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

Part 3 out of 4

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to private schools, while their girls are more likely to attend
high school.

However, as the boys neared their camp, all other thoughts were
driven from their minds.

Tom Reade, who was leading, stopped abruptly, holding up one hand.

"Now, what do you think of anyone who would do a trick like that?"
he demanded with a sharp in-drawing of his breath.

"The sneaks!" breathed Darry fiercely.

"Who could have done it?" gasped Greg.

For the tent was down---flat. The wagon lay on its side, nor
was the horse anywhere in sight.

"Did those rascally tramps follow us and watch their chance?"
demanded Dave Darrin hotly.

"I don't believe the tramps did it," spoke Prescott, in a very
quiet voice, though an angry flush rose to his face. "I believe
that we must look in a different direction for the offenders."

"The rah-rah hoodlums?" gasped Greg Holmes.

"Yes," Dick nodded.



"Then I wish we had 'em here!" sputtered Tom Reade vengefully.
"I could eat two of them at this moment, and without salt!"

"They need salting badly!" growled Dave Darrin angrily.

The tent was not only down. Each guy rope had been cut in the
middle, so that the cordage could not be used again.

"I never saw anything more sneaking!" cried Reade in rage and

"Unless it will be the way that we shall sneak up behind the rah-rah
crowd and square matters!" remarked Darry meaningly.

"First of all, we must be sure of their guilt," warned Dick.
"It won't do to try to even up a score that's based only on suspicion.
Wait until I get a lantern out of the wreck, and then we'll explore
the ground to see if we can discover any real proof against the

"Let's get into our working clothes first," proposed Reade. "We
might want to wear these white clothes again before we get home."

So Tom and Dave held up a part of the canvas while Dick slipped
in under the folds of the tent to find the box in which they had
left their hike clothing.

"The box isn't here," Dick called. "Neither can I see any of
the bedding."

"Get hold here, fellows, and lift up more of the canvas," Reade

"There isn't anything in the tent. All the stuff has been cleaned
out." Prescott announced in a voice of disgust.

"It was the tramps, then," Dave declared. "The rah-rah boys wouldn't
take the risk of stealing anything."

"Hold on! I've found a lantern," called Prescott. "I'll come
out with that."

He appeared a moment later, lighting the lantern.

"Now, let's see what we can find," he urged. Not far away the
high school boys came upon the prints of sharp-toed shoes.

"The tramps didn't wear shoes that would make these prints," declared
Dick. "Neither do any of our crowd. Fellows, we owe our surprise
to the rah-rah humorists."

"Then we'll pay 'em back in good measure," cried Darry in exasperation.

After some searching Dick & Co. came upon their clothes chest,
at a distance of some hundred yards from camp. The chest had
not been rifled, for it was locked and the key rested in Dick's

"Help me with it, Tom, and we'll carry it back," said Prescott
in a low, hard tone. "We need our working clothes at once, for
there is work to be done to-night!"

The needed change of costume was quickly made. Off came the white
suits, which were carefully folded and put away. Then on went
the khaki and flannel clothing.

"Dan, you stay with the tent," Dick ordered, with the air of a
general. "Greg, you and Harry make it your main business to see
if you can find the horse. The rest of us will concern ourselves
with finding out whether the rah-rah fellows are still outside
the hotel."

"Here's the horse---grazing," shouted Greg, two minutes later.

"Run back, Dave, and pilot Greg and Harry here, after they've
staked the horse down," Prescott suggested. "We don't want to
make too much noise, for our tormentors may yet be about somewhere."

"Hazy stumbled upon some of the blankets," Greg announced, when
he and Harry joined Dave. "I don't believe any of our stuff has
been carried off, Dick. It has just been scattered."

"Perhaps we'd better gather in all our camp stuff first, then,"
Dick decided. "We can't afford to lose any of our camp outfit."

Ten or fifteen minutes of searching, with the aid of the lantern,
resulted in recovering all of their scattered possessions, even
to the last of the cots, pillows and blankets.

"Now, let's make a sweep of the dark parts of the hotel grounds,
and we may happen upon the rah-rahs, still chuckling over the
fun they've had with us."

But the five boys had not gone far when they were stopped by a
well-dressed young stranger of about twenty.

"Mr. Prescott?" asked the stranger.

"Yes," nodded Dick.

"I am one of the bell-boys at the hotel. When I went off duty
I asked the manager's permission to change my uniform for citizen's
clothing and watch those eight noisy fellows."

"The college boys?" asked Harry quickly.

"They're not college boys!" returned the young stranger. "They've
been giving a fake Saunders yell, and that was what made me dislike
them, for I've just finished the sophomore year at Saunders myself.
I'm working at the Terraces as bell-boy to help pay next year's
tuition at Saunders. The manager permitted me to watch those
fellows, but somehow they got away from me. I got track of them
again near to your camp. Just as I came along they were scooting
away, but a glance showed me the mischief they had worked, so
I followed them."

"Do you know where they are now?" Dick asked eagerly.

"I know where they were ten minutes ago," replied the bell-boy.

"Then please take us to them as quickly as you can," begged Darry
vehemently. "I'm fairly aching to pass the time of night with them!"

"I'll do it," agreed the bell-boy. "Follow me, please."

"I wonder why they went to all that trouble to be so disagreeable
to us," Prescott muttered, as the little party strode along.

"You had some dispute with that crowd, on the hotel porch to-night,
didn't you?" asked the bell-boy.

"Yes; they tried to address some of our girl friends, whom they
didn't know and we objected to their insolence."

"That was what made the rah-rah boys sore," went on the bell-boy.
"I heard them talking about it before I left them. It seems,
too, that the manager sent the head waiter to stop their nonsense
in the dining room to-night. For some reason these sham college
boys blame you fellows for that humiliation also. So they're
chuckling over what they've done to your outfit to teach you to
mind your own business, as they put it."

"I hope we catch up with 'em before they get back to the hotel,"
uttered Tom fervently. "But warn us, please, whenever we get
so close that they're likely to hear our voices."

The bell-boy now led them through an orchard.

"There seem to be a lot of apples on the ground," remarked Prescott,

"Green ones---they're no good," replied the bell-boy.

"Then they are good---just what we want!" ejaculated Prescott.
"Hold on, fellows! Fill your hats with these apples."

"What are you going to do when you come upon these fellows?" asked
the bell-boy.

"Scuttle 'em---the way they did our tent!" Tom retorted.

"I hope you pay them back generously," muttered the bell-boy.
"I've a score to settle with them for trying to blacken good
old Saunders! But see here! Up to date, at least, they're guests
of the hotel, and I'm an employe there. Now, if they get too
much the better of matters in a scrimmage, I'll sail in with you
boys, even though I have to resign my hotel job. But, if I see
that you can handle 'em all right, I shall just stand by without
taking any part in the fight"

"We understand your position, and appreciate it," Dick replied.
"We thank you, too, but we believe that we can take care of them
all by ourselves. If we can't, then we'll take our drubbing."

"You boys have done some things in athletics, haven't you?" asked
the bell-boy, noting the way that each of the five present members
of Dick & Co. carried himself.

"Gridley High School football team last season," Dick replied,
a trace of justifiable pride in his voice.

"You were?" demanded the bell-boy eagerly. "Then shake! My name
is Gerard. We know a lot about the Gridley High School brand
of football at Saunders."

Introductions were quickly passed.

"Now, I'd like to feel that I'm really one of you, and I'll fight
shoulder to shoulder with you!" chuckled Gerard.

"Please don't try to take a hand in any fight that may occur,"
Prescott begged. "If you're working your way through college,
just keep your eye on your job. Don't mix up in any trouble with
the guests."

"We'll soon be at the spot where I left the bunch," said Gerard,
a few moments later.

Over a rise of ground the bell-boy led Dick & Co. Then he pointed
to a little grove of chestnut trees.

"There is the rah-rah crowd," he whispered. "You see, they have
one of your lanterns, and they're lunching on some of your food
supplies that they brought along with them."

"I wonder what those freshies are saying now," came in a laughing
voice, from the rah-rah group under the chestnut trees.

"Their potted chicken is all right, anyway," laughed another.
"Cut me off another slice of the bread. Whee! This college
mischief on a dark night gives one an appetite."

