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Title: Dave Porter's Return to School - Winning the Medal of Honor
Author: Stratemeyer, Edward
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: The _Snowbird_ continued to forge ahead.--_Page 265_.]



  Dave Porter Series

  DAVE PORTER'S RETURN TO SCHOOL

  OR

  WINNING THE MEDAL OF HONOR

  BY

  EDWARD STRATEMEYER

  Author of "Dave Porter at Oak Hall," "Dave Porter in the South
  Seas," "Old Glory Series," "Pan-American Series,"
  "Colonial Series," "American Boys' Life of
  Theodore Roosevelt," etc.

  _ILLUSTRATED BY CHARLES NUTTALL_

  [Illustration]

  BOSTON
  LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO.



  Published, March, 1907


  COPYRIGHT, 1907, BY LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO.

  _All rights reserved_

  DAVE PORTER'S RETURN TO SCHOOL


  Norwood Press
  BERWICK & SMITH CO.
  Norwood, Mass.
  U. S. A.



PREFACE


"DAVE PORTER'S RETURN TO SCHOOL" is a complete story in
itself, but forms the third volume in a line issued under the general
title of "Dave Porter Series."

In the initial volume of this series, entitled "Dave Porter at Oak
Hall," I took pleasure in introducing to my readers a typical American
lad, of strong moral qualities, and told of many of the things which
happened to him during a term at an American boarding school of to-day.
Such a school is a little world in itself, and Dave made both friends
and enemies, and aided one weak and misguided youth to a realization of
his better self.

The great cloud over Dave's life was the question of his parentage. His
enemies called him "a poorhouse nobody," which hurt him to the quick.
At length he made a discovery which led him to begin a search for his
missing relatives, and in the second volume of this series, entitled
"Dave Porter in the South Seas," we followed the lad on a most unusual
voyage, in a quarter of our globe but little known. Here Dave met his
uncle, and learned something of himself and his father and sister,
which pleased him immensely.

In the present volume the scene is shifted back to Oak Hall, where Dave
goes to finish his preparation for college. His friends are still with
him, and likewise his enemies, and what the various students do I leave
for the pages that follow to relate. In all his trials Dave stands up
for what is honest and true, and in this his example is well worth
following.

Again I thank the many young people who have taken an interest in my
efforts to amuse and instruct them. I hope this volume may prove to
their liking and do them good.

  EDWARD STRATEMEYER.

  _Washington's Birthday, 1907._



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                          PAGE

  I. AT THE RAILROAD STATION                 1

  II. SOMETHING OF THE PAST                 11

  III. DAVE'S RETURN TO OAK HALL            20

  IV. IN THE DORMITORY                      29

  V. SOMETHING OF A MYSTERY                 38

  VI. JOB HASKERS'S BAD NIGHT               47

  VII. A CHALLENGE ACCEPTED                 57

  VIII. THE RIVALS OF OAK HALL              66

  IX. THE END OF THE GAME                   76

  X. ALL ON ACCOUNT OF A KITE               86

  XI. AT THE WIDOW FAIRCHILD'S HOUSE        95

  XII. AT WORK IN THE DARK                 105

  XIII. IN THE HANDS OF THE ENEMY          115

  XIV. CARRIED OFF                         125

  XV. OFF FOR THE GAME                     134

  XVI. THE GREAT FOOTBALL GAME             143

  XVII. HOW THE GAME ENDED                 153

  XVIII. A FUNNY INITIATION                163

  XIX. ALMOST SCARED TO DEATH              173

  XX. A STUDENT'S STRANGE DISAPPEARANCE    182

  XXI. THE CAVERN IN THE WOODS             191

  XXII. A BOY AND A MOTOR CYCLE            201

  XXIII. WHAT A RUNAWAY LED TO             211

  XXIV. MORE PLANS THAN ONE                220

  XXV. THE FIGHT IN THE GYMNASIUM          229

  XXVI. THE DISAPPEARANCE OF NICK JASNIFF  239

  XXVII. WHAT HAPPENED AT ROCKVILLE        249

  XXVIII. AN ICE-BOAT RACE                 259

  XXIX. THE CABIN ON THE ISLAND            269

  XXX. DAVE'S HEROISM                      279

  XXXI. GUS PLUM'S CONFESSION              289

  XXXII. THE MEDAL OF HONOR--CONCLUSION    297



ILLUSTRATIONS.

                                                         PAGE

  The Snowbird continued to forge ahead.          Frontispiece

  Dave began to mount the improvised rope.                  50

  Carl was made to bow until his nose touched the floor.   166

  He made one wild leap forward.                           288



DAVE PORTER'S RETURN TO SCHOOL



CHAPTER I

AT THE RAILROAD STATION


"Here comes the train, fellows!"

"I hope Dave Porter is on board."

"He will be, and Ben Basswood too. Ben wrote to me that they were
coming to-day."

"I wonder if Dave will be glad to get back to Oak Hall, Lazy?"

"Why not?" returned Sam Day, a big, round-faced youth, with a shock of
curly hair hanging over his forehead. "Didn't we have fine times when
he was here last term?"

"Yes, but----" Maurice Hamilton paused to glance at the train that had
rolled into the Oakdale station. "There they are, sure enough! Hurrah!"

The train had come to a stop and a dozen or more passengers alighted.
In the crowd were two boys, each carrying a dress-suit case. Both were
tall, well-built, and manly-looking. The one in the lead had a face
full of merriment and earnest eyes that were rather out of the ordinary.

"Dave!" cried Maurice Hamilton, rushing up and catching the youth
addressed by the hand. "You don't know how glad I am to see you!"

"Same here, Shadow," responded Dave Porter, and gave the other boy's
hand a squeeze that made the lad wince.

"Whoa, Dave! I want to use that hand again!" cried Shadow, as he was
familiarly called. "Not so hard."

"And how are you, Lazy?" went on Dave Porter, turning to the other boy
on the platform. "Active as ever?" And he smiled brightly.

"No, it has been dead slow since you and Roger and Phil went away,"
answered Sam Day. "How are you, Ben?" he added, to the second youth
from the train. "I hope you've come back to stir things up."

"Oh, Dave will stir 'em up, don't you worry," replied Ben Basswood. "He
feels like a two-year-old colt since--well, you know," he added, in a
lower voice.

"Any one would," responded Sam Day, heartily. "My, but what a trip you
must have had to the South Seas!" he added, to Dave. "Wish I had been
along!"

"Every one of our crowd has been wishing that," said Shadow Hamilton.
"When you're settled down, and have time, you must tell us all about
it, Dave."

"I certainly will. Have you seen anything of Phil and Roger yet?"

"They are coming to-morrow."

"Good. All the others here?"

"All but Polly Vane and Luke Watson. Polly had to go to his aunt's
wedding, and Luke had to go around by way of Albany, on business for
his father. But the whole crowd will be on hand by the end of the week."

"And what of Gus Plum and Nat Poole and that crowd?" asked Ben
Basswood, with a shade of anxiety in his voice.

"Oh, they are around, as lordly as ever. But say, wasn't Plum taken
down when he heard that Dave had found some relatives and was rich! He
wouldn't believe it at first; said it was a fake."

"But it is true," cried Ben Basswood, his face glowing. "Dave's folks
are rich. I don't know but that Dave is the richest boy at Oak Hall
now."

"Oh, come, let us talk about something else," said Dave, blushing in
spite of himself. "Where's the carryall?"

"Here you are, gents!" cried a voice from the end of the platform, and
Jackson Lemond, the driver from Oak Hall, appeared. He got down on
one knee and made a profound bow to Dave. "Hope I see you well, Lord
Porter," he went on, humbly.

"Lord Porter?" queried Dave, in bewilderment.

"Hush!" whispered Sam Day, quickly. "Some of the fellows told Horsehair
you were a real, live lord now, and he believes it."

"But I am not," cried Dave, and burst out laughing. "Up with you,
Horsehair, or you'll get your knee dirty."

"Yes, sir, yes, sir," answered the driver, nervously. "Will--er--will
Lord Porter sit on the front seat, or----"

"A lord always drives himself," answered Shadow Hamilton, with a grin.
"Horsehair, you'll have to sit on the back spring."

"Yes, sir, but--er----" The driver of the carryall paused. "Any more
boys?"

"Look here, fellows," interrupted Dave, throwing his dress-suit case on
the top of the carryall. "I like fun as well as anybody, but making out
I'm a lord is--well, it's something I don't like. Even though my folks
may have a little money I want to be just as I used to be."

"Ain't you no lord?" gasped the carryall driver.

"Of course not--I'm a plain, everyday American boy."

"Well, I'll be switched! Them young gents told me as how you was a real
lord, an' was coming to the school with four colored servants, an' a
whole lot more."

"And now Dave has spoiled it all," said Shadow Hamilton, with a
ponderous sigh. "Puts me in mind of a story I once heard about a----"

"Yarn No. 1," interrupted Ben. "I thought you'd begin to tell 'em as
soon as we arrived. You have 'em bottled up, and unless you pulled the
cork now and then I suppose you'd explode."

"Which puts me in mind of another story, about a----"

"Wait till we are on our way to the Hall," cried Sam Day. "All in!"
And one after another the schoolboys piled into the big carryall which
was to take them to Oak Hall. The turnout was just about to start when
there came a cry from the other end of the station, and two youths
appeared, each loudly dressed, one somewhat after the manner of a dude
and the other in the style of a sport. Each carried a small parcel,
showing he had come down to the town to do some shopping.

"Gus Plum and Nat Poole!" whispered Ben, and his face fell. "I hope
they don't want to ride with us."

"That is what they are going to do," answered Dave. "I am sorry myself,
but it can't be helped."

"Jump in if you are going along," cried the Hall driver.

"Who have you got?" sang out Gus Plum, rather roughly. He came closer
with his companion and stared at those in the carryall. "Humph!"

"How do you do, Plum?" said Dave, politely. He knew Gus Plum to be the
bully of the school, but he had determined to be perfectly fair to all.

"Humph!" murmured the bully again. "Got back, eh?"

"I have."

"Humph!"

"Going to cut a fearful swath, I presume," said Nat Poole, who was the
bully's close crony.

Dave's face flushed. He had anticipated trouble, but had not expected
it to come so soon. A sharp answer came to his lips, but he suppressed
it and remained silent.

"Don't start in now, Plum!" cried Ben. "If you are going to the Hall
say so and get in."

"I'll go to the Hall when I feel like it," growled the bully. It was
plain to see that he was in an unusually bad humor.

"Well, we are not going to wait for you to make up your mind," said
Shadow Hamilton. As we shall learn later, he had good reasons for
counting Gus Plum his enemy. "Are you going, or are you not?"

"See here, Hamilton, you can't boss me!" roared the bully. "I'll get in
when I please."

"The carryall has got to wait for us," added Nat Poole, maliciously.
"Dr. Clay said we could come back in it."

"Then come on," said Sam Day.

"We are not through with our errands yet," answered Gus Plum, and
winked in secret at his crony.

"That's it--and the carryall has got to wait till we are through,"
added Nat Poole, quickly.

"How long?" asked Dave, looking sharply at Plum and Poole.

"Oh, about half an hour," answered the bully, carelessly.

"This is a shame," muttered Sam Day. "Horsehair, can't you come back
for them?"

"Certainly," answered the driver.

"Then off we go!" cried Shadow Hamilton. "I'd rather ride without them
anyway," he whispered.

"Hi! stop!" roared Gus Plum. "If you drive to the Hall you won't be
back for an hour and a half or more. You've got to wait for us."

At this bold announcement there was silence all around. The students in
the carryall looked at Dave, as he was their natural leader.

"There are four of us who want to get to the Hall without unnecessary
delay," said Dave, steadily. "Either you can go along now, or wait till
Horsehair comes back."

"That's the talk," came promptly from Dave's chums.

"So you are going to play the master, are you?" blustered Gus Plum.
"Going to rule the roost, eh? and make everybody bow low to you, eh?"

"Nothing of the kind, Plum. I merely wish----"

"Oh, I know! You've talked soft to me before, and soft to Nat, too! I
suppose you think now you have money you can do anything here. Well, it
don't go--not with me anyway, and I want to give you fair warning right
now, at the very start. I want you to understand----"

"Plum, don't talk so loud, you are drawing a crowd," whispered Ben.
"Dave is all right, and you know it."

"Humph! I want him to understand----"

"Plum, listen to me," said Dave, leaning out of the carryall and facing
the bully squarely. "I intended to have a talk with you later, but
since you are so insistent we may as well have it out right now. When
it was decided that I should come back to Oak Hall I made up my mind to
do my best to keep out of trouble and stick closely to my lessons. I
also made up my mind to steer clear of you, and Nat Poole, and all the
others of your crowd, and I was going to ask you to leave me alone. I
want absolutely nothing to do with any of you, and I don't want any of
you to go around talking behind my back, as you have been doing in the
past. You know I could do some talking on my own account if I wanted
to, but I prefer to keep silent. Now then, are you willing to meet me
on those terms or not?"

"Humph!"

"That is no answer."

"You can't bully me."

"You are the bully and always have been, and you know it."

"That's the truth," said Sam Day.

"Plum, you've got to take a back seat, and the sooner you do it the
better off you'll be," added Shadow.

"Exactly what I say," was Ben's comment.

"All against me, just as you always were!" cried Gus Plum, savagely.
"But never mind! Just you wait, that's all!" And he shook his fist as
he backed away.

"You're a set of sneaks!" murmured Nat Poole, as he too retreated. But
he was careful to speak in such a low tone that nobody in the carryall
understood him.

"I don't want to ride with you; I'd rather walk," went on the bully.

"I'll come back for you two," said the driver, as he took up the
reins again. "Git up there!" he cried to his team and snapped his
whip. "Looks to me like there was trouble in the air," he continued,
glancing first at the students left behind and then at those in the
carryall.

"I am afraid you are right," answered Dave, soberly.



CHAPTER II

SOMETHING OF THE PAST


Once again Dave Porter was brought face to face with the troubles which
he had hoped had been put behind him forever. He had expected to have
the best kind of a time on returning to Oak Hall, and here were his old
enemies, Gus Plum and Nat Poole, ready to do all in their power to make
his schooldays miserable.

To those who have read "Dave Porter at Oak Hall" Dave needs no special
introduction. In that volume was related how the boy was found when a
little child wandering along the railroad tracks just outside of the
village of Crumville, and turned over to the poorhouse authorities.
Every effort to establish his identity failed, and when he grew up he
was taken in by a broken-down college professor, Caspar Potts, who had
turned farmer.

The old professor did what he could for the youth, but his farm was
mortgaged to a hard-hearted money lender, Aaron Poole, the father of
Nat Poole, just introduced. Aaron Poole would have sold the old man out
had not aid come from an unexpected quarter. There was an automobile
accident, and Dave succeeded in saving the life of a little girl,
Jessie Wadsworth. For this the Wadsworth family were very grateful, and
when it was learned that Caspar Potts was one of Mr. Oliver Wadsworth's
former college professors, the rich manufacturer took the old professor
to live with him, and also took care of the mortgage. Then, for his
bravery, and because Dave reminded him of a dead son, Mr. Wadsworth
resolved to send the youth to a boarding school and give him a thorough
education.

Oak Hall was the institution selected, an ideal place of learning,
located not a great distance from the town of Oakdale, in one of our
New England States. The buildings were substantial and surrounded by
beautiful grounds sloping down to the Leming River. Stately oaks grew
on the grounds and in that vicinity, giving the school its name.

Dave had but one boy friend in Crumville, Ben Basswood, who also went
to Oak Hall, but the lad was not slow to make other acquaintances, some
of whom became his closest chums. Among the number were Roger Morr,
the son of a United States senator; Phil Lawrence, whose father was a
ship-owner; Joseph Beggs, usually called Buster because he was so fat;
and Sam Day and "Shadow" Hamilton, already introduced.

For a time all went well and the poorhouse boy was happy. But then
came trouble with Gus Plum the bully, and with Nat Poole, who also
became a student at the Hall. Poole told everybody that Dave was a
"poorhouse nobody," and Plum taunted him, with the result that there
was a fight, in which Dave came off the victor. But this only angered
the bully the more, and he vowed to "get square" sooner or later.

"I'll take it out of the poorhouse whelp," he said to Chip Macklin, a
small youth who was his toady, and laid his plot with care. But the
plan miscarried, and when Dave learned the truth he gave Chip Macklin
such a talking to that the small boy resolved to have nothing more to
do with the bully. Macklin turned over a new leaf, and was now hailed
as "a pretty decent sort of chap" by those who had formerly despised
him. Then Plum did something which got Shadow Hamilton into serious
trouble, stealing a collection of valuable postage stamps belonging
to the master of the school, which poor Shadow had hidden when he was
sleep-walking. This base action was also brought to light, and the
bully came near being expelled from the Hall.

The question of his parentage was ever in Dave's mind, and when he
gained what he thought was a clew he followed it up as promptly as
possible. An old sailor named Billy Dill declared that he knew Dave
or somebody that looked exactly like him, only older. This unknown
individual was on an island in the South Seas, and the youth arranged
to visit that portion of the globe in one of the ships belonging to
Phil Lawrence's father. Phil, and Roger Morr, went with him, and also
Billy Dill, the necessary funds for the trip being furnished by Oliver
Wadsworth.

As related in the second volume of this series, "Dave Porter in the
South Seas," the voyage of the _Stormy Petrel_ proved to be a decidedly
strange one. Fearful storms were encountered, and a portion of the
crew, led by a dishonest supercargo and a mate, tried to run off with
the vessel, leaving Dave, his chums, the captain, and some others, on
an uninhabited island. But in the end the vessel was retaken, and Dave
reached the place for which he was bound.

A great and happy surprise awaited the youth. He came face to face with
a Mr. Dunston Porter, who proved to be the boy's uncle. Mr. Porter was
rich and was wandering around the islands of the Pacific looking for
a treasure said to have been buried by the natives years before. The
uncle told Dave that he was the son of a twin brother, David Breslow
Porter. Dave's mother was dead, but there was a sister Laura, one year
younger than Dave. Mr. David Porter and his daughter Laura were now in
Europe, traveling for the former's health. Dave had been stolen from
his parents by a crazy nurse, and because of this Mr. Porter never
went anywhere without taking Laura with him. There was a good deal of
money in the family, a fair share of which would rightfully fall to
Dave when he became of age.

As was but natural, Dave was impatient to meet his father and his
sister. He and the others journeyed back to the United States, and
various messages were sent, to Mr. David Porter and to friends at
Crumville. Then Dave and his uncle journeyed to the Wadsworth home,
where they were warmly received.

At first the message forwarded to Dave's father in Europe brought no
reply, but at last came back an answer from the keeper of a hotel in
Paris where Mr. Porter and Laura had been stopping. This said that the
Porters had departed some weeks before for an extended trip to Norway,
after which they expected to sail for New York, to which place all mail
was to be addressed. Where the two travelers were at the present time
there was no telling.

"Dave, this is hard luck," said the boy's uncle, on receiving the news.
"I don't know what to do except to wait."

"Can't we send letters to different cities in Norway?" returned the
youth. "I want to meet my father and my sister so much!"

"Yes, we can try that," answered Dunston Porter, and the letters were
sent without delay; but so far no answers had been received.

Oak Hall had opened for the fall term, and after some discussion it
was decided that Dave should return to that school until some word was
received from his father. In the meanwhile Mr. Dunston Porter became
the guest of Mr. Wadsworth.

Outside of the fact that he was impatient to meet his father and his
sister face to face, Dave was very light-hearted when he and Ben
Basswood left Crumville on their journey to Oakdale. Being a "poorhouse
nobody" was now a thing of the past, and he felt relieved to think that
no one could again taunt him regarding his parentage. More than this,
he was now in the care of an uncle who was kind and loving to the last
degree, and he was provided with all the money he needed, and it was
"his own money," as he told himself with great satisfaction.

He had already met some of his chums since returning from the South
Seas--boys who had stopped off at Crumville while on their railroad
journey to Oakdale. All had congratulated him on his luck and wished
him well.

But Nat Poole had not been happy over Dave's good fortune. They had met
at the local post-office, and Poole had made some undertoned remarks
that did not please Dave in the least. As a matter of fact Nat Poole,
even though fairly well-to-do himself, envied Dave because of his
riches.

"Wait and see how he tries to lord it over us when he comes back," said
Nat Poole to Gus Plum, when the two met at Oak Hall. "I suppose he will
put on such airs there will be no living with him. And he will do what
he can to buy all the other fellows over to him."

"He shan't lord it over me, or buy me over either," answered the bully.
His tone was very bitter, because of the fact that his own position in
life seemed to be going down. His father had lost money steadily during
the past year, and it was now almost a question whether Gus should
continue at school or leave and go to work.

"It made me sick to see how Crumville folks bowed and smiled to him,"
went on Nat Poole. "When he was nobody they wouldn't notice him--now
they tumble over each other to shake him by the hand."

"But has he really got so much money?"

"They say so--but I don't believe it."

"Does he dress any better than he used to?"

"Hardly a bit better. If that uncle of his has the rocks I guess he is
miserly about using any."

"Then maybe Dave won't have so very much spending money," said Gus
Plum, his face brightening a bit.

"I don't know anything about that. But I do know it makes me sick to
think he is coming here to show off in front of all of us."

Gus Plum looked around cautiously. The pair were in their dormitory and
nobody else was within hearing.

"Nat, we hung together last term and we had better hang together this
term too," he whispered.

"What do you mean--against Porter and his crowd?"

"Yes."

"I'll do that quick enough."

"We must find some way to throw him off his high horse."

"Well, we don't want to get pinched doing it."

"We won't get pinched--if we do the thing right."

"I'm willing to do anything that can be done to make him eat humble
pie."

"I owe him a whole lot--and so do you," continued the bully of Oak
Hall, bitterly. "Don't you remember how he treated us at the athletic
contests, and down at the boathouse? It makes me boil every time I
think of it!"

"Yes, and the tricks he and his cronies played on us," returned Nat
Poole. "Gus, I'll do anything--so long as we are not caught at it."

"I'd like to fix him so he'd be disgraced before the whole school." Gus
Plum's voice sank to a hoarse whisper.

"Can we do it?"

"Maybe we can," was the answer.

And there and then, two days before Dave got back to Oak Hall, these
two unworthies plotted to disgrace him and leave a smirch upon his fair
name.



CHAPTER III

DAVE'S RETURN TO OAK HALL


The carryall containing Dave and his friends soon left Oakdale behind
and was bowling swiftly along over the smooth highway leading to Oak
Hall. The boys were all inside, leaving the driver to manage his team
in any way that suited him. Usually they loved to torment Horsehair, as
they called him, but now they had other matters on their minds.

"The same old Plum," said Ben, with a sigh. "Doesn't it make one weary
to listen to him?"

"Better try to forget him, and Nat Poole too," answered Dave.

"That is easier said than done," said Shadow Hamilton. "Which puts me
in mind of a story. There was once----"

"He is bound to tell 'em," came, with a groan, from Sam Day.

"Never mind; go ahead, Shadow," said Dave. "Sam said you could start in
after we were on board, and I'd rather hear a story than discuss Plum
and Poole."

"You were talking about forgetting Plum. One day a boy got into his
mother's pantry and stole some preserved plums. When the plums were
found missing the boy's mother caught him and cuffed his ears in good
style. Then the boy went outside and his chum told him to stop crying.
'Forget that your mother cuffed you,' said the other boy. 'I ain't
thinkin' of that,' answered the boy who had stolen the plums. 'Then
stop crying.' 'I can't.' 'Why not?' asks the other boy. 'Because the
plums was hot an' I kin feel 'em all along my throat yit.'" And at this
anecdote a smile passed around.

"I suppose football is being talked about," observed Ben, after a brief
pause.

"Yes, some of the boys are playing already," answered Sam Day. "I have
been waiting for Roger to get back. He was captain of our eleven last
season, you'll remember."

"Yes, and you were right tackle."

"Do you suppose we'll get another challenge from the Rockville Military
Academy?"

"Sure we will," burst out Shadow. "They'll want to wipe out the defeat
of last year."

"Gus Plum has organized a football team of his own," observed Sam. "He
has got Poole and a lot of new students in it. They call themselves the
Arrows, and one boy told me they were going to have suits with arrows
embroidered on them."

"By the way, what of Chip Macklin?" asked Dave.

"He is around and as bright as a button," answered Sam. "It is simply
wonderful what a change there is in that chap since he cut away from
Plum."

"Oh, look at the apples!" cried out Ben, as the carryall made a turn in
the road. He pointed to a tree in a field loaded with the fruit. "Wish
I had one."

"You won't get any there," declared Shadow. "That's Mike Marcy's field
and he keeps any number of dogs."

"Well, I never!" burst out Sam, feeling down under the seat. "If you
hadn't spoken I should have forgotten them entirely." He brought out
a bag containing a dozen big red apples. "I bought them while we were
waiting for the train. Here, boys, help yourselves." And he passed them
around.

"Thank you, Sam," said Dave, as he bit into one of the apples. "This is
fine." And the others said the same.

Each had his story to tell, and Sam and Shadow listened with eager
interest while Dave told of his long trip across the Pacific, and his
many adventures since he had left the academy.

"Sounds almost like a fairy tale," declared Sam. "I'd like to see
something of the world myself."

The carryall made another turn and came in sight of the river, dotted
here and there with small craft. Along the shore grew some bushes and a
few trees.

"I see some of the fellows are out rowing," observed Dave. "I'd like to
go out myself some day, before it gets too cold."

The carryall was passing a point where the road was considerably higher
than the surface of the stream. Dave had bitten into a second apple,
that proved to be wormy. Now he leaned out of the carryall and sent the
fruit spinning down through the bushes toward the river.

"Hi! hi!" came back a voice from the shore below. "Who hit me?"

"Gracious, I must have hit somebody!" exclaimed Dave. "I didn't mean to
do it."

"What's the matter?" demanded the driver, pulling his team in.

"You needn't stop," answered Ben. "Dave threw an apple away, that's
all."

"I've got to fix the harness--there's a strap loose," went on Lemond,
and leaped to the ground. He was at work when a man appeared, climbing
up the river bank through the bushes. It was Job Haskers, one of the
assistant teachers at the Hall, the only instructor the students did
not like.

"Ha! so some of you played a trick on me, eh?" fumed Job Haskers, as
he emerged upon the road and strode toward the carryall. "Nice doings,
I must say!"

"Did the apple hit you, Mr. Haskers?" asked Dave, mildly.

"Did it hit me? I should say it did, right on top of the head."

"I am sorry, sir."

"So you threw it, Porter. I am amazed that you would dare do such a
thing."

"I didn't know you were down there--in fact, I didn't know anybody was
there."

"A likely story," sneered the teacher, who was very often hot-headed
and unreasonable.

"I am telling the truth, sir," and Dave's face flushed.

"I cannot go out for a quiet stroll by the river side but somebody must
hit me in the head with a hard apple," growled the instructor. "Have
you just arrived?"

"Yes, sir."

"You ought to be more careful of what you are doing."

"As I said before, I didn't know anybody was down there."

"I presume you didn't want to see me." The teacher turned to all of the
boys. "Where did you get those apples?" he asked, suspiciously.

"I bought them in Oakdale," answered Sam.

"Haven't been stopping at some orchard on the way?"

"You may ask Mr. Cassello, the fruit man, if you don't believe me," and
Sam drew himself up.

"Well, be more careful after this, or you'll hear from me!" answered
Job Haskers, and strode off down the road in a thoroughly bad humor.

"Phew! but we are catching it all along the line," was Ben's comment.
"First Plum and Poole, and now Haskers. Wonder what we'll strike next?"

"I didn't mean to hit anybody," said Dave. "How peppery he is!"

"And he thinks we took the apples from some orchard," added Sam.

"Well, such things have happened," observed Ben, with a grin.

"Which puts me in mind of another story," said Shadow. "There was a
little boy, and his mother had been away nearly all day. 'Mamma,' said
he when she came home, 'can I have two apples?' 'Won't one do?' she
asked. 'No, I want two.' 'Very well,' said his mother. Then she saw him
go to the basket and get one apple. 'I thought you wanted two,' she
remarked. 'Oh,' he answered, 'I had the other one this morning!'"

Sam burst out laughing and so did the others. "I see the drift of
that," said Sam. "You haven't forgotten when we went to Japlet's
orchard after apples----"

"And the bull cornered Sam," said Ben. "Don't forget that, Sam."

"Nevertheless, Haskers is hard on us, and he had no business to call
Dave down as he did, just for throwing the apple into the bushes."

"Perhaps he has found out something about that ram and how he got up
in his room," whispered Ben, and then a laugh went up, in the midst of
which the driver started up the carryall and the journey to Oak Hall
was resumed.

Dave was on the watch, to catch his first sight of the school. They
were passing through a bit of woodland. Now they made a turn, and
rolled out in front of a broad campus lined on either side with a
boxwood hedge. At each corner of the campus were clumps of monstrous
oaks, the leaves of which had just begun to turn, and at the entrance
were more of the same kind of trees.

The school itself was a thoroughly up-to-date structure, of brick and
stone, laid out in the shape of a broad cross. The classrooms, the
office, and the dining hall and kitchen were on the ground floor and
the dormitories and private bedrooms and the bathrooms were above. Off
to one side of the campus was the gymnasium, and down by the river were
a boathouse and a row of bathing houses.

"Hurrah! Here we are at last!" cried Dave, and his heart gave a bound.

"Let us give 'em the old song, boys!" cried Sam Day, who was a good
singer, and he at once started up the following, to the tune of "Auld
Lang Syne":

  "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!"

They sang with a will, and when they had finished they added the old
academy cry:

        "Baseball!
        Football!
        Oak Hall
        Has the call!
  Biff! Boom! Bang! Whoop!"

"Hello! hello!" sang out a dozen voices from the campus. "Here come
some more of the old students!"

"There's Dave Porter and Ben Basswood!"

"Hello, Dave, how do you feel after traveling across the Pacific?"

"Bring any of those South Sea Islanders with you?"

"Mighty glad to see you back, old man!"

So the cries rang on, as Dave and the others left the carryall. Dave
was surrounded, and half a dozen tried to shake hands at once.

"We want you on the football team, Dave," said one.

"I'm glad to know you found your folks," added another.

"You've come back to stay now, haven't you?" asked a third.

Dave shook hands all around. As the school song had it, the place felt
just like home. For the time being his heart was lighter than ever, and
his return to Oak Hall filled him with more pleasure than words can
express.



CHAPTER IV

IN THE DORMITORY


It took Dave several days to settle down and during that time he heard
but little from Gus Plum and Nat Poole, who prudently kept their
distance, awaiting the time when they might do Dave some injury.

During those days Roger Morr and Phil Lawrence arrived, both hale and
hearty from their trip with Dave across the Pacific. The senator's son
had spent two days in Washington with his father, while Phil had been
settling up some affairs with his parent regarding the cargo of the
_Stormy Petrel_.

"This is certainly like old times," remarked Roger, as the crowd sat in
their dormitory. "I hope we have as much sport as we did last season."

"We will have, don't worry," answered Phil.

"Provided Job Haskers doesn't stop us," said Buster Beggs, who was
lying across one of the beds. "Tell you what, boys, he is sharp on
this term. Yesterday he caught me writing on the boathouse wall and he
made me write 'chirography' five hundred times."

"Well, that's a good way to improve your handwriting," answered Dave,
with a smile. "I've done a little of that sort of thing myself."

"He kept me in two hours yesterday, when I wanted to play football,"
growled Shadow Hamilton. "It was a burning shame."

"But what did you do?" questioned Roger.

"Oh, nothing much. Nat Poole was coming down the aisle and he made a
face at me. I happened to stretch out my leg and Poole tripped and went
flat. Then old Haskers said it was all my fault."

"And what did Poole say?" asked Sam, with interest.

"Oh, he threatened to punch me good--but he didn't do it. He started to
quarrel after school, but Gus Plum called him off."

"Well, that was queer," observed Dave. "Generally Gus is out for a
fight."

"Which puts me in mind of a story," came from Shadow. "A little----"

"Narrative No. 206," broke in Sam.

"You shan't keep me from telling it," went on Shadow, calmly. "A little
man----"

"How small?" asked Roger, with a wink at the others.

"Oh, that hasn't anything to do with it. A little man once met another
man----"

"Was the other man small, too?" questioned Phil, seriously.

"Never mind if he was or not. A little man once met another man who had
a big bulldog with him----"

"What was the color of the bulldog?" asked Dave.

"What color? See here, I----"

"When you tell a story, Shadow, give us the details, by all means.
Was he white or black, red or yellow? Or maybe he was cream-color, or
sky-pink, or----"

"He was--er--he was a regular bulldog color. Well, this man----"

"Sort of a brownish blue, with a dash of crimson and violet," suggested
Phil.

"He was a regular common, everyday bulldog, only he was very big and
very savage."

"Muzzled, of course," came from Roger. "Bulldogs always are."

"I saw one once that wasn't," added Buster Beggs.

"Some of 'em wear silver-plated muzzles," observed Sam.

"Do you mean to say this bulldog had a silver-plated muzzle?" demanded
Dave, turning to Shadow.

"Who in creation said he had a muzzle?" cried the would-be
story-teller. "I said----"

"I know you did, Shadow dear," said Luke Watson, who sat on a low stool
with his banjo in his lap, tuning up. "Don't let them sidetrack you, or
the bulldog either."

"What I want to know is this," said Phil, impressively. "Were those men
white or black? That may have a very important bearing on the moral of
the tale."

"See here, if you don't want to hear the story----" began Shadow, half
angrily.

"We do! we do!" came from several at once.

"We are dying for you to finish," said Roger. "Now start up again. A
small bulldog once came along, leading a big, fierce man----"

"That's not right," broke in Buster. "A small bulldog once met another
bulldog leading a bulldog-colored man who----"

"Great Cæsar! That's as bad as the story of the canner," broke in Sam.
"The canner can eat what he can and what he can't he can can, can't
he?" And a laugh went up.

"I am going to tell this story if I die for it," cried Shadow. "A
small man--remember that--met another man--remember that--with a big,
fierce bulldog--remember that. The small man was afraid, but he didn't
want to show it, so he said to the man with the bulldog: 'Is that dog
a valuable animal?' 'Yes,' says the other man. 'Well, don't let him
loose, then.' 'Why not?' 'Because I don't like dogs and I might hurt
him.' Now there's the story, and you've got to swallow it whether you
want to or not."

"Which puts me in mind of a song," said Luke Watson. "Sam, you know it,
and can join in," and he began, accompanying himself on the banjo:

  "I love him, I love him,
    He's down at the gate;
  He's waiting to meet me
    No matter how late.
  He loves me so truly,
    It fills me with joy
  To hug him and kiss him--
    My poodle dog, Floy!"

The song rang out clearly and sweetly, and when the verse was repeated
the others joined in. But then came a knock at the door, and Jim
Murphy, the big-hearted monitor, appeared.

"Hush! not so loud," he whispered, warningly. "Haskers is coming
upstairs." And then the monitor disappeared again.

"I know what that means," said Luke, and rising he put his banjo away
in a closet. "He stopped me before--he shan't have the chance to do it
again."

The boys had scarcely settled themselves when Job Haskers appeared
and gazed sharply around the dormitory. He found all the boys either
writing or studying.

"Who is making that noise up here?" he demanded.

To this there was no reply.

"If I hear any more of it I shall punish everybody in this room,"
added the assistant teacher, and went out again, closing the door
sharply after him.

"He's in an elegant humor to-night," was Phil's comment. "Must have
swallowed some tacks, or a cup of vinegar."

"He ought to be taken down a peg," said Shadow, who had not forgotten
how he had been kept in. "I wish we could do something like last term
when we got Farmer Cadmore's ram up in his room and----"

"That's it," cried Buster. "Only it won't do to try the same joke
twice. We'll have to think up something new. Polly, give us an idea."

He turned to Bertram Vane, who sat at a table, trying to write a
composition. Bertram was very girlish in appearance, hence the nickname.

"Please don't bother me now," pleaded Polly. "I want to finish this
composition."

"We want some idea to work off on Haskers. Open up your knowledge box,
Polly," came from Phil.

"Really I can't," returned the girlish student. "I am writing a
composition on Bats, and I want----"

"Baseball bats?" questioned Roger.

"No, no, living bats. Their habits are very interesting, and----"

"Polly has solved the question for us!" exclaimed Dave, and began to
grin. "Just the thing! Polly, have you written much yet?"

"No, I hadn't the chance, with so much talking going on."

"Then you had better change your subject, for I don't think Mr. Haskers
will want to read a composition on Bats to-morrow--not if the plan goes
through."

"What is the plan?" came eagerly from several of the others.

"I just happened to remember that one of the boys over at Lapham's farm
has a cage full of bats that he caught last week. He said he would sell
them for fifty cents. Perhaps Mr. Haskers would be pleased to have them
presented to him."

"Whoop! We'll get those bats!" shouted Phil.

"And put them in his room," added Shadow.

"And as we are modest we won't say where the gift came from," remarked
Sam.

