Dave Porter Series
DAVE PORTER IN THE GOLD FIELDS
OR, THE SEARCH FOR THE LANDSLIDE MINE
BY EDWARD STRATEMEYER
Author of "Dave Porter at Oak Hall," "The Lakeport Series," "Pan-American Series," "Old Glory Series," etc.
ILLUSTRATED BY WALTER ROGERS
BOSTON LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO.
Published, August, 1914 COPYRIGHT, 1914, BY LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO. All rights reserved DAVE PORTER IN THE GOLD FIELDS
Norwood Press BERWICK AND SMITH CO. Norwood, Mass. U. S. A.
I. THE LANDSLIDE MINE
II. DAVE PORTER'S PAST
III. CAUGHT IN A STORM
IV. A QUESTION OF STOCKS
V. A TRAP FOR JOB HASKERS
VI. ANOTHER SURPRISE
VII. A GATHERING OF OAK HALL BOYS
VIII. FIRE AND FIRECRACKERS
IX. WHAT NAT POOLE HAD TO TELL
X. DAVE AT HOME
XI. OVERHEARD IN THE SUMMER-HOUSE
XII. ON THE WAY WEST
XIII. DAVE SEES SOMETHING
XIV. IN BUTTE
XV. AT ABE BLOWER'S HOME
XVI. ON TO BLACK CAT CAMP
XVII. ALONG THE MOUNTAIN TRAIL
XVIII. THE STOLEN HORSES
XIX. THE NEWSPAPER CLEW
XX. THE EXPOSURE
XXI. ON THE BACK TRAIL
XXII. DAVE AND THE MOUNTAIN LION
XXIII. IN THE MOUNTAIN CAVE
XXIV. SEARCHING FOR THE LANDSLIDE MINE
XXV. CAUGHT IN A STORM
XXVI. PROWLERS IN CAMP
XXVII. THE TWO PRISONERS
XXVIII. THE LOST LANDSLIDE MINE
XXIX. ANOTHER LANDSLIDE
XXX. THE NEW CLAIM—CONCLUSION
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"A NUGGET! A NUGGET OF GOLD!" CRIED DAVE.
AS DAVE LOOKED, HE SAW A CORNER OF A DISTANT FENCE FLY APART.
"QUICK, SOMEBODY HELP ME! STOP THAT HORSE FROM FALLING OVER THE CLIFF!"
"IF YOU LOCATE THAT MINE BEFORE WE DO, DON'T YOU DARE TO REMOVE ANY OF MY UNCLE'S LANDMARKS."
"Dave Porter in the Gold Fields" is a complete story in itself, but forms the tenth volume in a line issued under the general title of "Dave Porter Series."
The series was begun some years ago by the publication of "Dave Porter at Oak Hall," in which my young readers were introduced to a typical American lad at a typical American boarding school.
There was at that time a cloud over Dave's parentage, and to clear this away he took a long sea voyage, as related in the next volume, entitled "Dave Porter in the South Seas." Then he came back to school, as told of in "Dave Porter's Return to School," in which he gave one of the local bullies a much-needed lesson.
During a vacation Dave journeyed to Norway, as related in "Dave Porter in the Far North," and then came back to Oak Hall, to win various honors, as recorded in "Dave Porter and His Classmates." Then came an opportunity to visit the West, and how our hero did this is set down in the book called "Dave Porter at Star Ranch." When he returned to school many strenuous happenings awaited him, and what they were will be found in "Dave Porter and His Rivals."
Dave had lived for years with a rich manufacturer of jewelry, and when this man was robbed it was our hero who followed the criminals in a long flight, as told in "Dave Porter on Cave Island." Then, with the booty in his possession, the youth returned home, to go back to school, from which he soon after graduated with honors, as shown in the volume preceding this, entitled, "Dave Porter and the Runaways."
In the present volume are related the particulars of another trip West, taken by Dave and his chums to locate a lost gold mine, willed to Roger Morr's mother by her brother. The boys had some strenuous happenings, and some of their old-time enemies did all they could to bring their expedition to grief. But Dave showed his common sense and his courage, and in the end all went well.
Once again I thank my young readers for the interest they have shown in my books. I trust that the reading of this volume will benefit them all.
EDWARD STRATEMEYER. February 1, 1914.
DAVE PORTER IN THE GOLD FIELDS
THE LANDSLIDE MINE
"Roger, that sounds like a fairy tale—a real gold mine belonging to your mother lost through a landslide!"
"So it does sound like a fairy tale, Dave; but it is absolutely true. The mine was owned by my uncle, Maurice Harrison, of Butte, Montana, and when he died he left it to my mother, who was his sister. On the day he died there was a big landslide in the mountains, where the mine was located,—and that was the end of the mine, as far as my folks were concerned."
"You mean you couldn't find the mine after the landslide?" asked Dave Porter, with deep interest.
"That's it," answered Roger Morr. "The opening to it was completely covered up, and so were the stakes, and several landmarks that showed where the mine was located."
"But why didn't you tell of this before, Roger?" asked a third youth of the group seated on the lawn of Senator Morr's country estate. "Did it just happen?"
"No, Phil, this happened last fall, about nine months ago. The reason I didn't mention it to you and Dave was because my folks wanted it kept quiet. From what my uncle said in his will, the mine must be very valuable, and my folks didn't want any outsiders to re-discover the mine and set up a claim to it. So they started a search on the quiet—hiring some old miners and prospectors they could trust. But the search has been in vain."
"Couldn't they discover the mine at all?" queried Dave Porter.
"No, the landslide was too heavy and too far-reaching. The old miners told my father it was the biggest landslide known in Montana. One prospector said he thought the mine must now be a hundred feet or more underground."
"Had your uncle worked it at all?" questioned Phil Lawrence.
"Not much, but enough to learn that it was a valuable claim. It was in a district that had been visited by landslides before, and so he called it the Landslide Mine."
"Well, your uncle could be thankful for one thing—that he wasn't in the mine when that big slide took place. But you said he died anyway."
"Yes, of pneumonia, on the very day the slide took place. Wasn't it queer? Dad and mother went out to Butte, to the funeral—Uncle Maurice was an old bachelor—and then they heard his will read and learned about the mine."
"And they couldn't get any trace at all, Roger?" asked Dave, as he stopped swinging in the hammock he occupied.
"Nothing worth following up. One of the miners thought he had a landmark located, but, although he spent a good deal of money digging around, nothing came of it. You see that big landslide seemed to change the whole face of the country. It took down dirt and rocks, and trees and bushes, and sent them to new resting places."
"Perhaps the mine was washed away instead of being covered up," suggested Phil.
"No, all those who have visited the locality are agreed that the entrance to the claim must have been covered up."
"Say! I'd like to hunt for that mine!" cried Dave Porter, enthusiastically.
"So would I," returned Roger Morr, wistfully. "I know my mother would like to have somebody find it—just to learn if it is really as valuable as Uncle Maurice thought."
"Well, if you two fellows go West to look for that mine you can count on having me with you," put in Phil Lawrence. "We were going to decide on what to do for the next two months. If Roger says the word——"
"Oh, I could do that easily enough," said the senator's son. "But Dave wrote that he had something up his sleeve. Maybe his plans won't fit into this."
"But they just will fit in!" cried Dave. "At least, I think they will," he added, more slowly. "You say this mine is located in Montana?"
"Well, that isn't very far from Yellowstone Park, is it?"
"No—in fact a corner of the Park is in Montana."
"Then, while the others were taking the trip through Yellowstone Park we could go out to that mining district and try to locate this missing mine," went on Dave, with a smile.
"What are you talking about, Dave?" questioned his two chums, in a breath.
"I'm talking about a personally-conducted tour of the Park that some folks in and around Crumville are getting up. Mr. Basswood, Ben's father, is at the head of it. It's a sort of church affair. They have got my folks interested, and my Uncle Dunston says he will go, and so will Laura, and Mrs. Wadsworth, and Jessie, and half a dozen others you know. They thought maybe we boys would want to go, too."
"Wow! All to the merry!" cried Phil, and leaping out of the willow chair he occupied, he turned a "cart-wheel" on the lawn. "Say, this fits in better than a set of new teeth, doesn't it?" he went on, enthusiastically.
"When is this grand tour to come off?" asked Roger.
"It starts about the middle of July—just two weeks from to-day. The plan is to spend about four weeks in and around the Park, seeing everything thoroughly. You know there are some fine, comfortable hotels there, and folks like Mrs. Wadsworth don't like to travel in a hurry."
"Going through the Park would certainly be a great trip," said Roger. "And especially with the girls."
"We could travel with them as far as—let me see, what's the name of the place—oh, yes, Livingston. That's where they leave the main line of the railroad to go on the little branch to the Park."
"Well, if they spent four weeks in the Park that would give us plenty of time to hunt for the mine," said Phil, thoughtfully. "But it would be a big job."
"And a dangerous one," added Roger. "Remember, where there have been several landslides there may be more. Fact is, when I spoke to my dad about going out there, he shook his head and said I had better keep away—that the search ought to be conducted by experienced men who understood the lay of the land and all that."
"Oh, we could be careful," returned Dave, impulsively. The idea of going in search of the lost mine appealed to him strongly.
"Sure, we'd be careful," added Phil. "Aren't we always careful? All aboard for the Landslide Mine, say I! Come on, if you are going!" And he grinned broadly.
