Part 1 out of 4
E-text prepared by Jim Ludwig
The High School Boys in Summer Camp
The Dick Prescott Six Training for the Gridley Eleven
By H. Irving Hancock
I. The Man in the Four-Quart-Hat
II. Dick and Some High Finance
III. The Human Mystery of the Woods
IV. Dave Darrin is Angry
V. Dick Grapples in the Dark
VI. Danger Comes on the Hoof
VII. Fighting the Mad Stampede
VIII. Visitors for the Feast
IX. Dick's Woodland Discovery
X. Setting a New Trap
XI. A Hard Prowler to Catch
XII. "Tag" is the Game--Tag Mosher!
XIII. In a Fix!
XIV. Thrashing an Ambulance Case!
XV. The Interruption of a Training Bout
XVI. Ten Minutes of Real Daring
XVII. During the Big Storm
XVIII. Mr. Page's Kind of Father
XIX. Seen in a New, Worse Light
XX. Some Imitation Villainy
XXI. The Medical Examiner Talks Training
XXII. Plating Ragtime on Mr. Bull
XXIII. What Tag "Borrowed" from the Doctor
THE MAN IN THE FOUR-QUART HAT
"You'll find your man in the lobby of the Eagle Hotel or in the
neighborhood of the hotel on Main Street," said Dick Prescott.
"You can hardly miss him."
"But how will I know Mr. Hibbert, when I see him?" pursued the
"I don't know that his name is Hibbert," Dick answered. "However,
he is the only young man who has just reached town fresh from
Europe. His trunks are pasted all over with labels."
"You'll know the young man, sir," Tom Reade broke in, with a quiet
smile. "He always wears a spite-fence collar. You could bill
a minstrel show on that collar."
"A collar is but a slight means of identification, in a city full
of people," remarked the stranger good-humoredly.
"Well, then, sir, your man also wears a four-quart silk hat, and
a long black coat that makes you think of a neat umbrella covering,"
Tom went on.
"And lavender trousers," supplemented Greg Holmes.
"Always wears these things, you say?" questioned the stranger.
"He has, so far," Dick nodded. "Mr. Hibbert has been in town
only since late yesterday afternoon, and it's only four in the
"I shall be able to find my man all right," smiled the stranger.
"You've informed me that he is stopping at the Eagle Hotel.
Until now, I knew only that Mr. Hibbert was in Gridley. Thank
you, young gentlemen."
"Now, I wonder how he knew that," murmured Tom reflectively.
"Knew what?" demanded Dave Darrin.
"That we're gentlemen," Tom responded.
"Oh, he guessed that," suggested Harry Hazelton.
"He's a good guesser, then," remarked Tom. "I always like to
see a man so discerning. I'm ashamed to confess it, but Dick
is the only fellow in our crowd who looks at all like a gentleman.
He is dressed in his Sunday best. Look at us!"
The other five certainly looked neat enough, even though they
did not wear their "Sunday best."
"Now, fellows, what's the lowest I'm to take for the canoe?"
Dick inquired, after a glance at his watch. "The train is due
in two minutes."
Instantly his five chums looked thoughtful.
"You'll get the most that you can, of course," Greg insisted.
"I shall try to get a good price," Dick nodded, "but I may find
myself up against close bargainers. So hurry up and vote as to
the lowest price that I'm to accept under any circumstances."
"What do you say?" asked Tom Reade, looking at Dave.
"We ought to get sixty dollars for it, at the very lowest," Darrin
replied, slowly. "I'd like to pull in seventy-five dollars, for
we need every penny of the latter amount."
"We might get along with seventy," hinted Harry Hazelton. "Suppose
we say seventy dollars as the lowest possible price that we can
"Sixty-five dollars, anyway," urged Dan Dalzell, otherwise known
as "Danny Grin."
"What's your own idea, Dick?" asked Tom Reade, as the distant
"If you fellows are going to be content with a sixty or seventy-dollar
bottom price," suggested Prescott, "I wish you'd elect someone
else to go in my place."
"Do you think we'll have to take fifty?" asked Tom Reade looking
"If you send me, and leave the trade in my hands," retorted young
Prescott, "then you'll have to accept ninety dollars as the very
bottom price, or there won't be any sale."
"Hurrah!" chuckled Danny Grin. "That's the talk! Ninety---or
"Do you think you can get that much?" asked Dave doubtingly.
"I'll have to, or I won't make any trade," Dick smiled, though
there was a glint of firmness in his eyes.
"Let it be ninety dollars or nothing, then," agreed Tom Reade,
adding, under his breath, "With the accept on the 'nothing.'"
As Dick glanced about him at the faces of his chums they all nodded
"I have my final instructions, then," Dick announced, as the east-bound
train rolled in at the Gridley station. It had been from the
westbound train, a few minutes before, that the stranger seeking
Mr. Hibbert had alighted.
"Wish you luck, old chap!" cheered Dave, as Dick ascended the
"I wish us all luck," Dick called back from the car platform,
"and I'll try to bring it back to you."
The train was moving as Dick entered one of the day coaches.
Silently his chums wished that they might all have gone with Dick,
instead of turning away from the station, as they were now doing.
Funds were low with Dick & Co., however, and all hands had contributed
to buy young Prescott's round-trip ticket to Porthampton, more
than an hour's ride away.
"Do you believe Dick can get ninety dollars for the canoe?" asked
Dave at last, when the high school boys were half way to Main Street.
"Why not? It's a six-paddle war canoe, a genuine one, and in
good condition for the water," Tom Reade replied.
"But it's only a second-hand canoe," Darrin argued. "It was second-hand
when we bought it at the Wild West auction a year ago."
"That canoe is in just as good order as it ever was," Greg maintained.
"It's a shame for us to sell it at all. We could have had a
lot of fun with it this summer."
"Yes," sighed Danny Grin, "if only Harry and I hadn't been forbidden
by our parents to have anything more to do with the canoe."
"One thing is certain," spoke up Tom promptly. "With two of our
fellows barred from entering the canoe we couldn't have any fun.
Dick & Co. have always pulled together, you know. There are
six of us, but we don't break up into smaller parties, and we
don't recruit our ranks with newcomers."
"I don't see why my father had to kick so about the canoe," sighed
Harry Hazelton. "We enjoyed the good old canoe all last summer,
and not one of us got hurt in it, or from it."
"I understand why your father objects, Harry," broke in Darrin.
"With five drowning accidents from canoes hereabouts, already
this summer, and two of those accidents on our own river, your
father has some right to be nervous about the canoe."
"I can swim," argued Harry.
"So could both of the fellows who were drowned right here in the
river," rejoined Reade. "Harry, I don't blame either your father
or Dan's mother for objecting. Anyway, think of the fun we're
going to have, this summer, of a different kind."
"If we sell the canoe," Darrin laughed. "But we haven't sold
"Oh, Dick can get something for the canoe," insisted Reade.
"Yes; but 'something' won't fill the bill, now, for you all heard
Dick say he wouldn't take less than ninety dollars for it. When
Dick says a thing like that he means it. He will bring back ninety
"Or nothing," finished Dave. "Somehow, I can't just figure out
what any man would look like who'd give ninety dollars for an
old second-hand war canoe, even if it is of Indian model."
"And made of genuine birch bark, which is so hard to get these
days," added Reade. "Fellows, I can't believe that our old Dick
will come back whipped. Defeat isn't a habit of his, you know."
So the "Co." of Dick & Co. wandered up on to Main Street, a prey
to suspense. Some hours must pass ere they could hope to know
the result of their young leader's mission at Porthampton.
All the member of Dick & Co. are assuredly familiar enough our
readers. These six young Americans, Gridleyites, amateur athletes
and high school boys, were first introduced to the reader during
their eventful days of early chumship at the Central Grammar School.
Their adventures have been related in detail in the "_Grammar
School Boys Series_." How they made their start in athletics,
as grammar school boys, and, more important still, how they made
their beginnings in character forming, have all been related in
that series. We next came upon Dick & Co. in the "_High School
Boys Series_." All of our readers recall the rousing story of
"_The High School Freshmen_." Young Prescott and his chums were
bound to be "different," even as freshmen; so, without being in
the least "fresh," they managed to make their influence felt in
Gridley High School during their first year there. Though, as
freshmen, they were not allowed to take part in athletics, they
contrived to "boost up" Gridley High School athletics several
notches, and aided in putting the Athletic Association on a firmer
basis than it had ever known before. They did several other noteworthy
things in their freshman year, all of which are now wholly familiar
to our readers. Their doings in the second high school year are
fully chronicled in "_The High School Pitcher_." In this second
volume the formal and exciting entry of Dick & Co. into high school
athletics is splendidly described, with a wealth of rousing adventure
and humorous situations.
