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The High School Boys' Training Hike by H. Irving Hancock

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E-text prepared by Jim Ludwig

The High School Boys' Training Hike
Making Themselves "Hard as Nails"

By H. Irving Hancock


I. Mr. Titmouse Doesn't Know Dick
II. The Deed of a Hero
III. The Peddler and the Lawyer's Half
IV. Peddler Hinman's Next Appearance
V. Dave Does Some Good Work
VI. The No-Breakfast Plan
VII. Making the Tramps Squirm
VIII. When the Peddler Was "Frisked"
IX. Dick Imitates a Tame Indian
X. Reuben Hinman Proves His Mettle
XI. Tom Idealizes Working Clothes
XII. Trouble With the Rah-Rah-Rahs
XIII. A Snub and the Quick Retort
XIV. Dick & Co Make an Apple "Pie"
XV. Making Port in a Storm
XVI. Home, Hospital and Almshouse
XVII. Two Kinds of Hobo
XVIII. Dick Prescott, Knight Errant
XIX. "I'll Fight Him for This Man!"
XX. In the Milksop Class?
XXI. The Revenge Talk at Miller's
XXII. Under the Sting of the Lash
XXIII. Timmy, the Gentleman, at Home
XXIV. Conclusion



"We thought ten dollars would be about right," Dick Prescott announced.

"Per week?" inquired Mr. Titmouse, as though he doubted his hearing.

"Oh, dear, no! For the month of August, sir."

Mr. Newbegin Titmouse surveyed his young caller through half-closed

"Ten dollars for the use of that fine wagon for a whole month?"
cried Mr. Titmouse in astonishment. "Absurd!"

"Very likely I am looking at it from the wrong point of view,"
admitted Prescott, who fingered a ten dollar bill and was slowly
smoothing it out so that Mr. Titmouse might see it.

"That wagon was put together especially for the purpose," Mr.
Titmouse resumed. "It has seats that run lengthwise, and eight
small cupboards and lockers under the seats. There is a place
to secure the cook stove at the rear end of the wagon, and the
stove rests on zinc. Though the wagon is light enough for one
horse to draw it, it will hold all that several people could require
for camping or for leading a regular gipsy life. There is a special
awning that covers the wagon when needed, so that on a rainy day
you can travel without using umbrellas or getting wet. You can
cook equally well on the stove whether in camp or on the road.
There are not many vehicles in which you can cook a full meal
when traveling from one point to another."

"Nor is it every stewpan or kettle that would refrain from slipping
off the stove when driving the wagon over rough roads," laughed
Dick good-humoredly.

"Well---er---of course, one has to choose decent roads when touring
with a wagon of that sort," admitted the owner.

"Then you don't think ten dollars a fair price?" Dick Prescott
inquired thoughtfully.

"For a month's use of the wagon? I do not," replied Mr. Newbegin
Titmouse with emphasis.

"And so you decline our offer of ten dollars?" Prescott asked,
looking still more thoughtful.

"I certainly do," replied Mr. Titmouse.

Then the owner of the wagon began to descant glowingly upon the
many advantages of going on a road hike aided by the service that
such a specially constructed wagon would give. In fact, Mr. Titmouse
dwelt so enthusiastically upon the value of his wagon that Dick
shrewdly told himself:

"He's very anxious---unusually so---to rent us that wagon. I've
already found out that he hasn't used the wagon in two years,
nor has he succeeded in renting it to anyone else. The wagon
is so much useless lumber in his stable."

"I wouldn't rent that wagon to everyone," Mr. Titmouse wound up.

"No, sir," Dick agreed heartily, yet with a most innocent look
in his face. "Not everyone would want the wagon."

"I---I don't mean that!" Mr. Titmouse exclaimed.

"In fact, sir," Dick went on very smoothly, "I have learned that
you have been offering the wagon for sale or hire during the last
two summers, without getting any customers."

"Eh?" demanded Mr. Titmouse in some astonishment.

"Naturally, sir," Dick went on, "before coming here to see you
I made a few inquiries in Tottenville. I discovered that in this
vicinity the wagon is something of a joke."

"What's that?" questioned the other sharply. "My camping wagon
a joke? Nothing of the sort. And, if it is a joke, why did you
want to get it?"

"Oh, all of our fellows can stand a joke," laughed young Prescott
"So I came over to see just what terms we could make for the use
of your wagon during the month of August."

"Well, I'll be as fair with you as I can," Mr. Titmouse replied.
"From men---grown men---I would want at least thirty dollars
a month for the wagon---probably thirty-five. Of course I know
that money is not as plentiful with boys. I'll let you have the
wagon for the month of August at the bottom price of twenty-five

Dick smilingly shook his head.

"I've named the best price I could think of taking," insisted
Mr. Titmouse. "Come into the wagon shed and have another look
at it."

"Thank you, sir, but there is no use in looking at the wagon again,
when such a price as twenty-five dollars is asked for a month's
hire," Dick answered promptly.

"Come inside and look at it again, anyway," urged Mr. Titmouse.

"Thank you, sir, but I must get back to Gridley at the earliest
possible moment."

"If you didn't want to hire the wagon," asked Mr. Titmouse testily,
"what was the use of taking up my time?"

"I do want to hire it," Dick admitted, "but since hearing your
price I have realized that I don't want the wagon half as much
as I did at the outset."

It was notable about Mr. Titmouse that he would gladly talk for
three hours in order to gain a dollar's advantage in any trade
in which he was interested. He was a small man, with small features
and very small eyes which, somehow, suggested gimlets. He bore
about with him always an air of injury, as though deeply sensitive
over the supposed fact that the whole world was concerned in getting
the better of him.

Though Mr. Titmouse had acquired, through sharp dealing, usury
and in many other ways a considerable sum of money and property
in the course of his life, yet he was not the man to part with
any of it needlessly.

The special wagon now resting in the wagon shed at his home place
in Tottenville had been designed by him at a time when people
all through the state had been much interested in outdoor life.
The Titmouse wagon had been built as the result of much thought
on the part of its designer. It certainly was a handy kind of
wagon for campers to use on the road. Mr. Titmouse had spent
four weeks of wandering life, going from point to point and trying
to talk up the merits of his wagon. He had hoped to establish
a small factory, there to build such wagons to order at high prices.

For some reason he had met with no success in that enterprise.
After his realization of failure Newbegin Titmouse had felt that
he would be content if he could sell the wagon at anything like
a good price. Failing to sell it, he hoped to be able to get
his money back through renting the wagon.

Now he stood watching this high school boy from Gridley, wondering
just how much rental he could extort from this wiry, athletic-looking
football player.

"There will be a car along in about five minutes," mused Dick
aloud. "I must try to take that car. Thank you very much for
your kindness, Mr. Titmouse."

"But we haven't come to any understanding yet," cried the wagon's
owner as Dick turned and walked away.

"Why, yes, we have, sir," Prescott answered pleasantly over his
shoulder. "We have come to the understanding that you can't afford
to come down to our price, and that we can't go up to yours.
So I'm going back to make some other arrangements for a wagon."

"Wait a minute!" interjected Newbegin Titmouse, stepping after
the boy from Gridley. "Maybe I can drop off a dollar or so on
the price."

"Much obliged, sir; but it wouldn't help us any, and it's almost
time for the car," was Prescott's answer.

"What's your best offer? Make it!" urged Mr. Titmouse restlessly.

"Seven dollars for the wagon for the month of August," Prescott

"Seven? Why, only a minute or two ago you offered me ten dollars!"

"I know it, sir," said Dick coolly. "You will recall that you
declined that offer, so I am at liberty to make a new offer."

"You'll have to make a better-----"

"If you decline seven dollars," Dick smiled pleasantly, "my next
offer, if I make one, will not go above six."

Mr. Titmouse felt, of a sudden, very certain that the high school
boy would stand by that threat.

"Seven dollars doesn't land me clear for the season," complained
Newbegin Titmouse. "I've spent nine dollars already in advertising
the wagon."

"Then, if you don't take my seven dollars," Prescott proposed,
"you'll be out quite a bit of money, Mr. Titmouse. I see my car
coming in the distance. So good-----"

"I'll take ten!" called Mr. Titmouse, as Dick once more turned

"Six," smiled Dick significantly. "But I haven't time to stay
here and dicker, sir. Good-----"

"Hold on!" fairly screamed Mr. Titmouse, as Dick, nodding at him,
started to run to the corner.

