Read CHAPTER V - BY THE FISHING-POLE ROUTE of The Rover Boys at Big Horn Ranch The Cowboys' Double Round-Up , free online book, by Edward Stratemeyer, on ReadCentral.com.

Another half hour went by, and the boys confined in the room on the third floor of the school building became more and more impatient.

“Perhaps they won’t give us any breakfast at all,” said Phil Franklin presently.

“If they don’t there’ll be war,” declared Andy.  “I won’t stand for being starved.”

“None of us will stand for that,” put in Gif grimly.  “But I don’t believe Duke will dare do it.  You must remember he will have all the other teachers to contend with.  They have the same rights here as he has.”

“Yes, but Professor Grawson turned this affair over to Duke,” was Fred’s comment.

“That was because old Duke was the only one to really suffer through what we did,” answered Jack.

Another fifteen minutes passed, and then those in the room heard footsteps outside.  The door was unlocked and Professor Duke appeared, followed by Pud Hicks and Bob Nixon and two of the mess-room waiters.

“Well, did you behave yourselves during the night?” demanded the teacher, as he glanced sharply from one to another of the cadets, all of whom eyed him curiously.

“We did, sir,” answered Phil, who was nearest to the door.

Leaving those who had accompanied him at the door so that none of the cadets present might escape, Snopper Duke strode into the room and looked around suspiciously, even going so far as to glance into the bathroom and the clothing closet.  As was the custom during the school term, the cadets had put the beds and the cots in order, and also arranged the chairs and other furniture.

“Professor Duke, I’d like to ask something.  Do you know we have no heat in here?” questioned Jack.

“Growing boys like you don’t need too much heat - it makes them lazy,” responded the teacher tartly.  “You will be warm enough after you have had your breakfast.”

“Can we go downstairs now and get it?” asked Andy quickly.

“No.  You are to have it up here.  I have had it brought up for you,” was the answer.  And then Professor Duke motioned for the two waiters to come in.

They carried two trays covered with napkins, and these they deposited on the table.

“Has Colonel Colby come back yet?” questioned Spouter.

“You will know quickly enough when he comes,” was the teacher’s reply.  And then he motioned the waiters out of the room.

“Professor, do you think - ” began Bob Nixon.  But the teacher caught the Hall chauffeur by the arm and pushed him out into the hallway.

“Never mind now, Nixon,” he broke in hastily.  “We’ll talk matters over downstairs.”  And thereupon he closed and locked the door once again, and the cadets heard him and all of the others go below.

“What do you suppose he brought Hicks and Nixon up here for?” questioned Randy, when they were left alone.

“I don’t know, unless he thought we might try to break out, and if so he would have them along to stop us,” answered Jack.

“Maybe he thought the cold and waiting for breakfast would make us desperate,” suggested Gif.  “However, now they’ve gone, let’s see what they have brought us to eat.”

Eagerly the seven cadets whipped away the napkins that covered the two trays.  They gave one look, and then a cry of disappointment arose.

“What do you know about this!”

“Isn’t this the limit!”

“Black coffee and bread without butter!”

“And mush with nothing but a little molasses on it!”

“And no sugar in the coffee, either!”

“Talk about your prison fare!” groaned Andy.  “I think this takes the cake!”

“You mention cake and I’ll murder you!” burst out Fred.  “Why don’t you speak of ham and eggs, lamb chops, fried potatoes, coffee cake with raisins in it, and things like that while you’re at it?”

“Wow!  Fred for the water faucet!” exclaimed Jack, and got his cousin by the arm and made as if to run him into the bathroom.

“Hold up!  I’ll be good!” pleaded the youngest Rover.  “But, say! doesn’t looking at these two trays make you weary in the bones?”

“Well, anyway, the coffee is hot,” declared Spouter, as he tasted it.  “And we might as well drink it before it gets cold.  It will help to warm us up.”

Thereupon the seven cadets fell to eating, and soon every particle of the scanty breakfast furnished to them had disappeared.  They grumbled, however, as they ate, and continued to grumble after the repast was finished.

