Dave Porter on Cave Island: or, A Schoolboy's Mysterious Mission
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“Good-by, everybody!” cried our hero, as he entered the carryall sleigh. “Take good care of the school until we come back!”
“Good-by!” was the answer. “Don’t eat too much turkey while you are gone!” And then, as the sleigh rolled away from the school grounds, the lads to leave commenced to sing the favorite school song, sung to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne”:
“That’s the stuff!” cried Roger, and then commenced to toot loudly on a tin horn he carried, and many others made a din.
At the depot the boys had to wait a little while. But presently the train came along and they got aboard. Dave and Ben found a seat near the middle of the car and Nat Poole sat close by them. He acted as if he wanted to talk, but the others gave him little encouragement.
“Nat has something on his mind, I’ll wager a cookie,” whispered Ben to Dave.
“Well, if he has, he need not bother us with it,” was Dave’s reply. “I am done with him – I told him that some time ago.”
The train rolled on and when near the Junction, where the boys had to change to the main line, a couple in front of Ben and Dave got up, leaving the seat vacant. At once Nat Poole took the seat, at first, however, turning it over, so that he might face the other Oak Hall students.
“I want to talk to you, Dave Porter,” he said, in a low and somewhat ugly voice. “I want you to give an account of yourself.”
“Give an account of myself?” queried Dave, in some astonishment, for he had not expected such an opening from Nat. “What do you mean?”
“You know well enough what I mean,” cried the other boy, and now it was plainly to be seen that his anger was rising. “You can blacken your own character all you please but I won’t have you blackening mine! If you don’t confess to what you’ve done, and straighten matters out, as soon as we get to Crumville, I am going to ask my father to have you arrested!”
CHAPTER VII – NAT POOLE’S REVELATION
Both Dave and Ben stared in astonishment at the son of the money-lender of Crumville. Nat was highly indignant, but the reason for this was a complete mystery to the other lads.
“Blacken your character?” repeated Dave. “Nat, what are you talking about?”
“You know well enough.”
“I do not.”
“And I say you do!” blustered the bully. “You can’t crawl out of it. I’ve followed the thing up and I’ve got the evidence against you, and against Roger Morr, too. I was going to speak to Doctor Clay about it, but I know he’d side with you and smooth it over – he always does. But if I tell my father, you’ll find you have a different man to deal with!”
Nat spoke in a high-pitched voice that drew the attention of half a dozen men and women in the car.Ben was greatly annoyed.
“Say, Nat, don’t make a public exhibition of yourself,” he said, in a low tone. “If you’ve got anything against Dave, why don’t you wait until we are alone?”
“I don’t have to wait,” answered Nat, as loudly as ever. “I am going to settle this thing right now.”
Fortunately the train rolled up to the Junction depot at this moment and everybody, including the boys, left the car. Several gazed curiously at Dave and Nat, and, seeing this, Ben led the others to the end of the platform. Here there was a freight room, just then deserted.
“Come on in here, and then, Nat, you can spout all you please,” said Ben.
“You ain’t going to catch me in a corner!” cried the bully, in some alarm.
“It isn’t that, Nat. I don’t want you to make a fool of yourself in front of the whole crowd. See how everybody is staring at you.”
“Humph! Let them stare,” muttered the bully; yet he followed Ben and Dave into the freight room, and Ben stood at the doorway, so that no outsiders might come in. One boy tried to get in, thinking possibly to see a fight, but Ben told him to “fly on, son,” and the lad promptly disappeared.
“Now then, Nat, tell me what you are driving at,” said Dave, as calmly as he could, for he saw that the money-lender’s son was growing more enraged every minute.
“I don’t have to tell you, Dave Porter; you know all about it.”
“I tell you I don’t – I haven’t the least idea what you are driving at.”
“Maybe you’ll deny that you were at Leesburgh last week.”
“Yes, Leesburgh, at Sampson’s Hotel, and at the Arcade moving-picture and vaudeville show,” and as he uttered the words Nat fairly glared into the face of our hero.
“I haven’t been near Leesburgh for several months – not since a crowd of us went there to a football game.”
“Humph! You expect me to believe that?”
“Believe it or not, it is true.”
“You can’t pull the wool over my eyes, Dave Porter! I know you were at Leesburgh last week Wednesday, you and Roger Morr. And I know you went to Sampson’s Hotel and registered in my name and then cut up like a rowdy there, in the pool-room, and got thrown out, and I know you and Roger Morr went to the Arcade and made a fuss there, and got thrown out again, but not until you had given my name and the name of Gus Plum. Gus may forgive you for it, and think it only a joke. But I’ll not do it, I can tell you that! You have got to write a letter to the owner of that hotel and to the theater manager and explain things, and you and Roger Morr have got to beg my pardon. And if you don’t, as I said before, I’ll tell my father and get him to have you arrested.” And now Nat was so excited he moved from one foot to the other and shook his fist in the air.