The plan was approved by everybody, even Polly Vane smiling faintly.

"Bats are very curious creatures," he observed. "They fly in people's
hair, and they can make one very uncomfortable."

The crowd talked the matter over, and it was decided to get the bats at
once, if it could be done. As Dave knew the boy who had the creatures
he was commissioned to go after them, taking Shadow and Roger along.

It was still early, so the three lads had no difficulty in getting
out of the academy building. They did not, however, dare to ask for
permission to leave the grounds, and so stole across the campus to the
gymnasium building, back of which they vaulted the boxwood hedge. Close
at hand was a road leading through a patch of woods to the Lapham farm,
whither they were bound.

"We have got to watch out, when we are coming back," said the senator's
son, as they trudged along. "We don't want to get caught by Haskers, or
Dr. Clay either."

"When we return one of us can go ahead and see if the coast is clear,"
answered Dave. "It will be all right unless somebody has been playing
the spy on us."

"I didn't see anybody."

"Neither did I, but I believe they are going to enforce the rules more
strictly than ever this season."

It was a cool, clear night, with hundreds of stars twinkling in the
sky. They knew the road well, having traveled it many times before.
They left the woods behind, and then came out on a small hill, below
which was the farm for which they were bound.

"Perhaps the Laphams are in bed," said Shadow. "Some farmers go to bed
mighty early."

"I know it, especially when the days are short," answered Dave. "Well,
if the boy's asleep we'll have to wake him up. I guess he'll be glad
enough to sell the bats. He said his mother didn't want him to have
them around."

"I see a light in the house," said Roger, as they drew closer. "Have
they a dog?"

"No."

"Then we can go right up to the door and knock."

The three students entered the lane leading up to the farmhouse. They
saw a light flash up in one lower room and then appear in the next.
While they were gazing it suddenly disappeared, leaving the farmhouse
in total darkness.

"Evidently they are just going to bed," said Dave. "Hurry up, before
they get upstairs."

He broke into a swift walk and the others did the same. They were close
to the front porch of the house when they heard a shrill cry from
within:

"John! John! Wake up! There is somebody in the house!"



CHAPTER V

SOMETHING OF A MYSTERY


"Did you hear that?" asked the senator's son, as he and his companions
came to a halt on the porch of the farmhouse.

"I did, and there must be something wrong," answered Dave.

"Perhaps there are burglars around," said Shadow. "I must say, I don't
like this," he continued, nervously.

"There was a burglary in Oakdale night before last," said Dave. "I
heard Swingly the janitor telling about it."

All three now heard a commotion in the farmhouse. There was the
slamming of a back door, and then somebody came leaping down the inside
stairs.

"Where is he, Jane?" they heard in a man's voice.

"I don't know, but I heard the back door shut," answered a woman's
voice. "And I saw a light."

"I don't see anybody," went on the man of the house, and lit a match.
Soon he had a lamp in his hand, with which he went to the back door.

"Did you leave the wash-shed window open?" he called out.

"No," returned Mrs. Lapham. "I shut it tight."

"It's open wide,--and the back door is unlocked," went on her husband.

"Any thieves around, pop?" came in a boyish voice.

"Better git the gun," advised another boy, Bob Lapham, who had the bats
for sale.

The man went out in the yard, lamp in hand. As he did this, the three
students walked around to meet him.

"Hello, what do you want?" demanded John Lapham, halting and staring
at his unexpected visitors. "Were you in my house?" he continued,
suspiciously.

"No, sir, we just came up," answered Dave. "We want to buy those bats
your son has for sale."

"Did you see anybody around here--I mean going out just now?"

"No."

"We saw a light, in the parlor and the sitting room," said Roger. "It
went out just as we came up."

"Then my wife must be right. Somebody has been in the house. I must
take a look around."

The two Lapham boys now came out, and the whole crowd looked around the
farmhouse and the stable near by. Not a soul was in sight anywhere.

"Whoever he was, he has gotten away," said the farmer, soberly. "I hope
he didn't steal anything."

He and his sons were but partly dressed and they went in the house
again, followed by the students, who were curious to learn if anything
had been taken.

"I brought home a lot of stuff from my aunt's house yesterday,"
explained John Lapham. "She is breaking up housekeeping and gave us her
silverware and such. I had it all in the box yonder."

He set down the lamp and threw aside the cover of the box he had
pointed out. One look inside and he gave a groan.

"The silverware is gone!"

"All of it?" queried one of his sons.

"Yes, and the cut glass fruit dish is gone too!"

By this time Mrs. Lapham had dressed and now she came down. At the news
she burst into tears.

"Oh, John, you must get after those burglars!"

"Can there have been more than one?" asked Dave.

"I think I heard two men moving around, but I am not sure," said the
woman.

Another search was made by the students, while the farmer and his sons
hastily donned the rest of their clothing. Then John Lapham brought
forth a shotgun.

"I'm going to get that stuff back," said he, determinedly. "You say the
burglars didn't go out by the front road?"

"We didn't see anybody," answered Roger.

"Then they must have taken to the lane that leads down to the river."

"Let us go down and see, pop," said Bob Lapham, eagerly.

So it was agreed, and after a few words Dave and his chums went along.
For the time being the bats were forgotten.

"This may get us into a mess at the Hall," whispered Shadow, as they
hurried along. "In telling the news Mr. Lapham will be sure to mention
us."

"Well, that can't be helped, and we'll have to get out of it the best
we can," answered Dave. "It's our duty to help capture those burglars,
if it can be done."

The whole party walked down the lane leading to the river, which, at
this point, overflowed a portion of the Lapham meadow. The farmer had
brought along his barn lantern.

"I see something!" cried Dave, as a bright object caught his eye. But
it was only a battered tin can, which caused everybody to utter a short
laugh.

It did not take long to reach the water's edge. Here they saw where a
rowboat had been hauled up on the bank. In the mud and grass they made
out the footsteps of two men, but that was all.

"Have you had a boat up here in the last few days?" asked Dave of the
farmer.

"Ain't had a boat here in a month."

"Then this must have been the burglars' boat."

"I think so." John Lapham gave something of a sigh. "They got a good
start."

"Yes, and we don't know which way they went," added one of his sons.

"Have you any idea what the stuff that was stolen was worth?" asked the
senator's son.

"Fifty or sixty dollars, maybe more."

"I shouldn't think any professional burglars would bother to take
such a small amount," was Shadow's comment. "Maybe they are worthless
characters from around here."

"Like as not," answered the farmer. "Maybe the same rascals that robbed
Jerry Logan's house at Oakdale. They got about fifty dollars' worth
there too."

They looked out upon the river as best they could, but not a craft of
any kind was in sight, nor could they hear any sound of rowing. The
farmer drew a long sigh.

"I'm stumped," he declared.

"You'd better notify the authorities," suggested Roger.

"Won't do a bit o' good. The constable ain't worth his salt, and the
justice ain't no good either. If I want to find those burglars I've got
to do it myself."

"Have you a boat?"

"No, but I can get one in the morning, and I'll get some of the
neighbors to help me."

There seemed nothing more to do just then, and the whole party returned
to the farmhouse. Then Dave explained what he had come for to Bob
Lapham.

"All right, you can have the bats," said the farm boy. "They are in the
barn. But what do you want of them?"

"Oh, we were going to use them for something--but perhaps we won't
now," said Dave, and handed over the amount to be paid. Soon the bats
were brought forth, in a battered mocking-bird cage. They were a round
dozen in number.

"See here, Bob, don't say anything to anybody about our coming here,"
whispered Roger, slipping an extra quarter into the farm boy's hand.
"We are not supposed to be away from the Hall, you know."

"All right, I won't say anything."

"And keep your brother and your father quiet too,--if you can."

"I'll do my best. I don't know your names anyway."

"None of them?"

"No."

"Good enough. Now we are off. Good-night."

The boys were about to turn from the farmhouse when John Lapham called
them back.

"What do you want?" asked Dave, and a sudden strange sensation took
possession of him.

"I've been thinking that things look rather queer," went on the farmer,
pointedly.

"In what way?" demanded Shadow.

"How was it that you didn't knock on the front door when you first came
here?"

"We heard a noise and we listened to find out what it meant," answered
the senator's son.

"It seems mighty queer to me," said the farmer, doggedly.

"What do you mean, Mr. Lapham?" demanded Dave, his face beginning to
burn.

"It's queer you should come here this time of night just to get some
bats that ain't any good to nobody."

"Well, that is what we came for and nothing else."

"You're sure you don't know anything about that robbery?"

"Mr. Lapham, do you take us for thieves?" cried the senator's son,
hotly.

"I didn't say that; I said it was queer."

"You know we haven't the stolen stuff."

"And you are sure you don't know anything about those other chaps?"
mused the farmer.

"Not a thing," answered Dave. "All we saw was the light just before it
went out, and heard the noise."

"It is preposterous to think we would come here to take your
silverware," went on Roger, warmly.

"Oh, pop, they are all right," said Bob Lapham. "All the students at
Oak Hall are honest fellows."

"I don't know about that," was the grim answer. "They don't seem to be
honest when it comes to getting in our orchards."

"I have never been in your orchard," said Dave.

"Nor I," added Shadow.

"Nor I," affirmed the senator's son.

"Last season I had about half of my fruit stolen."

"Well, some of it was taken by the boys from the military academy, you
must remember," said Bob Lapham, who evidently wanted to help the Oak
Hall students all he could.

"Yes, I know that."

"We are totally innocent," asserted Shadow. "I don't see how you can
suspect us."

"What is your name?" demanded the farmer.

Shadow hesitated and then straightened up.

"I am not ashamed to tell you. It is Maurice Hamilton."

"And what is yours, young man?" went on John Lapham, turning to Dave.

"David Porter."

"And yours?"

"Roger Morr."

"Morr, eh? Do you belong around here?"

"No, sir, I come from near Hemson."

"Oh! Then you ain't related to Mr. Samuel Morr, of Bainridge?"

"I am. He is my uncle."

"Are you Senator Morr's son?"

"Yes, sir."

"Oh!" The farmer's face changed slightly. "Well, that makes a
difference. I know Mr. Samuel Morr quite well," he continued, but did
not add that Roger's uncle held his note for two hundred dollars, and
he wished the same renewed for three months. "Of course, if you are
Senator Morr's son it is all right, and I am sure you didn't have
anything to do with the robbery."



CHAPTER VI

JOB HASKERS'S BAD NIGHT


After that the farmer questioned the boys further concerning their
visit to his home and at last drew from the students their whole story.
When they acknowledged that they wanted to play a joke on Job Haskers
he smiled broadly.

"I know that man," he said. "He wanted to buy some apples and potatoes
here once, to ship to some of his folks, and he was so close and mean
about it, I wouldn't sell him anything. Go ahead and play your joke on
him, and I won't say anything about it."

"And you won't say anything about our visit here?" questioned Roger,
eagerly.

"Not a thing--unless, of course, it becomes absolutely necessary to do
so."

"You're a brick, Mr. Lapham," cried Dave, much relieved. "We'll do all
we can to help you catch those burglars."

"That we will," added Shadow.

"I am afraid we'll never catch them, boys. The constable here is no
good, and I don't know where to look for them," responded the farmer.

A few minutes later found the students on the return to Oak Hall, Dave
carrying the cage full of bats.

"That was a narrow escape," was Shadow's comment, as they hurried along
to make up for lost time. "I thought sure he'd report the matter to Dr.
Clay."

"To think we should run into a burglary!" declared the senator's son.

"I wonder if the same fellows robbed Mr. Lapham who committed the
robbery at Oakdale?"

"It is more than likely. I hope they catch the fellows."

It did not take the three youths long to reach the academy grounds.
Roger slipped in ahead and was gone five minutes.

"Hurry up--the coast is clear!" he whispered, on coming back. "The side
door is open and nobody on the stairs, so far as I could see."

They ran across the campus, Dave with the cage full of bats still in
his hand. They had almost reached the door when they heard it slam
shut. Then the key was turned and the bolt shot into place.

"We're locked out!" whispered Shadow, in consternation.

"Let us try the other doors," suggested Dave.

They did this, making the entire round of the school building. Every
door was shut and locked, even that to the kitchen addition being tight.

"Now we are in a pickle and no mistake," groaned the senator's son.

"I suppose the other fellows have gotten tired of waiting for us and
gone to bed," said Shadow. "We've been away an hour and a half longer
than we expected."

"One thing is certain, we must get into the Hall somehow," said Dave.
"We can't stay out here all night."

"Let us go around under one of our windows," said Roger.

They were soon under a window of Dormitory No. 12. It was open from the
top to admit the fresh air. All was dark in the school building and
they had only the starlight to guide them.

Gathering up a handful of pebbles, Dave threw them at the window and
Roger and Shadow followed suit. At first nobody paid attention to
this. Then the window was raised from the bottom and the head of Phil
appeared.

"Hello you!" he called softly. "Thought you were going to make a night
of it."

"We were delayed," answered Dave. "All the doors are locked. Can't you
open one for us?"

"I'll see."

Phil's head disappeared, and then Sam Day and Buster Beggs showed
themselves.

"Got the bats?" asked Sam.

"Yes."

"Where are they?"

"Here, in this cage."

"Good enough!"

The boys below waited fully five minutes after that. Then Phil appeared
once more.

"It's pretty risky to open a door," he announced. "Mr. Dale is below,
and so are Pop Swingly and one or two others. I think they are watching
for somebody."

"I hope they are not watching for us," returned Shadow, with a shiver.

"No, I think they are looking for some other fellows who went out."

"Here's a fishing line," said Sam. "You can send up the bats on that,
if you like. Then if you are caught, they won't find out what you were
after."

"A good idea," answered Dave, and tied the cage to the end of the line.
Soon the bats were hauled up to the dormitory and stowed away in a safe
place.

"I wish we could go up on the line too," said Shadow, wistfully.

"We can get a ladder from the barn and go up, if you say so," suggested
Roger. "Only, what will we do with the ladder afterwards?"

[Illustration: Dave began to mount the improvised rope.--_Page 51._]

"The ladder would expose us," said Dave. "I've got a plan. Take the bed
sheets and make a rope of them, and we'll haul ourselves up somehow."

The charm of this idea took instantly, and those in the dormitory set
to work to knot together five or six sheets without delay. Then one end
was held fast while the other was dropped to the ground.

"Will it hold?" questioned Roger. "We don't want to break our necks."

"I'll try it," said Dave, and began to mount the improvised rope hand
over hand, bracing his feet against the brick and stone building as he
did so. As the youth was a pretty good athlete he had small trouble in
gaining the top and hopping into the dormitory. Then Shadow came up,
followed by the senator's son, and the bed sheets were hauled back and
separated. The sheets were somewhat mussed from the strange usage, but
that was all.

The other boys wanted to know what had kept Dave and his companions so
long, but it was too late to relate the whole story.

"We can tell it in the morning," said the senator's son. "Just now let
us see how the land lies for getting the bats into old Haskers's room."

He and Dave tiptoed their way out into the hallway, which was dark
saving for a faint light near a bathroom door. Not a person was in
sight, but a faint murmur of voices came from a room below.

"I am afraid he will have his door locked," said Dave. "He learned his
lesson when he had the trouble with the ram."

But to their satisfaction they found the door to the assistant
teacher's bedroom unlocked. They listened and heard Job Haskers
breathing heavily.

"He is sound asleep," whispered Roger.

"Let us put the key on the outside first," answered Dave.

This was done, and then the two boys went back for the cage of bats.
The other students in the dormitory wanted to see the fun, and half a
dozen went out into the hallway. In order that they might not be seen
and recognized, the light was extinguished.

"I am going to loosen the bottom of the cage and then throw the whole
thing on Haskers's bed," said Dave. "Stand ready, somebody, to lock the
door."

"I'll do that," answered Phil.

With caution the door was opened for a little over a foot. Then
Dave loosened the bottom of the cage and shook the bats up. As they
fluttered around he threw cage and all directly on the teacher's bed.
Then the door was quickly closed and locked and the key thrown down
into the lower hallway.

For a moment there was silence. Then from Job Haskers's room there
arose a frightful shriek.

"Help! Get away! What is this? Oh, my eye! Get away, I say! Oh! oh!
Save me! I shall be killed! Get away!" And there followed a series of
yells and thumps and the overturning of a chair and a table.

"He is enjoying himself--I don't think!" cried Roger, with a chuckle.
"Oh, say, listen to that!"

"Back to the room, or we'll be discovered," warned Phil, and back they
ran with all speed.

But the strange commotion had aroused the whole Hall, and dormitory
doors were opened on all sides and students rushed out to see what was
the matter. Then Dr. Clay appeared, garbed in a dressing gown. Andrew
Dale, the first assistant teacher, ran up from below.

"What is the meaning of this unseemly noise?" thundered the good
doctor. "Make a light, somebody."

Several lights were lit. In the meantime the noise in Job Haskers's
room continued. The second assistant was having a hot fight with the
bats. The creatures banged him in the face, whizzed past his ears,
caught in his rather long hair, and practically scared him out of his
wits. He made wild passes at them with his hands, dancing around in
the meanwhile, and in his bewilderment brought down a steel engraving
covered with glass with a tremendous crash.

"Mr. Haskers must be going crazy!"

"Perhaps there is a burglar in his room!"

"Look out that you don't get shot!"

"I know what's the matter!" cried one fun-loving student. "He must have
the hydrophobia. He said a dog tried to bite him a couple of days ago."

"Oh, if he has gone mad I don't want him to bite me!" shrieked one of
the younger students.

"Better chain him up and pour water on him!"

"Mr. Haskers!" thundered the doctor, rattling the doorknob. "Mr.
Haskers! What is the matter? Open the door."

But the noise was so fearful that no attention was paid to the request.
Then came another crash, as the assistant teacher picked up a book, let
it fly at the bats, and sent a big pane of glass in the window into a
hundred pieces.

This was too much for Dr. Clay. Satisfied that something dreadful was
going on, he put his shoulder to the door and burst it open. As he did
this, something whizzed past his ear and made him dodge.

"Stop! Don't throw anything at me!" he called. "What in the world does
this mean?"

"I don't know what it means!" roared Job Haskers, who was so bewildered
he scarcely knew what he was saying. "Get out of here! Oh, my eye!
That's the third time I've been hit!" And he made another sweep at his
invisible enemy. Then, as Dr. Clay backed into the hallway, the teacher
followed him and ran down the corridor like one gone crazy.

By this time somebody was bringing a lantern, and Andrew Dale had
armed himself with a club. The doorway to Job Haskers's room had been
left wide open and the sounds within had suddenly ceased. With caution
Andrew Dale peered inside.

"I do not see anything out of the ordinary," he announced, looking
around with caution.

"Maybe the bats have cleared out!" whispered Roger to Dave.

"I hope they have. See, the window is open from the top, and the bottom
glass is broken out."

One after another, teachers and students crowded into the room. Phil
spied the battered bird cage resting near the foot of the bed, and, in
secret, passed it to Dave, who handed it to Sam. The latter was close
to the window, and threw the object out as far as he could. In the
meantime the excitement continued.

"I don't see anything."

"Better look for robbers!"

"Maybe somebody is in the closet."

The closet was searched, but nothing out of the ordinary was
discovered. The students in the secret looked for bats, but every one
of the creatures had taken its departure for parts unknown.



CHAPTER VII

A CHALLENGE ACCEPTED


"Mr. Haskers, I would like to have you explain this affair," said Dr.
Clay, after the excitement had died down.

"Have you--have you got them?" faltered the assistant teacher, who was
still much bewildered.

"Got what?"

"Why,--er--the--the things that were in my room."

"I can find nothing in your room, and neither can Mr. Dale."

"No--nothing? absolutely nothing, sir?"

"Not a thing out of the ordinary. Did you have a nightmare?" And the
worthy master of the Hall looked sternly at his assistant.

"I--er--I don't think I did. I woke up suddenly, sir, and something
flew by my head. Then something hit me in the face and got caught in my
hair, and after that I--er--I was hit half a dozen times."

"Ahem! This is certainly extraordinary. You are sure you weren't
dreaming?"

"I don't think I was, sir."

"Was your window open when you went to bed?"

"Yes, from the top."

"Perhaps a night bird flew in."

"There must have been half a dozen of them."

"Well, whatever it was, it is gone now. You had better go back to bed.
You can push the chiffonier against the broken-out window if you wish,
to keep out the cold air. Boys, I want you all to retire. We'll have
the window and the broken lock mended in the morning."

The doctor turned and waved the students away, and one after another
they departed for their dormitories. Then he followed Job Haskers into
the latter's bedroom. The door was closed and what was said was not
heard by the others.

"Well, that was certainly one on Job Haskers," chuckled Roger, as he
followed Dave to bed.

"And I doubt if he ever learns what was the real trouble," answered
Dave.

"By the way, I didn't see Gus Plum and Nat Poole," said Phil. "It is
queer they didn't come out of their room."

"Maybe they weren't in the building!" cried Sam. "Mr. Dale was watching
downstairs for somebody."

"I am not going to bother my head about it," announced the senator's
son, as he began to get ready to jump into bed, having disrobed in part
before playing the joke on the teacher. "The walk made me tired."

"I am tired, too, and sleepy," said Shadow.

"Ditto here," announced Dave.

All of the students had gone to their dormitories, and once more quiet
settled over the Hall. The light that had been lit was extinguished,
and one after another the boys hopped into bed and tucked the covers in
around them.

"Great hambones! What's this!" came, an instant later, from Phil, and
he began to wiggle from head to foot.

"Adam's tombstone, but this is fierce!" cried the senator's son and sat
bolt upright.

"I should say it was!" declared Dave, as he also thrashed around. "I
can't stand this. Who put something in my bed?"

"I didn't!" declared Buster.

"Nor I!" declared one after another of the occupants of the dormitory.

Once more the boys got up, and the light was again lit. It was soon
discovered that a mass of burdock burs had been placed in the beds of
Phil, Roger, and Dave. None of the other beds had been touched.

"This is an itchy joke and no mistake," said Dave, with a sickly grin.

"Puts me in mind of a story," began Shadow. "At a school----"

"No stories just now!" cried Dave. "I want to know who did this?"

"I saw some burdock burs yesterday," said Polly Vane. "Little Sammy
Bilderman had them."

"Yes, and he gave them to Nat Poole," declared Chip Macklin. "I saw him
do it."

"That explains it!" cried Dave.

"Explains what?" asked several of the others.

"Why Poole and Plum didn't show themselves while the racket was going
on in Haskers's room. They came in here and fixed us up."

"It must be so," said Phil, "for I know my bed was all right before."

Dave leaped noiselessly to the door and threw it open. Nobody was
outside, but he heard a door at a distance close softly.

"Somebody was out there. He just ran off," he declared.

"Come on," said Roger, and tiptoed his way into the semi-dark hall,
followed by Dave and Phil. They made their way to the door of the
dormitory in which Poole and Plum belonged. They heard a rustle and the
faint creaking of two beds.

"We've found them all right," whispered the senator's son. "The
question is, what shall we do in return?"

"Wait," advised Dave. "We've had enough for one night. Let us get to
bed."

The others were willing, and so they returned to their own room. The
burs were cleared away, and in a few minutes more all of the lads were
in the land of dreams.

In the morning, on entering the classroom, the students found Job
Haskers heavy-eyed and in anything but a pleasant humor. He called one
class after another to order in a sharp, jerky voice, and gave the
pupils demerit marks upon the slightest provocation. As a result Dave,
Phil, and eight other students suffered in their general average.

"How I wish Dr. Clay would get rid of him," sighed Phil.

"And get another teacher like Mr. Dale to take his place," said Dave.
All the boys loved Andrew Dale, who was as pleasant as he was capable.

It was not until two days later that Roger met Bob Lapham. The farm boy
said his father had heard nothing more of the burglars and the stolen
silverware, and had come to the conclusion that little could be done in
the matter.

"It is too bad," said the senator's son. "I do hope he gets his stuff
back some day."

Although Dave was out for fun and sport, it must not be thought that he
neglected his studies. As my old readers know, he was a youth who put
his whole heart and soul into whatever he was doing, and this applied
to his lessons as well as to everything else. In the past he had kept
close to the top of his class, and he was resolved to retain that
position or do still better.

"I came to learn something," he said, more than once. "I am not going
to neglect my lessons, no matter what is in the air."

"But you'll join our football team, won't you?" asked the senator's
son, who was looked upon as the leader in that sport by nearly all the
old football players.

"I will if you want me to, Roger. But you know I am not an extra good
player. Baseball is my game, not football."

"But we want you to play the position you took last year, when you made
that victorious run."

"Very well. What of the other fellows?"

"Ben will be quarter-back as before, and Phil a half-back, and Sam
right tackle. I haven't made up my mind about the others yet, although
I think I'll try Shadow for center and Buster for guard."

"What do you think of the team Gus Plum has organized?"

"Well, to tell the truth, Dave, I think some of his fellows play pretty
good football," answered Roger, in a low voice, so that no outsider
might hear him.

"Just what I think. Henshaw is a dandy quarter-back, and Babcock makes
a good, heavy tackle. We ought to have them on our team--if we are to
play Rockville."

"Well, I would ask them to join us, only if I do that, Plum will say I
am trying to steal his men from him."

The next morning came a surprise. Roger received a challenge from the
Arrows to play a game of football the very next Saturday afternoon. Nat
Poole delivered the paper, and his face had a superior smile on it as
he did so.

"Why, Poole, we are not in trim to play yet," said Roger. "We need more
practice."

"Afraid to play us, eh?" sneered the aristocratic youth. "I thought so."

"I am not afraid. Make it three weeks from now and I'll accept."

"No, you must play this week or not at all. If you won't play we'll
challenge the Rockville fellows."

With this declaration Nat Poole hurried away, leaving the senator's son
much worried. As Roger had said, his team needed practice. They were
all good players individually, but team work is what counts in a modern
game of football. He went to consult his friends.

"We can't do it," said Sam, shaking his head. "Why, some of us scarcely
know the new rules yet, much less our signals."

"We need at least two weeks of good, snappy practice," put in another
of the players. "None of us are hard enough yet."

"This is a plan to get us into a hole," declared Dave. "If we back out
Plum will challenge the Rockville boys and make out that his eleven
is the representative one from this school. It's just like one of his
dirty tricks."

The boys talked the matter over a good hour, and finally a vote was
taken.

"I say play," declared Dave. "Let us practise all we possibly can. If
we are beaten we can immediately send a challenge for another game on
the Saturday following."

So it was at last decided, although Roger, Phil, and Sam were still
doubtful. They declared it was taking a big risk and that if they lost
they would never hear the end of it.

In the meantime Gus Plum was laughing in his sleeve, as the popular
saying goes, feeling certain that Roger's eleven would not accept the
challenge. Three of the players who had formerly played on the team of
the senator's son had left Oak Hall, and that meant the substitution of
green hands from whom it was not known what to expect.

"They'll crawl out of it," declared Nat Poole, as he and the bully of
the Hall and a student named Jasniff talked it over. Jasniff was a
newcomer at Oak Hall, a fellow with a squint in one eye and a manner
that few of the boys cared to tolerate, although, strange to say, it
pleased Plum and Poole. Jasniff smoked, and played pool when he got the
chance, and so did they, and, in addition, the new student was fond of
drinking and horse races,--a poor sort of a companion for any youth who
wanted to make a man of himself.

"You've got them dead to rights," said Nick Jasniff. "They'll crawl,
see if they don't."

"I'll give them until Thursday to accept," said Gus Plum. "If they
don't, I'll send a challenge to Rockville on Friday."

"Will Rockville play us?" asked Poole. "They may put up some sort of a
kick."

"I'll let them know how matters stand," answered the bully of the Hall,
with a suggestive wink. "If Morr's crowd won't play us, then we are the
representative team of the Hall, aren't we?"

As the bully ceased speaking, Dave and Roger walked up to the three
other boys.

"Here's our answer to that challenge, Plum," said the senator's son,
and held out a paper.

"I presume you decline to play us," sneered the bully, as he took the
note.

"On the contrary we take pleasure in accepting the challenge," said
Dave.



CHAPTER VIII

THE RIVALS OF OAK HALL


For the moment after Dave made his announcement there was a dead
silence. The faces of Gus Plum and his associates showed their
disappointment.

"Going to play us, eh?" said the bully, slowly.

"You'll be beaten out of your boots," said Nat Poole, with a sneer.

"That remains to be seen," answered Roger. "We accept the challenge and
we are here to arrange all the details of the game."

A talk lasting nearly a quarter of an hour followed, in which they went
over such details as seemed necessary. Plainly Plum was ill at ease. He
wanted to chose an umpire, referee, and linesmen from outside of Oak
Hall, but the senator's son would not consent to this.

"I am satisfied to have Mr. Dale for umpire," he said. "And three of
our head students can act as referee and linesmen." And so at last it
was decided, but not without a great deal of grumbling.

"You won't win this time, Porter," remarked Nick Jasniff, as Dave and
Roger were leaving. "After this game you'll never be heard of again in
this school."

"'He laughs best who laughs last,'" quoted Dave, and walked away, arm
in arm with Roger. Jasniff stared after him and so did Plum and Poole.

"They really mean to play after all," muttered Poole. "I was dead sure
they'd decline."

"You never can tell what Porter will do," growled Gus Plum. "I'll wager
he got Morr to accept."

"Well, we've got to wax 'em good and hard," remarked Nick Jasniff. "And
we ought to be able to do that easily enough--with Henshaw and Babcock
on our side. Those two fellows play as if they belonged to some college
eleven."

"Yes, I hope great things from Henshaw and Babcock," answered the bully
of Oak Hall.

When Roger and Dave returned to the members of their own eleven they
were asked how Plum and his crowd had taken the acceptance of the
challenge. Then the coming game was discussed from every possible point
of view.

"Do you know, I'd almost rather beat Plum than some outside team,"
remarked Phil. "He deserves to be taken down."

"I don't like Nick Jasniff at all," said Dave, slowly. "In one way I
think he is a worse fellow than either Plum or Poole."

"He has a bad eye," said Sam. "It's an eye I don't trust."

"Which puts me in mind of a story," added Shadow. "Now don't stop me,
for this is brand-new----"

"Warranted?" queried Dave.

"Yes, warranted. Two Irishmen and a Dutchman got into an argument
and when they separated all three were in bad humor. The next day
one of the Irishmen met the other Irishman. 'Sure, Pat,' says he. 'I
don't loike that Dootchmon at all, at all.' 'Nayther do I,' answered
the other Irishman. 'He has a bad eye, so he has,' went on the first
Irishman. 'That's roight, he has--an' I gave him that same this very
marnin'!' says the other Irishman."

"Three cheers for the new joke!" cried Roger, and a general laugh arose.

"Well, I suppose all we can do is to start practice and keep it up
until the day for the match comes," said Dave, after the laughter had
subsided.

"That's it," answered the senator's son. "We'll do what we can this
very afternoon."

The boys went to their classroom with their heads full of the coming
football contest. Roger had already made up his eleven, largely from
the material of the season previous. But the boys who had gone from
Oak Hall left weak spots in the line which it was next to impossible to
fill.

Then came another set-back, which made Dave and the others gloomy
enough, and caused Gus Plum and his associates to smile grimly to
themselves. Instead of remaining clear, a cold, dismal rain set in that
very afternoon and kept up for two days. To practise on the football
field was out of the question, and all Roger's eleven could do was to
exercise in the gymnasium. Here there was always some one of Plum's
crowd to look on and see whatever was being tried in the way of a trick
or a new movement.

"I hope it rains Saturday, too," grumbled Phil. "We won't be able to
make any kind of a showing at this rate."

"It will be just our luck to have good weather Saturday," sighed Shadow.

Even Dave was disheartened, but he did not show it. Instead he did all
the practising he could in the gymnasium and helped Roger whip the
eleven into shape. As he had said, he did not care for football as much
as baseball, but he was resolved to do his best.

On Saturday morning all the boys were up early, to see what sort of
weather they were going to have. The sun was under a cloud, but by nine
o'clock it cleared up and a fine, warm wind from the south sprang up.

"That settles it, we have got to play," said Buster Beggs.

"Let us go out and practise as soon as we can," said the senator's son,
and called the eleven without delay.

Of course the match had been talked over throughout the school and even
outside. As a consequence, when the time came to play, a goodly crowd
had assembled on the football field. There was cheering for both sides
and the waving of a good many Oak Hall banners. In the small stand that
had been put up sat Dr. Clay and about twenty visitors.

"I don't see anything of Henshaw and Babcock," said Dave, looking over
the field. "They must be going to play."

"There they are, over in the corner, talking to Plum and Poole,"
answered Roger, pointing with his hand.

"They must be planning some new move," said Phil. "We'll have to watch
out for them."

Presently Babcock, a fine, sturdy player, came forward, followed by
Henshaw. Both were frowning, and when Babcock said something to his
companion Henshaw nodded vigorously. Plum and Poole came behind, and
neither appeared particularly happy.

The game was to be played under the rules of that year, with two
halves of thirty minutes each. When it came to the practice Roger's
team did what it could. The players were full of energy, but the team
work was not at all what it might have been.

"Want to tune up!" sang out one looker-on, to Roger. "Get together!"

"We are trying to," answered the senator's son.

Plum's eleven did much better in practice, working in perfect harmony.
Only Poole made fumbles, for which the bully of the Hall upbraided him
roundly.

"Oh, don't howl at me," growled Poole. "I am doing as well as you are."

At length the game was called and the two elevens lined up. They were
pretty well matched, although Henshaw and Babcock stood out above the
others.

"Wish that pair were on our side," sighed Roger. "Each of them has
weight, wind, and cleverness--just the things a good football player
ought to possess."

There was no time to say more. The toss-up gave Plum's eleven the ball
and a few minutes later it was put into play and sent twenty yards into
our friends' territory. Then came a scrimmage and the leather went back
and forth rapidly. The play was ragged, for neither side had as yet
settled down to hard work. There was no brilliant play, and when the
ball was carried over the line by Henshaw the applause was rather tame.

"An easy touchdown!"

"Now make it a goal."

This was not so easy, for the wind had freshened. The ball sailed
outside of the posts, so that the Arrows received but five points.

Again the ball was put into play and now the work on both sides became
more earnest. Several of Gus Plum's players became rough and Plum
himself tried to "spike" Dave with his shoe. Dave gave the bully a
shove that sent him headlong.

"A foul! Time!" was the cry.

"He tried to spike me!" cried Dave, hotly.

"I didn't!" roared the bully.

"He did--I saw it!" put in Roger.

"Have you spikes in your shoes?" demanded the umpire.

"No," muttered Gus Plum, but his face grew red.

The umpire made him show the bottoms of his shoes. Each had a small
spike in it--something quite contrary to the rules, as all football
players know.

"Change your shoes at once, or get out of the game," was the decision
rendered, and Gus Plum ran off the field with a redder face than ever.

The first half of the game closed with the score 12 to 0 in favor of
Gus Plum's eleven. A safety for Roger's team had been made by Dave,
who saw it was the only thing to do when crowded by Babcock, Henshaw,
and two others. The second touchdown made by the Arrows came through
Babcock aided by several others.

"We could whip them if it wasn't for Babcock and Henshaw," said Luke
Watson. "Those two chaps are dandy players and no mistake."

During the intermission it was seen that Gus Plum was having another
lively interview with Babcock and Henshaw. But the two expert players
would not listen to the bully of Oak Hall.

"Something is wrong in their camp, that's certain," was Phil's comment.

"Look here, if you say anything, I'll put you off the team!" cried Gus
Plum, to Babcock and Henshaw, so loudly that many standing around could
hear him.

"All right, put me off if you wish," answered Babcock sharply.

"I'll never play with you again anyway!" added Henshaw. "I've done my
best to-day, but this ends it, if I never play again as long as I stay
at Oak Hall."

"You're out of it, both of you!" roared Gus Plum, in a sudden rage.
"Dawson, take Henshaw's place, and Potter, you take Babcock's place.
I'll show you that I can run a team to suit myself."

"Very well," said Babcock, and turning on his heel he left the field.
Henshaw, without saying a word, followed his friend.

All who witnessed the scene were curious to know what it meant, but
none of the other Arrow players would explain. Soon it was time for the
second half of the game. Two of Roger's players had been slightly hurt,
and their places were filled by two substitutes, which weakened the
eleven still more.

"Henshaw and Babcock are out of it!" cried Phil, to Roger and Dave.

"That gives us a better chance to win," said the senator's son.

"If it isn't too late," returned Sam Day; "12 to 0 is a pretty hard
lead to overcome."

"We'll do our best," said Dave. "Let every man go in for all he is
worth!"

The play was fast and furious from the very start, and inside of two
minutes Roger's players had the leather close to the Arrows' goal
line. But then Nick Jasniff with extreme roughness hurled Sam Day to
the ground. Jasniff was off-side at the time and his movements were
consequently contrary to the rules.

"You may retire from the field," said the referee, after he and the
umpire had talked the matter over.

