Edward Stratemeyer.

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



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"Is it a fairy story ye are after tellin'?"

"No, sir, it is the absolute truth. I think they were the same chaps who robbed Mr. Lapham and robbed that house in Oakdale. They seem to be doing their best to loot this whole neighborhood."

"They were here?" faltered Mike Marcy. At last he began to believe Dave.

"Yes, sir, not over quarter of an hour ago."

"Did they speak of robbing my place?" went on the Irish-American farmer suspiciously.

"No, sir, I am sure they started directly for Mrs. Fairchild's place."

"And ye want me to go with ye and catch them?"

"Isn't it our duty to catch them if we can?"

"Sure. But can we do it alone?"

"We can call up somebody else on the way."

"So we can. Well, I'll go – but first I'll take a look around my own place," added Mike Marcy.

He took his lantern and walked around the house and then told his wife of Dave's discovery. Mrs. Marcy began to tremble as she listened, and she shook her head when her husband said he proposed to go after the robbers.

"It is not meself is going to stay here all alone, wid robbers floatin' around in the dark," said Mrs. Marcy. "Let the boy call up the constable, or somebody else."

"It will take too long," said Dave, impatiently. "Even now it may be too late."

"Ye'll be safe enough with the doors and windows locked," said Mike Marcy. "Ye can use the shotgun if they come back. I'll take the pistol."

He was a man used to having his own way, and soon he set off with his pistol in his pocket and a good-sized club in his hand. Dave armed himself with another club, and set a good stiff pace, once they were on the road.

"We can stop at Brown's house and call him up," said Mike Marcy. He referred to Farmer Brown, who occupied a house directly on the road they were traveling. Reaching the place they knocked loudly on the door and presently the owner stuck his head out of an upper window.

"What's wanted?"

"Come down here," shouted Mike Marcy. "We want ye to help capture two robbers."

"Two robbers?" said Farmer Brown.

"Mercy sakes alive!" burst out the farmer's wife. "Are robbers around? We'll all be murdered in our beds!"

"They ain't here – they be over to the Widow Fairchild's," answered Mike Marcy. "Come on. Is Bill around?"

"Yes, here I am," said the farmer's son, from another window. "I'll be down in a minit, with my gun."

There was a short argument after this, but in the end Farmer Brown and his son Bill, a tall, wiry youth of nineteen, agreed to accompany Mike Marcy and Dave. Mrs. Fairchild's home was less than a quarter of a mile away, and to cut off a bend of the highway they took to an open field which came to an end at the edge of the widow's orchard.

"There is the house," whispered Mike Marcy, at last. "Better go slow now."

"Yes, we don't want them to get away," answered Dave.

"Let us spread out around the house," advised Farmer Brown.

"The first one to spot the rascals can give the alarm."

So it was agreed, and while Dave went to the rear of the dwelling the others passed to the front and sides. The place was pitch dark on the inside and lit up only by the light of the stars from without.

Dave's heart was beating rather rapidly, for there was no telling when he would find himself face to face with the two robbers, and he realized that they must be desperate characters. He clutched the club tightly, resolved to do his best, should it come to a hand-to-hand encounter.

Several minutes passed and slowly the four outside walked completely around the building. Only one window was open, that to the dining room.

"See anybody?" whispered Mike Marcy, coming up to Dave.

"No."

"Sure ye didn't make any mistake?"

"I didn't see a soul. Maybe they haven't come up yet."

"That is so."

"We can wait a while and see," suggested Bill Brown. "If we wake the widder we may scare 'em off."

They waited after that for another spell, but nobody appeared, nor did they hear any sound out of the ordinary. Then it was resolved to arouse Mrs. Fairchild and wait in the house for the coming of the robbers.

"That is, if they are coming," said Farmer Brown. "Maybe the boy made a mistake."

"I am certain I made no mistake," answered Dave, positively. "But they may have changed their plans."

"Humph!" muttered Mike Marcy. "If it's a trick – But we'll talk that over later."

The door had an old-fashioned knocker, and this Farmer Brown used lightly at first and then with vigor. To the surprise of all in the party nobody answered the summons.

"The widder must be away!" cried Farmer Brown. "Funny, – she was home at sundown. Where would she go after dark?"

"Perhaps she's been murdered," suggested Bill.

"Murdered!" exclaimed the others, and Dave's blood seemed to run cold.

"A regular robber wouldn't stop at murder, if he was caught in the act," said the farmer.

"Maybe we ought to break in the door."

"Or git in through the window," suggested Mike Marcy.

While they were deliberating they heard the sounds of carriage wheels on the road. The turnout was coming along at smart speed and all ran towards the road to see who was driving. To their surprise they saw the Widow Fairchild alight, followed by a farmer named Burr and a hired man called Sandy.

