“Well, if he turns up we’ll be ready for him,” returned Tom grimly.
“How can yo’ be ready fo’ a pusson wot acts like a snake in de grass? He’ll sting befo’ yo’ hab de chance to spot him.”
“We’ll have to keep our eyes open, Aleck,” answered the youth; and then the subject was changed.
During those days the boys went fishing and bathing in the river, and also visited Humpback Falls, that spot where Sam had had such a thrilling adventure, as related in “The Rover Boys at School.”
“What a lot has happened since those days,” said Sam, taking a deep breath. “Tom, do you remember how you got into trouble with old Crabtree the very first day we landed at Putnam Hall?”
“I do, Sam; and do you remember our first meeting, on the boat, with Dan Baxter, and how we sent him about his business when he tried to annoy Nellie, and Grace, and Dora?”
“Yes, indeed. Say, I am getting anxious to get back to the Hall. It seems almost like a second home.”
“So am I,” put in Dick. “Besides, we have lost time enough from our studies. We’ll have to pitch in, or we’ll drop behind our classes.”
“Father says we can return to the Hall next Monday, if we wish.”
“I vote we do so.”
“So do I.”
And thus it was decided that they should return to the academy four days later.
But during those four days something was to happen which would have an important bearing upon their future actions.
A MIDNIGHT VISITOR
The next day, shortly after noon, it began to rain, and the storm increased in violence until the wind blew almost a gale.
The rain kept the boys indoors, at which Tom was inclined to grumble.
“No use of grumbling, Tom,” said Dick cheerfully. “Let us improve the time by looking over our school books. That will make it easier to slip into the grind again when we get back to the Hall.”
“That is excellent advice, Richard,” said Randolph Rover. “Whatever you do, do not neglect your studies.”
“By the way, Uncle Randolph, how is scientific farming progressing?” said Tom, referring to something that had been his uncle’s hobby for years—a hobby that had cost the gentleman considerable money.
“Well—ah—to tell the truth, Thomas, not as well as I had hoped for.”
“Hope you didn’t drop a thousand or two this year, uncle?”
“Oh, no—not over fifty dollars.”
“Then you got off easy.”
“I shall do better next year. The potatoes already show signs of improvement.”
“Good! I suppose you’ll be growing ’em on top of the ground soon. Then you won’t have the bother of digging ’em, you know,” went on the fun-loving boy innocently.
“Absurd, Thomas! But I shall have some very large varieties, I feel certain.”
“Big as a watermelon?”