Dave Porter at Oak Hall/Chapter 25
A WILD MOONLIGHT TROLLEY RIDE
After his failure to stand the initiation tests of the Gee Eyes Club, Nat Poole became more bitter than ever against Dave. In some manner he attributed his failure to Dave, and also to Ben and Roger, and nothing that Haven, the other candidate, could say, could alter his opinion.
"They doctored that up between them, and I know it," said Poole to Gus Plum. "They made it just as terrible as they possibly could."
"Oh, that crowd is down on us, Nat, you can easily see that," returned the bully of Oak Hall. "I know they hate me worse than poison, and they'll hate you just because we are chummy."
"They can go to grass," growled Poole.
"Those fellows think they are going to run Oak Hall," put in Macklin, who was lounging in an easy-chair close by. "They are going to run everything to suit themselves."
"I'd like to get that whole club into disgrace," went on Poole, meditatively. "It would be just paying them back for the way they treated me."
"Never mind, we'll square up some day," answered Plum. "Just wait till everything is ripe. I'll show you a trick or two;" and there the discussion ended.
When Dave told Dr. Clay he was going to do his best while at Oak Hall he meant what he said. Despite his initiation into the club, and his attention to certain sports, he worked diligently over his studies, and soon stood second in a class of thirty-six. He was especially strong in mathematics and in history, and this pleased Mr. Wadsworth and Caspar Potts very much.
"I am glad I sent him to that school," said the rich manufacturer. "If he keeps on as he has begun he will assuredly make his mark."
"I knew it—I knew it," answered the old professor. "Dave has it in him; he is no common boy. I saw that the day I had him bound out to me."
"It is queer that nothing has ever been learned concerning his parentage, professor."
"You are right there."
"I have asked the old authorities of the poor-house, but they say they know absolutely nothing."
"Yes, I asked them myself, for I wanted Dave to know all there was to know—if it was going to do him any good."
In his letter to Caspar Potts the boy could not help but touch upon the incident which had caused him so much pain, but he made it plain that he intended to "live it down" and was getting along very well in the task. This caused the professor to write a long letter in return, in which he urged Dave not to pay attention to those who had sneered at him.
As a test in history the class to which Dave belonged had to write a composition on the "Three Greatest Achievements of George Washington." The pupils were given ten days in which to bring in the papers, and Dave worked hard to make his the best of the number. It was hard for him to decide upon which had been the three greatest achievements, and he wrote three compositions before he finished one that suited him.
On the day before the compositions were to be handed in, Dave chanced to go up to his dormitory during the morning recess. He was just in time to catch Chip Macklin leaving the room. Macklin looked scared, and lost no time in disappearing without saying a word.
"He acts queer," thought Dave. "I wonder if he is up to some of his underhanded work?"
The morning passed, and at noon Dave went for his composition, which he had left in his drawer of a desk the dormitory contained. To his consternation the paper was missing.
"I couldn't have put it in somebody else's drawer," he mused, and looked the others over. He was doing this when Phil entered.
"What's up, Dave? You look worried."
"My composition is missing."
"Yes, I placed it in my drawer last night and now it's gone. I thought it might be in one of the other drawers. You haven't seen it, have you?"
The desk was searched from top to bottom, but all Dave could find were the two discarded compositions.
"This is queer," said Phil. "Nobody would steal a composition."
"As I came into the dormitory, I saw Chip Macklin at the door. He was coming out."
"He hasn't any right in this room."
The matter was talked over, but nothing came of it. It was now time to return to the classroom, and Dave did not know what to do.
"Why don't you hand in one of the other compositions?" suggested Phil. "That will be better than nothing."
"I'll do it, Phil—but I wish I had that last."
The composition was given to Job Haskers, and when the matter was made public Dave received ninety per cent. out of a possible hundred. Only four boys were ahead of him, the highest per cent. being ninety-seven.
"That was pretty good," said Phil. "Considering it was your second best, so to speak."
"I'd give a dollar to know what became of that other composition," was the reply. But for the time being the matter remained a mystery.
On the following week Dave received an invitation which filled him with curiosity. It was from the Gee Eyes, and requested his presence at a moonlight trolley ride, to take place "On the fateful evening of Friday, November thirteen, party to leave the school at exactly thirteen minutes after nine o'clock. Expense of said trip, to each member, twice thirteen cents."
"Something is up," he thought. "Wonder if I had better go?"
He found out that Ben and Roger had received invitations, but that they were also in the dark. Phil knew all about the trip, but as an officer of the club he could give them no explanations.
