“It grieves me more than I can tell you, my dear brother, to be obliged to confess that we can do nothing more for him here,” was the concluding paragraph of the principal’s letter, “and to add that his continued presence with us is a menace to the morals of the school. When I say that the offense for which he is expelled is by no means the first, and that it is the double one of gambling and keeping intoxicating liquors in his room, you will understand that the good repute of Beersheba was at stake, and there was no other course open to us.”
It was as well, perhaps, for what remained of Tom’s peace of mind that he knew nothing of this letter at the time of its writing. The long day had been sufficiently soul-harrowing and humiliating. Since the morning exercises, when he had been publicly degraded by having his sentence read out to the entire school, he had spent the time in his room, watched, if not guarded, by some one of the assistants. And now he was to be shipped off on the night train like a criminal, with no chance for a word of leave-taking, however much he might desire it.
He was tramping up and down with his hands in his pockets, the Gordon scowl making him look like a young thunder-cloud, when one of the preceptors came to drive with him to the railroad station. It was the final indignity, and he resented it bitterly.
“I can make out to find my way down to the train without troubling you, Mr. Martin,” he burst out in boyish anger.
“Doubtless,” said the preceptor, quite unmoved. “But we are still responsible for you. Doctor Tollivar wishes me to see you safely aboard your train, and I shall certainly do so. Take the side stairway down, if you please.”
The principal’s buggy was waiting at the gate, and the preceptor drove. Tom sat back under the hood with his overcoat across his knees. The evening was freezing cold, with an edged wind, and the drive to the station was a hilly mile. If it had been ten miles he would not have moved or opened his lips.
As it chanced, there were no other passengers for the train, which was a through south-bound express. Tom was meaning to sit up all night and think; and the most comfortless seat in the smoking-car would answer. There would be the meeting with his father and mother in the morning, and he thought he should not dare to let sleep come between. He had a firm grip of himself now, and it must not be relaxed until that meeting was over.
But the preceptor had already stepped to the ticket window. “That sleeping-car reservation for Thomas Gordon—have you secured it?” he asked of the agent; and Tom heard the reply: “Lower ten in car number two.” That disposed of the seat in the smoker and the bit of penance, and he was unreasonable enough to be resentful for favors.
Hence, when the train came to a stand beside the platform, he went straight to the Pullman, ignoring his keeper. But the preceptor followed him to the car step, held out his hand coldly, and said: “I’m sorry for you, Gordon. Good-by.”