"How do ye do, widder!" called out Farmer Brown. "Been away long?"

"Why, what does this mean?" stammered Mrs. Fairchild, who was a woman of forty and weighed at least two hundred pounds. She often went out to do nursing throughout the Oakdale district.

"We came here lookin' fer robbers," explained Mike Marcy. "We thought they was comin' to visit you."

"By gum!" came from the farmer named Burr. "Reckon you are right, Mrs. Fairchild."

"Right? How?" asked Dave, quickly.

"I'll tell you," answered the widow. "About an hour ago somebody knocked on the door. I opened the window upstairs and asked what was wanted. A man was there muffled up in an overcoat. Says he, 'Is that you, Mrs. Fairchild?' 'Yes,' says I. 'Well,' says he, 'you're wanted over to Mrs. Burr's house right away. The baby is dying. I've got to go for a doctor,' says he, and runs away. I didn't hardly know what to do, but I hurried into my clothes and locked up and almost run to Mr. Burr's place. When I got there they was all to bed and the baby as healthy as ever. Then I got suspicious, for I've got four hundred dollars in the house that I got out of the bank at Rayfield to pay off on that new house I'm building in Oakdale. Mr. Burr hitched up at once and brought me over. So you know about the fellow, do you?"

"I know two men started for this place to rob your house," said Dave.

"Better go in and see if the money is safe," suggested Farmer Brown. "Did you leave that window open?" he added.

"Window open? No indeed!" shrieked Mrs. Fairchild, and without further ceremony she brought forth her key and opened the front door. Then she lit the lamp and began to make a search of the premises.

"They have been in here!" she wailed. "See how everything is upset!" She ran to a china closet. "Oh, dear, look at the dishes! Some of 'em broken! Oh!" She gave a wild scream. "The money is gone! They have robbed me of the four hundred dollars!"

CHAPTER XII
AT WORK IN THE DARK

Dave had more than half expected the declaration the Widow Fairchild made, so when it came he was not surprised. The others, however, stared in bewilderment and dismay.

"All gone?" queried Mike Marcy.

"Every dollar!" groaned the widow. "Oh, the rascals, the heartless villains! To rob a poor widow in this fashion! And I worked so hard to save that money! Oh, where are they? I must catch them and get my money back!" And she stalked around the room wringing her hands in her despair.

"What a pity that we got here too late," said Dave. "I wish you had hurried more," he continued to the Irish-American farmer. "I told you not to waste time."

"Don't ye blame me for this!" replied Mike Marcy, half in alarm and half in wrath. "I hurried all I could."

"Let us make a search for the rascals," said Joel Burr. "They may not be very far off."

"It won't do any good," announced Farmer Brown. "We've been around here too long a-looking for 'em."

"Yes, they're a long way off by this time," said his son Bill. "With four hundred dollars in their pockets they won't let no grass grow under their feet."

"This is the third robbery inside of six weeks," was Joel Burr's comment. "Must say they be getting mighty free-handed."

In spite of what had been said, all went outside and took a look around the grounds and up and down the highway. But it was useless; not the least trace of the burglars could be found anywhere about.

While the others were outside, the widow inspected her house more thoroughly. She said a dozen silver spoons were missing and likewise an old gold watch and some old-fashioned gold and pearl jewelry. She placed her total loss at nearly five hundred dollars.

Dave had to tell his story in detail, to which all of the others but Mike Marcy listened with interest. The widow blamed the Irish-American farmer for not having come to the house sooner, declaring that had he done so the robbers would have been caught red-handed; and quite a war of words followed.

"What am I to do, now my money is gone?" she wailed. "I cannot pay that carpenter's bill and it must be paid by the end of this month."

"You'll have to notify the constable, or the sheriff," answered Joel Burr.

"What good will that do? They haven't done anything for Lapham, nor for Jerry Logan who was robbed in Oakdale."

"Well, I don't know what you can do, widder."

Mrs. Fairchild declared, when she had settled down a little, that the man who had spoken to her about the sick baby had had a hoarse voice, and all were satisfied that that individual was one of those Dave had heard talk near the smokehouse. But she had not seen his face, so she could not give any description of him excepting to say that he was rather tall.

It was now nearly eleven o'clock, and as Dave had had no supper he was hungry. His tramping around had made him tired, and he said if he was not wanted any more he would go home.

"Go as far as I am concerned," said Mike Marcy. "But don't lay the blame of this robbery on me. Remember, ye had no right to be trespassin' on my property."

"I simply told the truth," said Dave; and a little later he withdrew and hurried forth into the night in the direction of Oak Hall.

