Edward Stratemeyer.

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



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"Good for you, Gus!" cried Dave, heartily. "I am glad to hear that."

"Wait, I am not done yet. Jasniff tried to smooth matters over and asked me to meet him at Rockville. I did so, as you know, and I met the men too. We had a meal together and I was drugged. After that I don't know what I did. When I was myself again Jasniff said I had helped to rob the railroad station."

"But did you?"

"I don't think so, although I remember being taken to somewhere in a carriage and seeing the lights of the station. After that, I had some hot words with Jasniff and came back to the Hall. Then Jasniff sent a letter, stating he would surely expose me if I opened my mouth to anybody. Then came your news to the doctor. If those men are captured, and Jasniff with them, they will surely drag me into the affair! How am I going to face it – especially after what happened last summer? Oh, I wish I was dead!"

Gus Plum's lips began to tremble and the tears stood in his eyes. His better nature was struggling to the surface, and he was a most miserable object to behold. Dave pitied the lad from the bottom of his heart.

"It certainly does look black, Gus," he said. "But if you are not guilty I'd face the music if I were you. If those men are brought into court you can turn witness against them, and against Jasniff too. I know it will hurt you in school – but if you don't want to stay here you can go to some other academy."

After this Dave talked to Gus Plum for a full half-hour, giving the other boy his best advice. Both lads were so excited that neither minded the snow and the cold. Plum was in a deeply penitent mood and during the course of the conversation told how he and Jasniff and Poole had cut down the tree and let it fall on the roadway, so that Dave and Babcock had been pitched off their wheels, and he also told of how Henshaw had been drugged previous to the football game, and of several other mean things that had been accomplished.

"And then to think that on top of it all you saved my life," Plum went on. "Oh, Dave, I can't understand it! You're the best boy alive!"

"Oh, no, I am not," answered Dave. "I've got lots of faults of my own, Gus, lots of them!"

"But you're not mean like me – and not dishonest. I don't wonder the fellows like you."

At last they started back for the school, the snow pelting them in the face as they journeyed along. Each boy was busy with his thoughts and but little was said. When they came in sight of the Hall Gus Plum halted.

"Oh, I can't do it! I can't!" he almost sobbed.

"Come, I'll go with you to Dr. Clay," answered Dave, and linked his arm in that of the other youth. Thus they entered a side door and passed directly to the office. Here, when confronted by the master of Oak Hall, Gus Plum burst into bitter tears and it was several minutes before he could utter a word.

When the confession had been finally made Gus Plum's face wore a more peaceful look than it had for many a day.

He kept nothing back, nor did he try to defend himself in the least. He wanted Dave to remain in the office and addressed his words quite as much to his fellow student as to the master of the Hall.

"I know I am not fit to remain here, Dr. Clay," he said at last. "And if you send me home I shall not complain. But please don't hand me over to the police! Anything but that!"

It was then that Dr. Clay spoke, and never had Dave seen him more stern and at the same time dignified. In well-chosen words he told Plum what he thought of his pupil's meanness and baseness.

"By your own confession, you acknowledge doing things of which I did not dream a pupil of mine could be guilty. You have endangered the very lives of Porter and Babcock, as well as the life of little Frank Bond. More than this, you have been guilty of drinking and gambling, and you have been the companion of common criminals. And this on top of what happened last year! Plum, I do not see how I can forgive you. You have been a discredit to this school, and if I hand you over to the police it will serve you right."

"Dr. Clay!" It was Dave who spoke. He was filled with emotion that he could not suppress. "Please don't do that! For my part, I am willing to forgive Gus for what he did to me. Please give him another chance, just one! If you hand him over to the police you'll blast his reputation forever!"

The doctor turned to the speaker in surprise, and as Dave went on, pleading the cause of his former enemy, the master's face gradually relaxed. He sat back in his chair, folded his arms, and cast a searching gaze on Gus Plum's pale, haggard features.

"Plum, listen to me," he said, and now there was a trace of kindness in his tones. "If I give you one more chance – "

"Oh, Dr. Clay, if you'll do that!" sobbed the boy, "I'll – I'll try to be better! I'll try to give up my bad habits! I never realized until now how really bad I have been! Just give me the chance, and I'll be better! I'll do as Chip Macklin is doing. Chip was never as bad as I've been, but you know how he has changed. I want to do better – I want to make something of myself, as Porter is doing. Please give me one more chance!"