Dick gave whispered instructions to his own forces, then signed
to Gerard, who drew back into the shadow.

"I'd like to see the fresh kids now," jeered another rah-rah youth.

"May all your wishes in life be as promptly fulfilled!" muttered
Tom Reade under his breath.

"We might have had a nice time to-night dancing with the girls
from Gridley if their kid friends hadn't stepped in and spoiled
it all in their juvenile way," grumbled another.

"We've finished up all the borrowed food," said another. "What
shall we do next?"

"For 'next,'" roared Dick Prescott, "you fake collegians will
stand up and take your medicine!"

There was instant consternation in the group under the chestnut
trees. All the rah-rah boys leaped to their feet, but, ere they
could stir, there was a whizzing sound on the air.

Plunk! Plunk! Ker-plunk! Missiles were flying through the air
and the rah-rahs were stopping a good many of them with their
own persons.

"Hey! Stop that!" bellowed one of the rah-rahs. "You---wow!"

For his utterance had been for the moment stopped by a large-sized
green apple that had struck him full in the mouth.

"Hey! Let up!"

But nothing could stay the fast and furious volley of green apples
until Dick & Co. had exhausted their ammunition. Most of the
shots found targets, too.

Once they had had time to recover from their bewilderment the
rah-rahs turned in full, inglorious flight, without attempting
to strike a single blow in their own defense. Who was going to
be fool enough, anyway, to run blindly into a storm of flying
green apples?

Dick and his chums expended the last of their ammunition while
chasing the rah-rahs. Their missiles gone, the Gridley boys put
on full speed, ran after and overhauled some of their late foes
and drubbed them well.

But at last, by common consent, Dick & Co. came to a halt.

"I reckon we paid the score," laughed Prescott. "They ought to
let us alone hereafter."

"No doubt they will," replied Gerard grimly, coming up with the
Gridley boys. "I haven't a doubt that the manager will order
them to leave the hotel in the morning."

After extending their heartiest thanks to Gerard, the Gridley
boys returned to their camp. There, from their supplies, they
rigged new guy-ropes and erected their tent. Soon after, all
hands turned in, feeling quite secure against another visitation
that night.

The manager, at first, the next morning, said nothing whatever
to the rah-rah youths. But, at about ten o'clock a constable
appeared and gathered in all of them on a charge of disturbing
the peace.

Dick & Co. were not even asked to go the justice's court. The
hotel manager and bell-boy were on hand, but the crest-fallen
lot of rah-rah youths all pleaded guilty. They paid fines of
ten dollars apiece.

Then, on their return to the hotel, they were informed that their
rooms were wanted at once.

The manager and Gerard personally escorted the rah-rah boys off
the grounds of the Ashbury Terraces, and they were seen no more
thereabouts. Who they were was not learned, but Gerard's word
was accepted that the rah-rah boys had no connection with Saunders

Dick & Co. had two more pleasant meetings with their high school
friends before an about-face was made, and the return hike to
Gridley started.

Their liveliest adventures were yet ahead of them.



"Did you ever see a blacker, more peculiar looking cloud coming
than that one?" demanded Tom Reade, as the high school boys emerged
from the gloom of a long, narrow forest road into comparatively
open country.

"Is it a coming storm, or an optical delusion?" pondered Dick,
halting and staring hard.

"It looks like pictures I've seen of water spouts," Greg declared.

"That's what it is," Dick replied quietly. "Though I've never
seen one before, it's hard to be fooled, for that chap looks just
like his published photographs. And look at that queer, brownish,
half-yellowish sky back of it. It certainly looks forbidding."

"And we're going to have a stormy afternoon of it!" muttered Dave.

"The waterspout will go by to the north," Reade conjectured, studying
the oddly-shaped, rapidly moving and twisting blackish cloud,
"but we're going to be right in line with the main storm that
is traveling with it."

"And we've got to prepare against the weather, too!" Dick cried,
with sudden realization. "Fellows, the storm that is coming down
on us isn't going to be any toy zephyr!"

After leaving Ashbury the boys had decided to return to Gridley
by a different road.

"There's the place for us, if we can make it!" cried Dick an instant
later, pointing toward the slope.

"Dave, whip up the horse. He has to travel fast for his own safety.
Tom and Greg, you get behind and push the wagon up the slope.
We'll all help in turn. But hustle!"

The crest of the rise of ground being made, the boys found themselves
entering another forest. Dick here found the ground as favorable
to his purpose as he had hoped it would be, for on the further
side the land sloped downward again, and was well-wooded.

"Drive in there!" called Prescott, pointing, then ran ahead to
find the best spot for pitching the tent.

"Whoa!" yelled Prescott, when he had reached the spot that he
judged would do best for camp purposes. "Now, Dave, go over to
the other side of the horse! Help me to get him out of the shafts.
The poor animal must be our first consideration, for he can't
help himself. The rest of you unload all the stuff from the wagon
as fast as you can move."

Slipping the harness from the horse, Dick fastened a halter securely,
then ran the horse down into a little gully where the animal would
be best protected from the force of the wind that would come with
the storm.

Driving a long iron stake into the ground, Dick tethered the animal
securely. Then he ran back to help his chums.

"Here's the best site for the tent," Prescott called, snatching
up a stick and marking the site roughly. "Now, hustle! No; don't
use the wooden stakes for the tent ropes. Drive the long iron
stakes, and drive them deep!"

Then Prescott ran back with oats and corn for the horse, leaving
a generous feed for the animal.

"You'll need plenty to eat, old fellow, for the storm is going
to be a long and cold one."

Then Prescott ran back at full speed to his chums who were erecting
the tent.

First, the four corner stakes were driven, and the guy-ropes made

"Greg and Dan can drive all the other pins, if they hustle," Dick
announced. "Tom, you and Dave get the floor planks down, and
rig up the stove---inside the tent."

"There won't be time to lay the flooring," Reade objected, taking
a hurried squint at the now more threatening sky.

"There's got to be time to lay the flooring, unless you all want
to sleep in water to-night," Dick insisted. "Harry, just break
your back with the loads of wood that you bring in. I'll fill
all the buckets with water."

In ten minutes more everything had been carried inside the tent.
Big drops of rain were beginning to patter down.

"We've everything ready just in time to the minute," Tom Reade
observed with a satisfied chuckle.

"Not everything quite ready," Prescott retorted. "Tom, if you're
going to grow up to be an engineer there's one thing more you
should see the need of."

"What?" challenged Reade blankly.

"Get the pick and shovel! You and I will do it. Let the rest
get in under shelter!"

Standing in the rain, Tom and Dick hastily dug two ditches at
either end of the tent. These ditches were no creditable engineering
jobs, but they would, at need, carry a good deal of water down
the slope.

By this time the rain was falling heavily. In the distance heavy
thunder volleyed, and the sky was growing blacker every minute.

"One more job," called Dick. "Dave and Greg, tumble out with
the shelter flap!"

This was a great sheet of canvas that had to be fastened in place
over the tent roof, and at a different pitch.

"We'll be drowned before we get the shelter flap in place," grumbled

"And we might as well be out in the rain, if we don't have it
up," Dick retorted. "Open her up! Now, then---up with it!"

The shelter flap was placed with difficulty, for now the wind
was driving across the country, blowing everything before it.
The other two boys leaped out to help their chums. The shelter
flap was made secure at last, the ropes being made fast to the
surrounding trees.

By this time the wind was blowing at the rate of fifty miles an
hour. The sky was nearly as black as on a dark night, while the
rain was coming down "like another Niagara," as Harry Hazelton
put it.

"We don't care whether we have a dry tent or not, now," laughed
Dan Dalzell, as the six boys made a break for cover. "We're soaking,
anyway, and a little more water won't hurt."

"I'll get a fire going in the stove," Dick smiled. "Soon after
that we'll be dry enough---if the tent holds."

The stove was already in place, a sheet-iron pipe running up one
of the tent walls and out through a circular opening in the canvas
of the side wall opposite from the wind.

While Dick was making the fire, Tom Reade filled, trimmed and
lighted the two lanterns.

"Listen to the storm!" chuckled Prescott. "But we're comfy and
cheery enough. Now, peel off your outer clothes and spread them
on the campstools to dry by the fire. We'll soon be feeling as
cheery as though we were traveling in a Pullman car."