"Better wait until after lunch," returned the senator's son, dryly. "We might have something you'd like to eat, Phil."
"All right, just as you say." The other youth dropped back into a wicker chair. "Say, doesn't it just feel good to think that we have graduated from Oak Hall and don't have to go back?" he added, with a sigh of satisfaction.
"I'm glad I have graduated, but I am not so glad that I am not going back," answered Dave. "We had some good times at the Hall."
"So we did—dandy times!" cried Roger. "I tell you, I shall miss Oak Hall a great deal. I shall miss our friends and also our enemies."
"Speaking of enemies, I wonder what ever became of old Job Haskers," said Phil.
"I don't know and I don't want to know," came from Dave. "I never want to see that good-for-nothing teacher again. I am glad, on account of the fellows left at Oak Hall, that the doctor discharged him."
"So am I," put in the senator's son. "Just the same, Dave, Haskers will try to get square with us if he ever gets the chance."
"Oh, I know that. But I don't intend to give him the chance."
"Speaking of our enemies, I wonder what ever became of Link Merwell," said Phil. "He seems to have dropped out of sight completely."
"I rather imagine he has left the country," returned Roger. "For if he was around at all, some of the school fellows would be sure to hear of him. Say, he certainly was a bad egg."
"Yes, but not as bad as Nick Jasniff," said Dave. "I am glad they locked that fellow up. He was an out-and-out criminal."
"Let us drop those fellows and get back to this lost mine," interrupted Phil. "If we are really going out to Montana we ought to make some sort of preparations for the trip."
"Oh, we've got two weeks to do that in, Phil," answered Roger. "And please to remember, Fourth of July is coming, and I am expecting several of the other fellows here to help celebrate. We can fix it up about that western trip after the Fourth."
"Who are coming, Roger, did you hear?" asked Dave.
"Shadow Hamilton for one, and perhaps Buster Beggs and Luke Watson. I asked some of the other fellows, but they had other engagements. Old John went down to the post-office for letters a while ago. Maybe he'll bring news."
"Here he comes now," cried Dave, as he saw a colored man-of-all-work coming along the road that ran in front of the Morr estate. "And he's got a bundle of letters."
All three boys ran across the broad lawn to meet the colored man.
"Any letters for me, John?"
"Don't forget me!"
"Who's the pink envelope for?"
"Letters fo' all ob yo' young gen'men, I 'spect," returned the man-of-all-work. "Mebbe yo' kin sort 'em out better'n I kin, Massa Roger," he added. "My eyesight ain't no better'n it ought to be." And he handed the bunch of mail over to the senator's son.
"One for Phil and two for Dave," said Roger, looking the mail over. "And four for myself. Pretty good. Here, John, take the rest into the house."
Without ceremony the three chums returned to their resting place on the shady lawn and began the perusal of their letters.
"Mine is from my father," said Phil. "He is going to take a trip on one of his ships to Nova Scotia and he wants to know if I wish to go along."
"One of these letters is from Gus Plum," said Dave. "He is going to Europe with his folks. The other letter is from—er—from Crumville."
"I'll wager it is from Jessie Wadsworth," remarked Phil, slyly. "Come, Dave, what does the lady fair say?"
"Sends her best regards to both of you," answered Dave, blushing. "She writes mostly about that proposed trip to Yellowstone Park, and wants to know if you fellows are going along."
"One of these letters is from Luke Watson and he will be here to-morrow," said Roger. "And another is from Shadow and he is coming, too. And this one—well, I declare! Just listen to this! It's from Buster Beggs." And Roger read as follows:
"I will be along for the Fourth. I've just had a letter from Sid Lambert, that new fellow from Pittsburg. He says he knows Link Merwell and met him about a week ago. He says Merwell is very bitter against you and Porter and Lawrence. Merwell was going West on some business for his father and then he was coming East. I would advise you and your chums to keep your eyes peeled for him. He can't show himself, for fear of arrest, and that has made him very vindictive. Sid tried to get his address, but Merwell wouldn't give it, and he left Sid very suddenly, thinking maybe that some one would put the police on his track."
DAVE PORTER'S PAST
"What do you think of that, fellows?" asked Roger, as he concluded the reading of the letter.
"I am not surprised," answered Dave. "Now that Merwell finds he can't show himself where he is known, he must be very bitter in mind."
"I thought he might reform, but I guess I was mistaken," said Phil. "Say, we had better do as Buster suggests,—keep our eyes peeled for him."
"We are not responsible for his position," retorted Roger. "He got himself into trouble."
"So he did, Roger. But, just the same, a fellow like Link Merwell is bound to blame somebody else,—and in this case he blames us. I am afraid he'll make trouble for us—if he gets the chance," concluded Dave, seriously.
And now, while the three chums are busy reading their letters again, let me introduce them more specifically than I have already done.
Dave Porter was a typical American lad, now well grown, and a graduate of Oak Hall, a high-class preparatory school for boys located in one of our eastern States.
While a mere child, Dave had been found wandering beside the railroad tracks near the little village of Crumville. He could not tell who he was, nor where he had come from, and not being claimed by any one, was taken to the local poor-house. There a broken-down college professor, Caspar Potts, had found him and given him a home.
In Crumville resided a rich jewelry manufacturer named Oliver Wadsworth, who had a daughter named Jessie. One day the Wadsworth automobile caught fire and Jessie was in danger of being burned to death, when Dave rushed to the rescue and saved her. For this Mr. Wadsworth was very grateful, and when he learned that Dave lived with Mr. Potts, who had been one of his instructors in college, he made the man and the youth come to live with him.
"Such a boy deserves to have a good education and I am going to give it to him," said the rich manufacturer, and so Dave was sent to boarding school, as related in the first volume of this series, entitled "Dave Porter at Oak Hall." There he made a host of friends, including Roger Morr, the son of a United States senator; Phil Lawrence, the son of a rich shipowner; Shadow Hamilton, who loved to tell stories; Buster Beggs, who was fat and jolly; Luke Watson, who was a musician of considerable skill, and many others.
The main thing that troubled Dave in those days was the question of his identity, and when one of his school rivals spoke of him as a "poor-house nobody" it disturbed him greatly. Receiving something of a clew, he went on a long voyage, as related in "Dave Porter in the South Seas," and located his uncle, Dunston Porter, and learned for the first time that his father, David Breslow Porter, was also living, and likewise a sister, Laura.
After his great trip on the ocean, our hero returned to Oak Hall, as related in "Dave Porter's Return to School." Then, as he had not yet met his father, he went in search of his parent, the quest, as told of in "Dave Porter in the Far North," taking him to Norway.
Glad to know that he could not be called a poor-house nobody in the future, Dave went back to Oak Hall once again, as related in "Dave Porter and His Classmates." He now made more friends than ever. But he likewise made some enemies, including Nick Jasniff, a very passionate fellow, who always wanted to fight, and Link Merwell, the son of a rich ranchowner of the West. Jasniff ran away from school, while under a cloud, and Merwell, after making serious trouble for Dave and his chums, was expelled.
Laura Porter had a very dear friend, Belle Endicott, who lived in the Far West, and through this friend, Dave and his chums, and also Laura, and Jessie Wadsworth, received an invitation to spend some time at the Endicott place. What fun and adventures the young folks had I have set down in "Dave Porter at Star Ranch." Not far from Star Ranch was the home of Link Merwell, and this young man, as before, tried to make trouble, but was exposed and humbled.
The boys liked it very much on the ranch, but all vacations must come to an end, and so the lads went back to school, as recorded in "Dave Porter and His Rivals." That was a lively term at Oak Hall, for some newcomers tried to run athletic and other matters to suit themselves, and in addition Link Merwell and Nick Jasniff became students at a rival academy only a short distance away.
The Christmas holidays were now at hand, and Dave went back to Crumville, where he and his folks were living with the Wadsworths in their elegant mansion on the outskirts of the town. At that time Mr. Wadsworth had some valuable jewels at his works to be reset, and directly after Christmas came a thrilling robbery. It was Dave, aided by his chums, who got on the track of the robbers, who were none other than Jasniff and Merwell, and trailed them to the South and then to sea, as told in "Dave Porter on Cave Island." After many startling adventures the jewels were recovered and the thieves were caught. But, at the last minute, Link Merwell managed to escape.
When Dave Porter returned again to Oak Hall he found himself considered a great hero. But he bore himself modestly, and settled down to hard work, for he wished to graduate with honors. His old enemies were now out of the way and for this he was thankful.
But trouble for Dave was not yet at an end. One of the teachers at Oak Hall was Job Haskers, a learned man, but one who did not like boys. Why Haskers had ever become an instructor was a mystery. He was harsh, unsympathetic, and dictatorial, and nearly all the students hated him. He knew the branches he taught, but that was all the good that could be said of him.
Trouble came almost from the start, that term, and not only Dave, but nearly all of his chums were involved. A wild man—who afterwards proved to be related to Nat Poole, the son of a miserly money-lender of Crumville—tried to blow up a neighboring hotel, and the boys were thought to be guilty. In terror, some of them feared arrest and fled, as related in "Dave Porter and the Runaways." Dave went after the runaways, and after escaping a fearful flood, made them come back to school and face the music. The youth had a clew against Job Haskers, and in the end proved that the wild man was guilty and that the instructor knew it. This news came as a thunder-clap to Doctor Clay, the owner of the school, and without ceremony he called Haskers before him and demanded his resignation. At first the dictatorial teacher would not resign, but when confronted by the proofs of his duplicity, he got out in a hurry; and all the other teachers, and the students, were glad of it.
