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CHAPTER VIII


A MOVE IN THE DARK


Dave took the bunch of keys from his pocket and approached the door. He tried one key after another, but none of them appeared to fit. Then Phil brought out such keys as he possessed, but all proved unavailable.

"That is one idea knocked in the head," said Dave, and heaved a sigh.

"I am going to tackle the bread and milk," said Phil. "It is better than nothing."

"It won't make us suffer from indigestion either," answered Dave, with a short laugh.

Sitting on some of the old schoolbooks the two youths ate the scanty meal Job Haskers had provided. To help pass the time they made the meal last as long as possible, eating every crumb of the bread and draining the milk to the last drop. The bread was stale, and they felt certain the teacher had furnished that which was old on purpose.

"I'll wager he'd like to hammer the life out of us," was Phil's comment. "Just wait and see the story he cooks up to tell Doctor Clay!"

"Wonder what the other fellows think of our absence, Phil?"

"Maybe they have asked Haskers about it."

Having disposed of all there was to eat and drink, the two lads walked around the little room to keep warm. Then Dave went at the door again, examining the lock with great care, and feeling of the hinges.

"Well, I declare!" he cried, almost joyfully.

"What now, Dave?"

"This door has hinges that set into this room and are held together by little rods running from the top to the bottom of each hinge. If we can take out the two rods, I am almost certain we can open the door from the hinge side!"

This was interesting news, and Phil came forward to aid Dave in removing the tiny rod which held the two parts of each hinge together. It was no easy task, for the rods were somewhat rusted, but at last both were removed, and then the boys felt the door give way at that point.

Now that they could get out, Phil wanted to know what was to be done next.

"I think I'll go out and hunt up something to eat on the sly," answered Dave. "Then we can come back here and wait for Doctor Clay's arrival."

"Good! I'll go with you. I don't want you to run the risk alone."

They waited until they felt that the dining room was deserted and then pried the door open and stole from their prison. Tiptoeing their way through the side hall, they reached a door which led to a big pantry, connecting the dining room and the kitchen. As they had anticipated, the pantry held many good things on its shelves, and a waiter was bringing in more food from the tables.

"Quick—take what you want!" whispered Dave, when the waiter had disappeared, and catching up a plate that contained some cold sliced tongue he added to it some baked beans, some bread and jam, and two generous slices of cake.

Phil understood, and taking another plate he got some of the baked beans, some cold ham, some bread and cheese, and a pitcher of milk. Then the two boys espied some crullers and stuffed several in their pockets. Then Dave saw a candle and captured that.

"He's coming back—skip!" whispered Phil, and ran out of the pantry with Dave at his heels. A moment later the waiter came in with more things, but he did not catch them, nor did he notice what they had taken.

As quickly as they could, the two boys returned to the book-room, and setting the stuff on the books, they lit the candle, and placed the rods back into the hinges of the door. So that, nobody might see the light, they placed a sheet of paper over the keyhole of the door, and a row of books on the floor against the doorsill.

"Now we'll have a little better layout than that provided by Mr. Dictatorial Haskers," said Dave, and he proceeded to arrange some of the schoolbooks in a square in the center of the floor. "Might as well have a table while we are at it."

"And a couple of chairs," added Phil, and arranged more books for that purpose. Then they spread a sheet of paper over the "table," put a plate at either end, and the two sat down.

"It's a shame to make you eat without a fork, Phil," said Dave, solemnly. "But if you'd rather go hungry——"

"Not on your collar-button!" cried the shipowner's son. "A pocketknife is good enough for me this trip," and he fell to eating with great gusto, and Dave did the same, for what food they had had before had only been "a flea bite," as Dave expressed it.

Having eaten the most of the food taken from the pantry they placed the remainder on the plates on a bookshelf. Then Dave looked at his watch.

"Half-past eight," he said. "Wonder how long we are to be kept here?"

"Don't ask me, I was never good at conundrums," answered Phil, lightly. Plenty to eat had put him in a good humor. "Maybe till morning, Dave."

Dave Porter Classmates p091.jpg

"It's a shame to make you eat without a fork, Phil."
Page 74.


"I shan't stay here until morning—without a bed or coverings."

"What will you do?"

"Go up to the dormitory—after all the lights are out."

"Good! Wonder why I didn't think of that?"

"You ate too much, that's why." And Dave grinned. He, too, felt better now that he had fully satisfied his appetite.

Slowly the time went by till ten o'clock came. The prisoners heard tramping overhead, which told them the other students were retiring. They looked for a visit from Job Haskers, but the teacher did not show himself.

"He is going to keep us here until the doctor gets back, that is certain," said Dave.

"But the doctor may not come back to-night. I heard him say something the other day about going to Boston."

At last the school became quiet. By this time the boys' candle had burnt itself out, leaving them in total darkness. By common impulse they moved toward the door.