"But you are going?" queried Dave.
"To be sure."
"Will it be safe?"
"We hope to make it so."
"Then I'll go," answered Dave, and Roger and Ben said the same.
As luck would have it, Friday night proved to be perfect, and the crowd got away from Oak Hall with but little trouble. There were twenty-one students, including Murphy, the monitor, who took an extra risk in order to get away. But Murphy was one of the charter members of the Gee Eyes, which accounted for his valor in that particular.
As soon as the grounds of the academy were left behind, the members of the club were formed into a regular company and made to march like so many soldiers towards Rockville. No explanations were offered to those not in the secret, but the treasurer, called the Lord of the Money Sack, made each individual hand over his twenty-six cents.
Half the distance to Rockville was covered when the party turned down a hill to a lonely country road, upon which ran the trolley line which connected Rockville, Bendham, Pitt's Corners, and several other places. This trolley had been built about two years. It did not pay very well, and no cars were run upon it from midnight until six in the morning.
Coming to a certain point on the line, the crowd was halted, and the leader looked at his watch.
"Where's the ride?" queried Roger, for no trolley car was in sight.
He had scarcely spoken when a car came slowly into sight, decorated with flags and strips of bunting. Nobody but an old motorman was in sight.
"Here she is! All aboard, fellows!" was the cry, and without ceremony the club members climbed into the car. Then two of them, who wore masks, called to the motorman.
"What's wanted?" asked the old man.
"Hot box, I guess," said one of the masked boys. "Just look here."
The motorman left the car, and walked toward the wheel which had been pointed out. As he did this he was seized from behind and made a prisoner. They marched him to a tree, and produced a cord as if to bind him fast.
"Now will you wait here until we come back, or shall we have to tie you to this tree?" said one of the masked boys. "We won't hurt you or the car, and we'll be back inside of two hours. It's three dollars in your pocket if you don't open your mouth."
"You'll wreck the car and kill yerselves," grumbled the old motorman.
"No, we won't. Now, will you keep still and be good, or must we tie you up?"
"I'll wait here and say nothing if you pay me and there's no trouble. But if there is damage done, it's you will foot the bill," was the warning.
One of the boys was already at the front of the car. He kicked off the brake, turned on the power, and away went the car with a jerk that threw all those standing off their feet. There was a yell and a cheer, followed by wild hurrahs, as the turnout swept along the somewhat uneven track, up grade and down, and around numerous curves, and over bridges.
"Say, ain't this dandy!"
"Let her go, Mr. Motorman! We want our money's worth."
"Don't chute the chutes when we come to the river!"
"I wonder if this is safe?" asked Dave of Roger. "It seems to me we are running pretty fast."
"Running fast? I should say we were." Roger raised his voice. "I say, you of the handle in front, don't let her get away from you!"
"This is the Overland Express!" was shouted back. "Through train, with no sleepers and no stops!" And another cheer went up, which startled the inhabitants of a village through which they were rushing. Several ran out, and concluded the car was in the possession of a number of lunatics.
"You want to come up here!" came from Buster Beggs, who was perched on the roof of the car. "The moonlight effect is grand."
"You hold on when we round a curve," said Dave, warningly. "If you don't you'll find yourself pitched into the middle of next week."
"Which puts me in mind of a story I heard a railroad man tell," came from Shadow. "He was talking of the curves on a line in Colorado. He said the engineer of the train used to leave his dinner pail in the caboose of the freight and when he wanted it he'd wait till he got to one of those close curves, and then he'd just reach out from the cab into the caboose, and—"
"Whoop! Wouldn't that make your hair turn white!" interrupted Sam Day. "That's the biggest whopper I've heard yet."
"It's a true story," answered Shadow, calmly. "If you don't believe it, come to my house some day and I'll show you the toothpick the engineer used after he got through using the dinner pail."
And then a shout of laughter arose.
They were climbing a hill and it was not long before they reached the summit where they passed another car at a switch. Here the car was stopped for a few minutes so that all hands might enjoy the scenery, which was beautiful in its bath of moonshine. Then on they went again, down the long slope on the other side, faster and faster, until the car seemed to be fairly flying along.
"Put on the brake there!" shouted Phil, warningly. "You are going too fast. There's a curve at the bottom of the hill, and—"
"The brake's stuck!" was the gasped-out answer. "I—I can't budge it!"
Several leaped forward, but none could move the brake for fully half a minute. By that time the car was going along at lightning-like speed. And now the dreaded curve appeared. It looked as if the trolley car, and all on board, were doomed to destruction!