Fred Fearnot's Day, or The Great Reunion at Avon

CHAPTER III.
HOW FRED AND DICK DUNCAN GOT A DUCKING.

Professor Lambert and his wife were loyal hosts. The table groaned under a load of good things and the member of the Alumni feasted heartily. Many of them had missed their noonday lunch, and had ravenous appetites. There were not wines, but plenty of tea, coffee and milk, and many toasts were drank in different beverages. The entire faculty was toasted and so were the professor's wife and daughter.

Nearly an hour was spent at the table, after which the boys returned to the dormitory where Fred, Terry, Joe and Dick put on their dress suits and went downstairs and sat on the steps of the Lambert cottage, where they sang sentimental songs until the Advocate appeared in evening dress prepared to accompany them over to the Hawthorne residence.

"My!" she exclaimed, as they started off, "are all you boys here to escort me?"

"Every one of us, Advocate," laughed Fred.

"Well, we'll attract attention, so many of us together."

"There you go, now," laughed Terry. "You are maneuvering now to get just one fellow to yourself and let the others get out of the way. "

"Terry, you are becoming an incorrigible tease," she retorted. "If you boys begin talking that way I won't go."

"Oh, I'll arrange it," said Fred, "Terry and Dick will go on about a hundred yards ahead of us. Then you and I will follow, with Joe and Tom about a hundred yards behind us."

"Great Scott, boys," exclaimed Terry, "let's mob him. He's actually trying to use us as dogs to keep the other boys away, while she leans on his arm and coos and coos all the way over there."

"Send him away quick, Fred," laughed the Advocate.

"Well, ain't you going to change about with us?" Terry asked.

"'No, variety is not the spice of life in this instance."

"Whoops, boys! You hear that? Fred is all the variety she wants."

"Here, get away with you," said Fred. "I've made the choice, not she. You don't seem to understand the fitness of things. When we are out for a walk, three is a crowd; but when we get over to the house, you can all crowd around and bask in her smiles to your heart's content."

"Yes, provided there are any smiles left for us when you get her there," retorted Terry. "Come ahead, boys. She's sweet, but she isn't the only lump of sugar in the barrel," and amid a good deal of laughter Terry and Dick started off ahead, Fred and the Advocate following, while Joe and Tom brought up the rear.

The arrangement suited Eunice, and Fred thought she was never so pleasant as on that evening. They laughed and chatted gayly all the way over, and for a wonder she showed no desire to twit him about his attentions to Evelyn. She was fast learning that it was bad policy for her to do so, but on the way she asked him if he had his speech ready for the night of the banquet.

"Yes, I fixed up a few points in my mind so I won't forget them," he answered, "but don't ask me what they are."

"Why, are you going to spring something new upon us?"

"No, I don't know that I am. It depends altogether upon how sweetly you smile upon me while I am speaking; but let me tell you that you will hear a great speech when Osgood rises to respond to the toast."

"Is he a good speaker?" she asked.

"Splendid, I never heard him until this afternoon. He has quite a reputation in this part of the State as an orator, and I guess you'll soon hear of him as a rising young statesman, and an honor to the academy."

"Now, Fred, I don't think that any student ever left the academy who will be a greater honor to us than you are."

"Great Scott, Advocate! Stop a moment. Let me lay my handkerchief down on the ground, kneel on it and say my thanks for the compliment."

"Oh, come now, Fred, no foolishness. I mean that, and father thinks that way, too."

"Well, I'm sure I feel highly flattered. I'm hardly yet on the threshold of my career. Osgood has started out well. He's a brilliant fellow, and if I can do as well as he is doing I shall feel very proud of it, and, by the way, there are several of the graduates who are members of the State Legislature, and two are members of Congress. For a young institution the academy is looming up grandly. Osgood was speaking to me about you this afternoon."

"Indeed! Indeed! What did he say?"

"Why, he said that he was just three or four years too soon in his attendance at the academy as a student, for then you were in short dresses attending the girls' high school and were not known as the Advocate of the boys. He expressed his surprise at hearing your praises sung so lustily by the Alumni, and many of us told him of several instances where you saved a number of the boys from the penalty of expulsion. One of them declared that you were the prettiest, the sweetest and the kindest-hearted young lady he ever knew."

"Who was he Fred?"

"Oh, I don't think I ought to tell on him."

"Why, it's no secret. What harm would there be in your telling me who he is?"

"Why do you wish to know?" he asked. "It won't do for you to begin showing tiny partiality where there are so many admirers."

"Say, Fred, it was you, wasn't it? Tell the truth now."

