Part 2 out of 4
In a moment they were all in the water.
"Come on! Follow your leader!" shouted Tom Reade, striking out
"Come back and give us a handicap!" roared Dave. "How do you
expect us to catch you when you get the lead over us with your
long legs and arms?"
But Tom dived under water, swimming there. The others followed
suit, each remaining under as long as possible, for, in this "stunt,"
there was no way of knowing when the leader came up. Tom remained
under less than fifteen seconds. Then, showing his head, and
with rapid overhand strokes he made for the nearer bank, slipping
ashore and hiding behind some bushes.
It was Hazy who had to come up first after Tom.
"Whew! Tom must have met someone he knows on the bottom," called
Harry, as Greg's head rose above the surface.
Dave came up next, then Dick, and then Dan.
"Tom ought to be a fish!" uttered Darrin admiringly. "I stayed
under water as long as I could."
Yet after going a few yards further up stream Dick Prescott turned,
gazing anxiously down stream.
"Fellows," he suggested, "something must have happened to old Tom."
"Or else he's playing a joke on us," hinted Danny Grin, suspiciously.
"It's some joke to remain under water four times as long as the
average swimmer can do it," retorted Prescott.
"But Tom may not be under water," spoke up Greg.
"He didn't have time to get anywhere else," Dave declared.
"It may be a joke, but I don't want to take any chances," Dick
said earnestly. "Let's go down stream. Spread out, and every
now and then bob under and take as near a look at the bottom as
"It doesn't look right," Dave admitted as they all started back.
Several times they went under water, the best swimmers among them
getting close to bottom. So they continued on down the stream
for some distance.
"Now, all together. Go under water all at the same time," ordered
Below the surface of the river they went. One after another their
heads presently appeared above the surface once more.
"Have you fellows lost anything?" quizzed Reade, suddenly appearing
on the bank.
"That's what I call a mean trick on us!" cried Dave, flushing
"You fellows were in for a swim, weren't you?" Reade drawled.
"You have been having it."
With that he took to the water himself. There was something so
jovial and harmless about Reade that, despite their recent anxiety
concerning him, they made no effort to duck him.
"The water is fine this morning," called Tom presently, as they
all swam about.
"Then why didn't you stay in?" demanded Darry rather cuttingly.
"Say, I'm beginning to feel glad that I waited breakfast for the
swim," Reade announced.
"Stick to the truth!" mocked Dick.
"But I really am beginning to feel that a little exercise is the
best course before breakfast," Tom declared.
"The next thing we hear," scoffed Hazy, "you'll be telling us
that you really don't want any breakfast."
"I'll tell you fellows what I'll do," Tom called. "I'll agree
to put off eating until noon if you'll all stick to the idea."
But that suggestion did not prove popular.
"I mean it," Reade insisted. "I hardly care, now, whether I eat
any breakfast or not."
"What's that noise below? Come on!" called Prescott, landing
and running along the bank. Tom was close behind him, the others
In their search for Tom they had gotten farther away from the
wagon than they realized. During their brief absence from the
spot two tramps had come upon the camp wagon and the piles of
discarded clothing. It was plain that the wagon contained all
that was needed for several meals---and the tramps were hungry.
Yet the only safe way to enjoy that food would be to partake of
it at a safe distance from the rightful owners.
For that reason, after a few whispered words, the tramps hastily
gathered up all the clothing of the high school swimmers, dumping
it in the wagon. Then they mounted to the seat.
Just as Dick Prescott and his chums broke from cover they beheld
the tramps in the act of driving from the woods out on the road.
Once in the road the tramps urged the horse to a gallop. It was
out of the question for the boys, clad as they were in only swimming
trunks to pursue the thieves.
"I---I---take back all I said about not wanting any breakfast!"
gasped Tom Reade, turning to his dismayed chums.
MAKING THE TRAMPS SQUIRM
"You come back here!" screamed Danny Grin desperately.
"Haven't time now," called one of the tramps jeeringly, while
his companion laid the whip over the startled horse.
With such a start as the tramps had they might be able to drive
a mile ere the running boys could overtake them.
Besides, both law and custom forbade six boys clad only in bathing
trunks from running along the highway.
"You'll find the wagon a few miles from here!" jeered the tramp
who held the reins. "We'll leave it when we're through with it.
But further words could not be heard for the wagon had vanished
from view at a turn in the road between the trees.
"We're in a bad pickle, now!" gasped Tom Reade.
But Dick, studying the lay of the land with swift glances, saw
just one chance. If the tramps turned the horse in the right
direction on gaining the highway-----
Dick broke off his thoughts there.
"Tom, you and Dave pursue a little way and travel like lightning,"
ordered young Prescott. "The rest of you pick up stones! Fast!
Come along now."
On reaching the highway the driver was forced to make a little
turn in order to cross the bridge, in case he decided to travel
in the direction that the boys had been going. So Dick dashed
ahead, hoping to profit by the one chance he saw.
Just as luck would have it, the tramps turned in the right direction.
The horse, galloping fast under the lash, struck his forefeet
on the bridge.
Whack! clatter! plug! Four high school boys, all of them baseball
players and proud of their straight throwing, sent a small shower
of rocks whizzing through the air.
These struck the bridge planks well ahead of the horse.
"Stop---or the next ones will hit you!" shouted young Prescott.
Just by way of suggestion he threw one stone that flew by within
a foot of the nearer tramp's head. Holmes duplicated the throw.
"Stop that!" yelled one of the tramps, but he brought the horse
to a standstill.
"Don't you throw any more stones!" yelled the tramp, as he saw
the four ball players poised ready for more work in that line.
"Then hold the horse where he is until we come and take him,"
"We won't, and don't you throw any more stones," ordered the tramp.
"Jerry, turn your pistol loose on the young cubs if they throw
another stone. Giddap!"
"That's a bluff. You haven't any pistol," Dick called to the
tramps coolly. "Just start that horse, and we'll knock both your
heads off with stones. We know how to throw 'em."
Splash! Greg Holmes had taken to the narrow river. Now he was
striking out lustily for the other side. In case the horse was
started Holmes would be there, with a handful of stones with which
to bombard the fugitives in passing.
"You fellers quit throwing stones, or you're going to get hurt!"
But the pause had accomplished the very thing for which Dick had
"Throw another stone," repeated the tramp, "and you'll get-----"
"Oh, tell it to the Senate!" broke in Tom Reade, climbing into
the wagon and seizing the speaker. Dave, who had crept up with
him, had gripped the other tramp by the collar.
Both tramps were thrown from the seat. Ere they could recover
from their astonishment, Reade and Darrin had leaped down upon
"In with them!" ordered Dick.
Two splashes, occurring almost in the same second, testified to
the tackling skill that Reade and Darrin had acquired on the gridiron.
Dick and his friends stood by to rescue the tramps, in case either
of them could not swim.
Both could, however, and struck out for the shore, abusing the
boys roundly as they swam.
Dave had seized the horse's bridle, and was now turning the animal
about. Tom walked on the other side of the wagon.
"Look out, Greg!" called Dick suddenly, as the tramps, gaining
the opposite shore, made a sudden rush at Holmes, who stood alone.
"I can take care of myself!" chuckled Greg gleefully, as dodging
backward, he poised his right hand to throw a stone. "Look out,
friends, unless you want to get hurt!"
Both tramps halted in a good deal of uncertainty. They wanted
to thrash this high school boy, but they didn't like the risk
of having their heads hurt by flying stones.
Two splashes on the other side of the river heralded the fact
that Dan and Harry had started to Greg's aid. The instant they
saw this, both men turned away from Greg, making a dash for the
Laughing, young Holmes followed them up with all the missiles
he had left. Not one dropped further than three feet from the
flying heels of the fugitives, yet not one struck either of the
tramps or was meant to do so.
"Come across, you three fellows," laughed young Prescott, when
the enemy had vanished in flight. You've all earned your breakfast
now, and you shall have it."
"As for me," spoke Tom from the wagon, as he drove into the forest
path, "I'm strong for putting on my clothes before I sit down
to dally with food."
Reade did not wait until he had driven the wagon where he and
his friends could dress away from the view of people on the road.