"I'll do it!" said the doctor, softly, almost fatherly.

CHAPTER XXXII
THE MEDAL OF HONOR – CONCLUSION

Throughout Oak Hall there was an air of mystery that day. Gus Plum did not show himself and Dave did not come to his class until after dinner. When Dave did appear many wanted to question him, but he evaded the crowd and took no one but Roger into his confidence, although later he told Babcock and Henshaw how Plum had confessed to what had been done previous to the football game.

"That was dastardly," said Babcock.

"I know it," said Dave. "But believe me, Plum is suffering for it. He has a great deal on his mind, and it will be a real act of charity on your part if you forgive him. He has promised Dr. Clay that he will reform, and I think we ought to help him to do it."

"He can't reform – it isn't in him," said Henshaw, promptly.

"I can't believe you," answered Dave. "If you had seen what I saw you'd think better of Gus. He has a good side to him as well as a bad side. I am going to give him a chance and I hope all the other fellows will too."

"But what is it all about?" insisted Buster Beggs. "Jasniff?"

"Yes, Jasniff is mixed up in it, and he did his best to get Plum into a lot of trouble. Perhaps you'll hear all about it some day. I have promised to keep quiet, so I can't say anything, – and I don't want to speak about it anyway," added Dave, with feeling.

The snowstorm lasted for three days, and during that time no word came in from the authorities who were trying to catch Pud Frodel and his companion in crime. The doctor had notified the representatives of the law of the proposed meeting at the old mill, and some officers had gone there, only to find that the evildoers had changed their plans.

It was hard for Dave to settle down to his lessons, yet he did his best, for the examinations were now close at hand and he still had his eye fixed on the medal of honor. Plum came back to his class and was a changed person. Whenever he recited he did so in a low voice, and the minute he was dismissed he disappeared, where, none of the pupils seemed to know. He was occupying a small room by himself and kept the door locked.

At last the storm cleared away and then came in word that one of the men, the fellow called Hunk, had been caught. He was closely questioned, and being rather simple-minded, as previously mentioned, said that Pud Frodel had gone to New York, in company with Nick Jasniff. He said that Jasniff was now hand-in-glove with Frodel, and that the two were planning more mischief.

Upon this news Dr. Clay sent a cablegram to Mr. Jasniff, who was in London, that Nick had run away from school and also sent a letter of particulars. Later word came back that Mr. Jasniff would have a relative look for Nick and would be back himself as soon as he could arrange certain business matters.

At last came the day for the school examinations. Dave was fully prepared for them, and when he came out three points ahead of everybody else nobody was surprised. Polly Vane stood second, Roger fourth, Ben sixth, and Shadow eighth. Gus Plum stood tenth, much to the surprise of many who had imagined he would come out close to the end.

"Dave Porter wins the medal of honor!" said a dozen.

"Hurrah for Dave!" cried Roger, and the cheers were given with a will.

The medal was presented to Dave by the doctor. The entire school was assembled for the occasion, and Dr. Clay made a neat address, in which he complimented the winner on the creditable showing he had made.

"I am highly pleased to give Master David Porter this medal," said the master of the Hall. "He deserves it in more ways than one. Why, some one else will tell."

And then, to the amazement of all, Gus Plum got up from his seat, walked quietly but firmly to the platform and faced his fellow students, his face red but determined.

"I want to say a few words about Dave Porter," he said, looking around from one face to another. "You all know me and you know how I have acted towards Dave. Well, Dave saved my life, and more than that, he has proved himself my best friend. He stood by me at a time when I guess every other fellow in the world would have turned his back on me. That's why he deserves a medal of honor, – and would deserve it even if he was at the bottom of the class." Plum paused a moment. "I ought not to speak about myself – I guess the doctor didn't think I would. But I want to say before you all that I am going to try to be different from what I used to be. The doctor might have sent me away from this school for what I did, but Dave Porter spoke up for me, and now I am to have another chance here – and I am going to make the best of it. That's all."

