10. Songbird Makes A Discovery
 

"It's all up with me," said Tom to his brothers when he met them in the hall. "I can't go to town."

"Why not?" asked Sam.

"Got to remain in my room until Doctor Wallington sends for me."

"What have you been doing, Tom?" came from Dick.

"Nothing." And then Tom told of what had occurred in the office. His brothers listened with much interest.

"This is the work of some enemy," said Sam quickly.

"And the one who got hold of the dress-suit case," added Dick. "Tom, do you suspect any one?"

"Only in a general way--Koswell, Flockley, Larkspur, and that crowd."

"It's too bad."

"Say, but that picture was a sight!" cried the fun-loving Rover, and gunned broadly. "No wonder old Sharp was mad. I'd be mad myself, especially if it was a photo of my best girl."

"I hope the doctor doesn't keep you in the room all day," said Sam.

"You and Dick might as well go to town without me," returned Tom with a sigh that he endeavored to suppress. "Your staying here won't do me any good."

"What will you do?"

"Oh, read or study. It will give me a chance to catch up in my Latin. I was a bit rocky in that yesterday. I can bone away until the president sends a special message for me."

"Want us to get anything for you?" questioned Dick.

"Yes, a good fat letter from--well, a fat letter, that's all."

"Postmarked Cedarville, and in Nellie Laning's handwriting," came from Sam slyly.

"I didn't know they postmarked letters in handwriting," answered Tom innocently.

"Oh, you know what I mean."

"Sure, Sam, for I know you're looking for a letter, too. Well, run along, children, and play," said Tom, and a minute later Sam and Dick set off for Ashton.

Tom did not feel as lighthearted as his words would seem to indicate. He knew that the charge against him was a serious one, and he saw no way of clearing himself. The finding of the box with his name on it seemed to be proof positive against him.

"No use of talking, the minute I get to school I seem to get into trouble," he soliloquized. "Wonder if they'll put me in a cell, like old Crabtree did at Putnam Hall? If they do I'll raise a kick, sure as eggs are unhatched chickens!"

Tom sat down to study, but he could not fix his mind on his lessons. Then he heard somebody come along the hallway and turn into the next room.

"Must be Songbird, or else one of the servants," he thought. "Guess I'll take a look." If it was Songbird, he could chat with his friend for a while.

  "The weeping winds were whispering through the wood,

    The rolling rill ran 'round the ragged rock;

  The shepherd, with his sunny, smiling face,

    Was far away to feed his flitting flock.

  Deep in the dingle, dank and dark--"

  "I thought I heard an old crow bark!"

He went to the next room. As he opened the door he saw Songbird, with his back toward him. The so-styled poet was waving his arms in the air and declaiming: finished Tom. "Say, Songbird, how much is that poetry by the yard--or do you sell it by the ton?" he went on.

At the sound of Tom's voice the would-be poet gave a start. But he quickly recovered. He scowled for a moment and then took on a look of resignation.

"You've spoiled one of the best thoughts I ever had," he said.

"Don't you believe it, Songbird," answered Tom. "I've heard you make up poetry worth ten times that. Don't you remember that little sonnet you once composed, entitled 'Who Put Ink in Willie's Shoes?' It was great, grand, sublime!"

"I never wrote such a sonnet!" cried Songbird. "Ink in shoes, indeed! Tom, you don't know real poetry when you see it!"

"That's a fact, I don't. But, say, what's on the carpet, as the iceman said to the thrush?"

"Nothing. I thought I'd write a few verses, that's all. Thought you were going to town with Sam and Dick?"

"Can't." And once again Tom had to tell his story. He had not yet finished when Songbird gave an exclamation.

"It fits in!" he cried.

"Fits in? What?" asked Tom.

"What I heard a while ago."

"What did you hear?"

"Heard Flockley, Koswell and Larkspur talking together. Koswell said he had fixed you, and that you were having a bad half hour with the president."

"Where was this?"

"In the library. I was in an alcove, and they didn't see me. I was busy reading some poetry by Longfellow--fine thing--went like this--"

"Never mind. Chop out the poetry now, Songbird. What more did they say?"

"Nothing. They walked away, and I--er--I got so interested in making up verses I forgot all about it until now."

"I wish you had heard more. Do you know where they went to?"

"No, but I can look around if you want me to."

"I wish very much that you would. I can't leave, or I'd go myself."

A few more words followed, and then Songbird went off to hunt up the Flockley crowd. On the campus he met Max Spangler.

"Yes, I saw them," said the German-American student in answer to a question. "They are down along the river, just above the boathouse."

