“When what happened?” responded Joel.
“Haven’t you heard? Why, some one cut the bell rope, and when ‘Peg-leg’ went to ring chapel bell the rope broke up in the tower and came down on his head and laid him out there on the floor, and some of the fellows found him knocked senseless. And they’ve taken him to the infirmary. You know the rope’s as big as your wrist, and it hit him on top of the head. I guess he isn’t much hurt, but ‘Wheels’ is as mad as never was, and whoever did it will have a hard time, I’ll bet!”
“Poor old Duffy!” said Joel. “Let’s go over and find out if he’s much hurt. It was a dirty sort of a joke to play, though I suppose whoever did it didn’t think it would hurt any one.”
At the infirmary they found Professor Gibbs in the office.
“No, boys, he isn’t damaged much. He’ll be all right in a few hours. I hope that the ones who did it will be severely punished. It was a most contemptible trick to put up on Duffy.”
“I hope so too,” answered West indignantly. “You may depend that no upper middle boy did it, sir.” The professor smiled.
“I hope you are right, West.”
At noon hour Joel was summoned to the principal’s office. Professor Wheeler, the secretary, and Professor Durkee were present, and as Joel entered he scented an air of hostility. The secretary closed the door behind him.
“March, I have sent for you to ask whether you can give us any information which will lead to the apprehension of the perpetrators of the trick which has resulted in injury to Mr. Duffy. Can you?”
“No, sir,” responded Joel.
“You know absolutely nothing about it?”
“Nothing, sir, except what I have been told.”
“Outfield West, sir, after chapel. We went to the infirmary to inquire about ’Peg’—about Mr. Duffy, sir.” The secretary repressed a smile. The principal was observing Joel very closely, and Professor Durkee moved impatiently in his seat.
“I can not suppose,” continued the principal, “that the thing was done simply as a school joke. The boy who cut the rope must have known when he did so that the result would be harmful to whoever rang the chapel bell this morning. I wish it understood that I have no intention of dealing leniently with the culprit, but, at the same time, a confession, if made now, will have the effect of mitigating his punishment.” He paused. Joel turned an astonished look from him to Professor Durkee, who, meeting it, frowned and turned impatiently away. “You have nothing more to tell me, March?”
“Why, no, sir,” answered Joel in a troubled voice. “I don’t understand. Am I suspected—of—of this—thing, sir?”
“Dear me, sir,” exclaimed Professor Durkee, explosively, turning to the principal, “it’s quite evident that—”
“One moment, please,” answered the latter firmly. The other subsided.—“You had town leave last night, March?”