Edward Stratemeyer.

Dave Porter and His Classmates

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"A letter? Who from?"

"I don't know. It came from Oakdale and was signed A Friend. It said you were leading a fast life here – drinking and smoking and gambling."

"It's false, Laura – I don't do any of those things."

"I know that."

"Did Jessie believe what the letter said?"

"She didn't believe that part, but – the letter said something more."


"In a postscript was written, 'You are being deceived by him, and he is also deceiving another girl, Vera Rockwell. If you don't believe it, come to Oakdale and find out.'"

"And that was in a letter sent to Jessie?" Dave began to think rapidly. "Did she get that letter before she came here that other time?"

"Yes, – but she didn't let me know it then."

"And was that why she was so – so put out when she saw me with Vera and Mary and Phil?"

"I suppose so. You must remember, Dave, that Jessie is very sensitive – the loveliest girl I ever met, – and she looks upon you as her dearest friend. Getting that letter and then seeing you with Miss Rockwell – "

"But Vera is nothing to me but a friend, Laura. Why, Roger thinks ten times more of her than I do. Just go and pump him about it. Why, to me Jessie is worth more than – than – anybody, outside of my sister, and you must let her know it, Laura." Dave paused. "That letter – has Jessie got it yet?"

"Yes. She was going to burn it up after she showed it to me, but I told her not to do it, and I made her bring it along. Of course, she feels a delicacy about showing it to you – on account of the postscript – but I said you ought to have a chance of exposing the person who was trying to ruin your character."

"I want to see the letter. I've got some idea already regarding the writer."

"So have I!"

"Link Merwell?"

"Yes. Do you know he sent me an unsigned letter two days ago."

"He did? I warned him not to send you anything," and now Dave's face grew stern.

"It was only a couple of lines in pencil, and said, 'If you want letters, come to Oakdale with twenty-five dollars.'"

"The rascal! So he has sunk so low he wants to sell you the letters! I knew he was going to the bad, but I didn't think he was down as far as that. I hope you didn't bring the money."

"But I did, Dave. I – I was afraid if I didn't he might – might read the letters to others and expose me to ridicule," and the girl's face grew crimson.

"Don't you give him a cent, Laura – not a cent. I'll get hold of him before the term breaks up – and I'll get those letters or know the reason why!"


A quarter of an hour later Dave and Jessie took a little walk up to the public park of Oakdale and, seated on a bench, they had a confidential talk lasting for some time. A great many things were said which need not be repeated here. When the talk was over Dave's heart felt lighter than it had for many weeks and Jessie's beautiful face shone with a happiness that had been missing for an equal length of time.

"It was awful for that Merwell to send that letter," said Jessie.

"Of course, Dave, you can be sure I didn't believe a word of it, – about your smoking and drinking and gambling."

"I am fairly sure it is his handwriting," answered Dave. "He tried to disguise it, but a fellow can't always do that. I'll find out pretty quick – when I get back to the Hall."

"And to think he acted so meanly toward Laura! He must be perfectly horrid!"

"It's my opinion his days at Oak Hall are numbered, Jessie. I have heard the doctor has given him warning to mend his ways, but he doesn't seem to care. Well, if he won't do what is right he must take the consequences."

Dave, Roger, and Phil had run down to Oakdale on their bicycles and now they had to return to the school – to get dinner and leave for the baseball grounds at Hilltop.

"Let us go around by way of the Chedwick road," suggested the senator's son. "It's much better riding than on the main road and we can make better time."

The others were willing, and off they sped at a speed which soon took them to the outskirts of the town. Then they came to a crossroad, on the corner of which was situated a roadhouse kept by a man named Rafferty. Rafferty's reputation was none of the best, and it was reported that the resort was used by many who wished to gamble. Doctor Clay had warned his pupils not to stop there under any circumstances.

Phil and Roger were somewhat in advance of Dave, whose front tire was soft and needed pumping up. Passing the roadhouse, Dave came to a halt at the roadside.

"Going to pump up!" he called out. "Go ahead – I'll catch up with you." And so the others went on, leaving him alone.

He was at work with a small hand pump he carried when he heard a murmur of voices in the bushes and trees back of the roadhouse. The murmur grew louder, and presently he made out the voices of Gus Plum and Link Merwell.

"You're a fool, Gus, to act this way," Merwell was saying. "What's the use of being a softy? You are missing a whole lot of fun."

"I tell you I'm not going to do it," answered Plum. "I guess I know what is best for me."

"It won't hurt you to have one drink," went on Merwell. "Come on in, like a good fellow. I hate to drink alone. He's got some prime stuff. We've got lots of time to get back to the Hall in time for dinner."

