Part 4 out of 4
So, on Tuesday afternoon, Dick and his fellow members of the committee
were at the "Blade" office punctually.
At ten minutes past the time no boy from the North Grammar had
"You won't have to wait much longer," smiled Len. "It looks as
though the North Grammar boys were bluffing."
At ten minutes of five Dick and his chums rose to leave the "Blade"
"Wait a minute," urged Len at the door. "I believe I see your
rivals coming now."
Hi Martin, Bill Rodgers and Courtney Page strolled rather indolently
up to the door and entered.
"You're late," said Len crisply. "If you boys go into a race,
I believe you'll be just as late at the finish."
"There wasn't any use in hurrying," grunted Eel. "There's lots
of the day left."
"Unless you regard an appointment as a gentlemen's agreement,
and to be kept," marked Len Spencer, rather severely. "I have
been giving up my time to this affair of yours, and my time is
worth something. But take seats. Have you boys any paper to
show that you represent your school?"
"Yes," admitted Hi, producing an envelope. "Our principal gives
us the proper authority."
Len read the note, nodding. "The Central Grammar boys have also
produced their authority to act, so now we can get down to the
details of the contest. The North Grammar boys are the challengers,
are they not?"
"Yes," claimed Hi.
"Then what sort of a swimming contest do you propose?" Len asked.
"Each school to appoint its best swimmer, and arrange a half-mile
race between the champions of the two schools," Hi answered promptly.
"The school whose champion wins is to be declared the champion
"We expected that," nodded Dick, "and we won't agree to it. If
this match is to be held for the school championship, then there
should be several boys entered from each school----say five, six
or seven from each school. Then the contest would really represent
"But one boy would win, just the same, in any case," retorted
Martin. "What difference would it make?"
"The way that I propose," urged Dick, "no single boy could win
for his school. Suppose we enter seven boys from each school.
Then the school whose seven boys are in ahead of the seven boys
on the other side will win the contest. In other words, of the
fourteen swimmers, one is bound to come in last of all. The school
to which this last-in swimmer belongs is the school that loses
"Huh! I don't see anything in that idea," retorted Hi. "That,
perhaps, wouldn't mean anything at all for the school that happened
to have the one best swimmer of all."
"It would make it impossible for either school to enter one real
swimmer and six dummies, and still win the match," Dick argued.
"My plan will stop the contest from being a one-boy race and
will give the contest to the school that has the best average
"Huh! I don't see it," said Hi doggedly.
"I think Prescott has the better of the argument," broke in Len
Spencer, who had sat tapping his desk with a pencil.
"Then I don't care much for your idea, either, Spencer," retorted
"It may be that my idea isn't any good," nodded Len indulgently.
"I won't even claim that I know anything about sports. But you
must surely know who the umpire is in any such dispute. It's
always the editor of the local paper. So, Martin, if you won't
agree with Prescott, and if you won't admit that I know anything
about it either, suppose we lay the question before the editor
of the 'Blade.' I think he's in just now."
"As for me," spoke up Bill Rodgers, breaking his silence, "it
seems to me that Prescott's idea is good and fair."
"What do you say to that kind of stuff, Page?" inquired Hi quickly.
"I---I---er---well, I am agreeable to anything that pleases the
rest of you," stammered Courtney Page, by nature, a sail trimmer.
"You're a chump, then," Hi retorted elegantly. "The whole reason
why Prescott objects to one boy representing each school is that
he's afraid I can out-swim any boy that Central Grammar can produce."
"And I take it, Martin," Dick retorted, "that your reason for
insisting on the one-boy race, is due to your belief that you
can win from any one boy. Very likely you are the fastest and
strongest swimmer in any Gridley school. But a race with seven
boys on a side will better represent the average abilities of
the two schools. In baseball we tried to find out which school
had the average best players. We didn't try simply to find out
which school could boast of the one star player."
"That's right," nodded Len Spencer.
"Prescott, you're afraid to race with me, you or any other one
fellow in Central Grammar!" exclaimed Hi indignantly.
"No; I'm not afraid to swim against you," Dick declared quietly.
"I won't have the championship between the two schools rest on
any such race, but I'll enter a separate race against you---any
distance---this in addition to a seven-fellow race between the
"Now, I guess you haven't a leg left to stand on, Martin," smiled
Spencer. "Prescott proposes a seven-fellow race between the schools,
the school responsible for the last man who comes in to lose the
contest. That is to be for the school championship. Then, if
you think you can outswim Prescott, he agrees to enter an individual
and personal race with you."
"If Prescott and I swim against each other, then we won't swim
in the seven-fellow race, anyway." protested Hi.
"I'll agree to that," Dick nodded.
After some more talking the details were arranged. Len reduced
them to writing and the committees for both schools signed.
"I'll publish this in the 'Blade' to-morrow morning," said Spencer.
"Then the whole town will know the terms of the race."
Friday, if pleasant, was the date chosen, the seven-fellow race
to begin as soon as possible after two P.M., the personal race
between Prescott and Martin to follow. Such details as choosing
the officials of the race were to be left to the principals of
the two schools.
"It's all settled, then, gentlemen," said Spencer, rising and
holding out his right hand. "If you don't see me before you may
be sure of my being on hand to report the races themselves. I
shall do all I can to encourage schoolboy sports in Gridley.