Within a short time all six were dry and happy. The lightning
had come closer and closer, until now it flashed directly overhead,
followed by heavy explosions of thunder.

Not one of the boys could remember a time when it had ever rained
as hard before. It seemed to them as though solid sheets of water
were coming down. Yet the position of the tent, aided by the
ditches, kept their floor dry. Dan, peering out through the canvas
doorway, reported that the ditches were running water at full

"This will all be over in an hour," hazarded Greg.

"It may, and it may not be," Dick rejoined. "My own guess is
that the storm will last for hours."

As the howling wind gained in intensity it seemed as though the
tent must be blown to ribbons, but stout canvas will stand
considerable weather strain.

"If we had driven the wooden pins for the guy-ropes," muttered
Greg, "everyone of them would have been washed loose by this time."

"They would have been," Dick assented, "and the tent would now
be down upon our heads, a drenched wreck. As it is, I think we
can pull through a night of bad weather."

In an hour the flashes of lightning had become less frequent.
The wind had abated slightly, but there was no cessation of the

"I pity anyone who has to travel the highway in this storm," muttered
Dave. "This isn't weather for human beings."

"Yet every bird of the air has to weather it," observed Hazelton.

"Yes," muttered Tom, "and a good many of the birds of the air
will be killed in this storm, too."

Night came down early. The wind and rain had sent the temperature
down until it seemed to the high school boys more like an October
night. The warmth and light in the tent were highly gratifying
to all.

"As long as the tent holds I can't think of a blessed thing we
have to go outside for," sighed Reade contentedly.

"We don't have to," laughed Dick. "Fellows, we're away off in
the wilderness, but we're as happy as we could be in a palace.
How about supper?"

That idea was approved instantly.

"We'll have two suppers to-night," proposed Tom. "That will be
the visible proof and expression of the highest happiness that
can be reached on a night like this."

Even by ten o'clock that night there was no abatement in the volume
of rain falling. The wind still howled.

"Are we going to turn in, soon?" inquired Dave.

"My vote," announced Tom indolently, "is for another supper, and
turn in at perhaps two o'clock in the morning."

"I second the motion---as far as another supper goes," chimed
in Danny Grin.

"It wants to be a supper of piping hot stuff, too," declared Greg.
"It's warm here in the tent, but the surrounding world is chill
and drear. Nothing but hot food will serve us."

Preparations for the meal were quickly under way.

"I hope everyone within the reach of this storm is as comfortable
as we are," murmured Hazelton.

"Why, we're so happy, we could entertain company with a relish,"
laughed Reade.

"Say, what was that?" demanded Greg.

From outside came a faint sound as of someone stealthily groping
about outside in the storm.

"Bring a lantern, quickly!" called Dick, going toward the tent

As Greg played the rays of light against the darkness outside,
Dick suddenly sprang forth into the dark. Then he returned, bearing
in his arms the pitiful little figure of old Reuben Hinman, the

"Look at his head!" gasped Reade, in horror, as Prescott entered
with the burden.

From a gash over the peddler's left temple blood was flowing,
leaving its dark trail over the peddler's light brown coat.

Dick carried the stricken old man straight to his own cot, laying
him there gently.

"Who can have done this deed?" gasped Greg, throbbing with sympathy
for the poor old man.

Outside other approaching steps sounded. Dave and Tom, snatching
up sticks of firewood, sprang forward.



Greg flashed the lantern on four hulking, bedraggled ragged men.

"Hello! It's the same kids!" cried a hoarse voice out in the
storm. "They'll be glad to see us."

"You keep out of here!" ordered Reade, thrusting his stick at
the face of the first tramp---the boss tramp---who tried to enter.

"No!" countermanded Dick Prescott. "Let even the hoboes come
in. Let anyone come in on a night like this."

"Now, that's decent of you," admitted the boss tramp, as he sloshed
heavily in, followed by three companions. Two of these tramps
had been with the "boss" on another well remembered occasion.
The third was a stranger to Dick & Co.

"My, but you've got a real house in here a true port in a storm,"
observed the boss tramp, as he halted to stare about him. "Friends,
this is the best thing we've seen today."

"It is," agreed the other tramps solemnly.

The glance of the newcomers did not rest upon the face of Reuben
Hinman, for Prescott had gently spread a blanket so that it effectually
concealed the little old peddler.

"What have you men been doing?" asked Dick, straightening up and
eyeing them coldly, steadily.

"Drowning in the woods," replied the boss, "for we knew we couldn't
find a house or barn within two miles, and the road is like a
river you need a boat for travel to-night. When the storm came
we men made a brush lean-to and kept as dry as we could under
it. But it got worse and worse. But at last we caught sight
of your light shining through the trees. So we headed for it.
We hoped you'd have a stove with a fire in it, and you have---so
we're all right, and much obliged."

"Keep back there a bit," ordered Dick, so firmly that the tramps
obeyed. "Dave, help me to lift this cot over within a few feet
of the stove. Be as gentle as you can."

Four tramps looked on in solemn curiosity as they saw Darrin and
Prescott lift a cot on which lay something completely covered
by a blanket.

Then Dick turned down the blanket, revealing the bruised, bleeding
head of Reuben Hinman.

"What do you men know about this?" Prescott demanded, eyeing them

But the tramps' look was one of such astonished innocence that
Prescott began to wonder whether he had wrongly suspected these
knights of the highway.

"Why did you do---this?" Prescott sternly insisted.

"We---we didn't do it!" exclaimed the boss tramp fervently. "We
didn't even know that this old party was anywhere out in the storm.

Moaning, Reuben Hinman stirred slightly then opened his eyes dreamily.

"Mr. Hinman, can you talk?" asked Dick gently.

"Ye-es," faintly admitted the peddler.

"Then how were you hurt, sir?" Dick pressed in the same gentle voice.

"I---I saw the light. Tried---to drive my horse---in. Wagon
turned over. Fell off---and hurt my head," replied the peddler,
whispering hoarsely.

"You're fully conscious, Mr. Hinman, and know just what you're
saying?" Dick pressed.

"Yes, Prescott. I know."

"Then no one else assaulted you to-night, sir."


"I feel like saying 'thank heaven' for that!" exclaimed Dick in
a quiet voice, as he straightened up, his eyes a trifle misty.
"I hate to think that the earth holds men vile enough to strike
down a weak old man like this!"

"And on such a night," added Tom Reade.

"Oh, we're pretty bad," said the boss tramp, huskily, "but we
didn't do anything like that."

"At first," Dick went on, "I thought you hoboes had done the deed.
That was why I asked my friend to let you come in. I wanted
to keep you here until we could find someone who would take care
of you."

"We didn't do it," replied the boss tramp, "and the old man says
we didn't."

"No; no man struck me---I fell," chimed in the peddler weakly.

"We'll help you take care of the old man," offered the boss tramp.

"If you mean what you say," Prescott proposed, "then take one
of these lanterns and go down by the road to see what you can
find out about Mr. Hinman's horse and wagon. Or did you see them
as you came up?"

"No, for we came through the woods," replied the boss tramp.
"I'll take the lantern. Come with me, Joe."

Out into the dark plunged the two tramps, to face the heavily
falling rain. For once, at any rate, they were doing something

At a signal from Dick, Greg put some water on the stove to heat.
Prescott found some clean cloth in their wardrobe box and bathed
the wound on Mr. Hinman's temple, then washed his entire face.
The wound proved to be broad, rather than deep, and was such
as might have been caused by falling on sharp pebbles. Then Dick
bound up the wound.

Next, Dick and Greg undressed Mr. Hinman and rubbed him down,
then rolled him in dry blankets and laid him on another cot not
far from the stove.

"Come out, you other hoboes," called the boss tramp's voice.
"Come and help us right the peddler's wagon and bring that and
the horse up here."

The other two tramps went reluctantly out into the storm.

A bottle full of hot water, wrapped in a towel, was placed at
the peddler's feet.

In the meantime the tramps got the wagon into a sheltered position,
then staked the horse out close to the place where the Gridley
horse was tethered. This having been accomplished, they came
back to the camp, to find a new aroma on the air.

"That stuff smells good. What is it?" asked the boss tramp.