This present series, which is intended to describe the vacations
of our Gridley High School boys in between their regular school
years, opened with the preceding volume, "_The High School Boys
Canoe Club_." Within the pages of that volume are set forth the
manner in which Dick & Co. secured, at an auction sale of a Wild
West show, a six-paddle Indian war canoe. All their problems
in getting this canoe into serviceable condition made highly interesting
reading. The host of adventures that surrounded their vacation
at Lake Pleasant proved thrilling indeed to our readers. How
they met and contested with the canoe clubs from other high schools
was delightfully set forth. The efforts of Fred Ripley to spoil
the fun of Dick & Co. during that vacation, formed another strong
feature of the tale.
We now find our young high school friends, just after the Fourth
of July, at a very exciting point in their careers. As has been
intimated, Harry Hazelton's and Dan Dalzell's parents had grown
nervous about the canoeing sport, and had urged their sons not
to enter the craft again. As Dick & Co. had always been companions
in all forms of sport, the other four chums had promptly decided
to sell the canoe, if possible, and to devote the proceeds to
going off in the "real woods" to camp.
And now a probable customer at Porthampton had been found, and
Dick had departed by train to see whether the sale could be effected.
"I've twenty cents left. Is there money enough in the crowd to
buy five ice creams?" asked Tom Reade, displaying two dimes.
"I've a whole half dollar, though you won't believe it until you
see it," laughed Dave Darrin.
"Then there's enough for cream," decided Tom.
"I'll put in my half, if you fellows say so," Dave went on. "But
we may soon be in need of quite a bit of money. Wouldn't it be
better to hold on to our fruit of the mint?"
"When we sell the canoe we'll have plenty of money," suggested
"Very true, old Smilax," nodded Dave. "But what if Dick doesn't
"Then we won't have plenty of money," responded Greg promptly.
"If Dick doesn't make a sale to the parties he has gone to see,"
Dave went on argumentatively, "we may want money to buy him a
ticket to some other town. It won't be wise to spend our little
capital until we see some more money coming in."
"That sounds like common sense," agreed Reade, dropping his dimes
back into his pocket. "Still, I'm sorry that we're not rich enough
to finance the ice cream proposition and still have enough capital
"So am I sorry," sighed Danny Grin. "This waiting for Dick Prescott
to get back with the news is a wearing proposition."
"Come down to my house," suggested Dave. "I've got that catalogue
from the tent and camping goods house. Let's go and look over
the catalogue, and try to decide just what we want to buy for
our camp when Dick gets the money for the canoe."
"That would be bully fun, if we really knew that Dick had sold
the canoe," smiled young Holmes wistfully. "However, until we
do know, I suggest that we avoid all false hopes and keep away
from all catalogues."
At this instant Tom nudged Dave. Two men were passing, and one
of them was saying to the other:
"Yes; I sold the double house for eighty-two hundred dollars---a
clear profit of twenty-two hundred. Then I put four thousand
more with that money and bought the Miller place. Within a couple
of years I'll get rid of the Miller place for at least sixteen
thousand dollars. I've never known a time when real estate money
came in as easily."
"Is he talking about real money?" grunted Darrin. "He can't be!"
"He is," Tom declared. "That's Buller, of Wrenville. He is a
very successful man in real estate. Father knows him."
"Humph! Talking of thousands, when a few ten dollar bills would
fix us for the summer," muttered Dave Darrin. "I wonder if men
ever stop to think how it feels for a boy to go around broke."
"I spoke to my dad along those lines once," smiled Tom.
"What did he say?" asked Danny Grin.
"Oh, dad told me there was no objection whatever to my starting
out and earning a lot of money. He explained that was how he
had gotten his."
The other youngsters were smiling now, for, as was well known
to them all, Mr. Reade wasn't credited with possessing a great
deal of money.
"Well, are you fellows coming down to my place to look over the
catalogue?" Dave proposed once more. "It'll help to kill time
during our suspense."
Though they felt rather foolish about spending their dollars before
they obtained them, the four high school boys turned to follow
Darrin, when a voice behind them called:
"Oh, boys! Just a moment, please!"
"It's the man in the four-quart silk hat," Tom whispered, as the
five chums baited and turned.
"Man?" echoed Darry, though also in a whisper. "Humph! Hibbert
looks more like a boy who has run away from home with his father's
Certainly, as he hurried toward them, Mr. Hibbert did look youthful.
He couldn't have been more than twenty-two---perhaps he was a
year younger than that. He was not very tall, nor very stout.
His round, rosy, cherubic, smoothly shaven face made him look
almost girlish. He was faultlessly, expensively dressed, though
on this hot July afternoon a black frock coat and high silk hat
looked somewhat out of keeping with the day's weather report.
"I just wanted to ask you boys to do me something of a favor,"
Mr. Alonzo Hibbert went on.
"Name the favor, please," urged Tom with drawling gentleness.
"Can you tell me what shop that is over there?" inquired Mr. Hibbert,
pointing, with a dapper cane, across the street.
"That is Anderson's Ice Cream Emporium," Tom answered gravely.
"Let's go over there," proposed Mr. Hibbert smiling, as he glanced
from one face to another.
"That proposition was just before the house, and was voted down,"
"What was the matter, boys?" demanded young Mr. Hibbert beamingly.
"Didn't you have the price?"
"On the contrary, we had the price," Reade answered, as gravely
as ever. "However, after discussion, we decided that we had other
uses for our capital."
"But I haven't any other uses for my present capital," pursued
Mr. Hibbert, as smiling as ever. "So come along, please."
Instead of jumping at the offer, Dick's partners regarded the
man in the four-quart hat with some doubt. Often, when offered
a courtesy from strangers that they would like to accept, these
boys were likely to regard the offer with this same attitude of
suspicion. It was not that Dick & Co. meant to be ungracious
to strangers, but rather that their boyish experience with the
world had taught them that such offers from strangers usually
have strings attached to them.
"Don't you young men like ice cream?" asked Mr. Hibbert, looking
fully as astonished as he felt.
"Certainly we do, Mr. Hibbert," Tom responded. "But what's the
idea? What do you want us to do for you?"
"I ask you for the pleasure of your company," explained Mr. Hibbert.
"I'm a stranger in this town, and I'd like a little company."
"And---afterwards?" pursued Reade.
"'Afterwards'?" repeated Alonzo Hibbert looking puzzled.
"What do you want us to do for you by and by?" Tom asked.
"Oh, I see," replied Hibbert, laughing with keen enjoyment. "You
think my invitation a bait for services that I expect presently
to demand. Nothing of the sort, I assure you. All I want is
someone to talk to for the next half hour. Won't you oblige me?"
"Mr. Hibbert," broke in Dave suddenly, "I've just happened to
remember that there is a man in town who wants to talk with you.
We met him at the station, and he inquired where he could find
"I think I know whom you mean," admitted Hibbert.
"We told him you were stopping at the Eagle Hotel," Greg added.
"Then, if the man who is looking for me went to the Eagle Hotel,
he has already learned that I am elsewhere. It's his business
to find me, not mine to run about town seeking him. He can find
me as well in the ice cream shop as in any other place. Will
you young men oblige me with your company?"
At a nod from Darrin the others fell in line. Mr. Hibbert led
the way across the street, entering the shop, which proved to
be empty of other customers.
As the waitress approached the two tables to take the orders for
ice cream the host of the occasion turned to his guests.
"Give the young woman your orders, gentlemen," said Alonzo Hibbert.
"Strawberry," said Tom.
"Vanilla," requested Dave.
"Oh, fudge!" interposed their host.
"We haven't any fudge ice cream, sir," remarked the waitress without
"I cried fudge on their orders," remarked Hibbert gayly. "They
are too modest. Young woman, have you still some of those cantaloupes,
which you cut open and fill with different flavors of cream and
"Then, young gentlemen, permit me to change the order to one of
those cantaloupes for each of you."
The waitress departed on her errand, while Reade and Darrin glanced
at each other, somewhat aghast. The delicacy ordered by Mr. Hibbert
cost a quarter of a dollar a portion.
