Edward Stratemeyer.

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



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"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?"

"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 – "



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