"Ginger tea. We've made some to give to Mr. Hinman."

"Will you give us some, too?" asked the tramp. "We're all of
us chilled and hoarse."

"I will," Dick nodded, "if you men will undertake to fill the
buckets before you try to dry yourselves. Otherwise, we shall
run out of water."

Grunting, the boss tramp and one of his companions listened while
Dick directed them where to find running water. Out again into
the storm they lurched, and soon had all the water buckets filled
and in the tent.

While the tramps dried their clothing, Prescott kept his word
about making ginger tea.

"This seems like the best stuff I've had since I was a baby,"
remarked the boss tramp, in a somewhat grateful voice.

"Maybe that's because you've worked for it," suggested Reade thoughtfully.

"I wonder," grunted the hobo. "I wonder."

Later on Dick and his chums prepared a supper, of which all partook
except the peddler, who needed sleep and warmth more.

The tramps slept on the floor, later on. Tom, Dave and Harry
slept on their cots, while the other three high school boys remained

Toward two o'clock in the morning Dick found Reuben Hinman's skin
becoming decidedly feverish, and began to administer nitre.

"I'd mount our horse, and try to ride for a doctor, if I thought
I could get one," murmured Greg.

"You couldn't get one here to-night," volunteered the boss tramp,
who had awakened and had risen on one elbow. "Neither an automobile
nor a buggy could be driven over this wild road to-night. The
water is three feet deep in spots---worse in some others."

Though the deluge outside still continued, all would have been
cheery inside had it not been for the alarm Dick & Co. felt over
the increasing fever of the poor old peddler. His breathing
became more and more labored.

Dave awoke and came over to listen and look on.

"I'll try to go for a doctor," he whispered.

"You might even reach one," Dick replied. "I'd be willing to
try myself, but we couldn't get a physician through on a night
like this."

"At least I'll go down and have a look at the road," muttered
Reade, rising, wrapping himself up as best he could, and taking
a lantern.

Tom presently returned, looking like a drowned rat.

"It's no go," he announced gloomily. "The road is a river."

"Sure it is," muttered the boss tramp, "or---as you lads have been
so decent to me---I'd go myself and try to find a doctor."



Toward daylight the rain ceased. Dawn came in heavy and misty,
but after an hour the sun shone forth, dispelling the low-lying

Dick was sound asleep at this time, Tom and Harry having relieved
the other watchers. All of the tramps lay stretched on the hard
wooden floor, since none of the high school boys cared to have
one of these fellows lying on his cot even when it was not in

"Go down and take a look at the road, Hazy," Tom desired, after
the sun had been out for an hour.

"The water's running out of the road, or drying off, pretty fast"
Hazelton reported on his return. "Still, a doctor would have
a hard job getting over the road as yet."

"Did you see anyone trying to get over the road with a vehicle?"
Reade inquired.

"Not a soul or a wheel," Harry answered. "As far as travel goes
the road might as well be a strip of the Sahara Desert."

Reuben Hinman's breathing was so labored that it disturbed the
watchers a good deal.

"We're doing all we can for you, and we'll get better care for
you, just as soon as we can," Tom explained, resting a hand on
the fever-flushed face.

"I know," wheezed the old man painfully. "Good boy!"

By eight o'clock all hands were astir.

"Are we going to get any breakfast to-day?" asked the tramp known
as Joe.

"Yes," nodded Dick, choking back the temptation to say something

By nine o'clock the meal had been eaten. The stove now made the
tent so hot that Mr. Hinman's cot had to be moved to the farther
end and the tent flaps thrown open to admit cooler air.

Greg had attended to feeding both of the horses, which had gotten
through the dismal night without very much discomfort.

Now Dick went down to look at the road.

"I'm going to mount our horse, bareback, and keep straight on
up the road," he announced, coming back. "I will not have to
go very far before I find a physician."

"No, you're not going, either," broke in the boss tramp. "I am

"But, see here, I can't very well let a stranger like you go off
with our horse," Dick objected smilingly.

"You don't have to," retorted the other. "I'll go on foot, and
I'll make the trip as fast as I can, too. But maybe you'd better
give me a note to the doctor. He might not pay much attention
to a sick call from a fellow who looks as tough as I do."

"If I let you go, can I depend upon you to keep right on going
straight and fast, until you deliver a note to a doctor?" asked
Prescott, eyeing the boss tramp keenly.

"Yes!" answered the tramp, returning the glance with one so
straightforward that Dick felt he could really trust the man.
"And if the first doctor won't or can't come, I'll keep on going
until I find one who will take the call."

"Good for you!" cried Tom Reade heartily. "And if it weren't
for fear of startling you, I'd say that the next thing you'll
be doing will be to find and accept a job, and work again like
a useful man!"

"That would be startling," grinned the fellow, half sullenly.

Dick wrote the note. Away went his ill-favored looking messenger.
Dick turned to administer more nitre to the peddler.

"Do you expect to move on at all to-day?" Dave asked of Dick.

"It wouldn't be really wise, would it?" Dick counter-queried.
"Our tent and shelter flap are pretty wet to take down and fold
away in a wagon. We'd find it wet going, too. Hadn't we better
stay here until to-morrow, and then break camp with our tent properly

All hands voted in favor of remaining---except the hoboes, who
weren't asked. They would remain indefinitely, anyway, if permitted,
and if the food held out.

But Dick soon set them to work. One was despatched for water,
the other two set to gathering wet firewood and spreading it in
the sun to dry out. Nor did the trio of remaining tramps refuse
to do the work required of them, though they looked reluctant
enough at first.

Two more hours passed.

"I'm afraid our friend, Hustling Weary, is having a hard time
to get a doctor who'll come down the road," Dick remarked to Darrin.

"Oh, the doctor will come, if Weary has found him," Dave replied.
"Doctors always come. They have to, or lose their reputations."

Half an hour later a business-like honk! was heard. Then, through
the trees Dick & Co. saw an automobile halt down at the side of
the road. A tall, stout man, who looked to be about sixty-five
years old, but who displayed the strength and speed of a young
man, leaped from the car, followed by the tramp messenger.

"Mr. Prescott?" called the big stranger.

"Yes, sir," bowed Dick.

"Dr. Hewitt. Let me see your patient."

For some minutes the physician bent over the peddler, examining
and questioning the old man, who answered with effort.

"I must get Hinman to a hospital some miles from here," the physician
explained, aside, to Dick. "The poor old man is going to have
pneumonia, and he'd die without hospital care. Probably he'll
die, anyway. I'll give him a hypodermic injection in the arm,
then wait for him to become quiet. After that we'll move him
to the tonneau of my car and I'll take him to the hospital. I
telephoned Hinman's son, over at Fenton, telling him where his
father and his wagon are. The son ought to come over and take
charge of the outfit."

It was three quarters of an hour later when Dr. Hewitt examined
his patient, then remarked:

"He can be moved now, as well as at any time."

"There's someone coming," announced Reade, as the sound of a horse's
hoofs were heard. Tom went out to look at the new arrival.

A man of forty, rather flashily dressed, though somewhat mud-spattered,
rode up on a horse that looked much the worse for being abroad
on the bad roads.

"I understand that Mr. Hinman is here, ill," began the stranger.

"He is," Tom nodded. "Have you any interest in him?"

"Mr. Hinman is my father."

"Come right in," Tom invited, throwing open the flap of the tent.

"Hold my horse, will you?"

Something in the younger Hinman's way of making the request caused
Reade's backbone to stiffen.

"I see that you have a piece of halter rope," Tom replied. "You
may tie your horse to any one of the trees. They don't belong
to me."

The son frowned, but led his mount to a tree, hitching it there.
Then he turned and entered the tent.

"How are you, father?" asked the younger Hinman, crossing to the
cot and bending over the old man.

"Better, already, I think," replied Reuben Hinman feebly.

"I should hope so," replied Timothy Hinman, looking more than
a trifle annoyed. "You had no business to be out in that storm."

"I couldn't help-----" began the old man slowly, but Dr. Hewitt
broke in almost fiercely:

"Your father is in no condition to talk, Mr. Hinman. I telephoned
you so that you might come over and take charge of the horse and
wagon. There is quite a bit of stock on the wagon, too, I believe."