"Then I'll stop and talk it over with you, sir," answered Prescott,
going back. "But I don't say that I'll agree to take the wagon."

"Now, don't you try to work the price down any lower," exclaimed
Mr. Titmouse, looking worried.

"No, sir; I won't do that," Dick promised. "I won't say, yet,
that I'll take the wagon, but I will agree that I'll either take
it at six dollars or refuse the chance altogether. I've just
happened to think of something that I want to make sure about"

"What is it?" asked Mr. Titmouse apprehensively.

"I forgot to look at the tires on the wheels," Prescott went on.
"I want to make sure that they're sound, so that we fellows won't
have to take the chance of paying a blacksmith to make new ones
before we've been out a week."

The tires were in excellent condition, so the little man had no
objection whatever to showing them.

"Good, so far," nodded Prescott. "Now, next, I'd enjoy looking
at the axles and the hub-nuts."

"You're not the lad who is going to allow himself to be cheated,"
laughed Mr. Titmouse admiringly. "The hubs and axles are all
right, so I've no objection to showing them to you."

"I'm satisfied with the wagon," Dick declared, a few minutes later.
"Now, Mr. Titmouse, I'll pay you the six dollars if you'll make
out a satisfactory receipt for the money."

"Come into the office and tell me what you want me to say in the
receipt," urged Newbegin Titmouse, leading the way across the
stable into a little room in the furthermost corner.

The receipt was soon made out, the money paid and the receipt
in Dick's pocket.

"I'll either come for the wagon myself, or send one of the other
fellows," Dick promised. "If I send for it I'll also send a written

"I hope you boys will have a pleasant time this summer," chirped
Mr. Titmouse, who, though he had been badly out-generaled in the
trade, had at least the satisfaction of knowing that there was
some money in his pocket that had come to him by sheer good luck.

"We're going to try to have the finest good time that a crowd
of fellows ever had," Dick replied, after nodding his thanks.
"I've missed that car, and shall have quite a little wait."

"Perhaps you'd like to sit under a tree and eat a few apples,"
suggested Mr. Titmouse.

Dick was about to accept the invitation with thanks when Mr. Titmouse

"I've a lot of fine summer apples I gathered yesterday. I'll
let you have three for five cents."

This attempt at petty trade, almost in the guise of hospitality,
struck Dick as being so utterly funny that he could not help laughing

"Thank you, Mr. Titmouse," he replied. "I don't believe I'll
eat any apples just now."

"I might make it four for a nickel," coaxed the little man, "if
you agree not to pick out the largest apples."

"Thank you, but I don't believe I'll eat any apples at all just
now," Dick managed to reply, then made his escape in time to avoid
laughing in Mr. Titmouse's face.

Once out on the street, and knowing that he had some twenty minutes
to wait for the next car, Dick strolled slowly along.

"I didn't know that boy," muttered Newbegin Titmouse, looking
after Prescott with a half admiring gaze, "and I didn't size him
up right. He offered me ten dollars, and then got the wagon for
six. Whew! I don't believe I ever before got off so badly as
that in a trade. But I really did spend five-fifty in advertising
the wagon in the Tottenville and Gridley papers this summer,
so I'm fifty cents ahead, anyway, and a fifty-cent piece is always
equivalent to half a dollar!"

With which sage reflection Mr. Newbegin Titmouse went out into
his small orchard to see whether he had overlooked any summer
apples that were worth two dollars a barrel.

Dick sauntered down the street for a few blocks ere he heard the
whirr of a Gridley-bound trolley car behind him. He quickened
his pace until he reached the next corner. There he signaled
to the motorman.

As the car slowed down Dick swung himself on nimbly, remarking
to the conductor:

"Don't make a real stop for me. Drive on!"

As Prescott passed inside the car he was greeted by a pleasant-faced,
well-dressed young man. It was Mr. Luce, one of the sub-masters
of Gridley High School. Dick dropped into a seat beside him.

"Been tramping a bit, Prescott?" inquired the sub-master.

"No, sir; I've been over here on a little matter of business,
but I expect to start, in a day or two, on a few weeks of tramping."

Thereupon young Prescott fell to describing the trip that he,
Dave Darrin, Greg Holmes, Dan Dalzell, Tom Reade and Harry Hazelton
had mapped out for themselves.

"Just for pleasure?" asked Mr. Luce.

"No, sir; for training. We all hope to make the football team
this fall. We're all of us in pretty good shape, too, I think,
sir; but we're going out on this training hike to see if we can't
work ourselves down as hard as nails."

"I'd like to go with you," nodded the sub-master.

"Can't you do it, sir?" asked Dick eagerly, for Mr. Luce was a
favorite with all the boys.

"Unfortunately, I can't," replied the submaster. "I'm expected
at home. My mother and sister claim me for this month. But I
wish I could go, just the same."

"You would be most welcome I assure you, sir," replied Dick warmly.

"Thank you, Prescott," returned Mr. Luce with a smile. "I appreciate
your invitation and regret that I cannot accept it."

The conversation again turned to the subject of the coming football
season, and an animated discussion ensued, as Sub-master Luce
was an enthusiastic advocate of football.

Suddenly, Dick, glancing ahead out of the window, turned pale.
Without a word of explanation he sprang from his seat and made
a bound for the nearer car door, the rear one.

"Everyone off! Stop the car! Hustle!" shouted the high school
boy. "Mr. Luce! Come on. Quick!"

By the time the last words were uttered Dick had made a flying
leap from the car platform.

By good luck, rather more than by expert work, he landed on his
feet. Not an instant did he lose, but dashed along at full speed.

John Luce, though he had no inkling of what had caused the excitement,
sprang after Dick.

Dick, however, had not waited to see if the sub-master had followed
him. His horror-filled eyes, as he ran, were turned straight

It needed but a few steps to carry him across the road. He bounded
into a field where a loaded hay wagon stood near an apple tree.

The horses had been led away to be fed. Seated on the top of
the hay were a boy of barely six and a girl not more than four
years old. They were awaiting the return of the farmer.

Down below a six-year-old boy, barefooted and brown as a gipsy,
had appeared on the scene during the farmer's absence.

"For fun" this youngster had been lighting match after match,
making believe to set the hay afire. As he held the matches as
close to the dried hay as he dared, this urchin on the ground
called to the two babies above that he would "burn 'em up."

Not all of this did Dick Prescott know, but his glance through
the car window had shown him the boy on the ground just as that
tiny fellow had lighted another match, shouting tantalizingly
to the two children on top of the load of hay.

Just as he called up to them the mischievous youngster tripped
slightly. Throwing out his right hand to save himself the boy
accidentally touched the bottom of the load at one side with the
lighted match.

At this fateful instant it was out of the question to think of
putting out the flame that leaped from wisp to wisp of the dried

"Jump!" shouted the young match-burner, but the children above
did not hear, or else did not realize their plight.

"Fire! Fire!" screamed the little incendiary, as he ran panic-stricken
toward the farm house.

And now Dick was racing as he had never done before, even over
the football gridiron. On his speed depended the lives of the
two children.



At the moment of Dick's leap from the car, Sub-master Luce did
not know what had happened. He realized in an instant what was
the matter, and made frantic efforts to reach the scene at the
same moment with Prescott.

Dick, however, kept the lead.

As the flames shot up through the hay the children on top of the
hay began to gather a sense of their awful danger.

Seconds---fractions of seconds---were of priceless value now---if
lives were to be saved.

There was still time for the two children to jump over the side
on which the flames had not yet appeared, but they were too badly
frightened to know what to do.

If they should jump where the flames were leaping up they were
almost certain to have their clothing catch fire, with fatal burns
as a result.

Dick felt that he did not have time to shout to the frightened
children. Besides, his commands would likely serve only to confuse
them the more.

Terror-stricken the two little ones clasped each other and stood
screaming with fear on the top of the load.

Dick's quick eye had taken in the only chance in this terrifying

Straight for the apple tree he bounded, his first leap carrying
him into a crotch in the tree a few feet above the ground.

Out he sprang, now, on a limb of the tree that most nearly overhung
the load of hay.

That limb sagged under him---creaked---threatened to snap off
under his weight.

