Edward Stratemeyer.

Dave Porter and His Classmates



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PREFACE

"Dave Porter and His Classmates" is a complete story in itself, but forms the fifth volume in a line issued under the general title of "Dave Porter Series."

The first book of this series, "Dave Porter at Oak Hall," introduced to the reader a typical American youth of to-day, full of vim and vigor, and with a true sense of manliness, and related the particulars of some doings at a modern boarding school. At this institution of learning Dave, by pluck and perseverance, fought his way to the front, and was admired accordingly.

There was a cloud on the youth's parentage, and in order to clear this away he took a long and eventful sea voyage, as related in the second volume of the series, called "Dave Porter in the South Seas." Thousands of miles from home he found an uncle and learned something of his father and sister, who were then traveling in Europe.

As was but natural, the lad was anxious to meet all his relatives, but the address of his father and sister could not be obtained, and while waiting for this he returned to Oak Hall, as related in the next volume, entitled "Dave Porter's Return to School." At school Dave lived a truly strenuous life, becoming innocently involved in some robberies, aiding to win some great football games, and helping to bring the bully of the academy to a realization of his better self.

In the midst of his school life Dave learned that his father had been heard from. More anxious than ever to meet his parent he, in company with an old chum, set sail for England, and then went to Norway, as related in "Dave Porter in the Far North." Here, amid the ice and snow of the Land of the Midnight Sun, Dave found his father, and learned much of his sister, which filled him with great satisfaction.

It was now time for the youth to return to school, and in the present volume I have related some of the things that took place at Oak Hall after Dave got back, – how he worked hard, played hard, overcame his enemies, and what he did for the honor of the academy.

Once more I thank the young people for the interest they have shown in my books. I trust that the reading of the present volume will do them much good.

Edward Stratemeyer.
February 1, 1909

CHAPTER I
DAVE AND HIS PAST

"I suppose you feel very happy to-day, Dave."

"Yes, Roger, happy and anxious," answered Dave Porter. "And who wouldn't feel so if he was in my place? Just think of it! I am to see my sister at last – somebody I've never seen before in my life! Why, sometimes I have to pinch myself to make certain I am really awake."

"More than likely Laura is just as anxious as you are," went on Roger Morr. "She'll surely want to know how her long-missing brother looks. Remember, she hasn't had a photograph of you, while you have seen several of her."

"That is so," answered Dave.

His usually smiling face took on a serious look. "I trust she isn't disappointed in me or my looks."

"Oh, she won't be, don't worry about that. You're a good-looking fellow, even if I do have to say it for you, Dave. If you don't believe it, just ask Jessie Wadsworth." And Roger Morr began to grin. "I know Jessie will say at once that you are the dearest, sweetest – "

"Come now, Roger, let up!" interrupted Dave, growing red in the face. "Supposing Jessie should hear you?" And he looked anxiously toward the sitting-room door, which was partly open.

"There is no harm in telling the truth," returned Roger, with a calmness that made Dave blush still more. "But joking aside, Dave, I really hope this day proves to be the happiest of your life, and Laura turns out to be the jolliest of sisters."

"Hello, in there!" came a pleasant, boyish voice from the doorway, and a youth showed himself, with a pair of bright, nickel-plated skates on his arm. "Thought you were going skating, Roger?"

"So I am, Phil. I just stopped to speak to Dave for a moment. He is going off now to meet his sister."

"Oh!" Phil Lawrence came into the room and faced his chum. "Well, I can't say any more than what I've said before, Dave – I wish you the best of luck. I am sure you'll find it awfully nice to have a sister – especially after what you've had to put up with in the past."

"Don't you fellows really want to go with me?" asked Dave.

"Of course we do, but – Well, Roger and I talked it over and we – that is – well, we thought it would be nice to let you go with your father and uncle – kind of family gathering, you know. We'll be on hand by the time you get back to the house."

At that moment the merry jingle of sleighbells sounded from outside the mansion and a comfortable two-seated sleigh came up to the door, driven by one of the men from the barn.

"There is your turnout ready for you!" cried Roger. "What time does that Western train get in?"

"Ten-twenty, if it's on time," replied Dave promptly, for he had the time-table well in mind. "But the snowstorm may have delayed it."

"Well, I hope for your sake the train is on time," said Phil Lawrence. "If it isn't, I suppose every minute's delay will seem like an hour to you."