Poor Sam was in bad shape when picked up and carried from the field,
but fortunately he recovered inside of an hour. In the meantime another
player was put in his place and another in the place of Jasniff and the
game went on.



CHAPTER IX

THE END OF THE GAME


"A touchdown for the Morr team!"

"That's the way to do it!"

"Now make it a goal!"

The leather had been carried over the line after hard work. Without
delay it was placed in position for the kick and went sailing directly
between the two posts.

"That's the talk!"

"Now go and make another!"

There were still eighteen minutes in which to play. The goal made
Roger, Dave, and the others enthusiastic, and they "sailed in" as never
before. On the other hand, the loss of Babcock, Henshaw, and Jasniff
cast a gloom over Gus Plum's eleven and the bully could do little to
rally them.

"It was a mistake to fire Babcock and Henshaw," said one of the
tackles. "They were our best players."

"That's right," added the center rush.

"Do you mean to say they can play better than I and Nat?" demanded Gus
Plum.

"They can play just as well," grumbled the tackle.

"Rot! Come on ahead and wax 'em!"

But the call to "wax" Roger's team was of small avail. With Babcock
and Henshaw gone the Arrows could do little or nothing, and soon Dave
kicked a goal from the field. Then came another touchdown, another
goal from the field, and two more touchdowns. Each of the touchdowns
resulted in goal kicks. The Arrows were in despair and could do
absolutely nothing.

"Pile it on!" cried Roger, enthusiastically. "Pile it on, boys!" And
they did pile it on, until the whistle blew and the game was over.

Final score--Plum's eleven 12, Roger Morr's eleven 45!

It was a terrible defeat for the bully of Oak Hall and he could
scarcely wait for the game to come to an end. He fairly ran for the
gymnasium when it was over and did his best to keep out of sight for
the rest of the day and all day Sunday, and Nat Poole went with him.

The cheering for Roger and his eleven was great, and all the players
came in for their full share of glory. Dave had done some remarkably
clever work, for which his friends shook his hand and congratulated him.

"Well, you gave Gus Plum's crowd all that was coming to them," said one
of the students to Dave. "I don't think he'll ever organize another
football eleven in this academy."

What this student said was practically true. During the following
week the Arrows held several stormy sessions and the upshot was that
the eleven disbanded. Nearly all the players were angry because Gus
Plum had put Henshaw and Babcock out of the game, for to this they
attributed their defeat. It leaked out that Plum had wanted the two
players to play some rough trick on Roger's eleven, and both Babcock
and Henshaw had declined, stating that it was against the rules and
unsportsmanlike. This had angered the bully, and hence the quarrel and
separation.

"I want to play fairly and squarely or not at all," said Babcock, and
Henshaw said practically the same thing. Gus Plum denied the report,
but nobody believed him.

During the following week Dave was taking a walk along the river bank
when he heard loud talking close at hand. Looking through the bushes he
saw Sam Day and Nick Jasniff.

"You had no business to jump on me as you did at the game," Sam was
saying. "It was outrageous."

"Oh, stop your yowling," grumbled Jasniff. "It wasn't done on purpose."

"It was done on purpose, Nick Jasniff, and I think you were a brute to
do it."

Sam had scarcely uttered the latter words when Nick Jasniff, who
carried a heavy stick in his hand, leaped forward and struck out. The
stick landed on Sam's head and he went down in a heap.

"Don't!" he groaned. "Don't hit me again!"

"Won't I, though!" cried Nick Jasniff, in a passion. "I'd like to know
what's to hinder me?" And he raised the stick again.

"Stop, Jasniff!" came from Dave, and leaping through the bushes he came
up behind the student and caught the stick in his hand. "What do you
mean by attacking Sam in this fashion?"

"Let go of that stick!" ejaculated Jasniff, and tried to pull it away.
Then a tussle ensued which came to an end as Dave twisted the stick
from the other youth's grasp and flung it into the river.

"What do you mean by throwing my cane away?" cried Jasniff.

"I want you to leave Sam alone."

"I've a good mind to give you a drubbing."

"Better not try it, Jasniff," answered Dave, as calmly as he could. He
stood on guard against any treachery.

"Think you're the king of the school, don't you?"

"No, but I am always ready to stand up for a friend."

By this time Sam was staggering to his feet. He rushed at Nick Jasniff
and sent him backward into the bushes.

"You will hit me with your stick!" he exclaimed. "Thank you, Dave, for
what you did, but I can take my own part." And he stood over Jasniff
with clenched fists.

"Two to one, eh?" sneered Jasniff, as he got up slowly. "That's
fighting fair, ain't it?"

"It is fairer than hitting a fellow with a stick," retorted Sam. "But I
can fight you alone, if you want to fight."

"I'll not soil my hands on you further," grumbled Nick Jasniff, and
backing away, he walked off towards the school at a rapid pace.

"The coward!" murmured Sam, as he and Dave watched the departure.

"Do you know, Sam, I don't like that fellow at all," said Dave. "I've
said so before. He's a bad egg if ever there was one."

"I believe you. Cadfield told me that there was a report in the town
Jasniff came from that he had once set fire to a farmer's barn because
the farmer caught him stealing peaches, but the whole matter was hushed
up."

"He doesn't appear to be any too good to set fire to a barn. We'll have
to keep our eyes open for him after this."

"I certainly shall. I don't want to be struck down with a stick again,"
answered Sam.

With the brisk autumn winds blowing, kite-flying was in favor with many
of the students of Oak Hall and numerous were the big and little kites
that were sent up. Some were curiously painted, some were of the box
variety, while others were in the shape of eagles and other big birds.
Most of the kites were raised from a meadow near the river, and every
afternoon a crowd of students would go down to watch the sport.

Roger made for himself an immense eagle kite, while Phil tried his hand
at a plain affair, shaped like a diamond and eight feet high and five
feet across.

"That ought to be strong enough to pull a wagon," was Dave's comment,
as he surveyed Phil's creation. "You'll have to get a pretty strong
cord to hold it, otherwise it may drag you into the river--if the wind
happens to be blowing that way."

One afternoon a number of the boys brought out their flat kites and
started to see who could make his fly the highest. Among the crowd was
Nat Poole, who had a gorgeous affair painted yellow and red.

"Wait till you see this soar upward," he said, boastfully. "I'll bet it
will go up a hundred feet higher than any other."

Half a dozen kites were already in the air and soon more were raised.
Then Poole ran his new kite up. It arose a distance of a hundred feet
and then began to dart from side to side.

"You want more tail, Nat!" cried a friend.

"That kite isn't balanced right," said Ben.

"Oh, it's all right, only it isn't high enough," answered Nat Poole. He
was not one to take advice, and so he did his best to get the kite to
ascend without altering it.

Among those in the meadow at the time was Job Haskers. He was going on
a visit to some ladies who lived not far from the Hall and was taking
a short cut instead of journeying around by the regular road. He did
not care for sports of any kind and so paid small attention to what was
taking place. He was arrayed in his best, and on his head rested a new
high hat, the silk nap polished to the best degree.

Dave was aiding Phil to manage his big kite and so did not notice the
assistant teacher until Job Haskers passed close by.

"My! but he is dressed up!" Dave remarked to his chum.

"Must be going to see his best lady friend," was Phil's comment. "Oh,
look at Nat Poole's kite!" he added, suddenly.

Dave looked and saw the kite in question far up in the sky and swooping
wildly from side to side. Then the kite made a downward plunge,
skimming over the meadow like a wild bird.

"Look out, or somebody will get hit!" cried Dave, and fell down as the
kite passed within a foot of his head. Then the kite went up again,
only to take another plunge.

As this was occurring, Job Haskers was starting to leap over a small
brook that flowed across the meadow into the river. Another wild
plunge, and down came Poole's kite on the teacher's head, smashing the
silk hat flat and sending Job Haskers face first into the stream of
muddy water!

The score of boys who witnessed the mishap could not help but laugh,
and a roar went up. The teacher floundered around wildly and it was
several seconds before he could pull himself from the brook. His face
and the front of his clothing were covered with mud, and he was more
angry than words can describe.

"You--you----Who did that?" he spluttered, after ejecting some of the
dirty water from his mouth. "I demand to know who did it!" And he shook
his fist at the students.

"The kite did it," answered one boy, who stood behind some others.

"Whose kite was it?"

At this there was a silence, no one caring to tell upon Nat Poole, who
stood with the kite string still in his hand and his mouth wide open in
amazement and terror.

"I say, whose kite was it?" bawled the irate teacher, and then, as he
rubbed the water from his eyes, he caught sight of the kite and the
string. "Ha! so it was yours, Master Poole!"

"I--er--I didn't mean to do it," stammered Nat Poole. "The--the kite
came down all of a sudden."

"Infamous! Look at me! Look at my hat!" Job Haskers caught up the
battered tile. "This is an outrage!"

"Really, I didn't mean to do it, Mr. Haskers," pleaded Poole. He was
fairly shaking in his shoes. "The--the kite got the best of me!"

"A likely story! You boys are forever trying to play your tricks on me!
I know you! You'll pay for this silk hat!"

"Yes, sir, I'll do that," answered Nat, eagerly.

"And you'll pay for having this suit of clothes cleaned."

"Yes, sir."

"And you'll pay all other damages, too."

"Yes, sir."

"And you'll go to your classroom and stay there until supper time,"
went on Job Haskers, in high anger. "Stay there every day this week,
too. Do you hear?"

"Yes, sir, but----"

"I will not listen to a word, young man. Go,--go at once! If I had my
way I'd dismiss you from the school!" roared the assistant teacher.

And then and there he made Nat Poole take up his kite and march off to
the academy, there to stay in after school every day for a full week.
More than this, he brought in a bill for fifteen dollars' worth of
damage, to the silk hat and the suit of clothing, and this bill Aaron
Poole had to pay, even though the miserly money-lender did his best to
evade it.



CHAPTER X

ALL ON ACCOUNT OF A KITE


"That's the time Poole caught it," remarked Phil, after the excitement
had come to an end.

"That's right," answered Dave. "I am glad it was not your kite, Phil."

"So am I."

"In one way, it was Nat's own fault," said Roger, who was near. "Half a
dozen told him to balance the kite better, but he wouldn't listen."

Down on the river some of the students had attached their kites to
boats and were having races. But soon the wind changed and the kites
veered around to another point of the compass and the races had to be
abandoned.

Phil's kite was well up and it was all he and Dave could do to manage
it. Roger and Ben grew somewhat tired of the sport presently and
brought down their kite and wound up the string. Then Phil and Dave
began to lower the big kite.

"The wind is freshening," observed Dave. "Gracious! how this big kite
does tug!"

He could scarcely hold it as Phil wound up the cord. Then came another
blast of air and Dave fell backward with the broken string in his
hand, while the big kite went soaring away in the direction of Oakdale.

"There goes the kite!"

"Stop it! stop it!" yelled Phil, forgetting himself in his excitement.

"How?" asked Dave, dryly, as he arose from the grass.

"I don't want to lose that fine kite," went on Phil, soberly. "Why, it
cost me over three dollars to make it. It was part silk!"

"Let us go after it," said Dave. "I don't think it will sail so very
far."

Roger's kite was placed in the care of Buster Beggs and Shadow
Hamilton, and off went the senator's son, Dave, and Phil after the
runaway kite. The course was almost straight for Oakdale and presently
they saw the silken affair settle in the direction of Mike Marcy's
orchard.

"It is going down at Marcy's!" cried Roger.

"I hope it doesn't get torn in the trees," returned Phil, who was
doubly proud of the kite because he had made it alone and by his own
plan.

"Maybe Marcy won't give it to us," said Dave. "Remember, he doesn't
like us students."

"Yes, and remember, too, that he keeps dogs," added Roger.

Mike Marcy was an Irish-American farmer who had lived in that section
for many years. He was what is termed a "close-fisted man," and one
who had but little to do with the outside world. He was supposed to be
rich, although he usually put on an air of poverty whenever anybody
called upon him. His farm was of fair size, and contained a good stone
house, a barn, and several other out-buildings. He had a big orchard,
and to keep off thieves kept half a dozen dogs, all of them more or
less savage creatures.

The three students approached the orchard from the rear and after
looking around located the silken kite in the limbs of an apple tree.
The tree was bare of fruit, but close at hand were other trees loaded
with golden russets.

"Wonder if we can get that kite without being seen," mused Phil, as he
gazed longingly at his property, dangling downward by its gorgeous tail
of fancy ribbons.

"I don't see anybody around," answered Dave. "And I don't hear any of
his dogs either."

"You want to go slow," cautioned the senator's son. "He may be around,
watching us on the sly."

"Perhaps we had better go around to the road and ask for the kite,"
said Dave.

"No, he won't give it to us," answered Phil. "He is too mean--I know
him. I'd rather try to get it on the sly."

The wind was still blowing and it was growing dark. They took another
careful look around and then leaped the fence of the orchard. Soon
they were at the tree from which the kite dangled, and Phil climbed up.

"Catch it!" he called, as he loosened the tail, but just then the wind
caught the kite and carried it to the other side of the orchard.

"There it goes!" cried Dave, and made a run after the object. The
others followed, and presently they had the kite in their possession.
In running through the orchard Dave caught his foot on a tree root and
fell headlong but did not hurt himself.

With the kite in their possession the three students left the orchard
as quickly as they had entered it. It was now so late that they were
afraid they could not get back to Oak Hall in time for supper and so
set off at a brisk pace. But suddenly Dave came to a stop.

"I declare, my watch is gone!" he cried.

"Your watch!" asked his chums, in concert.

"Yes, I must have dropped it when I stumbled in the orchard."

"Oh, Dave, that's too bad!" cried Roger.

"I'll have to go back for it," went on Dave. "It's the new watch my
uncle gave me."

"Shall we go back with you?" asked Phil.

"No, there is no use of all three of us being late. You can tell Mr.
Dale I lost my watch and stopped to hunt for it."

In another moment Dave had turned back and Phil and the senator's son
continued on their way to Oak Hall. Dave started on a run, and it did
not take him long to reach the orchard once more. Down under the trees
it was very dark and he had to feel around for the watch. But he had
dropped it just where he thought, and soon had it in his possession
again.

"Now I had better hump myself and get back," he murmured, and started
for the fence once more. Scarcely had he gone four steps when a form
loomed up before him and he found himself in the strong clutch of Mike
Marcy.

"Caught ye, have I?" said the farmer, in a cold, hard voice.

"How do you do, Mr. Marcy," replied Dave, as coolly as he could.

"How do ye do, is it?" roared the farmer. "I'll fix ye, ye villain!"
And he started to shake Dave with great violence. He was a strong man
and one given to sudden passion.

"Stop!" cried the youth, trying to squirm away. "Stop! What are you
doing this for? I have done nothing wrong."

"Then stealin' apples ain't wrong, eh? And stonin' my dogs ain't wrong,
eh? And stealin' a chicken, eh?"

"I am not stealing apples, and the only time I stoned one of your
dogs was when he ran after me as I was passing on the road. I didn't
propose to be bitten."

"Don't tell me, ye young vagabond! I know you boys--a pretty crowd ye
be, all o' ye! I'll have the law on ye!" And once again Mike Marcy
shook poor Dave.

"What is it, Mike?" came from out of the gloom, and a woman appeared.
She was the farmer's wife and as hard-hearted as her husband.

"I've got one o' them schoolboys," answered the man. "Caught him
prowlin' around the orchard."

"See here, I have done no wrong, I tell you, and I want you to treat me
decently," said Dave. "We came over awhile ago for a kite, that sailed
into one of your trees. After we got the kite I discovered that I had
lost my watch and I came back for it."

"A fine story indade," muttered Mike Marcy. "But it's not me that is
going to believe that same. I've caught ye and I am going to make an
example of ye!"

"Yes, Mike, don't let him go," put in Mrs. Marcy.

"You haven't any right to detain me," said Dave. "I have told you the
exact truth."

"I don't believe it, and until ye can prove the tale ye'll stay here."

With this Mike Marcy took a firmer hold of Dave's collar than ever and
began to drag him through the orchard towards the farmhouse.

Dave struggled, but the strong farmer was too much for him and he was
compelled to go along. The farmer's wife came behind the pair, armed
with a mop she had picked up at the back door.

"What are you going to do with me?" asked the youth, after a minute of
silence.

"Ye'll soon see," answered the farmer.

They soon reached the barnyard attached to the farm. Here, to one
side, was a smokehouse, built of stone, with a heavy door of wood and
sheet-iron. The small building was open and empty.

"I'll put ye in there for a while and see how ye like it," said Mike
Marcy, and shoved Dave towards the smokehouse.

"See here, Mr. Marcy, you are not treating me fairly. You have no right
to make me a prisoner."

"Sure and I'll take the right. I have suffered enough and I'm going to
teach somebody a lesson," answered the farmer, grimly.

"When Dr. Clay hears of this he'll make trouble for you."

"Will he? Not much, I'm after thinkin'. Ye had no right to be
trespassin' on my land. The signs are up, and I take it ye can read."

"I simply came over to get something that belonged to me."

"Well, ye'll stay here for a while, an' that is all there is to it,"
returned Mike Marcy, and without further ceremony he thrust Dave into
the smokehouse. The youth began to struggle but could not get away, and
once inside, the door was banged shut in his face. Then the bolt was
secured with a stout iron pin, and he found himself a prisoner in pitch
darkness.

"I'll be back sooner or later," cried Mike Marcy, in a satisfied tone.
"So make yourself comfortable, me laddibuck!" And then he walked away,
followed by his wife, and Dave was left to himself.

It was a galling position to be in and Dave resented it thoroughly. Yet
what to do he did not know. He could not see a thing and on all sides
of him were the thick stone walls of the building, the only break being
the iron-covered door, which was practically as solid as the walls
themselves. Under his feet the ground was as hard as stone. Everything
was covered with a thick soot, so that he scarcely dared to put out a
hand for fear of becoming like a negro.

"Here's a fine mess truly!" he murmured to himself, after several
minutes had passed.

He listened, but not a sound broke the stillness. He wondered how it
happened that Mike Marcy's dogs were not around, not knowing that the
farmer had lost one through a peculiar sickness and had taken the
others away to a dog doctor for special treatment.

A quarter of an hour passed. The time was unusually long to Dave,
and now, at the risk of getting black, he began to feel around the
smokehouse, looking for some means of escaping from his prison. From
over his head dangled an iron chain, used for smoking purposes, and he
climbed this, reaching a crossbar above. From the crossbar he could
touch the roof, which proved to be of heavy planking, well joined
together.

"If I could only knock off one of those planks I might get out," he
reasoned, and began to feel of one plank after another, trying to
determine which would offer the least resistance to his efforts.

Dave had just discovered a plank which seemed to be a little looser
than the others when a sound outside broke upon his ears. Thinking
that Mike Marcy was coming back, he dropped to the flooring of the
smokehouse.

The sounds came closer and presently he heard two persons come to a
halt close to the smokehouse door. By their voices they were evidently
men, but neither was the owner of the place.

Wondering what this new arrival meant Dave remained quiet and listened
intently. For several seconds he could not make out what was being
said. Then he heard words which filled him with astonishment and alarm.



CHAPTER XI

AT THE WIDOW FAIRCHILD'S HOUSE


"Are you dead certain the money is in the house?" were the first words
that Dave heard distinctly. They came in rather a hoarse voice.

"Yes, I saw Mrs. Fairchild draw the money from the bank. She put it in
a black bag and started straight for her home." The reply came in a
voice that was also hoarse, almost guttural.

"It would certainly be a dandy haul."

"Just what I've said all along."

"But the risk. If that hired man sleeps in the house----"

"I don't think he does. The widow don't like men folks around. I heard
that from one of the neighbors, the day I went to price some chickens."

"Well, we might go over to her place and take a look around," came
after a pause, and then followed some conversation that Dave could not
catch. A few minutes later the two men walked away, and the youth heard
no more of them.

Dave was amazed and with good reason. If he understood the situation
at all the two men intended to rob the house of a widow who lived about
half a mile up the road. They had seen her draw some money from a bank
somewhere and intended to take the amount from her.

"They must be the very chaps who robbed Mr. Lapham and also the place
in Oakdale," he thought. "I must get out and do what I can to outwit
them!"

In feverish haste he climbed the chain again and pushed on the plank of
the roof. By hard work he managed to loosen one end, but the other end
seemed to be tight and refused to budge.

"If I only had something to pry it off with," he mused, but could find
nothing. Then, almost in desperation, he dropped to the ground again
and began to pound on the door, at the same time shouting at the top of
his lungs.

For a good five minutes this brought forth no response, but presently
Mike Marcy came forth from the farmhouse, lantern in hand, and stalked
over to his barn. When he came out he carried a long rawhide whip in
his hand.

"Say, boy, quit that noise, or I'll tan ye well!" he cried, wrathfully,
as he came up to the smokehouse and set the lantern on the ground.

"Mr. Marcy, is that you?" queried Dave, quickly.

"Yes, 'tis, and I want ye to stop that racket."

"Let me out at once--it is very important," went on Dave.

"Important, is it?" sneered the Irish-American farmer. "'Tis more
important ye stop that noise, so it is!"

"Mr. Marcy, listen to me," said Dave. "I have something very important
to tell you. If you won't listen there will be big trouble. You must
let me out, and both of us must catch two burglars."

"Sure, and what is the lad talkin' about?" exclaimed the farmer.

"I am telling you the truth. Let me out instantly."

"'Tis a trick, I'm after thinkin'----"

"No, sir, I give you my word of honor it is not. Let me out and I will
explain. Please hurry up."

Dave's earnestness at last impressed the farmer to the extent that he
opened the door cautiously for the space of a foot. As the youth came
forth the man caught him by the arm.

"Now don't try to run, or 'twill be the worse for ye!"

"Mr. Marcy, listen!" cried Dave. "Only a short while ago two men were
here. They stopped close to the smokehouse to talk. They spoke of the
Widow Fairchild having money in her house which she had just gotten
from the bank. They talked of robbing her, and they went off to do the
job."

The farmer listened and his jaw dropped slightly.

"Is it a fairy story ye are after tellin'?"

"No, sir, it is the absolute truth. I think they were the same chaps
who robbed Mr. Lapham and robbed that house in Oakdale. They seem to be
doing their best to loot this whole neighborhood."

"They were here?" faltered Mike Marcy. At last he began to believe Dave.

"Yes, sir, not over quarter of an hour ago."

"Did they speak of robbing my place?" went on the Irish-American farmer
suspiciously.

"No, sir, I am sure they started directly for Mrs. Fairchild's place."

"And ye want me to go with ye and catch them?"

"Isn't it our duty to catch them if we can?"

"Sure. But can we do it alone?"

"We can call up somebody else on the way."

"So we can. Well, I'll go--but first I'll take a look around my own
place," added Mike Marcy.

He took his lantern and walked around the house and then told his wife
of Dave's discovery. Mrs. Marcy began to tremble as she listened, and
she shook her head when her husband said he proposed to go after the
robbers.

"It is not meself is going to stay here all alone, wid robbers floatin'
around in the dark," said Mrs. Marcy. "Let the boy call up the
constable, or somebody else."

"It will take too long," said Dave, impatiently. "Even now it may be
too late."

"Ye'll be safe enough with the doors and windows locked," said Mike
Marcy. "Ye can use the shotgun if they come back. I'll take the
pistol."

He was a man used to having his own way, and soon he set off with his
pistol in his pocket and a good-sized club in his hand. Dave armed
himself with another club, and set a good stiff pace, once they were on
the road.

"We can stop at Brown's house and call him up," said Mike Marcy. He
referred to Farmer Brown, who occupied a house directly on the road
they were traveling. Reaching the place they knocked loudly on the door
and presently the owner stuck his head out of an upper window.

"What's wanted?"

"Come down here," shouted Mike Marcy. "We want ye to help capture two
robbers."

"Two robbers?" said Farmer Brown.

"Mercy sakes alive!" burst out the farmer's wife. "Are robbers around?
We'll all be murdered in our beds!"

"They ain't here--they be over to the Widow Fairchild's," answered
Mike Marcy. "Come on. Is Bill around?"

"Yes, here I am," said the farmer's son, from another window. "I'll be
down in a minit, with my gun."

There was a short argument after this, but in the end Farmer Brown and
his son Bill, a tall, wiry youth of nineteen, agreed to accompany Mike
Marcy and Dave. Mrs. Fairchild's home was less than a quarter of a mile
away, and to cut off a bend of the highway they took to an open field
which came to an end at the edge of the widow's orchard.

"There is the house," whispered Mike Marcy, at last. "Better go slow
now."

"Yes, we don't want them to get away," answered Dave.

"Let us spread out around the house," advised Farmer Brown. "The first
one to spot the rascals can give the alarm."

So it was agreed, and while Dave went to the rear of the dwelling the
others passed to the front and sides. The place was pitch dark on the
inside and lit up only by the light of the stars from without.

Dave's heart was beating rather rapidly, for there was no telling
when he would find himself face to face with the two robbers, and he
realized that they must be desperate characters. He clutched the club
tightly, resolved to do his best, should it come to a hand-to-hand
encounter.

Several minutes passed and slowly the four outside walked completely
around the building. Only one window was open, that to the dining room.

"See anybody?" whispered Mike Marcy, coming up to Dave.

"No."

"Sure ye didn't make any mistake?"

"I didn't see a soul. Maybe they haven't come up yet."

"That is so."

"We can wait a while and see," suggested Bill Brown. "If we wake the
widder we may scare 'em off."

They waited after that for another spell, but nobody appeared, nor did
they hear any sound out of the ordinary. Then it was resolved to arouse
Mrs. Fairchild and wait in the house for the coming of the robbers.

"That is, if they are coming," said Farmer Brown. "Maybe the boy made a
mistake."

"I am certain I made no mistake," answered Dave, positively. "But they
may have changed their plans."

"Humph!" muttered Mike Marcy. "If it's a trick--But we'll talk that
over later."

The door had an old-fashioned knocker, and this Farmer Brown used
lightly at first and then with vigor. To the surprise of all in the
party nobody answered the summons.

"The widder must be away!" cried Farmer Brown. "Funny,--she was home at
sundown. Where would she go after dark?"

"Perhaps she's been murdered," suggested Bill.

"Murdered!" exclaimed the others, and Dave's blood seemed to run cold.

"A regular robber wouldn't stop at murder, if he was caught in the
act," said the farmer.

"Maybe we ought to break in the door."

"Or git in through the window," suggested Mike Marcy.

While they were deliberating they heard the sounds of carriage wheels
on the road. The turnout was coming along at smart speed and all ran
towards the road to see who was driving. To their surprise they saw the
Widow Fairchild alight, followed by a farmer named Burr and a hired man
called Sandy.

"How do ye do, widder!" called out Farmer Brown. "Been away long?"

"Why, what does this mean?" stammered Mrs. Fairchild, who was a woman
of forty and weighed at least two hundred pounds. She often went out to
do nursing throughout the Oakdale district.

"We came here lookin' fer robbers," explained Mike Marcy. "We thought
they was comin' to visit you."

"By gum!" came from the farmer named Burr. "Reckon you are right, Mrs.
Fairchild."

"Right? How?" asked Dave, quickly.

"I'll tell you," answered the widow. "About an hour ago somebody
knocked on the door. I opened the window upstairs and asked what was
wanted. A man was there muffled up in an overcoat. Says he, 'Is that
you, Mrs. Fairchild?' 'Yes,' says I. 'Well,' says he, 'you're wanted
over to Mrs. Burr's house right away. The baby is dying. I've got to
go for a doctor,' says he, and runs away. I didn't hardly know what
to do, but I hurried into my clothes and locked up and almost run to
Mr. Burr's place. When I got there they was all to bed and the baby
as healthy as ever. Then I got suspicious, for I've got four hundred
dollars in the house that I got out of the bank at Rayfield to pay off
on that new house I'm building in Oakdale. Mr. Burr hitched up at once
and brought me over. So you know about the fellow, do you?"

"I know two men started for this place to rob your house," said Dave.

"Better go in and see if the money is safe," suggested Farmer Brown.
"Did you leave that window open?" he added.

"Window open? No indeed!" shrieked Mrs. Fairchild, and without further
ceremony she brought forth her key and opened the front door. Then she
lit the lamp and began to make a search of the premises.

"They have been in here!" she wailed. "See how everything is upset!"
She ran to a china closet. "Oh, dear, look at the dishes! Some of 'em
broken! Oh!" She gave a wild scream. "The money is gone! They have
robbed me of the four hundred dollars!"



CHAPTER XII

AT WORK IN THE DARK


Dave had more than half expected the declaration the Widow Fairchild
made, so when it came he was not surprised. The others, however, stared
in bewilderment and dismay.

"All gone?" queried Mike Marcy.

"Every dollar!" groaned the widow. "Oh, the rascals, the heartless
villains! To rob a poor widow in this fashion! And I worked so hard
to save that money! Oh, where are they? I must catch them and get my
money back!" And she stalked around the room wringing her hands in her
despair.

"What a pity that we got here too late," said Dave. "I wish you had
hurried more," he continued to the Irish-American farmer. "I told you
not to waste time."

"Don't ye blame me for this!" replied Mike Marcy, half in alarm and
half in wrath. "I hurried all I could."

"Let us make a search for the rascals," said Joel Burr. "They may not
be very far off."

"It won't do any good," announced Farmer Brown. "We've been around here
too long a-looking for 'em."

"Yes, they're a long way off by this time," said his son Bill. "With
four hundred dollars in their pockets they won't let no grass grow
under their feet."

"This is the third robbery inside of six weeks," was Joel Burr's
comment. "Must say they be getting mighty free-handed."

In spite of what had been said, all went outside and took a look around
the grounds and up and down the highway. But it was useless; not the
least trace of the burglars could be found anywhere about.

While the others were outside, the widow inspected her house more
thoroughly. She said a dozen silver spoons were missing and likewise
an old gold watch and some old-fashioned gold and pearl jewelry. She
placed her total loss at nearly five hundred dollars.

Dave had to tell his story in detail, to which all of the others but
Mike Marcy listened with interest. The widow blamed the Irish-American
farmer for not having come to the house sooner, declaring that had he
done so the robbers would have been caught red-handed; and quite a war
of words followed.

"What am I to do, now my money is gone?" she wailed. "I cannot pay
that carpenter's bill and it must be paid by the end of this month."

"You'll have to notify the constable, or the sheriff," answered Joel
Burr.

"What good will that do? They haven't done anything for Lapham, nor for
Jerry Logan who was robbed in Oakdale."

"Well, I don't know what you can do, widder."

Mrs. Fairchild declared, when she had settled down a little, that the
man who had spoken to her about the sick baby had had a hoarse voice,
and all were satisfied that that individual was one of those Dave had
heard talk near the smokehouse. But she had not seen his face, so she
could not give any description of him excepting to say that he was
rather tall.

It was now nearly eleven o'clock, and as Dave had had no supper he was
hungry. His tramping around had made him tired, and he said if he was
not wanted any more he would go home.

"Go as far as I am concerned," said Mike Marcy. "But don't lay
the blame of this robbery on me. Remember, ye had no right to be
trespassin' on my property."

"I simply told the truth," said Dave; and a little later he withdrew
and hurried forth into the night in the direction of Oak Hall.

It was a lonely road and a less courageous boy might have been
frightened. It was cold and quiet and he walked a full mile without
meeting a soul. Then, as he was passing Mike Marcy's orchard, two
figures sprang out in the darkness.

"Dave!"

"Hello, so it is you, Phil, and Roger! What brought you out again?"

"We came to find you. We were afraid you had gotten into trouble with
Mike Marcy," answered Phil.

"Where in the world have you been?" asked the senator's son. "We
reported that you had lost your watch, but didn't expect you'd stay
away so long."

"Well, I've had troubles enough," answered Dave, with a faint smile,
and as the three hurried for the academy he told his tale from
beginning to end.

"Well, if this doesn't beat the Greeks!" exclaimed Phil. "Say, these
robberies are getting serious."

"Are you going to tell Dr. Clay?" asked Roger.

"Certainly. I haven't done anything wrong, so why shouldn't I tell him?"

"I guess you are right. But I shouldn't disturb him to-night. It will
be time enough to go to him in the morning."

Phil and Roger had gotten out of the Hall by a back way, leaving the
door unlocked behind them. The three boys, as a consequence, entered
easily, and then Dave took the chance of being discovered by going down
to the kitchen for something to eat. In the pantry he found a pumpkin
pie, some cold beans, and some milk, and on these made a hearty repast.
Then he went to bed and slept soundly until the bell awoke him at seven
o'clock.

He felt that he should be reprimanded and he was not mistaken. Job
Haskers strode up to him as soon as he went below.

"Master Porter, where were you last evening?" he demanded, in harsh
tones.

"I lost my watch, Mr. Haskers, and went to look for it. Then something
very unusual happened, which I am going to report to Dr. Clay."

"Something unusual, eh?" said the assistant teacher, curiously.

"Yes, sir. But I prefer to report to Dr. Clay."

"Hum! Very well--I will talk to the doctor myself later. We cannot
permit pupils of this institution to come and go at will." And with an
air of great importance Job Haskers passed on.

As soon as breakfast was over Dave went to Dr. Clay's private study.
The worthy owner of Oak Hall was at his desk, looking over some letters
which had just come in. He gazed at Dave in mild curiosity.

"Dr. Clay, may I speak to you for a few minutes?" asked the youth.

"Certainly, Porter. Come in and sit down."

Dave entered and closed the door after him, for he had caught sight of
Job Haskers close at hand, curious to learn what he might have to say
for himself. Sitting down he told his rather remarkable story, to which
the master of the Hall listened with close attention.

"These robbers are certainly getting bold," said Dr. Clay. "It is a
pity you could not get out of that smokehouse sooner."

"That is just what I told the others."

"You are certain you went over to Marcy's only for the kite and later
for the watch?" and the doctor looked Dave squarely in the eyes.

"That's it, sir. I did not touch his apples or anything else, and
neither did Phil nor Roger."

"Then he certainly had no right to lock you up. Do you wish to make a
complaint against him?"

"No, not that. Only I wanted to explain why I didn't get back to school
last evening."

"I see."

"Mr. Haskers approached me about it and acted as if he wanted to punish
me."

"Ah! Well, you can tell him that I have taken the matter in hand and
that you have been excused. I have but one fault to find, and that
is----" The doctor paused and smiled.

"That we didn't catch the robbers," finished Dave.

"Exactly. The authorities must get after the rascals. Until they are
caught nobody in this district will be safe."

After a few words more Dave left the office and went to his classroom.
As he did this Job Haskers entered the doctor's office. He must have
asked the master of Oak Hall about Dave, for after he came away he said
nothing more to the youth concerning his absence.

The next few days went quietly by. From Lemond the boys learned that
Mrs. Fairchild had appealed to the authorities and two detectives were
at work searching for the robbers, but so far nothing had been learned
about the rascals.

"They'll keep quiet for a while," said Ben, and such proved to be the
case.

One afternoon a letter reached Oak Hall addressed to Roger Morr,
Captain Oak Hall Football Club. It proved to be the expected challenge
from Rockville Military Academy. The eleven of that institution
challenged the Oak Hall team to play a game of football two weeks from
that date, on some grounds to be mutually decided upon. Pinned to the
challenge was a note stating a certain rich gentleman named Richard
Mongrace had offered a fine gold cup to the winning team, providing
the match was played on the new grounds laid out in his private park,
located at Hilltop, six miles from the river.

"Here is the challenge at last," said Roger, and he read it aloud. "I
suppose there is nothing to do but accept."

"Yes, we've got to give them the chance to even up," said Phil.

"They haven't forgotten that we beat them last season by a score of 11
to 8," said another of the eleven.

"I've heard something about their team this year," said Ben. "They
have dropped three old players and have three A No. 1 fellows in their
places. Two weeks ago, as you know, they beat the Hamilton eleven, 17
to 5, and day before yesterday they played White College eleven and won
out by a score of 12 to 5."

"Then they must be a heap stronger than they were last year," said
Buster Beggs. "For last year White College beat them badly."

"Yes, and Hamilton beat them too," added Dave. "I shouldn't wonder but
that they've got a crackajack team this year."

"Are we going to back out?" demanded the senator's son.

"No!" came back in a chorus.

"Oak Hall never backs out!" cried Ben.

"Well, where are we to play? I suppose they would like to play at the
Mongrace field," said Roger.

"It's a dandy spot--I was up there on my wheel last Saturday," said
Shadow Hamilton. "They've got a nice stand there, too."

"And our field is all lumpy," said Phil. "The doctor is going to have
it leveled off next spring."

"Then let us go in for that gold cup!" cried Sam Day. And several
others echoed the sentiment.

A regular meeting of the football club was called that night, and
it was decided, after consulting Dr. Clay, to accept the Rockville
challenge to play on the Mongrace grounds. A letter was accordingly
written and forwarded the next Monday.

"Now we have got to brace up and practise," said the captain of the
eleven.

"I wish you could get rid of two of our poorest players and take
on Babcock and Henshaw," remarked Dave. "Those two would help us
wonderfully."

