Edward Stratemeyer.

Dave Porter and His Classmates



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"I believe they did it on purpose," said the other cadet. He looked at the letters on a sweater Roger wore. "You're from Oak Hall, aren't you?"

"Yes."

"Thought you'd have some sport, eh?" This was said with a sneer. "Say, Cabot, we ought to give 'em something for this," he added, turning to his fellow-cadet.

"So we should," growled Cabot, who chanced to be the owner of the craft that had been damaged. "They have got to pay for breaking the ice-boat, anyway."

"Oh, Mr. Anderson, please don't get into a quarrel!" pleaded one of the girls.

"Well, those rowdies deserve a thrashing," answered Anderson. He was a big fellow, with rather a hard look on his face.

"Thank you, but we are not rowdies," retorted Roger. "We were having a little fun and did not dream of striking you with the snowball."

"If you know anything about the river, you know ice-boats and skaters rarely if ever come this way," added Phil. "The ice around here is always full of air-holes and consequently dangerous."

"Oh, you haven't got to teach me where to go," growled Anderson.

"I'm only stating a fact."

"The ice is certainly not very nice around here," said one of the girls. "Perhaps we might have gotten into a hole even if the big snowball hadn't struck us."

At this remark Dave and his chums gave the girl a grateful look. The cadets were annoyed, and one whispered something to the other.

"You fellows get to work and fix the ice-boat," said Cabot.

"And do it quick, too," added Anderson.

"I – I think I'll walk the rest of the way home," said one of the girls. "Will you come along, Vera?"

"Yes," answered the other. She stepped up to Dave's side. "Thank you for telling Mr. Cabot what to do, and for pulling us out of the hole," she went on, and gave the boys a warm smile.

"Going to leave us?" growled Anderson.

"Yes."

"That ain't fair. You promised – "

"To take a ride on the ice-boat," finished the girl named Vera. "We did it, and now I am going home."

"And so am I," added the other girl. "Good-bye."

"But see here – " went on Anderson, and caught the girl named Vera by the arm.

"Please let go, Mr. Anderson."

"I want – "

"Let the young lady go if she wishes to," said Dave, stepping up.

"This isn't your affair," blustered Anderson.

"No gentleman would detain a lady against her will."

"Good-bye," said the girl, and stepped back several paces when released by the cadet.

"All right, Vera Rockwell, I'll not take you out again," growled Anderson, seeing she was bound to go.

"You'll not have the chance, thank you!" flung back the girl, and then she joined her companion, and both hurried away from the shore and to a road running near by.

After the girls had gone there was an awkward silence. Both Cabot and Anderson felt sore to be treated in this fashion, and especially in the presence of those from Oak Hall, a rival institution to that where they belonged.

"Well, what are you going to do about the damage done?" grumbled Anderson.

"I don't think the ice-boat is damaged much," answered Dave.

"Let us look her over and see."

"If she is, you'll pay the bill," came from Cabot.

"Well, we can do that easily enough," answered Roger lightly.

The craft was righted and inspected. The damage proved to be trifling and the ice-boat was speedily made fit for use.

"If I find she isn't all right, I'll make some of you foot the bill," said Cabot.

"I am willing to pay for all damage done," answered Dave. "My name is Dave Porter."

"Oh! I've heard of you," said Anderson. "You're on the Oak Hall football team."

"Yes, and I've had the pleasure of helping to beat Rockville," answered Dave, and could not help grinning.

"Humph! Wait till next season! We'll show you a thing or two," growled Anderson, and then he and Cabot boarded the ice-boat, trimmed the sail, and stood off down the river.

"Well, they are what I call a couple of pills," was Phil's comment. "I don't see how two nice girls could go out with them."

"They certainly were two nice girls," answered Roger. "That Vera Rockwell had beautiful eyes and hair. And did you see the smile she gave Dave! Dave, you're the lucky one!"

"That other girl is named Mary Feversham," answered Phil. "Her father is connected with the express company. I met her once, but she doesn't seem to remember me. I think she is better-looking than Miss Rockwell."

"Gracious, Phil must be smitten!" cried Dave.

"When is it to come off, Phil?" asked the senator's son. "We want time to buy presents, you know."

"Oh, you can poke fun if you want to," grumbled the shipowner's son. "She's a nice girl and I'd like to have the chance to meet her. Somebody said she was a good skater."

"Well, if you go skating with her, ask Miss Rockwell to come, too, and I'll be at the corner waiting for you," said the senator's son. "That is, if Dave don't try to cut me out."

"No danger – Jessie wouldn't allow it," replied Phil.

"You leave Jessie out of it," answered Dave, flushing a trifle. "Just the same, I agree with both of you, those girls looked to be very nice."

The three boys walked along the river bank for nearly half a mile before they came in sight of the Snowbird. Then Messmer and Henshaw wanted to know what had kept them so long.

"I'd not go in there with my boat," said Messmer, after he had heard their story. "Those air-holes are too dangerous."

When the lads got back to Oak Hall they found a free-for-all snowball fight in progress. One crowd was on the campus and the other in the road beyond.

"This suits me!" cried Roger. "Come on, Dave," and he joined the force on the road. His chums did the same, and sent the snowballs flying at a brisk rate.

The fight was a furious one for over an hour. The force on the campus outnumbered those in the road and the latter were driven to where the highway made a turn and where there were several clumps of trees and bushes. Here, Dave called on those around him to make a stand, and the other crowd was halted in its onward rush.

"Here comes Horsehair in a cutter!" cried one of the students, presently. "Let us give him a salute."

"All right!" called back Dave. "Some snow will make him strong, and brush off some of the hair he carries around with him."

The boys made a number of snowballs and, led by Dave, waited for the appearance of the cutter. Soon it turned the bend, the horse on a trot and the sleighbells jingling merrily.

"Now then, all together!" shouted Dave, and prepared to hurl a snowball at the man who was driving.

"Hold on!" yelled Roger, suddenly.

But the warning cry came too late for Dave and Phil, who were in the lead. They let fly their snowballs, and the man in the cutter was struck in the chin and the ear. He fell backward, but speedily recovered and stopped his horse.

"You young rascals!" he spluttered hoarsely. "What do you mean by snowballing me in this fashion!"

"Job Haskers!" murmured Dave, in consternation.

"What a mistake!" groaned Phil. "We are in for it now!"

CHAPTER VII
PRISONERS IN THE SCHOOL

Dave and Phil had indeed made a serious mistake, and they knew at once that they were in for a severe lecture, and worse. Job Haskers was naturally an irascible man, and for the past few days he had been in a particularly bad humor.

"Excuse me, Mr. Haskers," said Dave, respectfully. "I didn't know you were in the cutter."

"You did it on purpose – don't deny it, Porter!" fumed the teacher. "It is outrageous, infamous, that a pupil of Oak Hall should act so!"

"Really, Mr. Haskers, it was a mistake," spoke up Phil. "We thought it was Horsehair – I mean Lemond, who was driving."

"Bah! Do I look like Lemond? And, anyway, what right would you have to snowball the driver for this school? It is scandalous! I shall make an example of you. Report to me at the office in five minutes, both of you!"

The boys' hearts sank at this order, and they felt worse when they suddenly remembered that both Doctor Clay and Mr. Dale were away and that, consequently, Job Haskers was, for the time being, in authority. The teacher went back to the cutter, took up the reins, and drove out of sight around the campus entrance.

"Too bad!" was Roger's comment. "I yelled to you not to throw."

"I know you did, but I had already done so," answered Dave.

"And so had I," added Phil.

"Say, that puts me in mind of a story," exclaimed Shadow, who was in the crowd. "A man once had a mule – "

"Who wants to listen to a story at this time?" broke in Ben Basswood.

"Never mind, let's have the yarn," said Dave. "Perhaps it will serve to brighten our gloom," and he smiled feebly.

"This man had a mule in which a neighbor was very much interested," continued Shadow. "One day the mule got sick, and every day after that the neighbor would tell the owner of some new remedy for curing him. One day he came over to where the mule-owner lived. 'Say,' he says, 'I've got the best remedy a-going. You must try it.' 'Don't think I will,' answered the mule-owner. 'Oh, but you must, I insist,' said the neighbor. 'It will sure cure your mule and set him on his feet again.' 'I don't think so,' said the mule-owner. 'But I am positive,' cried the neighbor. 'Just give it a trial.' 'Never,' said the mule-owner. Then the neighbor got mad. 'Say, why won't you try this remedy?' he growled. 'I won't because the mule is dead,' answered the other man. Then the neighbor went home in deep thought."

"Well, that's to the point," said the senator's son, laughing. "For I told them to stop after the damage was done."

In no enviable frame of mind Dave and Phil walked into the school, took off their outer garments and caps, and made their way to the office. Job Haskers had not yet come in, and they had to wait several minutes for him.

As has been said, the teacher was in far from a friendly humor. Some months before he had invested a portion of his savings in some mining stock, thinking that he would be able to make money fast. Now the stock had become practically worthless, and that very morning he had learned that he would never be able to get more than ten per cent. of his money back.

"You are a couple of scamps," he said, harshly. "I am going to teach you a needed lesson." And then the two boys saw that he held behind him a carriage-whip.

Dave and Phil were astonished, and with good reason. So far as they knew, corporal punishment was not permitted at Oak Hall excepting on very rare occasions, – where a pupil had taken his choice of a whipping or expulsion. Was it possible that Job Haskers intended to chastise them bodily?

"Mr. Haskers, I am very sorry that I hit you with that snowball," said Dave. "As I said before, I did not know it was you, and it was only thrown in fun."

"What Dave says is true," added Phil. "I hope you will accept my apology for what happened."

"I'll accept no apologies!" fumed Job Haskers. "It was done on purpose, and you must both suffer for it," and the teacher brandished the whip as if to strike them then and there.

"Mr. Haskers, what do you intend to do?" asked Dave, quietly but firmly.

"I intend to give you the thrashing you deserve!"

"With that whip?"

"Yes, with this whip."

"You'll not do it, sir!"

"What!"

"I say, you'll not do it, sir."

"Hum! We'll see about this!" And the teacher glared at Dave as if to eat him up.

"You have no authority to whip us," put in Phil.

"Who says so?"

"I say so."

"And Phil is right," added Dave. "I'll not allow it, so you may as well put that whip away."

"I'd like to know who is master here, you or I?" demanded Job Haskers, turning red with rage.

"Doctor Clay is master here, and we are under his care. If you try to strike me with that whip I'll report the matter to him," answered Dave. "You may punish me any other way, if you wish, but I won't put up with a whipping."

"And I won't be whipped either," added Phil.

"I'll show you!" roared Job Haskers, and raising the whip he tried to bring it down on Dave's head. The youth dodged, turned, and caught the whip in his hands.

"Let go that whip, Porter!"

"I will not – not until you promise not to strike at me again."

"I'll promise nothing! Let go, I say!"

The teacher struggled to get the whip free of Dave's grasp, and a scuffle ensued. Dave was forced up against a side stand, upon which stood a beautiful marble statue of Mercury.

"Look out for the statue!" cried Phil, in alarm, but even as he spoke Dave was shoved back, and over went the stand and ornament, the statue breaking into several pieces.

"There, now see what you've done!" cried Job Haskers, as the battle ceased for the moment, and Dave let go the whip.

"It wasn't my fault – you shoved me into it," answered Dave.

"It was your fault, and you'll pay the damages. That statue was worth at least fifty dollars. And you'll take your thrashing, too," added the teacher, vindictively.

"Don't you dare to hit Dave," cried Phil, "or me either, Mr. Haskers. You can punish us, but you can't whip us, so there!"

"Ha! Both of you defy me, eh?"

"We are not to be whipped, and that settles it," said Dave.

"I presume you think, because you are two to one, you can get the better of me," sneered the teacher. He knew the two boys were strong, and he did not wish to risk a fight with them.

"I don't want to get the better of anybody, but I am not going to let you whip me," answered Dave, stubbornly.

"If you are willing, we'll leave the matter to Doctor Clay," suggested the shipowner's son.

"You come with me," returned the teacher abruptly, and led the way out of the office to a small room used for the storage of schoolbooks and writing-pads. The room had nothing but a big closet and had a small window, set up high in the wall. The shelves on the walls were full of new books and on the floor were piles of volumes that had seen better days.

"Going to lock us in, I guess," whispered Phil.

"Well, he can do it if he wants to, but he shan't whip me," answered Dave, in an equally low tone.

"Now, you can stay here for the present," growled Job Haskers, as he held open the door. "And don't you dare to make any noise either."

"What about supper?" asked Dave, for he was hungry.

"You shall have something to eat when the proper time comes."

The boys walked into the room, and Job Haskers immediately closed the door and locked it, placing the key in his pocket. Then the lads heard him walk away, and all became silent, for the book-room was located between two classrooms which were not in use on Saturdays and Sundays.

"Well, what do you make of this?" asked the shipowner's son, after an awkward pause.

"Nothing – what is there to make, Phil? Here we are, and likely to stay for a while."

"Are you going to pay for that broken statue?"

"Was it my fault it was broken?"

"No – he ran you into the stand."

"Then I don't see why I ought to pay."

"He may claim you had no right to fight him off."

"He had no right to attack me with the whip. I don't think Doctor Clay will stand for that."

"If he does, he isn't the man I thought he was."

The two youths walked around the little room, gazing at the rows of books. Then Dave stood on a pile of old books and looked out of the small window.

"See anything worth looking at?" asked his chum.

"No, all I can see is a corner of the campus and a lot of snow. Nobody is in sight."

"Wonder how long old Haskers intends to keep us here?"

"I'm sure I don't know."

With nothing to do, the boys looked over some schoolbooks. They were not of great interest, and soon it grew too dark to read. Phil gave a long sigh.

"This is exciting, I must say," he said, sarcastically.

"Never mind, it will be exciting enough when we face Doctor Clay."

"I'd rather face him than old Haskers, Dave."

"Oh, so would I! When will the doctor be back?"

"I don't know."

