“What do you think the old man will say?” asked Mark, uneasily, as they ascended the stairs to the principal’s study.
“He’ll give us a raking down, I suppose,” said James. “He will come down heavy on us.”
“I wish I were out of it.”
“Oh, it’s not worth minding! We haven’t committed murder, have we? What’s the harm in a game of billiards?”
“Not much, perhaps; but the drinking and betting are certainly objectionable.”
The boys knocked at the door, and the full, deep voice of Dr. Brush was heard to say: “Come in!”
Dr. Brush was seated at a table covered with papers, in a large armchair. He was an elderly man of dignified presence, not a petty tyrant such as is sometimes found in a similar position, but a man who commanded respect, without an effort.
Mark Manning and James Carson entered his presence a little nervously.
“Young gentlemen,” said the doctor, gravely, “I am informed that you have violated one of the rules of the academy by frequenting a billiard saloon where liquor is sold.”
“Who told you, sir?” asked Mark.
“That is not to the purpose,” said the principal, gravely.
“But I should like to know who informed on me,” persisted Mark.
“Whoever did so acted as your true friend, Manning; but there is no occasion for you to know who it was. Is it true?”
Mark would have been glad to deny the charge, and would not have felt any scruples about doing so, if it would have done any good. But it was clear, even to him, that he would not be believed, and that denial would only make his position worse. So he made a virtue of necessity, and answered:
“I have been in once or twice, sir.”
“Exactly how many times have you been to the saloon?”
“What did you do there?’
“We played billiards.”
“Did you order anything at the bar?”
“Yes, sir,” said Mark, reluctantly.
“Carson, you accompanied Manning, did you not?” said Dr. Brush, turning to Mark’s companion.
“And I suppose you also played billiards and drank?”
“Well, yes, sir, I believe I did.”
“You were aware, were you not, that it was against the regulations of the school?”
“I suppose it must have slipped my mind,” answered James, trying to look as innocent as possible.
Dr. Brush frowned, for he saw clearly that this was but a subterfuge.
“If this were true,” he continued, “it would be no excuse. As students, it is your duty to make yourselves acquainted with the rules that govern the institution. In point of fact, I cannot believe that either of you is ignorant of the rule forbidding students to frequent places where liquor is sold. It is hardly necessary for me to defend the propriety of this rule. Intemperance is a fruitful source of vice and crime, and I cannot allow the youth under by charge to form habits of indulgence which may blast all their prospects, and lead to the most ruinous consequences.”