Edward Stratemeyer.

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



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"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 ?clairs. 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 ?clair. "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.



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