"And now for a grand wind-up!" Dave had said, and then he and his chums had settled down to work, and later on, graduated from Oak Hall with high honors. At the graduation exercises, Dave was one of the happiest boys in the school. His family and Jessie and several others came to the affair, which was celebrated with numerous bonfires, and music by a band, and refreshments in the gymnasium.
"And now what are you going to do?" Laura had asked, of her brother.
"First of all, he is going to pay me a visit," Roger had said. "I have been to your house half a dozen times and Dave has hardly been to our place at all. He is to come, and so are Phil and some of the others. My mother wants them, and so does my dad."
"Well, if the others are to be there, I'll have to come, too," Dave had replied; and so it had been settled, and that is how we now find the boys at Senator Morr's fine country mansion, located on the outskirts of the village of Hemson. Dave and Phil had been there for four days, and Roger and his parents had done all in their power to make the visitors feel at home.
"Here is some more news that I overlooked," said Roger, as he turned over one of his letters. "This is from a chum of mine, Bert Passmore, who is spending his summer at Lake Sargola, about thirty miles from here. He says they are going to have a special concert to-morrow afternoon and evening, given by a well-known military band from Washington. He says we had better come over and take it in."
"I shouldn't mind taking in a concert like that," replied Phil. "I like good brass-band music better than anything else."
"How about you, Dave?"
"Suits me, if you want to go, Roger."
"We could go in the car. Maybe ma and dad would go, too."
Just then the bell rang for lunch, and the visitors hurried off to wash up and comb their hair. Roger went to his parents, who were in the library of the mansion, and spoke about the band concert.
"I can't go—I've got to meet Senator Barcoe and Governor Fewell in the city," said the senator. "But you might take your mother, Roger, and maybe some of her friends. The big car will hold seven, you know."
"Sure, if mom will go," and the youth looked at his mother with a smile.
"I might go and take Mrs. Gray and Mrs. Morse," said Mrs. Morr. "They both love music, and since the Grays lost their money, Mrs. Gray doesn't get out very much. I'll call them up on the telephone and find out, Roger;" and so it was settled.
But the other ladies could not go, and in the end Mrs. Morr decided to remain home also. So it was left, the next morning, for the three boys to go alone.
"I'll take the little four-passenger car," said Roger. "No use in having the big car for only three."
"Boys, Roger tells me you think of going West," remarked Senator Morr, who stood near. He was a big man, with a round, florid face and a heavy but pleasant voice. "Think of trying to locate that lost mine! Is there anything you lads wouldn't try to do?" And the big man laughed in his bluff, hearty manner.
"Well, it won't hurt to try it, Senator," replied Dave.
"Not if you keep out of trouble. But I don't want you boys to go to that neighborhood and get caught in another landslide—not for all the gold in Montana," and the senator shook his head decidedly.
"Oh, we'll be careful, Dad," burst out Roger. "You know we are always careful."
"I don't know about that, Roger. Boys are apt to get reckless sometimes—I used to be a bit that way myself. We'll have to talk this over again—before it's settled," and then the senator hurried off to keep his appointment with the other politicians.
In anticipation of the trip, Roger had had the paid chauffeur of the family go over the four-passenger touring-car with care, to see that everything was in shape for the run to Lake Sargola. The lake was a beautiful sheet of water, some eight miles long and half a mile wide, and at the upper end were located several fine hotels and numerous private residences.
The boys had decided to go to the lake by a roundabout way, covering a distance of about forty miles. They left at a little after ten o'clock, calculating to get to the lake in time for lunch. They would attend the afternoon concert, take Roger's chum out for a short ride around the lake road, and then return to Hemson in time for the evening meal.
Roger was at the wheel and it was decided that Dave and Phil should ride on the back seat, so as to be company for each other. Mrs. Morr came out on the veranda of the mansion to wave them a farewell.
"Keep out of trouble, Roger!" she called. "Remember, there are a good many autos around the lake, and some of the drivers are very fast and very careless."
"I'll have my eyes open," answered the boy. "Good-by!" And then he started the car, put on more power, and swept from the spacious grounds in grand style.
"My, but it is going to be a warm day!" remarked Phil, as they ran into a streak of hot air.
"I hope it is only warm," replied Dave, as he looked at the sky.
"Why, what do you mean, Dave?" asked the shipowner's son, quickly.
"I don't much like the looks of the sky off to the southwest. Looks to me as if a storm was coming up."
"Oh, don't say that!" exclaimed Roger. "We don't want any rain."
"So we don't, Roger. But we'll have to take what comes."
CAUGHT IN A STORM
"Some class to Roger's driving!" cried Phil, as the little touring-car swept along, in the direction of Lake Sargola. "Roger, if you ever want a recommendation as a chauffeur——"
"We'll give it to him on gilt-edged paper," finished Dave, with a grin. "But, I say, don't make the turns quite so swift," he added, as they swept around a curve at such speed that he was thrown up against Phil.
"Don't get scared—I know this car as well as Mary knew the tail of her lamb," responded the senator's son, gayly. "Why, we are only making thirty-five miles an hour," he added, half reproachfully.
On and on they rolled, up hill and down dale, and through several villages. At one spot they went through a flock of chickens, that scattered in all directions. Not one was touched, but an old farmer shook a hay-rake at the boys.
"Kill my chickens an' I'll have th' law on ye!" he yelled.
"Never came within a mile of 'em!" cried Roger, gayly, and then the car whirled out of hearing.
As they passed on, the lads frequently looked at the sky. But the clouds, that had been gathering, appeared to drift away to the northward.
"Maybe the storm is going around us," suggested Phil.
"I hope so," answered Dave. "I don't like to travel in an auto in wet weather—too much danger of skidding."
A little later they came in sight of the lake and the first of the cottages, and then they ran up to one of the big hotels. A young fellow on the veranda waved his hand to them.
"There is Bert, now!" cried Roger. And then the young fellow, who had been telephoned to early in the morning, ran down the steps to meet Roger and was speedily introduced to the others.
"It's going to be a dandy concert this afternoon," said Bert Passmore. "The bandmaster is going to play one of his new marches and a medley of patriotic airs, as well as a piece called 'A Hunt in a Storm.' They say it's fine."
"I hope they don't have to play it in a storm," returned Dave, with another look at the sky.
"Oh, that storm has gone the other way," answered Bert Passmore. "They often do up here."
"Did you get tickets?" asked Roger.
"Sure; and I've reserved seats for you at our table, too, for lunch, and for dinner to-night, if you'll stay."
"I don't know about to-night, Bert. But I'm thankful to you, just the same. After the concert we want to give you a ride around the lake."
"That will be fine!"
The car was put under the hotel shed, and the boys went in the hotel to prepare for lunch. Mr. and Mrs. Passmore were present and were introduced, and a little later all sat down to eat.
There was an amusement park not far from the hotel and the band concert was to be given there, in a large pavilion that was open on the sides. As it was but a short distance away, the boys allowed the car to stay in the shed and walked to the place. A big crowd was collecting, and by the time the concert commenced, the spot was jammed with people.
"It's a lucky thing your friend got reserved seats for us," observed Dave to Roger. "Just look at the crowds coming in!"
Phil had gone off—to get some programs. Now, as he pushed his way to his seat, his face showed unusual excitement.
"Guess whom I saw!" he gasped, as he sat down.
"Who was it?" demanded his chums, quickly.
"Never!" cried Roger.
"What is he doing here?" demanded Dave.
"I saw him for only a moment," explained the shipowner's son. "He was right in the crowd and I couldn't follow him."
"Was he alone?" asked Dave, with increasing interest, for he had not forgotten the trials and tribulations this former teacher of Oak Hall had caused him.
"I don't know that, either—there were so many people around him."
"Maybe you were mistaken, Phil," said Roger.
"Not much! I'd know Job Haskers out of a million."
"I think we all would," murmured Dave. "Did he see you?"
"I don't think he did. He was over there—that's all I know about it," and Phil pointed with his hand into a crowd on their left.
"We can take a look around for him between the parts and after the concert," said Dave; and then the brass band struck up and the concert began.
The various musical numbers were well rendered, and encores were numerous. The concert was divided into two parts, with fifteen minutes intermission, and during that time the boys from Oak Hall and Bert walked around, the former looking for Job Haskers. But if the former teacher of Oak Hall was present the boys failed to locate him.
During the second part of the concert came the wonderful new march and the fantasy, "A Hunt in a Storm," and both came in for prolonged applause. Then came a medley of national airs, ending with the "Star Spangled Banner," at which the audience arose; and the performance came to an end.
"Wasn't it fine!" cried Roger, enthusiastically.
"Yes, indeed," answered Dave, warmly. "I am glad we came over."
"Couldn't have been better," was Phil's comment.
"Quarter after four," said Roger, consulting his watch. "Bert, we can take you around the lake with ease before we start for home."
"Yes, and you can have dinner with us, too, before you go," was the reply. "Now don't say 'No', for father and mother expect it, and so do I."
"All right, then, we'll stay," answered Roger, after a look at Dave and Phil. "We can start for home about eight o'clock, or half-past."
The boys walked back to the hotel shed and got out the touring-car. Bert took the vacant seat beside Roger, and away the party bowled over the highway that ran around Lake Sargola.