"The cast-iron cheek of those scoundrels!" vented Dave Darrin
"I rather think we are their debtors," smiled Dick quietly, as
he drew his shirt over his head.
"You do!" demanded Darry incredulously.
"Yes; just think of all the zest they've put into our morning,
and they didn't harm us, either."
"But just think of what it would have been like if we hadn't stopped
'em!" gasped Danny Grin solemnly. "We couldn't have chased 'em.
It wouldn't have been decent for us to go along the road, making
four miles to every five covered by the horse. No, sir! We'd
have had to remain hidden in the forest until we could signal
some farmer to send to our folks for clothes to put on. Wouldn't
it have been great, staying in the woods two or three days, with
nothing to eat, waiting for the proper clothing to enable us to
go out into the world again!"
"It was a mean trick!" cried Darry hotly; and then he began to
laugh as the ridiculous features of the situation appealed to him.
"But nothing serious happened," laughed Dick, "so we owe that
pair of tramps for a pleasant touch to the morning's sport."
"I wonder how many years since either of them has had a bath,
until this morning," grinned Reade, as he began to lace his shoes.
As Reade was dressed first, Dick called to him: "Take the horse
out of the shafts, Tom, and let him feed in comfort."
"You may," laughed Reade. "As for me, I've flirted with my breakfast
so long this morning, and have taken so many chances of not having
any, that now I'm going to make sure of that first of all."
So Dick himself attended to the horse. Dan was already gathering
firewood, which Dave piled into the stove in the wagon.
Soon water was boiling, coffee was being ground, tins opened,
and a general air of comfort and good fellowship prevailed in
"We'll have to give you the palm for being a good trainer, Dick,"
declared Tom, taking a bite out of a sandwich and following it
with a sip of coffee, "but you have one short-coming. You're
no fortune teller. So, as you can't foretell the future, I vote
that, after this, we breakfast in the morning and swim later in
the day. It would affect my heart in time, if we had to battle
every morning for our breakfast in this fashion."
"I can't get over the impudence of those tramps," muttered Darry,
as he set his coffee cup down. "They couldn't hope to get away
with the horse and wagon and sell them in these days of the rural
telephone. They couldn't use our clothing for themselves. And
yet they stole all we had in order to get hold of our food. At
that, they didn't care what became of us, or how long we had
to travel about in these woods without food or clothing."
"The tramps must be optimists," laughed Prescott. "Probably they
had an abiding faith that all would turn out well with us, and
so proposed to help themselves to what they needed."
"I wonder whether they'll fool with our outfit again," pondered
Tom grimly, "if they come across it in our absence."
"I don't know," said Dick gravely. "As you've already reminded
me, I am no foreteller of the future."
WHEN THE PEDDLER WAS "FRISKED"
It was a hot and dusty road that lay before them when they again
took up their march that day.
Yet Dick Prescott insisted that, despite the late start, they
must count upon covering twenty miles for that second day.
At night they halted on the edge of woods so far from the nearest
farm house that Prescott did not consider it necessary to hunt
up the owner and ask permission.
"Now, we'll have to see if we can find water here," Dick proposed.
"Let's scatter, and the fellow who finds drinkable water must
let out a yell to inform the others."
"I'll save you some trouble," Reade offered. "You fellows needn't
hunt water at all. Give me the buckets and I'll go and get it."
"Have you been in this part of the country before?" asked Dick.
"No; and I don't need to have been here before in order to know
that this ground is full of water," replied Reade, who was full
of practical knowledge of that sort. "If I were a civil engineer,
out with a field party, I'd mark this section 'water' on the map.
Look at the ground here under the trees. It's as moist as can
Tom departed, but barely two minutes had elapsed when he was back
with two pailfuls of water as clear as crystal.
"It's nearly as cold as ice water," Tom announced. "There's a
bully big spring just a few steps back in the woods."
"Then I'm going to use some of this to wash up," Darrin declared.
"I'll go with you on the next trip, Tom, and help carry the water."
"You'd better wait until we get the tent up before we wash," suggested
Prescott. "Then you'll need it more."
Quick work was made of the encamping. Dan and Greg, from the
wagon, passed down the tent itself, the floor boards and joists,
the cots and bedding and some of the food supplies.
Then all hands quickly put up the tent. Reade and Hazelton had
the flooring down in a jiffy. Dan and Greg put up the cots, while
Dick and Dave set up the folding camp table and started the fire
in the stove with a bundle of fagots brought in by Hazelton.
"Now, get busy with the wash-up," Dick called.
Within thirty minutes after halting, supper was on the table.
"How far from a swimming place this time?" Tom asked.
"Three miles, if I've studied the map right," replied Prescott,
taking the road map from his pocket and passing it over.
"To-morrow," said Dave, "some of us will swim in plain sight of
the outfit all the time."
"Do you think you can hike three miles and swim before breakfast
in the morning?" asked Dick.
"The way I feel now," said Tom, pushing his campstool back from
the table, "I shan't need anything to eat to-morrow."
"You must feel ill, then," declared Danny Grin.
"No; I feel just filed up enough to last for two or three days,"
sighed Reade contentedly.
Harry and Greg were a bit footsore, but the other boys claimed
to feel all right.
"Do any of you feel like taking an evening walk?" asked Dick with
"I do," Darrin declared promptly.
"Not I," replied Tom. "At least not so soon after supper."
"Shall we try the walk?" Dick asked Darrin.
"I'm ready," Dave agreed. "Come along, then." Though it was
dark, the two boys decided not to take a lantern with them.
"We don't need one on a public highway," said Dick as they plunged
off down the dark road.
"How far shall we go?" Darrin asked.
"I think two miles away from camp and two miles back, ought to
be far enough," Dick replied.
"If we feel like going farther, we can tackle it when the time
comes," Darrin answered. "But how shall we judge the distance?"
"We'll walk briskly for thirty-five to thirty-eight minutes,"
Prescott suggested. "Then we'll turn back. While we're out we
may get some idea of whether there's a swimming place nearer than
three miles from camp."
Neither felt in the least footsore. Indeed, these two hardy high
school boys thoroughly enjoyed their tramp in this cooler part
of the twenty-four hours.
"I wish we could live outdoors all the time," murmured Darrin,
as he filled his lungs with the fine night air.
"A lot of folks have felt that way," smiled Dick. "The idea is
all right, too, only the work of the civilized world couldn't
be carried on by a lot of tramps without homes or places of business."
"I've heard, or read," Darry went on, "that a tramp, after one
season on the road, is rarely ever reclaimed to useful work.
I think I can understand something of the fascination of the life."
"I can't see any fascination about being a tramp," Prescott replied
judicially. "First of all, he becomes a vagabond, who prefers
idleness to work. Then, too, he becomes dirty, and I can't see
any charm in a life that is divorced from baths. From mere idleness
the tramp soon finds that petty thieving is an easy way to get
along. If I were going to be a thief at all, I'd want to be an
efficient one. No stealing of wash from a clothes-line, or of
pies from a housekeeper's pantry, when there are millions to be
stolen in the business world."
"Now, you're laughing at me," uttered Dave.
"No; I'm not."
"But you wouldn't steal money if you had millions right under
your hand where you could get away with the stuff," protested
"I wouldn't," Dick agreed promptly. "I wouldn't steal anything.
Yet it's no worse, morally, to steal a million dollars from a
great bank than it is to steal a suit of clothes from a house
whose occupants are absent. All theft is theft. There are no
degrees of theft. The small boy who would steal a nickel or a
dime from his mother would steal a million dollars from a stranger
if he had the chance and the nerve to commit the crime. All tramps,
sooner or later, become petty thieves. Thieving goes with the
life of idleness and vagabondage."
"I don't know about that," argued Dave. "A lot of men become
tramps just through hard luck. I don't believe all of them steal,
even small stuff."
"I believe they do, if they remain tramps," Dick insisted. "No
man is safe who will deliberately go through life without earning
his way. The man who starts with becoming idle ends with becoming
vicious. This doesn't apply to tramps alone. Any day's newspaper
will furnish you with stories of the vicious doings of the idle
sons of rich men. Unless a man has an object in life, and works
directly toward it all the time, he is in danger."
