Edward Stratemeyer.

Dave Porter's Return to School. Winning the Medal of Honor



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"No, I do not want trouble, but I am able to meet it if it comes," answered Dave, not budging an inch. "You ought to be ashamed to bulldoze such a small chap as Frank. Why don't you leave him alone, as the doctor told you to do?"

"See here, I don't want you to preach to me!" roared Plum. "I know my own business and I don't want you to put in your oar!"

"That's the talk," came from Jasniff.

Instantly Dave swung around on his heel.

"This is certainly none of your business, Jasniff," he said, coldly.

"Ain't it? Well, Gus is my particular friend, and what concerns him concerns me," blustered Jasniff.

"Oh, Dave, let us go away," whispered Frank, growing more frightened than ever.

"You can go away if you wish, Frank. I am not afraid of these two bullies; Plum knows that, even if Jasniff does not."

At this home thrust Gus Plum winced, for he had not forgotten the drubbing received from Dave in times gone by. Jasniff, however, was undismayed, and striding closer, he pushed in between Plum and Dave.

"I've heard of the unfair advantage you once took of Gus, but you can't take such an advantage of me," he said, loudly. "I am not afraid of anybody in this school, and I want you to know it."

His manner was so offensive that it caused the quick blood to rush to Dave's face. Plum fell back and so did Frank Bond. There was a moment of suggestive silence.

"Jasniff, I never took any unfair advantage of Plum, and everybody in this school knows it," said Dave, steadily. "Plum is a bully, – and you appear to be built the same way."

"So I'm a bully, eh?" stormed Nick Jasniff, putting up his fists.

"You are."

"Do you want me to fight you?"

"No, I'd prefer not to dirty my hands on you."

"Maybe you think you can lick me?"

"I am not doing any thinking on that subject."

"You can't talk to me like this – I won't allow it," stormed Jasniff, putting up his fists again. "If you want to fight, say so!" So speaking, he gave Dave a sudden shove that sent him up against Frank Bond.

"Oh, Dave, don't let him hit you!" gasped the little lad. "He is so big and strong – "

Dave did not answer – indeed, it is doubtful if he heard the words. With a quick leap forward, he caught Nick Jasniff by both arms and backed him against the side of the building.

"Let go!" screamed Jasniff, in a rage. "Let go, I say!"

"Listen to me, Jasniff," returned Dave, still holding the squirming student. "I don't want to fight, but if you attack me, I'll not only defend myself, but I'll give you the worst thrashing you ever had in your life. I understand you thoroughly. You are not only a bully but worse. Why Dr. Clay allows you to remain here I don't know. I want you to understand once for all you can't bulldoze me."

"That's the talk!" said Shadow, who had walked up.

"Make him keep his distance, Dave," added Buster, who was with the youth who loved to tell stories.

"Bulldoze you?" stormed Nick Jasniff.

"I'll show you what I'll do – you poorhouse rat! I'll make mincemeat of you!"

So speaking, he tore himself loose from Dave and backed away a few steps. Then, with clenched fists, he rushed in and aimed a heavy blow at Dave's face.

The fist struck Dave's ear, for the latter did what he could to dodge. Then came another blow on the shoulder and one on the chin, all delivered with lightning-like rapidity. Nick Jasniff was a boxer, and could use his fists better than he could learn his lessons.

"Good!" shouted Gus Plum, gleefully. "That's the way to do it, Nick!"

"Knock him out!" added Nat Poole, but keeping safely in the background.

Dave backed away a step or two and again Jasniff came at him, hitting him a light blow in the arm. Then the boxer struck out again for Dave's face.

But this blow did not land. Instead, Dave leaped to one side and struck out himself, hitting Jasniff in the left ear. This was followed by a tap on the chin and another in the ribs. Jasniff tried to land on Dave's chest, but failed, and Dave came back once more with a crack on his opponent's nose that caused the blood to spurt.

"A fight! A fight!"

"Look at that blow!"