But young Prescott, wholly heedless of his own safety, and with
only one object in mind, scrambled out on the creaking limb as
far as he could; then, with a prayer on his lips, he made a wild,
strenuous leap.

Sub-master Luce turned white as he saw what Dick had attempted
to do. Had he been made of more timorous stuff the high school
teacher would have closed his eyes for that awful instant.

As it was, John Luce saw young Prescott land at the rear end of
the load.

Dick felt himself slipping. For one frenzied second, he feared
that he had failed. Young Strongheart that he was, he braced
all his muscles for the supreme effort---and drew himself up to
safer footing on the hay.

Then, like an eagle, he swooped down upon the children. The little
girl he snatched from her tiny brother's clasp.

"Here!" called Sub-master Luce from the further side.

Brief as the time was Dick Prescott calculated the distance like
lightning. There was no time to call back to Mr. Lucen---nor
need to do so.

Aiming with all the precision at his command, Dick threw the child
from him.

His aim splendidly true, he had the joy of seeing the child land
in Mr. Luce's arms.

Without a moment's loss of time Prescott now snatched up the shrieking

"Ready!" shouted Dick, and a second little body was thrown through
the air.

Again did John Luce do credit to his college baseball training,
for, hurriedly placing the girl baby on the ground he put up his
hands to receive the boy.

"Jump yourself, Prescott!" bawled the submaster hoarsely.

But Dick was already in the air. With the flames shooting up
and seeming fairly to lick his face, Dick had had no time to calculate
his jump.

On the ground, some feet beyond the wagon, Prescott landed, sprawling
on all fours.

He leaped up, however, his face twitching yet with a laugh on
his lips.

Behind him the whole load of hay now flared up, crackling and

"Hurry back out of the heat!" yelled John Luce, leaping forward,
seizing young Prescott and dragging him several yards away.

Dick turned in time to see the whole glowing mass cave in.

Had he arrived on the scene a few seconds later than he did both
children would have perished miserably.

Now, from the house came a white-faced man, running as though
some demon animated him. Behind him came a woman even paler.

Toward father and mother ran the pair of little tots, wholly unmindful
of their rescuers.

As for the older, match-burning boy, that youngster half scared
to death, had dashed away into hiding to escape the wrath that
he knew must soon seek him.

"That was simply magnificent, Prescott!" said the sub-master
enthusiastically. "But I honestly believed that it would be your
last good deed."

While the sub-master spoke he was running both hands up and down
over the high school boy's clothing, putting out many glowing
sparks that had found lodgment in the cloth.

"It was easy," smiled Dick. "Thank goodness I saw the trouble
in time!"

"There are others who are thankful that you saw it in time," uttered
John Luce, as he looked toward the parents, now coming up as fast
as they could, each with a child clasped in arms.

From the road went up a loud cheer. The trolley car had been
halted and backed down to the scene. Though there were few people
on the car, they made up amply in enthusiasm for their lack of

As for the farmer and his wife, though they tried to thank Dick
and Mr. Luce, they were too completely overcome with emotion to
express themselves intelligibly.

The wagon that had held the hay was now blazing fiercely. As
for the hay, that had already burned to a fine powder.

"How---how did you ever get here in time?" cried the rejoicing
mother brokenly.

It was the conductor of the trolley car, just reaching the spot,
who told how Dick Prescott and Mr. Luce had leaped from the moving
car. The sub-master described Dick's feat in climbing the apple
tree and leaping from the limb of the tree to the top of the loaded
hay wagon.

"It was a nervy thing for any man to do!" choked the farmer, tears
of joy running down his cheeks.

"It was just like Dick Prescott," replied John Luce simply.

As soon as possible Dick and the sub-master made their escape
from the earnest protestations of gratitude of the farmer and
his wife, though they did not go until Mr. Luce had persuaded
the parents not to whip the mischievous match-burner, but to content
themselves with pointing out to the little rascal the dreadful
possibilities of such pranks.

At last, however, Dick and Mr. Luce returned to the car followed
by the other passengers. The conductor gave the go-ahead signal,
and the motor-man started in to try to make up some of the time
lost from his schedule.

Dick, as soon as he reached Gridley, went up to Greg Holmes' house,
where he knew his chums would be waiting to learn the result of
his Tottenville trip.

That evening Sub-master Luce chanced to take a stroll up Main
Street. As the offices of the "Morning Blade" were lighted up,
Mr. Luce stepped inside, seeking Editor Pollock in the editorial

"Is Prescott about?" asked Mr. Luce, for Dick, as our readers
know, earned many a dollar as a "space-writer"; that is, he was
paid so much a column for furnishing and writing up local news.

"Dick went out about ten minutes ago," replied Mr. Pollock.

"Was he here long?"

"About fifteen minutes."

"By the way, Mr. Pollock," the sub-master went on, "what do you
think of Dick's latest feat?"

"Which one?"

"His fine work over on the Tottenville road this afternoon?"

"I haven't heard of it," replied Mr. Pollock, opening his eyes.

"Come to think of it," rejoined John Luce, "and knowing young
Prescott as I do, I don't suppose you have heard of it---not from
Prescott, at all events."

Then the sub-master told the story of the burning load of hay
in a way that made the "Blade's" editor reach hastily for pencil
and paper that he might take notes.

"That's just the kind of story that Dick Prescott never could
be depended upon to bring in here---if he was the central character
in it," observed the editor quietly.

Despite the failure of Dick to bring in this particular story,
however, the "Blade," the next morning, printed more than a column
from the data furnished by Mr. Luce.

Dick, however, didn't hear of it---in Gridley. It was Harry Hazelton,
who, at four o'clock, mounted a horse he had hired for the trip
and rode over to Tottenville, where the camp wagon was obtained
from Mr. Newbegin Titmouse. Hazelton wasted no time on the road,
but drove as fast as the horse could comfortably travel.

It was but a few minutes after six o'clock, that August morning,
when Dick Prescott and his five chums, collectively famous as
Dick & Co., drove out of Gridley.

Harry Hazelton was now the driver, the other five high school
boys walking briskly just ahead of the wagon.

Mr. Titmouse's special vehicle carried all that Dick & Co. would
need in the near future, and the six boys were setting out on
what was destined to be their most famous vacation jaunt.



Just before leaving Gridley, Greg Holmes had bought a copy of
the "Blade" from a newsboy.

Three miles out, the chums enjoyed their first halt.

"Ten minutes' rest under this tree," Dick announced, for already
the August morning sun was beating down upon them.

Greg drew out his copy of the newspaper, unfolding it.

"Say!" he yelled suddenly.

"Stop that," commanded Tom Reade, "or you'll make the horse run
away and wreck our outfit."

"But this paper says-----"

"Stop it," ordered Tom with a scowl. "I know what you're going
to do. You'll read us some exciting stuff, and get us all worked
up, and then in the last paragraph you'll stumble on the fact
that some well-known Tottenville man was cured of all his ailments
by Brown's Blood Bitters."

"Can you hold your tongue a minute?" demanded Greg ironically.

"Not when I see you headed that way," retorted Reade. "I've been
fooled by the same style of exciting item, and I know how cheap
it makes a fellow feel when he comes to the name of the Bitters,
the Pills or the Sarsaparilla. Holmesy, I want to save your face
for you with this crowd."

"Will you keep quiet, for a moment, and let the other fellows
hear, even if you have to take a walk in order to save your own
ears?" demanded Greg, with sarcasm. "This piece is about Dick
Prescott, and he doesn't sign patent medicine test-----"

"Dick Prescott?" demanded Darrin. "Whoop! Let's have it!"

"It isn't a roast, is it?" demanded Danny Grin solemnly.

"No; it isn't," Greg went on. "Listen, while I read the headlines."

It was a four-line heading, beginning with "Dick Prescott's Fine

"There! I was afraid it was a roast, after all," sighed Danny

"Take that fellow away and muzzle him," ordered Greg, then proceeded
to read the other sections of the headlines.

By this time Greg had a very attentive audience. Even Tom Reade
had ceased to scoff.

"Oh, bosh!" gasped Dick, when Greg was about one third of the
way through the column article.

"Isn't it true?" demanded Dave.

"After a fashion," Dick admitted.

"Then hold off and be good while the rest of us hear about yesterday's

So Dick stood by, his face growing redder and redder as the reading

"That's what I call a dandy story," declared Greg as he finished

"Dick, why didn't you tell us something about it last night?"
demanded Hazelton.

