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Title: Dave Porter and His Classmates

For the Honor of Oak Hall

Author: Edward Stratemeyer

Release Date: October 30, 2016 [eBook #53414]

Language: English

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COVER

EDWARD STRATEMEYER'S BOOKS

Old Glory Series

Cloth. Illustrated. Net $1.75 per volume.

UNDER DEWEY AT MANILA.     UNDER OTIS IN THE PHILIPPINES.
A YOUNG VOLUNTEER IN CUBA.     THE CAMPAIGN OF THE JUNGLE.
FIGHTING IN CUBAN WATERS.     UNDER MacARTHUR IN LUZON.

Soldiers of Fortune Series

Cloth. Illustrated. Net $1.75 per volume.

ON TO PEKIN.     AT THE FALL OF PORT ARTHUR.
UNDER THE MIKADO'S FLAG.     WITH TOGO FOR JAPAN.

Colonial Series

Cloth. Illustrated. Net $1.75 per volume.

WITH WASHINGTON IN THE WEST.     ON THE TRAIL OF PONTIAC.
MARCHING ON NIAGARA.     THE FORT IN THE WILDERNESS.
AT THE FALL OF MONTREAL.     TRAIL AND TRADING POST.

Mexican War Series

Cloth. Illustrated. Price Per volume $1.00.

FOR THE LIBERTY OF TEXAS.     WITH TAYLOR ON THE RIO GRANDE.
UNDER SCOTT IN MEXICO.

Pan-American Series

Cloth. Illustrated. Price per volume $1.00.

LOST ON THE ORINOCO.     YOUNG EXPLORERS OF THE AMAZON.
THE YOUNG VOLCANO EXPLORERS.     TREASURE SEEKERS OF THE ANDES.
YOUNG EXPLORERS OF THE ISTHMUS.     CHASED ACROSS THE PAMPAS.

Dave Porter Series

Cloth. Illustrated. Net $1.75 per volume.

DAVE PORTER AT OAK HALL.     DAVE PORTER ON CAVE ISLAND.
DAVE PORTER IN THE SOUTH SEAS.     DAVE PORTER AND THE RUNAWAYS.
DAVE PORTER'S RETURN TO SCHOOL.     DAVE PORTER IN THE GOLD FIELDS.
DAVE PORTER IN THE FAR NORTH.     DAVE PORTER AT BEAR CAMP.
DAVE PORTER AND HIS CLASSMATES.     DAVE PORTER AND HIS DOUBLE.
DAVE PORTER AT STAR RANCH.     DAVE PORTER'S GREAT SEARCH.
DAVE PORTER AND HIS RIVALS.     DAVE PORTER UNDER FIRE.
DAVE PORTER'S WAR HONORS.

Lakeport Series

Cloth. Illustrated. Net $1.75 per volume.

THE GUN CLUB BOYS OF LAKEPORT.     THE FOOTBALL BOYS OF LAKEPORT.
THE BASEBALL BOYS OF LAKEPORT.     THE AUTOMOBILE BOYS OF LAKEPORT.
THE BOAT CLUB BOYS OF LAKEPORT.     THE AIRCRAFT BOYS OF LAKEPORT.

American Boys' Biographical Series

Cloth. Illustrated. Net $1.75 per volume.

AMERICAN BOYS' LIFE OF WILLIAM McKINLEY.
AMERICAN BOYS' LIFE OF THEODORE ROOSEVELT.


DEFENDING HIS FLAG. Price $1.75.


The big touring car shot past the carryall. Page 249

[Pg i]

Dave Porter Series


DAVE PORTER AND HIS CLASSMATES

OR

FOR THE HONOR OF OAK HALL

BY

EDWARD STRATEMEYER

Author of "Dave Porter at Oak Hall," "The Old Glory Series,"
"Colonial Series," "Pan-American Series,"
"Soldiers of Fortune Series," etc.

ILLUSTRATED BY CHARLES NUTTALL

BOSTON
LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO.


[Pg ii]

Published, March, 1909

Copyright, 1909, by Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co.


All rights reserved


Dave Porter and His Classmates

Norwood Press
Berwick & Smith Co.
Norwood, Mass.
U. S. A.


[Pg iii]

PREFACE

"Dave Porter and His Classmates" is a complete story in itself, but forms the fifth volume in a line issued under the general title of "Dave Porter Series."

The first book of this series, "Dave Porter at Oak Hall," introduced to the reader a typical American youth of to-day, full of vim and vigor, and with a true sense of manliness, and related the particulars of some doings at a modern boarding school. At this institution of learning Dave, by pluck and perseverance, fought his way to the front, and was admired accordingly.

There was a cloud on the youth's parentage, and in order to clear this away he took a long and eventful sea voyage, as related in the second volume of the series, called "Dave Porter in the South Seas." Thousands of miles from home he found an uncle and learned something of his father and sister, who were then traveling in Europe.

As was but natural, the lad was anxious to meet all his relatives, but the address of his father and sister could not be obtained, and while waiting for this he returned to Oak Hall, as related in the [Pg iv] next volume, entitled "Dave Porter's Return to School." At school Dave lived a truly strenuous life, becoming innocently involved in some robberies, aiding to win some great football games, and helping to bring the bully of the academy to a realization of his better self.

In the midst of his school life Dave learned that his father had been heard from. More anxious than ever to meet his parent he, in company with an old chum, set sail for England, and then went to Norway, as related in "Dave Porter in the Far North." Here, amid the ice and snow of the Land of the Midnight Sun, Dave found his father, and learned much of his sister, which filled him with great satisfaction.

It was now time for the youth to return to school, and in the present volume I have related some of the things that took place at Oak Hall after Dave got back,—how he worked hard, played hard, overcame his enemies, and what he did for the honor of the academy.

Once more I thank the young people for the interest they have shown in my books. I trust that the reading of the present volume will do them much good.

Edward Stratemeyer.

February 1, 1909


[Pg v]

CONTENTS

CHAPTER   PAGE
I. Dave and His Past 1
II. What Laura Had To Tell 11
III. On the Way To School 21
IV. The Fun of a Night 31
V. What Happened to Nat Poole 41
VI. What a Big Snowball Did 51
VII. Prisoners in the School 61
VIII. A Move in the Dark 71
IX. Vera Rockwell 81
X. Dave Speaks His Mind 91
XI. At the Old Granary 101
XII. Gus Plum's Story 111
XIII. The Gee Eyes' Initiation 121
XIV. In Which Job Haskers Gets Left in the Cold 131
XV. What Mike Marcy Had to Tell 141
XVI. Something about Lessons 151
XVII. Shadow Hamilton's Peril 161
XVIII. The Boxing Bout 171
XIX. At the Express Office 181
XX. A Misunderstanding 191
XXI. In Which the Boys Give an Entertainment 201
XXII. Forming the Baseball Club 211
XXIII. A Great Victory 221
XXIV. On Bush Island 231
XXV. What an Automobile Did 241[Pg vi]
XXVI. A Defeat for Oak Hall 250
XXVII. Stuck on a Sandbar 260
XXVIII. Link Merwell Has His Say 270
XXIX. Dave Makes up His Mind 280
XXX. Dave Takes the Law in His Own Hands 289
XXXI. More Victories—Conclusion 298

[Pg vii]

ILLUSTRATIONS

  PAGE
The big touring car shot past the carryall (page 249) Frontispiece
The big snowball hit the craft and bowled it over, (missing) 52
"It's a shame to make you eat without a fork, Phil" 74
"Now to Jackson's Gully with him!" 124
Dave pointed out the form of the sleep-walker, (missing) 164
Down went the back part, letting him fall most unexpectedly 208
"Well, you can row if you want to," sneered Poole 232
Raising his oar, he hit the bully a blow on the shoulder 274

[Pg 1]

DAVE PORTER AND HIS CLASSMATES

CHAPTER I

DAVE AND HIS PAST

"I suppose you feel very happy to-day, Dave."

"Yes, Roger, happy and anxious," answered Dave Porter. "And who wouldn't feel so if he was in my place? Just think of it! I am to see my sister at last—somebody I've never seen before in my life! Why, sometimes I have to pinch myself to make certain I am really awake."

"More than likely Laura is just as anxious as you are," went on Roger Morr. "She'll surely want to know how her long-missing brother looks. Remember, she hasn't had a photograph of you, while you have seen several of her."

"That is so," answered Dave. His usually smiling face took on a serious look. "I trust she isn't disappointed in me or my looks."

"Oh, she won't be, don't worry about that. You're a good-looking fellow, even if I do have to [Pg 2] say it for you, Dave. If you don't believe it, just ask Jessie Wadsworth." And Roger Morr began to grin. "I know Jessie will say at once that you are the dearest, sweetest——"

"Come now, Roger, let up!" interrupted Dave, growing red in the face. "Supposing Jessie should hear you?" And he looked anxiously toward the sitting-room door, which was partly open.

"There is no harm in telling the truth," returned Roger, with a calmness that made Dave blush still more. "But joking aside, Dave, I really hope this day proves to be the happiest of your life, and Laura turns out to be the jolliest of sisters."

"Hello, in there!" came a pleasant, boyish voice from the doorway, and a youth showed himself, with a pair of bright, nickel-plated skates on his arm. "Thought you were going skating, Roger?"

"So I am, Phil. I just stopped to speak to Dave for a moment. He is going off now to meet his sister."

"Oh!" Phil Lawrence came into the room and faced his chum. "Well, I can't say any more than what I've said before, Dave—I wish you the best of luck. I am sure you'll find it awfully nice to have a sister—especially after what you've had to put up with in the past."

[Pg 3]

"Don't you fellows really want to go with me?" asked Dave.

"Of course we do, but—— Well, Roger and I talked it over and we—that is—well, we thought it would be nice to let you go with your father and uncle—kind of family gathering, you know. We'll be on hand by the time you get back to the house."

At that moment the merry jingle of sleighbells sounded from outside the mansion and a comfortable two-seated sleigh came up to the door, driven by one of the men from the barn.

"There is your turnout ready for you!" cried Roger. "What time does that Western train get in?"

"Ten-twenty, if it's on time," replied Dave promptly, for he had the time-table well in mind. "But the snowstorm may have delayed it."

"Well, I hope for your sake the train is on time," said Phil Lawrence. "If it isn't, I suppose every minute's delay will seem like an hour to you."

"More like two," answered Dave, and then, as he heard his father calling to him, he hurried out into the hall. There stood Mr. David Porter and his brother Dunston, both ready for the long drive to the depot. Behind the pair were a lady and gentleman of middle age, Mr. and Mrs. Wadsworth, and their daughter Jessie, while in the library [Pg 4] door, holding a ponderous volume on botany in his hands, was an elderly man with white hair, Caspar Potts.

All of the party looked at Dave, for they knew what was in the youth's mind and what was on his heart. He had waited a long, long time for this day to come, and now he was a little timid about the result; why, he could not exactly tell. Perhaps because he had pictured his sister Laura to be one kind of a person and he was afraid she might prove something different.

"We mustn't be late," said Mr. Porter, breaking a momentary silence. He, too, was anxious over the coming meeting of son and daughter. It made his heart bound with pleasure to think that his little family were to be united at last.

"Remember, dinner will be waiting for you, no matter if the train is late," said Mrs. Wadsworth.

"And I'm to sit on one side of Laura and Dave on the other," put in Jessie, flinging back her curls that insisted at times on falling about her face. "Oh, won't it be glorious, Dave! I know I am going to love Laura, and I know she is going to love me—at least, I hope so."

Dave looked at her and smiled—he thought a great deal of Jessie, he simply couldn't help it. Then he turned and followed his father and Uncle Dunston down to the sleigh. The three got in and Mr. Porter took up the reins. A word to the [Pg 5] stylish team and off they sped, through the spacious grounds of the Wadsworth mansion and down the road leading to the railroad station.

Dave wanted to talk to his father and uncle, but somehow his heart was too full and the words would not come. His whole mind was centered upon meeting his sister, whom, so far as he could remember, he had never seen. He did not dream of the unexpected news Laura would bring him.

To those who have read the former volumes of this "Dave Porter Series," the characters already mentioned will need no special introduction. For the benefit of others let me state that Dave Porter was a youth who had had a varied experience in life. When a small boy he had been found wandering along the railroad tracks just outside of the village of Crumville. Nobody knew who he was or where he came from, and as a consequence he was put in the local poorhouse, where he remained until about nine years old. Then an old college professor, Caspar Potts, who on account of broken health had taken up farming, took the boy to live with him.

Caspar Potts meant well, but he got in the grasp of a money-lender, Aaron Poole, as related in detail in my first story, called "Dave Porter at Oak Hall." Times looked exceedingly black for the old man and for Dave when there came a happening which turned the whole aspect of affairs.

[Pg 6]

In an elegant mansion of the outskirts of the town lived Mr. Oliver Wadsworth, a rich manufacturer, with his wife and daughter Jessie, the latter a beautiful miss some years younger than Dave. One day Dave called at the mansion on business. Jessie was waiting for an automobile ride, and through an accident to the gasoline tank of the car the girl's clothing took fire, and she might have been burned to death had not Dave rushed to her assistance and put out the flames.

Of course the Wadsworths were exceedingly grateful, and when the gentleman of the place learned that Caspar Potts was one of his old college professors he at once interested himself in the old man's behalf.

"You must come and live with me," he said. "You can do some work around the place and in arranging my library—and you must bring the boy with you." He had had a son who had died, and Dave reminded him strongly of that offspring.

At the Wadsworth home Dave made himself a great favorite, and he and Jessie became the closest of friends. The rich manufacturer wanted the lad to have a good education, and so he was sent off to Oak Hall, a fine institution of learning. With Dave went Ben Basswood, a youth of Crumville who had been the poorhouse lad's chum for some years.

[Pg 7]

At Oak Hall, Dave proved himself a leader in many sports, and as a consequence he gained a host of friends, including Roger Morr, the son of a United States senator, and Phil Lawrence, the offspring of a wealthy shipowner. He also made several enemies, not the least of whom was Nat Poole, the son of the money-lender who had caused Caspar Potts so much worry.

One day Dave's enemies raised the cry of "poorhouse nobody" against him. This cut the high-spirited lad to the quick. A fight ensued, in which Dave was victorious, and then the boy resolved, at any cost, to solve the mystery of his parentage.

How this was accomplished has been related in detail in "Dave Porter in the South Seas." With information obtained from an old sailor the youth journeyed almost half around the world, and there fell in with his uncle, Dunston Porter, who gave him much information concerning his father, David Breslow Porter, and also about his sister Laura, one year younger than himself, and told how the family had become separated.

Happy in the knowledge that he was no longer a "poorhouse nobody," but a well-to-do lad with a large sum of money coming to him when he should be of age, Dave returned to the United States. His father and sister were in Europe, and while waiting to hear from them he went back to Oak Hall, as told in "Dave Porter's Return to [Pg 8] School." Here he made many more friends. His enemies could no longer twit him about his parentage, yet some of them, notably a fellow named Jasniff and Nat Poole, and a bully named Gus Plum, did what they could to torment him. Plum, when Dave did him a great service, tried to reform, but Jasniff, who was a hot-tempered fellow, attempted to strike Dave down with a heavy Indian club. This was a dastardly attack, roundly condemned by those who saw it, and fearful of what might follow, Nick Jasniff ran away from school and set sail for England.

Dave had waited long to hear from his father and sister, and at last when he learned that Jasniff had met them in London, he resolved to go in quest of them, although he did not yet have their address. In company with Roger Morr he crossed the Atlantic, only to find that his parent had joined an expedition for the upper part of Norway. How he and his chum journeyed to the land of the Midnight Sun has been told in all its particulars in "Dave Porter in the Far North." Here Dave at last met his father face to face,—a joyous reunion no words can express. Then the boy learned that his sister Laura had gone to the United States some time before, in company with some friends named Endicott, who owned a ranch in the Far West.

"We must telegraph at once for Laura," said [Pg 9] Mr. Porter, and several telegrams were sent without delay, and, as a consequence, word came back that Laura would come as fast as the overland express could bring her.

When Dave's friends heard the good news that he had found his father some of them came to the Wadsworth home to congratulate him. Among the number was Phil Lawrence, and he and Roger were invited to remain with Dave until the latter returned to Oak Hall.

"You can all go back together—after Dave has seen his sister," said Mr. Porter. "I will fix it up with Doctor Clay, so you won't have any trouble over staying out of school a week longer." And so it was arranged.

Just before leaving school for his trip to Europe Dave had had a bitter quarrel with Nat Poole and a new student at Oak Hall named Link Merwell. Merwell was an aggressive fellow, tall and powerful, the son of a cattle-owner of the West. His taunting remarks to Dave had led to a fight in which the cattle-owner's son had gotten the worse of it.

"I'll get square for this," Link Merwell had said to his crony. "I'll make Dave Porter eat humble pie before I am done with him." Then had come another quarrel between the Western boy and Mr. Dale, the head assistant teacher, and Merwell had come close to being expelled. He [Pg 10] had gone home for a vacation, stating that he believed Phil Lawrence had gotten him into "the mess," as he expressed it, and he had added that he would not forgive either Dave or Phil as long as he lived.

"Well, what did you do?" questioned Dave, when he and the shipowner's son talked this affair over.

"I didn't do anything," answered Phil. "Merwell wanted me to say that he hadn't gone out one night when I knew he did go out. I refused, and then he was found out. Oh, but wasn't he mad when he left on his vacation! He pounded his fist on a desk and vowed he'd fix me as soon as he got back,—and then he added that he'd fix you, too, as soon as you got back."

"Mighty interesting," said Dave. "We'll have to watch him and see what comes of it." And there the subject was dropped. But it was to come up very soon again, and in a manner not anticipated.


[Pg 11]

CHAPTER II

WHAT LAURA HAD TO TELL

The train was nearly an hour late, and during that time Dave walked impatiently up and down the railroad platform. Occasionally he thought of school matters, and his friends and enemies, but most of the time his mind was on his sister. His father and his uncle talked together and did not interrupt his meditations.

At last a far-away whistle proclaimed the coming of the Western express, and Dave's face took on a more eager look than ever. His father gazed into his clear eyes and caught him by the arm.

"I trust with all my heart you find Laura all you desire," he said in a low tone, and Dave nodded, for his throat was so choked up that he could not speak.

The long train rolled in and the passengers for Crumville began to alight. "There she is!" cried Dunston Porter and ran forward, with his brother and Dave at his heels. A mist seemed to come over the boy's eyes and his heart thumped furiously. [Pg 12] Then he saw a tall girl standing before him, her eyes looking deeply into his own.

"Laura, this is Dave," he heard his father say. Then the girl came closer, reached out her arms, and in a moment more brother and sister were locked in the closest of embraces. It was such a moment Dave had longed for—prayed for—and all on the instant he knew that Laura was what he had hoped she would be and that they should love each other with the sweetest of sisterly and brotherly love as long as they lived.

Laura was handsome rather than pretty. She had an aristocratic air which had come down to her from her mother and grandmother. She was stately in her movements and her voice charmed Dave the moment he heard it.

"Just to think, you are really and truly my brother!" she exclaimed. "Isn't it wonderful!"

"It's wonderful for me to find a sister—and a father," answered Dave. "Sometimes I am afraid I'll wake up and find it all a dream."

"When I got papa's telegram I thought it was a dream. One of the cowboys on the ranch brought it over from the railroad station. At first I thought there must be some mistake, but Mr. Endicott said there couldn't be, and so I arranged to come east at once. A gentleman and his wife, who had been stopping at the ranch, came with me as far as Buffalo. Oh, I really couldn't get here [Pg 13] fast enough! Did you get the telegram I sent from Chicago?"

"Yes," answered her father. "And the one from the ranch, too."

"I want to hear the whole of the wonderful story just as soon as possible," continued Laura. "I promised Belle Endicott I'd send her the particulars, for she is dying to know. Belle is my friend, you know. Her father is a railroad president, but he owns that ranch, too, and they go out there whenever they feel like it, winter or summer. Belle said she'd rather read my next letter than a story book." And Laura smiled brightly.

"And I shall want to hear all about you and your travels," answered Dave. "Oh, I guess we'll have enough to talk about to last a week."

The party of four were soon in the sleigh, with Laura and Dave on the front seat. The youth showed how he could handle the team, and in a short while drove up to the stepping-stone of the Wadsworth mansion. At once there was a rush from within, and the girl was introduced to those who had in the past done so much for her brother, and those who were Dave's chums. Jessie was a trifle shy at first, but this presently wore away, and when Laura heard what the Wadsworths had done for her brother she speedily took mother and daughter to her heart, and Jessie and she became the best of friends.

[Pg 14]

It was assuredly a grand gathering around the bountiful table which the Wadsworths had supplied, and all lingered long, listening to what the various members of the Porter family had to tell: of Dave's doings on the Potts farm, at school, and in quest of his relatives; of Dunston Porter's treasure hunt in the South Seas; of Mr. David Porter's trip to Europe with Laura; and of the girl's adventures on the ranch and elsewhere.

"Strange as it may seem, I have met two boys who knew Dave," said Laura, during the course of the conversation. "One was that scamp, Nick Jasniff, who tried to make himself agreeable in London."

"Yes, I know about him," answered Dave. "But who was the other?"

"The other is the son of the man who owns the cattle ranch next to Mr. Endicott's, Mr. Felix Merwell."

"Merwell!" cried Dave, Roger, and Phil in a breath.

"Yes. Why do you look so astonished?"

"Do you mean Link Merwell's father?" asked her brother.

"Yes. Link came out there just a few days before I started for the East. He seemed to be a nice sort, and he is one of the best horseback riders I ever saw."

[Pg 15]

"Did you—er—go out with him?" stammered Dave.

"Yes, twice, but not alone—Belle was along." Laura looked at her brother, whose face was a study. "What makes you look so queer? You know Mr. Merwell, don't you?"

"Oh, yes, we know him," answered Phil, before Dave could speak.

"We'd like to know less of him," added Roger.

"Oh!" And now Laura's face showed her wonder.

"You see, it's this way," continued the senator's son, thinking it might be difficult for Dave to explain. "Link Merwell tried to lord it over a lot of us fellows at Oak Hall. He's a domineering chap, and some of us wouldn't stand for it. I gave him a piece of my mind once, and so did Phil, and Dave did more—gave him a sound thrashing."

"Oh, Dave, did you really!" Laura's face showed her distress. "Why, I—I thought he was nice enough. Maybe it was only a boyish quarrel," she added, hopefully. "I know boys do fight sometimes with hardly a reason for it."

"Dave had a good reason for hitting Merwell," said Phil. "The best reason in the world." He looked at Jessie and Mrs. Wadsworth and the others. "I'll not spoil this gathering by saying what it was. But it was something very mean, and Merwell deserved the drubbing he got."

[Pg 16]

"Oh, I am so sorry! That is, I don't mean I am sorry Dave thrashed him—if he deserved it—but I am sorry that I—I went out with him, and that I—I started a correspondence with him. I thought he was nice, by his general looks."

"Oh, he can make himself look well, when he dresses up," said Roger. "And he can act the gentleman on the outside. But if you get to know him thoroughly you'll find him a different sort."

"I don't wish to know him if he's that kind," answered Laura, quickly. "But I thought he was all right, especially as he was the son of the owner of the next ranch. I am sorry now I ever spoke to him."

"And you have been writing to him?" asked Dave. "I thought you said you had met him only a few days before you came away?"

"So I did. But he wanted me to buy something for him in Chicago—a lens for his camera, and asked me to write from there, and I did. And, just for fun, I sent him two letters I wrote on the train—along with some letters to Belle and some other folks I know. I did it to pass the time,—so I wouldn't know how long it was taking me to get here. It was foolish to do so, and it will teach me a lesson to be careful about writing in the future."

"I'm sorry you wrote to him," answered Dave, soberly. But how sorry he was to be, and how [Pg 17] distressed his sister was to become, he was still to learn.

Not further to mar the joy of the occasion Link Merwell's name was dropped, and Roger and Phil told of some funny initiations into the secret society at Oak Hall, which set everybody to laughing, and then Dunston Porter related the particulars of a hunt after bears he had once made in the Rockies. Thus the afternoon and evening wore away swiftly and all too soon it was time to retire. Laura was given a room next to that occupied by Dave, and long after the rest of the house was quiet brother and sister sat by a window, looking out at the moonlight on the snow and discussing the past.

"You look very much like father," said Laura, "and much like Uncle Dunston, too. No wonder that old sailor, Billy Dill, thought he had seen you when he only saw Uncle Dunston."

"And father tells me you look like mother," answered Dave, softly. "I do not remember her, but if she looked like you she must have been very handsome," and Dave smiled and brushed a stray lock back from his sister's brow.

"It is too bad she cannot see us now, Dave—how happy it would make her! I have missed her so much—it is no easy thing to get along without a mother's care, is it?—or a father's care, either. Perhaps if mamma were alive I'd be different in [Pg 18] some things. I shouldn't be so careless in what I do—in making friends with that Link Merwell, for instance, and sending him letters." Laura looked genuinely distressed as she uttered the last words.

"Well, you didn't know him, so you are not to blame. But I shouldn't send him any more letters."

"You can depend upon it I won't."

"He is the kind who would laugh at you for doing it, and make fun of you to all his friends."

"He'll not get another line from me, and if he writes I'll return the letters," answered Laura, firmly.

"Did he say when he was going back to Oak Hall?"

"Inside of two weeks. He said he had had a little trouble with a teacher, and the master of the school had advised him to take a short vacation and give the matter a chance to blow over."

Laura had arrived at Crumville on Thursday, and it was decided that Dave, Roger, and Phil should not return to Oak Hall until the following Monday. On Friday and Saturday the young folks went sleighing and skating, Jessie being one of the party, and on Sunday the entire household attended church. It was a service into which Dave entered with all his heart, and he thanked God from the bottom of his soul that at last his sister, [Pg 19] as well as his father and his uncle, had been restored to him.

"After I go back to boarding school where are you and Laura and Uncle Dunston going to stay?" questioned Dave of his father.

Mr. Porter smiled faintly. "I have a little secret about that, Dave," he answered. "I'll tell you later—after everything is ripe."

"I know the Wadsworths would hate to have me leave them—and Professor Potts won't want me to go either."

"Well, you wait, Dave,—and see what comes," answered his father; and with this the lad had to be content.

Bright and early Monday morning the three boys had breakfast and started for the depot, to take the train for Oakdale, the nearest town to Oak Hall. Laura, Jessie, and Mr. David Porter went along to see them off.

"Now, Dave, I want to see you make the most of this term at school," said Mr. Porter. "Now you have Laura and me, you won't have so much to worry about."

"I'll do my level best, father," he answered. "We want you to come out at the top of the class," said Laura.

"And Dave can do it too—I know he can," remarked Jessie, and gave him a sunny smile of encouragement.

[Pg 20]

"How about us poor chaps?" asked Roger. "Can't we come in somewhere?"

"Yes, you must come in right after Dave," answered Laura, and this made everybody laugh.

"The higher we get in school the harder the work becomes," came from Phil. "But I am going to peg away at it—provided the other fellows will let me."

"Phil always was very studious," said Dave, with an old-time grin spreading over his face. "He'd rather study a problem in geometry or translate Latin than read a story book or play baseball; wouldn't you, Phil?"

"Not much! and you know it. But if a fellow has got to grind, why——"

"He can grind—and play baseball, too," added Mr. Porter. "My parting advice is: when you study, study for all you are worth, and when you play, play for all you are worth."

"Here comes the train!" cried Laura, and turning, she kissed her brother. "Good-bye, Roger; good-bye, Phil!"

"Good-bye!" came from the others, and a general handshaking followed. Then the three chums ran for the train, got aboard, and were off for school once more.


[Pg 21]

CHAPTER III

ON THE WAY TO SCHOOL

"There is one thing I've forgotten to mention to you," said Phil, as the train rolled on its way and Crumville was left far behind. "That is that this term Doctor Clay has offered a special set of prizes to the students standing highest in various subjects. There is a prize for history, another for Latin, and a third for English literature and theme-writing. In addition there is to be a special prize for the student who can write the best paper on 'The Past and Future of our Country.' This last contest is open only to those who stand above the eighty per cent. level in their classes."

"That's interesting," answered Dave. "How many reach that level, do you think, Phil?"

"Not more than thirty all told, and of those I don't believe more than twenty will send in papers."

"Dave, you ought to try," said Roger. "You were always good at composition."

"So are you, Roger."

"I'm not as good as you, and I know it. I like [Pg 22] history more than anything else, and I guess I'll try for that prize."

"Well, what is the past of our country but history?" continued Dave, with a smile.

"That part might be easy; but what of the future? I'm no good at prophesying."

"Oh, couldn't you speak of the recent inventions and of what is coming—marvelous submarine boats, airships, wireless telegraphy, wonderful cures by means of up-to-date surgery, and then of the big cities of the West, of the new railroads stretching out everywhere, and of the fast ocean liners, and the Panama Canal, and the irrigation of the Western dry lands, and——"

"Hold on, Dave!" cried Phil. "You are giving Roger all your ammunition. Put that in your own paper."

"Oh, there's a whole lot more," was the smiling answer. "The thirty-and forty-storied buildings in our big cities, the underground railways, the tubes under the rivers, the tremendous suspension bridges, the automobile carriages and business trucks,—not to mention the railroad trains that are to run on one rail at a speed of a hundred miles an hour. Oh, there are lots of things—if one only stops to think of them."

"The prize is yours, Dave!" exclaimed the senator's son. "You've mentioned more in three [Pg 23] minutes than I would have thought of in three weeks. I'll stick to history."

"And I'll stick to English literature—I'm pretty well up on that, thank goodness!" said the shipowner's son.

After that the talk drifted to other things—of the doings of the students at Oak Hall, and of how Job Haskers, one of the assistant teachers, had caught some of the lads playing a trick on Pop Swingly, the janitor, and punished them severely for it.

"The trick didn't amount to much," said Phil, "and I rather believe Swingly enjoyed it. But old Haskers was in a bilious mood and made the fellows stay in after school for three days."

"Were you in it?" asked Dave.

"Yes; and all of us have vowed to get square on Haskers."

"It's a wonder Doctor Clay doesn't get rid of Haskers—he is so unpopular," was Roger's comment.

"Haskers is a fine teacher, that's why he is kept. But I like Mr. Dale much better," said Dave.

"Oh, everybody does!"

"All but Link Merwell," said Phil. "Isn't it strange, he seems to get along very well with Haskers."

"Two of a kind maybe," returned the senator's son.

[Pg 24]

After a long run the Junction was reached, where the boys had to change cars for Oakdale. They got off and found they had twenty-five minutes to wait.

"Remember the time we were here and had the trouble with Isaac Pludding?" asked Roger.

"I'll never forget it," answered Dave, with a grin. "By the way, as we have time to spare let us go around to Denman's restaurant and have a cup of chocolate and a piece of pie. That car was so cold it chilled me."

Growing boys are always hungry, so, despite the generous breakfast they had had, they walked over to the restaurant named. The man who kept it remembered them well and smiled broadly as they took seats at a table.

"On your way to school, I suppose," he said, as he served them. "Ain't following up Ike Pludding this trip, are you?"

"Hardly," answered Dave. "What do you know of him?"

"I know he is about down and out," answered Amos Denman. "And served him right too."

The boys were about to leave the restaurant when Dave chanced to glance in one of the windows. There, on a big platter, was an inviting heap of chicken salad, above which was a sign announcing it was for sale at thirty cents a pint.

[Pg 25]

"Let me try that salad, will you?" Dave asked.

"Certainly. Want to take some along?" And Amos Denman passed over a forkful.

"What are you going to do with chicken salad?" questioned Roger.

"Oh, I thought we might want to celebrate our return by a little feast, Roger."

"Hurrah! just the thing!" ejaculated the senator's son. "Is it good? It is? All right, I'll take a quart."

"I'll take a quart, too," said Dave. "I guess you can put it all together."

"Are those mince pies fresh?" asked Phil, pointing to some in a case.

"Just out of the oven. Feel of them."

"Then I'll take two."

In the end the three youths purchased quite a number of things from the restaurant keeper, who tied up the articles in pasteboard boxes wrapped in brown paper. Then the lads had to run for the train and were the last on board.

It had begun to snow again and the white flakes were coming down thickly when the train rolled into the neat little station at Oakdale. The boys were the only ones to alight and they looked around eagerly to see if the school carryall was waiting for them.

"Hello, fellows!" cried a voice from the end of the platform, and Joseph Beggs, usually called [Pg 26] Buster because of his fatness, waddled up. "Thought you'd be on this train."

"How are you, Buster?" answered Dave, shaking hands. "My, but aren't you getting thin!" And he looked the fat boy over with a grin.

"It's worry that's doing it," answered Buster, calmly. "Haven't slept a night since you went away, Dave. So you really found your dad and your sister! Sounds like a regular six-act-and-fourteen-scene drama. We'll have to write it up and get Horsehair to star in it. First Act: Found on the Railroad Tracks; Second Act: The Faithful Farm Boy; Third Act: The King of the School; Fourth Act——"

"Waiting for the Stage," interrupted Dave. "Keep it, Buster, until we're on the way to Oak Hall. Did you come down alone?"

"Not much he didn't come down alone!" cried a voice at Dave's elbow, and Maurice Hamilton, always called Shadow, appeared. Maurice was as tall and thin as Buster was stout. "Let me feel your hand and know you are really here, Dave," he went on. "Why, your story is—is—what shall I say?"

"Great," suggested Roger.

"Marvelous," added Phil.

"Out of sight," put in Buster Beggs.

"All good—and that puts me in mind of a story. One time there was a——"

[Pg 27]

"Shadow—so early in the day!" cried the senator's son, reproachfully.

"Oh, you can't shut him off," exploded Buster. "He's been telling chestnuts ever since we left the Hall."

"This isn't a chestnut, it's a——"

"Hickory nut," finished Phil; "hard to crack—as the darky said of the china egg he wanted to fry."

"It isn't a chestnut or a hickory nut either," expostulated the story-teller of the school. "It's a brand-new one. One time there was a county——"

"If it's new you ought to have it copyrighted, Shadow," said Roger.

"Perhaps a trade-mark might do," added Dave. "You can get one for——"

"Say, don't you want to hear this story?" demanded Shadow.

"Yes, yes, go on!" was the chorus.

"Now we've had the first installment we'll have to have the finish or die," continued Phil, tragically.

"Well, one time there was a county fair, with a number of side shows, snakes, acrobats, and such things. One tent had a big sign over it, 'The Greatest and Most Marvelous Wonder of the Age—A man who plays the piano better with his feet than most skilled musicians can play with their [Pg 28] hands. Admission 10 cents.' That sign attracted a big crowd and brought in a lot of money. When the folks got inside a man came out, sat down in front of a piano that played with paper rolls, and pumped the thing for all he was worth with his feet!"

"Oh, what a sell!" roared Phil. "Shadow, that's the worst you ever told."

"Quite a feat," said Dave.

"But painful to the understanding," added Roger. He looked around. "Hello, here's Horsehair at last."

He referred to Jackson Lemond, the driver for the school, who was always called Horsehair because of the hairs which invariably clung to his clothing. The driver was coming down the main street of the town with a package of harness dressing in his hand.

"Had to git this," he explained. "How de do, young gents? All ready to go to the Hall?"

"Horsehair, we're going to write a play about Dave's discoveries," said Buster. "We want you to star in it. We know you can make a hit."

"No starrin' fer me," answered the driver, who had once played minor parts in a barn-storming theatrical company. "I'll stick to the hosses."

"But think of it, Horsehair," went on Buster. "We'll have you eaten up by cannibals of the [Pg 29] South Seas, frozen to death in Norway snowstorms, shooting bears as big as elephants, and——"

"Oh, Buster, do let up!" cried Dave. "None of those things are true, and you know it. Come ahead, I am anxious to see the rest of the fellows," and Dave ran for the carryall, with his dress-suit case in one hand and one of the packages from the restaurant in the other.

Soon the crowd had piled into the turnout, Phil on the front seat beside the driver, and away they went. The carryall had been put on runners and ran as easily as a cutter, having two powerful horses to pull it.

All of the boys were in high spirits and as they sped over the snow they sang and cracked jokes to their hearts' content. They did not forget the old school song, sung to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne," and sang this with a vigor that tested their lungs to the uttermost:

"Oak Hall we never shall forget, No matter where we roam; It is the very best of schools, To us it's just like home! Then give three cheers, and let them ring Throughout this world so wide, To let the people know that we Elect to here abide!"

"By the way, how is Gus Plum getting along these days?" asked Dave of Shadow Hamilton, during a pause in the fun. He referred, as my old [Pg 30] readers know, to a youth who in days gone by had been a great bully at the Hall.

"Gus Plum needs watching," was the low answer, so that none of the other boys might hear. "He is better in some ways, Dave, and much worse in others."

"How do you mean, Shadow?"

"I can't explain here—but I'll do it in private some day," answered Shadow; and then the carryall swept up to the school steps and a number of students ran forth from the building to greet the new arrivals.


[Pg 31]

CHAPTER IV

THE FUN OF A NIGHT

As my old readers know, Oak Hall was a large structure of brick and stone, built in the shape of a broad cross, with wide hallways running from north to south and east to west. All of the classrooms were on the ground floor, as were also the dining hall and kitchen, and the head master's private office. On the second floor were the majority of the dormitories, furnished to hold four, six, and eight pupils each. The school was surrounded by a wide campus, running down to the Leming River, where was located a good-sized boathouse. Some distance away from the river was a neat gymnasium, and, to the rear of the school, were commodious stables and sheds. At the four corners of the campus grew great clumps of giant oaks, and two oaks stood like sentinels on either side of the gateway—thus giving the Hall its name.