"What if we meet Murphy?" asked Phil.

"We'll do our best to avoid him, but if we do see him I rather think he'll side with us and keep quiet," answered Dave. "I know he hates Haskers as much as we do."

Hiding what was left of their meal in a corner of a shelf, behind some books, the two lads stole into the semi-dark hall and up one of the broad stairs. They met nobody and gained their dormitory with ease. Going inside, each undressed in the dark and prepared to retire.

"Who's up?" came sleepily from Roger.

"Hush, Roger," whispered Dave.

"Oh, so it's you! Where have you been, and what did old Haskers do to you?"

In a few brief words Dave and Phil explained what had taken place.

"We'll tell you the rest in the morning," said Phil, and then he and Dave hopped into bed and under the warm covers. Less than a minute later, however, Dave sat up and listened intently. He had heard the front door of the school building bang shut in the rising wind.

"Phil!"

"What is it now, Dave?"

"I think I just heard Doctor Clay come in."

"Oh, bother! I'm going to sleep," said the shipowner's son, with a yawn. "I don't think he'll trouble us to-night."

"I'm going to see what happens," answered Dave, and got up again. Soon he had on a dressing gown and slippers, and was tiptoeing his way down the hallway. He heard a murmur of voices below, and knew then that both the doctor and Mr. Dale had arrived. Then he heard Mr. Dale walk to the rear of the lower floor, and heard somebody else come out of the library.

"Mr. Haskers, what is it?" he heard Doctor Clay say.

"I must consult you about two of the students, sir," answered Job Haskers. "They have acted in a most disgraceful manner. They attacked me on the road with icy snowballs, nearly ruining my right ear, and when I called them to account in the office one of them began to fight and broke your statue of Mercury."

"Is it possible!" ejaculated the doctor, in pained surprise. "Who were the pupils?"

"David Porter and Philip Lawrence."

"Is this true, Mr. Haskers? Porter and Lawrence are usually well-behaved students."

"They acted like ruffians, sir—especially Porter, who attacked me and broke the statue."

"I will look into this without delay. Where are they now—in their room?"

"No, I locked them up in the book-room, to await your arrival. I did not deem it wise to give them their liberty."

"Ahem! prisoners in the book-room, eh? This is certainly serious. They cannot remain in the room all night."

"It would serve them right to keep them there," grumbled Job Haskers.

"There are no cots in that room for them to rest on."

"Then let them rest on the floor! The young rascals deserve it."

"Perhaps I'd better talk it over with the boys and see what they have to say, Mr. Haskers," went on the doctor, in a mild tone. "I do not believe in being too harsh with the students. Perhaps they only snowballed you as a bit of sport."

"Doctor Clay, do you uphold them in such an action?" demanded the irascible instructor.

"By no means, Mr. Haskers, but—boys will be boys, you know, and we mustn't be too hard on them if they occasionally go too far."

"Porter broke that statue,—and defied me!"

"If he broke the statue, he'll have to pay for it,—and if he defied you in the exercise of your proper authority, he shall be punished. But I want to hear what they have to say. We'll go to the book-room at once, release them, and take them to my office."

"It won't be necessary to go to the book-room, Doctor Clay," called out Dave from the upper landing.

"Why—er—is that you, Porter!"

"How did you get out?" cried Job Haskers, in consternation. "Didn't I lock that door?"

"You did, but Phil Lawrence and I got out, nevertheless," answered Dave.

"Where is Lawrence?"

"Up in our room in bed, and I was in bed, too, but got up when the doctor came in," added Dave.

"Well, I never!" stormed Job Haskers. "You see how it is, Doctor Clay; they have even broken out of the book-room after I told them to stay there!"

"We weren't going to stay in a cold room all night with no beds to sleep on, and only bread and milk for supper," went on Dave. "I wouldn't treat my worst enemy that way."

"Did you say you were in bed when I came in?" questioned Doctor Clay.

"Yes, sir—and Phil is there now, unless he just got up."

"Here I am," came a voice from behind Dave, and the shipowner's son put in an appearance. "Do you want us to come downstairs, Doctor? If you do, I'll have to go back and put on my clothes and shoes."

"And I'll have to go back and dress, too," added Dave. Doctor Clay mused a moment.

"As you are undressed you may as well retire," he said. "I will look into this matter to-morrow morning, or Monday morning."

"Thank you, sir," said both boys.

"But, sir——" commenced Job Haskers.

"It is too late to take up the case now," interrupted Doctor Clay. "There is no use in arousing anybody at this time of night. Besides, I am very tired. We'll all go to bed, and sift this thing out later. Boys, you may go."

"Thank you, sir. Good-night."

And without waiting for another word the two chums hurried to their dormitory, leaving Job Haskers and the doctor alone.