Chapter XXV. Mumps is Taught a Lesson
 

The cadets stared blankly at each other. Only two of them were undressed; the others had all of their clothing on.

It was time for the head assistant to go the rounds, to see that all was right for the night. Should he be allowed to enter the dormitory he would certainly "smell a mouse," and perhaps knock all of their plans for a feast in the head.

Off with your clothing, all of you!" whispered Torn. "I'll manage this affair. Pretend to be asleep."

"But, Tom, it's my fault --" began Dick, when his younger brother cut him short.

"Into the bed -- I'll be all right, Dick."

Satisfied that Tom had some plan in his head for smoothing matters over, the other boys disrobed with marvelous rapidity and crept into their beds. While this was going on the knocking an the door continued.

"Boys, open the door!" said George Strong. "Open the door, do you hear?"

"Answer him!" whispered Tom to Larry, whose bed was nearest him. "Pretend you have just awoke," and he flung himself on the floor, with one of a pair of big rubber boots in each hand.

"Oh -- er -- Mr. Strong, is that you?"

"Yes, open the door."

"Why -- er -- is it locked?

"Yes."

At once Larry tumbled from his bed, unlocked the door and stood there rubbing his eyes. "Excuse me, Sir, for not hearing you before."

"I want to know what the meaning is of the noise in here?" said George Strong severely, as he gazed around the dimly lit apartment, for the lamp was turned low. "You boys are -- gracious me! What's this?"

The teacher started back in genuine surprise, and his words aroused all of the boys in the beds, who followed his gaze in equal wonder.

For in the center of the floor sat Tom, his eyes tightly closed, a rubber boot in each hand, and rocking backward and forward with great rapidity, as if rowing.

"Two lengths ahead!" muttered Tom. "I'll beat you yet, Larry! Three lengths! Oh, but this is a dandy race! Pull away, you can't beat me! Oh! There goes an oar," and, bang! went one of the rubber boots against the base board, and Tom made a leap if diving into the water after it, sprawling and spluttering as he pretended to swim.

"He's got the nightmare again!" shouted out Sam, quick to understand Tom's dodge. "Tom, wake up there!" I

"The nightmare!" echoed Mr. Strong. "Is it possible? Poor boy! Wake up, Thomas!" and he caught Tom by the shoulder and shook him and finally set him on his feet.

"The oar -- I will have the - Oh!" Tom opened his eyes and stared around him blankly. "Why -- er -- what's up?"

"My boy, you've had the nightmare," answered the teacher kindly.

"Nightmare!"

"I told you not to eat that pie tonight," put in Sam. "He saved his pie from dinner, and ate it just before we came up here," -- which was true.

"Er -- I thought I was on the lake racing Larry Colby," murmured Tom and hid his face as if in embarrassment. "What did I do?" he faltered.

"You almost raised the roof, that's what you did," answered Dick. "You had better send home for some of those digestion tablets you used to take," and then he hid his face in the blankets to keep from laughing out loud.

"I will." Tom turned to George Strong. "Excuse me, Mr. Strong, I am, sorry I have caused you so much trouble."

"How do you feel now?" questioned the assistant anxiously.

"Oh, I'm all right now."

"Well, then, go to bed; and I trust you steep more soundly for the balance of the night," said the teacher; and he remained in the room until Tom was tucked in, when he went off, taking the key of the door with him.

"Tom, you're a brick!" came from Frank, when the teacher was out of hearing. "What a head you have on your shoulders!"

"Strong took the key of the door," said Fred.

"I don't like that."

"Shove a chair-back up under the knob," suggested Dick, and this was done, the chair thus making an excellent brace.

"Now to get that stuff in," said Dick, donning his clothing with all possible speed. "I shouldn't wonder if the soda and root beer are frozen as hard as a rock."

He was soon ready to descend, and the others lowered him by aid of the wash line. Then the boxes and packages were hoisted up, and Dick came after.

A few minutes later came a slight tapping on the door, repeated three times. It was a signal, and Sam opened the door, admitting George Granbury and seven other cadets from dormitory No. 2. The occupants of several other dormitories followed.

"Are we to have Mumps and his crowd in here?" asked one of the newcomers.

"I don't want Mumps," answered Dick. "Not because he ran against me, but because he was Baxter's toady and is a regular sneak."

"Little Luke Walton and Mark Gross voted for you, Dick," said Harry Blossom. "They ought to be invited."

