Edward Stratemeyer.

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



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"Bet you two to one we beat you!"

"Bet your small change on that, or you'll be a beggar!" cried one of the Oak Hall boys in return.

"We'll race you to the grounds!" said a Rockville student. "Get up there!" he cried to the horses pulling the stage. The whip was used and the turnout bounded ahead.

"Here, this won't do, Horsehair!" cried Phil. "We can't let them beat us on the road like this. Start up the team."

Now, if there was one thing that Lemond took pride in, it was his horses, and seldom was it that he allowed anybody to pass him on the road. Dr. Clay kept good animals, and Horsehair saw to it that they were always in the best of condition. Moreover, he and the driver for Rockville were as bitter rivals as the students themselves.

"Ain't goin' to pass us to-day!" said he, setting his teeth. "Git up!" and he snapped his whip in a manner that meant business.

The horses understood, and in a moment more a race was on in earnest. Stage and carryall streaked down the broad road side by side, all of the students shrieking themselves hoarse.

"Go it, Horsehair! Don't let them beat us!"

"Send 'em ahead, Jerry! We can't take the dust of Oak Hall!"

Faster and faster went stage and carryall and now the two drivers settled down to the race in earnest. Then came a turn and the Oak Hall turnout shot ahead.

"Good for you, Horsehair!" yelled Phil. "Keep it up!"

"Catch him, Jerry, catch him!" came from behind.

"You can't catch us to-day!" flung back Buster Beggs. "Good-by! We'll tell 'em you are coming!" Then the carryall swept up to some private carriages, passed them, and left the Rockville stage in the dust of the road behind.

The little brush served to brighten up Roger and his companions, and as they drew close to the football field they blew their horns and sounded their rattles. When they swept into the grounds they were greeted with cheers, and Oak Hall flags were waved everywhere.

It was certainly a fine football field, as level as a house floor and well roped off. To one side was a neat grand stand, painted green and white, and decorated with flags and bunting. At the far end of the field was a big tent, where the refreshments were to be served, and opposite the grand stand was a special inclosure for any outsiders who cared to witness the contest. Each school was well represented by its followers, and there were fully a thousand spectators in addition.

"We couldn't have a nicer day nor a better crowd," remarked Phil, as he gazed around.

"Do you see anything of Dave and Paul?" questioned Roger, anxiously.

All looked around quickly and then hurried to the dressing room under the grand stand. Not a sign of the missing players was to be seen anywhere.

"We've got fifteen minutes yet," said Roger. "They may show up at any minute."

"Are all the Rockville players here?" asked Ben.

"Yes, and they look as if they meant business, too," answered Buster Beggs.

The grand stand had been divided into three parts, the middle for the owner of the estate and his special friends, and either end for the two schools.

In the best position on the stand was the sick brother of the owner of the estate, propped up in an invalid's chair. His face wore a smile, as if he enjoyed everything that was going on.

In an extreme corner of the Oak Hall end of the stand sat Gus Plum, Nat Poole, and Nick Jasniff. They were awaiting the outcome of the game with deep interest, although sure that their school would lose. Through a friend in Oakdale they had placed practically all their spending money on bets in favor of Rockville, – in fact Gus Plum had gone into debt twenty dollars, borrowing the amount from a student named Chadworth.

"Say, are you sure you fixed Henshaw?" whispered the bully of the Hall to Jasniff. "He doesn't look to be very sick or dizzy-headed."

"Oh, I fixed him right enough," returned Nick Jasniff. "Maybe the stuff hasn't had time to work."

"Or maybe you didn't give him enough," commented Nat Poole.

"I gave him the dose called for. Of course I didn't dare to give him too much."

"I don't see anything of Porter or Babcock," went on Poole, with a side wink at his cronies.

"No, it's funny where they are," answered Gus Plum, in a loud voice.

"Maybe they got afraid to play," added Jasniff, in an equally loud tone.

It soon became noised around that Dave and Paul had failed to show themselves, and Dr. Clay himself came from the grand stand to see about it. But nobody could give him any information.

"Something must have happened to detain them," said the owner of the Hall. "They would certainly get here if they could."

At last it was time to go out on the field for practice. Henshaw was put in Babcock's place, as he was able to play the position almost as well as anybody, and a lad named Farrell took the position reserved for Dave.

"There goes Henshaw out," said Nat Poole, in a low voice. "He seems to be all right."

"Why shouldn't he be all right?" demanded a student sitting behind the speaker.

"I wasn't talking to you, Dodd."

"Well, why shouldn't Henshaw be all right?" insisted Dodd.

"Why, – er – somebody said he wasn't feeling well, that's all," stammered Nat Poole.

"He told me he was feeling bang-up."