"No, I'm done with drinking – I told you that before, Link. Now stop it and let me go."

"See here, Gus, you've got to go with me," stormed Merwell, uglily. "I'll not have you giving me the cold shoulder. If you refuse to have just one drink, do you know what I'll do? I'll let Doctor Clay know about that other time – the time you went to the granary."

"No! no!" pleaded Plum, and now his voice trembled. "Please don't do that!"

"Ha! ha! that's where I've got you, haven't I? Now, will you take a drink with me, or not?"

"I – I – I am afraid. Oh, Merwell, you know how it was before. I – I – " Gus Plum broke down completely. "Please don't ask me; please don't!"

"Of all the fools – " began Link Merwell, and then stopped short as a heavy hand was suddenly laid on his shoulder. "Dave Porter!"

"Merwell, I want to talk to you," said Dave, in a cold, hard tone that caused the big bully to start. "Come with me."

"Oh, Dave – " began Plum, and his face was red from confusion.

"Let me do the talking – and acting, Gus."

"Did you – er – hear what was said?"

"I heard enough. Now, Merwell, come with me."

"Where to?"

"Away from this roadhouse."

"What for?"

"I'll tell you that later."

"Supposing I refuse to come?" Dave's manner began to make the bully feel uncomfortable. He felt that something very unusual was about to happen.

"If you don't come, I'll make you."

"Will you?" The bully tried to put a sneer in the question, but failed.

"I will. Now, are you coming or not?" And Dave doubled up his fists and drew back his right arm.

"Going to fight?"

"No; I am going to give you the worst licking any boy at Oak Hall ever got."

"Two can play at that game."

"Are you coming or not, Merwell? This is your last chance to say yes."


Hardly had the word left the bully's lips when Dave leaped forward and sent in a crashing blow on Merwell's chin. The bully tried to dodge but failed, and went over on his back in some brushwood. For several moments he lay there dazed.

"See here, I'll fix you!" he roared, as he struggled up. "If you want to fight – Oh!"

For again Dave had struck out, and this time the blow landed over the bully's left eye, and once more he went down in the bushes.

"Oh, Dave – " began Plum, but received a shove back.

"Leave it all to me, Gus – I owe him this, and more. I'll tell you some of the reasons later."

"But – but he'll give me away to Doctor Clay – he'll tell about my – "

"No, he won't – not after I am through with him. And even if he should I can tell the doctor the truth – how he tempted you and even threatened you."

Breathing heavily, Link Merwell arose a second time. He looked around for something with which to attack Dave, and his uninjured eye fell upon a stone lying close by. But as he stooped to pick it up, Dave gave him a shove that landed him on his face in the dirt. Then Dave leaped forward and sat down heavily on the bully's back.

"Ough!" roared Merwell. "Let up! Do you want to break my ribs? Let up, I say!"

"Will you do as I told you to?" demanded Dave, not budging from his position.

"Where do you want me to go?"

"Down into this woods a short distance – away from the roadhouse and the road."

"What for?"

"I'll tell you that when we get there."

Fearing some of his ribs might be broken, Merwell said he would do as Dave desired, and the latter allowed him to rise, but kept a close watch on his every movement. Plum could now see that the boy from Crumville was in deadly earnest and felt it would be useless to talk or interfere, and so followed the two into the woods in silence. Dave brought Merwell to a halt in a little glade surrounded by hemlocks.

"Now, sit down on that stone while I talk to you, Link Merwell," said Dave, pointing to a flat rock. "I shan't take long, but you'll find it to your interest to listen closely to every word I say." And with his handkerchief to the eye that was rapidly closing, the bully sat down.

"In the past you've made a lot of trouble for me and my friends," commenced Dave. "You were in league with some others to play me foul at every opportunity. You sent a letter to Roger Morr about me, and another letter to Crumville, to a young lady friend of mine – and you also sent a letter to my sister." At these last words Merwell's hand went up unconsciously to his breast-pocket. "You have blackened my character all you possibly could. Now, if I wanted to, I could place you in the hands of the law. But instead, I am going to take it out of you."

"Wha – what do you mean?" And the bully half arose to his feet.

"I mean just what I say, Merwell. Sit down!" And Dave shoved the bully back on the rock.

"I want you to know – "

"Shut up!" And again Dave doubled up his fists. "I am not here to listen to you. I'll do the talking. Now to come to business. First of all, I want those letters."

"What letters?"

"You know well enough."

"I haven't any letters with me."

"Do you want to make it necessary for me to search you?"

"You wouldn't dare, Porter!"

"I shall dare. Now hand over those letters, and be quick about it!"

Again Dave doubled up his fists and something like fire shone in his clear eyes. Merwell hesitated, shivered, and slowly his hand went to his breast-pocket.

