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    Chapter 20

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    Chapter 21
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    PEPPER A PRISONER

    At the usual hour the next morning Josiah Crabtree arose and dressed himself. He was in a far from happy frame of mind, for a tailor's bill he had to pay was higher than he thought it ought to be.

    Having donned his garments, and washed himself and combed his hair, he turned to the stand to get his new set of teeth.

    He took up the glass and peered into it.

    "Hum!" he mused. "I thought I put them in there--in fact, I was sure of it!" he murmured.

    He set the glass down and commenced to look around, on the bureau, on his bookcase, on the shelf, and even on the chairs. But, of course, nothing in the shape of the set of teeth came to light.

    "This is queer, mighty queer," said the teacher to himself. "Now, let me think what I did with them. Yes, I put them in the glass, I am positive of it!"

    He examined the glass once more, turning it around and around. Then he commenced a systematic search of the room. At the conclusion something like a groan escaped his lips.

    "They are gone! gone!" he murmured hollowly. "And I left the old set at the dentist's to be made over! Oh, what shall I do? I cannot go to the classroom without my teeth, the cadets would roar at me! It must be a trick, a wicked trick! Oh, if only I could find out who did this awful thing!"

    He made another hunt, and then, not knowing what else to do, opened his door and hailed a passing cadet.

    "Kindly ask Captain Putnam to step here as soon as he can," he mumbled.

    "Yes, sir," answered the cadet, and looked curiously at the teacher. "Got a toothache, Mr. Crabtree?"

    "No, I have no toothache," mumbled the teacher. "Send Captain Putnam as soon as you can," and then he dove back into his bedroom.

    Several minutes passed and George Strong put in an appearance.

    "Dalling said you wanted to see Captain Putnam," he said. "The captain has left for Buffalo on business. Can I do anything for you?"

    "Mr. Strong, a wicked trick has been played on me!" burst out Josiah Crabtree.

    "A trick?"

    "Yes. My teeth are gone, the new set I had made! Some cadet has taken them!"

    "Can it be possible!" murmured George Strong. "Where did you leave them?"

    "In that glass on the stand. Oh, what shall I do? My other set is at the dentist's, getting fixed."

    "Maybe I can send for them."

    "Hardly, since the dentist is at Ithaca. Oh, what a wretch, to take my teeth! I cannot go to the classroom without my teeth. I would be the laughing-stock of the entire school! It is a dreadful state of affairs!"

    "I don't see how I can help you out, sir," answered George Strong, sympathetically.

    "I shall have to stay here until something is done. See if you can't find the cadet who took the teeth."

    "I will do what I can," answered George Strong, and left the room.

    Josiah Crabtree was walking up and down nervously, when there came a timid knock on the door. He opened it to confront Mumps.

    "Well, Fenwick, what do you want?" demanded the teacher, harshly. The sneak of the school generally had some tale of woe to tell, and he was just now in no humor to listen to any such recital.

    "Please, Mr. Crabtree, did you lose anything?" asked Mumps, nervously.

    "Ha! what is that? Come in! What do you know?" cried Josiah Crabtree, and caught Mumps by the arm.

    "I didn't do it--really and truly I didn't!" cried the sneak, in sudden terror. "I--I only found it out by accident."

    "About my--er--my teeth?"

    "Yes, sir."

    "What do you know about them, Fenwick? Quick; out with it!"

    "Oh, sir, please don't hurt my arm so!"

    "Tell me what you know."

    "I--I know where your teeth are, sir, I--I saw them put there last night."

    "Where are they?"

    "Hanging on the chandelier in Classroom Eight."

    "And who put them there?" roared the teacher, in amazement.

    "Pepper Ditmore, sir. But, oh, sir, please don't say I told on him or he'll hammer the life out of me!" cried Mumps, in alarm.

    "How did he get them?"

    "I don't know that, sir. I--I went downstairs to--er--to put away a book for another cadet and I saw Pepper Ditmore sneak into Room Eight. I watched him, and he threw a string with the teeth on 'em up over the chandelier. I thought they might be yours, so I came here to find out."

    "Did you get the--er--the teeth?"

    "Oh, no, sir. They are too high up. You'll have to get a ladder to get them down."

    "The rascal!" howled Josiah Crabtree. "Oh, wait till I get my hands on him! But I must get the teeth first." He thought for a moment. "Fenwick, find Snuggers and send him to me at once."

    "Yes, sir."

    "And don't say a word of this to any one," added the teacher, as the sneak hurried off.

