“Simp,” said Johnny, after trying in vain to find words strong enough to
express his feelings, “I’ve a good notion to duck you in the bay for not
telling of this before. Get out of my boat!”
“Oh, now, I can’t get out and walk ashore, can I?” whined Simpson.
“That’s so; but I can soon put you ashore; and, Simp, don’t you ever
speak to me as long as you remain at this academy.”
“I would like to know what is the matter with you fellows,” demanded the
culprit, greatly astonished and utterly at a loss to account for so much
feeling on Johnny’s part. “I am sure I did nothing but what you would
have done if you had been in my place.”
In his opinion, anything that helped to insure the defeat of a rival was
perfectly fair and honorable. He had expected that Johnny and his
friends, after listening to his revelation, would be all enthusiasm and
admiration for the shrewdness Gus had exhibited in getting to windward
of his opponent, but instead of that they all appeared to be very
indignant, and Johnny had expressed a desire to throw him overboard. He
could not understand it.
“I don’t believe you want our fellows to win,” repeated Simpson.
“Yes I do, if they can win honorably. But I’ll tell you what is a fact:
Gus Layton shall not have that silver pitcher. I will blow the whole
thing, and in the presence of all the spectators, too.”
“Oh, don’t do that!” gasped Simpson, almost paralyzed at the thought. “I
wouldn’t have my name mixed up with this business for anything. Gus
would half kill me if he knew what I have told you.”
“Don’t let that distress you,” replied Johnny. “From this time forward
no one shall ever hear your name pronounced by me. I shall take no more
notice of you and the rest who have a hand in this mean business than if
you did not exist.”
“I say,” suddenly exclaimed one of Johnny’s companions, all of whom had
listened in silence to this conversation, “Sprague would never row in
that boat if he knew what has been going on.”
“That’s a fact,” exclaimed Johnny, an idea striking him. “Let’s go over
there and stop the whole thing.”
“Oh, it is of no use; you can’t do it,” drawled Simpson. “There they
come now.”
Five o’clock, the time set for the race, had arrived, and those of the
spectators who had come out in boats to obtain a fair view of the
contest were beginning to grow restless, and to cast frequent and
impatient glances toward the academy grounds. Even as Simpson spoke
there was a commotion among the crowd gathered about one of the
boat-houses on the beach, the door flew open, and a light shell,
propelled by four boys dressed in blue, darted out and moved rapidly up
the bay toward the starting-point. It was the Mist. The Blues were on
the alert, and the moment their favorites came in sight they were
greeted with a clapping of hands, waving of handkerchiefs and prolonged
While the Mist was taking her position alongside the tug where stood one
of the professors who was to act as starter, her rival, the Zephyr, came
in sight, her crew pulling a long, sweeping stroke, and feathering their
oars as neatly as old men-of-war men selected to row the captain’s gig.
Then another and louder uproar arose among the spectators, and continued
until the Zephyr came up alongside the Mist and the starter stepped into
view. While he was getting the boats into position, and giving the crews
their final instructions, we will glance rapidly at some scraps of the
history of two of the contestants who have an important part to play in
our story.
First in meanness, treachery, and almost everything else that is bad,
comes Gus Layton, and so we will devote our attention to him. He is, as
we have said, Bob’s own cousin, a fact that has given rise to much
doubtful speculation in the minds of the students, for they do not see
how two boys, so widely different in dispositions, tastes and habits,
can possibly be connected by ties of blood. He is a cross,
sullen-looking boy, with a hooked nose, a low, retreating forehead, and
an oily, insinuating manner, which, while it draws some toward him,
repels a great many more. He is too lazy to study, and consequently,
although he is sixteen years of age, he is in one of the lowest classes
in school. He pulls a good oar, is a passable gymnast and ball-player,
shows a wonderful faculty for shirking hard work, displays cunning in
getting himself out of the numerous scrapes he falls into, and these are
about all the accomplishments he possesses.
During the lifetime of Mr. Nellis, Bob’s father, Gus had been a sort of
protégé of that gentleman, who bestowed on him more care and attention
than his own father did. By placing him at the academy Mr. Nellis gave
him every advantage for fitting himself for usefulness in after life;
and, more than that, he took care to neglect nothing which he thought
would add to his comfort and pleasure. Was Bob presented with a new
shell, a sailboat, a uniform, or a supply of pocket-money, the same boat
which brought them to Elmwood brought a like supply for Gus Layton. Was
Bob sent off during the long summer vacation to ramble among the hills
of New England, or to fish in the trout streams of the Adirondacks, Gus
was never compelled to remain behind. One would suppose that under such
circumstances Gus would have been a happy boy, and that he would have
felt grateful to the uncle, and that, if he had no affection for his
cousin, he would at least have treated him civilly in return for his
father’s kindness and liberality; but such was not the case. His
jealousy made him morose, cross and fretful, and he despised and hated
his cousin from the bottom of his heart.
And was this feeling reciprocated by Bob? Not at all. Although, to quote
from the students, he did not take much stock in his cousin, he always
treated him kindly, and was as cordial and friendly with him as Gus
would permit him to be.