I've a notion, too, that there will be on hand Friday a goodly
showing of High School athletes. The young men of the High School
will naturally want to look over the contestants and see who is
going to make good material for the High School teams."
"I'm thankful to say," retorted Hi stiffly, "that I do not expect
to attend Gridley High School. My father is going to send me
to one of the best prep. schools in the country. Page and Rodgers
are going to good schools, too."
"I hope none of your fathers will be disappointed," remarked Spencer
gravely. "Personally, I consider the Gridley High School one
of the best schools in the United States."
"It will do, of course, for those who really can't afford to go
to better and more select schools," Hi conceded. "Prescott, look
out that you don't get drowned when you're practicing to beat
me on Friday."
"I'm not really sure that I shall practice swimming before Friday,"
Dick smiled in answer. "I'm going to be pretty busy until after
"Dick," asked Greg seriously, when the three chums were by themselves,
"have you any idea in the world that you can win out against Hi
"Oh, I may not win," Prescott replied. "Yet, if I don't I'll
promise you to be the hardest pace-maker that Hi Martin ever had
behind him in the water."
OLD DUT GIVES WISE COUNSEL
Boys attired in their best tip-toed about in creaking new shoes,
resplendently polished for the occasion. Every boy had a flower
in his upper button-hole.
Exhibition Hall, usually so bare and barnlike in appearance, was
now a jungle of potted plants and ferns, with clumps of bright
Over the broad stage hung a fourteen-foot American flag. Flags
of other nations, in smaller bits of bunting, trailed off on either
side. The piano stood before the center of the stage, down on
the floor. Grouped near were the music stands and chairs for
other members of the orchestra on this festal day of graduation.
Here and there women teachers still superintended little squads
of girls who were putting on the last bright touches of ornamentation.
One teacher was drilling a dozen much-dressed-up boys of the
seventh grade, who were to act as ushers on this great Thursday
afternoon. It was half an hour before the doors were to be opened.
Curiously enough, there were no eighth-grade pupils present.
These were assembled in Room 1, on the floor below, seated behind
the desks that had been theirs during the school year.
"Young ladies and gentlemen," began Old Dut, rapping on his desk
and rising. As he looked about there was a curious expression
on his face, and some water in his twinkling eyes.
"I am going to take occasion to say the last few words that I
shall have a chance to say to you confidentially and in private,"
continued the principal. "I am conscious that I am taking one
of my last looks at you all as my pupils. I might call this the
dying class, if it were not for the fact that, for most of you,
to-day will be the real birth. You will go forth into the world
to-day, the larger portion of you. You will leave school behind
and tackle the world as budding men and women. You will begin
soon to grapple with the work, the problems, the toil---the tears
and the joys that come with the beginnings of grown-up life.
Those of you who are to be favored with a chance to go further
in your education, and who will be schoolboys and schoolgirls
yet a while, I most sincerely congratulate. For those who, on
the other hand, will step straight from Exhibition Hall into the
world of work---aye, and the world of deeds and triumphs, too---I
bid you to be of good cheer and courage!
"Be bold, true and loyal! If you have any wonder, any misgivings
as to what the world and life may have in store for you, I tell
you that these are questions that you will decide mainly for yourselves.
It's the hardest thing in this universe to down any man or woman
who faces grown-up life with a good and honest claim on the good
things of existence. Yet on this subject one word more. Uprightness
of heart, of word and deed are not alone sufficient. There is
one more great quality that you must link with general honesty
and loyalty. Castle Great cannot be stormed except by those who
move forward with backbone---Courage! Be bold, steadfast, unwavering.
Never lose anything that you justly want through fear that you
can't get it. Go after it! The soldier is the type of courage
and a good one. Yet you don't find more than one of our soldiers
of life in a military uniform. There are soldiers, boys, in every
crowd that you mingle with on the street. Be one of them yourselves!
"Boys, be brave, but be gentle. Remember that the bravest men
are gentle as any woman. As a soldier proves his courage by his
conquests, so must you prove your courage, if you have any to
show, by your achievements in the life that starts to-morrow for
most of you. Honor and courage! Together they will carry you
to lofty heights. If you fail, then reflect that you don't possess
these two qualities of manhood. Get these qualities---at no matter
what cost---and start out again to victory.
"Girls, be women. Stop and think what it means to be women.
All the sweetest, truest and gentlest attributes of the human
race. Be women, every minute of your lives, and you will have
reached heights where not even the most soldierly boys may follow
you. Be women, and the men of our race will reverence and honor
"Young ladies and gentlemen, this day comes to me once in every
year. It is an old practice with me, as I see each class go forth
in our last hour together, to feel that I am watching the departure
of the best and truest class that I have yet taught. But this
year I am moved more than ever to that feeling. There are those
among you who have shown me traits of character that have filled
me with even more much more than my usual amount of faith in the
future of the American nation. Young ladies and gentlemen, my
fellow citizens, permit me to thank you for your loyal work to
make this graduating class what it is, and what it is destined
to become. Go forth to uphold the traditions of Gridley and the
glory of America, and may God bless you, one and all."
His voice rather husky, and his eyes a little more wet, Old Dut
sank back into the well-worn chair from which he had taught so
many eighth-grade classes.
"Three cheers for our principal!" proposed Danny Grin. The cheers
were given lustily, with half a dozen tigers.
