Part 4 out of 4
REAL NEWS AND "PUNK HEROES"
"Bayliss, no matter what happens," whispered Dodge, as the two
young men climbed into the car outside, "don't you ever let it
be found out that we went to the camp of Dick & Co. to play a
joke on Prescott and the others. The awful way this night's work
has turned out would make the town too hot for us."
"Don't you be afraid of my becoming loose-tongued," chattered
Bayliss. "Ugh! I don't believe I'll ever want to talk to anyone
again. Bert, do you really believe that all of the fellows but
Hazelton were really wiped out?"
"They---they must have been," gasped Dodge.
"It is," Dodge assented, as he threw on the speed. "I never liked
Prescott, but to-night's awful work is something that I'd have
been willing to have saved him from if there had been a way to
"Which way are you heading?" asked Bayliss suddenly.
"To Dr. Bentley's. If he's at home, I want to hustle him to the
'Blade' office. I believe he's the Hazelton family's physician.
Bayliss, any sign of attention to Hazelton on our part will look
well for us at a time when we're likely to be asked many questions
about how we came to be so near to their camp. We've got to be
mighty careful, or in the excitement that will follow the awful
fate of Prescott and his friends the town might grow so hot for
us that we'd be all but lynched. Now, no one can prove that we
weren't on a trip, and that our car broke down on the road; that
we heard the fire of rifles, and the next thing we knew Hazelton,
badly wounded, came rushing up to us, and that we brought him
in as fast as we could. Now, let's make up a story as to just
what trip we were taking when we broke down on the road a mile
from their camp."
The two plotters quickly planned out their story.
"Here's Dr. Bentley's office," said Dodge, as they turned a corner.
"You stay in the car, Bayliss. I can attend to this better."
So Dodge was soon pouring a tale of woe and tragedy up through
the night speaking tube into the astounded, half-suspicious ears
of Dr. Bentley.
Then Bert Dodge drove with Bayliss to the latter's home, after
which Bert quakingly drove the car around to his own home, where
he roused his father to hear the strange news. Nor was it long
ere the whole Dodge family was listening, awe struck.
In the meantime Hazelton was exhibiting to Mr. Pollock, with many
a chuckle, the "Quaker" rifle that he had brought into the office
wrapped in his jacket. Harry also displayed the bottle of strawberry
coloring for ice cream that had supplied the color to his head
Ting-a-ling! rang the telephone. It was Dr. Bentley on the wire,
inquiring whether Dodge had been guilty of a hoax in calling him
up to go to the "Blade" office in order to attend Hazelton.
With many a chuckle Mr. Pollock told Dr. Bentley, under injunction
of secrecy, the story of the night's doings. When Dr. Bentley
heard the story of this latest "outrage" by Dick & Co. he laughed
heartily. "Well, well," he mused, "what will Dick and his friends
be up to next?"
"Hazelton," ordered Mr. Pollock, "you take the old overcoats you'll
find in that closet and arrange them on top of one of these long
tables. Get some sleep. I'll call you in time for you to get
word to the parents of Dick & Co. after six in the morning. As
for me, I shall expect to get no sleep until I've put this big
news story in shape."
Yet that morning's issue of the "Blade" didn't contain a word
on the subject. Mr. Pollock was wise enough to write the story,
then save it for appearance at the proper time.
By six o'clock Harry was aroused. A closed cab, its driver pledged
to secrecy, was at the door to carry Harry on his rounds. He
visited the parents of all the members of Dick & Co., informing
them that the story they might soon hear was not based on any
facts that need alarm them.
Before seven o'clock that morning Dodge and Bayliss, wild-eyed
and haggard looking, met at Bert's home. Mr. Dodge took them,
soon after, down onto Main Street with him.
The first public whisper of the news sent it flying fast over
By nine o'clock Main Street was unwontedly crowded. Groups of
men, women and young people everywhere discussed the "awful news."
Those who had been privileged to hear Dodge and Bayliss tell
the story were looked upon as most interesting people.
Of course a few Gridleyites tried to find the parents of the "slain"
boys and express their sympathy, but the parents of the members
of Dick & Co., strangely enough, could not be found.
With many repetitions of the story, Dodge and Bayliss almost
unintentionally began to picture themselves as heroes, who had risked
their lives in order to bring the single survivor away to safety.
"There's some good in young Dodge and Bayliss, after all," was
a not infrequent comment that morning.
"It must have taken real nerve, anyway, for them to make that
thrilling rescue of Hazelton," said others.
So Dodge and Bayliss, much to their astonishment and not a little
to their delight, found themselves somewhat in the hero class.
Their exhausted, wild-eyed, haggard appearance gave more color
to the story of the harrowing experience they claimed to have
undergone in rescuing Hazelton from that awful field of carnage
up by the second lake.