When the orders were brought and placed on the table, Alonzo Hibbert
draw from his pocket a roll of bills, stripping off the outermost
and handing it to the waitress. Yet their host gave no sign of
attempting to make a vulgar display of his money. He seemed rather
unconscious of the possession of it.
"Are these favorites of yours?" inquired Mr. Hibbert presently
of Greg, indicating the multi-colored load of ices, each resting
in a half of a cantaloupe.
"Not exactly favorites," Greg replied. "We don't often have the
money to spend on such an expensive treat."
"Don't you?" inquired Hibbert in a tone of considerable surprise,
as though wondering why everyone in the world wasn't as well supplied
with money as he himself was.
Then, after a pause, their host asked of Greg:
"Would you like always to have plenty of money?"
"I suppose everyone would like that," murmured young Holmes.
"Shall I make a prediction?" inquired Hibbert.
"By all means, if it pleases you," Greg answered politely.
"Then, Greg Holmes, I venture to assert that you will very shortly
find yourself a millionaire."
This was said with so much earnestness, and apparent sincerity,
that all five of the chums now regarded their host intently.
"How soon is that going to happen?" Greg laughingly inquired.
"Within a week," Alonzo Hibbert replied as seriously as ever.
He glanced at Greg with a look full of friendly interest.
Tom Reade snorted, almost audibly, then drew down the corners
of his mouth to keep himself from laughing outright. Dave, too,
took another swift look at their smiling young host.
"I wish you were a sure prophet," murmured Greg trying hard not
"I am," declared Mr. Hibbert seriously. "Mind what I tell you,
Greg Holmes, within a week you will know yourself to be a millionaire."
"Real money?" demanded Greg.
"Real money," nodded Hibbert positively. "Or else it will be
in stocks, bonds or real estate that could be converted into real
By this time, Tom, Dave and the others, Greg included, had taken
Alonzo Hibbert's measure or believed they had. Their host, then,
was a lunatic. A harmless and very amiable lunatic, to be sure,
yet none the less the victim of a deranged mind.
"Eaten up your creams?" asked Mr. Hibbert, glancing around. "Then
we'll have another apiece."
He signaled the waitress, giving the order.
"Don't ask me---yet---how I know," continued their host, turning
once more to Greg Holmes, "but you're going to find yourself a
millionaire within a week. I know it. It's all in your ear."
As he spoke Hibbert gave Greg's right ear a playful tweak.
"All in Greg's ear?" muttered Tom Reade under his breath. "I
knew that from the outset."
"All in your ear, Holmes!" Hibbert repeated. "Yet it will all
be very real money. Oh, won't you be astonished!"
"I---I think I shall, when the wealth rains down upon me," murmured
Greg, now afraid to raise his eyes to meet the mocking glance
that Darry was sending toward him.
At this moment the stranger of the railway station entered the
room, then came toward the table.
"Mr. Hibbert, here is the man who was inquiring for you at the
station," Tom announced in a low voice.
Hibbert turned, glancing inquiringly at the stranger.
"Are you Mr. Hibbert?" asked the latter.
"Yes," nodded the man in the four-quart hat. "My name is Colquitt,"
explained the stranger. "I am from-----"
"Er---yes, quite so," murmured Mr. Hibbert. "And here is the
boy. He is named Greg Holmes. Do you observe his right ear?"
"I do," Colquitt assented, after a swift, keen glance.
"He is the boy," Hibbert repeated after a moment's hesitation.
"Where do you live, young man?" asked Colquitt.
Greg supplied the name of his street and the number.
"Name of your family physician?" went on the stranger.
"Has he always been your family physician?"
"Ever since I can remember," Greg declared.
"Thank you," and Colquitt turned to leave.
"Won't you stay and have an ice with us?" urged Hibbert.
"Too much to do," replied Colquitt, shaking his head and walking out.
Now the high school boys found themselves doubly, trebly puzzled.
If Mr. Hibbert were an amiable lunatic, what of Colquitt? Both
had appeared to know something mysterious about young Holmes.
Tom Reade, also, was thinking deeply. Dave Darrin was frowning.
Dan Dalzell was grinning slightly, while Hazelton was giving
his whole attention to the second ice before him.
Hibbert, however, passed to other topics as lightly as though
he had already forgotten all about fortunes and ears. The time
passed pleasantly until all of the five chums felt that they could
hold no more ices. Then Hibbert, having paid the bill, left the
ice cream place with them.
Outside they encountered Mr. Colquitt once more.
"May I have a word aside with you, sir?" demanded Colquitt.
"A dozen," agreed Hibbert readily.
The two walked apart from the boys, going down the sidewalk together
slowly. But the youngsters heard Hibbert say earnestly:
"I tell you, Colquitt, that is the boy. He has the ear and all.
And he'll be in luck with the money he'll have!"
"And I tell you, Mr. Hibbert, that he isn't the boy at all," retorted
Colquitt, with even greater positiveness.
More was said, but the two passed out of hearing.
"Greg," declared Tom Reade solemnly, "it appears that you're the
"I know it," grinned young Holmes. "I am! Also it seems equally
certain that I am not!"
"What do you make of the whole business, fellows?" Tom asked,
turning to the other chums.
"I've my own idea," laughed Dave Darrin.
"Give it us, quickly!" begged Danny Grin.
"My idea," Dave declared, "is that Hibbert is a rather harmless
lunatic, yet one who has to be watched a bit."
"Then what about Colquitt?" urged Hazelton.
"Colquitt," guessed Darry, "is Hibbert's keeper."
"The mild lunatic idea," Tom observed, "fits in well with a chap
who, in this sweltering July weather, will insist on wearing a
four-quart silk hat, a spite-fence collar and a long, black,
"There's only one part of the whole dream that I'd like to believe,"
sighed young Holmes. "I'd be quite willing to have it proved
to me that I'm a young millionaire!"
"What would you do if you had the million---right in your hand?"
quizzed Danny Grin.
"I'd transfer it to my pockets," Greg answered.
"What next?" pressed Dan.
"I'd hurry to the bank with the money."
"And---then?" Dan still insisted.
"Then," supplied practical Tom Reade, "he'd end our suspense by
paying Dick ninety dollars for our war canoe!"
"I would," Greg agreed.
DICK AND SOME HIGH FINANCE
"I feel like a fellow without any manners," complained Dave Darrin.
"What have you done now?" asked Greg, coming out of his million-dollar
"It's what I haven't done," Darry answered. "It's also what none
of us have done. We haven't thanked our very pleasant, even if
slightly erratic, host for his entertainment."
"We can't very well butt in," declared Reade, glancing down the
street. "Hibbert and his kee---I mean, his friend---are still
talking earnestly. I wonder if they lock poor Hibbert up part
of the time?"
Colquitt and young Mr. Hibbert had now turned in at the Eagle
Hotel. Dave glanced at his watch, remarking:
"Fellows, it's ten minutes after six. Those of you who want any
supper will do well to hurry home."
"I'm certain that I can't eat a bit of supper," declared Hazelton,
looking almost alarmed. "I've eaten so much of that cream and
cantaloupe that I haven't a cubic inch of space left for anything
Nevertheless the high school boys parted, going their various
directions, after having agreed to meet by seven o'clock. All
wanted to be on hand when Prescott got back to town.
After supper Greg had not been out of the house five minutes when
Mr. Hibbert appeared at the gate of the Holmes cottage, and passed
inside. The caller inquired for Greg's father, met that gentleman,
and the two remained in private conversation for some five minutes.
Ere the first minute was over, however, Greg's father might have
been heard, from the sidewalk, laughing uproariously. Finally
Mrs. Holmes was called into the conference. She came forth again,
looking somewhat amused.
From that meeting Hibbert went back to Main Street, where he fell
in with Tom Colquitt.
"Are you satisfied, now?" demanded the latter.
"I'm puzzled," replied Hibbert, with the air and tone of a man
who hates to give up a delusion.
Colquitt and Hibbert had not gone a block and a half ere they
encountered Dave, Tom and the others, only Dick being absent from
the gathering of the chums. Curiously, too, the meeting took
place before the same ice cream shop.
"Just in time to have some more cream, boys," suggested young
"And we'd enjoy it, too, thank you," responded Tom courteously,
"but there is a point, sir, past which it would be imposition
to go. So we are going to content ourselves with enjoying a very
pleasant recollection of the good time we had with you this afternoon."
