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The Boys of Columbia High on the Gridiron by Graham B. Forbes

Part 3 out of 4

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out and go to see!"



"Don't you want your gun?" asked Bones, in a low voice, that
showed some trace of excitement; for, truth to tell, Bones was
inclined to be suspicious by nature, and there had been stories
told lately throughout that section, of raids by thieving tramps.

Possibly that may have been one reason why Bones was so desirous
of having company on this little excursion up to the farm to try
his new gun.

"What for?" asked Frank, surprised, as he dropped out of the

"Oh! there's no telling. This may be just a trap to stop any
travelers and make them hand over. It's been done before. I'd hate
to lose my double-barrel the first thing."

He was groping under the seat for the aforesaid article at that
very moment, as though he would feel safer with it in his hands.

But Frank laughed scornfully.

"Don't you believe it, Bones. Ten to one this is some vehicle that
has left the road and gone into the ditch. I'm only afraid I may
find the driver badly hurt in being thrown out, that's all."

He left the buggy as he spoke, and walked hastily forward toward
the dark object that seemed to be half on the road and partly
among the trees. "Why, it looks like an automobile," said Frank
to himself, as he came closer; and five seconds later he added
positively, "That's just what it is. I wonder what's happened

He soon knew. Upon reaching the scene he found that the car must
have suddenly swerved from the road and struck a tree, head on. It
could not have been going at a very rapid pace at the time, for
although some damage had been done to the hood, and one of the
lamps seemed to be smashed, the machine did not appear badly

Some one was grunting close by, and as Frank drew near he saw a
figure crawling out from the bushes.

"What's happened here?" he asked, promptly.

The figure of a man started up, and as Frank struck a match he saw
that the other seemed to be decently dressed, although his clothes
were somewhat torn after his headlong flight in among the bushes.

"We had an accident," muttered the man, staring hard at him; and
Frank thought with a look not unlike suspicion on his scratched

"I see you had," returned Frank, at the same time noting almost
unconsciously from the way the machine headed they must have been
coming away from Columbia at the time; "but you speak as if there
might be another party along with you. Did he get tossed out too
when you hit the tree?"

"I don't know. I wasn't seeing anything just then but a million
stars. He don't seem to be in the car, does he?" ventured the
other, who was rubbing himself all over as if trying to ascertain
whether any ribs, or other bones, had been broken in his rough

"Then he must be in the bushes, the same as you, though it's a
miracle how he went out, being behind the steering wheel; and also
how he missed hitting this tree. Fortunately it happens to be a
small one. Let's look and see."

As he spoke Frank lit another match and started to examine the
bushes alongside the stranded car and beyond. By the time he had
used three matches success rewarded his efforts, for they found
the man.

"He's dead!" exclaimed the stranger, in horrified tones.

"Oh! perhaps not. He may only have fainted from the shock," and
lying down, the boy put his head down close to the chest of the
motionless man.

"His heart is beating and that proves he is alive. Take hold here
and we'll carry him to the car. Perhaps he'll come to his senses
when I dash a little water in his face. Lift his heels and I'll
look after his head," and Frank took hold of the broad shoulders
as he spoke.

In this fashion they managed to move the unconscious man to the
road. He was laid down alongside the car. Meanwhile, the other two
boys had come up, Bones urging the frightened horse along with the

"What is it, Frank?" asked Ralph, jumping out.

"Been an accident; a car rammed a tree. Both passengers thrown
out, and one of them is injured; Anyhow he seems to have been
knocked senseless. I'm going to get a little water in my cap and
try to bring him to," with which Frank darted to the other side of
the road, where his quick ear caught the trickling sound of a
small stream gurgling among mossy stones.

He was back in less than a minute, and immediately started
splashing some of the water in the face of the unconscious man.

"He's coming around," said the other man, watching these
operations with eager eyes; and who several times looked at the
three boys as though wondering what they could be doing there on
that lonely road at such a late hour, for it was now past nine

Frank turned aside to see whether he could not light the
remaining lamp of the car, which did not appear to have been
broken, and had possibly only gone out through the sudden
concussion, as acetyline burners often will.

He found that it was readily made to shed light again, and once
his work here had been done it was only natural for the boy who
delighted in machinery of all kinds to take a hasty look at the

"I think it might run still. Nothing vital seems to be broken,
anyhow," he said aloud, as he came back to the little group.

The second man was recovering, but groaning more or less.

"He ought to be taken to your house, Bones, to let your father
examine him. I'm afraid he may be badly hurt," said Frank; "if you
can help him into the tonneau of the machine I'll try and see if
it will work."

"Say, can you run it?" asked the second man, eagerly.

"I know something about cars; enough to drive this one, if it
isn't damaged in its working parts. I couldn't guarantee to patch
it up, though. Wait and let me see."

He bent over the car, and presently gave the crank a couple of
whirls to turn over the engine. Sure enough, there was an
immediate response, and the whirring that followed announced that,
strange to say, the machine had not been vitally injured in the
smashup, though badly damaged with regard to looks.

Frank backed out, and with a few deft manipulations that proved
the truth of his assertion that he could run a car, managed to
head the machine once more toward Columbia. Neither of the men
seemed to notice just what he was doing. The one who had appeared
to Frank first was bending down over his friend, and they were
holding a whispered conversation.

"Put him in; now Ralph," said the new chauffeur, quietly, "you and
Bones come along after, and leave my gun and the ducks at my
house. I'll be home long before you get there, I reckon, unless
this old machine takes a notion to be tricky again and dump us."

Still groaning, the man was lifted into the tonneau.

"How do you feel, sir?" asked Frank, solicitously; although, truth
to tell, he could not say that he liked the looks of either of the
parties, judging from what little he had seen of them by the light
of the lone lamp.

"Pretty bum, boy. The trouble is, my right arm hangs down like it
might be broken; and without it I can't handle the wheel, you see.
My friend here don't know nothing about a machine, the worse luck.
So I don't see but what we've just got to let you do the drivin'
for us. It's nice in you proposin' it, too. Ugh! that hurts some,
I tell you!"

The man accompanied his words with more or less vehement
expressions that did not raise him the slightest in the estimation
of Frank. However, he was evidently in great bodily pain, and that
might in some measure excuse his strong language.

The second traveler got in alongside his friend, as though he
feared he might be needed sooner or later, if the other started to
faint again.

"I'm going to get you to a doctor as soon as possible," remarked
Frank, as he started off.

He heard the calls of his chums and answered back. Then the car
lost the slow-moving buggy on the road. Frank did not dare drive
very fast. He was not familiar with the machine; and besides,
possibly it was acting freakish--at least the man declared that it
had jumped aside straight at that tree without his doing anything.
On his part Frank accepted this version with a grain of allowance;
for he had long since scented liquor around, and could guess the
real reason for the accident.

As he guided the car Frank could hear the two men talking behind
him. The murmur of their voices just reached him, though he could
not make out anything they said.

Once the man who had come out of the mishap in better trim than
his companion seemed to be groping around under the seats as if
searching for something.

"It's here, all right, Jim!" Frank heard him say, in a satisfied

A minute later he was asking about the road, where it led, and
what the intentions of the boy at the wheel were. Frank repeated
what he had said before, to the effect that he thought the wounded
man ought to see a physician with as little delay as possible, and
therefore he was heading back to Columbia so as to take him to Dr.

"Who?" exclaimed the wounded man, as the name was mentioned.

"Doctor Shadduck, the father of one of my chums, who was with me
duck shooting," replied Frank, thinking it strange why the man
while apparently suffering so much should care who attended him,
just so long as he could get relief speedily.

Again the two men conferred in low tones. Frank could hear the
wounded one muttering again. Perhaps his arm had commenced to hurt
once more; or, it may have been something else that started him

And even while Frank was wondering who these parties could be
anyway, with their strange actions and apparent unwillingness to
return to Columbia, which place they must have recently left, a
heavy hand was laid on his arm, and a voice said:

"Say, look here, we don't want to go to Columbia, and what's
more, we ain't meaning to let you take us there! Just ahead is a
road that runs off from this. They told us it runs over to
Fayette. Perhaps you don't want to go that way, but forget all
that and turn off, because you've just _got_ to take us! No
words now, but shove us along lively!"



Frank Allen felt a sudden thrill shoot through his entire body
when the gruff command to change his course was growled into his

He had not been at all inclined to look upon these two travelers
in a favorable light; but this was the first intimation he
received that they might be even worse than they appeared.

Of course he made no immediate reply. In fact, he was still dazed
by this puzzling turn in the strange little adventure. He had
believed that in helping the luckless victims of the accident he
was furthering his own interests, in that he would reach home long
before his chums. Now it began to look as though he had jumped
from the frying pan into the fire.

He tried to collect his thoughts and reason out the case. Why
should these men so seriously object to returning to the town of
Columbia? Had they been guilty of doing something unlawful that
made the place dangerous to them?

