Dave Porter and His Rivals/Chapter 28

CHAPTER XXVIII


A DISCOVERY OF INTEREST


It was a stinging rebuke, and everybody within hearing felt its effect. There was a sudden hush, and then Bolton turned and skated away, muttering savagely under his breath.

Once more the game proceeded, but before the puck could be gotten within striking distance of either goal the whistle blew; and the first half of the game came to an end.

"Wonder what Nat Poole thinks of his team now?" remarked Roger, as the boys gathered in a group to discuss the plays made.

"He is as mad as hops," reported Plum. "He says Bolton was not to blame, and that it wasn't fair for Mr. Dodsworth to rule him off."

"They ought to be satisfied," said Messmer, who was close by. "Langley, the substitute, is as good as Bolton, if not better."

"Say, we must keep them from scoring in the second half!" cried Ben. "That will break Nat's heart. He has been blowing constantly that he was going to do us up."

"Look out for tricks," cautioned Dave. "They may have something up their sleeve they haven't tried yet—although I doubt it."

Promptly on time the second half of the game started. As soon as the puck was put into action it was seen that Nat's team had adopted new tactics. This was to "worry" the disc along close to the side line, and in such a manner that Dave's seven had to either miss it or run the risk of off-side plays.

"Get it out, fellows!" cried Dave, and then gave a signal to bring it back. This was not expected by the Poole players, and before they realized what was occurring, the Porter seven had the puck nearly to the goal net. Here a fierce fight occurred, and the disc went back and forth with astonishing rapidity. But at last Dave got it and made a goal so swiftly and so neatly it brought forth tremendous applause.

"Another for Porter's side!"

"Say, they are piling 'em up, aren't they?"

"Come, Nat! Get in the game and show us what you can do!"

With a glum face Nat Poole ordered his team to their places, and again the try for a goal started. But the seven was now thoroughly demoralized, and another goal was made by the Porters in less than four minutes. Then followed three minutes of ragged work near the middle of the field, and then the whistle blew and it was all over.

"And a regular slaughter for Nat Poole's team," was the comment of one of the students.

"It knocked us out to take Bolton out of the game," grumbled Nat. "That wasn't fair."

"Bolton wasn't any better than the rest," answered Phil. "Nat, you were beaten fairly and squarely, and you know it."

"Oh, shut up!" growled the money-lender's son, and hurried away out of sight as soon as possible.

"Well, young gentlemen," said Mr. Dodsworth to Dave and his followers, "you did very well, and I am proud of you."

"Mr. Dodsworth, do you think we stand any chance of beating Rockville?" asked Dave, earnestly.

"I do, yes. But it will be no easy work."

"Not as easy as to-day, eh?" put in Ben, with a grin.

"By no means, Basswood. I have seen the Rockville seven play two games, and they are very quick and clever. No, you must not look for any walk-over. If you win it will only be by good, clean-cut work."

"Then I can send an acceptance of their challenge?" questioned Dave.

"Yes, and you had better do it at once," answered the instructor; and the letter was sent by special messenger within the hour.

That evening the boys celebrated their victory by lighting a number of bonfires along the river. They were allowed to be out an hour later than usual, and skated and had a good time generally. Nat Poole and his cronies were not in evidence, but nobody missed them.

"I hope we don't get snow," remarked Dave, on retiring. "A heavy fall would knock out the game with Rockville."

"Oh, they could clear the ice," answered Phil. "But I'd like to see it stay clear."

But this was not to be. All day Sunday the sky was overcast, and by Monday morning it was snowing furiously, blotting out the landscape on all sides.

"Here is where we stay indoors and do some studying," remarked Roger, making a wry face.

"Good chance to catch up," was Ben's comment. "I've got to bone at some Latin anyway."

"And I have a theme to finish," added Dave. "Let us do all the studying we can," he went on. "Then, if it clears off, we'll have so much more time outdoors."

This proposal was accepted by the lads of Nos. 11 and 12, and soon nearly all of them were at work over their lessons. The exception was Luke Watson, who said he was ahead in his studies for once.

"I am going to put my clothing in order," said Luke. "My closet and my bureau drawers are something fierce. I hardly know where to find a necktie or a shoe any more."

"You ought to follow Polly's example," suggested Dave. "He has everything as neat as a pin."

"It's easy enough," said the girlish student. "All you've got to do is to put everything in its proper place at the start, and then put it back after you have used it."

"Say, that puts me in mind of a story," began Shadow. "Once two boys——"

"Drop it!"

"We are studying, not listening to stories!"

"Throw a book at him if he opens his mouth again!"

"All right, if you don't want to hear it," murmured Shadow, and turned to his own lessons.

Luke arranged his bureau drawers to his satisfaction, and then went to his clothing closet. Out came several suits of clothing, some shoes and slippers, and a quantity of other things.

