Dave Porter at Oak Hall/Chapter 23
JOINING A SECRET SOCIETY
Like all boarding schools and colleges, Oak Hall was not without its clubs. There was a Debating Club, a Glee Club, a Boat Club, and also those devoted to field sports.
In addition to these there was a secret society known by the mysterious name of Gee Eyes,—the application of the name being known only to the charter members and the officers. Not to keep my readers in suspense unnecessarily let me say that the name Gee Eyes stood for the initials G and I, which in their turn stood for the words, Guess It. The society had its own grip and passwords as well as signs, both serious and funny.
Fully thirty of the best students of Oak Hall belonged to the Gee Eyes, and Phil Lawrence was the president, officially designated as the Right Honorable Muck-a-Muck. Buster Beggs was the secretary, and was called the Lord of the Penwiper, and Shadow Hamilton enjoyed the position of sergeant-at-arms, under the title of Captain Door-keep.
Dave, Roger, and Ben had not yet been initiated into the society, but their names were up for membership, as well as the names of Nat Poole and several others.
On the evening following the trouble just recorded, the Gee Eyes held a meeting in an old boathouse located down the river, a quarter of a mile from Oak Hall. Nearly thirty members were present, and the names of those up for initiation were thoroughly discussed.
"I shan't vote for Dave Porter," said Will Fellen, flatly. "I want to keep the standard of this society up to the top notch."
"Just what I say," said another student, who was a follower of Gus Plum.
"You are making a big mistake, Fellen," said Phil Lawrence, quietly but firmly. "Dave Porter is a fine fellow, and he must come into this society if I am to remain a member. I am not going to stand and see him black-listed in this fashion."
"How do you know he will come in?" asked another.
"I've sounded him, and he will come in if we want him. He ought to become a member, and so ought Roger Morr and Ben Basswood."
"What of Nat Poole and Harry Haven?"
"Haven seems a nice sort. As for Nat Poole, I'd rather wait and know more of him. He seems to train a good deal with Gus Plum."
"I'll vote for Porter, but I want Poole to come in too," said a lad named Gassberry.
A discussion lasting half an hour ensued, and it was plainly to be seen that a number of the boys had been listening to what Gus Plum and his friends had had to say against Dave. Yet the opposition, melted greatly before Phil's vigorous denunciation of the bully, and in the end it was voted to make Dave a member, and to take in all of the others mentioned likewise.
As soon as the meeting broke up Phil lost no time in singling out Dave, Ben, and Roger.
"We want all of you to join our secret society," he said. "You've heard of it, the Gee Eyes. We have voted to make you members."
"Do the boys want me for a member?" asked Dave, quickly.
"All of them?"
"The vote was almost unanimous. Only two stood out against twenty-six, and they won't count."
This reply made Dave feel glad—it was certain that he had not lost many friends by the actions of Gus Plum and his followers.
"All right, Phil, I'll join, and tell the boys I am thankful to them for voting for me," said he, and the others said practically the same.
"My opinion of it is, that Gus Plum has hurt himself by talking against you, Dave," went on Phil, later on, when they were alone. "At first the lads—or some of them—thought they ought to turn against you, but when they were reasoned with, and thought it over, they concluded that it would be a mean thing to give you the cold shoulder, after the manly way you were acting, and especially after what you did for Oak Hall at the football match."
"I'm sure I've got you to thank for it all, Phil," answered Dave. "I'll not forget it, old fellow!" And he caught Phil by the shoulder affectionately.
Dave had expected to hear from the bully concerning the proposed fight, but nothing came in the way of a challenge. To tell the truth, Gus Plum was just a little afraid of Dave, and likewise afraid of his popularity.
"I can't understand why the fellows stick up for his kind," he declared to Nat Poole, "but they do, and nothing seems to change 'em."
"I understand they are going to make him a member of the Gee Eyes. They are going to make me a member too. Do you belong?"
"Yes, but I haven't attended a meeting since they put in Phil Lawrence as leader. I won't play second fiddle to that chap."
"I'm going to join just to see what it's like," added Nat Poole. "I can drop it like yourself if I don't like it."