Once before Frank had become mixed up with a clique of men for
whom Chief of Police Hogg had warrants. He remembered the
circumstance clearly, and wondered whether history could be about
to repeat itself again.

And then, why should the mention of Doctor Shadduck's name affect
them both in that strange fashion? Did they know the foremost
physician of Columbia, a man of considerable property interests,
and said to be the wealthiest man in the county?

"The car!"

Frank came near exclaiming these words aloud, so abruptly did they
form in his mind! Now he remembered why the automobile had somehow
seemed familiar to him, and why Bones had shown such interest in

"Bones thought it was an exact duplicate of the new machine his
father bought last week; but I believe it's the doctor's own car!
These men have stolen it for some reason or other," Frank was
thinking, even while he stared ahead at the white road over which
they were moving at a fair rate of speed.

His pulses throbbed with the excitement, even more than when
Clifford threatened Columbia's ten-yard line with an irresistible
forward rush that morning. Hearing the men talking behind him he
strained his ears to try and catch a few words, in the hope that
he might discover what it all meant.

"It's all your fault, Bart," grumbled the injured fellow.

"I don't see how you make that out, Jim?" replied the other,

"I wanted to turn and head for Fayette, but you said the other
road was best," the heavier fellow went on.

"I think so yet, but who'd expect that we'd have such a wreck? I
tell you, man, we're mighty lucky to come out of it as well as we
did," said the other.

"That's easy for you to say, but my arm feels tough. I reckon
she's broke sure enough. That means delay and trouble, just when
things looked so bright. It's a shame, that's what. Sure we didn't
lose it in the accident, are you, Bart?"

The lighter man seemed to again feel down at his feet.

"I tell you it's there safe and sound. Given four hours, and we'll
be where they ain't going to find us. Keep up your nerve, Jim.
Luck's still with us, I know," he went on.

"Is it? Well, I'm beginning to suspect there's been a turn in the
tide. When the machine took the bit in her mouth and slammed us up
against that tree, it looked to me like we had run into bad
weather. But we must be near that road, Bart!"

"Reckon it's just ahead now; I remember that big tree we passed
comin' out," replied the uninjured one of the precious pair.

"All right. Don't let the kid get past. Seems to me he's some
slippery. I seen his face somewhere before," grunted the sufferer.

"Course you did. He was the feller that captained them boys this
morning in the game we watched while waitin' for our chance," said
the other.

"He was, hey? Well, you want to keep your eye on that boy, then,
mark me. They told me some high-colored yarns about him at the

Frank was not in the least elated over hearing himself praised. In
truth, just then he was wrestling with the puzzling problem
presented by his strange situation.

What "chance" did the man called Bart refer to? Who were these
mysterious men, and what did they have in the bottom of the
tonneau that seemed so precious in the eyes of the fellow who was
badly hurt? He could, for the time being, forget his severe
injuries to make inquiries concerning this package, hence it must
be of considerable value.

Were they thieves? If this was indeed the new machine belonging to
Bones' father, it looked suspicious, to say the least.

What could he do? They wanted him to take them somewhere, and in
a hurry, too; were they in full flight, desirous of getting to a
certain place before the pursuit became too fierce?

If Frank shivered while considering these momentous things, it
could hardly be wondered at. The situation was one to give
concern to the bravest man, and, after all, he was but a boy,
though possessed of more than the average courage for one of his

"There's the road on the left, kid!" suddenly exclaimed Bart.

"I see it, sir," replied the young pilot of the damaged car,
trying to keep his voice as steady as possible, in the hope that
the two men might not suspect that he had guessed their secret.

"Be sure and turn in; and be careful not to upset us," continued
the other.

"Yes," said the wounded fellow, quickly, "one accident is more'n
enough for me, to-night. Hey, that's a good sweep around,
youngster; I see as you know your business all right. Now, are we
headin' straight for Fayette?"

"Yes, sir," replied Frank, readily.

"How far is that away from Columbia?"

"Twelve miles, about, sir, as the road goes," answered the new

"We strike the railroad at Fayette, don't we?" continued Bart,

"There is one there, but not the same that comes to Columbia," and
when he said that Frank was certain that one of the men chuckled;
it must have been Bart, for the wounded fellow was in no mood for
merriment, what with his groans and grunts that signified pain.

"That's right. And we're glad to hear it. Wouldn't give a cent for
a chance to ride back to your slow old town. New York's good
enough for us, hey, Jim."

"It sure is, if I ever live to get there. Wish there happened to
be a doctor on this here road somewhere," said the second

"What for?" asked his comrade, quickly. "I'd get him to take a
look at this arm, that's what."

"Huh! dangerous business, Jim. Don't you think of it 'less it's
just positively necessary. Delays might cost us dear. There's
going to be a big hello when our old friend gets out of that

Frank realized that the men were apparently getting to that point
where they cared little how much he knew. They evidently meant to
make such use of him as seemed necessary. Once he thought that it
might be a good thing if he pretended to lose control of the car,
just as Jim had evidently done. Then he changed his mind, and for
two very good reasons.

In the first place, there was always the risk of being hurt
himself in the consequent collision with a tree. Frank could not
forget that his duty was to keep himself in good condition, so
long as his school looked to him to lead his team to victory in
the triangular series of football contests. Then, again, he
seemed to feel that it would be cowardly to desert the post into
which a strange accident had thrust him.

Better stick it out until something cropped up whereby he could
make at least a try to defeat the purposes of these two rogues. He
had heard enough to want to know more. Probably they would not
seek to injure him so long as he made no positive move toward
interfering with their game, whatever that might be.

They were talking again. Once more he strained for hearing in the
hope of picking up further clues that would enlighten him with
regard to their aims.

"It's the safest way, Bart. If they can't get word to Fayette
till mornin', we can give 'em the laugh. You've just _got_
to do it," said the wounded man, with a degree of force that
marked him as the head of the expedition.

"All right, if you say so, Jim. I'd a done it up the other road,
if you hadn't banged us into that tree. Say when," replied the
other, who was moving about as though doing something.

Frank managed to take a swift look over his shoulder. It only
puzzled him the more, for Jim seemed to be fastening something
about the lower part of his legs. What could he want leggings for?
And what could it be that Jim insisted he should do?

"I know of a doctor about two miles further on here," Frank said,
thinking that it might delay matters some if they concluded to
stop over; at least give him a chance to either escape, or render
the machine useless for further flight.

"You do, eh? Well, tell us when we get there, and p'raps I might
make up my mind to hold over a bit. Are you ready, Bart?" said the
heavier man.

"Yes. As well here as anywhere," came the reply.

"Bring her to a stop, kid; here, alongside this telegraph pole.
That's good. Now, Bart, do it!"

Frank felt more than curious to know what the men had in mind. As
soon as the car came to a stand the lighter man, who had not been
hurt in the accident, jumped rather clumsily from the tonneau.
Frank noticed this with surprise, for up to now he had looked upon
the other as rather agile. Could he have been injured after all,
and was just beginning to feel the effect of his headlong plunge
into the bushes?

Judge of his utter amazement when he saw Bart at once seize hold
of the nearby telegraph pole and begin to climb up with a series
of sturdy kicks that apparently glued each foot in succession to
the pole. Frank no longer wondered, for he knew that the man had
been strapping a pair of lineman's climbing spurs to his legs when
bending down in the tonneau of the stolen car!



"All right, Bart?" called out the man in the car, as the other
seemed to have reached the cross-bars far up the pole, over the
lower of which he threw a leg, after the confident manner of one
accustomed to such antics.

"Sure. It was dead easy," came floating down from above.

"Then get to work, and make a clean job of it. Look here, boy,
don't you be thinkin' of leavin' us in the lurch just now. I ain't
fit to run this shebang, so we need you, and need you bad. I
reckon you know what this is, don't you?" and the fellow showed
something that glistened like steel in the mellow moonlight.

Frank could not help feeling a little chill; still, he, was not
given to showing the white feather easily.

"Of course I do. It isn't the first time I've seen a revolver," he
managed to say, with a nervous little laugh.

"All right, then; don't get gay, and make me ugly, or something
might happen. Hey! Bart, why don't you get busy?" raising his
voice again.

There was a sharp click, and a clear "tang," as of a strained wire
snapping. Frank understood now what was doing. These men had fear
of pursuit, and were cutting the telegraph wires in order to
prevent direct communication between Columbia and Fayette!

A second and a third metallic "pink" announced that the man up
among the cross bars was indeed using his cutters with effect. At
that rate he would have the entire sheaf of wires severed in
another minute or so.

The matter began to assume gigantic proportions to the boy, as he
sat there in the car and listened. Certainly these men must have
desperate need for delay in the pursuit, if they went to such
extremes in order to accomplish it. And they seemed to have
provided against such a contingency, too, which would indicate
that they were now only carrying out a part of a well-laid plan.

