Part 2 out of 4
"That was a shame," Dave insisted.
"I don't think so. If six of us can't take care of one stray
tramp, not much larger than any of us, then we're too tender,
and ought to be sleeping in little white cribs at home."
"Oh, stop that talk!" urged Dave.
"I mean what I said," Dick retorted. "We're big enough, and numerous
enough, to guard our own camp."
"Of course we are; but we'll have to give up some sleep to accomplish
that," Dave contended.
"Whoever loses sleep in the night time can make it up in the day
time. And now, Darry, get to bed!"
"But we've got to remain on watch."
"You'll feel bad, in the morning, if deprived of your sleep.
I'll stay up for a while yet, and then call Tom Reade."
"So I'm no good for guard duty, eh?" snorted Darry.
"Not a bit," said Dick cheerfully. "You're as sleepy and as cross
as can be, right at this minute. Go and tuck in, Davy."
Darrin snorted again, then glared at Dick's placid face. Suddenly
Dave broke into a hearty chuckle, slapping his chum on the back.
"You're all right, Dick," he declared. "You know how to keep
your temper, talk smoothly, and yet hit harder than if you used
a club. No, sirree! I'm not cross, even though I may be tired.
I'm not cross, and I can thrash into subjection any fellow who
dares hint that I'm cross, or that my temper is on a rampage.
You go and turn in, Dick."
"Then we'll both stay up and watch together."
"I'll tell you what," proposed Dick.
"Bring your cot out here. I'll let you sleep for an hour by my
watch. Then I'll call you, and you hold the watch and let me
sleep for an hour. There is no sense in both of us losing our
rest at the same time. Yet, if either fellow needs the other,
he'll have him right under his hand."
"All right," nodded Dave. "Anything, as long as I'm not accused
of being a sleepy head."
"A sleepy head?" Prescott repeated. "Why, when I called to you
fellows for help you were the only one who responded. No; I wouldn't
call you an incurable sleepy head, Darry."
Now wholly restored to good humor Dave went back into the tent,
lifting his cot and bringing it out to within a few feet of the
"You take the first nap, Dick," begged Dave.
"No; you take it."
"But I'm not sleepy; honestly I'm not."
So Prescott lay down on the cot, closing his eyes.
The sunlight, streaming into his face, awakened him.
"Why---why---where's Darry?" thought Dick, sitting up straight.
The sound of deep breathing answered him. Dave sat with his back
propped against a tree, sound asleep. He had slept for hours,
evidently, having fallen asleep through sheer, uncontrollable
Rising from the cot Dick stretched himself for he was still drowsy.
Then he tip-toed over to where the food was stored, peering in.
"I can't see that our friend, the enemy, has been here again,"
Dick smiled. He glanced at Darry, but did not awake that tired
As noiselessly as he could Prescott busied himself with starting
a small campfire that could be made larger when needed. This
done, he set water to boil.
"Ho-hum!" yawned Tom Reade, dressed only in underclothes and trousers,
as he stood in the tent doorway half an hour later.
Dick placed his fingers to his lips, whispering:
"Don't rouse the other fellows. They're tired."
"Darry certainly looks tired," smiled Tom, regarding Dave in the
uncomfortable posture by the tree.
Yet, though he must have been quite uncomfortable had he been
awake, Darry slumbered on. Greg came out, looked at Dave and smiled.
Then Hazelton, next Dalzell, came outside.
"What is the cot doing out here?" Danny Grin was the first to
"We had a visit from the prowler in the night," Dick replied,
"and Dave and I stayed on guard."
"Was Darry as efficient all through the guard tour as he is just
now?" demanded Reade ironically.
"That's all right for you fellows," retorted Dick, "who even slept
right past my call for help. Let Dave alone. Let him finish
his nap, no matter how long he sleeps."
But at that moment Darrin opened his eyes, then leaped to his
feet, a victim of red-faced confusion.
"What are all you fellows laughing at?" Dave demanded.
So far none had done more than grin, but now a very general roar
"I'm a chump, on guard duty, and I admit it," Darrin went on,
looking sheepish. "Dick, when you found me asleep why didn't
you call me?"
"Because," Prescott answered, "when you went to sleep I judged
that you did so because you needed the rest."
"I must have been sound asleep from at least one o'clock in the
morning," Dave went on ruefully. "Oh, I am a fellow to be trusted,
"If you've been sleeping, with your back against that tree, from
one in the morning, you must be as stiff and lame as you could
possibly be," Reade suggested.
"I am pretty lame," Darrin confessed.
"Are you fellows ever going to hustle about and make some moves
toward getting breakfast?" inquired young Prescott.
"What have you been doing in that line?" Danny Grin wanted to
For answer Dick Prescott pointed to the merrily blazing campfire
and the steaming kettle of water.
"I am ready to do a lot more, too," Dick added, "as soon as the
rest of you will show signs of life."
At that there was a general bustling.
"Why didn't you wake me up in time to save me from all the joshing?"
Darry demanded, with a note of reproach in his voice, as soon
as he got a chance to speak with Dick alone. "Tom Reade won't
be through all summer with tormenting me about being asleep at
"No one would have known anything about it, if you hadn't given
it away yourself, both by look and words," Prescott returned.
"I hadn't said a word that enlightened anyone."
Breakfast was soon ready, for hungry boys, in the woods, are always
ready to eat.
While the meal was being disposed of Prescott told his chums of
the visit during the night, and of his own share and Dave's in
trying to nab the tantalizing prowler.
"How many such regiments of guards as Darry, would it take to
guard this camp properly at night?" asked Tom dryly.
"It seems to me," Prescott remarked, "that you fellows will do
very well to sing mighty low about Dave's drowsiness. When I
had to call for help last night he was the only one with an ear
quick enough to hear me and come to my support. What was the
matter with the rest of you, sleepy heads, or did you hear and
feel that it might be dangerous to turn out in the middle of the
That last taunt had the desired effect. Darrin was allowed to
eat his breakfast in peace.
After the meal was over the boys sat around the camp for a few
minutes. Each hated to be the first to make a move toward the
drudgery of dish-washing and camp cleaning.
"After we get things to rights," inquired Reade, "what is to be
the programme for the day?"
"There's a pond east of us that is said to hold perch," Dave answered.
"I'm going to take fishing tackle and go in search of a mess
of fish. Anyone going with me?"
"I will," offered Danny Grin.
"As for me," spoke up Tom, "I have a line on a place where blueberries
grow in profusion. Harry, will you go along with me and pick
"If it isn't over five miles away," Hazelton assented cautiously.
"Then what are we going to do!" asked Greg Holmes, turning to
"From the plans we've heard laid down," smiled Dick, "I think
we will have to stay right here and keep the prowler from dropping
in to carry away the rest of our provisions."
"Bother such sport as that!" snorted Greg.
"Humph! It may turn out to be the liveliest sport of all," declared
Dick dryly. "Certainly if that fellow turns up it will take two
of us to handle him with comfort. He's a tough customer."
"Dan, you always were an artist with a shovel," suggested Darry
insinuatingly. "Suppose you get out the spade and see what sort
of perch bait you can turn up in this neighborhood."
"Me?" drawled Dalzell protestingly. "Shucks! I'm no good at
finding bait. Never was."
"Get the spade and try," ordered Darry. "If you don't find some
bait we'll have to put off fishing until some other day."
That brought Dan to terms. He shouldered a spade, picked up an
empty vegetable can and started away, while Dave began to sort
tackle and to rig on hooks suitable for catching perch. Tom and
Harry started in to unpack supplies from a pair of six-quart pails
that they needed for the morning's work.
"Say, hear that, fellows!" demanded Tom, straightening up suddenly.
From the distance to the northward came a dull rumbling sound.
"Thunder?" suggested Danny Grin, glancing wonderingly up at the
"If there's a storm coming it will upset a day's berrying," Reade
"Fellows," Dick broke in, "it's a rumbling, yet it doesn't sound
just like thunder, either. It sounds more like-----"
"Cavalry on a gallop," suggested Greg.