"More like two," answered Dave, and then, as he heard his father calling to him, he hurried out into the hall. There stood Mr. David Porter and his brother Dunston, both ready for the long drive to the depot. Behind the pair were a lady and gentleman of middle age, Mr. and Mrs. Wadsworth, and their daughter Jessie, while in the library door, holding a ponderous volume on botany in his hands, was an elderly man with white hair, Caspar Potts.

All of the party looked at Dave, for they knew what was in the youth's mind and what was on his heart. He had waited a long, long time for this day to come, and now he was a little timid about the result; why, he could not exactly tell. Perhaps because he had pictured his sister Laura to be one kind of a person and he was afraid she might prove something different.

"We mustn't be late," said Mr. Porter, breaking a momentary silence. He, too, was anxious over the coming meeting of son and daughter. It made his heart bound with pleasure to think that his little family were to be united at last.

"Remember, dinner will be waiting for you, no matter if the train is late," said Mrs. Wadsworth.

"And I'm to sit on one side of Laura and Dave on the other," put in Jessie, flinging back her curls that insisted at times on falling about her face. "Oh, won't it be glorious, Dave! I know I am going to love Laura, and I know she is going to love me – at least, I hope so."

Dave looked at her and smiled – he thought a great deal of Jessie, he simply couldn't help it. Then he turned and followed his father and Uncle Dunston down to the sleigh. The three got in and Mr. Porter took up the reins. A word to the stylish team and off they sped, through the spacious grounds of the Wadsworth mansion and down the road leading to the railroad station.

Dave wanted to talk to his father and uncle, but somehow his heart was too full and the words would not come. His whole mind was centered upon meeting his sister, whom, so far as he could remember, he had never seen. He did not dream of the unexpected news Laura would bring him.

To those who have read the former volumes of this "Dave Porter Series," the characters already mentioned will need no special introduction. For the benefit of others let me state that Dave Porter was a youth who had had a varied experience in life. When a small boy he had been found wandering along the railroad tracks just outside of the village of Crumville. Nobody knew who he was or where he came from, and as a consequence he was put in the local poorhouse, where he remained until about nine years old. Then an old college professor, Caspar Potts, who on account of broken health had taken up farming, took the boy to live with him.

Caspar Potts meant well, but he got in the grasp of a money-lender, Aaron Poole, as related in detail in my first story, called "Dave Porter at Oak Hall." Times looked exceedingly black for the old man and for Dave when there came a happening which turned the whole aspect of affairs.

In an elegant mansion of the outskirts of the town lived Mr. Oliver Wadsworth, a rich manufacturer, with his wife and daughter Jessie, the latter a beautiful miss some years younger than Dave. One day Dave called at the mansion on business. Jessie was waiting for an automobile ride, and through an accident to the gasoline tank of the car the girl's clothing took fire, and she might have been burned to death had not Dave rushed to her assistance and put out the flames.

Of course the Wadsworths were exceedingly grateful, and when the gentleman of the place learned that Caspar Potts was one of his old college professors he at once interested himself in the old man's behalf.

"You must come and live with me," he said. "You can do some work around the place and in arranging my library – and you must bring the boy with you." He had had a son who had died, and Dave reminded him strongly of that offspring.

At the Wadsworth home Dave made himself a great favorite, and he and Jessie became the closest of friends. The rich manufacturer wanted the lad to have a good education, and so he was sent off to Oak Hall, a fine institution of learning. With Dave went Ben Basswood, a youth of Crumville who had been the poorhouse lad's chum for some years.

At Oak Hall, Dave proved himself a leader in many sports, and as a consequence he gained a host of friends, including Roger Morr, the son of a United States senator, and Phil Lawrence, the offspring of a wealthy shipowner. He also made several enemies, not the least of whom was Nat Poole, the son of the money-lender who had caused Caspar Potts so much worry.

One day Dave's enemies raised the cry of "poorhouse nobody" against him. This cut the high-spirited lad to the quick. A fight ensued, in which Dave was victorious, and then the boy resolved, at any cost, to solve the mystery of his parentage.

How this was accomplished has been related in detail in "Dave Porter in the South Seas." With information obtained from an old sailor the youth journeyed almost half around the world, and there fell in with his uncle, Dunston Porter, who gave him much information concerning his father, David Breslow Porter, and also about his sister Laura, one year younger than himself, and told how the family had become separated.