"Better come inside with us," urged Mr. Colquitt. "I notice a
table, away over in the corner, where we can be by ourselves.
You see, boys, after what Hibbert said to one of your number
this afternoon, we feel that an explanation is due to you. We
can explain inside much better than we could on a street corner."
That crowbar of curiosity wedged the boys away from their fear
that they were accepting too much from strangers. So they followed
their mysterious conductors inside. Young Mr. Hibbert ordered
ices similar to those that had been enjoyed that afternoon. Then
Mr. Colquitt, with a brisk air, began:
"Concerning that suspicion that young Holmes might be the missing
heir to a large sum of money, I'll tell you how Mr. Hibbert got
Then, as though fearing that he had made too great a promise,
Mr. Colquitt paused.
"It's this way," he went on, at last. "Many years ago there was
a railway wreck in this part of the state. A good many passengers
were killed. Among them was the wife of a wealthy man. The husband
escaped with his life, but he was so badly hurt that, for a year
or so, his mind suffered. He had to be taken abroad. There were
a few babies among those killed in the wreck, and the infant son
of the couple was supposed to be one of them. The father is now
well and healthy, but a very lonely man. Within the last few
weeks this father has had some reason to believe that his son
didn't perish in the wreck, but that other people, believing both
parents had been killed, took charge of the infant.
"That is all," continued Mr. Colquitt, "except that the missing
infant had a small v-shaped nick on the outer edge of his right
ear. Probably with the boy's growth, if he is still alive, the
nick has become so small as to be barely noticeable, like the
nick in Holmes' right ear. Mr. Hibbert came to Gridley only yesterday,
and it happened that one of the first young men he saw, close
to the hotel, was young Holmes. Rather by chance Hibbert saw
that very small nick, that usually would escape notice. In great
excitement Hibbert telegraphed the anxious father, and the father
wired Blinders' detective agency, which sent me down to Gridley."
"It isn't possible that Greg can be the missing son," breathed
Tom Reade incredulously.
"He isn't," declared Tom Colquitt promptly. "I made sure of that
very soon after I reached town to-day. First of all, I found
out the name of the family physician, Dr. Bentley. I saw that
gentleman, and he assured me he knew that young Holmes was the
son of Mr. and Mrs. Holmes, for Dr. Bentley told me that he signed
young Greg's birth certificate. That was proof enough, but I
also saw Mr. and Mrs. Holmes, a few minutes ago. The missing
son of the wealthy man in question had two other marks on his
body that would identify him."
"What are those marks?" asked Dave Darrin deeply interested.
Tom Colquitt hesitated, glancing at young Mr. Hibbert.
"Tell 'em," nodded the young man of the four-quart hat.
"The young man we are seeking," replied the detective, "will have
a brownish mole over his right shoulder blade and a reddish mark
to the left of his breast bone. The boy was born with those marks.
The nick in his ear resulted from an accident when the nurse
was handling the child."
"We'll find the youngster for you," promised Danny Grin lightly.
"And is Mr. Hibbert a detective, too?" asked Tom Reade.
"No," replied Colquitt, with great promptness, while Mr. Hibbert,
grinning sheepishly, added:
"I haven't brains enough for that, I guess. But, Master Holmes,
please tell me, to satisfy my last doubt. Have you any such marks
as Mr. Colquitt has described?"
"I never noticed such marks on myself," Greg replied.
"He hasn't them," Dave interjected, "or the rest of us would have
noticed the marks when we've been in swimming."
"Then your last idea that Gregory Holmes is the missing young
man must vanish now, my dear Mr. Hibbert," smiled Mr. Colquitt.
"I'm vanquished," confessed Alonzo Hibbert, with a sigh. "I'm
no good at anything. I wouldn't even make a detective."
"I must leave you now," suggested Mr. Colquitt, rising. "I must
wire to---er---to my client. Poor man, he will be greatly disappointed."
As the detective rose and passed outside Hazelton leaned over
to murmur to young Holmes:
"Don't you wish it had turned out that you were the million-dollar
"Not if I had to give up my father and mother," Greg replied,
with great promptness.
"I seem to be a fool at everything," sighed Alonzo Hibbert in
"No; I would say, sir," suggested Tom Reade, "that you made the
mistake of proceeding on one sign, instead of looking for all three."
"Have another ice!" urged Mr. Hibbert, brightening at once. "You
have set me straight. I wasn't a fool, after all---merely too
But the boys shook their heads as they murmured their thanks.
So they were about to rise when a voice called cheerily behind
"Stay where you are, fellows. We'll have an ice cream all around."
"Dick!" cried five eager voices at once, as Prescott came smilingly
to join them. Then their eyes all framed the same question, which
their lips refused to utter.
"Did you sell the canoe?"
As Dick glanced inquiringly at young Mr. Hibbert, Dave Darrin
presented him. Dick also learned that Hibbert had been a willing
host to five of the chums.
"Now, you'll turn about and eat an ice cream with us, won't you,
Mr. Hibbert?" urged young Prescott.
This the young man consented to do, though, as soon as the dainty
had been disposed of, he begged to be excused that he might go
and have further talk with Tom Colquitt.
"You sold the canoe, I think, Dick?" said Tom, as soon as their
late host had left them.
"Yes," beamed their leader.
"You might tell us what you got for it," urged Danny Grin.
"Guess," hinted Dick.
"Fifty," said Dave promptly.
"He said he wouldn't take less than ninety," retorted Hazelton.
"Ninety dollars," guessed Tom.
"Fellows," laughed Dick, "at one time on the train I was so
downhearted and glum over the chances of a trade that I believe I
would have jumped at fifty dollars. Then I remembered my promise
not to take less than ninety dollars. With that I soared to a
hundred dollars, then down, by degrees, to seventy. But my promise
pulled me back to ninety."
"It wasn't exactly a promise," Dave broke in. "Anyway, Dick,
it wasn't the kind of promise that had to be kept."
"Half the time I felt that the promise had to be kept, and the
other half of the time I felt that it might better be broken,"
Prescott went on, laughingly. "Just as I reached Porthampton,
however, and saw all the fine summer homes there, my figures began
to rise. I realized, of course, that a birch bark canoe is a
good deal of a rarity in these days; that such a boat hasn't anything
like a hard-and-fast, staple value. A birch bark canoe, in other
words, is worth what it will bring."
"And no more," nodded Dave Darrin. "So you were wise to take
the fifty dollars."
"Who said that I took fifty dollars for the canoe?" Dick smiled
"What did you get?" insisted Harry Hazelton, his impatience increasing
with every minute.
"Do you really want to know what I got?" teased Dick.
"Of course I do," snorted Harry. "We all do!"
"Then I'll tell you," nodded Dick. Instead, however, he began
feeling in his pockets.
"Tell us, then!" ordered Hazelton gruffly.
"I got a check," smiled Dick.
"For how much?" pressed Hazelton.
"Well, let me explain," said Dick, still laughing. "You see,
I didn't have to do any describing or praising of the canoe, for
Mr. Eades, who bought the canoe for his crowd, was here three
days ago, as you know, and looked the canoe over, in water and
out. It was just a question of settling the price of the canoe.
So, when I reached Mr. Eades, we started in to bargain. He asked
me how much I wanted for the canoe. I guess, fellows, my nerve
must have gone to my head, for I told him two hundred dollars."
"You didn't get it?" gasped Hazelton.
"I didn't," Dick answered soberly.
"Mr. Eades told me he represented himself and associates, who
wanted the canoe to put on the little lake down at their country
club. I told him it seemed to me that a canoe like ours was an
expensive sort of thing to put in a pond. Then he offered me
"That's a good, round sum, and will help us out a lot this summer,"
nodded Dave Darrin. "I'm glad you accepted it."
"I didn't," smiled Dick. "Mr. Eades finally offered eighty, and
I told him I regretted that we hadn't done the trading at the
time that he came over to Gridley to see the canoe. Mr. Eades
replied that at the time he came here he wasn't authorized to
speak for his friends, but merely to look at the canoe and report.
After that he made one or two more small increases in his price,
but I seemed to have lost interest in the subject of a trade
and looked at my time table to see when the next train left for
Gridley. Then we talked about other matters, and, fellows, I
was pretty glum, though I didn't allow the fact to show. Finally,
he offered me more money, and then a little more. At last I came
down on my price, and made him my final offer. Mr. Eades didn't
seem to like it, and then, all of a sudden, he took out his check
book and wrote a check for me."
