Dave Porter at Oak Hall/Chapter 3
dave's presence of mind
Dave was as good as his word, and by one o'clock he entered Mr. Jackson's store. The proprietor, a portly man, greeted him pleasantly.
" More huckleberries, Dave?"
"Not to-day, Mr. Jackson. I came to ask you for a little information."
"Oh! What is it?"
"I guess you know our farm pretty well, don't you?"
"Why, yes; I've known that place for a good number of years. When I was a boy I used to go fishing in the brook back of the woods up there."
"What would you think the farm would bring if put up for sale?"
"Hum! That's a serious question to answer off-hand. How many acres?"
"Eighty-six, and fifty cleared."
"How big is the house?"
"Four good rooms. Then we have a small barn, a cowshed, a poultry house, besides two cows, a horse, and all the tools."
"Are you trying to sell out?"
"Not exactly, but perhaps we'll have to. Now, how much ought the place to bring?"
"Two thousand dollars at least, I should say. Of course at a forced sale places don't bring so much."
"Well, don't you think it would bring more than thirteen hundred dollars?"
"It ought to. But once in a while a place goes for a song. Have you a purchaser?"
"Aaron Poole holds a mortgage for twelve hundred dollars, and he wants Mr. Potts to let him have it for the mortgage and a hundred dollars."
"Aaron Poole always was a close one for a bargain. You're not going to take him up?"
"I don't think so."
"Neither would I. Better risk an auction sale," answered Mr. Jackson, and turned away to wait on a customer that had entered.
From the store, Dave turned his footsteps toward Mr. Basswood's office, which was several blocks away. Ben's father had charge of several estates.
"Yes, Ben told me about your trouble," said Mr. Basswood, after greeting Dave. "I am sorry to hear of this. So Aaron Poole wants the place for the mortgage and a hundred, eh? I think I'd risk a sale first."
"That is just what Mr. Jackson said."
"Property around Crumville is constantly increasing in value, and if that new trolley deal should go through it would certainly enhance the value of your farm very greatly. I am sorry I am not just now in a position to take up that mortgage for Mr. Potts. But I can tell you of somebody who might do so, and that is Mr. Wadsworth."
"You mean the gentleman who owns the jewelry works?"
"Exactly. He has plenty of cash and is constantly looking for good investments."
"I'd like to ask him, only I don't know him."
"I'll give you a note of introduction, Dave. You'll find him a nice man to meet," answered Mr. Basswood.
The note was written, and with the paper in his pocket the boy went on his way.
Having expected to call upon Mr. Basswood, and also Mr. Gay, the lawyer, Dave had dressed himself in his best suit of clothes, and polished his shoes. His outfit was far from a fine one, but it was clean, and there were no rents and no buttons missing.
Mr. Oliver Wadsworth lived in an elegant mansion standing at the head of one of the best side streets of Crumville. The grounds were tastefully laid out, with trees, shrubs, and flowers. In the rear was a fine stable, where the jewelry manufacturer kept his horses. Close by was other building in which was kept the fine thirty horse-power automobile which had recently been purchased.
The Wadsworth family consisted of the gentleman and his wife and one child, a daughter named Jessie, aged about twelve. They had had a son, but the boy had been drowned in the river when ten years old. This loss grieved Mrs. Wadsworth very much, and she went out into society but rarely.
As Dave entered the wide-open gateway leading to the grounds he heard a peculiar chug-chug coming from in front of the building where the automobile was kept. The man in charge, who was also the Wadsworth coachman, was getting the machine in order for use on the road. He had promised to take Jessie out for a ride of fifteen or twenty miles, and the little miss was standing by, wraps in hand, waiting impatiently for the start.
"John, what makes you so long?" she asked, with a little pout. "You've been working now nearly half an hour."
"Can't help it. Miss Jessie," returned the hired man. "There seems to be something the matter with the flow of gasoline, or else this electric spark don't act right. I reckon I've got to tighten those screws a bit more."
"I thought automobiles ran easily," went on Jessie, shaking back her golden curls. "We might be miles away by this time."
Dave stripped himself of his jacket, and in another instant
he had the garment around the suffering girl.—Page 23.
"The machine will run well enough when once we get started," said the man, and then he walked to the rear of the building for a wrench.
How it happened nobody could exactly tell, but scarcely had the man left the side of the automobile when there came a small explosion, and a spout of flame shot from the side of the machine. This touched Jessie's dress, and caused her to give a wild and piercing scream of terror.
"Oh! oh! I'm on fire! Help me!"
