Edward Stratemeyer.

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



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"Stop, Jasniff!" came from Dave, and leaping through the bushes he came up behind the student and caught the stick in his hand. "What do you mean by attacking Sam in this fashion?"

"Let go of that stick!" ejaculated Jasniff, and tried to pull it away. Then a tussle ensued which came to an end as Dave twisted the stick from the other youth's grasp and flung it into the river.

"What do you mean by throwing my cane away?" cried Jasniff.

"I want you to leave Sam alone."

"I've a good mind to give you a drubbing."

"Better not try it, Jasniff," answered Dave, as calmly as he could. He stood on guard against any treachery.

"Think you're the king of the school, don't you?"

"No, but I am always ready to stand up for a friend."

By this time Sam was staggering to his feet. He rushed at Nick Jasniff and sent him backward into the bushes.

"You will hit me with your stick!" he exclaimed. "Thank you, Dave, for what you did, but I can take my own part." And he stood over Jasniff with clenched fists.

"Two to one, eh?" sneered Jasniff, as he got up slowly. "That's fighting fair, ain't it?"

"It is fairer than hitting a fellow with a stick," retorted Sam. "But I can fight you alone, if you want to fight."

"I'll not soil my hands on you further," grumbled Nick Jasniff, and backing away, he walked off towards the school at a rapid pace.

"The coward!" murmured Sam, as he and Dave watched the departure.

"Do you know, Sam, I don't like that fellow at all," said Dave. "I've said so before. He's a bad egg if ever there was one."

"I believe you. Cadfield told me that there was a report in the town Jasniff came from that he had once set fire to a farmer's barn because the farmer caught him stealing peaches, but the whole matter was hushed up."

"He doesn't appear to be any too good to set fire to a barn. We'll have to keep our eyes open for him after this."

"I certainly shall. I don't want to be struck down with a stick again," answered Sam.

With the brisk autumn winds blowing, kite-flying was in favor with many of the students of Oak Hall and numerous were the big and little kites that were sent up. Some were curiously painted, some were of the box variety, while others were in the shape of eagles and other big birds. Most of the kites were raised from a meadow near the river, and every afternoon a crowd of students would go down to watch the sport.

Roger made for himself an immense eagle kite, while Phil tried his hand at a plain affair, shaped like a diamond and eight feet high and five feet across.

"That ought to be strong enough to pull a wagon," was Dave's comment, as he surveyed Phil's creation. "You'll have to get a pretty strong cord to hold it, otherwise it may drag you into the river – if the wind happens to be blowing that way."

One afternoon a number of the boys brought out their flat kites and started to see who could make his fly the highest.

Among the crowd was Nat Poole, who had a gorgeous affair painted yellow and red.

"Wait till you see this soar upward," he said, boastfully. "I'll bet it will go up a hundred feet higher than any other."

Half a dozen kites were already in the air and soon more were raised. Then Poole ran his new kite up. It arose a distance of a hundred feet and then began to dart from side to side.

"You want more tail, Nat!" cried a friend.

"That kite isn't balanced right," said Ben.

"Oh, it's all right, only it isn't high enough," answered Nat Poole. He was not one to take advice, and so he did his best to get the kite to ascend without altering it.

Among those in the meadow at the time was Job Haskers. He was going on a visit to some ladies who lived not far from the Hall and was taking a short cut instead of journeying around by the regular road. He did not care for sports of any kind and so paid small attention to what was taking place. He was arrayed in his best, and on his head rested a new high hat, the silk nap polished to the best degree.

Dave was aiding Phil to manage his big kite and so did not notice the assistant teacher until Job Haskers passed close by.

"My! but he is dressed up!" Dave remarked to his chum.

"Must be going to see his best lady friend," was Phil's comment. "Oh, look at Nat Poole's kite!" he added, suddenly.

Dave looked and saw the kite in question far up in the sky and swooping wildly from side to side. Then the kite made a downward plunge, skimming over the meadow like a wild bird.

"Look out, or somebody will get hit!" cried Dave, and fell down as the kite passed within a foot of his head. Then the kite went up again, only to take another plunge.

As this was occurring, Job Haskers was starting to leap over a small brook that flowed across the meadow into the river. Another wild plunge, and down came Poole's kite on the teacher's head, smashing the silk hat flat and sending Job Haskers face first into the stream of muddy water!

The score of boys who witnessed the mishap could not help but laugh, and a roar went up. The teacher floundered around wildly and it was several seconds before he could pull himself from the brook. His face and the front of his clothing were covered with mud, and he was more angry than words can describe.

"You – you – Who did that?" he spluttered, after ejecting some of the dirty water from his mouth. "I demand to know who did it!" And he shook his fist at the students.