"What was the use?" asked Prescott. "And, though I've always
thought the 'Blade' a fine local newspaper, I don't quite approve
of Mr. Pollock's judgment of news values in this instance. I
suspect that Mr. Pollock must have been away, and that Mr. Bradley,
the news editor, ran this in."

"It sounds like some of Len Spencer's stuff," guessed Dave. "He's
great on local events."

"If they had to print the yarn, eight or ten lines would have
covered it," Dick declared. "Fellows, we've used up eighteen
minutes for our halt, instead of ten. Come on!"

Greg, however, after rising, and before starting, was careful
to fold the "Blade" neatly and to tuck it away in a pocket. He
meant to save that news story.

All of our readers are familiar with the lives and doings of Dick
Prescott and his friends up to date.

"Dick & Co.," as the boys styled their unorganized club of chums,
was made up of the six boys, who had been fast friends back in
their days of study at the Central Grammar School of Gridley.

They had been together in everything, and notably so in athletics
and sports. All that befell them in their later days at Central
Grammar School is told fully in the four volumes of the "_Grammar
School Boys Series_."

Yet it was when these same boys entered Gridley High School that
they came into the fullest measure of their local fame and popularity.
Even as freshmen they found a chance to accomplish far more for
school athletics than is usually permitted to freshmen. It was
due to their efforts that athletics were put on a sound financial
basis in the Gridley High School. All this and more is described
in the first volume of the "_High School Boys Series_," entitled
"_The High School Freshmen_."

But it was in the second volume of that series, "_The High School
Pitcher_," that our readers found Dick & Co. entered fully in
the training squads of one of the most famous of American high
schools. As described in the third volume, "_The High School
Left End_," Dick & Co. were transferred from the baseball nine
to the gridiron eleven, and by this time had become the undisputed
athletic leaders of Gridley High School. These honors they had
not won without tremendous opposition, especially by the formation
of the notorious "Sorehead Squad" to oppose their hard earned
supremacy in football. Yet Dick & Co. ever went strenuously forward,
in manly, clean-cut fashion, working unceasingly for the furthering
of honest American sport. Between the plottings of their enemies
and a host of adventures on all sides, the school life of Dick
& Co. proved exciting indeed.

In the "_High School Boys' Vacation Series_" our readers have
followed the summer doings of Dick & Co. as distinguished from
the doings of their crowded school years. The first volume devoted
to the vacations of Dick & Co., "_The High School Boys' Canoe
Club_," describes the adventures of our lads in an Indian war
canoe which even their slender financial resources enabled them
to buy at an auction sale of the effects of a stranded Wild West
Show. In the second volume of this series, "_The High School
Boys In Summer Camp_," our readers came upon an even more exciting
narrative of keenly enjoyed summer doings, replete with lively
adventures. In that volume the activities of Tag Mosher, a strangely
odd character, kept Dick & Co. continually on the alert. In the
third volume of the vacation series, entitled "_The High School
Boys' Fishing Trip_," were chronicled the things that befell Dick
& Co. while away on a fishing expedition that became famous in
the annals of Gridley school days. This third volume was full
to the brim with the sort of adventures that boys most love.
Some old enemies of Dick & Co. appeared; how they were put to
rout is well known to all our readers. How Dick & Co. played
a huge joke, and several smaller ones upon their enemies, is described
in that volume.

In this present volume will be recounted all that befell Dick
& Co. in August after completing their junior year in Gridley
High School, just as the preceding or third volume dealt with
the happenings of July of that same summer.

After that first halt Dick & Co. plodded on for another hour.
But Prescott, noting that Hazelton was still on the driver's
seat of the camp wagon, blandly inquired:

"Harry, if you sit up there, lazily holding the reins, how do
you expect to get your share of the training work of this hike?"

"Perhaps I'd rather have the comfort than the training work,"
laughed Hazelton.

"That will never do!" smiled Dick. "Suppose you climb down and
let Danny Grin take your place at the reins until the next halt.
I suspect that Danny boy already has a few pebbles in his shoes,
and that he'll be glad enough to look over the world from the
driver's seat."

"I'm willing to sacrifice myself for the good of the expedition,
anyway," sighed Dalzell, as Harry drew rein. "Come down with
you, Hazy, and begin to share the delights of this walking match!"

The change of drivers made, Dick & Co. plodded on again.

"It seems to me that we ought to put on more speed," suggested
Dave Darrin.

"Are you in a hurry to get somewhere, Darry?" drawled Tom Reade.

"No," Dave replied, "but, if we're out for training, it seems
to me that we had better do brisker walking than we're doing now,
even if the horse can't keep up with us."

"We're making about three miles and a half an hour," Dick responded.

"But will that be work enough to make us as hard as nails?" persisted

"We're getting over the ground as fast as the troops of the regular
army usually travel," Prescott rejoined. "I believe our regulars
are generally regarded as rather perfect specimens in the walking
line. We might move along at a speed of six miles, and might
keep it up for an hour. Then we'd be footsore, and all in. If
the first hour didn't do it, the second hour would. But if we
plug along in this deliberate fashion, and get over fifteen, eighteen
or twenty miles a day, and keep it up, I don't believe any one
of you fellows will complain, September first, that he isn't as
hard and solid as he wants to be---even for bucking the football
lines, of other high schools."

"I know that I can be satisfied with this gait," murmured Reade.

"If Darry wants to move faster," suggested Hazelton, "why not
tell him where to wait for us, and let him gallop ahead?"

"I'll stay with the rest of you," Darry retorted. "All I want
to make sure of is that we're going to get the most out of our
training work this summer."

"I'll tell you what you might do, Dave, by way of extra exercise
and hardening," offered Tom.

"What?" asked Dave suspiciously.

"I believe we're going to halt every hour for a brief rest"


"While the five of us are resting under the trees, Darry, you
might climb the trees, swinging from limb to limb and leaping
from tree to tree. Of course you'll select trees that are not
directly over our heads."

"Humph!" retorted Dave.

"Try it, anyway," urged Tom, "it's fine exercise, even if you
give it up after a while."

"I'll try it as often as you do," Darrin agreed with a grin.

Their second halt found the high school boys more than six miles
from their starting point.

On this trip they were not heading in the direction they had followed
on their fishing trip. Instead, they were traveling in the opposite
direction from Gridley, through a fairly populous farming region.

At a quarter-past ten o'clock Dick called for another halt. The
road map that the boys had brought along showed them that they
were now eleven miles from Gridley.

"Pretty fair work," muttered Tom, "considering that these roads
were built by men who had never seen any better kind."

"We can more than double the distance," suggested Dave, "before
we go into camp for the night."

"If we hike a couple more miles this morning, then halt, get the
noon meal and rest until two o'clock," replied young Prescott,
"I think we shall do better."

"If we've gone only eleven miles," protested Darrin, "then I'm
certainly good for twenty-five miles in all to-day, and I believe
the rest of you are, too."

"Wait until we've done eighteen or twenty miles," Prescott proposed.
"Then we can take a vote about making it twenty-five."

"For one thing," Darry objected, "none of us actually walks twenty-five
miles when we cover that distance. We take turns riding on the
wagon, and, as there are six of us, that means that each fellow
rides something like four miles of the distance covered."

"What Darry is driving at," proposed Danny Grin, "is that he wants
to devote himself wholly to walking hereafter. He doesn't care
about driving the horse."

"I'm big enough and cranky enough to do my own talking, when there
is any reason for my entering into the conversation," smiled Dave.

At a little after eleven that morning, when thirteen and a half
miles had been covered, all hands were willing enough to halt
and rest, prepare luncheon and rest again.

"But I still hope we shall cover the twenty-five miles to-day,"
Darry insisted.

"No difficulty about that, either," declared Harry Hazelton.
"Darry, while we are swapping stories over the campfire this evening
you can take a lantern and do an extra five miles by way of an
evening walk. Then you'll be tired enough to sleep."

"I'll see about it," Darrin laughed.

"And that's the last we'll hear about it," Tom predicted dryly.

"It is the experience of every military commander, so I've read,"
Dick went on, "that a long march the first day of a big hike is
no especially good sign of how the soldiers will hold out to the
end. On the contrary, military men have found that it's better
to march a shorter distance on the first day and to work up gradually
to a good standard of performance."