"I'd hate to believe that every ragged tramp I meet is a criminal,"
"He is, if he remains a tramp long enough," Dick declared with
emphasis. "Take the tramps we met this morning. Look at all
the trouble they were taking to rob us of food for a meal or two."
"There may have been an element of mischief in what they did,"
Dave hinted. "They may have done it just as a lark."
"They were thieves by instinct," Dick insisted. "They would have
stolen anything that they could get away with safely. Hello!
There's a light over there in the woods."
"Another camping party?" Dave wondered.
"Tramps, more likely. Suppose we speak low and advance with caution
until we know where we are and whom we're likely to meet."
In silence the high school boys drew nearer. The light proved
to come from a campfire that had been lighted some fifty feet
from the road.
"Yes, you have!" insisted a harsh voice, as the boys drew nearer.
"Don't try to fool with us. Turn over your money, or we'll make
you wish you had!"
"Why, it's our tramps of this morning," whispered Dave.
"And look at that wagon---the peddler's!" Dick whispered in answer.
"Come, now, old man! Turn over your money, unless you want us
to frisk you for it!" continued a voice.
"There are your honest tramps, Dave," Prescott whispered.
Then his eyes flashed, for, by the light of the campfire the lads
saw the tramps seize frightened Reuben Hinman on either side and
literally turn him upside down, the old man's head hitting the
"Don't make any noise," whispered Prescott, "but we won't stand
"We surely won't!" Darry agreed with emphasis.
"Come on, now---soft-foot!"
As the tramps jostled Mr. Hinman, upside down and yelling with
fright, a sack containing the peddler's money rolled from one
of the peddler's trousers pockets.
"Shake him again! There'll be more than that coming!" jeered
one of the tramps.
But just then they let go their hold of the old man, for Dick
Prescott and Dave Darrin rushed in out of the darkness, dealing
blows that sent the tramps swiftly to earth.
Yet the two high school boys were now doomed to pay the penalty
of not having scouted a bit before rushing in.
For the two tramps were not the only ones of their kind at hand.
Out of the shadows under the surrounding trees came a rush of
feet, accompanied by hoarse yells.
Then, before they had had time fully to realize just what was
happening, Prescott and Darrin found themselves suddenly in the
midst of the worst fight they had ever seen in their lives.
"Beat 'em up!" yelled the man whom Dick had knocked down. "I
know these young fellers! They put up a bad time for us this
morning. Beat 'em up and make a good job of it, too."
There was no use whatever in contending with such odds. Yet Dick
and Dave fought with all their might, only to be borne to the
ground, where they received severe punishment.
DICK IMITATES A TAME INDIAN
"Hello! hello!" yelled Tom Reade, pacing up and down the road
with his lantern, holding his watch in the other hand. "Oh, Dick!
But up the road there sounded no answer. Looking utterly worried,
Reade came back into camp.
"I don't like the looks of this, fellows," he announced. "There's
something wrong. Something has happened to one or both of the
fellows. They left here before eight o'clock, and now it's twenty
minutes of eleven. If everything had been all right, they'd have
been back here by half-past nine o'clock at the latest."
"Suppose we haul down the tent, pack the outfit and move on down
the road, looking for some trace of them," proposed Greg.
"No; that would delay the start too much," Tom replied, with a
shake of his head. "Whoever goes out to hunt for Dick and Dave
must move fast and not be tied to a horse and wagon. I'm going,
for one. Who will go with me?"
"I will," promptly answered Dan, Harry and Greg, all in one breath.
"We'll have to leave one fellow to watch the camp," Reade answered,
with a shake of his head. "Hazy, I'm afraid the lot will have
to fall to you."
"I'd rather go with you," Hazelton declared.
"Of course you would," Tom assented. "But at least one good man
must stay here and look after our outfit. So you stay, Harry,
and Dan and Greg will go with me."
"Going to take the lantern?" asked Greg, jumping up.
"Yes," Tom nodded, "but we won't light it unless we need it.
Just for finding our footing at some dark part of the road the
electric flash light will do."
Full of anxiety the trio set out on their search.
But in the meantime, what of Dick and Dave?
Theirs had been a busy evening. After the first rough pummeling,
which left them breathless and sore, the tramp who had directed
the rough work turned to his friends of the road.
"These young gents have furnished us with some exercise," he grinned
wickedly. "Now, suppose we make 'em supply us with a little amusement?"
"It's risky, close to the road," returned one of the tramps who
had been back in the shadows. "We don't know when someone will
come along and butt in on our sport."
"Two of our crowd can go out as scouts," replied the ringleader.
"They'd better," nodded the adviser, "and even then we'd better
take the cart, the old man and these young gents further back
into the woods."
Neither Dick nor Dave had said anything so far, for they were
too sore, and too much exhausted.
At the leader's command two men went down to the road, to watch
in both directions.
"Give the whistle---you know the one---if anyone comes along that's
likely to spoil the fun," was the ringleader's order.
Reuben Hinman had been deprived of the last dollar in money that
he had with him. Quaking and subdued, the old man obeyed the
order to mount his cart and drive the rig farther into the woods.
"Take the young gents along, and see that they behave themselves,"
directed the ringleader.
Dick and Dave did not yet feel in condition to offer any resistance
or defiance. Even with the two "scouts" out on the road there
were still six of the tramps left to take care of them.
The odds looked too heavy for another fight it when the last one
had been so unsuccessful.
As Dick and Dave got to their feet and started along, followed
and watched by the tramps, Dick tottered closer to his companion,
managing to whisper:
"We've got to gain time, Dave. Pretend to be weak---crippled---badly
That was all. Prescott fell away again without his whisper having
been detected by their captors.
Before quitting the spot near the road the ringleader had scattered
the campfire so effectually that the embers would soon die out.
A full eighth of a mile back from the road the order was given
to Hinman to rein in his horse.
"We're far enough from the road, now, so that we ain't likely
to be spotted," said the boss tramp. "Now, let's see what these
young gents can do to amuse us. Maybe they know how to sing and
But Dick had sunk wearily to the ground, forcing his breath to
come in rapid gasps.
"Get up there, younker," ordered the boss tramp.
"You've hurt me," moaned Dick, speaking the truth, though trying
to convey a stronger impression than the facts would warrant.
"And we may hurt you more if you don't get cheerful and help make
the evening pass pleasantly," sneered the boss tramp harshly.
"Wait till I---get so---I can get my breath---easier," begged
The boss turned to Darrin.
"Young fellow, wot can you do in the entertaining line?" demanded
the fellow leeringly.
"Nothing," Dave retorted sulkily. "After you've kicked a fellow
so that he's so sore he can scarcely move, do you expect him to
do a vaudeville turn right away?"
"Get 'em on their feet," ordered the boss tramp. "We'll show
'em a few things!"
But Dick protested dolefully, sinking back to the ground as soon
as the tramp who had hold of him showed a little compassion by
letting go of his arm.
"Give me time, I tell you," Dick insisted in a weak voice. "Don't
try to kill us, on top of such a thrashing as you gave us."
"Let go of me," urged Darry still speaking sulkily. "If you want
anything better than a sob song you'll have to give me time to
get my breath back."
As though satisfied that they could get no sport out of the high
school boys for the present, the tramps allowed them to lie on
the ground, breathing fitfully and groaning.
Dick was watching his chance to get up and bolt, depending upon
his speed as a football player to take him out of this dangerous
company. Darrin was equally watchful---but so were the tramps.
Plainly the latter did not intend to let their prey get away
from them easily.
As for Reuben Hinman, obeying a command, the peddler had alighted
from his wagon and now sat with his back against a tree. He had
no thought of trying to get away, well knowing that his aged legs
would not carry him far in a dash for freedom. The peddler's
wearied horse stood and dozed between the shafts.
"It's about time for you younkers to be doing something," urged
the boss tramp, after some minutes had slipped away.
"If you'll find the strength for me to stand up," urged Dick,
"maybe I can dance, or do something."
"Did we muss you up as much as that?" demanded the boss tramp.
"It serves you right, then. You shouldn't have meddled in our
pastimes. Maybe it was all right for you fellers to get your
horse and wagon back this morning, but you shouldn't have meddled
"I guess maybe that's right," nodded Darrin sulkily, "but you
went in too strong in getting even. You had no call to cripple
us for life."