"Master Dalzell," replied Old Dut, "coming from the boy who, as
the records show, has been disciplined more frequently in the
last year than any other pupil present, I consider that a tribute
"I meant it," said Dan simply.
Later the pupils of the five upper grades marched solemnly into
Exhibition Hall, the appearance of the graduating class being
greeted with applause by enthusiastic relatives and friends.
The orchestra played triumphal marches until all had marched in
to their seats.
Then the orchestra paused, only to begin a moment later with the
first measures of the opening chorus, sung by more than three
hundred youthful voices. It was the usual medley, contributed
by pupils who could really sing and by others who really couldn't.
An undertone of varying discord ran along under the truer melody.
Then, after his name had been called by the principal, Dick Prescott
rose. Very stiff and starched, and painfully conscious of the
creaking of his shoes as he went forward in that awesome stillness,
Dick ascended the platform, advanced to the front center, made
an elaborate bow, and then, in an almost scared voice he began
to tell the assembled hundreds of grown-ups why they were there
as though they didn't know already. This performance, which admitted
of very few gestures, was stated on the programme to be "The Salutatory."
From his being chosen to render this address, it was easily to
be inferred that Dick was regarded as the brightest boy of the
Then other exercises followed. Two members of the Board of Education
also had pieces to speak. One told of the educational policy
and methods followed in the Gridley schools, on which subject
he knew vastly less than any of the eight smiling teachers present.
The other member of the Board of Education gave a lot of chilled
advice to the members of the graduating class, he did this at
much greater length and with far less effect than Old Dut had
lately done in his last private talk with his class.
There were a lot of other pieces to be spoken, most of them by
the youngsters. There were songs, also exercises in vocal gymnastics.
Pupils of the lower classes displayed their expertness at mental
arithmetic. Then, after more singing, the superintendent of schools,
who had just arrived, mounted the platform and presented each
graduating one with a diploma, showing that the recipients had
faithfully and successfully completed their Grammar School course.
More music, after which Laura Bentley, a pretty little vision
in white cloud effects, with yards of pink ribbon for the sunshine,
stepped to the platform, made her bow and launched into the valedictory.
"And now," called Old Dut from the audience, "the old eighth grade
is no more. The exercises are over. I thank all who have contributed
to make this occasion so pleasant."
"Three cheers for Old---Mr. Jones, the principal!" yelled Dan Dalzell,
as the scrambling to get out began. Needless to say, the cheers
were given. Now that the ordeal was over, it was nothing to the
discredit of fine Old Dut that the youngsters would have cheered
a yellow dog had they been so requested.
Old Dut had slipped down to the egress. There he shook hands
with each graduate, wishing them all possible success in life.
"And be sure to come back to these exhibitions whenever you can
in after years," the principal called as the last members of the
late class were going down the stairs.
"Dick," chuckled Harry Hazelton, as they descended, "when Old
Dut was calling on you to go forward and do your little stunt,
did you notice the fly on the left side of his nose that he was
trying to brush off without letting any one see the move? Ha,
"Shut up, Hazy," growled Prescott almost savagely. "Haven't you
any idea of reverence? We're going down these steps for the last
time as Central Grammar boys. I'd rather do it in silence, and
"Isn't Dickins the queer old chap?" demanded Harry Hazelton, falling
back by Reade's side.
"It's a pity you couldn't be queer, just for once, and hold your
tongue until we are outside the good old schoolyard," grunted Tom.
"They're a pair of cranks," muttered Harry to Dave Darrin.
"Imitate 'em for once," Darry advised dryly. "Remember, it's
the cranks who make the world go around."
For the most part, both boys and girls got their hats very quietly.
Then they passed out into the open, walked across the yard and
gathered in little groups outside, each holding his beribboned
diploma in his right hand.
"It's all over," sighed Tom Reade outside the gate. "Somehow,
I wish that I had another year to go---or else that I'd been a
little more decent to Old Dut."
"It was a good old school," sighed Dick, looking back almost
regretfully. "And, by the way-----"
"Speech, Dick!" cried a dozen of the boys, crowding around him.
"Get out!" laughed Prescott. "I spoke my piece two hours ago."
Yet the boys continued to crowd about him.
"He's going to tell us now what the man on the clubhouse steps
said!" proclaimed Danny Grin hopefully.
HI HEARS SOMETHING ELEVATING
"Do you fellows really want to know what the man on the clubhouse
steps said?" Prescott asked, looking about him with a tantalizing
"Do we?" came in a chorus.
"Hurry up and tell us!"
"Quit your kidding," begged Tom Reade. "Dick, we've waited for
months to have the mystery solved. Now, surely, we ought to know.
Look at these diplomas; they certify that we know everything
else. So trot on the speech of the man on the clubhouse steps."
"Or look for trouble!" added Harry Hazelton warningly.
Dick appeared to hesitate. The boys around him, highly curious,
thought he was debating within himself whether or not to give
the desired information.
"Come, get swift," desired Spoff Henderson.
"See here, fellows, I'll tell you what I'll do," proposed Dick
"You'll tell us what the man on the clubhouse steps said," broke
in Toby Ross.
"Yes," Dick agreed; "but you'll have to let me do so on my own
conditions and in my own way. You see this diploma?" holding
it up. "I've been working hard for eight years to win this document.
