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14 Disobedience Loses the Game
The cadets instinctively crouched down where they stood. It seemed to be the proper thing to do, although the ghostly figure had not looked in their direction.

The moment was one of indecision. While the ghost kept in plain sight on the top of the Ridge they were content to watch it, waiting for a cue that would send them into action. To attempt to rush up the hill and grapple with the shape would be the wrong thing to do, for the noise of their approach would startle the thing into a run. To trail it as quietly as possible was their only thought.
145

There was a stir on the part of one of the cadets, the one nearest Don. He reached into his inside pocket and then brought his hand out into the open. It was Dick Rowen who had moved and Don shifted his eyes toward him.

What he saw startled him. Against all orders to the contrary the sulky cadet had brought a revolver with him. He was even now raising it and pointing toward the white shape.

Don’s arm described a sort of arc, his hand coming down with a thump on the wrist of the unpopular cadet. But Rowen had a good grip on the stock of his revolver.

“Put that away, Rowen,” Don whispered, sternly.

“Leave me alone, Mercer,” hissed the other. “I’m just going to scare the thing.”

Don’s grasp tightened and he jerked the wrist toward him. Rowen promptly twisted his arm, pointing the revolver upward. The grasp of his fingers on the trigger was too strong and the revolver went off with a shattering report.

There was a moment of utter silence from the boys themselves. The figure in white leaped into the air and then began a swift run along the top of the Ridge. Don had dropped Rowen’s wrist in dismay and the other cadet was shaken by the unexpected happening.

“Oh, you stupid guy!” cried Don, as the ghost could be heard running along the rise.
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They were all on their feet now and Jordan pushed up to them. He grasped the cadet by the arm.

“Rowen, what in the world did you do that for?” he ground out.

“I didn’t do it,” defended the other. “Mercer grabbed my arm.”

“Never mind the excuses, we all saw what you did. It was against the colonel’s orders to carry any kind of a gun. Why did——”

Don cut in. “Some of you fellows get after the ghost on the double!” he cried, and Terry, Jim, and the others ran off, leaving him alone with Jordan and the angry one.

“Well, I thought the colonel was foolish about not carrying arms,” said Rowen, as the others breasted the rise. “Anyway, what right had he to send us out to face some kind of a desperate man, maybe a criminal, without any way to protect ourselves? I wasn’t going to shoot the man, I was going to scare him.”

“You succeeded in doing that without carrying out your original plan,” Jordan returned, grimly. “Now, Rowen, I want you to march yourself back to camp and put yourself on report. You are under arrest.”

“Oh, sure, I could expect that from you!” retorted Rowen, bitterly.
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“Yes, you could, you or anyone else who had pulled a stunt like that,” nodded Jordan. “It was direct and defiant disobedience, and if we lose our chance to nab the ghost it will be entirely your fault. Return to camp at once, Rowen.”

“OK,” grumbled Rowen. He walked sullenly away.

“Now, if we are going to catch up with the boys we’ll have to put all we have into it,” announced Jordan.

“Right!” said Don, as they started up the slope. “Feel equal to a good stiff run?”

“Sure,” smiled Jordan. “Let’s hit a steady pace.”

Gaining the top of the rise they fell into a steady run along the top, away from the camp and toward the town on the far side of the Ridge. They were following a general direction, which was not entirely blind, for far ahead of them they heard a faint cracking sound that seemed to be made by someone running recklessly. Their route did not keep them long on the top of the hill, for the ghost had taken to the deeper shelter of the trees lower down and they plunged down the slope, threading their way in between the trees.

They almost fell over a figure that was before them in the woods. It was Cadet Owens, and he was sitting on a rock, hugging his foot. His shoe was off and he was breathing hard.
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“Hurt yourself?” Jordan called.

“Not much,” gasped Owens. “Got my shoe caught in a piece of rock and twisted my ankle. But I’ll be able to walk. Keep on going straight ahead. We didn’t lose sight of him.”

The other two plunged on, following a straight line. They did not expect to overtake the others, for Terry and Jim in particular were fast runners and they had had a good start. All they could hope to do was to be in at the finish if there was a finish, and with this in mind they ran on.