"Oh, I guess it ain't as bad as that," muttered the boss tramp,
though there was uneasiness in his voice.
So the tramps sat and smoked about a fire that one of their number
had lighted. Another fifteen minutes went by.
"Come, it's time for you fellers to get busy, and give us
something---songs, dances, comic recitations, or something like that.
That's what we brought you here for," declared the boss, rising and
prodding Darrin with one foot.
But Dave gave forth no sign. His eyes were half open, yet he
appeared to see nothing.
"Here, what have you been doing to my friend?" demanded Dick,
crawling as if feebly over to where Darry lay. "Great Scott!
You haven't injured him, have you?"
Dick acted his part as well as Dave did, but the boss tramp was
not inclined to be nervous.
"No," he retorted shortly. "We haven't done much to either of
you young fellers not a quarter as much as we're going to do if
you don't both of you quit your nonsense soon. Help 'em up, now."
Dick allowed himself to be lifted to his feet and supported in
a standing position by one of the most powerful-looking of the
tramps. Darrin, however, continued to act as if he were almost
"Give him the water cure," ordered the boss tramp, in an undertone
to one of his confederates.
Going to the peddler's wagon the one so directed took down a pail.
He went off in the darkness, but soon came back with a pail of
water. Slipping up slyly, he dashed the water full in Darry's
With a gasping cry of rage Dave Darrin started to spring to his
feet. Then, remembering his part, he sank back again to the ground.
"Raise him," directed the boss tramp. "He'll find his legs and
stand on 'em. We are not going to let this show wait any longer!"
So Dave was roughly jerked to his feet. He swayed with pretended
dizziness, next tottered to a tree, throwing his arms around it.
"You start something!" ordered the boss tramp of Prescott.
Feeling that now the chance might come for both of them to make
a break for liberty, Dick answered, with a sheepish grin:
"If I can get wind enough I'll see if I can do an Indian war song
"Go ahead with it," ordered the boss. "It sounds good."
Once, three or four years ago, Dick had heard and seen such a
war song and dance done at an Indian show in the summer time.
"I'll see if I can remember it," he replied.
Crooning in guttural tones, he started a swaying motion of his
body. Gradually the unmelodious noise rose in volume. Brandishing
his hands as though they contained weapons, he circled about the
tree, gradually drawing nearer to Darrin.
"That song is mighty poor stuff," growled one of the tramps.
"Ready, Dave! Make a swift break for it!" whispered Prescott.
REUBEN HINMAN PROVES HIS METTLE
Uttering a loud whoop, Dick pushed Dave lightly.
At the same instant both young football players gathered for the
spring, then started to speed away.
But they had had no chance to be quick enough, for some of the
tramps had moved closer.
Both fugitives were seized, and now the battle was on again---two
boys against overwhelming odds.
Right at the outset, however, a new note sounded.
"Go into it!" roared Tom Reade's voice. "Give 'em an old-fashioned
high school drubbing."
Three more figures hurled themselves into the fray. And now,
indeed, the battle raged. On the part of the high school boys
there was no longer any thought of retreat, though it was still
a matter of six men against five lads.
In the excitement of their friends' arrival, Dick and Dave were
able to wrench themselves free.
Though those on the defense were boys, they were boys of good
size, whose muscles had been hardened by regular training, as
well as by grilling work on the football field.
Reade, in his first onset, hit one of the tramps such a blow that
the fellow went to earth, where, though conscious, he preferred
to remain for a while. Then it was five against five. But Dan
soon got in a belt-line blow that put another tramp out of the
From the road the two scouts ran up. When they saw, however,
how the fight was going, they slunk off.
It was soon all but over. The boss tramp, however, armed with
a club, crept up behind Prescott, aiming a savage blow at his
The blow would have landed, but for a new interruption.
With a cry that was more of a scream of alarm, old Reuben Hinman
threw himself forward into the fray. Both his lean arms were
wrapped around the tramp's legs.
Down came the tramp, just as Dick wheeled, falling heavily across
Reuben Hinman, knocking the breath from the peddler.
Tom and Dave seized the boss tramp, as he tried to get up, hurling
him back to the earth and sitting upon him.
"Let me up! Lemme go!" yelled the tramp.
"Keep cool," advised Tom. "You're likely to stay with us a while."
"Don't let him go," cried Prescott. "That wretch has all of Mr.
Hinman's money in his pockets."
"He'll give it up, then," guessed Reade.
"Come back here, you men!" roared the boss tramp, finding that
all his fellows had fled.
"Call 'em all you want," mocked Reade. "They won't come back.
They're too wise for that."
Dick, having given the order for the holding of the one tramp
who remained, now gave all his attention to Reuben Hinman.
"The poor old man must be rather badly hurt," Prescott declared.
"I can't get him to talk. Did you fellows bring a lantern with
The lantern was lit and brought forward.
"I don't know what the matter is with him," said Dick at last.
"But that's all the more reason why we must get him where he
can have attention. The village of Dunfield is four miles below
here. We must get him there at once. And we'll march the hobo
there, too, in the hope that the village has a lock-up."
"It hasn't," snarled the tramp.
"Oh, we wouldn't take your word on a vital point like that," jeered
"The first thing you'll do will be to give back this poor old
man's money," Dick went on, eyeing the tramp.
"I haven't got it," came the prompt denial. "I turned it over
to Joe and Bill, and they've got away with it."
"You're not going to like us a bit, my man," smiled Prescott.
"We are not the kind of fellows to take your word for anything.
We're going to see whether or not you have the money. We're
going through your clothing for it. Poor old Mr. Hinman will
need it for the care that I am afraid he is going to require.
Search the fellow, Tom."
Greg now aided Dave in holding the vagabond. The tramp made such
a commotion during the search that Dick and Greg added their help
in holding him.
Out of a trousers' pocket Tom dragged the peddler's money sack.
It was still tied.
"Let me have it," said Dick, and took it over by the campfire,
where he untied the sack and peered into it.
"There's a roll of bills and at least ten, dollars in change in
the sack," Dick announced, "so I think that none of the money
has been taken."
"That's my money you've got," snarled the tramp.
"Tell that to the Senate!" Tom suggested.
Greg and Dan now aided Dick in lifting Mr. Hinman to the floor
of his wagon, where they laid him on a pile of rags. Mr. Hinman
was breathing, and his pulse could be distinctly felt.
"Dave, I guess you and I had better go along with the wagon,"
Dick suggested. "Now, see here, Tom, you and the other fellows
go back to camp and act just as if we were all there. Start in
the morning, as usual. You ought to be in Fenton by noon to-morrow.
If Dave and I don't join you before that time, then you'll find
us at Fenton."
"What are you going to do with the hobo?" Reade wanted to know.
"Roll him over on his face and tie his hands. Then we'll hitch
him to the back of Mr. Hinman's wagon, and I'll walk with him
and see that he goes along without making trouble, while Dave
At this moment Reade alone was occupied in sitting on the captive,
Dave having risen when it was suggested that he go with Dick to
"Here---quick!" yelled Reade, as the boss tramp gave a sudden
But like a flash the hobo sprang up and darted off through the
darkness. Tom, Dave and Dan started in swift pursuit, but the
tramp soon doubled on his pursuers in the darkness and got away.
"Let him go," counseled Dick. "We've enough else to occupy our
So Greg ran out to pass the word to the pursuers to discontinue
the chase. Tom, when he returned, was very angry.
"You'd no business to leave the fellow like that, Darry," he growled,
"and I was a big fool not to be better on my guard. That fellow
will make trouble for us yet---see if he doesn't."
"There was no use in chasing him any further, if he eluded you
in the darkness," Dick remarked. "Dave, you get up on the wagon
beside Mr. Hinman. I'll drive his horse."
Only as far as the road did Tom Reade, Dan and Greg accompany
them, going ahead with the lantern to show the way.
"Now, you know the plan, Tom," Dick called quietly. "Fenton---at
"Good luck to you two!" called Reade. "And keep your eyes open
"It will be someone else's trouble, if we meet any," laughed Darrin
"I wonder how it was that Tom and the other fellows didn't run
into one of the scouts that the tramps had out," said Dick, after
they had driven a short distance.