"You'll rue this day!" he muttered, savagely.

Slowly he drew from his pocket the letters Laura had so foolishly sent him. Dave snatched them from his grasp and looked them over swiftly, then stowed them away in his own pocket.

"Now, Merwell, I want you to promise by all you hold sacred not to say a word to anybody about Gus Plum's doings during the past term. For the honor of the school I think this matter ought to be kept secret."

"I'll promise nothing."

"Yes, you will."

Again were Dave's fists doubled up, and again that fire showed itself in his determined eyes. Merwell shivered – for once he felt himself utterly cornered and beaten.

"All right, I promise," he said, in a low tone.

"And you must also promise that in the future you will leave me and my friends alone."

"Have your own way about it."

"Do you promise?"


"Then stand up."

"What do you want next?" growled Merwell. He was feeling more uncomfortable every minute.

"I'll show you," answered Dave, and leaping forward he caught the bully by the collar and shook him as a dog might shake a rat. Then he cuffed the fellow right and left, gave him another shaking, and threw him down violently on the ground. Merwell did his best to resist, but Dave's muscles were at such a tension that Link was next to helpless in the other's grasp.

"For two pins, I'd give you more!" cried Dave. "You deserve it. But I'll save the rest – in case you ever attempt to break the promises you've made."

And then, taking Plum by the arm, he walked off, leaving Link Merwell on the ground, bruised and shaken, and as thoroughly cowed, for the time being, as a whipped cur.


Once more Oak Hall and Rockville Academy were struggling to decide the championship. It was a clear day, and as before every nook and corner of the grand stand and bleachers was filled. In one spot were located the Porters, Jessie, Senator Morr, Mr. Lawrence, and many other friends.

It was the beginning of the fifth inning and the score stood, Rockville 5, Oak Hall 3. Plum was again at first, but Dave and Roger were on the bench as substitutes.

It had been a hard-fought battle from the first ball pitched. Each pitcher had been hit heavily, but good field work had kept the score from going higher. Shadow had made a phenomenal catch that had brought forth much applause, and Phil had brought in the third run when it looked almost certain that he would be put out.

It was Oak Hall's turn at the bat, and they did their best to score. But with a man on second and another on first, their hopes faded, and they retired, leaving the figures as before. Then Rockville took up the stick, and lined out two singles, a three-bagger, and another single before giving up, thus adding three to their tally.

"That's the way to do it!"

"Rockville is sure to take this game!"

Messmer was next to the bat, but knocked a fly to center, and another player followed with a foul that was caught by the third baseman. Then Barloe, the catcher, who had made the first run, came up with his bat.

"Hurrah for Barloe!" was the cry. "Make another this time!"

In came the ball and the batsman tried to hit it and failed. Then the sphere came in a second time, and of a sudden Barloe uttered a moan and sank to the ground.

"Barloe's hit! The ball took him under the ribs!"

The report was true, and too weak to run the injured catcher was escorted to a bench, while Roger took his place at first. By good luck the senator's son brought the run in, and he was then asked to do the catching as of old, Barloe begging to be excused.

With the runs piling up against him, Purdy was getting nervous, and in the seventh inning he seemed to go all to pieces, much to his own chagrin and the disappointment of his many friends. He allowed two singles, and then gave two men their base on balls, thus forcing in a run.

"Wake up, Purdy! You'll have to do better than that!"

"Dave Porter! Put Dave Porter in!"

"That's it! Porter! Porter! Porter!"

The cry was taken up on all sides, and Phil motioned for Purdy to retire and for Dave to come out.

"It's too bad, Purdy, old man," whispered Dave, as he passed the rattled pitcher.

"Fortune of war," was the grim and plucky answer. "I did my best. Go in and wax 'em!"

Dave might have been nervous had he allowed himself to think of what was before him. The bases were filled and nobody was out. It was certainly a trying moment, to say the least. He took his place in the box and the umpire called out "Play!" Then the ball fairly streaked over the plate.

"Strike one!"

"Hurrah! that's the way to do it!"

With the ball again in hand, Dave looked at the batter and then cast a swift glance toward third. Over to the base went the ball, and much to his surprise the runner was caught two feet off the bag.

"Runner at third out!"

What a cheering went up! All the Oak Hall supporters felt that Dave meant business, and their drooping spirits revived as if by magic.

With care the pitcher delivered one ball after another – a drop, and then one that was as straight as it was swift. The batter was struck out, and another roar went up from the Oak Hall contingent. Laura waved her banner and Jessie her handkerchief.

"Two out! Now, Porter, go after the third!"

And Dave did go after the next batter. But the fellow was a good hitter and managed to find the ball. But no run came in, and the inning was saved.

