, please."
"My name is William Philander Tubbs."
"Tubbs! Is it possible!"
"Somebody came to my tent and said you wanted to see me."
"Well, did you think it was necessary to black up to make a call on me?"
"Black up?" repeated William Philander. "That is what I said?"
"Am I black, sir?"
"Yes, as black as coal. Look at yourself in this glass," and the captain held out a small looking glass and also a lantern.
When Tubbs saw himself in the glass he almost had a fit.
"My gracious sakes alive!" he groaned. "How ridiculous! How did this happen? Why, I look like a negro!"
"Is anything amiss, Captain Putnam?" came from the next tent, and George Strong appeared.
"Nothing, excepting that Private Tubbs has seen fit to black up as a negro and call upon me," answered the master of the academy, with a faint smile playing around the corners of his mouth.
"I didn't black up!" roared William Philander. "It's all a horrid joke somebody has played on me while I was asleep! You don't want me, do you?"
"Then I'll go back, and if I can find out who did this--"
A burst of laughter from a distance made him break off short.
"They're laughing at me!" he went on. "Just hear that!"
"Go to bed, and I will investigate in the morning," answered Captain Putnam, and William Philander went off, vowing vengeance.
"Just wait till I find out who did it," he told himself, as he washed up the best he could in some cold water. "I'll have them in court for it." But he never did find out, nor did Captain Putnam's investigation lead to any disclosures.
William Philander's trials for that night were not yet at an end. On the march to the camp some of the cadets had picked up a number of burrs of fair size. A liberal quantity of these had been introduced under the covers of Tubbs' cot immediately after he left the tent.
Having washed up as best he could, the aristocratic cadet blew out the light he had borrowed and prepared to retire once more. He threw back the covers and dropped heavily upon the cot in just the spot where the sharpest of the burrs lay.
An instant later a wild shriek of pain and astonishment rent the air.
"Ouch! Oh my, I'm stuck full of pins! Oh, dear me!"
And then William Philander Tubbs leaped up and began to dance around like a wild Indian.
"What's the matter with you, Billy?" asked one of his tent-mates, entering in the midst of the excitement.
"What's the matter?" roared poor Tubbs. "Everything is the matter, don't you know. It's an ah--outrage!"
"Somebody told me you had blacked up as a negro minstrel and were going to serenade your best girl."
"It's not so, Parkham. Some beastly cadets played a joke on me! Oh, wait till I find out who did it!" And then William Philander began to moan once more over the burrs. It was a good quarter of an hour before he had his cot cleaned off and fit to use once more, and even then he was so excited and nervous he could not sleep another wink.
"William Philander won't forget his last night with the boys in a hurry," remarked Tom, as he slipped off to bed once more.
"You had better keep quiet over this," came from Dick. "We don't want to spoil our records for the term, remember."
"Right you are, Dick. I'll be as mum as a clam climbing a huckleberry bush."
The boys were tired out over the march of the afternoon and over playing the joke on Tubbs, and it was not long before all of the Rovers were sound asleep. The three brothers had begged for permission to tent together and this had been allowed by Captain Putnam, for the term was virtually over, ending with the dismissal of the cadets at the last encampment parade.
On guard duty at one end of the field was a cadet named Link Smith, a rather weak-minded fellow who was easily led by those who cared to exert an influence over him. At one time Link Smith had trained with Lew Flapp and his evil associates, but fortunately for the feeble-minded cadet he had been called home during the time when Lew Flapp got into the trouble which ended by his dismissal from Putnam Hall.
Link Smith was pacing up and down sleepily when he heard a peculiar whistle close at hand. He listened intently and soon heard the whistle repeated.
"The old call," he murmured to himself. At first he did not feel like answering, but presently did so. Then from out of the gloom stalked a tall young fellow, dressed in the uniform of a cadet but with a face that was strangely painted and powdered.
"Who is it?" questioned Link Smith, uneasily.
"Don't you know me, Link?"
"Lew Flapp!" cried the weak-minded cadet.
"Hush, not so loud, Link. Somebody might hear you."
"What do you want?"
"I want to visit the camp," answered Lew Flapp.