Dick merriwells trap; or.., p.10
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       Dick Merriwell's Trap; Or, The Chap Who Bungled, p.10
 

          
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  CHAPTER X--A MASTER OF HIMSELF

  "Here he comes!"

  A carriage, drawn by a handsome pair of horses, was approaching theacademy. In front of the academy was a great gathering of plebes, nearlythe entire class assembling there.

  On their way from the gymnasium to their room, Dick Merriwell and BradBuckhart paused.

  "What's up?" exclaimed the Texan, in surprise. "What are the plebesdoing?"

  "Here he comes!" cried some one in the crowd.

  Dick's keen eyes surveyed the approaching team and the occupants of thecarriage.

  "I believe I know what is up," he said, a peculiar look on his face.

  "Enlighten me," urged his companion.

  "Chester Arlington is returning to the academy, and his class is out togive him a reception. You know this is the day he was to come back."

  "Well, blow me if I don't believe you're right!" burst forth Brad. "Iopine that he's one of those in yonder carriage. But who would havethought he could pull such a stroke, even with his own class! So helpme, I believe nine-tenths of the plebes are here to give him a greeting!I do, I know!"

  "It looks that way," said Dick, with a nod. "Arlington has made himselfpretty solid with his class."

  "How did he do it?" sniffed the Texan wonderingly. "They must be a lotof snobs! Just because he happens to have a father who is a big railroadmagnate----"

  "No fellow who ever came to Fardale has spent half the money ChesterArlington has spent," said Dick.

  "That's right. He's bought his friends by blowing himself on them. Well,I'll allow I don't care for that kind of friendship. It's all off whenthe money plays out, you bet! Partner, the old hen is in the carriagewith him!"

  "Mrs. Arlington is there, yes."

  "And--and his sister!"

  "Yes, June is with him."

  "Has he got clean over the fall he took?"

  "I hear he has almost entirely recovered."

  "He got up mighty quick, it seems to me."

  "He did recover much sooner than was expected."

  "Pard, I opine he wasn't hurt half as much as he made out."

  "I don't know about that. Yes, I know he did not seem to have much ofany strength in his legs the night of the fire in the hotel."

  "And you never got so much as thank you from the old hen! That shows thekind of stock he sprang from! She pretends to think all creation of him,and she should have gone down on her knees to you; but she's such acold-blooded old fossil that she couldn't bring herself to thank you asshe ought."

  "I desire no thanks from her," said Dick grimly.

  "What? When only a bit before she was threatening to have you arrestedas a thief? Well, if I'd been in your boots, pard, I'd seen that she atea large piece of humble pie. You hear me peep! I just would! It wouldhave done her good."

  By this time the carriage was quite near the academy. As it swung roundthe drive and stopped, the plebes thronged about it and greeted ChesterArlington with cheers.

  Chester smiled at this outburst and waved his hand at them. He turned tohis mother and said:

  "You can see how popular I am here. Now you can see how it would be if Ihad a square show."

  "My dear boy!" she said. "It is plain enough! Something shall be done."

  June Arlington was looking around. She was dressed in a tasty andstylish manner, and she was the kind of a pretty girl to set the plebesto making "goo-goo" eyes. However, she paid no attention to them. Hereyes had discovered Dick and Brad at a little distance beneath theleafless trees, and something like a faint smile came to her face.

  "What's the matter with Arlington?" shouted a plebe, waving his cap overhis head.

  "He's all right!" bellowed the others.

  "Who's all right?" questioned the first speaker.

  "Arlington!" rose from the gathering in a grand shout.

  Chester rose and bowed with all the grace at his command.

  "Thank you, fellows," he said. "It does me proud to have my classmateswelcome me back to school in this manner. At one time I feared I couldnot return so soon, but, fortunately, I was not injured nearly as muchas was supposed at first, and I am almost all right now."

  "We've just said you were all right," reminded one of the gathering.

  Chester bowed and smiled again. When he chose he could be very pleasantin his manner, and it must be confessed that he was not entirely lackingin personal magnetism. True, he regarded himself as quite a superiorparty, but he was wise enough to court popularity with fellows heclassed as far beneath his level.

  This was not the case when he first came to Fardale. At that time he hadbeen haughty and over-bearing to almost every one, and it had seemed hewould soon have nothing but enemies, even in his own class. But he hadfound, not a little to his surprise, that he was not gazed on in awe asa superior person, that he could not domineer over whomever he chose,and that he was likely to find himself without popularity or power if hepersisted in the course he had chosen.