"I wish we had a car," said Bert. "But dad won't get one, because, last summer, a friend of his was killed in an automobile accident."
"Well, that's enough to take the nerve out of any one," was Dave's answer.
The car rolled on, and Bert asked about the doings of the boys at Oak Hall, and told of life at the technical training school which he attended. They had almost circled the lake when Roger slowed down.
"What do you say to a trip to the top of Sugar Hill?" he asked.
"Sugar Hill?" cried Bert. "Can you go up that hill with this car?"
"Sure!" was Roger's prompt reply. "It's pretty steep, I know, but I'm sure I can make it."
"It's a fine view from there, Roger. But the hill is pretty steep towards the end."
"Oh, I'm not afraid of it." The senator's son turned to the others. "What do you say?"
"I'll go anywhere," declared Phil.
"Same here," laughed Dave. "But don't be too long about it, Roger."
"I think that storm is working its way back again."
"Oh, nonsense, don't be a croaker, Dave! It won't rain in a year of Mondays!" cried the senator's son, and then he put on speed once more, and headed the touring-car for Sugar Hill.
The place mentioned was an elevation about a mile back from the lake. It was almost a mountain in size, and the road leading to the top was anything but a good one, being filled with ruts and loose stones. But the engine of the car was powerful, and it was not until they were almost to the top of the hill that Roger had to throw the gears into second speed.
"Some climb and no mistake!" murmured Dave. "Can you make it, Roger?"
"Top or bust!" was the laconic answer.
Scarcely had the senator's son spoken when there came a loud report from the front end of the car.
"A blowout!" gasped Phil.
"The front tire on this side has gone to pieces!" announced Bert. "Will you have to stop?"
"Can't—not here!" announced Roger, grimly. And then he shut his teeth hard and turned on more gasoline. Up and up they bumped, the burst tire cutting deeply into the rough stones. But the power was there, and in less than thirty seconds more the car came to a standstill on the level top of Sugar Hill.
"Phew; that was a narrow shave!" remarked Bert, as the boys got out of the car. "Roger, what would you have done if you couldn't go ahead? There wasn't room to turn."
"I knew there wasn't room, Bert; that's the reason I made the car go up," was the reply. "It was a bad hole to get caught in."
"I guess it cost you the shoe," remarked Dave, as he examined the article. "Pretty well cut up."
"It was an old one, anyway, Dave. Now we'll have the pleasure of putting on one of those new ones," and he smiled grimly, for he did not like that task any better than does any other autoist.
"Oh, we'll all help," cried Phil. "It won't be so bad, if we all take turns at pumping in the air."
"Wish I had one of those new kind of machine pumps on the car," answered Roger. "But I haven't got it, so it's got to be bone labor, boys." And then the damaged wheel was jacked up and a new shoe with its inner tube was put on and inflated. All told, the job took the boys a full half-hour, for the new shoe was a tight fit and did not want to go over the rim at first.
"Hello, what do you know about this!" cried Phil, as they were finishing the blowing up of the tube. "It's raining!"
"Yes, and look how black it is getting over yonder!" exclaimed Bert. "We are in for a storm now, sure!"
"I was almost certain we'd catch it," said Dave. He unscrewed the pump from the wheel. "Roger, we had better get back to that hotel just as fast as we can."
"My idea, exactly, Dave, for I don't want to be caught on this hilly road in a storm."
"Better put the top up," advised the shipowner's son. "It's going to pour in a few minutes."
"And hadn't we better put on the chains, too, Roger?" questioned Dave. "It may be dangerous work going down the hill if it rains hard."
"Yes, we'll put up the top and put on the chains," was the quick reply of the senator's son. "You fellows attend to the top and I'll see to the chains."
By the time the top had been put up and fastened it was raining steadily. Also, the wind was beginning to blow, showing that the downpour was liable to become worse.
"Fasten the side curtains, Phil; I'll help with the chains!" sang out Dave, and while the shipowner's son and Bert fastened the curtains, so as to keep out the driving rain, our hero aided Roger.
"You'll get wet, Dave; better get in the car," panted Roger, who was working as rapidly as circumstances permitted.
"No wetter than you," answered Dave, and then he pulled the second chain in place and fastened it. Both boys got into the touring-car just as a heavy crash of thunder sounded out.
"Phew! listen to that, and look at the lightning!" cried Phil. "Say, if you are ready, Roger, we had better get out of here!"
"If you can only get back to the hotel," murmured Bert, anxiously. "If I were you I'd not think of going home until the storm clears away."
"Back to the hotel will be enough for me," answered Roger. "All ready?" he asked, for he had already cranked up.
"All ready," answered Dave, who had gotten on the front seat, thus allowing Bert and Phil the better shelter of the tonneau of the car.
The senator's son started up the automobile and made a circle on the top of the hill. Then, just as there came another flash of lightning and a loud crash of thunder, the boys began the long and perilous journey down the rough road leading from Sugar Hill.
A QUESTION OF STOCKS
"Some rain, believe me!"
It was Dave who uttered the remark, as the touring-car commenced the long and dangerous descent of Sugar Hill. A sheet of water was dashing against the wind-shield, which had been raised as high as possible.
"I wish it was driving the other way," answered Roger, who was peering forward. "It covers the glass so I can hardly see."
"Better take it slow," suggested Dave.
Another flash of lightning lit up the scene, accompanied by a crack of thunder that made some of the boys crouch down for a second. Then came more wind and more rain.
"I hope the wind and lightning don't throw a tree down across the roadway," cried Phil, loudly, to make himself heard above the fury of the elements.
"We've got our eyes open!" answered Dave. "I'll look over the wind-shield," he added, to Roger, and lifted a corner of the front curtain for that purpose.
"You'll get wet, Dave."
"Not a great deal, and I'd rather do that than have an accident," was the reply.
Roger had thrown the car into low gear, so that the power was really acting as a sort of brake. Slowly they slid along, over the wet stones and dirt. Then came a sharp turn, and the senator's son slowed down still more. The touring-car skidded a distance of several feet, and all held their breath, wondering if they would go down into a small gully, or waterway, that lined the road on one side. But in another moment that danger was past, and all breathed more freely.
But almost immediately a fresh peril confronted them. At another turn Dave sent up a warning cry:
"Brake up, Roger, there's a tree or a big limb ahead!"
Through the rain-covered shield the senator's son saw the obstruction. He set both the hand-brake and the foot-brake, and all heard the wheels and the chains scrape over the stones and dirt. But the car could not be stopped, and two seconds later crashed into the tree limb, a branch of which came up, striking the wind-shield and cracking it.
"Look out for that glass!" yelled Bert, in fresh alarm. "Don't get any in your eyes, Roger!"
The youth at the wheel did not reply. Dave, quick to act, seized a lap-robe that was handy and held it up in front of Roger, who did not dare to leave the wheel. Then came a jingle of glass, but the pieces fell at the feet of the boys in the front of the car. The automobile itself slid on another ten feet, dragging the tree limb with it.
"Say, that was a narrow escape!" muttered Phil, when the danger seemed over.
"We'll have to see how much damage has been done," declared Dave.
He crawled from the car and Roger followed. The other boys were also coming out in the storm, but the senator's son stopped them.
"No use in all of us getting wet," he said. "I don't think the damage amounts to much. A mud-guard is bent and the hood is scratched and the glass broken, but I guess that is all. But we'll have to get the limb from under the car before we can go ahead again," he added, after an inspection.
"Can't you leave it as it is and use it as a drag down the hill?" questioned Bert.
"I wouldn't do that," advised Dave. "It might hurt some of the machinery under the car. I think we can get it out somehow, Roger."
Both set to work, in the wind and rain. It was far from a pleasant task, and despite the fact that each had donned a dust-coat, both were pretty well soaked before the limb was gotten away from the car. Then Roger made another inspection of the automobile.
"I think it's O. K.," he said. "Anyway, we'll try it." And then they cranked up once more; and the journey was continued.
It was a slow trip, and at each turn on the hill the senator's son came almost to a stop. He was thinking they might meet a wagon coming the other way, but neither vehicle nor person appeared. Sometimes the visitors at the lake went to Sugar Hill for a picnic, but evidently the concert, and the thoughts of a possible storm, had kept them away this day.
"Down at last!" cried Roger, presently, and a moment later the touring-car rolled out on the smooth and broad highway that connected with that running around Lake Sargola.
"And I am mighty glad of it," declared Phil, as he breathed a deep sigh of relief.
"Now for the hotel, and there I will see if I can't get you fellows some dry clothing," said Bert. "I guess each of you can wear one of my suits. You are both about my size."
They took the shortest route to the hotel, arriving there fifteen minutes later. Roger ran the automobile to the porch and allowed the others to alight and then took the car to the hotel garage.
"Well, I am glad to see you boys back!" exclaimed Mr. Passmore. "How did you come to break the wind-shield?" And then he listened with interest to the story the lads had to tell.
"Can't they stay here to-night, Dad?" asked Bert, a little later, when Roger came in. "I want to let them have some of my dry clothing, and it is storming almost as hard as ever."
"Certainly, they can stay, if they will and we can get rooms for them," replied Mr. Passmore.
The matter was talked over, and Roger called his parents up on the telephone. A big room containing two double-beds chanced to be vacant in the hotel, and the lads took that. Then Dave and Roger donned some clothing that Bert loaned them while their own garments were being dried and pressed. A little later all went into the dining-room for dinner.
