Dave Porter at Oak Hall/Chapter 20

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"Oak Hall wins the game!"

"Say, but that was a great run by Porter!"

"Hello, Rockville, how do you feel now?"

Such were some of the cries uttered after the game came to a finish, the majority of the remarks being completely lost in the wild cheering and noise of the horns and rattles.

The Military Academy players were much crestfallen over the defeat and left the grounds as quickly as possible. The Oak Hall boys were surrounded by their chums, and many were the hand-shakes and back-pattings.

"Boys, you did remarkably well," said Andrew Dale, with a warm smile. "I am proud of you, and I know that Dr. Clay will be proud, too. I am sorry there was any roughness, but I honestly think your opponents were more to blame than yourselves."

"They were," answered Roger. "I had to warn them to be careful, and the referee warned them, too."

"Say, Dave, don't you ever tell me that you can't play football," came from Ben, as he hurried up. "That run was a dandy."

"I didn't do much at real playing," answered Dave. "I just got hold of the ball, and I knew there was nothing to do but to dodge and run for it. Anybody could have done that."

"Not everybody," put in Phil. "They were after you hot-footed."

"And did you see him leap clear over Pryor," said Buster Beggs. "Say, Dave, you ought to go in for high-jumping, when we have our field-day."

"I used to jump over the rail fences on the farm," answered Dave, with a laugh.

It was a happy crowd of schoolboys that left the football field and crowded into the dressing room. Outside the followers of Oak Hall still kept up their cheering and noise-making.

The only persons who did not enthuse over the victory were Gus Plum, Macklin, and Puffers.

"It was a fluke," said the bully of the school. "Porter got the leather by the merest accident."

"Of course it was a fluke," added Puffers. "Rockville put up the better play right through!"

"Those chaps will have the swelled head after this," came from Macklin. "You won't be able to touch 'em with a ten-foot pole."

"Let us organize a team of our own," suggested Puffers. "We have as much right to play as they have." To this the others instantly agreed, but when it came to getting the boys together they found they could muster but nine players, so the scheme fell through.

It was too late to return to Oak Hall before supper time, so, by an arrangement made beforehand, the crowd was divided into several parties, each to take supper at a hotel or boarding house in Rockville. The students of the football team kept together, and with them went half a dozen of their intimate friends. All felt in high spirits, and the conversation was an animated one, filled with talks of punts, fumbles, charging, scrimmages, kick-offs, and the like, terms well known to the initiated, but like so much Greek to those who do not follow the game.

"After this Rockville won't crow so much," said Roger.

"They were pretty nice fellows, anyway," said Dave. "They got excited and that made them rough."

The party was to take supper at the largest hotel of which the town boasted. The hostelry was pretty well filled, but a special table had been set in the dining room for the football players and their chums.

"This is just all right," said Buster Beggs, as they sat down to the well-filled table. "My, but a game gives a fellow an appetite, eh?" And he began to eat with vigor.

As was to be expected, the high spirits of the students could not be controlled, and many were the tricks played at the table. Shadow Hamilton had some sugar poured down inside his collar, "just to make him sweet," as was declared, and Dave had his fish so well peppered that the first mouthful brought tears to his eyes.

"Phew! but this is hot!" he cried, reaching for a glass of water.

"Dave wants his fish to swim!" cried Roger. "All right, my boy, go ahead."

"Say, who put mustard in my tea?" demanded Ben.

"No extra charge, Basswood!" came from the end of the table. "The proprietor has a mustard farm in Connecticut, so the product costs next to nothing."

"I'll farm you if I get hold of you," cried Ben.

So the fun went on until the meal was about finished, when Buster Beggs and Dave slipped out of the dining room.

"Where did you see the turtle?" asked Dave, in a whisper.

"In a storeroom, this way," answered Buster, in an equally low voice. "He was in a big crate."

The two boys hurried to the storeroom mentioned, and there, in a box on the floor, was a big turtle, blinking and winking drowsily.

"A snapper!" cried Dave. "He'll create a sensation all right enough."

Between them the two boys took some slats off the top of the box which held the turtle. Then they dragged the box to a side door of the dining room, and making sure they were not seen, dumped the turtle right side up on the floor.

At first the creature did not know what to make of its liberty, but soon it stretched its long neck, gave a shake of its head, and started awkwardly across the dining-room floor toward a center table where a number of ladies and gentlemen were eating. While this was going on Dave and Buster slipped back into their seats.

"Did you hear about that turtle they've got here?" asked Dave, in a tone loud enough for many in the dining room to hear.

"Terribly vicious creature," put in Buster, in a tone equally loud. "They say he nearly bit off the hand of one of the waiters."

"The cook wants to make soup of the turtle, but he doesn't know how to manage the fellow," continued Dave. "He snaps and bites something awful."

