The Mercer Boys at Woodcrest
The Mercer Boys at Woodcrest
BY CAPWELL WYCKOFF
The mystery of Clanhammer Hall, at Woodcrest MilitaryAcademy, interested Don and Jim Mercer andtheir friend Terry Mackson from the moment of theirarrival at Woodcrest. But their curiosity about the old,empty building faded into the back of their minds asthey became involved in the mysterious disappearanceof their headmaster, Colonel Morrell, whom they hadnever seen. With initiative and ingenuity the Mercerboys, aided by Cadet Vench, did a little detective workand uncovered a fantastic story of crime. An excitingstory of adventure for modern boys.
Other titles in The Mercer Boys Series:
THE MERCER BOYS’ CRUISE IN THE LASSIE
THE MERCER BOYS AT WOODCREST
THE MERCER BOYS ON A TREASURE HUNT
The Mercer Boys
by CAPWELL WYCKOFF
THE WORLD PUBLISHING COMPANY
CLEVELAND AND NEW YORK
are published by THE WORLD PUBLISHING COMPANY
2231 West 110th Street · Cleveland 2 · Ohio
COPYRIGHT 1948, BY THE WORLD PUBLISHING COMPANY
MANUFACTURED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
- 1. Terry Makes a Mistake 7
- 2. Life at Woodcrest 17
- 3. Disturbing News 26
- 4. The Sunlight Message 34
- 5. The Man with the Key 42
- 6. Rapid Developments 54
- 7. Jim Makes an Enemy 66
- 8. The Fall Offensive 75
- 9. Under Fire 83
- 10. Rebellion 90
- 11. Vench Breaks Silence 99
- 12. The Paper Chase 108
- 13. Vench Is Astonished 118
- 14. The Postscript 126
- 15. The Journey in the Night 134
- 16. Vench Learns Something 143
- 17. In Clanhammer Hall 152
- 18. Don Meets the Colonel 161
- 19. Vench Is Mysterious 171
- 20. The Major Makes a Move 182
- 21. The Surprise Attack 191
- 22. The Man on the Ice 199
- 23. The End of the Mystery 205
1. Terry Makes a Mistake
“Pardon me,” said the red-headed boy with a grin,“but what is that old jalopy over there?”
The tall young man on the station platform turnedand looked with a slight frown at the battered stationwagon across the street. He was dressed in a gray uniformand wore a tall military hat. The letters W. M.I. in gold showed plainly on the hat. It meant WoodcrestMilitary Institute, and Lieutenant Sommers wasan important part of that institution.
Two boys who had just stepped from a train atPortville station grinned and nudged each other.They were nice-looking young boys, with sandy hair,freckles, and lean faces browned by exposure to thewind and sun. Don Mercer whispered to his brother:
“Terry’s at it again. He’s forever fooling aroundand playing jokes on someone.”
Jim Mercer laughed. “Looks like he’s trying to geta rise out of that cadet officer. Golly, Don, is it possiblewe’ll be wearing uniforms like that soon!”
Lieutenant Sommers turned to look coldly at thegenial-looking boy with the mop of red hair. “That,”said he with precision, “is the school station wagon.”
“I see,” murmured Terry. “And those things inthe front are headlights, aren’t they?”
“That’s what I’ve always called them,” retorted theLieutenant, growing still colder.
“Thanks. Is the school far away? I mean, could Iwalk it?” Terry pressed.
“Not very well. Why should you want to walkit?”
“That station wagon looks like it’s ready to fallapart and I don’t care for the wild tilt of that chassis.Look at the way it leans to one side! I was just thinking——”
“Don’t,” cut in the lieutenant, a faint spot of redshowing in his cheek. “Judging by appearances,thinking would make a wreck of you physically andmentally!” He turned to the six or seven boys, all incivilian clothes, who had listened with ill-concealeddelight to the conversation. “All those who arebound for Woodcrest please follow me.” Turning onhis heel he walked toward the station wagon.
Terry chuckled and started off. But at that momenttwo pairs of strong hands clutched him.
“Hold on there, Chucklehead!” commanded DonMercer.
“Where are you off to in such a rush, kid?” calledJim.
The three boys shook hands heartily. They werethe best of friends and had spent the previous summeron a cruise down the coast of Maine. During thattime they helped capture a gang of marine bandits whohad been pilfering the coast for some time. Don andJim were sons of a wealthy lumberman of Bridgewater,Maine, and Terry, who had only a motherand sister, lived in a town near them. They had beenschool friends and Terry had won a scholarship toWoodcrest Military Institute during the previousspring. Both Jim and Don had no future plans, andwishing to be with their cheerful comrade, whosebobbing red head had earned him the name of Chucklehead,they had enrolled in the same school. Now,after an exciting summer, details of which were relatedin the first volume of this series, The MercerBoys’ Cruise in the Lassie, they had met on the platformof the Portville station in New York State, readyto begin school again.
“It’s swell to see you guys,” greeted Terry. “Wereyou on the train I came in on?”
“No, we just arrived on the later one,” offered Jim.“What were you up to with that lieutenant?”
“Oh, nothing,” confessed Terry. “He was so dignifiedlooking that I couldn’t help leading him on a little,that’s all. Hey, let’s go. If we don’t get a move onhe’ll court-martial us as soon as we get to the school.He had me with that last crack, didn’t he?”
The boys picked up their suitcases and climbed intothe station wagon, the three friends sitting in the firstseat back of the driver. The driver was a little manwith scant gray hair who took no particular notice ofthem, but drooped unemotionally in the forward seat.After seeing that all of the new members were safelyin, the correct-looking lieutenant climbed up besidethe driver.