It was a lonely road and a less courageous boy might have been frightened. It was cold and quiet and he walked a full mile without meeting a soul. Then, as he was passing Mike Marcy's orchard, two figures sprang out in the darkness.

"Dave!"

"Hello, so it is you, Phil, and Roger! What brought you out again?"

"We came to find you. We were afraid you had gotten into trouble with Mike Marcy," answered Phil.

"Where in the world have you been?" asked the senator's son. "We reported that you had lost your watch, but didn't expect you'd stay away so long."

"Well, I've had troubles enough," answered Dave, with a faint smile, and as the three hurried for the academy he told his tale from beginning to end.

"Well, if this doesn't beat the Greeks!" exclaimed Phil. "Say, these robberies are getting serious."

"Are you going to tell Dr. Clay?" asked Roger.

"Certainly. I haven't done anything wrong, so why shouldn't I tell him?"

"I guess you are right. But I shouldn't disturb him to-night. It will be time enough to go to him in the morning."

Phil and Roger had gotten out of the Hall by a back way, leaving the door unlocked behind them. The three boys, as a consequence, entered easily, and then Dave took the chance of being discovered by going down to the kitchen for something to eat. In the pantry he found a pumpkin pie, some cold beans, and some milk, and on these made a hearty repast. Then he went to bed and slept soundly until the bell awoke him at seven o'clock.

He felt that he should be reprimanded and he was not mistaken. Job Haskers strode up to him as soon as he went below.

"Master Porter, where were you last evening?" he demanded, in harsh tones.

"I lost my watch, Mr. Haskers, and went to look for it. Then something very unusual happened, which I am going to report to Dr. Clay."

"Something unusual, eh?" said the assistant teacher, curiously.

"Yes, sir. But I prefer to report to Dr. Clay."

"Hum! Very well – I will talk to the doctor myself later. We cannot permit pupils of this institution to come and go at will." And with an air of great importance Job Haskers passed on.

As soon as breakfast was over Dave went to Dr. Clay's private study. The worthy owner of Oak Hall was at his desk, looking over some letters which had just come in. He gazed at Dave in mild curiosity.

"Dr. Clay, may I speak to you for a few minutes?" asked the youth.

"Certainly, Porter. Come in and sit down."

Dave entered and closed the door after him, for he had caught sight of Job Haskers close at hand, curious to learn what he might have to say for himself. Sitting down he told his rather remarkable story, to which the master of the Hall listened with close attention.

"These robbers are certainly getting bold," said Dr. Clay. "It is a pity you could not get out of that smokehouse sooner."

"That is just what I told the others."

"You are certain you went over to Marcy's only for the kite and later for the watch?" and the doctor looked Dave squarely in the eyes.

"That's it, sir. I did not touch his apples or anything else, and neither did Phil nor Roger."

"Then he certainly had no right to lock you up. Do you wish to make a complaint against him?"

"No, not that. Only I wanted to explain why I didn't get back to school last evening."

"I see."

"Mr. Haskers approached me about it and acted as if he wanted to punish me."

"Ah! Well, you can tell him that I have taken the matter in hand and that you have been excused. I have but one fault to find, and that is – " The doctor paused and smiled.

"That we didn't catch the robbers," finished Dave.

"Exactly. The authorities must get after the rascals. Until they are caught nobody in this district will be safe."

After a few words more Dave left the office and went to his classroom. As he did this Job Haskers entered the doctor's office. He must have asked the master of Oak Hall about Dave, for after he came away he said nothing more to the youth concerning his absence.

The next few days went quietly by. From Lemond the boys learned that Mrs. Fairchild had appealed to the authorities and two detectives were at work searching for the robbers, but so far nothing had been learned about the rascals.

"They'll keep quiet for a while," said Ben, and such proved to be the case.

One afternoon a letter reached Oak Hall addressed to Roger Morr, Captain Oak Hall Football Club. It proved to be the expected challenge from Rockville Military Academy. The eleven of that institution challenged the Oak Hall team to play a game of football two weeks from that date, on some grounds to be mutually decided upon. Pinned to the challenge was a note stating a certain rich gentleman named Richard Mongrace had offered a fine gold cup to the winning team, providing the match was played on the new grounds laid out in his private park, located at Hilltop, six miles from the river.

"Here is the challenge at last," said Roger, and he read it aloud. "I suppose there is nothing to do but accept."

"Yes, we've got to give them the chance to even up," said Phil.

"They haven't forgotten that we beat them last season by a score of 11 to 8," said another of the eleven.

"I've heard something about their team this year," said Ben. "They have dropped three old players and have three A No. 1 fellows in their places. Two weeks ago, as you know, they beat the Hamilton eleven, 17 to 5, and day before yesterday they played White College eleven and won out by a score of 12 to 5."

