Edward Stratemeyer.

Dave Porter and His Classmates



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"Good for Jim!" cried Dave. "I'll cut that piece of pie myself," and he did, and placed it where he felt certain that the monitor would find it.

The boys were allowed to do as they pleased until half-past nine, and they sang songs and cracked jokes innumerable. But then the monitor stuck his head in at the door.

"Got to be a little quiet from now on," he said, in a hoarse whisper and with a broad grin on his face. "I'm awfully deaf to-night, but the doctor will wake up if there's too much racket."

"Did you get the pie?" questioned Dave.

"Not yet, and I'll take it now, if you don't mind."

"Jim, do you mean to say you didn't get that pie?" demanded Dave.

"Oh, he's fooling," interrupted Phil. "He wants a second piece."

"That's it," came from Shadow. "Puts me in mind of a story about a boy who – "

"Never mind the story now, Shadow," interrupted Dave. "Tell me honestly, Jim, whether you got the pie or not? Of course you can have another piece, or some chicken salad – "

"I didn't get any pie, – or anything else," answered the monitor.

"I put it on the bottom of the stand in the upper hallway."

"Nothing there when I went to look."

"Then somebody took it on the sly," said Roger. "For I was with Dave when he put it there. Anybody in these rooms guilty?" And he gazed around sternly.

All of the boys shook their heads. Then of a sudden a delicate youth who looked like a girl arose in astonishment and held up his hands.

"Well, I declare!" he lisped.

"What now, Polly?" asked Phil.

"I wonder if it is really possible," went on Bertram Vane.

"What possible?" questioned Dave.

"Why, when I was coming through the hall a while ago I almost ran into Nat Poole. He had something in one hand, under his handkerchief, and as I passed him I really thought I smelt mince pie!"

"Nat Poole!" cried several.

"Oh, the sneak!" burst out Roger. "He must have been watching Dave. Maybe he heard us promise Murphy the pie."

"Bad luck to him if he stole what was coming to me," muttered the monitor. "I hope the pie choked him."

"If Nat Poole took the pie we'll fix him for it," said Dave. "Just you leave it to me." Then he got another portion of the dainty and handed it to the monitor, who disappeared immediately.

"What will you do?" questioned Roger.

"Since Nat has had some pie I think I'll treat him to some chicken salad," was the reply. "Nothing like being generous, you know."

"Why, Dave, you don't mean you are going to let Nat Poole have any of this nice salad!" cried Phil. "I'd see him in Guinea first!"

"He shall have some – after it has been properly doctored."

"Eh? Oh, I see," and the shipowner's son began to grin. "All right then. But doctor it good."

"I shall make no mistake about that," returned Dave.

While Shadow was telling a story of a little boy who had fallen down a well and wanted somebody to "put the staircase down" so he could climb up, Dave went to a small medicine closet which he had purchased during his previous term at Oak Hall.

From this he got various bottles and powders and began to "doctor" a nice portion of the chicken salad.

"Say, Dave, that won't hurt anybody, will it?" asked Ben, who saw the movement.

"It may hurt Nat Poole, Ben."

"Oh, you don't want to injure him."

"This won't do any harm. I am going to give him what Professor Potts called green peppers. Once, when he was particularly talkative, he related how he had played the joke on a fellow-student at college. It won't injure Nat Poole, but if he eats this salad there will surely be fun, I can promise you that."

"How are you going to get it to him?"

"Take it to him myself."

"You! He'll be suspicious at once and won't touch it."

"Perhaps not – we'll wait and see."

When the feast was practically at an end, Dave put the doctored salad in a dessert dish, topping it with some that was sweet and good. On all he laid some fancy crackers which one of the boys had contributed.

"Now, here is where I try the trick," he said, and put on a sweater, leaving the upper portion partly over his face. Then, leaving his dormitory, he tiptoed his way to No. 13 and pushed open the door softly.

As he had surmised, Nat Poole had gone to bed and had just fallen asleep. Going noiselessly to his side, Dave bent over him and whispered into his ear:

"Here, Nat, is something I stole for you from that crowd that was having the feast. Eat it up and don't tell the other fellows."

"Eh, what? The feast?" stammered Nat, and took the plate in his hand. "Who are you?"

"Hush!" whispered Dave, warningly. "Don't wake the others. I stole it for you. Eat it up. I'll tell you how I did it in the morning. It's a joke on Dave Porter!" And then Dave glided away from the bed and out of the room like a ghost, shutting the door noiselessly after him.

Half asleep, Nat Poole was completely bewildered by what he heard. In the semi-darkness he could not imagine who had brought the dish full of stuff. But he remembered the words, "eat it up" and "don't tell the other fellows" and "a joke on Dave Porter." That was enough for Nat. He sat up, looked at the fancy crackers and the salad, and smacked his lips.