"My father must have considerable money with him," the young man

"He has some," Dick replied. "I do not know how much."

"I will take charge of his money for him," offered young Hinman.

"You will do nothing of the sort," broke in Dr. Hewitt, scowling.
"Hinman, your father will be some time at the hospital, and he
will want to be able to pay his bills there. He will also want
to be able to purchase some comforts for himself while convalescing.
So your father will take his money with him to the hospital."

"He can turn it over to me, if he has a mind to do so," insisted
the younger man.

"You get out of here!" ordered the doctor, speaking decisively,
though in a low tone. At the same time he pointed to the doorway
of the tent. Just then the doctor looked as though he might rather
enjoy the opportunity of throwing young Hinman out into the open
air. The peddler's son walked outside of the tent with an air
of offended dignity.

"Now, will four of you young men take hold of that cot, gently,
and carry it out to my car?" asked Dr. Hewitt.

Dick, Dave, Tom and Greg served as the litter bearers. Then,
under Dr. Hewitt's instructions, they lifted the old man into
the tonneau of the car as though he had been an infant. The boss
tramp had already taken his place in the tonneau of the machine.
After blankets brought by the physician had been wrapped about
the peddler the tramp contrived to rest the old man against his
own broad shoulder.

"Good-bye, father," said the younger Hinman, who had looked on
with a frown on his face. "I hope you'll be all right soon."

Reuben Hinman tried to smile. He also moved as though trying
to stretch out a hand to his son, but the folds of the blankets

Dr. Hewitt went back to the tent to get his medicine case, which
he had intentionally left behind. As he went he signed to Dick
& Co. to accompany him.

"You young men haven't done anything for the old man for which
I am going to commend you," said the physician bluntly. "You've
simply done what any upright, humane, decent people would have
done for a stricken old man, and you've done it well. But by
contrast you noticed the younger Hinman's conduct. He is not
worried that his father is ill, but hopes that the old man will
soon be back at his work. Of course, he hopes that his father
will be at work, soon; for when the old man stops working the
younger man will very likely have to go to work himself."

"You don't mean, doctor, that that big, healthy-looking fellow
is supported by his father?" gasped Dick Prescott.

"That's just what I mean," nodded the man of medicine.

"Why, I didn't suppose that old Mr. Hinman earned much."

"In the tin-peddler's business it's nearly all profit except the
wear and tear on horse and wagon," smiled the physician. "One
who isn't fitted for that line of work would starve to death at
it, but Reuben Hinman has always been a shrewd, keen dealer in
his own line of work. Strange as it may seem, Reuben is believed
to make more than three hundred dollars a month. He gives it
all to that son and two daughters. He wanted to bring his children
up to be ladies and gentlemen---and they are! They are all three
of them too shiftless to do any work. They take the old man's
money, but they won't live with him. They are too busy in 'society'
to bother with the old man. On what he is able to turn over to
his children every month they keep a rather pretentious home in
Fenton, though they live a full mile away from their father. They
never go near him, except for more money. If they meet him on
his wagon, or when he is walking in his old clothes, they refuse
to recognize him. Yet, though Reuben Hinman isn't a fool in anything
else, he is very proud of the fact that his son is a 'gentleman,'
and that his daughters are 'ladies.' Now, in a nutshell, you know
the tragedy of the old man's life. Young Tim Hinman would, if
he could, take the old man's money away from him at once and let
him go to the hospital as a charity patient."

"Humph!" muttered Dick, and then was silent.

Timothy Hinman, when Dr. Hewitt and the boys stepped outside the
tent, was inspecting the dingy old red wagon with a look of contempt
on his face.

"What am I going to do with this crazy old rattle-trap?" inquired
young Hinman plaintively. "Would one of you boys accept a dollar
to drive this over to Fenton, and put the horse up in my father's
barn? The trip can be made in two days of good driving."

Dick Prescott shook his head in order that he might avoid speaking.

"I came by train, within five miles of here, then hired a horse
and rode over here," the younger Hinman went on. "So I've got
to take the horse back to where I got it, and then return by train.
So I'll pay a dollar and a half to the boy who will drive this
rig back to Fenton."

This time there was no response to the magnificent offer.

"See here," muttered young Hinman half savagely, "it's more than
the job is worth, but I'll pay two dollars to have this rig driven
home. Will you take the job?"

He looked directly at Dick Prescott, who replied bluntly:

"Thank you; I won't."

"But what on earth am I going to do with the horse and wagon,
then?" demanded Timothy Hinman, as though he found Prescott's
refusal preposterous.

"I would suggest," offered Dick coolly, "that you drive your father's
rig home yourself."

"I drive it?" gasped the son.


"But it's no job for a gentleman!" protested the younger Mr. Hinman,
looking very much aghast.

"Then I don't know whether or not the owner of these woods would
consent to your leaving your father's property here," replied
Prescott, as he turned on his heel.

Dr. Hewitt had watched the scene with a good deal of amusement.
Now the physician turned to see whether his patient were as comfortable
as possible.

"My man," said the doctor, to the boss tramp, "you hold my patient
as comfortably and skillfully as though you had once been a nurse.
Were you ever one?"

"No, sir," replied the tramp. "It just comes natural."

"I've been looking for a man to work for me," continued Dr. Hewitt,
regarding the tramp with calculating eyes. "I believe that you've
got in you the making of a real man if you'd only stop being a
tramp. How would you like to try it out?"

"I dunno," replied the boss tramp, looking a bit staggered.

"If you go to work for me, I don't want you to take it up as a
casual experiment," went on the man of medicine. "I haven't any
time for experiments. But, if you'll declare positively that
you're going to make a useful man of yourself, and that you'll
live up to what I expect of you, I'll take you on. I won't have
an idler about my place, and I won't tolerate any use of alcohol.
If you shirk or drink---even once out you go. But I'll start
you at ten dollars a month and board, and raise you---if I keep
you---two dollars a month until you're getting thirty dollars
a month and board as a steady thing. Are you man enough to take
me up, and to make it worth my while to take you on?"

"Yes," replied the boss tramp huskily, after a struggle with himself.

"All right, then, we'll see how much a man you are. By the way,
what's your name?"

"Jim Joggers," replied the tramp.

Dr. Hewitt eyed the fellow keenly for a few seconds, before he
replied, with a slight smile:

"All right; we'll let it go at Joggers until you've put yourself
far enough forward so that you'll be willing to use your own name."

Honk! honk! The car was under way.

When Dick and his three friends turned back to the tent they found
all three of the remaining tramps in there, smoking vile pipes
and playing with a greasy, battered pack of cards. "The weather's
fine again," announced Dick, "and you'll find us the most hospitable
fellows you ever met. My friends, we take pleasure in offering
you the whole outside world in which to play!"

"Talk United States!" growled one of the tramps, without looking
up from the game.

"Tom," laughed Prescott, turning to Reade, "strange dialects are
your specialty. Kindly translate, into 'United States,' what
I have just said to these men."

"I will," agreed Tom. "Attention, hoboes! Look right at me!
That's right. Now---git!"

"You might let us stay on a bit longer," grumbled one of the tramps.
"We ain't bothering you folks any."

"Only eating us out of house and home," snapped Dave.

"And delaying the time when we must wash up the tent after you,"
added Danny Grin.

But the tramps played on, smoked on.

"Did you fellows ever hear of that famous man, Mr. A. Quick Expediter?"
Tom asked the tramps.

"No," growled one of them.

"Expediter was a truly great man," Tom continued. "He had a motto.
It was a short one. One word, and that word was---'git'!"

"We are famed for our courtesy," remarked Darry. "We'd hate to
lose even a shred of our reputation in that line. But in these
present years of our young lives we are football players by training,
and high school boys merely for pleasure. We know some of the
dandiest tackles you ever saw. Shall we show you a few of them?
If you object to observing our tackles---and sharing in the
effects---then signify your wishes by placing yourselves at a safe
distance from such enthusiastic football wranglers as we are."

Greg, Danny Grin and Harry were already crouching as though for
a spring. Dave took his place in an imaginary football line-up,
leaning slightly forward. Tom Reade sighed, then advanced to
the line. All were waiting for the battle signal from Dick Prescott.

By this time the most talkative of the three tramps noted the
signs of a gathering squall.

