My Dear Boys: This is a complete story in itself, but forms the fifteenth volume of the “Rover Boys Series for Young Americans.”
Twelve years ago the line was started with the publication of the first three stories, “The Rover Boys at School,” “On the Ocean,” and “In the Jungle.” I earnestly hoped that the young people would like the tales, but never did I anticipate the tremendously enthusiastic welcome which was given to the volumes from the start, nor the steady sale, ever increasing, which has been accorded the series up to the present time. The publication of the first three books immediately called for a fourth, “The Rover Boys Out West,” and then followed yearly “On the Great Lakes,” “In Camp,” “On Land and Sea,” “On the River,” “On the Plains,” “In Southern Waters,” “On the Farm,” “On Treasure Isle,” and then “At College,” where we last left our heroes.
Dick, Tom and Sam are older than when we first made their acquaintance and told how they went to Putnam Hall. They are now college boys, attending a well-known institution of learning in the middle-west. But though older, they are as lively as ever, and Tom, at least, is just as full of fun. They have a great struggle to save the Stanhope fortune, and have to work hard to get the best of several enemies. They take a long journey Down East, and their adventures are both mysterious and exciting.
Again I take this opportunity to thank my friends, both young and old, for all the nice things they have said about my books. I am more than sorry that I cannot answer all the letters that pour in upon me from everywhere praising the stories. I earnestly hope the present volume will please all my readers and do them some good.
Affectionately and sincerely yours,
“Hurrah! that’s the way to do it!”
“Now, then, Tom, see if you can’t bring Dick home!”
“Give him a swift one, Frank! Don’t let him hit it!” cried Sam Rover, merrily.
“I’ll knock it down into the river!” retorted Tom Rover, as he caught up a bat and walked to the home plate.
“I’m waiting for you, Tom!” sang out Dick Rover, who had just reached second base on a beautiful drive to right field. “Come now, it’s time we tied the score.”
“Everybody in the game!” yelled Stanley Browne, who was in the coacher’s box. “Here is where we do ’em up!”
“Get ready to run, Dick!” came from Songbird Powell. “Tom is going to land it on the other side of the river.”
“If he does that I’ll walk home,” answered Dick, with a grin.
“Now then, here is where Tom misses!” called out Sam, who was behind the bat, and he thumped his fist in his catcher’s mitt. “Give him a double-ender curve, Frank.”
“Oh, I’ll give him a regular corkscrew curl,” retorted Frank Holden, who occupied the pitcher’s box. “Tom, prepare to die!” And he drew back to pitch the ball.
Eighteen of the students of Brill College were having a game of baseball on the athletic field of that institution of learning. The regular season for baseball was at an end, and the youths had fixed up their nines to suit themselves, with Dick Rover as captain of one side and Frank Holden as captain on the other. On Dick’s side were his brother Tom, and a number of their chums, while Sam was doing the catching for Frank.
It was only a friendly contest and all of the students were in the best of spirits. The main examinations for the term were practically over, and in a few days more the students were to scatter for the summer vacation.
It was the ending of the fourth inning and the score stood 6 to 4 in favor of Frank Holden’s nine. If Tom should manage to bring both Dick and himself in it would tie the score. But Tom was not known for his home-run qualities.
Frank Holden made a signal to Sam and then sent in a low, swift ball. Tom made a swing at it. But he was too slow.
“Strike one!” sang out Will Faley, the umpire. “Try it some more, Tom.”
Again the ball came in and this time Tom struck at it with all his might.
Crack! The ashen stick met the horsehide and the ball went whizzing off to the right of the home plate, in the direction of a number of students who were crossing the grounds.
“Foul!” sang out the umpire, as the sphere curved through the air.
“You can’t get it, Sam!” called out Max Spangler. “It’s too far off already!”
“Look out, you fellows!” yelled Frank, from the pitcher’s box. “If you don’t — ”
Before he could finish the crowd walking across the grounds looked up and commenced to scatter, to give Sam a chance to catch the ball, which had gone quite high in the air. But before the youngest Rover could reach the sphere down it came — straight on the fancy straw hat of a dudish youth, crushing the article over its wearer’s head.
“Whoop! there’s a strike for you, Tom!” murmured Dick.