At ten o'clock Mr. Pollock's automobile drew up at the rear door
of the "Blade" building. Hazelton slipped out, crouching low
in the car, that he might not be seen and recognized, while Mr.
Pollock and his star reporter, Len Spencer, openly entered and
drove away. They made straight for the wilderness camp of Dick
& Co. Once out of the town Harry rose to a comfortable seat,
and made up some of his lost sleep during the trip.
One thing that puzzled the excited citizens of Gridley was the
placid way in which the chief of police and the sheriff of the
county appeared to take the sad news.
Mr. Pollock drove his car as close to camp as he could, after
which he and his companions hurried over the uneven ground until
they came upon five high school boys seated outside.
"How did it all work out, Harry?" shouted Dick, leaping up as
soon as he saw his approaching comrade.
"It is working in great shape, you young scoundrel!" roared Editor
Pollock, gripping Dick Prescott's hand. "And the yarn is going
to make the biggest and best midsummer sensation that the 'Blade'
has ever had!"
Mr. Pollock and Len Spencer remained at camp for something like
an hour and a half, enjoying a trout luncheon before they left.
It was four o'clock in the afternoon when editor and reporter
reached the "Blade" office.
At five o'clock the "Blade" put out a bulletin, around which a
crowd collected in no time. The crowd grew to such proportions
that the policeman on the beat tried in vain to make it "move
That bulletin read:
"Lake Tragedy All a Tremendous Hoax: Read the 'Blade's' six o'clock
At a few minutes before six o'clock Len Spencer began to arrange
one of the street windows of the "Blade" office.
First of all, from hooks, he suspended Dodge and Bayliss' "ghosts"
of the night before.
"What does that mean?" asked the wondering onlookers.
Then an unexploded bomb bearing the trademark of the Sploderite
Company was put in the window. It was followed by the _siren_ whistle
that Bayliss had dropped in his flight. Then four "Quaker" wooden
guns, a red-stained bandage and a partly used bottle of strawberry
ice cream coloring appeared.
Promptly at six o'clock newsboys appeared on the street with the
"Extree! Extree 'Bla-ade'! All about Dick & Co.'s latest! The
best joke of the season!"
Papers went off like hot cakes. Before the evening was over more
than two thousand copies of that edition had been sold. Many
more than two thousand people had crowded to the "Blade's" show
window to catch a glimpse of the exhibits described in the rollicking
"Pshaw! Dodge and Bayliss, the heroes!" shouted one man in the
crowd, as he ran his eye through the story.
"Punk heroes!" answered someone else in the crowd.
The story was cleverly told. Dodge and Bayliss were not mentioned
by name, but described only as a pair of amateur jokers whose
plans had miscarried. Yet the plain, unvarnished story cast complete
ridicule over Bert and his friend.
While the fever of the reading crowd was at its height someone
"Here they come now!"
Bert and Bayliss had just driven around the corner in the car.
During the last three hours both had slept at Bert's, but now
they were out and abroad again in order to hear the latest
Suddenly a hush fell over the crowd. Bert and Bayliss were allowed
to drive in silence to the curb.
Then, just as suddenly, a dozen men leaped at the car, dragging
both youths to the sidewalk.
"Wha-a-at's wrong?" faltered Bert Dodge.
"We'll soon show you!" came the jeering answer of the captors.
Then a mighty shout of derision went up from the crowd.
TOM TELLS THE BIG SECRET
"Take 'em to the horse trough!" roared more than one voice.
So Dodge and Bayliss, the centre---of a jeering, resolute crowd,
were dragged down the street a short distance. The crowd swelled
"Stand Dodge on the edge of the trough, and make him read the
paper!" shouted one man.
That was accordingly done. Bert was shaking so that he had to
be supported in the place chosen for him.
Bayliss was whimpering in abject terror.
"Now, read this in the 'Blade,' Dodge," ordered a tormentor, shoving
a paper forward. "Read it aloud."
Bert began, in a wavering voice.
"Louder!" yelled a score of voices from different points in the
Bert tried to obey, but his voice was shaky.
However, he read the article through to the end, while the crowd
"Heroes, weren't you?" jeered many voices when white-faced Bert
had finished the reading.
"Duck him!" came the answer.
Bert was well splashed in the water of the trough. Then Bayliss
shared the same fate.
"Now---git! Travel fast---both of you!" came the order.
Nor did Bert or Bayliss need any further commands. Frightened
as they were, they nevertheless summoned the strength to run
desperately. No one struck them, even in fun. Only jeers assailed
them. Neither boy made any effort to get back to the automobile, but
both kept on until they had turned a corner and vanished from
"Pity we didn't have some rifle fire to tie to their coat tails,"
laughed one citizen. For the "Blade" had made it plain that
firecrackers, exploded in packs, had provided the sounds of gun fire
up at the camp on the second lake.
