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22. The Man on the Ice
That day was cold and clear, with a still, penetrating cold that sent a tingle through the veins of the cadets. For hours the ice had been forming on Lake Blair. One or two cadets had been hardy enough to test it and found that it was about ready to bear weight, and by nightfall it had frozen to a depth of several inches. It was the first real ice of the season and the students hailed it with shouts of delight. Closets and trunks were hastily ransacked, and some of the new cadets went to town and bought skates. Others went to the cellars under the barn and brought out stored barrels, breaking them up and distributing the wood at various points along the lake for their fires.

In the afternoon Rhodes went to the major and asked for permission to go to town. He found the headmaster in a suspicious and angry mood, caused probably by the things which were weighing on his mind. When the senior cadet asked for leave the major swung around.

“What for?” he snapped.

Rhodes looked surprised. “I want to have my skates ground,” he returned. “And I have other errands.”

“Very well, go ahead,” grumbled the major. “There is too much of this running to town.”

Rhodes saluted and left the office, not even taking the trouble to thank the major because of his ungracious tone. He got his skates and put on his overcoat. Then he hurried off to town.

“Wonder if Major Tireson really suspects anything or if he is just cranky today?” he wondered.

True to his statement Rhodes left his skates to be ground and purchased some necessities. Then, after making sure that no one was around who looked suspicious, he went to the main hotel in Portville and asked for the colonel’s room. The clerk called the colonel on the telephone, allowed Rhodes to talk to him, and when the colonel was satisfied that it was his senior cadet captain, he told him to come up.

The colonel greeted Rhodes warmly and they discussed plans. Rhodes told him of the major’s harshness, but the colonel was inclined to put it down to nervousness.

“He has a lot on his mind,” said the colonel. “But even so, I guess it’s about time to close in on this bunch. I’m afraid the major might slip through our fingers, so I’ve decided to trap him tomorrow morning. Just as soon as he gets teaching his classes the police chief and I will swoop down on the school and take him in. We’ll just have to hope that somehow or other we’ll run across Dennings. There are men out looking for him now, and they may run him down. I’m afraid to fool around too long, for fear that the major may move Don or skip himself.”

“If you are going to wait until tomorrow we will have to see to it that Don is not spirited away tonight,” said Rhodes.

“Yes, and a pretty close watch on the major will do that. Is anyone watching Clanhammer Hall now?”

“Terry is prowling around there,” replied Rhodes.

“Very good. The driver was taken out of the tool house early this morning and locked up, protesting that he had been kidnapped and abused by a big bully, that meaning Mr. Vench. I guess he was pretty cold, too. So you are having your skates ground, eh? The lake frozen over?”

“Yes, sir. All of the cadets are going skating tonight and we four planned to skate down near Clanhammer Hall, so as to keep an eye on the place.”

“A good idea,” nodded the colonel. “Is Jim keeping up an appearance of anxiety?”

“Yes, he is. He went to the major this morning and asked if any word had been received of his brother. The major assured him that all steps had been taken to find Don and told him to keep up his good spirits.”

“Oh, sure!” grinned the colonel. “Fine old scoundrel that major is! Well, tomorrow morning, with as little fuss as possible, we’ll just scoop up that arch plotter.”

Agreeing to call the colonel immediately if anything came up Rhodes left him, and after getti............
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