Now I'm going to hurry home and put this in a place of safety.
After that I'll put on my everyday clothes, and then I'll meet
you at the usual corner on Main Street at five o'clock. If any
of you fellows really want to know, then, what the man on the
clubhouse steps said, I'll tell you."
"You won't postpone telling us, and you won't try to crawl out
of it?" pressed Dave Darrin.
"On my honor, I won't," Dick promised.
"On your honor, you won't tell us what the man on the clubhouse
steps said?" demanded Tom Reade suspiciously.
"On my honor, I won't try to dodge out of it, or postpone it a
minute beyond five o'clock. On my honor I'll tell you, at five
o'clock, to-day, what the man on the clubhouse steps said."
"Good!" cried many voices.
"Will many of you be there?" Dick inquired.
"We'll all be there," declared Spoff Henderson. "But, remember,
Dick Prescott, you're in honor bound to tell us at last."
"You won't find me dodging or up to any tricks," Dick agreed solemnly.
"Until five o'clock, then."
Dick started along. At first quite a crowd went with him, but
by degrees the number decreased until only his own five immediate
chums were with him.
"Say," suggested Reade suddenly, "since you're going to make a
public, show of this, Dick, you ought to let our little crowd
in on a private view."
"What do you mean?" Prescott quizzed.
"You know well enough what I mean," Tom retorted. "You ought
to tell our own little crowd in advance what the man on the clubhouse
"Do you really think so?" Prescott asked.
"I do," affirmed Tom.
"And so do the rest of us," asserted Dave Darrin.
"Well-----" Dick paused hesitatingly.
"Come, hurry up!" begged Greg.
"It's no more than fair to us," insisted Dan.
"On the whole," Dick continued, "I don't believe it would be fair
to the other fellows."
"You big tease!" blurted Harry Hazelton indignantly.
"No; I don't mean to tease you," Dick rejoined, his eyes twinkling.
"But I believe in playing fair in life. Don't you, fellows?"
"What has this to do with being fair?" demanded Tom.
"Why, just this: I promised to tell you all at five o'clock.
Now, if I were to tell a special few before that time, it would
be a bit unfair!"
"Not a bit," retorted Dave. "You've had us dangling from the
string longer than you have the rest of the crowd. Therefore,
we ought to know the answer before the other fellows."
"It's a question of conscience with me," Dick replied soberly.
"Humph!" snorted Tom. "Well, I suppose we may as well give it
up, fellows. The only way we could worm it out of Dick would
be to rub his nose in the dirt. And he might fight if we did.
This is where I have to leave you. So long! I'll meet the army
at five o'clock."
Smiling broadly, Dick went on his way home. He put away his diploma,
next removing his best suit and laying it carefully away. Then
he donned his more accustomed clothes and ran down to the store.
"It was a very enjoyable exhibition, Dick," said his father.
"And I suppose our son feels that he's a man now?" smiled Mrs.
"No; I'm not, mother, and I don't want to be in any hurry, either.
There's too much fun in being a boy. And now I've an appointment
to meet a lot of the fellows."
"Don't let that appointment make you forget supper time," his
mother called after him.
Spoff Henderson and Toby Ross were already at the place of appointment.
"Here comes Dick!" called Spoff. "Now, tell us."
"Wait until the crowd gets here." returned Prescott.
"Ain't you the mean one?" growled Toby. "And we ran all the way
home and back."
"Too much hurry is said to be one of the greatest American sins,"
"Well, you're going to tell us, anyway, aren't you?" pressed Spoff.
"Yes; but give the crowd a chance to get here."
Dave and Dan came along, then Tom, Harry and Greg. Tolman and
a few other fellows hurried up.
"You might tell us all about that business, now," suggested Tolman.
"I see some more fellows coming up the street," Prescott replied.
"I don't have to tell more than once."
Five minutes later there were more than thirty boys at the corner,
and still others were in sight, coming from both ways.
"Say, get busy, Prescott!" called some of the newer corners.
"Let the crowd all get here," Dick insisted.
Presently the crowd numbered more than fifty a lot of their elders,
seeing such an unusual crowd of youths on one corner, halted curiously
near by. Then Reporter Len Spencer came along.
"What's all the excitement?" demanded Len, ever keen for local
news. One of the boys exclaimed to him what was in the wind.
"Then you'd better hurry up with your statement, Dick," Len advised.
"There'll be a riot here soon."
"Five o'clock was the time named," Prescott rejoined.
Just then the town clock began to strike.
"It's five o'clock now, Dick," called Greg.
"Yes," nodded Dick, "and I'm ready at last to redeem my promise."
"He's going to tell us!"
"Shut up! We want to hear."
"You are all assembled here," Prescott continued, "to hear just
what it was that the man on the clubhouse steps said."
"Cut out the end-man explanations. Give us the kernel!" shouted
"What the man on the clubhouse steps said," Dick went ahead, "should
be a model to everyone. It is of especial value to all who are tempted
to talk too fast and then to think an hour later."
"Yes, but what _did_ he say---the man on the clubhouse steps?" howled
"You will know, in a minute," Dick assured his hearers. "Yet,
before telling you, I want to impress upon you that, whenever
you are tempted to be angry, to be harsh in judgments, or when
you can think only ill of your neighbor, then you should always
hark back to just what the man on the clubhouse steps said."