It was a victory in itself and many came up to shake Dave by the hand. But he waved them aside.

"Hold on," he said. "The game isn't over yet – and please to remember the score is four to eight against us."

In the eighth inning the Oak Hall nine managed to make two runs. In that inning Dave by clever work held the opposition down to one scratch hit which went for nothing, and received more applause. Then came the ninth inning, and in that Oak Hall tied the score, amid a yelling that could be heard a mile away. Even Doctor Clay was cheering, and in his enthusiasm Andrew Dale completely smashed the derby hat he wore.

The tenth inning opened amid a breathless silence. Oak Hall did its best to score, but failed. Then Dave walked down to the box once again, and in a manner that was certainly wonderful struck out two men after one man had been caught out on a pop fly.

Ten innings and still a tie. This was certainly a game worth seeing and nearly all the spectators were now on their feet, talking and shouting wildly.

"Now, boys, we must do something!" cried Phil.

Ben Basswood was at bat, and with two strikes called on him, Ben landed for a two-base hit. Then came a single, and taking a perilous chance Ben ran around and slid to the plate.

"A run! A run!"

"Now make it two!"

But this was not to be, and Oak Hall retired one run "to the good," as Roger said.

"Well, that's enough, – if we can hold them down in their half," said Plum. He had done some great work at first, of which he was correspondingly proud.

All eyes were on Dave when he entered the pitcher's box for the last time. He felt as if he had the responsibility of the whole game on his shoulders. He pitched quickly, almost bewildering the batters. The first man up went out on strikes and the second knocked a short fly to third. Then came a fellow named Parsons, the best hitter of the Rockville club.

"Hurrah! Parsons, show 'em where the back fence is!"

With two men out, Dave faced the batter. He sent in a low ball which Parsons tried to find – and failed. Then Parsons tried again – and failed. Then Dave sent in the swiftest ball yet pitched, giving it all the twist possible.

"Three strikes – batter out!"

And the game was won, and with it the championship of the two schools!

"Beautiful! beautiful!" cried Doctor Clay, when he came down into the field to congratulate the club. "It was the best exhibition of ball-playing I've seen in a long time."

And all the visitors to Oak Hall and many others agreed with him. Dave was the lion of the occasion, and his many friends nearly wrung his hand off. The other members of the nine also came in for a share of the praise. The Rockville boys felt their defeat keenly, but had to acknowledge that they had been beaten fairly.

As soon as he could get away from his chums, Dave sought out Laura and Jessie.

"I've got those letters," he whispered to Laura. "And I doubt if Link Merwell will ever trouble you again."

"Oh, I am so thankful, Dave!" she answered. "I'll never be so foolish again as to write letters to a person with whom I am not well acquainted."

"It was grand, Dave!" cried Jessie. "It was the best victory that could be!"

"Well, I am hoping for a greater to-morrow," answered Dave, gravely.

"You mean in school?"


"Well, I trust with all my heart you have your wishes fulfilled," said the girl, and her eyes told that she meant what she said.

That night late a report was whispered around the school that Link Merwell had gotten into serious trouble with Doctor Clay, and the report proved true. Angered by the way Dave had treated him, and by Plum's refusal to go with him, Link Merwell had not witnessed the ball game, but had gone to Rafferty's resort instead. Here he had smoked, drunk, and gambled, and ended by getting into a free fight with several men. One man told Horsehair of the trouble and the school driver reported at once to Doctor Clay. The doctor and Mr. Dale went after the misguided youth, and a scene followed which need not be mentioned here. The next day Link Merwell was ordered to pack his trunk and leave, and a telegram was sent to his father in the West stating that he had been expelled for violating the school rules. In his rage Merwell, before leaving, exposed the doings of both Gus Plum and Nat Poole. At once the doctor sent for Plum, and later he interviewed Poole.

It was a trying time for Gus, and he broke down completely. He mentioned what Dave had done for him, and stated he was doing his best to reform. Learning of this, the master of the school called upon Dave to tell his story, and then the depths of Merwell's depravity came out. In the end the doctor said he would give Plum another chance to redeem himself, and for this the big youth was exceedingly grateful.

For having told a falsehood about taking the boat from Bush Island, Nat Poole was given a severe lecture. He said he had wanted, several times, to explain to the doctor, but that Link Merwell had threatened to make it unpleasant for him if he did so. Because the joke had been directed against some of his fellow-students and not against Doctor Clay and Mr. Dale, Poole got off easier than might otherwise have been the case.

The closing exercises of the school were well attended. Sixteen pupils were to graduate, including several who had been Dave's warm chums. Some of these boys stood high in their class and consequently walked off with some prizes.

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