Dave Porter and His Rivals/Chapter 1




"Everybody ready?"

"Yes, Dave; let her go!" cried Phil Lawrence.

"How about you folks in the other auto?" queried Dave Porter, as he let off the hand brake and advanced the spark and lever of the machine he was about to run.

"We are all ready," responded Roger Morr.

"Been ready for an hour," added Ben Basswood, who sat beside Roger.

"Oh, Ben, not quite as long as that!" burst out Laura Porter, who was one of three girls in the tonneau of the second car.

"Well, make it fifty-eight minutes then; I'm not particular," responded Ben, calmly.

"Are the lunch hampers in?" asked Jessie Wadsworth, anxiously. "Mamma said we musn't forget anything."

"Trust Dave and Roger to look after the food," burst out Phil Lawrence.

"Likewise Mr. Phil Lawrence," added Dave. "Just wait till it comes lunch time, and you'll see Phil stow away about fifteen chicken sandwiches, ten slices of cake, three pickles, five olives——"

"Stop! I draw the line on olives, Dave!" cried Phil, making a wry face.

"Oh, olives are fine; I love them!" cried Belle Endicott.

"Then all that are coming to me are yours," returned Phil, quickly. "But start her up, fellows, if we are going!" he added, and then, putting a big horn to his lips, he blew a loud blast.

"Take good care of yourselves!" cried a voice from the veranda of the mansion in front of which the two automobiles were standing, and Mrs. Wadsworth waved a hand to the young people.

"We'll try to," answered Dave, and then he threw in the clutch on low gear, and the big touring car moved gently away, out of the grounds of the Wadsworth mansion and into the main highway leading from Crumville to Shady Glen Falls. The second car speedily followed.

It was a late summer day, with a clear blue sky overhead and just enough breeze blowing to freshen the air. A shower of rain the day previous had laid the dust of the road and added to the freshness of fields and woods.

The boys and girls had planned this outing for several days. All of the youths were to return to Oak Hall school the following week, and they wished to do something for the girls to remember them by, as Dave expressed it.

"Might have a party," Roger had suggested.

"No good, unless it was a lawn party," Phil had answered. "It's too stuffy in the house, these warm days."

"We might take a couple of autos and go for a day's outing up the river road," Dave had suggested, and this proposition had been accepted immediately. It was decided that Dave should run the Wadsworth machine, he having learned to do so some time before, and Roger was to run a car hired at the new Crumville garage. Each car had a capacity of five passengers, including the driver, and the party consisted of ten young people, five boys and five girls.

"Now, Dave, don't let her out for more than fifty miles an hour," remarked Sam Day, who sat in the back of the leading auto, between two of the young ladies.

"Fifty miles an hour!" shrieked Jessie Wadsworth. "What an idea! Dave, don't you dare!"

"Oh, Lazy is only fooling, Jessie," answered Dave. "He wouldn't want to ride at that rate of speed himself."

"Twenty miles an hour is fast enough," said Belle Endicott. "I want to view the scenery. It is lovely around Crumville—so different from around the ranch."

"Yes, the scenery is fine, even though we haven't such big mountains as you have out West," answered Dave.

"And Shady Glen Falls is an ideal spot for a picnic," said Jessie. "Papa took us there last summer."

"You've got to make the most of the Falls this summer," went on Dave. "I heard in town last week that next year a paper company is going to put a mill there."

"Oh, Dave, is that the Eureka Paper Company?" questioned Jessie.

"Yes. What do you know about them?"

"Why, I heard papa and your uncle talking about it. It is a company in which Mr. Aaron Poole holds a big interest."

"Aaron Poole!" murmured the youthful driver of the automobile, and his face grew serious, as he remembered the trouble he had had with that mean individual.

"Yes. Papa heard Nat bragging down at the post-office, about what great things his father was going to do, when the paper company got started."

"That's just like Nat Poole," was Phil Lawrence's comment. "If Nat couldn't brag about something he'd die."

"By the way, where does Nat keep himself?" questioned Sam Day. "I haven't met him since I came to Crumville."

"He has been keeping shady—since our little affair at Niagara Falls," explained Dave.

"Is he going to return to Oak Hall?"

"I presume so. He left his motor-boat and some other things up there, so I heard."

"We can get along without Nat Poole, Dave."

"Right you are, Lazy," put in Phil Lawrence. "But maybe, with Link Merwell gone, he won't be quite so bad as he was."

"Oh, that horrid Link Merwell!" cried Jessie. "I trust we never see or hear of him again!"

