Remsen and the secretary were no longer in the office when Joel returned. Professor Durkee was standing with his hat in his hand, apparently about to leave.
“March,” began the principal, “Mr. Remsen tells us that you were struck at by Bartlett Cloud on the football field one day at practice. Is that so?” Joel replied affirmatively.
“Does he speak to you, or you to him?”
“No, sir; but then I’ve never been acquainted with him.”
“Do you believe that he could have stolen that letter from your room?”
“I know that he could have done so, sir, but I don’t like to think—”
“That he did? Well, possibly he did and possibly he didn’t. I shall endeavor to find out. Meanwhile I must ask you to let this go no further. You will go on as though this conversation had never occurred. If I find that you are unjustly suspected I will summon you and ask your pardon, and the guilty one will be punished. Professor Durkee here has pointed out to me that such conduct is totally foreign to his conception of your character, and has reminded me that your standing in class has been of the best since the beginning of the term. I agree with him in all this, but duty in the affair is very plain and I have been performing it, unpleasant as it is. You may go now, March; and kindly remember that this affair must be kept quiet,”
Joel turned with a surprised but grateful look toward Professor Durkee, but was met with a wrathful scowl. Joel hurried to his recitation, and later, before West’s fireplace, the friends discussed the unfortunate affair in all its phases, and resolved, with vehemence, to know the truth sooner or later.
But Joel’s cup was not yet filled. When he returned to the dormitory after supper, he found two missives awaiting him. The first was from Wesley Blair:
“DEAR MARCH” (it read): “Please show up in the morning at Burke’s for breakfast with the first eleven. You are to take the place of Post at L.H.B. It will be necessary for you to report at the gym at eleven each day for noon signals; please arrange your recitations to this end. I am writing this because I couldn’t see you this afternoon; hope you are all right. Yours,
Joel read this with a loudly beating heart and flushing cheeks. It was as unexpected as it was welcome, that news; he had hoped for an occasional chance to substitute Post or Blair or Clausen on the first team in some minor game, but to be taken on as a member was more than he had even thought of since he had found how very far from perfect was his playing. He seized his cap with the intention of racing across to Hampton and informing West of his luck; then he remembered the other note. It was from the office, and it was with a sinking heart that he tore it open and read:
“You are placed upon probation until further notice from the Faculty. The rules and regulations require that pupils on probation abstain from all sports and keep their rooms in the evenings except upon permission from the Principal. Respectfully,