"Tom told me that they did catch a glimpse of a scout prowling
by the road side, so they went around him," Darrin replied. "They
slipped past the fellow without his seeing them."
As Dick held the reins he also eyed the dark road closely as they
went along. He was not blind to the fact that the tramps might
reassemble and rush the wagon, for these vagabonds would want
both the peddler's money and what they would consider suitable
revenge on the high school boys, for their part in the night's
However, the village of Dunfield was reached without further adventure.
Dave woke up the head of a family living in one of the cottages,
and from him learned where to find the local physician. Then
Dick drove to the medical man's house.
Dr. Haynes came downstairs at the first ring of the door bell,
helping the boys to bring the still unconscious peddler inside.
There, under a strong light, with the peddler stretched on an
operating table, the physician looked Reuben Hinman over.
"I can't find evidence of any bones being broken," said the physician.
"It's my opinion that shock and exhaustion have done their work.
Reuben is a very hard-working old man."
"Then you know him?" Dick asked.
"Everyone in this part of the country knows Reuben," replied the
doctor. "He's one of our characters."
"He must have a hard life of it, and make rather a poor living,"
"I guess he would make a good enough living, if-----" began the
physician, then checked himself.
"Are you going to bring the man to consciousness, doctor?" asked
"Yes; after I get a few things ready. I don't believe we'll have
much trouble with him, though we'll have to get Reuben home and
make him rest for a few days."
"Where does he live?" Dick inquired.
"In Fenton. Reuben has a queer little old home of his own there."
"Has he a wife?" Dick asked.
"She died fifteen years ago."
"Are there any children to look after Mr. Hinman?" Darry asked.
"He has children, but---well, they don't live with him," replied
Dr. Haynes, as though not caring to discuss the subject.
Then the physician went to work over the peddler, who presently
opened his eyes.
"Drink some of this," ordered the physician. "Now, you begin
to feel better, don't you, Reuben?"
"Yes; and I've got to get up right away and see what I can do
about getting back my money," cried the peddler.
"Don't try to get up just yet," ordered Dr. Haynes.
"If your money is worrying you, Mr. Hinman, I have it," Dick broke
in, showing the sack.
A cry of joy escaped the peddler. He sank back, murmuring:
"You're good boys! I knew you were good boys!"
"You take the money, Doctor, if you please, and turn it over to
Mr. Hinman when he's able to count it," urged Prescott, handing
the sack to their host.
"Now, Mr. Hinman will want to sleep a little while, so we'll go
outside and chat, if you've nothing pressing to do," suggested
Dick and Dave thought they might learn more about the odd peddler,
but Reuben Hinman's affairs was one subject that the physician
did not seem inclined to talk about.
"Now, if you young men want to take Reuben over to Fenton," said
Dr. Haynes, at last, "I'll telephone Dr. Warren from here, and
he'll be expecting you. It'll take you about two hours to get
over to Fenton at the gait that old Reuben's horse travels."
This time a mattress was placed on top of the pile of rags, and
the peddler was made as comfortable as possible for the trip.
"Remember, Reuben, you've got to stay in the house and take care
of yourself for three or four days," was Dr. Haynes' parting injunction.
"I can't spare the time from my business," groaned the old man.
"You'll have to, this time, Reuben, as the means of being ready
to do more business. So be good about it. You have two fine
lads taking care of you to-night."
"I know that, Doctor."
It was five o'clock in the morning when Dick and Dave drove into
the main street of Fenton. Yet they found an automobile in the
road, and Dr. Warren, a very young man, hailed them.
"Drive right along, boys. I'll show you the way to the house,"
called the Fenton physician.
It was a very small and very plain little house of five rooms
into which Reuben was carried, but it was a very neatly kept little
Reuben Hinman was put to bed and made as comfortable as possible.
"Are there any relatives to take care of this man?" Dick asked.
"There are relatives," replied Dr. Warren, with an odd smile,
"but I guess we won't ask any of them to care for Reuben. There
are a couple of good women among the neighbors, and I'll call
them to come over here soon."
It was after six in the morning when Dr. Warren left the peddler,
with two motherly looking women to take care of him.
Dr. Warren, after some conversation with the boys, returned to
"As this is where we're going to meet Tom and the other fellows,"
said Dick, "I propose that we see if we can find a restaurant
and have something to eat. Then we'll try to hire a couple of
beds and leave a call for noon. I'm both hungry and fagged out."
They found the restaurant without difficulty, and also succeeded
in hiring two cots in an upstairs room over the restaurant.
"Reuben Hinman is becoming a good deal of a puzzle to me," murmured
Dave Darrin, as the chums ate their breakfast.
"He's almost a man of mystery," agreed Dick, "though not quite,
except to us. I imagine that these Fenton people know all about
our peddler friend."
"Both doctors seemed to know a lot about the old man," remarked
Dave thoughtfully. "Yet it was strange; neither of them would
really tell us anything definite about Mr. Hinman."
"If doctors told all they know about people." smiled Dick, "I
believe that life would become exciting for a while, but before
long there would be fewer doctors in the world than there are now."
At just twelve o'clock Dick and Dave were called. They sprang
up, somewhat drowsy, yet on the whole greatly refreshed. After
washing they dressed and went forth in search of their camp outfit
TOM IDEALIZES WORKING CLOTHES
After the reunion at Fenton the high school boys enjoyed many
days of "hiking" and of all-around good times, yet nothing happened
in that interval that requires especial chronicling.
Nor in that time did Dick & Co. hear any more of Reuben Hinman,
as they were now some distance from Fenton.
"We'll make Ashbury to-night," Dick announced one morning. "We'll
go about two miles past the town, halt there for two or three
days' rest, and then---back to good old Gridley for ours."
"Gridley's all right. Fine old town," Tom declared. "But as
for me, I wish we didn't have to go back there for another two
months, instead of feeling that we have to be there in a fortnight
"This has been a great hike," Dick agreed, "and a fortnight of
life of a kind that has had nothing but joy in it. Yet we've
the years ahead to think of, haven't we?"
"What has that got to do with going back to Gridley?" demanded
"Well, what are we going to the high school for?" questioned Dick
"I'm going because the folks send me," Dan declared. "Can't help
"Don't you want to get anywhere in life?"
"I suppose I do," Dalzell assented half dubiously.
"Danny boy, I'm ashamed of you," Dick exclaimed, though his eyes
were smiling. "Are you content, Dan, to grow up and use your
fine muscles in performing the duties of a day laborer?"
"Not exactly," Dan answered.
"You'd rather be president of a big railroad company?"
"Yes, if I had to choose between the two jobs."
"Then perhaps you can get a glimmering of why you're in high school,"
Dick went on. "When you compare the railway president and the
laborer, the difference between them lies a good deal in the difference
in their natural abilities. Yet a lot depends, too, upon the
difference in their training. You don't find many college graduates
wielding the pick and shovel for a living, nor many high school
graduates doing so, either. By the way, Dan, what are you going
to do in life?"
Dalzell shook his head.
"Then within the next year you had better go after the problem
and make your decision hard and fast. Fasten your gaze on something
in life that you want, and then don't stop traveling until you
get it, and it's all yours! A boy of seventeen, without an idea
of what he intends to do in life has already turned down the lane
that leads to the junk heap. Get out of that road, Danny!"
"What are you going to do in life yourself?" challenged Danny Grin.
"I'm going to West Point if there's any possible chance of my
winning the nomination from our home district. There's a vacancy
to be competed for next spring."
"Some smarter boy may win it away from you," Danny Grin retorted.
"He'll have to hustle, then," Dick rejoined, his eyes flashing.
"But suppose you do lose the nomination and can't go to West
Point---what will you do then?"
"I have plans, in case I can't get to West Point," Prescott answered
quietly. "However, as yet I won't admit the defeat of my West
"I'd try for West Point myself, if it weren't for Dick being in
the way," Greg declared. "But I never could get past Dick in
"If you want it, come on and try," begged Dick. "Our Congressman
gives the nomination to the boy in the district who can stand
up best under an exam. Go in and try for it, Greg! Work like
a horse when high school opens. You might get it."