"The kite did it," answered one boy, who stood behind some others.

"Whose kite was it?"

At this there was a silence, no one caring to tell upon Nat Poole, who stood with the kite string still in his hand and his mouth wide open in amazement and terror.

"I say, whose kite was it?" bawled the irate teacher, and then, as he rubbed the water from his eyes, he caught sight of the kite and the string. "Ha! so it was yours, Master Poole!"

"I – er – I didn't mean to do it," stammered Nat Poole. "The – the kite came down all of a sudden."

"Infamous! Look at me! Look at my hat!" Job Haskers caught up the battered tile. "This is an outrage!"

"Really, I didn't mean to do it, Mr. Haskers," pleaded Poole. He was fairly shaking in his shoes. "The – the kite got the best of me!"

"A likely story! You boys are forever trying to play your tricks on me! I know you! You'll pay for this silk hat!"

"Yes, sir, I'll do that," answered Nat, eagerly.

"And you'll pay for having this suit of clothes cleaned."

"Yes, sir."

"And you'll pay all other damages, too."

"Yes, sir."

"And you'll go to your classroom and stay there until supper time," went on Job Haskers, in high anger. "Stay there every day this week, too. Do you hear?"

"Yes, sir, but – "

"I will not listen to a word, young man. Go, – go at once! If I had my way I'd dismiss you from the school!" roared the assistant teacher.

And then and there he made Nat Poole take up his kite and march off to the academy, there to stay in after school every day for a full week. More than this, he brought in a bill for fifteen dollars' worth of damage, to the silk hat and the suit of clothing, and this bill Aaron Poole had to pay, even though the miserly money-lender did his best to evade it.

CHAPTER X
ALL ON ACCOUNT OF A KITE

"That's the time Poole caught it," remarked Phil, after the excitement had come to an end.

"That's right," answered Dave. "I am glad it was not your kite, Phil."

"So am I."

"In one way, it was Nat's own fault," said Roger, who was near. "Half a dozen told him to balance the kite better, but he wouldn't listen."

Down on the river some of the students had attached their kites to boats and were having races. But soon the wind changed and the kites veered around to another point of the compass and the races had to be abandoned.

Phil's kite was well up and it was all he and Dave could do to manage it. Roger and Ben grew somewhat tired of the sport presently and brought down their kite and wound up the string. Then Phil and Dave began to lower the big kite.

"The wind is freshening," observed Dave. "Gracious! how this big kite does tug!"

He could scarcely hold it as Phil wound up the cord. Then came another blast of air and Dave fell backward with the broken string in his hand, while the big kite went soaring away in the direction of Oakdale.

"There goes the kite!"

"Stop it! stop it!" yelled Phil, forgetting himself in his excitement.

"How?" asked Dave, dryly, as he arose from the grass.

"I don't want to lose that fine kite," went on Phil, soberly. "Why, it cost me over three dollars to make it. It was part silk!"

"Let us go after it," said Dave. "I don't think it will sail so very far."

Roger's kite was placed in the care of Buster Beggs and Shadow Hamilton, and off went the senator's son, Dave, and Phil after the runaway kite. The course was almost straight for Oakdale and presently they saw the silken affair settle in the direction of Mike Marcy's orchard.

"It is going down at Marcy's!" cried Roger.

"I hope it doesn't get torn in the trees," returned Phil, who was doubly proud of the kite because he had made it alone and by his own plan.

"Maybe Marcy won't give it to us," said Dave. "Remember, he doesn't like us students."

"Yes, and remember, too, that he keeps dogs," added Roger.

Mike Marcy was an Irish-American farmer who had lived in that section for many years. He was what is termed a "close-fisted man," and one who had but little to do with the outside world. He was supposed to be rich, although he usually put on an air of poverty whenever anybody called upon him. His farm was of fair size, and contained a good stone house, a barn, and several other out-buildings. He had a big orchard, and to keep off thieves kept half a dozen dogs, all of them more or less savage creatures.

The three students approached the orchard from the rear and after looking around located the silken kite in the limbs of an apple tree. The tree was bare of fruit, but close at hand were other trees loaded with golden russets.

"Wonder if we can get that kite without being seen," mused Phil, as he gazed longingly at his property, dangling downward by its gorgeous tail of fancy ribbons.

"I don't see anybody around," answered Dave. "And I don't hear any of his dogs either."

"You want to go slow," cautioned the senator's son. "He may be around, watching us on the sly."

"Perhaps we had better go around to the road and ask for the kite," said Dave.

"No, he won't give it to us," answered Phil. "He is too mean – I know him. I'd rather try to get it on the sly."