"Must have been one of our old crowd," he mused. "Maybe Shingle or Remney. Well, it's a joke on Dave Porter right enough, and better than taking that pie he left for Murphy." And then he began to munch the crackers and eat the salad, using a tiny fork Dave had thoughtfully provided. He liked chicken salad very much, and this seemed particularly good, although at times it had a bitter flavor for which he could not account.

Peering through the keyhole of the door, Dave saw his intended victim make way with the salad. Then he ran back to his dormitory.

"It's all right," he said. "Now all of you undress and go to bed, – and watch for what comes!"

CHAPTER V
WHAT HAPPENED TO NAT POOLE

The students of dormitories No. 11 and No. 12 scarcely had time to get to bed when they heard a noise in the apartment Nat Poole and some others occupied. First came a subdued groan, followed by another, and then they heard Nat Poole get up.

"What's the matter?" they heard a student named Belcher ask.

"Why – er – I'm burning up!" gasped Nat Poole. "Let me get a drink of water!" And he leaped from his bedside to where there was a stand with a pitcher of ice-water and a glass.

He was so eager to get the water that, in the semi-darkness, he hit the stand with his arm. Over it went, and the pitcher and glass fell to the floor with a crash. The noise aroused everybody in the dormitory.

"What's the matter?"

"Are burglars breaking in?"

"Confound the luck!" muttered Nat Poole. "Oh, I must get some water! I am burning up alive!"

"What's done it?" questioned Belcher.

"I – er – never mind now. I am burning up and must have some water!" roared the dudish pupil, and dashed out of the dormitory in the direction of a water tank located at the end of the hall.

Here he was a little more careful and got the drink he desired. But scarcely had he taken a mouthful when he ejected it with great force.

"Wow! how bitter that tastes!" he gasped. Then of a sudden he commenced to shiver. "Wonder if that salad poisoned me? Who gave it to me, anyhow?"

He tried the water again, but it was just as bitter as before. Then he ran to a bathroom, to try the water there. By this time his mouth and throat felt like fire, and, thoroughly scared, he ran back to his sleeping apartment and began to yell for help.

His cries aroused a good portion of the inmates of Oak Hall, and students came from all directions to see what was the matter. They found poor Nat sitting on a chair, the picture of misery.

"I – I guess I'm poisoned and I'm going to die!" he wailed. "Somebody better get a doctor."

"What did you eat?" demanded half a dozen boys.

"I – er – I ate some salad a fellow brought to me in the dark. I don't know who he was. Oh, my throat! It feels as if a red-hot poker was in it! And I can't drink water either! Oh, I know I am going to die!"

"Try oil – that's good for a burn," suggested one student, and he brought forth some cod liver oil. Nat hated cod liver oil almost as much as poison, but he was scared and took the dose without a murmur. It helped a little, but his throat felt far from comfortable and soon it commenced to burn as much as ever.

By this time Doctor Clay had been aroused and he came to the dormitory in a dressing gown and slippers.

"Nat Poole has been poisoned!" cried several.

"Poisoned!" ejaculated the master of the Hall. "How is this, Poole?" and he strode to the suffering pupil's side.

"I – I don't know," groaned Nat. "I – er – ate some mince pie and some salad – "

"Perhaps it is only indigestion," was the doctor's comment. "You may get over it in a little while."

"But my throat – " And then the dudish boy stopped short. The fire in his mouth and throat had suddenly gone down – like a tooth stopping its aching.

"What were you going to say?" asked Doctor Clay.

"Why, I – that is – my throat isn't so bad now." And Nat's face took on a sudden sheepish look. In some way he realized he had been more scared than hurt.

"Let me have a look at your throat," went on the master of the Hall and took his pupil to a strong light. "It is a little red, but that is all. Is your stomach all right?"

"It seems to be – and the pain in my throat and mouth is all gone now," added Nat.

The doctor handed him a glass of water a boy had brought and Nat tried it. The liquid tasted natural, much to his surprise, and the drink made him feel quite like himself once more.

"I – I guess I am all right now," he said after an awkward pause. "I – er – am sorry I woke you up."

"After this be careful of how much you eat," said the doctor, stiffly. "If a boy stuffs himself on mince pie and salad he is bound to suffer for it." Then he directed all the students to go to bed at once, and retired to his own apartment.

If ever a lad was puzzled that lad was Nat Poole. For the life of him he could not determine whether he had suffered naturally or whether a trick had been played on him. He wanted very much to know who had brought him the salad, but could not find out. For days after the boys would yell "mince pie" and "salad" at him, much to his annoyance.

