“Just drop us off at the gate!” cried Jack. “We don’t want to ride up to the piazza in such a rig as this.”
“Why, hello, have you arrived at last?” cried a voice from out of the darkness, and then Laura and Flossie appeared, standing by the gate. The three cadets looked glumly at each other, and then Pepper commenced to snicker and all burst into a hearty spell of laughter.
AT THE FORD MANSION
“Don’t you admire our very fashionable turnout?” questioned Pepper, as he came forward and shook hands with the girls.
“It’s the latest in carriages,” came from Andy.
“Oh!” murmured Laura. “Did you really come all the way from Putnam Hall in that?”
“It must have been hard riding,” was Flossie’s comment.
“No, we didn’t come all the way,” answered Pepper. “We’ll tell you about it later,” he added. Then Ezra Cole was paid. The old farmer lost no time in driving away.
As the girls and boys walked slowly toward the mansion the cadets told the particulars of the breakdown on the road.
“And you really think some of your rivals did it?” questioned Laura. “How mean!”
“I’d never speak to them again,” added Flossie, with a flash of her eyes.
“Well, we’ll talk a whole lot to ’em,” answered Pepper, grimly.
“But you have got to prove them guilty first,” said Laura.
Once at the mansion the situation was explained to Mr. and Mrs. Ford, and the boys were conducted by a servant to a bathroom, where they might wash and brush up and make themselves otherwise presentable. They did not linger long, and when they came below, the folding-doors to the dining-room were opened and the butler announced dinner.
It was a jolly meal, and the cadets were made to feel perfectly at home. Mr. Ford asked them how they were getting along in school, and was surprised when told that they hoped to graduate from the Hall the following June.
“We shall miss your visits to the Lodge,” said Mrs. Ford.
“You’ll have to visit us anyway—if you get a chance,” said Laura, and all of the cadets said they would remember her kind words. Then they talked about old times, and especially about the time when the boys had visited the Lodge and killed the tiger that had escaped from the circus, as related in “The Putnam Hall Cadets,” and of how the girls had visited the cadets in the woods, when the boys had run away from the Hall, as told of in “The Putnam Hall Rebellion.”
“I’d like to go to a boarding-school,” said Flossie. “It must be lots of fun!”
“Fun and work, mixed,” answered Andy.
After the dinner, over which they took their time, the young folks gathered around the piano and sang and played, and they also had several dances, with the old folks looking on. All too soon it came time for the boys to go back to the Hall.