3. Tom On A Tour Of Discovery.
 

Poor Sam was removed from the gymnasium so quickly that neither Dick nor Tom had time to protest, and when they reached the main door of the school building they found it shut and locked in their faces.

"Say, this is an outrage," burst out Tom. "Sam wasn't to blame for that fight. He didn't trip Tubby up."

"I know he didn't," put in Fred Garrison, who had come up also. "It was Larry Mason. But I shan't give Larry away."

"Neither will I."

"Mr. Grinder always carries matters with a high hand when the captain is away," put in Dick. "And he gets red-hot at the least little thing."

"He doesn't deserve to be a teacher here," came from George Granbury, who had followed the others. "To my way of thinking, he's worse than old Crabtree was, even though he is perhaps better educated."

"I'd like to know what he is going to do with Sam," said Dick, with a serious look on his face. "Sam has made such a good record this term I hate to see it broken."

"He'll do something to punish 'em both," came from Fred. "It will be too bad, though, if he puts 'em in the stone cell. They'll freeze to death such a night as this is going to be."

"I won't allow it," ejaculated Dick. "Why, that would be inhuman!"

"I'm going in by the back way and find out what's going on," said Tom, and promptly disappeared around the corner of the Hall. He was soon inside the building, but to his chagrin found every door leading to Captain Putnam's private apartments and to the stone cell and the storeroom locked. Having gone through the mess-rooms and through several of the classrooms, he rejoined the others, who had gathered around the fire in what was called the students' general living room,--an apartment set aside during cold weather solely for the boys' comfort, where they might read, study, play quiet games, or do similar things in order to make themselves feel at home.

"How did you make out?" was the question immediately put.

"Made out, and that's all," said Tom gloomily.

"What do you mean?" came from Dick.

"Every blessed door is locked, and so are the windows. I can't get within two rooms of the office."

"Did you hear anything?" asked George.

"Yes; I heard a noise like somebody stamping."

"Where did it come from?"

"I think it came from the stone cell. But it sounded like somebody stamping on wood."

"Perhaps it came from the empty storeroom," cried Dick. "More than likely Mr. Grinder has placed Sam and Tubby there. I wish he'd come here. I'd question him."

"Your wish is gratified," whispered George. "Here he comes now!"

The door at the far end of the room had opened, and now Jasper Grinder came forth in a hurry. He was about to pass to another room at the rear of the school when Dick stopped him.

"Mr. Grinder, may I ask what you have done with Sam?" he asked.

"I have placed him in confinement until Captain Putnam returns," was the snappy answer.

"Did you put him in the stone cell?"

"It is not for you to question me, Rover."

"In this cold weather it isn't fit for anybody to be in that stone cell. Sam may catch his death of cold."

"I am the best judge of my own actions, Rover, and need no advice from you. Your brother has broken the rules of this school, and must suffer for so doing."

"It's inhuman to make a fellow freeze," burst out Tom. "I don't believe Captain Putnam would do that."

"Not another word from either of you," came sharply from the teacher. "Your brother will not freeze to death, but the cold may teach him a useful lesson."

"If he gets sick, I'll get my father to hold you legally responsible," went on Tom.

At these words the teacher turned slightly pale, a vision of a lawsuit with damages to pay floating across his miserly mind.

"To ease your mind Rover, let me say I'll see to it that he doesn't get sick," he said, and before Tom or Dick could question him further he passed out of the room.

"If he isn't the worst yet!" burst out Fred, who had listened with interest to what was said.

"I shan't stand it," returned Tom. "Will you, Dick?"

Dick, older and more thoughtful, mused for a moment.

"I'd certainly like to help Sam," he said. "But we must be careful and not get into trouble with Captain Putnam."

"I'm going to find my way to the door of the cell somehow," went on Tom.

"Old Grinder left that door unlocked when he! came out," said George, who had joined them.

"Good? I'm going through before he comes back."

As good as his word, Tom slipped past the various tables at which the students were sitting, until he reached the door which connected with Captain Putnam's private apartments.

Usually this portion of the Hall was forbidden ground to the scholars. But Tom had been inside the rooms a number of times, so knew the way well. Passing through a private sitting room and a small library, he came to a narrow hall connecting with the main hall, at the end of which were the stone cell and the empty storeroom.