"That certainly was a good one," was Phil's comment. "I reckon Nat will learn to keep his hands off of things after this." And he and the others had a good laugh over the trick Dave had played. It proved to be perfectly harmless, for the next day Poole felt as well as ever.

As Dave had said, he was determined to make up the lessons lost during his trip to England and Norway, and he consequently applied himself with vigor to all his studies. At this, Mr. Dale, who was head teacher, was particularly pleased, and he did all he could to aid the youth.

As during previous terms, Dave had much trouble with Job Haskers. A brilliant teacher, Haskers was as arbitrary and dictatorial as could be imagined, and he occasionally said things which were so sarcastic they cut to the quick. Very few of the boys liked him, and some positively hated him.

"I always feel like fighting when I run up against old Haskers," was the way Roger expressed himself. "I'd give ten dollars if he'd pack his trunk and leave."

"And then come back the next day," put in Phil, with a grin.

"Not much! When he leaves I want him to stay away!"

"That puts me in mind of a story," said Shadow, who was present.

"What, another!" cried Dave, with a mock groan. "Oh, but this is dreadful!"

"Not so bad – as you'll soon see. A boy had a little dog, who could howl morning, noon, and night, to beat the band. Next door to the boy lived a very nervous man. Said he to the boy one day: 'Will you sell me that dog for a dollar?' 'Make it two dollars and the dog is yours,' answered the boy. So the man, to get rid of that howling dog, paid the boy the two dollars and shipped the dog to the pound. Then he asked the boy: 'What are you going to do with the two dollars?' 'Buy two more dogs,' said the boy. Then the man went away and wept."

"That's all right!" cried Sam Day, and everybody laughed. Then he added: "What can disturb a fellow more than a howling dog at night?"

"I know," answered Dave, quietly.

"What?"

"Two dogs," and then Dave ducked to avoid a book that Sam threw at him.

"Speaking of dogs reminds me of something," said Buster Beggs. "You all remember Mike Marcy, the miserly old farmer whose mule we returned some time ago."

"I am not likely to forget him," answered Dave, who had had more than one encounter with the fellow, as my old readers are aware.

"Well, he has got a very savage dog and has posted signs all over his place, 'Beware of the Dog!' Two or three of the fellows, who were crossing his corner lot one day, came near being bitten."

"Were you one of them?" asked Roger.

"Yes, and we weren't doing anything either – only crossing the vacant lot to take a short-cut to the school, to avoid being late."

"I was in the crowd," said Luke Watson, "and I had a good mind to kill the dog."

"We'll have to go over some day and see Marcy," said Phil. "I haven't forgotten how he accused me of stealing his apples."

"He once accused me of stealing a chicken," put in a boy named Messmer. "I'd like to take him down a peg or two for that."

"Let us go over to his place next week some time and tease him," suggested another boy named Henshaw, and some of the others said they would bear his words in mind.

Messmer and Henshaw were the owners of an ice-boat named the Snowbird. They had built the craft themselves, and, while it was not very handsome, it had good going qualities, and that was all the boys wanted.

"Come on out in the Snowbird," said Henshaw, to Dave and several of the others, on the following Saturday afternoon, when there was no school. "The ice on the river is very good, and the wind is just right for a spin."

"Thanks, I'll go with pleasure," answered Dave; and soon the party was off. The river, frozen over from end to end, was alive with skaters and ice-boats, and presented a scene of light-heartedness and pleasure.

"There goes an ice-boat from the Rockville military academy," said Messmer, presently. "I guess they don't want to race. They haven't forgotten how we beat them." And he was right; the Rockville ice-boat soon tacked to the other side of the river, the cadets on board paying no attention to the Oak Hall students.

The boys on the ice-boat did not go to their favorite spot, Robber Island, but allowed the Snowbird to sweep up an arm of the river, between several large hills. The hills were covered with hemlocks and cedars, between which the snow lay to a depth of one or two feet.

"Do you know what I'd like to do some day?" remarked Roger. "Come up here after rabbits." He had a shotgun, of which he was quite proud.

"I believe you'd find plenty," answered Dave. "I'd like to go myself. I used to hunt, when I was on the farm."

"Let us walk up the hills and take a look around – now we are here," continued the senator's son. "If we see any rabbits' tracks we'll know they are on hand."

Dave agreed, and he, Roger, and Phil left the ice-boat, stating they would be back in half an hour.

"All right!" sang out Messmer. "We'll cruise around in the meantime. When we get back we'll whistle for you."

The tramp through the deep snow was not easy, yet the three chums enjoyed it, for it made them feel good to be out in the clear, cold atmosphere, every breath of which was invigorating. They went on silently, so as not to disturb any game that might be near.

"Here are rabbit tracks!" said Dave, in a low tone, after the top of the first hill was gained, and he pointed to the prints, running around the trees and bushes. "Shooting ought certainly to be good in this neighborhood."