"Oh, we'll make somebody sweat for this outrage!" quivered Bert,
his face dark and scowling, as he and Bayliss slowed up on a quiet
side street. "There are laws in this land! We might even get
damages out of someone!"
"I feel as if I had collected about all the damage I want for
a few days," muttered Bayliss, gazing down ruefully at his drenched
clothing and water-logged shoes.
"I wonder who'll take this car home?" asked one of the men in
front of the "Blade" office.
"Where is my son?" inquired Mr. Dodge, pushing his way through
the crowd without any suspicion of what had lately happened.
"Isn't my son here to take this car home?"
"I doubt if he'll come back," replied one man, with a twinkle
in his eyes.
"'Blade'? Extree 'Blade'?" demanded a newsboy, holding out a paper.
"Better take one, Mr. Dodge," advised a man in the crowd. "Mighty
interesting reading in this extra!"
Almost mechanically the banker paid for a paper, folded it, then
stepped into the automobile.
On his arrival home, and after having turned the car over to his
chauffeur, Mr. Dodge went to his library, despite the fact that
he knew his dinner was waiting.
There he spread out the extra "Blade" on a table and began to
read the featured news story.
As he read the elder Dodge flushed deeply. Though the names of
Bert and Bayliss were not mentioned, he had no difficulty in
connecting them with the ludicrous story.
Turning, Mr. Dodge rang. A man servant answered.
"Mrs. Dodge wishes to know, sir, when you are coming to dinner,"
said the man.
"Ask Mrs. Dodge, from me kindly to let the dinner go on, and say
that I am busy, now, but will come to the table as soon as I am
at leisure. Then ask Mr. Bert to come here to me at once."
Bert entered. He had removed his wet garments, and put on fresh
clothing. He had been at dinner when interrupted by his father's
"This extraordinary story in the 'Blade' refers to you, does it
not?" inquired the banker, shoving the paper before the young
"Yes, sir," Bert admitted sulkily.
"You and your friend, Bayliss, have been making fools of yourselves,
"No, sir," cried Bert. "We were made fools of by others."
"When it comes to making a fool of yourself, Bert, no one else
is swift enough to get ahead of you," replied his father witheringly.
"So, you have succeeded in making the entire family objects of
ridicule once more? I had hoped that that sort of thing had ceased
when I sent you away to a private school."
"We were imposed on," flushed Bert angrily. "Nor has the outrage
stopped there. Bayliss and I were seized in front of the 'Blade'
office, and taken over to the horse trough and ducked!"
"Was it done thoroughly?" inquired the banker ironically.
"A thorough ducking?" gasped his son and heir. "I should say
it was thorough, sir!"
"Then I wish that the incident would make sufficient impression
on you to last you a few days," went on Mr. Dodge bitterly. "I
doubt it, however."
"Father, I want you to back me in having some of my assailants
arrested for that ducking!"
"I shall do nothing of the sort," rejoined the banker. "The ridicule
that this affair has brought upon my family has gone far enough
already. You are my son, but a most foolish one, if not worse,
and I feel that I am under obligations to the men or boys who
carried you to the horse trough and endeavored to cure you of
some of your folly."
"I had hoped, sir, that you would stand back of your own son better
than that. I am positive that Mr. Bayliss will not allow the
outrage to pass unnoticed. I believe that Mr. Bayliss will take
stern measures to avenge the great insult to his son."
"What Mr. Bayliss may do is Mr. Bayliss' affair, not mine," replied
the banker coolly. "Is young Bayliss in this house at present?"
"Yes, sir; he's at the dinner table."
"Then I won't urge you to be inhospitable, Bert, let him finish
his dinner in peace. After dinner, however, the sooner young
Bayliss returns to his home, or at least, goes away from here,
the better I shall be pleased. As for you, young man, I have
had enough of your actions. I have a nice, and very quiet, summer
place in mind where I am going to send you to-morrow. You will
stay there, too, unless you wish to incur my severe displeasure.
I will tell you about your new plans for the summer after breakfast
to-morrow, young man."
"You're always hard on me," grumbled Bert sullenly. "But what
do you think about Dick Prescott and his friends?"
"As for young Prescott," replied the banker, "he is altogether
above your class, Bert. You should leave him severely alone.
Don't allow yourself to attempt anything against Prescott, Reade,
Darrin, or any of that crowd. You will find that any one of them
has too much brains for you to hope to cope with. I repeat that
you are not at all in their class as to brains, and it is quite
time that you recognize the fact. Now, you may return to your
dinner. Be good enough to tell your mother that I will be at
table within fifteen minutes. Present my apologies to your mother
for not having been more prompt. Now---go!"
Bert Dodge left his father with the feeling that he resembled
an unjustly whipped dog.