As Dave leaped to the piazza of the school he was met by Sam Day, another of his old chums, who gave his hand a squeeze that made him wince. [Pg 32] Close by was Chip Macklin, once the toady of Gus Plum, but now "quite a decent sort," as most of the lads would say. Further in the rear was Gus Plum, looking pale and troubled. Evidently something was wrong with him, as Shadow had intimated.

"Sorry I couldn't get down to the depot," said Sam. "But I had some examples in algebra to do and they kept me until after the carryall had left."

There was more handshaking, and Dave did not forget Macklin or Gus Plum. When he took the hand of the former bully he found it icy cold and he noticed that it trembled considerably.

"How are you, Gus?" he said, pleasantly.

"Oh, I'm fair," was the hesitating answer. "I—I am glad to see you back, and doubly glad to know you found your father."

"And sister, Gus; don't forget that."

"Yes, and your sister." And then Gus Plum let Dave's hand fall and stepped back into the crowd and vanished. Dave saw that he had something on his mind, and he wondered more than ever what Shadow might have to tell him.

Soon Doctor Clay appeared, a man well along in years, with gray, penetrating eyes and a face that could be either kindly or stern as the occasion demanded.

"As the boys say, it is all very wonderful, and I am rejoiced for your sake, Porter," he said. [Pg 33] "Your trip to Norway certainly turned out well, and you need not begrudge the time lost from school. Now, with your mind free, you can go at your studies with vigor, and such a bright pupil as you ought to be able to make up all the ground lost."

"I intend to try my best, sir," answered Dave.

The only lad at Oak Hall who did not seem to enjoy Dave's reappearance was Nat Poole. The dudish youth from Crumville, whose father had, in times past, caused old Caspar Potts so much trouble, kept himself aloof, and when he met Dave in a hallway he turned his head the other way and pretended not to notice.

"Nat Poole certainly feels sore," said Dave to Ben Basswood, his old friend from home, when Ben came to meet him, having been kept in a classroom by Job Haskers.

"Yes, he is sore on everybody," answered Ben. "Well, he is having a hard time of it, seems to me. First Chip Macklin cut him, and then Gus Plum. Then he got mixed up with Nick Jasniff, and Jasniff had to run away. Then he and Link Merwell became chums, and you know what happened to both. Now Merwell is away and Nat is about left to himself. He is a bigger dude than ever, and spends a lot of money that the doctor doesn't know anything about, and yet he can't make himself popular."

[Pg 34]

"Well, I'm glad money doesn't count at Oak Hall, Ben."

"I know you feel that way, Dave, and it does you credit. I guess now you are about as rich as anybody, and if money did the trick——"

"I want to stand on my merits, not on my pocketbook. Perhaps Nat would make friends if he wasn't forever showing off and telling how wealthy his father is."

"I believe you there."

"By the way, Ben, do you know anything about Gus Plum? There seems to be a big change in him."

"There is a change, but I can't tell you what it is. Shadow Hamilton knows. He and Plum came home late one night, both having been to Oakdale, and Shadow was greatly excited and greatly worried. Some of us fellows wanted to know what it was about, but Shadow refused to say a word, excepting that he was going to let you know some time, because you appeared to have some influence over Gus."

Ben's words surprised Dave, coming so shortly after what Shadow himself had said. He was on the point of asking Ben some more questions, but reconsidered the matter and said nothing. He could wait until such a time as Shadow felt in the humor to unburden his mind.

Dave and his chums roomed in dormitories Nos. [Pg 35] 11 and 12, two large and well-lighted apartments, with a connecting door between. Not far away was dormitory No. 13, which was now occupied by Nat Poole and some others, including Link Merwell when that individual was at Oak Hall. One bed was vacant, that which Nick Jasniff had left so hurriedly.

In a quiet way the news was spread that Dave and his chums had provided some good things for a feast, and that night about twenty boys gathered in No. 11 and No. 12 to celebrate "the return of our leader," as Luke Watson expressed it. Luke was on hand with his banjo and his guitar, to add a little music if wanted.

"Say, boys, we couldn't have chosen a better time for this sort of thing than to-night," announced Sam Day. "Haskers has gone to town and Mr. Dale is paying a visit to a neighbor; I heard the doctor tell Mr. Dale he was tired and was going to bed early, and best of all Jim Murphy says he won't hear a thing, provided we set out a big piece of mince pie for him." Murphy was monitor of the halls.

"Good for Jim!" cried Dave. "I'll cut that piece of pie myself," and he did, and placed it where he felt certain that the monitor would find it.

The boys were allowed to do as they pleased until half-past nine, and they sang songs and [Pg 36] cracked jokes innumerable. But then the monitor stuck his head in at the door.

"Got to be a little quiet from now on," he said, in a hoarse whisper and with a broad grin on his face. "I'm awfully deaf to-night, but the doctor will wake up if there's too much racket."

"Did you get the pie?" questioned Dave.

"Not yet, and I'll take it now, if you don't mind."

"Jim, do you mean to say you didn't get that pie?" demanded Dave.

"Oh, he's fooling," interrupted Phil. "He wants a second piece."

"That's it," came from Shadow. "Puts me in mind of a story about a boy who——"

"Never mind the story now, Shadow," interrupted Dave. "Tell me honestly, Jim, whether you got the pie or not? Of course you can have another piece, or some chicken salad——"

"I didn't get any pie,—or anything else," answered the monitor.

"I put it on the bottom of the stand in the upper hallway."

"Nothing there when I went to look."

"Then somebody took it on the sly," said Roger. "For I was with Dave when he put it there. Anybody in these rooms guilty?" And he gazed around sternly.

All of the boys shook their heads. Then of a [Pg 37] sudden a delicate youth who looked like a girl arose in astonishment and held up his hands.

"Well, I declare!" he lisped.

"What now, Polly?" asked Phil.

"I wonder if it is really possible," went on Bertram Vane.

"What possible?" questioned Dave.

"Why, when I was coming through the hall a while ago I almost ran into Nat Poole. He had something in one hand, under his handkerchief, and as I passed him I really thought I smelt mince pie!"

"Nat Poole!" cried several.

"Oh, the sneak!" burst out Roger. "He must have been watching Dave. Maybe he heard us promise Murphy the pie."

"Bad luck to him if he stole what was coming to me," muttered the monitor. "I hope the pie choked him."

"If Nat Poole took the pie we'll fix him for it," said Dave. "Just you leave it to me." Then he got another portion of the dainty and handed it to the monitor, who disappeared immediately.

"What will you do?" questioned Roger.

"Since Nat has had some pie I think I'll treat him to some chicken salad," was the reply. "Nothing like being generous, you know."

"Why, Dave, you don't mean you are going [Pg 38] to let Nat Poole have any of this nice salad!" cried Phil. "I'd see him in Guinea first!"

"He shall have some—after it has been properly doctored."

"Eh? Oh, I see," and the shipowner's son began to grin. "All right then. But doctor it good."

"I shall make no mistake about that," returned Dave.

While Shadow was telling a story of a little boy who had fallen down a well and wanted somebody to "put the staircase down" so he could climb up, Dave went to a small medicine closet which he had purchased during his previous term at Oak Hall. From this he got various bottles and powders and began to "doctor" a nice portion of the chicken salad.

"Say, Dave, that won't hurt anybody, will it?" asked Ben, who saw the movement.

"It may hurt Nat Poole, Ben."

"Oh, you don't want to injure him."

"This won't do any harm. I am going to give him what Professor Potts called green peppers. Once, when he was particularly talkative, he related how he had played the joke on a fellow-student at college. It won't injure Nat Poole, but if he eats this salad there will surely be fun, I can promise you that."

"How are you going to get it to him?"

[Pg 39]

"Take it to him myself."

"You! He'll be suspicious at once and won't touch it."

"Perhaps not—we'll wait and see."

When the feast was practically at an end, Dave put the doctored salad in a dessert dish, topping it with some that was sweet and good. On all he laid some fancy crackers which one of the boys had contributed.

"Now, here is where I try the trick," he said, and put on a sweater, leaving the upper portion partly over his face. Then, leaving his dormitory, he tiptoed his way to No. 13 and pushed open the door softly.

As he had surmised, Nat Poole had gone to bed and had just fallen asleep. Going noiselessly to his side, Dave bent over him and whispered into his ear:

"Here, Nat, is something I stole for you from that crowd that was having the feast. Eat it up and don't tell the other fellows."

"Eh, what? The feast?" stammered Nat, and took the plate in his hand. "Who are you?"

"Hush!" whispered Dave, warningly. "Don't wake the others. I stole it for you. Eat it up. I'll tell you how I did it in the morning. It's a joke on Dave Porter!" And then Dave glided away from the bed and out of the room like a ghost, shutting the door noiselessly after him.

[Pg 40]

Half asleep, Nat Poole was completely bewildered by what he heard. In the semi-darkness he could not imagine who had brought the dish full of stuff. But he remembered the words, "eat it up" and "don't tell the other fellows" and "a joke on Dave Porter." That was enough for Nat. He sat up, looked at the fancy crackers and the salad, and smacked his lips.

"Must have been one of our old crowd," he mused. "Maybe Shingle or Remney. Well, it's a joke on Dave Porter right enough, and better than taking that pie he left for Murphy." And then he began to munch the crackers and eat the salad, using a tiny fork Dave had thoughtfully provided. He liked chicken salad very much, and this seemed particularly good, although at times it had a bitter flavor for which he could not account.

Peering through the keyhole of the door, Dave saw his intended victim make way with the salad. Then he ran back to his dormitory.

"It's all right," he said. "Now all of you undress and go to bed,—and watch for what comes!"


[Pg 41]

CHAPTER V

WHAT HAPPENED TO NAT POOLE

The students of dormitories No. 11 and No. 12 scarcely had time to get to bed when they heard a noise in the apartment Nat Poole and some others occupied. First came a subdued groan, followed by another, and then they heard Nat Poole get up.

"What's the matter?" they heard a student named Belcher ask.

"Why—er—I'm burning up!" gasped Nat Poole. "Let me get a drink of water!" And he leaped from his bedside to where there was a stand with a pitcher of ice-water and a glass.

He was so eager to get the water that, in the semi-darkness, he hit the stand with his arm. Over it went, and the pitcher and glass fell to the floor with a crash. The noise aroused everybody in the dormitory.

"What's the matter?"

"Are burglars breaking in?"

"Confound the luck!" muttered Nat Poole. "Oh, I must get some water! I am burning up alive!"

[Pg 42]

"What's done it?" questioned Belcher.

"I—er—never mind now. I am burning up and must have some water!" roared the dudish pupil, and dashed out of the dormitory in the direction of a water tank located at the end of the hall.

Here he was a little more careful and got the drink he desired. But scarcely had he taken a mouthful when he ejected it with great force.

"Wow! how bitter that tastes!" he gasped. Then of a sudden he commenced to shiver. "Wonder if that salad poisoned me? Who gave it to me, anyhow?"

He tried the water again, but it was just as bitter as before. Then he ran to a bathroom, to try the water there. By this time his mouth and throat felt like fire, and, thoroughly scared, he ran back to his sleeping apartment and began to yell for help.

His cries aroused a good portion of the inmates of Oak Hall, and students came from all directions to see what was the matter. They found poor Nat sitting on a chair, the picture of misery.

"I—I guess I'm poisoned and I'm going to die!" he wailed. "Somebody better get a doctor."

"What did you eat?" demanded half a dozen boys.

"I—er—I ate some salad a fellow brought to me in the dark. I don't know who he was. Oh, my [Pg 43] throat! It feels as if a red-hot poker was in it! And I can't drink water either! Oh, I know I am going to die!"

"Try oil—that's good for a burn," suggested one student, and he brought forth some cod liver oil. Nat hated cod liver oil almost as much as poison, but he was scared and took the dose without a murmur. It helped a little, but his throat felt far from comfortable and soon it commenced to burn as much as ever.

By this time Doctor Clay had been aroused and he came to the dormitory in a dressing gown and slippers.

"Nat Poole has been poisoned!" cried several.

"Poisoned!" ejaculated the master of the Hall. "How is this, Poole?" and he strode to the suffering pupil's side.

"I—I don't know," groaned Nat. "I—er—ate some mince pie and some salad——"

"Perhaps it is only indigestion," was the doctor's comment. "You may get over it in a little while."

"But my throat——" And then the dudish boy stopped short. The fire in his mouth and throat had suddenly gone down—like a tooth stopping its aching.

"What were you going to say?" asked Doctor Clay.

"Why, I—that is—my throat isn't so bad now." [Pg 44] And Nat's face took on a sudden sheepish look. In some way he realized he had been more scared than hurt.

"Let me have a look at your throat," went on the master of the Hall and took his pupil to a strong light. "It is a little red, but that is all. Is your stomach all right?"

"It seems to be—and the pain in my throat and mouth is all gone now," added Nat.

The doctor handed him a glass of water a boy had brought and Nat tried it. The liquid tasted natural, much to his surprise, and the drink made him feel quite like himself once more.

"I—I guess I am all right now," he said after an awkward pause. "I—er—am sorry I woke you up."

"After this be careful of how much you eat," said the doctor, stiffly. "If a boy stuffs himself on mince pie and salad he is bound to suffer for it." Then he directed all the students to go to bed at once, and retired to his own apartment.

If ever a lad was puzzled that lad was Nat Poole. For the life of him he could not determine whether he had suffered naturally or whether a trick had been played on him. He wanted very much to know who had brought him the salad, but could not find out. For days after the boys would yell "mince pie" and "salad" at him, much to his annoyance.

[Pg 45]

"That certainly was a good one," was Phil's comment. "I reckon Nat will learn to keep his hands off of things after this." And he and the others had a good laugh over the trick Dave had played. It proved to be perfectly harmless, for the next day Poole felt as well as ever.

As Dave had said, he was determined to make up the lessons lost during his trip to England and Norway, and he consequently applied himself with vigor to all his studies. At this, Mr. Dale, who was head teacher, was particularly pleased, and he did all he could to aid the youth.

As during previous terms, Dave had much trouble with Job Haskers. A brilliant teacher, Haskers was as arbitrary and dictatorial as could be imagined, and he occasionally said things which were so sarcastic they cut to the quick. Very few of the boys liked him, and some positively hated him.

"I always feel like fighting when I run up against old Haskers," was the way Roger expressed himself. "I'd give ten dollars if he'd pack his trunk and leave."

"And then come back the next day," put in Phil, with a grin.

"Not much! When he leaves I want him to stay away!"

"That puts me in mind of a story," said Shadow, who was present.

[Pg 46]

"What, another!" cried Dave, with a mock groan. "Oh, but this is dreadful!"

"Not so bad—as you'll soon see. A boy had a little dog, who could howl morning, noon, and night, to beat the band. Next door to the boy lived a very nervous man. Said he to the boy one day: 'Will you sell me that dog for a dollar?' 'Make it two dollars and the dog is yours,' answered the boy. So the man, to get rid of that howling dog, paid the boy the two dollars and shipped the dog to the pound. Then he asked the boy: 'What are you going to do with the two dollars?' 'Buy two more dogs,' said the boy. Then the man went away and wept."

"That's all right!" cried Sam Day, and everybody laughed. Then he added: "What can disturb a fellow more than a howling dog at night?"

"I know," answered Dave, quietly.

"What?"

"Two dogs," and then Dave ducked to avoid a book that Sam threw at him.

"Speaking of dogs reminds me of something," said Buster Beggs. "You all remember Mike Marcy, the miserly old farmer whose mule we returned some time ago."

"I am not likely to forget him," answered Dave, who had had more than one encounter with the fellow, as my old readers are aware.

[Pg 47]

"Well, he has got a very savage dog and has posted signs all over his place, 'Beware of the Dog!' Two or three of the fellows, who were crossing his corner lot one day, came near being bitten."

"Were you one of them?" asked Roger.

"Yes, and we weren't doing anything either—only crossing the vacant lot to take a short-cut to the school, to avoid being late."

"I was in the crowd," said Luke Watson, "and I had a good mind to kill the dog."

"We'll have to go over some day and see Marcy," said Phil. "I haven't forgotten how he accused me of stealing his apples."

"He once accused me of stealing a chicken," put in a boy named Messmer. "I'd like to take him down a peg or two for that."

"Let us go over to his place next week some time and tease him," suggested another boy named Henshaw, and some of the others said they would bear his words in mind.

Messmer and Henshaw were the owners of an ice-boat named the Snowbird. They had built the craft themselves, and, while it was not very handsome, it had good going qualities, and that was all the boys wanted.

"Come on out in the Snowbird," said Henshaw, to Dave and several of the others, on the following Saturday afternoon, when there was no school. [Pg 48] "The ice on the river is very good, and the wind is just right for a spin."

"Thanks, I'll go with pleasure," answered Dave; and soon the party was off. The river, frozen over from end to end, was alive with skaters and ice-boats, and presented a scene of light-heartedness and pleasure.

"There goes an ice-boat from the Rockville military academy," said Messmer, presently. "I guess they don't want to race. They haven't forgotten how we beat them." And he was right; the Rockville ice-boat soon tacked to the other side of the river, the cadets on board paying no attention to the Oak Hall students.

The boys on the ice-boat did not go to their favorite spot, Robber Island, but allowed the Snowbird to sweep up an arm of the river, between several large hills. The hills were covered with hemlocks and cedars, between which the snow lay to a depth of one or two feet.

"Do you know what I'd like to do some day?" remarked Roger. "Come up here after rabbits." He had a shotgun, of which he was quite proud.

"I believe you'd find plenty," answered Dave. "I'd like to go myself. I used to hunt, when I was on the farm."

"Let us walk up the hills and take a look around—now we are here," continued the senator's son. [Pg 49] "If we see any rabbits' tracks we'll know they are on hand."

Dave agreed, and he, Roger, and Phil left the ice-boat, stating they would be back in half an hour.

"All right!" sang out Messmer. "We'll cruise around in the meantime. When we get back we'll whistle for you."

The tramp through the deep snow was not easy, yet the three chums enjoyed it, for it made them feel good to be out in the clear, cold atmosphere, every breath of which was invigorating. They went on silently, so as not to disturb any game that might be near.

"Here are rabbit tracks!" said Dave, in a low tone, after the top of the first hill was gained, and he pointed to the prints, running around the trees and bushes. "Shooting ought certainly to be good in this neighborhood."

From one hill they tramped to another, the base of which came down to the river at a point where there was a deep spot known as Lagger's Hole. Here the ice was usually full of air-holes and unsafe, and skaters and ice-boats avoided the locality.

From the top of the hill the boys commenced to throw snowballs down on the ice, seeing who could throw the farthest. Then Phil suggested they make a big snowball and roll it down.

"I'll bet, if it reaches the ice, it will go clear across the river," said the shipowner's son.

[Pg 50]

"All right, let's try it," answered Dave and Roger, and the three set to work to make a round, hard ball. They rolled it around the top of the hill until it was all of three feet in diameter and then pushed it to the edge.

"Now then, send her down!" cried Phil, and the three boys gave a push that took the big snowball over the edge of the hill. Slowly at first and then faster and faster, it rolled down the hill, increasing in size as it progressed.

"It's getting there!" sang out Roger. "See how it is shooting along!"

"Look!" yelled Dave, pointing up the river. "An ice-boat is coming!"

All looked and saw that he was right. It was a craft from the Rockville academy, and it was headed straight for the spot where the big snowball was about to cross.

"If the snowball hits them, there will be a smash-up!" cried Roger.

"And that is just what is going to happen, I fear," answered Dave.


[Pg 51]

CHAPTER VI

WHAT A BIG SNOWBALL DID

As the ice-boat came closer the boys on the hill saw that it contained four persons, two cadets and two young ladies. The latter were evidently guests, for they sat in the stern and took no part in handling the craft.

Dave set up a loud cry of warning and his chums joined in. But if those on the ice-boat heard, they paid no heed. On and on they came, heading for the very spot for which the great snowball, now all of six feet in diameter, was shooting.

"The ice is full of holes, maybe the snowball will drop into one of them," said Phil. But this was not to be. The snowball kept straight on, until it and the ice-boat were less than a hundred feet apart.

It was then that one of the cadets on the craft saw the peril and uttered a cry of alarm. He tried to bring the ice-boat around, and his fellow-student aided him. But it was too late, and in a few seconds more the big snowball hit the craft, bowled [Pg 52] it over, and sent it spinning along the ice toward some of the largest of the air-holes.

"They are going into the water!" gasped Roger.

"Come on—let us see if we can help them!" returned Dave, and plunged down the hill. He took the course the big snowball had taken, and his chums came after him. More than once they fell, but picked themselves up quickly and kept on until the ice was gained. At the edge they came to a halt, for the air-holes told them plainly of the danger ahead.

"There they go—into the water!" cried Dave, and waiting no longer, he ran out on the ice, picking his way between the air-holes as best he could. Several times the ice cracked beneath his weight, but he did not turn back. He felt that the occupants of the ice-boat were in peril of their lives and that in a measure he was responsible for this crisis.

The river at this point was all of a hundred yards wide and the accident had occurred close to the farther side. The ice-boat had been sent to where two air-holes were close together, and the weight of the craft and its occupants had caused it to crack the ice, and it now rested half in and half out of the water. One of the cadets and one of the young ladies had been flung off to a safe place, but the other pair were clinging desperately to the framework.

[Pg 53]

"Oh, we shall be drowned! We shall be drowned!" cried the maiden in distress.

"Can't you jump off?" asked the cadet who was safe on the ice.

"I—I am afraid!" wailed the girl. "Oh, the ice is sinking!" she added, as an ominous sound reached her ears.

To the credit of the cadet on the ice-boat, he remained the cooler of the two, and he called to his fellow-student to run for a fence-rail which might be used to rescue the girl and himself. But the nearest fence was a long way off, and time, just then, was precious.

"Cut a couple of ropes!" sang out Dave, as he dashed up. "Cut one and throw it over here!"

The cadet left on the overturned craft understood the suggestion, and taking out his pocketknife, he cut two of the ropes. He tied one fast to the other and sent an end spinning out toward Dave and the cadet on the ice. The other end of the united ropes remained fast to the ice-boat.

By this time Phil and Roger had come up, and all the lads on the firm ice took hold of the rope and pulled with all their might. Dave directed the operation, and slowly the ice-boat came up from the hole into which it had partly sunk and slid over toward the shore.

"Hurrah! we've got her!" cried Phil.

[Pg 54]

"Vera, are you hurt?" asked the girl on the ice, anxiously.

"Not at all, Mary; only one foot is wet," answered the girl who had been rescued.

"Oh, I'm so glad!" And then the two girls embraced in the joy of their escape.

"I'd like to know where that big snowball came from," growled the cadet who had been flung off the ice-boat when the shock came. He looked at Dave and his companions. "Did you start that thing?"

"We did," answered Dave, "but we didn't know you were coming."

"It was a mighty careless thing to do," put in the cadet who had been rescued. "We might have been drowned!"

"I believe they did it on purpose," said the other cadet. He looked at the letters on a sweater Roger wore. "You're from Oak Hall, aren't you?"

"Yes."

"Thought you'd have some sport, eh?" This was said with a sneer. "Say, Cabot, we ought to give 'em something for this," he added, turning to his fellow-cadet.

"So we should," growled Cabot, who chanced to be the owner of the craft that had been damaged. "They have got to pay for breaking the ice-boat, anyway."

[Pg 55]

"Oh, Mr. Anderson, please don't get into a quarrel!" pleaded one of the girls.

"Well, those rowdies deserve a thrashing," answered Anderson. He was a big fellow, with rather a hard look on his face.

"Thank you, but we are not rowdies," retorted Roger. "We were having a little fun and did not dream of striking you with the snowball."

"If you know anything about the river, you know ice-boats and skaters rarely if ever come this way," added Phil. "The ice around here is always full of air-holes and consequently dangerous."

"Oh, you haven't got to teach me where to go," growled Anderson.

"I'm only stating a fact."

"The ice is certainly not very nice around here," said one of the girls. "Perhaps we might have gotten into a hole even if the big snowball hadn't struck us."

At this remark Dave and his chums gave the girl a grateful look. The cadets were annoyed, and one whispered something to the other.

"You fellows get to work and fix the ice-boat," said Cabot.

"And do it quick, too," added Anderson.

[Pg 56]

"I—I think I'll walk the rest of the way home," said one of the girls. "Will you come along, Vera?"

"Yes," answered the other. She stepped up to Dave's side. "Thank you for telling Mr. Cabot what to do, and for pulling us out of the hole," she went on, and gave the boys a warm smile.

"Going to leave us?" growled Anderson.

"Yes."

"That ain't fair. You promised——"

"To take a ride on the ice-boat," finished the girl named Vera. "We did it, and now I am going home."

"And so am I," added the other girl. "Good-bye."

"But see here——" went on Anderson, and caught the girl named Vera by the arm.

"Please let go, Mr. Anderson."

"I want——"

"Let the young lady go if she wishes to," said Dave, stepping up.

"This isn't your affair," blustered Anderson.

"No gentleman would detain a lady against her will."

"Good-bye," said the girl, and stepped back several paces when released by the cadet.

"All right, Vera Rockwell, I'll not take you out again," growled Anderson, seeing she was bound to go.

"You'll not have the chance, thank you!" flung back the girl, and then she joined her companion, [Pg 57] and both hurried away from the shore and to a road running near by.

After the girls had gone there was an awkward silence. Both Cabot and Anderson felt sore to be treated in this fashion, and especially in the presence of those from Oak Hall, a rival institution to that where they belonged.

"Well, what are you going to do about the damage done?" grumbled Anderson.

"I don't think the ice-boat is damaged much," answered Dave. "Let us look her over and see."

"If she is, you'll pay the bill," came from Cabot.

"Well, we can do that easily enough," answered Roger lightly.

The craft was righted and inspected. The damage proved to be trifling and the ice-boat was speedily made fit for use.

"If I find she isn't all right, I'll make some of you foot the bill," said Cabot.

"I am willing to pay for all damage done," answered Dave. "My name is Dave Porter."

"Oh! I've heard of you," said Anderson. "You're on the Oak Hall football team."

"Yes, and I've had the pleasure of helping to beat Rockville," answered Dave, and could not help grinning.

"Humph! Wait till next season! We'll show you a thing or two," growled Anderson, and then [Pg 58] he and Cabot boarded the ice-boat, trimmed the sail, and stood off down the river.

"Well, they are what I call a couple of pills," was Phil's comment. "I don't see how two nice girls could go out with them."

"They certainly were two nice girls," answered Roger. "That Vera Rockwell had beautiful eyes and hair. And did you see the smile she gave Dave! Dave, you're the lucky one!"

"That other girl is named Mary Feversham," answered Phil. "Her father is connected with the express company. I met her once, but she doesn't seem to remember me. I think she is better-looking than Miss Rockwell."

"Gracious, Phil must be smitten!" cried Dave.

"When is it to come off, Phil?" asked the senator's son. "We want time to buy presents, you know."

"Oh, you can poke fun if you want to," grumbled the shipowner's son. "She's a nice girl and I'd like to have the chance to meet her. Somebody said she was a good skater."

"Well, if you go skating with her, ask Miss Rockwell to come, too, and I'll be at the corner waiting for you," said the senator's son. "That is, if Dave don't try to cut me out."

"No danger—Jessie wouldn't allow it," replied Phil.

[Pg 59]

"You leave Jessie out of it," answered Dave, flushing a trifle. "Just the same, I agree with both of you, those girls looked to be very nice."

The three boys walked along the river bank for nearly half a mile before they came in sight of the Snowbird. Then Messmer and Henshaw wanted to know what had kept them so long.

"I'd not go in there with my boat," said Messmer, after he had heard their story. "Those air-holes are too dangerous."

When the lads got back to Oak Hall they found a free-for-all snowball fight in progress. One crowd was on the campus and the other in the road beyond.

"This suits me!" cried Roger. "Come on, Dave," and he joined the force on the road. His chums did the same, and sent the snowballs flying at a brisk rate.

The fight was a furious one for over an hour. The force on the campus outnumbered those in the road and the latter were driven to where the highway made a turn and where there were several clumps of trees and bushes. Here, Dave called on those around him to make a stand, and the other crowd was halted in its onward rush.

"Here comes Horsehair in a cutter!" cried one of the students, presently. "Let us give him a salute."

"All right!" called back Dave. "Some snow [Pg 60] will make him strong, and brush off some of the hair he carries around with him."

The boys made a number of snowballs and, led by Dave, waited for the appearance of the cutter. Soon it turned the bend, the horse on a trot and the sleighbells jingling merrily.

"Now then, all together!" shouted Dave, and prepared to hurl a snowball at the man who was driving.

"Hold on!" yelled Roger, suddenly.

But the warning cry came too late for Dave and Phil, who were in the lead. They let fly their snowballs, and the man in the cutter was struck in the chin and the ear. He fell backward, but speedily recovered and stopped his horse.

"You young rascals!" he spluttered hoarsely. "What do you mean by snowballing me in this fashion!"

"Job Haskers!" murmured Dave, in consternation.

"What a mistake!" groaned Phil. "We are in for it now!"


[Pg 61]

CHAPTER VII

PRISONERS IN THE SCHOOL

Dave and Phil had indeed made a serious mistake, and they knew at once that they were in for a severe lecture, and worse. Job Haskers was naturally an irascible man, and for the past few days he had been in a particularly bad humor.

"Excuse me, Mr. Haskers," said Dave, respectfully. "I didn't know you were in the cutter."

"You did it on purpose—don't deny it, Porter!" fumed the teacher. "It is outrageous, infamous, that a pupil of Oak Hall should act so!"

"Really, Mr. Haskers, it was a mistake," spoke up Phil. "We thought it was Horsehair—I mean Lemond, who was driving."

"Bah! Do I look like Lemond? And, anyway, what right would you have to snowball the driver for this school? It is scandalous! I shall make an example of you. Report to me at the office in five minutes, both of you!"

The boys' hearts sank at this order, and they felt worse when they suddenly remembered that both Doctor Clay and Mr. Dale were away and [Pg 62] that, consequently, Job Haskers was, for the time being, in authority. The teacher went back to the cutter, took up the reins, and drove out of sight around the campus entrance.

"Too bad!" was Roger's comment. "I yelled to you not to throw."

"I know you did, but I had already done so," answered Dave.

"And so had I," added Phil.

"Say, that puts me in mind of a story," exclaimed Shadow, who was in the crowd. "A man once had a mule——"

"Who wants to listen to a story at this time?" broke in Ben Basswood.

"Never mind, let's have the yarn," said Dave. "Perhaps it will serve to brighten our gloom," and he smiled feebly.

"This man had a mule in which a neighbor was very much interested," continued Shadow. "One day the mule got sick, and every day after that the neighbor would tell the owner of some new remedy for curing him. One day he came over to where the mule-owner lived. 'Say,' he says, 'I've got the best remedy a-going. You must try it.' 'Don't think I will,' answered the mule-owner. 'Oh, but you must, I insist,' said the neighbor. 'It will sure cure your mule and set him on his feet again.' 'I don't think so,' said the mule-owner. 'But I am positive,' cried the neighbor. 'Just give it a [Pg 63] trial.' 'Never,' said the mule-owner. Then the neighbor got mad. 'Say, why won't you try this remedy?' he growled. 'I won't because the mule is dead,' answered the other man. Then the neighbor went home in deep thought."

"Well, that's to the point," said the senator's son, laughing. "For I told them to stop after the damage was done."

In no enviable frame of mind Dave and Phil walked into the school, took off their outer garments and caps, and made their way to the office. Job Haskers had not yet come in, and they had to wait several minutes for him.

As has been said, the teacher was in far from a friendly humor. Some months before he had invested a portion of his savings in some mining stock, thinking that he would be able to make money fast. Now the stock had become practically worthless, and that very morning he had learned that he would never be able to get more than ten per cent. of his money back.

"You are a couple of scamps," he said, harshly. "I am going to teach you a needed lesson." And then the two boys saw that he held behind him a carriage-whip.

Dave and Phil were astonished, and with good reason. So far as they knew, corporal punishment was not permitted at Oak Hall excepting on very rare occasions,—where a pupil had taken his choice [Pg 64] of a whipping or expulsion. Was it possible that Job Haskers intended to chastise them bodily?

"Mr. Haskers, I am very sorry that I hit you with that snowball," said Dave. "As I said before, I did not know it was you, and it was only thrown in fun."

"What Dave says is true," added Phil. "I hope you will accept my apology for what happened."

"I'll accept no apologies!" fumed Job Haskers. "It was done on purpose, and you must both suffer for it," and the teacher brandished the whip as if to strike them then and there.

"Mr. Haskers, what do you intend to do?" asked Dave, quietly but firmly.

"I intend to give you the thrashing you deserve!"

"With that whip?"

"Yes, with this whip."

"You'll not do it, sir!"

"What!"

"I say, you'll not do it, sir."

"Hum! We'll see about this!" And the teacher glared at Dave as if to eat him up.

"You have no authority to whip us," put in Phil.

"Who says so?"

"I say so."

"And Phil is right," added Dave. "I'll not [Pg 65] allow it, so you may as well put that whip away."

"I'd like to know who is master here, you or I?" demanded Job Haskers, turning red with rage.

"Doctor Clay is master here, and we are under his care. If you try to strike me with that whip I'll report the matter to him," answered Dave. "You may punish me any other way, if you wish, but I won't put up with a whipping."

"And I won't be whipped either," added Phil.

"I'll show you!" roared Job Haskers, and raising the whip he tried to bring it down on Dave's head. The youth dodged, turned, and caught the whip in his hands.

"Let go that whip, Porter!"

"I will not—not until you promise not to strike at me again."

"I'll promise nothing! Let go, I say!"

The teacher struggled to get the whip free of Dave's grasp, and a scuffle ensued. Dave was forced up against a side stand, upon which stood a beautiful marble statue of Mercury.

"Look out for the statue!" cried Phil, in alarm, but even as he spoke Dave was shoved back, and over went the stand and ornament, the statue breaking into several pieces.

"There, now see what you've done!" cried Job Haskers, as the battle ceased for the moment, and Dave let go the whip.

[Pg 66]

"It wasn't my fault—you shoved me into it," answered Dave.

"It was your fault, and you'll pay the damages. That statue was worth at least fifty dollars. And you'll take your thrashing, too," added the teacher, vindictively.

"Don't you dare to hit Dave," cried Phil, "or me either, Mr. Haskers. You can punish us, but you can't whip us, so there!"

"Ha! Both of you defy me, eh?"

"We are not to be whipped, and that settles it," said Dave.

"I presume you think, because you are two to one, you can get the better of me," sneered the teacher. He knew the two boys were strong, and he did not wish to risk a fight with them.

"I don't want to get the better of anybody, but I am not going to let you whip me," answered Dave, stubbornly.

"If you are willing, we'll leave the matter to Doctor Clay," suggested the shipowner's son.

"You come with me," returned the teacher abruptly, and led the way out of the office to a small room used for the storage of schoolbooks and writing-pads. The room had nothing but a big closet and had a small window, set up high in the wall. The shelves on the walls were full of new books and on the floor were piles of volumes that had seen better days.

[Pg 67]

"Going to lock us in, I guess," whispered Phil.

"Well, he can do it if he wants to, but he shan't whip me," answered Dave, in an equally low tone.

"Now, you can stay here for the present," growled Job Haskers, as he held open the door. "And don't you dare to make any noise either."

"What about supper?" asked Dave, for he was hungry.

"You shall have something to eat when the proper time comes."

The boys walked into the room, and Job Haskers immediately closed the door and locked it, placing the key in his pocket. Then the lads heard him walk away, and all became silent, for the book-room was located between two classrooms which were not in use on Saturdays and Sundays.

"Well, what do you make of this?" asked the shipowner's son, after an awkward pause.

"Nothing—what is there to make, Phil? Here we are, and likely to stay for a while."

"Are you going to pay for that broken statue?"

"Was it my fault it was broken?"

"No—he ran you into the stand."

"Then I don't see why I ought to pay."

"He may claim you had no right to fight him off."

"He had no right to attack me with the whip. I don't think Doctor Clay will stand for that."

[Pg 68]

"If he does, he isn't the man I thought he was."

The two youths walked around the little room, gazing at the rows of books. Then Dave stood on a pile of old books and looked out of the small window.

"See anything worth looking at?" asked his chum.

"No, all I can see is a corner of the campus and a lot of snow. Nobody is in sight."

"Wonder how long old Haskers intends to keep us here?"

"I'm sure I don't know."

With nothing to do, the boys looked over some schoolbooks. They were not of great interest, and soon it grew too dark to read. Phil gave a long sigh.

"This is exciting, I must say," he said, sarcastically.

"Never mind, it will be exciting enough when we face Doctor Clay."

"I'd rather face him than old Haskers, Dave."

"Oh, so would I! When will the doctor be back?"

"I don't know."

An hour went by, and the two prisoners heard a muffled tramping of feet which told them that the other students had assembled in the dining hall for supper. The thought of the bountiful tables made them both more hungry than ever.

[Pg 69]

"I'd give as much as a dollar for a couple of good sandwiches," said the shipowner's son, dismally. "Seems to me, I'm hollow clear down to my heels!"

"Wait, I've got an idea!" returned Dave.

He felt in his pocket and brought forth several keys. Just as he did this they heard footsteps in the hallway, and Dave slipped the keys back in his pocket.

The door was flung open and Job Haskers appeared, followed by one of the dining room waiters, who carried a tray containing two glasses of milk and half a dozen slices of bread and butter.

"Here is something for you to eat," said the teacher, and directed the waiter to place the tray on a pile of books.

"Is this all we are to have?" demanded Dave.

"Yes."

"I'm hungry!" growled Phil. "That won't satisfy me."

"It will have to satisfy you, Lawrence."

"I think it's a shame!"

"I want no more words with you," retorted Job Haskers, and motioned the waiter to leave the room. Then he went out, locking the door and pocketing the key as before.

"Well, if this isn't the limit!" growled Phil. "A glass of milk and three slices of bread and butter apiece!"

