30. A Beginning And An Ending

"It was Allan Charter's coming that clinched matters," said Tom. "Doctor Wallington might not have believed us, but he had to believe Charter."

"He had to believe the girls, too," added Dick. "He knew they would not tell him such falsehoods. But I am glad Charter came along. He hated to get mixed up in it, I know, but he acted the man about it, didn't he?"

"Wonder what the doctor will do with Koswell & Company?" questioned Sam.

"Fire 'em, most likely, and they deserve to be fired," growled Stanley. "Oh, when I think of the trick that was played I feel like wiping up the floor with every one of those scoundrels!"

"It was certainly a bit of dirty work," was Dick's comment.

The boys were seated in Sam and Tom's room, talking it over. It was Sunday afternoon, and outside the sun shone brightly and a light breeze stirred the trees.

It had proved a strenuous Saturday afternoon and evening. Dick and Dora had come up, meeting Allan Charter, the leading senior of Brill, on the way. They had persuaded Charter to accompany them to the Brice cottage, and there all had witnessed a bitter quarrel between Henry Parwick and Koswell, Larkspur and Flockley. Parwick was semi- intoxicated, and in a maudlin way had exposed all that had been done at the haunted house. He had spoken about getting the powder for them, and mentioned how Koswell had fixed a fuse and lit it, and he told of getting the liquor bottles and flasks and other things. He had warmed up during his recital, and had demanded fifty dollars on the spot. When refused he had threatened to go to the Brill authorities and "blow everything." Then Koswell had threatened, if this was done, that he would have Parwick arrested for robbing his former employer, William Schlemp. Then had come blows, and in the midst of this Charter had stepped forward and confronted the evildoers.

"We have seen and heard all," he had said sternly. "I am a witness, and so are these young ladies. You, Koswell, Flockley and Larkspur, ought to be ashamed of yourselves. I never dreamed any students of Brill could be so bad. I shall report to Doctor Wallington without delay."

Charter had been as good as his word, and had been closeted with the head of the college for an hour. The girls went back with Tom, Dick and Sam, and also had an interview with the president. Then Doctor Wallington sent for Flockley, Koswell and Larkspur. Only Flockley answered the summons, and it was learned that Koswell and Larkspur were afraid to come back, fearing arrest. Parwick had also disappeared. Then had come a telegram from Dan Baxter giving the address of the druggist, Schlemp. Word was sent to this man, and later he wrote that Parwick had once worked for him, but had been discharged for drunkenness and because he was not honest.

The interview between Doctor Wallington and Flockley was a most affecting one. The dudish student broke down utterly, and confessed all. He said Koswell had hatched out the plot, aided by Larkspur, and that he himself had been a more or less unwilling participant. He told much about Parwick, and how that dissolute fellow had spoken of having the strange powder, which was a Japanese concoction, and which, if used often, would render a person insane. He begged the good doctor to forgive him, and said he would be willing to do anything in order to remain at Brill.

"My father will never forgive me if I am dismissed," he said in a broken voice.

"But supposing I had dismissed the Rovers and Stanley Browne?" asked the doctor severely.

"Yes, yes, I know, sir!" wailed Flockley. "But, oh, sir, don't send me away! I'll do anything if you'll let me stay!"

"I will think it over," answered the head of Brill shortly. And thus Flockley was dismissed from the office.

"It was certainly a wicked piece of work," said Songbird to the others in the room. "I really think somebody ought to be arrested."

Tom was about to speak when a footstep sounded in the hall, and a knock on the door followed. Sam opened the portal, to behold Flockley standing there, hat in hand. The dudish student was as white as the wall, his clothing looked dishevelled, and his shoes were un-blacked, a great contrast to the Flockley of old.

"What do you want?" asked Sam abruptly.

"I want--I want--" commenced Flockley brokenly. Then he stepped into the room and confronted Dick. "Oh, Rover!" he cried, "won't you-- won't you please, please get Doctor Wallington to let me stay at Brill? Please don't let him send me home! I'll do anything-- apologize, get down on my knees, if you like--but please help me to stay here!"

Flockley caught Dick by the arm and continued to plead, and then he entreated Sam, Tom, and Stanley, also. It was a truly affecting scene. They all commenced to speak. He had been so mean, wicked, so unlike a decent college fellow, how could they forgive him?

And then came a pause, and during that pause a distant church bell sounded out, full and clear, across the hills surrounding Brill. Dick listened, and so did his brothers and Stanley, and the anger in their faces died down.

"Well, I'm willing you should stay," said Dick, "and I'll speak to the doctor about it, if you wish."

"And so will I," added Sam and Tom, and Stanley nodded.

"But you ought to cut such fellows as Koswell and Larkspur," said Tom.

"I will! I will!" said Flockley earnestly.

The Rovers and Stanley Browne were as good as their word. On the following day they had another interview with the head of the college and spoke of Flockley.

"Well, if you desire it, he can remain," said Doctor Wallington. "As for Koswell and Larkspur, I doubt if they wish to return, since they have not yet shown themselves. You can prosecute them if you wish."

"No, we don't want to do that," said Dick. "We have talked it over, and we think, for the honor of Brill, the least said the better."

"That conclusion does you much credit, and I feel greatly relieved," said the head of the college. He turned to Tom. "You are, of course, reinstated, Thomas, and I shall see to it that the marks placed against your name are wiped out. I sincerely trust that you and Professor Sharp will allow bygones to be bygones, and will make a new beginning."

"I'm willing," answered Tom. And a little later he entered one of the classrooms and he and Professor Sharp shook hands. After school Professor Blackie came up and shook hands all around.

"I am glad to know you are exonerated," said that professor. "This has taught me a lesson, to take nothing for granted," he added.

When the truth became known many of the students flocked around the Rovers and Stanley and Songbird, and congratulated them on the outcome of the affair. Flockley did not show himself for a long time, excepting at meals and during class hours.

"He feels his position keenly," said Dick. "Well, I hope he turns over a new leaf."

"A telegram for Richard Rover," said one of the teachers to the boys a few days later.

"Wonder what's up now?" mused Dick as he tore open the yellow envelope. He read the slip inside. "Hurrah! This is the best news yet!" he cried.

"What is it?" asked Tom and Sam.

"The injunction against the Stanhopes and the Lanings is dissolved by the court. They can keep the fortune. Tad Sobber has had his case thrown out of court!"

"Say, that's great!" ejaculated Tom, and in the fullness of his spirits he turned a handspring.

"I reckon that's the end of Mr. Tad Sobber," said Sam. But the youngest Rover was mistaken. Though beaten in court, Sobber did not give up all idea of gaining possession of the fortune, and what he did next will be related in another volume, to be called "The Rover Boys Down East; Or, The Struggle for the Stanhope Fortune." In that book we shall also meet Jerry Koswell and Bart Larkspur once more, and learn how they tried again to injure our friends.

But for the time being all went well, and the Rover boys were exceedingly happy. As soon as possible they met the girls and all spent a happy half day in taking another ride in an automobile. From Flockley they gradually learned how Koswell and Larkspur had done many mean things, including putting the glass in the roadway, and using the pencil box out of Tom's dress-suit case.

"Vacation will soon be at hand," cried Sam one day, "and then--"

"Well have the best time ever known," finished Tom.

"Ah, vacation time," put in Songbird. "I have composed some verses about that season. They run like this--"

"Not to-day, Songbird," interrupted Dick. "I've got to bone away at my geometry."

"Then hurry up, Dick," said Sam. "I want you to come and play ball."

"Ball it is--in half an hour," answered Dick. "And then," he added softly to himself, "then I guess I'll write a good long letter to Dora."