"So I've got to go away and rusticate somewhere for the summer,
have I?" wondered Bert angrily. "And all on account of such a
gang of muckers as the fellows who call themselves Dick & Co.!"
Nor did young Bayliss fare any better on his return home that
night. He, too, was ordered away for the remainder of the summer
by his father, who had just returned from abroad, nor was he allowed
to accompany Bert Dodge.
What of Dick & Co. during all this time?
They had gone away on an avowed fishing trip and they were making
the most of it.
Harry Hazelton attended to perch fishing, when any of those fish
were wanted. Tom Reade and Dan made the most of the black bass
sport, while Dick, with Dave and Greg as under-studies, went after
Several trips were made down to the St. Clair Lake House, and
on each occasion large quantities of bass and trout were sold
to the proprietor. He took all their offerings.
As a result of the sales of trout and bass some substantial money
orders were forwarded to the elder Prescott, to be cashed by Dick
on his return.
One afternoon Dick, who had gone trout fishing alone, returned
with so small a string of the speckled ones that some of Tom's
bass had to be added to the supper that night.
"I've been doing rather an unsportsmanlike thing, I fear," admitted
"Then 'fess up!" ordered Tom Reade.
"The trout are beginning to bite poorly," Prescott went on. "The
fact is, we've all but cleaned up the stream."
"There must be a few hundred pounds left there yet," guessed Dave.
"There may be, and I hope there are," Prescott went on, "but I've
decided not to take any more trout out of the stream this year.
Whatever are now left in the stream we must leave for next summer.
No good sportsman would ever deplete a stream of all its trout."
"The bass are still biting fairly well," mused Tom aloud. "However,
they're not as easy to catch as they were. Had we better leave
the bass alone, also?"
"We might take out what bass we want to eat," Dick suggested,
"but not attempt to catch any more than that this summer."
"Too bad," muttered Tom. "I was in hopes that we were going to
put by a big stake in the bank, to be divided later on."
"We already have money enough for our purpose," Dick suggested.
"We have sufficient funds to take us all away on a fine jaunt
during August, and these are the last days of July, now.
"I hate to go away from this lake," muttered Dave.
"It has been very pleasant here," Prescott agreed, "and if the
rest of you vote for it, I'll agree to put in the rest of our
summer vacation hereabouts."
"No," dissented Tom. "I reckon change of scene and air is as
good for us as it is for other folks."
"Tom wants to get where he can find more bass fishing," Greg laughed.
"I've had enough of that sport to last me for one summer," retorted
The day was closing in a gorgeous sunset. In fifteen minutes
more the sun would be down, but there would still be left the
long July twilight.
"Did any of you ever see a more beautiful summer day than this
has been?" asked Harry Hazelton presently.
"I haven't anything to offer in the line of such experience,"
"There are some days," Hazelton went on half dreamily, "that somehow
makes a fellow feel thoroughly contented with himself."
"That's the way I feel to-night," Tom admitted, with an indolent air.
"I'd be contented if I knew one thing, and I suspect that you
fellows might be able to tell me, if you only would."
None noticed the twinkle in Prescott's eyes as he spoke.
"I'll offer!" cried Tom good-humoredly. "If it's anything I can
tell you, I'll do it."
"S-t-u-n-g!" spelled Dick slowly.
Tom suddenly sat up, glaring suspiciously at his chum.
"Now, what have I let myself in for?" demanded Reade.
"You gave your word you'd tell me, if you could, Tom," Dick went
on, "and no one else can tell me nearly as well as you can. What
I want to know is this: What happened to you, that night a few
weeks ago, when you broke a bottle under my window, and then started
down the street as fast as you could go with a crowd of Gridley
folks behind you?"
"You promised!" chorused the other four boys.
"Well, if that isn't a low-down way to dig out of me what is purely
my own business!" exclaimed Tom Reade, with a scowl.
Nevertheless Tom, like the other members of Dick & Co., had a
high idea of the sacredness of his word, so, after a sigh, he
"When I ran away from your window, Dick, with that pack of people
behind me, I dashed into a full-fledged scrape that was none of
mine. You know that Mr. Ritchie, whom some of the Central Grammar
boys plague so fearfully, just because he always gets so mad and
makes such threats against all boys in general?
"Well, it seems that, while I was helping Timmy Finbrink out of
his difficulties, and afterwards tried to fool you with the fake
window-breaking, some of the Central fellows had been down at
Ritchie's playing tick-tack on one of his front windows. Tick-tack
is a stupid game, and it got me into a mess that night.
"It seems that Mr. Ritchie had already been bothered that evening
before the Central fellows began, and he had telephoned to a friend
down the street who had two college boys visiting him. So the
friend and the two college fellows went out, on their way to Mr.
Ritchie's. Then he heard the tapping on his window again, and
Mr. Ritchie ran out through the front door. The fellows who had
been doing the trick had just time to drop behind a flower bed.