To the bully’s surprise Dave did not get excited. On the contrary, our hero’s face showed something that was akin to a faint smile. Ben saw it and wondered at it.
“Say, you needn’t laugh at me!” howled Nat, noting the look. “Before I get through with you, you’ll find it no laughing matter.”
“I am not laughing at you, Nat.”
“Well, do you admit that what I’ve said is true?”
“No; on the contrary, I say it is false, every word of it. Did you say this happened last Wednesday?”
“Both Roger Morr and I were at the school all day Wednesday. During the day I attended all my classes, and after school I went to my room, along with Polly Vane, Luke Watson, and Sam Day, and the three of us wrote on the essays we had to hand in Thursday. After supper we went down to the gym for about half an hour, and then went back to our dormitory. And, come to think of it, you saw us there,” added Dave suddenly.
“I saw you?”
“You certainly did. You came to the door and asked Luke Watson for a Latin book; don’t you remember? Luke got it out of his bureau. We were all at the big table. Sam Day flipped a button at you and it hit you in the chin.”
At these unexpected words the face of the money-lender’s son fell.
“Was that – er – was that Wednesday?” he faltered.
“It certainly was, for we had to hand the essays in Thursday and we were all working like beavers on them.”
“Nat, what Dave says is absolutely true – I know he wasn’t near Leesburgh last week, for I was with him every day and every evening,” said Ben.
“But I got the word from some fellows in Leesburgh. They followed you from the hotel to the show and talked to you afterwards, and they said you told them your name was Porter, and the other chap said his name was Morr. They said you gave the names of Poole and Plum just to keep your real identity hidden.”
“Well, I am not guilty, Nat; I give you my word of honor on it.”
“But – but – if you aren’t guilty how is it those fellows got your name and that of Morr?” asked the money-lender’s son, not knowing what else to say.
“I think I can explain it, Nat. The same fellows who did that are annoying me in other ways. But I’ll not explain unless you will give me your word of honor to keep it a secret, at least for the present.”
“A secret, why?”
“Because I don’t want the thing talked about in public. The more you talk about such things the worse off you are. Let me tell you that I have suffered more than you have, and other folks have suffered too.”
“Do you mean to say that some other fellows did this and gave my name and Plum’s first and yours and Morr’s afterwards?” asked Nat, curiously.
“For a twofold reason; first to blacken your character and that of Plum, and, secondly, to cause trouble between all of us.”
“What fellows would be mean enough to do that?”
“Two fellows who used to be your friends, but who have had to run away, to keep from being arrested.”
“Say, you don’t mean Link Merwell and Nick Jasniff!” burst out the money-lender’s son.
“Those are the chaps I do mean, Nat.”
“But I thought they had left these parts. They were in Crumville, I know,” and now the bully looked knowingly at our hero.
“You have heard the reports from home then?” asked Dave, and he felt his face burn.
“Nat, those reports are all false – as false as this report of your doings at Leesburgh. They are gotten up by Jasniff and Merwell solely to injure my friends and my family and me. My sister and Jessie Wadsworth would refuse to even recognize those fellows, much less go auto-riding with them. Let me tell you something.” And in as few words as possible our hero related how things had been sent to him and his friends without being ordered by them, and of the other trouble Jasniff and Merwell were causing. The money-lender’s son was incredulous at first, but gradually his face relaxed.
“And is all that really so?” he asked, at last.
“Every word is absolutely true,” answered Dave.
“Then Nick and Link ought to be in jail!” burst out Nat. “It’s an outrage to let them do such things. Why don’t you have ’em locked up – that is what I’d do!”
“We’ve got to catch them first.”
“Do you mean to say you are trying to do that?”
“Well, you catch ’em, and if you want me to appear against ’em, I’ll do it – and I’ll catch ’em myself if I can.”
There was a pause, and Nat started for the doorway of the freight room. But Ben still barred the way.
“Nat, don’t you think you were rather hasty in accusing Dave?” he asked, bluntly.
“Well – er – maybe I was,” answered the money-lender’s son, growing a bit red.
“Oh, let it pass,” said Dave. “I might have been worked up myself, if I had been in Nat’s place.”
“Here comes the train – we don’t want to miss it,” cried the money-lender’s son, and he showed that he was glad to close the interview. “Remember, if you catch those fellows, I’ll testify against ’em!” he called over his shoulder as he pushed through the doorway.
“The same old Nat, never willing to acknowledge himself in the wrong,” was Ben’s comment, as he and Dave ran for the car steps. The other boy had lost himself in the waiting crowd and got into another car, and they did not see him again until Crumville was reached, and even then he did not speak to them.