"Come on, mates," he urged, with a sulky growl, "let's get out
of here. These young fellows want their place all to themselves.
They're just like all of the capitalistic class that are ruining
the country to-day! Things in this country are coming to a pass
where there's nothing for the fellow who-----"

"Who won't work hard enough to get the place in the world that
he wants," Tom Reade finished for the tramp, as he ushered the
three of them through the doorway.



That day of enforced tie-up was followed by three days of hard
hiking. The Gridley High School boys showed the fine effects
of their two vigorous, strenuous outings. Each had taken on weight
slightly, though there was no superfluous flesh on any of the
six. They were bronzed, comparatively lean-looking, trim and
hard. Their muscles were at the finest degree of excellence.

"We set out to get ourselves as hard as nails," remarked Dave,
as the boys bathed in a secluded bit of woodland through which
a creek flowed. It was, the morning of their fourth day of renewed
hiking. After the swim and breakfast that was to follow, there
were twenty miles of rural roads to be covered before the evening
camp was pitched.

"I guess we've won all we set out to get, haven't we?" inquired
Reade, squaring his broad shoulders with an air of pride. "I
feel equal to anything that a fellow of my size and years could

"I think, without boasting, we may consider ourselves the six
most valuable candidates for Gridley High School football this
year," Prescott declared. "We ought to be the best men for the
team; we've worked hard to get ourselves in the pink of physical

"I wouldn't care to be any stronger than I am," laughed Danny
Grin. "If I were any stronger folks would be saying that I ought
to go to work."

"You will have to go to work within another year," Dick laughed,
"whatever that work may be. But you must work with your brain,
Danny boy, if you're to get any real place in life. Your muscles
are intended only as a sign that your body is going to be equal
to all the demands that your brain may make on that body."

"If my mental ability were equal to my physical strength I wouldn't
have to work at all," grinned Dalzell.

Splash! His dive carried him under the surface of the water.
Presently he came up, blowing, then swimming with strong strokes.

"Danny boy seems to have the same idea so many people have," laughed
Prescott. "They think that a man who does all his real work with
his brain isn't working at all, just because he doesn't get into
a perspiration and wilt his collar."

Splash! splash! Reade and Darrin were in the water racing upstream.

"I don't know when I've ever found so much happiness in a summer,"
asserted Greg, as he poised himself for a dive into the water.

"I wonder if Timmy Hinman ever had the nerve to stick to his father's
wagon long enough to get it back to Fenton," said Dave, as he
swam beside Reade.

"If he ever took that wagon home, I'll wager that he drove the
last few miles late at night, so that his 'society' friends wouldn't
have the shock of seeing him drive the peddling outfit that sustains
him," Reade replied.

"I'll never forget the younger Hinman's disgusted look when he
tried to drive the outfit from our camp, the other morning, with
his saddle mount tied behind and balking on the halter," grinned

"I wonder why such fellows as Timothy Hinman were ever created,"
Tom went on. "Every time I think about the gentlemanly Timmy
I feel as though I wanted to kick something."

Only the day before, stopping at a postoffice on the route, as
had been arranged with Dr. Hewitt, Dick & Co. had received word
that the peddler was seriously ill with pneumonia, with all the
chances against his recovery.

"If the peddler should die," suggested Dave soberly, "do you believe
that Timmy Hinman will be able to face the thought of going to
work for a living?"

"It would be an awful fate," Tom declared grimly. "Timmy might
try to work, but I don't know whether he would be able to live
through the shock and shame of having to earn the money for paying
his own bills in life."

"There's that irrepressible Dick again!" called Greg five minutes

"What's he up to now?" asked Tom, from further up the creek.

"He has had his rub-down, got his clothing on and is now at work
frying bacon and eggs."

"Then don't disturb him," begged Reade, "or he might fry short
of the quantity of food that is really going to be required."

Five minutes more, however, saw the last of the boys out of water
and rapidly getting themselves in shape to perform their own required
duties. There could be no idlers in the party when Dick & Co.
were away from home on a hike.

Yet, once breakfast had been disposed of, and the dishes washed,
there seemed something in the August air that made them all disinclined
to break camp and move on.

"I wish we could stay here all day, and move on to-morrow," murmured
Hazy, thus voicing the thought of some of the others.

"And then blame the tramps for loafing!" exclaimed Dick.

"Do we look as though we had loafed this summer?" challenged Dalzell.

"No; but one or two of you would have done a good deal of it if
you hadn't been afraid of the contempt of the others," smiled

"Honestly, now," demanded Hazy, "wouldn't you enjoy just staying
here and lounging today, Dick Prescott?"

"I would," Dick assented.

"There, now!"

"But that isn't what we left home to do, so we won't do it."

"Eh?" queried Hazy.

"Attention, Lazybones Squad!" called Prescott, springing up.
"Hazy, harness the horse and hitch him to the wagon. Tom, Dave
and Greg, take down the tent. I'll pack the bedding. Dan, load
the kitchen stuff on the wagon."

This occupied a few minutes.

"Now, all hands turn to and load on the floor planks, bedding
and the tent," called Dick.

This, too, was quickly accomplished, though all six were now perspiring.

"Greg, I believe it's your turn to drive first to-day," Prescott
announced. "Up with you! Forward---march!"

Dick led the way out of camp, at a brisk four-mile-an-hour stride.
The long hike was started, at last. After that there was no
grumbling, even during the hourly halt of ten minutes.

The noon halt found them with eleven and a half miles covered
out of the twenty. Five o'clock brought Dick & Co. to the outskirts
of Fenton, a town of some twenty-five hundred inhabitants.

"Whoa!" called Tom, reining up half a mile from the town. "There
are woods here, Dick. If we go any closer to Fenton, we'll either
have to keep on traveling to the other side of the town, or ask
the authorities for permission to camp on the common. Don't you
believe we had better stop here?"

"These are the woods that Dave and I had just picked out," Prescott
replied. "We were going to keep on traveling until we found out
who owns the woods. This isn't quite in the wilderness, Tom,
and we must begin again to seek permission to make our camp from
owners of property."

"If these are the woods," grunted Tom, "there can be no use in
going farther. You and Dave trot on ahead, and bring us back

"All right," sang out the young leader, "but don't drive onto
the ground, or unpack, until we are back with word about the owner's

Three minutes of walking brought them to a farmhouse that looked
like the abode of prosperous people.

"Well, what is it?" demanded a stout man, with a good-humored
face, as he stepped out from a barn.

"We wish to know, sir," Dick explained, "if you can tell us who
owns the woods about a quarter of a mile back, at the right hand
side of the road?"

"I think I can," nodded the man. "Will you describe the woods
a little more particularly?"

As Prescott complied the farmer broke in:

"Those are my woods, all right. What do you want of them?"

Dick explained the desire of himself and his friends to camp there
for the night.

"Who are you boys?" asked the farmer, keenly eyeing Dick and Dave.

"Gridley High School boys, out on a vacation jaunt."

"You won't do any damage to my woods, will you?"

"Certainly not, sir," Dick promised.

"Then go right ahead and pitch your camp, young man. Enjoy

"We shall have to gather and use quite a bit of firewood, sir,"
Prescott continued.

"Well, there's considerable dead wood lying about there."

"May we pay you a proper price for the use of the firewood, sir?"
Prescott went on.

"If you try to," laughed the farmer, "I'll chase you out of the
woods. Make yourselves at home, boys. Have as good a time as
you can."

"Thank you, sir."

"And---have you had any fresh milk lately?"

"Not a lot of it, sir."

"Would you like some?"

"Why, if we may pay-----"

"You may pay me," promptly agreed the farmer, "by bringing the
pail back when you pass this way in the morning."

With that remark he went into another building, soon coming out
with an eight-quart pail filled with milk.

"This sort of stuff isn't much good, except when you haven't had
any for a long time," laughed the farmer. "Enjoy yourselves.
Say, you don't play football with the Gridley High School eleven,
do you?"

"All of us do," Dick admitted.

"Thought so," chuckled the farmer. "That's why I was interested
in you. I saw the Thanksgiving game at Gridley last year. Great
game nervy lot of boys, with all their sand about them. There
was one fellow in particular, I remember, who broke doctor's orders
and jumped into the game at the last minute. He saved the game
for Gridley, I heard. I'd like to shake hands with him."