"I had shaken off the crowd that started after me from Main Street,
and had turned the corner down that side street. As luck would
have it, I had just passed the Ritchie gate when Mr. Ritchie opened
his front door. He thought I was the offender, and started after
me, yelling to me to stop. Just for the exercise I kept on running,
though not so fast, for I wanted to see how far Mr. Ritchie would
chase me. And then I ran straight into the friend and the two
"Those college boys tried to collar me. I was foolish enough
to stop and tackle. I had one of them on his back, and was doing
nicely with the other, when the two men joined in. I was down
and being held hard, while Mr. Ritchie was threatening to have
me sent to jail for life---for something I hadn't done, mind you!
"As I ran by the Ritchie yard I saw the three Central Grammar
School boys hiding behind the flower bed. It made me mad, I suppose,
to think that college boys, who aren't real men, anyway, should
stoop so low as to try to catch a lot of grammar school prankers,
so I fought back at my captors with some vim. Of course I got
the worst of it, including the bruise on my cheek, but I mussed
those two college boys up a bit, too. Then, when I got on my
feet, the two college boys still holding me, I demanded virtuously
to know what it was all about. Mr. Ritchie explained hot-headedly.
I told him I could prove that I had just come from Main Street,
but my captors didn't let go of me until we came to Mr. Ritchie's.
Then I saw at a glance that the Central fellows had made a good
get-away, so then I told Mr. Ritchie how the trick had been done
against him. I showed him just how the string had been rigged,
and pointed out the spot where the Central boys had flopped down
behind the flower bed. Their footprints were there in the soil
to show it. By this time all hands were ready to believe that
a high school senior hadn't been up to such baby stuff, and Mr.
Ritchie apologized to me. I was pretty stiff about it, though,
and told Mr. Ritchie that I would consult with my parents before
I'd decide to let such an outrageous assault pass without making
trouble for my assailants."
"What did your folks say about it?" pressed Danny Grin eagerly.
"Dalzell, aren't you the little innocent?" asked Reade, with
good-humored scorn. "Of course I never said anything to my folks
about such a foolish adventure as that. But I'll wager that I left
Mr. Ritchie worried for just the next few days. Now, you fellows
know the whole yarn---and I don't think much of Dick's way of
buncoing me out of it, either."
"Don't all turn at once," said Dave in a very low tone, "but,
behind you, through the fork in the cleft rock, the Man with the
Haunting Face is staring this way. Be careful, and we may-----"
But, as if shot from spring guns, all five of the others were
up on their feet and running fast toward that strange man who
had furnished their lake mystery without solving it.
"FOUR OF US ARE PIN-HEADS!"
"Oh, you fellows have spoiled it!" groaned Dave as he joined last
of all in the chase.
From the tent to the cleft rock was perhaps a hundred and twenty
For such sprinters as these members of the Gridley High School
eleven it did not require much time to cover the distance. Yet,
by the time that Danny Grin, in the lead, had reached the further
side of the rock there was no sign of the presence of the Man
with the Haunting Face.
"You dreamed it, Dave," charged Greg Holmes.
"No, I didn't, either," muttered Darrin, joining the group of
puzzled youngsters. "I saw the face as plainly and positively
as I see any of your faces."
"It's hard to believe that," muttered Tom, shaking his head.
"I was wide awake, and my eyesight is good," Darry insisted.
"Then where has your man gone?" asked Dick. "If he had run to
any point near here we would have found him."
Dave Darrin began to pry about, looking for some concealed opening
near the base of the cleft, rock. He explored diligently, but
could find no such clue as he had hoped.
"Nonsense! I'm going back to camp," declared Tom Reade.
"So'm I," Hazelton agreed.
"Dave can't have been mistaken," offered Greg.
"Thank you for one trusting soul," said Dave gratefully.
"But one thing I do know," Greg went on.
"What?" asked Darry.
"Even if our strange fellow was here, he is here no longer, and
moreover, he has succeeded in getting away without leaving any
trace," young Holmes continued. "So I'm going to join the delegation
that returns to camp."
Only Dick and Dave were left standing there by the cleft rock.
The sun had sunk below the horizon, but the light was still strong.
"If you fellows had taken it easily, as I asked," complained Dave,
"we might have gotten hold of that elusive chap. To me he looked
hungry. I thought he was eyeing our camp longingly, as though
he'd like to stroll down and ask us for food. But that startling
charge of the light brigade must have bewildered or frightened
him---and so he went up in smoke, as he has always done when we've
"It wouldn't surprise me if we could find which way he has gone,"
"What do you mean?"
"Look where I'm pointing with the toe of my boot," Dick went on.
"Do you see anything?"
Down went Darry to his knees.
"Look out," warned Dick, "or you'll obliterate it."
"And I was bragging of my good eyesight," grunted Darry. "Why,
this is a footprint, and none of our crowd saw it."
