Dave Porter at Oak Hall/Chapter 4
THE OLD PROFESSOR'S PUPIL
Before Dave left the Wadsworth mansion the lady of the place insisted upon thanking him warmly for what he had done for her daughter. Jessie was also grateful and did what she could to show it.
"I shall never forget you, Dave Porter," she said, with a warm smile. "If it hadn't been for you I should have been burnt up!" And her pretty eyes filled with tears.
"I'm glad I was able to do it for you," was Dave's simple answer. He wanted to say more, but, somehow, the words would not come. He had always looked at Jessie Wadsworth as something of a fairy, far removed from such a country boy as himself. Now she seemed more of a fairy and more beautiful than ever.
When Dave reached home he found Caspar Potts anxiously awaiting his return.
"Mr. Wadsworth is coming to see us," said he. "He thinks you must have taught him when he went to Vale College."
"Did he go to old Vale!" cried Caspar Potts. "I remember that I taught several Wadsworths during my time there."
"I had quite an adventure," went on Dave, and related what had happened to Jessie. "They thought I did something, but I guess it wasn't so much," he added.
On the following morning Dave rose early, and put the cottage in good order for the reception of their visitor. He also helped Caspar Potts to don his best suit of clothes.
"You must be the professor for to-day," he said, with a smile, and this pleased the old man greatly.
"I—I really think I could lecture again, Dave—if I only could get my strength back," said he. "But I'm too old—too old!" And he heaved a deep sigh.
Oliver Wadsworth drove up shortly after ten o'clock in his carriage, the automobile having been sent away for repairs. Caspar Potts and Dave went out on the porch to greet him.
"Professor Potts, sure enough!" cried the manufacturer, cheerily, as he shook hands. "Well, who would have dreamed of finding you buried in such a place as this!"
"It was a quiet, restful spot, and I needed quiet," answered the old man. "Come in, and make yourself at home, Mr. Wadsworth," and he led the way to the best apartment the cottage afforded.
"I wish I had known of this before, professor; I should have called and brought some of my classmates along. Don't you remember Jack Haswell and Dick Merrick?"
"They often come to see me, and they have asked about you more than once. And so you have turned farmer? This is truly wonderful!"
"It is what I like best, besides lecturing, Mr. Wadsworth. But I don't know that I am to keep my farm much longer, unless—"
"Unless you can make some arrangement to get rid of Aaron Poole, is that it?"
"It's about that mortgage, yes."
"Don't let that worry you, professor. I've got a little money to spare, and if you want to keep the farm I'll take up that mortgage, and we'll send Mr. Aaron Poole about his business."
At this announcement the face of the old man brightened wonderfully.
"It's very kind of you to do that. But the interest money—You see, I've been sick—"
"What interest do you pay now?"
"Six per cent."
"We'll make the interest on the new mortgage four per cent., and you can pay it as you feel able. I'll not press you."
"Oh, thank you!" Caspar Potts shook hands with great fervor. "It is kind of you to remember your old professor in this way!" And two tears glistened in his feeble eyes.
"If you'll excuse me, I'll take a look over the farm with Dave," continued the manufacturer. "Perhaps I can suggest some improvements." He gave a light laugh, for he was no farmer. "We'll be back shortly."
Dave was willing enough to show Mr. Wadsworth over the farm, and the two walked out together. The manufacturer looked over that portion which faced the highway.
"You've got a good six hundred feet on both sides of the road," he said, measuring the distance with his eye. "They would certainly make fine town lots some day—after the trolley was established."
"Town lots!" ejaculated Dave.
"Certainly. Crumville is growing fast, and people will always settle along the line of a trolley. It's good property for Professor Potts to hold."
"I am glad to hear that, Mr. Wadsworth, and doubly glad to know that you'll take up that mortgage. Mr. Potts couldn't get along with Mr. Aaron Poole at all."
"Poole is a hard man—we all know that. I suppose he thought he'd get this for a song, and then hold it for a big rise. Now, tell me truthfully, if you can, Dave. Has the professor any ready money?"
"So far as I know, he has next to nothing, sir."
"Then I am going to pay that interest now due, and I'm going to leave a little purse with him besides. I am also going to communicate with some old classmates, so in the future. Professor Potts will be well cared for. I feel he deserves this."
"I think he does myself. He is a nice old gentleman."
"It was queer he should take you for his bound boy?"
"He wanted somebody; that was all there was to it. I did the best I could on the farm, and he paid me back by giving me a pretty fair education."
