Dave Porter and His Classmatesскачать книгу бесплатно
"At first all went well, for I saw no liquor and got little chance to get any, but after a while the appetite forced itself on me once more, and – and you know what followed."
As Gus Plum concluded he covered his face with his hands and looked the picture of misery and despair. Dave had sunk down on the rock beside him and he placed a hand on the other's shoulder.
"Is that all, Gus?" he asked, quietly.
"About all," was the low answer. "But I want you to know one thing more, Dave. When you went away to Europe I intended to keep my promise and make a man of myself. I got along all right at first, but one Saturday afternoon Link Merwell asked me to go to Rockville with him."
"Yes. I don't care for him much, yet he was very friendly and I said I'd go. We visited a place where they have a poolroom in the rear, and he urged me to play pool with him, and I did. Then he offered me a cigar, and finally he treated to liquor. I said I had stopped drinking, but he laughed at me and held a glass of strong stuff to my face and dared me to take it, – said I was a baby to refuse. And I took it, – and then I treated him, and we both took too much. I came back to school alone, for we got into a row when he spoke of you and said mean things about you. When I got to Oak Hall I might have gotten into more trouble, only Shadow Hamilton cared for me, as maybe you know. Merwell wasn't under the influence of liquor very much, but he had enough to be ugly, and he got into a row with Mr. Dale and came pretty near to being sent home. Then he had another row with the teacher and went off on his vacation. He somehow blamed Phil Lawrence, but Phil had nothing to do with it."
"Yes, Phil wrote to me about that last row," answered Dave. "But to come back to yourself, Gus." His face grew sober. "You've certainly had a hard time of it, and, somehow, I don't think you alone are to blame for all that has happened. I have no appetite for liquor, but I think I can understand something of what it means. But let me tell you one thing." Dave's voice grew intensely earnest. "It's all nonsense to say you are not going to reform – that you can't do it. You can reform if you'll only use your whole will power."
"But look at what I've tried already!" Plum's tone was utterly hopeless. "Oh, you don't know how I've fought against it! People who haven't any appetite for liquor don't know anything about it. It's like a snake around your neck strangling you!"
"Well, I wouldn't give up – not as long as I had any backbone left. Just make up your mind from this minute on that you won't touch another drop of any kind, no matter who offers it. Don't say to yourself, 'Oh, I'll take a little now and then, and let it go at that.' Break off clean and clear, – and keep away from all places where liquor is sold."
"Yes, but – " Plum's voice was as hopeless as before.
"No 'buts' about it, Gus. I want you to make a man of yourself.
You can do it if you'll only try. Won't you try? – for your own sake – for my sake – for the honor of Oak Hall? Say yes, and then thrust liquor out of your mind forever – don't even let yourself think of it. Get interested in your studies, in skating, boating, gymnastics, baseball, – anything. Before you know it, you'll have a death grip on that habit and it will have to die."
"Do you really believe that, Dave?"
"I do. Why, look at it – some men right down in the gutter have reformed, and they didn't possess any more backbone than you. All you want to do is to exert your will power. Fight the thing just as you used to fight me and some of the other fellows, and let that fight be one to a finish. Now, come, what do you say?"
"I'll fight!" cried Gus Plum, leaping to his feet and with a new light shining in his eyes. "I'll fight! Oh, Dave, you're a wonderful fellow, to put new backbone in me! I felt I had to give up – that I couldn't win out, that everything was against me. Now I'll do as you say. I won't even think of liquor again, and I won't go where I can get it."
"Give me your hand on that, Gus." The pair shook hands. "Now let us continue our skate. Perhaps we'll meet Shadow and Chip. I know they'll be glad to hear of what you intend to do. They want you to turn over a new leaf just as much as I do. And after this, take my advice and drop Link Merwell."
"I'll do it. As I said, I never cared much for him."
The two left the spot where the conversation had ensued and skated up the river for a considerable distance. As they disappeared another youth stole forth from behind some bushes near by and skated off in the opposite direction. The youth was Link Merwell.
"So that was the trouble with Gus Plum last night, and that is what he has got to say about me!" muttered the bully, savagely. "Well, I am glad I know so much of his history – it may come useful some time! He may get under Dave Porter's wing, but I am not done with him yet – nor done with Porter either!"
It was not long before Dave and Plum met Shadow, and a little later the three saw Chip Macklin. All four went off in a bunch, and Dave with much tact told of what Gus proposed to do.
"It is very nice of you to keep this a secret," said Plum. "I shall always remember it, and if I can ever do anything for any of you I'll do it. You are all good friends, and Dave is the best fellow I ever met!"
