Dave Porter at Oak Hall/Chapter 9

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The senator questioned Dave closely concerning all that had taken place on the train and also afterwards, and then told how the robbery had been committed.

"I believe that fellow was from some big city," said he. "At any rate he was no novice. The other folks, outside of Roger, had arranged to go on a visit to another house two miles away. I was to go with them, and went about half a mile, when I remembered that I had forgotten some important papers which I wished to have with me. I hurried back to the house on foot, thinking to make the journey later on, on horseback. The thief must have seen me coming, and must have run away only a few minutes before I arrived. I found everything in the bed-chambers and in the dining room topsy-turvy, and I knew at once what had happened. I ran out on the road to call in some farm hands, to go on a hunt for the thief."

"And that was when I saw you," said Dave. "One thing is sure, that thief must have made a quick run for the train."

"Evidently he did, and it must have been a task with such a heavy valise. His work around the rooms showed that he was a professional."

"I don't believe his name was Peter Snodgrass."

"Not at all, nor do I think those are his initials on that valise. Such rascals take every precaution to conceal their identity," added the senator.

Several times he was on the point of offering Dave some reward, but the boy showed plainly that he did not desire this, so Senator Morr said nothing on the subject. An alarm was sent out by mail and telegraph, offering a reward for the capture of the thief; but let it be added here that the rascal was not seen or heard of for a long time.

Dave remained in the town until nearly the end of the afternoon, and then, as there seemed to be nothing further to do in the matter, he and Roger Morr continued on their journey to Oak Hall. The unexpected happening had brought the boys close together, and each felt as if he had known the other for a long time.

"It's a feather in your cap, to have found that fellow," said Roger, as the train sped on its way. "We are not likely to forget it in a hurry."

"Oh, let us drop that," answered Dave. "Tell me about the school. I am anxious to know just what it is like." And Roger gave an excellent description of Oak Hall, and told of the teachers and the various courses of study. Then he mentioned the football and baseball teams, the rowing and gymnasium clubs, and spoke of the contests won and lost.

"We had some warm times at baseball early in the summer," he said. "I played first base and catcher, and we won nine games and lost four. Our boat club won three matches and lost the same number."

"I know I'd like to learn how to row," answered Dave. "But going into a race would be another thing."

"I hope the doctor puts you in our dormitory, Dave. There are six beds in it, and only four were occupied last season."

"I'll ask him to do so," was the prompt reply.

The run to Oakdale Junction occupied less than an hour, and here the two boys found they would have to wait half an hour before a train would start for Oakdale proper.

"We'll have to get supper here," said Roger. "I don't know what sort of feeding houses they have, but we'll have to do the best we can."

"You must have supper with me," said Dave. "But I can't promise you such a spread as we had for dinner."

"Oh, let us get a sandwich, a cut of pie, and a glass of milk," answered the senator's son. "I'm not so very hungry."

There was a neat little restaurant not far from the depot, and hither the pair made their way. As they entered, a shout went up from four boys seated at a table in the rear.

"Here are two more of our crowd! Roger Morr and—who's the other chap?"

"How are you, fellows?" cried the senator's son, rushing forward and shaking hands. "Thought some of you would be around. Let me introduce a new student, Dave Porter, from Crumville. Dave, this is Phil Lawrence, whom we all look up to and adore. He's——"

"Cut it short, Roger," interrupted the boy who was considered the head of the school. "Glad to know you,"—the latter to Dave.

"This is Mr. Maurice Hamilton," went on the senator's son, nodding towards a tall, thin youth, who had his mouth full of pie. "But don't ever disgrace him by using his real name, as he wants everybody to call him Shadow, because he's so very hefty, and——"

"There you go again, Cheery!" spluttered the youth mentioned. "Can't you drop it?"

"This is our own particular pride, Buster Beggs, whose real name, I believe was, in babyhood, Joseph. Am I right, Buster, dear?" And Roger looked expectantly at a round-faced, fat boy, who was squeezed into a corner.

"Glad to know Mr. Porter," came from Beggs, with a squint. "But say, old man," he said, in a

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As they entered, a shout went up from four boys seated at a table in the rear.—Page 76.

lowered voice, "let me give you a tip. Don't ever be seen again in Morr's company. He chews gum!" And then a general laugh went up, which Dave did not understand until later, when it was explained that Roger had once found every pocket of his clothes stuck fast with chewing gum. It was suspected that Chip Macklin, the school sneak, had played this trick, but it could not be proved.

"The fourth individual of this benighted community is Lazy. His real name is Samuel V. Q. X. Day, but call him Lazy and he'll come every time the dinner bell rings. He always smiles——"

"See here, Cheery, if it wasn't too much trouble I'd get up and spank you," came from Sam Day, a large-boned lad, with a stretchy, indolent air.

