Edward Stratemeyer.

Dave Porter and His Classmates

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When the time came for the decision regarding the essays on The Past and Future of Our Country everybody was on the top-notch of expectation. All the teachers had read the various papers handed in, and they had been the subject of many comments.

"Because of the general excellence of seven of the essays," said Doctor Clay, "it has been somewhat difficult to pick out that which was the best. We have here a fine essay by Bertram Vane, another by Samuel Downs, another by Joseph Beggs, and others by Chipham Macklin, Giles Cadmore, and Devere Peterson. But there is one that seems to stand out above the others, both for its originality and its literary qualities. That essay takes the prize, and it is written by Master David Porter. Porter, will you please come forward and read your essay."

As Dave walked to the platform a round of applause was given and when he bowed there was much hand-clapping. Then in a clear, full voice, he read the essay on which he had spent so much thought and labor. It was certainly a splendid piece of literary composition and was listened to with great pleasure by all. When he had finished Doctor Clay handed him the prize, and then the applause broke forth anew.

"Another victory!" whispered Roger, as Dave passed to his seat.

"Yes, and the best of them all," was Dave's reply.

Fortunately, the senator's son also won a prize, and Phil came in the third from the highest in his class, while Shadow came in fifth and Ben Basswood sixth. Even Gus Plum made a good record, much to the pleasure of his parents, who had feared at one time he would turn out a ne'er-do-well.

"Now the question is, What are we going to do during the summer vacation?" said Roger, after the exercises were over, and he and the others and their friends were indulging in refreshments on the campus.

"I am going to Asbury Park with my folks," said Luke Watson.

"And I am going to Maine," added Messmer. "My uncle has a camp there. Henshaw is going with me, and so is Macklin."

"I have an invitation for Dave," said Laura. "The Endicotts want me to come back to their ranch and bring my newly-found brother with me."

"That's fine!" cried Phil. "I'd like to try ranch life myself just for a change."

"The Endicotts' ranch is next to that owned by Merwell's father, so I have been told," added Roger. "Maybe if you go out there with Dave, you'll meet Link again."

"I never want to see that fellow again," said Dave. But this wish was not to be fulfilled, as we shall learn in the next volume of this series, to be entitled, "Dave Porter at Star Ranch; or, The Cowboy's Secret." In that volume we shall meet many of our friends again, and learn what Link Merwell did when he and Dave met once more on the boundless prairies and in the mountain canyons.

That evening the students held a grand celebration, which lasted far into the night. Bonfires were lit and the lads danced around and sang songs to their hearts' content.

Shadow told half a dozen of his best stories, and two of the students distinguished themselves by giving all their schoolbooks to the flames. It was a time none of them ever forgot.

"And now for home," said Dave, the next day. "Home, and the boundless West."

And here let us leave him, and say good-by.

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