They skated on for fully a mile, the fine snow pelting them in the face. But nobody minded this, for all felt happy: Plum to think that he was going to have another chance to redeem himself, and the others over the consciousness that they had done a fellow-being some good.
"Time to get home!" cried Shadow, looking at his watch. "What do you say to a race back?"
"How much of a start will you give me?" asked Chip. "I've got no chance otherwise against you big fellows."
"We'll give you fifteen seconds," answered Dave. "One, two, three – go!"
Soon the race was on in earnest. Chip Macklin was well in the lead and the others started in a bunch. Gradually Shadow went ahead of Dave and Gus Plum, but then Plum drew closer, and when they reached the school dock, Plum and Dave were a tie, with Shadow and Chip close on their heels.
"That puts new life in a fellow!" declared Dave. "Gus, you came pretty near to beating me."
"Your wind is better than mine," was the answer. Plum felt he might have won had it not been for the dissipation of the day previous. Dissipation and athletic supremacy of any kind never go well together.
A week slipped by quietly and during that time Dave, Roger, and Phil got the chance to go rabbit hunting and brought in twelve rabbits. Gus Plum stuck to his resolve to do better, and during school hours gave his studies all his attention. When not thus employed he spent his time in skating, snowballing, and in the gymnasium. He avoided Link Merwell, and for the time being the bully left him alone.
During those days Dave received a letter from his sister Laura, to whom he had written after his talk with Merwell. Laura stated that all was going along finely at the Wadsworth home and that their father was thinking seriously of buying a fine mansion located across the street, which would keep the friends together. She added that she had received a letter from Link Merwell and had sent it back, writing across the top, "Please do not send any more."
"No wonder Merwell looks so sour," mused Dave, after reading his sister's communication. "I suppose he is mad enough at me to chew me up."
As my old readers know, there was at Oak Hall a secret society known as the Gee Eyes, this name standing for the initials G. I., which in their turn stood for the words Guess It. The society was kept up almost solely for the fun of initiating new members. On coming to the school Dave had had to submit to a strenuous initiation, which he had accepted without a murmur. All his chums were members, and the boys had gotten much fun out of the organization.
"Call for a special meeting of the Gee Eyes to-night," said Ben Basswood, one afternoon. "Going to initiate three new members – Tom Atwood and the Soden brothers. Be on hand early, at the old boathouse."
"What are we going to do to 'em?" asked Dave, with a grin.
"That is something Sam, Buster, and some of the others want to talk over. They'd like to do something brand-new."
"I think I can tell them of one thing to try," said Dave.
"Make one of 'em think he is crossing Jackson's Gully on a narrow board."
"Good, Dave; that will do first-rate!" cried Ben. "I hope we can think of two other things equally good."
About an hour later Dave met some of the others, and a general discussion regarding the initiations for that evening took place. A score of "stunts" were suggested, and at last three were selected, and the committee got ready to carry out their plans.
Link Merwell was not a member of the Gee Eyes. He had once been proposed and been rejected, which had made him very angry. In some manner he heard of the proposed initiations, and he did his best to learn what was going on. As we know, he was not above playing the eavesdropper, and now he followed Dave and his friends to learn their secrets.
"So that is what they are up to," he said. "Well, let them go ahead. Perhaps I can put a spoke in their wheel when they least expect it!" And then he chuckled to himself as he thought of a plan to make the initiations end in disaster.
THE GEE EYES' INITIATION
"Well, you're a sight!"
"I don't look any more stylish than yourself, Roger."
"Stylish is good, Dave. I guess both of us look like circus clowns."
"Whoop la!" shouted Buster Beggs. "Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce to you the renowned Oak Hall Company of Left-Over Clowns and Monkeys – the most unique aggregation of monstrosities on the face of the globe. This one has the reputation of – "
"Hush, not so loud, Buster!" cried Dave, "or you'll have old Haskers down on us, and that will spoil the fun."
"Speaking of looking like clowns puts me in mind of a story," came from Shadow, who was still struggling to get into his club outfit. "One time a country fellow who wasn't a bit good-looking wanted to join a circus as a clown. He went to see the manager. 'Can I have a job as a clown?' he asked. 'Well, I don't know,' answered the manager, slowly, as he looked him over. 'Who showed you how to make up your face? It's pretty well done.'" And the usual short laugh went up.
The Gee Eyes in the past had worn simple robes of red with black hoods over their heads. Now, by a special vote, they had purchased robes that were striped – red, white, and yellow. For headgear each member had a box-like contrivance, cubical in shape, with holes in the front for the eyes and an orange-like lantern on top, with a candle in it. This box rested on the shoulders of the wearer, thus concealing his identity completely.