"Thank you."

"I'll show you if you want me to," went on Max.

"You might come along, if you have nothing else to do," answered Songbird.

The two walked toward the river, and after a few minutes espied Flockley and the others sitting on some rocks, in the sun, talking earnestly.

"I want to hear what they are saying," said Songbird. "I have a special reason." And at Max's look of surprise he told something of what had happened.

"If Koswell is that mean he ought to be exposed," said Max. "I don't blame him for playing a trick on old Sharp, but to lay the blame on Tom--why, that's different."

"Will you come along?"

"If you want me to."

"I don't want to drag you into trouble, Max."

"I dink I can take care of myself," answered the German-American student.

The pair passed around to the rear of the spot where Flockley and his cronies were located. Here was a heavy clump of brushwood, so they were able to draw quite close without being seen.

The talk was of a general character for a while, embracing football and other college sports, and Songbird was disappointed. But presently Jerry Koswell began to chuckle.

"I can't help but think of the way I put it over Tom Rover," he exclaimed. "I'll wager old Sharp will make him suffer good and proper."

"Maybe they'll suspend Rover," said Bart Larkspur. "But that would be carrying it pretty far, wouldn't it?"

"They won't suspend him, but he'll surely be punished," came from Dudd Flockley. "By the way, are you sure it was a photo of Sharp's best girl?"

"Yes; but she isn't a girl, she's a woman, and not particularly good- looking at that," answered Jerry Koswell.

"Well, Sharp isn't so very handsome," answered Larkspur. "His nose is as sharp as his name."

"I suppose Rover will wonder how somebody got hold of that case of pencils and crayons," remarked Flockley. "If he--"

"Hello, Max!" cried a voice from behind the bushes, and the next moment a stout youth landed on Max Spangler's back, carrying him down with a crash in the brushwood. "What are you doing here, anyway?"

At the interruption the whole Flockley crowd started to their feet, and turning, beheld not only Max and the boy who had come up so suddenly, but also Songbird. The latter was nearest to them, and Koswell eyed him with sudden suspicion.

"What are you doing here?" he demanded, while Max and his friend were wrestling in a good-natured way in the bushes.

"Oh, I've been listening to some interesting information," answered Songbird.

"Playing the eavesdropper, eh?" came from Flockley with a sneer.

"If so, it was for a good purpose," answered the would-be poet warmly.

"Say, Jerry, you want to look out for him!" cried Larkspur warningly. "He rooms with Dick Rover, remember. They are old chums."

"I know that," said Koswell. He faced Songbird again. "How long have you been here?" he cried angrily.

"That is my business, Koswell. But I heard enough of your talk to know how you tried to put Tom Rover in a hole. It's a mean piece of business, and it has got to be stopped."

"Bah!"

"You can 'bah!' all you please, but I mean what I say. To play a joke is one thing, to blame it on a fellow student who is innocent is another. As the poet Shelley says--But what's the use of wasting poetry on a chap like you? Max, you heard what was said, didn't you?"

By this time the German-American student was free of his tormentor, a happy-go-lucky student named Henry Cale. He nodded to Songbird.

"Yes, I heard it," he said, and gave Koswell a meaning look.

"Fine business to be in, listening around corners," sneered Larkspur.

"Say that once more and I'll punch your head!" cried Max, doubling up his fists.

"What are you fellows going to do?" questioned Koswell. He was beginning to grow alarmed.

"That depends on what you fellows do," returned Songbird.

"Why--er--do you think I am going to the doctor and--er--confess?"

"You have got to clear Tom Rover."

"Our word is as good as yours," said Larkspur.

"Then you are willing to tell a string of falsehoods, eh?" said Songbird coldly.

"I didn't say so."

"But you meant it. Well, Larkspur, it won't do. I know about this, and so does Max. Koswell has got to clear Tom Rover, and that is all there is to it."

"Will you keep quiet about me if I clear Rover?" asked Jerry Koswell eagerly.

"That depends on what Tom Rover says. I am going right to him now and tell him what I heard."

"And I'll go along," said Max. He turned to Henry Cale. "You will have to excuse me, Henry. This is a private affair of importance."

"Sure," was the ready answer. "I wouldn't have butted in if I had known something was doing," and Henry walked off toward the college buildings.

"Just tell Tom Rover to wait--we'll fix it up somehow," cried Jerry to Songbird and Max as the pair departed. "It's all a--er--a mistake. I'm--er--sorry I got Rover into it--really I am."

"No doubt of it, now!" answered Songbird significantly. "Evildoers are usually sorry--after they are caught!"