The snow was coming down lightly when Dave and Ben alighted, baggage and bundles in hand, for they had not risked checking anything in such a crowd. Ben’s father was on hand to greet him, and close at hand stood the Wadsworth family sleigh, with Laura and Jessie on the rear seat. The driver came to take the suit-case and Dave’s bundle, grinning a welcome as he did so.
“There’s Dave!” cried Jessie, as soon as he appeared. “Isn’t he growing tall!” she added.
“Yes,” answered the sister. “Dave!” she called.
“Here we are again!” he cried with a bright smile, and shook hands. “I brought you a snowstorm for a change.”
“I like snow for Christmas,” answered Jessie. She was blushing, for Dave had given her hand an extra tight squeeze.
“How are the folks?”
“All very well,” answered Laura. “What have you in that big bundle?”
“Oh, that’s a secret, sis,” he returned.
“Christmas presents!” cried the sister. “Jessie, let us open the bundle right away.” And she made a playful reach for it.
“Not to-day – that belongs to Santa Claus!” cried the brother, holding the bundle out of reach. “My, but this town looks good to me!” he added, as he looked around and waved his hand to Mr. Basswood. Then Ben took a moment to run up and greet the girls.
“You must come over, Ben,” said Laura.
“Why, yes, by all means,” added Jessie, and Ben said he would. Then he rejoined his father, and Dave got into the sleigh, being careful to keep his big bundle on his lap, where the girls could not “poke a hole into it to peek,” as he put it. There was a flourish of the whip, and the elegant turnout, with its well-matched black horses, started in the direction of the Wadsworth mansion.
CHAPTER VIII – A MERRY CHRISTMAS
As my old readers know, the Wadsworth family and the Porters all lived together, for when Dave found his folks and brought them to Crumville, the rich jewelry manufacturer and his wife could not bear to think of separating from the boy who had saved their daughter from being burned to death. They loved Dave almost as a son, and it was their proposal that the Porters make the big mansion their home. As Dave’s father was a widower and his brother Dunston was a bachelor, they readily agreed to this, provided they were allowed to share the expenses. With the two families was old Caspar Potts, who spent most of his time in the library, cataloguing the books, keeping track of the magazines, and writing a volume on South American history.
With a merry jingling of the bells, the family sleigh drove into the spacious grounds. As it rounded the driveway and came to a halt at the front piazza the door opened and Dave’s father came out, followed by Dunston Porter.
“Hello, Dad!” cried the son, joyously, and made a flying leap from the sleigh. “How are you?” And then he shook hands with his parent and with his uncle – that same uncle whom he so strongly resembled, – a resemblance that had been the means of bringing the pair together.
“Dave, my son!” said Mr. Porter, as he smiled a welcome.
“Getting bigger every day, Davy!” was Uncle Dunston’s comment. “Before you know it, you’ll be taller than I am!” And he gave his nephew a hand-clasp that made Dave wince.
“Oh, he’s getting awfully tall, I said so as soon as I saw him,” remarked Jessie, as she, too, alighted, followed by Laura. By this time Dave was in the hallway, giving Mrs. Wadsworth a big hug and a kiss. When he had first known her, Dave had been a little afraid of Mrs. Wadsworth, she was such a lady, but now this was past and he treated her as she loved to be treated, just as if he were her son.
“Aren’t you glad I’ve returned to torment you?” he said, as he gave her another squeeze.
“Very glad, Dave, very glad indeed!” she answered, beaming on him. “I don’t mind the way you torment me in the least,” and then she hurried off, to make sure that the dinner ordered in honor of Dave’s home-coming should be properly served.
In the library doorway stood Caspar Potts, his hair now as white as snow. He came forward and laid two trembling white hands in those of Dave.
“Dave, my boy Dave!” he murmured, and his watery eyes fairly glistened.
“Yes, Professor, your boy, always your boy!” answered Dave, readily, for he loved the old instructor from the bottom of his heart. “And how is the history getting on?”
“Fairly well, Dave. I have nine chapters finished.”
“Good! Some day, when it is finished, I’ll find a publisher for you; and then you’ll be famous.”
“I don’t know about that, Dave. But I like to write on the book – and the research work is very pleasant, especially in such pleasant surroundings,” murmured the old gentleman.
Mr. Wadsworth was away at his office, but presently he came back, and greeted Dave warmly, and asked about the school and his chums. Then, as the girls went off to get ready for dinner, the men folks and Dave went into the library.
“Have you heard anything more of those two young rascals, Merwell and Jasniff?” questioned Mr. Porter.
“Yes, but not in the way I’d like,” answered Dave, and told of what Nat Poole had had to say and of what had occurred at Squirrel Island. “Have you heard anything here?” he added.