"Besides, it's the print of a bare foot," Prescott went on. "You
see the way in which it is pointing?"
"Yes; toward that patch of low bushes yonder. But our chap couldn't
have run through those low bushes, or we'd have seen him."
"Yes; if he had been holding himself erect."
"Or even had he crouched and run," Dave affirmed.
"Dave Darrin, you've played baseball, if my recollection serves
"Did you ever slide for a base?"
"Or see anyone else slide for base?"
"Then our man-----"
"He held himself low and ran as far as the bushes," Dick went
on. "Then he fell and slid for it through the low bushes. See,
here's the second print of a bare foot, and the direction is the
"Don't tell our mutton-head chums about it," Darrin begged. "Let's
follow it up ourselves."
"All right," nodded Dick; "but if we find our fellow, don't let
him suspect that we've reached his hiding place and know it.
We'll just see what we can find out, and not give ourselves away."
"Go ahead," begged Darry.
"Remember, I'm not certain that we can find the fellow's hiding
place before dark. It may be some distance from here. We'll
try, though, and hope for luck."
Dick sauntered easily along in the direction indicated by the
As they entered the patch of low bushes both boys noted the fact
that the ground had been slightly disturbed, as it might have
been by the sliding of a human body over it.
Dick, whose eyes were keener, easily followed the marks on the
ground. Indeed, he did so without appearing to pay much heed
to the earth under his feet.
Then the trailers passed three trees, behind which the escaping
man might have found good cover.
A hundred yards further on Dave and Dick entered the edge of a
grove of trees. Here there were also several rather thick tangles
of brush and bush.
Well inside of one clump Dave, with a start, fancied he saw something
that looked like a wall woven of green leaves. But Dick was trudging
on ahead. Prescott continued in the lead for another quarter
of a mile before he turned.
"You passed the one real sign," murmured Darry at last.
"I know I did," agreed Dick, "and we're going back wide of that
place. You mean the jungle where you saw a bit of what looked
like the brush-woven wall of a bush hut?"
"Yes," assented Darrin.
"It's a well-hidden place," declared Dick, "and I don't so much
wonder that we didn't find it before. But now we'll go back to
"And what next?"
"I don't know," Prescott confessed, looking puzzled. "We really
haven't any right to pounce on the man unless we catch him doing
something. Anyone has a right to lead the wild life in the woods,
unless he's a criminal or a lunatic."
"My vote is that our chap is a lunatic," suggested Darry.
"If he is, then he's a harmless one, anyway. Let's go back, by
a roundabout way, and tell the fellows."
"There are four pin-heads in this camp," was Tom Reade's decision,
when he heard the report brought back by the others. "Only two
of us have brains enough to see anything that's written right
on the face of the earth."
"But what are we going to do about our man?" asked Greg.
"That's what we must figure out," Dick replied. "I don't see
that we can do anything except send word to the authorities down
in the village, and let them act as they see fit."
"What authorities are there in the village?" Dave inquired.
"I don't know. That we'll have to find out. We-----"
Dick paused suddenly, listening keenly.
"Do you fellows hear that?" he whispered.
"I hear a rumble of wheels off in the distance," replied Greg.
"The air is so wonderfully still that sound carries a long way
Dick ran into the tent, returning with an envelope and a pad of
"Come along, Dave," Dick requested. "And you'd better bring Tom's
flashlight. It will be dark before we get back."
The battery of the flashlight having had a good rest, now furnished
an excellent light again.
As the two chums set off at a trot Greg inquired:
"Now what are that pair up to?"
"Being one of the four pin-heads belonging to this outfit," Tom
made solemn reply, "I can only guess."
"Then what's your guess?" quizzed Danny Grin.
"From the sound that wagon makes rolling over the rough road,"
Tom answered, "I judge that it's headed for the village. If it
is, Dick is going to send in a note by the driver, and thus save
one or two of us the tiresome sixteen-mile round trip."
Which proved to be a very correct guess, for Prescott and Darrin,
returning three quarters of an hour later, informed the others
that Dick had halted the driver, asking the farmer to wait while
the note was being written.
"I sent the note to the post-master," Dick. went on. "If he
and the other folks in the village take enough interest in the
matter, I imagine a constable will be sent up to-morrow."
"Perhaps to-night," hinted Dalzell.
"If you were a constable," asked Tom, "would you want to be pulled
out of your bed and sent on such a trip in the night time?"
"I'll tell you one thing that we fellows want to do," hinted Darrin,
a few minutes later. "When we go to bed we want to take pains
to leave some food where it can be easily borrowed by our man
of mystery. I've an idea that he has been making night trips
down here once in a while to obtain something to eat."
"Two or three times I've thought I missed food in the morning,"
nodded Greg. "Yet, if our man has been getting all his food here,
then he is a very light eater."