“Do you call that knocking the ball over the river?” demanded Songbird, dryly.
“Here’s a case where a straw shows how the ball blows,” misquoted Stanley Browne.
“Hi! hi! what do you mean by smashing my hat!” roared Dudd Flockley, the student who had been thus assaulted. “Who did this, I demand to know?”
“I knocked the ball — but I didn’t aim for your hat,” answered Tom. And as Dudd Flockley held up the damaged hat he could not help but grin.
“You did it on purpose, Tom Rover!” growled the dudish student. “You needn’t deny it!”
“Nonsense, Dudd!” put in Stanley. “He wanted to make a home run — he wasn’t aiming at your hat at all.”
“I know better!” answered the other student, bitterly. “Say, Tom Rover, it’s up to you to buy me a new hat,” he added.
“All right, if that’s the way you feel about it,” answered Tom. “You get the hat and I’ll pay for it. But I didn’t smash it on purpose, Dudd.”
“That hat cost me five dollars, and I don’t know where to get one like it,” growled the dudish pupil.
“Oh, I can tell you where to get a hat like that!” piped in a drawling voice. “Try the Melrose English Shop, on Broadway. They have all styles, don’t you know.”
“Good for William Philander Tubbs!” cried Dick. “He knows the directory on straw hats.”
“Huh! Think I’m going all the way to New York for a new hat?” growled Dudd Flockley. “I want one to go home in.”
“Maybe I can lend you an old one,” suggested Tom, dryly.
“I don’t want your old hat,” growled Dudd Flockley. “I’ll get a new one — and you can foot the bill!” and he turned and walked away, his face full of sourness.
“The same old Flockley,” whispered Sam to his brother. “After all we did for him, too!”
“You beware of Dudd,” put in Songbird, who was near. “He pretends to be friendly, since you put in a good word for him to the doctor, but, just the same, he has got it in for you.”
“Play ball!” called out the umpire; and then the ball was thrown down to Frank Holden, and the game went on. Tom gave one more glance in the direction of Dudd Flockley and saw that the dudish student had stopped in his walk, turned around, and was glaring at him savagely.
To my old readers the lads who have thus far taken a part in this story will need no special introduction. But for the benefit of others who have not read the former volumes in this “Rover Boys Series,” let me state that Dick, Tom and Sam Rover were three brothers, who, when at home, lived with their father, Anderson Rover, and their Uncle Randolph and Aunt Martha, on a beautiful farm called Valley Brook.
From the farm, and while their father was in Africa, the three boys had been sent to a military academy, as related in the first volume of this series, called “The Rover Boys at School.” At the school they made a large number of friends, and also a few enemies, and had “the best time ever,” as Sam expressed it.
A term at school was followed by a trip on the ocean, as set down in the second volume of this series, and then by a journey to Africa, where the boys went to locate their father, who had become a captive of the natives. After that came a trip out West, to locate a mine belonging to the Rovers, and then trips to the Great Lakes, and to the mountains, and then, returning to the school, the lads went into camp with the other cadets.
“I guess we had better settle down now,” said Dick. But this was not to be. Not much later they took a long trip on land and sea, and followed this up by a voyage on the Ohio and the Mississippi Rivers on a flatboat. Then came some thrilling adventures on the plains, and a little later found the dauntless boys in Southern waters, where they solved the mystery of a deserted steam yacht.
“The farm for mine!” said Tom, after traveling north from the Gulf, and all of the boys were glad to take it easy for some weeks, and also get ready to graduate from Putnam Hall. They had an idea they were to go directly from the military school to college. But something turned up which made them change their plans.
Through Mr. Rover it was learned that a small fortune belonging to a certain Stanhope estate was missing. It had been secreted on an island of the West Indies, and it was settled that the Rovers and some of their friends should go in quest of it.
The boys were particularly anxious to locate this treasure, and with good reason. While at Putnam Hall they had made the acquaintance of Dora Stanhope and also of Nellie and Grace Laning, Dora’s cousins. From the very start Dick was attracted to Dora, and now the pair were practically engaged to be married. Tom had taken a particular liking to Nellie Laning and it must be confessed that Sam was equally smitten with Grace.