"Jasniff is quick, ain't he?"

"First blood for Dave Porter!"

Again the two boys went at it, and for several minutes blows were given and taken with remarkable rapidity. With his skill as a boxer, Jasniff had anticipated an easy victory; he was astonished at the manner in which Dave parried some of his blows. Around and around the gymnasium floor circled the two boys, and as the shouting grew louder the crowd increased.

The blood was now flowing not alone from Jasniff's nose but also from a scratch on Dave's chin. A few more passes and the two clinched, Jasniff getting Dave's head under his arm. But with a sudden turn Dave cleared himself, and hit his opponent in the teeth, again drawing blood. Wild with rage, Jasniff threw prudence to the winds and leaped forward literally to crush the youth who dared oppose him.

To him who loses his wits in such a situation as this, all is lost. Blinded by rage Jasniff forgot to guard himself and in a trice received a blow in the left eye that made him see stars. Then, as he plunged forward again, another swift and heavy blow hit him squarely on the chin. His head went up and back with a jerk, his form swayed from side to side, and down he went on the floor with a thud, and lay there like a log.

"My! what a blow!"

"Jasniff is knocked out clean and clear!"

"I never saw anything like it in my life!"

So the cries ran on, while Nick Jasniff lay where he had fallen. For the moment nobody approached the prostrate youth, then Plum stepped to his side, shaking, he knew not why.

"Nick! Nick!" he called, softly, as he raised the fallen one's head. "I say, Nick!"

"Sh – shall I get some water?" faltered Nat Poole. He too was shaking.

"Yes."

While the water was being brought, Jasniff was helped to a sitting position. He was still all but overcome. His cronies bathed his face and did what they could to bring him around. In the meantime Dave and his friends withdrew to another corner of the gymnasium.

"So he knocked me out, eh?" snarled Jasniff, when he was able to speak. "Just wait, I'll fix him yet!"

"What, you're not going to fight again?" asked Plum, in astonishment.

"Ain't I?" snarled Nick Jasniff. "I'll either lick him, or he'll kill me!"

CHAPTER XXVI
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF NICK JASNIFF

"Here comes Jasniff again!" exclaimed Shadow. "He looks mad enough to eat you up, Dave!"

"I thought he was done for," said Ben, who had been wiping the blood from Dave's chin.

The crowd parted as the boy who had been knocked out strode forward. His gait was unsteady and from his eyes there gleamed a wild fire awful to behold.

"Thought you had got rid of me, eh?" he cried. "Well, I am not done for yet!" And with this he struck Dave in the shoulder.

"If you want more you shall have it, Jasniff!" retorted Dave, and struck out in return. Then the blows came as rapidly as before. Dave was hit twice in the chest and came back with a crack on Jasniff's ear and one in the right eye that made the youth see more stars than ever. Then, as they circled around the floor, Dave watched his chance and hit his opponent once more in the nose, causing him to slip and pitch over on his side.

"Another knockdown!"

"Jasniff, you had better give it up."

"Porter has the best of you, Nick."

If ever a boy was mad that boy was Nick Jasniff. Half blinded from the blow in the eye he rolled over and got up on his knees. Then he leaped to his feet and ran to the wall of the gymnasium.

"I'll fix you! I'll fix you!" he snarled, and pulled from its resting place a wooden Indian club weighing at least three pounds. "You shan't crow over Nick Jasniff, not much!"

"Hold up, what are you going to do?" cried Ben, who stood near.

"I'm going to smash his head for him!" answered Jasniff, and before anybody could stop him he made a dash for where Dave was standing. He swung the Indian club around so recklessly that the crowd parted right and left to let him pass.

Dave saw him approach and for the moment hardly knew what to do. He had not dreamed of such unfair play. It was easy to see that Jasniff was in a frame of mind fit for any foul deed.

"Don't!" he cried, as the half-crazed lad leaped before him. "Stop, I tell you!" And then as the Indian club was swung over his head, he leaped to one side and caught the other boy around the waist with both arms. "Drop that club, you brute!"