What could he do? Half a dozen ideas thronged into his brain, but
they seemed so utterly useless that he discarded them as fast as
they arose. He must in some manner get away from their company
before arriving in the neighborhood of Fayette; because if they
were as desperate as they appeared the chances were they might see
fit to tie him up, and leave him under some farmer's haystack,
where he would not be found for hours.

"That light ahead is the doctor's place," he said, finally.

The man called Bart had apparently severed the last of the wires.
He was even then coming down the pole hastily, as though eager to
be on the move.

"It is, eh?" remarked the other, with a plain sneer, as though he
guessed the sudden hope that had leaped into being in the heart
of the boy; "well, seein' as how we've been held up here so long
I reckon I'll have to let that chance get by me. Seems like I
can move that arm a little. P'raps she aint broke after all."

Bart jumped rather clumsily into the car.

"Hit her up now, kid. We ought to make up some for the time we put
in here. Been a preachin' to him, ain't you, Jim? It's just as
well that he knowed how things lie, 'cause we can't afford to have
any foolin'?" he observed.

"I warned him that we wouldn't put up with any hoss play. If he
tries to run us into the bushes he's goin' to get himself into a
peck o' trouble. Likewise, keep a still tongue in your mouth when
we go past the doctor's house; understand!"

Jim thought it good policy to accompany these last words with a
vigorous prod between Frank's shoulder blades; and there could be
no mistaking the nature of the hard object with which he did this

To tell the truth Frank had really thought of doing some shouting
just when they were in front of the little house where the country
doctor lived. His plans had been in a sort of chaotic state at
best, for he could not see just how anything of this sort might
avail to divorce him from the unwelcome company of these two

"I'm not saying a word," he remarked, with another little nervous
laugh, as the speeding machine passed the home of the medical man,
perched on a little knoll.

While he bent forward and seemed to be scanning the road ahead, so
as to avoid a collision in case they met another vehicle coming
the other way, Frank was again doing his best to conjure up some
wild plan that might promise him the desired chance to escape from
the company of these two desperate men.

He now had not the least doubt but that they were thieves of some
sort. What he had heard them say with reference to some person who
would not be apt to wake up for several hours, made him think
again of Doctor Shadduck.

The gentleman was a rich man, and accustomed to dealing in many
enterprises that necessitated the employment of considerable
means. Possibly these men had managed to hoodwink the capitalist
in some fashion, and when their opportunity came had run away
with something valuable belonging to him. They may even have used
some of the good doctor's chloroform, or other drugs, to put him in
a condition whereby he could not give the alarm or start a pursuit
for some hours.

It was really thrilling; but Frank had no desire to see anything
further of his unwelcome companions. He wished he had the nerve to
turn the car from the road; but the chances of being injured
himself discounted this desire.

Surely there ought to be some other way whereby he could say good-bye
in a hurry. They would not search long for him if he once got away.
Since Jim admitted that his arm was feeling better perhaps he would
try and guide the machine into Fayette. Meanwhile Frank could be
trying in some fashion to warn the authorities.

The sound of their voices just reached him as he sat there
thinking. They were talking low now, as if desirous of not letting
him hear, but Frank possessed keen ears, and could catch certain
words, especially in Jim's heavier tones.

"It's just got to be did sooner or later. He could ruin all our
game if he wanted to. I've risked too much now to take chances.
Don't you go to showing any of your squeamishness, Bart; I won't
have it," he was growling.

They must be referring to the boy who sat at the wheel and guided
the moving car. Bart evidently said something more, for presently
the voice of Jim once more came to the listening ears of the one
so deeply interested.

"He ain't goin' to be hurted, I tell you. But his mouth has got to
be kept closed, unless you want the hull county on our heels. I
seen that feller play, and I know what he's capable of doin'. So
just shut up, Bart, and do what I says, hear?"

Evidently the other finally agreed to abide by the decision of his
leader; for they both relapsed into temporary silence.

"I _must_ find some chance to jump!" Frank said over and over
to himself, after having heard what had passed between the two men
back of him.

To do it then and there invited a dislocated shoulder when he
struck the hard ground. And then again there was that ugly, shiny
thing which Jim had taken such deliberate pains to show him; he
did not fancy being used for a target.

"How far along are we now?" asked Jim, close to his ear.

"About five miles out of Fayette, I think?" replied Frank, who had
frequently come over this some course on his wheel, and knew the
country well.

"Huh! that's encouraging. Keep her going like she is, bub. You
seem to know how to run a machine, all right. Steady! there comes
something ahead. Give 'em the horn, boy, and steer to the right,
d'ye hear! Not a peep as we pass, remember!"

Again came that wicked punch in the small of Frank's back.

"I'll remember," he said, hastily, as he turned as far out as the
nature of the road permitted, and at the same time caused the horn
to give a few croaks.

It was another auto approaching, as the several lights announced.
Frank's heart seemed to be in his throat as the two machines
rapidly approached each other. What would he not have given for a
chance to shout out, and tell the parties who were in the other
car that he was held under duress, and compelled to play the part
of chauffeur to these fugitive rascals; but he dared not, with
that desperate wounded man right at his back.

Judge to his astonishment when he saw that the other car held a
number of Columbia people, among the rest Minnie Cuthbert and her
father. He only had a quick glimpse of them as the two machines
passed; but it was enough to show him a look of sheer astonishment
on the face of the girl, which told that she must have recognized

"Hello! Frank!" came a voice booming after them, as the other car
slowed down suddenly; and he believed that it must be Mr. Cuthbert
who called, possibly influenced by Minnie.

"Silence! not a word, do you hear?" exclaimed Jim, emphasizing his
words with a further display of significant pushes with that hard

"And keep her going, kid, keep her going right along," added the
other man, grimly.

"Are they turning around, Bart?" demanded the stout party,

"Naw. Nothing doing this time. There they start up again, and
headin' the other way. It's all right, pard, all right sure."

"Lucky for them it is," grunted Jim; though he sighed in relief
because the peril had passed; "them fellers seemed to know you,

"Yes, they are Columbia people," replied Frank, shortly, for he
had experienced a bitter disappointment when he realized that this
sudden little chance had slipped away without helping his forlorn
cause a mite.

Three more miles or so had been passed over when suddenly there
flashed into his mind a brilliant idea that promised results. Just
ahead was a bridge over Juniper Creek, quite a good sized stream
that flowed into Harrapin River above Clifford.

Passing down the incline that led to the bridge, Frank managed to
make the car act wobbly, as though there might be something the
matter. And as it ran on to the boards of the bridge itself, he
brought it to a sudden stand.

"What's wrong here?" demanded Jim, angrily.

The engine had stopped working.

"I'll get out and see," observed Frank, suiting the action to the
word, and opening up the hood of the car.

"Don't you try to run away, son, if you know what's good for you,"
said the man, after Frank had used a wrench on the engine. "Try
cranking her again, and see if she refuses to work. There--hold
on, you fool--why, he's crazy, Bart!" for Frank had suddenly
whirled around, and taken a plunge over the side of the wooden
bridge into the cold waters of Juniper Creek!




"After him, Bart! We mustn't let him get away!" exclaimed the
stout man, as he hurriedly climbed out of the tonneau of the

"Not me! I ain't hankering after a cold bath just now," answered
his companion, who had jumped out on the other side, and was
running around.

"Run down to the bank and get hold of him, if you can!" continued
Jim, harshly.

This seemed at least reasonable, and Bart had no objections to
trying to do something along such lines.

"Don't see anything of him here!" he announced a minute later, as
he appeared below, and ran along the bank of the stream.

The moon had gone behind a cloud, as though wishing to favor the
escape of the unwilling chauffeur.

"Hang the luck! Well, come up here then, and we'll put off. P'raps
I might manage with my other arm. We can't hang around here, with
time flying. The town's close by. Hurry up, Bart!"

But when Bart reached his side, he found the other breathing out
threatenings in a fashion that denoted a new difficulty.

"What's wrong now?" asked the slim man, who was panting from his

"That clever little scamp has dished us, that's what; carried away
the spark plugs of the machine with him, and without them we might
as well try to move this bridge. I was a fool to trust him one
second. We've just got to find him, Bart, that's all there is to
it! Either that, or walk into Fayette, and perhaps lose that
train. Come on back again. You take one side, and I'll look over
the other. He's there, sure, unless he got drowned, and that I
don't imagine is the case."

Bart was fully awake to the great necessity of finding the boy,
after hearing what Frank had done as he jumped from the car. Each
of them hurried around the approach of the bridge, and slipped
down the bank.

"Any sign of him over there, Jim," called Bart, as he pushed his
way into the bushes and reeds that bordered the creek.