"Just what it does sound a lot like," Prescott nodded. Then he
dropped to the ground, holding one ear close to the earth.
"And, whatever the rumble may be," Prescott went on, "it travels
along the ground. Just get your ears down, fellows."
"It's something big, and it's moving this way," cried Dave.
"It can't be cavalry," Tom argued. "There are no manoeuvres on;
there is no state camp ever held in this part of the state, either.
What do you-----"
But Dick Prescott was up on his feet by this time. Furthermore,
he was running. He stopped at the base of the trunk of the first
tall tree. Up he went with much of the speed of a squirrel.
Higher and higher he made his way among the branches.
"Say, be careful there, Dick!" called Tom Reade, warningly. "If
you get a tumble-----"
"I'm not a booby, I hope," Dick called down, as he went to still
loftier heights. He was now among the slender uppermost branches,
where a boy would need to be a fine climber in order to make such
swift progress. Even Dick Prescott might readily enough snap
a branch now, and come tumbling to earth.
"Stop!" warned Tom. "If you don't you'll butt your head into
a cloud, the first thing you know."
"Can you see anything?" called Danny Grin.
"I see quite a cloud of dust to the northward."
"How far off?" asked Dave.
"About a mile, I should say, and it's headed this way, coming
closer every minute."
"What's behind the cloud? Can you make out?" Greg bawled up.
"I'm trying to see," Dick replied. "There, I got a glimpse then.
It's some kind of animals, heading for this camp at a gallop."
"It can't be cavalry," shouted Reade. "You don't see any men,
"No," Prescott called down, shielding his eyes with one hand.
"Have you guessed what it is?" demanded Harry Hazelton.
"I know what it is---now!" Dick answered. Then he began to descend
the tree with great speed.
"Careful, there!" shouted Tom Reade. "That isn't a low baluster
you're sliding down."
"Keep quiet, until I reach the ground," gasped Dick. As he came
nearer those below saw that he looked truly startled.
Then Dick reached the low branches, and began to look for a chance
"We've got to get out of here, fellows!" he called. "You know
the trick that cattle---owners have in this part of the county
of turning their cattle out to graze in one bunch. That bunch
is headed this way---hundreds strong, and it's going to rush through
this camp, trampling everything in the way!"
FIGHTING THE MAD STAMPEDE
"Nothing doing, and don't get excited," replied Tom Reade, shaking
"There will be a lot doing in three or four minutes," Prescott
retorted excitedly. "The cattle are stampeded, and they'll sweep
through here like a cyclone."
"The trees will break up the stampede," Tom insisted coolly.
"Not much they won't," Dick answered. "The cattle are headed
along a natural lane, where the trees are less thick than in other
parts of the forest."
"The trees will stop 'em before they get here," Reade insisted.
"The trees will do nothing of the sort," uttered Dick, glancing
swiftly about him. "The cattle are among the trees already.
Just hear that rumble. And it's a lot closer now."
"I reckon we'd better move, do it now, and do it fast," cried
Hazelton, who knew that Dick's judgment was generally the best.
"And leave our camp to be trampled down and made a complete wreck
by a lot of crazy cattle?" gasped Greg Holmes.
"I'd rather have the camp trampled than my face," retorted Dalzell.
"I don't want to flee from here and leave the camp to be destroyed,
and our summer's fun spoiled," protested Greg. "We must stop
the cattle, or split their stampede."
"All right, Holmesy," agreed Tom ironically. "I appoint you to
do my full share in stopping a stampede of cattle." Reade's face
had suddenly grown very grave as he now realized that the trees
were not stopping the frenzied cattle.
Dick, who had been thinking, suddenly wheeled, making a break
for the supplies.
"Get a box of matches, each one of you!" he shouted. "Then sprint
with me for that patch of sun-baked grass just north of us."
"What's the idea?" Dave asked, but Dick was already running fast.
"Get your matches and come on!" Dick called back over his shoulder.
As speedily as could be done the others followed suit. Dick reached
the sun-burned strip of grass, whose nearer edge was some two
hundred yards north of camp.
"Hey! He's starting a forest fire!" gasped Dan Dalzell, as he
caught sight of young Prescott bending over the dried, yellowish
"Scatter, all along the strip!" shouted Prescott, rising as soon
as he had ignited a clump of grass. "Get this whole strip of
burned grass blazing. It's the only chance to save the camp---or
Dalzell shivered. Nor could Dan understand how such a course
would serve to save their camp. But he saw the others following
their leader's orders.
"Get over the ground, Dan!" bellowed Dick, as he sprinted to another
point. "Start a lot of blazes!"
So Danny Grin fell in line with the movements of the others, though
he felt not a little doubt as to the wisdom of the course.
Flame was now spurting up over more than an acre of the sun-baked
strip of grass.
"Get a lot more of the grass going, fellows!" panted Dick, who
was working like a beaver and dripping with perspiration. "It's
our only hope. Hustle!"
With the flames arose a dense cloud of smoke. As the wind was
from the southwest the smoke was in the faces of the onrushing
"There! We've done all we can!" bellowed Dick, running down the
line formed by his chums. "Now, get back out of this roasting
Close to the edge of the burning strip of grass the six high school
boys now stood side by side gazing at their work.
"We'd better scoot!" counseled Danny Grin.
"Where can we go?" Dick shouted, in order to make himself heard
over the crackling flames and the greater noise of the pounding
hoofs. "If we're not safe behind a curtain of flame, there is
no other place near where we'd be safer."
Danny Grin turned to bolt, but Darry reached out, catching him
by the collar and throwing him to the ground.
"Don't be a fool, Danny, and don't be panic stricken," Darrin
advised. "We're safer here, at least, than we can be anywhere
else within a quarter of a mile."
The bellow of a bull through the forest---a bellow taken up by
other bulls---made all of the boys quake in their shoes. But
none of the lads ran away.
Gazing between the trees they soon made out a stirring sight.
On came the stampede, cattle packed so tightly that any animal
falling could only be trampled to death by those behind.
"My, but that's a grand sight!" cried Tom Reade.
Not one of the six boys but longed to take to his heels. To them
it seemed absolutely impossible for the cattle to turn aside as
they must dash on through the blazing grass, such was the pressure
from behind. Yet not one of Dick & Co. turned to run.
Suddenly three of the bulls went down to their knees, snorting
and bellowing furiously. Half a dozen cows held back from the
flames, only to be trampled and killed.
Somehow, the powerful bulls staggered to their feet, then broke
to one side.
A dozen more cows plunged on into the blazing grass, then sank,
overcome by the heat.
It seemed like a miracle as, following the bulls, the herd split,
some going east, others west, and carrying the swerving cattle
after them in two frantic streams.
In some way that the boys could not understand, the pressure of
cattle from the rear accommodated itself to the movement of the
forepart of the herd. The herd divided now swept on rapidly,
going nearly east and west in two sections.
Not until some six hundred crazy cattle had passed out of view
did the boys feel like speaking. Indeed, they felt weak from
the realization of the peril they had so narrowly escaped.
"I think, fellows," proposed Dave Darrin huskily at last, "that
we owe a whopping big vote of thanks to good old Dick Prescott!"
"After we pass that vote," proposed Hazelton, "we'd better make
all haste to get out of these woods before the owner of this
stretch of forest comes along to nab the fellows who set his timber
"Do you see any trees ablaze?" Dick demanded.
Now, for the first time, two or three of the fellows began to
realize the value of Dick's idea. The sun-burned grass, some
three acres in extent, was a clearing devoid of trees. Here
the July heat had baked the turf. On all sides, under the trees
beyond, the grass was still green. Any boy who has ever been
in the country knows that green grass won't burn. Hence the blaze
was limited to a small area. A few trees whose trunks were near
the edge of the clearing were smoking slightly, but no damage
was done to the timber. There was really no work to be done in
extinguishing this fire, which, furious while it lasted, was now
"Let's get back and see how our camp fared," proposed Hazelton.
