27. In Disgrace
 

Still dizzy from the effects of the strange vapor, the students were driven rapidly over the country roads in the direction of Brill College. The fresh air served to make them feel a little better, but all were far from clear headed when ushered into the presence of Doctor Wallington.

"We have brought them back with us, sir," said Professor Sharp stiffly.

The president of the college gazed keenly at the Rovers and Stanley. They looked at him in return, but blinked and swayed as they did so.

"I will listen to the story," said Doctor Wallington, turning to the two instructors, and his voice had a hard tone to it that did not augur well for the students.

Thereupon Professor Sharp told how he had received an anonymous note stating that the Rovers and some others were going off to the old Jamison house to drink and gamble, and that it was thought they were going to take some innocent outsider with them, to fleece him of his money. On receiving the note Abner Sharp had called Professor Blackie into consultation with him, and had gone off, after leaving word for the doctor about what they proposed to do.

"We found them--the three Rovers and Stanley Browne--in a beastly state," continued Professor Sharp. "Truly beastly state--with empty liquor bottles and flasks strewn around, and Thomas Rover had a flask in his pocket, which I took from him." The instructor placed the flask on the president's desk. "There were also cigar butts scattered around, and some packs of playing-cards."

"Where was Powell?"

"He had dropped the others off at the old house and gone on to visit some folks named Sanderson. He came back later."

"Had he been drinking, too?"

"I do not think so," answered Professor Blackie.

During this talk Dick and his brothers and Stanley stared somewhat vacantly at the president and the professors. The students wanted to speak several times, but Doctor Wallington waved them to be silent.

"I will hear what you have to say after Professor Sharp and Professor Blackie have finished," said the head of the college.

He asked the instructors a great number of questions, and then turned to Dick, as the oldest of the boys.

"Now, then, what have you to say about your disgraceful conduct?" he demanded severely. "Or perhaps it would be as well to postpone further conversation until you are in a fit condition to tell a straight story." The doctor was sarcastic as well as severe.

"I--I am not well, sir," said Dick in a low voice. "None of us are. But it was not liquor that did it. It was the vapor."

"Vapor?" queried Doctor Wallington in perplexity.

"Yes, sir."

"What do you suppose he means?" and now the master of the college turned to Abner Sharp.

"When we found them in such a sad state they tried to excuse themselves by stating that a strange vapor had made them sick," was the instructor's reply. "But we could not trace any such vapor. I feel sure it is merely an excuse."

"You ought to have your head punched!" growled Tom. He was still sick, and the sickness made him reckless.

"Rover! How dare you?" exclaimed Doctor Wallington severely.

"I don't care! He is down on us, me especially, and he wants to put us in disgrace. He's a miserable sneak, that's what he is!"

"You are evidently in no condition to tell your story, and your companions are little better off," went on the head of the college. He turned to the two professors. "You may take them up to rooms 77 and 78, Mr. Blackie. I will confer with you further, Mr. Sharp."

There was no help for it, and with their heads still in a whirl, the Rovers and Stanley were taken to two rooms not used by any of the other students. The rooms were in an angle of the building, away from all others. They had a small hallway of their own, with a door shutting it off from the main hall.

Professor Blackie marched the boys into the rooms, and saw to it that they had a pitcher of fresh drinking water.

"You will have to remain here until Doctor Wallington sends for you," said the instructor, and walked out of the room. The boys heard him pass through the little hall and close and lock the door to the main hall.

"Prisoners! What do you think of that?" cried Sam.

"It is carrying matters with a high hand," answered Dick. He placed a hand on his forehead. "How my head aches!"

"Same here," answered Stanley. "I am going to rest," he added, and threw himself on one of the beds.

The others were glad to rest, also, and soon all were occupying the beds the connecting rooms contained. They left the windows wide open, so that they might get all the fresh air possible. Strange to say, each was soon in a profound slumber.

While they were sleeping they did not know that Professor Sharp came in to see if they wanted any supper. Seeing them sleeping so soundly, he notified Doctor Wallington.

"Do not disturb them," said the president of Brill. "Sleep will do them more good than anything. I doubt if they care to eat." And he heaved a sigh as he thought of the problem before him. He liked the Rovers and Stanley Browne, but according to what he had seen and been told, some of the strictest rules of Brill had been violated, and it would be impossible for him to pass the affair by or mete out ordinary punishment.

"I am afraid I shall have to dismiss them," he told himself. "Too bad!"

In some manner the story leaked out, and by Sunday noon all the students at Brill knew that the Rovers and Stanley were in disgrace, and in danger of dismissal. A few sided with the boys, but the majority shook their heads.

"They had no business to go off on such a lark," said one of the seniors. "It's a disgrace to the whole college. If they are sent home it will serve them right."

Koswell and Larkspur were in high glee over the success of their plot, and when alone winked at each other and poked each other in the ribs.

"They'll get what's coming to 'em this trip," said Bart Larkspur with a chuckle. "They'll be lucky if they are not sent home."

"And we'll rub it in, too," added Koswell. "You know how those Rovers are dead stuck on those girls at Hope."

"Sure."

"Well, I'll fix it so those girls hear all about this affair."

"Good!" cried Larkspur. "That will be the bitterest dose of all."

"Say," put in Dudd Flockley nervously, "you don't suppose there is any danger of our being found out?"

"Not the slightest," answered Koswell. "I saw to it that all our tracks were covered."

"But that fellow Parwick? Are you certain he can be trusted?"

"Yes. But we have got to pay him for his trouble. I promised him twenty dollars. I'll give him half and you can give him the other half," answered Koswell. He knew Larkspur had no spending money.

"Oh, I'm willing to pay him his price," said the dudish student. "But I want to be dead certain that he will keep his mouth shut."

"I'll make him do that," returned Jerry Koswell.