Dave Porter at Oak Hall/Chapter 29
TURNING OVER A NEW LEAF
Chip Macklin was going straight to his dormitory when Dave hurried up to him, and caught him by the shoulder.
"Let me go!" said the sneak, doggedly. "You said you were willing to let it pass——"
"And I am, Chip. Come, take a walk with me. I want to talk to you."
"I don't want to talk."
"You had better come. I'm not going to hurt you. I want to talk for your own good."
The younger boy hesitated for a moment, and then turned partly around.
"Where do you want to go?"
"Come up to the old lumber room. It's warm there and quiet, too," and Dave led the way to an apartment filled with odds and ends of all sorts. Here they sat down on some boxes.
"Chip, I am going right to the point, for I don't think it pays to beat around the bush," commenced Dave. "I want to know why you don't turn over a new leaf and be a better boy? Nobody likes a sneak, and it ought to be beneath you to toady to Gus Plum. If you'd give up your sneaking ways, and give up toadying to that bully, I'm sure all the other fellows would like you a great deal more than they do now."
At this unexpected outburst Chip Macklin was silent for a moment.
"You're a good enough fellow, in general," went on Dave, earnestly. "You're pretty good at your lessons, and pretty good other ways, too, and I know some boys like you when you are not following after Plum. Another thing, to my mind, Plum is on the downward road, and if you keep on following him, sooner or later you'll get into some trouble that will bring you dismissal from the Hall. Your stepfather won't like that, and neither will your mother."
At these words Chip Macklin's head sank on his breast.
"If I were you, I'd cut Gus Plum dead after this, and I think I'd cut Nat Poole, too, although he isn't quite so bad as Plum, only foolish. Those fellows will never help you to make a man of yourself, and both of them will never help you in your studies, for each is near the bottom of his class."
"I know they don't study much—and they don't let me study as much as I wish. But what can I do—I'm in their dormitory. And Plum will half kill me now!" Macklin showed signs of breaking down again.
"We'll get Dr. Clay to put you in some other dormitory. Will Fellen is leaving No. 11. How would that suit you? There's a prime set of boys in No. 11."
"They won't want me—not after what I've done," answered the smaller student, gloomily.
"I'll try to fix it up for you—that is, if you'll promise to turn over a new leaf."
"Do you mean it, Dave?"
"I do, Chip. I want to see you make something of yourself. I don't want to see anybody throw himself away for such a fellow as Plum. If you'll turn over a new leaf, and he tries to abuse you, I'll stand up for you."
"Will you, really?" Chip Macklin's face brightened. "Oh, you don't mean that!"
"I do; did you ever know me break my word?"
"It's good of you, Dave. I don't deserve this. It was mean to play the sneak on you, and steal that composition. But honestly, I was going to put the paper back. I was scared to death the minute after I took it. Plum got me to take it—or, at least, he suggested the thing to me. He's always suggesting something for me to do."
"Well, don't listen to him after this."
"I won't, I'll promise you, and I'll—I'll do my level best to be all right after this, too." The smaller boy caught Dave's hand. "I will do it, yes, I will!"
Quite a talk followed, and Dave continued to give Chip Macklin some good advice. They parted friends, and then Dave sought out Dr. Clay again. The doctor listened to his story with deep interest.
"I do not imagine that Plum will trouble Macklin in the future," said the master of Oak Hall. "Still, if Macklin wishes to take the vacant bed in dormitory No. 11, he can do so. I will speak to Mr. Dale about it. It is to your credit that you have advised the youth to turn over a new leaf. And now let me give you a bit of advice, Porter. Try to keep your temper after this. It often pays to go slow."
"I know it, doctor, but—but——"
"I understand, and I am not going to punish you. Only remember that I want my pupils to be gentlemen."
As soon as it was announced that Chip Macklin was coming into dormitory No. 11, various were the comments from those already occupying that apartment and No. 12.
"We don't want him. He's nothing but a miserable sneak!" said one, and that was the opinion of the majority.
"Look here, fellows, I want to tell you something," said Dave, earnestly, and he spoke briefly of his encounter with Plum and his talk with Macklin. "Now, I'm satisfied Chip wants to turn over a new leaf. But he can't do it if he's kept under Plum's thumb. Let us give him a fair chance. I've found out that he has a stepfather who is rather harsh with him, and he doesn't get hardly any spending money. Plum used to bribe him to do things, and when Chip didn't have a cent it was a great temptation. Let's try to make a man of him. Come now, what do you say?" And thus Dave talked for a good hour.
"Say, Dave, you ought to be a lawyer," cried Roger. "You'd do finely defending criminals. If it's as you say, I'm willing to give Macklin all the show he wants."