"This will knock out the concert for to-night," remarked Bert, during the meal.
"Yes, and we can be glad we attended this afternoon," answered Dave.
"They are going to have a dance here this evening," said Mrs. Passmore.
"Oh, we don't want to go to any dance!" cried her son. "They are not dressed for it, and besides, I've got it all arranged. We are going to bowl some games—Roger and I against Dave and Phil."
"Very well, Bert, suit yourself," answered the mother. "But if you wish to dance, perhaps I can introduce your friends to some of the young ladies."
But the boys preferred to bowl and so went to the basement of the big hotel, where there were some fine alleys. They bowled five games, Dave and Phil taking three and Roger and Bert two. In one game Dave turned a wide "break" into a "spare," and for this the others applauded him not a little.
The games over, the boys washed and then went upstairs to watch the dancing. Bert and Phil danced a two-step with some young ladies that Bert knew. Just as they started off, Dave caught Roger by the arm.
"What is it, Dave?" asked the senator's son, quickly.
"Maybe I'm mistaken, but I just thought I saw Job Haskers!"
"Where?" and now Roger was all attention.
"Going into the reading-room with another man."
"Humph! Say, let us find out if he is really here."
"He isn't staying here, I know that."
"How do you know?"
"I asked the clerk."
While speaking the two youths had walked away from the ballroom of the hotel. Now they found themselves at the entrance to a long, narrow apartment that was used as a writing and smoking room for men. Half a dozen persons were present, several writing letters and the others talking in low tones and smoking.
In an alcove two men had just seated themselves, one an elderly person who seemed somewhat feeble, and the other a tall, sharp-faced individual who eyed his companion in a shrewd, speculative manner.
"That's Job Haskers, sure enough," murmured Roger, as Dave pointed to the sharp-faced man. "Wonder what he is doing here?"
"Well, he has a right to be here, if he wishes," returned Dave.
The two former students of Oak Hall stood at one side and watched the man who had been their teacher for so long and who had proved himself dishonorable in more ways than one.
"Unless I am mistaken, he is trying to work some sort of a game on that old gentleman," whispered Dave, a few minutes later. "See how earnestly he is talking, and see, he is bringing some papers out of his pocket."
"Oh, it may be all right, Dave," replied the senator's son. "Not that I would trust Job Haskers too far," he added, hastily.
The two lads continued to watch the former teacher of Oak Hall. He was still arguing with the old gentleman and acted as if he wanted to get the stranger to sign a paper he held in his hand. He had a fountain pen ready to be used.
"I'm going a little closer and look into this," said Dave, firmly. "Perhaps it's all right, but that old man may not know Haskers as we do."
"We can go around to the back door; that is close to the alcove," suggested Roger, who was now as interested as Dave in what was taking place.
By walking through a narrow hallway the boys reached the door the senator's son had mentioned. This was within a few feet of the alcove, and by standing behind the door Dave and Roger could hear all the former teacher and the elderly gentleman were saying.
"It's really the chance of a lifetime," urged Job Haskers, with great earnestness. "I never knew of a better opportunity to make money. The consolidation of the five mills has placed the entire business in the hands of the Sunset Company. If you sign for that stock you'll be doing the best business stroke you've done in a lifetime, Mr. Fordham."
"Maybe, maybe," answered the old gentleman, hesitatingly. "Yet I really ought to consult my son before I do it. But he is in Philadelphia. I might write——"
"Then it may be too late," interposed Job Haskers. "As I told you before, this stock is going like wildfire. And at thirty-five it's a bargain. I think it will be up to sixty or seventy inside of a month—or two months at the latest. You'd better sign for the hundred shares right now and make sure of them." And Job Haskers held out one of the papers in his hand and also the fountain pen.
Roger and Dave looked at each other and probably the same thought flashed through the minds of both. Should they show themselves and let the elderly gentleman know just what sort of a man Job Haskers was?
"I guess we'd better take a hand——" commenced Dave, when he paused as he saw the old gentleman shake his head.
"I—I don't think I'll do it to-night, Mr. Haskers," he said, slowly. "I—I want to sleep on it. Come and see me again in the morning."
"The stock may go up by morning," interposed the former teacher of Oak Hall. "It went up day before yesterday, two points. Better bind the bargain right now."
"No, I'll wait until morning."
"Well, when can I see you, Mr. Fordham?" asked the other, trying to conceal his disappointment.
"I'll be around about ten o'clock—I don't get up very early."
"Very well, I'll call at that time then," said Job Haskers. "But you might as well sign for it now," and again he held out the paper and the pen.
"No, I'll wait until to-morrow morning," answered Mr. Fordham, as he arose. "It's time I retired now. I—I'm not as strong as I once was."
"I am sorry to hear that. Well, I'll be around in the morning, and I am sure you will realize that this is a good thing, after you have thought it over," said Job Haskers, with calm assurance, and then he and the elderly man left the room. Dave and Roger saw them separate in the main hall of the hotel, the old gentleman going upstairs, and Job Haskers out into the storm.
A TRAP FOR JOB HASKERS
"What do you think of it, Dave?"
"I think Job Haskers is up to some game, Roger."
"Selling worthless stocks?"
"Yes, or else stocks that are next door to worthless."
"I wonder who the old gentleman can be? He looks as if he might have money. That diamond ring he wears must be worth several hundred dollars."
"Supposing we ask Mr. Passmore about him?" suggested Dave.
"That's the idea."
The youths found Mr. Passmore in a protected corner of a side porch, smoking. Most of the storm was now over, but it still rained.
"Tired of bowling, eh?" said Bert's father, who was a wholesale dealer in rugs.
"Mr. Passmore, we want to ask you some questions," said Roger. "Do you know an elderly gentleman here by the name of Fordham?"
"Fordham? Yes, I've met him. Nice man, too, but rather feeble."
"Is he alone here?" asked Dave.
"Practically. He has a son that comes to see him once in a while. Did you want to see him?"
"We have seen him, and we were wondering if we hadn't better have a talk with him," explained Dave.
"We'll tell you how it is," put in Roger, who knew Mr. Passmore well. And then he and Dave related the particulars of what they had seen, and told something of what Job Haskers was.
"Hum! This might be worth looking into," mused the rug dealer. "Of course, these stocks may be all right. But it looks rather fishy to me. Years ago I bought some stocks like that and they proved to be utterly worthless. It certainly won't do any harm to tell old Mr. Fordham what you know about this man Haskers."
"I'd hate to get into a row——" commenced Roger.
"I wouldn't—not if I was going to save that old gentleman's money for him," interrupted Dave. "Job Haskers sha'n't pull the wool over anybody's eyes if I can prevent it!"
"Oh, I am with you there, Dave!" cried the senator's son, quickly. "I was thinking that perhaps we would warn this Mr. Fordham without Haskers knowing anything about it."
"Better not try to do anything to-night," said Mr. Passmore. "You can see Mr. Fordham in the morning, and I'll be present, if you wish it."
A little later the two boys found Phil and Bert coming from the dance, and told their old school chum of what they had witnessed.
"Of course, we ought to expose Haskers!" declared the shipowner's son, who was not likely to forget how he had suffered at the hands of the former teacher of Oak Hall. "We'll go to this Mr. Fordham and tell him just what a rascal Haskers is!"
The doings of the day had made all the boys tired, and they slept soundly. Dave was the first astir in the morning, but the others, including Bert, soon followed. The storm had passed and the sun was shining brightly.
"I'd like you fellows to stay here over the Fourth," said Bert, when they went below for breakfast. "Maybe we could have a dandy time."
"Can't do it," declared Roger. "I am expecting company at the house—some more Oak Hall fellows. But you might come there, if you care to, Bert," he added.
"All right, I'll see about it."
Dave and the others had already made up their minds what to do about Mr. Fordham. About nine o'clock they sent a message to the elderly gentleman's room, stating they wished to see him on a matter of importance to himself, and adding that Mr. Passmore would be with them.
"He says for you to come right up," said the bell-boy, who had delivered the message.
"Is he up yet?" questioned Dave.
The bell-boy led the way to the room, which was in a wing on the second floor. All the boys but Bert went up, and Mr. Passmore accompanied them. They found Mr. Fordham seated in an easy chair. He looked quite bewildered at the entrance of so many visitors.
"Good-morning, Mr. Fordham," said Mr. Passmore. "I suppose you are quite surprised to see me at this time in the morning, and with so many young gentlemen with me," and the rug dealer smiled broadly.
"A bit surprised, yes," was the somewhat feeble answer. "But I—I suppose it is all right."
"Let me introduce my young friends," went on Mr. Passmore, and did so. "They have got something they would like to tell you."
"To tell me?" questioned the aged man, curiously. "Sit down, won't you," he added, politely, and motioned to chairs and to a couch.
"We came to see you about a man who called to see you last night, a Mr. Job Haskers," said Dave, after a pause, during which the visitors seated themselves. "Perhaps it is none of our business, Mr. Fordham, but my chums and I here felt it our duty to tell you about that man."
"We don't want to do him any harm, if he is trying to earn an honest living," put in Roger, "but we want you to be on your guard in any dealings you may have with him."
"Why, what do you young men know of Mr. Haskers?" demanded the old gentleman, in increasing wonder.