"They both want to come in," answered the senator's son. "But I don't
see how I can drop any of our present members after the way they have
worked."

"Yes, I know that wouldn't be fair."

"I've already taken them on as substitutes. Maybe they'll get in the
game after all," went on Roger.

Practice began in earnest during that week and all did their best to
follow the coaching they got from the first assistant teacher, Andrew
Dale, who had been both a college player and a coach. The play was a
trifle mixed at times, but the boys worked with a will and that counted
for a good deal. But then came a letter calling one of the players
home, to attend the funeral of an uncle.

"I've got to leave the eleven," said Luke Watson. "You'll have to get
somebody to take my place."

"I am sorry to see you go," said Roger, sympathetically.

"Take Babcock," went on Luke. "You couldn't do better."

"I will," answered the senator's son.



CHAPTER XIII

IN THE HANDS OF THE ENEMY


Paul Babcock was more than glad to get on the eleven actively, and that
afternoon he showed it in his practice. The work was snappy from start
to finish and gave Mr. Dale great satisfaction.

"That is something like," declared the first assistant teacher. "Keep
it up and you will surely win."

After the practice was over Babcock left the field in company with
Dave. As the two strolled across the campus they passed Gus Plum, who
scowled deeply at his former player.

"Plum doesn't like it that you've come over to us," observed Dave. "He
looked like a regular thundercloud."

"He has nobody to blame but himself," answered Paul Babcock. "Even if
his team were still in existence I'd never play with him again. I want
to act on the square, and that is more than he wants to do."

"I've heard he wanted you to use foul play."

"Yes, he was at both Henshaw and me to do some dirty work. But we
declined, and I told him I had a good mind to punch his nose for
suggesting it. That made him boiling mad."

In due course of time came a letter from Mr. Richard Mongrace, stating
he was glad to learn the match was to come off on his new grounds, and
that he would do all in his power to make the two elevens and their
friends comfortable. The golden cup he proposed to put up cost exactly
one hundred dollars and was to belong to the school winning it twice in
two or three games, one game a year to be played for it.

Dr. Clay knew Mr. Mongrace well and one day drove over to see the new
grounds. He came back in an enthusiastic mood.

"Mr. Mongrace is certainly a fine man," said the master of Oak Hall.
"He has with him a sick brother who cannot leave the estate. This
brother used to be a famous football player on the Princeton team. For
his benefit Mr. Mongrace has laid out the field, and he is going to
have some of the best amateur teams in the country play there."

"That will cost some money," said Roger.

"Yes, but he is rich and can easily afford it. He has erected a fine
grand stand and will also put up a big tent, where refreshments will be
served to the visitors from both academies."

After that the doctor spoke about the coming event before the whole
school. He said he trusted that they would all act like young gentlemen
while guests of Mr. Mongrace and thus do their institution credit.

The only persons at Oak Hall who did not look forward to the match with
favor were Plum, Poole, and Jasniff. At first they thought to remain at
home during the contest, but afterwards changed their minds, the reason
being a plan which Nick Jasniff proposed.

Jasniff was thoroughly unscrupulous, and a year before had been
dismissed from another boarding academy because of his dishonorable
actions. He was a lad who was willing to do almost anything to
accomplish his end.

Jasniff's plan was nothing more or less than to play a trick on some
members of Roger's eleven, so that they could not take part in the
game. This would weaken the Oak Hall club to such an extent that they
would be likely to lose.

"Can we do it?" asked Poole.

"Certainly we can," answered Nick Jasniff. "Why, such things have been
done hundreds of times."

"Well, what do you propose?" asked Gus Plum.

"I'll tell you to-morrow. I've got to think it over."

"I wish I was dead sure Oak Hall would lose," whispered the bully of
the school. "We might make some money by the operation."

"So we could!" cried Nat Poole. "All the Rockville boys are betting
they will win."

"And we could bet the same way," said Jasniff, with a leer. "Only we'll
have to put up our money through some outsider."

"I can fix that," said Gus Plum. "I know a fellow in Oakdale who will
do it for us."

The day set for the great football match dawned bright and clear. As
soon as they could get away from their school duties Roger's eleven
went out for a short practice and Henshaw and the other substitutes
with them. Henshaw was sorry he was not on the regular team, but said
little about it.

While the practice was going on, Plum, Poole, and Jasniff watched all
the players closely, trying to gain the knowledge of some tricks and
signals, which they hoped later to divulge to the Rockville eleven.

The practice at an end, Babcock announced that he wanted to go to a
place called Leeton on an errand. Leeton was a small railroad crossing
two miles from the school, where Babcock had a relative living.

"Wouldn't you like to go with me?" he asked Dave. "We can go over on
our bicycles and be back inside of an hour."

Dave was willing, thinking the short spin on a wheel would do him
good. They soon set off, and before long were well on the road.

"There's our chance!" cried Nick Jasniff, as he and his cronies watched
the departure. "Just what I wanted!"

"Shall we go after them?" asked Plum.

"Sure!"

The bully and the others had bicycles--indeed nearly every youth at
Oak Hall had one, for the craze was at its height. The three set off
without delay, following the same road Dave and Babcock had taken.

Unconscious of the fact that they were being followed, Dave and his
companion spun along. There was a winding road, across a brook, then
up a hill, and over another small hill to the railroad crossing. At
several places pedaling was rather difficult, but they did not mind it,
being fresh and with good wind.

Arriving at the railroad crossing, Babcock stopped at the house for
which he was bound and executed his errand. Then the two lads got a
drink of water at the well and started on the return.

"I'll race you back!" cried Babcock.

"Better not race to-day," cautioned Dave. "We want to save our strength
for the game."

"All right, Dave, just as you say. But a little race wouldn't hurt me."

Not far from Leeton the road made a sharp turn, coming up close to the
railroad tracks. Here there was a steep down grade for three hundred
feet. As the boys neared the turn they began to coast, thinking the way
perfectly clear.

They were almost to the bottom of the hill when something happened that
filled them with alarm. Close to the side of the roadway stood a tall,
slim tree. As they came up the tree fell directly in their path.

"Look out!" yelled Dave, who was in advance, and then his bicycle
struck the tree and he was pitched headlong over the handle-bars.
Babcock also took a tumble, and both lads came down violently at the
side of the road, where there was a gully filled with rocks and hard
dirt. Both slid along, turned over, and then lay still.

A full minute passed and neither Dave nor Babcock offered to get up.
Then from out of the bushes near by Plum, Poole, and Jasniff emerged.

"We caught 'em right enough," muttered Jasniff. "The tree came down
just in time."

"Ar--are they hu--hurt much!" faltered Nat Poole. His face was as white
as death itself.

"They are certainly knocked out," answered Nick Jasniff, coolly.

"Oh, I hope they ain't dead!" gasped Poole, his knees beginning to
shake.

"They are not dead," announced Gus Plum, who was bending over the
fallen youths. "They are stunned, that's all." And he breathed a short
sigh of relief, for he had been fearful of serious results.

"We had better get away, before they come to their senses and recognize
us," went on Poole, who was the most timid-hearted of the unworthy trio.

While they were deliberating they heard the whistle of a locomotive
on the railroad and soon a long train of empty freight cars came into
view. Then, when about half the train had gone by, the cars came to
a sudden halt, brought to a stop because of a danger signal at the
crossing.

"What's the freight train stopping for?" asked Plum.

"Don't ask me," answered Nick Jasniff. "But I say," he added suddenly.
"The very thing!"

"What?"

"Let us put 'em both in one of the empty cars!"

"Oh, don't bother!" answered Nat Poole, who, had he had his choice,
would have wheeled away without delay.

"They are only stunned--they'll soon come around," went on Jasniff. "If
we leave them here they may get in the game anyway. We may as well send
them off to parts unknown!"

This plan appealed strongly to Gus Plum, and both he and Jasniff walked
to the train and looked up and down the long line of empty cars. Not a
soul was in sight.

"The coast is clear," said Jasniff. "Come on, we can do it in a jiffy,
and nobody will be the wiser."

They went over to Babcock, raised him up, and carried him to the
nearest of the cars. The sliding door was wide open, and they pushed
the unconscious form half across the car floor. Then they ran back and
picked up Dave. At that moment came the whistle of the locomotive.

"Hurry up, they are going to start!" said Jasniff, and they lost no
time in pushing Dave into the car. Then Jasniff rolled the door shut.

"Might as well lock 'em in," he suggested, but before he could
accomplish his purpose the train gave a jerk and went on its way. All
three of the students stared at it and watched it out of sight.

"They are gone, that's sure," murmured Gus Plum. His heart was beating
violently.

"Yes, and they won't come back in a hurry," chuckled Nick Jasniff.

"Maybe they will be carried clear to New York," said Nat Poole.

"If they are, so much the better."

"You are sure they weren't seriously hurt?"

"I guess not."

"If they are, and we are found out----"

"Who is going to tell on us?" demanded Nick Jasniff. "Don't you dare to
open your trap, Nat."

"Oh, I shan't say a word."

"Nobody saw us," said Gus Plum. "So, if we keep quiet, nobody will ever
know we had anything to do with it."

"What about the wheels?"

"Leave them right where they are. Somebody will pick them up sooner or
later. Both are marked Oak Hall and have the initials on them."

"Well, what are we to do next?" asked Gus Plum, after an awkward pause.

"Get out of here and wheel over to Oakdale," answered Nick Jasniff, who
had become the leader of the unworthies. "We can put our money in the
hands of Lancaster and he can put it up on Rockville for us. We are now
sure to win."

"Morr will put Henshaw in Babcock's place," said Poole, as they rode
away.

"Will he? Not after Henshaw has had his dinner," and Nick Jasniff
winked knowingly.

"Do you mean to dose him?" asked Plum.

"I guess I will. I sit close to him and I can drop a little powder in
his food which will make him feel weak and dizzy all the afternoon."

"Have you got the powder?"

"I can get it from Lancaster. He told me about it several days ago."

"It isn't poison, is it?" asked Nat Poole. He was beginning to grow
afraid of Nick Jasniff's bold ways.

"No, it won't hurt him a bit, only make him weak and light-headed for a
few hours."

"Then give it to him by all means," urged Gus Plum. "With Porter,
Babcock, and Henshaw out of the game Rockville is bound to beat, and if
we make the right kind of bets we ought to win a pot of money!"



CHAPTER XIV

CARRIED OFF


When Dave came to his senses he found himself rolling around the floor
of the freight car. The door was three-quarters shut and the train was
winding its way around several uneven curves.

He put his hand to his forehead. There was a big lump near his left eye
and his left hand was bleeding from several scratches. The car was full
of dust and he began to cough.

"What a fearful tumble!" he muttered to himself, and then sat up and
stared around him. "Where in the world am I?"

He had expected to find himself beside the highway; instead he was
boxed in and moving along at a speed of twenty or more miles an hour.
He glanced through the open doorway and saw the trees and rocks
flashing by. It took him all of a minute to collect his scattered
senses, and then he gazed around the dust-laden car. Only a few feet
away lay the form of Babcock. The youth was breathing heavily.

"Paul!" he called out. "Paul! What does this mean? Did you bring me
here?"

There was no answer, and on his hands and knees he bent over his
friend. Then he gave Babcock a shake, and the hurt one opened his eyes.

"The tree--look out for the tree!" he murmured and struggled to a
sitting position.

"Paul, did you bring me here?" went on Dave.

"Me? Here? What do you mean? Where am I?" stammered Babcock, and then
he, too, stared out of the doorway of the freight car. "Well, I never!"

It was not until several minutes later that the pair comprehended the
truth of the fact that they were in a freight car that was moving along
at a good rate of speed and that they had been put in the car by some
party or parties unknown.

"This certainly beats the Dutch!" cried Dave. "Are you hurt much?"

"I am pretty well shaken up, and my shoulder is a little lame, Dave.
How about you?"

"I've got this lump and those scratches, that's all."

"You went into that tree and so did I. Do you remember what happened
after that?"

"No."

"Neither do I. Somebody must have put us in here. Who was it?"

"Don't ask me, and don't ask me where we are going either, for I
haven't the least idea."

The two students talked the matter over for fully five minutes, but
could reach no conclusion. At first they fancied that they might have
been robbed, but nothing was missing but their wheels.

"This is a mystery we must solve later," said Dave. "The present
question is, How are we to get off this train and get back to the Hall?"

A moment later the freight train passed through a small lumber town.
They heard a mill whistle blowing. Dave pulled out his watch.

"Why, Paul, it is twelve o'clock!"

"Nonsense!" Babcock consulted his own time-piece. "You are right! And
we were going to be back to the Hall by dinner time!"

"Don't forget that to-day is the day for the great football match."

"Creation! Do you know it slipped my mind for the moment! Why, Dave, we
must get back!"

"I agree with you."

"Let us get off the train at once."

"What, with the cars running at twenty-five or thirty miles an hour!
No, thank you! We've had one bad tumble, I don't want a second."

Babcock looked out of the doorway. The lumber town had been left behind
and they were running through a dense woods. How far they were from
Leeton and Oak Hall they could not tell.

"I wish we could signal the engineer, I'd soon stop the train," said
Dave.

"Can't we crawl to the top of the car?"

"We might if we were regular train hands, but as greenies we had better
not risk it."

Another mile was passed, and the train began to go around another
curve. Then came a steep upgrade and the speed of the cars was
slackened.

"We're slowing up!" cried Babcock. "Maybe we can jump for it now."

The locomotive was puffing laboriously, and presently the train seemed
to do little but crawl along. The boys looked at each other.

"Shall we go?" asked Dave.

"Yes."

"All right, here goes!"

Dave swung himself down and made a jump in safety. Fifty feet further
on Paul Babcock did the same. Then the long freight train rolled by, a
brakeman on the caboose gazing at them curiously as it passed.

"Well, where are we?" asked Babcock, gazing around with interest.

"On the line of the D. S. & B. railroad," answered Dave, with a grim
smile.

"I know that well enough, but where on the line?"

"Some miles from Leeton. The question is, Shall we walk back on the
track?"

"I don't know of anything else to do. We can find out where we are when
we reach that lumber town where we heard the whistle blowing."

They walked along the track for all of a mile and a half and then came
in sight of the lumber town, which consisted of nothing but the mill,
one general store, and a dozen frame houses. It was now nearly one
o'clock and the men of the mill were preparing to resume their day's
labor.

"What town is this?" asked Dave, of a boy they met.

"This town is Mill Run," answered the youth.

"How far is it to Leeton?"

"About twelve miles."

"Twelve miles!" ejaculated Babcock.

"Yes, and maybe more."

"Do you know when we can get back to Leeton?"

"Not till seven-thirty to-night. There are only two passenger trains a
day on this line."

"Well, we've got to get back before to-night," said Dave, decidedly.
"We've got to get back right now."

"I don't see how you are going to do it," said the boy. "Ain't no
train, nor stage, nor nuthin."

"Can't we hire some sort of a carriage?" queried Babcock. "We won't
mind the expense." He came from a well-to-do family and had ample
spending money.

"Might git old Si Ross to drive you over."

"Who is Si Ross?"

"Used to run the stage from here to Leeton before the railroad went
through."

"Will you show us his place?"

"Of course," answered the boy and took them through the lumber town
and to a small shanty on the outskirts. Here they found Si Ross, a
bent-over old man who was rather hard of hearing.

"Hi, Si!" called out the boy. "These fellers want you to drive 'em over
to Leeton."

"They're arrivin' from Leeton?" queried the old man.

"No, they want you to drive 'em over--_drive 'em over_!" shrieked the
boy.

"Me drive 'em over?"

"Yes," said Dave and Babcock at the top of their voices, and nodded
vigorously.

"Cost ye two an' a half."

"All right. Can you do it right away?" went on Dave.

"O' course I know the way."

"Can you do it _right away_!" screamed Dave.

"Sure--soon as I kin hitch up."

"_Hurry up!_" yelled Babcock. "We want to get there as soon as
possible."

"I'll git ye there soon enough, don't ye fear," said Si Ross, and
hobbled off to his barn. He brought forth a bony horse and shoved out
a rickety road wagon and began to hook up. The boy helped him.

"That doesn't look very promising," remarked Babcock.

"Is this the best turnout in town?" asked Dave, of the boy.

"It's the only one you can git," was the answer.

At last Si Ross was ready to leave and the two students got up on
the rear seat of the wagon, Dave first giving the boy ten cents for
his trouble, which pleased the urchin immensely. Then Si Ross pulled
himself to the front seat, provided himself with a fresh chew of
tobacco, and took up the reins.

"Gee dap!" he squeaked to the bony horse and the animal started off on
a walk. Then the driver cracked his whip and soon the steed was making
fairly good time over the lonely country road.

Again the boys consulted their watches and found it was now half-past
one o'clock. The football game was scheduled to start at half-past
three.

"Two hours to get there in," said Dave. "We'll never make it."

"I think we ought to start for Mr. Mongrace's place direct," said
Babcock.

"But we haven't our football togs."

"Perhaps Roger will take them along, or we may be able to borrow some.
One thing is certain, we haven't time to return to Oak Hall for them."

"Do you know where Mr. Mongrace's estate is?" asked Dave, in a loud
tone of the driver.

"Yes--very fine place," was the answer.

"Can you take us there?"

"How?"

"_Can you take us there?_"

"Sure. But I thought you wanted to go to Leeton?"

"We must get to Mr. Mongrace's by half-past three!" called out Dave.

"I can make it--but we'll have to hurry."

"Go ahead then."

"Three dollars."

"_All right!_" yelled Babcock, and felt in his pocket. "Oh, pshaw! I've
only got a dollar and a quarter with me!"

"Never mind, I've got it," said Dave, and brought out the necessary
bank bills.

The sight of the cash was inspiring to Si Ross, and he urged his bony
nag along at a faster gait than ever. They passed over one small hill
and then came out on a highway which was in excellent condition.

"I'd like to know who put us in that freight car," said Dave, as they
rattled along. "Do you know, I've half an idea the whole thing was a
put-up job. That tree seemed to fall down right in front of us and I
don't see what should make it fall. There was hardly any wind blowing."

"It was certainly a curious piece of business all the way through,"
returned Paul Babcock. "We'll have to start an investigation after the
game. And we must try to recover our bicycles too."

"Do you think any of the Rockville fellows would be mean enough to play
such a trick on us?"

"I don't know. Whoever it was took big chances. Why, we might have been
killed!"

"Well, it wasn't done by footpads, otherwise we should have been
robbed."

"That is true. Well, the best thing we can----Whoa! What's the matter!"

"The horse is running away!"

"The back-strap is broken!"

There was no time to say more, for the wagon was swaying from side to
side. Then came a turn, and a second later the vehicle ran off into a
gully. Crash! went one of the front wheels, and over went the body. The
horse came to a standstill and Si Ross slid into some bushes, followed
by the two students.

"Smashed!" wailed the old driver, as he got up and surveyed the wreck.

"And that ends our hope of getting to the football field in time,"
added Babcock dolefully.



CHAPTER XV

OFF FOR THE GAME


"Where in the world can Dave and Paul be keeping themselves?"

It was Roger who spoke. He and the others had had their dinner and were
out on the campus doing a last bit of practising before starting for
Mr. Mongrace's place.

"They certainly should have been here long ago," returned Phil. "They
won't have time to get their dinner."

"I wonder if Gus Plum and his crowd met them on the road," said Sam.
"They were out on their wheels."

"I'll ask them," said Shadow, and ran off to do so. He met Nat Poole at
the doorway to the Hall.

"Say, Nat, did you see anything of Dave Porter and Paul Babcock when
you were out on your wheel?" he asked.

Nat Poole started at the direct question and his face changed color.
But he quickly recovered.

"No, I didn't see them," he answered. "What makes you ask?"

"They are missing and I know you were out on your wheel and they went
out too--over to Leeton."

"We went to Oakdale," said Nat, and turned away, for fear of being
questioned further. He, Plum, and Jasniff had arranged it between them
to say they had been to Oakdale and nowhere else.

Shadow Hamilton returned to his friends and related what Poole had
said. Some of the students had already departed for the football field,
going on their wheels and in one of the carriages belonging to the
place. The football club was to take the carryall, and turnouts had
been engaged for all who were to witness the game.

Soon Andrew Dale came out to see if the team was ready. He was greatly
surprised when he learned that Dave and Paul were missing.

"It may be they have been delayed," said he, "and if that is so, they
may have gone direct from Leeton to the Mongrace estate. I think there
is a fairly good road."

"Perhaps that is so," answered the senator's son, brightening a little.
"But they ought to have come here--they knew I should be worried."

"You had better take their suits along. We can leave word here about
the suits--in case they come after we are gone."

Swiftly the minutes went by until the club could wait no longer. Then
into the carryall they piled, regulars and substitutes, taking the
outfits of the missing players with them. Jackson Lemond was to drive,
and with a crack of the whip they were off. Usually the boys would have
been noisy and full of fun, but now they were sober.

"Paul told me he would surely be back," said Henshaw. "I am afraid
something has happened to him."

"Maybe they got a tumble," suggested Buster Beggs. "But it would be
queer if they both got caught at the same time."

The boys had brought their horns and rattles with them, yet they made
little noise as they rode along, much to the satisfaction of Jackson
Lemond, who had been afraid they would scare the horses and cause them
to bolt. Yet the Hall driver was sorry to see them so blue.

"Ain't feelin' much like playin', I take it," he observed.

"It is not that, Horsehair," answered Roger. "We are alarmed over the
absence of Dave Porter and Paul Babcock."

"Got to have 'em to play, eh?"

"Well, they belong on the regular eleven."

"Maybe they went ahead," said the Hall driver, hopefully.

The roads were in good condition, and soon they reached the broad
highway leading directly to the Mongrace estate. On this road they met
a score of turnouts all bound for the football field.

"Hurrah! There are the Oak Hall fellows!"

"Hope you win, boys!"

"You've got to put up a stiff game if you want to come out ahead this
season. Rockville has got a dandy team."

So the cries ran on, while horns were blown and rattles used. Then a
big stage lumbered up, carrying a number of students from Rockville in
their natty military uniforms.

"This is the time we'll wax you!"

"After this game Oak Hall won't be in it!"

"Bet you two to one we beat you!"

"Bet your small change on that, or you'll be a beggar!" cried one of
the Oak Hall boys in return.

"We'll race you to the grounds!" said a Rockville student. "Get up
there!" he cried to the horses pulling the stage. The whip was used and
the turnout bounded ahead.

"Here, this won't do, Horsehair!" cried Phil. "We can't let them beat
us on the road like this. Start up the team."

Now, if there was one thing that Lemond took pride in, it was his
horses, and seldom was it that he allowed anybody to pass him on the
road. Dr. Clay kept good animals, and Horsehair saw to it that they
were always in the best of condition. Moreover, he and the driver for
Rockville were as bitter rivals as the students themselves.

"Ain't goin' to pass us to-day!" said he, setting his teeth. "Git up!"
and he snapped his whip in a manner that meant business.

The horses understood, and in a moment more a race was on in earnest.
Stage and carryall streaked down the broad road side by side, all of
the students shrieking themselves hoarse.

"Go it, Horsehair! Don't let them beat us!"

"Send 'em ahead, Jerry! We can't take the dust of Oak Hall!"

Faster and faster went stage and carryall and now the two drivers
settled down to the race in earnest. Then came a turn and the Oak Hall
turnout shot ahead.

"Good for you, Horsehair!" yelled Phil. "Keep it up!"

"Catch him, Jerry, catch him!" came from behind.

"You can't catch us to-day!" flung back Buster Beggs. "Good-by! We'll
tell 'em you are coming!" Then the carryall swept up to some private
carriages, passed them, and left the Rockville stage in the dust of the
road behind.

The little brush served to brighten up Roger and his companions, and as
they drew close to the football field they blew their horns and sounded
their rattles. When they swept into the grounds they were greeted with
cheers, and Oak Hall flags were waved everywhere.

It was certainly a fine football field, as level as a house floor and
well roped off. To one side was a neat grand stand, painted green and
white, and decorated with flags and bunting. At the far end of the
field was a big tent, where the refreshments were to be served, and
opposite the grand stand was a special inclosure for any outsiders who
cared to witness the contest. Each school was well represented by its
followers, and there were fully a thousand spectators in addition.

"We couldn't have a nicer day nor a better crowd," remarked Phil, as he
gazed around.

"Do you see anything of Dave and Paul?" questioned Roger, anxiously.

All looked around quickly and then hurried to the dressing room under
the grand stand. Not a sign of the missing players was to be seen
anywhere.

"We've got fifteen minutes yet," said Roger. "They may show up at any
minute."

"Are all the Rockville players here?" asked Ben.

"Yes, and they look as if they meant business, too," answered Buster
Beggs.

The grand stand had been divided into three parts, the middle for the
owner of the estate and his special friends, and either end for the two
schools. In the best position on the stand was the sick brother of the
owner of the estate, propped up in an invalid's chair. His face wore a
smile, as if he enjoyed everything that was going on.

In an extreme corner of the Oak Hall end of the stand sat Gus Plum, Nat
Poole, and Nick Jasniff. They were awaiting the outcome of the game
with deep interest, although sure that their school would lose. Through
a friend in Oakdale they had placed practically all their spending
money on bets in favor of Rockville,--in fact Gus Plum had gone
into debt twenty dollars, borrowing the amount from a student named
Chadworth.

"Say, are you sure you fixed Henshaw?" whispered the bully of the Hall
to Jasniff. "He doesn't look to be very sick or dizzy-headed."

"Oh, I fixed him right enough," returned Nick Jasniff. "Maybe the stuff
hasn't had time to work."

"Or maybe you didn't give him enough," commented Nat Poole.

"I gave him the dose called for. Of course I didn't dare to give him
too much."

"I don't see anything of Porter or Babcock," went on Poole, with a side
wink at his cronies.

"No, it's funny where they are," answered Gus Plum, in a loud voice.

"Maybe they got afraid to play," added Jasniff, in an equally loud tone.

It soon became noised around that Dave and Paul had failed to show
themselves, and Dr. Clay himself came from the grand stand to see about
it. But nobody could give him any information.

"Something must have happened to detain them," said the owner of the
Hall. "They would certainly get here if they could."

At last it was time to go out on the field for practice. Henshaw was
put in Babcock's place, as he was able to play the position almost as
well as anybody, and a lad named Farrell took the position reserved for
Dave.

"There goes Henshaw out," said Nat Poole, in a low voice. "He seems to
be all right."

"Why shouldn't he be all right?" demanded a student sitting behind the
speaker.

"I wasn't talking to you, Dodd."

"Well, why shouldn't Henshaw be all right?" insisted Dodd.

"Why,--er--somebody said he wasn't feeling well, that's all," stammered
Nat Poole.

"He told me he was feeling bang-up."

"That so? Well, I'm glad to hear it," said Poole, weakly.

As a matter of fact Henshaw was feeling just a bit faint and dizzy, the
drug not having had time to have its full effect. Luckily the lad was
strong and with a good heart action, so he was bound to suffer less
than had he been otherwise.

There was a cheer for the Oak Hall players and another cheer when the
Rockville eleven appeared on the field. The practice of each team was
snappy and vigorous and brought forth applause.

The umpire and the referee were college men, chosen by Mr. Dale and a
teacher from Rockville, and the linesmen were others acceptable all
around. The practice over, there was a five minutes' intermission.

"Dave and Babcock are not here yet," sighed Phil, "I declare, it's
too bad! If we have many accidents on the field we'll be more than
short-handed."

"They wouldn't stay away of their own accord," said Roger. "Something
is wrong--I'm dead sure of it."

It had been decided that the two halves of the game should be of
thirty minutes each, with an intermission of ten minutes. Roger, Phil,
Ben, and Buster Beggs occupied the positions they had filled the
season previous, and the others of the eleven were placed to the best
advantage. The center and the right guard were a little weak, but this
could not be helped. On the other hand, the Rockville eleven appeared
to be exceptionally well balanced.

"Time to play!" cried Phil, presently, and the eleven at once took
their positions. Then the Rockville men came on the field once more;
and a minute later the great game started.



CHAPTER XVI

THE GREAT FOOTBALL GAME


At the best it is next to impossible to describe all the plays made in
a fast and snappy football game, and I shall not attempt to do so. From
the very outset Rockville Academy demonstrated the fact that they had
come to win or die trying, and they were alert to a degree that brought
forth admiration even from their enemies.

The toss-up was won by Rockville, and the center kicked off amid a
breathless silence. The leather sailed in Sam Day's direction and he
caught it and brought it back twelve yards. Ben Basswood was called
to kick and sent it off to the forty-five-yard line. It was caught,
but lost to Phil Lawrence, who managed to tear around the end for five
yards. Then followed a mix-up, and the ball went back and forth four
times, when it went out of bounds and brought a loss to Rockville of
two yards.

The whole crowd by this time was wild with excitement, and every
advance by one side or the other was hailed with cheers, the tooting of
horns, and the swinging of rattles.

"Phew! but this is hard work, sure enough," whispered Phil to Roger.
"They are pushing things for all they are worth."

"I believe they think they can wind us," answered the senator's son.

The ball was put into play a few seconds later. "Twelve, twenty-six,
fifty!" was the signal, and it passed rapidly from one Rockville player
to another. Then came a sensational run of twenty yards, the tackle
with the ball rushing Oak Hall's left end. But the fullback was after
him and brought him down just as it looked as if Rockville might score
a touchdown.

"Say, look at that run!"

"I thought he was going to make it, sure!"

"So did I!"

"They'll get it anyway, see if they don't!"

So the cries ran on as the two elevens lined up for the next scrimmage.
The first half was now eighteen minutes old, and exactly two minutes
later, despite the best efforts of Oak Hall, the leather was forced
over the line by the military academy boys.

"Hurrah! A touchdown for Rockville!"

"That's the way to do it!"

And then the crowd cheered harder than ever--that is, those who
sympathized with the military academy. Oak Hall and its supporters sat
silent, and a few shook their heads and sighed.

"Didn't I tell you?" whispered Nick Jasniff, to Plum and Poole.
"There's the first dose. That money is as good as won!"

"It suits me right enough," answered the bully of Oak Hall. He did
not add that he was very low on cash and that his father had written,
stating that he could not supply Gus with any more spending money for a
long time to come.

As soon as the touchdown was made the leather was hurried to the field
for a kick. It sailed directly between the goal posts, and at this
another yell went up.

"Six points for Rockville! That's the way to do it!"

"Now then for another, fellows! Show 'em that is only a starter!"

With eight more minutes of the first half left the ball was put into
play and once more it was sent back and forth. Once Roger made a clever
run of fifteen yards and at another time, when a Rockville player made
a fumble, Phil snatched the ball, sent it to Ben, who turned it over to
Henshaw. With the leather in his arm Henshaw made a brave attempt for a
touchdown, but was stopped on the thirty-yard line. His run, however,
was loudly applauded, and for the time being it gave Jasniff, Plum, and
Poole a chill.

"Phew!" muttered Plum. "I thought he was going straight over!"

"He's the best player they've got," whispered Jasniff. "I can't
understand why that drug doesn't work."

But the drug was working, and it was that which prevented Henshaw from
making the touchdown after covering twenty yards. He was growing more
dizzy each moment.

"I must be getting the blind staggers," he said to Roger. "Everything
seems to be swimming in front of my eyes."

"Maybe you ran too hard," suggested the senator's son.

"No, I've been feeling that way for the past five minutes. I don't know
what's the matter with me."

"Do you want to quit?"

"Oh, I'll try to play the half out," answered Henshaw.

With the ball on the thirty-yard line, Oak Hall fought as never before
to carry the leather on. It did go down to the twenty-yard line, but
only to be lost on a fumble, after which a succession of brilliant
rushes and end runs by Rockville brought it within striking distance of
Oak Hall's goal line, when a drop kick sent it once more between the
posts.

"Will you look at that!"

"A goal from the field! That gives Rockville 10 points!"

The cheering and the general din were tremendous. Oak Hall had nothing
to say. Plum and his cronies chuckled to themselves.

"Rockville is rubbing it in, eh?" chuckled Nick Jasniff. "I hope they
make it about 50 to 0!"

"So do I," answered Nat Poole.

Once more the ball went into play, and this time Oak Hall sent it into
the Rockville territory in a grim, stone-wall way that could not be
resisted. But when it lacked still ten yards of the goal line, the
whistle blew, telling that time was up and the first half of the game
had come to an end.

"Hard luck to-day," said Phil, grimly. "They are certainly putting up a
great game."

"They have more weight than we have," answered Shadow. "And I must say,
their tackling is first-class."

"I think it is rough," said Buster Beggs. "I got a kick in the shin
that wasn't pleasant."

"That Hausermann is rather rough," said Phil. "I'd hate to have him
come down on me."

"Yes, and he plays off-side," said Roger. "I had to warn him twice, and
the referee warned him too."

Poor Henshaw was now so dizzy he could scarcely stand and two of the
other players had to escort him off the field. Andrew Dale questioned
the youth closely.

"You didn't eat or drink anything unusual?"

"Not that I know of, sir."

"Did you ever feel that way before when playing?"

"No, sir, it never affected me in the least."

"It is odd. I will call Dr. Blarcom, who is present."

The doctor came up and made a close examination. He was much puzzled.
He also asked Henshaw about his eating and drinking. Then, when the lad
complained of feeling sick at the stomach, he gave him an emetic.

"He has certainly swallowed something that hasn't agreed with him,"
said the physician, and took Henshaw to the Mongrace mansion, where he
might give the sick student every attention.

With Henshaw, Babcock, and Dave out of the game, Roger hardly knew
what to do for players. The lad who had taken Dave's place was only an
ordinary player, and to put another ordinary player in place of Henshaw
would be to weaken the eleven greatly.

"It certainly looks like a walk-over for Rockville," said the senator's
son. "I can't understand what is keeping Dave and Paul away."

But four minutes of the intermission had passed when there came a
sudden shout from outside of the grand-stand dressing rooms. Then with
a whirr a big red automobile dashed up and two dusty-looking youths
leaped out.

"Dave and Paul!" ejaculated Phil, joyously. "Where in the world have
you been?"

"Is the game over?" asked Dave, anxiously.

"The first half is."

"What's the score?" questioned Babcock, quickly.

"10 to 0 against us."

"Is that so!"

"But where have you been?" demanded Roger, and added, almost in the
same breath: "Can you play?"

"Certainly we can play--that is what we are here for," returned Dave.
"Will somebody lend me a football suit?"

"We have your suits here," said Shadow, and brought them forth. "Climb
right in."

Dave and Babcock did "climb in," and while doing so briefly related
their adventures.

"When the old wagon went to smash we thought we were surely out of the
game," said Dave. "But a few minutes later a man came along in that
automobile, and we stopped him and got him to promise to bring us here.
We would have gotten here in time for the first half only something got
the matter with the auto's batteries."

"Dave, some enemies played that trick," said Phil.

"No doubt of it."

"They wanted us to lose the game."

"Of course," said Babcock.

"Do you suspect any of the Rockville fellows?"

"Not yet. I am going to investigate after this game is over."

"And I am going to investigate, too," added Dave. "Why, we might have
been killed!"

The youth who had taken Dave's place on the eleven was perfectly
willing to retire, feeling that Oak Hall was going to lose anyway.
Babcock took his old place.

"I am sorry for Spud," he said, referring to Henshaw. "It appears to me
that something is wrong all around."

With the appearance of Dave and Babcock the spirits of Roger, Phil, and
the others arose wonderfully.

"Now, boys, play for all you are worth," said the senator's son.
"Make every scrimmage count, and if you get hold of the ball run like
all-possessed. We must get something this half, or we'll never hear the
end of it."

"It will certainly make Gus Plum and his cronies crow," answered Dave,
grimly. "I suppose they are here?"

"Yes, in a corner of the stand," answered Buster Beggs.

"They were out on their wheels this morning," said Sam Day. "Did you
see anything of them?"

"They were out?" repeated Dave, in surprise. "Did they follow us?"

"They said they went to Oakdale."

Dave looked at Paul Babcock, who pursed up his lips meditatively.

"What do you think of that, Paul?"

"I think it will stand investigation," answered Babcock. "Somebody
played us the trick, and it certainly wasn't a friend."

"Last year Plum and Poole were against us."

At that moment came a call from the doorway of the dressing room.

"Time for the second half, boys. Come out on the field."

It had become noised around that Dave and Babcock had arrived. A number
believed this, but others did not.

"Do you think it is true?" demanded Plum of Jasniff.

"I don't see how it can be," whispered Jasniff in return. "They must
have been carried miles and miles on that freight train."

"Oh, it's only talk," grumbled Nat Poole.

The eleven were now pouring into the field. Among the first to show
themselves were Dave and Paul, and a roar of welcome went up from the
Oak Hall supporters.

"There are Porter and Babcock!"

"Now for some real playing!"

"Where in the world have they been?"

"They are here, sure enough!" whispered Gus Plum, hoarsely. "Nick, what
can it mean?"

"Don't ask me," growled Jasniff. "It beats anything I ever heard of!"