In the past, Phil Lawrence had been president of the organization, but now that office was filled by Sam Day, under the title of Right Honorable Muck-a-Muck. Ben Basswood was secretary, and was called the Lord of the Penwiper; Buster Beggs was treasurer, known as the Guardian of the Dimes, and Luke Watson was sergeant-at-arms under the title of Captain Doorkeep.
The organization met whenever and wherever it was convenient. This was done for two reasons: first, because the members did not wish their enemies to know what they were doing, or otherwise information might be imparted to the teachers; and, second, they never met unless they were going to initiate a new member or were going to have some sort of a feast.
"Where are the intended victims?" asked Dave, after he had adjusted his robe and his headgear to his satisfaction, and possessed himself of a long stuffed club.
"They were told to wait in the old granary until called for," answered Messmer.
"Do they seem to be timid about joining?" asked Ben.
"Tom Atwood is a little timid, – he heard how little Frank Bond was almost scared to death by Gus Plum's crowd one term."
"By the way, where is Gus?" asked Henshaw.
"He said he wanted to study," answered Dave. "I asked him to come, but he wouldn't."
"My, but didn't Gus give us a funny story the time we initiated him!" cried one of the students.
"Yes, and do you remember how Link Merwell and Nat Poole placed those big firecrackers under our fire and nearly blew us all to pieces," added another.
"Never mind – we got square," said Buster. "I guess they haven't forgotten yet the drubbing we gave them."
It was late at night, and the boys had had not a little difficulty in stealing away from the school unobserved. With all in readiness, the three boys who were awaiting to be initiated were sent for, and they presently appeared, escorted by four of the club members, each carrying a bright and very blunt sword. As they came into the old boathouse, lit up by various fantastic lanterns representing skulls, dragons, and the like, the Gee Eyes set up a low chant:
"Hail the victims! Let them come!
Let them enter, one by one!
Let them bow the humble knee!
Let them now forsake all glee!
Death! Blood! Tomb!"
And then arose a weird groaning, calculated to make any lad feel uneasy. The three victims were forced to their knees and made to touch three chalk-marks on the floor with their noses. Then one of the members of the club came forward with a big tin wash-basin and sprinkled them with what looked to be water but was really ammonia. This caused some coughing and some tears commenced to flow. But the victims were "game" and said nothing.
"Lock two of them in yonder dungeon cell," commanded the Right Honorable Muck-a-Muck. "They shall be led to their fate later." And the Soden brothers, twins named Joe and Henry, were led to a big closet of the old boathouse and thrust inside.
Then Tom Atwood was taken outside, and a long march commenced behind the school grounds and leading to a secluded spot among some bushes. Here Atwood was suddenly blindfolded and his hands tied behind him.
"Now to Jackson's Gully with him," cried several, and then the party proceeded a little further into the bushes.
"Look out, don't slip into the gully," whispered one member, but loud enough for Tom Atwood to hear.
"Oh, I'll take care!" whispered another. "Why, the gully is a hundred feet deep around here."
Then Tom Atwood was led up and over some rocks and halted a short distance beyond.
"Say, that looks mighty dangerous to me," whispered Roger.
"Oh, he'll get over if he's got nerve," answered Dave.
"Base slave, list thou to me!" cried the president of the Gee Eyes. "We have brought thee to the edge of a gully some hundred feet deep. If thou wouldst become a member of this notorious – I mean illustrious – organization thou must cross the gully on the bridge we have provided. Dost thou accept the condition?"
"I – I don't know," faltered Tom Atwood. "I – I can't see a thing."
"Nor wilt thou until thy task is accomplished. The gully must be crossed, otherwise thou canst not be of us."
"How big is the bridge?"
"One board wide."
"Any – er – handrail?" went on the victim.
"Nary a handrail," piped up a small voice from the rear. "What do you want for your money, anyway?"
"Say, that puts me in mind of a story – " came from another, but he stopped short as a fellow-member hit him with a stuffed club.
"I – I don't know about this – " began Tom Atwood. "I – oh, say, let up!" he cried, as he received several blows from stuffed clubs. "I – oh, my back!"
"Wilt try the bridge?" demanded the Right Honorable Muck-a-Muck.
"Yes, yes, but can't I – I crawl if I want to?"
"Thou canst, after thou hast taken seven steps."
"All right, here goes then."
Tom Atwood was led forward to the end of a long plank.
"Be careful," he was cautioned. "There, put your foot there and the other one right there. Now you are all right."
"And must I really – er – stand up and take seven steps?"
"Yes, exactly seven, or woe betide thee!" came the answering cry.
With great caution the blindfolded victim took a step and then another. He was trembling visibly, which caused the club members to shake with silent laughter. He counted the steps and when he had taken just seven he fell on his hands and knees, clutching the sides of the plank tightly.