"We know a great deal about him, and very little to his credit," burst out Phil. "If you have any dealings with him, be careful, or, my word for it, you may get the worst of it!"
"Why this is—er—very extraordinary!" murmured Mr. Fordham. "I—I don't know what to make of it," and he looked rather helplessly at Mr. Passmore.
"Porter, you had better tell what you know about Haskers," said Bert's father. "But cut it short, for that man may get here soon."
In a plain, straightforward manner our hero told of several things that had happened at Oak Hall, which were not at all to Job Haskers' credit. Then he told of the attempt to blow up the hotel, and how the unworthy teacher had tried to throw the blame on the students, and how the truth of the matter had at last come out, and how the dictatorial old teacher had been dismissed by Doctor Clay.
"And do you mean to tell me that this is the man who is trying to sell me this stock in the Sunset Milling Company?" asked Mr. Fordham, when Dave had finished.
"This is the same man," answered Roger.
"Yes, and Dave didn't tell you the half of what can be chalked up against him," added Phil. "I wouldn't trust him with a pint of peanuts."
"Hum! Strange, and I thought he came highly recommended!"
"If he showed you any recommendations I'll wager they were many years old," said Dave.
"This is really none of my business, Mr. Fordham," broke in Mr. Passmore. "But as this man is so well known to these young gentlemen, and he has proved himself to be so unworthy, I would go slow about investing in stocks that he may offer."
"Yes! yes! Certainly!" cried the elderly gentleman. "But—er—why should these young men take such an interest in me, a stranger?"
"We don't want to see Job Haskers get the best of any one!" answered Phil, bluntly. "My opinion of it is, that he ought to be in jail."
"I see, I see! Well, if he did what you say he did, I don't blame you."
"I wouldn't sign for any stock until I had some outside advice about it," cautioned Mr. Passmore.
"Why not wait until your son gets back?" he suggested.
"I'll do it. Mr. Haskers wanted the deal closed at once. But now I won't sign for the stock. I'll wait. My son will be here day after to-morrow at the latest, and he can look into the matter for me. And I am very much obliged to you all for this warning. I think——"
At that moment came a knock on the door, which had been closed. A bell-boy was there with a card, which he handed to Mr. Fordham.
"Bless me! He is certainly on time!" murmured the old gentleman. "It is Mr. Haskers." He looked helplessly at the others. "I—I don't exactly know what to do."
"We'll get out, if you say so," answered Roger, quickly.
"Oh, say, can't we stay and face him?" asked Phil, eagerly. "We'll give him the surprise of his life!"
"Certainly, you can stay!" exclaimed Mr. Fordham, with sudden energy. "I want you to stay. You should not be afraid to say to his face what you have said behind his back."
Dave looked around the apartment. A bathroom was handy, the door standing ajar.
"Supposing we step in there for a few minutes, while you and Mr. Passmore meet Mr. Haskers," he cried. "We'll come out when you say so."
"A clever idea!" cried the rug dealer. "Maybe we'll be able to catch him in a trap!"
"Mr. Passmore, I'll leave this matter to you," answered the elderly gentleman. "You know those young men better than I do."
"So I do, and I'll vouch for Roger Morr and his friends," was the answer. "Show the gentleman up," he added, to the bell-boy. "Don't tell him who is here—we want to surprise him."
As the bell-boy left, the three chums crowded into the bathroom, leaving the door on a crack. Soon there came another knock, and Job Haskers presented himself, silk hat and cane in hand. He was well dressed and evidently groomed for the occasion. He had expected to find Mr. Fordham alone, and was somewhat annoyed on beholding a visitor ahead of him.
"Good-morning, Mr. Haskers," said the elderly gentleman, politely. "This is my friend, Mr. Passmore."
"Happy to know you, sir," responded the former teacher, with pretended warmth. "A lovely morning after the storm," he went on, as he drew off the gloves he was wearing.
"We were just discussing this stock you have been offering to Mr. Fordham," remarked Mr. Passmore, a bit dryly. "The Sunset Company is a new one to me. Did you help to organize it?"
"Well, I—er—I had a little to do with the organization," stammered the former teacher.
"You are a regular stock-broker, I presume, Mr. Haskers."
"Yes, that is my business. But I don't deal in ordinary stocks—I handle only those which are gilt-edged and big money makers," added Job Haskers, with a flourish.
"Been following the business for some years, I presume."
"About fifteen, all told. I used to have an office in Wall Street, New York, but I gave that up, as I found the confinement bad for my health."
"It must be a pretty exacting business," went on Mr. Passmore.
"It is, sir. When a fellow is in stocks he can't follow much of anything else."
"I'd hate to follow stocks for fifteen years."
"Do you mean to say you have been handling stocks for the past fifteen years?" questioned Mr. Fordham, slowly.
"Exactly, sir—ever since I gave up my position as cashier of a Boston bank," returned Job Haskers, smoothly. "And now, to get down to business, as my time is somewhat limited. I suppose you are ready to subscribe for that stock?" And the former teacher brought forth a paper and his fountain pen.
"We'll see," mused Mr. Fordham. "Dealing in stocks for the past fifteen years, eh? How long since you gave up your office in Wall Street?"
"About—er—two years," stammered Job Haskers. He looked keenly at Mr. Fordham and then at Mr. Passmore. "What—er—why do you ask me that question?"
"Mr. Fordham probably thought it strange that you could be dealing in stocks and teaching school at the same time," answered Bert's father, dryly.
At this announcement Job Haskers' jaw dropped.
"I—I don't understand you," he stammered.
"Well, you will understand in a minute," returned the rug dealer, blandly. He raised his voice. "Boys, I guess you had better come in now!"
The boys had listened to all that was said, and now they lost no time in filing into Mr. Fordham's bedroom.
Job Haskers stared at them in amazement, and his face dropped in consternation.
"Porter!" he gasped. "And Morr and Lawrence! Wha—what does this—er—mean?"
"Perhaps you know as well as we do," answered Dave, sharply.
"You have been spying on me!"
"We are here by permission of Mr. Fordham," returned Roger.
"How did you know I was to call?"
"Never mind about that," put in Phil. "We are here, and that is enough."
"And we know all about what you are trying to do," added Dave.
"This is a plot—a plot against me—to ruin me!" spluttered the former teacher of Oak Hall. "Oh, you needn't try to disguise it! I know all of you!"
"We have no plot against you, Mr. Haskers," replied Dave, calmly. "If your business is perfectly legitimate——"
"Never mind about that!" interposed Job Haskers, hastily. He jammed the paper and his fountain pen in his pocket. "You can't make a fool of me! You have been following me up, and you mean to—to—do what you can to—er—get me into trouble." He backed towards the doorway.
"What is your hurry, sir?" asked Mr. Passmore, and he quietly placed himself in front of the door.
"Let me pass! Let me pass!" shrilled Job Haskers, and now he looked thoroughly scared.
"Don't you wish to talk this matter over?" questioned Mr. Fordham, wonderingly.
"No, sir. I am not going to stay here to be made a fool of!" cried the former instructor. "Let me pass, I demand it!" he added, to Bert's father.
"Oh, all right, if you insist," answered Mr. Passmore, and stepped aside. At once Job Haskers threw the door open and retreated to the hallway.
"Just wait, you young scamps! I'll get even with you for this!" he exclaimed, shaking a long finger at Dave, Roger, and Phil. "I'll show you yet! You just wait!" And with that threat he literally ran down the hallway and down the stairs and out of the hotel.
"Say, he's some mad, believe me!" was Roger's grim comment.
"I think he is more scared than anything else," returned Dave. "He acted as if he thought we had trapped him in some way."
"Just how it struck me," put in Phil. "He certainly didn't lose any time in getting away, did he?" and the shipowner's son grinned broadly.
"He had a guilty conscience," was Mr. Passmore's comment. "Mr. Fordham, I think you can congratulate yourself that he has left."
"I think so myself, sir," replied the old gentleman. He looked kindly at Dave and his chums. "It looks to me as if you had saved me from being swindled," he continued. "If he had a fair sort of a proposition I think he would have stayed."
"I think so myself," added Mr. Passmore. "Just the same, supposing I look into this Sunset Company for you?"
"As you please, Mr. Passmore. But I doubt if I care to invest—after what I have heard and seen of this fellow, Haskers," answered the old gentleman.
The matter was talked over a little more and then the boys and Bert's father departed, first, however, receiving the warm thanks of Mr. Fordham for what they had done. In the foyer of the hotel the chums fell in with Bert.
"Say, I saw that Haskers fellow shoot out of the hotel in a mighty hurry," he said. "You must have made it hot for him."
"We did," answered Dave. "Where did he go?"
"Up the lake road, as fast as he could walk."
"I wonder where he is stopping?" mused Phil.
"We might take the auto and follow him?" suggested the senator's son. "There is no hurry about our getting home."
"Let's do it!" cried Dave, for he was as curious as the others concerning the former teacher of Oak Hall.
"If you don't mind I'll go along," said Bert.
So it was arranged, and letting Mr. Passmore know of their plans they soon got ready for the trip.
"Now, don't get into any trouble," warned the rug dealer, as they were about to depart. "That fellow Haskers may be like a rat—very ugly when cornered."
"We'll keep our eyes open," answered Dave.
Soon the touring-car was rolling over the lake road, in the direction Job Haskers had taken. The storm had left the road a trifle muddy in spots, but that was all. Overhead the sky was blue and the sun shone brightly.