As soon as they came on the field Dave and Babcock reported to the
referee, as substitutes for the two players that had dropped out. Then
the whistle blew, and the second half of the great game was on.



CHAPTER XVII

HOW THE GAME ENDED


There was another spell of breathless silence as the ball went into
play on the second half of the great game. The kick-off was clean and
clever, and for several minutes the leather remained close to the
center of the field, each eleven struggling desperately to force the
line of the other. Rockville had had one man slightly hurt and another
player had taken his place, one who was light and very wiry. He took
the ball for a run around the left end, but was brought down. Then in
the scrimmage that followed the ball came to Dave and he made a gain of
ten yards, breaking through and dodging in a manner that brought forth
much favorable comment.

"That's the way to do it," was the cry. "Carry it over the line!"

But alas! for the hopes of Oak Hall. In the very next mix-up Buster
Beggs made a bad fumble and the wiry substitute on the Rockville
eleven secured the leather. Before anybody could stop him he made a
sensational run to the end of the field.

"Another touchdown for Rockville!"

How the supporters of the military academy did cheer and yell! Horns
tooted madly and the academy colors went waving in all directions.

Gus Plum grinned silently, while Nick Jasniff winked at him.

"Say, we're all right, after all, eh?" whispered Nat Poole.

"Hush!" muttered the bully of the school. "If our fellows should hear
you they'd kill us! This defeat will make them ugly."

The touchdown was turned into a goal, giving Rockville 16 points as
against 0 for Oak Hall. Things certainly did look blue.

"Come, fellows, we've got to do something!" urged Roger. "Everybody
play for all he is worth. Don't let a single chance escape you!"

"I am going to do something if I die for it," said Babcock, and went
in with a vigor that nothing could resist. Inside of two minutes
he secured the ball, dove to the left, turned, and started for the
right. Two Rockville players tackled him, but Dave and Buster Beggs
came between and Babcock went on. Then Roger took a hand, and in the
struggle the ball went over the Rockville line amid a yelling from Oak
Hall that could have been heard half a mile.

"A touchdown for Oak Hall!"

"Now wake up, boys, and show 'em what you can do!"

Dave held the ball and Roger made the kick. The ball went through the
posts fairly, scoring 6 points for the Hall. Again came a cheer.

"Well, it's only 6 to 16," whispered Nat Poole.

"How much longer to play?" asked Plum.

"Fourteen minutes."

The six points gained put increased vigor into Oak Hall, and now
Roger gave the signal for a certain mass play which had as yet not
been tried. Like a living wedge Oak Hall struck against Rockville,
and although the academy eleven carried more weight they could not
withstand such an onslaught. They separated, and in a twinkling the
leather was carried up the field and across the line a second time,
within three minutes after the first touchdown was secured.

"Whoop! Hurrah! Look at that!"

"Another touchdown! Keep it up, fellows!"

"Oak Hall has struck her gait at last!"

And then the Oak Hall colors were waved wildly, while horns tooted and
rattles were swung on every side. It was now Rockville's turn to remain
silent.

"Be careful, fellows, don't get excited," warned Roger. "Watch your
chances."

The goal was kicked, making the score, Rockville 16, Oak Hall 12.
There were but eight minutes more in which to play. Once again the
leather came into the field. Rockville was now on guard against another
mass play and it was decided to try the left end. The ball went to
Ben, who passed it to Dave. Dave made a short run and doubled, as if
turning back. Then he plunged forward, hurdled (it was the old style of
playing), and tore up the field for twenty yards. Then he was brought
to earth with a thud that made his ears ring and caused him to see
stars.

"Are you hurt, Dave?" he heard Roger ask, and sitting up he shook his
head. Time had been called, and he learned that for two minutes he had
been dead to the world.

"I--I guess I am all right," he said, and with a mighty effort pulled
himself together. "Did--did I gain anything?"

"Did you gain anything? Well, rather!" answered Phil. "It was a dandy
play!"

Again the ball was put into play, and it went back and forth in a
manner that was heartbreaking, first for one side and then for the
other. Then came a warning cry:

"Three minutes more to play!"

It nerved all of the players up as never before and the struggle was
the most bitter yet. But with less than a minute and a half to play
Dave secured the ball and made a clever pass to Phil, who started up
the field. Babcock guarded him on one side and Roger on the other, and
in a trice another sensational run was on.

"Down him! Down him!" was the frantic yell from Rockville, and just
as Phil, panting for breath, reached the goal-line he was caught and
thrown with tremendous violence, his head striking the ground with
great force.

"Another touchdown!"

"Oak Hall wins the game!"

It was true, the touchdown had been made, fairly and squarely. With
drooping hearts Rockville came out of the mix-up. There was nothing
more to be done, for all but quarter of a minute of the time was up.
Phil lay on the ball motionless, his face buried in the grass.

"He's hurt!" cried Dave, bending over his chum. "Phil!"

There was no answer, and now Roger and some others came to the aid of
the fallen one. They turned Phil over. His face was pale and his eyes
closed. He made not the slightest sound.

"Call the doctor!" said Dave, in as steady a voice as he could command.
"I--I hope he isn't hurt very much."

Water was brought and Phil's face was bathed, but still he made no
sound nor did he open his eyes. Then the doctor came up and took charge.

"He has received a severe shock," said the physician, after an
examination. "As yet I cannot tell how badly he is affected. His head
is bleeding, and it is possible he may have fractured his skull. We had
best remove him to the house."

A barn door was procured and a blanket thrown over it, and on this the
hurt student was placed and six others carried him to the mansion. In
the meantime there had been a great cheering over Oak Hall's victory,
but this soon came to an end when it was known that Phil Lawrence had
been seriously hurt.

"I hope his skull hasn't been fractured," said Dave. "He certainly came
down hard. I heard the thump plainly."

"So did I," answered Babcock, and then he ran off to see how Henshaw
was faring. He found the latter sitting up in an easy-chair, as pale as
death itself.

"Won out, eh?" said Henshaw, weakly. "Good enough!"

"How do you feel now?" questioned Babcock.

"Oh, my stomach is better and the dizziness is gone. But I am as weak
as a rag."

Through an attendant Henshaw had heard of the arrival of Dave and
Babcock and of the progress of the great game. He was shocked to learn
that Phil had been seriously hurt.

"This will put a damper on the celebration," said he, and he was right.
Only a few cared to celebrate with Phil, for all they knew, lying at
death's door. The sufferer was still unconscious, and a messenger had
been sent off for another physician who was also a surgeon.

"This takes the edge off the victory," said Dave. "I'd rather lose than
have anybody seriously hurt."

"Morr, we are mighty sorry for this," said the captain of the Rockville
eleven, coming up. "I am sure you know it wasn't done intentionally."

"I know that," answered Roger. "But the play was pretty rough,
especially towards the end."

"It was a fair tackle," said the Rockville captain, and moved off.

Those from the military academy felt their defeat keenly. Just when
they had thought victory certain all their hopes had been dashed to the
ground. They had to admit that Oak Hall had played fairly from start to
finish.

"Boys, you did splendidly," said Dr. Clay. "The one dark spot is the
fact that Lawrence has been hurt. I sincerely trust it does not prove
serious."

While the doctor was doing what he could for Phil, the two schools were
entertained in royal style by Mr. Mongrace. But Dave and Roger could
eat little, their thoughts being constantly with Phil. Three others who
did not enjoy the feast were Plum, Poole, and Jasniff.

"Hang the luck, anyway!" growled the bully, as he and his cronies
walked away from the table. "Jasniff, this is the worst yet."

"Who would have thought that they could pull themselves together like
that," grumbled Jasniff. "Why, I never saw such work on any field. They
went at the play like demons--nothing could stand before them."

"Yes, and Phil Lawrence got a broken head for his pains," said Poole,
in a tone more of satisfaction than regret.

"I don't care a continental for Lawrence," pursued the bully of Oak
Hall. "What I am thinking of is the money I have lost."

"And the money I've lost, too," added Poole.

"Well, we'll have to pocket our losses, that's all," answered Jasniff.
"With Porter, Babcock, and Henshaw off the list I thought we'd make a
sure thing of it--but we didn't, and there you are."

"I don't know what I am going to do about the money I put up," said Gus
Plum.

"Write to your old man for some," suggested Jasniff. "Tell him you lost
your money, but don't say how."

"He won't let me have any more just yet--said so in his last letter."

"How about you, Nat?"

"My old man won't give up a cent until next allowance day, and that's
two weeks off. I'll have to live on air till then."

A little later Poole was called away by one of the students, and Gus
Plum and Nick Jasniff were left to themselves. Plum was in a quandary,
for he had borrowed from several parties and now did not know how to
pay the amounts back. Jasniff noticed his uneasiness.

"Don't take the loss so hard, Gus," he said. "Let us go off and have a
smoke--it will settle your nerves. If we were in town we might get a
drink. But we can't get it around here."

"Let's go back to the Hall, I am sick of it here," answered the bully
of the school; and a few minutes later he and Jasniff started off,
leaving Poole behind, in the company of several girls who had driven in
to witness the football match. Poole always dressed very fastidiously,
and sought the company of the girls whenever the opportunity offered.

Halfway to Oak Hall, Plum and Jasniff determined to ride on their
wheels to Hampton, a small village south of Oakdale. Here they put up
at the tavern, and Jasniff spent his last twenty cents for some liquor.
Then they sat down in the back room, to smoke cigarettes and talk over
their future plans.

"It don't feel nice to be dead-broke," said Jasniff. "Wouldn't you
like to earn a little pile, Gus?"

"How?" questioned the bully eagerly.

"Oh,--I don't know exactly," drawled Jasniff, looking up at the
ceiling. "But it might be done, you know."

"Well, I've got to get money somehow," answered Plum, desperately. "I
am not going around without a cent in my pocket, and in debt, too."

"Will you stand by me if I show you a way to get a little pile?" asked
Jasniff, lowering his voice.

"Yes, I will," answered Plum, boldly.

"All right, then; I'll let you know what I can do in a few days. I've
got to consult somebody else first, though."



CHAPTER XVIII

A FUNNY INITIATION


The celebration to follow the grand victory was a rather tame affair on
account of the accident to Phil Lawrence. The ship-owner's son was a
prime favorite with many of the Oak Hall students and they asked about
him constantly.

"He cannot be moved at present," said the doctors. "He must remain
here." And after that the sufferer was made as comfortable as possible
in one of the spare chambers of the mansion. A telegram was at once
sent to his parents, and they came on the following morning. Poor Phil
was still unconscious but came to his senses that evening, and by the
following day seemed a trifle improved.

"Oh, I do hope he gets over it entirely," said Dave to Roger. "It would
be awful to think of his suffering all his life."

"That is true, Dave. I'd rather we hadn't played at all."

"And to think it came at the very end of the game," broke in Buster
Beggs.

"It will stop football for this season," announced Sam Day, and he was
right. Dr. Clay issued orders that very day that no more games should
be played until it was certain that Phil was out of danger. Even as
it was, a number of the students received word from their parents and
guardians forbidding their playing any more.

Dave wrote to his uncle and to the others about the game, and received
several letters in return, including one from Jessie Wadsworth which he
kept to himself and prized very highly. In it the girl wrote that she
was glad they had won and was sure Dave had done his full share to gain
the victory, but she was sorry to learn Phil had been hurt and that
Dave must be sure to keep out of harm.

"We cannot afford to have anything happen to you," wrote Jessie, "for
we all think so much of you." And this made Dave's cheeks flush and his
heart beat with keenest pleasure.

The letter from Dunston Porter was also interesting, but one paragraph
made Dave's heart sink. In this Mr. Porter stated that as yet no word
of any kind had been received about Dave's father and sister.

"It certainly is queer you don't hear from them," said Roger, when he
learned of this. "If they are in Europe or in America at least one of
your letters must have followed them up."

"It's a mystery to me," answered Dave, and heaved a long sigh. He was
more than impatient to meet his father and sister, and who can blame
him?

The two bicycles belonging to Dave and Babcock had been brought in by a
farmer of that vicinity, who had found them near the fallen tree. This
man was rewarded for his trouble, and Dave, Roger, and Babcock went to
the spot hoping to find some clew to the mystery. They saw that the
tree was decayed near the roots but that it had undoubtedly been broken
off by force.

"It was surely the work of some enemies," said Dave. "The question is,
Who is guilty?"

"Perhaps we'll learn some day," answered the senator's son; and there,
for the time being, the subject was dropped.

As my old readers know there was a secret society at Oak Hall known as
the Gee Eyes, this mysterious appellation standing for the initials,
G. I., which in their turn stood for the words, Guess It. This society
had its officers and its secret password, and met "semi-occasionally or
oftener" as the by-laws had it. It was gotten up mostly for fun,--the
said fun being largely due to the initiation of new members. Dave had
joined and so had his chums, and they had aided in initiating a number
of others.

For various reasons Plum, Poole, and Jasniff were out of this society.
When Jasniff had wanted to join--as a newcomer to the Hall--he had
been rejected with scant ceremony. This had angered him, and as a
consequence he and his cronies, along with several other students,
had organized a new society, called the D. D. A. Club, the initials
standing for Dare Do Anything. This was supposed to meet once a month,
and all sorts of inducements were offered to get the other students to
join.

"I hear the Gee Eyes are going to meet soon," said Nat Poole, one day
to his cronies. "Ain't it about time the D. D. A. met too?"

"Have you found a new member?" asked Jasniff.

"Frank Bond wants to join."

"Oh, he's only a little fellow," sneered Jasniff.

"Never mind, we can get some fun out of him," said Gus Plum. "I'd like
something to do. Things are dead slow."

The Gee Eyes met the very next night, and hearing of this the D. D. A.
Club did the same. A new student named Sultzer--a German boy--wanted
to join the Gee Eyes, and Dave and Ben Basswood were appointed as a
committee of two to make ready for the occasion.

"We'll have to give 'em something brand-new," said Ben.

"That will not be so easy--since we have tried nearly everything,"
answered Dave.

[Illustration: Carl was made to bow until his nose touched the floor.

_Page 167._]

"They are building a new house over near the Grislow place. Can't we do
something there?"

"Maybe we can," said Dave. "Let us look over the ground."

By the time the Gee Eyes met everything was in readiness, and Ben
Basswood brought Carl Sultzer to the meeting, which was held in an old
boathouse down the river. In the meantime the other members had attired
themselves in cotton robes of red, with black hoods over their heads
and a yellow tassel dangling over one ear. Some had wooden swords, one
a wooden hammer, and others stuffed clubs.

As Carl Sultzer, a fat boy with a round, ruddy face, was thrust into
the room, he was surrounded and all present began to chant:

  "Hoopra! hoopra! Dilly duddy!
    Here he comes so fat and ruddy!
  Hoopra! hoopra! Dilly dee!
    Stranger, stranger! Bend your knee!
  Hoopra! hoopra! Dilly dud!
    Do you want to join this club?
  If you do, down to the ground,
    Make to us a bow profound!"

As the chant went on Carl Sultzer was forced to his knees and was made
to bow until his nose touched the floor.

"Vot is dis ding, annahow?" he asked, in a trembling voice. "Is dis der
Chee Eyes Club, I ton't know?"

"This is the renowned Gee Eyes Club," came in a solemn tone.

"Wouldst thou join us, base stranger?" asked another voice.

"Yah, sure, I choin," answered Carl. "Put vot I got to to alretty?"

"Thou shalt soon see," was the answer. "Numbers Three and Six,
blindfold him."

"Look here, I ton't like dis!" cried the German student, as a bag was
thrown over his head and fastened around his neck. The bag had a hole
in the back, so that he could get air. But he could not see a thing.

"It must be done," was the answer. "For particulars see Section 45,
rule 917 of the by-laws. Are you ready to learn the by-laws?"

"Der py-laws? Vot I got to puy py der py-laws?" asked the German
student, cautiously.

"You haven't got to buy anything. You must learn them."

"Which puts me in mind of a story," came in another voice. "A man
once----Oh, excuse me, I forgot!" And the story came to a sudden end, as
the speaker received a whack over the ear from a stuffed club.

"I believe Shadow would want to tell a story if he was at a funeral,"
whispered one hooded figure to another.

"Lo! the march begins!" cried a loud voice, in Carl Sultzer's ear.
It made the German boy jump. Then he was caught by the arms and his
hands were tied behind him. In this fashion he was marched from the old
boathouse and in the direction of the new building previously mentioned.

"Vere you been daking me?" asked Carl.

"Wait, and thou shalt see."

"How I vos going to see of I got mine eyes blindfolded alretty?"

To this there was no answer, but several of the hooded figures
snickered.

The new building reached, several of the boys caught up the German lad
in a blanket.

"Vot is dis now?" he asked, in fresh alarm.

"Be careful now while you carry him to the top of the building,"
whispered one boy, but loud enough for the German lad to hear.

"Hi! vot is dis, annahow?" yelled Carl.

"A new house they are building. We are going to take you to the top,"
answered a member of the secret society.

"Maype I ton't vos vant to go py der dop alretty," pleaded Carl.

"It won't hurt you. Come on, fellows!"

In a twinkling the German youth was lifted up and carried along, over
some wooden horses and lumber piles. He thought he was going up--he
knew not where.

"Hi! ton't you trop me town," he wailed.

"No, Carl dear, we'll drop you up," came in a cheery voice, and this
brought forth another snicker.

Presently the boys came to a halt, and the victim was placed on his
feet on a narrow board.

"Don't lose your balance," said one boy, cautiously.

"It's about thirty feet to the ground," added another.

"Oh, my! I ton't vos vant to dumble, ain't it!" shrieked Carl, in
terror.

"You won't if you are careful. Now you must walk over the beams from
one end of this building to the other."

"I can't vos do dot! I vos dumble town sure!" wailed Carl.

"You have got to do it if you want to join this society. Here, let me
place your foot on the next beam," and Carl's right foot was caught up
and put on a beam a foot and a half in front of that upon which he had
been standing.

"Look out! I vos dumble me town!" he shrieked.

"Steady now and you'll be all right," was the answer. "Forward you go!"

But poor Carl did not go forward, instead he remained standing on the
two beams, his knees shaking visibly.

"Forward!" was the cry again, and now he was tapped on the back with
the wooden swords and stuffed clubs.

"I dumble me town! I dumble me town sure as I vas porn!" he shrieked.
"Ton't douch me!"

"Then move on. We won't let you fall," said one student, and still
trembling the German lad started to walk across the beams to the other
end of the building, as he thought. He passed over seven beams when, of
a sudden, one fell over. Down he went, yelling wildly and clutching at
the beam he had just left. Then he struck the ground, which was just
under the beams, and rolled over. In another moment the sack was taken
from his head and his hands were unloosened.

"Vell, I neffer!" he ejaculated, gazing around in a sheepish way. "I
dink me sure I vos der top of der puilding on alretty! Und I vos on
der groundt all der vile! Now ain't dot funny!" And all at once he set
up a roar of laughter. The other students joined in, and the general
merriment lasted for fully five minutes.

"Now, Carl, you are a full-fledged member of the Gee Eyes," said Dave,
coming forward. "Let me congratulate you." And he gave Carl's hand a
tight squeeze.

"Dank you," said the German lad. Then the others shook hands, each
giving Carl's hand the tightest squeeze possible. Soon the youth began
to dance around.

"Hi! somepody stop dot!" he roared. "I ton't vont mine hand squashed
to a jelly alretty! Let go, I told you!" And after that he would do no
more handshaking.

It was rather cold and soon one of the students suggested that they go
back to the Hall. But the others demurred.

"Let us take a trolley ride," said one. "Just the thing in this
moonlight. We can get back in plenty of time."

So it was agreed, and off the crowd set, in the direction of the
trolley line, upon which they had had so much sport the previous
summer. Nobody dreamed of the surprise in store for them.



CHAPTER XIX

ALMOST SCARED TO DEATH


While the Gee Eyes were having their sport with Carl Sultzer quite
another scene was being enacted some distance away, in the vicinity of
the trolley tracks.

Little Frank Bond, a pale and highly sensitive youth who had come to
Oak Hall two weeks before, was being initiated into the mysteries of
the D. D. A. Club by Plum, Poole, Jasniff, and several of their cronies.

Frank did not care for clubs, being a lad of a retiring disposition.
But he had been "talked into it" by Plum, who thought he saw some keen
sport in scaring the little fellow half to death.

"You must join by all means," said the bully of the school. "Why, life
at Oak Hall won't be worth living unless you're a member of the D. D.
A. Club." And very foolishly Frank agreed to submit to an initiation.

"We'll scare him out of his seven senses," chuckled Plum. "It will be a
barrel of fun."

"What will you do?" questioned the others of the club.

When the bully of Oak Hall unfolded his plan several demurred, stating
it would be rather severe on a lad of Frank's temperament. But they
were overruled, and in the end the so-styled initiation was carried out
as the bully planned it.

After a good deal of ceremony, which was great fun and rather enjoyed
by the small boy, Frank was blindfolded and marched out in the
direction of the trolley tracks. The club members took to a side road,
where there was a single track running to a town several miles distant.
On this track was a new turnout, which had been put down only a short
while before.

"Where are we going?" asked Frank, timidly, as the others hurried him
along.

"To the trolley tracks," was the answer. "We want to test your nerve."

"How?"

"Oh, we'll put you on the tracks and let the trolley run over you,"
answered Plum, brutally.

"Oh, please don't put me on the tracks!" cried Frank. "I--I know you
don't want to hurt me, but a trolley car might come along, and I might
get struck."

"Oh, it's all right," said Jasniff. "If you're ground up we'll pick up
the pieces and give you a decent burial."

This sort of talk was kept up until the trolley line was reached, and
the effect was to completely unnerve the young victim. He was allowed
to see the single track and then blindfolded once more, and his hands
were tied behind his back.

"Now put him on the tracks," commanded Plum, roughly.

"And don't forget to chain him fast," added Jasniff, rattling a dog
chain he had brought along.

"Oh, we'll chain him good and hard," said Nat Poole.

"No! no! Please don't!" cried Frank, and now he tried to break away
from his tormentors. A struggle ensued, but in the end he was subdued
and dragged along the track to where was located the turnout just
mentioned. Here he was thrown on his back, and his hands were fastened
down to one of the rails.

"Don't! Let me go! Please let me go!" he shrieked. "I don't want to be
tied to the track! I don't want to join the club! If a trolley should
come along I'd surely be hurt! Let me go!" And he started to struggle
again.

"See here, aren't we going a little too far?" whispered one of the
students.

"He's too sensitive for this sort of sport," added another.

"Oh, pshaw! it's all right," interrupted Plum. "The little beggar won't
be hurt in the least."

"But he'll be scared to death."

"Well, that's the fun of it," came from Jasniff.

In the meantime Frank Bond continued to cry out to be released. He was
so frightened now that he know not what to do. He struggled madly to
break his bonds.

"I'm going to let him go," began one boy, a lad named Messmer.

"Don't you touch him," answered Plum, roughly. "It's only fun."

"But, Gus----"

"Here comes the trolley!" shouted Jasniff. "Now, Bond, take it easy
when they run over you!"

"Don't throw the trolley off the track," added Plum, brutally.

The trolley came along swiftly in the semi-darkness, and as it
approached Frank Bond let out a piercing scream for help. He was now
completely beside himself with fear.

"Don't, don't! Help!" he screamed. "Save me! Save me!" And then he
began to foam at the mouth.

With a rush and a roar the trolley car came on. The poor boy on the
turnout track thought sure it was going to run over him and struggled
madly to get free. Then, just as the trolley swept beside him, he broke
his bonds, leaped to his feet, and stepped blindly toward the car. His
arm struck the back platform and he was hurled backward. Then the
trolley, with its gleaming headlight, swept on its way, the motorman
taking no notice of what had happened.

"He's hurt!" was the cry from Messmer.

"It's the little beggar's own fault," said Gus Plum, but his voice
trembled as he spoke.

"Oh, I am killed! I am killed!" cried Frank, struggling to his feet and
throwing the bandage from his eyes. He was foaming at the mouth, and
bleeding both at the head and on the hand. "Don't let the trolley go
over me again! Save me! Save me!" And then, with a bound, he turned and
disappeared into the bushes and trees which lined the trolley road at
this point.

"He has gone mad!" whispered one of the boys, hoarsely.

"As mad as a March hare," was the comment of another of the students.
"Come back, Frank! It's all right!" he called out.

"The little fool!" muttered Jasniff. "He wouldn't have been hurt at all
if he had remained quiet." He raised his voice: "Come back here, Bond,
it's all over!"

"I said he couldn't stand it," said Messmer. "It was a shame to go so
far."

"Oh, don't preach to me," returned Jasniff. "Bond, are you coming
back?" he cried, in a louder tone.

The only reply was a distant scream, so cold and uncanny it made all of
the students shiver. Then came other screams, gradually growing fainter
and fainter.

"He is going deeper and deeper into the woods!"

"Say, we'll have to get him out of that!"

"He has gone crazy, just as sure as fate," said Messmer. "Come, we must
bring him back and do what we can for him."

The wood was a long one and some distance from the trolley turnout was
another road, leading down to the main line. Dave and his chums were
coming along this road when Ben came to a sudden halt.

"Listen!"

"What did you hear, Ben?"

Before Ben could answer Dave's question a blood-curdling scream rent
the air. It was followed by another and then another.

"My gracious! is that a ghost?" queried Sam Day.

"It's somebody in trouble perhaps," came from Roger.

"Of dot peen a ghost I dink I go me pack to der Hall alretty now!" said
Carl Sultzer, in alarm.

"There are no ghosts," said Dave. "All so-called ghosts are
make-believes--humbugs, in fact."

"Which puts me in mind of a story," said Shadow, as the crowd came
to a halt, listening to a repetition of the cries. "A lot of college
students wanted to play a joke on their professor, so they put together
the body of one bug, the wings of another, the legs of another, and the
horns of another. Then they went to the old professor and said: 'Here
is a wonderful new bug we have found. What family does it belong to?'
The old professor looked the thing over for a minute. 'A well-known
family,' he said. 'A very large family.' 'What?' asked the students,
all ready to laugh at the old fellow. 'The family of humbugs,'
answered the professor."

"That's all right," said Roger, laughing, while the others joined in.

"Say, vot has dot hum-pug to to mit dot ghost?" asked Carl, innocently.
He had been the only one unable to appreciate the joke.

"Nothing, but--listen!"

Buster Beggs broke off short, as another scream rent the air. Then the
members of the Gee Eyes saw a wild-looking youth rush across the road
and disappear among the trees beyond.

"Did you see that?"

"It was a boy!"

"He acted as if he was crazy!"

"Yes, and do you know who it was?" demanded Dave. "It was little Frank
Bond!"

"So it was," added Roger. "Boys, what can this mean?"

"He must be in trouble," said Buster Beggs.

"Perhaps some wild animal scared him," was Ben's comment. "But what can
he be doing out here alone this time of night?"

"Bond! Bond!" cried Roger. "Come back here! What's the matter?"

But the only answer that came back was another scream, as the
half-crazed lad plunged deeper and deeper into the wood. Soon he was
completely out of hearing.

"I don't like this," was Dave's comment.

"Listen, I hear somebody else coming," said Ben, and soon they heard
Plum and his crowd approaching through the woods. They were hunting in
several directions for Frank Bond.

"Hullo!" cried Roger to the other crowd, and soon the D. D. A. members
and the Gee Eyes confronted each other.

"What brings you out here?" demanded Plum, suspiciously.

"We might ask the same question of you?" returned Dave, coldly.

"Oh, I say, Porter, have you seen anything of little Frank Bond?" asked
Messmer, stepping forward.

"Yes, we saw him a minute ago. He ran across this road as if he was
crazy. What's the trouble?"

"Don't say a word!" burst out Jasniff, confronting his fellow club
member.

"Bond got scared and ran away from us," went on Messmer, ignoring Nick
Jasniff completely. "Did he--er--did he look hurt, or--er--crazy?"

"He looked both," put in Roger. "What have you been doing, hazing him?"

"That's our affair," broke in Plum, warningly.

"Look here, Plum, and you too, Jasniff, I won't stand for any more of
your talk!" cried Messmer, wrathfully. "You went too far, and I said so
from the start." He turned again to Dave and Roger. "We were initiating
Bond into our club. We had him down to the trolley track and--well, he
got badly scared and bumped into a trolley that was passing. Then all
at once he seemed to go crazy and ran off into the woods. We don't know
how badly he is hurt or where he has gone to."

"If that's the case, one thing is certain," said Dave. "We must find
him, and do it as soon as possible."



CHAPTER XX

A STUDENT'S STRANGE DISAPPEARANCE


Much against the wishes of Plum, Poole, and Jasniff, Messmer told many
of the details of what had been done to poor Frank Bond. He did not
attempt to shield himself. His story was corroborated by a student
named Jardell, who was disgusted by the attitude taken by the bully of
Oak Hall and his intimates.

"I like fun as well as the next one," said Jardell, "but I don't want
to see it carried too far."

"Oh, you needn't blame us for everything," sneered Plum. "You're tarred
with the same brush."

"There is no use in discussing the matter now," said Dave. "What we
want to do is to find poor Frank. Why, he may be seriously hurt!"

"I trust not," answered Messmer, turning pale.

The students walked into the wood and a search was begun that lasted
the best part of an hour. Nobody got on the trail of the missing boy
and no more cries were heard. It was so dark that but little could be
seen, and at last the whole crowd came out on the road again.

The thoughts of a trolley ride had been abandoned by the members of the
Gee Eyes, and they decided to get back to the Hall as soon as possible.

"But Dr. Clay ought to be told about Frank," said Dave, to Messmer and
Jardell.

"I'll tell him," answered Messmer, promptly. "I'll tell him the truth,
even if I'm dismissed from the school for it."

"So will I," added Jardell.

"Going to get us into trouble, eh?" growled Gus Plum. "Better go slow."

"I'll not mention any names," said Messmer.

"Neither will I," added Jardell. "I am not that kind."

Presently all of the students returned to Oak Hall by the shortest
possible route. The Gee Eyes went in a crowd by themselves, and because
of an open back door had small difficulty in entering without being
noticed. A little later Plum and his cronies came in, followed by
Messmer and Jardell.

"Do you think Messmer and Jardell will really go to the doctor?"
questioned Sam Day.

"I do," answered Dave. "They are good, honest fellows, both of them.
After this I reckon they'll give Plum and his crowd the go-by." And in
that surmise Dave was correct.

The boys listened in the upper hallway, and soon heard Messmer and
Jardell enter the Hall. The two held a whispered talk for a minute and
then walked boldly to Dr. Clay's room and rapped on the door.

"They are certainly going to face the music," whispered Roger.

"I admire their grit," was Ben's comment.

The knock on the doctor's door was answered by a voice from within, and
presently Dr. Clay appeared, clad in his dressing-gown. Then the owner
of the Hall and the two students went down to the office.

Exactly all that passed between the doctor and Messmer and Jardell was
never known to the school at large. But it was known that the boys told
a straight story and utterly refused to mention any names but their own
and poor Frank Bond's. As soon as the meeting in the office was over
Dr. Clay summoned Jackson Lemond and Swingly the janitor, and all three
went out, taking Messmer and Jardell with them.

"They have gone on a hunt," said Dave. "Oh, I do hope they find that
poor lad!"

It goes without saying that some of the students did not sleep well
that night. Plum, Poole, and Jasniff were particularly restless,
fearing they would be called to the bar of justice. They were sure
Messmer and Jardell would "blab" on them, as the bully expressed it.

"But if they do, I'll hammer the life out of them," said the bully.

"And so will I," added Jasniff.

In the morning it was easy to see that something was wrong. The
teachers and hired help went around whispering to themselves, and there
was a good deal of quiet talking among the boys. It was soon learned
that Frank Bond was still missing and nobody knew what had become of
him.

As soon as the school was assembled Dr. Clay addressed the students.

"Young gentlemen, a most deplorable thing occurred last night," he
began. "One of the younger students was taken out and 'initiated,' as
it is called, into one of your secret societies. The strain was too
great on his nerves, and after being hurt by a trolley car, he became
half-crazy and disappeared into the North End woods. Two students have
already told me about the affair. I want to know the names of the
others connected with this occurrence. Anybody who had anything to do
with it, stand up."

There was a full minute of silence and the students looked keenly at
one another.

"Does anybody in this assembly room know anything about this at all?"
went on the master of Oak Hall. "Remember, young gentlemen, it is a
serious matter, and I want to learn all there is to know of it."

As the doctor ceased speaking Dave arose in his seat. He was promptly
followed by Roger, Ben, and half a dozen others of the Gee Eyes. The
other students looked at those who had arisen in astonishment, while
Plum, Poole, and Jasniff were dumfounded.

"Is he going to blab too?" whispered Jasniff to Plum, indicating Dave.

"Looks like it."

"Porter, what have you to say?" questioned Dr. Clay.

"Not a great deal, sir, but I am willing to tell what I can. I had
nothing to do with the hazing, or whatever you may call it. But I was
out near the woods last night and I saw Frank Bond run across the
road and plunge into the woods at the North End. A whole crowd of us
searched for him, but we could not find him."

"And what have you to say, Morr?"

"I was with Dave Porter, sir," answered the senator's son.

"So was I," "And I," came from the others of the Gee Eyes.

"You had nothing to do with Frank Bond previous to his becoming
frightened and running away?" demanded the master of the Hall, sharply.

"No, sir, I was not near him, nor were any of my companions," answered
Dave, indicating his friends.

"Then you were not with Messmer and Jardell?"

"Not until after we met on the road and started to hunt for Bond, sir."

"We were with an entirely different party, Dr. Clay," said Messmer,
rising in his seat.

"The party that 'initiated' Bond, is that it?"

"Yes, sir."

"Are those students in this room?"

Messmer remained silent.

"Messmer, answer me."

"Dr. Clay, they are in this room, but I--I cannot tell you who they
are."

"Porter, what have you to say?"

There was a moment of breathless silence.

"Dr. Clay, I would rather you would not ask me to mention any names,"
said Dave, slowly but firmly. "I think every fellow ought to speak up
for himself. He will if he has any honor about him."

"Then you decline to speak?"

"I am very sorry to say that I do, sir."

There was another pause, and then a rather stupid boy arose and began
to shuffle his feet uneasily.

"What is it, Seabold?" asked the doctor.

"I ain't going to hang back no longer, Dr. Clay," stammered Seabold.
"I was in that--er--that mix-up with Messmer and Jardell. Porter and
Morr and that crowd didn't have anything to do with it. I don't like
to be a sneak, but I can't stand up for such a sneak as Gus Plum, nor
Nat Poole, nor Nick Jasniff neither. We were all in it together, and as
Porter says, they ought to have honor enough to speak up and take their
share of the blame. We didn't mean to hurt Frank Bond, only to scare
him. When he ran away I got scared myself and so did the others. We
began to hunt for Frank, and then Porter and his crowd came along and
helped us. But it was no use, we couldn't find the boy. I ain't slept
all night thinking of Frank. I'd give all I'm worth to find him."

"Who got up the plan to tie Bond to the trolley track?"

"Gus Plum spoke of it first."

"It ain't so!" yelled Gus Plum, leaping up, his face very red. "I
didn't have anything more to do with it than anybody else."

"He spoke of it to me," added Seabold.

"Poole, what have you to say?"

"I--er--I didn't have hardly anything to do with it," said Nat, lamely,
his knees shaking beneath him. "I--er--looked on--mostly."

"Jasniff, did you propose the plan?"

"No, sir," answered Jasniff, boldly. "I reckon Messmer and Jardell and
Seabold hatched it up between them."

"So they did," put in Plum, maliciously.

"That is positively false," declared Messmer. "As a matter of fact
I said I didn't want to go so far, because Frank seemed to be so
frightened. If I had had my own way I should have released him long
before the trolley car came along. He was too nervous to stand such
fun."

"If the truth is to come out, Gus Plum is the one who proposed tying
Bond to the trolley track," said Jardell. "I wasn't going to say a
word, but I am not going to stand here and let him throw the blame on
Messmer and me, or on Porter and his crowd, or anybody else. I have
told the exact truth so far as I am concerned, and I am ready to take
any punishment that is coming to me."

After this a long talk followed, and in the end the master of the Hall
said he would take up the matter later, when it was learned what had
become of Frank Bond. In the meantime, so great was the excitement, the
school was dismissed for the day, and those who wished to do so were
told that they might go out until sundown in a search for the missing
pupil.

"I am certainly going out," said Dave, to Roger and Ben. "I think we
ought to do our best to find him, or else find out about him."

"Maybe he jumped into the river and drowned himself," suggested Ben.

"Or fell over some cliff and got killed," added the senator's son. "A
fellow so scared as he was might do almost anything. But I agree with
Dave, we ought to go out."

The matter was talked over, and in the end Dave, Ben, Roger, and Beggs
set off in a little party, taking a lunch with them. In the meantime
others went out too, so that the woods known as the North End were
alive with boys and men, all searching for the missing student.