Gus Plum bowed and walked back to his seat. There were murmurs all around, and a few hisses, but the majority of the students looked at Plum encouragingly. He kept his eyes down, looking at nobody. Roger reached over and shook hands, and then a number of others did the same.

"What Plum has said about Porter is strictly true," said the doctor, coming forward again. "Therefore I take the greatest of pleasure in presenting the medal of honor to the winner, and with it I wish him the best of luck throughout life!"

A cheer went up, in which Gus Plum joined heartily. Then other prizes were presented, after which school was dismissed for the day.

Plum's speech had a tremendous effect. All wanted to know how Dave had saved his life and the story had to be told over and over again. Little was said about why the former bully had left school that snowy morning, and the boys knew enough not to ask too many questions.

"I really think he'll turn over a new leaf," said Ben. "He seems to have awakened to a realization of how he was drifting."

"I hope with all my heart he does try to do better," said Roger. "I am going to do as Dave is doing – encourage him all I can." And then Ben and a number of others said the same.

That day came a welcome letter from Phil Lawrence. He was getting better rapidly now and expected to come back to Oak Hall in a few weeks.

"This is glorious news!" cried Dave. "Poor Phil! How he has suffered!"

"And all for the glory of a football game," answered Roger. "Pretty rough sport, no mistake about it."

"Well, that's what makes it exciting," said Buster Beggs.

"Which puts me in mind of a story," came from Shadow. "A boy went to the country for his health. After he had been there a week he wrote to his mother: 'Having dead loads of fun. Fell from the cherry tree and sprained my wrist, had the bull horn me over a fence, got sick eating green apples, and yesterday, when I fell in the well, I lost the dollar pop gave me. Send another dollar and it will be all right.'" And the usual short laugh went up.

On Monday came in news that Pud Frodel had been captured. It was also learned that Nick Jasniff had sneaked on board of a steamer and sailed for Europe. The next day Gus Plum received a letter which he showed to the doctor and to Dave. It ran in part as follows:

"You were a fool to go back on me. If you had stuck to me we could have made a lot of money. They are after both of the men, so I am going to clear out. I've got several hundred dollars and I expect to have a good time in Europe on it."

This communication was unsigned but was in Nick Jasniff's handwriting. Gus Plum shivered as he perused it.

"I am glad I did not stick by him," said he. "I am sorry I ever had anything to do with him."

"His influence in this school was certainly very bad," said Dr. Clay.

Later on the two men were tried and convicted, and each received several years in prison as a punishment for their crimes. Only a small amount of the stolen goods was recovered, which made Mrs. Fairchild, Mr. Lapham, and a number of others mourn. Much to the surprise of everybody it came out that Frodel and the other man had robbed Roger while he lay unconscious at the bridge and had also made off with his motor cycle. They had wanted to pawn this, but had not dared, and it was found where they had placed it, under some hay in a barn near Oakdale. During the trials Gus Plum was called as a witness for the state to testify and did so, doing nothing to shield himself. This was considered to his credit, and when he returned to Oak Hall many thought more of him than ever. There was now a coolness between the former bully and Nat Poole, who seemed to be left in the cold all around.

"I don't think we'll ever see anything more of Jasniff," said Dave one day to Roger. But in this surmise Dave was mistaken, and how will be related in another volume of this series, to be entitled, "Dave Porter in the Far North; or, The Pluck of an American Schoolboy." In this volume we shall meet many of our friends again, and learn what Dave did towards finding his father and his sister who had so mysteriously disappeared during their tour of Europe.

Thanksgiving was now at hand, and many of the boys prepared to return to their homes for the holidays. Dave was going to Crumville and so was Ben. Roger was going home too, along with Shadow and Buster Beggs and Sam Day.

"I am going to stop to see Phil," said Dave, and Ben went with him. Phil was delighted over the visit, and amazed to learn the news concerning Plum and Jasniff.

"Dave, you're a dandy!" he cried. "You're one boy in a thousand!"

"Say one boy in ten thousand!" answered Ben.

At this Dave smiled quietly.

"I only tried to do my duty," said he.

The homecoming was full of pleasure to the boy, and here, for the time being, we will leave Dave. He had won the medal of honor, and no one begrudged him the pleasure it gave him to wear it.

THE END

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