There was a pause and silence, the latter broken by Danny Grin
"Well, what did he say?"
"You see," Dick explained, "the man was all alone on the clubhouse
"And he wasn't exactly sociable by nature."
"As I have explained," smiled Dick Prescott, "the man on the clubhouse
steps was alone, and-----"
"Get ahead faster!"
"So, being alone, he just naturally said-----"
"Well?" breathed the auditors. "Well?"
"He just naturally said---_nothing_!"
Dick dodged back, laughing. There were a few indignant vocal
explosions among the assembled youngsters, followed by dangerous
calm and quiet.
"Whenever you find yourself under trying circumstances, or when
anger is surging within you, fellows, believe me, you'll always
find it wiser to say just what the man on the clubhouse steps
said---which was nothing," Dick urged.
"And you got us all the way up here, at an appointed time, just
to hear that?" demanded Spoff Henderson.
"It's worth the time it has cost you," Dick urged.
"Rush him fellows!" bawled Toby Ross. "Don't let him escape!"
Indeed, there was no time or chance for getting away. Dick Prescott
was rushed, caught and pinned.
"What'll we do with him?" rose the chorus.
"To the fountain! Duck him!"
With a cheer the boys started, carrying Dick along on the shoulders
of a few tightly-wedged boys.
Dick's chums made no effort to rescue him. Indeed, perhaps they
felt that he deserved what was right ahead of him. But they ran
along in the press of boisterous lads.
Len Spencer, grinning hard, rushed along at the head of the juvenile
"Boys, you'd better reconsider!" shouted the young reporter.
"Don't write yourselves down as louts. The man on the clubhouse
steps, on account of just what he said, proved himself one of
the sages of the ages. Prescott, in telling you just what he
said, has performed a public service, if only you fellows were
bright enough to comprehend."
"Get out of our way, Spencer!" ordered Spoff Henderson. "As sure
as guns we're going to duck Dick Prescott in the public fountain."
"If you won't listen to reason, then," roared Len, using his long
legs to put him well in advance of the juvenile mob, "then I'll
use enchantment to spoil your foolish work. You shall not duck
Prescott! Hi, pi, yi, animus, hocus pocus! That enchantment
will foil you!"
Having reached the fountain, Len drew aside dramatically.
"In with him!" shouted the youngsters.
Then they halted in sheer amazement. For the first time the boys
noted that no water was running in the fountain, and that the
basin underneath was wholly dry.
"My enchantment has worked," chuckled Len.
"How did you do it?" demanded one puzzled youngster.
"Never mind," Len retorted mysteriously. "Now, if you don't instantly
put Dick Prescott on his feet and leave him alone, I'll work an
enchantment that will raise hob with every boy who lays as much
as a finger on Dick."
So Prescott was allowed to slide down to his feet. He was laughing,
enjoying every moment of the fun.
"We could have run him down to the next fountain," suggested one
of the schoolboys.
"It would do you no good, and Prescott no harm," Len retorted
dryly. "At three o'clock this afternoon the fire department turned
off all of the public fountains in order to clean 'em."
Now Dick's late tormentors began to feel that they had been badly
"sold" all around. After the manner of boys, they grinned sheepishly,
then more broadly and finally ended by laughing heartily. But
the crowd did not break up at once. All waited, with a vague
hope that some kind of mischief would happen.
A smaller boy went by, calling the evening newspaper. Tom Reade
bought one and stood at the edge of the crowd, reading.
"Here comes Hi Martin!" called someone. That youth had just turned
a corner, swinging from his left hand a pudgy rubber bag of the
kind that is used for holding a wet bathing suit.
"Hello, Prescott," was Hi's greeting. "Are you all ready to be
left behind in the spray tomorrow?"
"If you can leave me there," Dick smiled. "Been out for a practice
swim, have you?"
"Yes," nodded Hi; "and if you had seen my speed this afternoon
you'd have been scared away from the river for to-morrow."
"Well, I hope one of us wins," grinned Dick.
"One of us?" sniffed Hi. "Of course, one of us has to win when
there are only us two in that race. And, after I beat you to-morrow,"
Hi added consequentially, "I'll be off and away for a good time.
Saturday father is going to take our family to New York for three
"Going to stop at one of the big hotels there?" Reade inquired,
looking up from his newspaper.
"Of course we are," Hi rejoined, swelling out his chest. "We
shall stop at one of the biggest and finest hotels in the city."
"Then don't get a room too high up from the ground," advised Tom.
"I've just been reading in the evening paper that the city authorities
in New York have taken all the elevators out of all the biggest
"Why?" demanded Hi.
"The paper says it's because the elevators are considered too
dangerous," Tom replied innocently.
"I don't believe it," scoffed Hi. "Why, how could people get
up to their rooms on the fifteenth or eighteenth floor of one
of the skyscraper hotels?"
"Oh, well," Tom replied artlessly, "according to the paper the
hotels are all going to be equipped with safety-raisers."
"Safety-razors?" demanded Hi Martin blankly. "You idiot, what
good would safety-razors be for getting people up twenty floors
in a hotel?"
There was a moment's pause. Then a few chuckles came, followed
by a few more.
"Whoop!" yelled Danny Grin. Snatching the bathing suit bag from
Hi's hand, Dalzell got a good hold on the tie strings, then swung
the bag, bringing it down on the top of Hi's head.