"I always tell the truth, Advocate, and I'll own up that it wasn't me."

"Oh, what an aggravating tease you are."

"Well, he's a married man, that's why I won't tell on him."

"Did he bring his wife here with him?"

"No, she's at home taking care of two babies, and of course you don't want to try to break up the happy family."

"My! But I'm tempted to pull your hair, Fred."

"My hair isn't long enough, I'm trimmed up for any emergency that may arrive. I can take care of myself against anything that can't get its fingers in my hair."

He teased her that way during the entire walk over to the Hawthorne residence but she enjoyed it as she always did when in his company.

It was a happy party that evening over in Avon, and the boys saw to it that the Advocate never lacked for attention. Evelyn was the only girl she was jealous of, but of course she had learned not to make any exhibition of jealousy in her direction.

Evelyn was loving and affectionate toward her, and they talked over the romance of the Duke of Scadsborough and Miss Merton, while on a visit to the Fearnots in New York. It was the first time she had met Evelyn since that incident.

"Yes, Fred wrote Terry all about it," said Evelyn, "and I really think he did the girl a good service in baffling the duke in the pursuit of her fortune."

"Yes, indeed, but how is it that his sister Marguerite didn't come up with him to the reunion?"

"She will be here to-morrow," said Evelyn. "She had to wait for her mother. They will come up together."

"My! What a surprise!" exclaimed Eunice. "Really I don't know what to think of Marguerite not letting me know of it. I was her guest for several weeks and I have letters from her at least once a week."

"If you had asked Fred about it, he would have told you, I guess. I didn't know myself that they were coming until Fred reached Fredonia. They half expected the judge to come with them, but at the last moment his business engagements were such as to prevent it."

Eunice appeared to be considerably disturbed over the little bit of news, and when she had the chance to do so, she asked Fred if he knew what trains mother and sister would. arrive on.

"I think they will be here about noon." he said, "if they come at all. The truth is, it is yet doubtful about their coming, and that is why I've said nothing to you on the matter, thinking that a surprise is more welcome always than a disappointment."

"Well, really, I shall be disappointed if they don't come, and I'm really sorry that Marguerite didn't write to me about it."

"She wanted to do so, but mother told her to wait until she could find out whether or not she really could come."

"Well, I'm going to drive down to the station to-morrow to meet her and if they come, they shall have my room in the cottage at home, while I will sleep with mother, and send father up into the dormitory."

"That's kind of you, Advocate, but really don't put yourself to so much trouble."

"Fred, I would be utterly miserable if they should come to Avon and not stop with us. Your mother and sister were kind to me when I was down there in the city, and really I am in love with both of them."

"So they are with you; but I don't think they would enjoy the visit if they knew that they were discommoding the professor it a time when you are all so much crowded."

"Don't talk that way, Fred. I have a little will of my own, and I'm going to exercise it."

"That's right," he laughed. "If you have a will, exercise it to the limit, when it's in the right direction."

Nothing more was said about it that evening, and the young people enjoyed themselves with a heartiness that was unmistakable. All the boys were attentive to Eunice without at the same me time neglecting any of the other girls. Evelyn and Fred were the life of the party although Dick and Terry were just as lively themselves. The great banquet was yet forty-eight hours off, for the next day was to be devoted to the renewal of old friendships and making of new ones, and athletic exercises in all the games that the senior classes of the academy had indulged in from the beginning of the institution.

It was nearly midnight when the party at Mrs. Hawthorne residence broke up, and again the boys prepared to escort the Advocate back to her home. There being no people on the street at that late hour, to make any comment on their racket, the others, instead of giving Fred the exclusive companionship of the young lady, gathered around them in a circle and started off with them in the center. Eunice laughingly protested, as did Fred also, but without avail. All the way back to the academy the entire batch kept up a running fire of conversation with them thus preventing Fred from monopolizing her company. Finally she suggested in a laugh- ing way that Fred pitch in and put them to fight.

"The odds are too great," he replied. "Besides I would not think of striking a friend of yours."

"Well, they are not behaving like friends now."

"We are better friends than you think," retorted Dick Duncan. "That fellow is a fortune hunter, and we intend to baffle him just as he did the duke. He is setting his cap for you, or rather a trap, and we are going to see that he doesn't walk off with the prize without giving some of the rest of us a show "

Fred enjoyed it immensely. The Advocate, however, was more than annoyed, but the boys were so good-natured and persistent that she was forced to join in the laugh and make the best of it. When they reached the gate of the enclosure, Dick, who had assumed the leadership, suggested that they cease their noise for fear of awaking the sleepers in the dormitory as well as in the cottage.