"Close to a hundred dollars?" asked Dave, with deep interest.
For answer Dick threw the check on the table. There was a wild
scramble for it.
"A hundred and fifty dollars!" gasped Tom Reade.
"Let me see that check!" demanded Greg Holmes unbelievingly.
The check went from hand to hand, each of the fellows looking
at it half bewildered. Yet certainly the check said one hundred
and fifty dollars.
"See here, Dick," asked Tom anxiously, "are you sure---positive,
that is---that it was honest to charge a hundred and fifty for
that canoe of ours?"
"You may be sure that I thought of that," Prescott answered.
"I don't want to defraud any man. But birch bark suitable for
canoes is getting to be a thing of the past in this country.
Our friend, Hiram Driggs, the boat builder, told me that a birch
bark canoe, nowadays, is simply worth all one can get for it.
But, after Mr. Eades had written the check and handed it to me,
he said: 'Now, the trade is made and closed, Prescott, what do
you really consider the canoe worth?' I answered him a good deal
as I've answered you, and offered to return the check if Mr. Eades
wasn't satisfied. Fellows, for just a moment or two my heart
was in my mouth for fear he'd take me up and ask for the return
of his check. But Mr. Eades merely smiled, and said he was satisfied
if I was."
"I'll bet he'd have gone to a two hundred dollar price," declared
Hazelton. "Dick, weren't you sorry, afterwards, that you didn't
hold out flat for two hundred dollars?"
"Not I," young Prescott answered promptly. "If I had been too
greedy I'd have deserved to lose altogether, and very likely I
would have lost. Fellows, I think we can be well satisfied with
the price we've obtained."
"I am!" declared Dave Darrin promptly. "We've realized a hundred
dollars above my wildest dream."
Incidentally it may be mentioned that Mr. Eades found, from his
friends, that he had a prize, indeed, in the fine old war canoe.
The grounds committee of another country club offered two hundred
and fifty for that same canoe a month later.
"Now, fellows," Dick went on, "suppose we leave here and decide
how we're to lay out this money for our summer camp?"
The vote was carried instantly. With a whoop of glee the chums
started for Dave's house.
THE HUMAN MYSTERY OF THE WOODS
"Now, get to work!" shouted Dick Prescott. "Destruction to all
"Please may I beg off for five minutes?" begged Danny Grin, raising
"Why?" queried Prescott sharply.
"I want to take that much time to convince myself that it's all
true," replied Danny.
"You'll know that it's all true when you wake up to-morrow morning,"
laughed Dick. "But it won't look half as real if any fellow shirks
any part of his work now. All ready, fellows?"
"Ready!" came the chorus.
"Tom Reade will make the best foreman, won't he?" appealed Prescott.
"Tom has a knack for just such jobs as this, and it's going to
be a tough one."
The boys stood in the middle of a half acre clearing in the deep
woods, five miles past the town of Porter. Here the woods extended
for miles in every direction. As these young campers glanced
about them it seemed as though they possessed a wealth of camping
material---far more than they had ever dreamed of owning.
The tent, twelve feet by twenty, and eleven feet high at the ridgepole,
with six-foot walls, was their greatest single treasure. It had
cost thirty-five dollars, and had been bought from the nearest
"We'll get the tent up first," called Reade.
"Of course," smiled Dave. "That's all you're boss of anyway,
"Come on, then, and spread the canvas out," Tom ordered. "Bring
it over this way. We want it under the trees at the edge of the
clearing. Dan, you bring the longest poles."
Under Tom's further direction the canvas was spread just where
he wanted it. Then the ridge-pole was secured in place across
the tops of the highest two standing poles.
"Run it in under the canvas," Tom directed. "We'll get the metal
tips of the poles through the proper roof holes in the canvas.
There, that's right. Dick, you and Greg stand by that long pole;
Dave, you and Dan by the other. Now, then---raise her!"
Up off the ground went the two uprights and the ridge-pole, the
canvas hanging shapelessly from the ridge-pole.
"Bring that wooden sledge over here, Harry," was Foreman Reade's
next order. "Now, drive in this stake while I hold it. Remember
to hit the stake, not my hands."
The stake being soon driven into place Reade slipped the loop
of a guy-rope around it, partly tightening the rope. Then he
slipped to the next corner, where the process was repeated.
"Hurrah!" burst from Danny Grin, as the fourth corner stake was
driven, and now the tent began to take shape.
"You fellows holding the poles may let go of them now," called
Tom. "Come and help with the other stakes and guy-ropes."
As soon as the ropes along a given side of the tent had been made
fast the side wall poles were stepped into place. At last the
task of tent-raising was completed, save for the final tightening
of all the ropes. Now Dick and Dave, under their foreman's orders,
began to drive the shorter stakes that held the bottoms of the
tent walls in place.
"Hurrah!" went up from several throats, as the boys stood back
to take in the full dimensions of their big, new tent.
"My but she's a whopper!" exclaimed Danny Grin, pushing back the
door flaps and peering inside.
"We won't find the tent any too large for a crowd of our size,"
Dick declared. "You all remember how crowded we were in the tent
that we used last summer. You'll find we can fill this tent up
when we get it furnished."
"Dick," called Tom, "take all of my gang except Harry. He and
I will lay the floor."
Reade and Hazelton thereupon began to carry in two-by-four timbers
and lay them where they wanted them on the ground inside the tent.
Next they nailed boards across. They had bought all of this
timber in Gridley secondhand at a bargain.
"Dave, you and Dan can start the furnace, while Greg and I unpack
supplies," suggested Prescott.
Thereupon Darrin and Danny Grin started in to move a small pile
of bricks. Next a tub of mixed mortar was carried to the level
spot decided upon as the place whereon to erect the "furnace."
It was not much of a stove that Dave and Dan built, yet it was
fitted and destined for the preparing of many a meal in record
time. First of all, Dave marked off the space to be used. Four
parallel lines of bricks, each line five bricks long, were laid
on the ground. Dave, with a two-foot rule, measured a distance
of sixteen inches between each row. Then began some amateur
brick-laying. It was not perfectly done, by any means, yet these
four parallel walls of brick that were presently up afforded three
"stoves" lying side by side. As soon as the mortar was reasonably
dried---and fire would help---grates and pieces of sheet iron could
be laid across the tops of the walls over the three fires. It was
one of the simplest and most effective cooking devices that such a
camp could have. There was even a gas-stove oven, an old one,
furnished by Dick's mother.
"It makes me hungry to look at the stove," declared Danny Grin.
"It's four o'clock now, so you'll have two hours more to wait,"
smiled Dick, as he glanced at his watch.
Out of packing cases and some odds and ends of lumber Dick and
Greg had constructed some very fair cupboards, with doors.
"Oh, if we only had ice for use in this hot weather!" sighed Greg.
"But we haven't," returned Dick, "so what's the use of thinking
In the tent Tom and Harry were putting in some of the last taps
of the hammer. They had made a very creditable job of the flooring.
It was now five o'clock. Dick & Co. had worked so briskly that
they were now somewhat tired.
It had been an exciting day. They had left Gridley in the forenoon,
journeying for an hour and a half on the train. Arriving at Porter
the boys had eaten luncheons brought along with them. Then they
had hunted up a farmer, had bargained with him to haul their stuff
and then had tramped out to their camping place.
But the camp looked as though bound to prove a success. It was
their camp, anyway, and they were happy.
"I'm glad enough of one thing," murmured Dick as he rested, mopping
"I'm glad of several things I can think of," rejoined Darry.
"The thing I refer to," chuckled Prescott, "is Fred Ripley."
"It never occurred to me to feel glad about Ripley," muttered
"I mean, I'm glad that he has gone to Canada with his father this
summer," Dick continued. "We shan't have a lot of things happening
all the time, as we did last summer. Rip was a hoodoo to us last
summer. This year we know that he's too far away to be troublesome."
"It will seem a bit strange, at first," assented Reade, "to return
to our camp and not discover that, while we were away, Rip had
been along and slashed the tent to ribbons, or committed some
other atrocious act."
"Let's not crow until we're out of the woods," suggested Darrin.
"Rip might come back from Canada, you know."
"He's sure to, if the Canadians find out the kind of a chap that
he is," Danny Grin declared solemnly.
"Come here, you fellows," summoned Dick, "and hold a council of
war over the supplies, to decide what we'll have for supper."
"I thought the steak was to be the main item," Tom rejoined.
