5. A Scene In The Schoolroom.
 

In the meantime, what of affairs in the dormitory? Was all going as quietly as Tom had anticipated?

As soon as Tom went below Dick locked the door, then turned again to the window. Sam was trying to climb from one room to the next, but could not get a satisfactory hold.

"Here, give me your hand," cried Dick softly, and reaching forth he soon helped his brother to a position of safety.

"Say, aint it dangerous?" asked Tubbs anxiously, as he gazed to the ground, twenty feet below.

"You've got to run some risks, Tubbs," said Dick. "Quick, or you may be too late."

Fearful of a fall, the rich youth put out one foot and a hand. Dick tried to reach him, but was unable to do so.

"A little further, Tubbs," he said encouragingly.

"I--I'm afraid I'll fall," was the trembling answer. Then the rich youth let out a cry of alarm. "Somebody is coming!"

"Come" cried Dick, and reached out a trifle further. As Tubbs gave the eldest Rover his fingers Dick hauled him from the window and literally swung him into the dormitory. Then, as Tubbs landed in a heap on the floor, Sam closed the window and locked it.

"Now you must clear out to another room!" cried Dick. "Whoever was coming will find that window wide open, and guess you have escaped in this direction."

"But where can we go to?" asked the rich youth.

"Go to Dormitory No. 6. Only young Adler is in there, and Hemmingway, and they are on a vacation until after Christmas. The closet is a big one, and you can both hide on the upper shelf. Quick! I'll bring you some supper."

All three left the dormitory, and Sam and Tubbs scurried off in the direction indicated. As for Dick, he lost no time in reaching the mess hall.

"Sorry, sir," he said to the under-teacher. "The bell couldn't have rung very loud."

"It rang as loud as usual," was the answer, and no more was said, the teacher's head being just then full of other matters.

Glad to get off so easily, Dick lost no time in eating his supper. While making way with the food he stowed a goodly portion in his pockets, in a couple of spare napkins, and by some silent motions from Tom learned that his brother was doing the same.

Just as the students were finishing the meal, Jasper Grinder came in and walked down the aisles between the tables. He looked both angry and perplexed. As he came close to Tom he paused.

"Excuse me, Mr. Grinder, but won't you let Sam out of the stone cell?" asked Tom, to avoid being questioned.

"You be silent Rover," muttered the teacher, and passed on without saying more.

After the supper hour it was usual for the students to have half an hour to themselves, during which they might read, play games, or do as they pleased. But now Mr. Grinder called them together in the main classroom.

"I wish to talk to you young gentlemen," said the teacher, when all were seated.

"We're going to catch it now," whispered Tom to Dick. "Don't you give the secret away."

"Indeed I won't," answered the eldest Rover. "I intend to lay the whole case before Captain Putnam as soon as he returns."

"Silence!" thundered Jasper Grinder. "I want you boys to stop talking instantly."

"I didn't say anything," murmured several in an undertone.

"Silence, I say!" repeated the master, and then all became so quiet that the ticking of the clock could be heard distinctly.

The teacher gazed around at the scores of faces and looked more stem than ever.

"I am going to question all of you separately, and I trust each of you will tell the truth. The question is, Do you know what has become of Samuel Rover and William Tubbs? or Do you know what they have done? I shall start with the first boy. Hickley, what have you to say?"

"I don't know anything about them," answered the boy named Hickley.

"Brainard, do you know?"

"No, sir."

"Parkham?"

"I know they had a little set-to in the gymnasium, but that's all. The whole thing was a friendly bout, I guess."

"I am the best judge of that. It was a disgraceful fight. What have you to say, Griggs?"

"If you say it was disgraceful I suppose it was, sir. I thought it was only a friendly dispute----"

"Stop! I want you to answer the original questions, yes, or no."

"No."

"No, what?"

"No, to both original questions."

"No, sir!" and Jasper Grinder stamped his foot.

"Oh! All right, sir. No, sir, to both questions, sir."

There was a titter at this, which caused Jasper Grinder to grow red in the face.

"Boys, be quiet!" he shouted. "If you do not be still I will keep all of you in to-morrow."

As this would have spoiled the chances for a good skate and some exciting races, the boys immediately subsided. Then the questioning went on until Dick Rover was reached.

"I don't know where Sam and Tubbs are now," said Dick. "Perhaps they are frozen stiff."

"Did you aid them in escaping from the stone cell and the storeroom?"

"No, sir."

"Have you seen them since I placed them there?"

"Yes, I have," answered Dick boldly, seeing it was useless to beat about the bush longer.

"Oh! Then you did aid them to escape?"

"Not from the stone cell and the storeroom. I met them after they had escaped."

"Where did you see them last?"

"I decline to answer that question."

"Decline!" thundered Jasper Grinder.

"I do, sir. As soon as Captain Putnam arrives I shall lay this whole matter before him, and learn if you have any authority for placing my brother in a place where he is liable to catch a cold which may give him pneumonia and be the cause of his death. As it is, my brother suffered a great deal, and so did Tubbs, and if they get sick from it you may be sure that you will be held legally accountable. It was an inhuman thing to do."

As Dick finished there was a murmur, and then a number of the students broke out into applause, while Tom clapped his hands as hard as he could. Jasper Grinder stood at his desk dumbstruck, with his face growing paler each instant.

"Silence! silence!" he exclaimed, when he could control his voice. "Silence, I say, or I will cane you all! This is--is most unseemly--it is--er--mutiny! Silence!"

"I mean just what I say, Mr. Grinder," went on Dick, when he could be heard. "You are master here, and we are bound to obey you, in certain things. But you shan't keep my brother in an icy room all night, and on a supper of stale bread and cold water. Such treatment would almost make a mule sick,"

"Rover, will you be silent, or must I get the cane?" gasped Jasper Grinder, almost beside himself with rage.

"If you get your cane, sir, you won't hit me more than once with it."

"Won't I? We'll see who is master here."

"My gracious! Is he really going to try to cane you, Dick!" exclaimed Tom.

"I suppose he is," was the cool answer. "He is so angry he doesn't know what he is doing."

Rushing from the classroom Jasper Grinder presently reappeared, carrying a cane which looked as if it might hurt a good deal, if vigorously applied.

Tom could not help but grin. Dick was almost as tall as the school-teacher, and probably just as strong, and the idea of a caning appeared ridiculous in the extreme.

Caning was not allowed at Putnam Hall, but evidently Jasper Grinder meant to take matters in his own hands.

"Richard Rover, come up here," he thundered.

"What for, sir?"

"To receive the punishment you so richly deserve."

"Mr. Grinder, you haven't any right to cane me. It's against Captain Putnam's rules."

"I don't care for the rules--I mean, you have acted in such an outrageous manner that I must do whatever I think necessary to uphold law and order."

"I am willing to stand whatever punishment Captain Putnam sees fit to inflict. But I shall not take a caning from you."

"Won't you? We'll see."

As Jasper Grinder spoke he leaped from the platform and strode rapidly toward the spot where Dick was standing.

The eldest Rover did not budge, but remained where he was, eying the enraged school-teacher determinedly.

"Don't you dare to strike!" he said warningly, as the cane was raised over his head.

"I will!" cried Jasper Grinder, and was about to bring the cane down with all force when Tom caught it from behind and wrenched it from his grasp.