Two days later Dave was informed that the initiation ceremonies would be held at the old boathouse that evening. He promised to be on hand, and promptly at the hour appointed presented himself, in company with Ben and Roger. Nat Poole and Haven were also present.
The candidates found the members of the Gee Eyes duly assembled. Each wore a cotton robe of red and had a big black hood over his head, with a yellow tassel dangling over one ear. Two were armed with wooden swords, one had a wooden hammer, and some others had stuffed clubs.
As soon as they had been greeted, the candidates were pounced upon from behind, and each was made a prisoner and blindfolded. Then they were placed in a bunch, and the members of the Gee Eyes joined hands and began to dance around them, singing as they did so:
"Hoopra! hoopra! Dilly danky!
This was followed by a ferocious hissing sound, and then the chant went on:
"Willy nilly! chi phi!
Dress 'em, press 'em, mess 'em down,
Following this there came a mock parade, one of the members with a sword leading, and then he of the wooden hammer advanced slowly.
"Kneel, ye craven hearts!" he called in a bass voice, that sounded strangely like that of Shadow Hamilton. "Kneel, before this trusty hammer knocks ye to the soil!"
All knelt but Nat Poole.
"See here, what are you going to do?" he asked, anxiously.
"Get down!" whispered the boy named Haven. "They won't hurt you much."
Nat Poole went down on his knees very gingerly, and it must be confessed that he was trembling.
Now, as it happened, some very small tacks had been placed on the boathouse floor. Dave and Roger escaped them, but the others did not, and a yell of pain went up.
"Oh, dear, who put these tacks here! " cried Nat Poole. "Oh, I've got three in my knees." And he danced around in anguish.
At once a big wooden imitation of a claw hammer was produced.
"Take the tacks out with this," was the command.
"I—I can't use that," groaned Nat Poole.
"You must. It is against Section 28, Rule 249, of this society to pull out tacks with your fingers," and then a laugh went up, in which Dave, Roger, and Ben joined.
"Seize number one!" was the cry, from a corner, and in a twinkling Dave found himself caught by three of the members of the club. Then the other candidates were hustled away, to some place unknown.
Feeling that he might be handled roughly if he resisted, the country lad submitted quietly.
"Art thou prepared to meet thy doom?" was the question asked of him, amid a death-like silence.
"Why, yes, please introduce me," he answered brightly, and this retort brought forth a snicker.
"Thou shalt have thy choice, base slave, to be cut up or burned up. Which? Speak up!"
"If it's all the same, I'd like to be burned up," he answered as cheerfully as ever. "Do you know why?"
"Why?" came from behind him.
"It will save funeral expenses." And then there was another snicker.
"Away to the funeral pyre with him," was the next command, and a moment later, still blindfolded, Dave was led from the old boathouse and into the woods skirting the river. Here he was made to walk around in several circles, until he imagined that they were taking him quite a distance. Then they brought him back to a horse-shed standing just behind the boathouse.
"Here is the house," said somebody, in a low tone.
"Will we dare to burn it down?" came from another.
"Sure, nobody owns it," came from somebody else. "Tie him fast, and be quick about it."
"Be careful, we don't want to burn him too much," came in an intense whisper, but meant to reach Dave.
"Oh, a few good scars won't hurt him," was the answer. "It will give him something to remember his schooldays by."
Dave heard every word, but he made no protest. He was bound to stick it out to the end, no matter, what happened.
"I'm sure they won't really hurt me," he told himself. "Anyway, I'm not going to yell until I'm hurt."
Pretty soon Dave smelt smoke, and then he was tied fast to a post, so that he could not move hand or foot.
"Now, a lasting farewell!" was the cry. Then the members of the Gee Eyes left the vicinity, talking earnestly among themselves. The smoke kept growing thicker, until Dave had to cough. Then he felt his hands and feet getting hot.
"This isn't so comfortable," he reasoned. "Wonder how long it will last?"
"Look! look!" was the sudden cry, from outside the shed. "See how that fire is spreading!"
"Say, boys, we'll have to get him out! This is going too far!"
"Get him out? You can't do it now! It's too late!"
"Yes! yes! " came from a dozen students, in voices of anguish. "It's too late! Dave Porter will be burned up!"