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The Mystery at Putnam Hall: The School Chums' Strange Discovery By Edward Stratemeyer Characters: 10867

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

While Dale and Andy ran off to get the water, the other boys gathered around Jack. The young major still lay with his eyes closed, breathing faintly.

"He got a bad crack on the head," remarked Fred Century.

"He certainly did," whispered another cadet. "If he doesn't come around what shall we do?"

"How did the team happen to run away?" questioned Amos Darrison.

"Some fellows from Pornell Academy threw things at us," explained Pepper. "We'll have an account to settle with 'em for this," he added grimly.

"Wonder how poor Snuggers made out?"

"Here he comes now," was the answer, and looking back toward the highway, the cadets saw the driver of the carryall approaching on a swift limp.


The Mystery of Putnam Hall. (Page 19)

"Did ye stop 'em?" he gasped. "Oh, dear, what a bust-up! But it wasn't my fault-you boys can prove that, can't ye?"

"We can, Peleg," answered Pepper. "Much hurt?"

"I got a nasty twist to my back when I tumbled. Say, what's the matter with Major Ruddy?" And the general utility man forgot his own pains as he gazed at the motionless form of Jack.

The cadets told him, and in the midst of the explanation Dale and Andy came back with a bucket of water and a tin dipper. The major's face was bathed, and a little water was put into his mouth, and with a gulp he opened his eyes and stared around him.

"Oh, my head!" he murmured. "Who hit me?"

"You were in the carryall smash-up, Jack," answered Pepper. "You got a bad one on the head."

"Oh, yes, I remember now." Jack sat up and placed his hand to his forehead. "Bloody, eh? Say, that was a crack, all right!"

"It's lucky you weren't killed," said Andy.

"Better take it easy for a while," advised Dale. "Maybe we had better get a doctor."

"Oh, I guess I'll be all right after a bit, Dale," answered the young major, who had a horror of being placed on the sick list. "The knocking around stunned me, that's all."

"Let me tie a handkerchief over that cut," said Pepper.

"Here, I've got some court-plaster," said Fred, producing a little package. "Let us bind it up with that."

This was done, and after he had had a drink of water, Jack said he felt much better. But when he got up on his feet he was rather shaky in the knees.

"I-I don't think I can walk to the Hall," he said, with a faint smile.

"We'll get a carriage," answered Pepper. "Maybe Mr. Darrison will let us have one. We'll pay for it, of course," he went on, knowing that the old farmer was a close person.

"I'll let you have my three-seated carriage and a team, if you want them," answered Amos Darrison. "But it will cost you two dollars. I can't afford to let you have 'em for nothing, because I'm a poor man, and taxes are heavy, and so many things wanted on the farm, and my wife wants--"

"Never mind, we'll pay the two dollars," interrupted Pepper. "Everybody who rides can chip in," he added to the surrounding cadets.

While the lads were waiting for the farmer to hook up his horses, some of them and Peleg Snuggers examined the carryall. A wheel had come off, and the glass had been broken, but otherwise the turnout had suffered but little.

"I am glad it is no worse," said Andy. "I'd hate to see that old carryall put out of business. I've had so many nice rides in it."

"The axle will have to be mended before we can use it again," announced Peleg Snuggers. "We'll have to leave it here until the wheelwright can come fer it. I'll take the hosses back to the school."

"Look out that they don't run away with you," warned Pepper.

"Let me ride one of them!" cried the acrobatic Andy. "Give me the new one. I'll wager he won't get away from me."

"You'll break your neck!" answered the carryall driver.

"Not at all. Peleg, let me do it. I'm used to horses!" pleaded Andy.

Now, if the truth must be told, Peleg Snuggers did not relish taking the runaway team back to the school alone. He was a little afraid of the new horse, remembering how he had been kicked in the morning.

"Well, if you want to go, I'll let ye!" he said at last. "But, remember, 'tain't my fault if ye come back killed."

"Don't you worry; no horse will ever get the best of me," answered Andy.

A little later Amos Darrison brought out his three-seated carriage and all of the cadets but Andy got in. The baggage was left behind, the farmer promising to deliver it by wagon.

"See you later," cried Pepper to Andy. "Be careful!"

"Don't worry; we'll get there before you do," answered Andy.

Two blankets were arranged as saddles on the runaway team's backs and a few minutes later Andy and Peleg Snuggers started after the carriage.

"Let us catch up to them," cried the acrobatic youth, and urged his steed forward on a gallop.

"Be careful, I tell you!" cried the general utility man. "Be careful! He'll run away with you!"

But Andy was too light-hearted to pay heed to the warning, and soon he was well in advance of his companion. Then he sighted the carriage in the distance, and urged his horse to greater efforts.

"Whoop-la! Here we come!" he yelled, and set up a great shouting.

"It's Andy!" cried Pepper. "My, but he is riding some!"