"I saw that turtle," said one of the other boys, innocently. "He was in a crate in a side room. He did look pretty ugly."

"I didn't see him," came from another. "Where is he? I'd like to know what a real dangerous turtle looks like."

These words had scarcely been uttered when there came a scream from a lady at the center table.

"Oh, look at that horrid thing coming this way!"

"Hello, it's a turtle!" cried a gentleman.

"The snapping turtle is loose!" yelled Buster Beggs. "Oh, my, what a whopper he is!"

"He'll chew somebody up!"

At that moment the turtle brushed against the foot of one of the young men.

"Oh, dear, he is trying to eat my foot!" shrieked the young man, who was a good deal of a dude. "Oh, really, this is truly awful, don't you know! Help!"

"I—I don't wish to be bitten!" came from an elderly maiden, and she leaped up on a chair, and a dozen others in the dining hall followed suit.

From one part of the floor the snapping turtle turned to another, and as he came for the boys they too took to their chair-seats, while one leaped on the end of the table.

"The turtle is monarch of all he surveys," came from Roger. "Scat!" And he made a kick at the creature. The snapping turtle gave a hiss and a snap that made Roger draw back in alarm.

"Do you know, I really believe he is ugly," said Dave, to Buster, in a low tone.

"Oh, I reckon not," was the answer. But just then the turtle made a fierce snap at another boy, who gave a yell to be heard all over the hotel.

By this time the dining room was in an uproar. Several began to throw things at the snapping turtle, and this made the creature more ugly than ever. From one table he charged to another, until nobody dared to remain on the floor.

"A dollar reward for capturing the turtle!" sang out Phil. "Come now, don't all speak at once."

"You had better win that reward yourself!" came tartly from a man at a near by table.

"Anybody here belonging to a menagerie?" asked Roger. "If so, please speak up and take the turtle away."

The turtle now made another charge, and did this so fiercely that the chair on which Ben was standing went over, casting the lad headlong to the floor. Before he could arise, the snapping turtle had him by the knee of his trousers and was holding on grimly.

"Let go, you beast!" gasped poor Ben. "Let go! Somebody make him let go!" And he continued to struggle.

Fearful that the snapping turtle had his friend by the knee-cap, Dave leaped behind the creature, and so did Roger, and both caught the turtle by the tail. There was a vicious tug, the ripping of cloth, and then the creature was swung around, with a mouthful of clothing still in its jaws. It made a snap at Dave, but he was too quick and swung himself up on a chair. Roger jumped up on the table, landing with one foot in a dish of fruit and the other on a plate of cheese.

"He ought to be on a tug-of-war team," came from Phil. "Hi, get away from here!" he added, as the turtle stuck out its long neck and gave another hiss.

Phil had just finished when somebody threw a plate, hitting the turtle on the back. The creature whirled around, when a cup hit it in the head. Then it turned again and started for a door leading to the hallway. As it happened a waiter was coming through the doorway with a trayful of eatables, and down went colored man and viands directly on top of the turtle.

"Fo' de sake ob Linkum!" gasped the waiter, trying to scramble up. "Wot's dis? If it ain't dat snapper! How he dun got loose?" And then he lost no time in seeking a place of safety.

"He has gone!" announced Roger, as the turtle disappeared into the hall. A few seconds later came a scream of real pain.

"Somebody has caught it," said Dave, and rushed out of the dining hall, followed by several others. At the end of the hallway they found a bellboy perched on a hat-rack, nursing a nipped finger.

"He wanted to swaller me!" shrieked the bellboy. "Take him away! Shoot him! He'll kill us all!"

The alarm had brought the proprietor of the hotel to the scene, and for a moment he thought of shooting the snapping turtle.

"I wanted to keep him alive a few days," said he. "We have a big dinner next Tuesday, and I wished to use him then, for a special kind of soup the cook is going to make."

"Let us get the crate," whispered Dave to Buster. "We ought to get him back into it, if we can."

"Excuse me," was the answer. "If he gets hold of you——"

"He is going into the storeroom!" cried a waiter standing near.

"I'll lock him in," said the hotel man.

While he was speaking the turtle turned to a corner of the storeroom. Catching up the crate, Dave flung it over the ugly creature. Then, taking a cane from the hat-rack, he shoved it under the turtle and pinned him fast down in the crate.

"Good for you!" cried the hotel man. "That's the way to fix him."

"It's too bad he got loose," said Dave, innocently. "He has created quite a disturbance."

"I don't want any more trouble with a snapping turtle," said Buster, with a wink at Dave. "They are too lively for me."

And then the supper was brought to a conclusion and the Oak Hall boys started for home. It was not until some days later that a few of the chosen ones learned how it was that the snapping turtle had gained its liberty. They kept the secret, and had many a hearty laugh over it.