Read CHAPTER X - SPOUTER’S SECRET of The Rover Boys at Big Horn Ranch The Cowboys' Double Round-Up , free online book, by Edward Stratemeyer, on ReadCentral.com.

“Say, this is rather interesting,” remarked Randy in a low tone to his brother.

“That fellow is certainly threatening Brassy,” returned Andy.  “I wonder what it can be all about.”

“He wants Brassy to do something.”

The two Rovers kept on behind Bangs and the man called Haddon, and presently saw them turn down a side street where was located a small factory that had been in operation during the war but which was now closed.  Both disappeared into a shed attached to the factory.

“Let’s see if we can find out what it’s all about,” said Randy.

“I’m willing,” answered his twin.  “Maybe that fellow will grow abusive and hurt Brassy.”

“Well, a good licking wouldn’t hurt him,” answered his brother, with a grin.

“Oh, that’s all right.  But we don’t want to see him half killed even if we don’t like him.”

“You trust Brassy to take care of himself,” was the quick reply.

The twins hurried to the shed and there found that the door had been left open and that the man and their fellow-cadet had gone into another part of the low building.

“You know as well as I do that that barn and them hosses was worth at least twelve thousand dollars,” the man was saying to Brassy.  “That was a big loss for John Calder.”

“Please don’t say another word about it!” pleaded Brassy.

“I won’t if you’ll do as I told you to.”

“But I’ve let you have a hundred and ten dollars already!  It’s every cent I can spare!”

“Well, I’ve got to have more.”

“I’ll bet you’ve been gambling it away, Haddon.”

“It’s none of your business what Bud Haddon does with his money!” exclaimed the stranger, with a toss of his head and blowing a ring of tobacco smoke toward the ceiling of the shed.  “If you don’t want me to start things you do as I told you to.”

“Do you know what I think!” exclaimed Brassy, after a pause.  “I think those tramp cowboys were guilty.”

“You can’t put that off on no cowboys!” exclaimed Bud Haddon.  “I know all about it, and so do Jillson and Dusenbury.”

“They don’t know anything - at least they don’t know anything about me!” cried Brassy.  But it was plainly to be seen that he was exceedingly nervous.  “Somebody’s been cooking up a story against me!”

“Ain’t nobody cookin’ up nothin’,” growled the man.  “I know what I’m talkin’ about.  You’d better get busy if you know when you’re well off.  If you don’t, and your uncle gets wind of this - well, good-night for you!”

“Oh, don’t say anything to my uncle!  Please don’t!”

“Well, then you get busy.  I’ve hung around here about as long as I intend to.  I’m goin’ back to Chicago in a few days.”

At this juncture the Rovers heard a noise outside, and several boys playing hide-and-seek appeared.  Not wishing to be discovered by Brassy and his companion, Andy and Randy hurried out into the street and up to the corner.  Here they waited for a while, and presently saw Brassy and Bud Haddon come forth.  The man sauntered away in the direction of the town while Brassy sped off on the winding road leading to Colby Hall.

“Now what do you make of this?” questioned Randy, as he and his brother continued on their errand.

“It looks rather suspicious to me,” answered Andy.  “It looks as if Brassy had done something that wasn’t right and this man was going to expose him unless Brassy paid over some hush money.”

“Yes, and from what Brassy said, he evidently has already paid the man one hundred and ten dollars.”

On the way back to Colby Hall after their errand was finished the twins discussed the matter, but could arrive at no satisfactory conclusion.  That evening they told their cousins of what they had heard, and also mentioned the matter to Gif and Spouter.

“It looks to me as if that Bud Haddon had a hold on Brassy,” remarked Jack.  “But whether Brassy is really guilty or not of some wrongdoing remains to be found out.”

“I wouldn’t put it past him to do something that wasn’t right,” came from Fred.

“That remains to be seen, Fred. Brassy might do some things that we wouldn’t do; but at the same time I doubt if he’s so very bad at heart.  He’s loud-mouthed and has a hasty temper, and he likes to show off, and all that sort of thing, but that doesn’t say he’s a criminal.”

“That Bud Haddon looks like a bad one,” announced Randy.  “I wouldn’t trust him with a nickel.”

“It certainly is a mystery,” came from Fred.  “Just the same as it’s a mystery about Professor Duke.”

“Gosh, don’t mention Duke!” broke out Gif.  “I had all I could do to keep from getting into a row with him this morning.  He certainly is a tart one at times.”

“But he looks troubled,” answered Jack.  “Ever since Colonel Colby spoke about him I’ve been watching him carefully.  And, believe me, that man has something on his mind that’s far from pleasant.”

“He certainly comes and goes a good deal,” said Spouter.  “He was away several hours last night and the night before.  And I understand he’s going away to-morrow afternoon again.”

“Colonel Colby must know it’s all right.  Otherwise he wouldn’t let him go away so much,” declared Gif.

On the following morning when the mail was distributed Spouter received a letter from his father that interested him greatly.  He read the communication several times, and then, placing it in his pocket, ran off to where he had left Gif.