“I’m quite sure Colonel Colby wouldn’t treat us like this,” declared Gif.

“He certainly did much better by Fred and me when we were placed in the guardroom,” declared Jack.  “We got as good a meal as we ever had served to us in the mess hall.”

“It’s nothing short of a crime not to turn the heat on,” said Fred, who was examining the radiator again.  “Just as cold as ever.”

“Listen!” cried Randy suddenly.

All did so, and heard a faint knocking on the door.

“Who is that?” questioned Jack, moving to the portal.

“Is that you, Jack?” came in Fatty Hendry’s voice.  The stout youth was whispering through the keyhole.

“Yes, Fatty.  What brought you up here?”

“I got wind that you fellows were being fed scanty rations,” answered Fatty.  “How about it?”

“It’s true, all right enough.”

“Well, Dan Soppinger, Walt Baxter and myself got our heads together and we managed to make up a bundle of food for you.  Just watch the window on your right,” continued the stout youth, and then tiptoed away.

Wondering what their friends intended to do, the seven cadets crowded to the window in question and opened it wide.  It was still snowing, and through the thickly-flying flakes they presently saw the end of a fishing pole on which was tied a bundle done up in a pillow case.

“Hurrah!  Our friends are on the job,” cried Fred delightedly, as the bundle was slipped from the end of the fishing pole and hauled into the room.  Then he looked out of the window and saw at a little distance the face of Dan Soppinger at another window.

“Got it all right, did you?” demanded Dan, as he hauled in the fishing pole.

“We sure did, Dan; and much obliged to you.”

“Has Colonel Colby come back yet?” questioned Jack, looking over his cousin’s shoulder.

“No.  And there is no telling when he’ll come back,” answered Dan.  “He sent word that his business might keep him away for several days.”  Then Dan spoke to some one behind him, and continued in a low voice, “I’ve got to go now, or they’ll catch us.  Good-bye.”

The imprisoned cadets closed the window again and then placed the bundle on the table and opened it.  They found it contained a rather jumbled collection of buttered bread, cheese, the knuckle of a boiled ham, a small glass full of jelly, a square of pound cake, three bananas, a couple of oranges, several apples, a small bag of lump sugar, and a can of condensed milk.

“Some collection, all right enough,” declared Spouter, as they surveyed it.  “I guess they grabbed up anything they could lay their hands on.”

“They must have heard we had black coffee without sugar,” put in Fred.  “Too bad we were in such a hurry.  We might have feasted in great shape off of this collection.”

“Never mind.  The sugar and condensed milk may come in handy later,” answered Jack.

The boys divided some of the fruit, and then made themselves a few sandwiches, and with this topped off the scanty breakfast they had previously consumed.  They placed the rest of the things on the top shelf of the closet and folded up the pillow case carefully.

“We’ll have to send that back the first chance we get,” declared Fred.  “Otherwise some cadet is going to catch it when his room is inspected.”

With nothing to do, the cadets found the time drag heavily.  They looked around the room for some reading matter, but found nothing outside of some newspapers which had been placed on the shelves of the closet.  These were old sheets, and contained nothing which they cared to peruse.

“Hurrah! we’re going to have some heat, anyhow,” cried Randy, about eleven o’clock.  “Hear the radiator cracking?”

He was right, and soon the radiator became moderately warm.  This did not, of course, warm the room very thoroughly, but it took the chill off and made it more comfortable than it had been.

“I’ll bet a cooky that some of the others made old Duke turn the heat on,” declared Gif.

“Either that or else some of our chums turned it on when he wasn’t watching,” answered Jack.  Some time later they found out that Bob Nixon had turned on the heat unbeknown to Snopper Duke.  It was also learned that Professor Grawson and Professor Brice knew nothing about the heat having been turned off.

About half-past twelve Snopper Duke appeared again, this time with one of the under teachers and two of the waiters.  The under teacher had his arms full of books.

“I have had some of your text books brought up here,” explained Professor Duke.  “There is no sense in your wasting your time here doing nothing.  I want you to study the same as if you were attending your classes.  I have also had your dinner brought up.”