[Pg 70]

"Well, we shan't starve, Phil," and Dave grinned to himself in the semi-darkness.

"And no light to eat by—and the room more than half cold. Dave, are you going to stand this?"

"I am not," was the firm response.

"What are you going to do?"

"Get out of here—if I possibly can," was Dave's reply.


[Pg 71]

CHAPTER VIII

A MOVE IN THE DARK

Dave took the bunch of keys from his pocket and approached the door. He tried one key after another, but none of them appeared to fit. Then Phil brought out such keys as he possessed, but all proved unavailable.

"That is one idea knocked in the head," said Dave, and heaved a sigh.

"I am going to tackle the bread and milk," said Phil. "It is better than nothing."

"It won't make us suffer from indigestion either," answered Dave, with a short laugh.

Sitting on some of the old schoolbooks the two youths ate the scanty meal Job Haskers had provided. To help pass the time they made the meal last as long as possible, eating every crumb of the bread and draining the milk to the last drop. The bread was stale, and they felt certain the teacher had furnished that which was old on purpose.

"I'll wager he'd like to hammer the life out of us," was Phil's comment. "Just wait and see the story he cooks up to tell Doctor Clay!"

[Pg 72]

"Wonder what the other fellows think of our absence, Phil?"

"Maybe they have asked Haskers about it."

Having disposed of all there was to eat and drink, the two lads walked around the little room to keep warm. Then Dave went at the door again, examining the lock with great care, and feeling of the hinges.

"Well, I declare!" he cried, almost joyfully.

"What now, Dave?"

"This door has hinges that set into this room and are held together by little rods running from the top to the bottom of each hinge. If we can take out the two rods, I am almost certain we can open the door from the hinge side!"

This was interesting news, and Phil came forward to aid Dave in removing the tiny rod which held the two parts of each hinge together. It was no easy task, for the rods were somewhat rusted, but at last both were removed, and then the boys felt the door give way at that point.

Now that they could get out, Phil wanted to know what was to be done next.

"I think I'll go out and hunt up something to eat on the sly," answered Dave. "Then we can come back here and wait for Doctor Clay's arrival."

"Good! I'll go with you. I don't want you to run the risk alone."

[Pg 73]

They waited until they felt that the dining room was deserted and then pried the door open and stole from their prison. Tiptoeing their way through the side hall, they reached a door which led to a big pantry, connecting the dining room and the kitchen. As they had anticipated, the pantry held many good things on its shelves, and a waiter was bringing in more food from the tables.

"Quick—take what you want!" whispered Dave, when the waiter had disappeared, and catching up a plate that contained some cold sliced tongue he added to it some baked beans, some bread and jam, and two generous slices of cake.

Phil understood, and taking another plate he got some of the baked beans, some cold ham, some bread and cheese, and a pitcher of milk. Then the two boys espied some crullers and stuffed several in their pockets. Then Dave saw a candle and captured that.

"He's coming back—skip!" whispered Phil, and ran out of the pantry with Dave at his heels. A moment later the waiter came in with more things, but he did not catch them, nor did he notice what they had taken.

As quickly as they could, the two boys returned to the book-room, and setting the stuff on the books, they lit the candle, and placed the rods back into the hinges of the door. So that nobody might see the light, they placed a sheet of paper over the [Pg 74] keyhole of the door, and a row of books on the floor against the doorsill.

"Now we'll have a little better layout than that provided by Mr. Dictatorial Haskers," said Dave, and he proceeded to arrange some of the schoolbooks in a square in the center of the floor. "Might as well have a table while we are at it."

"And a couple of chairs," added Phil, and arranged more books for that purpose. Then they spread a sheet of paper over the "table," put a plate at either end, and the two sat down.

"It's a shame to make you eat without a fork, Phil," said Dave, solemnly. "But if you'd rather go hungry——"

"Not on your collar-button!" cried the shipowner's son. "A pocketknife is good enough for me this trip," and he fell to eating with great gusto, and Dave did the same, for what food they had had before had only been "a flea bite," as Dave expressed it.

Having eaten the most of the food taken from the pantry they placed the remainder on the plates on a bookshelf. Then Dave looked at his watch.

"Half-past eight," he said. "Wonder how long we are to be kept here?"

"Don't ask me, I was never good at conundrums," answered Phil, lightly. Plenty to eat had put him in a good humor. "Maybe till morning, Dave."

"It's a shame to make you eat without a fork, Phil."

[Pg 75]

"I shan't stay here until morning—without a bed or coverings."

"What will you do?"

"Go up to the dormitory—after all the lights are out."

"Good! Wonder why I didn't think of that?"

"You ate too much, that's why." And Dave grinned. He, too, felt better now that he had fully satisfied his appetite.

Slowly the time went by till ten o'clock came. The prisoners heard tramping overhead, which told them the other students were retiring. They looked for a visit from Job Haskers, but the teacher did not show himself.

"He is going to keep us here until the doctor gets back, that is certain," said Dave.

"But the doctor may not come back to-night. I heard him say something the other day about going to Boston."

At last the school became quiet. By this time the boys' candle had burnt itself out, leaving them in total darkness. By common impulse they moved toward the door.

"What if we meet Murphy?" asked Phil.

"We'll do our best to avoid him, but if we do see him I rather think he'll side with us and keep quiet," answered Dave. "I know he hates Haskers as much as we do."

[Pg 76]

Hiding what was left of their meal in a corner of a shelf, behind some books, the two lads stole into the semi-dark hall and up one of the broad stairs. They met nobody and gained their dormitory with ease. Going inside, each undressed in the dark and prepared to retire.

"Who's up?" came sleepily from Roger.

"Hush, Roger," whispered Dave.

"Oh, so it's you! Where have you been, and what did old Haskers do to you?"

In a few brief words Dave and Phil explained what had taken place.

"We'll tell you the rest in the morning," said Phil, and then he and Dave hopped into bed and under the warm covers. Less than a minute later, however, Dave sat up and listened intently. He had heard the front door of the school building bang shut in the rising wind.

"Phil!"

"What is it now, Dave?"

"I think I just heard Doctor Clay come in."

"Oh, bother! I'm going to sleep," said the shipowner's son, with a yawn. "I don't think he'll trouble us to-night."

"I'm going to see what happens," answered Dave, and got up again. Soon he had on a dressing gown and slippers, and was tiptoeing his way down the hallway. He heard a murmur of voices below, and knew then that both the doctor and [Pg 77] Mr. Dale had arrived. Then he heard Mr. Dale walk to the rear of the lower floor, and heard somebody else come out of the library.

"Mr. Haskers, what is it?" he heard Doctor Clay say.

"I must consult you about two of the students, sir," answered Job Haskers. "They have acted in a most disgraceful manner. They attacked me on the road with icy snowballs, nearly ruining my right ear, and when I called them to account in the office one of them began to fight and broke your statue of Mercury."

"Is it possible!" ejaculated the doctor, in pained surprise. "Who were the pupils?"

"David Porter and Philip Lawrence."

"Is this true, Mr. Haskers? Porter and Lawrence are usually well-behaved students."

"They acted like ruffians, sir—especially Porter, who attacked me and broke the statue."

"I will look into this without delay. Where are they now—in their room?"

"No, I locked them up in the book-room, to await your arrival. I did not deem it wise to give them their liberty."

"Ahem! prisoners in the book-room, eh? This is certainly serious. They cannot remain in the room all night."

"It would serve them right to keep them there," grumbled Job Haskers.

[Pg 78]

"There are no cots in that room for them to rest on."

"Then let them rest on the floor! The young rascals deserve it."

"Perhaps I'd better talk it over with the boys and see what they have to say, Mr. Haskers," went on the doctor, in a mild tone. "I do not believe in being too harsh with the students. Perhaps they only snowballed you as a bit of sport."

"Doctor Clay, do you uphold them in such an action?" demanded the irascible instructor.

"By no means, Mr. Haskers, but—boys will be boys, you know, and we mustn't be too hard on them if they occasionally go too far."

"Porter broke that statue,—and defied me!"

"If he broke the statue, he'll have to pay for it,—and if he defied you in the exercise of your proper authority, he shall be punished. But I want to hear what they have to say. We'll go to the book-room at once, release them, and take them to my office."

"It won't be necessary to go to the book-room, Doctor Clay," called out Dave from the upper landing.

"Why—er—is that you, Porter!"

"How did you get out?" cried Job Haskers, in consternation. "Didn't I lock that door?"

"You did, but Phil Lawrence and I got out, nevertheless," answered Dave.

[Pg 79]

"Where is Lawrence?"

"Up in our room in bed, and I was in bed, too, but got up when the doctor came in," added Dave.

"Well, I never!" stormed Job Haskers. "You see how it is, Doctor Clay; they have even broken out of the book-room after I told them to stay there!"

"We weren't going to stay in a cold room all night with no beds to sleep on, and only bread and milk for supper," went on Dave. "I wouldn't treat my worst enemy that way."

"Did you say you were in bed when I came in?" questioned Doctor Clay.

"Yes, sir—and Phil is there now, unless he just got up."

"Here I am," came a voice from behind Dave, and the shipowner's son put in an appearance. "Do you want us to come downstairs, Doctor? If you do, I'll have to go back and put on my clothes and shoes."

"And I'll have to go back and dress, too," added Dave.

Doctor Clay mused a moment.

"As you are undressed you may as well retire," he said. "I will look into this matter to-morrow morning, or Monday morning."

"Thank you, sir," said both boys.

"But, sir——" commenced Job Haskers.

"It is too late to take up the case now," interrupted [Pg 80] Doctor Clay. "There is no use in arousing anybody at this time of night. Besides, I am very tired. We'll all go to bed, and sift this thing out later. Boys, you may go."

"Thank you, sir. Good-night."

And without waiting for another word the two chums hurried to their dormitory, leaving Job Haskers and the doctor alone.


[Pg 81]

CHAPTER IX

VERA ROCKWELL

Sunday passed, and nothing was said to Dave and Phil concerning the unfortunate snowballing incident; but on Monday morning, immediately after breakfast, both were summoned to Doctor Clay's office.

"I suppose we are in for it now," said the shipowner's son, dolefully.

"Never mind, Phil; we didn't mean to do wrong, and I am going to tell the doctor so. I think he will be fair in the matter."

But though Dave spoke thus, he was by no means easy in his mind. He had had trouble with Job Haskers before and he well knew how the teacher could distort facts to make himself out to be a much-injured individual.

When the two youths entered the office they found Doctor Clay seated at his desk, looking over the mail Jackson Lemond had just brought in from town. Job Haskers was not present, which fact caused the boys to breathe a sigh of relief.

"Now, boys, I want you to give me the particulars [Pg 82] of what occurred Saturday afternoon," said the master of the Hall, as he laid down a letter he had been perusing. "Porter, you may relate your story first."

Without unnecessary details, Dave told his tale in a straightforward manner,—how the boys had been having a snowball fight, how somebody had cried out that Horsehair was coming in a cutter, and how they had thought to have a little fun with the school driver by pelting him with snowballs.

"We have often done it before," went on Dave. "Horsehair—I mean Lemond—doesn't seem to mind it, and sometimes he snowballs us in return."

"Then you did not know it was Mr. Haskers?"

"No, sir—not until I had thrown the snowball."

Then Dave told of Haskers's anger, and of how they had been ordered to the office and had gone there.

"I told him I was sorry I had hit him, but he would not listen to me, and he wouldn't listen when Phil apologized. He said he would accept no apologies, but was going to give us the thrashing we deserved. Then he took the whip he carried and tried to strike me. I wouldn't stand for that and I caught hold of the whip. He told me to let go and I said I wouldn't unless he promised not to strike at me again. Then he struggled to get the whip from my grasp and pushed me backward, [Pg 83] against the stand with the statue. The stand went over and the statue was broken."

"Wait a moment, Porter." Doctor Clay's voice was oddly strained. "Are you certain Mr. Haskers tried to strike you with the whip?"

"I certainly am, sir. He raised the whip over my head, and if I hadn't dodged I'd have been struck, and struck hard."

"Mr. Haskers tells me that he simply carried the whip to the office to subdue you—that he was afraid both of you might jump on him and do him bodily injury."

"Does he say he didn't strike at me?" cried Dave, in astonishment, for this was a turn of affairs he had not dreamed would occur.

"He says he brandished the whip when you came toward him as if to strike him."

"I made no move to strike him, Doctor Clay—Phil will testify to that."

"Dave has told the strict truth, sir," said the shipowner's son. "Mr. Haskers did strike at him, and it was only by luck that Dave escaped the blow. I thought sure he was going to get a sound whack on the head."

At these words Doctor Clay's face became a study. The teacher had had his say on Sunday afternoon, but this version put an entirely different aspect on the affair.

"Go on with your story," he said, after a pause.

[Pg 84]

"I am very sorry that the statue was broken," continued Dave. "And I wish to say right here, sir, that if you think it was my fault I will willingly pay for the damage done. But I think it was entirely Mr. Haskers's fault. I always understood that no corporal punishment was permitted in this school."

"Your understanding on that point is correct, Porter. The only exception to the rule is when a student becomes violent himself and has to be subdued."

"I wasn't violent."

"Please tell the rest of your story."

Then Dave told of the wordy war which had followed, and of how he and Phil had been locked up and given bread and milk for supper, and of how he and his chum had found the book-room more than cheerless. He had resolved to make a clean breast of it, and so gave the particulars of taking the door off its hinges, getting extra food, and of finally going upstairs to bed. The latter part of the story caused Doctor Clay to turn his head away and look out of a window, so that the boys might not see the smile that came to his face. In his imagination he could see the lads feasting on the purloined things in the book-room by candlelight.

"Now, Lawrence, what have you to say?" he asked, when Dave had finished.

[Pg 85]

"I can't say much, sir—excepting that Dave has told you the truth, and the whole truth at that. And I might add, sir, had Mr. Dale or yourself been in the cutter I think the whole trouble would have been patched up very quickly. But Mr. Haskers is so—so—impulsive—he never will listen to a fellow,—and he rushed at Dave like a mad bull. I was ready to jump on him when the whip went up, and I guess I would have done it if Dave had been struck."

"And you are positive you didn't snowball Mr. Haskers on purpose?"

"Positive, sir—and I can prove it by the other boys who were in the crowd."

"Hum!" Doctor Clay was silent for fully a minute. "You can both go to your classes. If I wish to see you further in regard to this—ahem—unfortunate affair I will let you know."

The boys bowed and went out, and quarter of an hour later each was deep in the studies for the day. Occasionally their minds wandered to what had occurred, and they tried to imagine what the outcome would be.

"I don't think the doctor will stand for the whip," was the way Dave expressed himself, and in this surmise he was correct. That very afternoon the master of the Hall called the teacher to his office, and a warm discussion followed. But what was said was never made public. Yet one thing the [Pg 86] boys knew—Dave was never called upon to pay for the broken statue—Job Haskers had to settle that bill.

With the ice so fine on the river, much of the boys' off-time was spent in ice-boating and skating. One afternoon there was an ice-boat race between the Snowbird from Oak Hall, a boat from Rockville Military Academy, and two craft owned by young men of Oakdale. This brought out a large crowd, and each person was enthusiastic over his favorite.

"I hope our boat wins!" said Roger, who was on skates, as were Dave and Phil and many others.

"So do I," said Dave. "I don't care who comes in ahead so long as it's an ice-boat belonging to Oak Hall."

"That's pretty good!" cried Sam Day, "seeing that we have but one boat in the race."

"Say, that puts me in mind of a story," came from Shadow. "One time a lot of young fellows in a village organized a fire company. They voted to get uniforms and the question came up as to what color of shirts they should buy. They talked it over, and at last an old fire-fighter in a corner got up. 'Buy any color you please,' said he, 'any color you please, but be sure it's red!'" And the story caused a smile to go around.

The four ice-boats were soon ready for the contest, and at a pistol shot they started on the fivemile [Pg 87] course which had been laid out. Messmer and Henshaw were on the Snowbird, which speedily took the second place, one of the town boats, named the Whistler, leading.

"Hurrah! they are off!"

"What's the matter with the Military Academy boat? She's a tail-ender."

"The Lark is third!"

So the cries ran on, as the ice-boats skimmed along over the smooth ice, swept clear of nearly all the snow by the wind. Dave and his chums skated some distance after the boats and then halted, to await their return.

"Hurrah, the Snowbird is crawling up on the Whistler!" cried Buster Beggs.

"They are neck and neck!" said Luke Watson.

"Yes, but the Venus is coming up, too," answered Phil. "Gracious, but I'll wager those Rockville fellows would like to win!"

"The Venus must be a new boat," said Ben Basswood. "I never saw her before."

"She is new—some of the Military Academy fellows purchased her last week," answered another boy.

The crowd moved on, Dave stopping to fix one of his skates, which had become loose. As he straightened up, a girl brushed past him and looked him full in the face. He saw that she was one of the two who had been on the ice-boat at the time of [Pg 88] the accident. She gave him a sunny smile and he very politely tipped his cap to her.

"I suppose you hope your boat will win," she said, coming to a halt near him.

"You mean the Oak Hall boat, I suppose?"

"Of course, Mr. Porter."

"Yes, I hope we do win," answered Dave, and wondered how she had learned his name. "Don't you hope we'll win, too, Miss Rockwell?" he continued, seeing that the others had gone on and he was practically alone with his new acquaintance.

"Well, I—I really don't know," she answered, and smiled again. "You see, the Whistler belongs to some friends of my big brother, so I suppose I ought to want that to win."

"But if the Snowbird is a better boat——"

Vera Rockwell gave a merry laugh—it was her nature to laugh a good deal. "Of course if your boat is the better of the two—— But I am keeping you from your friends," she broke off.

"Oh, I shan't mind that," said Dave politely, and he did not mind in the least, for Vera seemed so good-natured that he was glad to have a chance to talk to her.

"I wanted to meet you," Vera went on, as, without hardly noticing it, they skated off side by side. "I wanted to thank you for what you and your friend did for us the other day."

[Pg 89]

"I guess you had better blame us. If we hadn't rolled that big snowball down the hill——"

"Oh, but you said you didn't mean to hit the ice-boat——"

"Which was true—we didn't see the ice-boat until it was too late. I hope you and your friend got home safely?"

"We did. When we reached the road we met a farmer we knew with a big sled, and he took Mary and me right to our doors."

"Do you live in Oakdale?"

"Yes,—just on the outskirts of the town,—the big brick house with the iron fence around the garden."

"Oh, I've seen that place often. You used to have a little black dog who was very friendly and would sit up on his hind legs and beg."

"Gyp! Yes, and I have him yet—and he's the cutest you ever saw! He can do all kinds of tricks. Some day, when you are passing, if you'll stop I'll show you."

"Thank you, I'll remember, and I'll be sure to stop," answered Dave, much pleased with the invitation.

"Here they come! Here they come!" was the cry, and suddenly the youth and the girl found themselves in a big body of skaters. Vera was struck on the arm by one burly man, and would have gone down had not Dave supported her.

[Pg 90]

"Better take my hand," said Dave, and the girl did so, for she was a little frightened. Then the crowd increased, and they had to fall back a little, to get out of the jam. Dave looked around for his chums, but they were nowhere in sight. Then all strained their eyes to behold the finish of the ice-boat contest.


[Pg 91]

CHAPTER X

DAVE SPEAKS HIS MIND

"Here they come!"

"The Whistler is ahead!"

"Yes, but the Snowbird is crawling up!"

"See, the Venus has given up."

So the cries ran on, as the ice-boats drew closer and closer to the finishing line of the contest. It was true the Venus, the craft from the Rockville Military Academy, had fallen far behind and had given up. The third boat was also well to the rear, so the struggle was between the Oak Hall craft and the Whistler only.

"I hope we win!" cried Dave, enthusiastically.

"Oh, how mean!" answered Vera, reproachfully. "Well, I—er—I don't mean that exactly, but I'd like to see my brother's friends come in ahead."

"One thing is sure—it's going to be close," continued Dave. "Can you see at all?"

"Not much—there is such a crowd in front."

"Too bad! Now if you were a little girl, I'd lift you on my shoulder," and he smiled merrily.

[Pg 92]

"Oh, the idea!" And Vera laughed roundly. "I can see the tops of the masts, anyway. They seem to be about even."

"They are. I think——"

"A tie! a tie!" was the cry. Then a wild cheer went up, as both ice-boats crossed the line side by side. A second later the crowd broke out on the course and began skating hither and thither.

"Is it really a tie?" asked the girl.

"So it seems."

"Well, I am glad, for now we can both be satisfied." Vera looked around somewhat anxiously. "Have you seen anything of Mary Feversham? She came skating when I did."

"You mean the other young lady who was with you on that ice-boat?"

"Yes."

"No, I haven't seen her. Perhaps we can find her if we skate around a bit."

"Oh, but I don't want to trouble you."

"It is no trouble, it will be a pleasure. We might——"

At that moment a number of skaters swept by, including Nat Poole. The dudish student smiled at Vera and then, noticing Dave, stared in astonishment.

"Do you know him?" asked Vera, and for a moment she frowned.

"Yes, he belongs to our school."

[Pg 93]

"Oh!" She drew down the corners of her pretty mouth. "I—I didn't know that."

"We are not very friendly—he doesn't belong to my set," Dave went on, for he had not liked that smile from Poole, and he was sure Vera had not liked it either.

"He spoke to us once—Mary and me—one day last week when we were skating. He was dressed in the height of fashion, and I suppose he thought we would be glad to know him. But we didn't answer him. Ever since that time he has been smiling at us. I wish he'd stop. If he doesn't I shall tell my big brother about it."

"If he annoys you too much let me know and I'll go at him myself," answered Dave, readily. "I've had plenty of trouble with him in the past, but I shan't mind a little more." And then he told of some of the encounters with the dudish student. Vera was greatly interested and laughed heartily over the jokes that had been played.

"You boys must have splendid times!" she cried. "Oh, don't you know, sometimes I wish I were a boy!" And then she told something of her own doings and the doings of Mary Feversham, who was her one chum. Along with their relatives, the girls had spent the summer on the St. Lawrence, and the previous winter they had been to Florida, which made Dave conclude that they were well-to-do.

[Pg 94]

They skated around a little more and soon met Mary Feversham, who was with Vera's big brother. Then Roger and Phil came up; and all were introduced to each other.

"The girls told me about the big snowball affair," said Rob Rockwell. "I told 'em it served 'em right for going out with those Military Academy chaps. Those fellows never struck me right—they put on too many airs. We wouldn't stand for that sort of thing at my college."

"Well, the race was a tie between our boat and the boat of your friend," said Dave, to change the subject. "They'll have to race over again some day."

"Jackson let one of his ropes break at the turn," answered Rob Rockwell. "That threw his sail over and put him behind—otherwise he might have won."

Rob was a college youth, big, round-faced, and with a loud voice and somewhat positive manner. But he was a good fellow, and Dave and his chums took to him immediately, and the two parties did not separate until it was time for the Oak Hall students to return to that institution. At parting Vera gave Dave a pleasant smile.

"Remember the dog," she said.

"I certainly shall," he answered, and smiled in return.

"What did she mean about a dog?" questioned [Pg 95] Roger, a minute later, when the chums were skating for the school dock.

"Oh, not much," answered Dave, evasively. "She told me where she lived and I said I remembered seeing her little black dog, and then she said he could do all kinds of tricks, and if I'd stop there some time she'd show me." And hardly knowing why, Dave blushed slightly.

"Oh, that's it," answered the senator's son, and then said no more. But in his heart he was just a little bit jealous because he had not been invited to call too. Vera's open-hearted, jolly manner pleased him fully as much as it pleased Dave.

"They are all-right girls," was Phil's comment, when the boys were taking off their skates. "That Vera Rockwell is full of fun, I suspect. But I rather prefer Mary Feversham, even if she is more quiet."

"Going to marry her soon, Phil?" asked Dave, quizzically.

"Sure," was the unabashed reply. "The ceremony will take place on the thirty-first of next February, at four minutes past two o'clock in the evening. Omit flowers, but send in all the solid silver dollars you wish." And this remark caused the others to laugh.

Two days later Link Merwell came back to school. Dave did not see the bully on his arrival, and the pair did not meet until Dave went to one [Pg 96] of the classrooms to recite. Then, much to his surprise, Merwell greeted him with a friendly nod.

"How do you do, Porter?" he said, pleasantly.

"How are you, Merwell?" was the cold response.

"Oh, I'm pretty well, thank you," went on Link Merwell, easily. "Fine weather we are having. I suppose skating is just elegant. I brought along a new pair of skates and I hope to have lots of fun on them." The bully came closer. "Had the pleasure of meeting your sister out West," he continued in a lower tone. "My! but I was surprised! You were a lucky dog to find your father and Laura. See you later." And the bully passed on to his seat.

Dave's face flushed and his heart beat rapidly. As my old readers know he had good cause to feel a resentment against Link Merwell, and it was maddening to have the bully mention Laura's name. He could see why the fellow was acting so cordially—it was solely on Laura's account. Evidently he considered his acquaintanceship with Laura quite an intimate one.

"I'll have to open his eyes to the truth," thought Dave. "And the sooner it is done the better." Then he turned to his lessons. But it was hard work to get the bully out of his mind, and he made several mistakes in reciting ancient history, much to Mr. Dale's surprise.

[Pg 97]

"You will have to study this over again," said the head teacher, kindly. And he marked a 6 against Dave's name, when the pupil might have had a 10.

Dave's opportunity to "have it out" with Link Merwell came the next afternoon, when he had gone for a short skate, previous to starting work on the essay which he hoped would win the prize. The two met at the boathouse, and fortunately nobody else was near.

"Going skating, I see," said Merwell, airily. "Finest sport going, I think. I wish your sister was here to enjoy it with us, don't you? I sent her a letter to-day. I suppose she told you we were having a little correspondence—just for fun, you know."

"See here, Link Merwell, we may as well have an understanding now as later," began Dave, earnestly. "I want to talk to you before anybody comes. I want you to leave my sister alone,—I want you to stop speaking about her, and stop writing to her. She told me about her trip west, and how she met you, and all that. At that time she didn't know you as I know you. But I've told her about you, and you can take it from me that she doesn't want to hear from you again. She is very sorry she ever met you and wrote to you."

"Oh, that's it, eh?" Link Merwell's face had grown first red and then deathly pale. "So you [Pg 98] put in your oar, eh? Blackened my character all you could, I suppose." He shut his teeth with a snap. "You'd better take care!"

"I simply told her the truth."

"Oh, yes, I know just how you can talk, Porter! And did she say she wouldn't write to me any more?"

"She did. Now I want to know something more. What did you do with the letters she sent you?"

"I kept them."

"I want you to give them to me."

"To you?"

"Yes, and I will send them to her."

"Not much! They are my letters and I intend to keep them!" cried Link Merwell. His face took on a cunning look. "If you think you are going to get those letters away from me you are mistaken."

"Maybe I can force you to give them up, Merwell."

"What will you do—fight? If you try that game, Porter, I'll let every fellow in this school know what brought the fight about—and let them read the letters."

"You are a gentleman, I must say," answered Dave. He paused for a moment. "Then you won't give them up?"

"Positively, no."

[Pg 99]

"Then listen to me, Link Merwell. Sooner or later I'll make you give them up. In the meantime, if I hear of your letting anybody else read those letters, or know of them, I'll give you a ten times worse thrashing than I did before I left this school to go to Europe. Now remember that, for I mean every word I say."

"You can't make me give up the letters," said Merwell, doggedly. He was somewhat cowed by Dave's earnest manner.

"I can and I will."

"Maybe you think I've got them in my trunk? If so, you are mistaken."

"I don't care where you have them—I'll get them sometime. And remember, don't you dare to write to my sister again, or don't you dare to speak to her when you meet her."

"To listen to your talk, you'd think you were my master, Porter," sneered the bully, but his lips trembled slightly as he spoke.

"Not at all. But I want you to let my sister alone, that's all. All the decent fellows in this school know what you are, and it is no credit to any young lady to know you."

"Bah! I consider myself a better fellow than you are," snarled the bully. "You are rich now, but we all know how you were brought up,—among a lot of poorhou——"

Link Merwell stopped suddenly and took a hasty [Pg 100] step backward. At his last words Dave's fists had doubled up and a light as of fire had come into his eyes.

"Not another word, Merwell," said Dave, in a strained voice. "Not one—or I'll bang your head against the wall until you yell for mercy. I can stand some things, but I can't stand that—and I won't!"

A silence followed, during which each youth glared at the other. Merwell had his skates in his hand and made a movement as if to lift them up and bring them down on Dave's head. But then his arm dropped to his side, for that terrible look of danger was still in the eyes of the youth who had spent some years of his life in the Crumville poorhouse.

"We'll have this out some other time," he muttered, and slunk out of the boathouse like a whipped cur.


[Pg 101]

CHAPTER XI

AT THE OLD GRANARY

There was to be a skating race that afternoon and Dave had thought to take part. But now he was in no humor for mingling with his fellow-students and so took a long walk, along the snow-covered road beyond Oak Hall.

At first his mind was entirely on Link Merwell, and on his sister Laura and the letters she had written to the bully. To be sure, Laura had told him that the letters contained only a lot of girlish nonsense, yet he was more than sorry Merwell held them and he would have given much to have gotten them away from the fellow he despised.

Returning to the Hall some time before supper, Dave went up to his dormitory. Only Bertram Vane was there, translating Latin.

"Come to study, Dave?" he questioned pleasantly, hardly glancing up from his work.

"I've come to work on that essay, Polly," Dave answered.

"You mean the Past and Future of Our Country?"

[Pg 102]

"Yes. Shall you try for the prize?"

"I may—I haven't got that far yet. It seems to me you are beginning early."

"Oh, I am merely going to jot down some ideas I have. Then, from time to time, I'll add to those ideas, and do the real writing later."

"That's a good plan. Maybe——" And then Polly Vane stopped speaking and lost himself in his Latin lesson. He was very studious as well as girlish, but one of the best fellows in the school.

Dave went to work, and so easily did his ideas flow that it was supper time before he had them all transferred to paper. The subject interested him greatly and he felt in his heart that he could do it full justice.

"But I must work carefully," he told himself. "If I don't, some other paper may be better than mine."

The students were flocking in from the campus, the gymnasium, and the river. Some came upstairs, to wash up before going to the dining room. Among the number was Chip Macklin, the young pupil who had in times gone by been the toady of Gus Plum when Plum had been the Hall bully.

"Oh, Dave Porter!" cried Chip, and running up, he clutched Dave by the arm.

"What is it, Chip?" asked Dave, seeing the little boy was white and trembling. "What's wrong?"

[Pg 103]

"I—I—I don't know whether to tell you or not," whispered Chip. "It's awful—dreadful!" He looked around, to make certain nobody else was near.

"What is awful?"

Again Chip looked around. "You won't say that I told you, will you? I suppose I ought to tell somebody—or do something—but perhaps Plum wouldn't like it. He can't be left out where he is,—he might freeze to death!"

"See here, Chip, explain yourself," and Dave's voice became somewhat stern.

"I will! I will! But it is so awful! Why, the Doctor may suspend Gus! And I thought he was going to reform!" Chip Macklin's voice trembled so he could hardly frame the words.

"Will you tell me just what you mean?"

"I will if—if you'll try to help Gus, Dave. Oh, I know you'll help him—you did before! It's such a shame to see him throw himself away!"

Dave looked the small student in the eyes and there was a moment of silence.

"I guess I know what you mean, Chip. Where is Gus?"

"Come on and I'll show you."

The pair hurried downstairs. In the lower hall they ran into Shadow.

"I was looking for you, Dave," said the story-teller [Pg 104] of the school. "I want you to do something for me and—and for Gus Plum."

"Why, Shadow, Chip—— What do you know about Gus?"

The three boys stared at each other. On the instant they felt all knew what was wrong.

"Was that what you said you'd tell me about sometime, Shadow?" asked Dave, in a whisper.

"Yes."

"Then it has happened before?"

"Yes, about three weeks after you and Roger went to Europe. I met him on the road, coming to the school after spending several hours at some tavern in Oakdale. He wouldn't say where he got the liquor. I wouldn't let him come to Oak Hall until late at night. Then we got in by a side door and I helped him to get to bed. In the morning he was quite sick, but I don't think anybody suspected the cause. That afternoon he told me he would never touch liquor again."

While Shadow was talking the three boys had left the school buildings and were hurrying around to the rear of one of the carriage sheds. Here was a small building which had once been used as a granary but was now partly filled with old garden implements and cut wood.

It was dark in the building and from a corner came the sounds of somebody breathing heavily. Shadow struck a match and held it up.

[Pg 105]

There, upon a pile of old potato sacks, lay Gus Plum, sleeping soundly. Close at hand lay a small flask which had contained liquor but which was now empty. Dave smelt of it, and then, going to the doorway, threw it far out into the deep snow.

If Dave's heart had never been heavy before it was heavy now. Gus Plum had promised faithfully to reform and he had imagined that the former bully would keep his word. But, according to Shadow's statement, Plum had fallen from grace twice, and if he would reform at all was now a question.

"It's fearful, isn't it, Dave?" said the story-teller of the school, in a whisper.

"Yes, Shadow, I—I hardly know what to say—I hoped for so much from Gus—I thought he'd make one of the best fellows in this school after all—after he had lived down the past. But now——" Dave's voice broke and he could not go on for a moment.

"We can't leave him here—and if we take him into the school——" began Chip Macklin.

"How long has he been here?"

"Not over an hour or two," answered Shadow.

"He must have gone to town for the liquor."

"Unless he had it on hand—he went to town a couple of days ago," said Chip.

"We've got to do something quick—or we'll [Pg 106] be missed from the dining hall," continued Shadow.

"You fellows can go back, Shadow; I'll take care of him. Make some kind of an excuse for my absence—say I didn't care for anything to eat."

"But what will you do, Dave?"

"I don't know yet—but I'll fix it up somehow. This must be kept a secret, not only on Gus's account but for the honor of Oak Hall. If this got out to the public, it would give the school a terrible black eye."

"I know that. Why, my father would never let me attend a school where there was any drinking going on."

"Doctor Clay isn't responsible for this—nobody is responsible but Gus himself,—unless somebody led him on. But go on, there goes the last bell for supper."

Shadow passed over half a dozen matches he carried and went out, followed by Chip Macklin. Dave stood in the dark, listening to Gus Plum's heavy breathing. He did not know what to do, yet he felt he had a duty to perform and he made up his mind to perform it. At any hazard he must keep the former bully from public exposure, and he must do his best to make Plum reform once more. He uttered a prayer that Heaven might help him to do what was best.

[Pg 107]

Lighting another match, Dave espied an old lantern on a shelf, half filled with dirty oil, and lit it. Then he approached Plum and touched him on the arm. The sleeping youth did not awaken, and even when Dave shook him he still slumbered on.

To take him into the school in that condition was out of the question, yet it would not do to let him remain in the old granary, where during the night he might freeze to death. Dave thought of the barn, with its warm hay, and blowing out the lantern, left the granary and walked to the other buildings.

Fortune favored him, for neither Lemond nor the stableman was around, both being at supper in the servants' quarters. There was a back door and a ladder to the hayloft which might be used. He ran back to the granary, picked up Gus Plum and the lantern, and started on the trip. The former bully of the school was no light weight and Dave staggered under the load. Once he slipped in the snow and almost went down, but saved himself in time and kept on. Then came the tug up the ladder. During this Plum's hand was pinched and he uttered a grunt.

"Shay—don't touch me," he muttered thickly, but before Dave could answer he was slumbering again.

The hayloft gained, Dave deposited his burden [Pg 108] in a far corner, where nobody was likely to see or hear him. He lit the lantern and made Plum a comfortable bed and covered him up, so that he might not take cold. Then he took a card from his pocket and wrote on it in leadpencil:

"Gus:

"I brought you here from the old granary. Nobody but Chip and Shadow know and they will keep silent. Please, please brace up and be a man.

"Dave."

This card he fastened by a string to Plum's wrist. Then he put out the lantern, left the barn, and hurried back to the school. As he entered he found Shadow on the watch.

"Just got through with supper," whispered the youth. "Nobody asked about you. I guess you can slip into your seat and get something, anyway." And Dave did this without trouble. That Job Haskers should miss a chance to mark him down for tardiness was remarkable, but the fact was Haskers was in a hurry to get away and consequently did not notice all that was taking place.

Dave did not sleep well that night, and he roused up a dozen times or more, thinking he heard Gus Plum coming in. But all the alarms were false, for Gus Plum did not show himself until breakfast time. He looked flushed and sick and ate [Pg 109] scarcely a mouthful. Some of his dormitory mates wanted to know where he had been during the night, but he did not tell them.

At first Dave thought he would go to the former bully and talk to him, but then he concluded to let the matter rest with Plum. The latter came to him just before the noon session.

"Will you take a skate with me after school, Dave?" he asked, very humbly.

"Certainly, Gus."

"I—I want to go with you alone," faltered the big lad.

"Very well—I shan't tell any of the others," returned Dave.

A fine snow was falling when the school session was over, but none of the pupils minded this. Dave took his skates and went to the river, and Plum followed. Soon the pair were skating by themselves. When they had turned a bend, Plum led the way to a secluded spot, under the wide-spreading branches of an oak, and with a deep sigh threw himself down on a rock.

"I suppose you've got your own opinion of me," he began, bitterly, and with his face turned away. "I don't blame you—it's what I deserve. I hadn't any right to promise you that I'd reform, for it doesn't seem to be in me. My appetite for liquor is too strong for me. Now, don't say it isn't, for I know it is."

[Pg 110]

"Why, Gus——"

"Please don't interrupt me, Dave; it's hard enough for me to talk as it is. But you've been my one good friend, and I feel I've got to tell you the whole truth. I want you to know it all—everything. Will you listen until I have finished?"

"Certainly. Go ahead."