"And take it away from you?" blurted Holmes.
"If you can get it from me, you ought to do it, Holmesy. The
best men are needed in every walk of life. I'll promise, in
advance, not to be 'sore' if you can win it away from me."
"Yes! I'd try all winter," scoffed Greg, "and then in the end
some sad-eyed fellow from a back-country village would bob up
and win it away from us both."
"Let the sad-eyed fellow have it, if he is the better man," Dick
agreed heartily. "But fear of defeat isn't going to hold me back.
Don't let it stop you, either, Greg!"
"It's going to be Annapolis for mine---the United States Naval
Academy and a commission in the United States Navy!" Darry declared,
his eyes snapping.
"I'd rather like that, too," Danny Grin declared.
"Then go after it," urged Dick Prescott. "Get some real plan
in your mind of what you're going to do in life, and then follow
that plan, night and day, until you either win or drop from exhaustion."
"Wouldn't I be a funny-looking lamb in a midshipman's uniform?"
queried Dalzell blinking fast.
"No funnier looking than any of the rest of us," Dick retorted.
"Now, Tom isn't talking much, but we all know what he's going
to do, for he has already been working at it. He has been studying
surveying, for he means to make a great civil engineer of himself
one of these days."
"And I'm going into the game with him," declared Hazelton.
"That's because you've always had Tom about to tell you what to
do, and to keep you from butting your head into things in the
dark," jeered Danny Grin. "Hazy, you're going to become an engineer
just because you shiver at the thought of trying to do anything
in life without having old Tommy Long-legs to advise you when
to wash your face or come in out of the rain."
"Harry is a pretty bright surveyor already," Tom declared. "He
has been keeping mum about it, but Harry can go out into the country
with a transit and run up the field notes for a map about as handily
as the next kid in his teens."
"I should think you'd like the Army or the Navy, Tom," mused Dalzell
"Nothing doing," Reade retorted. "I want to be one of the big
and active men of the world, who do big things. I want to map
out the wilderness. I want to dam the raging flood and drive
the new railroad across the desert. I want to construct. I want
to work day and night when the big deeds are to be done. That's
why I wouldn't care for the Army or Navy; it's too idle a life."
"An idle life!" exclaimed Dick and Dave in the same breath.
"Yes," Tom went on dryly. "Did you ever see an Army or a Navy
"I've seen several of them," Dick replied, "and have talked with
some of them."
"Same here," added Darrin.
"Did you see the officers in uniform?" Reade pressed.
"Yes, of course-----" said Prescott.
"Their uniforms were nice and neat, weren't they?" Tom asked.
"Of course," Prescott answered.
"Then that was because your Army or Navy officers hadn't been
doing any hard work that would ruffle the neatness of their uniforms,"
finished Tom triumphantly, "and there you are! I can dress up
on Sundays or holidays, but on the work days, when I'm a civil
engineer, I want to wear clothes that show that I'm not afraid
to tackle the rough and hard things of life."
"Then you might join Dan in being a day laborer," teased Dick
"Oh, no! I want to use my brain along with my muscles, and that's
why I'm going to be a civil engineer."
"Army a Navy officers may have had an easy time of it once," Dave
went on warmly, but times have changed. Our fighting men, to-day,
are obliged to hustle all the time to keep up with the march and
progress of science. I asked an Army officer, once, what he did
in his spare time. He looked at me rather queerly, then replied,
"He was lazy as well as offensively neat, then," laughed Tom.
"As for me, I enjoy my old clothes, and that is one of the reasons
why I'm having so much fun out of this trip. I don't have to
"You'd feel first rate if you could be dressed up for a few hours,
go into a hotel dining room, have a good meal and then slip into
a ballroom for a dance," laughed Prescott.
"Bosh!" flared Tom. "I'm no dandy, and all I want is to be a
"How do you stand, Harry?" grinned Dave Darrin. "Do you agree
with Tom that dirt is the best stuff with which to decorate one's
"I never said that," broke in Tom hotly. "I'm as ready for a
bath and clean clothing as any of you. I like to wear old
clothes---not soiled ones!"
"If anyone happens to overhear us talking," laughed Hazy, "he'll
think that we're all planning to take up prize fighting as our
work in life."
"I don't like to hear the officers of the Army and Navy scoffed
at as a lot of idling, time-wasting dandies," Darry asserted.
"And I don't like to be accused of liking dirt on my clothes,
just because I am going to be a civil engineer," Tom explained
in a milder voice.
An ideal bit of green forest, at the edge of a limpid lake, appealed
to Dick & Co. as the noon stopping place.
"I've a good mind to fish," remarked Danny Grin.
"Go ahead, if you want to," Dick assented, "but we've got a lot
of fresh meat that we simply must cook this noon, for it may not
keep until night."
"It would take you an hour or more, even though the fish bit readily,
to catch enough fish to feed this little multitude," Tom remarked.
"I don't want to wait that long for my meal to-day."
"I don't believe I want to wait, either," Dalzell agreed, and
gave up the idea of fishing.
Luncheon went on in record time that morning. It was not later
than half-past eleven o'clock when they sat down to the meal,
and but a few minutes past noon when the dishes were stacked up,
ready to be washed.
"Whizz-zz!" whistled Dave, as the sounds made by a swiftly driven
automobile reached their ears. "Someone is hurrying to get his
noon meal. Just hear that old spurt wagon throb!"
The boys sat some hundred feet in from the highway. The automobile
did not interest them much until-----
Then the car stopped with a scraping sound.
"Gracious!" exclaimed Danny Grin, jumping up at the sound of the
explosion. Then he sat down once more, looking sheepish.
"Give up the Annapolis bee, Danny boy," laughed Tom. "That was
nothing but a tire blowing out. If you got into the Navy, and
a fourteen-inch gun went off when you weren't expecting it, you'd
be half way to the planet Neptune before your comrades could call
"How easily we make light of other people's troubles," mused Prescott.
"What makes you say that?" asked Darrin.
"Why, for instance, that party down in the road has been stopped
by a blown-out tire. Probably they were in a hurry to get somewhere,
too. Now, they're delayed perhaps a half an hour, but it doesn't
give us a flicker of concern."
"It interests me, anyway," Reade announced, rising. "Anything
in the mechanical line does. It may even be that the man driving
that car doesn't know just how to put on a new tire. I'm going
to saunter down and see."
Five members of Dick & Co. didn't take the trouble even to glance
keenly at the halted car.
Tom took a dozen steps, then suddenly shouted back:
"Fellows, your indifference will vanish, now. Look who's here!"
TROUBLE WITH THE RAH-RAH-RAHS
A broad-shouldered man, his back to Dick & Co., was assisting
a middle-aged woman to alight from the car.
As Tom's voice reached their ears five girls exclaimed in delight,
then began to wave their hands in most friendly fashion.
Dick & Co. were on the run by this time, for the broad-shouldered
man was Dr. Bentley, the woman Mrs. Bentley, and the five girls
Laura Bentley, Belle Meade, Susie Sharp, Clara Marshall and Anita
"Hm! Young men, I'm beginning to feel annoyed," remarked Dr.
Bentley with pretended severity, though he shook hands pleasantly
enough with the boys. "Whenever Mrs. Bentley and I take some
of Laura's friends for a spin anywhere you appear to have our
route and you bob up on the map."
"Then we'll withdraw, sir, at once," Dick suggested.
"No, you won't," retorted the doctor. "Young Reade is engaged,
on the spot, to help me fit on a new tire. Perhaps Hazelton will
help. The rest of you may disappear, and take the ladies with
you, if you will. Yet, really, it looks as though you learn our
route and follow it."
"That isn't fair, doctor," Dave rejoined. "We're on foot, and
have been away from Gridley for something over a fortnight. It
is you who must have been following us, with that seven-passenger
automobile of yours. And may I remind you, sir, that you wouldn't
have bursted the tire if you hadn't been driving at something
under a hundred and eighty miles an hour in the effort to overtake
"I'm beaten", laughed Dr. Bentley. "I take it all back. I agree
that the appearances are all against me. But I didn't know that
you young scions of Gridley were on the road. I was driving fast
in order to bring the ladies to Ashbury in time for luncheon.
And now, they won't get it."