From one hill they tramped to another, the base of which came down to the river at a point where there was a deep spot known as Lagger's Hole. Here the ice was usually full of air-holes and unsafe, and skaters and ice-boats avoided the locality.

From the top of the hill the boys commenced to throw snowballs down on the ice, seeing who could throw the farthest. Then Phil suggested they make a big snowball and roll it down.

"I'll bet, if it reaches the ice, it will go clear across the river," said the shipowner's son.

"All right, let's try it," answered Dave and Roger, and the three set to work to make a round, hard ball. They rolled it around the top of the hill until it was all of three feet in diameter and then pushed it to the edge.

"Now then, send her down!" cried Phil, and the three boys gave a push that took the big snowball over the edge of the hill. Slowly at first and then faster and faster, it rolled down the hill, increasing in size as it progressed.

"It's getting there!" sang out Roger. "See how it is shooting along!"

"Look!" yelled Dave, pointing up the river. "An ice-boat is coming!"

All looked and saw that he was right. It was a craft from the Rockville academy, and it was headed straight for the spot where the big snowball was about to cross.

"If the snowball hits them, there will be a smash-up!" cried Roger.

"And that is just what is going to happen, I fear," answered Dave.

CHAPTER VI
WHAT A BIG SNOWBALL DID

As the ice-boat came closer the boys on the hill saw that it contained four persons, two cadets and two young ladies. The latter were evidently guests, for they sat in the stern and took no part in handling the craft.

Dave set up a loud cry of warning and his chums joined in. But if those on the ice-boat heard, they paid no heed. On and on they came, heading for the very spot for which the great snowball, now all of six feet in diameter, was shooting.

"The ice is full of holes, maybe the snowball will drop into one of them," said Phil. But this was not to be. The snowball kept straight on, until it and the ice-boat were less than a hundred feet apart.

It was then that one of the cadets on the craft saw the peril and uttered a cry of alarm. He tried to bring the ice-boat around, and his fellow-student aided him. But it was too late, and in a few seconds more the big snowball hit the craft, bowled it over, and sent it spinning along the ice toward some of the largest of the air-holes.

"They are going into the water!" gasped Roger.

"Come on – let us see if we can help them!" returned Dave, and plunged down the hill. He took the course the big snowball had taken, and his chums came after him. More than once they fell, but picked themselves up quickly and kept on until the ice was gained. At the edge they came to a halt, for the air-holes told them plainly of the danger ahead.

"There they go – into the water!" cried Dave, and waiting no longer, he ran out on the ice, picking his way between the air-holes as best he could. Several times the ice cracked beneath his weight, but he did not turn back. He felt that the occupants of the ice-boat were in peril of their lives and that in a measure he was responsible for this crisis.

The river at this point was all of a hundred yards wide and the accident had occurred close to the farther side. The ice-boat had been sent to where two air-holes were close together, and the weight of the craft and its occupants had caused it to crack the ice, and it now rested half in and half out of the water. One of the cadets and one of the young ladies had been flung off to a safe place, but the other pair were clinging desperately to the framework.

"Oh, we shall be drowned! We shall be drowned!" cried the maiden in distress.

"Can't you jump off?" asked the cadet who was safe on the ice.

"I – I am afraid!" wailed the girl. "Oh, the ice is sinking!" she added, as an ominous sound reached her ears.

To the credit of the cadet on the ice-boat, he remained the cooler of the two, and he called to his fellow-student to run for a fence-rail which might be used to rescue the girl and himself. But the nearest fence was a long way off, and time, just then, was precious.

"Cut a couple of ropes!" sang out Dave, as he dashed up. "Cut one and throw it over here!"

The cadet left on the overturned craft understood the suggestion, and taking out his pocketknife, he cut two of the ropes. He tied one fast to the other and sent an end spinning out toward Dave and the cadet on the ice. The other end of the united ropes remained fast to the ice-boat.

By this time Phil and Roger had come up, and all the lads on the firm ice took hold of the rope and pulled with all their might. Dave directed the operation, and slowly the ice-boat came up from the hole into which it had partly sunk and slid over toward the shore.

"Hurrah! we've got her!" cried Phil.

"Vera, are you hurt?" asked the girl on the ice, anxiously.

"Not at all, Mary; only one foot is wet," answered the girl who had been rescued.

"Oh, I'm so glad!" And then the two girls embraced in the joy of their escape.

"I'd like to know where that big snowball came from," growled the cadet who had been flung off the ice-boat when the shock came. He looked at Dave and his companions. "Did you start that thing?"

"We did," answered Dave, "but we didn't know you were coming."

"It was a mighty careless thing to do," put in the cadet who had been rescued. "We might have been drowned!"



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