CHAPTER XXI

THE CAVERN IN THE WOODS


The four students remembered the part of the big woods which had been
gone over before and consequently they did not attempt to search for
Frank Bond in that direction. They struck out over a small hill and
then along somewhat of a hollow, though which ran a small creek that
flowed into the Leming River.

The way was rough and uncertain, and several times they had fairly to
force their progress through the bushes. Once Buster Beggs got caught
so thoroughly that the others had to turn back to aid him.

"Do you think Frank could have come in this direction?" questioned
Roger. "How could he get through?"

"A fellow who is half crazy will do all sorts of queer things,"
answered Dave. "And as we couldn't find him in the other part of the
woods, it appears to me as if he must have come this way."

Over an hour was spent in searching along the creek, but without avail.
They called Frank's name a great number of times, but not a sound came
back save the call of the birds.

"I shouldn't like to run across any snakes," said Buster Beggs.

"I don't believe there are any very bad snakes in this woods," answered
Ben.

They now made another turn and came up to the face of a rocky cliff.
Suddenly Dave leaped forward.

"Look! look!" he cried, and held up a handkerchief covered with blood.
In one corner were the initials, F. A. B.

"Frank A. Bond," said Roger. "We must be on the right track."

"Oh, if only we don't find the poor fellow dead!" murmured Dave.

Further on the rocks were very rough, and then came a cleft leading
into a small cavern. The entrance was dark and partly covered with
brush.

"See, the bushes are torn and broken," was Ben's comment. "Somebody has
been walking in and out."

They gazed into the cavern, but for a few seconds could see nothing.

"Frank!" called out Dave. "Frank Bond!"

"Help!" came back, in a faint voice. "Help me!"

"He is here!" exclaimed Dave. "Has anybody a match so we can make a
light?"

Buster Briggs had some matches, which he used for his bicycle lamp, and
with one of these the four boys set fire to some dry brushwood they
pulled up. The glare from the flames lit up the interior of the cavern,
and they gazed inside, to behold poor Frank Bond lying in a corner on
some leaves. The young student was utterly exhausted and lay with his
eyes closed.

"Frank, are you hurt?" asked Dave, bending over him. "I mean, are you
hurt very badly?"

At the sound of Dave's voice the youth on the leaves opened his eyes
for a moment.

"Take me back to school!" he gasped. "Don't--don't let the trolley run
over me!"

"Frank, you are safe now--nothing is going to hurt you," said the
senator's son. "Tell us where you are hurt."

"I--I----" Frank Bond stared around him. "I thought it was the Plum
crowd after me! Whe--where did you come from?"

"From the school. We came out to look for you."

"Oh!"

"What about your hurts?" asked Ben.

"Oh, I got my arm hurt, and my leg, and I fell down and cut my face,"
answered the sufferer. "I--I don't know how I got here, and I didn't
know the way home, and I got hungry and sleepy, and--and----" Frank
Bond could not go on, but burst into tears.

"We'll fix you up," said Dave, kindly. "We've brought some lunch
with us and you shall have all you want. Start up that fire briskly,
fellows."

The fire was built up in good shape, and two torches were brought into
the cavern. Then Frank Bond was propped up against a wall and given
something to eat and to drink. He was very hungry and ate up fully half
of what the four boys carried. Water was then brought in from the creek
and his several wounds were washed and dressed. Fortunately none of
them was serious, although they had been very painful.

The small student was still in a highly nervous state and the others
did all they could to quiet him. He remembered being tied to the
trolley track and running away, but could not tell how he had reached
the cavern or how long he had remained there.

"I guess I was plumb crazy," he declared. "I thought sure the trolley
car was going to run over me!"

At last the others managed to get him to his feet. But he was too weak
to walk more than a few steps at a time.

"I--I can't do it," he gasped. "Oh, how will I ever get back to the
Hall?"

"Let us take turns at carrying him," suggested Dave. "Frank, you can
hold on to my back, can't you?"

The small student said he would try, and putting out the fire the whole
party quitted the cavern, the hurt lad on Dave's back. It was quite a
load for Dave to master, but he managed it for several hundred yards,
when each of the others took a turn. Thus, after hard work, they got
Frank to the roadway.

A loud yelling brought some other boys and Andrew Dale to the scene.
One of the boys had his wheel and, riding on this, he went back to the
academy and had Jackson Lemond come for Frank with a carriage. Then a
pistol was fired off three times,--this being the signal showing that
the missing one was found. Soon pupils and teachers came trooping back
to Oak Hall, all anxious to listen to Frank's story.

As soon as he arrived at the Hall, the small student was taken to
a private bedroom and a doctor was sent for to attend him. In the
meantime he was given something hot to drink and rolled in blankets,
that he might not take cold. Not until that evening did Dr. Clay
attempt to get the details of his story from the sufferer.

When the physician arrived he said that Frank's hurts were not of a
serious nature. "He has been more frightened than anything else," said
the doctor. "He must be kept very quiet for at least a week, and after
that, Dr. Clay, you had better let him go slowly with his studies for a
month or so."

"I'll do it," answered the master of Oak Hall.

"This lad is of a high-strung temperament and he has been under an
unusual mental strain."

"You do not think he will suffer permanently?" asked the good doctor,
anxiously.

"Oh, no, but he must be kept quiet."

In an easy kind of way Dr. Clay drew from Frank Bond his whole story
of the initiation into the D. D. A. Club. From the lad he learned that
Plum and Jasniff had been the prime movers in the so-called fun, and
that Poole had backed them up. He at once sent for the three to come to
his private office.

"I reckon we're in for it now," growled Plum, on receiving the summons.

"Deny everything," advised Nick Jasniff. He thought nothing of telling
a falsehood whenever it suited him.

When the three entered the office Dr. Clay faced them sternly.

"I want to have a talk to you three young gentlemen," said the master
of Oak Hall. "I have learned the truth of the Frank Bond affair and I
want to know what you mean by such conduct."

The three tried to excuse themselves, but it was to no purpose. The
doctor read them through and through, and then gave each a lecture
that was never forgotten.

"Fun is fun, but this was not fun," said he. "Bond is a delicate and
highly nervous boy, and to do what you did was to make him suffer most
horribly. It is a wonder that you did not drive him insane. As it is,
he will suffer for a long time to come, and if his parents see fit
to prosecute you it will be your own fault if you are sent to jail.
More than that, you have disgraced this school, and for that I intend
to punish you myself. Each of you must remain inside of the academy
grounds for the next two weeks, and in addition I will give you some
extra lessons in history to learn, and I want them learned thoroughly.
And more than this, if you are ever concerned in such a disgraceful
proceeding again I shall dismiss you from Oak Hall."

When the three students left the doctor's office Nat Poole was so cowed
that he trembled in every limb. Plum, too, was subdued, but Jasniff was
boiling with inward rage.

"I didn't come here to be bulldozed," he declared. "If I want some fun
I am going to have it. If old Clay sends me away, I guess I'll find
some other school just as good." Jasniff was certainly a bad youth, but
the others were still to find out how really bad he was.

After this a week slipped by rather quickly. During that time Dave got
word from the Lawrences that Phil was a trifle better physically, but
that his head hurt him a great deal. He was still in bed and there was
no telling when he would get around again.

"I trust it doesn't hurt his head permanently," said Dave, for at least
the fiftieth time. He had heard of a boy who had had his head hurt by a
water-wheel and had become silly in consequence.

"Let us hope for the best," answered Roger. "Poor Phil! It would
certainly be awful if he didn't get around all right again!"

The injuries received by Phil and Frank Bond put something of a damper
on the school and for some time matters ran along very quietly. Plum
was troubled in more ways than one. He was afraid he was going to hear
from Frank Bond's father or the police, and he was also worrying over
his football wagers. He had lost all his spending money and he owed
about thirty dollars, and his friends were pressing him to pay up. He
had gone to Poole for a loan, but Nat had all he could do to pay his
own losses. Jasniff had promised to do something, but since the Bond
affair had said nothing more on the subject.

"Say, Nick, I thought you were going to help me get some money," said
he one day to his crony, when he could keep silent no longer.

"Haven't you got some money from home?" asked the other boy, with a
leer.

"No, my dad can't spare any just now," answered the bully, bluntly. He
was growing desperate. His father had written that he must get along
without spending money for at least a month more.

"Well, I'll let you know what I can do in a week or so," answered
Jasniff, slowly.

"You said that before--right after the football game."

"Well, I haven't been able to see those fellows yet."

"What fellows?"

"Those I want to talk to."

"Can't you hurry it up, Nick? I want some money the worst way--ten or
fifteen dollars at least."

The two were alone, down at the old boathouse, and Jasniff was smoking
a cigarette on the sly. He blew a cloud of smoke to the ceiling.

"Wonder if I can trust you to keep mum?" he said, slowly and
deliberately.

"About what?"

"About a little plan I've got to make some money."

"Haven't you always been able to trust me, Nick?"

"Certainly, but--this is out of the ordinary."

"I never went back on you yet."

"Will you promise to keep silent if I tell you something?"

"Yes."

"I've got a scheme to get hold of several hundred dollars."

"That's good."

"It will take some--er--quiet work on the part of both of us to do the
trick."

"Well, as I said before, I am with you."

"Can I trust you absolutely?" demanded Jasniff, looking Plum closely in
the face.

"You can."

"Then take a walk and we'll talk the matter over. But remember, if you
say a word to anybody about it--well, you had better not, that's all!"

They walked to a secluded spot and there, slowly and cautiously,
Nick Jasniff unfolded a plot to get money which filled Gus Plum with
curiosity, fear, wonder, and fascination.



CHAPTER XXII

A BOY AND A MOTOR CYCLE


With all the excitement Dave had not forgotten his studies and each day
he spent all the time that was necessary in preparing his lessons. He
had a faculty of concentrating his mind upon what he was doing and this
made learning easy.

"Going in for the medal of honor, I suppose," said Roger one day, as he
observed Dave grinding away at a Latin exercise. "Well, if you win it I
guess you'll deserve it."

"I am going to do what I can, Roger. I didn't come to Oak Hall just to
cut up."

The medal of honor had been promised by Dr. Clay to the pupil who
should stand highest in lessons and deportment at the end of the term.
It was a beautiful medal of solid gold, and many students secretly
hoped to win it. So far Polly Vane was in the lead, with Dave, Buster
Beggs, Sam Day, Roger, and a student named Langdale close behind.

"Langdale says he is going to win or die in the attempt," went on
the senator's son. "He is studying day and night, and so far his
deportment has been about perfect."

"Well, mine hasn't been--at least, not according to Job Haskers,"
answered Dave. "He marks me down whenever he can."

"He does that to all of us," said Sam Day, who was near. "I wish he'd
mark us up once."

"Which puts me in mind of a story," came from Shadow Hamilton, who was
resting on the end of a bed. "A clothing dealer was going to have a
fire sale. So he lit some damp paper in his stove and turned off the
draught, so that his stock got all smoked up. Then he called his son
Moses up. 'Make out new brice tickets,' says he to Moses. 'All right,
fader,' says Moses, and goes to work, and the next day he put out suits
of clothing labeled like this: 'Great Fire Sale! Suits marked down from
$9.00 to $7.98.' Soon a man came along to buy a suit. 'Why,' says he,
'that suit was only $5.50 two days ago.' 'Yes,' says Moses. 'Vos it?
Vell, ve haf der fire since, and now der suits vos all moth-broof!'"

"Phew! that's enough to drive all the lessons from a fellow's head!"
cried Dave, after a short laugh. "Where did you get it, Shadow?"

"Maybe he picked it out of the Old Farmers' Almanack," said Buster
Beggs.

"Which puts me in mind," began Shadow calmly. "A boy----"

"Not to-day!" interrupted Roger. "That's the fiftieth you've told this
week. I'm going out for a spin, boys."

"Going to try that new motor cycle?" queried Dave, looking up.

"Yes."

"Well, don't let it run away with you," and Dave smiled broadly.

"No fear," said Roger, with a laugh, and left the dormitory.

The senator's son had received a new motor cycle the day before. It was
a beautiful nickel-plated affair and Roger was very proud of it. He
knew a little about motor cycles, so it did not take him long to get
the machine in trim for use. He took a spin up and down the road, and
let Dave and some others try it, and all pronounced it a beauty.

Roger was soon on the motor cycle and speeding in the direction of
Oakdale. In the town he made a few small purchases, and then came away
for a spin in the direction of Rockville, taking a side road which he
thought in better condition than the main road.

The senator's son had covered a mile when he saw two boys on bicycles
approaching him. He reduced his speed, and as the pair came closer he
recognized Plum and Jasniff.

"Got your motor out, eh?" said the bully of Oak Hall, rather sourly.

"Yes," returned Roger, briefly.

"Can you get it to work?"

"The machine works perfectly."

"I'd rather have my bicycle," sneered Jasniff. "That thing makes too
much noise for me."

"So would I," added Gus Plum. "Too much noise and too much smell."

"I'd rather have the motor cycle, so there you are," answered the
senator's son, and moved on again, while the others did the same. "I
guess it's a case of sour grapes," he told himself.

Roger had just passed a bend of the road when something happened to
the battery which supplied the electric spark to ignite the gasoline.
He set the motor cycle against a rock, and it was a full quarter of an
hour before he could make the battery work. During that time somebody
came through the bushes near him and looked at the youth, but Roger
took no notice.

The motor cycle ready for use once more, the senator's son hopped
on the saddle and turned on the power. All seemed to go well and
presently, to make up for lost time, he put on all speed.

"It won't do to be late for supper," he reasoned. "Haskers will catch
me sure."

He passed another turn, between some high bushes. The way was now
downhill, leading over a small stream flowing into the Leming River.
The motor cycle took the down-grade at a rapid rate of speed, and
fearing an accident, Roger attempted to turn off the power and put on
the brake.

To his horror he could not move the power lever, which had become
caught in some manner. The motor cycle was now bounding down the road
at a terrific rate of speed. Just ahead was the little bridge. Roger
gave a vain tug or two. Then the machine struck the rough boards of the
bridge, made a turn against the stone wall, and heels over head the
senator's son went sailing over the stone wall to the rocks and water
below!

It was a terrible fall, much worse than that experienced by Dave and
Babcock when they had run into the fallen tree, and no sooner did Roger
land than his senses forsook him. His legs and part of his body went
into the water, while his head and arms rested on some sand.

The short autumn day drew to a close and Roger did not appear at Oak
Hall. The other students went to supper and then for the first Dave
learned that the senator's son had not gotten back.

"Where is Master Morr?" demanded Job Haskers, severely.

"He went out on his new motor cycle," answered Dave. "Perhaps he had a
breakdown."

"If he was not sure he could get back in time he should not have gone
out," snapped the disagreeable teacher.

Supper over, some of the students retired to their dormitories while
others sought the library and the gymnasium. Dave and Ben looked
around for Roger, but as he did not put in an appearance they obtained
permission from Andrew Dale to go out on their bicycles and make a hunt
for the missing one.

"He must be somewhere in this vicinity," said Dave.

"He said he was going to Oakdale and would then come back by the Cass
Brook road," returned Ben.

"Let us take to the Cass Brook road then, Ben. Maybe we'll meet him."

With their bicycle lamps lit and turned up brightly, the pair set
off, and were soon out of sight of Oak Hall. The road was smooth and
they made rapid progress. Ben took to one side of the road while Dave
pursued the other. All was dark and quiet, not a breath of air stirring
the almost leafless trees.

A mile covered, they slowed down, to peer into the bushes beside the
road. They were now within half a mile of the bridge where Roger had
taken the tumble.

"Hello! here comes somebody!" cried Dave, presently, and looked ahead.
The rays of the bicycle lamp fell on a figure covered with dirt and
dripping wet. "I declare, it's Roger!"

Dave had scarcely uttered the words when the figure tottered and fell.
Riding up, the two boys dismounted and rushed forward. Roger lay in the
middle of the road, his face resting on one arm.

"Roger what is it?" asked Dave. "Are you badly hurt?"

"I--I took a header--over the bridge!" gasped the senator's son, when
he could speak. "I--fell in th--the water!" His teeth began to chatter.
"My, but it was co--co--cold!"

"Any bones broken?"

"I--I reckon no--not. But I am awfully we--weak!"

"Where is the motor cycle?" asked Ben.

"I--I do--don't know."

"Here, put on my sweater," said Dave, and hastened to take off that
which was wet. "We must get him to the Hall somehow," he added.

"If he isn't hurt he had better walk," returned Ben. "It will help to
get his blood in circulation."

"Maybe I can walk if you'll help me," answered Roger.

The two bicycles were hidden in the bushes and Dave got on one side of
the senator's son and Ben on the other. Thus supported, the sufferer
started again for Oak Hall. He was hurried along as fast as possible,
and arrived there feeling somewhat warmer than when discovered by Dave
and Ben. Under Dr. Clay's directions he was put to bed and given some
hot tea to drink. Only his left hand was bruised and this was washed
and plastered up.

Having gotten Roger to Oak Hall, Dave and Ben received permission to go
back to the brook road for their wheels. They found the bicycles where
they had left them, and then went on a hunt for Roger's motor cycle.

"It certainly ought to be at the bridge," said Ben.

"If it didn't blow up," answered Dave, "or run off of its own accord.
Roger said he couldn't shut off the power."

"If it ran off alone I don't think it would go very far, Dave."

The bridge reached, they looked around in all directions but could see
nothing of the motor cycle. They went down to where Roger had landed
and saw the impression of his body and feet in the wet sand.

"He can thank his stars that he didn't break his neck," said Dave.
"This beats the fall Paul and I took."

"It's queer you never got to the bottom of that accident, Dave."

"Maybe I will, some day. I am certain that tree didn't fall of itself."

Having spent fully a quarter of an hour in looking for the motor cycle
without success, there seemed to be nothing to do but to return to Oak
Hall. This they did, and stored their wheels in the room set apart at
the gymnasium for that purpose.

"Didn't find the motor cycle, eh?" said Sam Day, who was practising on
the rings. "That is certainly queer."

"Maybe the motor cycle was stolen," suggested Shadow.

"Who would steal such a machine?" asked Ben. "Very few know how to run
them."

"They might have taken it away in a wagon. Some people are mean enough
to steal anything they lay hands on."

Dave and Ben spent some time in cleaning their bicycles and in oiling
them. Then they left the gymnasium in company with Sam Day and several
others. As they approached the Hall, Macklin came running out.

"Did you hear the news?" cried the younger student.

"News?" queried Dave. "What news?"

"About Roger Morr?"

"We know he had a bad tumble, and we know we can't find his motor
cycle," said Ben.

"Oh, so the machine is gone too," went on Chip Macklin. "Well, that
certainly beats all!"

"What beats all?" asked Dave.

"This whole affair about Roger. When they put him to bed they didn't
give his clothing much attention. Now they have just found out that he
either lost everything he had or else he was robbed."

"Lost? Robbed?" cried Dave. "Are you sure of this?"

"Yes. You can go up yourself if you wish."

"I will," said Dave, and ran up to the dormitory. Several boys were
present and also Dr. Clay and Andrew Dale.

"This is remarkable and must be investigated," Dr. Clay was saying.
"Ah, here is Master Porter now. Did you find the motor cycle?"

"No, sir, it wasn't in sight anywhere. Ben and I looked high and low
for it."

"Then that must have been stolen too," said Andrew Dale.

"They tell me Roger was robbed," said Ben. "What did he lose?"

"Lost a whole lot of things," replied Roger himself. "My watch and
my diamond stickpin, and a gold ring, some loose change, and forty
dollars that father sent me for some new books I've been ordering!
Somebody cleaned me out for fair!" And the senator's son spoke very
disconsolately.



CHAPTER XXIII

WHAT A RUNAWAY LED TO


The news that Roger had been robbed while unconscious spread rapidly,
and many were the speculations as to who had done the wicked deed.

"I suppose it was somebody who just happened to come along," said Dave.
"But what a mean thing to do! That person did not know but that Roger
was dying, and made no effort to assist him!"

Roger's story was a brief one. How long he had remained unconscious
he did not know. He came to his senses with a shiver, to find himself
lying on some rocks under one end of the stone bridge. The lower
portion of his body was wet and the chill had aided in reviving him.
When he felt strong enough he had crawled up to the road and looked for
his motor cycle. Not finding the machine, he had started for Oak Hall
on foot. He felt himself growing weaker every step and fell prostrate,
as already described, just as Dave and Ben discovered him.

"I am awfully glad you came along," said the senator's son to his two
chums. "I don't know what I should have done if you hadn't."

"And you didn't know a thing about being robbed, then?" queried Ben.

"No, all I knew was that I was cold and as weak as a sick cat," was the
answer.

A hunt was made for the robber, and the students spent several hours in
searching around the spot. Nothing was found, and the local authorities
were notified.

This robbery, coupled with those that had gone before, aroused the
whole community. Many felt that they were no longer safe in their
homes, and a meeting was held in Oakdale and a reward of two hundred
dollars put up by the citizens for the capture and conviction of the
offenders.

"I will get a private detective to look into this," said Dr. Clay
and did so. The detective, a quiet-looking individual named Merivel,
arrived the next day and went to work immediately. But the task proved
too much for him, and inside of a week he gave it up.

"I reckon I am out my machine and my valuables," said Roger, who was
around once more and as well as ever. "But I do wish I could lay hands
on the rascal who went through me!"

The days slipped by, and again Dave and his chums devoted themselves to
their studies. It was now growing colder and there was a suggestion of
snow in the air.

"It won't be long before we have snow and ice," said Sam. "Hurrah for
some fine skating!"

"And snowballing," added Buster. "Don't forget the fun we had last
year."

"How we did pelt Pop Swingly!"

"And old Haskers!"

"You've got to be careful what you do to Haskers," said Shadow. "He is
just watching for a chance to get somebody into trouble."

"Do you remember how Dave beat Plum in that race on the ice?" said
Roger. "That was great!"

"By the way, Plum is cutting quite a dash again," said Buster. "His
father must have sent him a lot of spending money."

"Then he can pay up those bets I heard about," said Macklin.

"He has paid them up, so I was told," replied another student. "But
I'll wager it made him mad to do so."

"He had no business to bet against his own school," said Sam. "It was a
mean piece of business. I've cut him dead for doing it."

What was said about Gus Plum having money was true. He had paid all his
debts and in addition had spent several dollars in having a so-called
"good time" with Jasniff and Poole in a tavern on the outskirts of
Rockville. But he was not particularly happy, if one was to judge by
the worried and scared look that often showed itself on his face. At
times it looked as if he wanted to draw away from Nick Jasniff, but
that student clung to him closer than ever.

One Friday afternoon Dave, Roger, and Ben got out of school a little
early and resolved to walk to Oakdale, just for the exercise and to
buy a few things of trifling importance. They were soon on the way,
and arriving at the town lost no time in making their purchases. In
Oakdale they met Mrs. Fairchild and asked her if she had heard anything
concerning the robbery at her house.

"Not a thing," said the widow; "and I suppose I never shall."

With their purchases in their pockets, the students left the town and
started on the return to the academy. As it was nipping cold, they
walked rapidly, only stopping on the way to pick up some chestnuts
which were handy.

Each had his pocket filled with chestnuts, when all heard a commotion
around a bend of the road.

"What's that?" questioned Dave, looking ahead.

"Sounds like a runaway!" exclaimed Ben.

"If it is we had better be getting out of the way," said Roger. "I have
no desire to be run over."

The noise came closer and from a distance they heard a man shouting
wildly.

"Sthop! Sthop, I said! Vot you vants to run avay for, annahow?"

"It's Zumm, the baker!" cried Dave. "His horse must be running away!"

The sounds of hoofs could now be distinguished, and in a moment more
the steed came in sight, dragging a baker's wagon behind him. The
vehicle swayed from side to side, threatening to go over any instant.

"Look out!"

"He is running away and no mistake!"

"Where is Zumm?"

"He must have been thrown out!"

Nearer and nearer came the frightened horse. He was less than a hundred
feet away when he swerved to one side, running two of the wheels of the
wagon into some low bushes.

"I am going to stop him if I can!" cried Dave, with sudden
determination.

Before Ben or Roger could stop him he was out in the road and leaping
for the head of the frightened horse. He caught hold of the bridle and
hung fast.

"You'll be killed, Dave!"

"Don't go under his feet!"

"Sthop him, sthop him!" came from the German baker who owned the
outfit. He was running after the horse and wagon as rapidly as his
somewhat bulky form permitted.

Dave paid no attention to the cries but clung fast. The horse did a
good deal of dancing and prancing but it was of no avail. Finally he
backed into the bushes until the back of the wagon struck a tree, and
there he remained, trembling violently in every limb.

"Good for you, Dave!" sang out Ben, in admiration. "I must say, you
know exactly how to handle a horse."

"Pick up those lines," panted Dave, and stepping forward, Roger did so.
Then Ben came up on the other side of the frightened animal and soon
they had the horse completely subdued and standing quiet.

"Is he--is he all right, yes?" panted the German baker, coming up all
out of breath.

"I think so," answered Dave. "He had a big scare, though."

"Yah, dot's so."

"What made him go off?"

"Noddings but a biece of baber in der road. Ven he see dot, he got so
oxcitements like neffer vos alretty!"

"Did he throw you out?" asked Ben.

"No, I vos got out to bick up some chestnuts, and I let him valk along
py himselluf. Den all to vonce he kicks up his heels and runds avay
kvick! Next dime ven I go avay I ton't let him alone a minute!"

The German baker was anxious concerning his stock in trade, and while
the boys continued to hold the horse he climbed into the wagon to look
after his bread, and pastries.

"Chust vot I dink!" he groaned. "Dem nice cakes vos all cracked
alretty! Now vot I got to do, tole me dot?"

"Cracked cakes?" queried Roger, with a grin.

"Yah. You see, I vos make some nice cakes for Mrs. Dill's barty. Da vos
sphoiled and now I haf to make more."

"Don't throw them away," said Dave. "We'll eat a cracked cake any day."

"So? All right, my poys. You do me a favor to sthop mine horse, I vos
gif you der cakes, yes," answered Mr. Zumm.

He was a liberal-hearted man and without delay brought out several
large cakes, somewhat crushed and broken but still well worth eating.
The sight of such good things set Dave to thinking.

"Fellows, I've got an idea!" he said. "Let's buy Mr. Zumm's cakes and
pies and have a feast to-night!"

"Just the thing!" came from both Ben and Roger.

"I not sell you dem cakes," said the baker, when the matter was
explained to him. "You vos goot poys, yes, and I like you. I gif you
four pig cakes, mit der pastepoard poxes to carry dem in."

"Thanks, you are very kind," said Dave, and the others said the same.
They insisted, however, upon purchasing several pies, and also some
chocolate éclairs. The goodies were put into several pasteboard boxes,
and then the boys hurried off towards the Hall and Mr. Zumm resumed his
journey to town.

The three boys had some little difficulty in getting into Oak Hall with
their pasteboard boxes. They were going up a back stairs when Nat Poole
caught sight of them.

"Hello, something doing, I'll be bound!" said Poole to himself. "Guess
I'll watch and see what it means!"

He crouched out of sight in a dark angle of the hallway and allowed
Dave, Roger, and Ben to pass him. Then, when the dormitory door was
closed, Nat Poole tiptoed up to it.

"Put the cakes on the top shelf," he heard Dave say. "The pies can go
over in that corner."

"A spread!" murmured Nat Poole to himself.

"I don't think we ought to start too early," came in Ben's voice. "Let
us make it exactly midnight just for the fun of the thing."

"That suits me," answered the senator's son. "Who is to be invited?"

This was talked over, and it was decided to ask all the inmates of
Dormitories No. 11 and 12 and also a few of the students in No. 8,
including Henshaw and Babcock.

"But we want to be very quiet about it," cautioned Dave. "If Haskers
should hear of it, he'd make all the trouble he could for us."

"Mum's the word, and I'll tell the other fellows so," answered Roger.

"Don't let Plum, or Poole, or Jasniff get an inkling of this,"
cautioned Ben. "They would like nothing better than to spoil our fun."

"Yes, we certainly must be careful of that crowd," answered Dave.

The three boys remained in the dormitory for quarter of an hour,
talking matters over and making their arrangements for the midnight
feast, and Nat Poole took in every word that was said. Then, as Dave,
Ben, and Roger started to come out into the hallway, Poole ran off and
managed to get down into the dining hall ahead of them.

"I've got news," he whispered to Gus Plum, who sat beside him. "I'll
tell you all about it after supper."

"What kind of news?" questioned the bully.

"About a feast. The Porter crowd expects to pull off something big
to-night, and I know exactly how we can block their game and land them
in all kinds of trouble!"



CHAPTER XXIV

MORE PLANS THAN ONE


Dave and his chums waited impatiently for bed-time and in the meanwhile
the invitation to participate in the coming feast was extended to all
who had been mentioned as possible guests. All accepted with pleasure,
and Babcock said he expected to have a "whang-bang time," whatever that
might mean.

About nine o'clock Dave and Roger got ready to retire to the dormitory.
They were just going upstairs when Chip Macklin came rushing up to them.

"Come with me," cried the small student, in breathless tones.

"Where to?" questioned Dave.

"Never mind--come on, and be quick about it."

Seeing that something unusual was up, Dave and Roger followed Macklin
to a back hallway. Here the small student looked around cautiously, to
make sure that they were not being observed.

"It's all off!" were Macklin's first words. "The sooner you get rid of
that cake and stuff the better!"

"What makes you say that?" demanded Dave.

"I just overheard Nat Poole talking to Plum and Jasniff. They mentioned
your name and something about breaking up a feast, and I made up
my mind something was in the wind. I don't like to play the sneak
any more"--Macklin got red as he said this--"but I felt I had to in
this case. Poole told his cronies all about the stuff hidden in our
dormitories and about the feast to be had at midnight, and they planned
to go to old Haskers and to Dr. Clay and have us all caught red-handed!"

At this announcement the faces of Dave and Roger fell for a moment.

"So you'd better get the stuff out of the way at once," went on Chip
Macklin.

"Tell me just what was said," said Dave, after an awkward pause, and
Macklin did as requested. As he proceeded Dave's eyes lit up in sudden
merriment.

"So that is their game," he said. "Well, we'll pay them back,--just
wait and see!"

"One thing is certain, the feast is off," said Roger, with a sigh.

"Not a bit of it," answered Dave. "Didn't you hear what Chip said? They
are going to rouse up Haskers and Dr. Clay about eleven o'clock, so
as to catch us red-handed. What's the matter with having our little
jollification before that time?"

"Good for you, Dave! But we'll have to be careful----"

"Leave it to me, and I'll fix the whole thing," replied Dave.

It was not long after that when all the pupils of Oak Hall retired to
their dormitories. In the meantime Dave lost no time in going among his
chums and acquainting them with the new order of things.

Dave's plan worked like a charm. He rightfully guessed that Nat Poole
would be listening at one of the dormitory doors. Accordingly he spoke
in a loud voice after the door was locked.

"We'll have to wait until twelve o'clock before we touch a mouthful,"
he said. "In the meantime let us fix that lemonade and those other
things. All of the other fellows will come in at exactly quarter to
twelve. The feast is to last from twelve to one o'clock."

"I'm sorry I've got to wait until twelve o'clock," said Ben, in an
equally loud tone. "But if that is the rule of this club, why, I'll
have to obey."

"Those other good things won't arrive until quarter to twelve," said
Roger.

So the talk ran on until the boys were undressed and ready to retire.
Then the lights were put out and all became quiet.

In the darkened hallway Babcock was on guard. Soon he came in with a
broad grin on his face.

"You've fooled 'em completely," he whispered. "They have arranged to
call up the doctor and old Haskers at exactly half-past eleven, and
they are going to pounce in here just a few minutes after twelve,--when
they expect everything to be in full blast. Plum says he will help
smash down a door, if it is necessary."

"Well, it won't be necessary," answered Dave, dryly.

As soon as all was quiet, the good things were brought forth and
all the invited guests lost no time in "making themselves at home,"
as Buster Beggs expressed it. Growing boys always have tremendous
appetites, and it did not take long for the larger portion of the cakes
and pies to disappear.

"Ah!" sighed Sam Day, at last. "I must let up, I am too full for
utterance."

"I can't eat another mouthful," said Polly Vane, as he finished a
chocolate éclair. "It was delicious, though."

"Which puts me in mind of a story," said Shadow, who sat on the edge of
a table eating a quarter of a pumpkin pie. "A poor boy went to a Sunday
school picnic, and when eating time came he filled up on sandwiches
and cake and lemonade until he was ready to burst. Then they brought
around some ice-cream. 'Johnny,' says a lady, 'you'll have some
ice-cream, won't you?' Johnny looked at her for a minute, his face full
of sorrow. 'Can't,' says he. 'Why not?' says the lady. 'Because,' says
he, 'I--I kin melt it, ma'am, but I can't swaller it!'" And a laugh
went up.

"What are you putting away?" asked Roger of Dave, who was filling two
large paper bags with cake crumbs and pie crusts. "Going to feed the
birds?"

"No, I've got a little plan. Won't these do more good in Plum's
dormitory than in ours?"

"Eureka!" shouted Buster, and then checked himself. "It's a splendid
plan!" he whispered.

"Wait till they go off to rouse up the doctor and old Haskers," said
Ben.

"That's what I had in mind to do."

The boys assembled went over the dormitories with care, cleaning up
every evidence of the feast. Everything that was left was put in paper
bags, which Dave had provided. Then came a rather tedious wait on the
part of the majority, Dave and Roger meanwhile slipping out to learn
what the enemy was doing.

At last came the opportunity for which Dave was waiting. He saw Poole,
Plum, and Jasniff leave their dormitory and hurry towards the rooms
occupied by the master of the Hall and his second assistant.

"There they go, Dave!"

"I see them, Roger. Quick! back to the room with you!"

They ran to their own dormitory and in a minute reappeared with the
bags of broken cake and pie crusts. With these they rushed to the
dormitory occupied by the bully of the school and his cronies. The door
was ajar and all was dark inside, the students not in Poole's plot
being sound asleep.

With deft hands Dave and Roger distributed the broken cake and the pie
crusts, putting some on a table, some on a desk, a portion in the beds
occupied by Plum, Poole, and Jasniff, and the remainder on the window
sill and the floor. Then they overturned a chair, and shoved one of the
beds partly against the door, so that it could not be readily closed.

"Now for the alarm!" cried Dave, and lit several gas jets. Then he and
Roger set up a sudden yell and ran with might and main for their own
room.

Dr. Clay and Job Haskers had just been awakened by Poole and his
cronies when the alarm sounded. This aroused Andrew Dale and fully two
score of students, and all rushed into the hallways to learn what it
meant.

"A feast in Dormitory 12, eh?" said the worthy master of Oak Hall.
"I'll see about this!" And he donned his dressing gown.

By the time he reached Dormitory 12 the whole school was in an uproar.
Some thought there might be a fire, and there was great excitement.

"If the place is on fire, I want to get out!" cried one student.

"There is no fire!" answered Dave. "I think it's a false alarm."

"Didn't the alarm come from Plum's room?" asked one pupil.

"I think it did," answered another.

"Let us go see what is up!"

Many rushed in that direction, followed by Andrew Dale. Then came a cry
of astonishment from the first assistant.

"What does this mean? A feast, I declare."

"A feast!" said Dr. Clay, who was in the rear. "I was told there was a
feast going on in Dormitory No. 12!"

"You can see for yourself, Doctor."

"I do see," answered the master of the Hall, severely. "Plum, what does
this mean?"

"I--er--I don't know," stammered the bully. He was so amazed that he
could not collect his senses.

"Poole, can you tell me what this means?"

"N--no, sir. I--I haven't had a thing, sir."

"Jasniff, what about this?"

Nick Jasniff shrugged his shoulders. "I thought there was something
going on in Porter's room. Poole said so."

"Well, who sounded that alarm here?" thundered Dr. Clay.

To this question there was no answer.

"We had better look in No. 12," suggested Job Haskers, who had just
come up, wrapped in a flannel robe and wearing slippers.

The doctor and his assistants turned to the dormitory occupied by Dave
and his chums, and then looked into the bedroom adjoining. Everything
was as clean and orderly as could be. The boys were up, but they were
not dressed.

"What's the row?" asked Buster Beggs, sleepily. "Oh, Doctor, is that
you? I thought I heard some noise."

"Didn't you hear the alarm?" asked Dave. "I thought it woke up
everybody."

The doctor said little but looked around the rooms with care, and so
did Job Haskers.

"Some mistake evidently," muttered the assistant.

"I am going to find out what the crumbs in that other dormitory mean,"
answered Dr. Clay.

He passed out, and meeting Poole in the hallway caught the pupil by the
shoulder.

"Just come with me," he said, and led the way back to the room Nat
occupied with his cronies. "Now, explain this!" he demanded.

Of course poor Nat Poole could not explain, and neither could Plum nor
Jasniff. They tried to tell their story, but for once the doctor was
too impatient to listen.

"As there was no cause for that alarm, I want you all to go to bed,"
said he, after listening to a few words. "It is midnight and I want
all of you to get your night's rest. In the morning I'll make an
investigation."

"What of this muss?" faltered Poole.

