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CHAPTER XVIII


TOM AND HIS FUN


"Got eighty dollars from you!" murmured Dick. "That's too bad!"

"It would be bad enough if I lost it fairly," answered the farm hand. "But I am sure they swindled me."

"Well, you ought not to gamble," put in Sam, who had listened to the talk with interest.

"I suppose that's true," mumbled Dan Murdock. "But they said I might win a pile. Oh, I was a big fool—I know it now, even if I didn't know it then. I wish I had stopped 'em from leaving."

"Why didn't you?"

"They went so sudden like—after they had my money. One of 'em took out his watch and said they'd miss the train, and away they started before you could say Jack Robinson! But there ain't no train this time o' day."

"It was a trick to get away," said Tom.

"Sure—I know that, now! Oh, if only I had my hands on 'em. Say, they don't belong at Brill, do they?" went on the farm hand eagerly.

"No, although they used to go there," answered Dick.

"Then you saw 'em?"

"Yes, we saw them running away."

"What are their names?" and when Dick had mentioned them Dan Murdock shook his head slowly.

"I've heard of 'em before," he said. "They used to hang around at the tavern. I was a big fool, no two ways about it! I guess they'll keep out of my sight after this."

"More than likely," answered Dick.

When the boys arrived at the college they found an anxious crowd looking for them and the biplane. Songbird and Stanley and several others rushed to the carriage to greet them.

"Were you wrecked?"

"Did you get a bad tumble?"

"Where did you come down?"

So the questions ran on and the boys had to answer as best they could. Everybody seemed to be glad to learn that they had escaped from the fury of the sudden hailstorm—that is, everybody but Dudd Flockley and his new crony, Andy Yates.

"Just like the Rovers' luck," muttered Flockley sourly. "They'd escape where everybody else would be smashed up."

"Oh, they'll get a smash, if you give "em time enough," answered Andy Yates, heartlessly. He was a student who courted attention and it galled him to see the Rovers the center of attraction.

As soon as Dick, Tom and Sam could get time to do so, they sent a message to Hope Seminary, informing the girls that they had gotten back to Brill in safety. This relieved much anxiety, for with the sudden coming of the wind and hail the girls had feared that the youths might be killed.

After such a strenuous adventure, the Rover boys were content to take it easy for some time. They sent to the city for a man to come and repair the Dartaway and then settled down to their studies. Then, after the biplane had been repaired, they went after the machine and brought it back to Brill, and it was placed in the gymnasium shed, with Abner Filbury to guard it, as before.

"Don't you want to go up, Songbird?" asked Tom, one afternoon, after college hours.

"I—er—I don't think so," answered the sttn dent-poet, gravely.

"Rather make up verses about flying than fly, eh?"

"I—er—I think so, Tom."

"What have you made up about airships, anything really fine, Songbird?"

"Well, I've written a few little verses, Tom. Would you like to hear them?"

"Sure!" cried the fun-loving Rover, and then Songbird commenced to recite:

"I spread my wings on the balmy air,
And float and float I know not where.
I rise, I fall, I fall, I rise,
For I am monarch of the skies!"

"Bang up, Songbird! Couldn't be better!" cried Tom. "Give us another dip, like the small boy said of the ice-cream." And the would-be poet continued:

"I rush along when skies are blue,
And when it hails I sail right through!
I feel——"

"Hold on, Songbird! You've got to change that line. We didn't sail right through when it hailed—we came down just as quickly as we could."

"Oh, that's only a figure of speech," answered the would-be poet loftily, and then he continued:

"I feel I can sail anywhere,
For I am monarch of the air!"

"Good for you!" put in Sam, who was present. "For A, No. I, first-grade poetry apply to Songbird every time."

"There are sixteen verses in all," went on the poet, eagerly. "The next one begins——"

"Sorry, there goes the supper bell!" interrupted Tom. "Come on, we've got to eat, even if we miss the finest poem in the universe."

"I—er—I didn't hear any bell," answered Songbird.

"You didn't?" cried Tom, innocently. "Well! well! Come on in and see anyway!" And he dragged the would-be poet along and forced him into a crowd of students. "Guess I was mistaken," he said soberly. "Too bad!" And off he ran, and Sam ran after him.

"Well, it wasn't half bad," said the youngest Rover.

"That's true, Sam," returned Tom, and then he added with a sudden broad grin: "But how about an egg that was only half bad—would you want to eat it? Some day Songbird may write real poetry—but not yet."

It was now ideal football weather and the football elevens, the regular and the scrub, were out daily for practice. Dick and Tom had been asked to play but both had declined, for they wished to pay attention to their studies, and the biplane took up all their spare time. Sam played a little on the scrub, but soon gave it up.