  That was not all. He had found that Dick Merriwell seemed to be theacknowledged leader in the school, and Dick soon betrayed the fact thathe had no thought of permitting Chester to order him about or even toaccept advice that was not to his liking. Dick had declined to takeChester on to the football-team unless he proved his efficiency andfitness for a position. And, therefore, it was not long before Arlingtonbecame Dick Merriwell's bitterest enemy.

  Then it was that Arlington set about the task of winning as many friendsand followers as possible, and he began on his own class. The plebeswanted a leader, and Chester soon secured the position, which hedetermined to hold at any cost.

  Dick Merriwell was generous to a fault, but, not believing in boughtfriendship, he did not sow his money with a lavish hand. He was morelike the general run of boys, and from his behavior no one would havedreamed that on arriving at age he was to come into a fortune of mammothproportions.

  On no occasion, however, did Chester fail to impress on his friends andcompanions the fact that his father was one of the richest men in thecountry.

  Chester's little speech brought forth a storm of applause, and the boyspressed around him to shake his hand as he stepped down from thecarriage.

  Mrs. Arlington had seen June looking in the direction of two lads whostood beyond the crowd. She adjusted her spectacles and looked in thesame direction.

  "Is that young Merriwell?" she asked.

  "Yes, mother," answered June. "You said you were going to thank him forwhat he did."

  Chester Arlington's mother heaved a sigh of mingled regret andresignation. Her haughty face seemed to say that it was an unpleasantduty she had to perform, but that she would try to go through it bravelyand with the dignity becoming a woman of her station in life. She leanedover the side of the carriage and touched her son's shoulder with hergloved hand.

  "My dear boy," she said, "I--er--ah--I perceive that--er--that youngman, Merriwell, yonder. Will you have one of your friends invite him tostep over here to the carriage?"

  Two or three of the plebes heard her and hurried toward Dick at once.

  "Be careful, mother," warned Chester, in a low tone. "He mustn't thinkhe has done too much."

  "Trust me, my son," she said, and her face hardened somewhat as she sawDick Merriwell advancing toward the carriage.

  The plebes made room for Dick to pass. He removed his cap and bowed withgrace and politeness to both Mrs. Arlington and June. June spoke, givinghim a smile.

  Mrs. Arlington seemed to hesitate a moment, and then she began, withthat same haughty, chilling air that was offensive, to say the veryleast:

  "I feel it my duty, Mr. Merriwell, to thank you for your action inassisting my son to escape from the burning hotel. Without doubt Chesterwould have been able to descend the ladder alone, but the fact that yourendered him some aid makes it necessary to thank you."

  Her words were like a slap in the face. Dick saw June turn pale, and heknew she had not anticipated this graceless act from her mother. Now,Dick Merriwell was not always
cool and restrained, but on this occasionhe was master of himself, even though he felt that the thanks he hadreceived were as much an insult as anything else. He bowed again.

  "If I rendered Mr. Arlington any assistance," he said, "I am glad I wasable to do so, for the sake of"--he looked at June--"those who areattached to him."

  Chester Arlington saw that glance, and it enraged him. He knew Merriwellhad not helped him from the hotel because of a feeling of regard orliking for him, and he believed Dick did it purely for the purpose ofplaying the hero before June.

  What he did not know was that Dick Merriwell would have done exactly thesame had June not been concerned in any way. In such an emergency Dickwould not have hesitated to go to the aid of any unfortunate human beingcaught in the fire-trap, casting aside all thoughts of friendship orenmity.

  "Oh, I know the fellow!" thought Chester. "He can't deceive me with hismock heroism."

  And he did not dream that he was a most ungrateful fellow to entertainsuch a thought.

  "I trust," said Mrs. Arlington, "that in the future there may be nofurther misunderstandings between you and my son. It seems that at lastyou must be aware of the fact that Chester is a young gentleman and thatit will be to your advantage to treat him as such. I am willing tooverlook the past."

  "Which is exceedingly kind of you!" said Dick, who could not entirelyhide the sarcasm in his voice.

  "I think you should be equally generous," declared the woman. "You cansee how exceedingly popular my son is here at the school, and it must beplain that it will be to your benefit in the future to consult thewishes of one who has such a following."

