Dave Porter at Star Ranch/Chapter 5



"See here, I want you to let me alone!" stormed Nat Poole, and he tried to jerk himself free.

"Listen, Nat," said Dave, sternly. "If you make a noise it will be the worse for you, for it will bring the others here, and then we'll tell about what you tried to do. Maybe Mrs. Wadsworth will call an officer, and anyway all the girls and the boys will be down on you. Now, if you want Phil and me to keep this a secret, you've got to come along with us."

"Where to?" grumbled Nat, doggedly.

"You'll soon see," returned Dave, briefly, and with a wink at his chum.

Somewhat against his will, Nat walked toward the end of the garden. He wished to escape from Mrs. Wadsworth and the others, but he was afraid Dave and Phil contemplated doing something disagreeable to him. Maybe they would give him a sound thrashing.

"Don't you touch me—don't you dare!" he cried, when the barn was reached. "Remember, my father can have you locked up, Dave Porter!"

"Well, don't forget what Professor Potts can do to you, Nat," answered Dave.

"What are you going to do?" asked Phil, in an aside to his chum.

Dave was trying to think. He had been half of a mind to lock Nat in the harness closet until the party was over—thus preventing him from making more trouble. Now, however, as he heard a locomotive whistle, a new thought struck him.

"Come on down to the railroad tracks, Nat," he said.

"What for?"

"Maybe you can take a journey for your health—if the freight train stops at the water tank."

"I—er—I don't understand."

"You will—if the train stops—and I think it will."

The three boys pushed off across the fields to where the railroad tracks were located. Here was the very spot where Dave had been picked up years before. Not far off was a water tank, where the locomotives usually stopped for their supply. A long freight train was just slowing down. Many of the cars were empty and the doors stood wide open.

"Up you go, Nat!" cried Dave.

"Me? Where?"

"Into one of the empty cars. You are going to have a ride for your health."

"Not much! Why, that train don't stop short of Jack's Junction, twelve miles from here!"

"I know it. You can walk back—the exercise will do you good."

"I—er—I don't want to go!" And Nat made as if to run away. But Dave and Phil held him.

"But you are going!" cried Dave. "In you go!"

He and Phil forced the money-lender's son toward one of the open cars. Still protesting, Nat was shoved up and through one of the open doors. The door on the other side was closed. He ran to it, but found it locked from the outside.

"Hi, you let me off!" he cried, as the train gave a jerk and commenced to move.

"Don't jump, you might hurt yourself!" cried Dave, and shoved the door shut.

"Hope you have a pleasant journey!" called out Phil, merrily.

"And a nice walk back!" added Dave.

The freight train quickly gathered headway. Dave and Phil ran down by the side of the tracks. They saw Nat shove back the door about a foot and peer out. He did not dare to jump, and, seeing them, shook his fist wildly.

"He's off!" cried the shipowner's son, and then commenced to laugh. "Dave, that was just all right! He's booked for quite a journey."

"Twelve miles, or more, and he'll either have to wait for a train, and pay his fare back, or walk."

"Exactly. And if the train hands catch him, maybe they'll give him the thrashing he deserves."

"They'll hustle him off pretty lively, that's sure. Well, one thing is certain, he won't bother this party any more," added Dave. "Let us get back."

They hurried to the house, and as they did so the freight train passed out of sight and hearing. They thought they had seen the last of Nat, but they were mistaken.

"Where have you boys been?" asked Laura, when they reappeared, after having brushed off their clothing.

"I'll tell you later," answered her brother.

"Anything serious?"

"Not very. It's all over now, Laura."

The party was now in full swing and proved a big success. The boys and girls played all sorts of games, and also did a little dancing. Then refreshments were served. When the icecream and cake were passed around, Phil and Dave could not help but look at each other, and the shipowner's son winked suggestively.

"Why are you winking at Dave?" demanded Roger.

"Did I wink?" questioned Phil, solemnly, and then Dave began to laugh and almost choked on a piece of cake in his mouth.

After the refreshments came more games and some singing, and it was nine o'clock before the lawn party came to an end. The girls and boys from the town went home mostly in pairs, but Ben remained behind, for he knew Dave and Phil had something to tell. All the lads congregated in the summerhouse and Laura and Jessie went with them.

"Wanted to spoil the ice-cream and chocolate layer-cakes!" cried Jessie. "Oh, how mean!"

"It served him right, to put him on the freight train!" was Laura's comment. "I hope he was carried about fifty miles, and has to walk back."

"He'll be trying another trick before we leave," said Roger. "We must keep our eyes open."

"Isn't it a shame he can't be nice?" came from Jessie. "If he keeps on like this, he'll not have a friend in the world."

"Well, he hasn't many friends now," answered Dave. "At Oak Hall the majority of the fellows turned him down just as they turned down Link Merwell."