"Small loss to them, and great gain to us," smiled Dick. "We
have provisions enough in our wagon to offer all the luncheon
that your party can possibly care to eat."
"No, no! We've encroached upon your hospitality too often in
the past," replied Dr. Bentley, with a shake of his head. "We
won't be delayed long. Just how long, Reade, do you think it
is going to take us to fit on the new tire?"
"The car ought to be ready to run again in fifteen minutes," Tom
"And we can make Ashbury in another fifteen minutes," Laura's
father continued. "So we won't rob the pantry of Dick & Co. to-day."
Dick and three of his chums conducted Mrs. Bentley and the five
high school girls in under the trees. Of course the girls wanted
to see the outfit, though it was now packed on the wagon.
"Are you going far, this trip?" Dick inquired.
"Ashbury will be the end of our run," Mrs. Bentley answered.
"And of ours, too," Dick nodded. "We agreed to that this morning."
"But we are to stay at Ashbury two or three days," Laura added.
"Dad has been making arrangements for us at the hotel there,
and he calls it a fine summer place. We know some people who
are stopping there now, so we are going to have a pleasant little
time of it, I expect. When do you reach Ashbury, Dick?"
"To-night," Prescott answered.
"Mother," Laura went on, "aren't you going to invite the boys
to luncheon at the hotel tomorrow?"
"I shall be delighted to do so, if they will accept," replied
Mrs. Bentley smiling.
"We'd cause a sensation in the hotel, wouldn't we?" laughed Danny
Grin, looking down ruefully at his dusty "hike clothes."
"You have other clothing with you, haven't you?" asked Susie Sharp.
"Nothing better than what we're wearing now," Greg replied.
"Come, just the same, anyway," urged Mrs. Bentley. "You boys
are on a rough trip, and you're not expected to have large wardrobes
with you. So I shall expect you all at the Ashbury Terraces by
"And there's to be a dance there to-morrow night," Belle continued,
a trifle mischievously. "Of course, you will come to the dance."
"Yes---if you invite us!" Dick took up the challenge thus unexpectedly.
"Then you're surely invited," laughed Susie Sharp. "Aren't they,
"Yes; if they promise to come," agreed the doctor's wife. "And,
perhaps, they would rather dine than lunch with us, and then they
can attend the dance after dinner."
"That would be much better, thank you," Dick replied gratefully.
But the other fellows eyed him askance, in wondering amazement.
What on earth could Dick mean by accepting for himself and chums
a dinner and dance invitation when they had nothing to wear save
their road-worn and travel-stained hiking clothes?
"Dick is getting careless---making such an engagement for us for
to-morrow evening," Tom confided to Hazelton, when the news was
related to him.
"Well, you won't need to mind, anyway," laughed Harry gleefully.
"You, of all fellows, can't kick, Tom, after the way you've been
glorifying life in one's working clothes."
Dr. Bentley was delighted to have such capable young men as Reade
and Hazelton on hand to put on the new tire, for the man of medicine,
though a clever surgeon in some lines, was but little of a machinist.
He worked with finer tools than those that his repair box carried.
Twenty minutes later the new tire was on and had been pumped up.
"All ready!" sang out Tom.
"You might have dallied longer on that job," Dick answered reproachfully.
"Are you anxious to keep us hungry girls away from our luncheon
that much longer?" cried Susie Sharp.
"Well, whose fault is it that you are not having your luncheon,
here and now?" smiled Prescott. "You didn't like our cooking,
"Don't I?" chirped Miss Sharp. "If it weren't for making you
vainer than you are, Dick Prescott, I'd tell you that the trout
luncheon you gave us at the second lake still lingers in our memories."
Regretfully, the boys escorted the high school girls down to the
road, assisting them and Mrs. Bentley into the car.
"To-morrow evening, then!" called Mrs. Bentley. "Be at the hotel
by half-past five o'clock, won't you?"
"Without fail," Dick smiled back, "unless circumstances beyond
our control prevent us."
Good-byes were eagerly called, Dr. Bentley warmly expressing his
thanks to Reade and Hazelton for their assistance. Then, with
a warning honk, the big car started away.
Then all hands turned upon Dick. "Prescott, why on earth did
you let us in for a dinner and dance to-morrow night?" quivered
"Look at us---the only outside clothes we have with us!" exploded
"We're frights!" chimed in Dave.
"We'll disgrace the girls," blurted Tom, "unless in the meantime
we can find some real tramps with whom to trade clothes."
"We'll feel ashamed enough to drop, when we get among civilized
folks," moaned Harry.
"This is a fine chance to prove or disprove Tom's theory that
a fellow ought to feel most at home in his old working clothes,"
"Was that why you did it---accepted that dinner and dance invitation?"
"Partly," laughed Prescott.
"I won't go!" flared Reade, his face showing red under its heavy
coat of tan.
"Oh, yes, you will," Dick insisted, "or else admit that you perjured
yourself when you idealized your working duds this morning."
"And are you really going to-morrow night?" Greg insisted.
"I certainly am," young Prescott affirmed.
That was too much of a poser for the other members of Dick & Co.
Nothing more was said on the subject, though the five boys did
Toward five o'clock they came in sight of Ashbury. A few minutes
later they had reached a point where the highway turned into one
of the streets of the town.
Here a uniformed bell-boy from the Ashbury Terraces Hotel approached
"Is Mr. Prescott in this party?" he inquired.
"That's my name," Dick answered.
"Then I am requested by Dr. Bentley to guide you to a camping place
inside the Terraces' grounds," replied the bell-boy. "Dr. Bentley
has arranged it with the manager."
This was a surprise, indeed, but Dick & Co. followed their guide,
who turned in through a gate at some distance from the handsome
summer hotel. Their guide led them to a grove on a broad terrace,
from which the high school lads had an excellent view of one of
the porches of the hotel.
"Look at the smartly dressed people over there!" groaned Greg,
as soon as the bell-boy had left them. "Look at those girls,
in their gowns of white lace! Look at the fellows over there,
in flannels and white duck! Look at-----"
"Shut up!" commanded Tom hoarsely. "Don't rub it in."
"Dick," suggested Darry, with some bitterness, "we'll feel like
princes in our flannel shirts and khaki leggings, won't we?"
"I've an idea," offered Danny Grin. "By way of dressing up we
can leave off our khaki leggings and give our trousers an extra
brushing all around. We'll look quite respectable, after all!"
"Gentlemen," remarked Tom Reade solemnly, "I have the honor to
make a motion to the effect that Messrs. Darrin, Holmes and Dalzell
be appointed a committee of three to take Dick Prescott away and
drown him in the nearest sizable body of water!"
"Carried!" proclaimed Hazelton.
Instead, however, all hands fell to work putting up the tent and
preparing for supper.
"Rah, rah, rah!" rose joyously on the air. Then, out of the woods
behind the camp appeared eight young men in multi-colored raiment.
Gorgeous bands surrounded their straw hats; their blazer coats
resembled so many rainbows. Yet, apart from their coats of many
colors, these young men were smartly dressed, and it was plain
that they carried with them considerable of an estimate of their
own importance. Their average age appeared to be about twenty-one
"Rah, rah, rah!" rang the chorus again. Then one of the eight,
moving in advance of The others, called back:
"Fellows, what have we here?"
"Gipsies!" called another.
"Plain hoboes!" from a third.
"It's a gang of juvenile desperadoes escaped from some reformatory,"
declared a fourth.
"Rah, rah, rah!"
With noisy yells the eight young men descended upon the camp.
"Don't you think you'd better steer off?" called Dave, putting
himself as much as he could in their way.
"Why, it talks!" cried one of the rah-rah-rah fellows, in mock
"Just like a human being!" added a third.
"Wonder what these animals are doing here?" propounded another.
So they invaded the camp, poking their heads in at the tent entrance,
examining the wagon with a good deal of curiosity, and poking
into the boxes containing the food that Dick and Greg had just
laid out with a view to starting preparations for supper.
"Now, gentlemen," called Dick, "if you think your curiosity has
been sufficiently gratified, do you mind clearing out and letting
A variety of mocking replies greeted that proposition.