"Drop the club! Drop the club!" came from all sides, and in a twinkling Ben and Shadow leaped in and wrenched the Indian club from Jasniff's grasp.

"What an outrage!"

"Jasniff, you ought to be lynched for that!"

"This is a young gentlemen's school, not a resort for toughs."

So the cries ran on. Jasniff tried to speak, but nobody would listen to him, and even Plum and Poole knew enough to keep silent. Dave retained his hold a few seconds and then pushed his opponent from him.

"I am done with you, Jasniff," said he, in a clear, hard voice. "Done with you, understand? I'll never dirty my hands on you again. If you dare to molest me in the future, I'll hand you over to the police. They are the only ones to handle such a coward and brute as you."

Everybody heard the words and many applauded them. Plum and Poole fell back and the face of each grew scarlet. Nick Jasniff stood stock still, breathing heavily. He wanted to do something terrible, – but he did not dare. Dave was pale and his jaws were firmly set. The tension all around was extreme.

Then Jasniff moved, turning his back on Dave. He looked at Plum and Poole, but they cast their eyes to the ground. The crowd parted and Jasniff walked away, slowly and unsteadily. In a minute he left the gymnasium, slamming the door after him. There was a long sigh of relief over his departure.

"Dave, I really think he meant to kill you!" said Ben, coming up and clutching his chum by the arm.

"That's what he did!" said Buster Beggs. "His eyes had a terrible look in them."

"Perhaps you are mistaken," answered Dave, in an odd voice that sounded strange even to himself. "But I – well, I don't propose to fight a fellow with Indian clubs."

"He ought to be bounced out of this school," said Luke Watson.

"I'll never speak to him again," asserted Babcock.

"Wonder what Dr. Clay will say when he hears of this fight?" said Roger, who had come in during the wind-up. "I suppose he won't like it at all."

"He can't blame Dave," answered Ben.

"Porter started the quarrel by interfering with me," said Gus Plum.

"What, Gus, do you stand up for Jasniff?" demanded Shadow.

"Well, I – er – "

"I don't see how anybody can stand up for Jasniff," said Messmer. "I used to go with him, but I am glad now that I cut him."

"I am not standing up for that Indian club affair," said Gus Plum, lamely, and walked away, followed by Nat Poole.

"Oh, Dave, you did fight him most beautifully," cried Frank Bond, his delicate face glowing. "Oh, I wish I was as strong as you!"

"Perhaps you will be some day, Frank. Go out in the fresh air all you can, and take plenty of exercise here in the gym. Do you know what made me strong? Working on a farm, – cutting wood and plowing, and things like that."

Dave retired to the washroom and there bathed his face and hands, and combed his hair. The blood soon stopped flowing from his chin and the scratch showed but little. Many wanted to congratulate him on his victory, but he motioned them away.

"Thank you, boys, but I don't want you to do that," he said, quietly. "I want to tell you plainly that I don't believe in fighting any more than Dr. Clay does. It's brutal to fight, and that is all there is to it. But every fellow ought to know how to defend himself, and when he is attacked as I was he has got to do the best he can for himself. If Jasniff hadn't pitched into me roughshod I should never have fought with him."

"Do you really mean that, Porter?" asked a voice from the other side of the washroom, and Andrew Dale stepped out from behind a high roller-towel rack. The first assistant teacher had come in just as the encounter was ending.

"Oh, is that you, Mr. Dale? Yes, sir, I do mean it," answered Dave. "Did you see the fight, may I ask?"

"I saw Jasniff attack you with the Indian club, but I was too far off to take a hand. You say he attacked you first?"

"He did, and some of those here can prove it."

"That's right," said several of the students.

"What was the quarrel about?"

