“Yes, and used to row in the boat. Well, Tommy was a good deal better at spinning top on Academy steps than doing lessons, and a deal fonder of playing shinney than writing letters. But Tommy’s mother always insisted that Tommy should write home once a week, and Tommy’s father wrote and explained what would happen to Tommy if he didn’t obey his mother; and as Tommy’s folks lived just over in Albany it was a small thing for Tommy’s father to run over some day with a strap; so Tommy obeyed his parents and every week wrote home. His letters weren’t long, nor were they filled with a wealth of detail, but they answered the purpose in lieu of better. Each one ran: ‘Hillton Academy, Hillton, N.Y.,’ with the date. ’Dear Father and Mother, I am well and studying hard. Your loving son, Thomas Collingwood.’
“Well, when Christmas recess came, Tommy went home. And one day his mother complimented Tommy on the regularity of his correspondence. Tommy looked sheepish. ’To tell the truth, mother, I didn’t write one of those letters each week,’ explained Tommy. ’But just after school opened I was sick for a week, and didn’t have anything to do; so I wrote ‘I am well’ twelve times, and dated each ahead.’”
Digbee accompanied the other two lads back to the yard, and he and March discussed studies, while West mooned along, whistling half aloud and thrashing the weeds and rocks with his cudgel, for the tramps refused to appear on the scene. He and Digbee went out of their way to see Joel safely to his dormitory, and then Joel accompanied them on their homeward way as far as Academy Building. There good-nights were said, and Joel, feeling but little inclined for sleep, drew his collar up and strolled to the front of the building, where, from the high steps, the river was visible for several miles in either direction. The moon was struggling out from a mass of somber clouds overhead, and the sound of the waters as they swirled around the rocky point was plainly heard.
Joel sat there on the steps, under the shadow of the dark building, thinking of many things, and feeling very happy and peaceful, until a long, shrill sound from the north told of the coming of the 9.48 train; then he made his way back to Masters, up the dim stairs, and into his room, where Dickey Sproule lay huddled in bed reading The Three Guardsmen by the screened light of a guttering candle.
THE BROKEN BELL ROPE.
Joel arrived at chapel the following morning just as the doors were being closed. Duffy, the wooden-legged doorkeeper, was not on duty, and the youth upon whom his duties had devolved allowed Joel to pass without giving his name for report as tardy. During prayers there was an evident atmosphere of suppressed excitement among the pupils, but not until chapel was over did Joel discover the cause.
“Were you here when it happened?” asked West.