"Clean it up, every bit of it!" thundered the doctor, and passed out
and to his own room once more.

"I won't touch the stuff!" snarled Nat Poole.

"Neither will I," came from Plum.

"Nor I," added Jasniff.

"Are you going to disobey?" demanded Job Haskers, who had remained on
the scene.

His manner was so menacing that the three students shrank before him.

"It wasn't our fault----" began Plum.

"Enough. I can see through your doings. You tried to get others into
trouble to hide your own tracks. This plot will not work with me. In
the morning you must clean this apartment thoroughly, or I will punish
you severely!" And having thus delivered himself Job Haskers stalked
off, leaving Plum, Poole, and Jasniff the maddest students Oak Hall had
ever known.



CHAPTER XXV

THE FIGHT IN THE GYMNASIUM


"This is some more of Porter's doings," growled the bully of Oak Hall,
when he and his cronies found themselves alone.

"That's it," agreed Jasniff. "Confound him, I'd like to wring his neck!"

"I suppose they had their feast on the quiet," grumbled Poole. "We were
foolish that we did not watch them more closely."

The three went to bed and in the morning set to work to clean up the
dormitory. Then they had to go downstairs, to be interviewed by Job
Haskers, who gave them some extra lessons to learn, as a punishment.
He would listen to no explanation from them, happening to be in a
thoroughly bad humor himself.

The next few days proved unusually cold, and then came a snowstorm
which covered the ground to the depth of several inches. The students
got as much fun out of the downfall as possible, snowballing each other
with great glee. They also took shots at Pop Swingly and Horsehair
while the pair were engaged in cleaning off the walks.

"Hi! hi! stop that!" roared Swingly, as a snowball from Ben took him
in the back. Then one from Roger knocked off his hat. At the same time
Dave, rushing by, threw some loose snow down Jackson Lemond's back.

"Whow!" spluttered the driver, dropping his broom and working at his
neck. "Who did that? Birr! it's as cold as a cake o' ice!" And he began
to shiver and dance around.

"This weather will surely make ice," said Sam, and he was right, for
that night several inches of ice formed on the river, and this made
all the students look forward eagerly to the time when there would be
skating.

Frank Bond had quite recovered from the shock he had received at the
hands of Plum and his cohorts. But he was still the pale, delicate, and
nervous boy as of old and shrank from contact with the more boisterous
students. He appreciated what Dave and his chums had done for him
and did his best to give the bully of the Hall a wide berth. He was
a studious lad, and soon a warm friendship sprang up between him and
Polly Vane and they often studied their lessons together, Polly giving
the younger lad all the assistance he could.

During those days Dave looked eagerly for letters from the Wadsworths,
Caspar Potts, and his Uncle Dunston. The letters came and were full of
kind words and best wishes, yet the communication from his uncle filled
him with anxiety. In part this letter read as follows:

  "Strange as it may appear, I have not yet received a line from your
  father or your sister Laura. I cannot imagine where they can be that
  they do not send word of some kind. If they had received even one
  letter from me concerning you, I feel sure your father would not lose
  a moment in answering. I have sent to a dozen places for information,
  but all in vain."

"This is certainly a mystery," Dave said to Roger. "What do you make of
it?"

"Oh, I shouldn't worry too much," answered the senator's son,
hopefully. "Your father and sister are probably traveling in some
out-of-the-way place in Europe where the letters and cablegrams haven't
reached them."

"Waiting is very hard, Roger."

"I know it must be. I suppose you want to know what your father and
sister are like."

"That's it, and I want to be with them, too," answered the former
poorhouse youth.

Dave wanted to find Ben, to get a book the latter had been reading. He
was told that Ben was down to the gymnasium and so strolled in that
direction. The building was almost deserted, not more than half a dozen
students being present.

In one corner was Gus Plum and not far away Jasniff lounged on a bench.
Between the pair stood Frank Bond, his face having a white and scared
look upon it.

"Please, Plum, I don't care to do such things," Frank was saying. "I'd
rather you'd excuse me."

"You'll do what I want you to do!" answered Plum, brutally. "You can't
back out now."

"But I don't want to----" began the small boy, when of a sudden the
bully of Oak Hall caught him by the ear.

"See here, you imp, you listen to me!" snarled Plum. "I haven't
forgotten what trouble you got me into before. Now you mind me----"

"Oh, let go, please let go!" screamed Frank. "Don't pull my ear off!"

He tried to break away, but the bully held him fast. The next moment,
however, Dave stepped between.

"Plum, I want you to let Frank alone," said Dave, quietly but firmly,
and at the same time looking the bully squarely in the eyes.

"Look here, this is none of your affair," blustered Plum.

"Let him go, I say--and at once," and now Dave clenched his fists.

"You want more trouble with me, eh?" growled Plum, releasing the small
boy and sticking his chin in Dave's face.

"No, I do not want trouble, but I am able to meet it if it comes,"
answered Dave, not budging an inch. "You ought to be ashamed to
bulldoze such a small chap as Frank. Why don't you leave him alone, as
the doctor told you to do?"

"See here, I don't want you to preach to me!" roared Plum. "I know my
own business and I don't want you to put in your oar!"

"That's the talk," came from Jasniff.

Instantly Dave swung around on his heel.

"This is certainly none of your business, Jasniff," he said, coldly.

"Ain't it? Well, Gus is my particular friend, and what concerns him
concerns me," blustered Jasniff.

"Oh, Dave, let us go away," whispered Frank, growing more frightened
than ever.

"You can go away if you wish, Frank. I am not afraid of these two
bullies; Plum knows that, even if Jasniff does not."

At this home thrust Gus Plum winced, for he had not forgotten the
drubbing received from Dave in times gone by. Jasniff, however, was
undismayed, and striding closer, he pushed in between Plum and Dave.

"I've heard of the unfair advantage you once took of Gus, but you can't
take such an advantage of me," he said, loudly. "I am not afraid of
anybody in this school, and I want you to know it."

His manner was so offensive that it caused the quick blood to rush to
Dave's face. Plum fell back and so did Frank Bond. There was a moment
of suggestive silence.

"Jasniff, I never took any unfair advantage of Plum, and everybody in
this school knows it," said Dave, steadily. "Plum is a bully,--and you
appear to be built the same way."

"So I'm a bully, eh?" stormed Nick Jasniff, putting up his fists.

"You are."

"Do you want me to fight you?"

"No, I'd prefer not to dirty my hands on you."

"Maybe you think you can lick me?"

"I am not doing any thinking on that subject."

"You can't talk to me like this--I won't allow it," stormed Jasniff,
putting up his fists again. "If you want to fight, say so!" So
speaking, he gave Dave a sudden shove that sent him up against Frank
Bond.

"Oh, Dave, don't let him hit you!" gasped the little lad. "He is so big
and strong----"

Dave did not answer--indeed, it is doubtful if he heard the words. With
a quick leap forward, he caught Nick Jasniff by both arms and backed
him against the side of the building.

"Let go!" screamed Jasniff, in a rage. "Let go, I say!"

"Listen to me, Jasniff," returned Dave, still holding the squirming
student. "I don't want to fight, but if you attack me, I'll not only
defend myself, but I'll give you the worst thrashing you ever had in
your life. I understand you thoroughly. You are not only a bully but
worse. Why Dr. Clay allows you to remain here I don't know. I want you
to understand once for all you can't bulldoze me."

"That's the talk!" said Shadow, who had walked up.

"Make him keep his distance, Dave," added Buster, who was with the
youth who loved to tell stories.

"Bulldoze you?" stormed Nick Jasniff. "I'll show you what I'll do--you
poorhouse rat! I'll make mincemeat of you!"

So speaking, he tore himself loose from Dave and backed away a few
steps. Then, with clenched fists, he rushed in and aimed a heavy blow
at Dave's face.

The fist struck Dave's ear, for the latter did what he could to dodge.
Then came another blow on the shoulder and one on the chin, all
delivered with lightning-like rapidity. Nick Jasniff was a boxer, and
could use his fists better than he could learn his lessons.

"Good!" shouted Gus Plum, gleefully. "That's the way to do it, Nick!"

"Knock him out!" added Nat Poole, but keeping safely in the background.

Dave backed away a step or two and again Jasniff came at him, hitting
him a light blow in the arm. Then the boxer struck out again for Dave's
face.

But this blow did not land. Instead, Dave leaped to one side and struck
out himself, hitting Jasniff in the left ear. This was followed by
a tap on the chin and another in the ribs. Jasniff tried to land on
Dave's chest, but failed, and Dave came back once more with a crack on
his opponent's nose that caused the blood to spurt.

"A fight! A fight!"

"Look at that blow!"

"Jasniff is quick, ain't he?"

"First blood for Dave Porter!"

Again the two boys went at it, and for several minutes blows were given
and taken with remarkable rapidity. With his skill as a boxer, Jasniff
had anticipated an easy victory; he was astonished at the manner in
which Dave parried some of his blows. Around and around the gymnasium
floor circled the two boys, and as the shouting grew louder the crowd
increased.

The blood was now flowing not alone from Jasniff's nose but also from
a scratch on Dave's chin. A few more passes and the two clinched,
Jasniff getting Dave's head under his arm. But with a sudden turn Dave
cleared himself, and hit his opponent in the teeth, again drawing
blood. Wild with rage, Jasniff threw prudence to the winds and leaped
forward literally to crush the youth who dared oppose him.

To him who loses his wits in such a situation as this, all is lost.
Blinded by rage Jasniff forgot to guard himself and in a trice received
a blow in the left eye that made him see stars. Then, as he plunged
forward again, another swift and heavy blow hit him squarely on the
chin. His head went up and back with a jerk, his form swayed from side
to side, and down he went on the floor with a thud, and lay there like
a log.

"My! what a blow!"

"Jasniff is knocked out clean and clear!"

"I never saw anything like it in my life!"

So the cries ran on, while Nick Jasniff lay where he had fallen. For
the moment nobody approached the prostrate youth, then Plum stepped to
his side, shaking, he knew not why.

"Nick! Nick!" he called, softly, as he raised the fallen one's head. "I
say, Nick!"

"Sh--shall I get some water?" faltered Nat Poole. He too was shaking.

"Yes."

While the water was being brought, Jasniff was helped to a sitting
position. He was still all but overcome. His cronies bathed his face
and did what they could to bring him around. In the meantime Dave and
his friends withdrew to another corner of the gymnasium.

"So he knocked me out, eh?" snarled Jasniff, when he was able to speak.
"Just wait, I'll fix him yet!"

"What, you're not going to fight again?" asked Plum, in astonishment.

"Ain't I?" snarled Nick Jasniff. "I'll either lick him, or he'll kill
me!"



CHAPTER XXVI

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF NICK JASNIFF


"Here comes Jasniff again!" exclaimed Shadow. "He looks mad enough to
eat you up, Dave!"

"I thought he was done for," said Ben, who had been wiping the blood
from Dave's chin.

The crowd parted as the boy who had been knocked out strode forward.
His gait was unsteady and from his eyes there gleamed a wild fire awful
to behold.

"Thought you had got rid of me, eh?" he cried. "Well, I am not done for
yet!" And with this he struck Dave in the shoulder.

"If you want more you shall have it, Jasniff!" retorted Dave, and
struck out in return. Then the blows came as rapidly as before. Dave
was hit twice in the chest and came back with a crack on Jasniff's ear
and one in the right eye that made the youth see more stars than ever.
Then, as they circled around the floor, Dave watched his chance and hit
his opponent once more in the nose, causing him to slip and pitch over
on his side.

"Another knockdown!"

"Jasniff, you had better give it up."

"Porter has the best of you, Nick."

If ever a boy was mad that boy was Nick Jasniff. Half blinded from the
blow in the eye he rolled over and got up on his knees. Then he leaped
to his feet and ran to the wall of the gymnasium.

"I'll fix you! I'll fix you!" he snarled, and pulled from its resting
place a wooden Indian club weighing at least three pounds. "You shan't
crow over Nick Jasniff, not much!"

"Hold up, what are you going to do?" cried Ben, who stood near.

"I'm going to smash his head for him!" answered Jasniff, and before
anybody could stop him he made a dash for where Dave was standing. He
swung the Indian club around so recklessly that the crowd parted right
and left to let him pass.

Dave saw him approach and for the moment hardly knew what to do. He had
not dreamed of such unfair play. It was easy to see that Jasniff was in
a frame of mind fit for any foul deed.

"Don't!" he cried, as the half-crazed lad leaped before him. "Stop,
I tell you!" And then as the Indian club was swung over his head, he
leaped to one side and caught the other boy around the waist with both
arms. "Drop that club, you brute!"

"Drop the club! Drop the club!" came from all sides, and in a twinkling
Ben and Shadow leaped in and wrenched the Indian club from Jasniff's
grasp.

"What an outrage!"

"Jasniff, you ought to be lynched for that!"

"This is a young gentlemen's school, not a resort for toughs."

So the cries ran on. Jasniff tried to speak, but nobody would listen to
him, and even Plum and Poole knew enough to keep silent. Dave retained
his hold a few seconds and then pushed his opponent from him.

"I am done with you, Jasniff," said he, in a clear, hard voice. "Done
with you, understand? I'll never dirty my hands on you again. If you
dare to molest me in the future, I'll hand you over to the police. They
are the only ones to handle such a coward and brute as you."

Everybody heard the words and many applauded them. Plum and Poole fell
back and the face of each grew scarlet. Nick Jasniff stood stock still,
breathing heavily. He wanted to do something terrible,--but he did
not dare. Dave was pale and his jaws were firmly set. The tension all
around was extreme.

Then Jasniff moved, turning his back on Dave. He looked at Plum and
Poole, but they cast their eyes to the ground. The crowd parted and
Jasniff walked away, slowly and unsteadily. In a minute he left the
gymnasium, slamming the door after him. There was a long sigh of
relief over his departure.

"Dave, I really think he meant to kill you!" said Ben, coming up and
clutching his chum by the arm.

"That's what he did!" said Buster Beggs. "His eyes had a terrible look
in them."

"Perhaps you are mistaken," answered Dave, in an odd voice that sounded
strange even to himself. "But I--well, I don't propose to fight a
fellow with Indian clubs."

"He ought to be bounced out of this school," said Luke Watson.

"I'll never speak to him again," asserted Babcock.

"Wonder what Dr. Clay will say when he hears of this fight?" said
Roger, who had come in during the wind-up. "I suppose he won't like it
at all."

"He can't blame Dave," answered Ben.

"Porter started the quarrel by interfering with me," said Gus Plum.

"What, Gus, do you stand up for Jasniff?" demanded Shadow.

"Well, I--er----"

"I don't see how anybody can stand up for Jasniff," said Messmer. "I
used to go with him, but I am glad now that I cut him."

"I am not standing up for that Indian club affair," said Gus Plum,
lamely, and walked away, followed by Nat Poole.

"Oh, Dave, you did fight him most beautifully," cried Frank Bond, his
delicate face glowing. "Oh, I wish I was as strong as you!"

"Perhaps you will be some day, Frank. Go out in the fresh air all you
can, and take plenty of exercise here in the gym. Do you know what made
me strong? Working on a farm,--cutting wood and plowing, and things
like that."

Dave retired to the washroom and there bathed his face and hands, and
combed his hair. The blood soon stopped flowing from his chin and the
scratch showed but little. Many wanted to congratulate him on his
victory, but he motioned them away.

"Thank you, boys, but I don't want you to do that," he said, quietly.
"I want to tell you plainly that I don't believe in fighting any more
than Dr. Clay does. It's brutal to fight, and that is all there is to
it. But every fellow ought to know how to defend himself, and when he
is attacked as I was he has got to do the best he can for himself. If
Jasniff hadn't pitched into me roughshod I should never have fought
with him."

"Do you really mean that, Porter?" asked a voice from the other side
of the washroom, and Andrew Dale stepped out from behind a high
roller-towel rack. The first assistant teacher had come in just as the
encounter was ending.

"Oh, is that you, Mr. Dale? Yes, sir, I do mean it," answered Dave.
"Did you see the fight, may I ask?"

"I saw Jasniff attack you with the Indian club, but I was too far off
to take a hand. You say he attacked you first?"

"He did, and some of those here can prove it."

"That's right," said several of the students.

"What was the quarrel about?"

"It began between Plum and myself. Plum was browbeating Frank Bond and
I told him to stop. Then Jasniff put in his say, and I told him it was
none of his business. Then he wanted to know if I wanted to fight, and
I told him I preferred not to dirty my hands on him. Then he shoved
me and struck me two or three times. Then--well, then I sailed in and
knocked him down twice. Then he got the Indian club, and you know the
rest."

"That's the truth of it, Mr. Dale," said Frank.

"Absolutely," added another student, who had seen the whole affair.

"Well, Porter, you had better come to the doctor's office and we'll
investigate further," said the teacher, and a little later Dave found
himself confronting the master of Oak Hall. He told his story in a
straightforward manner and mentioned the names of several who had
witnessed the affair. Then he was told he could go, and Frank was
called in, and then Ben, Shadow, Buster, and later still Plum and
Poole. The doctor questioned all closely, and finally sent Andrew Dale
after Jasniff, but the youth could not be found.

"Has he left the school grounds?" questioned Dr. Clay.

"I could not find that out," answered the assistant. "Nobody seems to
have seen him since he left the gymnasium."

"Well, as soon as he shows himself, send him to me."

"I will, sir."

"From what I can learn, he is a thoroughly bad boy," went on the master
of Oak Hall, beginning to pace the floor of his office. "I must confess
I hardly know what to do with him."

"He is a bad boy, no doubt of that," answered the teacher. "And he has
a bad influence on some of the other boys."

"You mean Plum and Poole?"

"I do."

"I believe you are right. Do you think he ought to be sent from the
school?"

"Yes, unless he will make an earnest endeavor to mend his ways, Doctor."

"There is one trouble in the way, Mr. Dale. His folks are now in Europe
for the benefit of Mrs. Jasniff's health. If I send him off, he will
have no place to go to."

"You can write to his father explaining the situation. He may write to
his son and that may help matters."

"I have already determined to send a letter. But Mr. Jasniff knows his
son is wild--he wanted me to tame him down. But I don't see how I can
do it. Supposing he had brained Porter!" Dr. Clay shivered. "I should
never have gotten over it, and it would have ruined the school!"

"There is another thing to consider, sir," pursued the assistant. "It
may be that Porter will write to his uncle about this, and his relative
may be afraid to let the boy remain here while Jasniff stays."

"No, I questioned Porter about that. What do you think he said?" The
master of Oak Hall smiled slightly. "He said he could take care of
himself and he could make Jasniff keep his distance. He certainly has
courage."

"He is the grittiest boy in the school--and one of the best, too,"
answered Andrew Dale, heartily. And there the conversation came to an
end.

The fight between Jasniff and Dave was the sole topic discussed that
evening at Oak Hall. The boys who had not witnessed the encounter could
scarcely believe that Dave had knocked the other student down twice
and blackened his eyes, and they could scarcely credit the fact that
Jasniff in his rage and humiliation had attacked Dave with the heavy
Indian club. Some went to Jasniff's dormitory, only to learn that the
student was missing.

In the dormitory Plum and Poole sat in a warm corner, talking the
affair over in a low tone. To do them justice, both were horrified over
the club incident. Each had seen that awful look in Jasniff's eyes and
each had expected to see Dave stretched lifeless on the gymnasium floor.

"I--I didn't think it of Nick!" whispered Poole. "He certainly went too
far."

"He was so wild he didn't know what he was doing," answered Plum. "It
doesn't pay to get that way. If he had really killed Porter----"

"Oh, don't say it, Gus! Why, it makes me tremble yet," whined Nat
Poole. "If Nick is going to act like that, I'm going to have nothing
more to do with him. What if something had happened? He might have
dragged us into it somehow--we've been so thick with him."

To this Gus Plum did not answer, but a far-away, thoughtful look came
into his eyes.

"It doesn't pay to be too thick with a fellow like that," pursued Nat
Poole. "He'll get you into a hole some time or other."

"Maybe you're right, Nat." Gus Plum drew a long breath. "I wish----"
The bully of Oak Hall suddenly checked himself.

"What do you wish?"

"I sometimes wish I had never been thick with Nick. But he----" Again
Plum checked himself. "By the way," he resumed, "did that new allowance
come in yet?"

"No. My dad wrote he wouldn't allow me a cent until next month. Why?"

"Oh, it doesn't matter." The bully drew another long breath. "I thought
perhaps you'd lend me a little."

"Why, I thought you had what you wanted!" cried Poole, in astonishment.

"I did have, but I----Well, it doesn't matter, Nat. I'll get along
somehow." And then Gus Plum heaved a deeper sigh than ever. Evidently
there was something on his mind which worried him considerably.



CHAPTER XXVII

WHAT HAPPENED AT ROCKVILLE


"Boys, how is this for weather!" called out Roger, the following
morning. "Isn't it cold enough to freeze the hind leg off a wooden
horse?"

"I guess the bottom has dropped out of the thermometer," answered Dave,
as he followed Roger in rising.

"How do you feel, Dave?"

"Oh, pretty good. My chin is a little swollen and my shoulder is
somewhat stiff, that's all."

"Wonder if Jasniff is back yet," said Ben.

All the boys wondered that, and Luke Watson took it upon himself to
dress in a hurry and go out for information.

"Nothing seen of him yet," announced Luke, on returning.

"Perhaps he has run away for good!" cried Buster.

"He's afraid the doctor will punish him severely," said Polly Vane. "It
was such a--er--outrageous thing to do, don't you know."

"He's a tough boy," was Roger's comment.

"Oh, say, speaking of a tough boy puts me in mind of a story I heard
yesterday," said Shadow, who sat on the edge of his bed, lacing his
shoes. "A young married lady----"

"Gracious, Shadow, how can you tell stories on a cold morning like
this?" interrupted Dave.

"Shadow would rather tell stories than keep warm," said Roger, with a
smile.

"Maybe this is a hot one," said Ben, grinning.

"Now you just listen," pursued Shadow. "A young married lady went and
bought a barrel of best flour----"

"Four X or Not At Home brand?" questioned Buster, innocently.

"If you interrupt me I'll throw the soap at you, Buster. This was a
barrel of guaranteed flour. Two days later she came back to the grocer
with a very indignant look on her face. 'That flour is no good,' says
she to Mr. Grocer. 'Why not?' says the grocer. 'Because it is tough,'
says the lady. 'I made doughnuts with it yesterday and my husband
thought they were paperweights!'"

"No well-bred lady would say that," came softly from Dave.

"O my! what a pun!" cried Roger. "Well, she wasn't well-bred, she was
poor-bread." And then a general laugh went up.

It was indeed cold, with the sun hiding behind a gray sky and a keen
north wind blowing. When they went below they ran into Babcock, who
had been down to the river.

"The ice is coming along finely," said Babcock. "I think we'll be able
to skate by to-morrow."

All the boys hoped so, and as soon as they could went down to the river
to look at the ice. It was moderately firm and some lads were already
sliding on a stretch of meadow. But Dr. Clay would not let them go on
the river proper until it was safe.

That day the master of Oak Hall sent out Andrew Dale and Swingly the
janitor to look for Nick Jasniff. But the search proved of no avail.
Wherever the student was, he managed to cover up his tracks completely.

By Monday of the following week skating was at its best, and many hours
were spent by Dave and the others on the ice. They skated for miles,
and also had half a dozen races, including one between Dave, Roger, and
Messmer, in which the two chums came out even, with Messmer not far
behind.

During those days came word that Phil was slowly but steadily
improving. This news was greeted with satisfaction by all his friends,
who hoped that he would soon be able to come to school again.

"We can't get along without him," said Dave, and Roger echoed the
sentiment.

The senator's son had received word from two of his friends, who were
now students at one of the leading colleges. Both belonged to a glee
club which was to give an entertainment at Rockville Hall on Tuesday
night.

"I'd like to go to that entertainment and hear Jack and Joe sing," said
Roger. "I wonder if the doctor will let me off?"

The matter was explained, and in the end it was agreed to let the
senator's son go to the entertainment, taking Dave and Shadow with him
for company. As skating was so good, the students decided to go by way
of the river, walking the distance from Rockville Landing to the hall
where the entertainment was to take place.

It was a bright moonlight night when the three started and all were in
the best of spirits. There were a few skaters out, mostly grown folk,
so the way was by no means lonely. They had plenty of time, so did not
hurry.

"We don't want to overheat ourselves," said Roger. "Perhaps the hall
will be warm, and then we won't be able to stand it."

Arriving at Rockville Landing, they took off their skates and left them
at one of the boathouses. Then they walked through the town, past the
brightly lighted shops, and stopped at one place for some candy and
glasses of hot chocolate.

"Well, I never!" cried Dave, suddenly, as they were leaving the shop.

"What's up?" queried Shadow.

"Did you know that Gus Plum was coming here?"

"I certainly did not," answered the senator's son. "Where is he?"

"I just saw him over there. He passed around that corner."

"Maybe you were mistaken in the person," ventured Shadow.

"I think not."

"He may have come over,--to go to the entertainment, just as we are
doing."

"He doesn't care for music."

"I know that."

The three boys walked to the corner and looked down the side street.
Nobody resembling the bully of Oak Hall was in sight.

Five minutes later found them at the place where the entertainment was
to take place. Roger took his chums around to the stage door and in,
and introduced Dave and Shadow to his friends, and then the students
from Oak Hall went around to the front and secured seats near one of
the boxes.

The programme was a light and varied one--such as are usually given
by college glee clubs--and Dave and his chums enjoyed it thoroughly.
One bass singer rendered a topical song, the glee club joining in the
chorus. This was wildly applauded, and the singer had to give at least
a dozen verses of the effusion.

"This is all right!" whispered Dave. "I wish our glee club could do as
well."

"Maybe it will--when the boys are as old as these fellows," answered
Shadow.

"These fellows are the best singers at the college," said Roger. "They
can't get into the club unless they have first-class voices."

The concert came to an end about half-past ten o'clock, and Roger
waited for a while, in order to talk to his friends again. Then he,
Dave, and Shadow started on the return to Oak Hall.

Their course took them past the railroad station and a row of small
dwellings. Just as they were between the station and the dwellings
a light from a street lamp fell full upon two persons standing some
distance away.

"Look! there is Gus Plum again!" cried Dave.

"Yes, and that is Nick Jasniff with him!" said the senator's son, in a
tone of great surprise.

"Let us go over and make sure," suggested Shadow.

The three started across the street, and as they did so Plum and
Jasniff moved away in the direction of one of the dwelling houses.
Before they could be stopped they had mounted the porch, opened the
door, and gone inside. Those outside heard the door locked, and then
all became quiet.

"Well, I never!" came from Dave. "This is certainly a mystery."

There was good cause for his words. The front of the dwelling was
entirely dark and the lower windows had the solid wooden shutters
tightly closed.

"Shall I ring the bell?" asked Roger, after a pause in perplexity.

"There is no bell to ring," answered Shadow.

"I wouldn't knock," advised Dave. "What's the use? We may only get into
a row."

"The doctor ought to know that Jasniff is here," said Roger.

"We can tell him that, even if Plum won't," added Shadow. "I agree with
Dave, it will do no good to knock."

"I'd like to know if they saw us," said Dave, as he and his chums
continued on their way up the street.

"If they didn't it's queer why they should get out of sight in such a
hurry," replied the senator's son.

"Perhaps Jasniff is going to get Plum to smooth matters over with the
doctor," was Dave's comment. "He may be sick of staying away from the
Hall."

"Dave, what are you going to do if he does come back?" asked Shadow,
curiously.

"Do? Nothing."

"Aren't you afraid of him in the least?"

"Oh, I shall keep on my guard, for fear he may play me some foul trick."

"I'd rather he'd go away for good."

"So would I," added Shadow.

"Oh, I don't know. He may reform. If he wants to reform, I'd like to
give him the chance."

"He'll never reform," said Roger, decidedly. "He is a bad egg through
and through."

"Just what I think," said Shadow. "To my mind, he is much worse than
Plum or Poole."

"Oh, I know that," returned Dave.

Arriving at the boathouse, they got out their skates and put them on.
While they were doing this, two men, wrapped up in heavy overcoats,
walked up over the ice and passed down the street in the direction from
whence the students had come.

"There's the long and the short of it," said Roger, with a laugh. He
had noticed that one man was unusually tall and the other unusually
short.

"Well, men can't all be of a size," laughed Dave. "That little man had
all he could do to keep up with the big fellow," he added.

The skate to the school was a fine one and they arrived at Oak Hall
just as the silvery moon was sinking behind the distant hills. Swingly
let them in, and inside of quarter of an hour the boys were in bed and
in the land of dreams.

The next day was a busy one for Dave. He had some extra hard lessons,
to which he applied himself with vigor. An examination was soon to take
place and he was determined to come out at the top if it could possibly
be accomplished.

"Gracious, I can't grind like that," said Roger, but half in admiration.

"Dave has his eye on that medal of honor," said Ben. "Well, it is
certainly well worth working for."

The weather had changed and by noontime it was snowing furiously. Dave
had not seen Gus Plum in the morning, but the bully was at the dinner
table as usual. Shadow had reported seeing Nick Jasniff in Rockville
to the doctor, but had given no particulars. Dr. Clay had said he
would look into the matter, and sent Andrew Dale to Rockville for that
purpose.

It was not until evening that the assistant teacher returned from the
neighboring town. He had seen nothing of Nick Jasniff, although he had
hunted thoroughly and even visited the house Shadow had mentioned.

"The house was locked up, and when I knocked on the door nobody came to
answer my summons."

This was as much as Andrew Dale could tell concerning the missing
student. But he brought other news, which was flying over the
country-side like wildfire. During the night thieves had broken into
the railroad station at Rockville, opened the old-fashioned safe, and
stolen nearly three hundred dollars in money, some checks, and several
bundles of railroad tickets.



CHAPTER XXVIII

AN ICE-BOAT RACE


"What do you think of that?" cried Roger, when the news was circulated
among the boys.

"I think the deed was done by the same fellows who robbed Mrs.
Fairchild and Mr. Lapham," said Ben. "The authorities are dead slow
that they don't catch the rascals. They must certainly be hanging out
somewhere in this district."

"Boys, I've got an idea!" cried Dave. "Mrs. Fairchild said the man she
saw was rather tall. Don't you remember the tall man we saw last night?"

"To be sure, and the short fellow with him," exclaimed Roger. "They may
be the very rascals!"

"Let us tell the doctor of this," said Shadow, and forthwith they went
to Dr. Clay, who listened to their story with interest.

"I will notify the authorities," he said. "How did the men look in the
face?"

"I didn't see their faces," answered Roger.

"One had a beard, I think," ventured Shadow.

"Both had reddish beards," answered Dave, "and they had reddish
mustaches, too."

This was as much as the boys could tell. Later it was learned that
the tall and the short man had been seen before and it was pretty
clearly established that they had had something to do with all of the
robberies throughout that district. But the men were missing, and what
had become of them nobody could tell. The local papers came out with a
full account of the robbery and not only mentioned the money that had
been taken but also the names on the checks, and the lists of stolen
railroad tickets. These accounts Dave and his chums read with interest.

"Say, I saw a funny thing just now," said Ben, coming to Dave and Sam
Day a little later, while both were doing some sums in algebra. "I was
in the library and so were a lot of fellows, including Plum and Poole.
Plum has been on the sick list to-day and wasn't downstairs when the
news came in about that Rockville affair. He took up one of the papers
and began to read about the robbery, and all at once he staggered back.
I thought he was fainting. He grabbed the paper with all his might and
his eyes almost started out of his head. He would have gone over, only
Poole caught him and led him to a chair. Then he said his head hurt him
and he went to his dormitory."

"That was certainly queer," said Dave, thoughtfully.

"He acted just as if that news was some kind of a blow to him," went on
Ben.

"I don't see how it could affect him," said Sam Day. "I guess it was
just his sickness."

Sam did not know that Gus Plum had been seen in Rockville the night
the robbery occurred, and Dave did not feel called upon to enlighten
him. But Ben knew, and he and Dave walked away to talk the matter over,
being joined a moment later by Roger and Shadow.

"Plum was certainly in Rockville," said Shadow, "but I don't see how
that connects him with the robbery." He was voicing a thought that had
come to the minds of all.

"I don't believe he was connected with it," said Dave. "It's an
awful thing to think a fellow is a thief." He looked at Shadow, who
understood him thoroughly, as my old readers will understand. "But--he
was there with Jasniff," he added, slowly.

"Do you think Jasniff had anything to do with it, Dave?"

"I should hate to think any boy was a thief."

"I don't believe a fellow like Jasniff could open that safe," came from
Roger. "Those robbers must have had regular burglars' tools."

"But what made Plum so afraid, or dumbstruck, or whatever you may call
it?" asked Ben. "It was no small thing, I can tell you that."

"Perhaps he got scared, thinking he was at Rockville with Jasniff at
the time of the robbery," answered Dave. "He knows Jasniff is a kind of
outcast just now. Perhaps he himself suspects Jasniff."

The students speculated over the affair for some time. At first Dave
thought it might be best to let Dr. Clay know, but finally concluded to
keep quiet and see what the next few days would bring forth.

The bully of the school was certainly ill at ease that day and also the
next. He missed nearly all his lessons and was sharply reprimanded by
Job Haskers.

"I've got a headache," he said. "It has ached for several days. I wish
you would excuse me." And this getting to the ears of the doctor, he
was told to take some headache tablets and retire.

Some of the students who were of a mechanical mind had built themselves
ice-boats and these were now being used on the river whenever the
opportunity afforded. Messmer and Henshaw had a boat, and one afternoon
after school they asked Roger and Dave to go for a sail down the river.
Ice-boating was something of a novelty to Dave, and he accepted the
invitation gladly and so did the senator's son.

The ice-boat built by Messmer and Henshaw was about twenty feet long,
with a single sail, and was named the _Snowbird_. It was by no means
a handsome craft, not being painted, but under favorable conditions
developed good speed, and that was all the builders wanted.

"We didn't build her for beauty, we built her for service," Henshaw
explained.

"Well, as long as she'll go that's all we want," answered Roger. "I
shouldn't give a cent for a boat that was good-looking and couldn't get
over the ground."

"Did you ever see a boat get over the ground, Roger?" asked Dave,
quizzically.

"Well--er--not exactly, but you know what I mean, Dave."

"So I do, and I agree with you."

The start of the trip was made in fine shape, and for a little while
they sailed along in company with two other ice-boats belonging to
other students. But then the others turned back, and the _Snowbird_
continued on the course alone.

"This is certainly grand!" cried Dave, enthusiastically. He was sitting
at the bow, holding fast with one hand and holding on his cap with the
other. "My! but we are rushing along."

"It's just the right kind of a breeze," said Henshaw.

"Beats skating, doesn't it?" came from Roger. "We must be making about
a mile a minute!"

"We won't dare to go too far," said Messmer. "Remember, we've got to
get back, and that will take longer."

"Maybe the wind will change."

"No such luck, I am afraid."

On they went, the runners of the _Snowbird_ making a sharp skir-r-r on
the smooth ice. They were passing an island and as they reached the end
they came in sight of another ice-boat, carrying a number of boys in
military uniform.

"Hello! there is an ice-boat from Rockville Military Academy!"
exclaimed Dave. "That's a pretty good-looking craft." This was a
deserved compliment, for the ice-boat was gayly painted and decorated
with a small flag.

"Hello!" yelled one of the Rockville students, as the other craft came
closer. "Where did you borrow that old tub?"

"From the fellow who swapped it for that barn-door you're riding on,"
retorted Dave, quickly.

"I'll give you ten cents for it," went on another Rockville cadet.

"Thanks, but we don't want to rob you," answered Roger, merrily.

"Maybe you think you can beat us," said Henshaw, who had been eying the
other ice-boat critically.

"We don't think so--we know it," was the quick rejoinder.

"Come ahead then, and prove it," exclaimed Messmer.

In a moment more the race was on. There was a straight course of two
miles ahead and over this the rival ice-boats flew, at first side by
side. Then an extra puff of wind took the Rockville craft ahead.

"What did I tell you!" cried one of the cadets. "You're too slow for
us. Good-by!"

"You're not leaving us yet," answered Henshaw, who was steering, and
he threw the _Snowbird_ over a bit from the shore. The wind was coming
over the top of a hill and now both craft got the full benefit of it.
On they rushed, with Rockville slightly ahead. Then, slowly but surely,
the Oak Hall boat began to crawl up.

"We are gaining!" cried Dave.

"Oh, if I only had a bellows, to help make wind!" sighed the senator's
son.

They had still half a mile to go when of a sudden the _Snowbird_ shot
ahead. Those on the Rockville craft were amazed and their faces fell.

"Here is where we beat you!" cried Henshaw. "Good-by! We'll tell 'em
you are coming."

"Oh, go to grass!" growled one of the Rockville cadets, and then the
_Snowbird_ continued to forge ahead, leaving the rival ice-boat far
behind.

"They feel sick," said Dave. "I must say I didn't think this ice-boat
could do it. You've certainly got something worth having."