"Run along home, Martin!" jeered Dan. "If don't tumble before
bed time, then ask your father how it is that dangerous elevators
can be replaced with safety-raisers. Here's your bag. Scoot---before
an idea hits you!"
Red-faced and angry, but still puzzled, Hi snatched at his bathing
suit bag and hastily decamped.
"Now he'll beat you at swimming or die tomorrow," predicted Dave
WHO WON THE SWIMMING MATCHES?
Thanks to Len Spencer's interest in schoolboy athletics, there
was a goodly crowd gathered at the river bank the next afternoon.
Many people came out in boats. There were at least a dozen launches,
including the one that bore Len Spencer, who had been chosen to
conduct the races.
The owner of a two room boathouse which adjoined a long wharf
had yielded to Spencer's request for a loan of this property.
In the boathouse the two school teams disrobed and donned their
Dave Darrin had been called upon to captain the swimming squad
from the Central Grammar. With him were Tom, Greg, Dan, Harry,
Henderson and Ross. It was as good and representative a team
as Central Grammar could furnish.
Bill Rodgers captained the squad from North Grammar. Bill had
had his fellows three times in the water, and was proud of them.
Just ten minutes before the time for calling the contestants Dave
Darrin led his squad from the boathouse. Out along the pier they
ran and dived in.
"The water's just fine for swimming to-day," ecstatically remarked
Tom Reade, as he came up, blew the water from his mouth and took
a few strokes. "In fact, the water's too fine."
"Too fine?" queried Dave. "How so?"
"Why, it makes a fellow feel so fine," retorted Tom, "that I'm
afraid it will make us all winners, and then there won't be any
glory for either school."
The North Grammar boys now splashed in. Len Spencer, who had
just seen to the placing of the further stake boat, now returned
in the launch.
Both the squad race and the individual contest were to be for
a quarter of a mile straightaway, with the start from a moored
raft down the river.
"Every one pile aboard!" called Len, the launch that he was on
gliding in at the pier. Wet swimmers dropped into the launch
until it was filled. Then another small gasoline craft took aboard
the left-overs. The crowd preferred to remain at this end of
the course to see the finish.
"It won't take North Grammar long to wind your crowd up in the
water," declared Hi Martin, as he and Dick stood at the end of
the pier watching the departure. Both were already in their bathing
"Maybe not," Dick assented. "Yet you mustn't forget one fact,
"What is that?"
"You mustn't forget that our fellows have already got their winning
gait on this season."
"Humph! We'll see."
"It won't take us long, either," Dick continued. "There, the
fellows are piling on the raft."
From the distance the spectators could see the two swimming teams
lining up on the raft. They could also make out that Len Spencer
was addressing the boys from the raft.
Bang! It was the warning shot. Spectators along the Gridley
shore crowded close to the bank to get a better view.
Bang! At the second shot fourteen boys dived into the water almost
in the same second. Fourteen heads came up, one after another,
and the young swimmers settled down to their work. A launch followed
along on each side of the course, to pick up any who needed help.
"It was thoughtful of some one to provide launches for the Central
swimmers," leered Martin.
"I hope neither launch will be needed for any of our fellows,"
Dick responded. "If either school has to have a fellow picked
up, then of course that's the school which loses the race."
Hi didn't answer. Despite his confident brag, he was now very
anxious over the outcome.
Along came the swimmers, all doing well, making a fine showing
for a crowd of fourteen boys whose average age was only fourteen
From time to time spectators cheered favorite boys in either squad.
"Central wins!" yelled one enthusiast, as the swimmers neared
the stakeboat off the pier.
"Don't you believe it," yelled another. "Wait for the finish."
There wasn't long to wait. As the swimmers came nearer it was
seen that Dave Darrin was ahead of all the swimmers, though Tom
Reade was pressing him hard. Behind Tom came Bill Rodgers, then
Greg Holmes, next two more North Grammar boys. Dan was next,
with Harry following. The three tailenders were North Grammar
"Central Grammar wins handily," announced Len Spencer through
Hi Martin's face darkened. "Anyway, I'll have the satisfaction
of showing Dick Prescott my heels all the way up the course,"
"Now, you two individual racers tumble aboard, and get ready for
your work," warned Len, as the launch ran in alongside the pier.
"Wipe him up, Dick!"
"Don't show him any mercy, Hi!"
Various other comments wafted to the pair as they sat in the launch
facing each other.
"Some of those people must think we can both win," laughed Dick
"I'll soon show you that only one of us can win," retorted Hi
Arrived at the raft, Len Spencer spoke briefly:
"At the first shot of the pistol you two youngsters take up your
positions, ready to dive. At the second shot, or as soon after
as you wish, you may dive and begin the race. Either contestant
who dives before the second shot is heard will be disqualified
and then the race will go to the other contestant."
Dick waited, tingling with the desire to win, though he knew that
Martin was a splendid swimmer for his age.
"Are you ready?" asked Len in a low voice. Both boys nodded.
Bang! Len fired a revolver into the air, calling the attention
of all spectators. Dick and Hi stepped nimbly to the edge of
the raft, poising with hands pointed.
Bang! The splash was simultaneous as the swimmers struck the
water. Each swimmer made a shallow dive and came up. Hi at once
dropped into an overhead stroke, Dick relying upon a side stroke.
