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   Chapter 5 THE MUCKER AND THE GENTLEMAN

The High School Freshmen; or, Dick & Co.'s First Year Pranks and Sports By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 15134

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Ben Badger gave Captain Dick a shove. "Go on, Prescott! Go on, hounds!" roared Badger. "You've only one more capture to make. Run along, Dick! I'll take care of Ripley. He'll stay right here until you come back, or else he'll never have the nerve to show his face at Gridley H.S. again! Run, you hounds!"

Dick needed no farther urging.

Though he was naturally wild with anger, inside, he managed to keep that feeling down and back. He was captain of the hounds. He had his duty to his team and his class first of all to think about.

"Come on, hounds!" he shouted to those who had lagged at sight of the knock-down. "One more hare in our trap--then we'll be back here!"

What he meant by being "back here" everyone present could guess. In fact, many wondered why there had not sooner been a fight between the freshman and his determined sophomore enemy.

Truth to tell, Dick, after that day in the school grounds, had been inclined to overlook the whole affair.

He was not afraid of Ripley. It was only that Dick's ordinary good nature had triumphed. He was not a brawler, yet could stand out for his rights when a need came.

A third of a mile further on another yell of triumph floated back to young Prescott, who had not yet regained the lead.

In a few moments more the last of the hounds came upon a flushed, joyous group of freshmen runners. With them were two of the judges and a sheepish-looking hare.

The freshmen hounds had won, and had bagged all the hares for which the game called. Let the five remaining hares keep on running to the finish, if they would. For the first time in seven years the freshmen hounds, led by Captain Dick Prescott, had won.

"Ki-yi-yi-yi-yi!" howled the exultant fourth classmen. "And another for Dick Prescott."

"Dick Prescott has other game on his hands now," spoke up Dan

Dalzell, one of the late arrivals.

"What's the row?" demanded the freshman who had just bagged the seventh hare.

"Row? That's just it," nodded Dan. "Prescott caught Ripley--"

"We saw that."

"But you didn't see the finish. Ripley, as soon as he was released, knocked Dick down."

"And you came on with the hounds, Dick!" demanded Tom Reade, incredulously.

"Badger is keeping Ripley on ice until we get back," Dan supplied, hastily.

"Then let us get back quick!" begged Reade.

"Not too fast, though," objected Dan. "Remember, Ripley has been getting his wind back since he stopped. Give our Dick the same show."

No one thought of asking why Dick would need his wind now. To those who had heard the brief recital of facts it was plain that there could be but one finish to the afternoon's sport. Prescott's hand was sound, at last, and he could give an account of himself.

"Walk slowly, all hands," insisted Dan. "Dick, old fellow, on the way back, amuse yourself by getting in all the full, deep breaths that you can."

"I'll be all right," spoke Dick confidently.

It did not look that way to many of them. Dick was shorter, and weighed much less than did the sophomore who was waiting back there under the trees. Ripley had had a good deal of training in boxing, and was not a coward when he thought the odds on his own side. What none of the fellows knew, though, was that the lawyer's son, ever since that scene in the school yard, had been at his boxing lessons again with renewed energy.

"Play him for delay, at first, Dick," whispered Dan. "If Ripley can rush you, and get you excited, he'll have a better chance to win out. If you hold him off, hinder him and delay him, before long he'll lose some of his nerve. A fellow like Ripley will begin to go all to pieces, once he gets it into his head that he has a long and hard job before him."

"I'll do my best," Dick promised. "Hang it, if he hadn't knocked me down so treacherously, I wouldn't care about fighting. I don't care so much what he says. Fred Ripley's mouth is the weakest part of him."

The sophomore was waiting, a sulky frown on his face. A few feet away Ben Badger, a grim look on his usually good-humored face, leaned against a tree, his arms folded.

Even had he wanted to get away from this, Ripley couldn't have done it. For a sophomore to find any excuse for getting out of a fight with a freshman would bring down upon the soph all the wrath and disgust of the disgraced third class.

"Come on, mucker! Take off your sweater and get ready to take your real medicine!" snarled Fred, harshly.

But Dick Prescott, young as he was, was much too wise to allow himself to be betrayed into anger. Instead, he halted a few feet away, looking with a significant smile at his enemy.

"As I understand it," replied Prescott, "the festivities that are soon to commence are to decide which is the mucker--which will go down to the ground to eat his fill of dirt."

Badger, Thompson and Butler took upon themselves the direction of the coming "affair."

"See here, Ted, you look after Ripley's interests," proposed Badger.

