Dave Porter and His Rivals/Chapter 4

CHAPTER IV


AN UNEXPECTED ARRIVAL


"This is the time we get the best of Dave Porter!" whispered Link Merwell to his cronies. "I guess we have spoiled their picnic."

"I—I—don't think th—they'll fight," faltered Nat, as Dave leaped to the ground, followed by his chums.

"Better arm yourselves with clubs," suggested Nick Jasniff. "Remember, we are only three to five."

"Maybe we had better—er—go away," returned the money-lender's son, hesitatingly.

"No, I am going to see the thing out," answered Jasniff.

"So am I," added Merwell. "Don't go, Nat—they won't dare to fight—with the girls looking on."

"Whoa, there! Whoa!" came a cry from behind the two touring cars, and looking back the boys and girls saw a man drive up on a buckboard drawn by a spirited horse.

"Why, if it isn't Jed Sully!" cried Ben.

"Who is he?" questioned Sam.

"Sort of a roadmaster in these parts. I suppose he is going around, inspecting the roads and bridges."

"Then he ought to be able to tell us about this road!" put in Phil, quickly.

"Hello! What's the meaning of this?" demanded Jed Sully, after alighting. And he strode forward and confronted the boys.

"How are you, Mr. Sully?" said Dave, for he had met the roadmaster before.

"Oh, so it's you, Dave! Blocked up, eh?"

And the roadmaster looked first at Dave and his chums and then at those standing on the other side of the barrier. "Who did this?"

"They did," answered Roger, and pointed to the other crowd.

"What for?" And the roadmaster's voice grew a bit hard.

"Nat Poole, there, claims that his father has a right to close this road," explained Dave. "He put up a barrier some distance back, but we passed it. Now he and his friends have put up this."

"And we want to know if they have a right to do it," added Ben. "I had an idea the new paper company bought only one side of the road."

"So it did," answered Jed Sully. "And even if it bought both sides it couldn't close off this road, which is a public highway." He turned to Nat. "Are you Aaron Poole's son?"

"Ye-as," faltered the youth addressed, and he commenced to look worried.

"Did your father give you orders to close off this road?"

"Why—er—he—that is," stammered Nat. "What business is it of yours, anyway?" he cried.

"It is a good deal of my business," responded Jed Sully, warmly. "I am the roadmaster for this district, and I won't allow you or anybody else to close off this road, or any other, without special permission. You had no right to put those logs across the road away back, and put up that sign, and I want you to take 'em away as soon as you can."

"Well, my father bought this land, and——"

"No, he didn't buy it; the paper company bought it," corrected Jed Sully. "But that gave 'em no right to close the road. You take that stuff out of the way, and at once, or I'll have you locked up." And walking around the barrier he caught Nat by the arm.

"Let go—don't you touch me!" screamed the money-lender's son, trying to jerk away.

"You let my friend alone," broke in Nick Jasniff, and made a motion as if to use his club.

"Here, none of that—or I'll have you all in the lock-up in jig time," said the roadmaster, so sternly that Jasniff allowed the club to drop to his side. He turned again to Dave and his friends. "Did you see these chaps put this stuff here?"

"Yes," replied the others.

"Then get to work and clear it away instantly, or I'll lock you all up, and these fellows can testify against you," continued the roadmaster, to Nat and his cronies.

"Good! that's the way to talk to 'em! " cried Roger, in a low voice.

"I guess Nat didn't expect to meet the roadmaster," returned Sam.

The money-lender's son and his cronies tried to argue the matter, but Jed Sully would not listen to them. He knew Aaron Poole, and had no love for the man who had on more than one occasion foreclosed a mortgage, and driven people out of house and home.

"I'll give you ten minutes to clear the road," he said, taking out a big silver watch. "If it ain't cleared by that time I'll take you over to Lumberdale and lock you up."

"I won't touch a stick!" cried Jasniff, defiantly.

"Nor I," added Merwell.

"Oh, but—er—I don't want to be locked up!" whined Nat.

"You said your dad had a right to the road," said Jasniff, in disgust.

"I thought he did have, but—er—I guess I was mistaken. Oh, come on and help me!" pleaded Nat, and set to work without further delay, to clear the road.

Jasniff and Merwell were very angry, but they did not care to let their crony do all the work, and they were a bit afraid of Jed Sully, so presently they took hold and aided the money-lender's son in clearing the highway.

"As soon as you've finished here you'll come back with me and clear the other spot," said the roadmaster. "And you can tear up that sign, for it is no good."

"I'm going to put it up near the Falls," answered Nat. "Nobody can come down there any more."

"Then you'd better put up a fence to keep 'em out," was the roadmaster's comment.

"You don't want us to come back with you, do you?" asked Dave, in a whisper. "We are off for a picnic and it is getting late."

"No, you can go on if you want to," answered Jed Sully. "I can manage them, I reckon. If they give me any trouble I'll put 'em in the lock-up and get you to testify to what they did on the road."