"All right," agreed Hazelton. "For one, I'm willing to take a
rest after eating, and then take the afternoon for getting acquainted
with this pretty grove."

"We won't quite do that, either, if I have my way," Prescott laughed.
"We ought to do a few miles this afternoon, but not set out to
do any record-breaking or back-breaking stunt."

"There goes hazy's dream up in the air," laughed Greg. "I just
knew that Hazy was planning how to spend the afternoon napping."

"I'll volunteer to drive all the way, this afternoon," Harry offered.
"That will give all of you fellows a chance to harden yourselves
more on the first day."

"If you want to know a good definition of 'generosity,' then ask
Hazy," snorted Dalzell.

"Come on!" cried Dick good-humoredly. "Scatter. Some for wood,
some for water. Tom and I will get the kitchen kit ready for
a meal. But we must have the wood and water before we can prepare

At that suggestion of something to eat there was a general rush
to get things in readiness. As soon as a fire was going in the
stove in the wagon, Dick put on a frying pan. Into this he dropped
several slices of bacon. Tom, over a fire built on the ground,
set the coffee-pot going. In a pot on the stove Dick put potatoes
to cook.

Now Dave rattled out the dishes, as soon as Greg and Hazy had
set up the folding table. Dan placed the chairs.

"Get ready!" called Dick, as soon as he had fried two platters
full of bacon and eggs. Tom, will you try the potatoes?"

"Done," responded Reade, after prodding the potatoes with a fork.

"What shall we do with the food that's left over?" asked Danny
Grin, as he began to eat.

"There isn't going to be any food left over," Dick laughed. "You
fellows will be lucky, indeed, if you get as much as you want."

Everyone was satisfied, however, by the time that the meal was

"Greg and Harry may have the pleasure of washing the dishes,"
Dick suggested.

"Oh, dear!" grunted Hazy, but he went at his task without further

Before one o'clock everything was in readiness for going forward
again, save for putting the horse between the shafts of the wagon.
Prescott, however, put a proposition to rest until two o'clock
before his chums. It was unanimously carried.

Despite his desire for a walking record that day, Darry proved
quite willing to lie off at full length in the shade of the trees
and doze as much as the flies would permit.

Dick and Tom strolled slowly down toward the road, halting by
a couple of trees.

"There's something you don't often see, nowadays," spoke up Tom
after a while.

He nodded back up the road. Coming in the same direction that
the boys themselves had traveled was a faded, queer-looking old
red wagon, much decorated on the outside by a lot of hanging,
swinging tin and agate ware.

"That's the old-fashioned tin-peddler that I've heard a good deal
about as being a common enough character some forty years ago,"
said Prescott. "Our grandmothers used to save up meat-bones,
rags and bottles and trade them off to the peddler, receiving
tinware in return."

"The man on that wagon was doing business forty years ago," remarked
Tom. "In fact, judging by his appearance, he must have been quite
a veteran at the business even forty years ago."

A bent, little old man it was who was perched upon the seat of
the red wagon. Once upon a time his hair had been tawny. Now
it was streaked liberally with gray. He was smoking a black
little wooden pipe and paying small attention to the sad-eyed,
bony horse between the shafts. There was a far-away, rather dull
look in the old peddler's eyes.

Just before he reached the boys, whom he had not seen, he took
a piece of paper from his pocket, pulled his spectacles down from
his forehead and read the paper.

"I don't understand it," muttered the peddler, aloud. "I can't
understand it. I wish I had someone to give me the right of it."

"Could we be of any service, sir?" Reade inquired.

Hearing a human voice so close at hand the peddler started for
an instant. Then he pulled in the horse.

"I dunno whether you can be of much use to me," answered the peddler
slowly. "You don't look old enough to know much about business."

"Still, I know more than anyone would think, from just looking
at me," volunteered Reade, reddening a bit as he saw the laughter
in Dick Prescott's eyes.

"Maybe you can explain this riddle," went on the peddler, extending
the sheet of white paper. "It can't do any harm to give you a
chance. You see, I had a bill of twenty dollars against Bill
Peterson. The bill had been running three years, and I couldn't
get anything out of Bill but promises without any exact dates
tied to 'em. I needed the money as bad as Bill did, so at last
I went to Lawyer Stark to see what could be done about it. Lawyer
Stark said he'd tackle the job if I'd give him half. I agreed
to that, for half a loaf is better'n nothing at all, as you may
have heard. Then weeks went by, and I heard nothing from Squire
Stark. So the other night I writ a letter, asking him how the
collection of the bill was coming on. This is the answer he sends

So Tom read aloud, from the typewritten sheet, the following
remarkably brief communication:

"Dear Sir: Answering your letter of yesterday's date, I have to
advise you that I have collected my half of the Peterson bill.
Your half I regard as extremely doubtful."

This was signed with the name of Lawyer Stark.

Tom Reade glanced through the note again, then gave vent to a
shout of laughter.

"Eh?" asked the peddler looking puzzled.

"I beg your pardon, sir," replied Reade instantly. "I shouldn't
have laughed, but this struck me, at first, as one of the funniest
letters I ever saw. So the lawyer has collected his half of the
twenty and regards the collection of your half as exceedingly

"Shouldn't Lawyer Stark give me half of the ten he got from Bill
Peterson?" asked the peddler anxiously.

"Undoubtedly he should," Tom assented, "and just as undoubtedly
he hasn't any idea of doing so."

"What do you say, young man?" inquired the peddler, turning to
young Prescott.

"Why, sir, if you are asking about your legal chance of getting
half of that ten dollars from the lawyer," Dick answered, "then
I'm afraid you stand a poor show. If the lawyer won't pay you
the money, then you would have to sue him. Even if you won the
suit, the fight would cost you a good deal more than the amount
you would recover. And the lawyer might beat you, even if you
sued him."

"Then---what's the answer?" demanded the peddler slowly.

"I know the answer," said Tom confidently, "but it would be a
shame to tell you, sir."

"Just the same, I wish you would," replied the peddler coaxingly.

"The answer," replied Reade, "is that you have been cheated."

"But it looks to me like a mean trick," Dick went on.

"What am I going to do about it?" asked the peddler wonderingly.

"I don't believe you can do anything about it, sir," Prescott
answered, "unless you are willing to sue the lawyer, or can make
him agree to fair play. But I certainly would drop in to see
him and tell him that you expect just half of what he has so far

"I believe I'll do that," replied Peddler Hinman, judging from
the address on the letter, that was his name. "I don't like
to be made a fool of by any man---especially when I need money
as badly as any other man on my route."

Dick took a sweeping glance at the peddler's shabby attire. While,
of course, the size of a man's bank account cannot be judged from
his wardrobe, Mr. Hinman had the appearance of needing money as
much as he declared. The horse, too, looked as though a generous
feed of oats would do him good.

"And to think of all the things I know about Squire Stark, too,"
murmured Mr. Hinman, apparently speaking to himself and not realizing
that his words carried to the boys' ears. "If he had a little
more judgment, Silas Stark would treat me with more fairness."

"I'm very sorry if I seemed too much amused," Tom apologized earnestly,
"but that letter, apart from its meaning to you, really is funny."

"I---I suppose so," assented Reuben Hinman sighing, and the far-away
look returning to his eyes. "But I---I need the money!"

"And both of us hope that you will get it, sir, the whole of your
half," said Dick Prescott heartily.

"Anyway, I'm much obliged to both of you boys," said the peddler.
"Giddap, Prince!"

Somehow, both boys thought that Reuben Hinman drooped more on
the seat of his wagon than before. He drove off slowly, evidently
doing a lot of hard thinking.

"Poor old man!" muttered Tom sympathetically.

"He looks a bit slow-witted," Prescott suggested. "I'm afraid
he has always been going through life wondering at the doings
of others, and especially at the success of unprincipled men he
has had to deal with."

"Do you know," remarked Reade, gazing after the bent, huddled
little figure, "I've a notion that there has been a lot in that
poor fellow's life that has been downright tragic."

Tragic? Without doubt! Moreover, though Dick could not guess
it, he and his friends were soon to be mixed up in the tragic
side of Peddler Hinman's life.



Camp was made at half-past four that afternoon, nineteen miles
having been covered. The tent was pitched in a bit of woods,
not far from the road, permission from the owner having been secured.

