Chapter VIII. Good-Bye to Putnam Hall
 

"Now, Songbird, give us one of your best poetical effusions," came from Dick Rover, after the excitement had died down a little. "We haven't heard a word out of you for fourteen minutes and a quarter."

"Yes, Songbird, turn on the poetry spigot and let her flow," put in Tom.

"Give us something on old schooldays," came from another cadet.

"Put in a touch of last farewells," added another.

"Don't forget to speak of the moon and fond memories."

"Or, shall we ever forget?"

"Or, camping on the old camp-ground, Songbird."

"And of all things, mention the soup we had last Thursday. No piece of poetry would be complete without that soup."

"Who's making up poetry about soup?" roared Songbird Powell. But then he grew calmer. "All right, fellows, here goes." And he started:

"Of all the days to mem'ry dear,
The dearest days are those spent here,
  When we--"

"That's a libel!" interrupted Tom. "Captain Putnam's rates are no higher than the rates of other first-class academies. I move we cut that verse out, Songbird."

"I didn't mean the cost of the days spent here."

"You can't spend anything here," put in George Granbury. "You have to go to Cedarville to do your shopping."

"I'll make a fresh start," came from Powell, and he warbled:

"Old Putnam Hall I do adore,
And love the place as ne'er before,
The campus, boathouse, fishing pier--
The roads that run from far and near--
Each classroom is a hallowed spot,
Though many lessons are forgot!
The dormitories, bright and clean--
No better rooms were ever seen!
The mess-room, where we gathered oft--"

"To eat our eggs both hard and soft!"

finished up Tom, and then went on:

"The prison wherein I was cast,
And thought that day would be my last,
The teachers sweet and the teachers sour,
And the feasts we held at the midnight hour,
The games of ball we lost and won,
And the jubilees! What lots of fun!
And then the skating on the ice--"

"When we broke in, 'twas not so nice:"

interrupted George Granbury, referring to a calamity the particulars of which have already been related in "The Rover Boys in the Mountains." And then Songbird Powell took up the strain once more:

"I love each corner and each nook,
I love the lake and love the brook,
I love the cedars waving high--"

"And love the dinners with mince pie,"

interrupted Tom once more, and continued:

"In fact, I love it one and all,
There is no spot like Putnam Hall!"

And then, with one accord, all standing around joined in the academy cheer:

"Zip, boom, bang! Ding, dong! Ding, dong! Bang! Hurrah for Putnam Hall!" Then the fire was stirred up, more boxes and barrels piled on top, and the cadets danced around more wildly than ever. They were allowed to keep up the fun until midnight, when all were so tired that further sport was out of the question, and all went sound asleep.

Bright and early the next morning the cadets assembled for their last breakfast in the mess-room. The parade was dispensed with, for some had to leave by the early boat on the lake in order to make the proper connections. Many were the handshakings and the kind words of farewell. Some of the students had graduated and were not to come back. Of these a few were bound for college, while others were going into various lines of business.

"We shall never forget our days at Putnam .Hall!" said more than one.

"And I shall never forget you, boys," answered Captain Putnam. "I wish all of you the best of success in life."

It was not until ten o'clock that the three Rover boys left for Cedarville in the big school stage. As was usual, Peleg Snuggers drove the turnout, which was filled to overflowing with cadets. Behind the stage came a big wagon, heavily loaded with trunks and boxes.

"Now, young gents, no cutting up," pleaded the general-utility man. "The hosses won't stand it, nowhow!"

"That's an old scare, Peleg," replied Tom. He had a tin horn and gave a loud blast. "That will let folks know we are coming." And then a dozen other horns sounded out, while some of the cadets began to sing.

A few minutes after reaching the steamboat dock at the village, which, as my old readers know, was located on the shore of Cayuga Lake, the Golden Star came along and made her usual landing. The boat looked familiar to them and they gave the captain a rousing greeting.

Over a dozen pupils were to make the trip to Ithaca at the foot of the lake. There the Rovers would get aboard a train which would take them to Oak Run, the nearest railroad station to their home.

"The Golden Star looks like an old friend," remarked Dick, when they were seated on the front, upper deck, enjoying the refreshing breeze that was blowing.'