"Fire! Fire!" yelled the hired man, and rushed off to get a pail of water.
The path from the gateway to the front piazza of the mansion ran in a quarter circle and in view of the automobile house. Thus Dave, coming along this path, saw the accident and saw Jessie in danger of being fatally burned.
For the moment the heart of the lad seemed to stop beating. Then he made a wild dash across the lawn.
"Oh, save me! Save me!" shrieked Jessie. "I am burning up!"
As he came forward Dave stripped himself of his jacket and in another instant he had the garment around the suffering girl. Then he threw her on the grass and rolled her over and over.
"Jessie! My Jessie!" came from a side porch of the mansion, and Mrs. Wadsworth appeared. "Save her!"
Dave did not reply, but continued to roll the girl over and over, at the same time beating out the flames as best he could with his hands. Then the hired man put in an appearance with a bucket of water.
"Use this," he said, and Dave dashed some in the girl's face and on her breast and arms. But the flames were out and the danger was over.
"Is she—is she—" began Mrs. Wadsworth, but could say no more.
"I don't think she is hurt very much," answered Dave.
He helped Jessie to a sitting position and then to her feet. She stared around wildly and rushed into her mother's arms.
"Oh, mamma!" she moaned, and then fainted.
"Shall we carry her into the house, mum?" asked the hired man.
"Yes," was the reply, and between the man and Dave they took Jessie into a sitting room, where she was placed on a sofa. It was seen that her left arm was slightly burned, near the elbow, but otherwise she was unharmed. Oil was applied, and then flour, and the hired man was rushed away to get a doctor. In the meantime the fire had died out, leaving the automobile but slightly damaged.
Before the doctor arrived Jessie came out of her swoon. She said the arm smarted greatly, but the physician soon made this feel fairly comfortable. In the meantime Mr. Wadsworth, who had gone to the jewelry works, was also summoned.
"Thank God, she is safe!" murmured the gentleman, after seeing his daughter. "Had she been—" He could not finish, but had to turn away.
"It was this young man who saved her, Oliver," came from Mrs. Wadsworth. "At the risk of being burnt himself, he covered her with his jacket, rolled her on the damp grass, and put water on her."
"It was a brave thing to do," was Mr. Wadsworth's ready reply, and he shook Dave's hand warmly.
"Oh, I didn't do much," answered the boy, honestly. "You see, it was only last week I was reading an article on what to do in case a person's clothing took fire. It came in handy, didn't it?"
"It did, indeed." Mr. Wadsworth paused. "Let me see, didn't you come here to see me?"
"Yes, Mr. Wadsworth."
"I believe I have seen you before, but I cannot remember your name."
"My name is David Porter. I live with old Mr. Potts, up the Dixonville road. Here is a letter that Mr. Basswood gave me," and the youth handed over the communication.
"Ah! So you want to know something about the value of that farm, eh? And about the mortgage on it?" The jewelry manufacturer rubbed his chin reflectively. "What did Mr. Basswood say about it?"
"He said property around here was constantly increasing in value."
"The mortgage is now twelve hundred dollars?"
"Yes, sir, and Aaron Poole offered Mr. Potts only one hundred dollars over that amount. Mr. Jackson said he thought the place ought to be worth two thousand dollars."
"I see." Mr. Wadsworth looked at Dave curiously. "How is it you came about this? Are you a relative of Mrs. Potts?"
"No, sir. I am his bound boy."
"Oh! How long have you lived with him?"
"About six years."
"Has he much of a family?"
"No, sir; he is alone In the world, and he is very old and feeble now."
"I don't believe I know him. What is his first name?"
Oliver Wadsworth looked up in astonishment.
"Caspar Potts. Why, that was the name of a professor who used to teach me history when I attended Vale College! But of course this farmer cannot be the same man."
"He can be!" cried Dave. "Mr. Potts was once a college professor; but his health broke down and he gave It up and went to farming, for he had been brought up on a farm."
"This is wonderful, my lad. I liked Caspar Potts very much, and I often wondered what became of him. He was a very learned man, but decidedly peculiar in some of his ways."
"He is peculiar yet. Some folks think he is a bit out of his head, but I never would believe it."
"What a change for such a man! Does he seem to like farming?"
"Yes, sir. He says he is tired of the bustling outside world."
"I will come and see him to-morrow morning. If he is the same Caspar Potts who used to teach me I'll certainly do all I can for him, and I know certain other members of our old class will do the same. Pop Potts we called him, and we can't afford to let him drop out of sight and be forgotten."