"With no ice it won't keep until morning."
"What do you want to eat with the steak?" asked Dick briskly.
The council---of six---quickly decided on the items of the meal.
Harry, catching up two buckets, started to the nearest spring
for water. Dave, with the coffee-mill between his knees, started
to grind. Dick, with an old knife, began to cut the steak up
into suitably sized pieces. Greg started a fire in one of the
Dan bringing more firewood. A task was at hand for each of them.
When the first fire was ready an old grate was placed over it.
On this the pieces of steak were arranged. Dave was boiling
coffee on another grate over the second fire.
"Wood is mighty scarce around here," complained Harry.
Dick glanced about him. No one was immediately busy.
"All scatter!" called Prescott. "Go in different directions.
Each fellow bring back an armful of dry wood. Hustle!"
Dick himself was the first to return, about three minutes later.
He came in fast, for he expected that the steak would be ready
to remove from the grate.
Long before he reached the stoves, however, Dick dropped his wood
and his lower jaw simultaneously.
"Hurry up, fellows!" he called hoarsely. "Hurry and see what
That note of real distress in his voice caused the others to come
"Well, if you haven't an appetite!" gasped Tom. "To go and eat
all the steak yourself!"
"I didn't eat any of it," Dick retorted grimly. "From the looks
of things none of the rest of us will eat any of it, either."
"A dog got it, or some wild animal!" guessed Greg.
"No one animal could carry off four pieces of steak in his mouth
at a time," Prescott answered, thinking fast. "And the tin plate
I left here has gone with the meat. Animals don't lug off tin
"Dick and I will stay behind to watch and take account of stock,"
Tom called. "The rest of you scatter through the woods and try
to come up with the thief. If any fellow comes upon him, give
a whoop, and the rest of us will hurry along."
The four scouts went off on the run.
"Anything else missing?" asked Reade, as Dick looked among the
"Yes," Prescott raged; "one of the bottles of Worcestshire sauce
and two of the tins of corn. Oh, it's a two-legged thief that
has spoiled our supper!"
"Perhaps you were too sure about Rip being off in Canada," grinned
"Fred Ripley would hardly steal food," Prescott retorted. "Rip
is seldom really hungry. Tom, I'd give a dollar to know just
who was hanging around this camp."
"I'd give two dollars to know," snapped Reade, "but I'd take the
money from the camp treasury."
"Queer that the fellow didn't take the potatoes, too," mused Dick,
turning back to the stove.
"The potatoes weren't done," suggested Reade wisely, "and probably
our visitor didn't think it wise to wait until they were. The
hulled corn will serve his purpose very well, though."
"It was a mean trick to play on us," quivered Dick.
"Of course it was---unless the thief were really very hungry,"
"In that case, I don't believe I'd blame the fellow so much,"
Dick admitted. "But now, what are we going to have for supper?"
"I've an inspiration," Tom declared, as he thrust a fork into
some of the potatoes in the pot. "These potatoes will be done
in two or three minutes more. Open three tins of the corned beef."
"Tinned corned beef isn't so much of an inspiration, as inspirations
go," laughed Dick.
"Open the three tins," Tom insisted. "Here are the onions. I'll
peel a few---and do the weeping for the whole camp."
Tom was busy at once. Dick, after watching his friend start,
caught something of the spirit of quick work.
"Dump the meat into this chopping bowl," Tom continued, as he
hastily dropped peeled onion after onion into the wooden bowl.
"Now, get the potatoes off the fire, and we'll drain and peel
This work was quickly under way.
"Do you see what the poem is to be?" grinned Reade.
"Looks like corned beef hash," smiled Dick.
"It will taste like it, too," predicted Reade. "Come on, now!"
Potatoes were quickly made ready. Tom began to chop the mixture,
while Prescott got out one of the frying pans.
"Get out the lard," urged Tom. "Let's have some of this stuff
cooking by the time that the fellows come in. It will console
them a bit."
"It begins to smell good," murmured Dick presently, as he stirred
the cooking mixture.
Tom busied himself with setting the table.
"All ready, when the fellows come in," announced Dick, as he removed
the coffee pot and began to cut bread. "Better call 'em."
Placing his hands over his mouth, megaphone shape, Tom sent several
loud halloos echoing through the woods.
Dan was the first one in. Greg arrived next, Harry third.
"Where can Dave be?" asked Tom, after several more halloos.
"We'll go and find him, if he doesn't show up," suggested Harry.
"But first of all, let's stow some of this supper inside of us."
"We'll wait for Dave before we eat," Dick retorted quickly.
"Hello, Dave, hello!" roared Reade and Prescott in concert "Supper
is ready! Hurry up."
"Queer there's no answer," said Greg, after a minute's wait.
"Something must have happened to Dave," suggested Danny Grin anxiously.
"What could happen to him?" demanded Hazelton scornfully. "Darry
can take care of himself. He'll be in presently."
"Let's call him again!" urged Dan.
They called in concert, their voices echoing through the woods.
"Did you hear that?" asked Dick eagerly, after a pause of listening.
"There it goes again."
"It's Dave, answering us," Harry declared.
The hail sounded distant.
"Come on!" cried Dick, leaping forward. "That yell was one of
trouble, or I'm a bad guesser. Dan, you and Hazelton stand by
the camp. Tom and Greg come along. If Dave is in trouble he'll
be sure to need some of us!"
DAVE DARRIN IS ANGRY
"Keep on calling, Dave!" shouted Dick, as they ran toward the
sound of the voice.
"This way!" answered Darry, his voice sounding louder as they
"What's up?" Tom asked as they ran.
Dave's voice sounded in wrathful explosion.
"Eh?" Tom pressed him.
"Wait until you get here, and you'll see," retorted Dave.
"You're not hurt?" Dick shouted.
"No; but my feelings are!" vented Darrin indignantly.
Another minute and the trio headed by Dick, reached the spot.
By this time darkness was coming on through the woods. Prescott,
who was in the lead, at first received the impression that Dave
was standing beside a tree. And so Dave was, though the reason
for his standing there was yet to be explained.
A moment more and Tom and Dick had reached the spot where the
wrathful Darrin was standing.
"Well, of all the-----" began Tom wonderingly.
"Outrages!" finished Darry angrily.
Prescott laughed outright.
"I suppose I must be a comical-looking object," admitted Dave
Darrin ruefully. "But just wait until I lay my hands on the rascal
who played this trick on me! Oh, I'll make him ache for his
Though Darrin had an unusually quick temper, he generally had
it under excellent control. Now, however, he was so indignant
that he fairly sputtered, and the humorous side of the situation
did not appeal to him.
What Dick saw was that Dave stood with his back to the trunk of
the tree. Around Darry's neck a noose was fast. Back of the
prisoner the rope had been wrapped once around the trunk of the
tree. Next, several folds of rope had been passed both around
Darrin and the tree trunk in such fashion that the boy's arms
were pinioned fast to his sides. In addition, a single turn of
rope had been taken around each arm. Finally, the rope had been
knotted several times at the opposite side of the tree from that
on which Darrin stood.
"You must have stood pretty patiently for anyone to be able to
tie you up in that artistic fashion!" blurted Tom Reade.
"Patient? Patient nothing!" growled Darry between his teeth.
"I was so angry all the time that I couldn't keep from sputtering,
but that rascal had me fast, and kept making me more secure."
"How old a man was he?" asked Dick.
"I don't know whether he was a man or a boy."
"Is your eyesight failing, Dave?" asked Tom.
"I haven't eyes in the back of my head," snapped Darry. "Say,
aren't you fellows going to hurry up and free me?"
"Can't you free yourself?" suggested Reade.
"If I could have done that I'd now be ranging these woods in search
of the perpetrator of this outrage," Darry declared. "Hurry up
and untie me!"
"We will, but please be patient for a moment or two longer," begged
young Prescott. "This is such a cleverly artistic job that I
want to study out just how it was done. How did the fellow attack
"From behind," muttered Darry.
"Wait, and I'll tell you," Dave went on, forcing himself to talk
a trifle more calmly. "When I'm free I'll show you the spot over
there, in the thicket between the two clumps of bushes. Well,
I had gotten this far when I saw the missing steaks. They rested
on a tin pan on the ground in the thicket. It looked as though
the thief of our supper had gone away to get water or something.
