Baseball Joe on the School Nine/Chapter 27

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Joe did not get to chapel that morning. He was all ready to go with Tom and the others after making a hasty toilet, when a messenger came to the door.

"Dr. Fillmore wants to see you in his office, Joe," said the messenger—a nice lad who did this work to help pay for his tuition.

"Wants to see me—what for?" demanded our hero. "Are you sure that's right, Georgie?"

"Sure, and a teacher's there with him. I'm not sure but I think it's something about the over-thrown statue. I heard them mention it as they called me to go for you."

"The overturned statue? I don't know anything about it!" exclaimed Joe. "I only just this moment saw it—from my window."

"Well, the doctor wants you, anyhow," repeated the messenger lad. "You'd better go."

"Oh, sure," assented Joe, and he started for the doctor's study with wonder in his heart and a puzzled and rather an ominous look on his face. His companions regarded him seriously.

"What do you s'pose is in the wind?" asked Peaches.

"Give it up," remarked Teeter. "Are you on, Tom?"

"Nary a bit. First I knew of it was when you fellows came and told me."

"Was Joe out last night?" asked Peaches.

"That's so, he did go Into town," replied Tom. "He left a note to tell me—but that was all straight—he had permission. It can't be that."

"Well, we'll hear in chapel," said Teeter.

"Ah, it's you is it, Matson? " asked the doctor, as our hero entered the study. There was a curious note in the master's voice, and he glanced narrowly at Joe. "Come in. I am sorry to have to summon you on such an unpleasant and important matter, but I have no choice. As you probably know, the Founder's Statue was overturned last night."

He looked questlonlngly at Joe.

"I just saw it from my window," was the simple answer.

"It was done last night," went on the doctor with a look at a teacher who acted as proctor. "It was a disgraceful, vile piece of vandalism. The guilty one will be severely punished. Doubtless you are wondering why we sent for you. It was on account of this, which was picked up by one of the janitors in front of the statue, when he discovered its fallen position this morning."

Dr. Fillmore held out to Joe the telegram our hero had received from his father the night previous!

"Is this yours?" asked the doctor.

"Ye—yes, it came to me last night. It's from my father."

"What did you do after you got it?"

"Put it in my pocket and went out to answer it. I had permission from the proctor."

"That is right," assented that official. "But I did not see you come in."

"No, I was late. The telegraph office was not open, and I had to rouse the operator."

"When did you last see this telegram?" asked the doctor.

"I missed it soon after I started, but I concluded that I had dropped it," said Joe. Then it all came to him. The school authorities believed that the telegram had dropped out of his pocket when he was at the work of overturning the statue. In which vandalism he had no hand.

"It was picked up near where the vile work went on," said the doctor bitterly. "It is evidence that even if you had no actual hand in the dastardly horseplay, that you might have witnessed it, and you can tell us who did it. That is what we now call on you to do, Matson. Tell us who did it."

"But I don't know!" cried poor Joe. "I didn't see anything of it. I got in a little late, and went at once to my room. That telegram may have dropped from my pocket at any time, someone may have picked it up and put it—I mean dropped it—as they were passing the statue—either before or after it was pulled from^ the base."

"That is hardly likely," said the doctor. "I am very sorry, Matson, but I must conclude that even if you had no hand in the vandalism, that you know who did it, or suspect."

"But I don't!" cried Joe eagerly. "Someone may have put this telegram there to make it look——"

He stopped in some confusion. He never had been a "squealer," and he was not going to begin now.

"I think I know what you mean," said the proctor quietly. "You mean that some enemy of yours may have had an object in making it appear as if you had a hand In this work." He looked narrowly at Joe.

"I—I, well, it might have happened that way."

"And of the students here, whom would you regard as your enemy?" asked Dr. Fillmore quickly.

"I—I—I must refuse to answer," said Joe firmly. "It would not be fair."

"You mean you won't tell?"

"I can't, Doctor. I haven't any right to assume that the telegram came there that way. I know that I didn't pass very near the statue, either on leaving or coming back to school. The message dropped from my pocket, I'm sure of that, but the wind may have blown it near the statue."

"There was no wind last night," said the proctor severely.

"Then—then——" stammered Joe.

"That will do, Matson," said the doctor quietly, and there was sorrow in his voice. "I will not question you further. I am convinced that if you had no hand in the actual overturning of the statue, that you know something of how it was done, or who did it. Are you prepared to tell us?"

"No, sir, I am not. I—can't."

"I think I understand," said Dr. Fillmore. "Very well. Understand, we do not accuse you of anything, but under the circumstances I must put you on probation."

"Probation?" murmured Joe.

"Yes," added the proctor as the doctor turned away. "That means that you will not be allowed to leave the school grounds. You will report to your classes and lectures as usual, but you will not be allowed to take part in athletic contests."

"Not—not baseball?" gasped Joe.

"Not baseball," replied the proctor. "I am sorry, but that is the rule for one who is on probation. When you make up your mind to make a complete confession, and tell whom you saw at the work of tearing down the statue—"

"But I didn't—" began Joe.

"That will do," interrupted the proctor gently. "You are on probation until then. And you will not be allowed to play baseball."

Joe felt his heart wildly thumping under his coat. Without a word he turned aside and went back to his room. And that is why he missed chapel that morning.