    It took Mumps fully five minutes to locate Peleg Snuggers. Wondering what was wanted, the general utility man hurried to the teacher's apartment.

    "I want you to get my set of teeth," said Josiah Crabtree. "I am told they are fastened to the chandelier in Room Eight. Get a ladder and get them down immediately. And do it as quietly as you can."

    "Yes, sir," answered Snuggers, and left to do the errand. "Teeth on the chandelier!" he murmured, "Wot an idee! Bet some o' the cadets did thet trick! How funny he did look without his grinders in!"

    Pepper had not told any one about his trick, but on a blackboard in the hall he had chalked the words:

    Set of Teeth For Sale!

    See Chandelier in Room No. 8.

    Crabtree, A.M., O.I.C.

    This scrawl had attracted the attention of fully a score of cadets, and one after another they entered the classroom designated to find out what it meant. When they saw the teeth dangling in the air they set up a roar.

    "Hello, look at the set of teeth!"

    "They must belong to old Crabtree!"

    "Wonder what he wants for them?"

    "I reckon teeth come high, by the look of things!"

    The crowd of cadets kept growing larger, until the room was crowded. Then one cadet took a blackboard eraser and threw it at the teeth. This was a signal for a general discharge of all sorts of things at the dangling object.

    In the midst of the excitement George Strong came in.

    "Boys! boys! Be quiet!" cried the teacher. "What is the meaning of so much noise?" And then he, too, caught sight of the dangling teeth. "Who placed those there?" he asked.

    There was no reply, and he was on the point of sending a cadet for a step-ladder when the door opened and in came Peleg Snuggers with the very thing wanted.

    "Mr. Crabtree sent me to git 'em," explained the general utility man.

    "Hurrah! Peleg to the rescue!" cried Andy.

    "Now, Peleg, do the great balancing act," said Fred Century.

    "I will hold the ladder for you, Snuggers," said Mr. Strong. "Boys, stand back," he added, afraid that some of the lads might attempt some joke while the general utility man was in the air.

    The step-ladder was placed in position and Snuggers mounted cautiously to the top. He could just reach the chandelier and the teeth, and it took him some time to cut the teeth loose.

    "I'll take 'em right to Mr. Crabtree," he said on coming down. "He's in a mighty big hurry for 'em."

    "Very well," returned George Strong.

    Pepper was watching matters closely and he at once guessed that somebody had told Josiah Crabtree where the teeth were.

    "It must have been the fellow who spotted me last night," reasoned The Imp. "Wonder if he told my name? If he did----" Pepper ended the question with a big sigh.

    With great eagerness Josiah Crabtree received the set of teeth and examined them to see if they were all right. Then, having placed them where they belonged, he strode forth from his room in quest of the cadet who had played the trick.

    Pepper was just sitting down at the breakfast table when there was a sudden step behind him and the next moment he found himself jerked out of his place.

    "You come with me, young man!" stormed Josiah Crabtree. "I have an account to settle with you!"

    "What do you want, Mr. Crabtree?" asked The Imp, as meekly as he could.

    "You know well enough!" cried the teacher. "Come!" And he led Pepper out of the mess-hall. His grip on the youth's arm was so firm that it hurt not a little.

    "Mr. Crabtree, you are hurting my arm."

    "I don't care if I am!" snapped the teacher. "You come along!" And he fairly dragged Pepper along the hall.

    "Where to?"

    "You'll soon see."

    "What is wrong?"

    "You know well enough, Ditmore. You took my--er--my set of teeth! You have made me the laughing-stock of the whole school! You shall suffer for it!"

    "Who says I took the teeth?"

    "John Fenwick saw you place them on the chandelier! Oh, you need not deny it."

    "Mumps! Well, he always was a sneak!" answered Pepper.

    "He is a nice, manly youth."

    With a firm grip still on Pepper's arm, the irate teacher led the way to a room looking out on the rear. It was an apartment less than ten feet square, and plainly furnished with two chairs and a couch. In one corner was a stand with a washbowl and pitcher of water. The single window was stoutly barred.

    "Going to make a prisoner of me?" asked Pepper, as the door was opened and he was thrust into the room.

    "You shall stay here for the present," snapped Josiah Crabtree. "When I let you out I think you'll be a sadder and perhaps a wiser boy."

    "Am I to have my breakfast?"

    "No," answered the teacher.

    Then he banged the door shut, locked it, and walked swiftly away.
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