“Did the girls tell you anything?” asked his father.
“Not a word – they didn’t have a chance, for we didn’t want to talk before Peter.” Peter was the driver of the sleigh.
“I see.” Mr. Porter mused for a moment and looked at Mr. Wadsworth.
“Those good-for-nothing boys have done a number of mean things,” said the jewelry manufacturer. “They have circulated many reports, about you and your family, and about me and my family. They must be very bitter, to act in such a fashion. If I could catch them, I’d like to wring their necks!” And Oliver Wadsworth showed his excitement by pacing up and down the library.
“Did you get your affairs with the department stores fixed up?”
“Yes, but not without considerable trouble.”
“Have Jasniff and Merwell shown themselves in Crumville lately?”
“Yes, three days ago they followed your sister Laura and Jessie to a church fair the girls attended. They acted in such a rude fashion that both of the girls ran all the way home. All of us went out to look for them, but we didn’t find them.”
“Oh, if I had only been at that fair!” murmured Dave.
“What could you have done against two of them?” asked his uncle.
“I don’t know, but I would have made it warm for them – and maybe handed them over to the police.”
“I have cautioned the girls to be on their guard,” said David Porter. “And you must be on your guard, Dave. It is not wise to take chances with such fellows as Jasniff and Merwell.”
“I’ll keep my eyes open for them,” answered the son.
Dave ran up to his room, and put his big bundle away in a corner of the clothing closet. Then he dressed for dinner. As he came out he met Jessie, who stood on the landing with a white carnation in her hand.
“It’s for your buttonhole,” she said. “It’s the largest in the conservatory.” And she adjusted it skillfully. He watched her in silence, and when she had finished he caught her by both hands.
“Jessie, I’m so glad to be back – so glad to be with you again!” he half whispered.
“Are you really, Dave?” she returned, and her eyes were shining like stars.
“You know I am; don’t you?” he pleaded.
“Yes,” she answered, in a low voice. And then, as Laura appeared, she added hastily, but tenderly, “I’m glad, too!”
It was a large and happy gathering around the dining-room table, with Mr. Wadsworth at the head, and Jessie on one side of Dave and Laura on the other. Professor Potts asked the blessing, and then followed an hour of good cheer. In honor of Dave’s home-coming the meal was an elaborate one, and everybody enjoyed it thoroughly. As nobody wished to put a damper on the occasion, nothing was said about their enemies. Dave told some funny stories about Oak Hall happenings, and had the girls shrieking with laughter, and Dunston Porter related a tale or two about his travels, for he still loved to roam as of yore.
The next day – the day before Christmas – it snowed heavily. But the young folks did not mind this and went out several times, to do the last of their shopping. Late in the afternoon, Peter brought in some holly wreaths and a little Christmas tree. The wreaths were placed in the windows, each with a big bow of red ribbon attached, and the tree was decorated with candies and candles and placed on the table in the living-room.
All the young folks had surprises for their parents and for Professor Potts. There was a set of South American maps for the old professor, a new rifle for Dunston Porter, a set of cyclopedias for Mr. Wadsworth, a cane for Dave’s father, and a beautiful chocolate urn for the lady of the house.
“Merry Christmas!” was the cry that went the rounds the next morning, and then such a handshaking and such a gift-giving and receiving! Dave had a new pocketbook for Laura, with her monogram in silver, and a cardcase for Mrs. Wadsworth. For Jessie he had a string of pearls, and numerous gifts for the others in the mansion. From Laura he received a fine book on hunting and camping out, something he had long desired, while Mrs. Wadsworth gave him some silk handkerchiefs. From his father came a new suit-case, one with a traveler’s outfit included, and from his uncle he received some pictures, to hang in his den. Mr. Wadsworth gave him a beautiful stickpin, one he said had been made at his own works.
But the gift Dave prized most of all was a little locket that Jessie gave him for his watchchain. It was of gold, set with tiny diamonds, and his monogram was on the back. The locket opened and had a place in it for two pictures.
“You must put Laura’s picture in there,” said Jessie, “Laura’s and your father’s.”
“No, I have them already – in my watch case,” he answered, and then, as nobody was near, he went on in a whisper, “I want your picture in this, Jessie.”
“Oh!” she murmured.
“Your picture on one side, and a lock of your hair on the other. Without those I won’t consider the gift complete.”
“Oh, Dave, don’t be silly!”
“I’m not silly – I mean it, Jessie. You’ll give them to me, won’t you, before I go back to Oak Hall?”
“Maybe. I’ll see how you behave!” was the answer, and then just as Dave started to catch her by the arm, she ran away to join Laura. But she threw him a smile from over her shoulder that meant a great deal to him.
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