"Well, one thing is certain, Merwell will never get back to Oak Hall," said Dave. "He got his walking papers and that settled it. He is out for good, the same as Nick Jasniff."

"Dave, have you heard anything about Jasniff lately?" questioned Phil.

"One of the boys wrote that he had heard Nick had returned to the United States. Personally, I haven't seen or heard from him since we met in Europe—and I don't want to see him," added Dave, earnestly.

Toot! toot! came from behind the leading automobile, and a moment later the second car ranged up alongside.

"Guess you folks are doing more talking than running!" cried Roger, with a grin. "Here is where we show you the road!" And in a twinkling the second car shot ahead, and was "hitting her up," as Ben expressed it, at thirty miles an hour. Dave immediately turned on more speed likewise, and over the smooth, straight road both machines spun.

"Oh, Dave, is it safe?" asked Jessie, with a little gasp, as the speed increased.

"Yes,—as long as we are on the straight road," he answered. "We'll have to slow down at the turn."

"I like to ride fast-but not too fast," said Lucy Basswood, Ben's cousin, the other girl in the car.

The turn in the road was almost gained, and both machines had slowed down once more, when there came a shrill, screeching whistle from behind, and a racing car shot into sight, moving along with a great noice, for the muffler had been cut out. All of the girls screamed in fright and instinctively Dave and Roger ran their cars as close to the right side of the road as possible. Then, with a roar, the racing car shot past, sending up a cloud of dust, and a shower of small stones, one of which hit Laura Porter in the cheek, and another striking Phil in the ear.

"Fellows that run that way ought to be arrested," was Roger's comment.

"Oh, I was so afraid we should be struck!" gasped Jessie, sinking back into her seat with a white face.

"Did you recognize them?" asked Belle Endicott.

"I didn't have time to look," answered Roger. "I was busy getting out the way."

"Just what I was doing," added Dave. "I didn't want them to take off the mudguard, or a wheel."

"I caught sight of one of the fellows," said Ben Basswood. "He looked right at me as he passed."

"Who was it?" questioned several eagerly.

"Nat Poole."

"Nat Poole!" cried Dave. "Surely, he wasn't driving that racing car."

"No, he was in the rear, with another chap,—and two were on the front seat. But I didn't recognize any of the others."

"I saw that machine in Crumville last week," said Laura. "I believe it belongs in Lumberdale."

"I hope those fellows are not bound for Shady Glen Falls," said Laura. "It would quite spoil our outing, to have such persons around."

"A picnic like ours would be dead slow for that crowd," remarked Phil. "If they stop anywhere, it will be most likely at some roadhouse, where they can drink and smoke, and play pool and cards."

The racing car had long since disappeared in the distance, and now the other automobiles proceeded on their way. The girls were very nervous, and the boys did all in their power to remove the strain. But the girls declared that they had had a narrow escape from a serious accident, and it put much of a damper on the trip.

"If ever I meet the driver of that car I'll give him a piece of my mind," said Dave. "It's against the law to run at such high speed."

The distance to Shady Glen Falls from Crumville was thirty-five miles. The last half of the journey was over a winding dirt road, and the boys had calculated that it would take them two hours to reach the picnic grounds.

"We'll go by way of Darnell's Corners, and come back by way of Haslow," said Dave. "That will give us a sort of round trip." And so it was decided.

Darnell's Corners was but five miles from the Falls. It was only a small settlement, boasting of a tavern, a blacksmith shop, a church, and two stores. As they came in sight of the place Phil uttered a cry:

"There is that racing car now!"

Phil was right, the car stood in front of the tavern, the engine still running and letting out short puffs of smoke.

"Where are the fellows who were in it?" questioned Sam.

"Must have gone inside for a drink," answered Ben.

"Here come two of them now," said Roger, in a low voice, as the tavern door swung open and two young men appeared, each wearing a linen duster and a touring cap.

"It's Nat Poole!" cried Jessie.

"I know that driver," said Dave. "He is Pete Barnaby, a sport from Lumberdale. He used to follow the horse races before autoing became popular. He once tried to sell Caspar Potts a horse, but we found out the animal was doctored up and worthless, and we didn't take him. Barnaby was furious when the deal fell through."

"I've heard of him," said Ben. "He wanted to sell my father a horse, but father wouldn't have anything to do with him."

While the boys were talking the tavern door had swung open again, and now two other persons stepped forth. They, too, wore linen dusters and touring caps, and one carried a basket containing something to eat and to drink.

"Dave!" cried Phil, in astonishment. "Look who they are!"

"Link Merwell and Nick Jasniff!" murmured Dave. "How in the world did they get here, and what underhanded work are they up to now?"