"And welcome to the little he borrowed," Dick finished.
"Drowsiness is overcoming curiosity for me," yawned Reade, as
he rose and strolled toward the tent. "Any of you other fellows
going to turn in?"
"I will," yawned Dalzell, "if you'll permit me to sleep in the
same tent with you."
Fifteen minutes later all of the high school boys were sound asleep.
They all dreamed that night of the Man with the Haunting Face.
"Where's that man you wanted us to look at?" demanded a farmer
whose trousers were tucked into his boots.
It was about ten o'clock the next forenoon when this man, accompanied
by another man with the same kind of boottops, strode into the
camp of Dick & Co.
"Are you a constable from the village, sir?" inquired young Prescott.
"No; we haven't any constable in the village," replied the farmer,
chewing at a straw. "I'm the Overseer of the Poor."
"We'll take you to where we think the man is hiding," Dick replied.
"Tom and Dave, suppose you two hurry ahead of us, around the
woods, and stand where you can head our man of mystery off in
case he tries to run the other way. Dave knows where the place is."
Reade and Darrin promptly departed.
"We can start in two or three minutes from now, after they get
in position, if that suits you, sir," Dick suggested.
"Suits me," nodded the Overseer of the Poor. "I'm in no great
hurry. Snug camp you boys have here."
"We've enjoyed ourselves greatly," Dick admitted.
"Going to stay here long?"
"No, sir; we're due back in Gridley soon."
After a little more chat Dick stated that he believed it was time
to go forward to the hut in the woods.
He and Greg went, accompanied by the two farmers. All four trod
stealthily. Prescott, in advance, went straight to the bushes
that surrounded the brush hut. Still in the lead, Dick, found
the doorway, screened by a tattered blanket, pushed it aside and
On the floor of earth lay the Man with the Haunting Face. He
was so still that at first Dick thought him dead. Dick motioned
to the others to come forward.
"Humph!" grunted the Overseer of the Poor. "That's Ed Hoskins,
who lives over Pelham way."
At sound of the voice the sleeping man quivered, opened his eyes,
then, with a scream, sat up, trembling violently.
"You've got me!" he screamed. "You've found me---and I'm not
yet fit to go!"
Dick stepped aside to let the farmers in, while Darrin and Reade
approached the spot at a run.
"Keep quiet, Hoskins," ordered the Overseer of the Poor. "Quiet,
man; I tell you!"
"Oh, I didn't mean to do it!" moaned the unhappy captive. "I
didn't mean to do it, I tell you! And now I must lose my life
before I'm fit to go."
"'Touched' here," murmured Prescott, tapping his forehead.
"What are you making such a fuss about, Ed Hoskins?" demanded
the Overseer of the Poor.
"I never meant to harm my wife!" screamed Hoskins in an agony
of fear. "We had had words, and I meant nothing but to push her
aside so I could pass. But she fell downstairs. It wasn't my
fault that her neck was broken!"
"Whose neck was broken?" demanded the farmer.
"My wife's. But I never meant to do it."
"Humph!" remarked the Overseer of the Poor. "If your wife broke
her neck, Ed Hoskins, she doesn't know it yet. She's doing some
pretty husky work. She's the hired help over at St. Ingram's.
She went there to work after you went away."
"Don't try to fool me," trembled Hoskins. "Don't! My wife's
dead, and now I've got to go and pay the penalty of a crime I
never meant to commit."
"What you need, Ed," observed the Overseer of the Poor, "is a
bath, a couple of square meals, a little daylight, and a freight
load of common horse sense. Come out of this place. We'll take
you to your wife, and you'll find that she's very much alive,
and heart-broken over your running away from her. She's fretting
because she thinks her own conduct made you run away from her."
"I guess we don't belong here," murmured Dick to his chums. "Suppose
we hurry down to the camp."
Five minutes later the two farmers also reached camp, holding
Hoskins between them.
"It all shows what a man's fool way of reasoning---or, rather,
not reasoning---can bring him to," explained the Overseer of the
Poor in a low voice to the boys. "Ed Hoskins isn't exactly one
of life's heavyweights, but he was always a good enough fellow,
and industrious. He married a good-hearted, simple-minded girl,
and they were mighty devoted to each other. But, back the last
of May, Ed and his wife had a little bit of a tiff. They were
standing near the top of the stairs in their house. Ed, according
to his own story, went to push her aside so he could go downstairs,
when his wife lost her balance and fell half way down the stairs.
She fainted, I reckon, and Ed, in a great fright, thought she
had broken her neck. So he ran down the stairs past her, got
out of the house with a pair of blankets, a little food and a
hatchet, and started up this miserable road in the night time.