"That so? Well, I'm glad to hear it," said Poole, weakly.

As a matter of fact Henshaw was feeling just a bit faint and dizzy, the drug not having had time to have its full effect. Luckily the lad was strong and with a good heart action, so he was bound to suffer less than had he been otherwise.

There was a cheer for the Oak Hall players and another cheer when the Rockville eleven appeared on the field. The practice of each team was snappy and vigorous and brought forth applause.

The umpire and the referee were college men, chosen by Mr. Dale and a teacher from Rockville, and the linesmen were others acceptable all around. The practice over, there was a five minutes' intermission.

"Dave and Babcock are not here yet," sighed Phil, "I declare, it's too bad! If we have many accidents on the field we'll be more than short-handed."

"They wouldn't stay away of their own accord," said Roger. "Something is wrong – I'm dead sure of it."

It had been decided that the two halves of the game should be of thirty minutes each, with an intermission of ten minutes. Roger, Phil, Ben, and Buster Beggs occupied the positions they had filled the season previous, and the others of the eleven were placed to the best advantage. The center and the right guard were a little weak, but this could not be helped. On the other hand, the Rockville eleven appeared to be exceptionally well balanced.

"Time to play!" cried Phil, presently, and the eleven at once took their positions. Then the Rockville men came on the field once more; and a minute later the great game started.

CHAPTER XVI
THE GREAT FOOTBALL GAME

At the best it is next to impossible to describe all the plays made in a fast and snappy football game, and I shall not attempt to do so. From the very outset Rockville Academy demonstrated the fact that they had come to win or die trying, and they were alert to a degree that brought forth admiration even from their enemies.

The toss-up was won by Rockville, and the center kicked off amid a breathless silence. The leather sailed in Sam Day's direction and he caught it and brought it back twelve yards. Ben Basswood was called to kick and sent it off to the forty-five-yard line. It was caught, but lost to Phil Lawrence, who managed to tear around the end for five yards. Then followed a mix-up, and the ball went back and forth four times, when it went out of bounds and brought a loss to Rockville of two yards.

The whole crowd by this time was wild with excitement, and every advance by one side or the other was hailed with cheers, the tooting of horns, and the swinging of rattles.

"Phew! but this is hard work, sure enough," whispered Phil to Roger. "They are pushing things for all they are worth."

"I believe they think they can wind us," answered the senator's son.

The ball was put into play a few seconds later. "Twelve, twenty-six, fifty!" was the signal, and it passed rapidly from one Rockville player to another. Then came a sensational run of twenty yards, the tackle with the ball rushing Oak Hall's left end. But the fullback was after him and brought him down just as it looked as if Rockville might score a touchdown.

"Say, look at that run!"

"I thought he was going to make it, sure!"

"So did I!"

"They'll get it anyway, see if they don't!"

So the cries ran on as the two elevens lined up for the next scrimmage. The first half was now eighteen minutes old, and exactly two minutes later, despite the best efforts of Oak Hall, the leather was forced over the line by the military academy boys.

"Hurrah! A touchdown for Rockville!"

"That's the way to do it!"

And then the crowd cheered harder than ever – that is, those who sympathized with the military academy. Oak Hall and its supporters sat silent, and a few shook their heads and sighed.

"Didn't I tell you?" whispered Nick Jasniff, to Plum and Poole. "There's the first dose. That money is as good as won!"

"It suits me right enough," answered the bully of Oak Hall. He did not add that he was very low on cash and that his father had written, stating that he could not supply Gus with any more spending money for a long time to come.

As soon as the touchdown was made the leather was hurried to the field for a kick. It sailed directly between the goal posts, and at this another yell went up.

"Six points for Rockville! That's the way to do it!"

"Now then for another, fellows! Show 'em that is only a starter!"

With eight more minutes of the first half left the ball was put into play and once more it was sent back and forth. Once Roger made a clever run of fifteen yards and at another time, when a Rockville player made a fumble, Phil snatched the ball, sent it to Ben, who turned it over to Henshaw. With the leather in his arm Henshaw made a brave attempt for a touchdown, but was stopped on the thirty-yard line. His run, however, was loudly applauded, and for the time being it gave Jasniff, Plum, and Poole a chill.

"Phew!" muttered Plum. "I thought he was going straight over!"

"He's the best player they've got," whispered Jasniff. "I can't understand why that drug doesn't work."

But the drug was working, and it was that which prevented Henshaw from making the touchdown after covering twenty yards. He was growing more dizzy each moment.

"I must be getting the blind staggers," he said to Roger. "Everything seems to be swimming in front of my eyes."

"Maybe you ran too hard," suggested the senator's son.