“Do you expect us to study in a cold room?” questioned Jack.  He had thrown one of the small bed covers over the radiator and added a book or two so that the teacher might not notice that it was warm.

“I’ll not discuss that point with you, Rover,” was Snopper Duke’s sharp reply.  “You can eat your dinner, and then go at your studies.”  And thereupon he directed the two waiters to deposit the fresh trays on the table and take the old ones away.  Then the seven cadets were locked up as before.

In comparison, the dinner was just as scanty as the breakfast had been.  For each pupil there was a small boiled potato, almost cold, a few lima beans, a small slice of roast beef, and one slice of unbuttered bread.  There were also several paper drinking cups, to indicate that the cadets might drink all the water they cared to draw from the faucet in the bathroom.

“Regular miser’s lunch,” was Andy’s comment, as he surveyed it.

“Exactly!” answered Fred. And then he added dryly:  “What are we going to use that sugar and condensed milk on?”

“Oh, the condensed milk will go fine on the bread,” put in Spouter.  “I used to like condensed milk sandwiches.”

“And you can eat the lump sugar for dessert if you want to,” put in Jack.

All began to eat, and in the midst of the meal they heard another knock on the door.  This time Ned Lowe was there, one of their chums who was a great singer and banjo player.

“Be on the watch for the beautiful fishing pole,” sang Ned in a low voice.  “Hurry up.  We can’t stay up here very long.”

All leaped for the window, and a few minutes later the fishing rod came once more into view, this time with another bundle attached to it.  They held the end of the pole while they detached the bundle and fastened upon it the empty pillow case.  The new bundle was in a large paper flour bag.

“Here is where we are going to have a regular feast!” cried Jack with satisfaction.  “Just look!  Almost half a boiled tongue, a quart jar of hot coffee, some boiled sweet potatoes, and half an apple pie.  I declare I don’t see how they managed to get hold of it.”

“They’re certainly looking out for us,” answered Spouter.

With this addition to the food already on hand, the boys started in to have a real good dinner.  They were enjoying it thoroughly and cracking all kinds of jokes when they suddenly heard a commotion in the corridor outside.

“I’ve caught you, have I?” they heard Snopper Duke exclaim.  “What business have you up here, anyway?”

“I wasn’t doing any harm, Professor,” came in the voice of Dan Soppinger.

“What is that you have behind your back?  Give it to me this instant,” went on the teacher.

“Gee! that’s Dan Soppinger, and he’s got himself into trouble!” exclaimed Jack, in alarm.

“I really didn’t mean to do any harm,” the imprisoned cadets heard Dan answer.

“What is that you are trying to hide?  Give it to me!” There was a brief silence, and then those in the room heard the teacher continue:  “A pumpkin pie and almost a pound of cheese!  Where did you get those things, Soppinger?  And what were you going to do with them?  Come, answer me!”

“If you want to know, I was going to try to get them to those fellows you locked up,” answered Dan Soppinger, in desperation.  “I heard you were just about starving them to death.”

“What’s that?  Starving them to death?  Stuff and nonsense!  They are getting all that they need, and it’s not for you to interfere in my business,” went on Snopper Duke, his high-pitched voice rising still higher in anger.  “You should be down in your classroom.  Give me those things and go downstairs at once.  I’ll attend to your case later.”

“Gee! poor Dan is certainly in hot water,” whispered Jack.

“Old Duke must have been spying on him,” said Randy.

“Maybe he’ll come in here and see how matters are going!” cried Spouter excitedly.  “It might not be a bad thing to get all that extra food out of sight.”

He had scarcely spoken when they heard Professor Duke at the door.  An instant later the portal was thrown open and the teacher stepped in.  His eyes swept the trays and the plates of food the cadets were holding.

“Ha!  So this is what is going on, eh?” he stormed.  “Having food brought in on the sly, eh?  Well, I’ll see that that is stopped!  You’ll go without your supper for this!” And then, after a few more words, he stormed out of the room, banging the door behind him and locking it.