"Even if we are not all painted up and haven't a flag," added Messmer.

They continued on the course for quarter of a mile further. Then they
came to a number of islands, and rounding one of these started to tack
back. Meanwhile the rival ice-boat passed on down the river.

"Not so much fun in this," observed Roger. "I like to rush right before
the wind."

"That's like the small boy who wanted to go down hill on his sled all
the time and never wanted to walk back," answered Henshaw. "But going
back will not be so much of a hardship as you think."

"Oh, I'll like it well enough," answered the senator's son, quickly.

They were soon opposite one of the islands not over a mile from Oak
Hall. It was a lonely and rocky spot and one seldom visited by any of
the students.

"Somebody is out skating here," said Dave, and he pointed out two
persons who were close to the island.

A moment later the ice-boat was thrown over on the other reach and came
close to the island. Then Roger uttered an exclamation:

"The tall man and the short man!"

"Can they be the robbers?" queried Dave, quickly.

He watched the pair, and saw them disappear behind some bare bushes
which fringed the shore of the island.

"Roger, I think we ought to try to find out something about those
fellows."

"I think so myself."

"If those are the rascals who robbed the Rockville railroad station, we
ought to try to capture them," said Henshaw.

"How can we do that?" asked Messmer. "We are not armed."

"Let us follow them up anyway," said Dave.

This was agreed to by all on board the _Snowbird_, and in a few minutes
the craft was run close to the shore and the sail was lowered.

"I am going to arm myself," said Roger, and suited the action to the
word by picking up a heavy stick that lay handy. Seeing this, the
others also procured sticks, and thus armed, all made their way to the
spot where the two men had last been seen.

"Here are their tracks in the snow," said Dave, pointing to the drift
which the wind had swept up from the river. "It will be easy enough to
follow their tracks."

"We had better go slow and make no noise," cautioned Roger. "If they
hear us they'll be on guard and may run away."

Slowly and silently after that the students followed the trail, through
the snow and over the wind-swept rocks. They passed under some tall
trees, crossed a frozen-over gully, and then came to where a pile of
rocks appeared to bar their further progress.

"They passed along this way!" whispered Dave, pointing to the
footmarks, close to the base of the rocks. "Go slow now, or----"

"Hush!" interrupted Roger. "I hear voices."

"I see a cabin, just beyond the turn of these rocks," said Henshaw.
"The two men must be there."



CHAPTER XXIX

THE CABIN ON THE ISLAND


The four boys came to a halt, to consider what they should do next.
They did not know but that the two men might be desperate characters
and ready to fight hard if cornered. They might even be ready to do
some shooting.

"I'll go ahead and take a look around," said Dave. "You others had
better remain here for the present."

This was agreed to, and with extreme caution Dave made his way around
a corner of the rocks and along some bushes, to one side of the cabin.
The building was of logs, very much dilapidated, having been erected by
some campers many years before.

As Dave came close to one of the windows of the cabin he saw a man
cross the floor in the direction of a rude fireplace. Then a match
was struck, and some paper lit. Soon a fire was blazing in the room,
casting a ruddy glare over all.

Both men were present, each still wrapped in his overcoat and with his
hat pulled down over his forehead. That they were the individuals he
had seen in Rockville the night of the concert and the robbery the
youth was quite sure.

Dave was anxious to hear what the two fellows might have to say, and so
crept closer to the window, which was wide open. Near the window a log
was loose, leaving quite a crack, and by putting his ear to this the
boy made out nearly all that was being said.

"We were simple, I think, to come here, Pud," said the tall man, as he
threw some more wood on the fire. "We ought to be miles away by this
time."

"I ain't going away yet, Hunk," was the reply from the short man. "You
know what I came for. Well, I am going to stick it out."

"But it is getting more dangerous every day," pleaded the man called
Hunk.

"Oh, you only think so."

"No, I don't. Didn't I read the papers,--and didn't you read them too?
They are after us, I tell you."

"Well, they haven't got us yet."

After that there was a pause, during which one of the men put some
water in a pot to boil and brought out some provisions in a flour bag.

"Who is next on that list of yours?" asked the man called Hunk,
presently.

"Paul Barbridge, and I want to do him up good. He was the foreman of
the jury that sent me up for two years."

"Has he got money?"

"I think so--leastwise, I am going to find out," and the speaker gave a
low chuckle. "Oh, I ain't going to let up until I run through the whole
twelve or their families. And then I am going to strike the judge--and
strike him good and hard. I'll show 'em that they can't send Pud Frodel
to prison and not get paid back! I said I'd get square when I was
sentenced and I am going to keep my word. Fairchild died on me, but I
reckon I fixed his widow for it."

There was another pause, during which both men prepared to eat some of
the provisions they had brought with them. Dave was on the point of
rejoining his companions, when the men began to speak again and now
their words filled him with amazement.

"You're a queer one, Pud," said the man called Hunk. "A queer one, I
must say. Sometimes I wonder to myself how I can stick to you."

"Well, you haven't got to stick if you don't want to."

"I know that. But you want me, don't you?"

"I like to have somebody, and--you like your share, eh?" And the short
man laughed harshly. "I've been square, haven't I?"

"Yes, to the cent--and that is why I stick to you. But you do such
queer things. Now, for instance, those schoolboys----"

"Oh, don't bring that up again, Hunk. I know just what I am doing. I
told you that before."

"Well, one of those boys may be all right, but I shouldn't trust the
other."

"Both of 'em want money--want it just as bad, almost, as we do. One of
'em up and told me so."

"Yes, but----"

"When fellows like that want money--actually want it--they get
desperate. At such a high-toned school they have to keep up a front,
and they can't do that unless they have got the coin in their pockets."

"When are you going to see them again?"

"To-morrow."

"Where?"

"At the old mill, near Nabill's."

"Well, if you----What's that?"

The speaker broke off short, as a sound from outside reached his ears.
Tired of waiting for Dave, Roger and the other students had come closer
and Henshaw had stumbled over a loose stone and gone crashing into a
hollow among some bushes.

"Somebody out there!" ejaculated Pud Frodel, and caught up a club that
stood handy.

"Maybe they're following us!" returned his companion. "Come on and
see. We don't want to be cornered in a place like this."

"Oh, my ankle!" came in a painful cry from Henshaw. He had given that
member a severe wrench.

"Some of the schoolboys!" cried one of the men.

"Let us get out," added the other.

"Are those two fellows we know in the crowd?"

"No, these are all strangers."

After having run out of the cabin, the two men went in again. Then they
seemed to suddenly disappear.

"Hullo, Dave!" sang out Roger. He could see but little in the gloom of
the coming night, for it was now nearly supper time.

"I am here, Roger."

"Where are the men? And what kept you so long?"

"I don't know where the men are," answered Dave, ignoring the other
question. "They just stepped back into the cabin."

"Look out that somebody isn't shot," said Messmer, nervously.

"Are they the fellows we are after?" asked the senator's son.

"I am pretty sure they are," whispered Dave. "But I want to talk to you
about it later," he added, giving Roger's arm a knowing squeeze. "There
is something of great importance in the air."

"I should think there would be--if these are the thieves, Dave."

"It's more than that. But don't ask me about it just now."

After some hesitation, the four boys entered the cabin. The fire was
burning brightly, so that they could see with ease. All looked in
consternation. Not a sign of the two men was to be seen anywhere.

"Where are they?"

"They certainly came in here!"

"That is true--they did come in here," said Dave. "Perhaps they are in
hiding."

The boys began to search around the cabin and presently the senator's
son found a piece of a log that was loose. He gave a push and it rolled
away, showing a dark hole, leading through some thick bushes and past
some rocks.

"This is the way they went!" he shouted. "It's a clever outlet."

The passageway was so dark the boys hesitated for a moment about
entering it. Then Dave caught up a firebrand and went in. Soon the
others heard him shout from some distance behind the cabin.

"Come right through!" he called. "It's all right."

They went through and next found themselves under some tall trees.
Beyond was an open space, and here the tracks of the two men were
plainly to be distinguished. They led to the shore of the island and
disappeared on the ice beyond.

"They've gotten away from us," said Henshaw, disappointedly. He was
limping badly.

"How's the ankle?" asked Dave.

"I gave it a bad twist, but I guess I can walk to the ice-boat."

Nothing could be seen in the fast-gathering darkness, and after
remaining at the shore for a few minutes, the four retraced their
steps to the dilapidated cabin. Here the fire was replenished and the
students looked around for evidence against the two men.

"They are certainly the two men who committed the robberies in this
district," said Dave. "They as much as admitted it themselves. The
short, stout fellow is the leader and he is doing the work for a
particular reason. He was once sent to prison for two years. He vowed
he would get square on the twelve jurymen and the judge who convicted
him. So now he is going around robbing one after another of the
thirteen."

"Mrs. Fairchild wasn't a juryman," said Messmer.

"No, but her husband was--the fellow mentioned that."

"It's a pity we didn't catch them," said Roger. "We got tired of
waiting for you and were afraid you had gotten into some kind of
trouble," he added, to Dave.

They looked around the cabin with care, but could find little outside
of the provisions previously mentioned. There were some evidences that
the men had been there a number of times, but that was all.

"This is not their regular hanging-out place," said Dave. "They must
have another resort--where they have at least some of their plunder."

"I think the best thing we can do is to get back to the Hall and notify
Dr. Clay," said Roger. "He can then set the authorities on their track."

This was considered good advice, and putting out the fire, so that it
might not destroy the cabin, they left the place once more and started
for the spot where they had left the _Snowbird_.

To Henshaw the walk was a difficult one, and the others had to help him
over the trying places. Consequently, when they at last reached the
shore it was pitch dark. A cold north wind caused all to shiver.

"It will be no easy job steering back to the Hall in this darkness,"
said Messmer. "A fellow can't see fifty feet ahead of him."

"Oh, I know the course well enough," answered Henshaw.

The ice-boat was found exactly as they had left it, and soon the craft
was shoved out on the lake. Then all got aboard, the sail was hoisted,
and off they started for Oak Hall.

"Phew! but it is getting cold!" was Dave's remark, as he buttoned up
his overcoat.

"Those men will have a cold walk, wherever they may be going," returned
Messmer.

"They said something about the old mill," answered Dave. "I'll tell you
the story after I've seen Dr. Clay."

On and on sped the _Snowbird_ with the wind shifting in her favor. It
was so cold the tears streamed down the cheeks of all the boys and
Roger declared that his ears were about frozen. They tried to look
ahead, but could see next to nothing.

"Henshaw, are you sure of your course?" asked Dave, presently.

"I think I am," was the hesitating response. "But it is dark, no two
ways about it."

The wind now took another turn and the ice-boat bore away to the left
bank of the river. Henshaw did what he could to bring the craft about,
but two minutes later came a grating jar and everybody was pitched off
into a snowbank, some heels over head.

"I guess we've landed!" spluttered Roger, as he pulled himself to his
feet. "Henshaw, what did you do that for?"

"I--I didn't know we were going ashore," replied Henshaw, who had gone
head first into the snow himself. "Anybody hurt?"

One after another got up. Fortunately nobody had been hurt. Messmer had
some of the snow down his back and Dave had some up his coat sleeve.
The ice-boat was as good as ever.

"Now we want to be more careful," said Dave, as they hauled the craft
on the lake once more. "One such spill is enough."

"That's true," said Roger. Then the journey was resumed, nobody
dreaming of the accident so close at hand.



CHAPTER XXX

DAVE'S HEROISM


As the ice-boat swept along Dave revolved in his mind all that he had
heard at the old cabin.

He could place but one meaning on the words spoken by the two criminals
regarding two schoolboys. They must refer to Nick Jasniff and Gus Plum.

"Can it be that those two are in with such rascals?" he asked himself.
"I might think it of Jasniff, but I never dreamed Plum could be quite
so bad. And yet last season he did some pretty crooked work with the
valuable postage stamps that disappeared."

On and on swept the _Snowbird_, through the darkness of the night. It
was growing colder each moment, and the cutting wind made each of the
lads shiver. Dave wanted to tell Roger his tale in full, but now was no
time for connected conversation.

Suddenly out of the darkness loomed a strange object, moving in almost
the same direction as the _Snowbird_. It was the ice-boat belonging to
the Rockville cadets.

"Look out!" yelled Henshaw, while Messmer gave a scream of fright.
Then both ice-boats appeared to turn toward each other, there came a
grinding, rending crash, and in a twinkling Dave found himself spinning
on his back over the ice with Roger beside him.

Fortunately for Dave he landed in such a fashion that he received
little more harm than a thorough shaking up. He slid a distance of two
hundred feet and then came to a stop in a small ridge of snow.

"Hello, I wonder if anybody is hurt?" he asked himself, and got to
his feet as quickly as possible. He walked back to the scene of the
collision and soon ran into the senator's son.

"Are you all right, Dave?"

"Yes, Roger; how about you?"

"Got shaken up, that's all."

"Help! help!" came faintly from one of the ice-boats, and running back
Dave and Roger saw Henshaw on the ice, with the overturned _Snowbird_
on top of him. Close at hand lay the second ice-boat, and it was plain
to see that both craft were much damaged.

Messmer was near, suffering from a cut on his hand, yet he was willing
to go to Henshaw's assistance. The bow end of the _Snowbird_ was raised
and Henshaw dragged himself forth.

"Are you badly hurt?" asked Dave, anxiously.

"My left leg got a pretty good squeeze," answered Henshaw, trying to
limp around on the member. "I am afraid I can't walk on it." And he sat
down on the edge of the overturned ice-boat.

In the meanwhile the Rockville cadets were pulling themselves together.
All had been bruised and scratched a little, but that was all. Their
ice-boat, too, had gone over, and the runners were partly broken.

"That was your fault!" growled one of the cadets, striding over to the
students of Oak Hall.

"No more our fault than yours," answered Dave.

"You ran right into us."

"You did as much of the running in as we did," answered Roger.

"Do you suppose I got my leg hurt for fun?" growled Henshaw.

"Are you hurt?" questioned another of the cadets.

"I am."

"Well, I am sorry for that."

The fact that Henshaw was hurt caused the Rockville boys to become a
little more friendly, and two of them said they would do what they
could for the sufferer. No more was said about the cause of the
accident, which was in reality the fault of both parties equally.

Nothing much could be done for Henshaw. It pained him to stand on the
injured leg and so he remained sitting down. The other boys began to
inspect both ice-boats. It was found that they were badly broken at the
bow and both masts were loosened. As a consequence, while they could be
used, progress on the river, even before the wind, would be slow.

"This is too bad," observed Dave. "We ought to get back to Oak Hall as
soon as possible, and tell the doctor what we have learned."

After a good deal of tugging both ice-boats were righted and each party
boarded its own craft. On they went in the darkness and soon separated,
the craft from Rockville doing a little better than that containing our
friends.

"I don't think we'll get back to the Hall much before midnight," said
Dave, and this proved to be the case. It lacked just ten minutes of
that time when they tied up at the boathouse. Henshaw's leg was now
stiff and the others had to carry him to the door.

"Ha! so I have caught you!" exclaimed Job Haskers, as he suddenly
showed himself. "What do you mean by coming in at this late hour?"

"We've had an accident--Henshaw is hurt," answered Roger.

At this announcement the teacher's face took on a sour look.

"An accident, eh? You are quite sure?" he demanded, with a suspicious
look at Henshaw.

"Yes, I'm sure," grumbled the hurt one. "We had a collision with
another ice-boat, and when our craft turned over I was caught
underneath."

"What is the trouble there?" came in Dr. Clay's voice, and he showed
himself at the top of the stairs and then came down. After asking a
few questions he had Henshaw taken to a private bed-chamber, where the
injured limb was carefully examined and then bathed with liniment.

"I wish to see you in private, Dr. Clay," said Dave. "Perhaps Morr and
Messmer will want to see you too."

"Very well, come into the office," answered the master of Oak Hall, and
led the way. He made a light and then faced the three students who had
followed him.

In a plain, straightforward manner Dave told of the visit to the rocky
island and the old cabin, and of what the two men had said. He did not
mention the talk about the two schoolboys, although strongly tempted
to do so. He said the two men expected to go to the old mill, near
Nabill's farm, the next day.

"This is very important," exclaimed the doctor, when he had finished.
"I must notify the authorities at once, and we must do everything we
can to capture the rascals."

"Can I do anything?" asked Roger.

"I think not. As you say one man is very tall and the other very short,
it ought not to be a very difficult matter to recognize them if they
show themselves. The old mill is also well known, so there can be no
mistake."

"Of course, they may not go to the mill now," went on Dave.

"That is true. But I will have the authorities keep a close watch all
around this district and also at the railroad stations. As he has been
in prison this Pud Frodel must be known."

After that the doctor told the boys they had better go to bed, and they
did so. But it was an hour before Dave could get to sleep. Once he
thought of getting up and visiting Gus Plum's dormitory, but gave up
the idea, knowing that all the others would want to know what was doing.

In the morning the weather changed. It was not so cold, but the
snow was coming down thickly and the wind sent it swirling in all
directions. Already the ground was covered to a depth of several
inches, and there was no telling when the storm would cease.

"This will make it hard to track those men," observed Roger, as he and
Dave came down for breakfast.

"Roger, I want to tell you something," said Dave, and as the pair
walked to a secluded corner of a hallway Dave told his chum what had
been on his mind since the visit to the lonely cabin.

"Oh, Dave! can this be true?" cried the senator's son, in horror. "Can
Jasniff and Plum really be mixed up in this?"

"It looks like it to me, Roger," was Dave's slow reply. "And yet I
shouldn't want to say a word until I was certain. Jasniff I know is
bad,--and so is Plum, for the matter of that. But there is a difference
between them."

"I know it, Dave. Jasniff is wicked at heart, while Gus is more a bully
and headstrong." The senator's son paused. "What do you propose to do?"

"I've been thinking of having a straight talk with Plum. Of course, if
he is really in with those robbers I'll have to expose him."

The chums talked the matter over for several minutes and then went
in to breakfast. Plum was there, but Dave noticed that the bully
ate little. Soon Plum arose and left the dining room abruptly. Dave
followed, why he could hardly tell. But he had a feeling that he must
follow Plum then and there.

The bully of Oak Hall passed from the hall to the coat room, and there
donned his overcoat, hat, and rubbers. Then he walked to a side door,
and opening it cautiously, stepped out into the howling storm.

Dave was now certain something unusual was in the wind, for the school
session would begin in twenty minutes and he knew Plum would not go out
in such a storm without good reason. Quickly he donned his own coat,
hat, and rubbers and followed to the outside of the school building.
He saw Plum running across the campus and he followed. Then the bully
leaped the boxwood hedge and came out on a road leading to a village
called Bagor, a short distance from Rockville.

"Perhaps he is going to meet Jasniff," Dave reasoned. "He must be
pretty well upset. I don't believe he even got permission to leave."

The road led through a wood and then up a long hill. The snow was so
thick that Dave had all he could do to keep Plum in sight. The bully of
the Hall walked rapidly, his head bent low and his hands rammed well
down in his overcoat pockets.

The high ground at the top of the hill gained, Plum struck off to the
southeast, in the direction of the railroad tracks. Inside of five
minutes he reached a point where the tracks ran through a deep cut. On
either side were tall trees, and the sloping banks of the cut ran down
almost to the rails, now covered with snow.

At the edge of the cut Plum paused again. He looked up and down
the opening, as if undecided in what direction to turn. Far away a
locomotive whistle sounded and a freight train appeared in sight,
rolling forward rapidly on a slight down-grade.

As the freight train came closer Plum prepared to climb down the steep
slope of the cut. All was covered with ice and snow, and he had taken
but a dozen steps when he lost his footing and his hold and rolled
over and over. Then he struck a projecting rock and the next instant
pitched forward on his head, rolled over and over once more, and landed
squarely on the tracks below!

Dave was close to the edge of the cut and saw the whole occurrence.
When Plum struck on his head he uttered a deep groan, showing that he
was injured. Then, as he lay on the tracks, he did not move.

"He is unconscious!" thought Dave, and a chill of horror swept over
him. He looked along the cut. The freight train was sweeping forward,
directly for the unconscious youth. In half a minute more it would
reach Plum and run over him. He heard a fierce whistle, as the
locomotive engineer gave the signal for brakes, and the engine itself
was reversed. But the grade was too great and the train too heavy for a
sudden stop.

Dave's heart leaped into his throat. Was Plum to be ground up under his
very eyes? He had no great love for the bully, but at that moment his
heart went out to him as if he were a brother.

"I must save him--if I can!" he told himself. "He must not be killed
if I can help it!" And then, throwing himself face downward, he slid
over the ice and snow to the bottom of the cut. His hands and face were
scratched, but he paid no heed. As he touched the bottom he leaped up.
The train was less than fifty feet away, the wheels grinding sharply on
the tracks. He made one wild leap forward, caught Plum by the feet and
dragged him out of harm's way. Then the train rolled on, coming to a
stop a few seconds later.

[Illustration: He made one wild leap forward.--_Page 288._]



CHAPTER XXXI

GUS PLUM'S CONFESSION


"You did this for me, you! Oh, Dave Porter, how could you do it? How
could you?"

It was Plum who spoke. He sat on a fallen tree not far away from the
railroad cut. His forehead was swollen and there was a cut on his
cheek, but otherwise he had quite recovered from the shock received.
The train, after stopping for a few minutes, had gone on, and the two
youths were alone.

Plum's voice was choked with emotion. He had come to his senses to find
Dave and the fireman of the train bending over him. It was the fireman
who had told of Dave's brave deed.

"Pluckiest thing I ever see in my born days," the fireman had said. "He
came down the slope pell-mell and hauled you off the track just as we
hit the spot."

Then the fireman and the train had gone on and Dave had done what he
could for the bully. Plum was trembling like a leaf and found it next
to impossible to control himself. Twice before he had tried to speak
but his voice had failed him.

"You are sure you are not hurt?" asked Dave. He himself hardly knew
what to say. The excitement of the occasion had put him in a dripping
perspiration.

"Oh, I don't care if I am!" replied Plum. "I--I wish--I wish I was
dead!"

"Plum!"

"Yes, I do! I--I--but I can't talk about it. And to think you did this
for me, you! Why, I thought you hated me!"

"Perhaps I did, Gus. But I didn't hate you when I saw you on the tracks
unconscious."

"You did more for me than I should ever have done for you."

"Maybe not."

"I know it, Porter, for--well, you know how I have hated you. But I am
not going to be that way any more--I couldn't!"

After this there was a silence. Each boy wanted to say something, but
hardly knew how to get at it. Finally Dave broke the ice.

"Gus, what brought you to this spot this morning?" he questioned.

"Oh, don't ask me! I was crazy, I guess. I wanted to get away--I never
wanted to see Oak Hall or anybody again!"

"Were you going to run away?"

"I guess so--I don't know. I didn't sleep last night nor the night
before."

"Gus, tell me the truth, will you?" went on Dave, boldly. "Are you
working with those fellows who robbed the Rockville railroad station
and those other places?"

"No! no! Oh, Porter! Dave! What do you know about this--about me?"
Plum's face grew as white as the snow around them. "I--I heard what you
told Dr. Clay last night--I was listening at the door. Do you--do you
know anything more?"

"I do and I don't, Gus. Those men said something about two schoolboys,
and I and some others saw you in Rockville the night of the robbery.
More than that, I know what sort of a fellow Nick Jasniff is, and you
and he are always together."

"Dave, I didn't steal any money, I give you my word I didn't! I was
led along by Jasniff. I was in debt and I needed money badly. Jasniff
said he knew where he could borrow some for me, and he did get me fifty
dollars. Then he introduced me to that short man, who went by the name
of Sloan, and to the tall man, who went by the name of Carson. It seems
Jasniff knew Sloan, or Pud Frodel, years ago, before he was sent to
prison. The tall man isn't over-bright and he is simply Pud Frodel's
tool. One day I was talking to the tall man and I soon found out what
sort of a crowd they were, although the tall fellow didn't say so in
so many words. Then I wanted to cut them, and cut Nick Jasniff too,
but Jasniff said if I did, he'd write a letter to Dr. Clay exposing
me. Jasniff, after he ran away from the Hall, went right in with the
robbers and he wanted me to go in, but I up and told him I wouldn't
have anything more to do with him and with those rascals."

"Good for you, Gus!" cried Dave, heartily. "I am glad to hear that."

"Wait, I am not done yet. Jasniff tried to smooth matters over and
asked me to meet him at Rockville. I did so, as you know, and I met the
men too. We had a meal together and I was drugged. After that I don't
know what I did. When I was myself again Jasniff said I had helped to
rob the railroad station."

"But did you?"

"I don't think so, although I remember being taken to somewhere in a
carriage and seeing the lights of the station. After that, I had some
hot words with Jasniff and came back to the Hall. Then Jasniff sent
a letter, stating he would surely expose me if I opened my mouth to
anybody. Then came your news to the doctor. If those men are captured,
and Jasniff with them, they will surely drag me into the affair! How am
I going to face it--especially after what happened last summer? Oh, I
wish I was dead!"

Gus Plum's lips began to tremble and the tears stood in his eyes.
His better nature was struggling to the surface, and he was a most
miserable object to behold. Dave pitied the lad from the bottom of his
heart.

"It certainly does look black, Gus," he said. "But if you are not
guilty I'd face the music if I were you. If those men are brought into
court you can turn witness against them, and against Jasniff too. I
know it will hurt you in school--but if you don't want to stay here you
can go to some other academy."

After this Dave talked to Gus Plum for a full half-hour, giving the
other boy his best advice. Both lads were so excited that neither
minded the snow and the cold. Plum was in a deeply penitent mood and
during the course of the conversation told how he and Jasniff and Poole
had cut down the tree and let it fall on the roadway, so that Dave and
Babcock had been pitched off their wheels, and he also told of how
Henshaw had been drugged previous to the football game, and of several
other mean things that had been accomplished.

"And then to think that on top of it all you saved my life," Plum went
on. "Oh, Dave, I can't understand it! You're the best boy alive!"

"Oh, no, I am not," answered Dave. "I've got lots of faults of my own,
Gus, lots of them!"

"But you're not mean like me--and not dishonest. I don't wonder the
fellows like you."

At last they started back for the school, the snow pelting them in
the face as they journeyed along. Each boy was busy with his thoughts
and but little was said. When they came in sight of the Hall Gus Plum
halted.

"Oh, I can't do it! I can't!" he almost sobbed.

"Come, I'll go with you to Dr. Clay," answered Dave, and linked his
arm in that of the other youth. Thus they entered a side door and
passed directly to the office. Here, when confronted by the master of
Oak Hall, Gus Plum burst into bitter tears and it was several minutes
before he could utter a word.

When the confession had been finally made Gus Plum's face wore a more
peaceful look than it had for many a day. He kept nothing back, nor did
he try to defend himself in the least. He wanted Dave to remain in the
office and addressed his words quite as much to his fellow student as
to the master of the Hall.

"I know I am not fit to remain here, Dr. Clay," he said at last. "And
if you send me home I shall not complain. But please don't hand me over
to the police! Anything but that!"

It was then that Dr. Clay spoke, and never had Dave seen him more stern
and at the same time dignified. In well-chosen words he told Plum what
he thought of his pupil's meanness and baseness.

"By your own confession, you acknowledge doing things of which I did
not dream a pupil of mine could be guilty. You have endangered the very
lives of Porter and Babcock, as well as the life of little Frank Bond.
More than this, you have been guilty of drinking and gambling, and you
have been the companion of common criminals. And this on top of what
happened last year! Plum, I do not see how I can forgive you. You have
been a discredit to this school, and if I hand you over to the police
it will serve you right."

"Dr. Clay!" It was Dave who spoke. He was filled with emotion that he
could not suppress. "Please don't do that! For my part, I am willing to
forgive Gus for what he did to me. Please give him another chance, just
one! If you hand him over to the police you'll blast his reputation
forever!"

The doctor turned to the speaker in surprise, and as Dave went on,
pleading the cause of his former enemy, the master's face gradually
relaxed. He sat back in his chair, folded his arms, and cast a
searching gaze on Gus Plum's pale, haggard features.

"Plum, listen to me," he said, and now there was a trace of kindness in
his tones. "If I give you one more chance----"

"Oh, Dr. Clay, if you'll do that!" sobbed the boy, "I'll--I'll try to
be better! I'll try to give up my bad habits! I never realized until
now how really bad I have been! Just give me the chance, and I'll be
better! I'll do as Chip Macklin is doing. Chip was never as bad as I've
been, but you know how he has changed. I want to do better--I want to
make something of myself, as Porter is doing. Please give me one more
chance!"

"I'll do it!" said the doctor, softly, almost fatherly.



CHAPTER XXXII

THE MEDAL OF HONOR--CONCLUSION


Throughout Oak Hall there was an air of mystery that day. Gus Plum did
not show himself and Dave did not come to his class until after dinner.
When Dave did appear many wanted to question him, but he evaded the
crowd and took no one but Roger into his confidence, although later he
told Babcock and Henshaw how Plum had confessed to what had been done
previous to the football game.

"That was dastardly," said Babcock.

"I know it," said Dave. "But believe me, Plum is suffering for it. He
has a great deal on his mind, and it will be a real act of charity on
your part if you forgive him. He has promised Dr. Clay that he will
reform, and I think we ought to help him to do it."

"He can't reform--it isn't in him," said Henshaw, promptly.

"I can't believe you," answered Dave. "If you had seen what I saw you'd
think better of Gus. He has a good side to him as well as a bad side.
I am going to give him a chance and I hope all the other fellows will
too."

"But what is it all about?" insisted Buster Beggs. "Jasniff?"

"Yes, Jasniff is mixed up in it, and he did his best to get Plum into
a lot of trouble. Perhaps you'll hear all about it some day. I have
promised to keep quiet, so I can't say anything,--and I don't want to
speak about it anyway," added Dave, with feeling.

The snowstorm lasted for three days, and during that time no word came
in from the authorities who were trying to catch Pud Frodel and his
companion in crime. The doctor had notified the representatives of the
law of the proposed meeting at the old mill, and some officers had gone
there, only to find that the evildoers had changed their plans.

It was hard for Dave to settle down to his lessons, yet he did his
best, for the examinations were now close at hand and he still had his
eye fixed on the medal of honor. Plum came back to his class and was
a changed person. Whenever he recited he did so in a low voice, and
the minute he was dismissed he disappeared, where, none of the pupils
seemed to know. He was occupying a small room by himself and kept the
door locked.

At last the storm cleared away and then came in word that one of
the men, the fellow called Hunk, had been caught. He was closely
questioned, and being rather simple-minded, as previously mentioned,
said that Pud Frodel had gone to New York, in company with Nick
Jasniff. He said that Jasniff was now hand-in-glove with Frodel, and
that the two were planning more mischief.

Upon this news Dr. Clay sent a cablegram to Mr. Jasniff, who was in
London, that Nick had run away from school and also sent a letter
of particulars. Later word came back that Mr. Jasniff would have a
relative look for Nick and would be back himself as soon as he could
arrange certain business matters.

At last came the day for the school examinations. Dave was fully
prepared for them, and when he came out three points ahead of everybody
else nobody was surprised. Polly Vane stood second, Roger fourth, Ben
sixth, and Shadow eighth. Gus Plum stood tenth, much to the surprise of
many who had imagined he would come out close to the end.

"Dave Porter wins the medal of honor!" said a dozen.

"Hurrah for Dave!" cried Roger, and the cheers were given with a will.

The medal was presented to Dave by the doctor. The entire school was
assembled for the occasion, and Dr. Clay made a neat address, in which
he complimented the winner on the creditable showing he had made.

"I am highly pleased to give Master David Porter this medal," said the
master of the Hall. "He deserves it in more ways than one. Why, some
one else will tell."

And then, to the amazement of all, Gus Plum got up from his seat,
walked quietly but firmly to the platform and faced his fellow
students, his face red but determined.

"I want to say a few words about Dave Porter," he said, looking around
from one face to another. "You all know me and you know how I have
acted towards Dave. Well, Dave saved my life, and more than that, he
has proved himself my best friend. He stood by me at a time when I
guess every other fellow in the world would have turned his back on me.
That's why he deserves a medal of honor,--and would deserve it even if
he was at the bottom of the class." Plum paused a moment. "I ought not
to speak about myself--I guess the doctor didn't think I would. But I
want to say before you all that I am going to try to be different from
what I used to be. The doctor might have sent me away from this school
for what I did, but Dave Porter spoke up for me, and now I am to have
another chance here--and I am going to make the best of it. That's all."

Gus Plum bowed and walked back to his seat. There were murmurs all
around, and a few hisses, but the majority of the students looked at
Plum encouragingly. He kept his eyes down, looking at nobody. Roger
reached over and shook hands, and then a number of others did the same.

"What Plum has said about Porter is strictly true," said the doctor,
coming forward again. "Therefore I take the greatest of pleasure in
presenting the medal of honor to the winner, and with it I wish him the
best of luck throughout life!"

A cheer went up, in which Gus Plum joined heartily. Then other prizes
were presented, after which school was dismissed for the day.

Plum's speech had a tremendous effect. All wanted to know how Dave had
saved his life and the story had to be told over and over again. Little
was said about why the former bully had left school that snowy morning,
and the boys knew enough not to ask too many questions.

"I really think he'll turn over a new leaf," said Ben. "He seems to
have awakened to a realization of how he was drifting."

"I hope with all my heart he does try to do better," said Roger. "I am
going to do as Dave is doing--encourage him all I can." And then Ben
and a number of others said the same.

That day came a welcome letter from Phil Lawrence. He was getting
better rapidly now and expected to come back to Oak Hall in a few weeks.

"This is glorious news!" cried Dave. "Poor Phil! How he has suffered!"

"And all for the glory of a football game," answered Roger. "Pretty
rough sport, no mistake about it."

"Well, that's what makes it exciting," said Buster Beggs.

"Which puts me in mind of a story," came from Shadow. "A boy went to
the country for his health. After he had been there a week he wrote to
his mother: 'Having dead loads of fun. Fell from the cherry tree and
sprained my wrist, had the bull horn me over a fence, got sick eating
green apples, and yesterday, when I fell in the well, I lost the dollar
pop gave me. Send another dollar and it will be all right.'" And the
usual short laugh went up.

On Monday came in news that Pud Frodel had been captured. It was also
learned that Nick Jasniff had sneaked on board of a steamer and sailed
for Europe. The next day Gus Plum received a letter which he showed to
the doctor and to Dave. It ran in part as follows:

  "You were a fool to go back on me. If you had stuck to me we could
  have made a lot of money. They are after both of the men, so I am
  going to clear out. I've got several hundred dollars and I expect to
  have a good time in Europe on it."

This communication was unsigned but was in Nick Jasniff's handwriting.
Gus Plum shivered as he perused it.

"I am glad I did not stick by him," said he. "I am sorry I ever had
anything to do with him."

"His influence in this school was certainly very bad," said Dr. Clay.

Later on the two men were tried and convicted, and each received
several years in prison as a punishment for their crimes. Only a small
amount of the stolen goods was recovered, which made Mrs. Fairchild,
Mr. Lapham, and a number of others mourn. Much to the surprise of
everybody it came out that Frodel and the other man had robbed Roger
while he lay unconscious at the bridge and had also made off with his
motor cycle. They had wanted to pawn this, but had not dared, and it
was found where they had placed it, under some hay in a barn near
Oakdale. During the trials Gus Plum was called as a witness for the
state to testify and did so, doing nothing to shield himself. This was
considered to his credit, and when he returned to Oak Hall many thought
more of him than ever. There was now a coolness between the former
bully and Nat Poole, who seemed to be left in the cold all around.

"I don't think we'll ever see anything more of Jasniff," said Dave one
day to Roger. But in this surmise Dave was mistaken, and how will be
related in another volume of this series, to be entitled, "Dave Porter
in the Far North; or, The Pluck of an American Schoolboy." In this
volume we shall meet many of our friends again, and learn what Dave
did towards finding his father and his sister who had so mysteriously
disappeared during their tour of Europe.

Thanksgiving was now at hand, and many of the boys prepared to return
to their homes for the holidays. Dave was going to Crumville and so was
Ben. Roger was going home too, along with Shadow and Buster Beggs and
Sam Day.

"I am going to stop to see Phil," said Dave, and Ben went with him.
Phil was delighted over the visit, and amazed to learn the news
concerning Plum and Jasniff.

"Dave, you're a dandy!" he cried. "You're one boy in a thousand!"

"Say one boy in ten thousand!" answered Ben.

At this Dave smiled quietly.

"I only tried to do my duty," said he.

The homecoming was full of pleasure to the boy, and here, for the time
being, we will leave Dave. He had won the medal of honor, and no one
begrudged him the pleasure it gave him to wear it.


THE END


       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes.

1. Italic text is denoted by _underscores_ and bold text by
   =equal signs=.

2. Every effort has been made to replicate this text as faithfully as
   possible.

3. Simple spelling, grammar, and typographical errors have been silently
   corrected.

4. An Index of Illustrations has been created by the transcriber.





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