Dave had asked the owner if they might picket the horse out to
graze, but Dick had instantly objected.

"We don't want to feed our hired horse on green grass if we're
going to work him hard."

"That's right," agreed the farmer, so twenty cents' worth of hay
was purchased, to be added to the feed of oats.

"It's some fun to travel this way when we know we have money enough
to pay our way like men," Tom Reade remarked exultingly.

For Dick & Co. were well supplied with funds. As told in the
preceding volume in this series, they had, during July, realized
enough from the sale of black bass and brook trout to enable them
to have a thoroughly good time during this present month of August.

"Oh, Hazy!" called Reade, when it became time to think of supper.

"Here," reported Harry, rising from a cot in the tent and coming

"It's time for you and Dan to rustle the firewood and bring in
more water," Reade went on.

"All right," agreed Hazelton. "Where's Dan?"

Where, indeed, was Dalzell? That soon became a problem for all five
of the other boys. Danny Grin was nowhere in sight.

"Dan! Oh, Dan!" Dave shouted.

"Where is that grinning monkey of a football player?" demanded
Tom in disgust. "Did any of you fellows see him go away from

It turned out that none of them had.

"It isn't like Dalzell to run away from his share of the work,
either," added Greg Holmes.

"If he won't stay and do his share toward getting supper, then
he ought to be passed up at table," grumbled Darrin.

"Before we pass sentence," proposed Dick, "won't it be better
to wait and find out whether he's guilty of shirking this time?"

"I suppose it would be better," Darrin admitted.

So the boys continued their preparations.

"What shall we have for the main thing to eat to-night?" Dick
inquired, after supper preparations were well under way.

"Canned corned beef?" suggested Greg.

"That would be about as good as anything," Tom nodded. "It means
two salted meats in one day, but this country is well supplied
with water."

"We can't ask Danny Grin's preference this evening," Dick laughed.
"I wonder what Dan would like, anyway?"

"Who's taking my name in vain?" demanded a laughing voice, as
Dalzell appeared between the trees.

"Oh, you-----"

"Shirk!" Reade had been about to add, when Danny held up a fat
string of fish. These were horned-pouts, sometimes called "bull-heads."

"How many?" asked Dick promptly.

"Nineteen---one for every mile we made in getting close to the
creek," Dan rejoined.

"Great!" cried Greg. "We haven't had any fish, either, since
we returned from our trip to the second lake."

"How do you cook bull-heads?" Dave wondered aloud.

"With the aid of fire," Hazy informed him with an air of superior

"But I mean---I mean------" uttered Darry disgustedly, "how do
you prepare bull-heads for cooking?"

"First of all, you clean 'em, as in the case of any other fish,"
proclaimed Tom Reade. "I defy any fellow to dispute me on that

"And then you wet the bull-head and roll him in corn meal, next
dropping him into the pan and frying him to a fine brown," Dick

"But we haven't any corn meal," objected Hazy.

"Yes, we have," Prescott corrected. "I saw to that last night.
You fellows jump in and clean these fish, fast, while I get out
the corn meal and put a pan on the fire."

These boys knew much more about cooking than falls to most boys
in their teens. Frequent camping since their good old days in
Central Grammar School had made them able to cook like veteran

Within two minutes, fat was sputtering in a hot pan, and Dick
was shaking corn meal onto a plate.

"Bring 'em up!" he ordered. "We'll start this thing going."

Twenty minutes later, using two pans, all the bull-heads had been
cooked, and now lay on platters in the oven of the stove.

"Three apiece, and one left over," Greg discovered. "Who gets
the odd one?"

"Shame on you!" muttered Reade. "The horse gets the odd one,
of course."

"A horse won't eat fish," Holmes retorted.

"Didn't you ever see a horse eat fish?" Tom challenged.

"I never did."

"Well, I don't know that I ever did, either," Reade admitted.
"So we'll give the odd one to Danny Grin."

"Maybe we'll be glad to," laughed Dave. "I'm not sure that all
these bull-heads were alive when Dalzell picked them up."

"Huh!" snorted Dan.

Nothing spoiled their appetite for the fish, however, which were
cooked to a turn and of fine flavor. Tom Reade, however, got
the odd fish as being the only one whose appetite was large enough
to permit of the feat of adding it to three other fish.

"And now, what are we going to do?" asked Dave, after the meal
was finished and the dishes had been washed.

"Who has sore feet?" called Dick.

Not one of the six boys would plead guilty to that charge.

"Then we won't have to heat water," Dick announced. "Each fellow
can bathe his feet in cold water before turning in. But, when
one's feet ache, or are blistered, then a wash in piping hot water
is the thing to take out the ache."

By nine o'clock all hands began to feel somewhat drowsy, for the
day had been warm, and, at last, these youngsters were willing
to admit that their road work had been as strenuous as they needed.

"But to-morrow we'll do twenty-five miles," Dave insisted.

"My opinion is that we'll do well if we make twenty miles to-morrow,"
Dick rejoined.

"But what are we going to do now?" yawned Hazy, as they sat about
under the light of two lanterns.

"Go to bed," declared Greg.

"Hooray! That's the ticket that I vote," announced Hazy.

"I was just thinking of that mean lawyer we heard about to-day,"
Reade remarked.

"I was thinking of the same matter, but more about the poor old
peddler," Dick stated. "That poor old fellow! I'll wager he
has had a hard time all through life, and that he's still wondering
why it all had to happen. How old would you say Mr. Hinman is, Tom?"

"He'll never have a seventieth birthday again," replied Reade
thoughtfully. "My! A man at that age ought not to have to bother
with working. It's pitiful. It's a shame!"

"Maybe he finds his only happiness in work," Darrin suggested.
"I have known old people like that."

By this time Dan had taken one of the lanterns into the tent,
and was undressing. Dave soon followed, then Greg and Hazelton.

"Do you want to take a little walk down to the road, where we
can get a better look at the sky?" Dick proposed to Reade. "We
ought to take a squint at the weather."

"That will suit me," Tom nodded, so away they strolled toward
the road.

"If you fellows stay away from camp long, don't you be mean enough
to talk, or make any other noise when you get back to the tent,"
Darrin called after them.

Down by the road there was a breeze blowing, and it was cooler.

"I'd like to bring my cot down this way," Tom suggested.

"There's no law against it," Dick smiled. "The owner's permission
extended in a general way to all the land right around here."

"Will you bring your cot, too?" Tom asked.


So, before any of the other fellows were asleep, Dick and Tom
reentered the tent to get their folding cots and bedding.

"Cooler down by the road, is it?" asked Darrin wistfully. "Then
I'm sorry you didn't find it out before I undressed."

"We'll sleep in our clothes," Dick replied. "Come along, Tom,
and give the infant class a chance to get to sleep."

After lying, fully dressed on their cots, which they placed within
ten feet of the road, Dick and Tom found themselves so wide awake
that they lay chatting for some moments.

At last Reade mumbled his answers; next his unmistakably deep
breathing indicated that he was asleep. Prescott thereupon turned
over on his side and dozed off.

It was shortly after their first few moments of sleep had passed
that a noise in the road close by awoke both boys.

Dick sat up leaning on one elbow, listening. Someone was coming
toward them.

As the stranger came closer, Dick, his eyes seeing well in the
dark, made out the unmistakable form of Reuben Hinman, the peddler.

"What's he doing out here at this hour of the night, and on foot?"
wondered Dick Prescott half aloud.

"Eh? What?" asked Reade in a low, drowsy voice, as he opened
his eyes.

"It's Mr. Hinman, the peddler," Prescott whispered to his chum.
"But I wonder what's wrong with him?"

"I wonder, too," Reade assented. "One thing is certain; something
has happened to him."

For Reuben Hinman half-lurched, half-staggered along, yet his
gait did not suggest intoxication. He moved, rather, as one who
is dazed with trouble.

The old man was sobbing, too, with a sound that was pitiful to
hear; as though some great grief were clutching at his heart.



"Good evening, Mr. Hinman!" called Dick softly.

The old man started, affrighted.

"Who---who calls?" he quavered.

"One of the boys you talked with, this noon."

"Where are you?"

"Here," answered Dick, throwing his blanket aside, rising and
stepping toward the old man, who, more bent than ever, was shaking
as though from fright. "Don't be afraid of us, sir. Can we help
you in anything?"

