My Dear Boys:
“The Rover Boys at School” has been written that those of you who have never put in a term or more at an American military academy for boys may gain some insight into the workings of such an institution.
While Putnam Hall is not the real name of the particular place of learning I had in mind while penning this tale for your amusement and instruction, there is really such a school, and dear Captain Putnam is a living person, as are also the lively, wide-awake, fun-loving Rover brothers, Dick, Tom, and Sam, and their schoolfellows, Larry, Fred, and Frank. The same can be said, to a certain degree, of the bully Dan Baxter, and his toady, the sneak, commonly known as “Mumps.”
The present story is complete in itself, but it is written as the first of a series, to be followed by “The Rover Boys on the Ocean” and “The Rover Boys in the Jungle,” in both of which volumes we will again meet many of our former characters.
Trusting that this tale will find as much favor in your hands as have my previous stories, I remain,
Affectionately and sincerely yours,
“Hurrah, Sam, it is settled at last that we are to go to boarding school!”
“Are you certain, Tom? Don’t let me raise any false hopes.”
“Yes, I am certain, for I heard Uncle Randolph tell Aunt Martha that he wouldn’t keep us in the house another week. He said he would rather put up with the Central Park menagerie — think of that!” and Tom Rover began to laugh.
“That’s rather rough on us, but I don’t know but what we deserve it,” answered Sam Rover, Tom’s younger brother. “We have been giving it pretty strong lately, with playing tricks on Sarah the cook, Jack the hired man, and Uncle Randolph’s pet dog Alexander. But then we had to do something — or go into a dry rot. Life in the country is all well enough, but it’s mighty slow for me.”
“I guess it is slow for anybody brought up in New York, Sam. Why, the first week I spent here I thought the stillness would kill me. I couldn’t actually go to sleep because it was so quiet. I wish uncle and aunt would move to the city. They have money enough.”
“Aunt Martha likes to be quiet, and uncle is too much wrapped up in the art of scientific farming, as he calls it. I’ll wager he’ll stay on this farm experimenting and writing works on agriculture until he dies. Well, it’s a good enough way to do, I suppose, but it wouldn’t suit me. I want to see something of life — as father did.”
“So do I. Perhaps we’ll see something when we get to boarding school.”
“Where are we to go?”
“I don’t know. Some strict institution, you can be sure of that. Uncle Randolph told aunty it was time the three of us were taken in hand. He said Dick wasn’t so bad, but you and I — ”
“Were the bother of his life, eh?”
“Something about like that. He doesn’t see any fun in tricks. He expects us to just walk around the farm, or study, and, above all things, keep quiet, so that his scientific investigations are not disturbed. Why doesn’t he let us go out riding, or boating on the river, or down to the village to play baseball with the rest of the fellows? A real live American boy can’t be still all the time, and he ought to know it,” and, with a decided shake of his curly head, Tom Rover took a baseball from his pocket and began to throw it up against the side of the farmhouse, catching it each time as it came down.
Tom had thrown the ball up just four times when a pair of blinds to an upper window flew open with a crash, and the head of a stern-looking elderly gentleman appeared. The gentleman had gray hair, very much tumbled, and wore big spectacles.
“Hi! hi! boys, what does this mean?” came in a high-pitched voice. “What are you hammering on the house for, when I am just in the midst of a deep problem concerning the rotation of crops on a hillside with northern exposure?”
“Excuse me, Uncle Randolph, I didn’t think to disturb you,” answered Tom meekly. “I’ll put the ball away.”
“You never stop to think, Thomas. Give me that ball.”
“Oh, let me keep it, Uncle Randolph! I won’t throw it against the house again, honor bright.”
“You’ll forget that promise in ten minutes, Thomas; I know you well. Throw the ball up,” and Mr. Randolph Rover held out his hands.
“All right, then; here you go,” answered Tom, somewhat put out to thus lose a ball which had cost him his week’s spending, money; and he sent the sphere flying upward at a smart speed. Mr. Rover made a clutch for it, but the ball slipped through his hands and landed plump on his nose.
“Oh!” he cried, and disappeared from sight, but reappeared a moment later, to shake his fist at Tom.
“You young rascal! You did that on purpose!” he spluttered, and brought forth his handkerchief, for his nose had begun to bleed. “Was anyone ever tormented so by three boys?”
“Now you are in for it again, Tom,” whispered Sam.
“I didn’t mean to hit you, Uncle Randolph. Why didn’t you catch it on the fly?”
“On the fly?” repeated the uncle. “Do you suppose I am accustomed to catching cannon balls?”
“Didn’t you ever play baseball?”
“Never. I spent my time in some useful study.” The elderly gentleman continued to keep his handkerchief to his nose, and adjusted his glasses.
“Thank fortune, you are all going to go to boarding school next week, and we will once more have a little peace and quietness around Valley Brook!”
“Where are we to go, Uncle Randolph?” asked Sam.
“You will learn that Monday morning, when you start off.”
“It wouldn’t hurt to tell us now,” grumbled Tom.
“You must learn to be patient, Thomas. My one hope is that life at boarding school makes a real man of you.”
“Of course we are all to go together?”
“Yes, you are to go together, although I can get along with Richard very well, he is so much more quiet and studious than you or Samuel.”
“I reckon he takes after you, Uncle Randolph.”
“If so, he might do worse. By the way, what were both of you doing here?”
“Nothing,” came from Sam.
“We haven’t anything to do. This farm is the slowest place on earth,” added Tom.
“Why do you not study the scientific and agricultural works that I mentioned to you? See what I have done for scientific farming.”
“I don’t want to be a farmer,” said Tom. “I’d rather be a sailor.”
“A sailor!” gasped Randolph Rover. “Of all things! Why, a sailor is the merest nobody on earth!”
“I guess you mean on the sea, uncle,” said Sam with a grin.
“Don’t joke me, Samuel. Yes, Thomas — the calling of a sailor amounts to absolutely nothing. Scientific farming is the thing! Nothing more noble on the face of the earth than to till the soil.”
“I never saw you behind a plow, Uncle Randolph,” answered Tom, with a twinkle in his blue eyes. “Besides, I heard you say that the farm ran behind last year.”
“Tut, tut, boy! You know nothing about it. I made a slight miscalculation in crops, that was all. But this year we shall do better.”
“You lost money year before last, too,” commented Sam.