Dave Porter and His Rivals/Chapter 14



One of the strange cadets was driving the automobile, and hardly had it come to a stop when Merwell and Jasniff bounded out on the sidewalk, directly in front of Dave and his friends.

"Why—er—hello!" stammered Jasniff, and then, recognizing the girls, he grinned broadly, and tipped his cap.

"How do you do?" said Merwell, to Mary and Vera, and at the same time ignoring Dave and his chums.

The two girls stared in astonishment, for they had not expected to see the very lads about whom they had been conversing. But they quickly recovered and turned their backs on the newcomers.

"What's the matter don't you want to speak to me?" demanded Jasniff, a sickly look overspreading his face.

"I assuredly do not, Mr. Jasniff," answered Vera, stiffly.

"And I suppose you don't want to speak to me either," came sourly from Link Merwell.

"You are right, Mr. Merwell—I do not."

"After this you will please us best by not recognizing us," added Mary, coldly.

"Oh, I see how it is—these chaps have been filling you up with stories about us!" cried Merwell, roughly. "Well, if you want to believe them you can do it. I don't care!" And he turned on his heel and entered a near-by store.

"Some day you'll wish you hadn't made such friends of Porter & Company," said Jasniff, and he glared defiantly at Dave and his chums. "Maybe you'll find that they are not just what you thought they were," and having thus delivered himself, he, too, entered the store. In the meantime the automobile had gone on along the street to the post-office, where the two strange cadets went in to see about mail.

"Say, I think I'll lay for Merwell and Jasniff and——" began Phil, when a warning pinch on his arm from Dave caused him to break off.

There was an awkward pause, neither the boys nor the girls knowing exactly what to say or do.

"Well, we must be going," said Vera. "I promised to be home by dark."

"And I have some errands to do before I go back," added Mary. "So we'll say good-by."

"I hope we meet again," remarked Phil.

"Maybe we'll come to some of your football games," ventured Vera. "I did so enjoy some of those other games."

"We are not playing on the eleven this season," answered Dave. It gave him a little pang to make the admission.

"Oh, is that so!" Both of the girls gave the boys a studied look. "Well, we must be going." And then they hurried down the street, around a corner, and out of sight.

"Fellows, we ought to lay for those chaps!" cried Roger, as soon as the chums were alone.

"Just what I was going to suggest," broke in Phil.

"What good will it do?" asked Dave. "We can't make anything out of Merwell and Jasniff by talking, and we don't want to start a fight."

"I'd like to duck 'em in a mud pond!" muttered the shipowner's son. "It is what they deserve."

"They deserve tar and feathers!" was Roger's comment. "Why, in some places they'd be run out of town. How they ever got into Rockville Academy I can't understand."

"Money sometimes goes a great way," said Dave. "They may have literally bought their way in—that is, their parents may have done it for them."

The three students had passed to the other side of the street. Now they looked down the highway and saw the automobile go around a corner in the direction of Rockville. But the machine soon came to a halt again, although they did not know it.

"Well, I am going to lay them out for taking that boat, anyway," said the senator's son.

"Ditto here," added Phil.

"Physically or mentally?" queried Dave, with something of a smile.

"Both—if it's necessary," returned the shipowner's son, promptly. It was easy to see he was spoiling for a fight.

"I am going to see what they are doing," said Roger, after another minute had passed. "Maybe they won't come out until they think we have gone away."

He recrossed the street, and peered through one of the show windows of the store. Then, of a sudden, he made a rapid motion for his chums to join him.

"They are going out by a back way!" he cried. "The sneaks! They intend to give us the slip!"

"They shan't do it!" exclaimed Phil. "Come on!" And he set off on a run, with the others at his heels. They turned one corner and then another, and soon reached an alleyway between two houses located on a street behind the store. Here they plumped squarely into Merwell and Jasniff, each with a bundle under his arm.

"So this is the way you sneak away, eh?" demanded Phil.

"Sneak away!" blustered Merwell. "Not at all—we were only taking a short cut; ain't that so, Nick?"

"Sure," answered Jasniff, loudly. "We don't have to sneak away from anybody."

"We've a good mind to give you both a sound thrashing," cried Phil, angrily. "You had no business to touch our boat."

"And you had no business to talk about us to Miss Feversham and Miss Rockwell," added the senator's son.

"See here, you let us pass!" muttered Merwell. "Don't you dare to lay your fingers on us!" And he tried to edge to one side.

"See here, both of you," said Dave, sternly. "I want to give you a final warning. You have been talking about us; I know it, and it is useless for you to deny it. Now I want you to understand this: If you say another word against me, or against Phil or Roger, I'll see to it that you are exposed to every student at Rockville Academy."

"You won't dare!" cried Jasniff. His voice trembled a little as he spoke.

"I will dare, Nick Jasniff. I know what you are and I know what Link Merwell is and I don't propose to stand any more of your under-handed work. Now you have your last warning,—and if you are wise you'll heed it."

