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CHAPTER V


WHAT HAPPENED TO NAT POOLE


The students of dormitories No. 11 and No. 12 scarcely had time to get to bed when they heard a noise in the apartment Nat Poole and some others occupied. First came a subdued groan, followed by another, and then they heard Nat Poole get up.

"What's the matter?" they heard a student named Belcher ask.

"Why—er—I'm burning up!" gasped Nat Poole. "Let me get a drink of water!" And he leaped from his bedside to where there was a stand with a pitcher of ice-water and a glass.

He was so eager to get the water that, in the semi-darkness, he hit the stand with his arm. Over it went, and the pitcher and glass fell to the floor with a crash. The noise aroused everybody in the dormitory.

"What's the matter?"

"Are burglars breaking in?"

"Confound the luck!" muttered Nat Poole. "Oh, I must get some water! I am burning up alive!"

"What's done it?" questioned Belcher.

"I—er—never mind now. I am burning up and must have some water!" roared the dudish pupil, and dashed out of the dormitory in the direction of a water tank located at the end of the hall.

Here he was a little more careful and got the drink he desired. But scarcely had he taken a mouthful when he ejected it with great force.

"Wow! how bitter that tastes!" he gasped. Then of a sudden he commenced to shiver. "Wonder if that salad poisoned me? Who gave it to me, anyhow?"

He tried the water again, but it was just as bitter as before. Then he ran to a bathroom, to try the water there. By this time his mouth and throat felt like fire, and, thoroughly scared, he ran back to his sleeping apartment and began to yell for help.

His cries aroused a good portion of the inmates of Oak Hall, and students came from all directions to see what was the matter. They found poor Nat sitting on a chair, the picture of misery.

"I—I guess I'm poisoned and I'm going to die!" he wailed. "Somebody better get a doctor."

"What did you eat?" demanded half a dozen boys.

"I—er—I ate some salad a fellow brought to me in the dark. I don't know who he was. Oh, my throat! It feels as if a red-hot poker was in it! And I can't drink water either! Oh, I know I am going to die!"

"Try oil—that's good for a burn," suggested one student, and he brought forth some cod liver oil. Nat hated cod liver oil almost as much as poison, but he was scared and took the dose without a murmur. It helped a little, but his throat felt far from comfortable and soon it commenced to burn as much as ever.

By this time Doctor Clay had been aroused and he came to the dormitory in a dressing gown and slippers.

"Nat Poole has been poisoned!" cried several.

"Poisoned!" ejaculated the master of the Hall. "How is this, Poole?" and he strode to the suffering pupil's side.

"I—I don't know," groaned Nat. "I—er—ate some mince pie and some salad——"

"Perhaps it is only indigestion," was the doctor's comment. "You may get over it in a little while."

"But my throat——" And then the dudish boy stopped short. The fire in his mouth and throat had suddenly gone down—like a tooth stopping its aching.

"What were you going to say?" asked Doctor Clay.

"Why, I—that is—my throat isn't so bad now." And Nat's face took on a sudden sheepish look. In some way he realized he had been more scared than hurt.

"Let me have a look at your throat," went on the master of the Hall and took his pupil to a strong light. "It is a little red, but that is all. Is your stomach all right?"

"It seems to be—and the pain in my throat and mouth is all gone now," added Nat.

The doctor handed him a glass of water a boy had brought and Nat tried it. The liquid tasted natural, much to his surprise, and the drink made him feel quite like himself once more.

"I—I guess I am all right now," he said after an awkward pause. "I—er—am sorry I woke you up."

"After this be careful of how much you eat," said the doctor, stiffly. "If a boy stuffs himself on mince pie and salad he is bound to suffer for it." Then he directed all the students to go to bed at once, and retired to his own apartment.

If ever a lad was puzzled that lad was Nat Poole. For the life of him he could not determine whether he had suffered naturally or whether a trick had been played on him. He wanted very much to know who had brought him the salad, but could not find out. For days after the boys would yell "mince pie" and "salad" at him, much to his annoyance.

"That certainly was a good one," was Phil's comment. "I reckon Nat will learn to keep his hands off of things after this." And he and the others had a good laugh over the trick Dave had played. It proved to be perfectly harmless, for the next day Poole felt as well as ever.

As Dave had said, he was determined to make up the lessons lost during his trip to England and Norway, and he consequently applied himself with vigor to all his studies. At this, Mr. Dale, who was head teacher, was particularly pleased, and he did all he could to aid the youth.

As during previous terms, Dave had much trouble with Job Haskers. A brilliant teacher, Haskers was as arbitrary and dictatorial as could be imagined, and he occasionally said things which were so sarcastic they cut to the quick. Very few of the boys liked him, and some positively hated him.

"I always feel like fighting when I run up against old Haskers," was the way Roger expressed himself. "I'd give ten dollars if he'd pack his trunk and leave."

"And then come back the next day," put in Phil, with a grin.

"Not much! When he leaves I want him to stay away!"

"That puts me in mind of a story," said Shadow, who was present.