I had just stepped, on tiptoe, of course, past this tree when
I heard a soft step behind me. Before I could turn, the noose
was dropped over my head, and then down on my neck. It was jerked
tight, like a flash, and I was pulled against this tree. The
fellow took some kind of hitch around the trunk of the tree to
"Yes; I see the hitch," assented Dick. "It was well done."
"So well done that it held me, for a moment," Dave went on. "The
noose choked me, for a brief space, so that I didn't have much
presence of mind. Before I recovered myself, the fellow had passed
the rope several times around my body and arms, and had taken
the extra loops on my arms. By that time I was so helpless that
I couldn't stir to free myself."
"And you didn't see the fellow?" asked Dick.
"Not a glimpse of him. He worked from behind, and did his trick
"But there are no steaks, nor any plate, on the ground in the
thicket now," Reade reported, after looking.
"No," Darry grunted. "The fellow who tried me up like this passed
over my eyes a dirty cloth that perhaps he would call a handkerchief.
Then I heard him over by the thicket. Next he was back here
and had whisked that cloth away from my eyes. That was the last
I heard of him."
"Why didn't you set up a roar as soon as he attacked you?" demanded
"The noose bound my throat so tightly, I couldn't," Darry explained.
"I was seeing stars, and I was dizzy. After he had taken a few
hitches of the rope around me he eased up on the noose a bit."
"Did you 'holler' then?" questioned Dick.
"No," Dave Darrin admitted honestly. "I used up all my breath
telling that unknown, unseen fellow just what I thought of him."
"If you want to know what I think of the fellow," uttered young
Prescott, "it seems to me that the unknown chap is clever and
bright enough to be capable of better things than stealing supper
from other people. This tie-up is about the most ingenious thing
I've seen in a long time."
"Maybe I'd appreciate it more," retorted Darry, "if I could see
it as you do, on another fellow. Are you going to hurry up and
cut away this rope?"
"Not if you are able to wait calmly while I untie it," Dick answered.
"It's surely a good piece of rope. It will go part way toward
paying for the steaks."
With that Prescott began to untie the knots. When his fingers
ached from this from of exercise, Greg took his place. Meanwhile,
Tom Reade explored the thicket where Dave had seen the plate of
steaks. There was no sign of the food taken from the camp. This
Tom made out by the aid of lighted matches, as the long shadows
were now falling in the woods.
"I'm glad, now, that you didn't cut the rope," said Dave, as at
last he stepped free. "We'll save his rope, for I hope to find
that fellow again."
"What will you do to him if you catch him?" grinned Reade.
"Maybe I'll need the rope to lynch him with," uttered Darry grimly.
Tom threw back his head, laughing heartily.
"Our dear, savage, blood-thirsty old Darry!" Reade laughed. "You
talk as vindictively as a pirate, but if you found your enemy
hurt you'd drop everything else and nurse him back into condition.
Darry, you know you would!"
"Let's get back to camp," urged Greg. "Supper is ready, but no
one has had any yet. My stomach feels like an empty balloon."
"All right, then," agreed Darrin gruffly, "though I'd sooner catch
that fellow than eat."
"That word, 'eat,' sounds like a poem!" sighed Greg, tightening
his belt as the quartette turned campward.
"So you didn't get a single glimpse of your---your annoyer?" asked
"Not what you could call a glimpse," Darrin responded. "Two or
three times I caught sight of the fellow's shirt sleeves as he
passed the rope around me. His shirt sleeves were of a light
tan color, so I suppose that is the color of his entire shirt.
That, however, is the sole clue I have to the scoundrel's description."
"I'd like to meet the fellow," mused Dick.
"Maybe you'll have that pleasure," hinted Darry with the nearest
approach to a smile he had yet shown.
"You mean you'd like to see me tied up in the same fashion, and
then discover whether I could keep my temper under such circumstances?"
laughed young Prescott.
"Never mind what I mean," Dave retorted.
They were soon in camp, now, after calling to Dan and Harry two
or three times in order to locate their way. At last, however,
they came in sight of the glowing embers of fire and the rays of
the two lanterns that Dan had lighted and hung up.
"I smell something that smells mighty good," sniffed Dave. "Did
any of you fellows recover the steaks? Have you been keeping
something back from me?"
"I don't believe you'll find the steaks in camp," Dick retorted,
"but you'll find something that will taste fully as good."
With that the quartette charged into camp. Everything was ready
for the table by the time each fellow had washed his hands and
face in the one tin basin that served the camp.
"Put one of those lanterns on the table, Dan," called Dick, as
he finished drying himself on a towel. "Another night, if we
eat after dark, we'll try to have a campfire that'll light the
place up like an electric light."
"Another night, unless some of our neighbors move," predicted
Darry, "we won't have food enough left to make it worth while
to try to have supper!"
The boys sat down in great good humor, even Dave softening when
he saw the bountiful supper that had been prepared. Not one
of them felt nervous about the possible nearness of the late prowler.
The boys were six to one, whoever the prowler might be. Besides,
this mysterious stranger seemed to prefer humor to violence.
Yet, all the time they were eating and chattering---and Dick did
his full share of both that young man, Prescott, was also busily
thinking up plans by means of which he hoped to be able to gain
a closer view of the recent prowler.
Of these plans he said no word to his chums, for there was more
than a chance that the human mystery of the woods was even then
within earshot, off under the shadows among the trees.
DICK GRAPPLES IN THE DARK
At last the meal was finished, this time without the help of the
prowler. Dave and Dan washed the dishes, while Tom and Harry
carried water enough to fill the hogshead that had been brought
along as part of their camp equipment.
At the same time, Dick and Greg unstrapped and set up the six
light-weight folding canvas cots, standing them in a row in the
tent. Next they arranged the bedding that had been loaned by
mothers at home, and made up the six beds. Enough fuel to start
a fire in the morning was also brought in.
"And now, what did we come out here in the woods for?" inquired
"To get our fill of sleep," yawned Tom.
"To eat," suggested Hazelton hopefully.
"To fish," added Dave Darrin promptly.
"Just to lie down and take things easy," declared Danny Grin.
"As for me," piped up Greg Holmes, "I'm not going to bother my
head, to-night, as to why we came here. I'm going to get a ten
hour nap, and in the morning I'll try to solve the riddle for
you, Dick, of why we came here."
A tired lot of boys, not really ready, as yet, to admit that they
were used up, lay down on their cots without undressing. They
intended, later, to get into their pajamas.
A single lantern, its wick turned low, hung from one of the posts.
Prescott did not trust himself to lie down, for his eyes, despite
his efforts to keep awake, were heavy, and he did not want to
sleep for some time yet.
Within ten minutes Darrin alone had his eyes open, and even he
was making a valiant struggle against sleep. At last, however,
he yielded, and soon settled into sound slumber.
"They're off in another world," smiled Dick, as he listened to
the deep breathing of his chums; then he slipped away from his
From under a box in one corner of the tent he took out a large
cup of coffee that he had hidden some time earlier. It was still
warm and he drank it with relish, though his main purpose in using
the beverage was to make sure of keeping himself awake.
His next move was to extinguish the lantern. Now he made his
way to the bucket of water and basin. Dashing the cold water
into his face, and wetting his eyes well with it, Prescott took
a few deep breaths. He now felt equal to keeping awake for some
Outside, by this time, all was darkness, save where a few embers
of the recent camp fire glowed dully.
Dick threw himself down, resting his head on his elbows, in the
doorway of the tent.
"Now, don't you dare go to sleep!" he ordered himself, repeating
the command frequently as a means of aiding himself to keep his
eyelids from closing.
"You keep awake!" he half snorted, as he felt drowsiness getting
nearer. He pinched himself, inflicting more than a little pain.
At last, however, the young leader of Dick & Co. found that his
drowsiness had passed for the time being, like the sentinel in
"Now, I think I can keep awake until daylight, if I have to,"
muttered young Prescott to himself. "At daylight it won't be
so very mean to wake one of the other fellows and let him take
Yet, after an hour had passed, Dick was almost doomed to discover
that nature had some rights and knew how to assert them.
His eyes had just closed when he awoke with a start.
Someone was treading lightly past the wall of the tent, coming
toward the door. Dick had barely time to glide back behind the
flap of the tent when the unknown someone stopped at the doorway.
It was too dark to make out anything distinctly under the canvas,
but the stranger listened to the combined snorings of five of
the six boys, then chuckled softly.