Less than a quarter of a mile was covered when those in the touring-car saw a figure ahead they knew to be Job Haskers. He was walking along more slowly now, his head bent down as if in deep thought.
"I suppose he is trying to figure out what to do next," was Phil's comment. "Wants to locate another sucker—if he can."
"Such a man ought to be in jail," said Bert "He may rob some poor fellow and do it in a legal way, too,—so that the man won't be able to get back at him."
Roger had slowed down, so that the touring-car kept well behind the former teacher. Presently the boys saw Haskers turn up a side road, one that led to a small hotel, standing on a hill overlooking the lake.
"He's going to the Fenton House," said Bert. "Maybe he is stopping there."
"Possibly," returned Dave.
Slowly following the man, they saw Job Haskers enter the hotel and walk in the direction of the reading-room. Roger stopped the car and turned to the others.
"Well, what's the next move?" he asked. "Want to go in?"
"What's the use?" asked Phil. "We'd only have a lot of words with him. He's got a right to stay here if he wants to."
"Let's go in anyway," said Dave. "You must know somebody here," he continued, turning to Bert.
"Oh, yes, I know several young fellows and girls," answered the lad who was spending the summer at the lake.
"Then we can pretend to be calling on them," put in Roger.
Leaving the touring-car standing in the road, the four youths entered the hotel. They glanced into the reading-room, and noted that over a dozen persons were present. Then Dave gave a low cry.
"Look, boys! What do you think of that?"
He pointed to one corner of the reading-room, where two persons sat on a leather couch, one with a newspaper in his hand.
"Why, it's Link Merwell!" gasped Phil. "Merwell as sure as you're born!"
"How did that rascal get here?" murmured Roger.
"Who is it?" asked Bert, curiously.
"That fellow who is on the couch with Haskers," whispered Dave. "He used to go to school with us at Oak Hall, and then he had to leave, and after that he and a fellow named Jasniff robbed Mr. Wadsworth's jewelry works."
"Oh, yes, Roger told me about that. You fellows followed the rascals to Cave Island, didn't you?"
"Yes, and we caught Jasniff, but Merwell got away."
"Then why not have him locked up right now?" demanded Bert.
"It's what we ought to do," declared Phil.
"Haskers and Merwell must be in with each other," was Dave's comment. "Maybe Merwell is trying to sell some of that Sunset Company stock, too."
"Wonder if we can't hear what they are saying?" said Roger. "It might help us to make out a case against them."
"We can go around to that side window and listen," suggested Phil, and pointed to the window in question.
This was quickly agreed upon, and the four boys left the hotel and walked out on a gravel path close to the window. As the day was warm, the window was wide open.
"No, it was a frost!" they heard Job Haskers say, in harsh tones.
"He wouldn't buy the stock?" queried Link Merwell.
"Worse than that, Merwell. I was trapped, and I had all I could do to get away."
"What do you mean?"
"Do you know who was there, with that old man, when I went to see him?"
"I have no idea."
"Three of the boys you hate—Porter, Morr, and Lawrence."
Merwell started back in consternation.
"You don't mean it—you are fooling!"
"It's the truth. They were there and ready to have me arrested, I suppose. I got out in a hurry." Job Haskers gave a deep sigh and wiped the perspiration from his forehead.
"Did—did they follow you?" asked Link Merwell, nervously.
"I don't think so—I didn't give them time. Oh, this is too bad! I expected to get a lot of money from that old man," and Job Haskers shook his head, sadly.
"I told you it wasn't safe to stay around here," was Merwell's comment. "Why not go out West with me? It will be much safer there, I am sure."
"My funds are low."
"I'll stake you, as the miners say."
"How much money have you?" asked Job Haskers, a bit more hopefully.
"Enough to take us both West. I made dad come down—he sent the money order this morning, and I just got it cashed. I told him if he didn't come down I'd have to give myself up to the police, and that would disgrace the whole family."
"I see." The former teacher of Oak Hall gritted his teeth. "Oh, how I wish I could do something to punish Porter and those others!"
"Humph! you don't wish that any more than I do," replied Link Merwell, scowling. "I'm going to do something some day, mark my words!" he added, vindictively.
At that moment the agent for a big observation car that ran around the lake approached the boys on the gravel path beneath the window.
"Wouldn't you young gentlemen like to take a nice ride this afternoon?" he asked, in a business-like tone. "A fifty-mile ride in our new observation touring-car, visiting all the points of interest around the lake, and taking in Creswood, Lighton, and Tomkins' Mill—a two-hours' ride for one dollar." And he held up a handful of tickets.
"We don't want any ride," answered Dave.
"We have our own touring-car," added Roger, pointing to the car.
"Oh, I see, all right," said the man, and passed on, to hunt for customers elsewhere.
When the man had started to speak his voice had carried into the reading-room, and much surprised to think others were so near, both Haskers and Merwell had gotten up from the couch to glance out of the window.
"Well, I never!" gasped Merwell.
"They must have followed me after all!" groaned Job Haskers.
The youth who had been mixed up in the robbery of the jewelry works grabbed the former teacher by the arm.
"We can't stay here—at least I can't!" he whispered, hoarsely. "I am going to dust!" And out of the reading-room he glided, and Job Haskers followed him.
"Where shall we go?" asked the former teacher, his shaking voice showing how much he was disturbed.
"I don't know—but I won't stay here," returned Merwell. "Have you much baggage? I have only a Gladstone bag."
"I have a suit-case, that is all."
"Then let us pack up and get out by the back way. We can pay our bills later. Come on, there is no time to spare!"
A GATHERING OF OAK HALL BOYS
"Well, they are gone, that's certain!"
"Yes, and there is no telling where they went to."
"Must have slipped out by a back way."
"They sure are a slick pair."
It was some time later, and Dave and the other boys stood on the broad piazza of the hotel discussing the situation.
Following the talk with the observation car agent they had looked into the reading-room only to discover that Job Haskers and Link Merwell had vanished. At once they had rushed into the building, looking through the hallways and other rooms that were open to the general public. Not a trace of the two evildoers was to be found anywhere. Then they had consulted the clerk at the desk, and through him had learned that only Job Haskers was stopping at the place.
"But he has a young friend here, a Mr. Smith—Jackson Smith," the clerk had told them. And then he had described the fellow called Jackson Smith, and Dave and his chums had felt assured that it was Link Merwell under an assumed name. Finally a visit had been paid to the rooms Haskers and Merwell had occupied, and both had been found vacated, with the keys sticking in the locks.
"And neither of 'em stopped to pay his bill," the clerk had told them, mournfully.
"I am not surprised," Dave had answered. "They are a bad pair."
The clerk had wanted to know the particulars, and the boys had told him as much as they deemed necessary. Then they had come out on the piazza of the hostelry, wondering what they ought to do next.
"I don't think it is worth while trying to follow them up," said the senator's son. "If you caught Merwell you would have to appear in court against him, and you know what a lot of trouble you had appearing against Jasniff;" and this statement was true.
"Oh, let them go!" cried Phil. "Say," he added, "did you hear what Link said about bleeding his dad for money? Isn't he the limit!"
"That proves he isn't working for a living," remarked Dave. "And to think that he told me he was going to reform!"
"That sort of a chap doesn't reform," asserted Roger.
"Oh, I don't know. Gus Plum reformed."
"Yes, but Plum isn't like Merwell, or Jasniff. He was simply overbearing. These other fellows are downright dishonest."
The four boys walked back to the automobile, and soon they were returning to the hotel at which Bert was staying. By that time it was close to the lunch hour and so the visitors were invited to stay over for something to eat.
"Didn't catch that man Haskers, eh?" remarked Mr. Passmore, as he came up, in company with Mr. Fordham.
"No, he ran away," answered Roger, and then he and the others told of what had occurred.
"I am very thankful to you for saving me from a bad investment," said Mr. Fordham. "I shall not forget it." And he kept his word, for later on, after he had consulted with his son and found out just how worthless was the stock in the Sunset Milling Company, he sent each of the boys a fine pair of gold cuff-links.
After lunch the lads remained with Bert for about an hour and then took their departure for Roger's home, where they arrived some time before dark. As they rolled up the driveway a surprise awaited them.
"Look who's here!" exclaimed Dave. "Hello there, Luke!"
"Hello yourself," answered Luke Watson, with a broad grin. "I thought you chaps would be along soon."
"And Shadow!" cried Roger, as another form came into view, from the Morr piazza. "This is a surprise! I didn't expect to see you quite so soon."
"Oh, we hadn't anything special to do, so we came ahead," answered Luke. "Hope it won't put you out?"
"Not at all, glad you are here." There was a general handshaking, for the automobile had now come to a stop and the boys had piled out to greet their former schoolmates.
"Say, that puts me in mind of a story!" burst out Shadow Hamilton. "A fellow made a date with a girl for six o'clock. Well, at five——"
"Shadow is onto the game already!"
"Say, Shadow, give us a chance to say how-do-you-do first, won't you?"
"I believe Shadow would try to tell a story if he was going to a funeral."
"Oh, say!" burst out the former story-teller of Oak Hall. "That puts me in mind of another. Two Irishmen went to a funeral and——"
"Shut him off!"
"Put a popcorn ball in his mouth!"
"Make him apologize on the spot!"
At once the four others surrounded the would-be story-teller and pushed him from the gravel path to the green lawn. Then followed something of a wrestling match, all the lads taking part.