"No, I've been feeling that way for the past five minutes. I don't know what's the matter with me."

"Do you want to quit?"

"Oh, I'll try to play the half out," answered Henshaw.

With the ball on the thirty-yard line, Oak Hall fought as never before to carry the leather on. It did go down to the twenty-yard line, but only to be lost on a fumble, after which a succession of brilliant rushes and end runs by Rockville brought it within striking distance of Oak Hall's goal line, when a drop kick sent it once more between the posts.

"Will you look at that!"

"A goal from the field! That gives Rockville 10 points!"

The cheering and the general din were tremendous. Oak Hall had nothing to say. Plum and his cronies chuckled to themselves.

"Rockville is rubbing it in, eh?" chuckled Nick Jasniff. "I hope they make it about 50 to 0!"

"So do I," answered Nat Poole.

Once more the ball went into play, and this time Oak Hall sent it into the Rockville territory in a grim, stone-wall way that could not be resisted. But when it lacked still ten yards of the goal line, the whistle blew, telling that time was up and the first half of the game had come to an end.

"Hard luck to-day," said Phil, grimly. "They are certainly putting up a great game."

"They have more weight than we have," answered Shadow. "And I must say, their tackling is first-class."

"I think it is rough," said Buster Beggs. "I got a kick in the shin that wasn't pleasant."

"That Hausermann is rather rough," said Phil. "I'd hate to have him come down on me."

"Yes, and he plays off-side," said Roger. "I had to warn him twice, and the referee warned him too."

Poor Henshaw was now so dizzy he could scarcely stand and two of the other players had to escort him off the field. Andrew Dale questioned the youth closely.

"You didn't eat or drink anything unusual?"

"Not that I know of, sir."

"Did you ever feel that way before when playing?"

"No, sir, it never affected me in the least."

"It is odd. I will call Dr. Blarcom, who is present."

The doctor came up and made a close examination. He was much puzzled. He also asked Henshaw about his eating and drinking. Then, when the lad complained of feeling sick at the stomach, he gave him an emetic.

"He has certainly swallowed something that hasn't agreed with him," said the physician, and took Henshaw to the Mongrace mansion, where he might give the sick student every attention.

With Henshaw, Babcock, and Dave out of the game, Roger hardly knew what to do for players. The lad who had taken Dave's place was only an ordinary player, and to put another ordinary player in place of Henshaw would be to weaken the eleven greatly.

"It certainly looks like a walk-over for Rockville," said the senator's son. "I can't understand what is keeping Dave and Paul away."

But four minutes of the intermission had passed when there came a sudden shout from outside of the grand-stand dressing rooms. Then with a whirr a big red automobile dashed up and two dusty-looking youths leaped out.

"Dave and Paul!" ejaculated Phil, joyously. "Where in the world have you been?"

"Is the game over?" asked Dave, anxiously.

"The first half is."

"What's the score?" questioned Babcock, quickly.

"10 to 0 against us."

"Is that so!"

"But where have you been?" demanded Roger, and added, almost in the same breath: "Can you play?"

"Certainly we can play – that is what we are here for," returned Dave. "Will somebody lend me a football suit?"

"We have your suits here," said Shadow, and brought them forth. "Climb right in."

Dave and Babcock did "climb in," and while doing so briefly related their adventures.

"When the old wagon went to smash we thought we were surely out of the game," said Dave. "But a few minutes later a man came along in that automobile, and we stopped him and got him to promise to bring us here. We would have gotten here in time for the first half only something got the matter with the auto's batteries."

"Dave, some enemies played that trick," said Phil.

"No doubt of it."

"They wanted us to lose the game."

"Of course," said Babcock.

"Do you suspect any of the Rockville fellows?"

"Not yet. I am going to investigate after this game is over."

"And I am going to investigate, too," added Dave. "Why, we might have been killed!"

The youth who had taken Dave's place on the eleven was perfectly willing to retire, feeling that Oak Hall was going to lose anyway. Babcock took his old place.

"I am sorry for Spud," he said, referring to Henshaw. "It appears to me that something is wrong all around."

With the appearance of Dave and Babcock the spirits of Roger, Phil, and the others arose wonderfully.

"Now, boys, play for all you are worth," said the senator's son. "Make every scrimmage count, and if you get hold of the ball run like all-possessed. We must get something this half, or we'll never hear the end of it."

"It will certainly make Gus Plum and his cronies crow," answered Dave, grimly. "I suppose they are here?"

"Yes, in a corner of the stand," answered Buster Beggs.

"They were out on their wheels this morning," said Sam Day. "Did you see anything of them?"

"They were out?" repeated Dave, in surprise. "Did they follow us?"

"They said they went to Oakdale."

