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Chapter 11

MARK GETS INTO TROUBLE


Mark nodded slightly and was about to pass without a word, when Frank said, quietly:

"I am sorry to see you coming out of such a place, Mark."

"What is it to you, anyway?" returned Mark, rudely.

"Not much, perhaps," replied Frank, calmly, "but I don't like to see my acquaintances coming out of a liquor saloon."

"It won't hurt you," said Mark, irritably.

"No, it won't hurt me, but if tho principal should hear of it, it would not be pleasant for you. You know students are strictly forbidden to enter any saloon?"

"I suppose you mean to tell on me," said Mark, hastily, and not altogether without uneasiness.

"You are mistaken. I am not a talebearer."

"Then there is no need to say any more about it. Come along, James!"

Frank's interference was well meant, but, as we shall see, it did harm rather than good.

As Mark left the saloon, he had half decided not to enter it again. He was three dollars out of pocket, and this did not suit him at all.

In fact, Mark was rather a mean boy, and it was with considerable reluctance that he had handed over to his companion the two dollars with which to pay for the games.

Moreover, he was mortified at losing the two games of billiards, when so great odds had been given him.

James Carson was no scholar, but he was sharp enough to perceive the state of Mark's feelings, and he also saw how he was affected by Frank's remonstrance.

He decided to take advantage of this, and strengthen his hold on Mark.

"Well, Mark," he said, "I suppose you'll give up playing billiards now."

"Why should I?"

"Because your stepbrother doesn't approve of it. You won't dare to go into the saloon after he has forbidden you," he continued, with a sneer.

"What do you mean, James? Do you suppose I care that"—snapping his fingers—"for what Frank says, or even thinks, either?"

"I didn't know but you might stand in fear of him."

"Do you mean to insult me?" demanded Mark, hotly.

"Insult you! My dear friend, what can you be thinking of? Why, I like you ten times as much as that muff, Frank Courtney."

"Then what did you mean by what you said?" asked Mark, more calmly.

"I will tell you. I got an idea, from what Frank said once, that he was in charge of you—well, not exactly that, but he looked after you."

This was a wicked falsehood, as Frank had never intimated any such thing. In fact, he had generally kept quite aloof from James.

Mark, however, fell into the trail, and never thought of doubting what his companion said.

"If Frank said that, I've a great mind to whip him," said Mark, angrily.

"Oh, I wouldn't notice him, if I were you!" said James. "For my part, I didn't believe what he said. I felt sure that a fine, spirited boy like you wouldn't submit to his dictation."

"I should say not—the impudent follow!"

"When he spoke to you just now," continued James, "one would really have thought he was your uncle, or guardian, and that you were a little boy."

"I'll show him what I think of him and his advice. I hadn't thought of going to the saloon to-morrow, but now I will."

"Bravo! I like your spirit!" said James, admiringly. "It is just the way to treat him. Shall I come round with you about the same hour as to-day?"

"Yes, I wish you would."

When the two boys parted company, James Carson smiled to himself.

"What a fool Mark is!" he thought. "He thinks he is his own master, but I am going to twist him round my little finger. He's a sweet youth, but he's got money, and I mean to have some of it. Why, he tells me his father allows him eight dollars a week for spending money. If I manage well, I can get more than half away from his in bets."

The next day James called for Mark, as agreed upon, and again the two boys went to the billiard saloon. The performance of the day before was repeated.

James Carson, while flattering Mark's poor play, managed to beat in every game but one on which money was staked, and came out the richer by a dollar and a half.

"I am very unlucky," grumbled Mark, in a tone of dissatisfaction.

"So you were, Mark," admitted his sympathizing friend. "You made some capital shots, though, and if I hadn't been so lucky, you would have come out the victor in every game."

"But I didn't."

"No, you didn't; but you can't have such beastly luck all the time."

"I guess I'd better give up billiards. In two days I have spent five dollars. It doesn't pay."

"No doubt Frank will be gratified when he hears that you have given up playing. He will think it is because you are afraid of him."

James had touched the right chord, and poor Mark was once more in his toils.

"It's lucky for me that Frank spoke to him," thought James. "It makes it much easier for me to manage him."

One thing, however, James had not taken into account. There were others besides Frank who were liable to interfere with his management, and who had the authority to make their interference effectual.

On the day succeeding, as James and Mark were in the campus, Herbert Grant approached them.

Now Herbert was the janitor of the academy. He also was employed by the principal to summon students who had incurred censure to his study, where they received a suitable reprimand.

It was not a pleasant duty, but some one must do it, and Herbert always discharged it in a gentlemanly manner, which could not, or ought not, to offend the schoolfellows who were unlucky enough to receive a summons.

"Boys," said he, "I am sorry to be the bearer of unpleasant news, but Dr. Brush would like to see you in his study."

"Both of us?" asked James.

"Yes."

"Are there any others summoned?"

"No."

Mark and his companion looked at each other with perturbed glances. No one cared to visit the principal on such an errand. Corporal punishment was never resorted to in the Bridgeville Academy, but the doctor's dignified rebuke was dreaded more than blows would have been from some men.

"What do you think it is, James?" asked Mark, uneasily.

"I think it's the saloon," answered James, in a low voice.

"But how could he have found it out? No one saw us go in or come out."

The billiard saloon was at some distance from the academy building, and for that reason the two boys had felt more secure in visiting it.

"I'll tell you how it came out," said James, suddenly.

"How?" asked Mark.

"You remember Frank saw us coming out day before yesterday."

"He said he wouldn't tell."

It was not very difficult for Mark to believe anything against Frank, and he instantly adopted his companion's idea.

"The mean sneak!" he said. "I'll come up with him! I'll tell my father not to give him any money for the next month. I'll—-I'll get him to apprentice Frank to a shoemaker! Perhaps then he won't put on so many airs."

"Good for you! I admire your pluck!" said James, slapping Mark on the back. "You are true grit, you are! Just teach the fellow a lesson."

"See if I don't!"

Mark nodded his head resolutely, and went into the presence of Dr. Brush, thirsting for vengeance against his stepbrother, who, he felt persuaded, had informed against him.

If Frank had known his suspicions he would have been very much surprised. As it happened, however, he did not even know that his stepbrother had been summoned to the doctor's study. Had he met Herbert, the later would have told him; but after receiving his list, it so chanced that he and his friend did not meet.

The fact was that a young man employed as tutor in mathematics in the academy, while taking an afternoon walk, had seen Mark and James Carson leaving the liquor saloon, and, as in duty bound, had reported the same to the principal.

Mr. Triangle, however, had not been observed by either of the two boys, and therefore they were led off on a false scent.

"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!"

Horatio Alger