"We don't have to," Dick replied. "We saw the directions taken
by the cattle, and they didn't go anywhere near our camp. Let's
wait, and, as soon as the ground is cool enough, let's get out
to the injured cows, and see if we can help any of them."
Hardly had Dick spoken when one of the cows, right at the edge
of the blackened clearing, rose clumsily, then moved slowly northward.
Presently another cow followed suit.
"We can get over the ground now," said Dick. "Let's go out and
look at these animals."
They counted eight dead cows, their unwieldy carcasses lying motionless
on the burned grass.
"Probably killed by the hot air that they drew into their lungs,"
commented Tom Reade.
"We killed the poor beasts," said Danny Grin, with a catch in
"Perhaps we did," Dick admitted. "But we had to do something.
Anyhow, we broke the force of the stampede, and, if that hadn't
been checked, a still greater number of cows would have been killed.
They would have fallen, exhausted, and then they would have been
trampled on and killed by the plunging cattle behind them."
"That's true enough," nodded Tom. "Even if we did kill a few,
I guess we're more entitled to praise than reproach."
Two more cows presently got up and limped away, but there were
four others still alive, yet too badly hurt to attend to themselves.
Nor could the high school boys help, further than by carrying
buckets of water to the suffering animals. Dick & Co. had no
firearms along, and could not put the injured cows out of their
"Now, let's get out of here," urged Dick at last. "We can't do
any good here, and this is no pleasant sight to gaze upon."
"It seems too bad to leave all this prime roast beef on the ground,
doesn't it?" hinted Tom. "And we fellows have such good appetites."
"The cattle are not ours," Dick rejoined. "We have no right to
help ourselves to any cuts of meat from the dead animals."
So they returned to the camp, which they found, of course, quite
It so happened that the four members of the party who had proposed
going to other scenes for the forenoon forgot their projects.
VISITORS FOR THE FEAST
Bang! bang! sounded in the direction of the burned-over clearing.
"Let's go over and see what that means," proposed Tom.
He jumped up, ready to sprint over to the clearing.
"If you want advice," Dick offered, "I'd say to wait until the
shooting is over. You might stop a stray bullet not intended
"But what can the shooting mean" wondered Greg.
"When anyone is turning bullets loose," remarked Darry, "I'm not
So the boys waited until the firing had ceased. Then they heard
what sounded like the noise of a horse moving through the brush.
"Hello, there!" called Dick.
"Hello, yourself!" came the answer, and a mounted man rode into
view. He did not look especially ugly or dangerous; his garb
was plainly intended for the saddle. As he came into sight the
man slipped a heavy automatic revolver into a saddle holster.
"What was up?" inquired Dick, rising and going forward to meet
"Stampede," replied the other briefly.
"We know something about that," Dick rejoined.
"Do you know anything about the burning of the clearing?" asked
the horseman, reining up and eyeing the lads keenly.
"Yes, sir; we fired the grass," Prescott acknowledged.
"To break the stampede?"
"No, sir; to save our camp, which would have been destroyed."
"Shake," invited the stranger, riding forward and bending over
to hold out his hand. "Your fire cost us a few cattle, but I
reckon it saved the destruction of a lot more, for there would
have been many of 'em killed if they had charged on into the deeper
"Then the stampede has been stopped?" asked Prescott.
"Yes; two of my men followed the parted trails, and came back
to report the two herds halted and grazing. My name is Ross.
I'm the owner of about a fourth of the cattle in the big herd."
"I hope you don't feel angry with us for doing the best we could
to save our camp," Dick went on.
"You saved myself and the other owners a greater loss," replied
Mr. Ross, "so I thank you."
"You're quite welcome, Mr. Ross," smiled Tom Reade. "But what
was the shooting about?"
"I shot some of the cattle that appeared to be still alive, to
put an end to their suffering. You boys haven't any ice here,
"No, sir," Dick replied.
"Too bad," said Mr. Ross. "If you had ice I could offer you a
prime lot of beef that it will hardly pay me to move, as I can't
get the animals cut up quickly enough and on ice, after the long
haul I would have to make."
"Are you going to leave the cattle on the clearing?" Dick asked
in sudden concern.
"We'll bury the carcasses," smiled Mr. Ross. "If we didn't the
smell would soon force you boys to move your camp a mile or two.
But see here! Ever have a barbecue?"
"No, sir," Dick made answer, his voice betraying sudden interest.
"Would you like one?" went on the owner. "A barbecue, real western
style, with a whole cow on the fire?"
"It would be great!" answered nearly all of Dick & Co. in concert.
"Then we'll have one, as soon as I can call my men in," replied
Mr. Ross cheerfully. "I'm bound to get some good out of the dead
"We'll want a lot of firewood for that, won't we?" asked Dick,
his eyes gleaming.
"More than a little," nodded Mr. Ross. "And big wood, at that."
"Dave, you and Tom had better take the axes and get some real
wood," Prescott called. "Harry and Dan will help you and bring
it in. Where shall we put the wood, Mr. Ross?"
"In the middle of the burnt clearing will be better," replied
the cattle owner. "Then the fire won't have a chance to spread
in any direction. Besides, you won't want the heat of a great
fire too close to your camp. After the meat is cooked we can
bring it over here. Have you boys plenty of canned vegetables
and the like?"
"Plenty, sir," Dick answered cheerily, though his heart sank a
trifle as he thought of how the cattle owner and his helpers might
clean out their stock.
Dick and Greg busied themselves with carrying over to the clearing
such things as Mr. Ross said that they would need. Then it was
decided that the vegetables should be cooked at the camp.
"Let me see your stock of provisions and perhaps I may get another
idea," proposed the cattle owner. "I see that you have flour,
and oh, yes; you have all that will be needed for a pudding,
and one of my men knows how to make one of the best boiled puddings
you ever ate out under the sky."
Drawing a small horn from one of his side pockets, Mr. Ross blew
a long, shrill blast.
"Jim will come in as soon as possible, after hearing that sound,"
smiled the cattle owner.
Jim Hornby rode in within five minutes. He was a lean, long,
roughened and reddened farm laborer, but when told that a boiled
pudding was wanted he walked straight to the place where the
supplies were kept.
"Everything here but berries," Jim explained. "Any of you boys
know where to get some blueberries?"
Greg knew, and promptly departed with a pail.
Crackle! Crackle! Two brisk fires were now going in the burnt
clearing, started by Dick at Mr. Ross' direction. By this time
Mr. Ross' other helper had come in, reporting that the cattle
were quiet and grazing, and now this helper and his employer began
to remove the hide from one of the cows.
"This cow was overcome by smoke and hot air as soon as it rushed
into the blaze," explained Mr. Ross. "Therefore, this will be
safe meat to eat. When an animal, however, dies in pain, after
much suffering, its flesh should never be used for food. Bill,
now that we've gotten the hide off you mount and ride back to
the wagon. Bring it along."
Dan and Harry were still bringing in heavy firewood and stacking
it up, while the ring of axes in the hands of Dave and Tom was
heard. It was a busy scene.
"Prescott, you'd better begin piling on the big wood now," suggested
Mr. Ross, after noting the sun's position.
Things moved rapidly along.
"You might as well halt your wood cutters, unless you want their
product for your own camp," suggested the cattle owner, and Prescott
sent the word to stop chopping.
Within twenty minutes the big wagon, drawn by a pair of mules,
came up with Bill Hopple driving and his horse tied to the tailboard.
With a speed and skill born of long practice, Mr. Ross began to
cut up the carcass of the cow. Bill was busy making greenwood
spits and arranging them over the two fires, Dan and Harry helping
Almost at a dead run came Greg Holmes through the woods, with
two quarts of blueberries. Over at the camp, as soon as he saw
the berries, Jim Hornby began mixing his pudding batter. He had
already prepared his fire and had found a suitable kettle.
From watching the pudding game, Tom strolled through to the two
fires in the clearing.
"This begins to look like a fine chance to eat," sighed Tom full
"Doing anything, Reade?" inquired the cattle owner, who had quickly
learned all their names.
"Then suppose you take this heart of the cow over to your camp.
Put it on the fire in a kettle of salted water, and let it boil
slowly. By that means you will be able to serve up the heart
for your evening meal."
"Is there no end to this cow?" gasped Tom.
"Well, a good-sized cow provides several hundred pounds of meat,"
replied Mr. Ross. "Oh, what a shame that you boys have no ice,
and no way of getting it or keeping it! I could fix you for a
month's supply of meat!"
"Dick, do you remember what we came out here in the woods for?"
"To camp, and have a good time," Prescott laughed. "And, so far,
we win. We're having a bully time!"
"What else did we come out here for?"
"To harden and train ourselves so that we can make a hard try
for the Gridley High School football eleven this fall."
"Will a week of training table undo the harm of to-day's big feasts?"
"No fellow is obliged to make a glutton of himself," retorted
"Maybe not," quoth Tom, "but everyone of us will be sorely tempted.
You ought to see that pudding that Jim Hornby is putting up."
"Young man, are you going to get that heart to cooking before
it goes bad in the sun?" asked Mr. Ross sharply.
Tom meekly turned and started toward camp.
"What's Greg doing?" Dick called after him.
"Holmesy is watching, learning the way Jim Hornby puts up a boiled
pudding," Reade called back.
Honk! honk! sounded an automobile horn from the rough trail
of a roadway an eighth of a mile away. The honking continued
until Dick, realizing that it was a signal, gave a loud halloo.
"Is that Prescott's camp?" called a voice.
"It's the camp of Prescott and his friends," Dick shouted back.
"Get ready for visitors, then!" called the voice again, and this
time Dick recognized the voice as that of Dr. Bentley.
"We won't eat you out of supplies, though," called the doctor,
now heading through the forest. "We're bringing with us our own
"Cold lunch!" Dick chuckled back. "You won't be able to eat it
after you see what we have!"
Through the trees now the fluttering of skirts could be seen.
High school girls were on their way to share the barbecue, though
as yet they did not know of the treat in store for them.
DICK'S WOODLAND DISCOVERY
"You couldn't have come at a finer time!" cried Dick joyously,
as he raced to meet the most welcome visitors.
"We're barbecuing a whole cow."
"Then I trust, Prescott, that you came honestly by the cow," rejoined
Dr. Bentley his eyes twinkling.
Besides Dr. and Mrs. Bentley, there were eight girls. The visitors
quickly explained that, besides the Bentley touring car, that
of the Sharps was being used on this expedition, Susie Sharp being
one of the girls of the party. The Sharps did not employ a chauffeur,
but their general man knew how to run the car, and he was now
engaged in taking the cars to a spot well off the road.
"I'll send one of the fellows to get him," Dick promised, as he
led the numerous though welcome guests to camp.
"Lucky I made a special big pudding," grinned Jim Hornby.
"The girls may have my share," gallantly offered Tom Reade, though
he groaned under his breath.
"There's pudding enough for a lot more people than we have here,"
returned Jim. "I don't bother making small puddings."
The boys were all called in quickly to greet the girls and Dr.
and Mrs. Bentley. Of course, the girls had to see the interior
of the tent, and all the arrangements of the camp.
"I wish I were a boy," sighed Laura Bentley enviously.
"I'm glad you're not," spoke Dick gallantly. "You're ever so
much nicer as a girl."
Honk! honk! sounded over by the road. The noise continued.
"Greg," said Dick, "that's Miss Sharp's father's man. Evidently
he wants something. You'd better run over."
In less than five minutes back came Greg with three other men,
all of them unexpected. Mr. Alonzo Hibbert, minus his four-quart
hat, and wearing a flat straw hat instead, as well as light clothes
and silk negligee shirt, came in advance of Tom Colquitt, the
man from Blinders' detective agency. Still to the rear of them
was a third man, slightly bent and looking somewhat old, though
there were no gray streaks in his light brown hair.
"How do you do, boys?" called Mr. Hibbert airily, as he came swiftly
forward. "We saw a big smoke over this way, and so we stopped
to find out what was the matter. Young Holmes has asked us to
stop for your barbecue, but it looks to me like a terrible imposition
on you, and so-----"
Here Mr. Hibbert paused, looking highly embarrassed as he caught
sight of Mrs. Bentley and the girls coming out of the tent.
"You already have other company," murmured Hibbert apologetically.
"No; most decidedly we must not intrude on you."
"How do you do, Mr. Colquitt?" was Dr. Bentley's greeting. Then
other introductions followed, and, ere he knew it, Hibbert and
his friends were members of the party and destined to partake
of the barbecue feast.
The oldish-looking man with the new arrivals proved to be Mr.
"He's the millionaire father of the missing boy that Colquitt
and I are trying to find," Hibbert explained to Dick.
"Have you any clue, as yet?" Prescott inquired.
"Nothing worth while," sighed Lon Hibbert.
"It's too bad," murmured Dick. "Mr. Page is a fine-looking man,
but he must be lonely."
"He is," agreed Lon Hibbert.
"His wife is dead, isn't she?"
"Yes; and Page would give the world to find that boy of his."
"Perhaps if he doesn't find his son it may be as well," Dick hinted.
"Why, as well?"
"The missing son, brought up by others, might have turned out
badly," Prescott suggested.
"Pooh!" quickly rejoined Lon Hibbert. "That missing son, no
matter how wild or bad he may be, is still young enough to reform.
Prescott, no matter how bad that son may be, it will be a blessing
for my friend Page to find his boy! I pray that it may be my
good fortune to run across that son, one of these days, and that
I may be the first to recognize the boy."
"Prescott," broke in Mr. Ross, coming forward, "you don't begin
to have enough knives, forks and plates to take care of this crowd,
"I'm sorry to say that we haven't," Dick smiled. "But we'll manage
that all right. My friends and I will play waiters, and sit at
second table after the dishes have been washed."
"You won't have to," replied the cattle owner. "I have a folding
table and dishes in my wagon, and I'll send Bill Hopple after
So the tables were set under the shade of the trees, not far from
the campfire. The Sharps man came up, and was seated with Jim
and Bill. Everything being now cooked, the feast began.
"I've never had anything as wonderful as this happen to me before,"
cried Belle Meade, as she seated herself and looked over the two
tables with sparkling eyes. "Girls, we didn't look forward to
such a treat as this when we left Gridley this morning."
"You intended to look in on us, didn't you?" inquired Darry.
"Yes; but we brought our own luncheons," said Laura. "We didn't
expect you to do anything for us---unless you boys had happened
to catch a mess of fish."
"We were planning to go fishing this morning," Tom Reade explained,
"although we do not know whether the fishing near here amounts
to much. May I pass you some of this sirloin, Miss Marshall?"
Gay spirits ruled, as they usually do and always should when young
people are together out in the open, far from studies or from
any of the other cares of life.
Dick told the story of the stampede, while Mr. Ross added much
about the peculiarities of stampeding cattle and the impossibility
of controlling the animals while their mad fright lasts.
"I am certain that this is the finest meal I have ever eaten,"
declared Mr. Page, who, up to the present, had been rather silent.
"There is only one thing it needs," rejoined Mr. Ross. "If we
had about six roasted ears of corn for each diner then this barbecue
would be a huge success."
"Not even the corn could improve it," declared Laura Bentley,
as Dick helped her to more of the roasted meat.
"Don't forget that pudding, ladies and gentlemen!" called out
Jim Hornby, from where he sat. "That pudding is my best kind,
and the best one of its kind that I ever turned out. When you
have the pudding you won't be thinking of a little thing like
roasted ears of corn."
"No more, thank you," replied Clara Marshall, as Greg tried to
secure her plate in order to help her to more food.
"Until the pudding comes on," prompted Jim Hornby.
"Until the pudding arrives," smiled Clara.
"But no one may think of having pudding yet," insisted Mr. Ross,
with mock gravity. "I forbid that anyone should have pudding,
or even think of it, until we have tried the one really delicious
dish of this feast."
"And what may that be?" called Dr. Bentley.
"The best part of the cow," replied Mr. Ross.
"A big rib roast, served with cracked bones with the marrow cooked
in them. Come along, Bill. We'll bring back the roast and the
Ross and his man moved briskly out of sight. Only a few moments
had passed when Mr. Ross' voice was heard from the clearing:
"_Thieves_! The rib roast is gone---so is the marrow!"
Dick glanced swiftly at his chums. The same idea was in the minds
of all the members of Dick & Co.
"Our friend, the prowler, has been here," muttered Prescott, rising
hastily. "This thing has got to be stopped. Come along, fellows!
Friends, please excuse us for a few moments."
At a dog trot Dick led the way to the clearing. There stood Mr.
Ross, looking the picture of indignation.
"I didn't know there were tramps in these woods," muttered the
"Tramp, thief, or whatever he is," exclaimed Dick Prescott, "that
fellow must move on out of this part of the country. If he doesn't
we'll catch him. After we get through with him, he'll be glad
enough to move on."
"If he's able," added Dave Darrin significantly.
"Oh, what's the use of making a fuss, this time?" demanded Tom
Reade good-humoredly. "For once we have so much meat that we
could spare a hungry man two hundred pounds and not miss it."
"It's the principle of the thing," muttered Dick, who was studying
the ground intently. "That big, hulking fellow doesn't care a
rap whether we have plenty, or whether he takes all we have.
We've got to suppress him. We must catch him, and put a stop
to his thieving. See! Here's where he went off through the woods.
Come on! We'll trail him!"
"And, if we find him?" asked Greg.
"We'll try to reason with the fellow," responded Prescott rather
Just as the boys started off on the trail that Prescott had discovered,
other figures appeared on the scene.
"Now, may I ask what you girls are doing here?" asked Tom, his
tone more agreeable than his words.
"We want to see the fun, whatever is going to happen," declared
"Oh, there will be plenty of that, I promise you, if we can find
the fellow," asserted Darry bluntly.
"Come along, girls!" cried Belle Meade gleefully.
"But there may be something disagreeable happen, you know, girls,"
Dick warned them. "If we overtake this fellow there may be a
"If you could call it a fight, when six Gridley high school boys
attack one man, then I shall have to change my mind about our
high school boys," hinted Laura Bentley teasingly.
It was plain enough that the girls were bent on following them,
so no more objections were raised.
"We'll travel so fast that the girls won't be able to keep up,"
whispered Tom Reade to Dick. "We'll lose 'em, and they'll be
glad to hike back to the table."
This, however, proved to be not quite as easy as had been expected.
The trail into the woods was rather a plain one, though it could
not be followed at a run.
"Keep behind me, fellows," urged Dick. "If you keep up with me
you may blot out the trail."
So his five chums came after him, with the girls in the rear,
in a straggling line.
Into the deepest woods the trail led. "The girls will soon tire
of this chase, and face about," Tom told Darry.
Which was precisely what happened.
In the deepest part of the woods Dick parted a tangle of bushes
through which the trail led. Then, in a voice vibrant with agitation,
"Come on, fellows! Quick!"
SETTING A NEW TRAP
What Dick had caught sight of, and what had made him call to his
chums was the figure of the camp prowler partially dressed seated
on the edge of a pool of water fed by a forest brook where evidently
he had been bathing.
He had heard Dick's cry, however. These few instants of time
had been enough for the bather to jump up, snatch up the remainder
of his clothes and set off through the woods with the speed of
"Come on!" cheered Dick Prescott. "Full speed! We'll catch him.
He hasn't his shoes on, and his bare feet will soon go lame on
the twigs and stones that he'll step on in running. He can't
go far before we nab him."
"Spread out, fellows!" called Tom Reade. "Don't let the rascal
slip through our line. Dick, did you get a good look at him?"
"A fine peep," Prescott affirmed.
"Was he the thief?" Dave demanded.
"The very fellow!" Dick called back, for he was still in the lead.
"Don't talk any more," Reade warned his friends cautiously. "We'll
use up our wind."
As he ran Dick had an important secret on his mind. This was
not quite the time to impart it to his chums, however, so he held
his peace and did his best to save his wind.
Thus half a mile, at least, was quickly traversed. By this time
the high school boys, running as they had done, began to feel
"I can't go any further," gasped Hazelton, halting and leaning
against a tree.
"I'm in the same fix," muttered Danny Grin. as he, too, came
to a stop.
Reade, Darrin and Prescott ran on some distance farther, but at
last Dick called a brief signal for a halt.
"Where are you, friend?" bawled Dick, using his last wind in one
resolute vocal effort.
"Friend!" scoffed Reade.
"Of course the fellow will call and tell us where he is!" jeered
"We won't hurt you---won't try to," Dick promised solemnly, again
sending his voice as far as he could make it travel. "All we
want to do is to talk to you---and we're friends honestly!"
"Say, what are you trying to give that thief?" protested Tom,
in an indignant undertone.
"Why are you telling him we're friends, and won't hurt him?" insisted
"Because I mean just what I say," retorted Prescott, so crisply
that, for the moment, no one pressed him with any more questions.
Dick continued his calls, but received no response.
"By this time that fellow's a mile from here, and still running,"
"Or else he doubled on us, somewhere, and is hidden where he can
watch us, and laugh at us slyly," suggested Tom, as the three
high school boys turned to walk back to camp.
"If he's hiding on our trail, the thief had better not let me
catch him laughing at us!" growled Darry indignantly.
"Now, see here, both of you," Dick Prescott went on, earnestly.
"If we come across that fellow, don't either of you make a grab
at him. Just let me handle him---and I'll do it by talking alone.
We mustn't use our fists."
"You've changed your tune wonderfully within the last few minutes,"
"If I have," Dick answered impressively, "it's because I know
something now that I didn't know a little while ago."
"And what's that?" asked Tom eagerly.
"I'll tell all hands presently," Dick answered mysteriously.
"Oh, fudge!" growled Darry, under his breath, for he was fully
as curious as Tom Reade had been.
But Dick walked on as briskly as his almost winded condition would
permit. So they returned to the place where Harry and Dan awaited
them. To these two Dick repeated his instructions in the unlikely
case of their meeting the thief during their walk back to camp.
Nothing was seen of the fugitive, however, and the boys picked
up Greg Holmes close to the little swimming pool.
"I knew I could not catch up with you fellows," explained Holmes,
"so I took the girls back to camp and then put in my time prowling
about here and trying to locate the marrow bones that the sneak
"Dick doesn't want us to hurt the fellow, if we run across him,"
said Dave grimly.
"Why not?" asked Greg, opening his eyes very wide.
"I don't know," sighed Dave. "Ask Dick."
"I'll tell you all by and by," smiled Dick. "But now, let us
hurry back to camp. I want to see Mr. Colquitt just as soon
as I can."
"Bosh! A detective like Colquitt doesn't take up with such trifling
mysteries as missing marrow bones," jibed Reade. "Besides, we
can't afford to hire detectives."
"I don't want to hire a detective," Dick replied enigmatically,
"but I'd like about one minute's talk with Mr. Colquitt, and I
mean to have it. Don't let us dawdle on the way back, fellows."
So the six boys hurried on and soon came within sight of the camp.
"There they come!" cried Belle Meade. "Did you get the thief,
"No," called Dave, "and it seems that the fellow is no longer
a thief, but a distinguished fellow citizen whom we must honor
at sight, like a bank draft."
"What are you talking about?" half frowned Belle.
"I haven't the least idea what I am talking about," Dave admitted
cheerfully. "You'll have to ask Dick for the map to my few remarks."
"Where are Mr. Colquitt and his party?" Dick demanded.
"Gone," replied Laura Bentley.
"How long ago?" Dick asked, paling somewhat and looking troubled.
"About two minutes ago," replied Dr. Bentley. "They excused themselves
and went away in their car."
"Can't you take me in your car, Doctor, and help me to pursue
them?" asked Prescott anxiously.
"Yes," agreed Dr. Bentley good-naturedly, "if you've any idea
which direction to take in looking for them. A mile to the east
three roads cross; half a mile to the west four roads cross.
Our friends may be on any one of the seven roads, or they may
have gone by a trail of their own."
Dick came to an abrupt stop, clenching his hands tightly.
"Isn't that luck for you?" he demanded ironically. Then, suddenly,
his face brightened.
"No matter," he said. "They can be reached through the Eagle
Hotel, in Gridley."
"Why should you want to reach them?" asked Laura curiously.
"Will you mind if I keep that to myself, for just a little while?"
asked Dick, so pleasantly that Laura took no offense at all.
"How about my pudding?" called Jim. "Anyone going to want any
Did they? It was enjoyed to the full, and there was pudding left
over, to be heated for another meal.
"Now, you boys had better come with me, and I'll show you how
to keep some of the cooked meat over, in summer, without ice,"
proposed Mr. Ross.
"And my party must be getting along, or night will overtake us
here," declared Dr. Bentley, rising from what had been a most
"Then fellows, please excuse me if I write a short note and ask
Dr. Bentley to mail it," urged Dick.
So Dave Darrin mustered the other chums, marching them off in
the wake of Mr. Ross, while Dick hastily scribbled a note, placed
it in an envelope, and addressed it to Alonzo Hibbert, or Thomas
Colquitt, Eagle Hotel, Gridley.
As Dick came out his other chums halted their labors long
enough to take leave of Dr. Bentley and his party. They escorted
the departing guests to their automobiles, and saw them start
Such of the roast meat as was to be saved was packed in metal
pails, covered, and then the pails lowered into a brook, where
the cool water would to a certain extent take the place of ice.
Then Mr. Ross and his helpers removed the folding tables and other
"Thank you, boys, for what you did to break the stampede of the
herd," said Mr. Ross, waving his hand after he had sprung up into
Once more Dick & Co. had their camp all to themselves.
"I wish we could have such visitors every day," cried Darry
"Yes," grinned Tom, "but how long would our canned goods hold
out? We'd have to be rich, fellows, to entertain so many people
every day, even if the meat end of the feast did come to us without
"We want to make the camp shipshape again," Dick remarked, looking
about. "There's a lot of refuse food to be burned. Greg, you
start a fire. Dan you gather up every scrap of food that must
be thrown away and burn it on said fire. Dave, you can set the
tent to rights. I'll take an axe and hustle after some firewood.
Dave, suppose you help me. Tom might put the camp to rights."
With the labor thus divided all hands set briskly to work. By
the time that all the tasks had been performed the boys were glad
to lie down on the grass and rest until it was time to prepare
a light supper. After that meal was over Dave asked:
"We're going to keep regular guard to-night, aren't we?"
"Yes," Dick answered. "We'll turn in at nine o'clock and keep
guard until six in the morning. That will be nine hours---an
hour and a half of guard duty for each fellow. Suppose we draw
lots to decide the order in which we shall take our tricks of
This was done. To Prescott fell the second tour, from ten-thirty
until midnight. Reade had the first tour.
At a few minutes after nine all was quiet in the camp. Five tired
high school boys were soon sound asleep, with Reade, hidden in
the deep shadows, watching outside.
It seemed to young Prescott that he had no more than dropped off
into slumber when Tom shook him by the shoulder.
"Half-past ten," whispered Reade, as Dick sat up. "Go out to
the wash basin and dash cold water into your eyes. That will
open 'em and freshen you up."
"Have you seen anything of the prowler?" whispered Dick, as he
got upon his feet.
"Not a sign," declared Tom.
"It would be too early for him to prowl about yet," whispered
Dick, as he passed out into the Summer night. "Good night, Tom."
Only a faint stirring of the light breeze in the tree tops, the
droning hum of night insects, and the occasional call of a night
bird---these were all the sounds that came to the ears of the
young camp guard.
Dick dashed the water into his eyes, then felt wonderfully wide
"If Mr. Prowler comes, he'll probably go for the canned vegetables
and the biscuit," Prescott decided. "He must already have more
meat than he can handle all day to-morrow---if it doesn't spoil."
So Dick posted himself where he could easily watch the approach
of any outsider toward the boxes that served as cupboards for
the canned supplies.
The time slipped away, until it was nearly midnight, as Prescott
knew from stepping into the tent and lighting a match briefly
for a swift glimpse at his watch.
As Dick came out of the tent he fancied he heard a distant step,
crackling on a broken twig.
"If there's anyone coming I'd better slip into the shadow of the
canvas," Prescott told himself, acting accordingly.
Presently the stealthy steps sounded nearer to the camp.
"Someone is coming, as sure as fate," Dick said to himself. "Shall
I rouse one or two of the other fellows? But they might alarm
the prowler. I'll handle him myself."
A HARD PROWLER TO CATCH
It was the prowler.
Close to the tent he stopped to listen to the heavy breathing
that came from the sound young sleepers. Dick crouched farther
back into the shadow.
Uttering a low grunt, that was half chuckle, the prowler slipped
along in the darkness, making toward the cupboards.
"My friend, I want a little talk with you," suddenly spoke Dick
Prescott, slipping up behind the uninvited visitor.
The prowler wheeled quickly about.
"You don't want anything to do with me," he corrected, in a harsh
voice. "I could eat two or three like you, and then have plenty
of appetite left."
"Perhaps," smiled Dick Prescott undaunted.
"And I'll do it, too, if you don't stand back."
"But I want to talk with you, my friend," Dick insisted.
"I don't want to talk with you," snapped the prowler.
"You would, if you knew what I want to talk with you about," Prescott
"Is it about food?" demanded the young stranger grimly.
"Then it's about jail," sneered the other harshly.
"Why about jail?" asked Dick.
"Because that's where you'd like to see me!"
"Why should I want to see you in jail?" Prescott demanded.
"Because I've been visiting your kitchen," leered the other.
"But you can't stop me. Not all of your crowd can stop me!"
"Why do you wish to clean us out of food?" Prescott asked.
"Because I know how to eat," replied the young stranger significantly.
"Is that the only reason you have for trying to clean us all out
"Why should I have any other reason? And why isn't being hungry
a good enough reason?" counter-queried the prowler.
"It has struck me," smiled Dick, "that perhaps you don't want
us in these woods, anyway."
"I don't just hanker after your company," admitted the stranger,
with gruff candor.
"Are we bothering you any here?"
"No matter," came the sullen retort.
"To return to the first subject, that matter about which I want
to talk with you-----"
"Not to-night," growled the young prowler. Turning on his heel,
he started to walk away.
But Dick kept close at his side.
"Shake my trail, you!" ordered the other gruffly. "If you don't
you'll be sorry!"
With that the stranger broke into a loping run. At first glance
this gait didn't seem to be a swift one, but it was the long,
easy, loping stride of the wolf in motion. Young Prescott found
that he had to exert himself in order to keep up with the other.
"Go back to your shack!" ordered the prowler.
"Hold on a minute, so that I can talk with you," urged Prescott.
By this time they were at a considerable distance from the camp.
Suddenly the prowler halted, wheeling about like a flash, glaring
into young Prescott's eyes.
"Now, I'll learn you!" growled the prowler.
"Do you mean that you'll _teach_ me?" queried Prescott. "What?"
"I'll learn you," growled the other, "not to keep on banging around
me when I don't want you!"
"Do you happen to have any idea," Dick persisted coolly, "that
your name is probably Page, and that you undoubtedly have a very
rich father, who is trying to find you?"
"Where did you read that fairy tale?" sneered the prowler.
"Partly on your skin to-day," Dick rejoined, "when I came upon
you as you were dressing near that pool."
"Stop kidding me!" commanded the other sternly. "And now back
to you cosy little bed for you! Fade! Vanish! If you don't
then you'll soon wish you had!"
But Dick held his ground, despite the very evident sincerity of
the other's threat, and gazed unflinchingly back at the prowler.
"Let me tell you," Dick went on. "Of course I cannot be positive,
but there is a missing heir who has, on his chest and one shoulderblade
just such marks as I saw on you to-day when you were sitting by
the pool putting on your shirt?"
"Oh, forget that thrilling stuff!" jeered the other. "Don't you
suppose I know who my father is? Old Bill Mosher hasn't suddenly
grown rich. How could Bill get rich when he is in jail for drunkenness?"
"So you think your name is Mosher?" pursued Prescott.
"I know it is," replied the prowler harshly. "And, around this
neck of the woods a fellow couldn't have a harder, tougher name
"But if your name were really Page-----" pressed Dick.
"No use stringing me like that," snapped the other. Even in the
darkness, lit only here and there by starlight, the scowl on his
face was visible. "Tell you what," declared Mosher, an instant
"I don't under------"
"Yes, you do," retorted the self-styled Mosher. "Vamoose!
Twenty-three in a hurry! Make your get-away!"
"Until I've made you listen to reason," Prescott insisted, "I
won't leave you."
"Oh, yes, you will, and right now, or-----"
Mosher held a hard, horny fist menacing before Dick's face, but
the high school boy failed to wince.
"Git! Now, or crawl later!" warned Mosher.
"I'm going to make you listen to-----"
"Put up your guard!"
At least Mosher was "square" enough to give warning of his intentions.
He threw himself on guard, then waited for perhaps five seconds.
"Are you going to cool down and listen!" demanded Dick Prescott
Out shot the Mosher youth's left fist. Dick dodged. It was a
feint; Dick nearly stopped Mosher's right.
Blows rained in thickly now. Not every one could Prescott dodge,
though he was more agile and better trained than this more powerful
At last, smarting from a glancing blow on the nose, Dick darted
in and clinched with his adversary. It was bad judgment, but
punishment had stung him into desperate recklessness.
"Stop it!" panted the high school boy.
"Won't!" retorted Mosher, increasing his pressure about the smaller
boy's waist until Prescott felt dizzy. In that extremity the
Gridley boy worked a neat little trip. Down they went, rolling
over and over, fighting like wild cats until Mosher secured the
upper hand and sat heavily on the high school boy.
"I gave you all the chance I could," growled Mosher, planting
blow after blow on Dick's head, face and chest, "and you wouldn't
help yourself anyway. Now, you'll take all your medicine, and
next time you meet me you'll know enough to leave me alone."
Held as he was, without really a show, Dick Prescott fought as
long as he could, and with desperate courage. But at last he
felt forced to yell:
"Fellows! Gridley! Here---quickly!"
"They're too far away, and, besides, they're asleep," jeered Mosher,
to the accompaniment of three more hard blows. "Now, I reckon
you've had enough to know your own business after this and let
mine alone. If I had any cord I'd tie you here. As it is-----"
Leaping suddenly to his feet, Mosher turned and ran swiftly through
Dick badly hurt, yet as determined as ever, pursued for a few
score of yards. Then realizing that he could hear no sound of
the other's steps to guide him in the right direction, the high
school boy halted.
"I may as well give it up this time," he said to himself grimly.
"Besides, my main job is to guard the camp. If I go roaming
through the woods, Mosher, as he calls himself, will double back
on the camp and clean out our provisions while I'm groping out
here in the dark."
So Dick paused only long enough to make sure of his course back.
Then he plodded along, wincing with the pain of many blows that
he had received.
"I'm lucky, anyway, that I didn't get an eye bunged up," he reflected.
"I smart and I ache, but I can see straight, and I don't believe
I've received any blow that will disfigure me for the next few
days. My, what a steam hammer that fellow is in a fight! I wonder
if he really is the son of that hard character called Bill Mosher?"
As Dick neared the camp he stepped more softly. He wanted to
see whether Mosher really had come back.
But no figure was discernible in the clearing beyond the camp.
Dick walked in more confidently. His first care was to examine
the food supply.
"Nothing gone," Dick murmured. Then he looked about for a stick
large enough to serve as a weapon at need. While doing so his
glance fell upon an axe.
"I wouldn't use that," Prescott told himself. "But there is no
knowing what Mosher would do if he got cornered by more than one
of us. Hereafter we mustn't leave this thing outside."
Dick carried the axe into the tent, hiding it without awaking
any of the other sleepers. Then he went outside, searching until
he found a club that he thought would answer for defense.
Taking this with him he went over to the wash basin, where, wetting
a towel, he bathed his battered face.
"Almost one o'clock," he remarked, after striking a match for
a look at his watch. "I won't call Dave at all, but will stay
up and call Harry at half-past one."
"TAG" IS THE GAME---TAG MOSHER!
"Now, come in with the sprint!" Dick sang out to Hazelton.
"Greg, Dave and Tom, you block him. Get through, Harry---some
way! Don't let 'em stop you."
It was three days later, and Dick & Co. were at work at their
main task during this summer camping, which was to train hard
and try to fit themselves for the football squad when high school
should open again.
Hazelton came on, at racing speed. He ducked low, making a gallant
effort. He nearly succeeded in getting through, but Tom's tackle
brought him to ground just at the right moment.
"Now, try that over again," Prescott said.
So the work went on, vigorously, for another hour---until all
of the boys were tired out, hot and panting.
"That's the most grueling work I ever did in the same space of
time," muttered Reade, mopping his face.
"Yes; it's the kind of work for which football calls," rejoined
Prescott, also mopping his face. "Dan, get up off the ground!"
"I'm hot," muttered Dalzell, "and I'm tired."
"Then rest on a campstool. Don't chill yourself by lying on the
ground when you're so warm."
After a few seconds of contemplated mutiny, Danny Grin rose and
found a seat on a stool.
"As soon as you're cool, three of you go to the water and wash
off," Dick ordered. "The other three of us will stay here until
you get back."
That was the order of the day now. At least two, and usually
three of Dick & Co. always remained near camp. If Mosher planned
to come again he would find a "committee" waiting to receive him.
There were more supplies, too, to guard now than there had been.
On the morning after Dick's encounter, a farmer had driven into
camp. His wagon had been well laden with all manner of canned
food supplies, even to tins of French mushrooms. These had come
from Alonzo Hibbert, with a note of thanks for the entertainment
of himself and friends.
"These provisions are mighty welcome," Prescott had remarked at
the time, "but I'm not sure but that I would rather have Hibbert
himself here---I've so much to tell him."
"He'll come, in time, when he gets your letter at the Eagle House,"
Reade had answered, for Dick had told all his chums his suspicions
regarding young Mosher.
"What are we to do this afternoon?" asked Dave, seating himself
beside Prescott as three of the chums started for the swimming
"Gymnastics," Dick replied. "Especially bar work. And some boxing,
"You ought to be excused from boxing for the present," grinned
Darry. "You look as though you had had enough for a while."
For Dick's left cheek was still decorated with a bruise that young
Mosher had planted there. The boxing of Dick & Co., this summer,
was real work. It was done with bare knuckles, though, of course,
without anger or the desire to do injury. Boxing with bare knuckles
was Prescott's own idea for hardening himself and his chums for
the rough work of the gridiron.
"I'll take my share of the boxing," Dick retorted. "Having a
sore spot on my face will make me all the more careful in my guard."
"Queer we don't hear from Hibbert," mused Greg Holmes.
"Not at all," Dave contended. "Hibbert simply isn't back at the
Eagle House yet, and perhaps the hotel people have had no orders
about forwarding his mail It may be a fortnight before we hear
"Thanks to the thoughtfulness of Hibbert we can remain in camp
a good deal more than a fortnight longer," observed Prescott,
glancing over the greatly increased food supply. "Perhaps it
was all right for Hibbert to repay our courtesy the other day,
but he has sent us something like twenty or thirty times as much
food as his party ate."
"I guess Hibbert has more money than he knows what to do with,"
mused Greg aloud.
"Even if he has," Prescott smiled seriously, "there is no reason
why he should feel called upon to keep us in food. I'd give four
fifths of that food to know where to reach Hibbert, or any of
that party, in a hurry. Jupiter!"
"What's up?" asked Dave, eyeing his chum in astonishment, for
Dick had suddenly leaped to his feet, and was now dancing about
like an Indian.
"Say, but we must have fried eggs in the place of brains!" cried
young Prescott reproachfully.
"What calls forth that severe remark?" demanded Darry.
"Why, we know well enough where to get hold of Hibbert's party,"
Dick went on.
"Do we?" asked Greg.
"Certainly," cried Dick triumphantly. "Just send a note to Mr.
Colquitt in care of Blinders' Detective Agency. I'm going to
write the note now!"
Dick was half-way to the tent when Darry called after him:
"By the way, in what city is the Blinders' agency located?"
Dick halted short, looking blank.
"I don't know," he admitted. "Do you fellows?"
None of them did. Then they waited until the others came in from
the pool. But none of them knew what city had the honor to shelter
the Blinders' agency.
"I'll write the note, anyway," Dick insisted. "If I can't do
better, I'll put the address as simply the United States, with
a request on the envelope for the post-office people to find the
right city and deliver the letter."
"Go ahead with the letter," urged Tom. "After dinner I'll walk
over to Five Corners and mail the letter. Incidentally, I'll
make inquiries over there and see whether anyone knows the city
in which the Blinders' crowd has its headquarters."
So Dick wrote the letter, while others were preparing the noon
meal. At one o'clock in the afternoon Tom started, on his round-trip
tramp of twenty-two miles.
"A trip like that will take the place of training for one half
day," Reade explained.
Hazelton offered to go with him, but Tom declined on the ground
that he could get over ground faster without Harry.
It was an hour after dark when Reade returned that night, hot,
tired, dusty and hungry. But he had found the correct address
of the agency and the letter had started on its journey.
"Your supper is all ready," Dick announced.
"And I'm ready to meet any supper more than half way," Reade retorted.
"Just a minute, until I wash up."
The other five boys sat and chatted by the table while Tom ate.
"Dan, won't you throw a lot more wood on the fire?" asked Dick,
as the meal came to a close. "We ought to have the camp better
lighted than this."
Greg sprang to help Dalzell. Soon the flames leaped up, throwing
their ruddy, cheerful glow over the camp and making dancing shadows
beyond under the trees.
While they were still chatting over the day's doings, steps were
heard, followed by the arrival in camp of two rough-looking,
stern-faced men. Dave Darrin sprang to pick up a club.
"You boys haven't been doing anything wrong, have you?" questioned
one of the men, with a trace of a smile.
"Of course not," Dick indignantly replied.
"Then you needn't be afraid of us, though I admit that we do look
rough," answered the same man, displaying a badge. "We're officers
of the law."
"What can we do for you, sir?" Prescott inquired more respectfully.
"Do you boys know anything about Tag Mosher?" demanded the same
"Son of Bill Mosher?" Dick counter-queried.
"The same. Know anything about him?"
"Nothing, except that he bothered us a good deal when we were
first camped here," Prescott replied.
"Do you know him by sight, then?"
"We all do."
"When was Tag here last?" pressed the officer.
"About three days ago," Dick answered. "He stole quite a bit
of our food supply."
"That's an old trick of that young tough," rejoined the deputy
sheriff. "That's how the boy got the nickname of 'tag.' He won't
work, and lives on other people's work. Anything that he can
say 'tag' to he thinks belongs to him."
"Then, in other words, sir," asked Dave Darrin, "Tag Mosher is
just a plain thief?"
"A good deal that way," replied the deputy. "But with this difference:
Up to date Tag never stole anything except what he needed at the
moment for his own comfort. He never robbed people to enrich
himself, but just to save himself the trouble of working. Now,
however, we've a more serious charge against him."
"What?" asked Dick,
"I don't know whether the courts will call it felonious assault,"
replied the deputy. "But Tag stole two chickens out of the chicken
coop of Henry Leigh, a new farmer in these parts. Leigh trailed
Tag to the woods and found him cooking the chickens. Leigh tried
to grab Tag, but Tag caught up a big stone and just slammed it
against Leigh's head. Leigh is now in bed at home, with a fractured
skull, and likely to die. He described Tag to us, and we're after
him. The county has put a reward of two hundred and fifty dollars
on Tag's head. After we've come up with him I guess it will be
many a year before Tag Mosher will have a chance to do any more
stealing or fighting. But if you haven't seen him here in three
days we may as well be moving on. Thank you. Of course, if you
see Tag, you won't tell him anything about our being here?"
"Certainly not, sir," Dick answered. "By the way, do you want
"Meaning some of you boys?" asked the deputy.
"Some of us will help you, if we can," Dick assured him.
"We ought to leave half our number to guard the camp, for Tag
may show up here and wreck things. Three of us can go with you."
"You may run into some ugly fighting, if you go with us," warned
the deputy. "Tag Mosher is no coward!"
"We're not afraid of fighting, when we're in the right," Prescott
"Besides, we've got a grudge of our own against Tag Mosher, anyway,"
"Not a grudge, I hope," Dick rebuked his chum. "But we'll stand
by to help the law, if we get a chance."
"I reckon maybe we could use three of you," meditated the deputy
aloud. "Boys can beat up woods as well as men. But we may not
be able to get you back here before to-morrow noon.
"That will be all right," Dick assured him. "Dave and Greg, you'll
join me in going with the officers, won't you?"
Darry and Holmes both assented eagerly.
"If you've any extra grub, then, put it up and come along," urged
the deputy. "There's room for five in the automobile we're using."
"How did you men know that we were here?" Reade inquired, while
Dick and Greg made haste to get food together for the trip.
"Saw your campfire," replied the deputy laconically. "We didn't
believe Tag would build such a large fire, but we took a chance
and looked in. If you haven't anything else to do, young Long-legs,
you might pick out three stout clubs for your friends."
Laughing good-naturedly at the nickname, Tom bestirred himself.
Within three minutes all was ready.
Dick, Dave and Greg stepped away after the officers. Not far
away was the road, where the automobile stood with the engine
"Does Tag know how to run a car?" Prescott inquired.
"Don't know," replied the deputy.
"If he does, and had happened to be about, he could have taken
your car in good shape," smiled Dick.
"True," nodded the officer, "but there were only two of us, and
nabbing Tag Mosher is two men's work."
"I ought to know that," laughed Dick. "He gave me a stiff enough
"Here is where you can even the score," laughed Dave grimly.
"I don't want to even any score," replied Prescott gravely. "I'm
sorry for the fellow, especially when he was so close to a chance
to turn about and make something of himself."
"Do you mean to say that you don't hold even a bit of a grudge
for that severe beating you got?" demanded Darry wonderingly.
"Of course I don't," Dick retorted. "When two fellows fight one
of them must receive a beating---that's the sporting chance.
All my feelings for Tag are of sympathy."
"Not enough so you'd let him get away, if you met him?" put in
the deputy quickly.
"Of course, not, sir," Dick answered quickly flushing. "That
would be as much as to say that I'm a bad citizen. If I find
Tag I'll do my best to hold him until help comes. You may be
sure of that."
"Then get into the car," ordered the deputy briefly. "The back
part of the car is for you youngsters. That reminds me. We don't
know each other's names. Mine's Simmons."
The other deputy's name proved to be Valden. The boys quickly
Away went the car, over the rough roads. To avoid sending warning
too far ahead the lights were turned low. On account of the condition
of this rough forest road the speed was slow.
"If Tag hasn't been to your camp within three nights," said Mr.
Simmons, leaning back while Mr. Valden ran the car, "then it's
because he isn't in this neighborhood. So we'll travel on a few
miles before we stop to do any real searching."
"I don't understand how you can expect to find anyone out here
in the night time," Dick observed.
"I've some plans in my mind," was all the explanation Simmons
When the road became a little better, Valden put on a bit more
"Better slow down," advised Simmons presently. "There's a bridge
ahead that isn't any, too strong."
That bridge was closer than the deputy thought. Just then the
automobile top brushed heavily against foliage in making a wooded
turn in the road.
"There's the bridge!" yelled Simmons almost excitedly. "Slow
Valden tried to obey, but the bridge was altogether too close
for stopping in time. Out over the planks ran the car.
Some of the boards were already missing from the rude bridge.