"Yes, I noticed that you didn't appear to be as ignorant as some of the country lads around here. You can be thankful you have received such instruction. Your learning may be very valuable to you in years to come."
"I know that. If I had my way I'd get all the education I could. But I guess I've got to stick to the farm, or else go at something else for a living."
"If you could do exactly as you pleased, what would you do? " asked Oliver Wadsworth, with increased interest.
"I'd fit myself for college," was the prompt answer. "Even as it is, I'm going to do what I can."
"And after that?"
"I'd go to college and learn all I could."
"And then what, Dave?"
"Then I'd like to travel, if I could afford it, to broaden my mind, as the professor puts it, and after that I'd go in for some profession like law or civil engineering. I was reading the other day of a young fellow who was a civil engineer and was laying out railroads through the mountains of Mexico. That work would suit me exactly." Dave's face began to glow with enthusiasm. "I just wish I had the chance to go ahead! I'm going to make the chance, too,—if I can," he added, stoutly.
The outburst interested Oliver Wadsworth more than he was willing to admit. Then of a sudden a pang shot through his heart, as he remembered the son he had lost through drowning. He looked at Dave and fancied he could trace a resemblance between the two. His dead boy had had that same clean-cut chin, and those same honest, earnest eyes.
"We'll have to see about this later," he said, in a husky voice. "Let us look over the rest of the farm."
In ten minutes more they returned to the house, and there the manufacturer explained to Caspar Potts just what he intended to do. The old professor was grateful, and when fifty dollars in cash was placed on the table before him, his eyes filled with tears of joy.
"Take that and use it as you need it," said Oliver Wadsworth. "And if you find that you need more, do not hesitate to let me know. And when Aaron Poole comes again, send him to me."
"It's very good of you to do this, Mr. Wadsworth," said Dave. "I must thank you, too, for it helps me out as well as Mr. Potts."
"I haven't got around to helping you yet, Dave," said Oliver Wadsworth, with a quiet smile. "I must go out of town to-day, but to-morrow I want you to come and take dinner with us, at six o'clock. It's my wife's invitation as well as my own. How about you, professor? Will you come too? If so, I'll send my carriage for you."
"If I—I am not too old—and too feeble, Mr. Wadsworth "
"Nonsense! You come along, and we'll take care of you. The carriage will be here at five, sharp. Good-bye," and then the manufacturer hurried away to keep another engagement.
"He's what I call a real gentleman," cried Dave, when he and the old man were alone. "Isn't that so, professor?"
"It's like a dream to me, Dave. I'm afraid I'll wake up and find it untrue."
"It's real enough. I am glad you are out of Aaron Poole's clutches."
"So am I," added Caspar Potts.
After this talk Dave went to work with a much lighter heart. He felt that Oliver Wadsworth would keep his word, so there would be no further worry concerning the mortgage. He resolved to do all he possibly could to make the farm pay.
That afternoon, while on an errand to Crumville, he passed Aaron Poole in his buggy.
"Hello, there, young man," cried the rich man. "Anything new?" And he pulled up his horse.
"There is, Mr. Poole," answered Dave, quietly.
"Is Caspar Potts going to let me have the farm?"
"No, sir. He has placed the matter in the hands of Mr. Oliver Wadsworth."
"Yes, sir. Mr. Wadsworth will pay the interest money, and when the mortgage falls due he will take it off your hands."
At this announcement Aaron Poole's face took on a sour look.
"Wadsworth will get stuck," he muttered. "He'll never see his money again."
"He thinks the farm a good investment. When the trolley goes through, the land will rapidly increase in value."
"Humph! that remains to be seen. So Caspar Potts refuses absolutely to sell to me?"
"Yes, and he wants you to see Mr. Wadsworth about the mortgage and interest money."
"Very well, I'll do it," snapped Aaron Poole. "This is what I get for helping Caspar Potts out of a hole when he was in it."
"You got six per cent, for your money, Mr. Poole."
"Which I was legally entitled to."
"That is true, but Mr. Wadsworth is going to charge only four per cent."
"He's a fool to take a mortgage at four per cent.," snorted Aaron Poole. "I thought he was a sharper business man than that."
"I fancy he knows what he is doing."
"Oh, you needn't complain—you are getting the best of the deal. But I guess Oliver Wadsworth will be sorry of his bargain before he gets through with it," and with this attempt at a parting shot Aaron Poole whipped up his horse and drove away.