"Then they must be a heap stronger than they were last year," said Buster Beggs. "For last year White College beat them badly."

"Yes, and Hamilton beat them too," added Dave. "I shouldn't wonder but that they've got a crackajack team this year."

"Are we going to back out?" demanded the senator's son.

"No!" came back in a chorus.

"Oak Hall never backs out!" cried Ben.

"Well, where are we to play? I suppose they would like to play at the Mongrace field," said Roger.

"It's a dandy spot – I was up there on my wheel last Saturday," said Shadow Hamilton. "They've got a nice stand there, too."

"And our field is all lumpy," said Phil. "The doctor is going to have it leveled off next spring."

"Then let us go in for that gold cup!" cried Sam Day. And several others echoed the sentiment.

A regular meeting of the football club was called that night, and it was decided, after consulting Dr. Clay, to accept the Rockville challenge to play on the Mongrace grounds. A letter was accordingly written and forwarded the next Monday.

"Now we have got to brace up and practise," said the captain of the eleven.

"I wish you could get rid of two of our poorest players and take on Babcock and Henshaw," remarked Dave. "Those two would help us wonderfully."

"They both want to come in," answered the senator's son. "But I don't see how I can drop any of our present members after the way they have worked."

"Yes, I know that wouldn't be fair."

"I've already taken them on as substitutes. Maybe they'll get in the game after all," went on Roger.

Practice began in earnest during that week and all did their best to follow the coaching they got from the first assistant teacher, Andrew Dale, who had been both a college player and a coach. The play was a trifle mixed at times, but the boys worked with a will and that counted for a good deal. But then came a letter calling one of the players home, to attend the funeral of an uncle.

"I've got to leave the eleven," said Luke Watson. "You'll have to get somebody to take my place."

"I am sorry to see you go," said Roger, sympathetically.

"Take Babcock," went on Luke. "You couldn't do better."

"I will," answered the senator's son.

CHAPTER XIII
IN THE HANDS OF THE ENEMY

Paul Babcock was more than glad to get on the eleven actively, and that afternoon he showed it in his practice. The work was snappy from start to finish and gave Mr. Dale great satisfaction.

"That is something like," declared the first assistant teacher. "Keep it up and you will surely win."

After the practice was over Babcock left the field in company with Dave. As the two strolled across the campus they passed Gus Plum, who scowled deeply at his former player.

"Plum doesn't like it that you've come over to us," observed Dave. "He looked like a regular thundercloud."

"He has nobody to blame but himself," answered Paul Babcock. "Even if his team were still in existence I'd never play with him again. I want to act on the square, and that is more than he wants to do."

"I've heard he wanted you to use foul play."

"Yes, he was at both Henshaw and me to do some dirty work. But we declined, and I told him I had a good mind to punch his nose for suggesting it. That made him boiling mad."

In due course of time came a letter from Mr. Richard Mongrace, stating he was glad to learn the match was to come off on his new grounds, and that he would do all in his power to make the two elevens and their friends comfortable. The golden cup he proposed to put up cost exactly one hundred dollars and was to belong to the school winning it twice in two or three games, one game a year to be played for it.

Dr. Clay knew Mr. Mongrace well and one day drove over to see the new grounds. He came back in an enthusiastic mood.

"Mr. Mongrace is certainly a fine man," said the master of Oak Hall. "He has with him a sick brother who cannot leave the estate. This brother used to be a famous football player on the Princeton team. For his benefit Mr. Mongrace has laid out the field, and he is going to have some of the best amateur teams in the country play there."

"That will cost some money," said Roger.

"Yes, but he is rich and can easily afford it. He has erected a fine grand stand and will also put up a big tent, where refreshments will be served to the visitors from both academies."

After that the doctor spoke about the coming event before the whole school. He said he trusted that they would all act like young gentlemen while guests of Mr. Mongrace and thus do their institution credit.

The only persons at Oak Hall who did not look forward to the match with favor were Plum, Poole, and Jasniff. At first they thought to remain at home during the contest, but afterwards changed their minds, the reason being a plan which Nick Jasniff proposed.

Jasniff was thoroughly unscrupulous, and a year before had been dismissed from another boarding academy because of his dishonorable actions. He was a lad who was willing to do almost anything to accomplish his end.

Jasniff's plan was nothing more or less than to play a trick on some members of Roger's eleven, so that they could not take part in the game. This would weaken the Oak Hall club to such an extent that they would be likely to lose.

"Can we do it?" asked Poole.

"Certainly we can," answered Nick Jasniff. "Why, such things have been done hundreds of times."



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