"I am afraid not," replied the peddler, then leaned against a
tree-trunk, staring, as he tried to stifle his sobs.

"What has happened, sir?" asked Tom Reade, also stepping forward.

"I've been robbed!" replied the old man, in a broken voice.

"Robbed?" repeated Dick. "Do you mean that some villains have
stolen the goods from your wagon?"

"No, no!" replied the old man, with sudden, unlooked for vehemence.
"I've been robbed, I tell you---my money stolen!"

"Money?" asked Tom in surprise. "How much was taken from you?"

"Four hundred and eighteen dollars," replied the old man, with
a lack of reserve that testified to his confidence in these unknown
but respectful and sympathetic high school boys.

"All that money?" cried Dick. "How did you ever come to have
so much about you?"

"I owe some bills for goods, over at Hillsboro," replied Reuben
Hinman, "and this trip was to take me toward Hillsboro. But now-----"

He broke off, the strange, rending sobbing returning.

"Perhaps we can help you, bad as the case looks," Tom suggested.
"Try to tell us all about it, sir."

"Where did you have the money?" inquired Dick.

"In a wallet, in this inside coat pocket," replied the peddler,
holding his frayed coat open at the right side.

"You carried your wallet as conspicuously as that when traveling
over lonely country roads?" cried Prescott in amazement.

"I had a lot of letters and papers in front of the wallet, so
that no one would suspect that I had the wallet or the money,"
explained Reuben Hinman.

"I don't see any papers there now," Tom interposed.

"They're gone," replied Mr. Hinman. "Probably the thief thought
the papers valuable, also, but they weren't.-----"

"You were robbed---when?" asked Dick.

"When I was sleeping."

"At some farm house?" Reade inquired.

"No; I slept on a pile of old rags that I had taken in trade."

"In the wagon?-----" from Prescott.


"But why did you sleep in the wagon? And where did you have the
wagon?" Dick pressed.

"The wagon was off the road, two miles below here," the peddler
explained brokenly. "It would cost me fifty cents for a bed at
a farm house, so, when the night is fine, I sleep outdoors on
the wagon and save the money. It's cheaper with the horse, too,
as I have to pay only for his feed."

"But the money?" Tom pressed the old man. Reuben Hinman groaned,
but did not take to sobbing again.

"I woke up to-night, and found it gone," he answered.

"Did you feel or hear anyone prowling about, or searching your

"No; if I had discovered anyone robbing me," shivered the peddler,
"I would have caught and held on to him. I have strong hands.
I have strong hands. Do you see?"

Holding up his wiry, claw-like hands, the old peddler worked the
fingers convulsively.

"Then how do you know you were robbed, Mr. Hinman?" Dick insisted.

"Because the money is gone," replied the old man simply.

"You searched the rags, and the surrounding parts of your wagon?"
Reade asked.

"Young man, you may be sure that I did."

"And where were you going when we stopped you?"

"For help."

"Whose help?" Dick inquired.

"I don't know," replied the old man blankly. "Perhaps to a lawyer."

"Lawyers don't recover stolen property," rejoined Reade.

"Perhaps not," assented the peddler. "The people whom you should
see are the local officers," Dick assured the old man. "Probably
they couldn't recover your money, though, since you have no idea
who robbed you."

Reuben Hinman groaned helplessly. It was plain to the two high
school boys that the peddler had started out, thus, in the middle
of the night simply because his misery was too great to permit
of inaction on his part.

"I wish we could help you," Prescott went on earnestly.

"Why can't you?" eagerly demanded the peddler, as one who clutches
at the frailest straw.

"Call Dave, Tom. Try not to wake the others," murmured Dick.
Then, while Reade was gone, Prescott asked:

"Mr. Hinman, why on earth didn't you keep your money in a bank,
and then pay by check?"

"No, no, no! No banks for me!" cried the old man tremulously.

"Are you afraid to trust banks with your money?" demanded Dick

"No, no! It isn't that," protested the peddler confusedly. "The
banks are all right, and honest men run them. But-----"

Whatever was in his mind he checked himself. It was as though
he had been on the verge of uttering words that must not be spoken.

Dick Prescott found himself obliged to turn his eyes away. It
was altogether too pitiful, the look in old Reuben Hinman's shriveled
face. In his misery the small, stooped peddler looked still smaller
and more bent.

Tom soon came along, carrying a lantern and followed by Dave,
the latter yawning every step of the way.

"Now, which way are we going to look first?" Reade inquired.

"I've been thinking that over," Dick replied. "It seems to me
that the sanest course will be to start right at the scene of
the robbery. From there we may get a clue that we can follow

"Yes, that's as good a course as any," nodded Darrin, who had
received some of the particulars of the affair from Reade.

So the three high school boys started off down the road together,
old Reuben Hinman trudging tirelessly along with them, acting
like a man in a trance.

At last they came to the old, red wagon. The tethered horse,
disturbed, rose to its feet.

"Now, the rest of you keep away," requested young Prescott, "until
I've had time to look all around the wagon with the lantern.
I want to see if I can discover any footprints that will help."

For a considerable radius around the wagon the high school athlete
scanned the ground. He could find no footprints, other than those
of Reuben Hinman, and the fresher ones made by himself.

"Nothing doing in the footprint line, boys," Dick called at last.
"Now, come along and we'll search the wagon."

"Let me have the first chance," begged Dave, taking the lantern.

Reuben Hinman showed where he had slept on the pile of rags, but
this was hardly necessary, the impression made by his slight body
being still visible.

Dave began to rummage. At last he got down into the body of the
wagon. With the rays of the lantern thus concealed, the other
three stood in darkness.

"Hooray!" gasped Dave at last. Then rising, leaning over the
side of the wagon, he called:

"Mr. Hinman, I've found a wallet, with a lot of greenbacks inside.
How much I don't know. Please count it and see if all the money
is there intact."

With an inarticulate cry the old peddler seized the wallet that
was handed down to him. He shook like a leaf as Tom held the
lantern for him to count the money. Now that the strain was over,
Mr. Hinman's legs became suddenly too weak to support him. He
sank to the ground, Tom squatting close so that the lantern's
rays would fall where they would be most useful. Thus the old
peddler counted his money with trembling fingers.

"Where did you find the wallet?" young Prescott asked Darrin.

"Up against the side of the wagon, under a partly tilted, upsidedown
feed-pail," Dave answered. "I can understand why Mr. Hinman didn't
find it. He was too much upset---too nervous, and it certainly
didn't look like a likely place."

"It must have fallen out of his pocket as he slept," Prescott
guessed correctly. "Did you find any papers down there on the
floor of the wagon?"

"Yes; some sort of paper stuff," nodded Dave. "I took it for

"The money is all here!" cried the old peddler, in a frenzy of
joy. "Oh, how can I thank you young men? You don't know what
your blessed help means for me!"

"Was it all the money you had?" Dick asked feelingly.

"Yes; all except for few loose dollars that I have in a little
sack in my trousers pocket," replied Mr. Hinman.

"Then it was all you had in the world, outside of your peddling
stock and your horse and cart?" Prescott continued.

"All except a little house and barn that I own, and the small
piece of ground they stand on," said the peddler. "If I had not
found my money I would have been obliged to mortgage my little
home to a bank---and then I am afraid I could not have repaid
the bank, and my home would be taken from me."

"But you would have found the money in the wagon some day soon,"
suggested Dick.

"Perhaps," replied the peddler. "Who knows? Perhaps someone
else would have rummaged the wagon and found it before I did.
Oh! It might have been taken a little while ago, even when I
was toiling down the road, or talking with you boys at your camp!"
he added, with a sudden wave of fright over the thought.

"One thing is certain, anyhow, Mr. Hinman," Dick concluded. "Someone
may have overheard you talking with us about this money. You
will hardly be safe here. I urge you to come to our camp, and
there spend the night with boys who know how to take care of
themselves, and who can look after you at need. You will not be
attacked in our camp."

Reuben Hinman eagerly agreeing, Dave harnessed the bony horse
into the wagon. After a while the red wagon rested within the
confines of the camp of Dick & Co.