Happy in the knowledge that he was no longer a "poorhouse nobody," but a well-to-do lad with a large sum of money coming to him when he should be of age, Dave returned to the United States. His father and sister were in Europe, and while waiting to hear from them he went back to Oak Hall, as told in "Dave Porter's Return to School." Here he made many more friends. His enemies could no longer twit him about his parentage, yet some of them, notably a fellow named Jasniff and Nat Poole, and a bully named Gus Plum, did what they could to torment him. Plum, when Dave did him a great service, tried to reform, but Jasniff, who was a hot-tempered fellow, attempted to strike Dave down with a heavy Indian club. This was a dastardly attack, roundly condemned by those who saw it, and fearful of what might follow, Nick Jasniff ran away from school and set sail for England.

Dave had waited long to hear from his father and sister, and at last when he learned that Jasniff had met them in London, he resolved to go in quest of them, although he did not yet have their address. In company with Roger Morr he crossed the Atlantic, only to find that his parent had joined an expedition for the upper part of Norway. How he and his chum journeyed to the land of the Midnight Sun has been told in all its particulars in "Dave Porter in the Far North." Here Dave at last met his father face to face, – a joyous reunion no words can express. Then the boy learned that his sister Laura had gone to the United States some time before, in company with some friends named Endicott, who owned a ranch in the Far West.

"We must telegraph at once for Laura," said Mr. Porter, and several telegrams were sent without delay, and, as a consequence, word came back that Laura would come as fast as the overland express could bring her.

When Dave's friends heard the good news that he had found his father some of them came to the Wadsworth home to congratulate him. Among the number was Phil Lawrence, and he and Roger were invited to remain with Dave until the latter returned to Oak Hall.

"You can all go back together – after Dave has seen his sister," said Mr. Porter. "I will fix it up with Doctor Clay, so you won't have any trouble over staying out of school a week longer." And so it was arranged.

Just before leaving school for his trip to Europe Dave had had a bitter quarrel with Nat Poole and a new student at Oak Hall named Link Merwell. Merwell was an aggressive fellow, tall and powerful, the son of a cattle-owner of the West. His taunting remarks to Dave had led to a fight in which the cattle-owner's son had gotten the worse of it.

"I'll get square for this," Link Merwell had said to his crony. "I'll make Dave Porter eat humble pie before I am done with him." Then had come another quarrel between the Western boy and Mr. Dale, the head assistant teacher, and Merwell had come close to being expelled. He had gone home for a vacation, stating that he believed Phil Lawrence had gotten him into "the mess," as he expressed it, and he had added that he would not forgive either Dave or Phil as long as he lived.

"Well, what did you do?" questioned Dave, when he and the shipowner's son talked this affair over.

"I didn't do anything," answered Phil. "Merwell wanted me to say that he hadn't gone out one night when I knew he did go out. I refused, and then he was found out. Oh, but wasn't he mad when he left on his vacation! He pounded his fist on a desk and vowed he'd fix me as soon as he got back, – and then he added that he'd fix you, too, as soon as you got back."

"Mighty interesting," said Dave. "We'll have to watch him and see what comes of it." And there the subject was dropped. But it was to come up very soon again, and in a manner not anticipated.

CHAPTER II
WHAT LAURA HAD TO TELL

The train was nearly an hour late, and during that time Dave walked impatiently up and down the railroad platform. Occasionally he thought of school matters, and his friends and enemies, but most of the time his mind was on his sister. His father and his uncle talked together and did not interrupt his meditations.

At last a far-away whistle proclaimed the coming of the Western express, and Dave's face took on a more eager look than ever. His father gazed into his clear eyes and caught him by the arm.

"I trust with all my heart you find Laura all you desire," he said in a low tone, and Dave nodded, for his throat was so choked up that he could not speak.

The long train rolled in and the passengers for Crumville began to alight. "There she is!" cried Dunston Porter and ran forward, with his brother and Dave at his heels. A mist seemed to come over the boy's eyes and his heart thumped furiously. Then he saw a tall girl standing before him, her eyes looking deeply into his own.

"Laura, this is Dave," he heard his father say. Then the girl came closer, reached out her arms, and in a moment more brother and sister were locked in the closest of embraces. It was such a moment Dave had longed for – prayed for – and all on the instant he knew that Laura was what he had hoped she would be and that they should love each other with the sweetest of sisterly and brotherly love as long as they lived.

Laura was handsome rather than pretty. She had an aristocratic air which had come down to her from her mother and grandmother. She was stately in her movements and her voice charmed Dave the moment he heard it.

"Just to think, you are really and truly my brother!" she exclaimed. "Isn't it wonderful!"

"It's wonderful for me to find a sister – and a father," answered Dave. "Sometimes I am afraid I'll wake up and find it all a dream."