[Pg 111]

CHAPTER XII

GUS PLUM'S STORY

"You may think it strange when I tell you that I come by my appetite for liquor naturally, yet such is a fact," began Gus Plum, after a pause, during which he seemed to collect his thoughts. "You fellows who don't know what such an appetite is are lucky—far more lucky than you can realize. It's an awful thing to have such an appetite—it makes one feel at times as though he were doomed.

"We always had liquor at our house and my folks drank it at meals, just as their folks had done before them, so I heard. When I was a small boy I was allowed to have my glass of wine, and on holidays we had punch and I got my share. Sometimes, I can remember, friends remonstrated with my folks for letting me have the stuff, but my father would laugh and say it was all right—that he had had it himself when he was a boy and that it wouldn't hurt me. My father never drank to excess, to my knowledge, but his brother, my uncle, did, and once when Uncle Jim was under the influence [Pg 112] of liquor, he slipped under a street car and had his arm crushed so badly he had to have it amputated.

"My uncle's losing that arm scared me a little. I was then about ten years old, and I made up my mind I wouldn't drink much more. But the stuff tasted good to me and I didn't want to break off entirely. So I continued to drink a little and then a little more, until I thought I couldn't have my dinner without wine, or something like that, to go with it."

"When I was about thirteen a lady I knew well gave a New Year's party to a lot of young folks, and I was invited. I was one of the youngest boys there. The lady had punch, set out in a big cut-glass bowl on a stand in a corner of the hall, with sandwiches and cake alongside. I tried that punch and liked it, and I drank so much that I got noisy, and the lady had to send me home in her carriage."

"I guess that woke my father up to the fact that matters were going too far, and he told me I mustn't drink liquor away from home. He couldn't stop me from drinking at our house, for he had it himself there. But he had helped me to get the appetite, and I couldn't stop. On the next Fourth of July I spent my money in a tavern some distance away from where we lived, and there some rascals—I can't call them men—treated me liberally, just to see me make a fool of myself, I suppose. [Pg 113] The fellows teased me until I got in a rage and I took up a bottle and cracked it to pieces over one fellow's head, injuring him badly.

"This brought matters to a climax and my father told me he was going to send me to boarding school. I did not want to go at first, but he said he felt sure it would do me good, and finally I went to Sandville, and then came to Oak Hall.

"At first all went well, for I saw no liquor and got little chance to get any, but after a while the appetite forced itself on me once more, and—and you know what followed."

As Gus Plum concluded he covered his face with his hands and looked the picture of misery and despair. Dave had sunk down on the rock beside him and he placed a hand on the other's shoulder.

"Is that all, Gus?" he asked, quietly.

"About all," was the low answer. "But I want you to know one thing more, Dave. When you went away to Europe I intended to keep my promise and make a man of myself. I got along all right at first, but one Saturday afternoon Link Merwell asked me to go to Rockville with him."

"Merwell!"

"Yes. I don't care for him much, yet he was very friendly and I said I'd go. We visited a place where they have a poolroom in the rear, and he urged me to play pool with him, and I did. Then he offered me a cigar, and finally he treated to [Pg 114] liquor. I said I had stopped drinking, but he laughed at me and held a glass of strong stuff to my face and dared me to take it,—said I was a baby to refuse. And I took it,—and then I treated him, and we both took too much. I came back to school alone, for we got into a row when he spoke of you and said mean things about you. When I got to Oak Hall I might have gotten into more trouble, only Shadow Hamilton cared for me, as maybe you know. Merwell wasn't under the influence of liquor very much, but he had enough to be ugly, and he got into a row with Mr. Dale and came pretty near to being sent home. Then he had another row with the teacher and went off on his vacation. He somehow blamed Phil Lawrence, but Phil had nothing to do with it."

"Yes, Phil wrote to me about that last row," answered Dave. "But to come back to yourself, Gus." His face grew sober. "You've certainly had a hard time of it, and, somehow, I don't think you alone are to blame for all that has happened. I have no appetite for liquor, but I think I can understand something of what it means. But let me tell you one thing." Dave's voice grew intensely earnest. "It's all nonsense to say you are not going to reform—that you can't do it. You can reform if you'll only use your whole will power."

"But look at what I've tried already!" Plum's tone was utterly hopeless. "Oh, you don't know [Pg 115] how I've fought against it! People who haven't any appetite for liquor don't know anything about it. It's like a snake around your neck strangling you!"

"Well, I wouldn't give up—not as long as I had any backbone left. Just make up your mind from this minute on that you won't touch another drop of any kind, no matter who offers it. Don't say to yourself, 'Oh, I'll take a little now and then, and let it go at that.' Break off clean and clear,—and keep away from all places where liquor is sold."

"Yes, but——" Plum's voice was as hopeless as before.

"No 'buts' about it, Gus. I want you to make a man of yourself. You can do it if you'll only try. Won't you try?—for your own sake—for my sake—for the honor of Oak Hall? Say yes, and then thrust liquor out of your mind forever—don't even let yourself think of it. Get interested in your studies, in skating, boating, gymnastics, baseball,—anything. Before you know it, you'll have a death grip on that habit and it will have to die."

"Do you really believe that, Dave?"

"I do. Why, look at it—some men right down in the gutter have reformed, and they didn't possess any more backbone than you. All you want to do is to exert your will power. Fight the thing [Pg 116] just as you used to fight me and some of the other fellows, and let that fight be one to a finish. Now, come, what do you say?"

"I'll fight!" cried Gus Plum, leaping to his feet and with a new light shining in his eyes. "I'll fight! Oh, Dave, you're a wonderful fellow, to put new backbone in me! I felt I had to give up—that I couldn't win out, that everything was against me. Now I'll do as you say. I won't even think of liquor again, and I won't go where I can get it."

"Give me your hand on that, Gus." The pair shook hands. "Now let us continue our skate. Perhaps we'll meet Shadow and Chip. I know they'll be glad to hear of what you intend to do. They want you to turn over a new leaf just as much as I do. And after this, take my advice and drop Link Merwell."

"I'll do it. As I said, I never cared much for him."

The two left the spot where the conversation had ensued and skated up the river for a considerable distance. As they disappeared another youth stole forth from behind some bushes near by and skated off in the opposite direction. The youth was Link Merwell.

"So that was the trouble with Gus Plum last night, and that is what he has got to say about me!" muttered the bully, savagely. "Well, I am glad I know so much of his history—it may come [Pg 117] useful some time! He may get under Dave Porter's wing, but I am not done with him yet—nor done with Porter either!"

It was not long before Dave and Plum met Shadow, and a little later the three saw Chip Macklin. All four went off in a bunch, and Dave with much tact told of what Gus proposed to do.

"It is very nice of you to keep this a secret," said Plum. "I shall always remember it, and if I can ever do anything for any of you I'll do it. You are all good friends, and Dave is the best fellow I ever met!"

They skated on for fully a mile, the fine snow pelting them in the face. But nobody minded this, for all felt happy: Plum to think that he was going to have another chance to redeem himself, and the others over the consciousness that they had done a fellow-being some good.

"Time to get home!" cried Shadow, looking at his watch. "What do you say to a race back?"

"How much of a start will you give me?" asked Chip. "I've got no chance otherwise against you big fellows."

"We'll give you fifteen seconds," answered Dave. "One, two, three—go!"

Soon the race was on in earnest. Chip Macklin was well in the lead and the others started in a bunch. Gradually Shadow went ahead of Dave [Pg 118] and Gus Plum, but then Plum drew closer, and when they reached the school dock, Plum and Dave were a tie, with Shadow and Chip close on their heels.

"That puts new life in a fellow!" declared Dave. "Gus, you came pretty near to beating me."

"Your wind is better than mine," was the answer. Plum felt he might have won had it not been for the dissipation of the day previous. Dissipation and athletic supremacy of any kind never go well together.

A week slipped by quietly and during that time Dave, Roger, and Phil got the chance to go rabbit hunting and brought in twelve rabbits. Gus Plum stuck to his resolve to do better, and during school hours gave his studies all his attention. When not thus employed he spent his time in skating, snowballing, and in the gymnasium. He avoided Link Merwell, and for the time being the bully left him alone.

During those days Dave received a letter from his sister Laura, to whom he had written after his talk with Merwell. Laura stated that all was going along finely at the Wadsworth home and that their father was thinking seriously of buying a fine mansion located across the street, which would keep the friends together. She added that she had received a letter from Link Merwell and had sent [Pg 119] it back, writing across the top, "Please do not send any more."

"No wonder Merwell looks so sour," mused Dave, after reading his sister's communication. "I suppose he is mad enough at me to chew me up."

As my old readers know, there was at Oak Hall a secret society known as the Gee Eyes, this name standing for the initials G. I., which in their turn stood for the words Guess It. The society was kept up almost solely for the fun of initiating new members. On coming to the school Dave had had to submit to a strenuous initiation, which he had accepted without a murmur. All his chums were members, and the boys had gotten much fun out of the organization.

"Call for a special meeting of the Gee Eyes to-night," said Ben Basswood, one afternoon. "Going to initiate three new members—Tom Atwood and the Soden brothers. Be on hand early, at the old boathouse."

"What are we going to do to 'em?" asked Dave, with a grin.

"That is something Sam, Buster, and some of the others want to talk over. They'd like to do something brand-new."

"I think I can tell them of one thing to try," said Dave.

"What?"

[Pg 120]

"Make one of 'em think he is crossing Jackson's Gully on a narrow board."

"Good, Dave; that will do first-rate!" cried Ben. "I hope we can think of two other things equally good."

About an hour later Dave met some of the others, and a general discussion regarding the initiations for that evening took place. A score of "stunts" were suggested, and at last three were selected, and the committee got ready to carry out their plans.

Link Merwell was not a member of the Gee Eyes. He had once been proposed and been rejected, which had made him very angry. In some manner he heard of the proposed initiations, and he did his best to learn what was going on. As we know, he was not above playing the eavesdropper, and now he followed Dave and his friends to learn their secrets.

"So that is what they are up to," he said. "Well, let them go ahead. Perhaps I can put a spoke in their wheel when they least expect it!" And then he chuckled to himself as he thought of a plan to make the initiations end in disaster.


[Pg 121]

CHAPTER XIII

THE GEE EYES' INITIATION

"Well, you're a sight!"

"I don't look any more stylish than yourself, Roger."

"Stylish is good, Dave. I guess both of us look like circus clowns."

"Whoop la!" shouted Buster Beggs. "Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce to you the renowned Oak Hall Company of Left-Over Clowns and Monkeys—the most unique aggregation of monstrosities on the face of the globe. This one has the reputation of——"

"Hush, not so loud, Buster!" cried Dave, "or you'll have old Haskers down on us, and that will spoil the fun."

"Speaking of looking like clowns puts me in mind of a story," came from Shadow, who was still struggling to get into his club outfit. "One time a country fellow who wasn't a bit good-looking wanted to join a circus as a clown. He went to see the manager. 'Can I have a job as a clown?' he asked. 'Well, I don't know,' answered the manager, [Pg 122] slowly, as he looked him over. 'Who showed you how to make up your face? It's pretty well done.'" And the usual short laugh went up.

The Gee Eyes in the past had worn simple robes of red with black hoods over their heads. Now, by a special vote, they had purchased robes that were striped—red, white, and yellow. For headgear each member had a box-like contrivance, cubical in shape, with holes in the front for the eyes and an orange-like lantern on top, with a candle in it. This box rested on the shoulders of the wearer, thus concealing his identity completely.

In the past, Phil Lawrence had been president of the organization, but now that office was filled by Sam Day, under the title of Right Honorable Muck-a-Muck. Ben Basswood was secretary, and was called the Lord of the Penwiper; Buster Beggs was treasurer, known as the Guardian of the Dimes, and Luke Watson was sergeant-at-arms under the title of Captain Doorkeep.

The organization met whenever and wherever it was convenient. This was done for two reasons: first, because the members did not wish their enemies to know what they were doing, or otherwise information might be imparted to the teachers; and, second, they never met unless they were going to initiate a new member or were going to have some sort of a feast.

"Where are the intended victims?" asked [Pg 123] Dave, after he had adjusted his robe and his headgear to his satisfaction, and possessed himself of a long stuffed club.

"They were told to wait in the old granary until called for," answered Messmer.

"Do they seem to be timid about joining?" asked Ben.

"Tom Atwood is a little timid,—he heard how little Frank Bond was almost scared to death by Gus Plum's crowd one term."

"By the way, where is Gus?" asked Henshaw.

"He said he wanted to study," answered Dave. "I asked him to come, but he wouldn't."

"My, but didn't Gus give us a funny story the time we initiated him!" cried one of the students.

"Yes, and do you remember how Link Merwell and Nat Poole placed those big firecrackers under our fire and nearly blew us all to pieces," added another.

"Never mind—we got square," said Buster. "I guess they haven't forgotten yet the drubbing we gave them."

It was late at night, and the boys had had not a little difficulty in stealing away from the school unobserved. With all in readiness, the three boys who were awaiting to be initiated were sent for, and they presently appeared, escorted by four of the club members, each carrying a bright and very blunt sword. As they came into the old boathouse, lit up by various fantastic lanterns representing skulls, dragons, and the like, the Gee Eyes set up a low chant:

"Hail the victims! Let them come! Let them enter, one by one! Let them bow the humble knee! Let them now forsake all glee! Death! Blood! Tomb!"

And then arose a weird groaning, calculated to make any lad feel uneasy. The three victims were forced to their knees and made to touch three chalk-marks on the floor with their noses. Then one of the members of the club came forward with a big tin wash-basin and sprinkled them with what looked to be water but was really ammonia. This caused some coughing and some tears commenced to flow. But the victims were "game" and said nothing.

"Lock two of them in yonder dungeon cell," commanded the Right Honorable Muck-a-Muck. "They shall be led to their fate later." And the Soden brothers, twins named Joe and Henry, were led to a big closet of the old boathouse and thrust inside.

Then Tom Atwood was taken outside, and a long march commenced behind the school grounds and leading to a secluded spot among some bushes. Here Atwood was suddenly blindfolded and his hands tied behind him.

[Pg 124]

"Now to Jackson's Gully with him!"

[Pg 125]

"Now to Jackson's Gully with him," cried several, and then the party proceeded a little further into the bushes.

"Look out, don't slip into the gully," whispered one member, but loud enough for Tom Atwood to hear.

"Oh, I'll take care!" whispered another. "Why, the gully is a hundred feet deep around here."

Then Tom Atwood was led up and over some rocks and halted a short distance beyond.

"Say, that looks mighty dangerous to me," whispered Roger.

"Oh, he'll get over if he's got nerve," answered Dave.

"Base slave, list thou to me!" cried the president of the Gee Eyes. "We have brought thee to the edge of a gully some hundred feet deep. If thou wouldst become a member of this notorious—I mean illustrious—organization thou must cross the gully on the bridge we have provided. Dost thou accept the condition?"

"I—I don't know," faltered Tom Atwood. "I—I can't see a thing."

"Nor wilt thou until thy task is accomplished. The gully must be crossed, otherwise thou canst not be of us."

"How big is the bridge?"

"One board wide."

[Pg 126]

"Any—er—handrail?" went on the victim.

"Nary a handrail," piped up a small voice from the rear. "What do you want for your money, anyway?"

"Say, that puts me in mind of a story——" came from another, but he stopped short as a fellow-member hit him with a stuffed club.

"I—I don't know about this——" began Tom Atwood. "I—oh, say, let up!" he cried, as he received several blows from stuffed clubs. "I—oh, my back!"

"Wilt try the bridge?" demanded the Right Honorable Muck-a-Muck.

"Yes, yes, but can't I—I crawl if I want to?"

"Thou canst, after thou hast taken seven steps."

"All right, here goes then."

Tom Atwood was led forward to the end of a long plank.

"Be careful," he was cautioned. "There, put your foot there and the other one right there. Now you are all right."

"And must I really—er—stand up and take seven steps?"

"Yes, exactly seven, or woe betide thee!" came the answering cry.

With great caution the blindfolded victim took a step and then another. He was trembling visibly, which caused the club members to shake with silent laughter. He counted the steps and when he had [Pg 127] taken just seven he fell on his hands and knees, clutching the sides of the plank tightly.

"Ho—how long is—is it?" he asked, his teeth commencing to chatter. "I—I ain't used to climbing in such places. It—it makes me dizzy!"

"Go on! go on!"

"The plank is only fifty-four feet long," said one boy.

"Oh, my! fifty-four feet; I'll go down—I know I will!"

Slowly, and clutching the plank with a death-like grip, Tom Atwood moved forward a distance of eighteen feet. Then the plank came to an end. He put out one hand after the other, but felt only the empty air.

"I—I don't feel the rest o—of th—the bridge!" he chattered.

"It is gone!" cried one boy, in a disguised voice. "Turn around and come back."

"But be careful how you turn, or the board may wabble and let you drop," added another.

More scared than ever, Tom Atwood turned around very gingerly. Once he thought the board was going over, and he set up a yell of fright. Then slowly and painfully he came back over the plank until he reached the solid ground once more.

"Hurrah!" cried the Gee Eyes. "Bravely done, Tom!"

"Now you are one of us!"

[Pg 128]

"He didn't mind that deep gully at all!"

"Yes, but I did mind it," answered the victim, as they were taking the cover from his eyes. "I wouldn't do that again for a hundred dollars in cash!"

"It was certainly the bravest thing to do I ever heard of," was Dave's comment, and then he tore the bandage away. Immediately, by the light of the lanterns the boys had on their headpieces, Tom Atwood looked at the plank which had cost him so much worry and fright.

"Well, I never!" he gasped.

And then what a roar of laughter went up! And well it might, for the plank rested on nothing but two blocks of wood and was less than a foot from the solid ground! The location was nowhere near Jackson's Gully.

"Tom, you'll do it for a hundred dollars now, won't you?" questioned Roger, earnestly.

"Oh, what a sell!" answered the victim, sheepishly. "Say, please don't tell the other fellows of this," he pleaded. "I'll never hear the end of it!"

"The secrets of the Gee Eyes are never told outside," answered Phil. "But there is one more thing you must do," he added.

"What?"

"Carry that plank back to the boathouse."

"All right."

"And here is a suit for you," said Ben. "Put [Pg 129] that on, and then you can participate in the initiation of the Soden brothers."

"Where are they?"

"Locked up in the closet at the old boathouse."

"What are you going to do with them?"

"You'll see when you get back."

With Tom Atwood and the plank between them, the members of the Gee Eyes took up the long march back to the old boathouse. To do this they had to cross a country road which was but little used. As they did this they heard an unusual sound from a clump of trees near by.

"There they are!" a voice called out. "I told you I had seen some ghosts."

"Sure enough, Billy, they must be ghosts," was the reply, in a deeper voice. "It's a good thing I brung my shotgun with me."

"Are you goin' to shoot at 'em?"

"That's what, Billy."

Hardly had the words been spoken when, to the consternation of the Gee Eyes, a shotgun was discharged, the load whistling through the trees over the lads' heads.

"Hi! hi! stop that!" yelled Buster Beggs. "We are not ghosts! We are——"

Bang! spoke up the shotgun a second time, and the load went clipping through the bushes on the left.

"Hand me your shotgun, Billy," said one of the [Pg 130] voices. "I don't know if I hit 'em or not, but this'll fetch 'em!"

"Run!" cried Dave. "Run for your lives! That old farmer is so scared he doesn't know what he is doing!"

And then all the boys ran across the roadway and dove into the woods beyond. They heard another report, but the contents of the gun did not reach them.


[Pg 131]

CHAPTER XIV

IN WHICH JOB HASKERS GETS LEFT IN THE COLD

The boys kept on running for fully a hundred yards, plunging deeper and deeper into the woods which lined the roadway. Tom Atwood had dropped the plank and two of the club members had lost their headpieces, but nobody dreamed of going back for the articles.

"I think I know who that man is," said Phil, when the crowd came to a halt.

"Mike Marcy?" questioned Dave.

"Yes."

"I thought that, too, but I wasn't sure. He called the other fellow Billy."

"He has a boy working for him now and his name is Billy," said Shadow. "I met him on the road several times, driving cows. He isn't just right in his mind. I suppose Marcy got him to work cheap."

"I wonder if Marcy really thought we were ghosts?" mused the senator's son. "Maybe he only said that to scare us. He might have thought we were up to some kind of a job around his farm."

[Pg 132]

"Well, whether he thought we were ghosts or not, he certainly shot at us," was Phil's comment. "Ugh! I am glad I didn't get a dose of the shot!"

"And so am I," answered several others.

"That is one more black mark against Mike Marcy," said Luke Watson. "We'll have to remember to pay him back."

"Never mind about paying him back just now," answered Roger. "The question is, What's to do next? That run warmed me up and I'll take cold if I stand here long doing nothing."

"We must get back to the boathouse. Remember, the Soden boys are still locked up in that closet. It hasn't much ventilation and we don't want them to smother."

"I'm not going around by the road," said Henshaw.

"Not on your life!" exclaimed Ben. "I'd rather go down to the river and walk over the ice."

It was finally decided to follow Ben's suggestion, and the crowd continued on their way through the brushwood until the Leming River was reached. They saw or heard nothing more of Mike Marcy and his hired boy, for which they were thankful. Reaching the ice, they set off at a dog-trot for the old boathouse.

"If we only had skates this would be fine," declared [Pg 133] Dave. "But as we haven't any we've got to make the best of it."

"As the servant girl said, when she told her mistress that she couldn't make sponge cake because they didn't have any sponges," answered the senator's son.

"Say, that puts me in mind of a story about a——" began Shadow. But just then one of the boys put out his foot and down went the story-teller of the school on the ice. "Hi, you!" he roared and pulled the other youth on top of him. Then began a wild scramble on the part of both to see who could get up first, and the story was forgotten.

When the Gee Eyes came in sight of the old boathouse they were surprised to learn it was well past midnight.

"We'll have to rush matters," said Dave. "If we don't, somebody may report us, and the doctor won't let us off very easily if we stay out too late."

"Maybe we'd better postpone the other initiations," suggested Luke.

"Oh, no, go ahead!" cried half a dozen. "We are safe enough."

Entering the old boathouse, the boys lit all the lanterns they possessed, and those who had lost their head-coverings tied masks over their faces. Then some approached the closet in which the Soden twins had been confined.

[Pg 134]

"Hello!"

"They are gone!"

"What does this mean?"

"They must have broken out and run away!"

Such were some of the exclamations indulged in when it was found that the apartment was empty. A hasty examination was made of the hasp and staple of the door, and they were found intact. A wooden peg had served to keep the hasp in place.

"It looks to me as if somebody had let them out," said Dave, after an examination.

"But who would do that, Dave?" questioned Phil.

"Somebody not a member of the Gee Eyes—some enemy of the club."

"But why should the Soden boys run away?" asked Shadow. "They were willing to be initiated."

"Perhaps they got cold feet—mentally as well as physically," ventured Henshaw. "They may have got to talking things over in the dark and got scared."

"They didn't break out, that's sure," declared the senator's son. "Somebody on the outside removed that wooden peg."

"Well, we didn't do it," said one of the boys.

"Can they be anywhere around?"

Some of the boys began a search, but this was in vain—the twins had disappeared.

[Pg 135]

"We may as well give up for to-night," said the president at last.

"I move we adjourn to bed," said Ben, and this was put and carried, and without delay the robes, headgears, and stuffed clubs and swords were hidden away, and the students hurried to Oak Hall.

Here another setback awaited them. The side door was locked, and the false key they had put on a convenient nail was missing.

"Somebody is playing us tricks," said Dave. "I thought so before and now I am certain of it. I shouldn't wonder if that somebody had gone and told Mike Marcy to look out for ghosts at the end of his lot."

"Who would do it?"

"Several fellows—Link Merwell, Nat Poole, and their cronies."

"Never mind that crowd now," said Shadow. "How are we to get into the school without waking anybody up?"

"Let us try all the doors and lower windows," suggested the shipowner's son.

This was done, and at last one of the boys found a basement window unfastened. He notified the others.

"I know where that leads to," said Dave. "The laundry."

"Yes, I've been in the laundry, too," added the senator's son.

[Pg 136]

"Then one of you see if you can get upstairs through the laundry and let us in," said Buster. "And please don't be all night about it either, for I am getting cold."

"Don't say a word," came from Messmer. "My ears are about frozen already."

"I'll go," said Dave.

"I'll go along," returned Roger.

Both climbed down through the basement window, to find themselves in a place that was pitch-dark. Here Dave struck a match and by its faint rays led the way to an open cellar and then to a stairs running up to the kitchen.

Tiptoeing their way up the stairs, they tried the door at the top, and to their joy found it unlocked. They stepped into the kitchen, and just then the match went out, leaving them again in the dark.

"I know the way now, so there is no need to make another light," said Roger.

"Wait,—better have a light," answered Dave. "You don't want to stumble over anything and make a noise."

He found a candle and lit it, and then the chums crept silently from the kitchen, through the pantry and dining room to the side hall. They wanted to stop for something to eat from the pantry, but did not wish to keep their friends waiting out in the cold.

The two youths were just on the point of turning [Pg 137] a corner of the hall when a sound struck their ears. Somebody was close at hand, snoring lustily!

"Who can it be?" asked Roger, in a faint whisper, when both realized what the sound meant.

"I'll soon find out," answered Dave, and held up the candle.

"Don't wake him up, or there'll be trouble!"

Step by step they drew closer to the sleeping person. It was a man, wearing an overcoat and a skullcap. He was seated in a comfortable armchair taken from the parlor.

"Old Haskers!" cried Dave.

"He must have been on the watch for us and fallen asleep," was the comment of the senator's son.

"Don't wake him—let him sleep."

"To be sure, Dave—I'd like to chloroform him!"

The boys passed the snoring teacher and reached a side door. Unlocking it, they slipped without, and closed the door again. Then they summoned the members of the Gee Eyes and told them of what they had discovered.

"You'll have to go in as quietly as mice," said Dave. "Otherwise he'll wake up and catch us,—and then the fat will be in the fire."

"Dave, somebody has surely been spying on us," said Phil.

"Exactly—but we can't take that up now. In [Pg 138] you go, and take off your shoes before you start upstairs. Maybe——" Dave paused.

"What, Dave?"

"Maybe we can play a joke on Haskers, when we are about safe."

"How?" asked several.

"We might carry him out on the piazza and lock the door on him. Under that overcoat he has on only his night clothes and a pair of slippers."

"If we only could do it!" murmured Phil, gleefully.

One by one the members of the Gee Eyes entered the school building, slipped off their shoes, and went upstairs. Then, wrapping their coats around their heads, Dave, Roger, Phil, and Shadow came back and surrounded Job Haskers.

"Now listen," said Dave, who still held the candle. "If he wakes up, drop him. I'll blow out the candle, and all scoot for the dormitories,—but without noise, remember that!" And so it was agreed.

As carefully as possible they raised up the sleeping man, armchair and all, and carried him to the side door, which Dave opened. Then they took their burden outside and put the chair down in the snow at the foot of the piazza steps. This accomplished, they ran back into the school, closed and locked the door, and threw the key in a dark corner.

[Pg 139]

"Now for the dormitory!" cried Dave, and blew out the light. "And everybody undress in jig-time!"

All understood, and the way they flew up the stairs was a wonder. Like lightning-change actors they threw off their garments and got into their sleeping clothes. The other boys were already disrobed, and some were at the windows, looking down through shade cracks, to see what might happen below.

They had not long to wait. Job Haskers speedily grew cold and woke up with a start. In the darkness he stared around in perplexity and then leaped to his feet.

"Oh!" the boys heard him mutter, as some of the loose snow got into his slippers. "What can this mean? Where am I?"

He took several steps, and more snow got into his slippers. Then he slipped on a patch of ice and plunged straight into the snow with his arms and shoulders.

"Confound the luck!" the boys heard him say. "Boys, what does this mean? Who put me here? Oh, but won't I make you suffer for this! Oh, my feet!" And then he rushed for the piazza steps. Here he slipped again, and the students heard him yell as he came down on his left elbow. Then he disappeared from sight under the roof of the piazza.

[Pg 140]

"He won't get in right away!" whispered Roger. "Oh, this is the best yet!"

They heard Job Haskers fumble at the knob of the door. He tried to turn it several times and then shook it violently. Finding the door would not open, he began to pound upon the barrier with his fist.

"He's making noise enough to wake the dead!" whispered Phil.

"Somebody is going below," said Dave, a moment later. "Now I guess there will be more fun!"

"If only we aren't caught!" murmured Shadow, who was a bit afraid that the fun had been carried too far.


[Pg 141]

CHAPTER XV

WHAT MIKE MARCY HAD TO TELL

It was Murphy the monitor who let the assistant teacher in. Job Haskers entered stamping his feet loudly, for they were decidedly cold.

"Why, Mr. Haskers, what does this mean?" asked the monitor, in amazement. "I didn't know you were out. And in slippers, too!"

"I—er—I——" stammered the teacher, and then he stopped, for he did not know how to proceed. He realized that he occupied a very ridiculous position.

"Can I do anything for you?" went on the monitor.

"Murphy, have you seen any boys come in since lights were out?"

"No, sir."

"Nobody at all?"

"Not a soul."

"It is queer. They must have come in, and finding me asleep——" Job Haskers did not finish.

"Where were you asleep, sir?"

[Pg 142]

"Never mind—if you saw nobody. But listen, I want you to make the rounds, and see if every boy is in his dormitory. If any are absent, report to me in my room at once."

"Yes, sir," returned the monitor, and hurried off.

"He'll not find us missing," whispered Dave. "All hands in bed and eyes shut. No fooling now, for if you are caught something serious may happen."

The others understood, and when Jim Murphy came with a light to look into dormitories No. 11 and No. 12 he found every lad tucked in under the blankets and looking as if he had been slumbering for several hours.

"That was what I call a narrow escape," whispered Phil, after the monitor had departed. "Somebody surely spied on us."

"We'll look into the matter to-morrow," answered Luke Watson. "I'm in for sleep now." And a little later all the lads were in the land of dreams.

The next morning the members of the Gee Eyes looked for an investigation from Job Haskers, but no such thing occurred. The fact of the matter was that the teacher realized fully what a joke had been played on him while he was asleep, and he was afraid to stir the matter up for fear the entire school would be laughing at him. He made a few [Pg 143] very cautious inquiries, which gave him no clew, and then, for the time being, dropped the matter.

The Gee Eyes were anxious to know how the Soden brothers had gotten out of the closet at the old boathouse, and were amazed when the answer came.

"Why, two of you fellows came back and let us out," said Henry Soden.

"Let you out?" asked Buster Beggs.

"Yes."

"One of the fellows said that Mr. Haskers was onto the game and that no initiations would be attempted," explained Joe Soden. "He said we had better get back to our dormitory as quickly as we could, so we scooted."

"Who were those chaps?" demanded Dave.

"I don't know. They wore their coats inside out and big paper bags over their heads."

"They were no members of the Gee Eyes," said Phil. "They were some outsiders who wanted to spoil our fun."

"Well, I must confess we were glad enough to get out of the closet,—it was so cold," said Henry Soden. "But just the same I shouldn't have run away if I had known the truth. Both of us are anxious to join your club."

"I'll tell you what I think," said Dave. "It was a put-up job all around. Some enemy told Mike [Pg 144] Marcy about ghosts, sent word to old Haskers to be on guard, and released Joe and Henry."

"If that is true, we want to find out who that enemy was," answered Roger. "No student of Oak Hall can play such a trick on the Gee Eyes without suffering for it."

"So say we all of us!" sang out several.

"I have a plan," went on Dave. "Let us lay for that hired boy of Marcy's—the lad called Billy. Maybe he can tell us who told Marcy—if anybody did tell him." And so it was arranged.

The opportunity to interview the farm boy Billy did not occur until about a week later, when Dave and Ben Basswood were walking to Oakdale to buy some film rolls for their cameras. They took a side road leading past the Marcy farm, and caught sight of Billy down by a cowshed and beckoned to him.

"Is your name Billy?" asked Dave, kindly, for he could easily see that the lad was somewhat simple-minded, by the way he clasped and unclasped his hands, twisted his shoulders, and twitched his mouth.

"Yes, Billy Sankers, from Lundytown," was the boy's reply.

"Do you work for Mr. Marcy?"

"Do I? Sure I do—an' he works for me," and Billy grinned at what he thought was a joke.

[Pg 145]

"You went after ghosts the other night, didn't you?" continued Dave.

"Yes, we did, an' we bagged a lot of 'em, too—shot 'em full of holes an' they disappeared into the sky," and the poor deluded boy began to wave his arms as if flying.

"Who told Mr. Marcy that the ghosts were coming?" asked Ben.

"Two boys from the school over there," and now Billy jerked his thumb in the direction of Oak Hall. "They said to keep still about it, but what's the use? The ghosts are shot full of holes, shot full of holes, holes, holes!"

"Did you know the boys?" asked Dave.

At this question Billy shook his head. "I don't go to school there—I know too much. Maybe some day I'll go over and teach the teachers. One boy called the other Nat," he added, suddenly.

"Nat!" cried Dave. He turned to his chum. "Can it have been Nat Poole?"

"That's it, Nat Poole!" cried Billy. "You're a wise owl to guess it."

"What was the other boy called?" continued Ben.

"Called? Nothing. Yes, he was, too, he was called Link. That's it, Link, Blink, Hink! Funny name, eh?"

"Link!" cried Dave. "Can it have been Link Merwell?"

[Pg 146]

"More than likely," answered his chum. "Nat and Link travel together, and both are down on our crowd."

"Did they tell Mr. Marcy that the ghosts would be schoolboys?" asked Dave.

"No, ghosts," answered Billy, nodding his head gravely. "They told Mike an' he told me, an' we got the shotguns to scare 'em off. Mike don't want ghosts around this place."

"Here comes Mike Marcy now," whispered Ben. "Had we better get out?"

"I'll not run for him," was Dave's answer.

"Sure, an' what do you fellers want here?" demanded the big, brawny Irish-American farmer as he strode up, horsewhip in hand.

"Mr. Marcy, we want to have a talk with you," said Dave, coldly. "I guess you remember me."

"I do. You're the lad I once had locked up in my smokehouse," and the farmer grinned slightly.

"Yes. But I am not here about that now,—nor am I here to tell you that I was one of the boys that found your mule when he was lost and sent you word. I am here to ask you about the shooting that took place about a week ago."

"Shooting!"

"Exactly. Who were the boys who came here and told you to go to the end of your farm and shoot at a lot of innocent lads having a little fun by themselves?"

[Pg 147]

"Why—er—— See here, what do you mean?" blustered Mike Marcy.

"I mean just what I say, Mr. Marcy, and I want you to answer my question."

"Eh! Say, do you see this whip?" stormed the farmer. "I'll let ye taste it in a minit!"

"You'll do nothing of the kind," answered Dave, coolly. "I ask you a question and you must answer it. This is a serious business. You fired three shots at a crowd of innocent schoolboys who were harming nobody. You cannot deny it."

"They were on my land."

"Some of them were on the road, and they were doing absolutely no harm. You merely fired at them out of pure ugliness."

"See here, do ye want this?" And now the horsewhip was raised.

"If you strike either of us, I shall at once have you arrested. How many students do you suppose are now in bed under the doctor's care because of the shooting you did?"

At this question Mike Marcy turned suddenly pale.

"I—er—was anybody hurt? I—er—I fired into the air—just to scare 'em," he faltered.

"I ask you a question and I want you to answer it, and you had better do it unless you want to get into more trouble. Who told you to go out and do the shooting?"

[Pg 148]

"We want their names and we are bound to have them," put in Ben, following up Dave's bold manner, now that he saw the farmer was growing uneasy.

"The boys were named Nat Poole and Link Merwell. But they wanted their names kept secret."

"What did they tell you?"

"They said a lot of the toughest lads in the school were going to disguise themselves an' come down here and cut up like Indians, and maybe rob me of some chickens, an' I had better be on the watch for 'em. One said I might scare 'em by saying I saw ghosts, and I said that was a good idee. So I called Billy an' told him about the ghosts, an' we got the shotguns. But as true as I stand here I shot up into the air. I didn't want to hit anybody, an' if any lad got as much as one shot in him I'm sorry."

"That is all we want to know, Mr. Marcy," returned Dave. "We thank you for the information," and he started to walk away, followed by Ben.

"But see here—if anybody is hurted——" cried Mike Marcy. "Sure, I don't want trouble——"

"We won't say any more about it—since you didn't mean to hit anybody," answered Dave. "But after this never shoot at us again."

[Pg 149]

"I won't, ye can be certain of that," answered the farmer, with a sigh of relief.

"And another thing, Mr. Marcy," added Ben. "If you see Nat Poole or Link Merwell do not tell them that you saw us or told us the truth."

"I'll remember." And with this promise from the farmer the boys took their departure. But they had not gone a hundred feet when Mike Marcy came running after them.

"Tell me," said he; "was anybody really hit?"

"Nobody was seriously hurt," answered Dave. "But you scared some of the boys nearly to death, and they tumbled all over the rocks and bushes, in trying to get out of range of the shots."

"I see. Well, I won't do any more shooting," answered Mike Marcy, and walked back to his house, looking very thoughtful.

"It is just as we supposed," said Dave, when he and his chum were alone. "Nat Poole and Link Merwell are responsible for everything. They got Marcy to do the shooting, released the Soden brothers, and somehow put Haskers on guard."

"Well, the Gee Eyes will have to square accounts with them," replied Ben. "We'll make a report at the next meeting of the club, and then the club can take what action it likes in the matter. For my part, I think such sneaks ought to be drummed out of the school."

[Pg 150]

"And I agree with you, Ben. But let me tell you one thing. Link Merwell is ten times worse than Nat Poole. Nat is a dude and a fool and easily led around by others, but Link Merwell is a knave, as black-hearted as any boy I can name. Look out for him, or when you least expect it he will play you foul."


