26. The Evidence Against Them
 

Fortunately a loose brick lay handy and with this Dick smashed out the panes of glass in the cellar window. Another window was opposite, and this he likewise demolished. At once a current of pure air swept through the place.

"Hold him up to the window," said Dick as he staggered around. And he and Sam raised Tom up as best they could.

"If we could only get outside," mumbled Sam. His head was aching worse than ever.

"I'll see what I can do," answered his oldest brother, and stumbled up the narrow stairs. To his joy, the door above leading to the kitchen of the house was unfastened.

Not without great labor did the two brothers carry Tom to the floor above. Then they went after Stanley, who was conscious, but too weak to walk. As they stumbled around they sent several empty liquor bottles spinning across the floor, and one was smashed into pieces.

"I wish I knew how to revive him," said Dick as he and Sam placed Tom near the open doorway. "Wonder if there is any water handy?"

"Oh, my poor head!" came from Stanley. "I feel as if I had been drinking for a month!"

"Wonder what it was?" murmured Sam. "I--I can't make it out at all."

"Nor I," added Dick. "But come, we must do what we can for Tom." And he commenced to loosen his unconscious brother's tie and collar.

Suddenly a form darkened the outer doorway of the kitchen, and to the surprise of the boys Professor Abner Sharp showed himself. He was accompanied by Professor Blackie.

"Ha! So we have caught you, have we?" cried Professor Sharp, in tones of evident satisfaction. "Nice doings, these, for students of Brill. Aren't you ashamed of yourselves?" And he glared maliciously at the Rovers and Stanley Browne.

"Oh, Professor, can you--er--help us?" murmured Stanley. "We--er--are in a lot of trouble."

"So I see," answered Abner Sharp chillily. "Nice doings, I declare! Don't you think so?" he added to the other professor.

"It is too bad," murmured Professor Blackie. "I thought them all rather nice lads."

Dick's head was still dizzy, so he could not catch the import of the professor's words. He continued to work over Tom, who just then opened his eyes.

"Gi--give me a--a drink!" murmured poor Tom. His throat seemed to be on fire.

"Not another drop!" shouted Professor Sharp. "Not one! This is disgraceful! Look at what they have been drinking already!" And he pointed to the bottles scattered around.

"Say! What's the matter with you?" asked Sam, sleepily and angrily. He was doing his best to pull his wits together, and thus overcome the effects of the strange vapor.

"There is nothing the matter with me!" roared Professor Sharp "The matter is with you, Rover. You have been drinking too much."

"Me? Drinking?" stammered Sam, "No, sir!"

"Rover, you may as well admit it," came from Professor Blackie. "It is a sad state of affairs."

"But I haven't been drinking."

"We know better. Look at the evidence!" roared Abner Sharp, pointing to the bottles. "Why, your very clothing smells of rum!" he added, smelling of Dick's shoulder.

"Sam has told you the truth. We haven't been drinking," said Dick.

"Rover, it would be better if you did not add falsehoods to your other shortcomings," said Professor Blackie. He was usually a very mild man, and had little to say outside of the classroom.

"You are mistaken," murmured Dick. It was all he could say, for he was still too bewildered to make a clear note of what was going on.

"This one seems to be the worst of all," said Abner Sharp, turning to Tom. "He must have drunk more than the others."

"He will have to sleep it off," answered Professor Blackie. "Too bad! Too bad! Why will young men do such things?" And he shook his head sorrowfully.

"I believe what the note said. This has been a regular hangout for the Rovers and their chums," said Professor Sharp severely. "It is high time it was broken up."

"Yes yes," answered the other instructor How shall we--er--get them back to Brill?"

"I'll see about that. They must have some sort of a carriage here, or maybe somebody was going to call for them."

"Shall I take a look around?"

"If you will."

Professor Blackie looked around the house and grounds and then went through the tangle of a garden to the roadway. He espied Songbird coming along, driving the team rapidly and singing to himself. Songbird had passed an all-too-short hour with Minnie Sanderson.

"Stop, Powell!" cried the professor.

"I was going to, sir," answered the would-be poet cheerily. "How is this, Professor Blackie? Did you come to hunt for the ghost, too?"

"Ghost? I came for no ghosts--since there are no ghosts," was the quiet answer. "Were you to stop here?"

"Yes, sir, to pick up the three Rovers and Stanley Browne. They must be somewhere about. They came to explore the old house and to settle this ghost story."

"I think they came more for spirits than for ghosts," answered Professor Blackie dryly, "Then you know all about it, eh?"

"Why, yes."

"Then you knew they came here to drink and to carouse generally," went on the instructor, and his voice grew stern.

"Drink? Carouse? What are you talking about?" gasped Songbird. "The Rovers don't drink at all, and Stanley Browne drinks very little."

"Of course you wish to shield them, but it will do little good, Powell. Professor Sharp received word of what was going on, and he asked me to accompany him here. We have seen a sad sight. What Doctor Wallington will say when he hears of it, I cannot tell. I am afraid, however, that he will deal severely with the offenders."

"Professor Blackie, what you say is a riddle to me," answered Songbird. "I don't understand you at all."

"Then come with me, and perhaps you will understand," was the instructor's reply, and he led the way to the rear of the deserted house.

All of the students and Professor Sharp were now outside, on or near the back porch. Tom had recovered his senses, and Sam had obtained for him a drink of water from an old well. Much to the astonishment of the students, the professor had caught sight of a liquor flask in Tom's pocket, and had snatched it away.

"Here is evidence you cannot deny!" cried Abner Sharp in triumph. "All but empty, too!" he added, after shaking the flask and smelling of it.

"How did that--that get in m--my pocket?" mumbled poor Tom. He was still hazy in his mind.

"You probably know better than anybody else," retorted Professor Sharp. "And you can tell, too, where the liquor went to," he continued with a sneer.

"You're a--a--contemptible old sneak!" cried Tom wrathfully, "and if I didn't feel so--so dizzy I'd knock you down!"

"Tom!" cried Dick warningly. He was growing a little clearer in his mind, and could see that a terrible mistake had been made.

"You'll not knock anybody down, you young villain!" roared Abner Sharp in a rage. "I'll teach you to come here and drink and carouse, and bring disgrace upon the fair name of Brill College! I'll have you dismissed and sent home in disgrace!"

"You're making a mistake--" began Dick.

"No, there is no mistake. Of course you wish to hide the truth, and smooth matters over, but it won't go with me, nor with Professor Blackie, either," stormed Professor Sharp. "We know what we see and what we smell. You young fellows are a disgrace to Brill, and the sooner everybody knows it, the better. Now, then, march to the roadway, every one of you, and no more back talk!"

"But, sir--" began Stanley in dismay.

"Not another word!" cried Abner Sharp. "If you have anything more to tell, you may tell it to Doctor Wallington."