"When I got papa's telegram I thought it was a dream. One of the cowboys on the ranch brought it over from the railroad station. At first I thought there must be some mistake, but Mr. Endicott said there couldn't be, and so I arranged to come east at once. A gentleman and his wife, who had been stopping at the ranch, came with me as far as Buffalo. Oh, I really couldn't get here fast enough! Did you get the telegram I sent from Chicago?"

"Yes," answered her father. "And the one from the ranch, too."

"I want to hear the whole of the wonderful story just as soon as possible," continued Laura. "I promised Belle Endicott I'd send her the particulars, for she is dying to know. Belle is my friend, you know. Her father is a railroad president, but he owns that ranch, too, and they go out there whenever they feel like it, winter or summer. Belle said she'd rather read my next letter than a story book." And Laura smiled brightly.

"And I shall want to hear all about you and your travels," answered Dave. "Oh, I guess we'll have enough to talk about to last a week."

The party of four were soon in the sleigh, with Laura and Dave on the front seat. The youth showed how he could handle the team, and in a short while drove up to the stepping-stone of the Wadsworth mansion. At once there was a rush from within, and the girl was introduced to those who had in the past done so much for her brother, and those who were Dave's chums. Jessie was a trifle shy at first, but this presently wore away, and when Laura heard what the Wadsworths had done for her brother she speedily took mother and daughter to her heart, and Jessie and she became the best of friends.

It was assuredly a grand gathering around the bountiful table which the Wadsworths had supplied, and all lingered long, listening to what the various members of the Porter family had to tell: of Dave's doings on the Potts farm, at school, and in quest of his relatives; of Dunston Porter's treasure hunt in the South Seas; of Mr. David Porter's trip to Europe with Laura; and of the girl's adventures on the ranch and elsewhere.

"Strange as it may seem, I have met two boys who knew Dave," said Laura, during the course of the conversation. "One was that scamp, Nick Jasniff, who tried to make himself agreeable in London."

"Yes, I know about him," answered Dave. "But who was the other?"

"The other is the son of the man who owns the cattle ranch next to Mr. Endicott's, Mr. Felix Merwell."

"Merwell!" cried Dave, Roger, and Phil in a breath.

"Yes. Why do you look so astonished?"

"Do you mean Link Merwell's father?" asked her brother.

"Yes. Link came out there just a few days before I started for the East. He seemed to be a nice sort, and he is one of the best horseback riders I ever saw."

"Did you – er – go out with him?" stammered Dave.

"Yes, twice, but not alone – Belle was along." Laura looked at her brother, whose face was a study. "What makes you look so queer? You know Mr. Merwell, don't you?"

"Oh, yes, we know him," answered Phil, before Dave could speak.

"We'd like to know less of him," added Roger.

"Oh!" And now Laura's face showed her wonder.

"You see, it's this way," continued the senator's son, thinking it might be difficult for Dave to explain. "Link Merwell tried to lord it over a lot of us fellows at Oak Hall. He's a domineering chap, and some of us wouldn't stand for it. I gave him a piece of my mind once, and so did Phil, and Dave did more – gave him a sound thrashing."

"Oh, Dave, did you really!" Laura's face showed her distress. "Why, I – I thought he was nice enough. Maybe it was only a boyish quarrel," she added, hopefully. "I know boys do fight sometimes with hardly a reason for it."

"Dave had a good reason for hitting Merwell," said Phil. "The best reason in the world." He looked at Jessie and Mrs. Wadsworth and the others. "I'll not spoil this gathering by saying what it was. But it was something very mean, and Merwell deserved the drubbing he got."

"Oh, I am so sorry! That is, I don't mean I am sorry Dave thrashed him – if he deserved it – but I am sorry that I – I went out with him, and that I – I started a correspondence with him. I thought he was nice, by his general looks."

"Oh, he can make himself look well, when he dresses up," said Roger. "And he can act the gentleman on the outside. But if you get to know him thoroughly you'll find him a different sort."

"I don't wish to know him if he's that kind," answered Laura, quickly. "But I thought he was all right, especially as he was the son of the owner of the next ranch. I am sorry now I ever spoke to him."

"And you have been writing to him?" asked Dave. "I thought you said you had met him only a few days before you came away?"

"So I did. But he wanted me to buy something for him in Chicago – a lens for his camera, and asked me to write from there, and I did. And, just for fun, I sent him two letters I wrote on the train – along with some letters to Belle and some other folks I know. I did it to pass the time, – so I wouldn't know how long it was taking me to get here. It was foolish to do so, and it will teach me a lesson to be careful about writing in the future."



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