For the first seventy-five yards, as nearly as the onlookers could
judge, the boys swam nose and nose.
"I'll tire this fellow out with a good pace, and then take a better
one," thought Hi Martin. "I'm going to make a finish that will
stop Dick Prescott from bragging whenever he sees me around hereafter."
Dick still swam well, but gradually Martin stole ahead of him.
"Where's Prescott now?" jeered a dozen North Grammar boys.
"Centrals, send out a launch to tow your champ! Then maybe he'll
make better time."
Hi swam steadily and rapidly until he had more than half covered
the course. Then he ventured on a look behind him.
"Prescott won't catch up all day," grinned Hi to himself. "Oh,
I'm glad I insisted on this individual race!"
Gradually, and, to those on shore it seemed painfully, Dick gained
on the leader. Still, when the race was almost over, Hi was well
in the lead.
"Hi Martin! Hi Hi Hi!" yelled the North Grammar boys, dancing
and tossing their caps in their glee. "Prescott, where art thou?
Say, what did you try to get into the race for?"
"Now, I'll show the folks a few things," Hi resolved, putting
on the best spurts of speed that were in him. It was truly a
fine performance for a Grammar School boy.
Yet, to the amazement of most of the onlookers, Dick also was
doing some very speedy swimming now. A yard he gained on Martin,
then another and another. When they were still fifty yards from
the stakeboat Dick suddenly changed his stroke and surged ahead,
distinctly in the lead.
"Confound the human steam launch!" gasped Hi, almost choking,
as he saw the powerful strokes of the swimmer ahead. "He'll make
me look like a fool if I don't haul up on him---and the distance
left is so confoundedly short!"
Now it could be seen that Martin was exerting every ounce of energy
and strength that he possessed. Yet still young Prescott gained.
Then Martin foolishly lost his head altogether.
"If I can't win I'll make it look like a fluke!" he gritted.
Just as Dick was nearing the stakeboat, Hi threw up one hand.
"I've got a cramp!" he shouted. "Help!"
To some on shore he appeared about to sink. Dick passed the stakeboat,
then turned like a flash and swam back toward Hi.
"Prescott wins!" called Len Spencer.
A few more strokes brought Dick up to where Hi pretended to flounder.
"Keep quiet, Hi, and let me get a hold on you," Dick offered.
"I'll have you at the pier in a jiffy."
"You get away from me," snarled Martin. "I don't want any of
your kind of help."
With that Hi appeared to forget his recent complaint of "cramp,"
for he made a lusty plunge toward the pier and pulled himself up.
Then, an instant later, he must have remembered, for he assumed
an expression of pain and limped.
"There's that mean cramp again," he muttered. "I'd have won by
a good many yards if it hadn't been for that."
Some of the Central Grammar boys nearby were impolite enough to
"Oh, I've dropped my handbag into the river!" exclaimed one woman
to another suddenly, at the end of the pier.
The other woman turned, giving a quick, startled glance toward
"I---I don't know how it happened," gasped the loser. "There
it is, away down the stream, floating toward that boathouse.
Oh, Master Prescott, do you feel able to go and get it for me?"
"I'll do it with pleasure, madam," Dick nodded. He looked for
a moment. Then, seeing a black floating object, he started after
it, his stroke apparently none the weaker after his swift race.
It had floated nearly under the boathouse at the water end. The
building in question belonged to the estate next to that from
which the swimming contests had been conducted. This boathouse
was closed, for the owners had not yet come to Gridley for the
summer. The windows of the little green building were shuttered
from the inside. Over the water the walls came down to within
six inches of the present level of water.
Keeping his eyes turned toward the black, floating object, Dick
swam easily to the spot. The black object floated under the open
sidewall into the boathouse. Just as Dick got there he dived,
duck fashion, head first, and passed to the interior of the boathouse
at the river end.
As he came up inside Dick's first discovery was that of artificial
light in the boathouse. Then his gaze rested on the platform
end over the land.
"Amos Garwood here, of all places!" gasped the astonished Grammar
The mentally queer inventor had rigged up a bench just under shelves
on which rested tools and boat supplies.
Just at the moment the inventor had his back turned to the water
as he stood working at his bench. Dick was able to look at him
while not in immediate danger of being seen himself.
How quietly the Grammar School boy trod water! He hardly dared
breathe, for fear of giving an alarm.
Yet, even in all his astonishment, Prescott did not forget to
let one hand close over the handle of the black bag whose recovery
had brought him here.
"I can't do anything with Garwood alone," reflected Dick swiftly.
"I must get out, if I can, without making a noise, and then give
the hurry alarm. That fellow is mixing something, and, if he
isn't stopped soon, he's quite likely to blow up the boathouse,
Fortunately there was sufficient depth of water at this outer
end of the boathouse. Prescott let himself sink so quietly that
there was barely a ripple above his head. Next, with a few cautious
strokes, he carried himself past the hanging side wall and into
the open upstream.
"Gracious, but no wonder Garwood has been able to keep away from
pursuers," thought the boy excitedly, as he swam steadily up toward
the other pier. "He has a place where not even a Sherlock Holmes
would ever think of looking for him. Why, he could work, sleep
and eat there and never give a sign of his presence!"
"Did you get it?" called the owner of the handbag eagerly.