"Say, do you want to fight?" roared Jasniff, coming forward, and sticking his chin close to Dave's face.

"I can defend myself, Jasniff,—even when a fellow tried to take a foul advantage of me, as you did that time in the gym."

"Bah! Always ringing that in. I only swung the Indian club to scare you. I can fight with my fists."

"Well, remember what I said, Jasniff. It's my last warning."

"Oh, come on—they make me sick!" cried Link Merwell, a certain nervous tremor in his voice. "We don't want to listen to their hot air!" And plucking his crony by the arm he hurried out of the alleyway into the street.

"Shall we let 'em go, Dave?" whispered Phil. "I'd just as soon pound 'em good."

"If we did that, Phil, they'd claim we were three to two and took an unfair advantage of them. Let them go. They have their final warning, and if they don't heed it—well, they will have to take the consequences."

"I could hardly keep my hands off of Merwell."

"I felt the same way," said Roger. "He deserves all we could give him."

The three chums watched Merwell and Jasniff turn another corner. They expected to see the pair walk to where the automobile was standing, but instead noted that the two cadets entered the Oakdale Hotel.

"Must be going to see somebody," suggested Phil.

"Or else they have gone in to smoke and drink and play pool," added Roger. "You'll remember Merwell liked to drink. He was the one who did his best to lead Gus Plum astray."

"Yes, I remember that," answered Dave. "I am mighty glad Gus and he are keeping apart."

The three students walked past the hotel, and looking in at an open window, saw Jasniff and Merwell talking to a man who sat in the reading room with a newspaper in his hands.

"Why, that is that Hooker Montgomery!" exclaimed Roger. "The fake doctor who sells those patent medicines."

"We'd better not let him see us, or he'll be wanting a new silk hat from us," murmured Phil. And he grinned as he thought of what had occurred on the road on the day of their arrival at Oak Hall.

"I wonder if Jasniff met him at Dunn's on the river?" said Dave. "That is what the letter requested, you'll remember."

"Wonder what business Jasniff was to aid him in?" queried the shipowner's son.

"Maybe Jasniff is going to help him to dispose of some of his marvelous remedies," suggested Roger. "I reckon he could give the ignorant farmers as good a talk about them as Montgomery himself."

"More than likely, since Montgomery is a very ignorant man," answered Dave.

"The other fellows ought to be ready to go back to school by this time," said the senator's son, after watching those in the hotel for a minute. "Let us hunt them up;" and thus, for the time being, Jasniff, Merwell, and Doctor Montgomery were dismissed from their minds. The meeting at the hotel was an important one to our friends as well as to those who participated, but how important Dave and his chums did not learn until long afterwards.

It was a comical sight to see the boys of dormitories Nos. 11 and 12 walking back to the Hall, each with a shoe box under his arm. Sam Day led the procession, carrying his box up against his forearm, like a sword.

"Shoulder boxes!" he shouted, gayly. "Forward march!" And then he added: "Boom! boom! boom, boom, boom!" in imitation of a bass-drum.

"We've got boxes enough to last us for a year of picnics," cried Ben, for in Crumville, as in many other places, shoe boxes were frequently used for packing up picnic lunches.

"Say, that puts me in mind of a story!" put in Shadow, eagerly. "A girl who was going to get married had a shower, as they call 'em. Well, a wag of the town—maybe he was sore because he couldn't marry the girl himself—told all his friends, in private, that she was very anxious to get a nice bread-box. The shower was to be a surprise, and it was, too, for when it came off the girl got exactly eleven bread-boxes."

"Oh!" came in a groan. "The worst yet."

"Not so bad," said Dave, dryly. "If she filled the boxes the married pair must have proved a well-bred couple."

"Hark to that!" roared Phil. "Say, Dave, go and take a roll!"

"When it comes to a joke, Dave is the flower of this flock," was Luke's comment.

"Anyway, he takes the cake," murmured Ben.

"Ben, say something; don't loaf on the job," came from the senator's son.

"A joke like that is pie for Roger," murmured Polly Vane.

"Even so, nobody has a right to get crusty," murmured Plum.

"Or pious!" continued Dave, and then Shadow made a pass for him with a shoe box. Then Roger started to run, and the others came after him, and away they went in a merry bunch, along the road leading to Oak Hall. Soon they came out at a point where the highway ran along the Leming River, and there halted to rest, for the run had deprived some of them of their wind.

"I hear a motor-boat," said Roger. "Wonder if it is Nat Poole's craft?"

"It is!" answered Plum. "Here he comes, right close to shore!"

The river was a good fifteen feet below the level of the roadway, and gazing down through the bushes lining the water's edge, the students beheld Nat Poole's motor-boat gliding along in a zig-zag fashion. Nat was not in the craft, which was evidently running without an occupant.