"It's a mean job. I'd sooner have the other side of the bet," grumbled Ted Butler, in an undertone.

"I'll look after young Prescott," continued Ben Badger. "Thomp will do all the honors as referee."

Ripley was already peeling off his sweater.

"Get down to your fighting rig, Prescott," urged Badger, leading his principal to one side. "How are you, boy?" he whispered, anxiously. "Feeling right up to the fighting pitch?"

"I hate fighting," Dick answered, simply, speaking so that only his second could hear him.

"Of course it's necessary sometimes, but I can never quite help feeling that, at best, it's low-down business."

"So it is," assented Bed Badger, heartily enough. "But what about it in the case of a sneak like Ripley? If he didn't have other fellows' fists to fear he'd be unbearable."

"He is, anyway," muttered Dick, just before his head was covered by the sweater that Badger was helping him remove.

"You've been doing a lot of running this afternoon, gentlemen," declared Thompson, as the two combatants came toward him. "Do you each feel as though you had fighting wind left?"

"I've got as much as the other fellow," replied Dick.

"Don't you dare refer to me as a 'fellow'!" ordered Ripley, scowling.

"I'll call you a girl, then, if you prefer," proposed Dick, with a tantalizing grin.

"You don't know how to talk to gentlemen," retorted Fred, harshly.

"Be silent, both of you," ordered Thompson, sternly. "You can do your talking in another way.

"Can't begin too soon for me," uttered Ripley.

"One minute rounds for you, gentlemen," continued Thompson, then turned to another upper classman, requesting him to hold the watch. "Now are you ready?"

Ripley grunted, Dick nodded.

"Ready, then! Shake hands!"

"I won't," replied Dick, sturdily, ere Fred could speak. The latter, though he, too, would have refused, went white with rage.

"Take your places, then," directed Thompson, briskly. "Ready!

Time!"

Fred Ripley put up a really splendid guard as he advanced warily upon the freshman. Dick's guard, at the outset, was not as good. They feinted for two or three passes, then Ripley let out a short-arm jab that caught Dick Prescott on the end of the nose. Blood began to drip.

Ripley's eyes danced. "I'll black both eyes, too, before I put you out," he threatened, in a low tone, as he fought in for another opening.

"Brag's a good dog," retorted Dick, quietly. The blow, though it had stung, had served to make him only the more cool. He was watching, cat-like, for Ripley's style of attack. Tha

t style was a good one, from the "scientific" view-point, if Ripley could maintain it without excitement and all the while keep his wind.

But would he? The freshman, though not much of a lover of fighting, had made some study of the art. Moreover, Dick had a dogged coolness that went far in the arena.

Suddenly, Dick let go such a seemingly careless shoulder blow with his left, straight for Ripley's face, that Fred almost lazily threw up his right arm to stop it. But to have that right out of the way was just what Prescott was playing for. Quick as thought Dick's right flew out, colliding with Ripley's mid-wind with a force that brought a groan from the taller fighter. Dick might have followed it up, but he chivalrously sprang back, waiting for Fred to make the first sign of renewal of combat.

"Time!" came from the boy with the watch.

"Kid, you're going to be all right; you've got your horse-sense with you," glowed Ben Badger, as he hurried Dick back under a tree. "Let me see what I can do to stop your nose running quite so red."

Soon the summons came that took the combatants back to the imaginary ring. Again they went at it, both sides cautious, for Ripley was puzzled and a bit afraid. He had not expected this little freshman to last for a second round. Before the second call of "time" came Ripley had managed to land two stinging ones on Dick's left cheek, but the freshman did not go down, nor even wilt under this treatment. He was proving the fact that he could "take punishment." Yet Dick did not land anything that hurt his opponent.

"You didn't half try this time," whispered Ben, as he attended his man in the "corner" under the tree.

"Come on, mucker!" yelled Ripley, derisively, when the two were summoned for the third round.

"Speak for yourself, fellow," Dick answered, coolly.

"I'm a gentleman, and a gentleman's son," proclaimed Fred, haughtily.

"You're a mucker, and the son of a mucker!"

"Time!"

Dick could stand an ordinary insult with a fair amount of good nature, when he despised the source of the insult. But now there was a quiet flash in his eyes that Badger was glad to see.

Ripley started in to rush things. In quick succession he delivered half a dozen stout blows. Only one of then landed, and that glancingly. Ripley was puzzled, but he had no time to guess. For Dick was not exactly rushing, now. He was merely fighting in close, remembering that he had two striking hands, and that feinting was sometimes useful.

