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17. In Clanhammer Hall
When Dennings whistled into the blackness of Clanhammer Hall there was a moment’s pause before there was any answer. At last a faint light showed against the walls of the upper hall, and this gleam was soon followed by an old man with a candle. He peered down at them over the banisters, and after having satisfied himself that all was well and the parties known to him, he descended slowly, picking his steps with care. From Terry’s and Vench’s descriptions of the old man seen in Clanhammer Hall Don was sure that it was the same man.

He flashed his light upon them and then, without speaking, looked stolidly at Dennings. The leader pushed Don forward.

“Put this boy away for safekeeping,” directed the leader. “Is everything all right with the other?”

The old man nodded. Turning around he led the way up the stairs, Don just back of him and the two men following. When they reached the broad hall on the second floor the old man halted beside a heavy door and drew a key from his pocket. He inserted it in the lock and opened the door, holding the candle above his head. He turned his dull eyes upon the cadet and motioned toward the room with his head.

“That room is all right, is it?” questioned Dennings. “This boy is a slippery lad, Elmo.”

“He won’t get out of there,” said the old man.

“All right,” nodded Dennings. “Get in there, son, and if you’re wise, keep quiet. It won’t do you any good to make a noise, but it might be annoying, and if it gets too much so you’re likely to receive a gentle tap on the head to keep you quiet.”

Realizing that all talk would be a waste of time Don walked into the small room and the door was slammed after him. He heard the key turned and then found himself in total darkness. The footsteps of the men receded down the hall and a heavy silence closed around him.

When he was sure that they had all gone he felt his way around the room but it was empty. Blank walls met his groping fingers and there was not even a chair anywhere in the place. He gave up trying to find his way out.

“Might as well wait until daybreak,” he decided. “There may be some light in here then, although I don’t know where it will come from. Lucky thing for me it isn’t very cold in here.”

Although there couldn’t be a fire in Clanhammer Hall, the building seemed warm, and Don was in no danger of being cold. He was hungry and sleepy, and realizing that a good sleep would fit him for the problem of the morrow he took off his hat and rolled his overcoat more closely around him. The floor made a hard bed but he was not in a mood to complain about that.

“I can’t understand their game,” he reflected, just before he fell asleep. “Here they have me right under the noses of my friends and yet there isn’t a chance of my rescue unless the boys carry out their plan and break in the place. That isn’t likely now that they have discovered my absence. Of all the high-handed games, this beats ’em all.”

Don had no trouble sleeping. The events of the day had worn him out, and he slept soundly. It was daylight when he awoke, and his first sensation upon awakening was that of hunger.

A faint light entered the room from a very high and dirty skylight, and Don saw at once that there was no use in looking in that direction for a possible outlet. The skylight was too high for him to reach and there was nothing to stand on. His impressions of the previous night were confirmed, the room was empty and had no windows. It had evidently been a small classroom at one time, for two sides of the wall were composed of blackboards.

But Don was not discouraged by the outlook. He stooped down and examined the board walls under the blackboards. Clanhammer Hall was a very old building and the passing of the years had not improved it any. He noted with interest that the walls close to the floor were made of light wood and that the wood was dry and warped. It was with a thrill of hope that he took his pocket knife out and without wasting a moment of time, began a determined attack on the thin boards.

He was far luckier than he had dared to hope. The boarding had originally been secured with light nails which had almost no heads at all, and it was a simple job to spring them out and away from the supporting beams, which ran vertically. In less than a half hour the cadet had a dozen boards torn out of the wall, and an opening large enough to admit his body had been made.

There were still the boards on the other side of the beams to be reckoned with, but Don found that he had no trouble with them. By pushing he forced them out into the adjoining room, taking care not to make much noise, and before long he had opened a regular tunnel for himself. Picking up his hat he forced his body through and stepped out into a larger classroom, for the moment at least, free.

He listened intently, but there was no sound in the building and he made his way into the hall. He was undecided as to whether to try to sneak down and gain his liberty or to make a dash for it. Perhaps Dennings was still in the place, and if so he stood in grave danger. He had no fear of overcoming the old man if need be, but he was sure that Dennings would not leave the old man alone, and Don was not disposed to run any risks.

He decided to steal quietly out of the place and make his way on tiptoe to the head of the stairs. No sooner had he poked his head over the railing than he drew back in swift alarm. The old man was in the lower hall, seated at an old desk, deeply engrossed in a newspaper spread out before him. It was useless to think of getting out that way, and Don was sure that there were no other stairs in the building. Although it looked as though there was no one with the old man he felt that such was not the case, and he was puzzled as to what course to pur............
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