"Let up, will you!" panted Shadow, breaking away at last. "I won't tell any stories if you don't want to listen to 'em. But just the same, that story about the Irishmen was a good one. And that about the fellow who went to see the girl at five o'clock is a corker. You see his watch had stopped and he——"
"He can't stop, no matter how hard he tries!"
"Let's stand him on his head and make him tell it backwards!"
Again there was a rush, but this time poor Shadow took to his heels and rushed up on the piazza, just as the door opened and Mrs. Morr came out to greet the boys.
"Roger!" exclaimed the lady of the mansion, turning to her son, "what in the world——"
"Only a little horse-play, Mom," replied the son, with a smile. "We are so glad to see the fellows that we have to let off a little steam."
"It looked like a fight to me."
"Oh, nothing like that, Mrs. Morr," said Dave, quickly. "Only fun; isn't that so, fellows?"
"Of course!" was the quick reply.
"Have you met Luke and Shadow, Mom?" asked Roger.
"Yes, about an hour ago. I told them that you had telephoned that you were on the way home, so they said they'd remain out here, watching for you. I showed them what room they were to occupy," added the lady of the mansion.
"Fine!" cried Roger. "I'll put the car away for the present, and then we'll fix up for dinner and listen to those stories Shadow had to tell."
"Somebody said Buster Beggs was coming," said Luke.
"Yes, he'll be here the night before the Fourth."
Quarter of an hour later found the whole crowd of boys upstairs in the house. In anticipation of the Fourth of July party, as she called it, Mrs. Morr had turned over one wing of the second floor of the big house to the youths. There they could "cut up" to their hearts' content.
"Say, this is something like old times at Oak Hall!" cried Phil, as the youths gathered in one of the bedrooms and proceeded to distribute themselves in various attitudes on the chairs and the bed. "Somehow, I think we are going to miss that school!"
"Miss it! Well I guess yes!" answered Dave. "And that puts me in mind of something. I was thinking——"
"Whoop! Is he going to tell stories, too?"
"Say, Dave, that act belongs to Shadow."
"No, I wasn't going to tell a story," answered Dave. "I've got an idea for a club."
"A club? What do you mean?" asked Roger. "Do you mean for us to get up a club?"
"Yes, the Oak Hall Club, to be composed of fellows who attended Oak Hall for a year or more."
"Let us do it!"
"We'll make Dave president," cried Roger.
"And you treasurer," added Phil.
"And Shadow chief story-teller," put in Luke, with a grin.
"Huh! What's the use of being chief story-teller when you won't let me tell a story?" grumbled Shadow. "But I know what I'll do," he added, with a sudden twinkle in his eye. "If you won't let me talk, I'll write it down. And I'll write a sentence none of you can read and be sure of," he went on.
"What's that?" asked Phil, curiously. "A sentence none of us can read? Maybe you'll write it in Choctaw, or Chinese."
"No, I'll write it in plain, every-day United States, and none of you will be sure how to read it."
"What's the riddle?" demanded Dave, who saw that the story-teller had something up his sleeve.
"Give me a sheet of paper and a pencil and I'll show you," returned Shadow.
Paper and pencil were furnished by Roger, and the story-teller quickly wrote down the following:
"After a row the sailors had a row!"
"Now read it out loud!" cried Shadow, as he passed the paper to the others. All gazed at it for several seconds.
"I pass," remarked Dave, calmly.
"Why, that's easy!" cried Phil. "After a ro——Say, Shadow, what do you mean, did they quarrel or row the boat first?"
"Maybe they rowed the boat twice," suggested Roger, with a grin.
"Or had two quarrels," suggested Luke. And then a general laugh went up.
"You've got us this time, Shadow!" cried Dave. "Give him a lemon, somebody, for a prize," and then another laugh went up.
"That idea of an Oak Hall Club is a good one," said Luke. "But you can't organize it now—the fellows are too scattered."
"Oh, I was thinking we might do it later on—perhaps this winter," answered Dave.
The newcomers were much interested in what Dave, Phil, and Roger had to tell about Job Haskers and Link Merwell, and various were the opinions advanced as to what had become of the pair.
"They are both mighty sore, because they had to leave Oak Hall in disgrace," said Luke. "Every one of us had better keep his eye peeled, for they'll make trouble if they get half a chance." And then the bell rang for dinner and the boys went downstairs.
The next day the lads were all busy getting ready for the Fourth of July. It had been arranged that they should have quite a display of fireworks on the lawn of the senator's home, and many folks of that vicinity were invited to attend.
"Here is Buster Beggs!" cried Roger, that evening, and the youth who was so fat and jolly hove in sight, suit-case in hand. He shook hands all around and was speedily made to feel at home.
"Glad you are going to have fireworks," he said to Roger. "I don't care much for noise on the Fourth, but I dote on fireworks. Let me set some of 'em off, won't you?"
"Of course," was Roger's reply. "We boys are going to give the exhibition, while the older folks, and the girls, look on."
"But we are going to have a little noise—at sunrise," put in Phil.
"What kind of noise—a cannon?"
"No, some firecrackers."
"Oh, that will be all right," answered Buster, thinking the firecrackers were to be of ordinary size.
So they were—all but one. But that one was a monster—the largest Phil and Roger had been able to buy. They had not told the others about this big fellow, not even Dave, for they wanted the explosion of that to be a surprise.
"It will sure make them sit up and take notice," said Phil to Roger, as the pair hid the big cannon cracker away in the automobile garage.
"We'll set it off back of the kitchen," answered Roger. "It won't do any harm there."
On the night of the third the boys retired somewhat early, so as to be up bright and early for the glorious Fourth.
They had been sleeping less than an hour when a sudden cry awakened them.
"Fire! Fire! Get up, boys! The garage is on fire, and I am afraid the gasoline tank will blow up!"
FIRE AND FIRECRACKERS
"The garage on fire!"
"Say, look at the blaze!"
Such were some of the cries, as the boys tumbled out of bed, one after another. A bright glare of fire was dancing over the walls of the rooms.
"It's some brushwood behind the garage!" announced Dave, as he poked his head out of a window to look. "It's that big heap the gardener put there yesterday."
"He shouldn't have placed it so close," said Luke. "Why didn't he rake it to some spot in the open?"
All of the boys were hurrying into their clothing as fast as possible. The alarm had been given by Senator Morr, and by the chauffeur, who slept in a room of the barn next to the garage.
"Oh, Roger!" gasped Phil. "That big cannon cracker!"
"I was thinking of it, Phil!" returned the senator's son, hurriedly. "We must get it out somehow!"
"If it goes off it will wreck the building!"
"Yes, and the gasoline tank with it!"
The tank in question was not underground, as would have been safer, but was located in a bricked-up place at one side of the garage. In the storehouse were two barrels of gasoline, and also some lubricating oils. If that storehouse caught, it would certainly make a hot and dangerous blaze.
Pell-mell down the stairs rushed the youths, one after another. In the meantime Senator Morr was dressing and so were the others of the household.
"Be careful, boys! Don't go too close!" warned Mrs. Morr.
"Watch out for an explosion!" puffed her husband. The senator was so stout that dressing in a hurry was no easy matter for him.
When the boys got out in the garden they found the chauffeur and the gardener at work, trying to pull the burning brushwood away from the garage. The flames were crackling merrily and the sparks were flying in various directions.
"I'm going in and get that big cannon cracker," said Roger to Phil, in a low voice, so that the others might not hear.
"I'll go with you, Roger. Be careful, though, the sparks are flying all round that doorway."
"I've shut everything!" bawled the chauffeur, as he saw Roger at the big sliding doors. "Better not open up, or the fire will get inside."
"I've got to go in, Jake!" answered Roger. "I've got to get something out."
"What?" asked Dave, who was close by.
"Never mind, Dave. It's something that can't be left in there," and so speaking Roger slid open a door and hurried inside the garage. Phil came directly behind him.
On the floor, in a corner, was a box with ordinary firecrackers in it—about two hundred packs in all. On top of this was a package in paper containing the big cannon cracker.
"It's on fire!"
Thus yelled both boys as they saw that the flames from the brushwood had made their way into a corner of the garage, just where the firecrackers had been placed. For an instant they hesitated, then both leaped forward again and commenced to stamp out the fire.
It had caught at a corner of the box containing the smaller firecrackers and was also at the paper containing the cannon cracker. This Phil caught up, knocking the fire away with his hand.
"What are you after, anyway?" The question came from Dave, who had followed his chums into the building. Buster, Shadow, and Luke were outside, at the rear, helping to pull the brushwood away and stamp out the flames.
"Firecrackers—a box full!" cried Roger. "We must get it out!"
"A giant firecracker!" added Phil. "Big enough to blow down a house!" And he held up the package and then made a dive for the outer air, for the garage was now full of smoke.
Dave understood on the instant, and stooped to pick up one end of the burning box. Roger took the other end, and thus they ran from the garage.
Crack! crack! crack! It was the small firecrackers in the box that were beginning to go off, the pieces flying through a lower corner of the burning box.
"Into the back yard with it!" cried Roger. "Keep it away from the buildings!"
"All right, this way!" answered Dave, and then the pair made for something of an open lot behind the kitchen of the mansion and there threw the box on the ground. Crack! bang! crack! went the firecrackers, going off singly and in bunches, until all were shot off.