"Oh, that Link Merwell!" sighed Laura. "I trust I never see or hear of him again!"

Bright and early the next day the boys arose and packed the last of their baggage. The girls were up, too, and joined the lads at the breakfast table. Dave's father was there, and also Uncle Dunston, as well as Mr. and Mrs. Wadsworth.

"Well, I certainly hope you all have a grand time," said the rich manufacturer.

"And I hope the outing does Jessie good," said his wife. Jessie was not very strong and the doctor had said that a trip to the Far West might do much towards building up her constitution.

"You must write often," said Mr. Porter to his daughter. "And make Dave write, too."

"I'll not forget," said the daughter, and Dave nodded.

It was rather a sober meal, although every one tried to be cheerful. The big touring-car, Mr. Wadsworth's latest purchase, was at the door, and the baggage had gone on ahead. Soon it was time to go.

"Good-by, everybody!" cried Dave, and shook hands with his father and Mrs. and Mr. Wadsworth. The lady of the house gave him a warm kiss, and kissed all the others.

"Wish you were going too, daddy!" cried Laura to her father.

"Well, I'll go the next time," was the answer, with a smile.

In another five minutes the boys and girls and Dunston Porter were off for the depot, the others waving their hands as the travelers disappeared. Tears came to Mrs. Wadsworth's eyes, at the parting with Jessie, yet she did her best to smile.

"We'll be back in six weeks!" called out Dave. "And as brown as berries and as strong as oxen!" And this caused everybody to laugh. Little did any of them realize what adventures those six weeks were to contain.

The train for Buffalo was on time, and when it rolled into the station they climbed on board, and the boys found the right seats in the parlor car and settled the girls. Ben was there, and had a seat with the crowd.

"I've got news," said Ben, as the train went on its way. "Nat Poole isn't back yet."

"Who told you?"

"Tom Marvin. He called this morning to see Nat about something. Nat had sent a telegram home from a place called Halock, stating he had been carried off on a freight train."

"Humph! then he went further than we supposed he would," mused Phil. "Where is Halock?"

Nobody knew, and they consulted a time-table taken from a rack in the car.

"It's a flag-station not far from Buffalo," announced Roger. "Say, he certainly was carried some distance!"

"What if he didn't have any money to get home with?" asked Laura.

"Maybe he telegraphed for some," said Phil.

"He could pawn his watch—he always wears one," added Ben. "But it is queer that he didn't get off at Jack's Junction."

"Perhaps he liked to ride—after he once got used to it," returned the senator's son.

On and on went the train, stopping at several towns of more or less importance. The girls and boys amused themselves studying the time-table and in gazing out of the window, and Dunston Porter told them of some of his experiences while roving in various portions of the globe, for, as my old readers are aware, he was a great traveler. At noon they went into the dining-car for lunch, and Dave and Roger sat at one table with Laura and Jessie opposite to them.

"Say, this puts me in mind of a story, as Shadow Hamilton would say," said the senator's son, as the train rushed along while they ate. "A little girl had a sandwich on a train like this, once, and then boasted afterwards that she had eaten a sandwich three miles long."

"Well, I think I'll eat some roast beef ten miles long," said Dave. "And two miles of apple pie to boot!" And this caused the girls to giggle.

They reached Buffalo in the middle of the afternoon and there had to wait until half-past ten for the night express to Chicago. Here Ben left them, for the boat he was to take was waiting at the dock.

"Send me a letter to Duluth," he said, on parting, and Dave promised to do so.

"I'll tell you what we might do," said Dunston Porter. "We can take a trolley trip to Niagara Falls and come back on a train. We have plenty of time."

"Oh, yes, I'd like to see Niagara!" cried Jessie, clapping her hands.

The others all voted the suggestion a good one, and soon, having checked their baggage at the depot, they boarded a trolley car bound for the Falls.

"We can look at the Falls for an hour, get supper, and still have time in which to return to Buffalo," said Mr. Porter. "When we get there we can get a carriage to drive us around."

The trolley car made good time and it was still daylight when Niagara was reached. Hackmen were numerous, and Dunston Porter soon engaged a turnout to take them around Goat Island and other points of interest. They could hear the roaring of the Falls plainly, and the sight of the great cataracts impressed them deeply.

"Want to go down under the Falls?" asked Phil, as they were riding along.

"No, indeed!" answered Laura.

"We haven't time, anyway," answered Roger. "We've got to get back or we'll miss that train for Chicago, and that won't do, for our berths have been engaged ahead."

At the bridge leading to the Three Sisters Islands the whole party alighted, so as to get a better view of the upper rapids of the river. As they did so, a youth seated on a rock near by looked at them in amazement. Then of a sudden he slipped off the rock and dodged out of sight.

The youth was Nat Poole.