"I don't see why I am keeping these old slippers," he murmured, half to himself. "I haven't worn 'em this term. Guess I'll turn 'em over to Pop Swingly. He might get a little good out of 'em."

"Did you speak to me, Luke?" asked Dave, looking up from his books.

"No. I was musing over these old slippers. I am going to give 'em away."

"Maybe some poor person would be glad to get them."

"I don't know any poor person around here. I'll turn 'em over to Pop Swingly. He can—— Hello, what's this?"

Luke had turned the slippers over in his hand, and from the toe of one of them had dropped a small, shining object. Luke picked it up with interest.

"Why, it's a watch charm!" exclaimed Dave, coming forward.

"So it is! How did that get in my slipper?"

"What's that?" cried Shadow, coming over, while some of the other students did the same.

"Luke just found this watch charm stuck in the toe of one of his old slippers," explained Dave.

"That is Nat Poole's charm—the one he lost from his watch-chain!" cried Ben.

"Are you sure, Ben?"

"Pretty sure, yes. I've seen it often enough to know it."

"Yes, it looks like Nat's charm," said Roger.

"And was that charm in your slipper?" questioned Shadow, excitedly.

"Yes, it just dropped out."

"Were those slippers taken at the time all our shoes and boots and slippers disappeared?" continued Shadow.

"Yes. Say, Shadow, you don't think——"

"Yes, I do!" shouted the lad who had the reputation of walking in his sleep. "I think Nat Poole took those shoes, slippers, and boots, and then got scared in some way and returned them. And when he boxed 'em up he caught his watch charm in the slipper, and the charm dropped inside."

"It looks reasonable," was Dave's comment.

"You let me have that charm and I'll find out about this," went on Shadow. "I'll show him he can't do such a thing and then shove it off on me, and make folks believe I took the shoes while I was walking in my sleep!"

"Going after Nat now?" asked Buster.

"Yes."

"Do you want anybody along?" asked Dave. "Better have witnesses to this."

"All right; Dave, you come along,—and you too, Phil. I guess you want to know what became of that missing gym. shoe."

"So I do," answered the shipowner's son.

"Where is Nat?" asked Roger.

"I don't know, but I'll soon find out," answered Shadow, with determination. He had been deeply chagrined over the disappearance of the shoes, boots, and slippers, and had felt it keenly when he was suspected of having walked in his sleep once again and made off with the foot coverings.

The three students left the dormitory, and from another lad learned that Nat was in the library. They sent a small boy after him, stating that he was wanted at once at the "den," a room where the students sometimes congregated, but which just then was deserted.

Wondering what was coming, the money-lender's son soon put in an appearance. He had not been told who wished to see him, and his face fell when he saw Shadow, Dave, and Phil.

"What do you want?" he asked, surlily. "I am busy this afternoon."

"Nat, is this your watch charm, the one you lost?" questioned Shadow, holding out the piece in his hand.

"Sure it is!" cried the money-lender's son. "Where did you find it?"

"Found it just where you lost it—in Luke Watson's slipper."

"Eh?" And Nat looked startled.

"Nat, we have found you out!" cried Shadow, sternly. "You needn't attempt to deny it. You took those shoes, boots, and slippers."

"Who says so?"

"I do."

"I—I did not."

"Yes, you did."

"Don't you know you were seen?" asked Phil, with a wink at his chums.

It was only a chance shot, but it told in a most unexpected way.

"Say, has Tom Rally been talking about me?" roared Nat, in sudden rage. "If he has I'll—I'll——"

"Now, take it easy," advised Dave. "Nat, don't you realize that this is a serious matter?"

"I don't care! I'll fix Hally, see if I don't!"

At that moment the door opened, and the boy who had been rescued from the hole in the snowy hollow came in with several chums.

"Hally, come here!" called Phil.

"Say, did you give me away, after all?" demanded Nat Poole, rushing forward and catching Tom Hally by the arm.

"Let go of me!" returned Hally. "I don't know what you are talking about."

"Yes, you do, you sneak!"

"I'm no sneak!" And Tom Hally's eyes flashed dangerously.

"Hally, tell me, did Nat Poole take our shoes and boots and slippers that night?" demanded Dave.

"He did." Hally grew red in the face. "I wasn't going to mention it, but now you ask me a direct question I'll not tell a falsehood. He took the shoes and hid them in the trunk room. I caught him doing it, but I thought it was only a joke, and so kept silent. Then, after you fellows rescued me from the hole in the snow, I made Nat send the shoes back. At first I was going to tell on him, but, somehow, I didn't want to play the sneak."

"I understand," answered Dave. He turned to Shadow. "This clears you."

"So it does, Shadow, and I am mighty glad of it," put in Phil.

"Yes, it clears me," answered the student who was known as a sleep-walker. "Or at least, I will be cleared—after I am done with Nat Poole," and Shadow looked at the money-lender's son in a manner that was full of grim significance.