"I am never on this boat but what I think of our first meeting with Dan Baxter and with Dora Stanhope and Nellie and Grace Laning," came from Tom. "What an enemy Dan Baxter has been from that time on!"

"And what a pile of things have happened since that time!" was Sam's comment. "By the way, it is strange that none of us have heard from any of those girls lately. They ought to be coming east from California by this time."

"I wish they were home," went on Tom. "I'd like to propose something."

"Maybe you'd like to propose to Nellie," put in his younger brother, slyly.

"No sooner than you'd propose to Grace," was Tom's prompt answer, which made Sam blush. "Dick," he went on, "wouldn't it be great if we could get the girls and Mrs. Stanhope to take that trip with us on the houseboat?"

"That would certainly be immense," cried the eldest Rover, enthusiastically. "Why didn't we think of it before? We might have written to them about it."

"Is it too late to write now?" asked Sam. "Or, maybe we can telegraph."

"Perhaps Mrs. Laning wants her girls at home now," said Dick, slowly. "They have been away a long time, remember."

"Perhaps Mrs. Laning might go along. We could have a jolly time of it with six or seven boys and perhaps the same number of girls and ladies."

The idea of having the girls along interested the three Rovers greatly and they talked of practically nothing else during the trip on Cayuga Lake.

Ithaca reached, they bid farewell to the last of their school chums, who were to depart in various directions, and then made their way to one of the hotels for dinner.

"There they are, mamma!" they heard a well-known voice exclaim. "Oh, how glad I am that we didn't miss them!" And the next moment Dora Stanhope rushed up, followed by Nellie and Grace Laning and Mrs. Stanhope.

"Well, of all things!" ejaculated Dick, as he shook hands warmly. "Where did you drop from?"

"We were talking about you during the trip from Cedarville," said Tom, as he too shook hands all around, followed by Sam.

"We were wondering why you hadn't written," added Sam.

"We were going to surprise you," answered Grace. "We expected to get home yesterday and visit the academy. But there was a breakdown on the line and our train was delayed and that made us miss a connection."

"We thought sure we'd miss you," said Nellie. "It made us feel awfully."

"Have you dined yet?" asked Dick.

"No."

"Then you must all come and take dinner with us. We want to hear all you've got to tell."

"And we want to hear what you've got to tell too," said Dora, with a merry laugh. She was looking straight into Dick's eyes. "Have you had a good time at the Hall?"

"Yes, but we had a better time at the encampment."

"I heard you met some very nice young ladies up there," went on Dora.

"Who wrote to you about that, Dora?"

"Oh, never mind; I heard it, and that's enough."

"Well, we did meet some nice young ladies."

"Oh!" And Dora turned away for a moment. They were on their way to the dining room and the others were temporarily out of hearing.

"But I didn't meet anybody half as nice as you!" went on Dick, in a low tone of voice, and caught her hand.

"Oh, Dick!" She said this with a toss of her head, but smiled, nevertheless.

"It's true, Dora. I wished you were there more than once. I would have written more, only we had a whole lot of trouble with our enemies."

"And you really did think of me?"

"I did--nearly every day. I suppose you forgot all about me, and that's why you didn't write."

"Dick Rover, you know better than that!"

"I suppose you met some stunning Californian that owns a gold mine and he claimed all of your attention."

"I did meet one rich young man, and--and he proposed to me," faltered Dora.

"Oh, Dora!" And now Dick's heart seemed to stop beating. "And you--you didn't accept him, did you?"

"Would you care if I did?" she whispered. "Dora!" he answered, half fiercely.

"Well, I told him I didn't want him, so there," said Dora, hurriedly. "I told him that I wanted to marry somebody that lived in the East, and that I--I--"

"And that you had the young man picked out? Why didn't you tell him that, Dora? You know--"

"Hi, you folks!" came in a cry from Tom. "What are you steering for the smoking room for? We are bound for the dining room."

"Well, I never!" murmured Dora. "Dick, we had better watch out where we are going."

"That's right." They turned toward the dining room. "Dora, you know, as I was saying, that--"

"Dick Rover, I thought we were going to dinner! Just see the folks! What a crowd! You musn't talk like that here."

"Yes, that's true, but--"

"You really must mind, Dick." She gave him a bright smile. "I--I--guess I understand you!"

And then all went in to dinner.