“Yes. But anybody would do that, Gus, for a schoolmate.”
“No, they wouldn’t; Reff Ritter wouldn’t. He would have left me to drown!” And Coulter shuddered. “You’re a real hero, Jack Ruddy! And I’m a—a skunk; yes, a mean, low-down skunk—and I always have been!” And now Gus Coulter buried his face in his hands.
“Jack certainly deserves great credit for jumping in after you,” said Pepper, warmly. “It was a mighty cold plunge for anybody to take.”
“Oh, let’s drop it!” came modestly from the hero of the occasion.
“I am not going to drop it!” retorted Gus Coulter, with spirit. “You saved my life, and I want everybody to know it, especially Reff Ritter. He would have left me to drown!”
“Reff had to save himself. He was chilled to the bone when we got him out,” answered Jack.
“If you had been Reff you wouldn’t have run away and left me to drown,” went on Coulter, stubbornly.
At this Jack was silent.
“You don’t know it all, Jack Ruddy. Reff and I had a quarrel. He said he—he didn’t want to have anything more to do with me. I believe he—he would have been glad to have me drown!”
“Oh, don’t say that, Gus!” burst out Pepper.
“But I will say it!” flared out Gus Coulter. “After this I am going to cut Reff Ritter! And I am going to tell what I know about him, too! And I am going to get Nick Paxton to tell what he knows, too!”
“What do you know about him?” asked Jack, with sudden interest.
“Oh, I know a good deal.”
“Coulter, answer me honestly. Do you know anything about his dealings with a certain man named Cameron Smith?”
“Oh, do you know that fellow?” questioned the other cadet, and he stared wonderingly at Jack.
“I know a little about him.”
“Don’t you have anything to do with him, Jack! And don’t you have much to do with Reff! They are both bad! Oh, you don’t know how bad!” And Gus Coulter shook his head to emphasize his words.
“What did you and Reff quarrel about, Gus?” asked Pepper.
“We quarreled about—about—— Oh, I don’t know how I can speak of it! But I suppose I’ve got to, if I want to remain honest. We quarreled over something I found one day in his private box. I got suspicious of him, and when he was taking a nap I took his key and opened the box. And in the box what do you suppose I found?”
“What?” came simultaneously from Jack and Pepper.
“Your watch and chain, Jack.”
THE MYSTERY EXPLAINED—CONCLUSION
“My watch and chain!” cried the former major of the school battalion.
“What did you do about it? Why didn’t you report it to me, or to Captain Putnam?”
“I was so stunned I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t believe that Reff had taken them, and that he was guilty of the robberies that were going on. I locked the box up and put the key back in his pocket. That night I accused him of the theft, and we had a quarrel and almost came to blows. He said he didn’t take the watch and chain, that he found them in the gymnasium near the lockers. He said he was only keeping them to get square with you, and that he would return them to you before the term closed.”