"Oh, Dave, let us go on!" cried Jessie. "I don't want to stay here another minute."

The others were all anxious to depart, and as soon as the road was entirely clear the two touring cars were started up.

"Hope you have a nice time clearing away that other stuff," remarked Phil to Nat Poole and his cronies, as the machine passed on.

"Don't you crow,—we are not done with you yet!" shouted Merwell, and Jasniff shook his fist at the departing cars. Nat Poole felt so humiliated he turned his gaze in another direction.

"It was a lucky thing that that roadmaster came along when he did," remarked Sam, when the scene of the encounter had been left behind. "If he hadn't showed up I don't know what we should have done."

"Maybe we would have had a fight," returned Ben.

"Oh, I am glad it didn't come to that!" cried Jessie, and her face showed her relief.

"Wonder what became of the racing car and Pete Barnaby?" questioned the shipowner's son.

"Perhaps Barnaby went ahead to make more trouble for us!" said Dave. "We had better be on our guard," he called to Roger.

"I'll follow you at a safe distance, as I did before," answered the senator's son.

The Falls were passed, and then they commenced to ascend a long hill, leading to Lookout Point. Just before the spot was reached they took to another side road, and were glad to see that no other automobile had passed that way.

"We'll have the Lookout all to ourselves," said Dave. "And that is just what we want."

"Maybe I'm not getting hungry!" cried Phil. "I really believe I could choke down a chicken sandwich, if I was forced to do it!"

"'Forced' is good!" answered Dave. "Girls, be sure to keep the hamper away from Phil, or he won't leave enough behind to feed a canary," and this remark brought forth the first laugh since the trouble on the road.

They drove as close to Lookout Point as the road allowed, and then placed the two cars in a safe place under the trees.

"We must keep our eyes open," whispered Dave to the other boys. "That other crowd may sneak up and try to damage the machines, so as to make us walk from here."

"We'll watch out," answered Roger; and the others said the same.

While the boys started a campfire over which to boil some coffee, and obtained a bucket of fresh drinking water from a nearby spring, the girls spread a tablecloth over some flat rocks and set around the dishes and the things to eat. There was more than enough of everything to go around, and it was particularly appetizing after that long ride in the fresh air.

"I tell you, this is something like," cried Dave, munching on a sandwich and a stalk of celery. "I shouldn't mind having a picnic like this once a week regularly."

"Make it twice a week," returned Roger, who was eating a sandwich from one hand and a hard-boiled egg from the other.

"Who'll have some coffee?" cried Phil, coming up with a pot of the steaming beverage. "I've got to strain it through the corner of a napkin, but I guess that won't hurt it."

"Napkin, indeed!" cried Jessie. "There is a strainer in the spout."

"Oh, is there? I didn't look in to see. Well, here goes! Coffee! Ten cents a cup, or two cups for a nickel! Good for the complexion and warranted to cure the blues!" cried the shipowner's son gayly, and swung the pot around over his head.

"Hi 1 Look out there!" roared Sam, clapping his hand to his ear. "I like coffee, but I don't drink it that way!" And he wiped off a few drops that had reached him.

"Phil is fined one horseshoe nail for spilling the coffee," cried Dave.

"Don't nail me so soon!" answered the shipowner's son gayly.

"Shoo! Just to hear that!" murmured Roger.

"I'm too hoarse to answer to that!" said Ben.

"Say, do you know why a lawyer likes to drink coffee?" asked Sam.

"Why?" asked the girls, in a chorus.

"Because there is always a fee in it for him," was the answer. And then the joker had to dodge an olive and a pickle that Dave and Phil hurled at him, while all the girls giggled.

An hour was spent over the lunch, the boys doing their best to entertain the girls and succeeding admirably. Of course a good many of the things that were said were silly, but everybody was in good humor and out for a good time, so what did it matter? In their high spirits they forgot all about the unfortunate occurrence of the

After the lunch the boys helped the girls clean up and put away what was left, and then all strolled about, first to the edge of the Lookout, to view the scenery, and then to the woods and the brook beyond. Dave naturally paired off with Jessie, while Roger went with Laura, and Phil with Belle.

"Well, it won't be long now before I'll be off again for Oak Hall," said Dave, as he and Jessie stood where the brook tumbled over a series of rocks, making a murmur pleasant to hear.

"Yes, Dave, and I—I shall be sorry to have you go," said Jessie, looking him full in the eyes.

"You'll write to me often, won't you, Jessie?" he asked, in a lower voice.

"I'll answer every letter you send, Dave," and now she cast down her eyes for a moment. "I always do."

"I know it and you can't imagine how much I treasure those letters," he went on.

"Well, I—I think a lot of your letters, too," she whispered.

"Then you want me to write very often?"

"Yes."

"All right, I will. And, Jessie——" continued Dave, but just then a shout from Sam interrupted him.