He was just about to step into the main hall when he heard somebody coming down from the floor above. The party was Mrs. Green, the housekeeper, a good-natured lady upon whom Tom had played many a joke in the past.

"Gosh! I mustn't be discovered!" he muttered, and looked around for some place to hide. Under the staircase was a recess containing a number of hooks with cloaks and overcoats, and into this he crowded, drawing one of the overcoats so as to completely cover the upper portion of his body.

Hardly had he gained the hiding place when Mrs. Green reached the lower hallway. Tom heard her pause at the foot of the stairs, strike a match, and light the big swinging lamp hanging from overhead.

"I might as well mend that overcoat now, while the captain is away," Tom heard her murmur to herself. "It's only a buttonhole that's torn out, and a tailor would charge him four times what it's worth--and he always so good at Christmas- time!"

"She's looking out for her present," thought Tom, with a grin. "But that's none of my affair. If only she isn't after this overcoat!"

He heard the housekeeper approach the recess and pause for a moment in front of it. He hardly dared to breathe, fearing that he would surely be discovered.

"Well, I declare, if he hasn't gone and worn the very overcoat itself!" he heard Mrs. Green cry. "Just like him, and two good coats a-hanging here. Well, I suppose it's the warmest he's got, and he'll have a cold ride back, especially if he returns to-night." And so speaking Mrs. Green hurried away.

"A narrow shave, and no mistake," murmured Tom to himself, and listened until he heard a distant door close. Then all was quiet, save the distant murmur of the student's voices, coming from the sitting room.

Without losing more time, Tom left the recess and hurried to the door of the stone cell.

"Sam!" he called out softly. "Are you in there?"

"No; I'm in here," came in the voice of Tubbs. "And--I'm almost frozen to--to--death." The last words with a chattering of teeth that told only too plainly how the rich youth was suffering.

"Sorry for you, Tubby, really I am. But where is Sam?"

"In the--the storeroom. Oh, Rover, won't you please ask Mr. Grinder to let me out? I'll freeze to death here, I know I will!"

"I'll do what I can. But he won't let you out. He isn't that kind of a fellow."

"You might buy him off, Rover. I've heard he's a regular miser, and I'll give you five dollars of my Christmas money if he'll let me go."

"I'll see what I can do after I've talked to Sam." And so speaking Tom hurried to the door of the storeroom.

"Tom, is it really you?" cried the youngest Rover joyfully.

"Yes. How are you making out?"

"Horribly. I believe my feet and ears are already frozen!"

"Grinder is a beast to put you in here, Sam."

"I know that well enough. He won't give me any supper, I'm afraid."

"Then I'll try to get some supper to you."

"Is the key of this door on a hook outside?"

"No. If it was I'd have the door open long ago."

Sam gave a deep sigh, and then began to dance around once more to keep warm.

"Perhaps I can find a key to fit this lock," went on Tom. "I know there are keys in some of the other doors."

He ran off and soon returned with four keys, which he tried, one after another. The third was a fair fit, and with an effort the bolt of the lock was forced back.

"Hurrah! the door's open!" exclaimed Tom. "Now you can go where you please."

"Then you wouldn't stay here?" questioned Sam anxiously.

"Not much! I'd hide in one of the dormitories, and I wouldn't show myself until Captain Putnam gets back. I'll see to it that you get something to eat, and when the captain returns you can tell him that if you had remained in this place all night you would have been frozen to death."

Sam was willing enough to take Tom's advice, and was soon in the hallway. Then the door was locked again.

"It's heartless to leave poor Tubby in that cell," said Tom. "Let's get him out too."

"All right--if you can find a key to fit the lock."

Losing no time, the brothers tried one key after another in the lock to the door of the stone cell.

"Who's that?" came in a chatter from Tubbs.

"Tom Rover," was the answer. "I've just released Sam, and now we are going to release you, if we can."

"Good for you Rover."

"There she goes!" cried Tom a few seconds later, and in a moment more the door was opened and Tubbs stood in the hallway with the Rover boys.

Tubbs was about to say something, when Sam suddenly caught him by the arm.

"Hush!" he whispered. "Somebody is coming! I hope it isn't old Grinder!"