"What, another!" cried Dave, with a mock groan. "Oh, but this is dreadful!"

"Not so bad—as you'll soon see. A boy had a little dog, who could howl morning, noon, and night, to beat the band. Next door to the boy lived a very nervous man. Said he to the boy one day: 'Will you sell me that dog for a dollar?' 'Make it two dollars and the dog is yours,' answered the boy. So the man, to get rid of that howling dog, paid the boy the two dollars and shipped the dog to the pound. Then he asked the boy: 'What are you going to do with the two dollars?' 'Buy two more dogs,' said the boy. Then the man went away and wept."

"That's all right!" cried Sam Day, and everybody laughed. Then he added: "What can disturb a fellow more than a howling dog at night?"

"I know," answered Dave, quietly.

"What?"

"Two dogs," and then Dave ducked to avoid a book that Sam threw at him.

"Speaking of dogs reminds me of something," said Buster Beggs. "You all remember Mike Marcy, the miserly old farmer whose mule we returned some time ago."

"I am not likely to forget him," answered Dave, who had had more than one encounter with the fellow, as my old readers are aware.

"Well, he has got a very savage dog and has posted signs all over his place, 'Beware of the Dog!' Two or three of the fellows, who were crossing his corner lot one day, came near being bitten."

"Were you one of them?" asked Roger.

"Yes, and we weren't doing anything either—only crossing the vacant lot to take a short-cut to the school, to avoid being late."

"I was in the crowd," said Luke Watson, "and I had a good mind to kill the dog."

"We'll have to go over some day and see Marcy," said Phil. "I haven't forgotten how he accused me of stealing his apples."

"He once accused me of stealing a chicken," put in a boy named Messmer. "I'd like to take him down a peg or two for that."

"Let us go over to his place next week some time and tease him," suggested another boy named Henshaw, and some of the others said they would bear his words in mind.

Messmer and Henshaw were the owners of an ice-boat named the Snowbird. They had built the craft themselves, and, while it was not very handsome, it had good going qualities, and that was all the boys wanted.

"Come on out in the Snowbird," said Henshaw, to Dave and several of the others, on the following Saturday afternoon, when there was no school. "The ice on the river is very good, and the wind is just right for a spin."

"Thanks, I'll go with pleasure," answered Dave; and soon the party was off. The river, frozen over from end to end, was alive with skaters and ice-boats, and presented a scene of lightheartedness and pleasure.

"There goes an ice-boat from the Rockville military academy," said Messmer, presently. "I guess they don't want to race. They haven't forgotten how we beat them." And he was right; the Rockville ice-boat soon tacked to the other side of the river, the cadets on board paying no attention to the Oak Hall students.

The boys on the ice-boat did not go to their favorite spot, Robber Island, but allowed the Snowbird to sweep up an arm of the river, between several large hills. The hills were covered with hemlocks and cedars, between which the snow lay to a depth of one or two feet.

"Do you know what I'd like to do some day?" remarked Roger. "Come up here after rabbits." He had a shotgun, of which he was quite proud.

"I believe you'd find plenty," answered Dave. "I'd like to go myself. I used to hunt, when I was on the farm."

"Let us walk up the hills and take a look around—now we are here," continued the senator's son. "If we see any rabbits' tracks we'll know they are on hand."

Dave agreed, and he, Roger, and Phil left the ice-boat, stating they would be back in half an hour.

"All right!" sang out Messmer. "We'll cruise around in the meantime. When we get back we'll whistle for you."

The tramp through the deep snow was not easy, yet the three chums enjoyed it, for it made them feel good to be out in the clear, cold atmosphere, every breath of which was invigorating. They went on silently, so as not to disturb any game that might be near.

"Here are rabbit tracks! " said Dave, in a low tone, after the top of the first hill was gained, and he pointed to the prints, running around the trees and bushes. "Shooting ought certainly to be good in this neighborhood."

From one hill they tramped to another, the base of which came down to the river at a point where there was a deep spot known as Lagger's Hole. Here the ice was usually full of air-holes and unsafe, and skaters and ice-boats avoided the locality.

From the top of the hill the boys commenced to throw snowballs down on the ice, seeing who could throw the farthest. Then Phil suggested they make a big snowball and roll it down.

"I'll bet, if it reaches the ice, it will go clear across the river," said the shipowner's son.

"All right, let's try it," answered Dave and Roger, and the three set to work to make a round, hard ball. They rolled it around the top of the hill until it was all of three feet in diameter and then pushed it to the edge.

"Now then, send her down! " cried Phil, and the three boys gave a push that took the big snowball over the edge of the hill. Slowly at first and then faster and faster, it rolled down the hill, increasing in size as it progressed.

"It's getting there! " sang out Roger. "See how it is shooting along!"

"Look!" yelled Dave, pointing up the river. "An ice-boat is coming!"

All looked and saw that he was right. It was a craft from the Rockville academy, and it was headed straight for the spot where the big snowball was about to cross.

"If the snowball hits them, there will be a smash-up!" cried Roger.

"And that is just what is going to happen, I fear," answered Dave.