"Don't see none yet, but keep on further down. Like as not as he
just drifted with the current a bit, and then crawled out. Get
him, if you find his tracks, I feel like I could do something to
him for playin' this trick on us. Hello!"

"What's doing, boss?" called the other.

"Here's where he crawled out, all right," replied Jim, excitedly.

"How d'ye know it is?" demanded the other, across the water of the

"It's all wet. I'll follow it up, and nab him in a dozen winks. He
can't have got far away, I reckon."

"What d'ye want me to do, Jim?" called his companion, after a

"Go back to the bridge, and cross over here."

"All right. Keep right after him. The moon's going to come out
again right soon. If you see him, give him a shot to make him
stop!" and shouting in this vein, Bart turned to retrace his steps
back to the bridge.

He was somewhat out of wind by the time he had half mounted the
abrupt bank that served as the base for one end of the bridge. All
at once he heard a sound that electrified him. It was the cranking
of the car!

"Hi, Jim! here he is! Come back! He's going to leave us in a
hole! Head him off up the road there! Hurry, Jim, hurry!"

The climbing man could hardly finish shouting, so short was he of
breath; but perhaps it may have been the absolute necessity for
prompt action that forced him to continue the balance of the sheer

The answering cries of his companion welled up from somewhere down
along the side of the stream, and the crash of his plunging
footsteps could be heard as an evidence that he understood the
danger menacing them.

As Bart pulled himself up alongside the approach to the bridge he
saw a boyish figure spring into the fore part of the damaged car.
Then came a series of quick pulsations that announced the fact of
the machine working, as if nothing had ever been the matter.

"He's going off with it, Jim! Stop him! He's carrying our stuff
with him! Head him off! Puncture a tire for him! Give him a shot,
Jim!" howled to the thoroughly demoralized Bart, starting to
stagger after the retreating automobile himself, with his hands
extended, as though he would fain seize hold upon it.

"Good-bye, fellows; your cake is dough!" shouted the one who
sprawled in the front seat of the car and guided its destinies.

Frank had purposely thrown on considerable power in making his
start, for he knew what if ever there was need of haste it was
right then and there. Jim was running ahead there, with the
intention of cutting him off, and little though he had seen of
the gentleman, he felt that he had no desire to prolong the
acquaintance further.

Now the friendly moon could no longer hold back behind that
floating black cloud, and with her first appearance Frank turned
an anxious face toward the spot where a violent agitation in the
brush announced the presence of the running Jim.

"Hold up there, boy! Put on the brake, or I'll----" but the rest
was unheard, for Frank had dropped as low as he could in the front
of the car, though still keeping his hands on that guiding wheel.

He heard the sharp discharge of a weapon, thrice repeated. His
heart seemed to come up almost in his throat, for this thing of
being under fire was a new experience for the young athlete.
Perhaps the man had tried to simply puncture the tire, although
this would in the end delay their departure. Frank never knew the
truth in connection with the firing.

Then, in another second or two, he realized that he had passed
beyond the zone of danger, with a clear road ahead of him!


He could not help giving vent to his delight in this one shout.
Just half a mile further on another road branched off from the one
he was flying over. He remembered that by a circuitous way it
would eventually take him to Columbia, passing through first the
village of Stagers, and then a larger place known as Plattville.

His pulses were bounding with triumph as he let the car out notch
by notch. Why, after all, the smash could have done no serious
damage to the machine. What was fifteen miles when in such a
splendid traveler as this new auto of the good doctor's?

He made the turn, and presently dashed into the first village.
Here he stopped at a tavern long enough to make an examination, to
ascertain whether his supply of gasoline might be sufficient to
carry him home. He also wished to impress the fact of his having
been there upon the hotel keeper. In case anyone tried to cast any
doubts upon his story, it might be well to have evidence that he
had visited Stagers that night.

And during his brief stop Frank took occasion to look at the
object lying in the bottom of the tonneau, and which had seemed to
be especially valuable in the eyes of the two unprincipled men.

It was a common variety of grip, made of some good leather. He did
not bother opening the same, thinking that possibly Doctor
Shadduck might be better qualified than himself for that task, but
he placed it at his feet in front.

Once again Frank was on the move. He really hoped that nothing
would interfere with his reaching Columbia safely, now that
fortune had been so kind.

The road was not the best possible for a machine, and often he had
to slow up rather than take unnecessary chances for an accident.

Whenever he thought of the pair of rascals left behind, he
laughed. He felt that he could afford to loosen up a little after
such a strenuous time. But in his wet condition he found rapid
traveling rather unpleasant. True, he had borrowed a heavy coat
from the hotel man, to whom he had explained the case in a few
sentences; but in spite of this protection, he soon began to

This compelled him to reduce speed still more. When he reached
Plattville the road would be better, and besides, he might find a
chance to get a drink of warm coffee or tea, if the eating-house
were open at such an hour.

Cheered by this thought, he set his teeth together, resolved to
stick it out to the end. But Frank was not apt to forget that ride
in a hurry.

It was now a quarter to ten. He found this out by striking a match
and looking at his watch, the moon having retired once more behind
the clouds. But Frank was under the impression that he must be
close to the town now.

"I believe I remember that windmill on the left, and the big water
tank on the hill. Yes, Plattville must lie down there in the
valley. Now to slip along the down grade. Just seven miles from
home; but I wish I was there now," he was saying, as he passed
over the crest of the elevation.

Yes, there were many lights in sight, and how they cheered him,
after his lonely ride along the wretched road from Stagers. He
felt like shouting again, so buoyant had his feelings become. What
would Bones say when he learned the truth; and doubtless Doctor
Shadduck would be pleased at getting his new car back, damaged as
it was.

So Frank, running downhill, crossed a bridge, and came into the
town of Plattville. On ordinary nights, doubtless, the place would
be quiet enough at this hour; but Saturday was different. Quite a
number of persons were on the main street, and cast curious
glances at the lone traveler who had entered the town.

Straight to the leading hotel Frank went. He had been here before,
and even taken a dinner once upon a time, when his club came over
to play the Plattville boys.

A small-sized crowd stood around the door of the bar room. Frank
could see that there seemed to be some signs of excitement, though
he did not suspect that it could have anything to do with him.

Hardly had he brought the car to a stop when some of the men
crowded around, and one of them shouted out:

"Hi! sheriff, here's the identical car you was readin' to us about
in that ere dispatch from Columbia. And here's one of the thieves
come right in to give hisself up! Surround the machine, boys;
don't let the feller escape; and look out, for they do say he's a
desprit case! come out here, Sheriff Tucker!"



A tall man came running out of the hotel.

"What's that you say, boys?" he was demanding, as he advanced

"Here's luck for you--the very car you said was stolen over in
Columbia! See if it ain't, sheriff!" cried the fellow who had done
all the shouting.

"It's the same make car, as sure as you live. I wouldn't be
surprised if it turned out to be Doc. Shadduck's new one,"
observed the official, glancing at a yellow paper he gripped in
his hand, and which, as he held it close to the one burning
headlight of the car, proved to be a telegraph dispatch.

"That's right, sheriff; it is Doctor Shadduck's car," said Frank
cheerfully, as he proceeded to alight.

"Hey! he's goin' to try and run for it, sheriff; nab him!"
exclaimed the voice.

"You admit that this is the car stolen from Columbia this very
night do you?" demanded the stern-faced man laying a hand on
Frank's shoulder.

"Of course I do, sheriff; but I'm shivering all over. I've been in
Jumper Creek not long ago. Come in with me while I get a cup of
hot coffee, and I'll tell you the story. You ought to know me,
sheriff; I'm Frank Allen. I've seen you in my father's store more
than once."

"What's that. Well, I declare now if it ain't so! This is getting
mighty interestin', sure. Here, Dobbs, you watch this car until I
come out. Now, my boy, come along with me," said the sheriff.

"All right, sir; just wait a couple of seconds. There's something
here in the car that Jim and Bart seemed to think a heap of, and
so I wouldn't like to lose sight of it just now."

Saying which Frank bent down and took hold of the little leather
bag. He had been surprised before to find it quite heavy, a fact
that had convinced him it must hold something which had been
stolen from the doctor over in Columbia.

Fortunately there was hot coffee to be obtained. While it was
coming Frank entertained the kindly sheriff with a rapid account
of what had happened, commencing with the duck hunt, and the
finding of the stranded car on the road home.

"Well, I never!" the other kept saying, as he sat there with his
eyes glued on the face of the young speaker, and drinking in his

When Frank told of how he jumped over the railing of the bridge
that spanned Juniper Creek, the sheriff brought his hand down upon
his knee with a resounding slap.

"Beats anything I ever heard, I swan if it don't! And they tell me
that you captained them boys as played the Clifford football team
to a stand this mornin'. I don't wonder at it; they ain't much as
could stand up before such pluck! And so you went souse into the
creek? Ugh! it must a been a cold bath, Frank. Go on," he
exclaimed, enthusiastically.