He says he knew he'd have to go to the electric chair some day
for his deed, but he wanted to come up here and prepare his soul
before he gave up his life. He says he got along all right until
you boys came up here on purpose to find him and run him down
for the law. He tells me that the first time some of you crossed
the lake in a canoe he rigged up some bushes to a wooden frame,
and swam, with his head inside the frame, hoping to get close
to you and hear what you had to say about him. Then, he tells
me, you moved your camp across the lake, and he knew you were
here on the law's business. He says he has known, for certain,
all along, that you'd get him sooner or later, but he couldn't
get up the strength of mind to leave here. What I told Ed about
his wife was true. She got nothing worse out of her fall than
a bruise on one elbow. Gosh! Ed's wife will be as tickled to
see him alive as he'll be to see her strong and well."
"Hoskins is a little touched in the upper story, isn't he?" Dick
"Maybe he has been lately," replied the Overseer of the Poor.
"But when he finds I haven't lied to him he'll be O.K. right
away. Ed was never too strong in his mental works, but he's a
good fellow, just the same, and he's bright enough for his
trade---blacksmith's helper. Now, I guess I'd better be going back
with him, for Ed will be all excitement and dread till he gets the
first word from his wife. Miss. Hoskins wife be terribly obliged
to you young men. I am, too, 'cause I'll be glad to see that couple
together again. They're so fond of each other that they've no
business apart. So I reckon, Master Prescott and the rest of you
young men, we'll be a-going now."
The visitors had soon left the camp behind them. The last seen
of Hoskins, he was walking with the dazed air of a man who knows
he's dreaming and is mortally afraid to wake up.
But that same day Mr. and Mrs. Hoskins were reunited and began
life anew together.
"It all goes to show," the Overseer of the Poor afterwards explained
philosophically, "what a fool a fellow is to be afraid to go
back and look at his work. It's the same spirit that makes automobile
cowards afraid to stop the machine and go back to look at the
child they've hit. Any fellow that's afraid to go back and look
at his mistake is bound to be mainly unhappy in life."
A very few days afterwards Dick & Co., still propelling the push
cart by turns, arrived in Gridley toward dark one late July evening.
They had so much to tell their relatives and friends that none
of them got to bed very early on that occasion.
However, the month of August lay before them. These boys now
planned the greatest summer vacation trip that they had ever enjoyed.
Part of the trail of this vacation lay over in Tottenville.
So, by ten o'clock the next morning, Dick Prescott, alone, hurried
up the side street on which he lived. Just as he neared the Main
Street corner he beheld a trolley car labeled "Tottenville" pass
the corner. Dick's shrill whistle rang out, but the conductor
failed to hear it.
Away raced Dick in the wake of the speeding trolley car. Down
the street for two blocks he dashed after it.
At first it looked as though the high school boy would overtake
the car. But when he saw the car turn a corner and go off on
the Tottenville road, young Prescott slowed down, panting and
wiping his perspiring face.
"Hey!" called a man standing in a group of others on the curbstone.
"Were you trying to catch that car."
"Was I trying to catch the car?" echoed Dick Prescott, his eyes
opening wide in amazement. "No, sir! I made a wager that I could
chase that car right off of Main Street! And I won the bet,"
Dick added proudly. "You all saw me do it!"
Then, while the man who had asked the question reddened under
the laughter of his companions, Prescott strolled slowly back
up Main Street to watch for the next car bearing the "Tottenville"
"Good morning, Prescott," came a greeting from Lawyer Ripley,
just then coming out of a store. "How did you young men enjoy
that collapsible canoe?"
"That canoe, sir? It made the vacation trip a perfect one. But
were you the one who sent it, Mr. Ripley?"
"Yes," assented the lawyer, "though acting as agent for another.
You remember how much Mr. Page wanted to do for you boys, after
your splendid work for him last summer? Mr. Page wanted to do
something for you this summer, and he and I hit upon the collapsible
canoe as a remembrance so simple and inexpensive that you young
men were quite likely to accept it."
"Mr. Ripley," begged Dick earnestly, "will you accept the very
best thanks of us all for that canoe? And will you please convey
our deepest gratitude to Mr. Page? We couldn't have had anything
that would have delighted us as much."
Readers of the preceding volume of this series are well aware
of the reason of Mr. Page's great gratitude to Dick & Co.
The next Tottenville car that came along had Dick Prescott for
one of its passengers.
This narrative, however, has been finished. That trolley, to
Tottenville really belongs to the next and final volume in this
series, which is published under the title, "_The High School
Boys' Training Hike; Or, Making Themselves 'Hard as Nails_."
This new story will be found to contain the full record of a most
wonderful vacation jaunt taken by six young champions of the Gridley
High School football squad.
Yet this jaunt did not consist wholly of training work, for Dick
& Co. fell in with a lot of tremendously exciting adventures.
What these were and how Dick & Co. acted under amazingly strange
circumstances will be set forth fully in that volume.