[Pg 151]

CHAPTER XVI

SOMETHING ABOUT LESSONS

At Oakdale the two students ran into Phil, who had come to town earlier, to see about a pair of skating shoes. They told their chum of what they had learned, and the shipowner's son agreed that the Gee Eyes ought in some way to punish the offenders.

"I just met two friends," went on Phil. "I stopped at the candy store for some chocolates and ran into Mary Feversham and Vera Rockwell. Vera wanted to know how you were, Dave," and Phil grinned.

"I trust you told her I was very sick, Phil," was Dave's quick reply.

"I did—I said you were crying your eyes out for another sight of her," and then Phil dodged, to escape a blow Dave playfully aimed at his head.

The boys procured the articles for which they had come, and then took a stroll through the town. At one store an auction sale was in progress and here they met the two girls Phil had mentioned. [Pg 152] Both were dressed in fur coats, with dainty fur caps to match, and both looked very sweet.

"We watched them selling some bric--brac," said Mary. "It was real fun. A beautiful statue of Apollo went for two dollars—just think of it!"

"Might get one of those statues to replace the broken one," said Ben to Dave.

"Oh, did somebody break a statue?" cried Vera.

"Yes,—and there was quite an exciting time doing it," said Phil. "Dave was the hero of the occasion."

"Oh, tell me about it, Mr. Porter!" And Vera bent her eyes full upon Dave.

"Oh, it didn't amount to much," answered Dave.

"But please tell me, won't you?" pleaded Vera.

Then both girls teased him, until at last he related some of the particulars of the encounter with Job Haskers. Mary and Vera were deeply interested, Vera especially.

"I am glad you did not give in to him," said Vera. "I like a boy who can stand up for his rights."

"You can trust Dave to do that," said Ben. "He doesn't take water for anybody."

"Oh, come now, Ben——" murmured Dave.

"I believe Mr. Basswood," said Vera. "I hope Mr. Porter always does stick up for himself. I [Pg 153] never liked a boy or a man—or a girl either—who was cowardly."

After that the boys and girls listened to the auctioneer for several minutes. Then Phil suggested soda to Mary Feversham, and all of the party walked over to a corner drug store, where hot chocolate was to be had, and there Phil and Dave treated.

The crowd was in the act of drinking the beverage, and Dave had just handed Vera her glass, when, glancing toward the doorway, he saw Link Merwell and a strange young man standing there. Link started and stared rudely at the girls. Then he whispered something to his companion, and both turned from the drug store and disappeared up the street.

"Did you see them?" whispered Dave to Phil.

"I saw somebody look in and walk away. Who was it?"

"Link Merwell and a stranger."

"Humph! I suppose Merwell didn't want to come in while we were here," murmured the shipowner's son. And there the subject was dropped. Little did Dave dream of what was to be the result of Link Merwell's unexpected appearance while he was in the company of Vera Rockwell.

The boys did not have much time to spend in town, and soon they bade the girls good-by and hurried back to Oak Hall. It was plain to be [Pg 154] seen that Phil thought the trip an extra pleasant one.

"No use in talking; Mary Feversham is all right," he said to Dave, enthusiastically. "Finest girl I ever ran across."

"Phil, I'm afraid you're smitten," answered Dave, with a laugh. "You'll be dreaming about her next."

"Perhaps—I don't care if I do," was the reply, which showed that Phil was pretty far "gone" indeed. "But say," he went on, suddenly. "Talking about dreaming, I want to tell you something. Do you remember how Shadow Hamilton used to walk in his sleep?"

"I don't think anybody is liable to forget it," answered Dave, thinking of Shadow's theft, during his sleep-walking, of Doctor Clay's valuable collection of rare postage stamps as related in a previous volume of this series.

"Shadow is at it again—although not so bad as before."

"How do you know?" asked Ben.

"Because the other night I woke up and heard him getting something out of his trunk. He was at the trunk about ten minutes and then went to bed again. In the morning I asked him about it and he declared positively that he hadn't gotten up at all. He was much disturbed over what I told him."

[Pg 155]

"Maybe you were only dreaming," suggested Dave.

"No, I wasn't—I was as wide awake as I am now."

"It would be too bad if Shadow got to sleep-walking again," said Dave. "We'll have to watch him a little. We don't want him to get into trouble."

During the next two weeks Dave found but little time for recreation. A test in two studies was in progress, and he made up his mind to pass with flying colors. He went in for a regular "grind," as Roger expressed it, and was at his books fully as much as was Polly Vane; indeed, the two often studied together.

"Come on out for a skate—it may be the last of the season," said the senator's son, one afternoon, but Dave shook his head.

"Can't do it, Roger—I've got my Latin to do, and four of those problems in geometry,—and some German."

"Oh, bother the lessons! Can't you let the geometry and the German slide?"

"Oh, I've made up my mind to get not less than ninety per cent. in the test this week."

"Then you won't really come?" Roger lingered in the doorway as he spoke.

"Not to-day. Have you got that geometry?"

"No—I thought I might do it this evening."

[Pg 156]

"What about the German?"

"Oh, perhaps I'll do that, too. I don't care much for the German, anyway."

"But you ought to study your lesson, now you have taken it up, Roger."

There was a minute of silence, and Dave turned to his text-books and papers and began to write. Roger drummed on the door and heaved a deep sigh. The ice on the river was growing soft—in a few days skating might be a thing of the past.

"It seems to me you don't care for skating as much as you did, Dave," he said, presently.

"Oh, yes, I do, Roger; but I'm not going to think about it while I have studying to do. I can't forget that, after all is said and done, I am here to get a good education, and that both my father and Mr. Wadsworth expect me to make the most of my opportunities."

Dave returned again to his books and papers and another silence followed. Then the senator's son came in, hung up his skates in the closet, and got out his own schoolbooks and papers.

"Well, if we've got to grind, I suppose it is up to me to do my share," he remarked, with another sigh. "But that ice——"

"Don't do it on my account, Roger."

"Yes, but, Dave, I can't stand it to see you grinding alone—when I know I ought to grind too. My father wants me to get a good education, too. [Pg 157] So here goes," and then Roger began to study just as hard as Dave and Polly. Then Phil came in, and Shadow, and seeing the condition of affairs, went at it like the rest. Dave's example certainly carried a wonderful influence with it, even though the youth himself did not fully realize it.

"This fifth problem in geometry is a corker," observed Shadow, presently. "If the gable of a house is fourteen feet long on one side, and the angle at the top is one of forty degrees, and the other side is but eleven feet long, how——"

"Don't say a word, I've been working on that for half an hour," said Phil. "Tried it this noon, after dinner, and couldn't get it."

"It's very easy," answered Polly.

"Have you got it, Dave?" asked Roger.

"Yes, but I didn't find it so easy."

"Guess I'll climb up some gable and measure it," said Shadow. He began suddenly to grin. "That puts me in mind of a story. Once a college professor——"

"Don't!" begged Polly. "I have some figures in my head I don't wish to lose!"

"Then nail 'em down," answered the story-teller of the school, calmly. "This college professor was paying a visit to some lumbermen and he was trying to convince one old tree-chopper of the value of an education. Says he, 'Now, look at it. You don't know how to measure a plank accurately.' [Pg 158] 'Don't I, though?' says the lumberman. 'No, you don't, and I can prove it,' says the professor. 'Now, supposing you had a plank twenty feet long and one foot wide at one end and running up evenly to two feet wide at the other end. Where would you saw that plank crosswise so that one end would contain as much wood as the other? You can't do that problem and I know it, because you never studied higher mathematics.' 'That's dead easy,' says the old lumberman. 'I don't even need a pencil to figger it out,' says he. 'Jest balance thet plank on a bit of stick, an' cut her where she balances!' And then the college professor didn't have anything more to say, for he made out the lumberman was a hopeless case." And at this tale all the boys present snickered.

"Shadow would have a job climbing up on a gable to measure it," said Phil. "I'd rather do it on paper." Then Polly Vane and Dave gave Shadow some points as to how the problem should be worked out.

In some way Link Merwell and Nat Poole got an inkling of the fact that it was known they had done all in their power to break up the initiation ceremonies of the Gee Eyes, and, not to be cornered, both of the boys did all they could to keep out of the reach of their fellow-students. But the Gee Eyes did not forget, and at a special meeting of the club it was voted to give both Poole and Merwell [Pg 159] "the cold shoulder" until something more definite could be done. By "the cold shoulder" was meant that no member of the club was to associate with Poole or Merwell or speak to them unless required to do so during school sessions. Outside of the schoolrooms they were to be as utterly ignored as though they did not exist.

"I think that will bring Nat Poole to terms, without going further," said Roger. "He hates to be left to himself—I've noticed that many times."

"Well, it may have that effect on Nat," answered Dave. "But I think it will only make Merwell more savage," and in this surmise he was correct.

The tests proved a severe strain on many of the boys, and Dave was glad when they were over. What the standing of each student was would not be known until later.

"Now I'd like to go skating," said he to Roger, but this could not be, for warm weather had set in and the ice and snow were rapidly passing away. That night it rained, and this made everything outside very sloppy.

Dave went to bed early, for he was tired out. He slept soundly for several hours and then awoke with a start, for something had brushed his face. He sat up, and was just in time to see a form gliding from the dormitory.

[Pg 160]

"Hello! what can that mean?" he murmured to himself, and then he sprang up. "Guess I'll investigate." And then, putting on a pair of slippers and donning a long overcoat that was handy, he made after the person who had just disappeared.


[Pg 161]

CHAPTER XVII

SHADOW HAMILTON'S PERIL

When Dave reached the hallway he saw, by a dim light that was burning, a form at the lower end, moving toward a back stairs. An instant later the form glided up the stairs toward the third floor of the school building. The form was in white, and Dave knew it must be one of the students in his nightdress.

"Something is going on," he thought. "Wonder if that is Phil or Roger?"

Curious to learn what the midnight prowler was up to, Dave followed the unknown to the third story of the building. He saw the fellow walk to a side hall. Here it was almost dark, for the servants' rooms were in that part of the building. He stopped and listened and heard an odd creaking and a scraping sound. Then he went forward once more.

Turning into the side hall, a gust of cold wind struck him. He knew it came from overhead, and then he remembered that at the end of the side hall was a ladder leading to a scuttle of the roof. The [Pg 162] scuttle had been thrown open, and wind and rain were coming down through the opening.

Dave's curiosity was now excited to the top pitch. He felt sure that the servants had not left the scuttle open on retiring or that it had been blown open by the wind. Consequently, the midnight prowler must have opened it, and if so, for what purpose excepting to get out on the wet and slippery roof?

Suddenly an idea flashed into Dave's mind, and without further ado he ran to the ladder and mounted it with all speed. At the top he thrust his head through the scuttle opening and looked around that portion of the school roof which was visible from that point.

He had expected to see a certain person, but he was disappointed. Yet this did not make him hesitate regarding his course of action. He crawled out on the roof, slippery and treacherous with slush, and made his way cautiously but rapidly to where there were an angle and a high gable, with a wide chimney between.

As he gained the side of the chimney and stood there in the rain, slush, and wind, he saw a sight that both thrilled and chilled him. The mysterious student in white was crawling up the gable and was already close to the ridge!

"Shadow Hamilton!" murmured Dave. "He is sleep-walking again!"

[Pg 163]

Dave was right—it was indeed poor Shadow, and as fast asleep as a sleep-walker can get. The lad had a tape measure in one hand and was muttering to himself:

"If the gable of a house is fourteen feet long on one side, and the angle at the top——" And then the rest was lost in the wind.

"He's dreaming of that problem in geometry," said Dave to himself. "It's got on his nerves."

He wondered what he could do to aid the sleep-walker. He was afraid to call to Shadow, for fear the boy might awaken suddenly and tumble off the roof. Shadow was now on the ridge, and, to Dave's added horror, he stood upright, the tape measure in his hands. Then he began to walk to the very end of the ridgepole.

"If he falls into the yard he'll break his neck sure!"

Such was Dave's agonizing thought, and despite the cold, the heavy perspiration stood out on his forehead.

"Dave!"

It was a voice from the scuttle opening and came so unexpectedly it made the youth start. Turning back, he made out Phil in the dim light.

"Phil!" he whispered.

"What are you doing up there, Dave?"

"I followed Shadow Hamilton."

"Shadow?"

[Pg 164]

"Yes. He is sleep-walking again and has climbed to the ridge of the gable roof. I don't dare to awaken him for fear of an accident."

"I saw you go out and I was wondering what was up. Then I missed Shadow and came after you. It's too bad, Dave! But I imagine the very best thing you can do is to let him alone until he comes back."

"I don't like to take the responsibility, Phil. If anything should happen I'd never forgive myself. I'll tell you what I wish you'd do."

"What?"

"Run and call Mr. Dale. He knows something about these cases. He once told me he had a brother who walked in his sleep and did all sorts of strange things."

"All right, I'll call him," answered the shipowner's son, and disappeared down the scuttle ladder.

Going back to the chimney, Dave now saw that Shadow had reached the end of the ridgepole and was kneeling down upon it. Holding out the tape measure he proceeded to make several imaginary measurements, all the while muttering to himself. The sight almost caused Dave's heart to stop beating, for the slightest miscalculation on the sleep-walker's part would have caused a serious if not fatal accident.

After what seemed a long time Dave heard Phil [Pg 165] coming back. He was accompanied by Andrew Dale, the head teacher, who had stopped just long enough to get on some of his clothing.

"Where is he?" whispered Mr. Dale, as he came out in the wind and rain.

"There," answered Dave, and pointed out the form of the sleep-walker.

"Have you tried to speak to him?"

"No, I was afraid."

"Then, don't say a word till he comes down to a safer place."

After that the three watched Shadow Hamilton for several minutes while he continued his calculation and used the tape measure. Then they saw the sleep-walker wind up the measure.

"He is coming down!" whispered Phil, and he was right. Slowly Shadow climbed down from the gable roof and made his way toward the scuttle. He had taken but a few steps when suddenly he slipped and fell.

"Oh!" he cried, and looked around in bewilderment. "Where——"

"Shadow!" cried Dave, and caught him by the arm. "You are all right, so don't worry."

"But where am I?" insisted the sleep-walker.

"On the roof."

"You have been walking in your sleep, Hamilton," explained Mr. Dale. "Come, let me help you down the ladder. You are soaked through, [Pg 166] and if you don't get into a warm bed very quickly you may catch your death of cold."

Completely bewildered, Shadow allowed himself to be taken to the ladder and aided to descend. Then the scuttle was closed and hooked.

"I do not think it best for you to go back to the dormitory," said the head teacher. "I'll put you in a warm room by yourself. But perhaps it would be as well for somebody to stay with you for the rest of the night," and Andrew Dale looked questioningly at Dave and Phil.

"I'll stay," said Dave, quickly.

"Very well. To-morrow we'll talk this over and see what is best to do. There is no use in trying to do so now, when we are all cold, wet, and tired."

The head teacher led the way to a private bedroom that was well heated and had Dave go back to the dormitory for some extra clothing. Then he left Dave and Shadow to themselves.

"This breaks me all up," said Shadow, moodily. "I thought I was all over those tricks."

"It was the hard study did it, and the tests," answered Dave. "You had that geometrical problem in your mind and couldn't get rid of it. Maybe you'll never walk in your sleep again."

"I sincerely trust not, Dave. It was good of you and the others to help me," and Shadow gave his chum a grateful look.

[Pg 167]

"We did very little, Shadow—indeed, I didn't know what to do. But when I saw you on the very end of the ridge I can tell you my heart was in my throat."

Before going to bed both boys indulged in a good rubbing down and consequently the exposure to the elements did them no harm. In the morning Shadow was excused from attending school and Horsehair was sent to town to get some of the medicine which the sleep-walker had taken in the past, after the exposure of his former exploits during the night.

With the coming of spring the boys had a vacation of several days. A few of the students went home, but the majority remained at Oak Hall, and, to pass away the time, indulged in all sorts of sports and pastimes, including a funny initiation of the Soden brothers.

At New Year a new gymnasium teacher had been engaged,—a fine man, who was an expert gymnast and also a good boxer and fencer. Since coming back to the Hall, Dave had become interested in both boxing and fencing, and spent some time under the new instructor.

"I believe a chap ought to know how to defend himself," he said to Roger. "In knocking around one doesn't know what kind of a hole he may be placed in,—and you can never know too much."

"Well, I like boxing and fencing myself," answered [Pg 168] the senator's son, and after that he and Dave had many a time together, with the foils and gloves.

Link Merwell did not care much for fencing, but he took readily to boxing, and he caused Nat Poole to take up the sport. As the pair were still totally ignored by the Gee Eyes they had to box against one another or with some of the younger lads.

"Those fellows are afraid to box with me," said Link Merwell, on several occasions. "They know that I can do every one of them up in short order." He referred to Dave and his chums, and made the assertion in the presence of a large crowd of students.

At first none of the Gee Eyes paid any attention to the bully, but gradually the boasting nettled them, and some of them talked it over. Then came a report from little Frank Bond to the effect that Link Merwell was saying he had asked Dave to box him and the latter had declined because he was afraid.

"Dave, if I were you, I wouldn't stand for that," said Buster Beggs.

"What am I to do?" asked Dave. "The Gee Eyes voted to leave Merwell and Poole severely alone, and I've got to stick by my word."

"Well, I guess they'll vote for the boxing contest—if you want to stand up before him."

"I certainly am not afraid to do so."

[Pg 169]

As a consequence of this talk, Buster spoke to Luke Watson, and there was a hasty meeting of the Gee Eyes and it was voted that Dave should box Merwell if he so desired.

Not knowing of this meeting and of its result, Link Merwell strode into the gymnasium the next afternoon, in company with Nat Poole, and proceeded to put on a pair of boxing gloves.

"Too bad, Nat, but I can't wake any of those fellows up," he said, loudly. "Every one of 'em is afraid to face me."

"How about Dave Porter?" asked Nat Poole, in an equally loud tone.

"Worst of the bunch. I guess he's afraid I'll knock the head off of him."

These words were spoken so that Dave might hear them. There were a few seconds of silence, and then Dave walked up to Merwell.

"So you think I am afraid to box you, Merwell?" he said, quietly.

"Oh, so you've woke up, eh?" sneered the bully. "Thought you and your crowd had gone to sleep."

"I want to know if you think I am afraid to box you?"

"Of course you are afraid."

"You are mistaken—and I'll prove it to you in very short order. How soon do you want to box?"

[Pg 170]

At this Link Merwell was taken by surprise, and his face showed it. But he was "game," and drew himself up.

"Any time you want me to box you I'll be ready."

"Then we'll box right now," answered Dave.


[Pg 171]

CHAPTER XVIII

THE BOXING BOUT

"A boxing match!"

"I think Dave Porter will win."

"I don't know about that. Link Merwell has been doing a great deal of boxing lately and has it down pretty fine."

"That may be, but Dave is as quick as they make them."

So the talk ran on, as the boys in the gymnasium gathered around the would-be contestants. They felt that, no matter who won, they were going to see something worth while. Many secretly hoped that the boxing match would degenerate into a regular fight, for they knew that Dave and Merwell were bitter enemies, and the majority wanted to see the big bully soundly whipped.

"We'll have to have a referee and a timekeeper," said Dave. "Who shall they be?"

"A referee and a timekeeper?" repeated Link Merwell. "Why don't you start her up and have done with it?"

[Pg 172]

"This is to be no prize fight, Merwell. I shall box you for points only."

"Oh!" The bully put as much of a sneer into the exclamation as possible. "Afraid to finish it up, eh?"

"Perhaps you'll get all you want before we stop," answered Dave, calmly.

"What kind of gloves do you want? The thickest in the place, I suppose."

"No, a medium glove will do for me. Mr. Dodsworth recommends the number five."

"Humph! I'm willing to box with a number one if you wish!"

"We might as well box without gloves as with number ones. This is to be no slugging match, as I intimated before. If you are afraid to box for points say so."

"Oh, I'll box you any way you please. Who do you want for timekeeper and referee?"

"Any boy with a good watch can keep time. I think Mr. Dodsworth ought to be the referee."

"Nat Poole can judge it all right," growled Merwell.

"He's not acceptable to me," answered Dave, promptly.

"The gym. teacher is all right," said Roger. "He'll know just what every move counts."

Link Merwell wished to argue, but Dave would not listen, and in the end the services of the new [Pg 173] gymnasium teacher were called in. Mr. Dodsworth smiled when told of what was on foot.

"Very well, I'll be referee," he said. "Now, let me warn you against all foul moves. You both know the rules. Let this be a purely scientific struggle for points. Length of each round two minutes, with two minutes intermission. How many rounds do you want to have?"

"To a finish," said Link Merwell, and he glared wickedly at Dave.

"No, I'll not allow that, for it is too exhausting. Let us say ten rounds. That will give you twenty minutes of hot work. Here, I will give my watch to Lambertson and he can keep the time." And he passed the watch over to the student mentioned.

The way matters had been arranged did not suit Link Merwell at all, yet he felt forced to submit or acknowledge that he was afraid of Dave. He had wished for a free-and-easy match and had hoped, on the sly, to get in a foul blow or two which might knock Dave out. Now, under the keen eyes of the gymnasium instructor, he knew he would have to be careful of his every movement.

The preliminaries arranged, the two boxers faced each other, while the students gathered thickly in a large circle around them. The circle was protected by benches, giving to the scene something of the air of a professional boxing ring.

[Pg 174]

"Ready!" called out Mr. Dodsworth. "Go!" he cried.

But there was very little "go" at the start. Both boxers were on the alert and they circled around slowly, looking for an opening. Then Merwell made a pass, which Dave warded off easily. Then Dave landed on his opponent's breast, Merwell came back with a blow in the shoulder, and Dave, ducking, sent in two in quick succession on the bully's neck and ear. Then time was called.

"How does that stand?" asked some of the boys.

"I'll tell you later," said Mr. Dodsworth, as he penciled something on a bit of paper.

"Oh, tell us now!" they pleaded.

But the instructor was obdurate. And while the lads were pleading round two was called.

The contestants were now warming up, and blows were given and taken freely. Link Merwell was forced back twice, and was glad when time was called by Lambertson.

"Don't get too anxious," said the instructor, during the recess. "Remember, this is for points."

Again the two boys went at it, and the third, fourth, and fifth rounds were mixed up freely. All present had to acknowledge that Link Merwell boxed quite well, but they saw that the points [Pg 175] were in Dave's favor. Dave had perfect control of himself, while the bully was getting excited.

"I'll show you something now!" cried Merwell as they came up for round six. He flew at Dave like a wild animal. But Dave was on the alert and dodged and ducked in a manner that brought constant applause. Then, almost before anybody knew it, he landed on the bully's jaw, his cheek, and then his nose.

"O my! Look at that!"

"Say, that was swift, wasn't it?"

The three blows had thrown Merwell off his balance, and he recovered with difficulty.

"He—he fouled me!" he panted.

"No foul!" answered the gymnasium instructor, and just then time was called.

"Maybe Merwell would like to call it off," suggested Dave.

"Not much! I'll show you yet!" roared the bully. "I'll have you to know——"

"Merwell, you'll do better if you'll keep your excitement down," advised the instructor. "'Keep cool,' is an excellent motto."

"Dave, you're doing well," whispered Roger. "Keep it up and Merwell won't know where he is at by the end of the tenth round."

"I intend to keep it up," was the answer. "I started out to teach that bully a lesson and I'll do it—if it is in me."

[Pg 176]

And it was in Dave—as the seventh and eighth rounds showed. In the latter round he practically had the bully at his mercy, and boxed him all around the ring. The calling of time found Merwell panting for breath and so confused he could hardly see.

"I think you had better give it up," said the gymnasium instructor. "Merwell, you have had enough."

"Say, are you going to give this boxing match to Porter?" roared the bully.

"Yes, for he has won it fairly. He already has twenty-six points to your seven."

"It ain't fair! I can lick him any day!"

"It is not a question of 'licking' anybody, Merwell. This was a boxing bout for points, and you are no longer in condition to box. I declare Porter the winner, and I congratulate him on his clean and clever work with the gloves."

"He—he fouled me."

"Not at all. If there was any fouling it was done by you in the sixth and seventh rounds. I might have disqualified you then if I had been very particular about it. But I saw that Porter was willing to let you go on."

This was the bitterest pill of all for Link Merwell to swallow. To think he might have been disqualified but that Dave Porter had been given the chance to continue hammering him! He [Pg 177] wanted to argue, but no one except Nat Poole would listen to him, and so he strode out of the gymnasium in disgust, accompanied by his crony.

"It makes me sick," he muttered. "Everybody stands up for Porter, no matter what he does!"

"Well, you see he has a way of worming in with everybody," answered Nat Poole. "A decent chap wouldn't do it, but you couldn't expect anything different from a poorhouse boy, could you?" When alone he and Merwell frequently referred to Dave as "a poorhouse boy," but both took good care not to use that term in public, remembering what punishment it had brought down on their heads.

"He'll crow over us worse than ever now," resumed Merwell. "Oh, but don't I wish I could square up with him and the rest of the Gee Eyes!"

"We'll do it some day,—when we get the chance," said Poole. "Come on and have a smoke; it will help to quiet you." And then he and the bully walked away from Oak Hall to a secluded spot, where they might indulge themselves in the forbidden pastime of smoking cigarettes. Both were inveterate smokers and had to exercise extreme caution that knowledge of the offense might not reach Doctor Clay or his assistants.

Finding a comfortable spot, the boys sat down on a fallen tree and there consumed one cigarette after another, trying to be real "mannish" by inhaling [Pg 178] the smoke and blowing it through the nose. As they smoked they talked of many things, the conversation finally drifting around to Vera Rockwell and Mary Feversham.

"I understand Phil Lawrence is daffy over that Feversham girl," remarked Poole. "She is a fairly good sort, but she wouldn't suit me." He said this because Mary had snubbed him on several occasions when they had met in Oakdale.

"Well, I heard Roger Morr was daffy over that Rockwell girl," answered Merwell. "And I heard, too, that Porter was likely to cut him out."

"Porter cut him out!" exclaimed Nat Poole. "Who told you that? Why, Dave Porter is too thick with Jessie Wadsworth to think much of anybody else."

"Are you sure of that?"

"Yes. Why, when Porter is home the two are as thick as can be. I am sure that Jessie Wadsworth thinks the world of him, too, although why is beyond my comprehension," added the dudish student. He had not forgotten how Jessie had also snubbed him, when invitations were being sent out for her party.

"Humph!" Link Merwell puffed at his cigarette in silence for a moment. "You say they are thick,—and still he goes out with this Vera Rockwell. Kind of funny mix-up, eh?"

[Pg 179]

"Oh, I suppose he has a right to do as he pleases," drawled Nat.

"Say, we might——" Merwell stopped short and blew a quantity of cigarette smoke from his nose.

"Might what?"

"Oh, I was just thinking, Nat——" And the bully stopped again.

"If you don't want me to know, say so," returned the dudish student, crossly.

"I was thinking that perhaps we could put a spoke in Dave Porter's wheel in a manner that he'd never suspect. If he's somewhat sweet on that Wadsworth girl, and at the same time giving his attention to Vera Rockwell, we ought to be able to do something."

"What?"

"Supposing that Wadsworth girl heard he was running around with a girl up here, and supposing Vera Rockwell heard about the Crumville maiden? Maybe Dave Porter would have some work straightening matters out, eh?"

"By Jove, you're right!" cried Nat Poole. "It's a great scheme, Link! If we work it right, we can get him in the hottest kind of water—especially if he thinks a good deal of both girls."

"And that isn't all," added Link Merwell, lighting a fresh cigarette. "Don't forget Roger Morr. If he thinks a good deal of Vera Rockwell [Pg 180] we'll manage to put a flea in his ear,—that Porter is trying to cut him out in an underhanded way. I reckon that will split up the friendship between Porter and Morr pretty quick."

"So it will!" Nat Poole's eyes fairly beamed. "This is the best plan yet, Link! Let us put it into execution at once. How shall we go at it?"

"That remains to be seen," said Merwell.

And then and there the pair plotted to get Dave and his friends into "the hottest kind of water," as the bully expressed it, and break up the closest of friendships.


[Pg 181]

CHAPTER XIX

AT THE EXPRESS OFFICE

"Dave, we want you to take part in the entertainment we are getting up."

It was Luke Watson who spoke. Luke had been working like a Trojan to get all the talent of the school into line for what he said was going to be "the best show Oak Hall ever put up, and don't you forget it."

"I'm willing to help you out, Luke, but what do you want me to do?" returned Dave. "I am no actor."

"I know what he can do," said Buster. "He and Link Merwell can give a boxing match." And this caused a short laugh.

"Say, that puts me in mind of a story," came from Shadow. "One day a very nice lady——"

"Say, Shadow, remember what I told you," broke in Luke. "If you've got any real good, new stories keep them until the entertainment. You are down for a ten-minutes' monologue, and it will take quite a few yarns to fill the time."

"Huh! Don't you worry—I can tell stories [Pg 182] for ten hours," answered the story-teller of the school. "Well, as I was saying, one day a very nice lady called on another lady with a friend. Says she, 'Mrs. Smith, allow me to introduce my friend, Miss Tarnose.' Now, as it happened, Mrs. Smith was rather deaf so she says, 'Excuse me, but I didn't catch the name.' 'Miss Tarnose,' repeated the lady, a little louder. 'I really can't hear you,' says Mrs. Smith. Then the lady fairly bawled, 'I said Miss Tarnose!' But Mrs. Smith only looked puzzled. 'I'm sorry,' she said at last. 'My hearing must be worse. I'd hate to say what it sounded like to me. It was just like Tarnose!'" And then there was another short laugh.

"I asked Plum to take part," went on Luke. "He said he'd like to do a dialogue, if he could get anybody to assist. He said he had a pretty good piece."

"I might do that," answered Dave, readily.

"Would you go on with Plum?"

"Certainly, Luke."

"Well, I thought——" Luke Watson stopped short and shrugged his shoulders.

"I feel that Gus is now one of us, Luke, and I wish the other fellows would feel the same."

"Here he comes now," said Buster, in a low tone, as Gus Plum came into sight at the door of the schoolroom in which the talk was taking place. Gus looked pale and somewhat disturbed.

[Pg 183]

"Hello, Plum!" sang out Luke. "Come here, we want you."

"Luke says you think of doing a dialogue for the show," said Dave. "What have you got? If it's something I can do, I may go in with you."

"Will you, Dave?" The face of the former bully of Oak Hall brightened instantly. "I'd like that first-rate. The dialogue I have is called 'Looking for a Job.' I think it is very funny, and we might make it still more funny if both of us spoke in a brogue, or if one of us blacked up as a darky."

"Let me read the dialogue," said Dave. "And if I think I can do it, I'll go in with you."

The upshot of this conversation was that Dave and Plum went over the dialogue with care. Between them they made some changes and added a few lines, bringing in some fun of a local nature. Then it was decided that Gus Plum should assume the character of a darky and Dave should fix up as a German immigrant.

"Maybe, if we work hard, we can make our piece the hit of the show," said Dave. That afternoon he wrote a letter to his sister Laura and also one to Jessie, telling them of what was going on and adding he was sorry they would not be there to see the entertainment.

By hard work Luke Watson got over twenty [Pg 184] boys of Oak Hall to take part in the show. There were to be several dialogues as well as Shadow's monologue, some singing, and some banjo and guitar playing, also a humorous drill, given by six youths who called themselves The Rough Walkers, in place of The Rough Riders. One student also promised a set of lantern pictures, from photographs taken in and near Oak Hall during the past term.

At first Doctor Clay said the show must be for the students only, but the boys begged to have a few outsiders, and in the end each lad was told he could invite three outsiders, and was given three tickets for that purpose. Dave sent his tickets to his father, but he doubted if any one at home would make use of them.

"I sent one ticket home," said Phil, "and I sent the other two to Mary Feversham. I hope she comes."

"Want her to come with the other fellow?" queried Dave, with a twinkle in his eye.

"Oh, I thought maybe she'd come with Vera Rockwell."

"That would suit Roger, Phil."

"Yes, and it would suit you, too, Dave. Oh, you needn't look that way. I know you think Vera Rockwell is a nice girl."

"That's true, but——"

"No 'buts' about it, my boy. I know a thing [Pg 185] when I see it. I guess she thinks a lot of you, too."

"Now, Phil——" began Dave; but just then some other boys appeared and the rather delicate subject had to be dropped.

Dave had procured a theatrical book on how to make up for all sorts of characters, and he and Plum studied this and got their costumes ready. Both were truly comical outfits, and each lad had to laugh at the other when they put them on.

"We must keep them a secret," said Dave. "It will spoil half the fun to let the others know how we are going to be dressed. We don't want a soul to know until we step on the stage." And so it was agreed.

Several of the boys had ordered face paints and some other things from the city, to be sent by mail and express, and when some of the articles did not come to hand, there was a good deal of anxiety. Dave was minus a red wig which he had ordered and paid for, and Phil wanted some paint and a rubber bulldog.

"Let us go to Oakdale and stir up the postmaster and the express agent," said Dave, and he and the shipowner's son set out for the town directly after breakfast on the morning of the day that the entertainment was to come off.

As the roads were in fairly good condition, the strong winds having dried them up, the two lads [Pg 186] made the trip to town on their bicycles. This did not take long, and reaching Oakdale they left their wheels at a drug store, where they stopped to get some red fire that was to be burned during a tableau.

At the post office they were in luck, for two packages had just come in, containing some things for which they had been waiting.

"I hope we have as good luck at the express office," said Phil.

The office mentioned was located at one end of the depot. Here they met Mr. Goode, the agent, with whom they were fairly well acquainted.

"A package for you?" said the agent, looking speculatively at Dave. "Why, yes, I've got a package for you. Come in. I was going to send it up some time to-day or to-morrow."

"To-morrow would have been too late," answered Dave. "I need the stuff to-day."

The boys followed the agent into the stuffy little express office. Mr. Goode walked to a heap of packages lying in a corner and began to turn them over.

"Hum!" he murmured. "Don't seem to be here. I had it yesterday."

He continued to hunt around, and then went to a receipt book lying on his desk. He studied several pages for some minutes.

"Why, you must have gotten it," he said.

[Pg 187]

"No, I didn't."

"It's signed for."

"Well, I didn't sign for it," answered Dave, positively. And then he added, "Let me see that signature."

Mr. Goode shoved the receipt book toward him and pointed out the signature. It was a mere scrawl in leadpencil, that might stand for almost anything. It was certainly not in the least like Dave's handwriting.

"I was out yesterday afternoon," continued the express agent. "Went to a funeral. Dave Case kept office for me. Maybe he can tell you about it. Probably some of the other students got the package for you."

Dave Case was the driver of the local express wagon. He was out on a trip and would not be back for half an hour. This being so, there was nothing for Phil and Dave to do but to wait.

"If some of the other fellows got that package it's queer they didn't say anything," said Dave, as he and his chum walked slowly down the main street. "They must know I am anxious—with the show to come off to-night. If I don't get that wig my part won't be nearly so good."

The boys reached a corner and were standing there, not knowing what to do, when two girls crossed over, coming from a dry-goods store.

[Pg 188]

"Hello!" cried Phil, and his face lit up with pleasure. "Here are Mary Feversham and Vera Rockwell."

He stepped forward, tipped his hat and shook hands, and then Dave did the same.

"I must thank you for the tickets, Mr. Lawrence," said Mary, sweetly. "It was very kind of you to send them."

"I hope you will come," returned the shipowner's son, eagerly.

"Yes, I shall be there, for I do want to hear you boys sing and act. I am coming with my mother."

"I am going, too," added Vera. "Roger Morr sent my brother two tickets and invited us. Bob is home for a couple of days, so it comes in real handy." And Vera smiled at both Dave and Phil. "I suppose you are going to give us something fine—a real city vaudeville show."

"We are going to do our best," answered Dave, modestly.

"Dave is in a little trouble," continued the shipowner's son, and told about the missing express package.

"Oh, I hope you get the wig!" cried Vera. "A red one will look so becoming!" And she laughed heartily.

"And he is to have a big red mustache, too," said Phil.

[Pg 189]

"Hold on, Phil, you mustn't give away any professional secrets!" cried Dave.

"Oh, I just dote on red mustaches," exclaimed Vera. "They make a man look like a—a—— Oh, I don't know what!"

"Oh, Vera, you're awful!" interposed Mary. "What do you know about red mustaches, anyway?"

"She never had one, did she?" remarked Dave, calmly, and at this both girls shrieked with laughter. "But never mind," he went on. "After I am done with it, she can have mine." And this brought forth more laughter.

The girls and boys had come to a halt directly in front of a new candy and ice-cream establishment, and it was but natural that Phil should suggest to Dave that they go in and get some candy. The girls demurred at first at being treated, but then consented, and all went into the store. Dave purchased some assorted chocolates and Phil some fancy fig pastes, the girls saying they liked both.

"As it's a new store, the candies ought to be fresh," remarked Dave.

"Well, I like them best that way," answered Vera, as she helped herself to a chocolate. "I don't care for them when they are stale—and it is sometimes hard to get them fresh in a small town like this. The stores——"

She stopped short, for at the door of the candy [Pg 190] establishment they almost ran into a party of two girls and a man. One of the girls—the younger—was staring very hard at Dave.

"Why, father!" cried Dave, in astonishment. "And you, too, Laura and Jessie! Why, this is a surprise!" And he hastened to shake hands all around. "I didn't dream of your coming."

"I just made them come," said Laura, giving him a kiss. "How are you, Phil?" and she shook hands with the shipowner's son.

When Dave took Jessie's hand he felt it tremble a little. The girl said a few commonplace words but all the time kept looking at Vera.

"Let me introduce our friends," said Phil, and proceeded to go through the ceremony. "We have just been buying some candy. Come, have some," and he held out the box he had bought. Laura took some, but Jessie shook her head.