"It began between Plum and myself. Plum was browbeating Frank Bond and I told him to stop. Then Jasniff put in his say, and I told him it was none of his business. Then he wanted to know if I wanted to fight, and I told him I preferred not to dirty my hands on him. Then he shoved me and struck me two or three times. Then – well, then I sailed in and knocked him down twice. Then he got the Indian club, and you know the rest."

"That's the truth of it, Mr. Dale," said Frank.

"Absolutely," added another student, who had seen the whole affair.

"Well, Porter, you had better come to the doctor's office and we'll investigate further," said the teacher, and a little later Dave found himself confronting the master of Oak Hall. He told his story in a straightforward manner and mentioned the names of several who had witnessed the affair. Then he was told he could go, and Frank was called in, and then Ben, Shadow, Buster, and later still Plum and Poole. The doctor questioned all closely, and finally sent Andrew Dale after Jasniff, but the youth could not be found.

"Has he left the school grounds?" questioned Dr. Clay.

"I could not find that out," answered the assistant. "Nobody seems to have seen him since he left the gymnasium."

"Well, as soon as he shows himself, send him to me."

"I will, sir."

"From what I can learn, he is a thoroughly bad boy," went on the master of Oak Hall, beginning to pace the floor of his office. "I must confess I hardly know what to do with him."

"He is a bad boy, no doubt of that," answered the teacher. "And he has a bad influence on some of the other boys."

"You mean Plum and Poole?"

"I do."

"I believe you are right. Do you think he ought to be sent from the school?"

"Yes, unless he will make an earnest endeavor to mend his ways, Doctor."

"There is one trouble in the way, Mr. Dale. His folks are now in Europe for the benefit of Mrs. Jasniff's health. If I send him off, he will have no place to go to."

"You can write to his father explaining the situation. He may write to his son and that may help matters."

"I have already determined to send a letter. But Mr. Jasniff knows his son is wild – he wanted me to tame him down. But I don't see how I can do it. Supposing he had brained Porter!" Dr. Clay shivered. "I should never have gotten over it, and it would have ruined the school!"

"There is another thing to consider, sir," pursued the assistant. "It may be that Porter will write to his uncle about this, and his relative may be afraid to let the boy remain here while Jasniff stays."

"No, I questioned Porter about that. What do you think he said?" The master of Oak Hall smiled slightly. "He said he could take care of himself and he could make Jasniff keep his distance. He certainly has courage."

"He is the grittiest boy in the school – and one of the best, too," answered Andrew Dale, heartily. And there the conversation came to an end.

The fight between Jasniff and Dave was the sole topic discussed that evening at Oak Hall. The boys who had not witnessed the encounter could scarcely believe that Dave had knocked the other student down twice and blackened his eyes, and they could scarcely credit the fact that Jasniff in his rage and humiliation had attacked Dave with the heavy Indian club. Some went to Jasniff's dormitory, only to learn that the student was missing.

In the dormitory Plum and Poole sat in a warm corner, talking the affair over in a low tone. To do them justice, both were horrified over the club incident. Each had seen that awful look in Jasniff's eyes and each had expected to see Dave stretched lifeless on the gymnasium floor.

"I – I didn't think it of Nick!" whispered Poole. "He certainly went too far."

"He was so wild he didn't know what he was doing," answered Plum. "It doesn't pay to get that way. If he had really killed Porter – "

"Oh, don't say it, Gus! Why, it makes me tremble yet," whined Nat Poole. "If Nick is going to act like that, I'm going to have nothing more to do with him. What if something had happened? He might have dragged us into it somehow – we've been so thick with him."

To this Gus Plum did not answer, but a far-away, thoughtful look came into his eyes.

"It doesn't pay to be too thick with a fellow like that," pursued Nat Poole. "He'll get you into a hole some time or other."

"Maybe you're right, Nat." Gus Plum drew a long breath. "I wish – " The bully of Oak Hall suddenly checked himself.

"What do you wish?"

"I sometimes wish I had never been thick with Nick. But he – " Again Plum checked himself. "By the way," he resumed, "did that new allowance come in yet?"