"Yes, andhelp him if I can," added Ben.
"I didn't know he was poor and had a hard-hearted stepfather," said the boy who was considered the leader of No. 11. "He can come in here and welcome, eh, fellows?"
"Yes, let him come!" was the cry, and so it was settled. Dave helped the small boy to bring in his things, and two or three of the others gave a hand to help him settle down. He felt strange at first, and exceedingly suspicious, but gradually these feelings wore away, and he became quite another lad.
"Don't you wish yourself back in No. 13?" asked Dave, one day, after he had helped Chip to do an extra hard example.
"No, no!" was the quick answer. "I never want to go back! It is ever so much better here. I can see now what a fool I was, Dave, to toady to Plum, and to play the sneak for him. I never want to do those things again!"
"Has he bothered you since you came?"
"Not yet. I—I haven't given him the chance. Once, I was walking along by the boathouse, and he came after me. But I ran back into the school."
"You might as well face him next time, just to see what he has to say. Show him that you are not afraid of him. It's the only way to treat such a bully."
Gus Plum had expected to pitch into Macklin for exposing the truth concerning the composition, and the bully was much chagrined to find the small boy leaving dormitory No. 13.
"He knew better than to stay in this room," grumbled Plum to Nat Poole. "Just the same, I am sorry to lose him—he was such a handy little sneak to have around."
"Did everything you wanted done, didn't he?"
"Almost everything. He was hard up, and ten cents or a quarter looked as big as the moon to him."
"Are his folks so poor?"
"No, but his stepfather don't believe in extravagance."
"Porter must have hit you pretty hard?" went on Poole, after a pause.
"Pooh! It was nothing to what I gave him. Didn't you notice his front teeth? They are all loose."
This was a falsehood, but Poole was willing to take Plum's word for it, and it soon became noised around that the bully had given Dave a sound beating. Poole added that the fight had lasted half an hour, and that Plum had had the better of it from start to finish.
Of course, Dave denied the story, and so did Macklin, yet many believed the tale, and as a consequence Gus Plum was looked up to by them as the king of the academy. Later on, one or two new pupils became his toadies, in place of Macklin.
Winter had now set in, and erelong there came a fall of snow, followed by a cold snap which put an inch of ice on the surface of the river. Then followed more snow, covering the ground to a depth of half a foot on a level, although the wind swept it into drifts in some places and left other spots, and especially the river, almost clear.
"Whoop! hurrah for a snowballing match!" cried Roger, rushing in. "This snow is glorious! It packs just right!"
Some of the students were already snowballing each other, and poor Pop Swingly, who was trying to clean off one of the walks, had been hit several times, and so had Horsehair Lemond, who was helping at the task.
"Two cents for a shot, Pop!" cried one student, and before an answer could be given, the snowball was launched forth, to catch the janitor in the back.
"Here's a new act in the thrilling drama, 'Buried in the Snow!'" cried another to Horsehair, and sent down on him an avalanche of snow from a window sill above.
"Hi! hi! don't you be after buryin' me alive!" roared the stage driver. "Just wait till I catch you," he added, as he emerged from the snow heap. "We'll have a new act called 'Having His Ears Boxed!'" and he shook his fist at his tormentor.
Dave and his friends were soon in the midst of the sport, and then the snowballs flew faster than ever. It was jolly fun and everybody enjoyed it to the utmost. In the crowd was Macklin, who took the hits he got in good part, and gave almost as good as was sent.
"Hi! Dave, here comes old Haskers!" said Phil, presently. "I'm going to square up for being kept in yesterday." And off he ran, with Dave at his heels, and Ben following.
The second assistant had been down to the barn on some errand. Now he turned toward the deserted boathouse. Following him up, the boys took a position behind one of the clumps of oaks near by.
"All ready?" whispered Phil.
"Then throw!" And away whizzed three snowballs. One took the teacher in the shoulder, another landed on his neck, while the third filled up his ear. Then he started to run, but pitched headlong.
"You scamps!" he roared, on picking himself up. "I'll fix you for that!" He gazed around without seeing anybody. "Where are you? Come, it won't do you any good to hide!"
"Ready again?" asked Ben. "We may as well make a good job of it, while we are about it."
All were ready, and as Job Haskers looked in the opposite direction they let fly once more. Each of the snowballs landed on the teacher's head, and one sent his hat flying through the air.
"You scamps! You wretches!" shrieked the second assistant. "Don't dare to throw at me again! If you do I'll—I'll have you sent from the Hall!"
"Once again!" whispered Dave, and again the snowballs were launched forth. Job Haskers tried to dodge, but it was useless. He was hit again; and then his three tormentors ran off, keeping the clump of oaks between the teacher and themselves, that he might not discover their identity.