"Then here's your chance, sir," laughed Dave, shoving Dick forward.
"Mr. Dick Prescott, Gridley High School."

"My name's Dobbins," smiled the farmer, extending his hand. "Glad
to meet you, Prescott. I thought it was you all the time. Mebbe
the young man with you is Darrin."

"Yes," laughed Dick, and there was more handshaking.

"I hope I'll see the rest of your friends when you pass in the
morning," said the farmer cordially.

"Hiram---supper!" called a shrill voice from The doorway.

"Coming, mother! Boys, it does one good to meet the right sort
of fellows once in a while. Enjoy the woods in your own way,
won't you?"

"That man is right. As he says, it does one good to meet the
right sort of fellow once in a while---and he's the right sort,"
declared Darry fervently, as the chums trudged back to their outfit.

Camp was pitched, and supper was soon under way. When it was
all over, and everything cleaned up, Dick looked about him at
his friends.

"I wonder if any of you fellows feel the way I do to-night?" he
asked. "We still have our white clothes, and Fenton is something
of a town. We've been in the woods for so long that I feel just
like dressing up in white and taking a stroll into town."

Tom, Dan and Dave voted in the affirmative. Greg and Hazy averred
that they had walked enough for one day. So the four boys donned
white, while the other two remained behind in flannel and khaki.

Dick and the three companions of his stroll when almost in Fenton,
were passing through a street of pretty little cottages when a
tiny figure, clad in white ran out of the darkness, bumping into
Dick's knees.

"Hello, little one!" cried Prescott, cheerily, picking up a wee
little girl of four and holding her at arm's length. "Hello,
you're crying. What's the matter? Lost mother?"

"No; lost papa," wailed the little one.

"Perhaps we can find him for you," offered Tom, readily.

"Mollie! Mollie, where are you?" came a woman's voice out of
the darkness.

"Is this your little girl, madam?" called Prescott. "We'll bring
her to you."

In another moment the woman, young and pretty, also dressed in
white, had reached the child and was holding her by the hand.

"Oh, you little runaway!" chided Dave, smilingly, as he bent over,
wagging a finger at the child.

"No; it's papa that runned away," gasped the little one, in a
frightened voice. "He ran away to a saloon."

"Oh, said Dave, straightening up and feeling embarrassed as he
caught the humiliated look in the young woman's face.

"Pa---runned away and made mama cry," the little one babbled on,
half sobbing. "I must go after him and bring him home."

"Be quiet, Mollie," commanded her mother.

"Papa comes, if he knows you want him," insisted the child. "I
tell him you want him---that you cry because he went to saloon."

For an instant the mother caught her breath. Then she began to
cry bitterly. Dick and his friends wished themselves almost anywhere

"It's too bad when the children get old enough to realize it,"
said the woman, brokenly. Then, of a sudden, she eyed Dick and
his chums bravely.

"Boys," she said, "I hope the time will never come when you'll
feel that it's manly to go out with the crowd and spend the evening
in drinking."

"The way we feel about it now," spoke Dick, sympathetically, "we'd
rather be dead than facing any degradation of the sort."

They were only boys, and they were strangers to the woman. Moreover,
little Mollie was looking pleadingly towards Dick, as if loath
to let him go. In her misery the young wife poured out her story
to her sympathetic listeners. Her husband had been a fine young
fellow---was still young. His drinking had begun only three months

"We have our own home, more than half paid for," added the woman,
pointing to a pretty little cottage. "Tom has always been a good
workman, never out of a job. But lately he has been spending
his wages for drink. Last month we didn't make our payment on
the house. Today he got his month's pay, and promised not to
drink any more. He was going to take us into town to-night for
a good time, and we were happy, weren't we, baby? Then two of
his saloon cronies passed the house. Tom went with them, but
said he would come right back for us. He hasn't come yet, and
he won't come now until midnight. The month's pay will be gone,
and that means that the home will be gone, after a little. Boys,
I shall never see you again, and it has seemed a help to me to
talk to you. Remember, don't ever-----"

"Madam," asked Dick, suddenly, in a husky tone, "do you mind telling
us your husband's name, and the name of the place where he has

"His name is Tom Drake, and he has gone up to Miller's place,"
answered Mrs. Drake. "But why do you ask? What-----"

"Mrs. Drake," Dick continued, earnestly, "we don't want to be
meddlers, and we'll keep out of this, if you request it. But
the child has given me an inspiration that I could help you.
If you authorize me, I'll go to Miller's and see if I can't help
your husband to know that his happiness is right here, not in
a saloon."

"I---I fear that will be a big undertaking," quivered Mrs. Drake.

A big undertaking, indeed, it was bound to be!



"It's wonderfully kind of you!" breathed the woman, gratefully.
"But it really won't do any good. When a man has begun to drink
nothing can reclaim him from it. My only hope is to be able to
have a talk with Tom when his money is gone."

"Of course if you dislike to have us try, Mrs. Drake-----" Dick

"I don't dislike to have you try!" cried the woman, quickly.
"All I am thinking about is the hopelessness of your undertaking.
You simply can't get Tom out of Miller's to-night until the owner
of that awful place turns him out at closing time. I know! This
has happened before."

Dick stood in an uncertain attitude, his cap in hand. The appealing
face of the child, looking eagerly up at him, made him wish with
all his heart to try to do a good act here, yet he couldn't think
of going on such an errand without the young wife's permission.

"Let him go, mama," urged the child. "He'll bring papa back."

Dick looked questioningly at the woman.

"All right, then, go," she acquiesced. "Oh, I hope you have good
luck, and that you don't make Tom ugly, either. I'll say, for
him, that he has never been ugly yet."

"Mrs. Drake, we all four accept your commission---or permission,
whichever it is," replied Dick, bowing. "We'll try to use tact
and judgment, and we'll try to bring Mr. Drake back with us."

Dick asked a few questions as to where Miller's place might be
found. Then he set off, he and his chums walking abreast.

"Bring him back!" Mollie said plaintively. "Then mama won't cry,
and I won't, either."

"I feel like a fool!" muttered Tom Reade, when they were out of
earshot of the waiting mother and child.

"If you don't like the undertaking, you might keep in the background,"
Dick suggested.

"It's likely I'd back out of anything that's moving, isn't it?"
Reade demanded, offended. "I don't mind any disagreeable business
that we may run into. But I feel like a fool when I think of
the message we'll have to take back to that poor woman and baby."

"Tom Drake will deliver the message to them," replied Dick, firmly.

"If he's sober even now," murmured Danny Grin, uneasily.

"I'm strong for the task!" declared Dave Darrin, with enthusiasm.

"So would I be," Tom defended himself, "if I thought that even
a night of fighting would result in anything like success. But-----"

"Better stop right here, then," Prescott, suggested, smiling earnestly.
But neither of Dick's companions stopped.

They were walking briskly, now. As they had been told, Miller's
was the first place on the right hand side, where the business
street of Fenton began. It had been a tavern in the old days,
and was still a big and roomy structure.

Yet there was no mistaking the room in which the object of their
quest was to be found. The door of the saloon opened repeatedly
while the boys stood regarding the place.

Dick stepped over to a man who had just come out.

"Is Tom Drake in there?" Dick asked.


"Is he sober?" Dick pressed.

"Yes; so far," answered the man.

"Will you do me a great favor? Just step inside and tell him
that there is a man outside who wants to see him. Just tell him
that, and nothing more."

"Are you from Drake's wife?" asked the man, looking Dick over

"Yes," Dick admitted, candidly.

"I'll do it," nodded the man. "Drake has been making a fool of
himself. He'll go to pieces and find himself without a job before
the year is out. You wait here. I'll find a way to coax him
out for you."

Soon the door opened again, and there came out Prescott's messenger
followed by a clean-cut, well-built young man of not more than
twenty-eight years of age.

"There's the young man who says he wants to see you," the citizen
explained, pointing to Dick.

Tom Drake walked steadily enough. He certainly was not yet much
under the influence of liquor.

"You wanted to see me?" he asked, looking somewhat puzzled as
he eyed young Prescott.

"Yes," Dick admitted.

"What about?"

