Edward Stratemeyer.

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



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"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 C?sar! 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.



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