"Oh! that's about all. I crawled out below, and when they came
down to hunt for me, because I'd fixed it so the machine couldn't
be run, I just crawled up the bank, jumped aboard, and was off.
Jim banged away after me a few times, but he was hurt so he had to
use his left hand, and I knew he couldn't hit a barn. That's all.
Here comes my coffee; I only hope I don't take cold."

The elated sheriff watched the youth gulp down the hot drink,
admiration in his eyes.

"I'll see to it that you have a big fur coat the rest of the way.
And I'm goin' along with you, boy, to be in at the finish. This is
too good to lose. Ain't had so much excitement in six months. Jim
and Bart is loose on the community. I'll just have word sent
around so they kin be pulled in if they try to get aboard any

Ten minutes later and Frank again jumped into the captured car. He
was now warmly clad in a heavy automobile coat that would defy the
bracing air as they headed for Columbia, just seven miles distant.

"We'll make it in a quarter of an hour, easy," he remarked, as the
sheriff took a seat beside him.

"I reckon we oughter, Frank. I'd sure like to be in your shoes for
this. They'll think more of you in Columbia than ever, I reckon,"
remarked the officer, as they made a flying start, amid a few
cheers from the gathered crowd.

"Did you telegraph along the line about those men?" asked Frank,
desirous of seeing justice meted out to Jim and his companion.

"I did, and told the operator at Fayette to pass the good word
along everywhere. There's some reward out for the apprehension of
them fellows, and its enough to make every chief of police keep
busy in hopes of corralin' the same. Now tell me what them men
looked like. That job of cuttin' the wires was a cute one. I
reckon that Bart he's been servin' his time as a telegraph
wireman, and knows all the dodges."

Frank could not decline, although he would have much preferred
keeping silent as he drove the big car onward. The sheriff had
been so kind to him that he felt as though he could not refuse to
aid him in any way possible. So he described both men as nearly as
he could, considering what few glimpses he had had of their faces.

The seven miles proved a short ride. Having more confidence in the
machine now that the road was fine, and that hard object no longer
prodded him in the back, Frank let out quite some speed in places.

"I wonder if Bones and Ralph have gotten home yet?" he was
thinking, as the outskirts of Columbia came in sight.

Turning several corners, he arrived in front of Doctor Shadduck's
place. The house he saw was all lighted up. And standing in front
was the vehicle he and his two chums had used in their little
expedition after the ducks of the marsh.

"That tells the story. Bones has arrived ahead of me, after all.
Wonder if its struck him that he saw his father's new car, and me
in it driving those two precious rascals off so cheerfully?"

Frank chuckled at the thought. Just then there came a big shout,
as a figure rushed down the steps of the house.

"Here's the car, dad! And Sheriff Tucker's got one of the thieves
in custody, too! He's carrying your bag. Hey, Ralph, come out and
see the fun!"

Of course it was Bones, and since Frank was bundled up in that
great wolfskin automobile coat, with a hat pulled down over his
eyes in place of the cap he had lost in Juniper Creek, it was not
strange that the other failed to recognize his comrade.

"Halt! hands up, Bones!" cried Frank, throwing the little leather
bag forward menacingly.

"What! great smoke! if it ain't Frank--and he's brought the car
and the bag back home! Ralph said he would, just as soon as he
heard about it; but I was a doubter. I thought they'd just eat you
alive, Frank, old boy. Where'd you get the coat, and how'd the
sheriff happen on you? Did he do the rescue act?" demanded Bones,
throwing his arms around the other, enthusiastically.

"Did he? Not if he knew it, young man," replied the officer
himself, with a shake of the head; "but let's get inside, and the
whole story can be told while Frank warms up again. Your dad must
see to it that the boy don't take cold, for he's been in Juniper
Creek to-night!"

"Wow! now you have excited my curiosity some, Mr. Sheriff. Hurry
in, Frank, and let's hear what happened after you left us. We just
got home five minutes ago, and found the whole place upset. Those
slick scoundrels worked a confidence game on my governor--left him
in a stupor in his private office, after supper, with the door
locked, and skipped out with his new car and some valuables,
including negotiable stocks worth a good many thousands, and all
his expensive new surgical tools that he kept in that glass case,
you remember, in his consulting room." And Bones rattled this off
at a tremendous rate.

"Oh! I see," exclaimed the sheriff just then; "so that's who Jim
and Bart are. A couple of smart ones have been going around
visiting doctors upstate this two months past, and stealing their
instruments, to sell again in New York. I reckon we'll try to make
this their last job, all right."

"But your father--surely he couldn't have been lying there all
this time?" observed Frank, wondering how the news could have been
wired or phoned over to Plattville if this were so.

"Oh! no; Mr. Willoughby happened to drop over to ask dad something,
and when they couldn't get any answer, he broke in the door of
father's den. They found him just beginning to come out of his
sleep, for, what do you think, those rascals had chloroformed him,
as sure as you live," replied Bones.

"I understand now. Of course a general alarm was sent out for the
thieves. But they couldn't have reached Fayette if they tried,"
laughed Frank.

"And why not?" asked Bones, quickly.

"Wires down. Bart, the fellow who wasn't hurt, shinned up a pole,
by the aid of a pair of lineman's spurs he carried with him, and
cut every blessed wire soon after they made me turn into that road
leading to Fayette," replied Frank.

Doctor Shadduck they found pretty much himself. He greeted Frank
warmly, as did also Coach Willoughby.

"He's all wet, dad; he's been in Juniper Creek, the sheriff says.
There's a story back of it, and I'm just dying to hear it," cried
Bones, shoving the other forward.

"First of all, please see if everything is safe here," said Frank,
as he thrust the bag into the hands of the doctor.

"Everything they got, so far as I can see, is here. It's wonderful
how you happened to get hold of them, and the car too," said the
doctor, shaking the boy's hand again warmly.

"There's where you're mistaken, dad; it didn't happen at all, and
I'd wager on it that Frank played a right hot game with those two
rascals, and beat them out in a square deal," declared Bones,

"Bully for you, Bones," remarked the sheriff; "you just bet he
did. Wait till you hear the whole story. It's the greatest ever."

Of course Frank related all that had happened to him; but first of
all the wise physician insisted upon giving him something that
would prevent any ill effects following his cold plunge and
subsequent wild ride.

Meanwhile Frank's father and mother were called over, and the
story had to be told again for their benefit; though Frank tried
to beg off, and declared that after all it had been just good luck
that carried him through.



Perhaps it was just as well that a day of rest followed that
strenuous Saturday.

Frank found himself somewhat stiff and sore when he awoke, and
acting under the advice of his father he remained in seclusion the
better part of the day. But the story had gone around, and the
doorbell of the Allen home was kept busy throughout the whole

Half a dozen of Frank's most intimate chums dropped in to hear the
story, and Frank finally declared he would have to get it set up
in type and copies struck off if the demand kept on.

There were grown people who came also. Among others was Mr.
Cuthbert. Frank found his hand trembling a little nervously when
he saw him, thinking that possibly Minnie had sent a message; but
it seemed that if he had come over at her earnest solicitation the
gentleman had been instructed not to mention that fact.

"We believed it was Frank in that car," he said, as he shook hands
warmly with the boy; "and I even called out, for some of us
thought he looked toward us rather appealingly; but as no answer
came we concluded it must have been a mistake. To think we were so
close to those wretches, and didn't suspect anything wrong. Have
you heard the latest, Mr. Allen, and you Frank?"

"Are they caught?" asked Frank, instantly, jumping at the truth
from the expression he saw on the gentleman's face. "So it is
said; and I was told that Sheriff Tucker was the one who cornered
the pair of rogues after all," replied Mr. Cuthbert.

"Hurrah!" cried Ralph and Paul and the others in a chorus.

"Well, I'm glad that it fell to my friend, the sheriff of the next
county. He was mighty good to me and deserves all the reward there
is coming," was the remark of the one who was supposed to be the
most interested.

He was secretly bitterly disappointed because Minnie had not come
over, or asked her father to carry a message. Evidently, whatever
it may have been that had come between Minnie and her former
friends, the Allens, it was proving an insurmountable barrier.

And on Monday when Frank went to school, as usual, he had to
submit to being asked a thousand questions. Often he utterly
refused to answer anything further, he became so weary of hearing
about the matter.

Minnie appeared as distant as ever. But one thing Frank happened
to see that gave him more or less satisfaction; and this was the
utter humiliation of Lef Seller.

Lef had been standing around, listening to what was being said;
and the air of utter unbelief upon his sneering face told that had
he dared he would only too gladly have called the whole story a
freak of the imagination; and that in reality the credit belonged
to Sheriff Tucker, who had only allowed Frank to assume the
laurels because he wanted to get credit at the Allen department
store, where he was known to trade.