"We don't like to be disagreeable, you understand," Dave hinted,
"but, really, we begin to feel that we have had a great sufficiency
of your company, gentlemen."
"What are you going to do about it?" demanded one of the eight
intruders rather aggressively.
Dave Darrin doubled his fists, ready to fight, now, at any further
provocation. Even good-natured Tom looked about for some sort
of club. But Dick answered, coolly:
"What are we going to do? First of all, we are merely going to
suggest for your consideration the idea that gentlemen don't remain
where they're not wanted."
"Freshie!" yelled one of the eight contemptuously.
"Toss him in a blanket," advised another.
"We don't mind your presence as much as your bad manners," Dick
remarked coldly. "Will you kindly take your leave?"
"No!" shouted three or four of their tormentors derisively.
Dave, his fists still clenched, bounded forward. One chap, in
an especially brilliant blazer, reached out to box Darry on the
That blow never landed, but the tormentor did---on the earth.
_"Eight rainbow hoboes,
Looking for life's leaven,
One bumped his eyelash,
And then there were but seven!"_
improvised Danny Grin joyously.
"Clean out this camp!" yelled one of the others.
"Come on and do it, then!" yelled Tom Reade, losing all patience
Dick & Co. suddenly presented a solid fighting rank that had
accomplished great things on the gridiron. In this formation they
advanced toward their tormentors.
There might have been an ugly clash, but one of the eight shouted:
"Come on, fellows! Don't tease the babies. They haven't had
their warm milk yet."
Away darted the rainbow eight, Darrin's victim being on his feet
by this time and foremost in the retreat.
"Rah, rah, rah!" came back on the air as the high school boys
broke a formation for which they had no further need at present.
"Those fellows are plainly guests at the hotel, and we're going
to have trouble with them yet," Prescott predicted wisely.
A SNUB AND THE QUICK RETORT
At half-past five o'clock the next day, Dick & Co. strolled up
to the porch of the Ashbury Terraces Hotel.
From one of the parlors a cry of recognition in a girlish voice
floated out. Then appeared the Gridley High School girls, with
Susie Sharp in the lead.
"I thought you told us you didn't have any other than your hike
clothing with you!" Susie cried accusingly to Tom Reade.
"We didn't. We told you the truth," Reade rejoined.
"These new clothes were bought with money from the treasury,"
Reade informed her.
"Does our appearance suit you, ladies?" Greg asked smiling.
"You look like so many tailor's models," replied Belle Meade,
adding, sweetly: "If that is any praise."
Certainly Dick & Co., clad in well-fitting white duck suits, presented
a creditable appearance.
"We've been preparing our friends at the Terraces for a different
looking lot of young men," laughed Susie. "We have told them
that a number of high school boy friends of ours were coming
over to dinner and the hop attired in the same clothes they have
been wearing in camp and on the road. Now we must apologize to
them for presenting fashion plates."
The explanation, as Dick presently furnished it to Laura Bentley,
was a simple one. Dick had been handling the funds of the six
boys on this expedition, which had held out much longer than any
of his chums had known. At the time of accepting the invitation
young Prescott had felt sure that an Ashbury clothier would be
able to furnish proper clothes for his party, and his guess had
proved a correct one. Moreover, the treasury of Dick & Co. had
been easily able to endure the drain, for these white clothes
had not been costly.
Mrs. Bentley presently joined the little Gridley group of young
people on the veranda. That good lady noted, with secret pleasure,
the well-groomed appearance of her young guests.
"Rah, rah, rah!" came boisterously up the veranda, as the camp
visitors of the evening before suddenly appeared. "Rah, rah,
Then, halting in a compact group midway on the veranda, they shouted
"S-A-U-N-D-E-R-S! Saunders! Saunders! Siss-boom-a-a-ah! Rah,
"College boys!" exclaimed Susie Sharp in an impatient undertone.
"College boys, and the worst of their kind. They're noisy nuisances!"
"So far as any other guest has been able to discover they haven't
any manners," Belle added.
Then, espying the girls and their guests the rah-rah-rah boys
came briskly up the veranda.
"Good evening, Miss Meade!" called one of them, lifting his hat.
"Glorious evening, isn't it? How many dances may I have the
honor of claiming at the hop to-night?"
Belle Meade blushed slightly and drew back a step, resenting the
young man's familiarity.
In front of the presumptuous youth stepped Dave Darrin, with eyes
"Kindly keep your distance, young man!" Dave advised, in a tone
of dangerous quiet.
"Who asked you to speak?" inquired the rah-rah youth mockingly.
"I am a friend of the young lady, and she finds your presence
an intrusion," replied Darry, controlling himself by a mighty
"All guests of the hotel are supposed to be acquainted," urged
the rah-rah youth, reddening a trifle.
"These young ladies do not wish to recognize you and your friends
as acquaintances," replied Dave. "Kindly efface yourselves!"
"Don't make your lack of breeding too conspicuous," Dick advised,
in a quiet undertone, to another of the intruders who had pushed
forward to join in the conversation.
A sudden sense of discomfort seemed to sweep over the eight presuming
young men. They turned and moved away, though muttering among
"That is the kind of young men I thought they were," Laura observed.
"I am glad that you boys sent them off about their own affairs."
Dr. Bentley joined the young people last of all.
"I have just returned from a long walk," he explained. "I have
to make the most of these brief summer vacations of mine."
When dinner was announced, Dr. and Mrs. Bentley and the young
people took seats at a long table reserved for their party.
It was a pleasant meal in the midst of an animated scene.
Over at another table the rah-rah boys made a good deal of noise
until the head waiter went to them, uttering a few words in low
tones. After that the rah-rah youngsters quieted down considerably.
A delightful half-hour stroll on the verandas followed the dinner.
Then, like most of the guests, the Gridley young people drifted
into the hotel ballroom where the musicians were playing a march.
Dick secured Mrs. Bentley for the first dance, as the doctor preferred
to remain on the veranda. Then, after the first dance, a general
change of partners was made.
But the Gridley boys were too well bred to claim all the dances
with their girl friends. Laura and her friends had other acquaintances
at the hotel. Dick & Co. stood back to give these other young
men a fair opportunity of securing some dances with the girls.
It was eleven o'clock when the hop had finished. For a few moments
Dick & Co. chatted with the Gridley High School girls on the porch.
Then they prepared to take their leave.
"We've had a splendid time, for which we must thank you all,"
Dick declared. "We did not look for any such pleasant evening
as this has been when we left home on our hike."
"We are indebted to you all for the most delightful time of our
lives," Tom stated formally with a very low bow.
"We couldn't have had a nicer time under any circumstances. Thank
you all," Dave Darrin said, on taking leave.
The other boys found words in which to fitly express their pleasure
Then, as Mrs. Bentley and the girls went in side the hotel, the
Gridley High School boys wheeled to march back to camp.
"I wonder what the head waiter said to the rah-rah boys?" asked
"I don't know, but I can guess the meaning of what he said," laughed
Darry. "Did you ever see such an ill-bred lot of fellows before!"
"They're not college boys," Dick declared quietly. "I don't know
where they came from, but certainly none of them have ever been
through as much as a year in any real college."
"They're about as frisky as some college boys," retorted Danny
"College boys may be full of mischief, at times," Dick returned,
"but at least they know how to behave well when they should do
so. College men never think it funny to be rude with women, for
instance. College men are usually the sons of well-bred parents,
and they also acquire additional finish at college. Moreover,
the English language is one of the subjects taught in colleges.
These cheeky rah-rah boys were very slip-shod in their speech.
I don't know who these fellows are, but they're not real college
"Say, it must be nice," remarked Hazelton, "to be able to travel
about the country, stopping at such nice hotels. Laura and her
friends manage to have pretty good times."
"Their families are all better off than ours, in a worldly sense,"
Dick replied. "When you stop to think of it, there are far more
girls than boys in our good old high school who come from comfortable
homes. Perhaps two dozen of our high school fellows come from
homes of considerable wealth. The rest of us don't. More than
half of the Gridley High School girls come from families where
servants are kept. I wonder if it is that way, generally, in
the United States?"
Prescott had unwittingly stumbled upon a fact often noted. The
homes of plain American wage earners send more boys than girls
to high school. The well-to-do families send more of their boys