"A-a-a-h!" The murmur went up, eagerly, as the onlookers saw Prescott land his right fist in solid impact against Ripley's right eye. Bump! Before Ripley could get back out of such grueling quarters Dick had landed a second blow over the other eye. Ripley staggered. A body blow sent him to his knees. Dick backed off but a few inches.

"One, two, three, four, five, six---" droned off the timekeeper.

Fred Ripley tried to leap up, but, as he did so, Dick's waiting left caught him a staggering one on the nose that toppled him over backwards to the ground.

"One, two, three---" began the timekeeper, but suddenly broke off, to call time.

"Prescott, you're a bird!" declared Ben Badger, exultantly, as he led his man away.

"I wouldn't have gone for him so hard," muttered Dick. "But the fellow started to get nasty with his mouth. Then it was time to let him have it."

Frank Thompson went over to Ripley, to see whether the latter wanted to continue the fight.

"That mucker took an unfair advantage of me, hitting me when I was getting up," grumbled Fred, who now looked a good deal battered.

"Prescott was right within the rules," declared Thompson. "You would have done the same thing if you had had the chance."

Fred growled something under his breath.

"Are you coming back to the ring?" demanded the referee.

Ripley hesitated. The yellow streak was strong in him, but he dreaded letting the others see it.

"I'd rather finish this up some other day," he proposed.

"You know you can't do that," retorted Thompson, disgustedly. "You either have to come up to the scratch, or admit yourself beaten."

"Admit myself beaten--by that mucker?" gasped Ripley, turning livid.

"Then come up at the call of time," directed Thompson, and strode back to the battle ground.

The timekeeper called. Dick Prescott returned to his ground. Ripley stood back, leaning against a tree. He tried hard to look dignified, but one glance at his nose and eyes was enough to spoil the effect.

"Coming, Ripley?" demanded Thompson.

"Brace up, man, unless you want to admit your thrashing," urged

Ted Butler.

"I'll attend to that mucker when I feel like it," growled Fred

Ripley.

The form of the remark was unfortunate for the one who made it, for it caused one of the freshman class to call out exultantly:

"He sure doesn't feel like it just now. Look at him!"

"Come, if you don't hurry in you've get to admit the beating," muttered Ted Butler.

Ripley's reply being only a snort, Butler suddenly drew forth his handkerchief, rolling it rapidly into a ball.

"In default of a sponge," called Butler, "I throw this up for my man--I mean principal."

"Ripley being unable to come to the scratch, the fight is awarded to Prescott," announced Frank Thompson.

"Whoop! Hoo-oo-ray!" The freshmen clustered about were wild with excitement.

"You'll have a fine time squaring this with the sophomore class," uttered Ted Butler, disgustedly. "Your class, Ripley, will be sore enough, anyway, over losing the paper chase for the first time that any of us can remember. Now, for a soph to be thrashed, in three rounds, by a little freshman---"

Butler didn't finish, but, turning on his heel, walked over to join the rest.

There were two sophomores there who had come over at the end of the paper chase, but neither went to the assistance of his defeated classman. Ripley, alone, got his sweater back over his head. The crowd was around Dick Prescott, who felt almost ashamed of the fight, unavoidable as he knew it to have been.

When he had finished getting his clothes on, Ripley stalked moodily past the main group.

"You mucker," he hissed, "I suppose you feel swelled up over having had a chance to fight gentleman. You---"

"Oh, Ripley, dry up--do!" interjected Ted Butler. "You call yourself a gentleman, but you talk and act more like well, more like a pup with the mange!"

"A pup with the mange! Great!" came the gleeful chorus from a half score of freshmen.

"I'm not through with you, yet, Prescott!" Fred Ripley called back over his shoulder. "I'll settle my score with you at my convenience!"

Then, as he put more distance between himself and the other Gridley

High School boys, Ripley added to himself:

"That settlement shall stop at nothing to put Dick Prescott in the dust--where he belongs."

"Oh, freshie, but you've coolness and judgment," cried Thompson, approvingly. "And you've broken one cad's heart today."

"I'm sorry if I have," declared Dick, frankly, generously. "I wouldn't have had any heart in the fight if he hadn't started in to humiliate me. I wouldn't have cared so much for that, either. But he started to say something nasty about my parents, and I have as good parents as ever a boy had. Then I felt I simply had to fit a plug between Ripley's teeth."

Fred Ripley had pain in his eyes to help keep him awake that night. Yet he would have been awake, anyway, for his wicked brain was seething with plans for the way to "get even" with Dick Prescott.

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