"Step easy, now," said he. "We will leave her at the door of the cottage, for if we left him to take her there, the goodnight hug and kiss would awaken everybody on the grounds."

"Fred Fearnot," said Eunice. "I've never asked a favor at your hands, but if you will thrash Dick Duncan for that tomorrow I will appreciate it more than anything that you could do for me."

"All right Advocate, I'll take him down to the boathouse to-morrow morning and throw him into the river."

"Yes," chuckled Joe Jencks, "we'll do him as we boys used to do the kittens-tie a rock to him to make sure he doesn't come up to the surface again. When I was about twelve years old we had too many kittens at home and it was necessary for three of them to be drowned, so I took them in a old bag out to the old mill pond, and-"

"Oh, do hush that! I don't want to hear it," interrupted the Advocate, starting off alone toward the cottage, which was nearly a hundred yards away from the gate. The boys instantly surrounded her, and quietly escorted her to the porch of the cottage, where each one whispered:

"Good-night, find pleasant dreams, Advocate."

"Good-night," she replied, running up the steps mad enough to yank a handful of hair off the head of every one but Fred.

The boys turned away and went up to their rooms in the dormitory chuckling way down in their shoes, but making as little noise as possible.

They were up early the next morning, and went down to the river for a swim before breakfast. There Fred pushed Dick Duncan off the float before he could undress.

"What in thunder do you mean, Fred?" Dick asked as he came to the surface.

"Oh, I am keeping my promise to the Advocate to throw you into the river."

"Well, that's all right. Every dog has his day, and there's a whole week waiting for you."

He scrambled up on the float out of the water, and said he would go back to the dormitory to put on some dry clothes.

"Call on the Advocate before you make the change," laughed Fred.

Dick rushed at him, seized him around the waist and tried to throw him into the water. Fred, however, was too good a wrestle to be caught that way, and Dick, seeing he couldn't throw him in, raised him in his arms and plunged in with him.

"That's all right, old man," laughed Fred, when he came to the surface "you had to come in with me."

"Oh, I didn't mind that, for I was already wet."

The boys laughed heartily, had their swim, after which they accompanied Fred and Dick back to the academy, reaching there just a few minutes before breakfast was ready. They found Eunice and the professor talking with a number of the older graduates out on the piazza, and of course greeted them with a cheery good-morning

"Why, how's this, boys?" exclaimed Professor Lambert, "two of you are dripping wet."

"Oh, we frequently bathe that way," remarked Fred, at which the boys roared, and Eunice, who suspected what had happened began to blush and looked confused. On the other hand, the professor began laughing, suspecting an accident which the boys were not willing to concede.

"How did it happen, boys?" he asked.

"Well, I'll tell you how it was, professor," said Terry, "Fred and Dick are rivals for the smiles of a creation young lady not a thousand miles away from the academy, and they undertook to settle the matter down at the boathouse, with the result that both of them went into the water."

Eunice blushed furiously and ran into the house.

"Oh, indeed?" said the professor, his eyes opening wide. "I'm sorry to see two such ardent friends become enemies."

"Oh, we made friends again," laughed Dick, throwing his arms around Fred's neck and kissing him. Fred reciprocated and the crowd standing around on the porch fairly roared with laughter.

"That's right, let there be peace," said the professor. "You'd better run up to your rooms and take off those wet clothes before you catch cold. Breakfast will be ready in a few minutes, and a cup of hot coffee for each of you will be the best thing you can take."

"I think something stronger than coffee would be a better remedy," suggested Lawyer Osgood.

"None on the place," said the professor.

"Don't you be sure of that, professor," laughed Fred. "I'll wager there's a bottle of whisky in every room in the dormitory."

"I hope not! I hope not!" said the professor, shaking his head, as though the suggestion of such a thing was extremely repugnant to him.

"Well, I haven't got one in my grip, nor have I seen one anywhere, but when men travel away from home something of that kind is generally slipped in among the toilet articles," and with that Fred and Dick brushed past the professor, ran up to their rooms and about twenty minutes later re-appeared in dry clothes.

The others were all in the breakfast room and as Dick and Fred entered, they glanced at Eunice who was sitting at her father's left at the head of the table; but she wouldn't look at him. She was teased more than ever in her life.

After breakfast the majority of the graduates strolled about the grounds smoking cigars, in which they were joined by the professor and all the teachers. More than a score of them had brought boxes of fine cigars to the faculty and it was estimated by some of them that they were supplied with smoking material for at least a year.

Teacher Brown was the most popular of all and at least a thousand cigars fell to his share.

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