  Buckhart had drawn near, and he found it hard to keep from informingMrs. Arlington that where her son had one real friend at Fardale DickMerriwell had twenty.

  "But it's not my funeral," he muttered; "and I opine Dick won't thank mefor mixing in, so I'll keep my tongue between my teeth."

  Dick said nothing. It was impossible for him to speak the words helonged to utter, so he chose to remain silent.

  "I have entertained thoughts of taking my son out of this school,"continued Mrs. Arlington; "but have finally concluded to let him remain,even though his superior abilities have not been properly recognizedhere. I understand that you are in a class ahead of him, and, havingbeen here longer, you are able to use your power to retard hisadvancement. This I regard as quite unjust, and I hope you will cease tointerfere with him in the future."

  "Don't worry about that, madam," said Dick. "I assure you that, in thefuture, as in the past, I will let him alone if he does not trouble me."

  "But he is ambitious, and his ambitions here will be readily attained, Iam sure, if your influence is not brought to bear against him."

  "As long as he seeks to do me no injury, I shall let him quite alone,you may be sure of that."

  "Then I see no reason why there should be further trouble. As for thismatter of football, of course Chester will be unable to play thisseason. In fact, I do not wish him to play at all; but he has set hisheart upon it, and I never deny him anything."

  For that very reason she had spoiled her son, although he was not awareof it.

  "Next year," she went on, "he may wish to play. If he remains here, I amsure that, by that time, his superiority will be so apparent that anyjealous enemy will be quite unable to balk him."

  In plain words, she meant that Dick was jealous of her son, and the ideamade young Merriwell smile.

  "Here, madam," he said, "no one ever gets on the football-team withoutproving their fitness."

  "I am sure my son could have shown you that he had played on excellentteams in the past."

  "What any one has done before coming here does not count; it is what heproves himself able to do here. Mr. Arlington could have come out withthe other candidates and tried for a place on the team; but he seemed tothink he would be taken on anyhow, for some reason or other."

  "And why not?" exclaimed Mrs. Arlington. "I am sure I do not understandwhy Chester should be required to take the same chance as any commonfellow."

  "This is the common fellow's country, madam. If he proves himself worthyto rise he rises, and no power can hold him down. Birth or wealth cannotplace one on top and keep him there unless he has the brains and abilityto stay."

  "I hope you do not mean to insinuate that my son hasn't brains?"exclaimed the indignant woman.

  "I am not given to insinuating remarks. If I have anything to say, I sayit plainly."

  She was offended, for this youth looked her straight in the eyes andspoke without the least symptom of cringing or fawning. Her wealth orsocial position did not awe or overcome him in the slightest degree.This was something to which she was not accustomed, and, therefore, itgave her great displeasure.

  Chester was angry, too, and he said:

  "Do not waste further words, mother. You have thanked him, and that isall that is necessary. Good-by, mother. Good-by, June. Wait till youcome back to Fardale again, and you'll find out how things stand. Therewill be a change."

  He said this with an insolent look toward Dick, who seemed quite unawarethat he had spoken.

  "Mr. Merriwell," said June, leaning from the carriage, "I hope you willaccept my sincere thanks for your many brave and generous acts. I feelthat----"

  He lifted his hand, smiling.

  "Don't overwhelm me with thanks, please!" he exclaimed. "It places me inan awkward position."

  "Then I will say no more. I know you are not one to seek praise andthanks. We may not meet again for a long time, so I will say good-by."

  She held out her gloved hand.

  "June!" said Chester quickly, "I wish to say a word to you."

  He stepped between Dick and his sister instantly, preventing Dick fromtaking the proffered hand. What he said was spoken in a low tone, andMrs. Arlington immediately directed the driver to start. So the carriagerolled away, and all Dick received was a smile and parting wave fromJune's hand. Inwardly he was boiling, and he longed to knock Arlingtondown.

  Chester looked at him, laughed and turned to his classmates, who oncemore gathered about him.

  Brad Buckhart came striding up.

  "For the love of Heaven, pard," he hissed in Dick's ear, "let me soakhim for you, if you can't do it! I'll make him think he was kicked by amule! You hear me!"

  But Dick was a complete master of himself, and he took Brad's arm,turning once more toward the academy steps.

  "We'll go to our room," he said, in an unruffled tone of voice.

 
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