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The High School Boys in Summer Camp by H. Irving Hancock

Part 3 out of 4

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Others gave way almost like paper. Down through the structure
fell the car, then landed with a splash, overturning to the accompaniment
of cries of fright and of pain from its occupants.



As the water in the creek was barely three feet deep, Officer
Valden sprang from the car, holding his right hand, which had
been caught in the brake mechanism.

Deputy Simmons appeared to be uninjured.

Greg Holmes went under water, his head striking a stone violently
enough to bring a splash of blood to his forehead.

Dave Darrin's head struck against the side of the car, bringing
a cry of pain from him.

Yet, though he was dizzy from the concussion, Darry displayed
the coolest head of any of them in the first few moments.

"Where's Dick?" he called, when he saw the others accounted for.
Then Dave wrenched off one of the lamps, holding it to aid his

"There he is!" shouted Darrin, as his foot touched something.
"His head is under water. Up with him, quickly!"

Dave brought the rays of the lantern to bear more directly, while
Simmons sprang to the rescue. Greg, too, joined in.

"He's pinned down by the car!" gasped Deputy Simmons after finding
Prescott's submerged body and giving it a hard tug. "Valden,
help me lift the car on this side! You two boys pull your friend
out when we lift the car. Now!"

Though Deputy Valden was able to employ only his left hand, he
used it with all his strength.

"Here he comes," panted Dave, tugging at Dick's body with all
his might. "Gracious! I hope he isn't drowned!"

Greg, too, exerted all his strength. Though it seemed ages to
the anxious ones it was really but the work of a few seconds.

As Dick's head emerged above the surface of the water he gave
a quick gasp. Then another.

"Oh, the air seems good," he moaned. "I tried to keep from opening
my mouth or breathing, but it nearly burst my lungs!"

"Are you all right now?" asked Darry, holding his chum up.

"If you'll help me to the bank I shall be, I think," answered
Prescott weakly.

"Why, what-----" began Dave anxiously.

"I was badly bruised by being pinned under the car," Dick admitted,
in a still weaker voice.

"No bones broken, eh?" broke in Greg Holmes.

"I---I think not," Dick answered.

"Don't keep him talking," ordered Dave sternly. "Put in your
strength and help me lift good old Dick up into the road."

"I guess I can do that job better," interposed Simmons, who had
let go of the car. "Let me have the boy."

Dick was borne up to the road in the deputy's strong arms.

"Can you stand?" asked Simmons.

"Put me on my feet, sir, and let me see," begged Dick.

He took a few steps, wincing, his face white.

"Dick, old fellow," faltered Dave, "I'm afraid you've broken a

"No; or I couldn't stand on my legs and walk," Prescott replied.
"It hurts up here, where the side of the car rested."

He placed one hand on his right hip.

"Then your hip is broken," groaned Darry.

"I don't believe that, either," argued Dick. "If my hip were
broken I don't believe I could move my leg or step."

He took two or three steps, wincing painfully, to show what he
could do.

"Nothing but a hip bruise, or I'm guessing wrong," smiled the
white-faced sufferer.

"In any case, you're meat for a doctor," put in Deputy Simmons,
with rough sympathy.

"All right," replied Dick. "I'll walk to the doctor's office.
How many miles is it?"

"About fourteen," replied Simmons. "I'll bring the doctor to
you. It's only about six miles to Ross' farm. I'll borrow his
car. Then I can make good time getting the doctor and bringing
him here. But you'd better sit down before I start."

"Aren't you going to do anything with the car in the creek?" inquired

"What can we do?" demanded the deputy laconically. "There isn't
muscle enough in this crowd to hoist the car up the bank. Anyway,
her engine is damaged beyond a doubt. No, no, Prescott, you sit
down, or lie down, and the rest of you had better wait here until
I bring help. I can be back in three hours at the latest. Darrin,
will you place one of the lamps at either end of where the bridge
was? That may save some farmer from driving in on top of the

Dave complied willingly enough. Then Simmons turned to Prescott.

"Now, you sit down, young man," ordered the deputy.

"I'd rather not," Dick replied. "I haven't anything worse than
a bruise. If I keep too quiet the injury will stiffen all the
more. I must move my hip a bit, or I may be in for a worse time."

"That may be true," nodded the deputy thoughtfully. "Well, be
good, all of you. I'll be back again, as soon as possible."

With that he strode down into the creek, wading through and coming
out at the farther side. Then he was lost among the shadows.

Though it hurt to keep on his feet, Dick, after some minutes,
found that he could move about a little more freely, despite the

"That shows there are no bones broken," he assured his distressed

"Does it?" asked Darrin. "Hang it, I wish I knew more about injuries
of this sort. Then I might be able to help you."

"Why, I may be all right, and able to sprint in another half hour,"
smiled Dick.

"Yes, you will!" jeered Greg. "Dick, you won't run for a few
days to come, anyway."

"A nice lot we are, to set out to aid the law's officers," remarked
Dave disgustedly. "Dick can take only a half a step per minute.
Mr. Valden can use only one hand. Greg's head looks gory. The
lot of us couldn't scare a baby now!"

"I can still say, boo!" Prescott laughed.

"Is it wise to try to do so much walking?" questioned Darry, as
Greg went back to the creek to wash the blood from the shallow
cut on his forehead.

"Yes; for I don't want to grow stiff until I'm where I can take
care of myself," Dick answered, taking a few more steps. "No;
don't help me. I want to move alone, and I'm strong enough for

So Dave threw himself on the grass to rest until he bethought
himself that, wet as they all were, it might be a good idea to
build a fire for drying purposes.

He busied himself in that way, while Dick started slowly, very
painfully, down the road. Only a step at a time could he go.
Greg, returning, ran after him, but Prescott sent him back, so
Holmes stretched himself on the ground near the fire.

At times Dick found he could move about very easily. Then the
hip would stiffen and he would be obliged to lean against a tree
for a few moments.

For ten minutes or longer he moved thus down the road.

"I'd better be getting back soon, I guess," he mused, "or I may
find it too much of a job."

Looking back, as he turned, he could just make out the glow of
the fire, very dim, indeed, from where he stood.

"I've got a beacon," smiled Dick, as he rested against a tree
trunk just off the road. He was about to take a step when a figure
glided stealthily by.

"By all that's astonishing, it's Tag Mosher!" Prescott gasped.
He clutched at the tree trunk again, watching, for Tag had halted
and appeared to be peering hard through the foliage at the fire
some distance away.

"I wouldn't want him to find me, now!" thought Dick, a cold chill
running over him at the thought of Tag's desperate savagery.

But at that moment Prescott accidentally made a sound, which,
slight though it was, caught young Mosher's ear.

In a twinkling Tag wheeled about, listening, peering. Then, straight
toward Prescott he came.

"Oh, it's you, is it?" demanded young Mosher harshly.

"Yes," Prescott admitted, speaking as steadily as he could, though
his heart sank for the moment. He knew that Tag would have time
to give him a beating that would be doubly severe in his present
condition of weakness and pain. That beating could be given in
a few swift seconds, and the help within reach of Dick's voice
could not arrive until young Mosher had had time to slip away
among the trees of the forest that he knew so well. "What do
you want with me?" demanded Tag, bringing his leering face closer
to Prescott's.



"I want you to stand right where you are until some of my friends
come," Dick made answer.

Then he braced himself for the violent assault that, he felt,
was sure to come. To his intense astonishment, however, Tag heaved
a sigh of dejection, then muttered:

"I may as well do it. You owe me a grudge, anyway, and you've
got the upper hand this time."

What on earth could it mean? For a brief instant Dick almost
believed that the exciting incidents of the night had been but
parts of a dream. But he raised his voice to shout:

"Dave! Oh, Dave! Come here! You, too, Greg."

"Coming," came the call, in Darry's voice. The sound of running
feet sounded on the road.

Tag Mosher glanced uneasily about, as if meditating flight. Then
his keen eyes scrutinized Prescott's face.

"What's up?" demanded Dave, as, even in the darkness he caught
sight of another figure.

"Darry," smiled Dick, "I wish to present my friend, Mr. Tag Mosher."

"What?" gasped Darrin. "This Tag Mosher. By Jove, it is, it?
How on earth did you make him wait for us?"

Then, all in a flying heap Dave projected himself against young
Mosher, clinching with him and bearing him down to the ground.
In order to make doubly sure Greg joined in the assault. But
Tag, though he struggled, did not put up much of a fight.

"Quit!" he ordered sullenly. "I'm all in. Can't you fellows
see that? But if I hadn't been sick I'd either have gotten away,
or would have given you fellows a fight that you'd never forget!"

Quick-witted Dave was not long in discovering that Tag really
was weak, as though from a recent illness.

"Say," demanded Darry, "have we been exerting ourselves to thrash
an ambulance case?" His voice rang with self disgust.

"If I'd been a well one," growled Tag, "you never would have put
me down, or held me. But I'm like a kitten to-night----strength
all gone!"

"What's going on here?" asked Deputy Valden, putting in a more
leisurely appearance.

"Something right in your line," Dick answered. "Dave and Greg
are holding down Tag Mosher."

"You're not fooling, are you?" demanded the deputy. "You're not
making any mistake, either?"

"We know Tag Mosher when we see him," Darry retorted. "We've
good enough reason for knowing him."

With his uninjured left hand Deputy Valden reached for his pair
of handcuffs, passing them to Dave.

"Here you are, Darrin," said the officer. "You know how to put
these things on, don't you?"

"I can figure the job out, sir," Dave made reply.

Tag submitted, wearily, to having the steel bracelets snapped
over his wrists. Then he heaved a sigh that had something of
a sob in it.

"I let you put these on, but I wish you'd take them off again,"
he said, addressing Valden. "I know I'm bad, and I know I'm tough,
but I never had these things on my hands before. Take 'em off,
won't you? Please!"

Such submission was tame, indeed. Deputy Valden, who had never
seen young Mosher before glanced sharply at young Prescott.

"This fellow doesn't seem much like the hardened criminal I've
been told about," remarked the officer.

"Did Prescott tell you I was tough?" demanded the prisoner. "He
ought to know! He had a touch of my style when I was feeling
better than I feel to-night. I suppose I've been nabbed for helping
myself to a sandwich or two from their camp."

"Do you demand to know why you're under arrest?" inquired Deputy

Tag nodded.

"Well, then," continued the deputy, "you're wanted for cracking
the skull of a farmer named Leigh. There's a doubt if Leigh will
live and you may be charged with killing him."

"I? Killed a farmer?" demanded Tag, in what appeared to be very
genuine amazement.

"Leigh says you're the chap that did it," Valden answered.

"I never heard of a man of any such name," argued Tag. "Still,
if he says I did it, oh, well, he ought to know, and I suppose
it will be all right."

"It'll have to be all right---whatever the courts may do to you,
Mosher," Deputy Valden rejoined curtly. "Darrin, will you help
the prisoner to his feet and lead him back to where the bridge
was? Simmons will expect to find us there when he gets back."

So Darry and Greg Holmes assisted young Mosher to his feet. Dave
took hold of Tag's arm, though the latter did not resist, but
walked along like one in a dream.

"Want any help, Dick?" asked Greg.

"I believe I wouldn't object to having a friendly arm to lean
on," Prescott replied. "I've been standing here so long that
my hip is stiff again."

As the leader of Dick & Co. moved down the road, Tag turned in

"What's the matter?" Tag asked, at last.

"We were in an automobile accident, and I was slightly injured,"
Dick confessed.

"And you can hardly walk?"

"I can walk only with effort and considerable pain," said Dick.

Tag Mosher whistled softly.

"My luck is leaving me," declared Mosher ruefully. "Prescott,
when I saw you and looked you over I didn't see that you are a
cripple. I thought you were in as good shape as ever. As for
me, I can't do much to-night, I'm so weak. I thought that, if
I tried to fight, you'd handle me easily enough. If I ran, I
knew I couldn't run far, and you'd jump on my back and bear me
to the ground. So I thought it easier to let you have your own
way with me. Whee! I didn't do a thing but surrender to a cripple
that ought to be on crutches! My luck is gone!"

This last was said with an air of great dejection, as though Tag
never looked to have any further pleasure in life. Presently
he muttered, half aloud:

"And now they say that I've committed a murder! They'll prove
it on me, too. Tag Mosher, you're done for."

"Anyway, you're in a rather bad fix, young man," confirmed Deputy
Valden. "Even with the best luck you'll be locked up for some
years to come."

"That will kill me!" muttered Tag sullenly. "I can't live anywhere
outside of the big forest. In jail---why, I'd die of lack of
fresh air! My father, old Bill Mosher, can get along in jail
all right---he's used to it. But me? The first two weeks behind
bars will kill me!"

"You should have thought of that before you cracked Leigh's skull,"
retorted Deputy Valden.

"I tell you that I didn't do it, and that I never before heard
of a man of that name!" cried Tag Mosher fiercely.

"Leigh says you did," the deputy again informed the prisoner.

"Oh, well, then, we'll say that I did," agreed Tag moodily. "I'm
as good as finished, if the charge has been made. No one around
here would think of believing anything that Tag Mosher might say."

Somehow, despite the unsavory reputation of the prisoner, Dick
Prescott found himself feeling more than ordinary sympathy for
this dejected prisoner. Could it be possible that Tag really
was innocent of this last and most serious charge against him?
It didn't seem likely that the officers had gone after the wrong
young man.

"Tag is bad, and yet there's also good in him that is very close
to the surface," Prescott told himself. "It seems really too
bad to think of this young fellow being locked up, away from the
sunshine and the fresh air of the woods. And yet, if he makes
a sport of manslaughter, of course he'll have to be put away where
he can't do any harm. Oh, dear! I wonder why I feel so much
sympathy for a fellow of this kind?"

They were at the broken bridge, now, with the wreck of the automobile
lying in the creek.

"Mosher," said the deputy sternly, "Officer Simmons suspects that
you believed we'd be after you, and that you tore up some of the
planks from this crazy old bridge, so that our car would be wrecked.
Did you do that?"

"Oh, I suppose I must have," replied Tag, with the air of one
who feels it fruitless to deny what peace officers were prepared
to charge against one of his bad reputation.

"Then you admit damaging the bridge?" asked Valden.

"I admit nothing of the kind," Tag retorted.

"Who ripped the boards up?"

"I don't know."

"We'll prove it against you," declared Valden positively.

"Oh, I s'pose you will," grumbled Tag. "It's easy to prove anything
against old Bill Mosher's son. My dad's where he can't help me."

"Are you going to play the baby act?" asked the deputy,

"Wait until I've had a week of good eating and sound sleeping,
and then see if you can find anything babyish about me," snapped
the prisoner.

Dick Prescott watched the pair, feeling a rising resentment against
the deputy. Yet Valden was only resorting to tricks as old as
the police themselves---the taunting of a prisoner into talking
too much and thereby betraying his guilt.

"Pardon me, Tag," Dick now interposed, "but it's a principle of
law that a prisoner doesn't have to talk unless he wants to.
I don't believe, if I were you, I'd say anything just now."

"I'm not going to say anything more," Tag retorted moodily, yet
with a flash of somewhat sullen gratitude to Prescott.

"Humph! You'd better talk, and get all you know out of your system,"
advised Deputy Valden contemptuously. "And the first thing you'd
better own up to is pulling the missing planks up from this crazy
old bridge."

Tag snorted, yet had no word to say. Instead, as best he could
with his hands in the steel bracelets, he helped himself to a
seat on the ground his back against a tree. Either he was extremely
weary, or he was pretending cleverly.

"Come! I guess you can talk better standing up," admonished Deputy
Valden, seizing Tag by the coat collar and dragging him to his
feet. Mosher accepted the implied order in sullen silence.

"Is it necessary, Mr. Valden, to torment the prisoner?" asked
Dick quietly.

"The way I handle a prisoner is my business," replied Valden rather

"You'd rather sit down, wouldn't you,
Tag?" Dick inquired. Young Mosher answered only with a nod.

"It makes you feel weaker to stand, doesn't it?" Prescott continued.

Another nod.

"Mr. Valden," Dick pressed, "I hope you won't think me too forward,
but I believe this prisoner, and I am going to urge you to let
him find comfort by sitting down and resting."

"What have you got to say about it?" demanded Mr. Valden, so brusquely
that Dick flushed.

"I'm not in a position of authority, and I admit it," Prescott
replied. "But I think I have a right to object when I see a human
being tormented needlessly, haven't I?"

"You have no right to interfere in any way with an officer," rejoined
Valden less brusquely.

"Nor do I intend trying to interfere with a peace officer in anything
proper that he does," Dick went on quietly, though with spirit.
"It seems that Tag Mosher has a right to rest himself by sitting
down. If he tries again to sit down, and if you stop him from
so doing, then Tag, if he wishes, may have me summoned to court
to tell how he was tormented. I'll be willing to tell just whatever
I may see here."

Valden snorted, almost inaudibly, then turned away. Tag slid
down to the ground again, resting against the tree trunk, and
preserving absolute silence.

The time passed slowly, but at last Deputy Simmons came in a car,
followed by another car which contained a young man whom he introduced
as Dr. Cutting.

"I'll take you right back to camp," announced Dr. Cutting, after
Simmons had looked over his prisoner and then introduced the physician
to Prescott. "I can examine you better when I have you at your
summer home and handy to your bed. Can you get into the car?"

"I can use my arms to draw myself up," Dick answered.

"Then let me see how well you can do it," urged the young physician,
stepping back to watch Prescott, yet ready to assist him if necessary.

Dick got himself into the tonneau of the car, after some painful

"Doc, you'll take the boys back to their camp, won't you?" called


"And remember, Prescott," called Simmons, "you've been aiding
the county to-night, and the county will pay Doctor Cutting's bill."

Valden and Simmons exchanged some words in an undertone, after
which the latter deputy came over to where Prescott sat.

"Valden tells me you have been interfering between him and Tag
Mosher," began the officer. "How was it?"

Dick gave a quick, truthful account of his interference.

"You did right, Prescott," agreed Simmons, gripping the boy's
hand. "Remember that any citizen has a right to interfere when
he sees a prisoner being abused. Valden is a good fellow at bottom,
and he's a brave fighter in time of real trouble. But he's just
like a lot of other policemen who feel that they have to get all
the evidence in a case. All a peace officer has to do is to find
a criminal and make the arrest. It's the district attorney's
business to get the evidence, but there are a good many peace
officers to whom you can't teach that. Prescott, the next time
you see a prisoner being abused you are to do the same as you
did this time. I hope your hip will soon be all right again.
I'll try to look in on you in a day or two at your camp. Thank
you for what you did for law and order to-night. Good night!"



"Hazelton, the trouble with you is that you tackle a dummy just
the way you'd catch a sack of potatoes that was being thrown out
of a burning house!" laughed Dick.

"I don't see any other way to tackle a dummy," grunted Harry,
looking puzzled.

"Why, you are supposed to tackle the dummy just as you'd tackle
a running football player coming toward you," Prescott rejoined.
"Greg, stand off there about fifty yards. At the word, run straight
toward Harry. Hazelton, you grab hold of Holmes and don't let
him get by you. Just hang on, and try to put him on the ground
at that. All ready, Greg! Run. Tackle him, Harry!"

This time Hazelton entered into the play with great zest. Just
in the nick of time he leaped at Greg, tackled him and bore him
to the ground.

"That's the way!" cheered Dick. "Now, you look alive, Hazelton."

"That was because I had something to tackle that was alive," Harry
retorted. "It's much easier to tackle a living fellow than a
stuffed dummy. What's the good of using the dummy, anyway, when
we have plenty of live fellows around here?"

"Oh, the dummy has its uses," Dick replied wisely. "A lot of
faults can be better observed with a dummy for a background than
is the case when you tackle a live one. The dummy is better
for showing up the defects in your work. Now, Reade, you make
a few swift assaults on the dummy."

Tom did his work so cleverly as to call forth admiration from
all the onlookers.

A stout pole had been lashed across the space between two trees,
being made secure in the forks of the lower limbs of the trees.
The dummy itself had been made of old sail canvas and excelsior.
It was not a very impressive-looking object, but it made a good
substitute for the football dummies manufactured by sporting goods

It was a little more than a week since the night when Tag Mosher
had been captured. Dick's hip which had been pronounced by Doctor
Cutting as only bruised and strained, had now mended so far that
nothing wrong could be observed in his gait. In fact, Prescott
had all but ceased to remember the accident.

For the others, the days had been full of football training, with
long tramps and fishing and berrying jaunts thrown in for amusement.
Now that Tag Mosher was safely locked up in the county jail there
had been no more raids on the food supplies of the camp. It was
now necessary, therefore, to leave but one boy at a time in the
camp, and Dick, while his hip was mending, had usually been that

Every member of Dick & Co. was brown as a berry. Muscles, too,
were beginning to stand out with a firmness that had never been
observed at home in the winter time. Enough more of this camping
and hard work and training, and Dick & Co. were likely to return
to Gridley as six condensed young giants. Nothing puts the athlete
in shape as quickly as does camping, combined with training, in
the summer time.

This morning the work had begun with practice kicks, passing from
that to the work of tackling the dummy. Two hours of hard work
had now been put in, and all were comfortably tired.

"Let's keep quiet and cool off," urged Dick at last. "Then for
the swimming pool and clean clothes."

"I wonder if Tag has died yet, as he expected to, now that he's
out of the forest and locked up in a jail?" mused Tom Reade aloud.

"He must be in fearfully depressed spirits," muttered Dick

Dave Darrin regarded his chum curiously.

"Dick, you seem to have a positive sympathy for that fellow."

"I have," Prescott avowed promptly.

"You even seem to like him," pressed Darry.

"I do like him," Dick assented. "Darry, I believe that a lot
of good might be found in Tag Mosher if he could have the same
chance that most other fellows have. Usually, when a fellow says
he has had no chance in life, the fact really is that he has been
too lazy to take his chance. But I don't believe that Tag ever
had a real, sure-enough chance. He has spent his days with a
drunkard and a vagabond."

"Yet Tag has been to school," objected Tom Reade. "Tag talks
like a fellow who has had a very fair amount of schooling. Schools
teach something more than mere book lessons. They give a fellow
some of the first principles of truth and honor. Despite his
schooling, however, Tag prefers to steal as a means of supplying
all his needs. And now, at last, he is in jail, charged, perhaps,
with killing a fellow being."

"I wonder if Mr. Leigh is dead yet?" mused Dick. "I like being
off here in the deep forest like this, but there's one drawback.
We don't hear much news."

"What news do you want?" asked a familiar voice behind him.
Soft-footed Deputy Simmons stalked into the circle.

"We were just wondering, Mr. Simmons," spoke Prescott, rising,
"if Mr. Leigh is dead yet?"

"Not yet," replied the peace officer, "but the doctors say that
he is likely to die any day now."

"Then will Tag be charged with manslaughter---or murder?"

"He may be charged with murder, if we can catch him," replied
the deputy.

"If you can ca-----Why, what's up?" asked Dick eagerly.

"Tag broke out of jail last night," replied the officer.

"He's---at large?"

"That's what he is," nodded Simmons. "Tag was looked upon as
a kid, and wasn't watched as carefully as he should have been.
So he got out. Not only that, but he visited the warden's office,
late at night. So, when he left, he took with him a sawed-off
shotgun---one of the wickedest weapons ever invented---and a revolver
and plenty of ammunition. That's what I'm doing in the woods
now. I came to see if you had seen Tag to-day, but your asking
for news of him shows me that you haven't."

"Is Mr. Valden with you?" asked Dick.

"Yes; he's over at the road, in the car. He wouldn't come to
camp. I guess the truth is"---Simmons' eyes twinkled---that Valden
is ashamed to see you after the rebuke you gave him the other
night, Prescott. After we got young Mosher to the jail and locked
up, I gave Valden a talking-to, and told him I'd report him to
the sheriff if I ever heard of his abusing a prisoner again."

"So Tag escaped, with some field artillery, and you officers are
out after him?" Tom asked.

"Yes; and three other pairs of deputies are out also," nodded
Mr. Simmons.

"Did you get that car out of the creek?" asked Darry. "We never

"That car was a complete wreck," replied the officer. "We got
it out of the creek, but left it in the woods nearby. The bridge
has been rebuilt, and is stronger than before. How's your hip,

"As well as ever, thank you," replied Dick.

"I'm glad to know that, boy. Meant to drop in on you before.
I must hurry along now. Of course, if Tag shows up about your
camp, you won't tell him that you've seen me."

"Certainly not, sir," nodded Dick. "We'll also try to get word
to you, if we see him. Where is your home?"

"Five Corners is my address," replied the deputy. "So long, boys!
Glad to have seen you again."

The cat-footed deputy was soon lost to sight among the trees.

Dave was the first to speak, and that was some moments later.

"Dick, you're foolish to feel any liking for Tag Mosher. He's
bad all the way through. As it was he was locked up on a charge
of possible manslaughter, and now he has escaped, taking with
him firearms and ammunition enough to rid the county of peace
and police officers. He'll do it, too, if he's cornered. Now,
where's the good in that kind of a pest?"

"I don't know how to answer you," sighed Dick. "Perhaps I am
foolish, but I'm not yet prepared to admit it. Instead, I still
contend that I feel a sneaking liking for poor Tag."

"'Poor Tag,' indeed!" mimicked Tom Reade. "Poor wives and kids
of the deputy sheriffs whom Tag may shoot down in their tracks
before he's cornered at last! Dick, young Mosher is a budding
outlaw and a bad egg all around."

"No decent citizen should feel any sort of sympathy for him,"
affirmed Harry Hazelton.

"Let Dick alone," objected Greg Holmes. "Dick generally knows
what he's about, even in regard to his emotions and sympathies."

"What do you say, Danny?" asked Dave.

"May the sheriff deliver me from Tag Mosher!" replied Danny Grin.

"You're a prejudiced lot," smiled Dick, as he rose from his camp
stool. "Who'll watch camp this time while the rest of us go to
swimming pool?"

"I will," Darry volunteered.

Carrying clean underclothing, soap and towels from the tent, the
other five started through the woods to a new swimming pool that
had been discovered lately.

When they returned Dave went away alone for his bath. Tom Reade,
as the cook for the day, lifted the lid of the soup pot to examine
the contents.

"I wish one of you fellows would go out into the woods and bring
in some of that flowering savory herb for the soup," called Tom.

"I know the kind you mean," nodded Prescott. "I'll go and get it."

He strolled off in the opposite direction from the pool. Yet,
truth to tell, his mind was very little on the herb he was seeking.
His mind dwelt almost completely on the thought of Tag Mosher,
once more at large, and most likely roaming about somewhere in
this vast expanse of woods.

"I don't believe it's so much badness in Tag, as it is that he's
just a plain, simple savage, with the instincts and the passions
of the savage," Dick reflected. "I wonder if Tag ever did really
have a chance to be decent? Poor fellow! If he must be caught
and returned to jail, and by and by pay the penalty of his attack
upon Farmer Leigh, then I don't believe he ever will have a real
chance to try to be decent again. I wonder if I'm wrong and the
other fellows are right? Perhaps Tag would scorn a chance to
be an all-around decent fellow. I wonder. I wonder!"

His musings led Prescott rather far afield. At last he halted,
looking about him in some bewilderment.

"Humph! That's queer!" he muttered. "Now, I wonder if I can
really remember what it was I came out here for?"

For a few moments the bewilderment continued.

"Oh, yes! Now, I know," he laughed. "I am after some of that
savory herb for the soup."

It was necessary to retrace his steps considerably, and to go
in a somewhat different direction. At last he came upon a patch
of the herb.

"This stuff has been burned by the sun," he said to himself, turning
away from the first specimens of the herb. "Over there in the
shade it will be fresher and greener."

Dick took a few rapid steps, halting before a fringe of bushes.
Bending over, he extended a hand to pick some of the herbs.

Just then he heard a slight sound, like the catching of someone's
breath. Starting, Prescott raised his head just a trifle, to
find himself looking straight into the eyes of Tag Mosher, as
that youth lay flat on the ground. Two muzzles of a shotgun stared
Dick in the face, while the fingers of the fugitive rested on
the triggers of the gun.

"If you're looking for me," grimaced Tag, "you've found me! I'm
right here, and this is going to be my dizzy day!"



Still keeping his eyes turned on the fugitive, Dick took three
quick, backward steps.

"Halt!" ordered Tag.

"I was going to stop, anyway," smiled Dick. "Now, put your hands up!"


"Because I'm boss here!" remarked Tag.

"I didn't know that you were boss of anything," Dick replied,
still smiling.

"I'm telling you," declared Mosher. "Want me to make good?"

"I wish you'd make something of yourself, instead," rejoined Prescott
in a voice of intense earnestness.

"Get your hands up!" ordered Tag, with a decided increase in

"That's a silly demand on your part," Dick retorted calmly. "Why
should you want my hands up? I'm not armed, and am in no position
to attack you. Are you such a coward, Mosher, that you're afraid
of an unarmed fellow that you could thrash even if you were unarmed?
I can't bring myself to believe that of you.

"You've a mighty fine opinion of me, haven't you?" jeered Tag.

"I'd like to have a fine opinion of you," Prescott declared.

"Oh! And what must I do to win that fine opinion?" demanded Tag

"If you want to know, I'll tell you," Dick continued. "Just put
down that gun and step away from it."

"And then you'll pounce on it and hold me up!" jeered Tag. "Fine!"

"You get away from your weapon," Prescott urged, "and I'll give
you my word of honor not to touch it without your leave."

"Your word of honor?" asked Tag, driven to wonder despite himself.
"What good would your word of honor be?"

"It would be as good as anything I'm capable of," Prescott responded.
"Tag, didn't you ever have any respect for a man's word of honor?
Didn't you ever respect your own?"

"I got that game played on me at school, once," leered Mosher.
"As soon as I swallowed the bait the other fellow kicked me in
the shins and ran off and left me there. Now, Prescott, I don't
want any more nonsense. Put up your hands!"

"I've already declined," Dick smiled calmly. "To that refusal
I'll add my thanks."

"Put up your hands, or I'll keep the gun turned on you and pull
a trigger or two."

"Then the gun isn't loaded," chuckled Dick.

"Oh, isn't it?"

"No, for you're not bad enough, Tag, to shoot down an unarmed
person who isn't your enemy."

"You'll tell the officers you saw me here, won't you?"


"Then you're my enemy," young Mosher argued, with thorough conviction.
"So you'll put up your hands, and take further orders, as long
as I give 'em, or you'll be found taking a long nap on the grass

"That's another wrong guess you've made, Tag."

Laughing softly, Dick dropped to a seat on the grass.

"You're a mighty sassy fellow," scowled young Mosher.

"I'm very disobliging sometimes," Prescott admitted. "For instance,
Tag, I won't believe that you're half as bad as you try to paint

"Bad?" snorted young Mosher, with something of sullen pride in
his voice. "I'm about as mean as they make them. You know what
they say I did to that farmer?"

"Well, did you?" challenged Prescott.

"I'm not saying," came the gruff answer. "For one thing, it wouldn't
do me a bit of good to deny it. When a fellow has a bad name
everywhere any judge and jury will hang him. Now, I happen to
object to being hanged, or even to being locked up for perhaps
twenty or thirty years. Queer in me, isn't it?"

"What you ought to do," pursued Dick, "and what you will do, if
you are brave and manly, is to drop that gun, face about, and
march yourself back to jail."

"And be locked up some more?" quivered Tag in excitement.

"If you're guilty of assaulting Mr. Leigh, you should be also
brave and manly enough to walk back to jail, ready to pay the
price of your act like a man. If you're not guilty, then you
should be man enough to face the world and prove your innocence
like a real man. Don't be a cowardly sneak, Tag!"

"A coward?" blurted the other angrily. "You ought to know better'n
that. And the officers know better, too; I may be only a boy,
but the officers are out in packs, hunting for me. I know, for
I've seen two pairs of those fellows go by on the road to-day."

"Are you going to be a man, Tag, or just a sneaking coward?" asked
Dick, as he rose.

"Sit down!" commanded Tag sharply.

"If you really want to talk with me, and will say 'please,' I'll
sit down," Dick smiled back coolly at the angry boy. "But if
you're just simply ordering me to sit down, then I won't do anything
of the sort. Do you want to talk with me?"

"Sit down!"

"You didn't say 'please.'"

"I'm not going to say it."

"Then good-bye for a little while."

Though the muzzles of the sawed-off shotgun stared wickedly at
him, Dick Prescott turned on his heel, walking off.

"Are you going, now, to tip the officers off that you've seen
me?" called Tag.


Behind Dick, as he kept on his way back toward camp there came
a snort of anger. Prescott was not quite as cool as he appeared
to be. He knew there was at least a chance that savage Tag Mosher
would send the contents of one or both barrels of the gun into
his back. Dick, however, had mastered the first secret of bravery,
which is to conceal one's fear.

Again snorting, young Mosher cocked both hammers of the shotgun,
Dick heard the clicks, but still walked on.

"I hate to do it!" called Tag warningly.

"Oh, you won't do it," Dick answered in a tone of calm self-assurance.

Young Prescott kept on for another hundred yards. No sound came
from behind him. Unless young Mosher were creeping upon him,
Prescott knew that he was now out of range of the shotgun.

Impelled by curiosity, Dick wheeled about Tag Mosher was nowhere
in sight.

"Either that fellow isn't half as bad as he pretends to be, or
else not half as desperate as he likes to think himself," Dick

Then, remembering, in a flash, the herbs that he had come to get,
the Gridley High School boy deliberately walked back to the spot
where he had left this strange vagrant of the forest.

But Tag was no longer there---not in sight, at any rate. Bending
over, Prescott collected a goodly bunch of the herbs. Then, after
glancing at his watch, he started back to camp.

It was late when he returned. Dave was back from his swim, the
table was set, and all was in readiness to sit down.

"Too late to use the herbs to-day, I guess," said Tom, as Dick
laid them down. "You were gone a long time, old fellow."

"I had quite a way to go," Dick replied quietly. Then he cut
a number of grass stalks, trimming them to different lengths.
"Fellows, I want you to draw lots. I don't feel any too much
like a walk to Five Corners after dinner, but if I get the short
straw I'll go."

"No; you'd better not try it," warned Darrin. "Your hip might
begin to give you trouble before you get back. If someone has
to go, let the other five draw."

But Dick insisted that the draw should decide it all.

"What's the matter?" asked Tom Reade shrewdly. "Have you found
traces of Tag Mosher?"

"I've seen him," Dick replied, "and talked with him. Come to
think of it, I believe two fellows had better go. The two who
are to go will be those who draw the shortest straws. All ready?"

Dick covered one end of the grass stalks, so that no one could
be sure as to which lot he drew. The lots fell to Reade and Darrin.

"Now, tell us about the meeting," begged Hazelton.

"Let's sit down and begin to eat," Prescott proposed. "As we
eat I will describe the meeting."

Plates passed rapidly until all were served. Then Dick told his
chums the story of the meeting with Tag Mosher.



"Hoo-hoo! Hoo-hoo!"

"Who's there?" cried Dick, starting up.

Then, to the accompaniment of some giggling, came in feminine
tones, high-pitched, the famous battle yell of Gridley High School.

"T-E-R-R-O-R-S! Wa-ar! Fam-ine! Pes-ti-lence! That's us!
That's us! G-R-I-D-L-E-Y H.S! Rah! rah! rah! rah! _Gri-i-idley_!"

"A lot of mere girls trying themselves out as real war-whoop artists!"
uttered Reade in a tone of pretended disgust.

But Dick and Dave had jumped up, and were now running for the
road as fast as they could.

It was ten days after the last word from Tag Mosher. The officers
had been promptly notified by the messengers from Dick & Co.,
and presumably were still scouring the great stretches of forest,
though so far without result.

"How did we do it, boys?" called the laughing voice of Laura Bentley,
as Dick and Dave came in sight.

"Don't ask me!" begged Dave. "Girls never ought to try school
yells. They ought to content themselves with waving handkerchiefs."

"Mr. Smarty!" cried Clara Marshall.

All eight of the girls were now in the burned clearing, surrounding
the two boys laughingly, while Greg and Dan now ran up.

Out of the woods near the road came Dr. and Mrs. Bentley.

"Prescott," called the doctor, "we forgot to write and secure
your permission for this latest vagary of mine."

"I don't know what the vagary is, sir, but the permission is assured
in advance," laughed Dick. "What are you going to do, anyway,

"I'm afraid the idea will bore you," laughed Dr. Bentley, "but
back in the road are the same two automobiles, also two two-horse
wagons, loaded to the gunwales, so to speak. We've brought two
small, portable houses, a couple of tents, a lot of bedding and
supplies, and other things needed, and we're going to try to pitch
a camp not too far from yours. Does the information convey any
jar to your spine?"

"Not a jar," answered Dick promptly, standing with his hat off
in the presence of Mrs. Bentley and the eight girls. "The only
thing I notice in the way of sensation over the news is a great
thrill of delight."

"It's a pity that Dave and some of the other boys couldn't find
their tongues and make as good use of them as Dick has just done,"
pouted Belle Meade.

"Dick Prescott is our captain, always," replied Darry, with a
comical sigh, "and his sway extends even to the point of his
bartering away our liberties."

"Let us go on, farther into the woods," urged Belle, turning to
Dr. Bentley.

"I think not," replied the doctor dryly.

"Since Prescott has been the only one to hold out the gracious
hand, I believe we'll settle right down here, as a reward to Prescott
and as a punishment to the others."

"Hooray for punishment!" laughed Darry. "I can take a lot of it."

"That's the first nice thing you've said," declared Miss Meade.

"I'll say a lot more if you're going to be here for the rest of
the summer vacation," promised Darry.

"Not quite as long as that," declared Dr. Bentley. "But we'll
be here for a few days. Then we'll go on to other camping places."

"You're going to be just in time for dinner to-day," Dick informed
the new arrivals.

"We'll be just in time to get our own dinner," smiled Laura.
"We have an abundance of supplies with us, and we're not going
to eat you boys out of the woods. The first meal with guests
will be when you come over to our camp and take revenge for the
descent that we made upon you the other day."

"Dick," inquired the doctor, "where do you think we could pitch
camp best?"

"It depends upon the size of your houses and tents," Prescott

"Naturally. Your answer is a good deal more sensible than my

"Anyway," Dick suggested, in an undertone, "your camp should be
just far enough away so that neither camp will intrude on the
privacy of the other. I think I know a spot, if your houses are
not too large."

Dr. Bentley mentioned the sizes of the two portable houses.

"The spot that I have in mind will do finely," Dick declared.
"And I think you can drive the wagons in there."

Dan Dalzell was sent to the road to instruct the teamsters to
drive in at the point which young Prescott mentioned.

It was not long before the two wagons were at the spot. Reade
now remained at the boys' camp, to look out for things, while
the other five went over to the new camp to be of assistance.

Dr. Bentley, having removed his coat, was now busily at work.
The two wagons were unloaded of a host of things, after which
the teamsters started, at once, to erect the portable houses.
As these were of a pattern requiring but little work, they were
up within a few hours.

Dick & Co. pitched the tents, also busying themselves in various
other ways. Now, Mrs. Bentley, aided by the high school girls,
started in to prepare the noon meal.

"We shall want you boys over here about tomorrow noon," said Laura.
"By that time we shall be all to rights and ready to act as hostesses."

"Can't we come over again before to-morrow?" asked Dick, with
a wistfulness that caused a general smile.

"If you don't come over except when you're especially sent for,"
declared Miss Meade, "you'll wake up some morning in the near
future and find us gone on to the next camping place."

Dick had already told Dr. Bentley of the fugitive, Tag Mosher,
and the fact that that young offender was at large in the woods,
and armed.

"I'm not afraid of him," declared the doctor bluntly, "and I shall
always be within sound of the camp. It wouldn't take you boys
long to get over here, either, at need."

Dick now reluctantly called his chums away, as Mrs. Bentley and
the high school girls might want a little time to themselves.

"It's going to be great to have such company right at hand," declared
Darry gleefully.

"Only I must warn you of one thing," retorted Dick.


"You remember the errant that brought us into the woods?"

"Football training!"

"Exactly, and even the welcome presence of the girls mustn't be
allowed in the least to interfere with the serious and hard work
that we have ahead of us for the honor of good old Gridley High

"That goes, too," nodded Greg. "Though I am afraid the girls
will feel almost neglected."

"No, they won't," Darry retorted. "The girls all belong to Gridley
High School as much as we do, and they're just as big football
boosters when it comes to that. They'll endure a little neglect
when they know it's for the honor and glory of our school."

"Besides," suggested Dick, "they may be glad to put in a little
time watching us train."

There will be no objection to that, will there?"

"Not a bit," declared the others.

Tom Reade, having been left in charge of the camp, had also taken
upon himself the preparing of the dinner, though this was not
his day for such service. The others now turned to help him.

"I'm glad the girls have come, and I'm also sorry," declared Reade.
"If we stick to training as conscientiously as we ought to they'll
feel that we're not showing them all the attention they've a right
to expect."

"We won't neglect training," Dick retorted, "and the girls won't
feel neglected, either. We've talked that over on the way here,
and we'll explain it to the girls when we see them again. They're
Gridley High School girls, and they're sensible."

It was not long ere dinner was ready. Six famished boys sat down
at the table.

"I wonder what on earth is the reason that we haven't heard from
Mr. Hibbert, or from the Blinders agency, either?" spoke Dick,
when the meal was half over.

"I had almost forgotten about those parties," Tom rejoined. "Not
hearing from Hibbert, as I take it, means that that generous young
friend of ours has broken off communication with the Eagle Hotel
in Gridley. But I can't understand why the agency hasn't communicated
with us in some way."

Dinner was eaten in quicker time than usual. Dick and Dave, perhaps
some of the others, felt a secret desire to slip over to the other
camp, but no one mentioned any such wish. Instead, the dinner
dishes were washed, the cooking utensils cleaned, and the camp
put in a very good semblance of order.

"In forty-five minutes more," remarked Prescott, glancing at his
watch, "we must be back at training work."

"Not to-day," replied Tom.

"What's the matter?" demanded Dick, looking sharply at him.

"In forty-five minutes more," exclaimed Reade, "we'll be sitting
inside the tent, looking out at the weather."

"What are you talking about, Tom?" asked Darry.

"Read your answer in the skies," retorted Reade.

Though none of the other five boys had noticed it, the sky had
been gradually clouding. The wind was becoming brisker, too,
and there was more than the usual amount of moisture in the air.

"Pshaw! That's a shame," muttered Dick.

"I wish we might arrange it with the weather clerk to have it
rain at night, after ten o'clock, and have dry ground in the day
time," sighed Dave Darrin.

Yet none of the boys spoke the thought that was uppermost in more
than one mind---the wish that they might go over to the Bentley
camp to spend the time that it rained in the society of the girls.

It was Reade, who was perhaps less attracted by girls' society
than the others who finally suggested:

"We ought to send someone over to the other camp to see if they
are all fixed to stand the coming rain."

"Good idea!" nodded Dick. "You run over, Tom."

Reade was away less than ten minutes.

"Dr. Bentley says they'll be as snug as can be in the biggest
kind of a summer rain that the weather clerk has on tap," Tom

Flashes of lightning were now illumining the gradually darkening
sky. Distant rumblings of thunder also sounded.

"I hope it won't be much of a thunderstorm," sighed Dick. "Some
girls are very uneasy in a thunderstorm."

"Laura is afraid of one, I know," said Dave.

In a few minutes more the big drops of rain began to fall. Soon
after swirling sheets of water descended. Dick & Co. had all
they could do to keep dry in such a downpour.

"This is where the portable house has the advantage of a tent,"
grunted Tom. "The portable houses yonder are even equipped with
some kind of rubber roofing. If this storm keeps up through the
night at this rate, we'll be washed out long before daylight."

"I can stand it," retorted Prescott, "as long as I know that Mrs.
Bentley and the girls are protected from the weather. Yet I won't
mind if the storm does let up after an hour or two."

Conversation ceasing, after a time, all but Reade and Dalzell
got out books to read from the slender stock of literature that
they had brought with them into the woods.

The heavy storm made it a dull afternoon, where there might have
been so much fun.

But not one of Dick & Co. had the least idea of the excitement
in store for them. The storm held more than rain for many people.



As though the heavy downpour did not sufficiently indicate that
the storm was still raging as heavily as ever, Harry Hazelton
went to the tent doorway to peer out at the sky.

Just as suddenly he ducked back again.

"Hist!" he called. "There's someone at our canned goods stock,
and I think it's Tag!"

In a twinkling Dick and Dave were by Hazelton's side. The heavy
rain supplied a curtain like a light fog.

"I think that's Tag!" muttered Dick. "We'll go after him."

There was a quick diving into rubber coats. Dick and Dave were
first to get outside.

But the figure seen through the rain was already under way, heading
away from the tent. This figure, just as it stole under the great
trees, turned to point a sawed-off shotgun their way.

"That's Tag," muttered Dick. "Come on; we'll catch him."

"Yes; if he'll kindly permit us to get close to him," rejoined
Darry, as he ran at Dick's side.

Evidently the figure ahead had made a successful raid on the food,
for he carried a gunnysack, and that appeared to have a load inside.

"We can catch him---if we can run fast enough," declared Dick,
for just then the fugitive darted ahead with renewed speed.

"Unless he stops us with the gun," objected Dave.

"Don't let him stop you with that. I don't believe he would dare
use it on us."

"If it's only a question of 'daring,'" responded Dave, "I don't
believe there is anything that Tag Mosher would be afraid to do
at a pinch."

Owing to the storm it was dark in the great woods. Shadows were
deceptive. Though Dick and Dave ran on at pell-mell speed they
presently came to a sudden halt, looking inquiringly at each other.

"Which way did that fellow go?" demanded Dave.

"Blessed if I know," Dick admitted.

"Are we still on the right trail, and merely a mile behind him?"

"I wish I knew even that," admitted Prescott.

"We might as well go back," proposed Darry. "In these woods all
we'll get is---wet."

"All right," nodded Prescott. Discouraged with the chase, they
turned to retrace their way nearly half a mile through the soggy,
dripping woods. They had not gone far on their return when they
came upon Tom and Greg.

"Hello, where have you fellows been?" asked Reade.

"We weren't very far ahead of you," Dick answered.

"Greg and I didn't see or hear you ahead."

"And Tag Mosher was just as invisible and unfindable to us," laughed
Dick, "so we came back."

"I'm growing disgusted," muttered Dave, "with the stupid way that
we let that fellow carry off all of our property. It begins to
look as though we ought to camp in one of our own back yards,
where our parents can keep a watchful eye over us and protect

There could be no doubt that Darry was completely angry. Had
he encountered young Mosher at that moment he would have "sailed
into" the thief with his fists, regardless of any consequences
that might follow.

"Well, shall we go on hunting for him?" demanded Dick.

"It's just as Darry says," offered Tom, "I'm willing to remain
out in this weather if Dave wants to."

"Oh, what's the use?" grumbled Dave. "That fellow knows the woods
a hundred times better than we do, and he has made his get away.
Did you leave anyone back at the camp?"

"Dan and Harry are there," nodded Tom.

"We may as well join them," sighed Dave. So the party headed
toward camp.

Just as they stepped out into the clearing, they sighted a rubber-coated
party of three men entering the clearing from the direction of
the road.

"Why, that must be our friends, Hibbert, Colquitt and Mr. Page!"
announced Prescott, halting, then running forward. "They must
have gotten our note at last. Oh, Mr. Hibbert!"

The three travelers waved their hands. Then it was the oldest
of the trio who ran at top speed in an effort to reach Prescott

"My boy!" panted Mr. Page, seizing Dick by the shoulders. "You
have found him? We received your note this morning, and have
been breaking the speed laws ever since in our effort to get here.
My boy! You know where he is! Perhaps he is now one of your
own party? You have told him, and have kept him here against
my coming?"

"No, sir; he's not here just now," Dick answered, shaking his
head. "But come into the tent, sir. There is a lot to tell you."

"I can hardly contain myself to wait for the news!" cried the
eager father tremulously.

Nevertheless, silence was preserved until the tent had been entered.
Mr. Page, Hibbert and Colquitt were given seats on camp stools,
some of the boys finding seats on empty boxes.

"Now, my boy---my son! Tell me all about him," pleaded Mr. Page.
"Is he well? Does he know that I am looking for him?"

"I have hinted to him," Prescott answered, "that he is not the
son of the man whom he has grown up to regard as his father.
I have told him that you were looking for him, and-----"

"Oh, my boy!" cried Mr. Page. "Was he pleased---or even curious?"

Prescott swallowed hard, twice, and did some rapid thinking, ere
he went on, with all faces turned toward him:

"Mr. Page, if this boy turns out to be your son-----"

"Describe him to me---minutely!" ordered the father.

Dick fell into a personal description of Tag Mosher. Others,
as they now watched Mr. Page closely, felt that Tag must be his
son. The description, as to complexion, features, hair and eyes,
all tallied closely with Mr. Page's own appearance.

"Now, don't keep me in suspense any longer," begged Mr. Page.
"Take me to him, that I may help decide for myself."

"If he is your son, sir," Dick went on solemnly, and hating his
task, "I am much afraid that you are going to be disappointed
in him. The boy is known as Tag Mosher. He believes a dissolute,
drunken, thieving fellow named Bill Mosher, who is now in jail,
to be his father. Tag is himself a wild young savage of the
forest, and maintains himself by st---poaching."

"If this young man is, indeed, my son," murmured Mr. Page, his
eyes glistening, "how fortunate that I am about to come up with
him! He will have no need to steal hereafter. He shall have
comfort, protection, proper training at last! But where is he?
Why are you keeping me from him? How long since you have seen

"Only a few minutes ago," Dick answered. "He had just robbed
our food supply. We pursued him, but lost him in the woods."

"Then these woods must be scoured until the boy is found!" cried
Mr. Page. "Colquitt, this is a task for you. Employ as many
more of your force of detectives as you may need, but you must
find the boy without an hour's delay."

"I must tell you something else, sir," Dick went on in a distressed
tone. "Even for my own peace of mind I must have it over with
as early as possible. Mr. Page, the boy is now roaming the woods
armed with a shotgun and a revolver. He is a fugitive from justice."

"What is that you say?" cried Mr. Page, his face growing haggard
and ghastly. "My boy----my son---a fugitive from justice!"

"He may not be your son, sir," broke in Tom Colquitt.

Then the whole story came out. With it Dick described the birthmarks
he had seen on Tag when the latter was at the swimming pool.

"That's my boy---my son!" declared Mr. Page. "And, oh! To think
of the fate that has come upon him. Wanted, perhaps for homicide!"

Then suddenly the flash of determination returned to the father's
eyes. He rose, stood erect, and went on:

"If he is my son, he needs guidance, aid---protection of such rights
as he may still have left. Above all, he must surrender himself
and go back to face the laws of the land like a man! If he has
done wrong, he must bow to the decision of a court, whatever that
may be. If this boy is my son, I will see to it that he does
all of this. If he is not my son, then-----"

"Then you will do well to drop him like a piece of hot metal,"
interposed the detective quietly.

"Silence!" flashed Mr. Page. "If Tag Mosher is not really my
son, then I will stand by his last spark of manhood as though
he were my son, and in memory of my own boy!"

"If you will permit me," proposed Tom Colquitt, "I will go back
to the road, get into the car and order your man to drive me to
the county jail. There I will see old Bill Mosher, and drag the
truth out of him. What Mosher has to say will be to the point."

"Go, by all means!" pleaded Mr. Page, who had now sunk down into
his seat trembling.

"And I'll go with him," declared Hibbert, jumping up. "Cheer
up, my old friend, and we'll find out all the facts that there
are to be learned. We'll be back here as speedily as possible."

The hours passed---hours of rain at the camp. It was a deluge that
kept all hands in the tent, though even that place was wet. A
pretense of supper was prepared over two oil stoves. Mr. Page made
an effort to eat, but was not highly successful.

The hours dragged on, but none thought of going to bed. At last
quick steps were heard outside.

"That must be Colquitt and Hibbert!" cried Mr. Page, starting
up, trembling, though he soon recovered his self-control.

"Don't go out in the rain. Wait for another moment, sir," begged
Dick, placing a hand on the man's shoulder.

"Do you think I could wait another minute?" demanded Mr. Page
excitedly. Then he darted out into the downpour.

"Hibbert, is that you?" he screamed.



"It's Hibbert," was the reply from the darkness.

Then two figures came tramping through the rain, over the soggy
ground, next splashing into the tent, the flaps of which Dick
and Harry held aside.

As they came in Mr. Page almost tottered toward them.

"Well," he demanded impatiently. "What did you learn?"

"I guess the boy is yours, Mr. Page," Colquitt answered. "Bill
Mosher told us a pretty straight story. He found the child at
the railway wreck, and he and his wife took it home, expecting
that parents or friends would soon claim it. Bill says his wife
was a good woman, and, when no one claimed the boy, she kept it
and loved it as her own. Bill admits that his part in the transaction
was due to the hope of receiving a reward. After his wife died,
Bill, it seems, went to the dogs, followed his naturally shiftless
bent, and, from a common vagrant, became a drunkard and common
thief. Yet Bill claims, with an air of a good deal of virtue,
that he never stole anything he didn't really need, and that he
brought Tag up the same way."

Mr. Page, white-faced and trembling, listened to the detective's
dry recital.

"You have taken pains to find further verification of the fact
that this unhappy boy is my son, haven't you?"

"Oh, yes," the detective went on. "Bill described with great
minuteness the clothing the child wore when found, even to the
embroidered letter 'p' on the underclothing. And Bill tells me
that his sister has kept that clothing ever since, in the hope
that something might come of it. The sister also has two pictures
of Tag, taken when a baby."

"Where does that sister live?" cried the father. "Take me to
her home at once!"

"She lives in another state, some four hundred miles from here,"
smiled Tom Colquitt. "Mr. Page, I advise that you find the boy,
first. There isn't any real doubt as to his being your son.
You had better wait for further proofs until after you have found
the boy---who, according to all accounts, stands badly in need
of a real father just now."

"You are right---quite right," admitted Mr. Page. "Yes, we will
find my son first. But tell me something more. Didn't the boy
know that Bill Mosher wasn't his real father?"

"No; it had never been hinted to him," Colquitt answered. "Bill
kept the truth from the child, and, after Bill's wife died, they
moved over into this part of the country, where no one knew their
past history."

"And has my son never been in school?"

"Oh, yes; the compulsory education law came to the rescue, and
the boy had a grammar school education before he took to the
woods altogether."

"I know something definite, at last," sighed the unhappy father.
"I know that my boy is alive, and that he needs a father. Moreover,
I feel certain that he is at this moment not far away from me.
What shall we do next? Did you wire for more detectives from
your agency?"

"There was no need to do so," Colquitt replied. "There are several
officers now looking for the lad, and they are certain to come
upon him. Hibbert and I will aid in the search. The chauffeur
will bring in four folding cots and some blankets. We shall have
to impose upon these young men for shelter to-night, as this is
the point from which we must take up the chase in the morning."

At least one man in the tent lay with eyes wide open all night,
and that was Mr. Page. By daylight the rain had stopped. The
sun came up, drying the ground in the open spaces, raising a semi-fog
under the big trees as the moisture steamed up. It was a close,
humid morning, yet all rose so early that breakfast had been eaten
before six o'clock.

Then Mr. Page's party went away in the automobile, on some errand
of their own.

"I wonder how the girls got through the rain last night?" mused
Dave Darrin.

"They must have gotten along all right,"

Dick replied. "They had two dry houses in, which to sleep."

"I've a good mind to go over now, and make some inquiries," Dave
pursued. "Will you come with me?"

"No, and I'd advise you not to go, either. Six in the morning
is too early to call on young women."

"That's so," Dave assented. "What time should we go over?"

"As this is camp life, I should say it might be all right for
us to drop over there soon after nine o'clock," Dick said slowly.
"How does that strike you?"

"If that's too early," pondered Darry wonderingly, "then we might
go within sight of the camp, as if looking for firewood, but not
go over to them unless we get a hail."

"That would be a subterfuge," Dick replied, shaking his head.
"Straight dealing is always the best rule in anything."

However, Dr. Bentley settled the question of etiquette himself,
by coming over to the boys' camp shortly after eight o'clock.

"Mrs. Bentley sent me to see if you got through the night without
being drowned," smiled the physician.

"We look pretty healthy, don't, we, sir?" smiled Dick.

"Speaking professionally, I would say that you do," agreed Dr.
Bentley. "However, I believe you must have had a pretty dismal
time in all that downpour. Have you been in the woods this morning?
They are pretty wet, aren't they?"

"The woods are damp, sir," Prescott answered, "but not really
wet. The water has soaked fairly well into the ground since sun-up."

"Are the woods dry enough for a little botanizing?" asked the
doctor. "Laura and Belle say they have a few plants in mind that
they want to add to their collection of botanical specimens.
Are you two young men ready to escort them?"

"Certainly, sir," Dick nodded. "And the forenoon will be the
best time, as we must go through our training work this afternoon."

"Hang my luck!" muttered Darrin in sudden disgust. "This is my
day to do the cooking here."

"One of the other fellows will take your turn," suggested Prescott.

"I won't ask anyone to do it," sighed Darry. "I'm man enough
to shoulder my own share of the camp work. Dick, you can look
after both girls, can't you? And you'll make my excuses satisfactorily
to Miss Meade?"

"That's right---just right, David," spoke the physician. "Do
your own work like a man. I'll undertake to make your excuses
so well that Belle will have a higher opinion of you if that were
possible. Dick, shall the girls look for you within the next
few minutes?"

"I'll be there soon, doctor."

Five minutes later Dick presented himself at the other camp.
He went first to Mrs. Bentley and inquired as to her comfort during
the storm.

"We know Dave can't come, but where are the other boys?" inquired
Clara Marshall.

"Over at the camp," smiled Dick.

"Don't they think that we need attention?" asked Susie Sharp.

"Tom is hauling firewood," Dick explained. "Greg is chopping
it up. Harry is hauling the water supply and Dan is doing the
housework in the tent."

"Laura and Belle have an escort for their trip into the forest,
but it's not a rosy outlook for the rest of us," Clara pouted.

"Can't we all go together?" proposed Dick. "Surely, one guide
ought to be enough for a party of eight girls."

Susie decided to join the botanizing party. The other girls made
up their minds to take a walk under Dr. Bentley's escort. So
Dick started away with the trio.

Belle and Laura carried the regulation oval cans for holding such
plant specimens as they might collect. Prescott promptly offered
to carry both cans, but the two girls declared that they were
not going to permit him to impose upon himself.

For fifteen minutes the young people went on, farther into the
forest. Though the girls wore overshoes, Dick went ahead to
pick out the drier paths.

Collecting botanical specimens, though interesting to amateurs
or experts, is dull work for onlookers. As both Belle and Laura
were enthusiastic workers, Dick found himself walking chiefly
with Susie Sharp. There was much waiting while Laura and Belle
dug their mosses and plants.

Finally, Dick and Susie found themselves standing together, some
feet from Laura and Belle, who were gathering wild flowers.

"Look at those beautiful purple blossoms over there!" cried Susie
in sudden enthusiasm.

"Are you going to turn collector, too?" smiled Dick.

"To the extent of wanting a bouquet of those flowers," Susie declared.
"Will you help me?"

"With great pleasure. If you will wait here, I will get the bouquet
for you. It will take me hardly a minute."

Dick started away alone. By the time that he had picked a good-sized
handful, Susie started to meet him. For the moment she was out
of sight of the other girls.

Dick came toward Miss Sharp, holding out the gorgeous blossoms.

"Will these be enough?" he inquired.

"Oh, yes! Thank you so much!"

"It was a very slight service," Prescott laughed. "I am glad
to have pleased-----"

A sudden scream brought his gallant speech to an abrupt stop.

"Oh, Dick! Be quick!" sounded the voice.

"Pardon me," said Prescott to Susie, as he sprang forward through
the brush.

It was a startling scene that met the high school boy's gaze as
he bounded forward.

Tag Mosher, holding his shotgun under his left arm, stood confronting
Laura and Belle. In his right, hand he held a gold chain and
locket that he had snatched from Laura Bentley's neck. In one
of his pockets, out of sight, now rested two valuable rings that
he had forcibly stripped from one of Belle's hands.

"Sorry, girls," he was saying. "I never did anything quite as
bad as this before. But if you knew how badly I need to get away
from these parts you'd know why I'm holding up girls to get money
to pay my fare, and-----"

Just then Tag Mosher caught sight of Dick Prescott.

"Stand back!" warned Tag hoarsely. "I don't want to have to do
anything worse than I've just done. Stand back, or by the blue



"Oh, Dick, do keep back. He won't harm us further," cried Laura.

Prescott ran forward by leaps and bounds.

"If you will have it-----" growled Tag, cocking both hammers of his
ugly weapon.

Laura uttered another scream, then, with sudden frenzy, seized
the barrels of the gun.

"Let go!" yelled Dick, racing up. "If he fires, even accidentally,
you'll be killed."

"Then let him put down the gun," panted Laura without releasing
her hold.

Belle seized Tag by his right arm, hanging on frantically.

But Dick, reaching the spot, laid hands on the shotgun.

"Let go, Laura," he commanded sternly. "I have hold of this gun."

It was the tone of the high school boy, not her own fear, that
made Laura Bentley obey.

"Let go of his arm, Belle," Dick insisted. "You girls get back
out of harm's way."

"I won't let go," Belle insisted. Then she resorted, excusably
under the circumstances, to the somewhat feminine trick, of pinching
Tag Mosher's arm sharply.

That started the real fight. Dick tripped the bigger fellow,
and the pair went down together as Belle leaped back.

Click! click! sounded both descending hammers of the sawed-off
shotgun. For an instant---Prescott's heart was in his mouth,
for he knew something of the wicked scattering power of such a
weapon, when discharged, and he feared for the girls.

The next instant, however, his common sense told him that the
hammers had descended harmlessly. By desperate force he wrenched
the piece out of Tag's hands, hurling it away.

Laura's locket, and chain falling to the ground, Belle darted
in and rescued them.

"He has my rings in his right-hand coat pocket," Belle announced.

"He'll give them up, then!" predicted Dick grimly, making a dive
for that pocket. He was on top, in the mix-up, and secured the
rings, tossing them toward Belle. Then Tag, by a violent effort,
hurled Prescott from him and rose, ready for battle.

But Dick landed close beside the sawed-off shotgun, which he snatched
from the ground as he rose to his feet.

"You cur!" said Dick. "Robbing girls!"

"I hated to do it," growled Tag, looking somewhat shamefaced.
"But I've got to have money to get away from this corner of the
world. The deputies are out after me, and they'll get me yet,
if I stay here."

With a quick movement Dick threw the gun open at the breech.

"It isn't loaded," Tag informed him grimly. "This is the piece
of iron that holds cartridges."

From a hip pocket he brought a heavy, long-barreled revolver into

"You can't scare me with firearms," declared Dick doughtily.
"Nor are you going to rob these young women, who are my best friends."

"I'm not going to try again," announced Tag. "What I want is
for you to keep away from me, and not follow me. If you do---well,
you can guess the answer! Now, as I'm going, give me that gun."

"I won't," Dick declared firmly, holding it by the muzzle and
ready to employ the weapon as a club.

"You'll make a lot of trouble and danger for yourself and the
girls if you don't put the gun on the ground and walk away from
it," warned Tag, glowering.

"I won't drop the only weapon that I have," Dick returned firmly.
"You could down me easily unless I had something like this to
swing. As long as these young women are under my protection I
will not give up the only weapon that I have."

"If I press the trigger of this pistol," challenged Tag, "will
you be able to offer the girls much protection then?"

"Perhaps not," Prescott rejoined. "But shooting me will be the
only way that you can get this gun from me."

There could be no doubt that the high school boy meant just what
he said. Tag, who was not accustomed to wasting time in crises,
turned angrily on his heel.

"Hold on there a moment," called Dick. The other boy baited,
turning about. "Do you remember what I told you the other day?"
demanded Prescott.

"You've told me a lot of things I never took from any other kid,"
growled Tag.

"Do you remember what I told you about your father, his love for
you, and his desire to meet and claim you?"

"Old Bill Mosher's love?" laughed Tag harshly. "I'd stay and
laugh a while at that, but I've other business for to-day."

"No; your real father, Mr. Page!" Dick cried after him, as Tag
started away. "Bill Mosher found you in a railroad wreck. Your
real father is a man of wealth. He is nearly broken down from
the many anxieties of trying to find you. He spent last night
at our camp. This morning he and friends of his started off to
find you. Tag, come back here, and I'll take you into camp."

"No, thank you!" leered the larger boy. "I've been taken into
camp before, and you're the lad that turned the trick. You turned
me over to Valden and Simmons, and they turned me over to the
warden at the jail. I'm not going back to that jail---_alive_!"

"You foolish fellow! Can't you understand?" bellowed Dick, following
Tag as he once more turned away. "I'm telling you the truth,
and your father is only too anxious to employ all his wealth in
protecting whatever rights you may have. Bill Mosher was seen
at the jail yesterday, and he admitted that you were not his son,
but that he found you as a baby at a railroad wreck! Tag, use
your brains, for once, and come back to camp to meet your father!"

"Good-bye!" laughed the larger boy derisively, increasing his
fast walk to a run.

Desperately, Dick Prescott followed. As Tag sprinted, so did
the high school boy.

Looking back, young Mosher tripped over a root, and fell heavily.
The revolver flew from his hand landing several feet away. Prescott
was now so close that Tag sprang to his feet and ran on without
making any effort to recover his lost weapon.

Then the larger boy dived into a thicket. He did not appear again.

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