The wind was still blowing and it was growing dark. They took another careful look around and then leaped the fence of the orchard. Soon they were at the tree from which the kite dangled, and Phil climbed up.

"Catch it!" he called, as he loosened the tail, but just then the wind caught the kite and carried it to the other side of the orchard.

"There it goes!" cried Dave, and made a run after the object. The others followed, and presently they had the kite in their possession. In running through the orchard Dave caught his foot on a tree root and fell headlong but did not hurt himself.

With the kite in their possession the three students left the orchard as quickly as they had entered it. It was now so late that they were afraid they could not get back to Oak Hall in time for supper and so set off at a brisk pace. But suddenly Dave came to a stop.

"I declare, my watch is gone!" he cried.

"Your watch!" asked his chums, in concert.

"Yes, I must have dropped it when I stumbled in the orchard."

"Oh, Dave, that's too bad!" cried Roger.

"I'll have to go back for it," went on Dave. "It's the new watch my uncle gave me."

"Shall we go back with you?" asked Phil.

"No, there is no use of all three of us being late. You can tell Mr. Dale I lost my watch and stopped to hunt for it."

In another moment Dave had turned back and Phil and the senator's son continued on their way to Oak Hall. Dave started on a run, and it did not take him long to reach the orchard once more. Down under the trees it was very dark and he had to feel around for the watch. But he had dropped it just where he thought, and soon had it in his possession again.

"Now I had better hump myself and get back," he murmured, and started for the fence once more. Scarcely had he gone four steps when a form loomed up before him and he found himself in the strong clutch of Mike Marcy.

"Caught ye, have I?" said the farmer, in a cold, hard voice.

"How do you do, Mr. Marcy," replied Dave, as coolly as he could.

"How do ye do, is it?" roared the farmer. "I'll fix ye, ye villain!" And he started to shake Dave with great violence. He was a strong man and one given to sudden passion.

"Stop!" cried the youth, trying to squirm away. "Stop! What are you doing this for? I have done nothing wrong."

"Then stealin' apples ain't wrong, eh? And stonin' my dogs ain't wrong, eh? And stealin' a chicken, eh?"

"I am not stealing apples, and the only time I stoned one of your dogs was when he ran after me as I was passing on the road. I didn't propose to be bitten."

"Don't tell me, ye young vagabond! I know you boys – a pretty crowd ye be, all o' ye! I'll have the law on ye!" And once again Mike Marcy shook poor Dave.

"What is it, Mike?" came from out of the gloom, and a woman appeared. She was the farmer's wife and as hard-hearted as her husband.

"I've got one o' them schoolboys," answered the man. "Caught him prowlin' around the orchard."

"See here, I have done no wrong, I tell you, and I want you to treat me decently," said Dave. "We came over awhile ago for a kite, that sailed into one of your trees. After we got the kite I discovered that I had lost my watch and I came back for it."

"A fine story indade," muttered Mike Marcy. "But it's not me that is going to believe that same. I've caught ye and I am going to make an example of ye!"

"Yes, Mike, don't let him go," put in Mrs. Marcy.

"You haven't any right to detain me," said Dave. "I have told you the exact truth."

"I don't believe it, and until ye can prove the tale ye'll stay here."

With this Mike Marcy took a firmer hold of Dave's collar than ever and began to drag him through the orchard towards the farmhouse.

Dave struggled, but the strong farmer was too much for him and he was compelled to go along. The farmer's wife came behind the pair, armed with a mop she had picked up at the back door.

"What are you going to do with me?" asked the youth, after a minute of silence.

"Ye'll soon see," answered the farmer.

They soon reached the barnyard attached to the farm. Here, to one side, was a smokehouse, built of stone, with a heavy door of wood and sheet-iron. The small building was open and empty.

"I'll put ye in there for a while and see how ye like it," said Mike Marcy, and shoved Dave towards the smokehouse.

"See here, Mr. Marcy, you are not treating me fairly. You have no right to make me a prisoner."

"Sure and I'll take the right. I have suffered enough and I'm going to teach somebody a lesson," answered the farmer, grimly.

"When Dr. Clay hears of this he'll make trouble for you."

"Will he? Not much, I'm after thinkin'. Ye had no right to be trespassin' on my land. The signs are up, and I take it ye can read."

"I simply came over to get something that belonged to me."

"Well, ye'll stay here for a while, an' that is all there is to it," returned Mike Marcy, and without further ceremony he thrust Dave into the smokehouse. The youth began to struggle but could not get away, and once inside, the door was banged shut in his face. Then the bolt was secured with a stout iron pin, and he found himself a prisoner in pitch darkness.