"Thank you, not to-day, Phil," Jessie said, and there seemed to be a little catch in her throat. Then Dave looked at her fully in the eyes, and of a sudden she turned her head away. Somehow he suspected that Jessie wanted to cry, and he wondered why.


[Pg 191]

CHAPTER XX

A MISUNDERSTANDING

Mr. Porter explained that they had just come in on the train, and were looking for some conveyance to take them to Oak Hall.

"We thought we might call on you for an hour or so and then come back and put up at the Oakdale Hotel," he said.

"I'll certainly be glad to have you call," answered Dave.

Then he told about the missing express package. In the meantime Laura conversed with Mary and Vera, but nothing was said about how the boys and girls had chanced to meet. Then Mary and Vera said they must attend to some errands and get home.

"Well, we'll look for you to-night, sure!" cried Phil.

"We'll be there," answered Mary.

"I wouldn't miss it for a good deal," said Vera. "I want to see that red mustache and wig, if nothing else!" And she laughed, merrily.

"You won't see the wig unless my package is [Pg 192] found," answered Dave; and then the two girls hurried away.

Mr. Porter led the way to the local hotel, situated close to the depot, and there registered his party for dinner and supper.

"You can take dinner with us," said he to his son and Phil. "I'll write a note to Doctor Clay, so there will be no trouble."

"We can't stay very long after dinner," answered Dave. "I must look up that package,—and all hands want some kind of a rehearsal."

The boys walked to the express office, but Case had not come back, so they had to go to dinner without hearing from the driver. The five sat at a separate table, and Dave had Laura on one side and Jessie on the other. He did his best to make himself agreeable to Jessie, but she did not warm up as was usual with her, and this made his heart feel rather heavy.

"Why, Jessie, you don't act like yourself," he said, after dinner, and while the others were sitting somewhat apart from them in the hotel parlor.

"Don't I?" she asked.

"No, you don't. What is the matter, don't you feel well?" And his face showed his concern.

"Oh, yes, I feel very well." Her lips trembled a little. "I—I guess I am out of sorts, that's all."

"It's too bad."

[Pg 193]

"Oh, I'll soon get over it, I suppose." Jessie gave a sigh. "Tell me about your doings, Dave. I suppose you are having hard work at school and like to get out and meet some of your Oakdale friends."

"Why, yes, I like to get out sometimes."

"Those seem to be very nice girls."

"Yes, they are. Phil is quite fond of one of them, too."

"Which one?"

"Mary Feversham. We became acquainted with them in quite an odd way," and he told of the big snowball and the ice-boat.

"That Vera Rockwell seems to think a great deal of you, Dave."

"Do you think so? Well, I think she is a nice——"

"Dave, there is the expressman now!" called out Phil, from his position near a window. "Come on, if you want to find out about that package."

"All right," answered Dave, and for the time being he forgot all about what he was going to say to Jessie—that he thought Vera nice but not as nice as Jessie herself—something which might have gone a long way toward heading off the trouble that was brewing.

For boys and girls will often think a great deal of each other—and a heartache at fourteen or sixteen [Pg 194] is often as real, if not as lasting, as at twenty or older. Since the day Dave had saved Jessie's life he had been her one hero and her closest boy chum, and now to find him in the society of another and for him to say she was nice—— And then there was more than this, an anonymous letter, concocted by Link Merwell and Nat Poole and sent to her by mail. That letter had said some terrible things about Dave—things she could not and would not believe, and yet things which made her very miserable.

"I suppose he has a right to make such friends as he pleases," she thought. "It is none of my affair, and I have no right to spoil his pleasure by saying anything." And then she brushed away the tears that would come into her eyes in spite of her efforts to keep them back.

At the express office Dave and Phil found Mr. Goode already questioning the wagon driver about the missing package.

"I turned it over to a boy who said he belonged to Oak Hall school and would give it to Dave Porter," said the driver. "I thought you had it by this time. He signed for it—leastwise he put that scrawl on the book."

"What was his name?" asked Dave.

"I asked him, but he mumbled something I didn't catch. I didn't pay much attention, for I thought it was all right."

[Pg 195]

"What sort of looking chap was he?" asked Phil.

As best he could the wagon driver described the individual. The description might have fitted half a dozen lads, until he mentioned a four-in-hand tie of bright blue with white daggers splashed over it.

"Merwell wears a tie like that!" cried Phil. "I have seen it several times."

"What would he be doing with my package, Phil?"

"What? Why, maybe he knew about the wig and wanted to spoil your part of the show. It would be like him to play such a trick."

"That's true," answered Dave, and then he asked the wagon driver if the boy had worn a ring with a ruby.

"Yes, a fine large stone," answered the man.

"Then it was Link Merwell," said Dave, decidedly. "Now the question is, What has he done with the package?"

"I don't think he'd dare to destroy it," answered Phil. "Probably he hid it away somewhere."

"I'll soon find out. Come on, Phil."

"Going to tax him with it?"

"Yes. He hasn't any right to touch my property, or to sign my name."

Hurrying back to the hotel, the boys told of [Pg 196] what they had learned. Then they got their bicycles and pedaled with all speed in the direction of Oak Hall. Dave felt very much out of sorts, not only because the package was missing but also over the meeting with Jessie. It was the first time that there had been any coldness between them—for he felt that it was a coldness, although he could not explain it.

Arriving at the school, they learned that Link Merwell had taken a walk with Nat Poole. Chip Macklin pointed out the direction, and Dave and Phil went after the pair. They were not surprised to catch the cronies smoking on some rocks behind a growth of underbrush near the highway beyond the campus. As Dave and his chum came up Poole and Merwell threw their cigarettes away.

"Merwell, what did you do with my express package?" demanded Dave, coming at once to the point.

The words made the bully start, but he quickly recovered and arose slowly to his feet.

"Want to see me?" he drawled.

"I want my express package."

"Don't know what you are talking about."

"Yes, you do. Where is the package? I want it at once."

"You took it out of the express office, and we can prove it," added Phil.

"Humph!" growled Link Merwell.

[Pg 197]

"Are you going to give up the package or not?" demanded Dave.

"Who says I—er—took, any package of yours?" blustered the bully, trying to put on a bold front.

"I say so," declared Dave. "And you not only took it but you signed for it. Merwell, do you know that signing another person's name without permission is forgery?" he went on, pointedly.

At these plain words Link Merwell grew pale.

"I—er—I didn't sign your name."

"You pretended to sign it, and that's the same thing. You got the package from the office by fraud."

"No, I didn't. I said I'd take it to the school, and I did."

"Then where is it?"

"In your dormitory."

"Where?"

"On the top shelf of the closet—been there since yesterday," and now Link Merwell leered over the joke he had played.

"Ha! ha! ha!" came from Nat Poole. "That's one on you, Dave Porter."

"It was a mean trick to play," was Phil's comment.

"Did you open that package?" demanded Dave.

[Pg 198]

"No, I didn't touch it, excepting to bring it from the express office."

"Very well then, Merwell. If I find anything wrong I'll hold you responsible."

"Say, you needn't try to scare me!"

"I am not trying to scare you—I am merely giving you warning. I won't put up with any of your underhand work, and I want you to know it," answered Dave, and turning on his heel he walked back to the school, followed by Phil.

"He's mad all right," whispered Nat Poole.

"Maybe he has heard from that Crumville girl in a way he didn't like," returned Link Merwell, and closed one eye suggestively.

"Well, if he did, I hope she didn't say anything about the letter," answered Nat Poole, somewhat uneasily. "That was awfully strong."

"Pooh! Don't get scared Nat; nobody will ever find out who wrote that letter, if we keep our mouths shut."

Going up to the dormitory, Dave found the package on the shelf of the closet, as Merwell had said. It was tucked behind some other things, well out of sight.

"It was certainly a well-planned trick," said the shipowner's son, while Dave was opening the package. "He did this so, if he was found out, he could say he gave the package to you and could bring the doctor here to prove it. Perhaps he had [Pg 199] in mind to add that you had hidden the package yourself, just to get him into trouble."

"Maybe you're right, Phil; I believe Merwell equal to almost anything."

Fortunately the contents of the package had not been disturbed. Having ascertained that much, Dave went off to find Gus Plum, so that they might have a final rehearsal of the little play they were to enact. In the lower hall he ran into Job Haskers.

"Porter, I want to see you!" cried the assistant teacher, harshly. "You were absent at dinner time. You know that is contrary to the rules. What have you to say for yourself?"

"I met my father in Oakdale, sir—he is coming to the entertainment to-night. He asked Phil Lawrence and myself to dine with him. I have a note for the doctor from him explaining the matter."

"Hum! Very well," answered Job Haskers, and hurried off without another word. Dave smiled grimly to himself, and lost no time in taking the note to the doctor, who excused him and Phil readily.

Dave learned from Shadow that Gus Plum had been in the school but had gone off in the direction of the old boathouse. Feeling that it was growing late Dave hurried after the missing student. Just as he neared the old boathouse, which stood partly [Pg 200] on some rocks and partly over the river, he heard a strange crash of glass.

"Hello, what's that?" he asked himself, and ran forward to see.

"There! you'll never tempt me again!" he heard, in Gus Plum's voice.

Then he turned the corner of the old boathouse and saw the former bully of Oak Hall standing near some rocks. At his feet lay the remains of a big bottle. Plum looked pale and as if he had been fighting.

"Oh, Gus!" cried Dave, and then stopped short and looked at the broken bottle and at the stuff flowing over the rocks.

"Dave!" returned the big youth. And then he added, simply: "It was a bottle of wine, and rather than keep it to be tempted, I smashed it."


[Pg 201]

CHAPTER XXI

IN WHICH THE BOYS GIVE AN ENTERTAINMENT

"Gus, that was the bravest thing you ever did!"

And so speaking, Dave caught the other youth by the hand and shoulder and held him for a moment.

"Oh, I don't know about that," was the hesitating reply. "I—I should have smashed it when I received it."

"Where did you get the wine, if I may ask?"

"It was sent to me by Link Merwell."

"What!" Dave's manner showed his great astonishment. "Do you mean to say he sent you that, knowing that you were trying to give up the habit?"

"Yes. He says I am a fool to listen to you—said I was tied to your coat-tail—that I ought to be independent. He says a little drinking won't hurt anybody."

"Gus, he is trying to—to——" Dave could not finish the sentence, for he did not want to hurt Plum's feelings.

[Pg 202]

"Yes, I know. He'd like to see me down and out, as the saying goes. He hates me because I won't chum with him any longer."

"The less you have to do with him the better, Gus."

"I know that, and just before I came out here to break that bottle I sent him a note telling him that if he sent me any more such stuff I'd break the next bottle over his head!" And Plum's face glowed with some of his old-time assertiveness.

"Well, I shouldn't blame you for that, Gus. I rather think your threat will keep him in the background for a while."

Dave could realize something of the struggle which the former bully had had, to throw the bottle of wine away. But he did not know all—how for three hours the poor lad had wavered between drinking and abstaining—and that it was only the thoughts of Dave, and of his mother and home, that had kept him in the right path.

Leading the way to the new boathouse, Dave found a spot where they would not be interrupted, and here he and Plum went to work on their dialogue, making such final changes as seemed best.

"I've had my troubles with Merwell, too," said Dave, and told about the express package. "He seems bound to bring us to grief."

[Pg 203]

"He's a bad egg—the worst in the school," was Gus Plum's comment.

It must be confessed that all the boys were a little nervous as the time approached for the entertainment. It was to take place in the large assembly room of Oak Hall, and the platform had been transformed into something of a stage, with side curtains and a drop, and a back scene hired from a distant theater and representing a garden. The room itself was decorated with flags and bunting, and looked cozy and inviting.

Promptly on time the visitors began to arrive, some from Oakdale and others from a distance. The boys to take part in the show were behind the scenes, while others showed the visitors to seats, so that Dave did not see any of his friends or relatives until later.

The programme had been divided into two parts, of five numbers each, including an opening song by all the players, and a closing farce written merely to bring in all the characters.

"Now, fellows, do your best," said Luke Watson, as the school orchestra played the overture. "Make it as near like a professional show as possible."

"Say, that puts me in mind of a story," came from Shadow. "Once some young ladies—— But, pshaw! I'll save that for the stage," he added, and broke off suddenly.

[Pg 204]

The opening number went very well, and then came a playlet by four of the boys representing four sailors ashore after an ocean trip of five years. The sailors did not apparently know how to act in a big city and did so many ridiculous things that the applause was long and loud.

A musical number followed, introducing banjo playing by Luke, a guitar solo by Henshaw, a cornet solo by a lad named Dixon, and then a trio by the three. Then came fancy dumbbell exercises and club-swinging by three members of the gymnasium club, and this too went very well, the exercisers keeping time to a march played by the orchestra.

The next number was Shadow's monologue, and when that youth came out everybody had to laugh before he said a word. He was dressed as an extreme dude, with big checked coat and trousers, fancy colored vest, a tremendous watch-chain, and paste diamond stud, very pointed patent leather shoes, a high standing collar, and a highly-polished silk hat.

"Ladies and gentlemen, boys, girls, and fellow-weepers," he commenced with a profound bow and a flourish of his silk hat, "I have been asked an important question, namely, What is the difference between a cat and a shotgun? Well, I don't know, excepting that both can go off, but it's only the feline that comes back. Now, that puts me in [Pg 205] mind of a story I once heard while traveling in Egypt with Noah, looking for a typewriter which was lost overboard from the ark. A little boy went to a hardware store for his dad and hung around waiting to be waited on. At last a clerk asked, 'Well, little boy, what do you want?' 'Oh,' says the little boy, 'I want a fire engine, an' a hobby horse, an' a automobile, an' a lot o' things, but papa he wants a bottle of glue, an' he says if it don't stick he'll stick you for it!' Now, that's the same boy who went to the courthouse to get courtplaster for his mother and then went down to the henhouse to look for egg plants."

There was considerable applause over this opening, and Shadow continued:

"That hand-clapping puts me in mind of another story. A would-be actor had joined a barn-storming company, and the company opened in a little place on Staten Island where the mosquitoes are manufactured by the ton, gross, or hogshead, just as you want 'em. Well, as soon as the play commenced, the would-be actor thought he heard a lot of applause. Says he to the scene-shifter: 'We've got 'em a-going, haven't we?' 'I don't know if you have or not,' answered the scene-shifter. 'I know the mosquitoes have some of 'em a-going, by the way they're slapping at 'em!' Well, that company busted up and the would-be actor had to come home on a trolley-car because he [Pg 206] couldn't afford the train. He had only a nickel, and that he put into his mouth, and all at once it went down. 'What's the matter?' asked the conductor. 'I—I swallowed my nickel—the only one I had!' gasped the would-be actor. 'Never mind, I'll ring it up,' said the conductor, and he did. And then the actor didn't know if he was a nickel in or a nickel out."

This brought forth more applause, and Shadow continued to tell one story or joke after another, in rapid succession, until the entire audience was roaring. When he made his bow and disappeared behind a side curtain his monologue was voted by all one of the hits of the evening.

"It was all right," said Dave. "I only hope our playlet goes as well."

The playlet came in the middle of Part Two, and the stage was set with a table, two chairs, and several other things. The table was a small one stored in a side room, and the chairs were common kitchen chairs. They were brought out by Chip Macklin and Frank Bond, who had been chosen to do all kinds of errands.

"I just met Link Merwell in the side room," said Chip, when he came out with the table. "He looks as sour as can be. I guess he wishes the show would be a failure—because he wasn't asked to take part."

"Yes, he'd like to make it a failure," answered [Pg 207] Dave; and then, for the time being, turned his whole attention to the play and gave his enemy no further thought.

Dave and Plum had gotten themselves up with great care, as a German immigrant and a darky, and when one shuffled on the stage after the other there was a good deal of laughing. The playlet revolved around the question of getting situations as a butler and a footman in a fashionable residence, and the lines were humorous in the extreme, and both Dave and Gus got about all the fun possible from them.

"Oh, how very, very funny!" cried Laura, and could hardly control her laughter.

"It certainly is funny," answered Jessie, and then she glanced over to where Vera Rockwell was sitting with some friends. She saw Vera applauding vigorously and it piqued her just a little. She clapped her hands, too, but her heart was not as light as it might have been had Vera not been there.

In the course of the playlet, Dave had to stand on one of the chairs and then mount to the table, to show how he would play the part of a footman. As he got up on a chair there was an unexpected crack, and down went the back part, letting him fall most unexpectedly.

It takes a quick-witted person to do just the right thing in a case of emergency. Dave had not [Pg 208] looked for this fall, and the play did not call for it. Like a flash he felt that this was some trick of Link Merwell. But just as quickly as the accident came he resolved to make the best of it. In a very comical way he rolled over twice, stood partly on his head and then sat up with a dazed expression.

"Oxcuse me!" he said, in a German tone of voice. "I tidn't know dot chair vos so tired owid he tidn't vont to hold me alretty." Then he picked up the broken chair. "Vell, of you ton't vont to sthand up, chust lay down," and he flung the broken article behind him.

This brought forth an extra round of applause and in the midst of this Dave began to climb up the second chair. That too he felt to be "doctored," and he went up with care and thus managed to stand on top without breaking off the legs which had been nearly cracked through. Then from the chair he went to the table. He knew what to expect now and began to prepare for it.

"Dis coach vos got von palky horse," he said. "Chust you hold der animile alretty, yah!"

"Dat wot I will, brudder Carl," answered Plum, in negro dialect, and wondering what was to come next, for those lines were not in the playlet.

"Now, dot is der vay I goes me riding py der Park," went on Dave, beginning to wabble on the [Pg 209] shaky table. "Whoa mit dot hoss! Tidn't I told you he vos balky?" For the table was growing weaker and weaker.

Down went the back part, letting him fall most unexpectedly.

"Say, dun yo' know dat hoss has got de dumb ager?" demanded Plum. "Wot yo' want to give him is a dose of Plaster of Paris Pills fo' Peevish People. If dat hoss should——"

"He's running avay! Call der fire engines and der hoss-pistol vagons!" bawled Dave, and made a movement as if on a runaway coach. Then, as the table settled with a final crash, he whispered to Plum: "Make believe stop the horse and quarrel over it." Then he leaped forward, caught an imaginary horse by the tail and struggled to hold back. Gus was equally quick-witted and leaped to the head of the same imaginary horse and stretched up and down, as if he had hold of the bridle. Then the two boys backed and "shied" all over the stage, overturning the second chair, at which Dave yelled, "Dere goes dot peanut stand alretty!" Then of a sudden the two young actors faced each other.

"Wot's de mattah wid you? Da ain't no hoss heah!"

"Yah, dot's so—he runt avay alretty!"

"Yo' is a fine footman, getting scared at a hoss wot ain't no hoss."

"Vell, of he vosn't no hoss vy you cotch him py der headt, hey?"

[Pg 210]

"Dat's because yo' was a fool an' I had to follow yo'—— I mean at yo'——"

"I know vot you mean. You mean you vos der fool und der hoss——"

"Look heah now, Mr. Dutchy, I wants yo' to understand dat I ain't no fool."

"Vell, Mr. Vight, I dake your vord for dot, hey? Now, vot you do ven you vos a putler, hey?"

And from that point the playlet went on as originally intended; the two finally winding up when a postman's whistle was heard and each got a letter from the same man, stating the one to arrive first at a certain house could have a job. Both started at the same time and each tripped the other up. Then both left the stage on hands and knees, each trying to keep the other back. It was a truly comical wind-up, and when the curtain went down there was a thunder of applause.

"Dave, it was great!" cried Roger. "You acted the Dutchman to perfection, and Plum was the darky to a T!"

"That's true," added Phil. "But say, didn't you change that coach scene some?"

"Well, rather," put in Gus. "We had to do it on account of——"

"Link Merwell," finished Dave. "That's another black mark I am going to put down to his account."


[Pg 211]

CHAPTER XXII

FORMING THE BASEBALL CLUB

After it was at an end the entertainment was voted the best yet given at Oak Hall. Of course there had been a few small hitches, such as a wig falling off of one actor and another breaking a guitar string just when he was playing, but those did not count.

"It was splendid!" said Jessie to Dave, when they met.

"I am glad you liked it," he answered. "I know all the fellows did their best."

"That table scene made me nearly die laughing," said Laura.

"That came in rather unexpectedly, Laura. It wasn't on the programme. I think Link Merwell is responsible for it." And then her brother told of what had been discovered—the legs of the table and chairs nearly split in two.

"He must be a thoroughly bad fellow," was Jessie's comment.

"He is, and he would do almost anything to get [Pg 212] me and some of the other students into trouble," returned Dave.

Vera and Mary were waiting to speak to some of the boys, and Vera laughed heartily when she saw Dave.

"Oh, but you make a fine German!" she said. "I think you ought to go on the stage." And then she complimented Phil, Roger, and some of the others whom she knew.

Mr. Porter had arranged to remain at the hotel over night with his party. They left for Oakdale shortly after the entertainment, and Vera, Mary, and some others went with them, in carriages of their own. Dave noticed that Jessie was not herself, and when they were alone in a hallway for a moment asked the reason.

"Oh, it's nothing, Dave," she answered, but without looking him squarely in the eyes.

"But I know there is something, Jessie," he said, and his voice showed his anxiety. "Have I offended you in any way?"

"No, not in the least."

"But you are angry with me."

"No, I am not angry." She kept her eyes hidden from his gaze.

"Well, there is something, and I wish you would tell me what it is."

"No, I'll not say a word. If you don't know what it is, it doesn't matter," said the girl, and [Pg 213] then rejoined Laura and Mr. Porter. When they went away Dave noticed that her hand was icy cold, and his heart was deeply troubled. Something was certainly wrong and, though he felt sorry, he also felt nettled to think Jessie would not tell him what it was. It was the first break of confidence that had occurred between them.

Although Dave was morally certain Link Merwell had "doctored" the chairs and the table, he could not prove it, and so he said little concerning the episode, although he and Plum talked it over thoroughly. Gus was greatly angered, for the trick had come close to spoiling the playlet, and if Dave had urged it he would have gone and fought Merwell before retiring for the night. Even as it was, he told Merwell that he had been found out and warned him in the future to keep his distance.

"Dave Porter and I are going to watch you," said Gus. "And if we find you trying anything more on, why, we'll jump on you like a ton of bricks, so beware!" And for once Link Merwell was so scared that he walked off without making any reply.

The entertainment the students had given brought the spring holidays to an end, and once more the lads of Oak Hall turned their attention to their studies. But with the coming of warm weather some of the boys got out their kites, balls, [Pg 214] and other things, while others took to rowing on the river.

"Have you heard the news about Nat Poole?" asked Buster of Dave and Roger one day.

"I've heard nothing," answered the senator's son. "Has he got a new necktie?" For Nat loved neckties and had a new one on an average every week.

"He is going to get a motor boat—told Messmer all about it. He said his father bought it in New York and it cost four hundred dollars."

"Well, I never supposed Aaron Poole would spend that amount on a boat," was Dave's comment. "He is known as one of the most close-fisted men in the district where I come from."

"Nat says the boat will beat anything on the river," continued Buster. "Wish I had one."

The news that Nat Poole was going to get a motor boat proved true. The boat came early in April, and was certainly very nice-looking and speedy. Nat took out some of the boys, and the ownership of such a beautiful craft made him a new lot of friends, so he was "quite a toad in a puddle," as Ben Basswood declared. Once Nat asked Ben to go out with him, but the latter declined, and then Nat took Link Merwell.

"I don't care if he has got a new motor boat," said Ben to Dave. "I don't want to be in his company. If any of the other fellows want to toady [Pg 215] to him they can do it." Merwell was often seen with Poole, and the pair became quite expert in running the motor and steering. Once they had a race with a motor boat belonging to a Military Academy student and came in ahead, and of this victory Nat Poole never got through boasting.

As was to be expected, warm weather brought on talk of baseball. Dave had pitched in more than one game for Oak Hall, with Roger behind the bat, and he was asked if he would again consent to occupy the box for the school, should any outside party send in a challenge.

"We'll most likely get a challenge from Rockville Military Academy," said Phil. "They are aching to make up for old scores."

"I'll pitch if the fellows want me to," answered Dave. "But if they want anybody else——"

"We want you," interrupted Sam Day. "You're the best pitcher Oak Hall ever had."

From that time on all of the boys put in part of their off-time playing baseball, forming scrub nines for that purpose. Link Merwell loved the game and liked to cover first base.

"Why don't you play?" asked Dave of Gus Plum, one afternoon.

"Oh, I—I don't want to push myself in," stammered Plum. He was now as retiring as he had formerly been aggressive.

[Pg 216]

"Come on out," went on Dave, and literally dragged him forth. Then he asked Gus to play first base, which the latter did in a manner that surprised many of the others.

"He's quicker than he used to be," was Phil's comment. "I rather think he'll make a good one if he keeps on practicing."

One Saturday afternoon a regular match was arranged, with Phil as captain on one side and a student named Grassman as captain on the other. Now, Grassman loved to go out in Nat's motor boat and so he put both Nat and Merwell on his nine—the former to cover third base and the latter first. He himself pitched, while Dave filled the box for Phil.

It was certainly a snappy game from the start and at the end of the fourth inning the score stood three to three. Then Grassman's nine "took a brace" and brought in two more runs, and thus the score remained five to three until the end of the seventh inning.

"Come, we must do something this trip!" cried Roger, who was on Phil's side, and he knocked a three-bagger. He was followed by Shadow with a single that brought in one run, and then came Buster with a hit that took him to second and brought in another run. The next man to bat knocked a liner to shortstop. The ball was sent over to Merwell on first, but he allowed it [Pg 217] to slip through his fingers, and another run came in. Then Merwell muffed a pop fly, and after that the Grassman nine got rattled, so that when Phil's nine retired they had ten runs to their credit. To this they added three more runs in the ninth. In that inning Dave struck out two men and sent a third out on a foul; and thus the game ended with a score of thirteen to five in favor of Phil's aggregation of players.

"Hurrah for Phil Lawrence's nine!" called out little Frank Bond, and a great cheer went up. Dave was complimented for his pitching and Gus Plum also received much praise for catching a hot liner ten feet away from the base.

On the following Saturday the Oak Hall Baseball Club was formally organized for the season, by the election of Phil as president and manager, Ben Basswood as secretary, and Shadow as treasurer. It was voted to make the manager captain of the nine. After much talking Dave was declared the choice for pitcher and Roger for catcher, while, to the surprise of some, Gus Plum was made first baseman, something that greatly pleased the big youth. Merwell wanted to be first baseman, but he was not even chosen as a substitute, much to his disgust. Nat Poole was also left in the cold, but this did not worry him so much, for he preferred to dress in style and lounge around, rather than go in for anything which [Pg 218] might dirty his hands or make them callous. When he ran his motor boat he always wore gloves.

"It's an awful shame they put Gus Plum on the nine," said Nat Poole to Merwell. "You ought to have that position—you can cover first base better than he can."

"I know it—but it's all the work of Porter, Lawrence, and that crowd," growled Link Merwell. "As long as Plum will only toady to them they are willing to do anything for him. It makes me sick." And he began to puff away vigorously on a cigarette he was smoking.

"Well, maybe, if they play Rockville or some other club, they'll lose," said Poole. "Then they'll be sorry they didn't put on some better players."

The baseball club soon got more challenges than they had expected. One came from Rockville Military Academy, for a series of three games, to be played during June, and two others from clubs belonging to Oakdale. The latter were for single games, and, after some consultation, all of the challenges were accepted.

The games with the Oakdale clubs were played on the outskirts of the town, where a field had been inclosed and a grand stand erected. The first was with an aggregation known as the Comets, and resulted in a tie—8 to 8.

[Pg 219]

"Well, we can't complain about that," was Dave's comment. "They were all big fellows."

"Yes, and two of them have played on college nines," said Shadow. "We were lucky to hold them to a tie;" and in this opinion many of the others agreed, and so did Mr. Dale and Doctor Clay, both of whom were present. Job Haskers never went to games of any sort, for he considered athletic contests a waste of time and muscle.

Vera Rockwell and Mary Feversham were at the game, and after the contest was over, Phil went to talk with them, taking Dave with him. While the girls were asking some questions, Roger came up, to speak to Vera. He did not see Dave at once, but when he did his face fell, and merely raising his cap he passed on.

"Oh, I thought Mr. Morr was going to stop," said Vera, pouting. "I wanted to tell him how nicely he did the catching."

Phil and Dave remained with the girls until it was time to return to the school. Then they learned that Roger had gone to Oak Hall in company with Chip Macklin.

"It's queer he didn't wait for the crowd," was Dave's comment.

"He's acted queer half a dozen times lately," returned the shipowner's son. "I don't understand it myself."

The next game was to take place on the following [Pg 220] Saturday, and the students practiced several times during the week. Dave noticed that Roger took but little interest, yet he said nothing, until he felt it his duty to speak up.

"Roger, what's wrong?" he asked, very much in the way he had put that question to Jessie.

"Nothing, that I know of," grumbled the senator's son.

"You're not catching as well as you did."

"Perhaps you think the club ought to have another catcher!" flared up the other, suddenly. "If you do, say the word, and I'll step down and out."

"Now, Roger, I know something is wrong——" began Dave.

"Of course you know—and I know, too!" cried the senator's son, and now his cheeks grew crimson. "I guess I'll resign from the club—and then you can run things to suit yourself," and to Dave's amazement he walked out of the room, banging the door after him.


[Pg 221]

CHAPTER XXIII

A GREAT VICTORY

Dave was much downcast over the way Roger acted, the more so because he could not understand it. He had half a mind to go after the senator's son and demand an explanation, but after thinking the matter over concluded that it would do no good.

"He'll only get more angry," he reasoned. "Perhaps it will be better to speak to Phil about it."

But, much to his surprise, when he saw the shipowner's son, Phil had also had a "scene" with Roger, and the latter had said he was going to resign from the baseball club and devote himself strictly to his studies.

"I am sure it isn't his studies that are bothering him," said Phil. "He can go right ahead with his lessons and play baseball, too—if he wants to."

"Well, but why is he angry at me?" demanded Dave.

"I don't know." Phil paused for a moment. [Pg 222] "Perhaps—but, pshaw! what's the use of mentioning that. I know there is nothing in it."

"What, Phil?"

"I don't think I ought to say anything—I know it's absurd, Dave."

"What is absurd?"

"Why—er—that is, you know Roger thinks a lot of Vera Rockwell, don't you?"

"Does he? I hadn't noticed it particularly—in fact, I thought he treated her rather coolly the day we played the game with the Comets."

"That was because you were around."

"Because I was around?" repeated Dave, in a puzzled way.

"Exactly."

"I don't catch your meaning, Phil."

"I don't see why you are so thick, Dave."

"Am I thick?"

"You are."

"Well, then, tell me what you mean."

"Didn't I just say that Roger thought a whole lot of Vera Rockwell?"

"Well?"

"And weren't you with Vera, Mary, and myself after the game?"

"Yes, but——"

"When Roger saw you talking to Vera, he walked away in the coldest manner possible."

"Oh, but, Phil, that is absurd. Hadn't I a [Pg 223] right to talk to Vera? I am sure she is a nice girl."

"So she is—a very nice girl—we think so—and so does Roger."

"And do you seriously think that Roger doesn't like it because I made myself agreeable to Vera?"

"I guess he thinks you ought to give him a show. He has never said anything, but I imagine that is what he thinks," concluded Phil; and the conversation came to an end as some of the other students put in an appearance.

This talk set Dave to thinking in more ways than one. He remembered several incidents now concerning Roger and Vera, and he also remembered how Jessie had acted during her visit to the school. Was it possible that Jessie, too, had felt offended over the manner of his friendliness to Vera?

"I treated her only as a friend—and I have a right to do that," Dave reasoned. "Roger has no right to be jealous—nor has Jessie." He felt so hurt that his pride rebelled, and for two days he said hardly a word to the senator's son. The break between the two threatened to become permanent.

But Roger did not resign from the baseball club. He mentioned it to Ben, Shadow, and some of the others, but they protested so strongly he [Pg 224] had to remain as catcher. In order to do this, he had to consult with Dave, but the consultations were confined entirely to pitching and catching. Roger was not at all like himself, and his irritation arose at the slightest provocation.

On the following Saturday the Oak Hall nine played the Oakdale Resolutes, on the town grounds. As before, a large crowd assembled, including some of the cadets from Rockville, who were to open their series with Oak Hall the week following. From Phil, Dave learned that Mary Feversham and Vera Rockwell were to be present.

"All right, Phil, go and do the honors," said Dave. "I am going to attend strictly to pitching to-day."

"Going to leave the field to Roger, eh?"

"You may put it that way if you wish."

"Shall I tell the girls you don't want to speak to them?"

"If you do, Phil, I'll hit you in the head with the ball, the first chance I get," was Dave's reply, half in jest and half in earnest.

The Oakdale Resolutes were made up of young men who had played baseball for several years. In the past they had not cared to play "a boys' school," as they designated Oak Hall. But since the past summer they had come to respect the Hall, and they had been forced into the game by friends who had said they were afraid to play our [Pg 225] friends. They had a great pitcher named Gilroy and a catcher named Barwenk, and they relied on these two players to "wipe up the ball-field," as they put it, with Oak Hall.

During the first four innings honors were about even, each side bringing in two runs. Then the nines began to see-saw, first one being ahead and then the other, until at the end of the eighth inning the score stood Oak Hall 7, Resolutes 6. So far Dave had struck out five players and Gilroy had the same number to his credit. But Gilroy had made one wild pitch, which had brought in Oak Hall's fifth run.

"Now, Dave, see if you can't hold 'em down to a goose egg," said Shadow, as the other club went to the bat for the last time.

"I'll do what I can," was the reply.

Dave was on his mettle, and so for the matter of that was every other Oak Hall player. But some were a bit nervous, and as a consequence one missed a grounder and another let drop a hot liner. The Resolutes got three men on bases, and then, with one man out, they got in two runs.

"Hurrah! That gives the Resolutes eight runs!" was the cry, and the town rooters cheered lustily.

Dave did his best to strike the next man out. But with two balls and one strike he sent in a ball that was just a little wild, and strange to say, Roger [Pg 226] muffed it. Then the man on third came in, giving the Resolutes another run.

"Another! That makes the score seven to nine!"

"That was a wild pitch."

"Not so wild but that the catcher might have got it if he had tried."

"Steady there, Roger!" called out some of the Oak Hall boys.

"It wasn't my fault—the ball was out of my reach," grumbled the senator's son.

A quick retort arose to Dave's lips, but he checked it. He did not wish to make his quarrel with Roger any worse. He walked back to the pitcher's box and signed to Roger for a drop ball. Roger did not answer at once and he waited a few seconds and repeated the sign.

"Play ball!" was the cry. "Don't wait all day, Porter." Then the senator's son signed back and Dave sent in the ball with precision. The batsman swung for it, and missed it.

"Strike two!" called out the umpire.

Dave next signed for an out curve. It was now three balls and two strikes and the next delivery would "tell the tale." In came the ball with great swiftness, and again the batsman tried to connect with it—and failed.

"Three strikes—batter out!"

"Hurrah, Porter struck him out, after all!"

[Pg 227]

"Now go for the third man, Dave!"

"Lessinger is at the bat. He ought to lift it over the back fence."

Lessinger was a heavy batter, yet twice he failed in his attempt to hit the sphere. But the third time he knocked a low fly to center. It was easily caught,—and the Resolutes went out with the score standing 9 to 7 in their favor.

"Now, fellows, we must do our best," said Phil. "Don't hit at the ball until you get a good one, and then lift it clear over Hamden's stables if you can." The stables were two blocks away, and a ball sent a quarter of that distance meant a home run.

Shadow was first to the bat and got safely to first. Then came Gus Plum, and to the wonder of many he hit the ball for a two-bagger, bringing Shadow in. Then Dave got to first while Plum went to third. Next came an out, and then a hit by Ben Basswood took Dave to third and brought Plum home.

The Oak Hall rooters were now cheering and yelling like mad, and this got the Resolute pitcher rattled and he gave the next batsman his base on balls. Then came another safe hit by Buster Beggs, and the game ended with the score standing, Oak Hall 10, Resolutes 9.

"Hurrah, Oak Hall wins!"

"That's a close finish right enough, isn't it?"

[Pg 228]

The cheering by the Oak Hall adherents was tremendous, while the Resolute followers had little to say. Many came to congratulate Dave on his excellent pitching and others congratulated Roger on his catching. The other players were likewise remembered, even Plum coming in for many handshakes and thumps on the shoulder.

In the crowd Dave saw Vera and Mary, and spoke to them for a minute or two. Both girls thought the game the best they had ever seen.

"Oh, I think your pitching was superb!" cried Vera, enthusiastically. "I hope you do as well when you play Rockville."

"I'll do my best," answered Dave, and then turned to rejoin some of his fellow-players. He came face to face with Roger and was about to speak, when the senator's son turned his head the other way and passed on.

The club members had come to Oakdale in the carryall and a carriage, and they returned to the school in these turnouts. Dave and Phil looked for Roger, but he was not to be found. Phil, as captain of the club, had had so many details to look after that he had not gotten time to speak to Mary, much to his disappointment. But she had waved her hand to him and smiled, which was one consolation.

Link Merwell and Nat Poole had predicted defeat [Pg 229] for Oak Hall, and when instead a victory was gained this pair did not know what to say.

"I reckon it was a fluke," was Merwell's comment. "They couldn't do it again in a hundred years. Must have been something wrong with the Resolute players."

"I heard their pitcher had a sore arm, and they had a substitute first baseman," said Nat Poole. "That would make a big difference."

"I hope Rockville Military Academy does 'em up brown," went on Link Merwell. The thought of having the honor to stand up for his own school never entered his head.

"So do I, Link. It will take some of the conceit out of Porter and his crowd. As pitcher Porter, of course, thinks he is the whole thing."

"Say, did you notice how cold Porter and Morr are getting toward each other?" And Link Merwell chuckled gleefully.

