All of the masked cadets were startled and looked in that direction.
By inspiration Dick seized the moment to throw the contents of the glass over his shoulder into a dark corner. When the crowd turned back he had the glass turned up to his mouth and was going through the movement of swallowing.
“Ugh! what ugly stuff,” he said, handing the glass to one of the crowd.
“Ha! he has swallowed the poison!” cried Lew Flapp, and nudged Rockley in the ribs. “That was easy, wasn’t it?” he whispered.
“Give him the second glass,” muttered Rockley. “That will make him as foolish as a fiddler.”
Pender already had the glass handy. He passed it to Dick, who suddenly glared at him in an uncertain manner. Dick had smelt the liquor in the first glass and now realized something of the plot to bring him to disgrace.
“Say, but that stuff makes me feel lightheaded,” he said. “Wasn’t so bad, after all.”
“Drink this, quick,” cried Flapp, more eagerly than ever.
“All right,” said Dick, and spilt a little out of the glass onto the floor. “Wonder what makes my hand shake so?” he murmured.
“Take this and it will brace you up,” put in Pender.
“Ha, look there!” yelled Dick, gazing fixedly at the rear of the den. “See the three-headed owl!”
All looked in the direction and again he threw the contents of the glass behind him. Then he pretended to drink, while glaring at the cadets around him.
“Funny, I can’t count you any more!” he muttered. “Six, seven, ten, ’leven, nine! Say, I’m all mixed up. Who put me on the merry-go-’round anyway?” He began to stagger. “Guess I’m on a toboggan slide, ain’t I?” and he acted as if he could no longer stand up-right.
“Cut him loose, fellows!” cried Flapp, and this was done, and Dick staggered to the table, clutched it, slid to the floor and acted as if he had fallen into a deep sleep.
“Say, that was dead easy!” cried Pender gleefully. “Took the stuff like a lamb.”
“What’s to do next, Flapp?” asked Jackson.
“Say, Jackson, don’t speak my name, please,” cried the tall boy in alarm.
“Oh, what’s the odds,” put in Pender. “Rover is dead to the world. Rockley knew just how to fix those doses.”
“That’s right, Gus,” came from Rockley.
“We had better not lose time here,” went on Flapp presently. “Let us tell Captain Putnam without delay. He’ll have Rover brought back to camp just as he is, and that will disgrace him forever.”
“Wait till I put the empty bottle near him,” said Rockley, and this was done.
Then the crowd of masked cadets left the den, leaving the door wide open behind them.
DICK’S MIDNIGHT ADVENTURE
A minute after the last of Lew Flapp’s crowd left the hermit’s den Dick leaped to his feet, went to the doorway, and listened intently. It was quite dark, so he could see little or nothing.