Just then Minnie happened to pass in company with her new chum,
Dottie Warren; and thinking to add a drop of bitterness to Frank's
cup of joy, Lef immediately posted after the two.

There were some words between them, during which it seemed as
though Minnie might be accusing Lef of saying something to which
she seriously objected. At any rate she walked on with her head
held high in the air, while Lef shrugged his shoulders, and not
daring to look toward the grinning group of boys, sauntered off.

Still, that new quarrel between the others did not heal the breach
that separated old friends. Frank tried to forget, and laughed as
merrily as though there was not a cloud on the horizon.

Professor Parke even called Frank into his study and requested him
to relate the strange thing that had happened. The head of
Columbia High School had a very tender spot in his heart for Frank
Allen, not alone because he was a bright pupil, but on account of
the clean character he bore among his fellows.

Coach Willoughby was staying over to see the last game of the
season. He declared that while he was losing money every day he
remained away from his law business, he could not find it in his
heart to desert the boys until they had safely landed that
beautiful silver cup in a deciding victory over Bellport.

Truth to tell, the old Princeton graduate was a thorough sport,
and once he had yielded to the call of the game he could not break

"Don't you come out to practice for several days, Frank," he
advised, "on Wednesday perhaps, when we start to go over the
entire thing again and try new signals, it will be time. There are
a few weak spots in the team that need help, and I'm going to
devote two afternoons to them exclusively. Wander around, and
limber up with walks or a bicycle ride. But please don't employ your
spare time rounding up any more rascals, will you?"

"I'll try not to," laughed Frank; "but what's a fellow to do if
they will persist in throwing themselves at your head?"

"That's a fact, they did kidnap you, to be sure. Well, next time
try and see to it that the other fellow goes into Juniper Brook
and not you. That's a dangerous trick at this cold season of the
year; and especially taking a long ride afterward in an open car.
I wonder you didn't come down with pneumonia, Frank," said the
coach, as he threw one arm affectionately across the other's

"Oh! everybody was so kind. I had the loan of a coat first, and an
old hat; then Sheriff Tucker got me a big shaggy automobile fur
coat, which with the hot coffee helped ward off a cold. Finally
Doctor Shadduck dosed me good and hard. Nothing doing in that line
for me this time," laughed the boy.

It was on Tuesday afternoon that the time began to drag most
heavily on his hands. Paul and Ralph, together with Bones, had
gone to the recreation grounds to talk over matters with the
coach, and try out some new plays. Frank really knew of no one
whom he cared to look up just then.

A reaction seemed to have set in after his recent excitement, and
things were most woefully dull. The weather still held dry and
fair to a degree that was considered extraordinary for November,
usually so dismal with the approach of winter.

"I wonder if it wouldn't be worth while to take a spin on the
wheel," he mused as he considered the matter; "the chances are the
weather will change any day now, and then good-bye to wheeling for
the season. Besides, I really believe I'd like to turn down that
road to Fayette, and take another look at that old bridge. There
are a few things I don't quite understand about that affair."

The thought aroused him. Again he felt the blood circulating
through his veins with the old-time vigor; the stagnation had
departed, and it was with considerable elation that he hurried to
get his bicycle.

The fact that the bridge was a matter of ten miles or more away
did not give him cause for worry. He could easily make it in an
hour or less, and be back long before suppertime.

As he passed the school building he waved his hand to old Soggy,
the janitor and custodian, who was busily engaged with his daily

"Off after another lot, are ye?" laughed the good-natured old
fellow; "well, this time bring 'em in yourself, and don't be
botherin' no poor sheriff to help out. You ought to be ashamed, my

Frank knew that old Soggy would have his joke, and he only laughed
in response. That was the one thing objectionable in doing
anything out of the ordinary run; every person thought they had a
right, either to make a hero out of him, or else sneer at the
story as something like the accepted fish yarn.

His wheel was in good shape, as always; the road seemed much
better for a bicycle than it had been for a car, and with the
bracing atmosphere made a combination difficult to surpass. Before
the hour was up he had dropped off at the bridge, and stood there
leaning on the rail looking down.

"H'm! after all, it was a good thing I knew so much about this
same place. If I'd jumped ten feet further along I'd have come
slap down on that ugly looking bunch of rocks that stick their
noses up above the water. Juniper is low, like all the other
streams around here, after this dry fall. But I knew there was a
deep pool right under and below the bridge."

So he mused as in imagination his eye followed his course after
reaching the water. He could see just where he had crawled out, as
Jim discovered later, when the fugitive was already half-way back
to the road again.

"He had to run uphill, and that's one reason why he couldn't head
me off, as Bart wanted him to do. Then that lame arm prevented him
from shooting decently. On the whole, I guess I was mighty lucky,"
he concluded.

After lingering around for a short time he once more mounted his
wheel and headed back toward Columbia. There were short-cuts that
he knew from former usage, by means of which several miles might
be saved. Something seemed to beckon him along this course, though
he hardly understood why he should want to shorten his run when he
was out for the exercise and air.

It was while he was traversing a farmer's lane that would bring
him out on the other road, and save two miles around, that Frank
for the first time noticed some one moving across a field, and
heading almost directly toward him. He noted the fact with some
surprise, because he happened to know that the farmer was the
possessor of a very vicious bull, which he often allowed the
freedom of that very pasture, in the summer and fall, for
exercise, so that the boys of Columbia always went around when
making for the old "swimming hole."

He had noticed the animal only a couple of minutes before,
trotting around back of the haystacks that ran along one end of
the field. If he ever caught sight of that feminine figure
crossing his preserves there would surely something be bound to

Frank, impelled by some sense of coming trouble, came to a stop
and caught hold of the high rail fence to hold himself on his
wheel while he looked. Somehow there seemed something wonderfully
familiar about the figure of the tripping maid; and his heart
seemed to almost stand still as she raised her head to look
around, and he discovered that it was Minnie Cuthbert, evidently
on the way to visit an uncle, who lived a short distance beyond
Farmer Blodgett.

Just as he made this interesting discovery he heard a dull roar
that struck a note of dismay at the door of his heart. The savage
bull, whom every one feared, had discovered the fair trespasser on
his preserves, and was coming on the run!



"This way, Minnie! Run as fast as you can!"

The girl had looked back and discovered the advancing bull, which
sight caused her to shriek and became panic-stricken. Fortunately
the animal pursued peculiar tactics while bearing down upon his
expected victim. Running forward for a short distance, he would
stop to bellow furiously and toss up the turf with his short
horns, upon which gilt balls had been fastened by the farmer

Frank had jumped the fence like a flash, and was already rushing
toward Minnie. She caught sight of him, and naturally changed her
course so as to head in his direction. Perhaps just then she
hardly knew who it was coming to her assistance; but turned to any
port in a storm.

When they met it was at a distance of possibly thirty yards from
the fence. Frank immediately clutched her arm and began to hurry
her toward the haven of safety as rapidly as he could.

"Oh! Frank, he is coming faster!" gasped the girl, who had been
constrained to look back over her shoulder toward the threatening

"Never mind! Run! run" cried Frank, trying to instill new courage
in her heart.

At the same time he knew full well that they would never be able
to reach the fence and climb over before the enraged animal came
up. Something else must be done. How could he attract the
attention of the bull to himself while Minnie clambered over?

The question was not difficult to solve. She was, by the strangest
accident in the world, wearing a red sweater that buttoned down
the front. In other days they were known as Cardigan jackets, and
Frank could easily remember how charming Minnie had looked many a
time the previous winter in this same garment.

It was this that was adding fuel to the rage of the angry bull,
always attracted by a flaming color. Frank without regard to the
feelings of the astonished girl caught hold of this outer apparel,
and with one effort ripped the buttons loose. It was no time for
courtesy, nor could he waste a precious second in explaining just
why he did this strange thing.

Another effort and the sweater was in his hands. Minnie seemed to
realize by now what he had in his mind, for a weak little smile
appeared on her white face as she looked up at him.

"Run straight to the fence and climb over! I'll follow you, but
never mind me! Quick, Minnie, do as I say!" he exclaimed.

There was unconscious authority in his voice, just as when he
called to his players on the diamond or on the gridiron. Minnie
ran on, obeying his instructions thus far. She undoubtedly
expected that Frank meant to cast the offensive red sweater on the
ground, so as to attract the attention of the beast for a dozen
seconds, time enough to allow of his finding safety beyond the

As she neared the high rail fence she turned her head again to
look. To her horror she saw Frank standing there, waving the
scarlet jacket wildly to and fro. He was challenging the oncoming
bull to make a run at him, actually endeavoring to attract the
animal's attention, so as to give Minnie ample time to escape.

Even as she stood there with quaking knees, staring, she saw Frank
suddenly and nimbly jump aside, and avoid the first mad rush of
the bull.