"There you have it, Dave. 'If it wasn't too much trouble!' Do you wonder they call him Lazy? Why, he——"

"Say, that puts me in mind of a story I once heard," interrupted the lad called Shadow. "Lady gave a tramp a cherry pie. Says the tramp, 'Madam, can't you make it an apple pie?' 'Why?' says the lady. 'Cos this has pits in it,' answers the tramp. 'I hates to work me jaws gittin' rid on 'em!'"

"Story number sixteen!" came from Phil Lawrence. "Ever since we ran across Shadow he has been loading us up with his comic journal jokes, and——"

"Which puts me in mind of another——" began Shadow.

"Not just now," interrupted Roger. "We came in to eat."

"I'm glad to know you all," said Dave, with a smile. "Roger has been telling me of you on the train." He shook hands with each of them.

"You want to be good when Dave's around," went on the senator's son. "He's a detective—regular sleuth——"

"Roger!" cried Dave, appealingly. "I thought you promised not to mention that again?"

"Did I? Well, I can't help it. It's this way, to cut a short story long, as the poets say. Our house was robbed this morning. Dave spotted the thief on the train, and through him we recovered a large portion of the goods. Wasn't that great?"

"Going to open a detective agency?" asked Buster Beggs, soberly. "If you are I'll call around. I lost a toothbrush last season, and——"

"I never hunt for toothbrushes unless the teeth go with them," came from Dave, brightly. He was catching the spirit of the crowd around him. "Now if you could only manage to lose your teeth——" And then a laugh went up.

"Which puts me in mind——" began Shadow.

"That we must make room for Roger and our new schoolfellow," finished Phil Lawrence. "Here, Lazy, do get a move on, and help us push that small table against this one. There, now Porter can sit on one side and Roger on the other, and both can order what they please. Buster is going to pay the bill——"

"With cash collected from the others," interrupted Buster Beggs. "Don't think I am putting up for this crowd! Why, they'd eat me out of pocket money in an hour!"

A waiter was at hand, grinning broadly over the boys' fun. Dave and Roger ordered what they wished, and the former took possession of the two checks.

Dave found the crowd a thoroughly congenial one, and by the time the meal was over he felt fairly well at home with all of them. Notwithstanding their fun, they were manly lads, and each the soul of honor.

"I'll tell you one thing, boys," came from Phil Lawrence, when the party was on its way to the railroad station; "I shouldn't be surprised if we have a whole lot of trouble with Job Haskers this session. He was as mad as hops over the tricks played on him last spring."

"I believe you said Job Haskers was the second assistant," said Dave to Roger.

"Yes, and I don't know of a meaner man," answered the senator's son. "Why the doctor keeps him is a mystery to me, excepting it may be because Haskers is such an excellent scholar. I have never had very much trouble with him, but the others have."

"Last season he kept me in all one afternoon just for throwing some roses across the room," came from Buster Beggs. "I threw 'em at a fellow named Flowers. And it was on the very day the main boat race came off."

"And didn't you see the race?" asked Dave.

"No. But I got square on old Haskers. Sid Gaston had a live alligator sent to him, and that night I stole into Haskers's room and dropped the 'gator into his bed. My, but wasn't there a time when Haskers went to bed!"

"I trust I don't have any trouble with this teacher," came from Dave.

"If you don't you'll have to toe the chalk mark pretty closely," put in Sam Day. "I know I had my hands full last Washington's Birthday. We were going to have a celebration in our dormitory that night, but Haskers got wind of it and he watched us so closely that we couldn't do a thing but go to bed."

"It was that sneak, Chip Macklin's, fault," put in Roger. "I wish we could have caught him at it!"

"If Chip did it it was because Gus Plum put him up to it," was Shadow Hamilton's comment. "No two ways about it, boys," he added, earnestly, "somebody has got to teach that bully his place this session."

"I am not going to let him bother me," replied Phil Lawrence.

"Oh, he won't bother you—he'll go in for somebody smaller than himself," said Roger. "Just the same, I am going to stand out against him all I can."

"If he is such a bully he had better keep his distance," came from Dave. "I don't wish any trouble, but I shan't stand to be imposed upon."

"Gus Plum thinks that because he is rich he can do almost anything," said Phil Lawrence. "But for me, money doesn't cover it, not by a jugful."

"Which puts me in mind of a story——" began Shadow Hamilton. "Now, hold on, and don't interrupt me, for it's a good one," he interposed as several started to break in. "The ship was going down with all on board. Up from his stateroom comes a miser with his bag of gold. 'Save me!' he yells. 'Come into the small boat, but leave that gold behind,' yells back the captain. 'Not much!' cries the miser. 'Save the gold, and I'll try to swim ashore!' Gus Plum can't be one of us until he learns that his money doesn't count and that he has got to submit to the same treatment that others receive."