“Let’s go, Ashley,” he directed.
The driver stepped on the starter but the carstalled before lurching down the road toward the distanthills and woods. The three friends had plenty totalk about, but the rest of the boys were silent. Mostof them were making their first trip away from homeand all were strangers, so they sat in silence andwatched the scenery. The boys on the first seat graduallygrew quiet too and enjoyed the magnificent viewunfolded in the sweeping hills and rolling woods fromwhich the academy had derived its name.
The seats of the station wagon were plain boardplanks and the legs of the boys dangled in plain viewbeneath them. Right in front of Terry were the gray-cladlegs of the lieutenant, and the boy’s eyes wanderedmore than once to them. A thoughtful lookcame into his gray eyes and he began to feel in thelapel of his coat. From it he drew two pins and thenleaned over to Don.
“Got a piece of string with you?” he whispered.
Don shook his head and Terry repeated his questionto Jim. The younger Mercer unwound one which hadbeen twisted around the handle of his suitcase andhanded it to Terry.
“What do you want with it?” he asked.
Terry winked but did not reply. He looked oncesearchingly at the back of the lieutenant and thenbent the pins, much like primitive fish hooks. Then,taking the string, he tied it from one pin to the other.The boys watched him intently.
The two pins having been joined together by aneighth-inch length of string, the red-headed boyleaned down and passed one hook carefully throughthe sharply creased trousers of the cadet in front ofhim. It dangled there, and Terry sat back to look fordanger. Nothing happened, and he once more bentdown, this time to lift the cuff of the trousers and slipthe second pin into it. The operation was accomplishedwithout accident, and the lieutenant had one leg ofhis trousers drawn up for a space of four or five inches.
The boys in the station wagon grinned broadlywhen they saw what Terry was driving at, but thered-headed boy looked calmly away to the hills.Totally unconscious of the fact that he was the objectof their mirth the important young officer staredstraight ahead of him. Out of the side of his mouthTerry spoke to Don.
“It will be tough, if one of those pins sticks hisleg.”
Nothing of the sort happened. The attention ofthe boys was now drawn to the view that suddenlyunfolded as they topped a final rise of ground. Beforethem, at the top of the ridge, against the dark backgroundof the surrounding woods, was WoodcrestMilitary Academy itself, with its ivy-covered centralhall, its two dormitories and its gymnasium and boathouse.Back of the school a single large sheet of beautifulsilver water showed, the Lake Blair so oftenspoken of in the catalogue which the boys had. Onall sides trees and hills spread out until they were lostin the distance.
“That’s beautiful,” breathed Jim, enthusiastically.
“I’ll say it is,” agreed Don, and Terry nodded.Don went on, “That center hall must be Locke Hall,and the one to the right of it either Inslee or Clinton.We got our rooms in Locke, on the second floor. Wherewill you be located, Terry?”
“For the present I’m in Inslee,” returned Terry.“I didn’t know where you fellows would go, so Ididn’t say anything. After a day or so I’ll try to seeif I can’t be transferred.”
Nothing more was said until they drove up to thelawn before Locke Hall and then the station wagoncame to a stop. The lieutenant jumped out and facedthe new boys.
“Step down out of there!” he commanded. “On thedouble, now!” They obeyed and faced him, castingfurtive glances at his hiked-up trouser leg. The lieutenantlooked them over slowly and then once moreaddressed them. “You are now to become students atthis institution, and I would like to say that from nowon you’ll have to give up some of the soft things thatyou have been used to. Among them, some of yourpet foolishness.” Here he looked straight at Terry, whoreturned the look with bland interest. “You will acquirea measure of dignity and poise that will makenew men out of you. I am representative of the efficiencyand discipline of this school, and I hope we mayexpect as much from each one of you. What are youlaughing at?”
The question was addressed to the entire numberof boys, so no one took the responsibility of answering.The lieutenant turned away.
“Report at Locke Hall and register,” he snapped,and strode off, the one leg ridiculous in the extreme.The newcomers watched him with interest. A brotherlieutenant came out of Locke Hall and they saluted,and once past him the other turned to look at theupraised trouser. Then he grinned until, seeing thenew boys looking, he composed his face and passedthem. Still unheeding the lieutenant went on untilhe met an instructor, also in uniform, whom he salutedand would have passed, except that the instructorstopped him.
“What has happened to your trousers, Sommers?”the boys heard the instructor ask.
Sommers looked down at his right leg and thenstooped and savagely tore the pins and string out.With a savage glance he looked back at the interestedgroup of boys and his eyes blazed. Hastily salutinghis superior he hurried on, and the teacher, with afaint smile on his face, resumed his walk.
“Well,” sighed Terry. “That’s over. Worked betterthan I thought it would.”
“You’re lucky,” laughed Don, as they made theirway to the office. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he tookit out on you later on.”
Don and Jim registered first and then went off totheir rooms, which were on the floor above. Terryregistered and awaited his orders.
“Inslee Hall,” nodded the clerk, with an engagingsmile. “Room 17, second floor.” He pointed out of thedoor. “Go to your left along the path and you can’tmiss it. Supper at six o’clock. Next!”
Terry picked up his suitcase and went out of thescreen door and out onto the well-kept driveway. Awide expanse of lawn spread out before him and offin the distance he saw the hall which was to be hisdormitory. Just beyond it he could see the roof ofanother building that they had not been able to seefrom the main road. Terry was not sure which of themwas