"Oh! Frank; run! run! He will kill you!" she shrieked, wringing
her hands hysterically; all the past forgotten in that one minute
of terror.

"Get over the fence! Get over the fence! The longer you delay the
worse for me! Climb over, Minnie!" came back the answering shout,
as Frank poised himself to repeat his former tactics.

Crying, she obeyed, though it seemed as though her half-blinded
eyes could hardly show her how to catch hold of the various bars;
but presently she had succeeded in gaining the outside of the
enclosure, and through the spaces between the rails she looked
again, her heart almost standing still with dread.

Frank was still on his feet, though he had been put to his best
efforts in order to escape those threatening horns.

"Now run, Frank! I'm over the fence!" she cried at the top of her

"All right! I'm coming!" he replied, as best he could, for his
antagonist just then made another vicious lunge, and it was only
by a shave that the athletic boy managed to escape those golden
balls that surmounted his massive head.

Now that he had accomplished the main object of his labor Frank
could devote his energies toward his own escape. When the bull
passed him he turned and bolted in the direction of the friendly
fence. The distance was too great to think of making it in one
run. As he flew along he expected to hear the pounding of the
bull's hoofs on the hard turf behind him, nor was he mistaken.

"He's coming, Frank! Oh! be careful!"

Minnie was calling this in trembling tones, and yet Frank paid
little or no attention to her warning, for he had to depend upon
his own instincts just then. At the proper instant he whirled
around. Already he had stamped the situation in his mind, and knew
to a fraction just how far away the fence lay.

Again he managed to escape the rush of the beast. Had he been an
experienced Spanish bull-fighter he could hardly have done better.
And again he changed his position. All he wanted was one more
chance, and he knew he could win out. This time the animal,
growing more and more enraged, came within a foot of striking the
boy, who was beginning to get winded with his efforts.

"Now!" cried Minnie, who seemed to recognize the opening when it

Already was Frank in full motion, sprinting for the near-by fence
with all his might and main. He reached it even as the bull was
bearing down after him. One tremendous effort and he had mounted
the rails to fall in a heap on the other side--safe! The bull came
to a sudden halt within the enclosure, and vented his fury in more
bellowing and tearing up of the turf.

Minnie was at the side of her champion in a moment.

"Oh! Frank, are you hurt?" she exclaimed, as she caught hold of
him in her anxiety; and almost breathless as he was, the boy could
not help feeling a thrill of satisfaction at the prospect of the
breach between them being healed in this wonderful manner.

"Not a bit, Minnie, only short of breath. Here's your sweater,
safe and sound. Excuse me for taking it in that rude way, but you
see there wasn't much time for explanations," he managed to say,
as he started to put it on her again, an operation to which she
submitted with pleasure.

"And now," said Frank, as arm in arm they started to walk away
from the scene of the adventure, he rolling his wheel as he went,
"what was all this trouble about, Minnie? What terrible thing have
I done to make you treat both Helen and myself so? Neither of us
have the least idea, and she's very unhappy over it. Please let me

Minnie looked troubled, and yet a gleam of hope began to appear in
her gray eyes.

"Oh! if you only could explain it away, I'd be so glad, Frank; so
glad," she said.

"Is it anything that Lef Seller has been saying about me?" he
asked, shortly.

"No, no. This is a matter that concerns only you and I. It was
about a letter you wrote, a note rather, that was intended for
Helen, and which--Oh! I don't know what to make of it, I've tried
so hard not to believe you meant it; but every time I look at that
note it stands out so plain, and gives me a shock."

She clung to his arm, and let her head sink as she spoke. Frank
knew that she was crying softly, too, and he was the most
mystified boy that could be found.

"A note that I wrote to Helen, and about you! Why, Minnie, surely
you must be mistaken. I don't ever remember doing anything of the
kind!" he declared.

"But I've got it still, Frank, right here in my little bag. Ten
times I tried to destroy it, and just couldn't," she exclaimed,
looking up at him.

"Let me see it, please," he said, his eyes filled with wonder.
With trembling hands she opened the little bag, to which she had
unconsciously clung through all her recent peril. From this she
took a folded piece of paper, that had apparently been frequently
handled, to judge from the creases.

When Frank examined what was written upon it his face first took
on a look of astonishment, and then amusement.

"I see," he said, slowly, "this is evidently about half of a page,
and torn in a diagonal way. Notice Minnie that it is only a
_portion_ of a note. There is another half, which will give
it an entirely different version! I admit that I wrote this note
to Helen in school one day. Then I changed my mind, and tore it in
half, intending to destroy it. Where did you happen to find this
piece, Minnie?"

"On the floor in the hall. Soggy was sweeping out when I went back
for something I had forgotten. Just by accident I saw your
writing, and unconsciously stooped to pick it up. Oh! Frank, what
a cruel shock it gave me," she said.

"Well, as near as I can remember, I tried to thrust both pieces
into my desk. This one must have fallen to the floor either then
or later, and was swept out. Perhaps the other half may still be
there, Minnie! Will you go with me around to the school now? The
sooner this strange thing is cleared up the better."

"If you say so, I'll be glad to go, Frank. But it's enough for me
to hear you say that it was not intended to warn Helen against
me," she replied, smiling up through her tears.

"Wait and see the proof first," laughed Frank.

They reached the high school building in due time. Soggy, the
janitor, was just about locking up, and upon hearing their request
readily allowed them to enter. Going straight to his desk, Frank
fumbled around inside eagerly, and then with an exclamation of
triumph drew out something.

"There, look!" he exclaimed, as he fitted the ragged edges of the
two pieces of paper together on the top of the desk. "You see they
match perfectly. Now read out loud what I was writing to my sister
that day, and changed my mind, intending to talk with her when we
got home."

And Minnie read this:

Don't believe all you hear. In the first place it's
nonsense to think that you could expect the truth
from one so shallow as Min erva Stone. I never liked her.
She may seem all right as a friend, but I'd advise you to have
little to do with her. She says one thing to your face and
another to your back. I'm afraid she's deceptive, and that's
about the meanest trait any girl can have. Bett er let your
new friendship gradually cool, and drop her altogeth er. Honestly,
to tell the truth, I think Minnie Cuthbert ought to be en ough
chum for you.

When she finished this she looked up at him with tear-steeped

"We're friends again once more, Minnie, are we not." he asked,

"Yes, good friends; true friends, I hope Frank!" she replied as
they clasped hands, and a pair of happy gray eyes looked up shyly
into the darker orbs of the boy.



As so frequently happens, Thanksgiving Day was overcast and cold,
the air having a tang as of threatening snow.

"Bully football weather!" shouted the fans, as they crowded into
the great park-like field at Columbia; the toss of a coin during
the week having given Frank's team the privilege of playing on
their home grounds.

There was even a greater crowd present than on the occasion of the
game with Clifford. This struggle was to effectually decide the
ownership of that coveted silver cup, and the championship of the
tri-school league for the season.

Everybody who could possibly get there was present. The grandstand
seemed to be a waving mass of color with the various little flags,
and the gay wraps of the school girls, intensely interested in
this battle of brawn and skill between their brothers.

Naturally those from Clifford gathered together for the most part;
and Bellport had sent an enormous delegation to whoop things up
for her sturdy team.

Indeed, those Bellport players did look like a serious proposition
as they scampered back and forth across the field before the time
for play had arrived. Many a timid heart among Columbia's friends
felt as though the chances were very much against such a victory
as had been won over Clifford.

Such enthusiasm as abounded! Cheers arose everywhere. Bands of
students went about, headed by some valiant cheer captain, and
made all other sounds insignificant beside their clamor, as they
chanted their school yell in common, or sang the favorite songs of
their classes.

"We're going to see a hot old game, anyhow!" cried Buster
Billings, as he sat on the bench in the grandstand, being reckoned
of little account as a football player, however much he might
shine in baseball.

"What's Bellport's line-up? Seems to me nearly every face here is
familiar; and I reckon their entire baseball squad has qualified
for the gridiron," remarked another observer.

"Just as you say, there's not a fellow missing," sighed Buster;
"but then, none of them happens to be gifted with the heft that
fastened its fatal clutches on me at an early age. I'd give the
world to play football, but though they've tried me several times,
it's always back to the scrap heap for poor Buster boy."

"Well, they left me out this time, too; my first half in the game
with Clifford wasn't a howling success. But at any rate I'm a sub,
and if a few of the boys get carried off the field they may call
on me," and Jack Eastwick patted his chest in anticipation of the
slaughter to come.

For the concluding tussle of the High School League the contending
teams presented this line-up:



Allen, Captain. West.
_R.H.B. L.H.B._


Shadduck. Oakes. Harper. Bird. Daly. Shay. Morris.
_R.E. R.T. R.G. Center. L.G. L.T. L.E._


Clay. Coddling. Smith, Jr. Lacy. Alpers. Macy. Smith, Sr.
_L.E. L.T. L.G. Center. R.G. R.T. R.E._


Banghardt. Bardwell.
_L.H.B. R.H.B._

Lee, Captain.

