Edward Stratemeyer.

Dave Porter's Return to School. Winning the Medal of Honor



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"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.



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