“About as usual, Mr. Shuffles,” replied Paul.
“I am not a ‘mister’ now,” laughed Shuffles.
“Well, it’s all the same to me. I am sorry you are not with us now.”
“So am I,” added Shuffles. “I did not expect to be on board this year, or I should have been there now.”
“You can be, next term, if you like.”
“This thing yesterday has ruined all my prospects.”
“That was rather bad. I never was so sorry for anything in my life before,” answered Paul, warmly. “You and I were always good friends after we got well acquainted, though I did vote for another at the election a year ago.”
“You did what you thought was right, and I don’t blame you for that. I always did my duty when I was an officer.”
“That you did, Shuffles; and we always agreed first rate. Isn’t it a little strange that I have not lived in the steerage since the ship’s company were organized?”
“That’s because you were always a good boy, and a smart scholar. I think you would not like it.”
“If it wasn’t for losing my rank, I should like to try it,” replied Paul. “I should like to get better acquainted with the fellows.”
“You wouldn’t like them in the steerage. You would see a great many things there which you never see in the cabin; a great many things which Mr. Lowington and the professors know nothing about.”
“Why, what do you mean, Shuffles?” demanded Paul, astonished at this revelation.
“I ought not to say anything about it; but I believe these things will break up the Academy Ship one of these days, for the boys are growing worse instead of better in her, and their folks will find it out sooner or later.”
“You surprise me!” exclaimed Paul, sadly, for he held the honor of the ship and her crew as the apple of his eye. “If there is anything wrong there, you ought to make it known.”
“I suppose I ought; but you know I’m not a tell-tale.”
“You have told me, and I’m an officer.”
“Well, I blundered into saying what I have. What you said about going into the steerage made me let it out. I am sorry I said anything.”
“You have raised my curiosity.”
“I will tell you; or rather I will put you in the way of seeing for yourself, if you will not mention my name in connection with the matter, even to Mr. Lowington, and certainly not to any one else.”
“I will not, Shuffles.”
“The fellows are gambling in the steerage at this very moment,” added Shuffles, in a low tone. “Don’t betray me.”
“I will not. Gambling!” exclaimed Paul, with natural horror.
“You will find them in No. 8,” continued Shuffles, walking away, and leaving the astonished officer to wonder how boys could gamble.
THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL.