Edward Stratemeyer.

Dave Porter and His Classmates



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"It's a shame to make you eat without a fork, Phil," said Dave, solemnly. "But if you'd rather go hungry – "

"Not on your collar-button!" cried the shipowner's son. "A pocketknife is good enough for me this trip," and he fell to eating with great gusto, and Dave did the same, for what food they had had before had only been "a flea bite," as Dave expressed it.

Having eaten the most of the food taken from the pantry they placed the remainder on the plates on a bookshelf. Then Dave looked at his watch.

"Half-past eight," he said. "Wonder how long we are to be kept here?"

"Don't ask me, I was never good at conundrums," answered Phil, lightly. Plenty to eat had put him in a good humor. "Maybe till morning, Dave."

"I shan't stay here until morning – without a bed or coverings."

"What will you do?"

"Go up to the dormitory – after all the lights are out."

"Good! Wonder why I didn't think of that?"

"You ate too much, that's why." And Dave grinned. He, too, felt better now that he had fully satisfied his appetite.

Slowly the time went by till ten o'clock came. The prisoners heard tramping overhead, which told them the other students were retiring. They looked for a visit from Job Haskers, but the teacher did not show himself.

"He is going to keep us here until the doctor gets back, that is certain," said Dave.

"But the doctor may not come back to-night. I heard him say something the other day about going to Boston."

At last the school became quiet. By this time the boys' candle had burnt itself out, leaving them in total darkness. By common impulse they moved toward the door.

"What if we meet Murphy?" asked Phil.

"We'll do our best to avoid him, but if we do see him I rather think he'll side with us and keep quiet," answered Dave. "I know he hates Haskers as much as we do."

Hiding what was left of their meal in a corner of a shelf, behind some books, the two lads stole into the semi-dark hall and up one of the broad stairs. They met nobody and gained their dormitory with ease. Going inside, each undressed in the dark and prepared to retire.

"Who's up?" came sleepily from Roger.

"Hush, Roger," whispered Dave.

"Oh, so it's you! Where have you been, and what did old Haskers do to you?"

In a few brief words Dave and Phil explained what had taken place.

"We'll tell you the rest in the morning," said Phil, and then he and Dave hopped into bed and under the warm covers. Less than a minute later, however, Dave sat up and listened intently. He had heard the front door of the school building bang shut in the rising wind.

"Phil!"

"What is it now, Dave?"

"I think I just heard Doctor Clay come in."

"Oh, bother! I'm going to sleep," said the shipowner's son, with a yawn. "I don't think he'll trouble us to-night."

"I'm going to see what happens," answered Dave, and got up again. Soon he had on a dressing gown and slippers, and was tiptoeing his way down the hallway.

He heard a murmur of voices below, and knew then that both the doctor and Mr. Dale had arrived. Then he heard Mr. Dale walk to the rear of the lower floor, and heard somebody else come out of the library.

"Mr. Haskers, what is it?" he heard Doctor Clay say.

"I must consult you about two of the students, sir," answered Job Haskers. "They have acted in a most disgraceful manner. They attacked me on the road with icy snowballs, nearly ruining my right ear, and when I called them to account in the office one of them began to fight and broke your statue of Mercury."

"Is it possible!" ejaculated the doctor, in pained surprise. "Who were the pupils?"

"David Porter and Philip Lawrence."

"Is this true, Mr. Haskers? Porter and Lawrence are usually well-behaved students."

"They acted like ruffians, sir – especially Porter, who attacked me and broke the statue."

"I will look into this without delay. Where are they now – in their room?"

"No, I locked them up in the book-room, to await your arrival. I did not deem it wise to give them their liberty."

"Ahem! prisoners in the book-room, eh? This is certainly serious. They cannot remain in the room all night."

"It would serve them right to keep them there," grumbled Job Haskers.

"There are no cots in that room for them to rest on."

"Then let them rest on the floor! The young rascals deserve it."

"Perhaps I'd better talk it over with the boys and see what they have to say, Mr. Haskers," went on the doctor, in a mild tone. "I do not believe in being too harsh with the students. Perhaps they only snowballed you as a bit of sport."

"Doctor Clay, do you uphold them in such an action?" demanded the irascible instructor.

"By no means, Mr. Haskers, but – boys will be boys, you know, and we mustn't be too hard on them if they occasionally go too far."

"Porter broke that statue, – and defied me!"

"If he broke the statue, he'll have to pay for it, – and if he defied you in the exercise of your proper authority, he shall be punished. But I want to hear what they have to say. We'll go to the book-room at once, release them, and take them to my office."

"It won't be necessary to go to the book-room, Doctor Clay," called out Dave from the upper landing.

"Why – er – is that you, Porter!"

"How did you get out?" cried Job Haskers, in consternation. "Didn't I lock that door?"

"You did, but Phil Lawrence and I got out, nevertheless," answered Dave.

"Where is Lawrence?"

"Up in our room in bed, and I was in bed, too, but got up when the doctor came in," added Dave.

"Well, I never!" stormed Job Haskers. "You see how it is, Doctor Clay; they have even broken out of the book-room after I told them to stay there!"

"We weren't going to stay in a cold room all night with no beds to sleep on, and only bread and milk for supper," went on Dave. "I wouldn't treat my worst enemy that way."

"Did you say you were in bed when I came in?" questioned Doctor Clay.

"Yes, sir – and Phil is there now, unless he just got up."

"Here I am," came a voice from behind Dave, and the shipowner's son put in an appearance. "Do you want us to come downstairs, Doctor? If you do, I'll have to go back and put on my clothes and shoes."

"And I'll have to go back and dress, too," added Dave.

Doctor Clay mused a moment.

"As you are undressed you may as well retire," he said. "I will look into this matter to-morrow morning, or Monday morning."

"Thank you, sir," said both boys.

"But, sir – " commenced Job Haskers.

"It is too late to take up the case now," interrupted Doctor Clay. "There is no use in arousing anybody at this time of night. Besides, I am very tired. We'll all go to bed, and sift this thing out later. Boys, you may go."

"Thank you, sir. Good-night."

And without waiting for another word the two chums hurried to their dormitory, leaving Job Haskers and the doctor alone.

CHAPTER IX
VERA ROCKWELL

Sunday passed, and nothing was said to Dave and Phil concerning the unfortunate snowballing incident; but on Monday morning, immediately after breakfast, both were summoned to Doctor Clay's office.

"I suppose we are in for it now," said the shipowner's son, dolefully.

"Never mind, Phil; we didn't mean to do wrong, and I am going to tell the doctor so. I think he will be fair in the matter."

But though Dave spoke thus, he was by no means easy in his mind. He had had trouble with Job Haskers before and he well knew how the teacher could distort facts to make himself out to be a much-injured individual.

When the two youths entered the office they found Doctor Clay seated at his desk, looking over the mail Jackson Lemond had just brought in from town. Job Haskers was not present, which fact caused the boys to breathe a sigh of relief.

"Now, boys, I want you to give me the particulars of what occurred Saturday afternoon," said the master of the Hall, as he laid down a letter he had been perusing. "Porter, you may relate your story first."

Without unnecessary details, Dave told his tale in a straightforward manner, – how the boys had been having a snowball fight, how somebody had cried out that Horsehair was coming in a cutter, and how they had thought to have a little fun with the school driver by pelting him with snowballs.

"We have often done it before," went on Dave. "Horsehair – I mean Lemond – doesn't seem to mind it, and sometimes he snowballs us in return."

"Then you did not know it was Mr. Haskers?"

"No, sir – not until I had thrown the snowball."

Then Dave told of Haskers's anger, and of how they had been ordered to the office and had gone there.

"I told him I was sorry I had hit him, but he would not listen to me, and he wouldn't listen when Phil apologized. He said he would accept no apologies, but was going to give us the thrashing we deserved. Then he took the whip he carried and tried to strike me. I wouldn't stand for that and I caught hold of the whip. He told me to let go and I said I wouldn't unless he promised not to strike at me again. Then he struggled to get the whip from my grasp and pushed me backward, against the stand with the statue. The stand went over and the statue was broken."

"Wait a moment, Porter." Doctor Clay's voice was oddly strained. "Are you certain Mr. Haskers tried to strike you with the whip?"

"I certainly am, sir. He raised the whip over my head, and if I hadn't dodged I'd have been struck, and struck hard."

"Mr. Haskers tells me that he simply carried the whip to the office to subdue you – that he was afraid both of you might jump on him and do him bodily injury."

"Does he say he didn't strike at me?" cried Dave, in astonishment, for this was a turn of affairs he had not dreamed would occur.

"He says he brandished the whip when you came toward him as if to strike him."

"I made no move to strike him, Doctor Clay – Phil will testify to that."

"Dave has told the strict truth, sir," said the shipowner's son. "Mr. Haskers did strike at him, and it was only by luck that Dave escaped the blow. I thought sure he was going to get a sound whack on the head."

At these words Doctor Clay's face became a study. The teacher had had his say on Sunday afternoon, but this version put an entirely different aspect on the affair.

"Go on with your story," he said, after a pause.

"I am very sorry that the statue was broken," continued Dave. "And I wish to say right here, sir, that if you think it was my fault I will willingly pay for the damage done. But I think it was entirely Mr. Haskers's fault. I always understood that no corporal punishment was permitted in this school."

"Your understanding on that point is correct, Porter. The only exception to the rule is when a student becomes violent himself and has to be subdued."

"I wasn't violent."

"Please tell the rest of your story."

Then Dave told of the wordy war which had followed, and of how he and Phil had been locked up and given bread and milk for supper, and of how he and his chum had found the book-room more than cheerless. He had resolved to make a clean breast of it, and so gave the particulars of taking the door off its hinges, getting extra food, and of finally going upstairs to bed. The latter part of the story caused Doctor Clay to turn his head away and look out of a window, so that the boys might not see the smile that came to his face. In his imagination he could see the lads feasting on the purloined things in the book-room by candlelight.

"Now, Lawrence, what have you to say?" he asked, when Dave had finished.

"I can't say much, sir – excepting that Dave has told you the truth, and the whole truth at that. And I might add, sir, had Mr. Dale or yourself been in the cutter I think the whole trouble would have been patched up very quickly. But Mr. Haskers is so – so – impulsive – he never will listen to a fellow, – and he rushed at Dave like a mad bull. I was ready to jump on him when the whip went up, and I guess I would have done it if Dave had been struck."

"And you are positive you didn't snowball Mr. Haskers on purpose?"

"Positive, sir – and I can prove it by the other boys who were in the crowd."

"Hum!" Doctor Clay was silent for fully a minute. "You can both go to your classes. If I wish to see you further in regard to this – ahem – unfortunate affair I will let you know."

The boys bowed and went out, and quarter of an hour later each was deep in the studies for the day. Occasionally their minds wandered to what had occurred, and they tried to imagine what the outcome would be.

"I don't think the doctor will stand for the whip," was the way Dave expressed himself, and in this surmise he was correct. That very afternoon the master of the Hall called the teacher to his office, and a warm discussion followed. But what was said was never made public. Yet one thing the boys knew – Dave was never called upon to pay for the broken statue – Job Haskers had to settle that bill.

With the ice so fine on the river, much of the boys' off-time was spent in ice-boating and skating. One afternoon there was an ice-boat race between the Snowbird from Oak Hall, a boat from Rockville Military Academy, and two craft owned by young men of Oakdale. This brought out a large crowd, and each person was enthusiastic over his favorite.

"I hope our boat wins!" said Roger, who was on skates, as were Dave and Phil and many others.

"So do I," said Dave. "I don't care who comes in ahead so long as it's an ice-boat belonging to Oak Hall."

"That's pretty good!" cried Sam Day, "seeing that we have but one boat in the race."

"Say, that puts me in mind of a story," came from Shadow. "One time a lot of young fellows in a village organized a fire company. They voted to get uniforms and the question came up as to what color of shirts they should buy. They talked it over, and at last an old fire-fighter in a corner got up. 'Buy any color you please,' said he, 'any color you please, but be sure it's red!'" And the story caused a smile to go around.

The four ice-boats were soon ready for the contest, and at a pistol shot they started on the fivemile course which had been laid out. Messmer and Henshaw were on the Snowbird, which speedily took the second place, one of the town boats, named the Whistler, leading.

"Hurrah! they are off!"

"What's the matter with the Military Academy boat? She's a tail-ender."

"The Lark is third!"

So the cries ran on, as the ice-boats skimmed along over the smooth ice, swept clear of nearly all the snow by the wind. Dave and his chums skated some distance after the boats and then halted, to await their return.

"Hurrah, the Snowbird is crawling up on the Whistler!" cried Buster Beggs.

"They are neck and neck!" said Luke Watson.

"Yes, but the Venus is coming up, too," answered Phil. "Gracious, but I'll wager those Rockville fellows would like to win!"

"The Venus must be a new boat," said Ben Basswood. "I never saw her before."

"She is new – some of the Military Academy fellows purchased her last week," answered another boy.

The crowd moved on, Dave stopping to fix one of his skates, which had become loose. As he straightened up, a girl brushed past him and looked him full in the face. He saw that she was one of the two who had been on the ice-boat at the time of the accident. She gave him a sunny smile and he very politely tipped his cap to her.

"I suppose you hope your boat will win," she said, coming to a halt near him.

"You mean the Oak Hall boat, I suppose?"

"Of course, Mr. Porter."

"Yes, I hope we do win," answered Dave, and wondered how she had learned his name. "Don't you hope we'll win, too, Miss Rockwell?" he continued, seeing that the others had gone on and he was practically alone with his new acquaintance.

"Well, I – I really don't know," she answered, and smiled again. "You see, the Whistler belongs to some friends of my big brother, so I suppose I ought to want that to win."

"But if the Snowbird is a better boat – "

Vera Rockwell gave a merry laugh – it was her nature to laugh a good deal. "Of course if your boat is the better of the two – But I am keeping you from your friends," she broke off.

"Oh, I shan't mind that," said Dave politely, and he did not mind in the least, for Vera seemed so good-natured that he was glad to have a chance to talk to her.

"I wanted to meet you," Vera went on, as, without hardly noticing it, they skated off side by side. "I wanted to thank you for what you and your friend did for us the other day."

"I guess you had better blame us. If we hadn't rolled that big snowball down the hill – "

"Oh, but you said you didn't mean to hit the ice-boat – "

"Which was true – we didn't see the ice-boat until it was too late. I hope you and your friend got home safely?"

"We did. When we reached the road we met a farmer we knew with a big sled, and he took Mary and me right to our doors."

"Do you live in Oakdale?"

"Yes, – just on the outskirts of the town, – the big brick house with the iron fence around the garden."

"Oh, I've seen that place often. You used to have a little black dog who was very friendly and would sit up on his hind legs and beg."

"Gyp! Yes, and I have him yet – and he's the cutest you ever saw! He can do all kinds of tricks. Some day, when you are passing, if you'll stop I'll show you."

"Thank you, I'll remember, and I'll be sure to stop," answered Dave, much pleased with the invitation.

"Here they come! Here they come!" was the cry, and suddenly the youth and the girl found themselves in a big body of skaters. Vera was struck on the arm by one burly man, and would have gone down had not Dave supported her.

"Better take my hand," said Dave, and the girl did so, for she was a little frightened. Then the crowd increased, and they had to fall back a little, to get out of the jam. Dave looked around for his chums, but they were nowhere in sight. Then all strained their eyes to behold the finish of the ice-boat contest.

CHAPTER X
DAVE SPEAKS HIS MIND

"Here they come!"

"The Whistler is ahead!"

"Yes, but the Snowbird is crawling up!"

"See, the Venus has given up."

So the cries ran on, as the ice-boats drew closer and closer to the finishing line of the contest. It was true the Venus, the craft from the Rockville Military Academy, had fallen far behind and had given up. The third boat was also well to the rear, so the struggle was between the Oak Hall craft and the Whistler only.

"I hope we win!" cried Dave, enthusiastically.

"Oh, how mean!" answered Vera, reproachfully. "Well, I – er – I don't mean that exactly, but I'd like to see my brother's friends come in ahead."

"One thing is sure – it's going to be close," continued Dave. "Can you see at all?"

"Not much – there is such a crowd in front."

"Too bad! Now if you were a little girl, I'd lift you on my shoulder," and he smiled merrily.

"Oh, the idea!" And Vera laughed roundly. "I can see the tops of the masts, anyway. They seem to be about even."

"They are. I think – "

"A tie! a tie!" was the cry. Then a wild cheer went up, as both ice-boats crossed the line side by side. A second later the crowd broke out on the course and began skating hither and thither.

"Is it really a tie?" asked the girl.

"So it seems."

"Well, I am glad, for now we can both be satisfied." Vera looked around somewhat anxiously. "Have you seen anything of Mary Feversham? She came skating when I did."

"You mean the other young lady who was with you on that ice-boat?"

"Yes."

"No, I haven't seen her. Perhaps we can find her if we skate around a bit."

"Oh, but I don't want to trouble you."

"It is no trouble, it will be a pleasure. We might – "

At that moment a number of skaters swept by, including Nat Poole. The dudish student smiled at Vera and then, noticing Dave, stared in astonishment.

"Do you know him?" asked Vera, and for a moment she frowned.

"Yes, he belongs to our school."

"Oh!" She drew down the corners of her pretty mouth. "I – I didn't know that."

"We are not very friendly – he doesn't belong to my set," Dave went on, for he had not liked that smile from Poole, and he was sure Vera had not liked it either.

"He spoke to us once – Mary and me – one day last week when we were skating. He was dressed in the height of fashion, and I suppose he thought we would be glad to know him. But we didn't answer him. Ever since that time he has been smiling at us. I wish he'd stop. If he doesn't I shall tell my big brother about it."

"If he annoys you too much let me know and I'll go at him myself," answered Dave, readily. "I've had plenty of trouble with him in the past, but I shan't mind a little more." And then he told of some of the encounters with the dudish student. Vera was greatly interested and laughed heartily over the jokes that had been played.

"You boys must have splendid times!" she cried. "Oh, don't you know, sometimes I wish I were a boy!" And then she told something of her own doings and the doings of Mary Feversham, who was her one chum. Along with their relatives, the girls had spent the summer on the St. Lawrence, and the previous winter they had been to Florida, which made Dave conclude that they were well-to-do.

They skated around a little more and soon met Mary Feversham, who was with Vera's big brother. Then Roger and Phil came up; and all were introduced to each other.



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