The same referee officiated who had managed the game with Clifford
so well. And the coach of each team was busily engaged giving the
last instructions, since the time specified for the opening kick-off
was very near.

Columbia was not boisterous, but there was a look of grim
determination visible on the faces of Frank Allen and his fellows
that counted for much.

"It's better to shout after you're out of the woods, fellows,"
said the captain, as he drew his squad around him for a last word
ere going upon the field.

This time Frank was lucky, and won the toss. He immediately
selected the goal from which the cold November wind blew, as that
gave Columbia considerable advantage to start with, though it
would be evened up later when the second half brought about a
change in base. Still, by then the wind might have died out, and
the advantage lost.

Lee opened matters with a beautiful kick, but the oval was
captured, and it came Columbia's turn.

Comfort smashed out a fine one, sending the oval far down the
enemy's territory. And so fast did the other Columbia fellows
chase after it, that when Bellport secured the ball through a
clever catch, they found no chance to do anything more than return
the kick.

After that the fight was on. Columbia sent the ball back into the
territory of the enemy, and at such a bewildering angle, thanks to
the wonderful spiral kick of Jack Comfort, that the player who attempted
to clasp it in his arms allowed it to get away.

"Go it, you tigers!" shrieked many in the crowd, as they saw
several Columbia men making furious efforts to reach the rolling
oval before any of the enemy could throw themselves upon it.

But Coddling was there in time to drop on the ball, though hardly
had he done so than Shadduck landed on his back, together with
various others belonging to both teams.

Now Bellport had the ball, and there was great curiosity to know
what success they would have in bucking the Columbia line. Report
had it that never had Bellport been so strong in her line of
attack; and Clifford enthusiasts had warned their neighbors of
what was in store for them this day.

Bellport rushed into the fray. The artful Lacy, he who had played
such a clever game as shortstop in the baseball tournament the
preceding season, snapped the ball to Snodgrass, who plunged
straight for the middle of the Columbia line backed up by a solid
wedge that seemed capable of carrying the heavy quarter-back

There was a confused mass of struggling players, and a great
cloud of dust, in which figures were to be seen pushing this way
and that.


"He's down!" shouted hundreds as the dust passed off with the
wind, and they could see the situation again.

"But he took several yards with him, and Bellport has the ball.
What d'ye think of that sledgehammer way of carrying things, eh?
Wait till Snodgrass and Banghardt and Bardwell get working
together, and you'll see the Columbia defense crumple up like dead
leaves in a fire!"

Of course it was a Bellport admirer who said this; but those who
heard only laughed and waved their Columbia flags the more
fiercely. They had full confidence in their boys, and knew what
Frank could get out of them in an emergency.

Once more the teams were lined up, watching each other like so
many wild animals, hungry and eager. Lee shouted out some signals
in his sonorous voice. It sounded very like the previous set, but
only those in the secret could know whether the slight difference
meant a new change of action or not.

Then the ball was put in play. Like lightning it passed from
Lacy's hands. Snodgrass made out to receive it, and once more
plunged for the center, as if intending to break through, with
several of his fellows backing him up. The deception was so
complete that the vast majority of the audience really believed
he carried the ball with him.

So a great whoop went up when he was dragged down by one of the
Columbia tacklers.

"But look at Smith, Sr., running! He's got the ball, fellows! He's
after a touchdown, and he won't be happy till he gets it! Wow!
that's going some!"

"He'll never make it! There's West in the way, and Allen bearing
down on him like a pirate ship under full sail! What did I tell
you? That Ralph West is the best tackier in the county! They made
no mistake when they booted Tony Gilpin out and made room for
West. Where is the ball now, fellows?"

"Under Smith, Sr., and on Columbia's twenty-five yard line!"
admitted Buster Billings, unwillingly.

"And Bellport has still another chance to carry it over! If the
wind was favorable Lee could boot the pigskin across your goal,
and not half try. But I guess they'd rather depend on breaking
through, or getting around the ends. Keep your eyes on those boys,
for they're as full of schemes as an egg is of meat."

"That sounds encouraging. I was afraid our fellows might have too
easy a snap, and disappoint their friends by not half trying. Just
wait yourself, Bellport. It was the same thing in baseball last
summer; and yet Columbia flies the banner, all right. You may be
treated to some surprises yourself, old chap," remarked Buster,

Again the scrimmage was on. The Columbia tigers were so fast on
their feet that Clay, who got the ball this time, was unable to
accomplish much before they pounced upon him and bore him heavily
to the ground.

"How's that?" shouted Buster, "our fellows just eat up such easy
plays. Bring out some of your fancy stunts, and do something,
can't you?"

Three minutes later and the ball came to Columbia. It was time,
for Bellport had, by a series of bull-like rushes, carried it over
the twenty-yard line.

"Now to get back some of that lost ground. There they go! See
Shadduck run, will you? He's Mercury, with wings on his feet! Look
at him dodge that left guard! Say, he's going to make it yet, as
sure as you live he is! Bully boy, Bones! Go it! Go it, you
darling! Oh! what a heart-ache I've got! He's over the line, boys;
over the line! A touchdown for us to start things!" and Buster
danced in his excitement, like a rubber ball.

"No he ain't," snarled a Bellport backer, "they downed him before
he got there! Notice that just three of our fellows are settin' on
his back. He tried mighty hard, but they nailed him a little too

"You're mistaken. He held the ball over the line, and it counts
for Columbia, as you can see if you look again," remarked Mr.
Allen, who was sitting near.

"That's so," grumbled the discomfited Bellport man, "and with that
wind it's goin' to be as easy as pie to boot the ball over for a
goal. Shucks! what ails our fellows to-day? They never did sloppy
work like that with Clifford."

"There was a reason, they say. Clifford claims that her signals
were sold to Bellport. Anyhow, there's going to be nothing of that
kind to-day, but clean fighting. There goes Frank to kick goal,
and he'll do it, too," answered Buster.

The goal was made easily, thanks to the favoring wind. Then again
the ball was put into play, and fierce ran the rivalry. Sometimes
the fighting was on Columbia territory, and then again the tide of
battle shifted until it was Bellport's line that was threatened.

Now and then the cheers of the enthusiasts arose and swelled over
that fiercely-contested field like thunder. Back and forth they
swung, both now doggedly determined. A score of plays were made
that brought out cheers from the spectators, regardless of school
affiliations; for they liked clean football, and could applaud
clever work, even on the other side.

When the heart-rending agony was finally relieved by the referee's
whistle announcing the end of the first half, that score of six by
Columbia was the entire counting!



"See 'em getting Hail Columbia from their coach because they made
that fool play! Next time it'll be different," growled the unhappy
Bellport backer.

"I hope so," replied the cheerful and optimistic Buster,

Frank, as he came in from the field, dusty and disheveled, looked
eagerly at a certain part of the grandstand where Helen sat
alongside her chum Minnie. Immediately both girls waved their
flags at him, and called out something, which, of course, was
utterly drowned in the furious shouting that arose.

But Frank would ten times rather have heard what they said than to
listen to the cheers of the multitude; for he knew that love and
friendship endure, while the admiration of the crowd is as fickle
as the weather, praising one day and on the next condemning.

Both teams held earnest consultations during the interval between
the halves of the game. New plays were planned whereby advantage
might be taken of some supposed weak spot in the line of the
enemy's defense. And singular to say, not a single change had as
yet been made in the line-up, something remarkable indeed, when in
other days half a dozen casualties must have resulted from those
furious clashes. Doubtless there were those who suffered in
silence, fearing lest they be taken out, if their real condition
were made known; and every man was wild to finish in what promised
to be the most exciting football game that had ever happened in
the tri-school league.

"There they go to take position. Now for another heart-breaking
period of suspense. But they've got the advantage. It's an up-hill
fight for Bellport; six to nothing, and half the time gone. If
they can only keep the others from scoring it isn't necessary to
make any more," said Buster to Jack Eastwick.

"No chance for me to get into this game. That Shay is a sticker.
But I candidly admit he's something of an improvement on myself,
and I hope he holds out. But mark me, Buster, there's going to be
some changes before the game ends," remarked the other, confidentially.

"What makes you say that, Jack?" asked his friend, curiously.

"Because those Bellport bulldogs have got blood in their eyes now.
The coach has been combing them down, and they're just bound to
carry things before them, or die trying. It's going to be hotter
than ever, Buster."

"But Frank has been saying things, too. And our boys have the
benefit of the experience of one who was a terror on the lines of
Princeton, my especial friend, Coach Willoughby," remarked Buster,
proudly. "He's set 'em up a few capers that are going to surprise
our good Bellport friends. I'm game to stack up on Columbia. I

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