"I'll be back sooner or later," cried Mike Marcy, in a satisfied tone. "So make yourself comfortable, me laddibuck!" And then he walked away, followed by his wife, and Dave was left to himself.

It was a galling position to be in and Dave resented it thoroughly. Yet what to do he did not know. He could not see a thing and on all sides of him were the thick stone walls of the building, the only break being the iron-covered door, which was practically as solid as the walls themselves. Under his feet the ground was as hard as stone. Everything was covered with a thick soot, so that he scarcely dared to put out a hand for fear of becoming like a negro.

"Here's a fine mess truly!" he murmured to himself, after several minutes had passed.

He listened, but not a sound broke the stillness. He wondered how it happened that Mike Marcy's dogs were not around, not knowing that the farmer had lost one through a peculiar sickness and had taken the others away to a dog doctor for special treatment.

A quarter of an hour passed. The time was unusually long to Dave, and now, at the risk of getting black, he began to feel around the smokehouse, looking for some means of escaping from his prison. From over his head dangled an iron chain, used for smoking purposes, and he climbed this, reaching a crossbar above. From the crossbar he could touch the roof, which proved to be of heavy planking, well joined together.

"If I could only knock off one of those planks I might get out," he reasoned, and began to feel of one plank after another, trying to determine which would offer the least resistance to his efforts.

Dave had just discovered a plank which seemed to be a little looser than the others when a sound outside broke upon his ears. Thinking that Mike Marcy was coming back, he dropped to the flooring of the smokehouse.

The sounds came closer and presently he heard two persons come to a halt close to the smokehouse door. By their voices they were evidently men, but neither was the owner of the place.

Wondering what this new arrival meant Dave remained quiet and listened intently. For several seconds he could not make out what was being said. Then he heard words which filled him with astonishment and alarm.

CHAPTER XI
AT THE WIDOW FAIRCHILD'S HOUSE

"Are you dead certain the money is in the house?" were the first words that Dave heard distinctly. They came in rather a hoarse voice.

"Yes, I saw Mrs. Fairchild draw the money from the bank. She put it in a black bag and started straight for her home." The reply came in a voice that was also hoarse, almost guttural.

"It would certainly be a dandy haul."

"Just what I've said all along."

"But the risk. If that hired man sleeps in the house – "

"I don't think he does. The widow don't like men folks around. I heard that from one of the neighbors, the day I went to price some chickens."

"Well, we might go over to her place and take a look around," came after a pause, and then followed some conversation that Dave could not catch. A few minutes later the two men walked away, and the youth heard no more of them.

Dave was amazed and with good reason. If he understood the situation at all the two men intended to rob the house of a widow who lived about half a mile up the road. They had seen her draw some money from a bank somewhere and intended to take the amount from her.

"They must be the very chaps who robbed Mr. Lapham and also the place in Oakdale," he thought. "I must get out and do what I can to outwit them!"

In feverish haste he climbed the chain again and pushed on the plank of the roof. By hard work he managed to loosen one end, but the other end seemed to be tight and refused to budge.

"If I only had something to pry it off with," he mused, but could find nothing. Then, almost in desperation, he dropped to the ground again and began to pound on the door, at the same time shouting at the top of his lungs.

For a good five minutes this brought forth no response, but presently Mike Marcy came forth from the farmhouse, lantern in hand, and stalked over to his barn. When he came out he carried a long rawhide whip in his hand.

"Say, boy, quit that noise, or I'll tan ye well!" he cried, wrathfully, as he came up to the smokehouse and set the lantern on the ground.

"Mr. Marcy, is that you?" queried Dave, quickly.

"Yes, 'tis, and I want ye to stop that racket."

"Let me out at once – it is very important," went on Dave.

"Important, is it?" sneered the Irish-American farmer. "'Tis more important ye stop that noise, so it is!"

"Mr. Marcy, listen to me," said Dave. "I have something very important to tell you. If you won't listen there will be big trouble. You must let me out, and both of us must catch two burglars."

"Sure, and what is the lad talkin' about?" exclaimed the farmer.

"I am telling you the truth. Let me out instantly."

"'Tis a trick, I'm after thinkin' – "

"No, sir, I give you my word of honor it is not. Let me out and I will explain. Please hurry up."

Dave's earnestness at last impressed the farmer to the extent that he opened the door cautiously for the space of a foot. As the youth came forth the man caught him by the arm.

"Now don't try to run, or 'twill be the worse for ye!"

"Mr. Marcy, listen!" cried Dave. "Only a short while ago two men were here. They stopped close to the smokehouse to talk. They spoke of the Widow Fairchild having money in her house which she had just gotten from the bank. They talked of robbing her, and they went off to do the job."

The farmer listened and his jaw dropped slightly.



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