"He always was a good one on horseback," said Fred.

"He wants to be careful; that horse is an ugly one," came from Jack. "I heard a man at the dock say he wouldn't own the beast at any price."

Soon Andy ranged up beside the carriage.

"You're too slow for me!" he sang out merrily. "I'll have to go ahead and tell Captain Putnam you are coming."

He slapped the horse on the neck. Hardly had he done so when up came the animal's hind hoofs, almost unseating him. Then the horse made a mad leap forward and started down the highway at top speed.

"My, see him go!"

"He is running away!"

"Andy, look out for yourself!"

"If he throws you he'll kill you!"

So the cries rang out from the carriage as horse and rider sped over the highway leading to Putnam Hall.

Andy paid no attention to what was said. Of a sudden he had his hands full trying to keep on the horse's back. The steed was galloping along with a peculiar motion.

"Whoa! whoa, Jim!" yelled Andy, but Jim paid no attention. He was off for a run and did not care what happened.

The blanket had not been securely fastened and before long it commenced to slip towards the horse's tail. Andy tried to haul it back. His efforts were but partly successful, and with an end of the blanket trailing around one of his hind legs, the steed became more unmanageable than ever.

On and on went horse and rider, until, in the distance, Putnam Hall loomed up. On one side of the highway were the woods lining the lake shore; on the other the broad campus leading to the school and other buildings.

"He'll slow up now," thought Andy. "Unless he bolts right into his stable. If he tries that I'll have to jump for it."

In front of the school building the roadway widened out into several curves. Andy thought Jim would take to one of the curves, but he was mistaken. On kept the steed, directly past the institution of learning.

On the campus were a score or more of cadets, who stared in amazement at the sight of the runaway horse with the boy clinging desperately to his back.

"It's Andy Snow!" cried Henry Lee, the captain of Company A.

"So it is," responded Bob Grenwood, the quartermaster of the school battalion. "How in the world did he get on that horse?"

"It's the one that was hitched to the carryall," put in Billy Sabine, another cadet. "Something is wrong."

"Let's tell Captain Putnam," said another.

"Whoa! whoa!" yelled Andy, frantically, when he realized that the horse was not going to pass into the grounds. "Whoa, I say! You've gone far enough!"

The only effect his words had was to make Jim travel a little faster. Away they went, past the gymnasium and the stables and then along the country road leading to the farms back of the lake.

"Well, if you won't stop, go on," said Andy, presently. "You'll get tired sooner or later, old man. But, remember, you've got to bring me back, no matter how tired you are."

A good half-mile was covered, and then horse and rider reached a sharp turn in the highway. Here the trees were thick and some of the branches hung low.

Andy bent down that he might avoid the branches. But he did not get quite low enough. He looked ahead, saw a man standing on one side of the roadway staring in astonishment at him, and the next instant he found himself caught by the throat in a tree-limb and carried off the horse. Then Jim bounded on riderless, and poor Andy, kicking and thrashing wildly, sprang free of the tree-limb and landed on his shoulder in the roadway.

The man who had seen him coming leaped to one side, and just in the nick of time, for the runaway horse passed within a foot of him. The man gasped in astonishment, and for several seconds did not know apparently what to do.

"Looks like he was killed," the man muttered to himself, as he took a few steps forward. Andy had rolled over on his back and lay stretched out, with his eyes closed, very much as poor Jack had been stretched out only a short while before.

The man looked up and down the roadway and saw that nobody else was in sight, that part of the highway being but little traveled. Then he came closer to the unconscious boy and bent over him.

"Only stunned, I reckon!" he muttered to himself. "Wonder if he belongs around here?"

As the man bent over Andy he saw the lad's watch dangling from its chain, fastened to a buttonhole of the youth's vest. Then his ferret-like eyes caught sight of a fine ruby pin in Andy's necktie.

"He could easily lose that watch on the road, riding like that, and the pin, too," he muttered to himself. "It's a fine chance to make a little haul!"

He straightened up and took another look around. Not a soul was in sight. With dexterous fingers he unfastened the watch and chain and transferred them to his pocket. The stickpin followed. Then he slipped his hand into a vest-pocket and brought out a five-dollar bill and three one-dollar bills.

"Eight dollars!" he muttered. "Not so bad but what it might be worse. I reckon the watch, chain and pin will bring me another twenty or thirty. Sparrow, you are in luck to-day."

He lingered, wondering if Andy had anything more of value about him. The youth wore a ring with a cameo in it, but it looked tight and hard to get off.

"Might try his other pockets," mused the thief. Then a distant shouting came to his ears.

"Somebody is after him," he muttered. "I reckon it's time I cleared out. It won't do for me to be seen in this neighborhood."

He looked around for an instant. Then he walked to the roadside, ran in among the trees and bushes, and disappeared from view.

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