“Rough going!” gasped Don, as they began to ascend a second rolling hill.

“Nothing else but!” returned Jordan, running steadily.

On the top of the hill they found themselves in familiar country. Far ahead of them was the tiny cabin of Peter Vancouver and above them was the big, barnlike house that they had observed at the time they first took the hike to the old man’s place. Now they were somewhat at a loss, and slowed up a bit in their running.

“We’ll have to be careful not to lose them now,” Don said.

“There they are, right ahead of us,” announced Jordan, “They must have lost him, because they are just standing there.”
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“They are right in front of that old house,” observed Don, as they ran forward.

The others turned in glad surprise when the two ran up.

“Did you lose him?” Jordan called, as they joined them.

“He just bolted into that house,” Terry answered. “Think we ought to go in after him?”

“Absolutely,” was the reply from the senior captain. “All you fellows have your flashlights, haven’t you?”

They all had. Jordan led the way inside the gate and they walked with great care toward the house.

“He was way ahead of us,” said Motley, “and just as soon as he got to this old house he bolted right inside. He may be armed, so we had better be careful.”

“Yes,” replied Jordan. “But if he is in the house we are bound to get him. Be ready to put your light out if he tries any shooting. And be careful of holes or anything in the house.”
150

They snapped on their flashlights as they went up the tottering old porch of what had once been a fine old mansion. There were no windows in the place which could boast of glass, and the front door had dropped from its hinges and now lay sprawled out on the porch. Jordan swung his light down on this prostrate door, and they could see that it was covered with dirt and mud. Newer marks on the door showed that someone had recently entered the place.

“This is where he went, all right,” said Don. “On your toes, everybody.”

Before entering the place they flashed brilliant beams of light in every corner of the nearest room. This was a large hall, with bare walls from which the plaster had fallen, and a large staircase running up to a second floor. Realizing that the ghost might leave the place by some rear door while they prowled around the front rooms, the cadets pushed the search with all possible speed, their eyes and ears alert for any sign of someone lurking. But a rapid search of a wide parlor, a square dining room, and an enormous kitchen showed them that at least no one was concealed downstairs.

“I guess our next move will be the upstairs,” Motley suggested, and they took the wide steps toward the top of the house.

Here there were a number of smaller rooms and it took them some little time to look through all of them. Nothing was to be found on the second floor, and with more confidence they went to the third floor. This was a big barnlike attic, and was obviously quite empty.
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“Well, if he is in the place at all, it is the cellar,” decided Jordan, when they had satisfied themselves that there was no one in the upper part of the house. “I don’t think he came upstairs at all, because I don’t see any prints.”

There were some footprints in the lower hall but they were lost on the comparatively bare stretches of floor. The cellar, which extended only a short distance under the house, was tenanted by spiders only, and no one had been in there, judging by the huge webs that stretched across the bottom of the stairway. It would have been impossible for anyone to have gone that way without breaking the webs, and they were all intact.

“Many thanks to the spiders,” acknowledged Terry, lifting his hat. “They make it possible for us to keep from going any deeper into this damp hole. The smell of it is enough for me.”

“Just to make doubly sure,” said Jordan, “suppose we go around to the back and see if there is an outside cellar door? The ghost may have run out the back door of the house and down a back stairs to the cellar. I’m not going to give up the search until I have seen every corner of the house.”

“While a couple of us are doing that I suggest that two or three of us look in the closets on the first floor,” Don advanced. “We missed them on our first round. I guess a couple of us can hold the ghost in a tussle until the others get on the spot.”
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“All right,” said Jordan. “Jim and Motley, come with me. The rest of you scatter. But I’m pretty sure that the ghost ran right on through the house and escaped into the woods.”

The others thought the same thing, but they scattered to search. Terry and Cadet Ross began to look into the closets on the first floor. Don wandered back into the parlor and came to the front porch. From there he looked off over the hills, seeing below him the lights in Vancouver’s cabin.

“I wonder if old Mr. Vancouver is all right?” Don mused. “Maybe he heard the noise we made and is alarmed. It isn’t far to his house, and I think I’ll run down and see if he is all right. Won’t take a second, and I’ll be right back.”


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