"All right, tell them to come in, and anybody else who wishes, outside of Mumps," answered Dick.

The young captain went off, and soon returned with six boys of Sam's age or younger.

"Mumps is awfully mad," he announced. "My idea is, he is going to cause us trouble if he can."

"We'll wax him good if he does!" cried Tom. "Say, Sam, let us watch him," and he hurried into the hallway, while the others attacked the several good things Dick had provided for them.

Tom and Sam had been in the dark hallway but two minutes when the door of Mumps' dormitory opened and the sneak came out, wearing his slippers and his long overcoat. He glided swiftly toward the side stairs leading to Captain Putnam's private apartments.

"He's going to peach!" whispered Tom, "Come on, Sam, let us capture the enemy!" and he hurried after Mumps and caught him by the arm.

"Hi! who is this?" demanded the sneak, turning in fear. Then, as Tom and Sam confronted him, his face grew white.

"Come with us, Mumps, we want to treat you," answered Tom readily, into whose head another trick had entered.

"I don't want any of your treat," growled the sneak. "Let me go."

"Oh, you must come," urged Tom. "We have a fine bottle of root beer and a lot of candied fruit for you."

If there was one thing that Mumps liked, it was root beer, while he knew candied fruit was very rich eating. Accordingly he hesitated.

"I'll get all I can first and tell on them afterward," he thought, and allowed Tom, and Sam to conduct him into the dormitory occupied by the Metropolitan Sextet.

"Here is Mumps come to join us!" cried Tom, as he introduced the sneak into the room and he winked at Dick. "Now, Mumps, sit down and make yourself at home, and I'll get something for you," and he motioned the sneak to a position at the head of his bed.

He hurried off, and presently came back to Mumps with a fine slice of candied orange. The sneak was greedy, and instantly transferred the entire slice to his mouth and began to chew it vigorously.

"Oh!" he cried presently, and drew down his face in disgust.

"What's the matter, Mumps?" asked Sam.

"This orange tastes like kerosene!" spluttered Mumps, and rushed to the window. As he put out his head, Tom pointed to the sneak and then to the lamp at which he had "flavored" the candied fruit. "We'll get square just wait," he whispered. ""You gave me that howled piece on purpose..." the sneak, as soon as he had cleared his mouth. "Oh, what an awful dose! Somebody give me a drink of water."

"The water is all gone, Mumps," answered Tom. "Awfully sorry. Have a glass of root beer," and he poured out a tumbler full.

Willing to drink anything to take that taste out of his mouth, the sneak took the tumbler and gulped down about half of the root beer.

The remainder was about to follow, when suddenly he stopped short. "Oh, my!"

"Awfully good, isn't it?" put in Dick.

"Good? It tastes like salt water!" snorted Mumps. And he was not far wrong, for Tom had taken the pains to put a lot of salt in to the glass before filling it up.

"Why, that is the best root beer I ever tasted," put in Larry. "It's as sweet as sugar. Let me taste your glass, Mumps."

"Do so with pleasure," and the sneak passed it over. Larry pretended to take a gulp. "Fine! Couldn't be better. Isn't that so, Frank?" and he passed the glass to Hairrington. "It's certainly as good as mine, and that's O. K.," answered Frank; and then George Granbury took the tumbler and declared the root beer was even better than what he had had previously.

"It's certainly your stomach, Mumps, my boy," said Tom. "You look kind of funny -- just like a fellow I knew who got the smallpox."

"He does look like a fellow getting the smallpox," put in Dick. "Mumps, does your tongue feel dry-like?"

"Dry, of course it is dry -- and salty," growled Mumps, but he began to grow uneasy.

"Let me see your tongue," put in Sam, who happened to have a blue pencil in his pocket. As he spoke he broke off some of the blue point and crumbled it in his fingers.

"My tongue is all right," answered Mumps. Nevertheless, he held it out; and Sam slyly dropped the bluing on it.

"It's as blue as indigo!" he exclaimed, "Look into the glass for yourself."

Somewhat against his will, Mumps strode over to the looking glass. As he noted the condition of his tongue, he grew very pale and began to tremble.

"It is blue," he whined, "and -- and -- I feel sick all over. Oh, say, do you think I really am getting the smallpox?"

For an instant there was a dead silence. Then the boys could hold in no longer, and a long but smothered laugh showed the sneak how completely he had been sold.