During those days Dick was more serious than usual, and neither Tom nor Sam bothered their elder brother. They knew he was thinking of his engagement to Dora, and also worrying over the business affairs of their father and their Uncle Randolph.

One day Tom and Sam took a short trip in the biplane and pursuaded Stanley to go with them, and the next day they took out Spud. But nobody else of their chums cared to go.

"A new arrival to-morrow!" cried Sam, one evening. "Just from a trip to Paris, too."

"Is it William Philander Tubbs?" queried Tom, looking up from the theme he was writing.

"You've struck it, Tom. Since you wrote to him about the socks he has been over to Paris. But he gets back to the grind to-morrow—comes in on the four-thirty train."

"Say, let us get up a reception in William's honor!" cried the fun-loving Rover; and as soon as the theme was finished he began to arrange his plans.

The next afternoon the Rovers and a crowd of their chums took one of the college carryalls and drove over to Ashton station to witness the sport. Tom had been to town early in the morning and had arranged matters with eight colored waiters from the hotel, and also with a local liveryman.

As the train came in the boys and a number of others were on the watch for Tubbs. As soon as they saw the dudish student alight, dress-suit case in hand, the Rovers rushed up to him.

"How are you, Sir William!" cried Dick, taking the dude's hand gravely.

"Let me congratulate you, Lord Tubbs!" cried Sam, bowing low.

"Your Highness will find his carriage this way," put in Tom, taking the dress-suit case and flinging it to one of the colored men.

"Why—er—weally, don't you know, what does—er—this mean?" stammered poor William Philander, gazing around in astonishment.

And well might he be astonished, for there, before him, in a wide-open double row, stood the eight colored men, all dressed in black, with broad red sashes over their breasts and cockades of red paper in their hats. On the platform between the colored men was a bright red stair carpet, and this carpet led directly to where a carriage was in waiting. The carriage had four white horses, all decorated in red ribbons, and on the seat sat a driver, also decorated in red.

"Such an honor to have your Lordship condescend to come to Brill," went on Tom, with a low bow.

"What did the Queen say when she decorated you?" asked Dick.

"It was a grand thing for the King to honor you so highly," put in Sam.

"I certainly envy you," came from Songbird, who was in the secret.

"Hope there is a good salary attached to the office," was Stanley's comment.

"I've heard it vas fife thousand pounds by the year!" vouchsafed Max.

"How the girls will fall in love with you when they hear of this," sighed Spud.

"This way, your Excellency!" cried Tom, and led poor, bewildered Tubbs to the carriage.

"Thomas, my dear fellow, what—er—what does it mean?" gasped the dudish student, his eyes opening wider and wider.

"Oh, you can't fool us, Tubblets," whispered the fun-loving Rover. "You were going to keep it a secret, but we read all about it in the London paper one of the fellows sent over."

"Read about—ah—what, please?"

"Why, how the king and queen knighted you, and all that, Philliam Whilander."

"William Philander, please, Thomas. But—er—this is a mistake——"

"No, no, Tubby, my boy, no mistake at all, I assure you. This is in your honor solely. The college faculty did it—they couldn't do less, to one so decorated, or knighted,—which is it, please? It's the grandest thing that ever happened to Brill."

"But don't you know, I—er—I haven't been—er—knighted, or anything else. I wasn't in England, I went to Paris, and——"

"Now, now, my dear boy, don't try that game," said Tom, reproachfully. "We all know perfectly well that you were knighted and that you are now Sir Tubbs, P. X. G., and all that. We salute you!" And then Tom took off his hat. "Three cheers for Sir Tubbs!" he called loudly.

The cheers were given with a will, and a tiger added. Poor Tubbs was almost stricken dumb, and commenced to mop the perspiration from his forehead.

"Don't crowd so close!" cried Tom, warningly. "His Lordship must have air! He isn't used to so much excitement! Stand back! Now then, into the carriage, if you please!" And into the turnout went poor Tubbs, and the next instant his hat was snatched from his head and a tall, white beaver was placed in its stead. Then several medals of tin and brass were pinned to his coat, and the crowd set up a riotous cheering.

"Hurrah for Sir Tubbs!"

"My, what an honor for Brill!"

"Nothing like having a real nobleman for a student!"

"Away we go! Pile in, boys!" cried Tom, and then there was a crack of a whip, and off the strange turnout started, with poor Tubbs on the seat looking more bewildered than ever, and followed by the great carryall with the yelling and singing students who had come to greet him.