In the bright light of the morning, Harry Hazelton was the first
to be astir. He saw Prescott asleep on the floor of the tent,
rolled up in a blanket, while another blanket rested on Dick's
cot, brought back to the tent, as though some stranger had slept

Outside, attached to the seat of their camp wagon, Hazy found
a note that mystified him a good deal at first. It read:

_"The sun is now well up. I shall go at once to Hillsboro, and
then my great worry will be over. Boys, you will ever be remembered
in the prayers of R.H."_

"Now, that's mighty nice of R.H., whoever he is," smiled Harry
Hazelton, not immediately connecting the initials with the name
of the little, old peddler.

Nor was it until Prescott and Reade were astir that Harry was
fully enlightened as to the meaning of the words scrawled in pencil
on the sheet of paper.

"You boys call me Hazy, and I must look and act the part," laughed
Hazelton shamefacedly, "when we can have such an invasion of the
camp, and such an early get-away with a loaded wagon, and all
without my stirring."

Reuben Hinman was on his way, and, all unknown to himself nearer
the hour when he would meet the high, school boys under vastly
more exciting circumstances.



"Let's get the tent down, fellows," Dick called. "Greg is loading
the bedding on to the wagon now."

"Haven't, you forgotten something?" Danny Grin asked.

"What?" challenged Dick smilingly.

"Well, a little thing like breakfast, for instance?"

"We don't get that until after we've had our swim," Prescott rejoined

"I suppose that's all right," observed Tom, his jaw dropping.
"Still, in that case, Mr. Trainer, why didn't you camp nearer
to a stream?"

"The nearest stream fit for swimming is two miles from here,"
Dick replied. "At least, that's what I judge from the map."

"There's the creek the bull-heads came from," suggested Hazelton
hopefully. "That's close at hand."

"I know it is," Dick replied, "but I've had a look at it. That
creek is both shallow and muddy. No sort of place for swimming."

One thing these Gridley High School boys had learned in the football
squad, and that was discipline. So, though there were some gloomy
looks, all remembered that Dick had been chosen trainer during
the hike, and that his word, in training matters, was to be their
law. So the tent came down, in pretty nearly record time, and
was loaded on the wagon. The horse was harnessed, also without
breakfast, and the party started down the road with Harry Hazelton
holding the reins.

"I hope it's a short two miles," growled Reade to Darrin.

"Humph! A fine Indian you'd make, Tom!" jibed Dave. "An Indian
is trained in being hungry. It's a part of the work that he has
to undergo before he is allowed to be one of the men of the tribe."

"That's just the trouble with me," Tom admitted. "I've never
been trained to be an Indian, and I am inclined to think that
it requires training, and a lot of it."

Outwardly Tom didn't "grump" any, but he made a resolve that,
hereafter, his voice would be strong for halting right on the
bank of a swimming place.

"Can't we hit up the pace a bit?" asked Tom.

"Yes," nodded Dick. "All who want to travel fast can hike right
ahead. Just keep on the main road."

Tom, Greg and Dan immediately forged ahead, taking long, rapid

"But don't go in the water until we come up," Dick called after
them. "Remember, the morning is hot, and you'll be too overheated
to go in at once."

"Eh?" muttered Tom, with a sidelong look at his two fast-time
companions. "Humph!"

Then they fell back with the wagon again.

"There doesn't seem to be any way to beat the clock to breakfast,"
observed Dan, after he had walked several rods down the road.

"I've talked with old soldiers," Dick went on, "who have told
me all sorts of tales of war time, about the commissary train
not catching up with the fighting line for four days at a stretch.
Yet here you fellows feel almost ill if you have to put off breakfast
half an hour. What kind of men would you boys make if it came
to the stern part of life?"

"If going without breakfast is part of the making of a man," said
Danny Grin solemnly, "then I'd rather be a child some more."

"You always will be a child," Dave observed dryly. "Birthdays
won't make any great difference in your real age, Danny boy."

"After that kind of a roast," grinned Reade, "I believe I'll take
a reef in a few of the bitter things I was about to say."

Dick laughed pleasantly. Somehow, with the walk, all soon began
to feel better. That first fainting, yearning desire for food
was beginning to pass.

"Do you know what the greatest trouble is with the American people?"
asked Dick, after they had covered a mile.

"I don't," Tom admitted. "Do you, Dick?"

"I've been forming an idea," Prescott went on. "Our fault, if
I can gather it rightly from what I've been reading, is that we
Americans are inclined to be too babyish."

"Tell that to the countries we've been at war with in the past,"
jeered Tom Reade.

"Oh, I guess it's a different breed of Americans that we send
to the front in war time," Prescott continued. "But, take you
fellows; some of you have been almost kicking because breakfast
is put off a bit. Most Americans are like that. Yet, it isn't
because we have such healthy stomachs, either, for foreigners
know us as a race of dyspeptics. Take a bit of cold weather in
winter---really cold, biting weather and just notice how Americans
kick and worry about it. Take any time when we have a succession
of rainy days, and notice how Americans growl over the continued
wet. Whatever happens that is in the least disagreeable, see
what a row we Americans raise about it."

"I imagine it's a nervous vent for the race," advanced Dave Darrin.

"But why must Americans have a nervous vent?" Dick inquired.
"In other words, what business have we with diseased nerves!
Don't you imagine that all our kicking, many times every day of
our lives, makes the need of nervous vent more and more pronounced?"

"Oh, I don't know about that," argued Tom. "I hate to hear any
fellow talk disparagingly about his own country or its people.
It doesn't sound just right. In war time, or during any great
national disaster or calamity, the Americans who do things always
seem to rise to the occasion. We're a truly great people, all
right. But I don't make that claim because I consider myself
ever likely to be one of the great ones."

"Why are we a great people?" pursued Prescott.

"We are the richest nation in the world," argued Reade. "That
must show that we are people capable of making great successes."

"Is our greatness due to ourselves, or to the fact that the United
States embraces the greatest natural resources in the world?"
demanded Dick Prescott.

"It's partly due to the people, and partly due to the resources
of the country," Dave contended.

Dick kept them arguing. Harry Hazelton, as driver, remained silent,
but the others argued against Dick, trying to overthrow all his
disparaging utterances against the American people.

Finally Reade grew warm, indeed.

"Cut it out, Dick---do!" he urged. "This doesn't really sound
like you. I hate to hear a fellow go on running down his own
countrymen. I tell you, it isn't patriotic."

"But just stop to consider this point," Prescott urged, and started
on a new, cynical line of argument.

"I still contend that we're the greatest people on earth," Reade
insisted almost angrily. "We ought to be, anyway, for Americans
don't come of any one line of stock. We're descended from
pioneers---the pick and cream of all the peoples of Europe."

But Dick kept up his line of discussion until they came to the
river for which he had headed them. They followed the winding
stream into the woods where the trees partially hid them from
the observation of passers-by on the road, From this point they
could easily keep a watch on the wagon while in the water.

"Now, let's sit down and cool off for five minutes," proposed
Dick, as he filled the feed bag for the horse. "After that we'll
be ready for a swim."

"But, with regard to what you were saying about frayed American
nerves, poor stomachs and all-around babyishness-----" Tom began
all over again.

"Stop it!" laughed Dick. "We don't need that line of talk any

"Then why did you start it?" asked Dave.

"We've covered the two miles that you all thought such a hardship,"
chuckled Prescott.

"Then you-----" began Reade, opening his eyes wider as a dawning
light came into them. "Come on, Dave! Catch him! The water's

But Dick, with a light laugh, bounded away, shinned up a tree,
and, sitting in a crotch, swung his feet toward the faces of
Tom, Dave and Harry as they tried to get him and drag him down.

"You've got a strategic position, just now," growled Reade. "But
just you wait until we catch you down on the ground again!"

"You fellows must feel pretty well sold," Greg taunted them.
"I kept out of the row, for I saw, at the outset, that Dick was
going to start something for the sole purpose of keeping us arguing
until we forgot all about our breakfasts."

"That's just like Dick Prescott!" uttered Tom ruefully. "We never
get to know him so well that he can't start us all on a new tack
and have more fun with us."

"Well, you forgot your supposed starvation, didn't you?" chuckled
Dick from his tree.

Two or three minutes later he swung down from the tree to the
ground, rapidly removing his clothing and donning swimming trunks.
He was not molested; the other five were too busy preparing for
the bath.

"The water's great to-day!" shouted Dick, rising and "blowing"
after a shallow dive from a tree trunk at the shore.

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