"Yes. I guess they are stirred up over that girl right now."

"You bet! And maybe they'll be stirred up some more before I am done with them."

On the following Thursday afternoon, Dave, Phil, and Plum went out for a row on the river. It was a beautiful day, clear and warm, and the three got out a boat with two pairs of oars and a rudder, so that all might have a share in handling the craft at the same time.

[Pg 230]

"Let us row down to Bush Island," suggested Plum, naming an island about two miles away, which took its name from a patch of huckleberry bushes growing there. It was a pleasant spot, and one end of the island was occasionally used by the folks of Oakdale for picnic grounds.

"That suits me," answered Dave, and soon the three boys were off, never dreaming of what this little trip was destined to bring forth.


[Pg 231]

CHAPTER XXIV

ON BUSH ISLAND

The three boys had covered less than a third of the distance to Bush Island when they passed two rowboats, one containing Roger, Ben, and two others, and another containing Doctor Clay and Andrew Dale.

"Hello! lots of folks out this afternoon," was Phil's comment.

"This is the first time I have seen the doctor and Mr. Dale out," said Dave. "They row very well, don't they?"

"The doctor was once a college oarsman," put in Plum. "I suppose he likes to get out here for the sake of old times."

"Well, Mr. Dale pulls as well as he does," returned Dave. "Both of them pull a perfect stroke."

"Wonder if old Haskers ever rows?" mused Phil.

"Guess he doesn't do much of anything but teach and find fault," grumbled Gus Plum.

The craft containing the doctor and the first assistant [Pg 232] was heading for the east shore of the river and was soon out of sight around a point of rocks. The other boat had turned around, so the boys did not have a chance to speak to their fellow-students.

"Here comes a motor boat!" cried Dave, as a steady put-put! reached his ears.

"It's Nat Poole's boat," said Phil as the craft came into view.

Soon the motor boat came close to them and they saw that Poole and Merwell were on board. The pair were smoking, as usual, but placed their cigarettes on the seats, out of sight.

"Where are you going?" demanded Nat Poole, abruptly.

"Rowing," answered Phil, dryly.

"Humph! Don't you wish you had this motor boat?"

"Not particularly."

"A motor boat beats a rowboat all hollow," went on the dudish student.

"Not for rowing," vouchsafed Dave.

"Well, you can row if you want to," sneered Poole. "I prefer to let the motor do the work," and then he steered away, giving the rowboat all the wash possible as he passed.

"Wonder where they are going?" said Link Merwell, as he looked back to see if the rowboat had shipped any water from the wash.

"Well, you can row if you want to," sneered Poole.

[Pg 233]

"I don't know, I'm sure."

"Perhaps they'll land somewhere. If they do, we can play a trick on 'em, Nat."

"How?"

"By taking their rowboat when they are out of sight. We can easily tie the boat on behind and tow it to the boathouse. Then those fellows would have to walk back to Oak Hall."

"Good! That would be great!" ejaculated Nat Poole. "I wish they would land and leave the boat to itself for a while."

"Let us watch 'em," suggested Merwell, and to this his crony readily agreed.

It did not take Dave and his friends long to reach Bush Island. Beaching the rowboat, they went ashore and took a walk around.

"It certainly is a nice spot for a picnic," was Phil's comment. "I don't wonder that the town folks come here—and the Sunday schools. I'd like to have a picnic myself here—when it gets a little warmer."

"We might come over some holiday—and bring a basket of grub along," said Plum.

"Oh, we'd have to have something good to eat," put in Dave. "That's three-quarters of the fun."

Much to their surprise, in walking to the center of the island, they ran into Doctor Clay and Mr. Dale. Both had some bits of rocks in their hands [Pg 234] and the doctor had a geologist's hammer as well.

"Well, boys, what brought you?" asked the head of the school, pleasantly.

"Oh, we just stopped for fun," answered Dave. "We didn't know you rowed so far."

"We are knocking off a few geological specimens for the school cabinet," answered Doctor Clay. "These are not particularly valuable—but every little helps."

The boys remained with the men for a quarter of an hour, and then walked back to the shore. As they did this, Dave suddenly put up his hand.

"What is it?" asked Phil and Plum, in a breath.

"Thought I heard a motor boat."

"Perhaps Nat Poole's boat is near the island," suggested Gus.

"Oh, there are a dozen motor boats on the river now," answered Phil. "There, I heard it, but it's a good distance off."

No more was said about the motor boat, and they continued on their walk to the shore. Here they found their rowboat as they had left it, and entering, shoved off, and continued their row. They went a little further than at first anticipated, and consequently had to hurry to get back in time for supper, and even then were the last students to enter the dining hall.

[Pg 235]

As he passed to his seat Dave had to walk close to Link Merwell. When the bully saw him he started and stared in amazement. Then he looked around and stared at Phil and Gus. He leaned over and spoke to Nat Poole, who sat close at hand.

"They are back!" he whispered.

"Who? Porter and his crowd?" And now the dudish pupil looked equally amazed.

"Yes,—look for yourself."

Nat Poole did look, and his face became a study. As soon as possible he and Merwell finished their evening meal and went outdoors.

"Somebody must have stopped at the island and taken them off," said Merwell, when he felt safe to speak without being overheard.

"I suppose that must be it or else——" Nat Poole stopped short and turned pale.

"Or what?"

"Perhaps we took some other boat, Link! Oh, if we did that, the owner might have us arrested!"

"Nonsense! It was an Oak Hall boat—I looked to make sure, when I tied it to the motor boat."

"Let us go down and see."

"Can't you take my word for it?" asked Merwell, roughly.

"Yes. But I want to know just what boat it was."

[Pg 236]

"If they see you hanging around the boathouse they may smell a mouse."

"I'll be careful. I have a right to look after my motor boat, you know."

"That's so—I forgot that."

The youths walked to the boathouse and, on the sly, looked at the craft they had towed over from Bush Island. It was certainly an Oak Hall rowboat, and Nat breathed a little sigh of relief.

The two lads were just on the point of leaving the boathouse when Job Haskers came in, followed by a man who took care of the boats.

"Siller tells me you were out in your motor boat this afternoon," said Job Haskers. "Did you see anything of Doctor Clay and Mr. Dale?"

"No, sir," answered Nat Poole.

"Were they out in a boat?" asked Merwell.

"Yes, they went for a row about four o'clock, and they have not yet got back. It is strange, for they said nothing about being away for supper."

"Well, we didn't see them," answered both Poole and Merwell. Then both left the boathouse and took their way to the gymnasium.

Here, as fate would have it, they ran into Messmer and Henshaw, who were doing some turns on the bars, in company with Gus Plum, who, since his good work on the ball-field, was becoming quite a favorite.

"I don't think I can do many turns to-night," [Pg 237] they heard Plum say. "I am tired out from a row Dave Porter, Phil Lawrence, and myself took to Bush Island."

"How did the island look?" asked Messmer, carelessly.

"Very nice. We walked all around it and ran into Doctor Clay and Mr. Dale. They were there gathering geological specimens."

"I'd like to make a collection," put in Henshaw. "By the way, Mr. Dale wasn't at supper. Did he come home with you?"

"No, we left him and the doctor there knocking off the bits of rock," answered Plum.

Merwell and Poole listened to this conversation with keen interest. They exchanged glances, and then the dudish pupil pulled his crony by the coat-sleeve and led the way to a lonely part of the campus.

"Oh, Link, do you think we took the doctor's boat by mistake?" asked Poole, with something akin to terror in his tones.

"Hush! not so loud!" warned Merwell. "If we did, you don't want to let anybody know it."

"But what shall we do? The doctor and Mr. Dale can't leave the island without a boat."

"I know that. But don't you say anything—unless you want to get into hot water."

"But they may have to stay there all night!" continued the thoroughly frightened Nat.

[Pg 238]

"Oh, I reckon somebody will come to take them off."

"Do you sup—suppose they saw us run away with their boat?" Poole was now so scared he could scarcely talk.

"No. We didn't see them, and consequently I can't see how they'd know us. But you want to keep mum."

"Maybe somebody saw us bring in the empty rowboat."

"I don't think so; nobody was around when we came in. Now you just keep quiet and it will be all right."

"If they have to stay on the island all night they'll be as mad as hornets."

"I don't care—I'd like to pay them both back for some of the mean things they've done to us."

"I don't know that they've done any mean thing to me," answered Nat Poole. He felt that he would give a good deal not to have touched the rowboat found on the shore of Bush Island tied to a tree. That it had been a craft used by Doctor Clay and Mr. Dale there was now not the slightest doubt.

Dave was in the library of the school, consulting a history of Rome, when Ben came in with news that Doctor Clay and Mr. Dale were missing. It was almost time to go to bed and a number of the students had already retired.

[Pg 239]

"Missing!" cried Dave, and put down the volume in his hands. "What do you mean, Ben?"

"They are missing—isn't that plain enough? They went for a row on the river this afternoon, and they have not come back."

"Why, we met them at Bush Island," and Dave explained the occurrence. "Maybe I'd better tell Haskers," he added, and hurried off.

He found the assistant teacher in the office, considerably worried. That evening he and the doctor were to have gone over some school matters that needed attention. The non-return of the master of the Hall was therefore good cause for alarm.

"What do you want, Porter?" he asked, coldly, for he had not yet forgotten the quarrel in that very room some months previous.

"I understand Doctor Clay and Mr. Dale are missing, Mr. Haskers."

"Well?"

"I only wish to tell you that Phil Lawrence, Gus Plum, and I were out rowing this afternoon and we went to Bush Island, and there we met the doctor and Mr. Dale, who had come in a rowboat."

"Indeed! Did they say anything about coming back?"

"No, sir. We left them there, gathering geological specimens."

[Pg 240]

"They wouldn't stay there unless there was a reason for it," mused Job Haskers.

"Perhaps their boat sprung a leak, or something like that."

"Ahem! Such a thing is possible."

"Would you like some of us to go to the island and find out?"

"No. If I want that done I can send Siller."

"You might go to the island in Poole's motor boat. She could make the trip in no time."

"I'll think of it," answered Job Haskers, shortly. He did not wish to give Dave any credit for the suggestion.

Nevertheless, he acted on the advice, and less than a quarter of an hour later, with the searchlight on, the motor boat left the school dock, carrying on board Nat Poole, Siller, and Job Haskers. Poole was badly frightened, fearing that what he and Merwell had done would be found out.


[Pg 241]

CHAPTER XXV

WHAT AN AUTOMOBILE DID

"Dave Porter, Doctor Clay wishes to see you in his private office immediately."

It was Murphy the monitor who spoke, and he addressed Dave just as the latter was getting ready to retire for the night. He had already called Phil and Gus Plum.

"What does he want, Jim?" questioned Dave.

"I don't know, I'm sure. He and Mr. Dale just came in, and he is as mad as a hornet."

Without delay Dave put on the coat he had taken off, and went below, accompanied by Phil and Gus. The door to the private office stood open and inside were the master of Oak Hall, Mr. Dale, and Job Haskers.

"Come in, young gentlemen," said the doctor, somewhat grimly. "I want to ask you a few questions."

They walked in and stood in a row, facing the master. Certainly Doctor Clay was angry, and Andrew Dale looked far from pleased.

"All of you were on Bush Island this afternoon," [Pg 242] went on Doctor Clay. "When you went away, did you do anything to the rowboat that Mr. Dale and myself took there?"

"No, sir," answered Dave, promptly.

"We didn't see your boat—at least, I didn't," answered Plum.

"I didn't see it either," came from Phil.

"Porter, did you see the boat?"

"No, sir."

"All of you are positive of this?" went on the master of the school, sternly.

"The only time I saw the boat was when you and Mr. Dale were on the river rowing—before we got to the island," said Dave.

"That boat was taken by somebody. We tied it to a tree and when we went for it, it was gone. We had to remain on the island, in the dark and cold, until Mr. Haskers came with Poole's motor boat and took us off."

"Excuse me, Doctor, may I ask a question?" said Andrew Dale.

"Certainly."

"Did you boys see anybody else on the island?"

"No, sir," returned Dave.

"Was anybody near there, so far as you know?"

"Not very near. We met a number of the fellows on the river, while we were rowing toward the island."

[Pg 243]

"Who were some of those boys?" asked Doctor Clay.

Dave remembered that one of the boats had contained Roger, Ben, Sam Day, and Messmer, and remained silent.

"Don't any of you remember who were in the other boats?" asked the doctor, and his voice was sharper than ever.

"Nat Poole and Link Merwell were out in the motor boat," answered Phil.

"Yes, I know that, but both declare they were not near the island."

"Roger Morr, Sam Day, and a lot of others were out, but they were near the boathouse, and I don't think any of them went near Bush Island," answered Gus Plum.

"Well, somebody was there, and took our boat," said Doctor Clay. "If I find out who was guilty of the trick I shall punish him severely." He knew that many of the boys would laugh behind his back, and he hated to be the butt of such a joke.

After being questioned for quarter of an hour the boys were told they could go, and returned to their dormitory. Hardly had they left the office when Siller, the boatman, came in.

"The boat you had is at the dock," he announced. "It was tied up around a corner, where I didn't see it before."

[Pg 244]

"That proves some boys from this school took it from the island," said the doctor. "Is the boat all right?"

"Yes, sir. I looked her over, and in the bottom I found this case."

As Siller spoke he handed over a small leather case, which was empty but smelt strongly of tobacco.

"A cigarette case!" cried the master of the school. "Could any pupil here have had that? They know that smoking is forbidden." He turned the case over in the light. "Here is a letter painted on the side. It is rather worn."

"It is an M," said Andrew Dale, after an examination. "Let me see, what pupils' names begin with M?" He mused for a moment. "Morrison, Morr, Merwell——"

"Morrison went home yesterday, to be gone a week. Merwell said the motor boat was not near the island, and I certainly did not hear it."

"Plum just said Morr and some others were out in a rowboat," added Andrew Dale, quickly. "This may be his cigarette case."

"We'll question him."

Thereupon Roger was made to visit the office and put through a course of questions. He denied being near Bush Island and also denied owning the cigarette case. He felt angered to think he was suspected and answered the doctor so sharply [Pg 245] that he was told to translate ten pages of Csar the next afternoon—a task he hated. And there the whole matter rested for the time being. Merwell missed his cigarette case, sent to him by a friend for his birthday, and he warned Poole not to breathe a word about it.

"We have told the doctor we were not near the island," said the bully. "Now, if he finds out that we were, he'll punish us severely, and maybe he'll expel us." This fairly terrorized Nat, and he wished he had never seen Bush Island or listened to Merwell's plan to rob Dave and his chums of their rowboat.

In some way Roger became convinced that Dave was responsible for his being hauled up before Doctor Clay, and as a consequence he grew colder and colder toward his former chum, something that hurt Dave very much. Phil, in a roundabout way, tried to patch up the matter, but Roger would not listen. He spent his entire time in company with Shadow, Buster, and some others, and only spoke to Dave when the baseball nine did its practicing.

About six miles from Oak Hall was a private park known as Hilltop. This belonged to a gentleman named Richard Mongrace, who had a brother, a man who had once been a college football player, but who was now an invalid and could not leave the estate. Mr. Mongrace had a fine field for all sorts of outdoor sports at Hilltop, with [Pg 246] a grand stand and bleachers, and, to please his brother, he frequently invited local clubs to use his grounds for their contests.

In the past both Oak Hall and Rockville Military Academy had played at Hilltop, and now they had been invited to do so again, and it had been arranged that the baseball series should be played there. It may be as well to state here that the contest was to consist of two games out of a possible three. If either side won the first two games the third was not to be played.

The day for the first game proved cloudy and windy, yet the Oak Hall boys went to the grounds in high spirits. Some went on bicycles, some in the carryall, and a few walked, just for the exercise.

Dave was in the carryall, along with Phil, Shadow, and ten others. They were a jolly crowd, and as the turnout bowled along over the road they sang, gave the school yell, and cut up generally. The athletic yell was very popular, as follows:

"Baseball! Football! Oak Hall! Has the call! Biff! Boom! Bang! Whoop!"

"This is the day we rip Rockville up the back!" cried one of the students.

[Pg 247]

"And poke holes in the sky with raps for home runs," added another.

"And strike out three men every inning!" cried a third. "Dave, how is our pitcher to-day?"

"Able to sit up and eat pie," answered Dave, with a smile.

"Talking about pitchers puts me in mind of a little story I heard yesterday——" began Shadow. "A little girl——"

"Hello, Shadow has hit the story trail once more!" sang out Phil. "Thought there must be something wrong with him. He hasn't told a story for an hour and ten minutes."

"He's thinking of all the outs he is going to make," put in Plum, slyly.

"Not an out for yours truly," returned the story-teller. "But to get back to the little girl. Says she to her papa, 'Papa, did you say a baseball club has a pitcher?' 'Yes, my dear,' says papa. 'Well, do they have a sugar-bowl too?'" And at this anecdote the boys smiled.

Jackson Lemond was driving the carryall. He had a team of horses which the doctor had purchased only a few weeks before. They were a mettlesome pair, and the Hall driver did not altogether understand them. At times they went along very well, but at others they "cut up simply awful," to use Horsehair's way of expressing it.

"Why don't you let the team out, Horsehair?" [Pg 248] asked one of the boys, presently. "We don't want to take all day to get to Hilltop."

"I hate to give 'em too much headway," answered the driver. "The road ain't none of the best along here, and there ain't no telling what they might do."

"We'll have to hurry some," said Dave. "I want some time to warm up, and so do the others."

"Maybe it will rain and the game will have to be called off," was Phil's comment, with an anxious look at the overcast sky.

"Oh, it's not going to rain just now," answered Henshaw.

They had just reached the top of a long hill and were preparing to go down the other side, when they heard a tooting behind them.

"Here comes an automobile!" cried Phil, looking back.

"I know that machine," answered Buster. "It belongs to some of the students at Rockville—two cousins, I think. They brought it down from Portland, Maine, where they come from."

"It is full of Rockville fellows," said Sam. "They want to pass us," he added, as the tooting sounded louder.

"It's a narrow road to pass on," grumbled Horsehair. "Whoa, there!" he cried to his team.

"Whoa, I say!"

For the horses had begun to prick up their ears [Pg 249] and dance about at the sound of the automobile horn.

"Clear the road, for we are coming!" came the cry from behind, and then with a tooting of the horn, a puffing from the engine, and a wild yelling from the occupants, the big touring car shot past the carryall with less than three inches to spare, and plunged down the hill at a speed that soon carried it out of sight in a cloud of dust.

It was enough to scare anybody, and the hearts of some of the boys beat wildly for the moment.

"That's taking a fearful risk," was the comment of one lad. "If they don't look out, they'll break their necks."

There was little time to say more, for the students now realized that Horsehair was having his hands full with the new team. One horse was plunging with might and main to break away and the other was shying to the left. Then came a sudden snap, as a portion of the harness gave way, and the next moment the carryall was sweeping down the hill on the very heels of the team that was running away.


[Pg 250]

CHAPTER XXVI

A DEFEAT FOR OAK HALL

It was a time of great peril and all the students in the carryall realized it. With a portion of the harness broken, the driver could do little or nothing to control the team. They had the bits in their teeth and plunged down the hill and over the rocks in a manner that sent the turnout swinging first to one side and then the other.

"We'll go over!"

"We'll be smashed to pieces!"

"We'd better jump, if we want to save our lives!"

These and many other cries rang out. Dave and Ben were on the front seat with Horsehair, but all the others were inside, being thrown around like beans in a bag.

"Let them go!" sang out Dave. "Give them the middle of the road,—and put on the brake."

At first the driver was too scared to pay attention to Dave's words, and the youth had to lean over and pull the brake back. This all but locked the wheels and caused the carryall greatly to diminish [Pg 251] its speed. But the horses kept dancing and plunging as madly as ever, and it looked as if at any instant they might bring the turnout to grief in one or the other of the water gullies lining the highway.

"If you fellows want to get off, drop out the back one at a time," sang out Dave, when he saw that the brake was telling on the speed of both team and carryall.

"You had better jump, too," answered one youth, as he prepared to do as advised.

"Not yet—I think the team will stop at the foot of the hill," returned Dave.

His coolness restored confidence to the others, and all remained in the carryall. Horsehair had tight hold of the reins, and now began to talk soothingly to the horses—getting back some of his own wits. Then the bottom of the hill was reached; and after a few minutes of work the team was brought down to a walk and then halted. Without waiting for an invitation, the students leaped to the ground and the school driver did likewise.

"Say, that was surely a scare," was Jackson Lemond's comment. "I'd like to wring the neck o' the young rascal who is running that auto!"

"He certainly had no right to rush past us as he did," replied Phil. "But how about it, Horsehair; can you mend the harness? Remember, we want to get to Hilltop."

[Pg 252]

"I reckon I can mend it—I've got extry straps and buckles under the seat."

Horsehair set to work and Dave and Plum aided him, and in a very few minutes they were able to proceed on their way. The driver now kept the team well in hand, and the boys kept a keen lookout for more automobiles, but none passed them.

"I've a good mind to report those chaps to the constable," said Horsehair, as they neared Hilltop. "They ought to be locked up."

"You'll be laughed at for your pains," answered Shadow. "Let us wax Rockville at baseball—that will be revenge enough."

The grounds were comfortably filled at the ball-field, and by the time the game started nearly every seat was taken. In one corner of the grand stand was a group of girls and among them Mary Feversham and Vera Rockwell, and they had flags with the initials O. H. on them.

"They are going to root for us, bless 'em!" cried Phil, and he waved his hand at Mary and Vera, and Dave did likewise. Roger pretended not to see the girls, but hurried immediately to the dressing-room to prepare for the game.

It had brightened up a little and for a short while the sun came out. Promptly at three o'clock the game started with Oak Hall at the bat. They [Pg 253] were retired in one, two, three order, much to the delight of the Rockville contingent.

"That's the way to do it!"

"Now then, fellows, show them how you can bat the ball!"

And then arose the Military Academy slogan:

"Rockville! Rockville! You'll get your fill From Rockville!"

Dave was certainly in the pink of condition when he walked down to the pitcher's box. Yet, despite his best efforts, one of the Rockville players "found him" for a two-bagger and another for a single, and when the side went out it had two runs to its credit.

Then what a roar went up from the Military Academy boys!

"That's the way! Keep it up!"

"If you make two every inning, you'll have eighteen by the time you finish."

During the second, third, and fourth innings Oak Hall did its best to score, but though two players reached second and one third, it was not to be. In the meantime Rockville got four more runs, making six in all.

"Six to nothing! That's going some!"

"Here is where we show Oak Hall what we can do!"

[Pg 254]

Phil was very much worried and came to talk the matter over with Dave.

"Dave, can't you strike some more of 'em out?" he asked. So far the pitcher had struck out two men.

"I'm doing my best, Phil. They seem to be good hitters and no mistake. If you want to try somebody else in my place——"

"No, no, Dave! Only I'd like to keep down that score. Do your best."

In the next two innings Oak Hall managed to get two runs—one by a wild throw to second. This was a little encouraging, and the students rooted wildly. But in the seventh inning Roger made a wild throw to third and that gave the Rockvilles two more runs. At the end of the eighth the score stood, Rockville 10, Oak Hall 3.

"We ought to have another pitcher and another catcher," said some. "Porter and Morr are both off to-day."

"Phil, you can put somebody else in my place if you wish," said the senator's son, quickly.

"And you can put somebody in my place, too," added Dave.

"No, you stick and do the best you can," answered the manager of the nine.

"They can't do anything!" sneered Link Merwell, who stood close by.

"They can both play far better ball than you," [Pg 255] retorted Phil. "If you were pitching or catching, the Rockvilles would have about fifty runs," and then he turned his back on the bully.

It had begun to rain a little, but both clubs decided to play the game out unless it came down too hard. Oak Hall went to the bat with vigor in the ninth and got two men on bases. But then came a foul fly, a short hit to first, and a pop fly, and there their chances ended. Then, to see what they could do, Rockville took the last half of the ninth and batted out four more runs, amid the wildest kind of yelling from the Military Academy cadets and their friends.

Final score, Rockville 14, Oak Hall 3.

The Oak Hall boys felt as gloomy as the sky above them and they had little or nothing to say. They could now realize how Rockville had felt, when defeated on the football field, the season before. None of the players gave attention to the rain, which was now coming down in torrents.

"Told you we'd lose," said Link Merwell, to some of the boys near him.

"Oh, you're a croaker!" cried Messmer. "We can't win every time."

"You should have had Purdy in the box," said another. Purdy was a new student and it was said he could pitch very well.

"Yes, and Barloe behind the bat," added another. [Pg 256] Barloe had caught in some games the year before and done fairly well.

It must be confessed that both Dave and Roger were considerably disheartened by the result of the game, and each blamed himself for errors made. Gus Plum also bewailed the fact that he had missed a foul fly that came down just out of his reach.

It was raining so hard the boys had to wait in the dressing rooms and on the grand stand for the downpour to let up before starting for Oak Hall. Here the game was discussed in every particular, and each player came in for commingled praise and blame.

"Well, if you want my opinion I'll give it," said Dave, frankly. "I do not say that I didn't make any errors myself, for I did. But I think our nine needs team-work—we don't play well enough together."

"That is true," answered Plum. "I go in for constant practice between now and the time for the next game."

During the wait Phil slipped away from the other players and sought out Mary Feversham. The girl smiled sadly at his approach.

"I shouldn't have minded the rain at all if you had won," she said. "But to have you lose and have the rain also is dreadful!"

"Well, we still have a chance to win the series," [Pg 257] answered the club captain, bravely. "I am sorry you are caught here. Perhaps I can get a covered carriage——"

"Thank you, but Vera has a gentleman friend here, and he is going to take us home in a coach."

"Oh!"

"He's a young man that used to think a lot of Vera," went on Mary, in a whisper. "I guess she thinks a lot of him, too—but don't let her know I told you."

Soon the young gentleman drove up in a coach and Phil was introduced. Then the young ladies got in, and off the turnout sped through the rain. Then Phil rejoined the others of the club; and a little later all were on their way to Oak Hall, in the carryall, and in covered carriages and wagons.

"Were Mary Feversham and Vera Rockwell here alone?" asked Roger, while on the way.

"I guess so," answered Phil.

"How were they going to get home?"

"A young gentleman, fellow named Greene,—personal friend of Vera's,—took them home in a coach."

"Greene?"

"Yes, George Greene. Looked like a nice fellow. Mary said he and Vera were quite thick."

Phil said this carelessly, but he looked sharply at the senator's son as he spoke.

"Why, I thought——" Roger broke off short. [Pg 258] "Didn't you and Dave call on Vera and Mary one night last week?" he added, after a long pause.

"Why—er—I passed Mary's house and spoke to her at the gate for a few minutes," stammered Phil. "Dave was with me, but he didn't stop—said he wanted to post a letter to his sister."

"Didn't he go to Vera's house?"

"No. I don't think he has seen her since that ball game at Oakdale."

"Is that really true, Phil?"

"I believe it is, Roger. And now see here, old boy, what is this trouble between you and Dave? I'm your chum and I'm Dave's chum, too, and I think I have a right to know."

"Why don't you ask Dave?"

"He says he doesn't know—at least, he says the trouble all comes from you—no, I don't mean that either, I mean—— Hang it, Roger, what do I mean?"

At this outburst the senator's son had to laugh, and Phil laughed also, and both boys felt better for it. There was a pause.

"I guess I've been—been—well, jealous, Phil," said Roger. "I—I thought Dave was sweet on little Jessie Wadsworth——"

"So he is."

"And then he got acquainted with Vera Rockwell, and—and——"

[Pg 259]

"And he became friendly with her, nothing more, Roger—just as you became friendly with Jessie. Didn't he have a right to do that? Why, I don't think—in fact, I am quite sure,—she doesn't care for him excepting in a general way. Why should she? She's young yet, and so is Dave,—and so are all of us. Now, I like Mary Feversham, and I guess she likes me, but I am not going to let that come between my friendship for you and Dave. Really, Roger, you are taking this too much to heart. I rather think, if you ought to be jealous, it should be of Mr. Greene, not of Dave."

"Maybe you're right, Phil," answered the senator's son, slowly and thoughtfully. "And if you are—well, I've been making a fool of myself, that's all."


[Pg 260]

CHAPTER XXVII

STUCK ON A SANDBAR

Roger seemed to feel much better after his talk with Phil, and that evening, when the baseball club held a meeting in the gymnasium, he spoke pleasantly to Dave. The young pitcher appreciated this, and when the meeting was over he and Roger walked to the school side by side, something they had not done in a long while.

"I—I guess I've been making a fool of myself, Dave," said the senator's son, frankly. "I thought——" He hesitated, not knowing how to go on.

"Don't say another word about it, Roger!" cried Dave.

"You know what it was about."

"I think I can guess. But what is the use of chewing it over? I am sure I never wanted to interfere with you or your—friends. If you like Vera—and I think she is certainly a nice girl—why don't you act more friendly when you meet? I think you treated her a little bit shabbily the last time—and maybe she thinks so, too."

[Pg 261]

"Oh, I was a fool, that's why. I suppose now, if I try to make up, she'll cut me dead."

"I don't think she is that kind, Roger. Anyway, if I were you, I'd try her."

"I don't suppose you know I got a note about you and her?" went on the senator's son.

"A note?"

"Yes, it was only a scrawl in pencil and I was so angry at the time I tore it up. It said you were making yourself friendly with her just to cut me out."

"Who sent the note?"

"I don't know. Wish I did."

"It was surely some enemy," said Dave; and there the talk had to come to an end.

Not much had been said at the meeting of the baseball club, but during the next few days many of the students of Oak Hall came out against Dave, Roger, and Gus Plum, saying they thought those three players had lost the game. This was not true, but the talk grew, and it made matters decidedly unpleasant for the trio of ball players.

"Phil, I think you had better try Purdy in the box at the next game," said Dave. "So many of the fellows seem to want him."

"And you can put Barloe behind the bat," added Roger. "I don't want to catch if somebody can do better."

"And I'll give up first base," said Plum.

[Pg 262]

"See here, if you are all going to resign I'll resign myself!" cried the manager of the nine. "This talk is all nonsense."

"But it is growing stronger," answered Dave. "And I must admit, Purdy is a good pitcher."

"Can he pitch as well as you?"

"I'd prefer to have others decide that question."

More talks like this followed, and when some of the other students got at Phil he began to waver.

"Well, regardless of friendships," said he at last, "I want to do the best I can for Oak Hall. I am willing to put Purdy in the box, Barloe behind the bat, and Hissoc on first, provided Dave, Roger, and Gus will go on the substitute bench."

"I reckon Porter won't agree to substitute," said one of the club members.

But in this surmise the player was mistaken. The young pitcher agreed to do anything the manager wished, and so did the senator's son and Plum. Thereupon Purdy, Barloe, and Hissoc were at once put into training for the next game.

One afternoon Dave, Phil, Roger, and Ben Basswood went for a row on the river. They took one of the racing boats, and, with each at an oar, they made rapid progress up the stream. They passed several of the islands, and then rounded a point and entered a cove which was thickly lined with bushes and trees.

[Pg 263]

"Nat Poole is out in his motor boat," said Roger. "He has Link Merwell with him."

"I think the best thing Nat can do is to drop Merwell," was Ben's comment. "Merwell is getting reckless. I've seen him in town half a dozen times, hanging around the poolroom, smoking."

"Yes, and he drinks," said Roger. "Sometimes I really think he ought to be reported to Doctor Clay."

"Yes, but who wants to do it?" asked Phil. "Nobody wants the reputation of a tale-bearer."

"He certainly ought to be expelled if he is going to lead others astray," was Dave's comment. "I suppose some of us ought to talk to Nat about it. But Nat is so conceited he thinks he knows it all, and it would be mighty hard to tell him anything."

"Hark! I hear a motor boat now!" cried Ben. "It must be behind those overhanging trees."

"Here it comes," said Roger. "I declare, it's Poole's boat and he and Merwell have several young ladies aboard!"

As the motor boat came closer the boys saw that the young ladies were Vera Rockwell, Mary Feversham, and a stranger.

"I didn't know those girls would go out with Poole and Merwell," was Phil's comment.

"Nor I," added Roger.

[Pg 264]

The motor boat had been headed almost directly for the rowboat, but as soon as Merwell recognized those in the smaller craft he turned to his crony and said something in a whisper, and then the motor boat was turned in another direction.

"Motor boat, ahoy!" cried Ben.

To this hail Poole and Merwell paid no attention. Poole was steering and the bully was at the engine, and the latter advanced the spark and turned on more gasoline, in order to increase the speed of the craft.

"Oh, it's Mr. Lawrence!" cried Mary Feversham.

"And Mr. Porter and Mr. Morr!" added Vera Rockwell.

"Please stop the boat, we want to speak to them," went on Mary, to Merwell.

"Can't stop just now," grumbled the bully, as he tried to make the engine run still faster.

"Why, the idea!" exclaimed the strange girl of the party. "I thought you could stop a motor boat any time."

"So you can," added Vera Rockwell. "I want you to stop," she went on, commandingly.

"Can't do it," answered Merwell, and then he winked at Poole, who had turned his head to listen to the talk.

"Well, I think you are real mean!" pouted Mary. "I shall never ask you to take me across [Pg 265] the river again. You've kept us on the motor boat now nearly an hour!"

"If you don't land us where we want to go, and as soon as possible, I'll tell my brother," said Vera.

"Yes, and we'll tell those students in that rowboat, too," said Mary.

"You came for a ride of your own free will," said Merwell.

"We did not. We said we wanted to cross the river and you said you'd take us across."

"Well, that's what we intend to do," and Merwell grinned in a manner that disgusted all three of the fair passengers.

"If you don't land us at once, I shall cry for help," said Vera.

"And so will I," added the other girls.

"We'll land you—after we've had a ride," answered Merwell, and continued to crowd the engine as best he knew how.

"Don't run too fast—I don't know the channel here!" cried Poole, somewhat alarmed. Had he had his way, he would have landed the girls long before, but he did not dare to thwart Link Merwell's pleasure. The bully took a vast delight in teasing the girls and scaring them.

"Help! help!" cried Vera, suddenly. "Help!" And then the other girls joined in the call for assistance.

"You shut up!" exclaimed Merwell, sullenly. [Pg 266] "We are not hurting you. If you don't shut up we'll land you on one of the islands and leave you there."

"Oh!" exclaimed the third girl, whose name was Sadie Fillmore, and then she nearly fainted from fright.

The motor boat was rounding a point of the cove when there came an unexpected scraping on the bottom. Then suddenly the craft slid up on a sandbar and careened to one side, almost tumbling some of the occupants into the water.

"Shut her off!" yelled Poole, and in alarm Link Merwell stopped the engine. The girls screamed and clung to each other in terror. A little water entered the boat and this added to their fright.

"Now, see what you did!" cried Nat Poole. "We are on a sandbar."

"It wasn't my fault—I wasn't steering," answered Link Merwell.

"I told you to run slow, but you kept piling on the speed."

"Are we go—going to—to sink?" faltered Mary.

"Sink? We can't sink. We are high and dry on a sandbar," grumbled Merwell.

"Oh, I am so thankful!"

"Well, I'm not."

"But we aren't dry—the water is all around us," protested Vera.

[Pg 267]

"There's not enough to float us."

"What are we going to do?" demanded Poole, looking at his crony with much concern showing in his face.

"Perhaps we can back her," suggested Merwell. "I'll reverse the engine and try."

This was done, but though the propeller churned the water into a foam and sent some sand flying into the air, the motor boat remained firmly on the bar.

"It's no use," sighed Nat. "Stop the engine, or you may break something." And then the power was turned off.

"What are we to do?" questioned Sadie Fillmore. "We can't stay here forever."

"Here comes that rowboat!" cried Vera, a moment later.

"Oh, let us signal to them!" exclaimed Mary, and standing up she waved her handkerchief, and then her big sailor hat.

"We don't want those fellows here!" growled Link Merwell. "They can go about their business. We'll get the boat off the sandbar somehow."

"We do want them," answered Vera, and joined her friend in signaling, and Sadie Fillmore did the same.

It was not long before the other boat came within hailing distance. Seeing that the motor [Pg 268] boat was stuck on a sandbar, the rowers took care not to ground their craft.

"Help us, won't you, please!" cried Vera.

"Yes, yes, take us off!" added Mary.

"We don't want to stay on this motor boat any longer!" exclaimed Sadie.

"I guess we can take the girls off," said Phil. "But what about Poole and Merwell?"

"We might come back for them," answered Ben. "We can't leave them here very well."

With care the rowboat was brought to the side of the motor boat and the girls were assisted from one craft to the other.

"Can't you take us?" asked Poole.

"Not now," said Roger. "We can come back later."

The rowboat was rather crowded, but this could not be altered. The boys pulled away from the motor boat, and then asked the girls where they wished to be landed.

"We were going to Perry's Point, across the river," explained Vera. "But those boys kept us out so long I think we'd better go home." And then she and the others told how they had been walking toward the place where an old man kept a ferry, when they had been hailed by Merwell, who had offered to take them across.

"But they didn't take us across at all!" cried [Pg 269] Mary. "They took us for a ride instead, although we told them we didn't want to go."

"Can that be true?" asked Phil, indignantly.

"It certainly is," said Vera. "Oh, I think they were just too mean for anything!"

"It serves them right that their motor boat ran on the sandbar. I hope they never get it off," added Sadie Fillmore.

"We'll have to look into this," said Dave. "It was contemptible to keep you out on the river against your will, and they ought to be made to suffer for it."

"And they shall suffer—just you wait and see," said Roger, firmly.


[Pg 270]

CHAPTER XXVIII

LINK MERWELL HAS HIS SAY

As swiftly as they could the four boys rowed the girls to where they wanted to go. During the trip Roger spoke to Vera half a dozen times, and the coldness between them became a thing of the past. Sadie Fillmore was formally introduced, and all three girls said they were going to attend the next baseball game at Hilltop.