“Come on, Gif!” he cried gayly.  “I’ve got great news!  Come ahead and help find the Rovers.”

“What’s the news?” demanded the other, as they hurried on side by side.

“Just wait and I’ll tell you all about it - maybe.”  And then Spouter stopped short, struck by a sudden idea.  He thought for a few seconds and then his face broke into a broad smile.

The two boys found the Rovers up in Room 20, which the four cousins used as a sitting room.  All were busy studying and looked up in surprise as Spouter dashed in with Gif at his heels.

“Glorious news, boys!  Glorious news!” sang out Spouter, as he beamed at them.

“What is it?” they demanded in chorus.

“Glorious, I tell you, glorious!” Spouter waved his hands eloquently.  “Why remain cooped up here within the dingy walls of a school when the mighty plains, the boundless forests, the leaping streams, and the azure blue of the skies await you?  Why snuff the tainted air of the musty classroom when the free ozone of the hills and mountains beckons to you?  Why waste time over musty books when rifle and fishing rod can be had, when one can fling himself in the saddle and go dashing madly across the - ”

“Jumping crabs and hopping mud turtles!” exclaimed Andy.  “Spouter has got ’em again!”

“What is this, Spouter?” demanded Randy.  “A moving picture, or just a plain everyday nightmare?”

“Ha, ha!” continued Spouter, prancing around.  “Whoopee!  Bang!  Bang!  Let her go, boys!  Lasso him quick before he gets away!” and the talkative cadet made a movement as if throwing a lasso.

“Say, Spouter, come down to earth, will you?” cried Jack, grabbing his chum by the shoulder.  “What’s the matter with you?”

“Maybe he swallowed a few yeast cakes by mistake,” remarked Andy.

“It’s the best news ever, fellows!” went on Spouter.  “I got it this morning.”

“All right!  Let’s have it,” came quickly from Fred.

“I’ve been waiting for this news for several weeks.”

“News from where?” came from the others.

“News from home.”

“From your dad?” questioned Randy.

“Exactly.”

“What has he done now - bought you an automobile?” questioned Gif.

“Better than that!”

“For goodness’ sake, spill out what you’ve got to say!” returned Fred, in exasperation.

“When we went to Cedar Lodge on our grand hunt we were Gif’s guests,” resumed Spouter.  “This summer the tables are to be turned, and all of you are to be the guests of yours truly.”

“Gee, that sounds interesting, Spouter!” cried Randy.

“Where do we go and when?” questioned his twin.

“You’re to go just as soon as school shuts down and you can get ready.”

“And where to?” questioned Jack curiously.

“Ha! that’s the deep, dark and delightful secret,” returned Spouter.  “You’re all to be my guests, and I’ll promise you the time of your lives.  Oh, boys, but this is going to be something great!” And the cadet playfully pounded one and another on the shoulder with his fist.

“But how can we go if we don’t know where we’re going?” asked Fred.

“You’ll know, Fred, before you’re on the way,” was the mysterious answer.  “And, believe me, after you’ve found out you won’t want to turn back.”

“What! do you mean you’re not going to tell us where we’re going?” demanded Jack, in astonishment.

“Exactly, Jack.  That’s going to be my little secret until this school shuts up,” and Spouter folded his arms calmly and grinned at all his chums.

They looked at him in blank amazement.  This was a proceeding that had never happened before.  Suddenly Gif made a dash forward.

“Let’s pound it out of him!”

“That’s the talk!  We’ll make him tell!”

“Pull him down and sit on him!”

“Pull off his shoes and tickle his feet!  He’s got to tell!”

“Poke him in the ribs!”

“He got a letter this morning.  I’ll bet the news is in that!” shouted Gif.  “It’s in his pocket now!”

All attempted to pounce upon Spouter, but he was too quick for them, and, dashing across the room, he shot into Fred’s bedroom, banging the door after him.  Then, as the others followed, he ran out into the corridor and then sped for his own room, where he locked the door behind him.  Then he hid the letter in a place where he was sure none of his chums would find it.

“Well, this takes the bakery!” announced Randy, after all of them had pounded on Spouter’s door in vain.  “What do you suppose it means?”

“It’s simple enough,” remarked Jack.  “Spouter is going to invite us on some sort of outing this summer, but he doesn’t want to tell us yet what sort it’s to be.”

“He spoke about mountains and rivers and horseback riding,” said Randy.  “That looks like some sort of outdoor affair,” and his eyes glistened.

“Come on out, Spouter, and let us love you a little,” called Fred through the keyhole.

“You go on down and I’ll meet you downstairs,” was the reply.  “And remember, you’re not to know another word about this until vacation comes.”

“Going to take us away in a submarine, Spouter?” demanded Andy.

“No, he’s going to take us in an airship to the south pole,” declared his twin.

“Never mind where I’m going to take you,” answered Spouter.  “You just keep calm until vacation time comes, and then you’ll learn fast enough in what direction you’re going to travel.  And, believe me, we’ll have some outing, or else I’ll miss my guess.”

And with this statement the Rover boys and Gif had to be content.