"Yes, ma'am," Dick replied.
"The bag wasn't open, was it?"
"Let me have it quickly, please. Oh, I'm so thankful! Here is
my purse with all the money safe and sound. Wait, Master Prescott,
I must reward you suitably."
"No; I thank you," Dick replied, his color rising. "Your thanks
are enough. I've been taught that courtesy can't be repaid with
cash. You are very, very welcome to any service that I was able
to do you."
As Dick hurried into the Central Grammar "dressing room" he found
all five of his chums waiting to rub him down and help him dress.
"Here, give me that towel, and get out on other business in a
hurry!" begged Dick. "Dave! Tom! Amos Garwood is in the boathouse
below here, working at a bench. Get some of the men and rush
down there to make a capture. Greg, run and see to it that a
launch moves down to the river end of the boathouse in case Garwood
tries to get out that way when he hears the alarm!"
Prescott's chums darted out in a hurry. Dick half dried himself
in a few frenzied dabs with the towel. Then he pulled on his clothing
faster than ever before.
He got outside on the pier just in time to see Dave and Tom leading
a dozen men stealthily toward the door of the boathouse. Out
on the water Len Spencer's launch, with half a dozen men in it,
stood as river sentinel.
While those approaching the boathouse door were still more than
a score of feet away there came a startling interruption.
Bang! sounded inside. The door of the building strained an instant,
but did not give way.
"That's our old friend, Amos bang-bang, to a dot," muttered Tom
dryly, as the advancing party of men and boys halted.
"I don't care about fooling with a dynamite factory," remarked
one of the men.
Dick, at a dead run, joined the party.
"Come along!" he cried. "Let's break down the door and find out
whether the poor fellow is hurt."
"Yes! And have that 'poor fellow' hand you a peck of nitro-glycerine
for a surprise," retorted a man.
"Come on, fellows! We can get the door down without help," Dick
called, appealing to his chums.
All five of them rallied to his support. It took but a few sturdy
shoulder blows to complete the work of the explosion and break
the lock of the door.
Dick took one quick look inside.
"Tom, run and 'phone for a physician!" Prescott called back.
"Poor Garwood is unconscious, and cut. He's bleeding. Poor chap,
with his lop-sided mind and his 'mastery of the world' imaginings!"
Reade sped away. As soon as the crowd found there was no danger
there was a rush to the scene. Darrin and three friends managed
to hold the crowd somewhat at bay, while Prescott assisted two
women in trying to bring the injured man to.
"I hope he doesn't get away this time," thought Dick. "If Garwood
remains at large much longer he'll fix up a bang-bang that will
carry him clean into the next world!"
While those having the injured man in charge waited they explored
the boathouse. Of the explosive materials not a particle was
found. Evidently it had all gone up in smoke. But, in a far
corner, the searchers discovered a package of gauze, and another
of salve, with which poor Garwood had evidently attended to the
burns resulting from former explosions. Later it was found that
both packages came from a drugstore some twenty miles away, where
the poor fellow had also bought his explosive materials from time
to time. He must have walked the long distance at night when
other people were abed, for the druggist stated that his customer
came in, on each visit, as soon as the store was opened in the
Blankets and a few groceries, found in the loft, explained the
demented man's manner of housekeeping during the last few days.
It was half an hour ere a physician finally arrived in a touring
"The man doesn't appear to be badly hurt," declared the medical
man. "It won't take us five minutes to get him into town and
in the hospital, so I believe we had better start to revive him
after we get him there."
Two strong men were found who were willing to sit in the tonneau,
holding Amos Garwood's insensible body between them.
As the car started away a subdued cheer arose. The mystery and
the vanishing of Amos Garwood were at an end at last. Those who
had feared having a demented man at large in the community breathed
From the day of the race the summer vacation for the late Grammar
School boys began in earnest. A few days later Dick and his swimming
squad met a similar organization from the South Grammar, and a
match was held on the river. As Prescott's squad again won, Central
Grammar was now undisputed Grammar School champion on the water
as well as in baseball.
Colonel Garwood tried to pay the offered reward to the members
of Dick & Co., but the parents of the boys refused to entertain
Amos Garwood, not seriously injured in body, was soon well enough
to be taken back to the sanitarium. Here his malady was found
not to be severe. A year later he was discharged, fully cured
of his delusions, and able once more to take his place as a useful
member of society.
There does not remain a great deal more to be told.
Many of the boys who have appeared in these pages went no further
in school life, but stepped out into the working world, there
to fit themselves for the men's places in life.
The more fortunate ones, however, went to High School. All the
members of Dick & Co. were thus favored in being able to go forward
into the fields of higher education. We shall speedily meet with
these manly American boys again, for their further doings will
be described in the _High School Boys' Series_.
In the first volume of this series, "_The High School Freshmen;
Or Dick & Co.'s First Year Pranks and Sports_," the friends of
these six wide-awake boys will find them in a new field of action,
and follow them through an exciting series of trials and triumphs.
Dick & Co.'s interest in High School athletics, and the way in
which they won a permanent place in the hearts of the older students
is told so realistically in the first volume of this series as
to make all readers long to know more about them.
All the big and little boys who wish to continue their friendship
with Dick & Co. will find their further adventures related most
entertainingly in the four volumes of the High School Boys' Series