"My father has a tally-ho and we are going in that," said Sadie. Her parents were rich and lived in Oakdale in the summer and in New York City in the winter.

"Well, I hope you see a good game," answered Dave. He said nothing about Roger, Plum, and himself being only substitutes, for he did not wish to place Phil in an awkward position.

As soon as the girls were landed the boys rowed out into the river again, and there they held what might be termed an impromptu indignation meeting.

"Now, what do you think of that?" burst out Roger, referring to the conduct of Poole and Merwell. [Pg 271] "I say such actions are a disgrace to Oak Hall."

"Yes, and those fellows ought to be tarred and feathered," added Phil.

"Doctor Clay ought to hear of this," came from Ben.

"I think I have a plan to teach them a lesson," said Dave.

"Let's have it," returned the senator's son, promptly.

"We'll tell them what we think of them and then leave them stuck on the sandbar without sending anybody to their assistance. Maybe they'll have to stay there all night. They won't like that—and without their supper, too!"

"Good! That's the cheese!" cried Ben, slangily. "I hope they have to go without their supper and breakfast, too!"

It was decided to refuse all assistance, and this agreed upon, the four rowed to the vicinity of the stranded motor boat. They found Poole and Merwell still on board, both waiting impatiently for their return.

"It's a wonder you wouldn't come!" cried Poole. "Do you think we want to stay here all night?"

"Can you pull us off?" asked Link Merwell. "If you can't, Nat and I want you to go to Oakdale and get the tug Ella Davis to do the job."

[Pg 272]

"You talk as if we were hired to work for you," answered Dave.

"I wasn't addressing you, Porter—I was talking to the others."

"Well, we are not in your employ either," answered Phil.

"Look here, Merwell, and you, too, Poole," said Roger. "We've got a big bone to pick with you, but it won't take long to pick it. We think that the way you acted toward those young ladies was disgraceful, and it reflects on the honor of Oak Hall. For two pins we'd tell some of the other students, and you'd be tarred and feathered or run out of the school. We——"

"It wasn't my fault!" interrupted Nat Poole, turning pale. "I—I was willing enough to take them across the riv——"

"Shut up!" growled Link Merwell. "We are not accountable to them for what we do. Don't make a fool of yourself."

"It was certainly an outrageous proceeding," said Ben. "If their folks wanted to make you suffer for it, they could do so."

"Oh, don't gas, Basswood. If you don't want to aid us, say so. We are not going to beg you to do so." And Link Merwell's face showed his hatred.

"We are going to leave you here, as you deserve," said Dave.

[Pg 273]

"No, no! Please don't do that!" pleaded Nat Poole. "I don't want to stay in this lonely part of the river all night!"

"Shut up—we can swim ashore!" whispered his crony.

"The water is too cold yet—I felt of it. It's like ice," answered Nat. He was plainly frightened.

"Listen," said Phil, in a low tone to his chums. "Nat says he wanted to take the girls across the river. Perhaps he isn't to blame as much as we think."

"He stood in with Merwell," answered Phil.

"Oh, don't leave us here!" cried the dudish student. "It looks as if it might rain to-night, and it will be cold, and——"

"Say, you make me sick," growled Merwell. "I wouldn't ask them for a favor now if I was dying!"

"See here, Poole," said Dave, after consulting his chums. "We'll take you off on one condition."

"What is that?"

"That you will promise to write a letter to each of the young ladies, apologizing for your conduct."

"Why, I—er—I——"

"You can take your choice," added Roger. "Apologize or stay here."

"I didn't mean any harm. I was willing to take them across, but Link——"

[Pg 274]

"That's right, blame it all on me!" burst out Merwell. "Well, I don't care. I'll not crawl to anybody! They can go to Halifax, for all I care! I don't want their aid."

"I'll—I'll apologize, if you'll take me back to the school," faltered Poole.

"All right then, get into the rowboat," said Phil.

"And mind you keep your promise, or you'll catch it!" added the senator's son.

The rowboat was brought close to the stern of the larger craft and the dudish student leaped on board. As he did this, Merwell caught up a boathook, gave the rowboat a shove, and almost capsized it.

"Let up, Merwell!" exclaimed Dave, and raising his oar, he hit the bully a blow on the shoulder and sent him sprawling in the bottom of the motor boat. Then the rowboat floated away from the larger craft.

If Link Merwell had been angry before, he was now in a perfect rage. Scrambling to his feet, he shook his fist at the others.

"Just wait!" he roared. "I'll fix you all for this, and you particularly, Dave Porter, you poorhouse rat! I'll make you wish you had never been born!"

"Come away!" cried Nat Poole, badly frightened. "Don't listen to him."

Raising his oar, he hit the bully a blow on the shoulder.

[Pg 275]

"He acts as if he was crazy," was Phil's comment.

"I—I know what it is," returned Poole. "It's——" He hesitated.

"Has he been drinking?" demanded Dave. "Come, tell the truth, Nat?"

"Yes. He had a bottle of stuff with him, and he had one drink before we started and two more while we were waiting for you to come back. He isn't himself at all—so you mustn't mind what he says."

"He's a fool!" came bluntly from Ben.

"I made a mistake to go out with him. He's always that way when he's got anything to drink."

Dave's face was a study. When Merwell had called him "a poorhouse rat" he had gone white and his teeth had closed with a snap, but now, when he heard how the misguided youth was the victim of his own appetite, the lines softened into pity and nothing else.

"It's too bad," he said. "Why can't fellows leave drink alone?" And then he thought of poor Gus and how he had been tempted.

"We ought to take the stuff away from him," said Roger.

"It's too late for that—the bottle is empty, and Merwell threw it overboard," answered Poole.

"I don't think it safe to leave him out on the river alone," said Dave.

[Pg 276]

But none of the others would agree to go back, and so the rowboat was headed for the Oak Hall dock. They were just coming in sight of the place when they heard a put-put! on the river and looked back.

"Well, I declare, it's the motor boat!" ejaculated Roger.

"He must have got it off the bar somehow," said Phil.

"Maybe it slid off of itself," suggested Ben. "Although I don't see how it could."

Left to himself Link Merwell had started the engine full speed ahead. He was desperate and did not care whether he ruined the motor boat or not. Lightened of the weight of the other passengers, the boat had wormed its way over the bar and into deep water, and then he had started in pursuit of the rowboat.

"You didn't get the best of me, anyhow!" he sang out, as he passed them. Then he ran up to the dock, stopped the engine, and leaped ashore, and without waiting to tie up the craft, walked swiftly toward the school building and disappeared. That evening he left Oak Hall, to be gone for several days, on business for his father, so he told Doctor Clay. Whether this was true or not the boys never found out. They suspected, however, that he went off to have what he called a good time.

[Pg 277]

Those who had been out in the rowboat saw to it that Nat Poole wrote and mailed the letters of apology to the three girls, and then Dave and Ben gave the lad from Crumville a severe lecture, telling him that it would be to his credit to cut such a fellow as Merwell, who was bound, sooner or later, to drag him down.

"Merwell is by far the worst boy that ever came to Oak Hall," said Dave, "and sooner or later he will be expelled. What will your father say if you are expelled with him?"

"We want you to make a record," said Ben. "Not only for your own sake, but also for the honor of the town we come from, and for the honor of the school. You'll never gain anything by sticking in with Merwell. Gus Plum has cut him, and so have lots of the fellows, and you ought to do it. There are plenty of other good fellows in this school, even if you don't want to train with our particular crowd. Think it over, Nat."

And Nat Poole did think it over, and, as a consequence, from that day on he turned his back on Merwell and refused to have anything more to do with the dissolute bully.

The day for the second ball game with Rockville was perfect in every respect. The sun shone brightly and there was just sufficient breeze to make the air bracing. Everybody turned out to see [Pg 278] the contest, and long before the umpire called "Play!" grand stand and bleachers were crowded.

The Rockville players were rather surprised to see Dave, Roger, and Plum on the bench while strangers filled their positions on the diamond. They asked each other, "What are we up against?" but none could answer that question.

The Military Academy nine went to the bat first, and much to the delight of Oak Hall, Purdy, the new pitcher, struck out two men, while the third knocked a foul that was easily gathered in by the new first baseman.

"That's the way to hold 'em down!" cried several.

"Purdy's a big improvement on Porter, eh?"

"It certainly looks that way."

In this first inning Oak Hall managed to score one run, which caused a wild cheering, in which Dave, Roger, and Gus readily joined. But in the second, third, and fourth they got only "goose eggs," while Rockville came in over the home plate six times. In the fourth inning the second baseman was "spiked" by accident while sliding to third, and had to retire, and Plum took his place. Then came the fifth inning, with a run for each nine, and in that the shortstop was almost knocked senseless by a hot liner.

"Roger, you'll have to cover short," said Phil, [Pg 279] and the senator's son ran out to do so, amid a clapping of hands from his friends.

The sixth inning resulted in several hits for the nines, but no runs were made. Then came the seventh, with another run for each, and in this a runner for Rockville bumped into the Oak Hall third baseman and both had to retire.

"This is certainly a slaughter!" cried one spectator. "If they keep on, somebody will be killed before they get through."

The accident took Dave out in the field to cover third. As luck would have it, less than a minute later he caught a man trying to slide to the bag, and when the runner was declared out the Oak Hall boys set up a cheer.

"Good for Dave Porter! That's the way to cover third!"

The end of the eighth inning found the score Rockville 11, Oak Hall 4. It looked as if Oak Hall was beaten, yet the nine resolved to do its best to win out.


[Pg 280]

CHAPTER XXIX

DAVE MAKES UP HIS MIND

With the score eleven to four against his club, Purdy, the pitcher, got nervous, and as a consequence he allowed the first batter up to walk to first on balls. Then the next player met the sphere for a base hit, and the man on first ran down to second.

"Steady, Purdy, steady!" was the cry.

"Better put in Dave Porter," advised some of Dave's friends.

The next batter got two strikes and two balls and then knocked a short fly, which was scooped in by Plum at second. Then the runner at second, on the next delivery of the ball over the plate, tried to steal to third. Over came the ball from the catcher. It was fully three feet over Dave's head, and many held their breath, expecting the run to come in. But with a high jump, Dave reached the sphere and brought it down with one hand; and the runner was put out.

"Hurrah! What do you think of that for a catch!"

[Pg 281]

"Talk about jumping! That's the best I ever saw on any ball-field!"

The next man up got to first on balls, and again there was a cry to take Purdy out of the box and substitute Dave. But Dave shook his head to Phil.

"It wouldn't be fair," he said. "Purdy hasn't done so badly—it was a streak of poor luck, that's all."

When the next batter came up he waited until he had a strike and two balls and then knocked a swift liner into the diamond. It came several feet from Roger, but now the former catcher proved his worth. He made a dive, caught the ball, and rolled over, but still held the ball up in his left hand.

"Batter out!"

"That ends it for Rockville."

It did end it for Rockville so far as making any runs was concerned, but it still looked as if the game belonged to them and with it the series.

But the Oak Hall boys went to the bat with a "do or die" look on their faces. Phil started the ball rolling with a two-bagger and Roger followed with a single, taking Phil to third. Then came Shadow with another two-bagger, bringing in the two runners.

What a cheering and yelling! The Oak Hall boys went wild and waved their caps and banners. [Pg 282] Then, while the noise was still going on, Dave came up to the bat, swung the ashen stick at the first ball delivered, and sent the sphere down to deep center.

"Hurrah! A home run!"

"That's the way to do it! We'll win out yet!"

Dave had, of course, brought in Shadow, and this gave Oak Hall eight runs. Seeing the runs piling up the Rockville pitcher became rattled, and gave two men their base on balls. Then came another two bagger, and the men on first and second trotted home.

"Ten to eleven! One more run, fellows, and you'll tie 'em!"

"Change the pitcher! He's no good!" called out some of the Rockville supporters. And another pitcher was sent to the box.

Sam Day was now at the bat. Sam was a cautious player, not easily rattled. He allowed two balls to pass him, and they were called such by the umpire. Then, seeing just what he wished coming, he "swatted it for keeps," as Phil said, and ran for dear life. He reached third and the fellow at second came home, tying the score.

Pandemonium now broke forth in earnest, while the catcher walked forward to confer with the pitcher. Gus Plum was up, and his face was deathly white as he faced the pitcher. He felt as if the fate of a nation depended upon him.

[Pg 283]

In came the ball and with unerring judgment Plum struck at it. Down he went to first, safe, and in came Sam from third.

The game was won! The supporters of Oak Hall rushed upon the field, and the nine was warmly congratulated. The Rockville club was bitterly disappointed and left as soon as possible.

"Don't tell me that Porter, Morr, and Plum are poor players," said Luke Watson. "They did more than their share to win this game," and in that opinion even Mr. Dale concurred.

The result of the game hit Nat Poole heavily. He had counted upon Oak Hall losing, and in secret had made several wagers against the school. Now all his pocket-money was gone and he was about twenty dollars in debt. He wrote to his father for money, but, as my old readers know, Aaron Poole was very miserly at times, and now he pulled his purse-strings tight and declared that Nat spent too much entirely, and must do without more funds until the summer vacation came.

When Link Merwell came back to Oak Hall his general manner was worse than before, and even Nat was glad that he had cut away from the fellow. Merwell was getting to be a thorough sport, and a few, but by no means all, of his doings reached Doctor Clay's ears. As a consequence the [Pg 284] master of the school sent a long letter to Merwell's father and gave Link himself a stern lecture. The lecture was not appreciated, for Merwell made no effort to reform.

During the week following the second game of ball with Rockville, Dave put the finishing touches to his essay on The Past and Future of Our Country. It was his masterpiece so far, and when it was finished he breathed a sigh of commingled relief and satisfaction. He handed in the essay to Mr. Dale, and it was filed away with sixteen others for examination.

"I hope you win, Dave," said Roger. "I am sure you deserve the prize—you have worked so hard."

Roger was now as "chummy" as ever, which pleased Dave very much. After the second ball game the senator's son and Phil and Shadow had sought out Mary, Vera, and Sadie, and the young people had spent a pleasant hour together. In a roundabout way Roger learned that Mr. Greene was nothing more to Vera than an old friend, and this, somehow, eased his mind exceedingly.

There was a good deal of talk about putting Roger, Dave, and Plum back on the regular nine, but the backers of Purdy and Barloe were so insistent that they be retained that only Plum was allowed to take his old place.

"But I want you two to be substitutes as before," [Pg 285] said Phil, to Dave and Roger. "I'll feel safer if I know you are at hand."

"All right, I'll be there," answered Dave, cheerfully, and the senator's son nodded to show that he agreed to the request. If both were bitterly disappointed at not being chosen to pitch and to catch at this last game they took good care not to show it.

As soon as Link Merwell heard that Gus Plum had been put back on the regular nine, he commenced to lay plans to make trouble. Since Plum had given him the cold shoulder he hated Gus exceedingly. He thought he knew Plum's weak point, and he acted accordingly.

By the request of the Rockville manager the final game of the series had been postponed from Saturday to the following Wednesday. On Thursday the students of Oak Hall were to have their final exercises, and on Friday school was to break up for the term. Many visitors had been invited to attend the exercises and some of them arrived in Oakdale the day before, so as to witness the ball game.

Among the latter were Mr. Porter and Laura, Mr. Wadsworth and Jessie, and Mr. Lawrence and Senator Morr. They had already engaged rooms at the Oakdale hotel, and Dave, Phil, and Roger went there to meet them on the morning previous to the game. There was a general handshaking, [Pg 286] and then the students were asked a hundred and one questions about their studies, games, and school life generally.

"It is too bad you are not to pitch, Dave," said his sister, when they were alone. "Why don't you get Phil to give you the place back?"

"Because it wouldn't be fair, Laura. Purdy has as much right to pitch as I have."

"But you are the better pitcher—Roger says so—and I heard so from Ben Basswood,—through a letter he wrote to his sister."

"Well, maybe I'll get a chance to pitch a few innings—if Purdy breaks down. But I trust he doesn't break down—it's hard luck for any pitcher to do that."

There was a pause, and Laura pulled her brother further into a corner, away from the others.

"I want to speak to you about something," she continued in a low tone. "Do you know that Jessie got an awful letter about you?"

"A letter? Who from?"

"I don't know. It came from Oakdale and was signed A Friend. It said you were leading a fast life here—drinking and smoking and gambling."

"It's false, Laura—I don't do any of those things."

"I know that."

"Did Jessie believe what the letter said?"

[Pg 287]

"She didn't believe that part, but—the letter said something more."

"What?"

"In a postscript was written, 'You are being deceived by him, and he is also deceiving another girl, Vera Rockwell. If you don't believe it, come to Oakdale and find out.'"

"And that was in a letter sent to Jessie?" Dave began to think rapidly. "Did she get that letter before she came here that other time?"

"Yes,—but she didn't let me know it then."

"And was that why she was so—so put out when she saw me with Vera and Mary and Phil?"

"I suppose so. You must remember, Dave, that Jessie is very sensitive—the loveliest girl I ever met,—and she looks upon you as her dearest friend. Getting that letter and then seeing you with Miss Rockwell——"

"But Vera is nothing to me but a friend, Laura. Why, Roger thinks ten times more of her than I do. Just go and pump him about it. Why, to me Jessie is worth more than—than—anybody, outside of my sister, and you must let her know it, Laura." Dave paused. "That letter—has Jessie got it yet?"

"Yes. She was going to burn it up after she showed it to me, but I told her not to do it, and I made her bring it along. Of course, she feels a delicacy about showing it to you—on account of [Pg 288] the postscript—but I said you ought to have a chance of exposing the person who was trying to ruin your character."

"I want to see the letter. I've got some idea already regarding the writer."

"So have I!"

"Link Merwell?"

"Yes. Do you know he sent me an unsigned letter two days ago."

"He did? I warned him not to send you anything," and now Dave's face grew stern.

"It was only a couple of lines in pencil, and said, 'If you want letters, come to Oakdale with twenty-five dollars.'"

"The rascal! So he has sunk so low he wants to sell you the letters! I knew he was going to the bad, but I didn't think he was down as far as that. I hope you didn't bring the money."

"But I did, Dave. I—I was afraid if I didn't he might—might read the letters to others and expose me to ridicule," and the girl's face grew crimson.

"Don't you give him a cent, Laura—not a cent. I'll get hold of him before the term breaks up—and I'll get those letters or know the reason why!"


[Pg 289]

CHAPTER XXX

DAVE TAKES THE LAW IN HIS OWN HANDS

A quarter of an hour later Dave and Jessie took a little walk up to the public park of Oakdale and, seated on a bench, they had a confidential talk lasting for some time. A great many things were said which need not be repeated here. When the talk was over Dave's heart felt lighter than it had for many weeks and Jessie's beautiful face shone with a happiness that had been missing for an equal length of time.

"It was awful for that Merwell to send that letter," said Jessie. "Of course, Dave, you can be sure I didn't believe a word of it,—about your smoking and drinking and gambling."

"I am fairly sure it is his handwriting," answered Dave. "He tried to disguise it, but a fellow can't always do that. I'll find out pretty quick—when I get back to the Hall."

"And to think he acted so meanly toward Laura! He must be perfectly horrid!"

"It's my opinion his days at Oak Hall are numbered, Jessie. I have heard the doctor has given [Pg 290] him warning to mend his ways, but he doesn't seem to care. Well, if he won't do what is right he must take the consequences."

Dave, Roger, and Phil had run down to Oakdale on their bicycles and now they had to return to the school—to get dinner and leave for the baseball grounds at Hilltop.

"Let us go around by way of the Chedwick road," suggested the senator's son. "It's much better riding than on the main road and we can make better time."

The others were willing, and off they sped at a speed which soon took them to the outskirts of the town. Then they came to a crossroad, on the corner of which was situated a roadhouse kept by a man named Rafferty. Rafferty's reputation was none of the best, and it was reported that the resort was used by many who wished to gamble. Doctor Clay had warned his pupils not to stop there under any circumstances.

Phil and Roger were somewhat in advance of Dave, whose front tire was soft and needed pumping up. Passing the roadhouse, Dave came to a halt at the roadside.

"Going to pump up!" he called out. "Go ahead—I'll catch up with you." And so the others went on, leaving him alone.

He was at work with a small hand pump he carried when he heard a murmur of voices in the [Pg 291] bushes and trees back of the roadhouse. The murmur grew louder, and presently he made out the voices of Gus Plum and Link Merwell.

"You're a fool, Gus, to act this way," Merwell was saying. "What's the use of being a softy? You are missing a whole lot of fun."

"I tell you I'm not going to do it," answered Plum. "I guess I know what is best for me."

"It won't hurt you to have one drink," went on Merwell. "Come on in, like a good fellow. I hate to drink alone. He's got some prime stuff. We've got lots of time to get back to the Hall in time for dinner."

"No, I'm done with drinking—I told you that before, Link. Now stop it and let me go."

"See here, Gus, you've got to go with me," stormed Merwell, uglily. "I'll not have you giving me the cold shoulder. If you refuse to have just one drink, do you know what I'll do? I'll let Doctor Clay know about that other time—the time you went to the granary."

"No! no!" pleaded Plum, and now his voice trembled. "Please don't do that!"

"Ha! ha! that's where I've got you, haven't I? Now, will you take a drink with me, or not?"

"I—I—I am afraid. Oh, Merwell, you know how it was before. I—I——" Gus Plum broke down completely. "Please don't ask me; please don't!"

[Pg 292]

"Of all the fools——" began Link Merwell, and then stopped short as a heavy hand was suddenly laid on his shoulder. "Dave Porter!"

"Merwell, I want to talk to you," said Dave, in a cold, hard tone that caused the big bully to start. "Come with me."

"Oh, Dave——" began Plum, and his face was red from confusion.

"Let me do the talking—and acting, Gus."

"Did you—er—hear what was said?"

"I heard enough. Now, Merwell, come with me."

"Where to?"

"Away from this roadhouse."

"What for?"

"I'll tell you that later."

"Supposing I refuse to come?" Dave's manner began to make the bully feel uncomfortable. He felt that something very unusual was about to happen.

"If you don't come, I'll make you."

"Will you?" The bully tried to put a sneer in the question, but failed.

"I will. Now, are you coming or not?" And Dave doubled up his fists and drew back his right arm.

"Going to fight?"

"No; I am going to give you the worst licking any boy at Oak Hall ever got."

[Pg 293]

"Two can play at that game."

"Are you coming or not, Merwell? This is your last chance to say yes."

"No."

Hardly had the word left the bully's lips when Dave leaped forward and sent in a crashing blow on Merwell's chin. The bully tried to dodge but failed, and went over on his back in some brushwood. For several moments he lay there dazed.

"See here, I'll fix you!" he roared, as he struggled up. "If you want to fight—— Oh!"

For again Dave had struck out, and this time the blow landed over the bully's left eye, and once more he went down in the bushes.

"Oh, Dave——" began Plum, but received a shove back.

"Leave it all to me, Gus—I owe him this, and more. I'll tell you some of the reasons later."

"But—but he'll give me away to Doctor Clay—he'll tell about my——"

"No, he won't—not after I am through with him. And even if he should I can tell the doctor the truth—how he tempted you and even threatened you."

Breathing heavily, Link Merwell arose a second time. He looked around for something with which to attack Dave, and his uninjured eye fell upon a stone lying close by. But as he stooped to pick it up, Dave gave him a shove that landed [Pg 294] him on his face in the dirt. Then Dave leaped forward and sat down heavily on the bully's back.

"Ough!" roared Merwell. "Let up! Do you want to break my ribs? Let up, I say!"

"Will you do as I told you to?" demanded Dave, not budging from his position.

"Where do you want me to go?"

"Down into this woods a short distance—away from the roadhouse and the road."

"What for?"

"I'll tell you that when we get there."

Fearing some of his ribs might be broken, Merwell said he would do as Dave desired, and the latter allowed him to rise, but kept a close watch on his every movement. Plum could now see that the boy from Crumville was in deadly earnest and felt it would be useless to talk or interfere, and so followed the two into the woods in silence. Dave brought Merwell to a halt in a little glade surrounded by hemlocks.

"Now, sit down on that stone while I talk to you, Link Merwell," said Dave, pointing to a flat rock. "I shan't take long, but you'll find it to your interest to listen closely to every word I say." And with his handkerchief to the eye that was rapidly closing, the bully sat down.

"In the past you've made a lot of trouble for me and my friends," commenced Dave. "You [Pg 295] were in league with some others to play me foul at every opportunity. You sent a letter to Roger Morr about me, and another letter to Crumville, to a young lady friend of mine—and you also sent a letter to my sister." At these last words Merwell's hand went up unconsciously to his breast-pocket. "You have blackened my character all you possibly could. Now, if I wanted to, I could place you in the hands of the law. But instead, I am going to take it out of you."

"Wha—what do you mean?" And the bully half arose to his feet.

"I mean just what I say, Merwell. Sit down!" And Dave shoved the bully back on the rock.

"I want you to know——"

"Shut up!" And again Dave doubled up his fists. "I am not here to listen to you. I'll do the talking. Now to come to business. First of all, I want those letters."

"What letters?"

"You know well enough."

"I haven't any letters with me."

"Do you want to make it necessary for me to search you?"

"You wouldn't dare, Porter!"

"I shall dare. Now hand over those letters, and be quick about it!"

Again Dave doubled up his fists and something like fire shone in his clear eyes. Merwell hesitated, [Pg 296] shivered, and slowly his hand went to his breast-pocket.

"You'll rue this day!" he muttered, savagely.

Slowly he drew from his pocket the letters Laura had so foolishly sent him. Dave snatched them from his grasp and looked them over swiftly, then stowed them away in his own pocket.

"Now, Merwell, I want you to promise by all you hold sacred not to say a word to anybody about Gus Plum's doings during the past term. For the honor of the school I think this matter ought to be kept secret."

"I'll promise nothing."

"Yes, you will."

Again were Dave's fists doubled up, and again that fire showed itself in his determined eyes. Merwell shivered—for once he felt himself utterly cornered and beaten.

"All right, I promise," he said, in a low tone.

"And you must also promise that in the future you will leave me and my friends alone."

"Have your own way about it."

"Do you promise?"

"Yes."

"Then stand up."

"What do you want next?" growled Merwell. He was feeling more uncomfortable every minute.

"I'll show you," answered Dave, and leaping forward he caught the bully by the collar and [Pg 297] shook him as a dog might shake a rat. Then he cuffed the fellow right and left, gave him another shaking, and threw him down violently on the ground. Merwell did his best to resist, but Dave's muscles were at such a tension that Link was next to helpless in the other's grasp.

"For two pins, I'd give you more!" cried Dave. "You deserve it. But I'll save the rest—in case you ever attempt to break the promises you've made."

And then, taking Plum by the arm, he walked off, leaving Link Merwell on the ground, bruised and shaken, and as thoroughly cowed, for the time being, as a whipped cur.


[Pg 298]

CHAPTER XXXI

MORE VICTORIES—CONCLUSION

Once more Oak Hall and Rockville Academy were struggling to decide the championship. It was a clear day, and as before every nook and corner of the grand stand and bleachers was filled. In one spot were located the Porters, Jessie, Senator Morr, Mr. Lawrence, and many other friends.

It was the beginning of the fifth inning and the score stood, Rockville 5, Oak Hall 3. Plum was again at first, but Dave and Roger were on the bench as substitutes.

It had been a hard-fought battle from the first ball pitched. Each pitcher had been hit heavily, but good field work had kept the score from going higher. Shadow had made a phenomenal catch that had brought forth much applause, and Phil had brought in the third run when it looked almost certain that he would be put out.

It was Oak Hall's turn at the bat, and they did their best to score. But with a man on second and another on first, their hopes faded, and they retired, [Pg 299] leaving the figures as before. Then Rockville took up the stick, and lined out two singles, a three-bagger, and another single before giving up, thus adding three to their tally.

"That's the way to do it!"

"Rockville is sure to take this game!"

Messmer was next to the bat, but knocked a fly to center, and another player followed with a foul that was caught by the third baseman. Then Barloe, the catcher, who had made the first run, came up with his bat.

"Hurrah for Barloe!" was the cry. "Make another this time!"

In came the ball and the batsman tried to hit it and failed. Then the sphere came in a second time, and of a sudden Barloe uttered a moan and sank to the ground.

"Barloe's hit! The ball took him under the ribs!"

The report was true, and too weak to run the injured catcher was escorted to a bench, while Roger took his place at first. By good luck the senator's son brought the run in, and he was then asked to do the catching as of old, Barloe begging to be excused.

With the runs piling up against him, Purdy was getting nervous, and in the seventh inning he seemed to go all to pieces, much to his own chagrin and the disappointment of his many friends. He [Pg 300] allowed two singles, and then gave two men their base on balls, thus forcing in a run.

"Wake up, Purdy! You'll have to do better than that!"

"Dave Porter! Put Dave Porter in!"

"That's it! Porter! Porter! Porter!"

The cry was taken up on all sides, and Phil motioned for Purdy to retire and for Dave to come out.

"It's too bad, Purdy, old man," whispered Dave, as he passed the rattled pitcher.

"Fortune of war," was the grim and plucky answer. "I did my best. Go in and wax 'em!"

Dave might have been nervous had he allowed himself to think of what was before him. The bases were filled and nobody was out. It was certainly a trying moment, to say the least. He took his place in the box and the umpire called out "Play!" Then the ball fairly streaked over the plate.

"Strike one!"

"Hurrah! that's the way to do it!"

With the ball again in hand, Dave looked at the batter and then cast a swift glance toward third. Over to the base went the ball, and much to his surprise the runner was caught two feet off the bag.

"Runner at third out!"

What a cheering went up! All the Oak Hall [Pg 301] supporters felt that Dave meant business, and their drooping spirits revived as if by magic.

With care the pitcher delivered one ball after another—a drop, and then one that was as straight as it was swift. The batter was struck out, and another roar went up from the Oak Hall contingent. Laura waved her banner and Jessie her handkerchief.

"Two out! Now, Porter, go after the third!"

And Dave did go after the next batter. But the fellow was a good hitter and managed to find the ball. But no run came in, and the inning was saved.

It was a victory in itself and many came up to shake Dave by the hand. But he waved them aside.

"Hold on," he said. "The game isn't over yet—and please to remember the score is four to eight against us."

In the eighth inning the Oak Hall nine managed to make two runs. In that inning Dave by clever work held the opposition down to one scratch hit which went for nothing, and received more applause. Then came the ninth inning, and in that Oak Hall tied the score, amid a yelling that could be heard a mile away. Even Doctor Clay was cheering, and in his enthusiasm Andrew Dale completely smashed the derby hat he wore.

The tenth inning opened amid a breathless [Pg 302] silence. Oak Hall did its best to score, but failed. Then Dave walked down to the box once again, and in a manner that was certainly wonderful struck out two men after one man had been caught out on a pop fly.

Ten innings and still a tie. This was certainly a game worth seeing and nearly all the spectators were now on their feet, talking and shouting wildly.

"Now, boys, we must do something!" cried Phil.

Ben Basswood was at bat, and with two strikes called on him, Ben landed for a two-base hit. Then came a single, and taking a perilous chance Ben ran around and slid to the plate.

"A run! A run!"

"Now make it two!"

But this was not to be, and Oak Hall retired one run "to the good," as Roger said.

"Well, that's enough,—if we can hold them down in their half," said Plum. He had done some great work at first, of which he was correspondingly proud.

All eyes were on Dave when he entered the pitcher's box for the last time. He felt as if he had the responsibility of the whole game on his shoulders. He pitched quickly, almost bewildering the batters. The first man up went out on strikes and the second knocked a short fly to third. [Pg 303] Then came a fellow named Parsons, the best hitter of the Rockville club.

"Hurrah! Parsons, show 'em where the back fence is!"

With two men out, Dave faced the batter. He sent in a low ball which Parsons tried to find—and failed. Then Parsons tried again—and failed. Then Dave sent in the swiftest ball yet pitched, giving it all the twist possible.

"Three strikes—batter out!"

And the game was won, and with it the championship of the two schools!

"Beautiful! beautiful!" cried Doctor Clay, when he came down into the field to congratulate the club. "It was the best exhibition of ball-playing I've seen in a long time."

And all the visitors to Oak Hall and many others agreed with him. Dave was the lion of the occasion, and his many friends nearly wrung his hand off. The other members of the nine also came in for a share of the praise. The Rockville boys felt their defeat keenly, but had to acknowledge that they had been beaten fairly.

As soon as he could get away from his chums, Dave sought out Laura and Jessie.

"I've got those letters," he whispered to Laura. "And I doubt if Link Merwell will ever trouble you again."

"Oh, I am so thankful, Dave!" she answered. [Pg 304] "I'll never be so foolish again as to write letters to a person with whom I am not well acquainted."

"It was grand, Dave!" cried Jessie. "It was the best victory that could be!"

"Well, I am hoping for a greater to-morrow," answered Dave, gravely.

"You mean in school?"

"Yes."

"Well, I trust with all my heart you have your wishes fulfilled," said the girl, and her eyes told that she meant what she said.

That night late a report was whispered around the school that Link Merwell had gotten into serious trouble with Doctor Clay, and the report proved true. Angered by the way Dave had treated him, and by Plum's refusal to go with him, Link Merwell had not witnessed the ball game, but had gone to Rafferty's resort instead. Here he had smoked, drunk, and gambled, and ended by getting into a free fight with several men. One man told Horsehair of the trouble and the school driver reported at once to Doctor Clay. The doctor and Mr. Dale went after the misguided youth, and a scene followed which need not be mentioned here. The next day Link Merwell was ordered to pack his trunk and leave, and a telegram was sent to his father in the West stating that he had been expelled for violating the school rules. In his rage Merwell, before leaving, exposed the doings [Pg 305] of both Gus Plum and Nat Poole. At once the doctor sent for Plum, and later he interviewed Poole.

It was a trying time for Gus, and he broke down completely. He mentioned what Dave had done for him, and stated he was doing his best to reform. Learning of this, the master of the school called upon Dave to tell his story, and then the depths of Merwell's depravity came out. In the end the doctor said he would give Plum another chance to redeem himself, and for this the big youth was exceedingly grateful.

For having told a falsehood about taking the boat from Bush Island, Nat Poole was given a severe lecture. He said he had wanted, several times, to explain to the doctor, but that Link Merwell had threatened to make it unpleasant for him if he did so. Because the joke had been directed against some of his fellow-students and not against Doctor Clay and Mr. Dale, Poole got off easier than might otherwise have been the case.

The closing exercises of the school were well attended. Sixteen pupils were to graduate, including several who had been Dave's warm chums. Some of these boys stood high in their class and consequently walked off with some prizes.

When the time came for the decision regarding the essays on The Past and Future of Our Country everybody was on the top-notch of expectation. [Pg 306] All the teachers had read the various papers handed in, and they had been the subject of many comments.

"Because of the general excellence of seven of the essays," said Doctor Clay, "it has been somewhat difficult to pick out that which was the best. We have here a fine essay by Bertram Vane, another by Samuel Downs, another by Joseph Beggs, and others by Chipham Macklin, Giles Cadmore, and Devere Peterson. But there is one that seems to stand out above the others, both for its originality and its literary qualities. That essay takes the prize, and it is written by Master David Porter. Porter, will you please come forward and read your essay."

As Dave walked to the platform a round of applause was given and when he bowed there was much hand-clapping. Then in a clear, full voice, he read the essay on which he had spent so much thought and labor. It was certainly a splendid piece of literary composition and was listened to with great pleasure by all. When he had finished Doctor Clay handed him the prize, and then the applause broke forth anew.

"Another victory!" whispered Roger, as Dave passed to his seat.

"Yes, and the best of them all," was Dave's reply.

Fortunately, the senator's son also won a prize, [Pg 307] and Phil came in the third from the highest in his class, while Shadow came in fifth and Ben Basswood sixth. Even Gus Plum made a good record, much to the pleasure of his parents, who had feared at one time he would turn out a ne'er-do-well.

"Now the question is, What are we going to do during the summer vacation?" said Roger, after the exercises were over, and he and the others and their friends were indulging in refreshments on the campus.

"I am going to Asbury Park with my folks," said Luke Watson.

"And I am going to Maine," added Messmer. "My uncle has a camp there. Henshaw is going with me, and so is Macklin."

"I have an invitation for Dave," said Laura. "The Endicotts want me to come back to their ranch and bring my newly-found brother with me."

"That's fine!" cried Phil. "I'd like to try ranch life myself just for a change."

"The Endicotts' ranch is next to that owned by Merwell's father, so I have been told," added Roger. "Maybe if you go out there with Dave, you'll meet Link again."

"I never want to see that fellow again," said Dave. But this wish was not to be fulfilled, as we shall learn in the next volume of this series, to be entitled, "Dave Porter at Star Ranch; or, The [Pg 308] Cowboy's Secret." In that volume we shall meet many of our friends again, and learn what Link Merwell did when he and Dave met once more on the boundless prairies and in the mountain canyons.

That evening the students held a grand celebration, which lasted far into the night. Bonfires were lit and the lads danced around and sang songs to their hearts' content. Shadow told half a dozen of his best stories, and two of the students distinguished themselves by giving all their schoolbooks to the flames. It was a time none of them ever forgot.

"And now for home," said Dave, the next day. "Home, and the boundless West."

And here let us leave him, and say good-by.

 


 

Transcriber's Notes.

1. Every effort has been made to replicate this text as faithfully as possible.

2. Silently corrected simple spelling, grammar, and typographical errors.

3. The following 2 illustrations listed in the Index of Illustrations are missing from the original book used to prepare this e-book:
    3.1. "The big snowball hit the craft and bowled it over," - Page 52.
    3.2. "Dave pointed out the form of the sleep-walker," - Page 164.

4. The original Illustrations include the page number in the captions. These have been removed as each page is numbered in the righthand margin.

 


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