Bob’s father, even after the war, was looked upon as the wealthiest man
in Clifton; but since his death, which occurred a few months previous to
the beginning of our story, it had been whispered about that he had but
little property, and that little had been willed to his brother-in-law,
Mr. Layton, no provision having been made for Bob, who was left as his
uncle’s ward. Many who had refused to believe this story at first were
beginning to put some faith in it now, for Mr. Layton’s refusal to allow
Bob to purchase a new shell—a thing his father never would have done—and
the advice he had of late so often given him that it was high time he
was paying less attention to his boating and more to his studies, as he
might at no distant day be obliged to earn his bread before he could eat
it, made it evident that there was some foundation for the reports that
had got abroad. Bob did not know what to make of the situation, and was
only waiting for the close of the school year to have a plain talk with
his uncle. He wanted to know just where he stood.
Bob Nellis, the owner and stroke of the Zephyr, was a splendid fellow in
every respect. Every one said so except Gus Layton and his set. They did
not like him, and the reason was because they were jealous of him. He
always stood among the first five in his class, and in athletic sports,
in which Gus was particularly anxious to excel, Bob was as far ahead of
him as he was in his studies. But Bob had been a changed boy of late. He
was almost as gloomy as Gus himself. His mother died when he was too
young to remember her, and now that his father was gone he was alone in
the world. Besides his uncle he had not a relative to whom he could go
for advice or assistance, and to apply to him for either he had already
made up his mind was quite out of the question. The students all
sympathized with Bob in his troubles, and this was another thing that
aroused the ire of Gus Layton, who declared he could not see what there
was in that pauper to draw the fellows to him. This much to introduce
our two principal characters, and to show how they stand with regard to
each other and to the world.
While the rival crews were taking their stations and listening to their
final instructions, the Firefly, with Johnny Parker at the helm, was
making as good use of her time as she possibly could with the very light
breeze that was blowing, and presently ran her bow upon the beach.
“Now, Simp, make yourself scarce about here, and remember that
henceforth I want to see and hear as little of you as possible,” said
Johnny, jumping out and running up the bank, waving his handkerchief
above his head as he went. “A boy who knows all that you do, and who
goes until this late day without telling it to anybody, I have no use

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“Oh, now, he’s going to blow on me!” whined Simpson, his face growing
white with alarm. “Come back here, Johnny. Just consider what a mess you
will get me into. Call him back, boys!”
“Just consider what a mess Sprague will be in if he rows in that race,”
replied Johnny, plunging recklessly into the crowd.
The spectators looked after him as he elbowed them right and left, and
wondered if he had taken leave of his senses. Johnny was a lively runner
for a little fellow, but he had a good distance to go, and the crowd was
so dense that he could scarcely work his way through it. Still he
succeeded in attracting the attention of his friend Sprague, who,
believing that Johnny was urging him to do his best to win the race,
gave him a sign of recognition, and then he grasped his oar with a
firmer hold, as if to show that he understood him.
While Johnny was yet too far off to make his words heard, he saw the
eight rowers suddenly bend their bodies forward, hold their oars poised
in the air for a moment, and then dip them so nearly together that they
all seemed to strike the water at the same instant. Johnny was too late
to stop the race. With a sigh of regret he worked his way out of the
crowd, and seating himself upon an elevated part of the shore, where he
was comparatively alone, he fixed his eyes upon the Zephyr and waited to
see Bob’s oar snap in his hand.
The two boats moved away together and for a few yards kept side by side;
but it was only for a few yards, for Bob, who had set out to win, and
could be satisfied with nothing else than taking the lead at once and
keeping it through to the end, put on a desperate spurt, in which he was
faithfully backed by his crew, and in less time than it takes to tell it
the Mist was behind, and falling further behind every moment. But why
did not Bob’s oar break? He was rowing with more vigor and determination
than Johnny had ever seen him exhibit before, and although the tough
piece of wood he held in his hand bent like a whipstock, it never
cracked. Surely no oar that had been cut half in two could stand any
such outlay of strength. Johnny was completely bewildered, and so were a
score of other students, all Gus Layton’s friends, who were waiting with
a good deal of anxiety and impatience for the catastrophe which Johnny
so much dreaded. There was still another who was interested in the
matter, and who was just then learning something about it Johnny would
have been delighted to know. It was Simpson.
That young gentleman thought from the expression on Johnny’s face that
he had better take him at his word and make himself scarce about there.
Filled with apprehension, and wondering what would become of him if
Johnny succeeded in stopping the race, he sprang ashore, ran up the
bank, and stationed himself where he could see all that passed. When he
saw the boats start off in spite of Johnny’s frantic signals he drew a
long breath and once more turned his face toward the beach, intending to
be on hand to hear what Bob had to say about his broken oar when he came
back. In order to avoid the crowd he was obliged to pass close to the
academy building, and as he was hurrying along he heard his name
pronounced in low and cautious tones. Looking up, he saw one of Gus
Layton’s right-hand men, Scotty, (quite as often called Friday, for the
reason that Gus always looked to him to do any work that he did not feel
inclined to do himself), who was leaning half-way out of a third-story
window, beckoning eagerly, and at the same time taking care to be seen
by no one but the boy below.
“Oh, Simp, don’t say a word, but come up here directly,” whispered
Scotty, in great excitement. “It is all out, and there’s bound to be an
awful row when the boats get back.”
“No!” exclaimed Simpson.
“But I say yes. Some fellow has let the cat out of the bag, and if Gus
doesn’t have a fight on his hands before he goes to bed I am no prophet.
Nellis is just red-hot and still heating.”
“Does he—does he know who—” stammered Simpson.
“Yes, he knows all about it. Come up here.”
If Johnny Parker had heard this he might have known how to account for
Bob’s extra strong pulling.