Dan got no further. Walter had hurled himself across the intervening space and knocked Dan off the fence backward with one well-directed blow. Dan’s sudden inglorious sprawl was greeted with a burst of laughter and a clapping of hands from Faith. Dan sprang up, purple with rage, and began to climb the fence. But just then the school-bell rang and Dan knew what happened to boys who were late during Mr. Hazard’s regime.
“We’ll fight this out,” he howled. “Cowardy!”
“Any time you like,” said Walter.
“Oh, no, no, Walter,” protested Faith. “Don’t fight him. I don’t mind what he says—I wouldn’t condescend to mind the like of him.”
“He insulted you and he insulted my mother,” said Walter, with the same deadly calm. “Tonight after school, Dan.”
“I’ve got to go right home from school to pick taters after the harrows, dad says,” answered Dan sulkily. “But to-morrow night’ll do.”
“All right—here to-morrow night,” agreed Walter.
“And I’ll smash your sissy-face for you,” promised Dan.
Walter shuddered—not so much from fear of the threat as from repulsion over the ugliness and vulgarity of it. But he held his head high and marched into school. Faith followed in a conflict of emotions. She hated to think of Walter fighting that little sneak, but oh, he had been splendid! And he was going to fight for her—Faith Meredith—to punish her insulter! Of course he would win—such eyes spelled victory.
Faith’s confidence in her champion had dimmed a little by evening, however. Walter had seemed so very quiet and dull the rest of the day in school.
“If it were only Jem,” she sighed to Una, as they sat on Hezekiah Pollock’s tombstone in the graveyard. “He is such a fighter—he could finish Dan off in no time. But Walter doesn’t know much about fighting.”
“I’m so afraid he’ll be hurt,” sighed Una, who hated fighting and couldn’t understand the subtle, secret exultation she divined in Faith.
“He oughtn’t to be,” said Faith uncomfortably. “He’s every bit as big as Dan.”
“But Dan’s so much older,” said Una. “Why, he’s nearly a year older.”
“Dan hasn’t done much fighting when you come to count up,” said Faith. “I believe he’s really a coward. He didn’t think Walter would fight, or he wouldn’t have called names before him. Oh, if you could just have seen Walter’s face when he looked at him, Una! It made me shiver—with a nice shiver. He looked just like Sir Galahad in that poem father read us on Saturday.”
“I hate the thought of them fighting and I wish it could be stopped,” said Una.
“Oh, it’s got to go on now,” cried Faith. “It’s a matter of honour. Don’t you dare tell anyone, Una. If you do I’ll never tell you secrets again!”
“I won’t tell,” agreed Una. “But I won’t stay to-morrow to watch the fight. I’m coming right home.”