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    Chapter 2

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    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."
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