Dave looked at Paul Babcock, who pursed up his lips meditatively.

"What do you think of that, Paul?"

"I think it will stand investigation," answered Babcock. "Somebody played us the trick, and it certainly wasn't a friend."

"Last year Plum and Poole were against us."

At that moment came a call from the doorway of the dressing room.

"Time for the second half, boys. Come out on the field."

It had become noised around that Dave and Babcock had arrived. A number believed this, but others did not.

"Do you think it is true?" demanded Plum of Jasniff.

"I don't see how it can be," whispered Jasniff in return. "They must have been carried miles and miles on that freight train."

"Oh, it's only talk," grumbled Nat Poole.

The eleven were now pouring into the field. Among the first to show themselves were Dave and Paul, and a roar of welcome went up from the Oak Hall supporters.

"There are Porter and Babcock!"

"Now for some real playing!"

"Where in the world have they been?"

"They are here, sure enough!" whispered Gus Plum, hoarsely. "Nick, what can it mean?"

"Don't ask me," growled Jasniff. "It beats anything I ever heard of!"

As soon as they came on the field Dave and Babcock reported to the referee, as substitutes for the two players that had dropped out. Then the whistle blew, and the second half of the great game was on.

CHAPTER XVII
HOW THE GAME ENDED

There was another spell of breathless silence as the ball went into play on the second half of the great game. The kick-off was clean and clever, and for several minutes the leather remained close to the center of the field, each eleven struggling desperately to force the line of the other. Rockville had had one man slightly hurt and another player had taken his place, one who was light and very wiry. He took the ball for a run around the left end, but was brought down. Then in the scrimmage that followed the ball came to Dave and he made a gain of ten yards, breaking through and dodging in a manner that brought forth much favorable comment.

"That's the way to do it," was the cry. "Carry it over the line!"

But alas! for the hopes of Oak Hall. In the very next mix-up Buster Beggs made a bad fumble and the wiry substitute on the Rockville eleven secured the leather. Before anybody could stop him he made a sensational run to the end of the field.

"Another touchdown for Rockville!"

How the supporters of the military academy did cheer and yell! Horns tooted madly and the academy colors went waving in all directions.

Gus Plum grinned silently, while Nick Jasniff winked at him.

"Say, we're all right, after all, eh?" whispered Nat Poole.

"Hush!" muttered the bully of the school. "If our fellows should hear you they'd kill us! This defeat will make them ugly."

The touchdown was turned into a goal, giving Rockville 16 points as against 0 for Oak Hall. Things certainly did look blue.

"Come, fellows, we've got to do something!" urged Roger. "Everybody play for all he is worth. Don't let a single chance escape you!"

"I am going to do something if I die for it," said Babcock, and went in with a vigor that nothing could resist. Inside of two minutes he secured the ball, dove to the left, turned, and started for the right. Two Rockville players tackled him, but Dave and Buster Beggs came between and Babcock went on. Then Roger took a hand, and in the struggle the ball went over the Rockville line amid a yelling from Oak Hall that could have been heard half a mile.

"A touchdown for Oak Hall!"

"Now wake up, boys, and show 'em what you can do!"

Dave held the ball and Roger made the kick. The ball went through the posts fairly, scoring 6 points for the Hall. Again came a cheer.

"Well, it's only 6 to 16," whispered Nat Poole.

"How much longer to play?" asked Plum.

"Fourteen minutes."

The six points gained put increased vigor into Oak Hall, and now Roger gave the signal for a certain mass play which had as yet not been tried. Like a living wedge Oak Hall struck against Rockville, and although the academy eleven carried more weight they could not withstand such an onslaught. They separated, and in a twinkling the leather was carried up the field and across the line a second time, within three minutes after the first touchdown was secured.

"Whoop! Hurrah! Look at that!"

"Another touchdown! Keep it up, fellows!"

"Oak Hall has struck her gait at last!"

And then the Oak Hall colors were waved wildly, while horns tooted and rattles were swung on every side. It was now Rockville's turn to remain silent.

"Be careful, fellows, don't get excited," warned Roger. "Watch your chances."

The goal was kicked, making the score, Rockville 16, Oak Hall 12. There were but eight minutes more in which to play. Once again the leather came into the field. Rockville was now on guard against another mass play and it was decided to try the left end. The ball went to Ben, who passed it to Dave. Dave made a short run and doubled, as if turning back. Then he plunged forward, hurdled (it was the old style of playing), and tore up the field for twenty yards. Then he was brought to earth with a thud that made his ears ring and caused him to see stars.

"Are you hurt, Dave?" he heard Roger ask, and sitting up he shook his head. Time had been called, and he learned that for two minutes he had been dead to the world.



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