"Will you take a short walk with me," Dick went on, "and I'll
explain my business to you."

"I don't believe I can take a walk with you," Drake answered.
"I'm with some friends in there."

He nodded over his shoulder at the door through which he had just

"But my business is of a great deal of importance," Dick went on.

"Can't you see me to-morrow?" asked Drake, eager to get back to
his companions.

"To-morrow will be altogether too late," Dick replied.

"Then state your business now."

"I'd much rather explain it you as you walk with me," Prescott
urged, earnestly.

"Are---are you from the building loan people?" asked Tom Drake,

"No, I am not from them," Prescott replied, then added, truthfully
enough: "But it's partly about that building loan matter that
I wish to talk with you."

"Who sent you here?" asked Drake, half-suspiciously.

"A child," Dick replied. "At least, it was a child's face that
gave me the resolution to come here and have a few words with you."

"A child?" repeated Drake. "What child?"


"A child?" echoed the young man. "Mine? Do you mean Mollie?"

"Yes," Dick went on, rapidly. "The child wanted to come here
herself to get you, and I came in her stead. It was better that
I should come than that little tot. Don't you think so?"

"I'm afraid I don't understand you," returned Tom Drake, beginning
to look offended.

"Mr. Drake, do you know that your wife and child are all dressed
up---in their prettiest white gowns, waiting for you to come
back to bring them into town to-night for the promised treat?
Don't you understand the pain that you're giving them by showing
that you prefer a lot of red-nosed loafers in Miller's to your
own wife and child? The unhappiness that you're causing them
to-night isn't a circumstance to all the misery that you're piling
up for them in the years to come. Switch off! Switch off, while
you're yet man enough to be able to do it! Won't you do it---please?
You must know just how happy that little kid will be when she
sees you come swinging down the street to bring her and her mother
into town. You know how that little tot's eyes will shine. Can't
you hear her saying, `Here's papa! He's come.' Isn't that baby
worth a twenty-mile walk for any man to see when he knows she's
his own kiddie and waiting for him? Come along, now; they're
both waiting for you; they will be the happiest pair you've seen
in a long time."

"I don't know but I will toddle along home," said Drake, rather
shame-facedly. "I---I didn't realize how time was slipping by.
Yes; I guess I'll go home. Much obliged to you for letting me
know the time."

But at that moment the door opened, and a voice called out:

"Drake! Oh, Drake. Come here; we want you."

"Can't, now," the young man called back. "I'm due at home."

"Home?" came in two or three jeering voices.

Then several men came out of the saloon, laughing boisterously.

"Come back, Drake! We can't let you slip off like that. You're
too good a fellow to play the sneak with us. Come on back!"

"I---I tell you, I'm due at home," insisted Drake, though he spoke
more weakly.

"Hey! Here's Drake---says he's going to slip home on us!" called
one of the tormentors.

More men came out of the place, some of them staggering. With
the new arrivals came one whom Dick and his friends rightly guessed
to be Miller---a thickset man, with swaggering manner, insolent
expression and rough voice.

"What's this about your going home, Drake?" demanded one of the
new arrivals.

"I---I really ought to go home," Drake tried to explain.

"Cut that out," ordered Miller roughly. "You're booked to spend
the evening with us, and the evening has hardly begun."

"I promised this young fellow I'd go home," said Drake slowly,
"so I guess I will."

"And what has this young feller got to say or do about it?" demanded
Miller angrily, as He pushed his way to Drake's side, then glared
at Dick Prescott.

"And what have you got to say about his not going home?" Dick
asked hotly. "Isn't this a free country, where a man may go
home when he chooses?"

"It's a free country, and a man has a right to spend his evening
in my place when he's invited," Miller asserted roughly.

"Yes; your invitation will hold until his month's pay is gone
from his pocket," Dick flashed back. "That's all you want. Drake
has sense enough to see that, and he's leaving you."

"He isn't going home for three hours yet, or anywhere else!" snorted
Miller, whose breath proclaimed the fact that he had been using
some of his own goods.

Dick laughed contemptuously as he turned to Tom Drake with:

"You see! That fellow thinks he can give you your orders. That
fellow begins to believe that he owns you already."

"Who are you calling 'that feller'?" demanded Miller, dropping
a heavy hand on Dick's shoulder.

"I referred to you," replied Prescott, pushing the man's hand
from his shoulder.

"If you get too funny with me I'll hit you a crack that will carry
your head off with it!" snarled the saloon keeper.

"Pshaw!" Prescott answered cuttingly. "You aren't big enough,
or man enough, either!"

"What's that?"

Miller aimed a vicious, open-hand blow at young Prescott's face.
It didn't land, but, instead, Dick's right hand went up smack!
against the fellow's cheek.

"Hang your impudence!" roared Miller, angrily. "I'll pay you
for that! I'll teach you!"

He made a rush at Dick, but two men who had been attracted by
the commotion jumped in between them.

"Hold on, Miller!" objected one of these passers-by. "You can't
pummel a boy!"

"I'll make him howl for hitting me!" roared Miller, doubling his
big, powerful fists. "Get out of my way, or I'll run over you!"

"Get out of his way, please!" cried Dick suddenly. "Let Miller
at me, if he wants. I'm willing to fight him. I'll fight him
for Tom Drake's right to be a man!"



"Good! And I'll hold the stakes!" cried Tom Reade jovially, as
he took light hold of Drake's arm.

"Let Miller at the boy!" howled one of the bystanders. "He'll
show the boy something. The kid is getting big enough to learn,
and he ought to be taught."

"I'll fight Miller, if he has the sand!" proclaimed Dick, who
now had his own reasons for wanting to sting the liquor seller
into action. "I'll fight the bully, but not here in a saloon
yard. There is a vacant lot the other side of the fence. We'll
go in there and see how much of a fighter he is."

More citizens had gathered by this time, and there was every sign
of an intention to stop further trouble. But Dave Darrin sprang
into the crowd, saying, almost in an undertone:

"The respectable men here don't want to try to stop this affair.
A lot of useful manhood depends upon the issue. Don't worry
about my friend, if he does look rather young. He can take care
of himself, all right, and he is calling for a fight that ought
to be fought. You respectable men in the crowd keep still, and
just come along and see fair play---that's all."

Dave's earnest eloquence won over many of the men representing
the better element of the crowd.

"Jove! He's a plucky boy!" cried one man.

"But Miller will pound him to a pulp!"

"Come along, everyone, and see whether rum or water is the best
drink for fighting men!" insisted Tom Reade.

There was a general movement toward the vacant lot. Miller was
muttering angrily, while some of his red-nosed victims were jeering.

In the field Dick took off his hat and coat, then his tie, and
passed them to Dan Dalzell.

"Dave," whispered Prescott, "you stand by as my second, but don't
make any too stiff claims of foul. This will have to be rough
work, from the start."

Miller, already in his shirt sleeves, did not feel that he had
any need of special preparation. Prescott looked altogether too
easy. Not that Miller lacked experience in such matters. In
other years he had been a prize-fighter of minor rank, and had
been considered, in his class, a fairly hard man to beat.

"Now, stand up, boy," ordered the saloon keeper, advancing. "And
take back the crack you passed to me."

"Let's have it," taunted Dick, throwing himself on the defensive.

Miller aimed a vicious blow but did not land. Instead, Prescott
hit him on the short ribs.

"If you're going to fight, stand up and take your medicine!" roared
Miller, in a rage.

"Handle your own foot-work to suit yourself!" Dick retorted.
"I'll do the same. But you can't fight, anyway!"

That taunt threw the liquor seller into a still greater rage.
With a yell he sprang at Prescott. But again Dick failed to
be there.

The high school boy was not having an easy time, however. Miller's
strength was formidable, and Dick knew that he could not stop
many straight blows from his opponent without disaster.

Two merely glancing blows scraped the lad, who had landed four
blows on Miller. The big fellow, however, seemed able to endure
a lot of punishment.

"I didn't come out here to run a race!" Miller insisted, as he
tried hard to corner the boy.

"Then stand still, and I won't hit you so hard!" mocked Prescott,
as he struck the man again on the short ribs.

Then, of a sudden, Prescott hit the earth. He had miscalculated,
and Miller's left fist had landed on his nose.

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