"Oh! Funny, is it, to think that we're all asleep, and that you
may help yourself at will to the food that cost us so much money!"
thought Dick wrathfully. The stranger hearing no sound from the
apparently sleeping camp soon passed on in the direction of the
Here much of the provisions had been stacked in the packing case
cupboards, for the reason that to store food in the tent would
seriously curtail the space that the boys wanted for comfort.
Out of the tent crept Dick, crouching. His heart was beating
a trifle faster than usual, perhaps, for he saw at once that the
prowler was larger than himself.
Before one of the box cupboards the prowler halted and rummaged
inside with his hands.
"I guess this is where I need a light," mused the stranger, half
"Pardon me, but what do you want with a light?" inquired Prescott,
at the same time pushing the stranger forward on his face. Dick
now seated himself on the other's shoulders.
"Don't make a fuss," Prescott advised. "I like to think myself
a gentleman, and I don't want to muss you up too much."
The stranger laughed. It was an easy, confident laugh that destroyed
a bit of the Gridley boy's sense of mastery.
"What are you doing, up at this time of night?" asked the stranger.
"Minding my own business, in my own camp," Dick replied easily.
"And what are you doing here? Whose business are you minding?"
"My own, too, I reckon," replied the prowler more gruffly.
"In other words, attending to your hunger?" pressed Prescott.
"I'm looking out that I don't have too much hunger to-morrow,"
came the now half sullen answer.
"Is this the way you usually get your food?" Dick demanded dryly.
"This is the way I get most of it," came the reply.
"Stealing it, eh?"
"Well, what of it?" came the sulky retort. "The world owes me
"To be sure it does," Dick answered blithely. "The world owes
every man a living. That's just why you don't need to steal.
Just sail in and collect that living by means of hard work.
Are you the chap who collected our steaks this evening?"
"None of your business. And, now, if you've given me as much
chatter as you want, get off my shoulders!"
"I've a little more to say to you yet," Dick responded.
"Get off my shoulders!"
"I will---when I'm through with you," Dick agreed.
"You'll get off at once, or I'll roll you off!" came the now angry
"Try it," Dick urged coolly.
Right then and there the stranger did try it. He "heaved," then
attempted to roll and grapple with the young camper. He would
have succeeded, too, had Prescott relied upon his strength alone.
But Dick employed both hands in getting a neck-hold that hurt.
"Now, quit your fooling," Prescott advised, "or I'll let out a
whoop that will bring five more fellows here. Do you know what
they would do to you? They'd just about lynch you---schoolboy
fashion. Do you know what a schoolboy lynching is?"
"No," sullenly answered the stranger, as he started to renew the
"You will know, soon, if you don't stop your stupid fooling,"
Dick told him.
"Hang you, kid. Get off of me, and keep your hands away, or I'll
hurt you more than you were ever hurt in your life, and I'll get
away with it, too, before your friends come!"
So lively did the struggle become that Dick was obliged to use
his clenched fist against the side of the prowler's jaw. That
quieted the stranger for an instant.
Leaping lightly from his troublesome captive, Dick snatched up
a heavy club of firewood that lay nearby.
"That's right," Dick agreed, swinging the club, as the other rose
to a sitting posture. "Sit up, but don't try to get up any farther
unless you want to feel this stake, which is tougher than those
Prescott kept nimbly out of reach of the other's arms, though
he took pains to keep himself where he could jump in with a handy
blow at need.
"Now," remarked the high school boy, "you are getting an idea
as to who's boss."
"Well, what do you want?" asked the other sullenly. He had already
drawn down a tattered, battered old cap so that it screened his
"I want to get a better look at you," Prescott replied. "I want
to be able to know you anywhere. Tan colored woollen shirt; brown
corduroy trousers; low-cut black shoes; cap defies description.
Now, let me see your face."
With that Dick bent quickly, picking up an oil-soaked bunch of
faggots that he had prepared before the others had turned in for
the night and dropped them upon the campfire.
Like a flash he was back, close to the stranger. "Don't you dare
try to get up!" Dick threatened, swinging the club.
"Hit me, if you dare!" leered the other. "I'm going to get upright
With that he made a lurching move forward. Prescott swung the
club, though of course he did not intend to beat the stranger
about the head.
His indecision left him off his guard. The stranger closed in
on the club, wrenching it from Prescott's hand and tossing it
far away. But Dick dropped, wrapping his arms about the other's
legs and throwing him.
Just as the two went down in a crash the fire, which had been
smoking, now blazed up.
"I'll show you!" roared the stranger, now thoroughly aroused,
as he grappled with Prescott and the pair rolled in fierce embrace
over the ground.
Dick was not afraid, but he didn't want this night hawk to get
away, so he bellowed lustily:
"Fellows! Gridley! Gr-r-r-id-ley! Quick!"
"Stop that!" hissed the stranger, who was now easily uppermost,
and holding Prescott with ease.
"Quick!" yelled Dick.
The stranger grasped the high school boy by the throat, then as
swiftly changed his mind, for someone was stirring in the tent.
Up leaped the prowler, yet, swift as he was, Dick was also on
"Keep back!" warned the prowler, as he turned to run.
"You're mine---all mine!" vaunted young Prescott, making a gallant
leap at the unknown foe.
But that brag was uttered just a few seconds too soon.
DANGER COMES ON THE HOOF
Against Dick's face came the palm of the larger youth's right
hand. It was the old, familiar trick of "pushing in his face."
So quickly did that manoeuvre come that Dick, caught off his
balance, was shoved backward until he tripped and fell.
Then the stranger vanished with the speed of one accustomed to
flight through the woods.
His eyes full of sand from the fall, Dick struggled to his feet,
rubbing his eyelids, just as Dave Darrin came running up.
"What was it?" demanded Dave.
"Come on! We ought to catch him yet!" cried young Prescott, turning
and running into the woods. But Dick's eyes were not quite as
keen as they had been, and Darry, once he had the general direction,
outstripped his chum in the race.
Once away from the blazing fire of oil-soaked wood, however, the
boys found themselves at a disadvantage in the woods. At last
Darry stopped, listening. Then, hearing sounds, he wheeled, dashing
at a figure.
"Get out with you, Darry!" laughed Prescott good-humoredly.
"I thought you were-----"
"The other fellow! Yes; I know," laughed Dick.
"Where is he? Listen!"
But only the night sounds of the woods answered them.
"We'd better put for camp," whispered Dick, "or that fellow will
slip around us and pillage the supplies before we get there."
Dave started back at a dog trot, Dick following at a more leisurely
gait. Both were soon by the campfire again.
"Was it the same fellow?" demanded Darry, in a low voice.
"It must have been," Dick nodded, "though you didn't see him at
all when you encountered him, and I didn't get a view of his face.
But he had on a tan colored shirt. He also had on brown corduroy
trousers and low-cut black shoes. He kept his torn cap pulled
down over his eyes so that I couldn't get a look at his face that
would enable me to know it again if I saw it."
"Hang the fellow!" growled Darry. "Does he take us for a human
meal ticket with six coupons?"
"He must be hungry," rejoined Dick, "when he could get away with
all that steak and then come back, within a few hours, for more
of our food."
"How did you come to catch him?" Dave asked curiously.
Prescott explained how he had managed to remain awake and on guard,
against a possible second visit from the young prowler.
"So we've got to stay up the rest of the night, and mount guard
every night, have we?" grunted Darry disgustedly. "Fine!"
"We'll either have to watch, or part with our food," Dick assented.
"We ought to have brought Harry Hazelton's bull-dog. That would
have spared us guard duty."
"I'm glad we didn't bring the pup," Dick rejoined. "That pup
is growing older, and crosser. He'd bite a pound or two out of
some prowler's leg, and we don't want that to happen."
"Why not?" demanded Dave grimly, opening his eyes very wide.
Dick laughed softly by way of answer.
"I'd just as soon have a tramp chewed up as have our food supplies
vanish," Darry maintained.
"Little David, your temper has the upper hand of you at this moment,"
"When that temper is on top you're dangerous---almost bloodthirsty.
When your temper is in check you're as kind and gentle as any
good-natured fellow. You wouldn't really want to see any human
being mangled by a bull-pup's teeth."
"Well, maybe not mangled," Darry agreed. "But I don't believe
Harry's pup would do any more than take hold---and keep hold."
"We won't have the pup, anyway," Dick replied, in a low voice.
"Why not?" Dave again demanded.
"Because, as you know well enough, Harry's father was afraid the
pup would only get us into trouble by chewing up someone, and
so declined to let us bring the dog."