"Ho – how long is – is it?" he asked, his teeth commencing to chatter. "I – I ain't used to climbing in such places. It – it makes me dizzy!"
"Go on! go on!"
"The plank is only fifty-four feet long," said one boy.
"Oh, my! fifty-four feet; I'll go down – I know I will!"
Slowly, and clutching the plank with a death-like grip, Tom Atwood moved forward a distance of eighteen feet. Then the plank came to an end. He put out one hand after the other, but felt only the empty air.
"I – I don't feel the rest o – of th – the bridge!" he chattered.
"It is gone!" cried one boy, in a disguised voice. "Turn around and come back."
"But be careful how you turn, or the board may wabble and let you drop," added another.
More scared than ever, Tom Atwood turned around very gingerly. Once he thought the board was going over, and he set up a yell of fright. Then slowly and painfully he came back over the plank until he reached the solid ground once more.
"Hurrah!" cried the Gee Eyes. "Bravely done, Tom!"
"Now you are one of us!"
"He didn't mind that deep gully at all!"
"Yes, but I did mind it," answered the victim, as they were taking the cover from his eyes. "I wouldn't do that again for a hundred dollars in cash!"
"It was certainly the bravest thing to do I ever heard of," was Dave's comment, and then he tore the bandage away. Immediately, by the light of the lanterns the boys had on their headpieces, Tom Atwood looked at the plank which had cost him so much worry and fright.
"Well, I never!" he gasped.
And then what a roar of laughter went up! And well it might, for the plank rested on nothing but two blocks of wood and was less than a foot from the solid ground! The location was nowhere near Jackson's Gully.
"Tom, you'll do it for a hundred dollars now, won't you?" questioned Roger, earnestly.
"Oh, what a sell!" answered the victim, sheepishly. "Say, please don't tell the other fellows of this," he pleaded. "I'll never hear the end of it!"
"The secrets of the Gee Eyes are never told outside," answered Phil. "But there is one more thing you must do," he added.
"Carry that plank back to the boathouse."
"And here is a suit for you," said Ben. "Put that on, and then you can participate in the initiation of the Soden brothers."
"Where are they?"
"Locked up in the closet at the old boathouse."
"What are you going to do with them?"
"You'll see when you get back."
With Tom Atwood and the plank between them, the members of the Gee Eyes took up the long march back to the old boathouse. To do this they had to cross a country road which was but little used. As they did this they heard an unusual sound from a clump of trees near by.
"There they are!" a voice called out. "I told you I had seen some ghosts."
"Sure enough, Billy, they must be ghosts," was the reply, in a deeper voice. "It's a good thing I brung my shotgun with me."
"Are you goin' to shoot at 'em?"
"That's what, Billy."
Hardly had the words been spoken when, to the consternation of the Gee Eyes, a shotgun was discharged, the load whistling through the trees over the lads' heads.
"Hi! hi! stop that!" yelled Buster Beggs. "We are not ghosts! We are – "
Bang! spoke up the shotgun a second time, and the load went clipping through the bushes on the left.
"Hand me your shotgun, Billy," said one of the voices. "I don't know if I hit 'em or not, but this'll fetch 'em!"
"Run!" cried Dave. "Run for your lives! That old farmer is so scared he doesn't know what he is doing!"
And then all the boys ran across the roadway and dove into the woods beyond. They heard another report, but the contents of the gun did not reach them.
IN WHICH JOB HASKERS GETS LEFT IN THE COLD
The boys kept on running for fully a hundred yards, plunging deeper and deeper into the woods which lined the roadway. Tom Atwood had dropped the plank and two of the club members had lost their headpieces, but nobody dreamed of going back for the articles.
"I think I know who that man is," said Phil, when the crowd came to a halt.
"Mike Marcy?" questioned Dave.
"I thought that, too, but I wasn't sure. He called the other fellow Billy."
"He has a boy working for him now and his name is Billy," said Shadow. "I met him on the road several times, driving cows. He isn't just right in his mind. I suppose Marcy got him to work cheap."
"I wonder if Marcy really thought we were ghosts?" mused the senator's son. "Maybe he only said that to scare us. He might have thought we were up to some kind of a job around his farm."
"Well, whether he thought we were ghosts or not, he certainly shot at us," was Phil's comment. "Ugh! I am glad I didn't get a dose of the shot!"
"And so am I," answered several others.
"That is one more black mark against Mike Marcy," said Luke Watson. "We'll have to remember to pay him back."
"Never mind about paying him back just now," answered Roger. "The question is, What's to do next? That run warmed me up and I'll take cold if I stand here long doing nothing."скачать книгу бесплатно
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