An hour went by, and the two prisoners heard a muffled tramping of feet which told them that the other students had assembled in the dining hall for supper. The thought of the bountiful tables made them both more hungry than ever.

"I'd give as much as a dollar for a couple of good sandwiches," said the shipowner's son, dismally. "Seems to me, I'm hollow clear down to my heels!"

"Wait, I've got an idea!" returned Dave.

He felt in his pocket and brought forth several keys. Just as he did this they heard footsteps in the hallway, and Dave slipped the keys back in his pocket.

The door was flung open and Job Haskers appeared, followed by one of the dining room waiters, who carried a tray containing two glasses of milk and half a dozen slices of bread and butter.

"Here is something for you to eat," said the teacher, and directed the waiter to place the tray on a pile of books.

"Is this all we are to have?" demanded Dave.

"Yes."

"I'm hungry!" growled Phil. "That won't satisfy me."

"It will have to satisfy you, Lawrence."

"I think it's a shame!"

"I want no more words with you," retorted Job Haskers, and motioned the waiter to leave the room. Then he went out, locking the door and pocketing the key as before.

"Well, if this isn't the limit!" growled Phil. "A glass of milk and three slices of bread and butter apiece!"

"Well, we shan't starve, Phil," and Dave grinned to himself in the semi-darkness.

"And no light to eat by – and the room more than half cold. Dave, are you going to stand this?"

"I am not," was the firm response.

"What are you going to do?"

"Get out of here – if I possibly can," was Dave's reply.

CHAPTER VIII
A MOVE IN THE DARK

Dave took the bunch of keys from his pocket and approached the door. He tried one key after another, but none of them appeared to fit. Then Phil brought out such keys as he possessed, but all proved unavailable.

"That is one idea knocked in the head," said Dave, and heaved a sigh.

"I am going to tackle the bread and milk," said Phil. "It is better than nothing."

"It won't make us suffer from indigestion either," answered Dave, with a short laugh.

Sitting on some of the old schoolbooks the two youths ate the scanty meal Job Haskers had provided. To help pass the time they made the meal last as long as possible, eating every crumb of the bread and draining the milk to the last drop. The bread was stale, and they felt certain the teacher had furnished that which was old on purpose.

"I'll wager he'd like to hammer the life out of us," was Phil's comment. "Just wait and see the story he cooks up to tell Doctor Clay!"

"Wonder what the other fellows think of our absence, Phil?"

"Maybe they have asked Haskers about it."

Having disposed of all there was to eat and drink, the two lads walked around the little room to keep warm. Then Dave went at the door again, examining the lock with great care, and feeling of the hinges.

"Well, I declare!" he cried, almost joyfully.

"What now, Dave?"

"This door has hinges that set into this room and are held together by little rods running from the top to the bottom of each hinge. If we can take out the two rods, I am almost certain we can open the door from the hinge side!"

This was interesting news, and Phil came forward to aid Dave in removing the tiny rod which held the two parts of each hinge together. It was no easy task, for the rods were somewhat rusted, but at last both were removed, and then the boys felt the door give way at that point.

Now that they could get out, Phil wanted to know what was to be done next.

"I think I'll go out and hunt up something to eat on the sly," answered Dave. "Then we can come back here and wait for Doctor Clay's arrival."

"Good! I'll go with you. I don't want you to run the risk alone."

They waited until they felt that the dining room was deserted and then pried the door open and stole from their prison. Tiptoeing their way through the side hall, they reached a door which led to a big pantry, connecting the dining room and the kitchen. As they had anticipated, the pantry held many good things on its shelves, and a waiter was bringing in more food from the tables.

"Quick – take what you want!" whispered Dave, when the waiter had disappeared, and catching up a plate that contained some cold sliced tongue he added to it some baked beans, some bread and jam, and two generous slices of cake.

Phil understood, and taking another plate he got some of the baked beans, some cold ham, some bread and cheese, and a pitcher of milk. Then the two boys espied some crullers and stuffed several in their pockets. Then Dave saw a candle and captured that.

"He's coming back – skip!" whispered Phil, and ran out of the pantry with Dave at his heels. A moment later the waiter came in with more things, but he did not catch them, nor did he notice what they had taken.

As quickly as they could, the two boys returned to the book-room, and setting the stuff on the books, they lit the candle, and placed the rods back into the hinges of the door. So that nobody might see the light, they placed a sheet of paper over the keyhole of the door, and a row of books on the floor against the doorsill.

"Now we'll have a little better layout than that provided by Mr. Dictatorial Haskers," said Dave, and he proceeded to arrange some of the schoolbooks in a square in the center of the floor. "Might as well have a table while we are at it."

"And a couple of chairs," added Phil, and arranged more books for that purpose. Then they spread a sheet of paper over the "table," put a plate at either end, and the two sat down.



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