"No. My dad wrote he wouldn't allow me a cent until next month. Why?"

"Oh, it doesn't matter." The bully drew another long breath. "I thought perhaps you'd lend me a little."

"Why, I thought you had what you wanted!" cried Poole, in astonishment.

"I did have, but I – Well, it doesn't matter, Nat. I'll get along somehow." And then Gus Plum heaved a deeper sigh than ever. Evidently there was something on his mind which worried him considerably.

CHAPTER XXVII
WHAT HAPPENED AT ROCKVILLE

"Boys, how is this for weather!" called out Roger, the following morning. "Isn't it cold enough to freeze the hind leg off a wooden horse?"

"I guess the bottom has dropped out of the thermometer," answered Dave, as he followed Roger in rising.

"How do you feel, Dave?"

"Oh, pretty good. My chin is a little swollen and my shoulder is somewhat stiff, that's all."

"Wonder if Jasniff is back yet," said Ben.

All the boys wondered that, and Luke Watson took it upon himself to dress in a hurry and go out for information.

"Nothing seen of him yet," announced Luke, on returning.

"Perhaps he has run away for good!" cried Buster.

"He's afraid the doctor will punish him severely," said Polly Vane. "It was such a – er – outrageous thing to do, don't you know."

"He's a tough boy," was Roger's comment.

"Oh, say, speaking of a tough boy puts me in mind of a story I heard yesterday," said Shadow, who sat on the edge of his bed, lacing his shoes. "A young married lady – "

"Gracious, Shadow, how can you tell stories on a cold morning like this?" interrupted Dave.

"Shadow would rather tell stories than keep warm," said Roger, with a smile.

"Maybe this is a hot one," said Ben, grinning.

"Now you just listen," pursued Shadow. "A young married lady went and bought a barrel of best flour – "

"Four X or Not At Home brand?" questioned Buster, innocently.

"If you interrupt me I'll throw the soap at you, Buster. This was a barrel of guaranteed flour. Two days later she came back to the grocer with a very indignant look on her face. 'That flour is no good,' says she to Mr. Grocer. 'Why not?' says the grocer. 'Because it is tough,' says the lady. 'I made doughnuts with it yesterday and my husband thought they were paperweights!'"

"No well-bred lady would say that," came softly from Dave.

"O my! what a pun!" cried Roger. "Well, she wasn't well-bred, she was poor-bread." And then a general laugh went up.

It was indeed cold, with the sun hiding behind a gray sky and a keen north wind blowing. When they went below they ran into Babcock, who had been down to the river.

"The ice is coming along finely," said Babcock. "I think we'll be able to skate by to-morrow."

All the boys hoped so, and as soon as they could went down to the river to look at the ice. It was moderately firm and some lads were already sliding on a stretch of meadow. But Dr. Clay would not let them go on the river proper until it was safe.

That day the master of Oak Hall sent out Andrew Dale and Swingly the janitor to look for Nick Jasniff. But the search proved of no avail. Wherever the student was, he managed to cover up his tracks completely.

By Monday of the following week skating was at its best, and many hours were spent by Dave and the others on the ice. They skated for miles, and also had half a dozen races, including one between Dave, Roger, and Messmer, in which the two chums came out even, with Messmer not far behind.

During those days came word that Phil was slowly but steadily improving. This news was greeted with satisfaction by all his friends, who hoped that he would soon be able to come to school again.

"We can't get along without him," said Dave, and Roger echoed the sentiment.

The senator's son had received word from two of his friends, who were now students at one of the leading colleges. Both belonged to a glee club which was to give an entertainment at Rockville Hall on Tuesday night.

"I'd like to go to that entertainment and hear Jack and Joe sing," said Roger. "I wonder if the doctor will let me off?"

The matter was explained, and in the end it was agreed to let the senator's son go to the entertainment, taking Dave and Shadow with him for company. As skating was so good, the students decided to go by way of the river, walking the distance from Rockville Landing to the hall where the entertainment was to take place.



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