4. Dormitory Number Two.
 

For the moment none of the three students knew what to do. They felt that if the approaching personage should be Jasper Grinder there would certainly be "a warm time of it," to say the least.

Yet the approaching man was not the teacher, but Peleg Snuggers, the man of all work around the Hall, a good-natured individual, well liked by nearly all the students. Snuggers was in the habit of taking many a joke from the scholars, yet he rarely retaliated, contenting himself with the saying that "boys will be boys."

"It's Snuggers!" whispered Sam, after a painful pause. "What shall we do?"

"Perhaps we can get him to keep quiet," returned Tom, also in a low voice. "He's a pretty good sort."

"Do--don't trust him," put in Tubbs, in a trembling voice. "If I'm put back in that cell I'll die; I know I will!"

"I have it," said Tom, struck by a sudden idea. "Into the storeroom with you, quick!

"But he may be coming after me!" said Sam.

"Never mind--I'll fix it. Be quick, or the game will be up!"

On tiptoe the three students hurried into the storeroom and Tom shut the door noiselessly. Then he slipped the key he still held into the lock and turned it.

"Now groan, Sam," he whispered. "Pretend to be nearly dead, and ask Peleg to bring Grinder here."

Catching the idea, Sam began to moan and groan most dismally, in the midst of which Peleg Snuggers came up.

"Poor boy, I reckon as how he's nearly stiff from the cold," murmured Snuggers. "And this bread and water won't warm him up nohow. I've most a mind to bring him some hot tea on the sly, and a sandwich, too."

The general utility man tried to insert a key in the lock, but failed on account of the key on the inside.

"Oh! oh!" moaned Sam. "Help! help!"

"What's the row?" questioned Snuggers.

"Is that you, Snuggers?"

"Yes, Master Rover."

"I'm most frozen to death! My feet and ears are frozen stiff already!"

"It's a shame!"

"Tell Mr. Grinder to come here."

"He won't come, I'm afraid. He just sent me with some bread and water for you and for Master Tubbs."

"Water? Do you want me to turn into ice? Oh, Snuggers, please send him. I know I can't stand this half an hour longer. I'll be a corpse!"

"All right, I'll fetch him," answered Snuggers. And setting down the pitcher of water and loaf of bread he had been carrying he hurried off.

"Now is our time!" whispered Tom, as soon as he was certain the man of all work was gone.

"But which way shall we go?" questioned Sam

"Follow me, and I'll show you."

Leaving the storeroom, Tom led the way through the semi-dark hallway and up the stairs. At the rear of the upper hall was a bedroom reserved for the captain's private guests.

"Come in here for the present," said Tom. And when I tap on the window unlock the sash and be prepared to climb from the window to the next, which connects with Dormitory No. 2."

"Good for you!" said Sam. "But how are you going to get to the dormitory?"

"Leave that to me."

Leaving Sam and Tubbs to take care of themselves, Tom left the bedroom and walked out in the upper hall once more.

He was just in time to hear Peleg Snuggers returning with Jasper Grinder.

"It's all nonsense," he heard, in the teacher'? harsh voice. "The cold will do both of the boys good."

"He said he was half frozen," insisted Snuggers. "If anything serious-like happened to them, I dunno what the captain would say."

"I know nothing serious will happen," growled Jasper Grinder. "He was merely trying to work upon your sympathies. Both could stay there till morning easily enough."

"The wretch!" murmured Tom to himself. "I'm mighty glad I let them out!"

A few seconds later he heard a cry of dismay.

"Rover is gone!"

"Gone?" came from Snuggers.

"Yes, gone. Snuggers did you leave the door unlocked?"

"No, sir, I couldn't get the key in the lock Here it is." And the general utility man produced it.

"Ah! here is a key on the inside. What can this mean?"

"I don't know, sir. I left him a-groanin' only a few minutes ago."

"It is very strange." Jasper Grinder gazed around the empty storeroom. "Did you hear anything from Master Tubbs?"

"No, sir."

The teacher stepped out of the storeroom and made his way to the stone cell.

"He is gone too!" he ejaculated.

"Really, sir, did you say 'gone'?" cried Peleg Snuggers, in dismay.

"Yes. This is--ah--outrageous, Snuggers. Where can they be?"

"I'm sure I don't know, sir. Master Rover got out mighty quick."

"Look for them among the students, and if you find them bring them to me at once."

"I will, sir."

As soon as Peleg Snuggers had departed Jasper Grinder looked around the storeroom and the stone cell to learn if he could find any trace of the boys.

This gave Tom the chance to slip through the captain's private rooms and into the students' quarters.

"Well, how did you make out?" was Dick's impatient question. "You've been gone an age."

"Come with me and I'll tell you," said Tom, and taking his brother and several chums aside he related what had occurred.

"Keep them there all night, and on bread and water!" cried Dick. "It is awful. I'm sure the captain won't stand for it."

"To be sure he won't," came from Fred Garrison. "But what are you going to do next?"

"Let them in the dormitory window."

Tom led the way upstairs and into Dormitory No. 2. There were four windows in a row, and six beds, three occupied by the Rovers and the others by Fred, Larry, and George Granbury.

Going to the corner window Tom threw it wide open. It was growing dark outside, for it was now half-past six. As he stuck his head out of the window there was the rattle of a drum down in the mess hall.

"Supper time!" cried Fred.

"You go down," said Tom. "No use of all of us being late."

"No, you go down," answered Dick. "You've run risk enough. Besides, if you are absent from the crowd too long somebody may grow suspicious of you. I'll help Sam and Tubbs to a safe hiding-place."

"Find out if they are there first--and lock the door after we are gone."

Leaning out of the window Dick tapped on the next glass. At once Sam showed himself.

"It's quite a climb, but I reckon I can make it," said the youngest Rover.

Waiting to hear no more, Tom hurried below, followed by Fred, and mingled with the crowd of students entering the mess hall.

Many of the boys were talking about the quarrel between Sam and Tubbs, and all condemned the actions of Jasper Grinder.

"He ought to have set them to doing extra lessons; that would have been punishment enough," said one of the big boys, who was captain of Company A of the students for that term.

This opinion was that held by the majority. Several of the boys came to Tom to learn what he had to say. But he merely shrugged his shoulders.

"Wait and we'll see what we will see," he said

"Rover's got a card up his sleeve, that's as sure as you're born," said one of the students, and winked at Tom. But Tom only looked wise and turned away.

When the students sat down to eat it was noticed that Dick's chair was vacant.

"Master Thomas Rover, do you know anything of your brother Richard?" asked an under-teacher.

"Perhaps he is having a talk with Mr. Grinder," said Tom.

"Oh!" Then the under-teacher noticed that Mr. Grinder's chair was also vacant, and said no more.

While the boys were eating, Peleg Snuggers came to the door and looked carefully about the mess hall.

"You won't find them here, Peleg," said Tom to himself. Then the man of all work disappeared, and the supper continued as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening.