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Hardly glancing at Ford, the old man seated himself in the proffered arm-chair and remained for some moments in silence, nervously tapping the carpet with his heavy cane. The silence became unbearable to Ford.
“You-er-have some news for me,” he began.
"Yes," came the slow reply, "I have.” Then he went on, still without raising his eyes: “I cannot understand it, Ford, how you could do such a thing.”
Something in the professor's tone and posture, more than in the words themselves, sent a chill through Ford.
"It must be then that I-er-didn't get off," he said, in a scarcely audible tone.
The professor raised his head and looked squarely into Ford's startled face. “No,” he said, "you did not. Instead, you have been, by vote of the faculty committee, expelled from college.”
The old teacher was trembling now with suppressed feeling, and he went on, his voice rising: “I could not have believed you guilty of such dishonor, had it not been proven by the testimony, given reluctantly enough, of one of your own classmen, a man of unsullied reputation with the faculty-testimony that could not be doubted. I have nothing more to say to you, sir. I knew your father before you, and he was a man, above all else, of honesty and integrity. To me, sir, you are the biggest disappointment that ever entered this college." He arose and abruptly left the room.
For several minutes Ford sat there, stunned by what he had just heard. The heavy tunk, tunk, of the old professor's cane, as he groped his way down through the dark corridors, came up to him, but he did not hear. In his ears still rang those terrible parting words: "The biggest disappointment in college !" The familiar objects in the room swam before his eyes; the air seemed stifling. Mechanically he arose, put on his hat and coat, descended the stairs with uncertain steps and left the hall by a back door, instinctively avoiding the merry crowd out in front.
He walked aimlessly and fast. At first he felt dazed and could not think, but the night air and stillness calmed him and he began, sanely, to realize what had happened, and to consider how it had come about. "Testimony of a classmate,” he muttered, "unsullied reputation with the faculty,” he stopped short with an exclamation of amazement as the whole startling truth suddenly dawned upon him. Percy Norcross had accused him of the theft which he had, himself, committed !
None but Ford knew of that night, last October, when, returnin on a late car from town, he had caught Norcross emerging from the window of the secretary's office; of how, the next morning, Norcross had come to his room with a pale, frightened face, said he was repentant, and had begged him to say nothing to incriminate him at the investigation. He had pitied the coward and had promised to say nothing of what he knew What suffering had that promise meant for him, in all these months which he had passed under the ban of a probation which reflected discredit on the dearest thing in life to him—his honor. He ground his teeth with anger as the full meaning of it all came over him; the injustice, the ingratitude, the cowardly meanness of the man whom he had protected.
But he could fix it up tomorrow. He would tell all he knew, and the scoundrel should get his just deserts. Then came an alarming thought! Would his testimony be taken, after all this time, against that of the aristocratic Norcross, backed by his father's influence, and, as Pa Sanders had just said, standing well in faculty estimation ? What would his unsupported words avail against all of those things ? Ah! Norcross had counted well the costs! His consummate cunning had foreseen these things and he had taken no chances. No, it was too late now to save himself; he must leave college tomorrow ; leave college and go back to the little Vermont village with that terrible stigma of dishonor on his name.
He was standing on the little slope back of Dean, which leads down to the old campus. He felt weak and dizzzy, and sank down in the long grass. How could he go back and face his mother, the dearest mother in the world, who had such high hopes of him and who had economized and saved their little store that her boy might have a college education. As he looked into the dreary future a feeling of bitterest resentment rose in him against the man who had so cruelly wronged him.
Several men came out of Dean and passed close to him, talking in low, guarded tones. “Got the stuff all right, have you, Jim?" asked one.
“Yes," replied Jim Akeley's growling voice, “and everything else, I guess, that's necessary. A little smoke is next to salt, you know, for curing fresh things," and he uttered a low chuckle of satisfaction. The men passed on out of sight behind the corner of the dormitory.
Ford heard the words as one in a dream and paid no attention to their import. Faintly the words of a college song came floating down from West:
"For it's always faith weather
When Tufts fellows get together,
The last lingering note of the chorus died away and all was quiet. The moon sank slowly down behind the Arlington hills and its parting rays fell full upon the silent figure stretched out in the grass and on the pallid, upturned face, staring fixedly at the stars.
It had ever been the boast of big Jim Akeley that he never forgot an injury. All the year he had been chafing under the ridicule which the freshman, Norcross, had brought upon him, and this night, with the aid of three of his sophomore pals, rough and unscrupulous as himself, he proposed to carry out his carefully laid plans for revenge. The four waited till the moon had disappeared and darkness settled down upon the slumbering hill. Then they walked stealthily around to the back of East Hall. The window of the freshman's room was open, as they had hoped. Jim listened till he was certain, from the heavy breathing, that his victim was sound asleep, then he and one of the others removed their shoes, and in perfect silence entered the room. The startled Norcross was but a child in those powerful arms. Before he could utter a sound he was gagged and blindfolded.
Then they bound him hand and foot with some rope Jim carried; threw a long overcoat, which was hanging near the bed, over him, and handed him outside to the two waiting there. In silence they carried him across the deserted quadrangle and entered the chapel ty nieans of a key which Jim produced. Then they took him up through the open trap-door to the first landing in the tower and up the ladder to the second floor, where they laid him down and left him. Going down they stopped at the first landing to kindle a smulge of evil-smelling chemicals in an old pan which one of the men had brought along.
"There," muttered Jim, as the smoke began to rise, "iifteen minutes of that won't hurt him much, but it'll give him soniething to think about or I'm no guesser," and they went down.
"Old Cap, the watchman's all right, of course," said one, a bit nervously, as they stood waiting for the smoke to make its anpearance at the little windows far up on the tower.
“Couldn't drag him out,” assured Jim. "Neeley's been thinking up stories for a week to keep the old man interested.”
Just then a thin line of smoke drifted out from the tower, and immediately there came a blinding flash at the windows, accompanied by a smothered report. In an instant Jim Akeley understood what had happened. The chemicals, carelessly mixed in the pan, had exploded! He turned fiercely on the man next him: "What does this mean, Hutchins, you mixed that stuff, didn't
“Too much sodium, I guess," said the other, sullenly. “I put in a pinch, just to keep the thing going. You needn't be so ugly about it, Jim; no harm done, only he'll get it all at once.”
Nevertheless they were frightened and quickly re-entered the chapel and ascended to the opening at the first landing. It was closed! Jim Akeley put his broad shoulders against the obstacle, but it would not move.
Hutchins scratched a match and they saw that the trap-door, jarred by the explosion, had fallen back into place and automatically locked. They stared at each other with white, scared faces, in the trembling light of the match. In the silence three long, shrill whistles came to their ears—Neeley's signal for them should the watchman leave West Hall.
“Down with you,” cried Jim, in a hoarse voice. “We can't get up, and we mustn't be found here !"
The four hurried down and skulked away in different directions in the darkness, just as the old watchman, lantern in hand, appeared at the corner of Ballou, going his rounds.
Horace Ford rose from the grass and walked slowly up toward West Hall. It had been a bitter struggle, but he was decided. He would leave college on an early train tomorrow. He could not bear to meet the fellows again, and the earlier he left, the better. Tonight he would pack his trunk, and later he could send for the rest of his things. It had always been his lot, somehow, to suffer for the misdoings of others more cunning than he, and there seemed nothing for him to do but go. His mother would believe his story, he knew that. He would write it to Pa Sanders, and perhaps, some day, the college would find out its truth and the dishonor be removed from his name. But it was hard, cruelly hard, to leave the old Hill, which had already become the dearest spot on earth for him. He stood a moment at the corner of the gymnasium looking, almost tearfully, at the familiar buildings about the quadrangle. They seemed to bend toward him in the dim light as though to whisper comforting words at this last parting. A great lump rose in his throat as his eyes took in the different dormitories. About every one of them clustered the